Sony, battling Amazon and Apple in the electronic book reader race, announced the introduction of the Sony Reader to Japan. Six models of Readers have already gone through various stages of product life in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand, with three more coming soon, but today’s announcement in Tokyo was for two of those models, the PRS-350 and -650.
Sony’s Reader ebook goes on sale on December 10 at about 20,000 yen ($240) for a model with a 5 inch screen or 25,000 yen for a 6 inch screen. It hopes to sell 300,000 Readers in the first year and win half the domestic market by 2012, Sony Marketing Japan president Nobuki Kurita told reporters.
The move will mark a return to Japan for the electronic giant’s e-reader business since it left the market in 2007 after seeing low demand at a time when Japanese consumers were focused on mobile phone books. The success of Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle has however sent electronics makers scrambling to gain a slice of the growing tablet computer and e-reader market.
Sony has cut the size and weight of its e-readers while expanding the use of touch technology to all models — allowing users to turn pages with a swipe of the finger like the Apple iPad. Unlike the colour iPad, the Sony Reader uses black-and-white e-ink technology. The PRS-350 Reader Pocket Edition is a five-inch e-book reader with E-Ink Corporation’s electronic paper display, 2GB of internal memory, a microUSB port and support for e-books and image files; sized at 104.3x145x8.5 mm and weighs 155g. The PRS-650 Reader Touch Edition is rather similar in specification but has a six-inch screen, a memory card slot, a 2.5-inch audio out jack, and support for music as well; and is slightly larger, at 118.8×168.0×9.6 mm and 215g. One large difference from the non-Japanese versions of these two models seems to be the inclusion of support for the XMDF file format, a domestic extensible e-book standard spearheaded by Sharp.
Competitors in the domestic market include Sharp Corp’s and Apple Inc’s iPad which was launched in the month of May in Japan. Amazon still does not offer titles in Japanese for its e-book readers. Despite the readers having not enough space to keep books in their home, e-books have to gain far-reaching popularity in Japan primarily because of the vigilant attitude of the publishers.
Sony will also open a digital bookstore for the device in Japan as it has elsewhere, offering downloads of around 20,000 titles. The group hopes to sell 300,000 e-readers in Japan in the first year and expects a 50 percent market share by 2012, the company said. “I believe Japan has the potential to become the world’s second- or third-largest market for e-readers, but there are some complex aspects to the market,” said Sony Electronics Senior Vice President Fujio Noguchi.
In contrast with Japan, Sony offers 1.2 million titles via its Reader Store in North America.