We’ve gotten our hands on the COOL-ER, a new Ebook reader coming out in two weeks that’s sporting a (relatively) low $250 price tag and a case that looks like an over-sized iPod Nano (it’s also coming in 8 Applesque colors). Interead, the small startup that built Cool-er, is obviously trying to bring Ebooks to a new market, shunning some of the features seen on the Kindle in favor of a lower price-point and a broader appeal. And it just might work.
Unlike Amazon’s device, Cool-er has no wireless connectivety, so you can’t buy books online or browse Wikipedia, nor does it have Amazon’s oddly controversial text-to-speech functionality. But it’s also over $100 cheaper than the Kindle, and while some other devices (like the Sony Reader) are in the same price range, Cool-er also has a very unique look – I’m sure many people (especially younger crowds) would rather sport a colorful Ebook reader than the beige and black color schemes that currently dominate the market.
The device is quite light, weighing in at around 6.25 ounces (the Kindle 2 weighs in at a comparatively hefty 10.2 ounces). Cool-er has 1 GB of integrated memory, which you can expand with up to 4 more GB through the SD card slot. Battery life on a single charge is around 8000 page turns, which the company says should last around three weeks. And the device supports JPEG, PDF, EPUB, and TXT files, as well as DRM for PDF and EPUB. You can find full specs here.
So how does the Cool-er work when it comes down to actually reading?
I’ve been using the original Kindle regularly for a few months now, so any gripes I have with Cool-er may have more to do with what I’m used to rather than what’s actually wrong with the device. That said, I’m not a big fan of the navigation wheel. It’s nearly flush with the device case, and while you can still feel for it with your fingers without looking, you’re going to have to apply some force to the button to change the page. Not a lot of force, mind you, but coming from Kindle’s massive shoulder buttons I could see it getting frustrating. Aside from these issues, the device works perfectly well for reading. You can change between a number of different fonts and sizes, the device supports eight different languages (including Chinese and Russian), and you can easily rotate text if you’d like to switch to a portrait mode (you’ll have to press a button, but seriously – do you really care if your E-reader has an accelerometer)?
The biggest issue I think new Cool-er users will face at this point is actually getting books onto the device. The process is actually quite simple: drag the book from your computer desktop onto the Cool-er using Windows Explorer or Finder on the Mac. It’s very easy if you’re comfortable around computers, but many people would likely prefer some kind of content manager connected to the Cool-er book store that they could sync to their device, so they wouldn’t have to worry about drag-and-drop. For the same reason Apple’s iTunes played a key role in making the iPod popular, Cool-er will need a similar application if it wants to appeal to a broad audience.
The company is also launching an Ebook store alongside the device at CoolerBooks.com, which has over 750,000 available books. Anyone can buy books at 20% off list price, but Cool-er owners will get an extra 5% off across all books. This is a fairly good price, but when it comes to New York Times Bestsellers, Amazon leaves it in the dust – on the Kindle, a bestseller costs $9.99, while CoolerBooks appears to charge anywhere from $3-10 more per book. That said, CoolerBook does have significantly lower prices on some books that are not bestsellers, and the Cool-er’s initial sale price is obviously much lower.
Another factor that will play an important role in Cool-er’s success will be its availability. CEO Neil Jones says that deals are currently in the works to sell the device in retail stores, which could be a huge boon for the company. Cool-er may not have all of the features of some of the other Ebook readers, but if its eight colorful models are sitting on the shelf next to the Sony readers and other less striking devices, it could do quite well regardless.