Although I’d definitely take a paperback over my tablet as my medium of choice to read a novel, one can’t argue the convenience of a single device that can carry all the books you’d ever want to read. That’s why I’ve been steadily growing my ebook collection — being able to carry every tome I intend to digest this year in a jacket pocket, just makes sense. The ebook game is now in a hot innings, with new heavy hitters like Google Play and even India’s Flipkart taking to the field. So I thought it’d be interesting to see what Kobo had up its sleeve.
Known for manufacturing affordable dedicated ebook readers, and for going up against the likes of Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes’ and Nobles’ Nook devices, Kobo has now made its debut in the Play Store with a bookstore-and-reader combo app that promises to deliver a comprehensive reading experience on your smartphone or tablet. With a wide range of titles, cross-device content and bookmark sync, and a clean flat interface, Kobo sure looks like it’s up to bat — but can it score a home run? I spent a couple of weeks with the app to find out.
Books are amazing. They can thrill, sadden, educate, inspire and amuse with only the words they hold. For bookworms like me, the introduction of e-reading only further broadened the opportunities to be captivated by prose, particularly given the considerable selection of public domain titles which are freely available to download.
There are quite a few apps which provide access to these ebooks, as well as offering the option to sync your reading progress between multiple devices — Kobo and Amazon’s Kindle being the most prominent examples to be found in the Play Store. Over on iOS, though, another e-reading app has been making all the waves.
It goes by the name of Readmill, and it has already gained a cult following. Now, it has landed on Android – but does it have enough to push aside more familiar Play Store offerings?
Last week we had Nexus 7s and Chromecasts. This week, the fun rolls on with Kindle Fire rumours and Google Glass expansion. Let’s take a look at what’s been going on! (more…)
Today, Amazon is holding a press conference. We’re not entirely sure what’s going to be announced, but rumour has it that the company is planning on showing off at least one new Kindle Fire tablet, possibly two (7-inch and 10-inch), and maybe even an Android-powered “Kindle phone”. (We may also see a new e-ink Kindle, but presumably that wouldn’t be running Android.)
Okay, the phone doesn’t seem too likely, but now that Google has released the Nexus 7 it’d be a smart move for Amazon to release an update to their budget Android tablet. As I said at the time, “the presenters made it very clear – without ever actually saying the word ‘Amazon’ – that the Nexus 7 is going after the Kindle Fire market. They spent a long time talking about the Google Play Store, emphasising that it sells movies, books, and songs, not just apps and games.”
Living in the UK, I’ve never even seen a Kindle Fire – they’re only sold in the USA – but I found it interesting to read the opinions of others. Many review sites criticized the device for having a poor build quality and confusing UI (compared to the iPad), but I noticed that many actual people said that they loved it, or that their non-techie friends and relatives (who didn’t want to shell out for an iPad) loved it.
I expect great things from a second Kindle Fire. Google and ASUS have proven that it’s possible to produce a high quality Android tablet at a budget price, and Amazon have proven that once they’ve shown a piece of hardware has a place in the market, they can make it truly great by iterating on it. The first generation e-ink Kindle was pretty ugly, but popular; the second was a great improvement; and the third nailed it. I have one myself. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a good buy.
This week saw me performing a factory reset on my device, so I viewed this as an opportunity for a good app clear out. Often I download apps purely because they’re ‘nice to have’ rather than because I’ll actually use them. I was, however, quite surprised to notice quite how many apps I had downloaded, and interested to note how many I do actually need and use.
This little selection of apps are those that have been particularly relevant to me this week. I probably won’t keep them all in weeks to come, but there’s a couple that are certainly a little underrated.
As someone who is a little less than three years out of grad school – and after doing 20 years of school straight – I still like to look at how technology can affect education. (It might also help that I am employed by my alma mater.) I’ve been thinking a lot about the ebook market lately and how it can change the way students learn – or at least how they buy textbooks.
Ebooks and self-publishing are making it easier than ever to get information out there very affordably, for both the publisher and the customer. Kindles and iPads alike are great tools for students, and Apple even released a tool called iBooks Author, which aims to make it easier to produce interactive textbooks for the iPad. However, I think the Kindle Fire (and entire Kindle family) is better poised to take over the e-textbook market.
Last month, Nathaniel Mott told us why manufacturer’s custom skins should disappear. I and many others were quite excited for the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, hoping to catch a glimpse of the next generation of Android handsets running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but collectively, I think we were disappointed. Why? Certainly not because of the specs, or even the design, but because of the skins.
If we take a look at the HTC One X, it’s not an incredibly ugly phone when it comes to user interface, but it’s nowhere near as well designed as stock Ice Cream Sandwich. It seems that the phone makers have taken Android’s open, versatile nature to mean it is there for them to mess up.
I’m going to be totally upfront with you: I’m as big a fan of Amazon as I am of Google. I think they do a lot of great things, including MP3 selling, digital video streaming, app sales, and of course, e-readers. I’ve had my Kindle for about 2 years, and love it. When I read a print book, I sometimes miss the Kindle for its ease of use and annotation capabilities. It’s true that a lot of people haven’t jumped on the e-reader bandwagon (most of my students, college freshmen, don’t like them), but I think Amazon has a good opportunity to change that with their latest Kindles.
Amazon is going to be bringing out a tablet soon, and TechCrunch got the scoop on the details. We’ll go over the specs in a moment, but what’s important is that it’s a 7″ Kindle successor that runs a heavily modified port of Android – without the Market. But, honestly, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this Kindle tablet will not equal the iPad’s price, nor surpass it. It will cost just $250.
The Kindle is an extremely popular device, even if not in sales numbers. While I don’t personally own a Kindle, I know people who do and they love their device when it comes to its primary purpose: e-reading. And it’s became very evident that Android’s chance at success is not trying to “kill” the iPad, but trying to target specific markets, like the Kindle does.
I think Android is failing in the tablet market, and I don’t think they are going to improve fast enough to turn a profit. However, I also think there’s a massive potential for Android to move into brand new markets and take over the world. (more…)