Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 4 December 2013

Posted: 03 Dec 2013 09:24 PM PST

Top stories this morning include a humorous post about being a book nerd (link), another post on ebook returns (link), a post which questions whether Amazon might be about to change the rules on KDP Select (link), a critique of horribly bad marketing (link), and more.

  • 20 Things That Happen When You’re a Book Nerd (BookRiot)
  • Author-Booksellers Share Their "Shop Indie" Saturday Stories (PW)
  • E-Book Returns and the Problem With the Subscription Model (Critical Margins)
  • Facebook Wants To Fill Your News Feed With Actual News (ReadWrite)
  • Instapaper's Chrome extension gets right-click saving, highlighting for article descriptions and more (TNW)
  • Waterstones announces plan to counter Amazon drones with trained owls (TeleRead)
  • Weak ties (Brian O’Leary)
  • Why Writers Must Self-Publish Their Books (The Book Designer)
  • Will Amazon Deliver Coal In The Stocking For Kindle Publishers? (Self Publishing 2.0)
  • Your Book Is Not Pepper Spray That You Must Fountain Into My Eyes (terribleminds: chuck wendig)

Next up is a video of Michael Tamblyn’s presentation at the Futurebook conference 2 weeks ago where he explains why Kobo purged so many self-pub titles back in October.


And in my second bundle of posts today, the hot stories include yet another example that dropping DRM increases sales (link), another look at Worldreader’s efforts in Africa (link), an interview of a thriving small publisher (link), and more.

  • 10 things you should know about iBooks and iBooks Store (eBookFriendly)
  • Authors create product, readers consume product—those in between must provide long-term value (Write on the River)
  • The E-Reading Software That’s Better Than Kindle or iBooks (The Atlantic)
  • Prospering in the squeezed middle of publishing (BookBrunch)
  • What Piracy? Removing DRM Boosts Music Sales by 10 Percent (TorrentFreak)
  • Will e-publishing help Africa switch on to reading? (BBC News)

The post The Morning Coffee – 4 December 2013 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Judge Cote Ignores Apple’s GrandStanding – Tells Them to Direct Their Complaints to the DOJ

Posted: 03 Dec 2013 02:20 PM PST

Apple may Tall Federal Courthave lost the price-fixing anti-trust lawsuit but that doesn’t mean they have given up the pr battle or stopped filing ridiculous complaints with the court.

Late last week Apple filed a brief which complained about the activities of Michael Bromwich, the court appointed anti-trust monitor. Apple wasn’t too happy with the fees he was charging nor with the way Bromwich was going about his business (he wanted to meet most of the senior management).

Apple’s filing got a lot of attention in the blogosphere over Thanksgiving weekend, but it appears that the Judge Cote wasn’t as impressed. She issued a ruling today that basically told Apple to follow procedure and stop grandstanding (my word, not hers).

The judge noted that there was an established process for complaints or conflicts, and that Apple should have directed their communications to the Dept of Justice. "Objections are to be conveyed in writing to the United States and the Plaintiff States within ten calendar days after the action giving rise to the objection," Cote wrote. They should only have requested a conference with the judge if Apple and the DOJ were unable to resolve the issue.

Judge Cote declined to comment upon Apple’s complaint about Bromwich’s $1,100 hourly fee or the nearly $140 thousand worth of billable hours which he had generated, but she did order only that "any compensation shall be on reasonable and customary terms."

And here is where I came to the conclusion that Apple’s complaints were ridiculous.

$1,100 an hour might seem like a princely sum, but not when you compare it to what Apple’s outside law firm charges. According to Fortune:

Many of the top partners at Apple’s own outside counsel on the e-book matter, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, bill more than $1,000 an hour, and its appellate ace, Ted Olson, reportedly charged $1,800 per hour on one bankruptcy matter in 2012.

That puts Apple’s gripe in a different light, doesn’t it?

It’s kinda silly to complain about a senior partner of a DC law firm charging about the same as what Apple’s own lawyers might charge, but that is Apple for you.

For the most part Apple went home empty-handed, but the judge did grant one of Apple’s pleas. Apple had complained about a ruling dated 21 November that enabled the external monitor to communicate directly with the judge on his duties, without counsel present.  Judge Cote reversed herself and ordered that there will be no "ex parte communication by the Monitor with the Court regarding the performance of his duties as Monitor."

But that is all Apple got, which makes me wonder why exactly they filed the brief. Were the lawyers really that ignorant on proper procedure? I don’t think so, and that’s why I label this latest shenanigan as grandstanding. I think Apple didn’t expect the judge to do anything; they just wanted the publicity.

