E-readers get heavier with each book – WTF?

E-readers are meant to let bookworms carry their entire libraries with them without any additional weight – but the devices actually get heavier every time a new text is downloaded.

The weight difference is unlikely to make much difference to holidaymakers’ baggage allowances, however, because each new tome is about as heavy as a single molecule of DNA. Filling a 4GB Kindle to its storage limit would increase its weight by a billionth of a billionth of a gram

Prof John Kubiatowicz a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, explained…that storing new data involves holding electrons in a fixed place in the device’s memory.

Although the electrons were already present, keeping them still rather than allowing them to float around takes up extra energy – about a billionth of a microjoule per bit of data.

Using Einstein’s E=mc² formula, which states that energy and mass are directly related, Prof Kubiatowicz calculated that filling a 4GB Kindle to its storage limit would increase its weight by a billionth of a billionth of a gram, or 0.000000000000000001g…

E-readers could also become slightly heavier in the summer, because they would take on more energy from their exposure to sunlight, scientists explained.

Graeme Ackland, of Edinburgh University, told the Guardian: “If Prof Kubiatowicz is really struggling with the extra weight, he is welcome to come to Edinburgh where it’s cooler, and the lack of thermal energy in his Kindle will more than compensate.”

Of course, if we’re going to make comparisons based on geography we should compensate for weight differences between, say, Edinburgh – which probably could grow mildew on stainless steel – and my neck of the prairie with a current annual rainfall less than 7 or 8 inches.

Some of those water molecules may prefer to attach themselves to some plot lines rather than others. 🙂

More people are buying e-readers than tablets, but what’s the point?

Ads touting Apple’s iPad seem to be everywhere, but e-readers such as Amazon.com’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook are actually more popular with consumers, according to a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Last winter, tablets had a slight market lead. According to Pew, as of that time, 7% of U.S. adults owned a tablet computer (such as the iPad or Motorola Mobility’s Xoom), while only 6% owned an e-reader device.

But that picture soon changed drastically. By May, 12% of U.S. adults owned an e-reader, while tablet ownership expanded only to 8%. (Note: the margin of error on this survey is 2%, but that would not challenge the market lead of e-readers.)…

Who’s buying e-readers? According to Pew, Hispanics (who appear to be leading other U.S. ethnic demographics generally in embracing mobile technology), adults under age 65, college graduates, parents, and people in households earning less than $75,000 per year are especially likely to own e-readers…

Who’s buying tablets? Pew reports that from November 2010 to May, the largest increases in tablet ownership have been among men, Hispanics, people with at least some college education and household incomes of $30,000 or more. But the very highest increases in tablet ownership were seen among Hispanic adults and households earning at least $75,000 annually.

This is pretty unremarkable stuff, to me. Who cares? It’s like asking whether people are buying more onions or oranges. People are buying what they need is my guess, when they can afford it.

One of the most frequently recurring stories out there on supposed “tech” sites is the preposterous “E-book or tablet, which should you buy?” pieces. You buy the one you need. If you need both, you buy both. If you can’t afford one, you wait.

e-Books now outselling paperback, hard cover books

Kindle ebook reader

Amazon.com…now sells more eBooks than books printed on paper.

“Customers are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, in a statement. “We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly — we’ve been selling print books for 15 years and Kindle books for less than four years…”

“This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition,” the company said. “Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.”

The success of eBooks isn’t limited to just Amazon and its Kindle. The entire industry is pushing more digital copies now, with eBook sales tripling over the last year.

Among the recent contributors to eBook sales for the Seattle-based retail giant is the newest, cheapest version of its Kindle — Kindle with Special Offers — which sells for $114 and has risen to be the company’s best selling eReader, Bezos said.

Unlike other Kindles, Kindle with Special Offers runs advertisements and digital coupons on the eReader’s display in a strip across the bottom of the home screen or as a screen saver when the device isn’t in use.

A few sources have published a breakout by category – but, most of those require a subscription. I did see a note that gave me a chuckle: the growth of e-readers surpasses print in every category Amazon sells – except books on religion. Got to get past that Gutenberg thing, folks.

Om says…Amazon turns Kindle into a platform

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Amazon, displaying a sense of urgency, perhaps driven by the pending launch of Apple’s tablet-style computer is turning its Kindle device into a platform. The Seattle-based company…announced that it will allow software developers to “build and upload active content” and distribute it through the “Kindle Store later this year.” Amazon will be giving out a Kindle Development Kit that will give “developers access to programming interfaces, tools and documentation to build active content for Kindle.” The company will launch a limited beta effort next month.

I would also like to see what developers come up with. An Electronics Arts’ executive in Amazon’s press release says that the company is looking to develop games for the Kindle platform. I wonder how much can you do with the limited hardware that is a Kindle. Screen refresh rates are low, the inbuilt processor is puny and of course no color. Unless Amazon is planning to launch a beefier and color version of the device, game developers are unlikely to be able to create great experiences on Kindle…

As I wrote back in March 2009…people are looking for a cheap, connected Internet device that is “not a laptop.” I was recently watching an interview with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos on “Charlie Rose” in which he talked about the Kindle being flexible enough to encourage new kinds of media consumption, including multimedia books and newspapers with immersive content and interactivity. I think he is spot on — and just from that perspective, Apple has to be thinking really hard about this looming opportunity.

There’s only one reason to make the announcement early. Trying to cop attention for the project before Apple’s launch party on the 27th.

I wish we could get KB into the official launch for a hands-on review.

Kindle becomes the most gifted Amazon item, ever

Why is this man smiling?

Amazon.com on Saturday released its annual post-Christmas statement on holiday sales and made one thing clear: the Kindle was king…

“We are grateful to our customers for making Kindle the most gifted item ever in our history,” said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

In another milestone for the e-reader, the company noted that on Christmas Day, for the first time ever, Amazon customers bought more Kindle books than physical books. The company didn’t offer specific numbers for either category.

The peak shopping day for the online retailer was December 14, when customers ordered more than 9.5 million items worldwide, “a record-breaking 110 items per second.”

Among those items bought between November 15 and December 19, the top electronics, following the Kindle, were Apple’s iPod Touch 8GB and the Garmin Nuvi 260W GPS.

In the video game category, top sellers were the Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board; New Super Mario Bros., and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

RTFA for lots of detail – including some too boring to ever need mention. My favorite?

The last Local Express Delivery order that was delivered in time for Christmas, was placed by a Prime member and went to Seattle. It was a Kindle that was ordered at 1:43 p.m. on Christmas Eve and delivered at 4:57 p.m. that evening.

Outstanding. Having spent a number of boring years in traffic management, I’m astounded at what contemporary commerce can offer.

Suppose someone steals your Kindle, what will Amazon do?

On Web sites devoted to the e-book reader, including Blog Kindle and Amazon’s own Kindle Community board, many customers have been in a snit over Amazon’s policy on stolen Kindles.

Samuel Borgese, for instance, is still irate about the response from Amazon when he recently lost his Kindle. After leaving it on a plane, he canceled his account so that nobody could charge books to his credit card. Then he asked Amazon to put the serial number of his wayward device on a kind of do-not-register list that would render it inoperable — to “brick it” in tech speak.

Amazon’s policy is that it will help locate a missing Kindle only if the company is contacted by a police officer bearing a subpoena. Mr. Borgese, who lives in Manhattan, questions whether hunting down a $300 e-book reader would rank as a priority for the New York Police Department…

Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesman, said only that the company acted in accordance with the law and cooperated with law enforcement officials. “Beyond that, we aren’t going to speculate on hypotheticals,” he wrote in an e-mail message…

Whatever the reasoning, Amazon’s policy is hardly unique.

Sirius XM Radio also says it needs to see a subpoena from a police officer before it will deactivate or hand over information about missing radios. Patrick Reilly, a company spokesman, said the goal was “to protect the original subscriber who has lost the radio, but also not to incriminate someone who legitimately comes in possession of a radio…”

The approach of American tech companies is not shared by some of their counterparts abroad, which seem more willing to intervene.

In England, for example, the major cellphone players keep a centralized black list for mobile phone serial numbers, allowing consumers to flag lost or stolen phones so they cannot be re-registered.

There is nothing like that in the United States. John Walls, a spokesman for the CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade group, says that is because carriers here subsidize the cost of new phones, and as a result phones are so inexpensive here that theft is not a significant problem.

Yes. Mr. Walls is a obvious flunky.

B&N, Plastic Logic to use AT&T network for new e-reader

Plastic Logic, which is still gestating its entry in the new market for electronic reading devices, is disclosing a little bit more about its upcoming product.

After announcing earlier this week that Barnes & Noble would manage its electronic book store, the company said Wednesday that AT&T’s 3G network will provide the mobile broadband connection for the device, which is due to go on sale at the beginning of next year.

The Mountain View, Calif., company declined to disclose any more information about the pricing, or whether it will charge consumers monthly for that wireless connectivity. Amazon.com’s Kindle accesses content through Sprint Nextel’s wireless network, although users are not charged for the service and many probably do not even know their Kindle uses Sprint to download books and access the Web.

The Plastic Logic Reader, the size of a regular piece of paper, will be slightly larger than the Kindle DX and sport a touch-screen. Plastic Logic says the device will be targeted at business users, which typically suggests a higher price and the need to lure more affluent customers.

Unlike the Kindle, the Plastic Logic Reader will also be able to access Wi-Fi hotspots.

That last sentence pretty much guarantees AT&T’s 3G access will require a monthly charge.

For publishers who want it, think they need it, the device is DRM-enabled. But, not required. The Reader and the communications system supplying it allow for self-publishing which can be a plus for many writers and editors.

Frankly, I’m looking forward to trying one – sooner or other.

Amazon’s oversize Kindle out to replace textbooks – UPDATED

It won’t be quite this big!
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Amazon plans to unveil a new version of its Kindle e-book reader with a larger screen and other features designed to appeal to periodical and academic textbook publishers, according to people familiar with the matter.

Beginning this fall, some students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland will be given large-screen Kindles with textbooks for chemistry, computer science and a freshman seminar already installed, said Lev Gonick, the school’s chief information officer. The university plans to compare the experiences of students who get the Kindles and those who use traditional textbooks, he said.

Amazon has worked out a deal with several textbook publishers to make their materials available for the device, Mr. Gonick added. The new device will also feature a more fully functional Web browser, he said. The Kindle’s current model, which debuted in February, includes a Web browser that is classified as “experimental.”

Five other universities are involved in the Kindle project, according to people briefed on the matter. They are Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State.

The Seattle company sent out invitations to a press event to be held Wednesday at Pace University in New York City.

Makes a lot of sense. Start out with a target market which is ideal for the product.

Of course, none of this will suit the pundits who think every new bit of hardware and/or software must be designed to take over the world. Reflect upon that some time.

UPDATE: Amazon is taking pre-orders for this summer for the Kindle DX.

Can a big-screen Kindle save your daily newspaper?

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The iPod stemmed losses in the music industry. The Kindle gave beleaguered book publishers a reason for optimism.

Now the recession-ravaged newspaper and magazine industries are hoping for their own knight in shining digital armor, in the form of portable reading devices with big screens…

Read on, dear friends. Let’s see if newspaper publishers can be as uncomprehending and foolish as, say, the RIAA and MPAA?

Such e-reading devices are due in the next year from a range of companies, including the News Corporation, the magazine publisher Hearst and Plastic Logic, a well-financed start-up company that expects to start making digital newspaper readers by the end of the year at a plant in Dresden, Germany.

But it is Amazon, maker of the Kindle, that appears to be first in line to try throwing an electronic life preserver to old-media companies. As early as this week, according to people briefed on the online retailer’s plans, Amazon will introduce a larger version of its Kindle wireless device tailored for displaying newspapers, magazines and perhaps textbooks.

An Amazon spokesman would not comment, but some news organizations, including The New York Times, are expected to be involved in the introduction of the device, according to people briefed on the plans…

Continue reading

Disabled protest Kindle 2’s read-aloud limits

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

A group representing the blind and other people with disabilities protested limitations to the new read-aloud feature on Amazon.com Inc.’s latest Kindle electronic reader Tuesday, arguing that the restrictions unfairly limit their access to e-books.

The feature, which reads text in a stiff-sounding electronic voice, is still available for all books on the new Kindle, which was unveiled in February. But the Authors Guild has expressed concern that the feature will hurt sales of audio books, so Amazon plans to give publishers and authors the ability to silence the text-to-speech function for their books.

That is what prompted the newly formed Reading Rights Coalition, whose supporters include the National Federation of the Blind and the American Association of People with Disabilities, to stage what it called an “informational protest” outside the office of the Authors Guild in New York.

Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said the protest was the first of several to come around the country, in the hopes that Amazon will change its stance. The group started with the Authors Guild because it “caused the trouble” with the text-to-speech feature, Maurer said.

There’s nothing new about operating systems reading the text onscreen to a computer user. That’s why I was bemused by the brouhaha over the Kindle’s newfound skill.

OTOH, there’s was nothing surprising about a guild of moneygrubbers limiting access to their work – to keep prices and profits as high as possible. They’ve obviously learned the “benefits” of behaving like the RIAA.