Category Archives: Kindle

So an Amazon Tablet huh

Thought I’d take a minute to weigh in on the whole Amazon Kindle tablet thing now the buzz and punditry has kinda died down.

I’m interested, but still skeptical. I DO however LOVE my kindle 3 lest someone immediately jump to “Hater”

The touch model is uninteresting, I don’t see value in an e-ink touch screen. Even with improved refresh rate and such, I just don’t see a long term usability there. Add on the whole, “touch in the middle for menu, touch on the sides to change pages” thing, i just don’t see the use. in the long run. Typing might not suck completely but I’m guessing it’s not awesome.

The one with the D-pad but no keyboard. Ok but i think it’ll be only slightly useful. If nothing else entering wifi credentials is gonna suck, and I assume it still has note making capability, which will get old fast hunting and pecking across an on-screen keyboard. I do like the look of it, very clean. While I love my keyboard when I need it, it’s a definite space waste 90% of the time I’m using my Kindle. That 10% however is huge. I don’t surf the web or tweet (who are these people that bitch about the browser ON THEIR E-READER. YOu guys are doing it wrong) but I make lots of notes. Sometimes I share those notes out, most of the time I don’t. But I take lots of notes when I’m reading non-fiction. Since getting my K3 and seeing the shared highlights of others, it’s clear I’m not the only one. Tapping out a lengthy note to myself or observation on an on-screen keyboard that refreshes like e-ink… no thanks.

I hate typing my passwords on my AppleTV using the stupid remote, and dread when I need to do it on the PS3, all for the same reason. hunting and pecking via a direction pad is a terrible way to use a keyboard. So yeah the keyboard less one and the touch one likely will be huge to readers of fiction or those who see no value in adding any type of annotation. That’s not a criticism just an observation of usage.

Now the Nook color… oops the Kindle Fire I mean.

I don’t read on backlit things. I read way too much, and just can’t do it. I might read a page on my Xoom (kindle app) from time to time, but when it’s sit down and enjoy a book time, it’s not on a reflective backlit screen.

I love the size. The only thing RIM did right in the playbook in my opinion was the size. The OS was nice and had they executed in a way that in any way resembled a real world view of the market I have little doubt the playbook coulda been a real player. But that’s a different post. The size was great. It fit in my shorts pocket. My coat pocket, and the small outside pocket of my laptop bag(s). No I probably wouldn’t use it as an every day tablet for catching up on news feeds, or things like that. but for quickly reviewing email or twitter, for a quick (who am I kidding right) game of Angry Birds and such it’s perfect. The playbook had an incredible screen, I hope the Fire does too.

Watching things. My other big use case for any tablet is watching stuff. I’ll be leaving for Adobe MAX tomorrow and my Xoom is loaded with a movie or two and some episodes of TV I haven’t watched yet. Prior to the iPad and Xoom I watched stuff on my iPhone. The larger tablets are great, but my eyesight is fine, so a smaller screen is also cool. And the Playbook size screen i found to be just right. Not so heavy I get bored/tired of holding it up, and not so small I’m squinting to see the show. So I think the size of the Fire is a good choice and keeps it on my “I’m watching you” list. Had it been 10″ I probably wouldn’t care since I have the xoom. It does just fine.

Content is king. This applies over and over and you see things fail for this simple reason (cough RIM, HP, most android devices). Amazon unlike HP and android and RIM has content. It’s got amazon prime and cloud drive music. Remember why we all love our iDevices? The content and the ease of managing that content, and the ease of using that content. Amazon has a shot here. I thought HP did too, but frankly HP is clearly run by people who don’t get that it’s 2011 not 1992.

As Amazon adds more content to Prime, it gets more and more interesting to me. Since Netflix as a company is beginning to annoy me, I might just redirect my $ and attention to Amazon if they can get a bit more content. I know they compete but it’d be awesome if Amazon Prime VOD was added to AppleTV, that’d be a Netflix killer for me at least.

