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

 

Does Flash Mobbing Work-Author JA Konrath Explores Ways To Drive eBook Sales

Sales ranking on Amazon-The best sellers lists-for eBooks are ranked by how many sales or downloads happen in a given hour. And if you can make the top of the list, then the theory goes that that will in turn, drive sales also. Best selling author JA Konrath and coconspirator Scott Nicholson explores ways to out flank the traditional publishers and drive your eBook to the top of the list on his blog, A Newbie’s Guide To Publishing. With our participation, let’s see how this experiment works. Oh, and you can get a free bonus story. As Scott Nicholson, who is running this experiment with Joe says, It’s crazy, it’s mod, and it’s a free experiment in mass social-media psychology and book-pimping. And, if it’s any enticement, it feels a little subversive….I like subversive. Here’s the link to the blog, lets all join in.

 

JA Konrath and Scott Nicholson Experiment in Driving Sales Ranking

 

The Dirty Lowdown

Chuck Palahniuk and Ursula K. Le Guin to Speak at Write To Publish 2010

Ooligan Press is excited to announce that award-winning authors Chuck Palahniuk and Ursula K. Le Guinwill be sharing their publishing experiences at the Oolicon: Write to Publish open house event, May 23, 2010, at Portland State University. Full info here: http://chuckpalahniuk.net/calendar/event/tour/chuck-palahniuk-speaking-write-to-publish-event-portland-or


Chuck Palahniuk speaking at the Write To Publish Portland Event on May 23, 2010

Owner of Book Carnival , Ed Thomas Dies

  .                book-pat-author-robert

                            Ed and Pat Thomas with author Robert Crais at a book signing at Book Carnival in Orange.

Ed owned a specialty book store in Orange County, Calif. for over 30 years. He specialized in mysteries and thrillers and helped launch the career of best seller writers such as Michael Connelly and Dean Koontz when they were starting out. Us, who love books, often forget how important the small, specialty book sellers are to our love.  I remember making a road trip many times to Orange for a signing or just to look for the latest mystery or thriller, perhaps a signed first edition. Book Carnival was an institution amongst mystery writers and you can still find these famous authors stopping  by. Ed will be sorely missed. His store is still opened and you can visit it on the web.

http://home.earthlink.net/~bookcarnival/index.htm
Her is a link to the OC Register http://www.ocregister.com/articles/thomas-236187-book-carnival.html

eBooks, eReaders-The Future of Books and Reading?

As anyone out there who knows me could tell you, I have a voracious "Need to Read". I don’t read just to escape, or relax, or pass the time either. I love anything from ancient obscure history to technology to modern fiction. I am the only person that I know that actually has read Einsteins "Relativity" from front to back, and then wrote a book report on it (I was a weird kid). 

And its not just the books or the content, the story or the lesson. I love the look of books. Since I was a kid I have belonged to book clubs, browsed book stores and spent my hard earned dollars, been a sucker for every club selling "Leather Bound" classics "Gilt Edged" pages and the illustrated, illuminated and autographed. I love to see them on the shelves throughout my house. When I visit a friends house, the first thing I look for (if they don’t have old Fender Guitars on display) is their book cases. I think less of friends that don’t have book cases or at least a copy of something on display. 

Something else anyone who knows me could tell you is that I’m a techie. Yet, I have never owned a digital watch….So, knowing that you could probably deduce that if you need an answer and technology could give it to you, I just might be the guy to talk to. But I won’t try and tell you that technology is the be all or the end all.

So, when I started reading about eBooks, all the different eReaders etc…that started coming out a few years ago, I just didn’t see them ever replacing "Real Books". The formats weren’t compatible from provider to provider. The things were hunky and clunky and were about as kin to a book as a stone ax is to a rifle. Now the "next generation" is out there, and not surprisingly, they are starting to look and feel more like traditional books. The formats aren’t proprietary (as much and they can usually be converted to whatever format your Reader takes), you change pages with a motion close to what you’d use on a real book.  Also the features are starting to become attractive, or at least more practical. They are sized from the dimensions of a typical magazine or text book to the size of a paperback. And no matter how many books you store on it (the nicer ones will hold over 1500 books!), it still weighs about the same as your average periodical. You can also have delivered every morning, wirelessly,  dozens of news papers! Where was this when I was in college schlepping more weight in texts than I did in Vietnam carrying a radio, rifle, pack and various letters from home?

