Kalhari offers low-cost e-reader

Paul Vecchiatto
By Paul Vecchiatto, ITWeb Cape Town correspondent
Cape Town, 05 Nov 2010 is now selling, what it claims to be, the cheapest e-book reader in the country, the Elonex 500EB.

However, the online retailer bemoans publishers' slow pace of local content delivery.

The e-book reader, which is designed and manufactured by UK-based e-book maker Elonex, is part of Kalahari's already stated strategy to develop and sell a range of e-readers that could be used on any platform.

Kalahari's strategy is that a customer can either download software, or buy an e-reader (the device with software loaded) and so access the content on a PC, Apple MacBook, iPad, or any other such device.

Gerjo Hoffman, Kalahari's head of content, says: “There is a real demand for digital content in our country and the introduction of the Elonex 500EB is simply feeding SA's growing appetite.”

The 500EB is smaller than most other e-reader makes and models on the market, with a screen size of five inches, compared to an average of around seven inches. It's priced at R999.

“The next best pricing is around R2 999, for an e-reader. The 500EB is a quality product at a low price and this should make it very attractive to the South African market,” Hoffman says.'s Kindle e-reader has been the flagship product in this arena for some time. However, it is not readily available to the South African market and is also limited in that it has to operate within the US online retail giant's ecosystem.

“The 500EB can download content from any source and one doesn't have to pay for every download,” Hoffman notes.

Slow pace

The biggest problem, comments Hoffman, is that South African publishing houses have been slow to move their books into the electronic market.

“Some of the smaller publishing houses have seen the advantages of digital publishing, but the big houses have been very slow,” he explains.

Carlo Romao, national marketing manager for Random House Struik, says the publishing house has started its e-book strategy and is beginning to roll out its offerings.

“For many people, there is definitely a mindset shift that has to happen to migrate to e-books. However, e-books will probably never fully replace physical publishing,” he predicts.

Romoa says the e-book market is mainly being taken up by early adopters, but it is showing that there is huge appeal for the product.

“Technology has made life easier in quite a number of ways. One aspect is clearly seen in the introduction of e-books and e-readers, which seem to have made paperback novels a thing of the past,” says Hoffman.

Besides offering a new way to read books, the Elonex 500EB also provides additional entertainment options. It displays colour e-books in numerous formats and is an AVI video player, image viewer and music player.

The Elonex 500EB weighs 190g, has a five-inch TFT LCD display screen, with an 800 x 480-pixel resolution. The device comes with a 2GB internal memory and supports memory cards up to 32GB.

Battery life is rated at 20 hours for music, four hours for video and six hours for reading.

It can store about 1 000 books.

Related story:
Kalahari takes leaf out of Amazon