Can’t Tell The Players Without A Score Card (eReaders)

The eReader business is really heating up. The price wars are in full battle regalia and some old soldiers are falling in the trenches while others are just now getting into the fray. Amazon and their Kindle still seem to be in the lead, but depending on how and what you use to measure the market, Apple and the iPad are hot on their heels. Borders has just mustered their army with the Kobo, and other “generic” and one off players are loosing ground and don’t seem to stand a chance other than as low price side line players.

As this battle for market share, negotiations with traditional publishers over royalties, and other things not necessarily important to the reader seem to become more important at least behind the scenes, and in some cases, as in all wars, may swing the tide of battle more than the “weapons’ themselves. Amazon has now opened a service for publishing eBooks that is very lucrative to an ambitious author who not only has the energy and know how to write a decent book, but to market it, edit it (or hire a free lance editor) and design the cover art (or hire that task done too). If there is such an author, and there is at least one, J.A. Konrath, then he stands to reap a much larger percentage of the profits. Others, like Apple with the iPad are raising the stakes by making eReaders at least as appealing in aesthetics as any high tech piece of furniture, and as sleek and beautiful in design, if not in function and flexible use.

Barnes and Nobel seems to still be a viable player, with a very nice feature rich eReader, even if it doesn’t come in as many flavors as the Kindle or the Sony offerings. And now, Borders has come to the battle, almost reluctantly it seems. The Kobo is a decent eReader if a bit of a basic device. They do offer some services that make it appealing.

An aside here, picking and choosing an eReader is a matter of what you are looking for. For instance, there is no denying (or avoiding with all the press) the iPad. But for me the iPad has some serious problems. Since they didn’t go with an eInk screen (all the other makers buy the low powered, low energy usage black and white screens from eInk that also happen to be easy on the eyes and you can see them as well as the printed page even in direct sunlight) their iPad has to be recharged significantly more often-ten hours as opposed to 10 days to 2 weeks. It is also useless outdoors except at night, not something o take out to the pool or to the beach. Also the iPad is heavy at 1.5 to 1.6 pound, with the next heaviest at around 12.5 oz. Imagine trying to hold the large print dictionary with one hand for any length of time. The iPad to me anyhow, is more a Rolls Royce of Netbooks-those low priced, light weight laptops with limited functionality. I have heard that it is not easy to type on, and most owners I have talked to, while praising it, have said they still will use their MacBook or Desktop (either Mac or PC) just as much as before.

The thing that separates the rest of the warriors here, is mainly features and services. How the navigation works (touch screen as opposed to mouse like buttons or even a keyboard) is the memory expandable-The Kindle is not, but do you need to carry more than 1500 books? How about can you play MP3’s while you are reading, and lets not forget content delivery. We have 3G (cell phone) for free, WiFi – you need be near a hot spot either in public or at your house, the the “local delivery options-USB and Blue tooth-in either case you need to down load your selections from the bookstore of your choice to either your Smartphone or PC, then send them to your eReader. So, you have to decide, do I want a “heavy eReader that I have to recharge daily and won’t be much use out side, but it checks e-mail, plays iTunes and can do some word processing and other things I’d normally have to fire up my laptop or desktop for. Or do I want a single (mostly) function device that I hardly have to worry about charging more than two to three times a month, fits in my pocket, and can be read outdoors. Do I need the ability to purchase books at three a.m and have them delivered via 3G in a matter of minutes, or can I put up with going to my PC or Phone, down loading it and transferring it. Do I want to be able to play music too. Where do I shop for books the most often? All of these questions are up to the individual reader, just as choosing a car would be. What’s right for you?

To an extent, there seems to be nothing left to fight about, except for seeing if the market will ever come up with a standard for format. and how many additional service can they throw in.  Kindle has their proprietary AMZ format and of course, Apple has theirs. Interestingly enough, before the iPad I though Amazon was going to have to abandon  their proprietary format to stay in the lead, but Apple jumping in with their own “closed” format seems to of almost propped up Amazon in that side line war. All the other combatants have given ground on this issue and have adopted one or all of the “standards” – ePub and/or PDF. Also, even the proprietary player offer free apps so that you can shop their stores and still read your books on your PC/MAC, Smart Phone, Laptop or Tablet. Same with Adobe in the case of Digital Editions and Google (who seems more bent on supporting “standard formats” than entering the device war, with their Library Software. I want to note here that while Amazon is the largest on line retailer and B&N the largest “real” retailer, Google has probably digitized more books, and most of those offerings were already in the Public Domain (free) but has a presence in the newer book world.

