About

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.

Recent Comments

July 2014
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Kindle Fire HD 8.9” Takes on iPad But May Face Other, Unexpected Competition

We’ve recently talked about the release of the new Kindle Fire HD 8.9”.  It’s a solid device that gives every indication of being worth an investment.  While not quite as versatile as many Android tablets due to Amazon’s proprietary software configuration that prevents access to the Google Play service, there is little else to complain about and a lot to be excited for.  Some reports indicate that between this and the 7” model, Amazon’s tablets will outsell the iPad Mini 2 to 1 over the upcoming holiday season.

All that sounds great for Amazon and it’s definitely a sign that they will remain a major part of the Android tablet scene for some time to come.  They may be in trouble as time goes on, however.  The problem is not what many people have expected.  The iPad is hard to compete against, but the surge in video game consoles with touchscreen accessories may hit Amazon in a major way.

The Wii U just dropped, which is what brings this to mind.  Nintendo’s new console comes with a controller that doubles as a tablet.  It offers a supplementary second display that should come in handy in everything from game play to movie watching.  Sure, it requires a Wii U console to work, but that also allows the user to tap into a wide selection of content associated with that system.

Microsoft is also said to be working on a 7” tablet to supplement the Xbox 360 and the as-yet unannounced Xbox 720.  Their Smartglass software already allows anybody with a portable device (smartphone or tablet), or even a convenient PC, to tap into the console experience.  The Xbox Tablet, as it’s being called, will offer many of the same benefits that the Wii U controller boasts as well as serving the role of standalone portable.

Now, the main use of the Kindle Fire line is in consumption.  Amazon designed them for that purpose and there has been no real effort to make them into anything but a convenient gateway into Amazon’s digital content selection.  This means that in many ways the same customers they are looking at attracting are also likely to be interested in gaming and entertainment consoles, for obvious reasons.  If we’re looking at a class of devices that are exceedingly popular and tie into their own proprietary tablets, as in the case of these consoles, it may cut into Kindle Fire prospects.

While this is all speculation, I can’t help but feel that Amazon is going to have to come up with some special service that distinguishes their hardware offering in the next year or so.  The budget tablet market is still going strong, but there are a lot of big names that seem about as well equipped as Amazon who are set to enter the market.  Since all the digital content sold through the company is meant to be platform-agnostic, there’s going to need to be something special done.  Otherwise it’s only a matter of time before the iPad is just one of many strong competitors for the Kindle Fire HD.

5 Ways Amazon Can Save the Kindle

After all of this time and effort developing the Kindle line into such an overwhelmingly popular force in reading that the biggest publishers felt the need to break the law rather than be intimidated, I think it is fair to say that Amazon is not prepared to give up on the electronic books.  Even knowing this, it is clear that they are lagging behind a bit in development while concentrating on other areas.  Sooner or later they are going to have to pay a bit more attention to the Kindle eReaders and hopefully this will result in a few big changes.

The platform is still amazing.  Nobody can beat the Kindle Store right now.  A Kindle vs Nook comparison that excludes hardware is hardly worth making, it’s so one-sided.  Apps and content alone won’t be enough to carry the line forever, though, and there are a few additions that are safe to guess at so long as Amazon doesn’t try to simply eliminate the competition by selling eBooks below wholesale now that the Agency Model is on its way out.

Lit Kindle Display

We’ve already had some rumors about this, but nothing solid has manifested so far.  The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight already accomplishes this in a way that impresses and avoids the shortcomings of backlit LCD options.  Offering a new generation of Kindle eReaders that lacked the feature would be a mistake.

Organization Options

Yes, the Kindle Collections system is better than nothing.  It came as a welcome change to years of nothing at all to organize with.  It even makes sense to handle things with tags, given the cloud-centric nature of Amazon’s services.  Being able to better organize books is going to have to happen eventually, though, and it would be a big selling point for new customers if it came soon.

Physical Page Turn Buttons

You won’t find many people who are completely satisfied with the lack of physical page turn buttons on the Kindle Touch.  It is a fine eReader, but this was a glaring omission that is genuinely hard to ever completely get used to.  It can’t possibly increase costs enough to justify leaving it out and hopefully Amazon will realize that now.

Color E Ink Display

This one is a long shot, but being the first to offer an affordable, reliable, attractive color eReader would definitely be a coup for the Kindle line.  With the lighting options that have been described by Kindle rumors and put in place on the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, it would be more possible than ever to make the otherwise dull color E Ink currently available look quite nice.  The only question is whether Amazon is able to do that and still sell cheap eReaders.

Support For Online Communications

Let’s face it, the big thing everybody keeps pulling out for eReaders is the social media integration.  Kindle, Kobo, Nook, whatever, they all want to let you post from inside the eReader.  Take it a step further and let the next Kindle act as a portal for select communications (Facebook, Twitter, email, and maybe a few others) and you expand the attraction of the device at minimal cost.  This reduces the emphasis on the single use nature of the Kindle, but it makes it that much more attractive to a segment of the user base that prefers to stay constantly connected at the same time.  It’s a smart trade-off.

Kindle Fire Enjoys Strong Lead Over Android Tablet Competition

While it has been known for a while now that Amazon’s first effort at tablet design, the Kindle Fire, was probably the most popular non-Apple tablet on the market, we have only just learned to what extent that is true.  Recent information coming out of comScore indicates that the Kindle Fire has managed to acquire 54% of the Android tablet market in the months it has been available.  Nobody else even comes close.

The last time we talked about this topic, the Kindle Fire had just started pulling ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Tab as the most popular of the iPad alternatives.  Things are now apparently a bit less close.  comScore reports that the Kindle Fire now has just under four times the market share enjoyed by the Galaxy Tab.

This report looks exclusively at the period from December 2011 through February 2012.  In that time the Kindle’s popularity nearly doubled while not a single other Android tablet gained at all.  The Galaxy Tab family lost nearly ten percent, falling from 23.8% to 15.4% of the market.

Amazon clearly struck the right note with their surprisingly low pricing of the Kindle Fire.  At $199, it immediately enjoyed an advantage over the competition.  While there are other options now at the same price, nobody has managed to leverage that advantage quite as well as Amazon did.  Some of that is likely due to exposure and brand recognition.  The Kindle Fire was the first truly useful $199 tablet and by far the most heavily advertised.

Mostly we can blame the competition’s failures on the inability to compete with Amazon’s media integration.  Google has been doing great things with Google Play recently, including huge efforts to clean up the App selection and greater emphasis on video and music selections, but it is far from the experience the Fire offers even on a completely unaltered installation of Android.

