A week or so ago, Phil Wood, marketing director of UK start-up Interead, handed us a shiny new ('vivid violet' coloured) e-book reader called the COOL-ER. It launches officially today, at £189 (inc. VAT), in eight colours, along with a companion store selling e-books in a variety of formats.
COOL-ER is the brainchild of entrepreneur Neil Jones, and has been developed in double-quick time — six months from concept to production. The basic specs are these: a 6in., 170dpi, 8-greyscale e-ink screen; a sub-A5 footprint (189mm by 117.7mm) and 178g weight; a 400MHz Samsung S3C2440 processor with 128MB of RAM and 1GB of solid-state storage (with an SD card slot for expansion); 1,000mAh Li-ion battery that's good for a claimed 8,000 pages; and a Linux OS running the show. It supports a good range of file formats (PDF, EPUB, FB2, RTF, TXT, HTML, PRC, JPG, MP3) and connects straightforwardly to Windows PCs and Macs via USB. Wi-Fi is set to follow in due course, according to Wood.
The device looks a bit like an oversized iPod, and works pretty well once you're into reading a book, although it's not quick to start up or perform menu actions, and the volume isn't great when you're listening to MP3s on the train. But then, it's not supposed to replace your iPod, and it got me reading Pride and Prejudice (which is among a number of preinstalled classics) without the technology getting between me and the content — which has to be a sign of success.
The market is pretty well-stocked with e-book readers, including the Sony Reader, Pixelar e-Reader, Bookeen CyBook and iRex iLiad (not to mention the Kindle in the US), but the price is competitive and the e-book experience on today's smartphones isn't for everyone, so it has a sporting chance. It'll be interesting to see how the COOL-ER fares.