Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Amazon Kindle for Web vs Google EBooks and a roundup of news - UPDATE

The Kindle for Web demo took place today while I was writing this blog entry.  Here's the upshot, from Amazon, via Bradenton.com.  The new app was "demonstrated on-stage at a Google Chrome event today and will support Chrome OS devices, including the new Chrome OS Notebook, as well as the Chrome browser and other web browsers."
' “Kindle for the Web makes it possible for bookstores, authors, retailers, bloggers or other website owners to offer Kindle books on their websites and earn affiliate fees for doing so,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content.

  “Anyone with access to a web browser can discover the seamless and consistent experience that comes with Kindle books.  Kindle books can be read on the $139 third-generation Kindle device with new high-contrast Pearl e-Ink, on iPads, iPod touches, iPhones, Macs, PCs, BlackBerrys and Android-based devices.  And now, anywhere you have a web browser.  Your reading library, last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights are always available to you no matter where you bought your Kindle books or how you choose to read them.” '

Earlier today, the title at the Google eBooks site was "Google eBooks" but it now says "Google eBookstore" which probably differentiates it from the older Google Books site we've been using but which didn't have books for purchase from Google itself.

Kindle for Web, demo'd today for more than book samples finally, will provide web access to all purchased Kindle books also, functioning in a similar way to the Kindle for PC and Kindle for Macs apps (free), which have for some time made purchased books readable on any PC or Mac and have required no Kindle device).

  Now the Kindle books will also be readable on any web browser.  Does that sound familiar?

NOTE: The FREE Google eBooks are readable on the Kindle.
  See the blog article on converting free Google books to Kindle format, free, and easily done yourself or via the RetroRead website, which does it for you at no cost -- that's all explained in the article.  For a long time, free Google books can be read on the Kindle directly via these two methods, the latter one requiring only a download of the converted file after making a form request for a free Google book.

  The Internet Archive's Books in Browsers Conference (BIB10) that I was able to attend recently was a very timely one, with the sudden access to our purchased (and free) books online via a web browser at any time, whether via Google or Amazon.

I've read today that the Nook, Sony and Kobo owners can use the Google app to read the Google eBooks online via web browser AND can also download the books to the devices themselves (for easier navigation of the book pages), by downloading them via Adobe Digital Editions software and then transferring them to their devices via USB.

  I'm not sure Zacks is aware of this, as they mention a couple of times in this article that the Kindle allows device usage while the Google is done through online web access.

  They also say that:
  "While Google’s ebook store is available from practically any device with a browser, including ebook readers, such as Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Sony Corp’s Reader and Apple Inc’s iPads, it will not be accessible from Amazon.com’s Kindle."

  That's not true, actually, as I used my Kindle to purchase a Google eBook today and then went to my Google eBooks area and used the Kindle's web browser to read it.  It certainly IS accessible from the Kindle.

  With the free 3G experimental web-browsing feature of the Kindle (on Kindles for 3 years so far), you can 'read' your Google eBook residing in the cyber-cloud from almost anywhere you are, including on a bus or at the beach.

However, it's very awkward and cumbersome to access a Google eBook that way, although once you're IN the Google book (online) and have set your font size, line spacings, justification style, foreground/background etc., and can bear clicking on the symbol used to do a Next Page instead, it is fairly useful for Kindle owners who want to read a book that's not available at Amazon.
  There is no other reason to go through that though.

  But, again, once set up it's not bad; however, those needing much larger fonts can't increase the fonts large enough this way without narrowing the column of text to uselessness, as google reserves space for its various Options on the left.

  While the Google eBook app for ePub E-Ink readers provides the access to the web reading of a G-book, I don't know yet how it handles the 'next page' mechanism (which, on the browser version, is similar to how the Kindle apps for PC and Mac handle that), as it's awkward on an e-ink screen using cursor access.
  Navigation should be much better on an LCD e-reader when reading through the web.  But the Adobe-rights-protected ePub files can be read in the normal way on these e-readers when downloaded for reading on the device.

 Google has scanned 15 million books and are making a few hundred thousand of them available for purchase when the rights-holders agree.  (I did some screen shots and might put them up later.)

