At the Ref Desk (4/25/17): Someone calls but when I pick up the phone all I get is background noise -- people talking, etc. Did he or she just sit on their smartphone and dial out accidentally? Interesting jumping off point for a work of fiction... [more...]
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Ding Dong, the Kindle's Dead!

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 2/5/11 (2:43pm)

Wrong Way Here's a little secret, if you ever want to evaluate the relative value of those writing on technology, have a look at what they said about the Amazon Kindle circa Late 2007-Early 2008.

From Amy Lee over at HuffPost:

The ereader's days are numbered.

Though 6 million ereaders were sold in 2010, experts predict it is all downhill from here for these devices, which will be edged out by the growing number of increasingly affordable tablets on the market.

By 2015, twice as many people will own tablets as do ereaders. By the end of 2012, the number of people owning tablets will overtake the number of those owning ereaders, according to research by Forrester, a tech research company.

As the demise of the Flip camera suggests, consumers are increasingly trading single-purpose devices for multifunction gadgets. Especially as the price of tablet computers continues to fall, experts predict users will drop ereaders for tablet PCs that offer web-browsing and video capabilities alongside ebooks. Even Amazon, which helped make ereaders and ebooks mainstream, appears to recognize the ereader's impending demise and is rumored to be developing its own tablet device. The Barnes and Noble Nook Color has already been modified to run Android's Froyo software, taking it into tablet territory.

Of course, the problem is, we're going from Kindle Mania (eInk! eInk! eInk!) to App Mania -- so I guess it never stops.

washingtonpost_logo.gif I'm happy to see Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post reporting on books being sold by Amazon through its Kindle Store that are otherwise free and in the public domain:

"Kindle readers, take note: You may have been paying for books you could legally download for free -- in nearly identical editions -- elsewhere."

Kind of ironic that this appears in WaPo under the byline 'Faster Forward' -- since I (and probably a whole lot of other people) wrote about it more than a year ago.

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Leo Klein Caught Trashing E-Books in the DePaul Student Newspaper

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 3/5/10 (8:28am)

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So I'm famous, I guess. I made it into the student newspaper, the DePaulia, on the subject of e-books:

"I've got a great book collection, and there are great atlases and things like that. [T]here's a great book we have here, The Burnham Plan of Chicago, it's wonderfully illustrated from 100 years ago. [W]ould an electronic version replace that?" said Leo Klein, part time librarian at the DePaul Library.

Of course, not every book fits into this category. In fact, the majority don't, which is why I'm perfectly happy to access them online. It's just the distribution methods, some quite restrictive and proprietary, that give me indigestion.

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Will the Real 'Kindle Killer' Please Stand Up?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 2/22/10 (9:42am)

Roy was a bit more taken with the recently introduced Apple iPad than I, to the point that he titled his post, "Kindle Killer".

From what I've heard, the device is modeled on the iPhone which is both good and not so good. It's good because, as Roy points out, if you're familiar with one, you'll be familiar with the other. It's not so good because, among other things, Apple keeps a firm grip on what you can put on it through its App store. What's more, its feature set isn't all that great and it seems the one word that's been associated with it following its release is, 'disappointment'.

In walks the Dell Mini 5. With its 400x800 screen, the device fits somewhere between a smart phone and a netbook. Engadget calls it "neither too big nor too small". You can actually use it as a phone and the screen while smaller than the iPad is large enough compared to your average smart phone that reading is easier. In addition, the thing has a camera and runs on the open source Android system.

At the moment, it's still in production. Things like the keyboard still need a bit more work. But once the kinks are ironed out, perhaps in a second iteration, this kind of middling approach where you can both read and phone seems far more worthy of 'Kindle Killer' status than the iPad.

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Overpriced E-Books No Bargain for Students

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 12/5/09 (6:57pm)

Chicago Tribune logoI missed this article on ways to save money on college textbooks when it first came out. Most of it your average college student would know by heart after the first quarter or semester -- they'd know it that is, if they wanted to avoid bankruptcy. But what really caught my eye was this final warning from 'textbooks advocate' Nicole Allen about e-books:

The one option Allen warned students against buying was e-book versions of texts. A number of publishers offer online books for purchase, she noted, but they are one-year rentals.

By and large, the e-books are available only through an Internet connection, and many restrict the number of pages you can print at one time.

In this case, the calculus e-book cost $100, about $40 more than Chegg's rental and only about $20 less than buying a used hard copy. And you have nothing to resell. [Kristof, Kathy M., "Turning the page on pricey textbooks", Chicago Tribune (9/4/2009):1,29.]

Basically they're saying, why should you rent it for a limited time when for just $20 more it can be yours forever? I think this kind of calculation is absolutely de rigueur not only for students but for institutions thinking of investing in these potentially ephemeral yet costly products.

Amazon Kindle: Why Get It for Free If You Can Pay for It?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 9/5/09 (11:22pm)
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This is so unfair! 'The Great Slump of 1930' by John Maynard Keynes which goes for the outrageous price of 'free' at Project Gutenberg Canada is being offered by Amazon to Kindle users for a mere $4.25. How does Amazon get away with it?

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eBook Killer, Thy Name is NetBook

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 12/7/08 (10:40am)

So remind me again, who's going to pick the utterly drab and uni-functional Amazon Kindle for $359 when they can get this baby for the same price?

Courtesy of MiniNote User.

UPDATE (1/5/09): Not to make this sound like the GadgetBlog but HP just came out with an update to its top of the line model, the HP Mini 2140. Faster chip, bigger lcd panel -- Hoo Baby!

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eBook Readers Suck as eBook Readers

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 8/8/08 (10:53am)

First people, please don't mention the Kindle and the future-of-print in the same breath. That would imply that one has something to do with the other and why do Amazon's marketing for them?

But ignoring that for a moment, I think the whole concept of a dedicated "ebook" reader is somewhat dodgy. I mean, if that's all they do, why bother?

You can't copy out bits and pieces of the text, import them into something you're working on, share them with friends, blog about them -- or do any of the million other things you're used to doing on electronic devices that are increasingly just as small and inexpensive.

In other words, an 'eBook' reader completely sucks as an 'eBook' reader because it treats what you're reading as a complete digital dead-end.

Kindle Swindle

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 11/21/07 (12:34pm)

Please stop talking about the demise of the traditional book! To do so in the same breath as the Amazon Kindle gives this contraption way more credibility than it’s due.

The defenders of this device say we shouldn’t rush to judgment while at the same time they make such extraordinary associations.

It’s marketing. That’s all.

UPDATE: Ultimately, we're going to describe all the hype surrounding the Amazon Kindle as "The Little Bandwagon Effect That Couldn't".

I mean, Amazon said to the media, 'jump', and the media responded, 'how high'? (Here's a particularly embarrassing example from Businessweek.)

But the public won't have any of this. The level of resistance is due in large part to how far the claims for this device simply defy common sense.

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