Tag Archives: Skiff

Handwriting (in E Ink) Is on the Wall for Struggling Reading Devices

Damn! The Cool-er may die before we  learn how to pronounce its name. Martin Daniels on the Bookseller Association blog says the “Cooler reader looks to be another casualty of the squeeze that is inevitable in the ‘lookie likie’ E Ink reader market. They follow iRex in what may be a growing queue of dead technology failures.” Don’t forget Skiff, which dropped out of the e-device market a few weeks ago.

What’s going on?  The front-running e-readers – Kindle, Nook and Sony – all sit on large bodies of content, whereas many of the upstart gadgets have been counting on succeeding strictly on the merits of such competitive qualities as thinner, cheaper, lighter, brighter, more colorful etc. But they also have to beg, borrow or scrounge content. The only outsider holding its own is Apple’s iPad, and one good reason why is that it aggregated a lot of content soon after launching.

So – what went wrong with the Cool-er? Daniels says that it “entered the market in full color with a spectrum of cases, but forgot to make the screen color too. They also misjudged their launch with a stand and presentation more geared to a car show than a book show and their one trick pony was just a color case.”

And of course there was the dumb name. Daniels calls it the “Cooler” but it was introduced as the “Cool-er”.  “Aren’t consumers going to be confused by a b&w reader that sounds like “Col-or”?” we asked (See Another E-Book Reader with a Dumb Name)  “Or is it supposed to suggest the device is cool. Do you pronounce the word like the refrigerated water dispenser commonly found in business offices? Or do you come to a full glottal stop, thus: Cool. Er. No matter how you say it, it’s awkward, cacophonous and meaningless.”

Now it looks like we may never know. Same goes for the Plastic Logic device which, after tormenting us endlessly by withholding the name, finally announced the “Que”.  Is that pronounced “Cue?” “Kwee”? Or is it “Que” as in “Que pasa?”  However you say it, the Que’s release is seriously delayed and it too could be an also-ran in the e-reader sweepstakes. In fact Daniels says “We doubt we will see E Ink readers as we know them today in 2012…The only stay of execution will be a drop to $99 a unit.”

Richard Curtis


Murdoch Acquires Skiff

Cliff Guren and Pam Turner, executives of Skiff, the recently developed e-book platform, have just announced the company’s acquisition by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

In a review of e-book readers last January we cited Dan Nosowitz, Gizmodo’s reviewer, who gave Skiff high marks for beauty, slimness, weight, screen size and functionality: “I just got a chance to play with the big-screened, touchscreened Skiff Reader, which is targeted at periodicals. It’s incredibly thin, incredibly light, and they’ve even got a color screen prototype—Kindle and Nook should be scared.”

Kindle and Nook may not have been scared then but perhaps they will be now. Rupert Murdoch has given numerous hints that he wants to develop his own e-book reader(See Press Baron Murdoch Ready to Get E-Ink on His Fingers?)  and now he has one off the shelf.

Here’s the notification emailed by Guren to publishing partners.

Dear Skiff Publishing Partner,

I’m writing to share with you that Skiff’s publishing platform has been acquired by News Corp. As News Corp. announced yesterday, this acquisition is part of News Corp.’s commitment to premium digital journalism and to developing new ways for publishers to monetize their content online and via a wide range of devices.

We are pleased that News Corp. has recognized the value of Skiff’s accomplishments and we attribute that in part to the fine partners that have worked with us to this point.

In connection with this sale, Skiff, LLC will be winding down its current operations. We fully expect News Corp. may want to consider opportunities to renew the relationship we’ve had with you at Skiff. In the meantime, we appreciate your continued discretion under the confidentiality agreement that we have in place.

While some members of the Skiff team will be joining this effort, Pam Turner and I will be heading off to pursue other opportunities. As a result, I wanted to let you know that Lee Shirani (lshirani@skiff.com) will be following up with you.

Pam and I deeply value your support. We consider ourselves privileged to part of the publishing community. Thank you… We look forward to working with you again.

My personal contact information going forward is as follows [Deleted]:

Cliff Guren and Pam Turner

Cliff Guren
Vice President, Content Acquisition


At Least Plastic Doesn’t Come Off On Your Fingers

Apple’s new iPad tablet gives newspaper and magazine publishers an opportunity to claw back what they’ve given away: profitability. The potential for reading a newspaper on a screen of reasonable size and shape and in a format that actually resembles the paper-paper you hold every morning, has been boosted sky-high by the introduction of Apple’s tablet.

