According to the Chinese Lunar calendar, 2010 is the year of the tiger. Expect competition for the eBook reader market to be fierce as 20-30 ereaders duel for the top dog (or should we say top tiger). The annually Consumer Electronic Show (CES) from January 7-10 will provide more information on new entrants into the ereader market. Rumors indicate that Apple has the iSlate/iGuide tablet (possibly as soon as end of January 2010) and Google’s tablet pc (partnering with HTC reportedly on Chrome OS). Are these formidable challengers to Amazon’s Kindle or are they just paper tigers?
Besides the basic features (supportable document/audio/image formats, battery life, screen size, memory, weight, resolution, and grey scale), here are some unique eBook reader features to look for as the competition heats up:
- Color Screen – nice-to-have feature which will help separate from the crowd and attractive high-end users; a few ereader players have plans to come out with it. With Qualcomm MEMS Technologies new Mirasol is the first full color, video-capable display on a prototype ereader. Another potential ereader color technology called LiquavistaColor (by Liquavista) will offer a low-power, color e-paper display to advanced ereaders.
- Keyboard – is this a touch screen (e.g. Barnes & Noble Nook) or built-in (i.e. Amazon Kindle) keyboard? Rumor has it that Apple’s iSlate has a tactile keyboard, by employing an ‘articulating frame’ surface. Basically when the tablet goes into a keyboard mode, the tablet will be able to create bumps to give a true tactile experience.
- Text to Speech Capabilities – nice feature which switches from reading to listening using the audio book reader; when you are tired of reading or your eye are pre-occupied (like driving); the Amazon Kindle and Astak EZ readers have this feature.
- Portability and Accessibility – eBook access through other mediums (e.g. Amazon is coming out with Kindle Apps for Blackberry and iPhone soon) for which you can access your eBook collection without your ereader.
- Touch Screen – a few readers (B&N Nook, Sony PRS-700, iRex, iLiad 2nd edition) already have this feature and you can expect Apple’s anticipated device to have this.
What else would you like to do besides reading books? Additional functionality to consider: wireless capabilities (Wi-Fi and/or 3G) for checking email, playing games, surfing the internet, or even making phone calls. Expect new entrants to integrate some or all of these features which will put pressure on existing players to add more functionality and redefine the ereader device toward a true tablet computer. What feature and functionality matter the most to you? Which eBook reader will step up to the challenge? Check out our eReader Comparison table to see how the latest eBook readers compare, including the iPad and Kindle.