Paltry eReader lineup at CES 2011, eReaders vs Tablets

The Kindle and Nook Color have little to fear so far.

Mirasol’s Color eReader is mighty impressive – and not scheduled to release until Q3, 2011. Pixel Qi is pretty impressive too – except the lowest priced version of the Pixel Qi screen Adam tablet is $499.

Which means that until Q3, 2011, iPad 2 is the only real threat to Nook Color, and Nook 2 is the only real threat to Kindle 3. Apart from those two potential giants, there are just a couple of minor threats.

The Paltry line-up of eReaders at CES 2011

As compared to CES 2010, when there were dozens of eReaders being shown off, there are just a few eReaders being shown at CES 2011 -

  • The Eee Pad Memo is a very impressive eReader + eWriter – Except, it uses a LCD instead of eInk and is priced between $499 and $699.
  • iRiver has the new Story HD eReader – a 6″ eReader with 1024 by 768 screen resolution. It supports WiFi, and also supports ePub and PDF with Adobe DRM. It has 3 weeks of battery life. It’ll be available in Q2, 2011. Not really much of a threat.
  • Aluratek has its Libre Air eReader – an eReader with a 5″ reflective TFT LCD screen, WiFi, and a $130 price point. Hardly a threat.

If you’re counting, that’s 5 eReaders and eReader-threatening tablets in all of CES 2011. Two of those, Eee Pad Memo and Notion Ink Adam, are closer to Tablets than to eReaders, and priced at $499. Another 2 of those, iRiver Story HD and Aluratek Libre Air, aren’t much of a threat.

That means we have just one new eReader which is a danger to existing eReaders and Reading Tablets. That eReader, Mirasol, doesn’t arrive until Q3, 2011, and might turn out to be the Kindle 4 – which means Kindle would be in zero danger.

Thanks to Engadget for covering eReaders at CES 2011.

There’s so little happening with eReaders at CES 2011, we can’t even do an entire post. Let’s look at other eReader news.

B&N is beginning to beat Amazon in the Vagueness Contest

B&N issued a press release, on January 3rd, to announce that it had a great holiday quarter. It gave no specifics, and said that details would be released in a later January 6th press release. Until Amazon releases a press release that does nothing except announce a future press release, B&N’s Vaguest Press Release Crown is intact.

Well, it’s the 6th, and here are the details which unsurprisingly reveal nothing about Nook sales figures -

  1. 67% increase in total sales at BN.com, which were $228.5 million.
  2. 8.2% increase in total store sales, which were $1.1 billion.
  3. It sold ‘virtually its entire inventory’ of Nook Color and Nook devices. Which is 2 steps below ‘actually its entire inventory’, and 1 step below ‘not shipping outside US and UK’.
  4. December 23rd was the biggest sales day in the history of B&N. Probably had to do with last-minute Christmas shopping.
  5. Sales in B&N’s Toys & Games Department increased 48% during the holiday season.

On February 22nd, 2011, B&N will discuss in greater detail how it sold virtually its entire inventory of Nooks. It will also attempt to convincingly match Amazon’s habit of Earnings Call Vagueness by not releasing actual Nook sales figures.

One gem, courtesy Publishers Weekly -

B&N CEO William Lynch stated: “Nookcolor was one of the most sought-after gifts this holiday season and has quickly become the bestselling device at Barnes & Noble. 

… 60% of Nookcolor owners are new customers of our Barnes & Noble digital bookstore.”

That suggests at least 40% of the people buying Nook Colors are either using them as Android Tablets and not reading on them, or using Kobo for books, or are rooting them and using Kindle for Android.

Other B&N developments including B&N vs Borders

B&N released a Nook Kids app for the iPad with 100 interactive children’s books available at launch. It’s certainly covering all the bases when it comes to books for children.

B&N is also complaining about the special terms almost-bankrupt Borders is getting from Publishers. That’s interesting – so it’s suggesting that either Publishers give B&N better terms, or let Borders go bankrupt and make B&N super powerful.

