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Apple iBookStore comes to Inkmesh

October 30th, 2010

We recently added Apple iBookstore to Inkmesh index.
With this Inkmesh is now searching 34 ebook sites.

Through Inkmesh, you can now check for availability of books on Apple iBookstore, as well as it’s price.
However, you will have to purchase those books through the ibookstore app on ipad/iphone, since Apple still doesn’t allow you to read the books on Mac (or any other desktop).

This is a work in progress, and we will continue to discover and add more books from Apple ibookstore.
We hope this helps our users to discover Apple ibooks without having an access to ipad.

We appreciate and welcome feedback on team@inkmesh.com

New Feature: ETextbooks

August 21st, 2010

We recently added a new feature to Inkmesh: ETextbooks. Along with other vendors like Amazon, Oreilly etc. who already sell textbooks, we added 2 new retailers: CourseSmart and ECampus who specialize in selling e-textbooks.

We also added a new filter on our left-side-bar for easily filtering out textbooks from other books on the topic. So for the query ‘computer programming’ if you are only interested in e-textbooks, then simply click on the ETextbooks link on the left rail as shown below:

All Content
Ebooks
» ETextbooks
Audiobooks
Newspapers
Magazines
Blogs

Clicking on the ETextbooks will lead you to this link below and give you all textbooks for {computer programming} in our index.

We hope this feature helps not only college and school students, but is useful to anyone who wants to become an expert in the topic without buying the more expensive and bulky physical textbook.

How does Amazon, B&N and Sony stack up on ebook prices post agency model

August 21st, 2010

With the advent in agency model in April 2010, a lot of retailers lost the advantage of pricing ebooks aggressively. Before the EBook Agency Model, the publisher typically offered the ebooks at 50% of the hardcover price, and then allowed the retailer to sell them for whatever price they liked. So if a book had a list price of $30, the publisher would sell it to say Amazon for $15, and in turn, Amazon might sell it for $9.99 taking a $5 loss, but attracting a lot of people to buy from them. Some wonder why Amazon would want to take a $5 loss on every ebook sold under the old arrangement. Our guess is that Amazon wants to dominate the market and basically crush the competition by making it impossible for them to compete over the long-term as well as also make money by selling more Kindle readers. Regardless of the motivation, it is a great deal for consumers and not such a great deal for authors.

With the Ebook Agency Model, the publisher sets the price for the ebook, takes 70% of the sale, and leaves 30% to the retailer. Using the same example above, the publisher sells the ebook for $15, and then takes 70% or $10.50. They actually make less than they were making before. Amazon then gets $4.50. This is actually more than they were making before but it forces Amazon to sell the book for $5 more than they normally would ($15 Vs $9.99). The consumers don’t want that and neither does Amazon.

At Inkmesh, we wanted to find out how the big vendors stack up against each other after the agency model came into effect. We decided to dig into our database to get some answers, and found several things that were interesting enough to share on our blog.

For the purpose of this analysis, as with a similar analysis we did in Nov 2009, we pulled up ebooks that were available at the US websites of all three retailers – Amazon, B&N and Sony. To filter out noise, we only retained those books which had a non-zero sales rank and non-zero reviews at Amazon. We ended up with 16937 top-selling titles available at all three vendors and calculated our numbers on this set. Pricing of ebooks changes with time, so this analysis reflects the state of ebook prices on 20th August 2010.

Ebook price comparison between top retailers

Here is a chart that plots the number of books for which each retailer had the lowest price amongst all the 16931 books that we considered for our analysis.

The first thing that stood out was that Amazon is no longer as dominant in ebook pricing as it used to before the agency model. Out of 16931 titles we looked at, Amazon had lower prices than everyone else for only 876 (5.17%) of ebooks. And when we say everyone else, we also looked at 30 other ebook vendors that we index. A full list of these sites is available here. Amazon tied with the best price elsewhere for 7332 books. That basically means that Amazon had best prices for 8208 (48.5%) of the top selling ebooks in circulation today. Non other vendor did as well as Amazon.

Barnes and Noble was a clear, but not distant number two as in our previous analysis. It had the best price on only 441 (2.6%) of the top ebooks in circulation and it tied for the best price on 6783 (40%) of the top ebooks. This implied that they had the best price for a total of 7224 (42.6%) top selling ebooks. This was a much better showing for B&N in terms of ebook pricing. This also means bad news for Amazon since post the agency model they have clearly lost the big advantage they had w.r.t ebook pricing.

