Electronic Ink is the backbone of e-reading devices. The Kindle and other e-readers wouldn't have the pleasant, easy-to-read screen without E-Ink technology.
Xconomy.com has an interview with the Russ Wilcox, the co-founder and leader of E-Ink. It provides some interesting background on the Kindle's development.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Electronic Ink is the backbone of e-reading devices. The Kindle and other e-readers wouldn't have the pleasant, easy-to-read screen without E-Ink technology.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Canadian bookseller Indigo has launched its Shortcovers service, which allows e-books to be read on mobile phones or PC's. It brings much of what's popular on the Kindle--browsing, sampling and purchasing courtesy of an internet connection--and adds social media elements to communicate about your reading to others.
Here's a short promotional video about the Shortcovers service:
According to a Slate article the Kindle is hastening the end of publishing, rewarding Amazon through the sale of the Kindle hardware but harming publishers and authors.
This strikes me as off base. Amazon has done a fantastic job developing mechanisms that benefit customers for consolidating their purchases through Amazon. For example, BK--before Kindle--I would purchase my books from a number of sources, Amazon now and then, Barnes & Noble, airport paperback racks. But, with the Kindle, I purchase 99.9% of my titles via Amazon. I get the convenience of browsing, sampling and buying a book from the comfort of my couch, and Amazon gets my business. One may argue that such consolidation puts Amazon in the position of having too much leverage over publishers, in the same way Apple is charged with having too much sway with music labels. However the remedy for this, I think, is compeitition not complaining about innovation.
Monday, February 23, 2009
According to I4U News, Amazon has officially released the Kindle 2 today, one day earlier than planned.
Be sure to let us know when you get your K2 and tell us what you think of it!
Labels: kindle 2.0
Thursday, February 19, 2009
After hearing murmurings that the iPhone application/electronic book reader, Stanza, was going to pose a threat to the Kindle's success, I decided to give the application a whirl and see how it stacked up. It didn't. In fact, the only thing that I liked about the application was its name, as it's apt. A stanza is about all I wanted to read on it. The relatively tiny iPhone/iPod screen has the glare of a computer, which is fine if you are using it like a computer, but annoying if you are using it like a book. Also, the fact that you are reading off your phone makes it difficult to read for pleasure as the medium itself is the antithesis of relaxation.
Additionally, as David Berlind pointed out in his recent post, Bezos already hinted at the fact that Amazon plans to make the Kindle books available on other 'mobile devices' which means that Stanza will quickly live up to its namesake (the poetic stanza) and become obsolete. If only they had named the company, EZ2READ maybe it would have fared better in a world that prefers acronyms to iambic pentameter.
Stanza's only hope now is that it can figure out some way to team up with Amazon when Amazon decides to make Kindle books available on the iPhone. In all honestly, however, the only thing this will do is put the Kindle on a higher pedestal as it shines in comparison. Stanza, once a threat, now an ode to the Kindle.
email me at email@example.com
Brier Dudley, a technology writer for The Seattle Times, recently interviewed former Microsoft exec Charles Simonyi about his upcoming return trip to the International Space Station. Dudley asked about reading material for the journey.
Will you take more books to the space station library?
I decided not to. I want to see if the old ones are still there. It's not easy to find things - I know exactly where it was a year and a half ago. It's really a Kindle the space station needs.
So you have a Kindle?
I do but it's not qualified for the space station - they're very nervous about electronics and especially software.
Simonyi went on to explain that the biggest concern with a Kindle -- or any small electronics -- on the space station is the possibility of a battery explosion.
Fortunately we've heard no reports of Kindle batteries exploding so I wouldn't be surprised if the Kindle were deemed space-worthy in the very near future.
Now if they could only get Whispernet on the space station...
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
We Kindle owners are a happy bunch. We delight in looking at our Home screen and seeing the long list of books at our fingertips everywhere we go. We love finding a new book on the Kindle store and clicking that "Buy now" button, knowing that in a minute or less we're going to be reading that book.
But we also know that not everyone is ready to join us on the e-book bandwagon. We've discussed the objections that publishers and authors have over e-books, but there are also many readers who don't look too kindly upon e-books. The recent announcement of Kindle 2 has spurred a flurry of "Why I don't like the Kindle" op-ed pieces. Many of them have one thing in common: fear.
Specifically, many bibliophiles are glancing longingly at their grand collection of books amassed over their lifetime and getting misty at the thought of a life without them.
"Will Amazon’s Kindle 2 Make Our Library Obsolete?" ponders Bloomberg's David Pauley. Pauley brags about the library he had built in his new house and describes "the serenity I find when surrounded by real books."
