After exiting PCs, Sony pulls the plug on e-readers

The company has stopped production of its last Reader model, PRS-T3

Sony is stopping e-reader production following the transfer of its e-book business outside Japan to Canada's Kobo.

"Final production of the current Reader model, PRS-T3, was made at the end of May," a spokeswoman for Sony in Tokyo wrote in an email Wednesday. "The product will continue to be available until inventory supplies last, which differs by country."

There are no plans for a successor to the device, she added.

The PRS-T3 was launched last year in 20 countries including Japan, Canada and European states, but was not released in the U.S.

Weighing 200 grams, it has a 6-inch E-ink touchscreen display, an optional night light, Wi-Fi and a battery life of six to eight weeks.

While it's still available on Sony's UK site for 99 pounds (US$166), it's out of stock at Sony's sites for France and Canada. The PRS-T3 will continue to be sold for the time being in Japan, where Sony maintains its Reader Store.

The company said earlier this year it is closing down its e-book business in North America, Europe and Australia and that users would be transferred to Kobo, owned by Japanese online shopping giant Rakuten.

Sony helped pioneer e-readers with a product it launched in Japan 10 years ago, the Librie. Developed with Philips, it was billed as the first commercial device of its kind to use E-ink's electronic paper display technology.

Beginning with the PRS-500 Portable Reader System in 2006, Sony marketed a series of e-readers that were well received, though some reviews complained about its price compared to the features of cheaper rivals.

Sony Reader shipments had exceeded 800,000 units for 2010, according to IDC. But the product was never as popular as competitors from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Kobo. By late 2012, Amazon's Kindle reader was used by over 50 percent of e-book buyers, according to Publishers Weekly.

The market for e-readers peaked in 2011 at 26.4 million units, IDC noted last year, adding it expects only modest growth in 2014 after a period of decline. The category was expected to begin a gradual, permanent decline in 2015.

Sony also shed its Vaio PC business this year as it continues to struggle with restructuring efforts.

Last week, Sony reported a quarterly net profit of ¥26.8 billion (US$261 million) in part due to the hit PlayStation 4 game console, but left unchanged its forecast for a loss of ¥50 billion for the current fiscal year.

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Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
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