Tuesday, December 16, 2014

e-Readers – The Race to the Bottom


When Sony and Amazon first got into the e-reader business, they were considered a new breed of luxury items. The first generation Kindle retailed for $399 and the PRS-500 was $349. Needless to say, only the most hardcore of readers were buying into the new way to consume digital books. In the last few years, you can pick up a ultra modern device for $79. Whats changed?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo are in the race to the bottom. They are forgoing a number of critical features to be able to compete against each other in the lucrative US and UK market. Overall build quality is suffering, internet browsing has never improved and the lack of audio bucks the trend of technological convergence.

In 2011, we started to see e-readers come down in price. The Kindle Keyboard was massively discounted from $189 to $99. Barnes and Noble discounted their Simple Touch Reader to $99 and Kobo did the same. This was the last year that we saw a new reader have speakers and a 3.5mm headphone jack that was capable of playing audiobooks and music files.

The lack of audio in modern e-readers prevent them from being rolled out into schools and institutions of learning. The chief reason is because visually disabled people cannot use the devices and feel excluded. The National Federation of the Blind have been overzealous in this regard and have prevented Amazon from starting pilot projects to get e-readers in schools. They went as far as organizing protests right outside Amazons Seattle headquarters, saying at the time “no student should be left behind.”

The e-reader industry as a whole has lost most of its innovative spirit, the vast majority of companies that were around from 2007 to 2011 are not around anymore. There was some truly interesting e-paper technology that could have changed the game, such as Bridgestone e-paper, Liquavista, LG, Mirasol, Pixel QI, and Plastic Logic. The reason why most of these companies abandoned the e-reader space, was because all of the notable players were risk adverse. After bringing the entry level price from $399 to $99 for an e-reader, the price could never dramatically increase again, which limited their options of dealing with new companies, whose technology would be expensive to manufacture at first.

The race to the bottom  has not only limited consumer options, but it has effectively edged out smaller companies that offer alternative e-readers. Icarus, Onyx Boox, Pocketbook and Wexler aren’t exactly household names, but have been making e-readers in Eastern Europe, Russia and China for years. All of these guys initially focused on the western market, but they simply couldn’t produce enough units, in order to get big discounts at the factory, which effectively relegated them to markets where Amazon and Kobo haven’t entered yet.

I have been following the e-reader industry since the first generation Sony and Kindle e-readers. I was at CES in 2010 when e-readers were everywhere, there were literary hundreds of companies wanting to enter the space, looking for strategic partner. In 2011, there were hardly any to be found, as the industry gravitated towards multi-purpose tablets. e-Readers were on the cusp of doing some really amazing things, but now we just have a selection of products that all look the same. Put a Kindle Paperwhite 1  side by side to a Paperwhite 2 and see if anyone could tell the difference.

e-Readers – The Race to the Bottom is a post from: Good e-Reader

France Approves Digital e-Book Lending in Libaries


European libraries have been experimenting with the concept of digital in libraries. The United Kingdom has had the most success, and other countries are starting to make moves to offer similar services. France has just approved a new mandate to implement a digital lending platform, which means in the new future you will be able to borrow audiobooks, eBooks and digital newspapers.

An innovative agreement was announced on December 8th in Paris to facilitate e-lending in French public libraries. The agreement was signed by the French Minister of Culture and associations of librarians, booksellers, authors and publishers, including IFRRO's member Syndicat National de l'Édition. Twelve recommendations are set out in the agreement in order to make available digital editorial output within and outside the public libraries' premises while ensuring fair remuneration for rightholders.

Now that a blueprint has been established for digital lending in France, a number of companies will be eyeing this market with glee. The first major challenge is getting an ILS system in place, such as Polaris or Triple iii. This is critical because collection managers need tie in their print and digital collections in a singular platform to monitor everything.

The next stage in facilitating the loaning of digital content will be up to Overdrive, 3M and Baker & Taylor to pitch libraries the virtues of their systems for e-Books, audiobooks and streaming video. Vancouver based PressReader would also be a valuable industry partner because they already carry all of the major French newspapers such as Le Monde, Le Figaro and L’Express.

France Approves Digital e-Book Lending in Libaries is a post from: Good e-Reader

Give the gift of Digipalooza this holiday season

Digip15 logoAs the new year approaches, it is a great time to think about staff enrichment and professional development for 2015. With 95% percent of American public libraries now offering eBooks, digital media is at the forefront of the conversation about the future of libraries. Be an integral part of that conversation by attending Digipalooza, OverDrive's popular user group conference in August 2015.

No matter what your role is at the library, this conference is for you. We are 100% focused on digital media. At Digipalooza, we share the latest news and innovations, bring together leaders in the industry to discuss trends and connect our partners to learn from each other and gain practical knowledge and real-world solutions. An attendee from our last conference told us, "I made more networking contacts at Digipalooza than I have at every other conference I have attended in the past 5 years combined!"

Give the gift of Digipalooza to your staff and reap the benefits of the knowledge and experience that they will bring back to your library after the conference. Or treat yourself this holiday season with a professional development experience that you'll actually enjoy!

Beat the rush and register today at the low price of $199. Registration cost covers all conference sessions, meals, networking activities and social events, including an exclusive party at the world famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Dinner, dessert, drinks and dancing are on the menu! Plus, the entire museum will be open for Digipalooza attendees to explore.

We are counting down the days to Digipalooza at http://digipalooza.com, where you can find more details about our discounted hotel room rate, aprogram overview, and some of our favorite moments from Digipalooza '13.

Happy Holidays and hope to see you at Digipalooza '15!

