Thursday, August 27, 2009

BPN 1366 e-Books: still crazy after 15 years …

On August 26, 2009 the Dutch book world, publishers as well as physical and internet bookshops, launched e-Books in a gross manner. Sony had forged an alliance with And the Dutch central book logistics operator started the eBook home EBoekhuis, storing 3000 Dutch language books and linking to 200.000 English language books. After 15 years the break through has finally taken place.

Sony’s eBook/eReader story goes back to 1986, when the CEO of Sony held up a minidisk for the international publishers congregated in a large stadium in Mexico and spoke the famous words: This will be your new book. It took till 1991 when Sony had developed the full concept of e-Book and e-Reader, calling it the Datadiscman, modelling it after the music Discman and launched it in Japan. It took two more years for the product to be launched in the States. And in 1993 the first steps were set in the Netherlands.

When the launch in Japan took place the Japanese publishing world had organised an e-Book committee with Sony. The same strategy was followed in the USA and in Europe; so also in The Netherlands. In May I was asked to head up the Dutch committee with publishers, software developers and packagers. By March 1994 the launch of the EBG Electronic Book was ready. A series of Dutch language titles had been prepared and a number of English language titles bought. There was publicity for the new phenomenon in the press, but this news was written by the editors of the economy section and not by non-fiction or literature editors. Some 1200 units of e-readers were pushed into the distribution channels, but only a few got sold. And in 1995 the agreements for Dutch language e-Book development was cancelled by Sony due to the economic recession. In the end some 15 Dutch language titles had been developed.

Titles produced for the Sony EBG e-Book during 1993-1995

Winkler Prins Medisch Vademecum/Bonaventura/Elsevier
Winkler Prins Poly Marketing Vademecum/Bonaventura/Elsevier
Winkler Pins Culinair Vademecum/Argus/Elsevier
PBNA Technisch Zakwoordenboekje/PBNA/Elsevier
Hotels en Restaurants in Nederland/Elektroson
Elektronisch Handwoordenboek Engels/Van Dale Lexicografie
Verschueren Groot Woordenboek - Het Juiste Woord/Standaard Uitgeverij
Het Groene Boekje/Sdu
Reisgids Ierland/ANWB

Source: Electronic Media Reporting, 1996

The next e-Book wave started in 1997 when internet was discovered as an electronic distribution channel for e-Books. US e-Readers such as Rocketbooks were imported in the Netherlands in small quantities. However it was not enough to convince publishers to try e-Books. However one of the results was that an e-Book packager started business. It turned out to be the precursor of, the first e-bookshop in The Netherlands.

The Rocket book generation rumbled on till 2006. In that year the Philips spin-off iRex Technologies presented the first reader with digital paper of E-Ink technology. One of the latest successes for the company was the co-operation with NRC-Handelsblad, the national quality newspaper of The Netherlands. But a real impact in The Netherlands, iRex has been unable to make due to the high pricing of the e-Reader iLiad and others models. Other e-Reader manufacturers such as Bookeen Cybook, Hanlin and lately Bebook, a Dutch developer, made use of the playing area left to them and offered e-Reader against lower prices. Now Sony has seized the occasion and forged a partnership with the internet Bookshop

Is The Netherlands ready for e-Books and e-readers? It should be as all conditions of the iPOD/iTunes model have been fulfilled. There is an acceptable e-Reader with a very acceptable screen, which can be read even in sunlight. There is a portfolio of 3000 Dutch language e-Books. This is not very impressive. But given the short time in which the number has been built up, it is sure that publishers will be convinced to convert there manuscripts so that the portfolio will be extended in rapid pace. The download service for the Dutch language e-Books and English language e-Books has been organised well. Another condition is the price, which is lower than the fixed price for the print edition; however the VAT is not 6 percent but 19 percent.

e-Books: I am still crazy about them after all these years.

Blog Posting Number: 1366

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