First there was Amazon's "Kindle" eReader. But, at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas there were so many new eReaders announced that I believe 2010 will be the year of the eReader rather than the "Year of the Tiger" as the Chinese would have us believe.
How soon they really have an impact on newspaper, book and magazine sales is anyone's guess. Amazon claimed that in December last year they sold more eBooks than physical books! Here's a quick look at what all the fuss is about:
Originally eReaders used E-Ink displays (e.g. Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook) but more recently manufacturers have been using LCD screens like in typical notebooks. The former don't use a backlight and are easier on the eyes than a backlit LCD. The line will continue to blur between eReaders and tablets or notebooks.
Why buy an eReader:
- You don't need a flashlight to read at night or in dark places
- Easily carry many books, magazines and read what you want with a simple search
- It is very light when you want to carry lots of content and don't know what you will need
- Device can be used for multiple options like internet access, computations, games
- The ability to change font size is great for people with low vision
- The device can convert to an audio book when you are driving to work and cannot take your eyes off the road
- Making and sharing notes is critical for students and social media addicts
Why stick with real books, magazines and newspapers:
- Books don't need batteries so you can take them almost anywhere at anytime
- You can "cuddle up" to a book
- Spilling your coffee or scrambled eggs on a newspaper is no drama over breakfast
- A magazine can be read without needing access to wireless or 3G network
Amazon's Kindle: Amazon released their first eReader in 2007 but only for the U.S. The international version was launched in late 2009 and will ship this month in over 100 countries. Amazon has sold about 1.5 million devices so far. Users can download content from Amazon and other providers in the proprietary Kindle format (AZW) or load content in various formats from a computer. Over 400,000 ebooks are available for download at Amazon. The Kindle DX is great for textbooks (PDF support, low weight), business and professional use and anyone with low vision. The Kindle 2 is a bettr choice is you want portability.
Sprint's Skiff: Possibly the most exciting new e-reader, this device features an 11.5-inch screen, the largest on the market, and an VERY THIN chassis (barely a quarter-inch) that has a flexible, damage-resistant screen. The Skiff's software lays out periodicals in the way they were intended. Designed more for newspapers and magazines - it includes embedded advertising - it's the closest thing to the electronic paper that we have right now. Sprint also showed off a color e-reader that's a hint of things to come.
enTourage's eDGe: This has two screens connected, laptop-style, by a hinge. Close it shut when you're on the road, then crack it open -- like a real book -- when you're on the couch. The e-reader, 9.7 inches diagonally, is on the left, an Android-based netbook (with a 10.1-inch screen) is on the right. It's far heavier than other e-readers, but very versatile. $490, shipping in February.
Plastic's Logic Que: The Que is impressive, with a big, quick-to-update 10.5-inch screen, and a striking black plastic (of course) case. The Que isn't just an e-reader, it's a latter day PDA, complete with calendar and a document management system. Just "que" your files over to the reader and it converts them for display on the device -- PowerPoint, PDF, Word docs, spreadsheets, and more. Very, very expensive: The cheap one goes for $649, and the more expensive version is a whopping $799. On sale in April.
Samsung's E6: No fewer than four e-readers are being released by Samsung in a variety of sizes, most with a unique feature: Whip out the stylus and you can write notes on the device in longhand. Designed with the PDA fan in mind, they're otherwise a relatively straightforward lineup, with book sales through Google and wireless features.
Unlike other e-book devices, Samsung’s E6 and E101 enables handwriting directly onto the display, allowing users to annotate their reading selections, calendars and to-do lists with a built-in electromagnetic resonance (EMR) stylus pen. Low power consumption, bluetooth and WiFi wireless access are standard. Available "early this year" for $299 to $699, depending on the model.
Barne's & Noble's Nook: This is a lovely device. The Nook, billed as the first Android-powered e-book reader, features not only a 6-inch E-ink screen but a color touch screen that allows you to navigate content and also can turn into a virtual keyboard for searches. It has a built-in 3G wireless connection (AT&T is the carrier) and a dictionary. However, the Nook also packs in Wi-Fi connectivity and a memory expansion slot--you get 2GB of internal memory, but can add up to a 16GB micro SD card.
HP's Slate: Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer debuted the HP Slate tablet computer during the CES 2010 keynote address with minimal details. It will run Windows 7 and the Amazon Kindle for PC and the color touchscreen is between 10 and 12 inches. There is the question about whether this device will also run on Google's mobile operating system - called Android.
It is believed that this announcement was a teaser to try to take some PR away from Apple's tablet announcement expected this month. Microsoft also said it forged a new search distribution deal with HP that will make the company's Bing search site and MSN.com content portal the default search engine and Web home page on new HP computers sold in 42 countries.
So what about Apple's contribution? Well, on 27th January there will be an event where Apple are expected to unveil their device which will ship in March. The speculation is that the device will use an operating system similar to the iPhone to take advantage of Apple's very extensive application store.
Here is a promotional video from enTourage about their new eDGe device - the world's first dual tablet: