Reference: Public Libraries And eBooks

December 27, 2008

The fine folks over at MobileRead have put together a wiki for public libraries that offer eBooks.

I live in New York City, so I don’t have to pay the $100/year fee to get an NYPL card.

Suck it up, baby!

Besides, for that $100 fee, you are competing against my domestic borrowing rights!

I hate you for doing that. You know that, don’t you?


The Zero-Gravity Toilet Of Adobe DRMed ePub

December 27, 2008

There’s a classic shot in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey when the main character has to first consult instructions on how to use a zero-gravity toilet:

Imagine having to through all that!

And yet — there is something actually worse than that.

It’s the instructions on how to go about using Adobe DRMed ePub eBooks!

Here are the Zero-Gravity toilet instructions:

Now contrast the amount of text there to instructions for using Adobe DRMed ePub:


Can you imagine the poor technically unsophisticated schmo having to deal with all that?

“For God’s sake, all I want to do is read eBooks!!!”

Really, it turns out it’s easier to take a shit in space than to deal with Adobe DRMed ePub eBooks!


Micro Fondle 2: ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader

December 27, 2008

Ever since ECTACO emailed me about upcoming ePub capability for its jetBook eBook reader, I’ve gotten a renewed interest in it.

So yesterday morning, since I was in the area anyway, I made it a point to stop in at J&R to give it yet another fondle. This did not put me in good stead with the hapless salesman, who had to cycle through all four display models (in colors red, black, white, and gray!) to find the one that had a charge on its battery! As it turned out, he had to plug it into AC for a moment to get one to work.

All of what follows is from my memory. I didn’t take notes and I didn’t pull out the crapcam (I was feeling sorry for the salesman!). The above photo is from the original micro fondle.

Again: the hardware is just solid. Even though the case is all plastic, it has a thick, industrial-like feel to it. Not any part of it feels cheap or flimsy. The casing has a pebbled finish, so it’s not likely to easily slip out of the hand. All of the buttons feel solid and do not wobble.

Also again: in direct-lighting conditions, the backlight-less LCD screen can be mistaken for eInk — except, being LCD, there is no flashing when turning pages.

I went through Settings and discovered there are six font sizes, ranging from 12 point all the way to 32. This is one more size than the newest Sony Reader, the 700, offers.

There are, however, only two built-in fonts, and both are sadly sans-serif: Arial and Verdana. I would have liked at least one serifed font, even if it was simply Times or a variant thereof. I don’t know if it’s possible to add fonts.

There’s a built-in dictionary! The Sony Reader still lacks this. I don’t know how extensive the dictionary is, but I’ll give ECTACO the benefit of the doubt here because its main business has been electronic dictionaries and translators. I have to think the dictionary is good. In fact, I just went to look at the User Manual (PDF link; with another PDF version too), and it states:

The English/Russian, English/Polish, and English explanatory dictionaries built into ECTACO jetBook allow you to instantly translate an unfamiliar word.

So, yeah, the dictionary is solid.

Unlike both the Sony Reader and the abominable Kindle, eBooks can be grouped together into folders (the new Sony Reader 700 offers Collections, but it’s not quite the same). There is also access to the filesystem with a directory display. I’m not sure, however, if any file commands can be carried out on the device itself. Again, looking at the User Manual, apparently so:

Files

Select the Books folder, Music folder, or Pictures folder and then press OK. You will see the Files menu which has the following options: Open, Copy, Delete, and Rename. Select the desired option and then press OK.

The jetBook had one image on it. A 600K-plus JPEG that was a flyer for the jetBook itself. It took a few seconds to open but was worth the minor wait because it looked gorgeous. Since it was most likely shrunk down from an 8.5 x 11-inch size to fit the 5-inch diagonal screen, text was very tiny.

The screen can be rotated ninety-degrees. This worked well and was fast.

I had two problems. When moving backward through the menus, I encountered one in Russian. This seemed to be the list of eBooks, which a moment ago had actually been listed in English! I don’t know how that happened.

The other thing was the slider on the left side, which can be used to page forward and page back. It was the one weak link on the device. I couldn’t see how to use it with one hand without threatening to have the jetBook slip out of my hand to the ground. At least, unlike the abominable Kindle, it’s a button that can easily be ignored and I doubt it can be accidentally invoked.

