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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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September 2009
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Amazon Expands Their Private Label to Include Electronic Goods

Picture 3Amazon first gained notoriety as a bookseller, but soon became famous as the most prominent general online retailer.  On Amazon, someone can buy goods from a large array from companies: everything from iPods to T-Shirts.  But when it comes to products manufactured by Amazon themselves, the only product that readily comes to mind is the Kindle.

It looks like Amazon is planning to change this by selling a new line of electronic accessories under the name, “AmazonBasics.”  This isn’t the first time Amazon has created their own private label.  Amazon actually owns the Pinzon, Strathwood, Pike Street, and Denali brands.  This, however, marks an important move by Amazon in the electronics market and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they are now deciding to use the “Amazon” name outright.

The Kindle has been successful in sales, there’s no doubt about that, but it has been even more successful in garnering press for Amazon.  Even when the Kindle has had its share of controversy, the news covering it can’t be said to be a bad thing for the brand.  If nothing else, the Kindle has put Amazon in the public consciousness as a decent electronics manufacturer.  The reason why AmazonBasics now exists is probably directly related to the Kindle coming first.

I’m also hoping that first party Amazon gear will have a positive impact on the Kindle in the future.  Future eReader accessories could be created and sold under the AmazonBasics brand.  And while manufacturing of generic cables is most likely outsourced to another company, the line itself may help encourage a larger diversity of Amazon gadgets.  If the Apple Tablet is really the Kindle-killer we are supposed to believe, I don’t see any reason to keep Amazon from selling Amazon branded tablets or netbooks themselves to keep the Kindle platform going.

Refurbished Kindle 1 update

Amazon Kindle 1

Amazon Kindle 1

It looks like Amazon is currently sold out on refurbished first generation Kindles. If you follow this link, the only buy options are from third parties and the price is actually around $225.00. Refurbished Kindle 2 is still in stock however and you can get it from Amazon for $219.00 with warranty and all. Consider this an Amazon “certified pre-owned” program :)

I’ll periodically monitor refurbished Kindle stock status and will keep you updated.

Thanks to Jerry who pointed out the current stock change.

Apple iPod Touch 32GB outsells Kindle DX on Amazon

Apple iPod Touch 32GB

Apple iPod Touch 32GB

Take a look at the list of best selling products in electronics section on Amazon.com. As of recently 3rd generation Apple iPod Touch 32GB has climbed to the second place. Currently it is outsold only by Kindle 2 and is trailed by Kindle DX. This is interesting since Kindle has had prime advertising spot on Amazon.com homepage for quite some time now, while the Apple product generates sales only because of this popularity and the fact that Amazon sells it at $20.00 discount compared to the official Apple store and provides free shipping.

Technically it also can be considered Kindle related merchandize since it can run Kindle application that is available in Apple app store.

While it has been widely rumoured that Apple will release tablet PC type device that will compete with eBook readers, the fact that two companies cooperate this much indicate that Apple will not be competing with Amazon in this space. Just look at all the current news about Apple Google feud around Google voice application for iPhone. There’s clearly competition there and no cooperation at all.

What Needs To Be Changed In eBook Publishing

The Kindle is a great device.  It’s owners are by and large satisfied with their purchases and no one will argue that the Kindle makes eBook reading anything but a breeze.  But what about the eBooks themselves?  Is the format innovating at the same pace as the devices we read it on?

There’s a great Op-ed at Computer World about how eBook publishing could be improved.  It isn’t an attack on the Kindle, or other eReader devices, but more a critique on the eBook publishing industry.  The largest point of the article is that publishers should offer bundles where a customer can buy all versions of the book (physical, eReader, mobile phone, audio) for one discounted price.  The full list of suggestions is:

  1. Bundles of all book versions
  2. On the fly revisions/corrections to books
  3. Audio books that can be borrowed (Sony will be supporting loans of eBooks, but there is no word for the future of audio books)
  4. Social networks created around each book’s reader base
  5. Early release for the eBook edition
  6. Make audio books cheaper

I agree with these arguments for the most part, but I want to point out that Amazon already does some of this.  You can’t get audio books as part of a bundle,  but audio books have to go through a whole extra set of production in addition to the physical/digital versions.  Amazon does let you, however, buy books for the Kindle and then access the same books on your mobile phone.  Whispernet will even keep your current page number synced between devices, so transitioning back and forth is effortless.  Also, Kindle additions can have corrections made to them without buying a new edition.

