Monday, July 31, 2006

Kazaa giving in

It was clear at the beginning of the year that the music industry was gaining terrain on the copyright issue, at last. All the legal battles had pointed at last to the same conclusion and there was no safety any more in any country for companies like Napster, Kazaa and BitTorrent. Napster went legal, BitTorrent went legal, and Kazaa has now given up.

The music sector of the content industry has had problems in defending its copyright and cashing fees due to the peer-to-peer filesharing networks from the beginning. A legal body like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has fought battles for years, like the international organisation IFPI. But with Kazaa giving in and turning legal, every other battle will be a formal process.

Will this mean that there will not be any illegal filesharing any longer and that everyone will pay fees? That would be the time for iTunes and other services! But I guess that it will be more realistic to think that illegal filesharing will continue. So the legal cases will continue, despite the educational programs which have been established in several countries.

So the next battlefield will be the movie industry. Despite the lessons yielded by the music industry, the movie industry will have to go through a similar cycle of battles: court cases against parents, press releases, educational programs. Of course the P2P networks tuned legal can shorten the cycle by making deals with Hollywood, Bollywood and all the other local movie industries.

I am still surprised that the copyright owners fight for their position from the legal side, while never taking any pro-active action in the distribution itself. The music industry waited till Apple came up with a device and business plan for the songs with the ingredients: reasonable tariffs, no hardware limitations and a fine collection of music and songs. The movie people will have to find a similar formula and believable retail player: iTunes for movies. A similar action will be needed for the electronic books coming up: iTunes for eBooks. In this way iTunes might even surpass

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Blog Posting Number: 459

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (20)

In the mini-series Of e-books and digital paper, I closed instalment 17 with the digital paper as electronic newspaper. I started to look back and noticed that I have not treated Sony’s e-book using digital paper.

As described in the mini-series, Sony hijacked the term Electronic book in the early 1990s. Their first sample had a lousy black and white screen with backlight. After that the company improved the screen dramatically. And while everyone in the western world left the concept of Sony’s e-book by 1995, Sony went on in Japan with promoting e-Books.

So when in 2005 the digital paper readers came about Sony adapted the e-book reader of that time Librié, which was a variation of Sony’s handheld, the Clié, and fitted it out with digital paper as a screen. So the Librié has now black letters, a white background and two grey tones; the readability is improved in the contrast, the co-reader effect and the 170 pixels per inch.

The Librié model has storage room for 20 books, but with the memory extension Memory Stick Pro, the number of books can be upgraded to 500 books. The reader is 190 grams and has the following dimensions: 126x190x13 millimetres. There is a built-in speaker and ear phone, a dictionary and a USB connection.

Again here the screen freeze once a page is turned. The power is immediately drilled down, so one can read 1000 pages on two penlight batteries. On the side of the screen knobs are available to move back and forth. For annotations a virtual key board on the screen is available.

Will the Librié which was presented in March 2006 be the new book cover of the publishing industry? I am not sure. The price is comparable with iPods: 376 US dollars (276, 96 euro; the price is much better than the first Sony e-book, which set you back for 600+ euro in 1991). But not clear is the policy on the production software (open or proprietary) and the digital rights management software (open or proprietary; the proprietary DRM software is said to be awful). IMHO the price should come down, the software should be open and bestselling publishers should offer their novels of more than 1 kilo on the Librié.

I would think that Sony after so many years of experience with e-Books would have learned enough lessons to get it right. But the fact that the company is still bent on its proprietary production and DRM software, is not a good sign. But if Sony does not get it right, the Chinese will, I guess.

Still I would like to see Sony or another consumer electronics company use its power to change the face of the publishing industry like Apple did with iTunes. The device is there and there are many electronic books available. Now we need a good business proposal in terms of assortment, price per e-Book, DRM, use over more devices, quality of download and distribution.

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Blog Posting Number: 458

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Moving shop (8)


It is a week now that we moved our shop from Utrecht to Almere. Most of the boxes have been unpacked and we have been able to continue labouring in the heat (30 degrees Celsius on average; subtropic temperatures for the Netherlands).

One decision, we have taken in the past week, is not to change the blogname Buziaulane. Supported by one fan we do not want to send the readers on a search trail. As Buziaulane was a virtual outlook for the content sector, we will stick to the name. So no one will have to change its bookmarks.

All necessary connections work now at more than a reasonable speed. We are happy with the Internet speed. The e-mail is working fine. Also the VoIP telephone connection is working okay, although we still have some problems with the Gigaset telephones of Siemens 450S as we still have to find the manuals. We have still to get used to the different sounds of the base station and the main set. In the coming week we will experiment with Skype and the Gigaset. It seems to be possible to relay a Skype call to the internal Gigaset telephone using a USB stick.

Slowly the schedule for coming week is announcing itself. The Content Market Monitor newsletter has to be put together, looking back at July. Normally it is a very slow month in terms of news, but with the Kazaa news of the past few days, there will be a lot of reactions, we suppose.

We will also start using the iLiad, the digital newspaper and e-book reader. We are planning to download some 450 instalments. It will be intersting to see how the blogtext is translated to the iLiad and how the colour pictures are converted for the white and black screen.

Of course there are also some chores relating to the moving. We still have to return the router of Versatel. Also the wi-fi will have to be installed. In this way it will be possible to sit on the balcony, overlooking the skyline of Almere and work. From next week onwards it will be business as usual, but now from Almere.

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Blog Posting Number: 457

Friday, July 28, 2006

Moving shop (7)

Internet selfservices

When you start moving shop, selfservices might come in handy. You tell the companies that you are moving with the company, declare your old address and register the new address. You can fill out forms with the last meter registration of electricity and other services.

Well, selfservices are a disaster. They are a real nuisance in the communication with companies. Here is just a shortlist:
Newspaper. We passed the request to have the financial daily, Het Financieele Dagblad (FD), delivered on the new address through internet more than three weeks before the move. But on the requested day there was no newspaper. A telephone call to the customer service of FD makes clear that the message either has not arrived with the customer service or has just gone astray.
The old electricity company. We had informed Eneco of our move by using their internet selfhelp service. It worked as we received a letter to be signed. But Eneco automatically assumes that you love them for life. We, however, did not have any warm relationship with that company, so why should we continue the agreement from another address. So we wanted to terminate the contract and move to another electricity company. So I had to get on the phone and get everything straightened out.
Old cable company. As we move out of the region of Casema, we will have to terminate the cable subscription. Casema offers two options on its site: moving and changing subscription. We found out that moving is intended for people moving in Casema country. If you move out of the region you will have to change subscription. The internet registration is followed by a telephone call, telling us that we will have to send Casema proof of moving outside Casema country. When we asked what kind of proof they wanted, the call center worker did not know; that was our problem.
New cable company. We had selected UPC to be the triple play company. So we send in an application form. After a few days we are called by UPC as the application could not be accepted. The people from whom we bought the apartment and suite have not handed in their termination. So the company is very sorry, but will have to throw away this application. The advice is to get the other people to terminate the contract and start the procedure all over again. The same data were needed at a renewed application.

We encountered two services, which scored rather well. There was only one application which went okay. Nuon, the new electricity company, received the application by internet an confirmed the application by letter. Two days after receiving the letter, we got a phone call from a bureau checking whether the application had been handled well.

The moving service of a Dutch postal service TPG, part of TNT, centrally informs many companies of the change of address. Although it can be improved in navigation and content, it is a helpful service.

But for us it is clear that internet selfservices should be improved dramatically in their service and their scripts.


Blog Posting Number: 456

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Moving shop (6)

The final selection

So we said goodbye to Versatel and Casema (Versatel still does not want to believe that we terminated the subscription, as they invoiced me for August!) and started to look for a triple play player.

