My experience with the NRC ePaper and the iLiad
This is a summary (7 July 2008) of a Dutch article about my experiences with the NRC ePaper and the iliad (1 July 2008).
The NRC Handelsblad presents the ePaper as immense success. The first two month they sold more than 900 subscriptions in combination with an iLiad. They boast an active and enthusiastic user community that has come up with many interesting ideas. The truth is different. The ePaper turns out to be a half-baked product with many teething troubles. It has come into the market without sufficient testing. The iLiad does not live up to NRC's marketing slogan "From now on the NRC appears everywhere where you appear" and the NRC Handelsblad doesn't accept responsibility for fulfilling this slogan. The initially lively users forum has become silent because of lack of response the side of the NRC Handelsblad.
- I was interested in the sharply prized offer for regular subscribers of an iLiad together with an ePaper subscription, because I would love to read the paper in the train back to home after work, because I don't like the size of the paper and wanted to do away with the paper rubbish. According to the NRC 'the ePaper can be downloaded easily via wifi everywhere in the world an any time you like'.
- I was not able to read the users experiences on the users forum before buying, because the forum is open to ePaper subscribers only.
- According to the site of the NRC web shop delivery time would be 4 to 5 days, the confirmation of payment said delivery time would be about 10 days, the iLiad arrived after 21 days.
- When I read the forum I discovered that the iLiad cannot connect to hotspots.
- I also read on the forum that the ePaper subscription would be cancelled if I discontinued the regular subscription.
- The iLiad refused to connect to my wifi networks at home and at work, although my iBook and the Windows and Linux laptops of my colleagues connected without any problems.
- iRex support was not helpful in solving the connection problems.
- Someone on the users forum discovered the cause of my connection problems: the iLiad cannot connect to 'ad-hoc networks' set up by a computer, PDA or mobile phone, it needs a direct connection to a router.
- At work the problem was solved accidentally because someone introduced an unprotected router; at home I bought a router.
- When I finally was able to read the ePaper I discovered how poor it is. Large parts of the paper are scrambled and, hence, unreadable. Columns with several short articles appear in the ePaper as one long paragraph without any typography. Articles stop suddenly and continue 25 pages later without any links or other signs that they are part of one article. Titles are missing. Links do not work. And so on, and so on. (See the NRC ePaper wiki at MobileRead (in Dutch!))
- For more than 2 months, NRC Handelsblad ignored the users forum and the many complaints, solutions and suggestions brought up by the users. After actions of the users, NRC announced, at May 15th, a biweekly update about the progress and promised to engaged more actively in the forum.
- One staff member did so for two weeks. In those weeks it became clear that the NRC is working hard to solve the problems with the ePaper but that they don't feel responsible for solving the connection problems. A request of many users for a download site on the web was turned down because that would be too big a job.
- After those two weeks NRC became silent again, except for the publication of a 'biweekly' update on June, 16th and July, 1st. These updates were very short and did not address the many issues brought up by the users. In the update of June, 16th the NRC announced that ePaper subscriptions would be extended with the period that the teething troubles go on and promised an often requested list of known problems. The update of July, 1st told us that in order to speed up progress a project manager was added to the staff of the 'new media team' of the NRC Handelsblad and repeated the promisse of a list with known problems.
- The forum users became silent too; they said everything they had to say. Occasionally new subscribers drop in to complain about scrambled articles, lacking pages or other problems we complained about for 4 months, or to ask how to connect to hotspots, secure networks or other things the iLiad cannot connect to.
- I very much prefer the size of the iLiad over that of the paper NRC and I love the crisp, sharp screen. I am enthusiast about the possibility to take PDFs of scholarly articles with me on the iliad. I love the capability to scribble comments on student papers and add them to the pdf. Enough of the ePaper is readable to enjoy reading it in the train back to home and the ePaper seems to improve steadily. However, I can't say anything positive about the way in which the NRC communicates with its subscribers. For a quality paper, it is hilarious, unseemly and incomprehensible.
Links to other English pages with user experiences
This page was made by Arno Wouters.
Last Updated: 4-Oct-08.