  Zacks adds:
'...Kindle allows highlighting and marking, making studying online easier and this feature is not yet available for Google books. '

GigaOm's James Kendrick points out that this first launch of Google eBooks

  . has no Bookmark feature
  . ironically has no Search feature  [It does.*]

It also has no dictionary of course, but Wordweb can help with that, for Windows users.

It of course does record the last page you read and places you there when you next access the GBook.

******* Begin Update *******
UPDATE Commenter Tom Semple (follow the link to his thorough explorations of the Kindle and Google eBooks) said that there IS a Search feature and of course there is, though it had looked like a 'zoom' feature to me and I had not tried it out but just quoted GigaOm.

  He also mentioned that 'n' and 'p' (as well as 'j' and 'k') allow you to use the keyboard to go to the 'Next' and 'Previous' pages, which is TONS easier than moving the cursor into the areas of the ">" and "<" page-turn symbols.   When selecting your Google eBook, be sure (on the Kindle) to cursor to the right to find the "Read now" button, which once you click on it gets you into your eBook.   It's good to know that if we can't find a book on Amazon, we may be able to find it on Google eBooks area and read it there.   I have TWO shortcuts to get to Google eBooks for use on the Kindle. Remember that on the Kindle, you shouldn't use the "http://" portion as the Kindle does it for us.
  Yesterday, I'd used 'http://bit.ly/g-books' but the hyphen is placed in a very hard-to-reach area of the Kindle's "Sym" key so I made a 2nd shortcut today, which is "bit.ly/gbookstore" which has more characters than the first shortcut but doesn't require finding the dash on the Kindle keyboard.  And it has 6 less characters to type than "books.google.com/ebooks" and is easy to remember, if you're used to the "bit.ly" shortcut site.

BOOKMARK the google books page once you get there.

HOWEVER, the quickest way to get to a website is to:
  type the URL (w/o 'http://') on the HOME screen and then right-arrow to the "go to" to get to the website without having to go to the experimental features menu.

******* End Update *******

Bookseller.com has a "What the Media Said" feature that's very helpful here.  They mention that some were less impressed:

  . Washington Post
' "The company held up support for copy-and-paste and printing, for example, after too many publishers balked.  Highlighting and annotation features won't happen until later.   The same goes for text-to-speech capabilities that would allow Google's reader programs to read a book aloud."

  After trialling the service, it added, "I can only think this store could use another run through the typewriter." '

  . The New Yorker blog
    The New Yorker's Macy Halford in a mostly-positive article, and a distaste for enriching Amazon (he says), writes "faulty cataloging system that Google has used for Google Books since the beginning is exacerbated here".

  . Publishers Marketplace
    Publishers Marketplace repeats that the large publishers using the agency plan elsewhere get to use it here too and adds some info that other reports said was not available yet, but there seems to be an error there:  For publishers already selling via the agency model,
[Publishers already selling on the agency model] ' indicate they receive the same 70% of their consumer price as they get from all other retail partners.  Google takes 10% and Google's retail partners receive 20% (assuming one is involved in the sale).

    Under wholesale terms Google takes 10% of the RRP ['Recommended Retail Price'], while the publisher and retailer split the sale price 63%/37%. '
    That probably should have been that Google takes 10% while the publisher gets 63% and the retailer gets 27%.

EcoLibris blog
5 reasons why independent bookstores shouldn't count too much on Google Editions
 There are some very good points made in this article.

Digital Trends
Jeffrey Van Camp writing for Digital Trends points out that Amazon will demo new features for the Kindle that will “enable users to read full books in the browser and [enable] any Website to become a bookstore offering Kindle books.”

Computerworld's Matt Hamblen reported the email from Amazon that they'd be demo'g the new Web app today.

  Illustrating the confusion today around how Google eBooks works
    I originally wrote, while taking notes for this round-up:
    "What's odd is that Computerworld keeps referring to Kindle for Web as a "device" rather than a Kindle app and opines that
    "...it was clear the device isn't ready for sale" -- adding that "It could get an official launch at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January, said Allen Weiner, an analyst at research firm Gartner.  The Kindle for the Web concept first surfaced about a month ago and seemed like a "natural evolution" of Amazon's e-book strategy, he said.
    Weiner said he expects Kindle for the Web to still run on a proprietary Amazon operating system, something that he said Amazon needs to change to be fully competitive with Google's new e-book system."

