If you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s an e-reader. But not like the iPad, not like the Kindle, and not like the myriad of competing Android-based tablets in the marketplace today.
The Kno is aimed straight at education, and is designed to replicate the physical experience of a book … while adding enhanced digital features. So is every other e-reading tablet, you might think. But not quite. When I say replicate, I mean replicate. As in size … lots of it.
The Kno is not one tablet but two. And it’s not 7″ or 10″ … it’s 14″. Times two.
That’s right … two 14″ tablets joined together that open like a book and aim to faithfully replicate the experience of cracking open a full-size textbook and reading it. Pixel-for-pixel.
Here’s the part that I seem to be terminally confused on: is this a good idea, or is this just slavishly adhering to an old paradigm? In other words … is this the best thing ever, a new revolution in digital technology, or is it just a better buggy whip in the day of the horseless carriage?
I’m not quite sure.
More screen space is always better. But the price … probably $1000, and the size, and the weight, and the probably battery life, and the probable slow user interface (small processor driving a huge screen) … make me think this is not a winner.
But it certainly is intriguing. As long as you don’t try to fit it in your pocket.
On a typical hardcover, the publisher sets a suggested retail price. Let’s say it is $26. The bookseller will generally pay the publisher $13. Out of that gross revenue, the publisher pays about $3.25 to print, store and ship the book, including unsold copies returned to the publisher by booksellers.
For cover design, typesetting and copy-editing, the publisher pays about 80 cents. Marketing costs average around $1 but may go higher or lower depending on the title. Most of these costs will deline on a per-unit basis as a book sells more copies.
Let’s not forget the author, who is generally paid a 15 percent royalty on the hardcover price, which on a $26 book works out to $3.90. For big best-selling authors — and even occasionally first-time writers whose publishers have taken a risk — the author’s advance may be so large that the author effectively gets a higher slice of the gross revenue. Publishers generally assume they will write off a portion of many authors’ advances because they are not earned back in sales.
Without accounting for such write-offs, the publisher is left with $4.05, out of which it must pay overhead for editors, cover art designers, office space and electricity before taking a profit.
On Wednesday night, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple's newest gadget could be a hub for all kinds of media: magazines, newspapers, books, text books, music, games, and video. All of that has been speculated about before, but the target demographic and the primary use for the device–which falls somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop–has been more of a mystery. Now it seems we’re starting to have a clearer picture: the device has been purposely designed to be shared between members of a household as easily as possible, according to one of the Journal’s unnamed sources.
I’ve owned and been reading from a Kindle for a couple of weeks now. A number of people have been asking when I’ll post some thoughts on it … so here goes.
What I didn’t like
I won’t be curling up with it
I stare at a screen 10-12 hours a day, sometimes more. That might be the 3.5″ screen of my iPhone, the 23″ plus 13″ screens of my laptop and external monitor, or the 42″ screen of my TV (this one is a little rare lately!).
Surprise, surprise … in my downtime (which means: recreational reading) I don’t want to stare at a screen.
It’s just not as good a reading experience as a book
The Kindle is definitely a gadget … and it doesn’t feel like a book. And, it doesn’t read like a book.
I’m a fast reader, and I find I need to turn the pages so often that it gets annoying. A page on Kindle at a decent but not tiny resolution is not very many words, meaning that I’m flipping more than once a minute. Each time there’s a little hesitation/interruption in my reading process, my state, my flow. Each time, it’s annoying.
I don’t like the positioning of the buttons
The buttons are oddly placed. If you want to hold it widescreen, you can’t reach the Next Page button without effort (a couple of times a second, remember). The big buttons on the left and the right are BOTH for Next Page … whereas intuitively the left side might be Last Page and the right page might be Next Page. The small button above the next page is Prev Page on the left and Home on the right … another inconsistency.
And don’t get me started the on the “5-way button” that is masquerading as a mouse.
The keyboard hates humans
Writing notes on the Kindle – page notes, footnotes etc. – is a masochistic exercise. The keyboard is easily the worst I’ve ever used. Painful! Slow! Annoying!
