Sony intros yet another e-reader

Two new e-readers apparently weren’t enough for Sony, which has taken the wraps off a third addition to its “Edition” line.

At $399, the Digital Reader Daily Edition is the most expensive of the trio, and is the most direct competitor to Amazon’s Kindle and Kindle DX. That’s because it’s the first from Sony to include 3G connectivity for wirelessly downloading new e-books. AT&T is providing the service, which is free of charge for basic access to Sony’s store.

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Sony even one-ups Amazon by adding a touch screen to the e-reader — a feature available in one of Sony’s existing offerings but not seen in either Kindle model. The Daily Edition has a 7-inch screen, compared to a 6-inch screen in the Touch Edition, which costs $299. The low-end Pocket Edition has a 5-inch screen and costs $199.

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Sony had offered e-readers in the past but was overshadowed by the popularity of the Kindle. Now, it appears to be storming the market, offering three models that generally trend lower in price than Amazon’s offerings. Moreover, the company is attacking Amazon on the e-book front, adopting an open file format that will give consumers more power over what they can do with their content. It helps, I think, that Sony’s moving away from the clumsy “PRS-X” naming scheme and into English words that make for easy marketing.

All that remains to be seen is whether this investment is a smart move to begin with. E Ink, which supplies screens for Kindle and other e-readers, has said that over 1 million screens have been sold, but that still makes it somewhat of a niche product. Choice in the marketplace will go a long way towards making e-readers more attractive, but it’s hard to justify a $200 to $400 gadget that can only read books. Ultimately, the price will have to come down, or e-books will simply become part of tablet PCs and other portable devices.

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