Wink! Wink! Bangalore’s own e-reader shines

Bangalore-based EC Media has given what it claims is an answer to the Kindle

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Wink! Wink! Bangalore’s own e-reader shines

Last month, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr joked: “We will stop printing the New York Times sometime in the future, date TBD.” And the audience laughed. But, it’s not funny.

Technology is enjoying its heyday, every possible thing is going digital. E-mail is old hat, papers are now e-papers, books are morphing into e-books and publishers, e-publishers…. And you will soon become an e-reader too, if not already.

The e-reader is evolving with each passing day. More features are being added to the device and they are being made more affordable. Amazon has just halved the price of its popular e-reader Kindle: it now sells for $139, against last year’s $259.

At the FPD International 2010 trade show that concluded in Tokyo on Friday, Chinese manufacturer Havnon Technology unveiled the first e-reader with a colour display from E Ink Holdings, whose black-and-white displays are used in popular e-readers such as Kindle, Sony Readers, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

Bangalore-based EC Media has given what it claims an answer to Kindle. It has launched the country’s second e-book reader — Wink that boasts of two lakh titles and can read as many as 15 Indian languages — a feature that a native reader craves for. With the Wink eReader, one can browse its webstore to buy books or read the free e-books available online.

Price starts from Rs11,000 and it has a six-inch screen that can display 16 shades of grey.
Though primarily designed for reading digital books and periodicals, one can also listen to music, check mails or even play games on Wink. Call it media convergence.

Like other readers, the Wink uses e-ink technology to imitate paper print. That means no strain to the eye.

Wink has ample battery power that enables viewing of 10,000 pages or listening to 10 hours of music at one go. You can also store tens of thousands of books in its library. It means you needn’t carry a cart load of books along with you when you travel — your light-weight library is always with you, in your handbag.

It’s not only e-readers that will have an impact on the reading habits of users, but on the publishing industry as well. Rajesh KS, associate vice-president (business development) of EC Media, says:

“Just wait for two years to see how e-books will overtake their traditional counterparts…and, believe me, they are going to completely change the publishing industry.” It will also generate a new generation of readers, he says.

“We have tied up with major Indian publishers. Their books are digitised and available in our store, which can be purchased through the e-reader at a click. You can also store the e-books bought in the device. Cool, isn’t it? We also have a platform which helps individual writers publish their books… at a much lower cost. e-readers do have immense potential,” Rajesh beams.

Pi, acclaimed as India’s first indigenous e-reader, is just 10mm thick and weighs 180gm. Pi’s library is growing beyond 1lakh e-books from which you can choose.

Pi reads texts in Hindi, Sanskrit and most official Indian languages and is priced at Rs9999.

Though highly appealing, e-readers are new to the Indian market and yet to gain popularity.

“Yes, the price seems to be a tad high, but a traditional reader is spending anyway more than that on paperbacks,” Rajesh justifies.

EC Media will, in December, launch a much cheaper version of Wink for students. “You can highlight texts, create bookmarks, make notes on the e-pages…and do everything that you would be on a book,” Rajesh says.

“Not only this, soon e-readers are going to advance to have touchscreens. It will be much faster and attract geeks too. Your e-reading habits then will again see a sea change.”

As e-readers become more popular, their prices are bound to come down. “e-readers that are now primarily designed for a patient and voracious reader will be modified to make reading e-newspapers easy”, Rajesh says.

Leading newspapers in India have already shown interest in e-readers. “We are now in the process of bringing e-papers to our e-reader Pi. We are tying up with top English newspapers in the country and with a few regional ones too. In a few weeks, they will be available on Pi,” says Neeru Sharma, director (corporate development) of Infibeam, the manufacture of the device.

Pi, launched earlier this year, already has an e-reader base of about 10,000 people. “We are impressed with the response…and the e-reader base will grow by leaps and bounds,” Sharma says.

What will it be like when it happens? You can customise your e-newspaper as per your needs and news that interest you. You will get an updated newspaper whenever and wherever you want and needn’t wait for the paperboy till the next morning to grab the “hot” news.

The fate of newspapers looks shaky!
In fact, analysts have already set deadlines for newspapers. Australia-based futurist Ross Dawson predicted that newspapers will cease to exist in the US within seven years. They will die in Britain and Iceland in 2019, in Canada and Norway in 2020 and in Australia by 2022.

Dawson even published a "newspaper extinction timeline" on his blog, along with his reasoning: Newsprint will be "insignificant" in 52 countries by 2040, where it will replaced by technologies such as lightweight, interactive digital paper that can show video, but can also be rolled and folded.
He, however, said newspapers will continue to flourish in developing markets such as Africa, parts of South America and parts of Asia.

He is not alone. Analysts at the Future Exploration Network too said traditional media could be dead as early as 2017 in certain regions of the world. Emergence of tablet devices and other ways of viewing the news will see the extinction of traditional newspaper media, they reasoned.
Not that such predictions hadn’t been made earlier, but there are, now more than ever,  reasons to believe them. As they say, the concept of newspapers is not going to die, but is just taking another form—electronic.

Tablets, on the other hand, are becoming cheaper and slimmer. iPad is coming to India soon and would revolutionise the computing industry.
Recently, Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal exhibited a tablet that would be sold for Rs1,500 to students — perhaps the world’s cheapest. On a tablet, you can browse the Web as well as read free e-content available online.

It’s just a matter of time, technology would innovate the concept and digitise households. Good news for the tree trunks, and bad for the paper mills.

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