cominer

Posts Tagged ‘e-readers’

iPads vs. E-Readers: Things Looking Good for Apple

In Entertainment, Media, Technology on July 14, 2010 at 12:22 pm
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

It’s not a new theme — in fact, earlier this month, I touched upon it — but the evidence seems to be building that e-readers face a tough road ahead.

According to Mashable, a new report by Resolve Media seems to indicate that anyone selling e-readers better do whatever it takes to keep iPads out of the hands of consumers.

The report states that after buying an iPad, 49 percent of people said they would not be buying another e-reader.

There’s also bad news for other devices — 38 percent said they wouldn’t buy a portable gaming device, 32 percent said they wouldn’t buy a netbook or laptop — but it paints a very stark picture for the e-reader industry.

“E-readers should be worried,” Mashable writes. “Even before the Kindle and Nook price cuts, we were already seeing some movement with lower-priced e-readers. We think that reading-only devices will ultimately find a new market at the sub $100 price point. Even at $200, the value proposition for an e-reader versus an iPad is tough to overcome.”

So, while Amazon is shipping its newest iteration of the Kindle and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos keeps talking about how the iPad and Kindle aren’t really competitors, it seems the more people discover the iPad, the more hurt is in store for the Kindle and similar devices.

Fortunately for Amazon, the Kindle isn’t just a device, it’s a software platform, an app that works on the iPad and, I have to say, on the iPad, it’s wonderful, well-built software that makes reading on the iPad a really nice experience.

And the same’s true for Barnes and Noble. They have the Nook but they also have software that works on the iPad.

I’m the thinking that for e-reader companies, the writing’s on the wall, er, tablet.

Krossroads for Kindle or Running the Table(ts) Before Apple's Unveiling

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2010 at 8:49 am
Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

So, it’s not exactly a secret that Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference gets underway next week in San Francisco and the newest iteration of the iPhone is expected to be released.

There’s also all sorts of rumors about other things that may or may not be unveiled.

A new version of MobileMe?

An updated Mac mini?

And while it’s beginning to seem increasingly unlikely that a Verizon iPhone will be a part of the mix at this point, Apple CEO Steve Jobs promises people “won’t be disappointed.”

It also seems that there won’t be any major announcements related to the iPad, which may or may not be the leading tablet device out there but certainly has the perception of setting the bar.

One thing that is for sure is that the new iPhone will give users access to Apple’s iBookstore. It was something that was announced as part of the preview of the phone’s new operating system and that has been driven home in recent press reports.

What makes that tidbit especially relevant is that a report came out last week basically saying that advances with the iPad, the iPhone and other tablet devices that allow users to read books among other things are going to severely limit the growth of the dedicated e-reader such as the Kindle.

“This is a real wake-up call for e-reader vendors and will force them to improve their products and their communications about the benefits of owning a dedicated e-reader,” said the report from Informa telecoms and media. “We believe this ill cause the market to segment into two different groups – low price, low feature and high price, advanced feature models.”

Informa believes that dedicated e-reader sales will peak in 2013 and then start to fall.

First, let’s just dismiss the second part of their assertion about the market segmenting because saying that there’s going to be high end and low end devices… well, geez. Really? Would have never figured that.

In fact, I would suspect that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos would agree with the high-end and low-end reading devices concept except he would say that his Kindle is the high-end reading device and things like the iPad that do other things are the low end in his book.

Bezos says that unlike the iPad, “the Kindle is all about reading” and that serious readers are happy to have a device geared toward them pointing out that high-end cameras are still relevant despite the prevalence of camera phones (the Kindle is the high-end camera in that equation).

This sort of thinking seems to also be reflected in the latest announcements about the new version of the KIndle coming out this summer.

Bloomberg reported last week that Amazon will introduce a new, thinner Kindle in August with a more responsive screen and sharper picture. It will also be about half as thick as the iPad.

One thing that it won’t have is color and that’s okay with Bezos who says it’s “still some ways out.”

Meanwhile, Android-based tablets are proliferating.

There’s the  Dell Streak and the Samsung Galaxy .

And, as IDG News wrote, at the Computex Tapei 2010 Show, there are more than a dozen Android and Windows rivals to the iPad coming out.

The problem with all of these new tablets (except, obviously, the Kindle) is that, for now anyway, they are lacking as e-readers.

Obviously, they can’t read stuff from the Apple store and, Amazon has yet to release Kindle software for Android devices, though that’s expected to finally change this summer.

The bottom line is that I think that Amazon’s going to be okay especially since Kindle isn’t just a device, it’s a software platform that will soon be on many more devices.

Last November, a report from Gartner predicted that this is going “to be the year when e-book readers really beomce popular consumer electronic devices” and I suspect they’re right.

