Sony Makes E-Readers Touchy, Takes 'Em Where Amazon Fears to Tread

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Sony just revamped its entire line of e-readers, slimming them down, snazzing them up and adding better touchscreen powers. They're expensive, but are now the e-readers the Kindle should be. So, is Sony brave or dumb?

All of the players in the e-reader game are suddenly attempting different tactics to win some sales. Sony, sailing supremely along at the top end of nearly every market it operates in, has acted to keep its e-reader offerings fresh and competitive but has chosen to neatly ignore the frenzy to simplify and cheapen e-book readers that many others are taking part in and has instead bumped up the specs on its digital book readers. And kept the price high.

The newly refreshed Reader line-up has improved touchscreens, faster electronics for speedier page-turns and whatnot, and slimmed down the aluminum chassis so they're all lighter to hold. The Daily Edition now has Wi-Fi (the others still only have wired connectivity) and a very basic browser, but none of the devices has 3G connectivity. (Update: Sony notes that the Daily Edition does come with a 3G option)

But, ignoring the fact that Sony's ecosystem to supply content isn't as sophisticated as Amazon's, these gizmos are quality, nicely designed devices. The only thing holding them back is the high price, which is a defining Sony characteristic: The Reader Pocket will cost $179, the larger Touch costs $229, and the mighty Daily will come in at $299. This is way more than Amazon's Kindle Graphite will cost you.

And in fact, the new Readers are what the Kindle should be like. Touchscreen tech is fast taking over the portable gadget world, since the so-called "natural interfaces" that are enabled by touchscreens are by far the easiest way to interact with the hardware. The fact the Kindle doesn't have it is an oddity—and the reason is even odder: Jeff Bezos himself noted that the touchscreen overlay that is typically used adds "too much glare" (a problem that did beset the previous touchscreen Sony Readers). Instead of trying to improve the tech, innovate, and deliver a better product to the consumer (as Sony's done) the new Kindle is pretty unimaginative (our own Dan Nosowitz begs to differ, I know). And more than anything else, this might be the thing that dooms hardware e-readers to a niche-device future.

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