Below I have compiled a sort of matrix of all the major players and their devices. Complete with Technical Specs, Features, Pros and Cons, Pricing etc…it might make it easier to tell the players apart. If you’d like a copy of the original Excel spread sheet contact me and I’ll be glad to e-mail it too you. If you think I should add a device, let me know that as well.

 

The Dirty Lowdown

If you have a hard time deciphering the table below, here is a link to the Excel Doc on my SkyDrive"

http://cid-b16968d2ca9ba387.office.live.com/view.aspx/.Public/eReader%20Matrix.xlsx

eReader/Brand Price Screen Technology Color Formats Navigation Capacity/Memory Expandable- Down Load Options Size Weight Battery Life Additional Features Bookstore/Selections Pluses Minuses
Amazon Kindle $189.00 eInk 6" Diagonal No Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion. Keypad Up to 1500 Books No 3G Wireless (free), USB to Desktop 8" x 5.3" x 0.36" 10.2 oz 1 Week, 2 Weeks w/ Wireless Turned Off Read To Me Experimental Text-to-Speech 620,000 Books, Newspapers, Magazines, and Blogs (In AMZ Format, 1 Million in all formats) Amazon is the most complete on-line store for new releases, fast 3G Delivery on Amazon purchases, Perfect Size, fits in the pocket of a sport coat. The keyboard feels like a cheap calculator, some folks don’t like it. No Conversion from other proprietary formats (there aren’t many).
Amazon Kindle DX $379.00 eInk 9.7" Diagonal No Kindle (AZW), PDF, TXT, Audible (formats 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, RTF, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion Keypad Up to 3500 Books No 3G Wireless (free), USB to Desktop 10.4" x 7.2" x 0.38" 18.9 oz 1 Week, 2 Weeks w/ Wireless Turned Off Read To Me Experimental Text-to-Speech, Auto Rotation 620,000 Books, Newspapers, Magazines, and Blogs (In AMZ Format, 1 Million in all formats) Amazon is the most complete on-line store for new releases, fast 3G Delivery on Amazon purchases, Perfect Size, fits in the pocket of a sport coat. The keyboard feels like a cheap calculator, some folks don’t like it. No Conversion from other proprietary formats (there aren’t many).
B&N Nook $149.00 eInk 6" Diagonal No ePUB, PDF, PDB, and Adobe DRM, PDB (Non DRM), Graphics: JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3 Color Touch Screen 1500 Books, 2G Yes-SD Mem Card-Virtually Unlimited Wi Fi 7.7 x 4.9 x 0,5 inches 11.6 oz up to 10 days with wireless off Free conversion service from most Proprietary Formats , digital lending; between nook™, iPad™, iPhone®, iPod Touch®, BlackBerry®, PC, Mac OS®. Free Reading in B&N Stores B&N Over 1 Million (in all formats) Free Browsing when you are in the retail store, B&N has the biggest "Real" Retail Presence. The Color QWERTY Touch Pad is nice and easy to use. Memory Expansion is very nice as well as the MP3 support. Not many. Only available in one size. The conversion service can take a long time.
B&N Nook 3G $199.00 eInk 6" Diagonal No ePUB, PDF, PDB, and Adobe DRM, PDB (Non DRM), Graphics: JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, MP3 Color Touch Screen 1500 Books, 2G Yes-SD Mem Card Virtually Unlimited Wi Fi/Free 3G 7.7 x 4.9 x 0,5 inches 12.1 oz up to 10 days with wireless off Free conversion service from most Proprietary Formats , digital lending; between nook™, iPad™, iPhone®, iPod Touch®, BlackBerry®, PC, Mac OS®. Free Reading in B&N Stores Over 1 Million (in all formats) Free Browsing when you are in the retail store, B&N has the biggest "Real" Retail Presence. The Color QWERTY Touch Pad is nice and easy to use. Memory Expansion is very nice as well as the MP3 support. Not many. Only available in one size. The conversion service can take a long time.
iPad $499.00 and Up 9.7" vivid LED-backlit IPS display Yes iBooks (From Apples Store), PDF Touch Screen 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB flash drive Yes-Flash Drive Wi Fi and/or 3G 9.6 x 7.47 x 0.5 inches 1.5 to 1.6 lbs. 9 to 10 hours Auto Rotation, Split Screen selectable, Color display, Plays you iPod music, is really a Rolls Royce of netbooks-e-mail , Bookmarking feature to highlight the text and make notes, many many apps (most for a fee) Small Selection right now in the iBook Store and everything has to be downloaded from them. Great Color Display for Illustrated Books and other graphics, many many apps for doing nearly everything you can do , TV and Video support on some models with a PC/MAC Laptop Screen is nearly unreadable outdoors or in direct light. Heavy. It’s like taking the Funk and Wagnall with you, not a paper back or even your average hard back.
Sony Touch Edition $169.00 eInk 6" Diagonal No ePub, PDF, Microsoft Word, BBeB Book and more, unsecured MP3 and AAC audio files touch screen navigation, the Reader Touch Edition™ features right and left-hand side page advance buttons for quick and easy page turning. 300 Books on 512M Native, Approx. 300MB Dual Memory Card Expansion Slots for Memory Stick Duo™ and SD Card up to 16GB. Yes, Dual Memory Card Expansion USB from Mac or PC 6.9 x 4.8 x .4 inches 10.1 oz Up to 2 weeks Freehand highlighting & annotation, Connects with Adobe Digital Editions Over 1 Million (in all formats) Good generic reader, nice book marking and annotation/high liting feature but no conversion service or support for either Amazon or B&N, the two biggest book sellers in the On Line and Retail Markets. No Internal Speaker
Sony Daily Edition $299 eInk 7" Diagonal No ePub, PDF, Microsoft Word, BBeB Book and more, unsecured MP3 and AAC audio files touch screen navigation, the Reader Touch Edition™ features right and left-hand side page advance buttons for quick and easy page turning. User available capacity: Up to 1.6 GB, Dual Memory Card Expansion Slots for Memory Stick Duo™ and SD Card up to 32 GB. Yes, Dual Memory Card Expansion Free 3G Wireless from the Reader Store and Google Books , USB from Mac or PC for other content. 5 x 8-1/8 x 19/32 inches 12.7 oz 7 days with wireless on. Turn wireless off and read for up to two and a half weeks. Freehand highlighting & annotation, Connects with Adobe Digital Editions, Landscape or Portrait Viewing (Rotation) Over 1 Million (in all formats) Good generic reader, nice book marking and annotation/high liting feature but no conversion service or support for either Amazon or B&N, the two biggest book sellers in the On Line and Retail Markets. No Internal Speaker
Sony Pocket Edition $149.00 eInk 5" Diagonal No ePub, PDF, Microsoft Word, BBeB Book and more, side-button navigation 350 Books, 512M Ram No USB from Desktop 6 1/4 x 4 1/4 x 13/32 inches 7.76 oz Up to 2 weeks None Over 1 Million (in all formats) Bare bones eReader, no frills, the smallest and most compact eReader Bare Bones eReader, no frills, no expandable memory, no MP3 Support
Border’s Kobo $149.00 eInk 6" Diagonal No ePUB, PDF, and Adobe DRM 4-way D-pad and center select 1000 Titles/1 GB Yes-SD Mem Card Desktop USB, Blue Tooth Smart Phones 4.7 x 7.2 x 0.4 inches Less Than 8oz 2 Weeks Nice multiple arranging options of your books. Comes with 100 free books-not sure who selects these Over 1 Million (in all formats) The ability to arrange your library anyway you want is nice. Down loads have to go to a PC/MAC or Smart Phone and betransfered through either USB or Blue Tooth No MP3 Support, no audio

