Kobo debuts Libra H2O e-reader, updates software with more tools for readers

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)
Nearly one year after releasing the Forma e-reader, Kobo returns today with a new slab dubbed the Kobo Libra H2O. The $169 e-reader retains the skeleton of the Forma, but is actually a smaller device. It has a 7-inch, 1680×1264, 300ppi E Ink display, down from the Forma’s 8-inch display, but it has the same side-chin with page-turn buttons. Notably, Kobo moved the power button from the edge of the e-reader to the back of the device, and it’s now a slightly indented circle that’s easy to discern from the device’s slightly textured back.

At 6.7oz, the Libra H2O is also a hair lighter than the Forma, and it comes in both black and white color configurations. In contrast to the Forma, the Libra H2O comes with 8GB of storage (the Forma has 32GB) and it doesn’t use Mobius screen technology, which gives the Forma’s display more durability.

Original URL: https://arstechnica.com/?p=1556503

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Instapaper makes ‘premium’ services free to all users

My favorite article-clipping service just got even better. A few months ago, Instapaper was acquired by Pinterest, in the usual tech-company deal we see these days when one company thinks that the technology another company developed would make its own products and services even better. Google and Amazon have done this countless times.
But rather than the usual case, in which the acquiring company shuts down the company it just bought (as was the case with Google and Etherpad, or Safari Books Online and Ibis Reader), Instapaper has announced exactly the opposite is happening: not only will Instapaper’s services be continuing, but the add-on services that formerly required paying for a premium account will now be freely available to everyone. Those who’ve already paid for Instapaper premium accounts will have pro-rated refunds coming within the next week or so.
These premium services include zero ads on site or mobile app, full-text search for all

Original URL: https://teleread.org/2016/11/02/instapaper-makes-premium-services-free-to-all-users/

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E-reader and tablet prices are getting amazingly low

If you’re looking for a cheap device on which to read those cheap e-books Amazon and others have on sale today, and $50 is still too much for you to pay, Amazon has a couple of used 7” Fire tablets available for about $30 each, with free Prime shipping. One of the least expensive e-readers you can get can now be had for even less. And a used Fire HD 6 can be had for about the same $50 price as a new 7” (or you can get a new one for just $20 more). And those are far from the only used Amazon devices available. (Add $20 to these prices to get rid of Special Offers, of course.) I don’t think these are one-day rates like the e-book listings, but they’re listed under the same “Gold Box deals” section.

When you get right down to it, Amazon has some great used and refurb deals even on its own competitors, such as the Nook Glowlight deal I mentioned yesterday. There are plenty of deals on Kobo readers, too—a $35 used N905, a $34 used Kobo Mini. I suppose it makes sense, since Borders isn’t around to sell them anymore. And I’ve discussed all the cheap non-Fire Android tablets you can find there in another post, though not all of them are necessarily any good.

There are plenty of other sources for cheap tablets, too. Groupon puts the Nexus 7 on sale from time to time. Ebay has some good prices on used kit, though you have to be careful and read the descriptions closely. Surplus and salvage places like GearXS have possible bargains, though they’re another caveat emptor case. Wal-Mart, Fry’s Electronics, Best Buy—there are lots of possibilities.

It honestly amazes me when I look at these prices just how cheap e-reader and tablet technology has gotten in just a few years. Even leaving aside all the off-brand and competitor stuff available, a $30 used Fire tablet might not be much of a tablet compared to more expensive Android devices, especially when you take into account the annoying restrictions on what software you can run. But it’s still a major-brand-name product that I’ve found to be pretty reliable.

It can still access the Internet, send or receive email, socially network, and so on. And, of course, it can read plenty of e-books and other material. (More so if you finagle the Google Play applications onto it.) Is an end to the digital divide just around the corner?

The post E-reader and tablet prices are getting amazingly low appeared first on TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond.

Original URL: http://www.teleread.com/e-reader-and-tablet-prices-are-getting-amazingly-low/

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Amazon offers gift card credit plus $20 bonus for trading up to a newer Kindle

IMG_20160330_142615Is your e-ink Kindle getting a little long in the tooth? Maybe you have a Kindle sitting around somewhere that doesn’t even work anymore? If so, Amazon wants to try to get you to trade up to a newer one with its Kindle trade-in program.

Simply send in your Kindle and Amazon will assign you a gift card value based on the model and its condition. If your Kindle doesn’t work, or is a first- or second-generation model (including the Kindle DX) that does work, it will fetch you $5 on trade-in. Subsequent generations will fetch anywhere from $19 for the Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi up to $55 for the newest 3G Paperwhite, as long as they’re in good working order.

On top of that, Amazon will add a $20 bonus, which you can then apply toward the purchase of any Kindle e-reader sold directly by Amazon—the Kindle, the Paperwhite, the Voyage, or the Kindle for Kids bundle. You can use the gift card balance for any purchase, but the $20 bonus can only apply toward another Kindle (not a Fire). You can trade in up to five Kindles per customer and account, but only get one $20 bonus.

The offer runs through the end of 2016, and the $20 bonus credit has to be used by the end of February, 2017.

I’d consider trading in my old Kindle Touch, but Amazon may already have marked that one down as not working after my support experience trying to get it upgraded and it has a couple of marks on the screen acquired before I owned it, so I’d probably just end up getting $5 for it. Besides, given that my Paperwhite works just fine (even in the dark!), I don’t really need another Kindle right now.

But if you’ve been holding onto one of your older Kindles for a while, here’s your chance to get its trade-in value plus $20 toward a new one. And it’s a chance you’ll have all year, unless Amazon decides to end the program prematurely. Why not give it a shot?

The post Amazon offers gift card credit plus $20 bonus for trading up to a newer Kindle appeared first on TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond.

Original URL: http://www.teleread.com/amazon-offers-gift-card-credit-plus-20-bonus-for-trading-up-to-a-new-kindle/

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What can you do with a first-gen iPad?


It’s tempting to scan that question to the sea chanty “What can you do with a drunken sailor?” When you get right down to it, a first-gen iPad is just about as useful as a drunken sailor.

I actually happen to have a first-gen iPad myself—sent to me in April, 2010, by NAPCO, shortly after they bought TeleRead. I’m just a couple weeks away from my six-year anniversary with the device, in fact.

Though I haven’t used the tablet regularly in a while, Nate Hoffelder reminded me of it the other day. He called my attention to a Washington Post story on the problems the government’s new Open eBooks program is running into in poorer school districts:

When librarian Jennifer Nelson arrives at the tiny library at Crewe Primary School each morning, she is confronted with a cart of first-generation iPads. The detritus of attempts to infuse technology into one of the poorest and most rural schools in Virginia, the tablets are hopelessly obsolete, worth little more than the cart on which they reside.

Is it really as bad as all that? I dug up my old iPad, plugged it in, and took another look.

By today’s standards, the first-generation iPad seems ridiculously clunky. That big old brushed-aluminum case is pretty heavy by comparison to the models that came after, but at the time there wasn’t anything like it to compare it to.

ibooks-fiveIt’s funny to consider in this era of cheap and plentiful Android tablets, but at the time this iPad came out, there wasn’t anything else in its league. Tablet-makers had tried for years to cram Windows, Linux, or whatever else they could fit into a tablet form factor, but the iPad was the first ever tablet that was actually any good. It was also the impetus for Apple and the Agency Five publishers to illegally impose agency pricing on Amazon—and, Steve Jobs expected, the key to a new Apple-driven domination of the e-book market.

I will admit, iBooks was one of the best EPUB readers I had ever used at the time, and it’s still pretty darned good by my lights. But Apple never did anything more with e-books than put a store of its own out there for iOS devices. It never pressed its advantage, nor did it even try to expand to other platforms. By now, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court declining to hear Apple’s appeal, the idea of Apple dominating the e-book market with this expensive tablet seems ridiculously quaint.

nook-dilemmaSix years on, the iPad still works. It has a decent display (though nothing on the order of Apple’s later Retina models) and it can still run apps and show videos. The fundamental problem with it is Apple’s usual planned obsolescence. The first-generation iPad never got any version of iOS later than iOS 6, whereas Apple’s current devices are up to iOS 9.

As I understand it, the iOS app development process is not built with backward compatibility in mind. Apple requires new apps to be submitted using the latest version of the iOS software development kit, which will only make apps compatible with current versions of iOS.

However, Apple did come out with a feature that lets devices running iOS 4 or later download the most recent compatible version of a given app. So, my first-gen iPad isn’t necessarily as useful as a more recent tablet, but it’s not entirely useless. It’s got a sort of zombie-like undead quality to it.

imageI can go to the iOS app store and download the most recent compatible version of any app that’s been around for a long time—e-reader apps like iBooks, Kindle, Nook, Kobo; social network apps like Facebook and Twitter, and so on.

The apps seem to work all right, for the most part. The Facebook app doesn’t have Facebook’s new emoticon reaction feature, but it still displays current Facebook posts just fine apart from that.

kindle-ipadAs for e-readers, I tested both Kindle and Nook, downloading e-books from my online libraries. The Kindle app doesn’t have the Bookerly font, but Georgia looks just fine and is perfectly readable. It doesn’t have X-Ray, either, but then, what do you really need that for anyway if you’re just interested in reading?

ibooks-mozartI checked out iBooks, too. It still reads sideloaded EPUBs as well as ever, and it will even download some of the fancy multimedia e-books from the iBooks store—the Beatles Yellow Submarine book, or that Mozart e-book I mentioned in December.

But that only goes so far. For apps that don’t have versions that old, such as Google Hangouts—or, apropos of that Washington post article, Open eBooks—you’re effectively out of luck. Likewise, if the cloud backend for the old app has changed enough that the old app no longer talks to the online version of the new app, you’re out of luck.

As far as I know there’s no way any new apps could be developed for an older version of iOS—as I already mentioned, they have to be developed using the latest SDK, which isn’t backward compatible. Hence, there will never be a version of Open eBooks that runs on iOS 6, so librarian Jennifer Nelson is out of luck in that respect.

But with as many older e-reading apps as still do work with it, she could find other uses for them. iBooks could still open EPUBs from Project Gutenberg, the Baen Free Library, or other free sources. The web browser could still access cloud-based resources like Wikipedia. They aren’t completely useless; they’d be a lot better than nothing, used properly.

And one aspect of the digital divide that Washington Post article didn’t mention is that, thanks to Android, there are now a lot of cheap device options for Open eBooks out there. As I mentioned earlier this month:

Speaking of cheap hardware, the Open eBooks app will absolutely install and run on both my $10 LG Sunrise Tracfone (no longer available for $10, unfortunately, though the Straight Talk variant of it is currently $20 on Walmart.com) and the $40 RCA Voyager II tablet. The Open eBooks app isn’t available on the Amazon Fire store, but I just checked my $50 Fire that I’d patched to include the Google Play store and it didn’t object to installing the app either. Of course, I can’t get any use out of the app without an access code, but it’s gratifying to know it would run on one of these cheap devices for kids who had one.

Open eBooks will run on devices that cost a tenth or even a fiftieth as much as a new iPad. They may not be very fancy or look very great, but they’ll absolutely work. Perhaps these low-income schools should look into ways of obtaining some inexpensive tablets and phones for such a use. They could apply for grants, run fund drives, ask for donations, and so on. Even a small amount of money would be sufficient to obtain a good number of cheap devices.

The post What can you do with a first-gen iPad? appeared first on TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond.

Original URL: http://www.teleread.com/can-first-gen-ipad/

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Sony’s customizable e-paper home remote: Could Amazon be next?

Huis 1Sony has just announced in Japan the Huis Remote Controller, a customizable e-paper remote control for home appliances. And Amazon, already the Western world’s leader in e-paper devices, and making a major play for the connected home via its Amazon Echo speaker and Dash Buttons, could be the logical player to follow suit.

As the Sony press release explains (via Google Translate), Huis is “a remote control that can operate multiple devices smoothly with a single remote. The operating surface uses the electronic paper display rather than switches, make it easy to arrange and switch the screen.” Sony crowdfunded development of the Huis through their wholly-owned innovation crowdsourcing platform First Flight. According to The Verge, Sony opted for e-paper because of its lower power consumption and persistent display. The device is already on sale in Japan for the very Japanese price of JNY 27,950 ($245).

There’s one obvious way you can see such technology working for Amazon in ebooks. Amazon is already leading in audiobooks in the home through the Alexa voice client, the Echo speaker, and the Fire TV. As well as operating all of these features through an e-paper remote, or just a downloaded app for your Kindle like Amazon’s existing Alexa/Echo app, you could have Alexa read you the text as it scrolls on your e-paper screen, over Echo or your home speaker system. As it happens, you already can, except that the rest of the remote control is missing – so far.

In short, you could argue that Amazon has already leapfrogged Sony, even if the Huis looks far more elegant than most Kindle models. And more broadly, there’s plenty of speculation around that, to quote The Motley Fool, “Amazon Is Winning the Smart Home Race – and Nobody Is Noticing.” Amazon has now announced a partnership with ecobee to control your thermostat via Echo. In fact, the biggest question mark against an e-paper remote for Amazon’s home automation plans is why the Bezos Behemoth would bother with e-paper at all, when Echo is already doing such a good job via voice. But with all those Kindles around …

Huis 2

The post Sony’s customizable e-paper home remote: Could Amazon be next? appeared first on TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond.

Original URL: http://www.teleread.com/amazon/sonys-customizable-e-paper-home-remote-control-could-amazon-be-next/

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Urgent: Time to update your Kindle to stay connected

101 Uses of a Dead KindleAs readers may have already noticed, Amazon has announced a “Critical Software Update for Kindle E-Readers” with a warning that your device may be useless without it. Amazon warns that: “customers using an outdated software version on Kindle e-readers require an important software update by March 22, 2016 in order to continue to download Kindle books from the Cloud, access the Kindle Store, and use other Kindle services on their device.” And as it happens, every Kindle device released from the 2007 Kindle 1st Generation to the 2012 Kindle Paperwhite 5th Generation should need that update.

For worried Fire owners, do note that this is only for eInk Kindle Kindles – not the color Kindle Fires. Owners of 2013 Kindle Paperwhite 6th Generation devices and any subsequent Kindles can also relax. However, for other devices, Amazon provides a long list of the relevant OS release your device needs. If you own such a device, it’s probably wise to connect to WiFi anyway just to be sure.

If you can. Because my fourth-generation Kindle, for one, hasn’t had working WiFi in yonks, besides having a battery life measurable in minutes. Connection to the Kindle Store is a tad moot in my case anyway. But for anyone similarly afflicted, Amazon does provide a solution. The long list of “Fire & Kindle Software Updates” on the left of the relevant Amazon Help & Customer Service page does provide links where you can manually download the relevant software updates, for sideloading and installing into your Kindle via USB. That’s a fix I’m going to try on mine, to see if I can get my WiFi back.

What’s Amazon’s reason for the across-the-board upgrade? No idea. New services? Maybe. Security concerns? Possibly. For users, though, it’s more than advisable to connect your Kindle and sync, then follow Amazon’s instructions to upgrade software as necessary. Keep that aging Kindle working as, potentially, a valuable vintage model, rather than a brick.

The post Urgent: Time to update your Kindle to stay connected appeared first on TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond.

Original URL: http://www.teleread.com/amazon/time-to-update-your-kindle-to-stay-connected/

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