A fun bit of hardware

Via TheDigitalReader I found this interesting article:

Meet the Trekstor Pyrus Mini. There are no English language reviews of this ereader yet, so I am going to post a rare first impressions post in order to give my readers at least some info.

This beauty is shorter, narrower, and thinner than the beagle, and it weighs in at only 111 grams, beating the txtr beagle by 17g and the K4 by 59g. The Pyrus Mini is being sold by trekstor, and it has a 4.3″ E-ink screen, 1.6GB of accessible storage, and a microSD card slot.

Yes, this ereader has a screen smaller than on a lot of smartphones. But what’s even better is that it has the same screen resolution as on the Kindle and the txtr beagle, and that lets the Pyrus Mini pack the pixels tighter than even the Kindle Paperwhite, Kobo Glo, and other 6″ ereaders ( 232 ppi vs 212 ppi).

trekstor pyrus mini 5

Pyrus Mini with the Kindle Paperwhite

It’s missing certain features like the Wifi, and that means you’ll need to transfer ebooks over a USB cable. But on the upside this ereader differs from the txtr beagle in that it supports several ebook formats, including Epub, PDF, FB2, PDB, and it can also display text files as well as jpg, gif, png, and bmp image files.

The txtr beagle, on the other hand, cannot display ebooks at all. That device is more of an image viewer and actually displays page images. It’s also limited to only carrying 5 books at a time, far less than the thousand or more that can fit into the Pyrus Mini.

I got my unit earlier this week. This review unit was given to me by Trekstor, and it replaces the two I bought but were subsequently lost by DHL.

I’ve been reading on it for the past few days and I like it. It’s a pleasant little ereader that is designed to be gripped in one hand. It has page turn buttons on the right edge, so I suspect it is really intended to be used in your left hand with your left forefinger over the buttons. But I could also use it right-handed.

trekstor pyrus mini 2The Pyrus Mini is a budget ereader, and you can tell that by the limited number of features. You’re limited to 6 font sizes, 3 margin options, and you can also change the character encoding (this enables support for other language/ font sets like Simplified Chinese, Tirkish, etc). The screen can be set to refresh after either 1, 3 or 5 page turns. You can bookmark a page, search for a word, or use the table of contents.


Please head over to TheDigitalReader if you want to see the entire article.


Nexus 7 32GB Model Coming Soon – Thank You, Amazon

Via The Digital Reader by Nate Hoffelder:

So you’ve probably heard the rumor that Google would be releasing a new model for the Nexus 7 Android tablet, one which finally has enough storage to match the Kindle Fire HD. If you have not read about the rumor then you have probably read about the product listings which have shown up on several websites.

I never reported on the rumor myself, but I never doubted that it was true. This was one of the side effects which I expected to see ever since Jeff Bezos first held up the Kindle Fire HD.

The thing is, when Jeff announced that the KFHD would ship with not 8GB of storage but 16GB,  he raised the minimum standards for competing tablets. It may have taken a couple weeks or more for this to percolate through the industry, but as you can see from the actions of Google and Kobo (they upgraded the not yet released Arc) it is having an effect.

While I suppose this is a good thing, I’d much rather have a card slot. Removable storage would allow for several useful tricks for sharing content across my several devices, including giving me the option fo taking high quality photos with a camera and then tweeting them from the tablet. (And that’s not as silly as it sounds.)

But I have come to accept that Apple, Amazon, Google, et al are going to release tablets and ereaders without card slots so there’s little point in complaining. (Thank you, B&N, for bucking the trend.)

On a related note, one thing that surprised me about the recent Nexus 7 news was the price. According to one screenshot the 32GB model will be priced at $259.  That’s $10 more than the comparable KFHD or Kobo Arc model, and while you do get more hardware for the price it is still surprising to not see Google match or beat the $249 price for the 32GB KFHD. You would think they would be more price conscious.

(Nexus 7 32GB Model Coming Soon – Thank You, Amazon is post from The Digital Reader)

New Study Shows eBooks Don’t Cannabalize Print Sales

October 11th, 2012 by Nate Hoffelder · No Comments · surveys & polls

One common justification for high ebook prices is the claim that ebook sales tend to increase at the cost of sales of paper books. While that is certainly true in my case, a study which was recently released by the University of Hamburg suggests that I might be an outlier.

This study, which was released with the Frankfurt Book Fair this week, shows that 22% of digital readers also buy 3 or more hardback books a year. That is more than the average readers who don’t use ebooks; only 15% buy those 3 or more hardbacks a year. The report also showed that the digital reader tended to buy as many paperbacks as they did before adopting ebooks, though there was slightly more purchases among some digital readers.

