The Sony Reader was the first to get touch screen technology. It set off a big touch screen craze that included all of the major e-readers: Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. The Kindle Touch in turn became Amazon’s bestselling e-ink Kindle.
So, Sony has a some good ideas going as far as e-readers go. I happened upon an article about a foldable tablet that the company is currently preparing for release next week.
The new tablet, called the Tablet P, will have dual screens, one on each side of the foldable hinges. My biggest question in regards to the screens is how they will mesh together for the display. Will they show separate content? Do they somehow come together to create a larger display?
The odd thing is that the Tablet P will feature last year’s Android operating system, Honeycomb. That will be a big drawback right there.
By making this table foldable, it is protecting the screen from scratches and dings, so that is a big plus. Although Apple was onto something when it created a smart cover to protect the iPad’s screen . Sony’s new tablet also includes a camera, which is not currently available on the Kindle Fire.
Obviously, there are some real winners in the e-reader and tablet market, most notably, the Kindle and iPad, but is still fun to explore the other ideas are floating around. Despite the Tablet P’s lack of computing power and poor sales outlook, it sparks an idea that can be developed further to grab the attention of consumers.
I would really like to see the major players in the tablet and e-reader world become powerful enough to handle heavier computing. It would be nice to have the benefits of both in one device. The foldable tablet could emerge as a hybrid laptop/tablet device. The tablet would be hinged to a keyboard, but also removable.
So, we’ll see what happens. It is always fun to speculate on the future of technology.
Don’t give up on e-ink Kindles yet. After the success of the Kindle Fire and the tablet boom, I was beginning to think that e-ink was on its way out. However, there are new speculations floating around in the tech world about Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) supposed order of color e-ink screens.
If that is so, we might be seeing a color e-ink version of the Kindle sometime next summer or early fall. The timing is based on the past yearly refresh of the Kindle lineup.
I think this would give e-ink a much needed jump start to reclaim its place in the electronic sales market. Tablets are showing unprecedented success, and are threatening to leave the e-ink devices behind to become a niche market unless they don’t do something about it.
The biggest advantages of a color e-ink Kindle over an LCD tablet are that it doesn’t cause eye strain and suck up battery life. I love my iPad, but I can’t sit and read it for longer periods of time. My Kindle’s battery lasts for a couple of months, whereas my iPad’s battery lasts about 10 hours or less depending on use.
Looking at it from an accessibility standpoint, there are certain vision conditions that cause the user to be sensitive to bright lights. E-ink is obviously a lot friendlier to that type of condition.
The e-ink Kindle began as a single service device designed for reading. The electronic paper style that the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and other e-ink readers use is designed to simulate the experience of reading a real book. Adding color would provide better graphics for comics, newspapers and magazines. To me, comics are a better fit for paper rather than LCD.
I am excited about this new development. I think in the long run there will be hybrid e-ink and LCD tablets out there on the market. I don’t know about you, but it can get cumbersome toting around several different gadgets that each fulfill a different purpose. By adding color, e-ink is a step closer towards making a device like that a reality.
Earlier this month the Kindle for Android app got a bit of an update. While nothing huge, it did finally bring the Real Page Numbers to Android users. In addition to this, they managed to pare down the size of the download required to use the Kindle platform from 10+mb to a more manageable 8mb. This might seem rather minor, but considering the lack of space on many Android devices as well as the fact that some users have reported sizes of up to 25mb (can’t reproduce that, but the claim has circulated), this is a definite improvement.
Much as I like the Kindle app however, and I do, there are some things that I would like to be able to do that it does not provide. Real Page Numbers are nice, but situational at best given that they still only exist in a fraction of the available Kindle Editions. Now, I have posted here before about the ability to download and install the Nook app through non-Amazon sources and this works quite well. Sadly I believe that the specific method I mentioned several months ago has been blocked off, though. This difficulty became a non-issue thanks to Good E-Reader being kind enough to open up their own free app store.
