Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 15 January 2014

Posted: 14 Jan 2014 09:27 PM PST

Top uahLRf4[1]stories this morning a new rumor about Facebook’s new news reader (link), a possible GoodReads replacement (link), a look at what traditionally published earn (link), something cool (link), and more.

  • The Andraka Saga Continues — Vengeance via Wikipedia, and a More Complete View of the Claims (The Scholarly Kitchen)
  • Facebook Could Launch Its Flipboard-Like News Reader This Month (Re/code)
  • I'll Never Ever Look At Books The Same Again After Seeing These Hidden Messages. Wow. (The Meta Picture)
  • Ingram Invests in Social Ebook Retail Start-up Librify (DBW)
  • Kobo App | Why Is It Still So Annoying? (TeleRead)
  • Leafmarks – the Goodreads replacement? (Literary Ames)
  • Microsoft offering visually-impaired customers free screen reader software to help them use Office (TNW)
  • Publisher of Braille Pornography Books to Go Public (The Daily Indignity)
  • Why authors and trad pub don’t reveal authors’ earnings (The Passive Voice)

The post The Morning Coffee – 15 January 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Today’s Net Neutrality Ruling Could Throw a Wrench in Amazon’s Gadget Plans

Posted: 14 Jan 2014 04:35 PM PST

An appealsfcc-logo court in the District of Columbia ruled today that the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which prevent ISPs from favoring one source of internet traffic over others (example: Youtube vs Amazon), are invalid. The ruling is 81 pages long, and has big implications for content providers, consumers and the future of the internet.

The ruling was handed down by a 3-judge panel, with one judge dissenting in part. The tl;dr version of the ruling is that the FCC cannot impose and enforce net neutrality rules on ISPs because broadband isn’t classified as a “common-carrier” service. The ruling does note that the FCC has the general authority to regulate ISPs, and it let certain parts of the rules imposed by the FCC stand. For example the FCC can still require ISPs to disclose how they are regulating traffic.

Today’s ruling comes as the latest stage in a decade long debate on whether traffic on the internet should be treated as a single class or (as some ISPs would like) whether different types of internet traffic should be given a priority, thus enabling ISPs to possibly  charge for premium service and degrade the service of any type of traffic which they don’t approve.

The issues with not having a net neutrality rule were made most clear in 2007 and 2008 when Comcast (as well as other ISPs like Canada’s Cogeco and Rogers) was repeatedly caught blocking BitTorrent traffic.

As a result of that incident and the ongoing failure of Congress to pass a law in support of net neutrality, the FCC declared in 2009 that Verizon, AT&T, and other ISPs could no longer even think about favoring one source of traffic over another. These net neutrality rules, which were modified a couple times before taking their final form in 2010, were in part struck down today.

This ruling will affect streaming services like Youtube and Netflix, but it will most especially affect Amazon.

More than any other gadget maker, Amazon depends on content in order to subsidize the cost of their hardware. And thanks to Amazon’s thin margins they are probably going to be the first to feel the pressure from ISPs that trying to double dip by charging Amazon to deliver the content that customers are already paying to receive. That means that Amazon’s rumored set-top box has a cloud hanging over it, and so do the Kindle Fire tablets and the rumored smartphone.

This will also negatively affect the 4k video streaming service that Amazon announced last week. “4k” refers to a display resolution of 3850×2160 or higher. That’s over 3 times the resolution of a 1080p video, so as I’m sure you can imagine a streaming video with a 4k resolution is going to be something of a bandwidth hog.

But I wouldn’t worry too much just yet that an ISP might throttle the 4k streaming porn service you just subscribed to; the ruling also included a few clues as to how the FCC could regulate ISPs:

That said, even though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates. Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.

Basically the FCC needs to wave a magic wand and declare ISPs as common carriers.  And if that doesn’t settle the issue, it is entirely within the purview of Congress to give the FCC new regulatory authority. And of course there is the possibility that this case might be appealed to the US Supreme Court, but I don’t see why that body would overrule the appeals court ruling.

Thanks, Ray!

The post Today’s Net Neutrality Ruling Could Throw a Wrench in Amazon’s Gadget Plans appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Japan Display Takes Aim at Smartwatch Market With New Low-Power LCD Watch Faces

Posted: 14 Jan 2014 11:55 AM PST

Here’s a story I missed while at CES last week.

Japan Display, a specialist in cutting edge screen tech research and development, unveiled a couple new low-power screens last week. The screens measure 1″ across and 1.4″ diagonally, and are pretty clearly intended to go into smartwatches and other tiny mobile gadgets:


 According to the press release these 2 screen modules are based on screen tech which JDI has been working on since at least late 2012. They are reflective (no backlight) LCD displays which are designed to consume very little power, thus making them suitable for ultra-low power applications like smartwatches. These screens also feature a unique low-power trick: each pixel contains a small amount of sRAM. This enables the screen to maintain an image on the screen without constantly having to refresh it.

This tech first appeared in late 2012 when JDI showed off a 7″ prototype. I had been hoping that we might see that screen integrated into a tablet, but so far as I know that hasn’t happened. Instead JDI turned to producing a much less capable version of the screen for the wearables market.

The screen units shown above are only capable of displaying 64 colors, and not the thousands or millions of colors you might expect in a regular LCD screen. The round screen measures .99″ and has a resolution of 180 pixels, while the rectangular screen measures 1.39″ with a resolution of 205 × 148. They are in mass-production now, and with luck could show up in mobile devices later this year.


The post Japan Display Takes Aim at Smartwatch Market With New Low-Power LCD Watch Faces appeared first on The Digital Reader.

