August 26, 2009
New Sony eBook Reader Allows Library Check-Outs
Sony's new eBook reader was unveiled yesterday. The Reader Daily Edition retails for $399 and can store up to 1,000 titles. It comes with free 3G connectivity through AT&T. That last bit might be disappointing to some. Apple's iPhone also comes with AT&T as the 3G network carrier and the network performance seems to be highlighted as the iPhone weakness. Features highlighted by Sony suggest that the Reader Daily edition will compete with the Kindle by focusing on the customer and less on tying the customer to Sony. The reader can download free books from Google. One assumes that it will also be able to download paid-for content if and when the Book settlement goes into effect.
The most interesting feature is the ability for owners to borrow electronic books from the local library system, assuming the library uses Overdrive as their electronic manager/distributor. Overdrive does have relationships with major library systems. Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, and Phoenix are highlighted on the company's web site. The books will normally expire after 21 days. Kindle could conceivably extend similar features, but it seems inconsistent with the Amazon business model. Why loan something that can be sold instead?
It seems clear at the outset that Amazon is trying hard to be similar to Apple as in music sales. There is only one problem with that. eBook readers are new enough that the market isn't as established for one company such as Amazon to be the only major player. Otherwise, why fear Google from selling out of print titles for a fee? Apple created a customer experience that was consistent, and from a consumer's perspective, was fair to them for the money they spent. Nothing wrong with that, especially in hindsight. The music publishers at the time were all over the place in resisting digital sales as cannibalizing CD sales. That played into the hands of Apple who created a legal market for music that could compete with piracy.
Major print publishers have learned from the Apple experience. They don't want one company dominating sales and dictating the terms of the transaction. Even now they complain about the price points Amazon sets for content. Sound familiar? Book publishers recognize that the market for eBooks exist. Rather than denying that fact as did the music publishers, they seem to be cautiously embracing it early on by supporting different brands of readers. This can only be good for consumers who can define the flexibility of their eBook reading experience before a corporation does it for them.
Sony is a company that is known for some pretty spectacular marketing failures. There was the rootkit debacle from a few years back; the decision to create a music player that used a highly proprietary format that was overly DRM'd (Atrac); UMD discs for the Playstation Portable; severe DRM controls for the minidisc recorder. I could go on and on. This is one of the products the company may get right by letting be open enough for consumers to actually use.
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Direct library downloads are not supported:
"However, as LJ has verified with Sony and OverDrive, users will not be able to access Library Finder from the device itself, nor be able to check out books directly from the device.
Instead, users must browse Library Finder from a standard web browser, download the title onto a computer, and transfer it as with any other downloaded media. This process to check out library materials remains the same as it has been for downloadable materials from OverDrive on existing Sony Reader devices, and similar to the process for other compatible devices."
Posted by: Elmer Masters | Aug 27, 2009 6:58:39 AM
In my opinion, this whole thing sounds like the Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD war, and before that, the Betamax vx. VHS war, technologically speaking. Much as I'd like to get an e-book reader, I think I'll wait until the war is over--and the prices drop, as they already have for Blu-Ray players.
Posted by: Lundhra | Aug 26, 2009 7:53:01 PM