Getting a read on the latest digital book devices
A new crop of e-readers seeks to compete with the netbook.
Think $200 is too much to shell out for an e-reader in the era of increasingly cheap netbooks?
Guess what: E-reader makers are out to change your mind. At the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, manufacturers trotted out a variety of new models that allow users to not only store their digital library, but also to surf the Web, edit documents, record video and audio, check e-mail -- and even download Android apps.
Sales of e-readers doubled last year, and the Consumer Electronics Association predicts they will double again this year, in part due to their versatility. Yet it will be several years before your e-reader will qualify as a computer in its own right -- as the netbook does -- despite design similarities, says Andrew Eisner, the director of content for Retrevo.com, an online electronics marketplace. The big hurdle: screen lighting technology. Tablets use the same backlit LCD screens found on most computing devices, while e-readers use electronic paper display, or EPD, screens. EPDs, unlike LCDs, are readable in most lighting conditions and are also much easier on the eyes for long periods of reading.
Here are four of the newest e-readers available soon:
Alex eReader: $359. Browse the Internet and read a book simultaneously with this new dual-screen e-reader, available in February. A 3.5-inch full-color LCD touch-screen accommodates Web browsing, e-mail and other online access, while the 6-inch EPD screen displays books and other documents. Manufacturer Spring Design has agreements with Borders to provide e-book store access and Google for Google Books. Or use the Wi-Fi-enabled device and Android Web browser to download apps and browse the Web.
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Que proReader: $649 (4GB) and $799 (8GB). Aimed at businesspeople, Plastic Logic’s Que lets you read and edit documents (including Excel, PowerPoint and .pdf files) on the 8.5-by-11-inch device. You can also manage your daily schedule. Download books, magazines, newspapers and other content from the Que store and other sources using Wi-Fi, or transfer them from your BlackBerry or computer. The 8GB device also features 3G connectivity. Both devices will be available in April.
Skiff: Price TBA. Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc. announced in December that they would enter into a joint partnership to create Skiff, a Web store for consumers to download media content to their existing portable devices. (SmartMoney.com is a joint venture of Hearst and Dow Jones, a division of News Corp.) Now, the partnership has introduced a same-named e-reader with an 11.5-inch touch-screen, measured diagonally. The Skiff offers 3G connectivity through Sprint and Wi-Fi. Details on content and when the device will be available have yet to be released.
EnTourage eDGe: $490. The eDGe offers both a netbook and an e-reader in one clamshell device, with an EPD screen on the left and an LCD one on the right. The synchronized screens run on Google’s Android platform and interact if you, say, want to look up a word or read something you found while surfing the Web. Aimed at students, the eDGe also includes a microphone and camera, and an online store currently focused on textbooks and trade titles. The Wi-Fi-enabled device hits stores in February.
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