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Old 01-05-2008, 05:52 AM   #1
Kingston
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Post Sony: Will History Repeat?

Sony is a huge electronics company and produces hundreds if not thousands of electronic devices. They have a history of entering a new market and then pulling out or downsizing a division so that there is minimal support once the niche market matures and Sonys place in a niche market becomes clear.

I have a couple of old Sony TiVos gathering dust. I bought ReplayTV after the Sony TiVo and it still works great after all these years. Neither company has made a DVR in several years.

Sony originated the minidisc format, and I got into it about 6-7 years ago. At that time there were around 12 or so Sony minidisc recorder/players to choose from. Now, at least in the American market, a buyer is limited to one model only.

Anyone remember WebTV? I am looking at a Sony WebTV gathering dust on top of my old Sony 32 inch console.

The point of all this blather is that you folk supporting Sony ereader products are doomed by history. Amazon has the muscle and the wherewithall to make their product a success. Not to mention the much greater variety of books to choose from. And the ultimate 'killer app'..much lower book prices.

Sony just can't provide the content that Amazon can, and they will eventually bow out due to market pressures. Sony is like RCA or any other huge company. They just want to see profits in the bottom line.With Amazon gobbling their market share the Sony reader will be gathering dust in 10 years or less along with my Sony TiVo and Sony WebTV.

Yes they will continue to support the old readers, but you can bet your booties that Sony will be a fond memory in the ereader sweepstakes within 5-7 years.

I am a Kindle owner and was only vaguely familiar with the Sony reader before entering the ebook world. It seems to be a great product from what I have read and has a few features the version 1 Kindle lacks such as enhanced grayscale and formatting capabilities not to mention the ever-commented-upon PDF capability. I might even have bought one if the software were Mac compatible (why it's not is beyond me).

Bottom line: Sony's ereader division is a tiny portion of this great companies revenue. Bezos and Amazon have a much greater stake in making the Kindle a long term winner. Sony can bow out gracefully in a few years, just as they did with their TiVo and WebTV. They will probably offer a Reader for years to come, but don't expect them to fight a losing battle against Amazon when it is not in Sony's best financial interest to do so.

I have been on the wrong side of format wars before. Remember Sony Betamax? Yup, I used it for years and have hundreds of tapes stored away. Maybe Kindle is not the "best" reader out there ( I am a Kindle owner and think so!) but the format which makes the most noise in publicity and ease of use will just naturally survive. Darwin's Natural Selection.

I hope you Sony owners don't take post as an insult. Just an historical review. I got plenty upset when it became apparent that my beloved Betamax was not going to survive against the more popular VHS format. It's still a "better" VCR, for what it's worth. But it is a museum piece, whereas VHS is still around almost 30 years later.
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Old 01-05-2008, 08:05 AM   #2
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I don't take your post as an insult, and it certainly does have the weight of history behind it. Your points are unarguable, most of them.

But your comment on Bezos and Amazon I'm not so sure I agree with. He's no different from Sony -- he just wants to get money. He's just been able to figure out how to get it from venture capitalists even when Amazon had never shown a profit! Bezos is in the Kindle market only as long as he thinks it will sell content. And if the initial bubble of interest doesn't continue, he'll drop it just as Sony will.

But there are differences between the older Sony format losses and the current ebook reader battle, in my opinion. Sony is such a huge corporation that niche products such as the Reader are hobbies. If the proper corporate executive likes that hobby, it will last as long as he/she feels like keeping it going. If the executive gets the boot, the product will disappear. Amazon also may be treating it like a hobby, since no matter how hard ANY of the ebook reader developers try, there will always be some best-selling authors who will adamantly refuse to let their books be released electronically, so paper books will always remain an important aspect of Amazon's cash flow.

And Sony learned from the betamax debacle -- the only reason they lost was that they hadn't guaranteed a content flow and the VHS consortium got to the studios before Sony did and got big names to release movies in VHS format only. So Sony went out and bought Columbia before the CD and the DVD hit the market, so it owned a huge amount of desirable content and therefore had much more clout for its versions of those products.