Again, courtesy Publishers Weekly -

“We think the playing field should be even,” the B&N statement says.

“We expect publishers to offer same terms to all other booksellers, including Barnes & Noble and independent booksellers.  We fully expect publisher’s will require Borders to pay their bills on the same basis upon which all other booksellers pay theirs.

B&N is being a bit ruthless here. It sees an opportunity to hasten Borders’ slide  into bankruptcy, and is taking advantage.

Are Tablets a threat to eReaders?

With a million different Tablets being introduced, the question is bound to come up – Are all these Tablets a threat to eReaders?

It’s hard to say.

  1. For readers, an eReader will always come first.
  2. For readers who are LCD compatible, a Reading Tablet like Nook Color is very tempting.
  3. For casual readers, it depends on the Tablet. Nook Color is $249. The only three Tablet that look like serious contenders are iPad/iPad 2, Adam, and BlackBerry PlayBook. None of those are close to Nook Color’s $249 price.

Then you’re left with the old argument – ‘Get a device that does more than just read’. Yes, some people will prefer iPad 2 and the Playbook. However, not as many as you’d think.

Firstly, Kindle and Nook are cutting prices relentlessly. Secondly, Nook Color is capable of a lot.

Tablets might take 25% of the reading market. But dedicated eReaders and reading tablets are well-placed to keep the other 75% for themselves.

What about Tablets being a threat to Reading Tablets?

On the surface, there’s little difference. However, the Nook Color focuses you on reading. If you hack it into an Android Tablet, you’ll instantly realize what you’ve lost – that focus on reading. Which is the whole point of making a reading tablet.

So, again, Tablets aren’t really much of a threat to Reading Tablets. If you consider the target customers for a Reading Tablet to be a subset of the people who read 1 or 2 books a month, then the Nook Color is pretty safe.

The big threat to Nook Color will be a Kindle Tablet and color eReaders. General Tablets are not really a threat.

Interesting Kindle 3, eReader updates and news

The delay for the Kindle 3 is still 2 weeks – Kindle 3 orders placed now will ship September 10th which is 15 days after the official August 27th launch date.

There are lots of interesting Kindle 3 and eReader updates today.

Kindle and Kindle 3 related updates

The 1st and 3rd books of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy are now available for Kindle owners in Canada though the second book is, for some strange reason, unavailable.

A user at the official Kindle forum reports that her bank account was just debited for a Kindle WiFi purchase. That might mean Amazon is getting things ready to ship or it might mean nothing. There’s another user who had his credit card charged. Both of these are for Kindle orders placed on July 28th.

Another user writes about a Kindle 3 Notice at Target -

I was at the Target today at Flowood, MS, and they had a notice up about “the new kindle in stock by early September” Has anyone else seen this at other Targets? Just wondering!

Kindle 3 showing up at Target early is pretty significant since the eInk Pearl screen needs to be seen in person – photos and videos don’t do it justice.

If Amazon bought Barnes & Noble …

Alan Reiter at Internet Evolution has a very good post exploring what would happen if Amazon bought Barnes & Noble.

These are the things that stood out -

  1. 1,347 stores that people will be able to see and use the Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi at.  
  2. Break into the eTextbook market. There are 637 B&N college bookstores (included in the 1,347 count) so Amazon would get instant entry.
  3. More convenience for purchasers.

It seems that Mike Cane also thinks Amazon should buy B&N.

Is there anyone who doesn’t think it’s best for Amazon to buy B&N?

Messing Around with Headlines

Here are some of my favorite Kindle and ereader related headlines and responses -

  1. Analysts say there’s a place for bookstores that do their job very well.  Yes, online.  
  2. Why Nobody will buy a color eInk eBook Reader (Fast Company).  Because they aren’t yet available?
  3. China eReader makers face pressure from Kindle markdown. If Amazon can make Chinese companies feel pricing pressure they deserve an award.
  4. We’re Getting Closer to Releasing Color and Touchscreen eReaders (eInk/PVI). Yeah, you said that in 2005 too.
  5. A Library in Each Pocket. Are you happy to see me or …
  6. Kindle’s Days are Numbered — Long Live Kindle. Good old Huffington Post.
  7. Who needs Publishers? Publishers.
  8. Sony getting on board the Android Gravy Train. Let’s hope it’s not as amazing as the online advertising gravy train newspapers hopped on to.
  9. The Newspaper Goes Digital and You’ll have to buy it. If you say so.
  10. Are iPads eroding eReader sales? You’re two months too late.

