Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 31 January 2014

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 09:09 PM PST

Top stories this morning include a typographical rant about the correct number of spaces after a full stop (link), 250 million kids can’t read (link), an old but only recently discovered post detailing the ties between B&N and CEO Riggio’s other business holdings (link), a useful way to combine the functions of Pocket and Evernote (link), and more.

  • Briefly: Apple v. Samsung (
  • Combine Pocket with Evernote for a Clutter-Free, Paperless System (LifeHacker)
  • Copyright Troll Perfect 10 Loses Once Again, Setting More Good Precedents For Copyright Law (Techdirt)
  • Fate of Girl Genius omnibus at Tor causes friction between the Foglios and Patrick Nielsen Hayden (TeleRead)
  • Flat World chips away at $9B textbook industry with cheaper digital versions (VentureBeat)
  • Keep me informed: parsing the logic of Ezra Klein's move to Vox Media (Pressthink)
  • Judge Understands BitTorrent, Kills Mass Piracy Lawsuits (TorrentFreak)
  • The Nook isn't the only thing dragging down Barnes & Noble. So are its ties to founder Leonard Riggio (Quartz)
  • Report: 250 Million School Age Kids Can’t Read (Huff Post)
  • Two spaces after a period: Why you should never, ever do it. (Slate)
  • Piracy, Saviour of the Book Industry (Forbes)

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Amazon’s Q4 Report Suggests the Kindle, Kindle Fire Have Peaked

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 07:08 PM PST

I’m sureamazon-logo3 that you’ve already read the news that Amazon released their year end report today, but did you happen to notice what wasn’t in the press release?

There were a few telling absences from the press release, and if we read between the lines we end up with a few questions Amazon hasn’t answered.

The press release starts out well. The financial news was generally good, with Amazon reporting that net sales were up in 2013:

Net sales increased 22% to $74.45 billion, compared with $61.09 billion in 2012. Excluding the $1.28 billion unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the year, net sales grew 24% compared with 2012.

Operating income increased 10% to $745 million, compared with $676 million in 2012. The unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the year on operating income was $29 million.

Net income was $274 million, or $0.59 per diluted share, compared with net loss of $39 million, or $0.09 per diluted share, in 2012.

Analysts weren’t happy, of course, but that’s no surprise.

After the financial news Amazon listed the accomplishments they wanted to highlight. It’s too long to quote here, so I suggest that you go read the press release. While you’re at it, count the number of times the Kindle is mentioned, and then count the mentions of the Kindle Fire.

Did you notice what wasn’t there?

There’s no mention of how many tablets and ereaders Amazon sold, and there’s no mention of how many ebooks they sold, either. Those are telling details, IMO, and they could be saying that Amazon’s hardware efforts and ebook efforts have peaked.

Amazon took the time to mention the new Australian Kindle Store, and they took time to mention Kindle on airplanes, Kindle mayday, Kindle FreeTime, and pretty much every other new Kindle program.

And yet Amazon didn’t mention ebook sales or hardware sales.

I’m sure some of my readers recall that I wrote a very similar post around this time last year. I can’t link to that post because it unfortunately has been eaten by my blog (I cannot find it in the Internet Archive’s Wayback machine, either). As I recall, I commented upon Amazon not mentioning their hardware sales; they mentioned ebook sales in the press release (up 70%), but not hardware, and I concluded that the hardware news was not good (or at least that’s what I think I wrote).

Earlier today I was reminded of that post by a reader who I think wanted to remain anonymous. He reached much the same conclusion I did. Actually, he went several steps further than I dare, and he wrote that

  • International expansion is basically at a standstill, both for Amazon as a whole and in particular for Kindle. After a few big launches in Europe and Asia, the roster of countries has remained the same for about a year. So the Kindle ecosystem basically exists in ten countries.
  • The Kindle Fire has gone through countless sales.
  • Kindle Fire appears to have flopped in mainland Europe. If you look at the rankings sometimes you'll see it below the top 100!
  • In both the UK and US, the Kindle store shows Paperwhite ahead of any Fire model.
  • This is anecdotal, but less and less Android developers seem to be making the effort of publishing on the Amazon store.My guess is the Kindle Fire has flopped, and the Paperwhite is doing OK but not booming in sales. Amazon will shove this under the carpet the usual way, i.e. through total silence.

I think he went too far, but I do agree that Amazon is no longer seeing the growth along the lines of what they reported in past years. I would go along with the theory that hardware sales have flattened (IDC estimates back this up), but I am not so sure I would make the same claim about ebook sales.

Yes, Amazon neglected to mention ebook sales, and while that probably means that there was insufficient growth, the relative lack of growth might have a cause other than Amazon’s digital efforts fizzling.

As you might recall, in 2012 there was an ebook sales bubble due to the release of The Hunger Games movie (and 50 Shades). This made the AAP’s stats for 2013 look flat, and Amazon’s sales could be suffering from the same effect.

Of course, the AAP statistics mainly cover the US ebook market, while Amazon sells internationally. But if Amazon wasn’t seeing much in the way of growth of international ebook sales then it might not have been enough to overcome the unimpressive stats for the US ebook market.

This is all speculation, obviously, but before you dismiss it as the ramblings of a madperson I would like to ask you one question.

Why didn’t Amazon use a phrase like “best year ever” to describe their ebook sales?

It’s vague enough that Amazon could have used it to refer to sales that were up by as little as a couple percent and still told the truth (and avoided an SEC investigation).  But Amazon didn’t even use a vague phrase, and I would argue that it’s a sign that sales were not up.

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N2A Cards Now Support Android 4.4 Kitkat – Can Turn Your B&N Tablet into a Real Tablet

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 04:56 PM PST

Do n2a cardsyou have one of Barnes & Noble’s tablets to spare and don’t know what to do with it? You might want to check out N2A cards.

This is a microSD card which comes with an open version of Android installed. Insert it into your B&N tablet (Nook Color, Nook Tablet, or Nook HD/HD+), reboot the tablet, and you’ll have a regular Android tablet free of B&N’s chains. The tablet will have full access to Google Play and come with a lot of useful apps.

And starting today, all cards will be shipped with the latest version of Android, 4.4 Kitkat. One of these $30 to $50 cards will turn your outdated device into one of the most modern Android tablets, giving you bragging rights over a lot of Android smartphone and tablet owners.

I’ve tried these cards once or twice myself without much luck, but I know several people who swear by them. And even I will agree that if you have an old B&N tablet and you want to get more use out of it this is worth a try.

N2A Cards

P.S. On a related note, N2A also expanded into offering a similar service for the Kindle Fire. For $20 they will sell you a firmware update which you can install on a Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD (2012), or the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (newer models not supported).

The post N2A Cards Now Support Android 4.4 Kitkat – Can Turn Your B&N Tablet into a Real Tablet appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Google Play for Education Adds Textbook Rentals, New Tablet from Samsung

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 02:19 PM PST

Google google_education[1]added a couple new partners to their bid for the $5.4 billion K-12 learning market this week, and they also announced new textbook options.

Toshiba, Lenovo, and Samsung have all announced that they would be launching a device as part of Google Play for Education; the former 2 will be contributing Chromebooks while the latter is launching an Android tablet.

The new Samsung Galaxy Tab for Education appears to be based on the existing Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. This is a $359 tablet running Android 4.4 Kitkat on a dual-core 1.6GHz Atom Z2560 CPU with 1GB RAM, 16 GB Flash storage, a pair of cameras, a bevy of sensors, and a 10.1″ screen with a resolution of 1280 x 800.


Samsung reports that the new version of the tablet will include the customized version of Google Play for Education which Google launched in November 2013. There’s no word on price but Google has revealed that this tablet is scheduled to ship in April 2014.

Along with the Nexus 7, HP Slate 8 Pro, and the Asus Transformer Pad, the Galaxy Tab for Education will be the 4th tablet available in this program (just as soon as the latter 3 tablets are released). Selection is limited at this time to just the single tablet, the Nexus 7, though there are also 8 Chromebooks.

In other news Google is also expanding the content available as part of the program. Google has signed a new contract with HMH, HarperCollins, and Random Penguin Solutions which will “add thousands of K-12 books to Google Play for Education, from digital textbooks like GO Math! and Journeys Common Core  to classic literature like Bridge to Terabithia, Lord of the Flies, and Things Fall Apart.”

Final Play Books for Education screenshot

As part of Google’s plan to siphon taxpayer dollars away from useful pursuits, the ebooks and digital textbooks will be available under 60, 180 or 360 day rentals, thus forcing schools to pay again and again. Why a school would want to rent a novel instead of buying a paper copy (which could last a decade) is beyond me, but it appears Google expects to find interested parties.

There’s no word yet on how much success Google has had since they launched their education division 2 months ago, but I do know that they have their work cut out for them. Google is one of many companies playing catchup to Apple this market.

This smartphone and tablet maker largely invented the tablet in education market, and currently claims to have a 94% market share. That equals 2 and a half million tablets sold over the past year,  and if it’s true then at best all of Apple’s competitors combined have sold somewhere under 200 thousand tablets.






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Archos Unveils a New Trio of Budget Tablets, Suggests That the Budget Tablet Market Will Have a Rather Dull Year

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 10:40 AM PST

Archos unveiled a trio of budget Android tablets with large screens today, but for the life of me I don’t see why they bothered.

The Neon line of tablets features 3 models with screen sizes ranging from 9″ to 10.1″, all of which run Android 4.2 on a quad-core 1.4GHz MediaTek CPU. The tablets all have 1GB RAM, 8GB Flash storage, and microSD card slots, and generally resemble the large budget tablets which have been released over the past 9 months.


I don’t have prices or a release date yet, but the spec sheets are listed and I am not impressed. Archos has basically released tablets which are indistinguishable from ones that have been on the market for 6 months or more.

The Neon tablets have the same VGA webcams (I’m not joking), the same disappointing screen resolutions, and largely the same appearance as any large-screen Android tablet randomly grabbed from the electronics section of the Amazon website.

The 9″ tablet has a screen resolution of 800 x 480, while the 9.7″ has a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 and the 10.1″ 1024 x 600. These are literally the same screen resolution as on tablets released 6 months ago, including at least one from Archos. Just about the only thing that’s new about these tablets is that they have quad-core CPUs, albeit old ones, but even that isn’t all that much to recommend the Neon tablets.

Quad-core CPUs might sound impressive but, as I have discovered when reviewing the Sero 7 Pro and Ematic’s first quad-core tablet, the supposedly more powerful CPU doesn’t actually translate into a more powerful tablet with better performance.

archos_101neon-600x368 archos_90neon-820x420 +

So what does Archos bring to the table? Well, I’m expecting that these tablets will be cheap, so there’s that.  And if the prices are as low as I expect battery life probably won’t be anything to speak of, but that’s not unique to Archos.

All in all, the new tablets from Archos confirm my suspicions from CES 2014: the coming year looks to be rather dull for the budget Android tablet market. We might see tablets with newer versions of Android, and we might see tablets with a better feature here or there, but I am not expecting to see any tablet that will make me wont to wait, and I’m not even sure we’ll see any decent values.

What with last year’s tablets going on sale, there’s a good chance that you might be able to pick up a tablet with the same performance and quality as the new models, only at a much lower price. If you find a budget tablet you like on sale, buy it. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

P.S. Unless Hisense surprises me, which is possible.


The post Archos Unveils a New Trio of Budget Tablets, Suggests That the Budget Tablet Market Will Have a Rather Dull Year appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Facebook’s New Paper App Aims to Render Flipboard & Facebook’s Own App Obsolete

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 09:09 AM PST

Rumorspaper 2 have been circulating for over 6 months now that Facebook was working on some type of mobile news reader, and today we finally got to see what everyone is talking about.

Paper, aka Facebook’s latest bid for your eyeballs, is an iPhone-only app which is designed to offer up nuggets from your news feed mixed in with news articles, blog posts, and ads. The app won’t be out until Monday the 3rd, but Facebook is teasing us with a few hints today.

Building on Facebook’s long-term plan to become “the best personalized newspaper in the world”, Paper takes the idea of aggregators like Flipboard and Zite in a new direction. It presents updates in a familiar-looking “story” layout with a single update or large-format photo filling the screen edge to edge in an immersive design (all the better to keep your focus when Facebook shows you an advert).

The default section of Paper is a user’s news feed, but users can also pull up and browse other sections, including sports, tech, headlines, etc. "Each section includes a rich mix of content from emerging voices and well-known publications," Facebook says, giving us a strong clue who Facebook sees as the real intended creators for paper: brands, be it celebrities, advertisers, or news organizations.

paper 1

The Verge got an early hands-on demo, and they described the app so:

Paper cuts away virtually all buttons and other UI elements to make every status update, photo, and news story appear full-screen. To get around, you will need to learn a basic set of gestures, but the app will gently remind you what they are if it thinks you’re stuck. Wide photos pan as you tilt the phone (the team cheekily calls it the “Ken turns” effect), UI elements often just fade away, and news stories are presented in Twitter-esque cards.

The lack of chrome to help place you in the app and tell you how to navigate can be a little disorienting. On the bright side, the UI is fast and fluid, thanks to the nine months the team has spent working on the app. Loren Brichter, the creator of Letterpress and Tweetie, also chipped in on the coding. The result is an app that shares a family resemblance to Facebook Home on Android, but is much faster and more full-featured.

This demo video will tell you more:

And as you can see in the video, users can also post updates from the Paper app.

Paper is the first product from Facebook Creative Labs. It builds on nearly 2 years of work, some of which had been previously revealed as the news feed update from last March, but the main event is just beginning to see the light of day. According to Re/Code, the entire project is known as Project Reader,and was spearheaded by Chris Cox, Facebook's VP of product.

That long development by one of Facebook’s core teams could also become a problem.  FB may have been spending the past couple years finding better ways to show you updates, but in that time they have also deployed a new business plan of charging people for the privilege of communicating with their followers. How long do you think it will be until that starts affecting the content you see in paper?








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Amazon Knocks the Price of the Kindle Down to £59 in The UK

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 07:05 AM PST

I think Amazon’s facing more pressure in the UK (or maybe they just want to have another sale). Amazon’s Kindle K4cheapest ebook reader just got a little more budget-priced today.

They’ve knocked £10 off the price of the Kindle, bringing it to an appealing £59. This is the basic model Kindle, which means it lacks the touchscreen, frontlight, fast CPU, or other frills found on the more expensive models. On the other hand it also has an ever falling price, which is itself appealing.

The retail giant faces perennial pressure in the UK from any number of competitors. Today it might be Sainsbury’s, but tomorrow it could be Sony, and then Nook, Kobo, or even Tesco (at some unknown future date), each of which might throw a sale in order to attract customers.

Amazon UK

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Google Play Books Regains Ability to Upload, Read PDF Files

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 06:05 AM PST

Google’sgoogle play books itunes here today gone tomorrow effort to let users read their own ebooks in GPB is back again with a new app update. The search engine giant rolled out a new update this week for their Android app which restored the ability to upload PDFs to a user’s personal cloud.

Google Play Books had gained the ability to upload Epub and PDF in early December, but lost support for uploading PDFs about 10 days later when Google realized that users actually expected it to function properly.

For those just tuning in, Google takes a unique approach to letting users read their own content in Google Play Books, one which is not shared by any other ebook vendor.  In order to read a personal ebook in GPB on your Android device, Google requires that you first upload the ebook to their servers before downloading it again with the Google Play Books app. The upload feature is available in the iPad and iPhone apps, on the Google Play website, and in the GPB Android app.

If, for example, you find an ebook you wish to read at Feedbooks Google wants you to download it, upload it, and then download it again before you can read it. And yes, that is as strange as it sounds, and it is the main reason I have stayed with 3rd-party apps like Aldiko and Moon+ Reader when reading on Android tablets.

While I’m sure everyone can agree on the value of storing personal ebooks in the cloud, requiring that all of the ebooks be stored there  is almost Vogon-ish. Wait, did I just prove Google made contact with extra-terrestrials?

Android Police

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