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 Amazon.com’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 Amazon.com 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.