With Amazon and Barnes & Noble both unleashing new e-readers under $150 it pretty much goes without saying that Sony's got to step it up, and its refreshed Reader family is what we've been expecting. Just like we'd heard and heard again, Sony's tweaked its entire Reader line up -- the Pocket, Touch, and Daily editions -- by adding improved optical touchscreens, speeding up page turns with E Ink Pearl displays and slimming down the brushed aluminum hardware. Beyond that, it's also updated its Daily Edition with WiFi -- there's still no connectivity options for the other two. We got to see all three a few days ago, so hit the break for our hands-on impressions and details on pricing and availability.
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Sony Pocket, Touch, and Daily editions hands-on

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Sony Pocket, Touch and Daily Edition press shots



Reader Pocket Edition / PRS-350 ($179) - Measuring 5.7 x 4.1 x 0.3 inches and weighing .4 pounds, the new Pocket Edition is noticeably smaller and lighter than the previous version, and while it still has a five-inch display, it's now of the E Ink Pearl variety and covered with a touch layer. However, it's not just any typical touchscreen -- Sony tells us it's improved the experience by using its own enhanced touch technology that doesn't blur the E Ink panel. We've got to say the quality's quite crisp, but more impressive is how responsive the touch page turns are -- you'll want to check that out in the video below. A small stylus ejects from all three of the readers now, so you can also take notes on screen and save them inline. As we mentioned there's still no WiFi or 3G here, but the $179 e-reader now has 2GB of memory and an SD card slot. It'll be available very soon in both pink and silver.

Reader Touch Edition / PRS-650 ($229) - Even though the Pocket and Daily Edition now have touchscreens, Sony's still calling its mid-range Reader the Touch, which is bound to confuse some. Either way, the Touch has also gone on a serious diet -- it weighs only .4 pounds -- and has the new touchscreen technology. It's similarly fast and responsive when turning pages. The Touch's still got to be sideloaded with books from your PC or Mac, but like the Pocket it now has 2GB of onboard storage along with SD card and MemoryStick Pro slots. This one comes in black and red.

Reader Daily Edition / PRS-950 ($299) - Sure, it was less than a year ago when Sony unveiled the seven-inch Daily Edition, but why not update it along with the rest? Obviously, it's got the new touchscreen and faster page turns, but it's also now only .5 pounds and has WiFi. Sony's finally gone and added a simple browser, but it will only work over WiFi. Obviously, we asked Sony about its plans to put out a WiFi-only Reader, but we were told that's not in the cards right now. The new Daily Edition will be hitting shelves in November for $299, which seems a bit high to us considering the 3G-equipped competition rings up at about $200, but that's the case with all of Sony's new Readers -- you've got to be willing to pay a bit more than the rest for touch and very slim hardware.



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SONY BRINGS DIGITAL READING EXPERIENCE TO LIFE WITH THE LAUNCH OF ITS NEW LINE OF READERS

New Readers Feature Sony's Unique Touch Screens with Anti-Glare Technology for the Optimal Digital Book Reading Experience

SAN DIEGO, September 1, 2010 ⎯ Continuing to provide book lovers with the most natural, immersive digital reading experience, Sony today announced the launch of its beautifully-designed new line of Reader digital books, including the new Reader Pocket Edition™, Reader Touch Edition™ and, in the US, the wireless Reader Daily Edition™. The new line of Readers features a host of new design and technology enhancements that make them the perfect device for any reader's lifestyle.

"Today, we're excited to announce not just the availability of the Reader Touch and Pocket Editions in the countries we already serve but also expansion of the Reader line to previously untapped markets," said Steve Haber, president of Sony's Digital Reading Business Division. "We take a thoughtful approach to country expansion, including Italy, Spain, Australia, Japan and China, working with local bookstores to ensure content is compatible, relevant and in the appropriate language for each market."

The new Reader models bring a fresh level of flare to e-reading with colorful, elegant aluminum designs and all new, highly responsive touch screens. In addition to the new devices in the US, Sony announced an improved web-enabled Reader™ Store and a set of applications for iPhone and the Android Marketplace to extend the Reader experience across multiple portable devices.

"The success of our previous line of Readers illustrates book lovers' demand for feature choices and full touch screens on their digital reading devices," said Phil Lubell, vice president of Digital reading at Sony Electronics. "Today, we're answering their call by providing an entire line of stylish, full touch screen devices with a variety of features and price points."

What's New
The new generation of Readers builds on the popularity of last year's line. For 2010 Sony has restyled all three of the devices, reduced their size and weight, and made new, innovative touch screens available across the entire line.

