Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Newspapers want working devices, less hype

(Ifra press release) Darmstadt/Tokyo, 23 August 2006 – Ifra’s eNews 2008 initiative, set up to help publishers create business in the coming e-reading world, is nearing the end of its first year. The project now has 27 member companies; 23 publishers and four technology suppliers, from 11 European countries, Japan and the USA. This week, the eNews 2008 member companies are in the Japanese capital in order to meet, and visit the leading mobile and e-reading technology developers.

Since the launch of eNews, and particularly in the past six months, the interest in e-reader technology and applications has exploded in international media – from specialised trade magazines to big national dailies. While this has provided the Ifra initiative with a lot of welcome coverage, not all the articles published have been as well researched and founded in reality as project leader Dr Stig Nordqvist might have hoped: “E-readers have been hyped quite a lot in the press this past spring. In the last year we have seen a promising development in e-paper displays, black and white with rich contrast, good improvements in speed in for example the E Ink v2.5\2.6 and Bridgestone QRP technology. We have also seen colour filter solutions from interesting new alternatives, for example Fujitsu. Despite all this, I still think that the e-reader devices so far are disappointing.”

During the visit to Tokyo, Mr Kenichi Shiraishi of Sony talked to the eNews 2008 participants about the eBook market, stating that the reason the e-reading market is still so small is that “there is no good device on the market yet, optimised for reading. And there is no good content management system either.” Commented Meredith Artley of the International Herald Tribune: “The more you [the technology developers] can focus on news at this point, the more friends you will make in the publishing industry. The more options and flexibility in terms of format, the more interesting it is going to be to sum up and cooperate with you in this context.”

The publishers taking part in the eNews 2008 initiative are working actively to prepare themselves to take advantage of the new e-reader medium, when it becomes reality. However, to date the technology needed to launch services to readers is not there, despite promises from suppliers such as iRex Technologies, an eNews member, which was due to launch its iLiad e-reader in April. The devices are now on the market, but do not work satisfactorily. Dr Nordqvist says: “We have had serious problems with the earliest release of the iLiad. The speed is too slow to be acceptable, and so far this is not really a consumer’s product. Worse than the speed is the user interface, which I find illogical.”

In addition to the two days in Tokyo spent meeting with and hearing presentations from the leading e-reading technology developers and the two leading Japanese mobile operators, KDDI and NTT DoCoMo, during their week in the Japanese capital the eNews 2008 members will spend three days in a seminar, including workshops and speakers, among them representatives of the Japanese mobile success story – from content providers to mobile payment companies. Dr Stig Nordqvist adds: “When the technology falls into place, whether the devices become more like mobile phones, tablet-PCs or like a future version of the iLiad, i.e. an e-reading device, we strongly believe that there is a huge consumer market for e-reading content.”

The eNews 2008 project will run for another two years, during which time activities will include further seminars, study tours and commissioning of consumer research.

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