Sony has added a second option to its ebook reader line-up with the announcement of the PRS 700, slated for late November release in the US. No word on any international releases yet.
Among the new features of the PRS 700 is a touch screen with a stylus and on-screen QWERTY keyboard, the ability to annotate books, search for phrases, turn pages with a swipe (new) or button press—and to do this more quickly and largely flicker-free apparently—and a built-in backlight for reading in low-light conditions. The new unit will cost about US$400, a premium of US$100 over the lower-spec PRS 505, and is 10 percent heavier at about 280g. Its internal storage is sufficient for about 350 books, twice the PRS 505’s internal storage capacity.
The one notable absence is wireless. Sony says it’s committed to providing a future wireless option but hasn’t committed to a date. Encouragingly, its reason for the delay is its desire to have a more open system with multiple choices of carrier, bookstores, etc. That will certainly win Sony industry and hopefully consumer plaudits. While rival Amazon already offers wireless, which scores positive ratings for its usabilit, it comes at the expense of openness and means you have to support Amazon for the access to commercial content.
Just as interesting as the hardware announcement was Sony’s indication, via announced organisational changes, that it’s ready to treat the Reader as a serious new product opportunity and get behind it. A single new US-based division will now take over the product. Currently it’s run from Japan and several groups oversee different components. Among its new marketing initiatives, Sony plans to hire 1000 people to do in-store demos of the ebook readers to help consumers understand what the products do.