UPDATED: Could the next P-I be electronic, and on a plastic sheet?

Hearst has been working on an e-paper project for the past year. Plastic Logic, a firm working on such a product, says Hearst won't be a partner.
Hearst has been working on an e-paper project for the past year. Plastic Logic, a firm working on such a product, says Hearst won't be a partner.

While Seattle'ꀙs City Council and others debate questions of whether, and how, to revive Seattle'ꀙs print dailies, we thought Crosscut readers might like to get a look at what the next electronic iteration of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and perhaps a lot of other struggling newspapers, might look like.

Hearst declined to discuss its plans for The P-I with Crosscut, except to reiterate that it is trying to sell the print paper and will shut it down by the end of March if it can'ꀙt find a buyer. What happens to The P-I after that, however, could soon become clearer. Speculation by this author that Hearst would join with Plastic Logic, which plans to announce some publishing partners at a Feb. 9 at meeting called the O'ꀙReilly Tools of Change for Publishing conference in New York, is apparently unfounded. Update: Plastic Logic's spokeswoman now informs us as of Feb. 2 that the company has no plans to include Hearst among the partners the company plans to announce at the O'Reilly conference.

Plastic Logic is a privately held Silicon Valley startup that plans to begin field testing its version of an e-reader later this year. Plastic Logic's Mountainview, CA., headquarters sits just down the road from Hearst's secretive FirstPaper e-paper project in Palo Alto. Plastic Logic officials confirm that their 8.5-inch-by-11-inch display screen is designed to accommodate traditional newspaper layouts.

Hearst had been looking at flexible screens for its new e-paper, but Plastic Logic spokeswoman Betty Taylor told Crosscut that while her company'ꀙs wireless e-reader can operate on flexible material like plastic film or foil, Plastic Logic'ꀙs consumer testing shows readers prefer a more rigid display. Plastic Logic'ꀙs reader will be about a quarter inch thick and have a considerably larger screen than Amazon'ꀙs wireless e-reader, the Kindle. Both devices are wireless and use the same low-power, high-resolution E Ink display technology, which is partly owned by Hearst. While the Kindle shifts screens when users press the sides of the device, Plastic Logic'ꀙs screen will be touch sensitive, turning pages with a finger swipe across the screen.

Amazon currently sells the Kindle for $359 and, according to the Web retailer, demand has been heavy, though it hasn'ꀙt released any numbers. Taylor said Plastic Logic'ꀙs reader should cost somewhere between $300 and $800, but will be 'ꀜcompetitive'ꀝ with other readers like the Kindle.

Perhaps not coincidentally Amazon is expected to unveil its updated 2.0 version of the Kindle at the same New York conference Feb. 9. For an advance peek at the new readers, click on Plastic Logic'ꀙs website.  

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