E-Readers Coming Out of the Woodwork (or the Consumer Electronics Show)

This brings us to e-readers.  This is where the future of reading is already headed.  But this week, two new e-readers were unveiled. Expect more of this as the big Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas continues (it opened yesterday).  Hearst is introducing its e-reader platform,

Skiff e-reader

And Plastic Logic finally produced its long-in-coming Que.  The Skiff, Hearst’s platform, will support content other than that supplied by Hearst, which is good, but begs a question.  (BTW, if you’re interested in an overview of this device, Gizmodo has the story)Publishers are used to being distribution networks, and that is the part of their business that is going bye-bye.  By owning the device, it means that Hearst, in a sense, still controls distribution.  And probably content too, because that will be controlled, I assume, by whatever companies enter into joint ventures with Hearst and whoever else (Barnes & Noble, Plastic Logic, Apple, Amazon) makes the devices upon which the content is consumed. Somehow I don’t imagine that this will be like television, where the set you buy is independent of the programming you view. And in fact, Hearst itself is making deals with other platform providers, and, in fact, is part of the magazine consortium, now called “The Next Issue”, that is being pulled together. 

Meanwhile, the Plastic Logic device is being marketed at a very high price point as is apparently meant as a business device, and in addition to being something to read upon, will also allow you to work on Microsoft Office documents and spreadsheets, which makes it more like a netbook without a keyboard, or like a … tablet.

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