Fight Night: Undisputed Champion of the World, iPad vs. Amazon’s Android Tab

The HP TouchPad lasted all of 2 rounds in the tablet ring against the iron fists of the iPad. All the while, the undisputed champion of the world seems to only be growing more popular with every new tablet that steps into the ring. But with the resignation of team Apple’s head trainer Steve Jobs, Amazon has decided to take a jab at the title.

Head trainer, Jeff Bezos, is rumored to be training a new contender during Apple’s time of transition. Their lightweight tablet has a smaller reach (screen size) rumored to measure only 9 (maybe even 7) inches, which is a scale smaller than Apple’s benchmark of around 10 inches–a reach we’ve seen strike popularity with the tablet fans.

Trained up as an Android style fighter, the Amazon contender doesn’t have much to show for itself in light of the failed contenders that came before it. In fact, it won’t even come equipped with a camera. But it’s been a while since a true underdog has come out on top in this tech-driven age, and if Little Mac could beat all the odds in Punch-Out, maybe Amazon can too!

This tablet does have a few strong strategies in its corner. For one thing, the tablet will come pre-loaded with the Amazon App Store. This will help market content to an Android device like never before–offering the reliable one-two-punch-selling combo Amazon is known for.

This also ties into the second strategy. Because Amazon will be focusing on selling content, they can afford to set the sales price pretty low. Although no exact figure has been given, “The New York Post‘s Garett Sloane [reports] that will [be selling] an Android tablet for ‘hundreds less’ than the $499 iPad.1” This provides the Amazon tablet’s southpaw strategy a strong right hook for the iPad to duck. Apple traditionally does the opposite, where they develop strong content to promote the sales of devices with flashy footwork and such.

On paper, the new Amazon tablet doesn’t size up, but all that may not matter when it actually enters the ring. The mighty must fall, and it may just be the iPad’s time. I am not sure how many people will be placing a wager on this new Amazon contender, but it will certainly be an interesting fight. The fists will fly this fall, some time in October. Stay tuned!

Oh, and thank you for working through this grossly extended metaphor.



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Google + Book Sharing

Google+ is Google’s new social networking venture that has become extremely popular due to its word of mouth campaigns. Let’s face it: people want to be a part of most things that are invite-only. Google+ has taken many of Facebook’s users in the past two months. But is Google+ actually very innovative? There’s one feature that might have readers crooning for an invite.

Google allows its users to share eBooks through its social networking site. This is exciting for people who have been looking for an online model for their book club. Simply pick a book, share it with your friends and discuss. Or maybe readers just want to show their
friends that one line on page 56 that has them laughing out loud.

The Google blog revealed how it works: “You can simply paste the About the Book or Google Books preview URL into your Google+ Share Box. This will show the cover and book details, helping your friends know exactly what you’re sharing with them. While you’re sharing books, you can also +1 them, and the titles will appear in your profile on the +1 tab1.”

This feature could go very well with the Story HD, Google’s first eReader. So far only the Kobo has ever integrated a social networking feature to an eReader. Seeing something fresh on the eReader market could be what’s needed to revitalize it. Having your favorite books and people to share them with at the click of a button could make the Story HD serious competition.



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HP TouchPad: A Very Short Trip

The HP TouchPad has come and gone without stirring up much difficulty for the Apple’s iPad. Strangely enough, one of its strongest (or at least, most unique) features turned out to be its ticking time bomb–the WebOS. HP decided to get out of the consumer game, thus relinquishing its development of Palm phones and tablets1.

But not all is lost. With HP’s push to liquidate their tablet stock, there are ways to pick up a brand new tablet for $100! The only downside is that there will no longer be WebOS support or future development…or will there?

Tech Crunch reports that the modding community has offered a $1500 bounty for a Android port that will effectively turn the TouchPad into a Galaxy or Xoom tablet–capable of running Android Honeycomb and giving it access to the saturated Android market2.

But you don’t have to rely on the modding community to make the TouchPad a salvageable investment. For all the e-reader fans out there, this device can act as the most affordable and capable e-reader to date. The tablet comes equipped with Adobe Reader for PDFs as well as a Kindle App, but owners are finding that the device won’t read e-books that weren’t purchased through the Amazon store.

