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 & 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!)
Not 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).
While 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!).