Interead Ltd. already sells a $249 device called the COOL-ER and has two new models at the CES trade show: a smaller, lighter version called the Compact and a touch-screen model called the Connect that can download books from Interead’s online store if the user is in a Wi-Fi hot spot.
Interead plans to launch both in the first quarter of 2010. It also plans to roll out a model with access to a “3G” cellular network, for use outside Wi-Fi locations, by the summer.
EnTourage Systems Inc. is showing off a $490 e-reader at the trade show that has two screens–a 10.1-inch color touch-screen on the right and a 9.7-inch black-and-white display on the left. That screen is controlled with a stylus.
Like the Nook, enTourage’s device, called the eDGe, will run Google Inc.’s Android operating software, so you can use the color screen to browse the web and watch videos. There will even be a small camera for video chats.
Customers will be able to buy books from enTourage’s electronic store over Wi-Fi, and the company expects to release a version with service through a wireless carrier. The eDGe is expected to ship to customers in February.
The price is twice what the smaller version of the Kindle costs. But Doug Atkinson, enTourage’s vice president of marketing and business development, believes people will gravitate to his company’s device because it combines web browsing and book reading. Its ability to display in color also could help the eDGe appeal to students interested in digital textbooks.
Success in the eBook market might require more than selling a specific gadget, though. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony, for example, also sell electronic books for people to read on other devices, such as the iPhone.
That gives those companies a way to profit if the most popular reading device turns out to be, say, a tablet-style computer like the one Apple is expected to launch this year.
Another company hedging its bets this way is Skiff LLC, an e-Reading company developed by media conglomerate Hearst Corp. that hopes to funnel content to devices from various producers.
Skiff is focused on trying to make newspapers and magazines look good on e-Readers–which is difficult because they have more complex layouts than the single column of text we’re used to seeing on the pages of a book. Skiff also plans to include ads.
The first Skiff product, the Skiff Reader, will have an 11.5-inch, gray-scale touch screen that can download material from Skiff’s online store. The company is partnering with Spring Nextel Corp. for wireless delivery. It’s expected to be available this year, though Skiff has not announced a price or named the device’s manufacturer.
The Kindle already can deliver publications such as Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal. Yet Skiff’s president, Gil Fuchsberg, thinks people will be drawn to his company’s service because it’s dedicated to newspaper and magazine content.
Indeed, NPD Group technology analyst Ross Rubin says his firm’s research has found people are more interested reading magazines on e-Readers than books.
While the choices might seem overwhelming, buyers stand to benefit.
“The great thing about competition,” Oxman said, “is it inspires innovation among the manufacturers.”
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