What wasn’t talked about and what I’ve said over and over in regards to Android vs. Apple user experience is the content management. Android is catching up a little with Google Music, etc but has a LONG way to go, and if your media isn’t in their cloud, it’s a PITA to get it on your Android device. Lock in… gotta love it. But if Amazon makes managing my on device content easy and seamless (even if it means a simple upload from iTunes to Amazon to download to device) way to manage the stuff on my tablet, well they may be the alternative to Apple that Android promised to be. Of course the Kindle aspect of the device much like the Nook aspect of the Nook Color, not at all interesting, but the device itself… hmm

Of course nothing at all was shown in relation to that type of thing which doesn’t fill me with warm fuzzies, BUT the Fire doesn’t even ship for 2 more months so…

So my haven’t-even-seen-or-touched-it-yet opinion. I’m cautiously optimistic. I didn’t pre-order anything and I’ll wait for some hands on reviews before I make an moves.

Did you pre-order? What’d you get?

What I think @jwikert misses about Ads in eBooks

I agree that there’s no real reason to not have ads in eBooks. If I can continue to pay what I pay for an ad free version, or pay 1/2 the price for an ad supported book, fine, why not. Some people (like Joe it seems) are totally cool with that. So long as the consumer get’s to vote with their wallet, I’m cool.

Here’s what I think Joe misses from the consumer perspective. I have 2 points

Yes the idea of special discounts is enticing, but we all know that won’t be what we get all the time. Sure to start there will be lots of $10 gets you $20 amazon gift cards, etc. But what about when it’s simply $5 off pampers, or “Check out this new thing, special low price” or worse “Your ad here, advertise to thousands”.

That’s point 1. The ads won’t always be awesome special deals that you’d get no matter what. They’ll become ads. i know this because if nothing else, the wording says so. “…Sponsored screensavers…” that says nothing about special deals, or discounts, or coupon codes. Sure they’ll be there, some will be good (Joe’s fooling himself if he thinks these awesome deals will ONLY be on this platform, the great deals will be available elsewhere), most I’d argue will be “New Ford F150 go buy one!” No discount, nothing, just an ad. Mostly an ad for things we don’t want or care about. Their ads, how many  commercials do you watch these days?

 

Point 2 is. In exchange for being marketed to every time I put my kindle to sleep (so it’s really every time I pick it up and put it down) I save $25 dollars on a kindle? My attention is worth far more than that. For such a trivial amount of money I’m selling my attention, and short of buying a new kindle, there’s no way I can change my mind. Let’s face it, if you’re buying a kindle, $25 is nothing. If you’re so cheap $25 is a make or break the deal point, you won’t be buying a kindle in the first place. Why not sell the ad supported kindle for $50, that’s enticing. That’s a low barrier. Kindle buyers aren’t looking to save small bits of money. Publishers have ensured we’re usually paying more for eBook, than for dead tree now.

 

I won’t go into ad fulfillment, but how many times can you see an ad for the new F150 before you hate Ford?

By the way, Joe and I have met, he’s an awesome guy, and we mostly agree on ebook stuff, lest someone think this is a snarky attack. It’s not.

Read Books, it’s Good For You!

I’ve known this anecdotally for a long time. I think it extends beyond bloggers needing to read, and read fiction. It applies to every single person, everywhere.

The points outlined in the article all speak for themselves, so i don’t need to re-hash those.

Reading is good for you. Reading anything is better than nothing, but like all things, there needs to be a balance.

Reading only business books, is no better than reading only comic books. I haven’t read as many business books of late, but still keep 1 or 2 around at any given time, just to keep my brain working on business, I went through a phase where I read mostly business books, and fiction was the minority. Right now it’s the opposite, but that changes as availability of good fiction changes.

