With the flood of ebook readers hitting the market over the past year, not to mention the success of Apple’s iPad, any new offering needs to differentiate itself if it is going to survive. That’s exactly what Aiptek has done with its Story Book inColor, which aims to sidestep the overcrowded adult market as the first full color ebook specifically designed for children.

Story Book inColor leverages all of the strengths of a children’s book and an ebook to entertain children and help them develop their reading skills. The device sports an 8-inch TFT LCD display with 800 x 600 resolution and comes with 20 books built-in. The 1GB of internal memory is big enough to store up to 45 books, but capacity can be increased via SD/SDHC/MMC and MS Pro card or USB drive. Choosing one or two books before an outing can be a difficult task for a child, so the ability to store their entire library in one compact and light device is definitely a plus.

To protect youngsters’ eyes the ebook will display an image reminding children to take a rest after 20 minutes. And when not being used for reading the device can be used as a digital photo frame. It can store up to 30 mega-pixel images in JPEG format and display them as an auto-slideshow while playing MP3 music in the background. The device also comes with an auto-rotate function for display books and photos in portrait or landscape format.

The ebook’s interface is designed for junior to navigate, with four large buttons used to browse stored books on a virtual bookcase and change pages of the book being read. Connecting the Story Book inColor to a PC via USB allows users to access an online shop to purchase new books and kids can share purchased books with friends to read together. Ebooks are available in English, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese language versions with more on the way.

There is a range of different types of ebooks available from the store for a range of age groups. Some are just like traditional picture books, others read the story to the child, while some read the book and feature animated pictures.

The Story Book inColor comes with a built-in 2600mAh rechargeable battery for around two hours of photo slideshow operation, and presumably roughly the same length of time for ebook use – although anyone who can get a child to sit still for that long might want to check the kid’s pulse.

Aiptek’s Story Book inColor is priced at US$199.00. Books cost $3-4.

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