Saturday, September 13, 2008

Another Look at the iLiad

On Wednesday, I talked about a hopeful sign for the ailing newspaper industry. This post is about another. But, first, I need to bring us all up-to-date on the Dutch company, iRex.

In January, 2006, I first mentioned iRex, which was scheduled to release an e-reader called the iLiad in April of that year. That release was later pushed back to July.

My interest in the iLiad took a huge dive when I learned its price was $811.

Two years later, on May 8, 2008, I reported that the price of the iLiad had come down to $699, and I also quoted from The Bookseller:
Borders is to become the first seller of e-book readers in the United Kingdom with seven stores stocking the iLiad reader . . .
Also in May, iRex introduced its new iLiad Book Edition and differentiated it in price from its iLiad Second Edition.

The iLiad Book Edition sells for $599 and comes pre-loaded with 50 "classic titles":
In a completely new sleek silver colour, with 50 pre-loaded eBooks, including some of the best books ever written, this is a bestseller for every book lover.
The press release that announced the Book Edition had this to say about the pre-loaded books:
Titles range from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll to Pride and Prejudice from Jane Austen, from Dracula from Bram Stokers to Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte.
The iLiad Second Edition retails for $699. The only difference between it and the Book Edition is that the Second Edition includes "Built-in Wi-Fi® 802.11B/G wireless networking" capability.

In October, 2007, the Dutch bookstore chain Selexyz began to carry the iLiad. In July, 2008, the W.H. Smith chain of booksellers in the UK began offering the Book Edition in their stores. Last month, the iLiad became available at the German bookchain, Mayersche.

On September 3, iRex distributed a press release that said:
Gill & Macmillan, the leading Irish book publisher, today launched a pilot scheme that will take some weight off the shoulders of the first-year pupils of Caritas College, Ballyfermot . . . St. Brendan’s class, a group of 18 first year students at the all-girl school . . . will become the first class of students worldwide to replace their academic load with the iLiad, an electronic book device.
And now we come to the main reason I'm taking another look at the iLiad today.

On Thursday BusinessWeek reported on an experiment that took place this summer in France with a prototype digital device from iRex called the Read & Go:
The trial of the prototype will wrap up this month, and by 2009, France Telecom (FTE) aims to start distributing the Read & Go in conjunction with a subscription-based news service of the same name. For a monthly charge similar to a mobile service plan, customers will receive an over-the-air stream of aggregated content from a wide assortment of information sources. Alongside the articles will be ads that help defray the cost of the service.
The story says that France Telecom is "partnering" with the newspaper industry to offer the major French newspapers, such as Le Monde and Le Figaro, through its cellular network. Ads will run alongside the articles, providing revenue to offset the cost of the service. The newspapers will receive a cut from the subscription fees for Read & Go.

France Telecom has not yet provided any numbers for the cost of the service or the cost of the Read & Go device yet.

The newspaper industry has not figured out a way to capitalize on the digital age. Partnerships of this kind may yet provide a lifeline for the beleaguered industry.

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