The Skiff eReader Takes Port at CES with Specs, On-Sale Details, & Pictures

Happy New Year, digital reader fans. Looks like 2010 will be the year for you.

The Skiff, a magazine-focused digital eReader conceptualized by Hearst and equipped  with 3G connectivity by Sprint, will be in  attendance at CES 2010. In conjunction with an announcement today, Skiff released  hints of the device's design and a handful of images.  Design highlights and a product gallery are below.

You shouldn't have trouble reading - and touching - your favorite newspapers, magazines, blogs, books and more - With a touch-capable 11.5-inch electronic-paper display and 1200 x 1600-pixel resolution, the Skiff will boast a pretty but not so little picture that displays more than the rote black-and-white text of other readers. This device is designed to showcase the full glory of newspaper and magazine layouts, splashy front page images, distracting whole-page ads, and massively Photoshop'ed covers included.

The Skiff is bendy and durable - Weighing in at just over one pound and measuring a little thicker than 1/4-inch, the Skiff is billed as the "thinnest eReader to date."

More than one way to download content - The Skiff will access Wi-Fi networks  and Sprint's 3G data network as well. You can also side-load content via mini USB port or SD card slot into the 4GB of on-board storage.

Next-generation e-paper display - Whereas most eReaders contain a layer of glass in their touch sensitive display, the Skiff uses a flexible sheet of stainless-steel foil, an innovation that allows the device to be thinner and less prone to lovely screen cracks.

The Skiff will be sold by Sprint - You can buy the contorting eReader at Sprint brick-and-mortars or on the carrier's website.

Price points don't exist yet - No word on pricing today, but if you're going to be purchasing the Skiff from Sprint stores, there's a good chance you'll have to purchase a 3G data plan from the carrier in order to download over-the-air content via a 3G data connection. I wouldn't be too surprised if the Skiff is sold like a smart phone or netbook, with a subsidized price available only to those who purchase a specified data plan and sign a two-year agreement.

If that's the case, Skiff has got some 'splaining to do.  Hopefully Sprint won't charge the full cost of admission for a monthly data plan (about $60 bucks every 30 days or almost $1500 over two years) for a product that lets you download books, magazines, newspapers, or blogs, but doesn't let you take advantage of the full internet or utilize web-connected applications similar to a netbook or smart phone.  A Skiff user, after all, will not surf a 3G network with the same level of intensity as someone with a HTC Hero smart phone or a MiFi wireless hotspot router.

But, maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Let's wait and see what Sprint, Hearst, and the Skiff decide to charge for the services to their progressive device. In the meantime, we can all be thankful that a new eReader is hitting the market and pushing the development of this nascent but popular category of products. We'll learn more on the Skiff  at CES later this week. Stay tuned for details.

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