Reuters: Front-Lit Kindle to Launch in July

Kindle Touch

Nivedita Bhattacharjee for Reuters:

Amazon.com Inc will launch new versions of its Kindle e-reader and tablet, including a monochrome e-reader with front lighting, a source who has seen the prototype told Reuters.

I had thought Amazon would’ve adhered to its established hardware revision cycle with little regard to B&N’s products, but it seems I was wrong.

Although B&N may not be an enormous threat in and of itself, Microsoft’s purchase of the Nook division, coupled with the evident brick and mortar retail aversion to Amazon hardware, makes for a somewhat problematic situation for the Seattle-based giant.

As I always say, competition is certainly not a bad thing.

Nook Simple Touch with "GlowLight" Leaked

Nook GlowLight

Nathan Ingraham reports for The Verge:

We heard a few days ago that Amazon was readying a Kindle with a front-lit, E ink screen — now it appears that Barnes & Noble is ready to do the same thing with the Nook. The Digital Reader has just posted an image of what appears to be a Nook Simple Touch with a front-lit E ink screen that Barnes & Noble has dubbed “GlowLight.” While this is by no means guaranteed yet, these images do look fairly authentic, and these details corroborate an earlier report from The Ebook Reader. It sounds like the Nook will use a similar technology to what was described as being used on the next Kindle — a thin layer that covers the entire screen and evenly distributes light across it. While we’re not sure when we’ll see the latest Nook hardware, it wouldn’t surprise us to hear something very soon considering the info that’s starting to leak out.

In the past few weeks, due to a rather excessive amount of travel, I’ve repeatedly butted heads with the Kindle Touch’s lack of light. In most scenarios, purely for the sake of sanity and ease of use, I’ve accordingly gravitated toward the iPad for the vast majority of my reading.

Although the iPad doesn’t quite measure up to the quality of reading on an e-ink device, the ability to read without bounds is a liberating and important piece of functionality to boast. Rumors have indicated some sort of front-lit screen is making its way into the Kindle line but, as is the trend, it seems Barnes & Noble is going to beat them to it.

I actually have a Nook Simple Touch on my desk for testing. When held together with my Kindle, I’ve read comparably little on it but, having said that, I tend to think the device is actually superior in several respects.

Thus, if a Nook does materialize in the coming weeks boasting “GlowLight,” I feel rather confident that I’ll be keenly visiting a Barnes & Noble to test it out.

Amazon Planning a Color E-Reader?

Andrew Webster reports for The Verge:

News out of China suggests that Amazon will be adding a device with a six-inch, color E Ink screen to its Kindle lineup. Chinese newspaper the Economic Daily News is reporting that Massachusetts-based E Ink Corporation has landed an order from Amazon for an estimated three million color e-reader modules per month, with shipments expected to begin in March.

Whether or not this proves to be accurate for the coming months, I have little doubt that color e-ink displays will find their way into Kindles and Nooks in the next product cycle or two.

"Dressing Up An E-Reader For Style And Comfort"

Back in January, I made the controversial argument that the lines between LCD and E-Ink are likely set to blur. Due to the pace of display development coupled with consumer tendency toward tablets, I argued that the concept of an e-reader (i.e., the Kindle and Nook) is set to merge with the concept of a tablet. Today, in a report for the New York Times, Mickey Meece reports:

What accessories users want depends in large part on the e-readers they own. For example, basic e-readers — like the Kobo Touch, the Sony Reader, the $79 Kindle and the Nook Simple Touch — use E Ink technology, which replicates the experience of reading on a printed page. Still, it can be hard to read at night on these devices, so a light accessory can be helpful.

Other e-readers — like the iPad, the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet — use LCD technology, which offers an enhanced visual experience so users can play games and watch video. Users can also read with ease at night on these tablets, so no extra light is needed.