I would however like to see some sort of digital tie in with physical book sales.  You can walk into a record store and buy a new album on vinyl, and half the time it will include a code to download a free digital version.  The music itself has already been paid for and the record label can eat the minuscule overhead that digital downloads add.  Why can’t Amazon throw in the Kindle version for free every time someone buys a physical book?  Not only would the cost to them be relatively small, but it would also encourage customers to take a closer look at eReader devices.

Kindle Version of The Lost Symbol is Outselling the Hardcover on Amazon

The Lost Symbol By Dan Brown Kindle vs. Hardcover

The Lost Symbol Bestseller

The Kindle edition of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol seems to be outselling the Hardcover edition of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol as was first discovered by Kindle Nation Daily. At the time I’m writing this, the Kindle version is still ahead on Amazon’s sales charts.

The main thing to take away from this is the growing power of the Kindle and other eReaders.  Having the Kindle sales best the physical sales is the latest step in publishing’s gradual move towards digital media.  If more books follow suit, and the gap between digital and hardcover sales widen, digital versions will slowly begin to take precedence over printed ones.  I’m going to guess that hardcovers will be the first victims of eBooks, eventually being limited to small, collector-oriented runs.

Of course, the Kindle edition’s success needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  Amazon sales charts are updated frequently, so whoever hasn’t necessarily sold more copies overall.  In this case, preorders for the hardcover started earlier than preorders for the eBook, somewhat skewing the results.  I’m not saying that this means the Kindle version didn’t sell more, but it is something to consider.  Also, hardcovers never sell anything close to paperback numbers, which may be much higher than the Kindle sales once they become widely available.

But, at least for now, the Kindle is dominating in the Amazon book store.

Another interesting thing about The Lost Symbol is that it has been made widely available by pirates in ePub and PDF forms. But this didn’t stop the eBook version from outselling the hardcover. This proves my point that people would follow the path of the least resistance. In the case of Kindle buying is easier than stealing so they buy. Back in the time of Audiogalaxy.com it was far easier to download the newly released album (without leaving your home) several days before it hit the stores (that you have to visit in person or wait for several more days before it’s delivered) so people pirated like crazy. Therefore the ease of purchase that is central to Amazon Kindle is the strongest form of DRM.

Google Releases a New News Reading Interface

Google Book Store

Google Book Store

Google has unveiled their newest addition to Google news: Fast Flip.  Fast Flip is really just a nice, snazzy interface to browse through Google news feeds, but the best way to describe it is to have you try it yourself.  So go ahead and check it out a bit before reading on.

Fast Flip seems like it’s trying to be the end-all solution for newspapers’ transition to digital.  Users can quickly browse and scan articles until they find something they want to read in depth, and then they can open the article itself.  It’s a perfect example of mimicking, and even improving, some aspects of the hand held tree paper experience.

Fast Flip has also been optimized for Android and the iPhone, which means that smart phone owners can comfortably browse their news on the go.  Google’s emphasis on mobile devices means that Fast Flip is, in a way, a competitor to current eReaders.  Instead of paying for a subscription to one newspaper and reading it on a device like the Kindle (or the Kindle iPhone app), many people may prefer the ability to skim across articles that Fast Flip provides.  Really, it’s this kind of interface innovation that is going to help newspapers stay afloat in the digital age and it’s now up to the eReaders to respond.  Some sort of application like this on a Kindle DX would be a killer news app.  Sure, the slow refresh rate of eInk would mean no fancy transitions, but a sampling of articles across that huge screen would help close the gap between digital and print news.  Let’s hope Amazon can produce something like this with the next generation of Kindles.

Price drop on refurbished Kindle

Amazon Kindle 1

Amazon Kindle 1

Recently Amazon dropped the price on refurbished first generation Kindles. You can now get one for $149 .00 while supplies last. It looks like Amazon is trying to stay competitive in the cheaper eReader niche. Don’t let the word “refurbished” set you off. In my opinion it is a great deal. Here’s why:

  • You still get 1 year warranty from Amazon just like with new Kindle. In one year from now Amazon will likely be out of 1st generation Kindles so warranty exchange will very likely become an upgrade.
  • You get same scree resolution as Kindle 2, fewer shades of gray but better contrast according to many users.
  • By spending additional $9.90 on 4GB SD card you will get more on-device storage than in Kindle DX.
  • Not that it would matter, given that K1 just like all other Kindles has free lifetime Internet access.
  • Personally I like select wheel and cursor bar of K1 better than 5-way controller of K2.

