Archive for the ‘Tech – Other’ category

ECTACO jetBook: Built-In WiFi Coming?

December 30, 2008

I’m asking ECTACO directly about this.

I got a bit of a shock with YahooMail moments ago. Not one of their usual useless banner ads. This one was aimed right at me:

ymailad123008
Composite image. Click = big.

Of course I had to click on that M218!

ectacom218b
Click = big

I knew as of last night that this was being sold in China. I never thought it’d be sold here in America.

And yet here it is listed on ECTACO’s American store!

This is the paragraph to note, the built-in WiFi and its unique feature:

ectacom218wifi
Click = big

The text of that:

With built in high-speed Wi-Fi, Chinese eBook reader M218B can easily connect to wireless network. Then you can immediately search and download numerous eBook, Pdf files and music. Another exciting feature of Chinese eBook reader M218B is that it supports end-to-end transmission. You can copy and exchange files, music, picture with another user, who can be your friend or just another “eBook-pal”.

Emphasis added by me.

I can hear the nascent heart attacks of the dying dinosaurs of print out there!

Alas, the beauty photo of the M218 highlights the calculator-like nature of its screen, and not its ability to be mistaken for eInk under direct lighting:

ectacom218

But I have to wonder: Will ECTACO be releasing an English-language jetBook version of this?

Would WiFi then justify its $299 price tag? Well, not just WiFi — but its upcoming ePub and MobiPocket capability too!

An ePub/MobiPocket WiFi eBook reader would suddenly help shake things up.

Both Amazon and Sony would have a formidable new competitor, I think.

Previously here:

ECTACO jetBook And ePub
Eejit Geeks. Things Should Just Work!
Micro Fondle 2: ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader
ECTACO jetBook Ups ePub Stakes
ECTACO jetBook At Blowout Price!
More About That ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader
Micro Fondle: ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader

Free eBook By Ken Wohlrob

December 30, 2008

happybuscover

“Happy Bus” now available as a free eBook for iPhone, Sony Reader and more.

I’m proud to announce that I’ve made “Taking the Happy Bus on Home,” a short story from my collection The Love Book, available as a free eBook for the iPhone, Sony Reader, Kindle and a just about every other device on the planet.

At FeedBooks for ePub, Mobipocket/Kindle, PDF, Sony Reader, iLiad, Custom PDF (the last option requires registration; all others do not):

One of the short stories from Ken Wohlrob’s new collection, The Love Book. An epidemic of suicide hits a retirement community in Ohio and one couple begins to question the value of their final days together. These are very modern fables, with a great heart, a very biting sense of humor, and fully-fleshed out characters that you can sink your teeth into.

Buy a copy of the book or learn more about the author at www.kenwohlrob.com

iPhone/iPod Touch users can grab it using Stanza. See details here.

ECTACO jetBook And ePub

December 29, 2008

My curiosity won’t let me rest, of course.

I found out the jetBook is also in China, called the Dr. Yi. (I don’t, however, know if this means the jetBook is of Chinese creation. But I wouldn’t be surprised.)

dryi

dryispecs

Of particular interest to me is this:

CPU: ARM9 200MHz

Because look at this for the Sony Reader 505:

CPU: Freescale i.MXL, ARM920T core, 150-200 MHz

That says to me the jetBook should have the horsepower needed to deal with ePub files. I had been wondering about that.

Reference: GutenMark

December 29, 2008

GutenMark Home Page
Attractively formatting Project Gutenberg texts

What is GutenMark?

GutenMark is a command-line tool for automatically creating high-quality HTML or LaTeX markup from Project Gutenberg etexts. As of April 2008, there is also a graphical front-end called GUItenMark that greatly simplifies usage for casual users. Both Windows and Linux ‘x86 are supported. Mac OS X is also supported, though in some respects it lags the others. Limited iPhone support is also possible.

In combination with other freely-available conversion tools GutenMark aims to convert Project Gutenberg etexts into publication-quality Postscript or PDF, for print-on-demand applications. The goal is for this conversion to be completely automatic, without manual markup or editing, but for the forseeable future some manual intervention will almost always be needed—at least, if your standards are at least as high as mine.

I took the Project Gutenberg plain text file of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and ran it through this.

Amazingly, this:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman.

was transformed to this:

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.

As it should be!

I was impressed with the available options and did some light testing. It could be a very useful tool for Project Gutenberg etexts that have only a plain text version available.

On the other hand, I also downloaded the Project Gutenberg HTML of the same Holmes and it was superior.

But this tool remains a very painless way of changing those text files into a format that can then go on to further processing to create an eBook.

Eejit Geeks. Things Should Just Work!

December 29, 2008

Ectaco Jetbook downloads

I do not know what a line feed, text editor or DRM is, nor do I know how to convert!

I’ve just wasted a good part of two days playing around with various “tools” to create an FB2 (FictionBook) file format eBook.

I’m no novice, but the task defeated me.

The tools were shit.

1) One converter from HTML to FB2 ignored photos and styled text weirdly.

2) An entire program devoted to creating FB2 eBooks was buggy as hell and the files I thought were perfect turned out all FAIL!

3) A desktop FB2 file reader couldn’t display italic text (but it could display JPEGs — go figure!).

All I wanted to do was see one — just one! — FB2 eBook, even if I had to create it myself!

And here, in the above thread, eBook geeks are trying to convince a member of the general reading public to develop some g33k ski77z in order to do some eBook reading.

That’s just half-assed stupid.

That’s like everyone having to be a frikkin financial expert (and I choose that example to rub your FAIL 401K in your face!).

Now just imagine the general public encountering that Zero-G Toilet of Adobe ePub DRM!

That’s just another formula for FAIL!

The Monthly Digital Lifeline Bill

December 29, 2008

Numbers to keep in mind

$260 a month. That’s how much the average US household is spending each month on digital services that did not exist a generation ago. They include: mobile phone, broadband access, cable or satellite television, personal video recording. This number comes from a survey by the Center for Digital Future, a department of the University of Southern California. Even more interesting is the amount of money spent by the poorest households: their monthly bill of digital services isn’t as low as one would imagine: $180. This suggests two thoughts: one, these services are no longer a luxury but have become as basic as a car; two, given this amount of money, hoping to squeeze a few dozens of dollars more per month for content services is unrealistic. Except for highly specialized premium services (almost never paid by the end-user), editorial on the Internet is very likely to remain free. European spending is lower, but catching up. — FF

Emphasis in the original.

Yeah, I can see that.

I know my book spending will go stratospheric when I go all-e.

Why?

That will end the days of my picking up used paperbacks for cheap. Even if eBooks level out to an impulse-buy price, there’d still be no matching a fifty-cent paperback!

Apex Book Company Needs Some Sales!

December 28, 2008

apexlogo

Brother, can you spare $15.95?

The economy has taken a huge bite out of Apex Publications. Starting with Bear Stearns dying, you can see an immediate drop in our revenue (September/October/November/December). December has been the worst with a drop of 75% in revenue compared to the August numbers.

The recession hit at the worst time possible. I literally have spent every penny in the coffers doing things like: reimbursing old lifetime subscribers (and yes, there are a couple of you still waiting on money), paying back the Apex Digest printer $12,000 (done, huzzah!), reprinting and reshipping stolen copies of I REMEMBER THE FUTURE (goodbye $600), replacing almost 90 USPS damaged ORGY OF SOULS hardcovers to Horror-Mall (goodbye $2000). I’m not asking for pity. This stuff happens to good people and bad. But stuff happening with the downturn in the economy has the Apex bank account crying for mercy.

What this means is that Apex Publications needs an influx of revenue. Quick.

What this means is that if you’ve ever thought of buying an Apex book, now would be a damn good time to do so.

The most effective, easiest and most fun way to pump some blood into Apex is to buy a book directly from our store. You get damn fine literature (and free media shipping if your order is $25 or more (applies to US orders only)).

If you’re strapped of cash, then blog about our books or authors and try to coerce people into giving us a try.

I figure we need about $2500 in revenue over the next two weeks.

Remember:
We’re taking pre-orders on The Convent of the Pure by Sara M. Harvey, Open Your Eyes by Paul Jessup, and The Monster Within Idea by R. Thomas Riley.

Catacombs and Photographs by Brandy Schwan is now available and all pre-orders have been shipped.

All back issues of Apex Digest are half-priced.

Emphasis added by me.

Apex is a small publisher. The kind of publisher we’ll all count on in the eBook future, so give them some sales love.

Apex Book Company store
Apex Book company eBooks at Fictionwise (which look to be mostly DRM free as well as being in lots of formats — including Sony Reader!)

The Zero-Gravity Toilet Of Adobe DRMed ePub

December 27, 2008

There’s a classic shot in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey when the main character has to first consult instructions on how to use a zero-gravity toilet:

0g-toilet

Imagine having to go through all that!

And yet — there is something actually worse than that.

It’s the instructions on how to go about using Adobe DRMed ePub eBooks!

Here are the Zero-Gravity toilet instructions:

zerogtoilet2

Now contrast the amount of text there to instructions for using Adobe DRMed ePub:

adobedrmepub01
adobedrmepub02

Can you imagine the poor technically unsophisticated schmo having to deal with all that?

“For God’s sake, all I want to do is read eBooks!!!”

Really, it turns out it’s easier to take a shit in space than to deal with Adobe DRMed ePub eBooks!

Micro Fondle 2: ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader

December 27, 2008

jetbookdiagram

Ever since ECTACO emailed me about upcoming ePub capability for its jetBook eBook reader, I’ve gotten a renewed interest in it.

So yesterday morning, since I was in the area anyway, I made it a point to stop in at J&R to give it yet another fondle. This did not put me in good stead with the hapless salesman, who had to cycle through all four display models (in colors red, black, white, and gray!) to find the one that had a charge on its battery! As it turned out, he had to plug it into AC for a moment to get one to work.

All of what follows is from my memory. I didn’t take notes and I didn’t pull out the crapcam (I was feeling sorry for the salesman!). The above photo is from the original micro fondle.

Again: the hardware is just solid. Even though the case is all plastic, it has a thick, industrial-like feel to it. Not any part of it feels cheap or flimsy. The casing has a pebbled finish, so it’s not likely to easily slip out of the hand. All of the buttons feel solid and do not wobble.

Also again: in direct-lighting conditions, the backlight-less LCD screen can be mistaken for eInk — except, being LCD, there is no flashing when turning pages.

I went through Settings and discovered there are six font sizes, ranging from 12 point all the way to 32. This is one more size than the newest Sony Reader, the 700, offers.

There are, however, only two built-in fonts, and both are sadly sans-serif: Arial and Verdana. I would have liked at least one serifed font, even if it was simply Times or a variant thereof. I don’t know if it’s possible to add fonts.

There’s a built-in dictionary! The Sony Reader still lacks this. I don’t know how extensive the dictionary is, but I’ll give ECTACO the benefit of the doubt here because its main business has been electronic dictionaries and translators. I have to think the dictionary is good. In fact, I just went to look at the User Manual (PDF link; with another PDF version too), and it states:

The English/Russian, English/Polish, and English explanatory dictionaries built into ECTACO jetBook allow you to instantly translate an unfamiliar word.

So, yeah, the dictionary is solid.

Unlike both the Sony Reader and the abominable Kindle, eBooks can be grouped together into folders (the new Sony Reader 700 offers Collections, but it’s not quite the same). There is also access to the filesystem with a directory display. I’m not sure, however, if any file commands can be carried out on the device itself. Again, looking at the User Manual, apparently so:

Files

Select the Books folder, Music folder, or Pictures folder and then press OK. You will see the Files menu which has the following options: Open, Copy, Delete, and Rename. Select the desired option and then press OK.

The jetBook had one image on it. A 600K-plus JPEG that was a flyer for the jetBook itself. It took a few seconds to open but was worth the minor wait because it looked gorgeous. Since it was most likely shrunk down from an 8.5 x 11-inch size to fit the 5-inch diagonal screen, text was very tiny.

The screen can be rotated ninety-degrees. This worked well and was fast.

I had two problems. When moving backward through the menus, I encountered one in Russian. This seemed to be the list of eBooks, which a moment ago had actually been listed in English! I don’t know how that happened.

The other thing was the slider on the left side, which can be used to page forward and page back. It was the one weak link on the device. I couldn’t see how to use it with one hand without threatening to have the jetBook slip out of my hand to the ground. At least, unlike the abominable Kindle, it’s a button that can easily be ignored and I doubt it can be accidentally invoked.

Operation of the unit had an acceptable speed. It didn’t have the horsepower pop I felt with the Sony Reader 700, but it didn’t feel altogether sluggish, either.

I wouldn’t rely on the jetBook for MP3s, however. User reviews over at newegg give MP3 playback a FAIL:

The MP3 player is a joke. It can be suitable for listening some spoken word lower quailty audio, but if you want to play music, expect poor sound quality. It seems like it doesn’t have enough power to play higher bitrate MP3’s.

I don’t see the point of putting MP3s on a reading device, anyway, so this feature is superfluous to me.