Fear Not, Garrison! iPad, Kindle and Company Seem to be Helping

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on May 29, 2010 at 9:41 am
Mr. Garrison Keillor

Image via Wikipedia

Garrison Keillor, whose words and voice have given me comfort in the years in his books, radio show and  his daily poem, is very worried.

In a piece for The New York Times, Keillor writes that he is worried “that book publishing is about to slide into the sea.”

He fears that e-books and self publishing will close the door on an era when “e became writers through the laying on of hands. Some teacher who we worshipped touched our shoulder, and this benediction saw us through a hundred defeats. And then an an editor smiled on us and wrote a check and our babies got shoes.”

He describes a future with “18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75.”

First off. As far as I can tell, the only real difference in Keillor’s future is that the average author will have six readers who are not blood relatives.

Really.

How many people do you know who have been slaving away, tinkering on, working at what they think could be the Great American Novel? Everybody’s a writer or thinks they are. People have been writing bad short stories, poems, sketches for hundreds of years.

And most of them haven’t made a dime.

Mr. Keillor — there’s really nothing new about that.

What’s great about self-publishing operations like Amazon’s BookSurge and Pubit from Barnes and Noble, is that it makes it easier for people to get out there and take a chance. Maybe they make nothing, maybe they made Keillor’s mythical average of $1.75.”

The important thing is that people are giving it a go.

Don’t we want a world where more people are trying to communicate? I mean, does he really he think that everyone who self-publishes thinks that they’ve really written the Great American Poem, Novel, Short Story? I’m sure some do. But I’m betting the majority are just people who feel they have something to say.

And let them say it, write it, shout it, blog it, self-publish and podcast it.

Let people dream and share those dreams.

The great writing will still find its way through.

In the meantime, grab a pen, pencil, typewriter, iPad, Kindle, whatever and write! And share what you’ve written.

There’s an audience of billions looking for something to read — the American Association of Publishers on Friday announced that book sales in March were up 16.6 percent, that they’re up eight percent for the year. Audiobook sales overall are up 14.7 percent for the year and the sales of downloaded audiobooks are up 29.3 percent.

AND e-book sales are up 251.9 percent for the year.

251.9 percent!

I would say that iPads and Kindles and Nooks and so forth are helping more people become readers and writers.

I mean, really. Does it get better? A nation where people are reading and writing? Maybe it’s not all good writing. Big deal. At least people are communicating!

Please relax, Mr. Keillor. It’s all going to be okay.

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.

Stop the Craziness and Save SMU Press

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm
Southern Methodist University

Image via Wikipedia

It’s just kind of mind-boggling.

Last week, Southern Methodist University announced that they would be shutting down SMU Press, the oldest publishing house in Texas.

“It is with regret that we make the decision to suspend operations of the SMU Press, which has enjoyed a distinguished history of publishing,” Paul Ludden, the University’s provost and vice president for academic affairs said in a fairly disingenuous  statement.

The press, which has three employees and an annual budget of about $400,000, publishes about ten books a year.

There has been a bit of an uproar in protest.

There’s the expected Facebook page and famous writers speaking up.

“Closing SMU Press would be a disastrous decision,” wrote Ann Beattie.

“This a blow to the national literary community,” said John Dufresne.

It goes beyond that.

This is a decision that really goes to the heart of some of the greater problems facing the country, where we have our priorities. I’m not just talking about simple platitudes like housing not bombs or something.

SMU had enough money to successfully court the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

They’ve allowed their athletic department to lose more than $93 million over the past six years.

While SMU’s endowment fell about 25 percent last year to just more than $1 billion, they still have an endowment of JUST MORE THAN $1 BILLION!

They had enough money to pay their president more than $1 million, nearly three times the average salary of a university president.

SMU’s football coach, former football coach, basketball coach, provost, dean of the business school. athletic director were among the employees who had salaries greater than THE ENTIRE BUDGET of SMU Press.

I’m not saying fire any of these people.

But, think about this. If the football coach took a $200,000 pay cut — he would still make more than $1 million — and the basketball coach took a $150,000 pay cut — he would still make $400,000 — than there would only be a need to only come up with $50,000 to save the press.

OR —

The university could take $400,000 from their endowment and still have an endowment of more than $1 billion.

SMU, in its history has produced great literature, including some recent honorees.

I’ve argued before that we need to support small presses and literary magazines and I will do it until I am blue in the face.

In this world of IPads and Kindles and Nooks, we also need to look out for the traditional presses — especially the smaller ones — to help find the talent to create the “content” for people to read on their devices.

The message couldn’t be clearer:

SMU can’t be allowed to kill its press.

Getting the World on the Same Page

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 at 9:00 am
Cover of "American Gods: A Novel"

Cover of American Gods: A Novel

Book clubs are not new.