IMO this latest development casts Bromwich’s letter to Apple in a different light. Last week, when Apple was complaining to the court, Bromwich sent Apple a letter (PDF) which discussed Apple’s efforts to control his actions, which AllthingsD summed up as saying:

  • You people seem to think I'm working for you. "Apple has sought for the last month to manage our relationship as though we are its outside counsel or consultant," he wrote in a letter to Cook and his board last week.
  • My fees are reasonable, and you have no idea what a reasonable fee looks like. Also, it doesn't matter if you think my fees are reasonable, because you don't get to negotiate them: You just pay them. The court will approve them.

At this point he is the more reasonable party, I think.

It’s almost looks as if Apple doesn’t realize that they lost the anti-trust trial a couple months back, doesn’t it?

image by rocketdogphoto

The post Judge Cote Ignores Apple’s GrandStanding – Tells Them to Direct Their Complaints to the DOJ appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Nemo Media Launches eBookstore in Malta

Posted: 03 Dec 2013 11:44 AM PST

The major NemoMediaebook platforms may be getting most of the press but as international ebook adoption grows the niche ebookstores could prove the most useful in supporting under-served markets.

Nemo Media unveiled their ebookstore this week, raising the number of placed where you can buy a Maltese language ebook by one.

This ebookstore, which initially launched in the middle of November, sells ebooks in Maltese and English. The ebooks can be read in Nemo’s app for the iPad or iPhone; the Android app is coming in January 2014. There’s very little info available on the website or in the app, so it’s not clear whether the ebooks are Epub or some other format.

Update: There doesn’t appear to be an iPhone app. (Thanks, Christian!)

But it is clear that even the English language titles show a focus on this island nation. A quick search didn’t uncover very many popular English language novels, but it did turn up numerous archeology and history books on Malta (including titles which can’t be found in the Kindle Store, curiously enough).

Nemo Media is entering a market that might never have serious competition due to its relatively small size. According to Wikipedia there are roughly 450 thousand residents, most of which speak Maltese. That is a market that will probably never interest the major ebookstores.

di-ve, Actualitte



The post Nemo Media Launches eBookstore in Malta appeared first on The Digital Reader.

New Legislation Before Congress Teases Free Digital Textbooks, But It Probably Won’t Have Much Effect

Posted: 03 Dec 2013 08:10 AM PST

As I have2044748271_b809bdf62c[1] written numerous times over the past few years the price of college textbooks have risen past ridiculous into the realm of drug-induced, but it looks like a solution may be in sight. But will it help? I’m not so sure.

According to the Huffington Post, a new bill was introduced into Congress last week:

Legislation introduced in Congress could make buying expensive textbooks a thing of the past.

The bill sponsored by by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) would create a grant program for colleges and universities to “create and expand the use of textbooks that can be made available online” and offered with free access to the public. Students — and anyone else for that matter — would have access to digital textbooks and not be bound to buying the latest edition stocked in a campus bookstore.

The bill, named the “Affordable College Textbook Act,” was filed by Durbin and Franken earlier this month. A complementary bill was drafted in the House by Reps. Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas) and George Miller (D-Calif.).

This can’t happen soon enough, IMO. Over the past 3 decades college textbook prices have increased faster than inflation, CPI, or even healthcare costs (I’ve said this before but it is worth repeating). The publishers are rapidly pricing themselves out of the market, and some have decided to turn to digital textbooks in the hopes that it will save them.


More and more publishers are launching new digital products which are designed to get schools to pay every year for the content (as opposed to buying a paper textbook which lasts a decade or more).  For example, Curriculet announced a new partnership with HarperCollins to provide enriched ebooks to schools, only there’s a catch:

The pilot endeavor, now offered to 256 schools, allows institutions to buy a portion of the HarperCollins backlist catalog through Curriculet for periods of three months or a year, says Curriculet CEO Jason Singer. Teachers can then use Curriculet's tools to embed the ebooks with quizzes, questions, and videos; add scaffolding material including Web links and annotations; and insert customized, Common-Core-based assessments. "We'll see more big publishers" joining Curriculet's program to in early 2014, Singer says, and Curriculet will be publicly available by the summer.

3006632-poster-amplifytabletorangecase[1]And that’s not the only example.

Anyone who has followed tablet news knows about Amplify. This is NewsCorp’s entry into the educational market, and it is designed to get schools to rent their academic materials on a 3 year license. You might recall that the Amplify’s first major deployment was fiasco due to serious hardware issues, but one equally important detail is that the school district in question rented the curriculum at a cost of $100 per student per year.

Many publishers are trying to set up that kind of recurring payment and it is tripping up school districts everywhere. For example,the much troubled iPad program in the LA schools is facing a new budget crunch:

Contradicting earlier claims, Los Angeles school district officials said Tuesday that their right to use English and math curriculum installed on district iPads expires after three years.

At market rates, buying a new license for the curriculum would cost $50 to $100 each year per iPad, an additional cost that could surpass $60 million annually. The expense would add to the price tag of the $1-billion effort to provide a tablet to every teacher and student in the nation’s second-largest school system.

