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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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June 2010
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Slate for Kindle

Slate magazine is offered daily on the Kindle and Kindle DX for $2.49 a month.  Slate is a fully online magazine, and its revenues rely on advertising.  I was surprised at the price of the Kindle version of this magazine considering that the web version is free.  I’m assuming that the subscription fee is mostly in the Kindle formatting process.  The issue comes out daily, so the price comes out to only 8 cents an issue. That is not a bad deal.

Slate was created as an online magazine in 1996 by Michael Kinsley under Microsoft, who later sold the magazine to the Washington Post in 2004.  Slate covers the usual everyday news topics such as Technology, Politics, Life, Arts and Business.  I love the lighthearted, informal style of writing that this magazine uses.  This informal, first person style of writing was one of the pioneers of the writing style we associate with blogging today.

The writing style seen in Slate matches the nature of the Kindle.  The Kindle is designed to make reading appear fun, lighthearted and portable.

Slate includes a blog section that includes the well known blog: “Kausfiles,” by Mickey Kaus, who is currently running for Senate in California.  Other blogs include: “Brow Beat,” a culture blog, “The Wrong Stuff,” a blog about making mistakes, and others on various topics.  In addition to blogs, Slate also creates podcasts on current issues and hosts a readers forum called “The Fray.”

Overall, the reviews for Slate are really good.  The main complaints are that it comes out a little later in the day than the average newspaper at 9am, and the content includes articles from previous days.  By 9am, most people are at work, so there goes the reading on the subway theory.  Other than that, the reviewers said that it is really nice to have a summary of all of the major news papers such as the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times and others all in one place.  Another positive note about this magazine is that many of the articles are original and well researched, which says a lot about the quality of the content.

Kindle in the Airports

HMSHost, the company that runs any number of airport shops you might encounter as you travel the country, has just acquired exclusive rights to sell the Kindle in the aforementioned airports!  So, what does that mean for you?  So far, they have announced that Kindle devices will be sold in a number of stores to begin with.  Specifically, the Simply Books and Authors Bookstores in Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, John Wayne in Orange County, Charlotte/Douglas in Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Dallas Fort Worth, San Diego, George Bush in Houston, Miami, Tampa, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.  These stores will be selling pre-charged Kindles ready to go on a moment’s notice for anybody who desires one.

Let’s face it, an eReader is practically a vital accessory for any regular traveler these days.  The ability to keep a variety of entertainment material on a 10.8 ounce package with only very infrequent charging needs is a perk that simply cannot be beaten on the long flights and even longer layovers that plague the lives of many.  Now that the Kindle can be found in the middle of travel without the hassle or delay of ordering and shipping, there’s simply no downside or hassle remaining.  The HMSHost Slogan says it all in this case: Making the Traveler’s Day Better.

This is a great step for Amazon that should have been done long time ago. More than a year ago I blogged about my Kindle being bricked on an airplane. I was in the middle of long transatlantic journey with multiple connections. All I could find in terms of eReaders back then were Sony PRS readers which were of little use to me since I didn’t have my notebook with me to create an account and buy books. Being able to but a eReader and start using it right away is a great perk.

Unfortunately I don’t plan to visit any of the mentioned airports any time soon. However if you do, please drop me an email or a comment. I’m very interested what Kindle airport buying experience is like. Specifically it’s interesting how would they handle buyers who don’t have Amazon.com account yet.

Unicode Fonts Hack updated for Kindle Software 2.5.2 and 2.5.3

Kindle 2 International with Unicode Fonts

Kindle 2 International with Unicode Fonts

As the image above implies I’ve updated the hack to work with the most recent versions of Kindle software: 2.5.2 and 2.5.3. The instructions and updated links can be found here: Kindle Unicode Font Hack.

I tested the hack with Kindle 2 US, Kindle 2 International and Kindle DX. Unfortunately I don’t have Kindle DX International to test it on but I see no reason why it would be any different there.

Enjoy!

Kindle for Android Now Available!

Plenty of people out there have been looking forward to the Kindle eReader app for the Android OS for some time now and the waiting has come to an end.  Honestly, it looks really good.  Users will find all the usual features they’ve come to expect from the kindle platform, including a great selection, displays in portrait or landscape orientation, multiple text sizes, the ability to bookmark your books, and of course the ever-popular WhisperSync feature for those who move from device to device as their situation demands.

