Read Our Lips: Sony, Google Take On Amazon's Kindle

Chad Berndtson
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The move, reported by The Wall Street Journal and various news outlets late Wednesday, finds Sony hoping a healthy dose of Austen, Dickens, Twain and others will propel interest in the Sony Reader.

All of the titles through Google were published before 1923 and are part of the public domain, including Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities," Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" and nearly half a million more works both fiction and nonfiction, and in several languages.

Sony has sold about 400,000 total Sony Readers, which are available in $300 and $350 models.

"We aren't set on just having books purchased from our store," said Steve Haber, president of Sony Electronics' Digital Reading Business Division, to the Journal. "We believe the more content that is allowed access to the device, the better value it is to our customers."

According to the Journal, Sony's financial terms for the Google deal were not disclosed, but Google does not have immediate plans to sell ads on the Sony Reader.

It's the first instance of Google making its scanned books available specifically for e-reading devices. The books are already available from Google as PDF downloads, but Google will make them available for Sony Reader in EPUB (electronic publication), the text format seen most often for e-books that aren't on the Kindle.

"Our goal is to promote access to books," said a Google spokesperson, Jennie Johnson, to the Journal. Johnson also said the partnership with Sony wasn't exclusive and that Google was "open to the idea" of doing something similar with Amazon and Kindle.

Sony is the latest Amazon e-reading competitor making a substantial move to not let Amazon and Kindle run away with the e-reading market. The past few weeks have also seen moves from Amazon book retailing competitors like Barnes & Noble, which last week bought Fictionwise, the parent of and, for $15.7 million.

There remains a host of other e-book devices and e-reading applications available, including Amazon's Kindle application for the iPhone.

Amazon didn't respond to a Channelweb request for comment Wednesday night.

Amazon has had a target on its back almost since the day the second version of the Kindle was debuted in February—a target for both competitors and lawyers. After appeasing the Authors Guild by allowing Kindle 2's text-to-speech feature to be disabled, Amazon was earlier this week sued by Discovery Communications over alleged violation of an encryption technology patent for e-books.

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