Archive for Technology
We’ve developed a bit of a reputation for innovation over the years, and let us tell you – it’s been hell trying to keep our new project under wraps! We’ve been working on this for over two years, and have had all our suppliers sign confidentiality agreements in order to protect our patents before our new device was ready, but the paperwork has now been filed, and the hardware is out of Beta. The official Press Release will go out to all the trade journals tomorrow, but we thought we’d give our regular readers a sneak preview before we’re inundated with press enquiries.
Ladies and gentlemen, Angry Robot Books (part of the Osprey Group) is proud to announce the world’s first heads-up glasses system, with built-in fiction display. Known as the Virtual Book, there are 4 versions planned for release, later this year. The basic design is the VB1(UK) and VB1(OS), pictured right. The top-end models look like designer sunglasses (rather than the Virtual Reality design of the entry-level model), but they all have one thing in common – Books On the Move. You’ll love our BotM – the technology is deceptively simple in principle. Two hidden cameras film whatever is in front of the wearer, and display the images on high resolution screens in front of the wearer’s eyes (using Asynchronous System Scan, or ASS). The quality is phenomenal, and to the wearer, it simply looks like they are wearing glasses (though brightness and contrast can be adjusted – a godsend on sunny days).
The user then has the ability to overlay text on one half of their vision – the size and opacity of the text is adjustable to suit the comfort of the wearer (using our patented Balance User Management system). The text can be set to auto-scroll, or to have virtual “pages” flip when the wearer performs a pre-defined eye gesture, such as a sharp glance to the right. In this way, the wearer is able to read a book while walking down the street, laying on the beach, paddling in the sea, even driving! As vision is not obscured, it’s 100% safe! Our VB3(OS) and VB4(OS) models also have audiobook technology – read, listen, never be away from your favourite book!
Books can be pre-loaded via USB or WiFi connectivity in ePub, Mobi, RTF, plain text or ODF, and the glasses can store up to 2,500 titles at a time.
The entry-level model (shown above) will retail for just £299 (UK) / $449 (US) and will be available to pre-order for delivery before Christmas! A perfect gift for anyone who loves to read, but can never find the time!
Just a quick note to say that we’ve re-vamped our Facebook outpost in the past couple of weeks. We used to have a Group, but Facebook decided to change the way Groups were set up (and no-one really seemed sure how Groups worked anyhow) so we decided to go ahead with moving over to our new Angry Robot Fan Page.
So, you can now Like us (which, incidentally, is a great way of ensuring that you’re on the ‘do-not-eradicate’ list on that glorious day when the robot attack drones sweep down from the sky and inflict laser-blastery death on the hordes of unbelievers) by visiting www.facebook.com/angryrobotbooks and then Liking what you see when you get there.
And if you’re interested in things social-media-ish, you might like to track down a copy of the current issue of Sci-Fi Now magazine, which includes an article by Angry Robot Lee on the subject of social media strategy for authors.
Earlier on this year I predicted that 2009 would be the Year of the eBook. Indeed, it seems the tipping point is within shouting distance. We have seen a flurry of activity this year, with many new models of eReader hitting the market. Amazon, too, have made their groundbreaking Kindle available overseas for the first time (with a few too many teething problems for many, though these issues are likely to be ironed out soon).
We’ve seen new hardware from the likes of Elonex, InterRead (the funky-looking Cool-Er eReader), Sony and Barnes & Noble (the Nook), as well as non-dedicated tablet-style devices from a whole host of manufacturers. Prices are coming down, too, as demand increases.
When Stanza – a software-based eReader – launched on the iPhone and iPod Touch, it opened up a whole new level of availability for eBooks, and many other mobile phones have the ability to display eBooks. eBooks are now within reach of tens of millions of customers, as eReaders come down in price, and as existing owners start exploring the eReading capabilities of their smartphones.
In fact, eBooks have become so popular over recent months that the number of eBook applications (and other book-related apps) launching on the iPhone (and equivalents) has overtaken the number of games on the same platforms*. Of course, the fact that the books are launching on these platforms doesn’t mean that the sales are higher than sales of games, but the fact that so many new books are becoming available in this format to so many potential new purchasers bodes extremely well for the format itself. Time will tell how popular these new apps are – after all, if they don’t sell, it’s unlikely the publishers will continue to launch the apps.
Amazon, too, have stated that for those titles they stock as both Kindle and paper-based versions, the Kindle version accounts for 48% of the titles’ sales. That’s a significant figure!
We won’t be ditching paper for quite some time, yet (if ever), but it’s interesting to watch how quickly we’re catching up with the future…
Not content with being the superlative wordsmith behind such upcoming Angry Robot titles as Vegas Knights and Amortals, the deeply talented Matt Forbeck has just revealed that he has another string to his bow. Just going into US toy stores, from Playmates Toys, is this incredible Star Trek utility belt… which has among its many features a whole bunch of electronically-controlled missions for those wearing it. And you can guess which superstar did all the logic design and scripting on it.
