If it felt like Apple as lightening up on their App Store approval guidelines, think again. According to The New York Times, a recent scuffle with Sony has spurred Apple to clarify that their App Store rules on in0app purchases are going to be more strictly followed. The whole issue came up when Sony's Reader app was rejected from the App Store a few days ago. Apple objected to the Reader having its own eBook store, and no option for Apple's own in-app purchases. This, says Apple, is a violation of their terms of service.
This brings up an uncomfortable dilemma for other apps, like Amazon's Kindle for instance. Both the Kindle app and the Sony app bring up an imbedded web browser to make content purchases, but Apple is now saying that developers must provide that same content for in-app purchases using Apple's system. Not coincidentally, that means Apple would get their 30% cut. "It’s the opposite of what we wanted to bring to the market,” Sony's Steve Haber said. “We always wanted to bring the content to as many devices as possible, not one device to one store."
This does not mean that any content purchased the old way won't be available. Indeed, you can keep doing that. Apple is just asserting their authority to require that users are presented with in-app purchases too. A cunning way to get people more invested in the Apple ecosystem. How does this sit with you?
With a complete lack of fanfare, Amazon has thrown the switch allowing users to loan Kindle books as promised. The feature works much the same as the loaning implementation on the Nook. Users can loan a book to one user for two weeks. Loans are apparently limited to a single session, and the original user cannot access the title in that time.
These are certainly onerous rules, but many publishers aren't even allowing loans. Early reports indicate that several big publishing houses have loans turned off. These include Avon, Hachette, Harlequin and Penguin. More titles could become available over time as publishers wise up, or authors grant the necessary rights.
Users can loan a book by logging into their Amazon account and checking their purchased books. Loaned books will be readable in any of the Kindle apps or the web client. Loans cannot be initiated from the apps as of yet, but we expect Amazon to add that ability soon. Despite the restrictions, will you take advantage of this feature?
It had to happen eventually, the irony is just too delicious. The intrepid Android hacking community had managed to get the Amazon Kindle app running on a rooted Nook Color. Now user that don't mind a bit of legwork can get books from Amazon's expansive store on this device intended only for Barnes and Noble content.
Interested users will need to grab one of the Nook Autorooter images, and an image writer program to get the necessary file onto the SD card. This process loads Google apps on the device including Gmail, YouTube, and the Market. The Kindle app can be pulled right from the Market and used on the Nook. Modders are reporting the Nook Color is proving to be an excellent Android hacking environment.
We're excited to see what the community comes up with for the Nook Color next. Maybe some Gingerbread? Given the progress being made turning the Nook Color into a real tablet, are you more likely to buy one?
Barnes and Noble had hoped to put all this unpleasant legal wrangling behind them, but their effort to have the case brought by Spring Design dismissed has been rejected. The judge said in his ruling that there was insufficient information to assure Barnes and Noble did not violate California law. Spring Design will be allowed to pursue their claim against the bookseller turned ebook seller for misappropriating trade secrets and breach of contract.
Spring design, maker of the Alex e-reader, claims to have shared its e-reader design with Barnes and Noble in hopes the retailer would enter a partnership to sell ebooks. Instead, Barnes and Noble made and launched the Nook with a similar two screen design. Spring Design sued shortly thereafter. The Ales did eventually launch in April of 2010 with a $299 price tag. The high price and lack of a strong content tie in has made for a tough sell. Do you think Barnes and Noble borrowed a little too heavily from the Alex?
The Washington Post reported today that some Kindle users may be paying for books that, by all accounts, should be free. Many classic titles are showing up on the Kindle store that appear to be from Project Gutenberg. There are not just the same books, but are rather the actual Gutenberg files with only minor formatting tweaks. The header and footer where the Gutenberg license is contained is also stripped out.
Books like John R. Lockard's "Bee Hunting" and Martin Hunter's "Canadian Wilds" are selling for $3.69 and $3.16 respectively. On Project Gutenburg, these public domain books are free. Amazon responded to these concerns indicating that these volumes are being sold by a third party using Amazon's self-publishing platform.
Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation CEO Greg Newby said this was legal, but unethical. Some of the Gutenberg works are showing up on Kindle only a day or two after becoming available in Project Gutenberg. People seem to have realized they can harvest these works, and make a little profit. Do you think Amazon should allow people to charge for Gutenberg books?
Amazon has posted a note to Kindle users in the Kindle community forums confirming that lending ebooks will come to the platform later this year. This has been a sorely missed feature since the device's introduction. Before you get to excited, there are some caveats here.
The loans will only be for 14 days and you can only loan a book once. It was unclear if that meant once per recipient, or once for the life of the ebook. While the book is lent out, the lender will be unable to read it. Also, not all books will be available for lending. It will be up to publishers to enable this feature; much like the Kindle text to speech ability.
All the restrictions on this makes the whole endeavor much less appealing. We don't see why you can't just transfer your license for a book to someone else and be done with it. Certainly Amazon could handle that on the back end. If we have to rely on publishers to enable lending, it's unlikely it will be widely available.
Most people would argue that the e-book market has nowhere to go but up, however analysts continue to be surprised by just how fast people are ditching ink for pixels. According to the Association of American Publishers e-book sales from January to August were a staggering $263 million, this compared to just $89.8 million during the same period last year. This threefold increase in sales certainly helps to validate the market, and it looks like the impact of having so many affordable e-book devices on the market is finally starting to kick in.
In January 2009 anyone wanting to read an e-book needed a device worth several hundred dollars, and had to worry about DRM protected content with no guarantee over future compatibility. Today just about anyone with a smartphone can tap into several different e-book stores, Kindles and Nooks have never been cheaper, and some little known company by the name of Apple launched the iPad.
E-book sales still only account for about 10 percent of books sold, but it still paints a clear picture for brick and mortar retailers. The trend is not your friend.
Sony Readers have been hard to recommend lately, especially given the intense competition in the e-book market. With both Amazon and Barnes & Noble offering less expensive devices with onboard Wi-Fi enabled stores, the Sony lineup was starting to look a bit dated. It also certainly didn’t help matters that they announced their public refusal to participate in the recent price war, citing their attention to quality as a defining characteristic. The flagship Sony Reader’s recent claim to fame has been their touchscreen displays, but many have criticized the device for this reason as well since the glass overlay can be difficult to angle against the natural light required to enjoy e-ink displays. Since the current generation Sony PRS-600 doesn’t have any sort of built in backlight, overhead lights create an iPad style glare that can be maddening at times.
With such glaring issues in the lineup many had written Sony out of the market, but according to Cnet’s “most trusted sources”, the company is preparing to launch new models named the PRS-350 and PRS-650, both of which are rumored to feature some sort of touch interface. We hope this means Sony has addressed the glare issues mentioned above, and hopefully they will recognize that there is still a market for single purpose reading devices, and that touch isn’t necessarily the only way to go. No word on if the devices will feature Wi-Fi or 3G, but if they plan to continue charging more than Amazon or Barnes & Noble my guess is they simply can’t afford not to.
What does Sony need to do in your opinion to stay in the game?
If you were planning on getting a Kindle from Amazon today, think again. The popular eReader is showing as "out of stock" on Amazon's website, and no estimated ship date is available. There are three competing theories about just what is going on here. First, Amazon just wasn't able to keep up with demand, and there's a temporary supply problem. Second, this is just a system glitch and nothing more. The final, and most interesting possibility, there is a new Kindle about to stealth launch.
The last time the Kindle was "sold out" was back when the Kindle 2 debuted. Amazon was very straight forward with customers about when the new version would ship, but no word this time around. There have been rumors that a new "Kindle 3" was on the way with the sharper Pearl eInk display that the new Kindle DX is using.
There's no telling what's up just yet, but stay tuned for more. Feel free to offer up your best guess of what's going on.
In an ebook reader market that’s rapidly approaching the saturation point, a device needs to have a certain set of features to stand out from the crowd. The Alex eReader, a new ebook reader from Spring Design, has enough of them to make it an intriguing new product, and a fun one to try out, but not enough of them to warrant a buy recommendation.
First, the design of the Alex eReader is second to none. While it shares a general architecture with the Nook (an e-ink screen up top and a smaller, Android-powered, full-color touch screen below), the Alex is both better looking and more functional. At approximately 4.5x9 inches, it’s longer than the Nook, but feels surprisingly sturdy, and is easy to balance while you read. The longer design leaves room for a larger color display down below, although the e-ink display is somewhat smaller than the Kindle’s. Beauty is subjective, of course, but it’s hard to argue that the Alex eReader isn’t a fine-looking piece of hardware.