Sunday, July 31, 2011

BPN 1578 E-book's 40th anniversary (part 2)

A third wave started in 2001, when E-Ink, a development company near Boston (Mass), started to develop a new display technology, which would offer a still screen and a long battery life only page turns would consume energy. By 2006 the first E-Ink based e-readers started to leave the factory. A Philips spin-off Irex Technologies in The Netherlands started to sell the Iliad at a heavy price of more than 600 euro. The new display was a real success and seen as the future for e-books, energy consumption long lasting, portability high. The only real disadvantages were the black/white screen and no movie facility.  A breakthrough came when Amazon released the Kindle on November 19, 2007. The devices caught on and the market effect started to come: more e-books were published and the prices for e-readers got lower to the level of consumer devices. By 2010 there were e-readers on the market on just under 200 euro. This also stimulated the production and sales of e-books and forced many a publisher at least to try it out. Also the standardisation of the format contributed to this. While Amazon kept to the Moby Pocket format, developed by one of their own subsidiaries, in the UK and some Western Europe countries EPUB was introduced as a format by publisher’s associations with even liberal copying facilities. 
The fourth wave is now under way. The tablet vs. e-reader race has started. The tablet has come out of the laboratory at last. Since the launch of the Newton messagePad 100 in 1993, the tablet had gone back to the laboratory. The display, display writing and telecom technology were not mature enough. By the end of the nineties, HP launched it tablet computer, but it was still more a PC than a tablet. But the pace had been set. By 2000 Nokia had developed a tablet, which was intended as a personal entertainment centre; but it only left the laboratory since 2007. The tablet world started seriously with the launch of Apple’s iPad on March 12, 2010. It was followed by a slew of tablets. The iPad and other tablets had also apps for reading e-books. The screen was still tft with interference, but better; battery life was lower than E-Ink e-readers. So now the question came up do I buy both devices or just a tablet. It also meant that the E-Ink e-reader had disadvantages over against the tablets: limited multi-functionality, a black/white screen and no movie functionality. Advantages over the tablets for e-readers are: a better display technology without interference and a longer battery life. But at least, this race is delivering a wide market for e-books.
What will help the promotion of e-books more? Of course the best of both worlds: E-Ink like technology for display and energy, colour screens, movie facilities and better internet facilities. Research is going into that direction. Two indicators into that direction are Liquid Vista, again a Philips spin-off, and the tire manufacturer Bridgestone. Laboratory samples of colour displays have been shown on exhibitions. Liqua Vista has announced that it will be on the market with the screen product in 2012.  As Liqua Vista is also a Philips spin-off, a similar quality product as the Iliad of the  Irex Technologies is looked for, but with a more acceptable price than the Iliad of the former Irex Technologies.
While the e-reader circus continues its technology perfection, the portfolio of e-books is increasing. Springer Verlag already recognises a contribution of e-books in its turn-over. But also publishers of novels are seriously busy with the market of e-books, using marketing tricks like offering a chapter for free or a free book in a time window. E-book in fact has intruded into almost all genres of the book trade, less coffee table and art books. For many publishers e-book has become a standard routine to launch the electronic edition with the print edition.
It has taken more than 30 years for e-books to flourish. But with user friendly devices and a well filled portfolio of e-books, Mr Hart had many reasons to look back and celebrate this July 4th, 2011. 

BPN 1578 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

BPN 1577 E-book's 40th anniversary (part 1)

