The slow pace of ebook innovation

I love this comment from Dave Bricker regarding an earlier post, EPUB 3 facts and forecasts:

Ebook vendors enjoy a closed loop ecosystem. They have millions of reader/customers who are satisfied with EPUB 2 display capabilities and devices. Amazon readers, for example, are largely content with the offerings in the proprietary Kindle store; they’re not lining up with torches and pitchforks to push for improvements. While publishers wait for eReader device manufacturers to add new features and EPUB 3 support, eBooksellers are just as happy to wait.


Three questions for…Jason Illian of BookShout

1. What is BookShout and what makes it unique?

BookShout is a unique type of ereader that allows for sharing and discoverability. In other words, the “social” tools are built into the ereader so that users can either actively or passively share the books with which they are most passionate, increasing unit sales and notoriety. Not only can readers share notes and thoughts to other BookShout users, but they can also share them out to Facebook and Twitter.


Amazon Prime Time

Like most technology products, each new version of Amazon's Kindle eInk reader is lower-priced than the last one. There's been speculation that the price will eventually go to zero, perhaps taking a page out of the cell phone model where the consumer commits to a long-term plan. There's no monthly service plan for a Kindle so I always figured Amazon would require consumers to purchase a minimum number of ebooks over a 1- or 2-year period instead.

That makes sense, but there's a bigger play Amazon probably has in mind and I'll bet it will eventually feature their tablet, the Kindle Fire.


B&N's Nook with GlowLight: Why I Still Use an eInk eReader

My new eInk reader, B&N's Nook with GlowLight, arrived last Thursday. I'm winding down my use of a Kindle Touch and wanted to move to another ebook retailer's platform going forward. This, of course, is a major headache since I've already bought dozens of DRM-protected ebooks from Amazon. I figure I'll read the last couple I bought on my Kindle and all future purchases will be from B&N...until some other device catches my eye. :-)

So what do I think of the Nook with GlowLight? It's just like my Kindle Touch, but with a built-in light. That pretty much sums it up. eInk eReaders have quickly become a commodity. Sure, B&N was the first to build a light source into their device but I'm sure Amazon and others will be close behind. When you're buying one of these devices it's less about the device and more about which retailer you want to commit to. That's an unfortunate byproduct of DRM.

I'm happy with the Nook so far but it's not wowing me. Then again, I didn't really expect it to. The benefit I see for the GlowLight isn't for reading in bed but for reading on a plane. About half the time I press that overhead light button on a plane nothing happens. The bulb is either burned out or the fixture is broken. I guess that's another sign of the times as airlines continue cutting back on their services. Let's just hope they spend more time making sure the engines are in better working order than the overhead lights.

Two years ago I didn't think I'd be using an eInk reader at all. I had just bought a first-gen iPad and was putting my Kindle in storage. That worked for about a year. I then saw a third-gen Kindle and decided it was thin and lightweight enough to carry with my iPad. In fact, the iPad case I was using had a handy pocket that the Kindle fit perfectly into.

I ditched my iPad a few months ago for an Android tablet and now I'll be taking that plus my Nook with me on the road. Even though I could easily read all my books on that Android tablet I still prefer to do all my long-form reading on an eInk device. Why?

It's not really about the display and how great it is in the sun as I rarely find myself reading outdoors. My eyes never had any problem reading for an hour or two at a time on the iPad display either. For some reason I never ran into the eye fatigue I get with my laptop's display. The reason I'm hooked on eInk displays has to do with battery life and device weight. If I'm reading for more than 20 minutes or so I'd much rather hold a feather-light eInk reader than any tablet out there. I also love it that I can go weeks without recharing an eInk device. It seems like my iPad and now my Android tablet's battery rapidly loses juice when using a reader app on it...much more so than when I'm just watching a video on the device. I end up having to recharge that Android tablet at least every couple of days. That doesn't sound like a big deal but it makes me much more miserly when I'm on a plane for several hours with no power source available.

There's talk of hybrid display devices coming out soon. Think of a tablet with the ability to switch to an eInk-like display that's (supposedly) easier on the eyes and offers a much longer window between charges. It sounds like it will still need a pretty large battery so it lasts long enought between charges in tablet mode. Unless battery technology changes radically between now and then I doubt I'd buy one since it will still probably be a fairly heavy device.

Thankfully these eInk readers are pretty inexpensive and incredibly lightweight. I might be in the minority but I see myself carrying both an eInk reader and a tablet for the forseeable future. And for now, at least, that eInk reader is B&N's Nook.