However, Sony failed to impress yet again, which was surprising to say the least. Sony had the lowest prices on only 71 (yes, only 71!) ebooks, and had the best price for only 4826 (28.5%) of 16931 top selling ebooks. Even Kobo books beat them by having the best price for 5603 (33.09%) of the books. Thus if you have a Sony reader then you are still better off buying ebooks from other vendors like Lulu, Kobo, BooksOnBoard, Diesel and so on which had lower prices on 100’s of epub books as compared to Sony.

Borders also recently opened up it’s new ebook store, but they are not as competitive as Amazon and B&N either. They had the lowest price for only 3835 (22.7%) of top selling ebooks.

Some other stats we found interesting:

As we found with our previous analysis, there were only 1270 (7.5%) ebooks that were free amongst these top selling ebooks. Thus, contrary to popular belief most of the top selling ebooks are actually not free.
Along with Amazon, and B&N, BooksOnBoard and Kobo put up a strong showing by beating Sony and Borders in terms of ebook pricing. Another interesting fact was that unlike before when Amazon had lowest price for 74% of the ebooks, this time the number dropped to 48%. A possibility could be that some smaller ebook vendors are yet not following the agency model and pricing their ebooks more aggressively than Amazon. A deeper analysis would be the subject of another blog.

Im summary: when it comes to ebook pricing, Amazon is still the best, but B&N is close on heels. Sony is much better than before, but still far behind and needs to tighten up it’s pricing to start making a big impact. Borders is coming up, and Kobo had a surprisingly good showing. The landscape will continue to change as both newer and more established ebook vendors continue to lure readers to their sites.

New Feature: Filter Results By Rating

February 25th, 2010

You can now filter all results on Inkmesh by average user rating – here are some examples:

Free Science Fiction Books for the Kindle rated 3 stars and above

All Promotional Free Ebooks from Barnes & Noble rated 4 stars and above

Books by (and about) the Bronte Sisters rated 4 stars and above

Sometimes you know exactly what you want to read, but for the times when you don’t, this should help you find your next ebook even more quickly.

New Feature: Limited Time Free Ebooks

February 8th, 2010

Ebook retailers and self-published authors often offer free in-copyright ebooks for a limited time. These offers can disappear within days, sometimes even hours, but now you can stay on top of these deals with a new Inkmesh feature: Limited Time Free Ebooks.

Inkmesh bots now monitor the free ebook inventory at Amazon, Sony and Barnes & Noble every hour and keep the free ebook list at http://inkmesh.com/free-ebooks/ up-to-date. Some of these ebooks might not be free outside the United States, but they will still be the cheapest books you can find at these sites.

The results are sorted by ‘deal freshness’ – more recent free ebook offers are listed first along with the date when they were found. Expired deals are removed instantly, so the list on the free ebooks page is always current, at least on an hourly basis.

We will be adding more stores to this list soon; we also plan to allow email signups for free ebook alerts so you don’t have to keep checking the list every day (or every hour if you are so inclined). If there are other things you would like to see on the free ebooks page, let us know. Otherwise, go find your next free-read!

New Features: Language Filters, Subject Browsing Improvements & UK Sites

January 19th, 2010

At Inkmesh we constantly ask ourselves how we can make ebook search better, and we’re always trying to improve by listening to our users and by studying how they interact with the site. Based on this feedback, we have made some changes over the last few days:

  • Language Filters: A third of our visitors are from outside the United States, and the ability to filter results by language has been one of our most-requested features for a very long time. Not any more – you can now filter results by the most common languages in our index. English is still the predominant language, but we have thousands of ebooks in French, German, Spanish and Italian. We will introduce filtering on more languages as part of the planned advanced search feature.
  • Improved Subject Browsing: We have completely overhauled the way we rank ebooks when you browse by subject. Subject searches are now even faster, and our new ranking algorithm gives much more importance to ebook popularity instead of focusing heavily on price as in the previous version. Users have already begun clicking through to many more ebooks as a result of this change, and we’re going to continue to improve it so you can find the right ebook even more quickly.
  • UK Sites: We recently added UK ebook retailers Waterstone’s and WHSmith to our list – this should help our UK users with ebook price comparisons. Both these retailers display ebook prices in GBP on their sites, but to make comparisons easier we display their prices in USD using the latest exchange rate from Google. We plan to add more UK retailers and display book prices in other currencies soon.
  • Where available, we now display the average rating and user review count for search results and on individual book pages. For most ebooks we have rating and review information from multiple sites; we select the site with the highest number of reviews for that book.

We hope you like these changes – feel free to leave feedback on our forum here, on Twitter, Facebook or over email. We look forward to hearing from you!

