Sony today released two digital reader devices, but at least one analyst says lack of connectivity with a wireless carrier is an issue.

Sony Reader“The difference between these devices and the Amazon Kindle is that it doesn’t really have the same friction,” says Carl Howe, director of Anywhere Consumer Research for Yankee Group. “It’s the ability to say I’d really like that book and have it delivered ten seconds later that really gives the Kindle an edge.”  

Sony released its digital reader devices in an increasingly crowded market once dominated by Amazon. The Sony Reader Pocket Edition and the Reader Touch Edition weigh in at $199 and $299, respectively. Both devices will be available online and at retail stores at the end of August.

The Reader Pocket Edition sports a five-inch electronic paper display packaged in a stylish chassis and is available in a variety of colors, including navy blue, rose and silver. A press release from Sony says the device can store about 350 standard eBooks and provides up to two weeks of reading on a single battery charge.

The Reader Touch Edition features a six-inch touch screen panel and allows users to take handwritten notes with the stylus pen or type with the virtual keyboard. All notes can be exported and printed out for reference. The Touch Edition also offers expansion slots for both Memory Stick and SD. It comes in red, black or silver and will retail for about $299.

Both devices employ the same paperless ink technology as the Kindle devices, which is provided by E Ink.  Neither of the devices offer ubiquitous connectivity.

Meanwhile, Sony also said it was lowering the prices of eBooks at its online store. New releases and New York Times bestseller titles will now be available for $9.99. Amazon currently sells most of its titles for $9.99, but has received some flack from publishers recently who say they should be able to set their own prices.

Howe was unable to comment on whether he thought Sony would be delivering ubiquitous connectivity in the future. The Wall Street Journal today reported that Sony is in the process of  “developing an e-reader with wireless connectivity that could be released before the holiday shopping season,” citing a person familiar with the matter.

But Howe thinks Sony has something with its new devices, saying the quality is superior to anything else on the market. The digital reader market is an appealing one. “I think they view it as a big and growing market. Same reasons anyone jumps into any market. It’s the opportunity to make a splash with something new.”  

When asked whether the five-inch screen on the smaller device might leave some consumers opting to stick with an iPhone or iPod touch, as opposed to spending $199 on another device, Howe concedes that it’s a tough sell. “The funny thing about that is that I actually read more on my iPhone than I do on my Kindle. They’re not that different…the contrast is actually higher on the iPhone, and you get about the same word count per page depending on your font size.”

The digital book market has seen a lot of action recently. In July, Barnes & Noble went live with its eBook Store and announced plans for a dedicated device from Plastic Logic which has been shopping around a flexible device that uses a unique for of plastic electronics.

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