Actually, for an inveterate reader of newspapers the format issue remains, whether you read one on a Kindle, iPad, Skiff (pictured left) or other device. If you hold the device vertically (portrait format) size you see just one page at a time and thus lose the option of viewing at a glance what’s on both sides of your newspaper, even peripherally. If on the other hand you hold it horizontally (landscape format) you can see both sides of the paper but cut the size down to an uncomfortable dimension. If this is the price we pay to shift from paper to plastic, I say so be it, but I say it with a big sigh. Because, dammit, I love my newspaper just the way it is.

But throwing a tantrum won’t stop the clock, so we must expect a day when today’s “paper” will be plastic, and reading the paper will become an anachronism as quaint as the “cc” in our emails that describes carbon copies. Newspaper publishers are rethinking their business model and considering a variety of solutions aimed at sealing the leak of content into the digital river from which all currently come to drink their fill free of charge. Last fall the Wall Street Journal started forcing news-hungry website visitors to become subscribers or miss out on breaking news. The New York Times has announced a similar initiative.

Though dropping today’s news into e-book format seems simple enough to do, there are land mines, As Brad Stone and Stephanie Clifford of the NY Times point out “Media companies may have to swallow hard before tethering their futures to any high-tech company, let alone Apple.”

“Many publishers believe their economic health depends on finding a direct line to their customers, and it is not clear whether Apple — and other aggregators of Internet content — will allow that.

“Magazine publishers, for example, maintain sophisticated databases about their customers, which lets them cross-sell products, renew subscriptions and entice advertisers with statistics about their wealthy readers. A big part of the business is automatic renewals charged to credit cards.

“But when magazine publishers sell applications through the iTunes store, they do not get credit card information or even the name of the buyer.”

To make sure they aren’t jumping from the frying pan into the fire, Stone and Clifford report, some powerful magazine and newspaper publishers have formed a consortium that will operate its own online store, sell its own content, and collect its own consumer information.

You can read about it online here. Enjoy the pleasure while you can; the day will come when you’ll have to become a subscriber to access this content.

Richard Curtis

Every Blogger owes a debt of gratitude to newspapers and magazines. This posting relies on original research and reporting performed by the New York Times.


Apres Kindle Le Deluge. A Guide for the Perplexed

Scorecard here! Can’t tell yer e-book readers without a scorecard!

That seems to be the consensus of bloggers covering the recent Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas. Inspired by the success of the Kindle, Sony eReader, and Nook, a host of would-be Kindle-killers and Nookslayers has flooded the marketplace with lookalikes, playalikes and costalikes. Consumers who’ve been sitting on the sidelines waiting for a second generation of e-readers are now shaking their heads in confusion. Huffington Post has produced a handy-dandy guide for the perplexed with photos and thumbnail descriptions of each device. Just click here, then go the red navigation bar and click “Next” to view a complete array of current e-book reader choices. It may answer your questions. Or it may leave you as mixed up as ever.

So…with so many gadgets to choose among and factors to compare, is there a simple single decisive criterion to guide us home? In fact there is: Content. All things being more or less equal, you can’t go too wrong selecting a reader with a rich library or store of books, magazines, newspapers and other publications.

A case in point is a device displayed at the Consumer Electronic Show called the Skiff Reader. Dan Nosowitz, Gizmodo’s reviewer, gave it high marks for beauty, slimness, weight, screen size and functionality: “I just got a chance to play with the big-screened, touchscreened Skiff Reader, which is targeted at periodicals. It’s incredibly thin, incredibly light, and they’ve even got a color screen prototype—Kindle and Nook should be scared.”

They should be scared but they won’t be for one simple reason: Skiff does not have a store or library of content behind it. “Kindle and Nook waltzed into this world with massive and well-known stores behind them,” says Gizmodo, “and the Skiff is creating one from scratch. They’ve got a lot of publishers behind them, but the store right now is pretty bare. Of course, since it’s not out yet, this may all be a moot point—but I wonder if their scrappy little store can compete with Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Wilson Rothman, blogging for Gawker, states the case for content even more bluntly in a posting titled There Are Officially Too Many E-Book Readers. A lot of consumers, he writes, “will buy some $100 reader, then wonder why they can’t borrow books from their friend who has a Nook, or can’t get the same stuff that’s sold on the Kindle.”

Rothman also raises a very important point: if the new breed of cheap e-book readers doesn’t carry legitimate content, customers might turn to file-sharing pirates for it. “Cheap e-ink readers will essentially be targeted at people with libraries of pirated books,” he says.

What’s a consumer to do? Rothman seems to be urging us to wait a little longer until full color, multitouch tablets reach the marketplace. “E-ink is an interim technology, a stopgap measure to keep our attention till we have full-color video tablets (slates?) whose batteries last for ‘days’.”

Rothman’s bottom line? “Go Kindle, wait for a cheap-as-hell reader, pray for a slate, or buy a book. A real paper-and-ink book.

Richard Curtis