It’s no secret that I’m a hardcore eBook fan, which probably has something to do with the fact that I speed read almost as fast as I talk. The variety of platforms to read eBooks on is expanding faster than ever as many companies are embracing the trend and we’re seeing a wide range of devices enter the market. The recent Consumer Electronic Show 2010 in Las Vegas had a large section dedicated primarily to eBooks and eReaders and I’ve rounded up the best of the bunch. They’re due out later this year, and will hopefully be (relatively) affordable.
The EnTourage eDGe
This device breaks new ground for the eBook market as it features a dual screen. The idea is that you use eInk on the left hand side to browse through books comfortably (eInk doesn’t cause the eyestrain that LCD does) and the other side to choose books and browse the web. The eReader part features a 9.7 inch screen and the LCD screen is 10.1 inches. I guess you don’t notice the difference when you close it, otherwise that would be quite ungainly. The eInk screen also lets you annotate books and write comments, and this will then be saved as a separate word document which lets you email it to peruse at your leisure.
The eDGe is compatible with ePub and PDF files, but they don’t currently mention any others which is a shame as it suggest JPEGs, DOCs and LIT files are all excluded. Though the eInk screen doesn’t show JPEG’s , they are displayed on the colour screen which might be a little confusing.
The colour touchscreen side is essentially a tablet style netbook, as you can browse the web, type emails and order more eBooks. You do this by opening a virtual keyboard and either using the stylus or your hand to type. MP3 files can be played so it can double up as a music player (nice for audio books perhaps) and there’s a video recorder included which is a little bizarre (hey- here’s a snap of me reading.. again) but a nice extra touch. The colour screen works by using my beloved Android OS (operating system) so you’ll be able to access a wealth of apps for the device. Is this really necessary for an eBook.? No, it’s taking eReaders away from their main purpose and making them a hybrid tablet mashup. Still, it’s innovative- if only the price wasn’t so high!
Currently $490 from Entourage (£300!)
This baby looks like its going to give the Amazon Kindle a real run for its money. This bad boy clocks in at 11.5 inches and has the weight of two major names holding its slimline contours in the air- Hearst and Sprint. More than just a device, Skiff is also a platform, able to run on the Palm Pre and Linux, with plans for an iPhone app in development.
The device will feature Wi-Fi for downloading various apps and subscriptions, and you’ll be able to use it to play games as well as read – basic games though, your Sudoku style level of fun. It enables you to easily browse through books and magazines with a simple finger swipe (it’s a resistive touchscreen) and you can search within content for key-phrases. It features LG’s metal foil technology, which is a new step in epaper, as this means that the eInk display is placed upon a flexible sheet of stainless steel foil, which makes it more rugged. As someone who has managed to scratch up three ebooks (hey, my handbag is a battle zone) this sounds pretty appealing.
You get 4GB of internal memory, with an SD card slot for expansion and it has a built in speaker and 3.5mm headphone jack for audio files. You don’t actually need that much space on a eReader as book files are really tiny- 4GB is approx 400 novels for example. It uses a Marvell CPU to power it ands they say battery life is around a week, but I wonder if it would really last that long with regular wireless use,
No news about price or release date, but the size is encouraging and means it would be great for students textbooks. Out soon, but probably not in the UK for a while.
Plastic Logic Que eReader
The Que sets a new standard for integration as it plans to launch with a whole variety of titles already on board. The titles include the Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, and these will be automatically downloaded onto devices with subscriptions, optimized to be read in the eInk screen. The content should display in a familiar manner, and it does this by using the Adobe® Reader® Mobile SDK, which replicates the newspaper experience.
The screen is 8.5 inch screen and it comes with 8GB of internal memory. The Que accesses the web via WiFi and 3G (depending which model you buy) and has 8 levels of grayscale to display content easily. The user interface includes a virtual keyboard for annotating and buying books, and there’s even Bluetooth for sharing files with friends and colleagues. This is very much a business device as seen by its high price point and it allows you to email, create documents and work on the move.
It can connect to MAC or PC and supports the following files PDF, GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP, ePub, and TXT. It will be interesting to see moving GIFs on an eBook- I think this is a first!
I’d need to go hands on with this to give it a full assessment but on paper it sounds like a great idea, and takes eBooks back to reading and writing without the need for MP3 files or speakers ( a little unnecessary on these devices).
The iRiver Story
This device has actually been out in the UK for a little while now, but talks about possible WiFi access later this year make it a fresh contender. It looks fairly similar to the Kindle (well, it’s white plastic) and is the cheapest of this group. The fulllsize QWERTY keyboard makes a nice change from the touchscreens we’ve seen floating around (great till they mess up) and it plays a whole host of files- ePub, PDF, TXT, XLS, PPT, DOC. You can annotate books, make notes and create a personal diary (there’s a dedicated section) and when it gets WiFi you can probably email those as well as select books online. Potentially you could turn the diary into a blog that’s automatically updates.. but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
They say it has a battery life of 9000 page turns and there’s 2GB of memory, with the capacity for 32GB via an SD card. You can use it for music with the integrated 3.5mm audio jack or record short voice notes via its external microphone. I’m quite impressed it has a dedicated comic viewer, and the 6 inch screen is a good size for most bags.
Spring Design Alex eReader
This device looks fairly identical to the Barnes and Noble Nook, but I guess imitation is the highest form of flattery right? The Alex features the same styled 6 inch eInk display with attached 3.5 inch colour touchscreen and supports WiFi and 3G. You read books as normal on the eInk screen (no annotations though) and use the Android Powered touchscreen to surf online bookstores and choose more content. There are 16 levels of grayscale on the device (the highest out of the ones featured here) which means you’ll get great contrast levels and the Alex has 2GB of internal memory (expandable with SD card).
The Alex also allows you to take screen grabs of web pages and save them to the SD card, which can then be viewed on the eInk screen. Though you can’t annotate in text you can record voice comments to certain pages and chapters, which is an interesting touch.
The secondary colour screen uses the Android OS to web surf, and also allows add on applications for developers., They’ve even coined the term EPD (electronic paper display) to distinguish the eInk screen from the touchscreen. You can pre order this device now, so fingers crossed for this Nook-a-like.
The latest ereader from Bookeen might not look incredibly flashy, but it aims to do one job, and do that well. This would be the art of reading, and the 6 inch screen is optimized to make your literature even more enjoyable, It weighs in a 226g and includes colour options on the display (probably for pictures). Information is a bit scant, but we’re told it has a built in accelerometer (handy when reading on your side) and built in Bluetooth and WiFi. It has ePub support and I’m guessing it plays the usual text and HTML files- but can’t confirm this.
An interesting feature is an ’embolden’ option, which basically highlights text to make more contrast with the background. No price as yet, but I’m guessing around £200 would be reasonable.