Sony takes classic approach to battle cutting-edge Kindle

The Amazon Kindle may have the backing of Oprah Winfrey, but Sony has found a weapon to fight back in promoting its own electronic bookreader: half a million free books.

The company has done a deal with Google to provide the free books for users of the Sony Reader, taking the device’s library to 600,000 books. The newly-added books are all from before 1923 and thus out of copyright, meaning Google is actually providing the digital files rather than the artistic content.

Amazon currently only has 245,000 books available for the Kindle, though the main selling point there is that they include modern, copyrighted titles. So in theory at least it should be Beatrix Potter for the Sony Reader and Harry Potter for the Kindle.

Technically it’s already possible to view these books on the Sony Reader. However, this involves downloading a PDF file from the Google Books site, saving it to a memory card, then putting this into the Reader. Thanks to the Google deal, users will be able to download the files through the Reader’s own library system. However, that’s still not as convenient as the Kindle’s option for wireless downloads on the move.

Google has already made its library of public domain titles available for users of both the iPhone and devices which use its own Android operating system. But this is the first time the books are readily available on a dedicated reading device, which is good news for the eyesight of classic literature lovers.

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