As you may have heard, Sony's shipping a $200 5" Reader Pocket Edition and $300 6" Reader Touch Edition at the end of August. Also coming: Mac support and—later on—wireless downloading like Amazon's Kindle.
It's a good move for Sony, who is taking the populist approach here. Not only have they lowered the price on devices that use the easy-on-the-eyes but notoriously expensive E-Ink display, but they are also dropping the price of bestsellers and new-release books from $12 to $10 a pop, to get in line with Amazon.
Beyond that, they recently got Google to chip in 1 million public-domain books to their bookstore, available to you for the lovely price of $0.00, and continue to stress that you can sideload all kinds of stuff to a Sony Reader that you can't just copy over to most Kindles, such as PDFs and Word docs, not to mention "check out" digital books from libraries via OverDrive.
To top it all off, Sony is adding a Mac client, so that owners can load up purchased content via either computer platform. The new Readers themselves will load up either software automatically when connected to the computer—no pesky CD-ROM required. (Owners of the PRS-505 and the PRS-700 will be able to download the Mac client and a firmware update at the time of launch, late this month.)
Am I excited? Yes, for a couple of reasons. Not only does the openness, uncharacteristic of Sony in general, show good will, it ensures that the Sony Reader won't just go down in history as one of Sony's great but all-too-proprietary ideas. Forget even the Mac software and the free books—real proof of openness is that in addition to Memory Sticks, these Readers take SD cards!
The Pocket Edition (PRS-300) will come in pink, silver and blue, and have toggle buttons on the side. Five inches is kinda small for a screen, but presumably it's good for fans of pulp fiction.
The Touch Edition (PRS-600), is a bigger deal on many levels. You may recall I pretty much loathed the PRS-700, because its touchscreen was plagued with glare, and overly layered. I haven't seen the new touch model, but I am ensured that this was a chief concern during the development of the PRS-600, and that it's far easier to read than the PRS-700. The side lighting has been stripped out, so you still need a separate light source, but the side light was such a bad idea, I am happy to hear about this fix.
And as for wireless, I am glad Sony is up front about working on something that would truly rival the Kindle. It will be interesting to see how Sony rolls out a PC-free ebook platform. The word from Sony to us today: "As announced earlier, we will be bringing a wireless product to market. The particulars of 'when' and 'how much' will come later. Wireless is important and wireless is coming from Sony."
This isn't a review—we still need to check out the hardware, and some who have seen the touchscreen PRS-600 mention it's sluggish and "underwhelming." Presumably, the software kinks are still being worked out. We'll let you know the deal when we see final product. [Sony eBooks]