Friday, 24 January 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

New Email Promises a Refund for Ex-Fictionwise Customers

Posted: 24 Jan 2014 10:51 AM PST

Have you gotten an email from a company called Penchecks, promising a refund for a Fictionwise store credit club membership? I just got one in my inbox this morning, and I’m pretty sure it’s legit.


It seems Barnes & Noble is in the final stages of shutting down Fictionwise, the ebookstore they acquired in 2009 and then closed in December 2012, and as part of settling outstanding debts B&N has decided to offer  refunds to ex-Fictionwise customers who still had a store credit or time left on their Buywise Club membership.

The email comes via a company called, and after looking into them I am pretty sure that they are legit. A google search did not show any signs of questionable activity, the reimbursement process did not raise any red flags, and this firm was even mentioned on the Fictionwise website.

If you haven’t gotten one, the email says that I have about a week to sign up with PenChecks in order to get a “cash reimbursement” from Fictionwise.  They ask me to go to a website, enter the code, and fill out a form.

I’m sure everyone reading this is as concerned as I was about being scammed, so I went ahead and completed the process. PenChecks already had nearly all of my contact info (email, street address, name, phone number), so all I had to do was check a few boxes, confirm that I wanted to get my check, and I was done.

Note: I was not asked for credit card info, bank account routing details, or any other personal info that a scammer would want. I was as concerned as you are, so I want to make that point clear.

According to PenChecks, I’m getting about $45 back as a check.  That was a surprise; I didn’t think my membership was still valid when Fictiownise shut down. I was under the impression it had expired, but I guess I was wrong.

This is going to make a nice little bonus to go along with all the Fictionwise ebooks which were transferred to my B&N account in early 2012. I was luckier than most; B&N managed to get my entire library transferred. Many former Fictionwise customers (who aren’t visible ebook bloggers) weren’t so lucky – and don’t get me started on Fictionwise’s international customers, who were shafted.

Email snippet:

RE: Fictionwise Buywise Club Membership
Dear Fictionwise Buywise Club Account Holder,

This email is to inform you that will be providing you with a cash reimbursement of the Buywise Club Membership that you enrolled in at This reimbursement has been prorated based on the end of sales at in December 2012. Fictionwise has contracted with PenChecks, the nation's largest independent distribution processor, to facilitate this distribution.

To complete the distribution process, please update your information as prompted in the mailing address update form at . Please note that all updates must be confirmed by 2/5/2014.

The post New Email Promises a Refund for Ex-Fictionwise Customers appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Just Like Adults, Kids Aren’t Reading on Tablets and eReaders

Posted: 24 Jan 2014 08:15 AM PST

A new report reveals that nearly 2/3 of kids in the US live in a household with either a tablet or ebook reader, but only about half that number have read on the device.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center released a new report today which shares the results of their most recent survey into kids’ media usage in the US. A total of 1,577 parents on how much time their 2 to 10 year old children spent with educational content on televisions, computers and video games.


According to the parents who participated in the survey, their kids read paper books an average of 29 minutes a day, but they only averaged 8 minutes reading on a computer and 5 minutes a day on either an ereader or tablet. The parents also estimated that their kids spent 56 minutes a day consuming educational screen media (this includes watching DVD, games, online research, and reading), so that 5 minute statistic is as low as it sounds.

But it’s also not a surprise. Just last week the Pew Research Center reported that half of American adults owned either a tablet or ereader, and 28% had read an ebook in the past year. This is fairly close to the figures reported by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which tells us that kids and adults are adopting ebooks at about the same rate.

The new report also tells us that parents believed that 44% of the time their kids spent using digital media was educational.Eight in ten children (80%) use educational media at least once a week, including a third (34%) who who use it daily. The more frequent users of educational media tended to cluster in the younger age groups, with the 2-to-4 year old group averaging 76 minutes a day (out of 97 minutes screen time). This ratio tended to reverse itself as kids got older, with 8-to-10 year olds spending 42 minutes a day on educational media (out of 2:36 screen time).

