Kindle 3 – B&N, Sony’s Kindle 3 reactions a deception

Now that the Kindle 3 is out and making waves there are people wondering what B&N and Sony have planned. Well, both companies are understandably circumspect about what they’re doing.

Let’s look at Sony and B&N’s Kindle 3 reactions and then dig into what they might really have planned. First, a quick refresher on Kindle 3 improvements.

23 Kindle 3 Improvements in a Nutshell courtesy Greg

Greg at the official Kindle forum points out 22 cool improvements in the Kindle 3 -

- 50% better contrast than K2
- crisper, darker fonts
- 21% smaller than K2 (1/2″ thinner, 1/2″ shorter, same screen size)
- 17% lighter than K2 (only 8.5 ounces)
- 20% faster page turns
- soft textured back
- Unicode font support (Cyrillic, Japanese, Chinese Traditional and Simplified, Korean, Greek)
- TTS menu navigation
- super quiet buttons
- sturdier 5-way
- supports battery-free reading light built into case
- longer battery life (1 month per charge)
- twice the storage than K2
- Wi-Fi
- unlimited free delivery of personal docs (via Wi-Fi)
- adjustable contrast when reading PDFs
- 2 dictionaries
- PDF highlighting/notes/dictionary-lookup support
- microphone
- free wireless Audible audiobook delivery (via Wi-Fi)
- Wi-Fi web browsing with Fit to Width, Zoom-in options, Actual Size, and Article Mode
- cheaper price ($139 Graphite, Wi-Fi only)

Until Someday chimes in with a 23rd that missed my eye -

I think my favorite thing isn’t even on your list… the fact that there’s a previous and next button on both sides!

This is now one of my favorites because it creates symmetry and having previous page on the right really helps for one-handed reading.

Those 23 improvements, including some stellar ones, put the Kindle 3 far ahead of Nook and Sony Reader - Unless you are wedded to library books, ePub, or Kindle envy.

Kindle 3 Reactions – The Party Line

Sony actually expects us to believe it isn’t going to do anything. An article from Forbes on Sony’s Kindle 3 non-reaction has this response -

“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,”

Sony immediately hedges its bets -

Asked about the possibility of a future price shift, a Sony spokeswoman told Forbes the company has “nothing to announce at this time regarding a price move.”

Lubell’s statement, she said, “reflects broader thinking around [Sony's] strategy moving forward.”

Basically, Sony released a knee-jerk reactionary statement hinting that none of its new Sony Readers are priced at $139. The spokeswoman is saying that once Sony gets its thinking straight again it’ll figure out the best Kindle 3 response.

B&N wants to make Apple-like Nook Stores inside its stores

New York Times has news of B&N’s Kindle 3 reaction -

 In September, the chain will begin an aggressive promotion of its Nook e-readers by building 1,000-square-foot boutiques in all of its stores, with sample Nooks, demonstration tables, video screens

That’s not a bad strategy though you have to wonder why B&N would think that’s enough. Well, it doesn’t. 

If NY Times stopped trawling for researchers willing to write nonsense about LCD and eInk screens it might figure out that Nook 2 is already approved by the FCC.

Why is it that the main stream press is writing articles claiming that B&N’s reaction to Kindle 3 is in-store mini-stores when a Nook 2 is FCC approved and imminent?

Kindle 3 Reactions – The Real Strategy

Let’s take a moment and review what’s happened. The Kindle 3 has taken everyone by surprise.

No one expected Kindle 3 to be what it is

The Kindle DX 2 was DX 1.7 and Kindle 2 was Kindle 1.5.

That’s what everyone expected – 1 or 2 killer features and 3 or 4 improvements and a solid and unremarkable Kindle 2.7. They expected Amazon to release a slightly better Kindle 3 and make it a success based on its advantages - Kindle Store and Kindle WhisperNet.

Instead we got a real Kindle 3. There are 23 improvements out of which a lot are killer features.

Here are the 11 that would be strong candidates in my opinion -

WiFi, price (Kindle WiFi for $139 especially), eInk Pearl Screen with 50% better contrast.

