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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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January 2018
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Will A New iPad Kill The Kindle Fire?

Over the past several weeks there has been significant speculation over the possibility of a newer, smaller iPad on the horizon that is intended to compete directly with the Kindle Fire.  As much as it sounds plausible when looked at in a certain light, I just fail to see it in the end.  There are a few reasons, but in the end it comes down to different audiences.  For Apple to seriously put a stop to the popularity of the Kindle Fire, they would have to address Amazon on completely different terms than has previously been the case, and it is not a stretch to assume that Apple has no intention of fragmenting their product line in such a way.

The value of the Kindle Fire is precisely that it does not attempt to be a fully functional tablet.  Sure, it can do a lot of what any other tablet can do, but in the end there are few competitors that fail to beat it out on paper in terms of performance.  What it does do is provide a channel for Amazon’s digital services.  Anything that Amazon wants to serve up to customers is immediately in front of them just a click away and always works on the first try.  Everything else is just left hanging under the Apps tab to work with as best you can.

The iPad, on the other hand, is trying fairly successfully to replace the home desktop as a center for leisurely computing.  Short of playing highly demanding games or manipulating images and video, there is little that Apple’s tablet is unable to take over with moderate success.  You can even use it as a word processor thanks to various Bluetooth keyboards designed specifically for such a use.  The iPad does serve as a conduit for digital purchases, but it is more than that.  You can use it to create and manipulate various types of projects rather than simply consuming.

Yes, Apple could easily cut into Kindle Fire sales with a 7” iPad 3 priced in the $200-300 range, but it would take more than just having the hardware available.  They would have to prove to customers that they could focus it entirely on convenient consumption.  It is almost counter-intuitive to phrase it like that, but the focused experience is what Amazon successfully leverages in the lack of computing power and I think they would have to be beaten at the game they have helped to define.

This isn’t to say that a smaller iPad would not succeed.  It would probably be huge and have a devastating effect on the emerging budget Android tablet market.  Those most hit by it would be along the lines of the Samsung Galaxy Tab though, not the Kindle Fire.  Until and unless Amazon goes out of their way to pick the fight in a Kindle vs iPad standoff, I think they are fairly safely entrenched for the immediate future.

iPad 3 Release Date Rumors Flying, What will this mean for the Kindle Fire?

If you are familiar with Apple’s PR strategy, you’ll recognize the hype that goes along with each potential new product release.  Speculations fly while Apple stays tight lipped until the product is launched.

That trend continues with the much anticipated release of the next generation iPad. March 29 seems to be the latest “magic date” for the release of the iPad 3.  This goes along with the usual spring release date of the highly sought after tablet.  So I wouldn’t be surprised if this release date was at least close to the actual one.

So, what will this mean for the Kindle Fire?  In the beginning, I don’t see it being affected too much because it seems to appeal to a different market than the iPad.  A big reason for that is the price.  The iPad is also geared more towards heavy duty computing, and includes a camera and bluetooth compatibility.  The Kindle Fire is great for browsing the internet, videos, reading and games.  It is just a matter of determining what you will use the tablet for and what you want it to do.

Apple has been known for top quality devices without too much cap on price.  Despite the $500 price tag on the iPad, consumers know they are going to get a top notch product.  Amazon designs the cheapest device they can that is still functional so that it can reach out to the biggest number of users possible.  I don’t see the price of the iPad 3 dropping a whole lot, at least not anywhere near the price of the Fire.

The Kindle Fire is the second best selling tablet after the iPad, and has been the only tablet to show a margin of success comparable to the Apple tablet, but the iPad’s sales hit record numbers in recent months.  So that just proves the point that both can exist and do extremely well.

Let’s take a look at a longer term effects. Now that so many consumers own a tablet, they will want to move up in features and quality.  Amazon will need to continue to try to integrate more features at the lowest cost for the Kindle Fire to show strong sales figures.  Another key factor is maintaining a strong Android Marketplace.  So, once Amazon achieves that, then they can release a second generation Kindle Fire.

This is all speculation base on the 10″ iPad.  If the rumored iPad Mini shows up, then Amazon will really need to get into gear to present a Kindle Fire version that can compete with it.

Until I see what the new iPad will look like and the price, it is hard to tell exactly how it will affect the status of the Kindle Fire.  So, more concrete observations to come after March 29, or whenever the official release date is.  Stay tuned.

 

Kids Videos for Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire and other tablets currently out in the market are full of great videos and offer unprecedented portability.  You can curl up on the couch with your Kindle Fire and watch YouTube or Netflix.  This is great for adults who have the ability to use discretion on what they can or want to watch.

For kids, the the portability and easy video access can cause issues.  Content meant for mature audiences are everywhere.  Controlling what kids watch and the constant worry over whether they might stumble over something inappropriate can be exhausting.  You can check what they’re watching on a TV or computer, but a tablet can be easily concealed.

The good news is that MeFeedia has developed an app called Kids Videos for the Kindle Fire and iPad.  The app includes family friendly videos from YouTube, Vimeo and DailyMotion.  So parents can get peace of mind knowing what they kids are watching is appropriate and even educational.

Kids Videos allows you to search by genre, “like” your favorite videos and save for later.  The videos are pulled from all over the web so there is a huge library to choose from.  Watching educational videos on the Kindle Fire makes learning so much more fun and interesting.

At the time of writing this app was available for free in the Amazon Appstore.  There are other kid video apps available for the Kindle Fire, but this is the first one that has shown real promise with highly favorable reviews.  For the most part the reviewers echo what the product description says.  So it appears to do what it set out to do.

The age range for tablet users has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few months.  The Kindle Fire is inexpensive enough for the average consumer to justify.  It also offers a lot more kid friendly content thanks to apps like Kids Videos, games, and e-books written for children.  What used to be a niche market is fast becoming the norm.

 

 

Apple Attacks Kindle Publishing With iBooks Author, Drama Ensues

We are well aware now what the big Apple announcement for January was: their new iBooks Author program.  It is a program that allows for easy creation of books, most notably textbooks, for free.  iBooks might have failed to kill the Kindle platform, even given the whole Agency Model collusion with publishers (the legality of which we’ll have to wait and see about), but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to give up.  After some experimentation with the new program I find myself conflicted.  I wanted it to be mediocre, but it’s not.  And therein lies the problem.

You see, there is a bit of a problem with the program’s EULA.  It won’t be a deal breaker for just anybody, but there is definitely important information to be aware of.  By using the iBooks Author program, you are agreeing that not only will anything you sell be available in Apple’s eBook store but also will never never be sold for the Kindle, Nook, or any other non-Apple device.

Before going into the subtleties of the wording, and there are a few arguments with varying degrees of merit that have been made toward the harmlessness of this clause, consider that this can definitely be read as a response to the recent Amazon effort to gain author exclusivity.  The only difference is that Amazon brings in authors with a chance at more money while Apple just quietly restricts their distribution rights with a clause that users not only never explicitly accept, but don’t even see unless they go out of their way.

That said, there are a few situations where I think this will be an extremely valuable thing to have.  If you are planning to create and distribute your work permanently free of charge, I have yet to find a more intuitive, affordable tool for making textbooks or manuals.  If your book was always intended to be marketed primarily to users of the iBooks store, this probably won’t have much of an impact on you.

Now, let’s acknowledge some ambiguities in the wording and clarify some of the many common points of contention:

Restrictions Only Apply To iBook Format:  FALSE

The definition of “Work” used in the EULA clearly indicates that anything generated using the software counts.  It does not matter if you export to PDF, for example.

Apple Is Stealing Author Copyrights:  FALSE

Anything you create is yours from the moment you create it unless you explicitly hand over permission.  What Apple is doing is telling you where you can sell it.  Using iBooks Author allows them to restrict distribution of your work, but otherwise seems to offer them no rights to it.

All This Applies To Is The Formatted Product, Not The Content:  AMBIGUOUS

Leaving aside the textbook for a moment and assuming we are talking about a book that is completely text based.  If you want to release a Kindle version, it would seem possible to just copy the text and reformat.  The wording of the EULA describes “Work” recursively as “any book or other work you generate using this software”.  This can, and hopefully would be, read to mean that only the final, fully formatted output is affected, but the ambiguity is troubling.

It Is Free Software, They Have A Right To Expect A Return:  TRUE-ISH

Nobody is forcing you to use this program.  It is being provided free of charge by Apple and provides far greater functionality than any other free program out there for the same purposes.  Most such restrictions are aimed toward restriction the active use of the software rather than restricting how a creator can manage their own work, though.  Neither illegal nor unprecedented, but odd and somewhat troubling.

