iriver Story HD: Google eBooks gets its first dedicated e-reader

Google has taken the wraps off the iriver Story HD, the first e-reader to be completely integrated with Google eBooks.

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What, you thought the market was already loaded to the button-busting seams with e-readers and tablet computers? Google begs to differ.

Today, Google began advertising a $140 number called the Story HD, the first e-reader to be completely integrated with the Google eBooks platform. The Story HD is made by the South Korean tech company iriver (iriver does not believe in capitalizing proper names, apparently), and as e-reading devices go, this one is pretty snazzy – witness the svelte white plastic frame, the QWERTY keyboard, the instant compatibility with one of the biggest electronic bookstores in the world.

"We built the Google eBooks platform to be open to all publishers, retailers and manufacturers," Google's Pratip Banerji wrote on the company blog. "Manufacturers like iriver can use Google Books APIs and services to connect their devices to the full Google eBooks catalog for out-of-the-box access to a complete ebookstore. You can also store your personal ebooks library in the cloud – picking up where you left off in any ebook you’re reading as you move from laptop to smartphone to e-reader to tablet." The device will sold at Target stores nationwide beginning July 17.

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So how does the iriver Story HD stack up?

Over at ZD Net, Larry Dignan hones in on the biggest problem with the Story: It's a whole lot like its competitors. "[T]his device is priced the same – or more – than some flavors of the Kindle and Nook. Barnes & Noble already has new a baby Nook on the market. Amazon is due for its announced refresh sometime this summer or early fall if history is any guide.... Google is late to the game. Both the Kindle and Nook are widely distributed and tethered to their respective e-book stores at low prices."

Again, it's not that the Story HD isn't nice. It is! But complete Google eBooks integration does not a groundbreaking e-reader make. And really, when we get down to it, groundbreaking is what it will take to cut through the already-cluttered e-reader market – a device that offers a panoply of new functionalities and features, or a device that totally undercuts its competitors on price. At $140, the Story HD is 26 bucks more expensive than the ad-supported Kindle, and right on par with the Wi-Fi Kindle.

Interested in the Story HD? Drop us a line in the comments section below. We're listening.

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