Today is the day. Starting today you should be able to walk into any of Target's 1,600+ stores and find a Sony Reader (model PRS505). Here's a link to it on the Target website.
Is this significant? I think so. Amazon introduced the Kindle 10 months ago with some noteworthy advantages: wireless connectivity and an extension of an already powerful brand name. The Kindle also has far more titles available than Sony offers and Amazon features a nice list of magazines and newspapers to choose from.
You'd think by this point Amazon would be crushing Sony, wouldn't you? Rumors about the number of devices sold by either manufacturer have been hard to make sense of up to now, but one relevant benchmark is Google search activity. I've written about this before and I continue to keep an eye on it with Google Trends. This service lets you analyze search patterns for popular terms and phrases. In this case, I'm comparing "Amazon Kindle" and "Sony Reader". The chart shows Sony rebounded from the Kindle's introduction last November and has maintained a steady margin ever since. More recently, however, searches for the Sony device have started to pull away from the Kindle; so much so, in fact, that the red line (representing Sony) almost points straight up!
Sony's Reader is, of course, available not only online but in the Borders chain as well. Now that they've struck a deal with Target, Sony has built some nice retail momentum. The Kindle, on the other hand, is available only on Amazon's website. I've also never seen it advertised or promoted on anything other than amazon.com.
I said it back in June and I'll say it again: Amazon has an awareness problem. They might be thrilled with the device's sales rate up to now. It may have exceeded their greatest expectations. They apparently insist on capturing 100% of the revenue for it though, hence their direct-only sales model. Meanwhile, Sony is chipping away by embracing the EPub format and striking distribution deals with Borders and now Target.
On top of all that, Sony is planning a Reader-related event/announcement on 10/2. If they're smart, they'll introduce a new Reader model with wireless capabilities and a feature or two to leapfrog the Kindle's functionality. I can hardly wait to see what they have to say...