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Kindle vs Sony Reader: Battle of Distribution Channels

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.

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Comments: 2

  1. Oh come on. Borders was a wasteland of orphaned kiosks, and Sony never did a good job of promoting the Reader in their own stores. Now the $8 an hour teen in the electronics dept. at Target is gonna save ’em? Meanwhile, at this moment, the third-party-etailed Sony Reader is ranked #635 in electronics on Amazon.

    I get that there are some folks who believe Adobe’s implementation of Epub (which after TWO YEARS still doesn’t justify text and deems it a “Best Practice” to artificially separate even great works of literature by Miller, Genet, Proust, Cleland, et al into 300k packets because DE chokes on text–love to hear professional librarians on that one) will make up for any advantages Amazon might, possibly, theoretically, have in the promotion of books over Sony. But throw in the extreme edge Amazon has adding content, given, apart from a handful of Sony-exclusive deals, everything Epub will end up in Mobipocket/Kindle, while a number of authors/publishers won’t attempt to overcome Epub’s (and Sony’s) significant and growing barriers to entry, add wireless, and Sony isn’t really in the conversation.

    The one thing we do know is that June 24th, the day Amazon reported earnings and might just have mentioned actual Kindle numbers had the results sucked, Sony vapor-launched its UK and Epub support, a sign of fear by the latter company, not strength.

    Only real growth we’ve seen in Epub is in the number of contract technology firms who’ve spammed me with requests for business over the past few weeks. (And I’ve got around 28,000 Epub books between Munsey’s and Olympia, none artificially split, ‘cuz that ain’t the standard.)

    Sony’s Walkman was a hit, but Akio Morita hasn’t been around for quite some time, and they’ve been passed by Apple for music players, Nintendo on gaming, and Samsung in just about everything else.

  2. david said:
    > will make up for any advantages Amazon
    > might, possibly, theoretically, have
    > in the promotion of books over Sony.

    i like david. david is funny. :+)