Amazon is a huge bookseller, not a publisher, so it can't guarantee content for the Kindle any better than Sony can. Sony is partnering with Borders, which Amazon LOST, so that now Sony/Borders has much more purchasing power and influence in getting publishers to release new content in Sony format. Amazon as a bookseller has mobipocket now as a format, so it really seems a lot more like an old-fashioned wild-west shootout on main street than the betamax/vhs battle.

You feel that the Sony will be gone and the Kindle will remain as the victor.

I'm not so hopeful -- I can see how the Sony might be gone, but I also see the Kindle as being gone as well, with some as-yet-unpublicized product in the development stages, brought out by a consortium of publishers since they own the content and will ultimately be able to decide the outcome.

We'll all be using something like the Bertelsmann ebook in a few years, or the Random House HandBook or the Viacom Victor.
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Old 01-05-2008, 08:38 AM   #3
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Remember when Amazon sold ebooks before the Kindle? Remember when they STOPPED? Remember when people went to Amazon to download their ebooks again and could not? Remember how Amazon only kept content for a year in your account? Remember how Amazon has this poor track record for ebooks and yet here they are again with ebooks?

Kingston, if history repeats then Amazon will screw you over once again.
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Old 01-05-2008, 09:19 AM   #4
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I remember Max

I was around for betamax, and minidisc, and mylo, and I still bought the PRS-505. I know sony's history, but with great opensource software(thanks Kovid!), I don't see the device losing its value to me anytime soon. I have a huge library of ebooks (that grows daily), and it's unlikely I'll run out of reading material anytime soon.

When it comes down to it, I bought sony for look, feel, and functionality...the kindle is ugly and has a horrendous UI (IMHO). My sony reader looks and feels, not to mention works, beautifully.

They may not be the brighstest when it comes to Formats(although with WARNER on board for Blue Ray, HD-DVD might be losing the war...good thing I haven't invested in a player yet), and they love their closed world (sony memory stick, minidisc, beta), they make some really elegant hardware, and have an awesome design team.

No, I can't buy a book anywhere over the kindle network, but I don't really need to. With over 100 books on my reader, it's unlikely I'll run out of material while "on the road"

enjoy whatever reader you have...if it works for you, that is all that matters.
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Old 01-05-2008, 09:50 AM   #5
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ALL Gadgets are DOOMED

The Sony Readers and the Amazon Kindles will BOTH be gone in 5 years or LESS. Technology has made almost all of my gadgets obsolete in less than 2 years. What else is new?

I purchased my Sony Reader 505 with the full expectation it will last 2 years or less. So far it is still working and allows me to occasionally continue books when away from my PC. I do most of my book reading on my PC with a 24" LCD Monitor which will also be obsolete in 2 years or less. None of these readers beat the LCD Monitor, in my opinion. The Sony Reader is just a SUPPLEMENTARY reader for me when waiting in offices or when away from my house.

The BIG problem with the Amazon Kindle is that it does not allow reading of books on a PC. They do not supply PC software to read their books. So far as I am concerned that is a SHOW STOPPER for them. If they don't supply a PC reader soon, their Kindle entry will not even last one year.

At present I use MS Reader and Sony eBook Library ON MY PC to do most of my reading.

I purchased a Magellen GPS 4 years ago. I dumped it 2 months ago when my Garmin Nuvi 750 made the old GPS look like garbage. I am sure the Garmin will also be junk in 2 years. That's the way it goes for us technology junkies.

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Old 01-05-2008, 10:19 AM   #6
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I agree with most of what you say simaru apart from kindle and the ability to read books on the pc.

Just because YOU read books on PC and it is a showstopper for YOU doesnt mean it is for anyone else.

