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Welcome back to another Good e-Reader exclusive contest. Today we are giving away an e-reader we just found in our review labs, the Sony PRS-350.

The Sony PRS-350 and 650 were the most popular Sony e-readers the company ever produced. When they were first released on August 2010, they couldn’t keep them in stock on the retail level, due to ravenous demand.

I really liked the five inch display because it made it really pocket friendly. The resolution is 800×600 and features a touchscreen to flip the pages of your favorite book. There is no WIFI built into it, so you will have to load in your own PDF or EPUB books.

The 350 is in fairly great condition, as it was just used for the purposes of unboxing, reviewing and comparing against other readers on the market. In order to enter, you merely have to subscribe and like our YouTube channel and comment on the video, letting us know you have done all of the above.


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Amazon has just released a new firmware update for the second generation Kindle Paperwhite.  One of the big enhancements is for the PDF experience and now users will see a small preview pane on the top lefthand corner. This helps orient you when you are pinching and zooming, to insure you know were you are in the document.

When you buy physical books from Amazon, you normally have to wait a few days for it to be shipped out. Now, whenever you purchase a book, the sample eBook version will be automatically added to your library, so you can read the first few chapters.

Finally, Amazon has unveiled cross platform syncing on the last page read. This has been on their Android and iOS apps for sometime, but is now available additionally on the Paperwhite 2.

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Amazon has opened their first the Kindle Pleasure Reading House in Shanghai, China. This is a temporary autonomous pop up store that will be open from July 18 to July 20th and then August 1-3 in Beijing.

The premise of the new Reading House in China is to draw attention to their complete lineup of Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets. They also installed two machines that will give you recommendations based on your favorite books and give you the Kindle book prices online. Amazon has also filled a bookcase with over 1,000 physical books, which they are selling.

Kindle product managers are on hand to explain what the devices do and run small workshops for groups of people to get a taste of how digital books will save them money over the long term. Amazon has also setup a small darkroom, where people can try out the Kindle Paperwhite with Frontlight and also see how the tablets perform in low light conditions. Finally,  the company is running a ton of interactive games that will win people prizes of cases, books and lots more.

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Amazon first opened their Chinese bookstore in December 2012, but government regulations at the time prevented them from advertising it or selling the hardware. At the time The Director of Digital Publishing Director of Press and Publication Administration Technology Wang Qiang, said that “Amazon opened its Kindle ebook store operation with their license pending, but has not yet approved.”  All of this was sorted out within six months and now the Kindle China store currently has over 120,000 paid books and 600  classics.

China is a huge market for Amazon and many of its competitors have failed to enter the market in any meaningful way. These popup stores will at least give Amazon some exposure via the press and bloggers, something they exclusively rely on for their North American operations.

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Today Sony has begun to sell the DPT-S1 Digital Paper e-reader directly in the US. It is retailing for $1100, which is more cost effective than a few of their official distribution partners. The only catch, is that they don’t want to sell them to the average consumer.

Sony currently does not have any infrastructure to support the Digital Paper via phone, email or the internet. There simply is no way for the average person to call and have basic questions answered, such as how to load in your own PDF files. This is primarily why Sony wants to sell them to law firms and the entertainment industry, relying on their 3rd party vendors to provide all of the necessary support. Sony told Good e-Reader exclusively that “We want these to go to the right people, not just any people. We’ll definitely ask you why you’re buying this and what you’re going to use it for. This e-Reader is very expensive and we want to make sure its purchase is not going to waste.”

When calling the brand new Sony Business phone number you are basically interviewed. It is mandatory to open up an official Sony Business account and they stick with you on the phone while you receive confirmation emails. The few customer service reps Sony employs are mandated to vet prospective customers to insure they have a high level of technical knowledge and are a registered business. Corporations, LLC and sole proprietorships have the highest likelihood of being able to order a few units for themselves or co-workers. The average user will have to demonstrate that they have advanced knowledge of e-readers and won’t be bothering Sony with needless questions.

In an exclusive interview with the Sony Business Unit in the USA we asked why the device at $1100 is so expensive. They mentioned “The cost is so high because of numerous things. The first being because its writable; fully writable, huge Mobius screen, and 13 inches, that costs a lot right there. The next thing is longevity. This thing, as big as it is, has a 3 day battery life. We expect it to have that same 3 day battery life, 5 years down the road. Theres also stuff under patent, that I can’t really tell you about, but that costs a lot as well. Potential use value is another thing. This thing is THE BEST PDF device on the market right now and lawyers or university professors going through countless pages of material can be draining. This fixes all that. Also, office space is precious, and instead of having shelves and shelves of documents, this can fit it all into a thin body. This also cuts down on forests of paper being milled from trees.”

