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Sony Stocks Its Shelves With Google E-Books

The deal is sure to get the attention of Amazon, which has been building its Kindle e-book device into a respectable business.

The latest model of the Sony Reader will cost $100 more than older model, but include software and hardware enhancements.

Sony Reader Digital Book
(click for larger image)

In yet another sign that tech companies see a market for digital text, Sony on Thursday announced a deal with Google to include over 500,000 public domain books scanned by the search company in Sony's eBook Store.

Sony's deal with Google is sure to get the attention of, which has been building its Kindle e-book device into a respectable business.

Amazon sells more than 245,000 books for the Kindle, as well as assorted newspapers, magazines, and blog content. Sony, which previously had less than half as many titles in its eBook Store, now counts its number of available titles at more than 600,000.

E-books and the publishing industry may actually have a future.

They had a future in the past, too. Back in 1999, Microsoft and Adobe were sold on e-books. Startups like SoftBook and NuvoMedia were trying to sell their first generation e-book reading hardware. At the time, Dick Brass, then Microsoft's VP of technology development, said that the biggest problem with onscreen reading "is that the [electronic] books look like crap."

To solve that problem, Microsoft was pushing its ClearType font technology. But it turned out that other things, like clunky hardware, lack of an e-commerce ecosystem, and too few publishing partners, were the real issues.

Now the devices are better, the e-commerce stores are easier to use, the DRM works better, more publishers are onboard, and the tech industry is trying again.

"We have focused our efforts on offering an open platform and making it easy to find as much content as possible -- from our store or others -- whether that content is purchased, borrowed or free," said Steve Haber, president of the digital reading business division at Sony Electronics, in a statement. "Working with Google, we can offer book lovers another avenue for free books while still providing a seamless experience from our store."

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