Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page


Piece in the New York Times about Electric Literature, a new-ish literary mag, distinguished by its availability in a variety of formats:

The founders of Electric Literature, a new quarterly literary magazine, seek nothing less than to revitalize the short story in the age of the short attention span. To do so, they allow readers to enjoy the magazine any way they like: on paper, Kindle, e-book, iPhone and, starting next month, as an audiobook.

A refreshing embrace of the possibilities of the new. From their website:

Publishing is going through a revolution. There’s opportunity and danger. The danger lies in ignoring or resisting the transformation in media. New platforms present an opportunity to adapt. We believe the short story is particularly well-suited to our hectic age, and certainly for digital devices. A quick, satisfying read can be welcome anywhere, and while you might forget a book, you’ll always have your phone.

To us, literature is what is important, not the medium. If eBooks, Kindles, or iPhone apps help literature survive, then we’re all for them.

The Limits of Lending

Just when I was getting a little bit excited about the Barnes and Noble Nook – in particular it’s ability to allow the lending of e-books to friends, engadget suggests that the limits of lending are pretty draconian:

Unfortunately, the “world’s most advanced e-book reader” limits the LendMe feature to one 14-day period per book, ever, and that’s only if the publisher gives permission. You also can’t read the title yourself during the loaner period.

I can live with not being about the read the book whilst its ‘out’ (after all, a p-book can’t be in two places at the same time), the idea that you can only ever lend a book once is a real downer. I’ve said over and over that it’s the cultural change towards e-books that’s way more difficult than the technical stuff. Getting people to change the habits of a lifetime is no easy thing to do. The one-off lending limitation doesn’t help at all.

PS: This post made possible by the fact that HK Airport has free wifi, in case anyone’s passing through 🙂

Meet the Nook…

Barnes and Noble today introduced its e-book reader. They’ve named it the nook (New bOOK perhaps??) As expected, it’s Android powered and has two screens – one e-ink for reading and one colour LCD for navigating. Detailed coverage at gizmodo. As well as the technical stuff, the nook has a couple of interesting features. There’s book sharing. From Gizmodo:

One of my main objections to the Kindle and other readers is that most of my books come from friends, rather than bookstores. The Nook realizes that and integrates a 2-week lending period—plenty of time for a quick read

And then there’s the (somewhat ironic) idea that if you take your nook into a Barnes and Noble shop, you can browse books for free. Again from gizmodo:

You’ll be able to take the Nook to any of Barnes & Noble’s gajillion stores and read one ebook, for free, each time—the same way you might wander into the store, pick up a book and read it for an hour or two.


Overall, it seems more appealing than the kindle (and Barnes and Noble promises flexible file formats and a million available titles). I wonder if the colour screen will make the e-ink one look a bit lame though. Anyhow, shipping sometime in November, no word on international release…

Oh – and when I typed nook into my iphone, it auto-corrected to book.

Devil, meet details…

As we wait for the kindle to arrive in Australia, there’s been some chatter about what titles will be available and for what cost. The Sydney Morning Herald moans:

Australian Kindle users will have to pay about 40 per cent more than Americans for books on the Amazon e-book readers and the local publishing industry has expressed serious reservations about supporting the gizmo… And despite promising on its website that there are “no additional charges” for delivering books to overseas users, an Amazon spokesman told The Guardian that the average e-book would cost $US13.99 for foreign customers, 40 per cent more than the American price of $US9.99.

It seems as though kindle international is just a kindle with a gsm radio, with international roaming switched on. There’s nothing special about the device – in fact Amazon is marketing it to Americans who might like to travel, as well as to overseas users.

As anyone who has been overseas with an iphone knows, data costs whilst roaming are terrifying (I once spent $16 to check my email whilst in NZ.) Even three, whose data rates are pretty friendly charges $20 per MB when roaming in the USA (and a much more friendly 50 cents/MB when on an available 3 network overseas). Given that the average paperback novel will come in at around 500k, then an extra four bucks isn’t actually too bad. Of course, Amazon won’t pay consumer roaming rates, and is sure to be taking a cut – but the roaming charges will vary from country to country and there’s something appealing about a single flat-rat fee.

Again, the bigger devil is in the range of titles available…

In other news…

I try not to publish rumours, but just for something different… Whilst Ozzies are busy dissecting the possible impact of the kindle, the e-book hardware scene continues to hot up. Some are breathlessly waiting for Apple to enter the fray and according to gizmodo, the latest suggestions are that Barnes and Noble’s new e-reader will run android – which means apps. So we have rumours of a convergent device with an e-ink screen competing with a convergent device with a colour LCD screen. Next year is rumoured to be very interesting.

More int’l kindle details

They’ll keep dripping out over the next few weeks, but a Wired article has some answers to some of my kindle international questions. It appears that the carrier in question is AT&T and who its roaming partners are globally. What that means is that you can buy a book anywhere in the world, as long as there is AT&T roaming coverage:

Won’t everybody want to spend 20 bucks more on the AT&T version that that works all around the world, even if a cross-border trip isn’t on the immediate horizon? “I would!” says Bezos. Indeed, having a Kindle that downloads from overseas means you can get your favorite newspapers and magazines delivered instantly, at the same cost you pay at home. It makes the Kindle a travel guide, too: If you want the lowdown on a Kyoto temple, or are wondering where to get the best fries in Amsterdam, you can download a relevant guide on the spot.

And as for that pesky international rights problem, here’s what the wired piece says about that:

Amazon staved off copyright problems by negotiating an arrangement with English language publishers that pays royalties depending on the territory of purchase. (If you buy a copy of The Perfect Thing in London, for instance, the UK publisher Ebury press gets the sale, instead of US publisher Simon & Schuster.) Still, the rights clearances aren’t yet comprehensive; of the 350,000 books in the Kindle store, only around 200,000 will be available in some countries.

Kindle comes to Oz!!

Amazon has just done two things. It’s dropped the price on its Kindle 2 – now it’s US$259 which is pretty ho-hum. Far more interestingly, it’s announced an international edition with a gsm radio for US$279. According to technologizer:

More intriguingly, Amazon has added a $279 variant that uses a GSM radio to let you download content in a hundred countries around the world. (In the U.S., it’s powered by AT&T; other Kindles use Sprint’s network.) You pay a $1.99 surcharge to download books outside the U.S. (reasonable enough) and the same free to download a single issue of a magazine (pricey!). Amazon is taking pre-orders now says the new version will ship on October 19th.

I guess that means we can buy them down here. According to the country info page:

We are excited to now ship Kindle to Australia. Customers in Australia will enjoy:

Books in Under 60 Seconds: Think of a book and you could be reading it in under a minute
Free Wireless: Free 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle. No monthly fees, service plans, or hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots. See Coverage MapSee Wireless Terms and Conditions
Large Selection: Over 280,000 English-language books to choose from; plus U.S. and international newspapers and magazines
Low Book Prices: New York Times® Best Sellers and New Releases are $11.99, unless marked otherwise. You’ll also find many books for less – over 100,000 titles are priced under $5.99

So many questions. I wonder who the telephone carrier is here. And I wonder what it means for the parallel importation debate ($2 more for an int’l kindle title by the looks of things – probably for the wireless access fee). And I wonder if the iphone app will turn up on the Australian app store. And if I can buy kindle titles on the web store. And. And. And…

The Lost Torrent

Quick link to a New York Times article which suggests that ebooks might be heading down the slippery slide of piracy the hardware becomes more mainstream:

With the new devices in hand, will book buyers avert their eyes from the free copies only a few clicks away that have been uploaded without the copyright holder’s permission? Mindful of what happened to the music industry at a similar transitional juncture, book publishers are about to discover whether their industry is different enough to be spared a similarly dismal fate.

The hook is that Dan Brown’s new book is flooding the darknet and just as easy to find via the torrents as via Amazon/Kindle. (Apart from us Aussies of course, who can’t get the kindle version for a tenner, but have to outlay $28.99 (AUD) for the iphone app.). So in the interests  of research, I spent a few minutes searching for the latest blockbuster pageturner in epub format. Sure enough, one google search and a 5.74 megabyte transmission download later and dan’s book is ready for me to read in a bunch of formats on a number of devices. Next time I have lunch with my mates at Random, I guess it’s my shout 🙂