Sony Unveils New Reader Line, Drops E-book Prices

Adrian Versteegh

Hoping to ramp up competition in the e-book arena, Sony announced the launch of a new—and less expensive—line of digital readers on Tuesday evening. The Reader Pocket Edition and Reader Touch Edition, priced at $199 and $299 respectively, will hit stores later this month. The company also said that its online store will knock two dollars off the cost of new and bestselling e-books, matching the $9.99 price Amazon set for Kindle titles in 2007.

“The e-book industry has not hit the mainstream yet. We are focusing on affordability,” Steve Haber, president of Sony’s Digital Reading Business Division, told the New York Times. Publishers still reap about half the hardcover list price from e-book sales, meaning that online retailers like Sony and Amazon lose money as they scrabble to carve out market shares. As these companies increase their clout, some publishers are concerned that wholesale prices may be forced down, taking a bite out of an already ailing industry. “We have to offer value,” Haber insists. “It’s clear e-books should be less expensive than regular books, with the savings on printing and logistics getting passed on to the consumer.”

Both of Sony’s new Readers support the increasingly popular ePub format, used for the approximately one million public domain titles digitized so far by Google. Unlike the Kindle, however, they lack support for newspapers and magazines, and still require that users connect the device to a computer in order to download books. Sony is expected to announce the development of a Reader with wireless capability later this year.