Device Update: New companies enter the ereader market

E FUn, bModo and BenQ are jumping on the tablet bandwagon.

Two ereader trends are emerging:

First, the rate of new devices in the ereader market space is slowing down. The IFA Berlin electronics show and the Frankfurt Book Fair were high-water marks. Since then, the overall rate of new product announcements has dropped.

This is probably explained by the second trend: Pundits and analysts are already making their recommendations for the holiday shopping period. What most manufacturers are realizing is that the window of opportunity for gaining any significant share of holiday-related purchases is rapidly closing.

The combination of these trends means that until the new year begins, there will probably be fewer product announcements than we’ve seen in past months.

That said, there have been a few devices announced recently that merit consideration. What’s most surprising about this set of new ereaders is that they’re from companies that aren’t strongly associated with personal electronic devices.

E FUN’s Android tablets

NEXT2-Front_l.jpgE FUN, a consumer electronics designer and marketer, is set to introduce Android-based tablets this fall. The Nextbook line will feature a 7-inch color ereader dubbed the Next1, and a 7-inch color touchscreen TFT tablet, dubbed the Next2. Both will feature 2GB of internal storage, as well as an SD/MMC expansion card slot. The Nextbooks will also include a variety of Android-based applications such as an MP3/photo viewer, a video player, and the Kobo eReader, which will have access to the Borders eBook store. Since the tablets run Android, they will also include the Adobe Flash application. For connectivity, the Next1 will offer only a USB port, while the Next 2 will offer USB and 802.11g Wi-Fi. Each of the Nextbooks will come preloaded with 25 ebooks.

Preliminary information indicates that the Next1 will have a suggested retail price of $149.99 and the Next2 will be available for $199.99. Initially, the devices will be available from the Home Shopping Network.

bModo’s Windows7-based touchpad Tablet PC

bmodo12_windows7.jpgThe bModo12 is an all-in-one tablet that aims to combine tablets and netbooks. The tablet will feature a 11.6-inch LED HD capacitive touchscreen with a 1366×768 resolution. It will be powered by Intel’s 1.66 Ghz Atom processor and feature an HD video accelerator. In addition, the bModo12 will include 1GB of internal RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and a SIM card slot for 3G connectivity.

Additional hardware capabilities include: Bluetooth 2.1 and 802.11 b/g/n connectivity, a 1.3 megapixel camera, 2 USB Ports, an SDHC card slot, and a Mini HDMI port. The Microsoft Windows 7 Premium options will include an ereader, Internet Explorer, and support for standard PC applications.

bModo has also included a launcher application called Bossa Nova2 that will allow users to switch between a Windows 7 desktop and a Bossa Nova graphical user interface, which is designed to optimize the touch capabilities of the device.

BenQ Launches nReader K61 with 3G and WIFI

Following on the footsteps of their initial introduction into the ereader market, the K60, BenQ announced the availability of their newest model, the K61. This new model comes with several upgrades, including integrated WI-FI, 3G, and a touchscreen. Additional hardware specifications include 2GB of internal memory, USB support, and an SD-card slot capable of adding 16GB of additional storage. Now available in Taiwan for slightly more than $300, the K61 features a 6-inch touchpanel with support for drawing and taking notes.

Other news (and a tipping point for copyright infringement)

The biggest news last week was the unveiling of Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7. Windows Phone 7 is mostly a response to the iPhone, rather than the iPad or other tablets. While it’s safe to assume the new Windows Phone 7 mobile platform will soon see ereader applications from Amazon and Kobo, PC Magazine says there’s currently a shortage of applications available for the new mobile platform.

Perhaps the most striking news this past week was an article by Adrian Hon about his experiences with ebook copyright infringement. Hon relates his experience purchasing the hardback copy of Iain Banks’ latest novel “Surface Detail.” Out of curiosity, he checked to see if he could find a copy of the book online to load on his iPad. As he rationalizes, he already bought a copy of the book, and he’d rather not tote around the 627-page tome. Not only did he find a high-quality EPUB copy of the novel, but he also found copies of other bestsellers.

Why is Hon’s article important? I’ve been tracking this topic for a while and until now, the only books that were being shared online were in PDF format. I think it’s a tipping point because current best-selling hardcover books are now available simultaneously on file sharing sites. This provides clear evidence that people are sharing purchased EPUB files.

In my opinion, ebook copyright infringement hasn’t really been a real threat to publishers. It’s been more like the pink elephant in the room that senior executives discuss. Hon’s article should be enough proof to make publishing executives recognize that the threat from ebook file sharing is now real and it will affect ebook sales.


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