Monday, August 27, 2007

e-Paper, industrial relations and development issues

watchA contribution on a Mobileread forum concerning the cooperation between Ganaxa and StareRead provides an opportunity to address the interesting topic of industrial relations and development issues in the new world of electronic ink. Similarities exist with relations between printers, publishers and paper manufacturers, complemented with issues related to electronics.

We are advisors to leading-edge companies in this sector, including Ganaxa and its clients, and have been involved for some time in the design of PVI’s reader base and in its interfaces. One example is the discreet button it features. This button is round and pleasant (it is often fingered as would the page of a book) and it controls navigation in four directions (to turn pages or select links) as well as validation, these functions being adjusted to the speed of ink display. We rejected the square button, for reasons of design, in the projects we are leading. The other buttons are located on the side of the device, in order to avoid visual disturbance in the reading area.

This base is used by Ganaxa’s main partners, in particular StareRead and Nuut.

Among many projects, Ganaxa is working on readers from StareRead, who have done a remarkable job not only with the reading device but above all with the community platform and general-public-content production tools. Other devices on a similar base will appear soon.

Difficulties met by all market actors in perfecting these architectures are due to numerous factors, as with any industrial project in an emerging sector (Sony’s eReader was delayed for months, reportedly because of the final development stage of Sony Connect; Amazon’s project is said to be delayed by more than a year):
- Developing for devices that lack the architecture of a conventional computer is very complex, at least when seeking to reach a level of convenience close to that of a book or newspaper. Programming such a device with such a design goal is a delicate task.
- The design, production and diffusion platform is partly new, because experience shows that providing content as on paper or on a computer is of little interest at this stage unless it is justified by intensive usage or specific content.
- And there are many more factors: the relevance of the editorial project with respect to this new medium; the appeal of the object when reading for pleasure; the cover (tear the cover off a traditional book and you’ll no longer want to read it); the support of essential features such as hyphenation and ligatures for quality publishing, etc.

As a result of mutualized processes, the first products that attempt to address these multiple issues will soon make their appearance.

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