While I stand by my argument, Meece's perspective is presumptuously callous. Referring to the Kindle and Nook as "basic e-readers" implies that the iPad and Kindle Fire are, by default, "advanced" versions. This is inaccurate. 

The Nook Tablet, Kindle Fire, and iPad are designed as multimedia consumption tools - not advanced e-reading devices. While e-books are, of course, available, they certainly do not comprise the entirety of the experience.

Meece's apparent unawareness of the drastic differences between hardware types (aside from light versus no light) nevertheless provides eye-opening insight into the growing shift in consumer opinion regarding e-books and e-reading.

iBooks Books

Two days ago, Marco Arment made an interesting observation regarding Apple's iBookstore. Marco writes:

The books available on the iBookstore are just called books.

Much has been made of the apparent discrepancy between a traditional book and an iBook, with Ben Brooks going as far as to call it a "clumsy" naming convention. While I certainly see Ben's point, I tend to think Apple is simply operating with its own best interests at heart.

Apple is not in the business of making physical books, nor is it (presumably) interested in developing an e-reader. As such, for Apple, an iBook need not be differentiated from its physical counterpart. iTunes does not label its e-book library as anything aside from "Books," just as "Music" is not labelled as anything more granular. Granted you can insert many different formats into these respective libraries, but the "Books" library, for instance, is solely compatible with the iBooks iOS app.

From Apple's official "What's On iTunes" page (pictured above):

The iTunes Store includes a well-stocked library of the world’s best-selling books — ebooks, audiobooks, and new interactive iBooks textbooks for iPad

The implication is that, regardless of your perspective, iBooks allows the reading of books, and any further definitions are held therein.

Regardless of vessel, a digital book is fundamentally a means for delivering the same written word as its paper counterpart. As Apple is not in the business of pursuing and endorsing anything otherwise, it makes sense to refer to iBooks as "books." Removing the preceding "i," for the consumer, suggests that their purchase in the iBookstore is substantively similar to walking into a Barnes & Noble, but more convenient.

Also of note, despite enormous differences, Apple chose not to refer to its textbooks as anything other than textbooks in the iBooks store. Looking beyond the PR and aforementioned iTunes page, iBooks textbooks simply reside in a "Textbooks" section. Rich media, HTML, and graphical styling aside, it's in Apple's best interests to avoid the discernment, and to sell a book as a book, and nothing more. The same applies to virtually anything in the iTunes ecosystem: magazines, music, movies, and television.

Ben rightly points out that we aren't necessarily at this stage in the evolution of literature, but, for Apple, such a fact is fairly irrelevant. They are selling the same words, chapters, and authors as any other bookstore. Competitors like Amazon are forced into discerning between a digital and paper copy because they sell both, this is not requisite of Apple, and it certainly makes sense to forego such a naming convention. When you buy a book from the iBookstore, in Apple's eyes, you get a book. Simple.

On the other hand, you could fairly argue that it might be in Apple's best interests to popularize the naming of a digital book as an iBook, but such an action seems callous. E-books extend far beyond Apple, just as digital music did too. As long as a book is in a non-DRM format, just as with music, you can enjoy it through Apple's iBooks software. Not all contained therein is an iBook, just as everything in the iTunes Store isn't an iTunes Song or iTunes Movie. Any perception otherwise would be confusing.

Of course there are a great many subtle (and some not so subtle) differences from e-book to e-book, iBook to paperback, and so on, but, for Apple, why make the explicit discernment when there is no alternative for them? Why endanger the sales of their products for the sake of explicit accuracy?

I don't mean to fan the flames of the topic, I tend to think Ben is right. But from my perspective, Apple isn't doing anything necessarily presumptive or wrong, it is simply acting in its own best interests, and that is certainly of no shock to me.

Just as buying a book in one English speaking country differs from another, digital versions will boast discrepancies from store to store. Calling an iBook a book, regardless of whether it's right or not, is just a much simpler, more realistic, and potentially future-proof thing to do.