Category Archives: Ebook Readers

The Tokyopop of E-Readers

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, retailers are pushing tablets, and especially e-readers as gifts for dear old mom. There are ads for the Amazon Kindle, which can be found in Staples, Target and Best Buy, the Barnes and Noble Nook Color, which are at Barnes and Noble and Best Buy, as well as tablets from Apple, Dell, Motorola and Samsung. But you don’t see anything for the Sony e-Reader.

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Tech Friday: Good Idea, Bad Idea

Good Idea: Putting manga on the Barnes and Noble Nook.

Digital Manga Publishing has announced that titles from their catalog will start appearing on the Nook and B&N’s newest e-reader the Nook Color. They already have titles on the iphone/itouch and Kindle. Just as they had with those other devices, they are starting with their adaptation of Vampire Hunter D volume 1. The book will be available in black and white or color (for the Nook color) and will be split in half, each half going for $3.99. I don’t know about the splitting the book in half, but getting their manga on as many of the digital platforms as possible is making them the most versatile manga publisher.

Bad Idea: Selling Subscriptions to Scanlated Manga

Two years ago I wrote an article about hacking the Kindle to view images, which could be used for digital manga as well. This article has attracted a lot of views and some comments about other programs people have created to make image viewing easier. I let a lot of these side since the technology can be used for legal images, but I have to draw the line somewhere, and the latest comment I got was that line. The link that appeared in the comment was for the site Manga on the Kindle, which claims to have over 100 manga volumes formatted for the Kindle, which are available for a $5 monthly subscription. Um….no. This is worse than the aggregator sites, since it’s soliciting money directly from people. Now, if publishers were to do something like this, that would make it a good idea.

Good Idea: Updating Your e-Reader For More Functionality

Barnes and Noble has said that the Nook Color, which is currently running on an older version of Android will be getting the 2.2 update in January. This update will give Nook Color owners access to the Android Market as well as other features. This is fantastic news for comics and manga fans, as apps come out for the Android, they will be available to use and read on their Nook Color. It will also give them the option of using their Nook Color as a full tablet, at half the price and more convenient size than the Apple iPad.

Bad Idea: Censoring e-books you’ve already sold

From the “I Wanna Be Like Steve Jobs” Department

Word has come from writers on blogs and on the Amazon forums, that Amazon has started removing erotica fiction from the Kindle store, which includes deleting the book from people’s accounts that have already purchased the books. This is one of the reasons I am hesitant about joining the e-reader revolution. When I purchase I book, I don’t want to be told somewhere done the line that I can no longer read the book I purchased. It doesn’t say “rent” on Amazon. It says “purchase”, and that should mean it’s mine until I decide to get rid of it, not when Amazon decides to back pedal on their “no censorship” stance that they claimed to have, but seems to have changed their mind about. This is especially frustrating for both writers and readers as Amazon has not clean statement about what is appropriate for the store and what is not, and they seem to be choosy about who gets to stay and who goes. Just like Apple and their Apps Store. Not a good model to emulate, Amazon.

Tech Friday: E-Reader Roundup

With the holidays rushing towards us (I saw Christmas trees at K-mart across from the Halloween costumes!!), retailers are pushing out their announcements for the coming shopping season.

Amazon started with the announcement that they would be adding a lending feature to the Kindle. Kindle owners will now be able to lend their books out to other Kindle owners for a two-week period. During that time, the book will not be available to the original purchaser, and the book can only be to one person at a time, one time only. Not all books will have this feature enabled as it’s up to the publisher to enable it, just like the audio feature on the Kindle. Of course, the Kindle is only playing catch-up by adding this feature. The Barnes and Noble Nook has had it from day one. But with the e-reader market getting more competitive, the Kindle will have to do everything possible to keep itself at the top.

Especially with announcements like the Nook Color. Earlier this week, Barnes and Noble announced they would be releasing a reader tablet for the holidays. It has a full color, android-based touch screen e-reader. It’s 8.1 inches tall with a 7 inch touch screen, 8GB storage with a micro SD slot expanding it to 32GB, built-in WiFi and a promised 8 hours of battery time. It will also include a full web browser, free word and chess games, Pandora music streamed over WiFi and Quick Office to create, edit, and view Microsoft Office documents. It will retail at $249.00

Barnes & Noble will also release Nook Developer, which will allow developers to create android apps for the Nook Color. They are asking for apps that are “reader-centric” and have “engaging content”. Apps will start to become available next year. The Nook Color will also feature in store exclusives, and has some kid-friendly features that includes expanding text, zooming pictures and the device can read the story out loud.

Of the two announcements, the Nook Color is definitely the more exciting. It expands the e-reader into a more versatile device without losing sight of what its primary purpose is; to read e-books. The Nook Color fills a gap people have been feeling since the iPad came out. This device could be the bridge that a lot of people are looking for, that don’t want a big, unwieldy device that comes with a lot of baggage like the iPad, but is more than just a scaled down computer like a netbook or limited like the current generation e-readers. Of course, nothing’s for sure until it’s in the wild, but, if I were to put my money on an e-reader device right now, I would go with the Nook Color. It has the greatest potential. I hope publishers, especially manga publishers will see that potential too.

Tech Friday: The Tablet Wars Have Begun

asus_tabletThe first shot in the tablet wars began with Apple’s release of the iPad, and technology companies have responded. At Computex, a computer and technology show several companies were showing off new devices, some to be available as early as this Fall.

The big announcement that everyone is touting is from the creator of the netbook, Asus. They announced three tablets.  The Eee Pad will come in two versions. The EP101TC will come with a 10 in screen and the EP121TC will have a 12 in screen. Both devices will be able to playback multimedia, read e-books, browse the web, and with a keyboard can be used as a computer. Asus is promising 10 hours of battery life with these devices. Exact specs or release date haven’t been announced yet.

The Eee Tablet is the Asus e-reader. It uses a reflective LCD screen instead of e-ink, and is in grey scale instead of color. It will include a touch screen and style for note taking. It uses Wacom’s pen input technology for more precise and accurate notes. Asus is aiming this device at students. It will include a webcam, microSD slot and USB slot. It will also have a 10 hour battery life and will be available in the Fall.

MSI is determined to not be left out, and has announced its own tablet, the WindPad 110. This is a 10 in with multimedia in mind. It will have a webcam and HDMI support, as well as USB slots. MSI will have its own UI over Windows 7. No word on battery life or release date.

asus-eee-tabletAlso announced this week, but not at Computex is that Amazon will be releasing a slimmer version of the Kindle, with sharper images and faster page turns, supposedly in response to the iPad. But without a touch screen or color, this seems kind of pointless. The Kindle and iPad are for two different markets. Kindle is for e-reading exclusively, while the iPad is a multimedia device. Amazon is just throwing away money trying to compete with that. But they are doing something right by getting the Kindle into a retail store. Starting on Sunday, Target stores nationwide will be selling the Kindle after a trial program.

And it seems publishers aren’t too thrilled with the Apple/Amazon battle. Both companies want to hold a monopoly on e-books by making them available in formats that only their readers can read. Publishers are coming out and saying they don’t want proprietary formats for their e-books. They want one standard across all platforms. I’m happy to hear this from publishers. Books have always been open and available to everyone. They should remain this way in the digital age as well, not trapped in Apple and Amazon’s walled worlds. Though I do wish they would stop worrying about DRM. Pirates will get around it no matter what they do. Just worry about getting them to people in an easy and legal way, and the pirates won’t be an issue.

Tech Friday: An eReader For Mom?

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, all the ads lately have been about what to get Mom. One common element I’ve seen (beyond the usual of appliances, jewelry, and gardening) is e-readers. Amazon.com has the Kindle on their front page again, touting how it’s the perfect gift for Mom. It’s $259 for the 6″ screen, and includes a wireless connection to Amazon for instant downloading (and gratification).

Sony, maker of the e-Reader, has been pushing it’s low end reader, the Pocket Edition, which has the least number of features. You can find this device at Office Depot, Staples and Best Buy going for $149 through Mother’s Day. You have to connect it to a computer to get the e-books on it, but it also now comes in a “special” pink edition. Ooooo…. Yeah, I’m not impressed by that either. I’ve looked over the Pocket Edition, and wasn’t really impressed with it compared to it’s price. But it’s the least expensive e-ink device out right now.

Aluratech ebookThen, I found out about a new device. The Aluratek Libre e-Reader. It’s a low tech e-reader, that’s also low priced. Online it can be found for around $150, but K-Mart will have it for only $120 through this weekend. It has all the basic function of an e-reader, but the big difference on this device is that it doesn’t use e-ink. It’s actually a black & white LCD screen they call e-paper. The plus about this is that there isn’t the flash that e-ink devices have on page turns, and it’s still fairly quick. It also can view images and play mp3s, even while you’re reading, something the other don’t do. It comes with a 2Gig SD card with 100 public domain books on it to start. It’s rather stripped down like the Sony Pocket Edition. What makes this a better device (to me) is the SD card slot, and lower price. With the Libre, you can have different SD cards for different reading material. One for e-books, one for images (or comics), and one for audio books (or mp3 if you perfer. That makes this a more versatile device, even if it can’t go online.

For someone that just wants to read ebooks and doesn’t need a backlit screen, dictionary, make annotations, or go online, you know like the experience a paper book gives you, this actually looks like a pretty good deal. It’s not difficult to use, so non-tech savvy moms that want to get in on the e-book revolution can with little work. Aluratek also has a step-by-step guide to getting books from ebooks.com, and comments on product reviews of this device suggest that it will read ebooks borrowed through libraries. Here’s a fairly thorough review of the device:

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Think carefully about what your Mother would want and/or could handle. Don’t buy what you think she would want. An e-Reader is a personal device, much like a book. It needs to be tailored to the reader’s needs. Don’t go for all the bells and whistles just because that’s what YOU would want. You want what you give Mom to be used and appreciated, and not left in the box, stuffed in a corner of the closet because she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings by returning it or giving it away. It’s Mother’s Day for a reason. Make sure it’s something she wants.

Tech Friday: XL e-Reader

DSiLL_01-580x435In a previous post I spoke of the Nintendo DS as a possible e-reader.  With their latest announcement, it seems that Nintendo is finally answering that call in the US.  The DSi XL, originally launched in Japan in November 2009 as the DSi LL, will be coming to the US in March.  Along with the new gaming device, which has bigger screens, will be the 100 Classics e-book cartridge that I spoke of in the previous post.

While the e-book cartridge itself isn’t that big of news, public domain books are a dime a dozen on the web, it’s the fact that Nintendo is finally stepping into the e-book market in the US that’s exciting.  Over in Japan, the DS has been getting manga and books on the platform for at least 2 years.  It would be nice to see some manga come to this side of the Pacific.  With the larger screen and cartridge format, manga on the DS would be more difficult to pirate.  Not impossible, just more work.

Some blogs are trying to set this move by Nintendo as a play against Apple.  However, if they had been watching Nintendo’s gradual climb up to  e-books on the DS, they would see this is actually a natural progression.  Nintendo isn’t trying to push their way into the e-reader market (which, by the way, isn’t owned by Apple).  It’s Apple that’s been trying to muscle in on Nintendo’s handheld gaming market.  Nintendo has been slowly but surely expanding the DS to be more than just a gaming platform with wifi connection and browser.  Fans have been creating homebrewed applications to put comics and books on the DS for several years now.  This is just Nintendo making it official.  It’s not a declaration of war on the iPad.  Anyone that thinks that is just trying to make a straw man they think they can knock down then the iPad finally comes out.

As a casual gamer, and an older one at that, I have to say I’m looking forward to the DS XL.  Larger screens appeal to me in general.  And while the DS is still not the perfect solution to the e-reader problem, it’s one that I think can be a strong contender.  The Nintendo brand is known and trusted here in the US.  The devices are durable.  They even take all the abuse my kids give theirs!  Both kids and adults enjoy both the platform and the games.  Adding comics and manga, especially those already based on games that are being played on the device should be a no-brainer.  So comics and manga publishers shouldn’t be getting excited about the iPad.  They should be looking at what they already have and reaching out to an audience that’s already there, instead of gambling a on one they hope will be there.

Tech Friday: Doing More

Here in the US, we’re all excited about getting more devices to carry around to read books on.  In Japan, they’re taking existing devices that people are already carrying and adapting them to not just read books but to also enhance that reading experience.  They are letting the content take advantage of the platform instead of making devices to conform to the content.

Continue reading Tech Friday: Doing More

Tech Friday: App-lying to the Kindle

I’ve decided that Fridays at Manga Xanadu will for now on be Tech Friday!  I’ll post all my tech/gadget type stories on this day from now on.  To inaugurate this, let’s take a look at the newest story about the Kindle; it’s getting apps.

kindle-indiaThat’s right.  You can’t have a device that connects to the net anymore without having some sort of app store to go with it.  And the Kindle is apparently no different.  With CES just recently past, and the Apple iMyth–err iSlate to be announced next week, Amazon has to do something to keep to not only stay competitive, but keep their e-Reader on top, with a wave of new devices threatening to wash them away.  And apps is the new, hip thing.

Continue reading Tech Friday: App-lying to the Kindle

Is E-Ink Worth It?

kindle 2.0This year is being touted as the year of the slate computer.  CES was filled with announcements of new computers that are like over-glorified e-book readers.  Of course, e-book readers are also being announced right and left.  This Christmas was Amazon’s biggest year for the Kindle so far, and claimed that on Christmas day sold more e-books than print.  But the worth of e-readers like the Kindle and Sony’s E-Reader are being questioned.  Well, more specifically, the E-Ink technology they use is being questioned.  E-Ink techonogy is one of the main reasons prices for e-readers remain high.  So, is E-Ink worth the price?

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Another Nail in Privacy's Coffin?

Having a wireless connection on an e-reader has been touted as the make-or-break deal for devices coming out.  Amazon’s Kindle, which started it all, has been favored because of the ease of purchasing books from Amazon and downloading to the device.  But, what are you really giving up for that privilege?  A lot of your privacy it seems.  As reported on BoingBoing, the EFF, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, took a look at e-reader terms of service  for some of the most popular devices, and has made a chart showing who wants what, and what you’re giving up for that digital books online.

Google seems to be the worst of the privacy invaders, requiring users to have a google account so they can be tracked though Web History, and requires “opt-ing in” for sharing personal information with Google.  Amazon the next one down, doesn’t sell you books as much as it licenses them to you.  And they give themselves a lot of room for keeping track of users use of the Kindle, including their interaction with the device and service as well as conent.

Devices such as the Sony e-Reader, which doesn’t connect wirelessly (yet), has no such use agreements, leaving the user free do and put on their device what ever they want without fear of being tracked or spied on.

If privacy is a concern for you, you’ll want to look more closely at this report and read the user agreements carefully before you press that buy button.  Privacy is already under attack for some many other sources.  You shouldn’t have to worry about your books spying on you too.

Digital Manga: 2009 Year in Review

For a long time digital manga has mostly been in the realm of scanlation, but publishers have slowly been moving online.  Tokyopop had been putting it’s OEL manga up as chapter previews and some full volumes for promotion, and Netcomics has always had it’s chapters available for a fee.  This year though, we’ve seen an explosion of digital manga online and in e-book form.  Let’s take a look back at what 2009 has brought us.

Continue reading Digital Manga: 2009 Year in Review

DIY E-Reader

Not sure you want a dedicated e-reader?  Can’t wait for the Asus E-reader?  Want more options in your e-book selection?  Like to tinker with computers and install your own software?  Well, there may be a way to do all these things and more!

Amazon, proving they’re in the e-book reader game more for the books that the hardware, has released the beta version of  software Kindle for PC.  Reviews have been mixed about it’s usefulness, and granted, it is still in beta, so there may be more changes in store for it.  But, for now, it allows you to sync with your kindle, view your kindle library (only the books you’ve bought though), and buy and read e-books from the Kindle store.

So, what’s the big deal?  The whole point of  the Kindle and other e-readers is to NOT be tied to a computer.  It’s to be light and portable.  But the Kindle device is very limited beyond reading the books they offer.  What if I want to surf the web, read RSS feeds and blogs for free, and have access to more than just what Amazon offers?  That’s where this article comes in!  Make your own E-reader.  You’re not really building anything, as it uses a PC tablet, a device that never really caught on as a PC, but as a portable web and e-book reader?  Yeah, I could go for that.  PC Tablets are plentiful on places like eBay, and there is a lot of open source software now that allows for reading practically any type of e-book format.  And with the addition of the Amazon Kindle for PC software, another door has been opened.  Tablets are lighter and easier to carry than a netbook, and have touch screens.  The screens are color too, so comics will look just as good as black and white manga.  It’s like they were made to be e-readers!

It’s hard to believe that just 2 years ago, the e-reader was a novelty, something only hard core techies would be interested in.  Now, the field is wide open with so many options, and more being announced every day.  While I don’t see e-readers as being the savior of newspapers or magazines, they certainly can’t hurt.  Especially as e-readers (and other similar devices) get more widespead acceptance.  And my shelf space would be grateful for the break.  All we need now are more publishers to make their books available digitally, so we can fill SD cards and hard drives with books just we do with music and movies.