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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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Astrophotography

Since it seems that I’m deep into this hobby. I’ve set up a separate astrophotography & astronomy blog that will eventually be extended with astrophotography targets database to simplify selection of targets for your imaging sessions.

Why We May Not See Any Changes To Kindle For iOS

As many of you may be aware, the deadline for app developers to comply with Apple’s new competition stifling rules is the end of this month.  So far, no changes are evident in either the Amazon Kindle for iOS app or even the Barnes & Noble Nook app.  While it would seem odd for this to be the case this close to the deadline, I’m thinking it might be a carefully made decision on Amazon’s part.

We know by now, or at least are overwhelmingly confident, that there will be a Kindle Tablet coming later this year.  By releasing something like that, Amazon sets themselves up for a far more justified version of the old Kindle vs iPad debate.  They need to set themselves apart as a device company.  The way I see it, Android isn’t enough at this point.  Too many other people are already working with it.  Even having their own on-site app store won’t necessarily wow anybody.  Some good publicity would help though.

Assume for a moment that the Kindle for iOS app doesn’t get changed in any way before the June 30th deadline.  Apple will then have two choices.  They can either follow through on threats to remove apps in violation of the new rules or they can publicly admit that they need what these developers bring to the table.  I think it’s likely that banning will occur.

Amazon’s response to this, if planned correctly, could be huge publicity.  I would expect something along the lines of a public statement explaining that the Kindle Store simply cannot productively operate under the restrictions that Apple is trying to place on it, but that as a service to their loyal customers the app will be chopped down to comply with the new rules enough so that existing customers can still read what they’ve bought while Amazon examines other solutions.  Then, a month or two down the line, a full roll-out of Kindle for the Web that completely bypasses the need for apps.

Yes, under the new rules Amazon could just raise prices of in-app purchases to make up the margin that Apple is demanding.  This would bring them nothing but ill will from the average Kindle for iOS user, though.  With the new line of Kindle Tablets pending, these are the same customers that Amazon has to be hoping to win away.  Probably not the smartest thing to pass on fees to them.

They could also choose to simply announce that all purchases must be done on the website and do away with the in-app purchasing links.  I think that’s probably what will happen with the post-banning reboot of the app, should my scenario prove true, but it would cause the loss of impulse buying opportunity for a large portion of the Kindle user base without also providing any sort of good PR.  I just don’t see that making sense right now.

We’ll know by the end of the month, of course, but right now there hasn’t been any intention to comply expressed by Amazon.  Most likely, they’ll just stand by and watch Apple shoot themselves in the foot while pointing out that the Kindle makes a great, affordable eReader alternative to putting up with that sort of ridiculousness.  The Kindle for iOS app doesn’t seem likely to be as profitable for the company under the new guidelines anyway, so they might as well get that preemptive jump on Apple in the public eye.

Kindle Store Deals Section Noticably Absent, Sunshine Deals A Good Start

Among the many advantages to owning a Kindle is the fact that there are thousands of books available cheaply or for free.  Even that is an understatement.  No matter what your tastes, chances are good that there is something in the Kindle Store that you will enjoy for $2.99 or less.  The only question is how to find it.  Especially in light of the recently publicized issues with increasing Kindle Store Spam, the question of proper filters becomes important.

Right now, it is easy to find the top selling Kindle Editions, whether they be paid content or free.  The algorithm might be a bit odd, but the results are right there on the front page of the Kindle Store.  We also get the occasional special promotion and a list of some of the most popular selections from some category in the store.  Pretty much what you might expect.  Nowhere do we have a list of Kindle Deals or anything similar.  I think we need one.

I’m not talking about just a category that lists all of the cheap or free Kindle eBooks, of course.  Not only would the sheer size of such a list make it almost as unmanageable as looking through a complete listing of the Store’s content, but it would include the sort of things that we need to filter out.  A deal isn’t really a deal unless you’re getting good value for your money.  That excludes the spam, plagiarism, and any number of other things that are inherently hard to automatically sort through.  So, how does one define a “deals” category?

At the very least, breaking it free from anything in the way of human interaction, it should be simple enough to set it to filter for a set maximum price, minimum number of sales/reviews, and possibly include some method of prioritizing recent price drops.  In the end, I don’t think this is the answer, though.  What is needed is an actual person, or persons, to make the judgment call.  There is a good chance that the Kindle Sunshine Deals experiment was meant in part to test the waters for this very concept.  It works because you’ve got affordably priced eBooks that have made it through at least some degree of scrutiny before being included.  In the case of Sunshine Deals, they’d passed through the hands of a publisher, but that doesn’t need to be the only channel available for something like this.

Probably, talking about this will turn out to be a moot point.  I anticipate at least some shift in perception among publishers once the results of the Kindle Sunshine Deals promotion have been more thoroughly reviewed.  More affordably priced eBooks, yes, but also better publicizing of those eBooks that are priced low enough to be noteworthy.  It isn’t enough to just throw up a book and price it at $2.99, as many authors new to self-publishing for the Kindle have found.  You have to get word out there and make sure that customers know that there are deals to be had and value to be found.

How Amazon Can Handle Their Kindle Spam Problem

As the Kindle Store is bombarded with countless titles of little or no value to potential purchasers, Amazon has to be wondering what can be done to keep this situation from casting a bad light on the whole Kindle brand.  It’s still a great device with an impressive attached store, but who wants to have to look out for scams and malware links when they’re just trying to grab a book?  The problem is that there’s a fairly subtle difference between honestly bad books and the pretty much useless content that users of systems like Autopilot Kindle Cash that attempt to exploit the system.  How do you tell when an author is putting out something they genuinely expect people to want to have paid money for?  I have a couple ideas.

First, I think that it is not unreasonable to restrict the number of book postings that an individual author can make in a day, except by special request.  Currently, as far as I can tell, there is little regulation on the process unless you are trying to fit into the Kindle Singles category.  Do we really believe that many authors have a genuine need to even consider publishing 10 books in a day, or 100 books in a week?  I understand that throwing up the back catalog of an author can involve a lengthy list sometimes and I think that should be possible if they clear it with Amazon Customer Service first, but as a general situation there’s no real need.  Why not say that you can only post one book per day, or three per week, and take the easiest means of profiting from these exploitative tactics away?

Perhaps a better way would be to have a way for verified purchasers of Kindle books be able to flag a purchase as spam.  Make it work off of a percentage system, wherein any Kindle Edition eBook that is flagged by 30% or more of purchasers (with a minimum of five or so to prevent the most blatant forms of abuse) is either taken down for review or publicly labeled as potentially harmful until it can be reviewed.  This would allow Amazon to get away with letting their customers police the system in a manner similar to the existing ratings system and point the finger at bad uploads for removal at the company’s convenience.

I realize that both systems come with their own problems, of course, but something needs to be done.  Millions of Kindle owners and readers simply deserve better than what’s being thrown at them.  Maybe adopt something like these fairly simple ideas, but have a method whereby authors can apply for exemption as needed?  It is a complex issue.  There are enough obstacles to deal with in the transition away from paper books that we don’t need this to be an ongoing problem, though.  It is time for Amazon to make use of the control inherent in having their own platform to change things for the better.

Kindle Culture

Stephen Peters, a longtime popular culture writer, has a book called Kindle Culture that I think is worth reading.  It is a quick read, and has a lighthearted, easygoing writing style.  It is interesting to read how the Kindle has changed lives.  I was particularly intrigued with the story about how one woman was able to read for the first time in 10 years.  The Kindle has done wonders for people with print disabilities, and is much more cost effective than standard assistive technology.  I can attest that as a visually impaired Kindle user, the font size adjustments have been a lifesaver.

The Kindle has impacted many aspects of peoples’ lives from increased portability to profitable business ventures.  Many individuals and companies have created covers, accessories, and now applications for the Kindle.  You will also find a number of forums and blogs that united Kindle lovers from various backgrounds around the world.

I like this reviewer’s point about how it is neat to see the concrete effects that the Kindle has had on people.

Michelle R

“Kindle Culture explores the boards, merch, and groups that have sprung up to worship and to profit from The Kindle. There’s a certain charm in reading about boards you frequent and people you “know.” It’s touching to read how the device has helped disabled people who’ve lost the ability to read traditional books. As a fan of the device, much of this is a vindication, because it’s hard not to be touched when you see concrete proof that your e-reader has the power to change lives.

I admit that this book is kind of dated.  It was published in 2009, but I think it is still relevant because it shows the impact that the e-reader has made in just two short years since release.  One of the “questions” that the Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) description of Kindle Culture brings up is the effect that the “kindle killers” will have on the e-reading device.  Two years since this book’s release, the Kindle is still the best selling e-reader.  So it has definitely held its own among all of the Nooks, iPads, Kobo, Sony e-readers, and other e-readers that are out there.

In theory, Peters could rewrite Kindle Culture about every couple of years due to the rapid changing pace of e-reader technology and competition.  The “Kindle Culture” has grown exponentially since this book was written through the price drops, e-reader market competition, upcoming Library Lending program, Kindle applications and many more.

Kindle Spam Highlights the Worst Side of Easy Self-Publishing

The Kindle has done a lot to bring publishing from fantasy to reality for new authors everywhere.  In an industry previously dominated by publishing houses that have a track record of refusing to take risks on new things, it provides an easy way for somebody to get their work out there and let it stand on its own merits.  This is not without its issues, however.  Under the old system we had some regulation, even if it was ridiculously over-restrictive.  Now, we can only hope that the best rises to the top.

The downside of the Kindle and its self-publishing options has generally been seen to be a lack of editorial input.  Bad books get published, poorly edited books get published, basically anything that people churn out can hit the digital shelves the day the author hits the Submit button.  Unfortunately, that’s not really all we have to worry about.  There were always going to be a few less than original titles that were meant purely to get the most cash for the least effort and to hell with the customer, but now a method has been devised for anybody who wants to put in the effort to put out 10-20 new books a day without even bothering to write.

The form that this takes can be anything from republished PLR content (content that the “author” buys the rights to republish under their own name) to the deliberately malicious.  The former are interesting in that they at least have the potential to be real, quality works, even if they aren’t exactly originals.  A system calling itself “Autopilot Kindle Cash” claims to be able to teach people to publish as many as 20 of these recycled eBooks per day at minimal expense.  For the most part, it is a load of worthless writing that offers little enjoyment, advice, or information, but that doesn’t mean that the occasional gem might not appear.  I can’t say that I support the idea, but it is the lesser of two evils.

On the more unpleasant side, we have scam links.  Some of these will come at the end of PLR content.  Others will just be thrown in wherever is convenient.  I’ve personally come across several that took me to scam sites promising easy money, but there is no reason to believe that there aren’t quite a few that link even more unpleasant content.

It would be unreasonable to expect Amazon to have every eBook checked out before publication.  Given the size of the platform, it just wouldn’t make sense.  To be fair, they even respond promptly to complaints by bringing down the offending eBook or author and offering refunds.  It seems a little strange to have to deal with this sort of issue while shopping for books, though.

For now, readers might want to watch for vaguely worded product descriptions, books with few or no reviews on them, and authors who seem to put out a lot of books all at once.  Most importantly, as with anything that can send you around on the internet, be careful what links you click on.  It’s a shame that the Kindle isn’t entirely safe from this sort of abuse, and I hope to see something fix it in the near future, but it’s simple enough to stay safe if you’re cautious.

Stallman vs Amazon Kindle: Are eBooks Bad?

The idea that print books and the Kindle were in opposition has been around pretty much as long as there’s been a Kindle.  In fact, if you go back far enough, you can find people talking about the impending end of the written word pretty much since there was the option to view words on a screen.  The Kindle just made it easy and enjoyable enough for people in general to take the “threat” seriously.  The transition hasn’t been perfect, nor has it always been smooth.  There are always problems with innovations.  For the most part, however, it is clear to everybody that eBooks are thriving.

