Archive for e-Reader News
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.
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.
Amazon may not be selling eBooks in their iPad or iPhone Kindle app anymore, but there is a new reason to open it up again. If you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, the app has now been optimized so you can browse over 700,000 eBooks, borrow them and immediately start reading.
The new Kindle reading app update for iOS is certainly one of the largest in recent memory, in terms of cool new features and overall enhancements. Whether you listen to audiobooks, want to find out more about an author or tend to lurk around GoodReads, there is something for everyone. It is important to keep in mind that Unlimited is only available in the US, UK and a few European markets, not everyone will be able to browse for eBooks or take advantage of the 30 day free trial. Check out the full change list below.
Book Browser (for iPad): Kindle Unlimited subscribers can now browse over 700,000 books, including popular titles such as Lord of the Rings series, Harry Potter and Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, and start reading immediately, without leaving the app. Tapping on a book cover displays a detail page that provides information about the book, including the book description and customer reviews. Book Browser also provides customers with the ability to search for any title from Amazon’s entire catalog of Kindle books, where they can view book details, download a sample, or add it to a wish list. You can start a 30-day free trial of Kindle Unlimited to get the most out of Book Browser by visiting amazon.com/kindleunlimited.
Welcome experience: New customers can get started reading right away! By selecting favorite genres, rating books you’ve read, and choosing books you want to read, you will get personalized book sample suggestions (powered by the Goodreads recommendation engine) to download and read for free.
Goodreads integration: Goodreads customers can now share reading progress updates, highlights, and more from inside the Kindle book they are reading. Once connected (click on the Settings icon in the bottom right hand corner of the Library or Home page, then click on Social Network and select Goodreads to link accounts), customers can share reading progress updates using the new [g] button in the reader controls; share quotes on Goodreads, Facebook or Twitter; or rate and review a book on Goodreads and Amazon from the “Before You Go” screen at the end of a book. For more details and screenshots, see the Goodreads blog post at goodreads.com/blog.
Next In Series Information: Customers finishing a book in a series like A Game of Thrones can learn about the next book, A Clash of Kings, and instantly add it to their wish list from the “Before You Go” screen.
Book Detail Pages in the Library: By customer request, book details can now be viewed by long pressing a book cover in the library and selecting “Book Details.” Customers can now see a synopsis of the book, Amazon reviews, and more.
Audible Progressive Play: Start playing audiobooks as they’re downloading (no need to wait for the entire download). Audiobooks can be played once you’ve downloaded past your current reading location.
e-Reader technology has come a long way since the first Kindle hit the market in 2007. Not only have the prices come down from over $300 for your standard six inch device, but e-paper has been polished and more refined. Companies such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo invest copious amounts of money in research and development to give customers the best reading experience possible. But, what would constitute the ultimate e-reader?
Good e-Reader has been reviewing dedicated e-ink devices since 2008 and we have really seen the industry grow. The devices in 2014 all offer faster page turns and really high resolution to make reading much more intuitive. We have looked at hundreds of different devices that come out over the years and we really have a sense on what customers want in an e-reader and what features everyone yearns for. Today, we look at the e-paper technology, hardware and features that would capture the imagination of millions of digital readers.
The Ultimate e-reader
Six inches – The most common screen size of e-readers today is six inches, because its more pocket friendly and many shells bought from China price has come down dramatically. Larger e-readers are possible, but the reason they are so expensive is because all of the internals cost more due to the lack of mass production.
1430 x 1080 resolution – This is currently the benchmark established by the Kindle Voyage for the highest resolution in the world. Most e-readers on the market have 1024 X 758 which look quite a bit dated by 2014-2015 standards. The future of e-readers is super high resolution and at least 300 PPI.
e-Ink Mobius – Mobius uses a TFT technology that will enable the development of much lighter and rugged products. Mobius displays can weigh less than 50% of an equivalent glass based TFT. This is particularly important for mobile products requiring larger display areas, such as the Sony Digital Paper and Pocketbook CAD Flex.