Read too many or only business books, and I think you lose an edge. Creativity. Business books, like business school (which I’m against) tell you how things have been done, what’s worked for someone else, how you should do X and Y and how you shouldn’t. Fiction opens your mind to possibilities. Sure i can’t sick a dragon on my competitors, but reading fiction at least keeps my mind able to consider other options.

Creativity is as valuable as knowing how Lou Gerstner brought IBM back, and unless your next job is running IBM, I’d argue that creativity, and a mind open to new thoughts is better than knowing how Lou did what he did.

This relates to the “I don’t have time to read” crowd. You’re fooling yourself, I’m sure you think it makes you look cool, and important that your every waking hour is consumed with something, but really you look like a Douche, and at least to me, and probably most ‘readers’ look like an imbecile. There’s time in the day for everything, and reading is one of those things you should make time for, maybe not daily, but heck, reading a page a week is still better than not reading a page a week…

 

Go grab a book, and be a better person, in business and in life.

Dear Google and Motorola, you’re doing it wrong

My friend Justin tweeted this and it really called out something I had noticed the first time I saw the Moto Xoom commercial. Motorola (and by extension Google) are doing advertising WRONG.

Below are the commercials for the Xoom, and the iPad. Notice anything? Motorola spends their time with spaceships, and flashy weirdness, some dude looking around the cockpit of a space pod, talking about technology specs (as a geek this appeals to me, but I’m the minority. I don’t need an ad to decide to buy something) and showing perhaps, 10 seconds of actual device screen, and most of that is a game. I get that the commercial is aimed at showing the game playability of the Xoom. Great, that commercial should be 3-4 down the line. Establish the device as usable first, then highlight game play (if you have to)

Now look at the iPad commercial.

Notice anything? It spends the entire time with nothing but the device. The hands belong to someone, but we don’t need to see him, nor do we need to see him approach the chair, look bewildered about the iPad just sitting on the chair unattended and then sit down, look around some more, be amazed at the quality of the chair’s leather, appreciate the stitching, etc, etc. We see hands using the iPad to do a number of things. Not one thing, many. Sure IMO they’re mostly stupid things I almost never do on my iPad, but the point is, they show how to use the iPad.

Motorola, fire your ad firm. Hire someone who’s at least used an iPad, and hopefully someone who’s used a Xoom. I know there isn’t a lot of apps made just for the xoom, that’s fine, the iPad commercial focuses on all built in apps. Sure later ones have focused on third party apps, but launch commercials are just the apps Apple shipped it with. Surely there’re enough built in honeycomb apps to make a 30 second commercial. Heck look at Apple. Photo viewer, video player, maps, calendar, etc. Nothing crazy, nothing flashy or “OMG THAT APP IS ON A TABLET!!!!” just everyday use apps.

 

I almost wonder if Motorola hired the same firm HP did with the pre commercials? I’m sure some ad wonk Don Draper wannabe will explain the ad is less about the device and more about the futuristic feel of it, or some ad wonk bullshit. That’s not what sells things in 2011. Maybe it did in the 70s and 80s when consumers (no offense mom and dad) were a bit more stupid and easily confused, but that’s not how it works now. LEARN OR DIE.

 

In Which i disagree with @elleinthecity, Borders closing, not the end of reading.

I love books, just ask anyone who knows me. I read a lot. I still have a wall of paper books I re-read from time to time, and I have my Kindle (and of course the various iOS Kindle apps!). Books are as a big a part of my life as anything else is. I thank my mom for bribing me to read and do book reports in exchange for new GI Joes.

It makes me truly sad that we’re losing Borders, that Powell’s had to lay-off some of it’s employees, but the reality is, it’s 2011. Books in their old form are making less and less sense. Publishers of course refuse to see this truth. Neither can places like Borders who chose to ignore eBooks.

Reading isn’t dying, books are. Paper books to be specific. Don’t get me wrong, that makes me sad too, i love the feel of a book in my hands. But time’s they are a changin’ and the smart money isn’t on fighting the future, it’s about embracing it.

Remember The Warehouse? Tower Records? They’re gone, music isn’t. Remember Hollywood Video? Blockbuster? They’re gone, movies aren’t.

It’s the same thing, every single time. Over and over again, we see posts like (not surprisingly written by someone in Publishing) this bemoaning the march of time, the march of technology as the greatest sin ever to be committed against society.

Publishing needs to see the writing (pun intended) on the wall, and adapt. Fighting this forward movement, is like fighting the tide. Just ask the CEO’s of Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, Tower Records, et. al. Don’t fight your customers, don’t make adapting to the future something your customers have to make a “us or them” choice.

Yes a street without bookstores is a sad street. Let’s not be melodramatic either. Book stores like Borders will go away, used book stores, classic bookstores, will thrive, as they always have. Publishers, should be embracing technology, making people WANT to buy eBooks.

Amazon and Publishing are killing eBooks with 1000 cuts.

My Kindle, which I love and carry with me everywhere I’m likely to be reading, is dying. It’s dying a slow death from a thousand cuts. I used to buy a new eBook from Amazon almost weekly. Sometimes I’d buy 3-4 at a time to have at the ready. Now I look thru the $0.00 section, and the $.99 self publish section (Shout out to Christian Cantrell. Go read his stuff. Yes, that Christian Cantrell from Adobe, LOL. He writes awesome Sci Fi Short stories)

Looking at these screen shots, what incentive is there for me to buy the eBook version. Bear in mind, I have free shipping with Amazon prime. Though even with shipping, if I wasn’t in a hurry, regular shipping doesn’t cost much, and is often free if I’m in no hurry.

So really where’s the benefit of buying an eBook? Less than $3 dollars savings? Really? Over a paperback in two cases?! The middle book isn’t released yet, should we guess how it’s paperback price will look compared to the Kindle price?

This is such a huge fail, and it’s Amazon, and the Publishing Industries’ to share. They’ve both taken what was IMO a promising start to revolutionizing publishing, and forced it back into 1980.

I know Amazon lost (way to stick to your guns and fight for your customers) and caved to the publishers, but now rather than use their new found power (i’m talking about the publishing companies) to find a reasonable balance in price and deliverable, they’ve run the price right back up to where it makes no sense at all for the consumer.

It feels like they’re trying to kill ebooks, by making them not worth the price. Way to be green publishers.

Green? Yeah green. By making eBooks so unattractively priced, the Publishing industry in encouraging our continued attack on the environment. Maybe they hope earth will choke on green house gasses before they have to come to terms with technology and the changing landscape of publishing? If we’re all too busy gasping for air, we won’t notice that books are to blame. (Yes that’s over the top, but illustrated my point)

On top of this completely retarded pricing, that more or less incentivizes me to purchase a dead tree copy of all three books, each eBook is DRM’ed. Each of these are listed with Text-Speach disabled. So not only am I paying an outrageous price for my eBook, but the publishers are telling me to fuck off, I get no actual features that make an eBook great. And of course, I can’t use the eVersion outside the kindle.

So I pay pretty much the same price for paper or eBook. Yet with paper I can sell the book to a used book store, loan it to n number of friends, give it away, keep it for the next 30 years, etc. Where as with the Kindle version (this is aimed at you completely Amazon) I can’t loan it out, I can’t sell it, I can’t gift it, I can’t have my Kindle read it to me while I fold clothes, and should the Kindle platform die, I can’t even re-read it. Where’s the incentive in buying the eBook version?

Amazon, you came so close to crushing it. Really, you were right there. the Nook, sucks, IMO. Most of the other craptastic devices being crapped out every other day, by mostly no name vendors stand no chance at ever being anything more than Marginal. You were the market leader. Now… my Kindle is full of things I’ve downloaded off the web. Not pirated content, tho that’s an option, but content i can get from free from sites like instapaper, the Calibre desktop app, etc.

Sorry Amazon, I’m not giving you or these lame ass publishers money. It only encourages this terrible anti-consumer behavior. One of both of you will learn, and it appears it’s gonna have to be the hard way, for you and consumers. Way to go.

Authors; Tery Brooks, John Scalzi, George RR Martin, Jessica Livingston, John Birmingham, et. al. Stand up, you’re impacted just as much as consumers. It’s not 1980 any more, times change, help your publishers figure that out. If I could pay you all directly, for an open, DRM-free eBook file, I’d do it in a heartbeat!

iPad….. nice but not magical, yet (my Review)

So I’m writing this on my iPad. I’m not feeling the magic. (update, i had to save it so I could edit on my Macbook, else this post take would’ve taken 40 years to write)

Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty, but not useful. Yet.

And before you decide I’m just an Apple hater, let me lay out my credentials for those that don’t know me.

I own:

Unibody Macbook, 2 Minis, 3 iPods (including an iPod Photo), 2 iPhones, 1 iPad, 2 Airport Express, 1 Airport Extreme, my wife has a white plastic macbook.

I’ve Previously owned:

a Macbook Pro, Newton 110, Powerbook 510, Performa.  I think it’s safe to say my fanboi-ness is secure.

That out of the way.

The iPad is a very pretty device, and if your life (as some do) revolves around reading websites, watching videos, and …. well that’s it. Checking email I suppose too. Then the iPad is the perfect toy for you (albeit, for those simple tasks, the price IMO is a bit steep).

I tried. I didn’t write this review the night i got my iPad, I didn’t write it Sunday night, I waited and actually tried to do things I’d normally grab my Macbook for.

First I went up on my deck, to get some sun, and enjoy working outside. Since I was just gonna reply to a few emails, I grabbed the iPad.

  • While I enjoy seeing myself, i don’t want to watch my face as I type emails. That’s easily fixable though, so it’s not a knock. Why Apple is obsessed with uselessly glossy screens is beyond me.
  • First I tried holding it and typing with my thumbs. I prefer landscape mode, and have locked it in that orientation. I have big hands, so it’s quite possible, but not a long term thing. Then I set it in my lap, as many have proclaimed is the perfect use case… I got a sore neck. By this time I’d responded (lengthy responses sure) to two emails. Perhaps if I invested in a $40 (?) case from Apple that i could sit on our patio table, and use? Or buy a Bluetooth keyboard?
  • One email I needed to send an export of attendee data to. I couldn’t. The export is .xls of CSV. kudos to Mobile Safari for opening the .xls and showing me, but I needed to send it to some one. Sure the iPhone doesn’t support this, but if the iPad is a revolutionary bridge device between my iPhone and a laptop, I expect a few laptop like things to be there.
  • Of course since I can’t run two things at once, I had to close out mail.app mid compose to look up a discount code for a sponsor. Close mail, open safari, go to eventbrite, copy the code, close safari, open mail.app
  • Then I thought I’d take a break, check on my Kingdom and my weird little people on Planet Wilker. Thankfully the display is so crisp and bright, it overpowers (mostly) the sun, so i could actually enjoy those games.

Last night I went to a user group meeting, taking only my Mifi and my iPad.

  • The auto brightness doesn’t seem very responsive, so I was routinely blinded when loading something with a white screen in the darkened room. No biggy really, annoying a little, sure, but not a “Damn you Apple”
  • I had two tasks I was hoping to get done, or at least get started, while listening to the presentation. Write an email to attendees of 360|iDev (thru eventbrite.com’s email feature), and compose the last speaker email to speakers at 360|iDev using mailchimp. The result. FAIL. Both websites use HTML based text editors, apparently not the html web that Apple supports. Kinda crappy. Can’t use Flash, can’t use some HTML…
  • So I spent the UG meeting, not using my iPad except to occasionally tweet, and that was only because my iPhone was in my pocket

