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Summary:

With everyone in the e-book space zigging, it only makes sense for someone to zag. Skiff looks to be doing just that as details on the Skiff Reader begin to appear just in time for CES. Like the original Amazon Kindle, Skiff is partnering with Sprint […]

With everyone in the e-book space zigging, it only makes sense for someone to zag. Skiff looks to be doing just that as details on the Skiff Reader begin to appear just in time for CES. Like the original Amazon Kindle, Skiff is partnering with Sprint for wireless broadband connectivity although the device also supports Wi-Fi. But unlike most all other eInk readers out there, the Skiff Reader is aimed at far more than books. The company says that Skiff is “optimized for newspaper and magazine content,” likely  due to the large 11.5″ touchscreen display showing 1200 x 1600 pixels of content. The tech specs show battery life to last roughly a week with a two to three hour re-charge time. Out of the 4 GB of internal memory, 3 GB is usable for content storage and there is an SDHC memory card slot.

Aside from providing the 3G connectivity for content downloads, Sprint will also be selling the Skiff Reader in their stores. Pricing and availability details are forthcoming but the device will be shown off at CES this week. One details is pretty likely though — that touchscreen will make it easy to click on the anticipated ads. Even the official product shot shows a little advertising interaction, no?

The device itself looks nice, but really appears geared to “save” print media. And I’m not sure it’s the best approach. I still receive a few magazines, mainly because they’re not available in a digital format, and part of the allure is the brilliant color on the pages. A grayscale eInk device simply can’t compete with that. So from a magazine perspective, I don’t see a huge draw — especially when digital magazines can be enjoyed in color on computers, netbooks and maybe even the smartbooks of tomorrow.

Newspapers might gain a shot in the arm, although I haven’t see much of a positive impact by newspaper offerings on existing devices similar to the Skiff. I think the problem is one of timeliness and interaction, not printed paper vs eInk. Blogs, websites and social networks are solving this problem quite well, so a hardware solution for newspapers isn’t vastly compelling from where I stand. Thoughts?

  1. Mobilegadgetgeek Monday, January 4, 2010

    I agree with you, e-ink grey scale is going to lose this year. I still get a few magazines via mail, but most of my magazine consumption these days are through my Fujitsu tablet using Zinio. I would love to see some of the new tablet smartbooks with decent screens be able to run Zinio for me that will be a great solution. I also have a Kindle 2, but have only tried sample magazines and newspapers on there. Since the content is not the same as in the real magazine and newspapers its not a good experience. Im hoping that something new will come out at CES or from the Apple announcement on the 27th.

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  2. I agree – no hardware device is going to save newspapers. I also don’t understand the idea behind making a special device that is “optimized for newspaper and magazine content.” Every (important) newspaper already has a print edition that’s optimized for paper much bigger than any computer screen, a Web site that’s optimized for a range of computers, and a mobile site that’s not really very good, but works better on phones. Making Skiff users flip to page 28 to continue reading a page one story is absurd if that’s how they are “optimizing” this.

    On the other hand, I like where the Skiff is going for other reasons and will take a close look. At some point in the future everything will be color, but for the next couple of years it’s unlikely that any color device will come close to the time-between-charges of these black & white devices. So, the question really is, if the “perfect” tablet device comes out at a reasonable price and it just happens to have grey ink, would you buy it? I would.

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    1. Studley Doright Monday, January 4, 2010

      Actually many newspapers could survive if they gave all there customers a FREE eReader (like the new iSlate) and just eliminated the Paper Delivery Service. I don’t think people realize just how much money the average fish wrap costs to produce and deliver daily !

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  3. That’s interesting. So no one here interested….my interest in ereaders is far more geared to magazines (actually only the new yorker) blogs and newspapers – stuff that piles up and needs to be updated – rather than in books which don’t benefit much from updates and that I still like to have around.

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  4. I have had doubts about the viability of this reader since Skiff first launched. I too read magazines using Zinio, but the print model gets long in the tooth even there. The death of magazines has as much to do with the 10+ consecutive pages of ads as it does anything else.

    Wading through all of those ads on slow e-ink devices? No thanks.

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    1. I totally agree.

      I have an idea for mainstream media. How about some articles on a page and like some other pages linked to that article that are article’s in themselves? Meanwhile you can have sprinkling of ads in and around the content, especially ads that are related to the content.

      Oh wait.

      It’s called a website and bloggers have been learning how to live off of fair profits by producing quality content for YEARS now.

      Just give me color e-ink, a browser, wifi/3g, and a 10 inch screen. I’m sold.

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  5. BTW, is it just me or does that top pic in the hand look just like the Plastic Logic Que reader pic that’s been floating around the web?

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    1. Lol, your right… It does look like the press shot of the Que. You sir, have a sharp eye. I guess its something about a good hand model and a sleek e-ink device that gets people going. Its not really all that different from other press shots of thin and sexy devices.

      All I can say is the device looks beautiful but as Kevin, James and others have stated I dont see the practicality (is that a word) of reading magazines on an eink device. As for newspapers, I can kinda see myself reading those, but I dont even subscribe to those anymore. And why should I when I can get the same thing for free on blogs and other new media, without the publishers biasts and political agenda being pushed on me.

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  6. I. M. Awesome Monday, January 4, 2010

    I predict the Apple iSlate will summarily kick this thing to the curb later this month. I have a nice little nest egg saved up for my new 10 inch Apple content consuming device come this March. Are you listening Mr. Jobs ? Can you say PRE-ORDER ??

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  7. Kevin, this Skiff reader looks sweet! Hope you get more info on it from the show floor. Thx. Shannon

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  8. PC World has more information and a photograph showing that the Skiff Reader is flexible:

    http://www.pcworld.com/article/185832/skiffs_innovative_big_screen_ereader_to_debut_at_ces.html

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    1. Hmmm, I think that picture is some marketing hype. It looks like just the screen of the reader, not the actual body. I mean that is cool and everything that it is “bendy”, but I highly doubt the entire unit can bend like that. I guess we’ll see soon enough though.

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  9. I’ll start just by stealing Danny’s opening line:
    “That’s interesting. So no one here interested…”

    It’s a subset of the population that likes e-readers,
    - because they have sensitive eyes and don’t like backlit LCDs.
    - for the light and small form factor.
    - for the long battery life.

    But the sequential layout of content… not so good. Good for novels, but missing something for magazines and newspapers. It loses the information contained in the layout of the newspaper or magazine page. A newspaper layout gives prominence to certain stories, and more easily gives me a flavor for what I want to read vs. skip. I truly miss that one simple time-saver: layout.

    This story of the Skiff spoke to me.

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  10. There WILL be color screens perhaps reaching the street after CES.

    Here is one of the choices with excellent battery life and decent enough intensity – that’s been making the rounds:

    http://tinyurl.com/yj3umv2

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