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Sony's 3G-Capable E-Reader Goes Head-to-Head With Kindle

Sony's just pulled the wrappers off its latest electronic book, the Reader Daily Edition. Unlike its earlier siblings, the DE comes with 3G-technology, so it'll pick books up over the air. It's designed, frankly to nip the Kindle in the bud.

Sony Reader Daily EditionIn terms of raw tech it's pretty standard—there's a 7-inch touchscreen using E-Ink's Viziplex display tech beneath the touchscreen sensing layer that can cope with 16 levels of grayscale. It comes in an aluminum chassis that has an integrated cover (potentially avoiding problems like the cracking Kindles), there are memory card ports to expand on its 1000-book built-in memory, USB connectivity to load-up content from your computer—which now includes Macs—and it supports books in EPub format along with Word, BBeB files, text files, and PDFs. The touchscreen stands out from this list, thanks to its size—it sits above the Kindle 2's 6-inch display, and below the Kindle DX's 9.7-inch one...but the whole device is still portable, at around Kindle 2 size since it lacks a physical keyboard. Check out an early hands-on video below, made by Dvice:

But the 3G capability is the hot-ticket item, really. Just like Amazon and Sprint's Whispernet, Sony's made a deal with a U.S. network to get the service off the ground—in this case it's AT&T (does this hint that Apple could achieve a similar e-book deal with its fave U.S. cell-phone network too? Let's wonder about that later). The AT&T tie-up means you can download text for free at any time, since there's no subscription or transaction charge, so books, newspapers and magazines are basically available on demand.

With this new Reader, Sony's unashamedly gunning after the Kindle—the 3G and superior touchscreen tech point to this, and its use of the open-source EPub format is an attempt to stop Amazon from completely establishing itself as a monopoly provider for e-books in a proprietary format in the U.S. The one decider for all this is the price of the gizmo. Sony's smaller non-3G Readers, the 5-inch Pocket and 6-inch Touch go for $199 and $299, while the Kindle 2 is $299 and the DX is $489. Sony's not saying yet how much the Reader DE will go for, but if it manages a $399 price tag (as Gdgt is suggesting), then Amazon will definitely have a hot competitor on its hands.