By DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI
TOKYO—During a business trip to Japan in 2004, technology analyst Michael Gartenberg caught a glimpse of Sony Corp.'s 6758.TO +3.93% Librie, the first e-book reader with an electronic ink display.
Today, Amazon.com Inc.'s AMZN +1.78% Kindle dominates the e-reader business and the Librie is little remembered. Sony is playing catch-up with a successor device, which ranks a distant third in the global market.
It is a story that has played out repeatedly over the past 20 years for Japan's once-world-dominant electronics firms. Japanese companies have beaten rivals to the market with hardware breakthroughs—from flat-panel televisions to advanced mobile phones.
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