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Amazon has just signed a deal to purchase Comedy service Rooftop Media. The ten person company will be joining Audible in an effort to boost the catalog with new content. Audible founder and Chief Executive Donald Katz said in a statement on Monday the company had been attracted by Rooftop’s content as well as its pool of comic talent.
Rooftop does something very unique in the recording industry. They setup shop in comedy clubs all over the US and record the sets of established names and up and coming talent. They attain the full licenses and own the digital rights to thousands of hours of comedy, which is broadcast either live or later on demand. The company’s media partners include Apple and Yahoo, and they stream it out via Sirius, Rdio, Hulu, Spotify and Pandora.
Audible has been struggling with the Comedy category of their audiobook store and currently has 3,300 titles. With the addition of content from Rooftop, it should easily double what they have now.
Audible was acquired by Amazon in 2008 for $300 million. Bringing Rooftop under the e-commerce giant’s umbrella also boosts the company’s growing digital media business, which includes video and music services through Amazon Prime and original television production via Amazon Studios. Amazon also recently acquired live gaming streamer Twitch.
The Kindle Voyage builds upon the software and design principles of the Paperwhite line of e-readers. Today, we evaluate if it makes enough sense to upgrade from the second generation Kindle Paperwhite over to the Voyage.
The Voyage has superior resolution and DPI compared to the Kindle Paperwhite, but how does this play out in real world conditions? We show off the eBook and PDF experience to give you a sense on how the same content looks, side by side.
Apple has dispatched an email to authors who publish through iBooks, informing them on a number of new policy changes. The first, is to decrease the amount of time that the editorial staff approves for new titles for inclusion into the Apple Bookstore, it went from ten days to one business change. The second should really help authors in giving out free copies of their digital book for review, with 250 promo codes.
Apple has revised the iBooks experience with the advent of iOS 8 and the new line of iPhone 6 smartphones. It is far easier to purchase and discover new content with the UI changes on the bottom of the screen. In the past, the store itself, was buried in sub-menus at the top of the screen, now it is more intuitive.
One of the big new initiatives on the iBooks app is the curation and editorial content. There is now more seasonal and topical lists that abide by cool themes. Oh, and one of the biggest cleanups was removing Breakout Books, which was sourced by Smashwords. Indie authors have been booted off from the platform, in order to help readers find more quality content. In the future, you will soon be able to get book recommendations before and after purchases with technology leveraged by Booklamp, a company Apple bought a few months ago.
Amazon has been making e-readers since 2007 and over the years they have refined their hardware technology constantly. The new Kindle Voyage might very well be the best e-reader currently on the market, due to the innovative new tech and expansive eBook ecosystem.
The Voyage is nothing but innovative and it has enhancements that are not found on any other e-readers on the market. One is the inclusion of Page Press technology, and the other is an ambient light sensor.
Today, we take a look at the Kindle Voyage, from the prospective of looking at its core technology and what makes it entirely unique.
The Amazon Kindle Voyage features a six inch e-ink Carta display with a resolution of 1430 x 1080. It has 300 PPI, which is the highest we have ever seen. In contrast, the Paperwhite 2, which this model replaces only has a resolution of 1024 X 768 and 212 PPI.
Lets look at what the competition is doing, the Kobo Aura H20, which came out a month ago has a 6.8 inch screen with the same resolution as the Voyage, but has 265 DPI. The Barnes and Noble Nook Glowlight has been on the market for most of the year, but its 1024 x 758 and 212 PPI is somewhat depressing.
One of the big design changes with the Voyage is the screen is completely flush with the bezel. All prior Kindle e-readers had a sunken screen and employed infrared touchscreen technology. The new capacitive screen is much easier to interact with and allows for more pin-point procession.
The Voyage has really refined their front-lit technology, which allows you to read in the dark. It has five LED lights on the bottom of the bezel, which projects light evenly across the screen. This is ideal for reading compared to smartphones and tablets which has the light emitting from behind the screen. The lighting system is a marginal improvement over the Paperwhite 2, but completely blows away anything that Kobo has ever done.
Amazon has really hyped the new ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts in the brightness of the screen. On paper, this sounds really cool, but it misses the mark. When reading in complete darkness, it makes the screen too dark to read properly. I often had to find myself relying on the manual settings.
Many older e-readers had physical page turn keys that protruded from the bezel and had a audible mechanical click when turning a page forward or backward. Page Press technology actually has the page turn keys flush completely with the bezel. You can turn a page and there is a small vibration that is courtesy of haptic feedback. Within the settings menu there are a number of options to tweak how hard you have to press in order to turn a page, or you can remove it completely. If you are not a fan of turning pages by clicking on the bezel, you can disable Page Press completely and rely on the touchscreen to swipe pages.
In the past, all prior Kindle e-readers had a power button on the bottom of the chassis, right next to the MicroUSB and status indicator light. Amazon has borrowed design elements from the Kindle Fire line of tablets and implemented a sweet rounded button that is easily accessible when holding the e-reader normally. When I first noticed it and turned it onto standby mode, it was one of the those moments when I said to myself “man this is so intuitive, why din’t they do this all along?”
The back of the Kindle Voyage is not 100% plastic or rubber anymore, but uses a new hybrid magnesium alloy. This not only makes the e-reader lighter than previous iterations, but prevents scuffs and fingerprints when taking it in and out of your bag on a daily basis. I really like the angular aspects of the design, which again, is much akin to the Kindle Fire.
Underneath the hood of the Voyage is a 1 GHZ single core processor, 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal storage. Battery life should last around a month, and if you don’t use it much, standby should easily last you six months.
On paper, the Voyage has super high DPI and crazy resolution, but how does it play out in real world conditions? During the last few days we have been putting the Voyage head to head against the Kindle Basic Touch, Kobo Aura H2O and Paperwhite 2. We tested the Glowlight, eBooks, and PDF files. The new Voyage really stands out in the crowd by having more clarity on the screen and the fonts really do look better.
The Amazon Kindle Voyage borrows heavy design elements on the software front from the Kindle Basic Touch and second generation Kindle Paperwhite. You have the main navigation bar which allows you to quickly access the Kindle Store, search for books or access social media website GoodReads.
Amazon has promised new features such as Kindle Family Sharing, which allows you to share the same purchased content accross all other Amazon tablets and reading apps in a few months. They also will be introducing another new feature upon opening a new book will tell you who the author is and other books they have written. You also will be able to establish the book as “currently being read” on GoodReads. Ironically, the new Kindle HD6, HD7 and HDX 8.9 all have “currently reading” out of the box.
What I can say about the software that it is really polished. Its easier to interact with all of the menu and settings features due to the screen being flush with the bezel. It basically feels like you are interacting with a smartphone in terms of performance. This fact is really evident when you are typing notes or entering your WIFI password with the keyboard. In the past, many e-readers had a noticeable delay between when you hit a key, to when it actually projected the character on the display. e-Ink Carta really addresses this shortcoming and doing anything touchscreen related on the Voyage is pure bliss.
Amazon has really simplified the entire reading experience on the Kindle. It is really easy to adjust the font type and font size by clicking on the top half of the e-reader. There are six options, and the rare book will have a seventh, which is the publisher default. Changing the margins and line spaces is also a walk in the park, I like the fact Amazon does not make the adjusting of the core e-reading experience complicated or advanced. It provides enough customization options to appeal to the average user, but isn’t a barrier to the non-tech-savvy.
The high PPI and resolution are really evident when you are reading a standard eBook or anything that involves heavy imagery, such as Manga or digital newspapers. The text just pops, its hard to quantify exactly how, but there is no pixelation, even when you crank up the font size to maximum. Its times like this, that I wish I knew someone with a quantum microscope to really dive deep into the matter. All I can say, is its a step up from the Paperwhite 2.
