Archive for e-reader
We have seen a massive new movement in e-reader operating systems in 2014, with the advent of open Android. This is a concept where instead of locking you down to a specific ecosystem and custom UI, we are now seeing the equivalent of a pure vanilla Android experience. Onyx and Icarus have both released numerous models and now Boyue is entering the fray with their Boyue T61 e-reader.
The Boyue T61 features a six inch capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 1024×758. It has a sunken screen, instead of one flush with the bezel, which provides the illusion it is using Neonode IR technology. This e-reader uses a fairly solid front-lit display, which will allow readers to easily view eBooks while in the dark.
Underneath the hood is a A9 1Ghz Dual Core processor with 512MB of RAM. There is 4GB of internal storage with the option to increase it up to 32GB via the MicroSD card.
Android 4.2.2 Jellybean is the main attraction and users can load in their own apps. There is no built in app store, so you will need some sort of technical knowledge in order to sideload in your own.
The T61 is basically the exact same as the Icarus Illumina E653, they both use the same hardware shell and internal components. The software is quite different though, as Icarus has a slew of reading apps right out of the box and will be adopting a e-ink based app store soon.
This is an e-reader that is primarily available in China, international users might be able to buy them from eBay, or 3rd party markets.
Consumers and business customers often find themselves relying on PDF files in order to view and edit documents. We live in a world of Kindle Books, Nook Books and proprietary formats, but PDF’s have been the longest lived format in the digital space. Sony made the Digital Paper (DPT-S1) with the sole intention of reading and editing PDF files, while Microsoft baked the functionality into Onenote and Microsoft Reader. Today, we look at the core PDF viewing and editing experience on these two devices.
These devices have a fair amount in common, such as screen size and cost. When it comes down to it, the Surface is reliant on 3rd party apps to get the job done, and this tablet was not designed just to view or edit documents. Instead, it is a multipurpose gadget, fully capable of being your replacement PC. You will find your battery life being drained the more programs you install and the number of background processes that are running.
The Sony Digital Paper is using e-Ink Mobius, which does not draw power if you have a static image on the screen, which you are not interacting with. This gives you a solid month or TWO of battery life, which will certainly not make you a wallhugger.
The video below documents the different ways these two devices get the job done in viewing and editing PDF files. We show you the pressure sensitive pen with the Surface and the Stylus with the Sony. Onenote, Adobe Acrobat X and Microsoft Reader are the three programs on the Surface we pit head to head against the DPT-S1
In the last four years we have seen the entire publishing industry embrace eBooks. In 2013, Nielsen’s Books & Consumers survey shows that among U.S. buyers of adult fiction and nonfiction, 25% of book buyers bought an eBook and 31% of new books purchased in adult fiction and nonfiction were eBooks. e-Readers have traditionally been the best way to read these titles, because of the long battery life they provide and the lack of eyestrain due to e-paper. Sadly, it seems that the general public does not seem as enamoured anymore with these core benefits and new research points to the mass adoption of multifunctional tablets and smartphones.
Forrester’s World eReader and eBook Forecast reported in June that just five years after Amazon released the original Kindle, more than 25 million people in the US owned e-readers in 2012. But that figure is set to decline to seven million users by the end of 2017.
The seismic shift from e-readers to smartphones and tablets are seen by some to be a natural evolution of the technology cycle. Like the PDA, the digital camera and the iPod, it was once the hottest gadget around, but have now been given way to large screen tablets and high powered smartphones.
Amazon currently leads the charge in the eBook space and sells the most e-readers globally. Modern research points to them controlling 75% of the US eBook market and 79% in the UK. It did the smart thing in the companies transition from selling print books, to selling eBooks. The Kindle managed to appeal to the voracious reader, who saw the transition of book to e-book as a progression.
The most recent data from IDC shows that for Q3 of 2013 Android made up 81% of devices shipped. You read that right—four out of every five smartphones shipped in Q3 were built on Android. Meanwhile, Apple’s iOS scraped by with a sad and distant second place figure of only 12.9 percent. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo are starting to all see more users employ their apps to buy and read books, than the dedicated readers. All of these companies apps are normally much easier to navigate than their hardware.
Amazon saw the writing on the wall early on and have successfully marketed their line of Kindle Fire tablets to younger users. These are the type that casually read, but normally use the device for music, movies, social media and playing games. In 2014 the Seattle based company tapped into two new verticals, with the advent of the Fire TV and Fire Phone. The problem the company faces is how do you transition the older readers to embrace the new technology?
