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Laser bring new 5″ e-reader to Australia

The Laser EB-101 is based on a 5″ LCD screen, and it has 2GB Flash and a microSDHC card slot. It’s available now for $149.95 AUD.

Details are sparse, so I don’t know much. But I think I recognize the menu shown on the screen. It looks a lot like other Gajah ereaders I’ve shown you in the past. If I’m right, then we can probably guess that this doesn’t have any DRM support.

BTW, I found something in the product description that’s going to cause a lot of trouble down the road:

The Laser EB101 E-Book reader accomodates ALL formats of E-book including DRM managed content which is legitamately purchased from on line stores such as Amazon. (if you’re considering an E-Book reader, you should check the licensing and compatibility with DRM fies. The EB101 is fully licensed and fully compatible meaning more books, more videos, more music, more pictures and more use.

It looks to me like they have support for Kindle DRM. Since I know that’s impossible, I have to wonder if they are misleading people intentionally, or was this phrasing an accident.


Is Rupert Murdoch really going to launch a tablet news unit?

There’s a story in today’s LATimes that says just that. But I have a problem. A close reading of the LATimes article does not indicate that the have a new source. For all we know they might be working off the Wall Street Journal rumors we read last week.

Here’s an excerpt:

News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch is embarking on an ambitious plan for a new national digital newspaper to be distributed exclusively as paid content for tablet computers such as Apple Inc.’s iPad and mobile phones.

The initiative, which would directly compete with the New York Times, USA Today and other national publications, is the latest attempt by a major media organization to harness sexy new devices to reach readers who increasingly consume their news on the go. The development underscores how the iPad is transforming the reading habits of consumers much like the iPod changed how people listen to music.

On the other hand, I really do think he’s going to follow through on this. But I also think it’s going to fate as the tech bubble or multimedia CD-ROMs.

Asus 8″ eeeTablet now $300, not $599

It looks like the Digitmes story I brought you a few days ago might be wrong. PCWorld are reporting that the Asus eeeTablet will be out in October for $300.

Asustek Computer plans to launch its long awaited Eee Tablet with an 8-inch LCD touchscreen in October for around US$300, though prices vary by market.

The Eee Tablet will run a Linux OS, but not Google’s Android mobile operating system, which has long been the rumor. The Linux distribution on board was developed by Asustek, said Jerry Shen, CEO of Asustek, speaking with reporters after the conference.

He said the Eee Tablet name may also be changed to Eee Note. Asustek does not want people to confuse the product with tablet PCs.

The Eee Tablet has three key functions aimed at school students: the ereader, note taking and Internet browsing.

Asustek added writing software to the Eee Tablet so users can take notes with a stylus on the touchscreen, and onboard software digitizes those notes. The company also included a 2-megapixel camera to the device so students can take pictures of a teacher’s whiteboard instead of having to write so much. It also includes a digital audio recorder to record lectures.

That’s a relief. I was wondering what drugs they were on. There’s no way the eeeTablet could survive at $600. Even $300 is a stretch. By the time October rolls around we’ll see several decent competitors in that price range.

Also, I for one kept getting the eeeTablet confused with the eeePad. That was not a good name choice.

Smartbook Surfer really is the Augen Gentouch 78

You might recall from when I announced the Smartbook Surfer (a 7″ Android tablet) that I thought the Surfer looked a lot like the Augen Gentouch78 tablet. I just found an unboxing photo that confirmed my suspicion.

If you look at the image you’ll see that the back of the Surfer looks exactly the same as that of the Gentouch78. And if you click here, you 'll see more pictures of the Surfer being unboxed. Note that the ports and slots are all in the same place on each tablet.

Huawei T62W e-reader clears FCC – touchscreen, Wifi, 3G

This beauty just popped up in the FCC database today. This is the first Huawei ereader that I’ve seen. I can’t find a spec sheet, but I have gleaned a few details from the photos and the user manual. It’s based on a 6″ E-ink touch screen, and has Wifi, Bluetooth, 3G, a microSDHC card slot (32GB supported), and a SIM card slot.

I don’t know anything about the ebook format support, but I do know that the T62W has an ebookstore on the device with subscription content. There are screen

I also don’t know the OS, but get this. One of the external pictures shows an Android menu, and one of the dis-assembly photos shows Windows CE 6.0. Which one will they ship, I wonder?

via FCC

Update: I found an ebookstore in Poland that might be the one shown on the device:

Shanda: 500 yuan reasonable price for ebooks – WTF?

Trading Markets are reporting:

E-books will become a major reading mode and the reasonable price should be about CNY 500 each, said Zhou Hongli, the chief copyright officer of Shanda Literature Corp. (SDL), the literature business unit of leading Chinese interactive entertainment media company Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd. (NASDAQ: SNDA | PowerRating), recently.

They  must have made a mistake somehow.  500 CNY is about $73 USD. As much as the agency 5 might  love the price point, it makes no sense for the price of an ebook. Perhaps the Shanda spokesman was saying that would be a good price for an ebook _reader_. I don’t know.

Qualcomm: Mirasol screen really isn’t in production

Slashgear followed up on the Mirasol story that I reported on earlier yesterday. Here’s what Chris reported being told by Jim Cathey, VP of business development for Qualcomm’s MEMS division:

According to Cathey, despite what Mollenkopf’s comments implied, the mirasol fabs are up and running, and samples are out with the company’s OEM partners. The confusion, he suggested, was down to volumes: Mollenkopf was “thinking in billions” which, as a new technology, mirasol isn’t yet reaching. However, Qualcomm are on track to make their first shipments before the end of the year, and Cathey expects commercial products to arrive in Q1 2011.

What’s rather interesting about that last sentence is that it can be 100% true and not contradict the info we got from ZDnet. The screen is not in production yet. We know that because they’re still sending out samples, which are by definition something you do before production begins.

Here’s another thing. We were supposed to see a device this year. Now we won’t see it until next year. Why? I would guess production delays.

Epub is going to lose

So there’s another Epub activism session going on right now on Twitter, and it inspired this rant. I have a number of points about format, Kindle vs Epub, etc that I want to get off my chest.

Why Kindle will Win

The Kindle format has Amazon behind it. Epub has a committee. When you match a savvy, innovative tech company with a being that has 100 mouths and no brain, who do you think will win?

Epub vs Kindle – Which is better

The Epub advocates like to talk about how much you can do with Epub that you can’t do on the Kindle. This is somewhat true. On scale of 1 to 10 (with Epub being a 10) the Kindle format would rate about a 7.

But if you expand that scale so it reflects all the things you can do with web content, then you have scores of 7 and 10 on a scale of 1 to 50. When you think about all the stuff you can’t do with Epub it suddenly becomes a lot less impressive.

One format must win

Why should one digital format win when no single paper format has done so? There are bunches of standard book sizes in paper. Why should digital be any different? It’s like you’re saying that graphic novels can replace cookbooks, or MMPB can replace reference manuals. Or to give a digital example, CBR & CBZ aren’t going away. They work just fine for comics.

And besides, a single digital format which could do everything would be a "jack of all trades but a master of none". I’d rather stick with the more specialized formats.

Epub as a standard

(I just read this over on Mike Cane’s tumblr blog.) Which Epub standard are you talking about? There are 3 commercially available epub standards: Sony, B&N, and Apple. It’s not one format; DRM has made sure of that.

Amazon working on the unKindle?

The NYTimes are speculating on why Amazon have announced job opening for things like: Supply Chain Project Program Manager, Hardware Engineer and RF Systems Engineer.

Some of the people hired for these positions will most likely work on the next versions of the Kindle, possibly integrating touch screens or even creating a color version of the device. But there’s also a good chance these engineers will be recruited to build other gadgets that Amazon is prototyping in its secret labs.

According to people with direct knowledge of the company’s plans, who declined to be identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly about Amazon’s internal workings and unannounced products, Lab 126 has been looking into building other gadgets that it could sell to consumers.

Yes, and no. Yes they are developing new gadgets and no they are not trying to get into the gadget market. If there’s one thing Amazon have made clear by their actions, it’s that they sell the Kindle (and turn a profit on it) in order to have a platform to sell ebooks. If Amazon really wanted to sell other devices then they could have done so any time during the 5 years that Lab126 have been open.

But, I would bet that Amazon have looked at devices that would support their MP3 store and UnBox video store. They’ve never developed them because there was no need. PMPs and MP3 players are well developed markets.

OverDrive add Gutenberg, other 3rd party sources to their library platform

From the Overdrive blog:

On Friday, Boston Public Library became the first OverDrive library partner to add more than 15,000 public domain eBooks from Project Gutenberg to its ‘Virtual Branch’ website—at no cost to the library. This featured collection, currently in beta, enables users to discover and download thousands of DRM-free EPUB eBooks without holds, waitlists, or authentication.

That’s great, but I’m looking forward to when Overdrive add other sources. Assuming Overdrive did it right, it shouldn’t take any more effort to add, for example, Feedbooks.

Let me tell you why it’s easy. Have you ever used Aldiko or Stanza? Did you notice how you can access the Feedbooks, Fictionwise, Gutenberg,  or a bunch of other sites form inside the app? You can that because the app and the sites all follow the OPDS standard.

Hopefully Overdrive also followed the standard.

Rumor: Blackberry Tablet coming soon

Digitimes are reporting Chinese manufacturer Quanta Computers will be making RIM’s Android tablet, which will be officially launched in November:

The tablet (BlackPad) will support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as 3G through connection to a Blackberry smartphone. The device will be priced at US$499 and Quanta will start shipping orders in September with volumes to reach two million units in 2010 and eight million units in 2011, the paper added.

I’m not so sure that RIM could sell 2m BlackPads in only 2 months. As good as they are they’re not Apple. And besides, this would be during the Christmas shopping season here in the US. Consumers will be buying other junk. They’re not going to buoy the BlackPad sales (at least, not without a really good marketing campaign).

New Pandigital Novel e-reader available on 18 August

I have confirmation from Pandigital that the black Novel will officially launch on 18 August. It’s expected to arrive in Kohl’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond stores some time during that week.

The black Novel is a completely different set of hardware from the white Novel. There are really only 2 key differences, though. The first is the touchscreen and the second is the amount of internal storage.

The white Novel has an internal microSD card slot (which can be upgraded). The black Novel, on the other hand, has 2GB of Flash soldered to the mainboard.

I have one of the early review units, and I will post the review as soon as the embargo is lifted. Until then, here is a brief unboxing video:

Motley Fool think Amazon Can’t Win on the iPad

There’s a new post today from Motley Fool. I think it does a pretty good job of showing why they call themselves fools (I assume it was becuase the word idiot wouldn’t have the same alliteration). Here’s a summary:

In this video, analyst Eric Bleeker talks about the continuing battle between Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad and's (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindle. Bleeker feels that chatter in the media about Amazon and Apple — that Amazon’s success on the iPad creates a win-win situation for the company — is missing the mark.

Specifically, he’s afraid of companies that become reliant on other platforms, where the owner can change the rules at any time. In this case, Amazon is captive to whatever direction Apple takes the iPad.

While Apple didn’t initially ship iPads with Apple’s iBooks pre-installed, there’s little doubt it’ll be the default book reading program going forward. That’s the large concern for Amazon. Whenever users are required to take a separate action (download Amazon’s book application), a large number of those users will take the path that requires no action and use a pre-installed program. As the platform owner, Apple can promote its own bookstore in whatever format it desires.

He is ignoring so many details here that I don’t know where to begin.  I think I’ll just stay with the most obvious: you can only get the iBooks app in (I think) 4 countries and you can access the Kindle Store in 140. Apple would have to put a lot of work into expanding iBooks before they could serious impact the Kindle app. And then there are the number of platforms you can get the Kindle on and the vast difference in ebook selection.

Is Amazon a robber baron? I’d say no.

I cam across an interesting article today in the Vancouver Sun. The author makes a pretty good case for calling Amazon a robber baron:

As a temporary loss leader marketing exercise, undercutting rival prices is just another form of healthy competition that’s good for markets.

But when a company such as Amazon is in a dominant or monopoly position and sells below its own costs, the market is destroyed by driving rivals out of business or keeping new entrants at bay. So the attorneys general are looking at whether Amazon’s pricing behaviour constitutes a form of market abuse under antitrust laws called "predatory pricing."

Amazon argues it has helped publishers with its cheap pricing by expanding the e-market. But the same could have been said by the robber barons of old whose predatory pricing ushered in a host of antitrust laws designed to protect markets from monopolism.

I have to disagree. You see, there’s one detail that everyone seems to have forgotten about digital content. You can’t monopolize the market for digital content because there will always be one supplier that can’t be defeated: piracy. Raise prices too much and people simply won’t buy.

And the other detail everyone seems to have forgotten is that ebook prices have a natural upper limit: the price of a paper book. Ebooks aren’t being sold in a vacuum; they are just one segment of the market. If one f0rm costs to much more people will get the their books another way.

Kindle UK Ebookstore launched, 400k titles, most prices the same

So the UK version of the Kindle Store launched today, right on schedule. It has nearly 400k titles which might make it the largest ebookstore in the UK (Europe, too, for that matter).

If you’re wondering why I haven’t covered the UK Kindle Store before, it’s because I don’t like regional restrictions when it comes to ebookstores like this. I think they are an invitation to piracy.

But something happened today that changed my mind: I came across this post on how the top 25 ebooks cost less in the UK store than they do in the US store. It piqued my curiosity. I don’t know if you’ve been following ebook prices, but as a rule the USA has usually had the lowest price ebook. The price difference was big enough that a couple years ago US ebookstores were forced into blocking sales to anyone outside the US market. (It’s more complicated than that, but I’ll cover it another time.)

I’ve been doing a spot check of prices, and guess what? The prices were usually about the same in both stores. I’m sure you’re scratching your head and wondering why that is important. I know something you don’t: ebooks in the UK have a 17.5% tax built into the price (unlike the US where tax is assessed during the transaction). So if the US price is the same then we are in effect paying a 21% surcharge. The only reason I can see for the increase in price is that we are stuck with the Agency pricing.

Update: I can see over at Kindle Nation Daily that Steven is finding prices significantly higher in the US than in the UK. This is rather puzzling because I randomly checked about 30 titles and I found the sale prices to be about the same. I’m not seeing the same data as Steven, and I find that rather odd.