I’ve tried to replace some of the things I do on my iPhone and my laptop

  • I completely understand why Apple made the iPad support iPhone apps. It’s nice to launch and crow about 100k + apps. I have yet to use an iPhone app on the iPad that wasn’t completely and utterly fail. Why use it in 1x mode? I’ll just fire up my iPhone. In 2x mode, no app escapes the ugly tree. I understand the logic, but think Apple should have given developers more time to get their apps ready. I mean really, no facebook app? Hell, the mobileMe app… uh Apple. I know you want me to shell out $30 for the iWorks, but I’d love to be able to access my mobileMe account in a native iPad app, how about that?
  • I think the iPad will be much more interesting 3 months from now. Now that developers have an actual device to test with, those that (I can’t blame them) waited to actually use the device before building apps for it, will begin releasing apps. Right now the iPad app store is woe-fully anemic… well maybe not if you’re independently wealthy, and can afford every $9.99 app, LOL. Even then, there’s only a small list of apps I’m buying later, as I feel richer. Most of the apps I want, aren’t there.

Yeah Apple is about the experience, I agree, and sure surfing the web is very nice, if you only want to surf the web and consume. If you actually want to create… well so far the iPad hasn’t done much to support creation. I read one review that gushed and gushed about how awesome surfing the web is. OK sure, but I don’t spend my day complaining about surfing the web now.

So what do I like?

  • The feel of it. It’s a nice piece of equipment. The screen (once covered in a smudge/glare free cover) is awesome. Sure I’d like to not have letterboxing when I watch a movie but whatever, that’s a first world problem, and not that important to me.
  • The OS, it’s the iPhone OS, which while I wish wasn’t so closed off, and anti-hacker (Pro user), it’s an easy OS to understand.
  • The Apps. iPad apps, are nice. They use the screen really well. Those that will shine are the ones that didn’t simply recompile for the larger device.
  • The future potential. The iPad right now, for me is a cute toy that gets attention, and let’s me play a few games, and waste time. The iPad in 6 months, could seriously kick ass. There will be more apps that are useful, there will be (Please Apple, it’s kinda obvious) some way for me to work on files in mobileMe (or Googledocs) over the cloud. Screw this dragging files into iTunes, and back and forth. It’s 2010 Apple, you have a cloud storage service, that people are paying money for now. Tie that in to your devices!

What don’t I like? (and please, you don’t have to agree, I welcome your opinion, but if Apple makes you happy with what they deliver, don’t try to tell me what I should be happy too)

  • It’s a bit heavy. Not really a “Bad mark” but it’s not light.
  • The video app needs an update. Looking at my movies, it’s fine to see the thumbnail and name. Looking at TV shows. A thumbnail from an episode, isn’t helpful. I had 6 icons. Some Seinfeld, some Big Bang Theory. No labels. I had to open one up to see that it was the folder for a season of that show. I like the breakdown by season, that’s nice, but not having any visible clue, it’s like hunting around to find the show you want to watch.
  • The single port. This is totally an Apple thing, and I wasn’t surprised, that they’d only have a dock connector, and sell $29 things that plug into the dock connector. Doesn’t mean I think it’s ok.
  • The lack of Flash. I don’t actually miss Flash THAT much, because I’ve had my iPhone for a while. I think flash on the iPhone isn’t really a deal breaker. But the iPad is another device entirely. I expect on a media consumption tablet, that I could hit up Hulu, or youtube (fuck having a separate app, that’s lame), or any of the what? 80% of the web that uses flash to deliver content. It’s a business play pure and simple, and as a business person, I can’t find fault. As a consumer, hacker, and person who tries to see thru bull shit, I think it’s weak sauce. “Open Web”, my ass, it’s the “Apple Web”, and them trying to come off like it’s anything but a power grab, is disingenuous at best.
  • the iPad of now. If 360|iDev wasn’t the weak after iPadmas, I probably would have waited. It just doesn’t do anything I can’t do now with the tools I have. I don’t need “an semi-adequate alternative” I need a “solid replacement”… the iPad isn’t there.