Orange has started a trial using eBook readers to deliver newspaper and magazine subscriptions over their 3G network, in much the same way as Amazon's Kindle e-book reader.
The trial involves 150 French guinea-pigs who have been equipped with devices described as having Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, and access to subscriptions to Le Monde, Le Parisien, Les Echos, L’Equipe and Télérama. The service is demonstrated (in French) on the Orange Innovation website.
ITProPortal has pulled out some stills of the device, which is clearly the Iliad eBook reader from iRex Technologies - one hopes they've removed the virus by now. The Iliad has Wi-Fi, and a USB (host) port; it seems users will have to connect an Orange 3G dongle, at least for the trial. Iliad makers iRex signed a distribution deal with Les Echos last year, but over-the-air connectivity is a much smoother experience.
It's a shame that the 3G connectivity couldn't have been embedded, as it's the silent nature of Amazon's service which marks it out from alternatives. The user just picks up the device and reads the latest issue, without having to think about downloading or finding content. But if the trials go well that's no doubt what Orange have in mind, and the Iliad is a flexible platform which should allow such modification.
Delivering magazines direct to electronic readers makes sense, and adds a revenue stream for operators outside their traditional telephony services. Orange will surely customise their own device if the trials go well, though hopefully they won't try to jam a keyboard onto the bottom of it as Amazon felt compelled to do. ®