An ebook reader I have been following since it’s release is the iRiver Story. The main attraction for me in the device beyond the sleek, minimalist style are that I really enjoy and respect both the designs and the specs of most iRiver products I have used. I have had a very good history with the company. Also the Story looks very similar to a Kindle, without all that annoying Shop at Amazon stuff, which has to be a plus. The one problem has been that iRiver gear is not easily available in most parts of the world, and even then you see their music players far more often then you do their other products, such as the Story.
However, that may soon change. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that iRiver is partnering with their countrymen at LG to create an ebook reader directly targeted at the American market with the intention of going on sale in the US later this year.
The current Story can handle epub, pdf and a few other ebook formats (but NOT.mobi), runs a version of Linux (though some reports say it runs Windows, which seems…odd) with a 6 inch E-ink screen It is currently available in Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, China and Russia for about $299, iRiver’s marketing manager, J.K. Jeong, told the WSJ. She also said that the version of the Story that finally gets to the US may have completely different specs and that they may be considering working with a US supplier.
As for the partnership with LG, the two companies are being very serious about it. They are forming a 5 million dollar joint venture (51% equity investment from LG Display, 49% from iRiver) called L&I Electronic Technology based in China’s Guangdong province which they expect to have up and running by the end of the summer. From there they have big plans, and are saying they will be producing 1 million units annually by next year.
I am worried that now that they are finally bringing the Story to the US, it may be too late. The ebook reader market is changing fast and E-ink devices are already looking for ways to expand their capabilities. That may not be the best climate to launch a pure Ebook Reader from a company most Americans have never heard of, that is already considered in Europe to be on the pricey side. Let’s not forget the cautionary tale of iRex. I have a feeling that LG may be looking to this partnership not only to produce an Ebook reader, but possibly to work with iRiver’s design staff (which are second to none) to come up with their own entry in the rapidly heating up Tablet wars.
Either way, I think that anything that gives iRiver more exposure in the US is a good thing, so play on. I can;t wait to see what they come up with.