All in all just like Kindle DX isn’t better or upgraded compared to Kindle 2, Kindle 1 is more different from Kindle 2 rather than inferior or outdated. The only real drawback of K1 I can honestly admit is that page turning buttons are too soft and therefore are prone to be accidentally pressed when you pick up the device. However if you strongly feel that Kindle 2 is the way to go for you, then by adding $70.00 you can get refurbished Kindle 2 for $219.00.

eBook reader market has come a long way since originally Amazon Kindle retailed for $399.00 when it was launched two years ago. Now you can get the same device for nearly 1/3 of that price.

New Cool-er Reader on the Way

There’s a new Cool-er Reader coming, and it’s supposed to give Amazon a run for its money.  According to the Mirror, the new device will not only have wireless, but also a full color screen.  And possibly a touchscreen.  All from a company that has made a profit selling budget eReaders.

Further details won’t be released until CES in January, but I have a feeling that any rumors surrounding the device are way overblown.  If the new device is still in the budget range and does feature everything its supposed to, then it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it a Kindle killer.  But I’m not sure how Interead could possibly pack in more features than the Kindle and still beat the Kindle on price.

It is possible that Interead is planning something that isn’t an eInk device at all, but something with LCD.  Of course, that would stretch the definition of eReader since the device would feel like a tablet PC with most its features missing.  I could be wrong though, and it might be possible that Interead comes out with something that is a mind blowing success.  Especially now that Coolerbooks has gained additional support from Google.

If Interead is planning a color eInk device, then Amazon may also have a color Kindle around the corner.  Amazon has been waiting on color because the quality of color displays from E-Ink Corporation isn’t up to their standards.  Since everyone is basically using the same E-Ink technology, if one company can do color others probably can too.

Time Inc. Creating Their Own eReader?

According to a leaked internal document, Time Inc. may release their own eReader device.  Consumers would be able to buy subscriptions to Time publications (such as Time, Sports Illustrated, and People) in bundles that would be delivered to the device together.  Time’s plans also mention the strategy of forming a joint venture with other companies to share the new platform.

Besides the bundling of subscriptions, and a desire to create a “consumer-facing brand” for the gadget, it’s not really clear what the marketing strategy will be.  If Time tries to sell the device for super cheap, or even give it a way for free, they will need to rely on a surge of subscriptions due to the ease of “bundling.”  If the device is too expensive, people either won’t be convinced to switch to eInk or they will choose a more general device like the Kindle.

Speaking of which, Time magazine is already available on the Kindle.  Since eReaders are already available that offer magazine subscriptions, anything produced by Time will need to find a way to compete against Amazon.  A full color reader that completely mimicked a real magazine could be successful, but I’m not sure how they could keep the price of the device low enough.  Nobody will shell big bucks for something that is limited to only a handful of magazines.

August 2009 Summary

It’s time to publish previous month stats and summaries again.

Kindle book count had several ups and downs during the month of August, finally settling at 349,610 (just 390 books shy of 350K) for an overall increase of 13,713 that translates to 442 books per day on average. This is 3 times lower than previous month gain, in fact this is the slowest growth I’ve observed since I’ve started counting Kindle books this year. I hope Amazon will pick up it’s pace or my book count predictions might be off. If I were to speculate, I would guess that Amazon is periodically prunning self-published books to avoid incidents similar to the one with Orwell books.

Kindle Book Count August 2009

Kindle Book Count August 2009

Kindle blogs, on the other hand, saw a healthy increase of 807 (almost twice as many as in July) ending at 7,171. This is 26 new blogs per day on average. Although if you look at the chart you can see that majority of the blogs were added on the 12th. If I were to speculate again I would guess that Amazon was holding off on approving blogs until they’ve internally decided on some kind of policy. Either that ot they’ve struck some kind of wholesale deal with some blog mogul.

Kindle Blog Count August 2009

Kindle Blog Count August 2009

And now a brief recoup of August 2009 Kindle news: