Media Morph: Sony Reader

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What it is: As small and light as a paperback novel, the Sony Reader is the electronic giant's first U.S. attempt at an electronic book, or e-book. While it's tempting to dismiss as just another promise, Sony's crack at the problem could be better than previously hyped hardware. Its biggest breakthrough is the screen technology called e-Ink, which allows for a very realistic book page image with little glare at almost any angle. It also has the capacity to hold 80 average books (although memory upgrades can boost that) downloadable from the Sony Connect store with about 10,000 titles available at launch at an expected 20%-25% discount over hard copies.

Who's using it: So far only test consumers and Sony employees. It won't hit market until spring.

Pre-launch buzz: Web advertising on Sony's site promotes the Reader simply as "Book. Smart." It's expected to be priced between $299 and $399 depending on packages. Initial reviews are generally positive, with most at least intrigued.

Why you should care: Although publishers, authors and readers have long dreamed about the ultimate ebook, if-and granted, it's a big "if"-Sony can manage to satisfy all parties, the Reader could have a big impact on publishing. Plus Sony isn't the only one using e-Ink technology-more products from more manufacturers are expected soon. No longer bound by bulk, readers could download tens of tomes to consume at their leisure.

Advertising opportunities? None yet. However, if it is successful, the Reader and the ensuing competition have the potential to become another media platform with publishers potentially cutting deals with marketers to add revenue. Just imagine "The Da Vinci Code Part IV" brought to you by McDonald's. And if it works for books, it may open up new possibilities for magazines or newspapers.

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