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Asus Plans Dual-Display E-Reader 199

Posted by kdawson
from the blurring-the-lines dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "Yet more confirmation has emerged that Asus plans its own e-book reader. An Asus representative in the UK appears to have confirmed this, with the additional details that there may be a value-priced as well as a premium version. The article guesses at the price point for the low-end model — around £100 ($192). Unlike current e-book readers, which take the form of a single flat screen, the Asus device has a hinged spine, like a printed book. This, in theory, enables its owner to read an e-book much like a normal book, using the touchscreen to 'turn' the pages from one screen to the next. Asus showed off a prototype of the device at the CeBIT trade show in March." Reader NeverBotedBush adds, "Asus's e-reader will likely have color touch screens, a speaker, a webcam, and a microphone, along with the capability to make inexpensive Skype calls." The color screen rules out using E Ink technology, so long battery life seems to be unlikely.
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Asus Plans Dual-Display E-Reader

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  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @09:57PM (#29360723) Homepage

    It's an overstuffed Nintendo DX for reading e-books? Asus Christ.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dbIII (701233)
      Not a bad idea really. The "classic book collection" on the DS works quite well and could really only do with a bigger and brighter screen.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I'd like to see a tablet device with a touch screen about the size of a hardback book's pages with wi-fi, bluetooth, a DVD/CD burner, sound chip, and Linux, with plugs for a keyboard, monitor, earphones/speakers, and ethernet. For a hundred bucks.

      That's actually the computer of my dreams. Why hasn't anybody put one on the market yet?

  • by Afforess (1310263) <afforess@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @09:57PM (#29360725) Journal
    ~$200 may be low-end, but that's still not mainstream. E-books still have a lot of cons they have to get past, and a 200 entry fee isn't helping. As a college student, I would need to be able to resell books, but e-books are "rentals" where I can never sell them, without selling the account. IMO that's the biggest reason E-books are still on the launching pad, many (college) books are bought for $120, but resold for $80, so effectively, I payed for a $40 book. With E-books, it's the same price, but I can't sell them. Once we can buy and sell e-books like used books, I may look into it, but that and the high entry cost basically guarantee that I'll never buy one.
    • by sayfawa (1099071) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:05PM (#29360807)
      Why would college students who download gigs of mp3s/month have a problem with downloading some "illegal" pdfs? Just search for physics or math on any torrent site and see what you get. I now have digital copies of not only every physics text I've ever owned, I have digital copies of every physics text I've ever heard of.
      • I now have digital copies of not only every physics text I've ever owned, I have digital copies of every physics text I've ever heard of.

        Digital copies? Your school library probably has laser printers you know >:3

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Darkness404 (1287218)
          Yeah, and have fun copying a ~600 page book by hand (you can't exactly cut and manually feed in the pages on a library book), especially with most libraries costing tons of money per copy.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by vlm (69642)

            Yeah, and have fun copying a ~600 page book by hand (you can't exactly cut and manually feed in the pages on a library book), especially with most libraries costing tons of money per copy.

            That's why you go to the copy shop.

            Based on extensive (legal) book photocopying experience, it is very hard to take more than 6 seconds per page, even including coffee breaks, bathroom breaks, and gossip time. At that rate, its going to take 3600 seconds to photocopy a 600 page book. Which is a mere single hour. To save perhaps $100. Or, in other words $100/hr, which is pretty respectable pay rate for a college student, even for illegal activities. Note that you can make multiple copies for very little

      • by Afforess (1310263) <afforess@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:23PM (#29360987) Journal
        There aren't as many pdf's for textbooks as you think. Prof's usually require the newest edition of the book, which means that the 13th Edition is no good after one or two semesters. Sure, you can get math books, but the exact math book you're using, with the solutions manual? Good Luck.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Just search for physics or math on any torrent site and see what you get.

        Most likely physics porn or math porn, respectively.

    • What you need isn't going to be marketed as an E-book reader. It's going to be a very lightweight netbook-style device (perhaps a tablet) that allows you to view anything you want.
    • by langelgjm (860756) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:26PM (#29361001) Journal

      I doubt it will be mainstream, but not for the same reasons as you think.

      Strike 1: it's not e-ink/e-paper. So, that makes it what, a dual-screen tablet? Cool, but e-ink is what makes e-readers so great, and so much better for reading, than tablets or laptops or netbooks.

      Now, $200 isn't bad, compared to $299 for the Kindle 2, or more for the DX. So that's a plus. As for the college students and the price of books... I sympathize to a point. I would definitely not purchase standard undergraduate texts in electronic form. They're a ripoff in paper form to begin with, but at least you can resell them (if only for a fraction of what you paid if you were unfortunate enough to buy new).

