Looks like the publishers are not through making Kindle eBooks over all a much pricier place. After Hachette followed in MacMillan’s foots steps, it looks like Harper Collins might be the next publisher to re-negotiate their terms with Amazon. Rupert Murdoch has expressed his dislike of Amazon’s $9.99 policy for eBooks and he says that it hurts hardcover editions of the the same books.
Rupert Murdoch is the chief at News Corp, the company that owns, amongst multiple other media outfits, publishers HarperCollins. Hence, if he thinks Amazon is hurting Harper Collins book sales, there might be trouble for Amazon. Yet again that is.
It hasn’t been all that long since MacMillan settled their deal with Amazon to have their books priced higher on the Kindle. Murdoch has mentioned that even though Amazon pays them the usual $14 or whatever wholesale price they do charge, the ultimate low price hurts over all book sales from other outlets. According him, Amazon is willing to sit down with them and renegotiate the terms.
Even though he puts it as if they will talk things over, there is no doubt that he will really try to push Amazon into accepting a higher pricing scheme for HarperCollins eBooks. If this goes through, it might become the turning point in Amazon’s eBook pricing scheme. Once three such major publishers force their deals through Amazon, there will be little in the hands of Amazon to change the over all pricing of eBooks.
Of course, a lot of people will see opportunity in this and will offer books for cheaper than the major publishers. For light reading thus, a lot of people might choose cheaper alternatives. But for best sellers and major titles, buyers are the ones who will bear the price difference. Interestingly, Amazon will finally be gaining money on &9.99 books instead of losing it as they do now. But it will serve to lower their appeal to buyers, which is ultimately not a good thing.
In a recent drama, MacMillan made it publicly known that they were having problems with Amazon over the pricing scheme of eBooks on the Kindle platform. MacMillan was apparently already in talks with Amazon for quite sometime about the prices being raised from Amazon’s current $9.99 maximum price.
Whilst everyone can see that over pricing digital content can really backfire (look at digital music or movies for lots of examples), it seems like MacMillan has been really hell-bent on increasing the pricing based on their latest agency model. Under this model, MacMillan would like to make sales through agents, who would charge the normal 30% commission that standard throughout the industry. The extra cost of course gets pushed on to the buyers and this is where Amazon did not want to comply with MacMillan’s requests.
After negotiations broke down, Amazon took off all MacMillan books from the Kindle store. However, even then the Kindle makers acknowledged that MacMillan owned too many important titles for Amazon to be able to keep those books away from Kindles. And true to their predictions, Amazon ultimately had to give into MacMillan’s demands to increase the prices.
Under the current model, the eBook prices will be capped at a maximum of $14.99 instead of $9.99 as per existing models. The average prices are supposed to start from $5.99 and go up to $12.99 but the real situation would be that most important titles will be priced between $12.99-$14.99. MacMillan gave everyone a glimmer of a hope saying that they will bring the prices down dynamically. However, that simply means that they will gradually reduce prices on existing titles but will likely price newer titles high.
These new prices put Kindle costs on the same level as those on iPad, making the gap between the two become much smaller when it comes to pricing.
Amazon, Kindle‘s parent company, has bought a relatively unknown and new company called TouchCo. Before the buy out, TouchCo used to supply touchscreen technological solutions to companies. The company specializes in building touchscreen interfaces that have the capacity of detecting and parsing multiple touch inputs. This makes their touchscreen technology extremely useful for devices that may be shared at some point.
It also means that any touchscreen made with TouchCo’s technology will have the advantage of being extremely capable and flexible to UI changes. Amazon and TouchCo refused to talk about the deal and they haven’t mentioned the amount for which the deal was sealed. But ever since the news broke, TouchCo’s official website has put up a notice about the company not doing any business.
Those who are following the eBook market closely, are of the opinion that the market can only grow bigger over the coming years. Since Amazon is the pioneer in this field, it is expected that they would look to take their Kindle eBook reader to new heights through innovation. Post the iPad launch, a lot of people have expressed concern over Amazon’s ability to handle the competition. But it is for certain that the Kindle in its current shape is a completely specialized product that will still be the chosen reader for digital book lovers.
However, the purchase of TouchCo shows that Amazon is still interested in making a device that conforms to the current trend of touchscreen tablets. Since Amazon has not declared what the wish to do with the company, we can only speculate what direction the Kindle will take.
Most are of the opinion that the popular eInk Kindle will remain and a complimentary model will be produced that will have features that directly compete with the iPad. The recently released KDK (Kindle Developers Kit) is also taken as a sign of such a thing to come.
Brother is a Japanese company who already have an e-Book reader in the market called the SV-100B. That e-Book reader never made it to anywhere outside Japan but it is already time for a new version. Brother has now released a new model called SV-70. Interestingly, instead of making it even better, this is actually a scaled down version of the original e-reader and in most cases they are very similar to each other. They both use the eInk display made famous by the Kindle and they are exactly the same in dimensions as well. I would say they also look identical.
