Thursday, April 03, 2008

BPN 1057 Great discussion on ebooks and epapers

Yesterday I was the guest of the Crossmedia Experience Learning Lab (CELL) at the HU University of Applied Science in Utrecht. I was invited by Harry van Vliet, one of the HU lecturers, to present a lecture on the History and Future of eBooks for other lecturers and instructors. The so-called LabTalk had been even announced with a poster (see illustration). There was great interaction and enthusiasm.

I have been in contact with the faculty of Communication and Journalism of the HU University of Applied Science in Utrecht for some years. The faculty has basically three streams of courses: communication, journalism and digital media. When the digital media stream was founded in the nineties – it was called School for Communication Systems – I had hoped that the school would specialise in editorial production systems or content management systems (as they are called now). But this did not happen. Since the new century the stream looks more focussed on communication and journalism. So it was great to see staff from all three streams showing up.

The presentation started with the Memex of Vannevar Bush and went amongst others The Tablet of Roger Fidler (He wrote me a message saying that he is in the process of converting the original tablet newspaper video from VHS to QuickTime as well as a video created in 1990 from Beta to QuickTime; upon completion they will be put on the Internet). I finished with the plethora of digital paper eReaders. I was lucky to have the assistance of Frits Hoff (see photograph, the managing director of Edupaper, who brought his full collection of digital paper ereaders with him. So we had on the table the vintage EB of Sony, the Rocket EBook and digital paper eReaders.

Most of the discussion went on the readability of the screen and the cultural acceptance of eReaders. With the Sony EB and iLiad or Hanlin on the table it was clear that there is a substantial progress in readability. There is still a question size of the screen; would you rather read a newspaper on an A4 or an A5? Cultural acceptance will still be a discussion item for some time to come; that was clear. You can divide the cultural acceptance group in ink sniffers and cultural baggage promoters. There is still a very conservative attitude against electronic books. In the Netherlands you are still not allowed to publish a doctoral thesis as an electronic file for an eBook reader or PC only; the thesis will have to be printed and otherwise you do not exist.

In the presentation I had included a slide with research items. I personally think that a Faculty of Communication and Journalism should research ePapers, the design, standards, the acceptance, the promotion and the workflow. It was good to hear that this type of research should be done there. So I am anxious to see what will be the follow-up on this research wish list.

The FROCS (FRiends of the Crossmedia Experience Learning Lab) had also a good discussion on the promotion of the eReaders, eBooks and ePapers. Presently we have in The Netherlands iRex Technologies promoting its iLiad, some representatives for Cybook, Hanlin and other eReaders, as the only download service for Dutch books, the book chain Selexyz selling the iLiad only and using as the download service, some libraries offering eBook rentals and the quality newspaper NRC Handelsblad, using the iLiad for its own downloads and there are some eBook converters. In short, in the Netherlands there is a fragmented landscape of companies pushing in one or another way either eReaders, ebooks or epapers. I explained that the Sony EB failed in The Netherlands in the beginning of the nineties, but that they had a great promotion plan. They asked a neutral company to set a committee, invite publishers, a bookshop chain and technical companies. This committee prepared a nationwide publicity campaign to make people aware of the Sony EB and the titles available. The awareness part succeeded; however the sales failed miserably. The Sony EB was too early, too expensive and only some 10 titles at the start. In small countries this type of promotion model can be used. Of course in the US the iPod model worked for Amazon, when they rolled out the Kindle.

Blog Posting Number: 1057

Tags: , , ,

No comments: