Has Sony forever lost the e-book battle to Amazon and the Kindle? The Irish Times certainly paints a gloomy picture. Hey, Sony, I warned you. Months and months ago I called attention to Amazon’s huge inventory of titles.
Still, I’d argue that Sony can bounce back. How?
1. Sony can work closely with small publishers and help develop and promote good commercial books that would be competitive with Amazon’s. Even better, suppose Sony does not just rely on its own e-bookstore but actually teams up closely with others to improve the quality and range of content for its readers. Keep in mind, meanwhile, that some of the 150,000 titles claimed by Amazon are not books but blogs and newspapers. What’s more, accurately or not, I’ve heard that many of Amazon’s books are academic titles without much popular appeal.
2. In a related vein, Sony should be a vigorous promoter of the nonDRMed flavor of the ePub standard for use in its store and others. Consumers want to buy books they can truly own. Beyond that, by de-emphasizing formats, Sony could reduce Amazon’s advantage that it has with Mobipocket.
Ironically, however, even Amazon could benefit from a truly nonproprietary approach without DRM to muck it up. Minus eBabel and DRM, e-books will be more trustworthy as purchases.
3. Sony should accelerate development of a wireless version of the Sony Reader and make it work smoothly with a variety of stores. All in all, Sony understands ergonomics and design better than Amazon does. Play to strengths.
4. Don’t just fight Amazon on the dedicated-reader front. Also think about e-books on cellphones. Should the iPhone get all the action?
5. Forge alliances with major retailers to let the Sony readers and cell phones serve as catalogue displays for a wide range of products—everything from washing machines to big-screen TVs. Sony could even set up a retail network to compete with Amazon’s. The use of hardware for commerce beyond e-books could help justify the technology further.
6. Improve Sony’s customer service, so that if problems arise with the reader, people get solutions quickly and effortlessly.
Note: I’m neutral. Maybe in the future I’ll do a version of the above from Amazon’s side. But for now, Sony has gained some Brownie points with me because of its embrace of the ePub standard. Now to get Sony to back off from DRM, just as Amazon avoided its use in its MP3 store.
(Irish Times article via MobileRead.)