It’s a pity that the Kindle killer and Kindle is going to die headlines are slowly disappearing. Those were usually accompanied by posts that were amazingly and unintentionally hilarious.

Are Chinese eReader makers really feeling pricing pressure from Kindle WiFi?

It seems the $139 Kindle WiFi isn’t just killing eReader makers in the US. Lots of Chinese eReader companies are struggling since the $139 price (CNY 1,000) is lower than the prices of their cheap knock-off eReaders.

Here’s a longer snippet from Trading Markets on Kindle WiFi instilling fear into Chinese eReader companies’ hearts -

Such an aggressive markdown put e-book readers in China at a disadvantage … majority of the mainstream e-book reader makers [in China] price their product above the CNY 1,000 level, most of which between CNY 1,400 to CNY 3,500.

EDO has cancelled a planned 500,000-shipment in Europe and the US this year …

A slew of e-book reader exporters in the country decided to quit in the second quarter of the year … the price cutting of Amazon.com have squeezed the room for smaller players to make a profit overseas.

This is truly extraordinary – Can’t think of the last time knock-off device makers in China got priced out of a market.

Strange new concerns about color screen eReaders

News from eInk that Hanvon is going to bring a color eInk screen eReader to market in Q4, 2010 is evoking some really strange responses.

This one from Devin Coldewey at Crunch Gear stands out -

The advent of color and touchscreen in e-readers will also bring them more in line with tablet features — not a good thing, if you ask me. The more people associate readers with tablets, the more they’ll expect from readers, and readers are a whole other product.

I guarantee that apart from a few games and basic reading-related apps, any steps taken toward tablet functionality will be met with “but the iPad does it better” in consumers. Better to reduce prices and make the primary experience (reading) better.

Wait … So after years of saying that without color and multi-purposeness eReaders don’t have a chance the Press is now saying that eReader makers should make single focus devices with black and white screens.

Better to reduce prices … make primary reading experience better.

So, let’s see – the Press attacked the Kindle for the last 2.5 years because it focused on a better reading experience and sacrificed color and muti-purposeness. Now, suddenly, the Press is advocating that same strategy (focus on reading) over adding color eInk screens.

Why the sudden change of heart?  

Bit 101 puts Kindle and iPad displays under the microscope – literally

It would be nice to see this with the new eInk Pearl display. For now there are some very revealing photos at the Bit 101 blog that compare Kindle and iPad screens at roughly 26 times and 400 times magnification.

  1. At 26x the iPad screen breaks into a grid while you can see speckling on the Kindle’s screen. Kindle wins, at least in my opinion, though it’s hard to claim that screen comparisons at 26x magnification mean much.
  2. At 400x you get a fascinating photo for the Kindle screen with tiny eInk capsules (or whatever they are) clustering together. For the iPad you get a very alien looking structure with red, green, and blue cells.
  3. There are also photos at 26x and 400x magnification for book, magazine, and newspaper print. These help show that the Kindle still has lots of room for improvement. The magazine print close-ups in particular are amazing.

A really cool comparison post even though its applicability to reading is probably not very high.

Kindle UK leads to an all-out ebook price war

We’ve covered how Kindle UK Store has ridiculously low prices. Well, WH Smith just responded.

From The Bookseller we find out that WH Smith is standing up to the Kindle UK onslaught -

WH Smith has cut prices on its top 100 fiction e-books by 66%, as retailers become increasingly competitive following Amazon’s launch of its UK Kindle store.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner – £4.07. The Lost Symbol – £2.78.

It’s a very good time to be a book reader in the UK.

Countless eReader Snippets, Kindle Book Extras, Free Books

Book Extras feature for Kindle Books?

Update: This ‘Book Extras’ information only shows up when you browse the Kindle Store from your Kindle. It isn’t showing up from Amazon.com.

Amazon has supposedly added a new feature to the Kindle Store where below customer reviews you can find Book Extras -  Information like which Series a book belongs to and what the other books in the series are. 

This is from a discussion at the official kindle forum. Couldn’t find this feature myself – perhaps it’s being gradually worked in. Courtesy Robert Vinson at the official Kindle Forum we have -

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

The Argeneau Vampire series by Lysay Sands
The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
The Lost Continent by Catherine Asaro
The twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

Those are just some of the series I saw. I also noticed there were some series that had not done so yet.
There is also a notice at the bottom of the page on each of these series that states “The content on this page is editable by the community. You can update it at Shelfari.com, an Amazon company“.

It probably means Amazon is beginning to leverage its Shelfari acquisition a bit more. Please do leave a comment if this ‘Book Extras’ feature shows up for you.

Free Books from around the Pipes of the Internet

Lots of free books from outside of the Kindle Store -

  1. Borders has 5 free books in ePub format - free only till July 14th. You can download them and read them on your PC using Adobe Digital Editions or use one of the numerous Borders Apps to read them on other devices. Thanks to koland at the official kindle forum for writing about these.

    One Shot: A Reacher Novel by Lee Child.
    Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom by Julia Child.
    Frankenstein: Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz.
    The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. (Not The Alchemist).
    Master Your Metabolism by Jillian Michaels. 

  2. Barnes & Noble has Weddings can be Murder by Christie Craig free. Courtesy koland at MobileRead.    
  3. Smashwords has a site-wide 50% promotion that isn’t really site-wide and is called Summer/Winter Sale although it lasts only till July end.
  4. Glenn G. Thater has The Gateway free at Smashwords. 

    When mad sorcerers open a gateway to the pits of hell, releasing demons of darkest nightmare, only the intrepid knights of House Eotrus stand in their way.

    Claradon Eotrus recruits the mysterious knights Angle Theta and Gabriel Garn to stand with him against the growing darkness, a darkness from which only one will emerge.

  5. TeleRead point us to a collection of 4 free books, The Ware Tetralogy by Rudy Rucker, and let us know that it’s available in PDF and in Kindle formats (there’s a link to ManyBooks later on in the post).

Hopefully you find something you like.

Pixel Qi displays available in DIY Kits – for $275

Well, it seems we are still aways from a time when ‘Pixel Qi screens will cost just as much as eInk screens’. It is, however, great to see actual screens appear and to see them working.

Pixel Qi have $275 Pixel Qi displays that you can buy from Maker Shed and put into 2 netbooks to see what the screens are like -

MAKE and Pixel Qi announce the availability of a revolutionary LCD display technology from Pixel Qi–the 3Qi display. This one-of-a-kind, plug-and-play 10.1-inch display offers two modes–an easy-to-read, real color, multi-media mode or a crisp, low power e-reader mode. The sunlight-ready, e-reader mode makes it easy to use outdoors.

These screens rival the best e-paper displays on the market today but in addition have video refresh and fully saturated color.

Please note: These screens replace those found in the Samsung N130 & Lenovo S10-2.

Wired have an article about magic Pixel Qi screens and it includes a detailed video showing how to swap the Pixel Qi screen into a netbook.

B&N updates its eReader app with a brightness control

Here’s what Wired writes about the B&N eReader app improvements -

Brightness is one of my biggest niggles with the iPad in general: I’m forever heading over to the settings app to tweak it. There should be an always-available shortcut.

Anyhow, in the B&N e-reader, it’s fixed.

The changes include an in-app brightness control, a new two-page view in landscape mode, the ability to delete samples from within the app, speed improvements to syncing, and bug-fixes. With the ‘speed improvements’ and ‘bug fixes’ it sounds more like a Nook update than an app update.

