Asus has released more details about its upcoming eReaders. Not too surprisingly, Asus will be selling two separate models: a high end device and a budget reader. The budget reader is to be called the Eee Reader in keeping with Asus’ popular line of netbooks. Like the Eee PC, the Eee Reader will compete using a low cost, no frills approach.
The high end reader, on the other hand, seems to be the complete opposite. Pictured here (as a conceptual design), the eReader will have 2 screens and open like a conventional book. This could be a way to help facilitate the jump to digital for dead tree diehards, but I think it would look and feel a bit strange. What’s more, the hinge only seems to be the tip of the iceberg. From the article:
Unlike current ebook readers, which take the form of a single flat screen, the Asus device has a hinged spine, like a printed book. This, in theory, enables its owner to read an ebook much like a normal book, using the touchscreen to “turn” the pages from one screen to the next. It also gives the user the option of seeing the text on one screen while browsing a web page on the other. One of the screens could also act as a virtual keypad for the device to be used like a laptop. Whereas current ebook readers have monochrome screens, the Asus would be full colour. The maker says it may also feature “speakers, a web cam and a mic for Skype”, allowing cheap phone calls over the Internet.
This looks like a horrific example of feature creep. Asus could build and sell a touchscreen laptop, but it would be foolish to market it as an eBook reader. The success of the Kindle, and monochrome eInk in general, shows that a device needs to focus on what it does best and then leave it at that. If someone is looking to buy an eReader with Skype functionality, they are going to just buy a netbook, tablet PC, or smart phone instead.