Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 9 January 2014

Posted: 08 Jan 2014 09:30 PM PST

Top stories this Thursday morning include a list of 9 books that don’t exist (link), another look at the sale of Bookish (link), a rant about iBooks for OSX (link), an interview of LeVar Burton (link), and more.

  • The 9 Best Books That Don't Exist (PWxyz)
  • The Bookish Sale: Was it Preordained? (Publishing Perspectives)
  • The Decline and Fall of the Book Reviewing Empire (BOOK RIOT)
  • eQuil, the paper to digital reader, lets us go hands-on (SlashGear)
  • Feedly For Android Beta Adds A Speedy Tap Advance Function, Gets Rid Of Annoying Back Button Issue (Android Police)
  • How do I dislike iBooks for OS X? Let me count the ways… (TUAW)
  • Huseby Named CEO of Barnes & Noble (PW)
  • LeVar Burton Talks ‘Reading Rainbow’ App at CES 2014 (Mashable)
  • Longform is trendy, but publishers are still chasing fast clicks (PandoDaily)
  • Lynne Truss has a grammatical axe to grind (Telegraph)
  • MobStac Raises $2 Million In Series B To Help Brands Leverage Mobile Commerce (TechCrunch)
  • Sales of Print Units Slipped in 2013 (PW)
  • Yahoo’s News Digest Offers Bite-Sized News for Short Attention Spans (Gizmodo)

The post The Morning Coffee – 9 January 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Alcatel MagicFlip is Probably the Lightest eBook Reader I’ve Ever Handled

Posted: 08 Jan 2014 02:27 PM PST

Alcatel alcatel onetouch majicflip 1OneTouch had a 4″ ereader / smartphone accessory which was the talk of CES 2014, and today I finally managed to get my hands on it.

This prototype, which is currently being called the MagicFlip, is a svelte 4″ ereader with a USB port, page turn buttons, Bluetooth, and not much else.

Like the E-ink smartphone cover which Alcatel teased back in September, this was a very early prototype which can’t do very much. Of the 3 buttons on the front only the page turn buttons worked. There is a home button, but it didn’t do anything.

In fact, the device itself couldn’t do much, but unlike Engadget, I was able to get the Magic Flip to work as an ereader – until it decided to rest itself. It can’t do anything else yet, but i was told that Alcatel is planning to let you send info to the MagicFlip so you can use the paper-like qualities of the persistent E-ink screen, thus saving battery life on your smartphone or tablet.

alcatel onetouch majicflip 1 alcatel onetouch majicflip 2 alcatel onetouch majicflip 3

This was a really cool device, and I was frankly surprised at how small and thin it was. It could indeed be an excellent complement to a smartphone, even more so than the txtr beagle (a 5″ ereader with a similar smartphone companion design). The MagicFlip is lacking the ungainly bulge found on the back of the txtr beagle, and that’s going to make it a lot easier to slip this ereader in and out of a pocket.

It’s scheduled to go into production in the first quarter of this year; I don’t know the retail price.


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B&N at CES 2014, In a Single Photo

Posted: 08 Jan 2014 01:37 PM PST

When I wrote a few days ago about B&N not bringing the Nook to CES 2014, I questioned whether they were making a wise investment in bringing only books to a gadget trade show.

But after I saw their booth this morning I’m not sure that it counts as a major investment for B&N. Check out the branding:

barnes noble CES 2014

The Gary mentioned all over the signage is probably Gary Shapiro, the head of CEA (the trade group behind CES). Do you notice how he is mentioned in larger font than Barnes & Noble? That is probably a sign that this isn’t actually B&N’s booth; they’re simply running it on behalf of the CEA. And that changes everything.

I doubt B&N is actually paying for this booth (or at least they are getting a huge discount), and in retrospect I now doubt that they paid for the booth last year either (kudos to Vonda Z for suggesting that possibility last year). If B&N’s only investment is overhead then their costs drop considerably and their presence here is no longer inexplicable.  odd, yes, but not inexplicable.


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Gallery: A Dozen Smartwatches From CES 2014

Posted: 08 Jan 2014 08:01 AM PST

I have bw_06[1]some good news and bad news today. The bad news is that the paper maps that were being handed out at CES yesterday were terribly inaccurate, but the good news is this lead me to  stumble upon a “wearables” zone where I found a half dozen different companies showing off their new tech.

Wearable devices like Google Glass and smartwatches are a hot topic this year at CES, so you can image how many companies brought their prototypes, reference designs, and hopes and dreams to the show. I don’t think I found them all, but I did find quite a few including a watch from ZTE (found by Brad Linder of Liliputing), a couple dumb watches that have E-ink screens, and smartwatches that offer a more diverse range of features than can be imagined.

Not all of the devices pictured below are technically smartwatches, and it might surprise you to learn that some of the watches with E-ink screens aren’t smart. What’s even more interesting is that some of the smartwatches don’t have screens.

Some of the watches with an ordinary watchface can receive notifications from a smartphone and either flash a symbol or light up. Does that make them smart?  Maybe not, but they do serve a similar purpose to a “true” smartwatch. Until the product category is better defined I think they should be included.

ZTE E-Fun TokyoFlash Burg Cogito Sonostar Ezio MyKronoz Neptune Pine Seiko Phosphor P1020964

The gallery of photos above include watches from the following companies. Unfortunately I cannot embed the links in the gallery of images, so instead I have to post the links in a separate list. Click the links for more information.

  1. ZTE
  2. E-Fun
  3. TokyoFlash
  4. Burg
  5. Cogito
  6. Sonostar
  7. Ezio
  8. MyKronoz
  9. Neptune Pine (this one is a real smartwatch, and not a smartphone accessory)
  10. Seiko
  11. Phosphor

And last but not least, the final smartwatch from CES 2014 is a development kit from E–ink.  They’ll sell you a curved screen unit similar to the one used on the Sonostar and let you build something from it.

And to make things even more interesting, I haven’t even mentioned the dozen other wearable devices I saw for the first time at CES 2014. Most, but not all, are exercise accessories.

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Amazon Now Poaching Customers From College Bookstores

Posted: 08 Jan 2014 06:20 AM PST

Rememberamazon010714[1] last year when Amazon released a mobile shopping app and then encouraged their customers to use retails stores as showrooms for purchases made on Amazon? It might be hard to imagine, but Amazon has achieved a new low.

Shelf Awareness has discovered that Amazon is now poaching customers from college bookstores. They reported in their newsletter today that Amazon recently set up a table outside a UW-S bookstore:

Yesterday during rush at the University of Washington, Seattle, showed some amazing nerve: in front of the University Bookstore’s store in the Husky Union Building (HUB), Amazon employees set up a display urging students to sign up for Amazon Student, a free program for six months offering two-day shipping and special deals (and then segues to Amazon Prime).

The Amazon reps approached students and asked them if they had purchased their textbooks already, and the reps also gave away several Kindle Fires in a raffle.


SA reported this story under the headline that Amazon was trying to steal customers from an indie bookstore, but that isn’t quite accurate. The University Book Store is technically an independent trust which operates college bookstores in 7 locations on UW campuses, but since it is so closely associated with the University of Washington (even the trustees are drawn from students and faculty) I am not sure that you can accurately describe this as an indie bookseller.

But even so, Amazon is being rather brazen here. They rented space from the university for the purpose of poaching customers from the university’s bookstore. (Don’t you wonder why the university let that happen?) Credit card companies operate on that level, though the deals they offer would better be described as predatory and not to the student’s benefit.

Amazon, on the other hand, is offering a very nice membership program. Even if students don’t take advantage of the free shipping, the free content alone makes Amazon Student and Amazon Prime a reasonable deal.

I think Amazon should do more deals like this; it is to the student’s benefit. And if the bookstore at the University of Washington really is dedicated to the benefit of students then they should welcome Amazon as well.

In fact, the bookstore might want to look into the pilot program that the UC-Davis Bookstore is testing at the moment. This college bookstore has a portal on the Amazon website where they earn a commission on Amazon sales. That program launched with the 2013 school year, and it is an ongoing test to see if bookstore benefits from the relationship as much as Amazon.

