Tablets/Ereaders

Apple Leads Q4 Tablet Market; Amazon Climbs to No. 2

9 February 2018

From Wireless Week:

As Apple continued to dominate the tablet market in the final quarter of 2017, a new study finds that Amazon ousted Samsung to claim the second-largest share of the segment during the latest holiday shopping season.

The latest analysis from research firm IDC found that Apple shipped 13.2 million tablets in the final three months of the year. Although that represented a slight increase from the same period in 2016, the iPad maker bolstered its market share over that span from 24.3 percent to 26.6 percent.

Amazon, meanwhile, saw its shipments climb by 50 percent during that timeframe from 5.2 million to 7.7 million. The e-commerce giant bolstered its share of the tablet market from less than 10 percent to more than 15 percent.

Link to the rest at Wireless Week

Carrefour is closing their ebook store and abandons e-readers

29 January 2018

From GoodEreader:

Carrefour is one of the largest supermarket chains in France and they have been involved in the e-reader space since 2013. The company has announced that it is closing their digital bookstore and suspending their relationship with Bookeen, who provided devices to them under the Nolim brand. This is going to result in over 2,400 people losing their jobs.

. . . .

The French ebook market will generate $442 million dollars in 2018 and 9.2% of the population reads digitally. The vast majority of users purchase their e-readers and ebooks via two companies; Amazon and Kobo. Kobo has a strategic relationship with numerous booksellers such as FNAC and Auchan. Amazon continues to be the most popular device.

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

The Kindle Changed the Book Business. Can It Change Books?

21 December 2017

From Wired:

In 2007, A small team of Amazon employees had been working for a few years on a new ebook reader project they’d eventually call the Kindle. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was eager to finish and sell the thing; he was certain Apple or Google was working on something similar, and didn’t want them to beat Amazon to market. The team, sequestered away in an old law office in Seattle, working among racks of the very books they planned to make obsolete, had already gotten a lot of things right. But one part still eluded them.

. . . .

“We knew we wanted it to be a wireless device that had no contract for customers,” Kessel says, but nothing like that existed. So Amazon worked with Qualcomm to build a system called Whispernet, which gave every Kindle owner free 3G connectivity so they could download books from anywhere. The feature felt like magic—both to the Kindle team and to early Kindle buyers. If you had to pick just one thing that made the Kindle a success, it was this.

. . . .

Since then, the device has torn through the publishing landscape. Not only is Amazon the most powerful player in the industry, it has built an entire book-based universe all its own. “Kindle” has become a platform, not a device. Like Amazon tends to do, it entered the market and utterly subsumed it.

Now, however, Amazon’s ebook project comes to a crossroads. The Kindle team has always professed two goals: to perfectly mimic a paper book, and to extend and improve the reading experience. That’s what readers want, too. In a world filled with distractions and notifications and devices that do everything, the Kindle’s lack of features becomes its greatest asset. But readers also want to read everywhere, in places and ways a paperback can’t manage. They want more tools, more features, more options, more stuff to do. Amazon’s still working out how to satisfy both sides.

. . . .

Everyone at Amazon likes to say that paper is great technology, and they seem genuinely uninterested in rendering paper obsolete. They’re just trying to make paper that connects to the internet. The Kindle they’ve always imagined is thin as paper, as light as paper, as flexible and durable as paper.

. . . .

Next up, flexibility seems at the top of the Kindle team’s minds. Building a Kindle “like paper” would mean one that can be rolled, folded, dog-eared, and turned into a paper airplane, and the beginnings of that tech is already showing up in prototypes and concept devices around the world.

. . . .

“The more that we’re distracted, the more valuable solitude becomes,” says Dave Limp, Amazon’s head of hardware. “The last thing I want is being absorbed into an author’s story, and get an uplevel notification for Angry Birds.” Reading is about focus, about falling out of your life and into a story, and so the Kindle is about those things too.

. . . .

Amazon won the ebook market in a landslide, though it’s not clear how large a prize that really is. Some data shows ebook sales declining as print makes an unexpected surge, while other studies say digital reading continues to grow steadily. What’s crystal clear is that ebooks won’t unseat print anytime soon. People like the feel of a book, like the sense of place they get from holding the opened pages in their two hands, like the way they look on a coffee table. The Pew Research Center found that 65 percent of US adults said they’d read a print book in 2016, out of 73 percent who said they’d read a book at all. The only thing that will kill print books is when people stop reading altogether.

There is one part of people’s reading habits has changed dramatically over the last few years. That same Pew study found that people were nearly four times as likely to read a book on a tablet in 2016 as they had been five years earlier. They were also nearly twice as likely to read on their phones, and reading on a laptop or desktop PC spiked as well. All three are now more popular than reading on an e-reader.

. . . .

Limp says there was a debate over what to do, but also says it didn’t last very long. “You can’t tell them where they want to read,” he says. “They’re going to tell you where they want to read, and you have to be there.” So they built apps for everybody’s phones and tablets, and even the Chrome browser.

. . . .

For a decade, Amazon’s relentlessly offered new ways for people to read books. But even as platforms change, books haven’t, and the incompatibility is beginning to show. Phones and tablets contain nothing of what makes a paperback wonderful.

. . . .

“The Kindle’s aura of bookishness was the modern equivalent of the Gutenberg Bible’s aura of scribalness,” Nicholas Carr, the author and media scholar, wrote in 2011. “It was essentially a marketing tactic, a way to make traditional book readers comfortable with e-books. But it was never anything more than a temporary tactic.” Carr should have been right, but six years later nothing’s really changed.

The next phase for the digital book seems likely to not resemble print at all. Instead, the next step is for authors, publishers, and readers to take advantage of all the tools now at their disposal and figure out how to reinvent longform reading.

. . . .

If Amazon wanted to, it could with a single act bring a new form of book into being.

Link to the rest at Wired

Nate Hoffhelder comments at The Digital Reader:

The thing that many outsiders keep missing is that Amazon won the ebook market by giving consumers exactly the same stories they were already reading, only in a new package. Yes, Amazon invested huge sums in making the Kindle platform friction-free, but when you come down to it the content being delivered was the same as before – the only change was the medium it was delivered on.

And that is why it succeeded where previous attempts faltered. Amazon gave consumers the content they already wanted, only on a new medium that let readers carry hundred of books at a time.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG agrees with Nate about the same content in a new medium. PG would also be happy to have something better than a book show up, but, while he has read hundreds of magazine articles about new technology that will replace words on a screen, he hasn’t seen anything that looks very likely to do the job performed by books any better.

Journalists always have the idea that people want movies more than they want books. So text-only books are going to disappear in favor of a book-like thing that will have sound and video and interactive stuff that will magically work together and be better than text on a page or screen.

PG says large numbers of people like movies and TV shows and books, but there is no indication yet that those people really want something that smooshes all of those things together into a single storytelling experience with tiny actors and actresses dancing across a little screen interspersed with a series of MRI images and a video of a doctor explaining the symptoms of foot and ankle injuries.

PG suggests that one of the cool things about ebooks is that they don’t require big production budgets like movies do. If you’re going to create a successful movie or tv show, you need to find a large audience that is collectively willing to pay a lot of money to watch the production or, alternatively, watch a lot of commercials from businesses who are willing to spend a lot of money to interrupt the movie with commercials.

You need a mass market to fund mass market media.

In the age of ebooks, an individual author can fund the complete book creation process all by herself or himself. Creation requires time and a computer of some sort. Even a clunky old computer will serve to operate a word processing program and run a browser for uploading ebook files. You can probably use one at the library for free.

So a self-funded author combines with an ultra-low-cost distribution system like KDP to provide low-priced ebooks. And she doesn’t need a mass market for her books.

The author can make a living by creating books for a much smaller audience than is required for a traditionally-published book where sales have to support (1) Ingram and (2) Barnes & Noble plus pay for a lot of (3) expensive publishing people in New York and also (4) send a bunch of money to France or Germany or somewhere else where the (5) Big Bosses and (6) owners live.

So an indie author can find enough readers on Amazon who are willing to pay $2.99 for mysteries featuring a near-sighted ornithologist as amateur sleuth to quit her day job and live comfortably in Omaha. And another indie author can do the same with a mystery series featuring a far-sighted professor of philately as amateur sleuth while New York publishers continue to desperately search for the next James Patterson because those publishers are stuck in the million-seller business.

While PG has read a lot of tech magazine articles about high-tech devices that combine all possible entertainment options into something that fits in your pocket or purse and will immerse you so totally that you’ll never want to put it down, he doesn’t recall any similar stories about the impact of online bookstores on readers and authors.

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.

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