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In the Prime of Life: Why does Amazon keep hassling me?

Posted on by Mike Evans

I used to think Amazon Prime was a brilliant idea: Under £50 a year for free shipping and a bit of preferential treatment. Then it went up to £79 and, in recompense, I was given "Prime Instant Video", which I didn't want, and the ability of borrow Kindle books, which I don't use. Trouble is, Amazon doesn't believe I don't need these goodies and persists in assuming that because I don't use them I don't know about them. Mad old me.

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iPhone 6 Plus: Nightmare at the bedside

Posted on by Mike Evans

Choosing between the new iPhone 6 and the huge 6 Plus is a problem for everyone. I outline some of the differences in my article on Macfilos/tech. But what of photographers? Many, I know, carry an iPad as a showcase for favourite shots and there is no doubt that the larger screen of the Air or, even, the iPad mini, is a great showcase for photographs. 

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Should ebooks be cheaper or paper books more expensive?

Posted on by Mike Evans

With a levelling of taxes and recognition of the low cost of ebook production, prices will find their own level. It is patently obvious that physical books must eventually cost more than ebooks. If people wish to live in the past and surround themselves with books instead of a Kindle full of digital files then they must be prepared to pay for their preference.

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Having a blast with Readly in magazine heaven

Posted on by Mike Evans

I was enthusiastic about Readly, the all-you-can-read magazine streamer, when I reviewed it last month. Now, with more experience under my belt, I am totally hooked. Despite having favourited only six or seven publications out of the available 400, I am getting remarkable value for my £9.99 monthly subscription. I have gorged myself on most of the back issues (up to twelve months' worth) on all my favourite titles, ranging from photography, to motoring, to hi-fi equipment and I am loving it. Some other titles, while not of primary interest, are also worth browsing. For instance, television listing magazines are not something I would ever consider buying. But when they come free there is no harm in taking a peek to find out what's new.

My friend Paul Gauntlett suggested an alternative to Readly, Readr, and I have dutifully had a play. Some 10,000 magazines are listed including, as Paul points out, MacUser. The lack of useful computer titles is my only gripe with Readly. However, I found the user interface of Readr rather confusing and not as friendly as Readly. The service is a little cheaper ($9.99 instead of £9.99) and the cast of publications is different. But I see nothing to cause me to turn away from my first love, Readly. It is certainly worth investigating both options, particularly to look for your must-have titles, before parting with your cash.

When I reviewed the iPad app I confirmed that reading an A4-size publication even on an iPad mini is perfectly acceptable and, indeed, pleasurable. I still think so. On a four-hour flight from London to Athens this week I managed to catch up on the back issues of Amateur Photographer and Shutterbug among others. A big advantage of streaming services such sd Readly is that downloaded magazines stay on the device until deleted. You can carry around with you a gigantic stack of publications--just like you can carry your entire book library on a Kindle or iPad. Magazine heaven.

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Waterstone: Ebook sales in UK to decline

Posted on by Mike Evans

Tim Waterstone, founder of the British high-street bookseller, Waterstones, has predicted that sales of ebooks in the UK will soon go into decline. "Ebooks have developed a share of the market, of course they have," he told the Oxford Literary Festival, "but every indication―certainly from America―shows that the share is in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK".

Waterstone founded his bookshop chain in 1982 and sold in 1993.

I can only speak for myself. I haven't bought a printed book for some five years and have no intention of doing so in the future. Whatever happens in the short term, I still believe that ebooks, will gradually replace the printed word. It just makes sense.

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Review: Readly, the Spotify of the printed page

Posted on by Mike Evans

     My favourites page in Readly: Fairly typical fare for the tech-centred male. But the Readly catalogue covers just about every category you could think of

 

My favourites page in Readly: Fairly typical fare for the tech-centred male. But the Readly catalogue covers just about every category you could think of

I love the concept of Spotify.  It covers all my music needs and I am now sold on the idea of a fixed subscription, less than the cost of one CD a month, which gives access to the whole world of music. In the same way I am growing to love Readly, the Spotify of periodicals. One subscription currently allows access to over 400 magazines and many of their back issues. By next year I would not be surprised to find 1,000 magazines in the kitty.

Up to five years ago I would spend at least £40 a month on photography, automotive and other technical magazines. I stopped wasting all this money when I found that I could access most of the information I need from blogs and publishers' web sites. I did miss browsing from page to page; I even missed the ads. But up to now I have been happy with my alternative sources of information. Indeed, when it comes to tests of cameras, cars and other objects of desire, bloggers are often better informed and more entertaining than the paid hacks of magazines who tend to be journalists first and enthusiasts second.

