Sony is getting ready to send its e-book reader on a worldwide trip.
The company announced Thursday that it will introduce its Reader digital book device into several new global markets this year. Sony plans to hit the Asia-Pacific market with launches in Japan, China, and Australia, and expand throughout Europe by reaching countries such as Italy and Spain.
The company said it will use existing relationships with retailers, publishers, and distributors to help push the Reader and make sure local e-book content is available for consumers in each region.
"In the years since we unveiled the first eReader, we've hit a global tipping point in digital reading with demand for and sales of the Reader dramatically increasing in 2009," Steve Haber, president of Sony Electronics' Digital Reading Business Division, said in a statement. "Sony's strategy has always been to make the Reader a global product, and we'll take a thoughtful approach to country expansion that will consider not just the hardware experience within these new countries but the content experience as well."
Sony is counting on healthy global demand for its Reader, particularly in Asian markets. Research firm Nomura Holdings found that Asia was the fasting-growing market for e-books last year, with sales in Japan surpassing $500 million, according to Sony. DisplaySearch predicts China will become the world's largest e-reader market by 2015.
Since launching its Reader in the United States in 2006, Sony has expanded further into North America and into Europe. The device is currently available in the U.S., Canada, the U.K, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland. The company said it will announce a launch date, pricing, and preorder dates for the Reader in Japan, China, Australia, Spain, and Italy at a later date.
In announcing these new global launches, Sony is trying to play catch-up with its rival, the Amazon Kindle, which is already available in more than 100 countries around the world. Together, the Sony Reader and the Kindle have carved out the biggest chunk of the e-book industry. But other competitors continue to pop up.
After a rough launch late last year, Barnes & Noble has been busy pushing its Nook e-book reader, most recently striking a deal with Best Buy to sell the device in its retail stores. And of course, Apple is also kicking up the market by touting its new iPad as an e-book reader in addition to its many other functions.