Computerworld corrected the earlier report and added this later today:
"Editor's note: This story was corrected from an earlier version which incorrectly called Kindle for the Web a device from Amazon.  In a beta announced by Amazon in September, Kindle for the Web is actually an application for browsing the Web to read first chapters of Kindle books.  This story adds a new fourth paragraph with some adjustments to the third paragraph."
  The rest of the story had very interesting points though:
' James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester, discussed Amazon's ability to let independent booksellers sell books through Kindle for the Web as Google is doing (places like Powell's Books and Alibris).

"In the long run, Google eBooks may just convert more people to e-reading who may then go on to buy a Kindle," McQuivey added.

Google has talked about supporting the PDF and ePub formats for making its approach more open than Amazon's, although McQuivey dismissed those formats as not all that important.
[Blog comment: Writers keep describing Google's purchasable books as "open format" when what they mean is that Google and other companies challenging Amazon for market share are using the Adobe digital rights-management (DRM) system which is then the "standard" used while Amazon is using its open own DRM rather than paying Adobe to use theirs.  While ePub is meant to be an open format, it's not 'open' when DRM is wrapped around it for rights-protection.]
  "EPub doesn't mean anything to most buyers, especially when reading on the Kindle platform feels a lot like reading on the cloud," McQuivey said.
  Weiner said. "If Amazon is serious about the device space, they are
going to have to open up devices ... whether that is based on
Windows or Android or something else."
  ...Google has to "prove to be a worthy competitor to Amazon, which has years with a global footprint, really strong apps on every device and a great brand."

"Amazon also has the ability to allow a quick online checkout, which comes from years of experience selling books and other goods online, and is a tool that Google lacks, Weiner said. "Amazon also has a return policy that's amazing with great customer service," he added. '

Popsop.com   Brand Magazine Online
Popsop.com points out that "This is the largest collection of all types of books of different genres and by different authors of all epochs.  Most of them are available for sale in Google eBookstore—but only for U.S. citizens so far."

  And now we come to why that odd image is at the top left.  But I did that before writing too much from the interesting reports I was seeing.
  Los Angeles Times blogs reported on a curious effect of the Google launch today.

A book by a debut novelist ("The Pericles Commission: A Mystery of Ancient Greece" by Gary Corby) came out of nowhere to land up #16 on Google's new bestseller list.

  At Amazon, in a sub-sub category it's visible but barely.  He has all 5-star reviews, although the only-5 customer reviews so far isn't a reliable gauge.  One person with a 'Amazon Verified Purchase' titled her customer review: "A Riveting Romp Through Ancient Greece" and there are other colorful review titles.
  His Twitter following of 1600~ might have helped.  The Google eBookstore ranking stayed the same throughout the day, while Amazon's changes hourly.  I just like stories like this.

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. When will this be available to the general public?

  2. I don't get the enthusiasm for this by "independent" booksellers. As the article you linked to points out, and as I have been saying, once your store customer buys his/her first book from Google, why go back to your store website again? just buy it from/through Google? and Google won't pay the store a commission then.

    This is really a further deathblow to the stores- especially stupid if they cooperate in their own death through links, etc. Foolish.

    Rick Askenase

  3. Andrea,
    I've no idea, but if the software was demo'd on stage for the press, it shouldn't be too far off.

    I think the enthusiasm is because they've felt they had no way of offering these and because they just feel comfort working "with" Google.

    I'm in agreement with you re the future though. I didn't get the feeling it was exclusive (but I didn't read that deep) and I think they'll also be able sell with Amazon now.

  4. It amazes me how often Amazon is prepared to respond immediately to developments like this:
    - Nook drops price, Amazon drops price $10 more
    - Google opens ebookstore with web reader, Amazon announces web reader
    - NookColor ships, um, Amazon ignores it

    Well except for that last example, it is as if they have a pretty good roadmap or action plan to work with.

    BTW gigaom is wrong that there's no text search. There is.

    Google needs to add a mobile version of 'my library', if not also a mobile version of the web reader itself. Ideally these would include (more) keyboard shortcuts so that mobile devices with keyboards (e.g. Kindle) can navigate more easily.

    BTW there are keyboard shortcuts for the web reader to turn pages forward and back: 'j' or 'n' goes to next page, 'k' or 'p' to previous page (interestingly, Shift+right and Shift+left also change pages). You can also position the cursor anywhere on the right margin and push Select to advance the page. So navigating through a book is not all that awkward. I did a couple of hours of straight reading and was as immersed as ever.

