Thursday, May 03, 2007

Libraries to cut out print with eBook loans

Libraries to cut out print with eBook loans
Caitlin Fitzsimmons,

A library initiative in Canada to offer loans via eBook readers could be another blow for print.

EBook technology is gaining traction in the library sector with a Canadian government research body and eBook aggregator MyiLibrary partnering to launch a new service called eBook Loans.

Billed as an “electronic twist on the traditional library-interlending model”, the service offers instant access to tens of thousands of electronic books from academic publishers such as Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Blackwell and Springer.

Pay-per-download for individual journal articles have been available for some time but this is thought to be a first for full-length academic books.

Each loan costs £11.33 (CAN$25), payable online using a credit card. Users are given access to an eBook through a URL that expires after 30 days.

This widens the choice of books available to researchers and reduces the cost of inter-library loans for the institutions, while providing a new revenue stream for publishers.

Chief executive and president of Ingram Digital Group, which owns MyiLibrary, James Gray, said: “This launch is the culmination of months of tireless research into how to develop a robust and intuitive inter-library loan system that easily integrates into library workflows.

“The ability to deliver the content instantaneously is a key feature of this service, and one we believe will help libraries service the needs of their patrons in the most effective way possible.”

MyiLibrary’s partner in the venture is the National Research Council Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, a science and technology research centre and one of Canada’s biggest publishers of scientific books.

Publishers and technology companies have been actively developing eBook products, which allow readers to transport several books in a small package, eliminating the need for print and paper.

In the consumer market, Sony last year announced the launch of its eBook Reader in the US and agreements with several publishers, including Cambridge University Press, Simon and Schuster, Random House, HarperCollins and Hachette Book Group USA, to make 10,000 titles available for download.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fujitsu debuts e-paper tablet device (updated)

Fujitsu debuts e-paper tablet device (updated)
By Jon Stokes

At some point, I'm going to write my very last e-paper/e-ink article for Ars. After almost a decade of thin, flexible, low-power displays being "three to five years away," I can finally see that the time for e-paper's mass-market debut is almost upon us. A case in point is Fujitsu's new FLEPia portable tablet, samples of which are now available in limited supply as of this past Friday.

FLEPia boasts an array of impressive features, starting with its display. The device is based on Fujitsu's e-paper technology, a technology that the company announced over two years ago. In a nutshell, Fujitsu's e-paper works by sandwiching a thin layer of liquid crystal between two sheets of plastic. The application of an electrical charge causes a pixel of the liquid crystal to change states from clear to opaque, with the result that multi-pixel displays require energy only when the image is changed. Red, green, and blue layers of the material are fused together to make color versions of the display that can output either 8 or 4,096 colors.

This display technology, which appears as an XGA touchscreen in the FLEPia device, is backed by pretty standard PDA-level hardware: an Intel XScale processor, an 802.11b/g card, USB 2.0 support, a headphone jack, an SD card, and so on. The tablet runs Windows CE 5.0, and its battery can stand up to 50 hours of usage.

With a physical profile right out of Star Trek and a lightweight, color e-paper-based display that comes in standard paper sizes (A4 and A5), it might seem at first that FLEPia means that e-paper is now just another display technology. And if it's just another display technology, then I can quit writing about e-paper, right? Well, no.

The A5 and A4 models that were announced on Friday carry price tags of $1,264.85 and $2,107.81, respectively. According to Fujitsu, these things won't hit consumer-level price points until at least 2010, which puts them... yep, three to five years away.

Oh well. At least the Sony Reader has finally brought e-ink to the mass market. Of course, judging by reviews, the monochrome device is hobbled by a number of implementation issues that make me want to steer clear of it for the time being. Maybe by the time Sony fixes the problems to the point where they can nail the "mass" part of "mass market," Fujitsu or someone else will be further along with a potential competitor.

Update: The price originally quoted was for lots of ten, and not individual units. This was by all accounts clearly marked on the Japanese press release, but not being a reader of Japanese I didn't catch it. The correct prices have now been included.

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E-paper display maker goes into volume production

E-paper display maker goes into volume production
By David Manners
Electronic News

Nemoptic, an e-paper display company, is moving into high volume production following an agreement reached with Seiko Instruments (SII).

“The availability of a reliable high volume source will bring about a radical change in the marketplace for e-paper displays,” said Jacques Noels, CEO of Nemoptic. “SII is the world leading producer of CSTN-LCD displays and it combines excellent technological expertise with a cost-competitive capability.”

Under the deal, Nemoptic gives SII its display technology in return for SII giving Nemoptic manufacturing capacity.

Asked by Electronics Weekly, how much capacity he’d be getting, Nemoptic’s CEO, Jacques Noels, replied: “Whatever we need.”

Noels is expecting very high demand. “There is no other bistable technology capable of supplying the electronic shelf, and no one else can achieve full compatibility with STN manufacturing,” claimed Noels.

SII will make the displays in its existing, full depreciated, STN factory which will make manufacturing costs very low.

“It is a very generic technology,” said Noels, “capable of 32 grey levels, 32,000 colors, transmissive or reflective, with passive or active addressing, and on plastic.”

He added that it is suitable for both a bendable or a rollable display, but Nemoptic was only currently working on the bendable option which he thought was a couple of years away from commercialization.

Noels, formerly CEO of Thomson Semiconductors, before it merged with SGS-Ates of Italy to become STMicroelectronics, joined Nemoptics two years ago when the company had been developing the technology for five years.

For the last two years he has been getting the technology up to the point where it can be manufactured in volume.

'Electronic Paper' Edging Toward Reality

'Electronic Paper' Edging Toward Reality,1895,2111994,00.asp
By Reuters

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—"Electronic paper" has long been hyped as the future of newspapers and books, but products like e-books have been slow to take off. That may soon change, say executives involved in the pioneering technology.

While Internet companies are scanning libraries of books and making them available online, E Ink Corp., which emerged out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a decade ago, is seeing a surge in orders for its portable, foldable displays that mimic conventional paper to carry such books.

"Nine different companies launched products last year based on the technology," said Russell Wilcox, E Ink president. "In the last nine months we've gone from manufacturing tens of thousands of parts to millions of parts."

Among those products are Sony's Reader tablet, whose black-and-white displays can be read in bright sunlight or a dimly lit room from almost any angle—just like paper—without traditional back-lit screens that chew up power.

While the displays are becoming more flexible and conserve power, they face other limitations such as working only in monochrome and failing to display video—areas critical to attracting advertisers and consumers to the technology.

Wilcox said E Ink, whose revenues have grown at a rate of 200 to 300 percent annually in the last three years, is testing a color prototype that could be launched next year, potentially opening the technology to e-magazines and e-newspapers.

Underscoring its aspirations to mainstream media, the company's chairman is Kenneth Bronfin, president of the interactive media division of Hearst Corp., which publishes 12 daily newspapers and 19 magazines including Cosmopolitan.

E Ink holds more than 100 patents on its "electrophoretic" ink technology in which electric charges are sent along a grid embedded in the paper that cause tiny black and white particles to move up and down, creating text and images.

Technological Leap

Motofone, Motorola Corp.'s low-cost mobile phone for the developing world, uses the technology because of its ability to conserve power, along with Seiko Epson Corp.'s wristwatch, a flash-memory stick and several other devices.

James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research, said E Ink needs the technological leap into color and ability to show video before it can reach the masses.

If it can achieve that, McQuivey said, E Ink could threaten to displace the cheap and ubiquitous liquid-crystal displays (LCDs), while revolutionizing how we think about reading.

Electronic billboards, for example, would no longer need to be bulky or costly to erect. They could be hung from just about any wall or folded into the back of a car for easy transport.

"It's so clearly apparent when you use the technology that it could revolutionize so many screens in our lives and it could put screens on things that don't have them but could or should," said McQuivey.

Another challenge for products like e-books is that the number of books available to download in the United States and Europe remains relatively small.

But Sony reckons that will change as consumers discover the ease of using one device that stores hundreds of titles, and as the Internet makes downloading easy.

"More and more things are going online from Amazon and others," said David Seperson, a product manager of Sony's Reader. "We're seeing real growth in digital text."

"Also there is a potential shift in what people would consider reading. It used to be mainly books. Now there are blogs. And there's all kinds of Internet things which will work well because you can take that stuff off the computer screen, and take it with you to the beach and start reading."

Copyright (c) 2007 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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