E-paper grows up

Do you take too many books on holiday (we’re guilty)? We’re technology buffs, really, although we don’t show too much of this. But this thing, you gotta see, it’s the solution..

You thought the Kindle was cool, how about this stuff:

A closer look at Plastic Logic’s Kindle killer

  • Two days ago in San Diego, Plastic Logic wowed DEMOfall 08 attendees with its full-page electronic reader that was as thin as a pad of paper.  Available next year, this reader can easily display Microsoft Office, PDF and other documents.  It also has a touch-screen that lets users annotate documents by either drawing with their fingers or by tapping on a pop-up keyboard.  But how will this reader compete with the Amazon Kindle?  We talked to Plastic Logic’s marketing team to find out.
  • There was only one prototype available at Plastic Logic’s DEMO booth and their employees were VERY protective of it.  We made the mistake of grabbing it off the stand in order to take pictures, but it was immediately snatched out of our hands.
  • Like most electronic ink readers, the text quality is very good – it appears as if the letters are pasted to the screen.  Externally, the reader has quite a clean look to it as it’s basically a big slab of clear plastic affixed to an opaque backing that no doubt contains the electronic guts of the device.  The top-left corner of the unit has a mini-USB connector that is used for transferring of files from a PC to the reader.  Documents can also be transferred through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
  • Earlier, Plastic Logic said the unit should last “days” without charging and you can happily you can use a regular USB charger to add some extra juice to the unit.  Your PC’s USB connection will also charge the device.
  • Plastic Logic’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, Maureen Mellon, told us the reader isn’t really competing with the Kindle because they are aiming for the mobile business professional or “someone with a lot of documents already.”  For consumers, it comes down to a choice between a device that gets almost all of its content from Amazon, or to something with a huge screen that easily handles user-generated documents.  Unlike the Kindle which requires a “cumbersome” conversion procession, PDFs and Office documents can be dragged over to Plastic Logic’s reader.  Of course, books and newspapers also look great on the reader as it understands common e-book formats.
  • Additionally, Mellon said the units will be able to beam documents to each other.  She gave an example of a boardroom meeting with several people.  If one person has a PowerPoint presentation, then they can initiate a copy to all the other Plastic Logic readers in the room.  “Great thing is, you could eliminate projectors,” Mellon told us.
  • Unfortunately, Mellon couldn’t tell us how much the reader would cost and everything is still in very early stages.  Another rep said, “It’s too early, we’re still changing stuff.”  He added that there isn’t even a data sheet yet on the reader.
  • So Kindle killer? Technically yes, but for the consumers it will probably be a Kindle buddy. Want your top-10 bestseller books, then the Kindle is in your left hand. Want your office documents, the Plastic Logic is in your right hand. Two gadgets, two very different ways of getting content and one very bare wallet 🙁

Trusted Reviews also had their take. There is a Dutch equivalent already out on which you can annotate documents (a very cool feature), which so far was the best by a mile (although rather expensive), but this Plastic Logic stuff could steal the crown next year.