Amazon Prime Now is a pilot project in Manhattan and it promises to deliver books and anything else the website sells within two hours. If two hours is too much time, you can pay an extra $7.99 to get it within one hour.
In order to take advantage of the Prime Now program you must subscribe to the $99.99 per year Amazon Prime membership. Amazon has promised that more cities will receive this service in in 2015. Anyone who downloads the mobile app for iOS or Android can receive a notice when the service arrives in their area.
When using the app to order products, Amazon is not reinventing the wheel. If you have ever used the Amazon Shopping app, Prime Now functions the exact same way. You can search for and browse items and then add them to your shopping cart. After you order your item, you can track its delivery. Amazon has confirmed that over 10,000 items are eligible for the Prime Now program.
Amazon is facing increased competition from established players, who have launched new programs. Google has been experimenting with its own delivery service, which in October expanded beyond its early outposts in New York and California to Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C. For same-day service, users of Google Express must pay $95 per year, or $10 per month. Online auction site eBay, has also expressed interest about faster deliveries using their own in-house solution.
Free two hour shipping on 10,000 items is very compelling if you are already an Amazon Prime member. Sadly, the only postal code its delivering to right now is 10001.
Macmillan has announced that they intend on entering the e-Book subscription model business, in an attempt to broaden its distribution channels. CEO John Sargent mentioned that the primary reason they are engaging in the whole Netflix for eBooks concept is because Amazon accounts for 64% of all Macmillan digital sales, and this must change.
Sargent outlined Macmillan’s plans for the future to his stable of authors, illustrators, and Agents “In our search for new routes to market, we have been considering alternative business models including the subscription model. Many of you know that we have long been opposed to subscription. We have always worried that it will erode the perceived value of your books. Though this significant long-term risk remains, we have decided to test subscription in the coming weeks. Several companies offer “pay per read” plans that offer favorable economic terms. We plan to try subscription with backlist books, and mostly with titles that are not well represented at bricks and mortar retail stores. Our job has always been to provide you with the broadest possible distribution, and given the current financial and strategic incentives being offered, we believe the time is right to try this test.”
It is very likely in the next few weeks we will hear about Macmillan signing an e-Book distribution deal with Oyster and Scribd. These are two companies not affiliated with Amazon and engage in the pay per read model, which is what Macmillan is looking for.
Whether you’re a student yourself or the parent of one, you know how aggravating it can be to trek back and forth from class with all your necessities. Textbooks, notebooks, even netbooks and laptops have become part of the list essentials to put in your backpack every day; particularly for college students. Tablets have made a difference to some degree, but the majority of them don’t offer transition between apps that are smooth and quick enough to make note-taking and studying easy on a single device. And never mind battery life; if you didn’t leave your tablet plugged in for at least 10 hours yesterday, it probably won’t even turn on for class today. It’s just how technology works—or is it?
A Challenger Appears
Luckily, Barnes & Noble and Samsung have embarked on a joint venture to change the game for lecture- and class-friendly mobile devices. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK offers a veritable panacea of handy features for students on the go, from junior high up to graduate school.
What makes the Tab 4 NOOK such a great choice for students? It’s one part form, one part function, and one part finance. The Galaxy eReader gives students access to the entire online Barnes & Noble library, including any and all textbooks available in digital form, while the same device can also run note-taking apps, capture video and audio and get online for research, email and chatting with friends and family back home.
Most eReaders are designed to fulfill a singular purpose: a portable library. The Tab 4 NOOK is one of the first true hybrid devices, and that makes it different. The device is essentially a Samsung Galaxy 4 Tablet that’s been sanded down to remove all the sharp edges and then polished to promise the best presentation possible. It’s been stripped of the usual Samsung trappings and many pre-installed “junk” apps in favor of Barnes & Noble’s NOOK apps and widgets, all of which are moveable and removable to your own preference. Unlike the standard Samsung Galaxy 4 Tab, the NOOK variant lacks Samsung’s infamous My Magazine, which intrudes upon your screen with an irremovable widget that allegedly give access to multiple updates from a single location; PCWorld applauded the removal of the “feature” in the new Galaxy Note 4, so the fact that the Tab 4 NOOK lacks it altogether makes the entire experience much more pleasing from a UI perspective.
Productivity and Multi-Tasking
The smaller of Samsung’s two NOOK tablets—the other clocks in at 10.1 inches, making it a bit cumbersome to carry around everywhere—offers some fantastic multi-tasking functions, allowing students to stay productive and follow along in class at the same time.
