Tablets/Ereaders

Amazon’s Kindle turns 10: have ebooks clicked with you yet?

13 November 2017

From The Guardian:

George W Bush was in the White House, Chris Brown was topping the Billboard chart and Jeff Bezos … well, on 19 November 2007, Jeff Bezos was doing “the most important thing we’ve ever done” and launching the Amazon Kindle.

The first Kindles were chunky things about the same size as a paperback, weighing a smidgeon less than 300g. They had wonky little keyboards and a little wheel for scrolling up and down a grey and black screen. But Bezos was never aiming for a flashy design. Speaking at the launch in New York, he said that all he wanted was a device that could “disappear”.

“All of us readers know that flow state when we read,” Bezos explained. “We don’t think about the glue, the paper, the stitching – all of that goes away. All that remains is the author’s world, and we flow right into that.”

. . . .

“Instead of shopping on your PC,” Bezos explained, “you shop on the device … And guess what? [Books] are all $9.99. And guess what? They all get delivered wirelessly in less than minute.”

. . . .

But the Kindle was never only a portable bookshop, it was also a publishing house. Strip away the expensive business of jackets, paper and physical distribution, and the words of a Booker winner or a Nobel laureate appear much like those of anyone else.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Amazon Kindle deserves some praise on its 10th birthday

30 October 2017

From The National:

The iPhone has received a good deal of hype this year as it celebrates its 10th anniversary, but another important device is just about to reach that same milestone.

The Kindle is set to turn 10 on November 19, and while not as revolutionary as Apple’s flagship product, Amazon’s e-book reader is responsible for its own share of change.

And, just like the iPhone, it has also been emblematic of Amazon’s approach to both innovation and customers. It’s a good example of why the two companies are currently positioned so differently in consumers’ minds.

Just as Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, the Kindle wasn’t the first electronic book reader. Amazon improved on predecessors such as the Sony Librie and the long forgotten Rocket eBook with a lightweight and portable device that used an innovative “electronic ink” display to take the pain out of reading books on a screen.

More importantly, it was affordable.

. . . .

If the iPhone unleashed the app economy, then the Kindle sparked a self-publishing revolution that changed how the long-form printed word is created, distributed and sold.

Kindle Direct Publishing, which launched in conjunction with the e-reader in 2007, allowed writers to skip publishers and sell their works straight to consumers. E-books could be sold for as low as 99 cents, with Amazon keeping just a small cut rather than the lion’s share, as publishers generally do.

. . . .

Amazon has never disclosed how many e-readers it has sold, but estimates have pegged the number in the multi-millions. E-books, meanwhile, have gobbled up as much as a quarter of the overall book market in a number of countries.

. . . .

Amazon and Apple’s biggest clash was over e-books. Publishers, fearing Amazon’s growing power, conspired with Apple to counter that influence by fixing e-book prices. In 2014, Apple settled with U.S. anti-trust authorities, giving Amazon customers credits for the over-payments they were forced to endure.

Link to the rest at The National and thanks to Dave for a second tip today.

Nook Glowlight Plus Quietly Went Out of Stock on B&N’s Website

30 October 2017

From The Digital Reader

Barnes & Noble is no longer selling new Nook Glowlight Plus ereaders on their website. They’ve run out, and are now only selling refurbished units.

B&N is of course selling that malware-infested budget Android tablet and Samsung tablets under the Nook brand,  but if you click on the link for the Nook Glowlight Plus you will be sent to a page for refurbished Nooks instead of new ones.

. . . .

No one really knows what B&N is doing, and that includes B&N.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG notes that this development correlates with reports from traditional publishing that ebook sales are down. Regular visitors to TPV will understand that ebook sales are actually doing quite well because most ebook sales happen on Amazon and, thanks to Author Earnings, we know most Amazon ebook sales are from books written by indie authors.

He suggests Barnes & Noble and Big Publishing are admitting that Amazon has won the future of books. “Screen fatigue” and other imaginary sources of relief for the dead tree side of publishing will not save them.

Will Randy Penguin and its buddies disappear?

Sort of.

Big Publishing is sitting on a mother lode of intellectual property in the form of publishing contracts for a lot of evergreen books. The expensive part of its business is the people side associated with new product development and launches – people who talk to agents, read and edit manuscripts, pitch stories about books and authors to the New York Times, make sales calls on Barnes & Noble book buyers, etc.

PG suggests that a good argument can be made that spending money on this part of the business is a bad business decision. It’s also an area with a lot of risk. Offering an author an advance is rolling the dice. Most new books are money-losers and, as mentioned, most of the people expenses of a traditional publisher fall into the new book part of the business. Get rid of that function and related expenses and you’re well on your way to transforming a publisher into a lean, money-making operation.

Printing paper books happens in low-wage locations overseas. Warehousing and distribution of paper books is outsourced to Ingram and Baker & Taylor, although PG suggests there may be profit opportunities in seeking lower-cost warehousing/shipping service providers.

Is there really anything about receiving, storing and shipping a box of books that’s different from doing the same thing with a box of laundry detergent?

For paper books, Ingram is providing a service that is available elsewhere. Any number of companies offer highly-sophisticated outsourced logistics services and supply chain management, including processing orders, forecasting demand, distribution, fulfillment and returns on a far larger scale than Ingram does. There’s another solution to dealing with the whole paper book challenge that PG discusses below.

Let’s get back to the mother lode of intellectual property. The mother lode has been created by standard publishing contracts under which authors grant their publishers exclusive rights to their books, including movie, tv, etc., rights, for the full term of the author’s copyright. In most western countries, a copyright lasts for the remainder of the author’s life plus several decades more – 70 years, 50 years, etc.

PG suggests that if a traditional publisher is downsized to a handful of managers, a couple of accountants, someone to keep the accounting/royalty system running on Amazon Web Services and an outside law firm, it could be a long-term money machine.

For contractual purposes, a lite publisher would have to keep print books available for sale (to avoid the exercise of out-of-print clauses), but Amazon could handle that. If all paper books are sold via Amazon, you can eliminate the Ingram costs and the overhead associated with taking orders for books from traditional bookstores would go away. If you’re looking to maximize profits from your intellectual property, you don’t want to spend money dealing with small orders from mom and pop shops.

The real money is in sending ebook files to Amazon, etc., and specifying a direct deposit banking institution to receive the cash that comes in each month. That’s how your really run a lean publisher as a money machine.

As with all aging assets, the income from sales of existing books would decline over time, but with large catalog of books and somebody to answer phone calls for random movie and tv rights deals that come in over the transom, operating a traditional publisher in this manner could yield extremely high profit margins for a very long time.

But what does PG know?

How Lifehacker’s Kindle hit piece misses the point

24 October 2017

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

Can’t book-lovers all just get along?

You would think that ten years after the advent of the Kindle, we would have reached a sort of detente by now—and yet I still run across anti-ebook articles every time I turn around. The latest culprit is Lifehacker’s Patrick Lucas Austin, with a post warning readers that before they drop their hard-earned $249 on the new Kindle Oasis, they might want to consider that “Study after study show that reading on screens is, for various reasons, inferior to reading on paper.”

It’s odd to see such a luddite turn from Lifehacker, which is usually devoted to showing how various new bits of technology can make people’s lives easier. This piece rehashes several of the old “smell of books” arguments: that paper books are more memorable, that taking notes on paper works better than making digital notes, and that glowy screens keep you up at night.

Even if I assume these points are accurate (the retention argument actually isn’t as clear as Austin suggests), it’s hard to see what they have to do with the way most people use their Kindles. Austin seems to assume that the only people who are going to drop $249 on an e-reader are college students who think it will help them study, whereas I suspect that far more Kindle purchasers are interested in reading for enjoyment. And to those people, such anti-Kindle arguments simply don’t apply.

I’m not all that concerned about retention of a fiction book I’m reading for fun. Indeed, I’ll probably enjoy it more on a reread if I did retain less and can encounter all the good parts fresh all over again. And I’m not generally one for taking notes on my Kindle, either.

. . . .

And when it comes to the point about “light-emitting ereaders” keeping people awake at night, the article really is all wet. The anti-night-reading pieces Austin links talk about tablets, which use backlit LCD screens. However, the Kindle Oasis and other Kindle e-readers use front-lighting, which reflects light off the e-ink screen—just as you would do if you used a reading lamp on a paper book. So, this is a great argument against reading from a tablet or smartphone at night, but actually one that favors reading from an e-ink Kindle.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

PG agrees with Chris that a great many reviews of Kindle ereaders depict them as defeatured tablets instead of single-purpose devices optimized for that single purpose.

In PG’s typically timid opinion, e-ink screens are vastly superior to other electronic options for reading long-form text. PG has had a tablet and a Kindle of one sort or another for a long time. When he’s not sitting at his computer, he uses the tablet for bouncing around online and his Kindle for going deep into either fiction or nonfiction ebooks.

PG understands the tech aesthetic of having a single device that can do anything and is also light and small enough to take everywhere.

However, many people who are serious about their pursuits, professionally or otherwise, use specialized devices.

Professional graphic designers, artists and serious photographers tend to do their most intense work with large-screen, high-resolution computer monitors capable of being precisely color-adjusted and digital graphic drawing tablets instead of the iPads which all of them own.

Serious gamers, professional and amateur, use very specialized and expensive hardware in their pursuits. See, for example, the most radical gaming laptop ever which even comes with its own rolling hard travel case. No iPad is even in the same universe.

Fortunately, for serious readers, an e-ink Kindle is far less expensive.

E-Readers are Undergoing a Resurgence in 2017

17 October 2017

From Good Ereader:

The second generation Amazon Kindle Oasis has provided a financial windfall for E-Ink Holdings, the company that powers the e-paper display. E-Ink has reported that they have experienced a four year high for September. EIH September revenues reached NT$1.691 billion (US$56.03 million) for September, up 3.3% on month and 11.3% on year. Revenues for the third quarter of 2017 totaled NT$4.791 billion, up 29.8% on quarter and 7.8% on year.

Some of our regular readers might wonder why I report on the financial earnings of a singular e-paper company. E-Ink powers the screens of every single e-reader on the market, this includes the Icarus, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Onyx Boox. Pixel QI and Clearink are the only two other alternatives and are not being used in any e-readers on the market. Basically, by monitoring E-Ink you can get a sense on how many units are being sold and what type of worldwide demand there is for dedicated e-readers.

. . . .

I think one of the big reasons why people are buying more e-readers this year is because they have a reason to upgrade. The new Kindle Oasis is the first Amazon branded device that is waterproof and can listen to any audiobook from the Audible library. The Oasis also features a seven inch screen, which results in more real estate for e-books to be displayed. The Kobo Aura One is most successful product in many years and I think it is the best one they ever made. They pioneered the concept of a brand new lightning system has RGB colors and serious readers are enamoured with the ability to borrow and read digital content from public libraries that do business with Overdrive.

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

Bridging the digital desktop divide with the Fire tablet

7 October 2017

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how far mobile devices have come. It used to be that mobile web browsers were effectively a joke, and mobile software wasn’t good for much but wasting time. However, in recent years tablets and phones have become more powerful than full-fledged desktop hardware of a few years before, with impressive software applications to match.

It used to be that, when it came to mobile productivity software, Windows was the only game in town. However, Apple has had strong reasons for boosting the iPad as a productivity tool—and Android hasn’t been so far behind.

Of course, as much money as the average iPad costs, it’s not a big surprise that it would be nearly as useful as one of the desktop or notebook machines with similar prices. But the thing that interests me is that it’s possible to get nearly the same degree of usefulness out of a sub-$100 Amazon Fire or Fire HD 8, which is now capable of running most Android apps that you can download from the Google Play Store.