Pauley writes "Today, I’m worried that technology will make books obsolete."
"So, to my friends at Amazon (and Sony), I can tell you that I'm impressed with your device. It's a wonderful technological gadget.
But I cannot now nor ever support anything that might so directly contribute to the demise of the printed word."
If you aren't ready to embrace the Kindle or e-books in general, fair enough. Old habits are hard to break. And some people will always prefer the look and feel of real paper to an electronic screen. But I don't understand the fear. Why do some feel that it's either/or when it comes to e-books and physical books?
And the term "obsolete" bugs me. When I think "obsolete" I think of 8-track tapes.
Unlike most media that is supplanted by newer technology, the book will always survive because it's a self-contained delivery system. Fifty years from now you'll be able to pick up a book from your shelves and access the content the same way you can today. Sadly the same can't be said of that box of 5 1/4" floppy disks left over from my Atari 800 days. Now that's obsolete.
My guess is that even when (or if) the day comes that e-books are overwhelmingly outselling physical books, that won't spell the demise of the printing press. Perhaps decades from now dead-tree books will become less common -- they may turn into a niche market, much like the vinyl LP market is today (Ever try to convince an vinyl enthusiast that CDs are better?) -- but books will always be around.*
Even those who adopt the e-book as their preferred reading medium will most likely still turn to dead-tree books now and then for special editions or works from their favorite authors. Some things are simply worth having in physical form. And there's a big difference between a book you want to read and a book you want to own (And as long as DRM is around there will always be a large distinction between the two.).
So fear not, Kindle naysayers. Your libraries are safe. Books and e-books can live in harmony. Join us. We'll be here to welcome you with open arms when you're ready.
Kindleville readers, do you have any additional words of comfort for those who fear the death of print? Or do you think there's a ring of truth to their worries?
* Newspapers might be a different story, but that's another column.
Follow me on Twitter: @phigginbotham
What I'm reading on my Kindle right now: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Monday, February 16, 2009
That's what Peter Smith at IT World thinks.
In his article "Amazon Kindle's impact on book sales?", Smith suggests that Kindles may have a negative impact on book sales. Why?
Smith offers two reasons:
1) The easy availability of free public domain books at places such as Feedbooks.com.
2) A change in browsing/shopping habits. Smith claims that having instant access to almost any book you want makes stocking up on books to read in the future unnecessary.
"So it seems to me that owning a Kindle would cut down on the number of books I purchased (but not the number of books I actually read)," Smith says.
My first reaction to Smith's assertion was "Rubbish," but looking at my Kindle reading history I saw that most of my books have in fact come from Feedbooks.
Still, I've bought several books from Amazon too -- definitely more than I would have purchased otherwise. It's tough not to buy books from Amazon via the Kindle given how easy it is. And odds are most of those public domain books I've downloaded for free are books I probably would have checked out from my local library rather than pay for anyway, so I don't think Amazon lost any of my money there.
I've heard a lot of Kindle owners say they read more than ever since getting their Kindle, but I've never asked precisely what they are reading.
What say ye, Kindle owners? Are you buying more or fewer books? Does Smith's argument hold water?
Friday, February 13, 2009
A few lucky folks have already managed to get their hands on a Kindle 2. We rounded up several of them for you so you can get a nice range of first impressions.
Labels: kindle 2.0
Thursday, February 12, 2009
One thing about the new crew publishing here at Kindleville--we are not pushovers! We cast a critical eye on the Kindle 2.0, provided insightful analysis about Amazon's manufactured scarcity, and noted the antiquated thinking of the Author's Guild.
Stephen King's Kindle-exclusive novella, UR, was originally slated to be released on February 24th (presumably to coincide with the release of Kindle 2). But as of late evening on Wednesday the 12th Amazon had begun wirelessly delivering the book to customers who pre-ordered it.
I got mine. Did you get yours?
You'd think book publishers would have learned something. After seeing the recording industry ignore then dig in and fight new technology to the extent that now they're struggling to maintain their current business model, one would guess that book publishers and authors would see the folly and strive to avoid repeating it.
Not so much.
Before the floor of the Morgan Library in NY had even cleared after the press conference heralding the coming of Kindle 2.0, some in the business were already proving that they would not go gently into the good e-book night.
Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, raged against the Kindle's new "Read to me" feature. ""They don't have the right to read a book out loud," Aiken told the Wall Street Journal. "That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law" (Fowler).
Attaboy, Paul! Cling to that vague copyright language! Even if it means alienating a growing percentage of your customer base. Who cares that it's only a "GPS voice," as Stephen King called it at the press conference, and not a true reading of the text?
