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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December 2009
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Plastic Logic Goes After The Business Users With QUE

Plastic-Logic-QUE-proReaderPlastic Logic has decided that making a general eBook reader will simply not cut it anymore and they are quite right in thinking that too. So they have announced that their eBook reader, called QUE, will be the world’s first “proReader”. What that they mean by that is what many company’s mean when they proudly mention attach the ‘pro’ prefix to their products — it’s meant for business. So what does it have that the Kindle or the Nook doesn’t?

Well, the details are scanty on this one because the company is not letting things out of the bag yet but we do know that it will support multiple file formats that are usually required by business users. So it will be able to read (and display) PDF, PowerPoint, Word and Excel format — yes, they actually deliver on what they are promising. I mean at least where proper business format file support is concerned.

The company also promises a user interface that is as intuitive as “paper and ink”. Now that’s a tall claim but for a device with the largest touchscreen available in the market, it would be a shame for it not to have a great touch based UI. So let’s hope for the best.

Plastif Logic is going to compete directly with the Kindle readers with the QUE and a store that will be powered by Barnes and Noble. The QUE measures 8.5”x11.6” and is apparently just 1/3 of an inch thick. Now that sounds good. However, we will have to see this device to know exactly how good it is in person. A lot of things sound brilliant on paper but turn to be huge disappointments in person.

Entourage eDGe Gets Video Hands on

As time wears on, Entourage is getting closer and closer to finally releasing its Edge ‘dualbook’ device. This dual screen (eInk + LCD touchscreen) toting device has really gotten everybody’s attention. This device is part reader like a Kindle with a touchscreen and part Internet tablet like so many that are in the pipeline. The whole thing is powered by Android and is sounds like an extremely versatile convergent device on paper.

We have posted about this device earlier on this blog. This time the reason is a hands on video with what looks like a prototype of the model that has gone into production. The early prototype that was doing its rounds of the trade shows, was a much bulkier version of what we are looking at now. There is of course news of the device being much smoother, polished and sleeker as it comes out of the production line. But this video, courtesy cnet, gives us a sneak preview of the device.

From the video, it is quite apparent that the developers have corrected the glitches that were very obviously there on the first prototype. The touchscreen behaves very well in this video and the eInk screen reacts very well to the stylus. The time for an image to get projected from the reader screen to the LCD screen makes it look like it is lagging or it could simply be a thing about the video showing the LCD screen after the image has appeared.

Over all, the new version is as sleek as the dummy models that were on display and the Android OS inside it looks pretty nifty too. If it works as well as we think it does, this could spark a whole new line of ‘Dualbooks’ in the market. There’s no denying that many of us are carrying around a netbook and a reader, wishing there was one device that gave the advantages of both. We just have to see if it poses a threat to the current market topper — the Kindle.

Borders Makes Kobo eBook Store

Kobo's service is currently online at kobobooks.com

Kobo's service is currently online at kobobooks.com

Borders, in association with the Canadian publishing company called Kobo, has become the latest company to venture into the world of eBooks. This includes both reader devices and the selling of eBooks through an online store. Although a Borders spokesperson has clarified that Borders will not be involved in the reader devices and they might not carry the devices being developed at the moment. Borders thus constitutes a growing number of competitors for the Kindle and hence for Amazon’s burgeoning eBook business. Of course, it is no secret that the market is expected to explode sometime soon. So even though companies like these are late into the game, they are still entering the market at a nascent stage.

Sure, it would be pretty interesting to see what the devices are going to be like but Borders’ intention to make the platform completely open is even more interesting. It seems like the Borders and Kobo initiative will try to please as many people as they possibly can. And by that I mean that the service will support multiple devices and will be completely platform agnostic.

According to the Chief of Indigo Books & Music (the company behind Kobo), the idea is to free the user from obligations to only one device. Once they buy something from Kobo, they will be able to read it on their readers, their iPhones, their Blackberries and anywhere else that supports eBooks. The service will be based on the open ePub publishing standard, which is already supported in nearly every reader that is there in the market right now. They intend to offer free eBooks from the Internet, as well as paid for eBooks that will start from around $10. They are looking to target light readers who “buy a couple a books a year”.

