Posts Tagged ‘The e-Reader Wars’


Thursday, April 1st, 2010

The e-Reader Wars

Its time now to check out one of the smaller guys. The JooJoo is not an e-Reader any more than the iPad is, so it will be interesting to see how it fares against the Sony Readers and the Kindle. There is the added bonus of a bit of a scandal, but more on that later.

Let’s start with the specs:

  • 12.1″ Widescreen Display
  • 1366×768 Resolution
  • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g)
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • Webcam
  • 4GB solid state memory
  • USB
  • Microphone/Speakers
  • 3.5mm Stereo Headphone jack
  • 1080i video
  • Runs Flash and Java

Just knowing what’s in it makes the JooJoo a decent competitor to the iPad. The widescreen display stands out, as do the webcam and Flash. For all these perks, there is a downside. JooJoo runs on its own OS. There was a rumor floating around that it only sold 50 pre-orders as well. Not good news for what could be a really good product.

The JooJoo was once known as the CrunchPad. It was touted as an iPad competitor, and was priced between $300 and $400. There was to be built in 3G, and a number of other pretty impressive features. Then the CrunchPad was no more. At the end of November, 2009, TechCrunch announced the end of the CrunchPad. According to TechCrunch, Fusion Garage broke their contract and forced them out of the equation. Lawsuits ensued, and in the mean time, Goodbye $200 CrunchPad, hello $500 JooJoo. Fusion Garage moved forward with the product, renamed it JooJoo, and added a couple hundred dollars to the price tag.

This is cause for a significant dilemma. Assuming TechCrunch’s version of events is correct (and at present I have no reason to believe otherwise), there are ethical implications involved in purchasing the JooJoo. If they are really guilty of stealing the product from their partner, can a consumer in good conscience purchase the device? Most of the consumers will be unaware of the problem, but those that do may be inclined to think twice. Even if the lawsuits weren’t a problem, Engadget reported what they cleverly described as Bad JooJoo. There were reports of some trouble people were having canceling their pre-orders. At one point JooJoos support team instructed the user to send very personal banking information in order to get the refund. Not something a legitimate company, or at least a business savvy company would do. It may very well have been one person’s mistake, but considering the overarching scandal, it makes one wonder.

Now that we have discussed some of the issues, is it a worthy iPad competitor, or staying true to this series, is it a viable competitor to an e-Ink based e-Reader? Based on specs alone, the answer would have to be yes to the iPad part, and maybe for the e-Reader. There isn’t an indication that reading an e-book will be worth attempting. It is billed as an internet device, without really mentioning the e-book market. I assume at some point they might try to integrate the Kindle software like the iPhone, but that assumes the JooJoo OS can support Kindle software. Again, based on specs, this should be a pretty fun device. There is a lot of baggage attached to the JooJoo though, so if your conscience allows, go for it. I think I will pass.

Sony e-Readers

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

The e-Reader Wars – Sony e-Readers

Continuing on the theme of the coming e-Reader Wars, it is time for the big gun named Sony. Sony took versatility to a new level with its e-Reader, in more than one way, which I know sounds redundant but bear with me. First, they took a great product and spun it off into several viable versions. Next it focused on content and in cooperation with Google Books and others, offers several different ways to get your books whether online or from your local library.

Sony’s star players are the Reader Touch, Reader Pocket, and Reader Daily Edition. These are the latest and greatest, one-upping even its own original reader. I have been waiting to get my hands on a Sony Reader for a long time, but the trick was to decide which one I wanted. The pocket version is handy for travel, but I think it is better for people who travel with purses, as I wouldn’t try actually pocketing the device. The Reader Touch is what I am leaning toward, and played with it a bit. The Daily Edition, if only by price, is the creme of the crop. Let’s compare some of their features.