“Netflix for eBooks” Oyster Raises $14 Million – Plans to Launch Apps for Android, Web Browser

Posted: 14 Jan 2014 10:39 AM PST

Oyster revealedoyster logo today that the subscription ebook business is booming.

This 15 month old startup has just completed its second round of funding, raising another $14 million. Investors include Highland Capital Partner, existing investor Founders Fund (led by Peter Thiel), and others. This is the firm’s second round of funding, following the $3 million it raised in late 2012.

Oyster now boasts that for a mere $10 a month they offer subscribers access to over 100,000 titles from over 500 publishers. They haven’t disclosed their subscriber base as of yet, so there’s no way to tell whether Oyster is larger than their older and better funded competitor, Scribd.

The new cash will help Oyster as it embarks on a significant expansion effort, according to Eric Stromberg, a co-founder and CEO. Oyster launched in September 2013 with an iPhone app (they released an iPad app about a month later), but they have yet to expand on to other platforms. Also, the service is still only available in the US, but I am sure that this will change in the near future.


In related news, Oyster is looking to rapidly expand their staff. They have over a dozen openings listed on the jobs page on their website, including both managers and employees.  That includes a couple developer positions which offer hints about Oyster’s future plans.

Oyster has job openings for a web engineer and an Android engineer, and yes the jobs are focused on books. To be more exact, Oyster wants some one who can “Liberate books by bringing reading onto the web in a dramatically beautiful way.” There’s no word on when the apps are expected, but I do know that the opening for the Android engineer has been available since late September 2013.

I would expect that Oyster plans to release these apps post haste; they are at something of a disadvantage in that Scribd launched their service with support for reading apps on Android, iPad/iPhone, and in your web browser. Scribd’s service is also available globally, thus giving it a strong market advantage over Oyster.

The post “Netflix for eBooks” Oyster Raises $14 Million – Plans to Launch Apps for Android, Web Browser appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Class Action Lawsuits Filed Against B&N

Posted: 14 Jan 2014 08:52 AM PST

Barnes & Noble just can’t catch a break. Sales are down in B&N stores, their digital investment is a money pit, and now they are the subject of several class action lawsuits. Over the past week 3 different law firms (one, two, three) have issued press releases, announcing that they are suing B&N, and that number is bound to grow.

pst1147thr[1]The firms are suing on behalf of stockholders, and they alleging that B&N misled investors between 25 February 2013 and 5 December 2013. The lawsuits are based on the disclosure made by B&N last month. The retailer mentioned in their SEC filing that they had been notified by the SEC that the retailer was being investigated concerning (one) an allegation made by an ex-B&N manager, and (two) the restatement of earnings made on 29 July 2013.

But according to the law firms, there’s more to it than that. Each of the three firms is making different allegations, but there is a fair amount of consistency between each of the press releases. Pomerantz is alleging that B&N made false and misleading statements to shareholders and failed to disclose material adverse facts. Ryan & Maniska concurs with that claim, and in their press release they spelled out B&N’s supposed dissembling:

  1. Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-book reader sales had dramatically declined,
  2. the Company would shutter its Nook manufacturing operations altogether,
  3.  the carrying value of the Nook assets were impaired by millions of dollars,
  4. the carrying value of the Nook inventory was overstated by $133 million,
  5. the Company was expecting fiscal 2014 retail losses in the high single digits,
  6. Barnes & Noble had over-accrued certain accounts receivables,
  7. Barnes & Noble was unable to provide timely audited financial results for fiscal 2013, and
  8. the Company might be forced to restate its previously reported financial results.

All of these false and misleading statements reportedly took place between late February and December 2013, and that makes me wonder exactly who was misled and why they weren’t paying closer attention to the press coverage.

If you were a B&N stockholder during that period in 2013, the law firms are requesting that you contact them and join in the class action.


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Lab126 is in the Middle of a Kindle Hiring Spree in Boston

Posted: 14 Jan 2014 06:40 AM PST

It looks lab126like Lab126 is about to open a new office in Boston, Mass.

The Boston Globe’s tech blog has discovered that Amazon is holding a private recruiting event at the end of the month. It’s their second recruiting party in Boston in as many months, and it’s being held in a restaurant only a few blocks from the MIT campus. The invite for the first event drops a few revealing hints about Amazon’s future plans (or so I choose to believe):


If you cannot see the image, the second paragraph says that Amazon is “working on a revolutionary V1 product that will allow us to deliver Digital Media to our customers in new ways and disrupt the current marketplace.” Curiously enough, that quoted section is missing from the invite for the second event.

Update: It’s been pointed out to me on Twitter that 30 December 2013 did not fall on a Thursday.  30 January 2014 does, which means that the screenshot above is the early flawed description for the event coming up in a couple weeks.

Would anyone care to guess what that revolutionary product might be?

Rumors have circulated in the past that Amazon is working on a set-top box, a smartphone, and even more smartphones, Assuming those rumors are true then this new product would have to be something different. And I don’t think a new ebook reader or tablet would qualify as revolutionary, so those are out as well (plus they would be developed by existing teams).

So what do you think the new device is going to be?

I’m thinking that it could be some type of wearable. I don’t think this product niche is ever going to amount to much, but wearables (smartwatches, Google Glass, and the like) are a hot topic right now. Amazon might want to put a team together just to explore the possibilities.

The market for wearables is awfully small at the moment and populated by marginally functional products, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t grow. In fact, the ebook reader market in 2007 looked a lot like the wearables market does today. Perhaps Amazon might be able to upset the wearables market with a new product just like they did with the Kindle?

P.S. Amazon might also be recruiting developers for a software product; an app can be just as revolutionary as a new gadget. Would anyone care to guess what that might be?


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