In a move to compete with Amazon's Kindle e-book reader, Sony on Thursday launched a new Reader that leverages some of the Apple iPhone's strengths.
Specifically, the Sony PRS-700 Reader boasts an interactive touchscreen display that promises an intuitive digital reading experience. The latest addition to Sony's Reader lineup has the dimensions of a slimmed-down paperback book in a textured black casing with a soft black cover. It weighs about 10 ounces. The new Reader will be available next month for about $400.
"Readers now have another choice in digital books," said Steve Haber, president of Sony's Digital Reading business division. "This new model has the eye-popping design and intuitive functionality that people have come to expect from Sony."
New Bells and Whistles
Of course, "eye-popping" is in the eye of the beholder. What consumers will see in the PRS-700 is a device with a six-inch display with touchscreen capabilities that allows book enthusiasts to flip pages with the slide of a finger. Users can also search terms within a document or book, create notes using the virtual keyboard, and highlight text with a stylus pen that comes as part of the package.
The PRS-700 offers five preset text sizes, so readers can choose which is easiest on their eyes. Readers accustomed to large-print books can zoom in by tapping the screen. Sony said the device offers a high-resolution, high-contrast electronic paper-display technology that generates a reading experience akin to ink on paper.
Sony said its technology makes it possible to read e-books even in bright sunlight, and the PRS-700 offers a built-in LED reading light so users can keep on reading even when ambient light is not available. The new Reader can store about 350 digital books and offers the option of a removable memory stick or SD memory cards that expand the capacity to thousands of books and documents.
Another Step Forward
Sony said PRS-700 uses minimal power and can provide up to 7,500 pages of continuous reading before recharging the battery. It supports multiple file formats for e-books, personal documents, and music. Consumers can add Adobe PDF documents with reflow capability, Word documents, BBeB files, and other text file formats.
"I do like the fact that the PRS-700 will accept a number of different formats. That means you can not only store books in there, but you can have PDFs and other downloadable documents in a business context," said Phil Leigh, a senior analyst at Inside Digital Media. "But this is still an early-adopter product because of the $400 price tag."
In addition, Sony's eBook Store Web site is getting a face-lift. Sony said a redesigned page layout with more prominent book-cover art and flash-based promotions will be introduced to enhance the visual appeal of the site. Sony is also streamlining the checkout process with updated search-and-discovery tools for finding and purchasing digital books.
"The trends are in the right direction. I think the e-book product sector will continue to improve, and ultimately we'll find that this kind of thing is going to be accepted into the mass market," Leigh said. "Not that it will replace paper books altogether, but it's going to be fairly common to see people using these things. But we're still five to 10 years away from that."