Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kindle News: Kindle Basic is #2 at Amazon, Kindle app for iDevices adds more foreign-language support , Steve Jobs bio and a comic book due early, Barnes & Noble vs DC Comics

The basic e-Ink Kindle is now #2 in Amazon's top seller rankings

Daily News Corner's Mark Schnitzler notes that Amazon has just had "another incredibly successful week," with the entry-level $79 Kindle Basic now in the #2 spot in top seller ratings, just behind the recently announced Kindle Fire tablet, which doesn't ship until November 15.

The "Basic" model, shipping since the announcements, with no physical keyboard (saving space and weight on the unit) but also without a touchscreen, is the smallest and lightest Kindle.

  Although Kindle Basic has half the storage capability of the older Kindles, customers report that the faster processor makes a difference in speed.  Those who don't do word searches and who don't type notes while reading won't miss the keyboard or mind as much the pick-a-letter type of keyboard-diagram used to enter a word.  But others should, in my mind, pay $20 and choose the Kindle Touch, which has a virtual QWERTY keyboard and also has audio and twice the capacity of the Basic model.  The $79 and $99 prices are for the more economical models that come with "Special Offers" and ads on screensavers that appear when the Kindle isn't being read.

Kindle for iPad and for iPhone/iPod-Touch apps support new languages
GoodEReader's Michael Kozlowsky reports that the Kindle app for iPad and for iPhone/iPod-Touch now support French, Spanish, Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese.

 Amazon just opened a KindleStore in France and, about two months ago, opened one in Germany.

  The app update includes "new page turn animations on both the iPad and iPhone" -- the feature can be turned on at the Settings page on tghe app. There are also some brightness-setting adjustments.

Release Date for the Authorized biography of Steve Jobs
A Reuters story in The Vancouver sun notes that, no surprise, Simon & Schuster has pushed up the release date for the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, from Nov. 21 to Oct. 24.

It's being called "the authorized biography" in that he authorized his friends and family to speak to the author and didn't require a look at the draft nor his own authorization of what would be written.  There were no conditions set, and Jobs gave Isaacson a very personal interview very recently, in hopes, he said that his children might come to know him better, as he'd not spent as much time with them as he'd like.  Walter Isaacson was the managing editor of Time magazine and current chief executive of the Aspen Institute.  The coming book is already the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon's customer purchase list.

Comic books and Steve Jobs
  Reuters adds that there's also a 32-page comic titled Steve Jobs: Founder of Apple, which became available for purchase on Kindle and Nook reading devices October 6.  The company releasing the special edition e-book of the 32-page comic is Bluewater Productions, which "has pledged a portion of the profits from both issues... [the expanded print edition comic book is due for release at the end of October] to the American Cancer Society."

  PC World had an "exclusive look" at the print version of the comic book biography, in June, with images photographed which were not filled in with color at the time.  "...Both sides of this complex personality are examined," claims the blurb on Bluewater's website.  An earlier bio in comic form profiling Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg "sold-out almost right away."  Amazon's pages show that an expanded print version of the Jobs book is due later.
 Caveat: A commenter at the site says Bluewater's bio-comics are generally rewrites of information from Wikipedia articles and says he doesn't expect any insight from them.

Amazon's Exclusive Arrangement with DC Comics irritates Barnes and Noble
A volunteer contributor to reports that DC Comics' plan for 100 titles exclusively on the Amazon Kindle Fire has outraged Barnes & Noble.  BN says that B&N shoppers can order the print titles through the BN website.  At the stores you can order a copy to be delivered to your home, the writer adds, but if you bring in a copy of one of those titles, you'll be asked to leave.  (That's hard to believe.)

 The story there is a bit disorganized.  The writer has added, in yellow highlight, that after it was announced that the Kindle Fire will come with 100 DC Comics backlist titles of comic books and graphic novels pre-installed, B&N "pulled all of the print editions of every title off its store shelves."
  How long they'll be gone is not known.
' “We will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format,” chief merchant for B&N Jaime Carey said in a statement.  “To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms and not have the ebook available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime.”

  While there has been talk that the digital deal with Amazon is set only for a four-month time period beginning with the Kindle Fire’s launch, and while Barnes&Noble has only pulled the book from physical locations as opposed to removing it from its website and special orders catalogs, the end result is that digital DC Comics' fans will have to get these [e-titles] through Amazon, remembering that an iOS device with the free Kindle app will also pick up those titles from the Kindle Store. '

  You can see DC Comics' response to that statement at the linked story..

  Engadget's commenters take up much more space than Engadget's take on this story.
  Tom's Guide's Ross A. Lincoln writes: "...a signal [B&N] are willing to shoot themselves in the foot to spite a competitor is kind of disturbing.  It might be a signal that, in the wake of the collapse of Borders, Barnes & Nobles is looking to flex their virtual monopoly muscles.  Consumers, and Batman fans beware."

Kindle Touch 3G   Kindle Touch WiFi   Kindle Basic   (UK: KBasic)   Kindle Fire
Kindle Keybd 3G   (UK: Kindle Keybd 3G)   K3 Special Offers   K3-3G Special Offers   DX

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.

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  1. Sunday evening 8pm EDT did a scan in Amazon kindle store for most popular items. #1 K4 ($79), #2 KF ($199), #3 KTSO ($99), #9 KKSO ($99).

    Given Amazon's clarifications on 3G "utility" going forward, I would expect the 3G devices to start to approach the KDX in popularity :-).

    The demise of 3G is not Amazon's fault, nor is it really the fault of the cellular carriers -- there just isn't enough spectrum (of the right kind) to do the kinds of things we are wanting to do with our mobile devices.

    The FCC is trying to get some government agencies and TV networks to give back some of their underutilized spectrum -- they are resisting; but this is a stopgap at best.

    Europeans are raising prices for data -- this will stifle mobile app innovation -- no easy answers I fear.

  2. Kindle for Android has also added the same set of languages (German having been added previously).

    I'm unaccountably excited about the prospect of being able to type umlauts when I get my Kindle Touch.

    I am worried about B&N's ability to stay competitive. Where are _their_ exclusive deals? How can they get people to buy NC2? When are they going to fix their apps? (Nook Android crashes on Pocket Edge, Nook Mac won't start up most of the time, they've pulled the plug on Blackberry..) Will there ever be a meaningful update for Nook Touch?

  3. Tom,
    Thanks for that info on Kindle for Android. The NC2 -- it's in question how much that will change. If it just had a more reliable keyboard and highlight/copy/paste in web-browsing (which is very nice in pure Android), it would help.

    It has expandable local storage - they could add bluetooth and give us an external keyboard option. Add 3G with a good data plan, I suppose.

    The NookColor 3 (10") is rumored, and if they can really price it at $350 with a camera, and a screen that's as good as on the NC2 but for a 10" space, they'd probably do pretty well...

    I'm with you that their updates have fallen short, so that's a point against them. But they've been ahead of the curve on the color tablet/reader...

  4. Yes, bluetooth would have been nice for the Fire, though I'd want it more for wireless audio than input devices. A microphone and webcam would have been nice for Skype, but some things had to go to get to that $199 price point. If B&N can add more features at that price point, more power to them, but unlike Amazon, they need to make a profit at something at just about everything they do, or they are dead.

    I don't think a media consumption device like Fire or NC is well matched to 3G in the current landscape, particularly if you are talking about video streaming of two hour movies as a typical use case. I know the high end tablets have that option, but they also style themselves as laptop replacements and therefore enter the rarified world of business expenses/deductions. The days of unlimited data plans are all but gone (Sprint is offering this for their new iPhone 4S customers, but it probably won't outlast the contract you'll have to sign). I don't see a prospect for anyone to offer a 'good' (i.e. affordable to the masses) data plan, especially where many people already pay for one for their smartphone (in which case paying a 'tethering' charge might be the most cost-effective way to get 3G access for these things). The only way to get the price down is to limit bandwidth, and that would kind of take the fun out of ubiquitous video/audio streaming for most people, I think.

  5. Not for $199. You mentioned what B&N could do to remain viable, and since they're rumored to come out with a 10" tab;et that would cost around $350, I thought the features mentioned could make them competitive if they could afford it.

    Re 3G - Apple at first didn't have this option and they added it later for another $130 for the iPad (on top of $500 cost) and then they got a data plan from AT&T for about $15/mo. that was more limited than the others. Amazingly, you could use it in one month and discontinue it until you felt you wanted it again (for vacation etc). I think the higher limit data plan is $25/mo.

    I could probably do with the $15/mo. using WiFi 85% most of the time instead.

    The problem for BN is that Amazon is definitely working on a 10" model too and WERE looking at 3G as an add-on feature later on.

    Have you tried the library feature? While the bestsellers are too long a wait for most, one of the books I wanted was incredibly smooth to get. I also found out that the Free Library of Philadelphia, which accepts non-residents WITHOUT making them visit in person once and which charges $35/year for the non-resident card actually gives this card free of charge to senior citizens! They have about 6,500+ Kindle books. (Sorry to change the subj but I guess it has a place in 'competitive' features since it is done via Whispernet in an unusually smooth process, vs the current ePub ways.)

    - A

  6. The $15/mo 3g is for only 250Mb. Enough to check your email, and some light web surfing, but that's about it. I'd be too afraid of going over the limit and paying surcharges to actually approach even the 250Mb allowance. But I must acknowledge my perhaps irrational aversion to phone/data contracts in general. I'd be okay with 'pay for what you use' but nobody has that option (aside from prepaid).

    Yes, I have been using the library feature quite a lot, and it's very nice. I love being able to wirelessly download from Archives, for reading illustration-rich material on my Xoom. Overdrive Media Console is pretty seamless as well for ePub, but it is not so good on Xoom's larger screen, and doesn't handle PDF at all. And NONE of the ePub readers will zoom images. Every chapter transition takes better part of a second to load up, while Kindle app just plows ahead.

    I have 2 library cards (SF and SJ) and between the two of them there are at least 10-20 titles on my wish list that are available for immediate checkout at any given time. My contrarian reading appetite serves well in that I don't read a lot of bestsellers that have the long wait lists. There was a spike when library lending first came to Kindle but it seems to have settled down, pretty much to the same level (again for the titles I want to read). I think most people just want bestsellers and get frustrated by lack of availability due to demand and the fact that some major publishers don't participate. So they go back and buy stuff from Amazon or wherever.

    The best part of library lending is I wind up reading things I would never discover otherwise, or in some cases, wish to purchase because of some 'antipathy'. So for example, I read Bush's "Decision Points" even though I didn't like the guy.


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