A few months ago, I wrote a blog about Amazon's Kindle DX large-format eBook reader device. Long story short, my reaction was lukewarm. It had limited functionality, and only a monochrome (black & white) display.
Today, Barnes & Noble unveiled its Nook eReader, which seems to be an improvement on the Kindle in most respects. Closer in size to the original Kindle rather than the larger DX, it's still better suited to book reading rather than magazines. And despite the hype about the "color" display, the main display area is still black & white, the secondary color display only for cover browsing and menu navigation. So...kudos to B&N for advancing the functionality and benefits of eReaders, but still not the radically game-changing device that will revolutionize publishing as we know it.
Still shrouded in secrecy is Apple's upcoming iTablet (more of a generic term rather than its official name), which is expected to run some version of the iPhone OS and resemble an oversized iPhone. This device will be fundamentally different than the Kindle and Nook in that it's expected to have an LCD touch screen, unlike the e-Ink technology used by the other two. It's also expected to be substantially more expensive than the other two. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $800-1,000 seems to be the consensus.
So why would anyone buy one? Well, for one, it's expected to be a full color display, much better suited for enjoying the vibrant photography of your favorite editor, Dan Ward. Plus, the possibility of streaming media capability. All-in-all, much better suited for magazine feature content than the comparably dowdy interface of the Kindle and Nook. Now...you'd have to be a pretty hard-core fan to go out and plunk down ten Benjamins just to read your favorite magazine in vibrant color on the latest gizmo.
The only color eReader on sale to the general public right now is the Fujitsu Flepia, which, coincidentally, is only sold in Japan. (How come they always get the coolest stuff first?) There are no current plans to sell the Flepia in North America. However, if Fujitsu feels there's enough of an un-tapped market here, and can sell it for a competitive price, you can be assured that it might make an appearance.
It seems the battle of the eReaders has just begun, and over the long-term, the consumer will be the winner.