Who Will Save Us From Our Screens?

15 October 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Earlier this summer, Publishers Weekly reported on the surprising decline of e-book sales and on whether this signaled the first pangs of digital fatigue. Certainly, we all seem to be getting digitally exhausted these days. There are emails to check, Facebook posts to like, Instagram photos to upload, Tinder and Grinder profiles to swipe, emojis to learn, and endless text messages. We spend our days navigating tangled links of spam and clickbait to finally return to our beds at night—where we unwind by spending hours scrolling through social media posts.

Digital fatigue isn’t a new phenomenon; it’s simply our immune system responding to a decade of hyperconnectivity. And yet it doesn’t look like we’re at a place of total exhaustion. If anything, we seem to be growing increasingly addicted to our devices. I find myself checking my phone five times a day—or 20, or 30. Before bed I check one last time, and upon waking, I log in to see what messages I’ve missed.

. . . .

 Though it’s tempting to think the next generation is turning away from the seduction of cyberspace, the drop-off in e-readers may have less to do with a wish to return to books than a general lack of desire to read at all. Perhaps I’m jaundiced from a decade of teaching, but I hear the daily complaints of millennials when I assign an essay longer than five pages. The 20-plus-page stories of Baldwin, Chekhov, and Kafka are skimmed, and my creative-writing classes have to be weaned from producing stories based on television plots. When I ask students about their reading habits, they mention having a couple of tabs open at a time—the assigned PDF class reading in one, the latest episode of Game of Thrones playing on low volume in another.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Amazon’s Tablet Success Is Continuing

13 September 2016

From Seeking Alpha:

Amazon didn’t wait long to strike back at Apple after its September keynote event. True, iPad did not really get much attention during the main event – actually, it wasn’t covered at all – but Apple’s announcement that it was finally doubling the iPhone’s storage soon carried over to the rest of the product lineup. Most of its iPad models got a significant storage bump, and a few of the iPad Pro models actually got their prices cut as well. With Apple and pretty much every other Android vendor except Amazon seeing falling tablet sales, the company doubtless hopes the moves will continue the recent progress in stabilizing iPad sales, which have been cut almost in half.

Amazon, however, is not sitting still. It launched its newest tablet less than one day later.

. . . .

 “Newest” is a bit of a misnomer; the product is actually just a revamp and slight upgrade of the Fire HD8 that Amazon launched last year. The tablet’s upgrades were not completely lacking, as it did receive more memory and doubled storage – less important in Amazon’s case since Fire tablets can now take micoSD cards to increase storage as much as 200GB – and, most impressively, a four-hour increase in battery life to 12 hours. And it did all of this while delivering a truly jaw-dropping price cut: $89.99, a full $60 below what the weaker version of the same tablet cost just last year.

. . . .

 Creating premium products at non-premium prices, as Amazon loves to say, is always going to be a balancing act. The devices will never carry quite as much power and flair as the more expensive iPads. But Amazon made the right decisions a year ago when it stopped aiming for flair and decided to focus on affordability, and its renewed success in tablet sales validates that. The new Fire HD8 is a signal from Amazon that their strategy is working, that they see no reason to change it, and that the company possesses the engineering sophistication now to achieve substantial savings without compromising performance, and pass those savings on to the customers.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

Amazon Slashes Price, Adds Alexa to New Fire Tablet

8 September 2016

From The Associated Press:

Amazon wants to be under the Christmas tree this year. It’s cut the price of its new Fire tablet almost in half and added its popular voice assistant, Alexa, in hopes of making it a hot holiday item, despite a slump in overall tablet sales.

The new Fire HD8 tablet will cost $90, down from $150. Mixed-use battery life is up to 12 hours from 8, and the base storage is doubled to 16 gigabytes.

The biggest change is that the tablet will have Alexa functionality. That means that when users tap and hold the tablet’s home button, they can ask the assistant for anything from weather reports to news queries, and also get the device do things like adjusting the lights or temperature on compatible smart-home devices.

