Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kindle gets praise. State of e-ink color, Book sales vs Ebook sales. Publishers vs library remote-lending. Amazon e-book furor

The image at the left comes from a Wikipedia entry in Poland on the Kindle(s).

I also came across a Sept. blog entry by Andrew Bolster referencing this blog's article on software update v3.0.2 (which is still the current version, as v3.0.3 is still in 'early preview' state), and that update has also solved quite a few initial problems for some who have tried the early preview.

  " In short, I have never had such an aptly timed update; Its as if Amazon have psychically heard me over the Whispernet and fixed more or less everything.

  " Oh, did I mention? The e-ink screen renders advanced latex-style math perfectly! This frankly amazed me. But the best thing I can say about the screen is the oft-proclaimed readability is, if anything, understated. "   He adds:
'   The iPad is a jack of all trades; ebooks, games, browsing, social media, media viewing and generation, and more stuff that I could never think of.  The Kindle is an ebook reader, literally born and bred, with a infant browser incubating along side.  When I’m reading something in an e-paper or an e-book that I have no idea about, I can pop over, spend 5 minutes familiarising myself with the wikipedia article, and go back.

  I can comfortably read google reader (save for the videos) at a bus stop or on the train.  If I come across a truely inspiring piece of prose, I can share it with my social network in situ. '
He's describing almost-anywhere 3G wireless when he mentions what he can do at a bus stop or on the train.  Not a day goes by when I'm not asked about the WiFi-only vs 3G/WiFi Kindle.  He describes pretty well what is possible with the latter -- and on a global basis.  I've emphasized the feature, since 2008 when I got my first Kindle, but until the last month, most reviews or comparison articles have not mentioned a feature (now international) that normally costs so much (web-data access on demand) but which is actually available on the Kindle  (UK: K3) for free now in large areas of the world.

CNET: "Why the Kindle is the Greatest Gadget of the 21st Century"
Yes, that sounds like advertising hype, but it's written by the often tough CNet folks, in this case Jason Jenkins in the UK, and this kind of headline or story is not that unusual anymore.
' In the past decade, we've seen gadgets that subsume others, products that are devilishly shiny and widgets that are superbly simple to use.  But there's only one that feels like the work of magic -- the Amazon Kindle. '

Wait, there's that word again.  And there's also credit given (below) for something not often mentioned in the comparison reviews:
' Initially only available in the US, when the time came to launch it to the rest of the world, Amazon could have done what every other electronics company would have done and taken years to painstakingly negotiate a data deal with a different phone network in every country, releasing it in each territory as they went.

But that would have taken too long, so Amazon said "Screw it" and launched an international Kindle that worked everywhere and piggy-backed AT&T's American network.  The risk of incurring ruinous data roaming costs must have been huge, but that one bold step catapulted the Kindle into book-reading hearts across the globe. '

The CNet website is holding a 'tournament' in which people are asked to 'vote' for their favorite gadgets of the century, and this is just one of the gadgets being matched against other ones.

That Color E-Ink Reader Demo'd in Japan
While there was a commercial photo released the other day that looked fairly nice but ultra subdued in color (and those trying it said it was quite slow and the color layer over the E-Ink caused a loss in contrast and was not as sharp or clear as an LCD image), I saw some pics today, at Nate's TheDigitalReader blog, from the FBD 2010 trade show in Japan this week.  The Hanvon Reader from China is the first reader to use the new "Triton" e-ink technology.

  At best, one of them looked like the old hand-painted color postcards we used to see at the beach.  Most of them did not show clearly that there was color.  Also see more at  No surprise then that Jeff Bezos had considered e-paper type color not ready, judging by these and even by the considerably more 'colorful' picture at the right from RegHardware.

  While E Ink demo staff mentioned the "thousands of colors," we are used to seeing millions on our computer monitors and in the best tablets.  The resolution on the Hanvon's 9.7" screen is only 800x
  RegHardware's Tony Smith adds, "Even so, E Ink marketing chief Lawrence Schwartz said that the company didn't believe Triton was an e-book reader component so much as a technology that will enable e-newspapers.  Of course, there aren't going to be separate e-newspaper, e-magazine and e-book devices - they'll all become one, 5, 7 or 10in tablet.  Since newspaper color photos are notoriously substandard, that could be a match.  At any rate, few have mentioned that the technology won't be ready for an ereader in China until March 2011.

