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Sony widens its e-bookshelf

Two more electronic books, with wireless to follow

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Sony has launched two more e-ink-based electronic books. The cheapest sports a 5 inch screen and is priced at $200, while an inch-larger touch screen brings the price up to $300. But neither features wireless - at least not yet.

Hitting the $200 mark has obviously been a challenge, and has been achieved by cutting the screen down to five inches diagonal, or 12.7cm. For comparison, a traditional paperback is about eight inches (20.3cm) while five inches is nearer the size of a compact audio cassette box. A monitor resolution of 800x600 should give it a resolution of 200dpi (assuming square pixels), which drops to 170dpi when stretched to fill the six inch screen of the PRS-700.

The PRS-700 does have a finger-friendly touch screen, allowing users to turn pages with a swipe of the finger (something iPhone users seem obsessed about), but also sports a stylus for taking hand-written notes in the margins. But what's more interesting than the specifications (which are available in full from SonyInsider) is Sony's commitment to its own bookstore and promises of wireless connectivity soon.

Sony recently added half a million copyright-free books from Google, which it provides free for side-loading from a PC onto the existing Reader as well as the new models. Users can also copy PDF, EPUB, Word, MP3 and the traditional list of graphic formats, but for those prepared to pay, Sony is cutting a couple of dollars off the price of the latest books - down to $10 a title, in a move clearly aimed at Amazon's Kindle.

Of course, the Kindle has wireless networking built in, but Sony isn't going to let that unique selling point stand as the company told Gizmodo: "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."

E-book devices, as opposed to document readers, need to be small and cheap to compete with real books, $200 is a nice price point and at least Sony doesn't keep sticking keyboards onto books. But new hardware is really just a weapon in the war between electronic book stores, which will be a long and drawn-out fight, for both users and publishers. ®

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