Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Transitional Tech

I’m more and more convinced that the current crop of e-book readers (using e-ink) is a transitional technology. Whilst the e-ink screens are perfectly readable, there are problems with usability and they just don’t make the grade. I’m in Perth at (another) Librarians conference and I ran into a presenter from my last librarian conference who was doing a research project which gave these devices to schoolkids to see what happened. She suggested that they weren’t particularly enthused (hopefully I can post some more details of that research later). And news from Princeton seems to confirm this. The Daily Princetonian reports that:

When the University announced its Kindle e-reader pilot program last May, administrators seemed cautiously optimistic that the e-readers would both be sustainable and serve as a valuable academic tool. But less than two weeks after 50 students received the free Kindle DX e-readers, many of them said they were dissatisfied and uncomfortable with the devices.

In a world flush with colourful, responsive multi-touch devices, is it any wonder that grey on grey with a clunjy interface doesn’t fly?

(via TechDirt)

The Dan Brown Experience

No, not a 70s covers band, but some anecdotal suggestions about how Dan Brown is going in e-book format vs p-book. From the kindle nation daily:

… the Kindle edition of The Lost Symbol is clearly ahead of the hardcover, which also means, yes, that the Kindle edition of The Lost Symbol is the top selling item in the biggest bookstore in the world. Wow.
Maybe that isn’t the biggest story of 2009 in the world of reading. But I am having trouble imagining what could be bigger.

(Via The bookseller)

The Ebook Universe

Quick link to a pretty chart from TechFlash which provides a snapshot of what’s going on in the Ebook Universe As the post says:

The industry is changing rapidly. In recent weeks, we’ve seen Sony announce a new lineup of electronic readers; bookseller Barnes & Noble form partnerships with forthcoming e-readers from Plastic Logic and Irex; and Google team up with various devices to distribute digital titles from its giant book scanning project. Looming over all this is Apple, which is rumored to be developing a tablet computer with e-reading capability…

The price is right?

I was wasting time on the iphone app store the other night, when I notice that Nick Cave’s new book is highlighted in the new and noteworthy section. You can read all about it at the Guardian here. But in short, the book ships with an included audiobook version (read by Cave himself) and a soundtrack to the title, also the author’s work. Seems like a really interesting multimedia approach, centred on what also ships as a print artefact. Cave describes the iphone book in the Guardian piece:

“I see the paper copy as the real book. I sat down and wrote a novel, and that was difficult enough in itself without considering what the music would be. However, as a songwriter, I do have a naturally musical way of writing and [the book] has lent itself well to being scored, musically. It is a unique situation where you can write a novel and make music to it as well; it can be a different way of taking in a piece of literature.”

As I hovered over the buy now button, I realised that what was stopping me was the price. $29.99 (in Australia). Now, I just dropped $38 in Borders for a paperback for my mum last weekend, so that price is in line with what Aussies pay for printed books. But I had also just bough Gangstar, a Grand Theft Auto clone for my iphone a few days previously. That game has already given me hours of (frustrating!) gameplay for the princely sum of $8.99. Not long ago I would have happily paid $50 for a Nintendo DS game, but my value expectation has been totally re-calibrated by the app store.

And then there’s this. Apple’s itunes LP format, introduced last week seems to open up a different approach to multimedia publishing. Whilst not an iphone app, Tyrese Gibson has released a itunes LP comic book which combines a graphic novel, multimedia elements and music. All for $1.99.

So it’s pretty clear that the there is a different pricing model at work in the itunes space – in fact most online spaces. In that realm, $30 for almost anything seems way out of sync – even if it’s a relative bargain in the printed book world.

According to Jobs

As expected, Apple didn’t enter the e-reader market at today’s ipod/itunes event. Whilst we’re all still hoping for some kind of Apple Tablet/e-reader in the not-too-distant future, David Pogue has an interesting post-event interview with Steve Jobs which includes this tidbit:

Q: Has your opinion of e-readers changed?

A: I’m sure there will always be dedicated devices, and they may have a few advantages in doing just one thing. But I think the general-purpose devices will win the day because I think people just probably aren’t willing to pay for a dedicated device. You notice Amazon never says how much they sell; usually if they sell a lot of something, you want to tell everybody.

From Netbook to ebook…

Asus, whose EeePC heralded the current obsession with netbooks apparently has a twin screen ereader under development – and it may be on the market by year’s end. For less than two hundred bucks. From Engadget:

According to president Jerry Shen, the Eee Reader will become the planet’s cheapest e-book reader, though a premium model could also be launched to satisfy those craving higher-end features — probably amenities like inbuilt 3G, a web browser and expandable storage. The dual screen form factor would enable users to read books as books were intended to be read, or they could use the secondary panel to surf the web, type on a virtual keyboard or whatever else ASUS dreams up. We’re told that the firm is aiming for the £100 ($163) mark on its low-end model…

Bring it on…

A library without books

New England prep school, the Cushling Academy has decided to embrace an all-digital future. According to

This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks – the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.

Using a combination of laptop access points, e-readers and large screens, the school hopes to build a model for the 21st century school library:

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’ [the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel in which books are banned]. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’

(Thanks to John Burt)

Forrester says

IT research company Forrester has just released a report on e-book readers. In typical analyst fashion, it costs megabucks to read but there’s a helpful blog-summary here. In short, Forrester did a survey which seems to confirm what we all think. E-book readers are just too expensive:

What we found was that the price points for how most consumers value eReaders is shockingly low–for most segments, between $50 and $99. (Currently, eReaders in the US are priced between $199 for the Sony Pocket Reader and $489 for the Kindle DX.)

It’s not hard to think of stand-alone e-readers as transitional technologies. Those most likely to use such a specialised device are probably those who are most wedded to printed books. So for the rest of the market, the device for reading has to be a more general purpose one. Whilst there are always arguments about convergent devices, reading books is (for most people) a secondary activity… For that part of the market, put the reader software on something they’d already use for something else…

(via gigaom)

Funny(ish) Kindle 3 video

Computerworld has a post about the evolving ebook space. Best bit is a link to a collegehumor video touting the charms of the kindle 3. Bit of a swipe at those who suggest that the idea of books needs to be re-imagined for the 21st century 🙂