After announcing release dates and prices for its tablet devices earlier in the day Wednesday, Sony has also announced plans to release the Reader Wi-Fi, a wireless enabled 6-inch dedicated touchscreen eReader, in October. The Reader Wi-Fi will be priced at $149 and is designed to allow users to borrow books wirelessly from libraries.
Although the new Sony Reader Wi-Fi is the first dedicated e-reader designed to let users borrow e-books from libraries wirelessly, it’s not the first device to allow wireless library borrowing. Generally consumers who borrow library e-books must use a USB cable to load e-books into their readers after downloading them to a laptop or PC. However, the OverDrive Media Console app, released late last year, allows users with an iPhone, iPod or Android mobile device to borrow e-books from libraries by wireless download. (Amazon.com has also announced plans to partner with library vendor OverDrive to allow wireless borrowing on all Kindle devices sometime later this year).
While it was rumored that Sony—which is partnering with J.K. Rowling to build Pottermore, her new Harry Potter online immersive environment—would get a limited exclusive window to bundle Harry Potter e-books exclusively on Sony devices, the truth is something less. Sony will include a voucher code in each Reader Wi-fi that will allow the reader to download a free e-book edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when the e-book is available in October. Pottermore is the exclusive retail source of Harry Potter e-books.
Phil Lubell, v-p, networked technology and services division at Sony Electronics, said, “We believe in giving readers more freedom and flexibility while reading, and the new Reader Wi-Fi gives avid readers more access to content than ever. Bibliophiles can now buy, borrow or download free books wherever there’s a Wi-Fi connection.”
The new Reader Wi-FI has a high-contrast black and white Pearl e-ink screen. The device has 2GB of storage (Sony said it stores about 1,200 e-books), weighs less than six onces and comes in three colors. The touchscreen lets the reader swipe to turn the pages; it has finger-tip pinch and zoom to enlarge or shrink the page and readers can touch and hold a word to bring up the dictionary. Readers can make notes and Sony claims the battery charge will last a month. The Reader Wi-fi is the latest edition to a suite of digital readers that were redesigned and upgraded in 2010. They include the 5 inch Pocket Edition ($179), 6 inch Touch Edition ($229) and the 7 inch Daily Edition with Wi-fi ($299).
Consumers can buy e-books wirelessly from the Sony Reader Store and Sony claims users can buy from other online bookstores. The device supports ePub, PDF an TXT. Sony devices are often priced higher than other ereaders and their sales lag behind such competitors as the Kindle 3 ($114 to $139), the Nook Simple Touch ($139) and Kobo Touch Edition ($130). The new Reader Wi-fi is more competitively priced at $149.
Earlier in the day, Sony announced the release dates and prices for its forthcoming tablet devices. So while Sony may be chasing its competitors, it doesn’t look quite ready to give up.