Sony held a press conference today announcing a new addition to it’s eBook Reader family, as well as some interesting partnerships.

Earlier this month, Sony announced the adoption of the ePUB format for its stores, making me seriously consider switching from the Kindle. Now Sony has upped the ante a bit. There are now several eReaders in the family.


The Pocket Edition has physical buttons and is smaller, sporting a 5 in display and 512 MB internal memory. It’s a perfect candidate for someone’s first foray into eBooks and is priced at $199. The Touch edition has a touchscreen, 6 in display, 512 MB internal memory and a slot for a Memory Stick Pro Duo SD card. It also includes an audio player and picture viewer. The Touch is priced at $299. Both of these devices are available now (and were actually announced earlier this month).

The big news is the Daily Edition, announced today and available by the holidays. The  Daily Edition is the top of the line, selling for $399 and is comparable in many ways to the Kindle DX. That includes 3G access via AT&T but unlike the Kindle, you can’t surf the web, just the Sony store. The Daily Edition includes a 7-in touchscreen and can be used in portrait or landscape mode. I’m not sure of the exact specs, but the press release states that the reader “has enough internal memory to hold more than one thousand standard eBooks and expansion slots for memory cards to hold even more.”

If I understand correctly, these devices are in addition to the existing Digital Book PRS-505, which sells for $279, but I suspect they may be phasing that one out and replacing it with the similar Pocket edition.

The really excellent news is Sony’s deal with the public libraries of the world. Believe it or not, your public library most likely has an eBook library available. For example, I have access to the Ohio eBook Project. Unfortunately, because my Kindle won’t read DRM’d .mobi or ePUB files, I can’t read any of the books available to me. Sony is making sure that its users can easily access the libraries and check out books, all from their eBook device.

Thousands of libraries in the OverDrive network offer eBooks optimized for the Sony Reader, and visitors can now find these libraries by typing their zip code into the Library Finder. Through the selected library’s download website, visitors can check out eBooks with a valid library card, download them to a PC and transfer to their Reader. At the end of the library’s lending period, eBooks simply expire, so there are never any late fees.

Sony has another major advantage over Amazon – it has physical stores. It’s one of the reasons that I am constantly asked about the Kindle in airports. “Is that a Kindle? Can I see it?”  Sony makes it easy. Not only can you walk into any SonyStyle store in your local mall to play with an eBook reader, you can also wander into any Borders to experience one. eBook Readers, whether Kindle or Sony, are hard to explain until someone actually has one in their hands, sees, the eInk, and “flips” a few pages.



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