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February 09 2012

O'Reilly ebooks now optimized for Kindle Fire

Earlier this week, we at O'Reilly regenerated all of our ebook-bundle Mobi files, upgrading them to meet the specifications for Amazon's latest ebook format, KF8.

These files are now available for download in your account on oreilly.com. If your ebook bundle includes a Mobi file (and more than 90% of bundles do), you can download the updated, KF8-compliant file now. (Note: All O'Reilly Media files are now available in KF8. Partner publishers will come soon.)

As always, our ebook bundles are DRM-free. See this page for instructions on loading O'Reilly Mobi files to your Kindle.

We've optimized our Mobi files for Kindle Fire by taking advantage of KF8's support of @media queries. While @media queries have been commonplace on the web for some time, they are just now making their way to ebook ecosystems. KF8's support of @media queries allows you to create an ebook that looks and potentially behaves differently based on your reading device.

For an example of @media queries in action, see the image below, which shows how the same Mobi file appears on a traditional Kindle (left) versus the new Kindle Fire (right):

Comparison of a Mobi file on a traditional Kindle and the Kindle fire
Click to enlarge.

Amazon's support for @media queries makes this possible, and O'Reilly is among the first publishers to employ this feature across all of its Kindle content. Here are some of the new features that you can expect to see on your Kindle Fire (enhancements vary by book):

  • Color images
  • Syntax-highlighted code
  • Improved layout and design with CSS3
  • Embedded code font for better legibility and glyph support

Here are some screenshots from our newly optimized Mobis:

Optimized Mobi file from Make Electronics
Click to enlarge.

Optimized Mobi file from JavaScript: The Definitive Guide
Click to enlarge.

Starting this week, our books will begin to be available in KF8 format through Amazon's Kindle Store. However, an unfortunate limitation of buying from Amazon is that they don't normally provide customers with publisher updates. By contrast, buying direct from O'Reilly gives you access to lifetime, DRM-free updates in all standard ebook formats.

Related:

January 20 2012

Kindle Fire: Three pros, five cons

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog ("Kindle Fire Lessons Learned"). It's republished with permission.

I don't regret spending the $200 I paid Amazon for my Kindle Fire. I tried it out and decided it wasn't for me, so I gave it to my daughter instead. Even though I no longer use the Fire I wanted to share the things I learned about the device and myself over the past several weeks. Let's start off with the good side of things.

Kindle Fire pros

Kindle FireForm factor — I prefer the Fire's size to the iPad's. It's nice being able to wrap your hand around the entire device and the lighter weight is a big plus for the Fire. Of course, it's the same form factor as RIM's PlayBook, and given how poorly that device has performed it's clear you need more than just a great form factor.

Meets the needs of typical consumer — The Fire wasn't for me but my daughter really likes it. That's why you see so many good and bad reviews of it. Consumers who want a cheap tablet are OK without all the bells and whistles of the iPad, for example. Early adopters, or those who want to push the technology to the limit, are disappointed though. More on the early adopter in a moment ...

Connection to Amazon content — There's no question Amazon is using the razors and blades economic model here and the Fire is clearly the razor they're willing to sell at little to no profit. Connectivity to Amazon's ebooks, video and audio content is second to none with the Fire. And tying in the Prime membership program will only lead to more Amazon products being sold.

That's it as far as pluses go. Now let's talk about the minuses.

Kindle Fire cons

Connection to Amazon content — As easy as it is for Fire users to access Amazon content it's just that difficult to access anyone else's. If there's one thing I've learned from the Fire it's that my next tablet will not be locked in to one provider's content. That probably means I won't be buying from the typical content providers, of course. I don't mind paying more for that capability, by the way. So if Samsung comes up with a terrific tablet that meets all my needs, and it's $100 or so more than the Fire, I'm in.

Awful for the early adopter/tinkerer — As noted above, the Fire is pretty good for the typical consumer. But if you're buying it to root and open it up you'll be disappointed. Even if you go through the rooting process you'll quickly find some of the apps in the Android Market simply won't run on it (e.g., NHL Gamecenter App, the swipe keyboard, etc.) And if you do root it, watch out for those unsolicited auto-updates.

