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Posts Tagged ‘Amazon Kindle’

Welcome to Wylie World: An Agent's Bold Move Makes Sense

In Entertainment, Media, Technology, Uncategorized on July 27, 2010 at 2:50 pm
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When I originally heard about Andrew Wylie’s announcement last week that he was partnering with Amazon to create “Odyssey Editions” — 20 special e-book versions of modern classics by writers whom he represents that will only be available for Kindle and devices that support Kindle software such as the iPad, I thought:

This is bad news.

After all, at its face it seems to be exclusive deal with one retail outlet.

Here’s the thing, though.

As I like to point out, Kindle’s not just a device, it’s software that works on many devices.

What Wylie has done is take 20 great books that have not been available electronically and made them available to a pretty large audience.

Sure there are some people who are upset.

For instance, I suspect Wylie won’t be getting any holiday cards from Random House this year. And there’s a book store in Mississippi that’s making a big deal of this.

The only ones who seem to be taking a balanced, sensical approach to the whole kerfuffle is The Author’s Guild.

Is there any real difference between what Wylie has done and say, special editions for The Franklin Library or the Library of America?

Well, yes.

Wylie has created a series of affordable editions for a very wide audience.

Good for him.

Amazon's New Kindle: Still Too Close to the iPad?

In Entertainment, Technology on July 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm
Kindle DX and Kindle 2

Image via Wikipedia

Starting today Amazon is taking orders for its new Kindle DX and while I have no doubt that people will buy it, I really have to wonder just how many.

First off, the device — which ships July 7 — is priced at $379, which is really too expensive to be considered an impulse buy.

And it’s only $120 away from an iPad and it seems to me that’s a little too close.

What makes it a little more confusing is that just last week, Amazon seemed to recognize the importance of lowering the price, which they did with their slightly smaller version.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has frequently claimed that the iPad and the Kindle aren’t really competitors; they’re different devices intended for different people. The Kindle, he says, is for readers unlike tablets, which are for, I guess, everyone else. He said it again just the other day.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of great things about the Kindle particularly, as cnet points out, that the thing is incredibly readable in sunlight, unlike the iPad.

Still, the thing is if you have a choice between the $189 Kindle and the $379 Kindle, why get the more expensive one? I guess if you really want a device that is really just a reader, it is your answer. But if you’re going to spend the money, why not just bump it up a little and get a device that does so much more?

I think Amazon’s great but I sort of sense this is a stumble for them.

On the plus side, one bit of really good news is that Amazon has finally released Kindle for Android devices.

As I’ve pointed out, Kindle isn’t just a device — it’s software that runs on many devices. I use Kindle on my iPad on a regular basis — and Android has pretty much been the final frontier for them.

Kindle’s great software. The device — at $189 — is great. At $379 — overpriced, I suspect.

The Great Debate: E-Reader or Tablet?

In Entertainment, Media, Technology on June 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm
Barnes & Noble nook (ebook reader device)

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There’s been a lot of talk — including here — about Kindle vs iPad.

On Monday, in a move guaranteed to make sure they are a more prominent part of that conversation, Barnes and Noble announced a new, cheaper version of its Nook e-reader offering wi-fi but not 3G connectivity.

Priced at $149, it offers all the features of the regular Nook — color touchscreen, E-Ink, the ability to “loan” people books — except, of course, the 3G. In the same release, they announced they are lowering the price on the 3G version to $199 from $249.

Perhaps most importantly to Barnes, it offers them a chance to seriously undercut Amazon, which sells its Kindle for $259.

UPDATE: AMAZON ANNOUNCED AFTER THIS COLUMN WAS WRITTEN THAT THEY’VE DROPPED THE PRICE OF KINDLE BY $70 — TO $189. NOW WE HAVE A PRICE WAR, WHICH I SUSPECT WILL FURTHER WIDEN GULF BETWEEN E-READERS AND TABLETS. MORE TO COME ON THIS.

The Associated Press puts the Barnes and Noble announcement in the context of how can Barnes charge more when there are devices like the iPad out there that do so much more.

And that’s really the crux of the debate: are people going to be satisfied with devices that are just readers or are they going to demand more. This isn’t really a new issue (in fact, I just touched on it a couple of weeks ago).

There’s at least one person who thinks that, for all the competition, iPad, Kindle, Nook…. they’re just amateurs when it comes to presenting material to be read electronically.

Erstwhile inventor Ray Kurzweil told The New York Times last week that he’s developed software that “displays colorful images and varying fonts with formatting similar to what people find in physical texts” and that the software will run on all sorts of devices.

Kurzweil promises that once his Blio E-Reader is widely available it’s going to be bad news for Amazon and Apple an company because “publishers will not give things with complex formats to these e-Reader makers. They destroy the format.”

Maybe Kurzweil’s right, maybe he’s wrong. In the meantime, companies on both sides of the debate keep moving forward.

There’s today’s Barnes and Noble announcement. Apple’s new operating system for the iPad and other devices is available for download, Amazon’s new Kindle should be out later this summer.

And Borders is about to enter the e-reader market, shipping its long-awaited Kobo later this week.

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I Must Remember This… A Privacy Problem for Amazon?

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on June 11, 2010 at 12:51 pm
The Amazon Kindle 2

Image via Wikipedia

Did you know that 929 Kindle users highlighted the following phrase from Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom:

“faith is about doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe.”

Or that 438 Kindle users reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice highlighted:

“Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”

Or that 870 Kindle users highlighted the following from The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown:

“McTaggart’s book The Intention Experiment, and her global,Web-baesd study — theintentionexperiment.com — aimed”

Thanks to a new feature from Amazon, you can check and see what the most popular books and phrases highlighted by Kindle users as well as the most recent ones.

What’s it mean?

Well, in the case of the third reference, I would bet that most people just wanted to remember the website so they could see if the book and site actually exist (they do).

Slightly more ominously, though, it seems to mean that Amazon has learned little from last year’s kerfuffle when they remotely deleted thousands of copies of Animal Farm and 1984 from people’s Kindles.

As The New York Times reported, Amazon had been deleting other books as well though, in each case, the books were ones that should have never been available, put in the Kindle store by people who didn’t have the rights to them.

And while Amazon got a lot of flack — CEO Jeff Bezos posted an apology saying the way they handled the situation “stupid” and “thoughtless” — I kind of feel some of it was misguided. You buy a stolen car and the cops find out, you’re going to lose the car and there’s really nothing you’ll be able to do about it.

Where I think they deserved a lot of flack was the fact that they were able to remotely go into people’s devices showed an ability to infringe on people’s privacy.

And that’s where I think this highlighting thing comes in — I actually think it’s a much larger invasion of privacy than the deleting remotely. It’s one thing to recall a purchase that should have never been made it’s entirely different to be able to basically spy on someone, not only monitoring what they’re reading but what they’re highlighting.

Yes, it’s kind of interesting to know what others find interesting but it’s kind of disturbing that Amazon has the ability to collect that information.

And while Amazon says they’re not posting who underlined what, they still have the information.

It’s great that it’s becoming easier to buy books, store books and that reading e-books is becoming a more enjoyable experience. But it’s important to realize that as more and more people buy e-readers and we spend more time online, the ability to lose our privacy becomes a bigger and bigger threat.

Just ask the more than 100,000 iPad users whose email addresses were obtained by a security group that breached AT&T’s security.

The Kindle's a Failure… Not Really — It's 'Just Not Ready for Prime Time'

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on May 17, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Kindle "Not Ready for Prime Time" as Teaching Tool

It was bad news for Kindle last week.

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business announced the results of their experiment with Amazon’s wireless e-reader, testing whether it would made a good educational tool.

The program gave Kindle DXs to a group of first year MBA students, allowing them “to acess textbooks, case studies, newspapers and other learning materials.”

There was a lot of excitement about the project.

“Today was a special day,” the university posted. “Each new Kindle arrived in a cool blue leather hacet.”

That was in August.

Friday, there was a little less excitement.

“Most Darden students prefer not to use the electronic reading devices in the B-school classroom,” the school concluded though it was clear from the students that they enjoyed it as a reading device.

“What that says to me is that Amazon created a very well-designed consumer device for purchasing and reading digital books, magazines and newspapers,” according to Michael Koenig, the school’s director of MBA operations. “It’s not yet ready for prime time in the highly engaged Darden business school classroom.”

There were similar thoughts at Princeton where, despite high hopes about paper reduction, students liked it more as a reader than a study tool, noting their inability to highlight text among other things.

“I found the device difficult to use and not conducive to academic purposes,” said sophomore Eddie Skolnick. “But I can see how it can be used for pleasure reading.”

Of course, these are separate issues from pushback Amazon received from the United States Department of Justice, which asked colleges to stop testing the device until it was more accessible to blind students.

The thing is, as Reed College pointed out after they studied the device:

“While students and faculty in Reed’s Kindle study were unanimous in reporting that the Kindle DX –– in its current incarnation –– was unable to meet their academic needs, many felt that once technical and other issues have been addressed, eReaders will play a significant, possibly a transformative, role in higher education.”

Meanwhile, now that Apple has released the iPad, they are making a go at the academic market.

Rutgers has signed up to test the device as has Duke and others.

An article last month in The Chronicle of Higher Education suggested that it could take a little while for it to catch on though it suggested it will be helped by apps.

Here’s the thing… there’s a lot of talk (here included) about who is winning: iPad or Kindle?

But, the fact is that as advanced as they are, we are still very early in the evolutionary process.

It will be interesting to see where things go and how the iPad tests at universities go and what lessons Amazon takes away from their trial runs.

Will Bookstores Lose as IPad, Kindle, Nook Welcome Google Editions

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on May 5, 2010 at 8:10 am
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 27:  Customers view...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

It should get interesting.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Google will start selling e-books by early summer, putting them in direct competition with Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble.

It’s not exactly been a secret that this was coming.

Last August, Google announced they were offering free downloads of more than one million books  hat are in the public domain and then in October, they revealed that they would be launching Google Editions with about 500,000 additional titles.

And last month, in The New Yorker, reporter Ken Auletta laid out some of the details:

“Google Editions will let publishers set the price of their books (the head of Google Editions) said and will accept the agency model. Having already digitized twelve million books, including out-of-print titles, Google will have a far greater selection than Amazon or Apple. It will also make e-books available for bookstores to sell, giving “the vast majority” of revenues to the store.”

In the beginning, though, it appears that that the only books Google might only be able to sell are those in the public domain.

They are still involved in a long-running court battle, trying to get approval to move forward with their plans for Google Books, which would display books that are copyrighted but out of print along with with books that have eetered the public domain.

Google’s plans had been challenged by the Author’s Guild and the Association of American Publishers. While there was a settlement, it has not been approved as the judge considers objections including some from the Department of Justice, which has concerns over several issues including anti-trust.

And even if they get approval, there does seem to be at least one more hurdle — last month several groups representing visual artists announced plans to challenge Google’s plans.

Another issue is that it’s being reported that Google does not yet have deals in place with publishers.

Regardless of potential roadblocks, this development has the potential to be tougher on Amazon than on Apple because Google Editions seems closer in design to Kindle than IPad in that while the IPad is a device, Kindle is software that works on multiple devices.

But — even more at risk from this latest news are actual bookstores, you know the kind you walk into where you can handle the books and interact with people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for books being available for purchase online (just check my bank statements). At the same time, I am concerned that the more book sales take place over the Internet, the less they are taking place in stores.

And when that happens, you start reading about bookstores closing.

From Miami to Seattle to Omaha and Boston, the same story is being written: bookstores are closing.

So, as Google Editions gets set to launch and IPad and Kindle and Nook battle it out and new readers keep coming on the market, try to break away from the screen every once in a while and head down to your local bookstore (if you still have one, if you don’t a chain will do), peruse the shelves, buy a magazine, a book, something.

IPad vs. Nook vs. Kindle: Who's Winning (If anyone)?

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 28, 2010 at 9:29 am
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

So, it’s been almost a month since the IPad came out and the question on everyone’s mind — is the Kindle dead yet?

Well, maybe that’s not the question on everyone’s mind but I’m sure someone, somewhere, might be wondering. After all, a lot of the talk (here included) was about whether or not it would be a Kindle killer, would it help the Kindle or would the two find a way to co-exist.

Before we get to that, though, let’s take a quick look at the pre-IPad world.

According to a report earlier this week from Digitimes Research, which tracks this sort of thing, in March — the Nook from Barnes and Noble outsold the KIndle, accounting for roughly 53 percent of all e-book readers shipped that month.

The site attributed that to the fact that the Nook was fairly new, the Kindle had been on the market, and people were curious about the new thing.

Digitimes estimates that 1.43 million e-reader devices shipped during the first quarter of 2010, the last quarter Before IPad.

So, where does Apple’s new device fit into this landscape?

Well, keep that 1.43 million number in mind.

First, there was the announcement from Apple that they had sold 300,000 units the first day, which was a testament to the company’s ever-successful hype machine (plus the fact they tend to deliver on that hype).

Then, less than a week later, while unveiling the new IPhone operating system, they revealed they had sold another 150,000 devices.

Now, let me introduce you to Chitika Labs, which has been using cookies to track IPad sales. They concede it’s not a perfect system but, they seem pretty confident.

As of this writing, their live counter indicated that more than 1.1 million IPads have been sold already.

Which brings us back to the beginning: who’s winning? Well, on one level, it would seem Apple based on sales alone.

But what does it all mean? Does it mean the Kindle is doomed? The Nook’s on its way out?

With meaning to be too much of a wuss, I would have to say the answers are: it’s too early too really tell but my sense is, it’s all good and no and no.

While I have a soft spot for the printed word, books and newspapers that I can hold in my hand, and want them to be around for a long time — and am also concerned that the emphasis on e-readers, could take away from kids in schools, I do think that anything that gets people reading more is probably a good thing.

The question that remains, though, is that what’s happening?

According to Appitzr.com, which tracks apps, books make up more than one out of every five apps available in the ITunes store — 22 percent — yet account for only 3 percent of apps that are downloaded.

In other words, while new devices keep coming out, it may be too early to declare a winner and, in the meantime, keep visiting bookstores — an independent one, if you can.

Auletta, Amazon and the Death of Publishing

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 22, 2010 at 10:19 am
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Back in the early 1990s when I worked for The New York Post, there was a sense that The New York Times daily coverage of the city wasn’t all that it could be and what they did — which drove competitors crazy — was they might ignore a story for a couple of days and the come out with these long, comprehensive pieces that included everything, including the kitchen sink.

And that’s kind of how I feel about Ken Auletta’s new piece in The New Yorker that asks the question, “Can the IPad topple the Kindle and save the book business?”

If you haven’t read it, it is worth the time because even if he doesn’t have a lot that’s new, he pretty much has everything that others (including me) have written.

Reading it, though, I realized that I think it might have been a more interesting read if Auletta had taken the opposite track — asking not whether Apple can save publishing but exploring whether Amazon can kill publishers.

Auletta quotes a “close associate” of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as saying,”What Amazon really wanted to do was make the price of e-books so low that people would no longer buy hardcover books. Then the next shoe to drop would be to cut publishers out and go right to authors.”

It’s not a new concern.

Last December when Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People announced he was shifting his digital rights to Amazon from his traditional publisher, Simon and Schuster, for a year, the New York Times led off by saying:

“Ever since electronic books emerged as a major growth market, New York’s largest publishing houses have worried that big-name authors might sign deals directly with e-book retailers or other new ventures, bypassing traditional publishers entirely.”

Then, in January, Amazon announced a plan allowing authors who give their exclusive e-book rights to Amazon to earn 70 percent royalty.

That was followed five days later by Ian McKewan shifting the e-rights to five of his books to Amazon, doubling his usual royalty as became the first big-name British author to sign on.

And, of course, there’s Stephen King, the kind of author who perhaps symbolizes the greatest threat to traditional publishers.

When the second version of the Kindle was announced, King read from a novella he wrote specifically to be distributed through the device.

It was such a success that a couple of weeks ago, he released a second story, created just for the Kindle.

And it’s not just the big names like King and Covey.

Galleycat, the publishing blog, recently interviewed mystery writer JA Kornath, who is making quite a nice living selling for the Kindle.

So, will Amazon prove to be the death of publishing? Will the IPad save it?

Probably no and no, though they are already clearly having an effect.

And, as I’ve pointed out before, until we figure out how to make sure there are enough devices for every student in every school to be able to get one, we need to make sure there are printed books out there for people to read.

Everyone Say Hello to 'Alex'

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 15, 2010 at 8:33 am

Think that the E-Reader battle comes down to the iPad vs. the Kindle?

Or maybe the Nook vs. the Sony Reader?

Well, meet Alex from Spring Design who started shipping yesterday.

As cnet pointed out, it probably would have been bigger news had it come out before the IPad. Regardless, it looks like it’s something that deserves notice.

First — take a look at the features and one thing immediately jumps out — the second screen.

It has one for reading and a second, smaller – color — screen that is a fully-enabled, android-powered web browser. So, you’re reading… you want to send an email, no problem. Want to look up movie times and then, maybe take a break from reading? Sure. Watch some videos? Absolutely.

Or maybe you want to listen to music while you read? No problem. Wi-fi? Check. Removable memory? Check.

Laptop Magazine was so impressed with the device, it named it the best E-Reader at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Though, it’s important to point out, that not everyone loves it.

Engadget, in their review,  they point to several shortcomings such as while: “the Alex is chock-full of reading features…we just can’t say the same about its book selection” and “When it came to multitasking, the Alex was just fine for reading a book and listening to some music, but when we threw in web browsing things began to slow to a crawl.”

Endgaget had also taken issue with Alex’s price, which was listed at $399 at the time.

But, now that it’s priced at $359 — right between the Kindle and the IPad — it’s got a good shot at getting attention on the checkout line.

And, as Wired points out, in addition to competing against Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Apple and so forth in the market, Alex is making a point of going after a slice of the market that could prove quite lucrative — Spanish Language E-Books.

So, while a lot of the most creative design work seems to still be being done for IPad, and there’s still the Google Tablet to come, Alex just might be able to find his place in the world.

And, based on their decision to seemingly embrace Spanish-language E-Books, maybe this post should have been “Everyone Say Hola to Alex.”

Anyway, just to give you a heads up about what I’m expecting to make its way from my reading list to news over here… posts about David Foster Wallace, Norman Mailer, Natalie Merchant and so much more.

Thanks for reading.