Posted tagged ‘Amazon Kindle’

More and more ebook readers

August 1, 2010

The ambiguity in the title of this post is deliberate: only just over two years since the first generation of the Amazon Kindle went on sale in the United States (only), ebook devices have become more and more popular, and people who favour this particular form of reading have become more and more numerous. For those who are serious about ebooks, the choice is now between the Kindle itself (now about to go into the third generation),┬áthe Sony Reader, the iLiad, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and of course the Apple iPad (though this is more than an ebook reader). In addition, the associated ebook stores of some of these devices also offer software (‘apps’) that simulate the devices on the iPad: so for example, as an iPad owner you can download the Kindle app and then use the iPad as a Kindle, including the facility for direct downloads of Amazon Kindle ebooks.

So now the question is beginning to arise as to whether ebooks will become the standard format for reading, and what impact this will have on paper or hard copy versions. I don’t know if I am at all typical, but right now I am purchasing and reading lots of ebooks; if on reading a book I feel that I may want to read it again I buy the paper version as well. I don’t think that bookshelves will disappear; but it is possible that sales will decline for a while before becoming stable at a lower figure.

Welcoming the iPad to Ireland

July 24, 2010

Yesterday Apple’s iPad finally came to Ireland, having teased us for a while with its appearance in the United States, Britain and indeed Northern Ireland. As readers of this blog will know, I have had my own iPad now for a few weeks, purchased while I was in Belfast on business.

Well for those who didn’t make the pilgrimage to Northern Ireland or elsewhere, it’s now available in Dublin. News reports say that trade was brisk, and there were some queues of people when the shops opened, but nothing too hysterical, and there were still iPads available at the end of the day. My guess is that the excitement was slightly less intense here because many of the real fanatics had already purchased one in Belfast or Britain.

As for me, I have now had the iPad for exactly five weeks. I take it everywhere. I write notes at meetings on it, I listen to music, I consult my online calendar, I read books. In fact, I have just finished the first work of fiction read entirely on the iPad. I was already the owner of two Amazon Kindles, and I have to say that the reading experience on the iPad is much better, in the sense that it feels more book-like and handles better. And for Kindle owners, you can continue to use your iPad as a Kindle also; you can transfer your Kindle purchases to it and also buy and download new Kindle books from Amazon directly on the iPad. On addition, you have Apple’s iBookstore – and books purchased there have some slight advantages, such as genuine page numbering (which is important if you are consulting academic books).

Some reviewers have talked about the iPad’s limitations, but I have to confess I haven’t experienced that at all. Yes, Flash is missing, and if you want to print you have to transfer whatever it is to your PC or Mac first; and yes, whatever little grumble this or that reviewer had is probably correct. But for me, none of this has mattered.

So would I recommend it? Oh yes, absolutely. Just don’t try to get mine!

Academic uses for the iPad?

July 13, 2010

As I disclosed a few weeks ago, I have become the proud owner of an Apple iPad. In fact, I have become the proud owner of the top of the range model, 3G and a hard disk the size of Nevada and goodness knows what. So what have I been using it for?

Two things stand out so far. By downloading the iPad version of Apple’s Keynote program (their version of Powerpoint), I have been able to use the iPad to run slide shows on projectors, thereby causing great curiosity and (I hope) envy amongst onlookers. Actually, it does this really neatly, and given the small size of the device compared with a laptop I find it is easy to use it at meetings away from the office where I am giving a presentation. Keynote reads your MS Powerpoint documents, so you can use files you have created on the MS Office platform.

Secondly, I have been using it to download and read books. As readers of this blog know, I am also the owner of the Amazon Kindle, and to my delight I was able to set up an Amazon Kindle app on the iPad and then download all my Kindle books purchased on to it. You can then use the iPad like a Kindle, though you can turn pages by touching the screen (which you cannot do on a Kindle). Apple also has its own iBooks app for the iPad, with its own bookstore, and this is slightly more user friendly still than the Kindle program; but the Apple store for now has a somewhat smaller selection of books than Amazon. Actually, I have found the iPad (and the Kindle before it) particularly useful for reading academic work, not least because I can load so many books at once and take them with me while travelling without all the bulk.

So will the iPad have a major impact on academics? Some think that, on the whole, it won’t. Professor Alex Golub of the University of Hawaii recently suggested that the iPad was smart and usable, but did not really have a USP for academics. There is no special academic task, he suggested, for which the iPad is an obvious help. In some ways, of course, we could say this about the computer. It has revolutionised the academy (and everything else), and everybody has one, but its key attributes and uses are not specifically connected with higher education. I suspect that the iPad (and any other competing device that is successfully launched) will in the not-too-distant future take the place of at least some computers, maybe even quite a lot of them. The iPad is, I believe, in its essence a device that allows you to search for information and process it, and to contain and offer up books and papers.

I would suggest that the iPad is coming your way.

The iPad experience

June 19, 2010

Yesterday I had some business in Belfast, and on the spur of the moment I visited the Apple store there to see whether they might have an iPad (and expecting they wouldn’t, given the run on the device). Amazingly they did, and here I am the proud owner of a WiFi/3G iPad, and this post is written on it.

It’s early days yet, but I am inclined to say that the hype is not wrong. The design, of course, is excellent, but it is also very intuitive to use, and extremely flexible. I would also have to say that, as an ebook reader, it is more user-friendly than the Kindle, and what you are reading has more of the ‘look and feel’ of a book.

