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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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Kindle Apps Blog

With Amazon announcing Kindle SDK (KDK) I’ve decided to launch a separate Kindle Apps blog for reviewing and speculating about Kindle Apps. Since no apps has been released yet and little is known about the KDK itself I’ll be mostly speculating to begin with. The blog can be found at http://kindle-apps.net/

Mustek MER-6T Tries Hard To Be Different Without Actually Being So

01-26-10mustekreadertwi2-1264528263So Mustek is not exactly the company you would expect to be making a product like this but then this is that time in the history of technology when OEMs are making finished products and some are actually making it pretty big. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the MER-6T e-reader. This is yet another eInk reader that slaps a touchscreen on the display and expects to take on the like of the Kindle and perhaps the Nook as well.

So what does this e-reader have that the others don’t? Nothing in particular really. It has a touchscreen eInk display, which is pretty common now. It has a slim profile – only 0.4″ thick but we have thinner ones already. It has a 3.5mm headphone out and that is pretty much universal. It lacks a proper content store and that… is also pretty much universal in the myriad ‘me too!’ e-readers that have flooded the market (with a few exceptions of course).

But then, if you look at white body and the collection of features and do not think of its competition, then it is actually a halfway decent device. They do try to market it by putting the cover of a ‘Twillight’ book on the display but do not be fooled — it cannot do color. It is a normal eInk display. But it does have an SD card expansion slot and a 6inch screen. So if the UI has not been botched up too badly, it can still be useful for some people.

Of course, it has nothing on premium class e-readers that put thousands of eBooks that your disposal that you can buy right from the device and start reading within moments. That user experience is what really separates the Kindle and such devices from products like this one.

No word on pricing yet, so nothing to say on that count either.

Asus’ Debuts It’s Own DR-950 TouchScreen eBook Reader, One More Rumored

asus_dr-950_5-540x360

Asus has this strategy of throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. So earlier this month Asus officially acknowledged that they have an e-Book reader in the pipeline. There were rumors about an Asus e-reader that has a 5inch OLED screen that carries the model number DR-570. But this is called the DR-950 and it has a 9inch e-Ink display. The same kind of display that is used on the Kindle.

It has a resolution of 1024×768 and has support for ePub, PDF and HTML. There’s also text-to-speech and RSS reader, which are good features to have. Onboard storage is 2-4GB and it is expandable via an SD card slot. There’s a 3.5mm headphone out and a USB port too. The 0.35inch thinness is pretty impressive and Asus is even considering  putting in WiMax into that frame. There’s already WiFi and HSDPA built in. The eInk screen has a touch-sensitive layer on top of  it, so there are concerns about the display losing some clarity and readability.

The rumors about the DR-570 refuse to die down however and Digitimes insists that Asus will ship two readers and not one. The current time frame is Q2 2010, so we will know soon. The OLED screen will definitely be no match for the eInk screen in terms of battery life and readability but it will be able to display color and video. So it will likely be a color eBook reader. It must be kept in mind that Asus also has a tablet device planned. So if they release a touchscreen OLED e-reader, it will definitely cannibalize any market that the Eee Pad has.

As for the e-reader competing with the Kindle, it can be safely assumed that there is no way Asus can catch the Kindle bookstore and the International Kindle’s free wireless anywhere in the world. So Asus has to be satisfied with only a niche market.

Apple iPad vs. Amazon Kindle

Apple iPad

Apple iPad

- Hi! I’m an iPad.

- And I’m Amazon Kindle…

So the much rumored “Kindle/netbook/everything killer” is revealed to the public and we can finally make a first guess about it’s prospects in eBook/eReader market that is getting increasingly crowded as well as it’s general chances of success.

First of all it turns out that most of the speculations turned out to be wrong. It’s called iPad (not iSlate), the price point is $499..$829 not $799..$1000. However some people were right – it basically is an over-sized iPod Touch with and optional 3G data connection. It does run all or most of the iPhone/iPod Touch applications that are the main selling point of it’s smaller siblings.

I’ll save readers the suspense: I don’t believe that iPad will be a a Kindle-killer. It will capture a noticeable portion of the eReader market but I find it highly unlikely for it to even become #2. Here’s why:

1) It’s not as mobile as Amazon Kindle because:

1.a) Battery file. Since it uses a back-lit display even according to the specifications it can only sustain 10 hours of usage which is nowhere near week-long stretches eInk based readers can go on a single charge. In reality it may end up being even less than 10 hours since I’m yet to see a device that would live up to it’s battery life spec in a real-world usage scenario. Although 10 hours would seem like a lot, it is not if you think about scenarios like trans-Atlantic flight from the west coast or even domestic flight with several connections. Surely you can charge up while at the airport but then you are likely to end up sitting on the floor next to a restroom. Another option would be to carry iGo Power device or something similar but that’s not too convenient either.

1.b) Size and weight. Although it’s similar in weight and dimensions to Kindle DX, neither of these devices are truly “mobile” as both fail the “coat pocket test”. Personally I find 6″ screen much more convenient for reading on the go than larger 9.7″.

1.c) It lacks free Internet connection. You are either bound to use the WiFi or pay$14.99..$29.99 per month for 3G data plan. It’s nice that this plan doesn’t have a contact commitment but still… I’m already paying a hefty sum for my iPhone plan and another hefty sum for a separate data-plan to keep my netbook connected (AT&T still doesn’t allow iPhone tethering and with iPad hitting the market the chances of that happening are getting even slimmer. There definitely isn’t going to be an iPad tethering option since tethering a notebook to a tablet is as stupid as it sounds) so paying some more on top of that doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

2) There are fewer books available via iBooks and they cost more more. Until recently I though that convenience of books in under 60 seconds is the main selling point of Kindle, however after having to buy some books from Sony store (and finally putting my PRS-600 to a proper use) I would say that book selection is just as significant. What is the use of instant availability of nothing after all. But having fewer books at higher price that are not instantly available unless you pay even more for data-plan doesn’t seem like a recipe for success to me. iBooks app is ePub based to it’s possible that this shortcoming can be supplemented by buying books from other stores. It’s also possible to use apps to add support for other formats and stores. After all there is Kindle for iPhone that would make Amazon’s entire eBook selection to iPad users.

3) iBooks is only available in the US for the time being while Amazon has already gone international. Others will follow in time but it will not be very soon and it will not be easy for the eBook stores because of legal complexities involved.

4) Price. Although iPad is price point is close to that of Kindle DX, if all you are interested in is reading books and an occasional visit to Wikipedia, you can get Kindle 2 for almost half the price and with free Internet lifetime connection to boot.

5) Whether backlit screen is optimal for prolonged reading still remains a point of debate but it’s definitely not a plus for the iPad as far as eBooks are concerned. It will very likely to provide a sub-par experience under strong sunlight.

However not all is bad in the Apple camp. Here’s why the device might become successful:

1) Color screen will provide good reading experience for picture rich books (comics), newspapers and magazines. eInk’s lack of color is not a virtue in itself but result of direВ necessity.

2) Touchscreen canВ enhance the reading experience when properly used. В I consider gestures-based page turns a useless toy, sinceВ ergonomically it’s much more optimal to press a simple button. But navigating table of contents, links etc as well as looking up dictionary definitions is much easier if all you need to do if poke the word with your finger.

3) iPhone applications and almost fully functional browser do add some value to the device (if you are willing to carry it around despite it’s weight and dimensions).

4) Apple products == COOL! This will be reason enough for at least some people. It is possible though not likely that Apple will actually launch “I’m an iPad and I’m a Kindle” ad campaign that might prove successful.

So in short term my predictions for iPad are not great especially in the eBook niche. However I considered 1st generation iPhone to be a joke when it came out. Only after a year when app store was introduced, 3G was added along with at least partial Microsoft Exchange support the ugly duckling was transformed into a swan. The same might happen with iPad but it will not be soon.

Amazon has already introduced 70% commission to publishers and self-publishing authors (although with some strings attached) as the result of increasing competition. It’s likely that we’ll see Kindle DX price drop some time soon to make it more competitive against new rivals. Also it’s quite possible that by the time first iPads will start shipping in March, we’ll see first Kindle Apps become available that will make the entire Kindle product line more competitive.

I promise to get some hands-on time with the iPad as soon as it will become available and share the experience here.

Mirasol Hands On Impresses

Qualcomm's Mirasol Demo device at CES 2010, click for video [credit: Clayton morris]The eInk display technology (the same one that is used on Kindle screens) has a new rival. Far more than LG’s micro foil technology that is used by Hearst, Qualcomm’s Mirasol display technology is threatening to overtake eInk by the end of this year. Mirasol, as we reported earlier, is a new display technology that is being developed by a team of researchers under the banner of Qualcomm — their primary sponsor. The main advantage of this technology is that it has the capability of producing RGB pixels. That means full color displays. And it doesn’t stop there either.

Mirasol can also display video and decent frame rates and according to those who saw the demo at CES 2010 — it is a very promising new technology. Because even though the screen is doing full color video, the developers claim that it has a 6x battery advantage over eInk under average eInk usage. The overlaying of a capacitive touchscreen allows the screen to become touch enabled but reduces the display’s sharpness slightly. Still, it is supposed to be capable enough to take over the eInk displays. To give you an estimate – if your eInk display device lasts one full day on a single charge, the same device will last for 6 days on the same single charge and battery if it uses a Mirasol display. Of course, this is all theoretically speaking but the real world value is still likely to be quite high.

Mirasol can easily be read under direct sunlight like the eInk screens and it can also be evenly backlit for dark situations – something that the eInk screens are not equipped for. Mirasol is likely to hit by the end of 2010 and the first screens will be around 5.7 in size — enough for medium sized eBook readers and may be even tablet devices. Watch the video for a look at what it looks like.

Interead Adds Two More COOL-ER Readers

Cool-er compact at ces 2010, courtesy: electricpig.co.ukInteread has released new Cool-er models at CES in the hopes of finally being able to  defeat the Kindle in its own game. While that might be just a pipe dream for this spiffy little start up (without things to match the Whispernet and the International Kindle), they sure are stepping things up in their bid to provide everyone and their brother with eBook readers. Their objective is simple — to make eBook readers for the masses, to become the ‘iPod’ of eBook readers. Whilst I would not usually say that aspiring to achieve the success and ubiquity of another company’s product is a worthwhile dream, I think we can let ‘em have it as long as it is the market changing iPod series.

They already had an iPod-like reader (much bigger in size thankfully), called the Cool-er. It received some mixed reactions from reviewers and was judged to be overall a worthwhile product for the price (which was lower than the average eBook reader). Now, at CES 2010, they have revealed two new models that extend the Cool-er line of readers to 3 models. The existing Cool-er is to get a 3G update and we now have a new model called the Cool-er compact. The Compact is a slim-little 6″ device that really focusses on being sleek and stylish. The iPod-inspired track wheel has been moved to the center and is flanked by two soft buttons. These three are the only embellishments on the face, which gives the reader nice and clean look. It has 2GB onboard storage and has an SD card slot for expansion. At just 10mm in thickness. this is supposed to be the eBook reader with the smallest footprint of all!

Another model that is supposed to come out is the Cool-er Connect. It will be a touchscreen version of the device that will have WiFi onboard with over the air downloads at hotspots all over the country.

Skiff Reader Debuts As The Largest As Well As The Thinnest eReader Ever

Skiff reader by hearst with LG micro foil displaySkiff is the result of the efforts put in by Hearst and it was previewed at this year’s CES. Skiff is an eBook reader like no other. It uses LG’s Micro Foil display technology that allows the device to be the largest and yet the thinnest eBook reader in existence. It is so thin that there’s a press photo of ir being bent and it look just like a piece of plastic being bent. But make no mistake about its features because it is pretty well packed and some people are saying that is looks better than even the Kindle DX.