Not the least of these features is Samsung’s trademark Multi Window functionality. Reported as fully operational in the little NOOK hybrid by Engadget, this allows users to run two apps simultaneously, on the same screen. While this has become the standard in Samsung’s tablets, being able to utilize such a feature in an eReader is a definite game-changer for the educational tech market. This feature allows students to have an eBook open at the same time as their favorite note-taking app; this way they can take notes, follow along, and not worry about missing out on key lecture information or discussion while they switch between the two apps to catch up with the reading or put down a note. And unlike other devices with this kind of function, most notably laptops, the Tab 4 NOOK is small enough to carry in a purse or even a winter coat’s large inside pocket. Clocking in at less than 10 ounces in weight, users don’t have to worry about anything getting dragged down when they pack up this device to get to class.
While Gizmodo’s launch review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK went so far as to ask “what’s the point?” even they declared that the main demographic for the device would be users who wanted an eReader with other, more complex functions. The tablet hybrid also comes with about $200 in freebies, including episodes of hit TV shows, free books, and even a year-long “trial” subscription to multiple nationally acclaimed magazines. Since one of these options is National Geographic, it again proves its worth to students across the country—easy access to academically accepted content just for buying a device that works just as well and costs less than half the price of the industry standard iPad? That’s more than worth it.
There are other options, but considering the Tab 4 NOOK is the only one in the current round of next-gen eReaders to offer more than eight hours of battery life in a single charge, even with Wi-Fi on and screen brightness up, it’s hard to justify getting anything else for the student in your life.
There was a time not too long ago that the only way to listen to audiobooks was to borrow a CD or tape from your local library. They degraded with use and most often were a victim of theft, due to its high value nature. In the last five years digital audio content has made things so much more accessible and is a rising force in US based libraries.
Audiobook publishing is certainly starting to be big business for major publishers and companies involved in distributing the content. In 2007 a paltry 3,073 digital titles were available and rose exponentially to over 20,000 published titles in 2013. The entire industry is said to be worth over two billion dollars, which is a huge jump from $480 million selling tapes and cassette in 1997.
There are a number of major players providing audio services to libraries, 3M Cloud Library, Baker & Taylor, Hoopla and Overdrive. For the most part, these are the exact same companies that provide the libraries e-Book portfolio. In the US, 95% of all libraries have a digital collection and audio content is starting to play a more central role.
Audiobooks actually works fairly differently than e-Books do, on a business level. Many of the top distributors lean on 3rd parties for a full catalog of content. 3M and Baker and Taylor both get their audio editions from Findaway World, which is current market leader in production. Findaway has a catalog of over 50,000 titles and maintains production studios, narrators and crew in New York. Overdrive has their own internal solution, where they approach publishers directly and don’t do business with companies such as Audible or Findaway World.
Tom Mercer, Marketing Manager of 3M Cloud Library said “we see a tremendous opportunity to grow in the Audio space in 2015. Right now we’re two weeks into the “real world” of Audio, but customers really seem to like our solution. Our initial Beta feedback from very positive.”
Hoopla is an audiobook solution for libraries that floats under the radar, but are quickly making a name for themselves. The company has a catalog of 13,000 titles with 1,000 added each month. Hoopla deals with over 100 libraries in the US and charges no licensing fees with setting up the system, which is quite appealing to the average library. How does Hoopla make money? The company has employed the Pay Per Use model, which only charges the library when a specific title is checked out by a patron. Librarians can establish a weekly or monthly threshold, so they can ensure they will not go over budget. This financial model works for Hoopla because they can promote their entire catalog, while curating the bestsellers on the main page, so finding quality content is ridiculously easy.
Audiobooks are certainly finding their grove in libraries, but one of the big challenges is that the audio editions are not released at the same time as the print or e-Book versions. Library staff and patrons need to be aware of this issue. In addition, digital audiobooks often have some fairly high costs, compared to digital books. The average price of a new audiobook is between $30 to $60.
How well are the publishers doing in the audiobook sector? Cheryl Herman, marketing director for Penguin Random House’s Books on Tape & Listening Library said. “Our library sales for digital audio are up nearly 30% over 2013, we’re offering more and more titles on audio, and we’re not alone in that. There are also more players entering the market, and more titles overall being published than ever before.”
