Acer's just announced its Lumiread e-reader hardware, with a neat feature--ISBN scanning for easy e-book finding. From a company like Acer, which dominates the netbook world, this is big news that might even help the e-reader genre survive.
The Lumiread follows the Amazon Kindle 2 design pretty closely, right down to the grayscale e-ink display and the chicklet-style QWERTY keyboard. We know it has Wi-Fi, that a future edition will have 3G, that it has 2GB of memory aboard (good for 1,500 titles) and an SD-slot for expansion. We also know it has a six-inch display, making its visible screen about the size of a traditional paperback, and similar to the many e-readers that have been hitting the market recently.
But Acer has managed to differentiate their product in a couple of clever ways. First, it's arranged a partnership with Barnes and Noble, giving buyers of the Lumiread access to B&N's huge library of e-titles. Since B&N has emerged as a serious competitor for Amazon and Apple, particularly with the neat own-brand Nook Android-powered e-reader and its iPhone and new iPad apps, this is a definite plus. This is in the U.S., of course--but Acer's also teamed with Libri.de in Germany and China's Founder service, making it a reasonably international platform right from the get-go. Acer's also made the device DNLA compliant, so you can stream content to it over Acer's Clear.fi system, including things like audio books.
Cleverest of all, though, is the integrated ISBN scanner. We don't know exactly how this works (a laser scanner? a low-power Webcam?) but it's designed to "scan ISBN codes so you can create your own wish-list and search on supported online libraries and book stores," according to the press release. This turns the e-reader into a clever portal to the e-publishing world, letting you simply scan the code of a book you like, in a store, library, or someone else's bookshelf, and find the equivalent e-version.
The only thing we don't know yet is the Lumiread's price. Given the fact it uses pretty standard tech, and that Acer is a master of the low-price netbook game, we can imagine that the Lumiread may cost not too much--indeed, it's possible it could launch at a breakthrough price, which could give Acer a big slice of the e-reader market.