20% faster page turns, 3 Font choices and improved fonts, very light and compact Kindle.

Voice Guide for true accessibility when combined with TTS, 1 month battery life, much-improved PDF support.

CJK fonts and Cyrillic fonts, WebKit browser with Article Mode.

There are a lot of solid features packed into Kindle 3 and at least 5, and perhaps as many as 10, are killer features. No other eReader (except for Intel’s $1,500 Reader) is accessible to blind readers. No other eReader has the eInk Pearl screen. The $139 price is the lowest in the market. The CJK font support is a first.

It’s taken us all by surprise. It’s taken the press by surprise (lots of people are questioning whether the eReader wars are over). It’s taken B&N and Sony by surprise too.

The National Federation for the Blind took a break from suing Universities running Kindle DX trials to write a letter commending Amazon for Kindle 3.

If that isn’t a sign that Kindle 3 is a game-changer don’t know what is.

B&N is rethinking its strategy and revealing the safest part

Notice how B&N only talks about something Amazon couldn’t possibly replicate – Nook Mini-Stores in B&N’s retail stores. It has a Nook 2 that’s approved by the FCC and ready to head out. There are probably 10 different Nook 2 things it could reveal.

However, B&N couldn’t have expected 23 improvements in Kindle 3 and definitely not a $139 Kindle WiFi with a new generation screen that makes the Nook WiFi obsolete (unless you love ePub, or are hooked to library books).

B&N is going to sit down and figure out how to make the Nook 2 a comparable value proposition to Kindle 3. If Nook 2 doesn’t have eInk Pearl it’s in trouble. However, Nook 2 probably does have eInk Pearl. B&N will figure out how to add enough features to make Nook 2 a worthy challenger to Kindle 3 and then reveal what it is. Perhaps as early as Monday. Perhaps in parallel with its September push (the Nook mini-stores open early September).

Sony might have a real surprise

The first inclination to Sony’s rather defensive reaction is that it’s completely stunned. However, this is a company that makes very good eReaders. The reason it’s been losing ground is because it fails to provide a good bookstore and completely misses the ‘eReader as a service’ part.

My feeling is that Sony has either gotten touch to work with eInk Pearl OR it has some feature it feels is enough of an advantage that it can talk about quality and about not compromising on price. That feature might be an integration with Google Books and that would mean Sony Readers built on Android and perhaps even with Android Apps.

Sony has the least to lose and it can do some really crazy things – It may very well decide to give up the ebook revenue stream (or even try to destroy it) just so it can sell Sony Readers.

Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 vs Sony Readers – August is the Month

It’s easy to disregard the signs (Nook 2 approval at FCC, Sony selling its Touch Edition Reader for $170 with a $25 gift card). However, it’s pretty apparent that the new Sony Readers and Nook 2 are imminent.

An impressive Kindle 3 means both companies have to scramble to make their offerings as compelling. However, we still ought to see an August release (first week of September at the latest).

It’s only when Nook 2 and the new Sony Readers are released that we’ll see their real strategy to take on the Kindle 3.

Kindle vs Nook WiFi – $149 Nook WiFi arrives June 23rd

The next chapter in the Kindle vs Nook wars begins this Wednesday with a Kindle vs Nook WiFi showdown. In the end of May we had found out some details about the Nook WiFi/Nook Lite courtesy the FCC -

  1. It has WiFi 802.11 b/g (big surprise).
  2. The codename is Bravo Lite.
  3. It seems to have a replaceable battery. 
  4. It doesn’t have 3G. It does have USB support. 
  5. It supports portrait and landscape modes.

Well, now we have confirmation that it’s about to arrive at a very attractive price.

Nook WiFi arrives this Wednesday

Courtesy Teleread and Engadget we now know the following -

  1. It’ll be called Nook WiFi. 
  2. It’ll be $149. 
  3. It’s going to be released/announced this Wednesday - June 23rd, 2010. There’ll almost certainly be preorders.
  4. The Product # is 9781400532629. There’s a class code that says ‘Future Use’ so perhaps that means preorders.
  5. The inventory system image doesn’t show any in stock.

The $149 price point is what really stands out for me.

Additional proof of Nook WiFi

If the image at Engadget doesn’t convince you perhaps this will –  

  1. The domain www.nookwifi.com is registered by someone named Tom K. with a bn.com email address.
  2. The domain was registered on May 2nd, 2009 so B&N have had the Nook WiFi planned for quite a while.  The registration was renewed in May for an additional year.
  3. The site used to have a normal B&N page but is now down. Probably being set-up to be ready for the Nook WiFi release.
  4. Tom K. and Mike R. are the names associated with most B&N domains related to the Nook. 
  5. Here are some other domains that Tom K. from B&N owns – Hoot.net, Thenook.com, Nook.net, my-nook.net. If nothing else it proves that Nook beat out Hoot in the great B&N eReader naming contest – proving once and for all that B&N’s product naming capabilities are non-existent.

It certainly seem like the Nook WiFi exists, that it’s about to arrive, and it may very well set up Kindle vs Nook WiFi as the eReader battle of the summer.

Kindle vs Nook WiFi – How important is Price?

If we, like most of the Press, disregard the 9 month existence of the Sony Reader Pocket Edition we can play this up as a great battle -

  1. In one corner stands the challenger, also known as Hoot Lite and representing people who think eReaders should be $99 – the Nook Wi Fi!
  2. In the opposite corner stands the defending champion, from Cupertino via Seattle and representing readers who like to get their books in 60 seconds or less – the Amazon Kindle!

It is the first time (this is what the Press will claim) that the Kindle has been challenged on value for money. It is the first time that a Kindle Killer has been so cheap (never mind the Kobo).

Actually, it’s quite interesting – If the only thing Nook WiFi sacrifices is 3G it might end up being a bit of a threat to the Kindle and a medium threat to the Nook. Here’s what you’d be missing -

  1. 60 second downloads. 
  2. Free wireless store browsing in 100+ Countries. Only on the Kindle.
  3. Free Internet – For people who complain the browser is severely limited it’s worth keeping in mind that the Nook 3G has a very good browser and even with the Kindle you can view mobile versions of websites relatively painlessly. 
  4. Synchronization of last page read across devices.
  5. Sharing notes, collections, and bookmarks across devices.
  6. Free downloads of books in 100+ countries. Only on the Kindle and currently only for US owners. 
  7. All your books in an archive in the Amazon Cloud and the ability to download any book wirelessly at any time. 

Perhaps it’s not that much to give up for $110. Perhaps it’s too much ease of use and too many useful features sacrificed.

Quite frankly, will have to see what other features the Nook WiFi has. At the moment the price is a big plus. $149 certainly sets a new mark and B&N suddenly seem very serious about winning the eReader war. For all the Press’ supplication at the feet of Steve Jobs the Nook Lite may prove to be a much more dangerous competitor.

Will there be an economy Kindle – a Kindle Lite?

The Nook WiFi makes you wonder whether Amazon have a Kindle WiFi or a Kindle Lite ready to be unleashed.

If not, how will they counter a rather tempting $149 price point?

The last time B&N announced an eReader Amazon unleashed a flurry of updates – PDF support, a lower price, screen rotation, better battery life. Given that they’ve just delivered a huge update you have to wonder whether they will have enough time to add more features – Perhaps Amazon did know of Nook WiFi and Kindle 2.5 is a preemptive move, perhaps they have yet another update in mind and that will be their answer to Nook WiFi.

The big difference at the 2009 launch of the Nook was that the Nook was $259 and Amazon easily matched the price with a $20 drop. If the $149 Nook WiFi takes off Amazon might have to start readying a Kindle WiFi or Kindle Lite for Christmas 2010. Kindle vs Nook WiFi will be a rather unfair fight and it might be unfair on both sides.

Reviewing the new Barnes & Noble iPad app

B&N finally launched its B&N eReader App for iPad. It’s arrived much later than promised (7 weeks and 5 days late to be precise). Let’s take a look.

B&N eReader App – First Impressions

Start off and here are the things that hit you first.

