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Txtr reader: Vaporware ebook readers for all

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I want to upgrade my Kindle. I really do. The Kindle design is clunky, it’s starting to fall apart regularly, and the screen is hard on the eyes. But friends, my next Kindle – and next after that, ad infinitum – will be from Amazon unless Tuetonic company Txtr actually makes and sells the item you see before you. Sadly, I seriously doubt it will.

See, this is supposed to be an e-ink tablet with WiFi, 3G/GPRS, and Bluetooth. It will have a 3D accelerometer and the screen will be a 6-inch 600×800 touchpad. It will also contain a single hair from the mane of a rare zebracorn, a striped unicorn native only to the Black Forest of Germany. You see where I’m going here.

It looks like a great piece of hardware, but they might as well just put a color screen on here and call it a big MP3 player for all the traction they’ll get as an e-reader.

Why is the Kindle so popular – or as popular as a limited audience e-reader can be? It’s connected to Amazon. Unless Amazon opens its ebook store to outside hardware, every text reader is just an e-ink tablet with some reading features. This product will have a web presence called Txtr.com where you can control your downloaded texts. But this assumes there are texts out there to download. While I’m aware of the rich treasure trove of free books out there (The People’s Common Sense Medical Adviser or Iliad, anyone?), unless you’re an scholar of ancient Greek or a anti-medical bore, you’re pretty hard-pressed to find anything you’d read on the beach.

I want things like Txtr and Sony’s e-reader to succeed but these things need books. You can do all sorts of exciting things you can do with a good e-ink reader provided you have content to display on it. E-readers will be marginal hardware, much like tablet PCs, until all publishers everywhere are willing to let their precious text out into the wild, something, given the parlous state of publishing, that won’t happen soon.

So yes, I’ll probably buy another Kindle. It’s the iPod of its media and will stay at the top of the stack (har!) for years until, perhaps, Microsoft or Apple set their sights on the ebook market. Is Txtr the answer? Maybe for some, but not for the mass market.

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