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Wink e-reader launched in India

I’ve been waiting for for more detail on this ereader for some time now, and it just popped up yesterday.

When I first heard about the Wink, I thought it would be just an ereader. It turns out that it will be a family of (ereaders with screen raging from 5″ to 9″) by EC Media, a Bangalore based tech company.

Details are still sparse, but I do know that DC Books, EC Mdia’s publishing partner, have already signed HarperCollins and Penguin to supply ebooks for the Wink. Also, the ebooks will be encumbered by Adobe DRM.

There were 5 models listed, and they’re supposed to be available in mid July:

  • 6-inch screen display with WiFi priced at Rs. 11,499 ($246)
  • 6-inch screen display with WiFi, GPRS, Text to Speech (TTS) for Rs. 13,499 ($289)
  • 6-inch screen display with WiFi, 3G, TTS to be made available at Rs. 15,499 ($331)
  • 9-inch screen display with WiFi, 3G, TTS and Touch Screen for Rs.17,499 ($375)
  • 5-inch screen display Reader for Rs.6,999 ($150)

source

Augen The Book is now in stores

Augen’s The Book (a Kindle clone) very quietly appeared at Kmart this week with a retail of $89. FYI: that price is a lot cheaper than the $129 we’d seen previously. The supply seems to be rather limited, so you might want to hurry. My local store only received 2, and both went fast. Also, the product page has been removed from Kmart’s website.

I don’t have one, and I don’t know when I will be able to get one. I had contacted Augen just over a month ago, and after exchanging a few emails they promised to lend me one to review. Well, that didn’t happen. By the time I found out that they weren’t going to send me one, my local Kmart store didn’t have any left.

P.S. If you get one, I’d like to hear from you. It looks interesting, and I really wanted to see it.

Aldi to Sell eReaders

EDIT: This post combines a number of posts about the discount grocery chain Aldi.

Do you want to know how to tell when a market niche has gone mainstream? Well, one sign is that the discount grocery store chain Aldi start carrying it.

According to ereader nieuws, Aldi stores in the Netherlands will soon be selling the ProMedia ereader for 229 euros. If the picture is correct then this ereader was made by Benq, and you can find it elsewhere in Europe for 260 to 330 euros.

This ereader has a touch screen, 2GB Flash, a microSD card slot, web browser, and supports Adobe DRM.

Aldi Launches the Medion LifeTab Android Tablet – $99, 7″ Screen, Dual-Core CPU

Having sold30016239_PIC-H_Dtrick_002 PCs, cameras, laptops, and even the occasional ebook reader, the German-born grocery store chain Aldi is no stranger to selling budget electronics. And today they are selling a tablet.

Would you like a budget tablet with your discount groceries?

I have just learned that the Medion LifeTab E7312, which had previously been launched in Aldi’s UK, Dutch, and German stores, is now available in the US with a retail price of $99. This tablet sports an unnamed dual-core CPU with a pair of cameras, a decent resolution screen, and otherwise eye-catching specs.

Like many other current budget tablets, the Medion LifeTab E7312 runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. It has a 7″ screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600, a dual-core 1.4GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, Bluetooth, and Wifi.

medion lifetab

It also has a g-sensor, a single speaker on the back, 2 cameras (a VGA webcam and a 2MP rearcam), 8GB of storage, and a microSD card slot. Retail price is $99, and it’s in stores now.

It’s often difficult to prejudge a tablet just based on the specs, but I can tell you that hardly any tablets at the $99 price point have 2 cameras, and more than a few only have 4GB of storage. Just on those 2 points alone the Medion LifeTab E7312 comes out ahead.

But will the performance live up to the specs? I don’t know, but I can say that Aldi has a reputation for providing a good value for the price. I think there’s a good chance they’ll keep that reputation.

Medion LifeTab E7312

Aldi Launches a 79 Euro eReader in Belgium

billow aldi ereaderAldi is now carrying a budget ereader in its stores in Belgium. It doesn’t look like much, and frankly we don’t know much about it, but it does offer a new option for readers.

The Billow BK6031L has a 6″ E-ink screen with touchscreen and frontlight. It packs in 4GB internal storage and a microSD card slot, but there’s no mention anywhere online of Wifi, audio, or the actual screen resolution. So of course buyer beware.

Lesen.net is saying that there is no Wifi, and my gut says they’re probably right. If that is true then a reader is going to have to transfer ebooks over USB (both Epub and PDF are supported, including DRMed ebooks).

Some would say that this is beyond the skills of most ereader owners, and that they would be better off with the basic Kindle (which is 20 euros cheaper in Germany), but there have been any number of budget ereaders launched in Europe (especially in Germany) with similar limitations and they did well.

With a retailer that operates in as many countries as Aldi, I regularly read of its first offering of a product. But in the case this ereader from Billow, what we have here is at least the third ereader sold by Aldi. I know of a model with a 7″ LCD screen which was sold in Australia in 2012, and Aldi also sold a 6″ ereader in the Netherlands in 2010.

Aldi via lesen.net

Aldi Rebrands a Budget Onyx eReader in Belgium – 79 Euros

aldi belgium onyx ereader 1The European branches of Aldi have been slapping the Aldi brand on other company’s ereaders since 2010. Last year it was an unidentified model from an unknown Chinese company, but this year Aldi is going upscale.

Aldi Belgium is now listing an unnamed 6″ ereader for 79 euros. It’s going to be in stores next week, and comes with a case.

Based on the screen contents, the Aldi ereader shows every sign of being an Onyx model. It has a 6″ screen, frontlight, and touchscreen.The screen resolution is not mentioned, but the listing does say that it has 4GB internal storage and a microSD card slot. There’s also no mention of audio, and given the price I would not expect it.

If you get your hands on one, let me know what you find. I’m curious which Onyx model we’re looking at.

Aldi to Open eBookstore in Germany

Over the past six years the grocery store chain Aldi has released branded ereaders and tablets in the UK, Australia, Germany, and other countries.

Now it is getting into ebooks.

Starting on 20 October, Aldi will be selling ebooks in its home market of Germany through a new service called Aldi life eBooks. The service will offer a paltry million titles which can be read through a matching Android app.

aldi-ebook

There’s no mention by Aldi of an app for iPhone or iPad, but the announcement does say that you can read on a PC. (Several German sites say there will be an iOS app, but it’s not clear whether that is true or an assumption.)

Aldi will be bundling the new app with an Android tablet which launches next Thursday. The Medion E6912 E-Tab is a 7″ tablet which cost 129 euros and runs Android 6.0 on a quad-core CPU with 1GB RAM. It will be carried by both parts of Aldi (Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud) and will come with a 10 euro credit for Aldi Live eBooks.

Aldi is getting into ebooks rather late, but this venture is less about ebooks for their own sake than a more general move into digital content and services. Also also offers prepaid phone cards under the Aldi Talk brand, and it has a streaming music service: Aldi life Musik.

In a way, Aldi is copying Tesco’s failed attempt to launch a digital content sub, Blinkbox. That effort included ebooks, videos, and music, but it shut down last year after it was sold off for parts and the ebook customers were handed off to Kobo.

It would be easy to assume that Aldi’s venture into digital is as doomed as Tesco’s, but it’s worth remembering that Tesco spent a lot of money buying and building Blinkbox and then shut it down when the company did not provide the expected return. We have no similar evidence that Aldi hs made a similar investment in a money-losing property.

Aldi Opens eBookstore in Austria

Last October the discount retailer Aldi launched an ebookstore and digital music store in Germany. Now it has brought the same service to Austria under Aldi’s Hofer brand.

Hofer Life features a music service supported by Napster and an ebook service supplied by an unnamed company.

The Hofer Life eBooks app has not been released yet, but we do know that the  Aldi Life eBooks app was developed the by Lenovo subsidiary Medion.

Local reports say that Hofer Life eBooks offers over a million ebook titles, including 400,000 German language titles. All the major publishers are on board, including comic book publishers DC and Marvel.

Hofer Life eBooks will have Android and iOS apps, and in the hardware department, Hofer is complimenting the ebookstore with a matching Android tablet. Launching tomorrow, the

Launching tomorrow, the Medion E6912 E-Tab is a 99 euro table with a 7″ screen. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow on a 1.3GHz quad-core CPU with 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage.

This tablet also has  3Ah battery, a microSD card slot, Wifi, and a SIM card slot for cellular connectivity. It comes bundled with a 10 euro credit for Hofer Life eBooks and a 60-day ps the music streaming app Hofer Life Music.

China’s e-reader market to be smaller than expected for 2010

Digitimes are reporting that China’s ereader market isn’t growing as fast as they previously predicted, and they think it will total around 1m ereader sold in 2010. China Mobile have only ordered around 40k ereaders to be sold under their brand instead of Digitimes' predicted 1m units.

China Mobile Communications originally planned to procure one million e-book readers for subsidized sales in the China market in 2010, but the company actually only purchased 30,000-40,000 units in the first half of 2010, Digitimes Research noted.

Digitimes prediction is rather interesting given that Hanvon have boasted about sales of 100k ereaders each month, with the vast majority of the sales taking place in China. See, this is why I don’t trust analysts.

The Pandigital Novel gets a clone

Mike Cane found a pair of tablets this morning from a company called Velocity Micro. Based on thei rsite, I’d say that this is a custom PC builder, and these are their first tablets. The Cruz Reader and Cruz Tablet are 7″ Android tablets that will retail for $199 and $299 when they are released in August.

http://cruzreader.com/img/readerpng.png Mike suggested (and I agree with him) that the Cruz Reader is running on the same hardware as the white Pandigital Novel. Look through the gallery, and you’ll see that the upper edge of the Reader  is identical to that of the white Novel. The dimensions are also very similar.

Velocity Micro have already announced that the Cruz Reader will ship with the Borders/Kobo app. I wish they would include more reading apps (this is an Android tablet after all), but at least it won’t be using Pandigital’s crappy Home Screen & Reader app.

See, I thought the Novel had decent hardware, and once I bypassed the software I discovered I was right. BTW, it looks like the Cruz Reader won’t be locked down, so you will be able to easily install more own apps.

http://cruzreader.com/img/tabletpng.pngThe Cruz tablet, on the other hand, is based on a7″ 800×480 screen, with more RAM, Flash, and a muli-touch screen. It’s also running Android 2.1. Check out the specs.

Product page

Pandigital Novel now in stock at BBB w\floor model

I heard reports over the weekend that Bed, Bath, and Beyond had the black Novel in stock. Naturally this piqued my curiosity, and I went to my local store Monday morning. Yes they did, and no they didn’t.
My local BBB store did receive a Fedex shipment on Friday, but it wasn’t for the black Novel. They got one white Novel and the display unit.

A couple people over at SlateDroid insist that their store got the black Novel, not white. You might want to get the white one, instead. The one key difference between the black and white models is that the black Novel has 2GB Flash soldered on board and the white Novel has a microSDHC card slot.You can replace the microSDHC card, and I know  several people over at SlateDroid who already have swapped the original 1GB card with a 16GB card. I don’t do video, so I’m not going to bother. But I can see the value.

I was hoping that the display model would be the black Novel, but it wasn’t. The display for the Novel was one of Pandigita’s digital picture frames. All it does is play a promo  video.

gallery (ZIP)

Hacking the Pandigital Novel (video)

Second  Update: These instructions were written back in July 2011, and they stopped being valid by the first of August 2011 (the process got a lot easier and now gives you better results). You can find the new instructions here. Trust me, you’ll want to use the new instructions.

Update: When I originally wrote this, I obviously wasn’t clear in certain details. Several of the articles written about this hack have said that I did all the work. This is not true, nor was I trying to claim credit. Credit goes to a particular SlateDroid member by the name of "meth".

A couple weeks back I said I was going to try to root my Novel. Sorry about the delay. The process wasn’t functional until Thursday night, and it wasn’t until Saturday morning that it was actually worth bothering with.

First, if you want to hack your Novel then you really should visit SlateDroid and check out the Novel forum. That’s where you can find help with troubleshooting. I’m not refusing to help; I just want to do it in a forum setting (it’s easier).

I didn’t go all the way and actually root the Novel. Instead I stopped after I installed a replacement home screen (so I could run other apps). I had trouble finding a home screen that I could download. For the most part they are only in the Marketplace and I don’t have access. Eventually I found Panda Home, and it seems to be working okay.

Installing apps on the Novel requires the use of the command line (that’s what works for me) but the process is relatively easy. You can’t use the new apps from the existing home screen, so you’ll also need to install a new home screen. I have Aldiko, Kindle, Fictionwise eReader and Kobo apps installed. I’d forgotten how much I liked Aldiko.

As you can see in the video, the page turn speed is significantly faster with Aldiko or the Kindle app. General responsiveness has also improved. I’m a lot happier with the Novel now that crappy original software has been bypassed. It turns out that it does have decent hardware specs.

P.S. Here are the instructions on how to hack your Novel. They’ve been checked by a couple people and  I feel safe about sharing them. Use at Your Own Risk.

How-to-Hack-the-Novel (instructions)

Hack the Novel (ZIP file)

Stanford Ushers In The Age Of Bookless Libraries

3836154332_b98c27177b_oThere was a piece this morning on NPR about Stanford University’s move away from a physical collection. This is actually old news (I covered it back in May), but it’s interesting.

The periodical shelves at Stanford University’s Engineering Library are nearly bare. Library chief Helen Josephine says that in the past five years, most engineering periodicals have been moved online, making their print versions pretty obsolete — and books aren’t doing much better.

NPR

This is a growing trend for libraries. Most have stopped trying to build their own collection, and instead they join consortiums and share the physical content across multiple schools. Digital content  is now more heavily used than physical, so having a copy on hand isn’t nearly as important as it was 20 years ago.

image by Hugo Pardo Kuklinski

On the e-reader price war and the shake-out of the market

Best Tablet Review has an interesting article on the ereader price war and the current state of the market.They argue that

The first point I want to raise is when the price war started. BTR assumes (like most people) that the Nook Wifi started the price war. I disagree. Kobo started it when they launched their $149 ereader. I still don’t think much of the hardware, but at the time that was a very good price.

BTW, the second battle of the ereader price war wasn’t the Nook Wifi; it was when Sony dropped their prices (before the Nook Wifi). They called it a sale at the time, but that was just to hedge their bets.  Also, I think they were responding to the price of the Kobo ereader, not anticipating the B&N price drop. They were trying to find a better price point for their ereaders (whoops).

BTR goes on to predict that only the big three (Amazon, Sony, B&N) will survive and it will be hard for anyone else to enter the market. This is very likely true, but it is only true if you ignore the rest of the world.

The ereader price war has so far been confined to the USA. It has yet to affect the other major markets in Europe, Asia and Australia.When you add them to the pot the prediction is false. And the Big Three soon becomes the Big Four, possibly even the Big Five.

One company that BTR left out was Pocketbook. Pocketbook will survive the US based price war just fine. In fact, they’re in a better position than Sony because they don’t depend on the US market for survival. Pocketbook is based in the Ukraine and Russia, and the USA is actually their least important market. I mentioned last week that they lowered their prices. You might have noticed that I didn’t comment on the fact that their prices are higher than everyone else. I passed because their prices staid slightly more expensive than everyone else. If they’re happy with that price point, then they must know what they’re doing.

Pocketbook was one of the Big Four. I have the feeling that there is actually a Big Five, but I’m not sure yet who that last company is. It’s not Bookeen or Bebook, but it might be Hanvon or Gajah. Hanvon was working towards a $100 ereader before the Nook Wifi, and Gajah is the most widely distributed ereader manufacturer that you’ve never heard of.

So who’s going to survive? My prediction is that all will survive just so long as they can stay financed. Once they have money troubles they’re dead. No one will finance them because of the price war.

Japanese ebook market rose 24% in 2009

Impress R&D (summary translated from Japanese) released a report yesterday on the Japanese ebook market. They found that ebook sales rose 23.7% in 2009 to 57.4 billion yen from 46.4 billion yen. (from $527m to $652m). That also predicted sales for 2014, but I’m giving the predictions the attention they deserve (none).

If you’re looking at the %23.7 and thinking it’s low, you’re looking at the wrong number. Look at the total sales. $652 million is nearly twice what the AAP reported for the US market for 2009. Japan had a bigger ebook market even though they have only 40% the population.

The %23.7 growth could have 2 causes. The Japanese ebook market might be more mature than the US one or the US growth could be attributed to all the media attention generated by the ereader hardware companies. Japan doesn’t have the ereader market that we have in the US; most people read on their cell phone.

via Actuallitte

Pandigital Novel is still a POS (video)

EDIT: I’ve decided that this post will stand as my review of the second firmware. Let me sum it up briefly: Run Away! Run Away!

I’m writing this as my videos are being uploaded to Youtube. I’d like to thank Ben for requesting the videos. Trying to shoot them has significantly changed my opinion of the Novel. It kept crashing.

Again.

And again.

And again.

After the 5th time a crash forced me to reshoot the video from the beginning I got a little peeved. Yes, it crashed (or froze) 5 times in slightly less than an hour.

On a related note, someone requested that I test Adobe DE support just to make sure it worked. I’m glad she did because the Novel froze while trying to deal with the first couple ebooks I gave it. I had to hard reset again. Also, ebooks moved from Adobe DE aren’t listed in the Library (at least not that I can see). There’s a second menu for them.

Whoops. The Reader app just froze again while I was sitting here fact checking. This is such a POS.

The first video is about 5 minutes, and it shows you the Browser, Reader, and Library. It show the screen rotation. The second video shows the boot sequence. Jump to about 1:45, and look at the screen. I haven’t seen that before.

P.S. I really wanted to say something nice this time. I don’t like attacking an ereader in every single post. Unfortunately, I don’t have a choice here. I have to be honest about my experiences.

P.P.S. Do you want to know why I wanted to say something nice? Because now it looks like I was gunning for the Novel all along.

Review: Overdrive Media Console

You might recall that a couple days ago I posted about Sync and their free audiobook downloads. I realized while while writing that post that I’d never tried the app (I have an aversion to DRM and lock-in). When it comes to audiobooks, Overdrive are one of the leading platforms (along with Audible). It’s past time that I familiarized myself with the app.

Background

Overdrive are the one of the leading media distributors in both audiobooks and ebooks for both retail and libraries. The Overdrive Media Console is an app that you can use to download and play DRMed audiobooks from your library. You can get it on quite a few platforms (Windows, OSX, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, iPhone).

Review

I tried the app on my iPod Touch and on an Android tablet. Aside from the differences in the OSes, the apps were basically identical. Neither was all that pleasant to use. If I were not forced to use this app in order to download audiobooks from my public library then I would use something else. As a media player, it’s not very good.

The first problem I encountered is that most of the audiobooks at my library are in WMA format, not MP3. The OMC only supports MP3, which means I can only use about 200 titles out of a 1,500 title collection.

This next problem didn’t occur to me until I had the app running on 2 devices. The OMC doesn’t support browsing your library’s audiobooks from inside the app. You have to use an external web browser to search for and download the audiobooks. Fortunately, my library has a mobile friendly audiobook site (I suspect it was provided by Overdrive). I am very grateful because the rest of the library’s website is most emphatically not mobile friendly.

I’m not pleased with the design of the menus. You can download and play an audiobook in parts. This is good, but first you have to find the download menu. It’s not in an obvious location. Another problem I found is that the Android UI just doesn’t work on a small screen. It really needs to be rew0rked.

Where to get it

You can download most of the Media console apps (Windows, OSX, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile) from Overdrive. The iPhone app is in the App Store.

Does your local library support ebooks or audiobooks? You can find out at Overdrive.

New firmware out for Pandigital Novel

I’ve just updated my Novel, and I spent a couple hours playing with it. Coincidentally, I’d pulled it out of the box yesterday because I was going to try to gain root access. I used it for a while yesterday, and this new firmware is a significant improvement. The firmware is dated July 4th, but they didn’t post it until Tuesday morning (I checked Monday).

So here’s what I’ve observed:

I still had to do a second hard reset to get the touch screen to respond correctly.

The screen is noticeably more responsive. I don’t have to press+hold+wait anymore. Just tapping the screen is enough. Response is still a little on the slow side, though.

They fixed the Wifi. It also seems to be faster at connecting to a hotspot. Load time on the browser is reasonably fast. The Reader and Library are still slow at turning the page, though, and you still have to swipe.

The accelerometer works now (all 4 directions). It works automatically in both the Reader and the web browser. Browsing in landscape mode is quite pleasant. It’s not so nice to read in landscape mode because you only have the one column of text (it’s too wide). Also, it doesn’t properly reformat the text when switching from portrait to landscape mode. You have to put it in suspend mode and then turn it back on.

Opinion

It’s a decent tablet now that it has the new firmware. But I wouldn’t recommend it as an ereader just yet because the page turn is too slow. Also, the Nook Wifi is only $149, and the Nook firmware is significantly more polished.

Read my next post.

Samsung Bows out of the eReader Price War

You might recall that Monday I posted that the Samsung E60 will be sold in France (it’s also currently sold in Italy). I was a little frustrated because I had no info about the US release, which had been repeatedly delayed.  I sent an email to Samsung and pestered them again. They got back to me on Tuesday, and here is what they said:

Based on current market dynamics, Samsung is revisiting its approach to the eReader market in the US at this time. We remain committed to the mobile entertainment market and expect to have new announcements soon.

Note that they don’t say that they are giving up entirely, just that they aren’t going to release an ereader anytime soon. Fortunately for Samsung, they still have their native South Korean market as well as Japan.

They’re really not having a good year when it comes to ereaders. First their 10″ E101 gets killed by the iPad*, and then their entire ereader market in the US got killed by the price war.

*It was announced at CES 2010 (pre iPad), and then not announced at the  (post iPad) March press conference (and they won’t comment on it).

Prestigio announce new e-readers

I’ve just come across another ereader brand (via lesen.net). Prestigio are a consumer electronics company with products sold in 40 countries. They’ve just announced that they will be carrying 3 ereaders, 2 of which are made by Gajah Int.

Prestigio are currently selling the PER3052, which is based on a 5″ LCD screen and doubles as a media player. The spec sheet lists decent audio, video, and ebook support. We’ve reviewed a similar device under the name Delstar Openbook. It had nice hardware, but the software was exceptionally disappointing.  Retail price will be around €120.

Next up is the PER3162.  I’ve reviewed the OEM version of this one myself. Again, the hardware is very good, but the ebook support is poor. It’s going to retail for €200.

Last up is the PER5062, which (I think) is based on the Benq QD060B00.  This is a high end model with a Sipix screen. I don’t have the specs, but I do have the FCC paperwork, and I know of a hands on video (same hardware, but might have different software). Retail should be €300.

via lesen.net