product4 Technology Review has an interesting piece about what may be the most ambitious dual-screened e-reader yet: the Kno, a color double-tablet composed of two facing 14.1” LCD screens. It is intended to allow textbooks to be reproduced faithfully at their original sizes, rather than shrunk for the 9.7” Kindle DX or iPad.

The Kno will be undergoing testing by 100 students this fall to see if it fares better than the Kindle did in prior studies. There are also some concerns about how responsive the hardware is; it’s an awful lot of screen real-estate for an nVidia Tegra 2 to control.

I have my doubts about how well this is going to work. If people think the iPad is too heavy for reading, how are they going to respond to a device that weighs in at five and a half pounds? That’s as heavy as my laptop!

It’s also worth noting that Kno is remaining mum on how much the device will actually cost:

We are not disclosing the cost at this time. However, given the price of textbooks, the Kno will pay for itself when compared with buying traditional textbooks.

I’m curious how that’s going to work, given that once you buy this turkey you still have to buy the books that are going to go on it, too. I’m not sure I can see textbook publishers lowering their prices very much for e-books over “traditional” books. They’re still doing the work of compiling and editing them, after all.


  1. It seems quite bizarre, and the only possible logic behind it seems to be that it is some kind of testing unit for this twin screen format … with the capability of delivering an extremely stripped back, lighter final product. Otherwise .. crazy !

  2. I’m not sure either. For me, textbook reading really needs speed. I want to be able to quickly flip through pages and to turn pages back and forth to scan for stuff.

    However, I will report that one of the texts that I assign is around $140 in paper form and $80 in electronic form, so there is some savings here.

  3. I have a 14.1″ Toshiba TabletPC, and the thing makes me wonder how heavy two of those screens would be. Ouch! But still probably lighter than a physics textbook?

    Looks like it would cost about $1000 too. I don’t see how they can get the price much below that as yet.

    Publishers remain the big stumbling block to ereaders for class. If your school goes all open-textbooks, there’s no problem; meanwhile all the rest of the universe awaits as the textbook publishers try to balance their gains in killing the used-book market once and for all, and the possible losses in lowering prices. And how low will they go? And what DRM is going to work, especially against MIT students?

    The old chicken-and-egg dilemma.


  4. Textbook publishers may have their own special challenges. They may figure that they have a saturated market that cannot be grown by lowering prices beyond the huge savings in paper/printing/distribution/reseller costs. But that leaves them plenty of room to drop their price and retain profitability.
    DRM won;t work – period. They have to get a grip on that issue. I don’t see it is a particularly unusual dilemma, just your every day business issue of choosing the right price for your product.

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