A Soft Landing on Normandy

Peter Brantley reports on the future of ebooks for Publishers Weekly, A Soft Landing on Normandy

“Almost every single startup that is delivering authoring tools — either for designing and producing content, maintaining a full-bore content management system, or simply supporting an interim level of annotations or fragmentation — is building their own proprietary web-based layer that is largely HTML5-based yet also capable of linking to software development kits and libraries needed to support the export of rich app experiences. In other words, everything is baroque, and nothing in the standards space works well enough across the range of possible uses to be a default rendering environment. It is very much as if we are back in the Middle Ages scribbling on parchment, whittling our own quills from feathers we have on hand, drawing up whatever ink we have available. Our 21st Century parchment is a world-wide digital canvas, but our quills are hand-crafted.”

That can potentially make sense for presenting high quality specialist non-fiction/textbooks with complex layouts, which I’d suggest is where these startups are going with these tools. If they can create something that is easy enough for publishers to use, but which can produce good looking easy-to-update expensive non-fiction in iPad editions, then they stand a chance of a buyout by a major publisher.

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Post Xmas Kindle sales statistics

Unsurprisingly, it’s said that Kindle sales dropped off a cliff after the Christmas / New Year period — at least according to one canny business analyst who has been tracking e-ink manufacturer inventories and sales…

“he estimates that Amazon was selling around 7 million Kindles per quarter last year. In Q1, he thinks they sold only 1.75 million.”

Actually, only 1.75 million doesn’t sound that bad. Cliff…? or speed bump?

I guess the real figures should be about how many of those holiday season Kindles are gathering dust on a shelf or in a drawer, and how many are in active use. My own Jan-May experience on sales suggests that UK users may have gifted Kindles in bulk, but those Kindles are seeing little use for ebook purchases. Meanwhile, the USA sales are doing well.

Readability vs. Instapaper

I nearly swopped from Instapaper to Readability today, for reading newspaper and magazine articles on the Kindle. Readability added Kindle support in late summer 2011. But after a whole load of rigmarole, the Readability service just wouldn’t work for me.

I love the Instapaper format, but it’s getting too flaky about what it will and won’t send. Half the time, four or five articles are missing from my weekly bundle. Other times, article headers come through, but the body of the article is missing. And yes, I did make sure to keep the number of articles under the threshold number for the free version of the service.

So I tried setting up Readability for use with the Kindle. It’s a bit of a hassle. You need to do it all in this order…

1. Sign up for a Readability account at their website.

2. Go to your email in-box, find the new Readability email, click on the link it contains, to activate the account.

3. Install the browser addon.

4. Add the email address kindle@readability.com to your Account | Manage Your Kindle | Personal Document Settings | “Approved Personal Document E-mail List”.

5. Log in at the http://www.readability.com website, with your new sign-up details.

6. Use this page to tell Readability what your Kindle’s delivery email address is.

7. Go to Account settings and make sure “Privacy” | “Hide reading list” is ticked.

8. Set your keyboard shortcut in the options settings of the Readability browser add-on. You can also use the browser toolbar “armchair” graphic, which drops a menu that includes “Send to Kindle”.

But after doing all of this, I just could not get my Kindle to receive any Readability articles. Something obviously went wrong, but I’ve no idea what. Articles sent via Amazon’s own “Send to Kindle” print driver came through fine. Sorry, Readability. I really wanted to swop. I correctly and carefully jumped through all the hoops to set up the service. I triple-checked all my setup settings and email spellings. But you let me down at the most vital point — delivery of the actual article.

/Sigh/ Oh well, uninstalled. I guess it’s back to wrestling with Instapaper.