Plastic Logic has decided that making a general eBook reader will simply not cut it anymore and they are quite right in thinking that too. So they have announced that their eBook reader, called QUE, will be the world’s first “proReader”. What that they mean by that is what many company’s mean when they proudly mention attach the ‘pro’ prefix to their products — it’s meant for business. So what does it have that the Kindle or the Nook doesn’t?
Well, the details are scanty on this one because the company is not letting things out of the bag yet but we do know that it will support multiple file formats that are usually required by business users. So it will be able to read (and display) PDF, PowerPoint, Word and Excel format — yes, they actually deliver on what they are promising. I mean at least where proper business format file support is concerned.
The company also promises a user interface that is as intuitive as “paper and ink”. Now that’s a tall claim but for a device with the largest touchscreen available in the market, it would be a shame for it not to have a great touch based UI. So let’s hope for the best.
Plastif Logic is going to compete directly with the Kindle readers with the QUE and a store that will be powered by Barnes and Noble. The QUE measures 8.5”x11.6” and is apparently just 1/3 of an inch thick. Now that sounds good. However, we will have to see this device to know exactly how good it is in person. A lot of things sound brilliant on paper but turn to be huge disappointments in person.
iRex’s latest attempt to best the Kindle just got a little more legitimate. While early specs on the latest iRex Reader promised 3G wireless capabilities, actual plans for a carrier were up in the air. That’s all changed with the announcement that iRex will be the first eReader to use the Verizon network.
The reader has now managed to duplicate many of the important features the Kindle offers. Not only can it download books wirelessly from anywhere with cell reception, but it also is connected to the Barnes & Noble store. Of all of Amazon’s competitors, I have to say that Barnes & Noble seems to do the best at challenging the entire Kindle experience. In the future, buying and reading books from either company should be fairly similar. Amazon’s strength lies in early dominance, but B&N may be able to make up for this through brand recognition and their ubiquitous brick and mortar stores. For people who are reluctant to switch to an eReader, being able to associate with a familiar, non-cyberspace chain is going to go a long way.
But one question I have is how much customers will need to pay for data transfer. On the Kindle, Amazon pays Sprint for all the bandwidth their customers use. As far as I can tell, this isn’t going to happen with the Barnes & Noble store. Not only is their store compatible with eReaders from two different companies (iRex and Plastic Logic), but both companies use different wireless providers (Verizon and AT&T, respectively). This seems to suggest that business surrounding the wireless faculty of the readers will be handled completely separate from the B&N store. Does this mean that wireless costs will be different for either reader? Or that customers will need to sign contracts for service agreements? In general, cell phone companies aren’t very well liked by consumers. If customers are made to sign up for a data plan when buying an eReader, I think they will be more likely to consider the Kindle instead.
If you are new to eBook industry and would like to catch up on all of the relationships between different Amazon Kindle and other different devices and companies in the e-Book universe. This picture created by techflash.com is just the right thing for you. There is also PDF version available that has every arrow linking a related story on techflash.com. You can download it by clicking on the picture below. It will really be worth your time.
eBook Universe by techflash.com
I guess this picture really is worth a thousand words… Great work, TechFlash!
This is big news for both iRex and Barnes & Noble. News of the new iRex reader has been taken with a grain of salt, due to the company’s so-so track record. By gaining a huge library of books to back up their 3G capabilities, the new iRex reader gains some extra credence. But Barnes & Noble is an even bigger winner in this case. Their store is set up to more or less mimic the Kindle platform. Up until now, Barnes & Noble was betting on the Plastic Logic Reader to help them compete with Amazon. With the iRex reader, things are different now. Barnes & Noble is still competing with the Kindle, but instead of manufacturing their own device they are letting their customers choose from a handful of eReaders from competing companies.
If more readers are added to Barnes & Noble’s platform, they could prove successful in luring customers away from Amazon. Right now, however, I don’t think Amazon needs to be too worried. With both the Kindle and the Kindle DX, Amazon is offering just as wide an array of devices as Barnes & Noble is.
There has been a lot of speculation surrounding the future of Barnes & Noble’s digital bookstore. The bookstore is being set up with a partnership involving the Plastic Logic Reader, following a business model very similar to Amazon’s. Unfortunately, the reader isn’t slated for release until 2010, but it is still possible to try out the Barnes & Noble eBook store without a dedicated eInk reader.
Barnes and noble has released free eReader software for the iPhone, Blackberry, Mac, and PC. At the moment, this software is the only way to read the books available on Barnes & Noble’s store. While limited to only a handful of devices, the software is supposed to be released on more platforms in the future.
If you are at all curious about what Barnes & Noble has to offer, it doesn’t hurt to download the eReader. When you download the software and create an account, you also are provided with a handful of free books from the public domain and a copy of the Merriam-Webster Pocket Dictionary. While it’s impossible to make any real comparisons to the Kindle model without the release of the Plastic Logic Reader, it’s interesting to see how the competing book selections stack up. One benefit of the Barnes & Noble store is the large quantity of free public domain books provided by Google.
If the battle between Barnes & Noble’s store and Amazon’s comes down to the eReaders themselves, this is a significant step in Plastic Logic catching up. They’ve even one up’ed Amazon by adding WiFi to the device (although WiFi might not be too far off for the Kindle).
The catch is that no details have been revealed as to what kind of pricing plan will be in place to use the network. Unlike Whispernet, which is free excluding the upfront device costs, Plastic Logic could decide to go in a different direction. Whispernet doesn’t cost anything because Amazon pays every time you download something. If Plastic Logic didn’t want to make that kind of commitment, they could defer payments to the customer.
Either way, the plot has thickened with Barnes and Noble and Plastic Logic. It seems like the best way to compete with Amazon is to find a way to copy their model.
Barnes & Noble has announced that they are planning to open their own ebook store. That the brick and mortar chain would make moves to compete with the Kindle isn’t much of a surprise since, like Amazon, they already are a major retailer with deep-seated ties in the publishing industry. In order for Barnes & Noble to ensure that they retain their massive share of book sales, it only makes sense that they would move in on digital media.
What is interesting is how Barnes & Noble is setting themselves up to be competitive with the Kindle platform. As of now, they are planning to price match Amazon’s standard $9.99 pricing and supply a library of 700,000 books. These books, however, can’t be read on either the Kindle or Sony’s eReaders. Instead, a partnership is being made to use Plastic Logic’s upcoming reader.
It seems like in the future Barnes and Noble and Amazon will offer very similar eBook platforms, with with similar stores and exclusive formats/DRM. The only real difference could end up being the Plastic Logic versus the Kindle. Amazon shouldn’t be too worried yet, however, since the Plastic Logic Reader doesn’t come out till next year. The Kindle is already at the forefront of eReader competition, and its household name status won’t be any different a year from now. Also, Plastic Logic designed their reader with business uses in mind, unlike the Kindle which was planned for the everyday consumer all along. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.
Device is geared towards business users rather than eBook readers.
Documents are organized into folders called binders.
Documents can be scribbled on, annotated and highlighted using touch screen. Nice feature is partial screen refresh.
Verdict: at the moment prospects of this device seem mediocre at best. There are no strong indicators that would show it will be successful as eBook reader. Mainly because nothing is yet known about book store which was crucial to Kindle’s success. As for business documents while this device is good for reading and annotating, I doubt that it will provide good experience for editing and creating new documents. This would be important for business users. While battery life that is “days, not hours” is important for business people on the go, there are notebooks available today that can go 6-8 hours on a single charge and run full-featured version of Microsoft Office. 6-8 hours is more than enough for most users. By the time Plastic Logic will release their product battery technology would have improved and this advantage would diminish even more.
Plastic Logic eReader
Overall it seems that many companies were inspired by success of Kindle and Sony eReader and decided to jump into what seems to be a promising market. But you can’t expect to succeed just because market is great and growing fast and you offer something that’s different from competitors.
Thin and flexible e-ink displays is one the advances that has been a long time coming. Plastic Logic hopes to bring us this amazing technology by 2009, a cross between the Kindle and actual paper.
Spun off from Cambridge University in 2000, Plastic Logic is now based in Mountain View, California, since 2000 they have been working hard to produce a semi-transparent sheet of tough plastic which can create and erase static images. Plastic Logic haven’t mastered animation yet, but they don’t think it will be too long before they do.
Whilst its headquarters are in Mountain View, California, it also has a manufacturing centre in Dresden, Germany, which is scheduled to open in September 2008. Plastic Logic says its product will be on the market in early 2009.
The company has taken over $200 million in funding to date, and other $50 million funding earlier this year, so all those investors will want to see what products Plastic Logic can come up with.
The obvious application is newspapers and magazines, whether it will be economically feasible for newspapers to ‘print’ on this new generation of e-ink displays is another matter. One possible way of turning a profit for the newspapers could be to sell monthly subscription, with a built in wireless receiver, the flexible display could receive updates for a month before asking the user to renew their subscription. But, I think the most likely–and most profitable–application will be displaying ads on posters and billboards.
You can watch a demonstration of the new e-ink displays provide by Plastic Logic;