Amazon has really refined their entire PDF rendering engine in 2014. I remember when the Paperwhite 2 first came out, the page turn rates would be really slow and files over 100 MB would simply crash. Engineers released a series of firmware updates that solved this problem.
When you read a PDF file, you get a small preview pane on the upper left hand corner, which helps orient you on where exactly in the document you are. If you have zoomed in to a very high degree and feel lost, this feature lends the assist.
Pinching and zooming PDF files has never felt as robust as it does now. The capacitive touchscreen makes this possible and images look great. One feature many people aren’t aware of, is when you click on the top center to access the settings menu. Normally when reading an eBook, this brings you to the font option screen. On the Kindle Voyage you can increase or decrease the level of darkness or brightness in a document. So if you notice things become very dark or shady in an image, and it becomes hard to discern exactly what it is, like things getting lost in the shadows, you can adjust this. Kindle is the only e-reader to include this type of tech, which makes it stand out in a crowd.
The Kindle Voyage is a priemium e-reader with a high cost. It retails for $199 right out of the gates, but is comparable to the Kobo Aura H2O which hit the market at $179.99. I remember a time when basic e-readers cost $349 for a six inch model, so the price tag is not really a barrier.
If you have an older model Kindle should you upgrade to the Voyage? Well, it depends. If you have the an older model with a physical keyboard or a Kindle Basic 2013, the answer is yes. If you bought the Paperwhite 2 in the last year, the Voyage on a fundamental level is an incremental update, with a few new bells and whistles.
Screen is Flush with Bezel, much like the Kobo Aura
High PPI and resolution
Front-lit display is the best in class
Responsive touchscreen display
Page Press feels like a gimmick
Wish it had audio
Costs more than most other six inch e-readers on the market
Rating – 9.5/10
The Amazon Fire Phone has not been selling very well, and recently the Seattle company said they had to write off close to $170 million in loses. Things have got so bad, that AT&T is throwing in a free Fire Tablet in a bid to lure people over. What is all the fuss about, is this a legit good phone? Today, we do a proper unboxing video, showing you everything that comes in the box. You can get a sense on the form factor and core features that makes this unique in the marketplace.
Amazon has been focusing on making their entire lineup of tablets family friendly. In the last few years they have developed a system called Freetime, which automatically blocks access to the Silk Browser and Kindle content stores, disables location-based services, in-app purchases, or social features, and requires your parental controls password to enable or disable the feature. Amazon also unveiled Freetime Unlimited in 2012, which is a subscription based service that lets parents download thousands of movies, television shows, books and apps for a low monthly fee.
Amazon has packaged all of this into the brand new Fire HD Kids Edition, which spec wise, is exactly the same as the Kindle Fire HD6 and HD7. The main difference is the rubberized padding that spans the entire circumference of the tablet. This is an accessory that is shipped with the tablet and is not built right into it.
Today, we unbox a brand new entry into the Amazon product line, the Fire HD Kids Edition. We show you everything that comes in the box and power it on for the first time.
The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 2014 edition is the Seattle companies flagship large screen tablet, meant to carry the battle to Apple, Samsung and Sony. This device has amazing resolution and has been slimmed down and enhanced with a new version of Android. It also has better hardware under the hood, compared to the HDX 8.9 2013 version. Today, we do a proper unboxing video, showing you everything that comes in the box and power it on the first time.
When Amazon first started making tablets they focused on seven and eight inch models and adhered to this size convention for the first few generations. This year, the Seattle based company broke the mold and developed a six inch tablet, called the HD6. Today, we take this out of the box and show you everything that comes inside. As an added bonus, we power it on for the first time so you can get a sense of new design changes and an updated version of Android.
The Amazon Kindle Voyage is one of the most cutting edge e-readers we have ever seen. The screen is completely flush with the bezel, has amazing screen clarity and haptic enabled page turn buttons. Today, we take this little puppy out of the box, show you everything that comes inside and power it on for the first time.
