Archive for the ‘Sony eBook Readers’ Category
The Register is reporting that the new Sony ereaders which are expected to be unveiled soon may come bundled with the Harry Potter ebooks. Other ereaders will most likely have to wait until next year for digital versions of the Potter books, which will be sold exclusively through the Pottermore website. Pottermore just went into beta yesterday and is expected to open in October.
This has apparently not been confirmed by Sony, but it sounds more than plausible as Sony is a partner in the Pottermore site. I’m guessing that Sony’s unveiling of its new ereaders will be tied to the public launch of Pottermore.
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I have to say that I’ve had the feeling of late that Sony is abandoning the ereader market in the US. The company’s ereaders have fallen behind the Nook and Kindle ereaders in terms of marketshare.
My take — To get back in the race Sony will need to achieve more competitive pricing and include expected features like Wi-Fi. To do this it will need to put more emphasis on selling content than it currently does. The competition makes relatively little on the ereader devices themselves, which are subsidized by the sale of ebooks. This seems to be a concept that Sony has so far been unwilling to grasp.
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Today Sony officially confirmed that it is working on a couple of Android 3 tablets that are expected to be released by this fall. Both models of the Sony Tablet, dubbed the S1 and S2, will feature Wi-Fi and WAN (3G/4G).
The S1 will have a 9.4-inch display and will feature an off-center of gravity to make it more comfortable to hold. The S2 will sport two 5.5-inch displays in a folding design. The individual screens of the S2 can be configured to operate together as one larger display or as two separate screens with differing functions — for example one screen could show a keyboard with the second displaying the document being worked on. No mention as to whether an ebook will be able to display a separate page on each screen.
Both tablets will feature integration with other Sony products. They can be used as remote controls for Sony Bravia AV products; connect with the Sony Reader Store to purchase and download ebooks; output content to DLNA Certified televisions and wireless speakers; play PlayStation titles via PlayStationSuite (to be launched later this year – will bring PS games to Android); and subscribe to streaming music and video on demand services through Sony’s Qriocity platform.
We will have to wait for more detailed specs and pricing. Sony has released the promotional video below for the new tablets. Don’t know about functionality yet, but aesthetically both tablets appear to be well designed.
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Generally I don’t attend going out of business sales. The companies running these things start off by offering enticing discounts, but the discount is off of the MSRP. If you buy something in the early days of the sale you are likely to regret it when you find the same item for a lower price somewhere else that is not going out of business. By the time the discounts offer real savings there is often nothing of interest left.
But today I had some extra time to kill between appointments, so I stopped in at one of the Borders stores that is on the chopping block. There were still quite a few interesting books left, but to be honest I really prefer reading digitally now.
The Area E section (Borders’ in-store digital reading section) was long gone, but there was a small display of generic one-size-fits-all ereader covers left. And in the midst of this was one of Sony’s official lighted covers for the PRS-650 Touch Edition ereader. This cover originally sold for $50, but is pretty much unavailable anywhere now, at least in this country. After the discount I walked out the door with a new lighted cover for my Sony Touch for $15 plus tax.
Sony’s lighted cover features a small LED light that turns on automatically when flipped up and turns off when stowed. The light is powered by a single AAA battery (included) and features a high and low brightness setting. The ereader is held in place by two pins that fit into holes set into the top and bottom left corners of the ereader. This system allows the ereader to swing back and forth freely in the cover — but avoids any danger of damaging the bezel should you inadvertently open the cover backwards, as has been the unfortunate case with the Kindle 2 hinge system.
The cover does have stiffeners sewn inside, but I think Sony should have used stiffer materials for the front cover to better protect the screen. I’m not sure if I would have been entirely happy with the cover at its original price of $50, but for what I paid it is a bargain. If you have been looking for this cover you might check your local Borders stores that are having a going away sale.
Sorry, the photos are not that great. The top one was taken with my cell phone and the bottom two with my Xoom under artificial light — the batteries of my digital camera died and I didn’t want to wait for them to recharge.
