Glorified newsagent WHSmith is to become the latest shop to stock a resident ebook reader. While Waterstones offers the Sony Reader and Amazon promote its Kindle, WHSmith will be trying to sell you the alliteratively named Samsung Slide eReader E60 alongside the pens and notepads.
The Samsung Slide eReader E60 is available online now and will take to UK high streets in WHSmith stores on Thursday for £200. A launch offer includes 10 free ebooks, including The Audacity Of Hope by Barack Obama, Medusa by Michael Dibdin and the heartrending Do Polar Bears Get Lonely? by Mick O'Hare. The 'Slide' in its name refers to the control pad that slides out from under the screen.
At first glance, the Samsung Slide seems unremarkable. A standard 2GB on-board storage for around 1,200 books and an SD expansion slot, Wi-Fi for downloading books and newspapers and a 6-inch eInk display. These specs more or less match the current bunch of Sony Readers. Both the Reader and Slide have touchscreens -- but there's a twist in the tale.
The Slide comes with a touch-sensitive screen, nothing new there, but rather than being a resistive job to be manipulated by fingers, this one is controlled by an electromagnetic resonance (EMR) stylus. This means you can only use touch features such as annotation and handwriting with the pen, but it's much more sensitive and accurate, as you won't smudge your carefully written notes if you graze the screen with your hands.
It also supports ePub formats and has a built-in dictionary, which may or may not have some of the inventive new additions. MP3 support is also included so, if you're able to mentally multi-task, you can take in some N-Dubz while absorbed in some Tolstoy.
As well as supporting audiobooks, the Slide can convert text to speech and read your books aloud for when you're driving or just too lazy to read -- assuming you don't mind your books sounding as though they're being read by Ke$ha.
As the kids fasten their satchels and polish their apples for the new school year, it seems wildly appropriate that the shop better known for stationery than books is selling an ebook reader that is itself more stationery than book. The abundant features beyond that of a simple reader, such as handwriting, calendar and organiser, gives the impression that it'd make just as good a notepad as ebook reader, if not better.
We'll see when we get on in for a full review.