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August 07 2012

Where are the apps for ereaders?

I read on my GlowLight NOOK much more frequently than I read on my Asus Transformer tablet. I’d say there’s at least a 10:1 differential, so for every hour I read on my tablet I read at least 10 hours on my Glowlight Nook. I’ll bet I’m not alone and people who own both an E Ink device and a tablet probably do much more reading on the former. So why is the apps ecosystem limited to tablets? Why are there no add-on apps for E Ink devices in general?

In a recent TOC newsletter we asked readers “What do you wish your ereader could do?” We received quite a few replies, but one of the more interesting ones came from a person who said they’d like to have apps like Flipboard, Zite and Pulse on their E Ink device. I found that interesting because those are the apps (along with News360) I use almost every day on my tablet. If there were Nook E Ink versions, that 10:1 ratio noted earlier would probably become 50:1 as there would be less reason for me to switch to my tablet for reading.

So why aren’t there apps like this on E Ink devices? One reason is tied to E Ink’s capabilities. Apps like Flipboard, Zite, et al, offer nice graphics and even a bit of animation. E Ink is limited to grayscale and no animation, of course. So why not create those apps without the animation and just show the images in black and white? That leads to reason No. 2: Amazon, B&N and the other E Ink device vendors aren’t encouraging third-party app development. That’s probably because they want those devices to have the highest walled gardens of all, which is a shame and a loss for consumers.

Is it too late for these vendors to reconsider and encourage third-party app development? Maybe. After all, the momentum has already swung toward tablets and away from E Ink readers. Nevertheless, as long as tablets weigh more than E Ink readers, their displays aren’t as easy on the eyes and they don’t offer significantly longer battery life, I’ll remain a two-device reading consumer. I suspect I’m not alone, so I hope an E Ink app ecosystem takes root at some point.

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog (“Why Are Apps Only on Tablets?“). This version has been lightly edited.


May 04 2012

B&N and Microsoft: The potential beyond digital

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog ("B&N and Microsoft: Why It's Not About Ebooks"). This version has been lightly edited.

NookMicrosoft's $300 million investment in Barnes & Noble's digital business is about more than ebooks. Much more. Or at least I hope so. Success in this venture will not be measured by sales of ebooks. Microsoft should instead use this as an opportunity to create an end-to-end consumer experience that rivals Apple's and has the advertising income potential to make Google jealous. But how will that happen by investing in the distant No. 2 player in the ereader space?

Microsoft has spent billions over the years as it repositions itself from the maker of Windows and Office into a much broader brand. They've done a good job, as Microsoft is one of the most recognized brands on the planet. But is it really considered a consumer brand like Coke or (wait for it) Apple? Even though they've built an amazing customer base with Xbox and the innovative Kinect accessory, I'd say the answer to that question is "no."

Barnes & Noble isn't exactly up there with Coke or Apple, but the B&N brand conjures up other images Microsoft could benefit from: trusted in-person retailer, growing digital content retailer and even a place where you can get answers to your questions about Nooks and books. The initial investment with B&N is about the dot-com world, but who says the larger relationship has to be online only?

Think about the Nook areas in today's B&N superstore and consider what they could become with a broader Microsoft alliance. I'll bet you didn't know that there are almost 20 Microsoft Store locations in the U.S. That sounds a lot like Apple's strategy, right? It remains to be seen whether Microsoft can create the same sort of buzz or return on investment in their stores that Apple has managed to achieve, but why go to the trouble and expense of creating a larger standalone presence when a store-within-a-store might be even more effective? What if B&N stores added mini Microsoft Stores in each of their locations? The foot traffic is already there, and what a great place to showcase and sell that new Windows 8-based Nook they'll undoubtedly create.

This isn't just about selling Windows-based Nooks in brick-and-mortar stores, though. This new alliance needs to sell devices, ebooks, music, video, apps and more. The Nook platform is almost exclusively about ebooks. Compare that to Apple's platform, where ebooks are probably a rounding error for iTunes. B&N desperately needs to diversify their business beyond ebooks and Microsoft has the cash to help make it happen.

Let's also not forget about how the Xbox could fit into all of this. Xbox is one of the brightest stars in the Microsoft product portfolio, and Microsoft needs to get some mojo in the mobile/tablet space. Given the ongoing decline of print book sales, it might make a lot of sense for B&N to reduce its superstore title count inventory and make even more room for that Microsoft section I described above.

