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.

Kindle Textbook Rentals About To Take Off?

While there is a huge demand for affordable college textbooks, both purchased and rented, the Kindle eTextbook rental option has yet to become terribly popular.  There’s a very good reason for this.  Textbooks traditionally make extensive use of graphics, charts, colors, and other such methods of enhancing the text.  The Kindle’s monochrome E INK screen has not been entirely up to the task of replacing those features.  While it is great for pleasure reading, things haven’t quite clicked in other areas just yet.  That may all be changing with the release of the Kindle Fire, though.

Not only will the Kindle Fire’s display have color, which is an obvious benefit, it has a larger screen which means more leeway when it comes to properly positioning everything that needs to be shown at any given time.  This is aided, of course, by the new Kindle Format 8 release, which will allow publishers to better control the positions of things on the page.  That’s not a great thing when overused, but will prove a vital component of properly adapting digital texts.  Nobody wants this to become another iteration of the increasingly obsolete PDF format, but there are definitely situations where some rigidity in positioning important elements is to be desired.  Sadly, until now most electronic textbook renters have been forced to rely on PDF copies.  It is definitely a good time to be marketing viable alternatives.

The Kindle Textbook Rental service already allows users a chance at significant savings.  Renters can save as much as 80 percent off of the purchase price, depending on the book.  This rental can be for a period of anywhere from a month to a year, and can even be turned into a purchase should you desire in the end.  Despite this being only a temporary arrangement, users are able to bookmark, highlight, and annotate as much as desired and not only will these notes persist through to the end of the rental, they will be available in the same text should it ever be rented gain or purchased in the future.

Generally, at the moment, it is advisable to be sure that you can regularly access your rental from a computer rather than a Kindle.  It is obviously possible to use the Kindle, but it is somewhat difficult to get the most out of it, as I mentioned.  With the release of the new device, then, we can expect to be seeing a bigger push at this end of the Kindle Store’s content.  Possibly as early as late December given the upcoming semester, but definitely by Spring 2012. The Kindle Fire is extremely likely to breathe new life into a program full of potential and low on actual versatility thus far.

What To Consider About A Kindle For College

It’s that time of year again and students new and old are heading back to college for the fall.  Now, more than ever, having an eReader just makes sense for anybody serious about their education.  That said, with so many options on the market it can be hard to choose.  Kindle or Nook?  eReader or Tablet?  Skip it all and just get a laptop, since there are eReading apps anyway?  When trying to decide, there are a few factors that are really important.

First, determine what your eBook needs will be.  Students new to college can expect significant introductory coursework.  This often means older, more widely read works of literature and basic textbooks.  Generally this means extended reading of the literature and textbooks only pulled out to work through assignments.  For that combination, I recommend an eReader like the Kindle or Nook combined with a PC app for textbook reading (They’re only going to be opened for a few minutes at a time anyway).  As always, check the list of required texts to make sure this is feasible before buying.  This combination has the added advantage of paying for itself in savings very quickly since a Kindle will only cost you $114 and many commonly used books can be found for free.

In terms of more advanced students, the individual needs will determine whether use of an eReader is feasible.  Many technical texts require both extended study and full color diagrams to make sense.  The current monochrome limitations of the Kindle would make it less than useful for this.  If the program in question requires extensive illustrated textbook reference, you probably don’t need one.  If you will be spending much time using academic text references like JSTOR, or focusing on purely text-based studies, the Kindle makes perfect sense.

Assuming you have an idea what kind of product you need, the next step is choosing the particular model.  Availability is not really a concern with the Amazon Kindle always including free shipping and the Barnes & Noble Nook available in all of their local stores and many of the college book stores they service.  For the most part, this is a matter of personal preference.  Both devices accomplish everything you would expect from a reading device and neither has a clear advantage over the other.  For a hands-on comparison, many Best Buy stores will have both devices side by side.

I do not recommend using nothing but a laptop PC if the goal is to focus on eBooks.  Extended reading on LCD screens can be uncomfortable at best, and the potential for distraction is far higher than on an eReader.

Similarly, there are no circumstances under which I would consider an iPad a valid substitute for either a laptop or an eReader.  In terms of reading, they fall short due to the short battery life and a back-lit display that can be hard on the eyes during long study sessions.  In classes, the potential for distraction is far higher than on something like a Kindle, which has led to many instructors being uncomfortable even having the devices present in the classroom.  They also certainly do not manage to work as well as a laptop for composition or presentation preparation.  Students will be forced to perform necessary tasks elsewhere.

Whatever the needs, make sure to keep in mind both the Kindle eText rental service and public domain titles available through the Kindle Store (or just Project Gutenberg) for free.  Making use of eBooks will save you money, if you are careful, even accounting for the costs of the reading device.

Amazon Kindle Textbook Rental Program

In college, I was always grateful to be an English major because my books were pretty small and relatively inexpensive, but I had plenty of friends who lugged around huge, expensive science or math textbooks around everywhere.  Come to think of it, the Kindle edition of many of the classics I read in my English classes are free.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has introduced its new Kindle Textbook Rental Program.  Amazon has been offering new and used print editions of textbooks for awhile. What a great use for the Kindle DX, especially since it has a bigger screen.  There has been some push for use of the Kindle DX in education in recent years, but it hasn’t really taken off. But, regardless of whether you download your textbook to your Kindle, Kindle DX, iPad, computer, smartphone, etc, you’ll save a lot of money and backache.

With device choices, you get more customizable fonts and color contrasts.  Often, print textbooks are in small print, making it harder to see.  You can also annotate or highlight without damaging the book and decreasing its value.

You can either buy the textbook or rent it for specified length of time between 30 and 360 days.  Kindle editions are much cheaper.  Amazon claims that the Kindle versions are up to 80% less than the print versions. Something I’d like to see if the ability to sell “used” Kindle textbooks to others like you can do with print editions.

You’ll find subjects all across the board: from business and accounting to history and literature.  There are also test prep guides and computer software manuals.  Looks like a great collection to start with, and more are constantly added.

So, hopefully the combination of cheaper Kindles, cheaper textbooks, and lighter backpacks will take the financial and physical burden off students.