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The Blank Slate Case Adds an E-ink Screen to Your iPhone

Posted: 08 Jan 2014 04:45 AM PST

Frustrated by the perpetually-delayed PopSlate and can’t get your hands on the InkCase from Gajah? Then you might want to keep an eye on a new case maker I just discovered.

blank slate

While I was in the E-ink booth on Tuesday I happened to run into Neil Blank. He’s the principal of nBlank, a product development consulting firm, and he showed me nBlank’s latest project. It’s called the Blank Slate, and like the PopSlate and the InkCase the Blank Slate adds a second E-ink screen to your iPhone.

The Blank Slate case sports a 3.5″ E-ink screen (640 x 360) and connects to the iPhone via the lightening connector. Unlike the InkCase, this isn’t intended to be a BT accessory but an integrated component.

blank slate 1

This case is still in the early development stages, and in fact the prototype I saw wasn’t even a pre-production model. It worked, yes, but from the way it was described this was a “everything fits in the case, and it works” model. nBlank has been working on the Blank Slate for about 6 months, so the fact that they have a working model is remarkable.

I don’t have any firm details on when it will hit the market, but I do know that it will go through at least one design iteration before going into production Until then, all I have is this demo video that Neil posted on Youtube:

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Hands On With the New Hisense Tablets

Posted: 08 Jan 2014 03:34 AM PST

Hisense hisense f5070 1surprised everyone when they launched the Sero 7 Pro in May 2013. This tablet quickly took the crown as the best budget tablet, but if the 2 tablets I saw in the Hiense booth this week are any sign I don’t think Hisense is planning to defend their title.

Mixed in with the many smartphone, phablets, and TVs that filled the Hisense both were a couple 7″ tablets. Neither model is as good as the Sero 7 Pro, but they do offer an option that older tablet lacks: optional 3g. The E2070 and E5070 are running Android 4.2 on Mediatek CPUs, which is a step down from the Tegra 3 chip in the Sero 7 Pro.

Update: I’ve just been told by Brad Linder of Lilputing that these tablets are destined for the Chinese market, not the US market.

The F5070 has a 7″ screen with a resolution of 1280 x 800 (the same as on the Sero 7 Pro). It’s built around a quad-core 1.2GHZ Mediatek chip with 1GB RAM, 8GB Flash storage, microSD card slot, GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth, and optional 3g. It still has the 5MP and 2MP cameras found on the Sero 7 Pro, but it lacks the LED Flash which made that older tablet stand out.

hisense f5070 1 hisense f5070 2 hisense f5070 4 hisense f5070 3

The E2070, on the other hand, has a 7″ screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600. This tablet is clearly intended to be the lighter weight companion to the F5070, and it has a dual-core 1.2GHz Mediatek chip with 1GB RAM, only 4GB Flash storage, microSD card slot, GPS, Wifi, and Bluetooth. It still has the optional 3g, and it even has a pair of cameras (VGA and 2MP).

hisense e2070 1 hisense e2070 2 hisense e2070 3 hisense e2070 4

The specs for these tablets might not grab your attention, but the build quality might. Both tablets were built almost as nice as the Sero 7 Pro I carry around. The have a similar pebbled back and an integrated cover for the card slots. The software could have used some work, though; it was listed as an experimental build and lacked any refinement. This unfortunately keeps me from commenting on their performance.

I couldn’t get any details on the price or release date (TBH I got distracted by a debate on the merits of Hisense’s old models vs new), but I was told that the tablets would be priced competitively. I would expect to see the Wifi version of the E2070 priced at around $99.

As for the 3g models, I am not sure how to guestimate the retail price. But I will note that the F5070 has specs about the same as the Verizon Ellipsis tablet (same CPU, t00) so I wouldn’t be surprised if the F5070 arrived on the US market with a $250 price tag.

These tablets are in almost every way a step down from the current Hisense, and I think that tells us something about how they see the budget tablet market. Price, and not specs, is the dominant factor.

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