When it comes down to audio in libraries, certainly audiobooks are not the only game in town. PressReader offers a vast catalog of over 4,000 newspapers and magazines with audio functionality. Using the companies app for Android or iOS every article can be read aloud, giving people the ability to stay current in local, regional and international news. This certainly appeals to people with vision problems or other disabilities.
In the end, the biggest trend in libraries in 2014 has been the adoption of audiobooks in Canada, US and United Kingdom. Likely, in 2015 international expansion will be a pressing concern, as libraries based in Europe, Australia and New Zealand will want to get in a piece of the action.
e-Readers have come a long way since the original Kindle was unveiled in 2007. e-Books have drastically altered the way we read and many bookstores have went out of business because their once loyal customer bought a Kobo.
There are hundreds of e-readers that have come out in the last few years, some have offered some very innovative features, but the vast majority have been “me too” products. We asked the question last week, what features should the ultimate e-reader have? Thousands of people listed to the podcast and commented on what their ideal device would comprise of.
Today, Michael and Peter discuss their ideal e-reader. Jointly they have reviewed over 100 different models since 2008 and really have a sense on the types of features the public would want. In an epic 40 minute extravaganza you can get schooled on the history of e-readers and e-paper.
Thalia is the largest bookstore chain in Germany with over 300 locations and is facing some serious problems. Sales are at record lows due to stiff competition from Amazon and for the last few months an investment bank has been exploring opportunities to sell the retail chain to another buyer.
The parent company of Thalia, Douglas has commissioned investment bank Macquarie to explore options to sell the company. The price tag was apparently too high for anyone to outright purchase the bookstore chain and is now off the market.
Thalia is going to undergo a restructuring and modernization program that will transform the retail experience. Most of their stores are dull and drab. Bookselling today is about bright lighting, friendly staff, cleverly designed bookcases that display new hardbacks, an espresso coffee machine behind the checkout counter and many unbookish things such as novelty items, jigsaws, games, children’s toys, Paddington bears, greetings cards and upmarket stationery. Bookstores in the UK and US are not all about books anymore, but they have transformed into lifestyle stores. In order for Thalia to fend off e-Books and Amazon, they need to change.
Bookmate, the leading social ebook reading service, is available in Singapore. Boasting a comprehensive library of over 500,000 ebooks from 600 publishers, Bookmate empowers reading fans to search, discover, interact and read as much as they want, wherever they are.
Available at a flat monthly fee of SGD 9.98, the service offers books from major publishers such as HarperCollins, Head of Zeus, Profile Books, Serpent’s Tail and others.
As part of its international expansion efforts, Bookmate is exclusively partnering Singapore’s fully-integrated info-communications provider StarHub to introduce its book-streaming service to the local reading community and engage local publishers to offer their books on the platform.
Simon Dunlop, Founder of Bookmate, said, “Our mission is to make reading easy, accessible and fun for everyone with a smart phone. By expanding into Singapore, we have made a significant first step in increasing Bookmate’s footprint in Southeast Asia and thanks to our partnership with StarHub and their highly engaged customers we will be able to reach millions of new readers.”
Michael Sim, Lead Futurist–Entertainment of i3 (Innovation, Investment, Incubation), StarHub, said, “Singapore consumers are fast growing accustomed to getting easy access to an unfettered catalogue of premium online content, for instance, video and music streaming, across multiple devices for a flat monthly fee. This advancement is changing the way people consume content, and we believe the time is ripe to bring this same convenience to book fans, providing a timely boost to Singapore’s ebook scene. Through our partnership with Bookmate, local readers can now enjoy unlimited access to Bookmate’s vast collection of ebooks through its comprehensive association with leading publishers.”
Bookmate’s move into Singapore follows its agreement with HarperCollins, announced earlier this year, which saw Bookmate add hundreds of new authors to the service. This announcement also marks Bookmate’s first foray into Asia-Pacific. Bookmate currently has over 1.5 million active monthly users in countries including Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, U.S. and Germany.
The Bookmate app, available for free download on Apple App Store, Good e-Reader and Windows Store, includes a social feed that allows users to follow their friends, favorite authors and celebrities on Bookmate, while also sharing their favorite books and passages. The service is also available through a supported web browser
A number of years ago when the iPad became popular, the digital magazine scene was bright and vibrant. A number of companies were leading the download charts and inclusive apps that gave you access to hundreds of publications became standard. When Apple unveiled their Newsstand, companies started developing their own apps to offer unique experiences. Instead of relying on companies like Zinio for distribution, they decided to do it themselves. One of the last magazine companies still standing is PressReader and they just hit a major milestone.
