Earlier this month, I slammed Sony (s sne) for offering “affordable” e-book readers but not including a wireless option — something I consider to be the e-reader killer app (GigaOM Pro subscription required). At the time, the electronics giant promised to tell us more about its wireless readers “later” in the summer. Well, now it’s later, and Sony today introduced the Reader Daily Edition, with a wide-screen touch display and 3G access (via AT&T, same as the Barnes & Noble/Plastic Logic reader), all for $399. Sony promises it will be available in December “in time for the holidays.” The company launched a web site, WordsMoveMe.com to promote the products.
The Daily Edition splits the difference between Amazon’s (s amzn) regular Kindle and the huge DX model, both in price and size. It has a 7-inch screen vs. the regular Kindle’s 6 inches and the DX’s 9.7 inches. The Sony device lets you rotate to view books in landscape mode as well, which is a nice feature. The Daily also lets people buy books from Sony’s e-book store over the 3G connection, just like the Kindle. So, why didn’t Sony introduce this at the same time as the other ones, earlier this month? The company had no comment on that, but it sure didn’t make much sense at the time. Now, Sony has the broadest selection of e-readers of anyone, and is well-positioned going into the holiday season.
The Sony reader also features integration with local libraries via a partnership with Overdrive, something the booksellers over at Amazon definitely lack. The Library Finder lets you punch in your ZIP code and “check out” books from your local library. Books get automatically “returned” after 21 days. Cool! However, perversely, there aren’t an unlimited number of e-books at each library, because the facility has to pay for each “copy.” Library patrons can’t check out unlimited copies, even though there are no technical limitations. If all the copies of a particular book are checked out, you have to wait for one to get returned before you can give it a read. Two steps forward, one step back.