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E-read all about it at CES

LAS VEGAS -- Electronic-book readers are experiencing a boomlet, to judge from the number and variety of models on display here. Amazon's Kindle series will soon have plenty of company, both from devices sold by name-brand companies (such as Barnes & Noble's Nook and Sony's Reader Daily Edition, each already on the market) and those coming from relatively unknown firms.

Plastic_Logic_Que.JPG

The most eye-catching e-reader I've seen is Plastic Logic's Que proReader (pictured), a striking, 1/3-inch thick slate about the size of a regular sheet of paper. It also includes a variety of business-oriented features, such as access to corporate calendars and e-mail and the ability to display Microsoft Office documents. But its steep pricing -- $649 for a model with 4 gigabytes of storage and WiFi Internet access, $799 for an 8-GB unit that adds AT&T 3G mobile-broadband access -- pretty much exile the Que lineup from the consumer marketplace.

Samsung introduced its own lineup of e-readers, with screen sizes ranging from 5 to 10 inches and a choice of input methods that include tapping the screen with a stylus -- a rarity in this category. They'll provide access to public-domain titles from Google's Google Books site, but company reps didn't have info about a source for current books. Samsung hopes to ship these by the first half of this year.

Gadget vendor iRiver, best known for its MP3 players, showed off a $279 model it plans to sell at the end of this month that will display titles loaded from a computer (its e-reader doesn't have its own Internet connection) in a variety of formats, including the not-quite-industry-standard ePub.

McLean-based enTourage Systems' eDGe "dualbook" reader (sORry about the funky capItAlization) fuses an e-reader and a netbook. One of this fold-open gadget's two screens uses e-ink technology to display PDF and ePub books, while the color LCD next to it handles Web access and media playback. This $490 device runs Google's Android software and is supposed to ship next month.

The convention center's "eBooks TechZone" included exhibits from numerous other vendors, many of whom I'd never even heard of. All that interest suggests this market's a reality, but after seeing so many e-readers suffer from the same two issues--the slow response time, limited resolution and lack of color of e-ink displays, combined with the absence of a single, open, industry-wide e-book format--I can only think that e-readers remain a couple of years away from being something I'd want to invest my own money in.

How about you? Are you willing to take the plunge into e-bookishness, even if your book purchases may not work on a future e-reader that will give buyers of today's hardware a case of buyer's remorse?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  January 8, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  CES 2010 , E-books  
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Next: The missing Microsoft influence at CES

Comments

But can I get a 3-D e-book reader?

Posted by: Ronnie76 | January 8, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Can I trade in my trifocals for 3D-focals?

Posted by: tbva | January 8, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm mildly annoyed at hearing about the dualbook reader, having just purchased a netbook. I have a Sony Reader (the 505) and really like it. I'm intrigued by the idea of combining the two devices.

What is with the whining about the page refresh rate? I see this criticism in every story about e-readers, but trust me, it is *not* a problem in the field. I hit the button when I'm nearly at the end of the page, and when I get there, it "turns". It's the same as lifting up the page in a dead-tree book and sticking your finger in it, ready to flip it when you get to the last word.

Posted by: lynnec | January 8, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I have one of the early Kindles and I love it for traveling. I'm less likely to use it at home, but I think that has more to do with being in a place where the extra weight of a large book doesn't matter. Still, I like the ease of download and the fact that the e-books are often cheap in some of the stranger categories I like (historical cookery, for instance).

Posted by: Fabrisse | January 8, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm waiting for the iSlate.

Posted by: mchoya | January 8, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

I am trying out the Amazon Kindle for PC. There are limitations compared to the Kindle reader, but it is a way to check out this new technology. I have to admit, the easy, quick downloads and the number of free or low cost books available make the notion of buying a device very tempting! However, the price$, lack of color, lack of standardization, all ensure that I will not soon purchase an E-book device.

Posted by: jazzytay | January 8, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

No eReader manufacturer yet has addressed what it thinks I'm supposed to do with my current library (60+ linear feet of books I read and refer to, plus more that are less-frequently read).

I've bought my music twice (LP, CD), my movies twice (VCR, DVD) -- and they want me to buy them again on Blu-Ray.

I understand there's a cost to upgrade, but at some point I ought to get some recognition that I have some rights to content I've already purchased.

Amazon wants you to trust them not to lose your books. I don't see why I should do that; they already have reportedly removed purchased books from peoples' Kindle storage at Amazon (see user reviews of Kindle on their site).

There's no standard that lets me move my books from Kindle to Sony to B&N or whatever improved mechanism comes next.

