Despite Being Early to E-book Market, Sony Now Plays Catch UpNew_Reader_Open_Angle_F_med

The 30th anniversary of Sony's Walkman music player last month reminded us how long it has been since the consumer electronics manufacturer came up with a product that actually created a new market (see the KnowledgeToday post of July 2: "When the Walkman Roamed"). The Walkman established the personalized portable music player segment, but was eventually eclipsed by Apple's iPod digital music player.

In 2005, Sony marketed the first e-book reader to use "electronic paper" technology, a display that could be read even in direct sunlight and which consumes no power while it is showing a static image. Unlike the Walkman, it was not an overnight success, and it was quickly overshadowed in 2007 by Amazon's Kindle reader, which also used the e-paper technology. Kindle became even more dominant with the introduction of its second-generation models this year.

So Sony's introduction today of its third-generation reader, the $399 Sony Reader Daily Edition represents an effort to catch up with and pass Kindle. Indeed, as The Wall Street Journal reports today, the new product one-ups Kindle by offering a touch screen and access to books from a wider range of sources, including libraries. Kindle's selections come almost exclusively from The Financial Times notes that Sony has yet to announce when the Reader Daily Edition will be available in other markets, but that it could be aiming to upstage Amazon, which has yet to make its Kindle family of wireless readers available outside the U.S.

Today's introduction also underscores the technological transformation of the publishing world, which was described by Knowledge at Wharton earlier this month in an article titled, "Technological Evolution Stirs a Publishing Revolution." The degree to which the new electronic readers supplant traditional book publishing will depend greatly on consumer psychology, Wharton marketing professor Cassie Mogilner said in the article. "Books in themselves have value from two different [sources]. One is the time you spend absorbing the content. Two is from the ownership of the physical object. And the physical object serves as a visual cue — both to yourself, of your reading, and also to others. People have collections, a kind of visible bibliography of what you know. What's interesting with the Kindle is that its value is really just the first value. It doesn't carry the same collection or visual cue."

More from Knowledge at Wharton:

Getting a Read on Amazon's New Kindle

Sony's Next Act: Will It Play?

As Sony Gets a Tune-up, Samsung Zooms Ahead