eBook Market Gets More Crowded... But... Still Many Limitations

from the it's-a-start dept

As lots of tech sites are reporting (and as was leaked not too long ago), Barnes & Noble has released its own ebook reader, clearly designed to compete with the Kindle. The good news is that it takes aim at some of Kindle's weaknesses, such as by supporting more open offerings, like ePub, and also by allowing you to "lend" books to others. But the lending is pretty limited. You can only lend a book once, and then only for two weeks, after which the lent book disappears. It's nice that you'll be able to buy books from other retailers and use them on the Nook, but the limitations still seem pretty serious. Still, more competition is good, and even a slight step towards a more open solution is a step in the right direction. Next up: we just need someone else (perhaps not tied to a bookstore) to offer an even more open device.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 7:00pm

    How about one that when you LEND a book, it removes it from your reader and puts it on the other one for two weeks, then it re-appears back on yours?

    That would be a true lend.

     

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  2.  
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    Carl (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 7:32pm

    Re:

    I heard that that is how their "lending" mechanism actually works

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 8:49pm

    Re:

    And the point of that would be?

     

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  4.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:02pm

    Much better

    I have fought our campus adopting Kindle. Actually, all the tech people did. Administrators were the ones who wanted to jump on the Amazon bandwagon.

    Nook is definitely a step in the right direction because it is somewhat open. I made the TV analogy to administrators. TV grew up as an open platform. Anyone could build a TV that would pick up anyone's broadcasts, and broadcasters could have their programming played on any standard hardware. The approach taken by Amazon and Sony is an attempt to control the entire platform and get some profit from the hardware all the way through the user purchasing (and possibly repurchasing if their unit goes bad) their books. We would still be listening to the radio if Sony and Amazon had invented TV.

    I just hope that Barnes and Nobles doesn't get cold feet like the last time they released an ebook device.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:44pm

    This whole eBook thing is over-rated.

    I vaguely remember having a high level interview with Amazon a few years ago about Kindle. And in typical Anon Coward fashon, I told them how it wasn't going to be anything spectacular, how people want color, how people don't want to leave their young kids home with a $300 piece of machinery that if they sit on, or put in their backpack the wrong way, it could be broken. Who pays for it?

    At the time, I thought the whole thing was a joke.

    I am not sold on eBooks or these readers on any level. I just can't see how it can replace a $10.00 paperback unless, as I said to the interviewer "You re-train everyone to treat a Kindle as a $400 book. Then that's interesting. How do you treat you Bible?" I asked.

    Audible Silence..

    Still not sold on eBooks on ANY LEVEL.

     

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  6.  
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    Pitabred (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:26pm

    Re:

    The point is not to replace A $10.00 paperback. It's to replace a COLLECTION of $10 paperbacks. I don't have enough shelf space in my house to hold all the books I'd like to read. A Nook or something similar that isn't tied to an emissive screen is a great idea for me. Since the Nook looks to actually support open standards, and is based on Android, I'm willing to actually risk buying one, and using it for books from Project Gutenberg, and from the other publishers who provide free or low-cost e-books. I will feel perfectly secure buying one because I can put the entire Project Gutenberg library on it, and I won't have to spend more than the $250 for the device. That's a hell of a lot cheaper than buying all of those books in dead tree format, and having they physical space to store all of them.

     

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  7.  
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    Jason Buberel (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:38pm

    Re: well, there are those who do...

    Although I will admit that the flow is not yet a flood, the sales figures cited by Amazon for the Kindle do support the claim that there are people out there that are very convinced.

    I predict that it is largely a matter of time and refinement before paper-based books eventually fade away. It may take 2-3 decades, but the advantages are clear albeit not very cost competitive at this moment in time. But costs of the devices will start to drop sharply as competition increases (already seeing this) and usage increases (already seeing this too).

     

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  8.  
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    Jason Buberel (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:45pm

    Is the lending really all that "limited"?

    When you state that "the lending is pretty limited", in what sense did you mean that?

    From what I can tell, their lending implementation is better than what can be done in the world of paper-books in at least one aspect: When you lend the book to a friend, you still retain a copy that you're able to read. Hard to do with a paper-book.

    Demanding that the devices and the BN.com bookstore be completely DRM-free sounds to me like a totally unreasonable demand. DRM is not, be definition, pure evil IMO. The support for ePub means millions of public domain books from multiple sources can be read, which is really quite amazing, IMO.

    In general, this looks like a strong step in a good direction. I'm still a big user of audio books/audible.com, but if and when I do return to the printed word, it will most likely be in eBook form.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:57pm

    Re: Re:

    Well, Good for you.

    Ever live in Midtown Manhattan? That's where I am after living in Redmond and Seattle. I could still find enough shelf space for myself and all the books I wanted to read. I guess it comes down to prioritization, and valuating what you bring based on a dollar value per sq foot, which suprisingly, CostCo remains higher than WalMart. Gee. Where did I learn that from?

    I really think you're full of shit and have no idea what you're talking about.

