When you open a book, you see two facing pages at once. Sony has duplicated this real-world reading experience with the introduction today of its third e-reader, the Reader Daily Edition, available this December for $400. Equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen and 3G wireless connectivity (finally) via AT&T to download books directly to the device, you can read a single page in regular portrait mode, or see two pages across in landcape mode.
Unlike Amazon's Kindle, the Daily Edition Reader will be sold through a large number of brick-and-mortar retailers incuding Best Buy, BJs, Borders, Sam's Club, Staples, Target, Toys "R" Us and Wal-Mart. Like the Kindle DX and the large-screen reader coming from Plastic Logic early next year, the Daily Edition makes large-format newspapers and magazines easier to read.
The new Reader also has the ability to borrow books from the library. More on that after the Continue jump, along with a few more pics of the Daily Edition.
Sony's new eBook Library software 3.0 for PC and Mac, essentially the iTunes for Sony's Reader, will let you "borrow" books from your local library. The New York Public Library has 43,000 copies of 29,000 e-books that you can "borrow" for 21 days before they disappear. Even though the e-books aren't physical, copies of books are purposely limited — after all, publishers still want to sell copies. Reader will also download and display the million-plus public-domain Google Books.
Library books and increasing number of books offered from online book stores are encoded in the open EPUB format, which Sony is in process of switching to. To battle Amazon's iPod-like stranglehold on the e-book market, Sony and other e-readers will use EPUB and the ACS4 (Adobe Content Server 4) cross-platform e-book DRM. This will enable e-readers from all companies to link to multiple stores to shop and download. Books for Kindle are encoded in a proprietary protected format, much like Apple used to do with AAC for iTunes downloads.
The Daily Edition Reader joins the two other new Reader models, the Pocket Edition with a 5-inch screen ($200), available in rose, silver and blue, and the Touch Edition ($300), which has a 6-inch touchscreen.
All of this activity around the Reader and other e-readers, however, may be much ado about very little. In the words of publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin, Kindle and Reader, et al., may be "dead men walking." According to Shatzkin, dedicated e-book devices that cost between $200 and $300 appeal only to heavy book buyers and readers. The casual mainstream reader and technophobe is more likely to stick to cheap paperbacks or use one of the growing number of cellphone e-reader apps like Stanza (now owned and likely to be absorbed/killed by Amazon), Google Books, Wattpad (the YouTube of the e-book world), eReader and Barnes & Noble's eReader.
What do you think? Does the Sony Daily Edition appeal to you more than the Kindle or Kindle DX? And is the library-book feature exciting or "meh"? Tell us in the comments.