Cambridge professors to launch revolutionary e-reader in Vegas

As light as a magazine, robust and plastic. The Que pro-Reader could help save the press industry
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The Independent Online

The Que pro-Reader, billed as the ultimate e-reader, will make its debut in January after 10 years spent developing its technology and raising $200m of private equity finance.

Plastic Logic, makers of the Que, is launching the reader at the Las Vegas CES trade fair, America's largest annual consumer electronics jamboree. A European launch is scheduled for the middle of next year. A spokesman for Que said if the product is as successful as hoped, Plastic Logic will float by 2011. It has not yet been decided whether this would be in London or on Nasdaq.

The Que, an A4 sheet of plastic no heavier than a magazine, is powered by electronic circuitry using plastic as a base rather than traditional silicone. This makes for a much lighter, more robust product that is also easier to make than other e-readers. Ultimately, the technology could even be used in items such as toys, which could be programmed to remind children to do their homework.

The screen displays newspapers and magazines in the same format as on the page. Just one step away from digital paper – the screen is not only bigger, but easier to read than a traditional liquid crystal display.

The Que, which had its genesis in Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory will be sold by Barnes & Noble, a large US chain of bookshops. It is made at a purpose built factory in Dresden, Germany while the sales and management is based in California.

"The Que brand stands for a premium reading experience," said Richard Archuleta, the California-based chief executive.

"You can read it in bright sunlight as the technology uses the reflection of ambient light," added Henning Sirringhaus, one of the founders. But like paper it cannot be read in the dark.

Many analysts believe the Que could benefit the struggling newspaper industry as it strives to find ways of charging for content. "We don't profess to be the saviour," said Mr Archuleta, "but we do believe that the Que can help our content partners enter new markets and reach new customers." Other content providers so far include the Financial Times and USA Today.

The invention goes back to 1998 when two Cambridge scientists, professors Sirringhaus and Richard Friend, formed Cavendish Laboratories. By 2000, they had formed Plastic Logic, bringing in McKinsey trained Stuart Evans as chief executive and raising the first capital from Amadeus Capital, the fund management company run by Hermann Houser who is a backer of many technology start ups, most famously, Acorn Computers. Over the next eight years, other investors included Intel, BASF, Siemens, Dow and Bank of America.

The price has yet to be announced but is expected to be more expensive than the two existing e-readers, the Kindle, sold by Amazon and the Sony which both retail at around £250.