Why Amazon Kindle 3 has Sony PRS-650 knocked down before its got in the ring

Amazon's Latest Kindle, the "Kindle 3"

With its geographical specific release in the US only the Amazon Kindle burst into the scene with their first mass market dedicated ebook reader in 2007. Other portable electronics ran ebooks, and non-fiction ebooks had been popular for a while on PCs and Macs, usually via PDF format, however the Amazon Kindle was one of the first devices you could sit and read a whole book on comfortably. Result it sold out in five and a half hours.

The Kindle 2 came in early 2009 and this time was released in Europe not just the US. By now companies like Sony started to release rival ebook readers, with their PRS range. However despite a high price point of over $350 the Kindle 2 cemented Amazon's market position as a leader in the dedicated ebook market. Not bad for the companies first major in-house device. However with the dawn of their new Amazon Kindle 3, Amazon are pushing the marketing out further to cement this knowing full well that the latest batch of Sony readers are on their way. And Amazon's biggest tactic... Its $139 (£111) starting price.

The New Amazon Kindle is out to finish its rivals like the Sony PRS-650
The New Amazon Kindle is out to finish its rivals like the Sony PRS-650

How Sony PRS-650 is avoiding the ATRAC mistake to try and stop Kindle becoming the Ebook iPod

Amazon.com quickly became the market leader in selling books online, and is a brand everyone knows and trusts. Their physical book collection is huge, and it was only a matter of time before they expanded into the emerging market of ebooks, as they have done with mp3's.

This is one of the reasons Sony has an uphill struggle on their hands with their latest batch of e-readers. Anyone who is non "techy" who wants to buy books online, will go to Amazon first most of the time. So with the advent of their very own ebook reader which requires you to buy Amazon format books for commercial titles, they are not only selling the books, but "printing the paper" so to speak. However uncharacteristically for Sony, a company that historically makes users buy their own peripherals, memory cards etc, they have a much more open format ebook. There is the Sony Ebook store, in which you can purchase books but you can also download from the likes of Waterstones etc. Something currently unavailable on the Kindle. Sony showcased and released two mp3 players two years before the iPod, however failed due to price, but also by making people use its ATRAC format, which required slow conversion of mp3s to protect from piracy. Combined with the Sony specific cards required, the Walkman creators failed and lost their market leader position to become an also-ran. With the touchscreen PRS-650 Sony are trying to learn from their mistake by being open in this emerging market. This will get the Sony a cult following, but openness does not always breed success. The iPhone and even iPods are a great example of this. The iPhone is locked down so you can only use applications from Apples store. Whilst with the iPod you can add other mp3s, the way iTunes is integrated with iTunes Store most casual users would not even look anywhere else. Due to its initial and continued success it seems the Amazon Kindle, and especially the Kindle 3 is, despite Sony's efforts becoming the iPod of the ebook reader world.

Amazon Kindle 3 has 1 month claimed battery life, so no need for charging on holiday
Amazon Kindle 3 has 1 month claimed battery life, so no need for charging on holiday

What Kindle 3 Does So Well

For those who don't know, the Kindle uses technology called eInk. This basically means it uses very little power, and more importantly for reading whole novels, it does not hurt your eyes after long periods like looking at a TFT screen often does. Its ideal for people with poor site as you can increase the text size to whatever you like. These are great features, but the Sony PRS-650 also has these. So what makes Kindle stand out besides its good looks?

Well as mention before, the Amazon Kindle 3's new prices have made it the first good ebook reader to be easily mass market accessible. Entry price for the wifi model is $139, whilst the Wifi with built in 3G is only $189 (£149). Both are available in white or graphite, and both come with the latest eInk which is claimed to have 50% better contrast. The overall shape of the new Kindle is also much slicker as you would expect. Memory on the Kindle has been upgraded to 4GB, whilst the biggest worry for people going on holiday wanting to read for long periods of time by the pool is that Amazon claim the new Kindle has a ONE MONTH battery life if the wireless is turned off. Very impressive if even half true! This means it will last most people's holidays without the need to plug it in for a recharge.

By using Amazon.com as virtually the sole provider of books, it means a novice can easily take the Kindle online with its built in software and purchase new reading material. Amazon kindly also "sell" public domain books for free on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, by displaying them as $0.00. This is a clever technique to help people into the process of purchasing books in the the future for real.

Summary of these great E Book Readers

You could argue that for a market leader, there is little need for Amazon to drop the price so much, but as mentioned before selling low means they will shift more units, and gain their money back on books sold on their website. With the latest figures from Amazon that the Kindle 3 is the fastest selling Kindle of all time, it seems the Amazon Kindle has already become the name for ebook readers in the same way iPod has for MP3 player. This leaves the Sony PRS-650, which is a superb device in its own right a long way behind in sales. Despite this it is a superb dedicated E Book reader which combines fantastic looks with Sony build quality.

UPDATE: My thoughts on the NookColor

I personally do not like the look of colour e-readers. In fact I find them quite pointless. This is due to screen. For a e-reader to be comfortable it has to be eInk. Sure you can read for a little while on an LCD / LED screen, e.g. a newspaper app on a tablet like an iPad etc. But your eyes will tire after a while, same as looking at a computer monitor if you tried to read a book. Whereas with eInk there is virtually no artificial brightness to hurt your eyes, like a real book. This makes it much more comfortable for reading and why I think there will be place for eReader for the next few years despite the rise of tablets. The main concern for any color eReader overshadows any other fault they may have, and why Kindle and PRS-650 etc are a better proposition in my eyes.

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Comments 25 comments

Graham  6 years ago

It looks cheap and plasticky to me, I don't mind paying a little more for a solid metal cased Sony and it's just as easy to load books via a computer as direct download to the reader. I'm only interested in reading novels, I must confess, so regular access to internet is not important to me, but then I'm sure there are many others who feel the same so it's not all doom and gloom for Sony.


theelhub profile image

theelhub 6 years ago from UK Author

I agree, there is nothing wrong with the Sony hardware. My Mum has a pink PRS-300 and I think its great, well built and easy to use. Battery lets it down a bit though. The article wasn't to say Sony's reader is bad, more about the market dominance of the Kindle, and the new features of the Kindle 3 which are very impressive. Build quality is definitely up, and the graphite colour makes it look more solid to go with this.

I agree with you about the Internet on these devices, pointless, bar for downloading books. They should do a $99 version without the wireless.


James 6 years ago

I agree, the Sony's are a niche product. "Techy" people in "the know" seemed to agree that the Sony prs-505 was simply the best e-reader, but this is a small percentage of the population, i.e., mobileread.com. I think you're completely right when you say that the Sony product line doesn't have the mass market appeal of the Kindle line. When your average joe sees a kindle at 139 vs. a similar sized sony at 229, or 299 for the prs-950, they're going to go for the 139 model most of the time. They aren't going to care about being locked into an ecosystem, and they certainly won't care about a zoom lock feature or higher build quality (metal vs plastic). The Sony, despite being the first company to market an e-reader, has priced itself out of the mass market. It's become a product simply for people in "the know" or those who can afford to pay for the best (the soon to be released prs-950).


Aditya  6 years ago

It would seem to me that people who want a dedicated reader would go in for the Sony one, which just seems to be a more beautiful device. The new series is supposed to be top notch in display and response times. It's the Sony for me. Totally agree with Graham's sentiment :)


Jay S 6 years ago

Nobody can argue with a price of $139. It has everything that a Reader should have and then some. I was surprised by comments like "cheap, plasticky" feel. It shows that the guys who made that comment have not seen the K3 let alone use it. K3 feels pricey and is very well-built. Sony readers look like the old brickphones in comparison. I am sure the next version of Sony readers will remedy that. What about the screen? K3 is the most gorgeous e-ink screen around. Period.


KK 6 years ago

"With its geographical specific release in the US only the Amazon Kindle burst into the scene with the first mass market dedicated ebook reader in 2007."

The Sony eReader was actually first to market in late 2006.


theelhub profile image

theelhub 6 years ago from UK Author

@KK You are correct, thanks. The Kindle was the first big seller however which is what I was trying to get across.


EPG 6 years ago

@ Jay S: No, the K3 does not have "everything a reader should have and then some". You make a very passionate defence of the K3, but try to look at it more objectively. I have a Sony PRS-650. One of the main reasons for choosing the 650 is that it allows me to highlight text (I don't really take notes, although I can do that too). It is very easy to transfer the highlighted text to my computer. The text is saved as an rtf file and includes info such as the page numbers of your highlighted passages, which is really useful when you want to quote a passage and need to include the citation in a bibliography. I'm a graduate student and find this feature extremely useful. Without it, I could never use an e-reader to study. The K3 doesn't have this function, which means the decision had already been made for me. So, as far as students are concerned, Sony readers are a much better choice than Kindles...

Period.


Peter 6 years ago

You are not locked to any format if you get a Kindle. It accepts mobi and pdf besides you can always use calibre. The problem is that if you get the Sony Reader you are locked out of the Amazon store. If that is not a problem for you then the Sony seems more attractive at present and its better for pdf. Most likely Kindle will have a touch screen next year


WALT SODERMAN 6 years ago

Sony offered the Pocket eReader for $199 back in August of '09 when the lowest price Kindle was $299. Sony started the price war and broke the $200 price barrier. Within weeks, Kindle dropped to $249, and now is trying to play the price war, albeit with a more cheaply built product. Kindle fans remind me of Windows fans of yore...they don't really know quality, they're just suckers for excellent marketing. Sony Readers have more format flexibility, and are thus 'library friendly'. The wifi/3G capability is a matter of personal preference. If an eReader could only hold one book, I'd probably consider wifi/3G a necessity. A newspaper subscription, too, might make wifi/3G more desirable. Screen readability is approximately the same. Build quality goes to Sony. Kindle is cheaper, unless you look at the Sony Pocket Edition (5" screen), which is currently on sale at the same price as the Kindle.


Robert Levine 6 years ago

You can convert the Mobipocket Kindle format to txt, ePub, or PDF, and read it on the Sony readers or any other open platforms. Not only are the Sonys superior in quality to the Kindle, they don't waste a lot of real estate with a useless keyboard. You download a few seconds for every hour spent reading. You don't need the wireless connection- you may just as easily download with a USB wire to your computer. The Sony has a superior touch screen and very fast page turns. It's not going any where. People will pluck up on it's quality and superior design and use it.


Bert 6 years ago

How can you respect a review that has spelling errors?

...there vs their vs they're


Jeremy 6 years ago

get over it Bert.


adski 5 years ago

@Bert

Why would you review spelling errors?


Annika 5 years ago

I don't agree that the Kindle is the best. The hype could circulate much more easily with a large company like Amazon and probably helped sales, plus the Kindle does feel "cheap and plasticky". Sales do not necessarily define the quality of a product.

The Sony Reader is faster, lighter, more durable thanks to the metal body, and more intuitive with its excellent touch screen. If your local library offers ebooks, you can download them onto your Reader, unlike the Kindle. Overall the Reader is open to many more sources and formats. As for the internet access, people have computers and smartphones for that and it is unnecessary. The Reader takes, at most, two or three minutes to manage its library via a computer, so no Wi-Fi or 3G won't kill you. I own a Reader Touch Edition and I love it for tons of reasons, including the ones above.

By the way, theelhub, you seriously need to work on your grammar.


theelhub profile image

theelhub 5 years ago from UK Author

@Annika Thanks for your comment. I didn't said that the Kindle is the best, just that it is the market leader. I agree sales do not define quality, but look at the Top 40 Charts. However I also said about the Sony that "...it is a superb dedicated E Book reader which combines fantastic looks with Sony build quality."

As regards to my grammar, I am not a professional writer but thank you for reading and commenting I appreciate your feedback.


Ivan 5 years ago

I don't think the Ipod : Kindle comparison is entirely on target. A closer analogy would be if the Ipod did not allow users to load/listen to songs from their own non-Itunes purchased collection. If this were the case, there is no doubt that the Ipod would not be in the dominant position it is today. Amazon's proprietary strategy may be short-sighted. Another company is bound to come up with a better e-reader that supports open formats including e-pub. I think that Amazon is missing the boat here. Sure, if they decided to include epub format in the Kindle, they might forgo some revenue to those customers who will read a book downloaded from their local library instead of purchasing it online. However, this would be negated by the dramatic increase in Kindle sales that would be sure to happen. At that point, the Kindle would have a greater chance of reaching the same level of dominance as the Ipod. Amazon needs to be careful - they clearly do not have the same marketing / technical prowess as Apple. I am glad that Sony has a competitive product.


Sony reccomendation 5 years ago

I bought myself a Sony PRS-650 Touch 6 weeks ago and have been using it on a daily basis since then. I'm not the easiest to please but I have to say that I am absolutely delighted with it. The device itself is beautifully manufactured, easy to use and the readability is superb. I did quite a bit of research before buying and the main negative I found was that it does not have wireless connection to the Internet. As strange as it may sound, I actually like that fact. When I pick up the device, I want to read a book, not browse the Web or shop for new books. The only other negative was the price. Maybe it is a bit overpriced but that was only an issue on one occasion: when I handed over my hard earned cash - it hasn't crossed my mind since. And finally (sorry for being long-winded)it has one outstanding feature that I found in no other e-reader: various dictionaries which allow me to read books in different languages. Double-click on a word you aren't sure about and the translation appears at the bottom of the screen. If you read foreign literature then this has to be the best device on the market.


John 5 years ago

I can't bloody stand the Kindle 2!! It's a piece of Shit!!!! It's bloody awful!! White (shows dirt), CLUNKY AS HECK, and the hardware interface?? Obscene, 2-year-old toys have more complex interfaces. The buttons on the kindle 2 are just heinously dumb. I absolutely can't stand the 2 also because of it's clunky size. That said, that's Hardware. Software is a different story. I had kindle 2 loaded on iphone and frickin' LOVED it. But note the huge hardware differences, same software but hardware (clunky, white, obtuse, 2-year-old clunky button, slow, pathetic) and (sleek COMPACT, touchscreen). Hardware makes a huge difference folks and I'm not even that critical (at times), but the kindle 2 doesn't just "cut it" it's a pathetic piece of rubble. I feel sorry for the electrical components wasted on such a piece of gargabe. I'm keeping an eye for an extremely compact and touchscreen kindle. The software is excellent, the hardware has been obscenely and offensively flawed.


James 5 years ago

This is almost funny.

Amazon must be buying everyones opinions,

nothing else could explain what im reading being plastered all over the internet.

Sony is being hounded for no reason at all, being called ridiculous things and being compared to cheap chinese made mp3 players.

The latest sony PRS-650 is the kindle killer.

Its sleek

easy to use

looks amazing

and is perfect for students.

now what is the kindle bragging about?

'we have wifi'

so what?

what can u do with it?

download more books,

but i can do that at home, and if i plan ahead it would really make the need for a wifi redundant.

The kindle series looks ridiculous.

The material looks flimsy and cheap.

and to be honest, the only feature not listed on basicly every other ebook device, is the text to speech. which is as ancient as microsoft word 97

kindle must be paying a lot for all the propoganda there slinging, but as soon as the prs 650 is re-released, theres gonna be hell to pay kindle,

i await your demise =]


Henri 5 years ago

Why is it that the Americans think their stuff is better bigger and above all the ONLY thing that is any good.

There is a whole world outside of the USA

I will settle for my Sony e reader thank you, it is after all THE BEST


Steve 5 years ago

These are both very capable readers, but the Kindle 3 will always win because it’s over $100 less than the PRS-650.

When you factor in the cost, the PRS 650 is poor value for money compared to the Kindle 3.


Mark 5 years ago

I,m a Sony PRS 650 fan myself I read a lot of technical books on PDF and pdf notes and find that a rasterised pdf is a joy

to read on the Sony.I have used a friends Kindle the big one and found it large and difficult to get used to.I think he Sony is very well built and may last me a long time.I also got €40 VAT back on the Christmas promotion ,got it yesterday. I bought the cover with the light and find it nicely balanced for reading.

I thought this article was very one sided given the outstanding quality(practicaly Swiss) of the Sony


Andreas 5 years ago

Your article is only true for the american market. In Europe the Kindle's major advantages become virtually non-existent. Nobody I know, who owns an e-reader, cares much about buying books directly via the e-reader anyway. In practice it is not an important feature at all for such a device. European e-books (especially all non-english languages) are almost exclusively published as epub, which the Kindle does not support. The fact that the Kindle is cheaper does not have have much influence, because for the average reader it is a useless device without simple and direct support for the worldwide accepted e-book format: epub. Sony, ofcourse, supports this format. The latest Sony readers are very popular where I live. In fact they are the most popular e-reader of all brands and all the latest Sony models are officially recommended as 'best buy' by independent customer organisations, because of their unrivaled build quality, format support and great unique responsive, glare-free touch screens. So in the rest of the world it seems we prefer Sony. The international epub using world is much larger than Kindles private american english corner. If Amazon fails to realize that in time, it will give that huge e-book market away to all the other brands, especially Sony. Because Sony is on top in that market.


Sagala 5 years ago

Kindles is great only in the US. In Canadian Market, if you prefer reading in French, Sony is far away better.

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