November 14, 2008

iRex DR1000 eBook reader community development kicks in

Over at the iRex company blog you can read in this post that explains how just after a week of them releasing their full-source-code to the open source community, they have seen the first "community developed" application (FBReader) released for the DR1000 eBook reader.

iRex are pushing a radically different model for their software platform with their recent open sourcing of their code, and it will be interesting to see:-
  • how many, and which, applications get developed outside of iRex
  • how iRex will handle rolling some of them back into the core platform they release or manage
  • how they affect the iRex Illiad reading experience, if you have many different applications on it with different user interaction models, layouts etc.
  • will it make anyone else consider taking this route? I can't see Sony doing it somehow.
Watch this space and I'll inform of developments.

Audio eBooks on Amazon Kindle

Over at TeleRead web you can see this post discussing audible books from (recently bought by Amazon) on the Amazon Kindle.

I tried an audio book for the first time this summer, via my iPod in my car on my daily commute to work and back - with mixed results - and I'm still not sold on the idea but try to keep an open mind.

This person's experience with the Kindle using the audio book seems to have been fine and they recommend you try it.

It makes me wonder what the experience would be like for a combined "visual" eBook and audio-book on an eBook reading device, where the page was presented on-screen AND read to you. Not sure what that would be useful for, beyond maybe learning a foreign language but it might be fun to try.

ETACO updates JetBook eBook reader - for travelers

I covered the initial introduction of the ETACO JetBook eBook reader, with it's monochrome LCD display, in my original post.

At the end of October they announced an update on it in their press release, which explains the update consists of:-
  • Now Includes Fodor's Travel Guide
  • Support for International Digital Publishing Forum's (IDPF) epub format
  • MobiPocket eBook format support
and is due to hit the streets in Q1 2009.

It will be interesting to see how they do with they're unique approach and different choice of display technology.

I haven't had the chance yet to see one in the flesh to evaluate the display (and the rest of it), but if it lives up to it's publicity shots then the display looks good.

Sony PRS-700 eBook reader reviewed by MobileTechReview

MobileTechReview have posted a very good review and discussion of the pros and cons on Sony's new eReader the PRS-700 here.

Echoing my own sentiments they consider the improvements in interaction from Sony significant. The combination of continued small improvements in button layout and use, this time supercharged also by the addition of the touchscreen, and the new interaction from the touchscreen itself make this a very nice device to use now.

But the additional touchscreen layers and their coatings in front of the display have reduced the already marginal (for all E-Ink displays) contrast of the display. That must have been a tough call for Sony to take, but they have made a statement with it: improve the interaction, despite the hit on display readability. No doubt they are now busy figuring out how to reduce the negative impact as much as possible.

MobileTechReview say "The main menu is the poster child for simple and easy user interfaces". Indeed, I was struck by the elegant simplicity of that simple screen with the big, high-contrast, simple and easy to understand (and hit with a wobbly finger!) icons. Well done Sony.

Something I didn't catch when I covered the PRS-700 previously is the landscape viewing mode is something that will come in handy for certain documents types, although with more panning or scrolling to see a whole portrait page in that larger magnification.

I notice that Sony finally got their branding head straight, and put a simple embossed Sony logo on the FRONT of the device! Duh... See me covering they're previous failures in my PRS-500 reviews: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

So, with all these improvements in interaction, while doing a great job at maintaining the style (or improving due to less buttons) and the great battery life, what's left for Sony to fix in future revisions? I'd say:-
  • that contrast! Keep pushing it up (E-Ink's job mostly)
  • wireless content: discovery, access and delivery. This is where the Kindle (ugly as it may be) still beats it.
  • refresh speed: again, mostly an E-Ink task and they are definately working on this and making visible improvements, see my post here on E-Ink work on new controller chips.
  • then longer term we've got color etc
By-The-Way, Sony have today (Friday) turned on their new (improved?) eBook store over here: if you are interested in checking it out. I'm not sure I can identify any newsworthy changes.....let me know if you can.

November 13, 2008

Welcome to the present

For the second time, Welcome!

The work to port here past posts has finally finished and so posts from now on will be up-to-date or "in the present".

In the process of porting those previous posts, some short cuts had to be taken. So they are not all as complete or at the quality level desired, and hope to be attained moving forward.

  • Some internal links between posts, and linked to other resources had to be dropped.
  • Some of the original posts had images that couldn't be maintained, or that have disappeared in the meantime.
  • Due to the original posts being on another blog system, the formatting (e.g. image widths, bulleted lists, etc) is not always great.
So, thanks for your understanding.
From now on you can legitimately complain about such things for new posts (via comments).

In the few days since that porting effort started there has been quite a few readers. Thank you for dropping in.

You are quite an international audience already which is really appreciated. A "world view" on things will try to be kept, so any pointers, comments, suggestions, advice, complaints or news that help do that will be much appreciated.

The blog has already been visited by people from:-

  • US
  • Spain
  • UK
  • France
  • Belgium
  • Germany
  • Switzerland
  • Italy
  • Greece
  • Turkey
  • Saudi Arabia
  • India
  • Philipines

No visits from Australia or Africa yet, and more from Asia is desired, but it's early.

Thank you all. If you like the blog or find it useful, then please recommend or forward the URL to friends or colleagues.

November 11, 2008

Your next eReader, from Uncle Sam

Just a quick pointer to this article on Wired news blog that describes the efforts by the US Army to develop light, flexible, low-power displays for use by their soldiers in the field.

Not a lot of "news" in it, but maybe interesting you were unfamiliar with the US Army work and the Flexible Display Center at Arizona State University.

Regarding the image above (from top of article), I think the article's first word is the one to apply: "Imagine".....

Nifty new eBook reading apps for iPhone/iPod Touch

This article on AppleInsider covers a new eBook reading application for iPhone called "Classics" to add to existing ones like "Stanza" and"eReader" which are available from the iPhone's App Store.

As it's name suggests it's targetted at Classic content, digitized and made available by Project Gutenberg, after some clean-up and cover design by these guys.

"Classic", rightly or wrongly in this space is becoming a synonym for "Out of copyright, and free". The app costs $2.99 at the Apple App Store.

From the available screen shots at AppleInside and their own web ( they seem to have done a nice job on the aesthetics front, which was much needed for Gutenberg content in my mind.

I won't re-write the original AppleInside article to check it out, but just to show one more image of how they have taken a detailed and subtle approach to the content's appearance and page turning.

Whether those are the right design decisions to have taken from a readability and usability point of view, or not, I'll leave to experts to debate. But you have to admit they've done a "nice" job of what they set out to do. This attention to detail and presentation is also reflected in their web.

I'd welcome comments where from anyone who either reads regularly (or a lot) on the iPhone or who has tried this application.

5 inch E Ink eBook from Hanvon

The Chinese manufacturer Hanvon has introduced what it claims is the first 5" E Ink eBook reader. See article here from the TechOn news blog.

Specs include

  • 11mm thick
  • Formats supported: TXT, HTML, PNG, JPG, PDF, XEB, CEB, MP3, MTXT
  • 167 PPI, SVGA (800 x 600 pixels) E-Paper display
  • 1GB SD card and a mini USB port.

So, not much new really.

Hanvon has experience in handwriting input and tablets and are a kind of Wacom cloner.I can't remember from the E Ink visit, if they are the provider of the digitizing tablet in the smaller sized E Ink development platform. Based on this announcement I suspect so.

The article hints at stylus input, but the specs don't clarify it much, and I couldn't find the product on either of their web sites ("Global" vs."US" ! Isn't the US part of the world?).

Does this proliferation of low-cost, "nothing new" eBook readers (shaping up similar to MP3 market) help the category and the adoption of eBook readign devices, or hinder it?

BTW: Am I the only one who hates it when you go to a company's web-page, and before being shown any information you are forced to chose a country or region?

A second gripe then is that they often mix location (for buying in retail I presume, although with web purchase possible this doesn't make a lot of sense) with language. Please don't do this.....

More LCD bistability - Sharp

Original Post from November 3rd 2008.

Copied from news article from "Nikkei BP Tech-On on October 30, 2008".

Sharp has developed an LCD panel that has a memory function to maintain the displayed content even after power supply is cut off and exhibited it at FPD International 2008.

The panel came in 14.1-, 6.1-, 2.4- and 1.7-inch sizes. Sharp presented monochrome and 8-color display panels in 14.1- and 6.1-inch sizes, and monochrome and area color display panels in 2.4- and 1.7-inch sizes.

The panels appeared to use a cholesteric LCD material, but the company's staffer refrained from specifying it. He did not reveal the LCD cell structure, or applied voltage and power consumption for saving content in the memory, either. He, however, said that the power consumption for saving data is "relatively large."

Sharp cited electronic inventory tags, restaurant menu and public signage as applications of the LCD panel. In other words, the LCD panel is positioned as a technology to compete with electronic paper.

As for the inventory tag application, Sharp already began a test operation at a supermarket in Osaka, it said. In the test operation, product prices are displayed on a 2.4- or 1.7-inch memory-embedded black-and-white LCD panel mounted on a substrate equipped with a wireless LAN function and a control circuit to change displayed content.

"This technology makes it possible to easily switch product prices all at once for limited time offers in the evening, for example," the staffer said.

The LCD panel's operational temperature ranges from -25 to +55 degree C. So, its use is limited to indoors at this moment.

"Displayed content becomes distorted at +55 degree C and higher, while rewriting displayed content becomes difficult at -25 degree C and lower temperature," the staffer said.

Commenting on pricing, he said, "It is a bit expensive because it uses some materials that are not usually seen in LCDs. However, we can reuse our old-generation manufacturing lines for its production without making any change to them. So, pricing will probably be equivalent to that of general LCD panels when the scale of its volume production grows."

There is an article on thsi announcement here.

Ohio Reflective and Bistable

Original Post from November 3rd 2008.

Kent Displays in Ohio, US, has recently made announcements based on progress in their Cholesteric LCD display research. One such article from can be found here.

Basically they announce two things:

  • Flexible display manufacturing (or at least advanced prototyping) of their ChLCD display technology.
  • Creation of a color-changing coating (~= "display") for consumer electronic devices such as phones etc.

Not sure if it's just election-fever, or if this web typically takes this stance, but the article is quite big on the fact they are/plan to manufacture in the US. I'll try and stick to the product and technology aspects of the news.

Kent have been researching and making Cholesteric LCD displays for some time. These are reflective, bi-stable displays, thus they display images via the reflected light and don't need a back-light or light emission that consumes power. Further, being bi-stable they don't need to be refreshed and hence can display information when switched of, with power only required to change the image.

Now they announce a 320 by 160 pixel, flexible display that (quote) "lends itself to all sorts of applications that you haven't seen before.".

They are a bit short on examples of those new applications, so we'll leave that as an exercise for the reader....

Also they have furthered their research in color films to produce a (quote) "paper thin, electronic skin for cell phones and mobile devices that allow consumers to change colors with the touch of a finger. The "eGo" skin uses no power to maintain any color already rendered on the surface." a prototype of which is shown below.
HINT to marketeers......when you announce something that changes or moves.... post video, not stills!

This is an interesting area from the product design, industrial design and fashion standpoint and one where E Ink is also active (see previous posts). We should expect to see in the future these "morphing" products where appearances change, and the boundaries between product and display and decoration all get blurred. Not only could you change the color of your phone to match your clothing or preferences, but it could change its own color based on some paramter.... just imaging it glowing red hot when you have lots of e-mails or missed calls for example.

The REAL NEWS is contained in the phrase "Kent Displays now has a roll-to-roll machine that is capable of producing millions of plastic displays per year." which indicated they are making progress towards being able to manufacture such technologies with roll-to-roll processes and they claim they will enter production in January.
I'll keep an eye open for more extensive coverage of these Kent advances.

E Ink updates capabilities with new controller chip

Original Post from October 29th 2008.

Engadget (here) and other sites are reporting news from E Ink (shown here in an employee video on YouTube. I've added a few details to what you'll see in Engadget and others.

They are now offering their E Ink displays (or in fact, their partners who produce full display modules, such as Prime View International (PVI) are) with an updated E Ink display controller ASIC developed in collaboration with EPSON, called "Broadsheet" (I wonder why?).

Not needing a constant refresh like CRT or LCD displays, the way a bistable E Ink display is driven is very different from your normal display.

Working with Epson is not news, previous controllers were from Epson too.

This Broadsheet controller adds the ability to perform partial screen updates (i.e. just update a rectangle of the screen that changes) and performs updates faster.

This enables reasonable speed animations (depending on the size of the area it occupies I suspect) to be done inside a "static" page.

This can be used for text-books with animated figures that show how things move or work. We saw a demo of that and it was quite compelling for educational/informative material. Imagine a science book or wiki "on paper" where diagrams illustrated how things worked, like the four-stroke cycle of an internal combustion engine.

It also can be used for newspapers ads that move and change to attract your attention. I bet you were all dying for that last one: flashy web-banner-like ads hit your newspaper! How long before we all develop an immunity to them like banner ads?

They have increased the greyscale bit-depth from 3-bit to 4-bit, or grey 16 levels, providing much better rendition of greyscale images. Unless you are a "black and white only" kinda person, then this doesn't change things much in my opinion for photo viewing. Sure I can carry family photos around (and I have a lot of old scanned family photos in black and white...) for viewing on the go, but the ones I most want to view or, more likely, share are recent shots in color.

Where it does make a difference is in books, newspapers or magazines with photo content in them that's either monochrome anyway, or gets the idea across well in monochrome.

The development kit/module includes stylus input (from Wacom and a Chinese competitor of theirs depending on the display/tablet size) and the faster display update with the new controller helps the display 'digital ink' track the stylus movement much better. It's still not perfect, but an improvements over the current state-of-the-art which is the iRex Illiad stylus implementation.

Qualcomm MEMS “e-paper” display debuts

Original Post from October 23rd 2008.

