Netly: The Third Screen

Archive for the ‘E-reader’ Category

The Nook is sold out, Barnes & Noble just announced.   All orders from here on out won’t arrive until January 4th.   Jeff Bezos is laughing, you know the laugh.  There will be a Kindle under every Christmas tree and Chanukah bush!  Another reason Sony should’ve had their new e-reader ready for the holidays.

A new report by Flurry out today says that Apple’s iPhone is quickly becoming the ebook reader of choice for many, and could steal market share from Amazon’s Kindle.  Flurry claims that in October, one out of every five new apps that launched on the iPhone was a book.

But while Flurry’s chart (above) measures the number of new eBook apps there are, it doesn’t tell you if anyone’s actually reading them.  It’s a little like the “Russian bride 4u” emails – they somehow make it to your in-box, but who opens these?

Another point made by John Herrman at Gizmodo – he searched the app store for the book Treasure Island – turns out it’s available for purchase as a standalone app from over a dozen different developers.  Because it’s a free, public domain book, it’s a cinch for developers to drop the text in an app.  Does the fact that creating an eBook app is a relatively simple process have anything to do with the hostile takeover?

If anyone reading this blog (or any other blog) is devouring Treasure Island on their iPhone, I think I would like to know.

Barnes & Noble’s new Nook eReader will come with LendMe technology, which will allow you to lend your e-books to friends and family.   A big win for consumers.   The blogosphere is completely in love with LendMe, identifying this as the Nook’s #1 advantage over the Kindle.

But according to Publishers Lunch, execs at most of the biggest trade houses have not yet agreed to participate in LendMe.  They’re thinking how do we do this without killing revenues and ourselves? One Nook reviewer outlines a few different lending scenarios book publishers might consider.   Everyone’s favorite Nook talking point isn’t set in stone.

The most underreported advantage of the Nook over the Kindle: The 40,000 B&N booksellers who will serve as in-store cheerleaders and educators for the device.  (a poor man’s Apple Genius if you will).  Customers will be able to take the Nook for a test drive at B&Ns around the country.

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imagesI moderated a panel today at the MPA Innovation Summit, and, as is always the case, Mary Lou Jepsen blew me away.

Mary Lou is the founder and CEO of Pixel Qi, whose amazing display technology is about to make its debut on a variety of new devices. First up is a tablet that Mary Lou said would be announced by an as-yet undisclosed OEM, perhaps in November.

She was toting around the latest build of the Pixel Qi screen, which had been grafted onto a garden-variety netbook, and it was exponentially better than what she showed me at the start of the summer. This baby is finally ready for prime time.
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My former colleague Erick Schonfeld tweeted that question the other day.

I replied, “Links are for browsing the Web, not for lean-back reading experiences like books and mags.” Actually, I tweeted back something with more typos than that, but whatever, Erick replied:

“Right, I got that. So you would strip out all links from digital magazines, even if they are being read on a Web tablet?”

As usual, Erick got right to the heart of the problem, namely: How closed off from the Web will digital magazines on tablets be? This is a huge question because if the answer is, e-mags won’t be cut off from the Web at all, it leaves the barn door open, doesn’t it? Because if e-mags on tablets are just like Web sites, and there are links pointing you away from the product, we’re right back to the wide-open Web again. And we know that people don’t expect to pay for stuff on the Web.

But if you cut off the digital magazine from the Web, isn’t that a bit, well, Draconian? Don’t readers expect to be able to, at the very least, augment their understanding by using Wikipedia or (fill in your favorite reference site here)? And likewise, shouldn’t a digital magazine have a variety of Web services built in—news feeds from the mag’s website, say, or Twitter feeds?

There are no good answers to these questions yet, in part because there are no good examples yet of either digital magazines, or the tablets that will support them. I think many approaches will be tried once the good devices start to arrive.

I suspect though that the first digital magazines will use a less-is-more approach. This works for e-books, which don’t have links in the text, of course. Similarly, magazines are meant to be read—or at least “paged” through—cover to cover. Why would we put links or other devices that would pull the reader away from the product? I think the first-gen e-mags will assume that readers are subscribing so that they can immerse themselves in the magazine itself. The experience is similar to how many apps on the iPhone work—if you want to look something up on Wikipedia, you must leave the app. Yes, there are some apps that allow a kind of in-app browsing, but that tends to be a fairly gnarly experience and generally serves to keep users within the app.

So in summary: Magazines don’t need links. They should be like wonderful applications, surprising and delightful and fluid to use. If you want to browse the Web, close the app.

I assume Erick is interested in this because TechCrunch is working on its own tablet, which is really just a net-tablet. Not that there’s anything wrong with that and in the end, he/TechCrunch might be right—i.e. “It’s the Web, stupid.” But I hope not.