With this background, I belong to the prime target audience for Readly and I have been giving the free trial a full canter.

Platforms

Readly is currently available for iOS, Android, Windows and Kindle Fire (but not Kindle e-in readers) mobile devices. A Mac app would be very welcome because Readly magazines would be even more enjoyable when viewed on the larger screen. It would also allow a greater number of back issues to be stored, just as you used to keep a pile of magazines in the old days. Just think how much space you can recover in the corner of the bathroom.

Content

     I even had a free peek at the one-time highlight of my week, the  Beano . Sadly, Dennis the Menace, the Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx have lost their once-irresistible allure, although I remain impressed by their staying power.  Talking of the Smallest Room (bottom right), Readly is the ideal way to recover that dusty corner stacked with dog-eared periodicals.

 

I even had a free peek at the one-time highlight of my week, the Beano. Sadly, Dennis the Menace, the Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx have lost their once-irresistible allure, although I remain impressed by their staying power.  Talking of the Smallest Room (bottom right), Readly is the ideal way to recover that dusty corner stacked with dog-eared periodicals.

Readly is available in the USA, UK and Sweden (judging by the company name, Readly Aktiebolag, this is a Swedish outfit). While just over 150 of the titles are in Swedish, more than 250 are in English. They range wide over the whole gamut of specialist- and general-interest periodicals.

I even found Beano, a comic I was addicted to when aged eight or thereabouts. I've often thought of buying a copy for old times' sake but never plucked up the courage. Now, however, a free Readly peek has confirmed that childish humour hasn't changed much in the intervening decades. I am also happy to note that my tastes have moved on. Occasionally, one needs that sort of confirmation in life.

There are one or two weak areas in the catalogue. "Computing and technology", a field of particular of interest to me, is bereft, in the English language at least.  MacWorld is available in Swedish if you have the patter. All the English-language magazines in the category appear to cover audio/video and there are no mainstream computer titles available.

All in all, despite these quibbles,  I would defy anyone not to find at least half a dozen titles of interest; and that is all it takes to make the service worthwhile.

After signing up for the free two-week trial you can browse all publications and favourite those you would like to sample or read regularly. In the case of English speakers, we have the opportunity to select a medley of US and UK magazines which is highly useful, particularly in the tech field where most stuff is now published sort of in the middle of the Atlantic. In technology the two main versions of the English language converged years ago.

     In the search box you can look for a specific title or narrow your choice down to a category of interest such as Computers  & Technology. Animals & Pets or Fashion & Beauty

 

In the search box you can look for a specific title or narrow your choice down to a category of interest such as Computers  & Technology. Animals & Pets or Fashion & Beauty

Initially I chose about a dozen titles, including photographic magazines from both sides of the ocean, a brace of UK car periodicals and some audio/video monthlies. This is more than enough to keep me going and I will probably prune the list once I have settled down with Readly. It is important to bear in mind that when you select a title you get access to a stack of back issues, although I couldn’t decide whether there is any sort of limit because the service is relatively new. Nevertheless, there is a lot of pleasurable reading to be done. 

Downloading

On the Macfilos 120 Mpbs broadband most magazines were downloaded in under 30s. This contrasts with the slow progress when using 3G. In any case, I would not recommend wasting your data allowance in downloading periodicals. Readly allows pre download and storage of any selected issues so you can stock up with reading material for later access. There is thus no need for an internet connection when reading. You can opt  to download over a cellular connection but this is wisely turned off in the basic configuration. Still, it is good to have it available in emergency.

Last weekend, on a long train journey, I was browsing for new magazines and issues and I would have  welcomed a queuing system to allow selections to be downloaded automatically when wifi is reinstated. This would be similar to the queue system in RSS aggregators such as Reeder where I can now initiate sending stuff to Instapaper from the wuthering depths of the Piccadilly Line. Previously this was not possible and I had to try to remember my selections until I emerged at Holborn.

By default, downloads are limited to 30 issues but this cap can be adjusted in line with the available storage on the iPad. So far I have captured 15 complete magazine issues and have used only one gigabyte of storage. This is less than I expected, about 66 MB per issue, and it means I could afford to increase the limit on downloads in order to create that eminently readable bathroom stack of back issues.

