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10 Months In, A Tepid Response to the Sony Reader

The Sony Reader may have arrived with serious splash ten months ago, but as Business Week reports, reviews of the tiny handheld book-reading device have been tepid at best, and Sony has consistently declined to release sales figures, which just might tell you something. Many users say they are unhappy with the interface (too many buttons and not intuitive) and complain that books for the Reader can only be purchased at Sony’s online service, Connect. Less than a tenth of the titles on the shelves of your average Barnes & Noble or Borders are available at Connect. Lisa Phillips, a vice-president at Random House Direct who received her Sony Reader as a gift last December, is turned off by Sony’s closed system. “An open format where you could go to different places and not just use their system would be helpful,” she says.

So Sony has decided to roll out with a few bells and whistles, especially on the marketing front. The price has been cut by $50 and Sony is offering new buyers, who are also registered Connect users, credit for 100 free classic titles, such as GREAT EXPECTATIONS and MOBY DICK. “In terms of timing, with people going back to school, there is a lot of interest in classic literature,” said Jim Malcolm, director of marketing for Sony Electronics. “It gives people an incentive to buy.” They also plan a more targeted approach to travelers instead of the broad-based campaigns of old. But will it work? With Amazon fast approaching with its own reader, Kindle, Sony might be left behind – or the battle for e-book readers’ eyeballs may rage for quite some time…

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