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iRex e-Reader Set For Best Buy

New e-book competitor iRex Technologies gave more details on its rival to Kindle that will ship to Best Buy at the end of October, followed by other retailers to be announced in the first quarter next year.

The iRex wireless DR800SG at $399, which was unveiled at a news conference here last Wednesday, will offer free worldwide wireless over-the-air e-book downloads — an advantage over the Amazon Kindle’s U.S.-only service. The iRex will use Verizon service in the U.S., and its Qualcomm 3G Gobi modem will permit service overseas.

As first announced in August, the iRex e-reader sports an 8.1-inch screen and works with the Barnes & Noble e-bookstore with more than 750,000 titles, as well as other open Internet e-booksites.

The unit’s touchscreen works only with a stylus at present, but the company plans a full touchscreen model in 2010 followed by a model with a full color screen in early 2011.

iRex, a Netherlands-based spinoff of Royal Philips, has produced e-readers for the European market although the new DR800SG marks its entry into the U.S. consumer market. The company claims it offers several advantages over the Kindle, including its ability to work with many e-bookstores, its ability to side-load documents from a PC, its worldwide service and its sales through brick-and-mortar bookstores (the Kindle is sold only online).

iRex will be launched at Best Buy this fall, and will be part of a new e-reader segment in Best Buy stores that, as of two weeks ago, includes two Sony e-readers and will soon include the new iRex, said Kevin Hamilton, North American CEO of iRex.

Reports said Sony models were previously sold only through Best Buy online. Hamilton expects that one or two additional e-reader devices will be added to Best Buy’s selection. A representative for Best Buy was expected to attend the press event, but was unable to do so due to storewide training at the retailer, said iRex.

William Lynch, president of Barnes & Noble e-bookstore,, said the 777-store chain is not currently planning to carry the iRex e-reader but it did not rule out the possibility in the future.

Verizon open development VP Tony Lewis said it is not impossible that Verizon would subsidize an iRex e-reader in the future, stating, “It’s absolutely on the table.”

In the future, through a software upgrade, the DR800SG will allow note taking on the device and iRex expects to offer a software developer kit to allow apps for the device including industrial apps.

Hamilton noted the e-reader market is currently at “a crossroads” where consumers are ready to buy the devices. An estimated 1 million e-readers sold last year, and the market is expected to grow to 40 million devices worldwide by 2012, according to U.K.-based firms AFAICS.

By way of comparison the top-end Kindle DX has a 9.7-inch screen at $489 and the Sony Digital Reader, due before Christmas, has a 7-inch screen at $399.