Back on January 5, I did a blog about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. There was tremendous excitement there this year surrounding the preview of the new handheld eReader by Sony.
I pointed out that, to date, there hadn't been an e-book reader that consumers had embraced. Because these devices have been hard to read or large and bulky, they haven't caught on. Most people who download e-books are still reading them on laptops and PDAs. But Sony had hopes of changing that dynamic "this spring."
"Around the size of a paperback but only a half-inch thick, the Sony Reader has a 6-inch gray-scale screen and is easy to hold at less than 9 ounces." Its retail price was expected to be between $300 and $400.
In that same post, I mentioned a little company called iRex (www.irextechnologies.com) that was also scheduled to launch an e-book device. According to iRex's website, the iLiad device was due to be available as of April, 2006.
Earlier this month, I checked back on both devices. The Sony Reader's launch date had been pushed back to late summer while the iRex was scheduled to be released on July 11th. I was shocked to see the advertised price of the iLiad was $811. In my latest column of Industry Matters due out this week, I said that I didn't picture them selling many of those babies.
Well, things are a-changing. This morning Engadget reported that they had been told by two "separate, trustworthy insiders that Apple's not satisfied merely vending Audible's books-on-digital-audio solution.
"With the iRex iLiad and Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader both right around the corner, is it possible the next iPod might catch the eBook bug? We'd say the possibility is very real, since according to a source at a major publishing house, they were just ordered to archive all their manuscripts -- every single one -- and send them over to Apple's Cupertino HQ."
Imagine that! An iPod on which you could store and listen to your music and movies AND read books. How competitive would that be?
After reading the Engadget article, I immediately visited the iRex website to check on how the iLiad's release had gone two weeks ago. I noted two things: (1) There is now a form on the website by which a potential client can express interest in the iLiad AND (2) There is no longer a mention of the $811 price.
I suspect that tidbit about Apple has all its competitors taking another look at their own products.
Rejoice! This can only be good for consumers. Providing more choice and more competitive pricing.