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Summary:

The rumor of an e-book reader with a typical e-Ink screen that also had a small color touchscreen for navigation and content display created a stir in the digital book world. Such a device could easily be leveraged by Barnes & Noble for a dedicated e-book […]

Spring Design Android readerThe rumor of an e-book reader with a typical e-Ink screen that also had a small color touchscreen for navigation and content display created a stir in the digital book world. Such a device could easily be leveraged by Barnes & Noble for a dedicated e-book reader tailored for book shopping on the device. Today a relatively unknown company announced just such a device, although it made no mention of whether this is the fabled B&N device.

The Spring Design Alex runs the Google Android OS and has a 6-inch e-Ink screen for displaying book content. The secondary screen is a 3.5-inch color touchscreen that can display multimedia content, and aid in navigating through both the reader and online content as Alex has 3G (EVDO/CDMA/GSM) integrated into the device. The reader will have full browsing capabilities due to the Android OS, supporting bookmarks, and full-featured web surfing. This includes the ability to cache web content for later reading on the e-Ink display. The user can also toggle the color screen’s content onto the big display for reading that is easy on the battery.

The company has been in discussions with content providers for the past two years, and claim deals will be announced soon. The Alex reader will appear before the end of the year. No pricing information has been provided.

“This is the start of a whole new experience of reading content on e-books, potentially igniting a whole new industry in multimedia e-book publishing for secondary authors to create supplementary content that is hyper linked to the text. We are bringing life to books with audio, video and annotations,” said Dr. Priscilla Lu, CEO of Spring Design. “This gives readers the ability to fully leverage the resources on the Web, and the tools available in search engines to augment the reading experience.”

  1. Unless Barnes and Noble plans multiple devices, I don’t think this one is theirs. The FCC tested an e-book for B&N last month and it was only tested for 802.11b/g, not any 3G frequencies. I think it’s pretty much a given that they’re using the Plastic Logic device. You never know, but all signs point to Plastic Logic at the moment. I also can’t imagine a device with these 2 displays (one color, at that) to be under $350 or so… that would make for a tough sell.

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  2. What a strange device. I can’t for the life of me see the attraction of this ungainly 10/11″ long device.

    An e-reader should excel at replicating the book reading experience and be so good that you forget the tech and get absorbed by the content. Gee whiz additional screens and ‘multimedia’ content are unnecessary, battery sapping distractions in my opinion.

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    1. Gavin, it is written, “where there is no vision, the people perish”

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  3. Interesting design. While the 2 screen design could be distracting for reading traditional books, it obviously offers more possibilities for additional media and interaction. It also seems that with the Android OS, this could be a computer tablet in disguise.
    In any case the arrival of a possible competitor to the Amazon Kindle (which is available internationally as of today) is welcome news as it should fuel more demand for e-content.

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    1. I’d like to see that color screen go dark while reading. That would minimize the distraction for me.

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    2. Unlike Gavin, you got vision.

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  5. If you like this one, you should look up the Entourage eDGe. It’s sort of like a cross between this and a Microsoft Courier. Two screens (like the Courier), one e-paper and one LCD (like this device), and running Android. Oh, and, 10″ LCD, 9.7″ e-paper.

    That’s the one I’ve got my eyes on.

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  6. Donald Townsend Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    e-Ink has made its way into e-Book readers for two main reasons, a very low power consumption and display quality of text.
    But e-Ink screens lack high refresh rates when “turning a page”. As a consequence they are also very bad at displaying moving pictures. Their resulution is low and they are restricted to 16 or less shades of grey. Display of photograpic images therefor is acceptable at best. Current technology doesn’t allow to add touch to e-Ink screens without reducing the quality (= readability) of the display (unless one uses Wacom technology which then needs a additional stylus).
    What companies now begin to realize is that going digital doesn’t simply mean transferring an old format to a new medium par on par.
    Consumers who are used to colourful displays and interactivity expect more, more than e-Ink technology can deliver.
    Some e-Book readers based on e-Ink screens allow bookmarking and annotations. They display pictures in 16 shades of grey, fine. But that’s very limited.

    The just announced Barnes & Noble reader and the Alex e-Book reader try to overcome those limitations by adding a secondary colour display and touch sensitivity. The trade-off will be a reduced battery life.

    What we don’t know yet is how much battery life is reduced by the secondary display and wether the enhanced reading experience will be worth the trade-off.
    Currently there are probably only few if any e-books that feature additional content such as pictures and videos which the Alex e-Book reader could display. Most likely they have to be a special format.
    If the mulitmedia features of the Alex e-Book reader are used extensively by a book battery life will drop to hours instead of days. Why use e-Ink alltogether then, some might ask.

    The iPhone shows that reading can be done in excellent quality on a colour display of a portable device. Someone will soon take the next step and try an e-Book reader with a backlit colour display. Excellent battery life is out of question for the moment) unless the magic battery is finally invented). Users who want to get an e-Book reader have to decide where there preferences are long battery life and simple reading or reduced battery life and enhanced reading.

    There might even be a device soon which features two screens of identical size one e-Ink the other a backlit colour display and the user choses depending on book, prefences or availability of a wall socket.

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    1. “There might even be a device soon which features two screens of identical size one e-ink the other backlit colour display”

      Look up “Entourage eDGe”.

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      1. Donald Townsend Wednesday, October 21, 2009

        I had a look at the Entourage eDGe which takes the concept of the Barnes & Noble reader and Alex a step further. It reminds me strongly of the 2nd generation OLPC with a twin display.

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      2. Yeah, it reminds me of 3 different concept designs out there:

        1) OLPC 2

        2) Yanko Design’s Macbook-Touch

        3) Microsoft Courier

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  7. what particular multimedia formats does alex support?

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  8. i read that the battery life of alex last for days.
    may i know if how many particular number of days it last.

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  9. Nice review, like the design, but am wondering if two screens are user-friendly. The color screen is a nice feature, this make it a serious competeter for barnes and noble nook.

    By the way I have also found a review of the Barnes and noble nook i am pointing to.

    Does anyone know how much the alex reader costs?

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