Welcome to another riveting edition of the Good E-Reader Week in Review! This week we have seen a wide array of new Tablet PC News, some have been announced in development, as well as a few new release dates. We have perplexing news that the Barnes and Noble bookstore chain is in real trouble. On the flip side, we look at Amazons recent success and some of the statistics regrading their ebook sales and the Kindle E-Reader.
It is as if Steve Ballmer has taken it upon himself to don the mantle of the iPad slayer and he is soldering on with the Windows 7 OS even though critics would not waste a chance to mince words describing how inefficient the operating system is in a tablet environment. Actual prototypes were too few and far between to prove them wrong though this seems to have been taken care of a bit with the unveiling of the MasterPad, a prototype tablet brought out by the Israel based company Pegatron. And if initial responses are to be believed, the tablet does look to be quite a capable device.
The first thing that catches everybody’s attention is the super thin frame of the MasterPad which Pegatron says is all of just 14 mm. The screen is 11.6 inches of In Plane Switching display with 1,366 x 768 widescreen resolution while the processor is the Intel Atom N450 unit running at 1.66GHz. There is also a dedicated HD video-processing chip to enhance the multimedia capabilities of the tablet. Pegatron has stated the MasterPad is capable of smooth 1080p video playback and is also compatible with the Adobe Flash.
These apart, the MasterPad incorporates a 1.3-megapixel webcam with a microphone, a memory card reader as well as an accelerometer. Then there’s going to be two USB ports and a mini-HDMI port. The table also comes with an integrated 3G modem along with on board memory options range from 32GB to 64GB. All of this stuff is enclosed with a magnesium and aluminum alloy body and stops just short of a kilo in weight.
We reported last week that Amazon cut a really sweet deal with a New York Publishing group. They cut exclusive ebook deals for such authors as Salmon Rushdie, Oliver Sacks and Phillip Roth. Amazon also gets access to the estates of William S. Burroughs of the Beat Generation fame.
This created an uproar in the industry, especially since e-books are now outselling real books.
This exclusive arrangement with Amazon has attracted some powerful opposition in the form of Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal. He has opened an investigation to see whether or not the deals recently done by Amazon and Apple have violated any rules and regulations. His main beef is this exclusive arrangements will be anti-competitive to new E-Book companies from starting up. Also, not only does it affect start-ups, but it could also prevent Sony, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Boarders from selling ebooks by specific authors.
Just got the hottest gadget around this weekend from K-Mart in the form of the Augen 78 Tablet PC? Bad News, it does not have access to the Android Market place yet. Augen released a message on their website that they were having numerous problems with the device. For one, it cannot access the Google Android Market. Apparently Augen did not inform Google they were pre-installing applications on their device, which Google took exception to. We have heard many reports that even downloaded applications will not install properly. Augen said a week ago, within 48 hours they would have a fix. They do not, and people are returning their tablets in droves. This situation is much akin to the Pandigital Fiasco.
Random House, who is the world’s biggest book publisher, expects E-Books to generate 10% of the company’s overall revenue by next year, the CEO has recently divulged.
Chief Executive of Random House Markus Dohle recently did an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel that e-book revenue had already jumped to 8 percent of the companies overall sales in the United States. Random Houses stars that contributed to the sales spike were Dan Brown, John Grisham and Stieg Larsson.
“We’re at 8 percent in the United States currently, it rose by leaps and bounds,” Dohle told Der Spiegel. “I could well imagine that we get beyond 10 percent next year,” he said. He added that he did not expect e-books to generally overtake printed books in the next five years. But he did say that ebooks by 2015 will account for 25 to 50% of total sales.
Random House is turning a blind eye right now to Apple’s iPad because Dohle said he was not sure about Apple’s model which forces publishers to determine the end-consumer price, unlike for printed books which are priced by retailers.
Verizon harbors ambitious Android tablet plans and they have made no attempt to keep this a secret. Here is more info on that front, as the latest tablet PC news reveals they have partnered up with Motorola to give shape to their tablet dreams. However, every attempt is being made to keep everything pertaining to the new tablet under wraps (though some of the details have filtered out and are now in public domain). So we know the new tablet will come with two integrated cameras – one at the front for video conferencing, and another on the back for still pictures. The new tablet will also have a 10 inch screen, which puts it slam bang in the iPad territory. The report also reveals it will be thinner and lighter than the iPad.
What’s also known is that the tablet will be compatible with Adobe Flash while also having mobile hotspot functionality. It will also have something that perhaps no other tablet is offering right now – access to Verizon’s FiOS cable service. Motorola already is into making the Verizon FiOS set-top box and to include the same technology – albeit with any modification – should not be too much to ask. Google’s Android operating system has been chosen for OS duty.
Unfortunately, this is as much as is available right now and there is no word yet on what is going to power the new tablet or what is likely to be its price. But the good thing is the tablet may be ready for a launch as early as this fall.