Foxit Makes Online Store For Its Readers

500x_eslickreaderOf course, everyone is jumping into the eBook thing. And that too before Apple arrives with their market altering tablet and makes everyone feel like they need to go back to the drawing board. So in an attempt to be all ‘me too’, Foxit has made its own eBook store. I just hope they don’t think that they can take on the Nook or the Kindle with this. It’s just not happening.
Foxit has its own eBook readers eSlick and they are actually pretty handy. The devices have recently been updated to support ePub and eReader. It already supported PDF and TXT, so now it is a well-rounded reader in terms of formats. I also like the fact that it started with PDF support built in. We all know by now how important that is.
This new store from Foxit offers over 60,000 titles to its customers. That is pretty nice on paper but when you realize that industry juggernauts like Barnes and Noble are in the game as well, you know that this store from a relatively small company is can’t be all that big a deal. And it actually isn’t. The major titles that you get on the Whispernet and on B&N’s store will probably not appear in this store soon enough for eSlick readers to choose  this store over the other two that I mentioned.
But hey, more competition is always a good thing for the end users. There’s always more innovation and better prices in a market that is stuffed to the gills with products. Look at the mp3 player market for instance. No matter what your budget and needs, there’s one for you somewhere in the world. The direct relationship between price and quality will always be there but you can still get a 16GB player for around $50 if you look hard enough. So here’s to a better eBook future.

Interead’s new 3G Reader

Image From Interead

Image From Interead

Interead is the startup company behind the fun-loving and simple Cool-er eBook reader. It it is no competition to the big wigs like the Sony readers, Kindle or even Nook but it is simple and relatively cheaper eBook reader that does the basic things.
The Cool-er hasn’t been all that popular and that is mainly because it is a first generation device and simply needed time to mature. The UI, the layout of the current model need changing but the menu system has been deemed alright by those who have used it. These things are still small compared to the lack of WiFi on the current model. This is exactly what is about to change on the Cool-er come 2010.
There were already rumors about a new Cool-er emerging early next year and the CEO had hinted at a color touchscreen enabled phone too. For now at least, the company has confirmed that there is a new Cool-er in the works and it will have 3G connectivity for wireless access to content wherever you are.
The company has apparently tied up with AT&T for this. Hopefully the device will also have improvements to the layout and the the UI as well. There have been no images of the new device in circulation, so we are unsure about all the cosmetic changes that the device will surely go through. Still, if Interead is serious about making the Cool-er the ‘iPod’ of the eBook Readers, it has to be a lot more user friendly.
This is just an upgrade to the Cool-er reader. The color touchscreen reader is probably still in the works.

Barnes And Noble Nook Reviews


Barnes And Noble has finally started shipping out the Nook, so at least the early birds will be using their brand new Android based eBook reader over Christmas. The rest of you can get a Kindle for Christmas. So what is the Nook user experience be like? Not too great, judging from the reviews.

It seems like Barnes and Noble is facing what most companies face when launching a new product — the hiccups associated with a first generation device. There’s always a rush to get the thing out of the door and you know that things have been rushed along. After all, the research lab and the marketing wing has never seen eye to eye on almost any issue for all of corporate business history.

So there are features that are missing from the Nook that would likely be addressed by the firmware upgrade that is coming our way soon. The glitches, slow downs and reponse problems are usually associated with software because these things are not caused by the hardware unless something went gravely wrong during initial testing phases. Software can always be pushed out later.

All the reviews by popular techies suggest the same thing over and over again — the thing has potential but it is still a toddler and is not ready to face all the ugliness of the world. As an Android-based reader there is hope for the Nook yet, thanks to its innovative design. Just don’t expect it to do compare favorably with the Kindle as of yet. The Kindle has had a few product cycles to grow and hence it currently stands out as the best bargain amongst the ever growing number of eBooks. But devices like the Nook will soon make sure that the choice is not that simple.

Entourage eDGe Shaping Up

Entourage eDGe Final versionWhen the news about a new kind of ebook reader from Entourage hit the market, everyone was skeptical. With Amazon’s Kindle and its major competitors like Sony readers already filling the shelves, no one really thought much of this dual screen device that looked more like concept than actual product.

But now it looks like Entourage is pretty serious about making this one work. First there was the fact that the touchscreen side would actually be running a version of Android underneath. Then it was known that the two screens of the device will actually be connected together to provide contextual support. While that might seem like the obvious thing to do, it involves quite a bit of development challenge.

Now that it is on pre-order and waiting to be released, we are getting fresh new details from the folks themselves, courtesy netbooknewds.com.

It was revealed earlier that the eDGe is using a Marvell chipset under the hoods. Now it has become clear that it is using an Armada PX168 processor in order to get things done. The company is also talking about HD videos and 3D graphics. If all of this is pulled off in a respectable way, we can rest assured that this product will be quite a big hit. Just the thought of a fully featured browser with an eBook reader and dual screen to keep the battery life up sounds really exciting.

From the video of the first generation model, it is exciting to see the touchscreen response. Those who have been two-timing between an eBook reader and a netbook, this could a solution in the making.

But without an integrated marketplace like the Whispernet, it will be hard for the company to stay profitable and attractive beyond the initial spurt of interest. As with most of the things that are emerging, only time will tell how things pan out for it.