Some other features that are real attractive are they are adding wireless download capability. For Free! You can shop the book store, and purchase the book and have it in your hand from almost anywhere, in 60 seconds all free, not even the cost of a text message on your phone. Imagine sitting in the bath tub on a Saturday morning,or on the beach,  cup of coffee setting precariously on the edge of the tub or Mai Tai using a hole in the sand as a cup holder. You just finished the latest Stephen King and you are dreading breaking the mood to go down stairs or back to the hotel room and finding your next read…no need. Take a sip of coffee (I’ll stick to the Mai Tai), browse the online store, and bing! There it is before the coffee gets cold or you have dripped or tracked sand all over the carpet. The newer Kindle II or the latest Nook from Barnes and Noble will also store some MP3s and play your music in the back ground. I really like listening to Bud Powell when I read Hemmingway and The Stones when I read Robert Crais…

So, this latest gadget might just convert this guy the way digital watches never could….maybe. You still can’t swat a fly with it…well you could but chances are if you did it’ll cost you another $250.00 and reading in the tub means paying especial attention to not falling asleep since I seriously doubt dipping your eReader in the bubble bath is covered under the warranty.

But beyond the practical, what do these things mean for book lovers, authors and publishers? Well, the publishers and their employers will still have a job. They can publish just as well in e-format as in paper. I am doing some casual asking around as to how, money wise it might affect authors, but I suspect it won’t hurt them and indeed, may allow some authors that self publish to reach a broader audience and even sell more books, at least until the novelty wears off. Also, a lot of established authors are converting there works that have been long out of print to E-Format so they are available again even if they won’t reach the NYT Best Sellers list this time around, the writer can make money off of it even tho’ the publishers aren’t interested in a reissue.

But beyond the principles, The guy (or gal) that wrote the book, the guys and gals that published the book and the audience that reads and enjoys the book, how does it affect the rest of the supply chain? One positive is that it’ll take trees out of the equation..Well, the Big Guys that have a book store in every Mall in America will probably just morph into the guys that are supplying the eBook for the most part, but what about the small specialty stores? You know the ones that have quaint shops selling "just mysteries" or "just self help" books? I remember when iPods and downloading electronic music killed the neighborhood record store. And before that, when LP’s were replaced by CD’s. I remember in the 60’s when half the fun of buying the latest Beatles release was in browsing the record store, and getting the clerk (who loved music as much as you did) to play a dozen new releases that your paper route money could never afford. Then taking it home and reading the liner notes until you had them memorized. 

I do the same with books. I read the prefaces, The blurbs, the reviews, the back pages that tell you where Berry Eisler went to school or what Michael Connelly did before Harry Bosch. They tell me the order of Hemingway wives, and what his kids are doing now and how to make a Daiquiri. I went to signings, just to hear the authors talk, even when my puny GI paycheck wouldn’t stretch for another hardback this month (at least if I didn’t want to cut into my beer budget), I’d get in line and see if I could get an autograph on a dog eared paperback. Yeah, I loved the stories, loved the places they took me, taught me, exposed me to. But a lot of what I loved and still do is/was that atmosphere. The people that created or related the stories would visit my town, my bookstore. Would act friendly to the person that owned/ran that book store where I had gone from Lad A Dog and Superman Comics to Faulkner, Frost and Steinbeck and , maybe that owner/clerk that got to exchange jokes with Pat Conroy was someone you went to church with, or drank with on Saturday night. How cool was that?

I guess what worries me is that those personal touches, those things that made me a reader will go away. Oh, I’ll still buy the books, the magazines, no matter what form. And I’ll still search out the first edition hardbacks to display like art in my home. I might even finally get a digital watch to go along with my eReader….nah! But what about the kids out there. Will as many of them get hooked on the written word without that atmosphere. Maybe I’m just afraid they’ll fall in love for different reasons than I did and invalidate my love? And will the death of the independent specialty book store be an end of an era? I think so.

I guess I survived the death of the LP and the CD and liner notes, but I still want to go to signings, lectures, and smell the ink on the pages. I may not show up on time, since I don’t have a digital watch but I know how to make a perfect Hemingway Daiquiri.

RC (not the cola)

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