Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350

We looked at the Kindle 3 and the Sony 650 earlier and now it’s time to do a Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 comparison.

Kindle WiFi and Sony 350 are the entry-level eReaders for Amazon and Sony and it’s interesting to see Sony price the Sony 350 at $179 which is $40 more than the $139 Kindle WiFi and just $10 cheaper than the Kindle 3.

Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 – Areas Sony 350 wins

The Sony 350 gets a lot right and has some solid advantages -

  1. Sony 350′s touch screen is a definite advantage. You can’t really argue it’s a super important feature since page turns work fine with buttons but it’s undeniably a cool feature and it makes navigation outside of books easier. It also helps to be able to touch a word for the meaning and to be able to scribble down notes.
  2. Sony’s support of ePub, DRMed ePub, and DRMed PDF is pretty important if you’re outside the US or if you want to be able to buy books from other eBook stores (Note: Kindle Store books don’t work on anything other than Kindles and Kindle Apps).
  3. Support for DRMed ePub also means Sony 350 supports library books.  
  4. Sony 350 weighs just 5.64 ounces (Kindle WiFi weighs 8.5 ounces) and it’s really compact at 5.75″ by 4.12″ by .344″ (Kindle WiFi is 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.335″). Please note that part of the difference is because Sony 350 has a 5″ eInk screen while Kindle WiFi has a 6″ screen.
  5. There are 10 translation dictionaries.
  6. It’s quite pretty and is available in silver and pink. Kindle WiFi is available only in graphite and isn’t quite as striking.

It’s interesting that Sony 350 is missing a few of the Sony 650′s good features - there’s no memory card slot and there don’t seem to be speakers.

Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 – Areas they tie

Sony 350 and Kindle WiFi are in a tie in numerous areas -

  1. They both use eInk Pearl.
  2. They both have page turn buttons on both sides.
  3. They should have the same readability since the touch Sony 350 uses is infra-red based and no longer a physical layer over the eInk. 
  4. They have changeable font sizes.
  5. They have in-built dictionaries.

Kindle WiFi and Sony 350 are also both focused on reading and neither is trying to be anything beyond an eReader.

Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 – Areas Kindle WiFi wins

Kindle WiFi is Kindle 3 with the 3G missing but everything else intact. It has several important advantages over the Sony 350 -

  1. It has a 6″ screen which is a more readable size than the Sony 350′s 5″ screen. 
  2. It has WiFi. This makes a world of a difference if you have WiFi at home or at the places you work or at your favorite coffee shop.  
  3. A $40 price difference. $139 is certainly a more manageable price than $179.  
  4. It’s likely that Kindle WiFi will have better PDF support.
  5. Kindle WiFi has 4 GB memory of which 3.4 GB is available while Sony 350 has 2 GB memory of which only 1.4 GB is available.
  6. Kindle WiFi has 4 weeks of battery life with wireless off and 3 weeks with WiFi on. Sony 350 has two weeks battery life.
  7. Kindle WiFi has Text to Speech and the Voice Guide. It’s accessible to blind and low vision readers.
  8. Kindle Store is a better store than Sony Reader Store.
  9. Kindle WhisperNet provides a lot of benefits like syncing across devices – If you have access to a WiFi network you get all these benefits.

The gap between Kindle WiFi and Sony 350 is quite a bit more than the gap between Kindle 3 and Sony 650.

How important is touch? Is it as important as WiFi?

While there is little doubt Touch is a useful feature and makes navigation easier there is also a lot of hyperbole around the necessity of the feature. Consider this bit of nonsense from the New York Times -

Many a Kindle screen has been sullied by errant fingers before their frustrated owners realized that readers turn the pages of an e-book using buttons on the side of the device.

What are you talking about?

The Kindle 2 had Previous Page and Next Page printed on the buttons and Kindle 3 has direction arrows. That’s enough for most people to figure out they don’t need to touch the screen. Besides, it’s touching the Sony 350′s touch screen that is going to leave smudges.

The article ends with this little ode to replacing buttons and keyboards -

The next generation of screens might not even need a touch. Instead, they will understand the gestures of people standing in front of them and pick up on eye movement and speech.

“The future’s going to be in fusing together several different natural human behaviors — how people point, gesture and coordinate with each other,”

Well, Amazon already has the patent for a gesture based Kindle.

You could actually argue that WiFi is more important than touch. Touch adds a little bit to usability but you’re mostly reading books and there’s not much difference between pressing page turn buttons and swiping the screen. Being able to scribble notes is useful as is freehand drawing. WiFi on the other hand adds a lot when WiFi is available – store browsing, 60 second downloads, Internet browsing (relatively decent browsing using WiFi), WhisperSync.

At best, WiFi beats Touch. At worst, Touch is a little better than WiFi. If you don’t have touch you have to use the cursor to move around (a few extra seconds) or use page turn buttons to turn pages (just as fast). If you don’t have WiFi you have to find a computer to download a book – much more effort and time than finding a WiFi network.

Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 Closing Thoughts

It’s not surprising that the Kindle WiFi vs Sony 350 comparison ends up being rather similar to our Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 comparison. Sony 350 is missing some of the pluses of the 650 like expandable memory and WiFi is not as convenient as 3G+WiFi – However, the rest of the comparison is almost identical.

Sony 350 clearly wins in - touch capability, support for library books, support for ePub, choice of color, looks, compactness/portability, lower weight.

Kindle WiFi clearly wins in – larger screen size, WiFi, lower price, text to speech, more battery life, accessibility, more memory, better store, better infrastructure.

The much lower price of the Kindle WiFi might be the decider for a lot of readers. Also, Sony 350 is just $10 cheaper than Kindle 3 which adds on 3G support and free Internet to the Kindle WiFi’s already compelling package. Sony has failed to match Kindle 3 and Nook on price and wireless support and it might have lost the battle before its begun.

Kindle 3 vs Sony 650

The Kindle 3 gets a strong new competitor today – the Sony 650. This Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 comparison will look at where each wins and where they tie.

Please keep in mind that my experience is limited to the Kindle 3. For Sony 650 have only Sony’s website and the various articles about the Sony 650 as reference – haven’t actually used it or even seen it.

Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 – Areas Sony 650 wins

Well, Sony 650 wins in a few important areas -

  1. Sony 650 has a touch screen. You have a choice of using the stylus or an on-screen keyboard and it also supports freehand drawing.
  2. Sony supports DRM protected ePub and PDF and unprotected ePub. Kindle doesn’t.  
  3. Sony supports library books due to its support for DRMed ePub.
  4. Sony 650 is a bit more compact than Kindle 3 (6.625″ by 4.75″ by 0.406″ compared to 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.335″) and a bit lighter as well (7.58 oz vs 8.7 oz).
  5. Sony 650 has expandable memory via a SD card slot and a Memory Stick Duo slot.  
  6. Sony supports AAC format music which Kindle doesn’t (they both support mp3).  
  7. There are 10 built-in translation dictionaries.
  8. It’s better looking with an aluminium body and a choice of black or red casing.

It’s interesting that Sony 650 doesn’t really add any big killer features other than the eInk Pearl screen. However, it does improve in some ways and ties the Kindle 3 in some important areas.

Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 – Areas they tie

There are quite a few areas in which Kindle 3, Sony 650 tie -

  1. They both use eInk and they both use the new eInk Pearl.  
  2. They both have a 6″ screen.
  3. If Sony’s claims that it has managed to avoid readability problems is correct they both should have about the same screen readability. 
  4. They’re both pretty compact and portable though Sony has the advantage in both compactness and weight (Kindle 3 is a little thinner). 
  5. Both have changeable font sizes – 6 sizes with Sony 650, 8 with Kindle 3.  
  6. Both have quick page turns. Well, Sony 600 did have quick page turns so that should continue with Sony 650 and Kindle 3 does have very quick page turns.
  7. Both have built-in dictionaries. 
  8. Both have page turn buttons on both sides.

The eInk Pearl screen and the screen readability now being unaffected by touch are both huge additions. They make Sony 650 a very dangerous competitor when combined with the touch capability and the support for ePub and Library Books.

Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 – Areas Kindle 3 Wins

Kindle 3 has a lot of advantages of its own -

  1. Much lower prices. Kindle WiFi is just $139 and Kindle 3 is $189 while Sony 350 is $179 and Sony 650 is $229. 
  2. Kindle 3 has 3G and WiFi. It’s amazing that Sony are still refusing to add wireless connectivity – It’s like they don’t realize that users having to connect to a PC to download books will be one of the Sony 650′s biggest weaknesses.  
  3. Kindle 3 has free Internet and a very serviceable browser.
  4. Much better store. Kindle Store has a lot more range than the Sony Reader Store and much better prices (except for Agency Model books).
  5. Probably better PDF support. Sony doesn’t mention much about PDFs and if the PDF support in Sony 650 is the same as that in the Sony 600 then Kindle 3 wins here. 
  6. Kindle has the option of choosing between three font types and lots of font options like line spacing.
  7. Kindle 3 has larger memory at 4GB though Sony’s expandable memory balances that out.
  8. Kindle 3 has a physical keyboard if you prefer physical keyboards though the missing number keys limit its usefulness.
  9. Kindle 3 has better battery life with wireless off or when using WiFi but not when using 3G.
  10. Text to Speech and Voice Guide features make Kindle 3 Accessible. Text to Speech is a valuable feature in general.
  11. Better Infrastructure and Kindle Apps – While Sony has said it will have apps for some platforms the Kindle 3 is already supported by Kindle Apps on various platforms and it has WhisperNet. Sony 650 has neither 3G nor WiFi and just can’t compete with Kindle 3, Kindle WhisperNet, and WhisperSync.

It’s beginning to look a bit lop-sided since Sony hasn’t added any killer features other than the eInk Pearl screen. The lack of wireless support in Sony 650 makes it unable to compete with a lot of Kindle 3 advantages like 60 second downloads, WhisperSync, and Free Internet.

Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 – Contrasting Strategies

ZDNet has an article on Sony’s eReader strategy and the strategy sounds a bit weak -

The biggest trade-off here—at least for connected U.S. consumers—is the touch vs. connectivity choice.

“Wi-Fi would have raised the cost when 99 percent of the time spent with an e-reader is focused on just reading,” says Haber. “We invested in the best possible screen experience. That’s where we put our dollars/yen.”

Firstly, there’s no reason to have to choose between touch and wireless – They’re very separate features and can both be added in. One has to do with the screen and the other has to do with connecting to the store.  

Secondly, Sony has some crazy justification that it didn’t want to spend money on WiFi when 99% of a customer’s time is spent reading. That doesn’t make much sense - WiFi chips don’t cost very much or Kindle WiFi wouldn’t be for $139. Getting books easily is nearly as important as reading – Perhaps 90% or more of a customer’s time is spent reading but the WiFi connectivity ensures users can get a book anytime and make impulsive purchases and get and read the book they want to read - as opposed to the books they remembered to load. Plus it’s the only time the customer is spending more money.

Basically, Sony are making it tough for users to give it more money – that’s amazingly bad strategy.

It’s typical Sony - make a great device for reading and then leave the ‘getting books to read’ part to users. They simply don’t get that making things easy for users is a big deal and that 60 second downloads and WhisperNet are one of the main reasons Kindle is thrashing Sony Reader.  

Closing Thoughts on Kindle 3 vs Sony 650

Sony 650 has touch and ePub support and library books – three huge advantages. Instead of capitalizing on those it’s coming in with a $229 price, with no wireless, and with an absolute lack of understanding of the fact that users want things to be easy and simple. It’s disappointing.

With Kindle 3 you get a tremendous amount of benefit due to Kindle 3′s 3G and WiFi support – WhisperSync that syncs your notes and highlights and your place in a book, Free store browsing and 60 second downloads, Free Internet, 3G access in 100+ countries worldwide.  

Add on other Kindle 3 advantages like a better ebook store, the text to speech feature, accessibility, and Kindle Apps and the Kindle 3 becomes a better eReader overall. It may or may not be the better device but it’s a much better service and a much better overall reading experience.

If one or more out of touch, library book support, and ePub support are crucial to you then the Sony 650 is the correct choice.

In every other case the Kindle 3 is a much better choice. The Kindle 3 wins Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 with the Sony 650′s lack of wireless support perhaps the biggest differentiator.