. . . .

 The Fire HD price cut in particular makes it attractive to buyers, IDC research manager Jonathan Gaw said.

“The rest of the tablet category has pretty much taken a dip, whereas Amazon has been able to increase their share,” he said. “They are not necessarily out to make a great margin on the device itself so it works out pretty well for them.”

Alexa voice-recognition software will be available on all the new tablets, as well as via a free over-the-air software update for Fire HD 8 tablets from last year. The software was originally part of Amazon’s Echo $180 smart speaker, which is activated by voice commands.

. . . .

 Kevin Keith, Amazon’s general manager of Fire tablets said he expects tablet users to use Alexa mainly while using tablets for entertainment like movies and e-books.

Link to the rest at The Associated Press

Amazon just started taking pre-orders for delivery on September 21.

PG really enjoys Alexa via Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot. He has a closet full of formerly hot new devices that he quickly tired of, but Alexa is genuinely useful. Alexa can turn lights on and off and adjust Casa PG’s thermostat upon command.

On those rare occasions when PG exercises his extremely limited culinary skills, he can tell Alexa to set various timers and alarms while he is preparing something or cleaning up a mess he’s made. If everything goes completely wrong, PG can tell Alexa to have a pizza delivered.

Kobo goes big with its 7.8-inch Aura One e-reader

18 August 2016

From TechCrunch:

When Kobo briefed me on the release of its new e-reader, a company rep explained that the company “[wasn’t] sure if there was a premium price point” when they released the Aura HD back in 2013. At 6.8 inches, it was larger than the long-time industry standard six inches, and it had a high-res screen and price tag to match.

The Canadian company has never been afraid to take risks with the often-boring world of e-readers, and for that reason alone it is a welcoming presence. Without Kobo pushing the boundaries of screen size, build quality and features like waterproofing, it’s hard to imagine much innovation occurring in the Amazon-dominated space.

With the Aura One, the company is doubling down yet again, with a 7.8-inch display that utterly dwarfs the Aura HD and a $230 price point to match. Even with a handful of other welcome add-on features, that’s a pretty lofty price tag for a devoted e-reader when Amazon’s Kindle Voyage starts at $30 less (the Special Offers edition, at least).

But Kobo’s previous attempts to go all in have paid off before, and while the company will likely be the first to admit that the Aura One isn’t for everyone, it gives the sort of person willing to shell out more than $200 for such a device exactly what they’re looking for: the ultimate e-reader.

. . . .

That’s the thing about e-reader displays: All roads lead to six inches. Both Kobo and Amazon have experimented with different screen sizes, and both keep coming to the conclusion that the pull to return to a standardized size is just too great. After all, it’s large enough to replicate a full page and compact enough to slip into a pants pocket when you’re done.

So, naturally, Kobo has gone ahead and made its largest screen yet. The added real estate means fewer page turns. It’s also a bonus for readers who need large type and people who use their readers for PDFs, which can be a ginormous pain on a smaller screen with all of the pinching and scrolling.

And 7.8 inches, it turns out, is big, but not unwieldy. Stashing the reader in your pocket is suddenly out of the equation. Reading with one hand for bus and subway travelers may or may not still be in the cards, depending on how big your hands are.

. . . .

The E Ink display sports an 1872 x 1404 resolution, which works out to 300 ppi — the same as what you’ll find on the Kindle Voyage and the last-gen Glo HD — i.e. about as sharp as reading real text on a real page. You know all of the e-ink trade-offs by now. In the pro column, it’s crisp, clear and visible in sunlight, with a ridiculously low power consumption. But it’s monochrome and has a much longer refresh rate, which hasn’t seen all that much improvement in recent generations.

Of course, the device’s inability to offer a half-decent web browser experience is either a pro or a con, depending on who you ask. After all, keeping this a purely readerly experience means completely ditching all of the social notifications and other distractions — as if you don’t already have all of the info pushed to enough devices already.