Peter Kafka had a good piece today, as did Nat Ives at Ad Age yesterday, on industry efforts to create an open consortium among magazine and other print publishers. The idea, according to Kafka and Ives, is to create a unified storefront for content, which would help publishers maintain control of their businesses as we enter the era of the third screen.

Kafka raised a number of questions, which I’d like to bloviate about, since they strike at the heart of the future of the magazine business.

# They’ll have to convince consumers that already have billing relationships with Amazon, Apple and other vendors to sign up with yet another service.

The tension here is on the device side. If the device is cool—as in iPhone cool—we know that people will be only too happy to augment the functionality of the device with great content. And they will pay for it. They’re paying for the new CNN app. They’re paying for the People Magazine Celebrity Tracker. They’re paying for the McSweeney’s app. They’re paying for books and comic books and all kinds of things.

Getting people to pay isn’t hard if the content is worth buying. Magazine companies already have billing relationships with their customers. It should be pretty easy to extend that to new devices. And it’s not as if consumers are reluctant to set up one-button authorization accounts these days.
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500x_apple-tablet-natgeoA lot of people have been emailing me to ask about the story on Gizmodo this morning, which I feel obliged to shoot down.

Gizmodo is my favorite gadget blog and its editor, Brian Lam, is one of the best reporter/editors in Techland. But in regards to his story today, according to my sources, his sources are flat-out wrong. Apple has not been meeting with publishers to prepare them for, well, whatever it is they’re doing next.

Have people at Apple been talking to people from the NY Times? I’d be surprised if they haven’t. They always talk. Apple has excellent relationships with plenty of big media companies. But I’m told Brian incorrectly characterized the conversations that the NYT and other unnamed media have had with Apple.

In fact, I think Apple has not yet discussed the much-rumored iTablet, or whatever it is, with anyone yet—at least, not in a way that would cause a media company to act. Hell, just yesterday, in what looks like the most credible unsourced (meaning no one is speaking on the record) story yet, iLounge said Jobs hadn’t even signed off on the next device.

Of course, if indeed Apple launches something in late January, I’d be just as shocked if it didn’t have some cool app on it from the NYT or other Big Media Co. But those preparations haven’t been discussed yet.

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Brad Stone gets the goods on the upcoming iRex e-reader, the cleverly named DR800SG. The Philips spin-off announced today that the $399 reader would go on sale at Best Buy nationwide next month. You’ll be able to buy e-books at Barnes & Noble via Verizon’s high-speed cellular network for the thing, which has an 8.1-inch screen.

I first saw the iRex, a stylus-based e-reader that relies on E-Ink, three months ago and think that it may well offer the best value proposition in its class. (The company has promised to send me one to review.) From what I saw, the interface was clear and responsive, the screen size was just right—smaller than Amazon’s clunky DX but bigger than its standard bearer—and it handles virtually any open format, including ePub. I thought it did a better job than Sony’s fleet of e-readers and is positioned more competitively: Sony’s upcoming wireless reader is an inch smaller at the same price.

Of course, no one (except perhaps graphic artists) like a stylus. And I think buying a b/w E-Ink device is a mistake at this point, what with Apple’s Tablet Rasa pending and a flurry of color-based Readers headed this way from the likes of Pixel Qi and so on. But if you’re desperate for a book-reading device, this may well be the best to date.

Still, iRex has got it going on and I like their approach. The most intriguing bit of hardware under the hood is Qualcomm’s Gobi chip set, a radio that allows it to work seamlessly overseas. While the international reach isn’t surprising—this model is actually based on a popular iRex SKU in Europe—the relationship with Qualcomm is very significant. Qualcomm has major designs on the burgeoning third-screen market and is looking for partners who will not only use Gobi, but its Snapdragon processors and FLO distribution channels as well. Likewise, the company is rapidly working on its own color technology, which CEO Kevin Hamilton told me could be ready by next year. This is definitely a company to watch.

imagesApple’s rumored tablet has become all things to all people. I mean, honestly, what can’t this marvelous, as-yet unseen and unannounced device do?

Depending on who’s speculating, it will save the music business, fix the newspaper business, and, in today’s imaging of Cupertino’s tabula rasa, at O’Reilly Radar, reboot the book business.

It’s a fascinating time in the history of media. The situation has become so desperate that virtually every media company is looking to Steve Jobs to leads it to the promised land. No matter how great this mythic device is, it’s bound to be a let down. That said, I think it will totally bail out the magazine business.

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Very cool rundown—with annotated PDF!—of e-book readers and related apps.

At Techflash.



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  • Josh Quittner: Yeah good points. On Nov 1, 2012, at 8:13 PM, "Netly: The Third Screen"
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