Cambridge-based Plastic Logic is months away from launching the world's first flexible e-ink reader, according to latest reports.

Plastic Logic will have a flexible e-ink device on the shelves early next year in the US, priced at a similar level to Amazon's Kindle (from $299 upwards), according to reports in The Times this week.

The flexible eBook has been designed at the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory and will compete with the number of other eBooks that are already starting to appear in bookstores worldwide - the likes of the Sony Reader, the aforementioned Amazon Kindle and Interead's Cool-er.

The development cost of the device is in the region of £120 million and it has taken Plastic Logic ten years to reach the point whereby they are ready to release it to market.

The touchscreen reader will only need charging once every fortnight and the screen uses no power when not in use.

Roll-up or not?

However, there is some confusion as to exactly how 'flexible' the Plastic Logic e-book will be, with The Times referring to a "roll up A4-sized 'intelligent plastic' display" and making allusions to the fantastical Daily Prophet newspaper that appears in the Harry Potter series.

Yet that same report quotes Martin Jackson, Plastic Logic's Vice President of Technology, noting that the company WON'T release a fully roll-up screen yet because "people worry that it will break if they roll up a device and dump it in their bag."

Speaking to TechRadar, Plastic Logic's Martin Jackson clarified that: "The product is as on our website: it is the size of an 8.5-inch x 11-inch notepad and is approximately 1/3-inch thick, weighing about 16oz. It is a mixture of conventional electronics and plastic electronics.

"The plastic electronics are used to make the display which has the following advantages: lighter weight, more durable and flexible than glass. These advantages allow us more design freedom in our product creating a lighter weight more durable design. Early user testing showed that users did not want a flexible/roll up display but a product with a limited ability to flex.

"The first product, the Plastic Logic Reader, is targeted at the mobile business professional who wants to read a variety of documents: newspapers, magazines, books and user generated content. The Plastic Logic Reader supports full screen touch for easy navigation of content and also allows for annotation of content."

FT partnership

Chief Exec of the Financial Times John Ridding added that they are: "already beginning to see robust demand for newspapers on the Kindle, and before long we'll see newspapers on a whole spectrum of devices as well as print."

The FT has been working closely with Plastic Logic on the development of its new flexible e-reader.

"The advantage of this new device is that it won't break when I drop it, but getting advertisers involved will be key, and they want to see a colour version," noted the FT boss.

Plastic Logic's Martin Jackson added that colour devices were a few years off and that video-playing flexible eBooks were "a few years while later."

Plastic Logic will launch the device in the UK later in 2010 or early 2011. TechRadar has contacted the company for further clarification on this story and further details on the launch plans. Stay tuned for updates.

Plastic Logic lists the following features for its e-reader device on its own website:

  • The Largest Screen in the Industry - 8.5 x 11 inch letter-sized eReader makes reading business documents, newspapers and periodicals effortless.
  • Thin and Lightweight - lighter than most business periodicals-just about a 1/4 inch thick.
  • Gesture-Based Interface & Markup - incorporates touchscreen technology that makes navigation and annotation intuitive.
  • First-Ever High-Quality Plastic Display. Glare- and eye-strain-free.
  • Long-Lasting Battery - uses EInk, a single charge lasts days.
  • Wired and Wireless Capability.

Via The Times