The real differentiator on the screen front is the addition of the ComfortLight Pro to the device’s front lighting technology. Like the rest of the hardware world, Kobo’s getting on the sleep train, adjusting the screen’s blue light level so it doesn’t screw up circadian rhythms before bed. The device can either do it automatically using a light sensor adjusting over the course of the day, or the user can set a predetermined bedtime for the system to switch over to a far more reddish hue.

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

Is an iPad still worth it for ebook lovers?

11 August 2016

From TeleRead:

When I bought my first iPad, it was $400 and changed my life.

It could go all day on a single charge. I could carry all my teaching materials—books, music, movies, everything—on one clipboard-sized device. I read on it, watched movies, played games. It truly was the ‘laptop replacement’ I always wanted—a do-it-all device that was light, beautiful and went all day on a single charge.

Now, here we are, a half-decade and change later, and…well, for the first time, I find myself wondering whether I would replace my iPad if something happened to it.

A new iPad Air 2, not even the latest model, goes for $499 CAD on Apple Canada—more, even, than the first one I bought all those years ago.

Even a new iPad Mini is almost $350. That’s a lot of money for something that, more than ever, is a want and not a need. So, what’s changed? Why is an iPad not worth it anymore? For me, there have been a few sea changes.

1) In the Cloud, you can access content everywhere. This has been the first big change. I used to carry my iPad around with me because I stored my content locally. Ten CDs worth of music, all on my one device! And now, every classroom I teach in is equipped with a laptop and SMARTboard. Teachers are not using CDs anymore. They are not using local music files ripped from a CD. All of that stuff is on YouTube now, and you can project it into the giant ‘tablet’ that’s mounted on the wall.

. . . .

3) The form factor is wrong for a book reader. When I was still doing actual work on the iPad, I liked having the full-sized screen. But now that I’m not, I’m finding the full-size tablet to be a little much for my leisure tasks. I want to read ebooks, check Facebook and look at YouTube videos while I’m lying on the couch, and that’s pretty much it. I appreciate that they have made the iPad fairly light and sleek. But I am finding, especially now that I am in the later stage of my pregnancy, that it isn’t comfortable to lie on the couch with it. It’s too cumbersome to hold it one-handed, and when I try and rest it on my lap, it slides onto my tummy and pokes. A seven-inch Android I can hold in one hand is much easier.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

World-wide Tablet Shipments Crater

3 August 2016

Infographic:  | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

The iPad is dead. Long live the iPad.

2 August 2016

From The Bookseller:

Like printed pocketbooks, smartphone reading is essentially a narrative subdivided into easily referenceable, bitesize chunks. Poetry and psalms replaced by Twitter and Facebook. The difference being that now the content is dynamic. Equally as accessible. Constantly updating. Addictive.

This is perfect for on-the-move reading. It’s entertaining, informative and interruptible. It has to be. We all know how dangerous reading on the go can be.

The stats at the FutureBook Conference 2015 conference showed that we are interacting with our smartphones up to 200 times/day, making it an immensely powerful tool. But I was disappointed with the conclusion was that the smartphone was in and the tablet was out. I know that the sales figures are high, but is it a fair comparison? We upgrade our phones all the time. Tablets are not quite as disposable.

. . . .

Centuries of publishing has evolved a natural relationship between page size and subject matter. Print or digital, we still hold and read the page in the same way, so these ratios naturally translate into screen-size. If the smartphone is lending itself to easily transportable information, then what is the future of those less accessible subjects? What is the future of books that can only be formatted for larger page sizes?

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

How Electronic Ink Was Invented

24 July 2016

From Science Friday:

When Amazon introduced its first Kindle back in 2007, it raved about the e-reader’s “crisp, high-resolution electronic paper display that looks and reads like real paper, even in bright sunlight.” The tablet did not use the LCD screens that most consumers saw on their laptops or TVs. “It reflects light like ordinary paper and uses no backlight, eliminating the eyestrain and glare associated with other electronic displays such as computer monitors or PDA screens,” Amazon boasted.