    The main problem at the moment is the space is not used very well and so larger text size is impractical. Google would be smart to optimize a web reader (and a 'my library' page) for Kindle. Imagine if the toolbar and huge margins were not there all the time, and you could do more with the keyboard.

    And Google might investigate what it would take to support the K2/DX browser. On a DX, the space waste would not be as significant.

  5. Tom,
    You of all people know how long these things take in a company, so you also know they planned these well ahead of time.

    Often, you don't release something until it's in great shape but as you've seen, Google rushed to get their eBookstore capability out and will refine it and give it more of the basic features later.

    Amazon announced its web feature and put out the web samples some time earlier. It takes a good while to get this kind of thing right.

    The price drops earlier would have looked like a response to the iPad and they apparently waited for B&N to go first and when they did, Amazon was responding to a like-device.

    We saw that Amazon had everything in place (customer service recent-purchase-refund responses) and new pricing ready on the servers while B&N had confusion about both pricing and customer refunds (many told there'd be none).

    So, it's strategic and Bezos has always looked ahead or long-range.

    The Google eBook text search certainly wasn't in a super obvious place, as I didn't see it either. Will check it out later. Thanks for that. I noted, in a response to you, your info about the shortcut fees at Bufo's place but, as here, the comments are on a delay.

    Thanks for the added exploratory work and letting us know. :-)

  6. I have a new blog (kindlecookies.com) and have posted an article about how to use Kindle & Google eBooks: http://kindlecookies.blogspot.com/2010/12/reading-google-ebooks-using-kindle-3.html

    Have a few more articles in the queue that I want to polish & publish but who knows when that will be.

  7. Tom,
    When I looked at your Google identity so I could link people to your blog, I saw the new blog and the info in it and incorporated that into the blog entry as an update.

    Well-done !

  8. Andrys,

    In terms of converting ePub to MOBI (or anything to anything for that matter), you might add www.online-convert.com to the list. You can either upload the epub from your computer, or type in an URL to a web location. The browser will automatically download the result.

    Typically you would do this with a computer browser, but it turns out that - you knew this was coming - you can also do it with Kindle's browser. You have to be able to figure out the URL, the URL has to be 'public' (ie. with no login required), and you have to be able to type it accurately in the web form using Kindle's keyboard.

    I tried it with a book on www.epubbooks.com and successfully converted and downloaded the result from online-convert.com, entirely on my Kindle. I will admit it is more of a stunt than something everyone will want to learn how to do, but well, I had to try it.

    The conversion that online-convert does looks very good, with chapter navigation and linked TOC. I actually prefer it to calibre, which tends to do too much (admittedly I haven't learned how to customize its default conversion to my liking).

    Another tool is kindlegen (command line tool), and even better, Kindle Previewer, free from Amazon. These will attempt to convert ePub to mobi, and of course the previewer will even show you precisely what it will look like on a Kindle (complete with Cecilia typeface). I've done successful conversions using these, but they are not very robust - they were not able to convert a couple of free Google books I tried.

    Anyway sounds like this might be the subject of my next blog article...

  9. Hi,I tried it with a book on www.epubbooks.com and successfully converted and downloaded the result from online-convert.com, entirely on my Kindle. I will admit it is more of a stunt than something everyone will want to learn how to do, but well, I had to try it.I have had my BeBook reader for a few weeks now and can honestly say that its great. It is easy to use and not too wearing on the eyes. The E ink technology is cool and very clear to read.
    Ebooks Uk

  10. Hi, new Kindle Touch user here. Do you know if this method still works? When I tried to click on one of my google ebooks (both purchased and free) from the Kindle Touch browser, I got an error message saying that it couldn't open the page.

    Thanks for all your help!

  11. Adrienne,
    Welcome to Kindle reading :-)
    I went to my googles page with my Kindle Touch via the browser and was able to open the two books I tried. It's a bit klunky but it works.

    It could be the book you clicked on isn't actually there anymore for some reason. Or, is this happening on all your books?

    Hope it gets resolved -- it does work on my Kindle Touch though. (I have the 3G/WiFi one and it's on WiFi right now.)


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