Tablets

Fare Thee Well, My Pen

26 July 2014

From The New York Times:

The pen is dead. It was murdered by the finger.

I first realized this last week when my girlfriend asked to borrow a pen to sign the back of one of those paper check things.

“Sure,” I replied, picking up my laptop bag to rummage inside. I pulled out a succession of rectangular-shaped gadgets, but there was no pen to be found.

“Hmm, maybe we have one upstairs,” I said as we both began a detective-like search for anything that resembled a vessel for ink. We scoured the home office, kitchen drawers, bedrooms, even looking through our cars. But again, no pen.

. . . .

 While my home is filled with multiple laptops, smartphones, tablets and other Internet-connected devices, there isn’t a single pen to be found. No ballpoint, fountain or rollerball. No highlighter, marker or even an itty bitty nub of a pencil.

. . . .

 Unlike pens, fingers don’t run out of ink, they’re free and you always have one with you. I use mine to take notes on my phone, highlight books on my Kindle and draw pictures on my iPad. I don’t have to worry about losing this work because, unlike a piece of paper, my digital notes live in perpetuity online.

. . . .

“There’s that famous quote that the best camera is the one you have with you, and in that respect, the smartphone has won out over time,” said Naveen Selvadurai, a partner at Expa Capital and a co-founder of Foursquare. “In the same sense, the best pen is the one you have with you, and that’s your finger.”

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, he described the finger as “the best pointing device in the world.” And in typical Jobsian fashion, he seemed to know that fingers would be next big thing.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Barb for the tip.

Apple’s iPad reaches 78% North American tablet share as Amazon’s Kindle Fire passes Samsung, Google

23 July 2014

From AppleInsider:

iPad is making gains in North American tablet web usage, reaching an 78 percent share in Apple’s “first quarter-over-quarter usage share gain since June 2013,” notes a new report by Chitika.

. . . .

Chitika Insights published its latest figures on tablet web traffic for the U.S. and Canada, noting that Amazon’s Kindle Fire, albeit with just one tenth the share of iPad, has moved into second place ahead of Samsung and Google, both of whom are selling ‘pure Android’ tablets.

“Since April 2014, the share of tablet Web traffic generated by North American Apple iPad and Kindle Fire users has increased by 0.8 and 1.2 percentage points, respectively,” the firm stated.

“These represent the two largest quarter-over-quarter increases for any tablet brand, while Samsung’s user base exhibited the largest share loss over the same timeframe, dropping two full percentage points.”

Link to the rest at AppleInsider

Budget Tablet Buying Guide: July 2014

14 July 2014

From The Digital Reader:

For the past four years Android tablet have been a hot market niche, with dozens of device makers releasing new models willy-nilly. Some were good, many were bad, and as a result the tablet market in July 2014 is glutted with tablets.

There are so many tablets on the market that it is difficult to tell which ones are good; even a reviewer such as myself can’t test more than a tithe of what’s available.

But as I sat here this morning, looking for a tablet to buy and review, I realized that my process for choosing a tablet included a number of rules which might be useful.

. . . .

In shopping for a budget tablet, I set a hard upper price limit of $99. Anything more than that gets out of the budget market and into the same price range as the Kindle Fire HD (2013), which at $139 I do not see as a budget tablet.

I also set a lower price limit of $60. As I explain below, most of the tablets that cost less than $59 do not offer a good value. As a general rule, I also avoid refurbs.

Here’s a short list of the specs I want in a $99 Android tablet:

  • 7″ screen, with a screen resolution of 1024 x 600 (or higher)
  • a Dual-core ARM CPU (or a single-core Intel CPU)
  • 1GB RAM (minimum)
  • 8GB internal storage
  • Google Play (or Amazon Appstore)

You could buy a tablet with less RAM, but that will limit its performance. You might also skimp on storage, but that’s simply not a good idea. As I and a number of other users have discovered, the tablets that ship with only 4GB internal storage fill up real quick. A microSD card will be required, and that adds to the price so I say go for the extra storage in the first place.

You might notice that I insist on Google Play, but don’t mention cameras. The latter are a crap shoot for budget tablets; a tablet might have them but there’s no guarantee that the cameras will be good. And as for Google Play, most budget tablets will ship with it so you can ignore the tablets that don’t have it. They’re not even worth considering.

. . . .

Best Tablet Value for July 2014

If you want a safe tablet purchase for under $100, I would go for the Kobo Arc (2012). This is probably not the only good value for $99, but it is one I have had my hands on and can recommend without concern.

The Kobo Arc was initially released in 2012 as a competitor to the Kindle Fire HD. As such it was a mid-grade tablet with specs that justified its $199 price tag. Now that it costs $99, it’s a great deal.

The Arc has a better quality screen than you will find on most tablets in its price range. With a screen resolution of 1280 x 800, it is both sharper and higher quality.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Here’s What the Future of Reading Looks Like

29 June 2014

From New York magazine:

Software is eating the world. It’s also eating the book.

For years, traditional book publishers have hoped that standalone e-readers — Kindles, Nooks, and the like — would be their salvation, replacing paper-and-ink books as the diversion of choice for a new generation of readers. But several new data points suggest that’s not happening. In fact, it seems clearer than ever that the future of reading isn’t on reading devices at all. It’s on your phone.

. . . .

“E-readers are looking like the next iPod,” Mashable writes today, noting that smartphones and tablets with e-reader apps are poised to cannibalize sales of dedicated e-readers in the same way that the iPhone – which had all the capabilities of an iPod, plus calling and texting and tons of other apps – killed its single-feature predecessor.

The death of the standalone e-reader might be good news for consumers, who will have one fewer gadget to buy and lug around. But it’s bad news for the book industry. If you’ve ever tried to read a book on your phone, you’ll know why. Reading on an original Kindle or a Nook is an immersive experience. There are no push notifications from other apps to distract you from your novel, no calendar reminders or texts popping up to demand your immediate attention. And this immersion is partly why people who use dedicated e-readers tend to buy a lot of books. (One survey indicated that e-book readers read about 24 books a year, compared to 15 books a year for paper-and-ink readers.)

E-book sales aren’t necessarily correlated with the popularity of standalone e-book readers, and the publishing industry could still have a successful digital transition if it convinces iPhone and Android users to buy e-books in the same quantities as Kindle and Nook users. But there’s no getting around the fact that smartphones aren’t designed for focused, sustained reading.

Link to the rest at New York and thanks to Patricia for the tip.

Barnes & Noble Taps Samsung As Hardware Partner For New NOOK Tablets

6 June 2014

From TechCrunch:

Barnes & Noble’s e-reader and tablet division has been in a bit of a tailspin over the past couple of years, but today it announced that it’ll be taking a different approach through a new partnership with Samsung. The partnership brings Samsung on board to create a co-branded version of its Galaxy Tab 4 with custom NOOK software. A 7-inch version goes on sale in the U.S. in early August, and will be sold at Barnes & Noble bookstores and online alongside NOOK e-readers.

Barnes & Noble says it’ll continue to offer the NOOK GlowLight, but this looks like the end of the line for the company’s own more full-featured NOOK line Android-based tablets. The decision to work with Samsung is a key component of the bookseller’s efforts to “rationalize” its NOOK business, the company said in a release, and the co-branding deal means that they can avoid shouldering the cost and risk of producing NOOK tablet hardware themselves.

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

Apple’s New iOS 8 a Game-Changer for eBook Retailing

5 June 2014

From Mark Coker via The Huffington Post:

Imagine a bookstore in nearly one billion pockets and purses.

During the live demo event of Apple’s unveiling of their new iOS 8 operating system on June 3, Apple made a passing reference to a slide of “iOS 8 features we didn’t have time to talk about.”

Buried in the fine print but photographed by bloggers was an ebook retailing bombshell: iBooks will come pre-installed on iOS 8.

The iBooks app is Apple’s ebook store containing over 2 million books (my ebook distribution company, Smashwords, supplies over 250,000 of these books).

This is a game-changer for ebook retailing, a big win for authors, the most significant counter yet to Amazon’s hegemony over ebooks, and a boost to book culture because it’ll make more low-cost ebooks more accessible to more readers than ever before.

. . . .

Starting this fall, iBooks will occupy prime screen real estate on all new devices. The new iOS will also be available as a free upgrade to users of the iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPod touch 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina display.

Apple’s move will place ebooks just one click away from being discovered, sampled and purchased by nearly a billion readers.

. . . .

Make sure all your books are distributed to iBooks ASAP. If your ebooks are among the 500,000 locked in the dungeon of exclusivity at Amazon’s KDP Select, break them free as soon as you can.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to Tom for the tip.

Tackling the Limits of Touch Screens

19 May 2014

From The New York Times:

Touch screens are ubiquitous on tablets and smartphones, but their flat glass surfaces can hinder close reading and accurate typing. People flipping through electronic pages often retain less of what they read than on printed ones, studies suggest. And typing on a flat surface with no physical keys to guide the fingers requires heightened visual attention to avoid typos, draining concentration from the thoughts being expressed.

Companies are trying to address these problems with new tools adapted from the analog world of three-dimensional typewriter keys, tactile paper pages, and pop quizzes on the blackboard.

. . . .

Many people who type on flat glass screens must keep their eyes focused on the surface to hit the correct key, he said. “It’s not just that visual attention is needed,” he added, “but a lot of visual attention.”

That means less focus on the act of composition, said Erik Wästlund, a senior lecturer in psychology at Karstad University in Sweden who specializes in the readability of electronic text.

. . . .

Accurate typing isn’t the only problem with touch screens and their fleeting electronic pages. Many studies suggest that people’s memory and comprehension are often better when they read long passages on paper than on screen, said Mariette DiChristina, editor in chief of Scientific American, which in August held a conference on learning in the digital age.

But electronic textbooks are incorporating ways to compensate for this, Ms. DiChristina said, “so that you are spacing what you are learning over time with feedback — right or wrong — to immediately help you understand what you know and what you don’t know.”

Old-fashioned pop quizzes can be inserted effectively into e-pages.

. . . .

 Another problem with touch screens’ transitory images is that they don’t help students create a mental map of what they’ve read and what’s to come — an overview that is known to be useful in memory. “You might remember that something you read yesterday in the paper was in the middle of the page, or in the right corner,” Dr. Wästlund said. “Even though you haven’t tried to memorize position, you have built this internal model” — like the page layout of a newspaper. That kind of cognitive map or physical landscape into which readers fit new knowledge is much harder to build with fleeting e-pages.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Amazon and Samsung partner up for custom Kindle store on Galaxy smartphones and tablets

19 April 2014

From Digital Trends:

Samsung has signed a deal with Amazon, and will jointly launch a custom version of the Kindle book store made specifically for Galaxy phone and tablets.

. . . .

Owners will be entitled to download 12 free books per year, taken from a choice of four offered up each month. The books on offer will be “prominent,” so expect an Amazon-curated list of well-known novels from which to choose.

. . . .

Additionally, the app will also provide access to newspapers and magazines, along with 500,000 book titles which are exclusive to the Kindle store. It also features Whispersync, so your place in a book is saved across all your Kindle devices and apps, plus the option to backup your books in the cloud using Amazon’s Worry-Free Archive feature.

. . . .

Samsung says the app is available right now in 90 countries around the world, but don’t go looking for it inside the Google Play store. Instead, you’ll need to visit Samsung’s own app store on your phone.

Link to the rest at Digital Trends

Amazon looks to pump up Kindle sales with monthly payments

14 March 2014

From Retail Wire:

Maybe Amazon’s mindreading technology does work. While many of the recommendations that I’m used to getting from the e-tailing giant are less than precise, one showed up in my in-box this morning that might be worth exploring.

We’ve been talking about buying another tablet so the youngest member of the household won’t have to borrow from the adults. We haven’t pulled the trigger because we’ve been getting by without one and prices, even on entry-level tablets, are high. Today, however, in rides Amazon.com on a symbolic white horse with an e-mail offer to take a bit of the sting out of buying its Kindle Fire 7″ Tablet — monthly payments starting at $27.80.

According to Amazon, customers who want to take advantage of the offer will be charged 20 percent of the device’s price up front, plus applicable tax and shipping charges. The remaining 80 percent will be broken down into four monthly payments charged to their credit card.

Link to the rest at Retail Wire and here’s a link to the Kindle Fire monthly payment deal.

Barnes & Noble, Microsoft Revise Nook Partnership

14 March 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

Barnes & Noble and Microsoft have agreed to revise their digital-reading partnership, allowing the bookseller to stop developing its Nook e-reading app for computing devices powered by Microsoft software.

Barnes & Noble said it would stop work on apps for Windows 8 computers, phones and tablets, and support a possible Microsoft-created digital-reading service or app. That service, which Microsoft hasn’t announced, was mentioned in a regulatory filing Thursday as “the Microsoft Consumer Reader.”

. . . .

The revised pact, which was disclosed in a regulatory filing, will help Nook preserve the cash that would have been used to develop the new app, while still providing e-reading content for Microsoft.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

PG thinks it sounds like both sides of this strange partnership are disillusioned.

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