Liquavista: Threat to E-Ink?

January 10th, 2010

Barely ten days into January, 2010 is already being hailed as the year of the ereader. However, recent developments indicate that 2010 could be the beginning of the end for dedicated ereaders as new multi-function devices become the ereading devices of choice for consumers. Even as the Apple Tablet looms over the horizon, companies like Pixel Qi and Qualcomm hope to antiquate e-ink based devices with new display technologies that offer full color, video-capable refresh rates and enhanced indoor and outdoor viewability while still consuming far less power than traditional LCD screens.

Another such company is Liquavista, a 2006 spin-out from Philips Research Labs in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The key to Liquavista’s display technology is electrowetting, a technique that uses electric fields to change how solid surfaces interact with liquids. Liquavista’s electrowetting displays consist of a layer of colored oil between a layer of water and a solid water-repelling surface. In this stable state, the layer of oil is visible to the viewer through the water. When a charge is applied, the layer of oil changes its shape, exposing the solid surface below and changing the perceived color of the 3-layered surface. Such manipulations are performed at the level of tiny pixels to create a full-color screen. The power consumption of Liquavista’s display technique remains low because the stable state requires a low constant charge and the solid surface below the layer of oil can be made reflective to maintain screen brightness without the need for a backlight like in LCD screens. Most importantly, the electric transformations that manipulate the layer of oil can be applied several hundred times a second, giving the technology the ability to render video.

In October 2009 Liquavista demonstrated a 6-inch device running video on a monochrome display with 64 shades of gray (compared to the Kindle’s 16). The official name of the monochrome technology is LiquavistaBright:

At CES this year, Liquavista displayed the color version of LiquavistaBright. The demo below compares a contemporary e-ink screen with LiquavistaColor technology.

At CES Liquavista also demonstrated a concept device called the LiquavistaPebble (video below), but few specifics were released beyond the description of the curved shape of the device.

While Liquavista’s technology sounds promising, the biggest challenge for the company isn’t technical. Pixel Qi has already announced a partnership with Notion Ink to bring a color e-reader to market this summer, and there have been strong rumors about the next Kindle using Qualcomm’s Mirasol color display. So far Liquavista have only announced a partnership with chip-maker Texas Instruments, who plan to use Liquavista in their ‘next-generation e-reader development platform’. There are reports that Liquavista-based devices will not be available before the first quarter of 2011, by when Pixel Qi and Qualcomm’s Mirasol may have made significant inroads into the ereading market.

E-ink based displays have played an important role in creating the current market for ereaders and continue to dominate the market as the screen technology of choice in e-readers from Amazon, Sony and Barnes & Noble. But e-ink (and dedicated e-reading products) might be forced into oblivion as new multi-function devices offer more bang for the consumers’ buck. Sri Peruvemba, vice president of marketing at E Ink, is still not convinced. “If I give one of these devices to my daughter and I know she’s going to make phone calls on it and surf the Internet on it, I’m not going to be motivated to buy it for her”.

If the lack of features like video and voice continues to be E Ink’s unique selling proposition, display innovators like Liquavista might have much to cheer about this year.

Ebooks This Week: January 3-9

January 10th, 2010

CES 2010Events at CES dominated ebook news this week as companies took advantage of the accompanying media attention to showcase their current and future products designed with ereading in mind. New reading devices were one of the biggest draws – notable announcements included Hearst Corp’s Skiff, the Plastic Logic QUE, the enTourage eDGe, Spring Design’s Alex and new models from Samsung and COOL-ER. Another important segment was a new class of display technologies from several companies including Qualcomm, Pixel Qi and Liquavista, all threatening to end E Ink’s dominance by offering full color and video capabilities while still being viewable outdoors and consuming much less power than LCDs. Pixel Qi’s screen tech has already been incorporated in Notion Ink’s Adam (slated for release this summer), and there are rumors about the next Kindle using Qualcomm’s Mirasol display. Engadget has a more detailed roundup of ereaders at CES here.

Blio, the new ereading software platform we told you about last week, launched their website this week. When it launches in February, the Blio reader will provide 3-D page turns, text-to-speech capabilities and a touch-enabled interface along with the access to 1.26 million ebooks, over a million of which appear to be free public domain ebooks. Blio will only run on Windows initially.

Borders announced a partnership with Spring Design to integrate their Kobo-powered ebook store with Spring Design’s Alex ereader later this year. Spring Design announced another partnership with Google that will not only allow Alex users to download and read free Google Books on the Android-based device but also allow direct access to ebooks on the Google Books website using the device’s built-in wireless capabilities.

DMC Worldwide announced plans to launch a new ’social ereading platform’ called Copia, consisting of a lineup of ereaders backed by an online store with integration with popular social network sites. The platform will go into private beta this month and is expected to launch this summer.

NewspaperDirect, an aggregator of news publications from around the world made over 1400 periodicals available on the Sony Reader and the Kindle this week. Registered users of NewspaperDirect-owned PressDisplay.com will be able to download available publications to their ereaders for a monthly fee (ranging from $10 to $30) or for a per-item charge of $0.99. The Kindle World blog has a hands-on review of their service. Calibre, a popular free ebook management application also enables users to download full news articles from over 300 sources to supported ebook readers including the Sony Reader and the Kindle.

The City of Cincinnati announced plans to purchase 10 Kindle DX units for the mayor and members of the city council, citing an expected $25,000 in annual savings due to reduced printing expenses. The plan was criticized by several officials including some members of the city council who called the purchase ‘ridiculous’ and ‘hysterical’.

That’s it for ebooks this week! We leave you with pictures of the Guardian, a new waterproof Kindle case from M-Edge.

M-Edge Guardian
M-Edge Guardian at CES Booth

Ebooks This Week: December 27-January 2

January 2nd, 2010

Happy New Year to everyone!  As expected, not a lot of ebook news to cover from the last week of 2009, but a few things deserve mention:

We got a first look at Blio, cross-platform ereading software by inventor Ray Kurzweil. From initial reports, it appears that Blio ebooks will be PDF files with a new DRM scheme. The software will offer rich multimedia capabilities, making it a good choice for ereading on laptops and tablets but rendering it incompatible with eink devices like the Kindle. Blio will probably have Microsoft’s weight behind it, and will be unveiled at the CES on January 7.

The number of Kindle books available on Amazon.com crossed 400,000 and Amazon launched Bestseller Archives for Kindle books. The new feature allows users to look up Kindle bestsellers for any day, month or year dating back to November 2007 when the first Kindle was launched.

A January 26 unveiling of the Apple Tablet seemed even more certain this week as tablet rumors continued to increase. Apple has been talking to textbook publishers and newspapers, indicating special ebook reading features in the new device.

We expect to have a lot more to share next week as ebook industry announcements are made at the CES and elsewhere. Once again, wishing all of you a wonderful 2010!

Ebooks This Week: December 21-26

December 27th, 2009

Popular Science Fiction and Fantasy author Ursula Le Guin resigned from the Author’s Guild, protesting the Guild’s role in the controversial Google Books Settlement. The settlement will make millions of out-of-print books that are still under copyright available as ebooks through Google’s scanning efforts, but will also grant Google the license to scan and sell ‘orphan’ works – books under copyright for which rights holders can not be identified or located. The Guild released a letter on its website regretting Ms Guin’s decision and defending its stance on the settlement.

Users began posting the first reviews of Sony’ new Daily Edition ereader, which features a 7-inch touchscreen and wireless access and retails for $400. While initial feedback was generally positive, there were concerns about the reader’s inability to access content outside Sony’s online ebook store. The Daily Edition is yet another attempt by Sony to gain market share against the Kindle, which allows users to download DRM-free ebooks from anywhere on the web using the built-in browser.

Amazon announced that daily sales of Kindle Books topped physical book sales for the first time ever on December 25. The Kindle was Amazon’s most-gifted item this holiday season, and continues to occupy the top spot on its electronics best-seller list. In another indicator of rapidly rising ebook popularity, O’Reilly Media posted statistics showing ebooks outselling physical books 3:1 on oreilly.com. While several O’Reilly ebooks are also available in the Kindle store, ebook purchases on oreilly.com are DRM-free and can be downloaded in multiple formats.

Borders CEO Ron Marshall said in an interview that Borders is not planning to build an ereading device like rivals Amazon and B&N, primarily because of the ‘cost and time’ it would take to do so. Borders owns a stake in Kobo, who have indicated plans to launch a dedicated reading device in 2010.

Amazon released KindleGen – a command line utility to convert HTML and ePub ebooks to the Kindle/Mobipocket format. The new utility runs on both Windows and Linux, and replaces Mobigen by Mobipocket, who were acquired by Amazon in 2005. A new version of Calibre, a popular open source utility to manage and convert ebooks was also released this week.

So that’s it for our final post of the year. We have a lot lined up for Inkmesh in 2010, as we hope to continue to make it easier for you to find your next great eread. Stay tuned, and have a wonderful new year!