LAS VEGAS—iriver Story HD has been selling ebook readers internationally for a while now, but has never brought one of its products to the United States. At CES 2011, though, the company announced it will reverse that trend, bringing the Story HD ebook reader stateside in March.
The Story HD is one of a slew of E-Ink ebook readers available, but it’s got a few impressive tricks up its sleeve. First, and most importantly, there’s the screen: the display, made by LG, is a 1024 by 768, 6-incher, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Held next to an Amazon Kindle, with the same size screen but a resolution of just 800 by 600, the Story HD is much sharper and crisper, readable at the tiny sizes the Kindle can’t handle. The higher-res screen, which makes the Story HD the highest-resolution 6-inch ebook reader in the world, makes everything from images to books to menus look great. The Story HD is almost exactly the same size as the Kindle, with a full QWERTY keyboard and an easy pad for navigation. The page-flip buttons are the same as the menu navigation buttons, and they were easy and responsive in the time I spent with them.
Inside, there’s some serious computing power—an ARM Cortex processor powers the device. There were a few hangs in the navigation (which iriver assured me will be fixed before the device launches), but overall it was pretty snappy. There’s Wi-Fi built in, as well as 2GB of storage and a slot for SD cards up to 32GB.
The biggest question for iriver, not a book giant like Barnes & Noble, Borders or Amazon, will be how it gets content and how it drives sales. Iriver is working with a content partner (they alluded to it being Borders, but wouldn’t confirm that), and a major retail partner to get the Story HD on shelves. Iriver was also coy about pricing, but said that “it will be very competitive with its competition,” as they gestured to a $139 Kindle. Nothing confirmed, but it’s easy to guess.
Hit the slideshow to see everything I saw from the Story HD. Iriver’s certainly got a good offering, at least based on the time I spent with the Story HD, for its first play in the American ebook reader market—whether that will translate into real market share or not, remains to be seen.
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