It comes with both WiFi and 3G, the latter of which is brought to you by Sprint. The device is optimized for large format print publications like newspaper and magazines. It will have an undisclosed number of tie ups with various content providers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, as seen in the image on the right. The reader is supposed to enable the distribution and viewing of print media content in rich visual styles including rich layouts and detailed letter faces along with dynamic updates to the device itself. They are probably referring to the availability of 3G on the device and pushing content over the air. It remains to be seen whether the 3G connection is baked into the price of the product like the International Kindle.

skiff reader by hearst using Lg micro foil display

The Skiff eBook reader will integrate with the Skiff e-reader service, which is the equivalent of the Whispernet on the Kindle. But instead of mainly books, think mostly periodicals that you have to subscribe to. The people behind the Skiff are hopeful that this device will help the industry turn around and make some money from subscriptions which are flagging. And the Skiff’s gorgeous and sleek looks are going to come in real handy in those efforts.

LiquaVista’s e-Paper Displays Come In Monochrome And Color

Credit: LiquavistaIf there’s one thing that has always been the complaint against e-book readers — it is the lack of color and also video in some cases. Of course, the counter argument was that it was a fair trade off for saving your retinas and achieving a paper like display on an electronic medium. It made the eBook readers like Kindle what they are today. But of course, we want everything!

Hence , the logical next step in display technology was to make a display with all the advantages of e-Ink screens that could also display full RGB color and may be even video. Thinking along these lines are multiple teams and they all have their own approach towards the problem. We have already seen the Qualcomm backed Mirasol project and then there was the Pixel Qi screen that made news at CES 2010. It seems like another project that is working on a different solution to the same problem got overlooked.

It started as a Philips project but then went independent. They promised a product in 2009 but went awfully quiet after that. But now they are showing off their displays and products are apparently in the pipeline. The technology that they are using is called Electrowetting, according to the website and from the way it reads, it seems like a modification and improvement on top of the LCD technology. It has the low power consumption that is expected from this class of displays and it also has video rendering capabilities.

They seem to have three versions of this display – LiquavistaBright, LiquavisaColor and LiquavistaVivid. You can read more about each variety over at their website. Over all, they say that it can be manufactured with existing procedures and it is also very scalable.

They have demos on their website from CES 2010 and they look pretty good. However, I will only believe their claims when I see the first product line and its average price tag.

SpringDesign Alex Gets Hands On Time At CES 2010

SpringDesign wasn’t ready for a public show and tell when the Nook was announced. But due to the similarity between the two devices (and according to the Spring Design it is not coincidence), SpringDesign had to stick their neck out with an unfinished prototype. Now they finally have a finished version that can be played with and Pocket-lint got in some hands on time with it at this year’s CES. Of course, we all know that the CES 2010 almost had an entire section for eBook readers, there were just so many of them. Looks like everyone wants a piece of the Kindle pie! Apple included, if the rumors are anything to go by.

Coming back to the Alex, the first impression of the device is definitely its sleek looks. Looking at it in the profile really makes you appreciate how slim it is. Then you notice the LCD touchscreen. On the Nook, the secondary LCD touchscreen is barely a strip and is strictly meant for navigation. So to me it is more like a gimmick — watch your book covers in full color before beaming them up to the e-paper display. But on the Alex it is more like an iPhone sized screen. And with Android running in the background, it does have some exciting possibilities.

One thing that the Nook obviously has over the Alex is the massive support of the Barnes & Noble catalogue. With devices like this, at least at this moment, content can really make or break devices. The Nook would not have sold half as many units had it not been for the content that comes tied in with it. With that in mind, Alex’s $399 price tag sure sounds pricey compared to the Kindle and others. But given the extra functionality (almost everything Android does minus the GSM/CDMA bits) on a larger screen and a possible cut in prices when it goes into production, might see it catch on.

Kindle SDK (KDK) to be available next month

Well. Once more I have to eat my own words… Some time ago I wrote about why Kindle SDK wasn’t a likely thing and today Amazon announced it’s availability. Amazon must have been holding it up in it’s sleeve for quite some time. I believe that bringing all Kindle software to version 2.3 was made in preparation to the SDK announcement. With Amazon’s motto in everything being ease and simplicity I don’t think they would have expected software developers to support apps that should have ran on 3 different versions of the OS.

