Monday, 2 December 2013

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 3 December 2013

Posted: 02 Dec 2013 09:30 PM PST

Top stories this morning include a column on Amazon’s expansion into Australia (link), a new children’s library (link), a trick for getting Kindle Store best-seller info by email (link), a look at Pubslush (link), and more.

  • reading_platform_courtesy_anagrama_0[1]Amazon's Australian Kindle store: an unhappy ending for the book industry? (
  • A crowdfunded Dutch news site goes from concept to reality (Nieman Journalism Lab)
  • Designing a Mountain of Books for Children (Designers & Books)
  • E-Books Hold Tight to Features of Their Print Predecessors (
  • The end of bookstores is NOT at hand (The Way I See It – Mark Kolier)
  • Get Alerts for Best Seller Kindle Ebooks in Favorite Genres with IFTTT (LifeHacker)
  • Helpful Definitions for Modern Authors (
  • iHave a Dream: The unanswered questions behind LA's ed tech fiasco (PandoDaily)
  • Pubslush: Can the Kickstarter for books find its niche? (TNW)
  • StoriesAlive Delivers Kid Friendly Books (AppNewser)

The post The Morning Coffee – 3 December 2013 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon: Those Pop-Up Stores Aren’t Strictly Stores

Posted: 02 Dec 2013 01:49 PM PST

One of the amazon_retail_store[1]hot stories last week was the surprise news that Amazon had opened their first retail locations, but it turns out that the real story is much more complicated.

According to the WSJ, Amazon had opened up a couple pop-up stores in an SF-area mall where it was letting passers-by try the frontlight on the Paperwhite and was “selling the devices as well as branded covers and power adapters from vending machines”.

That sounds like a retail store, right? Not according to Amazon.

I double-checked this story with Amazon and I was told that this was part of a marketing effort:

This is part of Kindle's 'Read-It-To-Believe-It' campaign highlighting the all-new Kindle Paperwhite.  The mall integrations at a handful of malls across the US give customers a hands-on chance to try Kindle Paperwhite.  In addition, the 'Read-It-To-Believe-It' campaign includes both TV and print advertising.  You can see the commercials here.

If you take Amazon at their word then these locations aren’t there to sell Kindles, just to promote them. It’s possible that Amazon is trying to distract attention from their retail pilot (just in case it doesn’t work out), but it’s also possible that they’re serious.

But would that necessarilly mean that we’re not talking about some new type of store?

The locations certainly don’t look like a traditional store. Now that the news has sunk in I find myself in agreement with a reader, Carmen, who said:

I agree it could just be a way of testing to get customers reactions to the devices. The "shop" looks a lot like the set of their TV commercials, in fact.

From what little I can make out in the photo I think she’s correct. The “store” did look more like a set than a store.


But the locations are still selling hardware, you say, and that makes the pop-up stores actual stores. On the other hand, if the sales are being conducted via vending machines then does that make this a retail store?

As a strict rule, I would say no – not unless you want to describe all vending machines as retail stores. But I also think that would this question hinge upon whether the staff there is actively promoting the merchandize, is capable of processing a return, or can generate a tech support ticket. If you cannot answer yes to a couple of those questions then this probably isn’t a retail store. At the very least it doesn’t fill the same needs as one of B&N’s Nook depts.

But never mind the services offered, were the 2 SF-area pop-up stores even staffed by Amazon employees?

We know that Amazon has been hiring Kindle field reps since June 2013 and that they have at least one based in the SF metro area, but were any Amazon reps at the pop-up stores? The WSJ article wasn’t able to find anyone who worked for Amazon, so we don’t know for sure.

I am inclined to say that these aren’t stores, but I hesitate to make an absolute statement. For all we know this “marketing effort” could become a semi-permanent part of Amazon’s operations, and if these kind of pop-up stores are still around 6 months from now then arguably they are stores – even if they don’t look or operate like a traditional retail store.

Stranger things have happened, after all; I can recall Nokia opening retail stores where you couldn’t actually buy any of the products on display (I cannot find a link, darnit). So it’s possible that Amazon is developing their own quirky take on a retail operation.

Past rumors about Amazon entering brick and mortar retail have turned out to be completely wrong (just ask Jeff Bezos), but that doesn’t mean that Amazon won’t eventually end up with something resembling a retail store. This question is far too nebulous to have a definitive answer, so at this point we’ll just have to wait and see.

images via, DVICE

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E-ink Introduces the Thinner and Lighter Fina E-ink Screen

Posted: 02 Dec 2013 12:13 PM PST

A belatedpocketbook cad reader press release has crossed my desk today with the news that E-ink is ready to manufacture a new and thinner screen.

The Fina screen module, which is being used in the recently announced Pocketbook CAD Reader, features a lighter and thinner glass backplane.This screen replaces the glass TFT backplane used in many E-ink screens with a very thin glass substrate that promises to deliver screens that are much lighter and thinner than in standard LCD screens. It is now available to be built into E-ink screens of all sizes from 5″, to the 13.3″ screen used in the Pocketbook CAD Reader. According to the press release, a Fina screen weighs less than half as much as an E-ink screen which uses an existing backplane, and it is less than half as thick.

