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Old 09-24-2009, 02:15 AM   #1
DMcCunney
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IREX DR 800GS launch in New York City

Perhaps because New York City is still the capital city of the publishing industry, ebook related announcements tend to be made here. Today was no exception.

IREX Technologies held a press conference on September 23rd, 2009 to announce a new reader and a partnership with Barnes and Noble.

The conference was held in the New York Historical Society at 170 Central Park West, across the street form New York City's historic Central Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who helped to make landscape design a recognized profession and created a template for city parks. The New York Historical Society is the city's oldest museum and research library.

The iRex event was held in a meeting room upstairs, across from the Reading Room, and divided into two parts: the actual announcement of a new reader model and partnership, and a catered lunch with a round table panel discussion about the new reader and the implications of the emerging ebook market, with readers available for hands-on demonstrations.

The focus of this announce was the new IREX Digital Reader 800SG, and a partnership with retailer Barnes and Noble to supply content. Best Buy is a retail partner who will actually sell reader devices.

The 800SG is a sleek package with an 8.1" diagonal touch screen using a stylus and the now standard eInk display. IREX has licensed the Adobe software mobile SDK, and the device supports ePub and PDF ebooks formats, Newspaper Direct, Fictionwise, eReader, and TXT formats, and Adobe's DRM solution. It has 2GB of internal storage, holding uo to 1500 books, and external storage capability. the screen can rotate to display landscape as well as portrait content.

In what seems to be the trend in dedicated ebook readers, the 800SG offers 3G cellular connectivity through Verizion/Qualcomm Gobi Module. eBooks can be procured this way through Newspaper Direct, Libre Digital, and the Barnes and Noble eBookstore.

Kevin Hamilton, the North American CEO of IREX Technologies said "“Consumers are ready for eReaders, but the device is only one piece of the equation. People want an enjoyable, easy reading experience with no-hassle access to content. IREX’s strategy – based on giving consumers choice – and the partnerships we have in place make it easier for them to purchase a device, access content and enjoy it wherever they are.” He further stated "“IREX has been a driving force behind the evolution of eReaders since its founders invented e-paper display technology based on E Ink Corporation’s electronic ink. With the DR800SG, we bring to market all that readers have been asking for: a stellar device that puts the reader in the driver seat with regard to where they buy content and what they do with it.”

To provide conveniently available content, IREX teamed with book retailer Barnes and Noble's BN.com ebookstore operation. The Barnes and Noble eBookstore offers 750,000 titles, including many bestsellers and other titles at the Amazon inspired price point of $9.99. Wuilliam J. Lynch, President of BN.com said “IREX has been a driving force behind the evolution of eReaders since its founders invented e-paper display technology based on E Ink Corporation’s electronic ink. With the DR800SG, we bring to market all that readers have been asking for: a stellar device that puts the reader in the driver seat with regard to where they buy content and what they do with it.”

Accessing to the content would be provided through Verizon Wireless. Tne DR 800GS uses a Qualcomm Gobi module to connect to 3G networks. This will make possible roll-out in markets outside the US, and IREX plans a European launch in the first half of 2010. Tony Lewis, VP of Open Development for Verizon Wireless said "“Verizon Wireless invests heavily in its network to provide consumers with the best wireless experience possible, regardless of whether they’ve purchased a device directly from us or are using one of the devices certified through our open development program. Our 3G network enables IREX devices to quickly access content in more places, giving IREX customers a distinct advantage over customers with other eReader devices.”

Barry Matsumori, vice president of product management for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies said “Wireless connectivity has the potential to enhance many aspects of everyday life, and the IREX DR800SG is an example of the type of flexibility and enhanced user experience that can be delivered through 3G. Qualcomm’s Gobi technology will bring a new level of freedom to consumers using the DR800SG worldwide.”

IEX intends to offer the DR 800GS through selected Best Buy outlets in October, at a retail price of $399.

In an interesting note, IREX announced an intent to provide a color reader in 2011. They claimed they were "working on getting it right", using subtractive color mixing for full color fidelity, instead of teh additive color mixing techniques currently in development.

The round table discussion after the formal release announcement by Andrerw Frank, a research VP at the Gartner Group research firm. Panelists included Hans Brons, Founder and CEO of IREX, DAvid Shanks, CEO of Penguin Group USA, William Lynch, President of Barles and Noble.com, Nick Bogaty, Senior Business Development Manager at Adobe, Calvin Reed, Senior News Editor at Publisher's Weekly, and Marion Maneker, writer at TheBigMoney.com.

Certain conclusions emerged from the discussion. One was that IREX though "the more readers, the better". Each reader solution expanded the total market and provided another channel for producers to provide digital content to consumers. Questioned about what ereader vendors need to do to work with retailers, the point was made that most sales of a new book occurred within the first few weeks of the book's release, buit ereaders offered the possibility of extending that. Also, eReaders made it possible to have an author's entire back list available as well, something not usually found in retail outlets offering paper editions because all of the back list might not be in print and there wouldn't be space to shelve it if it were.

Nick Bogaty ruefully announced that the was the DRM guy on the panel, to general laughter, but defended Adobe's "Open" DRM solution. In essence, Adobe DRM was open because they would license it to any one, so whatever device you used and vendor you purchased content from would be compatible if they licensed Adobe technology.

The question was raised about the effect of Amazon's $9.95 proce point on tyhe industry. TheBigMoney's writer recounted unhappiness by publishers he spoke to who thought it too low. I've seen similar commentary, notably from Hachette's CEO, but it ignores the fact that mass market paperbacks are still generally below that, and that even Amazon doesn't offer everything at that price.

Another question was the use of readers in education, and the business model for educational publishing. The IREX CEO said that was in the process of being worked out, with experiments in progress. Electronic textbooks had compelling advantages, including the ability for authors to make updates when facts changed, such as in law or finance, and the ability for students to make annotations and collaborate on research efforts. But there are many stakeholders involved in the process, some with interests in preserving the current framework.

The library market was also mentioned, citing the New York Public Library and its work with Sony, with the point made that the library bought licenses for multiple copies, similar to the way in which software was licensed per machine, and if all available licenses were in use for a particular book, a borrower would need to wait to check out a copy, similar to the current practice with paper volumes.

The final discussion centered around Apple's forthcoming release of a tablet device, and what this would do to the reader market. The panel thought that the dedicated readers had the enormous advantage of low power consumption, due to the use of eInk screens, and Apple would not be a real threat to dedicated readers. The feeling seemed to be that convergence could happen in several directions, and a converged device was not necessarily going to start out as a smartphone.

Unfortunately, the panel discussion was not thrown open for audience questions and response, and as assortment could be posed.
_______________________
Dennis McCunney
MobileRead New York Editor
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Old 09-24-2009, 07:01 AM   #2
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You really need to do some quickpost with short summary right after such events. It's a bit sad that by the time you post the detailed report here we know most of the info from the other sites...
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