Blog Archive: 2010

Kno news is good news

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Kno has announced the specs, price, and availability dates for its slate computers designed for the academic market. According to the Kno web site, the one- and two-screen devices will be available in the US on December 20th. The one screen device with 16GB ram will cost $599 for students, and the two screen device will cost $899. 32GB versions will be $699 and $999, respectively. These devices feature both a touch screen and a stylus, and come with some pre-loaded applications, including a textbook reader that handles annotations, a notebook, and a web browser. There are provisions for third-party developers to deploy other apps, which will be written in Javascript: “We’re powered by the WebKit browser engine, so if you can build a website, you can build a Kno app.”

It’s interesting to consider how this device, designed for a specific vertical, stacks up against its obvious competitor, the iPad.

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Parts of a vision

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IDEO released a concept video of three ebook-related designs: one (code-named Nelson) for reading and analyzing data, one (Coupland) for managing the social context of reading, and one (Alice) for interactive hypertext fiction. While these themes are certainly relevant to computer-mediated reading, the video breaks little new ground.

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There is no Ink in Inkling

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Inkling is an iPad textbook app through which textbooks books can be purchased, read, and annotated. It has a pleasant user interface, and (as of this writing) a small collection of what look like high school or intro college level textbooks on a range of topics. This content seems to have been either developed, or heavily adapted, for the iPad app. This makes for a smooth reading experience, loosely anchored on the book metaphor. In addition to reading per se, the app offers some standard navigation and annotation features, but these are works in progress.

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Papers, now with notes

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I was excited to see annotations mentioned in the description of the updated Papers app for the iPad, but was disappointed in the execution. They added two kinds of annotations: text notes and highlighted passages. While both are useful for active reading and appropriate given the characteristics of the device, the implementation left a lot to be desired.

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Reading on Papers

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I am trying to understand the capabilities of existing iPad applications with respect to active reading. In this spirit, I have reviewed iAnnotate, and have written about e-books in general. Mekentosj Papers is a Mac application for managing academic papers; a version of it has been ported to the iPad. The idea is that you can use it to find papers you need to read, read them, and also manage their re-finding. The app fails on all accounts.

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The Kindle is coming! The Kindle is coming!

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The second generation Kindle is about to be released. With a current 230,000 titles available, and new titles being added continuously, it is designed to appeal to the (well-heeled) reader on the go. The Sony PRS-505 also offers a similar reading experience, although with fewer available titles. It’s not clear, however, whether these devices represent the arrival in the mainstream of the electronic book, or just another evolutionary niche, like the Softbook™, Rocket eBook™, Palm, Newton, and other devices that preceeded them over the last twenty years.

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