The brick-and-mortar presence is something Amazon doesn't have, at least not yet. This is a great opportunity for B&N to use that to its advantage, assuming the deal goes further than the digital investment.

All of this might never happen, of course. As a publisher and a consumer, I'm still intrigued by the possibilities, even if it only means B&N is now funded to be a more serious ebook retailing competitor for Amazon.

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January 27 2012

ValoBox wants to reward content creators and consumers

Earlier this year, I chatted with Anna Lewis (@anna_cn) and Oliver Brooks (@cn_oli) about their new startup, ValoBox — a platform that allows readers to consume books by the page, chunk, or as a whole. The duo has been hard at work through the summer and fall, and ValoBox has launched. I got in touch with Brooks to see how the platform and development have progressed. Our interview follows.

How has ValoBox evolved since our interview in May?

OliverBrooks.pngOliver Brooks: The product has stayed laser focused on keeping things light and simple. It has gone through a lot of tweaks to the user interface and system, to boil it down as much as possible.

ValoBox is really comprised of two applications, the publishing system and the ValoBox reader.

The changes to the publishing system have focused on ease of integration use and quality of output. The system can now create a ValoBox book automatically from an ONIX and EPUB file feed. A lot of effort has gone into making sure the content is presented perfectly, even when split into small, purchasable sections. We've also built a system similar to Google Analytics for books, which provides the publisher with information for each book, such as where on the web is best for selling books (Twitter feeds, blogs, etc.) and details about how each book is used.

In our earlier interview you discussed a "premium layer for the web." Is that still guiding your efforts?

Oliver Brooks: Absolutely. We believe books are just the start of our game — we see ValoBox as suitable for premium articles, audio, video, and even web pages. We think premium content should integrate with the web rather than be a separate ecosystem.

The existing book reader interface will be one of many portals into premium content. We have designs for interfaces that don't intrude on the design of a website at all. When you want to buy something, you will see ValoBox branding and have an easy way to purchase the content. As almost everyone is always signed into a system of some kind — be it Twitter, Facebook or Google — our vision is that you can always access premium content with just a click.

How does ValoBox work?

Oliver Brooks: It's an HTML5 application that runs inside any modern web browser. This means you can access it from any website, on any device wherever you are. Content is stored in the cloud and streamed securely from our servers on demand. A future enhancement will mean you won't even have to be online to read books you have read before; they'll automatically be stored on your device for later.

TOC NY 2012 — O'Reilly's TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012, in New York, 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

How does ValoBox help readers?

Oliver Brooks: The core benefit is accessibility to premium content. ValoBox lets you access an entire catalog, and you can choose which pages you want and buy them for cents at a time.

So, you might see a book reviewed on your favorite blog or hear about an interesting topic from a Twitter feed. A couple of clicks and cents later, you can be reading what they are talking about. We think it's ridiculous that books are locked behind lengthy and expensive checkout and download processes, and then require special applications to read when videos and audio are available with a click.

Another huge bonus is our social retail system. If you like what you read and think you know someone else who would like it, you can share it with an embed or a link. Anything that is bought from your share will earn you a 25% cut.

How does it help authors and publishers?

Oliver Brooks: Authors will have an awesome tool for promoting their books. Books can be integrated with their websites and social media promotions, providing the tip of the pyramid leading to many other shares and embeds. All the activity is tracked in real time to give an unparalleled level of knowledge about where books perform best. Don't forget that if an author sells the books, they will not only get their royalty but also the 25% ValoBox social retail cut.

As for publishers, they get a great way to empower their readership to create new and sustainable sales channels. Imagine thousands of innovative readers finding the right places for books inside their personal and professional networks. No traditional retailer could dream of going into places such as a university e-learning environment or a team management wiki, or of garnering sales from inside a full-scale social network. Just like authors, publishers have real-time, detailed analytics of how each book is being bought. They also have a view of how all of their books are read across the entire web.

I like to think of ValoBox as a way to realize the value of creating a symbiotic relationship between the content creation and consumption communities, rewarding each one for their efforts appropriately.

This interview was edited and condensed.


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


May 20 2011

Kindle 2012: Wish-list features for the next model

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog ("What Will the Kindle Platform Look Like in 2012?"). It's republished with permission.