July 4th is a traditional American holiday, Independence Day. Unique for that day is the 40th anniversary of the e-book. It took e-book from 1971 up to now to become an accepted medium. One can say that the introduction of the Kindle e-reader on November 19, 2007 gave e-book an official status. That is 37 years after its start. What took the e-book four waves to surface? Is it basically culture and/or technology?
To start with book culture. Books have had a long tradition of culture carriers. The education and culture of a family could be measured by the amount of books and in the 18th century even by the meter. Books have been scarce until the French revolution. The Paris based university Sorbonne had only a room full of books when the French Revolution started. Now the library is measured in kilometres. Besides printed books have become common goods. Anyone can buy them, if they want. For many people reading books has become a daily habit. Take the underground in London and you always find people not reading a newspaper, but a book. Often those people have become fanatic about reading and could be dubbed the ink tifosi. They have not lived a day without reading a print book! But a new generation of digital natives is coming on, which has known gadgets from pregnancy.
But the habit is changing. Just look for people waiting to catch a plane or people at the beach. E-readers and e-books are becoming accepted. This after all these years….
It all started with Michael Hart. He was working with a mainframe computer, one that occupied a whole room. Having spent a long time on jobs, he was given some computer time for his personal interest. The story goes that he accepted the gift of computer hours, went back to his office and came out, saying that he would like to start a series of digital books. So he started typing his first publication in capitals, which was not uncommon at that time as Teletype (TTY) was quite common in the transmission industry. Also the inventor of the @ symbol in e-mail, Roy Tomlinson, wrote his first message in capitals and again the Gettysburg Address.
For a long time Michael Hart added e-books, being non-copyrighted books in the public domain. By 1990 his project had grown and people had offered him help in retyping books. The Gutenberg project gave some body to the organisation. From that point onwards the volume of non-copyrighted  e-books in the public domain started to expand at great pace.
Reading e-books had taken a different turn from reading them from a terminal, linked to a mainframe or a minicomputer since 1977, when PC’s got introduced. After 1980 e-books could be stored in internal memory on floppy discs, usually more than one. But from 1985 CD-ROM with 600Mb storage capacity became the e-book carrier of plain text or of interactive books produced by the Voyager Interactive company.
But for publishers it was clear that they liked to have a customised e-reader for e-books. So when Akita Morito, the CEO of Sony, in 1986 proclaimed the minidisk, being able to store 200Mb, the carrier of e-books, publishers sat back and waited eagerly. It would take another five years before Sony had worked out an e-reader based on the technology of the Data Discman. It was launched in Japan in 1991, in the USA and UK in 1992 and in 1993 in the rest of Europe. The smart move of Sony was to start co-operation with committees of publishers and software developers. So every country had its Electronic Book Committee to get familiar with the product and set up a publishing program.
© Jak Boumans, 2011
But the device did not catch the fancy of book readers. Despite marketing moves like the introduction of the book Sliver, a book by Ira Levine, first as an electronic book followed by the print edition, e-books did not catch on. Actually e-readers did not catch on, as the devices were too heavy (450 grams) to carry around, the tft screen black/white and  too small, while battery life was too short and the price a hefty one of more than 1200 Dutch guilders (roughly 550 euro). By the end of 1985 356 e-books, Had originated from the USA and Western Europe, as listed in the TFPL Directory of CD-ROM.

In the meantime internet was coming up and attempts for producing tablets were in motion. Roger Fiddler of the US newspaper publisher was carrying a prototype around the world, showing the future of newspapers on a tablet. But the main change in thinking came from internet. This network should be the distribution channel for e-books. Besides delivering the files, at least in the future, it should also become a virtual cash point. And a variety of tablets, with amongst others Rocket e-Book, came on the market, while print publishers were hesitant, fearing piracy and the same fate as publishers of music. However there was more success in this second wave of e-readers than with the Sony devices. The e-readers became more portable, but they still had a tft screen and a short battery life. Their price started to get lower, very slowly.

BPN 1577

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Titel: Toen digitale media nog nieuw waren: Pre-internet in de polder (19671997)
Auteur: Jak Boumans
Isbn 97890787 3005 7
Prijs € 37,50
Omvang: 288 pagina’s

Toen digitale media nog nieuw waren is een uitgave van Media Update Vakpublicaties Wetterwille 10a | 8401 gb Gorredijk |
t 0513·466162 | | |

Monday, July 18, 2011

BPN 1576 The twitter of e-learning

Recently I attended a conference on micro-learning in the Austrian city of Innsbruck. It is a very intersting subject, when you get deeper into it. To me it is the twitter of e-learning; a worthwhile subject to get into. I was asked to say something about micro-learning and tablet-like devices such e-readers and tablets.

For micro learning so far mobile phones and smart phones have been used. But with the arrival of tablets the question can be posed: What does the introduction of e-readers and tablets in micro-learning mean? Just a pure replacement of mobile and smart phones?

In order to evaluate the impact properly a definition of micro-learning is needed:
"No matter if learning refers to the process of building up and organizing knowledge, to the change of behaviour, of attitudes, of values, of mental abilities, of cognitive structures, of emotional reactions, of action patterns or of societal dimensions, in all cases we have the possibility to consider micro, meso and macro aspects of the various views on more or less persisting changes and sustainable alterations of performances." (Hug 2005, p. 4).

The definition is rather broad. In practice micro-learning has found a place between e-learning and social media, in particular twitter and tweets. One could say that micro-learning is the twitter of e-learning: the content is compact and short and sent by SMS through a mobile phone or by text through the small window of a smart phone.

By introducing a 3G or wi-fi e-reader or a 3G or wi-fi tablet into the range of devices, these devices can perform the same tasks as a mobile phone and a smart phone do now, which is micro-chunking the learning material. But as these tablet-like devices have communication tools and also e-mail tools, it offers a new possibility: the coincidence of time and context. In the online daily newspaper business, especially from the business newspapers this is called day-parting. It means that the content of news follows the rhythm of the day and the use of devices. So at daybreak one is presented with an overview of the news headlines on the PC at home. On the way to the office the smart phone will produce bullets of news. In the office the user will get longer articles in between the activities. During lunch the smart phone takes over again and in the afternoon the PC, while on the way home the smart phone functions again as communication device. In online business newspapers this means that items are longer for PC and are short bullets for the mobile phone.

Presently, micro-learning is restricted to short messages and reminders. With smart e-readers and tablets micro-learning can expand its strategy of feeding content to the student. Depending on the supposed day rhythm of the student, a mix of usual short messages and longer messages with explanation can be offered.

BPN 1576

Saturday, July 02, 2011

1575 Dramatic slowdown in Dutch FTTH - my comment

Yesterday, I reproduced the press release by Telecompaper on the dramatic slowdown in Dutch FTTH. At first sight the figures are dramatic. Despite the roll-outs in 205 municiplaities of the almost 418 municipalities nationwide, the figures are down.  Causes:
- Adverse weather conditions (a lengthy frost period) hit the overall market.
- Reggefiber's roll-out in Amsterdam also saw a dramatic slowdown; connecting homes in metropolitan areas has proven challenging.
- Competitive factors have held back FTTH as well, such as the nationwide availability of Docsis 3.0 (offering speeds up to 120 Mbps) by cable operators such as UPC and Ziggo.
- The absence of well-known brand names on FTTH (such as Tele2 and Online), and KPN's focus on shareholder remuneration forcing Reggefiber (in which KPN is a shareholder) to raise outside debt.

From my home situation I experience the dramatic slowdown in the Amsterdam metropolitan area. Last year I started a sibling blog on fibre to my home in Almere. Initially there was excitement with the activity of rolling out the cables. That was March 2010. By May this year, so more than a year later, the fiber was connected and two months later operational. Can you imagine: you put fibre in the ground and let it rest overthere for more than 16 months doing NOTHING. Of course the story is more complicated.

The fibre was resting in the ground for at least 13 months. During those months nothing happened and as far as I know fibre does not have to settle in the ground. If a bank would not pay rent for 13 months you would have brought your money already somewhere else. It is inconceivable why it took so long. The financing question of Reggefiber and KPN might have been at the root of this postponement.

Secondly, the fibre I am talking about has to enter an appartment building. In an appartment building with working people it is hard to coordinate to get the fibre connected. And as the organising company is only available in working hours, there is a problem. So that explains another month or two.

A third problem is the communication. As house owner you do not get a notice telling you that you are connected now and can have a look at the offerings. In the meantime you see only KPN canvassing the neigfhbourhood and some flyers of Tweak.

So you go to the page of Glashart, an coordinating organisation for the ISP's, type in you ZIP code at the site of Glashart and it says: Congratulations your address has a glass fibre connection; you can now enjoy all the advantages of the new connections and you have a selection out of eight ISP's. In your enthusiasm you start comparing all the offers and want to start ordering. But then something strange happens. So Glashart has told you that you have a glass fibre connection and that you can enjoy the advantages. But closer reading shows that your neighbourhood can not make use of all the offerings!

Time to make a phone call to the ISP you have selected after comparison of the offerings.As my house rule is to avoid any KPN subscriptions, I look for another ISP. BTW The KPN is lousiest offer of the eight ISP's. I get on the phone with one of the candidate ISP's, in my case Solcon. I tell my story: Glashart tells me I can get a glass fibre connection, but when I fill out my ZIP code on the Solcon site, I do not have a connection. The Solcon rep starts to explain.The glass fibre has been laid by Reggefiber. KPN has a majority share in this company. So KPN and its ISP's (Lijbrandt, Tweak) are allowed to canvas the eighbourhood  EXCLUSIVELY for half a year in order to recover its investment in Reggefiber!

Besides all the problems mentioned (frost and finacing problems) the slow uptake of glass fibre can be blamed on: no level playing field fo all the ISPs and the lousy offer of KPN. For th time being I will stay with UPC which has also a  glass fibre infrastructure with speeds up to 120Mb, but not to the home. So I have still to share the cable with my neighbours. When the close-up period for the ISP's in our neighbourhood is over, I will make another phone call. The earlier the level playing field is instituted the faster the subscriptions will come.

BPN 1575 

Friday, July 01, 2011

BPN 1574 Dramatic slowdown in Dutch FTTH

Telecompaper reports:
a. dramatic slowdown in Dutch FTTH in 2010;
b. Household penetration forecast to reach 14% by 2015

The Dutch telecom research organisation Telecompaper has published its fifth annual report on the Dutch FTTH market. A host of new players has entered the market, and FTTH initiatives are underway in no fewer than 205 municipalities, almost half of the nation's 418. However, roll-out is going slower than some may hope. Adverse weather conditions (a lengthy frost period) hit the overall market, and Reggefiber's roll-out in Amsterdam also saw a dramatic slowdown. Connecting homes in metropolitan areas has proven challenging. Competitive factors have held back FTTH as well, such as the nationwide availability of Docsis 3.0 (offering speeds up to 120 Mbps), the absence of well-known brand names on FTTH (such as Tele2 and Online), and^ KPN's focus on shareholder remuneration. The latter forced Reggefiber to raise outside debt from an EIB-led consortium in a much delayed process which took almost a full year.
The Telecompaper report distinguishes between fibre-to-the-home and fibre-to-the-building (FTTB, also called Ethernet-to-the-home). By year-end 2010, we estimate the number of homes passed with FTTH or FTTB at 714,600. This compares to a combined 541,600 homes passed at the end of 2009.
Telecompaper expects the roll-out of FTTH to accelerate over the next few years. By the end of 2015, these two technologies combined stand to reach almost 2.5 million homes passed and over 1 million subscribers. The report also provides estimates on the market shares of the service providers in the Reggefiber ecosystem. The OnsNet cooperatives in Noord-Brabant lead the market with a combined 41 percent share.
For the fifth annual FTTH report, Telecompaper interviewed 17 market participants. The report describes the current state of the market and market dynamics evident in 2010, and provides estimates for the period through 2015. Many of the new and existing players are brought under the spotlight. Buyers of the report receive free access to our Broadband NL 2011 conference on 12 October, as well as a free copy of last year's report. Telecompaper is also preparing a national database of FTTH projects down to the city and borough level, to which access can be acquired on a subscription basis.

Please watch this space. I will have a comment on the slowdown tomorrow!

BPN 1574