The publishing world continues to buzz about upcoming reading devices and the business models that will best exploit them.
E Ink, the company that makes the electronic “paper” used in devices like the Kindle, is still a black-and-white-only technology. However, Plastic Logic will be piloting their larger reading device later this year with expected sales to begin in 2010. This thin, lightweight, 8.5×11 inch, touch screen reader is expected to expand the ebook market beyond books to newspapers, documents, music, etc. (demo here) Word is that newspapers are considering this an opportunity to rethink their “free on the web” model and instead offer subscriptions.
And the Kindle? An announcement of a new, large form, Kindle is expected Wednesday (sneak peek here). In fact, several universities are already lining up deals to offer these, with textbooks pre-installed for students. They are Case Western Reserve, Pace, Princeton, Reed, UVA and Arizona State. What happens to all those color pictures and graphs in your normal $100+ textbook? Well, some sacrifices must be made. But from a student point of view, ditching the 40 pounds of textbooks for a one pound Kindle has got to be a good deal.
Update, May 5: According to the Wall Street Journal today: “Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school’s chief information officer. The university plans to compare the experiences of students who get the Kindles and those who use traditional textbooks, he said.”
Meanwhile, rumors of an Apple tablet have circulated for years, but have recently begun to intensify. The advantage, of course, is that this would be a full color computer, not just a reading device. The disadvantage is that it would still not have the readability, especially in bright light, of electronic paper. We’ll see.