In the Netherlands there are a host of triple play operators. Of course all the cable companies offer television, internet and telephone (in that order). Other operators are: KPN, Versatel/Tele2 and Scarlet. Potentially we have in Almere the choice out of three: UPC, KPN and Versatel/Tele2. All three have an offer, but it is divided in television and a combination of internet and telephone. This makes a financial and programme comparison between the offers almost impossible.

For us the choice was not so difficult. KPN was no candidate; the grand old dame of telephony in the Netherlands needs strong competition to get rid of its monopolistic characteristics. Besides, when we would like to use its services (again), we would have to have a new telephone line installed at a cost. And toVersatel/Tele2 we had just said goodbye. So UPC remained. On the basis of some recommendations from friends, we selected UPC: analogue television, chello classic (8192 Kbps download and 1024 Kbps upload) and Voip telephone.

While registering the helpdesk worker had a tip. We had selected chello extreme, the top end of chello internet (20480 kbps download and 2048 upload), with telephone. But the helpdesk worker advised to take chello classic and telephone as this carried a bonus for six months; after the bonus months we could upgrade to chello extreme and just pay 2 euro more than chello classic.

Having registered, we got two big boxes: one with the digital tv set-top box and one with fast internet installation material (see photograph). It should all be easy, we were told by the registration desk and by friends. But of course the configuration in our meter cupboard was more complex. So we ended up with a working internet configuration, but telephony took more time. There were a lot of telephone wires in the meter cupboard and there was a standard KPN connection. Of course we ended up connecting KPN directly to the UPC modem. That was fun, as we still could phone on the account of the former owners of the apartment. Problem was that we could not be phoned. So with the patient assistance of the UPC helpdesk people, the problem was analysed and after an hour of debate the problem was solved. We could phone and could be phoned.

The first experience with UPC classic internet is okay. It looks like the internet connection has morning mood. It looks like it has to be talked to in order to get going. But for the rest it works fine. Internet radio is not interrupted and movies are shown without interruption.


Blog Posting Number: 455

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


My digital paper reader works at last (19)

A few days ago I closed my mini-series on e-books and digital paper on a disastrous note. Having received the iLiad digital newspaper and e-book reader my unwrapping party of the iLiad was spoiled. I could not get life in machine at all. Well the blog has been read and I received several tips.

First there were remarks about the marketing. A machine like this, virtually a text iPod, should not be marketed without at least a short technical guide. In my case there there was not a short guide, just a plain small paper. As I did not have a short guide I was unable to detect the off/on switch (see photograph and try to locate the on/off switch; it is the right knob; would you have dicovred that without a quick technical guide?); you can’t call it a real switch as you slide it, which is strange for an on/off switch.

There is another observation about the ergonomy of this machine. In the right hand corner there is a visual knob. First action is to push it, but this knob is to establish the communication connection. The on/off switch is a small slide bar on the right hand. With a short guide this would have been comprehensible.

So at last the digital paper is now showing.

I still think that this is louzy marketing. The small piece of paper has been replaced with a quick guide in the meantime. At least a user can find the on/off button, which is not placed very handy in terms of usability. And I do not understand why the developers did not pre-load examples of digital newspapers and e-books. Yes they preloaded the quick guide, but you need to know where the on/off switch is first!

This product needs some marketing upgrade and not the standard Philips marketing of the pre-Boonstra era. People have paid 700 euro and still can not show advantages of the product to their friends or colleagues; no NYT or Alice in Wonderland for demonstation, which can be used without paying copyrightno copyright; no, the set just has a technical quick guide. What a chance missed. I suggest, iRex Technologies seeks permission to pre-load my mini-series of the history of e-books and digital paper.

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Blog Posting Number: 454

Moving shop (5)

For sentimental reasons

Almost forgot to write down the considerations for not saying goodbye to Euronet, the business arm of the Dutch affiliate of Wanadoo, turned into Orange. Most likely we forgot to take it into consideration as this would mean giving up our e-mail address, which I have since 1995.

Euronet was founded in 1994 by Arko van Brakel and Simon Cavendish. From the start the service made quite some impression, especially as it marketed internet to the masses. It was in fact a text book example for the later ISP services like Planet Internet and World Online. One day Amsterdam woke up with a monkey in every bus stop. In 1998 the company was sold to Wanadoo, a subsidiary of France Telecom.

We got into touch with Euronet or better Euronet*Internet in 1995, when our principal consultant started an assignment for the newspaper publisher Wegener. He was introduced through Peter Bloemendaal, the internet pioneer within Wegener. From that time dates back his e-mail address, simply with his first name add euronet dot nl. Presently they do not give out e-mail addresses with first names any longer. It is 11 years now that the e-mail address in use.

So in the consideration of giving up this subscription, history and sentiments play a part. And this does not mean that we are not critical of Euronet. One of the major differences we have with Euronet about their services is their unbelievably slow web mail service. It is not just slow; it is super slow. After a command you can go and have a coffee, come back, put in another command and go for another coffee. Whenever I am abroad and use the web mail I preferably use the service in the middle of the night; but this is not a guarantee either. If you complain about this super slow service, the helpdesk people will tell you that they will pass on the message; of course you will never get an answer that they will improve the service. Besides for Euronet our soho operation is too small and not really interesting.

When looking for fast internet Euronet did not make the short list by a mile. Their ADSL offer is not really competitive in the Dutch market, not in terms of facilities (telephone, internet and television) nor financially.

But despite the super slow web mail service and all the spam (about 200 items on average daily) the e-mail address still attracts; we will stick to the service for sentimental reasons, at least for the time being.

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Blog Posting Number: 453

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Moving shop (4)

Goodbye Casema

Another company we said goodbye to was the cable company Casema. We had to say goodbye to the company as we will leave their territory and move to the area of one of their colleagues. Cable companies are still territory bound. Only by the terrestrial digital television Digitenne cable companies have in some areas competition.

Casema is nice company with some interesting history. It was part of KPN, but had to separated from it as KPN would be to much of a market force; this was way before triple play in the 1990s. Recently the company was sold to Warburg Pincus and Cinven and will be consolidated with Multikabel, bought by Marcus Pincus. It will now be the third cable company in the Netherlands. As Essent Kabelcom division, the second largest cable company in the Netherlands, is still on auction, Casema might even merge with Essent Kabelcom. And this would be bad news for KPN and UPC.

Casema recently bought the wimax license from Versatel in order to extend its regional area to a national distribution network for internet.

The service of Casema was okay; nothing very good, nothing bad. I had only one run-in with them, when they offered fast internet over the cable. I talked with the call-center about a fast connection and the in-house cabling. I indicated that I wanted to have the cable come in on the first floor. The call centre, eager to sell, told me that this should not be a problem. But the engineer, who came to execute the assignment, was not willing to bring the cable to the first floor. So we refused to go ahead. That was the end of Casema internet for us.

Their offer of television channels was okay. In 1986 they started to bring the BBC with a royal marriage. Their international offer with CNN, Belgian, German, French and Spanish programs is more than you could swallow and have time for. Casema had also an offer for digital television. You had to get the set-top box yourself at a retailer and request a subscription. We did not go the digital telvision way as we didi not see the advantages of it for television itself and did not have any time to look video-on-demand. Digital television needs some more incentives.

So Casema has one client less for the time being. But they will not notice that.

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Blog Posting Number: 452

Monday, July 24, 2006

Moving shop (3)

Going triple play

The fun part of this move is the triple play, getting telephone, cable television and internet all from one provider and on one invoice. Of course there is a danger that you might get stuck with one of the facilities.

Our telephone and internet provider in Utrecht was Versatel. At Electronic Media Reporting (EMR) we have always given a chance to start-ups rather than to turn to an incumbent as KPN. There should be competition and the only way to give the incumbent an incentive is to take out a subscription on services from start-ups...

Technically there is no problem with Versatel in Almere. So I could have transferred the subscription to the new address. But I was not happy with Versatel; not in the past and not in the present.

In Utrecht we had telephone and internet on ISDN ADSL with Versatel, a so called Business-all-in agreement. In fact, our company was one of the first ones which requested an ADSL line over ISDN. It took Versatel more than three months to deliver, as KPN had to transfer the line to Versatel; no blame on Versatel. Yet, the communication between Versatel and EMR was technical with no marketing sensitivity; questions were being avoided. To compensate the lower tariff promised by Versatel plus a number of days of total incommunicado, only one month subscription was given in return.

The major reason for moving to another provider is the inflexibility of Versatel. While KPN and other providers have adapted their internet connection speed at least six times in four years, we had our speed upgraded one time in four years and this was only done after that we asked for it. ISDN was blamed. The lame reason for not upgrading was that we had ADSL over ISDN and not analogue. And when the company started to offer fast analogue ADSL (up to 24Mb was claimed) we could not switch as we would have to go back to KPN, close the ISDN line, request for an analogue line and being transferred to Versatel. In this game Versatel did not want to play any role. In short, no one is going to risk some weeks of incommunicado, because of the bad communications between Versatel and KPN. So why should we?

What I have been unable to understand is why Versatel never offered their soho clients a move over from ISDN to analogue in order to boost their claim to fame of 100.000 fast ADSL users. They also never made their business relations an offer for fast ADSL plus a one year’s subscription for the soccer competition. But marketing is an art!

Last and not least Versatel claimed flawless ADSL connection as it had its own network and constant speed as companies did not have to share an ADSL line. But regular checks with the Nuria measuring tool showed that the speed was variable with at least one non-performance a month.

All in all a good, reasons enough to say goodbye to Versatel, upgrade on speed and go into triple play with… When we called Versatel to terminate the contract, we talked to the loyalty and retention officer (sic!). We went through the procedure and the financial aspects; all in a correct way. But he did not ask why we wanted to terminate the contract; nor did he make an offer to retain our company as a client. We were probably small fry.

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Blog Posting Number: 451

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Moving shop (2)

Change of blogname?

When the decision was taken to move shop from Utrecht to Almere, the question of a name change for the blog arose. Should we change the name of the blog, as this is named after a street in Utrecht where we used to have our offices. The consideration would be that the company is moved from this street in Utrecht to a new one in Almere. Should the name of the blog be changed consequently? It could be logical and there might be a reason for it.

I choose Buziaulane when I started up the blog on May 1, 2005, as there is a design building with a watch tower in the Utrecht street where we had our offices. To me this was the virtual look-out of the content industry; observing from a distance and from above what was happening in the world. Just a metaphore and hopefully a brand; besides there as a link to the creative industry, as Johan Buziau was a Dutch entertainer during the first half of the 1990s.

The name of the present street, where the company is located, is named after a German abstract painter. So there is also a link to the creative industry. And the building contains stocked apartments and suites. From the fifth floor where Electronic Media Reporting has its offices, there is a nice view of the city of Almere, a skyline with a few sky scrapers.

Comparing both positions a name change would not have an extra advantage. The relationship to the creative industry would not improve. Besides both locations have a virtual look-out, which can function as a metaphore. On the other hand there is no need to change the name, as no other image is needed for the weblog. And by changing the name of the weblog after more than a year, readers will be confused or loose their bookmark link.

As there is no clear advantage the name Buziaulane will be maintained as a Dutch look-out for the content-industry. (In line with social networking I should of course have held a poll, soliciting the opinion of readers with closed questions formulated by me.).

Blog Posting Number: 450

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Moving shop (1)

From Utrecht to Almere

Electronic Media Reporting (EMR) has moved from July 21, 2006. The company moved from the historic city of Utrecht to the fastest growing new town in the Netherlands, Almere.It has been a hard time lately keeping up the blog, but also taking decisions. For now there was an opportunity to chance telecom, cable and internetproviders. So we shopped around. But there was also the opportunity to start using the latest technology such as triple play and wireless telecom. It took a while to have it sorted out and of course it took a while to get everything installed. It meant of course saying goodbye to some providers. In this mini-series I will tell about the selection we made and why. I will also look at the issue of self-help services on internet.

EMR is a soho company, working from an office at home. As the house was in Utrecht when we started up the pap-and-mom company in 1990, we established the office at the Johan Buziaulaan in the residential area Rijnsweerd of the historic city of Utrecht.
By last year the time had come to move to a smaller apartment for various personal reasons. The big house of some 200 square metres with an unused floor had to be cleared from 28 years stored history of paper and digital artifacts in order to fit into a smaller apartment.

As there is no emotional bond with the city of Utrecht, we decided to choose for family ties and to move to the new town of Almere. This new town officially founded in 1976 in order to alleviate the housing shortage of Amsterdam. It has grown fast and offers now almost 70.000 houses to 178.458 people (stats January 2006). In the coming years the new town might become the twin city of Amsterdam. It belongs to the Northern wing of the creative industry of the Netherlands. There is a television studio. It has a lot of software companies in its borders. And not to forget a department of Information engineering.

In 1998 Electronic Media Reporting organized a review in the framework of Information Engineering for the European Commission in Almere. The new town had just landed the department of Information Engineering of the HvA college and wanted to open it with a bang. The review would bring a host of people and would give the students an opportunity to listen to people familiar with Information Engineering. The municipality took care of a welcome reception and hosted a dinner. But we also met the limitations of a new town: there was one small hotel with some twenty beds.. And as it was in the autumn, there was many a rain shower. But it was a great event for Almere. The department of Information Engineering is still located there and turning out graduates annually.

In the coming days I will tell you about changing providers and selfhelp services.

Blog Posting Number: 449

Friday, July 21, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (18)

The iLiad has arrived

Two days ago, I received an e-mail telling me that the iLiad was to be shipped. I could track the parcel through the UPS service. And on Thursday morning the iLiad arrived, a small, decent parcel as you can see from the photograph.

Having unpacked the iLiad I noticed that I had two units of every accessory (e.g. travel hub, USB cable, stylus). As it was unclear from the web shop information what was exactly in the offer, I just ordered the extras. But, as it turns out the iLiad package contains all you need. So I am left with an extra travel hub, the USB cable and the stylus. I guess that I will get in contact with iRex Technologies and ask them to take the extras back.

What surprised me most, so far, is the almost absence of any information. On a small memo I am welcomed to the world of electronic reading by the iRex team. In the memo I am asked to register with the iRex Delivery Service (iDS) in order to receive extra software releases. For the rest there is no manual or a technical set-up sheet.

So I opened the parcel with excitement. In the box is another box, but it looks like the cover of a book with clear letters in green (see photograph). After unpacking that box I stood eye-to-eye with the tablet. It is a decent A5 size of tablet with a special top right corner, which looks like a page in perspective. The material in which the screen is encased has a special sensitive touch.
It looks like the designers did a special effort to leave out any confusing buttons. I am charmed by the looks and the slimness of it

But after this first inspection I was left in doubt: what should I do. I suppose that I had to load the batteries. While loading the batteries I had a chance to register for software updates; but of course for updates you need already software in the machine. So far, there is no sign of life in the iLiad yet (see photograph).

I will continue next week on getting life in this machine. It is clear that the iRex team did not look at the example of Rocket e-Books. When that machine came out of the wrapping and the electricity was connected, an e-book showed up automatically. When the iLiad is connected to electricity, nothing happens. This is disappointing especially as you want to show what you have bought. Instead of the iLiad welcoming you to the world of electronic reading, you sit down with after 750 euro with a blank screen.

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Blog Posting Number: 448

Thursday, July 20, 2006


This morning I received a mail sent by a bertelsmann affiliate, that my iLiad is on its way! I will keep you informed.

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Blog Posting Number: 448

Of e-books and digital paper (17)


From the historical point of view e-books and digital paper are coming into a new phase. There are many books and newspapers digitally available for PC and PDAs and mobile reading machines. There are two new and important factors are: readability and telecom accessibility. The white and black screen looks similar to the paper products and offers reading in sunlight and indoors.

But what are the real chances of a new wave. We have seen waves before. The first Sony e-book failed on several scores: lack of titles, high price for the reader, lack of readability, single-functionality. The second waves of e-books was more successful as there were more titles available; there was accessibility through internet; files were less closed by proprietary standards; prices fro the reading machines were lower due to the volume produced. Readability had not improved and there was a single-functionality.

Now readability has improved dramatically due to the white and black (16 grey tones) and the promise of a white and colours screen. And most interesting is the accessibility of titles through mobile communication and especially through wi-fi. As such the tablet like the iLiad has become as portable as a book and almost as a newspaper (but not yet as foldable).

The high price might keep the tablet from spreading. Sony has priced its electronic book reading machine on 360 till 400 euro. The tablet iLiad of iRex Technologies comes with a heftier price tag of 750 euro. For the readers to be a success the price of both devices should nose-dive to the level of prices of iPods. As the iLiad can be used for e-books, digital newspapers, digital school books, manuals and in logistics, the price should come down for the general reader and even more for bespoke devices.

The success of the products of Sony e-books and of iLiads digital newspaper/e-book device is dependent on the business models of the publishers and the business proposals which attract users:
- kind of products (e-books, digital newspapers or a combination of both);
- kind of financing (subscription base, buying hardware or sponsoring);
- marketing concept: (bundle-in book products, book clubs like Sony does in Japan);
- distribution of the content products;
- distribution and logistics of the devices.

If there is a chance of success, there is a good chance now. The availability of quality titles of books and newspapers, the diversification of the on-the-go devices as well as the technical quality of the devices should break open a new market is comparable with the iPod market.

Valuable lessons should have been learned from iTunes:
- there was a need for songs on the go;
- these songs should be played on iPod, but should also be allowed to be played on a PC or other devices;
- the price of a song should be reasonable.

The reading devices do experience a disadvantage with regard to the iPod. This music device had Apple behind the development of the iPod and the music store iTunes. E-Books so far have had Sony as a champion; but Sony is not an unsuspected candidate for the championship, as the company promotes its own proprietary production format. Perhaps HP might be a potential candidate.


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Blog Posting Number: 447

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (16)

Digital newspapers

As indicated before, digital newspapers vary from websites, PDF issues and files for electronic reading machines. New in the development of electronic newspapers is the combination of digital paper and the tablet.

It was the Royal Philips spin-off iRex Technologies which developed a tablet for electronic newspapers amongst other applications. The tablet is called the ER 0100 or the iLiad. The ER 0100 is a portable electronic device specifically for reading applications. Its stable, high-brightness display makes for excellent readability both indoors and outdoors. The 8.1-inch (diagonal) monochrome Electronic Paper display contains 1024 x 768 pixels and supports 16 levels of grey (160 dpi). There is a choice of five standard connectivity options for transferring data to the Electronic reader. The product can work with a USB stick, Compact Flash and Multi Media Card using slots on the top of the device. Connection to the Internet is possible via integrated WiFi or Ethernet cable. Connection to PC/laptop: via USB-cable.
The ER 0100 is a very low power mobile device, specifically designed for reading applications. The operating time of the rechargeable battery is more than a week without recharging, based on an average use of three hours reading a day.
The content can be stored in four different archives (e.g. My newspapers, My books). These archives can be quickly accessed using the archive buttons of the device. Advanced search functions are available to locate the required content quickly.
The touch screen facility and stylus makes text input and easy navigation possible as part of a very natural user interface.

Content formats supported: PDF; XHTML; TXT; APABI; OEB*; MP3*; Optional: Customization to support customer specific content format
Interfaces: USB type A connector for USB memory stick; CF type II slot for memory extension or other
Applications: MMC slot for MMC memory cards; 3.5mm stereo audio jack for headset; WIFI 802.11g wireless LAN; 10/100MB wired LAN.
System specifications: 400MHz INTEL X-Scale Processor; 128MB free internal FLASH memory for storing content, extendable via external slots; touch sensor input using stylus; rechargeable battery; travel hub included, connecting to wired LAN, power adapter and PC using USB.
Dimensions (wxhxd): 155x216x16 mm.
Weight: 390 grams.
Operating temperature: 0°C to 50°C.
Storage temperature: –20°C to 70°C.
(*: Will become on line available in coming months via iDS (remote update to all iLiads already in the market)

Beautiful technology with advances in readability and telecom. Will the newspaper world embrace the iLiad as a tool? The Belgium financial daily De Tijd took a real stance by starting an experiment in April 2006. Now iLiad is part of a worldwide experiment if the newspaper organisation IFRA with Italian newspapers, but also USA newspapers. Many other newspapers will play around with the iLiad. I personally wonder whether the developers of the iLiad have taken notice of the Kent Electronic Newspaper Tablet (KENT) Format of Roger Fidler, which blends the popular qualities of printed newspapers with the compelling interactive features of the Web in a reader- and advertising-friendly environment. Still, Roger must be excited to see see a product so close to his brain child of the electronic tablet.

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Blog Posting Number: 446

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (15)

The Electronic Tablet

Besides digital paper as one trail to the quest, the electronic tablet was another development close to the newspaper world. It was started by Roger Fidler (see photograph) an old hand at new media at Knight Ridder, as he was already involved in Knight Ridder’s videotext project Viewtron in 1979. In 1992 he became the first corporate director for New Media for Knight Ridder heading the company's Information Design Laboratory, which he established to explore emerging online and electronic publishing opportunities for newspapers. In 1996 he joined Kent State University journalism faculty in 1996 as a professional in residence.

Much of his research work centres on the electronic tablet. In 1994 his department developed a video showing a dummy of the tablet. He travelled around the world with it. I met him with his story in Netherlands in 1995.

Since 2000, Adobe Systems and the Los Angeles Times have sponsored my work at Kent State University to develop an interactive multimedia format for newspapers that would take full advantage of pen-based Tablet PCs, and the anticipated next-generation electronic paper devices now under development by E Ink Corporation, Philips Electronics, and other companies.
The Kent Electronic Newspaper Tablet (KENT) Format, which resulted from this initiative, blends the popular qualities of printed newspapers with the compelling interactive features of the Web in a reader- and advertising-friendly environment. I publicly demonstrated the format for the first time in New York City in 2002, at the first Tablet PC conference. The demonstrations included a complete, fully functional Los Angeles Times prototype and the first Digital Newsbooks; examples of Digital Newsbooks can be downloaded from the Institute for CyberInformation Web site.

Daily newspaper editions based on the KENT Format are still a work in progress. My current efforts focus on the development of XML-based tools that could be used to streamline the production process.

In the meantime tablets have become a common feature in computing. Nokia has launched the Nokia 770. The tablets are not exactly hot, but the newspaper world should take more interest in them and experiment with them. The other day NewspaperDirect announced that through an important new technology relationship with Microsoft, its publishing partners will now have an opportunity to reach the emerging mass market of typically young and technology savvy subscribers who wish to read news and access content while on the move. NewspaperDirect will bring media content to the new category of Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPC), formerly code named Origami.

The tablet development by itself is not a development in its own right. But the combination of the tablet and digital paper should give another stimulus to the development.

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Blog Posting Number: 446

Monday, July 17, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (14)

Developments in digital paper

Digital paper has been a subject of research since the 1990s. Several approaches have been made: a real hybrid approach and a look alike one.

The hybrid approach has been made by Anoto, a Swedish company. In principle it involves paper, pre-printed with thousand of tiny, nearly invisible spots. The accompanying big pen equipped with a pressure sensor, a digital camera and a Bluetooth transceiver. This Bluetooth component can send the writing to a Bluetooth equipped PC or to a mobile phone for the text or drawing to be e-mailed. This system is now out of the laboratory and is being used by some logistics companies such as TPG. So far the system has made no inroads in printing.

The look-alike approach was taken by American companies. Xerox developed digital paper, named Gyricon, based on ink, encapsulated in plastic, which can be transformed to letters with electric pulses. By December 2005 Gyricon Media ended its operations; however Xerox will refocus its efforts in electronic paper technology through licensing of the underlying intellectual property. A refinement on the Xerox approach has been taken by E-Ink, which puts small capsules on a substrate and can change the letters with electric pulses. Philips bought itself into E-Ink and has started a development of its own. It is now industrially producing digital paper with a white background and 12 grey tones. The readability of the screen has improved dramatically, so that the text can be read in the sun without any problem. For the time being it is black and white; colours are planned for 2007/2008. And as the rate of change of the electronic ink is still slow, no video can be presented on it yet. In principle the digital paper is flexible and rollable. (look at the Philips videos on rollable display: Long version of 2.26 min. or the Short version (1.25 min.)

The principle of the digital paper rest on the substrate and the ink. The 3-inch wide display screen has become flexible by developing a stainless steel foil topped with a thin layer of circuits that control an overlying film of electronic ink. The ink contains tiny capsules with black and white particles with opposing electrical charges floating in a clear fluid. When a negative voltage is run through circuits behind these capsules, the positive white particles move to the capsule's top. A positive current does the same to the negative black particles. The resolution of the prototype is 96 pixels per inch and it is a total of 160 by 240 pixels in size. The display can be refreshed in 250 milliseconds, too slow to display video, but fast enough to support something like a constantly updating electronic paper by a wireless connection. The human eye blends the presented patterns of black- or white-topped capsules into text displayed in a traditional column.

But it is not only Philips who is producing digital paper through commercial and business spin-offs in Europe and China. Also Sony is following the E-Ink development and using digital paper for its e-book. For the time being the E-Ink development of digital, flexible and rollable paper looks to be a winner.

Other digital paper developments are taking place in laboratories of Fujitsu Laboratories and Siemens. Fujitsu Laboratories has successfully made a prototype electronic paper which is comparable to regular copy paper in brightness and thickness. Fujitsu hopes to have the paper in regular production by 2006.Several characteristics of the paper have been developed; ease of reading, ease of portability, durability and improved brightness and contrast of the paper. The new developments have made the electronic paper with a white ratio of 80 or above and a contrast ratio of 15 or above. When compared with regular photo-copy paper there is very little difference. When the power is turned on and off with colour and text being added to the paper, and then subsequently turned off, the paper still retains the material that was written on it using a built-in memory function. The power function of the electronic paper is a special energy saving device suited for this application. The paper will be easy to use, have almost unlimited rewriting capabilities, freedom of deformation and portability. Fujitsu hopes that this invention will contribute to the paperless office and reduce the amount of paper consumption in the world.

Siemens has taken a wide approach to the development of the new screens. The technology makes it possible to put moving images directly onto paper, at a cost that would make it economical to use on everything from newspapers, magazines to cigarette packets. The moving images would give more detailed instructions than any photo could ever do. One square metre of the material will cost around £30; the screens should be available by 2007.

So far Philips spin-offs have been able to manufacture digital paper under industrial circumstances. the digital paper prototypes of Fujitsu and Siemens are still in the laboratory phase.

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Blog Posting Number: 445

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (13)

Development of digital newspapers

The digital newspaper is as a confusing concept as the electronic book. However, there is a difference between the electronic book and the digital newspaper and that is the timeliness. News is bound to time; most books have a longer range of time.

Newspapers started in 1960 and 1970 with digitisation. The New York Times was an early adaptor, preparing straight away an archive, which it made available to the professional world first through its own channel and from 1979 through the Nexis service. But all this had nothing to do with the main newspaper product: the daily.

Eventually digital newspapers had two appearances: electronic files and electronic files on a reading machine. The electronic files came into two sorts: files on internet and file distribution of PDFs through internet. The electronic files on a reading machine have gone though a development, which seems to reach its climax over the coming years.

The electronic files of digital newspapers have been in development since videotext, but did seriously pick up since the introduction of internet. Knight Ridder was one of the first companies to pick up on videotext newspapers, forming Knight Ridder Viewdata Corp. in 1979. Yet after 25 years not one newspaper company has really found a formula optimising the opportunities of 24/7 news reporting, national or regional impact and citizens’ journalism. File distribution through internet has become a matter of fact. Many national and regional newspapers make use of PDFs to distribute the facsimile of the newspaper; in fact a supra-national distribution of digital newspapers through PDFs ready for printing is in place with NewspaperDirect with 370 newspapers from 66 countries in 38 languages.

The other direction was the translation of paper to digital paper. Ideas about such a concept were floating around in 1980s. There were two directions: digital paper and the electronic tablet. By 1992 Knight Ridder established the Information Design Lab, led by Roger Fidler, who became famous for the Electronic Tablet. But the digital paper got some real body when Xerox researchers at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in California succeeded in developing digital paper in 2000. "Gyricon" is as close to a hybrid as you can get: it feels like paper, handles like a newspaper page - and is nevertheless an electronic display. The combination of digital paper and the tablet looks like a winning concept.

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Blog Posting Number: 444

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (12)

E-Books: provisionary round-up

On July 4, 2006 it was 35 years ago when Michael Hart started the concept of electronic book. Looking back over those years, electronic book has not become a real industry yet and it is too much to say that it is an infant industry. There are at least 4 pain points for this industry.

Product definition. What is an electronic book? Is it just an electronic file or does an electronic book consist of content, software and hardware or an e-text file in bespoke equipment. Presently there are some 330.000 e-texts worldwide. The attention on electronic book readers has faded. The devices are not multi functional, but dedicated to reading and annotating electronic books only. Financially the devices have been rather expensive with 300 euro per unit. These devices are mostly reading books in one format. But a major problem has proven to be the readability of the screen. So attention is basically on electronic text files rather than on dedicated reading machines with software and content.

Distribution. Electronic books did get a boost when internet was introduced. The distribution would be easier and cheaper rather than the distribution of mini-discs through book shops and computer shops.

Production chain. Many parties have been involved in the production chain. From people that loved electronic books and scientists. From production companies, gadget manufacturers and libraries; from software companies to telecom companies. But there was no real industry champion for electronic book. Perhaps Sony could have been one, but the company was too controversial, amongst other by the proprietary authoring software. And publishers were the weak link in the value and production chain; they rather did not get involved in this new game.

Purpose. Electronic books are not just fit for science, but also for culture and entertainment. But in the assortment the majority of electronic books is for the time being copyright free publications. Publishers should negotiated print and electronic rights when they take in an author. Publishers or consortia of publishers should be willing to offer a range of e-book opportunities at a fair price and reasonable conditions. They should closely study the iTunes example in music.

It is clear that electronic books have some advantages and some problem areas. There are already many electronic books, but more modern titles should be published as electronic books. On the other hand the infrastructure will have to be improved. Also the image of electronic book should be upgraded from e-text to text iPod. But one feature should be improved regardless the delivery station: the screen. The delivery stations range from CRT to LFT screens. Reading from the screen is hard. It is even harder if one wants to read an electronic book on a portable computer or a PDA outside in the sun. This will change this year; but this development comes from another corner, that of electronic newspapers.

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Blog Posting Number: 443

Friday, July 14, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (11)

New players on the block

By 2005 a series of companies, different from the past ones and mostly new to the publishing trade, take an interest in electronic books for various reasons. Accessibility is one argument, being found is another, cultural heritage and publishing on demand.

Up to 2004 electronic books have been produced and distributed by publishing companies, production companies, distribution companies, ISPs, including telecomcompanies, and bookshops. But in this year new companies started to get involved in electrobnic books for different reasons.Amazon, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

Amazon, the distribution company of amongst others books, started with the Search Inside the Book feature. Buyers of books could have a look inside the book before ordering it. Besides this feature Amazon is planning Amazon Pages, a program that will let people purchase online access from a few pages of a book to an entire work. The e-commerce company also announced a program called Amazon Upgrade that will let customers pay extra to be able to access books electronically that they have had shipped to them in printed form. For this feature and programs, Amazon will digitize books in the public domain or books whose copyright holders have granted permission will be included in the new digital book programs.

