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Smashwords, Diesel Ebookstore sign distribution agreement

Smashwords today announced a two-part ebook distribution partnership with the Diesel eBook Store, a leading independent ebook retailer.

The agreement expands ebook distribution opportunities for thousands of current and future Smashwords authors and publishers.

Under the first part of the agreement, Diesel has become the latest ebook retailer to join the Smashwords distribution network. In addition to Diesel, we now distribute our books to the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Sony, as well as to mobile app platforms such as Aldiko for Android devices, and Stanza for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

All Smashwords Premium Catalog titles will go live at Diesel by August 19. If you’re a Smashwords author and your books have been accepted into the Premium Catalog, your books will automatically go to Diesel unless you opt out from your Dashboard’s Channel Manager in the next two days (the only reason to opt out is if your book is already distributed to Diesel via a different distributor).

For the second part of the agreement, Diesel has selected Smashwords to power its new Diesel Publishing Portal. Like most smart ebook retailers, Diesel is committed to offering its customers the broadest possible selection of ebook titles. By partnering with Smashwords to power its publishing portal, Diesel makes it faster and easier for indie authors and small publishers to sell their titles on Diesel. Diesel is the second major ebook retailer to choose Smashwords to power their co-branded publishing portal. Sony was the first.

Shanda reveal Bambook, will be on sale 9 August

The long awaited ereader from Shanda Literature was revealed last week at the China Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference.

I don’t have the  specs for the Bambook, but I do know that it has Wifi and that Shanda have launched an ebookstore to support it.

UPDATE: One of my sources have come through for me. I now know that the Bambook is using a 800MHz Marvel CPU, costs, 998 Yuan (during the beta at least). It also won’t be going on sale on the 9th. Instead, it will be in a closed beta.

I also found some unboxing photos.

press release


New ebook distribution platform launched in Japan

From the press release:

NTT DOCOMO, INC. and Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. (DNP) announced today that they will partner in an electronic publishing business covering content aggregation, distribution and retail sales of e-books, which DOCOMO customers in Japan will access with a variety of mobile devices from this fall.

The business will use an open platform by combining DOCOMO’s existing content-distribution and payment systems with DNP’s planned hybrid digital/physical bookstores.

Initially targeting DOCOMO customers, the business will sell e-books via a mobile bookstore that users will access with DOCOMO wireless devices, including mobile phones, smartphones, tablet computers and e-book readers. The store will launch with more than 100,000 titles, including electronic books, manga comics, magazines and newspapers.

DOCOMO and DNP also are discussing the possible formation of a joint-venture company, collaborations with publishers and mobile-device manufacturers, and expansion into overseas markets.

Irex back from the grave!, a Dutch financial news website, are reporting that ereader maker Irex have secured new financing and will continue to operate. The new company will be called IRX Innovations. Hans Brons, head of Irex, has announced that IRX will abandon the consumer market with the plan to focus on the business market and licensing IRX designs to third parties.

This is great news for a bunch of people I know. They’re all waiting on repairs to their Irex ereader. Some have been waiting for months.

Wired to add exclusive videos to their iPad app

Wired is constantly working to find new ways to promote their digital  magazine (just the ones that won’t work).Their latest idea is to give the iPad app exclusive content that they have denied their paper subscribers. I’m sure this will make the app worth $3.99 an issue.

Do you want to know my issue with Wired? I have a paper subscription that they sold to me f0r $10 a year. I refuse to pay twice for the same content. And no, these videos aren’t enough for me to change my mind. Also, given that I have greater value as a paper subscriber (ad revenue), why can’t they give me a free digital subscription as a bonus?

Wired – Will Ferrell Short from Nick Bilton on Vimeo.

via NYTimes

Simon & Schuster relaunch CYOA books as iOS apps

Do you remeber the old Choose Your Own Adventure books? Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing have decided to revive the concept with book apps. They’ve released one title so far, Return to the Cave of Time, with more titles coming in the fall.

It’s unfortunate that they took so long to release this. It doesn’t have to be done as an app and could quite easily have been done in Mobipocket/Kindle. I know that I could have designed it.

As someone who read CYOA books back in the 1980’s I couldn’t resist.I immediately downloaded and read it. I’m kinda glad that this is an app. They’ve taken advantage of the possibilities of a book app and integrated some interesting backgrounds and sound into the story.

It’s worth getting. You can find it in iTunes for $3.99.

Laptop Mag reviews the Augen Gentouch78

If you’re thinking about getting this tablet then this review will definitely make up your mind.


The GenTouch78 was never going to be a powerhouse or the most desirable tablet this side of the iPad, but even at $149 it’s a waste of money. The Archos 7 Home Tablet, which was no prize in itself, is a better choice, as the company at least includes media codecs. Yes, having the Android Market (assuming Augen can get it working) and core apps on a tablet is a treat, but they don’t make up for this slate’s awful resistive screen, awkward button placement, and other deficiencies. We can see hackers and tinkerers potentially gravitating toward the GenTouch78 as a cheap Android testbed, but for general consumers, it’s not worth the investment.

Laptop Mag

Tablets are the netbooks of 2011

Yesterday I reported on remarks about tablets made by Rupert Murdoch. I mentioned that I thought tablets were a fad, and a friend sent me an email and asked why.

Fad isn’t the quite the right word, but I think the hype exceeds reality. I have this feeling that tablets are about to go through the same cycle as netbooks (or ereaders, for that matter).

The original netbook niche (7″ to 9″ screens) is dead. What’s left are actually underpowered laptops (which aren’t terribly different from ones being made before netbooks became hot). What killed off netbooks was the small screen and keyboard. They weren’t all that nice to use, so people went back to laptops.

I think tablets will fail for much the same reason. I don’t think most tablet advocates have really thought through whether a tablet will be pleasant to use. The short of it is that a lot of people will jump into making apps for tablets. Most of the apps will suck and the user experience will be poor. This will cause most users to go back to using something else. We’ve already seen how a poor UE affected netbooks.

Basically I’m expecting the average user to walk up to a tablet display at Best Buy next year, try to use a tablet, and walk away dissatisfied. TBH, that was my experience with an eee701 at Target.

In fact, I’m not even sure tablets will get big enough to warrant a display at Best Buy.  If you’ve been following tablet news for the past couple months then you know that both of the splashiest releases (Pandigital and Augen) didn’t go so well. The tablet market has jumped past the high end models and gone straight to the crappy knockoffs. Long before the big name manufacturers can get their tablets out the door, the word tablet will have a negative connotation.

P.S. Laptop Mag reviewed the Augen Gentouch78 yesterday. That’s one of the 2 splashy releases I was talking about.

B&N should sell off their stores and focus on their website

So B&N are thinking about putting the company up for sale and try to go private.  From the press release:

Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller, today announced that its Board of Directors intends to evaluate strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the company, in order to increase stockholder value.  The Board came to this decision based on the price of Barnes & Noble shares in the marketplace, which the Board believes are now significantly undervalued.

There’s a lot of talk about who should buy the company, and I’ve decided to take the radical position: no one.  I think B&N should rebrand themselves as a web retailer. The income generated by the stores has gone down for the last 3 years in a row. Only the website is doing well.  I think they should give up on the brick and mortar presence entirely.

What do they have to lose?

NookStudy is a serious threat to the Kindle textbook market

Of course, the Kindle doesn’t work well with textbooks so that’s not saying much.

I’ve spent the last couple hours with NookStudy and while it has a number of usability issues, it is still the best desktop reading app on the market. It also fills a need. It’s the first decent desktop reading app that supports Adobe DRM (I loaded ebooks bought elsewhere). Yes, I’m familiar with Adobe DE; I think it’s crap.  You should use NookStudy instead.

NookStudy is better than either the Kindle4PC or Adobe DE becuase it provides so many more annotation and search options. It also has a better looking design than the fugly one used by Adobe DE.

With NookStudy you don’t just have the basic highlights, notes, and bookmarks. Instead, you have multiple types of annotations (highlight, asterisk, question) and you can do asterisks and questions in 7 different colors. You can also attach text notes as well as search Wikipedia, Google,, Wolfram Alpha, and Youtube. And I just noticed that you can attach a link to the webpage you just found through the search. Attaching the link isn’t easy, but it can be done.

Now I’m really impressed. I love that I can search, Wolfram Alpha, and Youtube. I think this might be the killer feature for NookStudy (like indexed search was for the Kindle).

Some of the other neat features include having multiple ebooks open in tabs, and a second TOC for annotations. They’re rather straightforward so I won’t go into detail.

Do you know what I think? I think B&N just made themselves the leading textbook platform. Aside from the niche textbook platforms, this is the best on the market.

Amazon: we’re pretty sure we’re 70 to 80 percent of the market

David Carnoy over at CNet sat down with Ian Freed.  There’s nothing really new aside from this one question:

CNET: Well, Apple’s saying it’s got 20 percent market share and I’ve heard Barnes & Noble saying it’s got 20 percent as well, so that would leave you guys with…

Freed: Honestly, something doesn’t add up because we’re pretty sure we’re 70 to 80 percent of the market. So, something, somewhere isn’t quite working right. I encourage you to do some more research. Obviously, from the beginning of Amazon we’ve been very metrics-focused and we don’t typically throw out numbers we don’t firmly believe in. Take that 70 to 80 percent number and add up all the others and something somewhere isn’t going to add up.