The Association of American Publishers reported yesterday that their tracking for September showed decreases over September of last year and that "book sales decreased by 12.1 percent on the prior year to $1.1 billion and were up by 3.8 percent for the year to date."

    While Hardcover Children's/YA sales were down 17% in September and the YTD down by 15%, the paperback sales decrease was not as large.  The Adult Hardcover category was down 40%! in September and YTD sales of these down by 8%.  While Adult Paperback sales was down 15.8% for september, YTD rose 1.5% so far.

  "E-book sales continue to grow, with a 158.1 percent increase over September 2009 ($39.9 million); year-to-date E-book sales are up 188.4 percent."

  There's a lot more detail at the website release.

The Publishers Association has "set out an agreed position on e-book lending in libraries that will see library users blocked from downloading e-books outside of the library premises. Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page announced the new guidelines this morning (21 October) at the CILIP Public Library Authorities conference in Leeds."

  Apparently the Overdrive library e-book lending system was seen as being too lax.   So this is what the Publishers Association there wants:
' Under the new scheme, library users would have to come onto the library's physical premises to download an e-book at a computer terminal onto a mobile device, rather than downloading the book remotely.
  The scheme would also see the fee paid by a library to buy a book covering the right to loan one copy to one individual at any given time, and would require "robust and secure geographical-based membership" in place at the library service doing the lending.

"Unfortunately recent activities by some library authorities have only confirmed how potentially damaging e-book lending can be if allowed to operate without controls," he said.

"Some services were lending for remote downloads, without geographical restrictions. This was in breach of contracts between the library and aggregator, and between the aggregator and publisher, and was advertised to the general public as 'free e-books, wherever you are, whenever you want'. Under this model, who would ever buy an e-book ever again?" '

  More detail at the link, of course.

There is little more reprehensible in this world than any adult sick enough to take advantage of children, so the fact that this book is sold at all is stirring up extreme revulsion and a threat to boycott Amazon if it doesn't pull the book.

The majority of quotes I saw insist that Amazon not sell this book (which Amazon at first saw as censorship they prefer not to involve themselves in but they already don't allow pornography in the self-published books, so they do already exercise censorship).  Also, they don't want to censor based on a book's content being objectionable but another problem is that it is advocating activity that is illegal.  I doubt they'd sell a book that guides you on how to murder or rape with care.  Technorati's Curtis Silver implores Amazon to take the book down and cites a similar situation in 2002.   Others ask that Amazon not cave to pressure to censor but let the customers decide not to buy the book, and Paula Bernstein of Stroller Derby points out also:
' The real irony is that until this morning — when word about the book spread through the Internet — it had only sold one copy.  It’s now #158,221 in the Kindle Store.  All of this moral outrage has only served to create publicity for this sickening book. '

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. Is the UK's Publisher's Association really as clueless as their remarks seem to indicate? They don't seem to realize that digital books aren't subject to the same restrictions as physical ones. Going to a library to pick up an ebook isn't necessary nor is a library restricted to having one loan copy linked to owning only one physical copy.

    A much better idea would be for publishers to supply every library with every book they have, serving the files from some remote location through a third-party service. The library wouldn't pay to own a copy (the traditional model). They'd pay a smaller fee each time a book is checked out, with no limit as to the number of checkouts at one time.

    Done that way, the publisher wouldn't need to get into the business of policing who could check these digital copies out. If a library wants to have a loose policy on membership, that's their problem since they're the ones paying the checkout fees. And publishers wouldn't be restricted to income from books only when they keep it in print. Books out of print twenty years or more would still earn money for publishers and authors.

    I also suspect digital books would save money for library systems with more than one location. Computerized catalogs have resulted in an enormous increase in the number of books being pulled from one branch, shipped to another, and shelved on hold there. That's a lot of expense for something that could be done in an instant digitally and from one's home.

    Digital loans paid for per loan would also mean that libraries don't need to buy a 100+ copies of some hot new title simply to cover the first few months of demand. They'd have in their collection as many or as few copies as they need and the collections of even small town libraries would be world class.

    And yes, some of the problem is that Overdrive, which should be technically savvy, seems equally stuck in their old ways of doing things.

  2. I don't give Havlon much chance of success.

    The Triton eink in particular seems weak: 800x600 spread out over an area more than twice that of a 6" screen, and the additional color filter layer can only mush the B&W clarity and contrast, while providing only washed out color. I don't see how the color filter layer can be bistable, seems like it must draw some additional power when displaying color, despite the claims of zero impact. More nails in the coffin are that published refresh rates for color are up to 8 times slower than eink Pearl, and of course it will cost more.

