Sony steps on Amazon's foothold

By SiliconIndia   |   Wednesday, 31 December 2008, 05:32 Hrs   |    2 Comments
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Bangalore: Reading may never be the same again. At least this seems to be the pulse in the American electronic consumer market this Christmas. In an attempt to lure the bibliophile from the page to the pixel, Amazon, the online portal for books, video games and music had come out with a wireless device, Kindle, a year and a half ago. Troubled by a lack of popularity that almost proved to be its undoing, life has come a full circle for the Kindle. Oprah Winfrey's glowering praises about the device on her talk show this October has been a shot in the arm for the Kindle as its popularity rose and rose thereafter. Slim, white and about the size of a trade paperback, the Kindle is priced at $359 (Rs17, 591). Owing to the sudden, broad interest created in the e-book, it is out of stock and unavailable until February.

Taking cue from the shortage, Sony has embarked on an intense publicity campaign for its Reader device during the gift-buying season. This month it began a promotional blitz in airports, train stations and bookstores, with the ambitious goal of personally demonstrating the Reader to two million people by the end of the year. The company's latest model, the Reader 700, is a $400 device with a reading light and a touch screen that allows users to annotate what they are reading.

So far, publishers such as HarperCollins, Random House and Simon and Schuster say that sales of e-books for any device-including simple laptop downloads-constitute less than one percent of total book sales. However, publishers say sales of e-books have tripled in the last year. Some of the most committed bibliophiles maintain an almost fetishistic devotion to the physical book.

Perhaps the most overlooked boost to e-books this year - and a challenge to some of the standard thinking about them - came from Apple's do-it-all gadget, the iPhone.

Several e-book-reading programs have been created for the device, and at least two of them, Stanza from LexCycle and the e-Reader from Fictionwise, have been downloaded more than 600,000 times.

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