Asus Plans to Enter the eBook Market With Cheap Dual-Screen eReaders

Asus, the computer manufacturer best known for its Eee PCs, is getting ready to enter the eReader market. According to an article in the Times Online this morning, Asus plans to launch two devices: a budget and a premium version. At least the premium version will most likely feature dual screens. The article is extremely low on details, but judging from what we have seen about Asus’ eReaders so far, the main drawback of these devices will be that they won’t be based on e-ink screens, the technology that allows the current breed of eReaders to display such crisp letters. Instead, Asus will use conventional LCD screens.

Sadly, the article in the Times of London doesn’t offer a lot of details and besides the fact that at least the budget version of these devices will be cheap (starting at $150), based on LCD and possibly feature dual-screen touchscreen LCDs, we don’t really know a lot about these gadgets at this point. We don’t know, for example, what operating system these eBook readers will run on or what eBook formats they will support. We don’t even know the size of the screens and if the budget version will actually really feature two screens.

LCD Screens for an eReader?

The dual-screen display and the price seem to be the major draws that brought a lot of attention to this story this morning. The price, assuming this rumor is true, is obviously very good and the idea of having two screens is also attractive – though it might not be as practical as having a single, larger screen. In reality, though, it is hard to imagine that an eReader with an LCD screen will be able to conquer the market. Unlike e-ink screens, LCDs need a lot of energy. While you can read a few books on a Kindle without recharging, a dual-screen LCD eReader will need to be recharged far more often – unless Asus weighs it down with a large and heavy battery pack.

One advantage of using LCDs is that they basically turn the device into a small computer. According to the Times, Asus even plans to add a webcam and Wi-Fi to at least the high-end model, though the price of this device will most likely be considerably higher than $150.

Overall, we are not very impressed by what we’ve read about these devices so far. LCD screens just aren’t the way to go for eBooks and dual screens just aren’t a necessity and the hinges between the two screens just create another potential point of failure. So while the devices will definitely be cheap, we still have to wait and see if they will actually deliver a lot of value. Sony’s $199 eReader looks far more promising and we are still waiting for the Barnes & Noble-bound Plastic Logic reader.

Overall, we are not very impressed by what we’ve read about these devices so far.

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