Wednesday, December 30, 2009

BPN 1414 Offical stats on 2009 Dutch ereader and ebook sales

In The Netherlands the year 2009 will be recorded in the annals as the year that electronic book finally made it in the consumer market. The figures are now official:
- 12.000 ereaders sold;
- 60.000 ebooks sold;
- 5 ebooks per ereader.
Of course those figures can hardly compete with the US figures in general and the Amazon figures in particular. Amazon sells 150.000 units on a normal day. In the US during the Christmas season 1 million ereaders are supposed to have been sold. And the forecast for 2010 is no less than 6 million.

But for a country like The Netherlands these figures are a good start. If you can use the same multipliers like in the States, some 75.000 ereaders would be sold and 360.000 ebooks in 2010. Of course these figures are a bleak shade of the 50 million copies of printed books sold in The Netherlands. But after 15 years since the first introduction of ereaders and ebooks in the Netherlands, it is not a bad start at all. and Sony should be applauded for effort they put into the launch and the site of the NDC/VBK publishers for its perseverance.

Since yesterday the score for ebooks sold is already 60.003, as I bought three ebooks for the BeBook Mini. As I will be travelling soon again, I have now some 12 ebooks in my ereader; enough to survive a trip to the Middle East. Downloading the books took some time as I had to install Adobe Digital Edition and the link between the BeBook Mini is still functioning poorly. The helpdesk of is apparently still on Christmas recess.

During the download session I noticed still a potential problem, which will might hold back buyers: the format battle. Mobipocket was a favourite format with a lot of restrictions such as DRM. But since the launch, EPUB is the favourite and liberal format. Downloading on more platforms is allowed and easy.

All in all it will be an interesting year to see how ereaders and ebooks will be accepted. I think that ereaders and ebooks are going to be accepted by a broad group of book readers. I hear in the circle of my friends, that ereaders have been given as gifts for Christmas. That is usually the sign that a new device is going to be accepted. These people are usually not the technology adopters, but they see the advantages of the device and of electronic book reading. Besides they are not ink addicts.

The incentive for ereaders in The Netherlands has come so far from the book side of the industry and not from the newspaper and magazine business. The magazine business has not undertaken any effort yet to introduce e-glossies. They keep developing printed glossies. In the newspaper sector, only NRC-Handelsblad has made an effort together with iRex Technologies, but other Dutch newspapers do not see any advantage in it. They tale a wait and see attitude. Given the small newspaper market with the largest title having some 500.000 copies distributed nationally, they probably do so rightfully.

So 2010 will be an interesting year. For me personnaly it will be also an interesting year in relation to books. I am due to have publish a book in Dutch on the pre-Internet online industry in The Netherlands; the title in English runs like: When digital media were still new. The books treats the period prior to the introduction of internet, when there was an online and CD-media  industry. In history it will cover the start of electronic publishing in 1967 and end on January 1, 1997. I am now writing the final version. The printed edition should be on the market in May 2010. There is no decision yet on an ebook version. The cover has been designed already by a friend of mine, the Italian artist Chiara Boeri. Dutch speaking readers can look at the announcement of the publisher Media-Update Vakpublicaties. If you want to be warned, when the book is published, please leave a comment or send an e-mail jak (at)

Update January 8, 2010
The Dutch market research bureau Creative Venue today published the figures:
- 14.000 ereaders sold;
- 63.000 ebooks sold;
- 2544 Dutch titles available;
- 121610 English titles available.

Blog Posting Number: 1414

Tags: ereader, ebook

Thursday, December 24, 2009

BPN 1413 The unwrap party of my Bebook Mini

This week it was the last week to order an ereader for the company. I had a perfect working iLiad of the first series, but during one of my presentations on ebooks and ereaders, I handed it around and received it back broken. The screen was gone. I had had such a failure before and had to pay a hefty 250 euro (I had paid 650 euro for it to buy) to get the screen repaired. To pay another 250 euro was too much asked from the company’s budget, so I decided to look around.