Auto updates — This one's ridiculous. How in the world can Amazon think that forcing OS updates on every Fire owner is the right thing to do? Amazon, take a page out of the Apple book and let your customers decide when and if they want the update. I couldn't help but feel the auto update was intended more to penalize rooters than to fix problems and offer more functionality. It also reminded me of the unfortunate "1984" debacle Amazon brought upon themselves a few years ago. Really stupid.

"Silk" browser — This has to be the biggest embarrassment of all for Amazon. Remember how excited Bezos was when he demo'd the Fire's lightning-fast browser at the press event last year? It turns out the browser isn't that fast after all. In fact, in my totally unscientific side-by-side testing, the Fire almost always loaded pages slower than both my iPad and my RIM PlayBook. Even with all these other issues I figured the Fire would offer a browsing experience that's second to none. The results were considerably weaker than promised. I'm disappointed that Amazon hasn't come out and admitted their failure here. It's remarkable that they still prominently feature the Silk browser on the Fire's product page. They seem to be in denial about it as they haven't even hinted it will be fixed in a future software update. As much as I criticize Apple, this is something Steve Jobs never would have let happen.

Missing a "killer" app — This is the reason why I had to keep my iPad handy throughout my Fire use and am stuck (for the time being) on iOS. Zite is my go-to app. I use it every single day. It's outstanding. It's a free app but I'd gladly pay as much as $10 or $15 for it, especially now that I'm totally addicted to it. There's no Android version of Zite ... yet. I can't even consider another Android tablet until Zite is available. Flipboard is a close second and it too doesn't exist in the Android world. Amazon should have invested some money with the developers of apps like Zite and Flipboard to make sure they were available when the Fire launched. Better yet, wouldn't it be nice if a Fire-specific app or two came out that made the device irresistible? I'd love to be talking about a Fire or Android app that's unbeatable but not available on iOS. I can't think of a single one.


I realize I'm a fairly unique user and that plenty of Fire owners are perfectly happy with their purchase. That's great, but I'd also love to see Amazon step up, act like the market leader they're trying to be and address these shortcomings.

I'm convinced that my next tablet will be an Android-based one. The only Android tablet I'll consider though is one that gives me access to all types of content, not just content from the company who sells the hardware. Heck, as closed as they are, even Apple lets you install e-reader apps from Amazon, B&N, etc. One of the reasons they can do that is they're confident they've got a terrific piece of hardware and you'll want to buy it over the competition. They also charge a premium for it. I've learned it's worth paying a premium, as long as it's not ridiculously high, for the ability to choose from multiple content providers.

So while my next tablet won't be the cheapest on the market, I won't make the same mistake twice and limit myself to one source of content for it.

TOC NY 2012 — O'Reilly's TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012, in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they've learned and join together to navigate publishing's ongoing transformation.

Register to attend TOC 2012

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December 16 2011

Publishing News: Hating Amazon is not a strategy

Here are a few of the stories that caught my eye in the publishing space this week.

Amazon's Price Check ignites passions, but perhaps cooler heads will prevail

Amazon's Price Check promotion caused quite the kerfuffle last week, and the publishing industry arguably made the most noise — which is interesting, as books were not included in the promotion. Author Richard Russo fanned the flames again on Monday with his op-ed piece in the New York Times, in which he noted responses from his fellow writers: "I wondered what my writer friends made of all this, so I dashed off an e-mail to Scott Turow, the president of the Authors Guild, and cc'ed Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, Andre Dubus III, Anita Shreve, Tom Perrotta and Ann Patchett." The response?

These writers all derive considerable income from Amazon's book sales. But when the responses to my query started coming in it was clear Amazon's program would find no defenders in our ranks ... 'Scorched-earth capitalism' is how Dennis described it ... Andre was outraged by Amazon's attempt to turn its customers into 'Droid-packing' spies ... [Stephen King] saw the new strategy as both 'invasive and unfair' ... it was 'a bridge too far.'

Russo went on to praise the indie bookstore experience and indicate Amazon is killing the reading culture: "Armed with such experiences, my writer pals and I took personally Amazon's assault on the kinds of stores that hand-sold our books before anybody knew who we were, back before Amazon or the Internet itself existed. As Anita [Shreve] put it, losing independent bookstores would be 'akin to editing ... a critical part of our culture out of American life'."

Chad W. Post over at Three Percent chimed in with a piece, in part a response to Russo, that is well worth the read (hat tip to Peter Brantley and @calliemiller). Post argued that Amazon is a corporate business acting like a corporate business — just like the Big Six publishers:

... it's worth wondering if the Big Six are in this publishing game for the benefit of book culture as a whole, or to make as much money as possible for their shareholders. The correct answer is the latter, and that's reflected in nearly every decision they make. As a result, people like Richard Russo and Stephen King publish their books with Random House and Simon & Schuster so that they can reap the benefits of these corporate practices ... And that's totally well within their rights. And by 'their,' I mean Russo & Co., the Big Six, and Amazon.

Post goes on to suggest more productive ways to approach the situation with Amazon that are worth a look.

Ed Cain over at Forbes had another pragmatic approach to the situation:

This is the future of online retail. Expect price checking apps from lots of other companies in the near future. Brick-and-mortar retailers and booksellers will have to respond by offering something that online stores simply can't offer: an experience.

At the end of the day, Don Linn had perhaps the most succinct response to the Amazon as Evil Empire situation:

don-linn-tweet.png

This kerfuffle isn't likely to die anytime soon, however. Slate fired things up in the opposite direction from Russo et al., Tuesday with its post "Don't Support Your Local Bookseller: Buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you."

Ingram Content Group Inc. is the world's largest and most trusted distributor of physical and digital content. Thousands of publishers, retailers, and libraries worldwide use our best-of-class digital, audio, print, print-on-demand, inventory management, wholesale and full-service distribution programs to realize the full business potential of books. Learn more at ingramcontent.com.

Consumer Reports hits digital publishing's sweet spot

The New York Times reported this week that Consumer Reports "has more than six times as many digital subscribers as The Wall Street Journal, the leader among newspapers ... And in August, Consumer Reports started generating more revenue from digital subscriptions than from print." And on top of that, Consumer Reports isn't losing its print subscriber base.

Granted, as Bill Grueskin, dean of academic affairs at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and formerly managing editor of WSJ.com pointed out for the post, news organizations can't just rip a page out of the Consumer Reports playbook:

It isn't much of a leap for people to pay $5.95 a month for access to a database that will help them make a wise purchase of a $500 dishwasher or a $25,000 car. It is much harder to get consumers — particularly those trained for the past 15 years to expect content for free — to pay for coverage of metro news, football games or politics.

But news organizations certainly can glean some helpful tips. For example, Grueskin noted that Consumer Reports has been consistent with its paywall — it didn't go up, then come down, then go up again.

In addition to several other takeaways for news organizations — including discussions about crowdsourcing, injecting youthful creativity into business culture and supplying authoritative information — Consumer Reports' policy of not allowing advertising in order to "protect a reputation for clearsighted recommendations" should inspire insight. Obviously, news organizations can't eliminate advertising, but perhaps they can look at the quality of their ad inventories and make adjustments and decisions accordingly.

The verdict: Kindle Fire goes back in the box

KindleFireMissingManualCover.pngDavid Streitfeld at the New York Times followed up this week on a piece he recently wrote on consumer dissatisfaction with the Kindle Fire. Streitfeld said he received a "torrential response" that ranged from Fire devotion to Apple conspiracy theories. "The uproar," he said, "underlined yet again how people have deep-seated but contradictory feelings about their devices. In one sense, they demand a lot; in another, they are very forgiving."

Streitfeld turned to digital book consultant and author Peter Meyers for his professional evaluation of Amazon's tablet device. Meyers, who wrote O'Reilly's upcoming "Kindle Fire: The Missing Manual," was decidedly unbiased in his opinion of the Fire:

Apple would have never shipped a device like the Fire. It's got way too many rough edges (sluggish touchscreen, magazine apps that don't really fit the smaller screen, an easy-to-hit power button) ... But the Fire's not made for Apple's customers ... It's for the millions of people who: a) don't have $500-plus to spend on an iPad and b) really want to be part of the touchscreen revolution that's changing how we control devices.

Which device will win Meyers over in the end? He's very clear about what he'll do with his Kindle Fire: "Mine's going back in the box as soon as I'm done [with the manual]," he wrote in an email to Streitfeld. "The iPad 2 is years ahead of it and lets me consume and create with no friction."

Related:


October 24 2011

You say you want a revolution? It's called post-PC computing


"You say you want a revolution,

Well, you know,

We all want to change the world."
— The Beatles

I loved Google engineer Steve Yegge's rant about: A) Google not grokking how to build and execute platforms; and B) How his ex-employer, Amazon, does.

First off, it bucks conventional wisdom. How could Google, the high priest of the cloud and the parent of Android, analytics and AdWords/AdSense, not be a standard-setter for platform creation?

Second, as Amazon's strategy seems to be to embrace "open" Android and use it to make a platform that's proprietary to Amazon, that's a heck of a story to watch unfold in the months ahead. Even more so, knowing that Amazon has serious platform mojo.

But mostly, I loved the piece because it underscores the granular truth about just how hard it is to execute a coherent platform strategy in the real world.

Put another way, Yegge's rant, and what it suggests about Google's and Amazon's platform readiness, provides the best insider's point of reference for appreciating how Apple has played chess to everyone's checkers in the post-PC platform wars.

Case in point, what company other than Apple could have executed something even remotely as rich and well-integrated as the simultaneous release of iOS 5, iCloud and iPhone 4S, the latter of which sold four million units in its first weekend of availability?

Let me answer that for you: No one.

Post-PC: Putting humans into the center of the computing equation

Each computing wave dwarfs and disrupts its predecessor

There is a truism that each wave of computing not only disrupts, but dwarfs its predecessor.

The mainframe was dwarfed by the PC, which in turn has been subordinated by the web. But now, a new kind of device is taking over. It's mobile, lightweight, simple to use, connected, has a long battery life and is a digital machine for running native apps, web browsing, playing all kinds of media, enabling game playing, taking photos and communicating.

Given its multiplicity of capabilities, it's not hard to imagine a future where post-PC devices dot every nook and cranny of the planet (an estimated 10 billion devices by 2020, according to Morgan Stanley).

But, an analysis of evolving computing models suggests a second, less obvious moral of the story. Namely, when you solve the right core problems central to enabling the emergent wave (as opposed to just bolting on more stuff), all sorts of lifecycle advantages come your way.

In the PC era, for example, the core problems were centered on creating homogeneity to get to scale and to give developers a singular platform to program around, something that the Wintel hardware-software duopoly addressed with bull's-eye accuracy. As a result, Microsoft and Intel captured the lion's share of the industry's profits.

By contrast, the wonderful thing about the way that the web emerged is that HTML initially made it so simple to "write once, run anywhere" that any new idea — brilliant or otherwise — could rapidly go from napkin to launch to global presence. The revolution was completely decentralized, and suddenly, web-based applications were absorbing more and more of the PC's reason for being.

Making all of this new content discoverable via search and monetizable (usually via advertising) thus became the core problem where the lion's share of profits flowed, and Google became the icon of the web.

The downside of this is that because the premise of the web is about abstracting out hardware and OS specificity, browsers are prone to crashing, slowdowns and sub-optimal performance. Very little about the web screams out "great design" or "magical user experience."

Enter Apple. It brought back a fundamental appreciation of the goodness of "native" experiences built around deeply integrated hardware, software and service platforms.

Equally important, Apple's emphasis on outcomes over attributes led it to marry design, technology and liberal arts in ways that brought humans into the center of the computing equation, such that for many, an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad is the most "personal" computer they have ever owned.

The success of Apple in this regard is best appreciated by how it took a touch-based interfacing model and made it seamless and invisible across different device types and interaction methods. Touch facilitated the emotional bond that users have with their iPhones, iPads and the like. Touch is one of the human senses, after all.

Thus, it's little surprise that the lion's share of profits in the post-PC computing space are flowing to the company that is delivering the best, most human-centric user experience: Apple.

Now, Apple is opening a second formal interface into iOS through Siri, a voice-based helper system that is enmeshed in the land of artificial intelligence and automated agents. This was noted by Daring Fireball's John Gruber in an excellent analysis of the iPhone 4S:

... Siri is indicative of an AI-focused ambition that Apple hasn't shown since before Steve Jobs returned to the company. Prior to Siri, iOS struck me being designed to make it easy for us to do things. Siri is designed to do things for us.

Once again, Apple is looking to one of the human senses — this time, sound — to provide a window for users into computing. While many look at Siri as a concept that's bound to fail, if Apple gets Siri right, it could become even more transformational than touch — particularly as Siri's dictionary, grammar and contextual understanding grow.

Taken together, a new picture of the evolution of computing starts to emerge. An industry that was once defined by the singular goal of achieving power (the mainframe era), morphed over time into the noble ambition of achieving ubiquity via the "PC on every desktop" era. It then evolved into the ideal of universality, vis-à-vis the universal access model of the web, which in turn was aided by lots of free, ad-supported sites and services. Now, human-centricity is emerging as the raison d'être for computing, and it seems clear that the inmates will never run the asylum again. That may quite possibly be the greatest legacy of Steve Jobs.

Do technology revolutions drive economic revolutions?

Sitting in these difficult economic times, it is perhaps fair to ask if the rise of post-PC computing is destined to be a catalyst for economic revival. After all, we've seen the Internet disrupt industry after industry with a brutal efficiency that has arguably wiped out more jobs than it has created.

Before answering that, though, let me note that while the seminal revolutions always appear in retrospect to occur in one magical moment, in truth, they play out as a series of compounding innovations, punctuated by a handful of catalytic, game-changing events.

For example, it may seem that the Industrial Revolution occurred spontaneously, but the truth is that for the revolution to realize its destiny, multiple concurrent innovations had to occur in manufacturing, energy utilization, information exchange and machine tools. And all of this was aided by significant public infrastructure development. It took continuous, measurable improvements in the products, markets, suppliers and sales channels participating in the embryonic wave before things sufficiently coalesced to transform society, launch new industries, create jobs, and rain serious material wealth on the economy.

It's often a painful, messy process going from infancy to maturation, and it may take still more time for this latest wave to play out in our society. But, I fully believe that we are approaching what VC John Doerr refers to as the "third wave" in technology:

We are at the beginning of a third wave in technology (the prior two were the commercialization of the microprocessor, followed 15 years later by the advent of the web), which is this convergence of mobile and social technologies made possible by the cloud. We will see the creation of multiple multi-billion-dollar businesses, and equally important, tens maybe hundreds of thousands of smaller companies.

For many folks, the revolution can't come soon enough. But it is coming.

Quantifying the post-PC "standard bearers"

A couple years back, I wrote an article called "Built-to-Thrive — The Standard Bearers," where I argued that Apple was the gold standard company (i.e., the measuring stick by which all others are judged), Google was the silver and Amazon was the bronze.

The only re-thinking I have with respect to that medal stand is that Amazon and Google have now flipped places.

Most fundamentally, this exemplifies:

  1. How well Apple has succeeded in actually solving the core problems of its constituency base through an integrated, human-centered platform.
  2. How Amazon has gained religion about the importance of platform practice.
  3. How, as Yegge noted, Google doesn't always "eat its own dog food."

If you doubt this, check out the adjacent charts, which spotlight the relative stock performance of Apple, Amazon and Google after each company's strategic foray into post-PC computing: namely, iPod, Kindle and Android, respectively.

This is one of those cases where the numbers may surprise, but they don't lie.

Amazon, Google, Apple stock charts in the post-PC era

Related:


October 21 2011

Publishing News: The news is free but the API will cost you

Here are a few stories that caught my eye in the publishing space this week.

News orgs turn to data and shopping for new revenue streams

USATodayDeveloper.PNGTwo news organizations recently took out-of-the-box steps in the relentless pursuit of that illusive digital-era revenue. First, USA Today decided to dip its toe into the business of big data: the newspaper will now offer commercial licensing for its information. As noted in a Nieman Lab post this week, access to USA Today's APIs isn't new — but selling the access for commercial purposes is. In an interview, USA Today's Stephen Kurtz said the newspaper is feeling it out at this point to assess the demand and to hone a working model. Perhaps Kurtz should look to an example highlighted in the Nieman post: The Guardian's Open Platform.

Another news organization stepped into a more uncharted sales area this week: Politico is now in the bookstore business. Politico recently teamed with Random House to publish instant ebooks, and now the duo will sell the ebooks from a new online store dubbed Politico Bookshelf. Initially, this venture looked like a first step for one of the Big Six to delve into direct book sales, but the release on Politico's site indicates that it's really more of a browsing platform than a store: "Shoppers can browse or search for titles, and then purchase them through a selection of online retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Politics and Prose and Apple's iBookstore."

Amazon's foray into publishing continues to jolt the industry

The New York Times reported this week on Amazon's rapidly increasing reach into publishing: first it edged out bookstores, then it started launching imprints, and now it's wooing writers and "gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide." Examples of Amazon's gnawing were summed up in the post:

Amazon has started giving all authors, whether it publishes them or not, direct access to highly coveted Nielsen BookScan sales data, which records how many physical books they are selling in individual markets like Milwaukee or New Orleans. It is introducing the sort of one-on-one communication between authors and their fans that used to happen only on book tours. It made an obscure German historical novel a runaway best seller without a single professional reviewer weighing in.

And this doesn't even take the Kindle Fire and the ecosystem it's creating into account. The Atlantic took a look at the dangers of where this kind of one-stop-shop might lead, and over at GigaOm, Mathew Ingram looked at Amazon's disruption and why its working. He also offered some sage advice for publishers: "Take a lesson from the music industry and don't spend all your time suing people for misusing what you believe is your content — think instead about why they are doing this, and what it says about how your business is changing, and then try to adapt to that."

Kobo's Vox takes on Amazon's Fire

Kobo stepped out ahead of Amazon this week and announced its new tablet, Vox, will start shipping Oct. 28 — a couple of weeks ahead of the Nov. 15 shipment date for Kindle Fire. Some argue that the Fire (and presumably similar low-priced tablets like Vox and Nook — there's a nice comparison of the three over at Dear Author) will lead to the demise of the iPad. What seems more likely is the impending obscurity of the dedicated ereading device. In a recent TOC Podcast interview, Max Franke of epubli talked about the German ebook market and pointed out that tablets were preferred over ereaders in that part of the world. Perhaps that trend will spread to this side of the pond as well.

TOC NY 2012 — O'Reilly's TOC Conference, being held Feb 13-15, 2012, in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they've learned and join together to navigate publishing's ongoing transformation.

Register to attend TOC 2012

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October 07 2011

Top Stories: October 3-7, 2011

Here's a look at the top stories published across O'Reilly sites this week.

Oracle's Big Data Appliance: what it means
Oracle's new Big Data Appliance couldn't be a plainer validation of what's important in big data right now, or where the battle for technology dominance lies.

PhoneGap basics: What it is and what it can do for mobile developers
Joe Bowser, the developer of the Android version of PhoneGap, on the pros and cons of developing with the PhoneGap cross-platform application framework.


How data and open government are transforming NYC
New York City has become the epicenter for experiments in data-driven governance. Here, NYC officials Rachel Sterne and Carole Post discuss the city's data initiatives.

The making of a "minimum awesome product"
In this podcast, Evan Doll, the co-founder of Flipboard sat down with Joe Wikert to discuss Flipboard's focus on design and social integration.

iPad vs. Kindle Fire: Early impressions and a few predictions
Few have actually held the Kindle Fire, let alone put it through its paces, so Pete Meyers chose a novel analytical approach: Examine his own iPad habits and look for spots where the Fire can find a foothold.


Android Open, being held October 9-11 in San Francisco, is a big-tent meeting ground for app and game developers, carriers, chip manufacturers, content creators, OEMs, researchers, entrepreneurs, VCs, and business leaders. Save 20% on registration with the code AN11RAD.

October 04 2011

iPad vs. Kindle Fire: Early impressions and a few predictions

This is part of an ongoing series related to Peter Meyers' project "Breaking the Page: Transforming Books and the Reading Experience." We'll be featuring additional material in the weeks ahead. (Note: This post originally appeared on A New Kind of Book. It's republished with permission.)

Who knows for sure how the Kindle Fire will do? It's crazy how confident some folks are about who it will kill, maim — or catapult to corporate dominance. The dang thing hasn't even been touched yet by more than its birth parents and a close relative or two. (Me, I got a finger or two on it at last Wednesday's press conference. I can't add anything concrete to what you've probably already read.)

But what I can do is offer one man's report, a year and a half in, on how I use my iPad. My goal? Compare and contrast the iPad's talents with what we know the Fire will deliver. From there, maybe there's a conclusion or two to be drawn about how this new tablet matches up against its two main competitors: the Color Nook and the iPad.