There is also an alleged app available in the WebOS catalog that can support Epub, eReader, Kindle (DRM-free) and PalmDOC.  It’s called pReader3. Developed by Native Alpha, this may be the missing link to unlock this pretty device into a viable e-reader, and the cheapest one around.

So although Russel Brand was unable to lure legions of consumers, there is still practical use for the HP TouchPad. Just be vigilant and you can expect to find the tablet marked down to $100 at an electronics retailer near you.





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MS Reader: There Will Be Casualties

The Microsoft Reader is on the latest tech obituaries list. Readers may ask if this news is very relevant since the MS Reader never posed a serious threat to contemporary eReaders, which had far more advanced technology such as e-ink, but with the shutdown of the MS Reader, Microsoft are free (if they choose) to approach the eReader
market any way they choose. Could this mean that Microsoft will make a whole new reader and utilize their latest devices such as the Windows Phone to make some serious damage?

Devin Coldewey of TechCrunch says, “How Microsoft plans to treat e-books now is anybody’s guess. It’s entirely possible that with the new look and feel of Windows 8, Microsoft will want to bring in e-book support with a custom reader app. The actual timing of the Reader roll-up could have been any time in the last year, and the team might be working on making use of Microsoft’s relevant patents and internal advances to make a Live or tablet-focused e-reading environment1.”

Windows 8 could be Microsoft’s greatest weapon to get back into the eReader race. Its apparently easy maneuverability makes it a very good choice for the company. For all we know, Windows 8 could become the new iOS one day.

Coldewey looks towards the future: “The development of Reader coincided with Microsoft’s first tablet push, including such things as handwritten notes and highlighting. Palm and the others offered similar capabilities, but Microsoft was thinking ahead and may have laid in some nice supplies for their next effort, if it exists. The attractive full-screen apps and deep Windows integration in Windows 8 suggest to me that we’ll at least see something native, if not an attempt to replace dedicated ecosystems like Kindle and Google Books.”

If Windows choose to enter the race in this day and age, it will see fierce competition from Apple (the Emperor Palpatine of tablets) and Amazon and Barnes and Noble, who are planning to put out tablets fairly soon.



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Pottermore Shares Potter E-Rights With Sony

J.K. Rowling’s new strategy to release the very first electronic versions of her Harry Potter series through Pottermore will definitely strike a new vein in her seemingly depth-less gold mine. However, this time around it seems that she will be exclusively allowing Sony to join her on this extended metaphorical mining expedition.

The new Sony e-reader, according to The Register, will be preloading the 7-book series onto their devices as a juicy incentive for buyers1. Being a supporter of Pottermore, Sony was able to enter into a marketing deal with Rowling for “millions” of dollars for early access to the series2.

This kind of exclusive deal was exactly what we were talking about earlier this month. Pottermore will, as of now, remain the only place to purchase the ebooks. The rights to the content will certainly give the Sony reader an edge over the competition–opening an appealing channel to millions of Potter fans just before the October launch of the Pottermore site.

Someone like me, who is still shopping for an e-reader and intrigued to explore the new Pottermore site, will certainly be looking to kill two birds with one stone. And what luck, it’s pay-day.









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Guardian Shorts

The Guardian is one of the prime news sources in England, recently proving its worth when it shed light on the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal. The Guardian wants to tell the story of how it uncovered the conspiracy and compile its in-depth reportage on the scandal. That’s why the news source created Guardian Shorts, an eBook series that will compile many articles into comprehensive collections based on various subjects1.

Lisa Campbell of The Bookseller reports, “The series will feature topical news articles in several different subject areas such as sport, public policy and cultural events, with the first one entitled Phone Hacking: How the Guardian Broke the Story, which provides a ‘comprehensive account’ of how the scandal unfolded.”

The eBooks will be sold internationally for a small price (no price set in dollars, as of yet) on Amazon and iBooks. Some the eBooks will also be sold for free. The format for the shorts will be either a large essay of about 5,000 words on a subject or a collection of articles of up to 30,000 words.

The Guardian says, “If you are a frequent Guardian reader, it is likely that you will have read some of the content that appears in Guardian Shorts previously online or in print. However, each Short will contain new content, including a newly commissioned introduction or overview, a timeline of events where relevant, plus, in some cases, content from our extensive archive which goes back to the newspaper’s creation in 1821.”