The Amazon Kindle Voyage has just been released and is a refinement of two generations worth of Paperwhites. Today, we look at the illumination settings in a completely dark environment, chiefly to see if its completely viable to read when going to sleep.
The Voyage has two different settings when it comes to controlling the brightness of the front-lit display. One is called “Auto brightness” which basically uses the ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the levels, based on your environment. You can also tap on the icon, on the main navigation bar to manually set it yourself.
In this video, we check out the screen clarity in complete darkness and check out every single level of illumination.
The cost of eBooks are poised to dramatically increase at the beginning of the new year, due to changes in VAT. Readers will end up having to pay anywhere from 17% to 25% more on each title, depending on the country they live in.
The European Commission recently unveiled a new ruling where member states will be taxed in the European member state in which the consumer is located, as opposed to the country from which the product is sold. Starting in January 2015 the new tax rates will be in effect for eBooks.
The new VAT laws will prevent Amazon, Nook and Kobo from getting away with charging a paltry 3% tax on eBooks, magazines, graphic novels and newspapers sold to European countries, because their headquarters are in Luxembourg. In a few months, UK customers will have to pay the 20% VAT on eBooks from Amazon, instead of the 3%. This will increase eBooks accross the board by 17%.
The Luxembourg government stands to lose around €800 million a year from the ruling, while the UK and Germany stand to gain around €350 million each by the higher VAT rates.
Patrons of Amazon and Barnes and Noble in Europe are obviously going to be disgruntled that they will be paying more money for books, but the evening out of the VAT will allow Waterstones, Thalia, Txtr, Ciando, and Virtualo to compete better on price and hopefully gain more traction in the industry going forward.
In the United Kingdom Amazon accounts for 75% of all eBook sales. They have been able to capture the vast majority of readers due to the low prices and solid discovery experience. Will customers remain loyal if the prices increase dramatically?
Kobo has reached an agreement with Marvel to sell over 250 graphic novels on their global online bookstore. The new comics can be purchased using any of the official Kobo tablets, their main website or bought in one of their many apps for Android, Blackberry or Windows.
The inclusion of Marvel graphic novels joins Archie, DC and Dark Horse on the Kobo ecosystem. With so many Marvel movies on the horizon like X-Men Apocalypse, Ant-Man and Avengers 2, and the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, readers will want to become familiar with the source properties.
“For more than 75 years, Marvel has been transporting comic fans to exciting new galaxies,” says Santiago Melo, Merchandiser, Kobo. “Tackling big issues with larger than life characters, these stories continue to be a constant source of enrichment in our popular culture and we couldn’t be happier to welcome them to the Kobo family.”
“Marvel is excited about our partnership with Kobo and happy to have the opportunity to provide fans, new and existing, another great way to experience our legendary content,” says David Gabriel, SVP Sales and Marketing for Marvel Entertainment.
Amazon has just taken the beta sticker off their new author and reading community, Kindle Scout. The essence of this program is to give authors a chance to pitch their upcoming books to the public and readers cast their vote on what ones get published.
Amazon is throwing their marketing and financial efforts behind authors to publish their next book exclusively through them. They are giving an advance of $1,500 and a 50% eBook royalty rate to authors who successfully woo the crowd to get behind their next title. The book will then get hyped with Amazon, and likely the books in the early stages of the Scout lifetime will get a ton of media attention.
“We’re always looking for new ways to add meaningful connections between readers and authors,” said Dina Hilal, General Manager of Kindle Scout. “We’ve been delighted by the submissions so far and are excited to give readers a say in which books they want to read. We also hope they’ll have a lot of fun getting to know authors and their work.”
I think Scout is a really great idea and will assist in a huge problem in the publishing world, the dirge of indie author titles. Every week, thousands of horrendous books are released that pollute the digital ecosystem and hinder the eBook discovery process. In all honesty, indie authors are destroying literature as we know it. Scout attempts to vet out the wheat from the chafe, and hopefully we will only hear about the best of the best and not indie generic title number 19281210912.
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