I have a 505 and have never read a single page on a pc why would I? Sit on an office chair looking at my screen or curl up on the sofa or bed with my 505? no contest there at all, also cant take my PC on holiday? to the Gym? or the beac? or on the train?
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Old 01-05-2008, 11:04 AM   #7
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I agree with most of your points and agree that Sony will dump the reader before long.

BTW, I have both a reader and a Kindle and both have good and bad features but generally I prefer the Kindle. I will keep the Sony until it dies and would choose to use it if I were to go somewhere where I could not charge it. It does have at least 2-3X the battery life, even compared to the Kindle with wireless off and turned off when not in use.

Quote:
The Sony Readers and the Amazon Kindles will BOTH be gone in 5 years or LESS.
No way. The Kindle will probably mutate into a more advanced form and may even be called something less silly, but the idea of a portable device from Amazon that you can read books on will remain.
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Old 01-05-2008, 12:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taoistpunk View Post
enjoy whatever reader you have...if it works for you, that is all that matters.
That really what it all boils down to.

For me, if I had a Kindle, I'd be doing the same thing I am with the Sony. Buying the MS Reader version of things & converting them. I don't trust any of the DRM producers to far.

As for Sony not being able to provide the content Amazon can, yes and no. Everyone's always going on and on about Amazon's 80,000 books, or whatever number they're touting this week and bemoaning that Sony only has 29,000 or whatever. It's no doubt true Amazon has more stuff overall, but they also carry books from small e-only publishers & pod publishers that can also be had for the Sony by buying right from the publisher or from Fictionwise in their Multiformat offerings. So I'm not sure really how much more Amazon really has. I do know that for regular fiction they don't really appear to have any more than Sony & some titles Sony (& other formats) has they don't offer at all. So don't just go by the numbers and assume one is sooo much better than the other.

As for who will stick it out for the long haul, you're probably right (history is on your side) that Sony will drop the Reader & the BBeB format if it proves unprofitable, but if the devices are profitable you may see it accept other DRM formats & Sony just stop selling their own format. No one can really know at this point. I agree that their track record isn't in their favor, but Amazon has screwed folks with ebooks in the past so their record is not pristine either.



As long as folks don't have a problem with breaking DRM they are much better off buying books they can convert, or multiformat stuff from Fictionwise or Baen if they want to ensure their books will be usable on any device in the future.
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Old 01-05-2008, 01:04 PM   #9
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I actually hope Sony loses after this Blu-Ray - HD-DVD fiasco (yes apparently I will be on the losing side again ). And I own a PRS-500.
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Old 01-05-2008, 01:19 PM   #10
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I agree with your basic premise, Sony will likely exit the market. Like Taoist I was around for all their prior mistakes too. You even forgot a few, like MMCD, ATRAC, SDDS, Super-Audio CD, and memory stick! But the Sony is still the best current reader for me. Since I am not buying Sony-format books the future failure of Sony does not matter to me. I do not expect my reader itself to last more than 3 to 5 years.

If you are using the Whispernet capability to buy Kindle format books you should be far more concerned than most of us Sony owners. Amazon has no better track record than Sony in regards to formats. Or did you not know they own the standard Mobi format yet decided to screw DRM'd Mobi book owners with the Kindle?
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Old 01-05-2008, 01:46 PM   #11
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In regards to all of this being obsolete in a couple years, I disagree (for my purposes).

When I first wanted an MP3 player 4 years ago, I chose the Dell Digital Jukebox over the ipod because it was over $100 cheaper and it had 16 hours of battery life (I think Ipod had about 7-8 at the time). The main purpose for this was so that I can bring my entire cd catalog to work and listen at my desk, and I still use it to this day. It's obsolete in technology terms, but it still functions well and is put to great use.

My computer (a Dell) was purchased over 6 years ago. The hard drive crashed twice (and were replaced), I added more ram, a dvd recorder and an LCD laptop (free from work), but the computer still works very well. 6 years is beyond ancient in computer terms, but my system works too well for me to replace it. I keep thinking "one more year and I'll get a new one", but after a year I still have no need for a new one.

