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Old 08-25-2009, 11:48 PM   #1
DMcCunney
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MR at Sony Daily Edition press conference

On Tuesday, August 25th, Sony held a press conference at the main branch of the New York Public Library. The event was held in the Trustees Room, a room on the second floor with a marble fireplace, wood paneling, and and tapestries symbolizing the major continents hanging down along the side and back walls. Above the fireplace was a marble plaque engraved with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: ""I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the conditions, promoting the virtue and advancing the happiness of man."

A stage was set up up front, with a podium, and flanked by big flat screen displays showing the Sony models. Kiosks were scattered around the room with display models of the Personal and Touch editions of the reader. There was no seating for the original presentation, with a scattering of cocktail rounds for writing and laptops, and an assortment of video cameras on tripods made circulating problematic. A catered spread with coffee, tea, water, soda, OJ, fruit and pastries was available.

Dr. Paul LeClerc, President and CEO of the NYPL gave a keynote address. Dr. LeClerc emphasized the free availability of information, as exemplified by the New York Public Library. He said that NYPL website has 25 million unique visitors, making it second only to the Library of Congress in access to library facilities over the web.

Dr. LeClerc announced a partnership with Sony, and with Google Books. The NYPL is working with Google, scanning public domain texts. They will also be be offering current titles in ePub format via Sony for borrowing via download to a Sony Reader.

The NYPL is partnered with supplier Overdrive for commercial ebook titles, offering over 40,000 now. They anticipate much of the public domain works being digitized in cooperation with Google to also become available for download.

Dr. LeClerc then introduced Steve Haber, President of the division that makes the Sony Reader. Steve's presentation was more informal and anecdotal, and to this observer, curiously unfocused. Steve talked about motivations: "Why digital reading?" "Why ebooks?" He'd been with Sony in various capacities for 20 years, and involved in consumer electronics for longer. He saw parallels with the changes in music, from the old vinyl LP format, to CDs, and finally to MP3 files downloadable from the internet, and with films, which have progressed from things seen in a theater to videotapes, to DVDs, and finally to files available on demand oer the Internet. Similar parallels could be drawn with the progress of books from printed works on paper to electronic files.

Unlike the last press function of Sony's that I've attended, their branding has shifted. They no longer speak of PRS-500, PRS-505, or PRS-700. Instead, they now have three major brands, distinguished by price points. At the low end is the Pocket Edition, with a 5" eInk display, available in several colors, with a $199 price point. Next up is the Touch Edition, with a larger touch screen at a $299 price point. Last is the subject of today's press conference, a new model called the Daily Edition, with a 7" screen touch screen and $399 price. The Daily Edition isn't available yet, but will be out by the holiday season. Sony Readers will be available in 4,800 retail outlets, where people can see and experience the Reader before purchase. Sony retail partners include Best Buy, BJ's, Staples, Target, Toys-R-Us and Wal-Mart.

I had thought a bit about what could be significant enough to bring Sony back across the country for an announcement in NYC, and I had guessed right - the Daily Edition will have 3G wireless access. The Daily Edition will be able to connect to AT&T's network, and through it to the Sony Store. Included in the launch is an improved version of the Sony ebook library software, which will be available for Windows and Mac OS/X. Among other things, it will allow the user to print out annotations they have made to books stored in the reader.

In addition, Sony is introducing Library Finder. through the Sony Store, Library Finder will enable readers to find books in libraries, but entering their zip code. Assuming they have a library card for the library in tht area, they will be able to download borrowed books to their PC and send them to their Reader. Borrow time restrictions are implemented in software, with the book simply expiring at the end of the loan period, so no late fees would accrue. (It was not clear what would happen to annotations made to books borrowed from the library, and the Sony reps I spoke to didn't know.)

One of the things Steve stated as a concern was openness. To that end, the Sony Store is transitioning to ePub as an industry standard format, with Adobe's ACS4 DRM solution.

Steve also saw another parallel with music. Various pieces of music become part of the soundtracks ios out lives. The become associated with people, places, and things that are important to us, and hearing the songs brings the things that are associated with to mind. He feels that books can serve similar functions, and the passages in books can have the same sort of association as songs do. To attempt to tape that experience, Sony was created a new site called "Words Move Me", where posters can discuss books that were significant to them, and passages that moved them.

I found the presentation interesting for what it did and didn't say.

I would have expected more front and center prominence for the new 3G feature in the Daily Edition. This was something asked about that the last Sony event I covered, and something Steve committed to, but "not until it was right".

There have also been snarky comments about the openness of ePub and Adobe's DRM, given the relative lack of ePub formatted titles. I sympathize, but on the other hand, what can Sony do? The de facto standard ebook format now is probably MobiPocket. But MobiPocket is owned by Amazon. How likely would Amazon be to allow Mobi to license the format to a direct Kindle competitor? And DRM is one of those things that isn't going away any time soon. By definition, it's not "open".

Sony claims the ePub format is an industry standard. Well, perhaps, but more companies in the industry have to actually implement it. Part of the problem there is technological. In an ironic situation, the principal outfit pushing ePub is Adobe, and Adobe's InDesign DTP progranm is now used by most publishers to do markup, yet InDesign produces poor quality ePub files. Good quality ePub really requires starting with well formed XML, but tools to do XML markup are a work in progress. From the point of view of the publisher's employee doing the markup, the output format should be irrelevant. The simply want a tool they can use to do the markup, confident that other hands can take the output and use it to create printed books or ebooks.

And as expected, Steve dodged comments about unit sales, and avoided direct comparisons with the Kindle, so we have no clear feel for how well the reader is selling.

The significant point for me about the event is that it occurred. Despite the worldwide economic downturn, and Sony's publicized financial woes in other areas, Sony senior management seems to believe there is a market for the reader, and a fairly large one, because they haven't pulled the plug on the effort.

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Last edited by Alexander Turcic; 08-26-2009 at 03:31 AM. Reason: added related links
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Old 08-26-2009, 12:07 AM   #2
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Great review and interesting thoughts. Thank you. They are certainly nice looking devices.
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Old 08-26-2009, 12:26 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DMcCunney View Post
The significant point for me about the event is that it occurred. Despite the worldwide economic downturn, and Sony's publicized financial woes in other areas, Sony senior management seems to believe there is a market for the reader, and a fairly large one, because they haven't pulled the plug on the effort.
______
Dennis
Thank you so much for taking the time to share this, Dennis.

I think Sony is throwing significant amounts of money at the Reader market. They've seen Kindle do well, and IMO they know they can do it one better with enough investment. Unlike other forms of entertainment, E-books are a growing industry in hard times -- when it's too expensive to go to a movie, folks stay home and read a book.
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Old 08-26-2009, 06:28 AM   #4
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Question Availability of Sony Readers globally?

Question of the day: Do I (again) have to order from B&H or Borders?
Or will "Pocket Edition" and/or "Touch Edition" be available anytime soon "everywhere"?
Here, in Germany, Sony 505 is available from various sources, whereas Sony 700 never did make it...
Any comments about launch dates globally?
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Old 08-26-2009, 06:31 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mgmueller View Post
Question of the day: Do I (again) have to order from B&H or Borders?
Or will "Pocket Edition" and/or "Touch Edition" be available anytime soon "everywhere"?
Here, in Germany, Sony 505 is available from various sources, whereas Sony 700 never did make it...
Any comments about launch dates globally?
We already know that they will be released in UK on September 10 and in Netherlands on September 2. I assume France and Germany will not be far off.
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Old 08-26-2009, 08:38 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DMcCunney View Post
He saw parallels with the changes in music, from the old vinyl LP format, to CDs, and finally to MP3 files downloadable from the internet, and with films, which have progressed from things seen in a theater to videotapes, to DVDs, and finally to files available on demand oer the Internet. Similar parallels could be drawn with the progress of books from printed works on paper to electronic files.
It should be noted that while CD sales are going down, vinyl LP sales are going up!

Nice devices. The 7 inch model looks really interesting.
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Old 08-26-2009, 09:23 AM   #7
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Really great insight into the event, thanks Dennis. Completely agree that ePub won't be a true standard until more publishers start pumping out more books in this format.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mgmueller View Post
Question of the day: Do I (again) have to order from B&H or Borders?
Or will "Pocket Edition" and/or "Touch Edition" be available anytime soon "everywhere"?
Here, in Germany, Sony 505 is available from various sources, whereas Sony 700 never did make it...
Any comments about launch dates globally?
The 700 never made it to the UK either, at least we have the two new readers though.

