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E-Reader Evolution

ebook readers are flying off the shelves faster than Number  Five can  get input. I’m writing about the products I saw at CES but they are based on demos and not my having actually tested them independently. There will be follow ups but now, these are first impressions.

Alex from Spring Design is one of the 2nd generation readers. It goes way beyond being just an e-reader. The dual screen format helps in navigating the main screen. The bottom screen is a color LCD running the Android operating system. The unit is wireless making use of many of the wireless services such as WiFi, 3G, EVDO/CDMA and GSM.  While reading a book, you can also be listening to music from downloaded MP3 files. The advantage of the dual screen is that it speeds up navigation  and easily controls   what’s on the main screen. It lets you go get email and surf the Web and move that information in the larger e-ink screen for easier reading. It has an SD card slot that can go up to 32GB but might handle some of the larger capacity drives in the pipeline.

There is controversy with the Barnes and Noble nook. Spring Design is suing the book retailer contending that it violated an agreement to work together. While the merits of the suit are up to the courts, there is no doubt that the two units look and operate similarly. Having spent no independent time with either machine I can’t tell you which works better. Alex did manage to sign up with Barnes and Noble competitor Borders.

Samsung has entered the e-reader market with two models, the E^ and the E101.The added value Samsung brings to the table is the ability to write on the screen. This allows you to annotate books or just take notes. The E6 is the six-inch version.  For those of us with aging eyes, the 10-inch E101 has the extra screen space but with  less weight than some netbooks and certainly Tablet PC’s.  At this point, however, the cost of the units without a major book retailer signed at the time of the announcement seemed strange. The company did announce that it was offering Google Books as part of the package. One cannot downplay the impact of Google Book which has a million public domain titles. But without the ability to purchase current releasesthis lessens the value of Samsung’s offering. There may be a book deal in the offing but no one would confirm it.

eSlick Reader

The other interesting reader at the show was Foxit Software’s eSlick. It has the standard features, WiFi, MP3 player and SD slot to increase storage. The company just released firmware updates for earlier models that will support 32 and 64 MB SD cards.  Foxit has a book deal with Barnes and Noble for new releases. The thing that sets eSlick apart from  the other competitors is its focus on PDF files. Since the company made its reputation by selling an inexpensive Adobe Acrobat clone making it easy to convert any printable document to the PDF forma. It bundles PDF Creator with the unit. There is a new model in the works for the 2nd quarter of this year.

I’ve always been a lover of books. Nothing will replace the pleasure of a printed book but I’m becoming a fan of ebook readers  for the potential  in making some significant changes in the real world. More on that later.

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