This report also revealed that digital readers spent around 50 euros a year on ebooks, while the survey group as a whole spent about 115 euros on paper books. And while it was not the preferred site, almost everyone had bought from Amazon at least once (79%). The most shopped bookstore, much to my surprise, was Thalia (24%), followed by Weltbild/Hugendubel (20%), iTunes/iBooks(19%), Project Gutenberg (7%), and Libri.de (7%) .

I don’t have many more details from the study (I’m still looking for it), but I do have one interesting detail. This study is based on a survey of 2,500 German readers, and 1157 read ebooks. That’s a remarkably high percentage. The latest data in the US dates from this Spring, and that showed that only about 30% of US readers had adopted ebooks.  Hopefully this is a sign that ebooks are catching on and catching up in Germany.

via Welt.de / via TheDigitalReader

Macmillan Reportedly Ready to Test Library eBook Pilot

Via TheDigitalReader:

Macmillan has long been on one the major publishers who has completely refused to sell ebooks to libraries but it looks like that might have changed. News is breaking today that the publisher is working on some type of pilot program which will finally bring Macmillan ebooks to US public libraries.

Details are vague, but that will not stop many from reading too much into it and getting their hopes up. PW reported that Macmillan reps have confirmed the existence of the pilot but didn’t disclose any other details. “We have been working hard to develop an ebook lending model that works for all parties, as we value the libraries and the role they play in the reading community,” reads a statement provided to PW. “We are currently finalizing the details of our pilot program and will be announcing it when we are ready, and not in reaction to a demand.”

While I won’t read too much into this bit of news, it is still a good sign. Well, it would be more accurate to say that in the case of Macmillan any movement that doesn’t include actually firebombing libraries is a good sign.

Clearly Macmillan is following in Penguin’s footsteps in at lest dabbling in the library ebook market. Penguin started a pilot program with the NYCPL back in June of this year. Of course, like Penguin’s pilot the upcoming Macmillan program will likely also be a sucky deal for libraries.

Penguin’s pilot involve the 3M Cloud Library selling library ebooks on a 1 year expiring license, which is their own unique way of jacking up the price. It’s a pity they are not more open about their price gouging; at least Hachette and Random House were more direct when they doubled and tripled the prices for library ebooks.

Ranting aside, there is another alternative for libraries. They could always buy ereaders and ebooks on the consumer market and led those out to patrons. Of course, this gets into the issue of accessibility, which some libraries like the Sacramento Public Libraryfound out the hard way.

And so the library ebook stumbles on for one more day.

Authors Behaving Badly; Booksellers Behaving Worse

In the past couple months I’ve posted a few times about things authors shouldn’t do like respond before you understand the situation, be pushy on Twitter, and send dunning letters to book bloggers.  I have another regrettable tale of misdeeds today, only this time the author was the lesser of the problems.

Self-published authors need to be forward to get attention; that’s a basic fact of marketing. But they don’t always pick the right technique or venue. Take, for example, David Eckhof. He’d recently self-published a humorous political novel via Amazon, and while looking for ways to promote it, he hit upon the idea of leaving cards in a local Waterstones bookstore near similar titles.

Naturally the booksellers in the store didn’t appreciate the idea, so after they removed the cards they sent him an email telling him so. Normally the story would stop here, and it would be a story that would hardly be worth a mention. But what caught my eye with this story was what the Waterstones booksellers did next.

According to The Guardian (and confirmed by a Waterstones  spokesman), one or more of the Waterstones staff retaliated. A couple negative and trolling reviews were posted on the books listing on Amazon.co.uk. David connected the reviews with Waterstones bookseller, and after complaining to Waterstones the review was removed. A couple more troll reviews were posted, but after David complained to Waterstones they too were removed.

And in case you were wondering, at least part of this story has been confirmed by Waterstones:

“If the leaflets had just been about his book, then obviously they would still have been looked for and removed and we’d put it down to an over-enthusiastic new author. But including the encouragement to use a major competitor is just rude and surely obviously inappropriate, which is what prompted a polite email to the author asking him not to use our shops in such a way,” said the spokesman.

“Unfortunately, it subsequently emerged that staff at the shop had taken matters into their own hands and indulged in some completely inappropriate behaviour, as pointed out to us by the author. We took action to identify those involved and have the offending material removed, and dealt with the situation accordingly, and of course we are sorry that members of our staff acted in such a fashion.”

So what we have here is an author who was overly-enthusiastic and booksellers who were vindictive. Whiel there are misdeeds all around, I would think the author was the lesser actor.

The thing is, I have had authors leave spam comments on this blog before which promote their books.  These comments were spam because they were unrelated to the post in question, but I’ve never gone beyond simply deleting them.  Seeking out the author’s book in order to punish them would obviously have been inappropriate, so I never did.

But clearly someone at Waterstones didn’t think so, because here we are. According to David, Waterstones did apologize and offer to carry his novel on their ebook site by way of apology. the ebook is up, but David has not seen a boost in sales.

via www.guardian.co.uk / www.thedigitalreader.com

The uneducated reader

As found on The Digital Reader:

Original post: August 6th, 2012 by Rich Adin 

I’m not an admirer of anonymous reader reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other forums where “readers” can anonymously “critique” a book. Occasionally I will look at these so-called reviews, not for information purposes but for their amusement value.

What struck me during a recent perusal of reviews of a book that I think highly of, Shayne Parkinson’sSentence of Marriage (for my review, see On Books: The Promises to Keep Quartet) were two particular reviews. The first review gave the book a 1-star rating, anonymously, of course, with the statement that the reviewer hadn’t yet read the book. The book wasn’t discussed in the review and if the reviewer’s words are taken as true, he/she had yet to read the book but still rated it, giving a rating that was deliberately designed to lower the overall rating of the book. If you didn’t read the book, why rate it? And why give it a 1-star rating?

The second review that caught my eye was one that several other readers found “helpful.” This review raked the book over the coals. The review gave the book a 1-star rating and was titled “Disturbing, sick, just plain bad.” Rather than summarize the review, I reprint it here:

The main character is stupid, for lack of a better word, and her innocence and lack of instinct when it comes to “Jimmy” is unrealistic, she’s 15, not 8, just clearing that up. This is one of the most disturbing, sad books I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading. I only got about 600 pages in before I skipped to the ending to confirm my suspicions; It doesn’t get any better, in fact, it gets worse. I’m not referring to the writing, that was good enough, but the story in general is just depressing and it serves no real purpose that I could find. This is a Warning, this book was just sad, it helps you fall in love with the characters and then it screws them over in the worst possible way, it’s[sic] doesn’t even have the benefit of being a horror story. There’s no suspense, no action, just plan [sic] and clear depression, it kind of made me want to kill myself….and the characters….

The above review was immediately followed by what amounts to another 1-star anonymous review, this one titled “This author is a sadist.”

To me, these reviews illustrate the problem of what I call the uneducated reader. The reviewers are upset because there is no suspense, no action, no Batman coming to the rescue. The reviewers think that 15-year-old girls in 1890s New Zealand were as streetwise as 10-year-old girls in 2012 New York City. The reviewers apparently lack familiarity with either the genre of the book (not all historical fiction is Vikings on a rampage raping and murdering innocents) or the social mores of the time depicted in the setting of the story.

These reviewers are the type of reader that is the bane of authors – the reader who is clueless and draws baseless and unwarranted conclusions and loudly trumpets his or her uninformed opinion on the Internet. More amazing and sad is that other readers claim to find these “reviews” helpful!

A scan of other anonymous 1-star reviews of Parkinson’s Sentence of Marriage convinces me that either these people never read the book or do not understand what they read or have no familiarity whatsoever with history. If they are writing about a book that they actually read, then they certainly read a book that was much different from the one I read. This is not to say that every reader of Sentence of Marriage has to agree that it is a 5-star book. But at least be honest and fair with any criticism.

Complaints about poor editing, for example, which was the subject of several 1-star anonymous reviews, simply isn’t true. You may find the characters standoffish, the story not compelling, or myriad other things wrong that are important to you as a reader, but in this instance, it is not legitimate to complain about the editing, which is excellent.

Although I have focused on the reviews given Parkinson’s book, the problem isn’t limited to her books. As I said before, the problem is giving free rein to anonymous reviewers who are unknowledgeable about the book being reviewed. This is not to suggest that to review 19th century historical fiction one must have a doctorate in 19th century history; rather, it is to suggest that a reader should be familiar enough with the general subject matter and history so as to not make false comparisons and thereby draw incorrect conclusions — or, if you insist on making comparisons, state what the comparators are.

I have often wondered about the need some readers have to “review” a book. It is not that I think if you have nothing good to say you shouldn’t say anything. Some books deserve negative reviews, but when you give one, be constructive, not just negative, and be factual, don’t make up false reasons.

Personally, I think anonymous reviews and reviewers whose identity cannot be verified should not be permitted to post reviews. I also think that negative reviews that are negative simply because of price should not be permitted. I also think that reviews that state upfront that the reviewer hasn’t read the book should be deleted because they unfairly distort a book’s rating.

