Nook finds it's niche
May 1, 2012 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Barnes and Noble is spinning off Nook into a subsidiary business after a $300M deal with Microsoft which gives the Redmond company a 17% stake, bringing an end to a patent dispute between the two companies and sending shares skyrocketing. Commentary from John Scalzi and Tobias Buckell. Meanwhile the Kindle Fire, Amazon's competitor to the Nook tablet, has grabbed over 50% of the Android tablet market.
posted by Artw (91 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Relevant bit: "The new, yet-to-be named subsidiary (for now it's just called NewCo), must pay license fees to Microsoft for technologies covered by patents at issue in the lawsuit. "
posted by smackfu at 10:03 AM on May 1, 2012


Jokes about the omission of the word "million" after $300 in the post, I wonder if Microsoft will finally make an Android compatible version of its Zune software to leverage their music & video services with Nook tablets. They do that, and then Amazon has some REAL tablet competition on its hands.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:04 AM on May 1, 2012


Between this and the Nokia deal, Microsoft's mobile strategy seems to be paying second-tier competitors huge amounts of money to switch to their OS. All this when other companies consider their mobile OSes to be mere loss leaders. This seems bizarre to me, but then again the original X-Box seemed like a completely crazy idea at the time, so....
posted by miyabo at 10:05 AM on May 1, 2012


Microsoft's mobile strategy seems to be paying second-tier competitors huge amounts of money to switch to their OS.

I don't see how that is the case here at all?
posted by smackfu at 10:05 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Amazon and BN seem to the only companies that understand that the iPad's only vulnerability right now is price.

Meanwhile our other resident expert thinks that dedicated eink readers will vanish:

It's my belief that today's e-ink ebook readers are doomed to obsolescence within a short period — 2-3 years possibly, 5 years probably. This is because the power consumption of LCD displays is dropping and their quality is rising. e-ink devices are inherently incapable of displaying video, are lousy as web browsers due to the screen refresh time, and if you use them to play audio or do any intensive processing (such as running apps) their battery life drops towards that of a regular LCD-equipped tablet. They're essentially single-purpose devices, competing in a market with general-purpose devices
posted by Chekhovian at 10:06 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Will MS insist on tacking-on the term "slate" to the Nook name? That's long been their preferred term for touch-tablets.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:07 AM on May 1, 2012


I wonder if Microsoft will finally make an Android compatible version of its Zune software to leverage their music & video services with Nook tablets

I would love it if Microsoft made a Zune App for the Nook. It'll be interesting to see how this changes future Nooks. Will Microsoft move new Nooks away from Android (which would probably frustrate/annoy nook owners).
posted by drezdn at 10:08 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Microsoft's new corporate strategy is to become the world's #1 patent troll
posted by crayz at 10:09 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile our other resident expert thinks that dedicated eink readers will vanish.

I urgently hope this doesn't happen until the purported increase in quality of LCD displays actually surpasses e-ink in terms of delivering a pleasant reading experience. I can read for hours on e-ink; not so for LCD.
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:09 AM on May 1, 2012 [21 favorites]


They're essentially single-purpose devices, competing in a market with general-purpose devices

If you just want to read books though, they are really really great at what they do. Unfortunately, they probably won't be around much longer as you mention. The technology just got started too late.
posted by drezdn at 10:10 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would be really sad if the e-ink devices disappeared; I totally love my sony e-reader. Reading on an lcd is like shining a flashlight in my eyes for sometimes hours on end... It's a thousand times more pleasant to read on the e-reader. My real hope would be for netbook-type devices with a combo of e-ink and lcd screens, but that seems kinda unlikely to take off.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:10 AM on May 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


Will MS insist on tacking-on the term "slate" to the Nook name? That's long been their preferred term for touch-tablets.

I don't know. It seems like they're basically starting over again. So, it's like a Clean Slate.
posted by parliboy at 10:10 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not sure eReaders are going anywhere while Amazon and B&N can sell the Kindle/Nook for $79. The price difference between that and the cheapest functional tablet is pretty high.
posted by griphus at 10:12 AM on May 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


I hope the rumored Google tablet is both real and decent. I'd really like to see a good, general-purpose (well, as general-purpose as a 7" tablet can be) entry at the $200 price point, as I'm somewhat averse to buying into the Kindle Fire/Nook philosophy of "you can only use these apps". (Yeah, I know you can sideload or root the Fire, but who wants to mess around with that?)
posted by jcreigh at 10:12 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like my Kindle so much precisely because it doesn't play video or browse the web well. If I could do those things on my Kindle I'd never read another book.
posted by notmydesk at 10:15 AM on May 1, 2012 [16 favorites]


E-ink is going away just like cars and not owning jetpacks are going away; Maybe one day when viable alternatives are viable. LCD displays are not nearly ready for the majority of readers to abandon e-ink, not for a long time at current LCD improvement rates.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:16 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Regardless of how good iPads get, are you going to get one for your 8-year-old to carry in his backpack? Are you going to bust out your iPad on a dirty bus going through the skeezy part of town, or mail one preloaded with books to an elderly relative? Tablets are moving in one direction, e-readers are moving in a completely different direction.
posted by miyabo at 10:17 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


E-ink will be like digital SLR cameras: still the best for people who care about quality, but too specialized for casual users.
posted by scose at 10:17 AM on May 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


Meanwhile our other resident expert thinks that dedicated eink readers will vanish.

Really? I've got the Fire, it's great and all, but one of the reuslts of having it is that I now want an eInk reader as well (and am looking at the backlit Nook with envy).

I'd very much doubt the excistance of some Nook-centric microsoft tablet plans as some have speculated, they seem to be going all in on W8. Though you might see a favoured place for a Metro version of the Nook reader at launch.
posted by Artw at 10:18 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would pay a good chunk of change for an iPad that had an e-ink screen on the back. I really, really, really want an iPad but I also want to read books without having my eyeballs fried.

I do love my Kindle touch, but I wish it could do more.
posted by bondcliff at 10:19 AM on May 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would pay a good chunk of change for an iPad that had an e-ink screen on the back. I really, really, really want an iPad but I also want to read books without having my eyeballs fried.

How would they dissipate the battery heat? I don't have an iPad..does it generate heat like a laptop?
posted by spicynuts at 10:21 AM on May 1, 2012


I don't have an iPad..does it generate heat like a laptop?

no, it stays cool even with prolonged video game use.
I'm not a technical guy, so I dunno why
posted by Bwithh at 10:23 AM on May 1, 2012


I would pay a good chunk of change for an iPad that had an e-ink screen on the back.

Apple's hanging onto a hybrid display patent, so you may get your wish, sort of.
posted by griphus at 10:23 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've only had a kindle (the touch, wifi only) for a few months - our credit union gave them to us as a present when we joined - and I have to say that it's not the e-ink that makes me love it, although that sure counts. It's that the only thing it does is let me read books. Okay, it has a browser, but using it is so painful I just don't.

So when I'm reading on my kindle, all I'm doing is reading. I'm not wandering off every few minutes to check metafilter or watch the newest cute kitten video or whatever. Just reading. And I love that.
posted by rtha at 10:23 AM on May 1, 2012 [15 favorites]


They're essentially single-purpose devices, competing in a market with general-purpose devices

That's where being extremely cheap comes in. $79 for a Kindle is less than a memory upgrade for an iPad. And the end goal is to just make them free, or $50 with 5 free books, something like that.
posted by smackfu at 10:24 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can read for hours on my iPad, no problem. I still use my nook all the time, and I'm about to get the backlit nook, which solves the only problem I had with the original: reading in bed with the light out.

Also, the battery on my nook lasts for a very, very long time. The light kills that on the new nook, but of course you wouldn't need it on all the time.

I do wish the nook could access my Stanza e-book server, though. Side-loading is ok, but kind of a pain in comparison.
posted by Huck500 at 10:25 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile our other resident expert thinks that dedicated eink readers will vanish

I think that's highly unlikely.

I own an e-ink Nook (as does my wife). We also both sometimes use our phones (both good-sized Android phones) to read eBooks. The Nook is vastly superior, and not just because it is bigger. Reading for long periods of time on e-ink is a pleasure. Reading for long periods of time on an LCD is ... tolerable.

Yes, e-ink devices are specialized. That's sort of the point. The Nook SimpleTouch (without light) is $79. In a few years, such a device (which is light, usable, and very ergonomic) may very well be $40 or $50. Compare that to the current prices of full-featured tablets. Compare that to the likely price of such tablets in the future.

Saying that the problem with e-ink is that it doesn't do apps well is missing the point entirely. The fact that it is focused on doing one thing, and doing it well, is a feature, not a bug.
posted by tocts at 10:25 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Weirdly, Android is already beginning to feel like a Microsoft product. Even moreso than Windows Phone.

I don't have any stunning insight to offer behind this gut instinct, although I certainly wouldn't have flinched if you showed me Ice Cream Sandwich, and told me that it was a Microsoft product.

I don't say this as a *bad* thing. It's just curious that Android seems to have become the Windows XP of smartphones, while Microsoft's own mobile efforts have all failed commercially (along with the big WTF detour around their acquisition of Danger). At this point, it's pretty safe to say that there's no room for a fourth mobile platform, and that Microsoft will have a tough time gaining any market share (despite having made some surprisingly solid apps and devices).

I wouldn't at all be surprised if Microsoft halfheartedly jumped on the Andriod bandwagon now that this collaboration exists. Sure, they'd probably fork the OS, and it'd totally be against everything that Microsoft stands for... but this might be their only ticket back into the game. If nothing else, a Microsoft/Android combo could lure away many of RIM's customers.
posted by schmod at 10:26 AM on May 1, 2012


I urgently hope this doesn't happen until the purported increase in quality of LCD displays actually surpasses e-ink in terms of delivering a pleasant reading experience. I can read for hours on e-ink; not so for LCD.

Eink is a superior reading experience...for novels and easily parsed text. For things with closely integrated pictures and equations and things that the "looking up of stuff", it sucks donkey balls. The refresh rate is too slow.

So while I would love to have an eink reader for my papers, its not practical. In the meantime I use goodreader on my ipad and read on a black(text)/variable gray (background) setting. Its okay.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:28 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's too bad all the e-ink readers use a single-sourced screen, that isn't updated very often. It really limits the innovation.
posted by smackfu at 10:31 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just to back up the "not going anywhere," I just got an email from one of the multitude of Daily Deal sites I signed up for, and there's an (no-name) e-reader currently on sale for thirty bucks. That's a little more expensive than a first-printing hardcover.
posted by griphus at 10:33 AM on May 1, 2012


As much as I find Amazon a nice friendly retailer who gives me money back if they decide to lower the price in the next week, yay for competition. Barnes and Noble was seriously reminding me of Yahoo before this, a competitor to an entrenched power failing slowly. I despise Microsoft as a market leader, but as a second place competitor, they do just fine. I won't buy them on principle because of that.

I wonder how much the new company will support the brick and mortar vestiges, though.
posted by zabuni at 10:33 AM on May 1, 2012


I think Stross is partly right, in that most books will be read on LCD screens in the year 2020. But if the current price trend of e-ink devices continues, they'll be practically disposable by that time, which should result in some interesting new things that we can't anticipate now. Dynamic business cards? E-ink signage in every building? Tablets with preloaded snapshots of Wikipedia and the Hesperian health guides handed out in every village in Haiti?
posted by theodolite at 10:33 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seeing this Nook / Microsoft deal is like seeing your poor cousin marry a rich guy she met last week. You're happy for her, but you wonder if it will last.
posted by Triplanetary at 10:34 AM on May 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


One interesting thing about this is it moves Microsoft to second place in the ebooks market (ahead of Apple), but Microsoft likely didn't make this deal just for that.
posted by drezdn at 10:38 AM on May 1, 2012


Does this mean they will try to take Android off my Nook? I hope not.
posted by BurnChao at 10:40 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


the current price trend of e-ink devices continues, they'll be practically disposable by that time

Yeah, I think the idea of "paper" as a static medium is going to vanish in not too long. Which is a shocking change given that's it worked for three thousand or so years.

They did this pretty well in the recent movie Lockout, which I also recommend if you ever thought you might like to see a movie whose dialog was nothing by 80's style one-liners.

Anyway, all the pieces of paper were dynamic screens, but they also had iPad style tablet tablets for actual computing. Without foldable electronics comparable to normal electronics, one does expect the "iPad form factor" to continue. Without some new magic I don't see a better compromise for form and function.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:42 AM on May 1, 2012


Checkhovian: Eink is a superior reading experience...for novels and easily parsed text. For things with closely integrated pictures and equations and things that the "looking up of stuff", it sucks donkey balls. The refresh rate is too slow.

Yes, that's exactly how I characterize e-ink. For the purpose of reading for pleasure, where you start at the beginning and go until you get to the end, the e-ink Kindle may be the best device ever invented, better even than paper. You can carry a whole library inside it, it can magically be almost any book in the world, and it runs for ages on a charge. But for textbooks? Or for where you need to flip back and forth quickly? Terrible idea. You don't notice the page turns when you're reading, but you sure as heck notice them when you're trying to move around in the document.

Of current offerings, the iPad 3 is probably the best general-purpose reader, because of its extremely high-DPI display. But it's really expensive, and the Kindle Fire is nice and cheap and ubiquitous.

To the Microsoft naysayers: I think I'd actually rather like Metro on tablets. But on a desktop, it's a truly terrible idea, and Microsoft is doing its best to leverage its monopoly power to jam Metro down your throat. To try to get a foothold in a new market, they'll abuse the hell out of their monopolized customers.

Somehow, the fact that the consent decree expired relatively recently doesn't seem like a coincidence.
posted by Malor at 10:45 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


50 percent of x percent of all tablets probably gives a more realistic picture of potential readership and what reading will be done on in the long run. Microsoft still has to figure out whether its investment makes sense, to buy into such a small percentage of overall tablet use.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:50 AM on May 1, 2012


Agreeing with folks who see cheap e-ink readers trending towards free. Lots of ways this could happen, like free with your Amazon Prime subscription, free with ads, free with your purchase of two full priced bestsellers, or just plain old free so we can lock you into our particular DRM'd walled garden.
posted by gwint at 10:51 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, jeez. I love my rooted Nook, but if this means future Nooks will be moving from Android to Windows 8 / Metro, I'll be leaving.
posted by tyllwin at 10:54 AM on May 1, 2012


To try to get a foothold in a new market, they'll abuse the hell out of their monopolized customers.

This really has nothing to do with antitrust law or competition policy. It would be a different matter if Metro offered some sort of interoperability and consequently bundling concerns, but offering a shitty GUI in one realm to familiarize persons with the interface in another is not a cognizable harm. Sure, Metro on the deskop promises to be total crap, but it would be just as bad if offered as the default GUI on the next Ubuntu LTS release.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:54 AM on May 1, 2012


most books will be read on LCD screens in the year 2020.

OLED more likely. LCD is transmissive and unlikely to ever be as power efficient.

However, Pixel Qi, perennial tease, is promising better than Retina displays in their next devices. The next generation of eInk is also looking very interesting: high resolution, colour, full video.

Display technologies are still very much in flux.
posted by bonehead at 10:54 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


the refresh rate on e-ink readers, and the inability to read e-ink in a dark room were the dealbreakers for me.

I have a nook color, and read with it always on "night" setting (white text on a black page), and I've never had eye fatigue problems.
posted by Lucinda at 10:57 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Display technologies are still very much in flux.

And in the future screen displays will face competition from alternative ways to get info into your brain: HUDs such as Google Glasses and, maybe, in the more distant future, cybernetic interfaces.
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:02 AM on May 1, 2012


I was turned off by the e-ink refresh rate at first, but it's improved with every generation of Kindle to the point where it's now no more disruptive than turning a page, and I've never been able to read books in the dark (for example, inside of a dog) so I don't object to that incapability.

I'd never want a textbook or reference book on the e-ink Kindle as it is, because browsing is nigh impossible, but when it comes to reading lengthy passages of plain text I'm a thorough convert.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:03 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


the refresh rate on e-ink readers, and the inability to read e-ink in a dark room were the dealbreakers for me.

I've never understood these complaints. Consider: "The refresh rate on books, and the inability to read ink in a dark room were the dealbreakers for me." E-ink is superior to books in many ways, but in these ways it is identical, so I don't see how these are legitimate critiques. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind seeing e-ink resolution catch up with the iPad's Retina display.
posted by stopgap at 11:05 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


This underscores how heavily the DOJ tilted the publishing industry in Amazon's favor with their antitrust lawsuits.

As for the e-ink/tablet debate, I was once a fan of e-ink but I've slowly converted to the most natural and convenient medium: audio. It's the perfect format for my iPhone, which I have on me at all times, it allows me to exercise while I read, I can read books more regularly, and I've found that my comprehension and recall are probably a few notches above what they normally are with the printed word. This is bad news for B & N as Amazon has a near-monopoly there as well (they own Audible).
posted by ejdrouillard at 11:08 AM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile our other resident expert thinks that dedicated eink readers will vanish

I'll take your word that he's an expert, but nothing he said is anything that anyone paying attention doesn't know. Yes, LCDs will eventually get better battery life. Yes, e-ink devices do one thing.

But they do it very well. I love the iPad, but if you get rid of e-ink devices right now you're left with a device, the iPad, that is much bigger, heavier, shorter battery life, can't be used outdoors, and cost 400 bucks. And you're telling me that can compete with the kindle for (most) people that read constantly?

I'm sure e-readers will eventually vanish for something, as does all technology, but I hope it's not for a while. Every time I hear someone claim the iPad can replace a kindle or similar advice I immediately know chances are they don't read much (novels, multiple, constantly).
posted by justgary at 11:12 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've not had the pleasure of trying out any nook as they're not available in the UK without paying a ludicrous markup for import (I'm a kobo touch user now, previous kindle).

I'll be surprised if the android-based nook color/tablets last long though. I'd expect some form of 7" ish ARM-based windows 8 RT device to replace it, with the nook app integrated into metro - and of course, a similar app to be available on windows 8 phones. Quite possibly with a version 2 based on medfield, intel's new competitor to cortex-A9 based devices - and with an x86 chip onboard, that opens up a whole ton of options for them for apps that windows 8 can't do on ARM.

Microsoft didn't have an e-book store AFAIK before this; now with the zune store for music/video, the microsoft store for metro apps they can round out the set with access to a live-integrated e-book store integrated from the get-go into the windows 8 launch. They surely didn't want to keep sending money to amazon via the kindle app!

They'll probably keep the e-ink readers going though.

Hopefully more e-book publishers get on the DRM-free bandwagon though, so we'll be able to easily port books between platforms without farting around with DRM-removal scripts.

I don't see e-ink - or its equivalent such as the pixel QI if they ever get their act together - going anywhere soon, for power reasons if nothing else. Plus eye-strain. LCD is not a replacement technology, and it's hard to see how it even can be. OLEDs on the other hand... but there's no way OLED tech is going to be price or power competitive with e-ink in the next few years.

Sure, plenty of people will have tablets, and read ebooks on them. But it's already been 5 years since the launch of the first iphone, and smartphones have been around a lot longer than that. Yet smartphones are only just breaking even with dumbphone sales - there's plenty of people out there who still prefer the long battery life and cheap, light devices even as smartphones get ever cheaper. I work with several who have no interest in the internet or apps in their pocket.

I have a 10" tablet, 5.3" galaxy note, far too many desktop computers, laptops, netbooks... Yet to read a standard book, it's always the kobo I turn to.

Sometimes simple is better.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:13 AM on May 1, 2012


Meanwhile our other resident expert thinks that dedicated eink readers will vanish
One of the chief unsung virtues of e-ink readers is that they are invisible to most children. The iPad and other tablets, on the other hand, tend to attract children like magnets. E-ink readers are also cheap, light, slim, and durable enough to toss in a briefcase, backpack etc. without much worry... you know, almost like a book.

Most of the current complaints about e-ink readers will be disappearing in a few years. Soon they'll be cheaper than a hardback book, they'll have touch screens the size of hardback (as standard), resolutions that will allow for high detail drawings/images (and eventually color), a UI and screen refresh rate that will allow you to 'flip through'/browse a book on par with a book, have front-lit screens for reading in the dark*, and have batteries that last several months.

And once you get all of the above, it shouldn't be too hard to make functions like email, web browsing, etc. fast enough without turning it into an expensive, eye-searing, digital arcade.

* This really isn't a problem now. You can buy a Kindle case with a built in light that is plenty bright. I prefer it with the case - it gives the Kindle a more satisfying size and weight, not to mention added protection and the appearance of a real book.
posted by Davenhill at 11:14 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Microsoft has so much money, they ape the competition throw it against the wall and see what sticks. 50/50 in a few years they quietly abandon B&N.
posted by stbalbach at 11:16 AM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Microsoft didn't have an e-book store AFAIK before this

Hmm...

Microsoft is discontinuing Microsoft Reader effective August 30, 2012, which includes download access of the Microsoft Reader application from the Microsoft Reader website. However, customers may continue to use and access the Microsoft Reader application and any .lit materials on their PCs or devices after the discontinuation on August 30, 2012. New content for purchase from retailers in the .lit format will be discontinued on November 8, 2011.
posted by Artw at 11:22 AM on May 1, 2012


On the other hand, I wouldn't mind seeing e-ink resolution catch up with the iPad's Retina display.

Dunno if you have one, but the nature of the tech means that, for just displaying text, you wouldn't gain much. The edges of the pixels are solid, not fuzzy, so they look like an LCD display at a MUCH higher DPI level.

High DPI would add a lot of cost, and it would be very nice for reading PDFs and other graphical information, but for just straight text, I don't think it would really be necessary.
posted by Malor at 11:23 AM on May 1, 2012


This underscores how heavily the DOJ tilted the publishing industry in Amazon's favor with their antitrust lawsuits.

As opposed to the way Apple tilted it their way with ibooks with the most favored nation clauses stopping anyone from undercutting them on price, so they could artificially push up prices in the iBooks store and avoid anyone undercutting them? I'm sure the publishers were crying all the way to the bank too.

At least now we'll have multiple vendors offering a variety of prices from a variety of stores. If you're on a iOS device, that also means you may be able to get the same book cheaper than from the official Apple store. Horrors.

And for those who read on neither a kindle or an ipad (yes, yes, all 3 of us) we get to buy books from all sorts of places and not pay the same price publishers think is suitable for the ipad market. Vendors even get to have sales! (And yes, sometimes I import digital books from the US as its often cheaper to pay the sterling/dollar conversion fees than the 'cross out dollars and put sterling' pricing most publishers adopt in the UK, plus the VAT)
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:27 AM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Microsoft is discontinuing Microsoft Reader effective August 30, 2012, which includes download access of the Microsoft Reader application from the Microsoft Reader website. However, customers may continue to use and access the Microsoft Reader application and any .lit materials on their PCs or devices after the discontinuation on August 30, 2012. New content for purchase from retailers in the .lit format will be discontinued on November 8, 2011.

the .lit format has been dead for years; last time I saw anything sold in that format was for windows mobile early last decade. Having an app - Reader - for a dead format is not having an ebook store.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:30 AM on May 1, 2012


This underscores how heavily the DOJ tilted the publishing industry in Amazon's favor with their antitrust lawsuits.

You draw this conclusion from the re-establishment of a well-funded challenger to Amazon's present market dominance?

All the DOJ has done to date is to pursue alleged illegal conduct - the publishers remain free to enter the ebook market directly, or through their agent(s), in any way that doesn't violate longstanding principles of US antitrust law.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:31 AM on May 1, 2012


bonehead: "OLED more likely. LCD is transmissive and unlikely to ever be as power efficient."

Sure, if you use black backgrounds everywhere. But for the way displays are used in the real world, OLEDs are power hogs.
posted by mullingitover at 11:40 AM on May 1, 2012


the .lit format has been dead for years; last time I saw anything sold in that format was for windows mobile early last decade. Having an app - Reader - for a dead format is not having an ebook store.

Just kind of interesting that they're finally tidying that up now.
posted by Artw at 11:41 AM on May 1, 2012


I've never understood these complaints. Consider: "The refresh rate on books, and the inability to read ink in a dark room were the dealbreakers for me." E-ink is superior to books in many ways, but in these ways it is identical, so I don't see how these are legitimate critiques.

I was comparing e-ink and LCD screens, not e-ink and actual paper books.
posted by Lucinda at 12:07 PM on May 1, 2012


In the meantime I use goodreader on my ipad and read on a black(text)/variable gray (background) setting.

I've written to Goodreader begging them to add EPUB support. Once they do, I can let go of Stanza (which chokes on jumbo PDFs) and finally have all my e-texts in one app.
posted by Trurl at 12:14 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Trurl: "I've written to Goodreader begging them to add EPUB support. Once they do, I can let go of Stanza (which chokes on jumbo PDFs) and finally have all my e-texts in one app."

Calibre can convert those jumbo PDFs to a variety of formats for you.
posted by mullingitover at 12:18 PM on May 1, 2012


Calibre can convert those jumbo PDFs to a variety of formats for you.

Not the ones whose pages are image files. Even the ones that are text get mangled beyond readability.

I don't blame Calibre. It's like trying to make an accurate flat map of the Earth.
posted by Trurl at 12:26 PM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can I bitch for just one second about how Amazon hired the guy who made stanza - best ios reading app EVAR - and when they did, I assumed that it was to help them make the kindle mobile app less terrible, and yet the kindle mobile app is still terrible! I don't even ask all that much: let me set the justification, and let me set it to green text on a black background, which I find handy for reading in the dark. Stanza guy gave us these and so much more when he gave us stanza.
posted by rtha at 12:44 PM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


And for those who read on neither a kindle or an ipad (yes, yes, all 3 of us) we get to buy books from all sorts of places and not pay the same price publishers think is suitable for the ipad market.

buy books? hahahahahahahahahahaha

good joke

wait, you mean it?

HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA
posted by Chekhovian at 12:57 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


kindle mobile app is still terrible

Hyperbole!
posted by smackfu at 1:12 PM on May 1, 2012


No way hyberbole! Look at this! Terrible!

By contrast, here's some text in stanza. To me, not terrible at all.
posted by rtha at 1:42 PM on May 1, 2012


This will be good if it results in real competition between Apple, Amazon, and NewCo. OTOH, if this is just a way for MS to get TabletWindows on a popular hardware base, it's going to suck. I can't imagine Ballmer allowing MS to sell an Android device, but since they only own 17%, they may get away with it.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:53 PM on May 1, 2012


They both look pretty terrible. The second one reminds me of jwz's blog.
posted by smackfu at 2:13 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, see the neat thing is, with the second one (stanza) you can change the font; you can change the line spacing; you can change the text and background colors; you can change the size of the font; you can change the alignment, hyphenation, and margins. You can change the paragraph spacing and the indent. So if you think the second one looks like shit: you can change it!

The first one, though - the kindle iOS app - well, you can change the size of the text; you can make it black or white; you can make the background white, black, or sepia. But if you hate giant holes appearing in the middle of lines because full justification is all you get, and if you hate the amount of the indent, too bad for you.
posted by rtha at 2:38 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why anybody thinks this is happening because Microsoft wants to compete on a level footing with Kindle.

It reminds me of Microsoft's promising to develop a .LIT reader for Franklin for their eBookman(see top center of box) in order to keep them from making a partnership with Rocket... And, of course, never delivering, citing "DRM concerns" - On a platform that had no known external communication capability and didn't even store it's OS locally (having to re-download it from the mothership every time it got reset).

Where's your flying car thriving ebook market? Microsoft stabbed it in the back ten years ago.

The question isn't "How will this make the world of ereaders better" - It's "How is Microsoft going to leverage this situation to screw over Amazon?"
posted by Orb2069 at 3:09 PM on May 1, 2012


I'm still holding out hope for an Android tablet with a Mirasol display, although those new full-color eInk displays look nice as well.
posted by feersum endjinn at 3:33 PM on May 1, 2012


They're essentially single-purpose devices, competing in a market with general-purpose devices

If single purpose devices are so doomed to failure why do we have games consoles as well as general purpose computers? Why do we have MP3 players as well as mobile phones which play MP3s? For that matter why do we still have SatNavs as well as mobile phones with built in navigation functions? Why do we have Hi-Fi separates? Why do most people still have a separate TV, DVR/cable box and BluRay/DVD?
posted by robertc at 3:47 PM on May 1, 2012


robertc: "If single purpose devices are so doomed to failure why do we have games consoles as well as general purpose computers? Why do we have MP3 players as well as mobile phones which play MP3s?"

MP3 Players Have Played Their Last Tune, Market In Decline

Poor Game Boy sales signal end of an era
posted by mullingitover at 4:35 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just for good measure--
Sony posts disappointing first-week PSP Vita sales
posted by mullingitover at 4:36 PM on May 1, 2012


One interesting side issue in all of this is Microsoft's continued efforts to assert patents against Android. There has been a lot of press about how they "make more money off Android phones than Google" and all of that sort of thing, but many of the settlements have been interesting.

A bunch of tiny companies no one has heard of have settled, HTC, a long term Microsoft partner, have settled. Samsung settled, and then Microsoft turned around a paid them millions of dollars to "advertise Windows Phone" a few days later. Microsoft had been trying the same with B&N and B&N where prepared to go to court over it now Microsoft buys a tiny stake in their ebook maker division for $300 million and as a side note we see that this new entity will pay licensing fees back to Microsoft.

So while drumming up a lot of press about everyone "licensing Microsoft technologies" and "Android not being free" what we seem to see if Microsoft paying companies to give them their own money back?
posted by markr at 4:48 PM on May 1, 2012


I've got no love for Microsoft, but it warms the cockles of my heart to see the Nook's strategic position strengthened. Amazon's vision of a world where all books pass only through Amazon's store and can be read only by Amazon's software on Amazon's hardware is not my happy place of the future. But you'll have to pry my Kindle out of my cold, dead fingers. Ooh, look, the Kindle's dictionary has an entry for 'cognitive dissonance'


Also: Nokia. Nook. It is possible that Microsoft just likes words that look like that.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:57 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also: Nokia. Nook. It is possible that Microsoft just likes words that look like that.

/logs on to E*trade, buys stock in Nokona.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:52 PM on May 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look at this! Terrible!

Why does Amazon insist on fully justifying text? I had to type in a secret code on my Kindle 3 to get it to display text ragged right.
posted by grouse at 6:58 PM on May 1, 2012


The Kindle does seem to give a weird set of options for formatting. If they want to keep it simple, they should keep it simple. Why would I want to alter the line spacing or the margins, but not change the justification?
posted by smackfu at 6:35 AM on May 2, 2012


mullingitover: MP3 Players Have Played Their Last Tune, Market In Decline

From that very article:
The sale of around 28.6 million devices is expected to generate a turnover of 2.6 billion euro.
It may be in decline, it's still generating a bit of revenue though.

Poor Game Boy sales signal end of an era

Global Games Consoles:
The performance of the market is forecast to accelerate, with an anticipated CAGR of 6.1% for the five-year period 2010-2015, which is expected to drive the market to a value of $36 billion by the end of 2015.
posted by robertc at 6:47 AM on May 2, 2012


There's an mp3 player in everything these days, including Kindles.
posted by Artw at 6:51 AM on May 2, 2012


Pixel Qi, perennial tease, is promising better than Retina displays in their next devices. The next generation of eInk is also looking very interesting: high resolution, colour, full video.

I wanted to add that there are Pixel Qi netbooks. The displays are color (for indoors) and greyscale (for outside). The main thing keeping me from buying one is that Pixel Qi's named partners of the "you can buy this netbook right now" qualification are not mainstream makers.

There is a Panasonic Toughbook that seems to have a Pixel Qi display, but it's ~$3k
posted by zippy at 11:06 AM on May 2, 2012


Oh dear, first one I checked had Paypal "Buy now" buttons.
posted by Artw at 11:10 AM on May 2, 2012


Heh, more amusing than anything else, but on the Microsfot selling Android devices front...
Android Ported to C#
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re: Pixel Qi

I had a Sony Clie with a transreflective sunlight readable LCD literally 10 years ago. It could play video etc. It was working great then. It seems like PQ has just been wheel reinventing here.
posted by Chekhovian at 11:59 AM on May 2, 2012


had a Sony Clie with a transreflective sunlight readable LCD literally 10 years ago. It could play video etc. It was working great then. It seems like PQ has just been wheel reinventing here.

Could the Clie do high res and bright backlit color as well?
posted by zippy at 1:14 PM on May 2, 2012


Yeah it was 320x480 ish in a palm pilot size and good color. Not as good as a modern display of course, but reasonable.
posted by Chekhovian at 2:32 PM on May 2, 2012


It's my belief that today's e-ink ebook readers are doomed to obsolescence within a short period — 2-3 years possibly, 5 years probably. This is because the power consumption of LCD displays is dropping and their quality is rising. e-ink devices are inherently incapable of displaying video, are lousy as web browsers due to the screen refresh time, and if you use them to play audio or do any intensive processing (such as running apps) their battery life drops towards that of a regular LCD-equipped tablet. They're essentially single-purpose devices, competing in a market with general-purpose devices
Maybe people who want to read a book don't actually want video? The price of E-ink systems will come down. A kindle is only $79 at it's cheapest form. It wouldn't surprise me to see them drop to $50, then $10. If I want to read a book then actually, I would prefer it not let me stop reading and go watch stupid youtube videos, or even surf the web.
posted by delmoi at 4:14 PM on May 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


My wife got a Nook about 2 years ago because she got a large B&N gift card collection. She put a few books on it and it basically just sat there doing nothing. She has a pretty significant collection of physical books. Last year, I got her a Nook Color for her birthday; she now has hundreds of books on her Nook Color (rooted with CM 7.2), uses it pretty much all the time, and generally gets tons of use out of it. As a result we have been able to get rid of approximately 80% of our physical books (replaced with digital versions.) Kobo reader combined with Calibre has worked out pretty well. The fact that it works as an actual android device is just icing, but it's very delicious icing. She seems to have no problems reading on that screen for extended periods of time. So I guess that's an anecdote...

I will be a bit disappointed if they start trying to put Windows on Nooks, but it's ok, I have discovered that there are some pretty decent 7" Android tablets out there in China land in the $100 - $200 range.
posted by Bonky Moon at 8:29 PM on May 2, 2012


Target to stop carrying Kindles.
posted by drezdn at 3:50 PM on May 5, 2012


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