Category Archives: E-Books

Books and the new iPad

ipad with books

Apple announced a new iPad today, available March 16th. Prices start at $499 for wifi-only and $629 for 4G model. But does any of this matter for book readers?  As a reader, it’s not enough for me to update my first-gen iPad, but let me tell you why publishers should be very excited about the capabilities of Apple’s new device:

  • Hi-res screen: I mean VERY high-resolution. It’s first tablet that actually rivals print when it comes to resolution. I work for a travel publisher and we’ve always had issues with our maps on eReaders. Print books have always been better. No eReader device could rival the detail of a paper book. And that matters when you are looking at maps, topo lines and map keys. Well now there is a device that can support the level of detail and zoom book readers need and deserve.
  • 4G connection speed: Again I am looking at this from a travel publishing perspective. This over-the-air speed is capable (but not very likely while you are out and about) of being faster than some hom wifi connections. That’s huge for publishers pushing content to book readers as they move about. Expecially for travel publishers selling updates and maps as readers are out on their adventures.
  • Battery life: It’s nine hours with the 4G turned on. That’s a long road trip or a hike from sun-up to sundown. That’s a lot of reading and book referencing. Our customers/users/readers need to be happy, whether on a digital device or holding the print product. Big battery life is a step in this direction.

If publishers are doing their jobs the put A LOT of work into making unique quality content. It’s nice when device makers do their best to support this content. Now, having said all that, there are still many issues I have with reading non-fiction on eReaders. I’ll have to post about that later this week.

Apple’s Wall gets higher

Yesterday Apple announced their latest plans for the iBooks platform. The event focused on textbooks and education. There were three main takeaways. All of which have their pluses and minuses.

First, there is a new iBooks app for iOS devices. It looks slick with video, sound and other rich media embedded in the books. It’s inline with where ePub3 and HTML5 are going. But it’s still not available on the desktop, just iOS. I was dissappointed in this. I do have a few reference books that I like to look things up in. If I am working on the desktop it is sooooo much easier to just open the Kindle reader or Nook reader apps and find what I need, rather than having my iPad next to me. And isn’t this what textbooks are used for? Reference? Looking things up? Multi-tasking and note taking aren’t strong points of having a tablet. So rather than have the one device we’re back to two devices. Not cool.

Second, there is the partnership with textbook publishers coupled with the efforts to make textbooks available at the $15 price point. That sounds good to me. If anyone needs a price break, it’s students. My fear here is that it could be a “Netflix-like” situation, where if a publisher doesn’t like the revenue flow situation or wants to renegotiate terms and Apple digs its heels in… where does that leave all the students, their notes, school libraries, etc.? Which brings us to the third takeaway…

the new iBooks authoring tool. It sounds pretty easy to use and the seamless integration is cool, but there are so many other limits and ramifications. Liz Castro did a good list on the concerns around the authoring tool. My big concern is that whatever you make in this tool Apple will not let you sell anywhere else. I was so excited when Apple embraced the ePub format with the rest of the world. But now it seems they have taken a page from Amazon’s playbook (or maybe the iTunes .m4a strategy) and will start building their own walled .ibook garden. It’s a shame. Because these strategies are not about creating the best user experience (which I do believe has been a driving force at Apple), but it’s about controlling parts of the supply between content creation and the reader.

Getting Library Books on Your Kindle

UPDATE #2: Looks like the Kindle library lending options are live for the JCLC system!

UPDATE : OverDrive has released a statement saying that the library system will work with WhisperSync to push notes, bookmarks, etc. to the ebook if you buy it or check it out again. But you still can only download library ebooks via WiFi or the USB cable. /stop/

News broke today that Amazon officially started letting people, in select parts of Washington state, check out and read library books on their Kindles. This program is in partnership with OverDrive, which is a good move I think, but Amazon should have worked harder to integrate. For starters, they’re wrapping all of the ePubs in their proproetary .tpz format. Whatever. But the “ugh” part really kicks in during checkout.

