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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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Can The Kindle Be The Future Of Newspapers?

While a great deal of effort has been put into supporting a supposed opposition between eReaders like the Kindle and traditional paper publications, there are some places where paper just wasn’t really cutting it even before the eReader came along.  Specifically, I’m thinking about newspapers.  It’s practically become a cliche to point out that most people get their news from the internet these days, when they aren’t just watching TV, because why wait until tomorrow to learn what’s happening today?  Deciding what needs to be done for traditional news vendors to stay relevant will probably be difficult, but it seems inevitable that things like the Kindle will play a large part.

Now, I can’t claim that this is a new thought, exactly.  The New York Times has found what appears to be one method for making the most of new technology.  Kindle subscribers, as well as Nook subscribers and anybody who wants to pay to get this benefit a la carte, can not only get their regular issues delivered but access the paper’s website in its entirety without any of the annoying restrictions that the average non-subscriber has to put up with.  While they have seen a decline in overall subscribers and ad revenue recently, the NYT reports a noticeable jump in Kindle subscribers.  There would seem to be other options, though.  There practically have to be since not every paper can leverage the kind of reputation that the NYT brings to the market.

My favorite theoretical idea, which I admittedly have no idea as to the practicality of, is inspired by the Barnes & Noble in store Nook experience.  Location based subscriptions that allow access to a publication or collection of publications, especially local ones, while on the premises.  It offers the same sort of benefits to the business doing the subscribing that having paper copies on hand would, which is not uncommon in coffee shops, libraries, etc, but without the bulk, waste, opportunity for damage, or potentially outdated news.  Just bring your Kindle or Nook in and read your paper over a drink.

Ideas aside, since as I mentioned I can’t really judge the practicality of the many approaches that are available, one of the biggest issues will probably be a change in mindset.  Newspapers are traditionally reliant on their advertising revenue.  On something like a Kindle, you don’t have nearly as much space for that, even if you have an eReader-specific edition of your paper.  The native web browser even offers an impressively effective Article Mode that will remove them from anything a reader happens to be looking through on a paper’s website.  It isn’t like this is unique, given ad blocking extensions available for pretty much every web browser on the market.  About the only place that people are forced to look at ads when they don’t want to anymore is on paper.  It is a complicated problem, but the Kindle offers more potential than most options.  Something like the WOWIO eBook advertisement wrapping around a daily package of news delivery might just do the trick?

Considering An Extreme Possibility Of Kindle Book Lending

At this point we know that the Kindle as a physical purchase is not where Amazon is looking to make their money.  If anything, the fact that they have gone to ad support indicates that there has been a need to get inventive to further reduce prices while not actually losing money on every sale.  Knowing this, we have to assume that the big focus will always be on selling the most content.  With an emphasis on renting, lending, and sharing eBooks lately, though, is this a genuinely achievable goal?

Right now we are hearing about the fact that Overdrive will soon be bringing Kindle compatible library books.  Definitely a selling point for Amazon, since up until now it has been a major complaint against the platform.  We also now have textbook rentals that can save renters as much as 80% over the purchase price of the book.  Between the two options, I’m seeing a theme forming and looking to other media rental business models that seem like they have a real chance of finding their way to the Kindle.

The obvious one would be the Audible.com approach.  Get users to subscribe for a monthly fee, perhaps as a means of getting a cheaper or free eReader, which locks them into picking out a certain number of eBooks to add to their library on a regular basis. Amazon has experience with this one and it would certainly work as a way to reduce eReader prices even beyond what the Kindle w/ Special Offers has been able to do.  I don’t think it will happen, though.  For something like this to work, Amazon would have to be able to provide value to subscribers beyond what they have control over with the current Agency Model pricing.  Lack of control means lack of options.

More likely, to me at least, is the Netflix model.  Picture spending $10 per month to access as many books as you want, so long as you only have one checked out at a time.  There would have to be some sort of artificially produced swap delay, of course, since otherwise subscribers could simply jump back and forth at will, but if the system only allowed a book to be checked out once per month or only allowed one change per day (which doesn’t seem unreasonable since the Kindle Store already generally provides sample chapters and this would only be for reading entire books) then it would work.  The profit would be available since most everybody has periods where their reading tapers off in spite of best intentions, and one would have to assume that an arrangement for multiple-use licenses would still be cheaper overall than per-user purchases.  If something like this could be managed in spite of the total control that publishers want over their distribution, it would be the next big thing for the Kindle. Admittedly, it is something of a divergence since reading has always had a certain element of collection attached to it for many people, but I think the opportunity to save the money would make all the difference.

Notable Kindle Special Offers

There are a few Kindle Special Offers out there that I thought were a really good deal, especially for Kindle book and accessory purchases.  Writing this makes me really wish I was a Kindle Special Offers owner!  Definitely on my list for the holiday season because I’m up for an upgrade.

Buy $20 worth of Kindle Skins and Save $15

This offer ends July 29, so not much time left.  Kindle Special Offers owners can purchase $20 worth of Kindle skins created by Amazon and save $15.  All of the skins are around $19.99, so basically you buy one, get another for $5.  There are some skins with some cool looking designs on them.  Dress your Kindle up a bit!

Use Visa and Get $10 Amazon Credit

Use a visa card on select Kindle books, and you get $10 in Amazon credit.  This offer ends on August 21.  There are a good number of bestsellers and big name authors such as Sara Gruen, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Connelly, and Suzanne Collins in the selection.

Save $10 when you spend $20 on Kindle Accessories

If you purchase $20 worth of Amazon’s Kindle accessories, you can get $10 back.  This offer expires August 19.  Looking for a cover or light for your Kindle?  Here’s your chance to save.  Amazon has a cool looking Kindle cover that also includes a light.  It comes in many different colors, and doesn’t suck up the Kindle battery too much.

All of these promotions are restricted to one code per Kindle Special Offers account.  I also noticed that not all KSO owners get the same codes.

In addition to the Kindle related deals, you’ll find offers on camping, beauty products, video games and smartphones.  So, there’s a good variety to choose from.


 

 

 

 

The Amazon Kindle’s International Future

At the moment, and in spite of some admittedly impressive competition, the Kindle is pretty much the biggest thing in eReading.  In a given review or opinion, another eReader might come out on top as the new Nook Simple Touch Reader has managed to do lately, but nothing else has managed the level of distribution and quality of content that Amazon has pulled off so far.  The margin isn’t all that it used to be, though.  In order to keep on top of things, they are going to have to do more than we have seen in the past couple months.  While it would not be entirely out of line to assume that the current focus on the upcoming Kindle Tablet might be drawing attention away from the existing product line, I think there may be more to it than that.

The Kindle, as it stands right now in terms of both the physical eReader and the platform as a whole, is limited in a number of ways.  The current level of control being exerted by publishers prevents any one-upsmanship in terms of pricing.  Amazon has some of the smaller names experimenting with sale offerings, but we have to assume that even if companies start buying into the idea of discounted eBooks it will not be a platform specific thing.  That avenue is closed for now.  They’re doing a rather good job of getting a lot of self publishing authors into their stores, which helps, but assume that at the moment there is not much that can be done to fix up the store as we know it.

