Having read the releases, I selected the release Positive, but remote future as the most relevant one. I will first discuss the main thrust of the release and attach the full release.
De Tijd e-paper project researched by the IBBT revealed in what way readers want to read their daily newspaper on a digital device. Of course readers should realise that it was a study of 2,5 months and as such a snapshot, limited to the iLiad e-reader, a reading device based on the e-ink technology.
The e-reader was tested in a living lab setting by 200 test users during 2,5 months. (April-June). Each day “De Tijd” could be downloaded and read, and personal documents could be read in PDF. Some other functionalities that will be accessible in the device, e.g. the ability to take notes and to play music, were not yet available during the trial. So, during the trial the basic e-Reader was used for receiving and reading the newspaper. Lacking the sound and taking notes facilities is not a disadvantage, as it makes the print newspaper compare 1:1 with the e-newspaper.
For the test 200 trial users were selected who constituted a representative sample of “De Tijd” readers. This implied that the majority of the panel consisted of higher educated men, with high computer skills and a busy job. This statement is interesting as the profile of the trial users shows them to be early technology adaptors. This must lead to the main conclusion that launching this type of electronic newspaper and newspaper device is still too early. In the press release it is said remote future. In some of the notes there is talk of the long future.
Between long and remote there is some light for manoeuvring. Given favourable circumstances (user-friendly equipment, easy-to-download network, reasonable prices) the use of the eReader can change in a matter of a year to one and a half years. Look at how the iPod changed the music world. When did you see someone listening to his/her walkman in the last two year? The same could happen to the eReader as it no more than an iPod.
So the main question is whether the eReader is already a user-friendly device? The question about the distribution network is less important; yet the wi-fi connectivity is essential. Reasonable pricing of electronic editions (free, subscription, pay per article) is still a knotty subject in the newspaper world. Besides the newspaper companies will not make it on their own account. They need a respected promoter like Apple was for the audio iPod. Question is who that will be? As the eReader is produced by a spin-off of Royal Philips, one could think about that company as the promoter; yet despite its status as a respected multinational, it does not have content and media-affinity like Apple has. What about Apple, Google, Yahoo or Microsoft (no order of preference intended)
IBBT ePaper Project – SMIT
Positive, but remote future: The digital version of the newspaper is promising, but still has not beaten the traditional paper
In the context of the IBBT e-paper project, SMIT-IBBT1, a research centre at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, studied in what way readers want to read their daily newspaper on a digital device.
The eReader, a reading device based on the e-ink technology with an excellent screen quality, was tested in a living lab setting by 200 test users during 2,5 months. (April-June). Each day “De Tijd” could be downloaded and read, and personal documents could be read in PDF. Some other functionalities that will be accessible in the device, e.g. the ability to take notes and to play music, were not yet available during the trial.
The 200 trial users constituted a representative sample of “De Tijd” readers. This implied that the majority of the panel consisted of higher educated men, with high computer skills and a busy job.
Especially the screen quality and the good readability was highly rated by the test clients. In contrary to normal computer screens there is little eyestrain when using the eReader for extented periods of time.
The eReader is found to be particularly handy in specific situations in which people are mobile, but in which it is not easy to read a real newspaper. The test users used their eReader for example while using public transport (rain, tram, bus) in the car (in traffic jams) and even on foot. The eReader was also seen as an ideal travel companion, with which people can download their daily newspaper abroad, and where books and travel guides can be stored on the eReader device instead of in people’s suitcases.
Despite these new uses, the test users did hold on to their old habits. Especially on weekends, the look and feel of the traditional newspaper is preferred at the breakfast table. And although the eReader is practical on holidays, people still prefer to read a real book at home. A fully stocked library does remain a status symbol. People stick to traditions, therefore it is important that the paper on the eReader delivers the same level of comfort people are used to with the traditional paper.
It is important to start from the present reading behaviour of the newspaper reader, who looks for recognisable formats. This means that the epaper should be offered in a similar layout with clickthrough articles. Next to that, an additional search function and the option for personalised information, like stock markets, can be considered as an advantage.
Most of the respondents do think that a bug free eReader could replace the traditional newspaper in the long run. Obviously, a few technical limitations with which the trial was confronted have to be solved. The eReader has to be stable and fast, and the e-paper has to be easily downloadable.
The eReader also has to have the ability to enable some of the old habits associated with newspapers, like saving and archiving articles. When in time several titles (books, magazines, ...) become available at a reasonable cost, this device will become a worthy adversary for the printed paper.
The eReader will undoubtedly offer a contribution to a paperless society. But, as any evolution, the transition from a printed to an electronic paper on the eReader will be a gradual one.
Source: IBBT, 2006
Tags: iliad, irex, e-book, e-ink, e-reader, newspaper
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Blog Posting Number: 597