Google and Sony announced that Google's library of public-domain eBooks would now be available for free on the Sony Reader, increasing its library of titles to more than 600,000 and putting pressure on Amazon and its Kindle eBook reader, whose library totals 245,000 volumes.
This marks the first time that Google has made its scanned books, which can be downloaded in PDF format, available specifically for an eReader in ePub format.
In what is perhaps a bid to make its device more competitive, Sony also lowered the price of its PRS-700 reader by $50, to just under $350, bringing it to a price point slightly under that of the recently released Kindle 2, which retails for $359 on Amazon.com.
The older iteration of the Sony Reader, the PRS-500, is not compatible with Google's library, according to the Sony eBook store. Google eBooks, however, will work with both the PRS-505 ($300) and the PRS-700; users will need to set up a Sony eBook Library account in order to access the volumes.
Among those volumes are classic works by Dickens, Twain and other literary luminaries. In addition to English, certain titles are also offered in French, German, Italian, Spanish and other languages.
"We founded Google Book Search on the premise that anyone, anywhere, anytime should have the tools to explore the great works of history and culture, " Adam Smith, product management director for Google Print said in a statement. "We believe in an open platform for accessing and reading books."
A report by The Wall Street Journal mentioned no immediate plans by Google to sell ads through the Sony Reader. Financial details of the deal between Sony and Google were kept under wraps.
Since launching the Kindle 2 on Feb. 9, Amazon has found itself generating both massive amounts of publicity and also a bit of controversy. Amazon disabled one of the Kindle 2's new features, a text-to-speech reader, after the Author's Guild complained it could potentially affect royalties of audiobooks.
On March 4, Amazon announced a Kindle App for the iPhone, expanding the market for its proprietary eBooks. Such moves boosted hopes for the Kindle 2's penetration among the general population; the first Kindle has been a strong bestseller for Amazon, particularly after a November 2008 endorsement by Oprah Winfrey.