Pictures have emerged of what is allegedly the Barnes & Noble eReader device slated to be available next month in time for the holiday season. Barnes & Noble's entry into the eReader fray adds another major player to the mix-- and one that has its own book distribution to compete with Amazon and the Kindle.
Reliable details about the upcoming device are scarce, but there is no shortage of speculation about what Barnes & Noble will bring to the mix. The as-yet un-named device will be built on the Google Android operating system. It will have wireless connectivity. It will have a touch screen. It will cost less than a comparable Amazon Kindle. Well...maybe.
Its more speculation than fact at this point, but most of the speculation comes from Gizmodo, so its probably about as reliable as speculation can be. With the unveiling of photos of the upcoming device, it appears that it offers a dual-screen a' la the Nintendo DS handheld video game unit, but without the hinged case.
There have been rumors that the Barnes & Noble device would have a color e-ink screen and/or a multitouch display. Both those features can be a drain on battery life though and extended battery life is a key feature of a portable ebook reading device.
The photos show a Kindle-like black and white display on top taking up most of the device, with a smaller, color multitouch screen at the bottom similar to what you see on an iPhone. Seems like an innovative approach to providing the additional features and functionality without sacrificing more than necessary on battery life or price.
Sony and Asus have both jumped into the eReader fray this year as well. Sony introduced two new devices to compete with the Kindle, then added a third device to the mix which added wireless connectivity and added significantly to the price.
Amazon has experienced a relative level of success and slowly gained acceptance among users. The proprietary Kindle format is a handicap though that will turn off many users who are waiting for the dust to settle on the ebook standards so they don't get saddled with obsolete technology like a Betamax video tape machine or an HD DVD player.
Amazon feels the heat. It recently dropped the price of the Kindle to $259 and expanded distribution of the ebook reading device to more than 100 countries around the world. It hasn't conceded on the Kindle vs. ePub vs. whatever other ebook standard might enter the competition debate, but Amazon seems to be making strategic moves to capture as much momentum and market share as possible before many of these competing devices actually become available.
At what point does a seemingly niche device move from niche device to generally accepted use? Whatever that point is, it seems that the eReader is rapidly approaching that point. When it was only Amazon pushing the Kindle it seemed like the concept could die on the vine. However, with names like Sony and Barnes & Noble entering the battle, and with Barnes & Noble having both an online and a brick & mortar book distribution network, it seems like the device is here to stay.
Now, if we could just settle on a standard ebook format and get the cost of the devices down around $100 I think the eReader would hit critical mass and make bound paper books obsolete.
Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.