Meanwhile Carolyn K. Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster, was crying to the New York Times about the pricing of e-books. “We do not agree with their pricing strategy. I don’t believe that a new book by an author should ipso facto be less expensive electronically than it is in paper format" (Stone).
As the young'uns today say: "O RLY?" The fact that there is no paper, no ink, no electricity to run the presses, no packaging, no shipping, and no money paid to retailers when unsold books are returned should have no effect on price? Interesting. Ipso facto indeed.
As John Siricusa at ars technica observes in his excellent (albeit too cozy with Apple for my taste) essay, "The once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age,"
In short, the terms [of e-books] are unbelievably favorable for publishers. It essentially moves them from print publishing margins to software publishing margins: pay once for the creation of the content, sell an infinite number of times with no additional per-unit cost.
So why do some publishers and authors continue to fight against the future? Fear? Greed?
They certainly should take some time to study the recent history of technology and media distribution. Maybe even have a lunch date or two with some record executives before they, too, learn too late and grieve their industry on its way.
The future is coming, with or without you.
Fowler, Geoffrey A. and Jeffrey Trachtenberg. "New Kindle Audio Feature Causes a Stir." Wall Street Journal. February 10, 2009.
Stone, Brad and Motoko Rich. "Amazon in Big Push for New Kindle Model." New York Times. February 9, 2009.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
If your idea of romance is offering to drive during your next outing to the drive thru, this post may be for you. Livingonadime.com is offering a free, 32-page e-book that will give you some better options.
Labels: free e-book
Kindle 2.0. Two steps forward, one step back?
As Tyler recently posted, Amazon has spilled the beans on the next version of Kindle. Now that we have all the specs, all that’s left to do is debate their merits relative to Kindle 1.0. In other words, is Kindle 2.0 really an upgrade?
A quick perusal of the official Kindle discussion forum at Amazon reveals a mixed reaction at best.
There’s no doubt that Amazon scored big with an improved display, a redesigned button layout, and longer battery life. The new Kindle’s “Read to me” feature is creating somewhat of a buzz too. But some of the improvements come at a cost that many current Kindle owners aren’t ready to pay – specifically the lack of an SD card slot and a user-replaceable battery.
It’s sure nice to be able to load some music onto an SD card and not worry about taking up valuable book space in the Kindle’s memory. And it’s comforting to know that when my battery finally loses capacity I can order a new one and swap it right out instead of shipping it back to Amazon or doing a warranty-voiding replacement job myself with household tools.
It’s probably safe to guess that squeezing the Kindle guts into a package thinner than the iPhone is what led to the elimination of those features. After all, the Kindle’s svelte new form factor is the first thing that Jeff Bezos touted at Amazon’s press conference in NY, so shrinkage must have been one of his main goals for version 2.
But I have to ask: Was anyone complaining about the original Kindle’s size? Since the Kindle’s rise in popularity I’ve heard a lot of reasons why people weren’t ready to pay big bucks for an e-book reader, none of which had anything to do with size (The biggest complaint – aside from a general reluctance to abandon print -- seems to be price, which Amazon didn’t touch). Why drop two features that most people liked in favor of one feature that no one is asking for?
There have also been complaints and numerous suggestions from Kindle owners regarding possible improvements and new features, but it seems few were addressed. Where are the folders? Where is the sharing? Where are the social features? Where is the wi-fi?
It’s as if Kindle 2 was designed in a vacuum.
Is Kindle 2 overall a better product than 1? The verdict among current Kindle owners is mixed, with this writer falling on the side of “No.” But it’s a tentative “No,” and only so much as to say I wouldn’t trade my original Kindle for one. Kindle 2 still looks like a great product, and when my original Kindle dies I’ll have no qualms about replacing it with version 2 (or whatever version happens to be out at the time). After all, at its heart it’s still a fantastic e-book reader wirelessly tied to the world’s biggest e-book seller.
But if I were still on the fence about buying a Kindle I’m not sure any of the new features would convince me to take the leap. If anything the new features versus the loss of current features is a wash.
Kindle owners, prospective buyers, fence-sitters -- tell us what YOU think. Which features do you like? Will you miss anything about version 1? Is 2.0 changing your mind about the Kindle and/or its future?
[Paul is the IT Director for an independent insurance agency in West Virginia. He has a master's degree in English literature and is an avid reader, Kindle lover, and aspiring writer. In what he calls his past life, Paul worked for 12+ years in radio broadcasting as a talk show host. Paul loves old time rock and roll but despises the song "Old Time Rock And Roll." Paul is author of the blog Destination Unknown.]
I found it very strange that Amazon sold out of the Kindle right before the peak of Christmas season. They sold out just in time to miss Black Friday and Cyber Monday and then put the Kindle on a twelve week back order. How on earth could Amazon mess up their anticipated demand by that much? A twelve week back order? Really?
At first, it struck me as product suicide, now it strikes me as brand brilliance. Kindle owners, you have been played.
When introducing a product upgrade, there are two basic problems:
1) Your current customers, the early adopters who were devoted to you from the beginning will feel wronged and demand compensation (like when the iPhone 3G came out).
2) Anyone who recently purchased the older version will just return it if they are able.
1) Amazon sells out of the Kindle in November 2008, putting it in a 10-12 week back order.
2) The Kindle is Oprah's favorite new gadget. On October 24th she has Jeff Bezos on her show and he offers $50 off to Oprah viewers who purchase the Kindle before November 1, 2008.
3) The number of Google searches that included the word Kindle jumped 479% on October 24th (Oprah/Kindle day).
4) Amazon has a special Christmas return policy that lets you return anything purchased after November 1st, 2008 for a full refund, as long as you return it before January 31st, 2009.
5) The company went radio silent on Kindle 2 until the first week in February.
6) Amazon introduced the Kindle 2 on February 9th, 2009.
7) Amazon tells current Kindle owners that if they order by midnight on February 10th, they will receive first priority on the Kindle 2.
1) Amazon decides to push as many Kindles out the door before their November 1st special holiday return policy starts. Oprah loves her Kindle, they know that, why not offer her viewers a discount? At that point Bezos probably knew how many Kindles they had in stock and he probably knew they were going to sell out well before their Kindle 2 was introduced, so why offer a $50 discount? While it is hard to say no to Oprah, it is easier to say yes if it means that people would flock to buy them before the offer expired on November 1st and the special holidat return season started. Amazon could sell their soon-to-be obsolete inventory and not have to worry about holiday returns or getting stuck with useless Kindles.
2) Amazon waits until after their holiday return window has closed to announce the Kindle 2. If they released the news for the Kindle 2 before January 31st, their November sales revenue numbers would take a hit as the last of the November Kindle purchasers took advantage of their holiday return policy and traded in their model for the newer version.
3) By placing the Kindle on backorder for 12 weeks, Amazon builds an unnatural demand for the Kindle, making the Kindle seem almost unattainable.
4) Then at the Kindle 2 press conference, Bezos tells current Kindle owners that they will be first in line to receive the Kindle 2 if they place their orders before midnight on February 10th. If they hadn't been sold out of the Kindle for so long, a promise like this would seem irrelevant: "so you are telling me that I if I purchase one, I'll get one?" That's an awesome deal Amazon, awesome. I buy something, you send it. Talk about exceptional customer service. . .
So, in sum, Amazon doesn't ship any Kindle during the Christmas season, but they do accept orders and build demand. They (i) turn just having the ability to buy their product into 'good customer service,' (ii) don't have to worry about throwing a bone to the early adopters and (iii) don't have to deal with any excess inventory on the original Kindle because by the time people know about the Kindle 2, no one who owns a Kindle 1 would fall into the return window time frame.Kudos to Bezos. He played us like a bunch of puppet bookworms. Now, on to placing that order for the Kindle 2. . .
ps- you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me at bobarra
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
Amazon's announcement today of the Kindle 2 has reignited interest in its groundbreaking e-book platform.
Here's our take on the new features. Add your own thoughts to the comments to share your take on the new version.
1) Smaller form factor. "Thinner than an iPhone" is Amazon's point of comparison for the newer, svelter Kindle. To the degree that a thinner Kindle is a lighter and easier to hold Kindle, then it's slimmer profile is a positive enhancement.
2) Crisper, faster display. Like my hair, the Kindle 2.0 screen is sporting more shades of gray these days. While early reviewers have said that the new screen technology doesn't create a noticeable difference, higher resolution theoretically means e-books that are easier to read and that are closer to the contrast and readability of ink on paper.
3) 2 gigs of on-board memory. You can never have too much money, and gadget owners can never have too much memory. While it's not likely that anyone is likely to fill up 2 gigs of memory out of the gate, having built in memory saves Kindle customers from having to shell out for an optional memory card.
4) Read-to-me feature. Using text-to-speech technology, the new Kindle will read to you in an easy to understand but decidedly computer-generated voice. As I wrote previously, I wish Amazon would have enabled the ability to read a Kindle book while listening to the audio version. Time will tell, but I don't predict that having a Cylon read your novels to you will be very popular.
5) Whispersync will synchronize your progress across multiple Kindles, and, soon, multiple devices. I'm not sure how many Kindle owners have multiple Kindles they read the same book on, so out of the gate this feature doesn't impress me much. The real promise, when viewed in light of the news that Amazon will be making Kindle e-books available on the iPhone, it may be that Amazon will bring Whispersync to other platforms sooner rather than later. This would mean that you could start to read a chapter from a novel on your Kindle in the morning, and pick right up where you left off and read the rest of the chapter at work on your iPhone at lunch. This has the potential to be very convenient and very cool.
6) Exclusive Stephen King novella. UR, written exclusively for the Kindle, will be available for $2.99 near the end of the month. It's great that Amazon is exploring new models such as commissioning content for the Kindle. It's not clear if this represents a commitment to new publishing models or a publicity tactic to mark the launch of the new device.
So, will any of the new features prompt you to purchase a Kindle 2.0?
Take our poll to express your opinion!
Amazon has just issued a press release of the features of Kindle 2.0.
From the text:
"New Slim and Sleek Design
The new Kindle 2 features a completely new design. At just over a third of an inch thin (0.36 inches) and weighing just over 10 ounces, Kindle 2 is pencil thin and lighter than a typical paperback. New buttons make it easy to turn the page from any holding position. The new 5-way controller on Kindle 2 allows for more precise note-taking and highlighting both up and down and side to side in lines of text. The new controller also makes it easy to quickly jump between articles and sections of newspapers. Kindle 2 comes with a redesigned power charger that is more portable than the previous Kindle charger. The official Amazon.com cover for Kindle 2, which is sold separately, has an integrated attachment hinge to ensure a secure fit and features a leather cover for style and durability. Patagonia, Cole Haan and Belkin also designed covers for Kindle 2 that are available in the Kindle Store.
New Crisper, Faster Display
Kindle 2’s 6-inch, 600 x 800 electronic paper display provides 16 shades of gray versus 4 shades available in the original Kindle, resulting in crisp text, and sharper images and photos. Kindle reads like printed words on paper because the screen works using real ink and doesn’t use a backlight, eliminating the eyestrain and glare associated with other electronic displays. With the latest electronic paper display, pages turn an average of 20 percent faster than the original Kindle for an even smoother reading experience.
New 2 GB Memory Holds Over 1,500 Books
With 2 GB of memory, Kindle 2 can hold more than 1,500 books, compared with 200 with the original Kindle. And because Amazon automatically backs up a copy of every Kindle book purchased, customers can wirelessly re-download titles in their library at any time.
25% Longer Battery Life
Kindle 2 customers can read for four to five days on one charge with wireless on and for over two weeks with wireless turned off.
New Instant Dictionary Lookup
Kindle 2 comes with the New Oxford American Dictionary and its 250,000 word definitions built-in, and with Kindle 2 definitions appear instantly at the bottom of the page.
New Experimental Read-To-Me Feature
Kindle 2 offers the experimental read-to-me feature “Text-to-Speech” that converts words on a page to spoken word so customers have the option to read or listen. Customers can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and their spot is automatically saved. Pages turn automatically while the content is being read so customers can listen hands-free. Customers can choose to be read to by male or female voices and can choose the speed to suit their listening preference. Using the read-to-me feature, anything you can read on Kindle, including books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and personal documents, Kindle 2 can read to you.
Still Wireless, Still No PC, Still No Hunting for Wi-Fi Hot Spots
Kindle 2 uses the same wireless delivery system as the original Kindle—Amazon Whispernet. Customers can wirelessly shop the Kindle Store, download or receive new content in less than 60 seconds, and read from their library—all without a PC, Wi-Fi hot spot, or syncing. Whispernet utilizes Amazon’s optimized technology plus Sprint’s national 3G data network and is expanded to cover all 50 U.S. states. Amazon still pays for the wireless connectivity on Kindle 2 so books can be downloaded in less than 60 seconds—with no monthly wireless bills, data plans, or service commitments.
Automatically Syncs With Original Kindle, Kindle 2, and future devices
Amazon’s new “Whispersync” technology automatically syncs Kindle 2 and the original Kindle, which makes transitioning to the new Kindle 2 or using both devices easy for customers. Kindle 2 will also sync with a range of mobile devices in the future.
Earth’s Biggest E-book Store Keeps Expanding, Plus New Stephen King Exclusive
The Kindle Store currently offers more than 230,000 books—up from 90,000 when Kindle launched. Books from numerous popular authors have been added since the original Kindle launched, including John Steinbeck, C.S. Lewis, Beverly Cleary, Martha Stewart, Terry Goodkind, and Spencer Johnson.
Author Stephen King announced today that he is releasing a novella, “Ur,” which will only be available on Kindle. At the center of Ur is lovelorn college English instructor Wesley Smith, who can’t seem to get his ex-girlfriend’s parting shot out of his head: “Why can’t you just read off the computer like the rest of us?” Egged on by her question and piqued by a student’s suggestion, Wesley places an order for a Kindle. Smith’s Kindle arrives in a box stamped with the smile logo and unlocks a literary world that even the most avid of book lovers could never imagine. But once the door is open, there are those things that one hopes we’ll never read or live through. Ur is available for pre-order beginning today and will be released later this month. For Kindle customers who pre-order, King’s new novella will download automatically when it becomes available.
The Kindle Store now includes many additional magazines and newspapers, such as The New Yorker, which is available for the first time on Kindle starting today. Magazines and newspaper subscriptions are auto-delivered wirelessly to Kindle overnight so that the latest edition is waiting for customers when they wake up. Monthly Kindle newspaper subscriptions are $5.99 to $14.99 per month, and Kindle magazines are $1.25 to $3.49 per month.
Over 1,200 blogs are available on Kindle today—up from 250 when Kindle launched. New blogs added to the Kindle Store recently include the Wired blogs, VF Daily and James Wolcott’s Blog from Vanity Fair. Blogs are updated and downloaded wirelessly throughout the day so Kindle customers can read blogs whenever and wherever they want. Wireless delivery of blogs costs as little as $0.99 each per month and includes a free two-week trial.
Same Popular Kindle Features
Kindle 2 includes all the features Kindle customers enjoy every day, including:
· Choose from six text sizes
· Add bookmarks, notes, and highlights
· Read personal documents such as Microsoft Word and PDF, and view images, all
· Search Web, Wikipedia.org, Kindle Store, and Your Kindle Library where
customers’ purchased content is stored
· No setup required—Kindle comes ready to use—no software to load or set up
Kindle is available for pre-order starting today for $359 at http://amazon.com/kindle2 and will ship on February 24. Customers who are currently in line for the original Kindle will receive an automatic upgrade to the new Kindle 2."
For Kindle owners, Monday is an exciting day. While perhaps not as monumental as the presidential election or the Super Bowl, the promise of what may be a major upgrade to my favorite gadget is occaison for some wistful hoping. With the market becoming more competitive and Amazon choosing to introduce competition to the Kindle by selling "Kindle editions" for the iphone, the burden, as I've written elsewhere, is on Amazon to produce some significant new features for Kindle 2.0.
What might those feature be? Predictions abound, including this recent PC World article. Well, since Jeff Bezos seems to have lost my cell phone number, I'm not in the loop, but here are my top five hopes:
5) Longer battery life. Even with performance better than most gadgets I own, I'm recharging every couple of days, even with judicial use of the wireless modem. It would be tremendously convenient if the Kindle could be the camel of e-book readers, only needing a drink of the juice every week or so.
4) More Kindle titles. While this isn't a feature of the hardware per-se, the link between the Kindle store and the Kindle is inseparable, like Michael Jackson and his pet monkey. Want to read John Grisham's latest novel, The Associate? You can't. Not available on the Kindle. For the Kindle to become truly popular, Amazon will need to convince publishers to license the rights to high profile titles.
3) A backlight. While accessories like M-Edge's E-Luminator (a video review of which should be on Kindleville by the time you read this) are helpful, why not build in a light, as Sony has for its e-book reader?
2) The ability to read an e-book and listen to an audiobook simultaneously. I love to listen to a well-narrated audio book while reading along; it makes me slow down and relish the language and the details of the book. Currently, of course, you can listen to an Audible book, but you can't read on your Kindle while the audio book is playing. This seems just plain silly, and I hope Amazon fixes it, particularly since they own Audible and could bundle the text and audio versions together for a higher price.
1) Amazon needs to open its formats and drop digital rights management, as they have with music. Digital rights management provides the illusion of security--sort of like those TSA agents at the airports scrutinizing your Ziploc bag full of saline solution and lip balm for signs of Osama bin Laden. Many times--when the technological or economic winds change direction--DRM results in consumers losing access to digital products they've paid for with their hard earned dollars. Ditch the DRM and trust your customers, Amazon!
What are your predictions? What features do you think Amazon will unleash in Kindle 2.0?
Watch Kindleville Review of the M-Edge Executive Jacket and E-Luminator Book Light | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com
Posted by Kindleville contributor Tyler Steben, author of the Reading Bytes blog.
Members of the Kindle community have been encouraging Amazon to think creatively about how the capabilities of the popular e-reader can introduce new publishing models.
Amazon has launched an experiment in the form of distributing Andrew Macauley's science fiction project Fallout 101 that shows the company may have some interest in shaking up the status quo in the publishing world. While the overall plot is tried and true sci-fi―a man is revived in a laboratory on a futuristic world and must figure out where he came from and what's going on―there are some unique features of the project that make it stand out.
The work is being distributed in serial form, with users getting a couple chapters a week. In addition to the novel, subscribers receive essays from the author on various elements of writing the book (how he creates characters, for example) and the Amazon description promises that readers will periodically receive short stories that are not part of the novel but relate to the plot, characters, and setting of the work.
I've been reading Fallout 101 for a couple weeks now and have been enjoying it. The world that that Macauley has created is engaging―the characters are interesting, the action well plotted and there's just the right dash of cool futuristic gadgetry. The essays on character and plot development are a little less interesting to me personally, but I like that the project includes pieces that help to understand and develop a relationship with the author. One recent note indicated that the author would be posting less content on a given week than usual because he was helping his mother move. You don't get that with a Grisham novel!
While the project shows the potential for exploring new and different publishing models, there are some flaws. First, Fallout 101 uses the Kindle's blog delivery capability and displays installments in reverse chronological order, with the most recent installments at the top of the table of contents. This works well for blogs, but not so well for a novel. A late-comer to the Fallout 101 party would need to go to the end of the article list and return to the table of contents after each chapter to select the next chapter above the previous one. This process disrupts the flow of reading unnecessarily.
What hampers calling Fallout 101 a breakthrough experiment in e-book publishing is the fact the entire project is available for free at www.fallout101.com. Kindle subscribers, then, are paying for the convenience of re-distributing the content to the device, not for the content itself.
It does strike me as odd that Amazon is trying to fit the proverbial square peg in a round hole. There must be a more engaging way to present the content than using the blog reading interface. And why not commission a serial project from a capable author and make the content exclusive to the Kindle, or at least make the content exclusive while the book is being serialized? Amazon may argue that it is attempting to keep the price low, which is admirable, but this early adopter would happily pay a few times the current price of .99 cents a month for exclusive content.
What do you think? Does Fallout 101 represent an evolution in the publishing model, or is Fallout an experiment that falls short?
Posted by Kindleville contributor Tyler Steben, author of the Reading Bytes blog.
Gut reaction to the Kindle? Do you remember?
When I started using the Kindle for the first time, my imagination went into overdrive: this was the end of books, the end of magazines, the end of libraries, the end of paper. Paper!
So, maybe my intuitions aren't spot on, perhaps I have a tendency to exaggerate, but the Kindle does bring visions of Adolf Huxley's A Brave New World to the forefront of your mind.
The intriguing and noteworthy aspect of the Kindle, however, is not necessarily the physical gadget created by Amazon, but rather the E-Ink technology behind it. The Cambridge, MA company is responsible for developing the 'electronic paper' technology used not only in the Amazon Kindle, but also in the Sony e-reader. In the coming years, I think that this is the technology to watch out for: just think of the implications of such invention, particularly when they are able to master the 'paper' part of 'electronic paper.'
While librarians probably don't have to start looking for a new profession just yet, perhaps the days of 20 pound text books are coming to a close.
Where do you see this technology going?
Posted by Kindleville contributor Andrea Nadosy, founder and CEO of bobarra.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about how I was searching for a curator for Kindleville. My interest in the Kindle has been fading and I was hoping I could convince someone to step in and feed the Kindleville blog with posts of their own.
I'm happy to say that several people expressed an interest, but two in particular impressed me as a great fit for this blog. Their names are Andrea Nadosy and Tyler Steben. Here's a bit of background on both of them:
Andrea Nadosy is the founder and CEO of bobarra, a company specializing in stylish yet functional Kindle covers and checkpoint friendly laptop bags. Born and raised in New York City, Andrea graduated from Harvard College in 2003 with a degree in biological anthropology. She then spent a year living and studying in Paris before returning stateside for stints working in the non-profit world and studying at Columbia's School of Urban Planning. In 2006, Andrea made her way back to Harvard, this time for business school. It was at HBS where she discovered not only her love for the Kindle, but also for entrepreneurship; she launched bobarra soon after graduating.When I talked with Andrea and Tyler they both struck me as extremely passionate about the Kindle and that's the key attribute I was looking for. I went in search of one writer and found two. Actually, I won't completely disappear from Kindleville. I'll still write a post now and then, but Andrea and Tyler will be the primary voices going forward.
She currently reads and resides in San Francisco where she enjoys hiking, baking and has a profound appreciation for iced-tea spoons.