Touch Screen for Everyone
Based on the popularity of the full touch screen on its previous Reader Touch and Daily Edition models, Sony equipped the entire line of new Readers with improved, optical touch screen technology designed specifically for digital reading*. The new, first-to-market technology enhances ease of use and increases reading clarity, creating an immersive reading experience for consumers. Book lovers can now escape into their favorite books with the lightest swipe of a finger or stylus pen.

Better E Ink Displays
All three devices utilize E Ink® Pearl electronic paper displays, which delivers a paper-like display that is readable in direct sunlight. The screens offer a high contrast ratio with 16 levels of grayscale, ensuring that text and images are crisp and easy to read.

A Reader Pocket Edition that Will Wow You
The new Reader Pocket Edition sports a five-inch, full touch screen and a smart, lightweight design that's easy to slip into a purse or jacket pocket for convenient, on-the-go reading. It is available in chic colors, including silver and pink. It has 2 GB of onboard memory, which lets you carry up to 1,200 of your favorite books, and retails for about $179.

A New Reader Touch Edition: More of Everything Readers Love
The new Reader Touch Edition features a six-inch full touch screen and an intuitive design with 2 GB of onboard memory. In addition, it offers dual expansion slots for up to 32GB of additional memory and the ability to play MP3 and AAC audio files. It's available in black or red for about $229.

A Reader Daily Edition that Adds WiFi and New Web Features
The Reader Daily Edition provides a wireless connection to Sony's Reader Store from most of the U.S. via AT&T's 3G network, the nation's fastest mobile broadband network. Now, it also provides Wi-Fi and basic Web browsing capability on its large, seven-inch full touch screen. A host of pre-loaded practical and reading-based URLs will provide direct access to optimized, text-based sites designed to add a new dimension to the reading experience. The Daily Edition also includes 2 GB of memory and expansion slots for additional memory (up to 32 GB). It comes in silver and will sell for about $299.

Additional New Features Across the Entire Line
New features allow for easier reading of PDF or personal documents. Intuitive content zoom, adjustable contrast and brightness control, as well as automatic multiple page creation will make documents designed for a standard sheet of paper easier to read on a smaller screen. Also, personalized standby screen options will allow users to use their favorite photos as a screen saver and the collections functionality will allow them to group their favorite reads.
In addition, the new Reader line is more global than ever, offering users the ability to look up words and phrases with the built in New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edition and Oxford Dictionary of English eDictionaries, as well as 10 translation dictionaries in languages such as French, German, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. Wordsmiths across the globe can now create "word logs" to track the words they've looked up per dictionary book or periodical in chronological order, while quickly switching between dictionaries.

More Content on More Devices
In addition to announcing a new generation of Readers, Sony has also made several changes and improvements to HYPERLINK "http://ebookstore.sony.com/"Reader Store. More than 1.2 million titles are available in the U.S. Sony remains committed to providing an extensive offering of newspaper and magazine content for single issue purchase or subscription within the newsstand area of the store. Soon to be available titles include The Guardian, The Harvard Business Review, Newsday, Publishers Weekly, San Diego Union-Tribune and more. The store's Library Finder application continues to provide easy access to local public libraries to borrow eBooks for free. To make choosing a book easier, the New York Times Bestsellers list will be featured alongside the Reader Store's bestsellers. By next month, integration with HYPERLINK "http://www.goodreads.com/" Goodreads will permit the inclusion of reader reviews from that site and a new web-based architecture for the store will allow standard browser access to accounts.

With Reader™ Desktop Edition (formerly Reader Library) for Apple's Mac OS X and Microsoft® Windows® and Reader™ Mobile Edition for Apple iPhone and Google Android-based smartphones, users can now synchronize their reading among multiple devices. These free applications, available later this year, will offer an intuitive digital reading experience with an elegant interface and access to Sony's Reader Store for browsing and purchasing content. Reader Desktop Edition also includes the ability to easily manage content for the non-wireless Reader models.

The new Reader Pocket Edition and the new Reader Touch Edition are available immediately, and the new Reader Daily Edition will be available this November in time for the holidays. The Reader Pocket and Touch Editions, as well as available accessories such as AC adaptors, cases and covers with reading lights, are available now at SonyStyle.com and SonyStyle stores.
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Editor's Note:. For additional information about the Reader digital book, your readers can call (888) 315-SONY, or visit Sony's web site at: HYPERLINK "http://www.sony.com/reader" www.sony.com/reader. Members of the media looking for complete product specifications and digital images and other information are invited to visit Sony Electronics' news and information web site at HYPERLINK "http://www.sony.com/news" www.sony.com/news.

*Optical touch screen technology customized for Sony and licensed from Neonode Inc.