Ever since the rise of the tablet and the fall of ebook reader prices, innovation in the field of E Ink ebook readers has grown rather stale. Sure, being able to snag an ereader for under $100 is great, but that has essentially thwarted the growth of specialized ereaders and has destroyed the amount of choices we have be eliminating lesser-known brands.
The iRex DR-800 is a good example of this. It hit the US market almost exactly 2 years ago. And looking at it you see how little has changed in the field of ebook readers since then. About the only thing that has changed is that most newer ereaders use E Ink Pearl screens that have slightly better contrast than the Vizplex screens used a few years ago (the average person probably wouldn’t even notice the difference unless it was pointed out to them).
What made the iRex DR-800 unique was it’s screen size. It, along with its older brother the iRex Illiad, was the only E Ink ereader to have an 8-inch display. The resolution of the screen was 768 x 1024. And it even had a Wacom touchscreen.
The US-version of the iRex DR-800 also had free 3G wireless for downloading ebooks from Barnes and Noble, periodicals from NewspaperDirect, and it had a hidden web browser too.
Other features included an SD card slot, user replaceable battery, a crop margins feature, notes and highlights, it had a unique flip bar for turning pages and navigating menus, and a simplistic design a lot like the newer Kindles.
The iRex DR-800 was only out a couple of months before it got pulled because iRex went bankrupt and eventually turned into a different company called IRX, and has since disappeared into obscurity. Now the iRex DR-800 is pretty much impossible to find in the US. It still lives on as the Solid FX8 for use as a chart reader and cockpit organizer through Jeppesen, but it costs $495. That’s a huge discount actually. It used to be nearly $2000!
Looking back at the iRex DR-800, the biggest reason it failed was because of its price. Back at the start of 2010 ereaders were a lot more expensive. The Kindle 2 sold for $259 if you can believe that. The DR-800 sold for $399, as much as high-end tablets go for now.
I can’t help but think a device like the iRex DR-800 would do better in today’s market where virtually all ereaders have 6″ screens and there’s not much variety. It would have to be a lot cheaper than $399 though. At $199 I think something like it could be competitive.
I can’t help but think how cool an 8-inch or larger E Ink ereader that runs Android would be. But I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon, not unless B&N or Sony decides to surprise everyone with a larger E Ink ereader.