Saturday, January 07, 2006

New ebook reader, using E-Ink, from Sony

A library of best sellers at your fingertips

By David Derbyshire, Consumer Affairs Editor, in Las Vegas

Daily Telegraph 7 January 2006

The printed page is facing its biggest threat with the launch of the first electronic book that people can read for hours without straining their eyes.
Sony's Reader is the size of a slim paperback but can store hundreds of books at a time. When the cover is lifted, books are displayed on a sheet of electronic "paper", one page at a time.
Although electronic books, or e-books, have been around for several years, previous versions, using LCD screens, have never caught on. The biggest complaint is that readers' eyes quickly become tired from the glare and flicker of the conventional computer screen.
However, the Reader displays its text on a page of high resolution electronic paper which is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Electronic paper also needs relatively little power, so the life of a battery should not be a problem.
Sony, which launched its Reader at the Consumer Electronics Fair in Las Vegas, believes that the invention could do for reading what the iPod has done for listening to music. It is selling books for the Reader from its online shop Connect.
Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code, is an enthusiast. "It is not about replacing books," he said. "But e-books offer features that traditional books cannot." For example, rather than carrying several books while travelling, owners of a Reader need take only one on holiday. "If I want a new book, I can download it instantly online even if it is two in the morning," Brown said. It takes only seconds to download a book.
Brown said that students would soon be able to carry all their books with them and ensure that they always had the most up-to-date edition. Eventually, he thought, the lower costs of publishing e-books would encourage publishers to take risks on lesser known authors. "The effect of this is that there will be more books in print and more choice for readers," he said.
The Reader is expected to go on sale in America in April at between $300 and $400 (£170 to £227). It should arrive in Britain soon afterwards.
Owners will be able to buy books from Sony's online store, download them to a computer and transfer them to their Reader. They will also be able to download free any books that are out of copyright.
The gadget is designed to be held in one hand and the pages are "turned" at the press of a button. It can also display drawings and pictures and the text can be enlarged up to 200 per cent to make it easier for readers with poor sight.
Sony says the rechargeable battery will power 7,500 page turns between charges.
The page is made from millions of tiny capsules, suspended in a transparent liquid coating a plastic film.
The capsules contain positively charged white particles and negatively charged black ones. Depending on what type of charge is applied to the page, the white or black particles move to the surface of the capsule, forming images.
The first version can display text and pictures in black and white only, but a colour model is likely to follow.
Ron Hawkins, a marketing executive at Sony, said: "In recent years, millions of people have become comfortable downloading and enjoying digital media, including e-books, but until now there has not been a good device on which to read.
"Our research has shown that people are looking for a device designed exclusively for immersive reading. The Sony Reader, with its electronic paper display, thin format and extraordinary battery life, fits the bill."
Electronic paper is also likely to be used in other devices such as mobile telephones. Philips has invented a flexible form that can be rolled up.

Sony Reader targets book lovers

By Alfred Hermida Technology editor, BBC News website in Las Vegas

BBC 6 January 2006

Sony is trying to do for e-books what Apple has done for downloadable digital music.
It has launched a handheld device designed for electronic books- dubbed the Sony Reader - at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
It has a screen made from electronic paper that makes text look almost as sharp as it is on a printed page.
Sony hopes the gadget will tempt more people to download and read books in digital, rather than paper, format.
Electronic ink
E-books have not made much of an impact as the experience of reading on-screen has failed to live up to expectations. As a result although sales of e-books are growing they still account for only a tiny fraction of the overall book market.

The electronics giant aims to address this with the electronic paper used for the display in the Sony Reader. It says the six-inch black and white screen will be as easy to read as the printed page.
The technology used means the screen is not backlit, avoiding screen flicker, which can put a strain on the eyes.
The device's display uses technology developed by US-based firm E-Ink which works by electronically arranging thousands of tiny black and white capsules to form characters.
"In recent years millions of people have become comfortable downloading and enjoying digital media, including e-books," said Ron Hawkins of Sony Electronics.
"But until now, there has not been a good device on which to read."
It will go on sale in the spring and is expected to sell for between $300 and $400 in the US.
Sony has realised the importance of making sure there is good content for a gadget like this.
It has done deals with major publishers, including Random House, Penguin and HarperCollins, to sell digital e-books via its Connect online store.
This is similar to what Apple has done with its iTunes music store, which effectively created the market for digital music downloads.
But Sony faces a number of challenges.
This is the second time the Japanese electronics giant has tested the waters with an e-book reader.
In 2004 it launched a similar device called the Librie in Japan, which failed to take off due to its high price and the restrictions it imposed on readers.
Additionally other companies are also working on devices using the same E Ink technology. And some are working on flexible electronic paper displays that can be rolled up.

