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On e-Reader Tech News we track down the latest e-Reader news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great e-reader tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest devices and accessories.

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August 2009
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Dealing With a Stolen Kindle

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 is Also Releasing an eReader

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.

David Byrne Reviews the Kindle DX

David Byrne

David Byrne

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.

iRex Reader Will Also Use Barnes & Noble’s Platform

bandnIt 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.

Modding the Kindle For European Wireless

from iKindle3GS.EU

from iKindle3GS.EU

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.

Kindle May Have Newspaper Trouble in Australia

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.

Sheet Music on the Kindle

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.

Digital Textbooks Continue to be Implemented at More Colleges

fwkFlat 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.

Using text files from lib.ru etc made easier and more

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.

How Green is the Kindle?

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:

kindleenvironmentalreport2