Ars Technica has an article about how Amazon deals with stolen Kindles. Apparently, if you contact Amazon about a Kindle that has been stolen, they will de-register your account from the device. What they can’t do, however, is locate it or send a signal to kill or wipe the device.
It’s not entirely clear why Amazon can’t do this. After all, the Kindle is connected to a cellular network and Amazon is able to take control, at least somewhat, of the device if they want to. Amazon did say that Sprint may have some options available, and that they will “respond to appropriate requests for information from law enforcement officials.”
The article argues that it wouldn’t be very difficult for Amazon to add some sort of options for those who have had their Kindles stolen. Many other devices can be remotely wiped clean if the owner wishes, why couldn’t Amazon do the same? As eReaders become more widespread, more Kindles will have sensitive documents stored on them. If the Kindle was open for installing third party software, someone could easily provide this functionality. Now, it seems to be up to hackers to add this functionality.
Asus has announced plans to release their own eReader device. Details are scarce at the moment, but the reader will be part of the eee line and will, at the earliest, come out late this year.
So far, there doesn’t seem to be anything to indicate that Asus will be able to compete with the Kindle. But they do have one thing going for them: brand recognition. Asus has been one of the leaders in netbooks with their eee PC. By making a reader that belongs to the same family as their successful netbooks, there is some chance of brand loyalty coming into play.
Really though, I don’t know how Asus is planning to be competitive. They are, at best, a late entry into the eReader market. It is possible that they will offer some sort of well designed content delivery system, but will it make a difference if whispernet has been around for so much longer? There best bet would probably be to latch onto Barnes and Noble’s store, where Asus would only have to focus on hardware. Maybe when more details become public, we’ll have a better idea of how this will play out.
Reviews for the Kindle seem to pop up from some of the most unexpected people. One new response to the Kindle DX comes from David Byrne, the front man of the legendary Talking Heads (and one half of the duo responsible for last years phenomenal Everything That Happens Will Happen Today). It might seem a little odd to hear gadget commentary from Byrne, but when you’re a world famous performer you do a lot of traveling. The Kindle DX simply seemed like the ideal traveler’s accessory.
His review is for the most part positive. Byrne likens the Kindle’s screen to the same quality as a black and white newspaper and perfectly suited for reading. He raves about magazines on the device and how he can read the New Yorker without ads and with the latest issue wirelessly appearing on his Kindle. Byrne does have a few gripes about Amazon’s proprietary format, however, and takes some time in his review to decry how closed off the platform is and his overall disapproval of DRM.
More interesting is his speculation for the Kindle’s future. Byrne predicts that it won’t be long before the format is broken open and future of digital book publishing will involve formats with less DRM restrictions or none at all just as it happened with digital music market with Apple, Microsoft and Amazon selling DRM-free MP3 files.
It looks like Plastic Logic won’t be only company taking advantage of Barnes & Noble’s online book store. iRex Technologies has announced that their upcoming device will also be able to download Barnes & Noble books over 3G wireless.
This is big news for both iRex and Barnes & Noble. News of the new iRex reader has been taken with a grain of salt, due to the company’s so-so track record. By gaining a huge library of books to back up their 3G capabilities, the new iRex reader gains some extra credence. But Barnes & Noble is an even bigger winner in this case. Their store is set up to more or less mimic the Kindle platform. Up until now, Barnes & Noble was betting on the Plastic Logic Reader to help them compete with Amazon. With the iRex reader, things are different now. Barnes & Noble is still competing with the Kindle, but instead of manufacturing their own device they are letting their customers choose from a handful of eReaders from competing companies.
If more readers are added to Barnes & Noble’s platform, they could prove successful in luring customers away from Amazon. Right now, however, I don’t think Amazon needs to be too worried. With both the Kindle and the Kindle DX, Amazon is offering just as wide an array of devices as Barnes & Noble is.
iReaderReview reports interesting piece of news. Someone has started a project to hack the Kindle for use with European wireless networks. It looks like they’ve already managed to switch the modem and add a SIM card, but haven’t yet figured out the software end of the mod.
If you want to make your Kindle’s hardware compatible with European networks, the process seems fairly straightforward. Just take the device apart, add the above mentioned pieces to the puzzle, and zip it back up. But be warned: you won’t actually be able to use wireless until someone releases the requisite software hack.
A fun fact from the project: the hardware is designed in a way that adding your own SIM card is ridiculously easy. Some would even argue that the Kindle was actually meant to be modded for Europe. I find it unlikely that Amazon had hackers in mind, but they probably did design the device with Europe somewhat in mind. Once the Kindle does hit Europe, the hardware will be more or less ready to go without any real changes in the manufacturing process.
