Turning the Nook Tablet Into A True Android Tablet

The announcement of Amazon’s plans to sell the Kindle Fire at only $199 created hopes of an inexpensive yet useful Android tablet becoming available. The hopes did come true, but not from Amazon. While the Fire has many problems, which Amazon is promising to fix, the real bargain in Android tablets came from Barnes& Noble.  The Nook comes with both more internal memory than the Fire plus allows use of internal memory cards to expand this further.It’s benefits are well worth the price which is $50 higher.

Both the Fire and Nook are being sold at loses in the hopes of promoting additional sales. While I greatly prefer the Nook, I actually spend many times more money as a member of Amazon Prime than I do at Barnes & Noble. I have been using a black and white Nook as my main eb0ok reader for the last several months because, wanting to avoid being limited to any one company’s device, I found that it is easy to side load ebooks from any source onto the Nook (using Calibre to convert to epub format if necessary). It didn’t take long to find that downloading an Android program with the browser provided access to a hidden menu option to allow side loading of programs from outside sources to the Nook. I quickly added the Amazon Market, as well as the Amazon programs to play the free Prime videos and all the music in Amazon’s cloud where I have unlimited storage. (The increase in storage for the year came with the purchase of a single album at the cost of $1.)

This already provided an Android device capable of handling my material from Amazon and other sources far better than the Kindle Fire was capable of. I also added many other programs, including ones from the Android Market and ones copies from my Droid. I added a custom launcher, and found a program to ensure that my launcher loads instead of the stock Barnes & Noble one. The built-in browser is ok, but it is an even more powerful (and fast) browser after adding Dolphin.

This was all done quickly without rooting the Nook Tablet. It is possible to have a useful Android tablet with rooting, but rooting provides far more. Rooting was necessary to add all of Google’s material, including their Market, and to add custom keyboards, making this a full Android tablet. Amazon did set their video player so that it will not stream free Prime movies on a rooted device. I’m not sure why as someone’s  goal was to try to capture the videos I would think this would be far easier to accomplish when playing on a pc as opposed to a small tablet. Regardless, there are two ways around this. The videos will play in the browser regardless of whether the tablet is rooted, and the program OTA RootKeeper, which is available on the Market will temporarily unroot an Android device. Netflix and Hulu Plus work well, regardless of whether it is rooted. HBO GO isn’t working, but I believe that is a common problem with all Honeycomb devices. I’ve read claims that getting this to work is a high priority at Barnes & Nobel

It takes a little work to download and install these programs, many of which can be found through the xda developers forum, but it is well worth the effort if you desire a powerful Android tablet for only $250.

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Kindle DRM Cracked

My big opposition to the Kindle has been that it is based upon selling copy-protected books which initially only worked on the Kindle. They later added support for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Once Barnes and Nobel came out with a similar ebook reader which added the ability to read purchased books on computers, Amazon followed quickly with software to also allow this. Still the problem remains that books purchased for the Kindle cannot legally be transferred to other brands of ebook readers.

It was inevitable that the Kindle format would be cracked. An Israeli hacker has developed a crack which will convert Kindle books into Mobi format.

I’m sure Amazon is not happy but the irnoy is that I now might consider a Kindle if I was still in the market for an ebook reader. I purchased mine based upon its ability to read many open formats. I wouldn’t have considered Kindle as long as the books could only be read on the Kindle but I would now consider it with the option of converting books to the Mobi format.

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Ebooks vs. Physical Books

I still intend to post a review of my ebook reader as previously promised, but this afternoon I’m giving a higher priority to a post on The Plan. (Next step is to see if their are already good pictures posted on line versus going back and taking some screen grabs off my copy).

Upon getting home there was a box from Amazon which gives a clue as to my feeling on ebooks compared to physical books. While out of town I started reading Breaking The Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett. It was great to have this on my reader (along with hundreds of other books)while traveling, and after returning home I continued to read the ebook copy. However I also placed an order for the physician copy from Amazon last week (sticking with their slower economy shipping since I could read the ebook version while waiting). Given a choice, I’ll still read the physical book while at home, but will take the ebook reader when I go out of town in November. As long as I’m at home, I prefer the sensation of physically holding the book. It is far easier to skim through the book to see how it is organized, and to check out the notes in the back, with the physical copy. I also like to see how far I’m into the book and how much is left.

