While a great deal of effort has been put into supporting a supposed opposition between eReaders like the Kindle and traditional paper publications, there are some places where paper just wasn’t really cutting it even before the eReader came along. Specifically, I’m thinking about newspapers. It’s practically become a cliche to point out that most people get their news from the internet these days, when they aren’t just watching TV, because why wait until tomorrow to learn what’s happening today? Deciding what needs to be done for traditional news vendors to stay relevant will probably be difficult, but it seems inevitable that things like the Kindle will play a large part.
Now, I can’t claim that this is a new thought, exactly. The New York Times has found what appears to be one method for making the most of new technology. Kindle subscribers, as well as Nook subscribers and anybody who wants to pay to get this benefit a la carte, can not only get their regular issues delivered but access the paper’s website in its entirety without any of the annoying restrictions that the average non-subscriber has to put up with. While they have seen a decline in overall subscribers and ad revenue recently, the NYT reports a noticeable jump in Kindle subscribers. There would seem to be other options, though. There practically have to be since not every paper can leverage the kind of reputation that the NYT brings to the market.
My favorite theoretical idea, which I admittedly have no idea as to the practicality of, is inspired by the Barnes & Noble in store Nook experience. Location based subscriptions that allow access to a publication or collection of publications, especially local ones, while on the premises. It offers the same sort of benefits to the business doing the subscribing that having paper copies on hand would, which is not uncommon in coffee shops, libraries, etc, but without the bulk, waste, opportunity for damage, or potentially outdated news. Just bring your Kindle or Nook in and read your paper over a drink.
Ideas aside, since as I mentioned I can’t really judge the practicality of the many approaches that are available, one of the biggest issues will probably be a change in mindset. Newspapers are traditionally reliant on their advertising revenue. On something like a Kindle, you don’t have nearly as much space for that, even if you have an eReader-specific edition of your paper. The native web browser even offers an impressively effective Article Mode that will remove them from anything a reader happens to be looking through on a paper’s website. It isn’t like this is unique, given ad blocking extensions available for pretty much every web browser on the market. About the only place that people are forced to look at ads when they don’t want to anymore is on paper. It is a complicated problem, but the Kindle offers more potential than most options. Something like the WOWIO eBook advertisement wrapping around a daily package of news delivery might just do the trick?
At this point we know that the Kindle as a physical purchase is not where Amazon is looking to make their money. If anything, the fact that they have gone to ad support indicates that there has been a need to get inventive to further reduce prices while not actually losing money on every sale. Knowing this, we have to assume that the big focus will always be on selling the most content. With an emphasis on renting, lending, and sharing eBooks lately, though, is this a genuinely achievable goal?
Right now we are hearing about the fact that Overdrive will soon be bringing Kindle compatible library books. Definitely a selling point for Amazon, since up until now it has been a major complaint against the platform. We also now have textbook rentals that can save renters as much as 80% over the purchase price of the book. Between the two options, I’m seeing a theme forming and looking to other media rental business models that seem like they have a real chance of finding their way to the Kindle.
The obvious one would be the Audible.com approach. Get users to subscribe for a monthly fee, perhaps as a means of getting a cheaper or free eReader, which locks them into picking out a certain number of eBooks to add to their library on a regular basis. Amazon has experience with this one and it would certainly work as a way to reduce eReader prices even beyond what the Kindle w/ Special Offers has been able to do. I don’t think it will happen, though. For something like this to work, Amazon would have to be able to provide value to subscribers beyond what they have control over with the current Agency Model pricing. Lack of control means lack of options.
More likely, to me at least, is the Netflix model. Picture spending $10 per month to access as many books as you want, so long as you only have one checked out at a time. There would have to be some sort of artificially produced swap delay, of course, since otherwise subscribers could simply jump back and forth at will, but if the system only allowed a book to be checked out once per month or only allowed one change per day (which doesn’t seem unreasonable since the Kindle Store already generally provides sample chapters and this would only be for reading entire books) then it would work. The profit would be available since most everybody has periods where their reading tapers off in spite of best intentions, and one would have to assume that an arrangement for multiple-use licenses would still be cheaper overall than per-user purchases. If something like this could be managed in spite of the total control that publishers want over their distribution, it would be the next big thing for the Kindle. Admittedly, it is something of a divergence since reading has always had a certain element of collection attached to it for many people, but I think the opportunity to save the money would make all the difference.
