Sony today announced that it will sell a wireless eReader device for $399 by Christmas. The Reader Daily Edition will be powered by AT&T's 3G network. That in itself is interesting news, especially given that Barnes & Noble announced a similar device in partnership with Irex yesterday. What's gotten somewhat lost in all the excitement about the hardware, however, is that Sony has also partnered with a number of independent booksellers in the US. These include over 200 members of the American Booksellers Association, as well as BooksOnBoard, Net Galley, and Portland, OR-based Powell's Books, the world's largest independent bookseller. In addition, Sony also plans to make it easier for users to check out eBooks from their local libraries.

All of these sites will offer eBooks in the standard EPUB format. It's not quite clear if all of the participating stores will wrap a digital rights management layer (DRM) around their products yet, though.

Sony Gets a Wireless Reader, Too

As for the hardware devices, Sony's new Reader Daily Edition is obviously aimed at Amazon's Kindle and Kindle DX. It will be able to display 16 levels of grayscale and will be housed in an aluminum body with an integrated cover. Users will be able to read books, newspapers, and magazines in portrait and landscape orientation.

The wireless connectivity, courtesy of AT&T's 3G network, is the most exciting news here, though. Both Sony and B&N are following Amazon's lead, of course, but Amazon's success with the Kindle has also clearly shown that a lot of consumers now expect this kind of functionality at the high-end of the eReader market.

What's even more exciting, though, is that by the time the holiday season comes around this year, users will be able to choose between far more eReaders and eBook vendors than ever before, without having to compromise on the number of available books.

With its five-inch $199 Reader Pocket Edition, Sony will be able to offer the cheapest device on the market, while the seven-inch Reader Daily Edition at $399 is priced to fall between the cost of a Kindle ($299) and Kindle DX ($489).