Kindle 3 orders made today ship Sept 17th, Kindle vs Sony 650

Any new preorders of the Kindle 3 will now ship only on Sept 17th – thanks to Joe S. for the update. That’s a one week delay from the earlier Sept 10th date and translates to a 21 day delay overall.

It seems that the Kindle 3 has started selling faster because earlier the dates would extend only a few days. We’ve gone from Aug 27th to Sept 4th to 8th to Sept 10th and now this huge jump to the 17th.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see more jumps - once people start seeing what the eInk Pearl screen looks like there’s going to be a huge rush.

Kindle vs Sony 650 – more details

Engadget has managed to find some shots of posters for the new Sony Readers. Lots of juicy details -

  1. The touch screen is no longer over the eInk screen which would be a big win.
  2. Sony is claiming an amazing and crisp paper-like appearance. That certainly screams eInk Pearl – However, the posters aren’t clear enough to confirm it.
  3. There are multiple language dictionaries – 2 English dictionaries plus 10 Language translation dictionaries. This is a killer feature.
  4. Sony mentions a new cache capability that allows for faster page turns. 
  5. 2 GB storage capacity.
  6. Intelligent Zoom for scanned documents, PDFs, and newspaper clippings.
  7. 10,000 page turns on a single charge. Much prefer the ‘lasts x weeks’ type of description of battery life. Apparently 10,000 page turns is 33% more battery life than the Sony 600.
  8. The design and the name are the same (apart from Sony 350 getting a Sony 600 type design with touchscreen and 5 buttons below the screen) - The 650 will still be called the Reader Touch Edition and the 350 will be called the Reader Pocket Edition.  

Love how Engadget puts up the poster and then decides it’s not worth writing about the new features – since they’re on the poster.

Is that it, Sony?

There better be a few more posters because apart from the touchscreen being below the eInk and the language dictionaries there isn’t really anything on there that’s very exciting. The translation dictionaries are a good feature for some sets of users – However, where are the other killer features?

Sony has to do better than Intelligent Zoom, 2GB memory, faster page turns, and a 33% better battery life. The Kindle 3 came in with close to 20 improvements out of which 5 to 10 were killer new features. Sony Reader might have just 3 to 4 killer additions.

If we do a Kindle 3 vs Sony 650 comparison it seems Touch, support for Library Books, and Language Translation Dictionaries seem to be the only significant advantages Sony 650 has over the Kindle.

Kindle vs new Sony Reader? Sony PRS 350, PRS 650

The new Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi might soon get some solid competition.

There are rumors that the Sony PRS 350 (follow-on to the Pocket Edition) and Sony PRS 650 (follow-on to the Touch Edition) are set to arrive soon.

Kindle vs new Sony Reader – Sony PRS 350 to take on Kindle WiFi

Sony Insider is a site that focuses on Sony products and they claim an exclusive scoop on the new Sony Reader releases -

According to one of our most trusted sources, there is word that two new touchscreen Sony Reader devices (PRS-350 and PRS-650) with E-Ink technology are coming to the market soon.

The details they unveil for the Sony PRS 350 are -

  1. 5″ eInk touch screen.  
  2. Possible increase in storage capacity to 2 GB.
  3. No wireless.
  4. Note-taking software from PRS 600 added.
  5. 2 weeks battery life.
  6. Word, PDF, ePub, BBeB book, and Adobe Digital Edition compatibility.
  7. Same color choices as before. This was Silver, Rose and Navy Blue for the Pocket Edition.

The touchscreen and note-taking software are good additions. The decision to not have WiFi is puzzling. How much does a WiFi card cost?

There’s no mention of the screen – don’t see how it could be anything other than the new eInk pearl screen. The configuration suggests the Sony PRS 350 might be at $100 to $125.  Hard to see this affecting the Kindle WiFi much.

Kindle vs new Sony Reader – PRS 650 to take on Kindle 3

Here’s what Sony Insider hints at for the Sony PRS 650 -

  1. 6″ eInk screen. No mention whether it’s eInk pearl though it’s very likely. 
  2. 2 GB storage. 
  3. WiFi support. 
  4. Touchscreen.
  5. New UI.
  6. 2 weeks battery life.
  7. Support for PDF, ePub, Word, and Adobe Digital Editions.
  8. Same colors – which would be Silver, Red, and Black.

