Today in the beautiful Trustees Room at the New York Public Library, Sony introduced its new digital Readers: the Pocket Edition, the Touch Edition, and the newly announced 3G-enabled Daily Edition. Steve Haber, president of Sony’s Digital Reading Business Division, summed up the company’s mission with these devices as: access, access, access. The devices themselves cover a wide range of eReader prices and functionalities. The Daily Edition particularly interested us since it’s not only bigger (7-inches) but is widescreen. The long and skinny screen offers more vertical real-estate for less page flipping. We didn’t get to see it in action, but Haber did say that one can use it both horizontally and vertically, which may mean it’s capable of displaying two or more columns. With 3G included (at no extra cost), users will be able to access and download content anywhere within AT&T’s coverage map. This edition also includes a touchscreen. It’ll be available in December in time for the holiday shopping frenzy and cost $399. The Pocket Edition, only $199, has a 5-inch display that offers plenty of space for reasonably-sized text. The navigation buttons were intuitive and responsive, plus the weight and feel of it were comfortable. The $299 6-inch Touch Edition was the most fun to play with. Here there are minimal buttons as most important functions can be accessed from the screen itself. The swiping motion to turn pages wasn’t quite natural, but also wasn’t unwelcome. The eink display not only did well with text but also with images.
Later today we’ll post a full hands-on with the Pocket and Touch edition. Reader owners will have ebook choices beyond what’s available for purchase in the Sony eBook Store. Through Google Books they will have access to over one million public domain titles. Plus, Sony has teamed up with NYPL and other libraries to allow users to borrow digital books (which will expire after a set number of days) from their local branches via the eReader. The NYPL itself has around 250,000 ebooks available for circulation and, as one of the founders of the Google Books Library Project, will be working toward the goal of scanning and making available thousands more books. In addition to the Sony eBook Store, consumers will be able to buy EPUB standard format books from Powell’s Books and more than 200 other bookstores. The Touch and Pocket Edition Readers are available now online and will soon be in over 8,000 retail locations in the US.