Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Google gets an e-reader. What it can and can't do. UPDATE


The iriver Story HD is the first e-reader to have the open Google eBooks platform integrated.  Target has exclusive rights to sell it for 6 months, at $139.00.  iriver details are here.  They'll be on sale July 17.

The unit has a higher resolution (768 x 1024 at 213 ppi] vs the Kindle's 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi) though I haven't read about the darkness of the font (the Nook Touch has less-dark fonts than the Kindle or even than the first Nook), but that display sounds good, and it's said to have faster page turns.   Here's their HUGE photo of the device.

  However, as you can see, it looks like a Kindle, with bronze-color lined keys (38 of them) and is not a touch-screen model.
Google has about 3 million books for download, the free ones primarily public domain books and historical documents from academic libraries, but whether its paid books are competitively priced is another story.

The images to the left, above, are of Kindle and Google versions of a book I ran across last week, when I was surprised at the price difference.  Google has this bio by Michael Munn for $14.72, while the Kindle price is $0.99 -- I didn't look further, but the difference in cost really caught my eye.

Besides the comparison-pricing of paid books, there are some other interesting considerations:

  . Google eBooks, which come in the ePub format and which use Adobe ADEPT for its digital-rights management ("DRM"), can be read on other e-readers, but cannot be purchased on other e-readers yet (LA times.)

  . The iriver connects to and syncs with the Google store via WiFi (no 3G cell phone wireless with this) and while it works via direct downloading of Google books, it doesn't allow customers to download them to their computers and then transfer them to the iriver.  Odd, if someone does not always have WiFi available.

UPDATE - The above was from TekGoblin's Andrew Wilson, but Commenter Tom Semple says that books that show "Nook/Sony" can be downloaded [to the computer] and sideloaded using Adobe's DRM, though there used to be some ebooks sold that didn't allow this option, he added.  Will have to check that out further. [End of update]

  . Also, TekGoblin's Andrew Wilson points out "...[the Google Books system] puts a crutch on the Story HD by not allowing it to [directly] download ebooks from anywhere else but from Google."

      Contrary to some misinformation, the Kindle can download ebooks from many other sites.

  . The dictionary used is 'Collins Dictionary.'

Essentially, this is a dedicated e-reader, made for just Google Books, but that means a lot of books.  As for Amazon's Kindle and open systems, Kindle books can be read on almost every type of device these days via its Kindle apps for Apple devices, Blackberry, Windows 7 Phone, Android, PC, and Macs.

The stories don't mention various features such as highlighting, note-taking, clippings (how they function if they're available), nor the many other features that other e-reader owners are used to -- they are targeting people new to e-reading (probably for that reason).  If curious what other functions to look for (if they're of interest), see the Nook vs Kindle features comparison here.

GeekWire's Todd Bishop opens his report with:
' Will this device give Amazon’s Kindle a run for its money?  Probably not, at least not on its own, but it’s a notable step for Google’s digital books initiative, as the first dedicated device with the search company’s eBooks platform integrated into the experience out of the box. '

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's)   K3 Special ($114)   K3-3G Special ($164)   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.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or £5 Max 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. I've used my Nook Simple Touch to obtain free Google books. They were very poor quality. None of the dozen or so books I tested were without scanning error and only 1 was even close to readable. I'm talking entire paragraphs missing or filled with gibberish.

    Based on this experience, I have zero faith in the Google store. I guess it's possible that the errors are introduced in preparing the books for the Nook/ePub - and that the Google books on this reader won't be so horrible. I'd be curious to know if that's the case.

  2. Joe,
    I have a NookColor and see the same things with the free Google books at B&N. I tend not to download them anymore. I have it mainly for magazines and colorful portable web browsing.

    Another problem is that each public domain book seems to show up in many copies of the same version. It's as if they were just tossed on a pile and no one has time to check.

    Since the free google books are in ePub there's no reason to specially prepare them for the Nook. I think they just gave direct access via an Agreement. They did the same with Sony.

    Those free google books are available for computers so you can get a sense of it. Where there'd be more problems expected is in the conversion of the ePub to mobi as is done via that process described in http://bit.ly/milkbooks.

    Did you do a review of your Nook Touch yet? Leave us a link if you did.

  3. Andrys - still working on my Nook Simple Touch review - it will be cray long, thorough, and based on a month's experience reading 10-20 hours/week (just like my Kindle 2 and iPod Touch 4g reviews).