The big question now is whether anybody else can hope to compete.  The tablet market is increasingly centered around the iPad and the Kindle Fire.  Admittedly this is already a change since six months ago it was entirely centered around the iPad.  That said, the low price that Android tablet customers are coming to expect means that the potential for profit among hardware manufacturers without their own content hubs is shrinking at an alarming rate.  Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab 2 is impressive, but it seems unlikely that the desire for a more versatile tablet will overcome the Amazon advantages across a large audience.

The Kindle Fire is clearly doing something right to have pulled this far ahead.  While Amazon is rumored to be either subsidizing the price slightly or at most selling the hardware at cost, they are not the only option available.  Even among the Kindle’s traditional competition, nobody seems to realistically consider the Kobo Vox or Nook Tablet to be equally attractive products at this point.  There is more to that than just Amazon’s ability to throw money at problems until they come out on top.

Kindle Faces Major Competition Internationally

While the Kindle name is practically synonymous with eReading for many people, it has been confined largely to the US for a rather long time now and as such Amazon may have lost a chance to build the same momentum in other markets.  Much of what made them so successful was being the first company on the scene ready to get eBooks out there when customer interest began to stir.  The situation will be a bit different moving forward.

When it comes to international market coverage in eReading, Kobo is the name to reference.  They haven’t had the same impact in the US that Amazon has managed with the Kindle, but the Kobo Touch eReader has been available in areas where a Kindle was hard to come by for quite a while now.  They have recently partnered up with WHSmith in the UK in an effort to gain more coverage.  The Kobo Vox, essentially their attempt to match the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet, is just £149.99 (by comparison, the Kindle Fire is not even available).  That’s not to mention the fact that Kobo devices are already available in 190 countries with expansion still ongoing, or the newly revamped  self-publishing platform that they are having some success with.

Sony is also making something of a comeback.  While they were possibly the first company to launch a major eReader line with the Sony PRS series, they have failed to stay relevant in recent years.  Their new Reader Store has finally opened (months behind schedule) in the UK and they have a fairly substantial presence in select other markets where the Kindle is just beginning to move in.

Even Barnes & Noble is going to be something of a threat, potentially, in specific international markets.  Well, one specific international market if they’re lucky.  The much-reported partnership that the company has with Waterstones has produced very few results so far.  The partnership is still likely to happen, but they are taking their time about it.  This is most likely a matter of developing relationships for content to fill UK eBook stores with and could be held up at least partially due to the chance of the Agency Model being abolished in book publishing by ongoing lawsuits.  This would naturally have widespread implications.

None of this is to say that the Kindle won’t be able to make it outside the US.  If anything, the international launch of the Kindle Touch and Kindle Touch 3G enjoyed such popularity that even Amazon was shocked.  Since the creation of a real, local Kindle Store in any given market is likely to be a major undertaking, however, anybody who has already got their store and device out there for customers is at a distinct advantage.  Amazon certainly has enough weight to throw at the problems they encounter, and they will do so without much hesitation as the recent small publisher negotiations prove, but it may be a long process at best with all the other big names already at work.

Will the iPad Mini Kill the Kindle Fire? Also, Will iPad Mini Rumors Ever End?

It seems the rumor mills just won’t give up on the idea of a 7-8” iPad.  We’ve been hearing rumors about the development of such a device for well over a year now that have yet to manifest.  At this point having one announced would almost make me wonder whether it wasn’t a response to the popularity of the rumors rather than the rumors being a reflection of actual development.  Either way, iPad fans are convinced that if and when such a tablet is released it will spell the end of the Kindle Fire.

Of course it is also being touted as Apple’s answer to the anticipated Windows 8 Tablet boom later this year.  There is a very real impression that some people think all Apple needs to do is get this one last product to market to prevent anybody else from having the opportunity to break in.  Unfortunately, the rumors don’t really explain why they would want to.

Depending on the source, we are talking about a 7”, 7.85”, or 8.1” iPad running at 1024 x 768.  Essentially a scaled down version of the first two generations of the line.  There is no explanation of how this will reduce prices enough to really make such an offering attractive.  An iPad Mini would have to be scaled down in other ways as well.  This would probably need to be more than just reduced battery life.  We’re talking about a comparatively underpowered processor, reduced storage space, etc.

I won’t make the claim that this product will never appear.  It feels that way a bit now though.  Even if we assume, as many of these rumors do, that Apple made no effort to directly match price with the Kindle Fire and sold this smaller iPad for $299, it would mean the lowest profit margin they have taken to date.  Every iPad being sold right now makes the company at least $200 profit, according to analysts.  Apple is not a company who sells their hardware at a loss, as a rule.

Even if we do take the leap of faith and assume this happens, will it change things?  The Kindle Fire is marketed to a completely different audience than the iPad.  This might not, and probably will not, always be the case.  For now we have to assume that Amazon is dedicated to developing the product as a means of ever-improving media consumption, though, and as such there is little need for the kind of versatility that the iPad manages.

Amazon would lose those customers who just want an iPad anyway but who are unwilling to spend enough money to pay for the larger, more expensive models.  They are still going to be in a position to undercut Apple on the hardware prices due to the lack of reliance on device sale profit margins.  This means that the customers who just want a smaller, cheaper tablet with access to a lot of features will still have a good chance of buying a Kindle Fire, or whatever the current model is called by the end of the year.  An iPad Mini would upset the balance and be a big blow to the general Android Tablet market, but chances are good that the Kindle Fire could weather it.  Somehow I still doubt we will have a chance to find out for sure.

Nook Steps Ahead of Kindle With Announcement of GlowLight

While we recently learned that Amazon was planning something new with a front-lit version of the Kindle, Barnes & Noble has gone a step further and launched a lit Nook complete with release date.  There’s no reason to think this is anything but a reaction to the leaked info regarding Amazon’s plans, but the fact that they already had a response prepared like this indicates a great deal of foresight.  What was already quite possibly the best eReading hardware on the market will be the first to get upgraded for the next generation.

Those familiar with the Nook Simple Touch will also have a good impression of the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight.  They are the same product, as the name might imply.  GlowLight, Barnes & Noble’s solution to the problem of reading in poor lighting, has just been added into the existing model with minimal fuss.  It doesn’t even get in the way of what have traditionally been the strengths of the un-lit eReader.

The new Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight will still have the same E Ink screen that we’re used to.  It will work as well as ever in direct sunlight and any other situation where reading from a paper book would be plausible.  The difference now is that holding down the ‘n’ button on the Nook will turn on a set of LEDs along the sides of the display.  This provides sufficient light for any situation while avoiding a drastic increase in battery drain.