      As a grad student, though, you'll find your reading habits changing. It's somewhat discipline dependent, but everyone will be reading articles, mostly in PDF format. Kindle DX, etc., are superb for that. I've also purchased two books for a class from Amazon for my Kindle. In both cases, they were cheaper than any used copies I could find. I know I can't resell them, but I don't anticipate selling that sort of book anyway (it was inexpensive to begin with, and I will probably need it for reference when studying for comps).

      In the meantime, I've found at least one book for a class on a torrent site, and I do things like copy all my typed notes to the Kindle. Is it saving me money? Absolutely not. But I don't have to print out hundreds of pages or be stuck at a computer to read things, and that alone is worth it for me.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by grumbel (592662)

        Cool, but e-ink is what makes e-readers so great,

        It also makes them slow, expensive, black&white-only and unusable for the Internet or video. A good LCD screen, such as the ones from PixelQi, can give you something very close to the resolution and sunlight readability of ePaper while also giving you color and video and that at a low cost. Now of course if they actually use such an good LCD or just stuck in one of those crappy shiny Laptop screen that are unusable outside remains to be seen.

    • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:39PM (#29361111) Journal

      What if you buy and read a lot of books, but could do so for a fraction of the price. I see paperback type books becoming like $0.99, any my wife reads these style books like they are going out of style.

      Even Textbooks could be sold "new" for much less than they currently are. The fact is, economy doesn't require resale of virtual property. Nobody is demanding resale rights to iTunes music.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Darkness404 (1287218)

        Nobody is demanding resale rights to iTunes music.

        Because in general music is timeless. It gets popular, goes underground, gets revived, becomes retro, etc. A song you heard 15 years ago will still be as good of a song today as it was when you first heard it. On the other hand, textbooks get obsolete. The textbook you read 15 years ago in most subjects will be wrong, not antique, not timeless but simply -wrong-. Secondly, who re-reads textbooks? I listen to some of my old CDs regularly that I bought 10 or more years ago, I re-read some of my old fiction

        • by lennier (44736)

          "The textbook you read 15 years ago in most subjects will be wrong, not antique, not timeless but simply -wrong-."

          The interesting thing is that if that's the case, the textbook was also -wrong- when it was taught. And yet it was taught as being -right-.

          But truth simply *doesn't* get obsolete. It's either right or it's wrong.

          Doesn't that say something disturbing about science, if what passes for truth changes so often?

        • by xaxa (988988)

          So currently, you buy an $80 textbook and sell it for $50. Cost to you: $30.

          The publishers could price their textbooks at $20 (or whatever), not allow resale, and make an extra $60.

          Alternatively, with appropriate DRM we could have a digital library.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      To compete with printed books effectively, at least in the 'active reader' context, I see a couple things that need to happen before the devices get wide adoption (ie not just the voracious readers with more money than sense):

      * The things need to be cheap, dirt cheap. If they can (essentially) made an embedded system with dual color touchscreens for $200, then they should be able to make a single-display eInk based device for a 4th that that doesn't have all the added gadgetry. (C'mon, dual screens will NOT

    • by siloko (1133863)

      ~$200 may be low-end, but . . .

      GBP100 != USD200. Not for a few years, currently we're at GBP100 = USD165.020., that's a near 20 per cent difference . . . But price isn't the problem for me it's the fact that reading e-books doesn't offer me anything over reading normal books, except the added stress about carrying around a fragile electronic device rather than a cheap paper back! Techdirt [techdirt.com] has a nice write up about the lack of any 'social' aspect to the Kindle specifically which may be holding it back, ebook readers are not taking advanta

  • by Quothz (683368) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @09:59PM (#29360745) Journal
    TFA doesn't address the real questions: What formats can it handle? Will it only be able to handle some bizarre custom, DRM-protected format? Will it primarily deal with some bizarre custom, DRM-protected format? Will Asus have remote control to fiddle with my files? Will it gather data about me, what I'm reading, and/or who I'm calling on Skype?

    I refuse to get excited until I know whether it's More of the Same (TM) or not, shiny features be damned.

    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      That's the great thing about vaporware.. some people read it and decide "I'm going to buy one of these as soon as it comes out", some people read it and say "it'll suck, I'll never buy one" and the rest of us read it and say "that's nice".

      Personally, I don't get anything from vaporware announcements except the feeling that one day I might hear about someone who actually has one of these things and they might say it doesn't suck, maybe.

      • and the rest of us read it and say "that's nice".

