Story HD is Google E-Reader, Good Business?

iriver Story HDA couple of weeks ago, Google finally released its e-reading device, or more accurately, someone else’s e-reading device, and you may have already seen it over the months while browsing the shelves at a local Target. It’s the Story HD by iriver, uses e-ink technology and retails for $139.99. That’s a comparable price to the latest Kindle ($139) and less than the WiFi plus 3G Kindle at $189. (Story HD currently has no 3G option, and newer Kindles should be released soon.)

Perhaps some of us were expecting Google to actually build its own device from scratch, but this partnership with iriver makes pretty good sense. The company has been around for twelve years making MP3 playing devices and similar products, recently adding e-readers to its menu with the first generation Story. The Story HD is the latest version, although it looks primitive compared to recent Nook models and Kobo readers. The iriver company also has a soon to be released touch screen version called the Cover Story (image below). They look like fine products for the price. The Story HD has a full QWERTY keyboard, 16 adjustable grayscale factors,  and boasts a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 . The Kindle’s is just 800 x 600. The difference means the Story has a pixel density of 213 while the Kindle’s is 167 pixels per inch. Will that make a big difference to readers? Probably not much as reading text is what most people do, and that pixel difference will be less noticeable for text than for images. Also brand loyalty seems pretty entrenched, so Kindle or Nook owners are unlikely to jump off their bandwagons just for clearer picture books and cover images.

iriver Cover StoryEarly reports are that its functionality is quite comparable to any e-reading device in terms of battery life, processor speeds and memory, but the usability is a bit inferior to the Kindle or Nook. Story HD has letter keys like small slivers instead of the rounded Kindle letters. There is also no side bezel button for turning pages, by far the most common action required with e-readers and a comfortable place for fingers. Instead the Story HD has page turning abilities beneath the screen, which sounds like a tad more of a challenge. (Oh are we really that lazy?)

What iriver does have going for it is a partnership with Google, a major player in the market with over 3 million titles already in the Google eBookstore. Although, Nook and Kobo (and others) can read epub books via Google’s store, so it may not be enough to generate sales in numbers that really matter. As an Indie author who doesn’t have much respect for the way Google handles Indie authors and their uploading process, some skepticism remains in me whether this will make much of a splash in an already crowded market for not only Kindle or Nook, but Kobo, Sony, iPad, other tablets and e-readers and even other devices like cell phones.

One thing for sure, this industry never rests.

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