KindleAmazon is well positioned to advance the Kindle platform much faster and further than they have in any 6-12 month period up to now. Here's where I hope they end up between now and the middle of next year:

An insanely inexpensive entry-level device. Picture the current Kindle, but for $99 or less. How about $49? Better yet, how about free with a customer commitment to buy a minimum of X books in each of the next two years? Sounds a lot like a cell phone plan, doesn't it?

Of course, if you're instead looking for something a bit more powerful and extendable, how about...

An Android tablet device with an LCD screen. This one is the worst kept secrets since the iPhone 4. Amazon didn't launch that Appstore for Android because they want to push more cell phone sales. The only questions here are (1) when?, (2) how much?, and (3) how open? If they're smart the answers will be (1) any day, (2) $300 max, and (3) wide open.

But if you can't stand the thought of reading long-form content on an LCD screen, then how about...

That same Android tablet with a hybrid E Ink/LCD screen. That's right. A single device offering both the bright-light comfort of E Ink with the backlit option of LCD. Unfortunately for Amazon, it seems Apple is the one who's taking the lead on this front. Just search for the phrase "hybrid E Ink LCD display" and you get nothing but Apple news. That's a bummer since the first company to offer this solution could own the high end (and my loyalty). A fully open Android tablet with hybrid E Ink/LCD could easily command a $500 price or higher.

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That's all great for the hardware side, but what about the rest of the platform? Will Amazon really stick with the proprietary AZW file format that's based on mobi, even as the rest of the world embraces EPUB? For backwards compatibility reasons they probably have to stick with mobi. What a shame though. EPUB is where the action is and EPUB3 adds a great deal of functionality to enable much richer content than the Kindle supports.

Expanding into a tablet with LCD display means the Kindle will no longer be hamstrung by the limits of E Ink. What a terrific opportunity Amazon has to offer (and encourage the development of) richer content than just words on the screen. But will they? I've been critical of the glacial pace at which Amazon implements Kindle enhancements, but I hope they take advantage of this opportunity early on.

Regarding formats and flexibility, I'd love to see Amazon support mobi and EPUB. Better yet, if they have the confidence to provide an open device, how about letting it run any reader app from the competition? Let me put the Nook app on my Kindle device and may the best content provider win. Now that would be a bold move! After all, if I could own an Amazon device that lets me buy content from any store, why woud I ever consider buying a device from anyone else?


October 21 2010

Device Update: New companies enter the ereader market

Two ereader trends are emerging:

First, the rate of new devices in the ereader market space is slowing down. The IFA Berlin electronics show and the Frankfurt Book Fair were high-water marks. Since then, the overall rate of new product announcements has dropped.

This is probably explained by the second trend: Pundits and analysts are already making their recommendations for the holiday shopping period. What most manufacturers are realizing is that the window of opportunity for gaining any significant share of holiday-related purchases is rapidly closing.

The combination of these trends means that until the new year begins, there will probably be fewer product announcements than we've seen in past months.

That said, there have been a few devices announced recently that merit consideration. What's most surprising about this set of new ereaders is that they're from companies that aren't strongly associated with personal electronic devices.

E FUN's Android tablets

NEXT2-Front_l.jpgE FUN, a consumer electronics designer and marketer, is set to introduce Android-based tablets this fall. The Nextbook line will feature a 7-inch color ereader dubbed the Next1, and a 7-inch color touchscreen TFT tablet, dubbed the Next2. Both will feature 2GB of internal storage, as well as an SD/MMC expansion card slot. The Nextbooks will also include a variety of Android-based applications such as an MP3/photo viewer, a video player, and the Kobo eReader, which will have access to the Borders eBook store. Since the tablets run Android, they will also include the Adobe Flash application. For connectivity, the Next1 will offer only a USB port, while the Next 2 will offer USB and 802.11g Wi-Fi. Each of the Nextbooks will come preloaded with 25 ebooks.

Preliminary information indicates that the Next1 will have a suggested retail price of $149.99 and the Next2 will be available for $199.99. Initially, the devices will be available from the Home Shopping Network.

bModo's Windows7-based touchpad Tablet PC

bmodo12_windows7.jpgThe bModo12 is an all-in-one tablet that aims to combine tablets and netbooks. The tablet will feature a 11.6-inch LED HD capacitive touchscreen with a 1366x768 resolution. It will be powered by Intel's 1.66 Ghz Atom processor and feature an HD video accelerator. In addition, the bModo12 will include 1GB of internal RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and a SIM card slot for 3G connectivity.

