The Reading World

Noted News & Opinion, June 15, 2004

Shortcovers eBook Reader launches for Blackberry this week. The company already offers iPhone/iPod and Android apps. Once installed, the Shortcovers application provides on-demand access to titesl from a variety of major publishers as well as self-published works. It appears to require a live connection to the Internet to support its My Library, bookmarking and other features. Shortcovers is operated by Indigo Books & Music Inc. It offers two “monetizing models:” one involving works displayed on a blog, where Indigo will place ads and share 70% of revenue with authors or; a revenue split, also 70% to the author, for books sold at an author-specified list price (see the Publisher Program overview). Books are compatible only with Shortcovers Javascript-based readers, which are accessible after logging in to the site on a PC or via the mobile readers.

Barron’s says the Kindle DS “is a joy to read” and the author, Jay Palmer, now says the DX a “larger and better” option than the Kindle 2. (Paid access only.)

MobileRead features an early review of the DX, which finds the device pleasing, though not without drawbacks. People clearly want to like this device. Generally, reviews are mixed, says Book Business.

I much prefer this idea: Use Kindle DX for sheet music, because it makes tremendous sense without conforming to the notion that everything on an ereader should be a “book.” Also from Paul Biba at Palm has an embeddable e-autographing technology, but you need a Palm device and compatible reader to see the handwritten author’s signature.

Fujitsu announced the “world’s first e-book reader with a colour display.” Based  on the picture in the article, this 13.5 ounce, 7.87-inch screen-equipped device provides a graphic experience somewhere between the One Laptop Per Child PC and an early gaming system. The picture features a very small model, which makes the Fujitsu device, called “FLEPia,” look huge. But for $1,000 it does include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and storage for “the equivalent of 5,000 conventional books.” Here’s the thing, a dedicated book reader isn’t a viable device when it comes into competition with a multi-purpose device like the iPhone or the SmartQ web tablet (reviewed at Teleread on Friday), notwithstanding what Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said in January. Convergence, a much-overused word (and, yet, I am not afraid to use it, fool that I am), still applies with regard to the future of reading. One device that does two things well is better than two devices that perform different tasks marginally better—and all distinctions in technology are marginal in the eye of the buyer, who decides based on price as much as performance.

Australia’s reports on the convergence-caused conflict between Kindle distribution and authors’ spoken work rights. What happens when a digital text can be read by a synthetic reader? Are the author’s right to control audio reproduction violated by Kindle’s read-aloud feature? I say, “no,” having recorded my fair share of audio programs in my day, because the tone and inflection of a human reader is very different than the synthetic voice of Kindle. It’s acceptable sounding, but it isn’t a reading in the real sense, just a reproduction of the text. It’s a bad idea to cut off the read-aloud feature in your books, since this also is a necessary feature for the blind and disabled who cannot conveniently control a Kindle. The issue is how to use the read-aloud feature to sell the idea of hearing from the author or a professional reader — perhaps the real answer is to include a preview of a real reading before starting the read-aloud version. But don’t tell your readers what they can do with a legally obtained copy of your text.

Check out what David Sedaris wrote on Kindle he was asked to autograph. (Via dj42 and Gizmodo)

The problem is the publishers. Eric Stoffle says the problems of e-publishing are over-stated by publishers, who are more concerned with their margins than winning market share: “Publishers like to emphasize the cost of making books prohibits them from discounting electronic books because of all the overhead. The problem is that neither the author nor the consumer is a large part of the equation.” As I wrote recently, the coming e-book wars are going to cost everyone, particularly early adopters, the most loyal readers in this market. Publishers, however, are the only parties who could destroy their business, as authors will continue to work regardless of who pays them.

Lunching with Kindle People. A video report from Kevin Lim featuring a series of user reviews and discussion among Kindle and Kindle for iPhone users at the University of Buffalo (SUNY):

4 replies on “Noted News & Opinion, June 15, 2004”

Interesting idea about the read-aloud features. Isn’t the voice synthesizer performing the book? That would be covered by the author’s rights to control spoken word reproduction of the book.

Yes, the voice synthesizer does perform the work, but it doesn’t make a copy of the work. I think it’s smarter to side with your customer, the reader, than against them.

Kevin —

Let me know when you post more. I just happened to see your tweet and watched. Good stuff.


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