Posted tagged ‘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), the 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.

‘Gadget Man’ and his outlook on 2010

January 6, 2010

When I started this blog some 18 months ago, my more ambitious hope was that I would be recognised as a leading commentator on academic matters and on the growth of the knowledge society; and maybe as someone with something to say on arts and culture; and an astute political analyst – that sort of thing. So have my dreams come true? I don’t know, really. A couple of weeks ago I was introduced at an event as ‘an important blogger, with a special emphasis on technology and gadgets.’ Oh yes? Well perhaps that was correct, because this week I got an email from what the TV broadcasters like to call ‘a member of the public’ (how do you acquire membership?), which addressed me as ‘the key European expert on the Amazon Kindle’, in which capacity he was asking me for advice.

It is indeed true that my three or four posts on the Amazon Kindle have gathered more readers (from a global readership) than anything else I have written. But an expert? I own two Kindles, and am about to order another (see below), and indeed developed a workaround for using it in Ireland before Amazon was ready to let me do that – but an expert?

Oh well, maybe for the purposes of this post at least I shall throw away my intellectual, academic, artistic and political pretensions and present myself solely as a gadget enthusiast; indeed maybe that’s where my career should take me…

And 2010 looks like it will be a bumper year for gadget freaks. After all the gloom and depression of 2009, it seems like tech companies are anticipating that we will want to burst out of the recession this year and trade up in our gadget portfolios. First out of the gate is Google with its Nexus One smartphone, based on its own Android operating system. This has been anticipated for a while, and will attract some attention in part because everything that Google does is observed widely, but in part also because it will be analysed for its potential as an ‘iPhone killer’. In fact look at any of the reviews, and inevitably it is all about how the Nexus One compares with Apple’s market leader. I haven’t directly seen or held one of the Google gadgets – and indeed Irish customers will have to wait a little – but my prediction is that, lacking some of the iPhone’s versatility and the sheer volume of the applications available for it, it will not kill off Apple’s market dominance or indeed get anywhere close to doing so; but competition is always good.

Apple in turn is expected to announce a multi-media touch screen tablet computer, incorporating an e-book reader and possibly television capability, early in the year. No further information is available at this point, but you can expect a sleek, design-conscious versatile gadget. But that too will not be without competition, as Microsoft and HP are combining to launch their own tablet computer, and may in fact beat Apple to it. And in the meantime Amazon will provide the Kindle DX (which has a larger screen than the original Kindle) for customers outside the United States; and of course I have one on order.

In the meantime more traditional technology will decline. Nearly 26 years ago I bought my first CD player and, with it, my first CD, and the beauty and versatility of this technology just amazed me. And who would have thought that this innovation would be so short-lived, because right now the CD is in free-fall decline, as music downloads (lawful and unlawful) take over. And now we can observe how the music industry, and indeed musical artists, are scrambling to salvage some sort of business model from the resulting situation.

But there is one other gadget I have just acquired that I find exceptionally satisfying, but in this case in an extremely retro sort of way. I have splashed out and bought a Montblanc ballpoint pen. So I can say if you’re tired of new technology and want something quite special in a more traditional range, these pens are awesome. I can’t see them disappearing from the market, no matter what the tech companies do. And when I put my Montblanc just next to my Apple Macintosh PowerBook laptop, it creates a particularly pleasing image. Something old, something new.

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!

The Kindle – coming your way

October 8, 2009

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I seem to have acquired the status of an expert on Amazon’s ebook reader, the Kindle. My posts on this subject have been the most widely read of anything I have written here. So maybe I should just say, for those who have not already seen this, that Amazon has now announced that the Kindle can be bought by non-US customers and delivered to them, and that its wireless service for downloading books will now be usable outside the United States. Or if you prefer to read all about it in German, here you go.

I am kind of proud that I was able to acquire the Kindle, buy ebooks for it from amazon.com, and do it all from Dublin before Amazon made this change. So from now on, I’ll just be one Kindle user amongst many here.

However, for those now contemplating the purchase, I can say again that I find it an excellent device and that I have now read a large number of books on it. I am still reading paper books as well, but I find the Kindle excellent for when I am travelling, or even just when I want to take four books with me around town without wanting to carry them all. I have also looked at other ebook readers, and for me at least the Kindle is best.

I still wonder whether devices such as this, or new generation versions of such devices, will eventually supplant books. I hope not, but then again I also hope that ebook readers will become more and more successful.

