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Sony Adds One Million Google Books To E-Readers

July 29, 2009

Sony Corp. said it has made over 1 million books available on its electronic readers through Google’s Book project, which digitizes classic books not under copyright protection.

The addition of Google’s library gives Sony the largest, most comprehensive collection of electronic books available anywhere on the market, Sony said on Wednesday.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others are also rushing to boost their offerings to meet a growing demand for digital books on electronic readers.  Although costs and unresolved technical issues mean the tablet-like devices do not yet appeal to all readers, companies are working to establish a beachhead in a market they believe will ultimately become profitable.

Barnes & Noble announced last week that it had the world’s largest online bookstore, offering more than 700,000 titles — including more than 500,000 public domain books from Google. Meanwhile, Amazon’s Kindle store offers over 300,000 titles, but the Seattle-based company would not disclose whether it planned to include Google’s titles.

Sony, which now sells two versions of its Sony Reader, was the first e-reader to hit the market in 2006.   The following year, Amazon launched its Kindle device, which also sells in two versions now.

Barnes & Noble said it will be the exclusive provider of digital books for an e-reader set to begin selling early next year by privately owned Plastic Logic.

A major hurdle hampering widespread consumer adoption of digital readers is the closed system of sharing.  For instance, titles purchased from Sony’s store can only be played on the company’s reader.  Amazon titles purchased through the Kindle Store can only be read on a Kindle, iPhone or iPod Touch, but not on a Sony Reader.  And Barnes & Noble’s titles are accessible on Apple devices and Blackberrys, but not on a Sony Reader or a Kindle.

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