Just about a year ago, Jeff Bezos, the man who made Amazon a household name, unveiled his effort at cornering the ever-hopeful e-book market; his nifty reading device, called the Kindle, was unveiled with lots of pomp and circumstance and, according to critics and public alike, it lived up to the hype.
One of the first journalists to get a look at the Kindle was technology writer Steven Levy at Newsweek, who generally went into raptures over its ease of use and how perfectly it fit into his hand. He said it even passed the supreme "acid test" -- whether or not the device could transport a reader "into that trancelike zone where the world falls away." He read three books on the Kindle as an experiment and said he didn't feel he'd missed anything he might have gotten from having had contact with "real" books.
Another great feature of the Kindle for Levy was that he could read his daily dose of The New York Times and other papers on the device and he found it all pretty exciting. There was a drawback, however. He found the interface for newspaper reading was "disappointing -- you have to painstakingly go through article lists, and often the stories are insufficiently described. Still, getting the Times in one burst on a daily basis, no matter where you are, is closer to getting a hard-copy delivery than picking out articles on the Web, and it costs $13.99 a month compared with the $50-plus I pay for home delivery. Do the math."
And, as Levy saw it, for those who travel a great deal and don't want to miss out on their newspaper fix, the Kindle couldn't be beaten.
But now it seems that a version of an electronic newspaper -- that is, a large portable screen (twice as large, in fact, as the Kindle and Sony's eReader), which will be constantly updated with the latest news -- was introduced early last month at an emerging technology trade show in San Diego by a company called Plastic Logic.
This "dream device" -- the stuff of science fiction, according to Times reporter Eric A. Taub in the Business section of the Sept. 8 paper -- is still on the drawing board, but it couldn't appear fast enough to satisfy "newspaper publishers struggling with rising production and delivery costs, lower circulation and decreased ad revenue from their paper product."
The Plastic Logic device remains unnamed, but it's a lightweight plastic screen that mimics the look, though not the feel, of a printed paper. In fact, it uses the same technology as the Kindle and the eReader -- "a highly legible black-and-white display developed by the E Ink Corporation." This device, meant primarily for reading newspapers, is "the size of a piece of copier paper" and can be "continually updated via a wireless link, and can store and display hundreds of pages of newspapers, books and documents."
According to Richard Archuleta, the chief executive of Plastic Logic, the reader will go on sale in the first half of next year. And by then, it may even have a name.