That first-generation Kindle used a technology called microencapsulated electrophoretic display, colloquially known as electronic ink, or e-ink. Amazon has since sold millions of Kindles, and the concept of e-reading has become ubiquitous. But back in the mid-1990s, creating an electronic book was a “dream,” according to Barrett Comiskey.

That was when Comiskey, then an undergraduate at MIT, and his classmate JD Albert were recruited by MIT Media Lab professor Joseph Jacobson to create a technology that mimicked pages in a book. Jacobson envisioned a screen that wouldn’t give off light, and that you could tilt while still being able to see the text. He also wanted to make something that required little power to use—just like a real book.

. . . .

In the early stages of their research, however, the team was met with doubt from experts in materials science and chemical engineering. “They told us that putting black and white oppositely charged particles inside a single microcapsule just couldn’t be done,” Comiskey wrote. But he and Albert persevered, learning the basics of microencapsulation and making microparticles to see if they could make the concept work.

. . . .

Upon graduating, Albert and Comiskey, along with Jacobson and other shareholders, formed E Ink Corporation to continue improving their technology beyond proof-of-concept and prepare it for the commercial market. The first official e-reader to use e-ink was a Japanese product from Sony in 2004, but the technology finally saw wide commercial success with the debut of the Kindle—about a decade after the team first developed the concept.

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

New Kindle Announced

22 June 2016
Comments Off on New Kindle Announced

From The Amazon Media Room:

Amazon today introduced the all-new Kindle, making its most affordable reader thinner, lighter, and with twice the memory as the previous generation for the same price, just $79.99. Kindle is offered in your choice of black or white and is available at

. . . .

KindleThinner, Lighter, Still Only $79.99

The all-new Kindle is thinner and lighter and has twice the memory compared to the previous generation Kindle. Now available in black and white color options, the new Kindle features a more rounded design, making it easy and comfortable to hold in one hand at any angle for extended reading sessions. Unlike reflective tablet and smartphone screens, the high contrast touchscreen display on Kindle eliminates glare in any setting, even in direct sunlight. Recent studies have shown that evening exposure to blue light from backlit screens like tablets and smartphones can suppress the body’s production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps the body fall asleep. Because the Kindle display emits no light, you can read anytime without losing sleep. Like all Kindle e-readers, the all-new Kindle has a battery life that lasts for weeks and not hours.

. . . .

  • Export Notes—It’s now easy to export notes and highlights from a book to your e-mail, so you can always have them on-hand for reference. Receive your notes both as an easily printable PDF that’s ready to bring to your book club, and as a simple file you can open in your favorite spreadsheet app. This feature will be available as part of a free, over-the-air software update in the coming weeks.
  • Built-in Bluetooth audio for accessibility—The first Kindle with built-in Bluetooth audio support, Kindle makes it possible for visually impaired users to use the VoiceView screen reader on Kindle to read the content of the screen—including reading books and other Kindle content—without the need for an adaptor. This is enabled through a new out-of-box experience specifically for visually-impaired customers that allows them to pair their Kindle with Bluetooth headphones or a speaker. For other recent updates in accessibility, visit our Amazon blog.
  • Chinese Word Wise Hints—Choose between English and Simplified Chinese Word Wise hints by changing the language in Word Wise settings.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Amazon seems to be willing to invest in additional Kindle ereader sales via new features and aggressive pricing to keep its ebook ecosystem healthy.

If ebook sales were really flattening or declining as articles focused on the traditional publishing world have suggested, PG wonders if the company would be putting more money into ereaders. This is the second new ereader Amazon has introduced in the last three months.

Fire Tablet – $39.99

17 June 2016

Amazon has a sale today on their Fire Tablet – $39.99 (at least in the US).

If you’re a late adopter/skeptic, this is probably the least expensive way you can see if you would use a tablet or not. PG doesn’t think a Craigslist used iPad could beat this price.

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