In 2010 thus far we have seen a flurry of news and press releases announced on new E-Readers hitting the the market. With all of the new units coming out the market is becoming increasingly competitive as new and old companies alike rush out new devices to meet consumer demand.
Up until 2009 the E-Reader market was held under sway by the top dominant forces such as Amazon, Sony, and to a lesser extent, iRex and Astak. Most of these companies had their own book stores where they sold E-Books online right to your device.
In 2010 with the rise of the Google Android operating system new e-readers are flooding into the market because they do not need their own proprietary book store solution, they could make apps to allow users to connect to other book stores.
Google Android is the base operating system of 75% of all the new e-readers coming out in 2010 and allows a tremendous flexibility to allow your e-reader to connect to the internet, surf the internet, play games and have a wider choice of online book stores so you can hunt around for the best deals
Content was amping the market, as up until 2010 most e-readers had to have their own book store or hard wired applications to let you connect to the store of the manufacturers choice. Check out our E-Reader Forum for the latest news on this.
With the rise of the standard e-book format “ePub” many new electronic readers are being made to read some of the web’s most popular formats, such as PDF, EPUB, TXT, RTF, HTML and others.
With the new breed of E-Readers coming out, more companies are releasing new e-readers because It is more cost effective for a company to release an e-reader and not invest millions of dollars into developing their own book store, when they can simply get a commission referring their users to other bookstores. Or bypass the stores all together and allow users to download Android Market Place applications right to their devices made by other online bookstores.
Now there is of course some companies with the exception to this rule such as Barnes and Noble, with the Nook with exclusive access to their own E-Book Store. The soon to be released Kobo with its large online offerings is now coming out with a low cost entry into the e-reader market of its own.
This article will talk about the top 5 most eagerly anticipated E-Readers to look out for in 2010.
The Kobo is going to be launched in May with a economically viable price of $149.00 US. It will have access to the Kobo book store, boasting a library of over 250,000 titles. Kobo is owned by Indigo Books and Music. The Kobo features a six inch screen, a USB port, and very minimal buttons. It only has 1 GB of internal storage but it does have a SD Card slot to hold more books in its internal memory. The Kobo also has the ability to read ePub and PDF files. It does not have WI-FI nor 3G and is not trying to compete with the e-reader models brimming with expensive features. What we really like about the eReader is the interface. The chapter lists are big and clear, the main “I’m Reading” page gives a newspaper front-page-like overview of the newspapers and books you’re currently reading, and you can even choose to display your books in an iPad-like bookshelf metaphor. When you power down, it shows the book’s cover instead of those awful Kindle screen-savers.
There are many budget E-Readers on the market already sold at places such as Wal-Mart and other box stores, you may have not heard their names before. If you are looking for a really cheap Entry level E-Reader there is none better then the Kobo. It is made by an established company, will be sold in Canada and the US and will have a tremendous amount of support.
Spring Design Alex
The Spring Design Alex eReader provides takes dual screen electronic readers to the next level. It will be sold in April for $399 and it is available in either a black or a white case. The Alex features combines dual screens, one of which is a full color touch screen to navigate the menus and a separate E-INK screen to read E-Books. The bottom color touch screen is 3.5 inches while its top screen to read books is 6.5 inches.
The Alex doesn’t come with integrated 3G wireless. Instead, you can connect the device to your PC via USB or to the Internet via 802.11b/g wireless. Spring Design has announced they are working on a 3G model out later in the year.
The content distribution system is not in place yet, they are working on offering their own bookstore. Spring Design has in the last few months signed a deal with Boarders and Kobo Books. An executive at Boarders had this to say “Our agreement with Spring Design represents another step in our digital strategy, which continues to focus on offering book lovers-including our more than 35 million Borders Rewards loyalty program members-high quality content on the device of their choosing,” said Borders Group Chief Executive Officer Ron Marshall. “We look forward to bringing a world class eBook experience to Alex users.”
The Spring Design Alex runs on a Google Android operating system and will allow virtually any book store to run on its platform, provided that it adheres to the Alex E-Reader Format which are ePub, HTML, and TXT files. The Device has 2 Gigabytes of storage, enough of hundreds of books.
The above aforementioned operating system will allow users to download applications from the Alex Market, allowing the user to download books from other book stores. The Alex marketplace will allow users to also download applications that are custom made and approved for the E-Reader.
The Alex allows you to browse the internet! You can surf the internet using just the bottom color screen or you can drag it and project it on the main display in E-Ink. Notification icons allow you to quickly assess your battery life, EMAILS, and other indicators such as Downloading and more! You can also download books to the Alex right from websites that offer downloads.
The Alex is a wonderful E-Reader and worth the extra money over the Barnes and Noble Nook which is very similar to this device. The Nook is too closed to our liking. Despite the fact that it also has a Google Android Based operating system it does not have an established market place for users to download applications. If you live outside of the United States, you will not even be able to register your device properly unless you are in a free wireless hot zone. The Barnes and Noble nook is $259 while the Alex is $399, but for a 6 inch e-reader that does everything from reading books, to surfing the internet, to allowing the user to choice the best book store solution for their money, no 6 Inch E-Reader is poised to do so much, it’s a tremendous value for your money.
Asus is a long standing electronics company that cut its teeth with computer hard ware, such as Motherboards, and internal components. Asus now, releases everything from Netbooks, to Asus EEE Pad and now jumping into the E-Reader game. Asus is a highly respected company and many geeks swear by their computer hardware.
The Asus 950 features one single screen, but is a large heavy weight at 9 inches and features screen resolution of 1024×768 giving you one crystal clear image. The Asus 950 does not use E-INK like its rival for this match, it uses SiPix Microcup electronic paper, which purports to be more a more energy efficient, brighter picture and giving you the illusion of colors, such as reds, blues, greens and yellows.
The Asus 950 will offer RSS feeds, translation and text to speech. It’ll also pack 2 or 4GB of internal memory and an SD slot, Wi-Fi and HSDPA and a USB port for side loading, a 3.5m audio port for music. The Asus DR-950 will support PDF, TXT, Audible, MP3, ePub, HTML, JPEG, GIF, PNG and BMP file formats. It has formed a partnership with the Barnes and Noble Book Store for their content and books.
One of the most interesting facets of Asus jumping into the E-reader wars is that it is not using traditional E-INK they are using something named SiPix Microcup electronic paper, which purports to be more a more energy efficient alternative.
The Asus E-Reader comes out in May and has a price tag of around $350.00. We dig the fact that the Asus will be one of the first adapters of color e-ink. Freescale the makers of most of the screen technology almost all E-Readers have, has developed a new technology to make E-Readers display full color e-ink, you probably will not see any by the end of the year, but if you are looking for the most Color for your buck, the Asus fills that need. The other factor we like, is because Asus has great relationships with computer stores all over the world, it would only be a small trip to your local computer ship to purchase one of these, making it easier then ordering it online and waiting weeks for it to arrive.
The Skiff E-Reader has a very generous display area, which stands at 11.5 inches with a resolution of 1200 x 1600 pixels. A stainless steel foil forms the base of the Skiff e-reader, which imparts a shatter-proof, crack-proof and a flexible characteristic to the device. Designed by LG Display, it incorporates touch screen features that can accept both finger and stylus input. The e-reader measure 9 inches x 11 inches and its thickness is just a shade over 1/4 inch. And at just over 17 1/2 ounces, the Skiff e-reader is lighter than the Kindle DX, which tips the scale at 18.9 ounces.
The Skiff will feature both Wi-Fi connectivity as well as 3G via Sprint. It is equipped with an internal memory that has a capacity of 4GB while the SD-card slot means, there is room for still more.
About its main source of content, what we know right now is that it is going to be the Skiff Store, which will look after the entire spectrum of selling and distributing newspapers, magazines, books, blogs and other content from multiple publishers across a range of devices. It is also likely that the newspapers and periodicals that is to be distributed by Skiff will also feature advertising, something that is lacking in Amazon’s Kindle versions and which the publishers will surely like to have included. Kindle newspapers also miss out on most of the photos, graphs, and so on. Skiff e-reader scores in this area also as their versions will have most of the graphics of the actual paper editions.
We love the Skiff as a unique design, it looks like to be the top of the class in far of a huge screen with tremendous resolution. We also like the fact the entire screen is touch screen, which means unlike the Kindle and other E-Readers it does not have a ton of buttons. Skiff has formed a relationship with Sprint and Samsung which means most Sprint stores will have this in stock, making purchase and discounts on the unit with a long term 3G package may lower the price drastically for citizens of the USA. The Price and release date have not been disclosed but rumours abound of a July Release date with a price tag of around $500.00
Plastic Logic Que Pro-Reader
Plastic Logic took the veil off their newest business-oriented e-reader, the QUE proReader at the 7th CES held in January. As per the latest e-reader news coming in, the Que is slated to hit market sometime in April, though pre-orders are currently being accepted on the company site. Buyers who had pre-ordered the QUE have been informed by the company that the e-reader won’t be available until summer in an attempt to fine tune its features and improve the overall product experience.
Developed by scientists at Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory, Plastic Logic uses flexible plastic technology that has been in development for 10 years now. The company plans to introduce two different models of the Plastic Logic Que E-Reader: one with a price tag of $649 and featuring Bluetooth, Wi-Fi capability and 4 GB memory and another priced at $799 having Wi-Fi, 3G wireless and 8GB memory. Both models don’t have memory card slots. QUE is slated to be sold through Barnes and Noble’s retail stores.
Positioned as a paperless briefcase, Que is one of the largest e-readers in the market. Less than 1/3″ thick, Que has a width of 8.5″ and a length of 11″ with a weight of 17.2 ounces. Screen measures 10.7″ diagonally, with a display resolution of 960 x 1280 at 150 ppi. Strangely, it supports only 8 levels of greyscale in comparison to many of the newer e-book readers that support 16.
Apart from Plastic Logic affirming that the screen is shatterproof, a gesture-based captive touch screen is used for navigation with a virtual keyboard for taking notes. Plastic Logic has positioned the product for business professionals due to large screen and its support for Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and PDF functions.
It is quite similar to Kindle DX in that it allows you to read newspapers, periodicals, business documents, textbooks, and PDF files along with e-books and text files as well. AT&T will provide both 3G and Wi-Fi capabilities depending on the model you choose. And since AT&T also has a presence in other countries, there sure exists an opportunity for expansion, though for now, the device is going to be limited to within US shores only.
Many big Magazines and Retailers have signed partnership agreements with the Que such as USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, the Oakland Tribune, the Huffington Post, The Sporting News Today, along with magazines from Barron’s, Fast Company, Forbes, MIT’s Technology Review, Popular Science, and IDG publication titles, including Macworld, PC World, CIO, Network World, and Computerworld.
The Que also reads a versatile amount of formats such as EPUB, PDF, HTML, Visio, RTF, DOC, DOCX, TXT, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX.
This probably the most expensive of the new generation of e-readers coming out. But it remains at the top of the heap next to the Skiff as two of the most innovative and versatile electronic readers to debut this years. If you have a large pocket book, the Skiff may be the right choice for you.
2010 is going to be a great year for E-Readers. New ones to accommodate all budgets are going to become available by a fair number of well known and respected companies with a long standing track record of making quality products. On the flip side, there are also a slew of potentially wonderful devices coming out by new companies with less known reputation.
E-Reader technology is accelerating quickly. If you have never had an E-Reader before, we suggest you pick one up. Entry level models such as the Sony 300 Pocket Edition is only $169.00 while the Kobo when released will only be $149.00. Personally, I am most excited about the Skiff and the Que E-Reader, but with the availability mostly in the USA, it will be harder for Canadian and UK Customers to purchase the higher end devices. Towards the end of 2010 Freescale is releasing Coloured E-INK Technology which will allow traditional E-Ink to be full color without a increase in unit cost. The color technology is mass produced is actually most cost effective than the traditional black text on a grey background. If you can afford to wait until next year for full color, we recommend you do so. If you need something cheap and cheerful now, go with the Sony Pocket Book, the Kobo E-Reader or for a 9 Inch screen go with the Sony Daily Edition or any of the E-Readers we covered in this article as best value for your money for the long term.
Remember, you want an e-reader that will allow you to read the books not only on the device you have now, but on any future devices you get. That is why it is important to buy an e-reader that uses the open source ePub format. Most of the top 5 eagerly anticipated E-Readers all read the ePub format.
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Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.