While it is surprising that they missed that detail until 5 months after the program was launched, it’s worth noting that the LAUSD won’t be the only school district to face this issue, nor are they even the first.

Even though all of the above examples are drawn from K-12 and not college textbook issues, they are still good examples of why a free textbook program is a good idea financially.  These examples tell us how the publishers think of digital textbooks, and the severe financial issues that digital content can represent for schools.

But in spite of the need for cheaper or free digital textbooks, I would bet that this bill is going to have a greater effect simply by raising awareness and not by making more digital textbooks available.


There already are free digital textbooks; several states (including Calif., Wash., and more) have digital textbook archives which contain textbooks that meet each state’s standards. And there are also efforts being led by the universities themselves, including the Open Source Textbook Initiative at the university of Illinois.

And last but not least there are also organizations that support the development of CC-licensed textbooks and other open educational resources (the CK-12 Foundation, for example) which can be customized to meet the requirements of a specific curriculum. For example, all it took for ones school district to craft their own AP Stats textbook was $40,000, much of which went to pay the salaries of the 3 teachers who did the work.

So you see, free textbooks already exist; the only problem is in getting schools to adopt them. And I’m not sure that this bill before Congress is going to help much. Sure, it will offer funds for schools to develop their own textbooks but first they’ll have to break the habit of only considering the textbooks available in the catalogs. And as more schools consider switching over  they will also have to learn to see through the claims made by the marketing depts at the various textbook publishers.

College textbooks are big money, so naturally some publishers are going to respond to the new competition by disparaging the quality of the freely available open source textbooks. And they’ll have big budgets to throw at the issue, too.

And that is probably what is going to kill this bill. As good as Franken’s bill may be, and as much as it might help, getting the bill passed is going to be an uphill battle against well financed lobbyists who have sizable funding from textbook publishers.

I strongly suspect that much of the talk about the wonders of digital textbooks comes from hype generated by the publishers themselves. I beelive that some view digital textbooks not as a good thing for students but more of a jobs program for publishers in much the same way that No Child Left Behind was a boon to the academic testing companies.

They’re not going to want a free textbook program disrupt their gravy train, so they will do their best to kill it.

More Reading

images by andrewmaloneflickingerbrad

The post New Legislation Before Congress Teases Free Digital Textbooks, But It Probably Won’t Have Much Effect appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Amazon Drone: Thunderbird 2 2.0

Posted: 03 Dec 2013 05:45 AM PST

In the 1960s TV series, Thunderbirds, there was a vehicle called Thunderbird 2. It was a heavy transport carrier and used a variety of pods to deliver the appropriate equipment to a rescue site.


The Amazon Drone uses a variety of pods to deliver goods to customers.

amazon prime air drone

Twitter exploded with chatter about the Amazon Drone yesterday.

We had a lot of fun.

And then I pointed out:



This Drone has many, many implications.

Some of them are:

1) Amazon is disintermediating humans. All of the truckers it currently relies on — many will be gone in the future. Drones don't form unions, need health care, ask for raises, or need sick days. And as volume production of Drones occur, they become even less expensive versus human beings.

2) Everyone wondered why Amazon bought a mapping company. It wasn't just for their tablets!

3) Don't expect the final Drone to be as benign as the one shown. It will have many cameras and sensors. The cameras will help with mapping. The cameras will also confirm deliveries. And the cameras will link to a facial recognition database too. While Google Maps has Street View, Amazon can offer Drone View. And those sensors? Amazon Weather. Be afraid, Weather Channel.

4) This is another reason for Amazon to offer a phone. Why limit deliveries to customer street addresses? A Drone can be sent directly to where you are now by homing in on your Amazon phone.

5) Bezos is rich enough to buy the sky. If you think the FAA will object, forget it. This is a done deal because it also ties into law enforcement. Remember all those cameras? If Drone Monitors see something, they'll say something. The privatization of policing via unintended(?) consequences.

6) Weather will become even bigger. We'll have "drone forecasts." You'll check the status of the weather to confirm that it's drone-friendly. And you'll do it via Amazon Weather.

7) While people will inevitably go on about how many distribution centers Amazon needs to blanket the USA — each drone, today, has just a ten-mile limit — they'll (once again!) miss the larger point about how clever Amazon is and how they can do this with smaller delivery sub-centers. Amazon doesn't have to offer everything at once for Drone delivery. Just enough to begin. Amazon is a company that has figured out how to shelf things by size. And they know that eighty-six percent of their current deliveries fall within the Drone lifting limit of five pounds.

8) And yeah, Amazon will score huge PR when their Drones can get to hungry people in a disaster area while the Red Cross and others have to plod along on land first clearing wreckage with bulldozers to get through.

Those are just eight things (actually more, if you parse carefully). I could go on, but this is probably more than anyone else has thought of, so I'll stop.

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