AT&T looking to monetize things

With the success of Amazon deal with Sprint on the Kindle’s always-on internet connection, it should come as no surprise that others are going to want to get in on the synergies.

“There’s a whole bunch of ways to monetize that type of device,” [head of emerging devices at AT&T Glenn] Lurie said in an interview with Bloomberg at the CTIA Wireless show in Las Vegas. “That’s coming, it’s coming fast,” he said. “We’re going to be part of it.”

This may be putting the cart before the horse – jumping into a market just because you see the dollar signs is a good way to lose your shirt – but doubtless AT&T has the money and the resources to do it right.  Whether they do or not remains to be seen.  Competition for the Kindle certainly won’t hurt consumers.

via AT&T May Enter E-Book Market, Dominated by Kindle Update2 –

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The depressing same-ness of the ebook reader industry

This is what qualifies as news these days in the world of ebook readers.

As for features, the device is simple but practical: SD card support guarantees easy storage of eBooks and music it’s an MP3 players too, and Foxit, a company most famous for its lightweight PDF software, guarantees the device will read PDFs very well—a factor that help mitigate the reader’s lack of a Whispernet-type service.

So, this ebook reader is exciting because it’s sure to be really good at handling a file format that, while common, isn’t particularly well-suited for ebooks.

via Ebooks: $260 Foxit eSlick eBook Reader Makes Its Way to Cheapskate Readers.

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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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It’s too bad Amazon didn’t ask for advice

Many people are calling the Amazon Kindle the “iPod of books”.  It’s really unfortunate that, while it had a chance to change the market the same way the iPod did, Amazon’s shortsighted focus on locking down their content and protecting sales of paper books has made the Kindle an interesting but ultimately flawed device.

It’s pretty simple: many book publishers look at this new medium and ask, “how can I use it to augment my current business model.” I’d like Amazon to challenge that thinking and say to the world, “how can you use this platform to create a new business model?”

There were really two ways to look at the release of the Kindle.  On one hand, you could look at it as an extension of the current market, something to fit nicely into the well-defined parameters of the publishing world.  Or, you could look at it as something entirely new, something unrestricted by past practices and old ways of thinking.

Clearly, Amazon chose the former.  There are advances in the way you can buy and read books.  The always-on internet connection is a great idea.  But there are no giant leaps.  It’s more business-as-usual in a slightly new way.

Article:  Seth’s Blog: Reinventing the Kindle (part II).

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Screen breakage is not the most common complaint

“Screen breakage is the number one complaint with today’s e-reader technology. Our display can take a lot of rough and tumble,” says Joe Eschbach of Plastic Logic.

Why don’t I believe that?

Perhaps because I’ve never once seen someone complain about an ebook reader screen breaking.  Sure, I don’t work for a company making a much-hyped reader like Joe Eschbach does, but I do read a lot about ebook readers.

A common complaint is that they are ridiculously expensive, rivaled only by the ridiculous expense of the ebooks themselves.  Also, they don’t really do anything except allow you to read things, and who wants to carry around yet another device that only does one thing, even if it does it better than anything else?

It sounds like Plastic Logic has some really cool technology, but a poor understanding of what the market wants, and how to serve it.  A magazine-sized ebook reader is even harder to carry around than the smaller Sony Reader or Amazon Kindle, making one of the most common complaints even worse.

It’s disappointing that New Scientist actually took the time to publish this article, which reads like a press release from Plastic Logic more than a scientific article.

Article: Flexible electronic books to hit market soon – tech – 23 February 2009 – New Scientist.

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If convenience predicts success, the Kindle could be so much more

[Forrester Research] says convenience is key. It defines the concept in this way: A “comprehensive measure that considers the total product experience.” That includes researching the product, obtaining the device, using it, and eventually getting rid of it. The study also says that in successful products, convenience is not a benefit, but “a measure of how easy your product makes it for people to get the benefits your product promises.”

They also cite the easy downloading of books without needing a computer as the reason that the Amazon Kindle was an unexpected success.  They call ebooks on Amazon “cheap”, which is funny, but the point remains.

So, if the convenience of the total product experience of the Kindle was what made it so successful, how much more successful could it have been if Amazon had removed the intentional inconveniences?