Taking the position that I had to spend 250 euro to get my iLiad repaired, I decided to look for an ereader of less than 250 euro in The Netherlands. And I found the BeBook Mini, a 5 inch e-ink screen device. I paid 199 euro, including VAT for it, to Today I saw it advertised with a physical bookshop for 189 euro. The only difference with my order was that the cheaper one did not have an ebook voucher of 30 euro with it. But the 30 euro voucher is not the greatest gift as you have to spend it before the end of this year. Not even five full working days to go!

The Bebook Mini arrived in time for Xmas unwrapping. In fact it arrived on the same day as the black cover, which I also ordered, did. Together the ereader and the cover make a nice delicate ensemble. For me as an ex-theology student, it looked like the missal under the printed books.

But then the frenzy work to get the Mini going started. The first thing was to have the Mini 12 hours on a USB cable linked to a PC. It looked a lot to me, but so said the quickstart guide to the BeBook Mini ereader. But looking closely to the guide and the material delivered I deducted that this was most likely, if you had to put the battery in the ereader yourself (you even got a small screw driver delivered in the package). In my case the battery was installed and the user guide could be even read on the screen (a feat the iLiad could not do with its first edition).

So after the 12 hours of loading, I started to link up the ereader through a USB cable to one of my PCs. And I did not get it to link, even not after following meticulously the user guide. Then I linked the ereader to another PC. No result. After trying several times it dawned on me that the cable might be defective. So I looked in my cable collection for a similar USB cable. I found one and started the whole procedure from the start. First on my Vaio. No result. But when I linked on to my recently acquired Acer netbook, it worked. Both computers take USB 2.0 cable connections. My conclusion: BeBook had delivered a faulty USB cable.

So I sent an email to the help desk. And another day was lost on just a simple installation. When I received the iLiad, the unwrapping party was turned into a search party for the on/off knob. The BeBook Mini does not have a real obvious on/off knob either, but it is on top of the device and on the right side and cannot be confused with any other knob.

Looking at the ereader there are two thoughts hitting my mind. The ereader presents the text straight up. There is no facility in order to read the text landscape, which could be interesting in case of some novels and essays with short sentences of a discussion. This facility brought me to the second point. Apple would have undoubtedly put in such a facility as is shown in the iPhone. But the screen of the Mini is larger than the screen of the iPhone. The iTablet or iSlate of Apple, supposed to be out on the market by March or April next year, is said to have a 10 inch screen.

My conclusion on the state of ereaders is that the unwrapping party is still not a joy.

Blog Posting Number 1413

Tags: ebook, ereader

Friday, December 18, 2009

BPN 1412 Ereaders will drop under 150 euro

The year is almost over and looking back I am impressed by the inroads made by ereaders and electronic books. Of course Kindle had made impressive inroads already, but only in the US. And now the fight for market share has begun. Barnes & Noble launched the Nook. In neighbouring Canada a new entrant Kobo is starting up dotted with 16 million US by amongst others Borders. But in Europe, has not made any impression and still does not do so.

In Europe, it is Sony which started up the wave. In The Netherlands Sony and teamed up successfully and made a dramatic start. The aim was to sell 10.000 units before the end of the year. And they did sell more than 10.000 units. In fact the Sony ereader was and still is the favourite item in the consumer electronic goods, leaving netbooks behind.

But the Sony/ combination triggered also other brands of ereaders such as Bebooks, Hanlin and Cybook to start selling. In fact the action by Sony/ set off an action among Dutch bookshops, where ereaders were met with a lot of expected scepticism. Yet when potential buyers showed up, the tradesman in the bookseller would loose all reservation.

The introduction of ereader in The Netherlands has had five effects on the Dutch ebook market:
a. The price of ereaders has been lowered under 300 euro and the Price will even drop under 200 euro in 2010.
b. The publishing format has been standardised on the EPUB format. It is now the official format and publishers and distributors using other formats offer now also EPUB.
c. EPUB carries DRM limitations, but a liberal regime is offered: a buyer can share the ebook with four friends or copy it onto four platforms.
d. Publishers are getting more eager to publish an electronic counterpart together with a printed edition.
e. In the Netherlands printed books have a fixed Price for cultural reasons. But for ebooks the price has dropped 10 percent on average. The price would have dropped more if the VAT had been lined up with the VAT of printed books, which is only 6 percent instead of 19 percent. (The Spanish government has announced plans to slash value-added tax on electronic books to the same low level as printed books, from 16 percent to 4 percent).

