When I was at RWA, I had the opportunity to see the Kindle and the new Sony Reader with booklight and the Asus EEE PC. These are all viable ebook readers that you can purchase today, along with my personal favorite, the iTouch/iPhone.
Neither the Kindle nor the Reader is a perfect device and frankly, I don’t know if there is a perfect device in the near future. The perfect device has the instantaneous purchase ability of the Kindle with the versality and look of the Reader. The keyboard of the Kindle is quite nice as is the ability to highlight and annotate. The Reader’s lightwedge style booklight accessory provided two levels of brightness for the light flooding the surface of the screen. It’s a perfect look and fit that the Kindle doesn’t have.
Last week, though, I said that if you were interested in eBook readers you should wait until October. The reason for this is that there are fairly credible rumors that Amazon is going to release an updated Kindle. I find the report a bit odd given that the Kindle was released in mid November of 2007. It would make more sense for the Kindle 2.0 to be released a full year later rather than eleven months later, but, having said that, let’s take a look at the rumor which surfaced at CrunchGear.
There are two “new” Amazon Kindles to appear for this holiday season, the first to appear in October. Given that the Kindle was released mid November 2007, I suspect it’s latter October rather than early October. The first is supposed to be the Kindle 2.0 with “same sized screen, a smaller form factor, and an improved interface”. The second is a larger Kindle, “shaped like an 8 1/2 x 11-inch piece of paper”, and due out in 2009. Both models are purported to come in more colors than the white and possibly aimed at the younger reader. E textbooks have increased 400% and thus Amazon’s marketing toward the student crowd may make perfect sense.
Generally speaking, the eink screen clarity is not going to vary from device to device because there is only one manufacturer doing eink screens at this point (due to patents). Therefore, it might make sense to the wallet to wait for an Astak ebook Reader . Astak is offering three different eink reading devices, a 5″, a 6″ and a 9.7” that features a screen size the same as an 8/5″ x 11″ sheet of paper. The 9.7″ inch has wi fi and a touch screen. Wi fi and touchscreen is optional on the 6″ and not available on the 5″ one. All three devices read the following formats: TXT, PDF, RTF, HTML/CHM; and have the ability to play MP3s. The drawback, and I think is increasingly a drawback, the device cannot read secure DRM files.
It is said that Astak is going to make its products available in Wal-mart and Costcos. Astak does have a distributor relationship with those retailers for other devices so it is a possibility. The first Astak, the 5″ one, was supposed to be on sale in August but the release date has been pushed back to October. The interesting thing about the Astek is that it runs on a Windows CE platform. Note according to the guys at MobileRead, only the larger devices will run Windows CE. The 5″ one runs on Linux. Mobipocket, Adobe, eReader, and MS Lit both had readers compatible with Windows CE. It is conceivable then, that the issue with the formats could be resolved if there was some way to install those programs on an Astak device.
There are currently several eink devices on the market:
- Kindle ($349 with cellular access * 6″ screen * MS Word, html, txt, prc and mobi (unsecured unless you know how to hack), mp3 and audible, pdf * SD card)
- Sony Reader ($299 * 6″ screen* Sony, Adobe/PDF (secure and unsecure), txt, rtf, MS word, mp3, aac * Sony Memory Stick and SD card)
- Rex Iliad ($599 or $699 with wi fi capabilities * 8.1″ Touchscreen * Mobipocket (both secure and unsecure), html, txt, pdf, mp3 * MMC or CF card)
- Cybook ($350 * 6″ screen * Mobipocket (both secure and unsecure),
PalmDoc, html, txt, pdf (unsecure), mp3 * SD card)
- BeBook ($349 * 6″ screen * pdf, doc, txt, rtf, MS lit, html, djvu, chm, fb2 * SD card)
Until the Astak comes out, the Sony is the best buy for the money unless you want instantaneous access to an online bookstore (and truly that is a seductive feature) but it may make sense to wait for the Astak which is supposed to be sub $200 for the 5″ screen and comparable with the Sony Reader for the 6″ screen + wifi and touchscreen capabilities. Additionally, if the Kindle is really going to release an updated version, it makes sense to wait until October or November to see what it has up its sleeve. At the very least, if the Kindle does upgrade, you would be able to pick up a used Kindle off the secondary market for less than the current retail price. Additional Note: Angie James and I browsed through a book on both the Reader and the Kindle and the Kindle does have a slightly faster refresh rate.
What is in the future for eReading devices? e Ink appears to be the best technology for ereading so long as there is adequate lighting. Sony’s beautiful e ink reading light is a step in the right direction.
The perfect device is not immediately on the horizon is because Kindle’s instantaneous purchase ability (which is really seductive) is only possible through a) a free cellular service for each user and b) through access to online content.
It’s possible that Apple, a device manufacturer, has the ability to create a competing content + device marriage akin to the Kindle. There are rumors that Apple is bringing a mini touchpad device to market, something larger than an iPhone, has wifi and cellular capabilities, a touch screen, and an Apple OS. If that happens, a reader could obviously buy eReader books. If Apple does try to enter the ebook market, I forsee it doing it one of two ways. Either it will introduce yet another DRM wrapper into the market or go DRM free. I believe that the former is more likely.
Apple’s only other choice is to partner with an existing content provider such as Fictionwise (ereader) or Adobe. It is unlikely to be able to partner with Mobipocket as that is owned by Amazon. Apple hasn’t had a past history of partnering with content providers, instead preferring to provide its own content with its own special DRM wrapper. Having said that, a larger iPhone/iTouch is intriguing and while I am tempted by both the Kindle and the Sony with its fancy booklight, I am waiting until January to see what Apple might have up its sleeve.