back to article iRex waggles ebook at US

Digital reader manufacturer iRex is about to launch into the USA with a Verizon-connected ebook, putting more pressure on the Kindle in what could be a winning move for Adobe. The device is part of the iRex's Digital Reader range and branded the DR800SG. The company announced a deal with Barnes & Noble back in August, but the …


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E-book makers are making three mistakes. First, they're not subsidizing the device ($399 for a device that's useless without content*?) Second, they keep comparing the electronic book price to that of the hardback. Sure the e-book is 1/3 the price -- but that's because hardcover books are hideously overpriced. Softcovers go for around $7.99 apiece. Same content, maybe $1 worth of extra pulp and ink, and they sell it for $29.99. Third, the hardware is not there yet-- low resolutions and slow page changes make the systems hard on the eyes.

Show me an e-book system that:

1. costs less than $100,

2. "turns pages" in less than 1/10th sec.,

3. has at least a 200dpi resolution, reflective screen,

4. fits in my hand like a softcover book,

5. runs long enough without recharge for me to read a 600-page softcover (~6 hours active, 1 week passive), and

6. offers content at softcover prices (a discount would be nice but not necessary -- redirect the printing costs to the author, please.)

That's something I'd consider buying.

*and yes, computers and netbooks are useless without content (i.e, software), but they come with a good amount of software preloaded. How many e-book readers come with even 1/3 of their cost in preloaded books -- books that you'd actually want to read?



Maybe it's just me, but why can't they start off by dumping the phone-network-based data connectivity altogether? Add in 802.11g/n/whatever so you can easily download books when you're at home or work. You could drop the price to something reasonable, and you don't have to make a deal with the devil (cell phone company, same difference) in EVERY SINGLE LOCATION you want to sell your product.

I'm in Canada, and I'd love to have a nice reader that I could carry around. I'm perfectly happy to do all my downloading where I have wireless access!

Or is this available and I'm just not aware of it?



Cheer up, Steven, the e-book reader of your dreams is closer than you think. My Sony PRS-505 already meets your requirements 4 and 5 and is almost there with 3 (160dpi IIRC). Number 2 was the major reason that I delayed buying one but it turned out that, although the page turn is not in the 1/10th second range, the device still turns the page faster than my eyes can travel from the bottom of the screen back up to the top and MUCH faster than I can turn the page on a paper book.

Number 6 is a worry - it seems so obvious and yet publishers / retailers / whoever just can't seem to resist charging more than they should. Hopefully competition will take care of the problem in time; in the meanwhile I've increased the range of my reading matter to encompase cheap / free books that I would not have previously considered reading - with mixed results, it must be said.

Which just leaves number 1 and, try as I might, I can't honestly write anything optimistic about the chance of that happening any time soon.


@ Steven Knox: come on...

Good to see you have zero clue about the cost involved with producing an appealing hardcover book. And E-Readers have no content? You mean like iPods? Useless… It's not like I could PDF this – or any – article and read it on my commute. That totally came for free. Whoops. Seriously, the last thing I want to read on an E-Reader right now is a novel. But I'd love one the countless bits and pieces I print to PDF and then find no time to consume.

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@ Steven Knox and M.White

After a long period of cynicism about e-book readers and being happy to read e-books on my netbook and laptop, I took the plunge and bought a Sony PRS-505 for £150 in the UK. I find it to be amazingly good for what it is and what it cost me.

I can find faults with it as I can with everything but they are 'chasing after perfection' things that can be adapted to.

As an example, the screen appearance (purely when reading, when it is in front of you) is nowhere near as good as my 15" laptop using the Mobipocket reader application which gives me a high contrast b/w page with smooth scroll and enormous adjustment of font and text size. But then again, can a paperback book do that? (Clue:- no, but the Sony reader can adjust font to three different sizes) Can I carry my laptop in my pocket and easily use it on a train?.........etc

You can do lots of nitpicking of that nature on the ergonomics but it's all nitpicking. For the first time in many years I've read a book in bed using the Sony reader and it is small/light/convenient enough to do that.

