Amazon's latest moves, Kindle Previewer, and more Kindle

We see the new Kindle DX 2 for $379, the introduction of the 70% royalty rate, and the surprise arrival of Kindle for Android – all in the first 3 days of this week. There’s actually even more Kindle related stuff going on and let’s look at some of it in depth.

Amazon introduces Kindle Previewer

At the official Kindle forum Amazon introduce us to the upcoming ‘Kindle Previewer for HTML 5’ feature. In plain English its online samples of Kindle books.

They put a lot of effort into describing it –

sample Kindle books from anywhere. Kindle book previews will be available through your web browser-simply click a Preview button on an Amazon book detail page and a new browser window will open containing the preview.

If at any point while you’re reading the preview you decide you want to buy the full book, simply click the buy button and it will be instantly downloaded to your Kindle or any one of our free Kindle apps.

Apparently HTML5 and CSS3 are a really big deal. Got to love how some people are as excited about HTML5 as we would be about rockets that fly astronauts to Mars.

The good news is this souped up ‘preview’ feature doesn’t interfere with our good old samples on the Kindle – there’s no rational reason to remove samples and these web previews seem to merely be add-ons. It’s probably to help get more people into the Kindle eco-system.

The feature also makes a lot more sense when you consider the arrival of Kindle Web Widgets.

Kindle Web Widgets  

Hand in hand with the HTML 5 Kindle Previewer release is a release of web widgets which bloggers and website owners can add to their blogs and sites. It lets readers read Kindle book samples on the site itself and even order from the site.

It’s an interesting move and lots of bloggers and sites will be tempted to try it out – If the user can read the sample right there and order on the spot that’s going to work out much better than having the user click though to another site and track cookies and user purchases.

Barnes & Noble investing heavily in Nook, eBooks

B&N is seeing two diverging trends – physical store sales are declining and its profits are going down. Meanwhile web sales increased 51% and it claims to have captured over 20% of the ebook market. In fact, B&N is investing so heavily in ebooks that it claims its ebook investments are a major cause of its losses.

B&N stock took a major hit (supposedly a fall of 18%) as that explanation didn’t seem to appease the market. Of course, the market can’t be expected to understand things like building for something that in 10 years will take over all of books. This article at Forbes is worth a read.

Despite the losses B&N’s devotion to eBooks is commendable. If nothing else, it’s helping keep Amazon and Apple on their toes.

Federal Agencies want eReaders used in classrooms to be accessible

It seems that it’s not enough to kick Kindle DX out of public universities. Now Federal Agencies want to put rules into place that ensure any device used in any school or university must be accessible to the blind.

It’s good to have rules to help blind people. However, it’s a little crazy to not allow 95% of people to use a gadget because it’s not accessible. All these roadblocks are preventing the faster spread of eReaders – if eReaders spread faster it would help blind people a lot.

It seems politically incorrect to take the 10 year view – However, just ask yourself what’s better for the blind.

  1. A world where ebooks stall and we go back to physical books.
  2. A world where ebooks prosper and the blind have access via Text to Speech to every single ebook. They would no longer be limited to books Publishers have chosen to provide for the blind.

Yet Blind Associations keep attacking eReaders and stalling their growth.

It would be nice to see a list of the companies and agencies that fund organizations like the National Federation of the Blind and figure out what the cause of this super short term perspective is. NFB couldn’t be any more anti-eReader/anti-eBook if it tried.

Universal eBook Format vs Kindle App on every device

Consider this article on Yahoo News lamenting the lack of a universal ebook format. Well, what about having a Kindle app on every device – Isn’t that nearly the same thing?

Amazon have channels reaching into Android, iPhone, PC, Mac, Blackberry, and iPad. They also have their own devices. Basically, they have most of the channels covered and if they could figure out a way to tap into Nook and Sony Reader they would have created a default universal format. Only it would be a platform and not a format.

A certain group of people wouldn’t be happy with that – for them a universal format has to be ‘open’ and not controlled by a company and not something a company can profit from.

At that point you begin to realize that maybe the whole ‘universal format’ and ‘no DRM’ movement has more to do with being able to steal ebooks than being able to read an ebook on any device.

kindle news updates – end July

Loads of Kindle and ebook related developments –

  1. The AT&T and Barnes&Noble experiment starts early – B&N customers will get free Internet WiFi access in each of the 777 B&N Stores nationwide. The WiFi wasn’t free until now and might be a good way to test the network before launching B&N Net .
  2. Verizon and Qualcomm formed a joint venture to support networks like WhisperNet. Their joint venture aims to support services running on any network (not just Verizon’s) and is worldwide in scope.
  3. GigaOM reports that LibreDigital just got $15 million funding. The official press release says that LibreDigital works with 6 of the world’s top 10 publishers (including HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Wiley). Its a company that’s been around since 1999.
  4. Google Books is now offering 1 million of its public domain books in the Sony Store. If you’re so inclined, you can download a software that lets you read these on your PC –

    Together with Google, Sony brings you access to over a million public domain books for free.

  5. Apparently every Zappos employee got a free Kindle. I’d be more interested in finding out how the $40 million allocated to employees was portioned out.  

Also a good read – Thomas L Friedman’s 59 is the new 30.

Newspapers begin to charge for content

Newspapers in the US and in the UK are beginning to charge for content again –

  1. Valley Morning Star in South Texas will start charging for online access. As will the Democrat Gazette of Northwest Arkansas
  2. Across the pond, News International affirmed its intent to charge for content. 
  3. In Australia, News Digital Media’s Richard Freudenstein thinks that people will pay for good enough content.  

Although Mr. Freudenstein takes quite a few potshots at bloggers, have to agree with some of his points, particularly –

If a massive story broke, right now – another 9/11 or Victorian Bushfire… what would you do?

My guess is you’d do one of three things – go to a world-class news website, turn on the TV or turn on the radio.

What Mr. Freudenstein has to say is exceptional – for the first time there’s someone in the newspaper industry who not only understands that giving away content is stupid, but also understands that a paid model will work if done right.  

Closing Thoughts – Tom Watson  

Thomas L. Friedman says –

Watson’s run was freaky unusual — a 59-year-old man who had played his opening two rounds in this tournament with a 16-year-old Italian amateur — was able to best the greatest golfers in the world at least a decade after anyone would have dreamt it possible.

Watching this happen actually widened our sense of what any of us is capable of.

It was really interesting because at 29 I’m always feeling this sense of passing of time. To see someone perform so extraordinarily well at 59 puts a smile on my face – still got a lot of years to live. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX8JYJsQxE0]

Kindle Links + News – end January

Here’s a collection of Kindle related items that aren’t easily categorized –

  1. Kindle making some inroads – A ChangeWave consumer spending and confidence survey of 2,738 people showed that 2% of people surveyed (that’s a grand total of 54 people) owned the Kindle, and 58% of owners were ‘very satisfied’. I would’ve thought a larger percentage of people would be very satisfied.  
  2. IDEO + Bugbase are working together on ideas and one of these involves eInk. They have two separate posts – one on a tactile touchscreen using eInk, and the other on a system menu using eInk. The blog is only going to be up for another week or so. Here’s a visualization of the touchscreen eInk display.  eInkMenuIDEO
  3. "Irretrievably Broken" a novel by Irma Fritz, was chosen as one of Cold Coffee Magazine’s Top 20 novels. What makes it interesting is that it was first published for the Kindle, and only later released as a paperback. The Kindle Price is roughly 1/4th of the paperback. 
  4. There’s a new newspaper available for the Kindle – The Oklahoman. And it already has someone panning it on a very subjective basis.
  5. Finally someone who doesn’t think ebook readers on the iPhone are going to create world peace and eradicate poverty - 
    But as much as I love my iPhone and dislike the current Kindle, I’m not sure Apple’s gadget will take hold as a serious platform for e-books. The main problem, as I see it, is that the iPhone screen is too small to hold much text, meaning readers have to turn a page every few seconds.

  6. And to round things up a new eReader from Txtr with a design that proves that there definitely is such a thing as too much minimalism. Also, the domain txtr is owned by the same company that owns joker.com. On their website they poke fun of TechCrunch poking fun at them.

I’m increasingly noticing international articles about the Kindle in various languages. There are also a lot of non-English blogs beginning to link to this blog. Seems the Kindle is becoming well known worldwide.