        You say that like "the rest of you" is more than you and your virtual cat.

    • Well said. But in fact:

      Will it primarily deal with some bizarre custom, DRM-protected format?

      That's the one real make-or-break question for me. Secondary formats don't matter much to me if the platform trend is going to be towards more DRM.

    • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:14PM (#29360909)

      TFA doesn't address the real questions: who thought of this? I can't wait to pay 50% more for a second screen to my ebook reader so that I can look at both pages surrounding every other page break at the same time.

      • by Quothz (683368) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:26PM (#29361003) Journal

        TFA doesn't address the real questions: who thought of this? I can't wait to pay 50% more for a second screen to my ebook reader so that I can look at both pages surrounding every other page break at the same time.

        Well, my opinion is still "features be damned". I would gladly pay more for a reader that ensured my privacy and ownership, regardless of whether I'm paying for bloat as well. Mind you, that's not to say your comment is by any means uninsightful. It's just not important to me when compared to the question of what personal concessions I'd have to make before I'm allowed to purchase one.

      • A second screen could be useful especially if you can turn it off when you don't need it.
        In the context of a book sometime theres a diagram or a map which you might want to reference at the same time as text. Maybe one screen would act as a keyboard/ mouse when needed.

        one complaint about touch screens is obscuring the screen as you interact with it. Mirror the display and you don't have that problem.

        chances are the machine itself will be capable of more than just being an ereader.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bakkster (1529253)

        I can't wait to pay 50% more for a second screen to my ebook reader so that I can look at both pages surrounding every other page break at the same time.

        I can't wait for the reduced battery life that comes from having an additional screen, LCD screens, a touchpad, and other things that don't help me read books or PDFs more easily!

  • by binarylarry (1338699) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:03PM (#29360775)

    I keep reading the post over and over, trying to figure out how they hide the words "...includes the words "Don't Panic" written in large letters on the back."

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Quothz (683368)

      I keep reading the post over and over, trying to figure out how they hide the words "...includes the words "Don't Panic" written in large letters on the back."

      Obligatory link [xkcd.com].

  • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:03PM (#29360777)
    Backlit screens are useless outdoors. In my recent quest to replace an aging mp3 player, I found everything has color screens now, which suck because a) they're hard to read outdoors and b) they burn power, so you have to push a button to turn them on. E-ink seems fine, but I also think there is a large, unjustified bias against good old black & white LCD - yeah, like a Casio digital watch, or a PDA from 1999 - but so what? Those screens were/are very useful.
    • by speedtux (1307149)

      There are several kinds of color LCD screens that work outdoors. Nokia cell phones commonly use one kind, the OLPC uses another kind.

    • How often do you read outdoors? Usually when I'm outdoors, I'm doing things like recalibrating my retinae, watching my skin burn, etc. No time to read outdoors, really.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Azureflare (645778)
      It won't be a problem if they use a screen from pixelqi: http://www.pixelqi.com/ [pixelqi.com]
    • by srothroc (733160)
      I agree. It looks like they're making more of a multipurpose reader that's able to browse the internet, though.

      I do like the idea of e-ink screens, especially in terms of battery life; I'd really like it if someone made an e-ink reader WITH a backlight that you could optionally turn on for reading in the dark.
    • but I also think there is a large, unjustified bias against good old black & white LCD

      Colors are good for many things. For one, any modern video is going to look like crap on a black and white LCD. For another most people see black and white LCDs as cheap, most people play their MP3 players in their car, at home, at work all indoors. And you can find a large amount of black and white LCD players if you get cheaper off brand ones. Sure, they won't be the greatest quality, but most customers don't want black and white LCDs because they are inferior.

    • by Spit (23158)

      Damn straight, reading on my old palm pilot works great in full sun.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lennier (44736)

      Indeed, my Palm III was just wonderful for reading e-books. Ran for a whole weekend on four rechargeable AAAs, too.

      Still got it in a drawer somewhere. The main pain is that it needs things converted to .pdb and can only take about four average novels (text-only, .5MB each). No Google Books scans.

      But yes, why not revive the old b&w LCD?

  • I am tired of all those eInk readers (I've owned a couple); their slow refresh time makes them awful.

    • Re:sign me up (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CarpetShark (865376) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:15PM (#29360917)

      The point of e-Ink is that it doesn't need to refresh multiple times per second to keep the text on there. It works more like paper, and so refresh time isn't really important. What's the refresh time on your paperback, when you turn a page?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by MBCook (132727)

        Instant. I can the text on the page as I'm turing it. If someone is interrupting me and I have to re-read the last paragraph on the last page because I forgot it, I can do that really fast on real book.

        With eInk, you have to put up with the switching delay.

        I know they're getting better, but it is an issue right now.

        I think a big part of the problem is that the full screen has to turn one color then the other to prevent ghosting. That effectively doubles refresh time and that "flash" makes it much more notic

        • by mewyn (663989)
          Unless you've got books that have indestructible pages, I bet you're page flips take about half a second to do, which is exactly comparable to the Kindle 2's page flip.
          • Strange. I can flip through a 1000 page book in a couple of seconds. Something doesn't quite add up properly...

        • by Aladrin (926209)

          You can't actually read the text on the page -as- you are turning it, because there's a small amount of time that the page is too vertical to read either side of it. So it's not 'instant'.

          Granted, e-ink might still be longer than this time, but read pages are not 'instant'.

      • by speedtux (1307149)

        It works more like paper,

        No, it doesn't. I can quickly flip through a paper book; flipping through an eInk book is like watching grss grow.

        What's the refresh time on your paperback, when you turn a page?

        Milliseconds.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then can you explain this [eink.com]?

    And that's not even mentioning color electronic ink from other companies [wired.com].

  • by BBCWatcher (900486) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:15PM (#29360919)
    Why not make one screen E Ink and the other more conventional color (LED-backlit, TFT)? If you want the long battery life and don't care about color at a particular time, keep the color display powered off. Otherwise, if there's an illustration or photo that you want to see in color, drag/swipe the picture/page over to the color display and spend some battery juice. Bonus points if the entire color display is simply a snap-on accessory that you don't have to buy and don't have to carry everywhere.
    • by Mr. Roadkill (731328) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:48PM (#29361171)
      Why not use colour e-ink displays [eink.com]? Surely they've got the kinks ironed out by now...
      • by pavon (30274)
        The other major disadvantage to an e-ink display is refresh rate. If you had a normal display, you could have web-browsing and other interactive features on the second display, and use the e-ink display for low power, static display. It would really increase the usefulness of the system. Think an ebook that flipped open/over to become an N800.
      • by dargaud (518470)
        I think the very first color e-ink model is hitting the market only now, and its colors are very limited so far. I'm eagerly waiting for the day I can read comics on an E-Reader.
  • Feature Creep (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chill (34294)

    It isn't an ebook reader if it has a microphone, webcam and the ability to make Skype calls. It is a flat computer.

    I can see the justification for speakers, possibly helping with ADA compliance and reading text to the sight impaired. The rest is loss-of-focus, lets add features to disguise the shitty battery life, crap.

    Give me extended battery life in an ebook reader over all that crap any day.

    • Re:Feature Creep (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MrMista_B (891430) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:41PM (#29361129)

      Also, it isn't a computer if it has a microphone, webcam, color screen, and the ability to connect to a global network. :)

      You forget that as technology advances, so must our names for things.

      That, and it sounds like, well, you wouldn't want the product - however, I, and I think many millions more, /do/, just as it is.

  • by marciot (598356) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @10:22PM (#29360983)

    I'm hoping these will come out with PixelQi screens, as it will make it a truly revolutionary product. Although at this point it is pure speculation, I think there is a good chance Asus has signed a deal with PixelQi. Not only do the videos on PixelQi's sites show netbooks which resembles the Eee, their site mentions the displays will be in production in the late 2009, which coincides with the introduction of this new e-Reader. PixelQi could stand to benefit from teaming up with a company such as Asus, and I bet this is what has happened (in a couple month's we'll see how well my prediction fares!)

  • Really? An ebook with a color screen just sounds soo useless. Color does not mean black and white, when reading long enough on a computer you start to see the rgb bleeding through off the white. I can't belive Asus is soo far off target with this.

    • by slim (1652)

      Really? An ebook with a color screen just sounds soo useless.

      You don't buy books with colour illustrations? All sorts of things benefit from colour, whether it's a cookery book, or an illustrated novel (look up Arthur Rackham's 1915 illustrations for A Christmas Carol).

      I'd be very tempted by a device that used colour e-ink. By preference it would have a "true" black like traditional CMYK printing.

      Before that though - cheaper B&W e-readers please.

  • by paiute (550198) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:17PM (#29361375)

    I'm walking into the Stop and Shop the other day, and I look over at a beat up car, the kind in which you typically see some old duffer checking his scratch tickets and reading the Herald. Only this old guy was checking his scratch tickets and reading his Kindle. I thought, Perhaps this moment is time zero.

