Sony expands e-book reader range

New model has touch panel, reading light

TOKYO -- Sony Corp. is introducing a second electronic book reader in the U.S., with upgraded hardware, that will go on sale in November.

The PRS-700 features a 6-in. electronic paper display similar to the one used in the PRS-505 that's currently on sale, but it will include a new touch panel and a reading light. The touch panel will enable users to turn pages on-screen, search through e-books using an on-screen keyboard and highlight passages using a stylus. The light will aid reading in dark environments.

Like the current model, the PRS-700 can store about 350 e-books in its internal memory, and more can be kept in memory stick or SD Card media. Sony said the battery supports up to 7,500 pages of continuous reading. It's compatible with e-book formats such as Sony's BBeB (BroadBand eBook), Microsoft Word documents, Adobe PDFs and the International Digital Publishing Forum's XML-based EPUB.

The Sony e-reader PRS-700
Sony introduced its second e-reader, the PRS-700, which it will sell for $400.

Sony hasn't offered detailed specifications of the device but said it's about the size of a "slimmed-down paperback book" and weighs "about 10 ounces" (280 grams). The PRS-505 weighs 260 g or about 9 oz.

It will be available starting next month and will cost $400 -- $100 more than the PRS-505 model, which will remain on sale. Launch plans for areas outside of the U.S. were not disclosed.

The launch comes as Sony kicks off a monthlong campaign to promote e-books that coincides with National Book Month. The company is deploying e-book sales teams across the U.S. to promote the devices. At an event in New York, Dave Farrow, a speed-reader and memory expert, is living in a storefront for a month reading books on the device. For each page Farrow reads, Sony is donating a library of 100 electronic books to a school. The first 100 schools that begin downloading their e-books will also get five e-book readers, Sony said.

Sony's biggest competitor in the e-book market, Inc., also appears ready to launch a new version of its Kindle reader. Photos of what appears to be the new device began appearing on blogs over the weekend, but Amazon has yet to make an official announcement.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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