Thursday, July 23, 2009

B & N and Plastic Logic 2010 - The Focus - Update

UPDATED 7/23/09 for a very interesting additional Plastic Logic quote, from May 28, placed at the bottom of the Plastic Logic section and to correct a couple of dates from '2009' to '2010' (thanks to Batman) - Original Post was made 7/22/09 at 2:17 AM.

Wall St. Journal reports that Barnes & Noble is partnering with Plastic Logic to power its bookstore when Plastic Logic releases its E-Reader "in early 2010," a date given in the VIDEO interview with Fox Business News by Plastic Logic's Vice President of Business Development, Daren Benzi.

  Commenters to the news site quote some of his responses:
" Our goal is to focus on the business professional. ...optimized for content for the business professional: newspapers, magazines, periodicals...we're targeting a different kind of a customer... the business professional..."
In a New York times piece, Brad Stone astutely points out that this
" typically suggests a higher price and the need to lure more affluent customers."

Reactions of website commenters (some of whom have been eagerly awaiting the Plastic Logic model) to yesterday's interview which once again had a Plastic Logic executive bringing an inactive model to a televised broadcast:
' It wasn't even a working model, just a mock up. It "displayed" a single, static page. No demonstration of the touchscreen, the refresh rate, or the supposed flexibility at all. '
  That was strange.  Here's another reaction which addressed the announcement that was well in advance of the release:
" A lot of people have a lot of hopes pinned to this device, and it doesn't even have a firm release date or price.  'Early 2010' could mean it might not be released for another 9 months. I'm supposed to start buying books from Barnes & Noble now and not plan to read them until next spring? "

However, two months ago, in May, there was a demo of the working model at that point, and the external appearance is the same, a heavily commented on, somewhat aging PC color, for the frame which has no buttons because everything is done via the touch screen and a virtual keyboard.  Here is the video for that by Gizmodo.  Gizmodo comments on the functioning that they saw in the demo.  Here's the larger video without Gizmodo comments.

The NY Times's Brad Stone adds
" The Mountain View, Calif., company declined to disclose any more information about the pricing, or whether it will charge consumers monthly for that wireless connectivity.’s Kindle accesses content through Sprint Nextel’s wireless network, although users are not charged for the service and many probably do not even know their Kindle uses Sprint to download books and access the Web. "

At this point, please read details in the earlier reports here on statements by Plastic Logic executives when making presentations in late June, May, and mid April.  I'm summarizing here (but the details in earlier articles are better):
[ Daren Benzi ] - "Compared with a computer, one of the advantages of the device is that readers can focus entirely on consuming content, they will not be disturbed by emails, for example."

[Sarah Geata] - "It will have WiFi, USB connection and a Bluetooth. We support PDF, ePub and MS Office. We are targeting [the] business traveler, you can annotate documents on it... When plugged in, the device can upload email to it... [WiFi] will be built in. Kindle set the standard making it transparent."

[When asked if there would be a web browser, Geata's response was]
"Not right now. It's about not being interrupted.
  It's a reading device. There won't be email on this or a web browser ..."

In yesterday's video, it was mentioned that the content would be for the business professional - magazines, newspapers - whereas Amazon targets those whose main interests are books.

In a Fox Business News interview earlier (details in earlier stories), an executive said that wireless would be used to upload and download documents needed for work and that most books would be business oriented ones.

This all jibes with PC Magazine's opening statement in its article today by Mark Hachman:
" Plastic Logic said Wednesday [sic] that its upcoming e-reader device will connect to the AT&T 3G network for content updates when the device debuts next year. "
They intend to use the wireless and wifi capabilities for uploading and downloading documents needed for business.  Brad Stone describes the plans this way:
" 'Over time you can see a lot of potential to be connected back to your office or to your home base,' said Richard Archuleta, chief executive of Plastic Logic.  'Having that ability to get documents, books or trade journals over Wi-Fi or the 3G network is critical, especially for mobile business professionals.' "

UPDATE 7/23/09 - Added quotes from Plastic Logic - Original posting 7/22/09
From Christie Silk of Editors WebLog dated May 28, 2009, more information about publishers with whom Plastic Logic had already made arrangements and another interesting quote:
' Richard Archulet, the company's chief executive, emphasised that his company's project aimed to satisfy the demands of a different user base to the mainly leisure orientated market already dominated by Amazon:
"Everything is designed for the business user, and business users require a lot of different types of content. It's really not about books at all." '
And from an earlier report which cited an even earlier report
' Benzi explained that although the first device will not access the internet, consumers might well be able to click on an advertisement for additional information on products or offers . . .

Plastic Logic will be able to "track the information about what the customer is doing with the device," a system which would seem to offer benefits to both newspapers and advertisers. '

So, I am not at all confident that non-business-oriented customers should bank on the Plastic Logic unit if looking for the ideal consumer e-reader.  I don't even think the price will be attractive.  But the file formats that the Plastic Logic will handle are a very attractive draw and include the Microsoft Office suite, full PDF support, and ePub format, etc.   Since Barnes and Noble plans to support ePub at some point (not right now), the Plastic Logic unit could read books from that store.  Looking at B&N's e-book store, (recently purchased by them), average pricing is above Amazon's.

In mid June, Jeff Bezos announced to a Wired Magazine sponsored conference:
"In the future,’s Kindle e-book reader will display more book formats beyond its own."
And I'd say they'll obviously need to.

Now, to the B&N side of the news, The Wall St. Journal reports that they will launch an e-bookstore with bestsellers priced at $9.99 and will offer 700,000 titles.  500,000 of those will be public-domain books written before 1923.

  Business Day adds that B&N "would be the only provider of books on Plastic Logic’s electronic reader when it starts selling next year."

  Although book formats that B&N support include iPod, iTouch, Blackberry smartphones, and most Windows and Mac computers, the President of B&N, William Lynch said that titles bought through B&N's bookstore won't be compatible with Sony Readers or the Kindle

Also, while B&N will support Plastic Logic, its contract does not prevent it from selling its books for other e-readers, maybe even one made by B&N.

They don't say whether they'll actually sell the Plastic Logic and there is no pricing information available during this fairly large announcement, which seems timed to cause a slowdown for the Kindle but without displaying anything noteworthy with the Plastic Logic reader while changing the expected release date from "January 2009 2010" to "early 2009 2010," which could be as late as April 2010.

Of interest to me also is that Fictionwise, Barnes and Noble's e-store currently, has sold books in formats directly downloadable to and readable by the Kindle for some time. and also sell or give books that are fully readable by the Kindle and, directly to the Kindle.

  Many are unaware of that, thinking the Kindle can deal only with Amazon books.  Now, B&N's future super e-book store will not provide books in compatible formats for the Kindle or the Sony.  I thought that was a little odd, when Fictionwise has (MOBI/PRC format) for so long.

But Barnes and Noble's challenge will serve to keep Amazon on its toes; I personally love using the Kindle, but I really want Amazon to 1) update the firmware in the Kindle 2 so that it provides native PDF support with manual rotation and 2) to update the firmware in the Kindle DX to fully support PDF editing and study tools, sooner than later, with the school sessions coming up very soon. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. Andrys,

    Greetings. Just wanted to point out a potential typo in the fourth paragraph from the bottom. In discussing the announcement of the Plastic Logic - B&N partnership, it states, "while changing the expected release date from 'January *2009*' to 'early *2009*,' which could be as late as April 2010." Were the 2009 references intended to be 2010? [or did Plastic Logic originally have a 2009 target release?]

    As for the Plastic Logic reader itself, I'm on board with those who see a much greater potential for it for academic use vis a vis the Kindle DX. My hope is that it includes a stylus function option for annotation. I will also be keenly interested in how user-friendly the touchscreen keyboard is; I have the first generation BlackBerry Storm, and it is a challenge for those of us not possessed with great manual dexterity ;-0 . Perhaps the larger screen size will alleviate some of this difficulty(?). Take care.

  2. Batman,
    Thanks much! I've corrected those and added another quote by Plastic Logic that I had noted earlier (late May).

    I was interested in the Blackberry Storm until I read about the horrible touchscreen keyboard.

    I'm thinking about getting the Bold since so many like that slide-out keypad, but my current 3-yr old Samsung has a 3.2M camera (for when I forget my regular purse camera) and fairly good video for dark places. It also goes to iso800 and lets me do spot metering. So I may wait for a later Samsung. Something just came out with a 9M camera, maybe on Sprint. I'm on Verizon, so we'll see.

    Thanks again.

    - A

  3. As you indicated, the best thing that the compeition for the Kindle could create is to force Amazon to update the firmware on the Kindle 2 and DX. They have played too long without competition with a product that is not leading edge. They have not established the "do no wrong" that Apple has with their ipod / iphone products.


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