Amazon’s Kindle satisfies preferences identified by e-book readers in the United States, based on a recent survey released by Strategy Analytics. The survey reported that current e-book readers report a high level of satisfaction with their devices, and prefer e-books to physical or “dead tree” books. It also reported that e-book readers are looking for three things in their devices: ease of access to books, ease of content transfer, and newspaper and magazine availability. With more than 400,000 titles available to purchase and increased access to free content through services such as Scribd, Amazon offers superior content availability. In addition, Kindle has 107 newspapers and 50 magazines available for subscription, including most of the major US and international periodicals. Both the Kindle and Kindle DX can access Amazon’s bookstore with 60 second downloads.
The one unknown factor is the strength of Apple’s brand recognition. With its strong marketing strategy, buildin up hype prior to this month’s release of the iPad, Apple is betting on brand recognition to tip the balance in its favor. While the survey reported that Apple ran a close second in terms of preferred brand, it also said content will still trump name recognition.
“While brand name is still an important factor for current owners when choosing their next e-book reader,” commented Chris Schreiner, Senior Analyst at Strategy Analytics. “Consumers buying their first e-book reader will focus more on the durability and availability of e-books.”
Strategy Analytics is an international research and consulting firm that specializes in the information, communication and entertainment industries.
Amidst the price wars of content between Amazon and Apple, Scribd, the giant content sharing site, has launched a program to make its 10 million books, articles and documents compatible with the full spectrum of readers and mobile devices. Once considered to be the “YouTube” of document services, Scribd has become a hub for authors who can’t afford to self publish, and a social network for readers of similar interests. The site is currently home to more than 200,000 books, and is growing by about 10 percent a month.
CEO Tripp Adler describes a two pronged “mobile deployment” program. The first part of the attack is to make Scribd books compatible with Amazon’s Kindle and other mobile reading devices. Currently, Kindle owners can download from Scribd by using the wireless connection. Amazon charges 15 cents per megabyte for the transfer. This month, Scribd will release software that can be embedded into devices to give users “two click” access to its catalog. The second part of the program is an assortment of device specific applications that will allow smartphones to store the books on the phone’s hard drive.
Even though Amazon and Apple might not welcome all that free content to compete with their not-so-free offerings, Scribd has found a way to get around their approval. And they’ve done it by cutting software syncing tools and extra computers.
The transition to electronic textbooks, once thought to the next big boon for publishers, is meeting with surprising resistance among students and professors. Studies conducted on the Kindle DX at business schools across the country showed an overwhelming–90%–support of the ereader by students for casual reading. However only the tech savvy “power users” embraced the device for academic work. Many students and their professors, used to highlighting text and making notes in the margins, were unable or unwilling to use Kindle DX’s annotation functions. But they may be forced to catch up.
With their relative low cost, electronic textbooks are an inevitable part of higher education’s future. Not withstanding the initial purchase price, the cost storing and maintaining electronic books is less than half that of paper books. Campus librarians have already foreseen the death of the traditional library. Rather than a storehouse for large numbers of paper volumes, the library of the not-too-distant future will be place for students to use their laptops to access the college’s digital collections.
Technology aside, there are immediate benefits that are impossible to overlook. It’s easier to haul a Kindle than the hundreds of pounds of books and study materials it replaces. Even considering the initial cost of the device, it can save money on text book costs. And it’s greener on the environment, an important consideration for academics. Lev Gonick, vice president of information technology services at Case Western Reserve, likened the resistance to ebooks to that seen with any new technology. College students, recognized for their trend setting nature, will soon become converts.
Kindle’s market is stretching beyond the casual reader to research and academics. As proof, PhysOrg.com, the leading web-based science, research and technology news service, just announced it is giving its subscribers a way to keep up with news on their Kindle e-readers. The service will offer Kindle users two options for news feeds. The first, “Spotlight News”, will feature the top 40 or so stories of the day fed directly to the subscriber’s Kindle. Those readers who want more specialized news, can choose one of five channel feeds that provide all the stories in one of the following subject areas: Space and Earth, Technology and Electronics, Biology and Chemistry, Physics and Nanotechnology or Medicine and Health.
Since it was launched in 2004, PhysOrg.com has has grown to include 1.75 million readers every month from the scientific, research and engineering community. The news service publishes about 100 articles every day, giving the world some of the most comprehensive coverage of science and technology developments available.
PhysOrg.com also has apps for news feeds and podcasts for the iPhone and any MP3 player. Each of the Kindle feed subscriptions cost $1.99 per month. For more information, go to PhysOrg on Amazon Kindle.
Amazon has a free application that will let Blackberry users buy and read books from directly from the bookseller’s website. Unlike Kindle’s app for the iPhone, the Blackberry application lets users purchase content seamlessly from Amazon as well as view the books already purchased for a Kindle. This could be Amazon’s way of thumbing its corporate nose at Apple for handicapping the Kindle iPhone app, making users go through the web browser rather than buy it directly through the application. In any event, Kindle for Blackberry is Amazon’s foray into the single-use device market.
It is certainly part of the company’s marketing strategy as the release of the iPad looms in the coming weeks. Many observers agree that Amazon with have to continue to brand its reader with its bookstore while simultaneously making content available to other platforms. Although that’s quite a tight rope to walk, Amazon has the one thing that Apple can’t easily get. That’s Amazon’s years of experience in both worlds.
As for the Blackberry application, it is designed to work with or without the Kindle. For Kindle users, the app will automatically synchronizes last page read and any annotations between devices. While Blackberry users will have access to Amazon’s 400,000 plus books, newspapers are not yet available through the app.
Freescale Semiconductor, whose processors are used in Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s readers, is ready to release a new chip that will help drive down the cost of readers, perhaps to as little as $150. The Austin, Texas based company says the chip could be ready in as little as six months.
Although sales of readers are expected to double this year, from the 4 million sold in 2009, that is still a mere fraction of the book-buying market. A lower-priced reader is one way to tap a larger chunk of the market. The ticket price of readers has been a barrier to wider consumer distribution.
According to Freescale officials, the new chip eliminates features that aren’t used in e readers while adding the ability to better control the unique E ink display technology. Currently the displays are controlled by separate chips. Freescale’s faster processor is controlled by a single chip, and will reduce page turning time from two seconds to less than a half second.
Apple’s iPad, set for release later this month, uses the company’s own chip and will not benefit from Freescale’s improved technology. With price tag as high as $699, news of price cutting by its competitors couldn’t come at a worse time. Price conscious consumers, already suffering from sticker shock on the iPad, may wait for lower priced Sony or Amazon readers. And the six-month release hits just in time for Christmas gift giving.
You may have noticed that as of recently I’ve posted less than usual here and in the new Kindle Apps blog. In fact it took a tsunami to get me to post something here. There is a good reason for that. As of recently I’ve got a new hobby – developing Kindle Apps with the KDK (Kindle SDK).
I would like to say that KDK turned out quite elegant and easy to develop with despite the fact that I’m new to Java development (I’ve mostly coded in C++ and C# in the past). I would love to share my experience but at the moment I’m unsure as to how much I can disclose as the SDK is still in closed beta. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some screenshots sometime soon.