September 08, 2009, 12:48 PM — It feels like at some point, the e-reader market is going to collapse under its own weight. There are so many e-readers headed to a market that doesn't seem all that interested in buying; something has to give. Unless the public-at-large begins to more enthusiastically embrace the technology a lot of companies are going to take a beating in this space.
So on that upbeat note, let's look at what Asus has planned. According to the TimesOnline, the company has two different models headed our way. The cheaper of the two, the Asus Eee Reader, is expected to debut by the end of the year and cost somewhere in the area of $160. It sounds like it'll be a basic e-reader. No wireless or other frills, but that's based on speculation and expectations, given the price. The higher end model, we're told, will have two color touch screens, hinged like a book's spine. You'd open the unit up and hold it like a book, flipping pages by swiping a finger across one screen. Or alternatively you could have your e-book open on one screen and a web page on the other. No price is being guessed at for this model and it is supposed to ship shortly after the cheaper model.
But let's back up for a minute. Color e-ink technology isn't really ready for prime time yet, at least as far as I'm aware. [Update: Ebooks and Low Power Displays: Color and Video Coming is worth reading. I might just have it all wrong.] Maybe Asus knows something that I don't, or maybe this 'e-reader' is just a dual-touch-screen netbook with an unusual form factor. This in turn leads me to wonder if the Eee Reader has an e-ink display or not. It'd be easy to be the cheapest e-reader on the market if you're forgoing the most expensive factor of present day e-readers. I guess we could unravel the discussion farther by examining the question of what an e-reader really is: to me one of the distinguishing features are the e-ink displays, which make reading on the devices less fatiguing than on a traditional display. But perhaps Asus is focusing on form factor in its own definition of e-reader?
If the Eee Reader is really going to ship before the end of the year, Asus will have release more details soon. I'm looking forward to learning more about their definition of what an e-reader really is.