Friday, 4 July 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Earl Back Country E-ink Tablet is Delayed Once Again

Posted: 04 Jul 2014 02:29 PM PDT

january2Earlier this week the team behind the Earl Back Country tablet posted an update on their website. While most of the design is coming along nicely, they reported that one key component was delaying certification and production:

While the final iteration of Earl's walkie talkie was set to be completed back in February, the team contracted to develop and manufacturer the module has been less than satisfactory. Though we've tested a few iterations since the last module we received at the end of May, the walkie talkie still had further changes required to interface with Earl. We were promised the final module would be ready upon my return from my trip to the States around the 15th of June. No dice. I arrived back on the 18th and was assured of its completion by the 5th of July. Yesterday I was made aware of yet another delay that has now pushed it’s delivery until the 11th of July. This is the last major piece we need to proceed with certification.

The team doesn’t know exactly how long the delay will be, but they are saying that the Earl won’t be in production before October. (And that assumes nothing goes wrong with certification or at the factory.)

Originally scheduled to ship by the end of summer 2013, the Earl tablet by Sqigle promised to be a unique device that combined a rugged outdoors-safe design with a sunlight friendly E-ink screen. Sadly, the Earl has yet to live up to the promises. It’s been delayed several times since it launched as a crowd-sourced project in May 2013, and now it has been delayed again.

It’s been extensively redesigned over the past year and now sports a new shell, a better and cheaper Mobius E-ink screen, and improved specs. As you can see in the two vine videos below, the Earl has a green and black shell now which looks quite different from the tablet as it was conceived last summer.

The original design, which you can see in the second Vine video, had a kickstand with a solar panel. After early tests revealed that the kickstand was a weak point, the solar panel was integrated into the rear of the shell.

According to the latest specs, the Earl is going to be running Android 4.4 KitKat on a dual-core 1GHz CPU with 1GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, and a microSD card slot. In terms of connectivity, the Earl has Wifi, BT, GPS, NFC, and a multi-band M/FM/SW/LW radio. It can also pick up UHF, VHF, and it can double as a low-power 2-way radio. It also has quite a few sensors, including a a barometer, thermometer, hygrometer, and a 9-axis accelerometer/gyroscope/magnetometer.

Have you ordered an Earl? with a price tag of $250, I thought it was too pricy so I didn’t get one when it first launched. And after it missed its original ship date I thought it was too much of a risk. That turned out to have been a good idea, but I was honestly just being excessively cautious at the time.


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Bluefire Reader for Windows Ships Next Week

Posted: 04 Jul 2014 09:36 AM PDT

bluefireAdobe isn’t the only company which is releasing an ebook app in the next few days; Bluefire is about to ship a new version of their respected Bluefire Reader app.

For the past week I have been playing with an early release of Bluefire Reader for Windows. This app has been under development for well over a year, fortuitously giving it a chance to launch into a market where Windows users have fewer and fewer options for reading Epub ebooks.

The app offers all of the customization options and reading features we have come to expect from the leading apps. In addition to line spacing, justification, text size, and margin width, readers can choose from a variety of fonts and color themes, including a night mode.

When reading, the text automatically adjusts to offer a multi-column mode on wide screens (just like the late NookStudy). Depending on the font size and the width of the app window, you could see up to 3 columns of text. As you progressively increase the font size the app automatically switches to a double column and a single column mode.

In terms of annotation, BFR4W offers both highlights and notes. The annotations in a book can be found via the annotations menu, and they can also be exported (much like what Amazon enables with the Kindle platform).

Speaking of menus, there is of course a library menu, and inside each book you’ll find a TOC and a book info menu. Each of these menus is based on a book’s metadata, so they may not be available for every ebook.

Other reading features include search, a dictionary, bookmarks, copying text, but not TTS. (BFR4W should work with your existing Windows screen reading app but I don’t have this feature enabled and can’t confirm that detail.) And there is even an option to sync your reading position, annotations, and bookmark with your other Bluefire apps. I have not tested that, though.

All in all BFR4W  is not the most feature rich Windows reading app but it does have a number of advantages over its competition. NookStudy might offer similar DRM support and a lot more annotation options, but it is also tied to the Nook platform and is at risk of B&N deciding to kill it. Bluefire Reader for Windows, on the other hand, does not require that you log in to any server in order to use it.

And of course Bluefire Reader for Windows bests the Kobo and Kindle apps by offering support for Epub. The Kobo app can’t read ebooks bought elsewhere, and Amazon continues to leave out any auto-conversion ability from the Kindle app (its deceased relative, Mobipocket Reader for Windows, had this ability).

This is an okay app, and I plan to keep it around for the inevitable EOL of NookStudy.  I won’t be switching to it immediately, but that is largely because I am someone who holds onto apps until they are dead before I abandon them.

On second thought, I notice as I get to the end of the comparsions that Bluefire Reader for Windows loads significantly faster than NookStudy. If I switched now it would save me the time I will spend waiting for NookStudy to wake itself up.

Decisions, decisions.

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The post Bluefire Reader for Windows Ships Next Week appeared first on The Digital Reader.

New Photos Show a Thinner, Redesigned iPad Air (Dummy)

Posted: 04 Jul 2014 07:03 AM PDT

ipad air 2 dummy 5Apple’s next tablet got a little more real today. A Japanese blog has got their hands on a dummy unit for the upcoming iPad Air, and they posted some photos.

A you can see the photo gallery below, the new photos largely confirm what we saw in the video from  last week, and they show that (assuming this is the real deal) the new iPad Air is going to be thinner and feature a TouchID fingerprint scanner. We can also see that the dummy is showing the redesigned speaker grills and relocated buttons and camera identified in the video.

All in all, the photos show pretty much what we saw last, suggesting that at the very least both and the Youtuber from last week both got their dummy unit from the same place. And if we are lucky the dummies are based on real specs, though of course it is too early to say.

Apple is expected to launch a new iPad in either September or October.  We are also going to see at least one new iPhone in that period, but the launch dates are still up in the air. Apple is most likely going to launch the new iPhone and iPad at separate events, and it is a toss up which will come first.

ipad air 2 dummy 1 ipad air 2 dummy 2 ipad air 2 dummy 5 ipad air 2 dummy 6 ipad air 2 dummy 4 ipad air 2 dummy 3



The post New Photos Show a Thinner, Redesigned iPad Air (Dummy) appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Want to Read Epub3 eBooks on your PC? Adobe Launches Private Beta for Adobe DE 4

Posted: 04 Jul 2014 05:37 AM PDT

epub logoThe Epub3 ebook format may have been finalized close to 3 years ago but it is still rather hard to use Epub3 ebooks on a PC.

There are any number of ebook apps which support some Epub3 features (including apps from the name-brand platforms like Kobo, Apple, etc) but those apps are mainly concentrated on iOS and Android.

At long last,that is about to change. Adobe and the IDPF announced yesterday that the new version of Adobe Digital Editions (and the Adobe RMSDK) were now available in a private beta.

Adobe DE 4.0 is the first version of Digital Editions to be based on the Readium Project, and thus it will be the first to also have support for much (but not all) of the Epub3 ebook format. While the current version of Adobe DE supports some features (vertical languages, for one), support for the Epub3 format is still incomplete.

According to the announcement, the Adobe DE 4.0 beta release supports both fixed layout (like cookbooks, graphic novels, textbooks) and reflowable content (novels), audio and video, MathML, Javascript, multiple rendition EPUBs,  and much more.

The beta test is private, so in order to get into it you will need to send an email to, ask nicely, and then fill out a long form. I’ve already signed up, but I have yet to test anything. At the time I wrote this post, the only beta app available was for OSX. I run Windows.

And that is annoying, because I was looking forward to running the new app through the test suite at That site launched earlier this year with the goal of tracking Epub3 support across all ebook apps and devices. That is the site that tells us that the latest version of iBooks (3.2) supports about 61% of Epub3 features while the Kobo app for the iPad supports 66%.

Curiously enough, the app which supports the most Epub3 features is not the official Readium app for Chrome but a Dutch app I have never heard of. Bureau van Dijk Reader claims a score of 82%. If you are interested, it seems to be the work of this fellow.

P.S. On a related note, yesterday’s announcement also mentioned that the new version of the Adobe RMSDK would be released in beta. According to the IDPF, it “supports new Adobe Content Server (ACS) features including subscriptions and other advanced transaction and distribution models”.

The post Want to Read Epub3 eBooks on your PC? Adobe Launches Private Beta for Adobe DE 4 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Morning Coffee – 4 July 2014

Posted: 03 Jul 2014 09:11 PM PDT

14333254177_3c1afe37e6_b[1]I have a short reading list for you this 4th of July.

  • Authors Behaving Badly and Authors Who Aren’t (A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing)
  • Banned Books Week turns focus to comics this year (MobyLives)
  • Five reasons for optimism about the future of ebooks (Medium)
  • If you love books then you should be rooting for Amazon, not Hachette or the Big Five (GigaOm)
  • One-Percent Authors Want To End Destructive Conflict, Bring Order to the Galaxy (The Heart of the Matter)
  • Really twisted logic here (TeleRead)
  • You Aren't Buying Books From Harlequin  (Writer’s Diary)

image by ErasmusOfParis

The post The Morning Coffee – 4 July 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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