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Amazon’s Kindle has dominated the eReader marketplace for the past year or so. Several companies are developing competing products to be released within the next year. My big question is: When are these eReaders going to perfect the integration of audiobooks?

Amazon’s Kindle

Amazon’s Kindleis the gold standard for eReaders. With a paper-like display, 1/3 inch thickness and 10.2 ounce weight, the Kindle is lighter and smaller than most books. The device features 3G wireless – and this is its differentiator.

The wireless connection allows users to download books, magazines, and newspapers without an internet connection, computer interface, or Wi-Fi. This convenience is free of charge for Kindle owners.The 6” Kindle does not support audiobook files. The newest Kindle, the DX, a larger sized 9.7” (and larger priced at nearly $500 USD) version of the Kindle can house audiobooks.

They are not available via direct download to the device (requiring a USB internet connection) and they take up more space than traditional books. In my mind, Amazon has some refining to do to make this feature more convenient and accessible – especially by adding it to the lower priced, smaller device.

Sony’s Reader Digital Book

Sony’s Reader Digital Book

The Competition

The biggest competitor, Sony’s Reader Digital Book, requires a computer for downloading books and other media and a synchronization to load the device.  The latest version will be released next week with a touch screen for navigation. There is still no interface for connecting to the Sony eBookstore without a computer.

IREX Technologies is pairing with Barnes & Noble’s e-bookstore as it launches its new device sometime this year. This electronic reader, as well as the Plastic Logic device poised for launch in 2010, will include wireless connectivity like the Kindle.

This will be the major competing factor. If these new readers are of good quality and lower cost, Kindle may find itself losing ground as the biggest seller.

Audiobooks

With all of this development, I have not seen one word addressing audiobooks on eReaders. The newest Kindle features text-to-speech, but this is an electronically voiced application. I’m wondering if actual, narrated audiobooks will be offered for eReaders.

I enjoy both audio and traditional books. I don’t have an eReader…. yet. I can read eBooks and listen to audio versions on my iPod touch. The screen is quite small for reading, so I am tempted by the eReaders. It would be ideal to have a device that is light, thin, and can hold over 1,000 titles in either format.

eReader developers, are you listening? Some of us want the best of both worlds. Multiple formats on one device that is portable, lightweight, and easy-to-use, with a screen that won’t send me in search of my glasses. Is that too much to ask?

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