I was very early when it came to eBooks. I had one of the first e-ink devices from Sony even. And by early I am talking about the year the original Kindle even out. (Sony PRS-505 I believe is the model) This was a time period where page turns were measured in seconds and nobody was talking about backlighting e-ink or high resolution. Back then though there was something very different. You wouldn’t buy an eReader based on the store (unless you bought the Kindle) it supported. I mean when it came to stores Sony’s was really never good. The difference was that Sony could play books from pretty much every store online (not Amazon but who cared since Amazon barely had any eBooks at that pooint) now a bunch of those was through some crazy Adobe DRM scheme or you had to find some DRM free books.
Now this may not sound very different but lets look at where we sit today. Now we are down to two major eBook stores. Ok there is Kobo but they really aren’t as big. The only real players anymore are Amazon and Apple. Now why does this really suck? I mean you can read your Amazon books on pretty much any platform and Apple well those can be read on a bunch. The real issue in my mind is the book stores have moved 100% cloud based. Ask anyone how to get the ePub from Apple or the Kindle azw. I can promise you nobody knows how. Most don’t even realize there are alternative readers like the Kobo which while sounding pretty cool is just the 3rd of the evils in this whole fight.
So why does this matter? Lets start by talking about issues with the two main platforms first.
Now Amazon has always been the lockdown king. They started with mobi and have only gotten worse when it comes to DRM. To make matters worse Amazon eBooks seem to be horrible formatted and any older ones are in a pretty sad state when it comes to editing. Why is this? It really seems like Amazon wants quantity and really doesn’t care if it looks all that good. I mean look at the Kindle fonts and app. It would be awesome if they would give us one amazing font and a clean app. I mean its 2015 and I have a tablet or phone why is it I CANNOT scroll through a book? Really I still have to flip pages on a phone? This isn’t an e-ink device I have to wait a second to render the screen. And on the Kindle devices why such big margins? It’s not paper Amazon the text can goto the edge of the screen and my fingers wont go over the text (unless I’m holding it wrong).
Apple is also a lockdown king. I mean you still have to authorize your computers for iTunes. The craziest thing though about Apple’s eBooks is that you CANNOT read them on non-Apple devices! Now why would I want Apple’s eBooks in the first place. I mean it’s so locked down. First off it has scrolling which call me crazy but it changes how you read a book when you can just keep scrolling till you get to the end. Second, they are the only company which seems to realize now that we have HiDPI screens we can have some amazing fonts and that formatting matters. Apple eBooks generally have seemed better put together and they do something really crazy they seem to update more. Now this could be that I have just more recently bought Apple eBooks that are more popular then the books I got while using the kindles. Third, did I mention you can scroll in their app instead of flipping pages? Crazy I know!
So basically Amazon has some great e-ink devices which really need a UI expert (all the e-ink devices have needed this since they got HiDPI screens). At the same time I could live with Apple if it played in more places. But overall the issues comes down to one think DRM and the lack of easy exporting has made the whole ecosystem worse. Vendor lock-in is horrible. I mean I have book in Kobo (Sony books transferred there), Amazon and Apple along with some random publishers who are awesome to distribute DRM-free eBooks. If there was just a way for me to pull down an epub even if it had to be authorized would be awesome. (Part of Apple’s formatting advantage is epub)
So eBooks are backwards since they haven’t picked up on what saved the music industry with DRM-free music. If you really want to read eBooks try and find a DRM-free source of epubs. That is the best long term option to speak with your wallet. As for what to do right now if just must jump into the DRM lake? Well if you got a iPhone and iPad personally I would with iBooks but just cause it is a better experience for me. If you’re using Android or really paranoid about switching (and don’t care about scrolling) jump on Amazon. I mean the only reason I would avoid eBooks right now is just cause you have to choose one which sucks.
So many people are talking about how with the open sourcing of ice cream sandwich we are going to see a new level of fragmentation of the Android ecosystem. The best part is these people use the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablets as examples of this. These tablets are actually not a part of the problem. They are actually examples of Google’s solution to the issue.
One of the main reasons that they are not fragmenting is they don’t claim to be Android. If you look at the ad pages for both the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Barns and Noble Nook Tablet you will not see android referenced other then on Amazons as the Amazon Android App store which no consumer that buys it is going to confuse it with Google’s app store. The fact that it is Android is something only the really geeky need to know. I am doubtful outside the tech circles anyone is going to be talking about it as android. The only really major reason that it is Android matters is that it’s using Android’s development libraries which means most apps that work on any Android tablet will work on the Kindle or Nook they just have to go through there separate stores. As for that causing issues as well I have used Amazon’s App Store in the past and would consider it on par with Google’s.
So really this is all what Google wanted. They wanted to make it so that any company could make their own personalized devices using Android quickly now we are finally seeing the results of this policy. Personally I think it’s better since it means Amazon or Barns and Noble can be on par with Apple in at least the tablet OS space and use that to deliver their much more plentiful content. In the end we are seeing more competition and less consumer confusion what more could you want?
This is a blog post a long time coming as over the last month I have struggled with my Android phone. I am going to start off saying if your just going to respond with “Just click X,Y, and Z and your issue is solved” at this point then stop reading now cause my whole argument is going to be ignored by you.
I had an Android phone for about 9 months. Over the course of those 9 months I spent all 9 of them trying to make my phone something better. I was using a Samsung Fascinate which is by no means a weak phone or in any ways should be a problem. The Galaxy S was the top line from Samsung who is not a bad phone manufacturer. Actually the hardware is great the phone has survived many drops with no signs of damage the thing that truely cripples the phone is it’s OS.
When I first got my Fascinate my first thought was “yay I can tweak the hell out of this thing” at the start. I spent a few weeks trying to use the default of this “amazing OS” I even tried all the different launchers and none of them fixed the fundamental flaw that was created by the buggyness and slowness of the OS provided by Samsung. So I started my journey of playing with ROM’s constantly on this phone. Now all I can say is that this lead to a phone only slightly more usable then before with just as many bugs. Even after Samsung finally got Froyo on the phone (6 months after promised) we merely got more bugs. Now this could be both Samsung’s and Verizon’s fault who knows which caused more bugs. Verizon’s attempts to replace Google with Bing couldn’t have made it any more stable.
Now all of this trouble comes from the fact that Android is too open. It doesn’t matter if your OS is really good if 90% of the users are given phones that slowly get buggier over time. We like to think of technology as advancing but Android devices I have used seem to only get more bugs as more versions of software is release look at the Droid X for even more examples. This is the key failing of the Android platform. People said there was going to be no consitancy to Android well I can tell you there is one constant it’s that phone makes can keep making bad phones that will just confuse normal users. I don’t care if you can fix it by restarting or pressing a key combo or turning off the defaulted to on GPS. None of these matter as normal users should never have to deal with this stuff. Fine it will work for tweakers and you guys can have your phones but there is no need for tweaker phones to be forced on the population as a really usable phone. I think Android as a platform is in a race to the bottom of devices. In an attempt to make devices cheaper and cheaper the quality goes out the window. Don’t get me wrong I’m sure the Nexus phones will be good for techies and the Kindle Fire will be perfect for normal users but neither of those will be the majority of devices.
Now most readers will probably ask, “Well then what platform do you have faith in?” The saddest thing is I actually have to say there are two platforms that have it right. Windows Phone and iPhone. Yep Windows Phone . It’s not only more usable but as a user its less confusing. Instead of allowing you to bite yourself with 50 apps in the background Microsoft has seen what Apple did. Sure you can use your one app and the rest can run but in limited states to prevent the slowdown and freezing that became normal on my android. At the end I was rebooting almost daily wait no that wasn’t even me it would reboot ON ITS OWN! I think Microsoft will win the race to the bottom as they have a more intuative and simple user interface will most likely hit the right price points.
So there is my outlook. Windows Phone and iPhone on top with Android stuck with Blackberry in nitch markets. Sure the Android phones will have the latest tech but seriously does anyone really need NFC at this point? Or even LTE? Yay, I get instant downloads oh wait I need to plug in again. Apple and Microsoft are both smart about technology these days and know its worth waiting till its been proven. This will be the key to their success just watch!
With Google announcing it was going into the ISP business or at least into the ISP infrastructure business it looks like maybe we might see more broad band with the promised gigabit connections it might provide. But will this really solve Americas broadband crisis? Guess what IT WONT! Though Google would probably be the first one to go into the areas that are least served (leave and minor city and you can find under served areas) and claim the funds for it why would it? Would that really help them with their goals? These areas have been abandoned by the major ISPs look at Verizon selling off its rural phone lines. Why would they do this? Oh wait FiOS is more expensive to lay in the country and there just is not the money to be made there. So what happens? Well at lot of Americans still live outside the cities! So we get horrible broadband rate. Well lets look back at Google. Sure they could pull into these smaller towns an under covered rural areas but what would they gain? There would be no pressure (hell most of the major telecoms feel stuck in these areas) and at worst they will look like the bad guys as many of these areas are served by local companies that cannot afford to make needed upgrades. Now maybe if Google is just wanting to make the infrastructure this could work but still where is the pressure? It would be most good Google could do and sure would get great PR I mean I can read the headlines now “Google solves broadband issues the government could not!” ok it wouldn’t be that long but you get the drift.
Basically in the end I have this feeling that people outside of the major metropolitan areas are screwed. A year ago wireless was going to save rural broadband but Verizon has 3G in most everywhere but if you leave a city the towers are so sparse the connection is worse than dial-up. No one wants to invest in rural America which used to be seen as the heart of America. Now it has just been forsaken its paying for all the cities junk and never getting any investment.
Ok lets get something straight iPad is by far the WORST name for this device. iSlate or iTab (short of iTablet) would have worked ten times better. But the name is iPad and so we will live with it.
