Posts Tagged ‘Amazon’

Quick review: Amazon Kindle 3 e-reader

This morning I took (early) delivery of Amazon’s new Kindle 3 – I opted for the WiFi only version – a device that claims 50% better contrast than any other e-reader, a 21% smaller body while keeping the same 6″ size reading area, and a 20% increase in the speed of page turns. These are, of course, all very welcome improvements but specs alone don’t tell the real story of Kindle’s appeal and why it sets the bench mark for an e-reading experience. Instead, it’s Amazon’s decision to adopt a vertical model: controlling the hardware, software and, most controversially, content of the Kindle that define the user experience. But first, let’s dive into the device itself.

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Why Sony is embracing the 'open' ePub eBook standard (Hint: Amazon)

I’ve argued before that with regards to eBooks and the Kindle, Amazon doesn’t view itself as a hardware company. Unlike the iTunes ecosystem designed to shift more iPods and iPhones, for Amazon it’s actually about selling digital content — the eBooks themselves — as demonstrated by the release of the iPhone ‘Kindle’ eBook reader and the company’s work-around to keep Apple away from any iPhone-generated eBook revenue.

The Kindle hardware exists to kick start and accelerate the uptake of eBooks, and as well as creating Kindle reader software for other mobile platforms, similar to what the company has already done on the iPhone, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon one day license its Kindle platform to competing hardware eBook readers. As I said, it’s clearly about shifting content, and to achieve this, owning the eBook ‘standard’ and therefore default store.

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Amazon to Apple: keep your hands off our iPhone Kindle eBook revenue

iPhone Kindle app

iPhone Kindle app

At first glance it seems innocuous enough: Amazon has launched a version of its Kindle eBook store optimized for the iPhone’s web browser to make it easier for users of Apple’s device to purchase new eBooks for the iPhone’s Kindle application. “The most common feedback we heard from customers was that they wanted a better experience for purchasing new Kindle books from their iPhones”, says Ian Freed, vice president of Amazon Kindle operations.

In the updated iPhone Kindle app, a “Get Books” button opens the phone’s Safari web browser and takes users straight to the new iPhone-friendly site. Any new purchases made then show up in and are downloadable from the iPhone Kindle app itself.

See also: What Kindle on iPhone says about Amazon’s eBook strategy

The result of which is that Amazon has made it relatively simple for users to purchase Kindle content in a way that replicates the iPhone’s upcoming ‘in-app purchases’ feature, all without giving Apple its 30% cut or, presumably, breaking any terms of service.

Amazon MP3, Wal-Mart and Rhapsody just made buying music more confusing following iTunes' lead

With the major labels cajoling Apple into upping the cost of the most popular tracks on iTunes, I wondered how long it would take other music download stores to follow suit. Not long it seems – less than a day in fact – with paidContent and Ars Technica reporting that Amazon, Wal-Mart, Lala and Rhapsody have followed Apple’s lead and introduced ‘variable pricing’.

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Google helps add 500,000 public domain eBooks to Sony Reader store

Not sure if this is such a big deal but owners of Sony’s Reader – which includes my dad – can now access over half a million public domain books via the company’s eBook store, courtesy of a new partnership with Google Book Search.

Titles include an “extensive list of traditional favorites”, according to the joint press release, such as “The Awakening,” “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” and “Black Beauty”, along with Jane Austin’s “Sense and Sensibility” and “Emma.”

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Usability guru: Amazon's Kindle is great for reading novels, poor for everything else

Usability guru Jackob Nielson has given Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader the once over. His conclusion: perhaps unsurprisingly, the device is great for linear reading – think books, and in particular novels – but falls down badly when consuming non-linear content, such as electronic versions of magazines or newspapers.

Additionally, Nielson says that although he has previously questioned the viability of eBook reading devices in general, the Kindle’s e-ink screen technology and his own reading speed using Amazon’s device (less than 0.5% difference compared to the exact same paperback) has changed his mind.

On the Kindle’s linear reading strengths, Nielson gives praise to the device’s dedicated page turn controls:

… turning the page is extremely easy and convenient. This one command has two buttons (on either side of the device). Paging backwards is a less common action, but it’s also nicely supported with a separate, smaller button.

The device thus offers good support for the task of linear reading — appropriately so, as Kindle’s design is centered on this one use case. While reading, your only interaction is to repeatedly press the next-page button.

