[26 August 2009]
WASHINGTON — Sony Corp. on Tuesday said the first wireless version of its electronic book reader will go on sale before Christmas, a move that will help the Japanese giant better compete with market leader Amazon and its popular Kindle.
The newest Sony e-reader with wireless connectivity is called the Reader Daily Edition. Set to go on sale in early December, Sony said the device is expected to cost about $399. The Kindle 2 costs $299 after a recent price cut. (Other versions of the Sony e-reader, which lack wireless access, cost as little as $199.)
Although the original Sony e-readers were generally well received, the device lacked the wireless access built into the Kindle. Amazon uses the network of Sprint Nextel Corp. to allow customers to buy books, magazines or newspapers on the fly. Downloads take less than a minute and there’s no need to connect the Kindle to a computer.
While the market for e-books is still quite small, it’s growing rapidly. Amazon has never released sales figures, but analysts calculate the online mega-retailer has sold well over 1 million Kindles since the device was introduced in late 2007. The company has also sold tens of millions of e-books.
Sony will use the network of AT&T Inc., which has pushed to expand the market for wireless devices. Earlier this summer, AT&T said it would provide wireless access for a touch-screen e-reader being developed by Plastic Logic, a Silicon Valley firm.
Plastic Logic, whose device is expected to go on sale in early 2010, recently signed a deal to be the exclusive e-book distributor for Barnes & Noble.
AT&T and Sony did not release financial terms, but AT&T would likely get a cut of revenue based on the sale of each electronic publication. The deal with Sony reflects a concerted effort on AT&T’s part to generate new markets for its wireless business as growth in the mobile-voice market slows.
Like Amazon, Sony does not plan to charge customers a recurring fee for wireless access. The feature is included in the price of the device.
The wireless Sony e-reader has a touch screen and is 7 inches wide. It can be read vertically or horizontally and can store up to 1,000 books, with memory slots for future expansion. Customers can also download Word, PDF and other documents directly to the device.