The combination of touch screen with eInk Pearl (if it is indeed eInk Pearl) and WiFi makes this a more interesting device. If it comes in at below $200 then it will steal a small part of Kindle 3 sales since there’s ePub support and support for Library Books.

However, it doesn’t sound like there are any new killer features added – unless Sony is saving those up for the formal announcement.

new Sony Readers sound pretty boring

Hopefully there’s something in there – some killer feature in addition to the touchscreen. Anything that makes the Sony Readers worthy competitors to Kindle and Nook.

With the Kindle 3 setting a very high bar the last thing Sony can afford is a nonchalant release that doesn’t keep up. Nook 2 might be as impressive as Kindle 3 (or close). The Sony 350 and Sony 650 sound rather drab - Let’s hope Sony surprises us with some killer features that the rumors have missed.

Kindle 3 – B&N, Sony’s Kindle 3 reactions a deception

Now that the Kindle 3 is out and making waves there are people wondering what B&N and Sony have planned. Well, both companies are understandably circumspect about what they’re doing.

Let’s look at Sony and B&N’s Kindle 3 reactions and then dig into what they might really have planned. First, a quick refresher on Kindle 3 improvements.

23 Kindle 3 Improvements in a Nutshell courtesy Greg

Greg at the official Kindle forum points out 22 cool improvements in the Kindle 3 -

- 50% better contrast than K2
- crisper, darker fonts
- 21% smaller than K2 (1/2″ thinner, 1/2″ shorter, same screen size)
- 17% lighter than K2 (only 8.5 ounces)
- 20% faster page turns
- soft textured back
- Unicode font support (Cyrillic, Japanese, Chinese Traditional and Simplified, Korean, Greek)
- TTS menu navigation
- super quiet buttons
- sturdier 5-way
- supports battery-free reading light built into case
- longer battery life (1 month per charge)
- twice the storage than K2
- Wi-Fi
- unlimited free delivery of personal docs (via Wi-Fi)
- adjustable contrast when reading PDFs
- 2 dictionaries
- PDF highlighting/notes/dictionary-lookup support
- microphone
- free wireless Audible audiobook delivery (via Wi-Fi)
- Wi-Fi web browsing with Fit to Width, Zoom-in options, Actual Size, and Article Mode
- cheaper price ($139 Graphite, Wi-Fi only)

Until Someday chimes in with a 23rd that missed my eye -

I think my favorite thing isn’t even on your list… the fact that there’s a previous and next button on both sides!

This is now one of my favorites because it creates symmetry and having previous page on the right really helps for one-handed reading.

Those 23 improvements, including some stellar ones, put the Kindle 3 far ahead of Nook and Sony Reader - Unless you are wedded to library books, ePub, or Kindle envy.

Kindle 3 Reactions – The Party Line

Sony actually expects us to believe it isn’t going to do anything. An article from Forbes on Sony’s Kindle 3 non-reaction has this response -

“Pricing is one consideration in the dedicated reading device marketplace, but Sony won’t sacrifice the quality and design we’re bringing book lovers to lay claim to the cheapest eReader,”

Sony immediately hedges its bets -

Asked about the possibility of a future price shift, a Sony spokeswoman told Forbes the company has “nothing to announce at this time regarding a price move.”

Lubell’s statement, she said, “reflects broader thinking around [Sony's] strategy moving forward.”

Basically, Sony released a knee-jerk reactionary statement hinting that none of its new Sony Readers are priced at $139. The spokeswoman is saying that once Sony gets its thinking straight again it’ll figure out the best Kindle 3 response.

B&N wants to make Apple-like Nook Stores inside its stores

New York Times has news of B&N’s Kindle 3 reaction -

 In September, the chain will begin an aggressive promotion of its Nook e-readers by building 1,000-square-foot boutiques in all of its stores, with sample Nooks, demonstration tables, video screens

That’s not a bad strategy though you have to wonder why B&N would think that’s enough. Well, it doesn’t. 

