Ahead of Its Time Tech

Gemstar Rocket eBook

Year: 1998

What It Was: The first dedicated eReader to garner attention from consumers. This early eReader let users read digital novels, keep notes in the margins, search passages, and bookmark pages. The built-in speaker  also enabled the Rocket to read back selected passages.

Why It Failed: A lack of wireless connectivity, bestseller content, and sex appeal. It also didn’t help that the text quality paled in comparison to today’s E-Ink screens and that eBooks were both expensive (about $14 a pop) and completely locked down with digital rights management. Not even an appearance on Oprah could generate enough buzz for people to reach for their wallets.

Why It Was Important: The Gemstar Rocket eBook was the prototype for the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and a slew of other eReaders that have flooded the market in the past six months.

Current Chance of Technology’s Success: Very good. The biggest improvements that have appeared in modern eReaders to give them an advantage are superior displays, always-on wireless connectivity, and deep content catalogs.

“The majority of eReaders that we see use ePaper, which is well suited for long-form reading and increased battery life,” said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for NPD Group. “There are also 3G—and soon to be 4G—connections that let consumers purchase books away from the PC. Plus, there’s far more content; when Amazon announced the Kindle, it said that it had over 90 percent of the The New York Times’ bestsellers.”

Ahead of Its Time Tech Contents

1. :CueCat
2. Gemstar Rocket eBook
3. HP Jornada 820
Ojo Personal Video Phone
Pepper Pad
Sharp Actius RD3D

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