That is, at least, the impression I was under.  A recent article by Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Movement, the GNU Project, and general digital freedoms activist, seems to insist not only that this turning point has yet to come, but that we should resist it on principal.  His recent article, titled “The Danger of E-books” highlight the shortcomings of digital reading media by comparing point for point across a list of freedoms that can be associated with print books.  Emphasis is placed on the value of anonymous purchasing, lack of required proprietary technology or software, resale capabilities, and the differences between ownership and licensing.  He makes what could be considered some good points, but that depends on your point of view and priorities.

From what I know of Stallman, anonymity is a major issue for the guy.  I can understand the urge for that kind of complete privacy, but at the same time it is increasingly proving more of a daily hassle than it is worth.  I’m not claiming that as a good thing, just a fact of life.  His argument that a book can be purchased anonymously, where a Kindle or Kindle eBook cannot, really only applies if you are the sort of person who makes no purchases online in the first place, who doesn’t use a credit card, and who avoids all non-cash transactions.  This isn’t an eBook problem, it’s a modern commerce problem.

A similar problem applies to his objections to restricted reselling.  Pulling an example from another industry, look at the problems that reselling have caused video game production companies.  Not only are many consumers more likely to purchase used copies than new ones, but these used copies are a continual drain on their original creators who must maintain any server-side components in spite of the fact that purchasers after the first bring no money to the originating company.  A similar problem would arise for a company like Amazon if they were to offer resale Kindle books.  Customers come to the platform expecting to have their books available to them on all their devices when they want them.  Should Amazon be providing this service to people who work around the system and grab a “used” license that provides no profit to either author or distributor?  I suppose a rights-transfer fee might be possible, but that would have its own objectors, especially on already inexpensive eBooks.

Maybe it is a bit cynical but I think that if you leave people free to do what they please, there’s a good chance that they will.  Is the current DRM scheme ridiculously restrictive?  Yes.  No Question.  Is the answer to completely do away with DRM and move to a scheme such as the one Stallman suggests, where the only money authors can expect is from pleased readers wanting to anonymously donate to them?  I sincerely hope not.  It’s a pleasant vision that assumes the best of everybody, but in reality it would almost certainly mean the downfall of the Kindle platform and a move away from digital publishing by pretty much everybody wanting to make a career of writing.

Destination Kindle Travel Guides

Do you like to travel?  I try to go somewhere new every year,  and I know that carrying around all of those thick travel books can be annoying at times.  There is a new set of travel guides available now for the Kindle called Destination.  Northstar Travel Media and RosettaBooks have joined forces to create Kindle only travel guides that are quite inexpensive…only $2.99.

The other cool part is that with the Kindle applications available on so many devices and smartphones, you might as well have a library of travel guides in your pocket.

All of the travel guides include a variety of things to do and places to eat that can fit anyone’s preference.

According to the Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) description, every guide includes these features:

“In every guide you’ll find:
• recommendations for a wide range of sightseeing options
• gems of restaurants, with a special focus on local cuisine
• specialty shops for local crafts, food and gifts
• 3, 4 and 5 star hotel reviews that tell you the whole story, as if you were speaking with a concierge
…and much, much more.”

I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland, so I’m really excited to see that Destination has an Ireland travel guide, specifically for Dublin.  You will also find one for Paris and Rome.  I hope that they will include one for Switzerland at some point.

Want to go to Russia or Turkey?  Check out Destination Moscow or Destination Istanbul.

Then, there are travel guides for many of the best tourist attractions and major cities in the US, such as Las Vegas, Washington DC and Boston.  Boston is one of my favorite places to go visit.

Writing this Kindle travel guide post has me itching to travel.  Where are some of your favorite places to go?

 

 

Hidden Nook Capabilities Hint At Readiness For Future Kindle Competition

So, as many of us have observed, the new Nook Simple Touch Reader was recently rated even higher than the long dominant Kindle by Consumer Reports. This is a big deal for B&N since it makes their eReader really stand out as a superior reading device again after a while of being noticeably behind, but it also works out great for the readers since close competition generally means better products and more software updates.  What surprised me a bit was the fact that the new Nook seems to be set up with a few unused features in place and ready to go when they next need to bump up the competition.  It’s great to see planning for the future like this.

First, we have the unannounced web browsing capabilities.  They never advertised it and nobody really expected it, but the Nook has an incredibly basic browser built right in.  The problems it has right now make it clear why it wasn’t advertised.  It just does not seem ready for significant use.  The interface is clunky and the experience is just generally sub-par even compared to other E Ink devices like the Kindle.  There are two ways to interpret this.  Either B&N rushed out an unfinished product and didn’t bother to disable that part of the firmware, which is possible for all I know, or what people have managed to access is actually the underlying structure of a more functional browser yet to come.  I personally don’t think that the release of the new Nook was meant to have a browser at all.  It seems like something Barnes & Noble was holding in reserve for the next time they needed something to trump a Kindle update in some way.

Speaking of things held in reserve, we have also learned that the Nook has unannounced and unused Bluetooth capabilities.  I don’t know what to really say about this one.  At first, it seemed particularly cool.  I mean, actual unused hardware capabilities probably meant to be pulled out for something impressive when the situation calls for it.  Maybe that’s even really the case.  The problem is that I can’t think of many situations where Bluetooth would come in handy in a reading device.  Any ideas?  Still, it seems like a good idea in theory, I think.

While it is definitely true that the Nook got to the top for the moment simply by imitating the Kindle and dropping the deadweight of its earlier incarnation’s extras, I would say that there is potential for expansion here if customers decide they want more.  For now we have a great reading device that simply falls away and lets you read.  Everything the Kindle has been pulling off for a long time now.  I love mine.  I still wouldn’t be surprised to see, at some point, an opening up of the system in a manner similar to what happened with the Nook Color so that apps can be thrown on.  I know that some of the same people who found the Nook’s Bluetooth also managed to do things like get the Kindle for Android app running on it, so the potential is there for more than we have so far.

High-End Kindle Tablet Made For Video Streaming?

As the weeks go by and the holiday sales season gets ever closer, we get more and more details about the upcoming Kindle Tablets.  Yes, their very existence has only been hinted at in anything resembling official Amazon.com communication, but we know it’s coming.  It’s only a matter of figuring out in what forms and with what focus.  Now we have a bit more of a line on what the higher-end option of what appears to be the initial release group will be.

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to find out that the Kindle Tablet reportedly codenamed “Hollywood” would have a visual media focus to it.  Now, though, we have a bit more to go on than random conjecture based on that name.  A recent report note from investment firm Detwiler Fenton indicates that the anticipated tablet will have a 10″ color screen as well as a bundled trial of an Amazon video streaming service such as, or possibly exactly the same as, that offered at the moment as a perk to Amazon Prime members.  It will also feature significantly more processing power than the other Kindle Tablet offering or offerings expected to launch around the same time, which when added to the anticipated pricing of around $399 would seem to make it a very real threat to the industry leading iPad.

Now, we know that Amazon has been doing so amazingly well with the existing Kindle line because of their focus on selling content for the whole platform rather than simply a line of physical eReading devices.  Rumors go so far as to say that the Kindle itself is being sold near cost.  It makes sense, by extension, that they will want to continue this approach in other forms of media if possible. Video makes perfect sense, as does music.  They have a presence in the retail market for both, in addition to the app marketplace that we have to assume will work exceptionally well with the new Kindle Tablets.  I anticipate an expansion of all of these either in terms of content or functionality before the launch, of course.

If the Kindle ‘Hollywood” Tablet is going to be pointed at the iPad, like many of us are assuming, it will only really have a chance if Amazon can compete successfully against the iTunes store.  That means streaming audio and video, cloud storage, and an amazing selection.  Nothing less will do.  Right now the Amazon Instant Video Store is a decent start, but it only does so much.  We are definitely likely to see an expansion of the offerings by the holidays as well as an extended Amazon Prime membership benefit list that takes advantage of it.  What else happens will depend in large part on what the other new Kindle offerings are focussed on.  A pocket-sized Kindle, perhaps, with a heavy music or audiobook emphasis?  There are a bunch of different openings for new media-consumption devices that remain to be exploited.  You have to admit, though, video is a great start.