Mobile Tech

Sony Takes Swipe at Kindle With Touchscreen Reader

Just in time for the 2008 holiday season, Sony unveiled a new addition to its line of e-book readers Thursday. The PRS-700, which features a six-inch touchscreen, will join the PRS-505 on store shelves in November.

Weighing in at about 10 ounces and capable of storing about 350 average-length digital novels, the PRS-700 also includes an expandable memory slot for Sony’s Memory Stick Duo media and SD memory cards. With the added memory, the reader can hold thousands of books and documents, according to Sony.

“The touchscreen takes the e-reader to the next level and throws down the gauntlet at Amazon. We can now guess what the next version of Kindle will have to have to keep face,” James McQuivey, a Forrester Research analyst, told TechNewsWorld.

Turning the Page

The PRS-700’s touchscreen enables users to turn the page — forward and backward — with just a swipe of their finger. If they hold down their finger following the swipe, readers are able to fast forward and rewind quickly.

Readers can also search for terms within a document or book, create notes using the device’s virtual keyboard and also highlight text with either their fingers or the included stylus.

The e-reader offers five pre-set text sizes and a zoom-in functionality when a closer examination of the text is needed.

The PRS-700 sports high-resolution, high-contrast electronic paper display technology that is readable in bright sunlight. However, for times when the absence of light is a problem, Sony has also included built-in LED reading light along either side of the device.

A single battery charge will last through up to 7,500 pages of continuous reading, Sony said. The device will support several formats, such as Adobe PDF, Microsoft Word, BBEB and others. It can also store and display .epub files and works with Adobe Digital Edition software.

What the PRS-700 does not have, however, is wireless connectivity, and that, McQuivey said, will keep the Kindle in the top e-reader spot.

“It’s still the Kindle that’s in the lead because of its wireless connectivity to the bookstore. Not only can you read anywhere, you can find a book anywhere, which we find Kindle users are very happy with once they’ve tried it,” he noted.

Tight Holiday Season

Competing against the Kindle without wireless functionality is one problem, but the other major inhibitor for the device may be price. Sony expects consumers to plunk down US$400 for the e-reader, a hefty price in uncertain economic times and $100 more than the current price of the PRS-505.

In fact, according to McQuivey, pricing is a problem for the entirety of the e-reader market.

“This whole category is too expensive for it to be a mass market. That’s why the end of this year will end with fewer than 1 million people owning an e-reader device,” he explained.

Waiting until next year to purchase the device could be the answer for consumers who balk at the current price tag.

“Prices will come down next year — someone will offer a bare-bones model at $299 in 2009. Once that happens, we can start talking about a world in which 10 million homes could have one in five years,” he concluded.

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