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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Better Idea

posted by on September 9 at 13:08 PM


Yesterday, Plastic Logic unveiled their e-reading device. It’s a flat 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of plastic, allegedly thinner than a pad of paper:

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. It has an easy gesture-based user interface and powerful software tools that will help business users to organize and manage their information. Users can connect to their information either wired or wirelessly and store thousands of documents on the device. The reader incorporates E Ink technology for great readability and features low power consumption and long battery life. The Plastic Logic reader is scheduled to ship in the first half of 2009

It’s going to be initially targeted at business readers, but I think this could really take off. Some are calling it a Kindle-killer. With an intelligent payment plan, it could be the thing to save newspapers, at any rate.

RSS icon Comments


Kindle: for people who have no idea how incredibly uncool they are.

Posted by Mr. Poe | September 9, 2008 1:21 PM

Take off like the Apple Newton or all those stupid e-book readers?

Not holding my breath on this one.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | September 9, 2008 1:21 PM

As long as it's flexible. I could use one of those things here at my desk, if it wirelessly synced with my laptop display.

Posted by Banna | September 9, 2008 1:30 PM

It bends! And would be easy for me to snatch out of someone's hands and frisbee up onto the roof!

Posted by tomasyalba | September 9, 2008 1:46 PM

The Apple Newton was a great concept, but a clunky design; too big and heavy and not easy to use (I actually bought a Newton back in the day). But it was the first step in what eventually became the Palm Pilot, which was the same general idea, but a much better design.

Likewise, I view the Kindle much like the Apple Newton. It is a great idea, but a clunky design. The general idea of an e-reader is a good one, and the Kindle will inevitably be replaced by a better designed product at a better price, just as the Newton was.

Not sure if this particular device is the Kindle-killer. The picture certainly looks more sleek than the Kindle. But the press release is short on details. No indication of resolution, which is the key to readability and eye-strain for extensive use. Being able to read a variety of document formats is a huge advantage over the Kindle, so that's a good idea. I'll certainly be curious to learn more about it as more details become available.

Posted by SDA in SEA | September 9, 2008 1:52 PM

Print is dead.

Posted by Dr. Egon Spengler | September 9, 2008 1:55 PM

I hate to be an Apple fanboy (and yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I am typing on a macbook and listening to an ipod), but I really do think that Apple has a better chance of making a device that will make e-book readers popular than anybody else. The Plastic Logic device looks cool, but I don't think they have the resources to market it or the infrastructure to support it.

Apple already has their iTunes store that they could sell books, but more importantly they have design know-how and would make the tough decisions to sacrifice versatility over ease of use. God knows they know how to market and hype their shit.

Posted by gillsans | September 9, 2008 2:19 PM

@5 SDA...

While I appreciate the reference, I disagree completely with your analysis of the Apple Newton and the claim that the Pilot was a better device. The Pilot was and remains a lousy device, but marketing sold America on the idea that it needed PDA's. The ONLY advantage of the Palm Pilot was price point; as for functionality? It was and remain terrible.

The Newton (v. 2, not v. 1) was an impressive and completely usable device. It suffered at size and price point. But, once I let go of my Newton, and tried to replace it with a Palm, I essentially gave up Palm computing for a decade. The Newton was way ahead of it's time, and the public was never going to pay that kind of money for a handheld.

Enter the iPhone. It's the first device that gives me an ability to compute in a handheld device similar to the functionality of the Newton. The iPhone is the breakthrough device. Palm will barely be a footnote in history. (Can you tell how much I dislike Palm ;-)

As for eReaders...We'll see. This form factor looks much better than the Kindle. Interface is the key, as Microsoft and Palm have never, ever understood or done well. Will Apple enter this space? Not for many years, given how immature this market is, and how niche a market it will be.

Posted by Timothy | September 9, 2008 2:32 PM

This is great and all, but what I want to know is: can I watch BBC 4's "The World Tonight" on it while eating my re-hydrated mashed peas?

Posted by COMTE | September 9, 2008 3:36 PM

No way. These things can't get bigger without getting flexible. It does the same thing as a Kindle, but it's twice the size? How is that better? The size of a newspaper is nice, but only because it's foldable, rollable, bendable. If your newspaper were a giant slab, it would be decidedly inconvenient. I don't get this thing at all. The Kindle, while ugly as sin, is closer to the right size. Smaller will be better until I can fold it.

Posted by Anthony Hecht | September 9, 2008 3:58 PM

ZOMG! It's the size of - a pad of paper! That's, like, so HUGE! How will I ever fit this MONSTROSITY into my briefcase, or backpack, or messenger bag, or laptop case?

Posted by I'm Bigger Than You All | September 9, 2008 4:19 PM

This has been coming in one form or another for a while now--the Kindle was designed by monkeys, and the Sony E-Reader is only a transitional model towards the one we're looking at.
Cell phone companies are looking into paper-thin, touch sensitive screens to enhance their phones (Nokia, i think, has an amazing concept video online somewhere). But essentially, this type of e-ink/media is where we're heading next.
And, regardless of how some may feel about the plotting of Neal Stephenson's 1994 (!) novel, "Diamond Age", he nailed the idea of e-readers, e-papers, and e-books. You should check it out... And as to the question of folding, scientists have been working with 'memory plastics' for a while now which essentially converts from a solid sheet to a 3-fold when touched in certain places, with no discernible creases...

Posted by Vladimir | September 10, 2008 1:30 PM

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