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How Wireless E-Readers Stack Up

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When Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) introduced the second-gen Kindle earlier this year, it had no competition in the wireless e-reader category. By the holidays, it will be competing head on for consumers with the Daily Edition from Sony (NYSE: SNE), the unfortunately named DR8000SG from IREX Technologies, and a surprise entrant, the Nook from Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS). Early next year, meanwhile, the larger-format Kindle DX gets long-anticipated competition from Plastic Logic. Here is a look at each of the six e-readers, including my take on the devices. We’ve also set up two charts, one for the larger-format devices and one for the paperback-size e-readers, where you can see all the specs of competing devices in one place, to make it easier to compare and contrast.

In the paperback-size category, the Nook is supposed to start shipping Nov. 30 but the pre-order deliveries are already backed up well into December, as demand outstrips immediate availability. Of course, we don’t know how many units actually are being sold, but so far the hype is working. That makes the job harder for Sony, which at least has the branding and retail heft.

But IREX doesn’t even have that. What it does have is a retail relationship with Best Buy and, at some point, marketing visibility from wireless partner Verizon (NYSE: VZ). On my last check at Best Buy, I could see the tag and the space set aside, along with a price tag of $449 — $50 higher than the company says it’s supposed to be. Getting shelf space in a major big box chain: good. Getting a tiny corner in the Techno Wonder display with Sharper Image gadgets while Sony has a full kiosk a few feet away: not so good.

The Kindle DX is it for those who want a textbook-size wireless e-reader this year. The Que is the mirage of e-books for now. I actually tried a version of it months ago but have been told not to think of it as the final. It will be sleek, though, and people who have the luxury of time (as well as money given how much higher these run) may want to wait at least until early Janurary, when more details are due at CES.

These aren’t the only e-readers around or the only ones in the pipeline (Spring Design is suing Barnes & Noble claiming the Nook copies its Alex dual-screen device) but this is the category moving the needle on e-books and this should be the crack-through season. Not the time when e-readers become ubiquitous — that will have to wait for prices to come down closer to $150 — but when the e-reader moves from “what is it” to “I might want it.” Forrester recently pushed its 2009 sales projection up 50 percent to 3 million, with 900,000 units expected to sell during the holidays. What will shoppers see? Click here for the slide show and the charts comparing the larger-format devices and the paperback-size e-readers.

6 Responses to “How Wireless E-Readers Stack Up”

  1. Staci D. Kramer

    @ Jerry That's one reason we limited the field to this one category of e-readers.

    @ Ed that's a different Sony model than the one we feature; it's not wireless but could work well for a lot of people who don't mind porting from computers.

    @ Andrys Thanks for adding …

  2. Andrys Basten

    Good charts and info.

    Wanted to add that in the 'browser' category, all countries with wireless capability and Kindle access have free 24/7 wireless access to Wikipedia, for what that is worth.
    As you mention, only the U.S., Japan (and Hong Kong and Mexico) have the 24/7 free slow Kindle web browser, which is still useful for text-focused sites).

    Also, the Kindles have text-to-speech, good for when you have to do other things but want to keep 'reading' and this works for personal docs and for periodicals also.
    Random House limits most of its books w/regard to that though other publishers allow the text-to-speech for their books.

    – Andrys