Sharp Galapagos Reader to compete with the iPad and Kindle
Today Japan’s electronics giant Sharp announced they’ll be releasing two fancy Android-based e-readers in December, to compete with the Kindle and iPad. They’re targetting 1 million in sales for the tablet-sized reading devices in their first year, according to IDG News Service, and they’re calling them Galapagos (after the exotic islands where Charles Darwin studied numerous species). Sharp sees the name as “a symbol of the ‘evolution’ of services” (and devices) “that constantly bring fresh, new experiences to the user.”

It’s an allusion to the fact that (besides updates to its software), the device can periodically refresh its content. Sharp’s press release emphasized its “Automatic Scheduled Delivery Serviceā€ for newspapers and magazines, though “The first models have Wi-Fi but don’t come equipped with 3G wireless,” notes IDG. And they also report that while there’s some Android apps pre-installed, “users might not be able to download additional apps.” In fact, a careful study of the press release reveals many shortcomings.

1. Sharp promises a total of just 30,000 newpapers, magazines, and ebooks. (Whereas Amazon’s Kindle Store offers 700,000).

2. Sharp didn’t announce its price.

3. It’s got a standard LCD display, rather than the more comfortable e-ink.

But most importantly, Sharp’s press release promises “a network service and device specifically designed for the Japanese market.” This means that it fully supports Japanese characters, but the device is based on the XMDF document format, according to IDG, “a format developed by Sharp and largely confined to Japan”. I think it’s significant that the device comes pre-installed with a “social network service” for sharing comments and lists of ebooks. Text messaging is extremely popular in Japan, but it’s not necessarily a must-have feature for a digital reader.

There’s two models – one the size of a Kindle, and one the size of an iPad — and the cases come in two colors, red and silver. (Though the larger models are only available in black).


Sharp Galapagos Reader to compete with iPad


But ultimately, I have the same reaction that I did when Apple released the iPad. It just shows that all around the world, people are still very excited about the reader market!

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I’ve heard an interesting rumor about Apples’ “tablet” device — which could be released as soon as next week. One analyst described the possibility of “a bigger iPhone, big enough to read with.” It’ll still have a backlit screen, presumably, so the Kindle still offers a superior reading experience. But Apple’s tablet will further legitimize the Kindle — since more people will now be carrying a Kindle-sized device!

I think this firmly establishes the tablet “category” of devices – and now they’re just getting more sophisticated. The Nook gave digital readers some color on their menus, and Apple’s tablet just brings the color to the entire screen. There’s already a Kindle app for the iPhone, but now Apple’s making it available on a tablet-sized device. The devices are becoming more and more similar — but personally, I’d like to see the evolution go in the opposite direction. Maybe someday we’ll see an iPhone with a Kindle-like screen — one that isn’t backlit, and that uses natural light!

But that’s just the beginning, according to an article in Sunday’s business section. We’ll ultimately be surfing the web on our TVs, and watching TV on our cell phones. It’s all just digital content, and in the next few years every boundary will fall away. I’m looking forward to the day when I can read books on an enormous flat-screen TV
— broadcasting literature into my living room. And it’s pretty mind-boggling if you think about it, since the progression of media
hadn’t changed much over the previous two thousand years.

I mean, it started with pictures that cavemen drew on the walls. Eventually humanity developed text (and of course, text accompanied by pictures). But it took until the 20th century before we’d developed moving pictures. (And within a few decades, that was upgraded into moving pictures with sound.) Now we’ve finally reached the next milestone: live moving pictures with sound — which means we can just look at our friends and loved ones, and even enjoy a real-time conversation.

But out of all these developments, I’m still most excited about the books.

I still want to see literature in my living room…