If you can’t beat Apple’s iPad, change the rules of the game. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are taking a bath on sales of the $199 Kindle Fire and the $249 Nook Tablet, respectively, and making up for it with profits on sales of electronic merchandise (e-books, videos, music, and apps). The strategy has succeeded in moving a lot of hardware, with each company on track to sell millions of units (although the ratio of Kindle Fire to Nook Tablet sales is greatly in Amazon’s favor so far). Both tablets feature nearly identical 7-inch, 1024x600 LCDs and rely on Wi-Fi for connectivity. Which should tempt you away from the high-end tablets? Only a bloody-knuckled deathmatch will tell.
Holy crap, we're covered in Kindles. As of today there are six different Kindles you can choose from at 11 different price-points. How ever will you decide? Here's a quick look at all of 'em, and our pre-release pick.
Barnes & Noble on Monday credited its recently launched Nook Color for driving "robust Nook Newstand sales" to the tune of more than 650,000 digital periodical subscriptions and single copy sales in just two months.
"We are excited to offer a wide array of top periodicals and have seen explosive growth in Nook Newsstand sales since the launch of Nook Color. Our customers clearly enjoy reading digital versions of their favorite magazines in rich, beautiful color, along with their daily newspapers, with the convenience of subscription or single issue purchases," said Jonathan Shar, Vice President and General Manager of digital newsstand at Barnes & Noble. "We've had overwhelmingly positive feedback from our content partners as well and will continue to build upon our vast collection of periodicals and incorporate even more interactivity for Nook Color customers this year."
Barnes & Noble added a dozen new digital periodicals to its growing catalog last month, which now features over 120 full-color magazines and newspaper brands, the company said.
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.
Sharp has announced two Android-powered tablet devices with built-in Wi-Fi to go along with a new e-bookstore. The company has chosen the name “Galapagos” for its range of tablet devices, which will include the 5.5-inch “mobile type” and the 10.8-inch “home type” models at launch, and vie for a piece of the e-reader pie (yes, you read that right). Sharp wants to ensure that Galapagos is viewed as an e-reading device that can also perform most of the functions associated with tablets, and not the other way around.
Users will be able to download e-books through an e-bookstore also named Galapagos. Both the e-readers and the e-bookstore will be available in December this year. Sharp expects to offer “approx. 30,000 newspapers, magazines, and books” at the time of launch.
“This new e-bookstore provides an “Automatic Scheduled Delivery Service” (fee-based service) for periodical publications. The most recent editions of newspapers and magazines a user has subscribed to can be delivered and read by the user’s e-book readers. In addition, free trial versions of recommended e-book content can also be delivered to the e-book reader, letting users immediately purchase content of their favor,” the company said in a release.
Boutique system builder Velocity Micro has begun taking pre-orders for its upcoming Cruz Reader ($200) and Cruz Tablet ($300) products on Borders.com, Newegg.com, and CruzReader.com.
"We've spent nearly one year designing and refining the Cruz Reader to make it both remarkable and affordable," said Randy Copeland, President and CEO of Velocity Micro. "We're excited to see that hard work coming to fruition. We know the marketplace will be as well, due to the tremendous interest and support we have received from our customers and numerous retail partners. We've combined the color screen and functionality of a tablet with the affordability and portability of an e-reader, which is exactly what the market is craving."
Both the Cruz Reader and Tablet sport a 7-inch color touchscreen display. The Reader also includes adjustable font sizes; music, video, and Web browsing capabilities; a docking station; Android interface; 4GB bundled SD card (265MB onboard RAM); and up to 10 hours of battery life.
The Tablet ups the ante with a capacitive touchscreen; 8GB bundled SD card (4GB internal storage and 512MB RAM); and the ability to download apps. Battery life is rated at up to 8 hours, or 36+ in standby.
Look for the Cruz Reader to ship in "early September" (Borders has the date listed as September 30) and the Cruz Tablet in mid-October.
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.
The release of the updated Amazon Kindle DX wasn't met with the same level of fanfare it was used to in a post iPad world, but the new gadget showcases the next generation of e-ink displays which offer up impressive performance improvements over what you may have seen in the past. The new "Pearl" display featured on the DX is currently one of a kind in the electronic reader market, but the E Ink Corporation has already successfully ported the design over to smaller screen sizes, most of which are slated for product releases later in the year.
The difference between the previous generation displays and the pearl is described as the difference in contrast between a newspaper, and a high quality paperback book. In terms of numbers this is estimated to be a 50% improvement over the previous generation, and even offers up additional power savings. According to the company, "the crisp text and detailed graphics also continue to remain pleasant to view when E Ink products are enjoyed outside. In addition, with 16 gray level depth, E Ink Pearl offers the sharpest rendering of images and allows product developers to display images with smooth tones and rich detail."
Improved contrast and better battery performance are going to make for an impressive next generation of e-book readers, so those who are on the market would be well advised to wait a couple of months if they can help it.
Amazon's Kindle reader apps for Apple's iOS devices – the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch – now support books with audio/video elements. The ability to play embedded video/audio, however, does not extend to its flagship eReader. There are currently 13 e-books that leverage this new feature, including five travel guides, a cookbook promising “heavenly cakes”, and a knitting guide for beginners.
"In the new Kindle Edition with audio/video of 'Rick Steves' London,' the embedded walking tours allow customers to listen to Rick as they explore the sites of London," said Bill Newlin, publisher of Avalon Travel. "Rick's narration adds depth to the reader's experience, while listeners can follow the routes more easily with the text."
Apple is trying to present the iPad as an alternative to dedicated eReaders like Amazon's Kindle. Factor in the growing number of mobile devices capable of doubling up as eReaders and dedicated eReaders begin to appear vulnerable.
But Amazon harbors no intentions of going down with the ship it commands, if it does drown. The company is hedging its bet by porting the Kindle experience to disparate consumer devices. It currently provides free reading apps for the PC, Mac, iOS devices and Blackberry, and plans to support Android soon. Its software presence across a wide range of devices is like an insurance policy against the threat these very devices pose to its eReader.
China will be the first to receive BenQ's nReader, which is slated to launch overseas in August, says company vice chairman Jerry Wang. One month later, BenQ will launch its ebook platform, eBook Taiwan, also in China.
It's unclear exactly when the nReader will make its way to North American shores, but as Jerry Wang tells it, BenQ's goal is to ship 100,000 ebook readers to the Taiwan and China markets in 2010, and 300,000 worldwide before the year is up. It would seem, then, that BenQ might be aiming for a holiday release here in the states.
BenQ's nReader, also known as the "K60," will sport a 6-inch capacitive touchscreen. It will display 16 levels of gray and come with 2GB of onboard memory, a microSD expansion slot for up to 16GB of additional storage, 802.11g/b Wi-Fi, a micro USB 2.0 port, 3.5-inch headphone jack, and support for a variety of media formats, including ePub, PDF, HTML, TXT, JPG, BMP, PNG, and MP3.