Not A Consumer Targeted Software Anyway:  FALSE

This one comes up a lot.  Despite the large number of advertisements being done involving the cooperation of such publishers as Pearson and McGraw Hill in the iBooks Textbook initiative, there has been no indication that they are contributing work under the same agreement.  This is free software pointed at teachers and authors in the advertising (particularly the promo video).  It has bundled templates to simplify the work, a simple drag and drop interface, and tons of automation.  There is depth for those who need it, but definitely not aimed solely at experienced professional textbook publishers.

Apple Can Prevent A Finished Book From Ever Being Sold:  TRUE

All that is required for a book to be covered by these restrictions is that it be a product of iBooks Author.  Publication is neither automated nor guaranteed, and just because Apple turns you down does not mean that you are free to market your work through another platform or sell through your own means.

Apple Offers Better/Worse Royalties Than The Competition Anyway:  FALSE

Apple is effectively offering the same cut of all sales to authors as the vast majority of authors receive when selling for the Kindle and nearly the same (within 5%) as that offered to Nook sellers.

Now, I’m not about to claim that this is the most horrible thing ever done to authors or even that it is deliberately malicious.  Some have claimed that just as this is a 1.0 software, so is the EULA in early versions too and ambiguity will inevitably be removed.  If so, and there was no intent to deceive or control, so be it.  It is already a complicated enough process to get anything out of your eBooks that authors should be aware of what they are getting into, though.  I, for one, wouldn’t want to be locked out of the Kindle platform by accident when that’s where all the readers are.

This is good software.  Possibly great software.  But the limitations aren’t the same as you get when publishing a Kindle Edition, where all you need to worry about is not selling things cheaper elsewhere.  Under the current wording it seems to literally stop you from reaching an audience.  That’s just unpleasant, and something that people need to be aware of when deciding whether or not iBooks Author is for them.

“Send to Kindle” First Hand Review

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) just released a new software program called Send to Kindle that makes it easier to send most printable documents to both the e-ink Kindles and the Kindle Fire.

I downloaded the new “Send to Kindle” app on to my Kindle Touch with ease using the detailed instructions that Amazon provides and the prompts from my browser.

Right now this program is only available on Windows, but a Mac version is coming soon.  Once downloaded, you can access the application in two ways.  Through Windows Explorer, you can right click on the document and select “Send to Kindle”.  You can also go into a program such as Microsoft Word that supports printing and select “Send to Kindle” from the list of printer options.

To test it out, I sent my resume to my Kindle.  It appeared on my home screen within seconds, and formatted nicely to fit the screen.  Just make sure the Wi-Fi or 3G access is enabled.  Something like this is much more useful for sending documents like articles set up as a PDF that would be easier to read on the Kindle than the computer.  I could have used this during graduate school when all of my classes required reading a lot of PDF articles.

The Send to Kindle program is also great for storing documents and can be used to email the documents to contacts on your pre approved contact list.  Instructions on how to manage your Kindle’s email address are available as a link from the Send to Kindle page.  Just search for send to kindle in the AMazon search box.

Send to Kindle works on all Kindles and devices that support it such as the iPad, iPhone, and iPod.  There’s no mention of Blackberry or even Android yet.

As with all of your other Kindle content, any documents you send to your Kindle is stored in the archives for retrieval from your Amazon account anytime.   Send to Kindle also saves your last page read, bookmarks, and highlights and includes the ability to sync across devices.

With such easy access to portable storage and unlimited cloud storage, there should be no more excuses for losing a document again.  So much for the “the dog ate my homework” excuse.

 

Apple Launches E-Textbook Service

Apple launched a new e-textbook service last week that is claiming to “revolutionize the textbook industry.”  With major partners as McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton-Mifflin on board, the service is poised to offer a robust collection of e-textbooks in the updated iBook store.  In addition to purchasing textbooks educators can create their own textbooks using iBook Author.  The lure of lighter backpacks is a pretty good one.

My initial question is, how are schools going to be able to afford an iPad for every student?  Will this be an expense put on parents?  If Amazon starts a competing service with the Kindle Fire, price would not be as much of an issue.  The Kindle Fire is less than half the price of an iPad 2.

Prior attempts at using the Kindle for textbooks have been somewhat successful with a few schools here and there using it for pilot programs.  There were also attempts at using the Kindle DX to hold college textbooks because it has a bigger screen.  Despite positive reviews on the programs, they never really took off.