Google came from the perspecytive of searching and announced a controversial book digitisation program. The company sticked to the principle that books could be digitised withourt permission of the author as the digitisation was intended for searching. There was a loud outcry of publishers; Nigel Newton, CEO of Bloomsbury, declared earlier this year that Google Print would lead to the “Napsterization” of the book industry. Eventually Google gave way and promised not to digitise books, when an author or publisher objected.

Yahoo is working with the Internet Archive, the University of California and others on a project to digitize books in archives around the world and make them searchable through any Web search engine and downloadable for free. The project, run by the newly formed Open Content Alliance (OCA), was designed to skirt copyright concerns that have plagued Google's Print Library Project since it was begun last year. The Internet Archive, a nonprofit formed to offer access to historical collections that exist in digital format, will host the digitized material. Microsoft is also part of the alliance. Microsoft has set up a tool for publishers wishing to make in-copyright material available. The Windows Live Books Publisher Program enables publishers to submit in-copyright material to Windows Live Book Search in both digital and physical-print forms.

The publishers are also getting into the game, be it rather late and lacklustre. Premium online eBook libraries have already been made searchable and viewable on a subscription basis by vendors such as Knovel, O'Reilly and Pearson's Safari Bookshelf and Books 24x7, including the ability to purchase and view chapters.

This wave in digitisation of millions of books costs millions. There is no co-operation between for example Google and the first player Project Gutenberg. Besides, , according to John Blossom, “the big issue being side-stepped is the ability to buy books as downloadable rights-enabled content objects. It's great that we'll be able to search books online, but with the rise of desktop search engines it's not really necessary or desirable to do so in many instances. One of the most desirable aspects of book ownership is the ability to have a personal copy to manipulate in private and without any network tether. While the book industry will have its hands full just adapting to online access in general, the real prize in book publishing will be enabling electronic book content to retain more of the aspects of book ownership most prized by book purchasers.”

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Blog Posting Number: 442

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (10)

Distribution by telecom

The second wave of e-books looked promising. The success of Internet should have yielded a big market. And to a certain, small extend it did. So, by 2000 other distributors also looked at the market hoping to deliver e-books through telecom.

The concept was not difficult. As PDAs became hooked up to the mobile telephone network, why should not electronic books be delivered straight to the device and to people on the move. It looked logical, but the implications as to the equipment and logistics had not been worked out.

A serious party in this development was Nokia, the Finnish mobile handset manufacturer. Following the craze of the day, the company was developing a tablet. Microsoft had been working on it and HP was developing a detachable screen from the PC. But Nokia was looking in another direction: entertainment on the go. Besides developing mobile networks and manufacturing mobile phones, the company had cautiously invested in games for mobile phones. In line with the general hardware development of tablets and its interest in mobile games, the development of a tablet for on the go was initiated. It eventually would lead in 2005 to the Nokia 770.

In this development Nokia had a short flirt with electronic books. People at the mobile telephone manufacturer saw the tablet as a multi-functional delivery station. Besides games, other content could be delivered. One of the opportunities would be electronic books. The opportunities were studied, the market for electronic books was surveyed and by the end of 2000 the whole tablet project was shelved due to the economic situation. The concept has never been picked up again explicitly by Nokia.

By 2003 the idea of delivering electronic books by mobile telecom had become reality in Korea. Booktopia sold over 200,000 e-books to PDA users every month. But as millions of people have a mobile phone, the mobile telecom companies SK Telecom Co. and KTF Co. started to add e-book content to their basic services. Booktopia is presently considering wi-fi hotspots for customers to download and read books. Some other projects followed, for example in Brazil, where Ciclope Art is distributing electronic books for free as advertisements pay for the distribution. But distribution of electronic books through mobile telecom did not make big waves so far.

From this development components for the new e-book reader might be deducted: a tablet with mobile telecom facilities, especially wi-fi.

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Blog Posting Number: 441

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (9)

Business models

The Sony readers became lighter and got colour screens, but this embodied electronic book did not catch the fancy of the readers’ audience in the USA and Europe in the beginning of 1990. By the end of 1995 it was clear that people would not buy an e-Book reader and e-Book titles. For many national e-book committee members the meeting of the International e-Book Committee, the supporting organisation for Sony, was the last one.

But by 1997 the second of e-Book wave came up. Internet had made impact and was seen, amongst other application, as a distribution network for text files. Project Gutenberg was no longer production oriented, but the e-texts could be distributed easily. This new distribution opportunity through Internet created a new business model. No longer was the movement hardware driven by a consumer electronics manufacturer, but driven by the whole professional chain from publisher to producer, from producer to distributor. Publishers license the electronic editions to a production company; the production company licensed distributors such as bookshops or started to distribute the e-books themselves.

The e-books were sold through Internet for reading on a desktop PC, a portable personal digital assistant or a portable dedicated reader (see photograph). These readers were small tablets, the size of a pocketbook. The monochrome LCD screen was a touch screen with a stylus.

Even another business model sprang up: the author becoming the publisher. The most clear example of this should have been Stephan King. In order to prove the paradigm, he started to publish the electronic book Riding the Bullet without a printed version in the shop. His publisher Simon & Schuster had asked the companies Glassbook and had developed an e-commerce sales system with which copies of PDF could sold for a few dollar. On the introduction day the digital file was already available for free as the sales system had been hacked. Later on in 2000 he went further and offered the serial novel The Plant for which readers were asked, not forced to pay 1 US dollar. King had threatened that he would stop after three instalments if the percentage of those paying the $1 fee for each section dropped below 75 percent. The fourth part of the serial novel costed $2 instead of $1, but at 54 pages it will be twice as long as the previous instalments. Eventually the cost for the entire book would be capped at 13 US dollars. The serial e-book method did not find any following among authors.

This second wave got itself in some problems as to the format. There were proprietary software files like PDF, but also other ones. Exchanging e-books between PC, PDA and an e-Book reader was not always possible. In practice it also meant that production had always to be done in more than one format. So production costs were higher, while the target groups were segmented.

The dedicated e-Books did not really make inroads. E-Books on PCs and on PDAs like Palms still exist. But the market is already nascent for years.

Tags: Books, digital paper

Blog Posting Number: 441

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (8)

The closest embodiment of an electronic book

Up to 1990 electronic books were not taken commercially serious, except for expanded books from Voyager. But Voyager had a distribution problem as they had some representation in the States, but no representation in Europe.

In 1991 Sony hijacked the term Electronic Book for an electronic publishing project. On the back of the success of the Discman (photograph; collection Jak Boumans) a similar very portable device was developed, but now for multimedia data. It was dubbed the Data Discman, while the minidiscs, which could contain 200 Mb were named Electronic Books. Over a period of time the Data Discman moved from a black and white display for text and illustration to a portable device with a colour display and audio output.

From the start the reader was a small piece of hardware, weighing 450 grams. It consisted of a black/white screen with backlight. It would run on batteries and electricity. The minidisk would hold 200Mb of data (text, illustrations, photographs and sound discs). The authoring tool was proprietary software; a producer had to sign the license if he wanted to produce a minidisk.

Sony had thought about the distribution. As with its other products it rolled out the EB geographically: first in Japan, then the USA and after that in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. But the company had also a producers’ participation plan. It would ask a company to set up a committee, bring some publishers and production companies together into a national committee, provide them with a temporary license to the software and contribute to some fascinating titles financially. It was a fast way of getting publishers and producers involved in the project. Soon there was an international network of national committees under the leadership of the Japanese committee.

Commercially the product was difficult to sell. It was a new concept. Besides, a potential buyer would have to shell out roughly 600 euro (US dollar) for a player. The mini-disc would cost more than a music CD in a record shops. But with PR and various campaigns, EB did catch the attention of the audience. Publishers premiered their new books as e-Book edition as was the case with the book Sliver. However, the American and European market had no need for it; a bestseller as a printed book the title Joy of Sex hardly sold as and e-Book title. In total some 350 titles were produced in the USA and Europe. In Japan the device continued to live, mainly as a dictionary aid.

Sony's Electronic Book in combination with the Data Discman was the closest embodiment of an electronic book. The reading device was smaller than the typewriter Vannevar Bush envisioned; in fact it has become extremely portable with a weight rather in grams than in kilograms. A complete encyclopedia could be stored on a small disc of 200Mb, including sound, graphics and stills. And it could be consulted at extreme speed and with a lot of flexibility. Also the requirements formulated by Van Dam have been met. Non-linear structures and interactive illustration and even audio became part and parcel of the product. Yet, Electronic Book was no commercial success; the consumers did not buy the concept.

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Blog Posting Number: 440

Monday, July 10, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (7)

A new way of publishing

Up to the mid-eighties the electronic book had been treated as an extension to the printed books, using the typeset tapes or renewed data-entry. Multimedia was in 1985 not really around so the content of electronic books were still text-oriented.

This was changed by Bob Stein (photograph collection Jak Boumans) from 1985 onwards. From 1980 till 1985 he worked as a consultant for the Encyclopedia Britannica and for Alan Kay’s Research Group at Atari. In 1984 he and his then wife Aleen Stein bought the rights to two classic movies Citizen Kane and King Kong for 10.000 US dollars and started the multimedia company Voyager in Los Angeles. This company was to change traditional publishing. Starting with the release of laser disc versions of such films as King Kong and Citizen Kane under the Criterion Collection label, Voyager was from the start focused on the educational possibilities of media. In 1989, Voyager released an interactive guide to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a work that is generally considered the first consumer CD-ROM title which sold more than 130.000 units. The company subsequently released a profoundly diverse catalogue of multimedia projects, expanding the user's experience by adding text, sound, and image to titles ranging from the A Hard Day’s Night, which sold 100.000 copies to Marvin Minsky’s Society of Minds.

Stein did not just add illustrations, movies and sound to text, but also went into structuring books differently. He used the hypertext/hypermedia method of Ted Nelson, offering to the reader a way to link a concept associatively to another term of illustration. When Apple presented the software HyperCard, Bob Stein saw his publishing dream come true and started to build the history book Who Built America? In his series of Expanded Books he put out some 70 books ranging from Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Despite the creative titles, Voyager had problems finding the markets and especially the distribution channels in the pre-Internet period. Bob Stein concentrated his publishing efforts on structuring content; he was sensitive to the operating system, which became clear when he got hold of a pre-release of Apple's HyperCard. But distribution media were not essential to him; Voyager mpublished on Laserdisc, CD-ROM, floppy disc and DVD. By 1995 the Voyager adventure was over. But Bob Stein came back with a vengeance. In 1996 he created the web publishing venture Nightkitchen, which produced TK3 authoring software, which would “enable people - even those with no technical experience- to assemble text, images, audio, and video files into sophisticated electronic documents." Eventually TK3 turned out to compete with Macromedia Director at the top end and with Adobe Acrobat and Power Point at the lower end. And just like Voyager Nightkitchen failed to find a place in the commercial market.

Presently Stein is involved with the Institute for the Future of the Book. He is also Research Director Digital Authoring Tools, USC Annenberg Center for Communication. The importance of Bob Stein’s work is well described in The Teaching of Bob Stein. His digital publishing vision is well summarized in An Introduction to Sophie.

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Blog Posting Number: 439

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (6)

Finding ways of distribution

In the 1970s the stress in the development of e-Books was on production and study. But in the 1980s distribution came in sight. Online had become a channel for business information, but also online services for consumers such as CompuServe and The Source started to take off. Besides online, offline made its debut with the Laserdisc, which was originally intended as a carrier for movies, but also became a carrier of text and photographs.

The experimenting came from an unsuspected company: the US subsidiary Areté of the Dutch based company VNU. Areté was a general reference publisher, which started to produce the Academic American Encyclopedia (AAE). Originally this reference work was based on the Dutch language encyclopedia Great Spectrum Encyclopedia. VNU had hoped to repurpose 80 percent of the texts and illustration material; in practice only 20 percent was usable for an American edition.

But as the company has made use of phototypesetting, it was easy to use the magnetic tapes for other products. And the manager of Areté, Mr Green, started to experiment. He brought the text of the AAE online with the online service The Source. By the time of the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1981 he brought a magnetic tape along, so that a Dutch subsidiary could shop for a Laserdisc version with Philips.

An appointment was made with the Laserdisc department of Philips with a certain Mr Hoekstra, engineer by training. The objective of the meeting was to have Philips produce a Laserdisc version of the AAE and sell the electronic product to buyers of the Laserdisc player. The response was deafening: how many units of a Laserdisc player do you want to buy! At that time Philips people were hardly marketing sensitive and had hardly heard of bundling. So the Laserdisc version of the AAE never came about, but eventually the AAE was published as one of the first CD-ROM editions. As VNU was unable to sell the AAE, despite a recommendation of the American Library Association, it sold the publishing company to Grolier in 1982. In 1985 Grolier published the first multimedia encyclopedia on CD-ROM with more than 33.000 articles
CD-ROM became from 1985 onwards a favourite carrier for electronic books. During the early 1990s encyclopedias like the Grolier and Encarta were bundled in with CD-ROM players.

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Blog Posting Number: 438

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (5)

Who coined the term e-Book?

When Michael Hart started to type the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1971, he typed a computer file and called it an e-text. These days we speak about e-books. But who coined the term e-Book?

Doing research for this mini-series, my eyes caught sight of a legal document used in the case between Random House vs Rosettabooks, a case in which start-up Rosettabooks got a lot publicity, as the big Random House automatically claimed copyright on an e-Book.

In an expert declaration from February 2001 by Andries van Dam, a professor of Computer Science at Brown University, there are very relevant passages about the origin and the usage of e-books as well as about the coinage of the word.

Andries van Dam (his name sounds Dutch or Flemish) has played a key-role in the development of e-books. He was the second person in the USA who picked up a Ph.D. in computer science. He worked with guys like Doug Engelbart, the inventor of the mouse, and Ted Nelson, who coined the word hypertext, as well with Alan Kay, the designer of Dynabook. Van Dam, Engelbart and Nelson were all working in what we would call now word processing and graphics, but what was called idea processing at that time. So Van Dam was well placed for e-Books development and right in the middle of it.

In his expert testimony he tells about the coinage of the word ‘e-Book’: “… by the late 1960s, computer manual for these systems (conventional time-sharing systems, JB), as well as other forms of technical and non-technical documentation, were store and could be retrieved and read on computer screens of various sizes and formats. Additionally,…,students in a section of a 1976 poetry at Brown University read poems and other critical materials on the computer, rather than on paper. It was after this class, in the late 1970s, that I coined the term “electronic book” from which the abbreviation eBook is derived.” This is an interesting statement. Students studied poetry from the screen. They performed actions like retrieving words, counting words and annotating poems.

It is interesting that Van Dam indicates in the expert testimony that the eBook should have a dedicated storage and retrieval device: “In 1968, he (Alan Kay) articulated a new storage and retrieval device which he called the Dynabook (Photograph, courtesy of Alan Kay). Kay envisioned that the Dynabook would be the size of a three-ring binder and would have a multipurpose screen that a consumer could use for both reading and writing. His vision of a Dynabook is seen by many as foreshadowing the first portable e-Book reading device and also served as a template for the personal computer.”

Van Dam ends his expert testimony with the following observation on e-Books: “… today’s electronic books, insofar as they enable a consumer to read in electronic form entire texts of works traditionally offered by publishers in paper form, are, in my opinion, the natural extension and outgrowth of the early information storage and retrieval systems of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and their subsequent computerization during the 1950s and 1960s. While the fundamental reading experience , with respect to this category of eBooks remain the same, the new technological advances have enabled improved efficiencies , cost savings, an an ability to store books and even entire libraries on portable devices (e.g. on the hard drive of a laptop computer)…”

BTW Rumor has it that the character of Andy in Pixar Studio’s 1995 film Toy Story was named after Andries van Dam (source: Wikipedia)

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Blog Posting Number: 437

Friday, July 07, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (4)

The Project Gutenberg

Three days ago it was 35 years back in history that Michael Hart, a student at the University of Illinois, started to type the United States Declaration of Independence in ASCII and in capitals.

That was the start of e-books. It was remarkable as the focus of computer use at that time tended to be on (administrative) data processing. But Hart realised that computers were part of a network and could distribute information such as electronic books. It took him two days to type the Declaration of Independence on a teletype machine.

It was also the start of the Project Gutenberg, named after the German Gutenberg printing machine. The development of the Gutenberg press meant a revolution in information history as books became cheaper compared to the handwritten manuscripts and incunabilae. Using computer technology Hart wanted to make electronic books freely available. Of each book a plain text file should be available so that it could be displayed on virtually any computer.

Project Gutenberg started a volunteer movement of producing e-texts by re-typing and later by scanning. By 1987 there were 313 books available. The introduction of internet gave an impulse to Project Gutenberg worldwide. By now there are five official Gutenberg sites: main site , the Project Gutenberg Consortia Centre , the Australian centre, the German site , the European site . There are also local projects like in the Netherlands the Project Laurens Coster , the supposed Dutch inventor of the printing press, and the Swedish project Runeberg. The Project Gutenberg has become a major volunteer organisation claiming to have produced some 100.000 electronic books today, in more than 100 languages and in various formats (ASCII, HTML, PDF).

Micheal Hart hopes to reach the 1 million e-texts milestone by 2015. But, given the scanning technologies and the volunteer power looks like this milestone will be reached by 2009. Project Gutenberg is a project directed at the production of e-books or better with e-texts, electronic files of books texts and illustrations. They will all be made freely available and will be distributed offline (on a DVD for example) or through Internet. The e-texts are future proof for machine translation, but also for conversion to audio and Braille.

For the Project Gutenberg to produce e-books the texts need to be copyright free. In this way the collection will basically be limited to books from before 1930. There are also copyrighted e-books for which authors have given permission.

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Blog Posting Number: 436

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I just finished an interview with Radio 1, the Dutch national public broadcast company, about e-Books, the World eBook Fair, Dutch e-Books and the digital paper reader iLiad.


Blog Posting Number: 435


Even with months of preparation and precautions, multiple servers installed, redundant lines connected to the Internet to carry the load in case of crashes or overloads, big power supplies installed in case the power went out, and the other considerations given to The World eBook Fair, participants from the four corners of the Earth to retrieve eBooks in one hundred languages still managed to over load our servers in an effort to give 1/3 million eBooks away to the world.

However, even though our servers never went down many have reported problems with slow connection speeds or missing pages. This is due to the high traffic volume that the site is receiving.

Plans are already being made to add even more robust high speed servers to be online by July 7th or 8th.


Blog Posting Number: 434

Of e-books and digital paper (3)

The Memex as prototype

Looking for a first hint of the concept of electronic books in history is not easy. Despite the fact that the search will be limited to the twentieth century, the search depends on the definition of electronic book. Personally I would think that the Memex of Vannevar Bush could qualify as the first hint. Mr Bush was a scientific advisor to the American president Roosevelt.

In June 1945 an article by him, entitled As We May Think was published in the The Atlantic Monthly, in which he describes the non-existing machine Memex (Memory extension). He writes: ‘Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at the random, “Memex” will do. A Memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement of his memory.
It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, at which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.
In one end is the stored material. The matter of bulk is well taken care of by improved microfilm. Only a small part of the interior of the Memex is devoted to storage, the rest to mechanism.’

Mr Bush’s description was most interesting given the fact that computers had just come around. Some computers had seen some army combat, deciphering coded messages; others were massive calculators for the logistic operations of the army and navy. Ideas about civil applications were still rare at that time.

Mr Bush talks about a sort of library and about stored books. The machine will have the size of a desk and could be handled by everyone. One of the advantages of Memex over existing libraries and printed books, was retrievability. But it was a mechanic retrievability, as the Memex would be a machine for microfilm storage on the basis of photo-electrical techniques. The machine was described by Mr Bush as an analogue device and not as electronic equipment. Interesting is that the stored books were seen as files residing in a machine.

The machine itself can be seen as a precursor of the PC and other devices such as PDAs containing elements of a Windows system and World Wide Web. As such it has become part of the new media, despite the photo-electrical techniques.

The Memex has become the symbol of the personal computer. Implicitly, the stored books were files and the Memex was the device for reading and retrieving texts. So the concept has three elements: content, software to read and manipulate and hardware.

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Blog Posting Number: 433

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


More than 1.000 key texts of Dutch cultural history will be available on internet thanks to a grant from the Dutch government. The Digital Library for Dutch Literature will digitise the Dutch classic texts. The copies will be available for scientists studying the texts remotely, but also for consumers. Another grant will make it possible for university libraries together with the Royal Dutch Library to digitise the special collections of before 1800.


Blog Posting Number: 432

Of e-books and digital paper (2)

I have a publishing background, having worked for VNU and Kluwer, before it became Wolters Kluwer. I worked for 10 years in reference departments, producing general encyclopaedias. My first and greatest love was the Great Spectrum Encyclopaedia, a real contemporary encyclopaedia with beautiful break-outs and other design. Besides it was the first Dutch general encyclopaedia to be produced with a (mini-)computer, a PDP Digital. When I moved on to Kluwer I got a chance to change the production process and create a database with general mark-up language for spin-offs.

Confronted with the new technology, I got fascinated with the new opportunities and started to think about electronic books. Mind you, it was in the time that PCs were still in the laboratory and hardly known in the Netherlands. I still remember that I was asked to speak on the developments of database publishing in 1978 and I drew a computer with chips, representing the volumes of a general encyclopaedia. Can you imagine now: taking out a chip in order to get a linked article in the last chip?

(c) Collection Jak Boumans, 1978

Little did I know of the eBook developments going on in the States with Michael Hart of the Gutenberg project and my compatriot Mr Andries van Dam at Brown University in the States. By 1980 I got a glimpse of the electronic books, when VNU brought its Academic American Encyclopaedia, the later Grolier Encyclopaedia, online and put it simultaneously on a laser disc, a large precursor of the CD-ROM.

But in 1990 there came a change in the concept of electronic books. No longer consisted the electronic book of just an electronic file which could be brought online or stored on a general purpose CD-ROM player. Pursuing the success of the Data Discman, Sony produced a mini CD-ROM as Electronic Book, which could be played on a single purpose electronic book reader. A dedicated player made its entrance. But the EBook of Sony was not a success in the US and Europe; by 1995 it was dead. Yet in Japan the e-Book continued even up to now.

With internet spreading, a second wave of eBooks came about. The electronic books were distributed online to be loaded on dedicated readers. But again e-Books did not take off for a lot of reasons. A predicted third wave with telecom and personal digital assistant devices never really occurred.

But now in 2006 the e-book might come back with a vengeance. Readability has greatly been improved with digital paper, which has a white background and can handle 12 greytones. Telecom facilities including wi-fi and Bluetooth have been incorporated opening opportunities for reception of digital newspapers.

After three technology based waves, there is a new start. In the coming days I will trace the developments of eBooks and digital paper in more detail. Any comments and additions are welcome.

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Blog Posting Number: 431