Monday, 9 December 2013

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 10 December 2013

Posted: 09 Dec 2013 09:30 PM PST

Top stories this morning include PDF-reading stress test on the new iPad Mini (link), a new way to generate mashups (link), a question into whether the current Amazon movement really makes any sense (link), and more.

  • tumblr_mxild6adsJ1qd206po1_250[1]Are Indies Getting Clobbered by Big Name E-book Discounts? (Toby Neal)
  • The Absurd Amazon Boycott In Britain (Forbes)
  • A Better Kind of Algorithm (Publishing Perspectives)
  • Google Books PDF Death Match: Retina iPad Mini (Mike Cane's xBlog)
  • In suburban D.C., a network of hyperlocal news sites expands and bets on local advertising (Nieman Journalism Lab)
  • King James Bible + H.P. Lovecraft = old testament horror (Boing Boing)
  • New Report: "How The Nobel Prize In Literature Affects Book Sales" (LJ INFOdocket)
  • The Next Generation of Custom Textbooks (PW)
  • Why don’t French books sell abroad? (The Passive Voice)
  • Why I Choose to Self-Publish and Traditionally Publish by CJ Lyons (JaneFriedman)
  • Why Reading eBooks Are Safer: Reason #76 (ebookPorn)

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Defying the Amazon Monopoly, The Reading Room Raises $2.75 Million

Posted: 09 Dec 2013 05:38 PM PST

While some mightxtrr_logo_strapline_570.png.pagespeed.ic.vzoalBzrfx[1] say that Amazon has a monopoly on the ebook market, not everyone would agree.

Take The Reading Room, for example.

This 4 year old book community and indie ebookstore raised a new round of financing in early November. Between new and existing investors, the startup now has $2.75 million in capital. They plan to use the funds to o drive membership, sign new commercial partnerships, and implement a range of site enhancements including curated content, recommendations and featured selections.

"The funds raised today will enable us to meet the growing demand for The Reading Room to be the online platform of choice for readers to discover new authors, classics and those hidden gems, and importantly to connect with other, like-minded readers,” said Kim Anderson, Chief Executive Officer, The Reading Room. “The Reading Room can now accelerate its expansion across the United States and North America."

The Reading Room now boasts 650,000 members, all of whom enjoy sharing reading recommendations to help fellow readers to discover new books. In addition to the community, The Reading Room also sells ebooks and, as of 1 June, paper books. 75% of current members hale from NA, which has lead The Reading Room to set up new offices in NYC.

This might not seem like a very successful company, but I take a different lesson from it.

This is the one of the ebookstores that made me rethink any number of common assumptions about the ebook market. For example, many people say that Amazon prices ebooks so low that indies cannot compete. But clearly that’s not true otherwise The Reading Room would not have a thriving ebookstore or have picked up millions of dollars in capital investment.

I’ve also come to realize that the idea that low prices are the beginning and end of market success is simply not true; of course I’m not the only one who has figured that out (see indie bookstores).

TBH, it’s that whole “millions in investment” that makes me wonder just how impenetrable Amazon’s dominance really is. Clearly someone is willing to bet big that startups like Oyster, Zola Books, or Bilbary will grow into serious competitors.

Do you suppose they’re hoping for the next major ebookstore or for the small fry to grow large enough that they are gobbled up by Amazon?


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BookBaby Raises Prices, Annnounces New “Free” Distribution Option

Posted: 09 Dec 2013 03:27 PM PST

Bowing toBookBaby-logo[1] the inevitable, indie ebook distributor BookBaby announced a new pricing schedule last week.

They’re now offering a no-fee distribution option and a $99 option, both of which now include paying BookBaby a 15% commission on earnings.

Along with the 2 new price points BookBaby has also announced a much higher priced $249 option. Authors who still want to take home 100% of their earnings will have to pay considerably more than under the old plans.

Originally launched in early 2011, BookBaby had made a name in charging only a flat $99 fee with 0% commission to distribute an ebook. They have seen some success with this model, but their bigger and more successful competitor Smashwords has always offered a commission based distribution option – and now BookBaby has followed suit.

BookBaby might claim a larger distribution network than Smashwords, but they still have fewer authors signed up. If it’s valid to judge popularity based on which service is bigger* then clearly more authors prefer a distribution option with no upfront costs.  If nothing else it makes sense for BookBaby to come closer to matching the prices of the leading ebook distributor.

But as close as Bookbaby may have come they still haven’t quite matched Smashwords, which throws in an automated ebook conversion in their one size fits all plan. Smashwords will convert a manuscript from from DOC to multiple formats and distribute the resulting ebooks to the leading ebookstores, all while charging a 15% commission.

* Maybe one service has more customers due to better marketing.

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Aldi Launches the Medion LifeTab Android Tablet – $99, 7″ Screen, Dual-Core CPU

Posted: 09 Dec 2013 01:47 PM PST

Having sold30016239_PIC-H_Dtrick_002 PCs, cameras, laptops, and even the occasional ebook reader, the German-born grocery store chain Aldi is no stranger to selling budget electronics. And today they are selling a tablet.

Would you like a budget tablet with your discount groceries?

I have just learned that the Medion LifeTab E7312, which had previously been launched in Aldi’s UK, Dutch, and German stores, is now available in the US with a retail price of $99. This tablet sports an unnamed dual-core CPU with a pair of cameras, a decent resolution screen, and otherwise eye-catching specs.

