Sony isn't thinking big enough on this opportunity for their Reader product at Penn State University. As this article notes, Sony has donated 100 of their Readers to the university's libraries in the hopes of learning more about how it can be used in a college setting.
I'm always puzzled when I read about how e-book readers are being tested in libraries. It just seems like such a bad fit. If my local library started loaning Readers/Kindles I'm pretty sure I'd never see them. The demand would be enormous, creating lengthy waiting lists forcing the library to reduce the number of days any one person could borrow one. Plus, if they're worried about DVDs and CDs coming back damaged, whoa, wait till that $300+ e-reader comes back with a problem.
Sony is currently battling Amazon on the e-reader front and, as a Kindle owner, I tend to think the wireless functionality gives Amazon a huge advantage. If Sony really wants to test their device on a college campus why don't they just make it available to those students at a deep discount? How about a $50 price tag? That's still a lot for a college kid though, so how about...free?!
Seriously, seeding this particular market makes a ton of sense. Just ask any of the many software companies that offer their products for next to nothing on college campuses. You get the kids used to your product and many will become fans for life; heck, some will even influence future employers to adopt the technology.
Is it a big investment? Sure, but Sony's a big company with a significant marketing budget. And they don't have to focus on a school as big as Penn State, btw. There are plenty of others with far fewer students.
If Sony was really smart they'd start working with textbook publishers to help underwrite the program. After all, even though textbooks aren't widely available for the Sony and Amazon e-readers yet, I'll bet the big textbook publishers would love to be involved in an experiment like this; it might help them set their vision for future product development.