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Kindle Competition Comes Into Focus

Future competition to the Amazon Kindle e-reader has come into clearer focus as Barnes & Noble announced it will team up with a high-tech e-reader from Plastic Logic due early next year.

Also, Samsung launched an e-reader in South Korea last month with reported plans to bring it to the U.S.

In addition, the Internet is flooded with rumors of an Apple portable “tablet computer” due later this year or early 2010, which, analysts said, might double as an e-reader. Asked about it by TWICE, Apple had no comment.

The Plastic Logic Reader has been winning attention because it is expected to have a larger, lighter and less breakable screen than the Kindle offers presently, and it will also offer over-the-air downloads (as does the Kindle). The Plastic Logic Reader’s screen will measure 10.7 inches, making it easy to view newspapers and magazines, which may prove even more popular fodder for e-readers than e-books, according to the The NPD Group’s industry analysis director Ross Rubin.

For its part, the Samsung eReader in Korea is a basic model with a 5-inch screen that lets users manage calendar appointments and documents as well as download and view e-books.

The market appears to be heating up as analysts predict high growth. Credit Suisse forecasts the installed base of e-readers in the U.S. will climb to 32 million units in 2014, up from only 1 million in 2008.

E-books will climb from a wholesale of market of $52.4 million in 2008 to $1.8 billion (in wholesale publisher revenues) in 2014, said Credit Suisse.

Barnes & Noble tossed its hand in the ring last month, launching with 700,000 e-books that will not only work with the Plastic Logic Reader but with desktop and laptop PCs and Macs, and could work with smartphones, netbooks and other devices as it uses the global ePub format. By contrast, uses a closed format viewable only on the Kindle or the iPhone/iPod Touch.

Also, Sony just announced it has expanded its eBook Store by another 500,000 free books in the public domain through its ongoing partnership with Google, which is digitizing books. Sony’s store now includes a total of 1.1 million e-books.

Plastic Logic announced last month that AT&T will act as its service provider for over-the-air downloads.

For now, there are still more questions surrounding the future of the e-reader market than answers.