Footnote: The 20% claimed by Apple was a deliberate obfuscation on the part of Steve Jobs. What they 20% really means is that the 5 big publishers reported that 20% of their income comes from iBooks. Obviously that’s a lot less than 20% of the market.

For sometime now Mike Cane has been saying that Kindle is the de facto industry standard. I have to agree with him. I’m sorry, but there’s no other way to look at it.

Negroponte offere OLPC tech to India’s $35 tablet program

There was a rather interesting story on the GoodGearGuide blog Saturday:

The nonprofit organization One Laptop Per Child wants to join forces to help develop the Indian government’s planned US$35 tablet.

In a congratulatory note to the government, OLPC Chairman Nicholas Negroponte said the world needs the $35 tablet, and he offered the country full access to OLPC hardware and software technology.

I snickered a little at Negroponte, a man who never accomplished any of his pricing goals, offering the Indian program assistance with something he has failed to do. Heck, the only way he accomplished the $100 tablet was by co-opting a Marvel design.

Admittedly, we don’t know that the Indian tablet will succeed, but I think it has a better chance than OLPC.

Kobo killed their own e-reader

So I was sitting last night, pondering the Kindle announcement, when I realized that the ereader price war was over and the company who started the war shot themselves in the foot.

You see, unlike most people I don’t date the beginning of the ereader price war to when B&N announced the Nook Wifi. No, I think Kobo started the war when they announced their ereader back in March. They priced it over $100 less than the other leading ereaders; basically they were selling it at cost. Now that they aren’t selling as many as they expected, they are likely losing money on each sale.

The problem with pricing the ereader that low is that it forced everyone else to respond. I don’t think B&N would have set the Nook Wifi at $149 if the Kobo had cost more. I think B&N would have been happy to price it higher and make more per unit.

Here’s my point: Kobo isn’t an unfortunate victim of the price war; they are their own worst enemy.

Review: Augen The Book (video)

I stopped by my local Kmart store Monday night, and much to my surprise they had The Book in stock. I bought one, and I opened the box before before leaving the parking lot. I have to say I’m rather impressed. It’s not perfect, but in the sub $100 price range it’s fairly good.

Click here for the videos.

High points

  • cheap
  • decent battery life (I’m expecting at least 15+ hours)
  • can be used one handed
  • decent build quality
  • accelerometer
  • works in sunlight

Low points

  • poor keyboard
  • few annotation options
  • it keeps forgetting the SD card
  • really bad Wifi reception

In the box

Normally I’d skip this part, but I wanted to point out that there is a user manual with a CD. It has the calibre install files on it on it. I just find that rather amusing, that’s all. You also get the following in the box:

  • The Book ereader
  • case
  • USB cable
  • power supply
  • user manual

The Book also comes with 150 ebooks from Project Gutenberg. I would delete them if I were you. You can get much better copies elsewhere for free.


It’s a Kindle clone, obviously. I’ve covered the specs before (here), so I’ll just give a brief description. It has a 7″ LCD screen (not a touch screen) and there are 4 buttons to the left and 2 buttons to the right of the screen. Beneath the screen is a keyboard, joystick, and several extra buttons (menu, back, symbol). All the ports and card slots are on the bottom edge and the battery is not user accessible. On the bottom edge we have power jack, USB port (mini-B), headphones, SD card slot, and power button.

My first concern was that the long screen + keyboard would make the ereader feel big and awkward. Nope. It is bigger than the Kindle, but I think it has just the right proportions. It’s difficult to explain the aesthetics, but they work.

The screen wasn’t what I was expecting, though. It is completely usable for reading or browsing, but I don’t think a video buff would be happy. It’s backlit, and you can adjust the setting. I spent some time outside, and I’d say that this screen is definitely usable in full sun.

I like where the page turn buttons are placed. They are at just the right height so this is one handed ereader for either hand. The keyboard OTOH isn’t very usable. You might not want to use it to take extensive notes because all the punctuation is accessed with the alt key (rather like some smartphones). But if you’re used to typing at length on a smartphone, you might not mind. BTW, the punctuation is printed in a really tiny font. I have to hold The Book about 6″ away from my face before I can tell which button I want to push.

The way you select the punctuation is kind of funky. Take the exclamation point, for example. It’s printed above the letter q, but alt+q doesn’t work. Instead you have to do shift+1. I wish they’d stuck with one or the other.

It comes with a basic black pocketbook style case. Even though it has a cheap feel to it I’m still glad to have it. When closed it looks good, and when open it makes it easier to hold The Book. The case is a plus.


It has a browser, music & video players, and a Notepad app as well as the reading app. You can also buy ebooks from the device, and it supports Adobe DE DRM. I’m going to pass on the video and audio players; they’re adequate extras but they aren’t good enough for them to be the main reason you get this ereader.

BTW, while you can buy ebooks from the The Book, I wouldn’t. The ebookstore doesn’t have good prices, so you’re better off buying elsewhere.


I tried the browser, and the The Book found my Wifi network on first try. Load time for Google was good. Then it choked when I tried to get it to load GMail (that wasn’t fair, I know).

Curiously enough, opening the browser the second time didn’t cause the The Book to reconnect to my home network. I had to turn on the Wifi and connect manually. But it did remember my password.

Unfortunately, I have to say that this is not a usable browser. The Wifi range is shorter than any of my other gadgets. I couldn’t do a demo video because The Book couldn’t see the router 15 feet away in the next room.

It also takes too long to scroll the screen. You have to use the joystick to maneuver the cursor from the top of the screen to the bottom. Each time the screen refreshes the cursor will be back at the top of the screen.

And the browser is also very slow at loading pages. But the upside is you can download ebooks from Feedbooks and the like (if you’re close to the router).


This app is very basic. It’s strictly a note taking app and it doesn’t have any formatting options. Even so, I have the feeling that if I used the The Book for any length of time I could adapt my 4 finger typing style to the Notepad app. I think I could get used to it (if not for the punctuation issues).


This had a number of bugs and was short on features. It has folder support, which is good. But that’s all it has. It doesn’t have any sorting, search, or index options. It kept forgetting the SD card. Also, it insisted on using folder icons for all files. I had to guess which icon was the ebook.

Reading Experience

I tried both Epub and PDF. The Book supports Adobe DRM so I assumed that these formats would have the best support. PDF was a major disappointment. There was no reflow option, nor could I auto crop the white space. All I could do was zoom in. I also couldn’t rotate the screen (some of my PDFs are wide, not tall).

There were 5 fonts offered for Epub, which is good because the default is ugly and it added extra spaces before punctuation. Aside from bookmarks, I didn’t see any annotation abilities or a dictionary. Boy is that weird. Why else have a keyboard if not to add notes?

You can set the margins and justification for Epub, and that’s a plus. It also has TTS, but it’s rather mechanical. It’s not as good as the Kindle’s, but I was expecting that.


Augen The Book has solid hardware, a nice case, and it meets my minimum requirements for reading ability. Even though I had problems with the Wifi, this is still a very good ereader if you can get it for $89. I would not get it at the $139 price; for only $10 more you can get the Nook Wifi.



Sharp to enter eReader fray

EDIT: This post combines several posts about Sharp and its ereader effort.

Sharp just held a press conference and announced their intent to sell ereaders and open an ebookstore. You can see their 2 models at left; specs for the 5.5″ and 10″ device were not released. They also mentioned that they were in discussions with Verizon to enter the US market (as well as Japan).

Curiously enough, Sharp are planning to use a custom ereader format. It sounds like they picked this over Epub because it has better video and audio support.


press release

Update: PCWorld have more details on Sharp’s ebook format. Sharp already have 29k ebooks in this format from major Japanese publishers, as well as reading apps for Windows PCs, cell phones and Sharp’s own electronic dictionaries & Aquos televisions.

Sharp to demo their XMDF format e-reader at IFA-Berlin

The Inquirer is reporting:

With 5.5-inch and 10.8-inch versions the reader can also play audio and video as well as show words and pictures. The multimedia reader is referred to as an Next Generation XMDF device because it is an advance on the 2001 original XMDF that was sold for Japanese novels and manga comics. Later this year Sharp will launch a digital platform to promote e-book distribution.

Next Generation XMDF is described by Sharp as a "core technology". As well as video, audio pictures and words the next-generation XMDF allows publishers to set the layout of a downloaded magazine automatically. The reader was unveiled in July at a Japanese press conference.

I’m looking forward to the new format, actually. It fills a need that Epub and Kindle formats can’t.

Sharp to End Production of the Galapagos eReaders

Sharp just announced that they were killing the 5.5″ and 10.8″ Galapagos ebook readers. Sharp launched these gadgets last fall in Japan and had also planned to launch them in the US, although there is no sign that any were ever sold,

Sharp will stop accepting orders for the tablets at the end of the month. There’s no mention of why they’re being killed, but they are last year’s model.

The ebookstore that Sharp launched to support the ereaders will stay open and it looks like Sharp plan to follow through on the 7″ Galapagos A01SH model they announced last month, though no release date has been set. It will have a high resolutions screen (1024×600), a pair of cameras (5MP and 2MP), Wifi, and it will be running Android v3.2 Honeycomb a Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core CPU. Battery life will be in the region of 7 to 8 hours.