Thursday, October 11, 2012

BPN 1613: Frankfurt Book Fair: checkpoint book industry

This week the annual Frankfurt Book Fair will be held again. Some 7.000 exhibitors from 100 countries will be there. Some 280.000 visitors from 129 countries are expected. They will be looking for books and nothing else but books, from literature to scientific books, from fiction to non-fiction.

Over the years the fair has changed. Was the fair a necessity to acquire new to be translated books formerly, now e-mail and skype have made negotiations possible on a daily scale without travelling.

But also the product book has changed. The book portfolio exists of printed books formerly, now the offer has been expanded with electronic books. This year also the apps have been added as a product and as marketing tools. This also shows in the booth arrangement as, there are not only booths for printed or electronic books, but there were also booths reserved for integrators and apps developers.

This change has had a long  and slow start. In 1970 the book industry started to change the process of typesetting and page make-up aided by computers. In 1985 the CD-ROM was introduced as a mega book, ready to store a 25 volumes encyclopaedia. For the Encyclopedia Britannica it was the beginning of the end, which took place in 2012, when the decision was taken not to print an encyclopaedia anymore.

This whole process was characterised as electronic publishing. The term did not only entail the computing of the production process. But on the Frankfurt Book Fair 1993 the term was expanded to electronic products, derived from books, in the EC report New Opportunities for Publishers in the Information Services Market (1993, Consulting Trust). The electronic products were embodied by the first Sony e-readers and minidisk e-books. In 1996 the term electronic publishing was canonised with publishing of EC Electronic Publishing: Strategic Developments for the European Publishing Industry towards the Year 2000.

Electronic publishing started to penetrate into the realm of readers in 2006, when the first e-readers with e-Ink screens reached the market. Besides, the publishers were eventually forced by Amazon to publish e-books. And e-books are doing well. E-books can now be bought, hired and streamed to the screen.

And this is only the start. The big bang is still to come and the first rumble can already be heard. At the Frankfurt Book Fair an e-reader has been announced for TEN euro (10 euro). Dependent on the quality of the screen and built-in facilities e-readers cost from 99 to 350 euro. But the German txtr beagle can keep the price so low as it did not put in high-tech in the device. The e-reader contains facilities built into smart phones. So no wifi, but blue- tooth to transfer a book. An Android app takes care to put the books into place. Users of the beagle do not need cables to connect to plugs, but just two AAA batteries which will keep the reader going for a year. And when they are empty, just change them. The txtr beagle has a 5 inch screen with a resolution of 800 x 600. The device weighs only 128 grams, including batteries. The memory is 4Gb. The e-reader can handle epub and pdf.  The German company presented their own e-reader at The Frankfurt Book Fair 2009, but the e-reader never reached the market. But having been acquired by 3M, a new e-reader has come off the drawing table, ready to go into mass production.  

UPDATE 14 October 2012 Just saw an interview on YouTube in which the announcement was made for a Kobe Mini e-reader. This will cost 80 euro in The Netherlands; 79 US dollar in the US.

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