Sony takes on the Kindle
Ebook war is declared
Sony's new Daily Edition is aiming to take on Amazon's Kindle with its 3G connectivity and touch screen, but it will have to provide an acceptable face for DRM, with library lending and open standards.
The Daily Edition will be available in the US come December, and includes 3G GSM connectivity that will allow users to download books and magazine subscriptions over the air, removing the unique selling point of Amazon's Kindle while also boasting about open standards and interoperability.
The strangely-tall Daily Edition has the usual e-ink display and ability to switch between portrait and landscape views. But it also has a touch screen allowing the user to prod at the screen with a finger or use a (specially designed) stylus to annotate documents. The latter function could be important to the document-reading audience - who might be prepared to pay more for their hardware - not to mention all those crossword fanatics.
Tall, or wide, depending on how you look at it
At $400 the Daily Edition will be $100 more than the cheapest Kindle, but more interesting than the hardware is the service and software side of the device. It will be connected to AT&T's 3G network, which means GSM and thus worldwide compatibility, unlike the Kindle which still can't be sold outside the USA thanks to its reliance on CDMA.
Like the Kindle, punters won't have to pay for their connectivity, as that will be covered by some sort of revenue-share between Sony and AT&T. The Daily Edition doesn't have a web browser, however, which is good for AT&T, as updates (such as RSS feeds, which are supported) can be sent out when the network isn't busy, rather than when demanded by the users, and it should also limit the amount of traffic.
But it's not just RSS feeds and newspapers that will be sent out overnight - the Daily Edition also supports library book lending as already deployed by various libraries (including Luton in the UK). If you borrow a book from your local library, it will be delivered over the air, only to disappear after 21 days. That service is provided by OverDrive, who dominate the electronic library business, such as it is. It is dependent on Adobe's Content Server 4, the Digital Rights Management system integral to the Daily Edition and its business model.
That's not to say that users won't be able to side load content directly onto the Daily Edition, in a wide variety of formats including unprotected ePub and PDF. ePub is being used by all sorts of publishers, and combined with Adobe's Content Server by members of the American Booksellers' Association in just the way that Sony and Adobe would like to see become the industry standard once the Kindle has been eradicated.
It's interesting to note that another e-book reader - the Opus from Bookeen - supports Adobe's Content Server 4 as well as the Amazon-owned Mobipocket format, but not both at the same time. The company reckons the two are technically incompatible, and the buyer must decide which platform they want to use and replace the firmware if they change their mind. We've asked Bookeen for clarification about the incompatibility, but are still awaiting a reply.
With a credible competitor to the Kindle appearing, the players have now all arrived and the stage is set for a battle between Adobe and Amazon for ownership of digital publishing, which should prove interesting. ®
You won't get me lumping out cash until it works like paper books:
* I can buy content from whoever I want anywhere I want
* The content becomes my property in a tangible way
* I can give, loan, swap content with other people
* I can give it to Oxfam who can sell it half price to students
* Oh and content has to be a lot cheaper than a paperback, to reflect the supply sides lower costs.
* I can generate my own content and give it away to friends
On the way, a standard memory card slot, a standard USB connector (also used for charging), and a week-and-a-bit battery life so I can take it on holiday would be essential too.
All that said, I quite like the idea.
The CONTENT will all be on Google.
And Saint Peter in his doorway
Writes with one eye turned down floorway.
For the wisdom of the ages he can tell:
You may die and go to Heaven
And your Pulitzers be seven
But the editors will still all work for Hell!
(Copyright Cortland Richmond)
These products are already irrelevant.
Come on... only stupid people buy Kindles. Why would annyone in their right mind spend 400$ or more on something that only reads books, when you can use EReader, get it free or buy it for 15$ and install it on any smartphone that can be used to phone, browse, text, listen to music AND read books!?!
Kindles have always been and will always be a very limited niche product.
I liked the 505 so much that I bought one
I was sceptical about e-book readers and said so in various El-Reg comments. I was happy using my laptop and netbook with the free MobiPocket reader application and all the free e-books I could want from Gutenberg.org and other places.
Then I saw a Sony PRS-505 in Curry's and played with it, it was very nice indeed. I bought it from play.com at £150 (Jersey company, no VAT charge) and it arrived 3 days after my internet order was placed. Customs hadn't intercepted it and slapped any import duty on it so maybe I was lucky.
It is a pleasure to use and to read and with the free Calibre e-book management application you can load it with just about anything. I can load compatible files onto my 4GB SD card and plug it in and have them appear in the list of books. I can make my own books with text and pictures using the free PrimoPDF .pdf generator authoring them in Word. It's a very nice bit of kit.
The only 'downside' is that it's a bit slow at the menu level GUI response and doing any USB comms and any needed internal conversion. Having said that, it's a reader, for reading, not for messing about with. It also lists and plays any .mp3 files you put on there and you can listen to music as you read, if you want that.
With a touch screen, I'd want to look very carefully at it to see if the screen had an effect on contrast and if it introduced any blurring of the text. Has anybody seen one to be able to comment on this?
"I don't think 3G is a must have argument, yet but I do like the idea of automatically charging up my favourite plublications such as The Economist or The Register so that I can read it when I have some "inbetween" time."
This can be done* on a Sony PRS-505 for any site with an RSS feed via that wonderful bit of free software, Calibre. Both EL Reg and The Economist are among the 100 odd publications where someone with a bit of time and skill has submitted a well formatted script to Calibre for us all to use. I get both along with my local newspaper (which I had to script myself) and a couple of other magazines.
*It isn't quite automatic. I get up in the morning, turn on the PC, hit the "Download" button on Calibre, make a cup of tea while it takes 2 - 3 minutes downloading and formatting, hit the "Sync" button, drink tea while it takes 30 seconds to send to the Reader, read on bus. Easy.