For a while, rumors suggested that iRiver would enter the e-reader battle, and now an image and specs have surfaced for its Story device that looks like iRiver's not just joining the battle--it's leaping in to the fray, guns blazing. The Story looks sexy.
Specs-wise it's a 6-inch display using e-ink, with a full QWERTY keyboard, memory card slot for SDHC cards up to 32GB, and its PDF, E-Pub, txt, and Microsoft-Office file compatible right out of the box without requiring a file-conversion system. That pretty much lines it up with every other pocket-sized e-reader out there--particularly the Kindle 2 which also has a physical keypad, and the new Sony ones which also support the open-format E-Pub book format. Its battery is good for 9,000 page-flips, it can read e-comic formats and its due September 16 for around $300. Technically then, it's pretty much equivalent to the Kindle, even scoring slightly better on the supported-files front.
So why is the Story interesting? Is it going to rival Amazon's book archive, or even the Sony-Google tie-up? Not really the point, actually: The Story's interesting because, even more than the upcoming Plastic Logic device, it looks like iRiver is bringing some style and slick design to the e-reader genre. Sony's new devices aren't ugly, they're simple (if boring) since they dispense with physical keyboards, but the market-leading Kindle is just visually nasty. iRiver's Story, on the other hand, has borrowed some of Apple's minimalist aesthetic, and it might just attract consumers who are style-conscious. As much as anything, this stylistic move is another indication that e-readers are really about to storm the gadget world, becoming a commodity rather than a luxury. Let's just hope that iRiver does a better job with the Story than some of its other products, that also look sweet but tend toward disappointing functionality.