Kindle WiFi vs Sony Reader WiFi (an early look)

Let’s look at Kindle WiFi vs Sony Reader WiFi. Sony Reader WiFi is now available for preorder and comes in at a very competitive price. Sony finally decided to try to win the eReader Wars.

The Kindle WiFi version without ads is $139. The Sony Reader WiFi is $149.99. For this comparison we’ll compare the plain vanilla WiFi eReaders – Kindle WiFi vs Sony Reader WiFi. No 3G. No Ads. Just Reading on eInk.

Please Note: Sony Reader WiFi isn’t out yet. This is an early look and based on data Sony has made available.

Sony Reader WiFi vs Kindle WiFi – Sony Reader WiFi’s 5 Big Strengths

Sony Reader WiFi will have some big advantages over Kindle WiFi -

  1. ePub Support. That means you can buy books from pretty much any store except Amazon. 
  2. Touch including pinch to zoom. Take notes with a stylus or with your finger. Touch does make things faster and being able to use a stylus to jot down notes is a good feature. 
  3. Library support including wireless library downloads. Amazon has promised library book support in 2011 – Until that happens (December 27th?) this is a major advantage for Sony Reader WiFi. Not sure whether wireless library downloads is a killer feature or just a very useful one.
  4. Very compact and extremely light. Sony Reader WiFi will be 6 and 7/8 inches tall, 4 and 3/8 inches wide, and 3/8 inches thick. It will weigh just 5.9 ounces. The combination of the compact size and the light weight is very compelling.
  5. Adjustable Contrast and Brightness. If Sony really has a sidelight, or some other solution for reading at night, then it gains a big advantage.

Note: Some of these details are from this Sony Reader WiFi preview post at This is My Next (Ridiculous Name for a Tech Blog). Sony Reader WiFi comes with an eInk Pearl V220 screen. To the best of my knowledge this is identical to eInk Pearl.

Sony’s new eReader has some additional advantages over Kindle WiFi -

  1. A better looking device (at least in my opinion, despite my love for my Kindles) and a choice of three colors.
  2. MicroSD card slot to expand storage capacity.
  3. There are 12 included dictionaries. Kindle has dictionaries and language apps available – but they aren’t free.
  4. 7 different font choices – Original (whatever that is), Amasis, Frutiger Neue, Palatino nova, Really No 2 (really?), Univers Next, Verdana. Kindle WiFi offers just three and they are all variants of Caecilia (triple the chances of breaking your heart).
  5. There’s a decent range of in-built features – integration with Google Books, a Browser, a Handwriting section, and Text Memos.
  6. It supports both MP3 and AAC formats for music. Kindle supports only MP3.

It’s remarkable that Sony has distilled its eReader line to a single model and come in at $150. Low Price. Easy Choice. What has gotten into Sony? Next thing you know they’ll start offering wireless library book downloads.

Kindle’s 5 Big Strengths

The Kindle WiFi is the incumbent champion and has several big advantages -

  1. The Kindle Store. There are just a lot of dimensions to this – the biggest range of new books, the lowest prices, the largest number of free offers on new books, the easiest buying experience.
  2. Kindle Whispernet Infrastructure and Kindle Reading Apps. Perhaps Amazon’s biggest advantage is its ability to create an entire ecosystem around the Kindle. The Kindle WiFi doesn’t come with free 3G so you miss out on free Internet around the world. However, you still get the numerous reading apps and the good support infrastructure.
  3. Lower Lifetime Cost of Ownership. Combine factors like lower Kindle book prices, a larger number of new free books on offer, and the great resale price amd the Kindle wins the battle for lowest cost of lifetime ownership. There’s a section below that goes into this in more detail.
  4. Text to Speech. If you like having books read to you by R2D2 then Kindle wins hands down.
  5. Ease of Use. Sony’s new Reader might change this – However, Amazon has consistently delivered the easiest-to-use eReaders. 

