Popularity of e-readers declines

30 October 2015

From the Pew Research Center:

From getting news to playing games to reading a book, Americans now have a plethora of devices to choose from in order to meet their technology-based needs. For each type of device, the demographic makeup of owners can vary widely, so this section looks at these differences.

Smartphone ownership continues to grow

The rise of the smartphone has had a major social, political and cultural impact. It has changed the way people reach their friends, obtain data and media, and share their lives. Fully 68% of adults now have a smartphone, nearly double the share that Pew Research Center measured in its first survey on smartphone ownership in mid-2011. At that point, 35% of adults had smartphones.

. . . .

More than half of most demographic groups have a smartphone. Only those ages 65 and older (30% of whom own smartphones) and those who do not have a high school education (41% own smartphones) fall below majority ownership. On the other hand, those ages 18 to 49 and those in higher-income households are coming closer and closer to saturation adoption. There are no differences in smartphone ownership among different racial and ethnic groups.

. . . .

Close to half of all Americans own a tablet

The share of Americans who own a tablet computer has risen tenfold since 2010. Today, 45% of U.S. adults own a tablet – a substantial increase since Pew Research Center began measuring tablet ownership in 2010. Then, only 4% of adults in the U.S. were tablet owners. Ownership, however, is statistically the same as it was in 2014.

Tablet ownership varies across a number of demographic groups. Younger adults and those from more affluent backgrounds are more likely to own the devices, and differences tied to educational attainment are particularly pronounced: 62% of college graduates have a tablet, compared with 35% of those with a high school diploma and 19% who have not completed high school. Additionally, whites are more likely than Hispanics to own a tablet computer, while tablet ownership among blacks is not statistically different from that of whites or Hispanics.

. . . .

Popularity of e-readers declines

Some 19% of adults report owning an e-reader – a handheld device such as a Kindle or Nook primarily used for reading e-books. This is a sizable drop from early 2014, when 32% of adults owned this type of device. Ownership of e-readers is somewhat more common among women (22%) than men (15%). Whites are more likely than blacks and Hispanics to own an e-reading device, while ownership also tends to be higher among those who are more affluent and those with more education.

Link to the rest at Pew Research Center

While PG prefers using an ereader for long-form text, in a world with $50 Fire tablets, ereaders are going to be more and more of a niche product.

However, a decline in ereader sales does not imply a decline in ebook sales. PG thinks the best thing for ebook sales is a device, like a smart phone, that readers always have nearby.

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Is it now the time for something completely different?

7 October 2015

From Futurebook:

This morning, The Bookseller reported that Waterstones was taking Kindle devices off most of its shelves due to “pitiful” sales.

No great surprise here: the chain’s managing director James Daunt said after Christmas 2014 that device sales, once strong, had tapered off, a reflection of a digital market that has moved beyond its adoption-period.

Daunt has never made any secret that under him Waterstones’ job was to deliver what its customers want: at the time of the Kindle deal in 2012 Daunt said that a number were choosing to read digitally, and Waterstones needed to be in that game [the video of Daunt announcing the Kindle deal is still available via YouTube].

Yet he also maintained that there was room for both types of reading: that the Kindle would not entirely displace the need and desire to read physical texts.

. . . .

Should we take Waterstones’ move to de-stock Amazon’s Kindle as another signal that the era of the dedicated e-reader is over? Or simply that Waterstones, like Barnes & Noble, wasn’t a good seller of tech? In other words, is it Waterstones, or the Kindle that we should be worried about?

In response to the second question, Amazon says no. The company said it was “pleased with the positive momentum and growing distribution of Kindle and Fire tablet sales” and added that kindle book sales in the UK were also growing. Amazon said: “Our devices are now available in over 2,500 retail locations across the UK, including Argos, Tesco, Dixons, John Lewis and recent additions like Sainsbury’s, Boots and Shop Direct. Our UK, US and worldwide Kindle book sales are growing in 2015.”

It made a similar point to the Wall Street Journal a couple of months ago. Kobo and Nook, both of which continue to launch new devices, would doubtless agree. When Kobo first arrived on the scene, its founder Michael Serbinis said he expected this to be a 25 year transition. We are one-fifth of the way through.