Wired adds another snippet -

We have Kindle, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, Borders (or is that Kobo?). I kind of like that I can get content from any of these without having to buy a whole bunch of e-readers. On the other hand, it’s a pain to have to jump between them.

The post highlights two iPad disadvantages that rarely get mentioned – the screen brightness is an issue and has to be adjusted based on the type of lighting around you and the time of day, and you might be able to get books from different sources but you have to read them on completely different apps.

Sony working on a hybrid eReader plus Netbook plus Gaming Machine

Wall Street Journal report that Sony are working on a do-everything device that will also work as an eReader -

Meanwhile, Sony is developing a portable device that shares characteristics of hand-held game machines, e-book readers and netbook computers, according to people familiar with the matter. Some Sony e-book readers already come with 3G connections but it isn’t clear if a new wireless gadget will use carrier networks.

That’s not very surprising given that Sony is struggling a bit in each of the eReader, Gaming, and Netbook markets.

Electronista uses 24 person survey to claim iPad is already the best reader

We’ve looked at Jakob Nielsen’s 24 people, 17 minutes study and how it’s pretty much useless. However, there have been thousands of articles using it to claim books are better than the Kindle.

Electronista finds a new angle in their iPad > Kindle article -

It also found that, on a scale of 1 to 7, Apple’s iPad provides the best reading experience out of all e-readers with a 5.8 rating. It was closely followed by Amazon’s Kindle, which tallied a 5.7 rating.

This little snippet based on 24 people’s assessment is what Electronista use to claim the iPad is a better reader. Not only do they do this they also claim that the rest of the study (which favors books over the iPad) doesn’t apply -

The problem with those folks is that they’re very short-sighted. And they fail to realize that although some people like to read books the old way, Apple’s iPad delivers an experience that simply trumps any other reading option out there — for now, at least.

They use such priceless logic as ‘Kindle is simply a collection of text’ and this gem (used to criticize the Nook) -

It’s a single-purpose device; an isolated experience where you can’t have the full context of a book.

This is an amazingly inaccurate claim - Are we expected to believe that ‘the full context’ of a book involves video and games?

Does this person even read books?

Cool-er is Dead-er

The company behind the Cool-er eReader, Interead, has been put into Liquidation. It’s yet another tiny eReader company unable to compete with Kindle and Nook.

The Bookseller chimes in with some snippets -

Interead was founded in 2009 by former banker Neil Jones. Jones told the Guardian in September 2009 that he had big ambitions for the company. “I’m pretty confident we’ll be number two in America by this time next year in terms of sales, and number one in the UK.”

Earlier this year Dutch e-book manufacturer iRex Technologies, which produced the Iliad, filed for bankruptcy.

Interead did put up quite a fight and they were the first eReader company to introduce eReaders in 6-7 different colored variations (colored casing, not colored screen). They certainly didn’t lack for ambition – However, the eReader market needs a company with deep pockets.

The death of all these eReader companies makes you wonder whether Borders is getting into the wrong fight with its eBook store and its investment in Kobo eReaders.

eReader odds + ends in the time of eInk Pearl

Lots happening in the world of eReaders. Let’s start with the new Kindle DX’s new eInk Pearl screen.

eInk Pearl just became a must-have for every eReader

The Kindle DX 2 screen might be just 40% better than the Kindle DX 1 and 25% better than the Kindle 2 – However, it’s impressive enough to become the new standard in eInk screens.

Kindle 3 and Nook 2 will be forced to incorporate it – including the two little tricks of having a Graphite case and using little specks to make contrast better. If they don’t they run the risk of becoming a distant second choice to whichever 6″ eReader does arrive with eInk Pearl.

It says something about how slowly eInk is evolving that we’re excited about 40% better screen contrast and graphite casing.

There are actually numerous eReader happenings - let’s check up on a few before we get back to posts about the Kindle DX 2 and its remarkable screen (very remarkable and not $379 remarkable at the same time).

Apparently Borders is still alive and is being christened a Kindle Store Killer

Just when you think we have a World without Borders we find out that they are launching an eBook store and bloggers are wondering whether they will unseat Amazon.  

The Answer is No.

Borders will go bankrupt trying to fund its ebook store initiative although not before some other new entrants can exploit it to get an ‘in’ into the eReader and eBooks market.

Here’s what GigaOm’s Kevin C. Tofel writes -

Will following in Amazon’s footsteps guarantee the same level of success for Borders, currently the number two brick-and-mortar bookseller in terms of overall sales?

The overall experience between the two is similar, but the new Borders application supports in-app shopping — a slight advantage over the Kindle software.

It’s a rather disappointing article – The title is just meant as link-bait and it doesn’t really put forward any solid reasons for Borders to win or even compete. In fact, the article sort of just randomly ends. Like a movie that’s part of a trilogy and decides to leave the plot for the later two movies.

Why Borders are almost certainly going to lose the eBooks War

Well, let’s see – They’re rather late to the party with Amazon, B&N, and Apple already well entrenched. They don’t have any strong eReader or reading device so they can’t really lock in readers (they’re partnered with Kobo which is already an also-ran in the eReader market). Their Financial Situation is precarious to the extreme and it’s hard to imagine how they can take the losses that will result from competing in eBooks and eReaders.

Borders stock is down from 22 in Jun 2007 to 1.4 now. Barnes & Noble are down from 40.62 to 12.94. Amazon are up from 68.58 to 109.14. Meanwhile, Apple are up from 120.50 to 258.67. Let’s say two of these companies are going to do very well in eBooks, 1 is going to survive, and 1 is going to lose out - Would you bet your money on Borders?

To make things worse you also have companies like Google jumping in. Their search engine is going to provide them way more traffic and customers than Borders can conjure up. Borders know this and that’s why they have a conservative 17% market share goal. There’s no way they can compete and this is just a weak attempt to survive.

Julie Sartain at Washington Post nails the eReader opportunity

She rightly points out that eReaders are a Worthy Business Investment and lists a few key things that make it such -

  1. eReaders are preferable to a computer screen. 
  2. eReaders are designed specifically for reading books and documents.
  3. eReaders are the right combination of low weight and large enough screen size.
  4. eReaders and eBooks are both relatively cheap. This is particularly true after the recent eReader price wars.
  5. Distributing documents and manuals via eReaders will soon become cheaper than printing them out.
  6. You can update materials on eReaders without having to re-print. Distribution is also very easy and quick.
  7. Everyone who has an eReader for work can read for fun. Everyone who reads for fun can use the eReader for work and school documents.

 There are also lots of other benefits that are non-business specific but factor in -

The real benefits of e-readers and tablet PCs are cost, convenience, a huge library–including out-of-print books and lots of free public domain books–easy distribution of your company’s data, and the incentive for everyone to read more.

A few companies are moving towards using iPads for business – However, Kindles are much cheaper and make a lot more sense. There’s this magical belief people have that iPads won’t be a distraction at work and quite frankly it’s nonsense. It’s even more ludicrous when considering school and college students. If you give people a device that is better for wasting time than working with time they are going to waste time.

James Patterson reaches 1 million eBooks

Apparently there was a big competition to see who would be the first author to reach 1 million eBooks sold and we were never told.

James Patterson claims to have done it. In case you were hoping he’d celebrate it by -

  1. Pricing his books at $9.99.  
  2. No longer having every single book written with a ‘second, helper author’.  
  3. Not ending every book at a cliffhanger and Not stretching series endlessly.

Well, you’ll be disappointed.

1 million ebooks is quite an accomplishment and you have to wonder why his ebooks are priced at $14.83 and $10.19 and $15.46. Guess it must be for the principle of it and to help other authors who need $14.99 prices to be able to afford to eat.

Kindle Store vs Kindle Hardware – Quick Thoughts on Building Multiple Billion Dollar Businesses

Amazon are doing a very good job of building up both the Kindle Store and the Kindle hardware business. For a good example of what it might mean down the line we should look at Microsoft and Xbox.

