Tag Archives: e-books

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: Like Falling Dominoes

falling_dominos_smallJust days after Amazon conceded to MacMillian’s demands for an agency model for e-book pricing (ie, variable pricing), Robert Murdoch’s Harper Collins started rattling it’s saber that it wanted the same deal.  By the end of the week Hachette had joined Harper Collins.  So like dominoes, the major publishers are falling in line to continue their old publishing strategy of initial high price (hardback), price drop 1 (trade paperback) and price drop 2 (mass market paperback for digital books.  Since Amazon capitulated to MacMillian, they will have to do the same with the publishers.

Continue reading Tech Friday: Like Falling Dominoes

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.

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And So It Begins

Late Friday night, reports started coming in about a dispute between Amazon and publisher MacMillian.  According to the New York Times, Amazon has “temporarily” pulled all books by MacMillian, including all imprints such as First Second, Seven Seas Entertainment, and Tor, because MacMillian is pushing for a raise in price of their e-book on the Kindle to $15.  The grousing between Amazon and publishers has been going on for a while now, so that this has finally happened is no surprise.  Nor is it a surprise that it happens right after Apple announced it’s iPad, which MacMillian is one of the publishers that signed on to provide books for.

To get a full range of the story, he’s some links to check out.

Johanna Draper Carlson posts about it at Comics Worth Reading.  Check out the comments for interesting information on the breakdown of who gets what in the publishing pie.

Business Insider has a look at the dispute from the Apple side of the equation.

Cory Doctorow, a big proponent of e-books, has his own take at BoingBoing.  Definitely check out his post for how the whole battle affects consumers.  He’s got some really interesting insights.

The Los Angeles Times has some quotes from publishers about Amazon’s pricing, basically defending MacMillian.

Back at the New York Times, their technology blog Bits has more details on the dispute between Amazon and MacMillian, getting the heart of the problem.

Edit: As the weekend has gone on, more people have been speaking out about this, including authors.  Here are two takes on the supply chain issue that really put the whole pricing of e-books into perspective.  If you really want to understand this issue, read Charlie Stross‘ and Tobias Buckell’s posts for detailed insights.

Another Year Has Come and Gone

PresentsIt’s hard to believe, but this week marks Manga Xanadu’s second anniversary.  I hope everyone has enjoyed reading my posts from the last year.  I set myself a schedule of 3 times a week, Monday, Wednesday & Friday, and with the addition of the This Week In Manga, one on the weekends, and have actually kept with it!  I’m rather proud of that.  It can be hard to be consistent, especially with RL and other commitments.  But, I’ve done my best and I hope you’ve been able to take away something from all my random ranting.

Over the past year, I think I’ve fallen behind on reviews for this site, concentrating on more commentary.  E-books and related technology have gotten a lot of coverage and remain among my most popular hits from search engines.  I will continue to cover this ever-evolving topic.  There is a definite future in e-books, one we shouldn’t ignore.  Searches for All Ages books have also remained high on the list.  Hopefully more teachers, librarians and parents are looking at manga as another avenue to get kids reading.  Manga is still misunderstood, and people still need to be educated about it.  Libraries have been under fire, especially in the last few months.  They need our support, and I am more than happy to give them any and all I can.

There have been some changes to the site, though no major overhauls.  I’ve started to add more personal things to the site, with my personal twitter feed and my other hobby, cross-stitch.  I may be adding some non-manga reviews int he future as my reading of audio books expands, as does my desire to share the good ones.

I’ve been keeping up with my other projects, Manga Village and Good Comics for Kids, surprisingly.  But it helps to work with a great group of people, which I do at both.  Having gotten into a good groove, I hope to continue with it, and that you’ll continue with me.

A Better Alternative…For Now

Recently, Amazon quietly announced a price drop for it’s Kindle 2 e-reader.  Slashing $60 from the price to $299, the Kindle is now coming closer to the price of other ebook readers.  If Amazon wants the Kindle to be competitive in any way, it had too.  Sony, not to be out done, not only slashed prices, but also came out with two new devices.  The E-Reader Pocket for $199 and the E-Reader Touch for $299 and will be out by the end of August.  The older Sony E-Reader 505  is $279, and can be found at Staples stores now.  Bebook, another competitor is also $279.  Cooler Books has it’s own e-reader now, the Cool Reader, which looks a lot like an iPod and comes in different colors, and is only $249.

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What Would It Take?

kindle 2.0What would it take to get you to buy a Kindle?  Amazon’s ebook reader seems to be selling okay (not that we’ve seen any numbers), but there are a lot of people who haven’t taken to it, or any other e-book reader device.  And why should they?  Books work just fine, and buying them is cheaper than the electronic gadget.  Amazon boasts to have thousands of ebooks, but very, very few that would interest readers of this blog, namely manga.  What if Amazon tried to sweeten the deal?  Would you go for it?

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E-books of calibre

Being a wanna-be tech hound, I watch the tech news for interesting posts about the tech subjects I like.  I found one over at Channel Web that I’d thought I’d share with all my readers who are interested in E-books.  They have a slide show showing all the current and future/possible E-book Readers, with specs.  Check it out.

At the end they mention a few software programs as well.  But there is one that I think anyone considering purchasing an E-book Reader should look at.  I found out about it when I was exploring the MobileRead website and forums.  It’s an open source free program called Calibre.

Calibre is an ebook management program that works on all the major platforms (Windows, Linux and Mac OS X).  It works as a library, a format converter, and, best of all, convert news feeds to ebook format!  With this program, which hands all the major formats, including Kindle and Sony, it doesn’t matter which reader you get.  You can read any ebook on your reader.

What I like best about it, is that it can take RSS feeds and make them available to read on the e-reader.  The Kindle charges you for the feeds it makes available, and both Amazon and Sony only give you a limited number of feed to get.  With calibre, you can take any feed you want to read anywhere.  You don’t have to be tied to a computer to read them.  It’s not an automatic download, but you have the freedom to get what you want, and not just what’s popular.

I believe the Kindle has resparked the popularity for ebooks and readers.  The last year has seen a reported 235% jump in e-book reader sales.  I don’t know if I’ll stick by the claim that the Kindle is the “ipod of ebooks”, but it was definitely brought interest to a previously fringe technology.  The competition it has sparked can only be a boon to us, the consumers.

Kindle 2.0: Is It Worth It?

Today, Amazon.com had a big press event to unveil the newest generation of its e-book reader, the Kindle.  Speculation has been running about for while now that Amazon would release a new reader with leaked photos, increased orders of screens, and a long reorder wait at the Kindle store.

So, what’s new about it? Well, not much.  There were some cosmetic changes, which many people called for when it first came out in late 2007.  It’s lighter and thinner, has an estimated 25% increase in battery power, and more memory that will allow it to hold nearly 6 times more books.

What’s in it for manga readers?  Again, not much.  It does boast a new screen that is capable of showing 16 shades of gray, as opposed to the first generation that could only show 4.  This would definitely improve the quality of black and white pictures, which makes up most manga releases.

What hasn’t changed?  The two most important things that would make the Kindle relevant to manga readers; price and content.  The price hasn’t changed, so it’s still $359.  But in this economy, that prices the reader out of LOT of people’s range.  Prices under $200 seems to be the magical limit for most consumers.  The Kindle was designed to be and remains a tool for the affluent and/or business person on the go.  This is most reflected in the content available for it.  You can get  103 of 110 New York Times best sellers, 230,000 total e-books, and 250 blogs and 23 newspapers.  A search of the Kindle store will give you just three manga volumes; Maximum Rider and World of Quest from Yen Press, and Japan Ai from Go Comi, and zero blogs.

This upgrade of the Kindle is more of a 1.75 than a 2.0.  They fixed some little issues and made some cosmetic changes, but little else.  There’s still no graphic support without hacking, and although files can be converted, there’s no support for other formats than the Kindles mobibook.  The SD slot was also taken out, so your 2GB of memory is it.

Jeff Bezos says “Our [Amazon’s] vision for the Kindle is to have every book ever printed, in any language, all available in under 60 seconds.”   I would think that would include manga, manga publishers would have to get serious about the format, and not just scoff it.  And then there are issues of licensing and price to consider, with Amazon pushing for lower prices, and taking 65% of that price.  Like the Apple Apps store, maybe it’s just not worth it to publishers, which would truly be a shame.

Is the Kindle 2.0 worth it?  Unless you’re a tech hound, or travel a lot for business, no.  Stay with paper books for now.