Plastic Logic debuted the Que, its e-reader aimed at business travelers and other mobile workers, during the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The device will be sold in Barnes & Noble bookstores as well as online, and will download content through both AT&T's 3G network and a Wi-Fi connection. The Que is priced substantially higher than many e-readers currently on the market, including Amazon.com's Kindle, a strategy that Plastic Logic executives defend as natural considering its focus on the business market and the device's ability to annotate and store massive amounts of content.
Plastic Logic formally unveiled the Que, its lightweight entrant into the
ever-more-crowded e-reader market, on Jan. 7 at the 2010 Consumer Electronics
Show in Las Vegas. Originally
announced in July, Plastic Reader's e-reader will target business travelers and
other highly mobile professionals, with its creators emphasizing the device's
ability to download and display Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and PDF documents on
its 10.7-inch screen.
The device will rely on AT&T's 3G network, as well as Wi-Fi, for
downloading content. In addition, Plastic Logic has partnered with Barnes &
Noble on the project, meaning that not only will the Que be sold at Barnes
& Noble stores nationwide in addition to online, but the device will have
access to Barnes & Noble's eBookstore. In addition, Plastic Logic announced
partnerships with a number of publishers, including Dow Jones and The Wall
Street Journal, to port their periodical content onto the device.
A 4GB Que with Wi-Fi and enough storage to hold 35,000 documents will retail
for $649, while an 8GB version with Wi-Fi, 3G and enough storage for 75,000
documents will cost $799. Plastic Logic is also claiming that content from a
PC, Mac or BlackBerry smartphone can be ported onto the Que.
That price point is markedly higher than that of Amazon.com's Kindle and
Barnes & Noble's Nook, both of which retail for $259. E-readers from other
manufacturers generally cost less than $500.
But Plastic Logic evidently feels that its focus on the small to medium-size
business (SMB) and enterprise markets gives it the leverage to put that sort of
price sticker on the Que. "It's a higher price point because it's a different
demographic: customers who want to read business documents," Steven Glass,
senior director of technical marketing for Plastic Logic, told eWEEK during a
CES event on Jan. 7.
"The rest [of the e-reader manufacturers] aren't doing that, at least in a
way they can annotate," Glass added, referring to the Que's ability to add
comments, highlight text and scribble on documents with a fingertip or,
conceivably, a stylus of some sort. Glass also highlighted the device's ability
to rapidly search through thousands of documents as something important to the
One of the hottest items for consumers during the holiday 2009 shopping
season, e-readers have been one of the big topics of discussion at this week's
Other companies debuting devices include Skiff, a subsidiary of publishing
company Hearst, which rolled out an e-reader with an 11.5-inch touch screen.
The Skiff Reader's display is based on a flexible sheet of stainless-steel
foil, theoretically making it more durable; the device will be available in
Sprint locations later in 2010, and Sprint is providing 3G connectivity to the
All these startups are looking to carve out their own niche in a market
dominated by a handful of larger players. While Amazon.com has declined to
break out exact sales numbers, the online retailer insists that its Kindle line
is collectively the bestselling product on its site; an analyst with advisory
group Collins Stewart estimated in a Dec. 1 research note that the company
could earn as much as $301.4 million off the Kindle in 2009.
Barnes & Noble claimed that extraordinarily high demand for its Nook
e-reader delayed shipments during the holiday season, with some customers who
ordered devices in late November or December not receiving them until January
or February. And Sony continues to produce its own line of e-reader devices.
Faced with competition on that scale for what could be described as the
general e-reader market, it seems a logical move for smaller players to focus
on specific customer segments, such as Plastic Logic with the business audience.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.