The face-off between Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s Reader is broadening beyond tech specs and ebook formats. Now it’s a battle of distribution channels.
Sony started selling its PRS-505 e-reader and related accessories in Target stores earlier this week. Sony Readers are also available through Borders, Waterstone’s, and Web retailers, including third-party sellers on Amazon.
Amazon’s Kindle push is limited to one very large Web channel: Amazon. But will that be enough to
seize the e-reader market? Joe Wikert recently touched on this topic:
… Amazon has an awareness problem. They might be thrilled with the device’s sales rate up to now. It may have exceeded their greatest expectations. They apparently insist on capturing 100% of the revenue for it though, hence their direct-only sales model. Meanwhile, Sony is chipping away by embracing the EPub format and striking distribution deals with Borders and now Target.
The Web has a tendency to amplify messages beyond their natural boundaries, sometimes to the point where Web hits are incorrectly projected as surefire mainstream blockbusters — be they devices or movies or anything else that generates ample Web interest. Amazon’s reach and the Kindle’s technology — especially its wireless capabilities — have painted the Kindle as the dominant device in Web circles. But hit products need to resonate with the millions of people who don’t pour through RSS feeds on an hourly basis, and Sony knows a thing or two about nurturing the mass market. Assuming we eventually receive confirmed e-reader sales figures, it’ll be interesting to see how Amazon’s mix of online publicity and Amazon-only distribution stacks up against Sony’s traditional approach.