Sony, Google play the free card vs. Amazon Kindle

When it comes to eBooks, Amazon's Kindle seems to get all the attention--especially after Oprah Winfrey deemed the Kindle one of her favorite things. In an effort to get more of the spotlight on its own Reader Digital Book, Sony has partnered with Google to offer Reader users free access to more than half a million public domain titles via Google Book Search. Sony is hoping that free books will entice more users to its Reader platform--even if Oprah's content to pay $10 to $15 a read on the Kindle.

The Sony eBook strategy is in sharp contrast with Amazon's. Whereas Amazon is a retailer focused on selling titles, Sony is a device maker focused on selling, well, devices. Free books ala Google are right up Sony's alley, and if it plays out as expected, Sony may just see a sizable uptick in Reader sales.

And what does Google get out of it? As PC World's Jeff Bertolucci says, Google gets more publicity for its Google Book Search technology and perhaps even another avenue for its ad business:

Initially, [Google's] free e-books won't come with advertising, but I suspect that's bound to change over time. Google Book Search costs money to maintain, and there's bound to be pressure -- both internally and from shareholders -- to monetize the program. Imagine: Ads for Civil War memorabilia appear in the margins as you read The Red Badge of Courage. It could happen.

And it could be fairly lucrative. To capitalize on the new deal, Sony dropped the price of its high-end Reader, the PRS-700, to $350, while the price for the PRS-505 model remains at $300. For more information, visit Sony's eReader site.

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