I just want to touch it NOW
Sorry, world. iPhone has spoiled me rotten and now when I can’t use touch on a small screen it gets extremely annoying. Several times I found myself touching the screen trying to do something quickly and easily … only to find that the device was, after all, dumb and unresponsive.
Books not on Kindle
Having a Kindle makes you want to buy books on Kindle … or at least acquire them. And when you have the capability of getting books INSTANTLY on Kindle, you want to. So when books are not available in Kindle format … even books by people who should be clueful enough like Seth Godin … it gets annoying. Having to get it shipped and having to wait a half a week for the physical object suddenly seems intolerable.
In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of books that are in the public domain which sellers of e-readers who don’t make their money selling books make it easy for you to access. Not Kindle. It’s hard to get free books from, say, Google or Project Gutenberg on your Kindle. You need to download third-party software, install it, find books, and then transfer them over to your Kindle via USB.
What I did like
Obviously, getting a hot new book right away (read, in a couple of minutes) is a wonderful, excellent, exciting feature. This is perhaps the best feature of the Kindle.
Small, thin, and portable
The Kindle – I got the smaller, 6″ version – is so thin and light you won’t know you’re carrying it around. It’s easy to just slip in a bag and run. I could even fit it in my jeans’ back pocket (but I don’t recommend sitting down!)
While I didn’t like the Kindle for relaxation and recreational reading, I found it just fine for books that I’m reading for information: business books, books about technology, etc. etc. I would typically dive into a book for 5-15 minutes, and then get back to whatever I was doing.
For this kind of reading – Twitter-style, you might say – I think the Kindle works fine.
As long as you turn it completely off – important caveat: sleeping is not off – the battery lasts a loooong time. This is great … you don’t have to take the charger along on a week-long trip. Just throw the Kindle in the bag and go.
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Overall, I think I’ll stick primarily to paper books for now when I want to read for fun. For business/trade books, I’ll probably switch just due to convenience, price, and availability.
Interestingly, I recently played with a Nook in a Barnes & Noble and actually liked it better. David Pogue savaged the Nook in the NY Times, but I liked the feel better, felt there were a few more words on the screen, and really liked the touchscreen feature. It’s not perfect, but I think they may have a winner in the 2.0 version.
After a few more months of using the Kindle, I’ll probably update these thoughts.
Here are more than seventy big thinkers, each sharing an idea for you to think about as we head into the new year. From bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert to brilliant tech thinker Kevin Kelly, from publisher Tim O’Reilly to radio host Dave Ramsey, there are some important people riffing about important ideas here. The ebook includes Tom Peters, Fred Wilson, Jackie Huba and Jason Fried, along with Gina Trapani, Bill Taylor and Alan Webber.Here’s the deal: it’s free.
Tweet it, email it, post it on your own site. I think it might be fun to make up your own riff and post it on your blog or online profile as well. It’s a good exercise. Can we get this in the hands of 5 million people? You can find an easy to use version on Scribd as well and from wepapers. Please share.
For every 100 books we sell in physical, we sell 48 Kindle books,” said Cinthia Portugal, a spokeswoman for Amazon.com. “This is up from 35 books for every 100 in May. Our customers tell us they read more with Kindle because they never have to worry about running out of books.”
This is interesting, particularly as a test for e-ink; however, it is worth noting that the VitalSource Library has been delivered on over ~400,000 computers in K-12. The Library includes over 2500 classics from literature, history, and the arts, as well as a dictionary (Oxford or Houghton-Mifflin) and, depending on the version, thesaurus or encyclopedia (Britannica).
Most private schools with laptop programs include the product in their image and LAUSD (the second largest school system) images it all instructional machines (Gateway, Dell, Lenovo, HP, and Apple). As I believe you (David) know, VitalSource’s BookShelf software takes full advantage of the digital environment with an XML-based format that is reflowable and searchable (across entire libraries of content and notes). Learners can also highlight, takes notes and share notes with other BookShelf users.