Additional hardware capabilities include: Bluetooth 2.1 and 802.11 b/g/n connectivity, a 1.3 megapixel camera, 2 USB Ports, an SDHC card slot, and a Mini HDMI port. The Microsoft Windows 7 Premium options will include an ereader, Internet Explorer, and support for standard PC applications.

bModo has also included a launcher application called Bossa Nova2 that will allow users to switch between a Windows 7 desktop and a Bossa Nova graphical user interface, which is designed to optimize the touch capabilities of the device.

BenQ Launches nReader K61 with 3G and WIFI

Following on the footsteps of their initial introduction into the ereader market, the K60, BenQ announced the availability of their newest model, the K61. This new model comes with several upgrades, including integrated WI-FI, 3G, and a touchscreen. Additional hardware specifications include 2GB of internal memory, USB support, and an SD-card slot capable of adding 16GB of additional storage. Now available in Taiwan for slightly more than $300, the K61 features a 6-inch touchpanel with support for drawing and taking notes.

Other news (and a tipping point for copyright infringement)

The biggest news last week was the unveiling of Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7. Windows Phone 7 is mostly a response to the iPhone, rather than the iPad or other tablets. While it's safe to assume the new Windows Phone 7 mobile platform will soon see ereader applications from Amazon and Kobo, PC Magazine says there's currently a shortage of applications available for the new mobile platform.

Perhaps the most striking news this past week was an article by Adrian Hon about his experiences with ebook copyright infringement. Hon relates his experience purchasing the hardback copy of Iain Banks' latest novel "Surface Detail." Out of curiosity, he checked to see if he could find a copy of the book online to load on his iPad. As he rationalizes, he already bought a copy of the book, and he'd rather not tote around the 627-page tome. Not only did he find a high-quality EPUB copy of the novel, but he also found copies of other bestsellers.

Why is Hon's article important? I've been tracking this topic for a while and until now, the only books that were being shared online were in PDF format. I think it's a tipping point because current best-selling hardcover books are now available simultaneously on file sharing sites. This provides clear evidence that people are sharing purchased EPUB files.

In my opinion, ebook copyright infringement hasn't really been a real threat to publishers. It's been more like the pink elephant in the room that senior executives discuss. Hon's article should be enough proof to make publishing executives recognize that the threat from ebook file sharing is now real and it will affect ebook sales.


September 01 2010

TOC's Wednesday Devices, and Gadgets and EReaders Update #2

With the IFA Consumer Electronics Unlimited techno-smorgasbord set to open this Friday, there's a lot of buzz going around about upcoming announcements and unveilings. Much of the pre-show buzz is centered around Android-based competition for the Apple iPad.

The IFA traditionally offers an early indication of what gadgets will sell well through Christmas. It's no wonder so much attention is focused on the show with order volume stemming from last year's show reaching nearly $3.8 billion.

Toshiba's SmartPad

toshiba_tablet_1-540x397.jpgImages of the new Toshiba SmartPad were recently leaked, but with little concrete information about the device. Some news sources are claiming that the new Android 2.2-powered device will actually be called the Toshiba Folio 100. There may also be a Windows 7 version of the SmartPad as well. Little is available from Toshiba itself other than the device is set to ship in October. This is one of the devices that is expected to be unveiled at IFA.

ViewSonic ViewPad 7

veiwsonic-viewpad7.jpgWith a screen that measures 7-inches across, the ViewPad is jokingly being referred to as the world's largest phone. Featuring both a touchscreen tablet, the ViewPad also provides a slot for a full-sized SIM card that will offer both voice and 3G data. In addition, the ViewPad will feature a 3 megapixel front and back facing camera. The device will run Android 2.2 "Froyo." ViewSonic has not unveiled pricing or availability, those details will probably be announced at IFA, however, industry analyst reports indicate that the device will be around $550 and launch sometime in October.

Archos Android Internet Tablets

archos.jpgThis week brought the announcement from Archos that they were launching five new Android tablets, including the first MP3/MP4 available under $100 and the largest screen on the Android market. Positioned directly against the Apple iPad, the line of Archos Internet tablets offer a combination of super-fast web-browsing, games, ebooks, social networking and other applications alongside HD video and music. Prices range from $99.99 for the 4GB ARCHOS 28 to $349.99 for the 16GB ARCHOS 101 tablet. Availability for the new models start in September for the ARCHOS 28 and 32, and later this fall for the remaining models.