From push to pull - Sony's digital vision

By Michiyo Nakamoto in Tokyo and Paul Taylor in Las Vegas

Financial Times 7 January 2006

Sony, more than any other consumer electronics maker, is a company that likes to look to the future to develop products for the present.
Sir Howard Stringer, the group's chief executive, continued the tradition with his keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Thursday, in which he unveiled a plan to focus on four categories and place Sony at the forefront of dramatic changes taking place in the consumer entertainment market.
Sir Howard and other senior Sony executives said in private briefings after the keynote that Sony also planned to abandon its scatter-gun approach towards new product launches and be far more focused on what Sir Howard calls "champion products".
Sir Howard said that in the past Sony has suffered because it tried to equally market to too many products. In future, he said, the company would throw its full weight behind fewer products with strong revenue potential.
As examples, he highlighted the upcoming PlayStation 3 video console, the PSB Portable games player and the Sony Reader - a new electronic book reader that Sony will launch in the US market in April along with book titles that customers will be able to download via Sony Connect service.
After many failed attempts at developing a successful e-book reader Sony believes it now has the technology and support of the publishing industry to make the Sony Reader a success.
Using jargon in his keynote that lay people might struggle to understand, such as "e-entertainment" and content being "pulled" rather than "pushed", Sir Howard said Sony would concentrate on products that would give consumers more freedom to enjoy entertainment content wherever they were and whenever they wanted to.
The first category of products comprises high-definition equipment and highlights Sony's determination to become the leading supplier of products for the home that will enable users to create, watch, store and edit content in high-definition.
They include Sony's high-definition camcorder that will produce personalised HD video to be viewed on its recently launched full high-definition TV, Bravia - Sony's LCD TV brand that has taken a maker leading 30 per cent share in the US since its launch.
"All over the world, broadcasting is becoming high-definition and Sony has all the necessary technology and products to cater to the new demands of the market," Sony says.
The impact of high definition "may be even more profound than the shift from black and white to colour television," Sir Howard told his audience.
The second category encompasses products that underpin the shift from analogue to digital technology in TV broadcasting and the cinema, including professional filming cameras and digital projectors for movie theatres.
While the analogue to digital shift in Hollywood is still in its early stages, "US cinemas will shift rapidly to digital technology", Sony believes.
The third category is the PlayStation, of which the next generation PS3, as well as the currently available PlayStation Portable, will be more than just a games console. For example, users will be able to watch TV programmes on their PSP terminal anywhere in the world by accessing a public wireless local area network. At the CES, Sony is showing a prototype mobile phone that will offer similar functionality.
The fourth category ofe-entertainment products groups together gadgets, such as mobile phones, car navigation systems, digital still cameras and the Vaio range of PCs.
Sir Howard says that these products will cater to a growing desire among consumers to be able to access entertainment and other content in a more personalised way than is currently possible. So, rather than watching whatever TV broadcasters decide to show their audiences, people will increasingly go to get what they want to watch when they want to watch it.
The strategy Sir Howard outlined is not, strictly speaking, a new direction, but a further push away from analogue technology and into the digital age, Sony says. It means Sony will accelerate its divorce from standalone products that cannot be linked to networks, it says.
One worry is that the last time Sony came out with a grand strategy to realise its vision of the future, it did not translate into sales. Sony ended up with unsold gadgets, such as Cocoon - a portable keyboard-like channel server providing always-on access to the internet through the TV.
The lesson Sony learnt from the battle between its Walkman and Apple's iPod is that it badly needs a few successful blockbuster products to carry it forward.

Full details of the Portable Reader System (PRS-500) on


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