Kindle WiFi also has other advantages over Sony Reader WiFi -

  1. Excellent Customer Service.
  2. Kindle Apps that cover everything from time wasting to time saving.
  3. Larger in-built memory. If all you’re going to use the Kindle WiFi for is reading, then the 3.3 GB of available in-built memory dwarfs the 1.3 GB of available in-built memory on the Sony Reader WiFi.
  4. Possibly longer battery life. All the measuring sticks are so confusing (half an hour of reading per day while standing on your head) that this might not be an advantage.
  5. Possibly a better web browser.
  6. Kindle Book Lending – Doesn’t seem like Sony will have this.
  7. Kindle and Kindle Books are available in more countries.

Kindle is still a better choice for a lot of people. However, Sony has closed the gap and might even pull ahead a bit. It’s strange how Amazon is sitting back and letting first Nook Touch, then Kobo Touch, and now Sony Reader WiFi become very competitive.

Sony Reader WiFi vs Kindle WiFi – Price, Value for Money, and Lifetime Cost of Ownership

One very interesting aspect is how the two eReaders stack up in value for money and total cost of ownership.

Kindle WiFi is $10 cheaper than Sony Reader WiFi. That advantage gets flipped on its head when you consider that Sony Reader WiFi offers a touchscreen, arguably better construction, and definitely better looks. It might even offer some sort of side-lighting.

Sony Reader WiFi is better value for money for the amount of eReader you get in your hands. Note: We’re not considering the $114 ad-supported version of the Kindle WiFi.

From that point on Amazon’s Store and Infrastructure start becoming major factors. Things gets especially tricky when we try to compare Lifetime Cost of Ownership.

For the moment we have wireless library downloads on Sony Reader WiFi and a million+ free public domain books from Google. Amazon offers more free offers on new books, better prices on books in general, and a million+ downloads from sites like Internet Archive. That makes it a tie.

By the end of the year, when Amazon will add free library book support, Kindle will become the better eReader in terms of total cost of ownership. New books are cheaper in the Kindle Store and there are more free offers on new books. Add in the excellent resale value of the Kindle WiFi and by end of 2011 Kindle will be the clear winner when it comes to total cost of ownership.

Sony Reader WiFi vs Kindle WiFi – Waiting for the Actual Device to Deliver a Verdict

Sony is offering lots of interesting things – touch with some semblance of multi-touch, possibly lighting of some sort, changeable screen contrast, a low price (finally), an ultra-compact eReader.

Once it’s out, and the reviews start coming in, we’ll get a good idea of which is the better eReader. There’s also the wildcard of a possible Kindle 4 release or a drop in the price of the Kindle WiFi to $99.

Sony Reader WiFi promises the be the eReader that re-establishes Sony Reader as a major player in the eReader Wars. If Sony can drop the price to $125 it would be enough to carve out a decent portion of Holiday 2011 sales. Wonder if Sony realizes that it absolutely must undercut Kindle on price.

8 Responses

  1. 3.Library support including wireless library downloads. Amazon has promised library book support in 2012 – Until that happens (December 27th?) this is a major advantage for Sony Reader WiFi. Not sure whether wireless library downloads is a killer feature or just a very useful one.

    You mean library support in 2011, right?

  2. >>>ePub Support. That means you can buy books from pretty much any store except Amazon.

    Not just that. You can also download ANY non-DRMed ePub into it. Feedbooks, Manybooks, Gutenberg, et al.

  3. ePub Support Using the freeware app Calibre, you can easily convert ePub files into a number of different formats. It’s what I’ve done with the ePub books that I’ve gotten. You just can’t convert books locked by DRM. However, I have not run into very many of them though that may be because I like to read the older out-of-print books.

    I have several thousand books that I downloaded from Project Gutenberg into text format before there were eReaders. The only reason that I decided to buy a Kindle was that PG started posting books in Kindle format offering them with or without images. When I got the Kindle and learned that it works well with text files, it got even better as I did not have to go back to PG and download them in Kindle format.

    Google ebooks are not all that great. I’ve downloaded some where the text begins in the middle of the book. Other times, the text ends in the middle of the book. If I can’t find two or three partial files and combine them, I end up with a useless “book.” This has happened more often than not.

  4. Overdrive library support is active (beta) for the Seattle and King County (Washington) Libraries

  5. Overdrive Library support for the Kindle is in beta at the Seattle and King County libraries.

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