Pop over to Matt’s blog to get the full lowdown on just how smart Matt has actually been in helping design this thing, and marvel at just damn better toys are these days, wasted on the little brats, etc etc.
[Pssst, Matt, I… I, um, well... I don't don't suppose they come in Dad sizes too?]
To celebrate reaching 500 followers on Twitter, we’re going to have a mini competition. If you’re not already following us on Twitter, please do – we’re @angryrobotbooks.
Write a single-tweet short story about a robot – any robot – and Tweet it. The tweet must include @angryrobotbooks so we can see it.
So we can include all our international buddies, the competition will run for 24 hours, after which, a winner will be chosen.
The winner will win… stuff. But, you know – good stuff. A copy of our first 6 books plus a bunch of other really cool things.
The winning tweet will be RT’d and posted here, too (as well as a selection of other good ones).
Big Trak (pictured) is my favourite, as I remember wanting one as a child, yet never being allowed it, even though two of my friends did, and all I got was that stinking bike and the Scalextric and the Steve Austin action-man thing with the real bionic eye and the book tokens and the personal computer I’d been wanting for ages.
Not sure why they’ve posted a mirrored image, though…
OK, so this isn’t particularly book-related, but it’s a great way to waste 15 minutes or so give yourself valuable thinking time for that important project you’re working on so hard.
All those of us who keep lamenting the fact that we’re not yet living in the future we were promised (where are the jet packs, the food pills, the silver jumpsuits?) can start living in hope again.
A scientist at St Andrews’ University is attempting to develop a way of making invisibility a reality using “geometry, light and a wee bit of magic”.
More details over at BBC News.
We’re perilously close to being able to tell you a little bit more about our own eBook plans, but in the meantime, head on over to the SFX website where I talk a little about eBooks (and their future) in the first in a short series of blogs about the format.
We’ve been quite vocal in our support of the eBook, and so we’ve had quite a few enquiries from eBook virgins, interested in getting involved in this new(ish) medium.
Rather than tell you more about what we think of eBooks and readers (there’ll be plenty of that to come, believe us), we asked those helpful folk over at Mobile Read (in my humble opinion, one of the best sources for eBook and eReader information on the planet) to give us some hints and tips for someone new to eBooks. Mobile Read editor, Nathaniel Hoffelder give us the lowdown…
The Beginner’s Guide to eReading by Nathaniel Hoffelder
1. The first thing a beginner should know is that you don’t need to buy a dedicated ebook reader. Do you have a PDA, Blackberry, or smartphone? Any one of these is more than good enough to get you started. I know quite a few people who use one of the above as their main reader and have no intention of buying a dedicated device. In fact, I even know someone who insists that the best way to read an ebook is on his PC.
2. While “ereader” is a common term for ebook reader, there is also a specific ebook format by that name. eReader cannot be read on any of the ebook readers currently on the market. If you are looking for books for the “Sony Ereader”, stop. The Sony Reader cannot read that format.
3. There are many sources of ebooks besides ebook retailers. Publishers sometimes give away an ebook as part of a promotion. Some authors (like Cory Doctorow) give away their work for free. And there sites like Project Gutenberg and Google Books that have quite a few public domain ebooks free for download. If you’d like to know more, click here.
4. I also need to tell you about something called Digital Restrictions Management. DRM is a security measure that publishers [or distributors] add to ebook files as a way to discourage piracy. In some countries, circumventing the DRM on an ebook is illegal. DRM is why you can’t, for example, read an Adobe PDF on all your computers. It’s also why the ebook you bought and downloaded yesterday cannot be read on the device you bought today. If you’d like to learn more, click here.
5. Know your ebook format. Each of the dedicated ebook readers supports exactly one DRMed ebook format. While it’s possible to convert from one ebook format to another, it’s not easy. And if the ebook has DRM, it’s illegal (in some countries).
Standard disclaimer: This entry has been written by invitation, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Angry Robot, HarperCollinsPublishers, or its staff.
That’s not our, headline, by the way, but a headline in today’s Independent under which, Michael Bywater gives his verdict on Amazon’s dedicated eBook reader.
Like most eBook afficionados in Not-America, I’m looking forward to seeing this device, but in the meantime I’ve ordered a couple of other eBook devices to quench my literary thirst – I’ll post information about those once I’ve received them, and had a chance to play around with them.
What is clear from the Independent article, and from the news that Google is going to implement a system to enable publishers to sell ebooks direct to consumers through Google, is that 2009 is shaping up to be the year that the electronic book goes mainstream.
There are dozens of suitable devices on the market at the moment (most of which, admittedly are import-only if you live in the UK). Will one manufacturer dominate? Which format will emerge triumphant? And what’s the future for DRM?
Keep checking back – we’re going to ask some other people in the know, while we watch this particular section of the industry with great interest…