Wednesday Links 10-21-2009

Wednesday again. As usual, let’s start off with ereaders and go from there.
  • The Barnes & Noble ereader (maybe named Athena or Nook) is looking pretty snazzy. It’s rumored to be priced competitively at $259; it’s got dual screens and runs on Android. Not to be outdone, so does the mysterious Spring Design’s Alex. Plastic Logic also released some details on their upcoming device, the QUE, which looks pretty sleek and will be available in just a few months.
  • Google has decided to launch an ebook store called Google Editions., which got the Frankfurt Book Fair atwitter. Walmart wants in too, so they will begin selling ebooks on Walmart.com. For the most part I find Walmart to be just about the most evil corporation on the planet, but it will be interesting to see what effect this has on ebook prices, beyond the current scuffle with Amazon–and what formats they make available.
  • German parliament bought a buttload of ereaders for some reason. And, might we see ebooks in bookstores soon? Aussies will. Corey Doctorow put an interesting piece for Publisher’s Weekly about ebooks and why he thinks they can be free. Read this interesting response to a savage review of Jonathan Lethem’s new book. Find a great “captain” Ahab or Poe tee shirt over at Novel-T.
  • For fun this week: Ugliest Tattoos is funny stuff. Until 10/25 you can get the awesome World of Goo (Mac/PC/Linux) legally and name your own price. This Brit video is pretty funny/clever.
  • And, finally, if you are the Russian spammers overloading our comments, please stop. It’s really annoying. (We’ve been scrambling to get the spam cleaned up, so we apologize to any commenters if your post gets deleted by mistake. Feel free to email us if this happens to you and we’ll get your post reactivated.)

Weekly World News Is the Jewel in the Google Books Crown

So it’s been a little more than six months since the “historic” Google Books settlement, and there’s even more controversy lately than ever. (Hard to believe the Authors Guild screwed something up, I know.) Aside from antitrust issues, Google Books is still a frustratingly long way from fulfilling its potential.

The same goes for magazines in the Books database. Google has some interesting ideas about magazines in the pipe, but in the meantime, finding magazines is an aggravating experience at best. There’s no way to browse the archives, which means there’s no way to discover magazines you haven’t heard of. Instead you have to search, often fruitlessly, to find out if the database carries particular titles.

The selection is varied. New York, Popular Science, Cincinnati, Baseball Digest; essentially a lot of middle- to lower-tier archives. And the selection of truly bizarre magazines is sparse: for instance Log Home Design Ideas (which somehow went from quarterly to monthly in its ten-year run).

But there is a saving grace for the current state of Google Books magazine archives at Google Books, provided by Bat Boy, robotic Dick Cheney, and all manner of other freaks, geeks, and weirdos.

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Sony + Google Books: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As you might have heard from one of many sources, Google Books has partnered with Sony’s eBook Store to make half a million out-of-copyright books available as non-DRMed ePubs.

This is unquestionably a step forward for the world of ereading, but for people who want to pick up one of these books right now, there are some caveats.

Here’s what going on with this partnership, and what it means for readers.
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iPhone Readers: Google Book Search

First off, yes, I know that this is not an app per se but you can read books on it and you can’t export books from it, so for all intents and purposes it is a reader tool. (Although, a neat iPhone trick, if you didn’t already know, is that you can bookmark webpages to your homescreen so they appear like an app. Some, such as this, even have an icon all queued up, others will use a screen shot, so zoom in on the logo or whatever image you’d like before you make the bookmark.) Ultimately, that this isn’t an app is basically it’s undoing.  Google Book Search offers access to a whole lot of public domain stuff, and this optimization makes it easier to navigate the service on the iPhone, but you’re much better off getting the same titles through manybooks.net or Project Gutenberg and loading them into an app like Stanza.

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Google and Amazon Canoodling on Mobile Devices

Releasing an iPhone optimized version of their expansive if frustrating Book Search service might not be enough for Google in their push for digital ubiquity. Google has announced (via currentworldnews.net) that they will team up with Amazon to create ebook distribution software for mobile devices. That Amazon is involved may not bode so well with those not keen on the Kindle’s distribution model, but the fact that it is aimed at more devices than just the Kindle might mean this is a (hopefully not the only) first step toward an easily accessible and user-friendly approach to ebook distribution–though it probably means accessing the whispernet through Android. Let’s just hope it doesn’t fragment things further.

Read our full review of Google Book Search for iPhone later this week.

Google Book Search on iPhone and Android Devices

Google has optimized (sort of) their Book Search feature for iPhone and phones packed with Android.  While it’s certainly nice to have free access on mobile devices, Google Book Search is not without its flaws.  Check out our full review of Book Search on iPhone later this week.
UPDATE: Not to be forgotten, the ambitious Project Gutenberg has also been working for mobile optimization.

Google’s Book Search: Disappointing for eReaders

Google Book Search recently reached a “groundbreaking agreement” which is great for searching the text of books, not so great for reading those books, abysmal for reading anything on an ereader.

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