    Aside: Just sent you an email but in case it went in to spam, here's a link to info I know you'd find of interest. Nook had higher market share than Kindle in Q1:


  4. Yes,
    I replied that I've seen some of those but they refer to the NookColor, which I have and enjoy but I use it as a tablet and not as an e-book reader. Same for friends of mine who have one.

    Magazines, portable colorful web, etc., but I buy books for the Kindle...

    However, they've earned a good portion of -that- market and Amazon has a lot of catching up to do there.

  5. As they say in comic books "Arghhhhhh!"

    Look at that Google keyboard. It has tiny, widely spaced keys with convex-rounded tops just like the Kindle 3. Look and be amazed!

    Nobody makes keyboards, full-sized or compact, like that. When IBM released a PC Jr. computer back in the 1980s with that sort of keyboard, everyone laughed at them. Chicklets, they called that keyboard, after the candy.

    A keyboard's keys always fill most of the available space. That makes them easy to hit. And they have concave top surfaces to guide our straying fingers back into the right position.

    The short term solution is larger, concave keys in the same space. The long-term solution should probably be a touch screen, so the screen takes up most of the front. And since a touch screen is never an optimal way to type, the best of all ereaders would not only talk to a Bluetooth keyboard, it'd be as smart as iPhones/iPads and not display the onscreen keyboard when a Bluetooth one is attached.

  6. Thanks for this update Andrys, and your always-informative blog.

    As you and others have mentioned before here though, Google Books is not available internationally. They're "working on it" still, but I have yet to read any further developments on that front.

    No matter what amazing hardware the competition may produce, international customers can thank the heavens for Amazon seeing it's the only e-tailer that is actually getting into the swamplands of international copyright.

  7. Andrys, any of the ebooks that show 'Nook/Sony' can be downloaded and side-loaded to this device. You have to use ADE to fulfill and transfer, just as you would from any web storefront that offers Adobe DRM ebooks. There at least used to be some ebooks they sold that did not have this option, but I can't find any of them now.

    I thought I saw somewhere that you'd be able to upload 'personal documents' to cloud storage and download these wirelessly (both to the device and to the Google reading apps), and sync reading position. But I can't find a reference to this anywhere now.

    According to the PCMag review, the screen is the sharpest eink screen available: "But once you turn on the screen you see the difference. The 1,024-by-768 screen is incredibly sharp, with a level of crispness and detail that no other ebook reader can match; when an iriver rep put the Story HD next to the Kindle 3, there was no comparison. Everything from book text to photos looked better, and was readable even in tiny resolutions."
    Well, how can they say there's 'no comparison' when they just compared them? Who writes these things? Sheesh.

  8. Tom,
    Re any books that show 'Nook/Sony' being downloaded and side-loaded to this device. "You have to use ADE to fulfill and transfer There at least used to be some ebooks they sold that did not have this option...."

    I updated it to show the link to TekGoblin's statement that I was referencing and then added a note about your comment.

    Re the resolution - I imagine so! I won't look at another 7" tablet unless it has 768 x 1024 as the NookColor does, for the same reason, especially for what it does with photographs, even if LCD bits are entirely different.

    Google should price it lower since it doesn't mention all the other features that are extras and of course no sync'ing and webpage-stored annotations available on all devices (which is costly in many ways), Audible, TTS, web browser.

    They'd make it back with the books they have available and they don't have to put so much expense into their e-reader, unless the e-paper display is that much more expensive...

  9. Inkling,
    That little picture doesn't show enough. I should include (and will add) the huge version they have here.

    The keys are more like the Kindle DX's, which I much prefer. Typing on a touch screen isn't terrific for me and some other NC owners are buying stylus or stylii :-) for their NookColor typing.

    I would love to be able to attach a keyboard.

    The NookColor, by the way won't do copy/paste when on webpages -- Version one did, sporadically, but they removed even that. I imagine the Google won't be including that either.

    The Kindle does, but it's undocumented, except by a few bloggers.

  10. Vaughn, thanks!
    Re no international activity, too true and Google's very non-committal, as is Barnes & Noble, but many aren't aware of that with the latter.

    I guess Kobo, basically based elsewhere anyway?, is going to try to capture as much of the int'l market as they can -- they have some big money behind them. They just completed a deal with a store in Germany that's bigger than Amazon, I think? Not much in the way of features beyond the touch screen -- and I do like their exterior e-reader design. The dictionary works only with Kobo store-affiliated books. It doesn't work with other ebooks.


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