Operation of the unit had an acceptable speed. It didn’t have the horsepower pop I felt with the Sony Reader 700, but it didn’t feel altogether sluggish, either.

I wouldn’t rely on the jetBook for MP3s, however. User reviews over at newegg give MP3 playback a FAIL:

The MP3 player is a joke. It can be suitable for listening some spoken word lower quailty audio, but if you want to play music, expect poor sound quality. It seems like it doesn’t have enough power to play higher bitrate MP3’s.

I don’t see the point of putting MP3s on a reading device, anyway, so this feature is superfluous to me.

It seems the user reviewers at newegg bought the jetBook primarily to deal with PDFs. PDF is the File Format Of The Damned. It’s best for reading on monitors or even perhaps on that upcoming ginormous Plastic Logic reader. I can’t see the sense of trying to deal with a file formatted for 8.5 x 11-inch paper on a 5- or 6-inch screen. PDFs can be optimized for eBook devices — but I don’t think most PDF publishers will do that. They’re likely to figure such problems are a piracy speedbump (and I’d actually tend to agree).

The jetBook doesn’t require a desktop client for eBooks. Simply plug it into a USB port and it appears as a Removable Drive. Drag and drop eBooks, MP3s (bleh!), and graphics onto it.

Two questions I have and don’t know the answers to:

1) What is the CPU and its speed? I’m wondering if the current hardware will have the necessary horsepower to deal with ePub and MobiPocket files. As for non-DRMed MobiPocket, I expect so, because even Palm PDAs could do those. But even non-DRMed ePub? I don’t know.

2) Since no desktop client is being used, does that rule out DRMed ePub and DRMed MobiPocket files? Someone who knows, leave a Comment!

It’s too bad the price of the jetBook is so high. It’s perceived value just isn’t equivalent to that of the Sony Reader. It’s not. I still think slashing the price by a third could excite interest in it — especially if it will actually be able to do DRMed ePub and DRMed MobiPocket files.

I’d like to see a second dedicated eBook reader that can do ePub. That’d put further pressure on Amazon and its abominable Kindle file format lock-in. It’d also offer an alternative for people who foolishly believe they can’t deal with the page-turn flashing of eInk. And if the jetBook underwent a price cut, it could increase the potential audience for eBooks.

Supplemental:

ECTACO jetBook photos on Flickr
MobileRead jetBook review and discussion thread
MobileRead jetBook owner photo

Previously here:

ECTACO jetBook Ups ePub Stakes
ECTACO jetBook At Blowout Price!
More About That ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader
Micro Fondle: ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader


Flickr Slideshow: Sony Reader 505 And 700

December 27, 2008

Another one found via TwitteRel:

An excellent Flickr slideshow of someone who — via Xmas gift — is upgrading from a silver Sony Reader 505 to the new 700.

Give particular attention to the last photo. It shows the Zoom and Pan options for dealing with images and text/PDF files.


eBooks And Pricing: No Argument Now!

December 27, 2008

I was going through my LifeDrive memos and came across a Stephen Levy column from Newsweek that nails the argument for lower-than-print pricing of eBooks.

This column is from 2004 — four years ago!

FORECAST: SONG COSTS MAY FALL LIKE RAIN
MEMO TO MUSIC LABELS: LOWERING PRICES WILL GET YOU MORE SALES

This is the key point:

This summer [2004] provided a clue to further harnessing the force of digital nature. For three weeks, Real Networks tried to lure new customers by slashing prices to 49 cents a song and $4.99 per album. Since Real paid the full royalty load to the labels (almost 70 cents a tune), the company lost money on every transaction. CEO Rob Glaser says that the company did get new customers, but here’s the real news: Real sold six times as much music and took in three times as much money.

This reflected the experience of Audible, which sells audiobooks on the iTunes Store. Working in conjunction with publishers and Apple, Audible offered some online titles at a fraction of the normal price. One of those buyers was me — I had been thinking of getting a David Sedaris audiobook to entertain my family on a summer drive, but balked at paying $11 for something I might play just once. After I got an e-mail informing me I could get it for $2, I snapped it up. Audible CEO Don Katz says the featured books on that single e-mail were downloaded at 60 times the previous rate.

Emphasis added by me.

Let me hammer down the point.

Audible was selling an audio-eBook. It sold at sixty times the previous sales rate once the price was slashed.

Let me run some math, and I’ll use simple numbers because math usually gets me in trouble!

An eBook at $10.00 with a 10% royalty, one copy sold = $1.00

OK, that’s the “normal” rate of sale.

Now let’s do the Audible price cut numbers.

An eBook at $2.00 with a 10% royalty, sixty copies sold = $12.00

Which would a writer rather have? A guarantee of $1.00 per copy with an increased risk of piracy?

Or sixty copies sold at a piracy-prevention price that makes him twelve times as much money than expected sales?

I will keep hammering this point home again and again, dammit.

I want to walk into a printed bookstore and witness this conversation:

Shopper 1: “Oh, this book I want to buy!”
Shopper 2: “Me too. But it’s cheaper as an eBook for my Sony Reader!”

That is the Marketing Point for eBooks, the one that will drive hardware sales and then increase eBook sales exponentially:

If you buy it as an eBook, it’s cheaper.

Remember: eBooks are not like music. People will listen repeatedly to a song. But people don’t read an eBook over and over again. Once it’s been read, people want to buy something else.

And the resistance to eBooks is not as strong as anyone believes. See Vox Populi: eBooks.


Vox Populi: eBooks

December 27, 2008

Found via TwitteRel (which I recommend):


Merry Christmas 2008

December 25, 2008










“To my big brother, George. The richest man in town!”


I don’t care what anyone says.

This is the greatest movie America has ever made.

Merry Christmas to all of you.

No more posts until Friday.


ECTACO jetBook Ups ePub Stakes

December 24, 2008

This news caught my eye a while back.

ECTACO jetBook Now Includes Fodor’s Travel Guide

With The International Digital Publishing Forum newly released EPUB specification format based on XML, this is the new standard for eBook production and leading eBook device manufacturers.

Ectaco announced that the jetBook eBook reader will support both – most popular in US MobiPocket format and open EPUB format in Q1,2009.

No one ever did a follow-up and it nagged at me. I’d forgotten about the MobiPocket support (and frankly, that doesn’t interest me, being a legacy file format), and only inquired about the addition of the ePub capability.

I wondered if current jetBook owners would have to buy a new unit for ePub. This is what I got in reply via email moments ago:

The latest version of firmware is expected for release in the first quarter of 2009.

You will not have to exchange Your hardware at this point. You will need to obtain the link from ECTACO Technical Support Department and the link would be provided free of charge.

So it seems the current jetBook is go for that!

However … I’m skeptical after having gotten excited over past tech developments that turned out crap.

I’ll remain this way on this development until I can try it for myself.

What needs to successfully happen:

1) It can do Adobe-DRMed ePub (Adobe Digital Editions)

2) It can do eBook borrows from public libraries

This is what the jetBook looks like:

More pictures at the last link below.

The hardware feels solid. The screen can, in certain light, be mistaken for eInk. And it’s already damned better than that upcoming eejitastic eSlick reader.

I just wish ECTACO could drop the price by $100. It’s being sold for $199 at newegg (see below). If that price could be made permanent, they’d make some serious sales — especially with both MobiPocket and ePub!

Previously here:

ECTACO jetBook At Blowout Price!
More About That ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader
Micro Fondle: ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader


Twitter Novel By Arjun Basu

December 24, 2008

Wonderful.

Follow Arjun Basu on Twitter.

Update: Arjun basu writes in the Comments:

Thanks. But it’s not a novel. I just want to clear that up. Each tweet is a single story. At the max 140 characters. I’m calling them Twisters. Thanks for the support.

That makes what I screensnapped above even more remarkable!


Dying Dinosaurs Of Print: Red Alert!

December 24, 2008

Americans prefer news from Web to newspapers: survey

The Internet has surpassed newspapers as the main source for national and international news for Americans, according to a new survey.

Television, however, remains the preferred medium for Americans, according to the survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Seventy percent of the 1,489 people surveyed by Pew said television is their primary source for national and international news.

Forty percent said they get most of their news from the Internet, up from 24 percent in September 2007, and more than the 35 percent who cited newspapers as their main news source.

Emphasis added by me.

Hey, the Newspaper Fetishists used to whiiiine, “Oh, I can’t think of a Sunday without curling up with The New York Times.”

So, question: Did they all drop dead — or get electronic religion?

And, no, book publishers, the moral here is not “books on TV.”

Get real. Make with the flood of eBooks in 2009!