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Google deal brings classic books to Sony Reader

Sony says Google is making a half-million free books available for Sony's e-reader, in a deal it hopes will help its e-book reader better compete with Amazon's Kindle.

Sony's e-book reader is about to get a little help from Jane Austen in its battle with the Kindle.

Sony announced a partnership with Google Wednesday night that will bring a half-million classic books to the Sony Reader Digital Book. Users will now be able to access the free book downloads through Sony's eBook Store.

For years, Google has scanned books and converted them to digital format--at least in part--for its Google Book Search project. For now, Google is providing books to Sony whose copyrights have expired, which means most of the new additions to the Sony Reader will have been published before 1923, according to The New York Times.

Sony says the library will include well-read classics such as "The Awakening," "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," and "Sense and Sensibility" as well as less common titles such as the "Letters of Jane Austen" and books in French, German, Italian, Spanish, and other languages.

The deal brings the Sony Reader's library up to 600,000 titles (Amazon's Kindle library is currently at about 250,000). Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.