Sony Takes Aim At Amazon's Kindle

Watch out Amazon, Sony's got the Kindle in its sights.

Sony today announced two new Readers - the Reader Pocket Edition and the Reader Touch Edition - that will come out at the end of the month and cost less or the same as the older, more established Kindle.

The Pocket Edition has a five-inch display, comes in several colors ("including navy blue, rose and silver") and fits, as one might expect, in a jacket pocket or a purse. It can store about 350 "standard eBooks" and can last about two weeks on a single charge, Sony claims. All that for $199.

The Touch Edition is a bit larger, with a six-inch display that you can control, as one might expect, via touch. Using either your finger, a stylus or the virtual keyboard, readers can turn pages, highlight or take notes. The notes can be exported (definitely seems to have the college market in mind) and has a built-in Oxford American English Dictionary — you can look up words by tapping on them. It has five font sizes and slots for memory sticks and SD cards. The colors are a bit heftier, too - red, black and silver. It's expected to retail for about $299.

Sony says both models use an E Ink Vizplex electronic paper display "that mimics the look of ink on paper." The software also is compatible with both PCs and Apple computers and enable the user to read PDF, Word, BBeB and other text files on the Reader.  New releases and New York Times bestseller titles in Sony's eBook Store will cost $9.99. Plus, readers will have access to the 1 million free public domain books that Google has digitized. They've been optimized for the Reader, Sony says.

The Reader will be available, naturally, through and at SonyStyle stores, but also at Best Buy, Borders, Costco, Staples, Target and Wal-Mart.

Anticipating this release, Amazon did cut prices on the Kindle 2, from $359 to $299, but it doesn't have quite all the extras of the Reader. And it comes only in white. Fashionistas will surely be pleased by the Sony color palette. (And note the Pocket Edition's resemblance to an iPod.)

Plus, there's the negative press Amazon's gotten of late, what with the cracked Kindles (which it replaced) and the deleted eBooks (an accident).

Is a price war brewing that, in the end, will benefit the consumer?  Stay tuned.