Summer 2002

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e-Books ... Directions Needed Part 2

By Vin Crosbie, Managing Partner, DIGITAL DELIVERANCE,LLC

Summer 2002 issue of Trustee

(Continued from the last issue of TRUSTEE)

Ironically, the book industry itself is to blame for the woeful but temporary mis-launch of the portable electronic reading market. Developing devices that were really good only for reading books, that industry narcissistically forgot that people read more newspapers, magazines and catalogs each year than they do books. A recent Veronis Shuler survey reported that the average American consumer last year spent 154 hours reading newspapers, 80 hours reading magazines, and 96 hours reading books.

I think people would be more likely to buy e-Reader devices if those devices contain the content that people most frequently read. And what people read most are periodicals. Moreover, people want a device that also contains their work reading, address book, calendar, e-mail, and ideally is a wireless device. In other words, they want a vehicle for all purposes.

Hardware manufacturers fortunately have realized this, and the earliest versions of these multipurpose devices are now coming to market. First in combined organizer/mobile phones, such as the Kyocera smartphone, Samsung Palm Powered phone, Nokia 9210, and GSM PDAs, such as the Handspring Treo. And then in time new tablet PCs, which are full-function computers in e-book form and which bloomed despite the otherwise arid economic climate at Comdex in Las Vegas last month.  

  • http://www.kyocera-wireless.comlkysmart/kysmartseries.htm
  • http://www.zdnet.comlspeciallfilters/reportlo,13324,6021630,00.html

Almost all of these new, wireless, multipurpose devices are capable of displaying newspaper and magazine full graphics and layouts, not just plain-texts of the GemStar and Cytale e-books or AvantGo serviced PDAs and with larger and more readable screens than with contemporary Palm Pilots or Handsprings.

Finally, imagine a lightweight and ergonomic handheld PC device, wireless on quick GPRS and not on the slow European and Asian WAP or ancient North American TDMA or CDMA cell networks, into which your daily newspaper or weekly magazine automatically delivers its full edition (no need to web browse or regularly sync the device), bought by subscription and with integrated and hyperlinked text, photo, audio, and video content. Those devices will in fact be shown at Comdex next November.

But most newspaper, magazine, and book content providers -- and certainly Time Warner Trade Publishing -- won't be ready to serve users of these devices, because most content providing companies myopically can't see beyond the next fiscal quarter. Or as Bob Cauthorn (now VP/Digital Media at told interactive newspapers conference a few years ago, the milk industry spends a larger percentage of its revenues on research & development than the newspaper industry does. And milk isn't facing the changes that newspapers are.

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