Gizmodo’s just secured its latest hot-topic gizmo leak, the Barnes and Noble e-reader that we got excited about last week with color e-ink rumors. Guess what: There’s no color e-ink! It’s got something almost better.
We’ve known for months that bookseller and publisher B&N had an e-reader on the works, and last week’s color e-ink rumor really stirred things up–it would be a feature beating all other available or due-soon e-readers, including Amazon’s Kindle. That excitement was abruptly quashed by B&N itself, which flatly denied a color e-reader was coming. But now that Gizmodo’s secured some photos, renderings and details via a “source from within” the company, it seems that B&N was telling a half-truth. The device (which may, or may not, be named the eBook) has not one screen, but two: A standard daylight-viewable e-ink unit, and a neat full-width, multitouch, full-color LCD one.
The e-ink screen is a typical six-inch 800 x 600 pixel number, with the same benefits (easy on the eye, low power consumption, good daylight performance) as screens on all similar e-readers, and the same flaws (slow refresh rates, limited grayscale powers). As such, it’s no more exciting than the Kindle 2, the Cool-er, or any other one you can buy.
The upshot of all this? Barnes and Noble may genuinely be about to tear to the top of the e-reader game. The dual-screen option is a neat work-around, which lets it make the most of the two different screen techs without compromising performance, and beats any one else’s attempt at a glitzy e-reader hands-down. Gizmodo’s also reporting that though the price isn’t known, B&N will be bringing it in at a lower price than the Kindle 2–that means less than $259–and that e-book versions of its own publications will come with deep discounts, compared to Amazon’s relatively high prices. If B&N’s gone with a GSM chipset to enable wireless downloading/social networking, the device could also beat Amazon’s bungled International Kindle effort.
Obviously it’s a hybrid device, and the history of such gizmos suggests that they’re not very long-lived–in B&N’s case, the threat to its e-reader is the upcoming slew of tablet PCs, and the fact it’s a largely single-use device in an era of product consolidation. Admittedly, being single use isn’t perceived as a boundary by Openmoko with their portable Wikireader, but nevertheless I suspect there’s a little window of opportunity for B&N to really clean up with this machine, whatever it ends up being called.