Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

As Booksellers Become Publishers, History Repeats Itself

Posted: 13 Jul 2014 06:28 PM PDT

360505392_69557c287d_o[1]Late last week Publishers Weekly posted an article on the growing trend of indie bookstores expanding into publishing. Some are acquiring an Espresso Book Machine, but not all.

This article caught my eye both for the innovating booksellers and because their innovations were once quite common.

Here’s an excerpt:

Books & Books, headquartered in Coral Gables, Fla., also earns money on every book, or at least doesn't lose any, according to Ausbert de Arce, who oversees the store's publishing program, Books & Books Press. To cover the manufacturing costs, Books & Books Press asks authors to contribute to the cost of production. In return, authors are deeply involved in the publishing process. The press takes advantage of bookstore owner Mitchell Kaplan's retail acumen, de Arce's expertise in marketing and production (he founded Taschen America), and photographer and designer Petra Mason's creativity. It also uses freelance designers and editors on its book projects, most of which come in through contacts between the store staff and authors. De Arce said that publishing 10 books a year has worked well and that every book is guaranteed shelf space at Books & Books, adding that the press can add more distribution if authors want. For a few titles, Books & Books acts as a packager for major trade houses.


An early adopter of the Espresso, Village Books in Bellingham, Wash., returned to publishing with a local printer and IngramSpark after removing its machine. "To be honest," said publishing director Brendan Clark, "sometimes I miss the EBM. Its unique ability to bind a single copy in minutes was extremely handy, and it constantly drew in new clients just by being there. But our off-site production partners now give us access to a diverse array of options, including hardcover binding and color pages, that the EBM simply doesn't have the capacity for." In addition to its publishing operations for self-published authors, the store maintains a separate traditionally oriented publishing program with royalties, Chuckanut Editions, which publishes books selected by Village Books owner Chuck Robinson, general manager Paul Hanson, and Clark.

It’s a neat read but they missed a historical aspect which I think adds depth.

There was a time when it was not unusual for a publisher to also be known as a printer and bookseller. In the early printing press era it was not unusual for someone to be known as a publisher, printer, and a bookseller. This extended into the 18th century, in fact. Benjamin Franklin is one example, and he’s not the only one.

That era ended in part due to advances in printing tech which enabled economies of scale, and by improvements in transportation tech which enabled distribution.

And now new technologies, both POD (printing tech) and the Internet (communication and distribution), are reviving an old idea and making it viable once again.

image by Gastev

The post As Booksellers Become Publishers, History Repeats Itself appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Onyx’s New E-ink Smartphone Can’t Make Phone Calls

Posted: 13 Jul 2014 01:55 PM PDT

onyx-midia-inkphone-2-366x600If you didn’t get a chance to buy an Onyx Midia Inkphone before the first shipment went out of stock, count yourself lucky. Early user reports are coming in from MobileRead, and the news is not good.

One early adopter is reporting that they cannot make phone calls:

Got my e43 ink phone today. Very disappointing. I can’t make or receive calls or browse. Only attaches to network and allows to perform *xxxxx# type ussd operation.

Can’t believe I paid good money for this . Sent mail to customer support, they sent it to their service guys and I’m still waiting for response.

That user went on to add in a follow up comment:

Still cannot use phone or SMS function. further as per my provider the phone is not legal as the imei they are using is licences to Nokia in fact it is same imei range as Nokia 7610. A mail from GSMA tech support confirm this. So it’s a matter of time before they block this phone from networks.

Some users are making calls without issue, but this is still a serious issue.

An IMEI number is a unique 15 digit serial number which belongs to a specific cellphone – not just a model but a specific unit. The numbers are managed by an international body, with companies often requesting a range of IMEI numbers for certain models.

Onyx neglected to register their company as a smartphone maker and request the unique serials numbers that would identify Onyx’s smartphones to telecoms around the world. This has been confirmed by other Inkphone owners , and it presents a serious issue for Onyx. As a result, Inkphone owners are at risk of their smartphone being identified as hacked, stolen, or fake by their local telecom.

In short, Onyx can’t guarantee that their E-ink smartphone will function as a smartphone.  Whoops.

Nearly 2 years in development, the Onyx Midia Inkphone is a nifty-looking smartphone errr PDA with a 4.3″ E-ink screen. It runs Android 2.3 on a 1GHz CPU with 512 RAM, and 4GB internal storage. It retails from Onyx’s Polish partner Arta Tech for 149 euros, or at least it did when it was still available.

This PDA had gone up for pre-order in late June, and quickly went out of stock. Something tells me it is going to stay out of stock for quite a while.

If you have an Inkphone, I would suggest that you treat it as a collectible. It’s going to be a rare commodity for quite some time.

Arta Tech was queried for this post but did not respond.

The post Onyx’s New E-ink Smartphone Can’t Make Phone Calls appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Budget Tablet Buying Guide: July 2014

Posted: 13 Jul 2014 11:29 AM PDT

Many_Tablets[1]For the past four years Android tablet have been a hot market niche, with dozens of device makers releasing new models willy-nilly. Some were good, many were bad, and as a result the tablet market in July 2014 is glutted with tablets.

There are so many tablets on the market that it is difficult to tell which ones are good; even a reviewer such as myself can’t test more than a tithe of what’s available.

But as I sat here this morning, looking for a tablet to buy and review, I realized that my process for choosing a tablet included a number of rules which might be useful.

On a related note, if you are looking for other useful info on tablets then you might be interested in the resources page I have been building (click here). On that page you will find links to the several getting started guides I have written over the years.

What I’m Shopping For

In shopping for a budget tablet, I set a hard upper price limit of $99. Anything more than that gets out of the budget market and into the same price range as the Kindle Fire HD (2013), which at $139 I do not see as a budget tablet.

I also set a lower price limit of $60. As I explain below, most of the tablets that cost less than $59 do not offer a good value. As a general rule, I also avoid refurbs.

Here’s a short list of the specs I want in a $99 Android tablet:

  • 7″ screen, with a screen resolution of 1024 x 600 (or higher)
  • a Dual-core ARM CPU (or a single-core Intel CPU)
  • 1GB RAM (minimum)
  • 8GB internal storage
  • Google Play (or Amazon Appstore)

You could buy a tablet with less RAM, but that will limit its performance. You might also skimp on storage, but that’s simply not a good idea. As I and a number of other users have discovered, the tablets that ship with only 4GB internal storage fill up real quick. A microSD card will be required, and that adds to the price so I say go for the extra storage in the first place.

You might notice that I insist on Google Play, but don’t mention cameras. The latter are a crap shoot for budget tablets; a tablet might have them but there’s no guarantee that the cameras will be good. And as for Google Play, most budget tablets will ship with it so you can ignore the tablets that don’t have it. They’re not even worth considering.

Where I Shop for Tablets

For starters, I tend to look for tablets on three websites:

  • Best Buy
  • Walmart

These three sites each stock quite a few models, and they also offer marketplaces where 3rd-party sellers can list items. (I’ve never encountered anyone selling tablets on but it could happen.) All 3 have reasonable return policies, although I have found Walmart’s procedures to be tedious.

I tend to go to the tablet category and list the tablets from cheapest to most expensive.I open any potential purchase in a new tab, and I also right click on the model number and do a Google search in order to find reviews.

This lets me find any truly good deals, but it also makes me have to sort through tablets I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. For example, I would not buy refurbs, and I wouldn’t buy a tablet that cost less than $60.

What I Won’t Buy

Refurbished Tablets

Most of the tablets you find in the refurb market have already been owned by at least one person, who then decided to return it. I don’t know about you but I take that as a red flag.

One thing I have noticed over the years is that the worst tablets tend to show up the most in the refurb market. People buy one, realize just how terrible it is, and return it to the store. That tablet is then sold off to a 3rd-party who refurbishes it and puts it back on the market.

As a rule, I won’t touch a refurbished no-name budget tablet; it’s not a safe purchase.

But if I came across a name brand tablet, that’s a different matter. I would take a chance on a refurbed Amazon tablet, or a Samsung tablet. With name brands you have a better chance of getting a good tablet than you would with a no-name budget tablet.

But before you buy one, be sure to check reviews. If several reviewers identify a problem then that is probably why it was returned in the first place.  I would suggest that you avoid the tablet.

Speaking of tablets you should avoid …

Sub-$60 Android Tablets

When I set out to buy a tablet this morning I intended to buy one which cost less than $60.  I thought this price range offered great potential for a return on your investment, and since no one seemed to by buying the tablets and posting reviews it looked like this was a topic I didn’t have to share with other bloggers.

But after a couple hours of browsing, I decided that most of the tablets weren’t worth my time. I couldn’t see myself using them, or recommending them, and so they were not worth reviewing.

Most of the tablets in this price range have 3 details in common: they’re one to two years old, they run Android on single core CPUs, and their specs promise that the performance and usability will be disappointing.

The sub-$60 tablets will only be about half as powerful as the $99 tablets I would suggest that you buy. They will also have poorer quality components and weaker screens. What’s more, a lot of the sub-$60 tablets I found this morning were left overs from last year and the year before, so there’s a good chance that they have aged while still in the retail box. This could lessen their lifespan.

So what would I buy? I ended up buying a Hisense Sero 8 tablet, but that was mainly because no one else has posted a review. At $129, it’s outside of my price range. And due to the lack of reviews it is also an unknown, so I can’t recommend it yet.

Best Tablet Value for July 2014

Kobo ArcIf you want a safe tablet purchase for under $100, I would go for the Kobo Arc (2012). This is probably not the only good value for $99, but it is one I have had my hands on and can recommend without concern.

The Kobo Arc was initially released in 2012 as a competitor to the Kindle Fire HD. As such it was a mid-grade tablet with specs that justified its $199 price tag. Now that it costs $99, it’s a great deal.

The Arc has a better quality screen than you will find on most tablets in its price range. With a screen resolution of 1280 x 800, it is both sharper and higher quality.

This tablet runs Android 4.1.1 on a dual-core 1.5GHz CPU, 680MB RAM, and 32GB internal storage. There’s no Bluetooth or microSD card slot,  and there is only a single 1.3MP front-facing camera (but it is a good camera).

That version of Android is a little old, but this isn’t the only budget tablet running older versions of Android. And while the lack of a card slot might be a concern, I have never actually needed that much space on any of my tablets (other than the iPad, which carried a lot of enhanced textbooks).

As I explained last month, the Kobo Arc is one of the two tablets I carry around. I use it as a complement to my Kindle Fire HD, which I mainly use as a media device. I have found the Arc to be perfectly satisfactory.

Alas, you might not.

At this time, I can only find one retailer which still carries the Arc online. Kobo sold out, and Kobo’s retail network in the US is limited and dysfunctional. But I did find the Kobo Arc at Family Christian, where you can pick one up for $99. I can’t make a guarantee that it will still be there as the weeks turn into months, but if it is available I would buy it.

The post Budget Tablet Buying Guide: July 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment