Spring Design, a relatively unknown hardware design company, just announced that it will enter the eBook market with a dual-screen eReader based on the Android operating system. This device, the 'Alex,' will combine a 6-inch eInk display with a 3.5-inch color LCD touchscreen. According to Spring Design's press release, the company will use an 'enhanced' version of the Android OS that has been optimized to facilitate the integration between the two screens. Spring Design plans to release this device later this year.
The dual-screen concept is definitely interesting and somewhat reminiscent of the rumored Barnes & Noble-branded eReader that is scheduled to be announced tomorrow. For now, Spring Design's press release remains quiet about any content partnerships. Even though the company says that the device will be able to connect to 3G, EVDO/CDMA and GSM networks, Spring Design doesn't appear to be ready to announce any partnerships there either.
Maybe the most interesting aspect of the device is that the company plans to give developers and publishers the ability to enhance the text that appears in the eInk screen with multimedia content on the LCD screen. This could open up a lot of new avenues for publishers, but at the same time, we have to wonder how many publishers would be willing to develop new content for this device. Creating an eBook version of a manuscript is easy, but adding additional content to this text could quickly become a costly undertaking.
Color Us Skeptical
Given how vague the details are, we remain skeptical about this device until we get more details. For now, all we know is that it will run Android, feature two screens and have an SD card slot, and that users will be able to cache Web content on the device and then display it on the eInk screen.
We also can't help but look at the device and think that it would be rather unwieldy to use. It is definitely exciting to see that somebody is using Android to develop an eReader, but this device seems to forgo usability for novelty. While we are all looking forward to color eInk displays, this device looks like an odd chimera that is meant to bridge the gap between these two generations. In the long run, this concept probably doesn't have much of a future.