Barnes & Noble’s Mightywords? Quamut? Qwiki? Reader

Gizmodo broke the news about the new Barnes & Noble eBook reading device. You can go there for what they have. Then come back for what I have to say.

All ready?

Barnes & Noble owns some very weird trademarks. See this post. Could this be called Mightywords? Quamut? Qwiki? Gizmodo said it has a name they’d rather not see Barnes & Noble use.

Well, it’s a monstrosity anyway, isn’t it?

eInk screen at top, multitouch color capacitance screen at bottom.

But I think Sony is gnashing its teeth right now.

And Amazon should start being very afraid too.

This is not the first eBook device to mix separate screens, by the way. Jinke did it in a few Hanlin models:

Jinke

Everyone saw that as a kludge.

Barnes & Noble has gone one step further.

I’m not sure I exactly understand what they’re doing, though.

Look at these two pictures (all photos from Gizmodo, by the way). They seem to contradict one another:

GizmodoBN004

This illustration seems to show the presence of a web browser.

GizmodoBN006

This one shows a line of color book covers.

At first, I thought the color area would be used for actual book ordering. It’d make sense to have a fast custom-designed web presence in that area. Looking at it some more, it could suggest that is acting as a CoverFlow area, getting around the slowness of eInk to jump to a book. (We can clearly see James Patterson’s The 8th Confession and the novel Breaking Dawn among those selections.)

This next photo contradicts a prior report about the FCC filing:

GizmodoBN005

It looks nothing like the drawing in the FCC filing:

BNRBack
Click = big

Now, the thing that’s very telling is this photo:

GizmodoBN002

That’s the opening to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead:

HOWARD ROARK laughed.

He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him. A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water. The water seemed immovable, the stone–flowing. The stone had the stillness of one brief moment in battle when thrust meets thrust and the currents are held in a pause more dynamic than motion. The stone glowed, wet with sunrays.

Why is it interesting?

Because Barnes & Noble does not sell this book in ePub format!

At Barnes & Noble (which uses eReader format — and weirdly offers it with two prices):

FountainheadBN
Click = big

And here it is at Fictionwise, which is owned by Barnes & Noble:

FountainheadFW
Click = big

And it’s not like The Fountainhead isn’t available in ePub. It is! Here’s Books on Board:

FountainheadBOB
Click = big

So let me tell you what this device is going to do:

It will read DRMed eReader format only. It will be able to do ePubs from Google Books because those are DRM-free.

This means no loans from public libraries. And no eBook buying of DRMed material from anyone other than Barnes & Noble’s (and perhaps Fictionwise/eReader) store!

So we will officially have a battle of three — count them! — formats:

Kindle from Amazon
ePub from Adobe/Sony, many other stores and public libraries
eReader from Barnes & Noble

And before you dismiss Barnes & Noble: remember that like Amazon it also offers an iPhone eBook app. In fact, it offers eBook reading apps for more than just the iPhone. It does:

Blackberry
PC desktop
Mac desktop

Sony is only on two of those: the desktops.

Amazon Kindle is also on only two one: iPhone and Blackberry. [Correction: I mistook an Amazon bookstore app for Blackberry for an actual Kindle eBook reading app.]

Barnes & Noble has the clear advantage.

And when the Apple iTablet comes out — Barnes & Noble will be there with its iPhone app, all ready to clean up.

I’ve already recommended to someone who went from using eReader to buying a Kindle to dump the Kindle.

And Sony should cancel that Daily Edition right now. It’s dead in the water.

If you have a library of eBooks in eReader format, your wait for a dedicated eInk device is over.

Would I buy this? No. Someone asked me to format-shift some eReader books for them earlier this year, to protect their investment. It was an ugly process that wouldn’t come out anywhere near satisfactory no matter how much I banged on the files. It’s not a file format I have any fondness for. Besides that, I’m against eInk.

But I think this is going to be hugely popular, despite my own experience and prejudice.

Suddenly, the eBook world has shifted.

And Barnes & Noble could be the surprise dark horse winner.

5 Responses to Barnes & Noble’s Mightywords? Quamut? Qwiki? Reader

  1. Cliff Burns says:

    The technology is leaping ahead–and everyone holds their breath, wondering what Apple will do. Will some as yet unknown device leap to the fore, rendering the others the equivalent of Beta videotape machines?

    Keep sticking your nose in, Mike, you’re doing a yeoman job…

  2. Taxman45 says:

    Unless I’m missing something, I don’t think there’s a Kindle for Blackberry. B&N ereader is also on Windows Mobile.

  3. Just a guess, but BN may be using the new PixelQi displays that do both e-ink link and lcd in one screen. Here’s a Wired article about them: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/05/pixel-qi/

  4. mikecane says:

    I’m familiar with Pixel Qi. But the screen is ALL e-paper or ALL color LCD. I haven’t seen any demo where part can be e-paper and part can be color — with multitouch too. Well, we’ll all know on the 20th.

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