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E-reader market reaches moment of truth

by Sarah Griffiths on 7 July 2010, 14:57

Tags: Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN)

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Amazon has reportedly been granted a patent on a dual-screen Kindle e-reader, which could potentially kill off some of its similarly designed rivals. The patent covers its Kindle e-readers with secondary LCD displays, which could prove decisive in its battle with the Barnes & Noble Nook. 

While both firms have been slogging it out with price cuts to attract new e-reader customers, the broad patent and claims are thought to possibly cover the Nook design as well as other rival offerings boasting a mini navigational screen accompanying a main e-ink screen.

Intriguingly, experts have hinted the patent may have taken the market by surprise as Amazon was not forced to publish its patent application, as it agreed not to file for any related foreign patents during the lengthy four year process.

The patent reportedly covers: "A handheld electronic device comprising: a housing; an electronic paper display disposed in the housing and having a first surface area; and a liquid crystal display (LCD) disposed in the housing proximate the electronic paper display, the LCD having a second surface area that is smaller than the first surface area of the electronic paper display."

While Amazon has not announced any plans to sue any companies over infringement, it could prove problematic to a number of its rivals, including Barnes and Noble, which is already fighting accusations from Spring Design, that it copied the design of its Nook from the lesser known Alex reader, before it was launched. 

With the prospect of e-reader legal wrangles looming, experts are waiting to see whether companies back out of the Kindle-dominated market and plough their creative efforts into a more tablet-like reading proposition.

Some experts are already sounding the death knell for e-readers thanks to the arrival of multi-tasking tablets such as Apple's successful iPad, which is expected to sell over 10m units in 2010.  However, the future looks bright for technophile readers, whether using an e-reader or a tablet as more high profile booksellers wade into the eBook market. 

US-based Borders Group has reportedly launched its highly anticipated electronic bookstore accompanied by applications for smartphones, in a bid to grab a slice of the lucrative e-book market.

While the launch lags behind Barnes and Noble's e-books offering, Borders says customers will be able to download books in multiple formats, including PDF, ePub and through mobile technology, making it a more flexible proposition.

Borders reportedly plans to sell ten different types of e-reader in store by the end of this year, while its e-bookstore will offer 1.5m titles, topping Barnes and noble's current 1m books. 


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