I know I’m not a typical consumer, but at least in my case this gives one possible answer to the question of whether books will face the same problem as music now that they are digitalized and easily shared. I’m certain that to  certain degree it will, but there is a difference between music and books. For many people, an iPod is their preferred way to listen to music and there is no advantage to having a physical CD. Books still provide benefits beyond having the text on an ebook reader. I not only ordered the book I am in the midst of reading but I also ordered two of the same author’s other books: Darwin’s Dangerous Idea and Freedom Evolves. In my case, at least, having a digital copy of a book led to more book sales.

Now, if nothing else comes up, I can get to work on The Plan.

Barnes & Nobel Ready to Release E-Reader

BN ereader

The Wall Street Journal reports that Barnes & Nobel is ready to release its ebook reader this week:

Barnes & Noble, the nation’s largest bookstore chain as measured by revenue, is playing catch-up with Amazon in digital books, one of the few growing segments of the publishing industry. Over the summer, Barnes & Noble introduced its own e-book store, which now features over a million free public domain books from Google Inc. Its e-books can be read on devices including Apple Inc.’s iPhone and a forthcoming reader from Plastic Logic Ltd. called Que.

The book chain has scheduled an event for the media, publishers and publishing agents in New York on Tuesday. Features of the Nook include a wireless connection to download books from the retailer’s online e-bookstore and an e-paper display from E-Ink Corp. that is separate from the color controls.

The New York Times Book Review ad urges readers to “experience nook at your local Barnes & Noble or at nook.com.” That Web site couldn’t be accessed Monday afternoon.

Pictures of the e-book reader are above. There’s no information on many of the key features which I considered when I finally gave in and purchased an ebook reader last week after previously expressing some reluctance.

After comparing features I picked up an EZ Reader Pocket Pro as opposed to the more well known models. Important factors in my purchase included handling a wide variety of formats and using SD cards for external storage. In addition, there’s no danger of Amazon remotely wiping out books. I’ll post a review in the near future. There’s no word as to how the product from Barnes& Noble compares on the features I considered.

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1984 Goes Down The Memory Hole at Amazon

Being someone who spends lots of money on both books and electronic gadgets I have considered ebook readers. While there are some I might purchase, I have rejected the Kindle and cannot imagine why it is so popular beyond excellent marketing. It does have some advantages over other ebook readers such as the ability to purchase many books from Amazon wirelessly, the advantages ultimately are more for the benefit of Amazon than the consumer.

Despite its popularity, the Kindle looks like one of the weaker ebook readers on the market with the ability to read very few ebook formats. My biggest complaint is that it primarily uses its own format and that books one purchases cannot be stored and read on computers and a wide variety of other devices. My primary concern was in not being locked into a single company’s device forever but today another reason to desire a more open format came up:

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

This is ugly for all kinds of reasons. Amazon says that this sort of thing is “rare,” but that it can happen at all is unsettling; we’ve been taught to believe that e-books are, you know, just like books, only better. Already, we’ve learned that they’re not really like books, in that once we’re finished reading them, we can’t resell or even donate them. But now we learn that all sales may not even be final.

As one of my readers noted, it’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table.

The real irony here is that the books were 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell. In 1984 the protagonist had a job dumping newspaper stories which the government found inconvenient down the memory hole. Imagine  if the Kindle was the only form the book was available on. Fortunately, my copies of these books are still safe on my book shelf. I wonder if Amazon has the ability to make copies they have sold of Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451 burn up in people’s homes.

Update: I’m not sure why people are spending money on Orwell’s books when they are available for download in many formats on line. Boing Boing gives one such example. Under Australian copyright law the work of authors who died before 1955 are in the public domain and are easily available for download at sites such as here.  Another example is here, and I was amused to find that Amazon has an ad for the Kindle on this page.

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