Capacitive Touchscreen – Many e-readers still employ Neonode IR touchscreen technology which provides a diminished experience for people used to interacting with their smartphones and tablets. The ultimate e-reader would have the same type of capacitive touch with the screen flush with the bezel. Notable e-readers that have this are the Kobo Aura and Tolinio Vision 2.
Front-Lit Display (Glowlight) – Smartphones and tablets use LCD screen technology that have the light emitting from behind the screen into your eyes. A new study from the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute shows that a two-hour exposure to electronic devices with self-luminous “backlit” displays causes melatonin suppression, which might lead to delayed bedtimes, especially in teens. Front-Lit displays have 4-6 LED lights that project light evenly across the screen, not into your eyes. The 3rd generation lighting system has been very polished and refined.
Flexible rubber housing – Only the Pocketbook CAD and Wexler Flex One have flexible rubber housing and it allows it to be more durable for transportation and daily use.
Hybrid Magnesium Alloy – The Kindle Voyage has this new technology on the back , it prevents finger oil from staining it.
1.2 GHZ Duel Core processor – In order for a more optimized experience when opening books, accessing menu features and running apps, a dual core processor is a must.
1 GB of RAM – Many of the most popular e-readers out there only have 128 or 512 MB of RAM. Having additional RAM would step up the performance and allow for larger buffering system for multitasking.
SD card – Many e-readers these days forgo the SD card in order to promote their own cloud services. SD Cards are really important because you don’t need to rely on WIFI to download content.
Audio – e-Reader companies these days have all abandoned audio in order to provide the lowest cost device possible. The ultimate e-reader would have stereo speakers, preferably Dolby Audio and a 3.55 mm headphone jack. This would allow users to listen to music and audiobooks.
Microphone – This would allow people to interact with the e-reader and give voice command prompts. It would also allow people to use the audio chat feature found in apps like Skype or Whatsapp Messenger.
Ivonna Text to Speech – One of the big reasons why schools have not embraced e-readers in a big way is because of the lack of accessibility for people who are visually disabled. The Ivonna system would allow every single aspect of the interface to have audio. Disabled people would be able to say “Open Audio Player” and “Play Audiobook X”. If they don’t have any audiobooks they could simply buy e-Books via audio command prompts and then have the books read to them.
Camera that takes pictures in e-ink – The Pocketbook Ultra is the only e-reader in the world with a built in camera. It has built in OCR software to be able to scan books or just snap selfies. Sadly, when you take pictures and export them to your computer, they are not in high resolution greyscale e-ink, but full color. The ultimate e-reader would take pictures and export them in black and white.
Duel Band WIFI – Wireless internet access has never really changed in e-reader technology and smartphones/tablets have all embraced duel band WIFI. This allows for content to be downloaded faster, such as larger dictionaries or apps.
3G/4G Micro SIM – Amazon is the only company left that still provides data access, so customers can buy eBooks while outside a WIFI zone. Having the ability to buy your own low-cost data plan through your local provider would not limit you anymore and you can buy content on vacation, at the cabin or beach. It would certainly allow for more impulse buys and offload the cost of the data to the customer.
Extensive Dictionary Support – Many e-readers ship with a single dictionary, depending on the region you live in. The ultimate e-reader would have all of the major European and Asian languages available to download.
Expanded Font Support – Many e-readers only ship with six different font types and 12 variations of size. I think its important to have a lower selection of fonts, to not confuse your average user but borrow a page out of Kobos playbook by allowing users to load in their own fonts they buy or download online. Reading a newspaper is far more effective in Times New Roman, than generic font #8.
Android OS – The biggest trend of 2014 has been the shift from Linux based operating systems for e-readers to Android. Icarus, Onyx and Pocketbook have been the only companies laughing modern devices with a vanilla version of Android. This is very important, as it doesn’t lock users down into any one specific ecosystem, but instead gives them freedom.
