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Posts Tagged ‘nook’

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.

Apple and Amazon Likely Winners in Price Wars

In Entertainment, Media, Technology on June 22, 2010 at 1:14 pm
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

As I wrote yesterday, Barnes and Noble introduced a new Wi-Fi only Nook and dropped the price on its 3G Nook, undercutting Amazon’s Kindle. As a result, Amazon then dropped the price of the Kindle, undercutting the Nook, if only by $10.

It’s a price war kind of started by Apple when it introduced its iPad.

The iPad, which is not cheap — priced between $499 and $699, started the war because suddenly everyone started questioning why they should be paying hundreds of dollars for devices that are pretty much just e-readers when for a bit more they can have something that does so much more.

By lowering the price of the Nook and the Kindle, Amazon and Barnes and Noble are conceding that point, admitting that while there are people who want to be able to carry large amounts of books with them and really focused on just reading, it’s probably not the majority.

Lowering the price brings the Kindle and Nook much closer to being a legitimate impulse buy.

But is it too little too late?

Barnes and Noble (and Borders, which is about to introduce its Kobo) is a great, old-fashioned, brick and mortar retailer. They’re not a technology company. So, while the Nook with its color screen and ability to lend books is a pretty good device, I can’t imagine they’re making a fortune from it or that they even think they’re going to make a fortune from it.

It seems that the world is moving more toward tablets that do more than just allow you to carry around the complete works of Stephen King, Larry McMurtry, John Updike and a dozen others.I think when it all shakes out, we’re going to see Apple and Amazon at the top of the pile.

Why? I’m not saying Nook and Kobo and the Sony Reader and these other devices won’t be around. I’m just thinking they won’t be playing at the same level as Amazon and Apple.

First, you have Amazon, which everyone already associates with online retailing, especially books. I mean, they weren’t the first but I bet if you ask most people they would guess Amazon was. Second, as I’ve pointed out before, Kindle isn’t just a device, it’s a software platform that operates on several devices.

And it’s actually a really good bit of software.

The funny thing is that while there’s a lot to be said for Kindle the device, it’s really hard to beat Kindle for the iPad when it comes to a pleasant reading experience (despite what Ray Kurzweil thinks).

I think Amazon’s too entrenched in the minds of people to go anywhere and the fact that their software works on several devices will keep them around for quite a while. At the same time, Apple keeps showing they’re building devices to lead the pack. And with the iPad, they’ve created a device that allows for designers to turn books into apps that are fun, creative, interactive (see Alice in Wonderland).

What about Apple’s online bookstore and software, iBooks? One, it’s good but not quite as good as Kindle and two, for now it only works on Apple devices, which limits its growth.

What could change that is if Apple decides to send iBooks out into the world the way did with iTunes, making it available for Windows devices.

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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Apple, Amazon and the Department of Justice

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm
Image representing iTunes as depicted in Crunc...

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The report from The New York Times that the Department of Justice is “examining Apple’s tactics in the market for digital music” is really about so much more than music.

While the probe seems to stem from “recent allegations that Apple used its dominant position to persuade music labels to refuse to give the online retailer Amazon.com exclusive access to music about to be released” and states that so far it’s been “broadly about the dynamics of selling music online,” it’s important to add a little context to the situation.

What’s come before and what could it mean in the future?

First, it’s important to keep in mind that even if Apple did what they’re being accused of, it’s not like this was the first shot in the war between the retailers.

As Apple got ready to unveil the iPad with its own way of selling books, the company was negotiating with publishers to allow them to sell books at different prices than Amazon was charging, which led to Amazon briefly refusing to sell books published by Macmillan.

That resulted in headlines like:

“Apple vs. Amazon: The Great E-book War has Already Begun” in Mashable;

and

Business Insider’s “The Apple-Amazon eBook War Begins”

and

“Amazon eBook Pricing Battle Gets Ugly” at The Millions.

And while Amazon eventually capitulated and started re-listing Macmillan’s titles, when they did so, they released a statement foreshadowing these new events.

“We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for ebooks,” read Amazon’s statement.

As The Guardian pointed out:

“Some publishers sensed Amazon gearing up for a legal fight with its use of the word “monopoly” in its response.

“I think they very specifically used that word,” said one source, “as a way of pointing out to regulators: ‘We wanted to sell ebooks for under $10 but there is a pact between publishers and Apple which has forced the price of ebooks.”

Which brings us to today and a look toward tomorrow.

There’s a lot of fighting going on… Apple vs. Android, Apple vs. Amazon — and yes, a lot of it involves Apple — but the fact is that companies are figuring out what they’re really good at and working on improving their market share.

At the same time that doesn’t mean competition isn’t still underway.

Amazon’s the dominant bookseller and the Kindle certainly has helped them. That hasn’t kept Apple from the iPad, Barnes and Noble from the Nook, Borders from the Kobo and so forth.

And Apple definitely leads the way in the music world with iTunes but that hasn’t stopped people — including Amazon — from competing.

Just last week was Google’s announcement they are working on bringing music to the Android marketplace in way that’s sure to make some Apple device owners drool.

So, what’s it all mean?

I suspect that as competition keeps heating up so will the complaints. In the end, though, I’m betting it’s unlikely the Justice Department gets too involved. Because once they do, where do they draw the line?

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.

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...

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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.

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.

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.

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.