Some Thoughts on the Demise of the QUE E-reader

Craig Morgan Teicher -- August 11th, 2010

Does this picture remind you of another gadget that DID make it to market?

In a announcement yesterday, Plastic Logic officially killed the much-and-long-hyped QUE ProReader.  In the release, Plastic Logic CEO Richard Archuleta said,”We recognize the market has dramatically changed, and with the product delays we have experienced, it no longer make sense for us to move forward with our first generation electronic reading product.”  Those changes include not only the launch of the iPad, but, perhaps

most importantly to a company that was about to launch a $700 dedicated e-reader, the recent price wars between Amazon, Sony, and other e-reader manufacturers that have effectively brought the price of e-readers down to a little over 100 bucks.  But the story of the QUE is full of lessons about the rapidly changer e-book market, and about the pace at which the technology behind information-consumption is moving.

The QUE was an imaginary product–while Plastic Logic has been showing off prototypes for years and announced it at CES 2010, it lived almost entirely in the hazy world of hype.  Amazon has the highest share of the e-reader market not because it built the best e-reader but because it got the Kindle to market first: Amazon taught readers how to use e-books with its e-reader and its Kindle store.

Apple will end up winning at tablets largely because it got the iPad out first–as with the iPhone, all other tablets will have to be copycats, or will seem to be.  Of course the market bypassed the QUE, because Plastic Logic kept its product out of the market.  Amazon essentially released an inferior product (the Kindle 1), and updated it as soon as it could.  But it got a heck of a head start.

Of course, Plastic Logic wasn’t quite trying to compete with Amazon–it said the QUE was a “Pro” reader, targeted at business clients who’d want to read various kinds of self-generated documents.  Plus Plastic Logic isn’t a book hardware company, it’s a plastic electronics company–the e-reader was just a way of showing off that technology.

Now the company says it “plans to shift its focus to bring to market a second-generation ProReader plastic electronics-based product.” What could the company do differently to make that product successful?  Maybe plastic electronics are really, really awesome–tons lighter, glow-in-the-dark, who knows?–in which case that might be a sellingpoint.  Otherwise, the QUE 2 better either be a mind-blowing tablet computer, or a dirt cheap e-ink e-reader.

5 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on the Demise of the QUE E-reader

  1. Home Job Guy

    I’m still maintaining a bullish portfolio overall. It’s just a matter of time when everything starts going back up. Never forget that when a bull market begins, we do not even realize it until it is already six months old.

  2. Pingback: Book Reviews Sell Books « shiyan

  3. Craig Morgan Teicher Post author

    Late adopters save money and hassle, but they also miss out on years of experience with a new technology. Amazon is largely responsible for habituating readers to e-books. But I totally agree that we’re drowning in mediocre e-reading products (though I love my iPad).

  4. Mike H.

    This analysis rings true. It should be added, however, that until Plastic Logic or someone with a similar technology rolls out an affordable product like the QUE, readers are going to continue to consume a pretty terrible electronic product. The Kindle’s limitations are primarily media-based and the QUE was supposed to seamlessly read many more formats without cumberson conversion issues. The iPad is more versatile, but its glass screen and awkward design make it less than ideal for a long read. So this rush to market was a good idea for business, but not necessarily for the consumer. We can sense the technology is close, so we continue to settle and then upgrade at several hundreds of dollars a pop. Ah, the 21st Century … where late adopters save big.

  5. Dave Cullen

    Very sad they could not get it to market faster.

    Amazon was also not first to market with its e-reader, not by about ten years. But it came at the RIGHT time: years after the first few rounds failed. The market germinated for a long time but had not yet taken off.

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