Kindle man

July 8, 2009

My posts on this blog generate a certain amount of off-blog email and letters; usually about university matters or higher education. However, one topic has produced a bigger postbag than any other: Amazon’s ebook reader, the Kindle. I have written about the Kindle three or four times here, and each of these posts has attracted a bigger readership than almost any other. The top ranked post – this one – is probably the one thing I have written in my life that has brought me more readers than any other, literally thousands. It has also been linked to by a number of other websites. And so, apparently, I have become recognised as the world’s number one expert on the use of the Kindle in Europe.

It is one of those curiosities: you start off aiming to be recognised as a key authority on education, pedagogy, modern thought, innovation and intellectual pursuits; and you end up being recognised principally as an expert on the use of a gadget outside the United States. Ah well, it’s something, I guess. But I am still going to work on the educational stuff.

The Kindle in Ireland (and Europe) – a PS

March 5, 2009

Postscript, October 2009

As this post gets a lot of readers, it may be worth noting here that the position has changed since I wrote it, and that the Amazon Kindle is now available to Irish (and European) customers. You can see the details in my more recent post, here. Furthermore, in another more recent post I have also speculated on the arrival of Apple in the ebook reader market.

And January 2010

Amazon has just announced that the larger screen Kindle DX will be available from January 19, 2010, to non-US customers also. And Apple has unveiled its ‘iPad’ device, which will also be an e-book reader (amongst many other things – more details here).

The original post

Following on from my post of yesterday about the Amazon Kindle, it occurs to me that I should add a couple of words about using it in Ireland (a topic I have addressed before, but a while ago). The Kindle is sold on Amazon’s US website, and they will only deliver it to a US address. So in order to buy one, you need to have an American address which you can use for these purposes. There are commercial services that provide addresses and mail forwarding, for relatively little money.

Once you have the Kindle, you cannot in Ireland use the ‘whispernet’ wireless technology; this essentially uses mobile phone networks to provide direct access to Amazon’s online Kindle shop, and allows you to browse the shop and make purchases, which are then directly downloaded to your device. But not outside the US. The first generation Kindle used the standard US mobile network technology which doesn’t work outside North America at all. As far as I can tell, the new Kindle uses G3 access, but it does not appear to allow roaming, so again it doesn’t work here.

There is a workaround. As a Kindle customer, you can choose to download books from the Amazon store to your computer (and this you can do here), and then transfer the files (i.e. the e-books) to your Kindle via the USB cable. The only snag is that in order to do so you need to be using both a US address (but if you have the Kindle you’ve already got that, presumably) and US payment methods. Until recently I thought that required a US credit card, but a reader of this blog kindly drew my attention to the fact that an Amazon gift card will do the trick, and you can buy these online with your Irish (or whatever) credit card.

Phew! Seems like way too much trouble? Perhaps. Maybe the Sony device (which is somewhat more basic, but which does work in Ireland) is a better choice? Perhaps – but not if (like me) you’re a Macintosh user – it only works with Windows. And there is one other bright spot. Thousands and thousands of books, including pretty much anything out of copyright (i.e. all the classics) can be got free from various websites, in Amazon Kindle format. And you can also (although again this requires a workaround) transfer any pdf document to the Kindle.

Gadget time: the Kindle 2

March 5, 2009

As I had announced in an earlier post, I have acquired (and have now taken delivery of) the second generation Kindle, the e-book reader sold by Amazon. It’s too early to offer any very detailed review, but first impressions are good. It is actually slightly larger in terms of footprint than the original Kindle, but the screen is the same size. But critically, the device is much thinner, and aesthetically rather more attractive. The buttons have changed, both in terms of their functionality and in terms of how you press them. You still ‘turn the page’ by pressing pretty much where you did so before, but the key is pressed differently, and this took a little getting used to. The screen display looks (to me at least) much like before, and is easy on the eye. A little innovation is that when you switch the device off, you are left with a picture of a famous writer on the screen.

There is now a combined charging and data transfer cable, slotting into the USB port on your computer. The downside is that this is a unique cable, not the standard USB one that was used for data transfer on the first Kindle. And if you want a spare or additional one, get ready to be charged rather more for this.

Overall: so far I like it. But I’ll need to review that when I have spent a little more time reading.

And for those who have no idea what I am talking about: the Kindle allows you to store electronic versions of books (which can be bought on Amazon) on the device, and then read them there. The appearance of the page on the device is intended to look as nearly as possible as it would on paper, and the advantage of the device is that, on one bit of equipment the size of a very thin book,  you can actually take with you a whole collection of books, dozens of them. I don’t think this will replace ‘real’ books, but it’s a useful substitute when travelling and in similar situations. Apart from Amazon’s Kindle, there are also other devices, including one from Sony.