Sony announcements boost its Reader range, ePub and partner support

Sony has raised the ebook reader game a notch with a host of announcements covering new e-reader devices, further support for the open ePub format, and content partnerships.

The new hardware announced today was the Sony Reader Daily Edition, a larger format (18 cm/7-inches wide) reader with wireless connectivity that Sony is clearly hoping will provide an entree into the newspaper and magazine markets. It’s expected to ship in December (US only at this stage). [Update 28 August: Sony UK has indicated the Daily Edition may take “a year or two” to reach the UK. Not much immediate hope for us downunder, then.]

Like the larger format Amazon Kindle DX and the forthcoming clipboard-sized e-reader from Plastic Logic, it’s also likely to make an impact on the textbook and business document markets.

You can see a leaked, I presume unofficial, picture here showing the new US$399 Reader Daily Edition lined up with the two new Sonys released earlier this month, the US$199 PRS-300 Pocket edition and the US$299 touchsreen Touch edition. (Thanks to Teleread for the sleuthing.)

Today’s announcements were made at the New York Public Library, highlighting another sector, libraries, that Sony intends to cosy up to.

And a third group, independent booksellers, also lined up behind Sony. About 200 of them have signed on to resell the Sony hardware and to support the open ePub-formatted books that Sony is hoping to popularise in opposition to Amazon’s proprietary Kindle. The indies will fire up their ebook stores later this year using a shared turn-key system called IndieCom that’s been developed by the American Booksellers Association.

The technology behind Sony’s new push is a combination of the open ePub standard and Adobe’s Digital Edition and Adobe Content Server 4 (ACS4) digital rights management (DRM) system.

In the US market, Sony’s new library service called Library Finder allows visitors to its ebook site to check whether an ebook is available at their local library. If it is, they’ll be able to borrow it for 21 days to read on their Sony Reader. The service appears to piggy-back on one provided by Overdrive which has a catalogue of about 40,000 commercial ebooks available through the programme.

In the library application, it ensures the ebook can only be read on the borrower’s device and it expires after the 21-day loan period. Unlike the Kindle, however, if a user makes electronic notes on their borrowed ebook, they won’t disappear when the ebook expires but can be uploaded to the user’s desktop along with a snapshot of the book’s text the note relates to.

And on the subject of interesting hardware, here’s a link to Nokia’s entry into the burgeoning netbook market, the Nokia Booklet 3G, showing more boundaries blurring as the computing world and the web go mobile.

And more speculation that Apple, with CEO Steve Jobs now back after an illness, is about to trump the ebook reader market with the much-rumoured Apple tablet.

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