Updated: *Sony* plans to launch two new e-readers tomorrow — one with a touch screen priced at $299 and one at $199 — to better compete in an e-book market that has grown increasingly crowded with rivals like Plastic Logic, Samsung, and of course, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN). The Sony (NYSE: SNE) readers will hit stores later this month, the the Wall Street Journal reports, citing a person briefed on the matter.
Steve Haber, president of Sony’s Digital Reading division, told Reuters: “Achieving the $199 price point, we believe, expands the market dramatically. … You can throw it in your bag and always have it with you, and that also allowed us to achieve a more affordable price point.” (Reuters was among the news outlets pre-briefed on the new devices for stories initially embargoed until midnight.)
Sony’s previous touch screen reader retailed for about $399 (not counting discounts); the $299 price tag for the new PRS-600 better pits the 6-inch touch screen reader against Amazon’s non-touch Kindle 2. Its smaller sibling, the 5-inch PRS-300, won’t have a touch screen — but it will be just $199. Neither is sized to compete with the larger Kindle DX. As the Journal also notes (without linking), SonyInsider.com reported details about the new devices last week.
Still, pricing may not be the only thing that has made people choose other readers (namely the Kindle) over Sony’s — it could be the lack of WiFi or wireless access. Amazon uses Sprint (NYSE: S), while still-to-launch Plastic Logic has a deal with AT&T (NYSE: T) for wireless delivery. But, despite some speculation that Sony might include WiFi this time around, these new models are still tethered to a computer for content purchases and updates. Haber told Reuters Sony is looking into wireless options but no details — or timeline.
As for the e-books, the Journal’s source says Sony also plans to lower pricing on best-selling titles in its store to $9.99 fro $11.99, to better compete with the going rate at Amazon.com and Fictionwise (the e-book retailer Barnes & Noble bought in March).