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back to article Sony reads the future, quits e-reader market says German report

Earlier this year, Sony decided to quit the North American e-book market and get Kobo to supply content for readers in the US and Canada. The company then staged similar retreats in Europe and Australia. Now, the former Japanese powerhouse has decided to quit the device market as well – worldwide. According to German site Lesen. …

Shaking fist at sky

The PRS-T3, to us, was our entré into the e-reader experience and as a single purpose device it manages to do all that we'd hoped for. While not backlit, the Sony has an elegance in its construction with the rare now hard buttons. The tech used to detect screen touches are infrared leds x-y'd from the bezel and thus there isn't a capacitive layer to detract from the clarity of the text. I think the reviews were unduly harsh of this device and if you are inclined and able to get one the effort would be well rewarded. We love ours and were saddened that the Sony Reader store packed it in and sprayed the writing on the wall.

We aren't Sony-oids by any stretch but this, the Reader, was something special.

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One trick pony?

That seems to be where Sony is heading.

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Trollface

Re: One trick pony?

Don't you mean "One trick Sony"?

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<shakes head>

I have both Tablets and eBook readers (note the plural). Why? Because while tablets *can* be used as eBook readers, they are to damn heavy to be used on-the-go for any length on time. In my case, I have become able to read while walking down the street (pausing to cross said streets - not suicidal), as well as the more usual "while standing in public transport during peak hours".

eBook readers are light, not to mention frugal on power. Tablets are more powerful and are in colour (great if you're planing on reading trade magazines or, as I do, old french/belgian comic books) but are power-hungry and get heavier-and-heavier the longer you read them using only one hand (the other being used to steady yourself on public transport - get your minds out of the gutter).

I don't bother watching videos or TV while I commute/walk around, so that "killer application" which supposedly differentiates tablet readers from eBook readers is a non-starter for me.

Ideally, I suppose, I'd like a 7' eBook reader with a colour screen (for reading - screen refresh speeds don't have to be that high).

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Re: <shakes head>

"I have become able to read while walking down the street"

No, no, no. This is BAD. Pedestrians need to pay attention to their surroundings when walking around. You may think you're safe walking around and reading because you haven't died yet, but you are a danger to everyone around you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: <shakes head>

As much as I'm tempted to agree, I think we'll end up with a workable compromise in the form of something like a Google Glass with some low power requirement display tech. so that recharging won't be such a bore. Something like e-Ink that works as a head-up display. This will allow people to walk along reading text floating in front of them. So long as it's overlaid onto their normal view of their surroundings it shouldn't be any more distracting than reading advertising on billboards or the sides of passing vehicles as you walk along.

I'm convinced it's on its way and it won't be long before people are commonly making more use of the otherwise unproductive time "wasted" when walking around. Personally I like the downtime and enjoy the chance to be alone in my thoughts, but I can see it becoming popular.

Of course, such dedicated Reading While Walking products will suffer the same fate as eReaders. However much an optimised single-use device is better for the task than a multi-purpose device, it will still lose out in the long term because human nature gravitates towards spending as little as possible on one device that does lots of things reasonably adequately.

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Re: <shakes head>

"it won't be long before people are commonly making more use of the otherwise unproductive time "wasted" when walking around"

That time is not wasted. I come up with some of my best ideas while walking to work in the morning. Time spent away from a problem doing 'nothing' is often the most productive.

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Re: <shakes head>

"That time is not wasted."

I agree - and have therefore upvoted you - but do note that the AC deliberately put the word 'wasted' in quotes.

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Re: <shakes head>

Yes, listen to "From our own corespondent" podcast BBC last week where amusing observations are made on how what used to work - 100s of folk concurrently using a Japanese pedestrian crossing - no long does due to the existence of smartphones.

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Pint

Re: get your minds out of the gutter

Out minds aren't always in the gutter! They sometimes come out to feed for a pint.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: <shakes head>

Agree. Living in Chicago, I see a lot of ereaders on the El (commuter trains), but very rarely a tablet. No one wants to get mugged! eReaders aren't going away; they're just finding their place.

