On Monday, Plastic Logic announced plans to unveil an e-book reader aimed at business professionals at the Consumer Electronics Show next January. The QUE won't make it to store shelves in time for the holiday shopping season, but Plastic Logic is betting it will make some noise in the first quarter.
Plastic Logic is positioning the QUE as a "proreader" designed for business professionals. In doing so, the company is hoping to expand the e-reader category from a leisure-reading device to a business-oriented device.
Plastic Logic said QUE is designed to streamline the modern businessperson's varied lifestyle and to literally lighten the workload. The device will connect users with business and professional newspapers, books and periodicals, as well as support the document formats that business users need, such as PDF, Word, PowerPoint and Excel. The device also offers tools for interacting with and managing the content.
E-Reader in the Queue
"The QUE brand stands for a premium reading experience," said Richard Archuleta, CEO of Plastic Logic. "The QUE proreader enhances business performance and gives you a competitive edge. More than an e-reader, QUE means business."
QUE comes with a shatterproof plastic display and the battery can last days. It's the size of an 8.5x11-inch pad of paper, less than one-third inch thick, and weighs less than many magazines. The proreader has a touchscreen and access to a file cabinet's worth of documents.
QUE users will be able to connect to content and download wirelessly via Wi-Fi and AT&T's 3G network. Plastic Logic promises its store will offer the most significant collection of business reading available on any e-reader. The QUE store is powered by Barnes & Noble.
A Crowded E-Reader Market
"The e-reader space hasn't heated up like this for more than a decade. There will definitely be a few winners, but most likely there are going to be more losers than winners," said Michael Gartenberg, a vice president at Interpret. "There's only so much room in this space for anyone to go after. Publishers are going to have to start making some calls. At a certain point there are going to be too many players."
The Amazon Kindle has the advantage at this stage, Gartenberg said, because it has an enormous library of digital books. Amazon even changed its business model so that a hardcover e-book costs significantly less than a hardcover physical book. Consumers can get a best seller for $9.99 in e-book format, as opposed to $20 or $30 for the physical book. Amazon also developed a wireless distribution system so consumers don't need a PC to download books. But Kindle might not be the biggest competitor for the slew of e-readers coming to market.
"The other interesting factor behind all this, the secondary market, might become the most important market," Gartenberg said. "People are already carrying connected devices in their pockets with fairly high resolution screens. We'll have to wait and see if the e-reader market becomes just another feature of screens that people are already using, like PCs, tablets, netbooks or smartphones, as opposed to a device in and of itself."