Is Plastic Logic’s Reader a Kindle Killer?

plastic-logic-e-reader-side-viewNew technology from Plastic Logic could threaten the Kindle’s brief reign as king of the e-reader hill.  Plastic Logic officially entered the e-reader wars when it unveiled its digital reader at the DEMO technology convention in September.  Its reader is based on plastic electronics and designed to display various types of media such as newspapers, e-books and magazines using E Ink electronic-display technology seen in similar devices.  According to Wired, the Plastic Logic’s device is sized like Letter-sized paper (8.5 by 11 inches), measures less than 0.3 of an inch thick and weighs less than a pound (about the size and weight of a pad of paper). The actual display area measures 10.7 diagonal inches.

By way of comparing it to the Amazon Kindle, Gizmodo characterized Plastic Logic’s reader thus:

Here is what the clunky Amazon Kindle should have been since the beginning . . .

Here are a quick overview of the Plastic Logic reader’s capabilities:

Download capability – The company says the device, when launched, will support both wired and wireless download of content.

Readability – High quality, but no backlight which means you need another light source if you’re reading in a location where light is dim.

Battery life – Generally about a week.  In part the longer life is due to the lack of a backlight.

Durability – Plastic Logic claims it is tough enough to withstand being hit with a shoe.  (Gizmodo checked this out and found it was indeed true.)

Interface – Gesture based page navigation, with the ability to type on a screen based keyboard and create markups using your finger or a stylus.

Formats – The Plastic Logic reader supports a full range of business document formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and Adobe PDFs, as well as newspapers, periodicals and books. 

Here a couple ofvideo that demonstrate how the reader works. 

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plastic-logic-e-newspaperThough the Plastic Logic reader will certainly change the e-book reader balance of power over time, it is probably more likely to impact the newspaper business first.  US newspaper are in a life and death struggle.  A large body of readers already gets their news online and would probably prefer to do so from a trusted source.  An inexpensive, widely adopted, mobile and convenient e-reader would allow newspapers to ditch printing and physical distribution and be profitable with a smaller advertising base.  It would also allow them to partner with online advertising networks in a more meaningful way. 

As far as e-books go, Plastic Logic can do both publishers and readers a great service by avoiding the use of proprietary formats.  While the Kindle has been successfulespecially relative to other e-book readers – e.g. the Sony Reader – it’s closed architecture will ultimately keep it from being a dominant force in book publishing.  And with open format competitors like Plastic Logic sporting a compelling new design and robust feature set, the Kindle could soon join the ranks of other e-book museum pieces.  And of course you can’t rule out e-books on the iPhone using reader software like Stanza.  Gizmodo had an apt suggestion for Jeff Bezos:

[He] should buy these guys and smash his frankenbookreader.

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