. . . .

Waterstones wasn’t the best tech-retailer in the business. It’s m.d. didn’t believe in the product, its booksellers only sold them through gritted teeth, and its offer was confused. Yes, you could buy a Kindle, but no you could not buy content for it through Waterstones. At the time of the deal, Waterstones promised a Waterstones specific home-page for Kindle users, but if it was ever implemented I never saw it. Waterstones simply never bridged the gap between the sale of the device and the sale of the content. Instead the chain still sells ePub e-books from its website, pointing out that they can be loaded on to all devices “except for Kindle”.

Link to the rest at Futurebook

The New Kindle Paperwhite Is Perfect for Picky Readers

18 June 2015

From Wired:

Ever since Amazon launched the Kindle Voyage, buying an e-reader has been a complicated process. The Voyage is amazing: high-res, super smooth to use, lots of memory. But it’s expensive, and the Kindle Paperwhite is a fantastic device in its own right.

The decision should be a little easier now, because Amazon just announced a new, $119 Paperwhite that includes the best thing about the Voyage: that amazing display. The new Paperwhite has a 300ppi screen—double the pixels of the previous version—which should be just as crisp and sharp as the Voyage. It’s still just showing shades of gray, but if the Voyage is any indication, it really does improve the reading experience. And, lest we worry, the Paperwhite’s battery life is still absurdly long even with all the extra pixels.

. . . .

The new Bookerly font, which Amazon designed specifically for reading, is now available on the Paperwhite too. And the Kindle’s formatting tools have been overhauled as well, to make the size and spacing feel a little more intentional. You know how sometimes, a line would only have about five words, all spaced way too far apart? That should be gone now.

The goal is to make every size of every typeface feel like it was custom-fit for your device. Small and large fonts have always been hardest to manage, and special attention was paid to those.

Link to the rest at Wired and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Here’s a link to New Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Finally Gets Typography That Doesn’t Suck

27 May 2015

From Co.Design:

Amazon’s Kindle e-reader is a lovely single-purpose gadget, with an industrial design ethos that, in its singular focus on the purity of e-reading, even Dieter Rams could love. The iOS and Android apps are even great. But no matter what gadget you read on, the Kindle’s typography and typesetting has always been a bit of a disaster, with six different typefaces, that are barely suitable for reading an actual book. (Who reads books in Futura, anyways?) As for the typesetting, “hideous” is the word many type lovers would use to describe it.

But today, Amazon is making a big step towards better typography on the Kindle. Not only are they unveiling Bookerly, the first typeface designed for the Kindle for scratch, but they’re finally solving the Kindle’s typesetting problems with an all-new layout engine that introduces better text justification, kerning, drop caps, image positioning, and more.

. . . .

Replacing Caecilia as the new default font for Kindle, Bookerly is a serif that has been custom-made by Amazon to be as readable across as many different types of screens as possible. Like Google’s Literata, Bookerly is meant to address many of the aesthetic issues surrounding e-book fonts.

. . . .

On low-res devices, Baskerville’s thin, elegant lines looked crude, whereas Caecilia, a slab serif, was just a bizarre choice for Amazon’s previous default font: although it’s highly readable, it’s a type of font best used for headlines, not body text, because slab serifs often look and feel bolded, even when they’re not.

Bookerly addresses both of these issues. No matter what screen you’re on, Bookerly was designed from the ground-up to be even more readable that Caecilia. According to Amazon’s internal tests, that means it’s about 2% easier on the eye. That may seem like a small improvement, but spread that 2% across millions of Kindle users and billions of pages of e-reading, and it all starts to add up.

. . . .

But to be honest, Bookerly’s not really what has me excited. The Kindle’s new layout engine? That’s another story. After almost eight years, Amazon’s finally starting to get e-book typesetting bloody right.

Previous to today’s update, when you read an e-book on the Kindle, sentences were fully justified. In other words, no matter how big your font size, Kindle’s invisible software always laid-out the page so that the left and right margins were completely straight. And it was ugly. Words were never split across lines, so there could be as many as half-a-dozen spaces between words.

. . . .

Amazon updated the Kindle app for iOS with Bookerly and a new layout engine today this morning. Another update rolling out the new font and typesetting technology to users of Amazon’s line of e-ink readers, Android, and other devices will be available later this summer.

Link to the rest at Co.Design and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

This Is What You’re Missing Out On When Using an E-Reader Instead of a Real Book

20 May 2015


An attractive stranger sits across from you on the train, hunched over and reading. As they read on, a small smirk crosses their face. What’s so funny? Maybe you and this sexy stranger share a discerning literary taste, you think.

. . . .

What we lose when covers go plastic: Since the Kindle’s 2007 debut, the number of gray and white screens in the hands of train riders and beach-goers has steadily risen. As of 2014, up to 50% of Americans over 18 owned a tablet or e-reader, according to a survey by Pew Research Center.

“Books on the subway are increasingly like birds in the jungle: colorful, hard-to-spot and of obsessive interest,” writer Ben Dolnick observed on the Awl while watching people read on the New York City subway for a week.

As more and more people opt for e-readers rather than paperbacks, the chances for people to connect over them dwindle. Not only are book readers sexy (just take the viral Instagram account Hot Dudes Reading), we also draw all sorts of flattering conclusions about people’s book choices and use those choices to connect. Books are a natural pick-up line, an easy entryway to understanding someone’s interests, passions and even biases.

. . . .

 One Tumblr user, k-auhale, blogged about the time she was once asked out via a John Green book. “Wait! there’s this quote I wanted to show you on page… 123, I think,” her crush told her. He then pointed to a sentence in Looking for Alaska that he had highlighted that read, “Do you want to be my girlfriend?” The devoted Green fan happily accepted the offer.

. . . .

Nobody is more concerned over the potential loss of book-inspired connections than Tricia Callahan, the founder of CoverSpy, who curates a blog that documents what the people of Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and other cities are reading in public — on the train, in the bar and in parks. Callahan felt the coming of the digital reader revolution in 2009 and wanted to do something about it.

“We felt it on our commutes: Kindle backs were the new book covers to stare at. Something was changing in our visual landscape, we were losing something,” Callahan told Mic. For her, creating CoverSpy was about acknowledging the kind of connection that might be lost with e-readers.

“One day I was standing on the subway reading,” said Callahan, recalling a time she was wrapped up reading about F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby. She looked up, and lo and behold, the woman holding the pole next to her was reading Gatsby at that very moment.

Link to the rest at and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Yet another reason why PG is glad that he’s married.

Kindle Price Cuts

23 December 2014

Amazon is having a sale on Kindle Ereaders. PG doesn’t know how long the discounts will last.

Kindle Original vs Kindle Voyage

5 November 2014

From boingboing:

Jason Weisberger finally upgraded. Did seven years make much difference? The answer will probably not surprise you, but the details might.

. . . .

Facing off Amazon’s latest and greatest single purpose reading device, the Kindle Voyage, to their last generation Paperwhite seemed like a waste of your and my time. Every single review tells you its a nice upgrade, but perhaps one not worth the money. The Voyage, in form factor, most reminded me of the original Kindle. The strangely angular case design looked derivative. Luckily, I just happened to have one here…

Rob described the original Kindle as “looking like wadded up cardboard” and I think he may be right. Before I’d even recharged the device and powered it on, I marveled at the insane shape Amazon felt was going to be most pleasing and book-like to the user. I remember being put off by the design when I first saw it, but I’ve actually missed it. OG Kindle did feel more like the bend of pages when holding a paperback sized book than any of the sterile, rounded Kindle’s since. The Voyage backplate sports similar angling and ridging. It fits the hand in a similar manner, even the Amazon Origami case attempts to translate that tactile feel. I quite like it but actually still feel original Kindle maintains the edge over all other e-readers for actual book-in-hand-ness.

. . . .

Screen is simply no contest. The new Voyage is lightning quick, shows almost no ghosting and the matte glass front does stay unsmudged, far longer. The OG Kindle’s screen is slow and ghosts a lot. The resolution would never be an issue, for me at the font sizes I read at, but seeing them next to each other its just unfair.

. . . .

Reading is better on the Voyage. Unsurprisingly I like having a better screen, and the self adjusting front light is a dream. Voyage is a better reading device in all lighting conditions. The self-adjusting light is a dream, even nicer than the Paperwhite. The OG Kindle was a first gen device, this is the primary function of the product line at Amazon and they’ve made HUGE improvements. The Voyage is great in direct sun and lights out situations. Years back I retired the OG Kindle for an iPad with the Kindle app purely for the backlighting at night, it made reading outdoors impossible.

Link to the rest at boingboing and thanks to Scott for the tip.

Here’s a link to the Kindle Voyage

Voyage, a High-End Amazon Kindle That Beats Hardcovers

21 October 2014

From The New York Times Bits blog:

Amazon’s Kindle is a tech-industry miracle. That sounds over-the-top; it’s not.

In 2007, when the company first unveiled its e-reader, the device was an expensive ugly duckling whose future looked marginal at best. The first Kindle, which sold for $400 and was made by a company that had no track record in hardware, had a lot to overcome: the reluctance of the book industry to change its business model, the sentimentality of readers for the printed book, and its egregious industrial design, which looked like the product of the Soviet space program.

. . . .

Now, with its newest Kindle, the Voyage, Amazon is refining its e-reader once more. The Voyage’s main trick is a high-resolution display that mimics the look of a printed page. Text on its screen appears at a resolution of 300 pixels an inch, which is on par with the high-resolution displays now found on most of our other mobile devices.

Compared with  previous Kindles, text on the Kindle Voyage appears both sharper and in starker relief against the background. Graphics, like charts and graphs, look just as clear as they do in any black-and-white book.

The effect is beguiling. If you look at the new Kindle for any stretch of time, you don’t just forget that you’re reading an e-book; you forget that you’re using any kind of electronic device at all.

Amazon says the Voyage offers a better approximation of print than has ever been available on an e-reader, but for me, it’s far better than that. It offers the visual clarity of printed text with the flexibility of an electronic device.

Given that combination, the Voyage functions as something like the executioner of the trusty old hardcover.

Link to the rest at New York Times

Here’s a link to the Voyage page

Trigger Warning- Tom and Jerry and Amazon

10 October 2014

You can read about this on any number of sites, but here’s USA Today:

Viewers may now be thinking twice before they click “play” on the classic Warner Bros. cartoon, Tom and Jerry.

Amazon Prime Instant and iTunes have posted a disclaimer that warns users that the cat-and-mouse shorts, which ran from 1940 to 1957, “may depict some ethnic and racial prejudices that were once commonplace in American society.”

The warning continues: “Such depictions were wrong then and are wrong today.”

I have a confession to make. This is so before my time that when I first read the headline (in a different publication) I thought it was because it was a cat and a mouse… living together in sin…

Read the rest here.


HarperCollins Signs Deal With Bookmate – but Not Kindle Unlimited

9 October 2014

From Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader

Bookmate, which is primarily focused on Russia and ebook markets in eastern Europe, will now be able to offer its 1.5 million users ebooks published by HC. No one is talking specifics on the numbers, but the press release does say that “books by hundreds of authors, including CS Lewis are included in the deal”.

. . .

But I will note that Bookmate has a deal which Amazon has not yet secured for Kindle Unlimited. Following the deal between S&S and Denmark-based Mofibo, this is the second time in only a couple weeks that a smaller ebook subscription service scored a contract with a major US trade publisher which Amazon could not get.

. . .

This trend, if it exists, could well explain the speculation that Amazon is about to open up Kindle Unlimited to all KDP authors – with no exclusivity required. This would give Amazon a significantly larger catalog, and what’s more the idea is already getting positive responses from some indie authors.

. . .

Read the full article at The Digital Reader

So far we have only rumors and report of a possible tech glitch to support the opening up of KDP to all indies, but Nate Hoffelder lending weight says it’s still fertile ground for speculation.

Holding-the-digital-fort vacation guest post by Bridget McKenna


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