Like many other current budget tablets, the Medion LifeTab E7312 runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. It has a 7″ screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600, a dual-core 1.4GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, Bluetooth, and Wifi.

medion lifetab

It also has a g-sensor, a single speaker on the back, 2 cameras (a VGA webcam and a 2MP rearcam), 8GB of storage, and a microSD card slot. Retail price is $99, and it’s in stores now.

It’s often difficult to prejudge a tablet just based on the specs, but I can tell you that hardly any tablets at the $99 price point have 2 cameras, and more than a few only have 4GB of storage. Just on those 2 points alone the Medion LifeTab E7312 comes out ahead.

But will the performance live up to the specs? I don’t know, but I can say that Aldi has a reputation for providing a good value for the price. I think there’s a good chance they’ll keep that reputation.

Medion LifeTab E7312

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Law Firms Now Piling on to SEC Investigation into B&N

Posted: 09 Dec 2013 12:16 PM PST

Upset thatbarnes noble logo they had not reached their quota for billable hours for 2013, four different law firms (so far) have announced plans to investigate Barnes & Noble. All 4 firms are piling on to the investigation which the SEC is conducting into possible financial irregularities.

That SEC investigation was revealed last week, but has yet to actually uncover any wrongdoing. But now that the SEC is going to be assisted by these 4 firms I am sure that any wrongdoing will be uncovered (assuming B&N actually did anything wrong, which I still doubt).

At this point I have no information beyond what B&N shared in the 10-Q report they filed last week:

On October 16, 2013, the SEC's New York Regional office notified the Company that it had commenced an investigation into: (1) the Company's restatement of earnings announced on July 29, 2013, and (2) a separate matter related to a former non-executive employee's allegation that the Company improperly allocated certain Information Technology expenses between its NOOK and Retail segments for purposes of segment reporting. The Company is cooperating with the SEC, including responding to requests for documents.

Nevertheless, the law firms of Bronstein, Gewirtz, & Grossman, LLC; Levi & Korsinsky; Johnson & Weaver, LLP; and Pomerantz, Grossman, Hufford, Dahlstrom, & Gross are all investigating claims on behalf of investors of Barnes & Noble, Inc. They are seeking B&N shareholders who might be interested in signing on with the investigations and share in the settlement shakedown should any wrongdoing be uncovered.

Should the law firms join forces I understand that their efforts will be lead by Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe.

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B&N Starts Windows-only Promotion for International Nook Store – Does It Belong to MS Now?

Posted: 09 Dec 2013 10:46 AM PST

Microsoft’s Nook-brandednook_logo ebookstore got a promotional boost from Barnes & Noble today.

Readers in Spain who install the Nook app for Windows 8.1 before 15 January can download 5 free popular Spanish language ebooks and 5 free magazines issues. 

The list features bestselling titles Estaba en el aire by Sergio Vila Sanjuan, Yo Ya Estoy Muerto by Julia Navarro, El Club del Cupcake by Clara P. Villalón, Pequeña historia del Mundo and No Estamos Locos by El Gran Wyoming, along with current issues of top selling magazines Car and Driver, Fotogramas, Elle (Spain Edition), Hola and Gadget.

This is B&N’s second Windows-only promotion in as many weeks; last Thursday they announced a similar offer for the UK which also included 5 free ebooks and 5 free magazine issues.

There’s no word on when B&N plans to run a similar offer for ebooks in Basque or the other languages of Spain, but I suppose this is a good start. There’s also no information on when B&N plans to let readers in Spain read Nook ebooks on the Nook Apps for Android, iPad, or Windows/OSX, but I am beginning to suspect that this is never going to happen.

It’s been just over 2 weeks since B&N announced the expansion of the Nook Store into an additional 30 countries, but access in those countries is still restricted to only the Nook app for Windows 8.1 and not the Nook apps for Android, iOS, or other platforms.

After 2 weeks I have reached the conclusion that the international Nook store might bear the Nook brand, it might use the Nook servers, but it doesn’t appear to belong to B&N. The international Nook Store is rapidly falling under the purview of Microsoft.

MS invested $600 million into Nook Media when it was launched last year. That amounted to little more than pocket change for Microsoft, but it was not clear why MS invested the funds. Now that B&N has released several new versions of the Nook app for Windows 8 and launched localized ebookstores with unimpressive catalogs which can only be accessed via Windows 8.1, I think we know.

TBH, I could be wrong in my interpretation, but at this point there is nothing you can point at which disagrees with me. And if I am right then consider for a moment what this means for B&N.

If B&N is never going to expand internationally but are instead going to stay strictly a US/UK only company then they have arguably demoted themselves. They’re on their way to not being one of the major ebookstores anymore. Of course, the latest quarterly reports (where B&N showed a drop in digital revenue) have already told us that but the fact that B&N appears to be acting in a way that confirms their loss of status is news to me.

But Nate, you say, how can an ebookstore available in 32 countries not be important?

Because in many of those countries Windows 8.1 has a negligible share of the PC OS market (10% globally). We’re talking millions of devices at most, when Android and iOS can boast hundreds of millions of devices, which is naturally going to limit the opportunities to sell ebooks. Also, I’ve heard that the selection is limited. My contacts in Germany were disappointed in how few titles were available in German.

At this point the US ebook market may or may not have flattened out (it’s still up for debate), but there’s still a lot of opportunities for growth in other countries. B&N is not set up to take advantage of the rising tide of the growing ebook markets, which means in the long run they will be supplanted by smaller competitors who are pursuing the new markets.

P.S. Keep an eye out for B&N releasing new Android and iOS apps which can be used in more countries.  That will likely be the first solid proof that B&N is serious about international expansion, and not just acting on behalf of Microsoft.

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