    But it is coming to market, apparently, so we'll see how it does.

  3. Just an observation: 158,221 is not a very high sales ranking. Based on my own experiments (purchasing a single copy of my wife's book after getting it in Kindle store), a single sale can get you up to 200,000 or so, and so this may only represent a couple of sales, presumably to reporters working on the story. The majority of books offered at Amazon don't have any sales at all in any given 24 hour period.

    It's also not clear how someone could assert that a book has sold only 1 copy, since that information is not published, and Amazon doesn't say how they compute sales rank. For example lets say a book sells 500 copies, then stops selling for a day, will immediately be outranked by a book that sells one copy. It's a 24 hour sliding window, but how non-selling books are ranked relative to each other is anybody's guess.

  4. Mike,
    Your proposal makes a lot of sense to ME, but I don't know if 'sense' plays a role in any of this these days.

    Have bookmarked your Inkling Books page for especially the Google Settlement links.

  5. Tom,
    As you may have guessed, I don't think Hanvon (and here is another picture found by Nate, this time of two Hanvons being held and shown, in which you can barely make out any color) will be selling many in March if they look like this.

    On the other hand Fujitsu's Flepia, as late as April 2010, looked like this and was reported as "cool" by ubergizmo. The Flepia, before and then sold at $1,000+ in Japan!

    I saw a demo on YouTube of the first one and it it drew across on the screen very slowly, in 3 different stages. It showed me that some people REALLY want color.

    By the way, went to check on your blog's Kindle software experiments, which have been interesting, and saw you've taken a rest from that? Maybe you'll have more to try soon, I hope.

  6. Tom,
    Good point re the e-book sales calculation that can put you lower than 700,000th place.

  7. Mike's idea is interesting, even rational, but I'm not able to see how it could work.

    Libraries have budgets. So just as they have a limit on the number of books they can purchase, they'd have to have a limit on the number of ebook loans they allow. Unfortunately this means that when demand is high, they may run out of loans completely, and patrons would have to get wait-listed to check out any ebook (even if they just 'returned' one).

    By contrast, physical books (and Overdrive digital media) are never all checked out at once, and as they are returned, are available for the next patron almost immediately. So there's always 'something' that can be borrowed, even if it isn't the first choice.

    I don't think a system where you often have to wait a few days or weeks to be able to check out a book is very appealing, even if it is 'free'.

    You could pass on the fee to patrons, but at that point, they may not see the point of libraries and stop voting to fund them. (in our small town, we will have to vote new taxes to keep our library open...)

    And from a publisher's perspective, they'd rather get paid up front for each title, because they profit on books that are not even loaned out. An efficient system is not in their interest.

    A Netflix-like subscription model might work. Publishers would have to agree to it, of course, and most of them still seem stuck in old thinking.

  8. The Fujitsu looks like reflective LCD or something. I know there are a lot of people with high hopes for Mirasol, but we'll have to see about that.

  9. On the other hand, Tom,
    the library could still set a limit of how many out at a time in a month etc.

    Also, as it is now, people are reporting on the forums that they've been waiting for a book to be free on Overdrive since January to April, and it's now November. It depends on which library system you're on of course.

  10. Tom,
    Re how anyone would know how many books were sold, a TechCrunch article (they are bragging about forcing this issue and now are looking for other books, the latter dynamic reminding me of witch hunts in the name of Traffic), it turns out that the 'author' (if one can use that word appropriately here) said he had sold only one copy until the brouhaha.

    Also, the book had climbed to #80 when I was reading about it yesterday morning. Now people are looking at many other books carried on Amazon in hopes they can get rid of them as well while ignoring that others have found the same books at other online stores.

  11. yup, there are now calls all over the forums to ban books ranging from President Bush' memoirs to various versions of the Bible.

    The bookburners have found they can force Amazon to do their bidding, the cat is now out of the bag, and I don't see how it's going to be curtailed.

  12. CNN and MSNBC seem to want to keep the flames going too, as both are down in traffic share and it's like sharks and blood. Note that FoxNews of all places pointed out that the other bookstores carry the same books many are now insisting be tossed out.

    I see that some cooler heads seemed (yesterday) to be holding sway. We'll see.


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