Users can no longer accuse Amazon's Kindle of being nothing more than a stuffy eBook reader too good for gaming. The Kindle Development Kit (KDK) launched earlier this year ensured it was only a matter of time before we saw some other apps for the Kindle. like the two games that have just been released.
Both titles are simple word puzzles (you weren't really expecting Quake, were you?), starting with Every Word, a world scramble game. Users are shown six or seven scrambled letters and are challenged to come up with as many words as possible. Think of it as Scrabble Lite.
The other game is Shuffled Row, which tasks users will seeing how many words they can make from 60 lettered tiles. Tiles are added to your row one at a time, giving you a constant pool of fresh letters to work with. You can think of this one as, um, Scrabble Lite as well.
Simple? Sure, and they're also both free. It's also the just the beginning of more to come, and we suspect at some point we'll see some paid games show up, as developers get a 70 percent cut of the revenue.
Hopefully all of you who were enticed by Amazon's new, smaller Kindle didn't sit on the fence before hitting the 'submit order' button. If you did, you may have to wait until September to get your paws on the new eBook reader.
"Due to strong customer demand, Kindle is temporarily sold out. Order now to reserve your place in line. Orders are prioritized on a first come, first served basis. Orders placed today are expected to ship on or before September 4th.," Amazon wrote on the Kindle's product page.
That's a delay of just over a week from the original August 27 launch date, but if the new prices prove popular enough, that date could get pushed back even further. Amazon released two new models, a Wi-Fi only version for $139, and a Wi-Fi + 3G unit for $189. Both devices are 21 percent smaller than the last-gen Kindle, but sport the same 6-inch reading area.
Connecticut's Attorney General's Office is looking into possible shenanigans between the country's largest eBook publishers and two heavyweight dealers, Amazon.com and Apple, Inc. According to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, both Amazon and Apple have reached agreements with several eBook publishers ensuring that they each receive the best prices over the competition.
"These agreements among publishers, Amazon and Apple appear to have already resulted in uniform prices for many of the most popular eBooks -- potentially depriving consumers of competitive prices," Blumenthal said. "The eBook market is set to explode -- with analysts predicting that eBook readers will be among the holiday season's biggest electronic gifts -- warranting prompt review of the potential anti-consumer impacts."
Blumenthal went on to say that Amazon and Apple own the lion's share of the eBook market, "allowing their most-favored nation clauses to effectively set the floor prices for the most popular eBooks." These kinds of agreements, Blumenthal contends, inevitably lead to coordinated pricing and discourages discounting.
More here, including the letters Blumenthal sent to Amazon and Apple.
While Amazon and Barnes & Noble go for each other's jugular by releasing new and lower priced eBook readers, Sony says it's content to sit on the sidelines rather try to chase the lowest price eReader crown.
"Pricing is one consideration in the dedicated reading device marketplace, but Sony won't sacrifice the quality and design we're bringing book lovers to lay claim to the cheapest eReader," said Phil Lubell, Sony's vice president of digital reading. "Our global customers expect to get the best digital book reading experience and we’re concentrated on delivering that by investing in Sony’s award-winning design and original digital reading enhancements, such as eBook library borrowing and the only full touch-screen on the market."
Sony's comments are interesting because they seem to insinuate that the competition is cutting corners in order to lower hardware prices. That might be true with both Amazon and B&N now offering 3G-less Wi-Fi only models, but even their original eReaders recently came down in price.
What do you think is a fair price for a general purpose eBook reader?
The eBook reader market expanded by 1.35 million units in the second quarter of 2010, and while that might sound like an impressive amount of mobile readers for such a short time span, it's 33.2 percent less than the 2.02 million analysts were expecting, says Digitimes Research.
Digitimes blames the slump in shipments to customers holding out for new models, many of which ended up delayed until the third quarter. One new model that was just announced is Amazon's third-generation Kindle with a 21 percent smaller frame and same 6-inch reading area.
But buyers waiting for the latest and greatest isn't the only reason more eBook readers didn't ship out, Digitimes says.
"Two other factors also prevented shipments from reaching the target. Telecom carrier China Mobile Communications' subsidized sales of eBook readers were weaker-than-expected in the China market, and volume shipments of SiPix's e-paper solutions were delayed," Digitimes Research explains.
Taking the lead in the second quarter was Barnes & Noble with a 33 percent share of the market, followed by Amazon with 27 percent.
So far it hasn't been difficult to tell where eBook readers end and handheld tablets begin. For starters, eBook readers that boast a touch screen -- like the Nook -- only devote a small portion of the device to touch functionality. And secondly, the main display flips through static images.
The eBook readers of tomorrow, however, might look and act decidedly different. Sharp on Monday announced it has developed a new eBook format called "Next-Generation XMDF," which is an extension of the original XMDF (ever-eXtending Mobile Document Format) commercialized in 2001, which itself is based on XML.
Sharp says this next-gen version comes with a "more sophisticated user interface" and includes support for both audio and video. With that in mind, it's easy to see how this could one day blur the line between eBook readers and tablets, and to make sure XMDF gets some mileage, Sharp also said it plans to launch its own reader device later this year, though stopped short of providing any details.
It won't be long before it will be easier to list out the companies who don't plan on releasing a tablet. Even boutique system builder Velocity Micro is now getting in the game, having just announced a family of Android-based color e-readers and tablets starting at $149.
"Since 1992, Velocity Micro has been dedicated to building remarkable consumer electronics," said Randy Copeland, President and CEO of Velocity Micro. "With the development of the Cruz line, we were able to take this enthusiast sensibilities and package them for the mainstream consumer to create a product that's not only amazing, but affordable as well."
It all starts with the $149 Cruz StoryPad, which Velocity Micro says "packs tons of multimedia features into a kid friendly, drop resistant package." That package will consist of a 7-inch 800x600 full color touchscreen display with high-res video and audio playback. Available in pink, blue, and green, it will come with an SD card for additional storage, pre-installed audio book content, and "simplistic and intuitive navigation," Velocity Micro says.
Hit the jump to see what other devices Velocity Micro has in store.
Mega book chain Barnes and Noble this week announced NOOKstudy, a free online reading and study platform for college students. Described as the "ultimate study tool," NOOKstudy allows students to manage their eBooks, class materials, and notes in a single place.
"NOOKstudy is a big win for college students: it will not only lighten their backpacks, but also help them save money and study more efficiently," said Tracey Weber, EVP, Textbooks and Digital Eduction, Barnes & Noble.com. "NOOKstudy is a revolutionary approach to learning that offers students access to the reading and organizational tools they need, across all content sources and formats, enabling them to study smarter, not harder."
B&N said the NOOKstudy platform represents "extensive feedback" from students, professors, and administrators alike. With NOOKstudy, students are able to view multiple books and sources at the same time while also accessing complementary content, like toolsets, reference materials, and so forth.
Call it the snowball effect from Apple's iPad launch, if you will, because one after another we're seeing ebook reader makers drop their price of the hardware.
With tablets clearly ready to encroach on ebook hardware territory, Barnes & Noble quickly slashed the price of its Nook reader from $259 to $199, while simultaneously launching an even lower priced Wi-Fi only model for $149. Hours later, Amazon responded with a price cut of its own, dropping the Kindle from $259 to $189. And then on July 1, Amazon slashed the cost of its Kindle DX from $489 to $379.
Now the snowball has crashed through Sony's camp, which went and quietly dropped the price of its entire line of ebook readers. Here's how it all breaks down:
Pocket Edition: $149 (down from $169)
Touch Edition: $169 (down from $199)
Daily Edition: $299 (down from $349)
Pocketbook 360: $199 (down from $239)
Pocketbook 301: $219 (down from $279)
Pocketbook 302: $279 (down from $339)
This puts Sony in better position to compete with the competition, but is it enough? At $149, the Pocket Edition won't break the bank, but it doesn't have Wi-Fi like B&N's Nook.
With all the recent price cuts, do you plan on picking up and ebook reader? If so, which one?
Good news, Android users, Amazon doesn't hate you after all. No longer the forgotten platform, Amazon on Monday announced the release of its Kindle for Android App, freely available in the Android Market.
"Our customers tell us they love the convenience of having their Kindle library with them everywhere and their reading synchronized across multiple devices," said Dorothy Nicholls, director, Amazon Kindle. "With Kindle for Android, customers can choose from a vast selection of over 620,000 books to read on their Android-powered phone, no matter where they are - on the bus, waiting for a cab, or in between meetings. Kindle for Android and the rest of the free Kindle apps are the perfect companions for readers who don't have their Kindle with them or don't yet own a Kindle."
It's essentially the same app that's available on other platforms, meaning you can read the first chapter of books for free, access your library of previously purchased Kindle books stored on Amazon's servers, customize the background color, font color, and font size, read in portrait or landscape mode, and adjust the screen brightness from within the app. You're also able to sync last page reads from other Kindle-enabled devices, including the Kindle and Kindle DX, iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, PC, Mac, and BlackBerry.