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A whole new meaning to your "flexible friend"

posted by Alex Hens
26 January 2009

I saw something last year from the BBC about the next generation of e-books, or e-paper to be more accurate, that I meant to blog about and never got around to. An article in the Economist last week reminded me of the original story that caught my attention - and so if it's still current enough for The Economist then I say it's still current enough for us! ;-) Digging around I found this recent excerpt on You tube from the company itself: This really excites me on a number of levels - and not least that the originating brains in this product are British (well done the very clever people at Cambridge Uni). But the main thing catching my eye is the way this development shows how today's technological leaps will actually start to look more (as opposed to less) like mediums we are used to traditionally using/interacting with. Things these days evolve at a frightening/exciting pace (depends on which side of the fence you sit), that's a given, but we as humans don't. Papers are the way they are because of centuries of 'user acceptance testing' creating a mass communication platform that enables humans to best ingest a broad range of information - and with ePaper we can see how it's coming back full circle (from paper -> computers -> hand held devices -> ePaper). It's clear to see for ourselves from these kinds of exciting developments  how eCommunication can reach from the desks and mobile devices of the geeks and early adopters, and from the night time "nothing on telly" home based user, into every-one's every day life. OK - not everyone's, I don't think you'll ever get my Dad to part with his paper, but I'm thinking that what we're seeing here is the foundation of the next mass audience multimedia device through which tens of  millions will access the web as their primary route, and it'll do it far more ubiquitously than internet through mobile phones. I mean, sure, phones are getting better - much better (I'll probably blog at some point just why I was so blown away by the iPhone I converted to at the start of the year) - but even with the figures about internet access through mobiles increasing year on year, it's still a very limited experience. An experience that more often or not I'd generally leave to partake in when infront of a proper terminal (unless it's a simple text or location based engagement I'm requiring). So there you are, I've said it: I just don't think that the mobile phone in the UK (certainly in its current guise) will ever really become the ubiquitous internet access point that many have predicted (year after year after year). But something like ePaper on the other hand - where the experience is more akin to a newpaper and the potential engagement far richer and more user centric - now that I could really see taking off. And at that point if any news broadcasters & publishers out there are still in business having been bold and smart enough to understand they're playing the long game, I bet then they'll be glad that they kept investing in their brand identity, maintaining and building their brand following - because that kind of loyalty is very expensive to buy (in terms of cash and time), and it's those with that brand loyalty behind them that will have the eye of the reader with targeted adverts and track-able engagement to properly monetise from all their media routes - text based and rich media. Probably :)