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Posts Tagged ‘sony reader’

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.

Problems for Apple? Probably Not but…

In Entertainment, Technology on April 30, 2010 at 10:22 am
Apple Inc.

Image via Wikipedia

So, yesterday, I talked a bit about how there were some issues related to the availability of books on e-readers such as the IPad and the Kindle.

But, there was something that I overlooked.

Cory Doctorow, over at Publisher’s Weekly, has a different take on the situation, writing a column explaining why he won’t allow his books to be sold through Apple and why he thinks other authors should follow in his footsteps.

Doctorow, who is already on record stating he won’t buy an IPad in large part because of Apple’s restrictive policies about whether or not you can share your purchases with others (more often than not — you can’t), returns to that theme.

After pointing out that most pieces about the IPad “have been long on emotional raves about its beauty and ease of use, but have glossed over its competitive characteristics—or rather, its lack thereof” he suggests that writers tell Apple they can’t license their copyrights until they agree to allow people to share what they’ve bought.

“You shouldn’t take it from Apple, either, and that goes for Amazon and the Kindle, too,” he adds.

And he has a point. One of the great joys in reading a book is being able to say to someone, “Hey. You should read this” and then actually lend them the book.

I sort of can’t help but wonder if the e-reader conflict is going to turn into World Format War III (after VHS vs. Betamax and Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD).

While I wish Doctorow well, I suspect, sadly, there’s not going to be a lot of withholding going on. Just look at John Grisham who spoke passionately about the threat to bookstores posed by e-readers and refused to allow e-editions of his work but then caved after just a couple of months.

Meanwhile, Apple has an even bigger problem.

Jon Stewart.

It goes like this.

An Apple employee leaves his prototype of the new super-secret IPhone in a bar (sounds like the beginning of a very bad joke, which I guess it was for Apple), someone finds it, tries returning it to Apple, is rebuffed, so they offer it to techblog Gizmodo, which buys it, takes it apart, posts details about it and then, after Apple asks for it back, they give it back.

While it may not have been the most sound journalistic practice on Gizmodo’s part, it didn’t warrant what happened next, which was the cops busting down the door of the home of the Gizmodo editor who wrote the piece and seizing his computers.

On The Daily Show on Wednesday night, Stewart — a self=proclaimed long-time Apple user (as am I; I only wish the IPhone were available to Verizon so I can trade up my ITouch) — took them to task for becoming what they used to mock.

In the end, I suspect all the criticism in the world won’t really make all that much of a difference to Apple but it would be nice to think — especially today as Apple ships the latest iteration of the IPad (with WiFi and 3G) that Jobs is listening to all this and recognizes that as great as his devices are, there’s always room for improvement.

And the same goes for Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Sony and the others.

Maybe if there was a little less IPad vs. Kindle and a little more focus on the consumer, all would be good.

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.

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.

'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.