December 19, 2008

Bookeen CyBook eBook Reader updates

Bookeen (bookeen web-site) seem to be revving up for the festive (and hopefully for them "buying") season with their CyBook generation 3 eBook reader.

I've covered the CyBook previously in this blog, in order from oldest to newest:-

The newsletter they sent to me explains that they will be dropping prices for Christmas. They say "significantly", but it will be up to the resellers to determine the end price it seems.

They are extending their distribution out of continental Europe with WHSmith (UK), Archambault (Canada) and BooksOnBoard (US).

And they are tackling the awareness/familiarity/knowledge problem around eBook reader devices with kiosks in stores where you can view and touch a CyBook reader - a good move.

I balk at the statement of eBook reader devices being a "trendy" X-mas gift.

And last, but not least, they say that the number of titles available in the Mobipocket format (.PRC) that is natively supported by the Cybook, is now up to 112,000 titles.

They need to get a PR agency more proficient in English, English punctuation/proof-readying or character sets on the web/e-mail as almost all their statements in the Newsletter are stated as questions, often with the question mark at the start and the end of the sentence, as a Question is in Spanish, although they miss the up-side-down question mark symbol.

December 18, 2008

More Battery lifetime? Yes thank you?

Yahoo!Tech reports (via PCWorld) that Mary-Lou Jepsen continues her line of work from the OLPC project in her new company (PixelChi) to extend the battery life of laptop computers by attacking the area of the laptop's display, and how it integrates with and is managed by the laptop.

The OLPC display and laptop designed by Jepsen included some innovative design features that significantly extended it's battery life. These include a high-res, monochrome reflective display mode (great for reading monochrome content in anything from moderate to strong lighting conditions) and the ability to power off much of the display driver circuitry when the display contents are not changing.

The OLPC was designed for a particular purpose and operating environment, and now she's working to take such innovations and new ones to commercial laptops with the hope of extending battery life to beyond 20 hours and maybe to as much as 40 hours (without extra battery backs it is presumed).

One of the keys is how the display driver circuitry is integrated with the display, and the control of it. Thus her company will be producing designs for most of the laptop. This system approach is needed when optimization is required in a particular area, as plugging together standard components will get you "standard" results.

Many of these innovations should be applicable to any eBook readers that decide to go with LCD displays (e.g. the JetBook covered elsewhere in this blog), but much less so to E-Ink or other bi-stable display technologies.

But, if such improvements can be delivered to LCD displays, then that could put eBook readers using color LCD displays into the same range of battery life as some existing E-Ink readers - hence bringing Color and faster update rates and interactivity to the game.

Off-course other display technology developers (such as E-Ink) are attempting to increase refresh rates and add color, so it's an obvious collision course. But as consumers we can only hope that one or both technologies arrive and we have healthy competition and choice in the eBook reader market.

Also, as demonstrated by the OLPC with it's monochrome reflective display mode, we may see these displays in laptops that are transformable into workable eBook readers - giving us new hybrid style devices.

December 17, 2008

Do e-Books have a future in iTunes?

Wired reports on efforts by publishers to ready their content for publishing in e-Book format, on multiple devices and platforms, but with the iPhone featuring highly among them.

There are a growing number of eBook reading applications available for the iPhone (despite Steve Jobs claiming that "people don't read anymore") and I have covered a number of them in this blog.

Also, it seems that many individual books are being released as standalone "self-reading" applications on the App Store.

I can only think that this is an easy way for publishers to do the eCommerce for each book, and have the browse and purchase experience tightly integrated into the iPhone experience, as well as being a way to surreptitiously make the "App Store" a "Book Store" by making "Book" = "App".

I don't have numbers on the size of the application-book combination download versus the book content alone, but it must be much bigger as the book content itself can be as small as a few hundred KBytes without images. Thus they will start to fill up your iPhone/iPod memory more quickly.

Is that an issue? What happens when you delete a book (App) you've read? Can you get it back for no charge later?

I assume you cannot read the same book content on your PC/Mac where iTunes is running?

Don't expect much in the way of integration across publishers, or the ability to look-up a word in a dictionary/thesaurus from one publisher while reading a book from another.

One positive aspect is that there shouldn't be any format concerns (a Book can always read itself as it is the reader!), and you will always have a compatible and up-to-date reader software for each book you buy.

Having books sold via the App Store or iTunes will enable Apple to neatly track sales and decide whether they want to do something about it or not, such as providing explicit support for eBooks in the iTunes store, in the iPhone "Apps" store and in the iPhone/iPod itself.

Providing they don't restrict purchase and downloads to Wi-Fi only (like they do for music) then they could provide a great browse and purchase experience similar to that of the Amazon Kindle (only faster, being 3G, and in color), providing a more mobile (but limited in screen size and outdoor readability) reading experience.

December 16, 2008

More folding displays for mobile phones

Remember that toy doll (for boys!) that existed a long time ago, called "Little Big Man", well now we seem to be entering into the period of the "Little Big Phone" enabled by folding displays.

At last we will be able to have a decent screen real estate for reading/viewing the types of media that need it, but that can be folded up into a small package for the pocket.

I have commented in a number of previous posts on the READIUS device here (best to search for READIUS if you want to review them) which promises (and has been for a while!!!) to be the first such device to market. It's not a full-on phone, but of a hybrid device with a monochrome E-Ink display and a focus on reading, although that includes reading RSS feeds, news items and not just books.

Recently I commented on a Folding OLED display for mobile phones demo-ed (see video included in that post) by Samsung.

Now, we have another technology announcement on flexible displays from ITRI (Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute) which does quite a lot of research on display technologies, reported by PCWorld and Engadget.

The PCWorld post is the better description, but Engadget post a gallery of images (from ITRI/Pilotfish) for you. Unfortunately neither of them provide much details on the technology itself, or expected availability dates (except Engadget in the title).

It's not a product announcement, and new display technologies seem to resist the transition to market strongly and hence companies struggle to meet expectations after their technology demos and announcements get people existed. ITRI

They show a number of product mock-ups (repeat: mock-ups) of a mobile phones using the display, by design firm Pilotfish.

I suspect the mock-up is just that, and not functional. That's why we don't see video of the image changing, nor the unfolding/folding process.

Sorry to put a damper on all the excitement around the concept design images (which is what they are for, right, to generate excitement) but I think the design mock-up images most probably don't reflect the performance of an EP (ElectroPhoretic) Display in this timeframe.

If they plan to commercialize in 2009, then it will probably be reflective and not as bright as shown. Wthout more details on the display technology itself that's just guessing. Strangely, ITRI's own site doesn't cover this in any Press Release, or News item so it's not easy to find more details. A search of the site doesn't reveal anything on this work either.

The most likely guess for the actual display technology in 2009 would be a monochrome E-Ink display like that planned for the READIUS and the Plastic Logic reader (also covered here recently
at this post), leading to something looking more like this...