While you can find a fair selection of general purpose apps present that they felt were worth keeping around for people, the folks over at Good E-Reader are concentrating mostly on reading. This covers books, magazines, comics, and all such things along those lines. There are only free apps, but this allows the site to operate without adding in any of the inconvenient restrictions that currently plague locked-in Android device owners wishing to pick up something useful. It is definitely worth checking out.
In terms of reading on your Kindle Fire, for example, some people find it more convenient to have access to the Nook app’s extra level of brightness control than to be able to simply invert the contrast of the page. Others will appreciate the level of social media integration offered by the Kobo app. In either case, at least you will be able to open EPUB formatted eBooks, which the Kindle Fire lacks any form of native support for at the moment. You won’t have luck with everything (Google Books, for example is still not working in my experience) but for the most part they’re doing a good job of making the latest popular selections available without all the hassle.
Overall Amazon has done a good job of giving customers what they want, both in terms of the software they provide and the hardware they sell. I can understand the urge to retain control over what gets installed on Kindle Fire devices, especially since if anything goes wrong it is likely to be Amazon’s Customer Service that gets the call. They have left the door pretty wide open to install most things, though, provided you know how to find them. In some cases, it’s more than worth the effort it takes to get the most out of your experience. Kindle Fire software updates do not remove any apps when they occur, so it shouldn’t be an ongoing hassle.
It was recently announced that Kobo, Amazon’s leading competitor against the Kindle outside the United States, is offering a fun new perk for anybody who picks up one of their eReaders between now and May 2012. The new Kobo Book Club, as they are referring to it, will offer each person a book of their choice from a limited selection once each month through the end of 2012. As with what seems to be the competing program, Amazon’s new lending library, the available books will not necessarily be off the bestseller list, but they will be permanent acquisitions instead of just rentals.
Amazon made a bold move when they launched the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. It took long enough to even get the public library system compatible with the Kindle in the first place, thanks to the break from EPUB early on in Amazon’s eReading endeavor. Even that comes in the middle of the long fight publishers have put up against eBooks being in any way cheaper or more convenient than their paper counterparts, but that’s another story entirely. What’s most relevant, especially if we’re talking about somebody like Kobo trying to come up with a similar program is the reaction.
In a lot of ways that program is Amazon flexing their muscles. Yes, the lending library benefits Kindle owners and is something that I totally support, but starting it up without general publisher or author support and working around that problem by taking advantage of wholesale discount arrangements has led to a bit of drama. The Big 6 are upset, since it means that eBooks are yet again in danger of being found more convenient and less expensive than print books. The Author’s Guild has lent support to that side of things as well. It’s doubtful that any of this will cause Amazon to back off, but not many other companies would be in a position to get away with a similar move.
Kobo has avoided the problem entirely with their choice of titles. January’s titles, for example, will be:
Glancing at Amazon these seem to be well-rated titles, but you have to admit that the audience likely to get excited about them will be limited. If this marks the beginning of an ongoing trend, it’s hard to see this as a major draw for new customers despite its being available in Canada as well as the US.
This is especially true since buyers who go for the new Kobo Vox aren’t included. Many people are expecting the Vox to make a big splash by beating the Kindle Fire to new markets, and Kobo clearly rushed to get something out there in time to compete, so this exclusion is rather hard to understand.
While I wouldn’t exactly say that this should be a huge factor in any eReading platform choices, it’s nice if you were planning to go that route anyway. Kobo is currently the third most popular eReader platform around, so clearly the demand is there. An occasional extra can’t hurt, even if it doesn’t really provide exactly the same value as the Kindle counterpart.
The Nook Color might have been the first tablet to come from a major eReader maker, but the Kindle Fire has clearly set the tone for devices in its size / power range. Amazon’s new media tablet hasn’t even shipped yet and people are scrambling to match prices or rush out competing product. For the most part, there isn’t really any obvious reason for Amazon to be concerned, but the new Kobo Vox is an imitator with impressive potential.
Kobo’s new Kindle Fire competitor, marketed as a color eReader much like the Nook Color, will be a 7″ Android 2.3 device with comparable specs, expandable memory, and a small selection of colored quilted backs to choose from. The single core processor might end up being a slight negative, but this was never intended to be a powerhouse anyway. Oddly enough, both the major strengths and the major shortcomings come in on the software end.