It seems the good old law of nature is playing its part in the e-reader segment. E-readers have had their time under the sun. There was a time when e-readers came to swamp the market with devices of all shapes and sizes, and of all hues and colors vied for consumer’s attention. The market was big enough to accommodate all of them and the concept still fresh. The end result, avid readers lapped up these e-book reading devices and there was enough for everybody to survive. The going wasn’t bad after all. Alas the good old days.
But then, as numbers swell, a shake-up becomes imminent and its only the fittest that gets to survive while the rest perish. We have had seen Irex and the Cool-ER e-readers running out of juice before and this time, its the eSlick e-reader’s turn to drive into the sunset. Of course, there is the other factor as well, like the iPad that is making life difficult for dedicated e-readers.
Foxit justified the move saying it needed to “eliminate the possibility of competing with our partners.” Foxit’s eSlick e-readers were once counted to be among the cheapest around and for its excellent support for PDF files. That the e-readers haven’t been updated ever since these came onto the scene back in the December of 2008 did not help things either. And with all the other e-readers resorting to slashing prices in order to survive, Foxit quickly lost the price advantage that it once enjoyed. Its e-readers with a 6 inch screen real estate and e-ink enabled black and white display will set you back by $200 now. This while the Kindles, the Nooks and the Sony e-readers come for less than that while offering much more in terms of features and support.
Cutting prices to remain competitive was never viable for a small company like Foxit and as part of its new restructuring plans, Foxit has said it will shut down its European operations and will work entirely out of its Fremont, California headquarters. It will now devote its resources on licensing the software technology that enabled its e-readers to read PDF and ePub files. The company said it expects a surge in digital reading and would like to cash in on that after exiting the hardware business.
Penguin chief executive John Makinson proclaims himself as an eBook convert! On a recent trip to India, he had his iPad loaded up with a manuscript by John le Carré and some Portuguese classics (in English) ahead of Penguin launching a range in Brazil. He mentions that it simply “makes sense” to have books on one device instead of carrying an armload.
“It does redefine what we do as publishers and I feel, compared with most of my counterparts, more optimistic about what this means for us,” he says. “Of course there are issues around copyright protection and there are worries around pricing and around piracy, royalty rates and so on, but there is also this huge opportunity to do more as publishers.”
Publishing, he says, must embrace innovation: “I am keen on the idea that every book that we put on to an iPad has an author interview, a video interview, at the beginning. I have no idea whether this is a good idea or not. There has to be a culture of experimentation, which doesn’t come naturally to book publishers. We publish a lot of historians, for example. They love the idea of using documentary footage to illustrate whatever it is they’re writing about.”
A war is currently on in the e-reader/e-book business and it seems no one is safe from the firing lines. Not even those who can be described with such superlatives like the biggest, the largest, the best, etc. And the latest casualty seems to the number one book store chain in the United States, Barnes & Noble. According to the latest e-reader news, they have put themself up for grabs. With economy yet to reach the pink of its health and competition continuing to be relentless, this seemed to be the most obvious decision on part of Barnes & Noble. That the consumer preference has shifted towards e-books is another reason behind the move as Barnes & Noble sources revealed they wish to apply themselves more in the e-book business.
The rumor mills are at it again and this time they are not focusing on devices that they think will topple the iPad but on the iPad itself. According to the latest tablet PC news, Apple is working on a second generation iPad which it hopes to introduce to the market during Q4 of 2010. Rumor also has it that the new gen iPad will have display sizes of 5.6 and 7 inches. Further, the reports also point towards Apple going in for OLED screen in place of LCD display that is on the current generation iPads.
OLED screens are considered far superior than LCD displays, in that OLED screens are more capable of displaying deeper black levels (since they do not require a backlight source). Also, contrast ratios are higher for OLED display while the screen refresh rates are faster, too. And that’s not all, for OLEDs are thinner and lighter in comparison to LCDs.
A smaller iPad will be surely welcomed by consumers. These will be even more affordable than the base iPad. In fact, there are reports that Apple already placed orders with component makers based in Taiwan to supply the screens in the two sizes for the new iPads. The leading developers of OLED screens in the world, like Samsung or LG, are hardpressed to meet their own demands with their mobile gadgets and an order from Apple would further strain their resources. LG already is finding it hard to meet the demand for the LED display of the current iPad and is resorting to setting up a second production line to ease demand rush.
There have been reports of many e-readers deciding to close operations due to intense competition. The iPad is also considered to be a major cause of worry for the e-reader industry, and has already brought doom to many. Just think what a smaller iPad will do to the lesser e-readers as these are likely to be the first to feel the heat of a new, sleeker iPad.
Viewsonic will surely like to cash in on the holiday season which is when it plans to launch the tablet in the UK and Europe though there is no word yet as to when its going to set sail for the US shores. Prices for the European market is likely to be around the £300 to £400 mark, which translates to around US$478 to $637.
Viewsonic’s earlier attempt at an Android powered tablet is the VT101 tablet which was launched in China a few months ago. Its with a larger 8.9 inch screen having a resolution of 1024 x 800 pixels and has a 1GHz nVidia Tegra 250 CPU. If the upcoming tablet is a smaller version of the same tablet with a 7 inch screen then it would definitely be a nice tablet to watch out for. Add to that the access to the Android Market place that the tablet comes bundled with and what you get to have is perhaps a sure shot winner on your hand.
HP is pioneering some interesting technology lately, and is putting out a bevy of beauties to be hitting the retail shelves hopefully by December 2010.
In December of 2009 HP filed for a trademark on the word “Zine” and now they have just filed an FCC Application for a new tablet device called the “HP eStation Zine”
Although there is no official word of the operating system, many people are alluding to this device has being the HP Tablet PC.
With the acquisition of Palm in the Books in July, HP admitted that Palm and WebOS will be a fringe programming group, perhaps dealing in smart phones exclusively, although they are developing some neat printers using WebOS.
From what we know, the eStation Zine will be a capacitive tablet using Google Android 2.2 Operating System. It will be using a exclusive skin layer, much akin to Motorola’s “Motoblur”
Here is some good news for those living in the United Kingdom – Amazon.co.uk has announced they have started shipping their latest version of the Kindle e-reader. They also announced their UK Kindle Store has started commencement of operation in that country.
So what this means is that UK residents will get to lay their hands on the brand new lighter and smaller Kindle which will cost them £149 for the one with an integrated 3D modem while the WiFi only version of the kindle will come for £30 less.
The tablet Android love story continues and here is one more example of it – the Gpad G10. And its readying itself to do battle in the budget tablet segment, priced as it is at a quite affordable $185. In fact, at this price point it can even spoil the Augen Gentouch 78 tablet party which had created quite some ripples (if not waves) when it announced its availability from Kmart stores for $150. But does the Gpad G10 have enough features to really make a credible case for itself. Let’s find out.
To begin with, the Gpad G10’s “G10″ bit might make you believe it has got a 10 inch sized screen. But that’s not the case. Instead, the Gpad G10’s display is made up of a 7 inch LCD touch screen that has a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. It has a Telechips 8902 ARM 11-based processor with a clock speed of 800MHz to run the device. It has got 256MB RAM though internal memory is pretty dismal at just 2 GB. However, to make it up, the tablet includes a microSDHC memory card slot which in turn let’s you increase the tablet’s total memory to an acceptable 32GB.
The Toshiba Libretto may have cooled the nerves of those who were keenly awaiting the release of the Courier from Microsoft. Or maybe it might have infuriated them more with the thought of ‘if Toshiba can do it than why not Microsoft.’ Whatever it is, the fact is unlike Courier, Libretto has gone on to become a reality and this time its another milestone that the dual screen tablet device is about to reach in its product life cycle – Toshiba has finally announced firm release dates for the tablet to begin shipping. Its going to be on the 11th of August and in Japan to begin with.
Toshiba had earlier promised a summer release of the dual screened tablet in America too though while summer is definitely on, there is no sign of the Libretto W100 yet on the American landscape. And it surely is being watched in other parts of the world as well where many are eagerly looking forward to the official release of what can be terms as the first true blue dual screen tablet device. Of course that’s not without reason as the device sure has what it would take to become a cult product.
There is a new e-reader peeping from just under the horizon and its coming from the Taiwan based company Asus. Asus had earlier revealed it is building an e-reader and a tablet device and this might the one that they had been talking about.
Initial reports reveal Asus is keen to break away from the usual e-ink stuff and has therefore taken the LCD route, equipping the e-reader with an 8 inch LCD screen. Asus also plan to endow the e-reader with 64 level of gray. It also stated the e-reader won’t have backlight and will be able to refresh itself pretty quickly. Word on the street is that the e-reader may also come integrated with a 3G modem. Unfortunately, everything else like battery life, browser support and the like is a mystery as of now.
However, Asus plans to launch the e-reader in October and with a price tag that’s under $599. Watch over for more on this in the coming days.
A tablet device from Best Buy is soon going to be a reality and the confirmation comes from none other than the company’s CTO and founder of Geek Squad Robert Stephens who revealed some teaser shots of the upcoming tablet on Twitter. However, what has been shown is just the outer shell which again has left experts divided in their opinion on the form factor as to some it resembles the HP Slate though some believe its an iPad clone. The latter might be closer to reality as Best Buy too has stated they are targeting the Apple’s offering with their tablet device.
It would be interesting to note that Stephens had earlier revealed a tablet device is slowly gaining final shape in their camp. He had also stated that the tablet would come with Android 2.2 pre-installed and would also feature a built-in camera among others. However, there is no word yet if the pictures shown of the tablet is the same as has been described almost a month ago.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.