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Electronic Paper — Paper Route

January 2007 BY DR. JOE WEBB AND VINCE NASELLI
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THERE WAS a time not long ago (2005) when scarcely a week would go by without there being news of some new development in the growing “electronic paper” market. Perhaps “market” is the wrong word to use, as almost all the news that came out comprised solely of technology demonstrations, announcements of strategic partnerships, and prototype media and devices—none of which were available commercially. As a result, there was no real “market” to speak of.

Still, the news was always exciting and sent the gadgets and gizmos crowd swooning with anticipation. And then, silence. What happened?

It’s possible to interpret all the early “pre-news” as a cunning plan to prime (or create) the market for electronic paper. What happened during the “quiet time” was that companies ceased all the blue- skying and got down to the business of actually introducing for-sale products. The latter half of 2006, consequently, saw the release of the first generation of e-paper-based devices. More introductions are said to be on the way.

Focus on Devices

This article—drawn from two recent PrintForecast.com special reports, “E Is for E-Paper: An Electronic Paper Primer for the Graphic Communications Industry” and “E-Paper Technologies and Opportunities in Publishing, Communications and the Graphic Arts”—will examine the two major product releases (the iRex iLiad and the Sony Reader) and then look at some of the other potential devices waiting in the wings.

The first e-paper-based device to hit the market (in Europe) was the iRex iLiad. iRex Technologies is a Philips spin-off whose iLiad is a 1,024x768-pixel e-book and e-newspaper reader based on an electronic ink technology developed by E Ink (see sidebar). The iLiad has a total storage capacity of 64MB of RAM, plus 128MB of internal flash memory for storing content—enough, says the company, to hold one month of newspapers, 30 books and many other documents. The iLiad weighs about three-fourths of a pound and features a rigid, Philips-based 8.1˝ display.

Perhaps the most notable features of the iLiad are its long rechargeable battery life (up to two weeks) and the support of numerous content formats, including PDF, XHTML, TXT, and MP3. Even more impressive are its connectivity options: USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi. At present, iRex is working with publishers in Sweden, the U.K. and the United States. The iRex can also be “written on” using a stylus, thus allowing it to serve as a kind of tablet PC.
 
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Most Recent Comments:
NatCh - Posted on January 26, 2007
You mentioned the differing revenue figures for audio, paper, and electronic books -- it seems to be a popular statistic for this topic. However, I wonder what the *availability* differences are between the three formats. I can't help thinking that those figures might be different if *every* paper title were also available in audio and electronic formats. It seems to me that given the extremely limited number of legal e-texts offered for sale, the extremely limited revenue numbers may be a bit less informative than they might otherwise appear to be. I'd love to see revenue figures for only titles that are offered in all three formats. That would seem to be much more relevant and useful data.
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Archived Comments:
NatCh - Posted on January 26, 2007
You mentioned the differing revenue figures for audio, paper, and electronic books -- it seems to be a popular statistic for this topic. However, I wonder what the *availability* differences are between the three formats. I can't help thinking that those figures might be different if *every* paper title were also available in audio and electronic formats. It seems to me that given the extremely limited number of legal e-texts offered for sale, the extremely limited revenue numbers may be a bit less informative than they might otherwise appear to be. I'd love to see revenue figures for only titles that are offered in all three formats. That would seem to be much more relevant and useful data.