After a wait of six years, Sony has brought its ereader range – in the form of the just-launched Sony Reader Touch ($299) and Pocket Editions ($229) – to Australia, partnering with Borders and Angus & Robertson in the process.
The Japanese electronics giant was a pioneer in the field, first producing an electronic device for reading digital books in 2004.
Sony Australia’s technology communications manager Paul Colley says the company held off on entering the Australian market until book publishers were ready to make enough of their content available digitally.
While Sony had been in talks with publishers here for a year and a half, the arrival of the Kindle in Australia in late 2009, and of the iPad and Kobo (sold through REDgroup Retail chains Borders and Angus & Robertson) in May this year, encouraged publishers to offer their titles up.
“It was a chicken and egg situation,” Colley says, but “Kobo, Kindle and iPad have shown there is a market”.
Sony will partner with REDgroup in Australia, making the devices available in Borders and Angus & Robertson stores, and building in simple navigation to the chains’ online bookstores. The devices support several file formats, though, so users will be able to read books from just about anywhere.
This is in contrast to the Kindle, which only allows downloads of books from Amazon. However, both the Kindle and the iPad offer WiFi and the option of 3G for wireless downloading of content, whereas the Sony Readers, like the Kobo, must be connected to a PC or Mac via USB.
Colley says industry-wide adoption of the ePub standard for ebook files was another factor in Sony’s decision to come to market here. The format allows for reflowing and resizing of text so that a file can be read easily on any sized screen.
“Only in the past 18 months has ePub become industry-wide,” he says. “Prior to that, it was a bit of a mess.”
Sony’s Reader, like the Kindle, uses the latest e-ink technology to emulate the printed page. The grayscale e-ink screen is not backlit, and is thus easier on the eye, less power-hungry than an LCD screen, and readable in direct sunlight.
Unlike the Kindle, but like the iPad, the Sony offers a touch screen. The user can turn the page with the touch of a finger, or use the stylus that comes with the device to take notes or draw pictures.
Colley says the Pocket device is four to five times lighter than an iPad, and fits easily in the pocket of a business shirt – though he agrees the devices are different beasts. “We very clearly believe tablets and ereaders will co-exist,” he says.
The Sony Readers feature two English and ten translation dictionaries in five languages. The 155g Pocket, which comes in silver, pink or dark blue, offers a 5” screen, 2GB internal memory (around 1200 ebooks), around 10,000 continuous page turns or two weeks per battery charge, support for multiple file formats and a picture viewer.
The 215g Touch model offers the same features but comes in black or red, with a larger, 6” screen (which is the same size as the latest Kindle). While it comes standard with the same 2GB internal memory as the Pocket, this can be expanded up to 16GB via SD slots and memory sticks to store 10,000 books. It also includes an audio player.
Sony expects the ereaders to go on sale in Borders, Angus & Robertson, Myer, in Sony stores and online within days.