This is a big deal for newspapers that are seeing dark times in the contemporary market. Many newspapers have shut down, and many more will in the future as the media world continues to shift towards digital. Newspapers would do well to adopt this sort of publishing initiative and I’m sure loyal readers would be delighted with the new content provided in these eBooks. This is a very important step for print publications as they open up a new market for their readers.



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Dear Apple,

I was recently informed that you had acquired more currency than the government of the United States of America. This, of course due to the country’s current economic situation, is not hard to believe. I’m sure that at least your expert on finances does his taxes. This is not why I write you.

That said, there is one thing that is bugging me about your digital machine: “Appletalism.” What is the meaning of this term you might wish to copyright for the sake of never letting me use it again in a public forum?

Appletalism is your economic system—the means by which you remain at the top, getting fatter and fatter on Mount eWaste. The details of this system can be summed up in a few words: Crush everyone else. And that’s what you have done, Apple. You have secured the biggest exclusives such as The New Yorker digital app and packed your premier tablet device with $599 worth of technology. Consumers tremble at the idea of purchasing a cheaper, lower-end device because they are never sure how you’re going to amaze the world next. Certainly, the rumor that you are releasing an iPad 3 has made many consumers hesitate to purchase any other tablet device.

So what does it mean to consumers when rumors start flying around (from an unproven source) that you are interested in buying Barnes & Noble1? Why, it means that people will stop buying the Nook. Going out of business means no more support for the quality eReader. More importantly, it means the end of the eReader era—which will force Amazon to release a tablet sooner rather than later to stay in the race.

Harry McCracken of Techland has an opinion on what it is you want from this huge purchase: “the acquisition would get Apple B&N’s digital books and other publications (which it might conceivably want) and Nook hardware (which it surely doesn’t), along with hundreds of retail outlets which it could either shutter or convert into Apple Stores.”

Purchasing B&N would gain you an empire you wouldn’t have to construct, but simply remodel—sticking a big white apple over all B&N logos for the rest of eternity.

McCracken says, “For years, Apple has confounded the rest of us by not buying things that it should clearly be buying. Not purchasing other well-known companies is so core to Apple’s strategy that it must have a whole department devoted to non-mergers and un-acquisitions.”

This is a logical move for your empire, but it makes me wonder what might become of the bookstore. Is this a sign that everything is going digital once and for all? This purchase will, in the very least, be score one for the digital world.

Yours truly,
A very concerned consumer who likes nice things.




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Amazon Strikes Back

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Apple has headlined ePublishing news of late, but last week Amazon launched a brand new service, Kindle Cloud Reader, a service that allows users to read books online through any browser using HTML5, and the publishing world is buzzing. Of course, keep in mind that the launch of this service is due in part to Apple’s new restrictions (use iBooks or perish) on the way eBooks can be purchased and read on third party apps such as Kindle, Nook and Google.

In order for the Kindle to continue to work the way it did on the iOS, Apple set up a 30 percent royalty payment plan. Basically, third party sellers such as Amazon had to give Apple 30 percent of their profits on the iOS.

Doug Aamoth of Techland looks at it from an Amazon standpoint: “Let’s say you’re Amazon and you’ve been selling e-books for the past couple years at around $10 a pop. That’s your pricing model. And all of a sudden, the books you sell on the apps that you’ve developed for some of the most popular mobile devices around—iPhone and iPad—will now see a 30 percent cut go right to Apple. That’s not going to work for you, especially considering that Apple sells its own e-books, too1.”

Apple is getting greedy, and Amazon isn’t putting up with it. Its new service lets users continue to read books on iOS by redirecting them to a webpage where they can stream the content they want to view. This eliminates having to go through the new app restrictions while still allowing the company the functionality of Apple’s devices.

Calvin Reid of Publishers Weekly talks benefits: “Amazon can offer and market their titles for sale and readers can read their Amazon e-books—online and offline—much as they had previously through the native Apple apps. By setting up an iPad Kindle Store available through the Kindle Cloud Readers/Safari browser with 900,000 titles for sale, Amazon is bypassing Apple’s cut of the sale. The Kindle Cloud Reader gives the reader access to all of their previously purchased Kindle e-books, provides automatic software updates, synchs all titles to the last page read and allows consumers to see all annotations and notes—and e-books can be read offline as well2.”

