Monday Ebooks: Updates Edition


Welcome to Monday Ebooks, in which the Editrix indulges her most harmless delight in ebooks (and the gadgets used to read them!).

Two of the leading ebook readers have announced software updates that extend the functionality of their devices.

Barnes and Noble nookBarnes & Noble has released an update to nook’s software. New functionality includes the ability to read any ebook, for free, for an hour each day, while in a Barnes & Noble bookstore; the addition of sudoku and chess games; easier wifi connectivity to passworded networks; improved dictionary lookup; the ability to preorder ebooks from the device; and a big addition, limited web surfing (while connected to wifi only) using the color screen–which, while we haven’t tried it *makes puppydog eyes at Laurel Ann* we imagine is not unlike surfing the web on a modern touchscreen smartphone–as well as the larger eInk screen. (Also; click on the photo at left to see what book is displayed!)

B&N has also produced a nook television advertisement, the first advertisement it has run in more than a decade. (Note the “college” age book!)

Kindle 2Not to be outdone, Amazon has announced an upcoming firmware upgrade to Kindle and Kindle DX, due in May, which includes password protection, improved native PDF support, more fonts and font sizes, the ability to share passages via Twitter and Facebook (how fun!), public posting of most-shared passages (George Orwell, he spins), and in our opinion a huge improvement, collections. Sony Reader already has this functionality, and most of the lesser-known readers have it as well, which allows users to keep a very large library on their device and organize it easily. With unconnected devices that act more or less like flash memory, it’s just like creating folders on a flash drive or (for you old-school types) a floppy disk. This is obviously problematic with a device, like Kindle or nook, on which books are downloaded over the air, since the user does not have access to organize files into folders. By having Collections, the user can organize their books into sets that make it easier to navigate books on the device.

We’ve become extremely fond of Kobo of late (and plan a full writeup for a future Monday Ebooks). We have the app loaded on our Palm Pre, we use the web app on our home PC, and purchased ePub books work beautifully on our EZReader Pocket Pro, and we imagine any device that supports Adobe Digital Editions for DRMed books. Kobo has really embraced a device-agnostic approach, and in fact is the only retailer that has created an app for the WebOS smartphone platform; though with the recent acquisition of Palm by HP, we expect that situation to change! (More on that in a future Monday Ebooks as well!) Kobo was also pretty much the only retailer that had all ebooks by all publishers available to purchase on April 1, Agency Day (yes, that’s yet another future Monday Ebooks post).

Kobo ReaderWhile Kobo happily embraces and supports a multitude of existing devices, they also have announced their own eInk device, the Kobo eReader, which has begun shipping in Canada, where it is available online and at Indigo and Chapters bookstores. In the U.S., it will be available “this summer” both online and in Borders stores. The device appears to use the same hardware from the manufacturer Netronix that powers the Cybook Gen3, Cool-ER, and Astak Mentor devices, among some others; but they’ve improved the outer shell and added Bluetooth for connectivity to smartphones (at this time only supporting BlackBerry, but one presumes it will support all Bluetooth smartphones eventually). They’ve also created extremely elegant firmware; like the website and phone apps, it gives an almost, dare we say, Apple-like aesthetic experience. The best thing is that the introductory price of the device is extremely competitive at $159 (that’s Canadian and U.S.–hey, we’re pretty much at parity these days anyway). (And again: click on the image to see a larger version–look what book they are using on their packaging! Who says all this gadget stuff doesn’t relate to Jane Austen?)

If you’re at all interested in ebooks, this video featuring Kobo VP of Content, Sales & Merchandising, Michael Tamblyn, is long but fascinating.

That’s it for now for Monday Ebooks. Please feel free to add any links or news about ebooks in comments, or just talk about ebooks (which are nice, too!).

3 thoughts on “Monday Ebooks: Updates Edition

  1. Biggest perk of NOOK according to all the geek type Microsoft nerds that frequent my store is the Android opperating system. Heroine junkies look tame compared to these folks when they have locked and loaded on a new techno gadget. They get all giggly and googly eyed and start talking to each other in another language! I just shut and let them play. I’m just the dumb blonde that sells books.

    Glad to know that the beta web access only works with wifi. Something that I was not informed of by my employer. Can I also post all my challenging customer questions to the editrix instead of calling the tech line? 😉

    The internet surfing is in black and white with color on the touchscreen and no java scripts. You have to toggle around quite a bit, but it is great for checking your email, getting directions off google maps or other spurts of info. It is a different experience than surfing from your computer.

    Interestingly, of all the new features on the upgrade I get more happy looks and questions about the games than how much memory or other such techie stuff. Everyone has their favorite. So far scrabble, tick tack toe and solitary are winning. (Hey. I thought this was an eReader not gameboy centeral!)


    • More likely Linux geeks than Microsoft geeks, tho’ you are in Gates country up there…which makes me realize that you are flogging nook on Jeff Bezos’ very doorstep, you sly creature! However, Android (and Palm’s WebOS) are both based on Linux, and therefore eminently hackable. That was part of the excitement around nook when it was introduced–the Linux and Android geeks were all “HACK!” And I’m pretty sure it has indeed been rooted.

      I remember reading an article on one of the gadget blogs a little while after the first Kindle was released wondering why Kindle hadn’t yet been hacked. Thing is, who would pay all that money for a device just to hack it? You buy a Kindle for reading books, and it does that admirably without help. You can buy much cheaper devices to hack that you can do more with. The little color screen on nook is more worth hacking, but it still seems to me that the functionality of the eInk screen is a bit limited. Might as well get a Nexus or cheapie unlocked G3 and play with that, to my mind. But I guess the hacker mind thinks “hack” without necessarily having a particular functionality in mind. They just want to mess with it on general principles.

      And I see I got a couple things wrong in my post about the nook update, so I’ll make the corrections–thanks!


  2. Of all the nice upgrades and such, the two I like the “collections” and the device working with simple wi-fi. It’s a nightmare to browse your books on the Kindle without being able organize them. I’ve resorted to deleting read books off the device so that I can better browse the ones I haven’t read yet.

    And I also have resorted to reading more ebooks on my iPod Touch, simply because it’s so much easier to get the ebooks on there. I live in a non-whispernet area, so any ebooks I want to put on the Kindle, I have to USB them over. The Kindle has a far superior reading experience, but the ease of getting ebooks on the iPod generally wins out.

    Thanks for your update Mags. I will have to look more into Kobo. I look forward to next Monday Ebooks!


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