Barnes and Noble and Kobo are two major players in the digital book space and in recent years have been slowly producing more tablets than dedicated e-readers. B&N recently unveiled the brand new Samsung Galaxy 4 Nook, and they continue to market the Nook HD and HD+. The only e-reader in their modern portfolio is the Nook Glowlight, released last year. Kobo primarily markets their e-readers via international markets and has created a huge demand for their legacy e-readers, such as the Kobo WIFI, Kobo Glo and Kobo Touch. They still sell the Kobo Aura and Aura HD, but their latest offerings are 3 tablets, all released last year.
Forrester may be proclaiming that the age of e-readers is nearly over and more users have been embracing tablets, but other research is not completely counting them out. Pew Research reported that during the 2013 holiday season the rate of tablet ownership rose to 42% of American adults, up 8% from September. Ownership of e-book reading devices like Kindles or Nooks similarly increased to 32% as of January 2014. Some 50% of adults now own at least one of these devices.
At Good e-Reader we have been chronicling the e-reader industry since 2008 and often talk with e-Ink, Freescale, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and a host of European companies, both on and off the record. It is quite evident that the race to the bottom, in terms of price, is still generating strong sales with e-readers. The main problem, is that the core e-reading technology is fairly static and has not really offered a compelling enough reason for people to upgrade their units. Every year, processing power, resolution and app ecosystems get stronger in tablets and phones. It is quite normal to see someone with a three year old e-reader, but seeing someone with an old Nokia flip phone or Blackberry Bold will incur scorn.
Amazon is hoping to steal a bit of the limelight off of the brand new Samsung Galaxy 4 Nook tablet by offering a $20.00 discount on the second generation Kindle Paperwhite. Starting today, the main Amazon website is discounting the WIFI only version to $139 and the 3G model for $189.
Within the next month it is believed that Amazon will be releasing two new e-readers and three new tablets They are intending on refreshing their entire hardware lineup with new technology. The discount to the Paperwhite serves to give an incentive to people on the fence about going over to Barnes and Noble.
Since the Paperwhite 2 originally came out, it has received a number of firmware updates and hardware enhancements. Some of the more notable software features include the social book discovery site, GoodReads and a more stable PDF experience with a new preview window. On the hardware front, customers in the UK and Canada are seeing an increased amount of Kindle Storage, from 4GB to 8GB.
Barnes and Noble has just launched a brand new tablet in conjunction with Samsung. It costs $179 with a $20 mail in rebate, but the bookseller is hyping the fact you get an extra $200 worth of free content. What free stuff are they actually giving out?
When you pick up a new Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook you get three free eBooks. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, The Wanderer by Sharon Creech and I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore.
Customers can also pick 4 digital magazines from a pool of 12 for a free two week trial. There is a ton of great content, including Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated, and US Weekly. Back issues are also available for your selected magazines at no extra cost.
Nook Video is giving free content to the hit HBO Series Veep, Hannibal, and Orphan Black.
New Barnes and Noble customers are also automatically given $5.00 in free credit when they buy the new tablet, giving them the ability to either get an eBook for free or use the money to subsidize a new mainstream bestseller.
Barnes and Noble is really hyping the free content as a way to lure existing customers to upgrade and offer a big incentive to new people looking for a tablet billed as an e-reader.
Barnes and Noble has unveiled a brand new seven inch tablet called Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook. This is the first time the bookseller has outsourced the design to another company and instead focused on user experience. CEO Mike Husebey said “This is an exciting and truly historic day for us at Barnes and Noble.”
The new Samsung Galaxy Tab for Nook features a seven inch display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 Pixels and 216 ppi. This is a bit of a downgrade in the resolution department, the Nook HD had 1440 X 900 resolution.
Underneath the hood is a Quad-core 1.2 GHz and 1.5GB of RAM. It has 8B of internal memory and an MicroSD port for an extra 32GB. Unlike prior Nook tablets, this one has two cameras, which will insure apps like Vine and Snapchat will be relevant. It has a 3 MP rear facing camera and a 1 MP edition on the front. It is lighter and thinner than any previous color NOOK device at 9.74 ounces and .35 inches.
The new Nook Tablet is running the most current version of Android 4.4 Kitkat. It does not feature the same TouchWiz UI that most Samsung tablets rock, instead Barnes and Noble has created their own custom UI. It also has access to Google Play, which will insure that hundreds of thousands of apps are available to download, no matter what country you live in.