However, “anything else is awkward”, writes Nielson.

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What Kindle on iPhone says about Amazon's eBook strategy

The news today that Amazon has released a Kindle client for Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch says a lot about the company’s eBook strategy. Amazon’s Kindle device has often been described as wanting to become the iPod of books, but unlike Apple it’s clear that the e-tailer sees itself in the business of selling content and not just to drive sales of hardware.

In terms of music and video sales, Apple’s iTunes Store exists purely to add value to and increase uptake of the company’s iPod and AppleTV devices, with the major record labels and Hollywood studios receiving the majority of revenue from any content sold. Until fairly recently, content from iTunes could only play back on Apple’s hardware – for movies and TV shows this is still the case – helping to lock customers into the iTunes/iPod ecosystem. In contrast, eBooks bought from the Kindle store are now able to be read on at least one non-Kindle device, Apple’s iPhone, with more to come. This suggests to me that Amazon is taking a large enough cut from each eBook sold to justify potentially diluting sales of the Kindle device itself.

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Roku rolls out Amazon Video-On-Demand support

No longer limited to Netflix support-only, today Roku announced that its $99 set-top box, following a software update, can now be used to rent and purchase movies and TV shows from Amazon’s Video-On-Demand (VOD) service.

Amazon VOD (US-only) has a library of over 40,000 movie and TV titles, with new releases offered on the same day they are released on DVD, something that Netflix is currently unable to match, instead focusing more on back catalog material offered as part of a fixed monthly subscription that also includes traditional DVD rentals by post. In this sense, the two services both compete and complement each other, depending on how much and what kind of content customers want to consume.

See also: No more downloads, Amazon moves its online video store to the cloud

The Amazon tie-in also takes advantage of the e-tailers’ expertise in ‘cloud’ computing. Since the Roku digital video player is only capable of streaming not downloads, purchases are stored on Amazon’s own servers, making it possible, for example, to begin viewing a movie on the PC and then continue on the TV via a Roku set-top box.

Video demo courtesy of NewTeeVee after the jump…

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First look: YouTube's e-commerce leaves lots of room for improvement

In an effort to make money from YouTube, Google introduced this week an e-commerce component to the popular video-sharing site that allows users to click buttons to buy music, video, and games from iTunes or Amazon.

The idea has merit, but its execution — at least in this early stage — is in need of improvement. It’s not unlike other Google initial-release products.

Here’s how it works: The Good

Say you’re messing around on YouTube and you watch a video from an artist you like — Katy Perry or Raphael Saadiq. Just underneath the video, below the ratings and the sharing and social network links, there are two buttons to download the song or video from Amazon’s MP3 store or iTunes.

Clicking on either one takes  you directly to the song at either store. The purchase process is exactly what you’re used to at AmazonMP3 or iTunes.

“If you like the song,  you don’t need to leave Google or leave the site to buy it,” Bakari Brock, business affairs counsel at  YouTube, told The New York Times. [See also Advertising Age]

That’s not exactly true. Clicking on Amazon, of course, takes you to AmazonMP3, while clicking on iTunes takes you to, naturally, iTunes. But you still leave YouTube, although the page you were viewing remains intact.

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Sony continues to plug along, introducing promising third-generation eBook reader

Sony announced its third-generation electronic book reader this week at the same time it appears that the iPhone has overtaken the Kindle as the industry’s No. 1 reader.

Stanza, a book-reading application available through Apple’s App Store, has been downloaded more than 395,000 times and continues to be installed at an average rate of 5,000 copies a day, according its developer Lexcycle [via Forbes].

Forbes notes than Citigroup has estimated that Amazon will sell around 380,000 Kindles in 2008, making the iPhone — at least in loosely-defined terms — the No. 1 eBook device. Titles available for Stanza are mostly public domain, not best-sellers.

Sony, which entered the eBook market long before Amazon or Apple (through third-party developers), isn’t expected to sell nearly as many Readers as Kindles or approach as many users as Stanza on the iPhone. Even so, with its third-generation Reader Sony continues to plug along and, in nearly every respect, has the best eBook device.

Without actually seeing and using the device, it’s hard to say if the new Sony Reader will live up to its specs and is worth $400, but the improvements seem substantial with a few exceptions.

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