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Month: July 2011

Apple’s In-app Purchase Rules Encouraging HTML5 Web Apps

Audrey Watters at ReadWriteWeb writes that Apple’s new rules are encouraging eReader app makers to create HTML5 web applications rather than pay Apple 30% royalties on in-app purchases made on iOS devices, i.e. iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.

HTML5 LogoI’d been watching this situation with a great deal of interest because it has affected the development of our own Learncrest iPhone app. Originally, the app was designed to follow the Amazon Kindle app model wherein if a reader clicked a purchase link in the app, it would start up mobile Safari and go to a web page to complete the purchase outside of the app. Unfortunately, Apple changed the rules to disallow this, forcing a rewrite of the app. Amazon, Kobo, Google, and other eReader app developers have been forced to remove buy buttons and any mention of their book purchasing web sites from their iOS apps.

Because the Learncrest app is being developed using PhoneGap, much of it is coded in HTML5, CSS, and Javascript. Rather than waste the affected bits, I decided to create a web version of the app suitable for iOS and Android mobile devices. This is still under development, but if you want to take a look, click here. Of course this looks best when viewed on a mobile device like the iPhone or any number of Android based smartphones.

Obviously, a web app is not the answer for every need right now, but as network connectivity becomes increasingly pervasive, soon the end user may not be able to tell the difference. If it is Apple’s grand strategy to encourage and promote HTML5 in this way, then kudos to them! If not, then WTF are they thinking?

Twisting the Knife: Amazon Lowers Kindle 3G Price

Amazon Kindle 3G price dropPerhaps taking advantage of the demise of Borders, Amazon has lowered the price of their popular Kindle 3G eBook reader to $139. This is truly a great time to move to eBooks as the choices for quality readers have never been better. And I’m sure that the Borders closing stories have increased interest in eBooks in general and the Kindle in particular given that Amazon is getting a lot of credit for the demise of Borders and popularization of eBooks. Those who really like to pinch pennies may want to wait and see if Amazon also drops the price of their $114 Kindle with ads to the magical $99.

Closing The Book On Borders: Liquidation


Anyone who’s been following the Borders saga is probably not surprised at the news that Borders is closing its remaining stores and liquidating. Like watching the decline of an ailing old friend, I’m somewhat relieved that Borders will soon be out of its misery. All remaining stores may close as early as this Friday.

Goodbye Borders

That Borders execs continued to seek bonuses even as the company sank, seems like some surreal necrophilic episode as this ordeal draws to a close. Much has already been made of the company’s failure to compete with Amazon and the rise of eBooks. But in the end, I think shortsighted, greedy executives killed what was once a great bookstore chain.

The demise of Borders is going to leave publishers with a lot fewer places to sell books and ultimately with a lot less leverage on Amazon. Like Apple was to the music industry, the demise of the large bookstore chain is casting Amazon into a similar role in publishing. If publishers want to stay in business and sell books, they have to play ball with Amazon whether in print or eBook format for the Kindle.

While Barnes & Noble can offer some alternative for publishers right now, it remains to be seen whether or not they themselves will escape Borders’ fate. Reports are that the Nook is doing well versus the Kindle, but the balance of our own eBook sales here at Learncrest points up an enormous Kindle advantage. Titles are moving on the Kindle but not so much on the Nook. And while Barnes & Noble stands to gain Borders customers in places where they have stores nearby, those readers farther away will likely turn to Amazon. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of marketing pitch B&N will make to woo those orphaned readers. Heavily discounted Nooks would be nice!

If anyone had any doubts that the book business had changed forever, they can be sure now. Rest in peace Borders old friend. Rest in peace.

A New Challenger Has Appeared: Google’s eBook Reader Now On Sale

Google is now selling its iRiver Story HD eBook reader exclusively at Target in the U.S.. We speculated here back in January that a Google branded eBook reader may be in the works and now that that shoe has dropped, what does this mean to the larger tablet vs eReader battle that is shaping up in the marketplace?

Well first of all, it may mean that Barnes & Noble, makers of the Nook eBook reader are none too happy to have Google as yet another competitor in its pitched battle with the Amazon’s Kindle. Indeed, I wonder if this is why Barnes & Noble is no longer an advertiser on Google’s Affiliate Network. They’ve moved to Linkshare, which I should note means I have to update the Nook ads on this web site!

