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Pandigital’s Novel Is Both Novel and Easy on the Pocketbook

Color display, Barnes and Noble partner and a great price

Color display, Barnes and Noble partner and a great price

Pandigital, a company best known for creating wireless digital photo frames, took a novel step forward with the introduction of a $200 full-color e-book reader with multimedia capabilities and a Barnes & Noble affiliation. In addition to the unit’s e-reader functionality, you can store photos, music, and movies, and use the device as a photo frame when you’re not reading.

The Down Low

The first version of the Pandigital Novel is a 7-inch eReader with an integrated and very fulfilling Barnes & Noble eBook Store experience. The comparatively large screen is a full-color LCD touch-screen display. It has Wi-Fi connectivity and a full set of reading enhancements, like a dictionary and notetakers. You can run a browser or play music while you read, since it’s multitasking capable, but the Internet search is not integrated into the book experience itself.

One of the cooler things on my list is a night reading mode where the text inverts from black-on-white to white-on-black. (If your spouse complains about your nocturnal reading habits this is a great answer.) It’ll also take advantage of the cutting edge Barnes & Noble LendMe technology, making it one of the first e-readers to work like a 14-day lending library.

I called Ross Rubin, an NPD analyst who monitors e-books, for his opinion. He believes that Amazon and Barnes & Noble have an advantage (presumably over iTunes), since both have vast databases of avid readers. “Barnes & Noble is reaching out to be the default bookstore on such devices as this one, the Plastic Logic device, and the forthcoming RCA e-reader from Audiovox,” says Rubin.

One of the tradeoffs of using an LCD screen is a shorter battery life, significantly shorter than the Kindle’s e-paper screen. One of the other tradeoffs is using Wi-Fi (home and hotspots) versus the Kindle’s data connection that works anywhere.

On the plus side—let’s face it—the iPad, a device with many similar features, costs $500. The Pandigital Novel is $200. The new Pandigital Novel eReader is an Android-based system, though it does not yet support downloadable apps.

The end result? Affordable, handsome, and a welcome contender to the e-reader plus world. It’s on my list as the closest thing to an iPad at one-third the price. And I’m betting that future versions will take more advantage of the Android operating system.