For magazines and newspapers –  

  1. There are 5 font sizes and 4 options for line spacing.  
  2. There are 4 options for margin spacing – Which is pretty useful.

Just the fact that it has magazines and newspapers is a plus – a big advantage over Kindle for iPad.

For books -

  1. There are 5 font sizes, 4 line spacing options, and the ability to turn full justification on or off.
  2. There’s an intriguing option – Use Publisher settings. It seems B&N will begin to push the concept of a Publisher defined ‘optimum ebook layout’.
  3. There are 5 themes – The Printed Page, Night Light (inverted colors for night reading), Earl Grey, Butter Pecan, and Mocha. The last two are pretty hideous. Nothing as pretty as Sepia Theme on Kindle for iPad although The Printed Page theme is pretty good.
  4. You have the option to edit themes though it seems like it’ll take a little time to figure out.
  5. There are lots of Fonts available – Amasis, Century Schoolbook, Georgia, Joanna, Times New Roman, Ascender Sans, Gill Sans, and Trebuchet MS. My favorite is Amasis.
  6. You can set the color for text, the color for the page/background, the color for highlights, and also the color for links. The color selection is actually pretty cool.
  7. After making all these selections (font, font size, line spacing, justification, colors) you can save your settings as a custom theme.

It’s a lot of selections and you’ll probably fall into one of three categories – don’t care, love the flexibility, overwhelmed by the options.

Digging in deeper

Here are some things that become apparent on further inspection -

  1. Newspapers and Magazines work very well.  
  2. The bookmarking is really strange – it’s at the bottom right corner and hard to notice.
  3. There are page numbers. Which stay steady even as you change font size.
  4. The Home Page shows both downloaded books and books that have not been downloaded in one list which is strange. There’s a category for Archived items and if you take a downloaded book you can move it into the Archive. Shouldn’t non downloaded books be in that by default?
  5. It’s hard to get rid of samples.
  6. There are two main views – a book at a time view (with an optional list overlay that lists all books), and a general ‘book covers’ view.
  7. Books that can be Lent are clearly indicated.
  8. To buy books you have to go to the iPad’s Safari browser. Understandable as in-app purchases would mean Apple gets 30%.
  9. Changing Orientation is a little strange.

The Archive works in a very strange way. It’s basically just a different folder. Whereas on the Kindle the Archive means that your book is archived in the Amazon Cloud and will have to be re-downloaded, on B&N’s eReader App the Archive is the equivalent of a ‘Books I’ve Read’ folder.

B&N eReader for iPad vs Kindle for iPad

There are a few advantages B&N eReader App has over Kindle for iPad -

  1. You can read newspapers and magazines. Perhaps the biggest advantage.
  2. Page Numbers. Lots of people want this as a feature on the Kindle. A very important advantage if you need to refer to page numbers for assignments or for any another reason.
  3. Lots of choice in fonts. That being said there isn’t any font as pretty as Kindle for iPad’s Caecilia.
  4. Lots of choice in general - line spacing, margins, full justification on or off, ability to change colors.
  5. The ability to save your own themes. Definitely a fun feature.
  6. The in-app Dictionary is a pretty cool feature too. Tapping a word gives you three options Kindle for iPad doesn’t – dictionary, search Google, search Wikipedia.

That’s basically two killer features that Kindle for iPad is missing – periodicals and page numbers. You could throw in the near-infinite customization and LendMe to get to 4 killer features.

Kindle for iPad has its own advantages -

  1. Much simpler to use.
  2. WhisperSync is a very cool feature – Syncing of Last Page Read and Listing of Popular Highlights are both very useful. Syncing ofnotes and highlights is really useful too. This works across most Kindle Apps and across Kindles. B&N has syncing across only the iPad and PC Apps at the moment.
  3. The ability to change screen brightness from within the app.
  4. The best single font i.e. Caecilia. 
  5. The best theme – Sepia. The Kindle’s night theme is better looking too.  
  6. Much prettier in terms of the Home Page and layout and how options are shown. The boy reading under the tree picture is gorgeous as is the fact that it shows stars when the book covers load up.
  7. If you’re into that sort of thing there’s the option to use animated page turns. They aren’t as fancy as iBooks’ page turns though as you can’t see a faint glimmer of words on the reverse page when you turn pages.

