This tech blog has always been skeptical of digital e-book readers. Maybe because we think the feeling of a stiff hardback or welted paperback book is timeless. Or maybe it was because major e-book vendors such as Sony and never released how many units of the devices they actually sold.


A typical ebook reader

This week, though, Sony for the first time disclosed that it sold 300,000 units of its Reader Digital Book globally since the device launched in October 2006.

Steve Haber, senior vice president of personal mobile and imaging divisionpresident of Sony’s digital reading business, says the unit growth is above Sony’s expectations. Sony’s e-book uses electronic ink technology that gives a paper-like feeling and doesn’t strain the eyes after hours of reading backlit computer screens. In addition, Sony said over three million e-books have been downloaded to the devices in that time.

“It’s strictly books, not to be confused with newspapers or blogs,” Haber says, implicitly referring to Sony rival,’s Kindle, which can wirelessly download newspapers and periodicals.

Amazon hasn’t released numbers on how many Kindles it has sold. The company says it is sold out of the device for the next 11-to-13 weeks, if that says anything.

The biggest difference between the Kindle and Sony’s e-book is that Sony’s device must be connected to a computer to download books. Brennan Mullin, vice president of marketing for Sony Electronics, says wireless downloading for books “it’s not quite as important,” since most of us are on PCs all the time and it takes seconds to download books.

Still, people in the industry and consumers choosing between the devices count the tether as a drawback for Sony’s reader. So Sony says it plans to launch a wireless e-book device, though it won’t specify when.

To boost it’s e-book offerings, Sony in October launched a high-end version of its reader with a touch screen and built-in light. The company is also boosting the number of books it sells through its online e-book store to 100,000 by the end of the year from 57,000 currently. Avid readers can also download books from various e-booksellers and e-book Web sites, as well as the New York Public Library.

-Christopher Lawton

Image: Sony