  Touch Daily Pocket
Display 8-level gray scale
800 x 600 pixel resolution
6 inch screen
16-level gray scale
600 x 1024 pixel resolution
7.1 inch screen
8-level gray scale
800 x 600 pixel resolution
5 inch screen
Supported Formats DRM Text : ePub, PDF, BBeB Book
Image : JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP5
Unsecured (and unencrypted) Audio : MP3, AAC
Unsecured Text : ePub, BBeB Book, PDF5, TXT, RTF, Word
DRM Text : ePub, PDF
Unsecured (and unencrypted) Audio : MP3, AAC
Unsecured Text : ePub, PDF3, TXT, RTF, Word
DRM Text : ePub, PDF, BBeB Book
Unsecured Text : ePub, BBeB Book, PDF5, TXT, RTF, Word
Memory 512 MB (User available capacity: 380MB)
Dual Memory Card Expansion Slots for Memory Stick PRO Duo and SD Card up to 16GB.
User available capacity: Up to 1.6 GB
Dual Memory Card Expansion Slots for Memory Stick Duo and SD Card up to 32 GB.
512 MB (User available capacity: Approx. 440MB)
Transfer Mode USB 2.0 cable transfers files and charges device Wireless : Supports HSPA, UMTS, Edge, and GPRS data services with two bands (850 and 1900 MHz) USB 2.0 cable transfers files and charges device
Price $299 $399 $169

As you can see, the pocket version is really designed for on the go usage. It doesn’t support audio or images like the other two. The Daily Edition is the most attractive based on size and free 3G access. The Touch is $100 cheaper though, so one needs to decide if price or 3G are more important.

Someone I was talking to recently had trouble using an earlier Sony Reader, and was limited to Sony content. Sony has since opened up to a wide variety of formats, including PDF. This means you can check out an e-book from your local library, buy a book on Amazon or other bookseller, and upload your own PDF files. Throw in Google Book for some free classic literature and you have quite the e-Reading capability.

As I mentioned above, I have only played with the touch version hands on. I picked up the pocket edition while I was looking at the touch, but I quickly moved back over to the touch version. I found the navigation pretty easy to use. The e-Ink made popular by the Kindle is included on the Sony readers. I am a fan of e-Ink. I noticed a book light in the model I looked at, but later read a review on some bad design on the lighting feature. I need to check it out again to see if things have improved.

3 choices of hardware, tons of choices on content, and lots of sleek Sony style. The Sony Reader is a winner to me, whichever version you end up with.

Kindle for iPhone

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

The e-Reader Wars – Kindle for iPhone

My wife has been using the Kindle app on her iPhone for a while, but I hadn’t had a chance to play around with it much. I had to reinstall it thanks to my 1-year-old loving those cute little x marks on the screen. He deletes apps on a regular basis. Interestingly he is actually able to work some of the apps, but that is another topic for another blog. Back to the Kindle.

When I first learned of the Kindle, its main selling point was the e-Ink. e-Ink is what makes the Kindle read like a book rather than a computer screen. It is a remarkable feature, and after a couple of years it is still pretty cool.

When I heard that Amazon released a Kindle iPhone app I had two thoughts:
1.) Duh – no surprise here.
2.) How will the Kindle experience change when e-Ink is unavailable?

Starting the app you are taken either to the home screen or the last page you were on when you closed the app. You have a choice to Get Books, go to an active book, or see your archived books. I went into the active book I was looking at earlier tonight, something from Charles Dickens. At first glance the book is easy enough to read. The font is fairly large, and the standard iPhone landscape/portrait mode is present. I typically read things in portrait mode, so I turned it upright again after my brief test.

By pressing down on a word for a second or two the word highlights and gives you an option to note or highlight it. You can expand your selection by dragging your finger along more words. You can also use the pressing down function to operate a small magnifying glass effect. Not sure why I would need it, unless perhaps I was reading a graphic or chart.

Tapping the screen brings up the menu. You can choose to go back home, increase/decrease font size, go to the furthest point read, dog-ear a page, or browse through various screens like the table of contents or the book cover. Another available feature is the ability to change the text color from black to white to sepia. Black and sepia are against a white background, while white is against a black background. This feature makes the app more closely resemble the Kindle hardware. I found it easiest to read the white text on the black background. This is the closest the iPhone comes to e-Ink. The ambient light is reduced, and the only light my eyes focus on is the white text.

All in all, not a bad experience. I was able to read the book in relative comfort. I don’t know how often I would try reading a book on such a small screen, but my test had a secondary purpose. I wanted to get an idea of how the iPad would behave. Assuming the app works in a similar manner, I can see myself sitting down to read a book on an iPad. Score 1 for Apple here. Anyone that knows me knows how hard that was to say. My wife thinks the screen is way too small to read, so I suppose the experience is pretty subjective. While I may prefer e-Ink, I think I could be happy enough using an iPad for reading books. In small doses, the iPhone was pretty decent as well.