There are a few Kindle Special Offers out there that I thought were a really good deal, especially for Kindle book and accessory purchases. Writing this makes me really wish I was a Kindle Special Offers owner! Definitely on my list for the holiday season because I’m up for an upgrade.
Buy $20 worth of Kindle Skins and Save $15
This offer ends July 29, so not much time left. Kindle Special Offers owners can purchase $20 worth of Kindle skins created by Amazon and save $15. All of the skins are around $19.99, so basically you buy one, get another for $5. There are some skins with some cool looking designs on them. Dress your Kindle up a bit!
Use Visa and Get $10 Amazon Credit
Use a visa card on select Kindle books, and you get $10 in Amazon credit. This offer ends on August 21. There are a good number of bestsellers and big name authors such as Sara Gruen, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Connelly, and Suzanne Collins in the selection.
Save $10 when you spend $20 on Kindle Accessories
If you purchase $20 worth of Amazon’s Kindle accessories, you can get $10 back. This offer expires August 19. Looking for a cover or light for your Kindle? Here’s your chance to save. Amazon has a cool looking Kindle cover that also includes a light. It comes in many different colors, and doesn’t suck up the Kindle battery too much.
All of these promotions are restricted to one code per Kindle Special Offers account. I also noticed that not all KSO owners get the same codes.
In addition to the Kindle related deals, you’ll find offers on camping, beauty products, video games and smartphones. So, there’s a good variety to choose from.
At the moment, and in spite of some admittedly impressive competition, the Kindle is pretty much the biggest thing in eReading. In a given review or opinion, another eReader might come out on top as the new Nook Simple Touch Reader has managed to do lately, but nothing else has managed the level of distribution and quality of content that Amazon has pulled off so far. The margin isn’t all that it used to be, though. In order to keep on top of things, they are going to have to do more than we have seen in the past couple months. While it would not be entirely out of line to assume that the current focus on the upcoming Kindle Tablet might be drawing attention away from the existing product line, I think there may be more to it than that.
The Kindle, as it stands right now in terms of both the physical eReader and the platform as a whole, is limited in a number of ways. The current level of control being exerted by publishers prevents any one-upsmanship in terms of pricing. Amazon has some of the smaller names experimenting with sale offerings, but we have to assume that even if companies start buying into the idea of discounted eBooks it will not be a platform specific thing. That avenue is closed for now. They’re doing a rather good job of getting a lot of self publishing authors into their stores, which helps, but assume that at the moment there is not much that can be done to fix up the store as we know it.
The device itself is also pretty much at the peak of what we can hope for. It has the best screen technology available, amazing battery life, whatever connectivity options you want, and a lot more. About the only thing left to complain about is the physical keyboard. I think this is the first place we can expect major change is here. We know that one of the new Kindle options we can expect in October will be a touchscreen eReader. Not only will this reduce the size of the Kindle without losing the functionality of the admittedly difficult to use keyboard and appease the crowd of people who really don’t like physical buttons anymore, it will allow true localization. Hard to really pull that off when every device you sell has a built-in English keyboard.
This also brings up what I believe will be the next big stage in Kindle expansion. Right now, while a hit in some places, the Kindle platform seems to only be dominating in the US. Amazon has the experience and resources to spread out a bit. I would anticipate, following the release of the Kindle Touch and the first generation of the Kindle Tablet (and, of course, the initial patching stage to iron out the bugs), a big effort to get the Kindle out to any market that Amazon thinks is large enough to be worth tackling. Possibly even before localized firmware is a reality, but with a promise of fully integrated language selection as a later option. There isn’t any reason to hold back now, and stagnation would lose them the edge. Amazon has to keep moving and this is the only way that really makes sense as far as eBooks go.
