Episode 24 – Here comes the sun

Ahhh, spring peeks its head through the dismal grey of winter this week, just reminding us in the UK, of what the sun looks like! I fall out with Amazon this week, just like 1 or 2 book publishers it seems. Maybe some of our thoughts turn to summer holidays? Is there an app for that?

The Cancel Sky deadline approaches…






iPhone Apps of the Week



WebSite of the Week


Bargain of the Week

2tb Hard Drive!!

A bit of Computing History

Alan Turing

My idea for a new App – listen to find out!

Please send comments and feedback to david@iconfessimageek.com

Amazon acquires company behind Stanza e-book reader


If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Sound advice and a plan that Amazon seems set to follow where Apple’s iPhone is concerned. The bookseller has bought Lexcycle, the company that makes Stanza, the free iPhone reading application. Stanza is a desktop reading application too but it’s the iPhone version that has attracted the most attention.

Stanza has been very popular with iPhone users

The iPhone is a potential competitor to Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader. While Apple’s device is hardly designed to make reading books a pleasure, it’s in a lot of people’s pockets and e-books have been flooding into the App Store. Faced with the choice of buying a dedicated device for reading – and the Kindle costs almost £250 – or making do with the phone in their pocket, plenty of people are sticking with the phone.

Amazon has already released a Kindle app for the iPhone in the US. It’s not available in the UK but neither is the Kindle itself – Amazon usually takes a while to get around to Europe. So why have they acquired Stanza?

Perhaps they want to get their hands on the technology. Stanza works very well; its 100,000 titles are free and you can access them all from within the app. I’ve had it on my iPhone for a while and been very impressed by it. I haven’t tried the Kindle app but most reviewers agree that it’s disappointing. One problem is that current App Store terms and conditions prohibit selling content within an application so to buy a book you have to use the iPhone’s web browser to purchase from Amazon.com before switching back to the Kindle app.

The next version of the iPhone software will allow content to be sold within apps, allowing Amazon to sell directly from their Kindle app. Importantly, they will also be able to sell books to Stanza users. That could be a lucrative market for Amazon, if Lexcycle’s claim to have 1.5 million users on the iPhone is correct.

However, Business Week suggests that Amazon bought Stanza to prevent a competitor from buying it. Olga Kharif writes: “An outfit like Borders or Barnes & Noble could have, potentially, used Stanza – and its one million-plus loyal users – to get entrenched in the e-books market. Now, they won’t have that chance.”

Another possibility is that Amazon has its eyes on the over-sized iPod Touch that is rumoured to be coming out later this year. Such a device is very much a rumour at this point but perhaps Amazon is gambling, making a play for a place on a competing device?

Whatever the explanation, many Stanza users will be concerned. Stanza supports the open ePub standard, while Amazon prefers a locked-down, DRM system. It also offers books from a variety of content providers who compete with Amazon. Will Amazon put a stop to those things?

Lexcycle’s founder says not: “We are not planning any changes in the Stanza application or user experience as a result of the acquisition. Customers will still be able to browse, buy, and read e-books from our many content partners. We look forward to offering future products and services that we hope will resonate with our passionate readers.”

If Amazon keeps Stanza as it is and takes its best features for their own services they will have made a very smart move indeed.

via Amazon acquires company behind Stanza e-book reader :: Shane Richmond.

Google Books for iPhone

Google Books for iPhone

Oh, well, yes, I suppose it’s also for Android phones. I’ll happily plug Google’s phone platform too. Actually, I’ll happily drive to Google’s house and clean the dead leaves out of their gutters. Google is officially The Coolest Company On The Planet.

Why? Today they’ve released Google Books for Mobile. Plug http://books.google.com/m into your mobile browser and look what happens:

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Let the reviews of Xmas Gifts begin! Today the Sony PRS505 E-reader

I’ve received 3 gifts over Xmas that deserve reviews and seen about 3 presents given to other family members that look quite good too!

But today I’m going to start with my new toy, a Sony E-Reader PRS505. I got the metallic red limited edition one that John Lewis was selling.

My first impressions were on the beauty of the design, the weight (slightly less than a large paperback), the size (just right) and the superb clarity of the screen.

I do read a lot of books, and it was always a hassle trying to get rid of the old books, and of course going on holiday with 2 or more books means extra weight and bulk. Well the Sony PRS505 goes a long way to rectifying all of that, with the capaicty to hold 160 books. That’s without any expansion, as the unit can take memory stick, or SD card, to enable over a 1000 books to be carried!

Sony PRS505 Red

Sony PRS505 Red

The unit came with a CD with 100 classic books such as Moby Dick etc, but also came preloaded with many excerpts of best selling novels, plus a couple of complete ones, including THE BLUE ZONE by ANDREW GOSS, a thriller that I had read very recently. Also included in the box was driver software, a USB lead and a quick start instruction leaflet. I was initially frustrated by the lack of Mac support, as you can download Adobe Digital Edition, which is needed to manage DRM’d ebooks, but the Sony unit, although recognised as a USB storage device, is not recognised as a device in the Adobe Software. Luckily, the Mac can emulate PC software using VMWARE FUSION, so I booted Windows XP up and installed the software on that.

Navigation on the unit is very easy, with a couple of buttons available to turn pages, or to go to the main menu, where you can jump direct to a chapter, or simply delete a book. As the only power used is for turning pages, I expect battery life to be very good.

As for availability of ebooks? Well I’ve downloaded a couple from Books on Board, an American site, which was better value before the collapse of sterling. WH Smiths are having a sale at the moment so ebooks are available from £4 – I just purchased a Jeremy Clarkson volume of tirades and tantrums. For Mac users there is even better news. I discovered a program called Calibre which, although a little unstable, supports the Sony PRS505, NOT for DRM books but for online publications. You can tell it to download regularly, such newspapers as the Wall Street Journal, the Telegraph, the Economist, etc, etc. Fantastic for avid readers of newspapers. The “epapers”, come ready formatted in sections and make very easy reading.

All in all I think this little device is a beauty – I will keep you all updated on any more “discoveries”, but would like any comments please from any other owners – their thoughts or helpful hints. 300,000 people have bought this e-reader, and, coincidentally, my wife and her mum also received these as gifts! So that means we can also share ebooks (up to a max of 6 devices).

This is available from John Lewis for £194.