    Thanks, Pitabread, and Thanks, Mike for deleting all my fake profiles. Each of them had a different storyline, and each was going to be a winning Pulitzer Prize Novel. I thought you respected creativity. Now I have to go back and reconstruct everything. Mike, you're a real ass sometimes, Mike. Fuck, even "Mike this is your mother"turns up nothing.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 11:07pm

    Re: Re:

    Have you ever tried sitting on your thumb? I guarantee it will give you a better sensation than what anything on your shelf of paperbacks will provide.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 11:21pm

    Other Ebook Readers

    There are several ebook readers out there not made by the bookstores - the Sony Reader Digital Books are currently available in the US, and wikipedia has a rather extensive listing of devices that are out there.

     

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  12.  
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    Griff (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 11:25pm

    Re: True lending

    * That would be a true lend.

    ** And the point of that would be?

    The point would be that you'd maybe miss the book and ask for it back and the borrower would go and get his own.
    It would also stop you behaving like an unauthrosied public library at the expense of the author.

    Have to agree with the poster who says nopt all DRM is pure evil.
    Demanding that everything be free just because someone somewhere can get round DRM is not a defensible position.

    When DRM becomes evil is when it inconveniences the innocent (like CD's that won't play or rootkits).

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 11:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Surely, you realize that Mike has a lot of things going on, just because he deleted your "Mike, This is your Mother" post, doesn't mean he hates you. But, you know, it is kinda funny and shows a level of insecurity on Mike's part.

    I LOL'ed when I read that a few months ago. It's one of the few things I remember. And when even Dark Helmet asked if it was fake. But if we go and delete our own subculture, what's left? I guess it's sometimes good to laugh at ourselves, and then bring it up.

    I guess I kinda agree with you in an odd way.

     

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  14.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Thanks, Mike for deleting all my fake profiles.

    I did no such thing.

    Each of them had a different storyline, and each was going to be a winning Pulitzer Prize Novel.

    Well, then good luck to you. They were not deleted.

    Now I have to go back and reconstruct everything. Mike, you're a real ass sometimes, Mike. Fuck, even "Mike this is your mother"turns up nothing.

    You should try using our own comment search engine. It finds the comment just fine:

    http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20090813/0126395864#c41

    We don't delete comments other than spam.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well, thanks for finding the missing link, Mike. Granted, upon review, it wasn't by any measure a good post. But maybe I had fun with it, and maybe that's why it was memorable. Especially considering the timing and all.

    LOL. Man, it is pathetic, actually. Just like everything else I do here. Yeah, better put that Pulizer Prize aspiration off for a while.

     

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  16.  
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    fastfoodnation, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 5:29am

    me too product

    Looks like another forced upgrade business model.

     

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  17.  
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    Dan J., Oct 21st, 2009 @ 6:39am

    Re:

    I suspect that you're trolling but I'll respond anyway. The point isn't to replace a $10.00 paper back. Sure, it'll do that. But that isn't the primary purpose, and I suspect that very few people will purchase it for that reason.

    Here's why I am very strongly considering getting one. I have a couple of long shelves of reference books that I use frequently. I'm a network engineer and I have about a dozen Cisco books for reference and study. Additionally, I'm a non-professional programmer and I have a couple dozen programming reference books. These books are anywhere from 300 to 600 pages each. Almost every one of them comes with a CD which includes a PDF of the book. The ability to take those hundred plus pounds of paper, put them in a 12 ounce device and stick them in my backpack is absolutely killer. And if I can throw a few $10 paperbacks in as well, that's just bonus.

     

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  18.  
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    Dan J., Oct 21st, 2009 @ 6:45am

    Re: Is the lending really all that "limited"?

    Additionally, the reader supports a number of formats, including PDF. If you don't like the DRM on a particular format, don't purchase books in that format. There's nothing that says you have to use B&N's store if you buy the Nook.

     

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  19.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 6:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    ...I want my story attribution, dammit...

     

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  20.  
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    hegemon13, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 7:39am

    Re: Re: True lending

    DRM always inconveniences the "innocent," and it does NOTHING to prevent piracy. Those who will pirate will do it, anyway, and every single DRM scheme out there will be cracked pretty quickly.

     

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  21.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 8:45am

    "You had me at ePub & PDF support."

    Honestly that feature alone completely removes any hard ties from B&N and sells me on the nook. At that point I can put on any book I want. The problem with the Kindle is that you can only put books purchased through Amazon on it, at least with the nook you never need to actually purchase a book if all you load on it are freely available ePub and PDF files.

    And it looks like a slick piece of hardware. There's also the feature that allows you to take it into a brick & mortar store and read eBooks for free in-store (not sure on specifics on this but it seems pretty cool). And it plays MP3s which will be great for language learning eBooks that have audio lessons along with them.

    Personally, I'm sold on the nook. I've wanted an eReader, but the Kindle is too totalitarian and Sony has done little as a company to instill customer loyalty with its media divisions and their near-black hat security measures.

    All of my books are going to be open ePub files or PDF files anyway, so "lending" anyone a book will be as simple as copying from my memory stick onto their nook. The "lending" restrictions only apply if you are dealing with B&N purchased eBooks. I have an iPod full of MP3s, and I'll have a nook full of PDFs.