If NY Times stopped trawling for researchers willing to write nonsense about LCD and eInk screens it might figure out that Nook 2 is already approved by the FCC.

Why is it that the main stream press is writing articles claiming that B&N’s reaction to Kindle 3 is in-store mini-stores when a Nook 2 is FCC approved and imminent?

Kindle 3 Reactions – The Real Strategy

Let’s take a moment and review what’s happened. The Kindle 3 has taken everyone by surprise.

No one expected Kindle 3 to be what it is

The Kindle DX 2 was DX 1.7 and Kindle 2 was Kindle 1.5.

That’s what everyone expected – 1 or 2 killer features and 3 or 4 improvements and a solid and unremarkable Kindle 2.7. They expected Amazon to release a slightly better Kindle 3 and make it a success based on its advantages - Kindle Store and Kindle WhisperNet.

Instead we got a real Kindle 3. There are 23 improvements out of which a lot are killer features.

Here are the 11 that would be strong candidates in my opinion -

WiFi, price (Kindle WiFi for $139 especially), eInk Pearl Screen with 50% better contrast.

20% faster page turns, 3 Font choices and improved fonts, very light and compact Kindle.

Voice Guide for true accessibility when combined with TTS, 1 month battery life, much-improved PDF support.

CJK fonts and Cyrillic fonts, WebKit browser with Article Mode.

There are a lot of solid features packed into Kindle 3 and at least 5, and perhaps as many as 10, are killer features. No other eReader (except for Intel’s $1,500 Reader) is accessible to blind readers. No other eReader has the eInk Pearl screen. The $139 price is the lowest in the market. The CJK font support is a first.

It’s taken us all by surprise. It’s taken the press by surprise (lots of people are questioning whether the eReader wars are over). It’s taken B&N and Sony by surprise too.

The National Federation for the Blind took a break from suing Universities running Kindle DX trials to write a letter commending Amazon for Kindle 3.

If that isn’t a sign that Kindle 3 is a game-changer don’t know what is.

B&N is rethinking its strategy and revealing the safest part

Notice how B&N only talks about something Amazon couldn’t possibly replicate – Nook Mini-Stores in B&N’s retail stores. It has a Nook 2 that’s approved by the FCC and ready to head out. There are probably 10 different Nook 2 things it could reveal.

However, B&N couldn’t have expected 23 improvements in Kindle 3 and definitely not a $139 Kindle WiFi with a new generation screen that makes the Nook WiFi obsolete (unless you love ePub, or are hooked to library books).

B&N is going to sit down and figure out how to make the Nook 2 a comparable value proposition to Kindle 3. If Nook 2 doesn’t have eInk Pearl it’s in trouble. However, Nook 2 probably does have eInk Pearl. B&N will figure out how to add enough features to make Nook 2 a worthy challenger to Kindle 3 and then reveal what it is. Perhaps as early as Monday. Perhaps in parallel with its September push (the Nook mini-stores open early September).

Sony might have a real surprise

The first inclination to Sony’s rather defensive reaction is that it’s completely stunned. However, this is a company that makes very good eReaders. The reason it’s been losing ground is because it fails to provide a good bookstore and completely misses the ‘eReader as a service’ part.

My feeling is that Sony has either gotten touch to work with eInk Pearl OR it has some feature it feels is enough of an advantage that it can talk about quality and about not compromising on price. That feature might be an integration with Google Books and that would mean Sony Readers built on Android and perhaps even with Android Apps.

Sony has the least to lose and it can do some really crazy things – It may very well decide to give up the ebook revenue stream (or even try to destroy it) just so it can sell Sony Readers.

Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 vs Sony Readers – August is the Month

It’s easy to disregard the signs (Nook 2 approval at FCC, Sony selling its Touch Edition Reader for $170 with a $25 gift card). However, it’s pretty apparent that the new Sony Readers and Nook 2 are imminent.

An impressive Kindle 3 means both companies have to scramble to make their offerings as compelling. However, we still ought to see an August release (first week of September at the latest).

It’s only when Nook 2 and the new Sony Readers are released that we’ll see their real strategy to take on the Kindle 3.

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