Not Yet Ready for Prime Time, in my opinion.

Posted by: bagox | January 8, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I have the 2nd generation Kindle and I LOVE it. I agree with lynnec on the page refresh rate - it is not a problem, you press a button and the page moves (to the next page or previous page) - no delay - so I don't understand that criticism.

I love that I can have several books at a time with me in one single easy to carry device. (And I end up reading from different books, depending on what I'm in the mood for).

I use mine at the gym a lot while on aerobic machines (cross trainers, eliptical trainers, etc. )- and it's perfect (books were hard sometimes depending on the thickness because pages would not stay put).

Also the fact that you can change the font size so easily (so if the book is a little further away, or I'm tired, or the light is not that great) I can easily change to a larger font to make reading easier.

I use mine at home too - again, it's just so easy (you can set it on a surface if you need to free up your hands and continue reading).

I have had a really good experience...so far.

Posted by: beatendownbythecity | January 8, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I forgot to mention that the Kindle has a built in dictionary - while you are reading if you come across a word you are not sure about, you just move the cursor to the start of the word and the definition pops up at the bottom of the screen.

Most of the time I think I know what the word means but I decide I want to know the actual definition....and there it is.

Posted by: beatendownbythecity | January 8, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

On January 27, Apple will get it right (they usually do) with the release of their ebook. Funny, all the paper books that I have are filled with color pictures. Apple will go one better and give me video as well as the pictures.

If you are trying to emulate another product, the least you can do is equal it (think digital cameras over film).

Posted by: Keenobserver | January 8, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

These kindle or e-book reminds me of the device used on Star Trek:The Next Generation where it is used to have Captain Picard sign off anything LaForge does in Engineering.
Surreal and we've come along way in the short amount of time.

Posted by: beeker25 | January 8, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I see no point in investing in an e-reader until the industry comes up with a standard format everyone will use. I dont' want to spend all this money on books, magazines, etc. only to find out I can't move those files from one e-reader to another.

Posted by: Reader31 | January 8, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

I have been using Kindle on my iPhone and LOVE IT. Granted, it's a small-ish display, but I find that it's easy to read if you increase the font size a bit. I really like being able to take my books with me, and Amazon definitely has the best deals going on electronic books.

Posted by: Stats | January 8, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

No need to buy any of these new gadgets yet. I have been reading e-books on my laptop for several years now with MS Reader (free from Microsoft) and LIT files. Lots of free books available (www.munseys.com, manybooks.net, etc.), but recent books can be purchased, also. Format is back-lit truetype, so you can read without separate lighting.

Posted by: kenpierce | January 8, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

I love my kindle but I wish it had an option for a backlight so I can read in the dark while my husband sleeps. I think the attached light is quite cumbersome and annoying.

Posted by: raia | January 8, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse


All the big electronic companies want in on this because it costs them about $10 to make the product and then they can sell them for hundreds of dollars. I will get one in a couple of years when they are less than $50 and have twice the capacity and features.

Posted by: maphound | January 8, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

I've found that Kindle for PC, installed on small netbook, is a wonderful combination, even for reading in bed!

I use Ubuntu Linux and, with Wine, am able to install the Kindle application on it, thus acquiring security and function.

But Kindle for PC works well on Windows netbooks, so operating systems are not an issue.

Posted by: williamroddy | January 8, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

I bought a Kindle2 a couple of months ago and find I prefer it to "normal" books. Amazon's vast ebook catalog, coupled with the Gutenberg's (free) collection that works on Kindle, offer me more reading than I'll ever accomplish.

I don't understand the fixation on color screens. Text has always been B&W. And the fixation on across-all-platforms compatibility. How many e-readers does one need to own? If I want to reread an Amazon purchase, I can download it for free. Sure, Amazon could go belly-up and disappear. In that unlikely event, I can always buy a hard copy of a particular book.

For anyone wanting convenient reading and easy book acquisition, waiting for the perfect e-reader is the enemy of the available good.

Posted by: runningcloud | January 9, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

The issue isn't so much multiple formats as DRM (digital rights management), which locks you into a particular format or device--such as the Kindle. Without DRM, ebooks are easily transferable among devices of different kinds. Multiple formats are an annoyance, yes--but freely available software such as Calibre makes it easy to convert and manage your books. Speaking both as a reader and an author, I can't wait for the industry to wake up and drop the DRM nonsense. A few publishers have already done so, and are reaping the benefits for themselves, their authors, and their readers.

Oh--and I happily read books on my Sony Reader 700 as well as my Dell PDA.

Posted by: starrigger | January 13, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

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