E-readers are categorised by having a single core purpose; allowing for the reading of digital books in a simple, convenient fashion. As such, since the devices released to the public around 10 years ago, there have been no major design breakthroughs or leaps. Essentially, the highly popular Kindle that first released in 2007 is more or less unchanged, but for a few minor tweaks and adjustments.
But it looks like this is all set to change. Major design adjustments are being introduced to the world of e-readers, all but changing how the devices will be used on an every day basis. Some of the advancements are certainly impressive, but critics are already asking if the advancements are necessary, or just an excuse to add bells and whistles to devices that functioned perfectly well. After all, will anybody really be buying an e-reader hoping to use apps that are clearly better suited for a tablet?
E-Ink Dual Screens Incoming
One of the most talked about new e-reader direction is the dual screen approach. Entourage Edge was an early attempt to have two screens, thus resembling a physical book. The devices did not achieve mainstream success. At least not yet.
E-Ink has recently debuted a new dual screen prototype, notable for two outstanding features. The first is the impressive 10-inch size of the screen, offering vastly more space than other models. The second is that the screen actually opens and closes, not only resembling a book, but also offering storage space convenience. Unnecessary and gimmicky some have said, but perhaps a new avenue for e-readers to take.
Notebook and E-Reader Combo
The Intel Tiger Rapid prototype also features a dual screen design. One screen will function as a book reader offering a full HD LCD display, while the other will be used as a touch sensitive note-taking space. In this way a user can read on one screen, while taking quick notes on the other. An especially smart design choice for students that wish to take notes while reading textbooks in a far more technologically advanced way.
The second screen can be drawn upon with a specialised digital pen, with a special focus on capturing hand drawn input accurately. Since many are quick to declare that they still prefer taking notes by hand as opposed to typing on notoriously inaccurate touchscreen keyboards, this design choice seems to have a place.
Meanwhile Storytel, a Nordic based company has released a new device that is based entirely around a subscription service. The device offers e-book and audio book functionality, and is reasonably priced. However, the device functions only with a paid subscription. If the subscription to the exclusive Storytel service lapses, the device itself becomes about as useful as a paperweight. Which is to say; it offers literally no other uses beyond reading and listening to books.
As it stands, Storytel are looking to expand beyond Europe into the United States. As to how much success they find remains to be seen, especially since the e-reader market is once again heating up.