When Barnes & Noble started out with the Nook Color, they tried to keep it almost entirely about the reading. It was only relatively recently that their app selection started to improve. Amazon avoided that mistake by building up a huge App Store for the Kindle Fire before it even existed. Kobo seems to feel like it isn’t worth the trouble. Rather than a heavily customized, or even locked version of Android, they have decided that Vox users can just grab what they want through the default Android Marketplace. The OS seems to be pretty much just basic Android 2.3 with some Kobo Apps.
On the one hand, this is genius. It gives them the ability to offer customers access to the largest selection of Android apps in existence without having to jump through hoops. At the same time, however, it means that Kobo themselves will not be making any money off of anything but the books. Whether or not this proves to be a smart business move remains to be seen, but it will definitely appeal to a certain segment of the customer base.
What really makes the Vox a major player among eReading companies jumping into tablet production is Kobo’s international presence. More than pretty much anybody else so far, Amazon included, Kobo has managed to make sure a wide selection of books is there in any market they can get their hooks into. The Kobo eReader is widely available and has been for some time. It would not surprise me even a little bit to discover that when Amazon manages to get the Kindle Fire out to markets outside the US, especially those new sites like Amazon.es, the Kobo Vox is already a common sight.
It isn’t the best option in terms of hardware or software in the US right now, even for the $200 price, but for users who want just a cheap, effective 7″ Android device it might fit the bill. In areas where the tablet market has yet to really take off, though, I expect to see the Vox make a huge impression. Let’s just hope Apple can hold off on the anti-competition lawsuits?
Michael Hart, the founder of ebooks and Project Gutenberg, died on September 6, 2011 at the age of 64. His death will be a huge loss for the digital book and literary community. However, the work he has already done has set the groundwork in the ebook world. Other members of the literary community will have to continue his mission to provide global literacy. Hart founded Project Gutenberg in 1971, and it is the longest running literary project recorded.
Project Gutenberg currently offers over 36,000 public domain ebooks that are available on the Kindle, iPad, PC and other computers or portable devices that allow ePub, HTML, or Simple Text. All of the books are free, and there’s no cost to join. A wealth of information is literally at your fingertips. The information is top quality.
Hart’s ebook idea began when he typed up a copy of the Declaration of Independence on his computer and sent it to others in the network at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. This was barely after the internet was created.
Hart’s literary impact was profound because through ebooks, he opened up literature to the global audience. Project Gutenberg currently has ebooks available in 60 languages. It is also a huge asset to libraries and research. The longevity of this project proves that it the ability to adapt right along with the rapid changes in technology.
E-book readers such as the Kindle, Nook and Kobo are just part of the progression towards better literacy. They add portability and easy access to millions of ebooks. The Kindle has made life much easier for people who can’t read small print through its font size adjustments feature.
One of Michael Hart’s goals was to reach out to children. This goal is being realized as more children’s books are being added to ebook collections, and as Kindles and other e-book readers are being introduced in the schools. The lure of cool gadgets are enticing children who normally do not like reading, to consider it.
It always amazes me when I read about how long some technologies have really been around. I have only thought of ebooks being a new, twenty-first century invention. But, in fact, they have a rather long, rich history. Project Gutenberg dates all the way back to 1971, before computers really became a household item. E-books were around 36 years before the Kindle was even invented!
So, a big thank you goes out to Michael Hart for being such a champion for literacy, and for making information accessible to a much greater, and more diverse audience.
Earlier this year, in April, Amazon launched a localized German Kindle Store with over 650,000 titles and around 25,000 German language offerings. Overall, at least for the time, a strong offering. In addition to this, Amazon opened up Kindle Direct Publishing for the Amazon.de site, and made sure that Direct Publishing submissions to the original Kindle Store would already be in the German store, assuming rights were available to make this possible. Now, three months later, competition is becoming a bit more heated and this might not be enough to stay appealing to the broader audience on its own.