Tyler Steben been involved with digital publishing for 18 years. His early career was in an academic institution where a large online project he created was acquired by a major university press. He then worked for one of Pearson's higher ed imprints in New York City as a member of the digital publishing team and established media brands and products that are still in existence today. In 1999 Tyler was recruited to be a founding manager at XanEdu, a company that does digital custom publishing for the higher ed market. He's had the good fortune to collaborate with a range of successful authors, ranging from Henry Louis Gates to leading textbook authors to musician Thomas Dolby. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife and son. Tyler also recently launched another blog called Reading Bytes.
P.S. -- Tomorrow we'll be hearing the big announcement from Amazon...the worst kept secret in years, Kindle 2.0. I'm heading to O'Reilly's Tools of Change (TOC) conference in New York tomorrow morning, but I plan to keep an eye on the Amazon news. I'll be Twittering both the TOC conference and the Amazon announcement(s). You can follow my tweets here, but if you're interested in hearing about TOC from other attendees, be sure to follow the #toc hashtag in Twitter.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
There it is. What do you think? I feel it's a very sleek, attractive upgrade from Kindle 1.0, but I'm less concerned about look-and-feel and more interested in the Kindle platform itself.
As I just mentioned in an email reply to one of my blog readers, "Will Amazon open up this platform? Will they abandon DRM? Will they offer an upgrade deal for existing owners?"
As far as I'm concerned, the answers to these questions are much more important than whether Kindle 2.0 is thinner than Kindle 1.0 or if they finally fixed the placement of the next/prev page buttons.
Btw, perhaps I'm in the minority but I'm pleased with the news that Amazon plans to make their Kindle content available on cell phones. On the one hand, I hope it's a sign that they are about to open things up a bit. More importantly, if they're going to offer the entire lineup of Kindle content for my iPhone, well, I can just focus on upgrading one device (iPhone) and not two (iPhone+Kindle).
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Here's an article with yet another estimate of the number of Kindles in use today. The conclusion is that Amazon sold approximately 500,000 units in 2008 and that sales of the Kindle have provided Sprint with some lift to their business.
It would be interesting to know whether Sprint is comfortable with their cut of the deal and the amount of bandwidth the typical Kindle owner requires. The original relationship was built under download/purchase assumptions that may have shifted over time. I use my Kindle to retrieve all sorts of free content from services like Kindlefeeder, for example. I've also sent countless DOC and PDF files to my Kindle email account to have Amazon convert and load them wirelessly on my device. I might be in the minority, but if not, it's possible that there's a lot more use of Sprint's network than was originally envisioned.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
I guess it's appropriate to ask a question with a football metaphor as I count down the hours till my Steelers play in the Super Bowl. Word is out that Amazon is announcing Kindle 2.0 in NY on 2/9 and I wonder how significant this new version will be. Will Amazon advance the ball with this next generation Kindle?
I'm past the look-and-feel issues. Yeah, the buttons are awkward and the device looks like it came from Coleco in the 1980's. It's not an elegant product and it probably never will be. But rather than fixing the clunkiness I hope they work on two more important issues:
Openness -- This is a big one and has several facets. The Kindle is mostly a closed system that needs opened to maximize future success. Sure, I can email a PDF to my kindle.com account and Amazon will convert it and wirelessly load it to my device, but what about other content formats? EPUB, anyone? The second area of openness has to do with the developer platform. Why in the world won't Amazon open that up to create a Kindle App Store model, similar to the iPhone one? Part of what makes the iPhone experience so enjoyable is the large and growing number of interesting apps for it. You could argue the Kindle doesn't lend itself to as many fun and engaging apps as the iPhone. I disagree. There are loads of apps no one envisioned for the iPhone till the platform was opened and the apps were developed. The same type of innovation would happen on the Kindle...if Amazon would let it.Please, Amazon, don't just make Kindle 2.0 a modest evolution of Kindle 1.0 where you fix the button placement and not much more. You've had more than a year to study the market, see what customers like/want and make 2.0 irresistable. Don't drop the ball with some lame revision.
Innovative Content Models -- $9.99 books are great and Amazon's obviously selling quite a few of them, but what about book clubs, all-you-can-eat and other content pricing models? If I can sign up for an e-content subscription/access model like Safari or Books24x7 on my computer why doesn't Amazon offer something similar for the Kindle?
P.S. -- I should also mention that it would be unbelievably shortsighted if Amazon were to release Kindle 2.0 without an attractive upgrade option for Kindle 1.0 owners. Current owners were the risk-takers who invested hundreds of dollars for a funny looking limited functionality device. I hope Amazon rewards all these early adopters with a deep discount on version 2.0. I'll probably remain on the sidelines for Kindle 2.0, saving my money for the next iPhone upgrade; others are likely to do the same if Amazon doesn't make it worth their while.