The App can be acquired free of charge by searching for “Kindle” in the Android Market or by scanning the QR Code provided for you on the Kindle for Android page, assuming you have Android OS 1.6 or later on your phone.  For situations when you can’t carry your Kindle with you, this seems to be about the best you can get as far as portability goes.  Not going to compare this application to the iPhone/iPad parallel, since I don’t have that handy to make any direct comparison, but it seems to be pretty much the same features and experience spread over the less hardware-restrictive landscape of Android. Give it a try and see for yourself!

Where does this leave the Kobo?

In the past week or so we have seen price drops on the two most full-featured and well-stocked eReader devices on the market today, as well as the first exclusively WiFi adaptation of one of these devices at the lowest price seen to date.  So, where does this leave the Kobo, the Borders-sponsored budget eReader that made such a stir over the past several months with its $150 asking price?  The outlook is not so good.

By all accounts, and i make no claim to have the device in my hands at the moment to confirm, the Kobo eReader is a bit of a let-down for a lot of people.  A decent screen, slightly slow response time, clunky menu navigation, and just generally unexciting experience.  I won’t deny that the Bluetooth capability is intriguing, but they simply didn’t do much with it.  Now that the Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) nook has dropped its price to match without sacrificing the reading and shopping experiences and Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has followed suit with an even cheaper Kindle, it seems doubtful that the Kobo will find itself with much of a place aside from die-hard lovers of the Borders and Kobo bookstores.  Even some of those may find themselves turning away, as the Kobo store, at least, offers their full collection in EPUB format.  There are still moves to be made, but it would seem that the only major impact the Kobo eReader will have had will be to lower the eReader pricing trend enough to wipe itself out of the market.

US News & World Report For Kindle

US News & World Report is available for Kindle and Kindle DX for $1.99 a month.  In the last few years this magazine has transitioned from weekly to biweekly to monthly publication.

The US News was founded in 1933 by David Lawrence, former student of Woodrow Wilson at Princeton University.  Lawrence founded a separate magazine, World Report, in 1946, but later merged it with US News in 1948. The magazine covers topics such as: health, politics, technology, international affairs, education, business and more.  The latest articles focus on the BP oil spill and the issues surrounding it.  There are also articles about healthy behaviors and criticism of Obama’s policies.

The US News & World Report is considered more conservative than its counterparts, Time and Newsweek, and does not include entertainment, celebrity or sports news. This is a good cut and dry resource on current issues.

The magazine is well known for its rankings for colleges, hospitals, careers and most recently, high schools.  This is a great starting resource for checking the rankings when choosing graduate school programs as well.  However, students and parents shouldn’t rely solely on this list for a choosing a school if it isn’t right for the individual.  There is a lot of debate about the superficial nature of the data used to make the ranking decisions.

The US News & World Report also ranks the top hospitals in the nation.  In 2009, John Hopkins was at the top, followed by the Mayo Clinic and UCLA.  These choices shouldn’t be too surprising considering the top notch reputation of these hospitals.

One reviewer had an interesting comment about using backdoor conversions to include pictures on the Kindle edition of the magazine.  They currently subscribe to US News Online in PDF form.  They send it to Kindle’s PDF conversion tool that converts it with the pictures from the magazine included.  The question is, why can’t Amazon do this for the original Kindle version of the magazine?  Overall, the reviews were very mixed and I think if the graphics issue was corrected, a lot more people would subscribe to the Kindle edition of US News & World Report and other Kindle magazines.

Kindle vs nook: What Do You Get?

In light of the recent major price drops on the two most popular devices in the eReader market, there’s every reason to believe that a fresh wave of first time buyers is likely to be hunting for the right fit.  New to the eBook situation and wanting some advice on which way to go?  Let’s see what we can do for you.

Looking at the major points of interest for these devices, each has its strengths and weaknesses.  For the purposes here, we’ll assume that the choices are the $199 nook and the $189 Kindle because 3G coverage is neat and because we don’t know yet what Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) is going to be doing with their WiFi Kindle model(assuming those rumors are true).

Size, Weight, and Feel

  • Kindle: 6″ screen, 1/3″ thick, 10.2 ounces
  • nook: 6″ screen, 1/2″ thick, 12.1 ounces

Subjective Evaluation:  The screen is slightly better on the nook due to a better contrast ratio.  On the other hand, the extra thickness and weight of the nook, slight as it is, makes it a very small bit harder to read for long periods of time than the Kindle. It’s pretty much a tie in this category.

