Thursday, July 13, 2006

Of e-books and digital paper (10)

Distribution by telecom

The second wave of e-books looked promising. The success of Internet should have yielded a big market. And to a certain, small extend it did. So, by 2000 other distributors also looked at the market hoping to deliver e-books through telecom.

The concept was not difficult. As PDAs became hooked up to the mobile telephone network, why should not electronic books be delivered straight to the device and to people on the move. It looked logical, but the implications as to the equipment and logistics had not been worked out.

A serious party in this development was Nokia, the Finnish mobile handset manufacturer. Following the craze of the day, the company was developing a tablet. Microsoft had been working on it and HP was developing a detachable screen from the PC. But Nokia was looking in another direction: entertainment on the go. Besides developing mobile networks and manufacturing mobile phones, the company had cautiously invested in games for mobile phones. In line with the general hardware development of tablets and its interest in mobile games, the development of a tablet for on the go was initiated. It eventually would lead in 2005 to the Nokia 770.

In this development Nokia had a short flirt with electronic books. People at the mobile telephone manufacturer saw the tablet as a multi-functional delivery station. Besides games, other content could be delivered. One of the opportunities would be electronic books. The opportunities were studied, the market for electronic books was surveyed and by the end of 2000 the whole tablet project was shelved due to the economic situation. The concept has never been picked up again explicitly by Nokia.

By 2003 the idea of delivering electronic books by mobile telecom had become reality in Korea. Booktopia sold over 200,000 e-books to PDA users every month. But as millions of people have a mobile phone, the mobile telecom companies SK Telecom Co. and KTF Co. started to add e-book content to their basic services. Booktopia is presently considering wi-fi hotspots for customers to download and read books. Some other projects followed, for example in Brazil, where Ciclope Art is distributing electronic books for free as advertisements pay for the distribution. But distribution of electronic books through mobile telecom did not make big waves so far.

From this development components for the new e-book reader might be deducted: a tablet with mobile telecom facilities, especially wi-fi.

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Blog Posting Number: 441

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