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Re: get your minds out of the gutter

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

(Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde)

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Re: <shakes head>

"Living in Chicago, I see a lot of ereaders on the El (commuter trains), but very rarely a tablet."

Heh, I may be one of those ereader holders you're seeing (Red Line traveler). Given the occasional chaos of commuting, having a device that I can shove in my bag and forget about for a week, yet still have it charged when I retrieve it again, makes it the ideal device for close-quarters reading.

I can read off a tablet too, but that's at home using the EPUBs stored on my NAS. It's too heavy and awkward for commuting reading.

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If true it's a pity. The lack of built it lighting was annoying as was the expense of the cover with a light. However I haven't seen another e-reader that had the same note and annotation facilities and I use those a lot.

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James, have you looked at the onyx-boox m96 9.7" e-ink pearl display e-reader? A very nice unit that uses a wacom digitiser for input note taking.

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No, I've never seen a review or even an advertisement for it. Not in any of the shops near me. Bluetooth keyboard compatible as well? hmm certainly worth a look.

*Edit* I can see that you can annotate pdfs, as long as you can do the same for epub files when my T3 finally dies might have a replacement lined up.

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Damn

I have a T1 e-reader from Sony, and whilst it hasn't replaced my books in home (nothing ever will whilst I have the choice) it is great for on the road. Light, lasts and age and really easy to read screen.

One question - just what are they going to continue making?

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Anonymous Coward

No future?

Are you insane? Sony have been slowly getting rid of their non-profit divisions. What's left are their power-hoses.

Sony are kings in optical and digital imaging. Their cameras are killing everything right now (the A6000 and the A7x series), so much that Nikon, Canon and Olympus all use their sensors in their cameras. They have 50% of the smartphone sensor market too, Apple use Sony sensors, their own premium phone (Z2) is right up there, one of the best money can buy, they also have fine phones at the entry level too (the Xperia M2 beats the Moto G at it's own game)

They are of course cleaning up in Playstation, and their commercial broadcasting and medical divisions are very strong. Then of course there is their Sony Pictures and music, both of which have some serious money earning content.

What's wrong is mostly fixed. They got shot of the bad stuff, and the remaining problems are mostly due to the weak Yen.

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Sony eReaders display technical PDFs better than any other eReader

I bought a SONY eReader from my local Tesco supermarket 18 months ago. It was discounted because sales were poor. I bought it because I had read that it displayed the A4 pages in technical PDFs better than the Kindle. Diagrams are not distorted and each half A4 page of text can be read clearly in landscape mode.

If you have another eReader then please tell me if it successfully displays the following free tutorial about TCP/IP:

http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/redbooks/pdfs/gg243376.pdf

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sony eReaders display technical PDFs better than any other eReader

Crappy PDF handling in ereaders seems more like a software issue than hardware at this point. Frustrating! Kobo and Nook definitely fall down here. Not sure about Kindle.

I finally just gave up and got an iPad mini. The 4:3 aspect ratio is perfect for reading most tech PDFs in landscape mode. Bonus, with ezPDF reader you can crop the file straight from the tablet. I also use ezPDF on my 5" Android phone to read the same books in landscape mode.

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Sad Times

Darn, may have to go hunt Sony eReaders to stockpile - haven't found another device anywhere near as good for reading digital media as the Sony :(

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Interesting timing, I was admiring my old Sony MZ-E33 minidisc player last night. Lovely bit of kit, and completely useless to me now.

Shame, Sony used to make some really nice stuff.

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Its Deja Vu all over again

Sony should know by now that hardware on its own doe not sell. There needs to be content to put on it. The reason kindle's sell is because they are good enough and connect directly with the worlds biggest electronic book repository.

Sony did not build up the connections and infrastructure to deliver the content.

It feels like Betamax vs VHS all iver again.

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Anonymous Coward

I can't say I'm surprised, the e-ink based reader was never going to be a massive money spinner as it was (don't start shouting just yet...). I have a Sony Reader and I've read plenty of books on it but as soon as I got a 10" tablet I as good as stopped. It's not that I don't like the Reader it's just that it isn't a versatile as the tablet. For reading books the Reader was fine but as soon as I gave it a vaguely technical PDF it was awful. I also found that I was taking my tablet everywhere I took the Reader and since the tablet could do everything the Reader could do and more it seemed silly to take the Reader as well. Sure, the Reader is better in full sun and it's power usage is great but I don't read outside much and I don't remember the last time I was that far from a power outlet.

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Ecosystems

The ecosystem concept is pretty much killing these traditional hardware businesses. It used to be that you would choose your hardware and then decide where to by the software from, choosing suppliers on a case by case basis.

Not anymore. Now you choose which ecosystem to buy into. When you choose a kindle, you are not just choosing hardware, but software as well, in the form of buying all your books and magazines from Amazon. To be fair to Amazon, they do create apps for tablets and computers, but not for other e-readers. This is a difficultly now of being a hardware manufacturer. You cannot just make a quality product and sell it on its merits. You have to have an ecosystem to go with it. So you either have to create your own or see if you can buy into someone else's.

And it is infuriating from a consumer point of view. Not all app stores have all music, films, etc. So you cannot just choose one with the expectation of being able to buy everything from that one store. You really need several and then have to deal with different levels of software availability across different devices.

Example: I have a PS3 and a nexus 10. I can watch Netflix on both devices. I can only watch Amazon Instant Video on the PS3. if I had an IPad I would be OK, as there is a Amazon app for the IPad. Just not the Nexus 10.

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Re: Ecosystems

"Not all app stores have all music, films, etc."

True enuff. But at least, between them, the torrentz seem to have just about everything that was ever published.

Maybe it's time kickass produced the hardware and we could all buy in to THEIR ecosystem.

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Anonymous Coward

Tablets make poor ebook readers

I hope e-ink devices don't all go the way of the dinosaur because I find that tablets are a poor substitute. Short battery life and eyestrain from staring at close proximity to what is effectively an LCD monitor, are chief amongst my complaints.

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Re: Tablets make poor ebook readers

Don't know why you felt you had to go AC, all resonable points.

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The future is

Wafer-light tablets with an LED screen as usual and on the back an e-ink screen. A flip-cover will open the needed side while protecting the other. The e-ink side will offer perfect outdoor reading and endless battery life.

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Re: The future is

I also thought such a dual-screen device would be brilliant, so when one came on the market I jumped for it. I'm not saying that the concept is unworkable, but mine was a huge disappointment. Poor responsiveness, feeble wi-fi range and rather lame apps and battery life left me cold. As for waterproofness, when hurricane Katrina finally finished it off, I mourned the money loss, not the tablet. It hadn't been out of its box for months by that time. Good riddance.

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This is sort of sad new for me, I'm not a great sony fan, but I've had one of their early e-readers since before the Kindle came out here (as has my father), and it's been wonderful and still is.

For one thing despite it being ancient by tech standards it still seems to have features that current Kindle's don't have in it's UI, and an easier/better UI.

I can see why the ereader market is in a degree of trouble, as unless you're selling the content as well, you can't really make a profit as the devices themselves seem to last a long time and there isn't really a pressing need to update your ereader every year or two in order to run new apps, unlike tablets or phones.

So with Amazon taking up a huge chunk of the market, and Kobo seemingly undercutting Sony on the hardware I can see why they'd be pulling out, as it's not going to be making them enough money on the hardware alone.

When I was looking at a new reader a few months back it was between the Kobo Aura HD and the T3 as they both had features that were "must have's" for me, and were not tied into the Amazon ecosystem (I like the kindle paperwhite, but it has annoying limits in it's cataloging system if you load your own content on, and the Aura HD has a slightly larger screen).

What I am surprised about with the ereader, and ereader accessory market is that no one has yet released either a reader, or just a case that has a solar cell, it should be entirely possible to make a reader/cover that can be largely charged simply by leaving it in the light, as the current generation of cells are pretty good, and the battery consumption of a reader is low enough that in standby (and probably even in use in good light on a beach), it should be possible to charge it from cells built into the cover/case.

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