A Note On The Screens:  You’ll see many people complain about the screen flicker and page turn delay.  In general, I advise ignoring these people.  In both cases there is a delay in screen refresh that is so slight that turning the page in a paper book at the same speed with any regularity will likely leave you with a ruined book.  These aren’t your average computer LCDs.  Different technology, different uses.

Input Method

  • Kindle: QWERTY keyboard, 5-way controller stick
  • nook: LCD touchscreen

Subjective Evaluation:  As far as moving through the stores, library, and things in general goes I’ve got to give it hands-down to Amazon.  The on-screen navigation is intuitive and has only the rarest of hiccups.  The nook’s touchscreen, while flashy, leaves something to be desired in terms of responsiveness on the eInk screen.

Selection and File Support

  • Kindle: 600,000+ titles, supports: AZW, TXT, PDF, MOBI, PRC, converts: HTML, DOC
  • nook: 1,000,000+ titles, supports: EPUB, PDF, PDB

Subjective Evaluation:  At first glance, Amazon has the edge in terms of file formats, especially when you take into account that many of the nook’s million titles are simply freely available Google Books downloads.  The nook, however, supports EPUB files.  EPUB is the industry standard format at the moment and tends to be the easiest to get your hands on, assuming you’re the type who prefers to shop for the best deal rather than simply grabbing everything from one store.  The nook comes out well ahead in this comparison for just that reason.  You’re not jumping through nearly as many hoops if you want to shop around as the Kindle makes you.

Storage space, in both cases, is generally a non-issue.  In several years of using these devices heavily, including during the completion of a degree in English Literature, I have never found a situation where there was any advantage to holding 1,500+ books in my hand at once.  If you really need to walk around with your entire library at once, then Amazon’s recent addition of a feature called Collections that makes it possible to organize your books according to your own specifications might make the Kindle your preferred eReader.  At present the nook does not have this ability and a list that long might get unwieldy for casual aimless browsing.

Battery Life(Entirely Subjective Evaluation)

  • Kindle: 30hr active, 20 days standby
  • nook: 24hr active, 7 days standby

Now, these measurements are not in any way when is being advertised by the makers of the devices, nor am I claiming that everybody will see the same performance.  I have had both and used both for some time now, however, and this is what I’ve seen.  It is, quite literally, impossible to run down the charge on either device in a single day by reading at a normal pace.  Simply put, if you want a device that you charge overnight and otherwise don’t have to worry about then either is fine.  If you want something you can throw in a briefcase and carry around all week, then charge on the weekends, the Kindle has a slight, and I want to emphasize slight, advantage in battery life.  Probably the lack of LCD screen.  Neither of these takes into account the power draw of leaving your wireless connectivity going constantly, since this is generally not needed.  You connect, download your book, then disconnect.  Leaving it open is almost always just a waste.

Major Features

  • Kindle: Read to Me, Facebook/Twitter integration, web browser, password protection
  • nook: games, web browser, WiFi capability, in-store B&N perks, interchangeable back plates

Subjective Evaluation:  I’ll start by saying that the Facebook/Twitter thing is not something I’ll comment on.  If these features are valuable to you, there are plenty of places to do the research.  I cannot comment.  As for the rest, the Kindle’s main selling point here is the password protection.  Since you will generally have a credit card linked to the account that is linked to your device, to make store purchasing quicker and easier, this bit of safety is a must-have.  The Read to Me feature is nothing to sneeze at either, as it opens the door to use of the Kindle as a learning tool or simply a way to enjoy your favorite books even after the eyes get tired.  It’s not perfect, but it does a good job and is not at all unpleasant to listen to.

The nook, on the other hand, comes up with mostly fun and superficial changes.  You get a couple of games to play, with the hope of more to come of course, some incentive to visit the B&N store for free access to books and free coffee, and the ability to customize the appearance of your device in a way that goes beyond the usual cover choice.  The web browser on the nook is slightly easier to use than the Kindle’s due to the touchscreen, but this also seems to result in faster battery depletion, so it’s something of a double-edged sword.

The Kindle wins for functionality, but don’t rule out the nook in terms of fun.  Also make note of the fact that because the nook runs Android and therefore a much wider potential developer base in the long term, should an app store become available.

The Overview

I can’t tell you one device is better than the other because they’re both simply great products.  It’s all about what you like and what you want your eReader to do for you.  I use my Kindle when I want bestsellers, a device to travel with, independent authors, and the ability to annotate my books.  I use my nook when I’m looking for the best price on a book, when there’s some question regarding 3G coverage wherever I’m staying, and when sudoku or browsing the web seem like good uses of my time.  The best way to be sure of what you want is to try them out in the store.  Check them out, do your research, and know what you want for your money.  You would be hard-pressed to be disappointed either way.

One Story for Kindle

One Story is available for Kindle and Kindle DX for $1.49 a month.  The schedule for this short story literary magazine is every three weeks, so in the long run, the price is pretty reasonable.

One Story began in 2002, and has won many literary awards such as the Best American Short Stories, Best American Non-Required Reading and The O. Henry Prize Stories.

We believe that short stories are best read alone. They should not be sandwiched in between a review and an exposé on liposuction, or placed after another work of fiction that is so sad or funny or long that the reader is worn out by the time they turn to it. – One Story

This is a great philosophy, especially regarding readers who hate flipping through ads in magazines or for ones who are intimidated by 500 page books.

“At a time when literary writing seems like a dying art, when little magazines are folding left and right, when publishers bemoan the sinking bottom line, here lies a spot of hope…It is called One Story.” – The New York Times

The magazine features up and coming writers fiction writers.  The latest story in the June 20th edition of magazine is called “The Puppet,” by Reif Larsen.  The story is set in Sarajevo.  The author offers a great discussion on his work and his experiences that inspired him to write it.  more

I think it is neat to see the background behind the characters and the setting of the short story through the eyes of the person who wrote it.  This is true especially since the “The Puppet” took place in a war torn area that touched the author personally.

One Story is a great addition to the Kindle collection because of its portable and lighthearted nature.  It does not include graphics, which seems to be a hang up with other magazines on the Kindle, and it is like getting a new book every three weeks. It is meant for the subways, the bathtub, the park, and anywhere else ideal for a quick read.

Amazon Kindle Price Drop

It seems that in one day we not only get a drop in price for the Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) nook, one of the front runners in the eReader device marketplace, but an immediate reaction and one-upping from Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN).

As already reported, the nook has undergone a steep drop in price from $259 to $199, as well as welcoming a new member to the product family: A WiFi only model at a mere $149.  In response, Amazon has cut the price of their ever-popular Kindle from $259 to $189 in what can only be seen as a direct and hostile response to B&N’s move.

One of the main sources for concern lately among critics has been the pricing of these devices.  While always a reasonable investment for the avid reader, some have had trouble justifying the expense of the more popular and full-featured of the eReaders such as the Kindle and nook.  This is quickly becoming a non-issue. The Kobo made its splash by setting an amazing new low price for the market and mere months later we have one product with a more robust support list and feature set being offered at the same $149 price, and the most popular and well-supported eBook reading device on the market today for just $40 more.   There is simply no excuse anymore not to own one.  Amazon and B&N are in a price war and the only one winning is the reader.

Addressing the iPad/Kindle Spin

Well, the internet is abuzz today with talk of a recent report by a Citi analyst declaring the Kindle effectively dead in the water in the long haul.  Now, if you accept the validity of the analysis of where things stand today, and let’s say for the sake of argument that we do for the moment, there’re still some problems to be addressed.  Here’s some details in the wording that a lot of people aren’t looking at very clearly.

The analyst observes that the “Kindle currently enjoys a price and selection advantage over the iBook platform” but ominously follows it with “it’s hard to see why the gap won’t narrow over time.”  It’s difficult to see where the negativity is coming from here.  He states that Kindle is in the lead and then adds some doomsaying to the end of the sentence.

The same basic theory ends up applying to the point by point comparison.  The analyst’s argument seems to hinge on the idea that Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN), clearly a front runner in the mainstream ebook market and a fairly innovative company in general, is going to leave what systems it has in place as they are now and hope for the best.  I get that Apple(NASDAQ:AAPL) is a great company and that many people feel they’re inevitably going to take over whatever market they approach.  If that’s really the case though, we can do without the spins on the facts in the meantime, don’t you think?