Monday, 27 January 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 28 January 2014

Posted: 27 Jan 2014 09:30 PM PST

Top stories this Tuesday morning include an interview of Oyster’s CEO (link), a defense of tablet photography (link), a deeper look into the backlash against longform content being published simply because it’s long (link), a response to Mike Shatzkin (link), a retrospective of first reviews of new Apple products (link), and more.

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Apple Sold 26 Million iPads, 51 Million iPhones Last Quarter

Posted: 27 Jan 2014 04:21 PM PST

Appleimage.axd released their latest quarterly report today, and it’s pretty clear that many people ran out and bought the new iPads and iPhones last quarter. With international sales accounting for 63% of revenue, the company reported quarterly revenue of $57.6 billion, and a quarterly net profit of $13.1 billion, up from 54.5 billion and $13.1 billion in the same quarter last year.

Apple sold a total of 4.8 million Macs, 51 million iPhones, and 26 million iPads last quarter, up from 4.1 million Macs, 47.8 million iPhones, and 22.9 million iPads in the same quarter last year. That is a record high for iPad and iPhone sales, with about 197 million tablets sold since the first model was launched 4 years ago. With the launch of 2 new iPads and 2 new iPhones last quarter, it is also not a surprise.

And according to the handy PDF fact sheet, Apple also sold $4.4 billion in content (software/services/iTunes,etc) last quarter, up from $3.7 billion in the same period last year.

In spite of the generally good news, Apple did not meet the expectations of analysts, some of whom predicted higher tablet sales and a better revenue report.  I would not pay too much attention because these folks are frequently wrong about Apple hardware predictions, to the point that flipping a coin would give you a better chance of accurately predicting Apple’s next move.

And even though I am not surprised by Apple ‘s record revenue report, I am impressed that they once again managed to beat their own previous stellar record. I am not sure how many times they will be able to pull that off.

The post Apple Sold 26 Million iPads, 51 Million iPhones Last Quarter appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Announces “New” Pilot Program With UC-Davis Bookstore

Posted: 27 Jan 2014 02:42 PM PST

Ucdavis_aggies[1]Remember that partnership between UC-Davis Stores and Amazon, which I wrote about in November 2013?

It’s now official. Earlier today Amazon formally announced the launch of a pilot program where the University of California Bookstores acts as an affiliate for Amazon.

As I look over the press release I see that many of the details I reported 2 months ago are still valid, so I am going to direct your attention over to that older post. I’ve updated the post with the few new details revealed today.

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At $99, the 2012 Kobo Arc Tablet Could be a Decent Value

Posted: 27 Jan 2014 01:16 PM PST

A Kobo Arcreader left a comment on the Kobo Arc 7 review I posted yesterday, asking me why I was reviewing that tablet rather than the cheaper Kobo Arc. I didn’t have a good answer, but after looking over the product listing for Kobo’s 2012 Android tablet, I think I may have goofed.

If you’re in the market for a budget tablet, don’t forget to check out the 2012 Kobo Arc. This tablet debuted in late 2012 with a $199 retail price but can now be had for a mere $99.

The Arc is in many ways better than its newer sibling, but not all. It has a higher resolution screen (1280 x 800), a higher resolution camera (1.3MP), a softer design with 2 front-facing speakers, and ships with more internal storage (16GB).

Of course, the older tablet is running an older version of Android Jelly Bean, and it lacks a card slot. It also only has a 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU, and not the quad-core CPU found in the Arc 7, so in some ways it does look inferior. But at $99, I can live with the older version of Android. And since I bet that the 16GB of storage is actually more than most people will need, the lack of a card slot probably doesn’t matter.

And based on the demo video I saw on Youtube it’s clear the 2012 Arc is more of a media tablet and less of a reading tablet (like the Arc 7), so I’m sure the front-facing speakers and generally better media abilities will be highly valued.

This tablet has garnered decent reviews over the past year, and now that it costs only half as much it could be argued that it is twice as good of a value. The 2012 Arc is available at several different retailers:

P.S.  I don’t know when I will have a chance to put my hands on one, but this tablet is on my todo list (after 4 or 5 other devices).

Thanks, ushg!


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New Wearable from MIT’s Media Lab Wants to be the “Feelie” for Books

Posted: 27 Jan 2014 10:26 AM PST

Thebeach2[1] Media Lab at MIT has just revealed a new concept for a physically interactive book called Sensory Fiction, and it looks like Sci-Fi’s longtime pipedream of programmable sensorial storytelling has finally finally come to pass.

The Sensory Fiction project is designed to try to physically make you feel the characters’ emotions as you read the story. It consists of a hodgepodge of networked sensors and actuators, divided between a new type of connected book and a harness worn by the reader, which combine to create physical sensations that mimic what the characters are feeling.

Changes in the protagonist's emotional or physical state triggers discrete feedback in the wearable, whether by changing the heartbeat rate, creating constriction through air pressure bags, or causing localized temperature fluctuations.

This sounds like it is still just an early concept design, and not the sophisticated feelie which Aldous Huxley described in Brave New World, and at the moment it can influence the reader by inflating airbags in the harness (to increase tension), playing sounds, vibrating to influence heart rate, and using LEDs to change the ambient light based on the setting and mood.

The initial project was developed for Alice Sheldon’s (writing as James Tiptree) The Girl Who Was Plugged in, a story in which the protagonist experiences life via a neural link to a body which she remotely controlled. You can see the idea in action below.

On a technical level this is a fascinating idea, but I think it may have been developed under a mistaken assumption. If readers wanted to experience the events they are reading about they would put the book down, get out of their comfortable chair, and go have adventures.

Then again I am usually a reactionary to the various attempts to gild the reading experience, but in this case I would point out that if a writer is good enough to convey the sensation with only words then there is no need for the harness shown above. And if the author is not good enough to convey a story with only words then what are the odds they will be able to write a worthwhile story which makes use of the Sensory Fiction harness?

In any case, I’d much rather see someone develop a story around Disney’s HideOut. That project uses a small projector to add content to a paper book:

disney hideout

Media Lab


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Can’t Read Your eBooks? Adobe’s New DRM Update Could be the Cause

Posted: 27 Jan 2014 06:46 AM PST

Whenadobe-logo Adobe debuted their new Epub DRM last week some predicted that the new DRM would soon cause compatibility problems, and it looks like that prediction came true sooner than I would have liked.

There are several reports on Twitter this morning that a bug in the latest version of Adobe DE is wreaking havoc, with several users reporting that they have ebooks which could be downloaded to Adobe DE but not transferred over to an ebook reader (like the Nook, Aura, or PRS-T3):

This has also been confirmed by a couple other users (one, two). According to Micah Bowers, CEO of Bluefire Reader, the bug is only affecting a small fraction of newly downloaded ebooks and it is blocking users from transferring their purchased ebooks to their ebook readers. That’s not what one user reported on Twitter:

It’s not completely clear whether the new DRM is specifically to blame and not simply the fact that major new app releases are sometimes buggier than one would like, but Adobe has been apprised of the issue and I am sure they are working on a fix.  But until they release an update you probably should not install Adobe DE 3.0.

What we have here is an example of why you should never install new apps until after someone else has had a chance to be a guinea pig. Adobe DE 3.0 included a few minor improvements, but its chief noteworthy feature was the new and supposedly uncrackable DRM, and until I new for sure that it wasn’t going to bite me in the ass I wasn’t going to install the update.

TBH, I wasn’t going to install the update until I knew for sure that the DRM had been cracked, thus enabling me to protect my purchases. I’m told that has not yet been accomplished, but I would bet that someone is working on it.

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