Category Archives: Gadgets

CES 2012

On Sunday, I leave for CES 2012 in Las Vegas and will be reporting from the show as I go. My current plan is to use a combination of Ustream and YouTube for video content, SoundCloud for audio-only content, and everything important will end up here on my blog. If you want to try and catch any live broadcasts, I’m going to have the channel embedded right here for you to watch, and if you follow me on Twitter you’ll get a message the second I go live with anything.

What am I likely to see at CES that would be interesting to libraries? I would argue that nearly everything I see should be interesting at some level, but I’m betting on a lot of Android and Windows tablets (hopefully a Windows 8 tablet will make an appearance), a lot of cheap video cameras, and ridiculously nice 4K displays among the thousands and thousands of gadgets on the show floor. I’m looking forward to meeting with Barnes & Noble as well as hopefully getting a chance to talk with the Makerbot guys, and I’m probably too excited about seeing the first demo of the OLPC XO 3.0 Tablet.

Lots, lots more once I hit Vegas. Stay tuned!

Ready, Aim…Fire!

Head over to the ALA TechSource blog to see my take on the new Amazon Kindle announcements. The new models announced yesterday, along with pricing, are:

There’s lots more at TechSource, but the pull-quote from the article is probably:

For libraries, however, with the exception of cheaper cost-per-device you want to provide…well, nothing really changes. Amazon is still providing books at the publisher’s set cost that are licensed in such a way that limits the ability of libraries to circulate them (the books, not the devices). The Kindle/Overdrive deal doesn’t change at all…you can just buy a Kindle to circ to patrons for $40 less than you could yesterday. But the technological hurdles for our patrons on the user-experience front as well as the backend limitations of the DRM provided files are still the same as ever.

Predictions for WWDC 2011 and iCloud

This coming Monday, June 6th, Apple will give their annual keynote at the World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) 2011. This is traditionally the stage for announcements about software and operating systems…things that developers for the Apple platforms (iOS and OSX) are centrally concerned with.

This year, in an unprecedented move, Apple’s press release for the WWDC keynote includes details about what they will present, and it centers around three things: the next version of OSX (code-named Lion), iOS 5, and a brand new offering called iCloud. From the press release:

At the keynote, Apple will unveil its next generation software – Lion, the eighth major release of Mac OS® X; iOS 5, the next version of Apple’s advanced mobile operating system which powers the iPad®, iPhone® and iPod touch®; and iCloud®, Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering.

Practically nothing is known at this point about iCloud. There has been speculation that it could be everything from an enhanced media locker in the vein of Amazon Cloudplayer or Google Music Beta to something like enhanced syncing API’s for developers. Apple has been making deals of some type with the major record labels, which means that some form of music sync/streaming is likely, but details will make all the difference about whether it’s more compelling than the above services.

It’s no secret that Apple’s success with web-based services is almost the exact inverse of its success with hardware…nearly every web-based service that Apple has launched has sucked.  From iTools, to .mac, to MobileMe, in every case the promise has been much more impressive than the delivery. For each of the pieces that make up MobileMe, other online services provide the service better. Calendar syncing and eMail are both done better by Google, online storage and public web access is done better by Dropbox, and MobileMe gallery is outdone by YouTube and Flickr. Services that are uniquely Apple’s, like Find my iPhone, are well done, but even in this case it’s not universally good…for instance, Back to My Mac is only great when it works. Which is almost never.

I love nothing more than putting on my “make shit up” hat, so I thought I’d give prognostication a shot for what Apple is doing with iCloud. How can Apple move in the right direction with its online services? Here’s what I hope to see from iCloud:

First off, I expect that iCloud will be a suite of services in the same way that they have chosen to brand their iWork and iLife suites. iCloud will be analogous to these local services…the branding for all of Apple’s online offerings. I’m hoping that the reason that Apple is choosing to announce iCloud at the same time as Lion and iOS 5 is that they are all tied together. Or, rather, that iCloud becomes the glue that ties iOS and Lion together, merging a number of local services from iOS and OSX and allowing for seamless data transmission and interaction. Think Dropbox, but deeply integrated into the filesystem, allowing for documents to be edited on any platform, music to be played anywhere, whether mobile or desktop.

