Friday, February 24, 2006

Belgian newspaper to become first 'paperless' daily

Via M&C Tech. Story by By Daniela Schroeder.


Antwerp - Spending hours reading the papers may be an ideal pastime on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

But what if your newspaper updated itself during the day? What if the pictures moved and the interviews could be listened to?

In Belgium, this is coming true - at least for a three-month trial period. The Antwerp-based daily De Tijd will soon become the world's first newspaper to publish a digital version on so-called 'electronic paper'.

Instead of buying your daily paper, from April 2006, 200 subscribers will be able to start the day by connecting a portable electronic device supplied by De Tijd to the internet and start downloading their daily paper. Updates will be automatic during the day, if subscribers have access to wireless technology.

The electronic newspaper costs an astronomical 400 euros - but those who sign up for the experiment are not being charged. The assumption is, however, that costs will come down when the electronic daily goes into mass production.

'If the testing period proves successful, we will draw up a business model based on the analysis,' the project manager Peter Bruynseels told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Media experts at Belgian universities will then analyze readers' evaluations.

The Belgian experiment reflects the newspaper's fight for survival in a world of increasing competition, declining circulation and rising newsprint costs.

De Tijd is providing readers with a portable device that holds a paper-thin screen the size of a newspaper page, filled with millions of black and white microcapsules.

When an electrical current with data is sent through the screen, these microcapsules form letters that are as sharp as regular newspaper print.

The electronic 'ink' has 16 levels of grey. When readers flip to the next page or choose a specific article, the particles scramble and rearrange.

The pliable screens do not flicker and can therefore be read either indoors or outdoors.

E Ink Corporation, a spinoff of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has developed the technology. The Dutch company iRex Technologies used the method for building a portable electronic reading device.

De Tijd will appear on several screens. 'One shows the complete page as in the printed paper, the second lists only the headlines and the third displays the single article,' Bruynseels said.

The display is the size of two laptops, but needs 100 times less energy than a normal laptop screen. Based on an average use of three hours a day, the battery runs for more than a week.

A storage space of 244 mega bytes is sufficient for filing one month of newspapers, plus 30 books, as well as office documents in different formats.

Bruynseels says there will also be savings because no paper is being used. Newspapers such as The Times or the Wall Street Journal can go through 200,000 tons of newsprint per year.

E Ink is currently working on adding some colour to the flexible black-and-white screen. Video and sound features are at most 10 years off, said chief executive Russell J. Wilcox.

Using a special marker, readers can write comments on articles and scribble their notes on the screen.

In addition, touching an interactive advertisement will direct the reader to the advertiser's website.

De Tijd is also thinking about publishing advertisement corresponding to the time of the day, Bruynseels said. Coffee and cereals in the morning, beer and snacks in the evening.

Other tools include extra buttons for financial news which steer a reader to in-depth information on the latest stock exchange rates. The e-paper also memorizes readers' criteria when searching for a job, an apartment or Mr/Ms Perfect

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