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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

eReader Price Wars?

Originally written for eBookGuru - The Digital Magazine Devoted to eBooks

The $50 eReader just got a lot closer.

There was a flurry of activity yesterday in the eReader market.

First Barnes & Noble came out with a $149 Wi-Fi only version of the Nook, putting pressure on the recently released Kobo eReader. While the Kobo has gotten some good press and has some nice features, it only has the ability to sync books via Bluetooth. Without Wi-Fi or 3G access the Kobo will be fighting an uphill battle. Barnes & Noble also dropped the price of the 3G version of the Nook from $259 to $199.

To add insult to injury (for both the Kobo and the Nook) Amazon lowered the price of the Kindle to $189 shortly after the Barnes & Noble announcement came out, putting it below the $199 3G enabled Nook and within spitting distance of the $149 Kobo and Wi-Fi only Nook.

While this isn’t the $50 eReader that I referred to earlier, this widens the price gap between eReaders and the iPad making it more unlikely for these devices to be in competition with each other.

It will be interesting to see how Kobo reacts to these price cuts. Also Sony has been relatively quiet recently but these new prices will put pressure on the lower end Sony Reader Pocket Edition ($169), let alone the Touch Edition ($199). Neither of the Sony eReaders have Wi-Fi or 3G access and the Pocket Edition only has a 5 inch screen despite being practically the same size and weight as the Kobo reader.

Regardless of what happens, readers and writers benefit from the increased competition.

posted by David at 12:01 am  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Women Overtake Men

During my recent speaking engagement at the Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT) one of the topics discussed was how the premise of The Gender Divide - the fact that women live four times longer than men -affected society. The short answer was that since women lived longer, they were able to amass more assets and control more wealth. This great economic power enabled them to take control in other areas such as business and politics as well.

I also referenced a post that I’d made last year (Womenomics) regarding the financial crisis, wherein I referred to an article that stated that none of the central bankers and regulators at fault were women.

I found it oddly coincidental to come across an article in the Globe & Mail last week entitled U.K.’s rich: Women overtake the men. The article states that

The number of rich women outnumbered men in Britain for the first time last year, their numbers and wealth boosted by longer lifespans and an aversion to risky investments (emphasis added)

The shift in relative wealth mostly reflects the fact that wealthy women have the longest life expectancy of any group in the U.K

… a more aggressive approach to investment by men that left them exposed to riskier assets during the financial crisis, also boosted the relative wealth of women

As I mentioned during the speaking engagement, one of the the things that I’ve found fascinating since writing The Gender Divide was the information that I come across that supports many of the concepts and theories postulated in the novel, particularly the stabilizing effect that women can have. Women seem less prone to take unwarranted risks and perhaps might even be more inclined to take a longer term view.

That’s not to say that men are to blame for the ills of the world. After all Canada managed to weather the financial crisis just fine despite having two men - Prime Minister Stephan Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty - at the helm.

However Canada seems to be the exception rather than the rule so perhaps business and society would benefit from the inclusion of more women at the higher level. Something to think about.

posted by David at 12:01 am  

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The $50 eReader

Originally written for eBookGuru - The Digital Magazine Devoted to eBooks

I just came this article in Wired magazine, speculating about whether a $50 Kindle could beat the iPad.

The idea of a $50 Kindle postulated in the article is very appealing. It was less then a year ago when I wrote about getting the price of an eReader below $200. The Kindle is still above this mark at $259 but the Kobo eReader (great user review here) is well below at $149 - $110 less than the Kindle. Heck, you can almost get two for the same price.

However there are a couple of items that I take exception to.

First, the idea that the Kindle and the iPad are in competition. The iPad is more akin to a laptop or a net-book whereas the Kindle and other eBook readers are just that - eBook readers. Admittedly some of the new readers coming to market are trying to be all things to all people and those are the readers that are more likely to fail. Not just because they will be competing against the iPad with its ease of use and cool factor, but because they will also be competing with all the iPad competitors.

The competitors, like the Dell Streak, will be lower in price, making them the more likely competition for higher end eReaders. It also seems likely - pending what happens to Palm’s Web OS post HP acquisition of course - that most of the iPad competitors will be running Android rather than Windows. Since both the Kindle and the Kobo have apps for Android, it is possible that Android based tablets could cannibalize sales of those eReaders.

So one way to dominate the eReader market is to make the least expensive eReader out there, an approach that Kobo seems to understand. The other way is to make it as easy as possible to read books using the same platform. Both Kobo and the Kindle have this down pat, with both eReaders having apps for the iPhone, Android phones, the Blackberry, and the iPad, as well as software for PC’s and Mac’s.

Apart from price, Kobo also has an advantage in it uses the open ePub eBook format, making situations like the author of the Wired article experienced unlikely. When Mr. Sorrel’s Kindle broke, he complains that

This effectively means I have lost all the books I bought, too.

As pointed out in the comments to the article, this isn’t true as he still has all those other options for reading his Kindle books. Unfortunately he is limited to replacing his Kindle with another Kindle if he wants to be able to read his books on an eReader rather than a phone or a computer. The ePub format is supported by the Kobo, the Sony Reader, and the Barnes & Noble Nook. If Mr. Sorrel had been using one of those devices he would have more options available.

As for the cellphone as an eReader replacement, this works for casual use. However most people will prefer a larger format that is easier to read in more conditions and has a longer battery life. Also accessories like the M-Edge Guardian Case for Amazon Kindle extend the usability of eReaders to places like the bathtub or the beach.

In short there is still a strong market and business case for a low-priced dedicated eReader. The more bells and whistles vendors try to add, the more they are competing with the tablet market and the more likely they are to lose.

posted by David at 12:01 am  

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wearing my speaking HAT*

This weekend I spoke to the Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT*) - a very enjoyable experience.

I sold two books and received an honorarium but more importantly I got to speak to some wonderful people about a topic near and dear to my heart - naming writing.

I had prepared some notes as I wasn’t sure of how many people would be there - I wanted to have something on hand in case I was placed behind a podium. As it turned out the gathering was just the right size for a round table forum, so my notes weren’t needed. However the process of preparing them ensured that I was prepared, which was the whole idea anyway.

There were probably somewhere between fifteen and twenty people and most of them stayed the entire time. The meeting was an hour and an half but I was supposed to speak for about forty-five minutes. I really didn’t have any idea what time it was or how long I’d been speaking until I called home from the parking lot and realized that I’d been speaking for close to two hours!

Of course I wasn’t the only one talking, although I did more than my fair share. I spent a substantial amount of time talking about The Gender Divide, and how I came up with the idea for it, and this sparked some very interesting discussion. There were some excellent questions asked and even some ideas that I may try to incorporate into a sequel.

The only sour note was the traffic in Toronto. Bletch. It took me just as much time to travel three city blocks as it did for me to get all the way downtown - and that was including driving through a torrential downpour on the 404 and even taking the notorious DVP (Don Valley Parkway for those of you not familiar with the GTA or the Don Valley Parking-lot as it is better known). I made better time on the way home by taking a different route out of the city, although I did get caught on the DVP this time around.

Despite that I had a really good afternoon and I would just like to say thank you to Tanya Long, the program coordinator for HAT, as well as to HAT, for inviting me. And of course a big thank you to everyone who attended. I hope you enjoyed yourself as much as I did.

posted by David at 12:01 am  

Monday, June 7, 2010

Contest: Seeking reader reviews on Amazon.com

The Gender Divide is now available on Amazon.com in paperback, which is very exciting. A lot of people I know still prefer a paperback to an eBook. Readers have been able to purchase paperbacks at the Publishers website for some time now but going through Amazon allows you to take advantage of their FREE Super Saving Shipping offer.

The paperback is also part of Amazon’s ‘Search inside the Book’ program where you can click to look inside. The preview is fairly paltry, especially considering that all of Chapter 1 is available on the website for The Gender Divide. There is also the option to get a link to Chapter 2 just by emailing me. However I’m sure that Amazon.com gets more traffic than my website does so I’m not complaining.

