The “iPod of books” will be something like this

There has been a lot of talk about whether or not the Amazon Kindle is “the iPod of books”.  People who aren’t desperately trying to attract search traffic will tell you the truth – niether the Kindle nor any of its competitors are anywhere close to having the impact on the industry that the iPod has had.

But if you’re looking for a game changer, look at stuff like this.  For $40 more than a Kindle, you get a full computer.

The specs, from their site:

  • 9.4″ x 7″ x 1.4″ for 2 lbs (with keyboard)
  • ARM Texas Instruments OMAP3 chip
  • 1024×600 8.9” screen
  • Storage: 8GB micro SD card
  • Wifi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth
  • 3-dimensional accelerometer
  • Speakers, micro and headphone
  • 6 USB 2.0 (3 internal, 2 external, 1 mini)
  • 10h to 15 hours of battery life

Sure, there are netbooks out there for less money.  But detaching the keyboard (or even not purchasing it, for $100 less) leaves you with a tablet with a ten hour battery.  Sure, eInk ebook readers have a longer life between chargings, but how often are any of us away from a plug for more than ten hours?

You give up the ubiquitous internet connection and a bit of battery life that the Kindle offers, but you gain so much in openness and flexibility.  You have a Linux-based operating system and a touchscreen.  What more do you want from an ebook reader?  It comes with WiFi and a web browser, so any ebook store that isn’t closed to the non-Kindle-owning-public like Amazon’s is easily accessible.

I want one of these.

I am curious, though, as to what they mean by “3-dimensional accelerometer”.  It sounds like something the marketing department made up.

Thanks to Alex for pointing this out.

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A small step forward, a giant step back

The  world’s  leading  provider  of  e‐reading  solutions,  Netherlands  based  iRex Technologies  (,  has  today  announced  that  it  has  reached  agreement  with  Adobe®  to license  the  Reader  Mobile  9  SDK  which  provides  support  for  the  PDF  and EPUB  file  formats  plus  support  for Adobe’s content protection technology which it will offer on its iRex DR1000 series.

It’s great that iRex is supporting EPUB.  The more support this format gets, the more likely it is we’ll have a standard format for ebooks across all platforms instead of all these competing formats.  Imagine if you needed a different web browser for different websites you visited (Beyond the terrible websites that only work in Internet Explorer).

And reflowable PDF support is fine – PDF isn’t an open standard, but it’s widespread enough that it doesn’t have the large drawbacks of some of the other formats.

Of course, no format support is complete without the inevitable DRM announcement.  It’s nice to call it “content protection”, but we all know it’s anti-consumer technology that doesn’t work.

An extra kudos to iRex for including this message on the email they sent me with the attached press release (a PDF) – “Please consider your environmental responsibility before printing this e-mail on paper.”  I not only considered my environmental responsibility, but also my convenience, and didn’t print a piece of paper for me to lose.

You can see the press release here.

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Bookworm – A platform for open ebooks

A friend pointed me to a new service to store all the ebooks you have in epub format so you can read them wherever you are – at your computer, on your web-enabled mobile phone, or on an ebook reader that supports the format.

I just signed up.  I downloaded Ayn Rand’s Anthem and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations from Feedbooks and added them to my new Bookworm account.  Before you ask:  Yes, I would love to sit in a room with Rand, Smith, and Jeff Bezos and discuss the state of the electronic publishing market.

It is unfortunate that I have no mobile device capable of trying this out, but it’s not entirely unpleasant to read on my laptop.  Bookworm remembers my place, as promised.

More exciting than the service is the attitude.  From their about page:

Will other book formats be supported, such as PDF or mobi? What about DRM ebooks?

Bookworm is meant to push adoption of the open ePub format and there are no plans to support closed formats like mobi or those with limited flexibility like PDF.

DRM (digital rights management) has been shown to be detrimental to technology adoption, does not significantly prevent piracy, and provides a terrible user experience. Bookworm will never support DRM’ed ebooks that require special software to unlock. Instead we encourage publishers to explore forms of “soft” DRM (such as watermarking digital books with the name of the purchaser).

“Soft” DRM is silly – the idea is that if you stick the person’s name on the digital file, they won’t share it with others.  It is an improvement over typical DRM, but still decreases the value of the book while offering nothing to the customer in return.

However, open source publishing software, using only open formats, can only be good for consumers.  Openness leads to innovation because one group can build on the work of another.  And sooner or later, some of those groups will figure things out, and you’ll never again have to pay $9.99 for an infinitely copyable ebook.

Check them out – they’re getting a lot of things right, and the backing of a big company like O’Reilly will help show other publishers what’s possible.

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