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Posts Tagged ‘kindle’

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.

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)

Image via Wikipedia

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 CliffsNotes on Apple's iBooks News

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on June 7, 2010 at 7:37 pm
Apple introduces iBooks for iPad

Image by myuibe via Flickr

Monday was Apple’s big Worldwide Developer Conference and the unveiling of the new iPhone and the new iOS operating system (so named because it runs on the iPad as well as the iPhone).

And while it has lots of new featuresFaceTime, HD video editing, multitasking —  this blog’s really about books and publishing, so let’s let others focus on the big picture.

So, let’s take a look at what the changes mean for iBooks and the iBookstore.

You’ll now be able to download and read PDFs and, in what I — as a user of more than one device — find exciting, you’ll be able to start a book on, say, you’re iPhone and finish it on your iPad. You’ll be able to highlight and annotate text. And, it will work with VoiceOver so you’ll be able to have the contents of a page read to you.

Though, on this last point, there doesn’t seem to be an indication yet of how they’ll avoid the audio rights problem that plagued Amazon with the Kindle.

What’s it all mean?

Well, it looks like the already popular program’s going to become more so.

As Apple Insider pointed out, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that in the 65 days since iPad was launched, more than five million books have been downloaded. Jobs claims that gives Apple 22 percent of the ebook market.

Now, over at The New York Times, they’ve posted an item under the headline “Why Apple’s iBook Numbers Are Meaningless.”

Let’s just assume that whomever wrote the headline didn’t actually read the story because while the articles does talk about how the 22 percent number might be a bit of a red herring — though the reporter’s logic is a little fuzzy; he claims you can’t take the 22 percent number seriously because Apple doesn’t sell books from all publishers but it seems that that actually would make the number more remarkable — it does talk about the fact that Apple’s sales are a “troubling trend for Amazon.”

The fact is that Apple’s selling a lot of books and it looks like the changes are going to help them sell a lot more.

Last week, the president of the digital reading business division at Sony, Steve Haber, predicted that “within five years there will be more digital content sold than physical content.”

Admittedly, these are the people who brought us the Betamax.

At the same time, there are really a lot of reasons to think things are moving in that direction.

I think what’s going to be interesting is when Apple finally releases iBooks for Windows or for Android.

As I’ve pointed out, you can’t really compare Kindle and iPhone/iPad sales figures because right now Kindle is a software platform that works on several devices while the iPhone and iPad are, well, the iPhone and iPad.

It was when Apple released iTunes for Windows that it really took off.

I’m thinking that if I’m Amazon, I might be getting a little nervous.

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.

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.

E-Rights and Wrongs

In Entertainment, Technology on April 29, 2010 at 10:07 am
Image representing Amazon Kindle as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

So, we have the Kindle and the IPad and the Nook and more e-readers coming out all the time.

And you have some big name writers making big bucks writing pieces just for these devices and you have other writers who are doing well enough, that they’re backing away from traditional publishing to focus on work to be downloaded.

So, all must be pretty good for writers as the world of publishing expands online, right? Well, not quite.

Much as what happened when ITunes started and some musicians withheld their music, complaining about the terms. And, there are some who are still keeping their music out of digital stores and there are others who have seen their music become available but are none too happy about how it’s turned out.

Well, it’s turning out to be the same with writers as it has been with musicians as authors struggle on several fronts from controlling the rights to their work to how much their going to get to well, if everything’s going to be sold online, what’s going to happen to bookstores?

The issue’s been in the news this week because after a month’s long fight, Random House has agreed to let the family of William Styron, author of Sophie’s Choice and other classics, to sell the e-rights to his books to Open Road Media.

What made this especially notable is that Random House has taken a pretty hard line when it comes to holding on to the e-rights of books.

As the Wall Street Journal reported in December, Random House CEO Markus Dohle sent a letter to literary agents asserting that the “vast majority of our backlist contracts grant us the right to publish books in electronic formats.

And in response to those who disagreed because contracts drawn up decades before e-books became popular — r practical — a Random House spokesman told the paper: “We believe Random House has the right to pblish out author’s backlist titles as e-books.”

