Rocket eBook Successor to Be Unveiled at N.Y. Book Fair
Paul Hilts -- 9/4/00
Next generation e-book devices will be officially introduced

New look e-book.
The next generation of Gemstar's portable e-book devices will be officially introduced at the New York Is Book Country book fair in Manhattan set for September 20-24, announced the consumer electronics giant Thomson Multimedia. The REB 1100 and REB 1200--smaller, lighter successors to Gemstar's Rocket eBook and SoftBook devices, respectively--will bear the RCA nameplate and will be available by October through several retail outlets to be named at the rollout; no prices have yet been suggested.
The REB 1100 will have a 5.5-inch monochrome LCD touch screen, standard memory capacity of eight MB (enough to hold about 20 novels) and a slot for adding a 64 MB SmartMedia memory upgrade card. Weighing in at 17 ounces, five ounces lighter than Rocket eBook, the 1100 has added an internal 56K modem for downloading e-books on any standard telephone line, freeing users from having to own a personal computer with Internet access. For users who want to connect to a PC, the 1100 will also have a USB port and an infrared link.

Though the 1100 also has an earphone jack and was touted by former NuvoMedia CEO Martin Eberhard as being "MP3-ready," Gemstar sources say that MP3-player software will not be offered until current copyright issues are cleared up. In the meantime, they hint, if e-book files contain audio portions, it may be possible to play them in the near future.

The REB 1200, which also will be available in a base model with eight MB of internal memory and a 56K internal modem, will be larger and more expandable than the 1100. The memory expansion slot on the 1200 will hold CompactFlash memory cards, some of which can hold more than 300 MB of storage memory, and the PC expansion connections include an Ethernet port for connecting to high-speed networks, cable modems or DSL lines. The touch screen on the 1200 is full color, measuring 8.5 inches diagonally, but the unit still manages to come in at 33 ounces, nearly a pound lighter than its predecessor.

Both machines will be compatible with the Open eBook file format. While the SoftBook always was, Gemstar officials were quick to add that the company will continue to support the older Rocket eBook machines, and that future e-book releases should still be readable in both formats.