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Google to enter eReaders market

Last week an important news broke out. Google finally enters the eReaders market with its own reader. From the article below it’s clear that they didn’t bother to come up with some new fancy design, they’re basically copying Kindle with the qwerty keyboard, something I deeply dislike.

I must admit I haven’t tested a Kindle to see how quickly you can enter text trough the keyboard, but I’m deeply fond of the touch screen of my Sony Reader. Simply because it allows you to write text with a pencil, just like normal paper would. So I don’t get the obsession with qwerty keyboard in eReaders. It simply makes no sense to have them on something you’re supposed to read. Not to mention that it takes up space and it makes pages flipping somewhat less intuitive.

Anyway, I think it’s great that Google got on the market, simply because they will spur competition and maybe ultimately lower the prices. But I’m kind of disappointed that they preferred to go with the Kindle design than to offer something new. I expected more from them. After all, they have almost unlimited resources which if applied to something so relatively simple as eReader could have led to a really cool gadget. They chose the cheap way. Oh, well. Next time 🙂

First Google eBooks Device To Go on Sale at Target This Week

By Todd Wasserman | Mashable – Mon, Jul 11, 2011

The iriver Story HD will retail for $139.99 at the chain July 17, according to a blog post from Google. The device sports a qwerty keyboard and a black-and-grey screen similar to the Kindle. It also can access more than 3 million free Google eBooks and hundreds of thousands of paid ebooks in the system. The device is the first to be able to access titles via a Wi-Fi connection.

source

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eReaders vs Samsung Galaxy Tab

As promised, I will share my impressions on Samsung Galaxy Tab. In the previous post, I discussed Apple iPad. As I said there and then I was very disappointed by the whole look and feel of the iPad. It’s shiny and sweet and colorful, but as an eReader it sucks. It’s heavy and it’s back-lit and I can’t imagine myself reading for hours on it. It’s good, however, for scientific pdf-s, or technical manuals or textbooks. First because it has color, second because it has much bigger screen and third, because it has multitouch, which allows you to easily zoom in and out of sections you’re interested in. Great for figures or small text. I was extremely surprised, when I spoke with a guy at the dentist waiting room, who also thought that the iPad is HEAVY. I mean, I’m a girl, it’s normal to be heavy for me. But for him?! So, obviously, I’m not the only one who noticed that. And if you search the Net, you’ll find that many people share my opinion.

Anyway, today’s issue is dedicated to Samsung Galaxy Tablet.

Samsung Galaxy Tab (T-Mobile)

Ok, I loved it. I completely utterly fell in love with it. Seriously. It’s small. It’s light. It’s cute. It’s sexy. And it’s not very expensive. Well, it’s more expensive than a normal eReader, but still, it’s a great great present. Anyone?

Seriously. It’s a great gadget. It’s smaller than the iPad (only 7in) and also lighter. It has amazing color screen which is very responsive to the touch. It has Android, which can be good or a bad thing, depending on how much you love or hate Google. Basically, it can be a great eReader for certain types of books. You can also play games on it and do whatever else you can do on an Android phone. You can also use it as a phone and it has camera. I played a little with it, it’s very quick to react and from what I’ve tried, everything worked flawlessly. And unlike with normal eReaders, you can use the whole armory of Android applications, which is quite cool.

Having said all that, it has one setback. It’s major advantage – its great screen, is also its major disadvantage. Just like with iPad, it’s back-lit, so its LCD display will make your eyes extremely unhappy if you read for hours. True, people get used to LCD screens, I can read on my laptop for hours, but if you want to read for pleasure,  it’s no comparison for the E Ink eReaders. True, it’s a lovely gadget, one that I really really want to buy. But it’s too big for a phone and too bright for am eBook. I guess it’s best for games and multimedia experience. But it’s not what I want from an eReader. And also, I’m not sure how much its battery lasts.

For me, the perfect gadget is one with two types of screens – LCD for multimedia and E INK for reading. I know I want too much, but hey, we have to aim high in our dreams.

