$140 Google eBooks reader, iriver Story HD, hits stores July 17

Google has announced its plans to launch a Google eBooks-optimized e-reader on July 17. Called the iriver Story HD, the e-book reader is designed to give users easy access to the 3 million free titles Google holds in addition to a few hundred thousand paid titles, with a price and design that is very similar to Amazon’s Kindle.

The Story HD appears to be an evolution of iriver’s Story e-reader from 2009, a model that was praised for its wide support of e-book formats. The Story HD has a similar design that includes a QWERTY keyboard, though this edition has plated gold accents on the keys and frame. A long, thin four-direction button centered above the keyboard appears to handle page turning, meaning the Story HD is a step behind the newest Nook’s touchscreen page-turns for the same price.

Google notes that in addition to reading e-books from local storage, users will be able to read books directly via the Story HD’s WiFi connection without having to download the book to the device. The Google Books API is also open to all publishers, retailers, and manufacturers, so anyone can put their content on the store.

Given that Google Books is one of the most widely accessible e-book platforms—computers, Android and iOS devices as well as Nook and Sony readers can all access the e-book content—we expect the hardware and user experience will have to deliver in order for the reader to make an impact on a market where other brands like the Nook and Kindle already have significant momentum. The Story HD is priced at $139.99 for a WiFi-only version, available in Target stores nationwide July 17.

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