  • What we need is a tablet that has a superfast, hirez display, superfast wireless networking, and nearly nothing else. A wireless display peripheral at 1920x1080 (or, better yet, WQUXGA [wikipedia.org] at 3840x1200) with a full color, high frame rate layer and a super low power B&W e-ink layer. A minimal CPU for running an X server's application and Linux - or some smaller "remote display" network OS and application. A 2-channel stereo soundchip. And a 600Mbps (DVI 552Mbps + 48Mbps data) that's 3x the speed of 802.11n.

    T

    • by dargaud (518470)
      Huh? Absurd requirements (if you want the display to be fast, don't use e-ink, that negates the purpose). What you describe is basically called... a TV.
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)

        It's absurd only if you ignore the fact that the display I described has e-ink for only a "super low power B&W e-ink layer", and is mainly a "full color, high frame rate layer". The e-ink layer is only use in "e-reader" modes, which can be much lower power.

        As for a "TV", try using your TV to read a PDF. On a train. Without a graphics chip, or a network to get the data.

        The point is that we need not separate "netbooks" and "e-readers", but a single tablet that is just a display, renderer and wireless netw

  • Sure, color is neat but I'm still holding out for an a4 or letter-sized document reader with a photon-reflective, as opposed to a photon-emissive display... oh and it has to handle PDF's.

    AFAIK, the closest anyone's come so far is a 10.4" diagonal screen, which is still about 30% too small.

    • by slim (1652)

      This seems like a strange requirement. Novels and technical books are usually quite a lot smaller than A4.

  • Too $much, too late (Score:3, Interesting)

    by UttBuggly (871776) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @11:56PM (#29361669)

    I am a life-long reader; I love reading a book or newspaper as much as anything in life. I was very ill as a child and spent most of ages 4-6 in bed. We didn't own a TV, so my only companions were books from the local library and the daily papers. (That was back when you got a morning AND an evening paper on your doorstep.) When I could get out, I bought all the comic books my allowance would allow. That was when an Action Comics Superman from DC was a whopping 10 cents. I was highly pissed when the price went to 12 cents an issue, as I recall.

    One of the gadgets I've wanted for years is a decent e-reader with lots of content. I passed on the Sony and Kindle machines because they were "close, but no cigar" for my taste. Color was a requirement for me as I still love comics and graphic novels.

    Recently, I got an iPhone 3GS and discovered Stanza, Comics (Comixology), NYTimes, and NPR News. I had assumed the small screen on the phone would be terrible for reading. Instead, I find that I read something with ALL of those apps, everyday. Just finished reading ALL of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars novels with Stanza. Absolutely loved them. Coincidentally, the Science Fiction Book Club (of which I've been a member since 1972) is offering a reissue of those same books in hardcover.

    Cost from SFBC = $50, plus shipping. Cost of the ebook versions on Stanza = $0. Also recently read the entire Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes books and stories, again for a cost of $0.

    The Comics app, even bereft of titles from DC and Marvel (so far), is excellent. I'm currently reading Omega Chase and loving it. I've spent about $10 on various comics thus far and haven't regretted a single penny.

    The point is, I'm no longer "waiting" for an e-reader; I have all I need.

    One could argue that I own a +$2000 e-reader in the iPhone, but since it IS a nice phone, game machine (finally getting good at F.A.S.T.), web and e-mail appliance, AND a decent e-reader, I am still happy. Plus, I only have to carry and manage ONE device.

    Bottom line: Sony, Amazon, Asus, etc. will never see a nickel from me for their readers. They missed any opportunity with me.

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:18AM (#29362165)
    Probably the nicest feature of a book is the ability to bend it and flip pages by running it against your thumb, then sticking a forefinger in to hold the place. Once an Ebook reader can do that, I'll be impressed.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Do you drive a car with a buggy whip?

  • by davide marney (231845) * <davide.marney@ne ... g minus math_god> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @07:48AM (#29363967) Journal

    Ask anyone who has used an OLPC, and they will tell you that not only is it possible to use an LCD in full, direct sunlight, the image quality actually improves; the stronger the light, the better. The OLPC's limitation, however, is that daylight-readable version is monochrome only.

    The 3Qi is the commercialized next generation of the same screen technology. It adds EPaper, color, and video [pixelqi.com] to the line up. Mary Lou Jepsen, the engineering genius behind the company, is trying to get the power requirements down far enough to allow 20-40 hours of run time, using current battery technology. The current version of the 3Qi is apparently not able to achieve that kind of power management without changes to the motherboard, but is still able to reduce power requirements by 20%.

    Engadget did a series of side-by-side video comparisons [engadget.com] with the Kindle earlier this year, and the results are very impressive.

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