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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kobo eReader

Originally written for eBookGuru - The Digital Magazine Devoted to eBooks

It’s amazing how fast things are moving in the eReader world. It was only the beginning of this month when I wrote about the possibility of a $150 eReader and now Chapters-Indigo Books & Music, Canada’s own bookstore, is launching a new eReader called the Kobo for $150.

A quick search of the internet lead me to some favorable reviews for the Kobo, notably this one from Engadget, fresh from the CTIA show in Las Vegas.

…the 6-inch E Ink reader is fine hardware in its own right, with quality plastics throughout, a nice patterned rubber back, and a big friendly d-pad for paging through books.

Although the Kobo lacks 3G or even Wi-F, it does have Bluetooth for wirelessly syncing the Kobo with select smartphones, allowing you to update your reading list on the go. The Kobo also has applications for the iPhone, the upcoming iPad, Blackberry, the Palm Pre, and Android phones (speaking of which The Gender Divide is available as an Android app from For-Side.com - I’m not sure if the link provided is the best one so if you have an Android phone and can provide a better link please let me know in the comments section).

The Kobo has a lot of nice features that make it attractive as an eReader:

  • Price - $150
  • Comes loaded with 100 free eBooks
  • A quilted back for a ‘comfortable, enjoyable reading experience’
  • Minimal but responsive and intuitive navigation options
  • 1GB memory, enough for 1,000 eBooks
  • Expandable memory via SD Car

There are a number of other features, including some interesting navigation options. Visit the Kobo eReader home page for more information, including a comparison to the Kindle, the Sony Reader, and the Nook.

Although the Kobo can’t compete with the Kindle store yet in terms of books, it does have the advantage of having a retail presence in Canada (via Chapters-Indigo) and the US (via Borders), as well as a strong international presence (check out this posting from iReader Review comparing the Kobo to the Kindle.

However the most interesting thing about the Kobo is its aspiration to be more than an eReader. eBooks downloaded from the Kobobooks website can be read on many of the Sony Readers, the Nook, the COOL-ER, and several other platforms using Adobe Digital Editions. This article in Digital Trends states that

Kobo envisions a broad ecosystem of devices and applications, and users will be able to sync their purchases and reading via their Kobo account across all of them.

It will be interesting to see how this new entrant to the market - and it’s approach - impacts the market. Certainly Kobo is going out of their way to make it easy for people to read books they’ve purchased on any device. As stated on the Kobo website

We are a device-neutral platform. Finished reading on your eReader? Using a Kobo app on your smart­phone, desktop, or tablet. Your eBooks and even your bookmarks follow you so you’ll never lose your place.

This is definitely the direction that eBooks should be taking.


Right after I posted this I came across 2 more stories on the Kobo.

Wired Magazine - $150 Kobo eReader: The Real Kindle Killer

The real Kindle-killer will be a cheap e-reader, and it just arrived: The $150 Kobo eReader.

What we really like about the eReader is the interface. The chapter lists are big and clear, the main “I’m Reading” page gives a newspaper front-page-like overview of the newspapers and books you’re currently reading, and you can even choose to display you books in an iPad-like bookshelf metaphor. When you power down, it shows the book’s cover instead of those awful Kindle screen-savers.

It looks like a huge threat to the Kindle, and Kobo seems to have trimmed just the right features to get to this low price. Only hands-on testing will tell if it’s as good as it seems, but right now we don’t see much reason to buy Amazon’s locked-down machine.

Gizmodo - Kindle looks pretty nice for $150

 While the Kobo eReader lacks 3G, little else should disappoint. The build is clever, with a quilted, vinyl back and the option to skin the face with a cloth or leather facade.

…the menus just look polished, with touches like leaving the book’s cover on the screen when the device is at rest (a nice feature we see in the Nook) and virtual bookshelves

posted by David at 10:50 am  

Monday, March 22, 2010

iPad - A new computing paradigm?

I’ve been following news about the iPad with interest, as I think it has the potential to open up computers and the internet to a new group of people. However it sounds like the iPad may also usher in

…a new paradigm in mobile computing.

 An article in PCMAG.com discusses “lean back/lean forward” computing.

Today’s PCs offer the lean forward mode. We sit at our desks or hunched over our laptops when we work. Even if we’re just reading or watching a movie on our PCs, we’re largely leaning forward to experience and interact with content. But if we’re watching TV or even using an e-book reader like the Kindle, we sit in our chairs and lean back.

It’s an interesting way of looking at things, especially since I was leaning forward at my desk as I read it. Much of what I do requires me to use the ‘lean forward’ mode however reading email and browsing the internet could easily be done using the ‘lean back’ mode.

The article goes on to predict that 50% of iPads will be sold with physical keyboards. Personally I think that’s a little high, especially when I consider possible iPad users.

Many tech-savy people have slammed the iPad for it’s limitations (no flash, no camera, no multitasking, etc) but for many technophobes, the iPad is perfect. According to DVICE, Apple’s target market is people who don’t like computers.

The iPad works almost exactly like an iPhone, and that’s worked out pretty well so far for both Apple and its customers. The iPhone OS is easy to master — after a couple of minutes using the multi-touch interface, you’re an expert. Buttons are consistently shaped and in logical locations, there are no “hierarchies,” and that font is everywhere. It’s the epitome of easy.

The author of the article goes on to state

I can’t tell you how many times my wife has asked me to do something that I would consider simple on my MacBook because she couldn’t be bothered to figure it out. But she downloads apps and launches them on her iPhone with ease. She loves her Kindle. The iPad has real appeal to people who shy away from computers in general, even while the computer-savvy regard it — if not dismiss it — as an expensive toy.

And that’s it in a nutshell. I can’t really see those people using the keyboard very much - it just increases the complexity of a simple and easy to use device. Sure, it won’t be as efficient as using a keyboard but that doesn’t matter - it will be easier to use as is.

The iPad will be shipping soon and it will be interesting to see what the sales are, who is buying, and how it is used.

posted by David at 11:57 am  

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Only in Canada, eh? Pity

I’m probably dating myself with this reference but an article in the Globe and Mail today reminded me of this old Red Rose Tea commercial.

The article in question refers to the Canadian habit of removing Canadian references when writing in order to be able to sell books in the United States. One would think that as a science fiction writer I would be somewhat immune to this affliction. However when I wrote The Gender Divide, I struggled with this issue.

Strangely enough it wasn’t so much the location that I struggled with. For most science fiction authors, many of our locations and environments are completely fictional and the reader has to rely on the writer to properly describe it. Ironically when writing The Gender Divide I used an American location (California, outside of LA) but only because that was the location where the idea of writing The Gender Divide came to me and I couldn’t envision it somewhere else.

The changes I did make to The Gender Divide to ‘Americanize’ it were in the areas of spelling and measurement. In retrospect it’s odd how much I worried about such inconsequential issues when there are so many more items that define Canada. Perhaps it took the recent Vancouver Olympics and the not so recent (or over) financial crisis to help me focus on what it really means to be Canadian.

I’ll leave you with this American perspective on Canada (we Canadian’s are normally too modest to do this sort of thing, despite our fierce, albeit restrained, pride in ourselves and our country).

posted by David at 3:51 pm  

Monday, March 8, 2010


Originally posted on The Writers Vineyard

I just came across this article a few days ago. It highlights the results of a survey done just after the Apple iPad announcement. The article (and the link I found it through) make a big deal about how sales of the Apple iPad are going to impact sales of other eBook readers.

…the survey shows Amazon and its e-Reader competitors are poised to take a big hit early on from the iPad’s entry into their market.

In fact this emphasis is illustrated in the title of the article - “New Survey Shows Huge Wave of Apple iPad Demand Striking Amazon”. As as writer I often shake my head at the preposterous headlines that I come across and this is one of them. The article makes it sounds like the iPad will be a tsunami that will wipe Amazon off the map.

Maybe not. In fact, almost probably not. While the Amazon Kindle does have its flaws - crude design, high pricing, and (perhaps worst of all) a proprietary format, - it also has a lot going for it - Amazon’s Whispernet, the automatic link to Amazon, and long battery life, just to mention a few. As the cost goes down (and it will - see my posting on $150 eReaders) and the Kindle and other eReaders improve, these eReaders will be posed as a competitive alternative to the iPad.

In an ideal world, I can see the Kindle and other eReaders supplementing the iPad, extending the reading experience by allowing readers to read books on more than one device. As fantastic as the iPad is expected to be, there will be times when one doesn’t want to haul around a $500 piece of electronics. A $150 or, even better, a $99 eReader would allow the reader more options and would encourage reading (and hence book sales).

And that brings me to the final point in all of this.

…the iPad launch is likely to strengthen overall e-Reader demand…

The same survey shows that the third highest use of the iPad (37%) will be reading eBooks.

The larger the market grows, the more opportunities there are for everyone - from readers and writers to publishers, bookstores, and eReader companies. And that is definitely a good thing. So bring on the tsunami - personally I can’t wait.

posted by David at 12:19 pm  

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The $150 eReader

There has been a lot of talk about the Apple iPad and how it will kill the market for a dedicated eReader. As much as I see the potential for eBooks on the iPad, there are many people for whom a dedicated - and hence substantially cheaper - eReader will be quite fine thank you.

I came across this article in Wired regarding new chips that could lead to a $150 eReader. Not only will the new chips lead to a cheaper eReader, they will also lead to greater performance.

“This is the first chip that has been designed just for e-readers,” says Glen Burchers, director of marketing at Freescale. “Earlier, we had general-purpose processors being used in e-readers so they were not completely optimized.”

Freescale produces the chips that power nearly 90% of the eReaders on the market, including the Kindle and the Sony Reader.

The more powerful chips will result in a faster user interface, particularly for common tasks like page turns.

“Today page flips on a Kindle are in the range of 1.5 to 2 seconds, while the Nook (which uses a processor from Samsung) it can take up to 3 seconds for a page turn,” Burchers says. “With our new processors, that can be cut down to about half a second.”

The new chips will also allow eReaders to add new features such as touch capability and additional functions (aka apps).

If dedicated eReaders continue to improve in performance and drop in price, there will continue to be a place for them even in the face of the iPad and the other tablets that are sure to flood the market.

posted by David at 1:00 am  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I’m back

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything here. August of 2009 actually.

There is a relatively simple reason for that - I was let go in August 2009. I’ve always been in control of my career, deciding which moves to make and when, so this this loss of control was quite disconcerting. As it turns out, it was probably the best thing that happened to me, although that’s certainly not what I was thinking at the time.

I won’t get into the usual dialogue that generally accompanies situations like this. For one thing, that’s not really my style. I firmly believe in the separation of church and state and generally don’t blog about items that aren’t related to my persona as an author. However I felt that my extended absence required an explanation.

As I alluded to earlier, my getting let go put me on the market at the right time for me to land my dream job. This is the job that I’ve been looking for for years now and there is a certain irony that it took losing control over my career for me to find it.

However anytime you start a new job, there is always a significant period of time required to get up to speed, not to mention establishing yourself as a credible presence. This is why I haven’t been posting. As much as I enjoy writing, it doesn’t even come close to paying the bills. Work has to come first. I make no apologies for that. I do apologize for dropping off the radar and will do my best to post more regularly going forward.

Thank you all for your patience and support.


posted by David at 1:46 pm  

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