Checking out JCLC books via the OverDrive app is a painless one, once you get the Adobe DRM straight. But Amazon has added a couple more clicks and a couple more steps to the process. So to read library books on your Kindle you:

  1. log in to your library
  2. check out book
  3. which take you to where you have to log in there
  4. check out book there which lets you download the file
  5. hook your Kindle up via USB, drag and drop the Kindle library book


Now I don’t live in Seattle and have yet to do this myself. I’m very thankful to the Seattle Times crew and their detailed photos and coverage.

I am not a software engineer and I’m sure it’s very hard to get the big independent systems to work together on something as complicated as checking out files that need to expire. But it’s Amazon! If anyone has the customer-centered focus, skills and dollars, to bring harmony to the library>>OverDrive>>Kindle>>library cycle, it’s them.

No word yet on when the rest of the country might get the service, but no doubt Kindle users will be very glad to have access to their library’s ebook collections, no matter how cumbersome the checkout process gets.

Sony Catches Up with new eReader

No doubt the eReader sector is a tough business. One has to have the right balance of device manufacturing skills, end-user service, available titles, etc. Sony has been late to the show, even though they were an early mover. Their devices were over-priced and their customer-facing services and stores were cumbersome at best.

But yesterday, Sony has jumped in with both feet and announced a device that meets readers’ needs.

Available in October, the PRS-T1:

  • sports a 6″ eInk screen that is full TOUCHSCREEN (works with both fingers and stylus)
  • wi-fi enabled
  • weighs less than 6 ounces (making it barely lighter than Nook and Kindle)
  • costs only $149
  • has native support for checking out library books from Jefferson County libraries

That’s a pretty impressive list of specs for a company that’s been lagging behind. And it is about time. One thing Sony knows how to do is make things. They should have done this years ago. I’m just glad they did. Competition is a good thing and will keep Amazon, Apple, etc. honest and customer-focused. Which is where Sony has to focus now. Their Harry Potter deal is interesting, but not the overhaul that’s needed. I started e-reading on a PRS-505 and Sony lost me as a customer years ago. Everything was just too hard to do. I know it was early in the industry and I tried to cit them some slack. But Amazon and others just blew past them and I jumped ship. They seem to have come a long way since then.

Of course, we still have to wait on some real-world testing. I wonder if the screen really can work as advertised. But I’m anxious to see how the reading public responds to the $149 price-point and what Sony does to try and keep their readers coming back to buy books.

Q&A on eBook Pricing

The EBookNewser has a short Q&A with SmashWords founder Mark Coker. The whole print book pricing versus eBook pricing discussion is finally boiling down to some concrete ideas. I found it interesting that Coker can see a value divide between fiction and non-fiction:

I think non-fiction can support a higher price than fiction because people read non-fiction usually to solve a problem that has value to them, whereas people read fiction for entertainment and escapism.  There are multiple other opportunities for that, many of which are free.

Though the rest of that paragraph, where I took the above quote was a little too fuzzy for me. Surely more goes into the value/price of an ebook than 1. is it fiction or non-fiction? and 2. do we want to make lots of money or just have a bunch of people buy it?

I was surprised to hear that most of the titles on SmashWords are pushing the $5 mark. It’s been a while since I’ve bought something from SmashWords, I’m going to have to go check them out again.

Read Library eBooks on your Apple iOS Device

You can now download and read free ebooks from the JCLC OverDrive system, on the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. I’ve been doing this for two weeks now, and other than a lack of sleep from all of the reading, I have had no issues. This week I finished up two paper books and three ebooks, all thanks to the BlueFire Reader app and the JCLC eBooks system.

It’s a pretty straight forward process. I get pretty detailed in my steps, so please don’t let the number of steps deter you from trying this. Here is how you check out and read the library eBooks on your iOS device:

  1. Download the free BlueFire Reader app (iTunes link) to your device and create an account.
  2. Download the free Adobe Digital Editions desktop reader and create an account. This puts the Adobe Digital Editions program on your computer, which will act as “home base” and authenticate your ebooks.
  3. Launch the BlueFire Reader app, on your device, tap on “info” and authorize your app with your Adobe Digital Editions password.

Now, that you are all legit you are ready to check out a book!

  1. Go to the JCLC site (or your library’s downloadable site) and sign in.
  2. Check out a book. An .acm “key” file will download to your computer. Use your Adobe Digital Editions program to open this file, this will download the .epub (the actual book) file to your computer. You can now read that book on your computer.
  3. From your computer, send yourself an email, with that .epub file as an attachment.
  4. Now check your email on your iOS device. The attachment will appear with the BlueFire Reader logo.
  5. Tap and hold on that icon until the fly-out menu appears saying “Open with BlueFire Reader”, which you will select.
  6. BlueFire Reader app will now launch and you can start reading! Once your “checkout period” has expired the file will deactivate from your iOS device and your computer desktop.

I’ve also heard of people using free services like DropBox to get the book file on their device, but I haven’t tried it. The BlueFire folks are on Twitter and have been really responsive to all of my support questions. The OverDrive team is on Twitter too. I know that OverDrive and Sony have both promised Adobe DE-friendly apps soon, so BlueFire won’t be the only option. But as of right now, it’s certainly the best.

Let me know what you think and if you read anything good!

Free Thanksgiving Cookbook – Martha Stewart

Sometime over the weekend the folks at Martha Stewart Living Radio (SiriusXM) uploaded a free pdf copy of the 2010 Hotline Recipes Book (pdf download), just in time for this week’s festivities. Though I’m sure the 30 recipes would serve just as well all holiday season.

Screen shot 2010-11-22 at 2.46.54 PM

So click through to download your free copy of the book (pdf download). I don’t know how long it will be up. It’s a neat promo, for the show, with each page having the call-in number for the radio program.

Happy Thanksgiving!

OverDrive Announces December App Release

I’m a fan of the ebook lending program the JCLC has going. It’s great. But I also would like to have the ebooks to go and not have to lug the laptop everywhere. I’ve tried txtr and BlueFire Reader both of which say they work with Adobe Digital Editions, but have had no luck (apparently the snag lies with something called “transferred” loans). So I was very excited to see over on The Digital Reader (a blog you should follow) that Overdrive has announced their app lineup. Releases start in December.

This is going to be BIG!

Here’s the YouTube video that Nate dug up:

Free eBooks from Birmingham-Area Libraries

It is 11pm and I just checked out a book from my local library.

This week the JCLC system turned on its Overdrive-powered eBook network. So far it’s very very cool. The only complaints I have are tied to the CRAZY complicated hoops Adobe Digital Editions (which you will have to download) has in place. But that’s no fault of the library system and is required by most publishers anyway. But once you get the Adobe Digital Editions set up right, it’s great.

Via my JCLC account, I have “checked out” an eBook and am reading it on both my laptop and on my desktop. I have not tried to put it on my Sony eReader yet, as it needs a new battery and won’t hold a charge (yeah yeah, I know. That’s not a problem people reading print books have, but hey… did I mention, I just checked out a book at 11pm!) Anyway….

Here is the one tip I can offer: Once you download your eBook file (it has a .acm extension), “right click” (or ctrl-click) and choose “Open With…” and navigate to Adobe Digital Editions. The permission drm-wrapped file that is downloaded is not a straight up ePub and this seems to work better than opening Adobe Digital Editions and trying to import the .acm file into the library.

Cool factoids of the new system:

  • You get to choose your “check out period”. You elect 7 days, 14 days or 21 days at checkout.
  • You can checkout up to 5 titles at a time
  • Every digital file has icons showing which platforms/devices that book can be read on
  • So far there are 477 fiction books and 435 non-fiction books listed

The eBooks are not Kindle-friendly nor iDevice-friendly, but here is a list of all compatible devices. I’m going to take a look at checking out books to the Sony Reader and various iDevices.

Kudos to the JCLC System in bringing another great service to us. You guys really are something Birmingham can brag about.

