Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Where and How to Give eBooks as Gifts

Posted: 26 Nov 2014 04:00 PM PST

81t2GxHmf7L._SL1500_[1]With the holidays rapidly approaching, our thoughts are turning to books and how to give them as gifts. With some stores like Amazon that is easy, but with other stores like Kobo it is difficult, and in the case of  iBooks it is simply not possible to gift an ebook.

As a general rule, I think it is better to give a gift card rather than an ebook. This lets the recipient choose the ebooks they want to buy, or perhaps use the funds to get a magazine subscription instead.

While it is fun to give books as a gift, it’s not always as much fun to get a book. One might already have the ebook in question, or it might not be to one’s taste, or the gift might have been purchased in the wrong store (iBooks vs Kindle, for example).

And that’s why I say give a gift card.

Here are a list of the main ebook retailers, as well as several of the bookstore chains in the US, UK, and Canada that also sell ebooks. Many of the sites in this list will let you buy an egift card which will be delivered via email, with the exception of Google Play, which only distributes their cards through brick and mortar stores.

Oh, and Kobo is another exception; they will let you gift an ebook, but they won’t sell you a gift card. Luckily those in the UK and Canada do have another option: they can get a gift card at WH Smith or Indigo, respectively, and use it to buy Kobo ebooks.

But wait, what if the recipient prefers one of the subscription ebook services?

You’re in luck; all three of the leading services offer gift cards, so you have the option of buying a 3, 6, or 12 month subscription to one of the services and then sending the gift by email.


The post Where and How to Give eBooks as Gifts appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon finally launched that $199 budget Fire Phone

Posted: 26 Nov 2014 08:36 AM PST

20140718-AMAZON-PHONE-046edit[1]Did you hear the great news?

Amazon knocked the price down on the Fire Phone today. Originally launched in June with a $649 price tag, Amazon dropped the price by a couple hundred dollars in September (2 months after it shipped), and today they dropped the price again, to $199 for the unlocked phone with no contract.

In short, the Fire Phone is now the budget smartphone which Amazon should have launched all along, it just took Amazon 5 months to figure out that no one wanted a premium priced Amazon-branded smartphone (to be fair, Amazon came to that conclusion after only 4 months).

So are you going to get one?

I plan to. This wasn’t a good value as a $649 smartphone or even a $449 smartphone, but as a $199 unlocked device it is one hell of a media device.

Since it can be used sans contract, the unlocked Fire Phone is essentially a 4.7″ Fire PDA/tablet that comes with some impressive camera abilities. It runs Amazon’s Fire OS in a quad-core 2.2GHz SnapDragon CPU with  2GB RAM, 32GB of storage, a 13MP rear-facing camera, 4 face tracking cameras, and a 5th front-facing camera.

That’s a great price for $199, but what’s even better is that it comes bundled with a year of Prime. And since that gets tacked on the end of my existing Prime membership, that effectively brings the price down to $99.

Oh, yeah, you can bet I’m going to buy one. What about you?

It’s a shame Amazon didn’t go for this pricing strategy in the first place; they would have sold a lot of phones had they decided to stick with the tried and true model of cheap but decent hardware. That worked with ereaders, it worked with Fire tablets, and I think it would have worked with the Fire Phone as well.

Oh well. Better luck next time.

The post Amazon finally launched that $199 budget Fire Phone appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Onyx Boox I62A is an $89 Android eReader

Posted: 26 Nov 2014 07:10 AM PST

Onyx-Boox-I62A[1]Did you ever wonder what the original Nook Touch would be like if it were updated to Android 2.3 Gingerbread and a slightly faster CPU?

That ereader just showed up on a Chinese retail website. My competition discovered yesterday that Onyx has released the Boox I62A , and while this ereader lacks many of the features found on more expensive models it does offer a value which is unique.

The Onyx Boox I62A sports a 6″ Pearl E-ink display with a screen resolution of 800 x 600 (I didn’t know anyone was using them anymore, either). There’s no frontlight, but it does have an IR touchscreen.

It runs Android 2.3 on a 1GHz Rockchip CPU with 512MB RAM. In terms of storage, it has a microSD card slot and 4GB internal. The Boox I62A also has Wifi, a headphone jack, and yes it does support TTS. And weighing in at 238 grams, the Boox I62A measures a chunky 10.2mm thick.

onyx bookx i62a

You can find the I62A for just $89 from That’s $10 more than the ad-subsidized price for the basic Kindle, and it’s also less than what I would pay for Onyx’s other new Android ereader, the Boox Classic (which lacks a touchscreen but has a Pearl HD E-ink screen).

And it even comes with a cover, which is a plus.

My competitor didn’t think much of the I62 A due to the old version of Android, but that doesn’t bother me so much as the low resolution screen. That cooled my interest in this ereader.

I may not be one to obsess over screen resolution but I would like a better screen here.

What do you think?

The post Onyx Boox I62A is an $89 Android eReader appeared first on The Digital Reader.

No need to wait for Disney to show how to tear down walled gardens, LeesID already does

Posted: 26 Nov 2014 05:07 AM PST

13201856735_37eec6f2f6_mAmazon dominates the ebook market in part through their customer service and through the Kindle DRM. While there’s not much publishers can do about the former, Joe Wikert pointed out a few days ago that there may be something that publishers can do about the latter:

Tired of dealing with the fragmented mobile marketplace that iOS and Android represent? The imagineers at Disney have come up with a terrific way to address that problem. It’s both a much-needed solution for consumers and also a clever way for Disney to maintain a direct relationship with consumers who buy indirectly.

I’m referring to the Disney Movies Anywhere initiative, which lets you buy a movie on one platform and watch it on either platform. Imagine a world where all those ebooks you bought on the Kindle platform could also be read now on the Nook platform, and vice versa. You’d be free to choose the lowest price, no longer worrying about ebook library lock-in, where you’ve bought so many titles you can’t imagine abandoning that retailer.

Sounds like a nightmare for the big retailers but a huge win for consumers and publishers.

Joe goes on to point out that few publisher have the power to push for this type of cross-platform connections, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong in arguing that everyone short of Amazon would benefit from it.

And he’s not the only one to see the benefit of such a platform; there already is a similar platform gaining acceptance in the movie market (Vudu) and there’s even a similar service for ebooks.

I’m not talking about Bookshout, which offered a similar service when it launched in 2012, but another startup in Europe. (More on Bookshout later.)

It’s called LeesID, and it launched in September in the Netherlands.

When I reported on LeesID back in September I described it as a digital bookshelf which would host a user’s purchased ebooks. That is what the LeesID website said, but it turns out that is not entirely correct.

As Jurgen Snoren explained when I broke the news that Kobo would be participating through their Dutch partner,

It’s not a cloud service, though. What LeesID does, basically, is store all your download links to enable you to load all the cover of your books in every retail environment you chose – meaning, you could create a library of your books on your bookshelf. LeesID would then make it possible to start reading your books from the Bol bookshelf, even the books you didn’t buy there. And remember in Holland all e-books are Watermarked and real downloads, not cloud streaming.

Neither Apple nor Amazon participate in LeesID, so it is far from the platform that Joe suggests above, but with the support of Kobo it is getting closer.

At the moment LeesID is supported by a Dutch non-profit and primarily focused on Dutch ebook retailers, but that doesn’t mean the platform can’t be expanded internationally or copied elsewhere.

On the other hand, should they bother? Do consumers really want this?

I ask because I haven’t heard much talk about LeesID since it launched in September, not complaints (which would suggest that consumers are at least trying it) nor acclaim. I checked with a couple people in the local digital publishing industry and they haven’t heard anything either.

That might be a sign that there aren’t any problems, but no chatter usually means no adoption. And if consumers don’t really want it then there’s little reason for publishers to get behind it and push.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you just yet whether this type of platform will succeed for ebooks.

Since this topic has come to the fore again, I am going to follow up on Bookshout and find out why they pivoted away from this type of service.  (I would hold this post and wait their answer but it is the day before Thanksgiving, and I doubt they will answer before Monday.)

I’m also going to look for more user reports on LeesID. Speaking of which, have you used it?

image by Elsie esq.

The post No need to wait for Disney to show how to tear down walled gardens, LeesID already does appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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