In recent blogs and reports, a rumor has sprung up that the Harry Potter series being sold through the author’s soon to be opened ‘Pottermore” site will not include direct Kindle compatibility. As should probably be fairly obvious, this is quite definitely not true. The popularity of the rumor was such that Amazon even came forward and announced that the popular children’s books will find their way over.
The origin of the whole ruckus seems to have been an article about the Pottermore site teaming up with Google Books. Probably just a matter of hopeful thinking on Google fans, I would imagine. The post mentions efforts being made to integrate Pottermore and Google Books, including an agreement wherein Google Checkout is the preferred third party payment platform for the new site. The phrasing is very positive for Google, which is to be expected on the official Google Books blog. The only definite claims we have, however, are that there will be sufficient integration to allow buyers to push their new Harry Potter books out into your Google Books “library in the cloud” and that Google Checkout will be available. No exclusivity is implied, whether it be in terms of eBook platform, payment platform, or anything else.
One of the more interesting spinoffs from that somewhat overblown topic is the idea that the Harry Potter series will in some way be used to force Amazon into adding EPUB compatibility for the Kindle line. While there has been no official word on this, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there’s not a chance it will happen. For one, Rowling is maintaining complete control over her products and has not, to the best of my knowledge, ever expressed a strong inclination to advocate for her favorite file format. Why would she? Also, it would make little sense to alienate Amazon in any way give that they currently have the largest customer base in the eReading world. Given that the Kindle can already read DRM-free MobiPocket eBooks, there is no reason that I can think of for the Pottermore site to try to force the EPUB issue. What business would want to lose money by failing to spend a minute or less converting a file from one format to another?
When October rolls around, I would anticipate that it will be as easy for a Kindle user to get their new Harry Potter stuff as it will be for anybody else, even if Amazon is being fairly quiet about their integration efforts right now. The new eBooks should be available in every format still used today, and quite possibly some truly obsolete ones. Since there will be no DRM included in the files, even if your favorite is not represented there are always programs like Calibre. Let’s face it, though, unless you are still using the Sony BBeB out of personal preference or something, there is little chance of being overlooked. The Pottermore site will be taking care of the fans.
The demand for a Kindle Case that can stand up to the elements tends to be situational at best. Sure, you want to be able to pull out that option should you be backpacking with your Kindle or taking it to the beach, but in general it really isn’t worth the extra bulk, weight, or ridiculous appearance that go along with the current waterproof options just to use them on a daily basis. Basically, right now for the sake of comfort we are forced to accept things that offer minimal protection in order to avoid ruining the reading experience. The preferred option would, of course, be an unintrusive but completely safe case. Lacking that, as we do at the moment, it can be useful to know where the most effective options are.
As far as casual use, the best compromise I’ve found for when you want something to use all the time that will also save you from spilled drinks and short unexpected rainfall is the M-Edge Leisure Jacket. It is fairly affordable for a Kindle case at $34.99 but also provides a good amount of protection and doesn’t look ridiculous when you carry it around with you. It isn’t perfect, by any means. I would strongly recommend against dropping your Kindle in a bathtub with this one, and the screen protection results in a fair amount of glare. If moisture is a minor concern, however, it is effective.
A more durable and heavily protected option is the new KlearKase for Kindle 3. Again, it is not going to provide much protection if you decide to store your Kindle in the swimming pool. It does a lot more than the M-Edge option, though. Their product video depicts some fairly impressive splash protection in unusual boating conditions, for example. You also get ready access to all Kindle buttons and functions, unlike any other reliable waterproof case I’ve found so far. It doesn’t look nice enough that I would want to carry this around constantly, but it’s some of the best functional protection you’re likely to find. $49.99 is a bit much for a case, but if you need it then it is probably worth the investment.
The budget option, for those who don’t feel that a few hours on the beach is worth a $50 investment, is the TrendyDigital WaterGuard Case. Think of it like a durable ziplock bag for your Kindle. Mostly because it is. While it is quite inexpensive at $15.99 and not particularly attractive, this is possibly the best of the waterproofing options. I’ve seen them sit submerged without leaking for several minutes at a time. Admittedly, however, this is the only protection they give you. Even the worst of the normal case selections you’re likely to see would give you more fall damage insurance. Still, it’s a great way to keep your Kindle dry. Plus, and I know this will be the major selling point for most people, it has a strap so that you can hang your eReader from your neck!
In the early days of the Kindle, especially after the initial release of the Kindle DX, it was pretty clear that Amazon had high hopes of it being the biggest piece of portable electronics to hit college campuses since the graphing calculator. Sadly, this didn’t work out quite how they had hoped. The Kindle, especially the original Kindle but to an extent even now, was simply unsuited for optimal use in even its most obvious settings.
Of course a 7 inch black and white screen would work out poorly for displaying a chemistry textbook that uses full-color diagrams and often takes up approximately fifty square feet of desk space when opened, but when they couldn’t compete with cheap paperbacks in literature classes, it was time to consider backing off for a bit. The Agency Model of eBook pricing just drove that ideal moment even further away by removing the element of student savings from the equation.
Now, they’re going back to school and taking a new approach to things. Not an original approach, per se, but perhaps more effective than what came before. Even now, the Kindle is perhaps not best suited for the college text, but the fact that the word Kindle appears in the program name might be a bit misleading in this case. It is hard to see any indication that the Kindle eReader is meant to be an important part of the new program.
Electronic book lending is becoming a big thing on college campuses already. It makes a lot of sense compared to physical book rentals since the provider isn’t left with stacks of last year’s editions when the release cycle rolls out a new, marginally updated text. Companies like Chegg and CourseSmart have made names for themselves in this area, though Chegg still seems concentrated on the physical rental option. Renting saves students money, decreases production/transportation/storage overhead, and has the potential to become the next big thing on campuses. Of course Amazon would want to get in on this.
Now, you can rent a textbook (assuming the publisher has chosen to make it rentable) for anywhere from 30 to 180 days and save significantly over the purchase price. The selection isn’t strong yet, but it seems to be growing and the savings can be as much as 80%. Very few of these books will be worth picking up to read on your Kindle, however. All of the old objections to textbook reading on a small black and white screen still apply. That does not make this a silly move for Amazon so much as a possibly mislabeled effort.
When people think of the Kindle Store, they generally associate it with the Kindle. This makes sense. In the case of textbooks, however, the target audience is the Kindle App user. Be it on a PC, Mac, or iPad, a textbook is just going to be more useful on a larger color display. While I am personally seeing just about everything Amazon does lately as a move to get ready for the upcoming Kindle Tablet, and this would certainly help, even without that they have a solid customer base and freely available software that pretty much everybody knows about. If they can just find a way to point out to people that the value of the program is not connected to its integration with their Kindle, it could be a huge thing in months to come.
Check out the Amazon Big Deal sale going on until July 27. There are over 900 Kindle books available for .99-3.99. Big name publishers including HarperCollins and Random House are in on the sale.
The Big Deal Bestseller list includes a mix of classics, childhood favorites, mystery, religion, and romance.
One book in particular that I was excited to see on the list is Jim Stovall’s The Ultimate Gift and its sequel, The Ultimate Life. They are quick, yet profound reads. A wealthy tycoon leaves his grandson a series of tasks to perform that represent 12 gifts. The gifts include important life’s treasures such as family, work, money, love, and more. It is amazing to see the profound impact that each gift has on the grandson and his personality. A heartwarming tale fit for all ages. The Ultimate Gift was made into a movie starring well known actor James Garner.
Another is Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia. Jess and Leslie escape to the fairy tale land of Terabithia where they reign as king and queen. The only way to Terabithia is by swinging across the river. It provides solace from bullying and ridicule at school. Then tragedy strikes, and the two dear friends are torn apart forever. This was one of my favorite books from middle school.
Then you’ll find some old familiar classics Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. You either love or hate Faulkner. In addition to the classics, there are some interesting modern counterparts: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Wuthering Heights, the Wild and Wanton Edition. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is on top of the bestseller list, but that is fitting considering the popularity of vampires and zombies lately.