Of these new devices, the ARCHOS 101 is the flagship of the new line. Weighing only 15.87 ounces, the 0.47" thick device offers a 10.1” capacitive multi-touch screen. Featuring a 1 Ghz processor and built-in WIFI-n technology, the ARCHOS 101 offers a PC-like web browsing experience. It even features support for the Adobe Flash 10.1 player. Additional features that make this device appealing include a built-in webcam and the ability to tether the device via Bluetooth or USB for mobile Internet connectivity.

Sharper Image Literati

literati.pngOnce a common occupant in malls throughout the US and even further recognized a gadget lovers most favored monthly catalog, Sharper Image has fallen on tough times filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February of 2008. While the only thing that remains of the company is their website, that hasn't prevented them from joining the ereader fray.

Resembling the Amazon Kindle, the Kobo-powered color ereader will launch at a very competitive $160. Featuring a QWERTY keyboard below a 7" screen, the e-reader lacks a web browser and application functionality, clearly putting it in the stand alone ereader category. Expected to arrive in October, the Literati will be available from a number of retailers, including Best Buy, Bed, Bath & Beyond, JC Penney, Kohl's and Macy's.

Acer LumiRead

acer_lumiread_inline.jpgTrying to build upon their netbook success, Acer recently announced its LumiRead ereader device. Based on a 6-inch E Ink display, the LumiRead will feature a Kindle-style QWERTY keyboard below the screen. When combined with either the 3G or WIFI models, the LumiRead's DLNA compliance makes the ereader capable of streaming music from Acer's and 3rd party streaming services. Additional features include an ISBN scanner that lets the device scan book codes to purchase online or build a wish list. Finally, the LumiRead includes a built-in web browser with a “Smart Download” feature. This allows the LumiRead to save local versions of web pages for reading later when the device is disconnected from the Internet.

The LumiRead will come with access to the Barnes & Nobles eBooks store as well as, Germany's leading Internet book retailer. While no prices have been announced, rumors suggest the LumiRead will start shipping in October for around $316.

SigmaTek eReaders

sigmatek-7-inch.jpgThe last ereader in our roundup is the pair of devices from Sigmatek Computer. Coming in a 5-inch and a 7-inch eReader, both feature a TFT display capable of a 800x480 resolution. however, these new devices are not just dedicated ereaders, they also offer “multimedia” features that include support for AVI, XviD, and MKV video, with MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC, WAV, and OGG music.

From the start, these eReaders may be playing catch-up because the devices are not equipped with connectivity to any application or ebook store. However, some may see this as an advantage because it means the eReaders will be open for you to grab EPUB, PDF and TXT files from anywhere you choose. In stores in October, the 5-inch model will cost approximately $127 and the 7-inch approximately $153.

New Announcements From The World Of EReaders

While all eyes will be pointed towards Germany this weekend, there's still some exciting news happening within the ereader market. First off, Amazon announced that they would extend their distribution of the Kindle to office supplies retail chain Staples. Following on from a similar deal with retailer Target, Staples has agreed to start selling Amazon's Kindle in its stores from this autumn. While expanding the number of channels for selling Kindle devices is key, according to Chris Brogan, Amazon's willingness to port their Kindle application to other ereader platforms may become their most important channel.

According to an SEC filing by electronics manufacturer LG, they could be mass producing 9.7-inch color and 9-inch flexible e-paper displays by the end of the year. According to an analyst at Forrester, the availability of flexible screens could greatly improve the durability of existing readers from Sony, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. While flexible ereaders from Skiff and Plastic Logic have failed in the past due to heavy pricing competition, a mass-produced display from LG could level the pricing playing field and bring about new ereader innovations.

Finally, as part of a unique, year-long Notre Dame study of eReaders, the university debuted their first class taught entirely using the Apple iPad. The iPad will completely replace the textbook previously used in assistant professor Corey Angst's Project Management course. In addition to each of the students using an iPad, the class will also use an online Wiki discussion group where students can share their ideas. Members of the study are evaluating the iPad with the broader goal of designing an “ePublishing ecosystem.” The study hopes to determine whether this ecosystem can serve faculty, students and staff by making the creation, distribution, sharing, reading and annotation of eMaterials simple and inexpensive.

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