Two-Screen Hybrid E-Textbook: Nice Try But We’re Holding Out for the Tablet

For years we’ve been wondering when schools would figure out that any e-book smaller than a tablet would simply not be feasible for the student market. Anne Eisenberg of the New York Times writes about an effort by one company, enTourage Systems, to produce a two-screen tablet-sized device called the “eDGe”.

It’s supposed to be released in February. It will sell for $490, not bad as prices for tablets are concerned. The device’s name comes close to falling into our Dumb Names category but at least we understand we’re supposed to pronounce it “Edge”. That’s better than the Que or Cool-er, neither of which we’re sure we know how to pronounce.* We do know how to pronounce Nook but that’s another story.

In any event this two-screen e-book reader will carry text on one screen and a liquid-crystal display on the other “to render graphics like science animations in color,” explains Eisenberg. “The e-reader screen is used with a stylus that can underline or highlight text, take notes in the margin, pull up a blank piece of e-paper for solving math problems, or touch a link for a video of a chemical interaction that is then displayed on the LCD screen.” In other words, it works like a tablet is supposed to work, except it comes in two parts held together by a hinge. It’s hard to say how seriously we’re supposed to take the eDGe – Eisenberg’s column is called “Novelties”.

eDGe is definitely a step in the right direction and might be what California’s governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had in mind when he promoted replacing paper textbooks with e- books (see Hasta La Vista, Textbooks). But we’re waiting for a true one-screen tablet such as that in development by Microsoft. And if we have a choice we’ll hold out for the rolltop we demo’d in the fall, a device so radically brilliant that I lost my cool and exclaimed, “I Want One Today!” Unfortunately, it appears to be a theoretical design, not a prototype. You should check it out anyway because it shows what an innovative designer can do when he let’s his imagination soar.

Read Eisenberg’s piece here.

*Just a footnote to our harping on dumb names. An anonymous commenter had made this shrewd observation on a recent posting on the subject: “Have you every tried to get a domain name for the Internet? Every word in every language has already been taken. If you have tried this before, you know what I’m talking about.

“Now add that frustration to the trademark search space. And then add in international trademarks and the resulting intersection leaves you with dumb names.

“That’s why today’s products are using these names: Hulu, Nook, TiVo, Blio, etc. It’s marketing that takes a nonsense word like Google and makes it a household word. The winners in the eBook space will do the same.”

Good point, Anonymous. I just wish the manufacturers of devices like the Cool-er and Que would give us a clue to pronouncing them. I have it anecdotally that they are pronounced “Cool-Ee-Arr” and “Cue” respectively. How much marketing would it have taken to tell us that much?

Richard Curtis

Every Blogger owes a debt of gratitude to newspapers and magazines. This posting relies on original research and reporting performed by The New York Times.

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