This upgrade will add an additional $40 to the price tag of the Nook.  It is likely more than worth the investment, though.  You are getting all of the advantages of E Ink with the conveniences a standard LCD would provide, but supplied in such a way as to be fairly easy on the eyes even when the adjustable lighting is in use.  That’s the sort of convenience you really can’t pass up in an eReader.

The Kindle product line is still my preference and the eReader line that I would recommend to anybody I knew personally.  That is not so much a matter of hardware superiority at this point, though.  If anything, it is a matter of hardware adequacy and highly superior back-end support to shore up the physical product by comparison.  There is nothing wrong with the Kindle Touch, per se, but it also doesn’t come with any such compellingly interesting new features.

We know that Amazon will be releasing something similar to GlowLight.  Chances are even good that now that B&N has set a May release date for the new Nook, a shiny new Kindle will appear by June.  If circumstances surrounding the settlements in the DOJ price fixing investigation didn’t seem likely to offer Kindle owners some truly amazing advantages in the near future, though, this would be the time when Amazon needed to sweat a little over the competition’s superior offering.

Kindle To See Competition From Windows 8 Readers

Say what you will about Windows 8 and the Metro style it introduces as a general computing option, it is amazing on a touch screen.  I’ve had a chance to play around with it more than a bit since the Consumer Preview build was released to the public a few weeks ago and after a short adjustment period I have had nearly no complaints.  There are obvious potential complications for the Kindle world, though since we can’t guess yet how inexpensive it will be possible for a full Windows 8 tablet to be, at best it is possible to make educated guesses about how portable device development changes in months to come.  What might surprise many people, though, is that just as Android has been used effectively to power E Ink reading devices like the Barnes & Noble Nook, Windows 8 has been mentioned as a possible operating system for future Kindle competitors.

The goal has always been to create a consistent experience between every device that runs a version of the operating system.  If you’re using Windows then it doesn’t matter if you’re on a tablet, a desktop, or a smartphone, because they will all function effectively the same way.  Traditionally Windows has been seen as far too slow and overly large to be considered a cost effective way to handle a dedicated eReader, but this may be changing.  Since Windows 8 emphasizes speed, efficiency, and power consumption, it may well work perfectly to bring that distinct touch-centric Metro style to the reading world.

This wouldn’t be bad news for the Kindle platform, of course.  While Microsoft Is developing their own in-house app store to compete with that of Apple, there is already a Kindle for PC app to play with.  It seems fairly safe to assume that since Microsoft will not be allowing highly customized or restricted copies of their software to be shipped (unlike with Google’s Android), the Kindle app will remain open to anybody using these new tablets and eReaders.

While we’re still a long way from anything certain, especially since the launch of Microsoft’s new operating system is expected no earlier than October, we do know that representatives of the company have hinted at an interest in joining the eReader market.  They don’t build the hardware, so it might be quite a while before anything affordable comes along to demonstrate the potential of the Windows 8 option, but if a barebones copy of the software can be had cheaply enough to match existing prices then it might really shake things up.

Right now the Kindle is dominating the reading world.  None of the Kindle eReaders make use of Android, but the Kindle Fire and any number of competing eReaders do.  Microsoft would have to set prices so low as to shock many people if they really wanted to hope to compete with established products, but that doesn’t mean they won’t do so.  They are butting up head to head with Apple and are clearly trying to establish a competing ecosystem.  I don’t see them teaming up with Amazon to offer a dedicated Kindle Store option as an official counter to iBooks, but it’s inevitable that something is brought up to match practically every facet of iOS.  The Kindle might well be caught in the crossfire.

Kobo Launches Book Club Against Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

It was recently announced that Kobo, Amazon’s leading competitor against the Kindle outside the United States, is offering a fun new perk for anybody who picks up one of their eReaders between now and May 2012.  The new Kobo Book Club, as they are referring to it, will offer each person a book of their choice from a limited selection once each month through the end of 2012.  As with what seems to be the competing program, Amazon’s new lending library, the available books will not necessarily be off the bestseller list, but they will be permanent acquisitions instead of just rentals.

Amazon made a bold move when they launched the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.  It took long enough to even get the public library system compatible with the Kindle in the first place, thanks to the break from EPUB early on in Amazon’s eReading endeavor.  Even that comes in the middle of the long fight publishers have put up against eBooks being in any way cheaper or more convenient than their paper counterparts, but that’s another story entirely.  What’s most relevant, especially if we’re talking about somebody like Kobo trying to come up with a similar program is the reaction.

In a lot of ways that program is Amazon flexing their muscles.  Yes, the lending library benefits Kindle owners and is something that I totally support, but starting it up without general publisher or author support and working around that problem by taking advantage of wholesale discount arrangements has led to a bit of drama.  The Big 6 are upset, since it means that eBooks are yet again in danger of being found more convenient and less expensive than print books.  The Author’s Guild has lent support to that side of things as well.  It’s doubtful that any of this will cause Amazon to back off, but not many other companies would be in a position to get away with a similar move.

Kobo has avoided the problem entirely with their choice of titles.  January’s titles, for example, will be:

Glancing at Amazon these seem to be well-rated titles, but you have to admit that the audience likely to get excited about them will be limited.  If this marks the beginning of an ongoing trend, it’s hard to see this as a major draw for new customers despite its being available in Canada as well as the US.

This is especially true since buyers who go for the new Kobo Vox aren’t included.  Many people are expecting the Vox to make a big splash by beating the Kindle Fire to new markets, and Kobo clearly rushed to get something out there in time to compete, so this exclusion is rather hard to understand.

While I wouldn’t exactly say that this should be a huge factor in any eReading platform choices, it’s nice if you were planning to go that route anyway.  Kobo is currently the third most popular eReader platform around, so clearly the demand is there.  An occasional extra can’t hurt, even if it doesn’t really provide exactly the same value as the Kindle counterpart.

Kobo Learns From Amazon, Adds Ads

While the Kobo eReader has had trouble gaining much traction against competing Kindle and Nook options, it continues to be a comparatively strong presence in the eReader marketplace.  This is especially true in international markets where Amazon has not yet managed to secure the same sort of market dominance that it enjoys in the US.  In an effort to keep up with the recent Kindle and Nook price drops, the Kobo Touch eReader had been brought down to as low as $99.

Of course, they accomplished this by using Amazon’s own methods against them.  This newer, cheaper version of the popular touchscreen eReader will only be available at the $99 price point by offering advertisements.  This is obviously no different from what has been done before with the Kindle, but it is especially interesting in that Kobo is the first company to attempt to make use of Amazon’s eReader ad revenue stream model.

