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New 9.7″ eReader Launching Soon in Europe

Amazon might not be doing anything with the Kindle DX, but that doesn’t mean that large screen ereaders re completely dead.

I got an email this morning from Icarus, a Dutch ereader company. They’ve just unveiled the Excel, which they will be selling soon for 350 euros.

The Excel is based on a 9.7″ Pearl E-ink screen, and it has Wifi, a Wacom touchscreen, 4GB of internal storage, microSD card slot, and it has extensive support for ebook formats and annotation tools. It’s running a custom Linux build on an 800MHz Freescale CPU.  I know that the hot thing now is to do Android, but picking Linux for the Excel was a good choice.

I recognize the hardware and the menus. This ereader is also the Boox M92, and it was originally developed by Onyx. That’s great, because Onyx has done some awesome ereaders in the past. They also have done some amazing things with annotations (Sony has caught up with them, though).

It’s coming in March, and the retail is around $470. That’s about $30 less than the iPad or Jetbook Color, and I think the iPad would be a better buy.

I just think that this ereader is too expensive, given that it is noticeably less capable than a tablet. It stands as an example of why large screen ereaders should be killed by cheap tablets.



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charlie dulin February 24, 2012 um 3:50 pm

isnt that actually higher than the M92 from the Onyx reseller? At least we know black has been produced. I wonder if they sent them all branded to that company or if there was enough for the Onyx brand resellers…

Zetmolm February 24, 2012 um 5:23 pm

You’re comparing the European price of the Icarus eXceL with the US price of the iPad, it seems. Here in the Netherlands the iPad starts at EUR 440. The Icarus eXceL will sell at EUR 350, so almost EUR 100 less. The European Onyx store sells the M92 for EUR 400. The Jetbook Color is not sold here.
Still, the eXceL is more expensive than the PocketBook PRS-912, which has similar features, and is sold for EUR 320.

Zetmolm February 24, 2012 um 5:28 pm

Ah, there is a catch, I see. The Onyx M92 comes with a cover included, but the Icarus eXceL comes without one. If you also want the cover (and of course you do), you pay EUR 375. There are shops here in Europe that sell the M92 for less.

Deviaa February 25, 2012 um 3:20 am

Of course it is clear that if you really want to read for a longer period or let alone outside, the iPad (or any other tablet) is impossible to use. It is really tiresome reading on it longer than half an our and in the sun you see nothing. That also explains the success of e-ink devices altogether. The iPad is an amazing device, but not for reading I’m sorry.

Nate Hoffelder February 25, 2012 um 3:55 am

No, that’s not clear. I read for hours at a time on various tablets, and I also read them outside.

RJ June 6, 2013 um 2:48 pm

You don’t have an e-reader. If you did, you would know where that extra money went…

Maxwar February 25, 2012 um 4:00 am

The keyword with the iPad is casual. It is an amazing device for casual browsing, casual social media, casual gaming, casual movie watching etc.
If I want to play serious games… I boot up my Xbox 360. If I want to watch a movie and have a great experience I watch it on my 42″ tv. If I want to read a book for hours… I use an e-reader.

It would be nice if people would stop acting as if the iPad is the ultimate device for everything…. it is an amazing device but on a lot of things it does it is still mediocre.

And I own an iPad by the way, I love using it, but depending on what you do there are better solutions.

Piotr February 25, 2012 um 5:45 am

I am a computer scientist and I simply can’t stand reading e-books on LCD screens! My eyes are shouting for help after first half on hour…

I strongly disagree that there is no future for 9.7" e-ink e-readers . There are many people (engineers mostly I think) that would buy this type of e-reader.

Pocketbook and Onyx are great examples of companies which are making money on selling 9.7" e-readers.

The other thing I like about Pocketbook and Onyx is that handling PDF on their ereaders is so good! Kobo, Kindle , Nook and the rest of main stream just suck at this…

I think that there always will be demand for 9.7" ereaders from technical profesionalists…

Piotr February 25, 2012 um 5:47 am

LCDs were not created for reading but watching…..

