Rumor Mill: B&N, Hearst, Rupert, Amazon will change the Future of E-Paper

Epaper Rumors
It looks like all of the hype around the second edition of the Kindle has really kick started the e-reader craze. Publishing companies, bookstores, and multibillion dollar news corporations are all announcing their own e-reader, all of them leveraging e-paper technology. Will this create a flood in the market with too many single purpose devices? Or will it create competition and be a wining situation for the consumer? There is only one way to tell. Let’s have a look at our contenders and find out, shall we?

Barnes and Noble

Almost moments after all the buzz dropped for the Kindle 2, we got word that rival brick and mortar store, Barnes and Noble, is working on an e-reader of their very own. Sad thing is, actual information on the e-reader is scarce. We’re not sure if it’s one unique to B&N itself, or using a third party device like the Sony 700.

What do we actually know so far about this mysterious device? Well, we do know that it will use a wireless service for online browsing and buying books much like the Kindle does. We also know that they were in talks with Verizon (Amazon uses Sprint for its Whispernet Technology) for wireless support, but that’s fallen through.

If they can get this puppy up and ready to go by the end of this year, and have it not only integrate with online buying wherever you are but also pair up somehow with buying in their brick and mortar stores (free e-book copies of any printed book you purchase?), then this really could give the Kindle a run for it’s money. Now if only they could get an endorsement by Oprah and Stephen King…

Hearst Corporation

Bookstores like Amazon and Barnes and Noble aren’t the only ones eyeing the kindle with envy. Publishing conglomerate Hearst Corporation, who publishes magazines like Cosmopolitan and Esquire along with the San Francisco Chronicle, is also announcing plans to build their own e-paper based e-reader.

There is some pretty solid information for the plans Hearst has in the future. We have reports of a bigger screen that’s about magazine size, with the ability to subscribe to magazines and newspapers and have them be sent wirelessly to your machine each month. The word is out that we’ll be seeing this brand spanking new device sometime later this year, first in monochrome and then in full color when it becomes available.

Rupert Murdoch/News Corp

Leave it to the man who owns half the media world not to be left behind when the Kindle hype hit the fan. At a recent news conference Rupert Murdoch waxed about how much he loves the Kindle. He then went on to state that he planned on backing a “Kindle Killer”, one that would be leaps and bounds above the Amazon e-reader.

For awhile rumors darted back and forth on which e-reader that would be. Now we have a bit more information, and it turns out the Kindle Killer that News Corp is using might just be none other than the iRex Iliad. iRex plans on selling their e-reader to 3rd parties using a “private label” method, which will make readers for sale under other brands.

Amazon Improving on the Kindle

Of course, Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, isn’t a man to sit on his hands will other whippersnappers try and steal his Kindle fire. There are already rumors running rampant about a larger screen Kindle to premier later in the year. This could be a direct response to the newspapers and magazines building their own e-readers, since a larger screen would more easily replicate that magazine experience.

Cell Phone Companies Join In

But the whole e-paper craze isn’t limited to just the publishing industry. AT&T and Verizon are both looking towards marketing their own Kindle style e-reader with wireless connectivity. The rumors say that these might be niche products, aimed directly at the neglected college e-book/textbook industry.

The Future’s so Bright…

So far all this competition looks like good news for the consumer, as long as the companies plan on supporting an open format. The one problem that could derail the now hot e-reader industry is the problem of what is referred to as e-babel. This is what happens when every device has its own format, making it impossible to switch e-readers without having to purchase your entire library all over again.

Sony already supports the popular epub format, and if the other e-readers also throw their weight behind it, this could be a huge boon for readers and tech geeks. There is a danger of them following the same path as the Kindle already does, which is to provide a specific format only available to Amazon licensed products and software. If this were to happen, the e-reader market could quickly splinter and fall apart under its own weight.

By Paul Jessup




10 Comments »

  1. avatar sasha says:

    Rupert has the cash to take risks. I think we’ll be seeing some interesting stuff from him. Or they can buy up an e-reader company that already exists, sort of like how they bought up myspace

  2. avatar jardenberg kommenterar - 2009-04-21 — jardenberg unedited says:

    [...] Rumor Mill: B&N, Hearst, Rupert, Amazon will change the Future of E-Paper [...]

  3. avatar Paul Jessup says:

    Sasha-
    Yup, if the rumors are right he’s going to use the iRex Iliad and relabel it for his own needs.

  4. avatar ModernMetrix says:

    New media, same approach.. Instead of trying to make their content available across ALL existing platforms, media companies are developing their own silos..

  5. avatar Bob Dawson says:

    I have been reading books on my iPod Touch since last summer. I find it extremely convenient and easy enough on my eyes. I find the netbook format VERY accommodating to digital magazines. If Apple ships, as rumored, a slightly larger touch, I’d wager it will become the de facto e-reader platform for books and magazines. Yes, e-paper is very promising but the gap between the current and perfect e-paper is much, much wider than the gap between the current and perfect LCD screen, i.e. combination of affordability, portability, readability and flexibility (multi-uses). I think it’s a mistake to underestimate Apple as a player in the e-reader marketplace.

  6. avatar sasha says:

    Bob,

    Glad to hear that you are liking the iPod Touch. The problem with these LCD devices is that they cause eye strain after long term use. Reading on electronic paper is much easier and resembles ink on paper.

  7. avatar Bob Dawson says:

    Ah, but a bird in the hand …

  8. avatar Jonathan Scott says:

    In my opinion what is really needed is some new frontplane technology to hit the market - everyone is still using the E-Ink screens and although they’re ok, it is effectively a captive market until there is a big drive from another company to push the technology and force some competition in the acreens used in the devices. There does seem to be a lot of fancy looking demos out there, but none of them have really hit the market yet.

  9. avatar sasha says:

    I agree Jonathan. It is ridiculous that E Ink dominates the market. There are many other great frontplane technologies.

  10. avatar PB says:

    Rupert has the cash to take risks. I think we’ll be seeing some interesting stuff from him. Or they can buy up an e-reader company that already exists, sort of like how they bought up myspace

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