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Updated with comment from Sony: Everyone talks about how great “choice” is, as if having an alternative to the existing status quo is automatically good. But what if the alternative is lame? Then there really isn’t much of a choice, is there? Sony (s sne) today introduced two new e-book readers, including one “affordably” priced at $199 and the other with a touchscreen for $299. But neither option offers the e-reader killer app — wireless access (GigaOM Pro subscription required). That’s right, to compete with Amazon’s (s amzn) Kindle, and the upcoming Barnes & Noble (s bks) e-reader, Sony has lowered its price and added touch.
Amazon’s (s amzn) Kindle, the current hot e-reader, was the first device that let users buy books and download them, quickly and from nearly anywhere. It was a revolution in e-book purchasing. So, unfortunately for Sony, it doesn’t matter how great its devices are. Its new e-readers are stuck in 2006.
The Sony Reader Touch Edition, has a touchscreen, which may be cool — but we’ll have to actually see it in action first. The press release claims users will be able to take notes, highlight, turn pages and more with the “swipe of a finger” or the included stylus. The device also supports handwritten notes, which makes me nervous remembering the nightmare that was the Apple (s aapl) Newton’s handwriting recognition.
Unlike the Kindle, which you can’t buy in a store, you will be able to check out the new Sony Readers at your local Sony Style outlet toward the end of August. Like the Kindle, both Sony devices read PDF and Microsoft (s msft) Word documents, which is nice, but is far from a compelling reason to buy the thing. The new devices, of course, don’t connect to either of the high-profile e-book stores, Amazon’s Kindle store nor Barnes & Noble’s newly launched entry, but instead uses Sony’s proprietary e-book store, which has more than 1 million titles (mostly public domain titles from Google’s Books (s goog) project) — but, because your device has to be connected to your computer to buy books, it’s not the great leap forward we’ve been hoping for. Update: Sony sent us the following statement:
“The touch and pocket are part of a new Reader line. We’ll be releasing further information on a wireless device later this summer.
Wireless is a great feature and it’s something that has really appealed to the early adopters of eReaders. However, while we will soon provide a wireless option, it’s not something we’re ready to talk about today.”