Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 20 December 2013

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 09:14 PM PST

Top stories this morning include a gripe about ebook windowing (link), new details about an investor lawsuit against B&N (link), a look at ebook bundles as a promotional tool (link), and more.

  • A Brief Whine About E-Books, Digital Publishing, and International Nonsense (Mother Jones)
  • The continued rise of single-subject sites (Nieman Journalism Lab)
  • Elsevier's Research Takedown Notices Fan Out To Startups, Harvard, Individual Academics (TechCrunch)
  • Finding New Readers with a Multi-Author Ebook Bundle (Lindsay Buroker)
  • The hazards of being skeptical: Clifford Stoll on the Internet in 1995 (TeleRead)
  • How to find and view RSS feeds in various browsers (Idiotprogrammer)
  • Investor sues Barnes & Noble over misstatements, SEC probe (
  • UK adult content filters inadvertently block online education and medical resources (Engadget)
  • The Year of the Angry Freelancer (StoryBoard)

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Your Kobo eBook Reader Has Been Eaten By a Grue

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 03:08 PM PST

046_grue[1] There’s an odd joke in device hacking circles that used to be asked whenever a gadget was first hacked to do more than what the manufacturer intended: Can it run Doom?

I have yet to see that old 3d computer game running on a Kobo ereader (though it has shown up on the Pocketbook 360), but today I have another game to share which will probably be more fun to play on the Kobo Glo’s ink screen: Zork.

A hacker (going by the handle of BigBoot) over at MobileRead has posted a version of the Frotz emulator which has been modified to run on Kobo ereaders. This emulator can be used to run the old Infocom games (as well as other Z-machine games) like Zork.

For those who have not heard of Zork or Infocom before, let me share a little history. There was a time before 3d computer games like HalfLife, before 2d games like Commander Keen, and even back before the time when playing ticktacktoe against the computer was new, when computer games consisted were played by typing words into a command line.

That type of game was called interactive fiction, and it was a precursor to the fancy ebook apps you are familiar with today. And now they can be played on Kobo ereaders.

BigBoot reports (and other members have confirmed) that the app works on Kobo ereaders and that it requires the Kobolauncher app. It looks something like this when in action:

QtFrotz3 QtFrotz4

Over the past few years Kobo’s ereaders have been variously turned into Android tablets, turned into Linux tablets (running Debian), and modded with solar panels. And now you can use your Kobo ebook reader to be eaten by a Grue.

Have you tried this? what do you think?


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Nintendo 3DS eBookstore Now Live

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 08:59 AM PST

Nintendo hashonto nintendo 3ds been promising to launch an ebookstore for the Nintendo 3DS for over a year now and it has finally arrived – in Japan.

It’s called honto for Nintendo 3DS, and the service includes both a reading app as well as an ebookstore. The current selection is limited to only around 200 titles, but Nintendo hopes to increase their catalog to over 1,000 in 2014.

I don’t have full details on honto, but my source did note that ebooks were selling for between 100 yen and 1,000 yen ($0.96 and $9.60 USD). The ebooks support a TOC and an adjustable font size. The ebookstore is focused on kids and contains picture books, biographies, history books, and novels, all of which I am told are organized based on age and Kanji reading level.

And if my second source is to be believed the ebooks look something like this.


That photo is reportedly from the official unveiling at the Tokyo Book Fair in July.

Nintendo has been dabbling in ebooks for several years now, and in fact honto for Nintendo 3DS is Nintendo’s second attempt at opening an ebookstore on this handheld gaming device. The first was to have launched last year under the name eBookstore Anywhere, but that deal appears to have fallen through some time in early 2013.

And before that earlier ebookstore Nintendo also licensed ebook cartridges for the Nintendo DS, the predecessor to the 3DS.  Nintendo released collections of public domain titles in the US and UK markets in 2009, and Harlequin released at least one ebook cartridge in Japan in 2010.

Have you read on one of Nintendo handheld gaming devices? I know that there have been any number of 3rd-party apps which brought at least a basic ebook reading ability, but I’ve never used one myself. If you have, how well did it function?


My Nintendo News

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Winkfeed Brings a New Feed Reader for Google Glass

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 06:55 AM PST

Don’t lookheader_paper-540x270[1] now but Google Glass got its third  (at least) news  reader app. Winkfeed joins Glassfeeds and in their goal of keeping well-to-do news junkies informed while on the go.

This service, like most Glass apps, works via the paired Glass app running on your smartphone or tablet to bring you news at a glance. Users can sign up for an account and get news updates from a pre-selected catalog of feeds, or they can add their own sources. I can’t find an option to import an OPML catalog of feeds, which is probably a good thing.

When a user is wearing it, it looks something like this:


According to Aaron Kasten, the CEO of Winkfeed, this service is also planning to monitor social networks for popular stories that might interest a user and make them a priority. This feature is in beta, but it should roll out to more users soon. “We monitor trending Twitter topics and top Reddit posts,” Aaron Kasten, chief operating officer of Winklogic, the firm behind Winkfeed, told Mashable. “If something shows up in either, we compare it to the Associated Press feed. If there is a match, we send the matching article to the trend’s subscribers."

The new content can be set to arrive as they are published, but if users don’t want to be bothered at certain times they can schedule updates to arrive in Winkfeed at a convenient time. And if a user is suffering from eyelid fatigue from all the blinking, they can also save an article to Pocket.

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Smashwords Launches New Website, Signs New Deal With Scribd

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 06:30 AM PST

2013 was a smashwords_logobusy year for the world’s largest indie ebook distributor and it looks like they plan to end the year with a blowout.

Smashwords recently announced the revamp and relaunch of their website, and I have just learned that today they will be announcing a new deal with Scribd to add a vast collection  of titles to Scribd’s ebook subscription service.

scribd-logo-blk_100x28The new Smashwords website, which has been under development for some months now, exited a 3 week long closed beta test earlier this week. The website got a complete facelift which improved the overall site design, added new pages to the back end, and refactored the book listing pages in order to make it faster and easier for readers to discover, sample and purchase books.

The site now features a responsive design that will make it much more usable on small screens like smartphones and tablets. By responsive I mean than the site will automatically adjust the layout so it fits on smaller screens All of the content is rearranged, but it is still there.

Readers will enjoy the changes to the book listings as well as the behind the scenes improvements which makes the library section both faster and prettier while providing better support for power-users  who have purchased hundreds of ebooks. Authors and publishers are also getting some love; the dashboard and account pages have been reorganized with a more functional design.

All in all, Smashwords is ready for 2014 to be an even better year than 2013. And with the new deal with Scribd, it promises to be a lucrative year indeed.

Scribd and Smashwords have just announced a deal to add Smashwords’ catalog to Scribd’s ebook subscription service. A grand total of over 225,000 indie ebook titles from over 70 thousand authors and publishers will soon be available as part of Scribd’s Netflix-style ebook subscription service, which launched globally in early October 2013.

Scribd is adding the Smashwords catalog to a collection of over 100,000 titles from major and minor publishers like HarperCollins, E-Reads, Kensington, Red Wheel/Weiser, Rosetta Books, Sourcebooks, and Workman.

Readers can pay $9 a month and access as many ebooks as they like. The ebooks can be read on Scribd’s apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad,  and in web browsers. Scribd had been in the document sharing business for several years before launching the ebook subscription service, and as a result their apps are more polished than that of their immediate competition, Oyster and Entitle.

Scribd will also be selling Smashwords titles in their ebookstore. In addition, Scribd is supporting indie authors with profile pages, curated book merchandising, and Scribd will also help authors get to know their readership via a reading metrics dashboard. Indie authors will also get a free 1 year subscription to Scribd so they can better interact with their readers.

Those last 2 items are potentially as valuable to authors as the money that this deal may or may not generate; knowing what readers are actually reading (as opposed to buying/downloading) can help authors and publishers refine their work to provide what readers want. This is part of what the ebook analytics startup Hiptype tried to provide as a 3rd-party service, but were unfortunately unable to secure deals with Apple, Amazon, or B&N.

All in all this should give indie authors a new way to connect with readers that should be more fruitful than ebookstores like iBooks, which has shown a clear bias in favor of major publishers.

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Territorial Wrongs

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 06:19 AM PST

A few weeks ago Kevin Drum, political blogger for the U.S.-based magazine Mother Jones, took a break from his usual beat to write “A Brief Whine About E-Books, Digital Publishing, and International Nonsense“. In it, he laments an inability to buy an update to a series of books written by Charlie Stross. They have been released in the United Kingdom (starting in April), but the U.S. publisher (Tor) has yet to publish the books.

Drum quotes Stross, who explains, “The Merchant Princes re-issue won’t be sold in the USA until Tor US decide to publish it. This will not happen in 2013 (because their 2013 schedule is full).”

Because Drum wants to read the digital versions of these books, territory matters. A digital book put up for sale in the U.K. cannot be sold in the United States, even though it is plainly available in digital form. This anachronistic practice leads Stross to counsel a bit of rebellion:

And (ahem) you might want to investigate the usual work-arounds. As these books are DRM-free, all you’ll need to do is set up a sock-puppet AMZN account that is tied to an address in some other country and fed by a supply of gift coupons bought via ebay, or something like that.

You know when the author is suggesting piracy, things are more than a bit screwy.

I don’t know what makes Tor’s 2013 schedule “full”; perhaps it’s a desire to manage year-over-year revenue fluctuations. I don’t think its limited approach to territorial rights will last much longer, though.

In a post tied to “Territorial Rights in the Digital Age“, a report I wrote for Livres Canada Books in 2012, I argued:

Windowing the release of eBooks and negotiating rights by country used to be considered reasonable practices. Today, they feel like tactics that increase the likelihood that we'll encourage the behavior we seek to avoid.

Drum softens his argument with a disclaimer: “I know this is trivial. First world problems and all that.” He’s kind, but in practice the problem is global. Availability trumps piracy, and ubiquity provides readers with options they might otherwise have never considered. That’s as true in Russia as it is in the United States.

reposted with permission from Magellan Media Partners

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