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!
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 strongrumors 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.
Events 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.
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 initialreports, 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!