Helsingin Sanomat tests solar-charged e-reader

Starting in January 2014, 300 readers of Helsingin Sanomat will participate in a pilot testing programme of an e-reader that does not require power charging

At a meeting organised by Poland’s Publishers Chamber, Janne Kaijärvi, chief media officer of Leia Media and former editor-in-chief at Sanoma News, showed a new generation e-reader that does not require use of any cords or physical charging.

The device is charged by light only — solar as well as “artificial” indoor light.

Upon presenting the device, Kaijärvi brought up some facts from the market that speak in favour of publishers searching for new ways of distributing their content. Within the past six years:

  • Publishers have lost €51 billion euro worth in ads.

  • Two global companies own almost 70% of advertising market in the U.S. and Western Europe — Google 53%, Facebook 16%.

  • Comparing dollars lost in print and advertising to dollars earned in digital, publishers have lost 16-1.

“I’m not trying to prove our solution is the best one ever made,” Kaijärvi said. “What we know for sure is that if you can make something more convenient than it was before, you can make some money out of that.”

The pilot programme is supposed to prove whether Leia Media’s e-paper still has any chance to compete with tablets or smartphones. In all, 300 people will take part in the testing programme.

The new device is light and thin (about 6 millimeters thick). Almost the entire back side is a solar panel. In the first version, the screen is made of glass, which makes the device slightly heavier. Subsequent versions will use flexible plastic fabric for the screen.

The e-reader will be sold in different sizes and will not be heavier than 110 grams. The newspapers’ content will be uploaded to the device through WiFi (no cellular sollutions are planned to keep the price of the device low).

Helsingin Sanomat, one of the leading daily media newspapers in Scandinavia with one of the strongest subscriber bases, hopes the pilot programme will prove it is worth it to introduce the device to the mass market. This is one of the media company’s strategies to keep its readers close.

The pilot programme is also one of the first steps to create a fully personalised newspaper of the future. 

Helsingin Sanomat plans to give the device to subscribers for free.

“In times when tablets and smartphones are so popular, it does not make much sense to try and convince consumers to buy another device,” Kaijärvi said. “On the other hand, the cost of producing and distributing a single issue of a regular newspaper varies from €200 to €300 euros a year, depending on the country. Giving away a device worth just €40 euros makes this process much cheaper.”

Leia Media is searching for other publishers around the world interested in the roll out of similar testing programme within their subscriber bases.

About Marek Miller

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