The Canada based Kobo eBook store will now be available to the German audience. At launch, they have managed a reported 2.4 million eBooks and over 80,000 German language titles. That’s a lot of books. Along with the store launch, there are also German language Kobo eReader apps for the iPhone, iPad, basically anything with an ‘i’ in front of it, and Android. A Playbook app is on the way. There will even be a German version of the Kobo eReader itself released in August. Now, the Kobo business model has always been aimed at a broad international presence. They emphasize open systems, EPUB distribution, and the primacy of the reading experience. Even the Kobo eReader seemed tacked on as almost an afterthought. So far, however, they haven’t really hit the big time.
The main problem that they are running into, I think, is their lack of hardware emphasis. Not as a means of profit, of course, but as a way to provide a physical presence to their customers. We know that Amazon isn’t exactly making loads off of individual Kindle sales, but by providing something better than a PC or cell phone for their customers to read on, they gain customer loyalty. If you’re stuck using a phone for your eBooks anyway, it doesn’t matter in practice who you buy from since the apps are all free anyway.
The new Kobo eReader suffered something of a setback when its otherwise impressive upgrades from the original Kobo were completely overshadowed by the superior experience and competitive pricing of the new Nook Simple Touch eReader. By comparison, it’s just a better product. So Kobo is given that much more incentive to push their international pursuits since the Kindle presence is limited and the Nook is non-existent. In untouched or underrepresented eBook markets, the Kobo store can stand on its own merits and try to build up a hardware independent following, at least in theory.
The one obstacle I see, at least right this minute, is the lack of eReader offering at store launch. If you’re going to have a localized device, great! It sets you that much further apart from the Kindle. Don’t expect to launch the store now and have people stay excited about it for a month while they wait for the gadget. If they can keep the buzz going, great, but it’s going to be a difficult task.
As for the future of the Kobo? They are currently planning similar store launches in Spain, France, Italy, and Holland, to name a few. While I might personally prefer other offerings available in America, possibly because I speak English primarily and don’t have to pay fees to import things that don’t always even work in my country, there is little wrong with the Kobo and anything that builds up the worldwide eBook marketplace will just help things along for everybody.
Kobo, the e-reader that Borders has partnered with, doesn’t have the successful reputation that the Kindle and Nook have, but it does have an advantage on the international scene. The e-reader has had a global focus from the beginning. This would be a great niche to excel in.
Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has a library of about 25, 000 German titles, but Kobo has launched an e-book store that boasts a whopping 80,000 German titles. I was surprised to find that Germany has the 2nd largest e-book market in the world. The United States is the first.
This is a competition to watch because, in order to succeed on a global scale, an e-reader needs to have a robust collection of digital material available. Amazon is certainly able to do this. They just need to establish good relationships with foreign authors and publishers. Here is some healthy competition giving Amazon a wake up call at another angle.
In the past, I’ve noticed a lot of reviewers from other countries have been frustrated with the restrictions on various Kindle products because they’re not accessible. Downloading books outside of the US is pretty costly.
I’ve always associated Kobo with the Borders book chain. Borders is currently being threatened by liquidators and will most likely flop here soon. When I saw this, I wondered, well what about Kobo?
Turns out, Kobo is a completely separate entity than Borders and is a financially secure, Canadian based company. So, nothing will be lost if Borders does go down. Kobo’s newest e-reader, the Kobo Touch, along with the Nook Touch both have an edge that the Kindle doesn’t have…yet. But, that is about to change. Good to see these e-readers try to outrank each other and get better and better. The price drops certainly don’t hurt either!
What I’d really like to see is a global collaboration of sorts. Access to books shouldn’t be restricted by travel. That cuts down the portability of an e-reader. Technology has connected society on a global scale. It’d be cool if everyone could have access to a diverse collection of books from different languages.
As I read the article about the new Kindle upgrades coming up in October, I started to feel really overwhelmed. There is so much to choose from these days. So, I thought I’d break it down a bit. It is all a matter of what type of operating system you prefer (Android or Apple iOS) and what uses you have for your devices.
The Amazon Kindle has been out since 2007 and has evolved a great deal over the last four years to compete with the growing e-reader market: Nook, Kobo, Sony, and most recently, Google’s iriver Story. It has been interesting to watch how obvious the competition is which all of the companies dropping prices and mocking each others’ style. Note the latest touchscreen craze.
Then we have the NookColor, a mixed tablet and e-reader that has succeeded in knocking the Kindle off of it its pedestal.
In terms of e-readers, to me, the Kindle wins hands down. I’ve really enjoyed my Kindle and am looking forward to a new touchscreen version. Amazon has excellent customer service, and shows no sign of crashing and burning anytime soon, unlike Barnes & Noble and Borders. If prices keep dropping the way they have, they’ll be pretty cheap here soon. Now, if only we can stop the rising e-book prices. But, library lending and all of the free and reduced priced e-books available out there might just take care of that.
The iPad wins here. I am not an Apple fiend by any means, but like the Kindle, the iPad has been around for over a year and offers a lot of different apps for various purposes. I use mine as a laptop basically. I also love that I can enlarge the text so easily. Give me a year and I might be saying something different, but for now, I go for the iPad. Other tablets to watch: Acer Iconia, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and of course the Kindle Tablet.
Why have a tablet AND an e-reader? I don’t think of my Kindle as a computer. iBooks does not have nearly the book collection that Amazon does, and reading on the iPad Kindle app does not feel the same. I can still curl up with the Kindle in bed or on the couch, and it isn’t hard on the eyes. I love how both Kindle and iPad can fit easily into a tote bag. Plus, e-readers are getting to be cheap enough that it wouldn’t be a huge setback to have both.
And then there are smartphones…but that market is a whole niche of its own.
As of this morning, Monday the 18th of July, it seems pretty much inevitable that Borders will no longer be a presence in the American retail space soon. Their failure to compete with Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, especially with regard to the Kindle and Nook eReaders, led the company to bankruptcy earlier this year. At this time, Borders Group employs over 11,000 people in over 400 stores nationwide.
At this point, bidding for the company has passed and there seems to be little hope for recovery for America’s second largest book retailer. While earlier this month a buyer had seemingly been found for the troubled company, creditors have rejected the bid based on the possibility that the new owner would be able to liquidate the company after purchase. Unable to find common ground on that topic, and having no other serious bids, liquidation of what is left of Borders seems to be a sure thing.
Overall, this would seem to be a story about a failure to adapt to a changing marketplace. Even before the eBook revolution, digital distribution had become a major, and possibly the major, means of music acquisition for many consumers. Hundreds of Borders Superstores around the country still kept, and still keep, whole floors of CDs collecting dust.
When it came time to jump into eReading, Borders was late to the game and didn’t really manage to do anything to set themselves apart. Their own eBook store, built in 2008 after breaking away from an affiliation with Amazon, was weak to begin with and eventually ended up being replaced outright by Canadian partner Kobo. While they did make a splash as the first company to being a sub-$150 eReader to America by way of the previously mentioned Kobo partnership, no real effort was made to produce or even settle on a single product.
The decline of the company was not abrupt. The last time Borders turned a profit was back in 2006. Still, many will mourn the death of yet another major brick & mortar book retailer as the convenience and lack of overhead that sites like Amazon.com provide make the local bookstore less profitable and less common. Should things go the way they look to be over the next several days, Barnes & Noble may well be the last major bookseller with a nationwide physical presence.
All of this may be good news for Amazon as they become that much more essential for the avid reader. Without a local Borders store, many consumers will be forced to turn to the internet to make their book purchases. It will even likely have some small impact on the sales of Kindle eReaders as the ease of acquisition for less prominent eReading devices, previously sold to varying degrees in participating Borders stores, drops off. Some even wonder whether this might not hasten the decline of the printed book, since it makes the impulsive browsing experience that much less tactile. If one is forced to buy something that can’t be held and inspected ahead of time, it might be better to go for the option with instant delivery and no risk of damage in transit, right?