 

Advertisements

About DirtyLowdown
I was born in Pomona, California at a very young age. I had a pretty normal childhood…or I was a pretty normal child hood if mom is telling the story. I was a paperboy who always porched , usually on the subscribers porch. I washed cars and bussed tables which left me with a life time affliction of chapped lips. I was a soda fountain jock-jerk and a manic mechanic but my first real job was as a labor organizer in a maternity ward. Then, because of the misjudgment of a judge I spent nearly 10 years in the service of our country mostly on KP duty. Our country sure turns out a lot of dirty dishes. I am a past master at pots and pans. They eventually recognized my real talent and let me wander around some very unfriendly places carrying a big radio that didn’t work. Along the way I took up the bass guitar, jotting down stories, electronic engineering and earned a degree in advanced criminal activities. I spent most of my adult life, if you can call it that, working in the I.T. industry, which I was particularly suited for since we worked in rooms with no windows. On and off I taught in colleges, universities and reform schools as a student teacher… I like smog, traffic, kinky people, car trouble, noisy neighbors, and crowded seedy bars where I have been known to quote Raymond Chandler as pickup lines. I have always been a voracious reader, everything from the classics, to popular fiction, history to science but I have a special place in my heart for crime fiction, especially hard-boiled detective fiction and noir. I write a book and music review blog for all genres at The Dirty Lowdown and another dedicated to Crime Fiction and all things Noir called Crimeways. It’s named after the magazine that appeared in the Kenneth Fearing classic, The Big Clock. There I write scholarly reviews of the classic hard boiled, noir and crime fiction books from the 20's through today. Mostly I drool over the salacious pictures on the covers. I also write for Technorati/BlogCritics where I am part of a sinister cabal of superior writers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: