Sony takes on Kindle with WiFi e-book reader

Sony plans to offer an e-book reader with the ability to wirelessly download books, injecting more competition in a small but fast-growing market by adopting a key feature of the rival Kindle from Amazon.com.

Sony's $399 (£244) Reader Daily Edition will go on sale by December, Sony executives said at an event at the New York Public Library.

The device has a 7-inch (17.5-centimetre) touch screen and will be able to get books, daily newspapers and other reading material over AT&T's cellular network.



Sony has sold e-book reading devices with "electronic ink" displays in the United States since 2006, but has seen most of the attention stolen by Amazon.com, which launched the Kindle with similar e-ink technology a year later.



The latest version of the Kindle - which is not controlled by touching the screen - costs $299 (£183) and uses Sprint Nextel's wireless network for downloads.



On Tuesday, Sony also began selling a "Pocket Edition" e-book reader with a 5-inch (12.5-centimetre) screen, for $199 (£121), and a larger $299 touch-screen model. Neither has wireless capability, so both have to be connected to a computer to acquire books.

Though Sony is following in Amazon's footsteps by adding wireless capability, its e-book strategy differs in crucial respects.



The only copy-protected books the Kindle can display are from Amazon's store, and the only devices the store supports are the Kindle, the iPhone and the iPod Touch.



Sony, on the other hand, has committed to an open e-book standard, meaning its Readers can show copy-protected books from a variety of stores, and the books can be moved to and read on a variety of devices, including cell phones.



Sony also announced Tuesday that the Readers will be able to load e-books "loaned" from local libraries. A library card will provide access to free books that expire after 21 days.



The library connection "would seem to be something Amazon would never embrace, so that could be a key differentiator," said Richard Doherty, director of research firm The Envisioneering Group.



The alliance with AT&T helps the Dallas-based carrier further expand the use of its wireless network beyond cell phones. Like other carriers, AT&T is looking for new avenues of growth now that almost every adult has a cell phone.



In July, it announced that it would provide the connection to another upcoming e-book reader from Plastic Logic, which will use the e-book store of Barnes & Noble.



Reader owners won't be charged a subscription fee for wireless access, said Steve Haber, head of Sony's US reading division.



Instead, the bookseller will likely have to pay AT&T for the wireless access, out of money it charges for the books, similar to the way Amazon pays Sprint.



Sony's multi-store strategy makes that challenging. The Daily Edition will initially have wireless access only to Sony's e-book store, Haber said.



Sony said the names of the newspapers that will be available on the device will be announced later. The Kindle already offers 46 newspapers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

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