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New details: Sony Reader to launch this summer for under $400

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New details: Sony Reader to launch this summer for under $400
The Sony Reader device, which uses E Ink’s revolutionary new EPD display technology.  (Courtesy Sony) 

New York (NY) – In a clarification of news released yesterday, Sony spokesperson John Bianchi told TG Daily that the company’s forthcoming Sony Reader device, which enables users to peruse electronic books using the innovative E Ink display technology, is on schedule for release this summer. There will be a single model, not two as sources had indicated, and its intended price range will be between $299 and $399, though Bianchi conceded the MSRP had not yet been nailed down.

Bianchi also told us that Sony’s US retail distribution deal with Borders book stores, announced yesterday, is indeed an exclusive deal. Sony Readers will only be available, he said, through Sony Style stores (many of which are located in upscale malls), the Sony Style online Web site, and in Borders stores nationwide.

The electronic books themselves will be sold through Borders as well, in the rather detached sense that yesterday’s vague statement led us to conclude. A Sony Reader owner will be capable of purchasing credits for book purchases at Borders. These credits will then be redeemable for actual book orders, once the owner logs onto the Sony CONNECT Web site. Among the many details that still aren’t known yet, Bianchi conceded, is the nature of the credits themselves. In other words, does a consumer simply plunk down $50 at the Borders’ counter, good for anything he orders online? Or, perhaps more sensibly, would Borders be free to set prices and determine promotions for individual titles, which the consumer could then purchase exclusively through Borders and download through Sony? Such a system, if it were made available, would enable Borders to offer bundle deals such as the printed book title along with the e-book, or deals for music and other items when customers purchase new e-book releases. While Bianchi seemed intrigued with the idea, he was not at liberty to disclose whether this is the system Sony will employ.

Sony is currently negotiating with book publishers for the rights to produce electronic editions of print titles, Bianchi said, but until those negotiations have concluded, he is unable to say which publishers those are, or give any hints as to the genres or quantities of e-books that will be available in time for the summer launch. A change to the structure of Sony’s CONNECT site – which is currently devoted to music tracks and videos – is probably in the works, and Bianchi stated those changes should be ready for rollout at launch time as well.

While the Reader could, effectively, be perceived as converting Borders into a consumer electronics retailer, Bianchi said customers should not expect them to serve as service outlets as well, stating that Sony already has an effective servicing network for all its CE components.