Sony - Showcase (3)Liliputing and Nate report Sony is experimenting with crowd-sourcing in Japan.

remote control device with an E Ink display will be the first goody to come out of the experiment, if it goes into production. Here are details from Sony itself.

In crowd-sourcing, I see a great opportunity for Sony not just in Japan but also elsewhere, including the U.S., where it no longer even sells an e-reader for the masses.

The Digital Paper productivity tool (video here) shows that e-reader-related tech at Sony isn’t all dead. Alas, however, Sony so often has been tone-deaf toward e-booklovers and others. Why did B&N, Amazon and Kobo get there first with front-lit displays, for example? No wonder Sony scaled back.

But suppose Sony could reenter the consumer e-book market with an affordable device with a killer display and text to speech and decent page-turning buttons and other wrinkles to set it apart from Amazon. I’d be the first to line up to propose such a project under Sony’s First Flight program if FF ended up here in the States and ordinary consumers could speak out.

I know. I’m perhaps dreaming. The economics of developing a full-fledged e-reader are probably very different from those of a mere remote control device. But here’s a suggestion for Sony. Think of crowd-sourcing as just another kind of focus-grouping, except people would actually be willing to speak with their wallets. Even if crowd-sourcing didn’t pay for more than a fraction of an e-reader project, it would be a way to test the waters and better connect Sony with the marketplace. Liliputing itself is thinking along somewhat similar lines.

For once, let’s hope, Sony will listen—and not hear out and act on suggestions from just its employees (apparently a limit of First Flight in its initial form). No Sony stock. I just like the idea of Sony and Amazon duking it out in a serious way in e-book hardware.

Years ago I begged a contact in Sony’s e-book program to make it easier for customers to farm books out to different machines and sync their places in them so people could move easily from device to device. No luck. Amazon better understood the market and gave us Whispersync. Ouch. Another opportunity lost. Crowd-sourcing, however, could help get Sony back in the e-book game and benefit the company in other areas.

I’d also welcome Sony having the guts to look beyond traditional DRM and popularize social DRM (with unique identifiers in books to discourage piracy). How about developing a good social DRM platform for interested publishers? Fodder for B2B crowd-sourcing—and one way to help atone for the Sony BMG rootkit scandal?

Yes, yes, I’m curious to know what TeleRead community members think Sony should crowd-source? What products are you eager to see created by a company with Sony’s resources?

Detail: Some might wonder why a rich company like Sony might even mess with crowd-sourcing. But—beyond the marketing and PR value—even a global corporation can’t afford to experiment with everything.


  1. Sony’s story is depressing. I can remember when its name on a product meant innovation and quality. People paid more for a Sony. Now it means little or nothing. What happened?

    I am not sure, but DRM may have been one reason. I recall reading an article that suggested that Sony’s ownership of a lot of media, including movies and music, made it overly protective of that content, resulting in products that that were more about DRM than users. One result was that the iPod (and later the iPhone) left the cassette-driven Sony Walkman in the dust.

    Technological innovative often requires creative destruction. Pioneering a new technology often means the destruction of an older technology. Companies often forget that the technology most in need of being destroyed may be one of their own, highly profitable product line. When they don’t destroy it, a competitor rises up who does and reaps the rewards.

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