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BY NICO VREELAND

(You might have seen the outline for this post pop up in your RSS feed last week; my apologies for the oversight.)

A couple of weeks ago, I summarized new and recent ereader additions. This week, let’s look forward at some upcoming devices. If there’s a trend emerging, it’s that touchscreens and 3G access are quickly becoming standard features, which is great news.

A quick note before we start: take the information here with a grain of salt. I’ve tried to cite my sources when possible, but even cited information should be considered rumor until these devices actually come out.


The Plastic Logic Whatzamawhoozit

Even though it doesn’t have a name yet, this is the device I’m most excited about. Even the earliest videos of the PL in action (this one was posted a year ago) showed a slick touchscreen with no contrast compromise and a sleek form factor.

Barnes & Noble hopped on as the primary book provider, and AT&T’s involvement combined with the large screen suggests newspapers will be a big target.

It’ll be crucial to see exactly how the touchscreen works. Is it fast? Is the contrast still as good as it looks? Can you write freehand on it? If this video features the same screen used in the ereader, it looks pretty much unbreakable, so that’s nice.

The other big question is price. Some have reported that the PL will be competitive with the Kindle, which we’re hoping means a $300 price point. Realistically, I think that’s a little too good to be true. I’m guessing closer to $500, but I’d be happy to be wrong. I also heard a rumor about a smaller size somewhere, but I can’t find any evidence of that now.

Last, B&N is reportedly developing “their own flavor” of ePub for the PL. I’m not sure why. Incompatibility kind of defeats the purpose of using a universal file format.

Sign up for Plastic Logic updates at their website.


 

The Apple iTablet

Apple’s iTablet (not, I don’t think, its official name) has generated more buzz than Japanese honeybees nuking a hornet. Predictably little is actually known about the device. It’s been rumored for more than a year, originally being called a large-screen iPod. Ostensibly, this device will be a touchscreen slab with somewhere between a 5- and a 20-inch screen. It’ll probably be Apple’s take on an “ultramobile PC,” essentially an extremely portable internet portal.

And we can safely assume two things, since this is an Apple product. First, they won’t even be tempted to price it competitively; $800 is the rumor. Second, it’ll probably be a good idea to wait for the second generation.

The problem for readers of ebooks is that there’s nothing to suggest the iTablet will feature an E-Ink screen. Which means that battery life will presumably be dreadful.

One other interesting rumor: that of truckfuls of books being secreted into Cupertino HQ.

Other similar devices: the Toshiba JournE for (hypothetically) $356, and the Viliv X70 for $599.


Sony “Daily Edition”

The Daily Edition is Sony’s name for their upcoming 7″ Reader, which features a 3G connection and a touchscreen. It’ll price at $399, and presumably (given the name) will have a lot of tie-ins with newspapers.

Sony’s also partnering with the New York Public Library, and might make it possible to check out library ebooks over wireless, which would be pretty slick. (Remember: most ereaders can check out library ebooks. Check our ereader comparison for details on which ones.)

One of the most interesting new features is the Daily Edition’s two-page view (pictured), which is what its oddly elongated form factor seems designed for. It should also be interesting to see how open and flexible the 3G Internet access is.

I really like the interface of these Readers, and I think Sony makes great hardware in this department (even though I am saddened and confused by their software). The thing to watch for here is the quality of the screen. The original Sony touchscreen ereader, the PRS-700, was notoriously glare-prone and low-contrast. I had one until it broke (from touching it); it was readable, but leagues below the average E-Ink screen.

Reports (and videos) have it that the PRS-600 (the new touchscreen version) is better contrast- and glare-wise, but still isn’t close to the non-touchscreen version. This isn’t a complete deal-breaker (there’s a spirited debate about it at MobileRead), but it should be enough to convince you to go into the Sony store and compare the touchscreen and non-touchscreen versions to decide for yourself.


 

 

BeBook 2/BeBook Mini

I was pretty excited about the new BeBooks when they were announced about six months ago. Unfortunately, there’s been little to stay excited about since then.

These devices were supposed to be released at the beginning of the summer, but there’s scant evidence of them on BeBook’s website, and still no official release date or price point.

As for features, the Mini looks like the same Hanlin as the BeBook original, with a slightly smaller screen.

The BeBook 2, on the other hand, is purportedly a complete redesign ( and early reports say it features WiFi, a scribble-anywhere touchscreen, and 3G out of the box, all in a 6-inch device.

That’s all well and good, except for the price. The Mini will reportedly retail for $270 (!) closer to the $280 price tag for BeBook plain than the $199 you’ll pay for either an Astak EZ Reader Pocket Pro, or a Sony PRS-300. BeBook 2 could cost $476, according to the same source, which is $77 more than the upcoming Sony Daily Edition, with a touchscreen and wireless.

Those price quotes are relatively old, but there’s been nothing since to suggest that they’ll be any lower.

If money’s no object for you, the BeBook 2 could be intriguing. But the Mini simply isn’t worth $80 over the other 5-inch ereaders out there now, it’s nearly identical to the Pocket Pro. Literally. Both are Hanlins, so if you’re tempted by the Mini, just get a Pocket Pro now.


iRex B&N ereader

In the wake of the news that iRex was teaming up with Barnes and Noble comes a rumor that iRex is developing a new ereader that will feature a touchscreen, 3G, and a 8.1-inch screen. The problem? It could cost a thousand dollars.

iRex has the only currently available scribble-anywhere touchscreen, but their base model is $599, over a hundred bucks more than the nearest competitor’s top-of the-line device. Their current premium model (pictured) costs a staggering $859.

I wouldn’t have a problem with this if iRex’s devices had anything else besides touchscreens. In this video (of the $699 model), the screen looks glare-prone and low-contrast, and the page-turning seems slow. In basic page-turning drills, the iRex is equivalent at best to the Sony PRS-505, which is less than half the price. For the most expensive ereader available, I’d also want the fastest ereader available, at least.


txtr

Wizpac’s txtr Reader, supposedly debuting in Germany in October, is a 6-inch device with a few interesting features. It’s got WiFi, Bluetooth, 3G, and a built-in accelerometer.

From the video of it in action (in German), it doesn’t look like a touchscreen, but it does have an odd cross-shaped touch zone on the left margin.

Ultimately, this looks like a relatively run-of-the-mill ereader, but if it can provide a budget option for those seeking wireless, it might find a home. And it has a product page, which is more evidence of its existence than the iTablet.

The txtr webpage.

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