Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Amazon cuts Kindle price to $189

Kindle Today Amazon.com cut the price of their Kindle eReader from $259 to $189. The last price cut for the device was in October of last year. Barnes & Noble prompted Amazon's price cut with one of their own as they lowered the price on their popular nook eReader while also introducing a wi-fi only model.

I think most people have been expecting this move since late last year when Barnes & Noble released their competing eReader, the nook, and especially now that Apple's iPad has proven itself a viable contender (and more depending on who you ask) in the eReader space.

I received my Kindle as a Christmas gift last year. My first impressions were favorable. As far as dedicated devices go, it's top-notch. I wouldn't want to have waited for this price drop, either. I've read about an eBook per week since turning the device on, so I think I've gotten some good use out of it. Of course, for someone new to the device, a lower price justifies the purchase that much more.

Back in April of 2009, iSuppli opened up a Kindle 2, identified the parts, and, based on their findings, figured out what the device really costs. Their finding: $185.49. I'm going to guess that component and manufacturing costs have since come down because otherwise that leaves Amazon with a paltry profit of $3.51.

The last point I want to make about this latest price reduction is to ask the question once more: Is now the time to buy a Kindle? No doubt, it makes the idea more compelling. But times have changed. There are viable competitors out there, including a just announced version of the nook with wi-fi only for $149. Apple's iPad is still hovering at $499, though the iPad is much more than just an eReader.

In any case, competition is always good from a consumer perspective; it drives prices down and hastens new development. For me, I still just need an eReader device, but it's nice to know prices are coming down while functionality continues to climb to new heights.

Kindle

[ Follow me on Twitter ]

iPad: The Day After

The iPad's iBookshelf The wait is over. Apple debuted their all-new entry into the tablet market and it is called the iPad.

I wanted to post this as a follow-up to my post of a couple of days ago where I wondered if the iPad was really the "Kindle-killer" everyone was thinking it might be. Even now, I don't think the question has been answered as there are people continuing to argue both sides with others who believe the two can happily co-exist. We may not know for sure until the iPad is actually released for sale in a couple of months.

Personally, I think there's room for both. The only crossover in functionality is both devices' ability to act as an eReader. The iPad has the advantage of a backlit color screen, but only 10 hours of battery life. The Kindle has the advantage of eInk, which while black and white is so crisp it's like you're reading a page from a paper book. Also, there's no eyestrain with eInk and the Kindle can literally last for weeks without a charge (with the 3G wireless turned off). People looking to read eBooks will likely go with the more specialized eReader device. People looking for more, the iPad. Regardless, we'll likely see more and better features emerge for both devices, something that is a win-win for consumers.

Of particular note is Apple's iBookstore announcement, which is essentially an app that allows you to purchase/read eBooks. In addition, iTunes will begin selling eBooks. What hasn't been mentioned is if Apple will open iTunes to self-published authors similar to how Amazon has done so with the Kindle store. This model would be similar to developers selling apps for the iPhone through iTunes. It's not that far of a step to include eBooks in on this. For right now, though, eBooks will only come from the major publishing houses. Whether the iPad is the publishing industry's savior remains to be seen.

I'll leave you to formulate your own opinion with some related stories I found interesting:

eReaders for Your Computer

image Not everyone has a handheld device a la an iPhone or Blackberry. Nor does everyone have an eReader (Kindle, nook, etc.). As of this moment, I don't own either. As of December 25, 2009, I own a Kindle 2. Fortunately for those who aren't willing to pay for one of those options there remain other ways to read eBooks: on your PC or Mac.

Now a desktop or laptop is not the best way to read eBooks. LCD technology by its very nature causes eye fatigue of varying degrees, and few people enjoy curling up in bed with their laptop or tablet. Sitting at my desk, with my laptop open, I rarely do more than read short stories or quickly scan through something longer to see if it's something I might want to print.

That being said, I still wanted to scope out the available eReader applications available for your PC or Mac. I'll take a look at each of the eBookstores from my previous post and list the eReader app each requires you to install in order to read eBooks from their store.