One very positive experience has been the on-screen keyboard, which for me at least is usable in much the same way and at much the same speed as a ‘normal’ one. I suspect it may not be so good for those who do touch-typing. However, I also bought (and am here using) an add-on keyboard and charger, which works like any other Macintosh keyboard.

The downside? It’s slightly heavier than I had expected, though hardly so heavy as to be inconvenient. And as far as I can tell so far, the battery life is only so-so – it is running down much faster than the Kindle, though admittedly it has much more processing to do.

My verdict? This is not a ‘tablet computer’, and Apple were right to avoid a name that would have suggested that it is. It is something much better. Having used it now for a day, I am inclined to agree that these devices, and ones like them, are likely to be the computers of tomorrow. If I were you, I’d invest in one.

Apple anticipation

January 20, 2010

Many launches of new Apple products are preceded by rumours and some breathless anticipation. Sometimes it turns out to be wrong, and nothing very significant emerges; but sometimes the rumours are right. Right now Apple has announced that it will hold a ‘product event’ on January 27. And absolutely everyone is assuming that we are going to hear about a new Apple tablet (iTablet? iSlate?) computer, perhaps to hit the shops in March. So Apple is either going to have to come up with the goods or there will be a dramatic anti-climax that might do the company no good at all. And as Apple executives have done nothing to dampen all this speculation, I think we may assume the rumours are right.

So what is a ‘tablet’? Essentially it’s a computer with a touchscreen – in other words, just a touchscreen, no keyboard or mouse. Are you finding the concept difficult to grasp? Just think of a much much bigger iPhone. And indeed it’s not a new concept: tablet computers using the Windows operating system have been around for much of the past decade, though without attracting any significant interest. So the new Apple product will need to be much improved on those earlier models; as it certainly will be. It will be slimmer, with a wow factor in its design, with easy to handle virtual keyboard and tools, and so forth. And, as everybody has been assuming, it will have a special role as an e-book reader; apparently Apple has already done deals with some of the publishers. So it will be a new type of multi-media computer and e-book reader, to challenge both the Amazon Kindle and even some laptops.

Will I get one? Is the Pope catholic? Watch this space.

The continuing story of e-books

December 27, 2009

According to the latest information released by online book retailer Amazon, this Christmas, for the first time, e-books out-sold hard copy (i.e. paper) books. The company’s e-book reader, the Kindle, is now more likely to contain a customer’s book collection than a bookcase or a set of shelves on the wall. This raises a number of questions, but perhaps some of the more interesting ones include what this will do to book prices, how writers and publishers will be affected, and what kind of ‘market’ this will turn into.

Take this example. If you would like to buy Colm Toibin’s latest book, Brooklyn, then on Amazon you can get the paper edition for $16.50. But if you go for the e-book (Kindle) version, you will have to pay $13.79. So you’ll get the electronic version at a lower price, but low enough? If you’ve just got the Kindle, and you are full of admiration for your new toy, maybe you won’t think that price too bad. But let us say you’ve had the device for six months, and you start wondering about what this money is paying for, and in particular that neither the publisher nor Amazon have to create and then ship anything of material value to you, then you may start thinking that the price is too high.

In fact, it appears that many customers regard $9.99 as the top price that would be acceptable for an e-book – and I’ll bet my first edition of Dickens’ Bleak House that in another two years or so that price elasticity will have slipped further and the limit will be $4.99. And between now and then you’ll have publishers and agents and Amazon itself arguing about copyright and older titles and heaven knows what else, and before you know it the whole publishing industry will be plagued by piracy and other such stuff.

There is also a rumour that Apple is about to enter this market – wait for an updated version of iTunes with book content for your iPodReader or whatever.

There will be interesting times ahead. E-book readers are here to stay. And e-books provide opportunities for publishing and distribution that could rattle the cages of the large publishing houses and open up some real competition. Let us hope that this is how it will develop.

Is Apple also going for e-books?

October 22, 2009

As I have mentioned before, I seem to have become some sort of global authority for the Amazon Kindle, and so I thought I would also draw attention to the fact that it may soon have a powerful rival. Of course I should acknowledge in passing that it already does have rivals, in particular the Sony Reader. But there’s another one coming, or at least that’s what the rumour is. And it’s from Apple.

For some time now there has been chat in cyberspace about Apple’s plans for a ‘tablet’ computer – in other words, a touch screen flat computer. However more recently the view has emerged that when (if?) it emerges it will principally be an e-book reader and a (rather large) iPod. It will probably be bigger than the Kindle (maybe more like the Kindle DX, which is not being sold yet for customers outside the US), and it will have at least some functionality beyond the Kindle.

It must be stressed that Apple have said nothing about any of this. But their most recent announcements have fuelled speculation, because it appears that some new product is due by the end of the year, and for various reasons the tablet/e-book reader is seen as the most likely option.

What will this do to the market? That’s hard to say. The Kindle is by now very well established, and it has gone global. Nut then again, nobody could doubt that once the Apple marketing machine gets going, it packs a powerful punch. And it would probably be (as Apple products are) very user-friendly. And, presumably, have a colour screen. And right now the company is on a high, having beaten analysts’ revenue and profit forecasts in its most recent financial statement.

So I would watch this space!