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Borders.com and Best Buy are currently offering the Sony Pocket eReader for $129. This price will only be good from today through April 2, 2011. The Pocket Edition is still listed at $179 at Borders as I write this, but when you put the ereader in your shopping cart it will show the $129 price.
The new Sony ereaders are quite good. I have the Sony Touch and enjoy using it. The Pocket Edition makes a great portable ereader to carry around with you — small and durable.
Borders also has a coupon code — BYP7900G — that is good for a 33 percent discount on one item at Borders.com. Unfortunately, this promo code will not work for ereaders or ebooks. This code expires tomorrow, March 28.
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It has really started to feel to me as though Sony is not assigning much importance to its ereaders any more, at least not in this country. Today is the first ereader-related news from Sony in a while:
Sony originally announced its Reader Library Program to promote digital reading about eight months ago. In September, 2010 the first 30 libraries to participate in the program were announced. Today Sony says it is expanding the program to include a second group of 30 public libraries from 20 states across the US.
"The first phase of our Reader Library Program was a tremendous success with participating libraries across the country reporting significant interest from patrons corresponding with strong growth in digital lending," said Phil Lubell, Sony Electronics’ vice president of digital reading. "Today, we’re excited to announce the next 30 participants in the program and look forward to opening up digital reading opportunities to more consumers."
"The Sony Reader Library Program has enabled our Library to successfully spread the word about digital books, and we have seen an unprecedented increase in use since the inception of this timely partnership," said Kara Kohn of the Plainfield Public Library. "Our patrons are enjoying the opportunity to test out devices the library would not otherwise be able to provide in the current economic climate. The training and knowledge we received from Sony goes a long way in communicating to the public that the library is on the cutting edge. We can’t thank Sony enough for this effective initiative and hope it motivates other libraries to be active promoters of eBooks in the public library."
Here is what Sony provides the libraries:
- An in-house training session for participating library staff developed by Sony. This in-person session will cover digital reading formats, an overview of sources for digital materials, and training on Sony’s Reader digital reading devices.
- Sony’s Reader digital reading devices for use by library staff.
- Educational materials and informational bookmarks to provide patrons background on digital reading devices and eBook borrowing programs.
The 30 libraries newly participating in the program:
- Rancho Bernardo Branch Library (San Diego, CA)
- Laguna Hills Technology Library (Laguna Hills, CA)
- Denton Public Library – South (Denton, TX)
- Utica Public Library (Utica, NY)
- Pikes Peak Library District (Colorado Springs, CO)
- Mill Valley Public Library (Mill Valley, CA)
- Mesa County Libraries (Grand Junction, CO)
- Park Ridge Public Library (Park Ridge, NJ)
- Mansfield Public Library (Mansfield, MA)
- Kalamazoo Public Library (Kalamazoo, MI)
- Moline Public Library (Moline, IL)
- Carnegie-Stout Public Library (Dubuque, IA)
- Roxbury Public Library (Succasunna, NJ)
- McHenry Public Library (McHenry, IL)
- Orono Public Library (Orono, ME)
- Mr. Vernon Public Library (Mt. Vernon, NY)
- Westborough Public Library (Westborough, MA)
- Town Hall Library (North Lake, WI)
- Rockville Centre Public Library (Rockville, NY)
- Springville Public Library (Springville, UT)
- Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library (Evansville, IN)
- Howard City Library (Howard, KS)
- Buncombe County Public Library (Asheville, NC)
- Pioneer Library (Norman, OK)
- Fairfield County District Library (Lancaster, OH)
- Ohoopee Regional Library (Vidalia, GA)
- Grant County Public Library (Williamstown, KY)
- Parkland Community Library (Allentown, PA)
- Hooksett Public Library (Hooksett, NH)
- West Milford Township Library (West Milford, NJ)
Sony is also providing digital reading assistance to libraries beyond the next 30 participants in the Reader Library Program. Libraries not currently participating will have access to further program information, details on applying for it, free eBook training videos and printable collateral for them to use in educating their patrons at www.sony.com/libraryprogram.
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Sony’s promised Reader app for the iPhone was apparently refused admittance to the App Store. Sony now has this message up on its mobile apps page:
Unfortunately, with little notice, Apple changed the way it enforces its rules and this will prevent the current version of the Reader™ for iPhone® from being available in the app store. We opened a dialog with Apple to see if we can come up with an equitable resolution but reached an impasse at this time. We’re exploring other avenues to bring the Reader experience to Apple mobile devices. We know that many of you are eagerly awaiting the application and we appreciate your continued patience.
UPDATE (2/1/2011): The NYT is reporting that the reason that the Sony app was not allowed is because Apple is tightening its policies on ebook apps. Apple will no longer allow such apps to sell content (ebooks) from within the app, or let customers access ebooks purchased from outside the App Store.
When I originally wrote this post I wondered if Sony tried to enable ebook purchases from the Reader Store from within the app and if this could be the reason for the rejection, but I didn’t want to speculate. According to the NYT article the rejection could signal trouble for the other ereading apps from Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc. If Apple were to no longer allow these apps I think it would be a bad move on their part as it would eliminate one of the reasons people have for purchasing an iPad. I’m sure all the makers of Android-based tablets would love for Apple to kick all the ereading apps out of the App Store.
Actually, I don’t think this is the case. Kobo just this morning announced that its Reading Life social ereading service is now enabled in its iPhone app, and there is an update to the Kobo iOS apps today. As far as I know, app updates are reviewed just as rigorously as new apps before being allowed into iTunes. Also, the other ereading apps seem to still be working normally.
I have to think that the problem is with the way in which Sony enabled buying ebooks in their app. The Kindle app opens a Safari window if you want to shop in the Kindle Store. The Nook app does the same. I’m not sure with the Kobo app – it does not seem to open a browser window when you go shopping. Perhaps Kobo gives a commission to Apple for ebooks purchased through the app?
I’m guessing that Sony will have to rework their app to open a Safari window to connect to the Reader Store. If this is indeed the problem, then it is old news and Sony should have known better. When the Kindle iPad app first launched, one common complaint was that you had to exit the app and enter the Kindle Store via the browser because of this very issue. This is much less inconvenient now with the multitasking capabilities of iOS 4.2.
If Apple is planning to no longer let users of the reading apps access ebooks that were purchased outside of the Apple App Store then this could indeed prove to be troublesome. One of the major claims to fame of these apps – especially the Kindle app – is that you are able to sync your reading across various platforms. If Apple cripples this I think they will be shooting themselves in the foot. iBooks alone does not for a great ereader make.
UPDATE #2: More info and statements from the concerned parties have come out. It appears that the Sony app did open a browser window for the purpose of shopping at the Reader Store. Apple has apparently decided to enforce existing rules and says that if ebooks are sold outside of the app via a web browser there must also be an option to buy the ebooks through the app, which would entail paying a portion of the sale to Apple – usually 30 percent.
According to Ars Technica, Apple also reportedly told Sony that the app could not access ebooks purchased on other devices. A clarifying statement from Apple said that if the app does not use Apple’s in-app purchasing methods then the app cannot access ebooks purchased elsewhere. This would prevent app developers from disabling ebook sales through the iOS apps and requiring customers to instead buy ebooks from their computers or other devices and then read them on their iPad or iPhone.
Thanks to the Agency Model that Apple was instrumental in bringing about, Amazon and the other ebook sellers only make 30 percent on the ebooks they sell. So basically they would, if Apple follows through with this, receive nothing from selling ebooks. Well, less than nothing if you take their infrastructure costs into consideration – they would be selling ebooks at a loss, with all the profits going into Apple’s purse.
It has not been revealed whether Apple is only enforcing the rules for newcomers or if it will apply them to ereader apps already in the App Store such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others. Sony is a relatively small player, so maybe this was some sort of test case in which Apple could flex its muscles, but this action by Apple does not bode well for the iPad’s future as an ereader.
This puts the reading app makers in a tough position. If Amazon abandons the iDevices they will no doubt anger many customers. Many will probably see Amazon as the bad guys here, rather than Apple. As for me, I’m starting to remember why I never bought Apple products before the iPad.
Perhaps Amazon and the other ebook sellers could set it up so that customers could read their ebooks on the web via the Safari web browser instead of having apps in the App Store. This would not be as elegant or convenient as having an app and would require an internet connection to read the ebooks you have purchased.
If Apple follows through with this the iPad will probably be broken as an ereader. Even if Amazon caves and gives Apple the profit from its Kindle books sold on iDevices to keep its customers happy, other ebook sellers like Barnes & Noble probably can’t afford this and will be forced to pull their apps. The main attraction of the iPad as an ereader is that it currently lets you read ebooks from all of the major ebookstores on one device. This may be coming to an end.
If Apple were to accept a smaller cut that the ebookstores could live with we might see an outcome to all of this that may even be better for consumers. It would be more convenient to buy the books from within the apps rather than through a browser window. And , after all, most of the ebook sellers already pay affiliates (like this site) a small commission when ebooks are sold through their websites.
If you were planning on buying an iPad 2 when it comes out you might want to wait until this gets resolved. The iBookstore does not even come close when compared with Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Kobo. If the iPad looses the non-Apple reading apps it will be less desirable. With all of the new Android-based tablets coming out featuring Android 3.0 there should be a lot of good alternatives to the iPad. The timing on this does not make sense to me in view of all of the upcoming competition the iPad will have.
One has to wonder if Apple will also start enforcing its rules concerning in-app purchases for other apps selling other products such as movies and periodicals, etc.
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Sony has quietly lowered the price of the PRS-350 Pocket Edition ereader to $129.99. You can find the new price at Sony Style or some of the usual resellers (Bordersand Best Buy to name a couple).
Sony’s newest line of ereaders are quite good except for the lack of Wi-Fi in the Touch and Pocket Editions. Being sturdily built and compact, the Touch and Pocket Editions are very portable and good when travelling. The Sony Store is not the best, but you can also purchase ebooks from Kobo and elsewhere as well (Nookbooks won’t work). You can also borrow ebooks from the public library on Sony’s ereaders. I have the Sony Touch and it is a pleasure to use (my review).
It also seems that Sony may be dropping its line of covers and cases for its ereaders. There are only a few still on offer at Sony Style. The Sony lighted cover for the PRS-650 seems to have disappeared from stores completely. Hopefully this is just a temporary lack of stock and a container full of new covers is on its way from China.
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Sony has finally released its Android reading app. An iPhone app is also promised but is still in the oven.
I have just had a few minutes to try the new app out. The app successfully logged me into my Sony Reader Store account and gave me access to my library and wishlist. The Reader app comes with three free public domain titles and excerpts of three contemporary ebooks.
As expected, the app lets you change font sizes. There is also the ability to make highlights and notes. One thing that seems to be missing is a nighttime mode – you can adjust the screen brightness with a slider, but you cannot get light colored fonts on a dark background. This is bad news for me as it is easier on my eyes to read books on an LCD display with the nighttime feature.
The library lets you sort by Recently Read, Author and Title. If you have the Sony PRS-950 Daily Edition (with firmware 2.0) you can sync with that, but as Sony opted to leave out Wi-Fi connectivity on the Sony Touch and Pocket Editions you obviously cannot sync with those ereaders. You can purchase ebooks from the Sony Reader Store from within the app.
I may be missing something, but I don’t see a way to delete a book from within the app. I also tried to sideload PDF and ePub files without DRM but the app would not acknowledge these – looks like it will only work with files from the Reader Store. You will need Android version 2.2 or higher on your device for the app to work.
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While the Sony ereaders have done well in the US and elsewhere, they have never been big in Japan. Sony sold its LIBRIe ereader in Japan from 2004 to 2007, but until now has not been selling the Reader line of ereaders in its home country.
On Dec 10, Sony will reintroduce its ereaders to the Japanese market. The 5-inch Pocket Edition is expected to sell for ¥ 20,000 ($240) and the 6-inch Touch Edition will sell for ¥ 25,000 ($299).
Sony formed partnerships with some of Japan’s largest publishers earlier this year in an effort to make more content available to digital readers in Japan. At launch, the Japanese version of the Reader Store is expected to offer about 20,000 titles.
Source: Akihabara News