Tag Archives | E-Readers

Barnes & Noble Unveils Digital Lending

While most folks have fixated on the Nook’s ($259) secondary color screen, compared to the pedestrian and now antiquated Amazon Kindle, the most significant feature of Barnes & Noble’s upcoming Android-based eReader is digital lending. From the Nook FAQ:

With our new LendMe technology, you can now share from nook to nook. But it doesn’t stop there. Starting Nov. 30th, you can lend to and from any device with the Barnes & Noble eReader app, including PC, Mac OS, BlackBerry, iPhone™ and iPod touch. All you need to know is your friend’s email address. You can lend many of your eBooks one time for a maximum of 14 days. When you use our LendMe™ technology, you will not be able to read your eBook while it is on loan, but you always get it back.

We’ve previously seen some minor forays into digital media sharing (Welcome to the Social, MusicGremlin) and I had proposed a single license transfer model. Yet this appears to be the most consumer friendly and practical implementation. When combined with in-store wireless book browsing, the Nook experience (on sale 11/30) appears to closely mirror how we interact with physical media. However, B&N’s ambiguous language (”many” “up to” “a maximum of“) has me wondering what sort of lending policy variation we’ll see on a per title basis. And, if B&N is able to license content sharing from the publishers, you know Amazon will most likely implement similar functionality in the near future (along with another price drop?). But they better move quick before I pick up a pair of Nooks.

After the jump, some gratuitous product shots.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)

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Kindle Coming to PCs

kindlepcToday’s Windows 7 launch mostly involved stuff we already knew about, but there was a “just one more thing”: Amazon is going to release a Kindle e-book reading application for Windows. It runs on XP, Vista, and Windows 7, and takes advantage of the new touch features in Win 7 to allow gestures for actions such as flipping pages. It uses Kindle’s WhisperSync feature to sync your book library up with any other Kindle-compatible devices you own.

It’s a welcome development, and pretty much a mandatory one for Amazon given that the books Barnes & Noble sells for its new Nook device can also be read on PCs and Macs. (No word on whether Amazon will release a Mac app; if it is, maybe it’s holding back the news a bit to avoid spoiling Microsoft’s party today.)

Few if any PCs are optimized for reading books, and I’ve never bought an e-book primarily to read it on a laptop. But at this point I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on Kindle tomes–and the more devices I can read them on, the merrier. Amazon says the free Kindle app will be available next month,


One World, One Kindle

Kindle WorldThat was fast! Two weeks ago, Amazon.com introduced a Kindle e-book reader with AT&T 3G wireless and the ability to download books in a hundred countries. It priced it at $279 and knocked the cost for the U.S.-only version down to $259. It seemed odd to keep the old version around at such a modest discount–and now it’s gone.

As Engadget’s Thomas Ricker is reporting, Amazon has now killed the old Kindle, marked the new one down to $259, and will be issuing $20 rebates to everyone who paid $279. As Thomas points out, this not only logically streamlines the Kindle lineup, but responds to the announcement of Barnes & Noble’s Nook, which will cost $259 and sounds like a more advanced device, at least in some ways.

Meanwhile, I lied in the headline of this post–there are still two Kindles. But it seems like a safe bet that the big-boy Kindle DX will get AT&T wireless (and probably a price cut) in the next few months. By the time the Plastic Logic Que ships, surely…


Hey, Nook! Barnes & Noble’s E-Book Reader is Official

Nook LogoThe salient details had all leaked out already, but now they’re real: Barnes & Noble has unveiled its e-book reader. It’s called the Nook, it packs both a 6″ e-ink screen and a color touch one below, and comes both 3G and WiFi, 2GB of memory, and an SD slot. The Nook will offer both bestsellers and other new releases (“many” at $9.99) and over a million titles in total, including free public-domain works. It costs $259–the same as Amazon.com’s cheapest Kindle–and is due to ship by the end of November.

Oh, and it syncs with Barnes & Noble’s e-reading software for PCs, Macs, iPhones, and BlackBerries, and has a lending feature that lets you virtually loan an e-book to a friend for two weeks. Let’s op

As with Spring Design’s Alex, the Nook’s two-screen design feels like a kludge to deal with the deficiencies that both e-ink and color LCDs still have. (The color display has an impact on the Nook’s battery life: ten days on a charge, vs. fourteen for the Kindle.) But maybe it’s an elegant kludge–I look forward to getting my hands on a Nook soon.

The single thing about the Nook that I’m most excited about is something kind of mundane: Like Sony’s Readers–but unlike the Kindle–it supports the industry-standard ePub format, and therefore doesn’t render your book purchases worthless if you someday decide to switch to an electronic reader made by someone else. I’m a mostly happy Kindle owner, but the current explosion of interesting alternatives from other companies leaves me hesitating each time I’m about to plunk down money for an e-book. I wonder how long it’ll take until Amazon decides that its proprietary book format is a drag on sales?

