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.