April 1, 2009 Many have predicted that the rise of the Internet and the free availability of online news resources would sound the death knell of the humble newspaper. While that hasn’t happened yet, the industry realizes it must adapt or indeed face extinction. The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News have seen the writing on the wall and think the time is right to go digital by partnering with Plastic Logic to offer digital content delivery and distribution with the forthcoming Plastic Logic Reader.

The Plastic Logic Reader is an electronic reader that is about the size of an 8.5 x 11-inch pad of paper and weighs less than many print magazines. It is specifically targeted to mobile business professionals with support for business document formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and Adobe PDFs, as well as newspapers, periodicals and books. Its touch screen enables a gesture-based user interface and included software is designed to help business users organize and manage their information. The markup and annotation function allows for documents to be, well marked up and annotated.

As part of the initiative, the Plastic Logic Reader will be offered for purchase or lease to subscribers of the Detroit dailies as an alternative to paper delivery. Users can connect to their information either wired or wirelessly and store thousands of documents on the device. The reader incorporates E Ink technology for high contrast readability, boasts low power consumption and long battery life and runs a version Win CE. Detroit Free Press CEO David Hunke said at the announcement of the partnership, “We look to innovative new digital products like the Plastic Logic Reader to help us usher in a new era in publishing by helping us provide our readers all the benefits of digital content while retaining the familiar easy-to-read, paper-like format many readers continue to value.”

In addition to the Detroit Media Partnership, Plastic Logic has announced strategic partnerships to distribute and sell content via its store with the Financial Times, USA TODAY and content aggregators including Ingram Digital, LibreDigital, and Zinio for sales and distribution of leading digital editions of newspapers, magazines and books. But Plastic Logic isn’t the first to take a stab at digital publishing of newspapers. A number of newspapers in Europe have tried digital distribution, mainly for the iRex iLiad, but so far it hasn’t achieved widespread acceptance.

We’ve also looked at many eReaders over the years as well innumerable electronic display breakthroughs that were supposedly going to strike a nail in the coffin of reading books and newspapers on paper. Of course that hasn’t happened – yet. It’s practically a given that electronic displays will replace paper in the newspaper and book industries. They will be more environmentally friendly, cheaper to publish, and allow people to carry a library’s worth of material in one small lightweight unit. People’s habits are not easy things to break though. Paper-based newspapers have served us well for hundreds of years and are sure to serve us for a few years yet, but maybe just not as long as we think.

The Plastic Logic Reader comes with supporting software that runs on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X. Plastic Logic plans to make its eReader available in trials and pilots with partners and key customers during the second half of 2009, followed by widespread commercial availability in 2010. The full feature set of the unit as well as product pricing will also be announced in early 2010.

Darren Quick