It seems the user reviewers at newegg bought the jetBook primarily to deal with PDFs. PDF is the File Format Of The Damned. It’s best for reading on monitors or even perhaps on that upcoming ginormous Plastic Logic reader. I can’t see the sense of trying to deal with a file formatted for 8.5 x 11-inch paper on a 5- or 6-inch screen. PDFs can be optimized for eBook devices — but I don’t think most PDF publishers will do that. They’re likely to figure such problems are a piracy speedbump (and I’d actually tend to agree).

The jetBook doesn’t require a desktop client for eBooks. Simply plug it into a USB port and it appears as a Removable Drive. Drag and drop eBooks, MP3s (bleh!), and graphics onto it.

Two questions I have and don’t know the answers to:

1) What is the CPU and its speed? I’m wondering if the current hardware will have the necessary horsepower to deal with ePub and MobiPocket files. As for non-DRMed MobiPocket, I expect so, because even Palm PDAs could do those. But even non-DRMed ePub? I don’t know.

2) Since no desktop client is being used, does that rule out DRMed ePub and DRMed MobiPocket files? Someone who knows, leave a Comment!

It’s too bad the price of the jetBook is so high. It’s perceived value just isn’t equivalent to that of the Sony Reader. It’s not. I still think slashing the price by a third could excite interest in it — especially if it will actually be able to do DRMed ePub and DRMed MobiPocket files.

I’d like to see a second dedicated eBook reader that can do ePub. That’d put further pressure on Amazon and its abominable Kindle file format lock-in. It’d also offer an alternative for people who foolishly believe they can’t deal with the page-turn flashing of eInk. And if the jetBook underwent a price cut, it could increase the potential audience for eBooks.

Supplemental:

ECTACO jetBook photos on Flickr
MobileRead jetBook review and discussion thread
MobileRead jetBook owner photo

Previously here:

ECTACO jetBook Ups ePub Stakes
ECTACO jetBook At Blowout Price!
More About That ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader
Micro Fondle: ECTACO jetBook eBook Reader

eBooks And Pricing: No Argument Now!

December 27, 2008

I was going through my LifeDrive memos and came across a Stephen Levy column from Newsweek that nails the argument for lower-than-print pricing of eBooks.

This column is from 2004 — four years ago!

FORECAST: SONG COSTS MAY FALL LIKE RAIN
MEMO TO MUSIC LABELS: LOWERING PRICES WILL GET YOU MORE SALES

This is the key point:

This summer [2004] provided a clue to further harnessing the force of digital nature. For three weeks, Real Networks tried to lure new customers by slashing prices to 49 cents a song and $4.99 per album. Since Real paid the full royalty load to the labels (almost 70 cents a tune), the company lost money on every transaction. CEO Rob Glaser says that the company did get new customers, but here’s the real news: Real sold six times as much music and took in three times as much money.

This reflected the experience of Audible, which sells audiobooks on the iTunes Store. Working in conjunction with publishers and Apple, Audible offered some online titles at a fraction of the normal price. One of those buyers was me — I had been thinking of getting a David Sedaris audiobook to entertain my family on a summer drive, but balked at paying $11 for something I might play just once. After I got an e-mail informing me I could get it for $2, I snapped it up. Audible CEO Don Katz says the featured books on that single e-mail were downloaded at 60 times the previous rate.

Emphasis added by me.

Let me hammer down the point.

Audible was selling an audio-eBook. It sold at sixty times the previous sales rate once the price was slashed.

Let me run some math, and I’ll use simple numbers because math usually gets me in trouble!

An eBook at $10.00 with a 10% royalty, one copy sold = $1.00

OK, that’s the “normal” rate of sale.

Now let’s do the Audible price cut numbers.

An eBook at $2.00 with a 10% royalty, sixty copies sold = $12.00

Which would a writer rather have? A guarantee of $1.00 per copy with an increased risk of piracy?

Or sixty copies sold at a piracy-prevention price that makes him twelve times as much money than expected sales?

I will keep hammering this point home again and again, dammit.

I want to walk into a printed bookstore and witness this conversation:

Shopper 1: “Oh, this book I want to buy!”
Shopper 2: “Me too. But it’s cheaper as an eBook for my Sony Reader!”

That is the Marketing Point for eBooks, the one that will drive hardware sales and then increase eBook sales exponentially:

If you buy it as an eBook, it’s cheaper.

Remember: eBooks are not like music. People will listen repeatedly to a song. But people don’t read an eBook over and over again. Once it’s been read, people want to buy something else.

And the resistance to eBooks is not as strong as anyone believes. See Vox Populi: eBooks.