iRex, Astak Intro e-Readers

iRex is expected to offer a wireless e-reader with 8.1-inch screen this year.

New York - iRex Technologies and Astak announced new e-readers, with the former planning to introduce its first U.S. consumer-aimed e-reader by the end of the year.

Also, as reported Friday, Acer told Bloomberg it will enter the e-reader market during the next five years as part of a plan to move its core product base beyond the PC - a maturing market. Acer has not yet responded to TWICE inquiries.

iRex, based in the Netherlands, is a spinoff of Royal Philips. It has supplied e-readers overseas, and it supplied business-aimed e-readers in the U.S., but its first consumer device for the U.S. will offer 3G wireless connectivity and a large, 8.1-inch screen at a price to be announced. Further details are not available at this time.

E-readers are expected to sell at the rate of 2 million units in the U.S. this year, according to Forrester Research, and are forecast to expand to 40 million unit sales worldwide, so suppliers estimate there is room for new entrants in a market currently dominated by the Amazon Kindle and Sony Readers.

A spokesperson for iRex noted, "Despite the flurry of recent product developments, the e-reader market is still in its infancy. The market opportunity is immense and while Amazon has taken an early market share, its business model leaves significant opportunity for competitors. AFAICS Research, a U.K.-based business intelligence company ... predicts the worldwide market for dedicated e-readers will grow to 40 million devices by 2012."

For its part, Astak, based in San Jose, Calif., will ship this month an e-reader sporting a 5-inch screen (without 3G wireless connectivity) called the Pocket Pro, joining the company's earlier model with a 6-inch screen.

The Pocket Pro supports 20 formats of books in the public domain as well as copy-protected PDF files.

The device has a text-to-speech function to read documents aloud and it provides three or more font sizes.  It comes with 512MB of memory, plus an SD card slot for additional storage capacity of up to 16GB.  It has a battery life of up to 8,000 page turns, and it can play MP3 music files while users read e-books.

The company is taking preorders on the $199 device at and  Other features include eight-level grayscale e-ink screen, 400MHz processor and PDF reflow.

Aztak also hopes to offer Wi-Fi and touchscreen e-readers "in the near future," according to its Web site.

Other suppliers, including Plastic Logic, have announced new e-Reader products.


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