Weekend tech blog: Only a few age-related tears for the printed book

E-book sales soar, print books keep dropping, and the Kindle goes for ad bucks. Plus: a very neat wireless iPhone photo-transfer app.

E-book sales soar, print books keep dropping, and the Kindle goes for ad bucks. Plus: a very neat wireless iPhone photo-transfer app.

Those of us of a certain age (over 40 will do, thank you) can remember both with joy and pain the prospect of moving, especially when it came to moving our book collection.

All those heavy boxes!

The sadness of the more anal-retentive among us as we took down our carefully arranged collection (alphabetical? book size? topical?), shoved them willy-nilly into packing boxes. And then, some time later, the excitement and uncertainty as we reshelved our collection in a new home, new shelves, and the enjoyment as we embraced our wondrous, beautiful book collection.

Mine . . . All mine . . .

Today’s generation, when they move, will only need remember where they stashed their e-reader.

According to a report issued this past week by the Association of American Publishers, digital books and downloaded audio books enjoyed a triple-digit increase in February 2011 over a year ago: 202 percent, after being up 37 percent last year.

Some of the AAP’s individual statistics are striking. The adult trade market for print books — hardcover, paperback and mass market books — was down in sales by 34 percent; children’s and young adult books, however, were down only 16 percent. There was some speculation this was due to late reporting of holiday sales figures. Hard cover religious book sales went up slightly, about 6 percent. Educational sales overall were down between 6 and 10 percent; scholarly book sales went down at roughly the same rate.

The lack of a hue and cry over this latest “death of the printed book” report shows that, grudgingly, people are grieving less in the passing of the paper book, and finding more pleasure in the benefits of reading books on digital devices.

Writing in CrunchGear, Seattle blogger Devin Coldewey noted, “[B]ooksellers are actually excited about the future of publishing, the money to be made, the markets to be reached, and so on. The fact that a report like this can be published without any kind of bitter commentary on the decline of paper books is telling. If the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] had issued a report saying that digital sales were up 150% but physical sales were down 25%, it would be accompanied by a few poorly reasoned shots at piracy.”

* * *

If that wasn’t enough e-book news, Seattle’s own Amazon.com announced this week it was bringing out a new version of its Kindle electronic reader.

It wasn’t a color version. Many have speculated that Amazon may be preparing a color-screen version to compete with Barnes & Noble’s latest Nook e-reader, which has proven to be surprisingly popular and a financial boon to the parent company’s ongoing financial problems.

Instead, Amazon is introducing the Kindle with Special Offers (their capitalization, not mine), a $114 version of the enormously popular e-reader with one significant difference from its digital siblings: it’s ad-supported.

The new reader is $25 less than the wi-fi-only version (at $139), but the Kindle’s screensavers, which remain on even when your Kindle is turned off, now will contained sponsored ads. An idea of what those screensavers will look like appears on the new Kindle’s web page: one ad shows an Isadora Duncan doppleganger cavorting on the beach while a foreground hand is holding a Kindle with a Visa ad headlined “Go experience the joy of reading.” Buick, Olay, and Visa are the first announced sponsors.

Ads will also run on the bottom of the home screen, but, Amazon promises, not inside the book you’re reading.

To further sweeten the pot, Amazon will present ongoing discounts on gift cards, albums from Amazon’s mp3 store, and similar enticements. And soon, you will be able to vote on which screensavers you like better via the soon-to-be launched AdMash website.

Shipping is scheduled to begin on May 3, and the new Kindle will be available at Target and Best Buy stores.

Not everyone was sanguine about the new Kindle offer. On the Engadget web site, a reader named Tara Taqa noted, “So I can get a new Kindle3 without ads for $139 + free shipping... Or I can go locally to [Best Buy} or Target and get an ad-supported Kindle for $114 + tax = $123.41 for a MASSIVE SAVINGS of $15.60???

"$15 AND I GET ADS FOREVER? If I was that ST00PID, do you think I'd be buying an Ereader instead of a [Nintendo]?? [emphasis by the writer]."

* * *

Having your cell phone at the ready for shooting photos and video is one of the joys of the digital age. Getting them from your phone to your computer is not part of the fun.

For iPhone users, an elegant piece of software is making that job a snap. It’s called PhotoSync, and it simply allows you to transfer your photos to your Mac or PC computer wirelessly. it’s available from the iTunes store for $1.99.

What drew my attention was its simplicity of operation, and that it allows you to drop your photos where you want them, not where a computer tells you to do so. If you’re Apple-centric — if everything you do in computing revolves around your Mac computer — then you have few if any issues with what Mac dictates you do: for you it’s all about using iPhoto to sync and file your pictures.

Those of us who use Apple products with PCs, however have different issues, at least I do. I want to download pictures, videos, files, etc. wherever I want to: in the filing system that makes the most sense to me.

That’s why this app really rocks for me. I can download my pictures and videos via wi-fi to my computer, and drop it off several different places: to a folder of my choosing on my computer. It works with Dropbox a free digital cloud-based “filing cabinet” that you can put in or take out anything digital — photos, files, applications — then access it from any computer, tablet, or smartphone. Drop it off in Dropbox, and you can pick it up from a Dropbox-enabled smartphone. And it works with Flickr and any FTP service.

You open the app on your iPhone. It takes you to your camera roll, which now sports a red button. Press the button, select your photos or videos to transfer, select the place you want it sent, and press that button. Down in the bottom left corner is a button resembling an eye. Press that, and you can switch between PhotoSync and the normal camera roll app.

I'm guessing it should work as well with the iPad2 which also has a camera.

It also lets you wirelessly upload photos and videos to your device from your computer: just open the app on both the PC and the iPhone, select your shot and it transfers to your phone in seconds.

It’s a nice piece of tech . . . and well worth the purchase.


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