Now personally I love the idea of tablet computing. I have been wanting it since back in the day when Microsoft was showing it off with styluses and overlays on Windows XP. Now that seems like a good idea but most people know most PC OS’s are not designed for small screens or for touch screens. Buttons are too small and data is crammed into space to efficiently for it to work out. Also may of these devices were large and clunky. Now we see the iPad which is effectively almost exactly what a Tablet should really be. The key to a tablet is it MUST be more mobile then a laptop. Sure a laptop with a rotating screen could do the same but the key there is you have an interface which is not as mobile. Its just not easy to use Windows with a touch screen. HP has spent lots of money making custom UI’s solely to make it so their touchsmart PC’s are easier to use.
Now Apple has made that easy to use interface. But there are two major issues. One which people have brought up a bunch and is unfounded and then an oddly missing issue from the discussion.
The first issue that people seem to be way to worried about is flash support. Many people are all worried about how you just cannot get a true internet experience without this. Well I am sorry but I think I would rather wait till html5 is ubiquitous then have my mobile device be as hot as a overheated breakfast burrito. One of the biggest issue with flash is that it is to be nice UTTER CRAP. On even the most advanced computers it somehow will end up pulling 100% of a CPU core to just show a YouTube video. Why the hell would I want that in my mobile device? Not to mention the most important fact that is flash NEEDED? I think we can safely say no. HTML 5 will be common place once it is approved. Safari already supports it and it can do pretty much anything flash does. If anything else we can at least think of the flash blocking as a free ad blocker. No I don’t want to punch that monkey or punch out Bin Laden I just want to read the site!
The second issue is one nobody has brought up (that I have noticed at least). Where is handwriting recognition. Sure the stylus sucks with the problem that you lose it. But please could we at least take notes using handwriting recognition? I would love to be able to just use a stylus while taking notes. It allows for a more natural experience. Personally I have never liked taking notes with a keyboard. Maybe I am just crazy with this idea. Let me point out lack of handwriting recognition is not a feature that will kill the product for me.
So what do I think about the iPad? Well I am sure nobody really cares but I will say it anyways. The iPad is the first step to real tablet computing. This is the future that pretty much any big sci-fi fan has been wanting. The device that you could bring anywhere and do pretty much anything with. This is what many thought netbooks would do but finally we see a device that is truly forward looking and not backwards like the netbook.
So once again we got a big media group talking about the EU lawsuit by Opera. The real question is why does this keep getting released? Or even better what standing does this have? In the past it has been ok for Microsoft to have their browser installed by default and somehow with this HORRIBLE situation Firefox is still at what 25+% of the browser market? Wow I am so worried about Windows 7 bundling IE8 I mean people might actually get a decent and secure browser with their OS unlike XP which means some might not install Firefox? Um, sorry Firefox but if people switch that easily I am doubtful you were going to keep them anyways. Of course I am sure Mozilla would love for Microsoft to bundle IE6 I mean they are ACTUALLY better then that browser but suddenly they might have competition and it seems Mozilla has joined Opera in its if you cannot beat them in the market beat them in the court room tactic. By the way if anyone thinks this can really help Opera lets think about the end result with what Opera wants. Basically Opera wants to have a screen pop up that lets you choose an alternative browser. So lets see when you get to this screen it will probably just show the top 3 right? So we get IE8, Firefox, and Chrome ouch Opera you would still lose even if you won.
Amazon pulls out a really interesting release with the Kindle DX. While there were rumors of a larger Kindle I don’t ever remember reading about native PDF support. This is the big killer for it. On a 9.7-inch screen with native PDF support that means you no longer need a printer to view your PDF on a shit of … well e-ink paper. Sure this all sounds amazing. What we don’t see here though is the one most important feature that Amazon is still lacking! WHERE IS ePUB SUPPORT!!! I fear for the future of ebooks if Amazon is the leader and from the looks of it is actively trying to KILL off what was created to be the standard ebook format! The only result of what is currently going on is Amazon will take over with its proprietary format or PDFs will become the main eBook style which would suck as well as they do not scale well. I guess though the real question is how will Schools and newspaper companies use this. The Kindle DX could easily be used to provide very cheap newspaper subscriptions and by this I mean cheaper for both the consumer and the newspaper companies which would have a better chance to stay alive if they didn’t have to deliver which would probably lower their prices into the ranges people are more willing to pay. On this larger screen it would become much more usable for reading like a newspaper. In schools the question is can students soon start just getting an ebook version of some textbooks? This should help save money on textbooks but more importantly reduce backpack weight which has been a rising problem for students. I really think the Kindle DX could be the first on the way to really changing the way we read on a large scale but do we need another iTunes repeat? Cause that is where we are currently going.
btw: The iTunes analogy works on more then one level. First, DRM vs non-DRM which took way to long to win for music. Second, iTunes uses AAC instead of the defacto standard MP3 where ePub is the actual standard and Amazon goes on with its perversion of the mobi format.