     In portrait mode reading is possible, even on the mini. . Sometimes, however, the type can be annoyingly small, leading to the need for zooming in order to read comfortably. This reservation would not apply when reading on the large iPad Air screen.

 

In portrait mode reading is possible, even on the mini. . Sometimes, however, the type can be annoyingly small, leading to the need for zooming in order to read comfortably. This reservation would not apply when reading on the large iPad Air screen.

Reading

This is the first app which has made me want an iPad Air. Don’t misunderstand, Readly magazines do look good even on the iPad mini. But here we are dealing with an A4 page (or A3 in the case of a double-page spread) compressed to a degree where small print can sometimes be difficult to read. Zooming is a great help but becomes frustrating after a time, particularly when you have to remember to zoom back to standard view before moving to the next page. Although I have not had the opportunity to try the app on the larger screen of the Air, I imagine it should be possible to read comfortably in portrait without any need to zoom.

     The same page in  landscape mode works very well on the iPad mini. There is no need to zoom the text in order to read and one flick of the finger moves from the top half to bottom half of the page

 

The same page in  landscape mode works very well on the iPad mini. There is no need to zoom the text in order to read and one flick of the finger moves from the top half to bottom half of the page

All is not lost for mini owners, however. I soon discovered that reading in landscape on the mini is preferable to using portrait format. This is counter-intuitive since most periodicals are printed in portrait format. Despite this, when viewed in landscape on the mini, the type is larger―in fact the width of the screen is only slightly less than that of the printed page. Surprisingly, too, there isn't much scrolling to be done. The mini screen in landscape mode accommodates half of typical A4 page and it is a simple matter of one flick up or down to reveal the other half of the page. On balance I prefer using landscape with the mini and it is probably even more impressive on the Air.

     The two-page spread view is useful to gain a magazine-like impression but the type is just too small to be comfortable on the iPad mini. On the Air, I am sure, the two-page view will be useable.

 

The two-page spread view is useful to gain a magazine-like impression but the type is just too small to be comfortable on the iPad mini. On the Air, I am sure, the two-page view will be useable.

Landscape viewing gives the option of two pages to view. Articles in many magazines stretch over a double-page spread and it is  often useful to be able to see the full layout as it would appear in the physical magazine. However, the pages are so compressed on the mini that reading is extremely difficult. This could be a viable option for Air owners and I suspect reading double page spreads in landscape mode will be popular.

Overall, the viewing experience is exemplary and, with the larger screen of an iPad Air to play with, I would find it hard to fault. Fonts are crisp and illustrations vivid (at least on my sample magazines but I suspect individual publishers will produce different levels of sophistication). Pagination is quick and reading is a definitely pleasurable experience.

Interaction

  Bookmarks view which includes the title you have given to the clipping. This is a valuable facility where you can store references to articles you would like to revisit.

Bookmarks view which includes the title you have given to the clipping. This is a valuable facility where you can store references to articles you would like to revisit.

While most of the magazines I have tried are dumb PDF versions, there is scope for future development. Readly already includes a built-in web viewer and some publications feature a limited number of hyperlinks (notably Amateur Photographer from which most of these illustrations have been taken).

This is welcome and opens the possibility for greater interaction as Readly magazines become more sophisticated.

The web viewer includes a sharing button to cover basic functions (copy, email, open in Safari, SMS, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) but it would be nice to see popular read-later services such as Instapaper or Evernote included. 

In addition to the sharing button there is a simple bookmarking feature which stores selected pages alongside details of the magazine, the issue, page number and your entered bookmark title.

Navigation

     Tap on a page and you see the top menu bar with a very useful navigation bar comprised of page thumbnails.

 

Tap on a page and you see the top menu bar with a very useful navigation bar comprised of page thumbnails.

Tapping on a page brings up the top menu (double-page view, bookmark and share) and a usefully sized thumbnail page bar. This is especially useful if you are returning to an issue you have already read and wish to find a particular article that you remember.

Value for money

Using Readly is like having a free pass to your local newsagent: Just sweep up as many magazines into your arms as you wish and walk out without bothering to stop by the till. Example: Among the titles I have already downloaded into the Readly app are Amateur Photographer and Autocar. Both are weeklies. Autocar costs £4.99 while AP is £2.80. This means that to buy all issues over the counter would cost a tad over £33 a month. With Readly these two periodicals represent just a small part of the material I can download and read every month for only £9.99. Whichever way you look at it, this is good value for money.

Crucially, in this example, I do not currently buy either of these weeklies. I have not bought them for over five years, although I was once a loyal reader. It just isn't worth the cost when there is so much information available free on the web. But I am happy to read them on Readly and I am being wooed along the way by the advertising. Both AP and Autocar can also now add me to their list of regular readers. Job done. Readly cooperation justified.

     In technical publications such as  Amateur Photographer,  advertisements can often be as interesting as the editorial content. The fact that all a magazine's ads are included in the Readly version is a strong incentive for publishers to participate. Readly is likely to add greatly to magazine readership which, in turn, governs the rates publishers can charge for advertising.

 

In technical publications such as Amateur Photographer, advertisements can often be as interesting as the editorial content. The fact that all a magazine's ads are included in the Readly version is a strong incentive for publishers to participate. Readly is likely to add greatly to magazine readership which, in turn, governs the rates publishers can charge for advertising.

Publishers probably gain little direct income from Readly subscribers. But there is a potential for a vastly increased readership and, crucially, greater exposure to advertising among those readers. Advertisers will certainly prefer Readly distribution to the more normal form of paywalled viewing where ads are often stripped out or replaced by Google's click payment system. Furthermore, using Readly is just like browsing a physical magazine, page by page, ad by ad, feature by feature. This, I am sure, is the publishers’ motivation for cooperating with Readly. For my part, I actually enjoy reading the advertising in technical journals. I can browse through offers, lists of items for sale and learn about new products.

Given the breadth of content, which can only become more extensive as the subscriber base increases, it is hard to imagine anyone could accuse Readly of being poor value for money.  Admittedly, if you find only one title of interest then you could be better advised to subscribe direct. But this is unlikely, I think, and your interests would have to be very narrow indeed if you can find only one item of interest. 

Another sweetener: If you do currently subscribe directly to any of the magazines in Readly’s library (whether for physical or electronic copies) you are probably committed to a minimum period. Readly’s subscription can be cancelled at any time if you decide  you don’t like it. And bear in mind that your Readly sub covers the family, with up to five devices linked to the one account.

Despite my dislike of paywalled sites, especially those of newspapers, Readly makes a great deal of sense to me. I am convinced even before the end of the two-week trial period and I have already handed over my credit card details. I can see more publishers joining as the months go by, just as music publishers have increasingly supported Spotify, and the future certainly looks bright, both for Readly and for us readers.  This is just another nail in the coffin of printed media, but a very welcome and useful nail at that.

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Spotify for readers: Read with Readly for £9.99 a month

Posted on by Mike Evans

Since I subscribed to Spotify I have hardly listened to my old iTunes library (which, I have to say, consists of old CDs ripped to my Mac many years ago). With Spotify I can roam the musical world and listen to whatever takes my ear.

So I am a ready candidate for a Spotify for readers. It's called Readly and it gives you unlimited access to over 400 magazines together with back issues. At first I was a bit sceptical, having recently decided against subscribing to paywalled newspapers, but I will give Readly a go. I signed up for a two-week trial which gives me the opportunity to browse around and find the stuff I'm interested in. If I like it, which I think I will, the monthly sub is £9.99.

Readly is currently active in the USA, Britain and Sweden. Still, despite not being a Swedish speaker, I find there is still a lot there to interest me. At a quick trawl I've added six photo mags, including our own Amateur Photographer, two British car titles and a couple of audio/hi fi monthlies. Other interests are well catered for, including cycling where there is a whole clutch of periodicals. I was disappointed to find no computer magazines, either in the USA or UK, but I imagine titles will be added regularly.

The same all-you-can-eat approach as Spotify is hugely attractive and encourages exploration and trial and error. It's also ideal to have your entire stack of magazines in one location. Readly is definitely a good idea and I look forward to trying it out.

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Amazon Kindle Paperwhite and iPad mini

Posted on by Mike Evans

Just before Christmas I got an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite as a gift from a credit card company. I was an early Kindler and I've had my eye on the illuminated Paperwhite for some time. I couldn't justify buying one because, as an iPad owner, it seemed simply superfluous. However, I decided to jump on the gift horse and asked for the Kindle instead of a case of plonk. Now I am left wondering whether a drunken binge would have been a better option. What's the point, I wonder, in having yet another toy to fit the same bill?

When I unpacked the Kindle I loved its solid (if plasticky) feel and I much preferred the touchscreen paradigm to the old keyboard Kindle which is still gathering dust on a shelf. The screen is very clear in all conditions, the touchability is adequate but not up to the speed we are used to with modern tablets. For £109 it's a good buy and highly recommended if all you want to do is read books.  I like the built-in dictionary, the X-Ray view and the direct access to the Kindle Store (which Apple refuses to allow in the iOS Kindle reader application). Above all, I like the Amazon Kindle store and the eco-system that goes with it.

feature-goesbeyondabook._V357570964_.jpg

On the negative side, the Kindle screen sports unfashionably wide borders, something of a shock if you are used to the skinny bezel of an iPad. But at 6in (diagonally) the screen is just about ideal for reading almost anywhere. The iPad mini has a 30% larger screen with a diagonal measurement of 7.9in. However, because of those small borders, the iPad doesn't feel 30% bigger or heavier.

Do I prefer the Kindle to the iPad mini? Well, no. For the first two or three weeks I carried the Kindle around the house, propped it up in bed and even took it walkabout outside. I enjoyed using it. But then I sort of slipped back into using the iPad Mini and I now realise I haven't used the Kindle once since the New Year. Perhaps it will turn out to be just another fad but, at least, I didn't actually pay for it. Nor can I drink it, more's the pity.

On of the problems is Amazon's WhisperSync which works so well on iOS devices. Since I often read on the Mac's Cinema Display or, at the other end of the scale, on my iPhone 5s, I am used to having my books in sync all the time. It's something I just don't think about, it just happens. Unfortunately, the Kindle Paperwhite has no cellular ability and on several occasions I found myself away from home with an unsynced reader. After a number of such occasions, when I had to set up my iPhone as a hotspot in order the synchronise, I began to wonder if it wouldn't be better to stick with the iOS devices.

I will keep the Kindle for use around the house, where it can synchronised over wifi, but it will not be my primary reading device. Furthermore, on balance, I prefer the iPad for reading (with the iPhone coming second best).  I cannot overlook the convenience of  their multi-tasking, go-anywhere capabilities.  The Kindle Paperwhite is an effective, very convenient one-trick pony but isn't the answer for me.

Read more: Should I get a Kindle or an iPad Mini (Macworld)

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Airline Rules: End of the call to switch off devices

Posted on by Mike Evans

Read on, read on: British Airways has become the first airline in Europe to permit phones, iPads and Kindles to remain switched on during takeoff and landing. You'll still need to activate airplane mode because texts and calls will still not be permitted. This I don't mind. Despite my penchant for all things technical, I draw the line at having to share a cabin with garrulous phone callers. Nevertheless, this is a big step in the right direction, overturning one of the most irritating and pointless little rules which, more than any, is resented by passengers.

Now, I suspect, airlines face another problem. How to check that all these devices are actually switched to airplane mode? There's no surreal halo to hover above the heads of compliers and I am sure that the majority of passengers will simply not bother. Actually, that's no different to the current situation. Few actually turn off their devices and many do not even know how to access the airline mode setting. How many ebook readers, for instance, are actually switched to airline mode? Probably none.

Today marks another victory in the face of pettiness and I am sure we will see universal relaxation within a few months.

Via PocketLint

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iBooks and iCloud: Non sync

Posted on by Mike Evans

What is wrong with iBooks sync? Today I added a stack of manuals in pdf format to the new version of iBooks on my MacBook Pro. I created a new category, Manuals, and went out for a walk clutching my retina iPad Mini. A cappuccino later I discovered there was no sign of my pdfs in iBooks on the Mini. There were dozens of previous pdfs that I had loaded into my old iPad. Strangely, the newly created category of Manuals was present and correct. But it was empty. Returning to base I checked all the settings: All apps on the same Apple ID, all set to sync, absolutely nothing wrong.

I then realised that all the documents previously added to the iPad were not showing up on the Mac version of iBooks. More confusion. However, a visit to Apple Discussions showed that my problems are not just mine. Dozens of users are experiencing exactly the same problems. Books and documents added to one app (but not purchased from Apple) are just not syncing.

So, for the moment, iBooks is no books. I will have to add my manuals to the Kindle app. At least that works reliably.

LATER.... Although several Apple Discussions participants had said they had had no luck by connecting their devices to iTunes, I decided to try. Visiting the Books tab, I could not see any of the missing documents. However, toggling the Sync Books checkbox to off and then on again resulted the missing documents (resident on the Mac version of iTunes) appearing. These documents added to the Mac have now been transferred to the iPad. But the pdf files previously added to the iPad do not appear on the Mac. So at least I have been able to tranfer in one direction, if not to synchronise completely. I thought I had seen the last of iTunes, the ancient ship populated with the ghosts of purchases past, but apparently it does still have some uses. So where does this leave iCloud and iBooks. Broken, I think.

MORE: My friend Pietro Montalcino discussed this in this article in August. It seems it is necessary to upload documents separately to all your devices, although this does not explain how documents I added to iBook Mac eventually appeared on the iPad (after iTunes sync as described above).

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Newspapers: The end is nigher than we thought

Posted on by Mike Evans

The death of RSS has been much exaggerated. It was rife around the time, prior to last July, when Google Reader was in its death throes. But other players, including my choice of Feed Wrangler, have given a shot in the arm to the terminal patient. RSS is again alive and kicking.

I thought of this when I woke this morning. For the first time in two years I didn't feel obliged to spend an hour flicking through the iPad edition of The Times. Yesterday I cancelled my subscription and today I feel a sense of relief. The RSS feed from The Times's main competitor, The Telegraph, works flawlessly and I have added a couple of other newspapers which still offer free subscriptions. The Times does offer RSS but beware: It is a crafty ruse to suck you in to subscribing. Feeds are truncated after a few lines and you are invited to pay if you want to read further.

Feed Wrangler and my iOS reader of choice, Reeder, do a good job of collating all this news and I can scan the headlines much more quickly than I could plough through the rather clunky iPad app from The Times. And no advertisements to add insult to injury. For the Mac I prefer ReadKit which offers news feeds and Instapaper integration.

I also rely heavily of Zite and, to a lessee degree, Flipboard. Both offer the ability to create very attractive and readable magazine-format browsers from RSS feeds. Zite I love. It conjures up interesting stories from news sources and blogs I have never heard of. But is confines itself to my known areas of interest. That way I discover fresh information that might not have come through on the more rigid RSS structure in Feed Wrangler.

As you will gather, I am not missing the experience of reading The Times. On the contrary, I feel liberated and have reclaimed an hour of my morning for more productive tasks. I can even watch the morning news on my MacBook Pro while working on other stuff instead of lying in bed with the iPad propped on my knee. What's more, RSS informatin can be linked, tweeted, copied, OmniFocus'd and generally worked with productively. The miserable Times Newspapers app prevents any selective linking or sharing.

Subscription-based newspapers and magazines will eventually fail, of that I am convinced. There is no shortage of free news sources to fill the gap. Some might argue that I am being churlish; that I should be happy to pay for the fruits of journalists' labours. But cost isn't the main factor. I appreciate the more targeted approach to news provided by RSS and other sources of choice. I can decide what to read when I want to read rather than being force fed a miscellany of one-size-fits-all general fodder.

The web subscription model is a last-ditch attempt by the newspaper industry to compensate for shrinking sales of print media and as an effort to jump on the bandwagon of the internet with their antiquated news model. But competition is now tough. Anyone with a free copy of Wordpress can become a publisher and many individuals have made a big success of it, especially in specialist areas such as technology and photography, two of my big weaknesses. This blog is an example, not necessarily of success, but of the ability to have a presence in the wide world.

The days of printed newspapers are numbered, as are the days of printed books. There will remain specialist printed material but the mainstream reader will in future be served by the internet. In fifty years' time this decade will be seen as the period of transition from a four-hundred-year-old publicatishing and distribution model to the brave world of electronic media. Steve Jobs's iPad has played a leading rôle in this transition and this fact will be acknowledged by historians.

Today, then, I have shed my shackles and can concentrate wholeheartedly on the things I need to know when I want to know them and not face them stale on the following morning. I shall be more efficient and less stressed as a result. I am proud of the fact that have not purchased a paper book for nearly five years, nor have I bought a newspaper. In this, I am sure, I am not alone and the trend is clear to see.

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Amazon faces Guillotine in protectionist France

Posted on by Mike Evans

While I hold no brief for Amazon, it is nonetheless disappointing to see protectionism is rearing its head in France. In a move to protect bookstores, Amazon is to be prevented from offering free postage. The problem with petty protectionism of this kind is that it gives short-sighted politicians in other countries the idea of following suit. Strangely, this French initiative as been proposed by the right and endorsed by the far left. Perhaps this isn't too surprising since both ends of the political spectrum are fond of controls and restrictions.

No, I am afraid book stores have to fight on Amazon's terms. They must offer something extra, some hidden benefit that makes people willing to pay a few pence more for the pleasure and convenience of shopping locally. In other sectors this has already happened. In the photographic world, for instance, pile 'em high retailers have largely gone to the wall because they offered nothing more than Amazon but at a higher price. Those camera stores that do remain are specialists, usually run by experts, able to offer advice, service and support that is missing from impersonal Amazon and other on-line retailers.

People will go the extra mile for this sort of knowledge. I know I do. And booksellers, French or otherwise, need to compete instead of sitting behind a paywall. Trade protectionism, like many other isms we could name, is a flawed creed suitable only for consignment to history. It has never succeeded and it never will.

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Newspaper paywalls on death row

Posted on by Mike Evans

I continue to struggle with the digital edition of The Times. I tend to read only the stories I am interested in (the alternative, reading everything, is supposed to broaden the mind). I find myself skipping whole sections and wondering why I should have to waste time flipping over pages like this. The main thing that keeps my attention is the minimal £2-a-week subscription which I have refused to increase. I figure they can have my £2 but request a penny more and I am off.

Joe Wickert, who keeps a close eye on digital publishing, believes that access to digital news sites should be free. Paywalls, he thinks, are doomed to failure. His two sons, in their twenties, do not buy newspapers and nor to they subscribe to newspaper sites. They are probably typical. For years, now, the internet has offered free news from many sources and it is impossible to put the genie back into the bottle. As Joe says:

what does the newspaper market look like in 5-10 years? They’ll still be clinging to the dwindling number of baby boomers who feel compelled to read the print edition. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the population will have moved on, satisfying their new craving with free, ad-supported alternatives.

I entirely agree with him on his. I am disillusioned with The Times, even at a miserable £2 a week, and I am unlikely to be enticed by more expensive offerings, whatever the brilliance of the iPad app.

UPDATE: The President of Equador is planning to ban the sale of all paper news. Now that should be interesting.

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FAA Moves: New rules for devices on planes

Posted on by Mike Evans

At long last the United States FAA is planning to rewrite the rules on the use of electronic devices on aircraft. The relaxed rules could be implemented by the end of the year and other regulation authorities, including the UK's CAA are likely to follow the American lead.

I am all in favour of safety precuations, especially when taking off or landing in a commercial plane. But the rules for the use of electronic devices are looking ever more antiquated. When they were formulated in 1996 there were no e-readers, no tablets, no smartphones. A lot has happened in the world of technology and, at the same time, aircraft manufactuters have tweaked electronic systems to shield them from harm.

Apparently up to a third of travellers currently forget to turn off their phones, a figure I do not find at all surprising. If there had been problems, therefore, we should have known about them by now.

Prime candidates for freedom are electronic readers such as the Kindle. I hope this relaxation will also be extended to phones and tablets provided they are in airplane mode. It is easy enough, at least on iOS devices, to demonstrate that airplane mode is showing orange and is ON.

Paradoxically, Kindle readers with cellular capabilities offer no quick and easy means of switching off wireless. It is a case of delving into the menus and I am convinced a majority of Kindle users have never ventured that far; almost certainly few even know how to switch off the radios. Furthermore, there is no easy way of demonstating to airline staff that radios have been switched off. In practice, I suspect, no Kindle user bothers to turn off the 3G radio even now (which further confirms the ridiculous and arbitrary nature of the regulations which rely entirely on the honesty and common sense of passengers).

If the new rules specifically allow book readers but continue to ban the use of airplane-mode smartphones and tablets there will be a big injustice. I suggest that all this needs to be taken into account before the FAA goes public on the detail.

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The Times: Goodbye, almost

Posted on by Mike Evans

Only a couple of weeks ago I was writing about my subscription to The Times digital edition and wondering when the axe would fall. For over 18 months I have been enjoying seven-day access for a reasonable £2 a week. Even I, try as I might, cannot complain about that. I knew that in 2013 the price would be going up and I have already stated that I will not pay a penny more.

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This week the letter arrived, advising me that from July 1 the cost would rise to £4 a week. No need to do anything, it said, we will automatically apply the increase to your direct debit. And pigs might fly.

I lost no time calling to tell them what to do with their £4 a week. Not unreasonably, according to my prejudice, I said I would continue paying the £2 and if that isn't enough then they can cancel my sub. It's not that I can't afford the doubling of the subscription, nor do I suffer from end-stage parsimony. No, it just isn't worth it to me. I can get most of what I need free from the internet in any case.

This is probably not the first similar conversation the boys and girls on the subscription switchboard had heard. My man was quick to offer a three-months' extension on the basis that the iPad app “had had a few issues of late” (it had and has). So I am reprieved until September 30. I hoped he was recording the conversation and I absolutely forbade him to charge my bank account with any more than the current £2 a week.

It now remains to be seen what will happen in September. Really, it is entirely up to The Times. They can have my £2 a week or not, I don't much care. At least if I stop the subscription I will be spared the paper's endless campaigns on cycling safety and the rather unhealthy and opportunistic concentration on Scottish affairs to the neglect of the Welsh, the Northern Irish and the Isle of Man (not to mention the Channel Islands, Wight and the Scillies).

In the meantime I am still getting my valued RSS feed from The Telegraph with no immediate sign of a paywall vasectomy. And the Mail on Line is an cracking read provided you can look beyond the daily bigotry and populist rabble rousing. There are others according to taste, including The Guardian and The Independent. The message, Dear Thunderer, is that I can and will do without you if you try to double my subscription.

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Travelling with MacBook Air and iPad mini

Posted on by Mike Evans

Since my iPad mini arrived I have sold my "new" iPad, aka iPad 3, retina display and all, and decided to give my full attention to the new, smaller tablet. For my visit to Bavaria this week I packed the mini and my MacBook Air (plus iPhone 5, of course) and it has proved to be a winning team.

In my bigPad days I was reluctant to travel with both the Air and the iPad; it usually came down to the choice of one or the other. With the iPad mini, the extra weight is not noticeable. I still have all the benefits and convenience of a tablet, plus the extra attractions of the Air for manipulating photographs and posting to MacFilos.

In its short life, the iPad mini seems to have polarised opinion. Many journalists and commentators have defected to the new tablet. Others, such as Brett Kelly have purchased a mini for trial purposes and then returned it because of the smaller screen size and lack of retina dispay.

As far as I can judge, Brett is in something of a minority. Writers such as Dan Frommer have tried the mini and decided it is the real iPad, the one we've all been waiting for. Dan, like me, is not at all bothered about the lower-definition screen: "The non-retina screen hasn’t been a problem at all — it’s easily worth the tradeoff. If anything, it just makes my iPhone display look even better after reading for a while on the iPad mini. Bonus!"

The mini is just so much more convenient and sensible than the heavy and massive iPad grande. It is a relief not to have to heft such a device around; the size and lightness makes reading more pleasurable and less of a strain on the wrists. After a month with this smaller size I cannot envisage going back to the original 9.7in screen.

Would I want a retina display? Yes, of course, but when it does come (mid 2013, I suspect) it will be a bonus rather than a must-have feature. For the moment, I am absolutely delighted with the iPad mini.

Sales of the original, larger iPad are being bolstered by the educational market and I can see why there is a preference for the larger screen here. But for the general consumer, the mini is becoming the iPad of choice. As Dan Frommer says, it is the real iPad.

by Mike Evans, 9 January 2013

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eBook readers in terminal decline

Posted on by Mike Evans

eBook readers are in decline and the multi-function tablet is taking over. Writing in iSupply, Jordan Shelburn says that the rapid growth--followed by the immediate collapse--of the ebook market is virtually unheard of. Sales of ebook readers soared following their introduction six years ago. From 2008 to 2010, shipments grew from one million to ten million. By 2016, he says, sales will have declined to just seven million.

But the stunning rise and then blazing flameout of ebooks perfectly encapsulate what has become an axiomatic truth in the industry: Single-task devices like the ebook are being replaced without remorse in the lives of consumers by their multifunction equivalents, in this case by media tablets. And while other uni-tasking devices—like digital still cameras, GPS systems and MP3 players—also face similar pressures and battle dim prospects ahead, all have had a longer time in the sun than ebook readers, demonstrating even more painfully the depth of the ebook reader’s fall.

The decline is entirely down to the rise of the tablet with its more versatile talents. It is no reflection on the popularity of ebooks, however, as sales continue to soar. It's just that more and more of us are now reading on tablets instead of on e-ink one-trick ponies.

by Mike Evans, 14 December 2012

My friend Tony Cole of eBookanoid.com disagrees, as I thought he would.

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