Thursday, May 08, 2008

BPN 1092 eReader does not add value to journalism

Today I was a guest speaker at the Faculty of Communication and Journalism (FCJ) in Utrecht. I had been invited by Job Twisk, the almost the last editor in chief of Planet Internet before the incumbent telecom operator KPN withdrew once again from content. The subject of the guest lecture was Goodbye print, Hello e-Reader. It looks like the introduction of a new medium. When CD-ROM was introduced the software developer Dataware had a poster saying: Goodbye Gutenberg, Hello CD-ROM. But media introductions have more customs have their particular publications such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in the USA, the Bible in the USA and Europe and encyclopaedias (Grolier amongst others). For the introduction of the eReader I have not discovered Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Bible or an encyclopaedia. So something might be changing in introducing digital media.

The presentation was dubbed a LunchTalk, a lecture during the lunch break, which students can attend at their own wish. The audience consisted of journalism students. And as the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad has recently introduced the iLiad as an eReader for its ePaper, I was asked to give a short historical overview of the development of the eReaders, the added value to journalism and the present scene. For the historical overview I had taken along my small eReader museum of the Sony EB, the Rocket Softbook and the iLiad. And I had found some historical movies: one on the Sony EB, produced for the Netherlands E-Book Committee, and I had been able to get converted the video tape of The Tablet. Not top quality videos, but good enough to understand the development.

It was great to show the development and failure factors in the first three waves of eReader technology. The first wave, the Sony EB of 1991, had a gadget with a screen too hard to read, a short battery life, it was too heavy and Sony used its own authoring software. The second wave with Rocket Softbook used internet as a distribution means, but the eReader had also a bad screen, it was too heavy and had a short battery life. The third wave has hardly taken place with an eReader on a mobile phone, although Nokia thought about it. But with the digital paper eReader there is definitely a break through; whether this is the ultimate break through can be doubted. Yet the digital paper is very readable

But the real discussion was of course whether an eReader brings added value to journalism. My position was clear from the beginning: the eReader takes out the distribution out of the production cycle. In other words, we do not need delivery boys any longer. Of course for the newspaper marketing people, the eReader might a special delivery device for profiled advertisements and sales of related products (review plus an excerpt of the book) and perhaps for a personal newspaper a la Ohmynews. So it might take out the expensive distribution link and add profiled advertisements and sales, but the eReader will not add to the journalistic process.

On May 29, 2008 the publisher of the NRC Handelsblad ePaper, Gert Jan Oelderik, will give a presentation. I am eager to hear his figures, but also his opinion whether the eReader brings added value to journalism.

After the presentation a team of future journalists recorded a video of an interview; however the interview is in Dutch.

Untitled from on Vimeo.

Blog Posting Number: 1092

Tags: newspaper, eReader, e-Book, digital paper , , , ,

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