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Sony adds $199 Reader, drops eBook prices

August 4, 2009 |  4:08 pm

PRS-300 Pink Angle

Sony's $199 e-reader. Credit: Sony.

Feeling the heat of competition, Sony came out this afternoon with a pocket-size electronic book reader for less than $200, which the electronics giant touts as the "most affordable dedicated reading device on the market."

Dubbed the Sony Reader Pocket Edition, the new device has enough internal memory to hold about 350 books, comes in three colors -- blue, rose and silver -- and has a 5-inch E Ink screen. What it does not have is an expansion slot for a memory card to increase the number of books it can carry.

For that, Sony is introducing a touch-screen device with a 6-inch display for $299 and slots for Sony's Memory Sticks or SD cards.

Sony also dropped the price of bestselling and new-release titles sold at its website, to $9.99 from $11.99, matching the price of digital books sold on Amazon.com.

Digital book readers are hot sellers, even in the frigid economy. Amazon, which released its Kindle 2 device this year, followed by a large-screen Kindle DX, has kept a lid on how many Kindles it's sold, but analysts estimate that ...

... the online retailer has sold 1.5 million of the popular readers since introducing them in 2007. But even Amazon is feeling competitive pressure. Last month it lopped $60 from the price of its Kindle 2, reducing it to $299. The DX, with a larger, 9.7-inch screen, is $489.

Many expect that the number to spike in the next two or three years as other companies jump into the action. Barnes & Noble, which recently launched its online digital bookstore, said it will also sell Plastic Logic electronic reading devices when they become available next year. Other players include Korean electronics giant Samsung and Japanese computer manufacturer Fujitsu, which has already released a color version in Japan.

Among the most recent entrants is Interead's Cool-ER device, which until today was the lowest priced e-reader at $249.

But Sony's main competitor is still Amazon, whose Kindles can wirelessly download books via a high-speed cellular network connection -- no computer required. Sony's latest models still require users to connect to a PC to download books.

The game's not over. Sony has said it soon would release a version with wireless capabilities. Just not today.

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.

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