But the Sv-70 stored half the pages compared to the SV-100B — 500 pages on the SV-70 compared to the SV-100B’s 1000 pages. Also, there is no Bluetooth 2.0+EDR on the SV-70 but the SV-100B has it. Also, the older model could connect to a cellphone wirelessly to access documents — that is gone too. You know, you would think that a newer model would have more ways to connect. But instead you have a device that barely connect’s at all.
On the surface, it is pretty ugly. I am sorry but in an age where minimalism is beautiful, that huge a thing with so many buttons is just plain unsightly. Still, the fact that it they have made a new model with far less features might mean that their target market is something else altogether and no one really wants to connect to anything.
And that might actually be the case, given how much Brother is charging for the SV-70. If you thought a $400 e-reader was expensive, you might want to look away right now. Because Brother’s SV-70 costs something around $1092.00 per unit! Yes, I put in those decimal zeroes to show you that there has been no mistake! Obviously, this meant mainly for industrial users who have a completely different set of feature set in mind. I guess we will only know when at least one of these finally gets out of Japan.
Unlike most companies, Sony is sounding positively chirpy about Apple’s foray into the world of eBooks with their iPad, the iBooks app and the iBook Store. They welcomed Apple’s move into the eBooks domain and also predicted the imminent death of paper printed books as we know it. Steve Haber, president of Sony’s Digital Reading division told tech site Pocket-lint that a new device that has eBook reading built into as a feature is a good thing for the digital book market. He emphasized the fact that mobile devices that have this feature built in will play a key role in the paradigm shift from the analog to the digital media. So looks like Sony is actually happy that is has such great competition as the Kindle because frankly this is the device that put eBooks on the map. Even Steve Jobs acknowledged that.
Sony also mentioned that the conventional form of a book — ink printed on paper and bound together — is really on its way out. According to them, it has about 5 years of life left before everything goes digital. While that sounds really nice with so many people wanting it to go digital, I would like to remind people that similar things were said about the CD about a decade ago from this date. Yes it is dying but physical storage mediums for audio content have not gone out just yet.
So even though it is plausible that paper books will completely fade out in the near future, there is still at least a decade left for it to even start fading out. That is because the adoption curve globally on new technology is really low and it would be silly to focus only on the US.
But one thing’s for sure — eBooks are only going to become bigger and better as time goes by. The same for all other print media content. We have officially stepped into the decade that saves the print industry by, Ironically, stopping all physical printing!
A sample of the Bridgestone display
It seems like the Apple iPad announcement has really shaken things up in the tech industry because we are suddenly hearing a lot of new announcements from companies we had almost forgotten about or did not know existed. The latest is Delta Electronics and their 13.1 inch e-reader that will carry a color e-paper display. This display has been developed by Bridgestone and it will hopefully have better refresh rate than the eInk technology that is found on the Kindle. While the e-reader itself may not be very interesting, the display does interest a lot of people because this is what future eBook readers might start using.
Other than the colored, larger version, Delta Electronics also plans to bring forth another e-reader model that will have a monochrome display measuring 8.1 inch. This too will use the same e-paper display technology as the larger, colored version. Both devices are expected to have touchscreen UI’s, since that is the latest thing to add to e-readers.
The date chosen by Delta Electronics has not been the best one though. They chose to announce it the same day when Apple released their iPad. As a result, it simply got buried under a lot of Apple coverage. The color eBook model was actually briefly shown off last year and it did garner some interest at that time.
At this moment, details about the UI are uncertain and hence there is a lot of room to speculate about how it will compete with Kindles and the Nook. Of course, that is only if it plans to compete at all. This could end up being just another boring e-reader that just has a different screen. But if it manages to to do video somehow that might shake things up quite a bit. But even then, it has to have a content store of some kind to compete with the Kindle, Nook or the iPad even. Current estimated shipping date is sometime in Q2 2010, same as the Asus Dr-950 e-reader.
MSI had gone on record late last year saying that they were looking at building an e-reader device that will compete with the other mainstream offerings that are already there in the market. Whether they changed that plan or are showing something completely new, we don’t know but MSI has been showing off a dual-touchscreen device that looks more like a netbook than an eBook reader. It surely isn’t something as simple and direct as the Kindle, as it seems to be aimed at running a lightweight OS.
MSI probably is not looking at putting Windows 7 on this but they are surely going to be looking at light OS’ like the Chrome OS from Google or the Andrioid Mobile OS, also from Google.
Whether or not this is going to reach mainstream is still unknown because the device is still at a prototype stage without any word about manufacturing plans at the moment. But judging by the way MSI is talking about, it sounds like they fully intend to translate this into a mass market product or at least try to do so.
The comparison with e-book readers mainly comes in because of its similarity to the Courier tablet that is rumored to be under development at Redmond. The dual touchscreen is definitely a good way to emulate a book and it will definitely look good in usage if it does come true. However, there are several things that still stand in the way of making this happen. Battery life is going to be pretty low if there are two normal screens on the device, so they have to switch to something like the Pixel Qi. Graphics is also going to have to be pretty powerful to pull this off the way the demo shows it.
So over all, if it does come to fruition it might be a nice device but that time might be a long way off at this moment.
So Mustek is not exactly the company you would expect to be making a product like this but then this is that time in the history of technology when OEMs are making finished products and some are actually making it pretty big. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the MER-6T e-reader. This is yet another eInk reader that slaps a touchscreen on the display and expects to take on the like of the Kindle and perhaps the Nook as well.
So what does this e-reader have that the others don’t? Nothing in particular really. It has a touchscreen eInk display, which is pretty common now. It has a slim profile – only 0.4″ thick but we have thinner ones already. It has a 3.5mm headphone out and that is pretty much universal. It lacks a proper content store and that… is also pretty much universal in the myriad ‘me too!’ e-readers that have flooded the market (with a few exceptions of course).
But then, if you look at white body and the collection of features and do not think of its competition, then it is actually a halfway decent device. They do try to market it by putting the cover of a ‘Twillight’ book on the display but do not be fooled — it cannot do color. It is a normal eInk display. But it does have an SD card expansion slot and a 6inch screen. So if the UI has not been botched up too badly, it can still be useful for some people.
Of course, it has nothing on premium class e-readers that put thousands of eBooks that your disposal that you can buy right from the device and start reading within moments. That user experience is what really separates the Kindle and such devices from products like this one.
No word on pricing yet, so nothing to say on that count either.
Asus has this strategy of throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. So earlier this month Asus officially acknowledged that they have an e-Book reader in the pipeline. There were rumors about an Asus e-reader that has a 5inch OLED screen that carries the model number DR-570. But this is called the DR-950 and it has a 9inch e-Ink display. The same kind of display that is used on the Kindle.
It has a resolution of 1024×768 and has support for ePub, PDF and HTML. There’s also text-to-speech and RSS reader, which are good features to have. Onboard storage is 2-4GB and it is expandable via an SD card slot. There’s a 3.5mm headphone out and a USB port too. The 0.35inch thinness is pretty impressive and Asus is even considering putting in WiMax into that frame. There’s already WiFi and HSDPA built in. The eInk screen has a touch-sensitive layer on top of it, so there are concerns about the display losing some clarity and readability.
The rumors about the DR-570 refuse to die down however and Digitimes insists that Asus will ship two readers and not one. The current time frame is Q2 2010, so we will know soon. The OLED screen will definitely be no match for the eInk screen in terms of battery life and readability but it will be able to display color and video. So it will likely be a color eBook reader. It must be kept in mind that Asus also has a tablet device planned. So if they release a touchscreen OLED e-reader, it will definitely cannibalize any market that the Eee Pad has.
As for the e-reader competing with the Kindle, it can be safely assumed that there is no way Asus can catch the Kindle bookstore and the International Kindle’s free wireless anywhere in the world. So Asus has to be satisfied with only a niche market.
The eInk display technology (the same one that is used on Kindle screens) has a new rival. Far more than LG’s micro foil technology that is used by Hearst, Qualcomm’s Mirasol display technology is threatening to overtake eInk by the end of this year. Mirasol, as we reported earlier, is a new display technology that is being developed by a team of researchers under the banner of Qualcomm — their primary sponsor. The main advantage of this technology is that it has the capability of producing RGB pixels. That means full color displays. And it doesn’t stop there either.
Mirasol can also display video and decent frame rates and according to those who saw the demo at CES 2010 — it is a very promising new technology. Because even though the screen is doing full color video, the developers claim that it has a 6x battery advantage over eInk under average eInk usage. The overlaying of a capacitive touchscreen allows the screen to become touch enabled but reduces the display’s sharpness slightly. Still, it is supposed to be capable enough to take over the eInk displays. To give you an estimate – if your eInk display device lasts one full day on a single charge, the same device will last for 6 days on the same single charge and battery if it uses a Mirasol display. Of course, this is all theoretically speaking but the real world value is still likely to be quite high.
Mirasol can easily be read under direct sunlight like the eInk screens and it can also be evenly backlit for dark situations – something that the eInk screens are not equipped for. Mirasol is likely to hit by the end of 2010 and the first screens will be around 5.7 in size — enough for medium sized eBook readers and may be even tablet devices. Watch the video for a look at what it looks like.