At the moment little is known about the SDK:

  • I believe that apps will be Java-based like the rest of the Kindle UI.
  • Apps are going to be either free, purchase once or monthly subscription based.
  • Data usage would be limited based on the purchase and subscription price.
  • Limited location services based on cell towers are likely to be available to KDK should user give their consent.

I hope to get on board the KDK during the Beta or shortly thereafter.

Personally I think that Kindle SDK is going to the a success. There is a definite demand for simple things like Folders, interactive Suduku, crossword puzzles, weather, location based search etc. While Kindle browser does work for a lot of websites, it’s slow and cumbersome. Small faster specialized Java app would be much better. But most importantly it looks like these apps will not take away from the reading experience which Kindle’s main selling point.

The rationale is that since people use Kindle for reading and are likely to carry it around anyway, why not use it for other tasks as well, without taking away from the main function? That’s why smartphones succeeded where PDAs failed.

What Kindle apps would you like to see?

Kindle Now Open To Non-US Authors

090506-new-kindle-8a.widecIn welcome move, Amazon has decided to open up the Kindle platform to authors who are situated outside the US. So now authors from all over the world can sell their works on the various Kindles. This ensures a win-win situation for everyone involved — Amazon, Kindle users and the authors/publishers.

A lot of good literature gets published outside in the US. In fact, if you look at popular fiction genres, you will see that many of the world best sellers come from outside the US. I mention works of fiction mainly because those are the ones that sell the most. And with those facts in mind, it is easy to see why this would benefit Amazon. Amazon has really ushered the era of eBooks by making the Kindle and tying it up with the Whispernet platform. With this new move, they ensure that there is a steady supply of fresh material that is much greater in number than their current competitors. The great diversity that the Kindle Store will gain as a result of this will be really good for Amazon’s business.

For the average user, this means more choices and that is always a good thing. Plus it will also mean that you can finally carry your favorite non-US author on your Kindle, in addition to having the printed editions. With better choices and more diversity, you will probably end up buying even more books on your Kindle and less from physical bookstores. And that is exactly what Amazon wants.

As for the Authors, this basically means a new market has opened up to them. Book sales have been down for a long time now and they have been getting worse. But eBooks are gaining momentum by keeping the print media relevant. So many of them will undoubtedly see the great opportunity that it is for them and jump right in.

FB2 to PDF Conversion

I was recently looking around for an easy way to open FB2 eBooks on one of my Kindle. I’ve tried some FB2 to Mobipocket converter in the past and it failed miserably so I gave up on the idea for a while. Recently I gave it another try. This time around I’ve tried to convert FB2 files to PDF. I’ve stumbled upon a marvelous web-service – http://fb2pdf.com/ – it does what it’s name implies. You upload FB2 file and download PDF. The service can even save you a roundtrip and download FB2 files directly from websites like http://lib.rus.ec/. When converting you can specify target device: Kindle 2, DX, Sony, etc so the resulting PDF is optimized for a particular screen size. I couldn’t me happier!

Tablets Threaten To Devour eBook Readers

The Entourage Edge Dualbook

The Entourage Edge Dualbook

I finally decided to address the elephant in the room and write about the tablets that are about to burst forth on to the scene. There has been a lot of talk about whether the tablets are going to kill off the eBook readers and my answer is both yes and no. Yes, I know that’s always and annoying answer to give but that’s the way life works.

To further explain, it will interest the readers of this blog that I don’t the Kindle is in any kind of danger at the moment even if Apple really launches a tablet device this month complete with a full range of content on iTunes. Here’s why.

The Kindle started this whole eBook reader thing, even though it wasn’t the first one at the scene. Amazon hit it on the head with the Whispernet. Then, the Kindle went international, giving Amazon much greater market penetration. It is also a device that has gone through more than one product cycle and that means it is better tuned and more in sync with the demands of the market. This is not true for almost all other readers in the market.

That is why they are easy victims for the tablets to pick off. Tablets will be multimedia devices and hence much more attractive at the onset. They will have full color and everything that a portable computer does today. But they will still lack the paper like display that is easy on the eye and lasts for days on end. The two most important things that made the eBook readers click.

Still, these hurdles will slowly be overcome and we might see a tablet Kindle in the future because convergence  is where we are headed and Amazon will surely upgrade the Kindle to counter this threat. So overall, I think it will basically be the survival of the fittest, just like it always has been in a free market economy.

Thought-provoking Kindle Photo

It kind of happened by itself… So I grabbed my camera and captured the moment…

Thought-proviking Kindle Photo

Thought-proviking Kindle Photo

Nook Gets Updated To 1.1

nook-ebook-readerThe Banes and Noble Nook eBook reader got updated just before Christmas. So those lucky(?) souls who got theirs delivered before or around that time were able to update their Nook for a comparatively nicer time reading eBooks on their new eBook reader on Christmas. But has the update made the Nook into a killer product, the answer sadly is a no. It still has some time to go before it can threaten established players like the Kindle.

In fact, even according to some official words form B&N this wasn’t anything major. They were simply testing things out with their very first over-the-air update for the Nook. Other than allowing a “seamless” access to the   B&N store providing exclusive content for the Nook, it also improves on the core speed and performance. That basically means it fixes the things that were slowing the Nook down noticeably. This should also cut down on the number of complaints that we were getting to hear about the Nook.

The Nook was already overbooked and supply was low much before Christmas. So most people who wanted to buy and/or gift eBook readers went for the Kindle or the Sony Readers. So the holidays have not made Nook the overnight sensation that some thought it would become. However, do not get me wrong on this count. The Nook is actually a very promising device and if B&N can play it right they are in for really good business. The Nook’s secondary color touchscreen might make more of a difference than originally expected. Plus, the Android factor also works to make it a very powerful device that is also flexible enough to accept radical new features that weren’t thought of before. So hopefully we will see this morph into a really good eBook reader that is different from all the rest.

International Kindle DX ships on January 19th

Amazon Kindle DX

Amazon Kindle DX

Right after international Kindle 2 was shipped there were some speculations about international version of Kindle DX shipping sometime in 2010. Well… There is no need to speculate anymore. Amazon has just announced international availability of its 9.7″ eBook Reader. International Kindle DX is available for pre-order right now and will ship on the 19th of January 2010 worldwide.

There doesn’t seem to be any changes to the software as compared to the US version. Kindle DX will most likely get software version 2.3 that is now standard for the entire line-up of Amazon eInk readers. Since it now runs on GSM 3G wireless rather than CDMA it benefits from the latest software update that extended battery life with wireless on to roughly a week.

Last time I’ve checked international Kindle book availability, most countries has 320,000+ books available, while US customers can choose from 404,000+ books.

Most likely new Kindle will have new hardware ID (first 4 symbols in the serial number) so all hacks, including the Unicode Font hack will need to be repackaged specifically for the new version.

Pixel Qi Hybrid Display Finds Its First Device

Notion Ink's Adam tablet device

Notion Ink's Adam tablet device

The eInk-LCD hybrid display screen from Pixel Qi will be on display at the upcoming CES event and everyone’s really interested to see it in person. But before it goes up on display, many units of it would probably have been shipped to India for use on a new tablet device called Adam.

Pixel Qi’s hybrid screen gives us what we have been wanting for some time now — the battery life of an eInk display (the one used on the Kindle and other ebook readers) and the usability of an LCD screen. And it gives us the advantages of both in the most literal way possible by combining the two. I my opinion it doesn’t exactly solve everything because it doesn’t look as good as an LCD screen and probably isn’t as easy to read under direct sunlight. But it is still a usable compromise.

So this tablet device called Adam, is currently being developed by an Indian company called Notion Ink. This is most likely the only such start up from that entire continent to have shown up on the radar of the international tech community. While the tablet device is not meant to be only an eBook reader, it is certainly going to capable of doing that. It is basically a Tegra based smartpad that will be targeted at low-cost computing on the go for the Indian masses.

But it is actually very relevant for the eBook reader market because it will become the first device to demonstrate in a rigorous real life scenario whether or not the display technology will hold. The eBook market is pretty demanding when it comes to battery life and readability. They have been spoiled on the eInk and even thought it has pathetically slow frame rates, the extremely low power consumption and the high degree of readability has made it quite popular. But backlight is missing, so is color and video. So newer technology is immediately required.