Tech vs. Trees: Survey finds e-readers not necessarily a hot gift, Esquire and Ikea unveil interactive print publications, e-books capitalize on instant gratification

LOS ANGELES , November 16, 2012 () – A roundup of recent trends pitting technology against the printed word:

Tech + Trees: E-readers may be hot gift for givers but lukewarm for recipients: survey

That e-reader might not be such a perfect gift after all. According to a survey by, 37% of U.S. respondents admitted feeling their e-reader was not a good buy, while 35% said they had only used it once, Good E-Reader reported Nov. 12. When asked to provide further details, 57% of respondents who said they had only used their e-reader once did not have time to use the device, 25% preferred reading print books, and 22% indicated they had received the device as a gift and did not need it, reported on Nov. 9. On the flip side, 29% of survey respondents said they used their e-reader every day, and an additional 17% indicated they used it at least once a week. While givers of e-books this holiday season may hope that their recipient falls in one of the latter two categories, there’s also a good chance that an e-book may languish unopened in its original packaging—as indicated by 22% of recipients who received these devices as gifts, Good E-Reader reported. Perhaps buyers have noticed the trend because global e-reader shipments are expected to fall 49.1% year-over-year in the fourth quarter to 4.57 million units, Digitimes Research reported Nov. 14.

Tech + Trees: Print comes alive in Ikea catalog, Esquire magazine

While some publishers and retailers showcase the best parts of their magazines and catalogs online, Hearst and Ikea are bucking the trend by digitally souping up their print offerings. For the holiday season, Ikea has unveiled an interactive 31-page catalog that lets smartphone users watch video clips or click on icons throughout the print pages to “Like” an item on Facebook or add to a Pinterest board. Ikea expects to deliver even more print-and-digital hybrid catalogs next year, PC Mag reported Nov. 12. For its December issue, Esquire will be the first-ever completely interactive, shareable magazine by incorporating an app for paper called Netpage, according to a Nov. 13 news release. With this technology, readers with smartphones get an interactive experience with their print copy of Esquire. In addition to playing videos and purchasing items displayed within the magazine’s pages, readers can also digitally clip, save and share every article, ad, and photo through email, text, Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks. Netpage aims to become the standard add-on for print magazines seeking to incorporate this technology and is working with Hearst on other magazine titles. Other app developers are also trying to enter this market, such as Netizeen’s app for tablets that turns magazines into social networks, so users can discover each other, connect and build communities around the magazine content. According to the company press release, the app also lets media companies publish and monetize digital content.

Tech: E-books capitalize on hot topics with instant publishing

E-books are offering readers the type of instant gratification they couldn’t previously find from a print book—as recently evidenced by David Frum’s Newsweek e-book, “Why Romney Lost (And What the GOP Can Do About It),” Good E-Reader reported Nov. 11. Whereas a print book could take months to reach the masses, Frum’s e-book was released just two days after Mitt Romney lost the Presidential election, with some commentators speculating whether a “Why Obama Lost” e-book was also waiting in the wings. Such a quick turnaround isn’t new—for example, an e-book on the capture of Osama bin Laden was published a week after the news broke. In addition to Newsweek, e-book platforms now include Altavista, Kindle Singles, and Now and Then Reader. It’s no surprise that companies big and small are publishing e-books, given their advantage of capturing the attention and dollars of readers before they lose interest. 

Tech: Comic book fans increasingly switch to digital

It’s been a good month for comic book fans sporting e-readers and tablets—that is, those who don’t miss the tactile page flipping and ink smudges of a print comic. DC Comics announced Nov. 7 that it’s the first to release all single-issue comic books simultaneously in both print and online via iBooks, Amazon, and the Nook Store. Last year, the publisher adopted a digital philosophy, which seems to be paying off as DC Comics saw its year-over-year comic sales soar 200%. Other comic book publishers seem to be taking note as Dark Horse Comics recently launched its Android app, which includes the Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Hellboy titles. Meanwhile, Kobo acquired France-based digital publishing platform Aquafadas in October to shore up its comics and kids books e-content to customers. And comic book shops aren’t getting left out of the action as a new project called Diamond Digital lets retailers sell downloads of digital comics. 

Tech: Authors can now autograph your e-book

One of the disadvantages of e-books is the readers’ inability to score an autograph when a favorite author comes to town, but now even that shortcoming has been addressed with a service called “Authorgraph,” Good E-Reader reported Nov. 8. The service allows fans to contact authors through the website and ask for a personalized signature. So far, 40,000 “Authorgraphs” have been signed, and though the service was launched last year, it was only available to Kindle owners until recently. More than 5,000 authors have listed about 20,000 books, with some granting just one or two requests while others indulged requests in the hundreds and thousands. Thus far, the service is free for both readers and authors and could expand its offerings beyond just autograph-seeking, such as helping authors with marketing and promotion services, according to Authorgraph creator Evan Jacobs.

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