[Updates: An alert reader pointed out that Kobo does do ebook previews---I think I just missed it. However, there's still no search and the page-turning/page number situation is still simply awful. On balance, I still think you shouldn't bother with Kobo.
On a happier note (for iBooks fans), iBooks has adopted the Nook's hold-and-swipe highlighting feature, which was my favorite thing about the Nook app. Really, the only thing I liked. Definitely no reason to even try the Nook app now. Three years and counting until Barnes & Noble is bankrupt.
I'll try to keep this space updated with new features, but probably won't.]
Merry Christmas! Several thousand people at least will be unwrapping an iOS device today. Here’s a list of the major ereader apps, and their pros and cons. We’ll see you again on Tuesday, when we go back to regular programming.
iBooks: Perfect for iOS readers
Pros: Buying books through the app store. Great highlighting, syncing, dictionary, and a ton of layout options. Two-page layout on the iPad, and fewer glitches than any other app.
Cons: Doesn’t work on any non-iOS device. Not your Kindle, not your Nook, not any E-Ink ereader. If you want to use one of those devices, you’ll want to use a different app. There isn’t even a desktop version of iBooks, you can only use it on an iPhone or an iPad. There’s also no real iBooks website, and navigating through the Books section of iTunes is a proper pain, so you’ll need to come to the app with a title in mind.
The gist: iBooks is also the only app that will let you buy books through the app store and your iTunes account—that ability is turned off for all other ebook apps. But that ease-of-buying-books is not what makes iBooks the best ereader app; instead, it’s the fact that all the others have significant downsides. iBooks has all the core functions—note-taking, highlighting, search, dictionary, and layout options—and they all work. If your iPhone and/or iPad is your main ereader, look no further for your new favorite app.
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News of Amazon shutting Lendle down today marks another sad chapter in the history of modern publishing.
Lendle, as the name implies, was a site that helped Kindle users utilize the lending feature included in some Kindle ebooks. They don’t pirate books or sell lending credits or increase the amount you can lend, they’re only a sophisticated bulletin board to match up borrowers and lenders.
When I first read that they’d been shut down, I was furious—but really, it makes a lot of sense. Amazon has never thought much of lending ebooks—it’s never allowed library ebooks on the Kindle, and when Barnes & Noble first announced the Nook’s LendMe feature, Bezos denounced it for being “extremely limited.” When Amazon caved and copied that exact lending feature, their execution of it was both obnoxious to use and riddled with bugs.
So, obviously Bezos wants credit for reader-friendly features like ebook lending, but doesn’t want customers to actually use those features, no matter how “limited” he claims they are. File this one under: another reason not to buy a Kindle.
The good news: you can still find people to borrow and share ebooks with, at such sites as BooksForNooks.com, K BooksForMyEreader.com (formerly BooksForMyKindle, but they probably got cease-and-desisted), and eBookFling.com. At eBookFling, you can actually buy a lending credit (reportedly for $1.99), so you don’t have to own a single Kindle book to borrow them. Personally, I would’ve shut that site down and left Lendle up, but far be it from me to tell Bezos how to polish his head.
This is going to be an interesting one to watch, we haven’t had an AmazonFail in a while…
Recently, Apple’s been feeling its oats, and Steve Jobs has been picking fights with absolutely everybody, even bloggers who just want a portable porn pad. Here’s a breakdown of the two biggest Apple fights out there.
Apple v. Amazon
First there was terror. When the iPad was announced, Jeff Bezos messed his cargo shorts when he heard Apple was supporting both ePub and the Agency model. He promptly caved and let publishers walk all over him—although he did it, of course, with a minimum of maturity, because that’s how he rolls. But Bezos (not to mention publishers) got proper snookered by the sneaky Jobs.
Despite all the furor over Apple’s embrace of the agency model (which might not even be legal in countries where they regulate their corporations), the iPad isn’t selling many iBooks. Penguin claims to be leading the pack (you know, if you don’t count free Gutenberg books, which are “selling” twice as much as Penguin). But let’s not forget that iBooks aren’t very popular, in the scheme of iPad apps—in fact, Feedbooks distributes more books.
If the iPad does start selling tons of iBooks, well, publishers are screwed then, too. Apple can evidently force prices down to $9.99 if it feels like, and in April 2011, they can simply rescind the agency model agreement. Ha!
All this has led to, shall we say, some tension in the publishing industry. Publishers are choosing up sides, and even unleashing their wrath on unsuspecting authors who want to publish ebooks. Then there are the obligatory rumors that Kindle’s grip on the market is slipping, but since there’s a Kindle app for the iPad (not to mention iPhone and soon Android) I don’t understand how Apple will ever win a book fight.
And by the way, Google’s launching its own ebookstore, which I’m guessing and hoping will use Adobe ePub formatting. Meaning neither Apple nor Amazon customers will be able to read Google ebooks. Because Apple hates Adobe, too! Why? Well, more on that after the jump… …
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Some news about books and ebooks from around the web:
- Here is an article from the NYT about literature and cognitive science. Basically, it’s about how empathy relates to reading fiction, and how readers process interrelated or overlapping points of view. Or “what the scholars call levels of intentionality.” Read it.