IPSA Presentation slides

Here is the slide deck from my presentation at the June IPSA meeting. I only wish there was a way for me to display the Q&A that followed, the questions were great and just what one would expect from a room full of technologists, when the subject is ebooks and book publishing.

Four Publishing Conversations Worth Following

There is a TON of information online about books and the ever-shifting landscape of publishing. It just takes so long to sift through everything to find something of worth, that you could actually use. But there are four conversations I always check in on, via Twitter. Sometimes I look back through the conversations, days after it’s over to see what I miss and often learn tons I didn’t know. If you are interested in publishing, fire up and plug-in these hashtags:

#dbwDigital Book World – this is one GREAT conversation by folks involved in helping change the landscape of publishing. Digital Book World is a new annual conference (the one I wish I had gone to), that focuses more on the how-to and strategy rather than the crystal-ball gazing and the “where will we be in 10 years” like some conferences. It’s well worth your time to follow this hashtag daily. It’s maintained through @DigiBookWorld and @glecharles feeds. (BTW, Guy Charles has a personal blog worth checking out, too.)

#followreaderFollow the Reader – this is a weekly chat covering a specific topic each week. I’m constantly surprised by the quality and depth of the topics. Not too mention the techincal knowledge of the folks who chime in. This hashtag and site are sponsored by NetGalley and maintained by @charabbott and @katmeyer.

#ISBNHour - ISBN Hour@ljndawson runs this weekly chat, every Friday at noon Eastern. It’s worth checking in on during the week to see if the slant of the current chat is of interest. This is one of the more open threads, as the conversation is really built on sussing out ideas and possible solutions for future problems. Lots of good talk of ISBN, categories, libraries and indexes here. Smart people trying to solve the issues facing the publishing industry before they become crippling problems.

#ePrdctn – eProduction – this is a recent add for me, but is the only one of these four that has earned a permanent column in TweetDeck. If you follow this hashtag you’ll find people chiming in and helping each other from all over the eBook production workflow. Full of solid advice and help regarding Adobe products, indexes and lots of  “has anyone dealt with this before” kind of camaraderie. This is an ongoing conversation by lots of people actually doing the production work that so many in the industry and media try to analyze. There have been some weekly topic-focused chats organized by @crych.

Think of those as four separate cocktail parties attended by just publishing-industry folks and we can walk from party to party listening in on conversations from publishing insiders in New York City, Los Angeles and maybe even Birmingham, AL. Yes, they can get a tad technical (which is sorely needed) and we could think of these as four different publishing workshops, but I promise you this will be a lot more fun if you read through all the conversations with a cocktail in hand.

I know that there are lots more conversations out there. Please, plug your favorite in the comments so I can check it out, if I’m not already.

Free eBooks and Free Coffee

Barnes & Noble is finally leveraging their greatest asset: their stores. A “boots on the ground” plan is exactly what they need to help them continue to compete with the changing landscape for publishers, booksellers and readers. That’s exactly what they currently have going by giving away free eBooks (for any device running their app) and free coffee (to get you to hang out in the store).

So if you have an iPhone, Android phone, BlackBerry, laptop (or if you want to lug in your desktop pc or Mac), iPad, Nook, etc. this post is for you.

They are three weeks into this promotion (sorry I didn’t blog about this sooner), giving away one free book per week. To get yours just stop by any store and ask for the code. They usually have them at the Customer Service Desk or the Nook kiosk they’ve all been moving up by the front door. Again, you don’t need a Nook, just any device running the free B&N eReader app. Once you have the code, you go here and get your copy. They next time you log-in to your eReader app, it will download the book.

This week they’re giving away Elizabeth Berg’s Home Safe. Next week, Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail.

Now I have not tried this myself – yet – but ComputerWorld is reporting that if you show that you have the B&N eReader app installed on any device, you score a free coffee. The idea being that you’ll sit down and peruse more books via the free wi-fi at the store. I’ll let you know if this promotion works as reported or not, as soon as I swing by a B&N and try it out.