My conclusion is that Samsung Galaxy Tab is adorable, but if you want to read eBooks, it’s best to buy an eReader. If you want to browse the net and to play games and to do whatever you do with your phone on bigger screen, but yet one that you can carry in your pocket or purse, then buy Samsung Galaxy Tab. You won’t regret it! Because it’s simply adorable.

SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB :

– Carriers: Available now from T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon Wireless; coming soon to AT&T and U.S. Cellular

– Operating system: Android 2.2 (Froyo)

– Price: $400 with two-year contract from T-Mobile or Sprint, $600 from Verizon or $699 from Amazon

– Weight: 13.58 ounces/384 grams (!!!)

– Size: 4.74-by-.47-by-7.48 inches

– Screen: 7-inch WSVGA display; 1024×600 pixels

– Camera: 3-megapixel rear-facing with LED flash, 1.3 megapixel front-facing; 720p video recording

– Storage: 16GB microSD preinstalled, expandable up to 32GB

In short – Samsung Galaxy Tab is simply great. Me wants.

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E Ink in color?

You don’t like your lovely eReader in black and white. Well, then, soon it will be also in color. Look at the following very exciting news I found.

E Ink, maker of Kindle display, to offer color

November 9, 2010 By DANA WOLLMAN , AP Technology Writer

E Ink Corp., the company that makes the black-and-white display for Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle, said it will begin selling screens that also show colors.

The new technology, called E Ink Triton, displays 16 shades of gray, along with thousands of colors. As with other E Ink displays, people should be able to read it anywhere without having to squint.

Amazon did not immediately respond to inquiries Tuesday on whether that means a color is coming.

Amazon has said that although it hasn’t ruled out color E Ink displays, the technology isn’t yet ready for prime time.

The first with a color E Ink screen will come from Chinese manufacturer Hanvon. The e-reader will have a display that measures 9.7 inches diagonally, and readers will be able to get online through either Wi-Fi or a 3G cellular connection. It is expected to go on sale in China for about $440.source

How cool is this?! I’m not sure how important color is for an eReader since the main idea of the eReader is to be just like a book. True, there are books in color – like books for children, but is this essential for adults? As long as we talk about a normal book and not a textbook or a magazine, not at all.

But imagine the perspective that will uncover when it comes to use. You can color figures in your eBook (ok, not you, but your children), you can have eMagazines or even eNewspapers where the sexy girl from the sports page will be in color. You can read textbooks or scientific articles in color. It is progress. So I approve.

Someone pointed that the color won’t be the same like on a computer screen or iPad. well, it doesn’t have to be. This is an eReader. An electronic book. Not a computer. And just like normal books, you don’t expect them to show you videos. You expect from them to read without recharging every day and without the annoying glare and back-light of LCD displays. Well then, that’s precisely what you’ll get.

Can’t wait for the new color eReaders to come. I know that Nook offers color eReader, but they don’t ship in Europe so. Sony, I’m waiting!

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eReaders – the hit of the season

eReaders are obviously among the highest trending products and the most desired presents. At least this can be confirmed after a brief look at the printed and online media, which promote eReaders like crazy. For example you may read the following article in NY TIMES : Great Holiday Expectations for E-Readers. Look at the following quote:

“And many of them will be bought for other people. Research from Simba Information, which provides data and advice to publishers, has shown that 1 in 5 of those who own a Kindle, Amazon’s dedicated e-reader, received it as a gift.

In a recent Consumer Reports poll, 10 percent of the adults surveyed said they planned to give an e-reader as a gift this year, up from 4 percent in 2009.

That has corresponded with an increase in e-book sales. Two years ago, publishers said that sales of e-books constituted 1 percent of total book sales, but the figure is now closer to 9 or 10 percent.”

And this is only one article! And there are so much more that I found. It’s clear that the time of the eReader finally came. I’m very happy with this, because I really like the idea of eReaders and because I’m profoundly content with my Sony Reader.