So, to begin with, here's a rough tally of my iPad usage:

Most Frequent Tasks (~ 1 hour/day)

  • Email (Mail app)
  • Zite
  • Twitter (Twitter app)
  • Safari (general surfing)
  • Facebook (via Safari)
  • New York Times app

All together these six activities consume the majority of my iPad time. I list them roughly according to how frequently I use them, but the difference between the first and the last isn't much, I'd bet.

Next Most Frequent (~ 15 minutes/day)

  • Various newly released apps (or ones I've just learned about). I wrote a book last year recommending the "Best iPad Apps." This year I'm working on another book about designing digital books. So I need to keep up with what's new.

Periodic (~ 1/2 hour/day, every couple of days)

  • Kids book apps with my two young daughters
  • Flipboard
  • iTunes (for podcasts while stretching or cooking)

As I mentioned, for professional reasons I'm always playing with new apps. When apps like Our Choice or The Wasteland launch, I get them &mda and probably play with them a dozen or so times to get a feel for how they work. The only three I've ever added to my regular rotation are Twitter, the New York Times, and Zite. But I wonder, really, how unique that makes me. Don't most smartphone and tablet owners hear about new apps from friends and others online and then spend a little bit of scattered time trying new ones out?

Probably worth mentioning: the vast majority of my computing time gets spent on the laptop (a MacBook Pro) I'm typing on right now. Second place: my iPhone, which I use mainly for email, Twitter, ebook reading, web surfing, and phone calls. Let me wrap up this iPad audit with a few general observations:

  • I rarely use 3G (I've probably paid for three month's worth of service in the one and a half years I've owned both 3G models‚ the original and the iPad 2).
  • I don't read ebooks on the iPad very often. I find it bulky and too big, and prefer my iPhone (for plain text narrative) and print (for everything else).
  • I only pull it out on the subway (I live in NYC) when I can get a seat. Holding it in two hands requires more balance than my genes are ready to deliver.
  • I don't really like typing on it. It's okay for a few sentences (a quick email reply, for instance); anything longer and I wait till I'm at my laptop.
  • I'm not very conscious of missing out on Flash-enabled websites. I'm aware, of course, that many sites still use Flash, but I guess I just don't visit those sites.
  • I rarely sync my iPad to my laptop (maybe once a month, or maybe even longer). Feels like every time I remember that I'd like to sync (to get some new photos on it or refresh my music) I decide I don't have enough time. With the coming release of Apple's iCloud service, this will all likely improve, but it remains to be seen how completely, and how well executed, Apple's wire-free efforts go.

Now, what does all this mean when it comes to the Kindle Fire? I am of course getting one (and may have some big writing-related news on that front in the coming days … stay tuned!). But if I wasn't Pete the Gadget Geek, and I didn't yet own any tablet, knowing what I know now about how I use the iPad, which one would I get? Here are the big factors I'd consider:

  • $200 seems incredibly appealing. Like many other working professionals (a little bit of disposable income, worried about paying for two kids' educations, second homeless), I worry about spending $500-plus each time Apple releases a new "must-have" device.
  • The only item on my iPad use-case list that feels hard to match is all that new app reviewing I do. The key question: will "long tail" apps show up in Amazon's Appstore for Android? I'd bet, in many cases, yeah.
  • The Fire's smaller screen size seems as much a plus as a minus. Won't know for sure, of course, till I've had a chance to play with it, but at a minimum it will be easier to operate one handed.
  • Given my current subscription to Amazon Prime (which I will likely never give up), I suspect I'll watch more TV and movies on the Fire than I do on the iPad.

So, what's my prediction about the Fire's fate? Way too soon to say, of course. But if I were a betting man, here's where I'd put my money:

  • Nook Color will be the big loser in all this. There's just not enough compelling content there to win a showdown with the Fire (if it performs as well as it did in last Wednesday's demos).
  • iPad's growth will slow from hockey stick-like to something still enviable and profit-worthy. But a year from now, we'll no longer be forced to say what we must right now: there really is no tablet market; there is only an iPad market.
  • Amazon will sell, as Mr. Bezos predicts, "many millions" of these Fires.

Webcast: Digital Bookmaking Tools Roundup #2 — Back by popular demand, in a second look at Digital Bookmaking Tools, author and book futurist Pete Meyers explores the existing options for creating digital books.

Join us on Thursday, November 10, 2011, at 10 am PT
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