Obligatory iPad and Amazon news—and lots of other stuff—after the break. …
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[UPDATE: Amazon gave in, and will sell Macmillan books via the "agency model" Macmillan laid out. Which means Macmillan ebooks will cost $13-$15, even at Amazon. I'm putting the over/under on the date of Amazon's next major Kindle screw-up at March 15.]
So Amazon has barred all Macmillan books (print and digital) from its U.S. website after the publisher insolently disagreed with Amazon’s stringent pricing policies. Macmillan asked for either a different pricing structure or “windowing,” i.e. delayed ebook releases (Macmillan CEO John Sargent claims Amazon will make more money, and Macmillan will make less under the new structure, which confuses me). Amazon responded with the Macmillan ban.
You can still find Macmillan books at the Sony Reader Store, however, and you can find many selling for the $9.99 price point that started all this. I’m assuming either higher Macmillan prices or windowing is coming to Sony, but at least you can buy the books.
For the record, I think the entire hardcover pricing system is greedy and predatory; it’s essentially publishers milking their biggest fans’ excitement to make a few extra bucks. I think Macmillan’s making a big mistake in trying to preserve hardcover pricing, and refusing to fully embrace ebooks.
However, this Amazon move is thuggery of the first order, and it doesn’t feel like the stalemate will be resolved very quickly [UPDATE: Or maybe it will, what do I know] (or that it will be the last of its kind). The Macmillan ban combined with Amazon’s continued refusal to allow library ebooks on the Kindle makes one thing clear: Kindle is simply not the best ereader for book readers. If you read mostly books, get a Sony Reader or an Astak Pocket Pro. If you read mostly newspapers or magazines, get an iPad. [UPDATE: Amazon's cave-in brings the Kindle back to the realm of relevancy for book readers. But it still comes with too many questionable corporate decisions for my taste.]
I’m just not sure who the Kindle is for.
[More Macmillan/Amazon analysis by Edward Champion, E-Reads, Ars Technica, and the Guardian.]
Amazon’s really hyping Kindle books in the wake of an iPad that (maybe) doesn’t have proprietary formatting [UPDATE: iPad does indeed have proprietary formatting. Take a breath, Kindle]. Still… Henry Paulson? You know exactly what’s in this book (this), and you know it’s not going to be all that riveting. So who’s staying up until midnight on Sunday to get themselves the newest Hank? I doubt even Paulson himself will.
Maybe Amazon has a rogue algorithm that gives anything looking vaguely like “Harry Potter” its own midnight release party. T-minus 82 hours!
Hopefully this ad stays front and center on Amazon’s homepage for all 82 of them.
[UPDATE: It's confirmed that the iPad won't be compatible with Adobe ePub books. That means no library books, and it takes a lot of the shine off the new iBooks. For some reason, Apple hates Adobe, and Adobe hates them back.]
A few short weeks ago, the Plastic Logic QUE ($650 WiFi/$800 3G) and the Spring Design Alex ($400 [EDIT--the Alex is now $360, I missed that]) debuted at CES, and immediately crushed my interest in them with exorbitant price points.
Today, Apple unveiled their new tablet computer, the “iPad,” (Gizmodo’s full coverage here) and made the QUE entirely irrelevant. The iPad is cheaper ($500 WiFi/$630 3G), faster, and more functional than the QUE, and it will actually be available earlier.
Not only does the iPad have a new, Apple-branded ereading program (iBooks), it can do video, internet, maps, and everything else that an iPhone can, on a grander scale. The only advantages the QUE has left are its ability to hand-write notes, and its E-Ink screen which makes for less eye strain and longer battery life. Still, the iPad has ten hours of battery life, so that last point is moot.
Basically, this spells doom for the $650 QUE, and if you were thinking about getting the Alex for $400 $360, or (God forbid) a $490 Kindle DX, how can you not scrape up a little extra for an iPad instead?
The iPad’s debut highlights the folly of “luxury” ereaders like the QUE and the Alex, which have gone in the wrong direction, trying to have an ereader that’s half laptop, with a price tag to match. Simple, affordable ereaders like the Kindle, Astak Pocket Pro, and Sony Pocket Edition are the only ones worth looking at now, at least until the Alex’s price drops by $150.
A few more tidbits, and links to more iPad coverage, after the jump. …
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- Basically, nobody wants to shut up about the new Apple tablet (supposedlydubbed the iPad–consider it nominated for this week’s dumbest new ereader name award). It’s slated to be revealed today, so I’m not going to bother parsing out the rumors. This one bit about pricing strategies and the coming battle between Apple and Amazon is interesting though. Not sure where B&N is in all this. I guess they probably shouldn’t have f-ed up the Nook launch so badly. Perhaps they are waiting for a boost from Apple? If you’re foolishish enough to get a first generation iPad (thus ignoring Apple’s track record of vastly superior second gen devices), here are some other fun uses for it.