Well, of course they do.

You would think Random House had learned its lesson — after all, it was nearly ten years ago that they lost a landmark case when it tried to get Rosetta Books from publishing some e-books.

In other cases, it’s been writers deciding to withhold e-versions of their books.

JK Rowling has chosen to keep Harry Potter off of e-readers for now and, in November, John Grisham (lawyer, that he is) made a very passionate argument about why he wasn’t allowing e-versions of his books to be sold.

“You’re going to wipe out tons of bookstores and publishers and we’re going to buy it all online,” he told the Today Show. “I’m probably going to be all right — but the aspiring writers are going to have a very hard time getting published.”

And while Grisham’s holdout didn’t last long (unsurprisingly, perhaps, there’s no comment from him or his representatives), his arguments are still valid.

So, as you download books (something I’ve done) and curl up with your IPad, Nook or Kindle or Sony Reader or whatever, keep in mind that someone created the work and that there’s a chance that person is still fighting for the ability to have some control over it.

It’s especially important when you realize there are still battles on the horizon.

Apple Advances Helping Amazon?

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 10, 2010 at 9:08 am

So, yesterday Apple announced the newest version of their IPhone operating system, which contains several advances including bringing Apple’s IBooks to the IPhone and ITouch.

In theory, that should be good news to the company’s bookstore, which I’m thinking is off to not quite as great a start as they were hoping.

Here’s the thing. In his announcement yesterday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said they had so far sold 450,000 IPads and that 600,000 books had been downloaded from IBooks. Let’s assume that none of those 600,000 are Winnie the Pooh, which comes free with the device.

That’s roughly 1.3 books per device, which I think should probably be higher. And given that IPads can download free books from Project Gutenberg, you sort of have to wonder how really significant that 600,000 number is — or at least wonder if it’s significant in the way Apple wants you to think it is.

Which brings me to the point of the headline — while adding IBooks to the IPhone and ITouch will certainly help Apple, every advance that makes their devices a better reader also helps Amazon with their Kindle.

See the thing that makes all those Kindle vs. IPad arguments invalid is the IPad is a device while the Kindle is a machine on its own as well as an app that runs on many machines including the IPad.

Apple’s software, meanwhile, runs on Apple devices — and while there are certainly a lot of them and while people are developing “enhanced” versions of books to run on those devices — the question remains whether it will be enough to steal a significant chunk of Amazon’s market or, actually, help Amazon grow.

On another note, I would like to remind the world that today is Books for NYC Schools Day. If you’re in New York, go. If you’re not, donate online.

'Read This' and help someone

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2010 at 10:15 am

The New York Times today has a good read about one of the major drawbacks of ebooks — how “it is not always possible to see what others are reading or to project your own literary tastes.”

The story points out that if you’re reading on an IPhone, Kindle, Sony Reader… whatever… no one’s going to know what you’re reading… there won’t be a book jacket to notice, a title that might catch your eyes… And while it’s not likely bookstores are about to completely disappear — there are problems out there and not having a store to walk and browse could lead to more stores closing.

But today is not the day to dwell on the bookstore browsing experience.

I would like to use this opportunity to talk about another problem with ebooks — you need a device to read one and many schools around the country are unable to afford books let alone devices on which they can be read. Just look at the recent stories about “Race to the Top” grants and the disappointment some states felt because they couldn’t get more money for schools.

For a slightly more informed perspective, I’d like to turn this over for a moment to Biz Mitchell, a great reporter whose 2000 W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty probably should have been read by many, many more people and whose Three Strides Before the Wire is just absolutely fabulous, moving, well-written (insert your own words of praise and you won’t be far off).

“Books are the greatest gift you can give a student,” she wrote me the other day. “A student might have a bad teacher or a good teacher, but if he or she can select a book to read, that student is going  to have access to the wider world, to history, to human struggles and delights.

In November 2008, Biz and some friends started a group called ReadThis (here they are on Facebook). I’ll let her tell the story.

“Back in November 2008, post-Obama election, some writer friends and I who had volunteered at the grassroots for that campaign got sick of hearing about the death of books. I saw an article in the Times about a middle/high school out in deep Brooklyn where the librarian had to space the books out on the shelves to make it look like they had more to choose from. We held a book drive for them and were able to deliver a couple thousand books to that school.

“We also put up an online wishlist. The circulation rate went up from something like 23 books taken out in the September before we helped, to 219 or something in the September after we helped. When I later went to the school to pick up “extras” that the library didn’t need, I decided instead that people had donated the books with that school in mind. I offered the books to a senior English class coming in for a session.

“The students yelped with delight, jumped up and down, hugged me, and carted away 19 boxes of great literature and nonfiction. The librarian said, “Can you believe this?”

What makes it even more astonishing is that when Biz went to a member of the Board of Education to try and get some funding — any funding — she was blown off with “Forget it. Kids don’t read.”

Since then, Biz and the others have stepped up their efforts.

“Another high school school in the Bronx had no library and now through ReadThis does. At an elementary school in the Bronx, where we delivered thousands of books (with the help of one of our 12-year-old members who held a bar mitzvah drive and collected about 2500 books), the principal teared up and put everyone who delivered them on their Wall of Heroes.”

According to the Daily News, as of a couple of years ago, 17,000 kids in the Bronx have no school libraries and Biz thinks the number is now substantially higher.

To help further the fight to get books in the hands of kids, Biz and company — along with the Center for Fiction — are turning Saturday April 10 into Books for NYC Schools Day, a full day of events with readings by Jamaica Kincaid, Sam Lipsyte, Rick Moody, Elizabeth Gilbert and others.

The price of admission is two books. And, if you’re like me — thousands of miles away and unable to attend — you can go here and make a donation online.

Clearly there are many great things about IPads, Kindles and the like…. there are also many great things about old fashioned printed books and until we can find a way to get a device to anyone who wants one, let’s remember the joy of discovering books the old fashioned way.

Is Pricing the Point?

In Entertainment, Technology on March 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm
SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 27:  Apple Inc. CEO St...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

So, here we are less than a week away from the arrival of the IPad and more details are beginning to come out, including details about what Apple’s bookstore will be charging.

When the IPad was introduced, Apple boss Steve Jobs seemed to tell Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal that when it came to pricing ebooks, his company would take advantage of publishers’ anger at Amazon, which was trying to drive prices down.

“Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon, because they’re not happy with them,” Jobs said.

Apple reached agreements with Hachette, HarperCollins, MacmIllan, Penguin and Simon and Schuster — five of the six largest publishers in the country; the company is still talking with Random House —  allowing the publishers to set the prices (believed to be from $12.99 to $14.00) with Apple taking a 30 percent commission.

Amazon, meanwhile, has clearly been taking the Apple threat seriously. Two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that Amazon “has threatened to stop directly selling the books of some publishers online unless they agree to a detailed list of concessions regarding the sale of electronic books.”

Well, it turns out that Amazon may have even more reason to worry.

The tech website Appadvice is reporting that despite all the talk of Apple sharing more, it appears not to be the case.

The site said they had seen a preview of Apple’s ibookstore and of the 32 books featured in The New York Times bestsellers list, 27 of them — including the entire top ten are priced at $9.99, the same as Amazon.

One thing that’s a little weird about appadvice.com’s report is that the screenshot they include lists the numbers 2-6 on the fiction list and numbers 1,11,12 and 15 on the nonfiction list… so something might be a little off.

Maybe part of the agreement with publishers calls for bestsellers being held at a certain price but allowing for more flexibility for backlist and other selections?

Also, pricing only seems to be part of the point as more and more books become available for Apple’s devices.

According to Mobclix, a mobile phone advertising company, books are now the most available items in the ITunes store — there are 27,237 book apps available compared to 25,238 games.

And then there’s what some publishers are doing to enhance what they are selling.

For instance, check out Enhanced Editions and what they are doing for books like Homicide: Life on the Killing Streets by David Simon and Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel.

And then there’s YouYube preview of some of what Penguin has planned.

It’s getting very interesting, very quickly.

As I said, less than a week until IPad.