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Tag Archives: eBooks

Hands-On With The Second Generation Kobo eReader

Second Generation Kobo eReader (Image property OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

When we looked at the original version of the Kobo back in April we were really impressed at the fact that consumers could finally get an ebook reader for just $149 that didn’t feel like it was made from the cheapest parts available. Everything from the software (including the Kobo desktop apps and store) to the easy-to-hold soft rubber backing gave the Kobo the look and feel of its more expensive competitors like the Kindle and Sony’s offerings, but for a lot cheaper. At the time that is.

Since the Kobo was released its competitors have also released competitively priced models, and while the Kindle with the full ‘Whispernet’ experience is still $189, Amazon has introduced a cheaper wifi-only model for $140, which made opting for the Kobo a difficult decision. In fact the lack of wireless connectivity (besides Bluetooth) was probably the biggest complaint across the board when it came to the original Kobo, so it wasn’t that surprising when a new wifi-equipped version was announced in late September that closed the gap between it and the Kindle again. But was it enough? More after the jump.

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2nd Generation Kobo eReader Adds Wifi And Other Improvements

2nd Generation Kobo eReader (Image courtesy Kobo)
By Andrew Liszewski

After spending some time with the original version Kobo’s eReader back in April I felt that even though it was lacking certain features that made Amazon’s Kindle extremely popular, its ~$150 price tag would shake up the eReader market, and sure enough it did. Since its release we’ve seen drastic price cuts for all of the most popular eReaders on the market, and while I still really like the Kobo, with its price advantage gone it quickly became hard to recommend.

But yesterday the 2nd generation Kobo eReader was announced, vastly improving on the original model with the most notable addition being built-in Wifi allowing users to shop and download new titles without having to connect the eReader to their PCs. The Kobo also now uses a faster processor (the same as the Kindle they point out) making page turns 2.5x faster, and a sharper 16-level gray-scale e-ink display. Battery life has even been improved with an expected 10,000 page turns before needing a charge, though a better battery was definitely a necessity with the added Wifi hardware. Best of all though is what the new version doesn’t come with: a price increase. The 2nd generation Kobo eReader will sell for $139.99 in the US, and $149.99 in Canada, available just around the corner in October. We’ll be getting our hands on one in the next week or so, and will be posting our thoughts soon so stay tuned.

[ Kobo eReader ]

Foxit’s eSlick Is The Latest Victim In The eBook Reader Price Wars

Foxit eSlick eBook Reader (Image property of OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

Longtime readers might remember that I was really looking forward to Foxit’s eSlick ebook reader since my biggest requirement for those devices was excellent PDF support. And if any company besides Adobe has an expertise with PDF software, it’s Foxit. In fact I had a hands-on with the eSlick a couple of years ago at CES and the device showed a lot of promise, but unfortunately as of this morning it’s become another victim of the recent ebook reader price wars. Well, unofficially at least.

In a press release this morning Foxit announced that they were focusing their efforts on licensing their PDF and ePub software and technology to other hardware manufacturers, and were ceasing development of the eSlick to ensure they aren’t competing with their partners:

Converging on its core business strength, Foxit Corporation, a leader in PDF software solutions, today announced that it will license its industry-leading PDF and ePub technology to key players in the eBook market to help enhance digital rights management, content management, content distribution and viewing technology in the space. The company will cease development of the eSlick™ Reader, its own electronic reading device, to focus on providing platform-independent PDF technology and multi-device support to leading eBook providers.

“We have been licensing our PDF and ePub technology to a number of eBook vendors. Our decision to discontinue eSlick is to eliminate the possibility of competing with our partners,” said Erik Bryant, Assistant Vice President Sales, Foxit Corporation. “We’re looking forward to making the most impact possible on the growing eBook market by providing our proven, top-of-the-line PDF software technology as an industry standard to the principal providers of electronic reading devices.”

However, even though the eSlick’s $199 price tag at one point made it one of the most affordable e-ink display devices, the release of the $149 Kobo (which is based on the same hardware platform) and Amazon’s recent announcement of budget-friendly versions of the Kindle have made that market extremely competitive. Not to mention the fact that the ebook reader market is also slowly being eaten into by Apple’s iPad and iBooks store. So while it’s not that surprising to see the eSlick go at such a young age, it does make me a bit misty eyed.

[ Foxit eSlick Reader ] VIA [ SlashGear ]

eBooks Are Now Outselling Hardbacks On Amazon

By Chris Scott Barr

The Kindle has been on sale for a little less than three years, but it has already begun to revolutionize the way we read books. That’s not to say it’s the only player on the market, but its appetizing price and feature list helped jump-start the e-reader craze. But just how popular are ebooks? Apparently they’re more popular than hardbacks, according to Amazon.

In the last three months, Amazon has sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books sold. They were not including free ebooks in the figures, or else they would be considerably higher. What’s even more interesting is that there are now five authors who have sold over 500,000 ebooks through Amazon’s Kindle bookstore.

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Hands-On With The $149 Kobo eReader

Kobo eReader (Image property OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

While not as prevalent or in your face as 3D TVs were at CES this year, eBook readers, or eReaders for short, definitely had quite a presence at the show, with everyone and their uncle seemingly announcing one. In just a few short years the market has become pretty crowded, and so far only a few models have managed to stand out including the Kindle, the Nook and the Que. But one eReader I didn’t see at CES, and one many consumers might want to seriously consider, is the recently announced Kobo which has 2 big things going for it. It costs just $149 (CDN) and it actually doesn’t suck.

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plasticPage Hardware Provides A Tactile Way To Flip Through Pages In Your eBook

glBook & plasticPage (Image courtesy Marcin Szewczyk)
By Andrew Liszewski

One of the biggest appeals of using an e-ink based ebook reader, instead of an LCD-equipped device like a laptop or even the iPad for reading, is the fact that their monochrome displays more closely mimic reading an actual book. And that feature alone is what made the ebook market explode over the past few years. But why stop at just the display when it comes to mimicking the book experience we’ve known and loved for hundreds of years?

Marcin Szewczyk’s glBook software and plasticPage hardware provide a tactile interface for flipping through pages in a virtual book. Created while at university, the plasticPage device resembles paper sheets, but is actually made from flexible pieces of plastic that are stacked like pages in a book. Each ‘page’ is also a bit longer than the one above, allowing the user to accurately flip through a given number of pages while they see the results happen in real-time in the custom OpenGL-powered glBook software.

While the interface isn’t quite ready for ‘primetime’ as they say, Marcin is working to make the prototype device a bit more assembly line and consumer friendly, including making it wireless and improving the optical sensor currently being used.

[ glBook & plasticPage ] VIA [ Hack a Day ]

High Speed Book Scanner Lets You Just Flip Through The Pages

By Andrew Liszewski

A couple of years ago I wrote about the Digitizing Line DL 3000 book scanner which is capable of scanning and digitizing about 3,000 pages an hour, or 50 pages a minute, for a mere $250,000. And it has the footprint of a 4-post king sized bed. On the other hand, Masatoshi Ishikawa, a professor at the University of Tokyo, has developed a high-speed scanner that can digitize a book as you flip through its pages, at a rate of about 200 pages a minute, and eventually even faster. At the moment the scanner takes up a good portion of a lab bench, but eventually the technology could be embedded in a smartphone.

The ‘secret’ behind the scanner is a 1280 by 1024 pixel sensor that runs at 500 frames per second. First it captures an image of the text and diagrams on a page, and a second pass captures a series of parallel laser lines which allows software to calculate and correct for 3D deformations on the page as it’s being flipped. Now since the system requires human assistance it’s not 100% perfect, pages might get missed during the flipping etc. but there is definitely some exciting potential here.

[ IEEE Spectrum – Superfast Scanner Lets You Digitize a Book By Rapidly Flipping Pages ] VIA [ Boing Boing ]

Spring Design Alex eBook Reader Now Available for Pre-order

Spring Design Alex eBook Reader (Image property OhGizmo!)
By Andrew Liszewski

If you’re not suffering from iPad fever, there’s a good chance you still have your eyes on an e-paper based book reader, and the Spring Design Alex we first brought you back in October, and spent some time with at CES, is now officially available for pre-order for those of you who’ve been patiently waiting.

But for those of you who’ve forgotten, your $399 gets you an Android-powered eReader which features a full color LCD display in addition to the primary e-paper one. You might think the dual displays would make this particular reader an unwieldy beast in your hands, but at CES we were pleasantly surprised to find the device struck a wonderful balance between size and the usability of that second LCD touchscreen. The Alex will ship no later than mid-April which is merely a month away, so keep your eyes on the yet-to-be-updated Spring Design Shop page for your chance to order one.

[ Spring Design Alex ]

ASUS Finally Says “Me Too!” – Launches Their DR-900 eBook Reader

ASUS DR-900 eBook Reader (Image courtesy SlashGear)
By Andrew Liszewski

Good for you ASUS! You looked at a crowded market that seems to double in size almost on a weekly basis and said to yourself, “I want a tiny sliver of that pie that in all likelihood will be replaced by more advanced technologies in less than a year!” Thankfully though their entry does slightly stand above the rest with a 9-inch, 1024×768 pixel resolution touchscreen e-paper display, and an overall design that keeps the hardware buttons to a minimum.

It will have Wifi built-in, as well as the option for 3G, and the battery life is touted as being good enough for about 10,000 page turns, though probably less if you’re using the wireless hardware. It supports PDF, TXT, ePub and HTML files as well as MP3s facilitated by a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the 4GB of onboard storage can be expanded thanks to an SD card slot. And like the netbook market where the hardware is virtually all the same, the DR-900’s success will probably come down to how much ASUS decides to sell it for.

[ SlashGear – ASUS DR-900 ereader launches: 9-inch E Ink & optional 3G ]