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Qualcomm, Kyobo launch e-book in Korea

U.S. chipmaker, Korean bookstore delve into global e-book market


Qualcomm Inc., the world’s largest mobile chip maker, and Korea’s biggest bookstore Kyobo announced the global launch of an e-book reader based on the Mirasol display technology in Seoul on Tuesday.

Qualcomm said it was the beginning of its global launch of e-book readers as it soon plans to dive into other overseas markets.

“This is the global launch starting with Korea,” Clarence Chui, senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, told The Korea Herald. “We will be rolling it out in other regions for other customers.”

Chui said he could not comment on the company’s next plan, however, he elaborated that the joint effort conducted with Kyobo was “very aligned with what we’re trying to do.”

The device, dubbed “Kyobo eReader,” will be equipped with a 5.7-inch Mirasol display and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor and will cost 349,000 won ($310). Released for the first time on Tuesday, about 93,000 different e-books, including the biography of Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson, are currently available for download. It will be sold at online and offline Kyobo stores, and the number of books available will be increased to 100,000 by year-end, said a Kyobo official.

“I think everyone knows Korea has a very special place in the history of the company, so we’re here to launch a new product, a new technology and in conjunction with Kyobo, a new vision on how children will be educated and interact with books,” said Qualcomm’s chairman and chief executive Paul Jacobs.
Executive officials of Kyobo Book Center and Qualcomm unveil the “Kyobo eReader,” the first e-book reader launched together by the two companies in Seoul on Tuesday. From left: Park Young-joon, director of the E-commerce department at Kyobo; Kyobo CEO Kim Seong-ryong; Qualcomm chairman Paul Jacobs; and Clarence Chui, senior vice president of Qualcomm MEMS Technologies. (Kyobo)
Executive officials of Kyobo Book Center and Qualcomm unveil the “Kyobo eReader,” the first e-book reader launched together by the two companies in Seoul on Tuesday. From left: Park Young-joon, director of the E-commerce department at Kyobo; Kyobo CEO Kim Seong-ryong; Qualcomm chairman Paul Jacobs; and Clarence Chui, senior vice president of Qualcomm MEMS Technologies. (Kyobo)

“The device is the first one that has low power, sunlight visibility and also provides color and video rate capability.”

The new Mirasol display technology, pointed out Jacobs, has enabled Qualcomm to garner a bigger share in the electronics display market. The gadget can go for weeks without additional battery charging and is also capable of video rate response times, according to Qualcomm officials.

“Mirasol is a very flexible technology. We chose to focus on this size because we think it’s a very good match with Kyobo’s vision,” Chui said during a press conference in Seoul.

He also said that the firm will unveil gadgets with different display sizes together with Kyobo and other partners if it is necessary.

Qualcomm, a company that earns most of its sales revenue from mobile phone processors and radio chips, is moving to expand into displays with its Mirasol technology which it claims extends battery life in handheld devices. The San Diego-based firm is reportedly investing over $1 billion in a new plant to produce the display screens.

The company does have plans to expand the Mirasol display into a wider pool of gadgets, but it has said it works best with e-readers at the moment.

According to the Korea Creative Content Agency, the global e-book industry is projected to grow an average of 27.2 percent by 2014, while the paper book market’s growth rate was expected to average 1 percent by the same year.

The local e-book market has been referred to as an industry with enormous potential as some expect it to grow ten fold from 2006 to 2012.

E-books, deemed to become especially popular among overseas Koreans or people who wish to buy Korean-language books in digital format, will be sold for at least 40 percent less than paper books.

In a related effort, the Culture Ministry also announced earlier in April that it would invest 60 billion won over a five-year period to nurture the local e-book industry.

It pledged to work on increasing the ground which the industry could bloom in, standardize e-book publishing technologies and spread digital reading habits.

The plan also includes support for small and mid-sized publishing firms that have financial difficulties, and will nurture 1,000 people who are needed on-site by 2014.

The ministry said it would assist the production process of 10,000 well-recognized e-books every year and look for talented writers.

A total of 240,000 e-books are to be made available for borrowing from public libraries by the government in 2014.

Experts, however, say the industry ― led mostly by small and mid-sized firms ― still faces hurdles today in Korea with local giants, such as Samsung Electronics, claiming e-books will only play the part of an application for tablet PCs.

By Cho Ji-hyun (sharon@heraldcorp.com)
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