PressReader has just announced that they have they have attained 1,000 magazines. Condé Nast International France has joined PressReader, adding favorite titles – including Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ and Glamour – to their growing list of top publications like T3, Martha Stewart Living, Men’s Health, Inside Golf, Elle Italia and many more.
In terms of digital magazine distribution, PressReader does things a little bit differently than their competition. On the consumer level they sell a subscription package that gives customers access to over 3,500 newspapers and magazines from 100 countries in 80 different languages. Instead of paying per issue, you can basically read and download as much as you want for a low monthly price. The company also leverages their portfolio directly to libraries, airlines, cruise ships and hotels.
Most of the digital players still in the game normally use proxy services when they market their treasure trove of content to libraries or other sectors. Zinio for example deals with Recorded Books to market their content to libraries, whereas Next Issue and Magzter simply focuses on consumers and not B2B.
I think the one thing PressReader has done really well is establish a strong branding message, no matter what space they are selling magazines and newspapers in. They do everything themselves, without having to lean on 3rd parties to do the marketing for them.
When Sony and Amazon first got into the e-reader business, they were considered a new breed of luxury items. The first generation Kindle retailed for $399 and the PRS-500 was $349. Needless to say, only the most hardcore of readers were buying into the new way to consume digital books. In the last few years, you can pick up a ultra modern device for $79. Whats changed?
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo are in the race to the bottom. They are forgoing a number of critical features to be able to compete against each other in the lucrative US and UK market. Overall build quality is suffering, internet browsing has never improved and the lack of audio bucks the trend of technological convergence.
In 2011, we started to see e-readers come down in price. The Kindle Keyboard was massively discounted from $189 to $99. Barnes and Noble discounted their Simple Touch Reader to $99 and Kobo did the same. This was the last year that we saw a new reader have speakers and a 3.5mm headphone jack that was capable of playing audiobooks and music files.
The lack of audio in modern e-readers prevent them from being rolled out into schools and institutions of learning. The chief reason is because visually disabled people cannot use the devices and feel excluded. The National Federation of the Blind have been overzealous in this regard and have prevented Amazon from starting pilot projects to get e-readers in schools. They went as far as organizing protests right outside Amazons Seattle headquarters, saying at the time “no student should be left behind.”
The e-reader industry as a whole has lost most of its innovative spirit, the vast majority of companies that were around from 2007 to 2011 are not around anymore. There was some truly interesting e-paper technology that could have changed the game, such as Bridgestone e-paper, Liquavista, LG, Mirasol, Pixel QI, and Plastic Logic. The reason why most of these companies abandoned the e-reader space, was because all of the notable players were risk adverse. After bringing the entry level price from $399 to $99 for an e-reader, the price could never dramatically increase again, which limited their options of dealing with new companies, whose technology would be expensive to manufacture at first.
The race to the bottom has not only limited consumer options, but it has effectively edged out smaller companies that offer alternative e-readers. Icarus, Onyx Boox, Pocketbook and Wexler aren’t exactly household names, but have been making e-readers in Eastern Europe, Russia and China for years. All of these guys initially focused on the western market, but they simply couldn’t produce enough units, in order to get big discounts at the factory, which effectively relegated them to markets where Amazon and Kobo haven’t entered yet.
I have been following the e-reader industry since the first generation Sony and Kindle e-readers. I was at CES in 2010 when e-readers were everywhere, there were literary hundreds of companies wanting to enter the space, looking for strategic partner. In 2011, there were hardly any to be found, as the industry gravitated towards multi-purpose tablets. e-Readers were on the cusp of doing some really amazing things, but now we just have a selection of products that all look the same. Put a Kindle Paperwhite 1 side by side to a Paperwhite 2 and see if anyone could tell the difference.
European libraries have been experimenting with the concept of digital in libraries. The United Kingdom has had the most success, and other countries are starting to make moves to offer similar services. France has just approved a new mandate to implement a digital lending platform, which means in the new future you will be able to borrow audiobooks, eBooks and digital newspapers.
An innovative agreement was announced on December 8th in Paris to facilitate e-lending in French public libraries. The agreement was signed by the French Minister of Culture and associations of librarians, booksellers, authors and publishers, including IFRRO’s member Syndicat National de l’Édition. Twelve recommendations are set out in the agreement in order to make available digital editorial output within and outside the public libraries’ premises while ensuring fair remuneration for rightholders.