I find that the battery lasts for 2 weeks with my medium usage even with me sending it into sleep mode (not turning it off) so that it starts up at the same page I was last reading. I've got 140 free books on it (100 included free with the purchase) and have room for hundreds more.

Also, I can make my own .pdf e-books, including pictures/diagrams and transfer them to the Sony reader (for detailed, colour tinted maps, the results are not good but with a suitable image, it looks very good). It's very flexible and very usable - I've become a fan, i admit it.

I download non-DRM e-books at home on my computer then do a simple transfer to the reader, I'm working my way through all the out-of-copyright classics that I didn't read when I was younger. The issue of wireless phone links is a big one and I think is the way that the manufacturers want to get themselves latched onto many little income streams in the future. Personally I would not want to be the teat that they suck on and am happy to use my laptop at home or my netbook/3G-dongle to download and transfer reading material for the reader (simple USB cable link that also does device charging).

If you like reading books away from home, the e-book readers are very good for the job. If you want to download content onto an e-book directly then I don't think the market and services are mature enough to be worth trying. Maybe one day there will be an e-book that you can put a SIM card into but it will be expensive since it wont give guaranteed income stream to the manufacturer.

If you 'know' computers and the internet (the mass market do not), you can have a very usable and flexible reader right now with lots of content to try and buy (or get free stuff easily).

The second hand prices on e-bay for the Sony PRS-505 are very high so you can get one there and resell it if you don't like it.

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@Steven Knox

Why would Ebook Reader producers subsidize their products? They do not have any follow on profit area? Ebook stores have prices set by publishers who usually have their own ebook stores. It isn't as captive a market as Itunes was. ebooks are priced comparatively to Hardbooks when the novels come out as that is how the publishers want it. They don't want to cannibalise the Hardbook market by having the ebook priced too low. You are paying for reading it now as opposed to later.

You want an ebook system that will be available soon. But...

1. How mush did you pay for your last MP3 player/ phone? usually the latest product is more than that of a reader now. The prices will come down as the production of the screen technology ramps up.

2. The page turns take little time to get used to and as the controllers evolve will be a lot quicker. But I have to say that lying in bed, pressing a button is a lot less awkward than turning a page.

3. The text on the screen is near perfect, clear text. Why spend money and time chasing DPI?

4. screen sizes available now are 5/6 and the larger 8.1 inch, something to fit every hand.

5. I'm an avid reader, whether on the commute to work, at home, or in bed, I still only recharge it every 2 weeks or so.

6. Most Ebook Producers are not content providers, the publishing industry is going to go through a digital revolution. Hopefully quicker and less painful than that music industry has/is doing.

*Netbook/computer providers do provide a lot of Bloatware on their systems. Which most of us spend the first couple of minutes removing. Give me Public Domain content by Dickens, Doyle and Twain anyday.

Myself, the whole Wifi/3G issue is a non event. I do not buy my music content from my MP3 player (as it cannot do it), and I don't want to buy my literature that way either.

This deal by Irex is hopefully another nail in the Amazon/Topaz coffin. Hopefully it will push the Open Standard that is epub to the fore (shame about the DRM though).


@ M. White

I am much of the same opinion regarding the phone connection. It's a major PITA that clearly delays market entry, as you can see with this particular iRex and Europe being served "at some later point". Instant purchases on the go are of almost zero value to me. As long as there is WiFi included I'll just sync it at home. Throw in bluetooth and just use your mobile for everywhere-access (unless that means being shaftet for "tethering", harr harr).

On the other hand, I would at least *assume* that these deals with mobile-providers provide makers with the ability to sell the devices cheaper than they would be without them. That would be welcome, but it still delays my ability to purchase one.

Engadget wrote that this reader still has some major performance quirks, but the more to choose from the better.

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