Interead Cool-er: so close yet so far away

A cheaper competitor to Kindle? No wireless plans to subsidize with high prices?
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

A cheaper competitor to Kindle? No wireless plans to subsidize with high prices? Easy syncing with PCs and Macs? Is Interead's Cool-er finally an appealing choice for mass deployments of e-readers in schools? Most reviews seem to be focusing on the ways in which this isn't as good as the Kindle.

The thing I love about Kindle is its built-in wireless bookstore, based on a pretty fast cellular connection dubbed Whispernet. You can search, sample and ultimately buy and download a book on the fly, in less than a minute. Cool-er lacks wireless. You must connect a USB cable to transfer e-books from a PC or Mac, or load files from an SD card. It's not nearly as convenient or easy.

In educational settings, though, the wireless piece actually isn't an asset. Since it supports PDF and the e-Pub standards, as well, getting content to kids actually becomes fairly easy. The anti-Kindle-ness of the whole thing, as well as the $249 price tag, suddenly starts making the Cool-er a very tempting option. It even comes in colors!

It still isn't clear how the Cool-er would deal with DRM in a school setting where kids should be able to share books. In fact, books appear to be significantly more expensive, on average, than those available from Amazon. However, these are minor issues compared to what I see as the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room is the netbook. For the same price, you can get a fully functioning computer that can also display e-books in color (like the Kindle, the Cool-er remains black and white).

I know that reading books on an LCD is different than reading on e-ink or even on paper. However, from a sustainability, ROI, and multi-use perspective, the current crop of e-readers will just never compete with low-cost computers in education. Give me an Eee or a Classmate any day filled up with good content; "Cool-er" as they might be, you can keep the e-readers.

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