As a result the Fina screen in the Pocketbook CAD Reader weighs only 60 grams. This device, which was only announced a few hours ago, runs Android 4.0 on a dual-core 1GHz CPU. It runs software designed to display blueprints  from AutoDesk as well as other construction documents.

pocketbook cad reader

“Fina adds to E Ink’s portfolio of innovative display products which enable unique consumer and engineering products,” said Giovanni Mancini, director of product management for E Ink Holdings. “The extremely low power requirements, thinness, lightweight and readability under all lighting conditions truly enable design engineers to display information where they never thought possible before.”

That’s great and all but it’s not like there was any technical reason preventing larger screens from going on the market; the roadblock is that there isn’t much of a market for larger screens due to development and manufacturing costs.

And given the relatively low resolution of the Fina screen (150ppi, compared to 265 PPI on the Kobo Aura HD) I don’t expect to see very many small devices use it either.

But once you filter out the hype this is still a fascinating technical achievement (confirming once again that I am a nerd.).

The post E-ink Introduces the Thinner and Lighter Fina E-ink Screen appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Pocketbook CAD Reader Launches in Russia with a 13.3″ E-ink Fina Screen

Posted: 02 Dec 2013 09:36 AM PST

Sony’s3_1-a 13.3″ writing slate is expected to hit the market with a flexible plastic screen and thousand dollar price tag, putting it out of the reach of most consumers (and even a lot of businesspersons). Luckily for us, Pocketbook has just revealed a less durable (but also cheaper) alternative.

Meet the Pocketbook CAD Reader. This ebook reader might share its screen size with Sony’s writing slate but that is about all that the two devices have in common.

The Pocketbook CAD Reader has a 13.3″ screen with a resolution of 1600 x 1200, but rather than use the flexible Mobius E-ink screen the CAD Reader instead uses the new Fina E-ink screen. This screen tech replaces the plastic backplane with a glass backplane similar to the one used in 6″ E-ink screens.


The Fina screen hasn’t actually been announced yet by E-ink, but the Pocketbook press release mentions that it has a 10:1 contrast ratio, suggesting that this screen is closely related to Pearl E-ink screens (and not the newer Carta E-ink screens).

Update: The E-ink press release, which just arrived in my inbox, says that the Fina screen uses a glass backplane that is thinner and lighter than that used on earlier screens.

The PocketBook CAD Reader is going to be running Android 4.0.4 on a dual-core 1 GHz CPU with 2 GB RAM, 16 GB Flash storage, and an 8Ah battery. This is going to make it (possibly) the single most powerful ereader on the market. Of course, we don’t know the specs for Sony’s writing slate, so I cannot guarantee that claim.

The CAD Reader will also have Wifi and 3G connectivity, as well as a Wacom touchscreen and a capacitive touchscreen. Sony’s writing slate is similarly equipped with dual touchscreens.

There’s no info on price or release date, but I do know that the CAD Reader will be shown off at the Autodesk University later this week in Las Vegas, NV. It will probably also make an appearance at CES 2014 in January, but that has not been confirmed.


If the screen shots and conference schedule are any indication, Pocketbook is probably aiming for the same market as the Zephyr, the 21″ device that is intended to display blueprints. The Zephyr gets its prodigious screen size by combining four 10.7″ Plastic logic screens, and is large enough to hide a small child.

Both the CAD Reader and the Zephyr are aimed at the construction market, and that makes me wonder just how much research these companies did.

As I mentioned in an update to the post on the Zephyr, I ran this idea by a construction engineer who pointed out that there was no need for a new device to display digital blueprints – that’s what tablets were for. All the places she has worked went digital years ago and use either tablet-convertibles or out and out tablets.

She doesn’t see the need for a limited function device like the Zephyr or the CAD Reader, not when the budget already covers tablets and laptops.

If her assessment is correct then this is going to be a swing and a miss for Pocketbook and Plastic Logic. But on the upside at least with the CAD Reader consumers stand a chance of getting their hands on it at a not too unreasonable price. I’m looking forward to it.

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Google Takes Swing at Amazon with Cyber Monday Sale on eBooks

Posted: 02 Dec 2013 05:59 AM PST

Amazon, B&N, Apple, et al may be focusing on hardware sales this holiday season but not Google. The search engine giant has taken the occasion to launch a little sale in Google Play Books.

google cyber monday sale

Around 100 titles are on sale, with prices starting at up to 75% off of retail. Yes, I know, that doesn’t sound promising but there are some good deals here. You can find the 5 book omnibus edition of Game of Thrones for $9.99, the Dragon Tattoo trilogy for $7.49, Ender’s Game for $2, or the Hunger Games trilogy for $12.99.

I have double checked on eReaderIQ and based on that site’s price tracking logs these are indeed some very nice sale prices. eReaderIQ also indicated that this sale kicked off last Thursday (I only heard about it today).

I would head on over and browse the selection, but before you buy anything you should probably double check the Kindle Store and other competing ebookstores.  I know that Amazon has already price-matched all of the titles I wanted to buy, so I expect they matched the entire sale.

Here’s a few from my shopping list today:

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