I also noticed that I received my first reader review on Amazon.com and that got me thinking. For those of you who have read The Gender Divide I have the following contest. I will be awarding 3 free copies (eBooks only) of my new novella Venus Inferno once it is released in mid-July. Here is what you have to do to qualify.

  1. Write a review for The Gender Divide. I’d obviously love more 5 star reviews but I really do want to hear what readers think of the book.
  2. Send me an email (david|@|davidboultbee.com) with the name you wrote the review under.
  3. When Venus Inferno is released, I’ll randomly select 3 winners and send them the eBook.

I’m really looking forward to reading some more reviews from my readers so good luck.

posted by David at 1:00 am  

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Review of The Gender Divide

I received this wonderful review from Trevas of eBookguru.org for The Gender Divide a while ago and I’ve been remiss about posting it, especially given some of the good things it has to say about the book.

A couple of my favorite lines:

With it’s completely original story line, it’s draw-you-in-and-keep-you style, and it’s fast paced storyline, this is one book that Sci-Fi readers are going to want to grab a copy of.

The storyline stands on it’s own in a genre plagued by copycat types of books, and The Gender Divide is an engaging read right from start to finish.

If you enjoy Sci-Fi, you won’t want to miss out on this one.

If you want to learn more about The Gender Divide visit the website and click on the Excerpt for a free read of Chapter 1. If you like it or even if you aren’t sure, you can email me (david|@|davidboultbee.com) for a link to Chapter 2.

posted by David at 7:52 am  

Saturday, June 5, 2010

In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to…

Originally posted on The Writers Vineyard


Not quite what Tennyson had in mind when he penned that famous phrase but as I was mentioning to fellow author KS Augustin last weekend, the warmer weather is turning my ‘fancy’ to writing.

I find that I write best when I am not sitting at my desk. The Gender Divide was partially written on plane trips but mostly written at a cottage that we had rented from friends of ours. During the day I’d sit on the deck or the dock and write but my favorite time to write was early in the morning or late at night, when it was quiet and cool. I’d sit in the living room on the sofa, with my feet up on the coffee table, and let my characters take me away into their world.

We haven’t gone to the cottage in a while but last year we took advantage of the Home Renovation Tax Credit and had a deck built off the back of our house. We back onto storm water ponds and despite the traffic from the nearby road, the view is quite soothing. When the traffic dies down the sounds of birds, crickets, and the rubber-band twang of frogs can be heard quite clearly.

When I was let go from my old job last summer, my focus became a) obtaining a new job and b) keeping said new job. As a result my writing got put on the back burner. Being able to spend time on the deck again has inspired me to start writing once more. I have an as-yet-untitled manuscript that I am working on and I recently reached the 70% mark, based on a target of 80,000 words.

In order to keep me on the path of righteousness (or at least on the path towards publication) I found a simple progress Bar that I will be including in future posts. If it proves to be counter-productive then I’ll drop it but in the meantime it will prove to be an interesting experiment.

56000 / 80000

Hopefully my post next month will show the progress that I’ve made. Until then, the deck is beckoning me.

posted by David at 7:01 am  

Monday, May 31, 2010

Speaking to the Humanist Association of Toronto

I’ll be speaking to the Humanist Association of Toronto in mid June.

Saturday, June 12
1:30 – 3:00
OISE, 252 Bloor St W, Room 2-213


The talk will be mostly about The Gender Divide but I may discuss other works in progress depending on time and interest.

The event is open to all so if you live in the GTA or are visiting, feel free to drop by.

If you have any questions about Humanism, leave them in the comments section or email me , and I’ll pose them to the group.

Hope to see you there.

posted by David at 6:00 am  

Monday, May 31, 2010

One eReader per Child

I came across this article and it appears that the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project has succumbed to the recent tablet frenzy. While I applaud the concept I can’t help but wonder if a tablet is the best way to go. Admittedly there are some valid reasons for moving from a laptop to a tablet. A tablet has fewer moving parts and the lack of a physical keyboard allows language issues to be addressed by software as opposed to hardware. However the article got me thinking - what is OLPC trying to accomplish? So I looked up their mission statement.

To create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful, self-empowered learning. When children have access to this type of tool they get engaged in their own education. They learn, share, create, and collaborate. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

There seems to be two main elements to the mission statement - collaboration and learning. Admittedly a networked device lends itself to collaboration but when it comes to learning there are other options. What about an eReader? I’m not suggesting that eReaders replace the laptop or tablet but it could be a good way to supplement or enhance the program. Perhaps it could be one eReader per child and one (or more) laptop per village.

The One Laptop Per Child project has its share of skeptics, who have questioned everything from the possibility of manufacturing a laptop for $100 to the point of computers in countries that lack basic infrastructure.

An eReader could help address both the cost and infrastructure issue. I did a little searching and found a group called Worldreader.org. While any eReader could be used, the Kindle, which is the eReader used by Worldreader.org, is the perfect choice for this program due its ability to use existing mobile phone networks to provide new and updated content.

Worldreader.org is developing the systems and the partnerships to get e-readers — and the life-changing, power-creating ideas contained in e-books — into the hands and minds of people in the developing world, where profit-seeking entities are not focused.

It seems to me like Worldreader.org and OLPC have a lot in common. While any program of this nature is to be applauded, it would be a shame if the assistance became too fragmented to benefit those who need it the most. Certainly it appears that some synergies could be obtained if these two groups worked together. Worldreader.org is just getting started and there are a number of challenges that a group like OLPC has likely experienced and could help with. In turn the OLPC project could benefit from the trials and experience that Worldreader.org has already garnered regarding eReader use.

posted by David at 12:01 am  

Monday, May 24, 2010

Teen Mums?

I came across this article about ‘teen mums’ quite a while ago and while I didn’t agree with the premise of it I wasn’t sure about how to approach it. I saved the article for future consideration but didn’t do anything else.

Then I  came across this article about how

“…female workers feel pressure to furiously climb the career ladder before taking time off to start a family.”

The approach of this article was almost the antithesis of the article about teen mums but the heart of both articles deals with the challenge of balancing having a family and having a career.

The article about teen mums postulates the idea of having children before having a career.  Physically it’s the best time for it but there is more to having a child than just getting pregnant. Leaving aside issues like postpartum depression, having a child is extremely demanding no matter how you measure it - physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, or even sociologically. While many teens may be fully capable of ‘running a home’, how many teens can afford a home in the first place?

The article states, presumably tongue in cheek,

“…show me a fortysomething working mother who doesn’t feel exhausted and overwhelmed and I will show you a woman on very effective mood stabilizers.”

To me it seems fairly clear that the added mental and emotional maturity, not to mention the financial resources, afforded by the additional twenty-six plus years would make a world of difference in how the fortysomething working mother deals with issues as opposed to how the teen mom, with limited resources, education, and perspective, deals with the same issues.

On the other side of the coin, the article about the ‘pre-mommy mentality’ advocates the opposite approach. Work harder.

Pamela Jeffery, founder of the Toronto-based Women’s Executive Network, which offers career mentoring programs, says she encounters women on a daily basis who are racing for career advancement while they’re in their late 20s and early 30s.

“The No. 1 question I find in our mentoring programs is ‘How do I do it all? How do I have a great career and be a
mom?’ ”

Her advice: Put in the extra work early on.

Wow. Talking about being caught in the middle.

This is something that has always fascinated me as a science fiction writer and was one of the ideas running in the back of my mind while I was writing The Gender Divide. With an extended life span, it would be possible for both parents to take a hiatus from work and take the time to raise a child. As it stands now, too many people have children then leave the raising of them to strangers. As one of the women in the ‘pre-mummy mentality” article states…

“So I kept working harder … so that one day I could at least pay for someone else to raise them…”

I honestly don’t know the answer is or what the best time to have children is but I’m hopeful that one day society and perhaps even technology will help us find the solution.

posted by David at 8:36 am  
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