But if that cannot convince you  how good idea is to buy fancy eReader for your friends or relatives, I have one more good news. Until now, the main problem in front of eReaders were the lack of enough digital books. As you can see from the following news, one more obstacle was removed with a deal between Google and the biggest  French publisher “Hachette Livre”. If this deal is finalized as expected, this will unleash the power of digital books. Why? Because for the moment, eBooks are limited to mainly old US books and also, the newest additions of Amazon and other publishers. But the big part of printed books were out of reach. With this decision and with the ones that will follow (hopefully) Google will scan thousands of books that will later be available to everyone for free or not. How about that, huh?

Google Reaches Deal With France’s Biggest Publisher

France’s largest publisher has agreed to an arrangement that’ll allow Google Books to scan many of its out-of-print works.

“Under the agreement, which will be finalized in the coming months, Hachette Livre can dictate which out-of-print books it wants Google to scan and the price at which they are sold.  Google is then free to sell the electronic book under the condition that it shares the revenues with Hachette Livre, a unit of Lagardere SCA.”

The arrangement is supposed to involve thousands of books, too, not just a handful for which Hachette has no use. source

P.S. There is no need to mention that after that deal, Google will have enormous advantage in this business. Do we like it? I don’t. But it’s some kind of progress. And that we must respect.

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eReader or iPad

Today, I finally got an iPad in my hands. Not only this, but I also played a little with Samsung Galaxy Tab! So in the next two blogs, I’ll describe my personal feelings on the the two gadgets.

First, few words about Apple iPad.

Apple iPad MC497LL/A Tablet (64GB, Wifi + 3G)

$877 (or $525 for 16GB WiFi)

 

I must admit, I had big expectations about it. We’ve heard a lot about iPad, seen a lot of ads about it and still, it failed to make me fall in love. I really expected something cute, sexy and useful. What I found was something kind of heavy and not very functional. I’m a practical person, above all I appreciated usefulness. If I want to buy an iPad, I need a reason to do so. And playing with the iPad today, I genuinely couldn’t figure what the iPad does better than my netbook (for example). I’m sure there are million of pretty cool applications for iPad. But what should convince me to buy it?

Good sides:

Clean design, simple to use, kind of intuitive. Endless applications. Multi-touch screen (Lovely!). Good battery life I hear.

Bad sides:

It’s heavy. Ok, it’s 680 gr/1.5 pounds. But it’s heavy! I had it in my hands, I checked it how it feels to read on it, well, it’s heavy! It’s not only its weight but also its shape and how it strains your hands. Sure, if I’m 90kg, I probably won’t feel its 680g. But I’m 45kg and I don’t feel comfortable reading on it. Not for long pleasant book-time on a cup of tea or coffee. It’s too heavy for that.

Also, it’s not very intuitive. I’m not very used to iPhones (played with one, but only that), but still, I found navigating trough it for somewhat odd.  On my Sony PRS-600 I needed 30 secs to get all the functionality of the menu. On the iPad, I had to move forward and backward for a while to figure out what what to do and how. True, my eReader is thousand times simpler than the iPad both in its hardware and software, but after all, the iPad is not a computer. So, I think navigation could be improved. Not so much in moving forward and backward – that’s easy, just touch it. I’m thinking more in the direction of grouping applications to be easier to find what you need for each occasion – business, education, play and so on. Maybe that option is already available, but what I saw, was a screen full of random applications. It was hard to find what you want or even to get an idea if there’s anything you might want.

I checked the apps for iPad. I see that some of them look interesting. But how well they deliver, I cannot say from one glimpse.

Which brings me to iPad’s best side, especially in connection with eReaders. What I find iPad best for is for technical literature.  As I already said, the smaller eReaders are not good for reading scientific textbooks, because of the formula and plots. They are just not suitable for pdf-format, even though they can read it and display it. So here comes the iPad. It’s perfect for pdf-s and textbook. It’s perfect for writing formulas on its mathboard app and I’m sure it also has some professional applications in this direction. I think the strongest side of that device is its educational purpose. If we don’t count the entertainment, that is. But it’s simply perfect for reading textbooks. A downside is that its reflective surface and back-lit screen may be unpleasant for the eye (in the least), but since it’s so uncomfortable for reading of normal books, I doubt people will actually feel it. But for textbooks – it’s great.

So this is my first glimpse – first touch impression from iPad. In short, it’s a good gadget, but nothing truly impressive. I disliked its heaviness and reflective display (not good for a general eReader!) and also its somewhat chaotic screen. I liked the ability to show pdf-s and textbooks well. And since I would use it only as an eReader or for games, this is important for me. The only question is is this enough?

Next time, my impressions Samsung Galaxy Tab…

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How to choose the best eReader for us

Christmas is coming and we all need to figure out the best presents for our close ones.
eReaders can be the perfect present – they are affordable, small and easy to take care of. If you like reading, they will be your best friend, if you don’t like it, you can just put them somewhere and use them as a very energy efficient black and white picture frame.

But there are so many options on the market, how to choose the one that will make our present not only “affordable” but also “adorable”?

1. eReaders are perfect for reading. But there is a subtle difference on what you want to read on them. For simply books – the normal 6in (or little bit bigger) eReaders from all kinds are good. For textbooks and pdf-s, however, you need BIGGER screens. Otherwise, it’s a real torture to use them on purpose. So, if your guy/gal needs the gadget to read technical literature, best go for the bigger models.

2. Sex matters. If your guy is a gal, then it’s better to looks for the lightest models and also to make sure you buy a nice color that the lady will enjoy. As you can see from the models we presented on our pages, there is a plenty of choice when it comes to colors – black, white, silver, blue, pink, red. Probably even more. You can also buy cool accessory to make the eReader even more beautiful. For examples, please check our eReaders Accessories page. There you can find sexy silicon skins, colorful leather cases, waterproof casing and much more.

3. The loyalty case. Just like with phones, people like to be loyal to some brands. So if your people like to buy from Amazon, Kindle will be much more appropriate for them. From the other side, if your guy/gal likes to touch and to draw, a touchscreen eReader is much more preferable. For example Sony Reader offers the ability to write notes and to draw pictures with your stylos.

4. Price is not always so important. For example, newer eReaders are likely to offer color-display. Is this needed? It depends. If your eReader goes to a family with children or comic book fan, color will be important. But for general book-reading, black and white is best. It makes your eyes feel comfortable and people are well used to reading like this. Remember, eReaders are not PHONES. Phones need to be colorful and sleek and with many options. eReaders are strictly for book reading. Eventually for little music too as most eReaders have that option. But only that. Think of it as a device for digital books. Or even more, like a digital book. You buy a book only to read it, not to play chess with your neighbor on it or to break walnuts with it. So reading is a priority when buying and electronic reader.

5. The contrast of the display is a must. Some eReaders come with E Ink technology. It’s important to know how many levels of greyness you have on the eReader – 8 or 16. 16 is best and most new eReaders have it. Mine has 8 and still the text is easily readable on good light. On poor lighting however it’s hard to read. Also, some Readers do not employ E Ink so their displays are back-lit. That can be good if you intend to read on dark place, but it can be pretty bad if you want to read a lot since it strains the eyes.

6. Battery life. This one is simple. Choose the eReader with longest battery life that suits your other requirements. Anything below a week is too little. Note that the use of wireless internet and also sound decrease the battery life.

7. Other extras. Text-to-speech might be important for someone who has time to read only while driving, but it’s absolutely useless for someone like me who doesn’t like listening to books. So, be sure to consider the main use of the device your friend is likely to enjoy most.

Don’t forget that presents are not supposed to be perfect. But they need to show desire to please and active involvement in the decision process. It’s not only about buying something, it’s about buying something the other person will find pleasure in. Even a less expensive model with nice accessory can lead to a lot of joy if the accessory suits the person’s individuality. So choose wisely, offer with love and share the happiness you bring.

Cheers!

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Make Sony Reader PRS 600 show cyrillic

As I already told you, I have a Sony Reader PRS-600. It’s very, very cute and lovely and I’m very happy with it. It reads fine (even if the contrast is less than on the new PRS 650 or Kinddle – but then, they are more expensive or unavailable in Bulgaria). So PRS 600 it is.
For now, it behaves very nicely and I even made few drawings just for the fun of drawing on the screen. I also downloaded free books from http://www.epubbooks.com/ and from some Bulgarian sites and putting them on the Reader is piece of cake. I also tried reading scientific pdf – the text is really somewhat small in the original size and looks weird when you zoom in, but the figures look cool and hey, that’s the first time I actually enjoy reading that article! 🙂

The only problem I encountered so far is that I couldn’t read Cyrillic fonts, which US people obviously consider unessential for their customers. However, it’s quite important for me! So, after an hour and so unhappy searching the net, I found this extremely simple tutorial how to do the trick. In short – you can either use a patch for the firmware  (which however will eliminate the warranty) or you can convert your books to embed their own fonts and then, you can see the Cyrillic. I chose the second option and then I spent some quality time looking for an EASY way to embed fonts into EPUB file. Needless to say that this was my first time hearing about epub files 🙂

Anyway, he’s the best solution I found so far:
Embedding your fonts into ePub automatically using Calibre
1. Download Calibre for your OS (Win/Lin/Mac) and install it;
2. Download the attached plugin file (originally from Paul Tomashevskyi, GPL, see MobileRead thread)
3. Install it via Calibre’s Preferences> Plugins: provide the path to the downloaded plugin and click “Add” button;
4. Check that it has appeared in the list of plugins at File type plugins branch under EPUB Font embedding plugin name and it’s enabled (which is a default behavior on plugin addition);
5. Now open Preferences> Conversion> Look & Feel and add the following CSS declaration into Extra CSS area:
Code:
body {font-family: “Liberation”, sans-serif;}

This will tell Calibre that we want to use “Liberation” font family we’re going to embed into converted ePub content and it will add the font-family into own styles when it parses your ePub contents;
7. Add your content – which lacks embedded fonts and CSS declarations OR its embedded fonts aren’t capable of providing glyphs for our UTF codepoints – into Calibre’s library;
8. Select (or highlight) the content in the library list;
9. Proceed with the next toolbar icon and its option: Convert E-Books> Convert individually;
10. Set input format and output format to EPUB;
11. Check Look & Feel and that Extra CSS area contains what’s been specified in (5) (On Windows it was okay while under Ubuntu it took a couple of restarts for the defaults we set in (5) to pop up on actual conversions in the app: dunno, guess I did something dead wrong);
12. Click OK.
Your ebook gets converted into EPUB and we end up having a set of Calibre’s own UTF aware fonts (Liberation, serif set) embedded into it. source
It looks long, but actually it’s very very quick. It took me like 15 minutes with the installation of Calibre and the plugin! This cool program even has a plugin for Sony Readers! And it works awesomely in Linux and it recognized and mounted the Reader without any help from my side. I just did the steps and I had my first Cyrillic book on my Reader. The only thing that didn’t get converted, who knows why, are the titles of the chapters. But the text is fine and perfectly readable.

If anyone else encounters this problem – this is the way! Also, you can use other fonts (see the source), but I didn’t bother. This one works fine for me and that’s the most important.
Cheers!

Edit:
I had one more problem with some titles, who won’t show properly. It turned out that they had the idiotic option “font-variant:small-caps” in their original css. Because that option is not included in the Liberation font, the font won’t show those letters in Cyrillic (but in ??? instead).
Thanks to a Belorussian friend Vad, a solution is available.

One has to open the epub file manually (in Calibre, select the book and press T) and then to edit the css, by deleting all the “font-variant:small-caps” in it. Save it, close the folder, rebuild the epub and that’s it.
You have titles in Cyrillic too.

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