Monday, February 8, 2010

British Library, Apple iPad pricing, Nook update, Macmillan ebooks

This is an update on the British Library project and some reactions to it. Crunchgear's Devin Coldewey has a personal reaction to it which matches other ones that I saw in Twitter discussions but he has a bit more room to describe it.

  Momentarily forsaking computer-gadget-blogspeak, he writes:
' Got a Kindle? Get thee to the British Library! Not only are they giving away a ton of old 19th-century literature in e-book form, but they’re a special “first edition” e-book with the original typeface and illustrations baked in. The 1800s encompass nearly all of my favorite literature, so this is actually making me want a Kindle pretty bad right now. Original typefaces! O lawd!
... Whatever the case, they’re going to be beautiful copies that make good use of those high contrast e-ink screens ... They’ll be made available in the spring, at which time I’ll probably post again because I love love love this. '
I'm puzzled by what the Library and Amazon have decided on as the file format, since Amazon's normal generic font is used in all books except for the 'Topaz' ones (.azw1) which use embedded fonts but those would be simulated.

  If PDF (and with longer loading time and fatter e-books for image-scans) those would be available on other e-readers, though of course even if they're free to Kindle-book buyers, Amazon might put their own DRM (Digital Rights Managemetn) on them for these specially formatted files.

 There's also the remote possibility of Blio, which will be supporting PDFs and EPub and is focused on preserving a book's original format - layout, fonts and images...  Who knows?  But I imagine Amazon has something up its sleeve.  I'm personally hoping Amazon supports non-DRM'd ePub format files very soon, for its own sake.  If not, the first developer app I'd want to see is one that converts ePub files, upon downloading them, to Amazon's basic MOBI format (the way it's easily done by users via Calibre).

Wired/Gadgetlab's Brian X. Chen writes that Bill Shope of Credit Suisse, in recounting his meeting with Apple executives, said that "Apple indicated it would consider lowering prices if initial demand appears to be slow."  Actually, that was credited at the bottom of the article to the Wall Street Journal's Matt Phillips, who has a quote here:
' “While it remains to be seen how much traction the iPad gets initially, management noted that it will remain nimble (pricing could change if the company is not attracting as many customers as anticipated),” Shope wrote. '
  The reason that's of interest is that various analysts have adjusted down their sales estimates for the iPad since it was launched after various features expected were missing from it.  As a thin/light web-browser (w/o flash support, multitasking, USB ports) for at home networks, at a lower price, I'd get one - but not for book-reading.

As a card-carrying Barnes and Noble member and hoping to see them survive some very tough times currently (3 of 4 stores in my area closed this year), I wish they would invest more time in Quality Control.

All this time, with personal documents, there has been no way to sort the nook files by title, author or anything else.  We give Amazon a bad time about the lack of folders but at least the Kindle had sorting by Title, Author, and Most Recent (the Nook doesn't have the latter at all) since the beginning.

  When the nook was new and the reviews weren't exactly ecstatic, they released firmware version 1.1 to fix initial problems, and it was quickly decided that yet another firmware update should be done because suddenly the Adobe digital-rights reading was not working with libraries anymore -- but there was an easy workaround for that.

 Still, they then released v1.11 suddenly and w/o fanfare to correct that.  But, as a result, something else was broken in the code, and the Barnes and Noble forums became filled with reports of bookmarks and annotations being lost, paragraphs and pages missing, and more problems though nook users are very patient, since the unit has other qualities they like and which are important to them.

 I went to see how firmware version 1.2 is faring since it was released just yesterday to nook owners after the store models were updated.

Here's the current page of reactions to that update and there are some workarounds that nook owners are recommending to others as they encounter new problems.  This is the actual current page of discussion of the new update when I went to look just now (page 10).

There are many reports that the ebooks have been showing up and that the prices (some had pre-orders before the brouhaha) are as they were before the negotiations with Macmillan's insistence on the higher pricing for best sellers.

In the comments areas, PRW has been reporting on personal tracking of a couple of Kindle books and noted the pricing is now as it was.  News reports are that the higher sell-prices for Macmillan books -- and for other publishers' who want the same deal they get with Apple or they'd delay e-books for many months -- should take place in March 2010 with no further ability by Amazon to discount those books under Steve Job's and Macmillan's "Agency" program for customer prices set by the publisher with the bookstore now out of that area.  Macmillan has said that ALL its book partners have agreed to the new Agency plan and the higher pricing.  That would include Barnes and Noble. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. On the topic of Macmillan book prices, the Kindle store lists the "Digital List Price" (is this new? I don't recall seeing it before), usually above the print price and the actual selling price, so if you want to know how much the book will be selling for in a month, look at that.

  2. Anonymous,
    I've always seen the 'Digital List Price' when I was grabbing prices for the blog.

    Your suggestion is good, but they are free to change their list prices by March too, but this'll give ua an idea, although some of them won't be best sellers by then.

    On the other hand, Macmillan has not decreased their pricing for length of time at so there's no reason to think they'd do that at Amazon either no matter what they say.

  3. I don't understand the excitment about British Library. Internet Archive has millions of scanned books. I've been reading native scanned books on my DX for months, it's the main reason I bought the Kindle. The only trick is you have to convert it from DjVu to PDF since Internet Archive's (and Google Books) PDF is not supported on the Kindle. Other than that, it works great. I don't understand why more people are not talking about or doing this. Original scaned books with native typeface, illustrations, page layout - they are freakin gourgeous and blow away the commercial Kindle offerings, and there are *millions* of books! Yet, few seem that aware..

  4. Stephen,
    It's because these books will display the pages, from what we understand, as they look in their historic very early editions, which are ordinarily fairly costly, with the layout, fonts and illustrations as they appear to the reader of a print edition.

    Also, 35% of the books have not ever been available. The pennydreadfuls will be interesting too.

    What's DjVu? With Google's books, I prefer the ePub copy since the text reflows and all the Kindle features are available.

    I have a few blog entries on the special Kindle catalog with direct downloads from Project Gutenberg


    Converting Google ePubs to Kindle format

    I get the impression Microsoft took a bit more care with the scanning for this project. Google's has so many oddities, including page slants and smudges as well as people's hands showing up :-)

    I don't know how the Kindle might minimize pageload time for anything like image scans.

    As for the Internet Archive I just did an entry on that at

    It's usually NON-Kindle people who don't know.

    Like you, I have the DX and it's hard to use the K2 except for short trips outside the house.

  5. When are the British Library digitized books to be made available for download to the Kindle?

  6. Anonymous
    I wish I knew when. Haven't read anything on this since...


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