The device itself is also pretty much at the peak of what we can hope for.  It has the best screen technology available, amazing battery life, whatever connectivity options you want, and a lot more.  About the only thing left to complain about is the physical keyboard.  I think this is the first place we can expect major change is here.  We know that one of the new Kindle options we can expect in October will be a touchscreen eReader.  Not only will this reduce the size of the Kindle without losing the functionality of the admittedly difficult to use keyboard and appease the crowd of people who really don’t like physical buttons anymore, it will allow true localization.  Hard to really pull that off when every device you sell has a built-in English keyboard.

This also brings up what I believe will be the next big stage in Kindle expansion.  Right now, while a hit in some places, the Kindle platform seems to only be dominating in the US.  Amazon has the experience and resources to spread out a bit.  I would anticipate, following the release of the Kindle Touch and the first generation of the Kindle Tablet (and, of course, the initial patching stage to iron out the bugs), a big effort to get the Kindle out to any market that Amazon thinks is large enough to be worth tackling.  Possibly even before localized firmware is a reality, but with a promise of fully integrated language selection as a later option.  There isn’t any reason to hold back now, and stagnation would lose them the edge.  Amazon has to keep moving and this is the only way that really makes sense as far as eBooks go.

Yes, Harry Potter Is Coming To The Kindle

In recent blogs and reports, a rumor has sprung up that the Harry Potter series being sold through the author’s soon to be opened ‘Pottermore” site will not include direct Kindle compatibility.  As should probably be fairly obvious, this is quite definitely not true.  The popularity of the rumor was such that Amazon even came forward and announced that the popular children’s books will find their way over.

The origin of the whole ruckus seems to have been an article about the Pottermore site teaming up with Google Books.  Probably just a matter of hopeful thinking on Google fans, I would imagine.  The post mentions efforts being made to integrate Pottermore and Google Books, including an agreement wherein Google Checkout is the preferred third party payment platform for the new site.  The phrasing is very positive for Google, which is to be expected on the official Google Books blog.  The only definite claims we have, however, are that there will be sufficient integration to allow buyers to push their new Harry Potter books out into your Google Books “library in the cloud” and that Google Checkout will be available.  No exclusivity is implied, whether it be in terms of eBook platform, payment platform, or anything else.

One of the more interesting spinoffs from that somewhat overblown topic is the idea that the Harry Potter series will in some way be used to force Amazon into adding EPUB compatibility for the Kindle line.  While there has been no official word on this, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there’s not a chance it will happen.  For one, Rowling is maintaining complete control over her products and has not, to the best of my knowledge, ever expressed a strong inclination to advocate for her favorite file format.  Why would she?  Also, it would make little sense to alienate Amazon in any way give that they currently have the largest customer base in the eReading world.  Given that the Kindle can already read DRM-free MobiPocket eBooks, there is no reason that I can think of for the Pottermore site to try to force the EPUB issue.  What business would want to lose money by failing to spend a minute or less converting a file from one format to another?

When October rolls around, I would anticipate that it will be as easy for a Kindle user to get their new Harry Potter stuff as it will be for anybody else, even if Amazon is being fairly quiet about their integration efforts right now.  The new eBooks should be available in every format still used today, and quite possibly some truly obsolete ones.  Since there will be no DRM included in the files, even if your favorite is not represented there are always programs like Calibre.  Let’s face it, though, unless you are still using the Sony BBeB out of personal preference or something, there is little chance of being overlooked.  The Pottermore site will be taking care of the fans.

A Case For Kindle Waterproofing

The demand for a Kindle Case that can stand up to the elements tends to be situational at best.  Sure, you want to be able to pull out that option should you be backpacking with your Kindle or taking it to the beach, but in general it really isn’t worth the extra bulk, weight, or ridiculous appearance that go along with the current waterproof options just to use them on a daily basis. Basically, right now for the sake of comfort we are forced to accept things that offer minimal protection in order to avoid ruining the reading experience.  The preferred option would, of course, be an unintrusive but completely safe case.  Lacking that, as we do at the moment, it can be useful to know where the most effective options are.

As far as casual use, the best compromise I’ve found for when you want something to use all the time that will also save you from spilled drinks and short unexpected rainfall is the M-Edge Leisure Jacket.  It is fairly affordable for a Kindle case at $34.99 but also provides a good amount of protection and doesn’t look ridiculous when you carry it around with you.  It isn’t perfect, by any means.  I would strongly recommend against dropping your Kindle in a bathtub with this one, and the screen protection results in a fair amount of glare.  If moisture is a minor concern, however, it is effective.

A more durable and heavily protected option is the new KlearKase for Kindle 3. Again, it is not going to provide much protection if you decide to store your Kindle in the swimming pool.  It does a lot more than the M-Edge option, though.  Their product video depicts some fairly impressive splash protection in unusual boating conditions, for example.  You also get ready access to all Kindle buttons and functions, unlike any other reliable waterproof case I’ve found so far.  It doesn’t look nice enough that I would want to carry this around constantly, but it’s some of the best functional protection you’re likely to find.  $49.99 is a bit much for a case, but if you need it then it is probably worth the investment.

The budget option, for those who don’t feel that a few hours on the beach is worth a $50 investment, is the TrendyDigital WaterGuard Case.  Think of it like a durable ziplock bag for your Kindle.  Mostly because it is.  While it is quite inexpensive at $15.99 and not particularly attractive, this is possibly the best of the waterproofing options.  I’ve seen them sit submerged without leaking for several minutes at a time.  Admittedly, however, this is the only protection they give you.  Even the worst of the normal case selections you’re likely to see would give you more fall damage insurance.  Still, it’s a great way to keep your Kindle dry.  Plus, and I know this will be the major selling point for most people, it has a strap so that you can hang your eReader from your neck!

Kindle Textbook Rental Service Not Really Meant For Kindle

In the early days of the Kindle, especially after the initial release of the Kindle DX, it was pretty clear that Amazon had high hopes of it being the biggest piece of portable electronics to hit college campuses since the graphing calculator.  Sadly, this didn’t work out quite how they had hoped.  The Kindle, especially the original Kindle but to an extent even now, was simply unsuited for optimal use in even its most obvious settings.

Of course a 7 inch black and white screen would work out poorly for displaying a chemistry textbook that uses full-color diagrams and often takes up approximately fifty square feet of desk space when opened, but when they couldn’t compete with cheap paperbacks in literature classes, it was time to consider backing off for a bit.  The Agency Model of eBook pricing just drove that ideal moment even further away by removing the element of student savings from the equation.

Now, they’re going back to school and taking a new approach to things.  Not an original approach, per se, but perhaps more effective than what came before.  Even now, the Kindle is perhaps not best suited for the college text, but the fact that the word Kindle appears in the program name might be a bit misleading in this case.  It is hard to see any indication that the Kindle eReader is meant to be an important part of the new program.