So while my version of the ereader (500 model) will be obsolete in a couple years, I'm confident that it will still function for its main purpose: to read books on. I'm confident that in 5 or 10 years, I'll still be able to buy a new book and put it on the device. Maybe it won't be in sony's format, but I'll have software that can convert it with ease.
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Old 01-05-2008, 01:47 PM   #12
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Anyone heard of the Compact Disc or Playstation? Sony has made som great things to
If ereaders is the future (and we all think so i assume) I think that sony will be there. Minidisc became a dead format when the mp3 playes arrived. Betamax vs VHS was a format battle that sony has learned alot from but the outcome form those kinds of battles are allways unsure. But the ereaders future is not about a format, it is about what the consumer wants. Videoplayers is not a uncommon sight, and sony was/is making VHS players, and they are making mp3 players.

Just my 2 cents of that history is a two sided coin, you win some you lose some
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Old 01-05-2008, 02:51 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taoistpunk View Post
I was around for betamax, and minidisc, and mylo, and I still bought the PRS-505. I know sony's history, but with great opensource software(thanks Kovid!), I don't see the device losing its value to me anytime soon. I have a huge library of ebooks (that grows daily), and it's unlikely I'll run out of reading material anytime soon.
When it comes down to it, I bought sony for look, feel, and functionality...the kindle is ugly and has a horrendous UI (IMHO). My sony reader looks and feels, not to mention works, beautifully.

They may not be the brighstest when it comes to Formats(although with WARNER on board for Blue Ray, HD-DVD might be losing the war...good thing I haven't invested in a player yet), and they love their closed world (sony memory stick, minidisc, beta), they make some really elegant hardware, and have an awesome design team.

No, I can't buy a book anywhere over the kindle network, but I don't really need to. With over 100 books on my reader, it's unlikely I'll run out of material while "on the road"

enjoy whatever reader you have...if it works for you, that is all that matters.
I Agree with the ability to Convert to the Sony Format .rtf and .Lit formats as well as .txt I'm not concerned about running out of content. The Sony Reader for me is just a sleeker and Nicer Product.
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Old 01-05-2008, 03:38 PM   #14
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Actually, the Kindle is a tiny portion of Amazon's revenue, as well. And it's likely to stay that way for a long time, judging by the market resistance to e-books in general. Others have already mentioned that Amazon has a rather spotty history with e-books upthread. They're actually the company which is more likely to cut and run when the market doesn't mature in time. Amazon doesn't really care what it's selling, as long as it's moving boxes out the door. Their strength rests on two innovations: e-commerce techniques and inventory/warehousing logistics.

But it doesn't really matter. The e-book industry is barely large enough to be called an industry, and reader hardware is undergoing rapid changes as display technologies evolve. None of today's readers are likely to be around in five years.

Much of Sony's history with formats stems from the fact that they've always tried to use formats as a gravy train--create a format and then charge high licensing fees for its use. Competing formats have been licensed for a song or given away for free. Yes, the formats have lasted, but often the companies haven't. Phillips and JVC never capitalized on the formats themselves, and once their formats became commonplace, they were relegated to the status of "also-rans".

Beta's problem, by the way, was two-fold: licensing fees and expensive implementation. The format was just too good for consumer-grade equipment. The idea of a personal video recorder caught on better than anyone thought it would and the market demanded cheap gear. The commercial version, Betacam, is only now reaching its real end-of-life in the broadcast world.

Another thing to remember, while ragging on Sony for backing losing format horses. They're the folks that went to bat in court to get home video time-shifting declared fair use in the US. Yes, it was self-serving, I'm not claiming otherwise, but that decision essentially created, or at least legitimized, the home video recording industry. Sony could have rolled over when Universal and Disney came after them.
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Old 01-05-2008, 03:44 PM   #15
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It's yet to be seen if Amazon is making ANY money on the Kindle. My guess is they hope to break even on Kindle sales and make money on the sale of ebooks
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