As reported here by TechnologyReview QuallComm has finally shipped their MEMS-based display technology.

This technology has the potential to be fast, bright and colorful but we think it's got limitations in size and it will be difficult to put onto a plastic electronics (read flexible) backplane.

In the photo it looks nice and bright, but just look at how bright the standard white "paint" lines and butterfly icon are on that device. I bet the photographer had to borrow extra studio lights from his buddies to get it like that!

eReader News Round-up

Original Post from October 22nd 2008.

I've gleaned a smattering of smaller news items from various eBook related blogs and web-sites and thought I'd pass them on in a big 'blob', enjoy.

BBC News Videos

Turns out the BBC News on their web have a collection of (linked) videos covering e-paper displays, e-books and e-newspapers. "Popular Science" level of detail and journalism, but still OK if you're interested in this aera. In fact, it maybe a good thing, a sign that ebooks and epaper are creeping into the popular conscience.

The recent videos seem to focus more on the upcoming Plastic Logic device. Plastic Logic is a UK-based company that grew out of Cambridge University research (although they have built their factory in Dresden, Germany). Thus, this is probably a result of the PL PR machine getting into gear and UK-centric reporting by the BBC.

Here's the list:-

The revolution of paperless paper (a look at e-paper newspaper reading technology, mainly around Plastic Logic display).
'E-paper' produced in Germany (short spot on Plastic Logic's factory for e-paper in Dresden).
How the 'paperless paper' works
(demonstration on discussion around Plastic Logic display technology and upcoming device).
E-books put to the test (they take eBookt to "experts" on books at the British Library, but a very lightweight review).
End of the book? (a "on the road" test of Sony PRS eBook in real-world situations).

Inghram and Penguin
These two heavyweights "e-ink a deal" (:-) ) about digital distribution of e-books.
Covered here on TeleRead forums.

iRex takes Illiad code open source
Covered here on MobileRead forums among other places. This has now gone beyond rumour and been confirmed by iRex. At the same time Google OpenSources Android. Are the days of closed source, even for things that appear "core", over?

iRex DR1000S Reader starts getting reviewed
Here is one such review, showing the new reader side-by-side with the Illiad.
The new one is MUCH bigger.

Carbon Nanotube Electrophoretic Display From Samsung
Some confusing news here in MobileRead forums about a new CNT technology for EPD displays.

Digital Memo Taker

Original Post from October 21st 2008.

The product shown below (from this translated version of their web site) reminds me of some of the eBook concepts I was throwing around a year or so ago, when I was discussing the idea of an "eBook reader" being the display part of a disaggregated computer, but one where the "display" would have useful functionality when on it's own...

I discussed using one of the foldable keyboards on the market, and simply "docking" an eBook reader type device into it, to produce something not dissimilar to that shown in the image above. Although I wanted a dual-A-page eBook that folded out to A4 size.

This product will no doubt be the butt of "yet another device" criticisms as eBooks are, and hence I suspect only of interest for some very special applications.

This particular one has an LCD screen, but if all it does is take notes then I could see it with en E-Ink display and even lighter/thinner and with longer battery life, beyond he 20 hours stated here. With a bistable display, you can imaging a device that "sleeps" between keystrokes...

LiquaVista at last launches something

Original Post from October 20th 2008.

LiquaVista (yet another Philips display business spin-out, based in Holland) have one of the more promising technologies for bright, full-color, fast, low-power, reflective displays: ElectroWetting.

They seem to be making surprisingly slow progress with commercial versions of their technology, but last week they announced something at least.

You can find it discussed on Engadget.

The interesting contribution short-term from them in my opinion is the fact they can do these bright (remember, reflective!) displays in almost any color, which allows for you to coordinate your display and product colors and take steps to merging the display into the product in more subtle ways, either by blurring the boundary of what is display and what is product, or using displays to change product appearance as opposed to just displaying information to be read - "aesthetic displays" I guess.

I can only echo Engadget's sentiment: "Get Crackin'" LiquaVista!!! and start delivering those "flexible, full colour, video displays" you talk about in your press release:

Their kinda-quirky web has some interesting images, info and even tools to allow you to design your own display - if you can navigate it....

KDDI wireless e-Paper display for mobile phones

Original Post from October 15th 2008.

In an interesting move in the area of "Information Surfaces" KDDI has taken a BridgeStone e-Paper display and made a secondary, MUCH LARGER, display for mobile telephones which they call the "Portable Viewer System".

The display has no UI or buttons nor touch, just a power button, and communicates via InfraRed with the mobile phone when placed beside it. Any manipulation or UI is done on the mobile phone.

The display uses BridgeStone's QRLP (Quick Response Liquid Powder) Electrophoretic Display (similar technology, but different, from eInk) Technology. It can display 4,096 colors (see images below of unsaturated reflective color) and is 13.1 inch diagonal and so almost an A/A4 sheetin size.

This makes some color content viewing feasible, and the viewing of larger page-size documents (or smaller fonts/detail - depending on how you look at it) quite feasible.

Here is a side-by-side image of the display along-side (I'm told!) an A4 brochure.

NOTE: This image's aspect ratio has been "squeezed" by the blog system...

One significant downside in my mind is that they state it takes 12 seconds to redraw the entire image on the screen. "Quick Response?" I hear you shout....justifiably.

Well, the Bridgestone display technology has been indeed shown to be pretty quick (faster than E-Ink), so I can only assume that terrible time comes from the combination or Infra-Red transmission and the electronics implemented in the display.

The IrDa technical standard can reach 16Mbits/second (physical layer), and I have seen devices that do 2 or 3 Mbits/sec.

An uncompressed A/A4 image at say 200dpi sub-pixels (remember, this is a monochrome display with RGB color filters on top of a grayscale pixel) with 4 bits/grayscale-pixel (getting 12 color bits or 4,096 colors) would come out to 200 x 8.5 x 200 x 11 pixels = 3.6Mpixels x 4bits/pixel = ....approx 14Mbits.
If the Ir link was as slow as 1Mbits/s that could match.

But, I now remember that this QRLP display is probably passively addressed (not an active matrix like your LCD) and the time maybe the rewrite time for the entire display with the passive addressing.
That would mean they rewrite about 3.6Mpixels / 12 seconds = 311K pixels per second...or about 3.3 micro-seconds per pixel.


They state

"In the finance and insurance areas, there has been a strong need for a tool that can display personal information and other data at an appropriate size while ensuring security of the information."

which I don't find very convincing nor compelling...

Maybe you can now go back and read "War and Peace" on your mobile phone, without going blind in the process?

It's difficult to take a close-up photo of buttons that don't exist, but here's KDDI's attempt:

Sony eBook Reader PRS-700 get’s TouchScreen

Original Post from October 6th 2008.

Among other sites commenting this news is a PCPro one (here) and now Engadget (here). It appears the PRS-505 from Sony will be upgraded to the PRS-700 with the following changes:-

Finger input, or stylus input?