Right now, the new e-textbook service seems to be focusing on the K-12 market with high school textbooks going for $14.99 or less.  What about college textbooks?  They’re the ones that students have to fork over the money for themselves.  They can also be expensive.  Professors have a lot more leeway on what they can teach so they will probably benefit more from iBook Author than K-12 teachers will.

I think that e-textbooks are going to play a larger role in the future, but I don’t see it taking off just yet.  Aside from the price still being steep for the iPad, there is still a learning curve and adjustment period for both teachers and students.  Tablets are already being  used as valuable tools in education through apps.  It just takes time figuring out how to utilize them the most effectively.

Will Amazon launch an e-textbook service to compete with Apple, or will it continue to appeal to the “masses” with the vast collection of books available in the Kindle Store?  I would say the latter for now, because Amazon’s strategy is to reach out to everyone, not a niche market like Apple does.  As e-textbooks become more mainstream and in higher demand, it will be more in Amazon’s best interest to provide them for the Kindle platform.

 

What the Future Means for E-Readers

The tablet market is off and running and the Kindle Fire is doing very well. I have often wondered what the future of the original e-reader will look like.  Now that the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo e-readers are all touchscreen, what is the next big update?

I’m not saying they’re perfect by any means.  The page transitions could be smoother, and the page turn buttons could be arranged a little better to make things more comfortable for lefties.  Then of course, there’s always the potential for faster browsing in the Amazon Store.

Right now to me at least, my Kindle and iPad serve completely different purposes.  I have tried reading a book on both an iPad and Kindle Fire, and the screen is just too bright for me to read for a long time.  My Kindle Touch isn’t really a gadget to me that I feel like I need to separate myself from like the computer or phone.

A hybrid tablet and e-reader has been mentioned in the past, and I think this is most likely what will happen.  The trick is designing one that can create the same effect that both an e-reader and a tablet can.  I’m not exactly sure how far off this possibility is, but it would be nice to be about to just carry around one device that does multiple things.  At the same time though, if that device is stolen, you lose everything.

With the Kindle Fire out now, I’m not sure I really see a point in creating a color e-ink Kindle.  Most books, regardless of whether they are print and electronic don’t use much color.  I can see it being used for highlights and annotations, but how high is the demand for that?

In the short term, I would love to see a light built into the Kindle.  I don’t mean a backlight necessarily, but perhaps a light that is built in at the top that can flip in and out when needed.  There are a number of good clip on lights available, but having one that fits seamlessly into the device would be ideal.

E-readers are continuing to show strong sales, and now that the prices are lower than ever, many more consumers are able to jump on the e-reader bandwagon.  In the next year or two at least, I think e-readers like the Kindle and Kindle Touch will draw sales from these new consumers.

Looking ahead 5 years or so, I predict that the hybrid e-reader/tablet will emerge and take a share in the market.  But who knows, there may be something completely different around to shake things up.  Technology progresses incredibly fast these days.  To say the pace of technology competition and updates are overwhelming is a major understatement.

Barnes & Noble Considering A Nook Spin Off

After reporting less than stellar stock returns, Barnes & Noble is seriously considering spinning off, or even selling its expensive, but popular Nook business to allow the Nook to ramp up its competition with Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad.

Right now, the tech world is weighing three options with the pros and cons of each.  This article does a good job of breaking all of it down.  Barnes & Noble can keep an active role in the business as it is now, which is not likely, it can take a backseat, yet still hold the reigns, or it can sell the business entirely.

Sales of all Nook e-readers combined were up 70% during the 2011 holiday shopping season, compared to a mere 2.5% growth of regular book sales.  That definitely goes to show that something needs to change, or the retailer will end up with the same fate as Borders, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

I think that Barnes & Noble’s best bet would be to stay invested somewhat in the business because the e-book is the way of the future.  Despite the lackluster reception of the Nook Touch, the Nook Color and the Nook Tablet have been doing very well.  I am not saying that print is dying out by any means, but e-books are definitely going to take an increasingly larger role over the next few years.  Consumers are already flocking to Amazon for both print and e-books because the prices are better.  So, the Nook would be a lifeline in case the print side of the business suffers.

Barnes & Noble recognizes that there is work to do to catch up with the Kindle, so the competition is going to get much more intense if the Nook gets more attention via a spinoff or separate company.

