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Have Amazon dropped the Whispernet tax?

I’ve heard an interesting report from an Australian tech blogger I know.  Amazon appear to have removed the $2 surcharge on ebooks sold in the Australian Kindle Store.

FYI: In most of the countries where Amazon sell ebooks, they charge an extra $2. This money is used to pay the local cell phone provider for the use of the network. BTW, if you want to get annoyed with Amazon, ask yourself why Amazon are charging people who don’t own a K2i or K3 3G the extra $2 on each ebook they buy. They don’t use the cell network, so why are they paying for it?

Here’s what Darryl Adams reported:

A message left by reader Chris has some great news:

Just an update on the Kindle: the whispernet tax has been quietly repealed.

You won’t find any official announcement about it, as it was never official policy in the first place, but in the last month every single kindle book on my wishlist dropped in price by exactly $2

I can not confirm it yet (as Chris has said, no statement has been made, and whispertax was never advised officially either), but if true, this is great news and a boon for Kindle users.

The Whispernet Tax should never had been applied, and Amazon should repay the $2 premium it charged on Aussie customers.

New Kindle app now available – Panda Poet

Spry Fox (they developed Triple Town) have just uploaded a new app for the Kindle. It’s called Panda Poet, and they’re selling it for $2.99. I haven’t played it yet, so I’m going to have to go with the product listing:

With Panda Poet you use the letters on the game board to form words. Words formed from letters in open spaces create pandas. Words formed from letters near pandas make existing pandas grow.

The goal is grow the biggest panda possible. You get the highest scores from either creating the biggest possible panda or from forming the longest possible words.

To add to the challenge, each letter is only available for a fixed number of turns. Each time you enter a word, all the letters on the screen come one step closer to expiring. When a letter expires, it is replaced by a skull, which prevents you from growing your pandas in that direction. This makes playing Panda Poet a delicate balancing act: you must consider where a letter is located on the grid and how soon it will expire, not simply spell the longest word you can.


Hanvon to debut color E-ink e-reader on Tuesday

I guess this means Hanvon won’t be doing a Mirasol based ereader after all.  The NY Times have the story:

But on Tuesday at the FPD International 2010 trade show in Tokyo, a Chinese company will announce that it will be the first to sell a color display using technology from E Ink, whose black-and-white displays are used in 90 percent of the world’s ereaders, including the Amazon Kindle, Sony Readers and the Nook from Barnes & Noble.

However, the new color E Ink display, while an important technological breakthrough, is not as sharp and colorful as LCD. Unlike an LCD screen, the colors are muted, as if one were looking at a faded color photograph. In addition, E Ink cannot handle full-motion video. At best, it can show simple animations.

Hanvon’s first product using a 9.68-inch color touch screen will be available this March in China, starting at about $440. The price is less than an iPad in China, which sells for about $590. It will be positioned as a business product, with Wi-Fi and 3G wireless connectivity.

Cybook Orizon hands on video

Mike Cane found this video on Youtube. It shows some of the abilities of the new Cybook Orizon. You also get a side by side comparison with the PRS-650, which unfortunately shows that the Orizon has the same gray screen problem as the Oyo. But, the Orizon doesn’t have the faded text problem, which should make it easier to use.

Earlier today I was exchanging emails with my Bookeen contact. I asked (not really expecting an answer) why Bookeen kept developing this ereader in spite of the screen quality issue. Now I know why. The Orizon uses the touchscreen to do things that you can’t with any other ereader. If they’d changed the hardware this wouldn’t be such an interesting ereader.

I think I’m going to have to eat my words about the Sipix screen quality. It has some features that make me not care (the pinch-zoom made me drool).

An Example Of Bad eBook Formatting

by Mike Cane

It shouldn’t have to be this way, either.

Harriman House thought so highly of the late Max Gunther’s long out-of-print books that they’ve gotten not only the print rights, but the eBook ones too.

While the print editions are probably very readable, the eBook ones are just a disaster.

Thanks to Moriah Jovan, I’m able to compare screensnaps of the bad Kindle formatting with iPad screensnaps I took from an ePub version sample available at the iBookstore.

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While the cover’s dimensions are suitable for an 600×800 eInk screen, the cover is lost in all of the whitespace of the iPad’s larger screen. Publishers need to create large eye-popping covers for tablets.

The indicia:

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Notice how it all clumps together in the Kindle version and even has some very bizarre line breaks!

It’s not much better on the iPad, either:

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No blank lines between the block paragraphs, as there would be in a proper print version. No publisher would even allow that in a professionally-produced print version, so why let it pass here?

