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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

October 19, 2009 at 10:17 AM

New Kindle competitors, one with Google juice

Companies releasing e-books seem to be telling people to hold off buying a Kindle this holiday, because cool options are coming soon.

Today’s e-book teases include a new Google Android-powered model with dual displays, a new Irex reader with access to 1,200 newspapers, and a business-oriented touchscreen reader that Barnes & Noble partner Plastic Logic promises to show at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

The Android model will be available by year-end from Spring Design, a Fremont, Calif., company with engineering offices in Taiwan and China.

Spring calls its reader “Alex.” The device has both a monochrome e-ink display and a smaller, color LCD display, plus WiFi and 3G Web access.

I wonder if the dual displays were inspired by the Nintendo DS. Either way the colorful LCD is a big departure from the minimalist, no-distractions design philosophy of the Kindle and other current e-books.


The company’s release said it’s “currently in discussion and enlisting major content partners and plans to release the Alex device for selected strategic partners by the end of this year.” I wonder if Google and its new e-bookstore is one of those partners; I was led to the release by Google guru Matt Cutts’ Twitter feed.

A bit more from Spring’s release:

Ideal for professional, educational and entertainment markets, Alex dynamically transforms the reader’s experience with images, videos and notes inserted as ‘Web grabs’ or with custom text created by the user or other secondary authors pertaining to the subject being displayed. Users can create their own images and notes and capture them to augment the original text or just dynamically grab relevant content with Link Notes, Alex’s innovative multimedia authoring tool to enhance multimedia publishing.

“This is the start of a whole new experience of reading content on e-books, potentially igniting a whole new industry in multimedia e-book publishing for secondary authors to create supplementary content that is hyper linked to the text. We are bringing life to books with audio, video, and annotations,” said Dr. Priscilla Lu, CEO of Spring Design. “This gives readers the ability to fully leverage the resources on the Web, and the tools available in search engines to augment the reading experience.”

Plastic Logic will release its “Que Reader” in 2010. It will be the first product from the Silicon Valley company developing a new plastic display technology.

The company didn’t disclose pricing, but said the Que will connect to the Barnes & Noble e-bookstore. The device will be 8.5 by 11 inches, less than a third of an inch thick and connected via WiFi and AT&T 3G service.

As for the name, Plastic Logic Chief Executive Richard Archuletta said in the release that the “QUE brand stands for a premium reading experience. The QUE proReader enhances business performance and gives you a competitive edge. More than an eReader, QUE means business.”

Plastic Logic’s teaser image:


Irex is less vague about its new reader.

The DR800SG with an 8.1-inch diameter screen and leather cover is going on sale at Best Buy stores this fall for $400, which includes Verizon wireless Internet access.

Irex announced the device last month and today said it’s partnering with LibreDigital and NewspaperDirect, which distribute electronic version of newspapers and magazines. Its device also points uses to the Barnes & Noble store.


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