Lower-Priced Sony E-Book Creates Early Buzz

The early reviews are in - even before the newest Sony E- Reader hits the stores. It's coming later this month at the lowest price yet for an electronic book reader: $199. Sony also said it will cut the price of e-book downloads of best-sellers and new releases to $9.99 from $11.99, to match Amazon. But Sony will still not include wireless connectivity. Unlike Amazon's Kindle, Sony e-readers have to download books from a computer.

The first comments are pretty favorable:

The Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy blog says, "It's really cute! Called the Sony Reader Pocket Edition, it's got a 5-inch display and comes in three colors -- traditional silver, cool blue and, yes, super-cute pink. There's a click wheel, like an old-style iPhone, and control buttons up the right edge. Did I mention that it comes in pink?"

San Francisco Business Times says the release of the Sony device - actually two models, one, the small pocket reader ($199), the other, a larger, touch-screen version ($299) - "shows competition in the e-reader space is heating up."

Wired's Gadget Lab warned: "Amazon, watch out."

Techradar.com, like many commentators, focused on the price, saying the cheaper model "could be a crucial factor for Sony - with the vast majority of people still not convinced that moving away from paper books is for them."

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro highlighted one shared characteristic among all e-book readers: the inability to pass the electronic texts around. Once you buy it for your device, it stays there. "That, as I've written many times before, turns me off," Pegoraro said.

But overall, the new models from Sony will spur competition. With Plastic Logic set to launch a wireless, touch-screen device in January and Apple expected to enter the market in its own way, the e-book world is getting broader and deeper. And as Sony's lower-priced model illustrates, an expanding market benefits consumers.

By Steven E. Levingston |  August 7, 2009; 5:30 AM ET
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