Electronic book lending is becoming a big thing on college campuses already.  It makes a lot of sense compared to physical book rentals since the provider isn’t left with stacks of last year’s editions when the release cycle rolls out a new, marginally updated text.  Companies like Chegg and CourseSmart have made names for themselves in this area, though Chegg still seems concentrated on the physical rental option.  Renting saves students money, decreases production/transportation/storage overhead, and has the potential to become the next big thing on campuses.  Of course Amazon would want to get in on this.

Now, you can rent a textbook (assuming the publisher has chosen to make it rentable) for anywhere from 30 to 180 days and save significantly over the purchase price.  The selection isn’t strong yet, but it seems to be growing and the savings can be as much as 80%.  Very few of these books will be worth picking up to read on your Kindle, however.  All of the old objections to textbook reading on a small black and white screen still apply.  That does not make this a silly move for Amazon so much as a possibly mislabeled effort.

When people think of the Kindle Store, they generally associate it with the Kindle.  This makes sense.  In the case of textbooks, however, the target audience is the Kindle App user.  Be it on a PC, Mac, or iPad, a textbook is just going to be more useful on a larger color display.  While I am personally seeing just about everything Amazon does lately as a move to get ready for the upcoming Kindle Tablet, and this would certainly help, even without that they have a solid customer base and freely available software that pretty much everybody knows about.  If they can just find a way to point out to people that the value of the program is not connected to its integration with their Kindle, it could be a huge thing in months to come.

Huge Kindle Book Sale!

Check out the Amazon Big Deal sale going on until July 27.  There are over 900 Kindle books available for .99-3.99.  Big name publishers including HarperCollins and Random House are in on the sale.

The Big Deal Bestseller list includes a mix of classics, childhood favorites, mystery, religion, and romance.

One book in particular that I was excited to see on the list is Jim Stovall’s The Ultimate Gift and its sequel, The Ultimate Life.  They are quick, yet profound reads.  A wealthy tycoon leaves his grandson a series of tasks to perform that represent 12 gifts.  The gifts include important life’s treasures such as family, work, money, love, and more.  It is amazing to see the profound impact that each gift has on the grandson and his personality.  A heartwarming tale fit for all ages.  The Ultimate Gift was made into a movie starring well known actor James Garner.

Another is Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.  Jess and Leslie escape to the fairy tale land of Terabithia where they reign as king and queen.  The only way to Terabithia is by swinging across the river.  It provides solace from bullying and ridicule at school.  Then tragedy strikes, and the two dear friends are torn apart forever.  This was one of my favorite books from middle school.

Then you’ll find some old familiar classics Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.  You either love or hate Faulkner.  In addition to the classics, there are some interesting modern counterparts: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Wuthering Heights, the Wild and Wanton EditionPride and Prejudice and Zombies is on top of the bestseller list, but that is fitting considering the popularity of vampires and zombies lately.

Bestselling author Karen Kingsbury has several books on the list.  Her book, Unlocked, is about a boy with autism and his reconnection with his long lost special childhood friend.  My favorite aspect of this book is that it provides some of the dialogue from the autistic boy’s point of view.  A diverse perspective.

Take this opportunity to get to know lesser known authors.  I’ve found a lot of good Kindle books through the free and reduced price collections.  And, of course, great beach and poolside reading!

 

 

Amazon Kindle Textbook Rental Program

In college, I was always grateful to be an English major because my books were pretty small and relatively inexpensive, but I had plenty of friends who lugged around huge, expensive science or math textbooks around everywhere.  Come to think of it, the Kindle edition of many of the classics I read in my English classes are free.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has introduced its new Kindle Textbook Rental Program.  Amazon has been offering new and used print editions of textbooks for awhile. What a great use for the Kindle DX, especially since it has a bigger screen.  There has been some push for use of the Kindle DX in education in recent years, but it hasn’t really taken off. But, regardless of whether you download your textbook to your Kindle, Kindle DX, iPad, computer, smartphone, etc, you’ll save a lot of money and backache.

With device choices, you get more customizable fonts and color contrasts.  Often, print textbooks are in small print, making it harder to see.  You can also annotate or highlight without damaging the book and decreasing its value.

You can either buy the textbook or rent it for specified length of time between 30 and 360 days.  Kindle editions are much cheaper.  Amazon claims that the Kindle versions are up to 80% less than the print versions. Something I’d like to see if the ability to sell “used” Kindle textbooks to others like you can do with print editions.

You’ll find subjects all across the board: from business and accounting to history and literature.  There are also test prep guides and computer software manuals.  Looks like a great collection to start with, and more are constantly added.

So, hopefully the combination of cheaper Kindles, cheaper textbooks, and lighter backpacks will take the financial and physical burden off students.

 

 

iRiver Story HD Provides Not-Too-Unique Kindle Competition Powered By Google

Every few weeks seem to hear something about a new eReader or Tablet PC that is destined to be a “Kindle Killer”.  So far, no luck on that.  When it comes to the iRiver Story HD, I don’t think anybody is likely to think of making that claim in the first place.  That doesn’t in any way mean that it is a device without its virtues, worth taking a look at as a sign of future potential if perhaps little else.

Aesthetically, the Story HD looks like a cheap Kindle knockoff.  In practice, it still rather feels that way.  The Story HD has a cream front with a rather bland brown backing on it, but other than that, as pictured, the similarities are hard to ignore.  Sadly, this does not translate to a superior reading experience.

The feel of the device is a bit cheap, even without taking the dated color scheme into account.  The layout of the buttons is a bit strange, with there being no page turn buttons alongside the display like we are used to seeing in an eReader.  Even the directional control lacks a central button to select what you are pointing at.  Instead, you are expected to switch to the ‘Enter’ button.  On top of this, the QWERTY keyboard as a whole simply feels cheap and unusable.  Not huge inconveniences taken by themselves, but the accumulation gets a little bit much.

The major saving grace, although not an unqualified success in itself, is the display. It is a significantly higher resolution than the competition(768×1024), and is the first such E INK eReader display to make its way to the US.  Text is more detailed and you can fit more on the screen at once, should you be so inclined.  It just genuinely looks good, for the most part.  Unfortunately, that is not quite enough to make the reading experience a good once.  You are given no font choice, no margin or line spacing choice, and the contrast seems poor.  The font choice isn’t too big a deal, to me at least, but the default margin that you’re stuck with is basically non-existent and smaller fonts don’t stand out enough compared to the competition.  Maybe this is attributable to the light color of the frame, which others like the Kindle have been moving away from, but I didn’t have a white Kindle on hand to compare with.

An important thing to remember when looking at the Story HD is that this is not, properly speaking, a Google product and should not be viewed as such.  You can get an idea what an implementation of the Google Bookstore is like on an eReader from using it, but this is just the first Google compatible eReader.  If you get a chance to check it out, it is important to try to separate the problems with the hardware from the potential in the open platform.  While I can’t say that I would recommend picking up the iRiver Story HD over something like a Nook or Kindle, the fact that Google has found its way to physical eReading devices rather than simply offering apps has the potential to finally make it a major contender.

Sony Planning August Reader Release To Compete With Amazon Kindle

Long before the Kindle had a firm grasp on the eBook market, and even before the term eReader had much meaning in the minds of the public, Sony had started up their line of Sony Readers.  They were the first company that not only did the job, but did it well.  In time, unfortunately, they seemed to fall behind.  Too many other consumer choices and an ongoing failure to present competitive prices have led to the whole product line struggling to expand its business.

Recent information reveals, however, that Sony is definitely not at the point of giving up just yet.  A Bloomberg report provided indications that Sony will be upgrading its current line with both hardware and software improvements, probably before the end of August.  There are no indications at this time to indicate that price drops will be accompanying the upgrades, but it can be assumed that if there are any, they will be small.  The upcoming release of the new Sony S1 and S2 Tablet PCs will be intended to target “a more status-minded customer”, according to a recent CNN report, and it is likely that they will similarly weigh the prestige of owning a Sony Reader as a more important factor than matching the price of the increasingly inexpensive Amazon Kindle.

Both eReader and Tablet ownership continue to rise and are expected to continue doing so through the immediate future, but it remains to be seem whether or not Sony can grab a piece of this momentum.  There will likely be two major factors contributing to their success or failure.

The biggest thing that they have working against them, aside from unit price, is their eBook store.  Unlike the Kindle and Nook, each of which is coupled with a truly impressive selection of titles available for purchase, the Sony Reader Store has not developed an impressive following.  The selection has gotten better over the years and, thanks to the Agency Model of eBook pricing, nobody has a significant advantage over them when it comes to prices.  Nothing has made their store particularly unique, however, and without some sort of reason for it to stand out, the Reader Store is just another random eBook store among many in the eyes of the potential customer.

On the other hand, the hardware will likely be a major advantage.  Say what you will about the Reader line, Sony has proven willing to experiment and innovate.  They not only essentially started the eReader business as we know it, they made many of the mistakes and some of the successes that have made eReaders into what we know and love today.  The first touchscreen eReader was a Sony, I believe, even if they didn’t pull it off quite right.  Their early PRS-505 model was impressive enough that a reasonably cheap copy of it with a more modern display would immediately be a step up from many of the recent options we’ve seen, even years after it became officially obsolete.

It will be interesting to see if there are any really significant updates in the latest batch.  The Kindle Competition has been great lately and it’s nice to see some truly superior options make their way to the top.  I’ve always loved my Sony Readers.  A comeback at this point is more than welcome.

German Kobo Launch Seems Aimed At International Kindle Presence

Earlier this year, in April, Amazon launched a localized German Kindle Store with over 650,000 titles and around 25,000 German language offerings.  Overall, at least for the time, a strong offering.  In addition to this, Amazon opened up Kindle Direct Publishing for the Amazon.de site, and made sure that Direct Publishing submissions to the original Kindle Store would already be in the German store, assuming rights were available to make this possible.  Now, three months later, competition is becoming a bit more heated and this might not be enough to stay appealing to the broader audience on its own.

The Canada based Kobo eBook store will now be available to the German audience.  At launch, they have managed a reported 2.4 million eBooks and over 80,000 German language titles.  That’s a lot of books.  Along with the store launch, there are also German language Kobo eReader apps for the iPhone, iPad, basically anything with an ‘i’ in front of it, and Android.  A Playbook app is on the way.  There will even be a German version of the Kobo eReader itself released in August.  Now, the Kobo business model has always been aimed at a broad international presence.  They emphasize open systems, EPUB distribution, and the primacy of the reading experience.  Even the Kobo eReader seemed tacked on as almost an afterthought.  So far, however, they haven’t really hit the big time.

The main problem that they are running into, I think, is their lack of hardware emphasis.  Not as a means of profit, of course, but as a way to provide a physical presence to their customers.  We know that Amazon isn’t exactly making loads off of individual Kindle sales, but by providing something better than a PC or cell phone for their customers to read on, they gain customer loyalty.  If you’re stuck using a phone for your eBooks anyway, it doesn’t matter in practice who you buy from since the apps are all free anyway.

The new Kobo eReader suffered something of a setback when its otherwise impressive upgrades from the original Kobo were completely overshadowed by the superior experience and competitive pricing of the new Nook Simple Touch eReader.  By comparison, it’s just a better product.  So Kobo is given that much more incentive to push their international pursuits since the Kindle presence is limited and the Nook is non-existent.  In untouched or underrepresented eBook markets, the Kobo store can stand on its own merits and try to build up a hardware independent following, at least in theory.

The one obstacle I see, at least right this minute, is the lack of eReader offering at store launch.  If you’re going to have a localized device, great!  It sets you that much further apart from the Kindle.  Don’t expect to launch the store now and have people stay excited about it for a month while they wait for the gadget. If they can keep the buzz going, great, but it’s going to be a difficult task.

As for the future of the Kobo?  They are currently planning similar store launches in Spain, France, Italy, and Holland, to name a few.  While I might personally prefer other offerings available in America, possibly because I speak English primarily and don’t have to pay fees to import things that don’t always even work in my country, there is little wrong with the Kobo and anything that builds up the worldwide eBook marketplace will just help things along for everybody.

Kobo Opens German Store

Kobo, the e-reader that Borders has partnered with, doesn’t have the successful reputation that the Kindle and Nook have, but it does have an advantage on the international scene.  The e-reader has had a global focus from the beginning.  This would be a great niche to excel in.

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has a library of about 25, 000 German titles, but Kobo has launched an e-book store that boasts a whopping 80,000 German titles.  I was surprised to find that Germany has the 2nd largest e-book market in the world.  The United States is the first.

This is a competition to watch because, in order to succeed on a global scale, an e-reader needs to have a robust collection of digital material available.  Amazon is certainly able to do this.  They just need to establish good relationships with foreign authors and publishers.  Here is some healthy competition giving Amazon a wake up call at another angle.

In the past, I’ve noticed a lot of reviewers from other countries have been frustrated with the restrictions on various Kindle products because they’re not accessible.  Downloading books outside of the US is pretty costly.

I’ve always associated Kobo with the Borders book chain.  Borders is currently being threatened by liquidators and will most likely flop here soon.  When I saw this, I wondered, well what about Kobo?

Turns out, Kobo is a completely separate entity than Borders and is a financially secure, Canadian based company.  So, nothing will be lost if Borders does go down.  Kobo’s newest e-reader, the Kobo Touch, along with the Nook Touch both have an edge that the Kindle doesn’t have…yet.  But, that is about to change.  Good to see these e-readers try to outrank each other and get better and better. The price drops certainly don’t hurt either!

What I’d really like to see is a global collaboration of sorts.  Access to books shouldn’t be restricted by travel.  That cuts down the portability of an e-reader.  Technology has connected society on a global scale.  It’d be cool if everyone could have access to a diverse collection of books from different languages.

 

 

 

 

New Amazon Kindles Coming This October?

In all of the speculation about the potential for a Kindle Tablet release later this year, few people have speculated much on the future of the Kindle itself.  Possibly we’re simply running out of good ideas to improve the device without causing a problem with the streamlined user experience?  Whatever the reason, we now have news that there are indeed two completely new Kindles on the way.  A recent Wall Street Journal article has indicated, based on sources familiar with the matter, that this October we can expect to be seeing both a newer, cheaper Kindle of the type we are already used to, and a Kindle with a touchscreen.

While at a glance the Kindle Touch, or whatever Amazon chooses to call it, seems to be a reaction to the incredibly popular new Nook Simple Touch, the timing makes that less of an issue.  October is also the anticipated release month for the first piece in the new Kindle Tablet line.  Many people have been wondering if this meant the death of the Kindle, either by way of abandonment in favor of the newer product, or simply by eroding the existing customer base by offering an affordable alternative that does more than can be handled by existing eReaders.  The latter is far-fetched, since customers have shown a distinct appreciation for dedicated reading devices so far and seem more inclined toward dual-ownership rather than abandonment of the Kindle in favor of any tablet.  The former was a concern, but by launching the new Kindles at the same time as the Kindle Tablet, Amazon has the opportunity to provide what I assume will be their first sub-$100 eReader, as well as a new more advanced model, and thereby reaffirm their commitment to providing a dedicated reading experience for their Kindle customers.

Assuming that Amazon can be counted on to take advantage of the time remaining before the release to address any remaining shortcomings in their design as compared to the competition, such as the Nook’s current superiority in terms of speed boosts and social networking integration, these new Kindles can’t really help but make a splash.  The move at least partially away from the physical keyboard will even leave open the potential for true localization of the newer model without retooling the hardware for every country they decide to open a Kindle Store in.  The fact that many expect the Kindle Tablet to come with a customized front end for the Amazon.com site that is geared toward optimized tablet shopping will almost certainly bode well for the new Kindle as well, should it prove true.

It isn’t going to be the color E Ink eReader that many people were, I think, hoping for.  It would just be too much of a shock to see the price of the Kindle’s newest model jump to accommodate the higher production costs of something like that.  That does not mean that the Kindle Tablet won’t pick up the ball as far as that demand is concerned, though.  Time will tell what needs Amazon has chosen to prioritize, but it is heartening to see that they won’t be letting eReading become a minor aspect of their bigger media distribution effort.

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Many of you are probably familiar with Jaycee Dugard’s heart wrenching memoir about her 18 years of captivity. Dugard was abducted at a school bus stop in 1991, and she and her daughters were released in 2009. A Stolen Life is available in both print and Kindle editions.  In fact, it is at the top of the bestseller list in the Kindle Store.

Throughout her memoir, Jaycee recounts the emotional effect that her kidnapper, Phillip Garrido, had on her. Often, he was her only human contact. She wasn’t even allowed to use her own name, and was forced into motherhood at an extremely young age.

A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.” – Jaycee Dugard

Personally, I really want to read the story, but it takes a lot of strength to read the sickening events that occurred in her captivity. However, it is a good wake up call on what kidnappers are capable of.

This story is proof that despite horrible tragedies like this one, human beings are incredibly resilient. I truly admire her for her strength and ability to write A Stolen Life. It is possible to survive if you put your mind to it.  Jaycee used the love for her mother and later her children to guide her through the dark years.

Amelia Williams

“She chronicles her experience with brutal honesty. She writes about missing her mother and worrying that she will never see her again. Her dependence upon her kidnapper grows the more he isolates her from the world. For long periods of time he was the only other human being that she saw.”

K. Parsley

“How one very strong little girl coped with immensely abusive circumstances and became a survivor. This book is a brutally graphic, and straitforward retelling of Jaycee Dugard’s 18 years in captivity. I could not put this book down. When I was not reading it, I was thinking about it. A haunting story that will stay with you for quite some time. (Thanks for telling us your story Jaycee.) ”

Part of the proceeds from A Stolen Life will go to the JAYC Foundation at www.jaycfoundation.org.  This foundation supports families who have been through abductions and other traumatic experiences, and helps them to heal.

Amazon Kindle Tablet Rumor Recap

There have been a lots of theories, rumors, and “leaked” information floating around for the past couple months about what we all assume will be the new Kindle Tablet (or Tablets) later this year.  Lately, even the Wall Street Journal has printed a few bits of information coming from a “reliable source”.  It all adds up to a potentially impressive picture that a lot of us are looking forward to.  I thought, as a result, that it might be useful to go over what we think we know so far.

The Probable

  • Reports from various sources say that at least one Kindle Tablet, almost certainly the first of a series, will be released before the end of the year.  Possibly as early as October.
  • The Kindle Tablet will not compete with the Kindle, or result in its being discontinued.
  • The new Tablet PC will be running some variation of Google’s Android 3.0 or later, with seamless integration into Amazon’s Android App Store.
  • The focus will be on media consumption, with streaming video being strongly emphasized
  • The first Kindle Tablet will likely have a 9″ screen.
  • Prices on any and all Tablet PC offerings from Amazon are expected to undercut iPad 2 prices.
  • The initial stock order is sufficiently large that selling out should not be a problem.
  • There will be no camera.
  • An improved mobile shopping experience will be a major issue for Amazon’s new device.

The Possible

  • Some sources have claimed that two Kindle Tablet models will be available at launch, codenamed ‘Coyote’ and ‘Hollywood’.  The former would be a low powered, but affordable option with either a 7″ or 9″ screen.  The latter would feature more impressive hardware and a 10+” screen.
  • In order to fill as many niches as possible, Amazon plans to offer pocket-sized devices similar to the iPod Touch eventually, and maybe even a Kindle Phone.
  • The Kindle Tablet could be priced at or below cost in order to bolster sales, with any deficiencies made up through advertising space on the Tablets themselves.
  • Amazon may have some deals in the works with AT&T to provide 3G connections to the Tablets.
  • It is hoped that the displays for the Kindle Tablet line will take advantage of newer, more power conserving technology, based on Amazon’s criticisms of LCD shortcomings in previous ad campaigns.

A fair amount to go on so far, especially since Amazon has declined to even officially confirm the existence of the new device.  The only things we can be completely sure of are that Amazon has a Tablet PC in the works, they are anticipating strong sales based on manufacturer information, and it is unlikely that the Nook Color is the intended competition.  Amazon seems to have their sights set a little higher than Barnes & Noble’s almost unintentionally impressive budget Tablet.

Given that some rumors place the announcement and release as early as August, and that almost all of the more well sourced ones mention 3rd quarter 2011, it is certain that we’ll know more definite details soon.  In the meantime, it might be a good time to hold off on impulsively buying the next cool looking Tablet on the market.  Amazon has done a pretty good job of proving they know what they’re doing via the Kindle.  It should be worth the wait to see how they hold up on their next big hardware push.

OtterBox for Amazon Kindle Overall Unimpressive

The name OtterBox has become practically synonymous with quality and protection for any number of smartphone and tablet owners over the past couple years.  As such, when one of their cases was announced for the Amazon Kindle, it seemed like a great option for people who don’t want to have to worry about accidental damage or wear and tear.  Unfortunately, the reviews that have come in so far are overwhelmingly unimpressed by the end result.

Compared to cell phones, which are likely in any given day to be dropped, scratched, and generally worn out by their constant presence in the lives of owners no matter the situation, I would guess that the average Kindle is astoundingly well cared for.  For many owners, as a result, the important factor in deciding on one of these cases would have to be durability without loss of functionality.  Basically, people care more about their Kindle working properly than they do about how impervious it is as a general rule.  To me, this makes perfect sense.  Apparently it was overlooked.

Customers are complaining about the experience for any number of reasons.  The screen protector seems to greatly increase experienced glare.  The page turn buttons tend to stick and lose their responsive feeling when being pushed.  The silicone of the sleeve itself is a magnet for any lint, oil, and debris that it happens to come into contact with.  That aside, once the sleeve is on it is difficult to even make out the button functions in most light since they are identified by recessed and uncolored symbols.  On top of that, it adds a noticeable amount of weight to the Kindle and gets to be quite obtrusive.

The majority of these negative reviews come from people who declare themselves fans and former owners of OtterBox products who are simply astounded by how mediocre this particular item turned out to be by comparison.  Yes, it does what it is meant to do.  Once you get it to fit properly, your Kindle is going to be protected very well.  It just manages this in such a way as to make you more aware of the case than seems necessary.  That limits the potential uses for it, in my eyes.

This might make an excellent investment for high damage potential situations.  Want to get a kid a Kindle?  The OtterBox case will help it last longer and costs less (as of right now) than most Kindle cases!  Want to keep one in the garage?  I would want one of these.  But it really only works in situations where durability is the absolute most important factor.

The Kindle was intended to be, and manages in general to be, a device that doesn’t get in the way of what it was made to do.  When you are using one, the experience is meant to be pleasant and allow for the same kind of reading experience you would get from a paperback.  The OtterBox Commuter Case for the Amazon Kindle, by all accounts I’ve seen so far, fails to allow this.  This is not what one would hope for when they hear about something like this.

First Quarter Analysis Puts Barnes & Noble Nook Line Ahead of Amazon Kindle

A recent report from the International Data Corporation has provided an analysis of the Tablet PC and eReader markets for the first quarter of 2011.  Nooks, Kindles, iPads, and their respective markets in general are doing quite well, with eReader growth at 105% over the past year and tablets not doing too bad either.  Although demand did not grow quite as much as expected, for a variety of reasons, things are improving.

Right now the Barnes & Noble Nook product line is on top in terms of worldwide sales for the first time, beating out the Kindle a bit.  IDC attributes this in part to the introduction of the popular Nook Color, for which this was the first full quarter of sales.  While many have leaped at the chance to interpret this as an indication that the Nook Color is single-handedly outselling the Kindle, no indication of such is made in the article.  Instead, it seems likely that the Barnes & Noble Nook line’s incorporation of both a dedicated eReader and a budget Tablet PC has proven a smart move, especially with their managing to classify their tablet as a primarily reading focused device.  This does not necessarily mean that the Kindle is doing poorly in any way, but it does indicate fairly well that the expansion of the Kindle line to incorporate a variety of Tablets will come at a great time for Amazon.  The eReader market is expected to continue to expand, and IDC has increased their number of expected unit sales for the year.  Current forecasts call for 16.2 eReaders shipped worldwide in 2011.

On the tablet front, the iPad and newly released iPad 2 are continuing to dominate the market.  Though sales fell short of expectations in the post-holiday season, due to both current economic conditions and certain supply chain issues, there was still noticeable expansion and the rest of the year is looking strong.  Worst off have been the iPad’s competitors who choose to concentrate on distribution through telecommunication venues.  Due perhaps to customer reluctance to get locked into a monthly fee with their purchases, the demand in these areas is growing comparatively slowly.

Amazon’s anticipated third quarter tablet release is definitely looking like it has a chance at making a major impact on the Tablet PC space.  Due to firmly established distribution channels and an existing support structure, the device or devices can expect to be better received than most.  Should Amazon meet their expected sales numbers, as estimated from reports of supply orders made in anticipation of the upcoming release, they could jump to a 5% share of the Tablet market within months of release.

Given the success of the Nook line in the eReader market in a period when they were offering a fairly outdated eReader and an underpowered Tablet, it can be assumed that the combination of the current generation Kindle and the upcoming high-powered Kindle Tablet will provide Amazon with just the versatility needed to get firmly in place as a hardware provider in the months ahead.

SimpleLight for Kindle

There are a good many lights out there for the Kindle, but one in particular, the SimpleLight by Grantwood Technologies is great.  I know many people complain about the Kindle not having backlight.

This particular light becomes a part of the Kindle. and includes a lot of flexible lighting angles.  Unlike many lights that fit on the top, this one comes from the side for better portability.

One of the best perks is that it doesn’t require extra batteries or lightbulbs.  It also doesn’t suck up the Kindle’s own battery.  Sure is nice to not have to haul a bunch of batteries and chargers around.  It’d be even better if universal chargers could be created to charge all gadgets.

Grantwood Technologies recently released an updated SimpleLight designed for the 3rd generation Kindle.  The newest version of the Kindle is lighter and smaller than its predecessors and SimpleLight fits on it seamlessly without adding weight.

An advantage that this particular light has over backlighting is power.  One reviewer said they were able to use it light a flashlight.  You can also bend it away from someone in bed next to you.

When I was younger I used to try to read in bed with a booklight.  I remember how cumbersome it could be to turn the pages with the light.  The Kindle design makes it a lot easier to to use one because you aren’t physically turning pages.

Not a bad price either.  For such a good quality light that does not require batteries, $23 certainly doesn’t break the bank!

 

 

 

So Many Gadgets! What Do We Choose?

As I read the article about the new Kindle upgrades coming up in October, I started to feel really overwhelmed.  There is so much to choose from these days.  So, I thought I’d break it down a bit.  It is all a matter of what type of operating system you prefer (Android or Apple iOS) and what uses you have for your devices.

E-Readers

The Amazon Kindle has been out since 2007 and has evolved a great deal over the last four years to compete with the growing e-reader market: Nook, Kobo, Sony, and most recently, Google’s iriver Story.  It has been interesting to watch how obvious the competition is which all of the companies dropping prices and mocking each others’ style.  Note the latest touchscreen craze.

Then we have the NookColor, a mixed tablet and e-reader that has succeeded in knocking the Kindle off of it its pedestal.

In terms of e-readers, to me, the Kindle wins hands down.  I’ve really enjoyed my Kindle and am looking forward to a new touchscreen version.  Amazon has excellent customer service, and shows no sign of crashing and burning anytime soon, unlike Barnes & Noble and Borders.  If prices keep dropping the way they have, they’ll be pretty cheap here soon.  Now, if only we can stop the rising e-book prices.  But, library lending and all of the free and reduced priced e-books available out there might just take care of that.

Tablets

The iPad wins here.  I am not an Apple fiend by any means, but like the Kindle, the iPad has been around for over a year and offers a lot of different apps for various purposes.  I use mine as a laptop basically.  I also love that I can enlarge the text so easily.  Give me a year and I might be saying something different, but for now, I go for the iPad.  Other tablets to watch: Acer Iconia, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and of course the Kindle Tablet.

Why have a tablet AND an e-reader?  I don’t think of my Kindle as a computer. iBooks does not have nearly the book collection that Amazon does, and reading on the iPad Kindle app does not feel the same.  I can still curl up with the Kindle in bed or on the couch, and it isn’t hard on the eyes.  I love how both Kindle and iPad can fit easily into a tote bag.  Plus, e-readers are getting to be cheap enough that it wouldn’t be a huge setback to have both.

And then there are smartphones…but that market is a whole niche of its own.

 

 

Borders Liquidation May Further Kindle Amazon’s Success

As of this morning, Monday the 18th of July, it seems pretty much inevitable that Borders will no longer be a presence in the American retail space soon.  Their failure to compete with Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, especially with regard to the Kindle and Nook eReaders, led the company to bankruptcy earlier this year.  At this time, Borders Group employs over 11,000 people in over 400 stores nationwide.

At this point, bidding for the company has passed and there seems to be little hope for recovery for America’s second largest book retailer.  While earlier this month a buyer had seemingly been found for the troubled company, creditors have rejected the bid based on the possibility that the new owner would be able to liquidate the company after purchase.  Unable to find common ground on that topic, and having no other serious bids, liquidation of what is left of Borders seems to be a sure thing.

Overall, this would seem to be a story about a failure to adapt to a changing marketplace.  Even before the eBook revolution, digital distribution had become a major, and possibly the major, means of music acquisition for many consumers.  Hundreds of Borders Superstores around the country still kept, and still keep, whole floors of CDs collecting dust.

When it came time to jump into eReading, Borders was late to the game and didn’t really manage to do anything to set themselves apart.  Their own eBook store, built in 2008 after breaking away from an affiliation with Amazon, was weak to begin with and eventually ended up being replaced outright by Canadian partner Kobo.  While they did make a splash as the first company to being a sub-$150 eReader to America by way of the previously mentioned Kobo partnership, no real effort was made to produce or even settle on a single product.

The decline of the company was not abrupt.  The last time Borders turned a profit was back in 2006.  Still, many will mourn the death of yet another major brick & mortar book retailer as the convenience and lack of overhead that sites like Amazon.com provide make the local bookstore less profitable and less common.  Should things go the way they look to be over the next several days, Barnes & Noble may well be the last major bookseller with a nationwide physical presence.

All of this may be good news for Amazon as they become that much more essential for the avid reader.  Without a local Borders store, many consumers will be forced to turn to the internet to make their book purchases.  It will even likely have some small impact on the sales of Kindle eReaders as the ease of acquisition for less prominent eReading devices, previously sold to varying degrees in participating Borders stores, drops off.  Some even wonder whether this might not hasten the decline of the printed book, since it makes the impulsive browsing experience that much less tactile.  If one is forced to buy something that can’t be held and inspected ahead of time, it might be better to go for the option with instant delivery and no risk of damage in transit, right?

Top 10 Editor’s Picks of 2011 So Far

There are a number of particularly poignant books on the Top 10 Editor’s Picks of 2011 so far.  I thought I’d provide a quick synopsis of them.  They are all available for the Kindle.

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

Just reading the story description and reviews of this book gives me the shivers.  Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff is the story of the three remaining survivors of a plane crash that killed 21 members of the United States military.  The trio land in the jungles of New Guinea towards the end of World War II and believe it or not, this is a true story.  The survivors include a member of the Woman’s Army Corps, a lieutenant, and sergeant. In addition to facing serious injuries and threats from the jungle, they have to constantly be on the alert for cannibalism.  It is quite a powerful story of survival and heroism.

The Tiger’s Wife: A Novel

Obreht weaves three stories in one in her debut novel.  The novel is set in an unidentified country, but is rumored to be somewhere around her native Croatia.  The Tiger’s Wife’s main character is Natalia, a doctor, who sets out to unveil secrets from the past.  In 1941 during the German bombardment, a tiger escaped from the zoo and befriended a deaf woman.  Hence, the title The Tiger’s Wife.  This story is intertwined with Natalia’s care for orphans and a family in search of bones from a long dead relative.  Then there’s the deathless man…

Quite an impressive novel for such a new and young author!

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

Continuing the World War II theme, the Garden of Beasts comes from the point of view of the first American ambassador to Berlin during Hitler’s regime. Ambassador Dodd recognizes the dangers that Hitler will bring in his quest for absolute power.  You’ll also read about Dodd’s daughter Martha, who seeks out the glamorous life with the elite in Berlin and ends up in close relations with the head of the Gestapo.  Quite fascinating and scary to hear such a close account of the rise of Hitler.

Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef-owner of the successful restaurant in New York City, Prune, writes a compelling memoir of her childhood and the twists and turns that finally led to her success.  In the beginning, she had a great childhood living on a farm.  That all fell apart when her parents divorced.  Hamilton lost any direction in life and education, traveled around Europe, worked menial jobs.  Through all of this, she gained an appreciation for food and the comfort of being fed.  Her experiences add quite a bit of depth to the memoir.

The Tragedy of Arthur: A Novel

Arthur Phillips wrote an interesting, yet questionable tale of living with a con artist father and twin sister who has a deep love for Shakespeare.  Part of the story is written like a memoir while the other part deals with the supposed unpublished play “The Tragedy of Arthur” that Arthur and his sister set out to get published and set on stage.  Personally, I’m not a big fan of Shakespeare, but this book is still a good read regardless, especially with the humor mixed in.

Bossypants

Gotta love Tina Fey.  Check out the post I wrote on her memoir, Bossypants.

22 Brittania Road: A Novel

Another compelling World War II novel.  A Polish family of three tries to reestablish themselves in England at the end of the war.  Silvana and her son Aurek spent years in the Polish woods.  Aurek does not know how to do basic tasks like sleep in a bed, at eight years old.  So, forgetting the past proves quite a challenge.  The reader finds out what measures this family has to take to become whole again.

Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel

This novel reminds me of the movie, 50 First Dates.  The main character, Christine, was in an accident that leaves her with strange memory loss.  Every day she wakes up and has to be reminded basic details of her life by her husband Ben.  After she reads her journal and sees that she wrote “don’t trust Ben”, the novel turns into a thrilling account of trust. Who can you trust, particularly when you don’t have the memory to recall what has happened in the past.  Scary thought.

