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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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Kindle Tablet to Hit the Market in October

I haven’t seen an official Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) announcement yet, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the Kindle Tablet and two other Kindle upgrades are set to arrive in October.  The Kindle Tablet that has been under speculation for months will directly compete with the iPad, while a new touch version of the Kindle will compete with the Nook and Kobo Touch editions.

To be honest, in a matter of personal preference, I am more excited about the possibility of a touch version of the Kindle because I’m not a big fan of the keyboard.  Whenever this does get release, I’ll be ready to upgrade my Kindle.  The keys are way too small and somewhat difficult to press.  However, when the touch version does arrive, there will need to be some kind of audio enabled to make sure it is accessible for people with disabilities.

As for the tablet.  This is exciting news, but the iPad has a pretty solid hold on the tablet market, and is said to be successful on into the next year.  So, I think that it will be awhile before the Kindle Tablet will make a huge dent in iPad sales.  There are also a number of other tablets to choose from as well.  Although, I will say, a much cheaper Kindle Tablet might just give Amazon a good start in the tablet game, as will the well liked Android operating system.  I see the iPad to the tablet market as the Kindle is to the e-reader market.  They are both the inventors of their own niches, and were the only ones to hold their niches for a good length of time.

Lastly, there will be an upgrade on the current version of the Kindle.  It will be similar in structure, but include better features and a lower price.  Prices are dropping constantly.  Amazon just dropped the Kindle 3G Special Offers version from $164 to $139.  So, perhaps a $99 or less version of the Kindle is in the near future?  We can only hope!

Kindle Culture

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

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

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

Michelle R

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

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

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

Does the Upcoming Kindle Tablet Mean No Touchscreen Kindle eReader?

The Kindle has been seeing a few new releases from the competition in the past couple weeks.  Some of what they bring to the table is software and such, of course, but the most visible trend has been the move to E Ink touchscreens.  Both the Kobo and Barnes & Noble’s Nook line have released nearly button-free eReaders in an effort to set themselves apart.  Ironically both of these companies tried to set themselves apart by releasing amazingly similar looking products, but that’s unimportant.  This leads to the inevitable speculation that such a design might be the future of the Kindle.  If I had to make a guess, I’d say it will be eventually but not right away.

I don’t think it will be an immediately changed design to keep up with the apparent trend for a couple reasons.  First, clearly Amazon’s focus has better places to be.  The Kindle Tablet line, whatever they choose to call it in the end, involves a number of devices in several shapes and sizes if rumors are to be believed.  None of them are likely to run the same software that is on the existing Kindle.  None of them are going to use the same hardware.  it just isn’t strong enough.  There is simply no obvious direct connection between the device offerings besides Amazon.com as a media vendor and any marketing device they might choose to employ to draw a connection for potential customers.  Given this, it seems unlikely that Amazon would want to be designing or releasing a Kindle 4 dedicated eReader at the same time.  Why would they?  The existing Kindle is doing amazingly well.  The new Nook and Kobo are basically playing catch-up and trying to match features at this point.  Nowhere in the specs of either was there an obvious point of superiority in design that Amazon would have to struggle to meet.  The only major software points involve social networking and library lending, both of which Amazon is working with already.  No need for a new device.

Also, the move to touchscreens by their competitors, if played with correctly, offers Amazon an incentive to stay right where they are for a bit.  As I mentioned, the new Nook and Kobo look rather similar.  In fact, it seems hard to make the hardware side of a touchscreen device particularly unique.  Nobody expects the Kindle Tablet to make a big splash for changing what it means to be a tablet, right?  For now, the Kindle will be the most recognizable eReader anywhere in a way that is only emphasized by the homogeneity of their competition.

This will only work for a while until people become more used to touchscreens in their eReaders and expect them, of course.  It seems an inevitable step at this point no matter how much one might like the more mechanical controls.  It will make particular sense for Amazon to update the Kindle to bring it in line with the Kindle Tablet line’s hardware should that take off as strongly as they’re hoping, since we have to assume that an affordable tablet PC with a non-LCD screen will finally be what makes an impact on Kindle sales.  For now, though, probably not that much of a rush.

New Kobo Touch eReader Attempts To Match Kindle

So far the big contribution that the Kobo has made to the eReader marketplace, in my opinion, is spurring the more established and easy to use eReaders like the Kindle and Nook into an abrupt price drop.  The Kobo hit stores at $150 at a time when a decent eReader would cost you somewhere around a hundred dollars more than that no matter which one you went with.  It made a big difference, even if the Kobo itself was so basic and clunky to use that it didn’t make a huge splash in terms of usability.  Now, with their first major hardware upgrade, the Kobo eReader is back in the race.  The new Kobo is a lot easier on the eyes and promises to be more than a little bit simpler to use.  The big question is whether or not it is enough of a change.

In a lot of ways, the new Kobo Touch is the same concept as the new Nook.  You’ve got a 6″ E Ink Pearl screen, a Home button, and a nicely dark frame.  Lots of visual similarities.  You also get a WiFi connection, though it only works to go to the Kobo Store.  The touchscreen seems ok, and they avoided the blurriness issues that arose in Sony’s touchscreen eReaders by going with a touchscreen technology that does not involve an extra screen layer.  You even get a fair amount of internal memory and an SD slot to work with.  Really, though, it seems like something is missing to be really competitive here.

Leave aside the Kindle comparison for the moment to focus on the more directly comparable new Nook.  Yes, there is a $10 price difference, but consider what is being sacrificed for that money.  Both devices have EPUB support and work well with libraries, by all accounts.  The Nook is supposedly pushing 60 days of battery life these days compared to the new Kobo’s 10 days.  You only get two font sizes to choose from on the Kobo.  You won’t be getting apps of any sort, from what I can see.  Even the size isn’t considerably smaller in any way.

The one place where the Kobo might make a splash is in its social networking service.  Amazon’s Kindle has done a bit along these lines and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Kindle Tablet do more when it comes around, but so far I would say that the Kobo’s Reading Life is a lot more elaborate.  Up until now, to the best of my knowledge, this feature has only been available through iOS and Android apps rather than as a part of the Kobo eReader itself.  It tracks reading time, page turns, books completed, hands out awards for having read books, and more.

Will the novelty be able to clear a spot near the top of the eReader market for the Kobo?  Probably not.  Keep in mind, however, that there is room for variety.  This is probably the third best eReader brand out there right now as far as the price to features ratio is concerned.  There might very well be a place for it even with the Nook and Kindle holding what are in my opinion deservedly superior positions at the moment.

2011 Book Expo America Free Kindle Samples and more

The 2011 Book Expo America brought all kinds of exciting events and upcoming projects for the Amazon Kindle and others.  Amazon Publishing offered author signing and interviews, Kindle excerpts and more.

Amazon Publishing has a collection of free Kindle downloads that provide excerpts and teasers for upcoming releases.  The new releases will be available in the Summer and Fall of 2011.  Some full versions are available for preorder.

This is a great opportunity to test drive some books and authors that you haven’t gotten a chance to try.

We’ve already seen the competition heating up with the latest Nook releases.  I actually got a chance to check ou the NookColor recently, and thought it was pretty decent.  At the expo, Kobo introduced the new Kobo Touch.  It depends mostly on touch screen with the exception of one home button at the bottom, which is similar to the iPad set up.  Based on reviews, the Kobo touch looks pretty clean and can probably hold it’s own in the e-reader market.

The Kobo may sound great in theory, but in order for it to be accessible, it’ll have to have some kind of voice navigation feature.  Currently, the Kindle is way ahead of both the Nook and Kobo readers because of its accessibility features and text to speech option.  The iPad also has a lot of great accessibility features of its own, however, the iPad will be more competitive with the rumored Kindle Tablet than the current Kindle e-reader.

 

Kobo’s Reading Life is Interesting

At a time when the bigger names in eReading like Kindle and Nook are probably a little bit nervous about the future of their place on Apple’s devices, Kobo comes along and introduces an interesting and fun new set of features specifically for them that might be exactly what they need to attract new users.  Reading Life, as they have named the feature, is a combination of social networking and a game-like achievement system that should provide an interesting contrast against other similar platforms and their offerings.

For those who haven’t seen it yet, and I’ll assume that’s most of you, you do have the same ability to share passages from your current read over Facebook that you get with the Kindle and Kindle apps.  You also get to share, in detail, when you start reading a book, when you buy a book, when you annotate a book, etc.  You also get some measure of progress withing the book in terms of progress in the form of both percentage completed and total page turns.

What I found most intriguing, however, were the introduction of “awards” that you earn by reading and discovery of things within the substance of the book.  In Reading Life enabled books (making the untested assumption that you don’t get completely similar experiences from just any book you buy), you can keep track of where the action is taking place, or when you meet a character for the first time, and post these to your Facebook page as you read.  Sometimes this even results in coupons, to judge by what I’ve seen so far.  Coupons are always good, right?

Anyway, I like this as a general trend.  The big problem I see, however, is the heavy insistence on Facebook as the medium of choice.  I get that it’s pretty much the default for everybody wanting to do anything in any way with anybody these days, but that still means that the whole system is reliant on a single service that is completely outside the control of the app developers.  Now, I really don’t think Facebook is going anywhere any time soon(and whether or not that’s a good thing is up to every person to decide for themselves), but this strikes me as limiting. I would prefer to have some degree of linked networking inherent in the Kobo service that just piggybacked on existing Facebook features where applicable.  This would have the added benefit of making it easier, one would assume at least, to integrate the actual Kobo eReader along with any other apps all into a cohesive system.

Depending on how things go in the current Apple vs Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Anybody who sells eBooks situation in the near future, I can definitely see something similar popping up on the Kindle and Kindle apps as well as the Nook line.  If there’s anything that the gaming community has learned over the years, it’s that people love to be able to look at tangible progress and compare notes on who has achieved what and when.  I could honestly see this being used as a teaching tool under the right circumstances.  Let’s hope it takes off in some form.

Kindle’s Kobo Competition for 2011

While this has been an amazing and record breaking year for the Kindle, we haven’t heard much about the more basic, but highly publicized in its time, Kobo eReader.  For those who may not remember, the Kobo device made a splash a while back when they released the first widely available eReading device at $150.  This is widely percieved to have been the move that prompted both Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) and Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) to drop their prices from the $2-300 range when they did.

Their eReader, simply called the Kobo Wireless eReader, is a fairly basic device offering few of the frills you might expect elsewhere these days.  The idea was a reading device built for the task of reading a book off the rack and nothing else.  It’s not the quickest or the prettiest, but it does get the job done.  Where it shines most is the integration into the Kobo Books Store.  They have traditionally offered competitive prices on a huge selection of texts, often with less restrictive DRM formatting than can be found elsewhere.

All that being said, it seems that Kobo is hoping to give Amazon a bit more competition for that top of the market position this year.  They have a similar selection of reading apps to that which Kindle fans have become accustomed to over the past couple years.  Apps are available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Palm Pre, PC, Mac, etc. They have agreements with big names like Samsung and RIM to get these manufacturers’ devices preloaded with the Kobo reading app, which will be a big deal in the expanding tablet PC market place, and have stated that they hope to see their software preloaded on over 20 million individual devices over the course of 2011.  Talk about improved exposure…

Where does this leave the physical eReader?  As best I can tell it simply isn’t the focus of a major push right now.  The current incarnation is superior to the first offering, most notably for its wireless connectivity (which was a pain to do without, I can assure you from personal experience),but at heart it’s the same device.  You get your books, they go on a shelf, you grab them and read them.  It gets a little bit interesting when you’re trying to navigate using just the one multi-directional button in the corner, but even that isn’t too bad. It’s just not great, which it would need to be to make a big impression on the dedicated eReader marketplace with the Kindle around.

It’s hard to say at this point whether Kobo has a real shot at securing a large part of the eBook distribution pie.  They’re well positioned, have some good word of mouth going, and clearly have plans for the year ahead, but the competition on both sides, plentiful new distributors and entrenched old names like Amazon, might be a bit too much to make headway.  As for the Kobo eReader, I’m going to say that, personally, I’m counting it out of the race unless something changes.  The competition now is for the media distribution, after all, not so much the hardware.  Not sure who but a long-time customer would pay more for the Kobo alternative than is being charged for either a Kindle or Nook.

Where does this leave the Kobo?

In the past week or so we have seen price drops on the two most full-featured and well-stocked eReader devices on the market today, as well as the first exclusively WiFi adaptation of one of these devices at the lowest price seen to date.  So, where does this leave the Kobo, the Borders-sponsored budget eReader that made such a stir over the past several months with its $150 asking price?  The outlook is not so good.

By all accounts, and i make no claim to have the device in my hands at the moment to confirm, the Kobo eReader is a bit of a let-down for a lot of people.  A decent screen, slightly slow response time, clunky menu navigation, and just generally unexciting experience.  I won’t deny that the Bluetooth capability is intriguing, but they simply didn’t do much with it.  Now that the Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) nook has dropped its price to match without sacrificing the reading and shopping experiences and Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has followed suit with an even cheaper Kindle, it seems doubtful that the Kobo will find itself with much of a place aside from die-hard lovers of the Borders and Kobo bookstores.  Even some of those may find themselves turning away, as the Kobo store, at least, offers their full collection in EPUB format.  There are still moves to be made, but it would seem that the only major impact the Kobo eReader will have had will be to lower the eReader pricing trend enough to wipe itself out of the market.

Borders Pushes the Kobo Store

Preorders are now being taken for the June 17th US release of the Kobo eReader through Borders.com (NYSE:BGP), and this is only the beginning of their increased association with eReading devices.  In a move that apparently abandons their previous efforts at an eBook store through Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) distribution channels, Borders will be launching a Kobo-powered eBook store along with the release of the device.  This store will service the obviously affiliated Kobo eReader, but also work with just about anything else you have handy to read on, in keeping with the Kobo store’s existing philosophy. Supported devices currently include just about everything but the Amazon Kindle, including but not limited to the B&N nook (NYSE:BKS) and the IREX DR-1000S.

The Kobo device will not be the only eReader technology being embraced by the Borders physical store presence, either.  Beginning in August, we should be seeing what Borders is calling Area-e(TM) boutiques that highlight multiple devices at any given time including, most likely, the Sony Reader line and the upcoming Spring Design Alex eReader, both of which have existing ties to the company.  Time will tell if this move secures the Borders Group a real place in the eBook market, but the additional exposure of less well known devices will certainly be a boon to consumers as they try to balance budgets against a plethora of options and features.  So far, the nook and the Kindle seem to have a strong lead on the features and functionality in the market, but not everybody needs quite such a wide range of options in their device.

Upcoming Kobo Release Draws International Attention

As the May 1st release date for the Kobo eReader from Canada-based Indigo Books and Music Inc. draws near, people have begun to take notice.  The $149 price tag alone would seem to many to be the biggest draw, but the full picture is a little bit larger.

In keeping with the company’s goal of promoting content over gadgetry, anybody using the Kobo Store can expect to have access to their purchases available on any number of platforms from eReader to computer to cellular phone.  This should hold true not only in North American markets but around the world, as Indigo has brought in partnerships to expand their presence into the US, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe.

The device itself is simply a basic reading platform without any of the frills and features that a device like the Kindle boasts, but it provides an affordable option to people at a time when the eReader market is taking off and pulls in a large selection of international literature that is otherwise rather hard to come by.  There are reports of an impressive showing of Korean-language content on the horizon, for example.

If you find yourself interested, check out the National Post’s book blog, The Afterword, where’s there’s a contest going on all week to give readers the chance to win a Kobo eReader of their own to enjoy.  All it takes, it seems, is a few minutes, an email, and some luck!