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First Android e-Reader On The Way

10/19/2009 03:48:46 PM Eastern

Fremont, Calif. - The first announced e-reader running Google's Android operating system is expected to debut within months from Spring Design.

Spring Design'sIt is anticipated to feature tandem screens: a 6-inch monochrome screen for reading e-books and, just below it, a smaller color screen for Internet searches.

Spring Design, which expects to partner with publishers and bookstores to sell the device, dubbed Alex, anticipates a debut later this year, said a spokeswoman.

The device acts like a combination e-reader and mobile Internet device (MID), but it uses patented technology to dynamically link the e-book content running on the upper e-Ink screen with Internet links appearing on the lower, 3.5-inch color LCD touchscreen. The bottom screen also offers a soft keyboard with full Internet browsing.

"Alex is the first Google Android-based e-book device to provide full Internet browsing over Wi-Fi or mobile networks such as 3G, EVDO/CDMA and GSM. With its dual screen, it provides the entire Web universe as a handy reference library," said a Spring Design statement.

Spring Design is in talks with mobile carriers. No price has been announced on Alex, which also permits over-the-air downloads of e-books and comes with an SD card. But a spokesman said the price will reflect the fact that it offers dual screens.

The announcement on Monday followed speculation that Barnes & Noble will debut an e-reader under its own name at a news conference scheduled for Tuesday. A report in Gizmodo claimed the expected Barnes & Noble e-reader will also be Android-based, and also have dual screens, with a black and white screen on top and a color one below.

"We were surprised about the [Barnes & Noble] announcement tomorrow," said the Spring Design spokeswoman, explaining, "Spring Design has been in discussions with Barnes & Noble since last year. We filed patents on it. What's being shown tomorrow is not the Alex," she said.

Spring Design has been working on the Alex since 2006, she said.

Barnes & Noble did not immediately respond to a TWICE inquiry. Reports of a Barnes & Noble first broke in the Wall Street Journal Oct 9.

For its part, Spring Design said Alex's ability to dynamically link the top and bottom screens could spark a new industry for e-book-embellishment "apps."  "This is the start of a whole new experience of reading content on e-books, potentially igniting a whole new industry in multimedia e-book publishing for secondary authors to create supplementary content that is hyperlinked to the text. We are bringing life to books with audio, video and annotations," said CEO Dr. Priscilla Lu.

Also today, Plastic Logic announced the name of its plastic e-reader device as Que, which will be formally unveiled at International CES.

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