Many customers who want the Sony Digital Paper are currently flocking to Amazon, where a number of units are posted for sale. All of the units that originate from Japan, where University trials occurred last year. All of the Digital Paper e-readers available on Amazon have the Japanese firmware and do not have the ability to switch to English. Currently, there is no way for users outside of Japan to load in the English firmware and Sony verified with us they are investigating the matter. “We do not want those units to be sold bypassing our sales division.”

If you are an established company looking to buy a few Digital Papers for your business you can call the new phone number Sony launched today. 877-723-7669 Monday through Friday 8am to 6pm. It is important to note that they offer free next day shipping via FEDEX anywhere in the USA, but will not ship internationally.

Good e-Reader will have the Sony Digital Paper e-Reader in our studio next week. Expect a very comprehensive hands on review, unboxing and comparisons with other large screen e-readers on the market.

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The Tolino Alliance was formed in 2013 and their mandate was to combat Amazon in Germany. This was the first time Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Club Bertelsmann, Deutsche Telekom banded together to forge a series of e-reading devices and launch an online bookstore. Today, the Tolino Alliance has now expanded to Belgium via Standaard Boekhandel.

Standaard Boekhandel operates 145 bookstores in Belgium, selling books, newspapers, magazines, music and videos. They will be selling the Tolino Shine e-reader in their stores in order to get people buying the hardware and then accessing the eBook store that now has close to 500,000 titles. There is currently over 22,000 Belgian titles in the online store and can be read on the Shine, and also apps for Android and iOS.

The Tolino Shine is getting a big long in the tooth, as the e-Reader is already over a year old. The most recent offering is the brand new Tolino Vision, which we reviewed recently. This reader does everything right, but is a bit more on the expensive side.

This is the first time the Tolino Alliance has expanded beyond their founding members. They said in a statement that they have selected Belgium as their first route of expansion because that market is in its infancy.

“The open system and the cloud services of Deutsche Telekom are important benefits that can help us to bring e-reading on the Belgian market,” says Geert Scot , CEO of Standaard Boekhandel, the choice of cooperation partner.

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Amazon prematurely unveiled Kindle Unlimited yesterday morning. This is a new subscription service that costs $9.99 and will allow you to read as many books as you want on a monthly basis.

Kindle Unlimited will launch with 600,000 eBook and audiobook titles. Each title will be available to read on multiple devices, such as Android and iOS. A free 30 day trial will also be available when the service launches later this year.

Major publishers such as HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster will not be contributing content with Kindle Unlimiteds launch. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos did meet with CBS CEO Leslie Moonves earlier in the week to talk about eBooks, maybe contributing backlist and midlist titles had something to do with it.

Smaller publishers will play a major role in Unlimited with Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Open Road, Scholastic and Workman. Amazon intends on paying them a wholesale rate for each title opened and read. This direct agreement is also being made to all of the Harry Potter Books via Pottermore and also the Hunger Games Trilogy

The bulk of the 600,000 titles that are available for Unlimited will be contributing by self-published authors who enrolled in Kindle Direct Publishing Select. Writers who participate under this program will automatically be opted it and paid out whenever someone reads 10% of the book or more. The money will be paid to the authors through the one or two million dollars that is added to the KDP Select pool per month.

Existing eBook subscription sites stand to gain in the short-term as most of them will be referenced in Unlimited. Scribd, Oyster and others will be mentioned in the same sentence and they all have major publisher support. Amazon is mainly launching with smaller presses, but most of the big five all support the smaller companies with their backlist and midlist titles.

Today on the show, Michael Kozlowski and Mercy Pilkington break down all of the news from yesterday. You will get a sense on concerns indie authors have on payments and royalties. Will KDP Select be a compelling value proposition for authors, outside of the Kindle Lending Library? Finally, will Kindle offer yet another cool feature that will be the deciding factor on your next e-reader purchase?


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Icarus has refreshed their Illumina e-Reader with the same type of open Android ecosystem that Onyx Boox has implemented. Users will be able to install their own apps, which is a boon to anyone who wants more flexibility over the reading apps they want to install.

The new Illumina e-reader changed the design a bit from its previous generation, getting rid of the d-Pad and most physical buttons. Instead the Dutch company went with physical page turn buttons and a settings/back button on the side of the unit.

The Illumina  features a six inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 1024×758 pixels. It has a front-light built into the top of the bezel and will basically allow you to read in the dark. It has 4 LED lights and distributes light fairly evenly.

Underneath the hood is a 1GHZ dual core  processor and 512 MB of RAM. You will have 4 GB of internal storage and you can boost it up to 32 GB via the Micro SD. One of the most interesting aspects of this e-reader is the ability to play sound. You can load in your favorite audiobooks and listen to them with your headphones. This is no built in speaker and the music app won’t even open unless you have your cans plugged in. It supports a myriad of formats, including: Flac, AAC, mp3, Wav, WMA, and OGG.

Unlike the previous Illumina e-reader this model has an open version of Android. It will ship with 4.2.2, which will insure that most modern apps will be compatible. Onyx Boox is currently the only other e-reader to include Android on their current generation lineup, but it suffers from an older version, 2.3

It will be very interesting to see if Icarus can solve some of the major bugs that accompany page turn animations with an e-ink screen. This is something Onyx has been unable to solve and makes their devices unusable.

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We are starting to see a number of new devices hit the market with a secondary screen built into the phone or a case that has an optional one. The Yotaphone, Pocketbook and Pixel QI have all offered a wide array of concept pieces that have failed to takeoff in a meaningful way. A new Kickstarter campaign is ongoing for a second generation InkCase that has hit their funding target a few days into the program.

Following the success of the acclaimed InkCase, the second generation InkCase Plus now packs more power as a modular second screen for Android smartphones. With the new ability to install apps, InkCase Plus has become the converged multifunctional second screen for E Ink devices; just like the smartphone for communication and personal devices.

The InkCase could be used as a secondary screen for your Android device or used as the primary one. There are a few core functions that this accessory excels at, maps, reading, images, SMS Messaging, pick up incoming calls, and controlling  your music.

InkCase Plus is a fairly interesting concept with physical buttons to allow for easy access to pickup a call or snap a picture. I think the future of e-Book Reading accessories is sound, but its important for the device to function autonomously and not exclusively rely on you having a smartphone.

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Scribd has been in development overdrive the last few months, revising the core reading experience in their seminal iOS and Android apps. They have also been quietly refining their first offering for Windows Phone 8. All mobile applications now have a unified experience which will immerse users who have multiple phones and tablets in the household.

With the launch of the Windows app, paired with existing apps for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire and Nook tablets, Scribd has been downloaded more than 6 million times — placing it on more devices in more countries than any other subscription book service. This latest endeavor is part of the company’s overarching global commitment to getting people to read more.

“Scribd’s mission is simple,” said Julie Haddon, Vice President of Marketing at Scribd. “We’re empowering people to read more. We’re celebrating this milestone of launching apps on six platforms with a new campaign called ‘Read More.’”

The updates for Android and new Windows app are available now and can be download from Good e-Reader and the Windows app store. The update for iOS will be live in the Apple App Store in the coming days.

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Bluefire is best known for their mobile reading apps for Android. The company really makes most of its cash by white labeling their eBook reading tech to other companies who want their own or are making an online bookstore. Today, BlueFire Reader has just released their first Windows app.

BlueFire Reader for Windows is a small 7MB file that you can install on your Windows 8 PRO tablet, laptop or PC. It gives users a solid alternative to the mainstream readers out there, such as Kindle, Kobo, Sony or Nook. It allows users to import paid EPUB and PDF books from other bookstores and you can also elect to load in your own books you downloaded from the internet.

The new reading software is fairly solid, with lots of customization options. You can adjust the margins, line spacing, font size, font type, themes and even nighttime reading mode. One of the downfalls of the app is when  you close it and reopen it later, it does not preserve any of your reading settings.

Likely the BlueFire Reader app for Windows is going to be marketed towards established eBook companies who want a standalone app. From a user point of view, this is a neutral app that doesn’t rope you into any particular ecosystem. It offers enough options to craft your own experience and importing paid content is a boon.

You can download the new Reader for Windows HERE.

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Kobo has released a major new update for their current generation line of e-readers. Owners of the Kobo Glo, Kobo Aura and Kobo Aura HD should notice the availability of the 3.50 update, which fixes a myriad of bugs and adds new features.

The Kobo internet browser should now provide a more smoother experience, which will hopefully get more people using it. They also remedied the speed in which syncing is accomplished. Syncing is important because it does a ton of different things in the background. It checks to see if you made any purchases on other devices and downloads books right to your e-reader. If there is a new firmware update, it will also fetch all of the data from the main Kobo server.

Some other fixes include the support for new Adobe RMSDK, long paragraph bug fixed for Epubs and the frontlight returns to the same level as before waking the device from sleep or unplugging from a PC.

Kobo has also updated their for PC app, that allows you to shop for books and deliver them to your reader.

If you hit the sync button on your Glo, Aura or Aura HD e-Readers you should be notified that a new update is available. If you don’t see the update yet, Kobo often distributes them in a staggered release, so millions aren’t downloading it at once.

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The Sony Digital Paper e-Reader is trying to find a place in the professional business world. This device is 13.3 inches and costs over $1,000, billed as a replacement for paper. It is primarily available via Amazon, but also with Entertainment and Legal firms. Today, Sony has announced that they have inked a deal with William S. Hein & Co.

William S. Hein & Co., Inc. is a digital legal publishing company of original legal publications including legal dictionaries, reference works, legislative histories, classroom texts, and various other publications. Hein’s online product, HeinOnline, is a subscription-based database that provides access to more than 100 million pages of legal history available in a fully-searchable, image-based format. HeinOnline provides exact full-page images of documents in the PDF format, allowing viewers to see all charts, graphs, tables, pictures, handwritten notes, photographs, and footnotes exactly as they originally appeared in print.

Following Sony’s announcements at the American Bar Association Tech Show in March, the Hollywood IT Summit in April, and now at AALL, Sony continues to investigate and develop new markets for Digital Paper in collaboration with publishing and technology companies that serve sectors still burdened with paper and are obvious beneficiaries of Digital Paper. The only core market that Sony is neglecting is the average consumer.

Good e-Reader will be having the Sony Digital Paper in their review studios next week and comparing it against other large screen devices on the market. We originally broke the story on this e-reader during SID Display Week 2013 in Vancouver, you can check out video and pictures HERE.


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Onyx has released the first single screen smartphone that uses the same type of e-Ink technology found on your Kindle or Kobo. This would allow for a glare free experience while using it in direct sunlight and provides longer battery life than the iPhone.

The overall design of the phone is small and lightweight, primarily due to the Mobius screen technology that both Sony and e-Ink co-developed. This gives you higher resolution and a thinner display panel.  Is the Onyx InkPhone merely a gimmick or does it offer us a glimpse of the future of smartphones?

Hardware

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The Onyx InkPhone features a 4.3 inch screen that uses e-Ink instead of the standard LCD, LED or AMOLED found in most mainstream devices.  The core display technology is e-Ink Mobius, which was co-developed by Sony. The essence of this screen is to provide a more lightweight panel, higher resolution and faster page turns.

Unlike most e-readers the InkPhone has a capacitive touchscreen and the display panel is flush with the bezel. If you have ever used a Tolino Vision or Kobo Aura you would know it is much easier to interact with the screen in this manner.

This phone allows you to read in the dark via the front-lit display. The main difference between this and your iPhone is the light emits from the bottom of the bezel and splashes evenly across the screen.  The iPhone and all other phones on the market have light that is emitting from behind the screen, into your eyes.

The hardware specs are fairly woeful which provide an abysmally slow experience in navigation, menus and anything that involves typing. It has a single core Mediatek MT6515M Cortex A9 1.0 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM and 512MB of storage space.  I installed Google Maps, Kindle, Viz Manga, Digg, Facebook and Twitter and already maxed out on available memory. This resulted in the unit being placed in a standby mode and would not boot up until I pulled the battery and put it back in.

There is a built in mono speaker and a 3.55 headphone jack built into the phone. The audio is fairly woeful and does not give you a wide array of peaks. When you plug in a set of headphones the sound is equally terrible. I think it comes down to the built in audio system being very dated.

People who dig taking selfies will be irked by the fact there is no camera. This will obviously prevent most apps that take advantage of camera being unable to work.  One of the redeeming factors is that you should garner 2 weeks of battery life with ultra light use.

An e-Ink phone on paper sounds like the natural evolution of the technology that originated from dedicated e-readers. In execution however the 512 MB of RAM and 512MB of storage is not enough to give users a robust experience. However, you can put a MicroSD card to enhance it, but most apps do not give the option to install to the SD.

Software

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The InkPhone is running Android 2.3 and has a customized homescreen aimed at readers. It shows the last few books you have opened up or loaded on the device via the Mini USB cable. When you hit the home button you hit the vanilla Android experience with all of the preinstalled icons and all the apps you install.

An older version of the Google Play store is loaded on the phone, giving users the option to install content that is compatible with an older version of Android. Sadly, many of the apps we installed simply won’t work.

There seems to be a problem with GPS which makes turn by turn apps unviable. Even things like Google Maps or Street View fail to work. Also, any apps that rely on animations will not work effectively either.

Most apps are designed for smartphones and tablets that have solid specs. Developers often add in animated page turns, peaking what’s on the next page or use visual enhancements to flair up the overall design.  They are also designed to show off color, since modern tablets can easily handle millions of them.

By default the InkPhone does not allow you to move icons from the apps category to  your home page. You cannot hold your finger down on an app and have any options to make a shortcut or move it around. Everything is mostly locked into position. You can install a 3rd party Launcher, but most of them do not support an older version of Android because of integration of Google Now and cameras.

Scrolling to your various menus, accessing settings or opening apps is an exercise in patience. It took me over 30 seconds to type in your standard 10 digit phone number, because you cannot quickly type. You have to enter a digit, pause, enter it again and so on. This makes text messaging via Whatsapp or entering a WIFI password as a tedious endeavor. Primary any kind of data entry is hindered by the e-Ink screen, which simply isn’t as responsive as any smartphone made in the last ten years.

You can increase the speed in which you can enter data, open apps or access your menu by a feature called A2. By default it is turned on and gives you high resolution. If you turn it off, all of the graphics are scaled down by 90% which makes everything pixelated and off-putting. Things tend to be more responsive in this manner, but it is a absolutely huge trade off.

Reading Experience

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The Onyx phone simply does not really allow you to run any type of apps that take advantage of GPS or involved in animations. Kindle, Kobo, Digg, Wattpad, Marvel Comics, Manga Box and all others provide a lackluster experience. Once you turn a page you have wait over seven seconds for it to occur. During this time it the page slowly turns, each frame being visible and severely discombobulating.

If you are buying this phone to act as an e-reader you can install certain apps that allow you disable animations or do not have any to begin with. Aldiko, Moon+ Reader and Cool-er are three examples of apps that work really well.

The InkPhone has a stock reader app that allows you to turn  pages by hitting the volume up and down button and also swipe via the touchscreen. It gives you many cool options to change the font type, line spacing , margins and font size. This app is really responsive and recommended to read PDF files and EPUBS.

The one drawback of the built in e-reading app is the Text to Speech function. It simply does not work and is in a broken state. When you initialize it it highlights random bodies of text from page to page, not going in any particular order. It might scan the 1st and last paragraph of page one and do something completely different in subsequent ones.  It also goes without saying that despite the fact it looks like it is working there is no audio.

Finally, there are dictionaries and translations you can download, but most of them are 150 to 240MB in size which almost takes up the 512MB of internal storage it has.

Wrap Up

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Onyx first  unveiled this phone at SID Display Week 2013 in Vancouver BC. The first demo model had a very touch friendly UI and everything was super quick and responsive. I absolutely could not wait until they had a commcerially viable model and when news broke that it was to have Google Play, I  was going to abandon by Blackberry and iPhone and just go with e-Ink.

Sadly, this phone is woefully inept in its current form and provides too many barriers for wide customer adoption. People want a responsive phone with lots of customization options and very high hardware specs. People want to shoot video, take  pictures, install apps and have good audio. The Onyx provides none of this and should be avoided at all costs, unless you are an early adopter or have a penichet for pain.

PROS

Two week Battery Life
Great Front-Lit Display
Excellent stock e-reading app
Google Play for everything you need

CONS

Will not play Video or Games
GPS is Broken
Text to Speech Broken
Abysmal one-dimensional Sound
Responsive and Slow
Most apps simply do not work
No Camera
WIFI automatically shuts off when it goes in standby mode
512MB of internal storage, kill me now.
512 MB of RAM, who thought this was a good idea


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