Alex Sher February 25, 2012 um 1:10 pm

I`m fully agree with this statement. I can’t read more than 30 minutes on my tablet.

fjtorres February 25, 2012 um 11:28 am

The issue is not the display tech but the specific devices.
(Aside from the fact that different people have different sensitivities.)

But, as a rule, anybody who has serious issues with LCD displays *indoors* really needs to check their device settings or get a new display. Most good displays can be tweaked to eliminate eyestrain, especially when connected to PCs. Brightness, contrast and text and background size and *color* settings can and should be adjusted if you spend a lot of time reading on LCDs.

Doesn’t mean there isn’t room for eink in a lot of applications but once cost and functionality starts to factor in, the market for current large eink devices starts to shrink dramatically.
I’m no iPad fan but I don’t see the value equation for existing large format eink devices as being anywhere as compelling as the smaller/cheaper readers are. That is why those devices are as rare and slow-selling as they are.

Piotr February 25, 2012 um 11:56 am

Changing LCD screen settings can help a lot – agreed. But that not always helps as much as you would like and it never will be as reading a real book whereas e-ink readers are quite good at imitating "reading book" experience.

You say that there is no market for 9.7" e-ink ereaders – I strongly disagree with that.
Most e-books I have are in PDF format and PDF was created as a format to print documents in A4 which can be properly diplayed ONLY on 9.7" screens.

PDFs were meant to be read on 9.7" screens.

There are many technical professionals which are keen to spend extra $150-$200 on 9.7" e-ink ereader rather than 6" and have proper PDF handling and screen size (don’t forget web browsing and other handy functions).

I would say that engineers are upper mid-level class which can afford to pay those extra money for bigger screen -they are perfect customers for 9.7" which will guarantee a decent profits for the manufacturer.

For the higher price I am blaming ereader "blue chips" like Amazon (be honest – Kindle DX was a failure in both functionality as well as value for money) B&N and rest don’t want to get involved in this market.

I am sure if they would the prices would drop dramatically…

fjtorres February 25, 2012 um 1:01 pm

I, for one, said there is no *big* market for large eink readers.
Not compared to tablets or small eink readers, products that move millions of units a month. That’s not just me talking; that is consumers voting with their wallets and vendors with their engineering teams and coders.

Economies of scale drive R&D and pricing and a product that sells in the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands a year is not going to attract the resources as one that moves by the tens of millions. The former is a niche, the latter is an industry.

Nate Hoffelder February 25, 2012 um 1:03 pm

I don’t think it was your comment; the quote above is from the comment.

Piotr February 25, 2012 um 1:39 pm

fjtorres – I 100% agree with you : the 9.7" e-ink reader market is a niche and never will be as big (or profitable) as tablets or smaller ereaders.

What I am saying is that there is a group (me included) of customers which are willing to pay more for bigger e-ink screen ergo there is a market for 9.7" e-ink readers.

Small market but Pocketbook and Onyx proved that you can make money from it.

fjtorres February 25, 2012 um 4:23 pm

Maybe. At those prices.
It’s a vicious circle; low demand keeps prices high which keeps demand low.
The problem is that in the tech world those kind of circles usually devolve into death spirals.

Also, don’t assume that they are making a profit just because they are still selling them; those gadgets are batch produced so they stay on sale long after manufacturing is over. Before assuming those companies have a real business in that niche, let’s see if they do a new generation product.

While tablets pose little challenge to the small ereader market, it wouldn’t be impossible to see cheaper, lighter tablets with full-day battery life coming in cheaper and lighter than eink readers by late this year. If not sooner.

The tech trends simply don’t look encouraging.
eInk’s future is small and cheap–the cheaper the better.
Big and pricey is chancey. Sorry. Enjoy it while you can but don’t expect it to last.

Piotr February 25, 2012 um 4:48 pm

That’s why I am happy that another company has 9.7" ereader to release – more competition means prices coming down.

As we can see on Nate’s blog you can already buy a decent android tablet for less than $100 but I am just not interested in lcd tablets for reading purposes.

9.7" e-ink ereader is the only choice for me.

It is a vicious cycle:(

Onyx and Pocketbook have released a number of 9.7" e-ink ereaders so far and it doesn’t look like they’ll stop releasing new models so it looks like they are making money.

I think that the next big step in the ereaders market will be elastic e-paper most likely using some form of e-ink and it will come in many sizes/shapes. Maybe e-ink/lcd hybrid tablets will show up as well? Will see…

As for now 9.7" e-ink is the only alternative for people like me and I know that many people would gladly exchange their 6" e-ink ereaders for bigger screen e-ink ereaders but price is the problem as you’ve rightly pointed out.

cookie February 25, 2012 um 3:55 pm

I definitely want a 9.7 inch e-ink reader, primarily as a pdf reader and RSS Google feed readers. My preference would be an open Android device that would allow me to install a RSS Reader, but I would settle for a Linux as well if it does those two things well.

However, $300-350 is the top I will pay for something with such a dedicated purpose. Therefore, I will stick to Android tablets until and when such a device comes to market.

KW February 26, 2012 um 12:23 pm

I’m interested in a 9.7 reader because of the size. As a computer programmer I would like something that handles technical books, preferablely in color. Unfortunately this doesn’t sound any better than Amazon’s two year old kindle DX but costs more. The Kindle DX is over priced already.

I do think that within 10 years school books will go digital. This is a big market in the tens of millions of units for K-12 and college. The Jetbook Color shows some promise in this regard, but e-Ink and Amazon have to be willing to push the technology. Something like the JC needs to be faster and light with more memory, a software keyboard, and work with both stylus and finger input for $300.00.

If not Apple will easily crush them. Apple is always improving their technology and will have a commitment to developing the textbook market on iPad. I remember when Amazon announced the DX aimed at universities and colleges. Unfortunately this seems to have died with the Kindle Fire. It will be interesting to see how the new display on the iPad affects the eReading experience.

narc March 19, 2012 um 12:53 pm

Yes, I´m agree. Read in a PC or Tablet is exhausting for the eyes. I have to read lots of PDF docs, and I have to print them, though I ´ve a PC at work. I think ereader is a good solution, but with big screen

Leonard March 21, 2013 um 9:19 pm

I have a thought.

E-ink is easier on the eyes than LCD. Yes, LCD manufacturers have made huge leaps over the years, BUT e-ink is better. Ask anyone who MUST use reading glasses – no offence to all you twenty-somethings.

The issue with ereaders in general, and larger ereaders specifically, is marketing. Ereaders are not toys so they can never compete in the toy market (otherwise known as tablet PC’s),

Ipads and those of its ilk provide hours of entertaining activities for young and old alike. However, reading, real extended reading, is not their strength. Less we forget, LCD screens have been around for years, but who of us has ever raved about reading on their PC for hours on end. This is why e-ink was such a godsend in the first place.

A technical maunal or business plan or even a good novel will never compete with a 60″ flat screen TV – and no one expects them to. Ereader manufacturesneed to accept their unique place in our tech world and stop trying to compete with toys. Otherwise, we risk losing an amazing technical advancement.

I was an avid reader until 35, when issues with my eyes made it all but impossible for me to read for any extended period of time. E-ink was the breakthrough I prayed for – no joke. Now I have a small one for pleasure reading and a larger one for work. Even though it takes work to scan, convert, and upload documents, I can actually read again. Wow!

In addition to people like me with physical limitations, there are academians, business professionals, etc who need dedicated devices to handle the tsunami of paper they must deal with – when they’re not playing with their toys. I just hope manufactuers remeber this before they close the book on ereaders.

Just a tought..

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