Sony Says E-Reader Shipments May Miss Holidays

Sony announces the Wi-Fi enabled Daily Edition e-reader, but notes the device may not ship in time for Christmas.

As Amazon, Sony and Barnes & Noble gear up to meet holiday consumer demand for e-reader devices, Sony Corp. announced that shipments of its Daily Edition reader, announced this week, may not arrive in time for Christmas. The Wi-Fi enabled device retails for $399.99. Currently available for purchase through the Sony Style Web site, the site acknowledges that though orders will ship between Dec. 18 and Jan. 8, the "actual delivery date cannot be guaranteed."

Sony spokesman Kyle Austin told Reuters the Daily Edition would be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. "The number of people that signed up ... to be notified of the Daily's availability exceeded our expectations over the last few months and we expect high demand now that it's available," he told the news service. Sony offers two additional e-readers, the Touch addition, which retails for $299.99, and the Pocket Edition, which retails for $199.99. Neither of those products offers Wi-Fi connectivity.

Sony's Daily Edition reader charges no monthly fees or transaction charges for the basic wireless connectivity and users also have the option to side load personal documents or content from other compatible sites via USB. The company said it would announce newspaper and magazine content providers within the next month. The Daily Edition offers a 7-inch wide touch screen display, smaller than that of Amazon's Kindle DX, aimed at users who want to read larger documents such as newspapers, but larger than that of the Kindle 2, which offers a 6-inch display. The Nook also offers a 6-inch display.

Book retailer Barnes and Noble announced its own e-reader, the Nook, earlier this fall and said it expects shipments to be ready before Christmas. The Nook, priced at $259, caused Amazon to reduce the price of its heavily promoted Kindle 2 e-reader to match the Nook. Analysts predict the market for e-readers remains relatively small, with Forrester Research predicting U.S. sales of around 3 million units in 2009.

That number may rise, but unless the pricing for the units decreases rapidly, some analysts feel that e-readers will never reach the generalized penetration rates currently enjoyed by MP3 players and other handheld media devices. Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research, told The Wall Street Journal that Sony and Barnes and Noble were rushing to get their products out to market, which may have adversely affected an more organized roll-out strategy. "They are now dealing with the realities of their manufacturing and supply-chain issues," she told the paper.

Despite analysts suggestions of a limited audience, the marketplace for e-readers continues to expand: On Oct. 19, Plastic Logic announced that its upcoming e-reader will be named QUE, and confirmed that it will be focused squarely at the SMB (small to medium-sized business) and enterprise markets. Among the business-traveler-friendly functionality is the QUE's supposed ability to download and display Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents. The device will utilize both Wi-Fi and AT&T's 3G network for wireless downloading.