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BY SEAN CLARK

With the launch of the Fujistsu FLEPia next month there’s finally going to be a color ereader on the market, in Japan at least. The specs look pretty good. Not only does it appear to be open to all the major formats used in Japan, but the FLEPia has a built-in Windows OS that allows for basic internet browsing, email, and word processing. It looks a lot like the cross-functional device we’ve been calling for. Too bad it’s being released only in Japan and costs $1000.

You can see a video of the FLEPia in action at the bottom of this post. It’s a bit hard to tell with the glare on the video, but the large 260,000 color touchscreen seems to work pretty well. The refresh rate seems a little slower than grayscale readers, but not awful. So when are we going to get this kind of stuff in America?

A better question might be why don’t we have it already? The E Ink Corporation, the brains behind the tech in most of the current-gen ereaders announced color technology in 2005, long before the Kindle came on the scene. Some one should probably tell Amazon this. When asked by PaidContent.org about color on the Kindle, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos responded:

We would love to have color but electronic ink doesn’t do color.

Apparently Amazon didn’t get E Ink’s press release.

For the most part, books don’t require color to be enjoyed, and the makers of ereaders likely want to keep their production costs as low as they can. Grayscale readers are still selling steadily at premium price points, so they haven’t needed color.

But with netbooks poised to outsell laptops, and smartphones essentially becoming minicomputers, the market is clearly primed for a fully functional intermediary device such as this. The difference between electronic paper and backlit LCD screens is drastic, and when it starts hitting ereaders in color, things will move quickly. E Ink is already shopping their newest flexible, color displays. Here’s hoping the FLEPia will scare Amazon into focusing on bettering their technology, rather than nickel-and-diming users for content that is free on browsers and forced DRM. Then Sony and the rest of the ereader producers can work on selling better, rather than adequate, tech to the ebook hungry masses.

Via bznotes, eink.com, Wired, Crunch Gear, PaidContent.org.

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