May 27, 2010

Sony Announces Its Foray Into E-Reader Market

On Thursday, Sony announced that it will launch an e-reader in Japan and set up a platform that is able to read newspapers, books, comics and magazines digitally, stepping into a market which Apple now dominates with its iPad.

Sony said it plans to build "one of the largest eBook distribution platforms in Japan," with telecoms operator KDDI, the Asahi Shimbun company and Toppan printing company.

The companies said in a joint statement that the collaboration is to begin on or around July 1 and start services by the end of this year, with the four companies taking a 25 percent stake.

The move comes a day before the international launch of the iPad, including Japan and other countries outside the U.S. 

Sony said it plans to sell e-readers in Japan by the end of this year to mark its return to the market after it virtually withdrew from the business there in 2007.

"People's awareness of e-Books here has been enhanced rapidly," Fujio Noguchi, senior vice president of Sony Electronics of the United States, told a joint news conference with his three partners.

"A big wave of e-Book businesses has been swelling around the world, and the tide has spread from North America to Europe and Asia," Noguchi said. "This year will be defined as the first year of eBooks. Time is ripe."

The Japanese electronic book market is estimated to be worth about $500 million, with most of the titles being distributed through mobile telephones and conventional computers.

"The introduction of digital devices that enhance the reading experience has heightened global interest in digital publishing," the four companies involved in the new platform said in the statement.

The joint venture will also be open to further collaborations to establish an e-book market in Japan.  They said "The eBook distribution company plans to construct an open platform which can deliver content to consumers through a range of devices."

The iPad sold 1 million devices in just 28 days since it was released, which is half the time it took for the iPhone to reach the million mark.

Japanese news media have taken a wait-and-see approach to the device, unlike U.S. media.

The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association said newspaper circulations remains robust in the country, falling only six percent between 1999 and 2009 to 50.3 million sails daily.

However, magazine circulation throughout Japan has declined by a third in the past decade.


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