Wednesday Links: 12-23-09

We’ll have some Christmas reading recos tomorrow, and then we’ll be back on the 28th with a new installment of our Best Books 2009 series.

In the meantime, here’s an extra-long installment of news about books and ebooks from around the web.

  • OverDrive released an Android audiobook app Monday (via). You can get it here. I’ve tried it, and it’s awesome. You can download mp3 audiobooks from you local library straight to your phone. Once you have the app installed, just check out the book from your library on your phone’s browser, and OverDrive automatically loads it. You can then download the audiobook in parts. Transferring audiobooks from your computer isn’t supported with Android devices (at least, on Macs)—it goes through iTunes for some reason—but it’s not necessary. This is still in beta, but I didn’t get so much as a hiccup in my few days using it. The Android app only works with mp3s—no WMA books (sadly, since the vast majority are WMAs, for now)—and an OverDrive smartphone app is also available for Windows Mobile.
  • Barnes & Noble’s Nook is turning out to be more popular than they’d expected. More news of shipping delays has surfaced, along with customer service snafus. Although, if you don’t get your Nook by Christmas, you get $100, so things could be worse. Meanwhile, switch11 at the Kindle Review has posted a quick hands-on comparison of the Nook and the Kindle. If you can’t guess from the title of his blog, switch11 leans heavily toward the Kindle in ereader comparisons; however, he seemed to like the Nook, especially for its clearer font. Personally, the features and mixed reviews of the Nook, combined with the hamfistedness of its rollout, have me more excited for Spring Design’s Alex ereader, which—so far—seems a lot like the Nook, only better. Maybe this update will help. (Update: it didn’t help much.)
  • Macworld has reviewed seven major ereadersfind the roundup here. Surprisingly, their favorite was the Sony PRS-600, the Touch. They dinged the PRS-300—which you can get extra-cheap these days if you’re a student or teacher—for not having a dictionary or image support. If you don’t care about those things and you read mostly novels, the 300′s your best bet, in my opinion. Macworld finds the Kindle’s controls kludgy, and while whispernet’s great, you’re going to be spending most of your time reading, not downloading books.
  • Here’s a couple of anti-DRM pieces. One by Cory Doctorow (via), one by switch11 (see above). Also, David Pogue’s DRM experiment has found (unscientifically) that lack of DRM has no effect on sales. And, the scary Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement threatens to be a DMCA for the whole world (that’s bad).

  • TeleRead reports that Barnes & Noble ePub books are every bit as proprietary as Kindle book. You can’t read B&N ebooks on non-Nook ereaders, and you can’t read anything but B&N ebooks on a Nook. An Adobe spokesperson says that’s something Adobe is working to iron out. But until you get confirmation that it is—in fact—ironed out… this is just another reason to not buy a Nook.
  • This is interesting: BookSwim is the Netflix of books (via). Soooooo close, but I want the Netflix of ebooks. Same concept (a pay-for-it library for impatient people), no shipping costs.
  • So Random House caused a kerfuffle a few weeks ago, when CEO Markus Dohle sent a letter to literary agents and essentially told them that Random House owned all publishing rights in the universe except those that authors had specifically contracted for. The Authors Guild fired back that Random House was entirely wrong, and in fact authors owned all non-specific rights. I’ve disagreed with the Authors Guild more than once in the past, but I’m with them on this one. Moreover, it spells desperation on the part of Random House. E-Reads weighs in with the potential ramifications of all this.
  • Borders doesn’t have its own ereader (yet), so what does that mean for its future? Well, Borders is somehow partnered with Sony’s Reader Store, but that didn’t stop them from buying Shortcovers (which is now “Kobo“), and announcing plans to open their own ebookstore in 2010—a plan that Ars Technica thinks is not enough. Personally, I hope open formatting will allow some room for third-party bookstores (that is, if publishers loosen their grip a little). But, if I had to guess which book behemoth was going to do their best Blockbuster impression in the coming years, Borders is my runaway favorite.
  • Quick links: the L.A. Times ran a special on the decade in reading Sunday, Jacket Copy has a nice summary of it (the L.A. Times‘s book section has since been gutted); overenthusiastic DRM has ruined 3D screenings of Avatar; Kirkus Reviews is closing; an Android-powered tablet called Adam might steal the Apple tablet’s thunder—or at least provide a cheaper alternative; Gizmodo on “Books and the iTunes Problem”; the NY Times book blog on the benefits of digital reading; TeleRead found some tips on ereading; critics in Slate discuss the new Nabokov book—Sean discussed it here not too long ago; the latest author to lose her mind over bad reviews; the EFF‘s ebook buyer’s guide to privacy; and finally, great news about libraries: ebooks are cut last when budgets have to be tightened. At least somebody in this country understands that ebooks are the future.
  • Random videos—weirdly made music edition. First is Dub FX, with more than just beatboxing. Then, Julian Smith & co. with techno made from a Jeep.


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