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The coming ebook reader flood

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(Read caption) The Microsoft Courier leads the way in the coming onslaught of ebook readers.

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"Kindle" indeed.

Amazon's popular Kindle ebook reader has sparked some fiery competition. Several companies recently announced plans to produce their own ereader-like device, and signs point to more on the horizon.

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Chief among the new rivals is an interesting alliance between Best Buy and Verizon, both giants in their respective fields. Today, iRex Technologies, the guys behind a blockbuster ebook reader in Europe, said it would cross the pond with a $400 touch-screen device. The new iRex DR800SG will go on sale in Best Buys across the country and feature downloadable digital books over Verizon's network. It should hit Best Buy's shelves next month, "along with the Sony Reader and similar products," reports the NYTimes.

This news came a day after Gizmodo revealed the stunning Microsoft Courier. The company's pitch video shows a device straight out of science fiction – dual touch screens that face each other like pages of a book. Reportedly led by J Allard, the Microsoft frontman for Xbox and Zune, the Courier team seems to focus on stylus-based handwriting and a scrapbook-like feature for collecting Web snippets.

Meanwhile, rumors persist of Apple's supposed tablet, the upcoming CrunchPad mobile device, and Sony's Reader reboot. Excluding Sony, these last few examples may feel more like laptops than Kindle's black-and-white ereader aesthetic – but they are all part of the same movement.

These new items are Goldilocks devices, snuggling into a spot between PCs and single-function gadgets. Rather than try to compete with computers or phones, they focused on improving the ways people consume what they love – whether it be music, books, or the Internet. They aim for portability and (we hope) a price tag that average shoppers can stomach as a secondary device.

And if any take off the way Kindle did, expect many more competitors to emerge soon.

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