Yet another contender entered the rapidly crowding e-book market yesterday when electronics giant Samsung announced the South Korean debut of its first e-book reader, the SNE-50K. The six-and-a-half-ounce device, which will retail for the equivalent of about $270, is not expected to reach the American market until 2010.
Sporting a five-inch touch screen, the SNE-50K is significantly smaller than Amazon’s Kindle. It also supports the increasingly popular ePub format, and can display Adobe and Microsoft Office documents. Unlike the Kindle, however, the SNE-50K lacks wireless capability; users must first download books to a computer, then install them directly to the device. Nonetheless, Samsung says the launch marks a serious challenge to its competitors. “We seek to become a bigger player than Amazon or Sony in the e-book market,” Lew Jae-young, Samsung’s vice president, told the Korea Herald.
As part of the debut, Samsung also announced a partnership with Kyobo Bookstore Company, one of South Korea’s largest bookstore chains. The retailer will sell the SNE-50K on its Web site and at several of its locations, and will also provide e-books for the device. While Kyobo currently offers only about 2,500 electronic titles, that number is expected to swell with Samsung’s reader on the market. Lee Han-u, Kyobo’s online business director, told CNET News that he expects the launch of the SNE-50K to increase the company’s e-book sales “approximately five-fold.”