Google’s ebook store has finally stepped out of the realm of rumors and entered the real world. Matter-of-factly called the Google eBookstore, it is well stocked and supports a wide variety of devices, including PCs, smartphones, tablets and e-readers. According to Google, the store boasts the largest ebooks collection in the world with more than three million titles.
Since its Google’s ebook store, books are stored in the cloud and can be bought and read in it as well. Offline reading on Android and iOS devices is supported through native apps. As for e-readers, support is restricted to only those devices that are compatible with the Adobe eBook platform. While Amazon’s Kindle is not supported, Barnes & Noble Nook and Sony Reader are probably the most notable names on the list of supported devices.
There's a new firmware version available for the Nook, version 1.5, and according to Barnes and Noble this is the largest update ever to the company's eBook reader platform. New features include:
Sync current reading position across devices
Customizable folders and group content for My B&N Library
Password protection option for purchases made on a Nook device
Pass code security for the Nook
In addition, the new firmware brings about faster page turns up to 50 percent quicker than previous versions, improved search functionality that includes My Documents in the results, better battery life, and "other performance enhancements."
The version 1.5 software applies to both 3G and Wi-Fi Nook devices and is available for download at www.nook.com/support.
Starting today, you can now gift Kindle books to anyone with an email address, regardless if they own a Kindle or not, Amazon announced. And while it may seem cruel to gift your Kindle-less nephew an eBook, you can remind him that Kindle Books can be read on a number of devices, including Android phones, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPod/iPad, PC, and Mac. Of if you're intentially being cruel, buy him a game for that PlayStation 3 console he doesn't have and then ask to borrow it so you can play it on yours.
"We are thrilled to make it easier than ever for our customers to give their favorite Kindle book to a friend or family member as a gift," said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. "We're making this functionality available in time for the holidays to offer an easy, stress free holiday shopping for anyone -- not just Kindle owners."
Books in the Kindle Store are now accompanied by a "Give as a Gift" button. You're then asked to a provide an email address and can optionally leave a personalized message up to 300 characters.
Maximum PC readers hardly need a primer on what browser cookies are, or what extensions and plug-ins do. At the same time, most of us know someone who could benefit from a plain English guide covering Web apps, HTML5, and a host of other topics, and that's where Google's new online book, "20 Things I Learned About Browsers And The Web," becomes a handy tool.
"'20 Things' is written by the Chrome team, and continues our tradition of finding new ways to help explain complex but fascinating ideas about technology," Google says. "Many of the examples used to illustrate the features of the browser refer back to Chrome."
The online book is built around HTML5, and once loaded you can disconnect from the Web and continue to flip through the pages. Topics range from the above mentioned ones to things like validating identities online, IP addresses and DNS, and malware on the Web.
Amazon is forking over a larger slice of the Kindle pie to some publishers, the online e-tailer announced this week. Starting December 1, 2010, magazine and newspaper publishers will receive a 70 percent chunk of the retail price for each item sold.
"We are constantly working at improving the Kindle magazine and newspaper experience for both customers and publishers," said Peter Larsen, Director of Kindle Periodicals. "Building on the recent introduction of Wi-Fi-enabled Kindles and the upcoming availability of newspapers and magazines on Kindle Apps, we're pleased to add an increased revenue share and a great new tool for making Kindle better and easier than ever for publishers."
That 70 percent royalty rate applies so long as customers can read the title on all Kindle devices and applications, as well as in all geographies for which the publisher has rights. And for orders delivered via Amazon's Whispernet service, Amazon said it will share the delivery costs with publishers.
Amazon on Thursday announced that its upcoming Kindle for Windows Phone 7 app will be the first major eBook software available for WP7 devices. As with all Kindle apps, WP7 users will be able to sync their downloaded books to multiple devices.
"When you buy a Kindle book, we make it easy for you to get your books on all of the devices you want to read on - your iPhone, iPad, Android-based device, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, and of course your Kindle, Kindle 3G and Kindle DX," said Dorothy Nicholls, Director, Amazon Kindle. "Kindle for Windows Phone 7 extends our vision of 'Buy Once, Read Everywhere.' The app is optimized for the unique user interface of Windows Phone 7, and will include our Whispersync technology, so you always have your library with you and never lose your place in a book as you switch between devices."
