Korea's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is planning to spend about 18 billion won ($US 15.5 million) to establish e-book infrastructures in 110 schools in rural communities around the country. However, as The Korea Times reports today, there are concerns that the project could be derailed. The consortium that the government selected to provide the e-book readers, led by LG-Dacom and Hewlett Packard, are finding it difficult to keep the price of each device below 1.3 million won, while the government insists it will pay no more than 1.1 million won per reader.
This seems like a laudable project, given the rapid convergence that will soon lead to widespread availability of mobile broadband and the ability to download books from such vast digital libraries as the one made available through Google Book search. The Korea Times article notes that the Ministry of Education Science and Technology had approached both LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics to support the project but the companies both declined, citing lack of market size! Perhaps this is the same lack of market size that explains why Apple's iPhone and also Android phones are so slow in arriving in the Korean market. An alternative view would be that Korea's large electronics firms, along with their telecoms service providers, should view the Korean market, although small, as a valuable test bed for products that will be part of the future information society.