Tag Archives | Plastic Logic

It’s the Kindle–Only Larger! And the Plastic Logic Reader–Only Sooner!

Kindle DXAmazon has unveiled its new, larger Kindle, and it’s pretty much what you’d guess it would be–a device that looks a lot like today’s Kindle 2, with more screen real estate. The Kindle DX has a 9.7-inch screen (that’s twice the space of the 2’s 6 inches), costs $489, and is shipping some time this summer. It’s got the built-in capability to read PDF files, and the larger, 1280-by-824 display means it can show magazine pages without reformatting.

Like an iPhone, the Kindle auto-rotates the display when you flip the device into landscape orientation. And it’s got 3.3GB of available memory, good for storing up to to 3,500 books (the Kindle 2 stores 1,500).

The screen uses the same E-Ink technology as the Kindle 2; Jeff Bezos’s letter repeats Amazon’s mantra that it “looks and reads like real paper,” and says that text and images are “amazingly sharp.” But even though the DX will be able to show photos and other art at a comfortable large size, E-Ink’s sixteen shades of gray will have trouble making anything that was originally in color look “amazing.”

Besides the newspapers and magazines that are already available in Kindle format, a bunch of textbook publishers have signed on to produce tomes for the new Kindle, and several colleges say they’ll distribute Amazon’s new gadget to students. Sounds good to me: I still wince when I remember lugging my backpack full of books, and wince even more when I recall how absurdly expensive many textbooks were.

And here’s something a little weird: If you sign up for a long-term subscription to the New York Times, the Boston Globe, or the Washington Post, you can get a discount off the DX’s somewhat intimidating pricetag–but only people who live in areas where they can’t get home delivery of the dead-tree versions of the papers qualify. Sorry, tech-savvy locals!

Plastic LogicThe Kindle DX would seem to be a great big Amazonian shot across the bow of Plastic Logic’s similar reader. Plastic Logic announced its device last September, but doesn’t plan to ship it until early 2010, which gave Amazon plenty of time to steal some of its thunder. It too has a big E-Ink screen and PDF capability (as well as support for Microsoft Office and other formats); it uses a touchscreen instead of buttons and a keyboard, and has Wi-Fi instead of the Kindle’s EVDO. It’s still an intriguing device, and I don’t think it’s aiming at precisely the same audience as the Kindle DX–Plastic Logic envisions businesspeople loading up their reader with Word documents and PowerPoints. But it’ll be the second one in its category when it shows up, not the first. I wonder if Amazon would have come up with the DX if it didn’t know that the Plastic Logic device was in the works?


More on Plastic Logic’s Reader

I popped by Plastic Logic’s booth here at DEMO to get a closer look at its thin, full-sized e-reader and ask a few questions. What we saw this morning was unquestionably a very early sneak peek at a product that’s still under development: The Plastic Logic folks haven’t named the reader, won’t say how much it will cost, and aren’t disclosing anything about its price.

Once of the nice things about DEMO is that attendees usually have the opportunity to try out the new stuff for themselves. But the Plastic Logic reader was sitting inside a glass case where neither attendees nor Plastic Logic staffers could touch it. I can’t think of another instance of product at DEMO being presented in such a hands-off manner, though it did remind me of the iPhone’s unveiling at Macworld Expo in 2007.

With the reader cased away, I could get a sense of the general form factor–it’s nice and thin. But I couldn’t hold it and gauge its weight. And the exhibition wasn’t of much use at all for judging the screen quality, since the reader was sitting under lighting in what was presumably an ideal setup. (One of the issues with the e-ink technology used by the Plastic Logic reader and the Kindle is that the grey-on-grey text becomes hard to read in less-than-optimal lighting.)

The Plastic Logic reps I chatted with talked about business people being excited about doing presentations on the reader. I can see the form factor appealing, but I’d think that the grainy black-and-white graphics would discourage most people from doing that in most instances.

Oh, and they said that the reader will have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and built-in software for converting documents into the appropriate format for reading on the device.

It seems inevitable that it will someday be possible to build a reader in a size similar to the Plastic reader with a really good color screen and marathon battery life–I just don’t know if it’s a year or two away, or a decade or two. I do know that I’d like to have one right now…


Plastic Logic’s Reader: Electronic Paper That’s the Size of a Piece of Paper

The first morning of demos here at DEMO has begun, and the second product unveiling of the day looks potentially cool: A company called Plastic Logic previewed an e-book reader that uses electronic paper technology similar to that of the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader–but in a larger, thinner form factor with a full touchscreen.

Plastic Logic says that unlike the Kindle and Sony, its product is aimed at folks reading business documents and magazines (the demo involved a copy of The Economist). The reader includes markup and annotation features that leverage the touchscreen, and the 8.5″-by-11″ screen size obviously makes sense both in terms of providing more real estate and mimicking the typical size of business documents printed on plain old paper.

I have and enjoy using a Kindle, but I’m still something of an electronic paper skeptic: The displays are monochrome, with gray text on a gray background, and there’s not enough grayscale to do decent photos. (I remain baffled by hype for electronic paper that touts it as looking like real paper or being wonderfully legible.) And while the Plastic Logic reader has some advantages over a notebook–it’s a third the weight of a MacBook Air and the electronic paper technology lets it run for days on one battery charge–I’m curious whether the business types that the company wants to cater to will buy and carry both a notebook and an electronic reader.

So far, I’ve only seen the Plastic reader from my seat in DEMO’s demo hall; I’m looking forward to seeing it up close. The company didn’t mention a price or a shipping date–actually, even the product name is TBD.