Sharp has revealed plans to launch an e-bookstore and a couple of color tablets/e-book readers in Japan by the end of the year. While the few thousand offerings from online bookstore at launch is unlikely to make a huge dent in Amazon's or B&N's user base, the Galapagos mobile and home tablets look promising. Detailed specifications are sadly lacking but they will both be able to get online wirelessly, play multimedia content and come pre-installed with social networking applications to allow the sharing of comments and favorites with friends and family.

Sharp says that the name Galapagos was chosen "as a symbol of the 'evolution' of services and terminal devices that constantly bring fresh, new experiences to the user" and plans to join a crowded tablet/e-Reader marketplace from December. At the time of launch, Sharp will have around 30,000 newspapers, magazines and books to offer early adopters which is not even a blip compared to the millions on offer from the already established competition.

However, Sharp is not aiming at a global client-base just yet, which is reflected by the fact that the content will be delivered in the latest generation XMDF format to allow support for Japanese texts in addition to video and audio content. The e-bookstore will offer a subscription-based newspaper and magazine delivery service as well as trial content from new book releases to help users decide on future purchases.

The opening of the e-bookstore will coincide with the availability of a couple of color LCD devices, a 5.5-inch mobile unit and a 10.8-inch home unit. Both Galapagos tablets/e-Readers will have 802.11b/g Wi-Fi built in for connecting to Sharp's e-book portal and surfing the web with the included browser, but no 3G.

There's no official word on which operating system has been chosen although most bets seem to be on Android. Details are also lacking on the kind of touchscreen experience users can expect, the level of storage on offer and compatibility with external storage media and the likely battery life.

The 10.8-inch device will have a 1366 x 800 resolution LCD screen capable of high definition video playback and is said to be just the right size to offer comfortable reading of a magazine double-page spread. The 5.5-inch version offers resolution at 1024 x 600 and features a trackball for mouse-like navigation.

Sharp will also introduce some PC software called Galapagos Station that will allow users to organize downloaded content on a computer and convert documents for reading on the tablets/e-Readers.

A Japanese Galapagos product portal has been set up, where more information will be revealed closer to the release. No pricing details have been announced at this time.

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