Bestselling author Karen Kingsbury has several books on the list. Her book, Unlocked, is about a boy with autism and his reconnection with his long lost special childhood friend. My favorite aspect of this book is that it provides some of the dialogue from the autistic boy’s point of view. A diverse perspective.
Take this opportunity to get to know lesser known authors. I’ve found a lot of good Kindle books through the free and reduced price collections. And, of course, great beach and poolside reading!
In college, I was always grateful to be an English major because my books were pretty small and relatively inexpensive, but I had plenty of friends who lugged around huge, expensive science or math textbooks around everywhere. Come to think of it, the Kindle edition of many of the classics I read in my English classes are free.
Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has introduced its new Kindle Textbook Rental Program. Amazon has been offering new and used print editions of textbooks for awhile. What a great use for the Kindle DX, especially since it has a bigger screen. There has been some push for use of the Kindle DX in education in recent years, but it hasn’t really taken off. But, regardless of whether you download your textbook to your Kindle, Kindle DX, iPad, computer, smartphone, etc, you’ll save a lot of money and backache.
With device choices, you get more customizable fonts and color contrasts. Often, print textbooks are in small print, making it harder to see. You can also annotate or highlight without damaging the book and decreasing its value.
You can either buy the textbook or rent it for specified length of time between 30 and 360 days. Kindle editions are much cheaper. Amazon claims that the Kindle versions are up to 80% less than the print versions. Something I’d like to see if the ability to sell “used” Kindle textbooks to others like you can do with print editions.
You’ll find subjects all across the board: from business and accounting to history and literature. There are also test prep guides and computer software manuals. Looks like a great collection to start with, and more are constantly added.
So, hopefully the combination of cheaper Kindles, cheaper textbooks, and lighter backpacks will take the financial and physical burden off students.
Every few weeks seem to hear something about a new eReader or Tablet PC that is destined to be a “Kindle Killer”. So far, no luck on that. When it comes to the iRiver Story HD, I don’t think anybody is likely to think of making that claim in the first place. That doesn’t in any way mean that it is a device without its virtues, worth taking a look at as a sign of future potential if perhaps little else.
Aesthetically, the Story HD looks like a cheap Kindle knockoff. In practice, it still rather feels that way. The Story HD has a cream front with a rather bland brown backing on it, but other than that, as pictured, the similarities are hard to ignore. Sadly, this does not translate to a superior reading experience.
The feel of the device is a bit cheap, even without taking the dated color scheme into account. The layout of the buttons is a bit strange, with there being no page turn buttons alongside the display like we are used to seeing in an eReader. Even the directional control lacks a central button to select what you are pointing at. Instead, you are expected to switch to the ‘Enter’ button. On top of this, the QWERTY keyboard as a whole simply feels cheap and unusable. Not huge inconveniences taken by themselves, but the accumulation gets a little bit much.
The major saving grace, although not an unqualified success in itself, is the display. It is a significantly higher resolution than the competition(768×1024), and is the first such E INK eReader display to make its way to the US. Text is more detailed and you can fit more on the screen at once, should you be so inclined. It just genuinely looks good, for the most part. Unfortunately, that is not quite enough to make the reading experience a good once. You are given no font choice, no margin or line spacing choice, and the contrast seems poor. The font choice isn’t too big a deal, to me at least, but the default margin that you’re stuck with is basically non-existent and smaller fonts don’t stand out enough compared to the competition. Maybe this is attributable to the light color of the frame, which others like the Kindle have been moving away from, but I didn’t have a white Kindle on hand to compare with.
An important thing to remember when looking at the Story HD is that this is not, properly speaking, a Google product and should not be viewed as such. You can get an idea what an implementation of the Google Bookstore is like on an eReader from using it, but this is just the first Google compatible eReader. If you get a chance to check it out, it is important to try to separate the problems with the hardware from the potential in the open platform. While I can’t say that I would recommend picking up the iRiver Story HD over something like a Nook or Kindle, the fact that Google has found its way to physical eReading devices rather than simply offering apps has the potential to finally make it a major contender.