The prodigal Sony

I recently did a post looking at the Barnes and Noble nook (sic).

In this post, I’ll be looking at the third big e-reader in the market for this holiday season, the Sony.

If the Kindle is the sensible Moe and the nook is the flashy Curly, the Sony is clearly the Larry in this trio.

Sony’s been in the e-book reader (EBR) business the longest…since way back in 2006 in the United States.  :)  It wasn’t the first EBR: there were quite a few around, but it’s the longest running of this holiday’s big three.

They didn’t really ignite the market.  I think that’s because it was bit too techie for a lot of people, and because it didn’t have a well-known bookstore behind it.  I’d say it was more marketed towards the gadget crowd than traditional readers who enjoyed paperbooks (p-books).

I like Sony products.  I was enough of a videophile to prefer Beta to VHS, and we have a Playstation 1.  However, Sony moves a bit slowly, and appears to not understand the US market all that well.  Oh, they certainly can sell things here.  Beta should have won (and it continued to be used by high-end video folks).  It didn’t.  Sony had the Walkman…lost the portable music market.  The Playstation doesn’t clearly dominate the videogame market.

This season, Sony is the e-book come lately.  To be a current generation EBR, I think you need to have a wireless way to get books and an e-ink screen. There may come a time when we are looking at a dual-function screen as being modern, but not this year.

Well, although Sony has several models, the one that has wireless is called the Sony Reader Daily Edition.  It’s the latest model (PRS-900).

It was looking like they were going to have the advantage of being “the one in the stores”, but the nook scooped them on that.

Here’s the biggest problem: the price.

The Sony Reader Daily Edition has a suggested list price of $399.  The Kindle 2 international  has a list price of $259.  That’s $140 difference.  Does it have advantages that makes it worth half again as much?

I don’t see it.  One thing it has is a larger screen.   The screen uses the same technology (the Vizplex from E Ink) as the nook and the Kindles.  That’s clearly a big part of the cost of any e-ink reader.  Look at these prices:

6″ Kindle: $259

7.1″ Sony Reader Daily Edition: $399

9.7″ Kindle DX: $489

Those are diagonal measurements.

Is it a simple progression…an inch costs a certain amount?  Nope…take a look at this:

Diagonal Dollars Dollars/inch
6  $     259 43.17
7.1  $     399 56.20
9.7  $     489 50.41

The Sony costs a lot more per inch than the Kindles.

So, as may sometimes be the case with Sony,  you may be paying more for the name.

The Sony has some things in common with the Kindle:

  • Same screen technology
  • 16 grayscale
  • 6 font sizes
  • Built-in dictionary
  • Search

There are some significant differences, though.

Things the Sony has that the Kindle doesn’t:

Touchscreen

Unlike the nook, the touchscreen is the part where you read.   I’ve heard people who have had the previous touchscreen Sony and the Kindle both say that the touchscreen makes the words a bit harder to see.  Obviously, you’ll also need to keep it clean.   However, it is kind of a cool thing that will appeal to some people.  You can use it with a finger or a stylus.

Library access

Sony has partnered with Overdrive.com, which works with public libraries to check out e-books.  This is Sony’s special appeal to book readers, like lending on the nook.  However, also like lending, I think this may be disappointing for people in a simlar way.

It is a plus, no question.  You can get a lot of free books for the Kindle…but they won’t be the current bestsellers.  If you can check the New York Times bestsellers out of the library, that could save you a lot of money.

Can you check them out though?  There are a lot of ifs to that.  You can’t just check a book out of any library.  You still need to have a library card.  Before you decide based on this, go to the Overdrive site, put in your zip code, and see what is available.  My libary has 140 fiction titles, for example.  Honestly, there aren’t a higher percentage of them I would want to read…but my tastes, although eclectic, aren’t all that mainstream.

Second, and this is important, libraries have a limited number of licenses for books under copyright.  Let’s say your library has Under the Dome in its catalogue.  It may only have ten licenses.  Just like with a paperbook, you’d have to wait for somebody to “return” it before you could get it.

The other thing is that it wouldn’t be that hard for Amazon to enable people to get books from a library.  The main thing that is missing is that the Kindle doesn’t show you its PID (Personal Identity) which is what the library needs to keep track of the number of devices on which the book is being used.  If Amazon allowed that (and if they enabled direct EPUB reading), that’s all it would take.  If you make the decision based on that, it might not be a difference later.

Memory slots

The Sony Daily Reader Edition has an SD card slot and a memory stick slot. 

Things the Kindle has that the Sony doesn’t

Text-to-speech

Web browsing

Formats

There are two types of formats to consider.  When you buy books, you’ll normally be buying books with Digital Rights Management (DRM).  That’s code placed into a digital file by the rightsholder which is intended to control the uses of that file.

The Sony uses the following:

  • BBeB
  • EPUB
  • PDF

The Kindle uses the following two proprietary formats:

  • AZW
  • Topaz

As to non-DRM, it looks like this:

Sony

  • BBeB
  • PDF
  • TXT
  • RTF

Kindle:

  • MOBI/PRC
  • PDF (except the Kindle 1)
  • TXT

Amazon also will convert a number of formats for you for free. 

Selection

If we look at the stores, it’s no competition.  The Kindle store has a lot more books than the eBook Store from Sony.

Fiction

Sony: 30,812

Kindle: 125,917

Biography

Sony: 5,795

Kindle: 14,667

Prices

Both stores will tend to have bestsellers at $9.99. 

These were the ten most popular books in the Sony store that were not $9.99:

Sony Kindle Difference
 $   14.29  $   14.29  $        –  
 $    7.59  $    6.39  $    1.20
 $   11.99  $   13.42  $   (1.43)
 $    1.00  $    1.00  $        –  
 $    7.59  $    6.39  $    1.20
 $   39.99  $   33.20  $    6.79
 $    5.76  $    4.97  $    0.79
 $    7.59  $    6.39  $    1.20
 $    4.97  $    4.97  $        –  
 $    6.64  $    6.39  $    0.25
 $ 107.41  $   97.41  $   10.00

The bottom row is the totals.  So, on the average, you would save a dollar a title at the Kindle store.  Six were cheaper at Amazon, three were the same, and one was cheaper at Sony.

This looks to me like the Sony store may be closer to Amazon’s prices than Barnes and Noble, but that Amazon will generally be cheaper.

Overall, at this point, I think thast the Kindle is a better buy.  That may change in the future…

Sony Reader Daily Edition at Sony

Sony Reader Daily Edition press conference on YouTube 

The Kindle 2 at Amazon 

Amazon demo video at YouTube (view on PC)

Tech spec comparison at MobileRead Wiki 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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One Response to “The prodigal Sony”

  1. Sony e-books go to Kobo | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] The prodigal Sony […]

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