If tablets are the talk of Consumer Electronics Show, wherefore ebooks?
The news out of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has been tablets, tablets, tablets. Samsung, Lenovo, Panasonic, Motion, LG, Sharp and Toshiba all unveiled new tablets at the technology conference -- and those are just the big guys. In all, more than 80 tablets were shown off or previewed at CES.
Apple made the tablet a hot property with its April 2010 release of the iPad. The iPad showed that freed from the laptop clamshell, a big shiny tablet could be an interface for users to watch movies, play games, send e-mail, do work, share photos and do all kinds of other things, including read books.
But with all the announcements of new tablets, ebooks seemed to have fallen under the radar.
The Lenovo LePad will run on Google's Android operating system on its own and Windows when attached to a desktop-like docking station. But can you read books on it?
Motion, which has been in the tablet business for 10 years, showed off the water-resistant, dust-resistant, splash-resistant CL900 tablet. Designed to be used by engineers and contractors on site, it has a card-swipe attachment that can be used in healthcare or retail. If you can read books on it, you're probably too busy working to have a chance.
Samsung announced a Wi-Fi-only version of its Galaxy Tab and the smaller Galaxy player, considered to be a rival to the iPod Touch. It also demonstrated a new Series 7 tablet, which comes with a slide-out keyboard. The Galaxy Tab, which runs the Android operating system, comes with Kobo and Zinio apps loaded for e-reading. Last year, Samsung showed off separate stand-alone e-readers at CES.
The Toshiba Tablet hypes its cameras, big screen and an app store for games, music and movies. If books are in the mix, they're awfully quiet.
Panasonic's upcoming tablet is designed to be a little brother to your television. And LG was so busy demonstrating its hand-held, glasses-free 3-D DTV, that its promise of a tablet later in the week got little attention. Who wants to think about another tablet when you can get your hands on a 3-D digital television, no glasses required?
LG's tablet, the G-Slate, got a little stage time with T-Mobile, which is adding it to its mobile broadband offerings. But it had to share the glory with Dell, whose upcoming Streak 7 is also joining T-Mobile's roster. There wasn't much more time given to their features than to mention that they'll both run Android.
Sharp's Galapagos emedia tablet, which is already available in Japan, bucks the trend. Giving readers something to read -- magazines, newspapers and books -- is part of what it already does. It will allow publishers to share previews. It's even got a Galapagos ebook store, in which ebooks, newspapers, magazines, music, movies, TV shows and apps will be sold. Its U.S. release date is pending.
Maybe when the excitement over the devices dies down, the question of content will return. Why bother with ebooks? USA Today reports that the top six bestselling books during the week after Christmas sold more copies as ebooks than print editions.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: LG Chief Executive J.S. Park, left, and T-Mobile Chief Executive Philipp Humm show off the just-announced G-Slate tablet. Credit: David Sarno / Los Angeles Times