That last statement perhaps is worth commenting on: many eBookstores have their own application you will need to install in order to read content from their site. If you're tech savvy enough you may be able to get away with downloading in say, the EPUB format, then import that file into some other eReader application or convert it from one format to another to satisfy the app in question, but my suspicion is that you'll be fighting DRM all the way.

Other eBookstores are satisfied with offering their eBooks in a variety of formats, then pointing you in the direction of someone else's eReader application. For example, DRM-protected PDF files often require Adobe Digital Editions.

As you can imagine by glancing at the list below, if you shop at all of these eStores you're going to have to install a lot of readers:

image

My documents folder has a corresponding number of eBook folders, which has certainly cluttered things up a bit.

So, here are the eBookstores with their respective eReader apps listed alongside.

1. Amazon.com Kindle Store
eBook formats: AZW (aka, Kindle format)
eReader App: Kindle for PC

2. Barnes & Noble
eBook formats: PDB, EPUB
eReader App: Barnes & Noble eReader

3. Books On Board
eBook formats: ADE, PDB, EPUB, MOBI, LIT
eReader Apps: Microsoft Reader, Adobe Digital Editions

4. Diesel eBook Store
eBook formats: PDB, PDF, MOBI
eReader Apps: Adobe Digital Editions

5. eBooks.com
eBook formats: MOBI, LIT, PDF, EPUB
eReader Apps: Microsoft Reader, Adobe Digital Editions

6. fictionwise
eBook formats: PDB, LIT, PDF, MOBI, LRF
eReader Apps: Microsoft Reader, Adobe Digital Editions

7. kobo books
eBook formats: EPUB, PDF
eReader Apps: Adobe Digital Editions

8. Mobipocket eBooks
eBook formats: MOBI
eReader Apps: Mobipocket Reader

9. Palm eBook Store
eBook formats: PDB
eReader App: eReader Pro

10. Scribd
eBook formats: DOC/DOCX, PDF, ODF, TXT, RTF, others?
eReader Apps: Microsoft Reader, Adobe Digital Editions

11. Smashwords
eBook formats: HTML, MOBI, EPUB, PDF, RTF, LRF, PDB, TXT
eReader Apps: Microsoft Reader, Adobe Digital Editions

12. Sony Reader Store
eBook formats: EPUB
eReader App: Reader Library

13. Google eBookstore (added 2010-12-13)
eBook formats: EPUB, PDF
eReader App: for non-DRM, you have many options. For DRM-protected content, Adobe Digital Editions.

[ Follow me on Twitter ]

Kindle for PC

One of the features lacking in Amazon's Kindle plans for e-book domination has been the fact that in order to read e-books purchased from their store you need to have a Kindle.

No longer.

Amazon has just released the new Kindle for PC software, currently in beta with Mac version coming soon, which is a free download and allows you to view Kindle e-books on your home computer or laptop.

image

If you're leery of beta software best wait for the release version, though I installed and did the basics without any issue.

Kindle for PC is a quick install. In moments, I was presented with the application's opening screen:

image

The "Register now to get started" dialog wants your Amazon account information, but it is not necessary to fill this in as there is a "continue without registering" option. I went ahead and filled in my Amazon account information and clicked "Register".

Here's the application resized for better viewing:

image

The interface is simple almost to the point of being plain. But then it has a fairly narrow, specific purpose: to view Kindle-formatted e-books. Since I registered the software with my Amazon account, Kindle for PC went through a quick sync cycle to see what Kindle e-books I had already purchased. Of course, I don't own a Kindle and therefore have not purchased any e-books from the Kindle store, so nothing showed up.

Fortunately, Amazon makes it easy to add Kindle e-books to my collection by placing a button at the top of the app that says, "Shop in Kindle Store":

image

That, of course, brings you to the Kindle storefront where, with a quick search, I can find my e-book, The Hall of the Wood.

If you're curious about how the buying process works, click on the "How buying works" link beneath the "Buy" button at the right. This will bring up the following dialog with the new Kindle for PC option listed alongside the more traditional ones:

image

You'll also see the Kindle for PC device already selected if you registered when the app came up:

image

For demonstration purposes, and because I've never actually seen my e-book other than in DTP preview mode, I went ahead and purchased my own e-book. Chalk up another sale for me. Once I went through the payment method, etc., I get this:

image

After clicking "Go to Kindle for PC", I'm brought back to the Kindle for PC app:

image

A quick double-click on my e-book and it brings it up in all its glory:

image

 

Now that's cool.

I can't say I'm real keen on reading e-books on my PC (or Mac if I had one). In other words, I still want an e-reader. But Amazon is addressing a void in the Kindle's feature set. One less thing for someone on the fence about purchasing one e-reader over another to concern themselves with. Plus, who knows, for people who want to buy e-books from Amazon but don't have an iPhone or Kindle, now they can.

[ Advertisement: SF/F Shorts by Amazon ]

[ Follow me on Twitter ]

The nook: More competition for Amazon's Kindle

10533_188131055019_9122810019_4293351_2828455_n Barnes & Noble has released for pre-order their Kindle-killer: the nook (lowercase 'n' on purpose).

'Kindle-killer' is perhaps a bit of an overstatement given that the Kindle owns the e-book reader market right now. But the Nook's imminent arrival is what caused Amazon to preemptively drop the price of the Kindle, so its impact has already been felt.

And make no mistake: e-book reading devices are important not only to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but especially to book/e-book publishers.

Why?

Because, since the arrival of Kindle and the Sony Reader, reading is up:

Amazon […] says that people with Kindles now buy 3.1 times as many books as they did before owning the device. That factor is up from 2.7 in December 2008. So a reader who had previously bought eight books from Amazon would now purchase, on average, 24.8 books, a rise from 21.6 books.

Sony adds this:

Sony […] says that its e-book customers, on average, download about eight books a month from its online library. That is far more than the approximately 6.7 books than the average American book buyer purchased for the entire year in 2008, according to Bowker, a publishing industry tracking firm.

More reading by consumers means more profit for the publishers. With a price war being waged between Amazon and Wal Mart (and now Target), there is real concern by the publishers over margins and profit.

There will no doubt be an exhaustive series of technical articles detailing the differences between the nook and the Kindle (here's one, from B&N's perspective). For now, though, we can take a look at this feature set from Barnes & Noble's eReading Blog:

  • Download eBooks, magazines and newspapers in seconds flat
  • Enjoy eBooks on an incredibly readable E Ink® reading screen
  • Navigate your eBooks and other content on a color touchscreen
  • Sync your eBooks to your iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Mac or PC
  • Share eBooks with friends using one of our eReader clients
  • Read any eBook for free in a Barnes & Noble store
  • Get special content and promotions in any Barnes & Noble store

The one thing I really like about Barnes & Noble selling an e-reader is that I expect I'll be able to visit my local store and demo the reader. That's something you can't do with the Kindle. I would keep in mind, though, that the nook is a first generation product. Even the Kindle has gone through one iteration now, and I think in many cases people who bought the initial model wished they had waited. This may or may not be the case with the nook.

As far as e-book formats go, the nook supports EPUB, the open e-book format. This is huge. Most of the new readers post-Kindle support this format. Kindle, by comparison, only supports their own proprietary format (the DX model also supports PDF). People do not want to be locked into proprietary formats. They want open formats, which allows them to view any content on any device. Kindle-formatted e-books are viewable only on the Kindle and it's associated applications (like the iPhone Kindle app).

I'll leave you with possibly one of the most tantalizing features of the nook:

The Nook also has software that will detect when a consumer walks into a store so that it can push out coupons and other promotions like excerpts from forthcoming books or suggestions for new reading. While in stores, Nook owners will be able to read any e-book through streaming software.

In my opinion, it's this sort of interactivity which eventually will lead to the demise of the printed book.

The nook is available now for pre-order, will be available for purchase Nov. 30, and be in stores Nov. 28.

[ Advertisement: SF/F Shorts by Amazon ]

[ Follow me on Twitter ]