Sony Reader in handThe Sony Reader is supposed to drum up business for Sony’s pathetically understocked bookstore, which now offers a mere 10,000 or so titles.

But could statistics from Apple be bad news? Turns out that iPods are not driving iTunes traffic as much as expected.

Luckily for Apple, iTunes isn’t just for iPods.

While the Reader displays e-books, rather than being used mainly to play music, the same situation could arise—the failure of the hardware to be as big a contributor to content sales as expected. Only, things could be worse than at Apple, which has succeeded with both iTunes and the iPod. Remember—the Sony store dispenses titles only in the proprietary BBeB format, and for now, BBeB runs just on the Sony Reader and the PCs you’re using with it.

Of course, Sony may well try to get the BBeB format running on different mobile platforms, but then it will clash head-on with Mobipocket and eReader—which have popular formats with more titles than Sony does.

Related: An e-book expert dissects the Sony Reader.


  1. Is there a page on the this site that shows the sales figures of all the various readers(Sony Reader, Irex, Panasonic Word Gear,etc….)? Also, what was the name of the Microsoft reader that came out about a year ago as a demo?




  2. So where is all the other music coming from (very few people I know with iPods, including mine, have just 22 songs).

    1. People are converting their CDs to MP3. This is an advantage that the ebook market has over the MP3 player in that there aren’t already existing digital formats for books that are very popular. Part of the music industry’s problem is their digital music delivery system of choice is easy for consumer’s to repurpose (this is a good thing for us consumers, however).

    2. Steve Ballmer was right — a very large percentage of all music on iPods is probably illegally obtained one way or another. And the same thing exists with book as wel. People can go out to a warez site and download every Stephen King novel ever written and load it on to a Sony Reader; why are they going to go pay $15 or $16 a pop to pay Sony for the same thing?

    Getting people to pay for content is going to become almost impossible as storage space increases and portable devices become easier to use.

  3. Isaac and Brian:

    I: If any volunteers want to compile the numbers, we’ll gladly include such a page. Of course, I don’t know if the stats for all those machines are available. As for the demo Microsoft Reader—for K-12, I believe—it was a variant of the Tablet PC, but I can’t recall the name. Perhaps someone else can refresh our memories.

    B: Thanks for your thoughts. I’d prefer that the DRMless paying models work and that creators of distinctive works receive compensation. If not, DRM will prevail and even get worse. Furthermore, the copyright police will be more active than ever. Remember, the copyright interests control both parties.


  4. Steve Ballmer may be right or wrong – *we have no way of knowing*. I can say with absolute certainty that I have no “stolen” music on my iPod, and neither does anyone else in my household. Most people I know carry their CD collections, not their downloads. I also guarantee that Balmer would never have said that if Microsoft were dominating the DAP market.

    Converting audio to digital files is easy; converting books is hard if you don’t have an electronic manuscript to start. I’ve been shown downloads of some popular titles; after sufferng a few pages of interminable typos, broken paragraphs, obvious OCR errors and a clear lack of care in the presentation, it is clear to me that I’ll be keeping my paper copies. If someone is going to bother to read, they aren’t going to put up with the crap floating around on Usenet.

    The titles on the Sony store are not as bad, but they are still lacking compared to print. The electronic presentation of a title needs to be proofed and checked no less than the paper edition, but most eBook sources are screwing that up.

  5. My take on this is that Sony goofed up by trying to imitate the entirety of the iPod business model.

    Maybe if they had thought first and foremost of the people who would be buying the devices, they would have come up with just a killer ebook device. And if they had managed to do this, maybe they would have sold a ton of them. And if they had sold a ton of them, then maybe the publishers would have had to take notice of a respectable untapped market, and started working with Sony.

    Later firmware upgrades could then have provided the devices with the capability of displaying whatever new evil-drm-format the publishers demanded.

    The Bookeen had the only great notion: one device, and the capability of displaying just about every format.

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