Are you searching for just the right outing for you and your special someone this Valentine’s Day? Well, look no further, Barnes and Noble will have Nooks available in stores for you to actually buy. Name just one thing more romantic than swinging by your local retail establishment to buy a new gadget. We sure can’t come up with anything.
The bookseller was caught off guard by demand for their ebook reader this past holiday season, with preorders spilling over into January. Barnes and Noble has had limited numbers of demo units in their retail locations since shortly after launch, but now you can actually take one home. This was cited as a main advantage over Amazon’s offering.
The Nook is a compelling alternative to the Kindle for some. The Nook runs the Android operating system, and a dedicated modding community has even gained root access to its Android core. Now that the production delays have finally been sorted out, we’ll see just how many people walk out of a Barnes and Noble with a Nook.
Till now, Amazon has enjoyed a smooth ride in the e-book reader market. But it is now bracing itself for a series of tight corners and bumps. Its Kindle e-reader is bound to come under pressure from the iPad and a slew of other slates and e-readers. It is said to have acquired a New York-based company named Touchco.
The company it has acquired specializes in touchscreen technology, according to the New York Times. Its flagship technology is something called interpolating force-sensitive resistance, which it uses to produce transparent touch screens for around $10 per square foot – much cheaper than competing technologies. Amazon remains mum on the acquisition.
There’s good news, and there’s good news in the latest leaked figures on Kindle ownership. While Amazon is a bit tight-lipped on the subject, with Jeff Bezos only admitting to “millions of people” owning Kindles, TechCrunch is reporting the number of those millions to be three.
Michael Arrington, who’s checked with this “amazingly accurate” sources, reports that the three million number was hit sometime in December, before the release of the global Kindle, and Amazon’s “free” Kindle offer.
Why double-good news? First, because this gives Amazon a distinct early market presence, which can have a snowball effect. (If all you see are Kindles, why by a Nook?) Second, because Amazon might well need this presence to weather the introduction Apple’s iPad into the market. For no other reason than its cachet value, the iPad will sell, and when the initial frenzy is over Kindle has a good chance of still being there.
Regardless of how you feel about the newly announced iPad, it’s probably going to do a few things very well. But will it be the reading device we’ve all been waiting for? Steve Jobs pushed the iBook store in the keynote, and discussed how the Kindle pioneered ebooks. Jobs then said Apple would “stand on [Amazon’s] shoulders”. Can it work?
The obvious benefit of the iPad is that it has a color screen. There will be more options for text size, search, and even font choices. Magazines and newspapers will look nice, but reading an old fashioned book may not benefit much. The Kindle and other eReaders have a 16 level eInk display meant to be easy to read. The screen on the iPad, being a conventional LCD, may not be quite so easy on the eyes.
Content wise, the iPad may be in good shape. Out of the gate it will have content from Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Harper Collins and Hachette. It will also support the open ePub format, which is more than we can say for Amazon. This means the iPad will have access to Google Books. The Nook has ePub support also, so it’s not a total win for Apple.
Price is certainly of concern. The iPad is clocking in at $499 for the 16GB version sans 3G. That’s quite a bit more than the Kindle and Nook at $260. To get data on the go, you need to purchase an AT&T data plan for the (more expensive) iPad, whereas the Kindle and Nook come with free wireless. Granted, the iPad does much more than eBooks, but buying it primarily as a reading device may be a questionable move.
Whether or not Apple announces a tablet PC next week, the tech world is fretting about the possible impact. Take, for example, Amazon. It’s cute little Kindle is basically a uni-tasker--it lets you read books and little else. An Apple tablet PC, it’s expected, will be more iPod Touch/iPhone like--a multi-tasker--making it more useful. Amazon’s not waiting to find out if the rumors are true, and is acting to negate some of Apple’s suspected advantage. It has opened up the Kindle to outside developers.
The Kindle Development Kit (KDK) will be available in a limited beta starting next month. The KDK, which is suited for Mac, PC, and Linux environments, will include sample code, documentation, and a Kindle simulator for building and testing apps.
With the KDK and outside developer support, Amazon looks to make the Kindle a more versatile tool, albeit with a monochrome display. Amazon is looking for apps that are free, one-time purchase, or monthly subscription. But there are some limits: “Voice over IP functionality, advertising, offensive materials, collection of customer information without express customer knowledge and consent, or usage of the Amazon or Kindle brand in any way are not allowed. In addition, active content must meet all Amazon technical requirements, not be a generic reader, and not contain malicious code.”
Amazon plans the same revenue split for publishers/authors it announced yesterday: 70/30 after deducting a delivery fee of 15-cents per megabyte. Amazon hopes to have apps available in the Kindle Store later this year.
