Starbucks to Let Coffee Drinkers Wirelessly Charge Smartphones – Businessweek

I’m not super-familiar with Powermat technology — I wonder if it would work for Kindles and iPads.

“Starbucks Corp. (SBUX:US), the world’s largest coffee-shop operator, is teaming up with Duracell Powermat to let customers recharge mobile devices wirelessly instead of hunting for available wall outlets in stores.

Customers can place their compatible devices on so-called Powermat Spots on counters and tables to recharge them, Seattle-based Starbucks said in a statement. While shops in Boston and San Jose, California, already offer the service, a national rollout in company-operated Starbucks stores and Teavana outlets begins in San Francisco today. The company, which operates more than 20,500 stores worldwide, plans pilot programs in Europe and Asia within a year.”

via Starbucks to Let Coffee Drinkers Wirelessly Charge Smartphones – Businessweek.

LibraryThing’s iPhone app, Local Books

Last week, LibraryThing released their very own and first app for the iPhone, Local Books. The app is free. From LibraryThing’s Tim Spalding:

Local Books resembles popular dining apps like LocalEats or UrbanSpoon—but for book lovers. It shows you local bookstores, libraries and bookish events wherever you are or plan to be.

I’ve been using beta versions on my trips for months already; it’s the ideal travel companion. Even if you know your area well, you’re almost certain to find new places. We hope it will be a shot in the arm for physical bookstores and libraries—a new way to see how much bookishness there is around you.

Hmmm. It’s interesting. I don’t know exactly how useful it’s going to be, but I’m all for anything that promotes bookishness.

I downloaded it and have played around a little. It’s a nicely built little app, easy to navigate. And it does work; it picked up my own book club meeting this afternoon, and something else at the public library. Of course the key is — bookstores, and libraries, need to input their events in order for anyone to find them. That’s the sticking point.

Do I really need something else to carry?

Taking your library with you everywhere — it sounds exciting. But it also sounds like yet another thing to try to cram into my purse.

(NYT) Over the last eight months, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and a range of smaller companies have released book-reading software for the iPhone and other mobile devices. One out of every five new applications introduced for the iPhone last month was a book, according to Flurry, a research firm that studies mobile trends.

All of that activity raises a question: Does the future of book reading lie in dedicated devices like the Kindle, or in more versatile gadgets like mobile phones?

One of my main reasons for resisting e-readers like the Kindle or the upcoming Nook — though I confess I’m getting increasingly curious and would love to try one out, if not commit to a long-term relationship — is that I’m an iPhone user. As I’m sure my Blackberry sisters will also agree, I’ve gotten turned around to the idea of having everything in one little device. Phone/texting, Internet and email, handheld gaming device, GPS, music player, address book, checkbook, remote control for my home stereo, satellite radio. These are all things that I’ve got in one little unit. I don’t want a whole different unit for just reading books. My mind doesn’t go in that direction anymore. Reading an e-book on my iPhone, with either Amazon’s or Barnes & Noble’s or standalone software like ZappTek’s Legends, is more appealing. But there’s a price — that small screen. Still, I’m not sure the cons outweigh the pros.

I think it’s possible the forthcoming Apple Tablet, with its far more ample screen size and yet relative portability, may be a gamechanger, especially if you can sync books between your desktop, iPhone/iPod Touch and Tablet, giving you lots of options for where and how you can read your books. I don’t know about you all, but I’m enough of a book geek that the idea of having my top five favorite books (The Mists of Avalon, Anna Karenina, Tigana, Dune and The Color Purple) in hardcover/paperback, and on my iPhone, and on my desktop, and in my portable tablet computer, sounds drool-worthy. I would never be without them! I could read them however I want to, wherever! And that school of thought might influence other manufacturers to think along the same lines. Or, I’m over-the-top crazy when it comes to books. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: book-crazy people are the only people who can make e-readers and e-books work. People who are non-readers just won’t care. So if you can’t win over the book-nuts, you’re sunk.

In the meantime, the iPhone’s screen is somewhat small for extended reading. Having used it myself, I will say it is surprisingly pleasant to use. I didn’t experience any trouble with the text size or my eyes getting tired. Of course I wouldn’t want to read everything that way, but for the time being, it’s been an adequate way to read on the go — when I’ve been stuck in a long line or showed up too early for a meeting. And most importantly, it doesn’t take up any extra purse acreage.

Everybody’s got an e-book store these days, but who’s reading?

While the Google Books settlement meanders on in one courtroom after another, Google also announced this week that they will be opening an e-book store of their own in 2010. Google Editions will compete with Amazon’s Kindle store and Barnes & Noble’s e-book offerings. That puts the big three all in play — all that’s left now is for Apple to get in the game.

Amazon has ridiculous amounts of selection and they have the PR — every time you buy something at Amazon these days, whether it’s the new bestseller or salad tongs, you are told you could have bought the Kindle version. Barnes & Noble is trying to catch up with this game, including their own e-reader (to be announced possibly as early as next week). Now Google Editions, like the Sony e-reader device, will be embracing universal format for its offerings. From PC World:

Google’s e-books will be accessible through any Web-enabled computer, e-reader, or mobile phone instead of a dedicated device. This will allow content to be unchained from expensive devices such as Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader.

I admit I like that aspect. If I’m going to own an e-book (and more on that in a second), I sure as heck want to be able to read it anywhere, my computer, my laptop, my iPhone. Right now my e-book usage is minimal (I haven’t paid for one yet, just downloaded some free stuff) but primarily I’ve been using Stanza, a free app for my iPhone. You can sync content from your computer to the app, supposedly — I’ve never gotten that to work. Far better, though, is the workaround I found out about — this site, Bookworm EPUB reader. It’s a free online storage site for your e-books (the ones that are in universal EPUB format) so that you can then access them anywhere, from any mobile device or computer. You can even choose to “open in Stanza”, and voila, that’s what I did. The other night I actually “curled up” with the iPhone and read a book that way and, I have to say, it wasn’t bad. Stanza has nice touch controls and ease of use, and I didn’t mind the small screen at all. Nice. I guess e-books are okay, and I can see myself reading more of them in the future. I’m also excited about the idea of being able to rent e-books from the library. Now that I could get on board with. If I borrow a book from the library, I’m not planning on owning it anyhow, so whether digital or paper copy, what difference does it make? But e-books replacing paper books in my life? Still kind of inconceivable.

However, as democratizing as this sounds, it’s still unclear how many people are ready to curl up with a Google Editions title on their laptop or smartphone, instead of the traditional paper format.

Yeah, that’s the rub.

Using Stanza for my stuff; Google embraces EPUB

I’m not entirely convinced about this whole ebook thing anyhow. I have, though, been playing around with Stanza on my iPhone. It’s a free app from Lexcycle (terrible name choice, for an IT company; it makes me think about exercising, not computers), and you can also download Stanza Desktop, and convert files on your hard drive to be uploaded to Stanza. In a variety of ways, thankfully, because I can’t get the my iPhone to sync with Desktop, which it’s supposed to do wirelessly through a little side-program called Bonjour. (“Bonjour!” Of course it’s named Bonjour. Apple is just so très Continental, it’s cute as hell.) I suspect it’s something to do with my wireless network, which I don’t feel like monkeying with. I found a fun work-around using a site called Bookworm; you upload your EPUB files there, visit the site on your iPhone, and then you can open what you put there in Stanza. It’s also a nifty place to store your ebooks online, no matter where you’re going to be using them.

If I’m not convinced about ereaders and ereading in general why do I care? For my own stuff. Unpublished stuff. I’ve done some writing in my time, and so have some of my friends. I can convert those files and read them any time, now. A short story a friend has written, favorite poetry I’ve collected over the years. That kind of thing. I only had this stuff digitally to begin with, so it’s fun to be able to carry it around with me as well. Fun, but not worth $299; however, Stanza-for-free (well, since I already have an iPhone) seems like a bargain.

As a side note, Google announced this morning that they will adopt the EPUB file format for Google Books; users will still be able to download files as PDFs, but the EPUB format is a free & open standard, usable by pretty much every ereader out there, so that’s a plus. Apparently this is a bit of a strike back against Amazon’s Kindle, which can certainly read EPUBs, but the Amazon Kindle Store sells its ebooks in a proprietary format that can only be read on the Kindle. Google’s move is seen as one that backs Sony instead; Sony just announced last week that it will be embracing the EPUB open format as well.

I love this whole little ebook mini-drama. There’s Google, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony. Everyone’s mad at Google for stealing all the books. But everyone thinks Amazon’s a big ol’ snob with their proprietary files and whatnot. Sony’s givin’ it to the man, and then there’s Barnes & Noble out there going, “Wait! *We’re* the book people!”

I’ll stick with paper – Sony has another new e-reader, but it’s too rich for my blood

Sony announced today that they’ll be selling a new e-reader with a touch screen and wireless capability (obviously to rival the Kindle) for $299. This new Sony e-reader, coming on the heels of the release of their Reader Pocket and Reader Touch Editions which lacking wireless capability, will be available in December and is being called the Daily Edition. Meh, to the name. Though it does make me think of some kind of cross between The Daily Show, the Daily Planet and  NPR’s Morning Edition, all good things.

Is it just me or are the price tags for all these e-readers — Kindles, Sony, what have you — just still unappealing? $299? I don’t have that just lying around. Oh, I know it’s not ridiculously exorbitant. You can’t feed a third-world nation with that money, or even buy a decent lcd tv. But it’s not peanuts, at least not to me. And yes, I know, I was willing to shell out that much for my iPhone, but, well, it’s an iPhone. It calls people, and plays music, and goes on the Internet, and has games, keeps my calendar, gets me places, and makes the world generally a better place. The Daily Edition will just store books for me to read, and that’s it. Technically my iPhone (and yes, that’s as in “my preciousssss) can do that, too. And, you know, I may not have $299 lying around, but I do have all these books, old-fashioned and all, sure, but lying around already paid for, and waiting to be read. I can just keep reading those, and buying some new ones every now and then (most of them cost much less than $299) and even borrow them for free from the library. A lot of us reader-folk aren’t that annoyed by having to carry a book around, and most of us, when struck with the sudden urge to read a particular book, can wait the very short time it would take us to acquire it, should we so desire. (Amazon and Barnes & Noble both have pretty fast shipping. And again, the library.) My point is, the price tag is just too high. You’ve already got to convince me to change the way I do something, the way I read, something that’s fundamental to my life. Making it pricey just isn’t going to sweeten that deal… especially since, and I’m one of those gadgety people, you actually haven’t yet convinced me it’s worth doing at all.