Oh, a Fire isn’t going to be as good as an iPad at complex multimedia stuff, like music, photo, or video editing. But for the basic tasks—reading, writing, research—it could substitute for full-fledged desktops many times its price. This means it has the potential to bridge the digital divide in ways we might never have expected—not just for reading ebooks and assisting in education, but for more basic tasks. People with low or no incomes could search and apply for better jobs. Students could do homework and term papers on their tablet if their siblings or parents are using the desktop.

. . . .

We’ll start with the basics: getting text into the device. It used to be that you had to have a physical keyboard to enter text at any great speed. No matter how good a touch typist you might be, a mobile device screen would reduce everyone to one-letter-at-a-time hunt-and-peck.

But with the advances in phones and tablets have come advances in user interface as well. For one thing, cheap and good Bluetooth keyboards are now widely available. For only $18 or so, you can type comfortably into any tablet that will accept a Bluetooth hookup.

. . . .

Next, let’s look at one of the basic building blocks of Internet activity: web browsing. It wasn’t so very long ago that phone browsers were so limited that it was common to make special “mobile-friendly” versions of web sites just for them, whose URLs frequently started with prefixes like “mobile.” or “m.” Even TeleRead had a mobile theme like that at one point, though it seems to have gone by the wayside in our new incarnation; m.teleread.org now redirects to the plain-vanilla TeleRead site.

But now, mobile web browsers are capable of showing you the web just as it appears to a full-fledged desktop site. Amazon’s Silk web browser is a fast, full-featured browser choice that provides an experience not meaningfully different from how a site looks on the desktop. If you download Google Chrome and connect it to your Google account, it will even remember your preferences, web history, and other data from your desktop to your mobile browsing experience—and if there is a difference, Chrome has a “Request desktop site” choice in its three-dot options menu.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Two-Thirds of Polish eBooks Users Use Kindles

11 August 2017
Comments Off on Two-Thirds of Polish eBooks Users Use Kindles

From The Digital Reader:

Despite of hopes to the contrary,  Amazon has largely ignored the Polish ebook market. It has no local Kindle Store there, and doesn’t even support Polish as a language option in KDP.

A new survey suggests that may have been a mistake.

The research institute ARC Rynek i Opinia revealed earlier this year that 2/3 of ebook users in Poland use the Amazon Kindle., with Pocketbook and Poland’s own InkBook brand coming in distant second and third place (11% and 7%, respectively).

. . . .

Mystery and crime novels were the most popular genre among Polish ebook readers, followed by fantasy, horror, and how-to books.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Nate for the tip.

Ebooks and eyestrain: Eleven tips for newbies and old-timers

10 August 2017

From TeleRead:

I myself can read ebooks without interruption for just as long as I can paper ones. Let us know your own experiences with the tips below.

1. Keep in mind your environment. Eyestrain may be less of a problem if you’re reading in a bright room. Position your phone, tablet, or dedicated ereader to avoid glare from the lighting.

2. Consider the use of a frontlit E Ink reader, like the most Kindle models or the Kobos, so the light from the screen isn’t glaring directly at you. Instead, the rays from the front lights bounce off the screen just as they would off paper. Yes, this is old stuff for TeleRead regulars. But it might not be for your friends who badmouth ebooks without familiarity with all the options. Educate ’em!

. . . .

4. Experiment with boldface. It won’t just make text more readable for many people on E Ink machines, it will also allow you to crank down the backlighting or front lighting. Along the way, you’ll save battery life.  Recent Kindles offer a boldface font, and Kobos even let you vary the extent of bold on different phones. iPhones and iPads provide for bold within certain apps by way of the San Francisco font. On Android phones, you can select bold within the Kindle app.

. . . .

9. Keep in mind the bottom line. It’s not to make your ebooks look like paper. It’s to be as comfortable as possible while getting the most out of them in every respect. So don’t be shy about weird screen colors.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

PG uses plugins or settings to filter blue light on his phone and tablet when reading on those devices at night so as not to encourage his body to think it’s the middle of the day. The OP has suggestions on how to do that.