On Publishers Holding Back E-Books

News about several major publishers delaying e-Book releases in 2010 have been circulating for some time and eventually made it to Wall Street Journal (article about Simon & Schuster and Hachette Book Group, article about HarperCollins). In case you haven’t heard, several major publishers are adopting a policy of publishing digital versions of certain bestsellers (the most frequently mentioned being Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue”) several months after the hardcovers on which publishers typically made significant chunk of profit.

This move seems to be nothing more than an act of desperation. Several quotes of publishing executives pretty much speak for themselves:

“The right place for the e-book is after the hardcover but before the paperback. We believe some people will be disappointed. But with new readers coming and sales booming, we need to do this now, before the installed base of e-book reading devices gets to a size where doing it would be impossible.

— Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster

“The future of hardcover publishing is at stake. You don’t have a lot of time left to save it.

— Nat Sobel, a partner at Sobel Weber Associates

Unfortunately for the publishing industry the train may have already left. e-Book readers are probably the most wanted Christmas gift. Nook and Sony readers are sold out. Amazon Kindle not being sold out is a small miracle giving it’s killer sales in November that (I guess) are going to be topped by December sales. Sweet $9.99 price point may be only part of the reason. Let’s not forget that in order to enjoy cheap e-Books you need to make the initial $200 investment in eBook reader device (reading on PC and iPhone may get you hooked but after some time most likely you’ll either go for eInk or drop reading e-Books altogether). For me personally the biggest reason for choosing e-Books over paper books is convenience. I will not go into details here about I find e-Books convenient – just read this blog. While book reading was declining for years now, e-Books have revived it.

So why would publishers so desperately want kill the very thing that seems to be saving the books? Because they don’t control it. They have been comfortable with the old model of chopping trees and making books out of them for authors and then promoting these books because authors didn’t have the resources to do it themselves. The system has worked for centuries until the Internet arrived. With Internet you no longer need to chop trees to get your word out to large number of people. The concept was out there for anyone to see for years but publishers ignored it. It’s hard to blame them – when you have a well-oiled machine that has been generating cash for centuries it’s hard to always stay on your guard and constantly look for ways to improve the machine. After all there is always the risk of the breaking the machine instead of making it better. And this works… until someone else who is a newcomer and has nothing to lose comes by and completely reinvents the machine. That’s just the way everything evolves.

With Amazon Kindle publishers don’t control the final price. Amazon is cutting in their current profits by selling the e-Books for $9.99 to establish a market share. Once the market share becomes big enough, Amazon can then either raise the price or tell publishers to lower their cut because then it will be “digital sales or no sales at all” Publishers understand this all to well but they will not be able to turn the tide. While they may succeed in thwarting Amazon’s attempt at becoming a e-Book monopoly, 10 years from now most of the books will be digital (whether though Amazon, Google, B&N, Sony monopoly or no monopoly at all) – there is no doubt about it. With technology advancing as rapidly as it is, using paper hauled by fuel burning trucks to transfer information seems as outdated using horses to plow the field in the age of tractors. I have no illusions – eInk is not perfect – far from it in fact. We already have Mirasol displays coming in color e-Book readers in 2010. Then there’ll be some other technology. But even today’s imperfect eInk and DRM digital books beat the heck out of paper books in many aspects.

Publisher’s side of the story is similar to the one of music recording industry:

If new hardcover titles continue to be sold as $9.99 e-books, the eventual outcome will be fewer literary choices for customers, because publishers won’t be able to take as many chances on new writers.

— Brian Murray, CEO of HarperCollins Publishers

“The music industry has lost most of their national chains, and the ability to expose a lot of new artists.”

— John Marmaduke, CEO of Hastings Entertainment Inc., a book and music retailer

While fewer new artists may be exposed now, I don’t feel a shortage of music that I like to listen to. In fact I like the fact that major MP3 music retailers like iTunes, Zune and Amazon offer DRM-free music that now plays on my PC, XBOX360 (that I use as media center), iPhone and MP3 car stereo without useless limitations. It may be more correct to say that publishers will get fewer chances with new writers since e-Books open self-publishing possibility to anyone.

Publishing industry has my sympathies, they do not have my wallet though. Personally I’m so hooked on e-Books, that waiting for several months for digital version is not a problem for me at all. The book will be as interesting for me to read in a couple of months too and meanwhile there are other books that I haven’t yet read. The situation is similar to DVD and Blu-Ray disks coming out months after theatrical movie releases. The idea is not to cannibalize movie ticket sales by giving people the ability to watch the same movie at home. I might be a non-typical consumer but for the this dilemma is resolved in exactly the same way – I wait for DVD release  while I watch other movies that were already released. Truth being told I’m even to lazy to go to local Blockbuster or even my mailbox for that matter. If I can get the movie via Zune Marketplace or Netflix “Instant Watch” on XBOX360 that’s what I do. It’s not that I’m ultra-greedy and don’t appreciate movie theaters. I do. But my schedule just doesn’t allow me to go to the movies that often. And movies that I really cared about like “Lord Of The Rings” and “Star Wars” I watched in the movie theater regardless because this is the right way to watch them for the first time. Period.

Amazon.com "going rogue kindle" search

Amazon.com "going rogue kindle" search

Getting back to the Sarah Palin book… If you search of “going rogue kindle” on Amazon you get an interesting list of results: the Kindle edition of the book that is currently available for pre-order for $7.99 (I guess this is Amazon’s way of giving customers extra incentive to wait for the digital version) ranks 3rd after 2 books that are available for sale right now that are only remotely related to the original book in question. These books may be ranking higher because they sell while the book customers really want is stuck on pre-order. So while publishers may be gaining some hardcovers sales, they are also loosing sales to different books that aren’t on a several month hold.

PS: Although I find e-Book reading more convenient, there are some places Kindle or any other eBook reader can’t go. I read paper books to my daughter as she goes to sleep and during the day. Even if I had 12″ color e-Reader with LCD-like response time, 3D holographic animated pictures and surround sound, I still don’t envision myself “reading” it to her. Some books will stay on paper for quite some time just as we still have sail-boats in the age of affordable air-travel and combustion engine.

eBook Selection Comparison for Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Sony

I’ve received an interesting press release this morning from Social Trade LLC about http://ebookchoice.com/. It’s a new website that compares ebook availability and pricing across Amazon Kindle, Barnes&Noble and Sony PRS ebook stores. Personally I think that this website is a great idea. eBook selection is in my opinion the #1 feature of eBook reader. After all what good is an eReader if you can’t read your favorite books on it. ebookchoice.com gives customers the ability to quickly compare ebook selection before they decide which device to buy.

Along with the press release they’ve provided some interesting statistics about availability of certain books and their pricing:

Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Sony bestseller availability breakdown

Amazon, Barnes&Noble and Sony bestseller availability breakdown

As you can see the coverage for these selected book sets is similar with Amazon having a slight advantage. Of 326 books represented in this table 145 are available on Amazon Kindle, 134 you could find in Barnes&Noble store and 135 on Sony PRS-600. ebookchoice.com did another comparison that included 504 prize-winning fiction and non-fiction books from the past few decades. In this comparison Amazon Kindle came out a little bit ahead of the competition as well with 191 books available, followed by Sony with 175 books, Barnes and Noble had 167 books available.

It could and should be much better. Ideally the coverage should be 100%.

Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Sony eBook price distributions

Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Sony eBook price distributions

These picture pretty much speaks for itself. Amazon and B&N have similar average price but B&N has a bit more variance while Amazon sticks to $9.99 price point. Sony is a bit more expensive on average and has even more variance in prices.

The website itself is still work in progress though: as I’ve tried to use it this morning, some pages would show MySQL errors and I could only see links to Amazon Kindle books. The coverage is not 100% complete either. I’ve tried searching for Frank Herbert’s “Dune” that I have on my Kindle and ebookchoice.com didn’t have a clue the book existed at all. I believe that these quirks will be worked out with time and the website will realize it’s full potential and become a truly useful and comprehensive resource.

Skiff To Help Save The Publishers

Skiff, owned by Hearst Corporation, specializes in delivering digital content like newspapers and magazines. Come 2010, they are going to launch a new service that will rival with Amazon and the Kindle in some ways.

Skiff intends to start delivering digital content directly to consumers who want this content. The aim is to distribute it to all available channels and that includes dedicated readers, smartphones and tablets. This platform seeks to do exactly what other platforms do for various products.

Skiff will bring publishers, advertisers and consumers together on one forum. The idea is to deliver content to the users and help publishers generate revenue through advertising like they do now. The main focus, as mentioned earlier, is on newspapers and magazines. These publications already generate revenue this way, so it won’t be anything new for them.


They are also planning to sell books through this platform. The question now is whether they can survive in a market that is currently growing extremely fast. To help things along, they are planning to launch a dedicated ebook reader that will be using the Marvell chipset and Sprint’s 3G EV-DO Rev.A network for wireless connectivity to the store. This dedicated reader is supposedly coming in 2010, which means it should already be in the labs getting prototyped.

There are multiple ebook readers that use the Marvell chipset at the moment and adding wireless support to one will not be a big deal. Spring Design’s Alex, Entourage’s eDGe and Plastic Logic’s Que use this chipset. Skiff may be looking at re-branding one of these readers for their purpose. My guess would be Spring Design’s Alex because it looks like they could use a partner.

If this service becomes a hit with publishers of periodicals and newspapers, it will become a leader in that niche and the Kindle will not be all that affected. But if it starts carrying a massive number of books, both new and old, then Amazon might have something worry about on their hands.