If they do this, and then further allow access to the service via API so that app developers can tap directly into your iCloud for file storage, Apple will seriously have changed the game. Not only would it solve syncing issues, but it could also theoretically be a solution for backup…all of your documents and settings for your desktop and mobile devices could be backed up as they are synced. Even better for things like games, iCloud could enable syncing of game states, so that you could play Angry Birds on your iPod Touch, then pick it up on an iPad and have the game pick up just where you left off.

One last prediction…if this is the route that Apple goes (and I hope that it is), one thing that I would love to see in iOS 5 is the addition of account management/multiple accounts on iOS devices. Syncing only works if it’s tied to an identity, and it’s very hard to manage identities on shared mobile devices without some form of account management. There’s no technical reason that iOS can’t support multiple accounts on a single device, and it would actually simplify some parts of the syncing issues for Apple.

We’ll find out everything on Monday…I’m looking forward to seeing if I’m right about any of it.

Kindle Library Lending

The online library world is abuzz today with the announcement of Kindle Library Lending, which promises to finally bring the ability for libraries to check ebooks out to patron’s Kindle (or Kindle software-driven devices). The announcement itself is full of promise and light on details, including such gems as:

Customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer’s annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.

Translation: Amazon will be maintaining notes and details of the book you read on their servers, and providing a way to purchase said book as a part of the library experience.

Amazon is working with OverDrive, the leading provider of digital content solutions for over 11,000 public and educational libraries in the United States, to bring a seamless library borrowing experience to Kindle customers. “We are excited to be working with Amazon to offer Kindle Library Lending to the millions of customers who read on Kindle and Kindle apps,” said Steve Potash, CEO, OverDrive. “We hear librarians and patrons rave about Kindle, so we are thrilled that we can be part of bringing library books to the unparalleled experience of reading on Kindle.”

This appears to mean that Overdrive will be the library-facing partner in this enterprise, and I’m guessing that the checkout experience and user interface will be Overdrive driven. This is (IMNSHO) a disappointment, as I’d much rather deal with Amazon directly (even though I’m sure they would not rather deal with libraries…thus, Overdrive).

Bobbi Newman, as always, has a thoughtful post up about this, and asks a couple of questions for which I’m going to guess the answers. She asks:

Will libraries be forced to add a third ebook format (which will only spread their already thin money thinner?)

If yes

  • Will I be allowed to borrow library ebooks in epub and pdf format on my Kindle?
  • Will owners of other devices (such as the Nook or Sony) be allowed to read Kindle books on their device? (the press release reads as “no”)

I would find it VERY hard to believe that Amazon is going to convert all of their proprietary files into a new format just for libraries…so yes, I believe strongly that there will be yet another format. I also find it hard to believe that Amazon will suddenly decide to embrace Adobe DRM…which means that there is little chance that library books via Overdrive or another vendor that are in the epub or pdf format will start working on the Kindle.

As to the last question…I believe very strongly that if Barnes & Noble and Sony decided to allow Amazon DRM/filetypes on the nook or Sony reader, Amazon would be thrilled to provide them with books. But that’s probably not going to happen either. For a reminder of all the intricacies of the filetype/DRM issues here, see my post on eBook Filetypes and DRM.

I have requests out currently for answers from Overdrive and Amazon on the following questions…if either of them get back to me, I’ll make sure to post it here.

Will the Kindle Library Lending functionality require the use of the Overdrive Media Center Console?

Will the functionality require a “buy this book” link in the Overdrive catalog?

Will the KLL functionality require the library patron to be physically in the library, or authenticated via IP address, or will they be able to access this remotely? Or some combination of the two?

The press release mentions that Whispersync will be enabled to remember page numbers, which implies that patrons will be able to load Kindle books that they check out onto multiple devices…what will the mechanism for this be? If I check out a book, and then load it onto my Kindle, my Kindle DX, my iPod Touch, and my iPad, will that count as 4 checkouts, or one?

Currently, the Overdrive ebook model works with Adobe Digital Editions and ePub…I am assuming that the Kindle books will remain in the standard .azw format, and use Amazon DRM. Can you confirm this assumption? If so, can you describe the process by which patrons will check out a book using this service?

What will the limitations on the KLL catalog be? How does it compare to the overall Kindle ebook catalog?

Will publishers be able to opt-out of allowing Library lending in the same way that they can currently opt-out of other features of the Kindle?

What is Amazon doing to ensure the privacy/confidentiality of library patrons?

UPDATE


Overdrive finally posted to their blog about the issue, and I just received a callback from Overdrive marketing. While they weren’t able to comment a large number of things, I did get confirmations on a few details. On the Overdrive blog post, they say:

A user will be able to browse for titles on any desktop or mobile operating system, check out a title with a library card, and then select Kindle as the delivery destination.

The exact quote that I got from the Overdrive marketing department was that the books would be “deliverable to Kindle” and that did include any Kindle and Kindle app.

The blog post also says:

Your existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers. As you add new eBooks to your collection, those titles will also be available in Kindle format for lending to Kindle and Kindle reading apps. Your library will not need to purchase any additional units to have Kindle compatibility. This will work for your existing copies and units.

When asked about the potential catalog non-overlap (what happens when a book available via Overdrive isn’t available on Amazon), the answer from Overdrive was that they hadn’t looked fully at the catalog overlap yet. But it sounds like the Kindle compatibility is simply going to be there for your existing books as an additional option…well done!

MASSIVE SPECULATION AHEAD:It sounds to me like Overdrive will be providing the ability to checkout a book and click “deliver to Kindle”, much in the same way that Amazon currently does when you purchase a book. If I’d been thinking for half a second, I’d have realized that’s the ONLY way they can do it and support Kindle Apps. None of the Kindle apps that I’m aware of allows for any sort of side-loading of content…all the content that is in them can ONLY come from Amazon directly. CORRECTION: Kindle App for iOS does allow side-loading via emailed or web-linked files of the appropriate filetype (mobi, azw)…but no tethered side-loading. You can obviously plug your Kindle directly into your computer and throw a random PDF on it, but you can’t do that with Kindle Apps. They have to deliver these to you via Whispernet…there’s no other choice.

Back to the blog post!

The Kindle eBook titles borrowed from a library will carry the same rules and policies as all our other eBooks.

One answer that I’d really like from Overdrive is relating to this piece. On the phone call, I asked if a publisher limited the number of times that a book could be downloaded (which some do), whether this would effect the number of devices that I could have said book delivered to. The official statement was that they didn’t have that information right now, but that whatever the solution it would “support publisher’s existing models”.

Last bit of news for now: I tried to get Overdrive to give me anything on a timeframe, and they weren’t even willing to promise/commit to a quarter of the year…all they would say was “in 2011″. So we could have some time to wait for this.

Tablets & Superphones from Computers in Libraries 2011

My very brief slide deck from Computers in Libraries 2011 for my Cybertour on Tablets & Superphones. Just showing off some of the new and shiny tech, and talking a bit about why we should care as libraries.

I also created a Lanyrd page for my presentation before it happened, just to see if anyone was using it or would refer to it. If you see any mentions of the Cybertour around the ‘net, please throw a link in the comments or on the Lanyrd page.

Gadgets in the Library: A Practical Guide to Personal Electronics for Librarians

In the middle of April, I’ll be doing a set of two webinars for ALA TechSource on how to manage gadgets inside the library. I’ve done a lot of talks about the theory of gadgets, and why I think they are important for libraries, but this is the first time I’ve tried to put together some real practical day-to-day tips for how to deal with these things. Here’s the description from the registration page:

From the iPad to eReaders, gadgets are everywhere. As these personal electronic devices become more and more ubiquitous in everyday life, it’s essential that libraries are fluent in the language of these devices. Whether your library wants to make use of these items in its services or purchase them to lend out to patrons, this interactive workshop will give you the foundation you for bringing your library into the future through gadgets.

Session 1: Non-e-Reader Gadgets
Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 2:30pm – 4:00pm Eastern

This session will cover the following topics:
Personal Electronics are Personal
Operating Systems vs Devices
iOS & Android
Circulation & Policy

Session 2: E-Readers and More
Wednesday, April 20, 2011, 2:30pm – 4:00pm Eastern

This session will cover the following topics:
Types, differences, decisions
Amazon, Nook, Sony
Cataloging and Representation in Systems
Summary and Conclusions

The webinars aren’t free, unfortunately, but it’s a flat rate for both ($85), and if you want to gather your entire library together to watch, you can do so.

If you’re interested, please register…and if you have questions for me about what’s going to be covered, or you signed up but want to tell me exactly what you’d like me to cover, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Apple intentionally hurting eBook stores

Apple announced the terms of their in-App Subscription Service this morning, and it does indeed look like they are shooting directly at Amazon. What I’m concerned about is the fallout from these new rules on other apps…here’s the paragraph that causes me issue, with the pertinent passage highlighted.

Publishers who use Apple’s subscription service in their app can also leverage other methods for acquiring digital subscribers outside of the app. For example, publishers can sell digital subscriptions on their web sites, or can choose to provide free access to existing subscribers. Since Apple is not involved in these transactions, there is no revenue sharing or exchange of customer information with Apple. Publishers must provide their own authentication process inside the app for subscribers that have signed up outside of the app. However, Apple does require that if a publisher chooses to sell a digital subscription separately outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to customers who wish to subscribe from within the app. In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

To summarize: publishers are allowed to sell subscriptions on their own websites, but if they do, they must also allow for in-app purchase of said subscription, and there has to be pricing parity between the two methods. This means that, for instance, a newspaper couldn’t offer a subscription on their site for $5, but make the in-app purchase $8…this prevents publishers from variably pricing things higher in the App in order to pad the price to take into account Apple’s 30% of the sale price. So far, so good…it’s that last sentence that really worries me:

In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

Notice that in that sentence, Apple stopped talking about subscriptions and now include content generally. This single lline is the one that, I think, kills eReader software on iOS devices. This means that Amazon can’t keep the Kindle app the way it currently works, which is to tap a button inside the app that then takes you to the Kindle store in Safari. That’s not allowed given the above. That will apply to Barnes & Noble’s Nook software, as well as any other eReader software that I’m aware of on iOS. eBook providers like Amazon and B&N almost certainly can’t afford to move all their sales to in-app purchases because of the 30% Apple “tax”. This means that either they raise prices and move into Apple’s ecosystem, or they stop allowing purchases of books at all on iOS devices.

The rules appear to allow Amazon to sell Kindle books for iOS on the Amazon website directly (obviously Apple can’t do anything about that) but it seems to break any connection between the app and said site. This intentionally damages the user experience for this and other eBook apps, and is the main reason I can’t believe that Apple is pushing this as hard as they are. This is much different than other limitations that Apple has placed on the development of Apps…this isn’t hardware based limitation (multitasking) or anything like that…this seems to be purely a “show us the money” limitation. I’m really disappointed if this is the way that Apple chooses to enforce this, because while they are guilty of many things, intentionally hurting usability has never been one of them.

What I’m really curious about is this: Is Apple going to push these requirements for any App that allows for any purchase…like, for instance, the Amazon app that allows you to shop on Amazon directly. Or Zappos, or Ebay, or any number of other apps that act as a front-end for purchasing goods. If that’s the case, I think that Apple is in for some real trouble and pushback from companies, and possible legal repercussions. Seems like it can’t possibly be legal for the manufacturer of a computer (which is what the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch is, after a recent legal decision) to require that anything purchased on that computer provide them with a cut. I’ll be keeping my eyes on this one.

Georgia Library Association Midwinter 2011

I had the pleasure of presenting the keynote at the GLA Midwinter meeting this past Friday morning, where I gave a talk I entitled “Experiences become Expectations.” The thrust of the talk was one that I’ve written about before; that our patrons expectations of libraries are influenced by the experiences they have with technology in the world. I’m really pleased with the way it turned out, and will be continuing to explore this idea for the next few months in various ways. If you’re interested, take a look at my slides below for some idea about the sorts of things I talked about.

Google ChromeOS Cr-48 Review

Cr-48

I ended up writing about 2000 words over at Perpetual Beta on my experience with the Google ChromeOS Cr-48 laptop thus far, and see no reason to duplicate all that info here at PatRec. Here’s the review, linked up in 5 parts: