After taking on Facebook with the introduction of Google+ last week, Google is giving Amazon a run for its money this week by launching its own e-reader, the iriver Story HD. The device will retail in Target stores and online starting July 17 for $139.99, which puts it in direct competition with the Amazon Kindle Wi-Fi.
First introduced at CES 2011 and pegged for a May arrival, the Story HD has an impressive 6" XGA (1024X768) e-ink display with "63% more pixels and faster page turns than the competition," according to iriver's January press release. It sports a Freescale Cortex A8 CPU, with 2GB of onboard storage, a SDHC card slot and built-in Wi-Fi.
Like Amazon's Kindle, the Story HD features a QWERTY keyboard but offers an up/down button for page-turning, rather than the more common left/right button. Judging from Engadget's early demo of the e-reader, it looks to be the same slim size as the Kindle Wi-Fi, but with a two-tone design that extends to the back cover. iriver claims the Story HD will last 3-weeks without a charge but did not specify how it arrived at this number. My guess is the Wi-Fi must be turned off with the lowest possible screen setting to achieve this duration.
iriver's Story HD is designed for Google's e-Books platform, with direct access to over three million free (in public domain) and for-purchase Google e-Books (including over 250 independent bookstores) via Wi-Fi. Because Google's special sauce is that is content is in the cloud, users can access most e-books online without having to download a copy locally (except copyright-protected works). Plus, they will have the added benefit of being able to continue reading the same cloud-based e-book from desktop to phone to e-reader, without having to move the same file between multiple devices. Of course, the Story HD is not absolutely tied to the Google cloud: it also supports Adobe EPUB and PDFs with DRM, which means users can also enjoy public library e-Books as well as paid content, offline.
Google is not limiting its customers to only those who purchase an iriver Story HD; it is also making its e-books available to other platforms (PCs, iOS and Android phones and tablets, and other e-readers like the Nook and Sony Reader), and more g-Readers are to come according to today's announcement. But is Google too late to the game to compete with Amazon or even Barnes & Noble's e-collection and established partnerships with publishers?
What do you think? Will the Google's iriver Story HD make a dent in Amazon's dominance of the e-book market?