You have to give Sony credit, they are really trying new strategies to wrestle eBook marketshare from the Amazon Kindle. This month they announced several new editions of the Sony Reader, including the brand new Reader Daily Edition, which should be in stores in time for the holiday shopping season. This comes on the heels of their recent announcement to support the open ePub ebook standard I wrote about last week in my post, Could Sony Open eBook Decision Pressure Amazon. I'm still not sure either Sony (or Amazon) has lowered the price on these units enough to give them mass appeal, but you have to like the effort.
Reader Daily Edition
The Reader Daily Edition finally gives Sony customers a wireless choice. I could never understand why Sony would require you to tether your Reader to get your eBooks . It's 2009 and consumers want to be able to get their books quickly and easily, and this version of the Reader provides that with wireless access on AT&T’s 3G mobile broadband network. This gives users access to Sony’s eBook store from just about anywhere in the U.S that is covered by AT&T's wireless network, but this new unit comes with a hefty price tag of $399.
The other two units announced this month, the Pocket Reader at $199 and the more feature-rich Touch for $299 give consumers cheaper options, but my take is that all units should be wireless at this point. If it's not dead simple, I'm not convinced Sony can build mass appeal with a minimum $200 investment in this economy.
The Price is Almost Right
Sony is bragging about the $199 price tag, and while it's a decent price, I don't think it's low enough. If Sony (or Amazon for that matter) really wants to capture market share, they need to use the cell phone model. Sell the unit for $99 or less with a two year agreement to buy X number of books. It will be like the Book of the Month club, except eBook owners will have to purchase a certain number of books over the two year period. To ensure they do, they could even charge users a fixed monthly fee, which could consumers could put towards a certain number of books.
Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps reported in a July post on the Forrester Consumer Products Professional Blog, that Amazon might have captured the early market due to what she calls "a perfect storm of demographics." These were people who liked technology, had commutes or traveled extensively, and most importantly could afford the device. Future users, she says, will be very different:
"They're more likely to be female, less tech optimistic, and they read a lot (on average, 5 books per month) but they buy and borrow books from multiple sources, as opposed to buying lots of books online."
Seize the Day
Epps believes the opportunity is there to grab marketshare from Amazon. You might recall in another time with another device, that Sony once controlled the portable music market with a little unit called the Sony Walkman, but the market changed and Sony lost control of it. Perhaps Sony could be the company to turn the table this time, but if not them, assuming Epps is right, another company could, with the right combination of ease of use and price point. Although Sony is getting closer, I don't think they are quite there yet.