Samsung Plans E-Reader, Barnes and Noble Partnership

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-03-10 Print this article Print

Samsung will partner with Barnes & Noble for its upcoming E60 eReader, which will access Barnes & Noble's e-book store for downloadable texts and leverage the bookseller's e-book lending feature. Originally announced at CES, the 6-inch Samsung device will rely on either a PC connection or built-in WiFi for book downloading, and include a stylus for inputting notes or using the scheduling and memo features. The device will also include a substantial audio component, with speakers for text-to-speech and the ability to leave audio memos. Despite being categorized as a niche industry early in 2009, e-readers have proliferated in recent months, leading to increased competition.

Samsung's E60 eReader will make its debut in partnership with Barnes & Noble at some point in the spring, adding yet another competitor to the already crowded e-reader space. The device features a 6-inch screen, sliding form-factor, embedded front speakers for text-to-speech and a stylus for inputting notes, features that Samsung hopes will differentiate it from competitors such as's Kindle e-readers.

The Samsung e-reader will have access to Barnes & Noble's e-book library, which contains more than one million books in addition to periodicals, and can apparently leverage the bookseller's e-book lending technology to swap texts with other users for up to two weeks. While a number of other e-readers include a 3G connection for downloading content, the Samsung device relies primarily on either a PC connection or a built-in WiFi (802.11 b/g).

Samsung originally introduced two e-readers, in 6-inch and 10-inch versions, at January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Both devices allowed the user to make notes and other annotations directly on-screen via a built-in electromagnetic resonance (EMR) pen, evidently drawing influence as much from stylus-operated PDAs as e-readers.

"We've used our expertise to create a high-quality e-book with today's on-the-go consumer in mind," Young Bae, director of display marketing for the company's Information Technology Division, wrote in a statement released Jan. 6. "Samsung is addressing a common frustration that users experience with many of today's digital readers with a stylus that allows them to annotate their favorite works or take notes. Coupled with wireless functionality that enables sharing of content, this is truly a multifaceted device."

So far, however, Samsung has only announced a 6-inch version for actual release. The stylus can be used to not only make notes on text, but also for the device's journal, memo and scheduling applications; with 2 GB of internal memory, the e-reader can store some 24,000 pages of memos or 1,500 books, and an external Micro SD card slot potentially increases that capacity to 16 GB. Format-wise, it supports e-pub, PDF, TXT, .bmp and .jpg formats.

The device also includes a substantial audio component. In addition to being able to make audio memos and annotations via its voice-recording feature, the Samsung eReader includes text-to-speech technology that will read texts aloud, and an MP3 player for music and podcasts.  

The E60 will sell for $299, around $100 less than the price announced for the e-reader at CES. The prices of e-readers have been steadily declining over the past few months, at least partially due to increased competition; after Barnes & Noble introduced its own Nook e-reader in October, the price of the original Kindle dropped to $259 to match its then-new competitor's price. With a few notable exceptions, e-readers have lately been priced in the sub-$500 range.

In addition to offering e-reader devices, companies such as and Barnes & Noble have been developing software that allows e-reader functionality on PCs, tablets and smartphones, with an eye toward broadening their respective technologies' demographic reach. At CES, futurist Ray Kurzweil debuted the Blio, a free e-reader application for PCs, netbooks and mobile devices that attempts to replicate the more intricate and colorful layout of paper books; Apple's upcoming iPad, which will include e-reader functionality, will reportedly also be capable of the same thing.

The sheer amount of e-readers entering the space, however, also raises the question of market saturation. In 2009, a report from Forrester Research suggested that e-readers would remain a niche market, with sales of around 3 million that year, unless the price-point of e-readers began to drop. Prices have begun declining, but the extent of e-readers' ultimate stretch into the mass market remains to be seen.

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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