Plastic Logic e-reader
Image by Jeremy Toeman via Flickr

As we’ve mentioned plenty on this blog lately, the e-reading space is just about to overheat, and it’s a fascinating turn of events. At the 2010 Professional and Scholarly Publishing (PSP) meeting, a session created a “petting zoo” environment, with various e-reader device manufacturers and sellers showing their wares using an ELMO projector and live demonstrations.

From the Nook to the Skiff to the PlasticLogic Que to the Entourage eDGe, they were all here. Most were black and white e-ink-based slabs. They varied in size (Nook is paperback-sized, Que and Skiff are magazine-sized), purpose, and target audience. The Que is meant to replace the stack of papers in your briefcase. The Skiff is flexible because it’s on metal foil, not stiff metal.

None were particularly fast. The Que was interesting because the demonstrator kept reprimanding herself for doing something wrong when the device didn’t do what she wanted (“oh, I get impatient” or “sometimes I swipe too fast”), suggesting the UI bugs aren’t all resolved yet.

There’s definitely a shake-out coming in this space, and the elephant in the room was the iPad. With money tighter than usual, people are going to choose carefully. This petting zoo felt like different breeds of the same beast, and none seemed to be the potential workhorse the iPad might be.

I’ll say it once again — things are probably evolving too quickly for all of these players to live to see 2011.

Demonstrations of reading software that included interactive and multimedia elements followed, and they were very compelling and interesting. You could feel people in the room lean forward. This level of engagement only cemented in my mind the importance of color, audio, a lot of working memory, and robust connectivity to the future of exciting e-reading — aka, things like the iPad.

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.