Reviews serve an important purpose and reviews that are clearly unfounded or that are based on superfluous items, such as pricing, undermine the credibility of the review process. Perhaps this is why I so admire and enjoy the reviews I read in The New York Review of Books. They have credibility in a world that doesn’t seem to care too much about credibility (this is the disease of the Internet — the demise of the value of credibility).

The online reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the like should be challengeable by other readers and by authors. For example, one should be able to challenge a review that gives a rating and the comment that the reviewer hadn’t even read the book. If the challenge is upheld, the review should be removed, especially if the review is anonymous. It is unfair to prospective readers and to authors to let such reviews remain.

The review quoted above that some readers found “helpful” is so far off target that it is ludicrous, yet some, if not all, of the readers who found the review “helpful” won’t have bought the book and read it, thus missing out on what they well may have found, as so many others did, to be a compelling, well-written novel. Such reviewers should be challenged and made to defend their review. More importantly, reviews should be only accepted from verifiable sources, sources that can be flagged if they abuse the review process. These uneducated readers who write anonymous, scathing reviews that bear no relation to the book being reviewed make it difficult, if not impossible, to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to indie-authored books.

Content Drives Tablet Use, Survey Says

from The Digital Reader by Nate Hoffelder

The Online Publisher’s Association has just released the results of a new survey into how people are using their tablets, and it’s a good one. A total of 2,540 Americans were polled in March of this year.  About 760 reported that they were tablet owners, and here are the highlights of how they’re using their tablets:

  • 31% of Americans own tablets
  • Nearly as many own an Android tablet as own an iPad (47% vs 52%)
  • Half spend more than 10 hours a week on the tablet
  • 60% use their tablet several times a day (or more)
  • 60% get content several times a day (or more)

The above details just scratch the surface of the survey results, which run to 47 pages. It’s well worth a read, but there were a couple points that caught my eye.

This survey confirmed something I’d long suspected. While mobile use is up, it turns out that the users aren’t mobile. A full two thirds of the time spent on tablets is now at home, not while the user is actually in motion.

I’m not at all surprised by this because I’ve been tracking how I use my tablets. For example, right now I have a couple tablets sitting next to me. They’re set to ping whenever I get an email or tweet. I also use them when I want to sit back to read and contemplate someone’s blog post (rather than reading it on my laptop, where I lean forward).

The other point which caught my eye was both a surprise and an explanation for the decline in sales of E-ink screens.

When considered as a reading device, the tablet won out over everything from PCs and smartphones to magazines. That’s not much of a surprise, assuming that the content is well formatted. The bombshell was that respondents preferred tablets over dedicated ereaders like the Kindle:

It’s going to suck to be E-ink this year; the ereader market was quite lucrative. Now it looks like it might be disappearing.

image by lejoe

Content Drives Tablet Use, Survey Says is post from The Digital Reader

Amazon Dominates the World eBook Market

Kelly Gallegher, the VP of Publishing Services at RR Bowker gave an eye opening presentation at a conference. RR Bowker has just completed a 120 country survey into consumer’s ebook buying habits, and today we got a look at some of the data.

The presentation was densely packed with info, and there was in fact more data on the slides than you can take in at one sitting.

If I get the slides I will post them, but until then I think the photos are worth a look.  The world ebook market is a lot more complex than you might think, and each country in the survey has its own market quirks.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • eReaders in the US market peaked at 70% in August 2011, PCs now under 10%
  • From November 2011 to January 2012, the percentage of ebook buyers went from 17% to 20% in the US
  • 35% of ebook buyers are power buyers, and they buy 60% of ebooks & spend 48% of the market
  • Print power buyers, on the other hand, only account for 22%, buy 53% books sold, and they account half the market
  • US ebook market might have hit a saturation point, given that growth has slowed down

And here are some details from the international market

  • fiction has its greatest appeal in developed countries
  • non-fiction & technical books have greater appeal in the emerging ebook markets
  • the PC is still the most popular reading device (all markets)
  • eReaders are the most popular reading device in the US, UK and smartphones win in South Korea
  • India & Brazil have the greatest potential for growth, both in terms of low resistance and high enthusiasm
  • Kobo has a major presence in South Korea (15%)

And as for Amazon, in almost every country where they have a local ebookstore they are the single largest source of ebooks. The one exception is France, where the Kindle Store loses out to “high street chains”, collectively. Split those stores up (Fnac, for example) and Amazon probably wins there too.

Bowker also found that B&N doesn’t show up as having nearly the market presence I thought they did. Consumers reported them as having only 13% of the US market.