There’s been the Book of the Month Club, reading groups, the one city one book idea that’s been moving around the country since starting in Seattle more than ten years ago.

And while it hasn’t always gone smoothly, it has resulted in more people reading and wider discussions.

In March, Jeff Howe of Crowdsourcing fame, suggested taking the concept even further — what if everyone on Twitter all read the same book?

Howe pointed out that there have been Twitter book clubs, but none had suggested trying to take it to the level he was aiming for.

As he wrote:

“I love books. So do you. Let’s love one book together, our actual geographical location be damned.”

And, really… with e-readers constantly innovating and improving (see everything from the IPad to the Kindle; it doesn’t matter which side of the IPad vs. Kindle fight you’re on — it’s all getting easier) and every phone seeming to be hooked up to a Twitter account, it seems like a natural evolution.

On his blog, Howe solicited suggestions for a book and the contenders were eventually narrowed to six:

1) American Gods by Neil Gaiman;

2) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury;

3) 1984 by George Orwell;

4) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley;

5) Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

and

6) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

with American Gods eventually getting picked.

On his blog, Gaiman reacted with a little bit of trepidation because, he concedes, not everyone loves his book.

Despite that, he added: “I’m kind of thrilled that I get to help kick off something this new, and I’m going to do all I can to help” including answering tweets when possible.

There was some media attention, a schedule was set and, perhaps most importantly, an official series of hashtags were agreed upon.

So, head on over to a bookstore, pick up a copy of American Gods and then head back to the computer and start tweeting.

1b1t2010 is the starting place (search #1b1t to catch up on all the related tweets) and while there’s only (only?) about 7,000 people following so far, it most definitely is a start.

I keep thinking of the old Coke commercial, only instead of “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” I’d like the world to read a book.

The Short Story is Dead! Long Live the Short Story!

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 at 4:39 pm
Virginia Quarterly Review

Image via Wikipedia

For as long as Google remembers, people have been writing articles offering proof that the short story is not dead.

In 1969, The New York Times declared that: “the death of the short story is announced as regularly as the decay of morals.”

In what appears to be a wire story from 1973 (the article appeared in both The Times-News of Hendersonville, NC and The Sarasota Herald News) it was reported that: “the reports of the death of the short story are greatly exaggerated.”

In 1988, Fred Lutz of the Toledo Blade said that “rumors that started about 10 years ago about the death of short story were definitely premature. The genre is alive and well in living in America.”

I suspect the problem isn’t with the short story.

Just look at the literary landscape and it’s dotted with people writing stories that people are reading: Wells Tower, John Grisham, Jhumpa Lahiri.

That’s not the issue.

The problem, I think, has to do with the evolution of the writer as celebrity.

While it’s probably always been true to come extent that there are people who think because they have access to a pen or a keyboard, they can be a Writer, that seems to have evolved into people thinking they can now be a Famous Writer. And with that there seems to be a growing sense of entitlement.

Just read this ridiculous piece on Huffington Post by someone who suggests (facetiously, I can only hope though I suspect not) that there be a literary draft in the style of football’s.

“Personally, I’d settle for $100,000 annually, for which I will absolutely produce a brand-new novel each year,” he promises.

The writer suggests it’s a system rooted in history but does anyone really think that Mozart, da Vinci, any number of people wouldn’t have created their art if they hadn’t had benefactors.

Yes, money is always nice but the best writers don’t write because of the paycheck, they do it because they can’t imagine doing anything else.

In a recent piece for Mother Jones, Ted Genoways, the editor of Virginia Quarterly Review, points out that there are hundreds of MFA programs on universities producing thousands of “writers” yet the average literary magazine prints 1.500 copies.

“In short, no one is reading all this newly produced literature—not even the writers themselves,” he writes.

As a result, literary magazines are on the ropes: Triquarterly was reinvented as a student-run online publication; New England Review has until next year to become self-sufficient, Southern Review has been having problems.

It’s been suggested that much as April is National Poetry Month, we should make May National Short Story Month and just as I suggested poetry month should be celebrated by adopting a poet by subscribing to a literary magazine or similar gesture… I say, the same should be true for May.

If you want people to read you, the least you can do is make sure you read other people — and pay for it: subscribe to a magazine, buy a book, even go on ITunes.

As The Guardian pointed out, the ITunes-ization of short fiction is here.

It’s not a perfect world but people have to stop acting like they’re entitled to support.

Help others if you expect to get help.

As Genoways wrote: “Treat writing like your lifeblood instead of your livelihood. And for Christ’s sake, write something we might want to read.”

Auletta, Amazon and the Death of Publishing

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 22, 2010 at 10:19 am
Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

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.