It's already been a busy week for e-reader fans. Two companies have unveiled new generation hardware and both have significantly discounted the prices of their previous generation e-readers. With Amazon still reportedly months away from releasing its rumored new e-reader tablets and nothing recent from Sony in terms of hardware refreshes, for now the spotlight is firmly on Barnes and Noble and Kobo. Here's what we know so far.
Buttons Are Out, Minimalist Look Is In
Both of these new e-readers look as though they came from the same school of design. Barnes and Noble has ditched the unique dual display e Ink/Color LCD approach of its original Nook, while Kobo has lost the navigation pad that has appeared on all Kobo e-readers. Both the new Kobo eReader Touch and the new Nook Simple Touch Reader employ a 6-inch E Ink Pearl display incorporating an infrared touchscreen layer that is framed by a thin, plastic border to result in a device that is significantly more compact than a Kindle. The infrared touchscreen eliminates the glare that had plagued earlier industry attempts at incorporating traditional capacitive touchscreen displays. Both include Wi-Fi connectivity, but no 3G option. Both also boast upgraded processors that increase the responsiveness of page turns.
Kobo eReader Touch
First out of the gates was Canada-based Kobo, the company that includes Borders as one of its partners. The Kobo eReader Touch was officially announced on May 23, 2011.
Dimensions: 6.5" x 4.5" and 7 ounces.
Battery: 10 days
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Micro USB
Storage: 1GB (expandable via MicroSD card)
Supported e-book File Formats: EPUB, PDF, TXT
Available: July 30, 2011
Nook Simple Touch Reader
A new Nook had been rumoured for months and the Nook Simple Touch Reader was formally announced by Barnes and Noble on May 24, 2011.
Dimensions: 6.5" x 5" and 7.48 ounces.
Battery: 3 weeks or 2 months (Wi-Fi off)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Micro USB
Storage: 2GB (expandable via MicroSD card up to 32 GB)
Supported e-book File Formats: EPUB, PDF
Available: June 10, 2011
The Pressure is On
Sony has got to be feeling the heat as a result of these new releases. Its Reader Pocket Edition still holds a slight size advantage (at 5.71" x 4.11" and 5.47 ounces), but uses a smaller, 5-inch display. The new Nook and Kobo models employ the same E Ink Pearl display as the Sony and similar infrared touchscreen technology, while offering wireless connectivity that the Sony model lacks. Justifying the Reader Pocket Edition's $179.99 price tag is becoming more difficult.
Amazon's Kindle is now up against competing e-readers that are not only at the same price point as the Kindle Wi-Fi, but they are much sleeker looking and offer touchscreen capabilities that make the Kindle's keypad look dated. In addition, both Barnes and Noble and Kobo have dropped the price of their previous model e-readers ($119 for the Nook Wi-Fi and $99 for the Kobo Wi-Fi), threatening the market for cheap hardware that Amazon had pursued with the $114 Kindle With Special Offers ad-based e-reader.
It looks like the recent declaration by some in the media that the age of the standalone e-reader is past is proving to be a little premature.
Look for reviews of these new e-readers in the future.