Converting an iPad into a Paperless NotePad

In October last year e-Fun showed off their aPen A5 an iPad digitiser that converts the iPad into what looks like a very useable and convenient notepad… although I was somewhat surprised (suspicious) to see them using Byzero’s Studio Basic + iPad app, after all they must be a competitor? or are they using the same tech?

ByZero’s Studio i Pen looks a bit more up-market and has a sleeker looking design, but it’s $149, while the aPen A5 is expected to hit the market at $89-$99. Details on both pens are as rare as hen’s teeth and trying to track down a way to purchase Byzero’s Studio i Pen is almost impossible! (Amazon’s the only place according to Google)

So as expected with CES underway e-Fun are showing off the aPen A5 and surprise surprise they’re using the same artwork and marketing images as Studio i Pen? So it’s pretty obvious that theses are exactly the same products. So if you want to save yourself $60 grab the eFun aPen A5. Plus unlike the A1, A2, A3 & A4 models, the A5 doesn’t need a pad of paper to work, you write directly on the iPad screen.

e-Fun aPen A5

Bye-bye Kindle, E-reader Screens Coming for Netbooks

The snippet below is taken from an article on PC World

Netbook makers will soon play a larger role in the e-reader market if start-up Pixel Qi has anything to say about it.

The first Pixel Qi product, called 3qi, is a 10.1-inch netbook screen designed to work in three modes: a black-and-white e-ink mode for reading text documents and e-books, and two color modes, designed for use indoors or in bright sunlight, that are more suitable for Web surfing and video playback.

E-ink mode extends battery life by shutting off the backlight, and is intended for reading e-books, documents, Web sites or blogs and other text-based material.

more info:
Pixel QI Blog
Pixel QI
PC World

Kindle for iPhone

aha looks like Amazon are playing both sides of the fence, they said they’d offer the Kindle services in non-Kindle devices, but I don’t think anyone expected it to be so soon.

The iPhone app is free, so saves you forking out $360 for a Kindle, it can access all of the eBook content available on Amazon (although strangely you cannot do this through the application itself, you have to use the web browser), the application then copies the files from your account. A terrific feature named Whispersync, keeps your current location in a book in sync with the Amazon servers,  so those that own a Kindle can keep both in sync, including notes. Unfortunately it only reads Amazon’s proprietary formats and is limited to North America, but without having to worry about a hardware distribution chain for the iPhone app, this may be a simple way for Amazon to spread their Kindle market share worldwide, let’s hope so!

more info here:

Washington Post
Mac World
PC World

Will eBooks kill the publishing industry?

There’s no doubt in my mind that eBooks etc are the way forward and that eReaders will be the preferred reading devices, but it comes back to what you’re reading. Mobiles & devices like the iPhone are great for snippets of news or for catching up on something while you’re hanging around in a departure lounge, but for extended periods or for reading literature, while usable, they’re pretty poor, plus the batteries don’t last long enough. eReaders on the other hand are much better at this, but you wouldn’t want to rely on them for picking up your emails, plus they don’t exactly fit in your back pocket!? Also a major problem with eReaders, is that they’re too small… yes you did read that correctly.

You see, all but one of the eReader manufacturers are aiming at one specific market, they’re all trying to capture the paperback & published books market, but that’s not where the real uptake will be, I’ll explain later, but first let me ask you, would you take an expensive eReader instead of a paperback with you when you decide to chill out on the beach, (think of all that sand getting in your new shiny Kindle!) let alone leave it unattended tucked under your towel when you take a dip? no you wouldn’t. So that’s going to be a hard market to crack, not impossible, but more needs to be done, plus the average cost savings of buying an eBook compared to a paper book is marginal, so the benefits of an eReader aren’t worthwhile for most people. As to costs, publishers argue that the cost of an eBook is almost the same as a printed book, due to copyright & royalties etc, while the printing & distribution costs are minimal!?!? Personally I don’t believe this, nor do the majority of purchasers (although I’d happily post any data substantiating the publishers claims here, if they come forward with them). The record industry said the same for years about CD’s, but we all knew it was a crock (look how little they cost now!). Music sales had been declining for years before the CD came about, but they were a stroke of genius that kept the music industry going for years, a new crystal clear format that everyone bought into replacing the vinyl they’d already purchased! But the genie was out of the bottle, once they released a digital version it didn’t take long for wise consumers to realiee they could replicate the files themselves.

Publishing houses need to embrace the sea change, the potential eBook market is enormous, plus they should stop trying to make an outdated, centuries old business model work in a modern environment that is quickly leaving them behind, they should be jumping all over this opportunity not running from it!

So getting back to my other point, a much larger market is unpublished documents, white papers etc. The average business person reads 10 times as much unpublished material as they do published material, plus, of the published material they read, 75% is business related. So using those statistics, fiction or non-business related paperbacks read for enjoyment account for 2.5% of what the average business person reads! The majority of publishers and eBook manufacturers are all ignoring 97.5% of the market!! and I’m not even including news & newspapers, which is a major selling point of the Kindle. But the newspaper industry is another story which I won’t rant about here, you can read my thoughts on that here & here if you’re interested

Plastic Logic understands about this bigger market, which is why they’ve developed an eReader that is twice the size of most eReaders, as thin as the new Kindle 2 and is aimed squarely at the business & academic users, with an open file structure allowing the user to copy their own files so they can view powerpoint, word, excel, blogs, newsfeeds, lecture notes / slides, basic email etc unfortunately it won’t be launched until 2010. This is when the eBook & eReader market will become interesting, when business users, remote technicians & students can access all their documentation whenever & wherever they want.

eBooks won’t put publishers out of business, plus it won’t kill off authors revenues either. Some complain that it will be harder to get new authors published, but again the opposite is likely to be true, in the future “anyone can become and author” why would you need a traditional publishing house if you’re only going to distribute an eBook. Note I say traditional publishing house, there will undoubtedly be new types of publishing houses coming to the forefront, experts in adapting to the changes in new media & social networks and leveraging these platforms to promote new authors. We plan to build a platform ourselves as part of our nopaper group of companies & allow anyone to promote themselves or the authors they represent freely across our networks.

Plus there’s an entire untapped updates & addendum market out there, who hasn’t got an outdated lonely planet guidebook collecting dust on their shelves? next time you’re off, will you buy the whole book again, probably not, you’ll get by with the old book and more than likely buy a competitors as it has different info, but what if you could pay $1 for the complete updated version, who wouldn’t! or if you don’t want to pay for a whole guide book, you could just pay for the chapters that you want, ala iTunes and single tracks vs the entire album!

So I don’t see Amazon or eBooks killing publishing (Amazon needs publishers, without them they have nothing to sell), although I certainly see it killing off the way it does business now, but that’s great news for us all & especially aspiring authors, the opportunities, potential markets & revenues are enormous, anyone thinking of jumping ship away from publishing is mad, or blind to the opportunities, as those currently entering the market, will happily take their place & show them what they missed out on!

Fujitsu Explores eNewspaper potential at cafe

Fujitsu Ltd are testing coloured ePaper readers in a cafe in Japan.

Customers of “Termina Kinshicho Fujiya Restaurant” can pick up the terminals equipped with a color electronic paper module on the tables and browse newspapers and advertisements wirelessly sent to the terminals. The four companies will verify whether the electronic paper module can be accepted as a terminal for reading newspapers and other content, and whether the service can promote sales and boost customer satisfaction.

Users can read the newspapers by operating the terminal while waiting for their orders, or enjoy viewing the advertisements and timetables that are automatically switched to a different screen every several minutes when the terminal is not being operated, such as when the users are eating.

Full story here Tech On

The Kindle 2 vs Google Books

So what’s changed with the Kindle?

It’s thinner (thinner than an iPhone!), it’s has more memory, a 25% longer battery life, it can read to you (as long as you don’t mind Steven Hawkins or his twin sister reading to you that is) and thankfully, it doesn’t look like it was made in the 1980′s anymore.

What hasn’t changed. It still costs $359, it’s still only available in the USA, it’s still locked to a limited proprietary file format, it’s still tied to a wireless only subscription service.

Then Google come along and launch their GoogleBooks portal. Which if I’m honest is a library of 1.5 million copyright free books or documents that very few will actually read. It’s a bit of a half arsed attempt if you ask me. Books that have been scanned and converted to long bitmaps that you scroll through on your iPhone or Android Phone (ensure you’re on an unlimited data service, as bitmaps are much larger than free flowing text). From a user’s perspective the entire interface, search & delivery is appalling, something you’d expect from a DIY web enthusiast, not one of the world’s leading software development companies.

So all in all a disappointing day. Amazon haven’t given us much except a thinner better looking Kindle, while Google has released a service that is shockingly bad to say the least. Which is strange, as the eBook Reader market is potentially huge, yet neither of these mammoth companies seem ready to cash in on it. Granted Google doesn’t have a hardware offering to worry about, for them it’s content driven, but content nobody wants isn’t going to attract users. Amazon have hardware margins to recoup and make a slice from each book sold or newspaper subscription, but they’re not exactly pushing the envelope, they’re simply staying one step ahead of Sony.

Rather than strangle holding the Kindle with their wireless network & closed file format, they should open it up so users can also put their own content on the device. I know they’re trying to hold onto and control the subscription services, but that’s a very shortsighted approach, they won’t be able to hold onto that for long.

I guess we’ll have to launch our no paper services earlier than anticipated, that might rock the boat a little!

Various News snippets:
Telegraph: Kindle 2
Times online

Tech radar

Google put 1.5 Million books in reach of your iphone

Google Books

Media Revolution: Stop Press?

Tonight the BBC aired part one of a three part mini series entitled Media Revolution: Stop Press? for their Money Programme series, presented by Janet Street-Porter.

It was interesting to hear the views of Rupert Murdoch & Martin Sorrell… but I couldn’t help thinking they were still missing the point somewhat (although that could be down to editing). Rupert Murdoch stated “the world is changing and newspapers have to adapt to that, consumers want choice, it seems it is even harder to make profits from online publishing than from old-fashioned newsprint. With so many free news sites to choose from, no one seems prepared to pay money to read newspapers online.” I agree with most of this, but I still think that consumers will part with their money for convenience & good service (think music & iTunes), the current websites are focused around how convenient and user friendly it is for the newspapers themselves, they’re still expecting users to come to their websites, (how about when I’m not online? newspapers were portable!) and as to hoping advertising with fill the gap of non-subscription? it won’t!

Martin Sorrell stated “Many people say newspapers are going to die. I don’t think newspapers will die because they are the best way, or one of the best ways along with TV, of reaching large sections of the population… That’s not going away.” As the chief executive of advertising agency WPP who spend $70bn a year on newspaper & magazine advertising he would say that wouldn’t he?!

I don’t see how Martin Sorrell can state “newspapers & TV as the best medias for reaching large sections of the population” as the statistics speak for themselves, advertising revenues for newspapers has dropped 20%, and newspapers have lost 2.25 million readers in the UK this year alone! As to TV advertising, that’s in melt down as well, the major independant commercial TV networks are in serious trouble!

I have enormous respect and admiration for both of these gentlemen, both of whom are at the top of their respective games, but I feel that they’re somewhat misinformed or missing the real nub of the problem. Readers & viewers are leaving because they’re not being given what they want. The news content is still the same high quality, but they don’t want it delivered on paper and simply replacing it with a website covered in adverts isn’t going to do it either! You get what you pay for, or at least you should

For more details about the programme read this or visit the money programme page on the BBC website. If you’re a UK resident you can catch the episode again on 11 Feb 2.05am or on the BBC iPlayer here for the next 7 days.

No more newspapers, it’s the law!

OK not exactly, but hey we’re talking newspapers here, and they’re not exactly know for their restraint with sensationalised headlines! Anyway, here’s an interesting link I just picked up on Jeff Jarvis’s blog.

In essence using newspapers to post “Legal Notices” should now be a last resort not the default, as the circulation is deemed too small, or not covering enough of the population to be effective!

In a unanimous decision published Tuesday on the court’s Web site, Associate Justice William Clifford wrote that the practice of putting lawsuit notification in a newspaper began “when newspapers were the only means of print mass communication, and when newspapers were more widely and intensely read than is now the case … Because service by publication has become less likely to achieve actual notice of a lawsuit, it is also less likely to meet the requirements of due process.”

“We are forced to conclude that service by publication was not reasonably calculated to notify the defendant of the action and, although technically compliant with the rules, did not meet the requirements of due process.”

You get what you pay for, or at least you should

I could download music for “free” online, I could use peer to peer networks etc, but it takes time & quite a lot of effort to find what I want and the results aren’t always that good. So while I could get all my music for free, I instead pay for it all. Why? well for a start it’s legal (but let’s ignore that aspect for now), but mainly because “free” isn’t actually “free”, it takes a lot of my time to get what I want via peer to peer, so while I’m not handing over my hard earned reddies for the files, I am spending my time and that’s a far more valuable commodity, as I can’t get that back once I’ve spent it!

So using a service such as iTunes, in real terms actually costs me less! as I get what I want, when I want it, in a format that I want, that is convenient for me! and that last bit is the key, “convenient for me!”

Free news content spread out all across the internet is fine, but I have to invest my time & effort to get at it, so it’s not actually free! But that’s how I choose to get my news! why? because unlike iTunes that makes it convenient for me to get the music I want, news organisations make it difficult, they don’t want to play together, they insist on my coming to their individual uncoordinated websites, delivering content in formats that are no good to me, I want my news my way, I want it on my eBook reader, my mobile, my laptop, my TV, my handheld device, whatever I want, whenever I want it and in whatever format that’s good for me! Rather than embracing this approach, they’re afraid & running away from an iTunes equivalent for news, they don’t want to make it convenient for me the user, they want to make it convenient for themselves. If they continue with this insular view & down this route they will choke themselves, just like the music industry did.

This is exactly what we’re trying to do with no paper. As we say, the future isn’t newspapers! it’s news with no paper™, but they don’t want to change, they want to find ways to carry on producing tonnes on paper based content paid for with a shrinking advertising revenue, then when they see that isn’t working, they then bizarrely think that online advertising will support their online efforts, but it won’t! It’s all about delivering content with value worth paying for, it’s about being customer centric, it’s about good user experiences, it’s about ease of use, and most of all in this time constrained world, it’s about convenience for me! it has to be simple, a no brainer to use and all about me!

As I said, I pay for my music using iTunes because it’s convenient, I’d happily pay for my news content in the same way, so will millions of others!

Watch this space!

Amazon to reKindle it’s love affair with eBooks

Well it’s not exactly new news, but in case you’ve missed it, it would appear that on Monday 9th, Amazon will eventually announce the Kindle 2, whether they announce the much rumoured free “premium subscription” Kindle is anyone’s guess.

For more info, ahem, “rumours”, check out the links below.

Amazon to host press event at library, innocently whistling when asked about Kindle 2

Citigroup analyst says 500,000 Kindles were sold in 2008

Amazon rumoured to introduce Kindle 2 next Monday

Boy Genius Report:
Amazon Kindle 2 may be coming on February 9th

image from Boy Genius Report