The major question right now will be in how they implement it.  Since none of the new Kobo models have shipped just yet, we have no way of knowing precisely where these ads will be placed aside from in screensavers.  Any time the device is powered off or in sleep mode, the owner will be treated to a sponsored special offer.  No major imposition there.  The tricky part is that Kobo also lists ads in “other discreet places” without clear definition of where these will be.

I think it is safe to say that none of these ads will in any way interfere with the reading experience.  Not only would that better adhere to Amazon’s already successful model, but Kobo as a company has always maintained that it is interested first and foremost in the reader.  Nobody would be particularly happy at this stage if they had to read ads inside their books.  That does not preclude throwing up half-screen banners or pop up windows that need to be closed to proceed throughout the menu navigation, though.  We can hope that these will not be present, but the company does not have quite the clout that Amazon brings to the table and may need to concede a bit to get advertisers interested.

While it can be a touchy issue to bring advertising into something like this, especially in an environment where publishers are desperately afraid that customers will start perceiving eBooks as an affordable alternative to paper printings, if done right it can reduce costs significantly.  There is every reason to expect that within the next year or two we will be seeing Kindles priced so low as to make it almost silly not to own one.  They might even be free, under the right promotion.  If this takes place, the competition will have no choice but to follow suit or drop out. Considering how tactfully Amazon has managed to include ads on their eReader line, making many owners including myself wish that it were possible to ad the adds to older Kindles, there is no reason not to join in so long as a similarly low key approach is employed.

The new Kobo Touch with Offers will be shipping in 2-3 weeks.

Kobo To Take On Kindle Fire With New “Vox” Tablet

The Nook Color might have been the first tablet to come from a major eReader maker, but the Kindle Fire has clearly set the tone for devices in its size / power range.  Amazon’s new media tablet hasn’t even shipped yet and people are scrambling to match prices or rush out competing product.  For the most part, there isn’t really any obvious reason for Amazon to be concerned, but the new Kobo Vox is an imitator with impressive potential.

Kobo’s new Kindle Fire competitor, marketed as a color eReader much like the Nook Color, will be a 7″ Android 2.3 device with comparable specs, expandable memory, and a small selection of colored quilted backs to choose from.  The single core processor might end up being a slight negative, but this was never intended to be a powerhouse anyway.  Oddly enough, both the major strengths and the major shortcomings come in on the software end.

When Barnes & Noble started out with the Nook Color, they tried to keep it almost entirely about the reading.  It was only relatively recently that their app selection started to improve.  Amazon avoided that mistake by building up a huge App Store for the Kindle Fire before it even existed.  Kobo seems to feel like it isn’t worth the trouble.  Rather than a heavily customized, or even locked version of Android, they have decided that Vox users can just grab what they want through the default Android Marketplace.  The OS seems to be pretty much just basic Android 2.3 with some Kobo Apps.

On the one hand, this is genius.  It gives them the ability to offer customers access to the largest selection of Android apps in existence without having to jump through hoops.  At the same time, however, it means that Kobo themselves will not be making any money off of anything but the books.  Whether or not this proves to be a smart business move remains to be seen, but it will definitely appeal to a certain segment of the customer base.

What really makes the Vox a major player among eReading companies jumping into tablet production is Kobo’s international presence.  More than pretty much anybody else so far, Amazon included, Kobo has managed to make sure a wide selection of books is there in any market they can get their hooks into.  The Kobo eReader is widely available and has been for some time.  It would not surprise me even a little bit to discover that when Amazon manages to get the Kindle Fire out to markets outside the US, especially those new sites like Amazon.es, the Kobo Vox is already a common sight.

It isn’t the best option in terms of hardware or software in the US right now, even for the $200 price, but for users who want just a cheap, effective 7″ Android device it might fit the bill.  In areas where the tablet market has yet to really take off, though, I expect to see the Vox make a huge impression.  Let’s just hope Apple can hold off on the anti-competition lawsuits?

Sony Tries To Step Up The Kindle Competition With Upgraded Reader Apps

Since right around the time Amazon launched the first Kindle, Sony has had trouble maintaining a place at the front of the eReading world.  In a way this is really a shame, since it was the Sony Reader that first brought E INK reading devices to the public in a meaningful way.  I still have an old Sony Reader PRS-500 from 2006 that works perfectly, for example.  They set the standard when it came to initial performance and pricing for early eReaders.

Still, over the past 4-5 years Sony as a company has failed to keep up with their competition in terms of hardware pricing and content availability.  As these are pretty much the most important parts of successfully marketing an eReader, it’s no surprise that the first thing people do when they want to read a book is rarely “open the Reader app”.  Efforts are clearly being made to turn this around, however, both with the newer Reader hardware and the recently released Reader application update.

This software update is now available for PC and Mac, bringing some features that the product line has been in dire need of for some time.  With the new program you can organize your library, tag eBooks for easy searching or sorting, jump to real page equivalents while reading, enjoy tabbed browsing, and sync your reading information between devices using Cloud Sync.  The appearance is quite nice as well, and makes the PC and Mac apps consistent with the Sony Tablet equivalent.

Now, this is not in any way a revolutionary move.  Anybody familiar with eReading will recognize these features as basically what has been around for some time now on both Kindle and Nook platforms.  The fact that they are not right at the forefront of innovation at this time does not make this inconsequential, though.  Right now there are, for the most part, four major players in eBooks.  Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Kobo, and Sony.  Anything that keeps the options open for consumers and heats up the competition a bit is going to be good for everybody involved.

This is especially true moving forward as eReading companies attempt to secure places as Tablet PC providers.  Barnes & Noble has had some noticeable success with the Nook Color as a reading device, and Amazon seems to be exceeding all expectations with the response to their upcoming Kindle Fire media tablet.  The Kobo Vox is the first of these to offer an open Android experience, but it remains to be seen if this will be a smart move.

Sony, coming from a less specialized background, already has a tablet presence and experience with the wider market.  They are still behind in pricing, of course, but that’s true of the majority of the tablet market with less than a month having passed since Amazon upset the balance.  Will this make a big difference going forward?  It’s hard to say.  The Sony Tablet S hasn’t exactly made the kind of impression that one would hope for if it were to compete, but that doesn’t mean we can necessarily rule them out yet.  We can only hope that Sony is quicker to respond to Amazon’s latest moves than it has been previously.

Barnes & Noble Already Prepping Kindle Fire Competition

Beginning just days before the press conference that revealed the Kindle Fire to the world, rumors started popping up that Barnes & Noble was nervously prepping their next tablet for a hurried launch to avoid getting shut out of the market.  Naturally they haven’t confirmed these rumors to any degree so far, but the latest reports indicate the potential for both a cheaper Nook Color hardware update and a larger, more powerful incarnation of the same at around $350.

For the past couple months, it’s been pretty great to be Barnes & Noble.  They’ve been selling one of the most functional affordable tablets on the market, almost by accident.  They’ve had what was honestly the best eReader in the US market in terms of performance and readability.  On top of this, Amazon spent months seeming to ignore the world of eReading hardware aside from vague hints.  It couldn’t last forever, but they got to make a big splash with no significant recently released competition.

At first glance Amazon has now got a huge advantage again, especially in terms of the Kindle Fire.  While the Nook Color brought a lot of function for comparatively little money, its main value has generally been in how easily rooted it is.  Barnes & Noble has added an internal app store that has gotten quite a bit better over time, but they have nothing quite as robust as the Amazon Android App Store nor do they have the ability to offer the same kind of end to end experience that the Kindle Fire is anticipated to provide.  Simply put, the emphasis on the Nook Color as specifically a color eReader might have backfired.

Since B&N is experiencing a great deal of its current success (what there is of it) from the Nook line, they cannot afford to not respond.  Fortunately, from the sound of things, there were plans in place.  The Nook Simple Touch eReader shouldn’t have any real problems just now.  It might be slightly more expensive than the cheapest of the Kindle Touch models coming up, but the technology is comparable and for now we have to assume that the experience will be generally similar.  What they’re worried about is the Tablet competition.

A new, larger, more powerful Nook Color, assuming rumors hold some basis in reality, will be either announced or released before the end of October at around $350. This, along with a hardware update to the existing Nook Color, would theoretically have a chance of bringing them back to the front of consumer perception again in time for the 2011 holiday season.

Admittedly we’re talking about theoretical hardware at the moment, so as with most of the Kindle Tablet speculation it has to be taken with a grain of salt.  Still, if they can bring hardware and content availability anywhere near to in line with what Amazon is offering with the Kindle Fire it would be great.  Just the announcement of a $200 tablet from Amazon has already changed hardware prices in the market significantly.  Real, effective competition among budget tablet providers can only be a good thing.

Waterstone’s To Be UK’s Next Kindle Competition

Everybody knows that Amazon doesn’t release the sales numbers for their Kindle eReader.  That being said, some analysts have estimated that the popular eReader will sell over 17 million units this year alone and that the platform as a whole now accounts for as much as 10% of Amazon’s overall revenue.  That doesn’t mean that the Kindle is unassailable, of course, but it is definitely difficult.  The Barnes & Noble Nook has proved both parts of that.  Now, in an effort to revive flagging sales numbers, British bookseller Waterstone’s is going to try to replicate the B&N success story.

James Daunt, the Waterstone’s managing director, said in a recent BBC 4 radio interview that he was inspired by the Nook’s success in the US market.  So far, Barnes & Noble has not decided to expand their eReader presence beyond the US in spite of the exceptionally favorable reviews of their most recent generation of devices, which leaves a gap in the market for somebody else to exploit. Lately, given the consistent downward trend of most of Barnes & Noble’s non-Nook numbers, this seems like a great model for an otherwise declining company to make a comeback with.

Right now, Waterstone’s does not have a hardware partner or much in the way of solid details in terms of their intended offering.  Daunt has claimed that the company is “well down the planning line” on the way to an early 2012 launch are somewhat encouraging, but there is a lot to get done for such an ambitious move.  This is a fairly late stage to be entering into eReading on short notice, given the high quality of the current generation of eReaders.  Even the Kindle is sometimes only considered second-best by comparison these days.  That’s a lot to measure up to for any newcomer.

Since the closing of Borders Books and Books Etc, Waterstones seems to be the only major brick and mortar book seller in the UK market.  At a glance this seems to be something of a last-ditch effort.  The Waterstone’s internet storefront, which has been selling eBooks for some time now, has failed to compete successfully against the Kindle’s UK store.  A hardware tie-in would guarantee some returning business, but only if customers can be persuaded to adopt the new platform in the long term.

One of the biggest considerations for people seeking to build their own eBook library is whether or not their purchases will eventually be rendered useless by the end of a format or the closing of their chosen retailer.  Whereas Amazon seems to be around for pretty much the foreseeable future, Waterstone’s will have to make a big impression to avoid losing customers to the fear of obsolescence.  Add into that the overwhelming probability that there will be a new and improved Kindle released even before the Waterstone’s eReader comes to market and it will be a much tougher sale to make.

As always, competition is the most important driving factor for product improvement and customers should welcome a new serious contender to the eReader marketplace, but so far there isn’t enough detail to get your hopes up for.

Sony Reader WiFi Finally Brings Real Kindle Challenge

For some time now the Kindle, while retaining its mostly uncontested status as the superior eReader choice for consumers, has been facing increasingly able competitors.  The new Nook Simple Touch has made a splash in the US by essentially being the Kindle without a physical keyboard (though admittedly that’s oversimplifying the impressive progress B&N has made since the Nook Classic).  The Kobo eReader does everything the Nook can do (and almost as well in most cases) but isn’t restricted to the US.  In some ways the only thing that Amazon has still got going for the current generation of their eReading device is the combination of low price and great eBook selection.

While all this might change for Amazon come October, if sources like the Wall Street Journal are to be believed, there hasn’t been a better time for Sony to get back in the game.  Once, they were the entirety of the eReading marketplace.  They had the best, and indeed the only, dedicated eReaders on the market.  Lately, unfortunately, a combination of inability to keep up with competitors’ price drops and a lack of expected feature updates has been a problem and the Sony Reader is largely only brought up as a Nook alternative for people who really want to get library eBooks right this minute through OverDrive.

This October they’re jumping back into the ring with the Sony Reader Wi-Fi PRS-T1.  Admittedly still not the most catchy brand name in the world, but that is one of only two shortcomings that seem obvious at this time.  The price is right, at just $149, bringing the Reader line back into sync with the rest of the industry after all this time.  The touchscreen display, which was actually something that Sony started with eReading devices, will meet current readers’ expectations for modern devices.  They have even finally, as the name suggests, brought wireless connectivity to the Sony Reader!  It’s wonderful news.  The fact that this should be the lightest eReader on the market doesn’t hurt in the slightest either, of course.

While the new Sony Reader will definitely have all of the features that we have come to expect, from an E Ink Pearl screen to battery life better measured in weeks than hours, it does do a couple things that should really excite people.  This is the first major eReader at the price point, for example, to allow users to take notes in-text with a stylus.  It will have expandable memory and come in a variety of colors.  One limited edition offering will even include bundled Harry Potter eBooks.  Things are looking up for Sony.

If not for their connected Reader store, the other major shortcoming that I mentioned, Sony would be right in line to join the Nook and Kobo as competition for second-best eReader line.  Sadly, until something happens to turn that around, it’s hard to see this as a long-term success story.  While independent sources like Project Gutenberg and Pottermore remain platform independent, it has proven increasingly true that customers want brand stability.  The Kindle provides it, and so far the Reader store isn’t quite there.

MS Reader Just Couldn’t Compete With Amazon’s Kindle Anymore

When it comes to deciding who had the biggest impact in the earliest days of eReading, perhaps the only real answer is Microsoft.  Long before the Kindle, or even the first Sony Reader, you could pick up many of your favorite titles and read them on whatever computer or PDA you happened to have handy.  It wasn’t perfect, but it started something big.

Now, after over a decade of usefulness, both the MS Reader application and its associated file format (.lit) are being retired.  According to a notice posted without fanfare on the Microsoft support page, the last day that .lit eBooks will be available anywhere will be November 8, 2011.  The program itself will be usable through August 30, 2012, after which the whole project will be permanently retired.  While it has been a fairly long time since Microsoft was anything resembling a big name in eReading, it’s still almost shocking to see them go.

Yes, you could get electronic books before the year 2000.  I recall several public domain titles floating around my computers as far back as the early 90′s.  The .lit format broke people away from the generic document format or the restrictive PDF and provided a way to just read books.  Reflowable type, bookmarking, text searches, dictionary integration, and more made up a selection of features that improved the whole experience and went on to become the basis for everything that came after.

After the Kindle came around, the game changed significantly.  Microsoft didn’t ever really get the kind of widespread adoption that they needed to compete with such a huge, centralized platform, nor did they offer anything in the way of dedicated reading devices.  While the latter is certainly not essential for general reading, it makes a big difference for the most avid readers.  Combine that with the vastly superior selection of Kindle Edition eBooks and there was no real way to keep up.

While it will be sad to see this old, reliable system fade away, I think it is safe to say that superior alternate options abound and people should not generally be terribly inconvenienced by the announcement.  Should you have an existing library of purchased DRM-enabled .lit books laying around that you want to hold onto, you still have a couple options.

Obviously, you can just hang onto your copy of MS Reader.  They aren’t going to show up and start deleting things from your computer, nor are the countless archived copies around the internet going to disappear.  If you are interested in moving entirely to a new platform, however, there’s no point in cluttering up your system with multiple reading applications.

A simple internet search will find programs available to strip the DRM from your .lit files, provided you are indeed the legal owner (I recommend looking into “ConvertLIT).  They are simple to use, tend to be quite fast, and the product will be simple to plug into Calibre for conversion into MOBI or EPUB format.  Just because you jumped on the eReading trend early doesn’t mean you should be held back by the death of a format.

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.

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?

Kindle 3G w/ Special Offers Now Only $139

Looks like the Kindle 3G has just become that much more affordable. Apparently, thanks to an agreement with AT&T involving Kindle advertisements, Amazon has been able to drop the price of their 3G model noticeably. Now, for $139, just $25 more than the Kindle WiFi w/ Special Offers, you can’t really argue with the cost of convenience.

The move is well timed, given the current level of competition in the eReader world.  While the Kindle is still pretty much on top, especially internationally, the new Nook Simple Touch and Kobo eReaders are heating things up.  Since there are a few months to wait before the next iteration of the Kindle hits shelves, so to speak, it is important to emphasize the things that they have and nobody else does.  Things like the only really useful 3G connection on an eReader.  There isn’t one at all on the new Nook or Kobo releases, and the Nook 1st Edition is very limited in many ways including the 3G, by comparison.

This also does a lot to demonstrate the potential in the Kindle’s advertising support system.  A surprising number of people got upset at the Kindle w/ Special Offers being discounted rather than entirely free on release.  While I believe that to have been a bit optimistic for something being subsidized by an untried source of revenue, as advertisers catch on the prices will continue to drop.  In addition to the new deal with AT&T, the details of which have not been publicly released to the best of my knowledge, the Kindle is currently being sponsored by such companies as General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, and Chase.  If they were not seeing positive results, it would seem unlikely that even another big advertising partner would be enough to bring a price drop along with it.

For those who are in the market for a new eReader, the Kindle 3G w/ Special Offers retains all of its original functionality.  The screen, battery life, interface, and general readability are all as great as ever.  Even the ads, as much as they are conceptual abhorent to many when talking about their inclusion in a reading experience, are unobtrusive and never even hinted at while you are looking at a book.  The only major differences over the Kindle 3G are that this one is $50 cheaper and gives you something besides the slideshow of author portraits to see as screensavers.

For now this discount only applies to the 3G option, leaving the Kindle WiFi w/ Special Offers witting at $114.  Still a great price, but I would not be at all surprised to see a major sale in the near future.  While it is conceivable that the extra discount has at its core a service agreement that makes the 3G coverage on new Kindles cheaper for Amazon to maintain, which would in turn not apply to the WiFi models, a $25 difference doesn’t exactly set the two Kindles apart much and a $99 Kindle would make for some truly excellent sales numbers if analysts are to be believed.  Something to keep an eye on in weeks to come.

Kindle vs Paper Round 2: The Flipback?

As we all know by now, the Kindle was a ploy by Amazon to undermine the publishing industry, authors, and the generally transcendent experience of reading in general.  It has long been known that reading a book on a piece of electronics will always be sub-par compared to holding an actual paper book in your hand for countless reasons not worth looking too closely at anyway, but the Kindle marketing machine is too strong.  Readers have all but given up on paper, books are being burned, libraries are being shut down after falling into disuse, and machines may forever rule our lives.  There is one hope remaining, however: The Flipback!  Finally, a paper book that can compete with the Kindle in every way that matters.

Ok, that was all a bit ridiculous even for me, but I hope you see what I’m getting at.  Recent press surrounding a series of hardcover, cloth-bound, bible-paged books called Flipbacks has made it sound like they’re the latest great hope for paper to make a comeback in the book world.  I’ll admit that they are somewhat interesting.  Basically, small hardcover books about the size of a bulky cell phone that are meant to be read vertically and one-handed, with pages being flipped upward rather than from right to left.  The Flipback is lightweight, highly portable, and probably just as great for travel and commuting as the company making it is advertising.  Of course, you’re still going to be paying $19.99 for a single book printed in super-small text on the kind of super thin pages rarely seen outside of a bible.

Even assuming that there were no real downside to this product — no text size issues, no quality concerns, and priced to move — where is there a good reason for comparison to the Kindle or any other eReader?  Speaking on a personal level, I would say that this is almost worse for me than a normal paperback.  The price is higher, the books themselves are less aesthetically pleasing than your average equally priced hardcover, and I really dislike the “onion skin” paper they are using.  These seem to be a possible solution to a problem that already disappeared with the coming of the eReader.