BTW The price of ereaders will drop even under 150 euro, I am convinced. Looking at the Nook of Barnes & Noble it is clear to me that this ereader with two screens of digital paper and LCD could have been cheaper by leaving the useless colour mini-screen out.

So ebook and the ereader will become a consumer item for the book reader next year, while the larger ereaders will start a fight for their share of newspaper market, on which Kindle and Irex DRS are already players with Hearst waiting in the wings.

Blog Posting Number 1412

Tags: ebook, ereader

Thursday, December 17, 2009

BPN 1411 KPN misses the broad picture by focussing on FTTC

Yesterday, The Dutch incumbent telco KPN published its mid term strategy on broadband in The Netherlands. The strategy is neither fish, meat nor good red herring and is most concerned with returns in the mid term. The Australian telecom consultancy Budde Comm criticised the strategy, saying KPN’s focus on FttC misses the broader picture.

The Netherlands remains one of the few countries in Europe to have significant FttH networks. Until 2009, the main characteristic of Dutch fibre rollouts was the dominant role played by housing corporations and municipal governments. This focus changed following KPN’s acquisition of a 41% stake in the fibre provider Reggefiber and the subsequent ramping-up of their efforts and investment through their joint venture Glashart. KPN’s large-scale fibre rollouts were also largely based on access arrangements with local councils and housing associations.

KPN was one of the few incumbents to pursue FttH through recognising that doing so was in its own interests, rather than as a result of regulatory or competitor pressure. Its three-stage strategy was to get ready for rollouts (during 2008), trial the technology in several main towns (during 2009), and then decide on a national rollout plan. It had been hoped that the company would adopt a predominantly FttH strategy, leaving VDSL/FttC for other less populated regions, but the opposite is the case.

Its decision to opt for the hybrid model on its national network, and restrict FttH rollouts to select cities, reveals the company’s paucity of ambition, and the fundamental absence of a more wide-ranging approach to the country’s telecom infrastructure, and so of the welfare of its digital future.

KPN currently has about the same number of households connected to FttH and FttC (460,000 against 450,000). The decision to opt for FttC could be construed as purely commercial: the company calculated that providing fibre to 80% of the population would cost some €8 billion, and if take-up of connected homes reached 50% then the government’s contribution would be about €100 million for ten years. Government funding would increase as a greater proportion of the population in rural areas was covered. Rolling out FttH could cost an average €1,000 per home passed, and to cover the whole of the Netherlands would require some 600,000 homes connected per year, amounting to €600 million per annum.

Yet KPN’s initial model has proved to be optimistic: FttH take-up has settled at around 25% - 30%, principally because the consumer price – at €60 per month – is too high for FttH to compete against existing offers from cablcos (Ziggo and UPC) and high-end DSL alternatives, and thus KPN/Reggefiber struggles to reach the economically viable level of 45% penetration. KPN’s FttH ARPU is only €8 per month higher than DSL ARPU, and much of this is derived from IPTV which the company cannot realistically offer on DSL.

Thus for the Netherlands most FttH activity will remain in select cities (currently including Amsterdam, Deventer, Almere, Eindhoven and areas of Rotterdam) and regions (particularly Noord-Holland, Flevoland, Gelderland and Overijssel).

The decision against a national FttH policy in favour of one which empowers cities to take a leadership role in bringing fibre to their denizens is not very conducive to a broader national approach.

Furthermore the decision shows that the country has not yet embraced the trans-sector concept, which requires a national approach for the delivery of national healthcare, education, e-government services etc. These sectors are closely tied to a national IP infrastructure: in December 2009, the OECD published a report showing that governments could justify the costs of national fibre networks by using them to cut costs in sectors such as healthcare, education, transport (telecommuting etc) and energy (through smart grid infrastructure). On average a cost saving of between 0.5% and 1.5% in each of these four sectors over a ten year period would justify the cost of building a national fibre network.

Unless the Dutch government establishes a national policy on these issues it is hard to see companies such as KPN being able to build business models for a national rollout.

Blog Posting Number: 1411

Tags: glass fibre, DSL

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

BPN 1410 Internet kills off Teletext UK

Today is the last day for Teletext UK. From now on the Brits will have check the arrival and departure times for planes on their computer or IPTV screens. Only special services like subtitling and the results of horse race betting will be available on analogue screens and can not be moved interactively. This will be the real end to teletext on UK television. Teletext had already been given up by the BBC and commercial broadcast companies and had been handed over to Teletext UK, a commercial company, making the service available through advertising.

In 1972, research engineers of the government owned BBC put together a number of new technological developments and found a way of making better use of the ordinary television signal.

They found that the British standard 625 line TV picture has several 'spare' lines, not used to form the screen image. Digital pulses, travelling as part of the regular TV signal, could with the aid of a decoder built into the domestic receiver, be formed into numbered panels of textual information called 'ages.' These pages look rather like pages of typescript, except that they can also include large-size letters and simple drawings; maps, graphs, diagrams, and so on, in any of six colours. Each page can carry as many as 200 words. A hand-held remote control unit could be used to select individual pages by tapping in the number of the page required. They called this system Ceefax.

The BBC was not alone in its discovery. The IBA, controllers of Britain's commercial radio and TV stations, were also developing a teletext system. They called their system Oracle: Optional Reception of Announcements by Coded Line Electronics.

Within six months the BBC had begun test transmissions of Ceefax. In 1974 all the organizations with an interest in the new information systems came together with the object of devising a unified standard. On 23 September of that year a trial experiment began for both systems culminating in the Autumn of 1976, with the government giving the green light to start full transmissions of both Ceefax and Oracle.

From 2001 onwards the service starts loosing the interest of the television companies’ management. Eventually Teletext UK takes over the services, but closes them as there is not enough advertisement revenues coming from the service.

So the country, where teletext started in 1972, will be without the service from today onwards. However on the continent, teletext is still going strong in countries like Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium and, of course , in France, where they have their own system Antiope.In the Netherlands for example the Teletekst service is still a popular service with the public broadcast, but also with the commercial broadcast stations. In fact Teletekst of the public broadcast system will celebrate its 30th launching day on April 1, 2010. The commercial stations, which only started in 1989, have used teletext. The use between the public service and the commercial service is different as commercial teletext contains pink services. So far nonen of the continental services is thinking about giving up the eldest consumer new medium.

Blog Posting Number: 1410

Tags: teletext, teletekst

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BPN 1409 The Future of Futurism

Illustrations: Images of Balla, Doble and Lorenzi

This morning I placed the announcement on the Future of Futurism, a paper presented at the “Generative Art 2009” Conference held at the Polytechnical School of Milano from 15 to 17 December, 2009. This afternoon I received the abstract of the paper, written by Rick Doble, an American photographer, Marcella Giulia Lorenzi,  an Italo-Canadian Artist-Researcher and an Italian Scientist Mauro Francaviglia. Here is the abstract: 
On the 100th anniversary of the Futurist art movement which started in Milano, we want to examine the aims and ideas of Futurist imagery, then proceed to a discussion of how today's digital photography can achieve many of the goals of the Futurist artists. In particular we want to focus on the Futurists' concept of movement and their attempts to capture a sense of movement in painting, sculpture and photography. Next we want to discuss how digital photography can record pictures that are very similar to the Futurists' vision of depicting a world that is always in motion. For example, Bragaglia’s Photodynamism could be examined breaking his art into different phases and aspects such as camera movement, subject
movement and combined movement [1]. His “algebra of movement” very much anticipates Generative Art as generally intended [2]. In this paper we will quote from different Futurist writings. In addition we will quote from contemporary writings about the abilities of digital photography.
Next we will discuss the relation between an imagery of motion and Einstein's concept of space/time and the SpaceTime continuum.
Last we will make the point that drawing on Futurist ideas, digital photography can create a new kind of imagery in which space/time, i.e. the depiction of motion during a time period, can be presented both accurately and with expressive impact.
The installation will include an LCD panel showing images from Futurist artists, as well as from contemporary ones, comparing the results, including titles, explanations and photographs, as supplement to the paper.