The PCPro article states "allows users to turn the page by swiping their finger across the screen and highlight text by tapping it with a finger. Users will also be able to annotate text using a touchscreen keyboard," - Annotating with more than a few words or tags sounds like a painful experience to me, but it will be interesting to see what page-turn and other gestures they implement and how they are received.

Later it comments "stylus-operated touchscreen", so doubts remain about which it is, or both?
The photo above clearly shows a finger operating it and the Sony press release (see below) also mentions fingers, but also "highlight text with the included stylus pen."

So, my current best guess pending more information - is that it's a resistive touchscreen, and they ship a passive plastic stylus (like say on our iPaqs) and that the stylus is just like a smaller finger for more accurate tapping and selection, especially with an on-screen keyboard.

My main "concern" about the addition of the Touchscreen to the Sony eReader is battery life. One of the reasons that the Sony is still my preferred reader is the incredible battery life they eke out of it, by effectively turning the entire device off while you are reading each page on the reflective screen. A touchscreen needs to be on the whole time, and many are (relatively speaking) quite power hungry. We'll see if Sony have either applied some innovation and excellent engineering to the touchscreen to reduce its impact on battery life, or they have taken their significant lead in battery life and sacrificed it (or some of it) to bring this interaction innovation to the device. If they have chosen a simpler passive touchscreen then I expect that to consume less power than the full Wacom tablet that's in the iRex Illiad.

If it were Wacom-style stylus input then you can help battery life by only powering on the sensing electronics for the stylus when it's removed from the device for use.

From the Sony Press Release: "the new 700 model uses minimal power and can sustain up to 7,500 pages of continuous reading on a single battery charge", so do they seem to have done a good job again.


There is mention of an improved (faster) CPU. Again I hope this doesn't affect battery life too much. The author on PCPro get's it a bit wrong as the CPU was not the problem in the time required for page turns it was the eInk display's refresh time. But if this device also incorporates newer eInk formulations and/or newer eInk driver ASICs then we'll probably also see an improvement in screen responsiveness and it'll all go down to a faster CPU and the myth will be perpetuated.

More memory for books and that's it I think, with no changes in connectivity as they stay with the "PC Centric" content distribution model, plus off-course the SD card slot they retain - unlike the newer Kindle. How long can Sony hold-out before having to put mobile data communications into this device like the Kindle? The Kindle seems to be winning based mainly on that feature, combined with the selection of content (Books, Newspapers and Magazines) available.

$400 in the US.

Breaking News (details)

Since writing that, Sony's own web has a press release on the new PRS-700 on it (here). Also if you go here to the Sony shop you can see more, and see that they have re-vamped the UI with big selection icons/areas to take advantage of the touchscreen. This has cleaned up the front of the device considerably with less navigation buttons and made it even more stylish and it's closer to my own goal of a "buttonless eBook" where the content is it's own intuitive UI.

Overall I now feel this refresh, although somewhat fumbled on the PR front, is more significant than the refresh (that's leaking out) to the Kindle (see previous post).

More breaking news... Gizmodo has a "Hands On" article here that also shows an image with the built-in LED front-light activated.

Conclusion: Still my favorite, due to size, weight, design/style, battery life, fast boot & shutdown and now with added finger and stylus input and an LED front-light for reading in the dark.

New Kindle news starts to leak out

Original Post from October 6th 2008.

In a report (here) at the BoyGenius blog we get the first rumors and photos of an upcoming refresh to the Kindle. I say "refresh" because the changes don't seem that major to me (at least in terms of functionality) and it doesn't seem to be the rumored "Education Kindle" we've been hearing about.

The summary is:-

  • It's taller and not so wide - although I can't really see the reasons or the advantages in the change.
  • Overall it looks to have grown in area and the screen to have stayed the same size - a step in the wrogn direction in my mind. I think an eReader should be "all screen" and the content the UI.
  • They have reduced size of some buttons to reduce indavertant page chanegs I hear was a problem on the original.
  • They have replaced the scroll wheel for selection with a joystick. I don't come across many well implemented joysticks and that'slead to me hating them.... Blackberry-style ball seems to work much better, at least for me.
  • The vertical LCD column for selection (moves and refreshed much quicker than the eInk display) seems to have disapeared. I can only assume they have newer eInk formulation, or are using the newer eInk driver ASICS that provide faster, cleaner and "windowed" refreshes and that they have taken advantage of that to move the selection "graphics" onto the main display.
  • Moved away from proprietary cable to a mini-USB for charging also. Good move, less cables and charges when on the move.
  • No SD slot!Maybe considered an "interested" move to make all content go through Amazon, but with USb connectivity I think not. They seem to have beefed up the on-board flash and commentsin the blog suggest it could be 2Gigs of Flash standard on-board?
  • Thinner, heavier "feel", Sturdier - I hear of Kindles breaking (after a fall) and so this is positive I assume.

You can see a small gallery with additional photos here.

iRex business eReader arrives as expected

Original Post from September 23rd 2008.

On-time (OK, a little late in the day here in Europe) on Monday iRex announced their new business focused eReading devices.

Engadget (here) took it all with a big yawn and expectation for the "n+1" device (i.e. the grass is always greener in the future) that is currently the Plastic Logic device I covered in previous posts, expected for middle of 2009.

So, what did iRex announce?
A 10.2-inch, Lithium Ion battery-powered, black and white e-ink device, with an improved (it seems from here) industrial design, targeting business users.

Three models will exist:-

  • $649 for the Digital Reader 1000 basic model
  • $749 if you want a stylus thrown in
  • $849 on the 1000S with WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G data connectivity(available later, not now)

You can find the iRex product page here, where they extoll it's green-ness with:

Print Paperless

paperlessPrint all your digital documents, like Microsoft Office

documents, e-mails, Adobe ® PDF documents and Internet pages directly into a readable format on the iRex Digital Reader.

Easy on the Environment

leafThe iRex Digital Reader finally offers a way for companies and individuals to cut out the billions of pages of printed paper they produce each year, making a powerful contribution to the environment.If any IPG readers would like to explore working with iRex on print-related, "driver for paper and e-paper" type deals then I can introduce you- I know they are interested.

New iRex eReaders due Monday

Original Post from September 19th 2008.

iRex has announced that they will be releasing new eReader devices this coming Monday (September 22nd), and rumors abound about what they will be.

Forbes (in this article) seem confident that they know what's coming, and it includes:-

  • larger 10.2" diagonal e-Ink screen
  • PDF/Word/HTML document viewing for a focus on business users
  • Models with stylus and touch input (I'll hold my breath on touchscreen, but as they already have stylus input on existing iRex that seems very probable).
  • Longer battery life (upto 80 hours)
  • There's talk of a cellular network connectivity option for on-the-move download.

They include a quote from E-Ink CEO stating that we will have to "wait until 2009 for color E-ink and as late as 2012 for video". That would match what we saw and heard from them on a visit to E-Ink earlier this year.

Last, but not least, in this other Forbes article they hail E-Ink as the possible saviour of the publishing industry (!), but it doesn't have a lot of new content if you've been watching this space.

