IRex officially launched its new eReader today. As we reported last month, the iRex DR800SG will feature an 8.1-inch touchscreen with stylus navigation, and have wireless connectivity over Verizon's network. The device, which will retail for $399, will be closely linked to Barnes & Nobles' eBook store and users will be able to buy books from there over the wireless connection. Best Buy will carry these devices in its stores and will set aside space in its stores to showcase eReaders from iRex, Sony, and other eReader manufacturers.

Who is iRex?

As Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps point out, iRex has to overcome some challenges because its brand is relatively unknown in the US. According to the New York Times, iRex wanted to release a Barnes & Noble branded version of the DR800SG, but those negotiations apparently didn't go very far. At the same time, though, iRex also has some advantages, especially in Europe - a market that other vendors have mostly ignored for now.

At this point, however, it's not even really about the launch of yet another eReader anymore - with Amazon, Sony, Asus, iRex, Plastic Logic, Coolreaders, and a growing number of other contenders, the market is now wide open and competition is already bringing prices down. Prices now start at $149 for refurbished 1st generation Kindles and go up to $489 for the Kindle DX, with Amazon's competitors hitting every price point in between. For most consumers, any price over $99 is still too high for an eReader, but then, hardware prices always come down sooner or later and it is only a matter of time before somebody is going to release a decent $99 eReader.

At $399, the new iRex reader is obviously one of the more expensive readers on the market right now, though its price is in line with competing wireless eReaders like the Sony Reader Daily Edition. Sony, however, offers a real touchscreen on some of its high-end readers though, something iRex has disavowed for now because it reduces the contrast of the screen.

Getting eReaders Into the Marketplace

Another important aspect of this announcement is that Best Buy will now set apart some space in its stores to feature eReaders. Until now, Best Buy only sold eReader on its website. Even though public interest in eReaders is high, only a relatively small number of people have actually held one of these devices in their hands.