Amazon’s Kindle is a neat idea, as are eReaders in general. But they aren’t much good if there’s nothing to 'eRead' on them. Book publishers, still stuck in last century’s economic models, are slow to come around to Jeff Bezo’s world of bits-and-bytes, leaving a gap in what is and what might be. Amazon has moved to shore-up that gap, at least for the Kindle and Amazon’s digital bookstore: it’s offering to pay authors and publishers a new royalty of 70 percent of list price--doubling the current 35 percent rate.
Well, not quite 70 percent. First, Amazon wants to deduct delivery costs. This is readily factored into the equation, as Amazon projects costs to be 15-cents per megabyte. And the book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 to qualify for this royalty rate. On top of this the book’s ‘ePrice’ must be at least 20 percent less than its physical copy price.
Oh, and Amazon wants distribution rights throughout the world where the publisher/author has such rights. The book can’t have been published prior to 1923. And the book must be sold in the United States.
Honestly, though, isn’t the soul of an author or publisher worth a royalty of 70 percent?
The cat was already out of the bag yesterday thanks to a trigger-happy webmaster at Amazon, but today the Kindle maker officially introduces the Kindle DX with Global Wireless. This new version of the 9.7-inch wireless e-book reader now offers wireless content delivery in over 100 countries, Amazon says.
"Kindle DX is great for personal and professional documents, cookbooks, and textbooks -- anything that is highly formatted. Documents look so good on the big Kindle DX display, that you'll find yourself changing ink toner cartridges less often and printing fewer documents," said Ian Freed, Amazon.com Vice President, Amazon Kindle. "Now Kindle DX with Global Wireless lets customers enjoy the ease of Whispernet wireless delivery of books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and documents while traveling in over 100 countries worldwide."
In case you missed the original DX the first time around, this larger-screen e-reader offers 2.5 times the surface area of the Kindle's 6-inch display and includes 16 shades of gray.
The Global Wireless version is available for preorder for $489 and will start shipping on January 19.
Although sales figures are hard to hammer down, its seems like e-book readers were a smash hit this year. Amazon alone is claiming that the Kindle was the most gifted item in its history. No numbers were mentioned, but when you consider that it is up against everything from game consoles to GPS’s this is no small milestone. Another interesting stat is that on Christmas day, e-books outsold their paper brethren by a pretty healthy margin. No doubt this was all the new Kindle owners firing up their devices in search of content, but it only further fuels speculation that all reading will eventually shift to digital distribution in the future.
The Kindle seems to have been a raging success, but the Barnes and Noble Nook appears to be suffering a bit with early reports showing that its content servers became overloaded preventing users from downloading purchased e-books.This might end up being but a small blip of bad press in the products long life cycle, but its definitely not the kind attention Barnes and Noble was hoping for over the holiday. In this case the success of the Nook can be attributed to its failings, but that’s small consolation for its owners.
Did you get an e-book reader over the holidays? What do you think of it?
Let’s face it, for hackers digital rights management (DRM) protections are a challenge that can’t be passed up. Not just because of the notoriety hacking a DRM brings, but because DRMs are so darned easy to crack--sort of the cybercrime version of wolves culling the weak from the heard. Case-in-point, the Israeli hacker “Labba”, with a little help from his friends, has cracked the DRM that protects ebooks on the Kindle.
The DRM for Kindle content is intended to keep what’s sold for the Kindle on the Kindle. Labba and his cohorts weren’t too keen on the restriction, and have hacked the DRM so that Kindle ebooks are converted into an open format, allowing PDF versions to be produced. Once in PDF format, the ebook can be moved to any number of electronic devices.
It’s a good bet that Amazon isn’t too pleased by this, and will move to ‘repair’ the DRM for Kindle ebooks. Which, of course, starts but another round of fox-and-hare with hackers. Given the rising popularity of the Kindle, it’s a game that might go on for some time to come.
In an increasingly overcrowded e-reader market, content will likely decide the ultimate winner. It worked for Apple, and Sony is hoping they are on track as well by signing new deals with News Corp to add content from the Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, and the New York Post to its e-ink devices.
According to Reuters, Sony will offer monthly subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal for $14.99, MarketWatch for $10.99, and the New York Post for $9.99. It seems as though Sony believes the e-ink editions formatted for their devices can command a slight premium since the Wall Street Journal online can be viewed from any web browser for less than $8 a month at today’s prices. This represents a pretty significant price delta, but it likely has something to do with the additional formatting that needs to go into reorganizing the content for a smaller screen.
Exact sales numbers for e-ink devices are hard to hammer down, but analysts currently forecast the Kindle alone will bring home about $301.4 million in revenue for Amazon in 2009, and this number is expect to grow as high as $1.8 billion by 2012. Only time will tell if the Kindle will remain the dominant platform, but clearly its still anyone game at this point.
Which e-reader do you think has the potential to become the next iPod? Or will the market fragment the way PC’s did?