Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 17:02 UK

Are e-books the new newspapers?

By David Reid
Reporter, BBC Click

News articles on e-book
Could electronic subscriptions help struggling newspapers one day?

Electronic book readers are still a minority pursuit for book lovers, but the devices have the potential to become the norm one day.

With newspapers in crisis, there are now suggestions that e-books might offer journalism a new portable platform and subscription model.

One French firm already taking advantage of the electronic subscription model is Ave! Comics which provides cartoon strips to paying e-book users.

"Our idea is to get cartoons more widely distributed to another public and in the end an international public," said Allison Reber from Ave! Comics.

Industries such as newspapers, magazines and books, even copyright-free content from Google, could benefit from the sale of text content as downloads.

Future platform

Struggling newspapers could be offered a lifeline by the new format - especially as the devices' tech is developing to include colour and flexible displays.

It is really like reading traditional paper, but you can also enjoy all the interactivity of an electronic device
Marie Lichtle, 4D Concept

The publishing industry has given a nod to e-books by showcasing them in Paris's annual book fair, Salon du Livre, as a future digital platform.

But for those concerned about eye strain, screens such as the ones in iRex's iLiad and 1000S e-readers are made of e-ink which mimics the look of real paper.

Marie Lichtle from 4D Concept, iRex's distributor in France, said that e-books do not tire eyes like computer screens.

"It is really like reading traditional paper, but you can also enjoy all the interactivity of an electronic device," she added.

User friendly

The third-generation Cybook from Bookeen, for instance, can look up words in its on-board dictionary.

E-books have "useful" interactive elements with the look of real paper

But e-readers also have other "very useful" interactive elements.

"You can use very small font size or very big. For visually impaired people it is very useful.

"Actually, it is the only way they can read sometimes," said Laurent Picard from Bookeen.

"You can add your own fonts and just change the way the layout is done," he added.

Price drawback

Some readers can now be written on, which is useful for professionals with weighty documents to annotate.

Bookworms can store around 1,500 titles in Amazon's US-released Kindle 2, and 1,000 in Bookeen Cybook - but most devices come with expandable memory too.

The batteries are also long-lasting, because devices are not measured in hours, but in turns of the page.

Sony's Portable Reader System, for example, is supposed to last 7,500 page turns after one charge.

The main drawback comes down to price, because e-books are still not cheap.

But a less expensive way currently into this evolving tech is through a smartphone.

How to pick out the right e-book
17 Apr 09 |  Click

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