Friday, 17 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Hands On with the Fire HD 6

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 02:07 PM PDT

Fire HD 6 HorizontalAmazon’s $99 Android tablet will probably never grace my todo list (not unless my current unit dies) but that doesn’t mean I’m not as interested in it as the next gadget blogger.

While digging through Youtube today, I found a hands on video worth watching. It wasn’t made by a pro gadget blogger (which is part of the reason why I like it), but the guy has used Amazon’s other tablets and he regularly shoots videos of RC helicopters and other topics.

He runs through the basic features and shows off how well the Fire HD6 runs apps, streams to his TV, and also plays Youtube videos.

I’ve watched the video, and one detail I picked up was that I was too pessimistic on the audio. I had decided against getting a Fire HD 6 because it had only a single speaker, but the reviewer says that it has good quality sound for a tablet.

I see this as a media tablet, so sound quality is important, and if more user reports come in that the audio is good then I just might buy a Fire HD 6 if it goes on sale.

The Fire HD 6 runs Kindle OS4 Sangria on a quad-core 1.2GHz CPU with 1GB RAM and 8GB or 16 GB internal storage. There’s no card slot or HDMI slot, but this tablet does have a microUSB port which Amazon says can take an HDMI or VGA adapter.

This tablet has a 6? IPS display with a screen resolution of 1280 x 800. I didn’t catch any mention of the screen quality in this video, but Amazon usually has pretty good screens. The Fire HD 6 also has a couple cameras: a VGA resolution webcam, and a 2MP rear-facing camera. As you can hear in the video, neither camera is all that great, but you can at least use them for Skype.

Weighing in at 10.1 ounces, the Kindle Fire HD 6 measures 6.7? x 4.1? x 0.4?.  The reviewer doesn’t mention how good the battery life was on his unit, but the spec page says that it has up to 8 hours of battery life.

The Fire HD 6 can be had from Amazon and other retailers. Retail starts at $99 for 8GB storage, and you can get one with 16GB internal storage for $119. It comes in five different colors (Black, White, Cobalt, Magenta, Citron).


In case you are interested, I also found a second video which might be worth watching. It takes a very different approach and goes into the physical details to a much greater degree, making it a good compliment to the video embedded above.

Before you watch it, let me warn you that I didn’t like the narration. I came close to not using this video because of that narration, but the narrator does offer a lot of detail so the video is still useful.

The post Hands On with the Fire HD 6 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Bookeen Announces Two New eReaders, Promises to Ship the Long Awaited Ocean eReader Next Month

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 09:50 AM PDT

cybook-ocean-2Bookeen held a press conference today to announced that they would be shipping 3 new ereaders next month. In addition to the much-delayed Ocean, Bookeen is also about to ship a couple 6″ ereaders, the Cybook Muse Essential and the Cybook Muse Frontlight.

The Cybook Muse sports a 6″ Pearl HD E-ink screen with a touchscreen and page turn buttons. It runs Bookeen’s proprietary reading software on an 800MHz Freescale CPU with 4GB internal storage, a microSD card slot, and Wifi.

Fingers crossed, the Muse is due to go up for pre-order on 5 November. The retail price for the Muse Essential model will be 80 euros, and for those who want a touchscreen the Muse Frontlight will cost $100 euros. Both models are supposed to ship in mid-November.

With those prices, the Muse models are clearly intended to compete with the current Kindle and Paperwhite models, and when you line them up spec for spec it is a toss up which is the better value. The Muse Essential runs on a slower CPU and costs 20 euros more than the basic Kindle, and while the Muse Frontlight can’t match the Carta E-ink screen on the Paperwhite, it does cost 30 euros less.

The Muse

Bookeen-Cybook-Muse-Front Bookeen-Cybook-Muse-Hand Bookeen-Cybook-Muse-Corner

Bookeen also said today that they plan to ship the 8″ Cybook Ocean next month as well.

The Ocean, which is the runner-up for the title of most delayed ereader of 2013 and 2014 (it was bested by the Earl back country tablet), is going to cost 180 euros when it ships next month.

This device sports an 8″ epaper screen with a resolution of 1024 x 768. It’s not an E-ink screen, but a “knockoff” screen from E-ink’s Chinese competitor (who apparently has made piece with E-ink or can afford better lawyers than E-ink, I do not know which).

The Ocean has a frontlight and touchscreen, and under the hood it packs in 4GB of storage, a microSD card slot, and a battery which the press release claims will last 9 weeks.

This is going to be a rather pricy ereader, and while it doesn’t have many competitors with a similar price tag the competition is very very good. The Kindle Voyage, for example, sports a uniquely high resolution screen, while the Kobo Aura H2O and the Onyx Boox T68 Lynx both use a smaller but sharper 6.8″ screen.

 The Ocean

cybook-ocean-1 cybook-ocean-2 cybook-ocean-5

The post Bookeen Announces Two New eReaders, Promises to Ship the Long Awaited Ocean eReader Next Month appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Roundup: Intelligent Debate in the Amazon Hachette Media Circus, Redux

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 08:06 AM PDT

While many writers aspire to writing a piece which shifts debate and sways public opinion, sometimes we end up with a piece that leads to less a chorus of agreement than a chorus of people telling us we’re full of it (been there, done that, and would do it again if I could figure out how).

Franklin Foer wrote one such piece in The New Republic last week. In calling for Amazon’s monopoly to be broken, Foer inspired contrary editorials in several major publications. A few days ago I rounded up several responses to his piece, and today I am back with more.

While I am sure that some readers are beyond tired of the ongoing media circus surrounding the evil Amazon, I find it newsworthy that The Boston Globe, Washington Post, and The Atlantic all responded with columns which debunked Foer’s call to the barricades. (Even the BBC weighed in, but since they didn’t say anything original I won’t be quoting them here.)

To start, Derek Thomson took to his keyboard last week to write a witty rejoinder in The Atlantic:

But if Amazon is a retail monopoly, then the word monopoly has no meaning. E-commerce is less than 10 percent of American retail, even after you take out gas, food, drinks, and building supplies. Amazon is less than 20 percent of American e-commerce. Put it together, and you are talking about a profitless company that commands less than 1 percent of its market.

If 1 percent of total sales qualifies as a monopoly, there are a lot of surprising monopolies out there. With 2.5 percent of smartphone sales, Windows Phone is flirting with a monopoly. With 2.9 percent of soda sales, National Beverage, the makers of Shasta and Mr. Pure, is working on its own monopoly in the U.S. soft drink industry. If Amazon Must Be Stopped, then Shasta Soda really, really must be stopped.

It’s a perfect bit of irony that the same day The New Republic published its Amazon cover story, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bezos is opening a brick-and-mortar store in Manhattan to compete with the brick-and-mortar industry that it is supposedly destroying.

Why is Amazon opening a store? Because that’s where people buy things. For all the convenience of e-commerce, retail is still dominated by ambulatory humans browsing shelves and sales racks, passing merchandise over a counter, and walking out of doors with bags.

It would seem that the continued misuse of the word monopoly by Amazon’s detractors is starting to get attention, and not in a good way.

It’s drawing the ire of lawyers (never a good idea), but it is also getting pundits outside of the book world to look at the ongoing media circus and apply logic and reason. Again, not something that Amazon’s detractors want to happen.

For example, Alex Beam wrote this in The Boston Globe yesterday:

I'm also not the first to point out that, in battling the French conglomerate Hachette over e-book pricing, Amazon isn't exactly kicking sand in the face of a 96-pound weakling. Hachette has profit margins of over 10 percent on $2.6 billion of annual sales. It's not exactly running a writers' cooperative, if you gather my drift. How did it get to be the good guy?

What are Amazon's sins? It has changed the terms of trade in BookWorld, and the Establishment is ticked off. Amazon loves its customers — hey, I'm a writer; they are my customers, too — and it loves to shake up marketplaces. By championing self-published authors and providing them with an efficient, online marketplace, Amazon has shrewdly incited a range war between the Manhattan-centric minions of Big Lit, and the diffuse guerrilla armies of do-it-yourself writers, whose names often pop up in Amazon's aggressive web promotions, such as the Kindle Daily Deal.

And he’s not the only one to take issue with the illogic of Foer’s piece. On Wednesday of this week David Post skewered Foer in The Washington Post. After first pointing out how it was nonsense to argue that publishers can’t compete with Amazon, Post goes on to add:

Let me get this straight:  we should break up or somehow cripple Amazon – Foer mentions a couple of ideas for doing so, including "strip[ping] Amazon of the power to set prices [or] depriv[ing] it of the ability to use its site to punish recalcitrant suppliers," though he acknowledges that those ideas "feel like tentative jabs at the problem, rather than coherent solutions to it" – so that publishers can set higher prices for their e-books, which will allow them to continue the "strange inefficiency" of giving advances to authors?

That's a lot of nonsense to pack into one paragraph.  Even if one believed that author advances are "the economic pillar on which quality books rest," and a "great bulwark against dilettantism" (Foer didn’t really mean it when he wrote that they're "the great bulwark against dilettantism" – don't publishing houses have editors for that purpose?), why does Amazon's behavior threaten that practice?

Sorry for the long quotes, folks, I am just deeply enjoying seeing this kind of nuanced discussion outside of the book world.

And that’s why I am going to limit myself to but a single additional quote. Reihan Salan responded to Foer’s piece not with an article which took a side but with a piece that looked at why Amazon was so good at disruption. From Slate:

Innovative entrepreneurship is exactly what the American economy desperately needs. You might think that the American innovation system is in great shape because large numbers of highly educated young people are flocking to Silicon Valley to create their own smartphone apps. You'd be wrong. The problem, as Thiel argues, is that although we have large numbers of copycat entrepreneurs, we have very few who are willing to take on the biggest, most difficult challenges. If Amazon weren't a relentless competitor that threatened the very existence of dozens of hidebound retailers, consumers would endure the same high prices and mediocre service, and shareholders in the various not-Amazons of the world would be sitting pretty. Amazon is the living embodiment of what the mostly forgotten economist Joseph Berliner famously called the "invisible foot" of capitalism.




The post Roundup: Intelligent Debate in the Amazon Hachette Media Circus, Redux appeared first on The Digital Reader.

iBooks Author Updated With InDesign and Epub Importer

Posted: 17 Oct 2014 06:55 AM PDT

ibooks author logoApple rolled out a new update for their ebook making app yesterday with a few major updates. The app is still limited to only running on OSX, but on the plus side it gained new features.

According to the changelog, iBooks Author offers a new ebook template and new options for linking inside an ebook. There is also mention of improvements to widget behaviors, including an option for autoplaying the media and keynote widgets (that would count as a dis-improvement, IMO).

And last but not least, Apple has also added an option for importing Epub files made elsewhere and InDesign files. An early report suggests that this feature creates a mess when IDML files are imported, but on the plus side iBooks Author does try to retain the formatting during the import process.

You can find the app in iTunes.

ibooks author v2.2

What's New in Version 2.2

• Import ePub files
• Import Adobe InDesign IDML files
• Create customized books with new Blank templates
• New hyperlink options: link to a location in another book, link from an image, and more
• Improved transition support in Keynote widget
• Enable auto-play for media widget, Keynote widget, and HTML widget
• Readers can now interact with the HTML widget right on a book page


The post iBooks Author Updated With InDesign and Epub Importer appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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