E-readers set to duke it out this spring

While the world has gotten more and more inundated with gadgets, books have remained stubbornly low-tech. But this year could mark a turning point in tome technology, with two electronic reading devices debuting this spring. Next month iRex will introduce its iLiad e-reader (right), which has an 8.1-inch black-and-white screen. It can display PDF and TXT files as well as XHTML pages on the "high-brightness" display (hmm… sounds good for outdoors, not so much for indoors). You can also load audiobook MP3s into the 224 MB of built-in memory (an SD/MMC card slot lets you add more), listening to them via the headphone jack. Around the same time as iLiad's release will come Sony's Reader, announced in January. The Reader's E Ink technology is said to consume virtually no power while displaying a page on the 6-inch screen; only "page turns" drain the battery, which should be good for 7,500 turns. Like the iLiad, it'll display PDFs and play MP3s, but Sony also plans to offer eBooks for users to buy on the company's Connect.com music store, which about seven people have actually heard of. But Sony should still have the edge, since the Reader will cost between $300 and $400, while the iLiad is supposed to cost about 650 euros (about $800), Engadget reports.