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

Joshua Foer goes through a year of memory training and acquires amazing memory skills that enable him to enter the US Memory Championship.  The key is to find your brain’s niche and ability so that it can naturally remember more.  I find this fascinating because I have a really good long term memory, but my short term memory is horrible.  So, in order to retain anything, I have to commit it to my long term memory.

Please Look After Mom

Bestselling Korean author Kyung-sook Shin writes a memorable story of a missing mother and her family.  It is told from the point of view of two of the children, the husband, and finally the mother herself.  There is much regret over neglecting to take better care of the mother.  The reader also gets a good glimpse of Korea as well.  It is a tale of how one family overcomes great barriers to become unified again.

So, this is a great selection of memoirs and novels on World War Il, tragedy, humor and the importance of family.  Quite a diverse collection of books from a unique set of authors.  Enjoy!

 

 

New York Times Kindle Access

Finally, the Kindle Edition of the New York Times has released full web access for Kindle and Nook subscribers.  The New York Times is one of the best newspapers in the world for many subject areas such as business and politcs.  I’m sure you are also familiar with their crossword puzzles.

Now you have more reading options and portability.  This has been in the works for several months so readers are certainly glad to finally see this option become available.

I admit that the $20 monthly fee is kind of steep, especially when it was just for access on the Kindle.  Also, as you are probably aware, the Kindle is not that great on graphics.  So, if you need to look up graphics or tables, you can get this via the NYT website.

Good to see newspapers and magazines reaching out to the digital audience in addition to the print audience. It appears that they are finding ways to bring in revenue from both sources.  Newspapers have been really hurting financially in the past few years.  The Kindle version is much easier on the environment too!  With e-readers and tablets cropping up all over the place, the digital market is certainly on the up and up.

I have a friend who leads a busy life and doesn’t have time to read newspapers.  So she catches up on them during vacation.  I can definitely see how e-readers and tablets can help in this area by just having one device to carry around.

Despite the e-reader and tablet revolution, I hope that appreciation for print and the work to create it will always remain.  There is something about the feel of the paper and smell of the fresh ink.  I think that both print and digital content can find a balance and coexist into the future.

The Unexpected Perks of Kindle Ownership

When you decide to pick up a Kindle for the first time, there are a lot of factors that can play into it.  The first ones that come to mind are also probably the most important.  You’ve got instant access to any book you want to buy no matter what time you want to buy it at.  You can carry around hundreds or thousands of books at a time in your pocket.  Chances are good that you’ll save money overall on your book purchases, if you’re a regular reader.  That sort of thing.  There are a few things that have come up that one might not expect, however.

Something that many people perhaps don’t expect is an actual reduction of clutter.  Many Kindle owners find themselves replacing paperbacks with Kindle Editions over the course of their ownership.  The eBook is more durable and harder to lose.  This can result in a great deal of space saving over the course of dozens of book replacements, many of which can be at least partially subsidized through resale of the used copies unless you’re a fan of library donations.  eReading can come to mean that the only books you actually have to keep track of are the ones you like enough to want to display proudly in hardcover.

Another plus I’ve encountered, though I probably wouldn’t want to put it to the test in any major way, is the durability of the eReader.  I’ve heard plenty of arguments that consolidating to a Kindle means that if you break one thing then you’re out of luck until you replace it, but they have proven difficult to damage in a number of situations.  Moisture generally isn’t a problem, kids can’t tear their pages, and short falls do no damage.  On that last point, maybe it is just me, but every time I drop or knock down a book it seems to fall in just the right way to bend half the pages.  Anybody else find that annoying?  Moving on…

The most outstanding example that I am aware of is probably restricted to the Kindle 3G.  In the aftermath of the string of tornado that made their way through the US in the past few months, many people found themselves without power, let alone internet connectivity.  Thanks to the long life of the Kindle’s battery, there were a number of people that I’ve heard of who were able to find information that they needed and reassure friends and family of their safety in situations where doing so would otherwise have been very difficult.  Cell phones simply don’t often last that long, no matter how conservative you are with their battery life.

Now obviously these aren’t selling points.  The extra functionalities, if you can even call them that, are highly situational.  I’m always interested in perks that can make what was already a great acquisition even more valuable.  There’s more use to be found things like a Kindle than you can generally find on a spec sheet, if you look for it.

eReader Growth Outpaces Tablets as Kindles Catch On

A recent survey by Pew Research Center shows growth in both eReader and Tablet PC markets.  The ownership base for Kindle and Nook owners has doubled in the 6 months from November 2010 to May 2011, ending up at an impressive 12% of those polled.  Tablet ownership, over the same period, has seen a 3% jump.  The breakdown is about what one might expect in a lot of ways.  While it might just be a matter of curiosity for most at the moment, studies like this will be what determines the immediate future of these devices. The study takes into account 2,277 adults aged 18 and up.

Owners of eReaders like the Kindle are fairly evenly broken across the genders.  Parents are more likely to have picked up an eReader in the last six months than people without kids under 18.  The greatest growth among surveyed ethnic groups was in Hispanics, who jumped from 5% ownership to 15%.  The only group that seems to have dropped off in terms of eReader ownership was High School non-graduates, who went from 5% to 3%.  College graduates predictably jumped the most.

Tablet ownership grew along similar lines, though not necessarily the same ones.  Men, for example, are significantly more likely to own a tablet than women, with a large number of those surveyed saying that being able to impress others with their purchase was a priority.  This might have played into age demographic differences as well, since tablets showed the most growth in the 18-29 bracket.  eReaders, by comparison, did best with those 30-49. In the case of tablets, ownership among college graduates was actually outpaced by that of those with partial college completion.  Hispanics still lead the pack among reported ethnic groups.

Basically, everybody likes their new gadgets.  Men, especially younger men, are fond of the flashiness of the tablets.  Slightly older people of both genders are getting into the eReader market.  Overall, tablets are still lagging a bit behind, in spite of early predictions that they would spell the end of the eReader.  Possibly this has to do with the lack of serious competition among tablet makers, in which case we’ll likely be seeing some different numbers this time next year.  More likely would be that this is an indication of a trend toward dual-ownership.  A good 3% of those surveyed confirm that they have both types of device on hand.

For now, there are already groups where as many as 20% of those surveyed have adopted eReaders.  There has been noticeable growth in all households with an income greater than $30,000 per year.  Households over $75,000 per year are of course doing the most shopping for portable electronics, but the difference in growth between this and other income brackets is not as pronounced as it is among tablet owners.  They seem to be cheap enough to be accessible to, and appealing to, pretty much everybody.  Pricing the Kindle at just $114 might be the smartest move Amazon could have made.  It will likely surprise nobody if the upcoming Kindle Tablet undercuts the competing iPad by more than a little bit to take advantage of the trends.