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Moriah doesn’t like the fact “Harriman House, 2010? is in gray text. But it works on the iPad:

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Notice however that the line is now left-aligned, not right-aligned!

And here comes the horrendous formatting in the Kindle version:

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It’s just about all one block of text! What were they thinking?

I think they were counting on something the iPad tried to do:

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Notice that the iPad tried to insert some spacing between the paragraphs. But this is still bad formatting and should be redone.

It doesn’t get any better as it continues:

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Really, just a line of asterisks as a separator? Do proper dingbats cost more? I don’t think so. An amateur would do that line of asterisks back in the days of IBM Selectrics and Liquid Paper. It has no business showing up in the 21st century in an eBook!

Below is just a rough I did myself. I took the Kindle sample, converted it to HTML, dumped it in Atlantis, and just put in proper paragraph indents. This is just messing around. I’m not saying this is pro quality (it’s damn well not!):

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So they can get proper frikkin paragraph indents, they just didn’t bother to do the little bit of extra work that would take.

I’ve recommended Max Gunther’s books. They’re excellent. But I can’t recommend these eBook versions until Harriman House lives up to its commitment to Gunther and formats them properly

Sony now offering a $75 trade in credit for old e-readers

A new trade in offer showed up on the S0ny Style website yesterday. Send Sony your old ereader and they’ll give you a $75 credit towards a new one. I’m going to take them up on this offer.

I spent a day digging through my collection and I’ve decided to part with one of my old Sony Data Discman.  I bought this one off Ebay in August 2008, and with a manufacturing date of October 1991 it holds the title as my oldest fucntional ereader.

This is one of the earlier models. For the most part Sony numbered the models sequentially, so the DD-1 was released before the DD-20. But I also know this was an early model becuase it only supports the basic Data Discman ebook format. You see, Sony developed several different formats for the DDs; I know of at least 2, and there might have been as many as 4. The basic format only has text and images, and the more advanced format EBXA supports embedded audio. I’ve also found hints that there was a format with embedded video, but I haven’t seen it.

I’m parting with it, though. The screen barely works anymore, and the battery won’t hold a charge. Its only value now is as a display unit, and I have a couple other models that are in much better shape.

Sony Style to sell the Elonex 500EB

Now _this_ was an interesting choice.

I have just learned that, a South African web retailer, have added the Elonex 500EB as a platform for their ebookstore. The 500EB was just announced at IFA 2010. It has a 5″ LCD screen, 2GB Flash, and a SD card slot, but no Wifi or touchscreen. It supports Adobe DE DRM, and it also reads AVI, MP3, and WAV.

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In other news, Kalahari are also selling the Cybook Gen3, Cybook Opus, and the iriver Story (all of which can be used with the Kalahari ebookstore). They have also expanded their ebookstore to include digital magazines. They’ve signed up to be a retailer for Zinio. You can buy the magazines from Kalahari, but you’ll need the Zinio to read them. via IT Web

Kobo now offering NYTimes as a 30 day trial

I just got an email from Kobo. IIn partnership with the NYTimes, they’ve extended the trial subscription for the daily edition of the New York Times newspaper. You now have the option of a 30 day risk free trial.

Of course, there’s a minor problem with this offer. Right now, subscriptions only work with the Kobo iOS app (and the Kobo Wifi), and there’s a very good _free_ app for the NYTimes. There’s little point in subscribing if you can get the web content free.

Pocketbook to open first US e-reader stores next week

The Kansas City Business Journal are reporting that Pocketbook will open their first US retail locations on 10 November. The 2 pilot stores will be mall kiosks in Seattle and at the Independence Center Mall outside of Kansas City, MO. Why Kansas City? Because that’s where Pocketbook just opened their US headquarters.

I had heard from a  source that these would be mall kiosks soon, but this is the first official confirmation that I’ve seen. BTW, these won’t be the first Pocketbook stores, just the first in the USA. Pocketbook already have 3 retail stores in the Ukraine.

Energy Sistem ColorBook 5″ LCD e-reader, 110€

Do you know how you can tell it’s a slow day for tech news? It’s when major tech blogs like Engadget cover a boring little ereader like this one. I’m not trying to be mean; it’s just that this ereader is really nothing special.

I’ve covered Energy Sistem before; they’re a consumer electronics importer in Spain and this is their 6th ereader (the previous 5 had E-ink screens). It’s based on a 5″ LCD screen and it offers 4  options (2GB to 8GB Flash) and a microSD card slot, but no Wifi or touchscreen. Energy Sistem are selling it for 110€ to 135€, which is a little much considering what the K3 costs.

It doesn’t appear to support DRM, but it does read TXT, HTML, PDF, EPUB, FB2, RTF, MOBI, CHM, and DOC ebook formats as well as a pretty broad selection of video and audio formats (WMA, MP3, MP4, WMV, AVI, RMVB, FLV, ASF, 3GP, and MOV).

Energy Sistem

W7001 Android Tablet

I found another interesting tablet in the Chinese market. The W7001 runs Android v2.1 on a RK2818 CPU with 256MB RAM, 4GB Flash, microSD card slot, a stylus, HDMI out, and USB Host. There appears to be a camera to the right of the screen, and that blue dot is a trackball, not a button.

This is shipping with a basic set of apps , including a reading app which has the faux page turn. Yech.

via Shanzhai Ben

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Pandigital’s 9 inch Android tablet has cleared the FCC

Do you recall the black Pandigital Novel I showed you a couple months back? Its big brother just showed up on the FCC website today. And yes, it really has a 9″ screen.  There isn’t much info in the paperwork, so I had to infer a lot of detail from the photos.  But this tablet really does look like the other black Novel.  They share the SD card slot, stylus, and the cheap junky stand. They also look the same.

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There’s also a manual, but it doesn’t have the hardware specs, and internal photos, but they’re not detailed enough to tell me what chips this tablet has. But I’d guess (based on the manual) that this tablet will be more open than before. The manual shows a standard Home Screen, and while that isn’t an absolute guarantee, it does give me hope.

And it’s tied to B&N, of course. But if the tablet is open I really don’t give a damn.


Pandigital’s new 6″ e-reader hits the FCC

I just found a new ereader from Pandigital on the FCC website today, and it’s not one I’ve seen before. This one is based on a6″ screen, and it has Wifi, a touchscreen, internal microSD card slot (1GB), and an external SD card slot.

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I don’t know what screen it’s using or who made it, but my guess is that it isn’t a Sipix screen. I looked at the FCC paperwork for the Benq ereader which went through in February, and the internal design is completely different. If this were a related device then at least some details would be similar.

The speaker, back cover, and internal microSD card suggests that this is a Foxconn design (these details are shared with the original Novel). But Foxconn sends gadgets to the FCC on behalf of their partners, so I don’t know why this one showed up under Pandigital’s name.

But I can say that this ereader should be using a similar firmware. The user manual is also available, and it looks like it will have all the same features.


A look at my local e-reader stores

I thought it would be interesting today to show you the 4 stores within driving distance where I can buy ereaders (Walmart, Staples, Target, and Borders). I’m skipping B&N becuase the closest one is nearly an hour away, and I’m sorry but it’s not worth a drive. 

First up is Wal-mart. (I’ve shown you this one before, actually.) Their in store display is a 4′ section with 2 the Nooks and the Kobo Wifi. It really doesn’t live up to their online selection (about 20 models). As you can see, the display models are behind glass. This really defeats the purpose of a display, doesn’t it?

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Next we have Target and Staples. They only carry the Kindle, and they have basically the same display: device, gift cards, and M-Edge cases (they make good cases). Staples went so far as to give the Kindle an end cap right in front of the register, which will definitely get a lot of attention. Unfortunately, the demo unit doesn’t actually work. It runs through a demo reel and that’s it. Again, that rather defeats the purpose display model.

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You’ve probably seen Borders before, but they’ve expanded their selection since then. I’m not sure what they plan to do when all the affiliated ereaders are available They’re already running out of room.

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Best Buy has the best display. My local store has the ereader area near the entrance the devices on little islands. I couldn’t get a good picture (it was missing some display units, too), so let me show you the one Mike Cane took. It shows an impressive number of display models as well as the biggest selection of ereaders.

You obviously can’t tell from the photo, but my store had displays for the Nook, Kindle, all 3 Sony models (this was empty), Pandigital Novel, Sharper Image Literati, as well as a couple of niche ereaders like Leapster and Mibook. There were also gift cards for Sony, B&N, and Amazon (so you could buy ebooks).

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Baker Ebook Framework now available

I just came across a new ebook creation tool on Mashable. A group of Italian developers have just released Baker Ebook Framework, which is supposed to reduce the amount of work needed to make an ebook for the iPad.

I have a couple problems with it, though. There’s the basic issue of designing an ebook for only one platform (a no-no), and then there’s the fact it doesn’t have a landscape mode. Sometimes people will want to use both orientations.


Sample ebook (in iTunes)