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Saturday, September 13, 2008

From e-books to e-newspapers

There were two great stories in The New York Times tech section this week worth extra notice. Today I will comment on one of the articles. Tomorrow I will comment on the other.

The first piece of interest was an article on a new e-newspaper reader. Devices for the same purpose have been test marketed in a few markets in Europe for several months now. The new reading device by Plastic Logic uses the same e-ink technology as the Sony reader and the Kindle, but sports a screen the size of a 8x11 piece of paper, allowing the device to mimic the look, if not quite the feel, of the traditional newspaper. The device allows for continual content updates via wireless connection and can store a a fair amount of content -- whether books, newspapers, or documents.

The device, while being demonstrated now, will not be available until sometime in 2009. Prices are expected to be announced in January. While not mentioned in the article, properly positioned, the device could become something usable for etextbooks. If anything it is a signal of some of the technology yet to come and the growing viability of e-formats for traditionally printed content. The article does note that the EInk creators say color is still a couple years off, with a production version of newspaper-quality color expected by 2010.

One of the aspects of this article I liked was the discussion of some of the implications and potential of this technology. The ability to do tracking and data analytics is a powerful argument for the digital distribution of newspapers. The related privacy concerns are worth mentioning, although data analytics are so sophisticated these days, anyone believing they still have privacy related to anything online is probably being naive. The article also discusses some of the initiatives with e-newspaper readers in Europe, and some of The New York Times' own experiences with digital and subscriptions.

Anyway, a fascinating article. I would give up my Sony reader for a device like that, particularly if it has wireless capability and can hold other documents and books. The device is also thinner than the Kindle and weighs just two ounces more, thanks in large part to the usage of different materials (lightweight plastic v glass) for some of the screen components.

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