News Round-up: The Consolation Prize Edition

So this week brought not one, not two, but three updates to major e-reader devices from (arguably) three of the biggest players in the market. None of the three are groundbreaking updates, but three in one week? That’s … well, actually that’s pretty common. There are so many e-readers out there now that they’re bound to start stacking up on top of each other. But they are beginning to feel like consolation prizes without any major changes.

The first update of least import: Amazon Kindle‘s ad-supported model (called the Kindle with Special Offers) now includes the 3G model as well as the Wi-Fi only. The new model will be $164 – yet another $25 saving from the version without ads. As I’ve said before, I don’t really think $25 is enough of a saving to feel like a complete sell-out, but Amazon is making a case that there are some people out there who want the ads. Their argument is that the ‘Special Offers’, like shopping centre coupons, will attract the thrifty – presumably a key Amazon market. Another argument has it that Amazon might be trying to startup a Groupon-like deal network. (Groupon is called ‘Stardeals’ here in Australia).


Kobo is also issuing an update to its e-reader. The new Kobo sounds pretty good, but until I’ve played around with it I’m still feeling a bit suspicious. The original Kobo reader felt a bit on the cheap and nasty side and the software was low on basic e-reader functionality. The new one, called the Kobo eReader Touch Edition, definitely sounds better: unsurprisingly it offers a touchscreen that is used to flip pages. Initially shipping to North America, it’ll be priced at $130, with the original Kobo slipping down to just $100.

Last, but certainly not least, is Barnes & Noble’s new Nook, apparently subtitled the Simple Touch Reader. This one has, you guessed it, a touchscreen. But it actually looks pretty good (pictured at the top of the page). The market B&N are aiming for here is the same as the Kindle. The new Nook is dead simple: no hardware keyboard, a simple interace, very light in the hand (lighter than the Kindle 3, I believe) and matching the Kindle 3’s excellent battery life. It has Wi-Fi only, and will sell for $139 (though only in the US for now). It claims to have only one button, but the press release also says there are ‘side buttons’, so I’m not sure if there’s a wire crossed there or what. It illustrates an interesting trend, though, towards touchscreens.

Personally, I like a touchscreen on a device that I can actually interact with at a reasonable speed – like Apple’s iPad. But on an e-ink reader? I’m actually kind of fond of the buttons on a Kindle, knowing that when it’s pressed, it’s pressed. The delay (and there will always be a delay with e-ink) doesn’t bother me as much because I know I’ve pressed the damn button and it’ll respond eventually. When I’ve played around with Sony Touch e-readers before there is sometimes a frustrating delay between swiping to turn a page and the device responding. What do you guys think about touchscreens on an e-ink reader? Touch is the preferred interface method with Sony’s readers, and people seem to love them – so perhaps I’m dead wrong. Sort me out in the comments below.

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Joel Naoum

Joel Naoum is a Sydney-based book editor, publisher, blogger and writer. He is passionate about the possibilities of social media and digital publishing opens up for authors, publishers, booksellers and the whole book industry.

8 thoughts on “News Round-up: The Consolation Prize Edition”

  1. I had a Sony but the screen was so dim because of the touch screen that it drove me nuts. I much prefer the Kindle. And like you I don’t mind waiting half a second for my Kindle to respond because I know I’ve hit the button. But I did get quite het up thinking I hadn’t swiped properly, doing it again, swiping too far … maybe I’m just malcoordinated.

  2. I had a Sony but the screen was so dim because of the touch screen that it drove me nuts. I much prefer the Kindle. And like you I don’t mind waiting half a second for my Kindle to respond because I know I’ve hit the button. But I did get quite het up thinking I hadn’t swiped properly, doing it again, swiping too far … maybe I’m just malcoordinated.

  3. I used my ipad to read a book and found the swipe/turn problematic: wretched thing would half turn a page and then drop it…grrrr. I think this was due to user being too lazy to flick finger to half or more of the page (I was using it landscape, silly me!). Nonetheless it was a block that has stopped me using the ipad for book reading again.
    Swipe on Kobo may be useful. Remember it has no search function which means if you want to move around a book you have to do a lot of page turning, and under those circumstances the click button tends to ignore clicks which are even moderately close together. Otoh, don’t mess with my screen!!! I find e-ink a bit on the faded side at the best of times, if it gets any gloomier, this Eeyore will be forced to ask her Dr for happy pills and I’d rather not.

  4. I used my ipad to read a book and found the swipe/turn problematic: wretched thing would half turn a page and then drop it…grrrr. I think this was due to user being too lazy to flick finger to half or more of the page (I was using it landscape, silly me!). Nonetheless it was a block that has stopped me using the ipad for book reading again.
    Swipe on Kobo may be useful. Remember it has no search function which means if you want to move around a book you have to do a lot of page turning, and under those circumstances the click button tends to ignore clicks which are even moderately close together. Otoh, don’t mess with my screen!!! I find e-ink a bit on the faded side at the best of times, if it gets any gloomier, this Eeyore will be forced to ask her Dr for happy pills and I’d rather not.

  5. Hah! Celia, do you have a Kobo now? I think you’ll find the newer generation of e-ink screens are far less gloomy. The Kindle and newer generation Sony devices, as well as the new Nook, use what’s called “Pearl” e-ink screens – and they’re much much more clear than earlier e-ink screens. If you’re finding it a bit drab – upgrade. You won’t regret it.

  6. Hah! Celia, do you have a Kobo now? I think you’ll find the newer generation of e-ink screens are far less gloomy. The Kindle and newer generation Sony devices, as well as the new Nook, use what’s called “Pearl” e-ink screens – and they’re much much more clear than earlier e-ink screens. If you’re finding it a bit drab – upgrade. You won’t regret it.

  7. Thanks Joel, I’m very keen to get my paws on a Nook but so far no luck! Am a bit tempted by the new Kobo as I do rather love my Kobo but I’m waiting for them to fulfil my maiden dreams and add in note taking and search functions…..hmm a Sony is starting to look better by the minute 😉 Oh and brick bats to Kobo – the last upgrade removed the author listing in their currently reading list! Not a great move, guys!

  8. Thanks Joel, I’m very keen to get my paws on a Nook but so far no luck! Am a bit tempted by the new Kobo as I do rather love my Kobo but I’m waiting for them to fulfil my maiden dreams and add in note taking and search functions…..hmm a Sony is starting to look better by the minute 😉 Oh and brick bats to Kobo – the last upgrade removed the author listing in their currently reading list! Not a great move, guys!

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