Digital content in small countries with their own (useless, if you ask me, and I’m a native of such a country) languages works very differently from larger countries, English speaking ones in particular. In Norway, you only have at best 20 million people who understand the language at all and that’s when Denmark and Sweden have been counted. The actual number of native speakers – who can read, to exclude young children – is closer to the 4.5 million mark. That’s quite a bit away from the US’ 300 million which is augmented by all those other countries where people speak English either as their native language or some form of second of foreign language. Services like the Kindle and Audible (audiobook service) can find customers all over the place since they’re in English, but when you have a tiny part of that market to work with there simple isn’t anything close to it in existence in Norway. Up until now, the only way to get digital books in Norwegian has been through a website that sells books with Adobe Digital Editions DRM, where you need a bit of computer knowledge and a compatible ereader (which e.g. the Kindle is not) to get it working.
Norli Libris wants to change that and have expanded its Digiplayer audiobook system that I reviewed last year to also be a system for delivering ebooks to consumers. The Digicards that these systems use are quite simply microSD cards that have been put inside larger magnetic cards with cover art and snap in place on the back of the company’s new e-ink device, thereby creating a connection between the card and the device. Turning a microSD card into a proprietary solution with only a single book like this might seem weird to many, but in reality it makes perfect sense. A lot of the people who would buy a Norwegian ebook are people who are unfamiliar with technology and prefer(/require) their native language when reading. A tiny nail sized microSD card that says “2GB” is no help at all in such a situation. Having a larger, clearly labeled card bridges the gap between digital content and physical media in a way that is more universally usable by less technically competent people. It also gives bookstores something physical to sell, it gives people something physical to give away as a gift, and it gives libraries something to let people borrow without requiring a digital system to do so. It also makes the books exempt from Norwegian Value Added Tax rules, which downloaded content is not exempt from due to it being classified as a service (while the Digicards are classified as books).
Furthermore, they plan on integrating the ebook Digicards with the audiobook Digicards to create cards that have both audio and text on them. That way you can read along, get read to, or just read on your own. Perfect for kids, even. These cards eliminate issues with download speeds and the fact that a lot of the people who would use this reader have no WiFi at all, and you don’t want to download audiobooks over an ebook reader’s 3G. The ebook reader will have the ability to tap into that previously computer dependent downloading service too, though, which is also going to be a step up. Still, I think there are plenty of reasons for such a “backwards” system, if you just look beyond the world of the technologically savvy.[Libris via Digi.no]