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Retailers Drawn To e-Readers From Sony, Others

More retailers will stock electronic e-book readers this Christmas, as more of the coveted 3G wireless models become available from brands such as Sony, which introduced new models last month.

American TV will add e-readers for the first time this Christmas; Electronic Express just began stocking the Sony line in May, and Abe’s of Maine is looking into carrying e-readers for Christmas. Nebraska Furniture Mart will extend its assortment for Christmas, and Vann’s is also looking into expanding beyond the Sony line. Many of the above said they plan to carry the new Sony Digital Edition announced late in August that offers a 3G wireless connection without service fees, and a 7-inch touchscreen at $399, and which is expected to become a Kindle rival.

For retailers, the Sony Digital Edition, along with a wireless IREX e-reader due in the fourth quarter, provide a chance to cash in on the earl- adopter demand for e-readers that permit over-the-air downloads of e-books, as offered exclusively until now in the Kindle, sold only through Amazon or the Apple App Store.

Sony said it will join the wireless camp as of December and will add features that go beyond the Kindle, including a library finder to search out which local libraries lend e-books. Users can also download e-books from the library that expire after up to 21 days, but these must be side-loaded from a PC.

Sony said its Digital Edition will be offered at Sony online retail sites in December, but some retailers said they plan to offer the device for Christmas. When asked if the Digital Edition will be in retail stores in December, a Sony spokesman said to “stay tuned.”

The e-reader category is expected to represent one of the few bright spots in consumer electronics for the fourth quarter, according to DisplaySearch (see p. 15), as sales are growing rapidly, albeit from a small base of approximately 1 million units in 2008, expected to reach 2 million this year.