Sunday, December 21, 2008

The plastic fantastic future of newspapers

Is there a future for newspapers? Some giant US titles, including The New York Times, last week sounded a warning that they feared financial meltdown in the face of online competition. But just as technology is siphoning off the readers and advertising revenue of traditional, ink-on-paper newspapers, now it might be coming to their rescue.

Flexible “e-paper” screens emerging from the labs will soon find their way into portable, lightweight, electronic readers the size of an A4 sheet of paper. They’ll eventually display a full-colour electronic version of your daily paper, with moving graphics and video. You’ll flick from page to page by prodding the screen with a finger, rather than fumbling to control a wad of newsprint in a crowded train carriage.

The eReader from British company Plastic Logic brings the genuine electronic newspaper a step closer: it’s smart enough to download and display an electronic edition of your favourite title every morning, and tough enough to survive anything your commute can throw at it, even if you drop it on the platform and pick it up after it’s been trampled. The eReader is due for release in the UK early in 2010, for about £300, but The Sunday Times has tested a fully working model.

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