image An e-reader, competing directly against the Kindle and Nook, rather than just a multiuse tablet—could this be the mysterious Apple gizmo called the iSlate?

That’s the word from QuickPwn, with a friendly pickup in VentureBeat, although there isn’t independent confirmation. Details:

“The iSlate will be a competitor to the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and other e-readers that are out there. Our sources have also told us that the iSlate eBook reader will run on Apple’s upcoming iPhone OS 4.0 software and will include a separate App Store for eBooks.  Apple will be announcing the iSlate eBook reader at WWDC 2010, which our sources says is being held on June 7.”

If the dedicated e-reader talk pans out, that would help explain other rumors—about the appearance of weird objects in the skies above Cupertino, California. Wait. I meant the rumors about Apple being involved in some kind of book digitization operation.

Like the Kremlin, Apple at times puts out false information to confuse the press and rivals. Could that be why Steve Jobs said that no one reads? More fun for the Apple-ologists.

Of course, there’s a little question here. Just what’s a dedicated e-reader? The Kindle, for example, has a primitive but useful Web browser that I use on occasion to read Gmail.

If the iSlate is a dedicated e-book reader, will Apple—historically in favor of a proprietary approach—create its on e-book format? Jeez, I hope not.  I’d actually prefer a multiuse machine on which people could run e-reading software of their choice. Or how about an e-reader that can do the same?

What happens next at Amazon if Apple goes the eBabel route? If Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is smart, then he’ll let the Kindle use the ePub standard to give it an instant advantage over Apple. Just keep in mind that hardware is Apple’s real strength and that in response, Amazon will very possibly do something to balance that out.

Come to think of it, wasn’t Amazon’s MP3 store Amazon’s way of dealing with Apple’s iTunes DRM? I’d love to see Jeff Bezos think similarly about e-books. An Amazon ePub store, anyone?

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