There’s been a lot of talk this week about 3M’s as-of-yet unveiled e-ink e-reader device, one that is intended for a highly specific market. Today, 3M’s Digital Business Development Leader Tom Mercer spoke to GoodEReader.com about 3M’s plans for their device, for the Discovery Terminal, and their cloud-based ebook lending system.
Mercer was very adamant that the device that was available for viewing at the recent ALA conference in New Orleans, as well as what was featured in some photographs distributed at the event, was not, in fact, the actual 3M e-reader, mostly because that device doesn’t exist yet.
“The device we brought to ALA was an unfinished prototype so we could demonstrate the various aspects of our cloud-based service. Right now, we’re working very closely with a number of vendors to create the final finished device we want,” explained Mercer. “Of course, we have a long-standing partnership with Txtr, and they are helping us develop the software, the interfaces, some backend components, and such, but not the device as a whole.”
The 3M ebook lending library program is based on the specific needs that libraries have faced throughout the process of trying lend digital materials. It was important to 3M that the device they developed not to have any retail ebook capabilities or wi-fi/3G in order to prevent the theft of the devices since content can only be loaded onto the e-readers through valid cloud synchronization accounts. Those accounts would be suspended in the event that the device is not returned, rendering it useless.
“The 3M e-reader is really intended to be merely an accessory to work with the cloud service. When you’re at home, you can download our app for your PC or laptop and read content. The user name and pin allows you access to the titles that your local library has purchased to make available, which can then be synced to your own e-reader or smartphone. Everything is synchronized to the Cloud and accessible across all of your devices. This should work really well for outlying areas as patrons can access books without having to travel to a library,” says Mercer.
3M is trying to help libraries bridge the digital divide between their patrons who own devices and those who do not. Previous lending library models have relied on devices that are user-owned, causing the libraries to not only face piracy concerns and single-user check-out frustrations, but also to try to meet the needs of patrons who own a compatible device and those who do not.
“We’re expecting to begin engaging our beta accounts at the end of July, followed by installation of the Discovery Terminals and delivery of e-readers, initiate the training programs by late August, and finally have our go-live events in September. Starting next year we’re going to be opening up for everyone, installing as fast as we can,” adds Mercer.
One thing going for 3M in this venture is its history of experience in developing and launching new products. It has a long track record of successfully bringing new ideas to market on a timetable that benefits both the company and the consumer.
“3M knows how to grow, we’ve done it many, many times with new products over the years.”