The e-Reader story of CES 2010

One major trend dominating CES 2010 is the massive uptick in manufacturers showing off e-reader devices, software and technology. Vendors of all sizes are here in Las Vegas introducing products they hope will capitalize on piqued consumer interest and the predicted growth in the e-book market in the year ahead.

The biggest (literally) and most impressive electronic ink devices at the show are easily the 8.5 x 11-inch 10.5-inch Plastic Logic Que proReader and 11.5-inch (displays measured diagonally) Skiff Reader. Two touchscreen devices with integrated 3G targeting two totally different audiences. The Que proReader's gunning to replace bulky stacks of business papers with support for truVue PDF files, MS Office docs, e-mail, and Outlook calendar support. The Skiff Reader, on the other hand, is being pitched as a consumer device with a compelling value proposition for publishers (by publishers) and content owners that will ultimately deliver multimedia on a wide range of devices and display types hooked into the Skiff Store -- just not the flagship Skiff Reader with traditional e-paper display.

Otherwise, the CES show floor is absolutely littered with electronic ink also-rans, hybrids, and new screen technologies looking to knock-off the incumbent Kindle, underlying E Ink technology, and Amazon juggernaut. If we're lucky, that's exactly what's going to happen later in the year. Read on to find out why.

If electronic ink is your thing then CES 2010 is the place to be. We've already told you about Orizon from Bookeen, the RCA Lexi, iriver Story, the Jinke SiPix readers, Hanvon WISEreader, the Cool-er readers from Interead, the Ocean and Tidal series from Copia, and a pair of E6 and E10 e-book readers from industry heavyweight Samsung. And these are just the most interesting of the dozens of new devices on show.

Spring Design's dual-screen Alex is all kinds of sexy, even better than the Barnes & Noble Nook thanks in part to the Armada processor's ability to cut through Android like an angry Jedi. And by inking a deal with Borders, Spring Design has a real chance at usurping the (unholy?) alliance that brought the Nook to Barnes & Noble. Regardless, by all account this appears to be the hardware Barnes & Noble should have chosen for its dual-screen reader.

We're also seeing an incredible variety of display technologies gunning for current and future generation e-Readers. The most compelling remains Pixel Qi -- a hybrid LCD technology that can be switched from a standard, full-color LCD backlit mode to a Kindle-like monochromatic reflective mode viewable in direct sunlight (while consuming 80% less power than standard LCDs). Better yet, 10-inch Pixel Qi displays have just started to roll off the assembly lines. The only confirmed Pixel Qi device at the show is the impressive Notion Ink Adam tablet. Besides Pixel Qi, Qualcomm, Fujitsu, and Philips are trotting out their Mirasol (with a rumored Kindle destination), FLEPia, and Liquavista display demos, respectively, while LG Display is demonstrating its Metal-Foil e-Paper display for the first time on the Skiff Reader.

Finally, we've got knfb's Blio; the PC and mobile device software that gives you access to millions of books in their original format.

Put it all together and we begin to see the story of a 2010 e-reader market that extends way beyond just e-books to include newspapers and magazines augmented with audio and full-color animations, video, and imagery. As such, dedicated monochrome E-Ink devices like Kindle and the Sony Reader will be forced even deeper into the niche they now serve as the year plays out. One thing's for sure -- monochrome electronic ink displays are not the future of e-readers. If you ask us, the smart money is on multi-purpose devices running hybrid displays from Pixel Qi (or similar) like Notion Ink's Adam. Not only does this avoid lock in to a single content provider, but you maintain full Internet access with the ability to subscribe to materials from Skiff, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Blio, Google, and iTunes, for example, while enjoying the type of rich multimedia experiences that main stream media publications are keen to pursue.

Kindle, and its E Ink peers, are officially on notice.