Bloomberg reports that Microsoft’s Xbox Live (just the online part of the service) generated more than $1.2 billion in sales in 2009 -

Microsoft says about half the service’s 25 million users paid an annual fee to play games online like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” in the year ended June 30. That would be about $600 million.

Sales of products like movie and TV show downloads topped subscription revenue for the first time.

First, that’s just Xbox Live. End of this year we’re going to get the cool but poorly named Kinect and Xbox hardware is going to sell extremely well. That really is the way to do it – to build up multiple billion dollar businesses and become a much stronger company.

This is exactly what Amazon is doing. Seattle-based companies might not know how to smooth-talk the Press - However, their ability to build up multiple billion dollar businesses is a very under-rated skill and infinitely more valuable.

Second, Amazon have got to be looking at the second part of the Xbox Live equation i.e. sales of movies and TV shows. All Amazon need is a Kindle Plus that allows watching movies and shows and listening to music – they have everything else in place.

Amazon are playing it so well and still flying under everyone’s radar – It’s crazy that the Press never talk about Zappos and Drugstore.com and Amazon Tote/Fresh and IMDB and The Cloud and Kindle and Kindle Store and 6pm.com and all the potential billion dollar businesses Amazon is building. Nah – they’d rather talk about some short-term focused little app company building apps on someone else’s platform.

Nook WiFi - Does anyone even remember?

Just got my Nook WiFi/ Nook Lite delivered today (courtesy a friend – it’s very much appreciated) and don’t know what to write about it.

It’s a study in contrasts. Was so involved in taking Kindle DX 2 videos that missed the World Cup – now have to wait 4 years for another semi-final (to be fair Germany played like England and Spain played like Spain so it wasn’t as much of a loss).

Meanwhile, writing about the Nook WiFi seems pointless -

  1. First, they insist you charge it fully before using it which meant it missed out on a supporting role in the Kindle DX videos. 
  2. Second, well …. it’s a Nook with WiFi. B&N should have put in at least 1 or 2 new features in it so we could at least pretend it’s a big deal.
  3. Third, the Kindle DX is much more exciting due to eInk Pearl. Perhaps if my valuation of reading was $25 then my joy at the Nook WiFi would make the Kindle DX disappear.

B&N just pick bad times to release products and bad times to talk about them. Apparently, they also pick the wrong designs - Not only do they have Alex/Spring Design suing them for stealing the Alex’s dual screen design for the Nook they also find out that Amazon have been granted a dual screen eReader patent that is closer to Nook than to the Kindle.

Nook WiFi looks just like a Nook. The screen has scary text telling you to charge it fully or dragons will eat you. It looks pretty. Waiting for it to charge fully so can try it out. They should fire the person who decided that the first-use user experience for the Nook WiFi will be plugging it into a wall-socket and waiting 6 hours for it to get charged.

quick ereader updates including free books

The two books that have been showing up in free book searches since Sunday morning are finally free -

  1. Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins. Rated 5 stars on 47 reviews. 
  2. Even Now by Karen Kingsbury. Rated 4.5 stars on 47 reviews.

There’s lots of other interesting news.

News Corp buys Heart’s Skiff but not the eReader

WSJ report on the sale of Skiff to News Corp. Apparently Hearst Corp. is so excited by its ‘going to revive advertising’ Skiff that it sold it to News Corp.

Skiff technology handles the behind-the-scenes workings of publishing on mobile devices, such as converting files to digital formats and setting up ways to serve up advertisements. Skiff has pitched itself as more friendly to publishers than Apple Inc.’s iPad or Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle, by giving them more control over the appearance and business model of their digital offerings.

News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal, plans to fold Skiff into the rest of the company, rather than let it operate independently as Hearst has done.

One interesting part of the WSJ article is Google’s apparent interest in buying Skiff. Now that would have been big news.

Google Inc. also was interested in buying Skiff, according to a separate person.

Perhaps the most interesting detail is that the Skiff Reader itself wasn’t sold -

Skiff also has been working on its own e-reading device that would compete with the Kindle, but a person familiar with the matter said News Corp. isn’t interested in that part of Skiff.

Another person said Hearst would retain that for now but could sell it later.

Is Hearst going to keep the Skiff Reader or not?

Kindles a big hit at Duke University

There are 134 people on the waiting list to try out one of 12 Kindles at Duke University’s Perkins Library.

The library has just purchased five more of the Kindles, to keep up with the increasing demand. “But frankly, we don’t think that will even make a dent [in the waiting list],” Harvey said.

Those who get the loaners seem to love them, said Michael Finigan, the head of access and delivery services at the library. “They’re always asking, ‘Can I have it for a little more time, a little longer?’ ” Finigan said.

The article mentions that The Divinity School at Duke is also loaning out Kindles while another Duke Center will try loaning out iPads next year.

LG Display and iRiver team up to make eReaders in Dongguan, China

Korean Herald reports that the world’s second largest LCD maker, LG Display, and eReader company iRiver will team up to make eReaders in China -

The $5 million company, 51 percent invested by LG Display and 49 percent invested by iRiver, seeks to start production in September this year, with a goal of manufacturing 1 million e-readers next year.

LG Display are pretty ambitious and drop some big numbers -

“LG Display will utilize its advanced EPD technologies to achieve early commercial production of color and flexible EPD and reach the global No. 1 position by 2012.” said Eddie Yeo, LG Display’s executive vice president and head of its mobile/OLED Business Unit.

The global EPD market is expected to grow to $837 million this year, from $351 million this year, LG Display said,

It’s interesting to see this move by iRiver. They already have an eReader named iRiver Story available – Engadget has a hands-on. It isn’t very innovative and the design looks like they ripped off the Kindle.

We’ll have to see what their joint venture with LG Display produces. The companies are saying that the joint venture will make eReaders and also eTextbooks and eNewspapers with flexible displays.

TFT-LCD panel maker considering eReaders

Chungwa Pictures Tubes talks about how its 7″ TFT-LCD panels are in high demand with eReader makers -

He indicated that clients are interested in TFT-LCD e-book readers and CPT has started shipping customized TFT-LCD e-book reader panels to clients.

US-based digital photo frame maker Pandigital has unveiled a 7-inch color TFT-LCD e-book reader, the Pandigital Novel multimedia eReader, which reportedly uses panels from CPT, industry sources said. Pandigital is working with Barnes and Noble for content, with the device selling at US$199.99.

The article also says that TFT-LCD panels have faster response times and better color while eInk has lower power consumption and better readability. Will have to take their word for it as haven’t ever seen a TFT-LCD eReader.

The Engineer Profiles Plastic Logic Co-Founder

There’s quite a good profile of Cambridge Professor Richard Friend at The Engineer. It includes a lot about the technology and thought behind the Plastic Logic Que Reader -

The first big commercial application for Friend’s research will hit the shops this summer – an all-plastic e-reader called the Que, from Plastic Logic. ’It will compete with products such as Amazon’s Kindle; it’s lower weight and it isn’t breakable because there’s no glass in it,’ Friend said.

The article also discusses the plastic electronics technology behind the Que Reader -

 the key breakthrough for this application – the development of a polymer LED – was made almost by accident. ’We succeeded in making transistors, and then in 1989 we were trying to make diodes. The top electrode on the structure was a film of aluminium, thin enough to be partially transparent. We put a voltage onto the structure that we thought would induce breakdown, but my student Jeremy Burroughes - who had actually built those original transistors – noticed that light was coming out of it.’Polymer electronics work by manipulating the way that carbon bonds to itself; in certain types of unsaturated molecules, and in graphite and graphene, a certain amount of electrons are bound to the molecule but free to move around its structure, rather than being associated with only one atom in the molecule.

It’s hard not to get the impression that the Que is something of an experiment for Plastic Logic with their hearts being set on more diverse applications. They’re basically like Apple – they don’t really care about books or readers. They just want a piece of a hot market to be able to make their own product, which is optimized for something else, succeed.

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