What if you could install additional software on it?  Software to read other formats, perhaps?  An open web browser?  What if you could plug in an SD card, like every other reader on the market?

Amazon couldn’t do these things without giving up a lot of their control.  If you could use an SD card, then maybe you could use an Eye-Fi card and not depend on Sprint’s network to provide the Whispernet.  If you could use a web browser, you wouldn’t need to pay 99 cents to access a blog.

And that’s not to say that both generations of the Kindle aren’t convenient.  Being able to get a new book wherever you are is tremendously convenient.  And Amazon’s marketing (not to mention Oprah’s) means that, while few have heard of many of the ebook readers on the market, most people are familiar with the Kindle.  For the non-technical user, perhaps this is enough.  Amazon’s sales support that theory.

Article:  How to predict gadget success | Business Tech – CNET News.

Ebooks on the iPhone

For someone who spends a lot of time thinking and writing about ebooks and ebook readers, I’ve spent a shamefully small amount of time actually reading ebooks and using ebook readers.  But today I got to take a look at an ebook on an iPhone for the first time.

It’s not terrible.  I should have asked if it was using Stanza or something else.  It was a plain white screen with some controls on the side that disappeared after a few moments, leaving me alone with the text.  I had a little trouble with the scrolling, but I suspect an experienced iPhone user wouldn’t.

The screen is a bit small.  This whole experience started while waiting for a meeting to begin.  My coworker was reading something on the phone that required both horizontal and vertical scrolling.  It looked pretty awkward.  But it started the conversation, and then he showed me an ebook he had on the phone.  He doesn’t read much on it, and unfortunately the meeting started before I could really grill him.

But I can see that some people would be perfectly happy to read books on an iPhone (or an iPod Touch, for which Stanza is also available).  It’s not paper, or even eInk, but it is something you’re likely to have with you all the time, so the extra convenience will make up for many of the shortcomings.

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The eSlick at CeBIT

Foxit will be showing off their new eSlick at the CeBIT Global Conference and Expo in Germany at the beginning of March.  They’ve already sold out of their first batch of them, and expect the next shipment around April.  At $259, the price is very competitive.

They are also using their experience working with PDF software to add value – they include software to convert “any printable document” to PDF for display on the device.  That means it’s probably safe to buy one for your mom and not worry that she’ll have to learn the difference between mobi and epub and all the other competing formats out there.

If you’re going to be attending the conference, I’d love to hear about their exhibit.  My travel budget is currently insuffiecient for a trip to Europe. 

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Nothing surprising from the Kindle 2

How did Amazon do on fulfilling my wishes for the Kindle 2?  Failure on four of five counts, and no compelling reason for current Kindle owners to upgrade.  SD card support?  WiFi?  Free things staying free and a reasonable pricing structure for books?  All ignored by Amazon.  Clearly they aren’t reading this blog.  They did improve the user interface, to the surprise of no one.

And they haven’t given any current Kindle owners a reason to upgrade.  The battery life is better, and it’s thinner.  It’s easier to use.  It works in the two states that couldn’t get the Whispernet connection before.  All of these things are nice, but not game-changing.

Amazon had (And still has, with future generations of the Kindle) a chance to change everything about reading.  Instead, they chose to release another device with bells and whistles and a pretty package, but locked down tightly to protect their ability to continue overcharging for digital content.

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I feel like it’s the Super Bowl Pregame Show

And I hate the Super Bowl Pregame Show.  Also, I think I just violated the NFL’s concept of its rights to the words “Super Bowl”.  Please, NFL, send a bogus lawsuit my way, I could use the publicity.

Amazon is starting their press conference at 10AM.  So the next hour and a half will be filled with posts, just like this one, from all the tech blogs and the publishing blogs and all the other interested people.  They will all say the same nothing that we’ve been hearing for a while.  Yes, shots of the new Kindle leaked.  Are they real?  Probably.  Who cares? 

As you can see, I have nothing to say on the Kindle that hasn’t been said too many times already.  And neither does anyone else.  So we will all spend the time between now and when something interesting happens by rehashing the same things, over and over, trying to make them sound new and fresh.

10AM can’t come soon enough. 

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