- It looks like Asus’s EeeReader (or are they Asustek?) will have two models. Acer’s got one running Chrome. Then there’s Mustek. And the Lenovo Tianji. And Endless Ideas has a WiFi BeBook Neo. There’s the Oppo Enjoy (dumbest name: winner). Copia is still hanging around. Even Nintendo is getting in the fray, selling romance novels on their DS. Man, the market is officially awash.
- Amazon has quietly laxed their DRM policies. So quietly that hardly anyone has noticed. In what could be an enourmous shift, Apple will allow iTunes users to store libraries in the cloud, rather than their harddrives (hopefully it doesn’t require a .Mac subscription). Besides fighting with China, Google is also in a tiff with its old buddy Apple. This may lead to Apple dumping Google integration from their devices and adopting Bing, which is of course owned by–Mac geeks are fainting left and right over this, I’m sure–the evil Microsoft. Regardless of Google’s early success (maybe) with Android’s apps, Apple is still the undisputed ruler of App-land.
- It’s kinda old news, but apparently colleges are being sued for using ereaders in classrooms because blind students can’t use them. How using a braille edition to supplement a Kindle (which reads books–poorly–out loud) is less fair than if the other students use deadtree, I do not understand. It won’t help the blind, but if you’ve no backlight on your ereader and can’t figure out how to turn on your lamp, try this dongle. This Boogie Board doodle toy isn’t an ereader (and probably isn’t much use to anyone not a basketball coach) but it does seem pretty cool, and uses no power at that.
- We’ll be posting on Friday about some of the many changes we have planned for our second year. There’s a lot of good stuff planned, and we’ll be getting bigger and better as time goes on. Check back Friday for that.
- I really like this comic explaining proper semicolon use; there’s also one for the apostrophe. Also at The Oatmeal, the best Twilight review I’ve yet read (yes, I read the books). Everyone in this school district should be given a lobotomy. And Scholastic Surprise! should chill on this one and use their noggins. Finally, Farmville is stupid (no link, just spouting the truth).
So CES officially opened today and, sure enough, prices were announced for the Spring Design Alex and the Plastic Logic QUE. Up until today, I would’ve classified the Alex and the QUE as the two most exciting new ereaders. Then I saw how they’ll cost: The Alex is going for $399, and the QUE is $649 with WiFi, $800 (!!?) with 3G.
Yesterday, I guessed that the Alex would go for $350, and the QUE for $500. I considered those conservative estimates; i.e., I was ready to be pleasantly surprised. Eesh, was I ever wrong.
The big takeaway from these price announcements is simply that ereader manufacturers don’t care about the casual reader. These devices are getting more expensive, not less, and that’s not a trend that’s going to steal the Kindle’s thunder anytime soon.
But there’s more to glean from six digits and a couple dollar signs.
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Here’s our last links update of the decade. First though, we’ve updated our eReader Comparison page as well as our Best Ways to Get eBooks, so check them out. Both will be seeing quite a few more updates in the coming weeks and months as much is happening with ereaders and ebook sellers. In fact, we’ve got a lot of changes planned for C4 in the near future as well; we’ll be posting on many of them at some point in January. Also, be sure to check out our Best Books of 2009 series if you haven’t already. We’ll be continuing the series through January.
- Kindles (and their attached ebooks) apparently sold like hotcakes this Christmas (though we can’t be sure), while the Nook continues its snaggy, stumbling launch. However, hackers finally cracked the Kindle DRM. It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon responds. Despite purchasing Kobo neé Shortcovers, Borders maintains they’re not working on a ereader device of its own. I’m with Nico on their days being numbered, though I would like to see a solid all platform ebook store contend with the bigger boys. Barnes & Noble, on the other hand, has begun selling readers besides the Nook: the JetBook and the Foxit eSlick.
- More Apple rumors this week, this time that they will be producing a dedicated reader called the iSlate that differs from they long-rumored tablet. Seems convincing, but I wouldn’t trust this one just yet. Paradigm Shift announced a couple of color ereaders, though the screens look to be LCD, which I don’t think will win the day. Asus (of netbook fame) has a rumored ereader/tablet on the horizon, and it gets this week’s Stupidest eReader Name Award for calling it the EeeReader. Finally, hot on Asus’s heels, Lenovo wants in too (hopefully they come up with the dumbest name yet).
- A library in Oregon has announced plans to lend out ereaders. Hopefully this proves successful and this sort of thing takes off. Interead, makeres of COOL-er ereaders, partnered with OverDrive (who make very solid library software) to expand their ebook store. As you may have heard, there was a big MediaBistro ebook summit recently. Of all places, Vanity Fair has a nice breakdown of the proceedings. Now you can read Sesame Street, Curious George, and Veggie Tales stories on your iPhone, and record your reading for your children to replay later. A Wallace & Gromit ebook sold half a million downloads on the Apple App Store, which is impressive indeed.
- Apparently HP’s new facial recognition PCs are colorblind (in the unacceptable, can’t see black people way). Don’t feed sea turtles brussels sprouts unless you want their farts to mess up your aquarium. I know I’ve posted to it before, but I really like this isn’t happiness.
- This weeks video is an oldie-but-goodie: