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A Cool-ER electronic reader?

June 17, 2009 |  6:04 pm
The Cool-ER electronic reader in the color "blue sky." Credit: Interead

Intrepid techies and avid readers who want to have hundreds of books with them wherever they go have had very little choice on electronic readers. It's either Amazon's Kindle ($359) or Sony's Reader ($270 to $350).

Now, there's a new kid on the block -- the Cool-ER, made by, a British startup called that appeared just five months ago. (Right now it's available only on the company's Coolreaders website, but Chief Executive Neil Jones said he's in talks with major U.S. retailers.) At $249, it's the lowest-priced reader thus far. It has the same screen size as its rivals and uses the same E-Ink display, but is lighter and smaller.

That's because the Cool-ER doesn't have a lot of the bells and whistles the Kindle and Reader do -- no accelerometer, no wireless Internet adapter, no Bluetooth, no 3G connection and no keyboard. That's led some reviewers to give it a thumbs-down.

"The device in and of itself doesn't really break any new ground," said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research. "What's interesting about them is that they went from nothing to putting out a product in less than six months. It shows that the bar for entering this market is very low, and that we can expect to see a lot more competition in this space in the coming months."

That spells good news for electronic bookworms, who can look forward to lower prices, more innovation and a wider selection of devices, said Rotman Epps, who estimated that prices could drift below $200 by the end of next year.

"From the consumer perspective, pricing is really important," she said.

So is style. With a choice of eight colors, Cool-ER is hoping to tap into a segment of consumers who consider personalization and fashion a factor in their gadget purchase.

Vivid violet, anyone?

-- Alex Pham