This is a full-on defiance of Appletalism and other third-party companies are undoubtedly loving Amazon’s efforts to defy the Apple machinery. Apple, of course, is a very intelligent company that has remained on top due to its resilience. The battle is far from over for Amazon and others. I’m sure Apple has many more tricks up its sleeve…





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Pottermore is Near

A version of the Pottermore beta is now live, and the only way for eager users to get an invite is to compete in a trivia contest called Find The Magic Quill. Every day, a new trivia question is posted on the Pottermore website. The first few people to post the answer to will get a chance to sign up for the beta. Be weary: the questions aren’t posted at the same time every day, so you have to keep your thinking caps on because you’ll never know when they might appear.

There hasn’t been a bigger multi-billion dollar phenomenon in my generation than the Harry Potter series, which came to a close earlier this month with the premiere of the eighth and final film. Well, this summer seemed as good a time as any for J.K. Rowling, the humble, god-like creator of the series, to announce to Harry Potter fans a new online platform known as Pottermore.

Though many details about Pottermore are still in the shadows, one announcement Rowling made in her dramatic YouTube video was that Pottermore would be the exclusive platform of the Harry Potter eBook marketplace. For readers who have been following the ePublishing war between Apple and the World, acquisition of the exclusive rights to sell the Harry Potter eBooks would be huge for any of these companies. The series has millions of fans around the world, and readers would flock around the device that holds this series in its grasp. Will Rowling allow other companies to sell her eBooks? Time will tell.

Besides Pottermore’s marketplace, the site works very much like a book app would. The site is meant to give more in-depth details into the world of Harry Potter. The interactive portion of the site allows fans to navigate through the series and experience its environments and characters. For example, fans start off in Privet Drive—where a very famous cupboard sits beneath a set of stairs. Fans will be able to go through Harry’s cupboard, as well as hundreds of the places he visits in the books.

Pottermore is not exactly an MMO, although it is a game of sorts. It is meant to be used as a companion to the books. Fans go on Harry’s journey: they visit Diagon Alley to buy all the things they’ll need for their adventure, acquire a wand, travel through the barrier to Platform 9¾ and ride on the train to Hogwarts—all while getting a closer look into the people and settings of the Harry Potter universe.

This site is definitely a great compendium and one-of-a-kind when it comes to literary experiences. Fans will be able to flock around Pottermore and enjoy the series all over again or for the first time—in a new way, of course.

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Hybrid Books to Meet Digital Demands

It turns out that paper books have a unique trick up their sleeves to compete with engrossing book apps. According to indie publisher Melville House, who are now printing Hybrid Books, this is “an innovative publishing program that gives print books the features of enhanced eBooks.”1

Through a neat little feature dubbed “illuminations,” readers can scan bar codes in their books using their smart phones and connect with supplement media related to the book (features that come automatically with the ebook editions). It’s quite an ingenious solution, where the only failure is to meet the convenience of an ebook pre-loaded with these additional features.

“For example, The Illumination for the Hybrid Book version of Anton Chekhov’s The Duel contains an essay on dueling by Thomas Paine, poems by Lord Byron, philosophy by Nietzsche, an anti-dueling church sermon, an argument in favor of dueling by a U.S. Senator, and the rules to the game of vint—a game that plays a role in the plot,” said Dennis Johnson, the publisher of Melville House, in a statement. “In the Illumination for Giacomo Casanova’s The Duel you’ll find a comic essay by Mark Twain on French dueling and an account of a famous duel fought from hot air balloons. And there’s so much more—maps, cartoons, recipes, photographs, paintings—to enhance the reader’s experience.1

This is an interesting example of what differentiates Multimedia and Transmedia, which I have been asked about before. Now these definitions are not set in stone, but illuminations are a prime example of transmedia–a form of joint narrative that expands the audience’s experience across multiple platforms. With illuminations, we have the physical book and the digital content that is accessed through the smart phone, whereas the ebook is a single platform with multimedia (illustrations, video, games) all built in.

The prime difference between the two is that one is localized to one device while the other requires a bit of exploration. Each method has its benefits and shortcomings, but ultimately they both enhance the experience for the reader, pulling dynamic content from anywhere to aid in the telling of stories.

Links: 1

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