Melissa Marin is a Marketing Specialist at OverDrive.

Kindle App for iOS Updated to Version 4.6, Adds Several New Features

Last week Amazon updated their Kindle Android app to add some new features, and now they’ve just updated their iOS app for iPad and iPhone as well. The update adds a number of new features, most notably Goodreads integration and the addition of a Book Browser, with support for downloading ebooks through Kindle Unlimited. Ever […]

B&N Updates Nook App for iPad and iPhone

Barnes and Noble has finally updated their Nook App for iOS devices. It’s been almost a full year since the last update, so better late than never, I guess. The new software version 4.0.0 adds support for iOS 8, Apple’s latest mobile operating system. It was released 3 months ago so it’s about time B&N […]

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

As you may have heard if you follow us on Twitter, Facebook or G+, we are sponsoring this year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. The lectures are part of British educational history: Michael Faraday started them in 1825 to introduce science to ordinary people – especially young people – and they’ve been running ever since, with only one break in 1939-42 during World War II.

Professor Danielle George, presenter of this year's lectures. Photo credit: Paul Wilkinson

Professor Danielle George, presenter of this year’s lectures. Photo credit: Paul Wilkinson

We’re incredibly proud to be associated with the lectures. They’re a real educational jewel, and they provide some of the best television in the UK over the Christmas period. British readers can watch this year’s lectures on BBC4 on December 29, 30 and 31 – the theme (which, serendipitously, has a lot of relevance for Raspberry Pi users) is Sparks will fly: How to hack your home. International viewers will be able to watch later on on the Royal Institution’s website.

Here’s a teaser the Royal Institution released on YouTube yesterday.

If you’d like to read more about this year’s lectures, there’s a long interview with Professor Danielle George in the Guardian, where she explains why hacking is such a crucial skill for children. We hope you’ll be watching the lectures along with us!

A geek’s guide to geeky holiday gifts (part 2)



And now, the thrilling conclusion of my geeky holiday gift guide. If you haven't guessed yet, I'm focusing mainly on devices that are particularly good at consuming media (like eBooks, audiobooks, videos, and music).

Today, it's on to the strange new land of "phablets," to be followed by my top picks for less expensive devices.

On the subject of phablets

Let me get this out of the way first: the term "phablet" drives me crazy for some reason, so from now on, I'll just call them "giant phones." We'll classify them as any phone with a screen larger than 5". Sound fair?

To get on with it, there are actually several choices out there for giant phones, but for me, it really boils down to these:

The Google Nexus 6

I have a Nexus 6 sitting next to me right now, and I kind of love it. The screen is drop-dead gorgeous, and the way they packed 5.96" worth of screen onto a device that doesn't feel clunky makes me think they hired Doctor Who to help with the design. It's only a tiny bit bigger than the iPhone 6+ which has a 5.5" screen (there are a lot of comparison photos in the Forbes review if you're interested in checking it out).

All that being said, the phone is pretty large, so it can take some getting used to. You've been warned. Me? I think it's worth it.

The Nexus 6 isn't perfect, but I'm honestly having trouble coming up with complaints to share with you here. There are still a few bugs (to be expected with any brand new phone), but they're minor, and software updates are imminent.

I'd like the back of the phone to be a little grippier, but it's easier to hold onto than the aluminum-encased competition like the HTC One or iPhone 6.

Price-wise (at $649), I don't think there's a better deal out there for a "flagship" phone. It's cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the iPhone 6+ (off contract), and easily goes toe-to-toe with either for quality and features.

Other notables (the iPhones 6+ and Galaxy Note 4)

The other big players in the giant phone pond are the Apple iPhone 6+ and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. There are others out there, but these are the two most popular at the moment.

They're both good phones, but both are more expensive than the Nexus 6. I'd say to go with the iPhone if you're already heavily entrenched within the Apple ecosystem. Go with the Galaxy Note if you prefer a slightly smaller device (compared to the Nexus 5 and iPhone 6+) that still sports a jumbo screen.

It's like I said: either phone is a solid choice–I just like the Nexus 6 better. It gets software updates faster, has more screen to go around, and the price is pretty good for what you're getting.

Looking for something less expensive?

There are some really good options out there for gadgets on a budget, but I'll keep this limited to my favorite inexpensive tablet and eBook reader:
* ASUS MeMo Pad 7: At around $130, this is a steal of a tablet with a surprisingly good screen and a decent amount of horsepower. (review)
* NOOK GlowLight: It's not perfect, but it's $99 and doesn't come with ads. I wish it still had physical buttons, but I still like it. (review)

The wrap-up

There you have it–my top picks for tablets, readers, and giant phones this year. Any of the devices I've listed above would be great for ravenous consumption of media.

The most important thing to keep in mind when making your purchase is something us writers tell ourselves daily: who is your target audience? Make sure you're picking the right gift for the right person.

My brother, for example, loves his Apple products, so I wouldn't go out and buy him an Nvidia SHIELD tablet. My wife likes to do more than read books on her device, so I would choose a tablet over an eBook reader for her. You get the idea, and hopefully my list helps you pick out the right gift (or, barring that, helps you buy a little something for yourself).

If you have any questions, or feel like I left something off the list that should be there, feel free to call it out in the comments. Keep in mind, I'm human, and that means my advice comes laced with my own preferences. My only hope is that, when it's time to tear off the wrapping paper, I'll have helped you put a smile on someone's face.

Go forth, my friends, and find that perfect gift! Happy holidays, and good luck!


Quinton Lawman is a Technical Writer with OverDrive