Bluetooth and GPS – There are not many e-readers at all in the world that have GPS and Bluetooth technology, but they should. This would allow users to transfer books from their computer to their e-reader without having to plug it into their PC. It would also allow people to plug in external speakers, like a Beats Pill or keyboard. In addition the GPS aspect would allow people to use new technology to prevent theft.
Anti-Theft Software – Taking advantage of the GPS technology in the ultimate e-reader a simple app, such as “Find my e-Reader” would allow people to track down their device if they misplaced or lost it. It would also be able to remotely wipe all personal information if it were to be stolen, limiting the possibilities of identity theft
The Cybook Ocean is the first eight inch touchscreen e-reader and the main selling point is that you can fit more text on the screen at any given time than your standard six inch device. One of the big advancements of the Ocean is the new illumination technology that allows you to have control over the brightness of the screen during the day or night.
Today, we take a look at the Cybook Ocean and demonstrate how the front-lit technology works. You will get a sense of how the interface is designed and how the e-reader performs in complete darkness. One of the very unique things is “nighttime reading mode” which will turn the background black and the text white. This mode, is normally reserved exclusively for smartphone and tablet apps. How does it perform on the Ocean? Check out the video below.
In late November the Amazon Kindle Voyage e-reader received a massive firmware update. It brought new features like Kindle Family Sharing and Wordwise. What exactly are these new features all about? Today, we give you all a comprehensive hands on review of all of the new features found in the biggest Kindle update ever.
Wordwise is basically a thesaurus of sorts that superimposes itself in the books you are reading. It gives alternative meanings to words such as “rampart” or “idiosyncrasy” right on the page that contains them. Family Sharing is a cool option, you can share any content purchased between Amazon accounts on the same e-reader. There is two adults and four children available to share eBooks, magazines or newspapers.
One of the cool things is Kindle Unlimited, this a program that once opted in, will allow you to have your kid use the Kindle Voyage and download anything they want, at no extra cost. Parents basically establish a password and say GO! The store and all of the advanced features are locked out, so the child can only download new books and look at their reading achievements.
Finally, I like about the Author. This is a cool function that shows you a picture of them, and other books they wrote. If a book you are reading is especially compelling, you can opt into being notified via email when a new title is available. In addition, you can mark the book as currently being read on GoodReads.
There are a ton of other updates included, in this video we go over every single one of them. If you are sitting on the fence, not knowing if you should buy the Voyage, you might be swayed over with everything you will witness today.
Sony has unveiled the first major firmware update for their 13.3 inch Digital Paper e-reader. It brings a number of notable enhancements such as the ability to lock your device with a password and encrypt it for total security. They have also changed the way the toolbar is presented, it used to be on the top, its now on the side. This small move makes the task manager work easier than before and makes navigating between multi-page documents much more intuitive.
Whenever e-paper devices get firmware updates, its often difficult to get a sense of all the new features by just reading a list. Today, Good e-Reader has filmed a comprehensive hands on review, to give you a sense of all the new updates and how it affects your workflow.
Kobo has opened up a digital bookstore with over 4.2 million titles and started to sell their latest generation e-readers in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
Kobo is selling the Kobo Touch, Kobo Aura and Kobo H2o in 34 stores in the G.C.C. region in the Dubai Duty Free Stores, Virgin Megastores and Xcite. If you feel like forgoing the holiday crowds you can opt into purchasing them online at Modvito, Souq.com and Jado Pado.
“Digital reading continues to rise across the globe and we’re thrilled to be entering G.C.C. countries to offer readers with best in class E Ink eReaders and eBookstore,” said Jean-Marc Dupuis, Managing Director of EMEA, Kobo. “The Kobo Touch, Kobo Aura and Kobo Aura H2O offer different capabilities and price points, so there is definitely something for every reader. G.C.C. countries are still in the early adoption stages of reading digitally and we are pleased to lead the transformation of this market.”
