Two new e-book readers, one being launched in Japan, one rumored for the U.S., appear to be headed for the U.S. market, expanding the number of mobile devices on which books can be read, and their technical capabilities. Barnes and Noble is rumored to be working with a telco (Sprint or AT&T) and a device maker on a portable reader that could compete with Amazon’s Kindle, according to TheStreet.com. The bookseller could then sell books for its reader through Fictionwise, an e-bookseller that B&N acquired last month.
The Fujitsu FLEPia, launching this month in Japan, is more interesting technologically; it’s the first e-book reader using color e-paper. The 8” screen (larger than a Kindle) can display up to 260,000 colors. With a 4GB SD card, the device can store up to 5000 300-page books. Connectivity is via Bluetooth, wireless LAN, and wireless dialup with several Japanese carriers. It’s retailing for around $1000, so it’s not a mass consumer device yet. Notable for us is the screen size and availability of color, which means that both manga and American comics could be displayed on the device.
The FLEPia uses two Japanese readers based on cellphone readers (BunkoViewer and T-Time) are standard features. Since manga are widely read on cellphones in Japan, we assume that the cellphone readers on the Fujitsu device will allow reading those same books on the larger screen the FLEPia provides. Battery life is up to 40 hours.
The FLEPia also has Windows CE5.0 as an operating system, which allows the use of e-mail, Web browsing, and viewing text, spreadsheet, and other file formats. That makes the FLEPia closer to a netbook device with tablet features than an e-book reader.
Initial plans from Fujitsu are to target sales of 50,000 devices in Japan by the end of 2010; no release date for the U.S. has been announced.
Mobile devices for reading e-books in the U.S. include Amazon's Kindle (of which roughly 500,000 have been sold to date), Sony's e-book reader, and the Apple iPhone (for which Amazon is now providing e-books).