Google iRiver Story HD eReaderThe reader itself has so far garnered only mixed reviews. The design is clearly inspired by the Kindle, and in a market that is moving to touchscreen eReaders as witnessed by the recent Nook and Kobo offerings, seems a little dated. But as I previously argued, I don’t think Google is trying to capture the eReader market and their survival, unlike Barnes & Noble, doesn’t depend on that. Like the Nexus smartphones, the iRiver Story HD is probably a hardware reference platform intended to encourage other players to enter the market.

If Google follows form, they’ll probably freely or cheaply license the underlying iRiver Story tech to 3rd parties who want to jump into the eReader market. It seems pretty clear by now that Google wants to be a part of any device that can access the net and consume digital product. Amazon is already giving readers a big price break on Kindles if they are willing to have ads display on the device’s screen saver. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see this on the Google eReader at some point in the future. If 3rd parties in Google’s eReader ecosystem follow suit, then Google wins big time, much as they are with the proliferation of Android based tablets and smartphones.

In the end, I doubt Amazon or Barnes & Noble have much to fear from Google itself. However the legions of eReader competitors Google may give rise to are another matter entirely.

Pottermore Brings Potter And More!

Many Harry Potter fans, myself included, have been waiting for some time to add the adventures of the young wizard to our growing collections of eBooks. But alas, they have remained out of reach, until now. J.K. Rowling recently announced that not only will the collection be available as eBooks, but readers will be able to experience the world of Harry Potter in a whole new way.

In announcing Pottermore, Rowling has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged eBooks to be more than mere words on a digital page. We’ve already seen some glimpses of a more interactive approach to eBooks in children’s books on the Nook Color. And visual novels (aka dating sims) have been around in Japan for a long time. But Pottermore promises to go far beyond that.

Rowling said that the reader will uniquely shape their own experiences as they read through the books. I would guess that the experience will be centered around the web site itself. But there is no reason to believe that it will stop there. While there are no details yet on what or how the current crop of eReaders will be supported, I can imagine the interactivity of Pottermore being extended even there. Both the Kindle and the Android-based Nook are capable of supporting interactive applications. The introduction of touch screen eInk readers can only expand the level of interactivity supported by the devices. And, of course, there is the iPad and other tablet computers.

With the resources Pottermore likely has at its command, we could be seeing something approaching what I’ll call a Literary MMORPG. Rowling’s video gave me the impression that she wants something that retains the “bookish” quality of reading, but reading that immerses and is in turn shaped by the reader. When we read a book, we all imagine the characters and settings in our own unique ways. I think Pottermore will attempt to retain that quality in a way that other media like movies and video games cannot.

Right now, no one knows how this is going to turn out. So like thousands of fans probably already have, I put my email address on the list and eagerly await further news and perhaps the chance to experience Pottermore a little early. ~_^

Digital Manga Guild Launches With Boatload of BL/Yaoi Manga

Tired of Waiting for LoveDigital Manga Inc. announced 23 launch titles for its Digital Manga Guild program at its Anime Expo panel on Saturday. It appears that all of these manga are of the popular Boys Love (BL) or Yaoi genre. While this may not appeal to most manga readers, all have reason to rejoice that the Digital Manga Guild is moving forward with a substantial list of titles that will be available in digital format.

The recent losses of TokyoPop and the Borders bookstore chain have made buying manga outside of Japan a more challenging prospect. While Amazon carries many titles, the loss of large U.S. publishers has made it less likely that even some popular manga will find legal publication outside of Japan. Niche titles even less so. And online purchasing is generally not an easy option for younger manga enthusiasts.

This has undoubtedly made scanlations, fan translated scans of manga, more popular. The avid manga reader may simply have no other choice than illegal scanlations for a growing number of titles. While the internet is rife with people who think everything should be free, many manga readers would gladly pay something to support the artists they love.

Efforts like the Digital Manga Guild promise to not only make more  yaoi manga available, but cultivate the next generation of manga translators. So over time, if successful, we should see a wider variety of manga being translated and sold outside of Japan. The many scanlation groups clearly show that there are talented people out there who want to share their love of manga with others. And the thousands reading scanned manga online indicates that the time for digital manga has arrived.

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