Sony E-Book Reader Available by End of October

Sony will begin selling an electronic-book reader in stores and on the Web in the U.S. by the end of October, and has opened a dedicated online bookstore for the reader, it said Wednesday.

The display of the Portable Reader System PRS-50 uses technology from E Ink to reduce power consumption. The monochrome display needs battery power only when a new page is displayed. When power is turned off, the last page viewed remains visible. The reader will cost around $350, including a USB cable to load books and a power adapter to charge the internal battery, which is good for 7,500 page turns between charges.

Sony Headquarters
Sony Headquarters

Buyers registering their reader with Sony’s online bookstore before the end of December will receive a voucher worth $50 for purchases of electronic books.

The bookstore contains over 10,000 books, Sony said. Although the vast majority of the books must be paid for, there are several free titles on the bookstore’s virtual shelves, including Nick Hornby’s novel "How to Be Good" and Dinesh D’Souza’s critique of new technologies and the new economy, "The Virtue of Prosperity." They can only be downloaded by U.S. residents, and special software, supplied with the reader, is needed to copy books onto the device. The software runs only on PCs with Windows XP.

Sony uses a DRM (digital rights management) system to restrict the ways buyers can use books bought from its store. The reader will not display e-books bought from other stores using different DRM systems, Sony said. However, it will display documents free of the restrictions imposed by DRM, including images in BMP, GIF, JPEG or PNG formats; plain text and RTF (Rich Text Format) files; and unencrypted PDF (Portable Document Format) or BBeB (Broadband electronic book) files. The provided software can also convert documents in other formats, including Microsoft Word documents and RSS feeds, so that they can be read on the device.

Sony’s publishing schedule has slipped by around six months since it first presented the PRS-50. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January it said the reader would go on sale in April.

The company launched another reader using E-Ink’s display technology, the Libri¿BR-1000EP, in Japan in April 2004.

Sony has no plans to sell the readers in Europe for now, although that may change after the second quarter of 2007, said company spokeswoman Delphine Viers.

-Peter Sayer, IDG News Service (Paris Bureau)

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