It will be interesting to see what this potential new development means for the Kindle.  Amazon reported record breaking Kindle sales in 2011 because of the much anticipated Kindle Fire and by offering the prices to beat,  All three members of the Kindle Family took the top selling spots on Amazon. The Kindle will most likely remain firmly on top of the e-reader market for the time being.

 

Kindle Success Spurs Apple To New eBook Moves

Recent reports indicate that later this month we can expect to see Apple host a press conference related to, of all things, eBooks.  After news that the Kindle Fire has had a noticeable impact on iPad sales this past quarter, clearly something has to be done.  This is not official as of yet, but multiple sources in positions to be aware of such plans have passed along the same information.  While we have no way as of yet to know for sure where this will lead, the most common rumors seem to point to Apple’s launching of a digital self publishing platform to compete with the Kindle Direct Publishing program.

In reality, such a move on Apple’s part would be quite surprising.  In addition to the fact that simply matching the competition seems to offer far less reward than the effort would be worth given that the iBooks store has failed to really take off so far anyway, Apple is already making about as much on each book sold to owners of their devices as they would be likely to make off a program competitive enough to draw in new authors.  Keeping in mind the fact that anybody publishing through Amazon’s KDP program, or even Barnes & Noble’s slightly less popular PubIt, will already be available to iOS users, the only real motivation for Apple here would be to draw authors into an exclusive arrangement in some way to enhance the iBooks selection.  Amazon has already begun a similar effort tied into their Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, so this would not necessarily be a shocking move, but there is little reason to suspect that Apple is desperate to suddenly push into the eBook market in a major way.

Since we can be fairly certain that whatever the announcement is about will be related to publishing in some way, however, there are a few other possibilities.  Textbook rental is one of the more likely possibilities.  While Amazon’s new Kindle Format 8 provides some more robust formatting options to publishers and the Kindle Fire obviously handles the demands of textbooks more easily than E INK reading devices, so far the Kindle Textbook Rental program has failed to draw much attention.  Given the iPad’s larger screen and Apple’s strong presence on college campuses, it would make sense for them to jump to fill in this gap in the market before anybody else beats them to it.

It is also possible that this has something to do with the ongoing class action lawsuits against Apple and the Big 6 publishers over price fixing and the imposition of the Agency Model around the time the iPad was released.  In the past month the situation has become quite a bit more intense, with the US Justice Department joining in and at least 15 ongoing suits.  It would seem unlikely that the company would want to comment on an ongoing legal battle, but given claims of detailed inside information on the part of certain plaintiffs there is always the chance that preemptive spin on an anticipated settlement attempt might be in order.

The one thing everybody agrees on is that this will not be a hardware announcement.  While there is still speculation with varying degrees of believability about a smaller iPad meant to compete with the Kindle Fire, that will have to wait until later.  For now, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect.

New York Public Library Launches E-book Central

From January 4th-13th, the New York Public library is stepping up their efforts to help new owners of the Kindle and other e-readers learn how to download e-books from the library’s vast digital collection.

NYPL has over 22,000 e-books ready to check out, and in addition to on site help through trained reference librarians, the library system has also launched a website called E-Book Central.

Lending Kindle e-books in libraries is a fairly new service, but as a librarian I see first hand how much a service like E-Book Central is needed.  I get questions about it often at the library where I work.  E-reader sales this holiday season were record breaking, so the demand is  much greater.  Just like regular books, good Kindle books are snatched up quickly.

The process for checking out e-books is quite simple once you find the book you want.  The New York Public Library provides a detailed, step by step guide for downloading e-books from their collection onto any mobile device or e-reader.

Two things you need before you start: An Amazon account, and an account with your local library that supports Kindle e-books.  If you don’t have a Kindle itself, there are apps for the Mac, PC, smartphones, and iPad that you can download for free.

Kindle books from the public library appear in your Kindle’s home screen just like other books.  After the check out time is up, it will automatically disappear.  Check out times usually run anywhere from 7-21 days depending on the library.

Now that the Kindle Library Lending program is up and running, I hope more libraries will follow NYPL’s example and provide more formal e-book training for their patrons.  Many libraries don’t have the staff or time available to dedicate to a project like this, but it is something that would save time in the long run.

So, if you live in NYC, see the E-Book Central website for dates and times when training is available, or check out the guides for checking out e-books on different mobile devices.