More than half (57%) say their child has learned "a lot" about one or more subject areas (e.g., reading/vocabulary, math, or cognitive skills) from educational media, and 54% say their child "often" takes specific actions as a result of their exposure to educational media, such as talking about something they saw
(38%), engaging in imaginative play based on it (34%), asking questions about it (26%), or asking to do a project or activity inspired by it (18%).

You can find the complete report on the website.

Business Insider

image by Harald Groven

The post Just Like Adults, Kids Aren’t Reading on Tablets and eReaders appeared first on The Digital Reader.

At $169, is the Surface RT a Viable Budget Tablet?

Posted: 24 Jan 2014 06:59 AM PST

Microsoft msftsurfacestandalone1[1]didn’t have much luck with the MS Surface tablet when it launched in late 2012. Originally a $500 tablet, it has been marked down again and again, finally ending up with a $300 price tag (its replacement costs $449). Microsoft even ended up taking a $900 million charge in July 2013 due to unsold inventory, but their loss is your gain.

Today you can get the original Surface RT tablet as a refurb. A reader (Thanks, Patrick!) tipped me to the fact that it’s selling on Ebay for $169, making it potentially a good deal for a budget tablet.

Update: The seller bumped the price to $199.

This 10″ tablet runs Windows RT 8.1 on a quad-core Tegra 3 CPU with 2GB RAM, 32GB storage (only about half is accessible), a microSD card slot, 2 cameras, and BT/Wifi. Screen resolution is a decent 1366 x 768.

The Surface RT was originally conceived as a competitor to the iPad, but now that you can get it for $170 it is arguably worth considering as a budget tablet. The specs alone make it a good deal at $169, though this is a refurb so you might want to also buy a warranty. The screen size, CPU speed, and storage is better than what you can find for large tablets in this price range (unless you’re looking at another refurb).

But the OS, well that’s another matter. This tablet runs Windows RT, which is the cut-down version of Windows 8.  You can run Windows RT apps but not anything developed for an earlier version of Windows, and that limits what you can do with the tablet. You’re stuck with whatever apps have been developed for this particular OS, and if they have quirks or simply don’t work then tough gummy bears.  For example, the Kindle app for Windows 8/RT cannot read ebooks that are downloaded from sites other than Amazon. (I think it has to do with this app being the functional equivalent of the Kindle Cloud Reader, but I’m not sure.)

And then there’s the baffling interface. I don’t know anyone who likes the Metro interface on Windows RT/8, and after reading Jane Litte’s review of the Surface Pro 2 I’m pretty sure I’ll hate it as well.

But on the plus side, a couple readers reminded me that this tablet does come with Office RT, which is a more complete version of an office suite than can be found on Android (Thanks, Lynne and Paul!).

And in case you were wondering, it’s not possible to install Android (I checked).

But it’s not like the Surface RT is completely with out apps; there are web browsers, the Nook app, and there was also the Kobo app (before they pulled it), and even Adobe has released a version of Adobe Reader.

So as a $169 budget tablet, this is not a bad deal. But it’s also not necessarily the absolute best deal.

For about $80 more you can get an 8″ tablet which runs a full Windows 8 (and not Windows RT) MS is selling the Toshiba Encore for $249. And if that’s not your thing then you could get the Dell Venue 8 for $265 (at Amazon). Sure, those tablets cost more but are also a heck of a lot more capable than the original Surface RT.

But if you’re as cost-conscious as I am then you’ll probably spring for the Surface tablet refurb, which is still a not a bad deal.


P.S. Or, and just to give you a left field suggestion, you could get the Nook HD+ for $179. I didn’t much care for the quirks B&N introduced but the screen quality and battery life were impressive.

The post At $169, is the Surface RT a Viable Budget Tablet? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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