(This news via ‘the digital reader‘)

Do eBooks Make It Harder to Recall What You Just Read? Answer: No

By Nate Hoffelder from The Digital Reader:

  I’m rather busy with a conference right now, but there’s an article that was posted today that has me pissed. I have to respond to it.  Time has an article on their website today which asks the question “Do eBooks Make It Harder to Recall What You Just Read?”

I received a Kindle for my birthday, and enjoying “light reading,” in addition to the dense science I read for work, I immediately loaded it with mysteries by my favorite authors. But I soon found that I had difficulty recalling the names of characters from chapter to chapter. At first, I attributed the lapses to a scary reality of getting older — but then I discovered that I didn’t have this problem when I read paperbacks.

The thing is, this question is bunk and I can prove it. Not only can I say that from my own experiences; I have a scientific study (published in a peer reviewed journal, no less) which disproves the anecdotes in Time‘s article.

Jordan Schugar, a professor at West Chester University (outside of Philly), has been studying this for some time now. Back in spring 2011 Jordan ran a study to test the reading comprehension of students in a freshman comp class. a total of 30 students participated, and they self selected into a control group and a test group. The latter were given Nooks to read on. Note that this was in the spring so they didn’t have Nook Touch. The students were in fact given the original Nook to read on (this should be kept in mind, given how clumsy it was to use).

The students were tested throughout the course with fairly ordinary in-class quizzes, which were given 4 times during the semester. Depending on your point of view, the results were either good or bad.

After rigorous analysis, the results showed that the students who read on the Nook had a very slight increase in comprehension. The paper (here) called the difference in scores insignificant, and I’m not going to argue with the folks who have PhDs (not this time anyway). Even though the paper says that the results didn’t show one was better, they did show that neither was worse. So any anecdotes that say otherwise are likely bunk.

On a related note, I got this paper  a couple weeks ago. I hadn’t posted on it yet because I was waiting on the results from the followup study. Dr. Schugar has just concluded a similar study, only this time the students used tablets. I haven’t seen the results, but I’m told that the tablet users scored lower than the control group (who read on paper). Interesting, no?

That mixed result was enough to make me wait. I wanted to look at the paper and ask questions about the tools used. See, while I’m not bothered about being distracted while using a tablet, I do see how it might affect grades. This might have had an effect on the later study.


P.S. If you go read the Times article you’ll see that after 3 paragraphs of anecdotes, the author answers the title question in the negative.  Personally, I feel writing the article that way is misleading. Far more people will remember the anecdotes than the brief denial, and that is why I chose to disprove the premise.

Have you paid your Adobe tax today?

As found on The Digital Reader:

Have you paid your Adobe tax today?

August 17th, 2011 by Nate Hoffelder

I was writing the post earlier about the new ebookstore and it inspired me to pen this little rant about DRM on ebooks. I’m going to focus today on Adobe because that’s one of the dominant form of DRM on the ebook market.

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time then you know how I feel about DRM. I hate it and I feel I am being punished for the actions of others. And then there’s the fact it doesn’t actually prevent piracy.


But most importantly,  DRM doesn’t make sense even in theory.  The idea is that you lock down all digital copies in the hopes that no single copy is hacked. At a minimum, applying that idea to ebook DRM ignores the “analog loophole”. This is a colloquial term given to scanning a paper book and converting it to digital form. It’s called a loophole because no matter how secure the DRM on an ebook, someone will always be able to take a print edition and scan it. That scanned copy can then be pirated and thus the DRM is moot.

But the main reason that DRM makes no sense in theory is that it involves locking down all copies, including the ones belonging to people who lack the desire to pirate the content in the first place. This is done in the hopes that the skilled pirate won’t be able to remove the DRM. The expense of locking down a copy and then handing it to someone who has no interest in pirating it is a waste.

And there is a real expense in locking down each copy. Adobe charge ebookstores $0.22 for each DRM-encumbered ebook that you buy. Do you know those free ebooks you get from Kobo, B&N, etc? If you download those ebooks as Epub then you just cost the ebookstore 22 cents.

That 22 cents is a tax that Adobe collects for each ebook.

Guess what? There is a second Adobe tax, and this one applies to ebook readers. Adobe charge  tens of thousands of dollar to certify ebook readers as being compatible with their DRM. Do you own a Nook, Kobo, or Sony Reader?  Part of the price of your e-reader went to pay that fee.

Do you know why I call this an Adobe Tax? Because like any tax a number of taxes I pay, Adobe’s DRM takes money from your pocket without actually giving you anything.

I wanted to give you another reason to not like DRM. Not only is it a hassle, it also directly costs you money. That’s my $.02.


Note: the reference to the “new ebook store” points to this article.