Fairfax Media, one of Australia’s large media companies, has rejected the Kindle and decided to look elsewhere for e-delivery. Even worse for Amazon, this announcement comes on the heels of another Australian Media company’s public dissatisfaction with the Kindle. Rupert Murdoch has voiced his concern over Amazon’s business model, and it seems that News Corporation will simply skip the Kindle with its Australian holdings.
As the eReader market grows in Australia, it looks like electronic newspaper subscriptions will follow a more traditional model where subscribes subscribe from the newspaper itself. But since newspapers are only a fraction of the Kindle’s revenue, I can’t imagine that this news alone will stop the Kindle from breaking into the Australian market. First and foremost, the Kindle platform is an entertainment medium designed to work off of Amazon’s existing status as a leading book retailer. Being able to read newspapers and periodicals is a nice feature, but books remains the Kindle’s strong suit.
Even if some of the major papers bail on the Kindle, the device will have popularity with those who like to read. If other online publishers take off in a way that could hurt the Kindle, Amazon needs to merely allow their device to read other formats. They might not take a cut of the sales, but their are plenty of other revenue streams for Amazon.
The Kindle DX has a nice, big screen. For the most part, the extra large screen is used to make newspapers and magazines easier to read. But one of the cooler applications that Amazon offers is the ability to buy sheet music.
Amazon sells sheet music from the catalog of Novato Music Press. While reading on a Kindle 2 is made a little difficult by the smaller screen, the Kindle DX does a great job of displaying full pages of music. Plus, sheet music on the Kindle store is cheap: individual pieces can be as little as about $1.50. The only real downside is the hassle of refreshing the Kindle whenever you need to turn the page, but this isn’t that different than regular sheet music.
Are there any musicians who read this blog? Have you tried reading sheet music off of the Kindle? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Flat World Knowledge, a provider of cheap digital textbooks, has grown dramatically over the summer. This fall semester, over 40,000 college students will use Flat World’s textbooks. This is 40 times as many people as in the last spring semester.
This is cool for a number of reasons. First of all, Flat World’s text books are super cheap. To read the book in a web browser is free. Most students, however, are willing to pay the $20 upgrade to receive DRM free PDF files. And if a student really hates digital media, there is still the option to pay even more for a physical copy. There isn’t any real downside for the students who have Flat World textbooks assigned in their classes.
The second reason why I like this story is that it means more professors are choosing digital formats for their classes. This is a conscious decision on the part of the teachers to provide students with a more convenient and much cheaper alternative to traditional textbooks.
Students who own the Kindle DX, or other eReaders, are going to especially benefit from this. Since the files come in PDF format, there is no reason why they couldn’t be put on a DX. Even better, Flat World plans to add the Amazon format to their library this year. It shouldn’t be long before students can download their books cheaply, over Whispernet, and (since the books are available in multiple formats) no worries about accessibility.
I’ve published the script that I’ve been using personally for quite some time to make plain text files that were preformatted to specific page width nicely reflowable on Kindle and other eBook readers (I’ve tested it with Sony PRS-505). It can also strip any HTML tags and convert between character encodings.
This should make downloading books from websites like lib.ru and gutenberg.org easier for some for some people. More information about how to use the tool as well as download link can be found here.
I’ve also created a summary page for all Kindle hacks and tools that I currently know of. Feel free to let me know if some information needs to be added to updated.
Pretty green, according to a new report by the Cleantech Group. For every Kindle currently in use, there are about 22.5 less books that are sold each year. In terms of carbon emissions, this should be a saving of something around 168 kg of CO2.
Of course, what really matters is whether the Kindle’s savings offset the carbon used to manufacture one. Luckily, according to the report, it only takes one year of use for a Kindle to make up any emissions from the manufacturing process. This also takes into account the electricity used to run the device; the highly efficient eInk display keeps the energy usage of the Kindle to a minimum. The best part is that Cleantech’s findings show that even if a user continually upgrades to newer models, they only need to use each Kindle for a year to have a positive impact on the environment.
This is all great news for eReader users. I can imagine that as public schools and business start using eReaders (replacing tons of paper documents/textbooks) these savings should really skyrocket. One of the coolest parts of the report is how the savings drastically increase with the increase in eReaders. By 2012, the number of eReaders in circulation will be so far past the number being produced that the reduce in emissions will be drastic. Check out the following projections from Cleantech:
Author Carolyn Rubenstein is giving away free Kindles to Twitter users who promote her book. The book, Perseverance, is a collection of narratives from young cancer survivors. In an effort to promote the book’s release, Rubenstein is giving away a Kindle a day through Friday. If you want to enter the drawing, all you need to do is send out a tweet with the topic “#perseverance” included. The idea is that enough people will be interested in winning Kindles that #perseverance will become a trending topic.
