Archive for October, 2011

Now that autumn's here, it's time to curl up with a mug of hot chocolate, a purring cat on your lap (or in the case of Meret, a biting cat…), to watch the new TV season.  

There are several new and returning shows that I am following:

Desperate Housewives (ABC): this is the final season for Bree, Susan, Gaby and Lynette, and after eight years of following their exploits, I feel morally obliged to watch, despite the lacklustre effort of the last few seasons.  If nothing else, the increase in tension of not knowing if all four are going to make it to the end of the season does add a bit of interest.  There is a conscious effort to come full circle with many events this season echoing back to the first season, which is very nicely done.

Glee (Fox): I absolutely adored Glee's first season.  The mix of music and characters was fun TV viewing.  Unfortunately, the second season had a major slump, focusing too much on new characters and not so much on those we'd come to love over the first season.  The producers are promising a return to first season goodness, but we shall see.  So far the first couple of episodes have not drawn me in.

House (Fox): Although not officially announced as the last season, I'd be very surprised if House were renewed for a further season despite the excellence of Hugh Laurie.  So far the episodes have been watchable, but nothing outstanding.

Terra Nova (Fox): this is Fox's all-out budget drama for this year, and involves dinosaurs and time travel.  While the pilot made an interesting two-hour TV movie, the characters were not engaging enough for me to commit to watching the rest of the series.

Person of Interest (CBS): CBS's new Michael Emerson vehicle centres around an eccentric millionaire who has developed a computer system  linked to surveillance footage to predict crimes.  He brings in a rogue military man (Jim Caveziel) for the heavy grunt work.  Of course, I could quite happily spend an hour watching the wonderful Emerson watch paint dry, so this is on my list of regular viewing.

Grimm (NBC): I have not yet seen the premiere of this, but the premise sounds intriguing.  From what I understand it's about a catcher of evil fairytale characters in the modern world.

PanAm (ABC): This is another part of ABC's Sunday evening lineup.  It's about the lives of 1960s PanAm stewardesses, one of whom is a CIA courier.  So far I'm enjoying it – great costumes and interesting characters.

Once Upon a Time (ABC): For me this is the standout show of the new season.  I've only seen one episode and already I'm begging for more.  It is by the writers of Lost, and its pedigree shows.  The concept is intriguing – fairytale characters trapped in modern day Maine – and the characters are well written and acted.  I'm seeing hints of the character development and mystery that were a hallmark of Lost's success so I hope ABC has a real winner on its hands.   

So I have been using the Kobo now for almost a week, and I must say I have enjoyed using it.  The touch interface seems responsive and is fun to use.  There are many things I prefer about the Kobo user interface to the Kindle interface – the use of book covers for one thing.  Some of those are very attractive and the Kindle's text-based user interface seems a little basic by comparison.  Of course, I have not seen the UI for the Kindle Touch, but from the video of the Amazon press conference it seems as if it is still predominantly text based.  Amazon's Collections feature where you can categorise your books into user defined groups for easier searching is one thing I find hard to live without.  Currently I only have a few books on the Kobo, so choosing/finding one is not too tricky,  but on my Kindle I have over 30 pages of books.  

A lot of the things I like about my Kindle are UI based.  I enjoy sharing on my Facebook page and Twitter feed when I find an interesting passage or have finished a book.  I just find that more intuitive on the Kindle than the Kobo.  Of course, maybe I'm just not used to the Kobo enough.  I also believe that the Amazon e-reading experience and infrastructure is geared towards simplicity in a way that the Kobo's is not.  

From what I've seen, the major difference between the Kobo and the Kindle is that the Kobo is a stand-alone reader capable of reading industry standard ebooks from multiple suppliers  whereas the Kindle is an integral and highly integrated part of one major supplier's ebook offering.  For Kobo this means that you are free to purchase/download ebooks from any number of sellers and libraries.  In the Kindle's case, this allows hardware, software and surrounding infrastructure all to work together seamlessly.  The downside of this is, it is a closed environment, and you are dependant on Amazon.  

That does concern me somewhat.  I do worry what would happen in the – very unlikely – event that Amazon were to close its doors and no longer support its Kindle ereader.  I have now invested heavily in Kindle format ebooks and it would be a serious undertaking to convert them all to the more open ePub format.  If my ebooks were in the open ePub format, I could put them on many other ereaders and they would be perfectly readable.  

At this point though, I am beginning to appreciate the whole Amazon infrastructure; book selection, ease of use, Whispersync synchronisation, customer service.  Despite my frustration at the US-centric focus, I am in general happy with the Kindle, and will likely to continue using it as my ebook reader and Amazon as my main supplier.  That is not to say there is no room for the Kobo there.  I am seriously tempted to keep it, too, in order to read library books and other ePub books not available for the Kindle.

So, I have unboxed the Kobo Touch and have spent my first few hours with it.  My first impressions are generally positive.

Hardware: 

The Kobo Touch has the same 6 inch eInk display as the Kindle.  From what I could see, there was no discernible difference in contrast between the two, but as they use different fonts, it was tricky to say.  In any case, both are clear and easy to read.  I found the IR touchscreen reasonably responsive and easy to use.  In comparison to the Kindle 3G Keyboard the Kobo seems tiny; of course this is because it doesn't have a keyboard.  

I found the Kobo comfortable and easy to hold, and page turns were easy.  I did miss being able to turn back a page with my right hand – the Kindle has page back buttons on the same side of the case as the page forward one.  Personally, I found I had to use two hands – not easy with a cat purring in your lap.

One thing the Kobo does slightly differently to the Kindle is the screen refreshes.  By default it will only refresh the screen fully on every sixth page turn,  minimising the black flash.  Some users have commented that this has led to ghosting, but that is not something I noticed on my Kobo.  

User interface:

I found the user interface to be intuitive and easy to use.  The touchscreen keyboard works fine, even if it did take me about 10 minutes to find the underscore!  I like the home screen with the covers of the last few books you were reading.  The Reading Life section with your reading stats looks fun, too, although I haven't read enough yet on my Kobo to build that up.  I'm not sure if that will become annoying after a while.  The various views of your library are nice looking too, with the covers.  I found myself wanting to scroll as I do on my iPhone Kindle and Kobo apps!  I am not so fond of the way you can only view your library in one huge long list or one short list of your currently active items.  The Kindle's ability to split your list into collections is something I've really liked about it.

Ease of purchase:

The Kobo was super easy to purchase.  I simply went into my local Chapters bookstore and walked out 10 minutes later with my Kobo – for inquiring minds, I chose the silver coloured one.  I understand the Kindle is now available to purchase in store in Canada, but when I bought my last one, I had to order online, wait THREE MONTHS (delayed international shipments) and then it finally arrived.  

Ease of setup:

Setting up the Kobo wasn't particularly complicated.  I had to download the Kobo software, plugin my Kobo and then it was ready to register.  It asked if I had an existing Kobo account – I do – and when I entered my ID and password it registered it to my account.  I connected easily to my WiFi network and the Kobo downloaded the books I had on my account.

Of course, this is complex compared to the Kindle setup.  When you purchase it through the Amazon website on your Amazon account it comes pre-registered.  As soon as you hook it up to WiFi or 3G, it recognises you and is ready to download your Kindle library.

Book purchasing:

As I have mentioned, I had purchased a few books on Kobo prior to purchasing my Kindle when I was exploring the ebook market.  They were all there for me to download.  I picked up a free book and purchased one yesterday via the Kobo website and after a quick WiFi sync both books appeared in my Kobo's library.  No need to sync with a cable.  I also downloaded a sample on my Kobo and it's also available to me on my computer via the Kobo website.

Library/non Kobo books:

I borrowed a book from the BAnQ here in Montreal and was able to side load it to my Kobo via Adobe Digital Editions with no problem.  I'm now quite happily reading it.  It was in ePub format.  I did notice that some of the library books are in PDF format.  The other non Amazon book I had that I was keen to try on the Kobo was Les Chevaliers d'Emeraude by Anne Robillard.  The copy I purchased from Archambault was in PDF, and unfortunately neither the Kindle nor the Kobo are that great at handling PDFs.  

Other points:

When Kobo goes to sleep mode, it displays the cover of the book you're currently reading.  I really like that.  No more creepy dead authors staring back at you.  The Kindle owners amongst you will know exactly what I mean!

I may be mistaken, but as far as I can tell there is no option to pre-order books through the Kobo website.  That is something I do fairly often on the Kindle.  I love that when I wake up on the release day of a new book it will be waiting for me on my Kindle without my having to do anything.  

In general:

I believe the Kobo is a decent e-reader and I could see it working well for me.  I am trying to borrow more from the library, for which the Kobo is great.  However, I'd prefer not to have my ebook library split over two incompatible systems.  Both the Kindle and Kobo have pros and cons for me personally, and I will be reviewing carefully over the next couple of weeks to decide which direction I want to go.

Kindle vs Kobo

Posted: October 7, 2011 in e-Reader Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

As those of you who follow my blog will know, I am a strong advocate of e-reading and in particular, Amazon's Kindle.

I have had a Kindle now since January 2010, and have built up a significant library of ebooks.  However, I've recently become very frustrated with Amazon's US-centric focus and am beginning to wonder if the Canadian Kobo might be a better way to go.  With this in mind, today I purchased a Kobo Touch e-reader and plan to take advantage of Chapters' two week return policy to review it and decide whether that is the way to go.

I believe both of them are good, reliable e-readers and I don't think a purchaser would be disappointed in either.  Both have the eInk display which is easiest on the eyes.  

At the point where I was considering going into ereading, before I bought my Kindle, I did experiment with both Kobo and Amazon stores and customer service and was equally happy with both.  At that point the Kobo ereader was not yet on the market.  As of yet, I have not unboxed it, but from what I understand, the following are the relative merits of Kindle and Kobo.  

Kindle pros:

Whispersync: this is the functionality in the Kindle which allows you to start reading on your iMac over breakfast, pick up the book on your iPhone while commuting, and read on your Kindle at lunchtime all without losing your place.  Amazon tracks that for you automatically and syncs the book.  If I switch to Kobo I think this is one thing I will really miss.

3G Connectivity:  most models of Kindle come in two flavours; Wifi and 3G.  With WiFi you need to find a WiFi hotspot to download books, with 3G you're always connected.  Again, I believe this is something I believe I will really miss if I switch to Kobo.  You can also use this on the current model to have free, if basic, internet access via the Kindle.  Interestingly, Amazon has reportedly turned off 3G web access on the new Kindle Touch 3G.  

Ease of purchase: one-click purchasing.  This works like an absolute dream.  Click "purchase" on the Amazon website or your Kindle and 60 seconds later the book is there for you to read, exactly as the ad promises.  No messing around with USB cables.  

Collections: Kindle provides the functionality to sort your library into Collections to make it easier to navigate.  This is a godsend if you have a library as large as mine. 

Kindle Cons:

No ePub support.  ePub is one of the major ebook formats supported by most other ebook publishers.  This means that it is very tricky to read books by any other supplier on your Kindle.  It also means that, outside the US at least, you cannot read borrowed library books on your Kindle.  

US-centric focus: Amazon has a strong tendency to ignore its customer base outside the US.  Many of the new functionalities available to the Kindle are US only; these include lending of Kindle books and borrowing from local libraries.  All purchases are done through the US Amazon.com site, so prices are in US dollars.  When a new model is released, Amazon refuses to sell it to its international base until US orders have died down.  On a more petty level, when signing into your Amazon account with a non US address many of the "recommended for you" Kindle ebook offers are " not available in your country."  

Kobo Pros:

Canadian company: Naturally, any new products or services are available to Canadian customers immediately.

Touch screen navigation: of course, the Kindle Touch is not yet available to Canadians.

ePub support: hence support of library books and also books bought from Archambault.  This significantly increases the amount of French books available.   

Reading Life: this is a mini app built into the Kobo reader and apps which I believe tracks your reading habits and provides statistics and awards.  That looks pretty fun, actually.

Kobo cons:

No 3G:  it will be interesting to see how I find the lack of 3G, to see if I find it limiting.  If I decide to return my Kobo to replace it with a Kindle Touch when available, it will help me to decide whether 3G is worth an extra $50.

 No Whispersync.  I'm really going to miss this sucker.  I understand you can manage it the same way with bookmarks, but it's easier to have the ereader do all that for you.  

As I say, this is all from research and from what I've seen.d I will be keeping you up to speed with my Kobo experience over the next few weeks, so please stay tuned!

Odds and Ends

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

I thought I would write a short entry today about a few thoughts that have occurred to me.

First, Pottermore announced yesterday on its blog that it is extending the beta process for another month, new registrants will have to wait weeks or even months for their welcome emails granting them access to the site, and that the Pottermore store selling Harry Potter ebooks and audiobooks will not open until mid 2012.  None of this comes as a surprise to those of us in the beta program, who have borne witness to the numerous downtimes and the notorious Purple Screen of Death.  Indeed, it's probably the sensible – if only – decision the Pottermore site managers could make.  It is very disappointing though.  The site itself is fun and interesting when you actually get on, and of course, I was anxious to be able to add the Harry Potter ebooks to my collection.  

Speaking of ebooks, I realised over the last couple of days just how much more enjoyable I find long form reading on my Kindle rather than my iPad, my iPhone or my iMac.  In all fairness, I should add that reading magazines is a delight on the iPad. The books I borrowed from the local library were not compatible with my Kindle, so I had to read on my iPad.  In the end I struggled with it too much and returned the book.  I am now back to reading on my Kindle and loving it.  In terms of weight, the Kindle is much more comfortable to hold for long periods than the iPad. The Kindle (now called Kindle Keyboard) weighs in at 8.7 ounces plus 1.8 ounces for the cover.  The iPad (I have the original one) is 1.6 pounds plus a cover.  I have two kitties who like to be petted while I read and it's very uncomfortable to hold the iPad one-handed for a long while.  As I have mentioned before, eInk is much more comfortable on the eyes.   Over at Bit101.com there is an interesting macro photo comparison of the screens:

Kindle

iPad

iPad

My next reading challenge is some fantasy not written in English.  As I am in Quebec, I have been looking to find Anne Robillard's Les Chevaliers d'Emeraude in ebook format.  I was finally able to find book one on Archambault's website.  It will be interesting to see if I find reading fantasy as enjoyable and understandable when it's not written in my native language.  I have read French translations of American/British fantasy works before, and do prefer them in their original English.  

Odds and Ends

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Miscellaneous
Tags: , , , , , ,

I thought I would write a short entry today about a few thoughts that have occurred to me.

First, Pottermore announced yesterday on its blog that it is extending the beta process for another month, new registrants will have to wait weeks or even months for their welcome emails granting them access to the site, and that the Pottermore store selling Harry Potter ebooks and audiobooks will not open until mid 2012.  None of this comes as a surprise to those of us in the beta program, who have borne witness to the numerous downtimes and the notorious Purple Screen of Death.  Indeed, it's probably the sensible – if only – decision the Pottermore site managers could make.  It is very disappointing though.  The site itself is fun and interesting when you actually get on, and of course, I was anxious to be able to add the Harry Potter ebooks to my collection.  

Speaking of ebooks, I realised over the last couple of days just how much more enjoyable I find long form reading on my Kindle rather than my iPad, my iPhone or my iMac.  In all fairness, I should add that reading magazines is a delight on the iPad. The books I borrowed from the local library were not compatible with my Kindle, so I had to read on my iPad.  In the end I struggled with it too much and returned the book.  I am now back to reading on my Kindle and loving it.  In terms of weight, the Kindle is much more comfortable to hold for long periods than the iPad. The Kindle (now called Kindle Keyboard) weighs in at 8.7 ounces plus 1.8 ounces for the cover.  The iPad (I have the original one) is 1.6 pounds plus a cover.  I have two kitties who like to be petted while I read and it's very uncomfortable to hold the iPad one-handed for a long while.  As I have mentioned before, eInk is much more comfortable on the eyes.   Over at Bit101.com there is an interesting macro photo comparison of the screens:

Kindle

iPad

iPad

My next reading challenge is some fantasy not written in English.  As I am in Quebec, I have been looking to find Anne Robillard's Les Chevaliers d'Emeraude in ebook format.  I was finally able to find book one on Archambault's website.  It will be interesting to see if I find reading fantasy as enjoyable and understandable when it's not written in my native language.  I have read French translations of American/British fantasy works before, and do prefer them in their original English.