Now that a blueprint has been established for digital lending in France, a number of companies will be eyeing this market with glee. The first major challenge is getting an ILS system in place, such as Polaris or Triple iii. This is critical because collection managers need tie in their print and digital collections in a singular platform to monitor everything.
The next stage in facilitating the loaning of digital content will be up to Overdrive, 3M and Baker & Taylor to pitch libraries the virtues of their systems for e-Books, audiobooks and streaming video. Vancouver based PressReader would also be a valuable industry partner because they already carry all of the major French newspapers such as Le Monde, Le Figaro and L’Express.
Who knew that the tech community would be buzzing excitedly about the things Microsoft was up to these days –but it’s happening. This time, it is because they have released a suite of MSN-branded mobile apps designed to run on Android and iOS devices. Timing for the launch makes good sense when you consider that Microsoft recently remodeled their MSN.com portal site (which serves to point users to their other services like Outlook.com, Skype, and Bing).
Some of the apps are particularly impressive, with the ports adding platform-specific tie-ins (like MSN Health and Fitness on iOS working directly with Apple’s HealthKit platform); unfortunately some obvious opportunities were missed, with many reviews already pointing out that there isn’t a weather widget to work with the Android version of the MSN Weather app.
Many features are ready to be enjoyed, including: synchronization across platforms (so you can maintain state between your various devices) and full customization options (so you can identify and organize the information provided by each app according to your personal interests).
Curious to see what Microsoft has been up to? Download any or all of these new (and free!) Android apps:
- - MSN Food & Drink – Recipes
- - MSN Health & Fitness
- - MSN Money – Stock Quotes & News
- - MSN News – Breaking Headlines
- - MSN Sports – Scores & Schedule
- - MSN Weather – Forecast & Maps
Are you impressed by Microsoft’s efforts to carve out their piece of the mobile marketplace? Do you think their mobile apps are good enough to compete (and dominate) against the competition?
Even if you have never played a game in your life (mobile or otherwise), chances are good that you have heard about Blizzard. Maintaining their position as crowned kings of the video game world, Blizzard has hit another home-run with Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft (their their free-to-play trading card game).
With an invitation to pick up your cards and thrown down the gauntlet, Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft promises fast-paced (and whimsical) game play that requires deliberate and calculated scheming to succeed. Powers found within your deck enable you to “sling spells, summon minions, and seize control of an ever-shifting battlefield,” no matter whether you are a novice or experienced player (thanks to intuitive and engaging introductory missions, though I should also be including words like addictive in this list).
Like most other Blizzard games, your assets will be tied to your Battle.net account –so you can play Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft on any of your devices interchangeably.
If you haven’t yet watched the official trailer for Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft that was released earlier this year, take a few minutes to watch it [linked below] and whet your appetite.
Unfortunately for some of you, this release is limited for the time being –but those of you in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand should download Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft for Android (which include access to an additional 120 new cards thanks to the recent Goblins vs Gnomes expansion). Everybody else will be able to play it “in the coming days,” but an exact release date hasn’t been announced.
Nobody is more surprised than I am that Microsoft is doing so well in the software game these days. Once upon a time the tech giant was so focused on operating systems that they had neglected just about everything else (which has really shown in their sales and reviews in recent years). Fortunately, they have new leadership with a seemingly fresh focus: apps, apps, apps (web-based as well as mobile). Their latest entry into this market is Sway: an online tool aimed to help you create presentation documents. Sway is built for the cloud, and adds to the company’s efforts in converting Office into a newly-successful, centrally-hosted, subscription-based product.
When the Sway preview began 10 weeks ago, Microsoft wait-listed a large number of the users requesting access (apparently there were over 175,000 requests to join across 1 million unique visitors –very good conversion numbers). There is a method to their madness in adding more beta-testers (essentially): they want feedback, and it actually sounds like they are willing to listen to it; existing user requests have seen the addition of features like: undo and redo, bulleted lists, direct text editing on the canvas, easier reordering, colour picking and pallette diversity, and PDF import.
Microsoft has promised that mobile apps supporting Sway will be available in due time (and in reality, there is an iPhone app already, but it’s limited to users in New Zealand and very much in its infancy), but for now hitting the Sway website using any browser on your PC, Mac, or tablet will do the trick.
Whether you are excited to try Sway, or question what you might do with it, one thing is certain: Microsoft is doing their best to reinvent their signature Office product line and so far, they are doing with a certain refined software elegance.
If you want to see Microsoft’s full vision for Sway, take a few minutes and watch their promotional video linked below.