Interactive Fiction is the Little Market That Could

Interactive Fiction is the Little Market That Could Blast from the Past e-Reading Software

There’s a post referenced in tomorrow morning’s link post that touches on interactive fiction. That piece claims IF is a new idea that is changing the market. The former claim isn’t true, obviously, but the latter claim got me wondering about the size of the interactive fiction market.

Interactive Fiction has been around since the mid-1970s, and as Nick reminded me on Twitter, it grew to be a sizable industry in the 1980s before withering away in the 1990s.

While the money may have gone away, the format did not. IF migrated online back when that meant dialing into someone’s computer, and the games followed the transition to the web. I myself played IF games on BBSes in 1996, and around 2000 I found new iterations of titles like Zork on the web.

And then, with the rise of mobile gaming, IF came into a second Renaissance.

Not only are there more options for writing your own IF (there’s even a publisher focused on voice-activated stories for Alexa), people are buying IF like never before. We don’t have complete revenue data, but some of the IF apps even reached top twenty or even top ten rank for highest-grossing apps in iTunes App Store.

At this point the IF market is worth, conservatively, anywhere from $100 million to $150 million. While that is relatively small potatoes compared to the fiction ebook market, the ranking data suggests that some developers are making millions of dollars from their app.

I don’t think  you can say that it is changing the market significantly, there is money there.

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PocketBook Touch Lux 4

PocketBook Touch Lux 4 e-Reading Hardware

PocketBook’s other new ereader for fall 2018 is the Touch Lux 4, an ereader whose specs place it between the basic Kindle and Paperwhite.

This is a slightly more powerful and capable ereader than the Basic Lux 2, but not by much. The PocketBook Touch Lux 4 has the same CPU, OS, storage, and screen as the Basic Lux 2, but it also has twice the RAM and a touchscreen.

The Touch Lux 4 has a 6″ 212ppi Carta E-ink screen with a capacitive touchscreen and frontlight. It runs Pocketbook’s own software on a 1 GHz CPU with 512 MB RAM, 8GB storage, a microSD card slot, and Wifi.

According to the spec sheet, it weighs 155 grams and packs in a 1.5Ah battery. That is a larger battery than on the Basic Lux 2, but it’s still weak compared to other inexpensive ereaders like the Inkbook Lumos.

Pocketbook’s device support a wide range of formats, including Epub, FB2, Mobi, CHM, RTF, PDF, DJVU, and DOCX. Most of those formats are not well supported, though, so you probably won’t want to use them.

There’s no word on the official release date, but it will probably be almost impossible to get the Touch Lux 4 in the US; Pocketbook is mostly sold in Europe.

I am trying to get one to review.

PocketBook Touch Lux 4

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Inkbook Prime Updated With 300 PPI Screen, Color-Shifting Frontlight

Inkbook Prime Updated With 300 PPI Screen, Color-Shifting Frontlight e-Reading Hardware

27492951 – e-book reader and coffee cup on wooden table

Amazon may be happy to keep selling the four-year-old Kindle Voyage but the same is not true for its smaller competitors. The Polish ereader importer ArtaTech has updated its two-year-old Inkbook Prime ereader.  The new model has a higher resolution screen and (possibly) an improved frontlight.

The Inkbook Prime HD runs Android 4.2 on a quad-core 1.6 GHz CPU with 512 MB RAM, and 8GB storage. It has both Wifi and Bluetooth, and packs in a 2Ah battery.

The Prime HD appears to be almost identical to the earlier model, but it does have a few improvements. The screen resolution is now 300ppi, compared to 212 PPI in the original model, and the specs now mention a frontlight “with light color temperature management”.

Judging by the Inkbook Lumos which I have had for a week now, the frontlight on the Prime HD will be much milder than you would find on a Kobo model. The frontlight on my Lumos review unit ranges in color from a blue-white to a pale yellow-orange. I find that to be more than enough variation for my tastes, but then again I never really liked the stronger orange color settings on Kobo devices.

I am less pleased with the Lumos’s general poor performance, but the frontlight is quite nice.

You can find the Inkbook Prime HD in ArtaTech’s store, where it retails for 139 euros.

ArtaTech

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Kindle Voyage Now Available Again on Amazon.com

Kindle Voyage Now Available Again on Amazon.com e-Reading Hardware

Reports of the Kindle Voyage’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

This four-year-old ereader had been removed  from the menus on Amazon’s site a few weeks ago after it went out of stock, but it is now back in stock on Amazon’s website, and is once again shipping. You can get a 3G model shipped today, but you will need to wait a few weeks if you want the cheapest option (Wifi plus special offers).

There had been speculation that the Voyage had been discontinued, but apparently that did not happen. The model currently being offered has the same specs as before (even the model number is the same), leaving us with a frenzy of speculation over what was just a simple supply issue.

When Amazon removed the Kindle Voyage from its website early last month, I was careful to avoid saying it was discontinued. I felt that without official word from Amazon it was too early too say what had happened, and now it looks like my caution has been rewarded.

TBH I really thought it had been discontinued; that made the most sense to me. But I chose to be cautious because we had gone through a similar situation with the basic Kindle earlier this year. That device had been removed from Amazon’s menus, only to be restore a few days later.

Let’s not all jump the gun next time, okay?

MobileRead

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Waterstones is Buying Foyles

Waterstones is Buying Foyles Bookstore

Two UK bookstore chains are merging. Waterstones, a chain of 250 stores with revenues around 388 million pounds per year, is buying Foyles, a chain of 7 stores generating around 25 million pounds per year (according to revenue statements filed with Companies House).

This is a big deal in the UK because these are two of the biggest bookstore chains in the country. The combined revenues are about the same revenues as Books-a-Million’s revenues here in the US (source).

James Daunt, Waterstones m.d., said: “We are honoured to be entrusted with the Foyles business, and greatly look forward to joining forces with the Foyles bookselling team.  Together, we will be stronger and better positioned to protect and champion the pleasures of real bookshops in the face of Amazon’s siren call. It is an exciting and invigorating time in bookselling as good bookshops are rediscovering their purpose in the fight back against online and e-reading.  At Waterstones, we see our future as responsible stewards of shops that strive to serve their customers each according to their own distinct personality.  This is nowhere more important than with those shops – Hatchards, Hodges Figgis and now Foyles – that have such singular heritages.

“The Foyles booksellers join a company that celebrates the traditional virtues of Foyles bookselling as equally as it does the illustrious history of Foyles itself.  We take on this responsibility with pride and confidence and are committed to ensuring Foyles a future as bright as its past.”

Christopher Foyle said: “My family and I are delighted that Foyles is entering a new chapter, one which secures the brand’s future and protects its personality. I look forward to witnessing the exciting times ahead for the company founded by my Grandfather and his brother 115 years ago.”

image by ell brown via Flickr

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Morning Coffee – 5 September 2018

Morning Coffee - 5 September 2018 Morning Coffee

Here are a few stories to read this Wednesday morning.

You just finished reading Morning Coffee – 5 September 2018 which was published on The Digital Reader.

Penguin Random House Dramatically Worsens License Terms for Library eBooks

Penguin Random House Dramatically Worsens License Terms for Library eBooks Library eBooks

PW reports that starting next month, Penguin Random House is changing its license terms for library ebooks from “insanely expensive” to “ridiculously expensive and short-lived”.

As of October 1, 2018, PRH is moving from a perpetual access model (where libraries pay a higher price but retain access to the e-book forever) to a metered model (with lower prices on e-books that expire after two years). In a letter to library customers, PRH v-p Skip Dye said the change was made after listening to librarians’ feedback.

“We have heard–loud and clear–that while libraries appreciate the concept of ‘perpetual access,’ the reality is that circs for many titles drop off dramatically six to eight months after the initial release. This is true especially for fiction bestsellers,” Dye wrote. “Most librarians are telling us they would rather pay lower prices across our frontlists and backlists, in exchange for a copy that expires after a given time period. In response to this feedback, we are happy to tell you that we will be lowering our prices on our entire catalogue of adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction titles. Under our new terms, e-books will expire after two years from original purchase date with the aligned pricing lowered for our e-books.”

After October 1, libraries’ previously purchased ‘perpetual access’ e-books will remain permanently owned. In addition, PRH announced that the publisher will be creating a program exclusively for academic libraries, under which they will be able to purchase perpetual access copies, although at “a significantly higher price” than public library copies.

The change in terms will apply to all Penguin Random House U.S., Penguin Random House Canada, DK and DK Canada titles. Under the new pricing, frontlist adult titles in the U.S. will be priced up to $55 (currently, adult prices are capped at $65.); Young adult titles up to $45; and children’s titles up to $35. The changes do not apply to e-books distributed by Penguin Random House Publisher Services.

No one has posted the full letter yet; if you saw it, can you please send me a copy?

With first Macmillan and now Penguin Random House drastically changing the terms they license ebooks to libraries, 2018 is becoming the year that libraries got screwed by publishers.

And what’s even more insulting is that PRH had the gall to claim that libraries actually wanted to pay $55 for an ebook that expired in two years.

I have heard some impressive whoppers in this industry, including the industry’s belief in screen fatigue (it’s a myth) and the claim that the Price Fix Six didn’t succeed in raising ebook prices.

But to claim that libraries want to spend their limited funds on $55 ebooks that expire after two years is next-level bullshit.

image by Mirko Junge via Flickr

 

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InkBook Lumos Has a 6″ E-ink Screen w\ Color-Changing Frotnlight

InkBook Lumos Has a 6" E-ink Screen w\ Color-Changing Frotnlight e-Reading Hardware

For the first time in a very long while, a new review unit has crossed my desk, and I will shortly be posting a review. For now, here is an introduction and first look.

The  InkBook Lumos from Arta Tech is an odd little beast. With a price tag of $100 (at Amazon), the Lumos is intended to be a competitor to the basic Kindle, and it has its strengths. It runs Android 4.4 on a dual-core CPU, and it has a color-changing frontlight as well as a card slot, but it also has its weaknesses.

The Lumos has a low-resolution 800 x 600 E-ink screen and is limited to only 512 RAM, which means that even though you can install your own Android apps, they’re not going to run fast or look as god as they would on better Android ereaders. (There’s also no Google Play, but that was to be expected for low-cost device.)

I can live with the screen (it’s the same resolution as on the basic Kindle) but the RAM shortfall has proven to be a serious issue.

Arta Tech makes it easy to install the Kindle app (it takes just two clicks) but that doesn’t really help any because I can’t run the Kindle app. It crashes the first three times I ran it, and once I managed to log in, the app struggled to even show me my library.

I’m going to half to test this further, but what I have seen so far is not encouraging. Half the value of an Android ereader is installing Android apps, so if I can’t install apps then this might as well be a basic ereader that runs Linux rather than Android.

InkBook Lumos

Specs

  • CPU: 1GHz dual-core
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Screen: 800 x 600 E-ink display
  • Touchscreen: Capacitive
  • Frontlight: color-changing (but only to a light shade of orange)
  • Battery: 3.7Ah
  • Buttons: Home, Power,  Page Turn (4)
  • Connectivity: Wifi

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Morning Coffee – 31 August 2018

Morning Coffee - 31 August 2018 Morning Coffee

Here are a few stories to read this Friday morning.

You just finished reading Morning Coffee – 31 August 2018 which was published on The Digital Reader.