What is Going on with Sony’s eReaders?

PRS-650 Red

If you’ve tried to get your hands on a new Sony PRS-650 recently you probably know that they are very hard to find these days.

Most retail stores don’t have them in stock, most online retailers that sell Sony Readers only sell the PRS-350 and sometimes the PRS-950, but the PRS-650 has been hard to come by for the past several months.

Right now Sony’s website shows the silver PRS-350 and PRS-950 as in stock. But if you click on the PRS-650 model it directs you to the black PRS-650, which is listed as “out of stock”. If you click on the red icon first it directs to the red PRS-650, and surprisingly, it is in stock right now. But since the page is hard to get to most people won’t be able to find it.

Another oddity, there’s this old page for the pink PRS-350. It says this product is “No longer available for purchase at Sony Style”. It is still available elsewhere but since Sony no longer has it it makes you wonder if Sony is going to stop making the pink variety altogether.

What is going on with Sony’s ereaders? Usually they wait one year to upgrade their ebook readers and that’s still six months off. If they are having trouble keeping the PRS-650 in stock now, I find it hard to believe they’re planning on updating it to add wireless when they are already selling like hotcakes.

The limited stock for the PRS-650 isn’t because it is unpopular and is just scrapping by. I’m in Sony’s advertising program, and although I never use it anymore, I do receive product updates and lists of top selling items. On March 3rd, the PRS-650 was listed as Sony’s #8 top selling product overall by revenue for the week of February 27th – March 5th when it was briefly back in stock. Considering the other products Sony sells that’s pretty impressive. So why can’t they keep them in stock? Amazon has no trouble keeping the Kindle 3 in stock and it uses the same screen as the 650. There’s something fishy going on somewhere…

18 Responses to “What is Going on with Sony’s eReaders?”

  1. You said it yourself: Amazon has no trouble getting the Pearl screens.
    Since Amazon has first dibs on the 6″ Pearl screens and a monopoly on the 10″ versions it is prety clear Sony only gets what’s leftover or Amazon doesn’t want (5″ and 7″).
    Considering the difference in sales rate of Kindles vs Sonys you can hardly blame eInk for taking care of the whale first, even if the guppy starves.

    • I’ve heard this before but how do we know for sure that is the case? That Amazon gets priority over everyone else still 8.5 months after Pearl was first introduced? Seems like plenty of time for E Ink to have ramped up production by now.

  2. I’m also wondering what the hell is taking so long for Sony to deliver 650. I began looking for this at a one Swedish online store and they having been pushing forward the date when they’ll have it it stock.

  3. I’m just hoping to see some additional colors show up for the US market (Canada gets three colors for the 650. The extra color is the silver I don’t like but at least they have the choice.)

    Personally I’m holding off on a 350 until I can get the dark blue instead of a shiny silver or bright pink, which may have me waiting for the next update after all.

  4. RE: Amazon getting all the Pearl.

    If Amazon has a contract with the manufacturer that states they get as much as they want, before anyone else gets anything, there is nothing anyone can do. It’s a common type of contract in the semi-conductor industry, it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s the same here.

  5. Lots of the components for these and other electronics involve Japan. That might have something to do with it.

  6. You are wondering why a company with its Head Office in Tokyo and factories throughout Japan is having trouble keeping an item in stock? Think about it for a minute and then give them some slack. I’m impressed their taking the time to keep their website up-to-date.

  7. The sad disaster in Japan can’t be the cause; the product pipeline isn’t real-time, where products get teleported from factory to warehouse instantly. 😉
    Instead, they are assembled, sit in a warehouse for a few days until they have enough to move to a portside warehouse; sit a few days before going to a ship, sit inside the ship while it crosses the Pacific, etc.
    It takes weeks or months, depending on the product.
    And the Sony Reader shortage goes back a while.

    Depending on how they operate, there might not be any more PRS-650’s ever: some Japanese electronics companies build a year’s-plus worth of a product in one run and then reconfigure the assembly line for a different product and if they run out, they run out. A couple years back, Panasonic underestimated demand for a certain model of Plasma HDTV and ran out in Sept; they weren’t able to fully distribute the new replacement model until March, so their dealers in the US had a gaping hole in the product line for six months. (Sony had the opposite problem with the PRS-505; the last batch was so big they were still selling *new* in some markets as of mid 2010.)

  8. I was counting on the 650 sitting on shelves long enough to go on sale just like the 600 did. Guess I’ll skip a generation. Maybe ASUS will get off their butts and send the US some DR900s.

  9. “Maybe ASUS will get off their butts and send the US some DR900s.”

    Do not make the mistake to waste money on the Asus DR900. Although it has very nice features, its touchscreen is annoyingly unresponsive and also has terrible lag. Simply seeing someone else struggling with the thing makes you want to grab it from their hands and break it in two.

    I think/hope the iRiver Story HD might be a good alternative when it gets released in may this year. But first I would like to read more info about its features.

    I like the dictionaries of the Sony readers and their strong aluminum body and the fact that the Sony touch interface is quite good. If only Sony would make the PRS-950 available to european customers.

  10. The low supply issue has been happening before Japan’s earthquake. And, as long as I know, PRS650 is manufactured in China. If it were a problem with the production process or the product itself, it would be replicated on the other models (PRS350 and PRS950). I thought Japan industries, even with factories in China, would work in a just-in-time basis. There is a lot of demand for e-pub readers in Europe and Asia. I guess high demand and short supply of e-ink displays are reasonable causes.

  11. You should give credit where it is due, instead of stealing content and not giving credit.

    • Your accusation is completely false, “Jason”. And the site you referred to are nothing but pirates, cheats, and thieves—that’s why I edited the link out of your post. In fact that site has plagiarized content from my site in the past.

      So someone who follows ereaders for a living can’t figure out that the Sony had troubles keeping the PRS-650 is stock, huh? Like I would really need someones else to point that out to notice it. The entire article is based on a personal observation of the Sony store. Take your accusations elsewhere.

  12. I have to laugh at this since I am can guess which blog “Jason” is from. I recall there was a lot of speculation going on amongst multiple blogs about what happened to the Sony 650, and clearly anyone who monitors websites where eReaders are sold would have noticed it.

    • I have to laugh too. Reading my response you can tell I definitely woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning :). It still annoys me that they ripped off my PRS-900 review pretty much word for word–I got them to remove it at least. Who knows what else they’ve stolen, though.

      On the bright side, pretty much this entire article is irrelevant now anyway. The PRS-650 has been in stock steadily for a few weeks now, and the 350’s listings are back to normal too. The 950, however, has started disappearing from websites suddenly. Sony is pretty much the only site that has it for $299 now. A few other sites have them but for high prices.

  13. The SID conference in L.A. is getting more and more interesting. SONY show a new colored bendable e-ink Display. The colors seems to be very convincing for the experts. The Display is a 13 inch, 1600 x 1200 resolution and 150 dpi. The contrast ratio is 10:1 (like pearl) The geyscales is 16, The Colors are 16% of the NTSC colorspace.

    • I saw that too and was thinking of posting about it, but Sony and these other companies are always showing off these types of new displays at conventions then we never see them or hear anything about them again. Drives me nuts!

  14. I just stumbled on this site and found it interesting as I had been hunting for a 650, I finally contacted Sony, who replied by saying this model is being discontinued. I also wanted to know why it was selling for less in USA then in Canada when currently the Cdn $ is higher, of course they didn’t respond to that question.