Sunday, 12 January 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 13 January 2014

Posted: 12 Jan 2014 09:20 PM PST

Top stories this Monday morning include a complaint about estates stifling biographies (link), a look at a new metal ink that lights up (link), a call for the greater use of commas (link), another look at B&N’s Nook problem (link), and more.

  • Everything has Changed, but Nothing is Different (The ASJA Monthly)
  • Five Reasons the Worldwide Ebook Market Saw Huge Growth in 2013 (DBW)
  • Kobo Updates for iOS 7 (TNW)
  • My Shel Silverstein biography can't quote Shel Silverstein. Why? (Slate)
  • New Research Article: Young Children's Engagement With E-Books at School (LJ INFOdocket)
  • Nine reasons that being a book loving shut-in is better than being a social butterfly (Momentum Books)
  • Some Thoughts On B&N's Nook problem (Eoin Purcell’s Blog)
  • What Not To Do with … Calibre (Indies Unlimited)
  • When Sharing Goes Bad, Pithy Quote Fetish and Kids These Days (Ideas and Thoughts)
  • Where Have All the Commas Gone? (The Kill Zone)
  • Will this new metal ink transform the eBook experience? (Book Patrol)

The post The Morning Coffee – 13 January 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.’s New Revisionist History Blames Amazon for the Apple Anti-Trust Lawsuit

Posted: 12 Jan 2014 05:35 PM PST has long been a member of the Amazon is evil camp, and they’re back again today with yet another installment.

In what is ostensibly a post on the latest Apple v DOJ tussle (the hearing scheduled for tomorrow), Kathleen Sharp has managed to drag in Amazon several times,  and bring up multiple irrelevant arguments. I am always a fan of short-form fiction published by, so I am overjoyed to once again have an opportunity to discuss’s latest flight of fancy.

It’s a good one, and starts out with a whopper:

You may remember that Amazon helped persuade the U.S. Department of Justice to sue Apple in April 2012, claiming that Apple conspired with five of the nation's largest publishers to fix the price of e-books at a level different than what Amazon had set.

I don’t remember that Amazon persuaded the DOJ to do anything. What I remember is that at least 2 of the state’s attorney generals were investigating Apple and the 5 publishers since August 2010 (so said the WSJ).

So Amazon hoodwinked the DOJ and the attorneys general for nearly 50 states into conducting a 2 year long investigation? Really?

Amazon, the web's biggest retailer, had been selling published books at a money-losing rate of $9.99. Why? To get us to buy its Kindle e-book reader, and to dominate the e-book market. Amazon's strategy worked. According to court documents, the firm soon controlled 90 percent of the e-book market.

As I pointed out when I last debunked one of’s works of fiction, the DOJ has concluded that there is no evidence that Amazon is selling ebooks at a loss (link).

And as I also pointed out in that post, not all of the ebooks sold by Amazon in the pre-agency era cost $10 or less. I know I regularly paid more, and I’m not the only one.

This meant that publishers — who had invested in the writing, production, promotion and distribution of these books — couldn't sell their wares at the recommended retail price of $14.99.

Um, the publishers weren’t selling the ebooks, Amazon was, but is Sharp really trying to argue that publishers were unable to set the retail price they wanted and let Amazon take a loss?

That doesn’t make any sense.

Nor could brick-and-mortar stores match Amazon's money-losing discounts. Amazon's product-dumping and predatory pricing helped bankrupt many small-town bookstores. Yet, neither publishers nor independent booksellers sued Amazon, even though they might have had a good case (as we'll soon see).

B&N was often matching Amazon price for price on new hardcovers. And if Amazon was killing small-town bookstores then why did the ABA have more members in 2013 than in 2012? And why did Forbes and the Washington Post report that indie bookstores are thriving?

Also, Sharp never does explain why publishers and indie booksellers would have had a good case for suing Amazon (not that I can see, anyway).

So how did this wacky e-book case get so far?

It started in the Rainier Tower in Seattle, home of Steve Berman and his law firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP. …

Sharp spends the next 8 paragraphs focusing on one of the anti-trust lawyers who sued Apple and the 5 publishers on behalf of consumers. I’m not quite sure why she wrote about him at such length, but I suspect she was trying to imply that because this lawyer is based in Seattle he must be Amazon’s patsy.

But never mind her motive; let’s look at the details she got wrong:

Allegations of collusion attracted the DOJ and other government agencies charged with upholding state and federal laws. In April 2012, the DOJ picked up Berman's argument and sued Apple.