Kobo is an anomaly in the e-reader world because they perfectly blend ease of use, for the general public and super advanced options for the hardcore readers. The Toronto based company simply did not get to this point overnight and unlike their competition, they frequently speak with the general public, programmers and beta testers.
If you have ever used a Kobo e-reader, likely you are familiar with the ability to change the type of font you want your e-Book to use. Advanced users know that if you are not happy with the stock fronts that the e-readers employ, there is a special directory where you can upload your own. Its these types of options that makes the Kobo brand especially appealing to a broad audience.
The first Kobo e-reader came out in March 2010 and by September their lead programming team had established themselves on the MobileRead forums. If you have never heard of this website before, it is basically an online community where folks from all over the world congregate to talk about the latest news and share tips with each other. The Kobo team has been leveraging this community in order to solicit feedback on ideas they have for future firmware updates. Hardcore users can also talk directly to some of the senior programmers to give their take on new coding conventions or to present comprehensive analysis on problems they see with existing firmware, or just to give advice on how to make the software better. The Kobo team also uses the people who contribute great ideas to test the functionality of the firmware, as its been developed, so all of the bugs can be worked out.
Kobo has an ulterior motive with crowd-sourcing ideas and suggestions to improve their product. Their programming team is smaller than Amazon and Barnes and Noble and they rely less on focus groups, saving them money. This assists them in lowering company costs in this specific department so they can focus more on promoting the product and international expansion.
The global e-Book market is big business and has recently been valued at $14.5 billion dollars and is expected to reach more than $22 billion by 2017. Amazon controls roughly 70% of the North American and European digital book sales, while Kobo is sitting pretty in second place.
Bookeen has just released a new e-reader that seemingly came out of nowhere, with no fanfare or advance hype. The Cybook Muse with Frontlight gives users the ability to read eBooks in many different formats and read in the dark. It allows you turn pages with both the touchscreen and manual buttons. Is this e-reader a valid investment?
The Cybook Muse has a 6 inch screen allowing for easy reading in all conditions, while reducing the size of the e-reader by 17% in comparison to its predecessor, the Cybook Odyssey. The resolution is 1024 x 758, and has 213 DPI, which is fairly conventional.
Underneath the hood is a 800 MHZ Freescale processor and 4 GB of internal storage. It does have support for an MicroSD card, so you can simply insert one in to store thousands of additional titles. Speaking of eBooks, there is a built in store loaded on the two e-readers, with over 100,000 books. You need to register an account with Bookeen and another one with Adobe.
The Cybook Ocean has the physical page turn keys flush with the bezel, whereas the Muse has more convention page turn keys that protrude upwards. This is appealing towards people who have used older e-readers and want to upgrade to something more modern.
Bookeen has been using the Linux operating system for their complete line of e-readers for a number of years. This e-reader is fairly basic and does not have a ton of advanced features to boggle the minds of people new to digital reading.
The homescreen comprises of the book you are currently reading with a progress bar of how much of it is remaining. Underneath that is a small carousal with all of the eBooks in your library with their cover art being displayed. If you click on any of the book covers it will automatically launch the e-reading app.
I think overall the Cybook software is fairly robust, it is super stable and never prone to crashing. One of the downsides is that there is no internet browser bundled on it, so you won’t be able to visit your favorite websites.
Bookeen handles the core e-reading experience fairly conventionally, but most of its advanced features are a bit complicated to access. If you are buying this reader to just read books and not make highlights, annotations, look words up in the dictionary or use the keyboard, you are fine! If you want to do any of these things, be prepared to jump through a ton of hoops.
You can customize your e-reading experience by hitting the home key and then selecting the settings menu. There are options to change the font size, eight different font types, line spaces or margins. This is normally the most accessed reading features and anything you augment is dynamically changed on the screen.
PDF Viewing is a solid experience on the Muse you can pinch and zoom and get a particular frame or image showing up correctly. There is also a “reflow” mode, which will strip away all of the images and CSS elements, giving you more of an eBook experience. Depending on the extensiveness of the PDF file you are viewing, reflow can be hit or miss.
If you want to find out what we thought of this e-reader and if its a viable investment, check out our unboxing and video review.
Findaway World has developed a severely locked down e-reader that they have been marketing to the US armed forces. The big selling points is that there are no USB ports or wireless internet access to limit security breaches. Instead, the readers are loaded up with bestselling books and shipped out to submarines and other vessels. Today, Findaway World has announced the Aero e-reader that is going to be distributed to the US Air Force.
Findaway World secured the contract from the Air Force back in October and they received close to $500,000 for the e-reader and all of the books that were preloaded. The Aero will be delivered to 19 Air Force libraries, including locations overseas where access to English reading material is often limited. Locations include Italy, Turkey, Germany, South Korea where servicemen/women and their families are stationed.
Barnes and Noble has just unveiled a new trade in program that will allow Nook owners to drop off their older devices at any bookstore and get a $30 credit towards the purchase of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook.
The trade in program is the first of its type and gives owners of the 1st generation Nook, Nook Color and Nook Tablet a viable upgrade path. As long as the devices are in working order and not totally broken, B&N will give you the credit.
It is important to note they will not give you physical cash for your old device, but they will give you $30 off the 10.1 and 7 inch versions of the new Samsung 4 Nook tablets. This offer is only available from now until January 17, 2015.
My advice, is if you do take advantage of this offer to delete all of the content on your device to insure none of your personal information will be accessible. All you need to do is hold the “Power” button for at least five seconds to power off it off. Hold the “Home” and “Power” buttons until the Nook Color powers on.Press the “Home” button when the Factory Reset dialog is displayed. Press the “Home” button to confirm the reset. The device reboots automatically after the restore is complete.
2014 has been a benchmark year in the e-reader industry, due to the rise of Android as being the preferred operating system. Barnes and Noble and Sony have always ran Android as the backbone of their devices, while everyone else tended to use Linux. The main problem with these two companies is that it was a locked down version of the OS and did not allow users to install their own apps. This year though, a number of companies such as Pocketbook, Onyx Boox, Icarus and Boyce have all released a slew of new devices running an open version of Android. This gives users the freedom not to be locked into any one specific ecosystem, but to have freedom to deal with whoever they choose. Kobo though, is not content to sit back and let readers decide who they want to buy eBooks from and instead is launching a new program offering a monetary incentive to these companies to have the Kobo app pre-installed.
Kobo and e Ink are partnering up to target OEM companies who are running Android to have the Kobo app installed at the factory. Many e-readers over the years are sold with no digital bookstore and force users to download their own books from the internet (which encourages piracy) or find a compatible store and use Adobe Digital Editions to transfer the purchases to their device. Its all of these companies that e Ink and Kobo will be targeting.
There is no definitive word on what type of incentives Kobo will be offering OEM companies to have their app loaded on their devices, but likely it will much akin to programs Kobo established at indie bookstores in the US and UK. Likely, the incentive program will have Kobo paying a small royalty for each book that is sold on their device. You can think of it as private affiliate program.
Can this program work out? It depends on the exact role that e Ink will play in the discussions. When it comes to e-readers, most of these companies that brand the devices as their own, have no role in the manufacturing or firmware development. Instead, they source that all from Chinese OEM’s or Taiwanese companies like Netronix. This is why when we review a bunch of new devices that company X has released, each one looks really different and the user experience is not consistent. This is because its far easier just to buy everything from China and stick their own branding on it and market it as their own. Linux has been the most popular OS up until this point, because these Chinese companies could charge extra to customize it. Now that Android is proving to be the big trend in 2014/2015, Kobo is hoping to take advantage of it.