I wonder how long it will take for the Daily Edition to come over to Europe; will Sony have the same issues that Amazon have had in getting wireless connectivity arranged?
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Old 08-26-2009, 09:26 AM   #8
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thank you dennis for these details about the event ! i agree, it's very heartening to see sony continue developping their line of readers particularly given the current economic situation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by igorsk View Post
We already know that they will be released in UK on September 10 and in Netherlands on September 2. I assume France and Germany will not be far off.
the 700 never made it to france either, but i have higher hopes for the new series since the welcome screen displays a message in 4 languages including french. however, that said, so far i've heard no news at all about it and it's not available on the french sonystyle site nor the chain which is currently selling the 505 (still available). i hope they won't delay too long. it would be very silly to offer the new models only in a few of the countries selling their reader line.
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Old 08-26-2009, 09:30 AM   #9
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Does anyone know the exact dimensions of the Daily Edition display? i.e. width/height?
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Old 08-26-2009, 09:44 AM   #10
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Dennis, did you (or anyone) ask about the fate of PRS-500?
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Old 08-26-2009, 09:47 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by AprilHare View Post
Does anyone know the exact dimensions of the Daily Edition display? i.e. width/height?
Well, we know the height is 7 inches from their comments. From the pictures it appears the width is similar to the 505/600 which is a little over 3.5 inches. That gives us a diagonal of around 7.86 inches. If it's a little wider than we will have a slightly larger diagonal measurement.

This might yet turn out to be a good pdf device when held horizontally and using the pdf zoom function to eliminate pdf margins/white space.
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Old 08-26-2009, 09:56 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Mr. Goodbar View Post
Well, we know the height is 7 inches from their comments. From the pictures it appears the width is similar to the 505/600 which is a little over 3.5 inches. That gives us a diagonal of around 7.86 inches. If it's a little wider than we will have a slightly larger diagonal measurement.

This might yet turn out to be a good pdf device when held horizontally and using the pdf zoom function to eliminate pdf margins/white space.
The lack of clarity from Sony is very frustrating, but presumably deliberate on their part. The official 3-device photo suggests that the Daily is slightly wider in portrait mode than the Touch, but the photo appears to be a composite and perhaps not to scale. My best guess currently is that this is a widescreen version of the standard 6" (diagonal) 600x800 screen with a resolution of 600x1024. This would then have exactly the same width as the 6" screen and be 7" diagonal (6" high in portrait mode). Since everyone uses diagonal sizes for screens, this is the most likely explanation (even though Sony said 7" wide).
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Old 08-26-2009, 10:20 AM   #13
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What I find Intresting is that the Daily Edition is coming with 3G from At&t.

That means GSM/UMTS/HSPA 3G which will work worldwide.

What I'm going to be curious about is what's going to happen when they come to Europe? How are they going to negotiate with Wireless providers there to get connectivity around different countries.

Still with the recent EU ruling on Wholsale Data Roaming Charges across the EU being capped at 1Euro/MB, They'll probably be able to negotiate a better deal they they could have even 6 months ago.
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Old 08-26-2009, 10:22 AM   #14
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I wonder how long it will take for the Daily Edition to come over to Europe; will Sony have the same issues that Amazon have had in getting wireless connectivity arranged?
Sony will avoid some issues that have slowed down amazon, the wireless on the daily edition is umts and the changes between two countries using different frequencies for 3g are vastly simpler to overcome than going from cdma to umts as amazon would need to.

Also, with sony only allowing access to the book store that should reduce the complexity of dealing with the various networks.

The biggest drawback that sony will have to deal with for european users will be the lack of a single bookstore for the device to access, with the way that they have multiple partners for selling books in europe its going to take a lot more effort for them to get that side of things working.

It's a great shame that they don't seem to have done any work to improve integration with their european content partners with the library software still just launching a browser to take you to whatever random bookseller is their chosen one in that country.
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Old 08-26-2009, 10:28 AM   #15
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That means GSM/UMTS/HSPA 3G which will work worldwide.

What I'm going to be curious about is what's going to happen when they come to Europe? How are they going to negotiate with Wireless providers there to get connectivity around different countries.
The frequencies used for umts in the states and europe aren't the same, so there would need to be some minor hardware changes for them to launch it here, but nothing major and unless they have done something very strange the american version would still get gprs/edge connectivity in europe.

As far as wireless providers, the obvious one to work with would seem to be vodafone since they seem to be the number 1 or 2 carrier in most european markets, but then wasn't there reports of them working on their own ereader not so long ago?
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