[1] Rick Doble, “Experimental Digital Photography ”, Lark Books, NC, 2010
[2] C. Soddu, E. Colabella, Generative Art Wiki,

Blog Posting Number: 1409

Tags: art and science

Non-commercial announcement

An American Photographer (Rick Doble), an Italo-Canadian Artist-Researcher (Marcella Giulia Lorenzi) and an Italian Scientist (Mauro Francaviglia) come together in a project at the crossroad of Art & Science, in the framework of the European “Culture Program” Project SCIENAR. At exactly 100 years after its birth in Milano, 1909, Futurism is revisited in an exhibition and an installation based on the new potentialities of Digital Photography (“Painting with Light”). It is discussed how Futurism aimed at depicting “dynamism”, leading to Bragaglia’s idea of “Photodynamism”, and how it was related with the new scientific ideas of SpaceTime born with Einstein Theory of Relativity; it is then shown why Digital Photography, generating variations of the same basic ideas, can offer a genuine “Future to Futurism”. An explanatory seminar will accompany the event, that will take place within the “Generative Art 2009” Conference held at the Polytechnical School of Milano from 15 to 17 December, 2009.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

BPN 1408 EU27: Internet access and use in 2009

In the EU27, 65 pct. of households1 had access to the internet during the first quarter of 2009, compared with 60 pct. during the first quarter of 2008, and 56 pct. had a broadband internet connection in 2009, compared with 49 pct. in 2008. These data published by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities, represent only a small part of the results of a survey on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) usage in households and by individuals in the EU27 Member States, the candidate countries, Norway, Iceland and Serbia. As well as internet use and broadband connections, the survey also covers other indicators such as e-shopping, e-government and advanced communication and content related services.

Household internet access ranges from 30 pct. in Bulgaria to 90 pct. in the Netherlands
In 2009, the proportion of households with internet access was three quarters or more in the Netherlands (90 pct.), Luxembourg (87 pct.), Sweden (86 pct.), Denmark (83 pct.), Germany (79 pct.), Finland (78 pct.) and the United Kingdom (77 pct.). The lowest shares were registered in Bulgaria (30 pct.), Greece and Romania (both 38 pct.).
The proportion of households with a broadband connection in 2009 was highest in Sweden (80 pct.), the Netherlands (77 pct.) and Denmark (76 pct.).

Almost 40 pct. of individuals shop online
Nearly three quarters of those aged 16-24 in the EU27 used the internet on average daily or almost daily in the first quarter of 2009, compared with nearly half of all individuals aged 16-74. The highest shares for those aged 16-24 were found in the Netherlands (90 pct.), Denmark and Estonia (both 88 pct.), Finland and Sweden (both 87 pct.), and the lowest in Romania (41 pct.), Greece (57 pct.) and Ireland (58 pct.).
In 2009, 37 pct. of individuals aged 16-74 in the EU27 had bought or ordered goods or services over the internet in the last 12 months. This share varied considerably between Member States, ranging from 2 pct. in Romania, 5 pct. in Bulgaria and 8 pct. in Lithuania to 66 pct. in the United Kingdom, 64 pct. in Denmark and 63 pct. in the Netherlands and Sweden. In the EU27, 40 pct. of men had ordered goods or services over the internet, compared with 34 pct. of women. The share for men was higher than for women in almost all Member States.

Blog Posting Number: 1408

Tags: stats

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

BPN 1407 Nine years on: WorldOnline and its banks did mislead investors

Last weekend I was in Paris for a meeting. I don't think it is fun to be in Paris. People there get too many tourists to be nice and earn their money with unfriendliness. But during that weekend a long awaited ruling was published by the Dutch High Court on a cause celebre: WorldOnline (WOL).

The Dutch ISP WorldOnline (WOL) and the two banks ABN AMRO and Goldman Sachs have misled the investors, when the company brought its stocks to the market. And the statement of CEO, Nina Brink, saying 'I didn't sell any shares at this time' was confusing to the investors, as she had sold part of her shares to companies and friends for 6,04 US dollar per share three months before the IPO, but had this fact not mentioned in the prospectus. That is the outcome of the ruling from the Dutch High Court in the case of the investors’ association VEB against WorldOnline and her banks.

The investors’ association has represented 10.300 stock buyers since 2000, when WorldOnline brought its shares to the Amsterdam stock market. On Friday March 17, 2000 WOL was noted on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange and listed for 43 euro per share. WorldOnline picked up 1,8 billion euro. On the first day the quote went even above 50 euro, but the next day the quote dropped and kept dropping. When the press reported that Nina Brink had sold shares before the IPO, many private investors felt fooled. It was the beginning of the end for WorldOnline. On April 13, 2000 Nina Brink was dismissed as CEO and WorldOnline was sold for a fraction (5,5 billion euro in shares) of the estimated value (18 billion euro) to the Italian ISP Tiscali.

The VEB is happy with the ruling as it is a principal ruling for the private investor. A prospectus should not be misleading, the ruling said, and the WorldOnline propspectus did. The composer of the prospectus is directly responsible for the correctness of the texts and statements.

So now the dancing for the money starts. VEB and the stock buyers will look on while WorldOnline and the banks make out who will pay the bill. WorldOnline still exist as a registered company, still has money and insurance. The two banks will have to fight over their shares in the repayment.

Whether WorldOnline or the banks will claim money from Nina Brink is unknown. Her lawyer informed the press already, stating that Nina Brink will not have to pay as the founder and former CEO of WorldOnline was not involved in the composition of the prospectus. Yet the High Court did not leave much doubt in its last ruling stating that Nina Brink had been unclear about her shares and that her amount had been represented incorrectly in the prospectus.

It will still take some time for the bell to ring for the last dance and pay-out to the 10.300 private investors, some of whom only invested this one time in their lifetime.

Blog Posting Number: 1407

Tags: ISP

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

BPN 1406 Europrix 09 winners (7)

Category: Digital Video & Animations

Category winner: deconstruct – a stereoscopic experiment
Produced by: Tina Braun
Country: Germany

This digital video animation investigates the throbbing pulse of New York throughout the course of a day. Using stereoscopy as a tool to build the landscape into a 3 Dimensional representation, “Deconstruct” highlights the frantic nature of the city in a novel format, conveying its transience through clever editing and overlay techniques. By editing still imagery into the moving image, the piece provides a ghostly representation of the city, which along with the soundtrack, creates a very haunting piece of work. A kaleidoscope of filters and effects are applied to warp the viewer’s perception, totally immersing them in this unique depiction of the city that never sleeps.

My comment: It has been a long time that I sat with green and red glasses in front of the computer screen. This time I was looking at a movie, which shows depth in dimensions. It had an estranging effect. Oh by the way, don’t forget your red and green glasses.

I am Olesya
Produced by: Olesya Saitov Eugene Romanovsky
Country: Isreal

Identity is no simple thing. Olesya - a small girl - finds herself at a cultural crossroads in this captivating digitally animated video. What is her identity? Is she Jewish, Uzbekistanian or Russian? Combined with real video footage and skillfully composed drama, the detailed animation highlights her confusion, and evokes empathy in the viewer. The story sheds light on relations between cultures and religions in the modern world, where we are all
surrounded by different beliefs and cultures. Will Oleysa succeed on her journey to find her inner-self? With tasteful humour, this beautiful animation concludes with an educational and
happy end.

My comment: A short autobiographic animation of a globally and religiously mixed up girl. However it in its shortness it brings with humour some values home.

The Forest
Produced by: David Scharf Javi Otero
Country: Germany

Antonia is a 12 year old girl. She often has daydreams, in which she wanders off into a magical faraway forest where she hides from the problems of the real world. One day, however, her father takes drastic measures and she has to face a decision. Is your inner peace a utopian state until you have finally escaped the grip of the society and its rules? Or is affirmation a faster way to personal happiness? And what are you supposed to do, if you have to answer this question at the age of 12? In the animated short video “The Forest”, the protagonist has to come to terms with this question and her hostile environment and finds a simple but radical solution. The series of well-edited scenes is underscored by contemporary animation techniques, 3D character animation, and digital compositing; and a fitting soundtrack adds weight to a credible story.

My comment: This is not the first Europrix nomination dealing with forest as a theme. A technically well executed animation.

Blog Posting Number: 1406

Tags: Digital video, digital animation