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Sony Refreshes Electronic Readers, Hikes Prices

Amazon's Kindle, Border's Kobo and Barnes & Noble's Nook are competing fiercely on price, but Sony is touting more responsive touch-screens and higher quality digital paper displays that warrant higher costs.

Sony Reader Pocket Edition
(click image for larger view)
Sony Reader Pocket Edition
Sony has introduced a new generation of e-readers that have more responsive touch-screens than previous models and higher quality digital paper displays. Sony launched the three e-readers Wednesday. The new models include the $179 Reader Pocket Edition with a 5-inch diagonal display, the $229 Touch Edition with a 6-inch screen and the $299 Daily Edition with a 7-inch display. The price for the Pocket Edition increases $29 from the previous model, while the Touch and Daily editions increase $59 and $49, respectively.

The latest e-readers reflect Sony's intent to compete on hardware quality rather than price. While rivals and Barnes & Noble have lowered prices on their products, which have 6-inch screens and start as low as $139 and $149, respectively, Sony has decided to continue to ask customers to pay a premium.

Sony justifies the higher cost with the more responsive touch-screen in the latest products. The vendor has tossed the old technology, which required a layer of glass on top of the display that slowed performance, and replaced it with infrared sensors that make flipping pages with the swipe of a finger much faster, according to Sony. In addition, Sony decided to take the touch screen across the product line. The previous Pocket Edition did not have the technology.

The other major improvement is in the E Ink digital paper display. Like's latest generation of Kindles, Sony's Readers use E Ink's latest technology, introduced in July. Called Pearl, the screen has a contrast ratio that's about 50% greater than the previous generation, making text easier to read, even in direct sunlight.

Other features across the new line include content zoom, adjustable contrast and brightness control. People have the option of using their own photo as a standby screen saver. Sony had included with the devices two English dictionaries and 10 translation dictionaries in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. The line include 2GB of onboard memory, while the Touch and Daily editions also include expansion slots for up to 32 GB of additional memory.

The Reader Pocket and Touch editions are scheduled to be available this week in retail stores and online. The Reader Daily Edition is scheduled to ship in November. The latter model is the only one with wireless connections, supporting Wi-Fi and AT&T 3G network for buying and downloading books and other content.


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