However, for reading long-form text, either in the middle of the day or at night, PG is still a giant fan of his Kindle Paperwhite. It’s small and lightweight (205 grams for the Paperwhite vs. 469 grams – just over a pound – for the ten inch iPad Pro), so it’s easy to hold for long periods of time. 205 grams is less than most paperbacks weigh. Plus, unlike a paperback, if you drop the Paperwhite, you don’t lose your place.

PG keeps the light level on the Paperwhite low, especially when reading in the dark, while maintaining excellent readability, so as not to disturb Mrs. PG’s sleep.

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

4 August 2017

From The Atlantic:

One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”

Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”

I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology. Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so. Millennials, for instance, are a highly individualistic generation, but individualism had been increasing since the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys. Then I began studying Athena’s generation.

Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.

. . . .

What happened in 2012 to cause such dramatic shifts in behavior? It was after the Great Recession, which officially lasted from 2007 to 2009 and had a starker effect on Millennials trying to find a place in a sputtering economy. But it was exactly the moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent.

The more I pored over yearly surveys of teen attitudes and behaviors, and the more I talked with young people like Athena, the clearer it became that theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone.

The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

PG hesitates to question “yearly surveys of teen attitude”, but if the American Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War didn’t destroy their generations, he still holds out hope that the iPhone won’t destroy its generation.

Technology changes certainly have an impact on society (see horse-drawn buggies vs. automobiles), but humans have shown a persistent ability to utilize new technology and still survive. But that sentiment would make a terrible title for a magazine article.

Digital page turner

12 July 2017

From The Nation:

After online shopping, internet-based finance, mobile payments and bicycle-sharing, the digital dimension in China is taking in its sweep the world of books.

The publishing industry has gone digital in a big way, spawning a market comprising 300 million users of mobile devices who read electronic books in China.

The market, which has two key sections in hardware (reading devices) and software (e-books), reached about 12 billion yuan ($1.7 billion) in sales last year, up 25 percent year-on-year, according to a report by the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association.

. . . .

With nearly an 8 percent share of the global market, China now trails only North America, the largest market for e-book readers in 2016 with a 68 percent share, and Europe (almost 14 percent share), according to market consultancy QYResearch.

. . . .

Just like in North America, where the e-book reader device market is dominated by manufacturers such as Amazon, Kobo and PocketBook (which account for a collective 75 percent of the market share), the e-reader market in China has a few big names.

Amazon with its Kindle range of devices is the common leader in both markets, but it is followed by iReader and newcomers such as e-commerce giant JD in China.

As the e-book reader pioneer, Amazon.com has created an ecosystem comprising users, digital versions of printed books, e-book stores online and e-book readers. Amazon said the China market is important for it.

Last month, it announced a strategic partnership with Migu Culture and Technology Group Co, a subsidiary of China Mobile Communications Corp, and also launched a feature-rich Kindle created exclusively for Chinese readers.

The device presents more than 460,000 Kindle e-books and over 400,000 online literature titles from Migu, one of the largest online literature platforms in China.

The made-for-China Kindle X Migu device retails for 658 yuan. “China has become the largest market in the world for Kindle and enjoys a very strong growth momentum,” said Bruce Aitken, vice-president of Amazon China and general manager of Amazon Reading.

He said Chinese book-lovers are increasingly switching over to digital reading devices, and are willing to pay for e-books. This makes Amazon bullish on the future prospects of the digital publishing industry in China.

. . . .

“We find Chinese users refer to the dictionary a lot. Especially their use of the English dictionary is higher than in any other countries, so we specifically designed a function of tips about new words, and provide English-to-Chinese/English definition automatically for Chinese readers,” Aitken said.

Amazon, he said, will launch more new functions over the next year.

Compared with printed books, the cost of e-books is very low. In fact, some of the e-books are free of charge or cost just a few dollars.

For instance, the printed version of The Shortest History of Europe, one of the top five bestsellers in 2016, is priced 25 yuan, while its e-book version retails for only 2.99 yuan.

Link to the rest at The Nation

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