More Plastic Logic news from DemoFall show

Original Post from September 9th 2008.

I suspect this is the beginning of a steady stream of news related to the new PlasticLogic product I covered two posts ago, announced recently.

Here I have an update from "DemoFall".

"Why would you want an Amazon Kindle, which is kind of bulky, not too attractive, and of limited scope when you could have a real digital document reader that is thin, easy to use, and very strong?

That's the business case from Plastic Logic, one of the first companies to be on stage at DemoFall this morning.

The company's plastic reader is designed to store dozens or hundreds of business documents on a very thin digital reader. It can store e-books, magazines, newspapers, PDFs and all kinds of information, the company said.

It's made with plastic, not glass, meaning that it is designed to be strong and to be able to stand up to being hit with objects or, presumably, even dropped.

It looks pretty cool, and is said to weigh only ounces, "not pounds," has a battery that lasts days and can be read in bright daylight.

The company hasn't given this product a name yet, and it's not clear when it will be available. But Plastic Logic said it is opening a Germany manufacturing plant later this month (September 17) , so it shouldn't be too long."

You can watch a YouTube video from the show floor showing a working prototype (I assume) device. Based on the English accent of the presenter I suspect she is a Plastic Logic employee. It starts out pretty crappy (especially audio), but then improves and gives a good summary of the product.

Here's my take on it based on that video:

  • Thin - no surprises, but I suspect it will be a surprise experience when you hold one.
  • Light - this makes more sense now, due to loss of weight of glass, and loss of weight due to the need for a rigid chassis for the glass. I suspect this will be a surprise experience too - it was for me when I held the incredibly light READIUS device with plastic display.
  • Touch - in the demo pages are passed with what looks like a light touch on the corner of the page, and she refers to using the touchscreen to mark-up documents.
  • Size - as advertised, close to A/A4 size. This opens up some interesting possibilities, including real Newspaper layouts, and the ability to view full-page A/A4 PDF documents without zoom/pan or reformatting from source information for display. No mention is made of resolution so I'll assume around the same as Sony/Amazon/iRex or slightly less due to increased size. I suspect that the format will be a killer feature for business users as it will ease tremendously the integration of the device in business "workflows" with e-mails and attachments able to be copied/synced (a good job on the software pending). Not many other providers would show demos of material like a project plan Gaant chart! If the touchscreen and software are good, it could be very nice to interact with.

They close with a comment about color in 3-5 years. so don't wait for that but maybe save your X-mas $$$$ for this in the Spring...although it seems to be a more business focused device, and so maybe those are Q2 expenses you need to be shooting for....they state a goal of "first half of 2009" but with the customary delays in such new products it maybe more like Q4 $$$$

Here are other links to (more or less) the same news:-

and finally, if you just can't get enough.... you can goto the Plastic Logic web page where they list a lot of the different coverage of it, and no doubt will be adding to it also....

e-squire - I had to use that name….

Original Post from September 8th 2008.

Yes, here is an update on the E-Ink edition of this month's Esquire magazine, courtesy of Engadet's article (here). Oh, includes video so you can see it working.

This has E-Ink active areas on the front and back covers of 100,000 units of this month's edition. These are areas of the magazine which employ a direct drive (i.e. no transistors or active matrix) segmented (i.e. not pixelated) display to provide different levels of black/white-ness of background for a printed overlay.

It sequences through a programmed set of levels of greyness for each of the E-Ink sgments and hence reflects back different levels of ambient light - making the printed areas more or less bright/visible.

Plastic Logic announces….something

Original Post from September 8th 2008.

Engadget (here) covers a New York Times Technology section article (here) on the announcement by UK-based PlasticLogic that they plan to introduce in 2009 a plastic electronics E-Ink based reader.

Those of us watching the eReader space have been waiting eagerly for a PlasticLogic announcement after they got investment, then broke ground for a factory to build flexible displays. They then went quiet while they beavered away in their factory.

We've been waiting for a while for the READIUS reader (from Polymer Vision) to actually appear in the market after numerous announcements and postponements. Maybe PlasticLogic will beat them to the jump and be the first to actually SHIP a flexible E-Ink-based eReader?

Here they promise a monochrome E-Ink display, "a wireless link to download content, room enough to store "hundreds of pages of newspapers, books, and documents" while using "flexible, lightweight plastic" for the active matrix backplane of their display. There are allusions to it being "copier paper sized, presumably A/A4.

Claimed benefits as expected are "resulting in a reader about one-third the thickness of the Kindle at about the same weight". They don't say much about the advantage in robustness (to dropping for example), and I'm slightly surprised it will be the same weight as a glass unit - but a welcome advance all the same.

We'll need to stay tuned for the promised more information (maybe a name? maybe a date? maybe a price? maybe some specs?) at CES in January - if any reader plans to attend CES, be sure to "cover" this one for us and report back!

Who will be announced as newspapers ePublishers on it?
We'll see, but Hearst is quoted, and as an early investor in E-Ink and self-professed advocate of ePapers, I'd be surprised if they (or one of their MANY newspapers) is not among them, and we may well see the New York Times itself amongst them.

Dual-sided transparent touch-screen - useful for eReaders?

Original Post from September 4th 2008.

Over at Oh Gizmo they are reporting (here) on the showing of a prototype EL display by Japanese company Teraokaseiko that is transparent (for pixels in the "off" state) and that has a touch surface on both sides.

If someone has an interesting idea on how this could be applied to electronic reading, then I'd be interested to hear it - as dual-room tic-tac-toe ("noughts and crosses" for our British readers!) is not high on my list of priorities.

It reminds me (without the need for the dual-sided touch screen) of an idea I had a long time ago and was interested in prototyping: marrying a transparent display with a paper navigation technologyand have a transparent device (a little bit like one of those trekking compasses) that could be slid over a map and that would display (selectable) enhanced information.

You can't put all the possible layers of information on a map and keep it readable, but with this you'd have a basic map and then select whether you wanted roads, tracks, walking paths, hotels, ATMs, bars, shops, tourist info etc etc... and off course the idea could be extended to paper documents to maybe show subsequent edits, metadata, related info etc.

Any more ideas?

iRex Illiad trial to replace text books

Original Post from September 3rd 2008.

See below the Press Release of iRex for this trial of the Illiad for replacing school children's textbooks. This is one application where I can see some very clear and compelling advantages of electronic content over paper books - but there are many things in the device, interaction, content, infrastructure and usage that one will have to get right for it to be a success in a school teaching environment.

Gill & Macmillan Lighten the Load for Caritas College First Years

Eindhoven/Dublin, 3 September 2008--- Gill & Macmillan, the leading Irish book publisher, today launched a pilot scheme that will take some weight off the shoulders of the first-year pupils of Caritas College, Ballyfermot and bring them a step closer to the paperless age.

St Brendan’s class, a group of 18 first year students at the all-girl school will say goodbye to heavy schoolbags this year. They will become the first class of students worldwide to replace their academic load with the iLiad, an electronic book device.

The main difference for the girls will be a dramatic reduction in the weight of their schoolbags as they replace more than six kilograms (almost 13 and a half pounds) of textbooks, workbooks, an English dictionary and a novel with this 400 gram (less then a pound) e-book. The students will be able to make notes and even doodle on the pages as in a regular textbook and then decide whether they wish to erase or save their notes. In addition, each iLiad reader is pre-loaded with 50 out of copyright classic novels which will be available free of charge to each student.

Peter Thew, Sales and Marketing Director at Gill & Macmillan explained that this is the first classroom trial for an e-book in the world.

“We are pleased to be leading the field with this pilot project and are very excited about its potential. Although we believe that the widespread adoption of e-readers is some time off, this project allows us to determine how well they work in the classroom, how the pupils interact with them and to examine their potential. This will be a learning process for us as well as the girls.

“One hurdle to its widespread adoption is that electronic books and their content are outside the current legal definition of a book (categorised as16 pages, printed and bound) and so VAT incurred is 21%, which is a major problem that must be addressed. In the 1970’s the Irish government made the bold decision to remove VAT from all books and we urge it to act again and resolve this issue by redefining the nature of a book in today’s world.”

Adrienne Whelan, Principal of Caritas College, said that the school is honoured to take part in this pilot programme.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the girls and staff. We are so proud to have been chosen by Gill & Macmillan to take part in this trial. Our staff and pupils have received training in how to use the different functions of the iLiad and we look forward to exploring this technology together. We all know that young people are very technologically savvy and we expect that they will take to it with ease. It is also a real bonus to know that a specialist from Gill & Macmillan is on the end of the phone to help with any questions we may have.”

Developed by iRex Technologies in the Netherlands, iLiad uses a new technology known as E-ink, which makes it a very similar experience to reading ink on paper. Crucially, it has none of the flickering or reflection associated with reading from a laptop or PC. Its screen uses less power and is more energy efficient, with an average battery life of 12 to 15 hours. Information can be transferred directly from a computer to the iLiad, which means it can replace the need for both a printer and paper. The iLiad has 256MB internal flash memory supplemented by a 1GB SD Card and typically retails at €599.

My Internet Self-Publishing experience

Original Post from September 2nd 2008.

I recently completed the editing and "publishing" of the second edition of my mother's memoirs using an internet-based self-publishing solution and I thought I'd share the experience with you.

It's really an e-publishing solution for paper-based (print) publishing. Recently they have added the ability to publish as an eBook. Either way I thought the process might be of interest to readers of this blog.

When doing the first edition I didn't shop around a lot and chose quickly LuLu (, a solution I had heard of, and after a quick review of their web, reading some "how to" material of theirs and test driving their web tools a bit I dived straight into it.

The first barrier to overcome in such an endeavor is convincing the person with the memoirs to participate!
In my Mam's case this wasn't too hard, although she made it clear the effort was really for my benefit, not hers. I suspect that after doing a bit of it that she may have enjoyed recalling the past events (although some maybe bring back emotions and pain long ago pushed into the background) and creating this as a legacy, although she wouldn't admit it. She also didn't want it "published" broadly, just among close family, and I have to respect that.

I had tried a low-tech version of this years earlier with my father by gifting him a nice big leather bound journal and asking him to write his memoirs in it, or at least stories from his youth (he was a prolific letter writer and liked writing). He seemed to take it as a "sign of the end" and only wrote a page or so of it, and called it his "Doomsday book". He died during the following year and so I never got those memories.

So, you have to think about the person in question, their interest, and how they will take it - and probably use some psychology in the process of getting them on-board.

My Mam decided to leave it mainly as a "Winter job". For people living in the North (North of Scotland in our case) it's normal to accumulate tasks that can be done indoors during the long, dark, winter nights - and out of the cold. For an eighty year old widow living alone, I think the idea of accumulating tasks for the lonely winter nights is welcome, as they are pretty boring if not. This dragged the process out a bit as there wasn't much activity in Summer. Rather than request/impose a book writing discipline, I just let the stories flow naturally. I think if I had pressured her it might have become an undesired task for her and I would have lost her altogether.

Thus, random conversations and events tended to trigger a memory with her. She would write a reminder on a post-it, and then later in the day/week she would write it out in a Word document, or e-mail body, and e-mail it to me. Acquiring the habit to remember that it might be interesting to write down later, and noting it, took a while but she became quite good at it leading to post-its lying all around the house...

This process leads to many disjointed stories, but as they grow in number the gaps get slowly closed and they can be blended together into a sort of patchy narative. I would then prod her for stories about the gaps, or people or places mentioned and gradually the patchwork came together. I thought about other structures, but settled on a simple chronological account in the end.

It also leads to a bit of repetition and I would get fragments of the same story a number of times. To reduce this it's a good idea to have her accumulate printed copies of what she's written and sent, or for you to periodically send back a draft of what you have so far. This can be reviewed by her to check if a story has been told already, facts can be checked, corrected or expanded and it can also serve as inspiration for new stories by triggering memories.

I accumulated the content (always keep an archive of what you receive, as it arrived) and slowly edited each part into an off-line Word processing document that allowed me to edit during "dead time" (nights, weekends, business trips, airport waits, etc) when I didn't have a network connection. I started off using MS Word as I already had it installed, but I soon ran into problems with running footers and headers for chapters and other issues and so I decided to switch to Open Office. I have it on Windows and Linux on different PC's and in general I quite like it. I stuck with it as it instantly allowed me to over come the specific limitations/problems I had run into with MS Word. I am sure it can be done in Word, but I just got frustrated with it and decided to give OpenOffice a whirl.
Remember to always keep a backup after each significant chuck of work you put into it! Even a relaxed from of version control is not a bad idea.

If I was restarting from scratch now, I might explore using Google Docs (or similar) with off-line editing enabled via Google Gears. This would be a way to get the rough text together but wouldn't (yet) be able to do the advanced editing for a good looking book. I can only think it's a matter of time before one of these on-line publishing solutions brings in Google-Docs-like technology to give us an on-line book writing/editing solution - that woudl remove a lot of problems/concerns about versioning, back-ups etc for many people I think.

Some of the factual content was complemented by information I had from my Family Tree project, and scanning and archiving of all my parents old photos (those are two other significant projects worthy of a story each). They both definitely helped round out the facts, and also provided stimulus for stories about certain people, places and events.

I tried to avoid being the writer and limit myself to editing, but the boundary quickly becomes blurred, especially when you are blending together disjoint stories. This lead to some dodgy prose (and discussions about grammar with Mam!) but I think it was the right decision - it's only a family book after all and we're not going for the Booker prize and the idiosyncratic ways of saying things and words used are all part of her character and good to let shine through for readers who all know her intimately. It is her story and she can tell it as she likes. I left in all of her Caithness, Highland and Gaelic words, but put in translations in footnotes for "English readers" :-)
I'm not convinced footnotes is the most elegant way to do this, but what is?
As my Mam has always been known by a nickname, not the name on her birth certificate (that she doesn't like), we STILL argue over which name should be on the book, imagine! She wins...

I also argue for a more "intriguing" title, but she never thinks them appropriate and we go with a very conservative one (still)...

I recommend taking a look at the publishing formats of your chosen publishing solution early on, and choosing page sizes and formats to suit your chosen format for publishing, then create a Word/Doc template that matches and avoid a lot of reformatting later on. I learned that the hard way, and now have Word and OpenDoc templates for common LuLu printed formats.

Proof reading seems a never ending process. I think I could read it an infinite number of times and still see mistakes and improvements, and then others see more. But getting good proof readers in the family was not easy. It takes a significant amount of (quality) time to proof read, and you may have to send them a 150 page PDF document to proof. Proofing on the screen is not comfortable, and that's a lot of pages for them to print at home each time around. Maybe signing up multiple, and giving each of them a section, and rotating them so they don't always read the same one would be a good idea.

I started with too complex a document structure with Chapter numbers, names, subsection headers, figure/plate numbers, multiple headers/footers etc and then an indended TOC that would show it all plus a list of figures. My engineering background and experience of writing technical documents was coming through - it looked like a protocol spec! Over many revisions I gradually simplified it down. I ended up with Chapter names and a simple TOC of chapters and nothing else.

LuLu and other self publishing solutions accept many formats but PDF is my preferred and I think the most predictable for them and easy and reliable for print and eBook. So I'd suggest chosing an editor that is good at producing PDF. If you have Acrobat installed (or the newer versions of MS Word) then you can generate just fine from MS Word. OpenOffice has a native PDF generator that is fast and good quality - no complaints.

I did have two significant problems with OpenOffice. One is related to re-starting page numbering at the first page of the first chapter (after preface, title page, TOC, etc). I spent hours on this and no matter what I do I can't get it to work, the reset of the page number either doesn't work or won't match the page numbers in TOC. I tried the OO forums, chats etc - no solution. I eventually split out all the prior pages into a separate document and generated a separate PDF for it, but I still have chapter one starting at page 2 (TOC is page 1), but at least page numbers match those in the TOC...

If you have a long document, or just want to reduce the size of the document you are editing then LuLu allows you to concatenate an arbitrary list of PDFs. Thus you could do each chapter (say) as a separate Word/OO file and generate a separate PDF. This will complicate generating a TOC with page numbers, but can be done. Before final publishing LuLu puts it all together and allows you to download a single press-ready PDF that will go to printing, for review and approval.

After finishing the first revision, I decided to pep-up the second revision with many old photos. I like the result but it adds A LOT of work. Finding, scanning, cropping and correcting photos is only part of it. Then finding out who all the people are, the year and place etc was a lot of e-mailing and talking. A nice side product of this is that I now know all of this much better, and impress my siblings with knowledge of distant family (something I was always terrible at!) and the where/when/who of photos they may not ever even have seen.

Including photos on pages makes layout and pagination a more complex job, and somewhat recursive as adding text can change it all. I was determined to have photos in relevant positions, related to the correct text and nicely laid out (I hate books where the figures/plates are nowhere near the text related to them, a pet peeve of mine). This created a lot of work and I'm not too satisfied still with how OpenOffice handles this, or my knowledge of how to use OO. Sometimes you want a photo on it's own, other times a smaller photo with text wrapped around it - and I struggled with this and am not 100% happy with the result.
To compund things, I was stupid enough to accept a suggested OpenOffice version upgrade in the middle of it all and it HOSED all my photos in the document!
The forums talk of an elusive photo management bug in OpenOffice.....%$#&* %%^^**#!! is all I can say!
I had to do ALL the photos again.
This time I organized them outside the app in a separate folder. Make copies of photos, not link to some other folder for photos that may move or change or get edited. I labeled and named them all correctly before starting to include in the document - a good idea that will also help in future revisions.

Once all this is done, and you have uploaded PDFs, and reviewed the press ready PDF proof it's Cover time. LuLu has improved a lot in this area from the earlier versions. They provide you with (boring) stock covers if you want, and recently they have added the ability for you to use Getty stock images on the cover. I did the first revision with a boring stock cover due to time constraints. The buzz of seeing a "real printed book" with your contents outweighed the cover design and no-one even commented on it. For the second revision I used a scan of a water color painting my Mam did of the house where she was born and I think that is a nicer, personal touch. The AJAX cover design tool allows you to upload back cover photo, author photo, back cover text etc and is quite easy to use although you need to pay attention always to image sizes (in pixels) and resolution require for quality printing. She hates seeing her own photo and tried to veto that, but I just ignored her complains on that one! :-)

You can design a full custom cover and upload as a PDF, but it's a bit of a pain as the size changes with number of pages (for the spine). For a sophisticated cover design it would be the way to go and I might try it next time around. You can download the (color) press-ready PDF of the cover LuLu generates and review it, and also use it as a template (page size, crop marks etc) for your own cover design.

For the first revision (color cover, monochrome body) I was offered to print 3 copies at about 5.50 Euros each and reduced shipping. In a couple of days my Mam had 3 professionally printed and (perfect) bound paperback copies delivered to her door for around 20 Euros, a great deal in my mind. She was quite calm, but I think really liked to see them and seeing the "real thing" helped spur her on for the efforts for her second Winter and second revision.

During this second Winter her eyesight has deteriorated significantly (Macular degeneration) and now cannot really read or use the computer. While she was staying with my sister, my sister took up the baton and typed-up and e-mailed to me much of the second Winter's output which made all the difference. Now she is back home on her own things have dried-up a bit, just as we drew the line on the second revision.

You can create new revisions of previous books (projects) in LuLu, but as everything (title included) had changed I just created a new project. You can have as many of you want, at different stages and no charges.

You can print your own copies at the print price they set (about 7 euros now, as the number of pages has increased). They offer some reductions depending on number, and shipping charges for 1 copy is about the same as 3 or more, so better to print a few.

If you want to publish more broadly you have two main options. First is to publish to an open URL on the LuLu site, but that if you don't know it you would never come across it. This is good to then e-mail to friends and family etc. Or you can publish on their web site. They have all sorts of marketing tools, you need to put the book in a category, describe it, describe the author, and try and "sell" it. You then set a price (above the previously mentioned printing price). They take 50% of the 'profit' (difference between printing price and the price you set).

There are other such self-publishing solutions, and I plan to take a look at their CreateSpace solution. From the sounds of it, it's a newer solution, and created with Web2.0 technology from the get-go, so I expect a snappier UI and maybe more flexibility, but we'll see.

Now I'm taking a well earned rest from this project while my Mam order a bunch of copies to gift to close family, and we'll take it from there.

I'd never have imagined at the start that it would take so much effort, but I'm very glad I did it. I did learn some things the hard way, and it can be done with less effort, especially if you can involve ("rope in") more family members to help.

I expect each reader will find mistakes, and think of additions that could be made. I can imagine a lot of "branch" stories involving people mentioned in the book, life is a tapestry after all with all our stories interwoven, but somewhat outside my Mam's main life story.

