Sony plans to launch on Wednesday two new versions of its electronic reader, taking direct aim at the Amazon Kindle.
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The Reader Pocket Edition and Reader Touch Edition are scheduled to go on sale at the end of the month and cost $199 and $299, respectively, a person who had been briefed on Sony's plans told InformationWeek Tuesday. The Pocket Edition will have a five-inch diagonal display, and the Touch Edition, which will have a touch-sensitive screen for navigating through books, will sport a six-inch screen, which is the same size as the older Sony Reader.
Sony also plans to lower the prices of best-selling e-books to $9.99 from $11.99, matching Amazon's prices for books purchased for the Kindle. Bookseller Barnes & Noble recently lowered the pricing for books on eReader.com to match that of Amazon's. Barnes & Noble acquired the online e-book store earlier in the year through the acquisition of Fictionwise.
The new Sony e-readers will use the same E-Ink screen technology that's in the Kindle and older Sony Reader. The technology provides high-quality black-and-white text and images that can be seen even in direct sunlight. Both devices will have enough internal memory to store about 350 books, and a battery life of about two weeks.
The Touch Edition's screen will enable the user to turn pages, highlight text or type notes on a virtual keyboard using a finger or a stylus, which can also be used to take handwritten notes. The device will also include expansion slots for an SD card or a Memory Stick Pro Duo.
One feature missing from the devices that's available with the Kindle is a wireless connection. Amazon uses the feature to enable users to buy books directly from the retailer. The Sony devices will use software loaded onto a Windows PC or Mac to organize and download e-books.
Amazon also makes a larger e-reader called the Kindle DX. The device has a 9.7-inch screen for easier reading of letter-size documents. Amazon sells the DX for $489, and the six-inch Kindle for $299.
Sony is releasing the new devices as the popularity of the Kindle grows. Amazon won't say how many of the devices it has sold, but claims it accounts for 35% of book sales for those editions in which Kindle versions are available.
In releasing the Kindle, Amazon proved there is a market for e-books and readers. Besides Sony, the retailer will face competition in the future from startup Plastic Logic, which is planning to start selling a device similar to the Kindle DX in the second half of the year.
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