Barnes and Noble has designed the UI to focus primarily on readers. The ecosystem currently offers over 3 million books, comics, magazines and kids books. When it comes to your library, managing content it is broken up into video, books and magazines.
During the unveiling event in New York, Barnes and Noble trumpeted the fact that many people prefer to use their tablets for e-reading, instead of playing games or watching videos.
– Over three-quarters (77 percent) of U.S. adult respondents to a recent online study conducted by Harris Poll for Barnes & Noble agree with the statement that “Reading has always been an important part of my life.”
- Over two-thirds (67 percent) say reading puts them in a better mood.
- Seventy-six percent of U.S. adults state their reading habits have increased over the past three years, and nearly half, over two in five (44 percent), attribute access to an eReader, tablet or smartphone as the reason.
- Tablets have not only changed our reading habits, but what it even means to read – personal email (96 percent) is now the number-one item read, followed by social media (67 percent); Web sites, online articles or blogs (73 percent); work-related materials (46 percent); eBooks (31 percent); and digital magazines or newspapers (40 percent).
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK is available starting today at over 660 Barnes and Noble stores in the US. It is retailing for $179, which is actually cheaper than the Samsung exclusive device which is $199. We will be getting our hands on this in the next few days, for a comprehensive hands on review and a ton of comparisons against the previous generation Nook HD tablet and also other e-reading first devices from Amazon and Kobo.
Welcome to another Good e-Reader Comparison Video! Today we take a look at the brand new Icarus Illumina second generation and the Kobo Aura.
The premise of this comparison is to take a look at ePub eBooks and PDF documents. Both of these devices handle these formats in completely different ways. The Kobo Aura does a splendid job in handling PDF files, with their preview window pane and ability to pinch and zoom. The Icarus really stutters with large PDF files, but does have a neat ability to increase the darkness of an image, but manually adjusting the gray scale.
Amazon WhisperSync for Voice is a system that includes immersion reading and was designed to pick up where you left off in an eBook in the audio edition. It also allows you to both listen to the audiobook, while reading the eBook and text is highlighted as the words are spoken aloud. The service has just rolled out in the United Kingdom and 25,000 Kindle books and 25,000 audiobooks are supported.
Audible founder and CEO Donald Katz said: “We hear from many Kindle and Audible customers in the US that Whispersync for Voice has profoundly changed the way they read. In fact, switching back and forth between reading and listening has become their preferred way of experiencing stories. We are thrilled to be able to open this up to UK listeners and readers for the first time.”
Jorrit Van der Meulen, VP of Amazon Kindle Europe, said: “We’re working hard to help customers find more moments each day to enjoy a great book
I think WhisperSync for Voice is one of the those programs that never caught on in a big way, but people who enjoy the audiobook experience can get more synergy with the digital book edition. I know many people who read the book at night and then listen to the audiobook on the way to work or walking the dog. Its fairly cool to have both mediums synced whether you are using the iOS or Android apps, or using hardware like the Kindle Fire.
Icarus has redefined what an e-reader is capable of with the advent of the Illumina E653. It comes bundled with Android 4.2, which gives users the flexibility to install their own eBook, magazine, newspaper or manga apps. How does this reader compare to the Kindle Paperwhite, Nook Glowlight or Kobo Auras of the world? Today, we give you a comprehensive hands on review of what this new e-reader is all about.
The Illumina E653 features a six inch e-Ink touch screen display with a resolution of 1024×758 pixels. This reader does trumpet the fact it has a capacitive touch screen, but it honestly feels like it is employing older Neonode IR technology. None of the stock apps have any sort of support for pinching and zooming.
Icarus has maintained a front-lit display, that allows you to customize the brightness of the screen and read it in the dark. There are five LED lights at the very bottom of the screen and splash upwards. We noticed from the nighttime reading tests that you actually see a bit of light spillage at the very bottom of the screen. It does not totally break immersion, but the light on the Kindle Paperwhite 2 is far superior.
There has been some design changes from the Illumina HD and the new E653. The current model has done away with the 3.5mm headphone jack, so listening to music and audiobooks are obviously out of the question. They also removed the D-Pad on the bottom and the screen and also the physical home, refresh, and settings buttons. The only buttons present on the Illumina are physical page turn keys on the left/right hand side of the screen, back button and the physical button that turns on the front-lit display.
There is 4GB of internal storage to house of all of your apps and eBooks. If this is not enough for your literary needs, there is support for a 32GB MicroSD card. You should get some solid battery life with the 2000 mAh, which is good for 4,000 page turns, or about 1 month of constant use.
I feel like Icarus has done a fairly good job with the intuitive design of the second generation Illumina. It feels more modern, although I would have liked to see the screen flush with the bezel like the quintessential smartphone or tablet.
The main selling point behind the E653 is the open nature of Android 4.2. Many e-readers by Sony or Barnes and Noble use Android, but they use a very locked down version and are both heavily skinned. They certainly don’t allow you to install your own apps or give you an interface that is similar to anything that LG or Samsung provide.
The Icarus home screen is one of the only things on this e-reader that is modified from the stock experience. It shows you the books you have recently read or have added to it via the Microusb port. There is no built in ecosystem to purchase content, so you will not be inundated by book discovery or anyone trying to shill you new content.
When you hit the Settings or Apps buttons things tend to look more like a your atypical vanilla Android smartphone. There are a number of preinstalled apps for you to use right out of the box such as Aldiko, Dropbox, gReader, Kobo, Opera Mini and Amazon Kindle. Sadly though, there is no built in App Store for you to install new content. This will put a reliance on Icarus owners being savvy enough to load in the Good e-Reader App Store or APK files from the internet. It is important to note that due to the home screen being modified to be more e-reader centric you cannot set up widgets or wallpapers.
The last thing I wanted to mention is that you can’t drag down your finger downwards from the upper top menu to see your clock and notifications. Instead, its on the bottom right hand corner and you have to click on the clock to see the notifications. You will see apps you downloaded, incoming emails and other critical updates like a WIFI hotspot.
The one thing I really like is the stock keyboard, and its not too often that you hear about it during a review. It uses the stock Android one and it is actually possible to change it with alternative apps, for further customization. You get a full QWERTY keyboard by default and the keys are placed perfectly apart. The Kobo Aura e-Reader has keys that are placed on top of each other, whereas the Icarus has a true Android keyboard. I dig when you are searching the internet or entering forms and the .com button appears under the enter key, which cuts down on the time entering your email address.
In the end, the Android experience on the Icarus feels more tighter than the Onyx Boox T68. It also is more robust than the only other e-reader currently available that allows you to install apps. Overall, this reader will appeal to anyone looking for more control over their favorite ecosystem, without being locked into anyone in particular.
Icarus has an e-reading app that is integrated into the home screen and allows you to read PDF, FB2, EPUB, RTF, MOBI, TXT, HTM files. I have to say ePub books look really great, but the drawback is with PDF files.
When you read a traditional ePub book, such as one of the 37 that come preloaded on the reader, you get a solid experience. The first thing you notice is there is no page turn refresh issues plaguing you every single page you turn. Instead it only occurs every six pages, so it does not constantly break immersion.
If you want to change the font size, line space, margins or font type, you simply have to hold your finger in the middle of the screen. You get 4 icons that appear on the very bottom and it is not immediately clear on what they do. It is important to explore them all to find out what they do.
Advanced users will like the fact there is 56 preloaded fonts to select from, which is the highest number I have ever seen on a reader. I found the fact it as an Android Emoji option, and thought the book would be the equivalent of Wingdings, except for thousands of different smiling faces, but this was sadly not the case, the text basically just looked like a series of text messages.
The one drawback on the Icarus is with reading PDF files. There is no way to pinch and zoom to isolate a particular part of the document. Instead there are two viewing panes to choose from, the default or extreme zoomed. Once its zoomed you can drag your finger around the screen to find the ideal body of text, but you can’t turn pages in this manner.
The one thing that was very unique about looking at PDFS was the ability to actually alter the e-ink display. There is an option exclusive to PDF files that allow you to physically change the amount of greyscale and black levels. For example, we were looking at the Dungeons and Dragons Monsters Manual and one character looked very clean, I adjusted the blackness levels and suddenly you saw many different shades on his legs, chest and arms. Very cool!
In addition with PDF files, you get the same type of reflow options of text that is much akin to the way the Sony rendering engine performed. You can strip away all of the custom styling sheets and extract pure text.
When it comes right down to it, the Illumina gives you freedom. The Kindle locks you into Amazon, Nook makes it difficult to access anything but the Barnes and Noble bookstore and Kobo is the same. It is possible to load in your OWN books, but it is difficult for your average user. Icarus gives you the option to do business with whatever ecosystem you want or the ability to download 3rd party indie readers such as Moon+ Reader, Aldiko or Manga Plyus.
Should you buy this?
Is the Icarus Illumina E653 worth the 139 euro cover price? It does a better job than Onyx T68, in handling Android app. The default e-reading app is also superior and you can easily get by with this, whereas the Onyx one was utterly deplorable.
This e-reader is viable for anyone that wants a true Android experience on their e-reader and does not want to go through the technical rigamarole of rooting a mainstream one. It is completely viable to install your favorite reading apps, whether its a RSS Reader or comic book reader. One important note, any app that requires page turn animations often provide a lackluster experience. This is prompting Good e-Reader to test as many apps as possible and make a dedicated e-ink section on our app store.
The ability to install your own apps
Solid stock e-reading app with innovative features
Front-light has a bit of light spillage on the bottom of the screen
No ability to customize zoom levels on PDF files
Does not have an app store loaded on it (but we heard it will soon)
Welcome back to another installment of the Good e-Reader Nighttime Reading test. Today we evaluate the second generation six inch Icarus Illumina and put it through a battery of tests to see how it performs in complete darkness.
Most people read on their device when they are going to sleep or in other circumstances where lots of light is unavailable. Icarus has five LED lights on the bottom of the screen that illuminate the e-paper display. During the test, we check out all levels of brightness and see how it affects the reading experience.
Sony has been selling e-readers and eBooks since 2004 and they were the first mainstream company who made a serious powerplay to cultivate the industry. Their successes and failures over the years acted as a playbook for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo to enter the the fray and immediately make an impact. Sony eventually got nudged out of the business due to the prices of e-readers coming down, to a such a point, that it was not financially viable anymore to continue. In February 2014 Sony announced that they were exiting the eBook space and Kobo would take over their book business. Aside from the preliminary press release Kobo has been silent about their dealings with Sony, but today Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn has spoke to Good e-Reader all about it.
“In North America we have been really happy with the Sony customers coming over to Kobo. People have been really interested and excited about our retail ecosystem and our investment around recommendations and how to discover your next great read. As a company, we are very happy with the collaboration and quality of customers coming over.” said Tamblyn.
Michael is referring to Sony closing their online eBook store and gravitating their existing client base to Kobo. The entire modern line of Sony e-readers such as the PRS-T1, T2 and T3 have received firmware updates that removed the Sony Reader Store and implemented the Kobo store. Existing Sony customers had emails sent over to them before the big change, instructing them on how to transfer their existing customers over to Kobo.
“The Sony and Kobo relationship has been successful in a couple of ways, we are concerned about people accessing their digital libraries for the long-term and buy new books. Our primary motivation was stepping in for a company exiting the eBook space and allowing customers to buy new titles.” Tamblyn elaborated.
Not all customers were happy for the Reader Store to close and switch to Kobo. Jeff P recently wrote “HORRID! HORRID! HORRID! I’ve been a member since November 2007. The only readers or tablets I’ve ever were Sony so that I could use the reader software. I once told a sales clerk that I didn’t need the extended warranty because I was buying a Sony. Almost every piece of electronic equipment I have is Sony. I won’t buy another Sony ANYTHING. Yes, you say customers are first, well, I’m the first customer to tell you that you’ve made a HORRID mistake and I’m never going to buy another Sony product EVER.”
Icarus has refreshed their e-reader lineup with Android 4.2 and the ability for users to load in their own apps. This dandy unit has support for EPUB, Mobi, PDF and has a stellar front-lit display to allow you to read in the dark.
Icarus is a Netherlands based company and has been making a name for themselves releasing high quality e-readers. Today we unbox the brand new unit and show you everything that comes in the box. Additionally, we boot it up for the first time, showing you the various menus and what type of default apps are installed.
Michael Kozlowski and Peter Carotenuto of Good e-Reader have another roundtable discussion on the evolution of the Sony consumer e-Reader brand. They discuss important milestones, such as the advent of touch, the incorporation of a stylus and releasing the first front-lit e-reader.
The entire e-reader industry owes Sony a debt of gratitude for pioneering major technologies. The company has announced exclusively to Good e-Reader that they are abandoning the consumer space and that the PRS-T3 e-reader will be the last one they make. Instead, they are focusing on the business segment with the Sony DPT-S1 Digital Paper.
During the roundtable we discuss the ramifications of exiting the eBook and e-reader space, how Kobo is benefiting and how the customers are responding to dealing with a new ecosystem.