Sony Withdrawing from eBook Reader Market Entirely in US

Sony Reader PRS-T2

Exactly one month ago to the day I posted an article after talking with a Sony rep that confirmed Sony had decided not to release their new PRS-T3 ebook reader in the United States, even though they had already released it in parts of Europe a few weeks prior.

At the time Sony was still selling the older PRS-T2 ebook reader from the US Sony website. But now it’s no longer available either, and things are looking bleaker than ever for the Sony Reader brand moving forward, at least in the US.

The final deathblow came sometime this past week when Sony removed the ereader section from their website entirely. Sony appears to be updating their website design again and now all links to Sony Readers are missing from all the menus and sub-sections.

In fact the only way to find listings for Sony Readers is to run a search for them specifically, and even when you do that all the ereaders are labeled as discontinued.

Sony used to have ereaders categorized in with tablets. Now tablets and computers are grouped together. On the main computers and tablets page, they give some hope by showing a section for “Tablets & eReaders” but clicking on the link takes you to the tablet section only—the ereader section no longer exists; it has been removed, and old links redirect to the tablet section.

Deep down I was secretly hoping that Sony would surprise everyone and announce a frontlit Sony Reader for the US market in time for the holiday season. After all, it’s clear that they did intend to release a new ebook reader in the US at some point this year because the PRS-T3 went through the FCC for approval.

But now with the ereader section removed entirely and all the previous Sony Readers listed as discontinued, it looks like Sony is leaving the US ebook reader market for good. I guess it’s not surprising given the fact the Sony rep mentioned last month that they’d prefer to focus on smartphones and tablets given the recent market changes, but I thought maybe the PRS-T2 would stick around for awhile longer. Some may hold out hope for a new Sony Reader next year and a return to the US market, but not me. Companies don’t pull the plug on something for 1 year just to bring it back the next year, especially a product with a narrow user base that has been in decline for 3 years. I think that this is the end of the Sony Reader, at least in the US.

25 Responses to “Sony Withdrawing from eBook Reader Market Entirely in US”

  1. Sad but kind of expected.

  2. Hi Nathan, how do you think sony would category the upcoming so-called A4/13.3 e-reader?

    • Right now they are supposedly testing prototypes of it at some colleges in Japan. It supports PDFs but not ePubs so it’s not really being designed as an ebook reader, more of a niche product for students and PDF connoisseurs.

      • There is indeed a market for scholars and academics busy with research papers.

        I’ll buy immediately one just to read at leisure all those LaTeX produced pdf papers I am required to read or at least to be aware of and properly accessible.

        Supporting ePub is just a matter of having an accessible underlying Linux or Android stack as OS

        This is so bad that this market never has been properly addressed, especially in dedicated software to cross link all the papers.

        • So is the ereader dead?.

          Or is Amazon kindle simply going to become the only real option within the market?

          Why are the other manufacturers reducing their exposure or cutting back their product lines.

          I am actually looking for an ereader that supports PDF as, like many people I have a lot of PDF files on my hard-drive and it would be really nice to be able to read them from an ereader instead of having to read from my computer.

          The Sony A4 looks like an option except for the remarks made by Zaragatunga Bumbagumba below in this thread. Worrying if those allegations are true 🙁

  3. Gawt! I just hope they stay in the business. Their readers are my favorites by far and I would buy one with backlight any day, although I already have two of theirs…

  4. This is a shame. I like Sony’s readers because of the easy library integration. Also the 13.3 reader was interesting, and it would have been good if they made it more widely available and made it handle epubs. It would be great to read mathematical and computer books on it.

    It looks like Sony still sells readers in Canada; the Canadian Sony website still lists tablets and readers together. But with them pulling out of the US market, it isn’t clear just how long they’ll stay in Canada.

  5. I feel for sorry for all of the Sony fans as a result of this but, as Daniel pointed out, it was expected.

    Sony should’ve tried to innovate more like Kobo and Amazon have done and implementing new technologies like the built-in lighting that Kobo and Amazon users have come to love and expect from all readers here on out.

    • The built in lighting isn’t really an innovation. E-ink the company that sell e-ink screens sells e-ink screens that have built-in lights, so Sony could have easily implemented one by just buying it from E-ink, which is what I think B&N and Kobo did. (I’m not to sure but I think Amazon designed their own built-in light technology). The built-in lighting decision was really more of a business decision by Sony, which for the NA market seems to have been an incorrect decision.

      Personally — I don’t care for at all for a built-in light, and have absolutely no use for it — although it does seem like there are a large amount of people that do like the light. I think the best option is to offer e-readers with and e-readers without lights, which I believe is what Amazon, B&N, and Kobo all do. That way you have a choice, i.e. if you want a light pay extra, and if you don’t save a little.

  6. I read Sony A4/13.3 e-reader screen was licensed to another company to manufacture. So we could still see these screens used for e-readers.

    • Sony built the Mobius screens together with E Ink, and unfortunately Sony has exclusivity rights over the screens at this point in time, or so I’ve heard.

  7. This is unfortunate. I have a Sony e-reader and I love it.

  8. Very unfortunate. I have the Sony PRS-T1 and absolutely love it!! (especially the design, microSD card slot and physical page turn buttons)!! Don’t have a use for the front light — some do — I absolutely don’t. I’m still hoping Sony will come back to the U.S. Note: You can still buy a PRS-T3 but it costs a lot — IMHO – not worth it.

    I’m in more general worried about the state of the e-ink-based e-Reader market in general. Still waiting for B&N — they make great e-readers. The reality is if you like e-ink based e-readers — we desperately need the competition. We need Sony and we need B&N, otherwise all of us are going to be reading books on backlit tablets in a few years. Perish the thought. 🙁

    btw: They are still selling the PRS-T2 at the Sony store for $99. Like Nathan said you have to do an explicit search for it and they say it is discontinued but they are still selling it for now. So if you really like Sony — this may be your last chance for a while to pick up a Sony e-reader in the U.S. My PRS-T1 is totally fine — but I like the Sony e-readers so much I might pick a PRS-T2 up.

    Also Sony is saying with the PRS-T2 at their store: “Discontinued. Contact us for other options: 877-865-7669”. I wonder what their other options are? I might call just out of curiosity. If I do I will post their response on this site.

    • I called the 877-865-7669 number, which apparently is a Sony Store assistance number. The options are essentially to either buy a Sony PRS-T2 or buy the Sony Experia Tablet Z. I explained that I wanted an e-reader not a tablet — and the representative told me that if I could hold off till later this year — Sony “might” have a new e-reader model available. Interesting… Nothing conclusive but if anyone gathers any additional information I am very interested. Maybe Sony isn’t out of NA yet… I’m hoping they’ve got something. 🙂

  9. Meanwhile, Sony is advertising their T3 here in Spain, and it’s available on stores. It seems for once US market is less interesting than European market….

  10. Cannot believe.. Im with Sony Reader and I love to read books with that device.

  11. Zaragatunga Bumbagumba October 28, 2013 at 2:54 am

    Come on, folks… what did you expect? Sony was never know to be one who cared for its users/consumers… on the contrary, it is known for abandoning them at the first opportunity, and that when it wasn’t planting DRM malware on their computers.

    I sworn many years ago to NEVER buy another Sony product. This was before ebooks… so for me it is OSS+Android+FBReader+EPUB all the way.

    Hope you guys learn the lesson from now on and avoid proprietary products and formats in the future…

    • I’m not sure what you are referring to the Sony PRS-T1, T2, and T3 all use Android as the underlying OS — and Sony’s e-readers all support the open epub format. So I don’t understand your comment about proprietary standards?

  12. I second what Ana said. It may appear that US market will become Amazon’s market and other vendors will put all their efforts to compete in EU zone. Sony’s current situation/position seems like a beginning of that process. Although in my opinion if they want to really matter they should at least be technologically up to date with their new products + they should bring up few innovating elements.

  13. This is sad news. I have used Sony e readers from the beginning;300,350 and T1.
    This weekend i was shopping at Best Buy and actually tried the T3- looked very nice. I live in Nova Scotia (Canada)

  14. I bought in eBay the new Sony Prs-T3 and the cover with light it’s better than Kobo and the Sony Prs-t2 is very light and small the cover with light is amazing. I think the two goods e-readers are Kindle PW and the new Sony Prs-T3.

  15. Wow; the end of an era. Sony was a true eBook reader pioneer. My very first eReader was the PRS-600 (of course, I returned it because of the horrible touch screen, but I still remember it fondly). I think Sony really hit their peak with the PRS 350, 650, and 950 ‘Daily edition’ with its 7-inch display. That series of eReaders was amazing at the time, and I have owned all of them.

    Sony really started falling behind in the past two years. The PRS-T1 was a great device, but the lack of upgrades prevented me from continuing on with them. I switched to the Kindle Paperwhite when it came out last year, and I sold off my little collection of eReaders. I have since upgraded to the KPW2 and don’t see myself leaving it anytime soon, especially with the new footnotes feature.

  16. You do realize that the harware specs on the e-readers of the big four (Kobo, Sony, Amazon, and B&N) are very similar.

    Sony’s PRS-T3 is easily on par with the other four (e.g. processor, display, battery life, …) The only real difference is that Sony does not have a model with a built-in light (which for some people is a showtopper). In Sony’s favor they still have expandable storage and physical page turn buttons (two of my favorite features).

    The big four (Kobo, Amazon, B&N, and Sony) all make excellent e-readers and all are great choices. My preference however is still with Sony.

  17. I’m sorry to hear this. I work in a library and we help patrons figure out their ereaders no matter what brand. They are always having problems figuring out the various Nooks and Kindles.
    Sony is so easy.
    Will they stop selling the ebooks as well?
    If so, then I’m off to get an Ipad. I have loved my Sony ereader forever and felt sorry for the patrons who bought something else.

  18. Really sad. Expected but still disappointed. I really love my PRS0-350 and I have a hard time enjoying some of the other ereaders my family have. Luckily I’m in Canada so I can still get Sony ereaders. I might still get the PRS-T3 because, front light aside, I don’t like the Kobo line much.

    Still, the fact that Sony is pulling out from the number one market will take out the visibility of the brand.