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).

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Wednesday Links 12-16-2009

Before we get to the links, a little site promotion: I was Christmas shopping for books today and I wanted to get a mystery novel for my grandfather. Where did I look? Why the C4 Book Reviews section of course. Give it another peek, maybe you’ll find some gift ideas of your own. Also, check out our Best Books of 2009 feature, which will be updated Mondays through January. Well, enough of that…

Wednesday Links 12-02-2009

Wow, been a while. Here’s a healthy collection of links to make up for the last few weeks. And if you’re sick of my style, fear not: Nico is back and will be helming next week’s edition.

Wednesday Links 11-11-2009

Wednesday Links 10-14-2009

Another Wednesday, another round of links.

  • Disney’s got an ebook service up and running, so you can read all the Pooh Bear and Hanna Montana ebooks you want for $90 a year. Penguin and Eggmont have signed a deal with EA to bring children’s books to Nintendo’s DS handheld. Wynken de Worde has a nice piece up about the building wave of ebooks. This book’s cover art is hilarious, as is the existence of this toy.

Wednesday Links 9-16-2009

Sorry for the lapse last week.  Got a little catch-up to do this week now.

Stealing the Kindle’s Killer Feature: What the B&N eReader Does (kind of) Well

I’m a book reader. I read some news on the web, the odd magazine, but mostly I’m a book reader. As such, the Kindle’s Whispernet has never really kicked me in the envy glands. I don’t need daily content updates, so I only connect my Sony Reader to my computer about once a month to stock up on ebooks.

For me, the Sony’s ability to borrow library ebooks far outweighs the Kindle’s wireless connectivity. (Almost every other non-Amazon ereader can borrow library ebooks, too. Check out our ereader comparison for more quick details on ereaders.)

But there’s one Kindle feature that I have envied: first chapter previews. There are many ebooks I would never have bought or borrowed if I could’ve read the first chapter beforehand, but until now there have only been a few feeble attempts from non-Amazon ebookstores to duplicate this feature.

The Barnes & Noble eReader, though, didn’t copy it—they just stole it, and that might have been the best decision their eReader team made.

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Vicious Kindle Coverage in The New Yorker

Nicholson Baker has a harsh story on the Kindle in this week’s New Yorker, in which he doggedly eviscerates Amazon for their overinflated marketing, the garbled layout of many of their ebooks, and the Kindle’s lackluster build quality. He includes a little bit of Kindle history, a lot of his own underwhelming personal experience with the device, the odd anecdote, and a few other tidbits.

Some of those tidbits are quite odd. There’s a reference to a YouTube video (awkwardly detailed by name). There’s a long verbal unboxing. There are many quotes from reviewers and Kindle users. (In many parts, it feels like the piece would be better suited to a website where it could have links and pictures and other embedded media.)

If you passably keep up with ereading tech, there’s not much new information in this piece. However, for the rest of The New Yorker‘s audience, this is nothing short of anti-Kindle agitprop. I’d be hard-pressed to find one thing Baker says about the Kindle that isn’t stingingly negative. For example:

The Kindle DX ($489) doesn’t save newspapers; it diminishes and undercuts them—it kills their joy.

Baker wraps up with a strong warning to buy an iPod instead of a Kindle, and the distinct sense that the one (half a) book he read on Amazon’s device will be his last.

All this means that we could see a little bit of a brouhaha about the article, which should be fun to watch. It certainly comes at an inopportune time for Amazon.

Aside from a potential kerfuffle, the most entertaining part of this piece is the insight into Baker’s reading habits. Dragon fantasies and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance” go hand in hand with Calvino and Kipling. Weird.

Read the full article online here.

UPDATE: Here are the two best responses to the Baker piece: a technical response from TeleRead, and a temperamental response from Edward Champion.

iPhone Readers: Barnes & Noble eReader

With Barnes & Noble rolling out their new “largest ebook store” and a planned dedicated Plastic Logic device to go toe to toe with Amazon (read what Nico has to share about it here), I took the opportunity to download the companion app released on the Apple App Store. The app stands up quite well, especially in comparison to Amazon’s barebones Kindle app, and hopefully is the first step in a competition between the two giants that ebook consumers will really benefit from.
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Kindle Killswitch Update: Amazon Says They Probably Maybe Won’t Unsell eBooks Anymore

Last week, Amazon got in some hot water when they remotely deleted ebooks from customers’ Kindles without permission or explanation. From civilian interaction with Amazon customer service, it was unclear whether Amazon remote-killed the books because they were sold by non-copyright holders (pirates) or because a legitimate publisher “decide[d] to pull their content from the Kindle store.”

Information Week (via) has since confirmed that piracy was the reason for Amazon’s creepy move:

Amazon says that that the books in question were added to its catalog using the company’s self-service platform by a third-party who did not have the rights to the books.

When the story broke last week, I guessed that Amazon wouldn’t apologize or reinstate the books in question if piracy was the culprit, and indeed they’ve done neither. They did, however, give this sinister sound bite:

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