(Footnote: I’m still not clear whether the fact that the Nook and Sony Reader both support ePub means that I can just move my books back and forth starting right now. But that’s the direction the whole industry needs to go, and it can’t happen soon enough.)



Spring Design Springs into the E-Reader Game

Those rumors about the imminent announcement of an Android-based e-book reader with both a black-and-white e-ink screen and a color touchscreen below it? They were true–except for the part about it being announced by Barnes & Noble. A company called Spring Design has announced an e-reader called Alex, and conceptually, at least, the hardware sounds very much like what the Barnes & Noble device will supposedly deliver.

Here’s an image of Alex (and a smaller one of the B&N gadget, borrowed from Gizmodo, to its right).

Spring Design Alex

Alex has a 6″ e-ink display and a 3.5″ color touchscreen; it’s got an SD slot; it runs Android OS and claims to deliver full-blown Web browsing, which no other e-reader has done to date. The press release mentions connectivity via Wi-Fi, 3G, EVDO, and GSM; I presume that it means that versions of Alex could support any of these options, not that it delivers all of them in one device.

What’ll show up on that color screen?

Ideal for professional, educational and entertainment markets, Alex dynamically transforms the reader’s experience with images, videos and notes inserted as ‘Web grabs’ or with custom text created by the user or other secondary authors pertaining to the subject being displayed. Users can create their own images and notes and capture them to augment the original text or just dynamically grab relevant content with Link Notes™, Alex’s innovative multimedia authoring tool to enhance multimedia publishing.

So when can you get your hands on Alex, and how much will it cost? Not clear. The company says:

Spring Design is currently in discussion and enlisting major content partners and plans to release the Alex device for selected strategic partners by the end of this year.

…which would appear to mean that it doesn’t have a bookstore in place yet, and isn’t entirely sure how Alex will be sold, or by who. It’s a logical guess that it may be making this incomplete announcement because it expects Barnes & Noble to make its big splash real soon now, and wanted to get some attention beforehand. (That might also explain Plastic Logic’s sudden announcement of the upcoming announcement of its Que e-reader.)

In both its Alex and Barnes & Noble incarnations, the idea of a two-screen e-book reader is a reaction to the contrasting deficiencies of e-ink and LCD displays–e-ink can barely do photos and is slow to refresh, and LCDs eat up battery juice too quickly. I look forward to the day when nobody thinks the dual-screen kludge is necessary. In the meantime, though, it’ll be fun to check out these devices, and to see if a small company like Spring Design can compete against giants such as Amazon, B&N, and Sony.


Plastic Logic’s E-Reader Gets a Little More Real

Plastic Logic logoE-reader maker Plastic Logic has been giving its gadget a fascinating slow-motion rollout. It first showed it to reporters more than a year ago at the DEMO show. Then showed it at the Consumer Electronics Show last January. Then it re-revealed it at the D conference. And now it’s saying it’ll “unveil” it at next January’s CES.

It’s also telling us what the name is for the first time–Que–and has revealed a couple of sexy photos which steer clear of revealing the full monty. (The device has been seen repeatedly in all its full-frontali glory in public, but I’m assuming the final industrial design has been kept under wraps.)



Plastic Logic says it’ll say how much Que costs and when it’ll be available at CES; the company obviously doesn’t have any issues with discussing a product long before it’s available, so it’s not a given that next January’s unveiling is proof positive that the device will go on sale in early 2010.

When Plastic Logic started touting its e-reader, its only real competition were the original Amazon.com Kindle and the Sony Reader. The industry’s undergone radical change since then, with the release of the Kindle 2 (recently further revised) and Kindle DX and multiple new Sonys, Best Buy’s rollout of the iRex, and the apparent imminent announcement of a contender from Barnes and Noble. By the time it shows up, it may even be compared to an Apple tablet.

The Plastic Logic device seems to have evolved in response to all this competition even before it ever shipped–for instance, it’ll have 3G connectivity via AT&T, a feature which the company didn’t mention at first. But the Que’s original signature feature was its 8.5″-by-11″ screen and PDF support, and Amazon has already matched those features with the DX. Amazon’s U.S. and International Wireless version of the Kindle 2, like the Que, uses AT&T. And it looks like the Que will find itself competing with the company that’s powering its bookstore: Barnes & Noble.

One thing that hasn’t changed about Plastic Logic’s device is its emphasis on business user. It’s coined the term “proReader” to describe the Que, says it’ll support PDF, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, and promises unspecified “powerful tools for interactive with and managing the content.” It sounds like a logical way to differentiate the product in what will be a rather noisy market, mostly populated by products from companies larger than Plastic Logic. But I’ll still be glad when it’s finally possible to judge the Que in the only way that’s truly satisfying: In our own hands, with our own eyes.


Best Buy to Lump E-Readers With Other Random Stuff

Sony E-ReaderClearly, Best Buy doesn’t know what to do with all those e-readers that it plans to stock, because they’ll soon be thrown into a section that contains electronic Rubik’s Cubes, digital pens and — wait for it — Sharper Image products.

Dealerscope reports that Best Buy’s creating a new retail section called “Gadgets and eReaders,” located near the movies and music, and will soon launch a corresponding page on its Web site. Along with Sony’s Reader Daily and Touch Editions and the new iRex e-reader, you’ll find the Livescribe Smartpen and the Rubik’s Touchcube, among other things.

I understand where Best Buy is coming from. E-readers are hard to categorize. They’re not quite tablet computers, nor are they full-blown media players. They are their own category, but right now there just aren’t enough e-readers (or enough interest in them) to warrant a dedicated section of the store.

But lumping e-readers in with “Funky Gadgets You Don’t Need” (my terminology, not Best Buy’s) isn’t really the best way to foster market growth. Granted, someone who’s going to Best Buy with the intent of buying an e-reader won’t care where it’s located as long as it can be found, but to the casual shopper, e-readers’ placement in an obscure gadget section is just going to make them seem frivolous.

What to do then? Put the e-readers near the iPods and Zunes. After all, e-readers are high end entertainment devices, and they share some common features with media players, such as wireless connectivity, digital content and, in some cases, touch screens. Sony’s Reader Touch Edition can even play music.

The gimmicky gadgets can have their own section, but Best Buy should think a little harder about which devices earn the dubious distinction.


Best Buy, Verizon Team on New E-Book Reader

Move over, Amazon Kindle. Best Buy and Verizon have unveiled a new e-book reader Wednesday that will sell for $399 and is built by iRex Technologies. The reader like the Kindle would be able to purchase content over the 3G network, and will be sold in about 100 of Best Buy’s locations by October.

Barnes and Noble’s e-bookstore would be used to supply the device with content, the companies said.

Verizon stands to benefit from this new device as it would receive a portion of the revenue to pay for the use of bandwidth by these devices over the network. Best Buy benefits from a device that is a direct revenue stream for them: the company is so serious about e-readers that it is specifically training its associates on how to sell the devices.

The two companies may be getting on the bandwagon at the right time. After only selling around a million of these devices in 2008, over five million are expected to be sold this year according to research firm iSuppli. Much of this increase has to do with the success of the Kindle, which has continued to sell very well by all accounts.

Regardless, the issue of price still looms large. As we reported here on Technologizer at the beginning of this month, e-readers are still too expensive for most consumers. At $400, iRex’s new reader seems to be more than twice what consumers would consider paying for a device.

These companies still need to address this issue if they plan to continue growing sales of these devices well into the future.


Hey Amazon and Sony! It’s Time for a Price Drop.

Sony vs. KindleWhile the Amazon Kindle and to some extent the Sony Reader have ignited the e-book industry, analysts say that the market will not be able to grow much further without a serious price drop. Forrester Research studied the problem, and found the “magic price” where consumers would start considering a purchase was around $150.

It gets worse though: the actual price that consumers want to pay is much lower, sitting at around $90. This is nowhere close to the current retail prices of e-bookreaders: Sony’s somewhat close to the magic number with it’s cheapest at $199, but Amazon’s way overpriced in consumer’s eyes at $299.

Analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said that e-readers will likely never be a mass market device, however by getting prices down quicker they could exceed current sales targets easily. Consumers have an expectation that prices on technology can drop quickly (i.e. iPhone) and are expecting the same to happen here, she argues.

Component prices seem to be the major issue here, as the screens used to manufacture these devices are still somewhat prohibitively expensive. Regardless, Epps said she expects the prices of e-readers to drop about 20% in the next year.

That would put Sony near that $150 goal, but the Kindle would still remain well over $200, and above what most consumers would be willing to pay.

I agree that the pricing needs to come down on these units. If it comes to it, and the reason why the Kindle can’t get cheap faster is due to the EV-DO data included, take it out. Sell it as an option. I don’t know if Amazon would be willing to do that, but if they did that could be one way to lower prices faster.

Are you all in the market for one of these devices, and if so, what is your magic price for an e-reader? Let us know in the comments.


The Kindle DX Arrives Next Week

Amazon has announced that it’ll start shiping its jumbo-sized e-reader, the Kindle DX, on June 10th, a week from this Wednesday. On paper (ahem!), it’s not a breakthrough device–it’s pretty much the current Kindle 2, only more of it, with the capability to display PDFs. But the larger screen’s ability to display more words with less reformatting could make for a meainingfully more pleasing reading experience. Look for a review on Technologizer as soon as we can swing it…

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