     

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  22.  
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    Overtkill (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 9:18am

    Reader? Hmm....

    Considering that 'Netbooks' are so small now, give the PC industry (Intel Atom Processor type) a year or two and you'll have a full blown computer that size before you know it. These readers are probably nothing more than a fad. My wife and I were having a conversation about theses sorts of things bringing us ever closer yet to more Sci-fi related toys. (Remember those reading pads that used to get carted all around the Star Trek universe)

    I for one will wait for the PC to arrive there before I purchase one. But thats just me.... :)

     

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  23.  
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    chris (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: True lending

    It would also stop you behaving like an unauthrosied public library at the expense of the author.

    and what's the difference between an authorized library and an unauthorized one? funding by the state?

    Have to agree with the poster who says nopt all DRM is pure evil.
    Demanding that everything be free just because someone somewhere can get round DRM is not a defensible position.


    all DRM is pure evil in that it only ever affects the "innocent". DRM has no effect on piracy. in fact, it encourages it:

    1) DRM doesn't work. it's based on a faulty implementation of cryptography: encrypted content is given to the user, who is also the attacker. along with the key to decrypt the content. this is why all DRM schemes get cracked within minutes, the authorization keys are put into the hands of attackers.

    2) DRM doesn't stop piracy. pirated versions are not DRM'd. the DRM is either stripped prior to upload, or simply pirated from an unencrypted source.

    3) DRM only hurts legitimate users. it only limits the actions of your paying customers and makes pirated versions with no restrictions more valuable than your paid product. meanwhile, piracy continues without ever coming into contact with DRM (see #2)

    4) DRM encourages piracy: once the DRM scheme burns a legitimate user, that user will turn to piracy for a usable copy of the media they bought. in the future, what's to stop them from just skipping the buying step?

    Demanding that everything be free just because someone somewhere can get round DRM is not a defensible position.

    it's not a position. it's a fact of life. everything digital is already out there, for free, in the clear, for whoever wants to take it, and there is nothing that can be done to stop it.

    it's a guarantee, a mathematical certainty, that content will be downloaded without authorization and no amount of whining will fix that. time and money invested attempts to control the copying of bits on the internet is time and money wasted, in fact, it might very well be time and money invested in ill will on the part of paying customers.

     

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  24.  
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    Bubba, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 10:31am

    I agree with previous posters, if you live in a small apartment you don't have room for a huge book collection. I haven't seen it, but I read that the epaper screen the current crop of ebook readers use is easier on the eyes than a computer's lcd/crt screen. If you don't mind the lcd you don't have to wait for computers to get small, you can read ebooks on a smartphone, which is what I do. Sure the screen is smaller, but that's what scroll is for. Also, if you are reading a book with no illustrations I find ASCII text files to be better than pdf's or any other proprietary format. They take up a lot less space, load faster, and can be viewed on almost anything. For ebooks with illustrations I'd prefer html with the jpgs/gifs/pngs in a folder over pdf files.

     

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  25.  
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    Kennedy808, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    There are lots of "open" ebook readers out there, if you don't need the wireless features. I've been using a BeBook for over a year and love it. http://mybebook.com/

    It supports doc, txt, rtf, html, lit, non-drm'ed mobi, pdf and drm'ed epub, and more.

    Yeah, you have to load it with a SD card or USB cable, but it will take just about any ebook you try to put on it.

     

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  26.  
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    Phil, Oct 23rd, 2009 @ 5:17am

    Re:

    Also check out the http://reader.txtr.com from Germany. It is very open, has a very minimalistic design and is the first to include o'reilly books.

     

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  27.  
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    Zac Morris (profile), Oct 29th, 2009 @ 10:42am

    Here here chris

    Here here chris, well said!
      Demanding that everything be free just because someone somewhere can get round DRM is not a defensible position. it's not a position. it's a fact of life. everything digital is already out there, for free, in the clear, for whoever wants to take it, and there is nothing that can be done to stop it. it's a guarantee, a mathematical certainty, that content will be downloaded without authorization and no amount of whining will fix that. time and money invested attempts to control the copying of bits on the internet is time and money wasted, in fact, it might very well be time and money invested in ill will on the part of paying customers.

     

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  28.  
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    Zac Morris (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 8:09am

    B&N Online Library

    Is there any Amazon/Kindle like stories involving Barnes and Noble's online library yet? As in them removing anything from your online library? I'm contemplating the nook, so I started using the B&N online library yesterday, with both the PC and iTouch reader software. So far, I am not impressed. The iTouch/iPhone app is the most confusing app I've ever seen so far. It definitely has that "defined by committee" feel about it. I also don't understand their pricing strategy! A good many "new" books are $9.99 which is a very decent price for a hardback equivalent; but then when the paperback editiion comes out, the eBook pricing is only dropping to $7.99 and it's not eligible for the B&N discount even. Why would anyone want to pay MORE for an eBook version? AND to make it even worse, they don't offer any of the compilation editions available via eBook, so you have to pay for each individual eBook in a series ($23.97 for an eBook trilogy), when a compilation paperback is in the range of $9.99-$14.99 I still don't see it the way I want it, so I'm probably taking this off my Xmas list.

     

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