If enough people in the family were "Web 2.0 participative" then I can imagine a kind of "Family-story-wiki" solution where anyone could add and modify and correct an ever growing family story, or 'tree of stories'.

Rumors of Amazon move in eTextBooks via Kindle

Original Post from August 26th 2008. reports (here) an Ars Technica post about rumored moves into eTextBooks by Amazon with the Kindle, or a new "education focused" Kindle device.

It's a bit short on content and real facts (an analyst heard from an insider etc etc..) but would be an interesting move all the same.

College students are a digitaly comfortable, device aware crowd who could do with paying less and carrying around less weight of text books that's for sure. Issues I foresee are:-

  • They are rapidly becoming all "laptop" equiped. Will laptops fulfill this need for them? Will they be willing to carry another device for reading?
  • Availability of the correct content for their studies - and the source of that and the business model (if any).

Open source (free) text book content could blow the whole thing apart but would leave it as a device business model with no revenue flowing for content, at least initially. Maybe if that happened the publishers of textbooks would "give in" and move their "quality content" en masse to this new medium....and then we'd be off and running.

One to be watched for sure...

Two new eReaders

Original Post from August 22nd 2008.

I'm starting to loose count of available eReaders, and which ones I've already mentioned here.... but just to be on the safe side here are two that I have come across recently in external posts:-

Engadget - Astak Mentor e-book reader comes in at under $200

Comes in three sizes and Engadget says "A sub-$200 price tag for the 5-inch version, touchscreens, Bluetooth, and WiFi. "- that sounds good.
(original Crave post)

BeBook - company web site

Check it out on their web-site,with photo, videos etc.
One video is of a UK TV program that looks at three eReaders available in the UK: the BeBook, iRex Illiad and the Sony PRS.

As with cheapo MP3 players, it's becoming "easy" for someone to do a piece of hardware like this, but the winners will win based on Interaction, Book discovery and delivery services and what Content they have available to you that you would like to have.

Times and Financial Times get on the Kindle bandwagon

Original Post from August 22nd 2008.

Paid Contant (post here) reports that the Times and Financial Times are both new additions to Kindle's growing list of newspapers, despite the Kindle not being available (orhaving the wireless delivery service/infrastructure even if you sneaked it in) in the UK.

So, for now ex-Pats and US residence seeking samples of the Queen's English can do so electronically - although "The Independant" (UK) and "The Irish Times" (Rep. Ireland) are already available on the Kindle service, along with other language newspapers.

At $14.99 for a monthly subscription to The Times of (I assume) 20 issues, that seems not a bad deal - as I also assume a monthly subscription of 20 issues of the paper copy would add up to significantly more than that for a US resident.

More than a massive market for UK newspapers, I see this as good preparation work for making them available if the Kindle (and it's delivery service) ever comes to the UK.

That would make the daily newspaper read on a crowded London Tube wagon just a little bit easier. That's been improved with the "Broadsheet" (high-brow) papers moving to a "Tabloid" size (or having both sizes) but will improve with the kindle. The broad viewing angle of ePaper means fellow passengers will still be able to read your ePaper over your shoulder.

Will you be able to do the crossword or sudoku though?

Russian spies will now have to say "Meet me at King's Cross station at 12PM, I'll be wearing a red rose in my lapel and carrying a Kindle under my arm"

Sony adopts open .epub eBook standard and opens to other publishers

Original Post from August 12th 2008.

I heard this on the Buzz-Out-Loud podcast I listen to from CNet, and hence found the news on the CNet News web ( here.

Sony, starting next month, will support the new, and well supported I am lead to believe, .epub eBook format in their PRS-505 eReader. This will presumably be done via a firmware update to existing customers with a PRS-505 (what of PRS-500 users?) and a roll to a new firmware version in the production version.

Not known for their strong support of open standards, or more accurately; known for their own determined pushing of their *own* standards; Sony will be the first eReader vendor to support the .epub format.

I was skeptical that this really meant that Sony PRS users would be able to get eBook content from other publishers or online stores, but the Sony statement reads:

"This upgrade opens the door to a whole host of paid and free content from third-party eBook stores, Web sites, and even public libraries," (Steve Haber, senior vice president of consumer product marketing for Sony Electronics).

And the article goes on to state:

"Publishers including Harper Collins, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin are offering texts in the .epub format. (Simon & Schuster is owned by CBS. CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)"

So, that seems pretty clear. It will make life easier for online stores (and webs with free eBooks) if they can just produce one .epub document that then adjusts itself to the size of different screens and offers all readers adjustable font sizes etc, instead of the current situation where they create multiple file format versions, and formatted for different screen sizes. Enough to dynamite the eBook market? I doubt it, but a welcome step for consumers I think.

We'll see if Sony push out a firmware update for existing PRS505 and PRS-500 customers (like myself) and if more titles appear on the Sony "Library" online Bookstore.

Citi analyst predicts Kindle to be an even bigger hit

Original Post from August 12th 2008.

Here is another post predicting the future size of the Kindle business for Amazon, based on a few scanty sales rumors and bullishness.

This one is from Silicon Alley Insider reporting on Citi analyst Mark Mahaney (or was it Bark Baloney?) who predicts it will be a $1B business by 2010 (which confusingly they call "next year"), representing almost 4% of total Amazon revenue.

They show his calculations starting with original iPod sales numbers and a modified adoption rate for this device (for reasons they explain) and take it from there. For 2010 (the third year in their calculations) the device revenue and eBook (actually including newspapers and magazines?) sales revenue are about 50/50, although device revene recogniton is delayed and amortized over two years...

One, $10, book per device per month might turn out to be a little on the high side, but could be met if you count a few lower cost newspapers and magazines in the same month.

Epson “still working” on high resolution ePaper

Original Post from August 11th 2008.

In a recent article in DigiTimes on August 7, 2008 Epson state that they are still working on their own ePaper, and plan to offer a much higher resolution than the current (PVI) offering which is around 160ppi.

Here's the full-text

With worldwide e-book display shipments are expected to rise at a remarkable 161% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2012, up from 150,000 units in 2007, the thin, energy efficient and environmentally friendly characteristics of e-paper have attracted players such as Prime View International (PVI) and Epson to join in development of the technology.

While PVI developed e-paper is currently used by Sony for its e-book products, Satoshi Nebachi, Epson's general manager of advanced product development department indicated that Epson has developed an A4-sized 13.4-inch e-paper product that it showcased at the Society of Information Display (SID) this year, but the company has no actual time line for further development or shipments due to low yield and product reliability issue.

Nebachi noted that because Epson plans to increase e-paper's dpi from 160dpi to 300-360dpi, the technology needed to produce e-paper on plastic substrates becomes more difficult in terms of volume production and reliability, and Epson has not yet started volume production. Nebachi added that once the company enters volume production e-paper will first be used within the company as an alternative to copy machines or printers, and then product will be targeted to the end market.

Epson is also developing larger size e-paper and color e-paper, Nebachi mentioned that color e-paper still has quality issues, and he estimates that it will be another 2-3 years before mass production.