Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Digital Readers

Digital Readers seem to be the new "it" gadget to have. Here's an article about digital readers by Calvin Reid -- Publishers Weekly, 1/6/2010 7:58:00 AM

The Consumer Electronics Show opens tomorrow in Las Vegas and we can expect to see a veritable explosion of e-reading devices in every shape and format. Indeed, the CES Web site lists an eBook TechZone that features about 23 different manufacturers and it looks as though every major e-reader device producer –from IREX, Sony and Plastic Logic to Bookeen and Ditto—and many we’ve never heard of, will be on hand to show off a range of previously unveiled, new or upgraded devices. Baker & Taylor will use CES to provide more details on Blio.

While 2009 may have been the year of the Kindle, 2010 may very well be the year of the Apple Tablet, the much ballyhooed multi-media computing device, which actually will not be exhibited at
CES but at a separate Apple press conference later this month. But Microsoft is expected to fill the visionary tablet void at CES by offering its own version of a tablet computer/e-reader device. Called the Courier, it’s a very interesting two-screen multimedia device that looks as innovative as the constant rumors circulating about the Apple Tablet—at least it seems so on the video of the device at the Gizmodosite.

Indeed the two-screen e-reader device—a kind of futuristic book-machine with facing screens—looks like it will be a tech theme at this year’s CES. The eDGe reader from
Entourage is a great example. The device combines an e-ink screen unit with what is essentially a netbook and allows straight text reading on one screen and full color, fully functional computing (from e-mail to webbrowsing) on the other with full integration between the two screens. The thing can be reconfigured to use it like a book or folded down to function like a tablet; it has lots of internal memory, expandable SD card, 9.7” screens, 3G and Wi-fi and will cost $490. In addition, rumors abound of plans by electronics companies like Asus and MSI to also offer dual screen e-reading/computing devices.

Of course there will be straight e-ink screen devices of all kind.
IREX will show off its DRS800SG, the stylus-touchscreen with Wi-fi/3G wireless the Dutch manufacturer unveiled in September. Interead, manufacturer of the colorful Cool-ER series of e-readers, is said to be offering an upgraded wireless/3G enabled model to come that will have some form of touchscreen functionality and also offer newspaper content. IRiver is showing off its Story Reader, a kindle look-alike with 6” E-Ink Screen,2 GB internal memory, SD Card, and Wi-fi (eventually, apparently). Price has not been announced. Plastic Logic will also show off its much anticipated B&N endorsed device, now named Que. Other e-ink devices slated for CES include the eSlick Reader from Foxit and of course the Alex Reader, a hybrid dual screen device with e-ink screen above a smaller LCD screen with full web browsing capability, that just announced a content deal with Google to offer a million public domain titles through the device

Baker & Taylor will be at CES and the distributor has teamed with visionary technologist Ray Kurzweil and his company
K-NFB Reading Technology, to launch Blio, new e-reading software with an impressive range of functionality. The software will be offered for free download starting in the spring and in an interview with PW last year, Kurzweill said the software will run on everything from laptop and desktop computers to netbooks and smartphones. Blio is said to support ePub and offers full color graphics (including 3D), animation and enhanced Text2Speech functions (where rights have been enabled) with multiple voices, video, notetaking and more. A B&T spokesperson said Blio will have about 200,000 titles available at launch—from cookbooks and kids book to comics—and content deals with Penguin, Hachette, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Elsevier, HarperCollins,Wiley and others.

Skiff, a newspaper/magazine content-driven online platform, will present a prototype of its own device. Called the
Skiff Reader, its an 11.5” touchscreen b&w reader formatted for newspaper style layouts and offers 3G/Wi-fi connectivity and 4GB of internal memory. It’s a flex touchscreen and can bend back and forth like a plastic sheet although the need for that kind of flexibility remains to be explained.

And this just scratches the surface of digital reading presentations at CES. There are many more companies and devices on display. It looks like we’re in for a very interesting and competitive year in digital reading technology.