For those of you who aren’t Twitter users, “trending topics” are the most popular subjects being tweeted at any given time. These topics show up in a side panel that all Twitter users see, so if the contest becomes popular enough it will mean a lot of free advertising for Perseverance.
The whole concept of the promotion banks on the idea that enough people want a free Kindle to dominate twitter. So far, it doesn’t seem like the contest has been quite the success Rubenstein was hoping. I wouldn’t blame this on a lack of demand for the Kindle. I have no doubt that people would be interested in this contest, but that there hasn’t been enough promotion of the contest itself. If you are looking to get a Kindle, I would recommend taking advantage of this contest before more people hop on board.
Now would also be a good time to remind you of BlogKindle’s Twitter account. Also, don’t forget that you can keep up to date with the latest tweets on the Kindle itself.
Busted Typewriter is selling a collection of hollowed out books as hidden compartments, including snug cases for the Kindle and Kindle DX. This is pretty nifty to way to read your Kindle while still retaining some of the look and feel of traditional books. But, according to the creator, this case goes beyond aesthetics to provide a number of benefits:
Love your Kindle but miss the feel of holding a real book?
Tired of strangers asking about it while you’re trying to read?
Paranoid that neo-luddite publishing loyalists keep giving you dirty looks?
Perhaps you’ll enjoy carrying your Kindle hidden inside an old book.
All of the books/containers can be bought off of Busted Typewriter’s Etsy page. If you find the price of $25 (plus $5 shipping) a little too steep but still like the idea, you could probably try making one yourself. It shouldn’t be too difficult to hollow out a book and glue the pages together. As for materials, I can’t imagine that a used copy of Spa Food would be super expensive.
One of the recent major developments in the eReader market is Sony’s announcement that they will be fully adopting the ePub standard. Sony plans to completely abandon their own, proprietary format in what seems to be a concerted effort to dethrone the Kindle. Selling books in ePub won’t necessarily help the Sony Reader, but it will open the store to owners of, say, the COOL-ER Reader. Likewise, Sony Reader owners would realize that other ePub stores, such as Google Books, would be just as compatible with their device.
Some analysts think that this is the best way to pull Amazon from the top of the eReader market. If the market is filled with similar devices that all buy materials from the same, varied selection of online stores, Amazon stands out as the only company with such tight restrictions. There won’t necessarily be another device that leads the market in the way the Kindle has, but other companies will be free to compete without automatically riding Amazon’s coattails. Past controversies surrounding the Kindle would make it seem even more unfavorable compared to the less restrictive ePub readers.
If widespread adaption of ePub does kill the Kindle, it would lead to an interesting eBook market. Consumers would all pick a device based off of personal preference/budget. After that, shopping for a book would be like the digital equivalent of today’s brick and mortar stores. If you want a specific book, you would shop around between various large and independent bookstores.
Of course, the Kindle wouldn’t really be killed. Amazon would simply make it another ePub reader. It could be killed, however, in the sense that it would no longer have the distinction that sets it apart from other readers.
Let’s have a small poll about Kindle DRM restrictions. Feel free to respond in the comments as well.
It took me a bit longer than usual to come up with the summary but here goes…
Kindle book count increased 41,016 (13.8%) in the month of July with final count being 335,897. Notice odd fluctuations between the 9th and 14th. Perhaps some publisher couldn’t make up their mind… Besides that book growth was linear at about 1,300 books per day.
Kindle Book Count July 2009
As for Kindle blogs, there were 445 (7.5%) new blogs in July with final count being 6,364. It looks like bloggers are loosing interest in Amazon Kindle as publishing blog platform. The growth was linear with a rate of 14 new blogs per day. As for BlogKindle.com, it more than doubled its number of Kindle subscribers.
Kindle Blog Count July 2009
Since there were no major changes in subject disstibution compared to June 2009, I’m going to skip these charts this month.
Here’s a scoop of what happened in July 2009:
Since I’m currently travelling in the UK for more than a month already, I have Wireless turned off on both Kindle 2 and Kindle DX that I have. After a month of moderate reading while Kindle was getting an occasional small charge only when I connected it to the computer to sync new content battery indicators on both K2 and DX were showing roughly 75% battery capacity.
My original intent was to wait some more and then make a post about how great Kindle battery life is if you turn off the wireless. However before I could do that, interesting thing happened. When my wife turned on her K2 the charge indicator jumped from 75% to “critical low” (battery icon with exclamation mark). Kindle had to be charged. In a couple of days exactly the same thing happened to my Kindle DX.
This happened about one month after devices were fully changed. What is interesting that although my wife read roughly 3 times as many pages as I did, batteries in our devices ran out at about the same time. So it looks like it was more related to idle time rather than usage.
Amazon’s official stance is that with wireless turned off Kindle should go around 2 weeks without a charge depending on the usage. Ours lasted twice as long. However what’s more interesting is the way charge suddenly dropped to zero. Something you should keep in mind if you intend to take your Kindle somewhere without electricity for long time.
I’m interested if anyone has observed similar strange behaviour?
iRex was one of the earlier entrants in the eReader market, mainly known for the not super successful iLiad. While most of iRex’s earlier devices were overly expensive high-end readers, their newest product appears to be a bit more consumer-oriented.
The screen size is 8.1 inches, making the new reader a sort of one size fits all between the Kindle 2 and the Kindle DX. The biggest new feature is 3G, but no details have been revealed yet about what carrier iRex will be associated with. For that matter, there isn’t very many details about the device in general. The image above is only a mockup, it could all be smoke and mirrors as far as we know. There also is supposed to be some tie in with an eBook distributor, but details are forthcoming.
Older models from iRex never really met the expectation’s that were raised for them. I’m going to take this speculation with a grain of salt and just wait and see.
||New iRex Reader
| Touch Screen
Have you already gone through everything on your Kindle? Don’t know how to fill up that 2 gigabytes (or the whopping 4 on DX)? Let The Book Seer come to the rescue!
The Book Seer is really just a combination of several recommendation engines, including Amazon’s. Sure, you could just let Amazon give you their recommendations, but you would lose out on the dramatic presentation and woodcut graphics. Plus, the Book Seer gives you a lot more results than just Amazon’s suggestions alone. It’s also kind of interesting to see how Amazon’s recommendation algorithm compares to the others.
At the very least, The Book Seer will provide you with a time waster for a couple minutes.
I haven’t posted on of those in a while…
I’ve found some bugs on Kindle 2… some lady bugs :)
Kindle 2 Bugs
ZDNet has posted an article about the benefits of an eReader in a business environment. The gradual inclusion of eReaders in a more corporate environment has been discussed on this blog before and I think it is an important issue for the future of digital readers.
The 10 reasons listed are as follows:
- Cost Savings
- Greener Business
- Space Savings
- More Efficient Workers
- Increased Professionalism
- Staying in the Know
- Higher Morale
- More Documentation on Hand
- Reduced Eye Strain
- In-House Publications
Right now, the most successful eReaders are devices like the Kindle which target a consumer audience. This could easily change, however. While someone’s decision to use an eReader at home is based on personal preference, a business could see very tangible benefits in adopting the technology. Plus, as businesses start to use eReaders, it could very likely bolster the entire eReader market. Someone who is used to using a Kindle at work is more likely to buy one for at home. There is a good chance that corporate environments could someday be at the forefront of eReader adoption.
I’ve been traveling in the UK for over a month now. One major pain point I encountered with Kindle is downloading periodicals and books to the device without WhisperNet connctivity. It’s one thing when you are in the US, you click on a book and within a minute or two it appears on your Kindle. However if you have to get the file on the device manually, number of clicks increases. As for periodicals, you actually have to manually download it to the device every day. It’s almost as if you had to go to the store for your newspapers rather than have it delivered by subscription.
Being lazy as I am, I put together some scripts that automatically login to amazon.com, check for new content and download it to folder on my PC. Once I connect my Kindle it is automatically synced with the device.
I realized that this software might be useful even for people who don’t travel abroad:
- Maybe you don’t have Sprint WhisperNet connectivity in your area
- Or you would like to automatically back up all the digital content you purchase from Amazon
- Or you want to improve battery life by turning the 3G radio off in Kindle and dock it instead.
I can’t release these scripts to the public right now for a couple of reasons:
- They are very crude and are not meant to be used by anyone but me right now. They even have my amazon.com login information hard-coded into them.
- They might be considered to be a violation of amazon.com EULA since they can be considered to be a “robot accessing the website”
All this can be fixed. However before investing some effort in making this software usable and getting the OK from Amazon I would like to know if anyone would be interested in this stuff and actually use it. If I see enough interest in the project I’ll release it to the public freely and open-source it if there will be no objections from Amazon.
Please respond in the poll below or in the comments.
Rupert Murdoch, as the head of the crazy huge News Corporation, has threatened to take his publications off of the Kindle. Since News Corporation owns many major newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal and The Times, this could have a devastating effect on the Kindle, especially as it moves into more countries.
The disagreement seems to be over revenue. It looks like Amazon takes a higher percentage of the sales than Murdoch would like. But it also seems like Murdoch just isn’t happy with the general business model. He’s angry that Amazon won’t release the customers’ names because “Kindle treats them as their subscribers, not as ours.” News Corporation is also currently negotiating with Sony to put their content on the Sony Reader.
To me, this just seems as if it’s Murdoch simply trying to show some muscle. Right now, News Corporation’s main asset on the Kindle is the Wall Street Journal: a publication that is essential to many involved in business. Threatening to put the Wall Street Journal exclusively on the Sony Reader is the same thing as threatening to take away a large demographic with tons of disposable income. Apparently, Murdoch wants to bully Amazon until they agree to distribute content on exactly his terms.
Amazon may be forced to bow to News Corporation on this issue. But if they decide to create a special agreement specifically for this publisher, it could open up the floodgates. I could see other major media conglomerates trying to negotiate their individual revenue cuts, and threatening to take away vast swaths of content if they don’t get their way.
Kindle DX Package
After a little bit over a month of being on back order, Kindle DX can be purchased with same day shipping again. Either Amazon has ramped up their manufacturing or the peak of initial demand has been satisfied already. However back-to-school shopping might kick in any time now…
Sony is releasing two new Sony Readers this month. Both are essentially variations on Sony’s present eReader: the Reader Pocket Edition and the Reader Touch Edition.
For the most part the new devices are what you expect from the Sony Reader. There’s no wireless and the storage is small, but you can use an SD Card or Memory Stick. The devices are meant for use with the Sony bookstore (now lowering prices to match Amazon), but they are more open than the Kindle and support the ePub format.
The Reader Touch is the same size and price as a Kindle 2, but trades in the wireless capabilities for a touchscreen. Touch gestures are used for turning pages, writing on a virtual keyboard, and navigation. For a customer choosing between the Reader Touch and a Kindle, it would basically amount to how much they wanted the touch screen.
The Reader Pocket has, I think, a much higher potential to steal away Kindle customers. The screen is only 5 inches, but Sony has priced the device at a competitive $199. Filling the niche of a budget, entry-level reader, the Reader Pocket could definitely reach at to those who haven’t yet considered buying an eReader.
Here are how the devices stack up to the Kindle:
Scientists have developed an incredibly cheap method to build an electronic display. They made it out of electric wiring, paper, and the thermochromic ink found in mood rings. The result is a foldable, color-changing display.
There isn’t really any major technological developments involved. The ink changes color depending on its temperature. By evenly layering the ink across paper, and adjusting the ink’s temperature via various electric voltages, the appearance of the paper can be altered.
At the moment, this is really just a proof of concept. It’s planned use is for integrated displays in affordable scientific tools, such as a water tester. But what if the technology was refined and used as a cheaper alternative to an E-Ink display? A fine tuned electric grid placed across a thermochromic surface could create a durable, relatively inexpensive, dynamic display. The refresh rate wouldn’t be fast enough to be a computer monitor, but it could work as an eReader.
Such an application is probably unlikely due to the long head start of eInk technology, but display is fairly cool nonetheless. If you want, you can try to build one yourself, but I’ll warn you that the paper can get a bit technical.
Amazon has made a name for itself as a leader in online retail. It’s only fitting that when they developed the Kindle, they would use their existing marketplace to sell the device. The Kindle has no doubt been very successful at penetrating the eReader market, but a new report from Forrester Research suggests that Amazon’s online home may cripple Kindle sales in the future.
Forrester argues that the Kindles success thus far has been due to the consuming practices of early adopters. eReaders are still in relative infancy and have yet to be accepted by the world at large. Consumes who have bought readers are those who jump onto the newest technology, a group that is already prone to do much of its shopping online.
The next big wave of eReader purchases, according to Forrester, isn’t going to come from people who are less likely to do the majority of their shopping online. If Amazon doesn’t start putting the Kindle in more traditional retail outlets, their lead in the eReader market could dwindle.
I think the report does have a point. When someone walks into a Borders store, they see a Sony Reader on display. Soon, Barnes & Noble stores will be showcasing display units of the Plastic Logic Reader. With the Kindle being sold only on Amazon.com, it’s impossible for a potential customer to simply stumble upon a display model. Think of your mother buying an eReader and you will see what kind of a difference this makes.
I’ve already pointed out in the past that airports may be a great place to sell Kindles as you can immediately start downloading books to read for your journey.