The killer features are - the ability to change screen brightness from within the app, the simplicity, better range of books, lower prices for non Agency Model Publisher books, and WhisperSync working across nearly all devices. So 5 killer features. It also looks better.

Kindle for iPad has a better font and better themes. Of course, you might be able to mix and match and create a theme that you like better with the B&N app. The B&N app also has a lot more choice in fonts and settings.  

Kindle for iPad is the better Reading App for the iPad

It has some killer features that B&N’s eReader App doesn’t match -

  1. It’s just really simple to use.
  2. It has the best range of new ebooks and better prices for ebooks (other than for Agency Model Publishers).
  3. WhisperSync provides a lot of really cool features – syncing last page read, syncing notes and highlights, and seeing most popular highlights. These work across nearly all platforms - PC, Mac, Kindle, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and soon Android.
  4. The font and themes are the best. Although if you like the ability to change things then definitely go with B&N’s eReader App.
  5. You can change screen brightness from within the app itself. No idea why B&N didn’t add such an obvious and useful feature. 

If you don’t find the Popular Highlights feature interesting it can be switched off. Not sure if this stops sharing your highlights though you’d think that’s what switching it off means.  

It’s possible the B&N eReader App is a better fit for you

While Kindle for iPad is the better reading app there are some cases in which B&N’s eReader App will be a better fit -

  1. You own a Nook.
  2. You want to read newspapers and magazines. Kindle for iPad doesn’t support these yet.
  3. You need page numbers in your books. B&N supports this while Kindle uses locations.
  4. You like to be able to customize themes and change fonts – There are a ton of options and you might be able to create a combination you like better than the Kindle for iPad’s excellent default font and 3 Themes
  5. The LendMe feature appeals to you. It’s lending out a book only once – however, once is better than no lending.

The dictionary is a useful feature too.

It’ll be interesting to see what additions Amazon make to Kindle for iPad. The absence of magazines and newspapers and lack of Page Numbers are two very real shortcomings.

Kindle, Barnes and Noble eReader – Rumor Review

Comparing Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble eReader (Plastic Logic eReader) is interesting – especially when its based on reports and rumors from WSJ and NYT. 

The post will be updated with new information after the Barnes and Noble eReader release event on Oct 20, 2009.

What are the rumors about Barnes & Noble eReader plans?

The suspense is killing me.

  1. The New York Times has the scoop on a Barnes and Noble eReader launch event at Chelsea Piers in New York on Oct 20. The invitations claim “a major event in our company’s history”.
  2. The October 20th, 2009 Barnes and Noble eReader release date has been reported by Multiple Sources so it’s quite likely to be true.
  3. NY Times also reports that there will be a ‘lending/sharing model’ (B&N is discussing number of loans with Publishers) and there will be WiFi. Those would both be killer features.
  4. The WiFi is supposed to go hand in hand with free WiFi at all Barnes & Noble stores and help create a browse physical books, buy them on your Barnes and Noble eReader experience. Apparently 14 million people walk into B&N stores every day.
  5. The Wall Street Journal reports the device will have a 6″ screen with touch capabilities, will run on AT&T’s network, and that the Barnes and Noble eReader would start selling as soon as next month.
  6. Gizmodo claim that the Barnes and Noble eReader will run on Google’s Android OS. Which would make sense given Google are offering it one million free books – Quid pro Quo.  
  7. There are also claims (Engadget covers it well and the comments are amusing) that Spring 2010 will see a color eReader from Barnes & Noble – everyone is assuming it will be from Plastic Logic. This is based on a B&N representative who seems rather carried away by the joy of being interviewed – so it’s not that reliable.

What are we likely to get at the Barnes and Noble eReader release?

What we’ll probably have is -

  1. A $250 price.
  2. A 6″ screen with touch capabilities.
  3. A lending feature that lets you lend out your book to 1 or 2 friends a year. Perhaps just the first half of the book plus you lose the ability to read it yourself.
  4. AT&T wireless and a connection to the Barnes & Noble eBook Store. No Free Internet.
  5. WiFi with Free Internet connection at all Barnes & Noble Stores (to encourage readers to visit) plus wherever you can get Free WiFi.
  6. International Travel capabilities – Kindle International being released first means B&N will probably try and swing something like free International downloads or at least cheaper ones.
  7. An Android OS with some cool features (not sure what besides Folders).
  8. A pre-loaded package of some portion (perhaps 10,000) of the free Google public domain books.

A color eReader release on Oct 20 is unlikely – if that happens (and the price is reasonable) they clean house. A Spring release is possible, although by then there will be Apple’s iReader and Kindle 3 to contend with.

Kindle, Barnes and Noble battle on Killer Features

If the B&N eReader is as advertised we will be looking at a fight between devices with significantly unique, value adding killer features -

  1. Amazon Kindle comes in with Free Internet Access, the $9.99 price point for books, the widest range of books, the Read To Me feature and wireless downloads.  
  2. Barnes and Noble eReader comes in with Sharing of Books, WiFi support and free WiFi in stores, a Touchscreen, an Android OS (if done well), free books from Google, and wireless downloads.

While the free books are available for the Kindle too, a conversion is needed (Calibre or email to Amazon). The big thing is that Sharing of Books and WiFi and Android OS are all things Kindle does not have.

Touchscreen is only worthwhile if it does not mess up reading. Sony could not – However, if the Barnes and Noble eReader is from Plastic Logic it might be able to get Touch and great readability in one package.

Which one out of Kindle, Barnes and Noble is better becomes a personal preference. However, the lending feature and WiFi support would turn a two horse race (kindle, sony reader) into a three horse one.

Barnes & Noble, Kindle, iRex – the battle

iRex and Barnes & Noble have paired up to take on the Amazon Kindle -

  1. iRex will use B&N’s eBookstore as a non-exclusive content provider. 
  2. B&N will sell the iRex 800 (and perhaps other models) at their stores.

You can check on a review of the iRex 800′s features. All Things Digital broke the news though their article reads as if they really didn’t care to cover iRex.

Threat to the Kindle?

Well, if you look at this particular alliance you get a few key features -

  1. 3G Wireless to take on Whispernet. 
  2. B&N’s eBookstore, including 500K free Google Books, to take on the Kindle Store. 
  3. An 8″ touch screen to take on Kindle 2 and Kindle DX.

Combine these with a Fall 2009 appearance and you get a more imminent threat than the Plastic Logic reader. Its also interesting that its confirmed the iRex will be retailing in stores while Plastic Logic were trying to be evasive about B&N store retailing.

iRex has little brand recognition so it’s uphill for them, as is the fact that their eReaders tend to be on the expensive side. The iRex DS 800 is their ‘consumer’ ereader and the first time they’ll be targeting the customer market.

Barnes & Noble’s Strategy

Jeffrey Trachtenberg at WSJ reported last Friday on B&N’s 2nd quarter earnings falling 20%. Its the 7th quarter in a row that earnings have declined.

B&N’s response to this is -

  1. Add on Plastic Logic and iRex and other eReaders and try to claw back into the ebooks market. 
  2. Buy back college bookstores (from its founder) and add on more college bookstores.

Its not a bad strategy – it’s just surprising that the Kindle was released in 2007 and B&N only got around to ebooks now.

iRex + Barnes and Noble Vs Kindle

How competitive the combination of iRex and Barnes & Noble will be to the Kindle also depends on -

  1. Price of the iRex DS 800 – how close to $299 will it be? 
  2. Price of B&N ebooks – will they match Kindle Store’s $9.99 on all books and not just bestsellers? 
  3. How well they can work together.

iRex says its a non-exclusive deal and they’ll provide content from other stores too. B&N have Plastic Logic and might add other eReaders.

There really isn’t as close of a bond as between Kindles and the Kindle Store. Which, in my opinion, makes the Kindle much likelier to win the Kindle Vs Barnes and Noble, iRex battle.

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