Next year may finally see the e-book make the jump from cell-phone screen to rather more generous-sized e-reader displays. E-readers failed to catch on early in Japan, due to poor sales and limited available content, however, December sees KDDI, Sony and Sharp go head to head with all companies offering new gadgets to entice Japan’s digital book worms away from their cell phones.
On Dec. 10 Sony’s new black-and-white touch screen e-readers – the PRS-650 Touch Edition and PRS-350 Pocket Edition – went on sale. According to Good Reader, the company is already hailing the launch a success and claim that stocks of the Touch Edition are already running low. Sony is also saying that, contrary to its expectations, the device is selling well in bookstores it’ll be hard to guage just how popular the device has been until actual sales figures have been released.
Sharp, which launched its Galapagos tablet this month, will be appealing to a wider market than just book readers. The tablets, which come in two models — the 10.8-inch for home use and a 5.5-inch mobile model — are both multi-media devices with LCD color screens. Running on the Android OS system, Sharp has teamed up with DVD rental giant Tsutaya to provide content for the tablets at the online Tsutaya Galapagos store, which currently sells books but will be offering movies and music in the spring.
In terms of content, both devices are not only compatible with their own dedicated websites but also with other content providers. In Sony’s case e-books can be downloaded both from Sony’s own Reader Store and from Papyless, which offers 15,000 works available to download on cell phones or PC in XDMF format. Content for Galapagos can be downloaded from the Tsutaya site and Renta!, a sister site of Papyless that works with iPhones and gadgets running on the Android OS. Both devices will, in short, benefit from e-bookstores that have been successful in providing content to the already healthy cell phone e-book market.
KDDI’s biblio Leaf SP02 reader, which also launched this month, has a black-and-white screen and has the rather groovy advantage of being able to run on solar power. KDDI’s content store, the LISMO Book Store, currently offers 20,000 books with plans to expand this list to 100,000 by March 2012.
While techies and movie lovers may be drawn to tablets like the Galapagos, we’re thinking true book lovers, or simply people wary of incurring eye strain, will favor the Sony Reader or KDDI’s new device. The proof will not only be in the attractiveness of the devices themselves, but also in the amount of content each device offers. In that sense half the battle will decided by which company is able to offer the widest and most popular range of titles to readers.