Kindle for WP7 will launch later this year. You can sign up for email notifications here, and in the meantime, catch a quick demo of Kindle for WP7 below.
Life is good for E-Ink Holdings, which according to a DigiTimes report just recorded record net profits of more than $22 million in the third quarter, and things will only get better from there.
E-Ink chairman Scott Liu adjusted his company's forecast for 2011 and now predicts global eBook reader sales will top 20-25 million, up from his original prediction of 18 million units. That's a big jump from 2010, which is on pace to record 10 million eBook reader devices shipped.
Despite the success of Apple's iPad and impending avalanche of tablets, E-Ink seems to benefiting from the recent price war that erupted in the eBook market. Amazon, who's revamped Kindle sells for as little as $140, recently announced record sales for its eBook reader, and we haven't even begun the holiday shopping period yet.
With the semi-recent price cuts to both the Kindle (Amazon) and Nook (Barnes and Noble), the pressure is on the also-rans to make a compelling argument for themselves. Kobo's getting some help doing that courtesy of Borders.
From now until October 31, 2010, Borders is selling the vanilla version of the Kobo eBook reader for $100, down $30 from it's regular $130 price tag. By vanilla, we mean it doesn't come with Wi-Fi, a standard feature on both the Kindle and Nook.
While the reduced pricing is only temporary, we wouldn't be surprised if it stuck through the holiday shopping season, or indefinitely. For the sake of comparison, the Kobo Wireless eReader with Wi-Fi sells for $140.
In related news, Amazon recently announced that it's new generation Kindle is selling better than ever, selling more devices since launch than the company did during the entire fourth quarter of last year. That's what Kobo -- and every other also-ran -- is up against.
It seems like Amazon has figured out that if you price a desirable device appropriately, people will buy it, and do so in droves. Not exactly a novel concept, but the success of Amazon's new generation Kindle eBook readers should serve as a reminder of this. According to Amazon, these new Kindles are the fastest-selling Kindles of all time.
"It's still October and we've already sold more Kindle devices since launch than we did during the entire fourth quarter of last year -- astonishing because the fourth quarter is the busiest time of year on Amazon," said Steve Kessel, Senior Vice President, Amazon Kindle. "Readers continue to choose Kindle for its all-new electronic ink screen with 50 percent higher contrast, readability in bright sunlight, long battery life of up to one month, light 8.5 ounce form, flexibility to read their books across all major LCD devices and platforms, and low $139 price. It's clear that this is going to be the biggest holiday for Kindle yet -- by far."
The Kindle's success has trickled down into the electronic book category too. Amazon reports that during the past 30 days, its customers have purchased more Kindle books than print books, including both hardcover and paperback combined.
"For the top 10 bestselling books on Amazon.com, customers are choosing Kindle books over hardcover and paperback books combined at a rate of greater than 2 to 1," Amazon said.
During an interview with CNN's Howard Kurtz, author Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the One Laptop per Child project, said that physical books are not long for this world.
"It will be in five years," Negroponte said in reference to the demise of physical books. "The physical medium cannot be distributed to enough people. When you go to Africa, half a million people want books ... you can't send the physical thing. When we ship with our laptop books to a village, we put 100 books on a laptop, but we also send 100 laptops in ... That village now has 10,000 books. This is an African village without electricity. So that's the future."
Negroponte clearly sees eBook readers and tablets supplanting physical books in the not-too-distant future, and it should be noted that Amazon recently said it sold more eBooks than paperback ones. At the same time, it's hard to imagine a world without physical books. Let's forget about the technological hurdles still to be worked out -- like the iPad's poor performance in sunlight and eBook readers requiring a light when reading in the dark -- there are some, and probably many, who will always prefer the look, feel, and even the smell of a paper bound book.
Do you see eBooks and tablets replacing traditional books in five years? How about in 10 years, or beyond? Hit the jump and sound off.