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Discovery Communications working on a Kindle competitor?

Discovery Communications, which produces such cable channels as Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, may be working on its own e-book reader, according to a U.S. patent application made public today.

The diagrams included with Discovery's patent application, which was filed in February and made public today, depict a rectangular device with physical controls for user navigation. The device would be for reading e-books and "providing for e-commerce," and would be a direct competitor to the Amazon Kindle electronic book reader and the Sony Reader digital book reader.

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Below is a sample diagram from the patent filing:

A phone call was placed this afternoon to Discovery's corporate communications office seeking comment. I'm waiting on a return call.

The Silver Spring-based company holds a patent on some security and copy protection features, and earlier this year sued Amazon for their alleged infringement of them with their Kindle and Kindle 2, according to this CNET article.

But it appears the disclosures in the patent filing today are the first signs that Discovery is seriously considering entering the e-book fray.

Hit the jump to learn more about the Discovery patent filing.

According to the filing's abstract, the e-book's user can view info about products and services, view an online electronic catalog, and receive samples of products available for purchase.

This alone sounds like Discovery may be attempting to build an iTunes-like or Amazon-like interface for people to consume their media.

Quote: "In the case of a digital product, the user can download the purchased product directly into the viewer. The viewer also records statistics concerning purchase and information requests in order to recommend related products or services, or for directing particular types of advertisements to the user."

Interesting stuff, no?

What do you think? Are e-readers the next big thing we're gonna see flooding the market in a year?

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