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.
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?
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