So what does Sharp think the state’s attorneys general and the DOJ were doing in the 20 months since August 2010, twiddling their thumbs? She doesn’t offer a clear explanation, but she does go on to raise an irrelevant argument:

Every year, the "Library & Book Trade Almanac," an authority in the field, reports annual sales by book category. It 2008, when Amazon had a lock on the market, it reported that the average price of an adult fiction e-book in the U.S. in was $8.71. In 2009, as more people self-published books, the average dropped to $8.21. In 2010, when Apple introduced its agency model for e-books, the price dropped 14 percent to $7.06. And when publishers were up and running against Amazon in 2011, the average price of an e-book sank by an astonishing 32 percent — to $4.83. "That's a steal," said Al Greco, a professor of marketing at Fordham University.

The average selling price of ebooks on the US market-is irrelevant to this lawsuit; it is no more or less than a red herring and has been a red herring no matter whether it is Mark Coker, Joe Wikert (or rather his guest), or Sharp who makes the argument.


For one thing, the phrase “raise ebook prices” is itself a red herring (the publishers conspired to gain control, not simply to raise prices). And then there’s the point that (as I pointed out in August 2012) the 5 publishers were only trying to control their own prices, not everyone else’s.

And the DOJ has already shown that the average price of ebooks published by the 5 publishers actually went up as a result of agency pricing. There’s even a convenient chart:


I’d love to see someone refute that one.

I don’t think Sharp will be able to, but she does go on to muddy the waters even more:

Which gets to the heart of this bizarre case: The numbers show that, far from hurting the market, the publishers' and Apple's agency model actually helped it. They allowed Barnes & Noble to gain a foothold in the e-book market, provided relief to the independent brick-and-mortar stores, and gave consumers lower rather than higher prices.

I’m sorry, but I was under the impression that the whole price-fixing issue involved ebooks. Indie booksellers have only a negligible share of the US ebook market, so how exactly did agency pricing provide relief?

Apple and the DOJ are going back to court tomorrow to argue over the conduct of and fees charged by the court-appointed monitor, Michael Bromwich, and that’s why Sharp spent the rest of her article slanting all of the disagreements between the DOJ, Bromwich, and Apple in favor of Apple.

I won’t repeat them here, but I suspect that the judge will see things differently.

The post’s New Revisionist History Blames Amazon for the Apple Anti-Trust Lawsuit appeared first on The Digital Reader.

BinPad Promises a New Way to Help you Search for and Find Content

Posted: 12 Jan 2014 07:54 AM PST

CES is 5229159351_a1405a1c2a_b[1]best known for developers showing off new gadgetry but that’s not the only tech that made an appearance this year. At the CES Unveiled event Sunday night I came across a new search engine called BinPad. It’s the work of a Hungarian startup called XDroid, and it promises to offer a new way to find content.

According to their website XDroid specializes in AI, which in this case means that they have developed a new way to find and organize related data. BinPad is in some ways a working tech demo which shows off what XDroid can do, and it includes examples of how BinPad could work with search results, educational content, and news. (XDroid is also going to have demos for TV content and user-generated content but they’re not available yet.)

The news section wasn’t terribly clever at suggesting stories, and educational section was strictly a limited demo, so I spent some time today playing around with the BinPad search engine. It has interesting potential.

As a simple test, I looked up the word Kindle and these are the results I got:

binpad search

The organic search results (what Google would give you) are found in the first section on the left. The other sections on the screen are suggested results based on what BinPad thinks are related terms, and along the bottom of the screen are a set of images related to the search term.

In addition to selecting one of the results, you can click on the 3 dots in the lower right corner of each section and get more results for that section or you can click on the search symbol in the upper right corner and focus on that particular term. This will bring up a set of suggested related search results.

If you keep clicking on one or another search symbol you can navigate from one related term to another, eventually getting far off topic. This could be useful at times; serendipity is sometimes a useful search tool and few search engines are set up to take advantage of it.

I think BinPad could use some more work on suggesting related terms, but there are still a few interesting ideas here.  For example, the way the results are organized is much more useful and practical than most search engines, which usually give you a single column of results. Sometimes this can result in spurious results being mixed in because the search engine thought the results were relevant even though they don’t strictly meet the search criteria (Amazon’s search engine is pretty bad on this – almost to the point of being useless).

Pulling out suggested related results into their own sections is an idea worth adopting. BinPad would also benefit from a third option for the search results; I want a delete button. If a suggested related term isn’t relevant to what I want then I would like to be able to get rid of it and see a different suggested result.

And there are ideas here which I would like to see adopted by bookstore websites. But to get the maximum effect they would also need to improve the pool of content in which they are searching. I’m not referring to the books, just the metadata supplied by authors and publishers. It would be interesting to see BinPad’s hierarchical search results be combined with a deeper understanding of the content of a book –  one provided by BookLamp, for example. That Idaho based startup is quite good at telling you a book’s genome, but I think that it might be able to learn a thing or two about how to show how 2 books relate to each other.

image by liewcf



The post BinPad Promises a New Way to Help you Search for and Find Content appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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