"That Day in September", Limited Time Free Offer
Part One: Bookstores vs. Online

Sony Reader Now Selling at Target

Target 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...


Anthony S. Policastro

Hi Joe,
You are absolutely right about the Kindle awareness problem. Aside from my boss's Kindle, I have seen only one in public and in use. Most people not close to the book industry have never heard of a Kindle. And there is one more significant advantage Sony has over Kindle - potential buyers can see, touch and test drive the Sony reader in any Borders store and now Target. This is significant especially when one is considering plunking down $359 for a Kindle unseen as opposed to $299 for a Sony reader you can hold in your hand before buying.

Walt Shiel

I had been noticing for quite some time that my blog posts about the Sony Reader and the EPUB format were drawing a lot more traffic than the ones about the Kindle and its formats (even though I have posted several times more about the Kindle).

Your post above made me wonder, so I reviewed the search terms that led folks to my blog over the past 60 days. I discovered that approximately 65 searches for Sony Reader with EPUB and/or ebook and/or format (in a variety of permutations) brought in readers, while only about 35 searches for similar Kindle searches brought in readers. Neither of those topics are major ones on my blog.

If Sony can capitalize on their wider availability (vs Kindle) by adding a wireless capability, they may very well be on to something significant. Especially if they work out a deal that provides much broader wireless coverage than the Kindle (I currently have to travel about 200 miles to get Sprint Whispernet coverage).

Now, if Sony can find a way to cut their Reader's price way down and provide access to their online ebook store for all of us publishers who either currently have, or plan to have soon, ebooks in the EPUB format...Amazon might have to step back and punt.

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