To be a bit more objective than that, I think these Flipbacks have a chance if they can get the price down.  Right now you can buy yourself a Kindle for the price of 6 Flipbooks.  No matter how portable you can claim them to be, that just isn’t good enough even if they were competing with nothing but regular old-fashioned mass market paperbacks.  Many people are likely to find that the paper book “experience” is as foreign with one of these new books as is the Kindle itself, again downplaying the potential for direct competition.  There is a fair amount to get used to.

I think, however, that this could take off as a commuter’s impulse buy type of item in the next few years if they can get costs down enough to undercut the average paperbacks.  Right now, it is still essentially a test run of 11 titles coming from a single printing house.  Is there potential for a reading revolution?  Maybe a small one, sure!  Do we need to jump back up on the “Kindles are killing books” bandwagon again because paper has suddenly rendered eReaders obsolete?  Probably not.

More on Apple vs Kindle for iOS devices

So, Apple vs the Amazon Kindle platform.  I brought this topic up a few days ago, I know, but it bears repeating now that representatives from Apple have come out to clarify their position and put an end to the speculation based mainly around the rejection of Sony’s Reader app submission to the Apple app store.

For those who haven’t been following the situation, Apple has apparently decided to start enforcing some of the rules regarding in-app purchasing that they have seemed uninterested in until this point.  As a result of this, Sony was unable to get its iOS Reader app published, and Amazon’s Kindle app, along with all the other eBook readers out there linked to a store, may be in some pretty serious trouble.  Up until now, the way things work has been for the Kindle app to send you to the Amazon.com website whenever you want to pick up something new to read.  It results in convenience for users and neatly bypasses the need to work within the app store infrastructure.  That part, I doubt Apple minds.  What they are objecting to is the fact that these sales, going through the website as they do, fail to make Apple any money.  So, new restrictions. Now, since Apple wants a 30% cut and Amazon is making as little as a 30% cut as it is on many sales (specifically those coming from its self-publishing authors), many people are foreseeing a problem.

Heading off many of the potential solutions that Amazon could have used to address the new restrictions, Apple reps have made clear that there can be no linking to outside stores from inside an app anymore, and definitely no marking up of in-app sales to dissuade their use.  Basically, anything you’re selling to users of your app had better be available through the app so that Apple can get its cut and it must cost the same or less than in any other store you operate.  Not good news for the Kindle platform.

It remains to be seen how Amazon is going to respond to this.  There really seem to be very few options.  The question may come down to a matter of how much of Amazon’s eBook sale numbers comes through Apple devices.  I would imagine it would have to be a large percentage to persuade them to raise prices across the board for eBooks, which is what would have to happen for Apple’s percentage to be accounted for.  But it is also highly unlikely that the numbers could be so low as to make pulling the app completely a viable option.  Simply forgoing their own percentage of the price on a product that many believe is already being sold at cost or below is the least likely scenario of all, in my opinion.  Short of withdrawing the app, it seems like any compromise in favor of Apple will have a negative impact on users of Amazon’s own Kindle owners and that seems like a silly choice to make unless it’s overwhelmingly necessary.

Maybe this is a move intended to bolster Apple’s unimpressive efforts to take over the eBook industry’s distribution network the way they have that of the music industry, but if so then at best this will be an uphill battle that will earn them no small amount of ill will.  With the eReader capabilities of the iPad in particular being a selling point for many people, all Apple may be accomplishing here is diminishing the value of their devices by causing problems with one of the most popular apps they have seen to date.

Kindle’s Kobo Competition for 2011

While this has been an amazing and record breaking year for the Kindle, we haven’t heard much about the more basic, but highly publicized in its time, Kobo eReader.  For those who may not remember, the Kobo device made a splash a while back when they released the first widely available eReading device at $150.  This is widely percieved to have been the move that prompted both Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) and Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) to drop their prices from the $2-300 range when they did.

Their eReader, simply called the Kobo Wireless eReader, is a fairly basic device offering few of the frills you might expect elsewhere these days.  The idea was a reading device built for the task of reading a book off the rack and nothing else.  It’s not the quickest or the prettiest, but it does get the job done.  Where it shines most is the integration into the Kobo Books Store.  They have traditionally offered competitive prices on a huge selection of texts, often with less restrictive DRM formatting than can be found elsewhere.

All that being said, it seems that Kobo is hoping to give Amazon a bit more competition for that top of the market position this year.  They have a similar selection of reading apps to that which Kindle fans have become accustomed to over the past couple years.  Apps are available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Palm Pre, PC, Mac, etc. They have agreements with big names like Samsung and RIM to get these manufacturers’ devices preloaded with the Kobo reading app, which will be a big deal in the expanding tablet PC market place, and have stated that they hope to see their software preloaded on over 20 million individual devices over the course of 2011.  Talk about improved exposure…

Where does this leave the physical eReader?  As best I can tell it simply isn’t the focus of a major push right now.  The current incarnation is superior to the first offering, most notably for its wireless connectivity (which was a pain to do without, I can assure you from personal experience),but at heart it’s the same device.  You get your books, they go on a shelf, you grab them and read them.  It gets a little bit interesting when you’re trying to navigate using just the one multi-directional button in the corner, but even that isn’t too bad. It’s just not great, which it would need to be to make a big impression on the dedicated eReader marketplace with the Kindle around.

It’s hard to say at this point whether Kobo has a real shot at securing a large part of the eBook distribution pie.  They’re well positioned, have some good word of mouth going, and clearly have plans for the year ahead, but the competition on both sides, plentiful new distributors and entrenched old names like Amazon, might be a bit too much to make headway.  As for the Kobo eReader, I’m going to say that, personally, I’m counting it out of the race unless something changes.  The competition now is for the media distribution, after all, not so much the hardware.  Not sure who but a long-time customer would pay more for the Kobo alternative than is being charged for either a Kindle or Nook.

Nearly One Third of Internet Users Like the Kindle

According to a December survey of internet users conducted by J.P. Morgan, nearly a third(28%, to be exact) of these users either own a Kindle or have plans to purchase one in the next year. This would definitely seem to be held up by the record breaking sales that Amazon reported for the holiday season.  Even given the impressive numbers already, and the high expectations for the year to come, it is hard to picture a third of the internet having their hands on any eReader, even the Kindle, but it’s definitely a reassuring number for fans.

In terms of cross market interaction, for lack of a better way to put it, ownership of the iPad seems to have significant crossover with that of the Kindle.  The report states that 40% of current iPad owners surveyed already own a Kindle and an additional 23% are planning to pick one up in the next year.  While many assumed that Apple’s full-color, multifunction device would be the death of the Kindle due to its versatility, there ended up being less of a Kindle vs iPad situation and more of interest in the unique capabilities of each.  And, of course, for those who don’t have themselves a Kindle in hand yet, there’s always the Kindle for iPad app, so all is well in the eReading world I suppose.

The Nook didn’t fare quite so well among respondents.  Only about 45% of those surveyed had any knowledge of the product’s existence compared to 76% for the Kindle and 84% for the iPad.  While it was still a bestselling product for Barnes & Noble, and it was certainly helped along by the ability to demo the eReader in stores nationwide, as of yet there seems to be no real Kindle vs Nook competition when it comes down to market saturation.  Part of the failure to take the edge over the Kindle could be attributed to the increasing availability of Amazon’s eReader in brick and mortar locations such as Target and Best Buy.  Regardless, the numbers just aren’t quite there yet for what is widely considered the second-best eReader on the market today.

With eBooks taking off as they have, it’s never been more important for booksellers to be aware of the options available for future endeavors.  Amazon has obviously established their place as the most prominent distributor of eBooks on the net, as well as building an excellent variety of ways to view them. Basically, after them everybody else is struggling to catch up.  There are some great pieces of reading hardware coming out these days, and some interesting offerings in terms of media, like Google eBook, but the only line that really seems able to hold up both ends of things securely has been the Kindle.  It isn’t the only option, of course, but it is the one that best combines convenience of use and purchasing with a great interface and reliable equipment. We’ll have to wait and see where color eReaders take us in the near future, but for now it seems like this would be a hard act to catch up to for anybody.

Kindle vs iPad Demand Survey

A recently released ChangeWave survey tracking consumer data in the eReading marketplace came up with some interesting results for Kindle enthusiasts this time around.  While there was a lot of data, mostly demonstrating the justifiably increasing popularity of the iPad, there are a few specific pieces that are particularly interesting for those of us interested in the future of the dedicated eReader market.

Defining the eReader:

In looking at this topic, one of the things that it seems important to keep in mind, at least to me, is that the Kindle is essentially an eBook-specific reading device.  Yes, it is nice to have the option to grab your newspaper or news feed on it, and I do these myself, but that’s not where the device shines, nor where it is really meant to stand out.  If, for the sake of these surveys, we’re going to consider everybody who looks at a blog, a magazine, or a newspaper to have been using their device as an eReader, then that includes a lot of things that are peripheral to everything besides the iPad.  Before anybody jumps down my throat on this one, I’m not claiming that there are no people who want an eReader to read their magazines on or that that’s an unimportant market, merely one that only one of the devices was ever really intended to take into account in the first place.  When it comes to specifically eBooks, the current user base numbers reflect a different balance.

Future eReader Demand:

This is perhaps the most immediately relevant bit of information to look at, for a lot of people.  While we don’t have much to go on in terms of rationale behind these purchase decisions, it is very nice to see dedicated eReaders as a whole, and the Kindle in particular, holding a strong position here. Even with the iPad having the more diverse functionality, showing 42% for the iPad against 38% for dedicated eReaders(Kindle, Nook, and Sony) with as many as 18% of respondents undecided tells me the numbers are staying pretty close.

Current eReader Ownership:

This was the most interesting of the data sets to me, when it comes right down to it.  In a survey of over 2800 respondents, iPad ownership doubled in just four months, while Kindle ownership dropped by 15%. This doesn’t mean that 15% of Kindle owners dropped their eReaders off at the dump or switched to the iPad, obviously, simply that a more significant number of people owned iPads or both iPad and Kindle devices.  Not having a copy of the report on my desk at the moment, I can’t say anything certain about methods, but it would seem likely that you hit your participant numbers faster now that the iPad has really taken off, so Kindle numbers will appear to fall as a result.

Conclusions:

Does all this mean that the Kindle is on its way out?  Nah.  The market is growing and tablet PCs are going to take their share.  If all you want to do is read magazines and surf the web anyway, it certainly makes more sense to have one of those right now than it does an eReader.  For those of us who want to sit for hours with a good book in front of us, preferences are still pretty clearly elsewhere.

Sony Reader App Announced

Sony, the company that all but started the eReading industry, has finally gotten around to joining the mobile reading app marketplace!  This December, according to their admittedly sparse preview page, we’ll get to play with Sony Reader for iPhone and Sony Reader for Android in addition to their hardware options.  It will have the expected features we’ve gotten used to in existing reading app offerings: text resizing, bookmarks, highlighting, and annotation.  It does have a nice looking interface though, from what we can see, and may present other unique features as well!

The Sony Store integration is what’s going to make this app unique compared to the Kindle or Nook alternatives.  Their store does have a decent selection of comparably priced books available, of course, as well as the now almost expected Google Books connection that allows them to present over a million eBooks free of charge.  This last feature was rather loudly advertised for a while, as one might expect, but doesn’t really seem like it will add much to the value of the application.  As anybody who has used a Nook for any length of time will know, however, the integration of the Google Books library into a store can cause more trouble than it solves.  It is nice to have those things available, but quality and tagging can occasionally be somewhat problematic and leave you unsure what you’re even looking at.  Besides, isn’t it fairly likely that anybody who wants Google Books on their phone is going to be able to just head to the web page?  Anyway…

I really like what Sony has done for the eReading marketplace in the past.  I really don’t think it would exist in quite the form it does today without them.  It has been a long time since they were leading the pack, though, and they’re late to the game on this point.  Hopefully, that just means that this will be something that’s been given enough development time to really impress, somehow rather than just being a means for owners of the Sony Reader devices to read their purchased books on other platforms.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but it would do them some good to pull a bit of attention away from the Nook and Kindle front-runners.  More competition is always a good thing.

Haiku Contest: Win a Kindle

Haiku Contest : Win a Kindle

Another day, another Kindle competition. Surpass Hosting is staging a contest where the winner can bag themselves a Kindle.

Its a lot easier to enter than the previous competition we told you about, all you have to do it write a haiku – simple.

Give us a great haiku about Surpass Hosting and win an Amazon Kindle to further enjoy poetry and reading.

“The most common form for Haiku is three short lines. The first line usually contains five (5) syllables, the second line seven (7) syllables, and the third line contains five (5) syllables. Haiku doesn’t rhyme.” Here is an example haiku:

i love you surpass
you make my sites go so fast
happy webmaster

Just post your entry in this thread, then on August 29th we’ll all vote for the winner. It’s a community feeling.

Sometimes I wish that I had a Kindle to give away, I have so many competition ideas, but no prizes to give away =(

Source: Surpass Hosting Blog