Thursday, December 10, 2009

So what's next after the e-reader?

How many times have you heard or read the bleat,

“Nobody wants to read books onscreen. E-readers will never catch on.”

Well, I’ve heard similar moans over the years.

“Television will never replace radio” (anon)

“Nobody wants colour pictures in newspapers.” (Rupert Murdoch).

“The Internet will never replace news in print.” (Rupert Murdoch)

They even said the motor car would never replace the horse. Well, this year in the US alone they will have sold 3 million e-readers by Christmas. Forresters predict sales of over 6 million in 2010. There are no sales figures for the UK but what happens in the States follows here.

Next year will be the year of the e-reader. Nine new e-readers already on the market are battling for first sales to the new generation who want to read onscreen. Storage goes up - the new Nook stores 1,500 books. Battery life extends from hours to days. Free offers abound - the Libre eBook comes with 100 free books preloaded.

All it takes now is for the retailers to get on board. They don't understand them yet. The staff are confused by the customers questions. What format can I download? Where from? Eventually the tipping point will come. If Dixons could explain all that gadgetry we bought ten years ago surely this is not beyond a modern store? Of course it will come.

But what’s next after the e-reader? It's this. The QUE.

There it is at the top of the page. Developed over 10 years by two Cambridge University professors, the Que will be unveiled on the 7th January 2010 at a trade show in Las Vegas, USA.

And this is where it gets interesting.

Made by Plastic Logic, the wafer-thin e-reader is exactly that. ALL of it is plastic, including the electronic circuitry. No silicone. This makes it lighter and flexibly shatterproof. It’s 1/3rd of an inch thick, weighs less than a magazine, is 3G wireless capable with a large touch screen of 8.5 x 11 inches. It’s format compatible with PDF, Word, PowerPoint and Excel so that it’s perfect for business documents, news media or just good old novels in EPUB.

Plastic Logic is already doing deals with publishers to download newspapers and periodicals like the Financial Times and USA Today. Maybe the print newspaper publishers’ dream of a smooth transfer to a subscription based e-reader is not impossible after all. Imagine the money they would save by shutting down all those presses? Saving all that ink and those trees?Just give one of these to each reader who subscribes.

The first Ques will be sold by the giant Barnes & Noble book group in the US. Their library enables them to compete with Amazon’s Kindle before moving later into the European market.

But what then?

Next, the ultimate dream. Research on until it becomes electronic digital paper, able to be rolled up and stuffed in your briefcase or folded in your pocket like a handkerchief. Pull it out, flatten it and wirelessly download today’s newspaper edition on the train to work.

Pure Issac Asimov!

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