Monday, 6 January 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 7 January 2013

Posted: 06 Jan 2014 09:30 PM PST

Top stories this Tuesday morning include a post on the inevitable decline of chain bookstores (link),  a look at the legal issues surrounding writers reusing characters like Sherlock Holmes (link), 2 different posts on discoverability, a diatribe against enhanced ebooks (link), and more.

  • Attracting Readers with an Edge (PW)
  • Chain Bookstores Are Doomed (Patheos)
  • Children’s book turns readers into 3D-printing artists (Crave – CNET)
  • Digital publishing: How it will evolve in 2014 and beyond (GigaOm)
  • Discoverability, Not Discovery, Is Publishing's Next Big Challenge (DBW)
  • GoodReader for iOS 7 brings a revamped UI, more PDF tools and a new audio player (TNW)
  • The mistake of 'enhancing' novels (Studio Tendra)
  • Pubs do need to sell direct, but here are 5 things they should at least be started on first (The Shatzkin Files)
  • Sainsbury’s to cease selling physical books online (The Bookseller)
  • Tablets in Schools—What’s Ahead in 2014 (The Digital Shift)
  • Three not-so-elementary tips for using pre-existing characters, my dear author…  (Legal Minimum)

The post The Morning Coffee – 7 January 2013 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Boeye Shows Off Android E-ink Tablets in Hong Kong (video)

Posted: 06 Jan 2014 01:53 PM PST

CES boeye android e-ink tablet 2.3 gingerbread2014 is all about tablets and mobile gadgets, but it’s not the only tech trade show in the world. Charbax caught up with Boeye, a Chinese OEM, at the HKTDC Hong Kong Electronics Fair a while back and got a look at their Android E-ink tablets.

Boeye’s tablets sport a 6″ E-ink screen and run Android 2.3 Gingerbread on a Rockchip RK2906 CPU. They’re ready to be produced now, and there is at least one model with a frontlight and a touchscreen.Boeye is also working on an update which adds Android 4.0, and it should be ready soon. They also offer a number of other models, including a couple devices that are simple ebook readers based on Linux and not Android. They also have 7″ and 8″ Android tablets available for license.

The post Boeye Shows Off Android E-ink Tablets in Hong Kong (video) appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Kindle for iPad, iPhone Updated with New Flashcards, X-Ray Options, Dictionary Redesign

Posted: 06 Jan 2014 12:27 PM PST

Amazonkindle itunes rolled out a new update today for their iOS reading app, and from the looks of the changelog it’s pretty clear that they have students in their sights. According to the changelog the update adds an improved search function, new filter options for your notebook,  a new flashcard option, a changes to X-Ray, and a dictionary redesign.

Readers will now be able to flip through the X-Ray content associated with an ebook purchased in the Kindle Store and sort the characters and terms by relevance, alphabetically, or in order of appearance in the book. They’ll also be enjoying a new dictionary interface which has been updated for iOS7 to make it easier for customers to switch between alternate language and purchased dictionaries.

Amazon has also added improvements to the Notebook and to collections. Readers can sort their annotations by type (bookmarks, notes, highlights, and even specific colored highlights) making a particular annotation that much easier to find. They’ll also be able to edit multiple collections at once and see the collection that an ebook belongs to.

kindle iphone 4.1

But the big news today is the flashcard feature. It’s only available for print replica textbooks (this is Amazon’s PDF format), but students can use it to generate their own flashcards. They can either grab important details from the associated X-Ray content or pull the terms from their annotations. Students can keep track of concepts or terms that have been mastered and those that need more practice, allowing them to improve their recall of the subject.

And last but not least Amazon is also touting an improved search function  for their print replica textbooks. This too will make it easier for students to find key terms.

Digital textbooks don’t account for much in the way of ebook sales, but that hasn’t stopped Amazon from releasing yet another update to attract more student users. You can find the app in iTunes.

The post Kindle for iPad, iPhone Updated with New Flashcards, X-Ray Options, Dictionary Redesign appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Zola Books Buys Bookish

Posted: 06 Jan 2014 10:11 AM PST

Here’s a head zola-books-logoscratcher for you.

News is breaking today that indie ebookstore Zola Books has bought Bookish, the book marketing site owned by Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Random Penguin Solutions. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed but they would have to be rather unusual.

Both Zola Books and Bookish are rather new to the ebook scene and they both launched to much fanfare but later fizzled. Zola Books launched in mid-2012 with the goal of being a major ebookstore by the end of 2013 (they missed), while Bookish officially launched in February 2013 after several years development.

According to the Zola Books blog:

At Zola we've been working to build the tools for that kind of serendipity for many months now. And we are about to take a huge step forward by joining forces with Bookish, a book discovery site that has the most sophisticated and unique book recommendation system on the web.

Bookish works differently from other recommendation sites.

They’re absolutely right; Bookish is more of a marketing channel than a book recommendation site.

According to recent numbers given to Publishers Weekly, Bookish has relationships with approximately 50 publishers and some 600,000 titles in its recommendation engine. It was clear from the moment Bookish launched that it existed to promote books published by its 3 owners as well as anyone else who has a marketing dept. This leaves me a little puzzled because I’m not sure how that will jive with Zola Books, which promotes itself on the strengths of its exclusive content.

And that’s not the only thing that has me puzzled today. To start, Bookish was originally started in 2010, then announced in 2011, but didn’t formally launch until February 2013. The site was sold only 11 months later, which means that the site was under development for well over twice as long as it was operational before being sold.

And it seems to have sold for a very low price. Techcrunch has a statement from a Zola Books spokesperson which says that there were several bids for Bookish, but I find that hard to believe. Zola Books simply doesn’t have the resources to get into a bidding war.

According to their Crunchbase profile, Zola Books has raised somewhere under $15 million in financing (it’s not clear how many funding rounds they have had). That rather limits what they can afford to pay for Bookish, leading me to wonder if perhaps S&S, Random Penguin, and Hachette even recovered their initial investment and development costs.

Update: Publisher’s Lunch is reporting that the 3 publishers sank “at least $10 million to $20 million in funding” into Bookish, so it’s pretty clear that this was a boondoggle for them. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Zola Books will have equally bad luck.

In any case, Zola Books is saying that Bookish will continue to operate as an independent site, while at the same time its recommendation engine will be incorporated into the Zola Books ebookstore. Zola Books will also be taking over Bookish’s content deals, which means their ebookstore will offer a larger catalog.

The post Zola Books Buys Bookish appeared first on The Digital Reader.

If the eBook Market is Flattening Out Then Why did Smashwords’s Revenues Grow by a Third in 2013?

Posted: 06 Jan 2014 07:49 AM PST

Eoin Purcell 482[1]has a new post up on the Irish Times website in which he argues that the supposed slump in ebook sales is a myth, but unfortunately he doesn’t go far enough. He makes many of the same arguments that I made in August 2013, and while they are still valid today they are also incomplete:

There's only one problem with the trend story – it's wrong. Ebooks have no more peaked than digital music or social media usage has peaked. While it is certainly true that some publishers have seen a softening of sales in 2013, that is mostly because 2012 was such a huge success in ebook terms, especially for certain titles like Fifty Shades of Grey and The Hunger Games. Sadly no titles have quite grabbed readers like those record- breaking books did, so sales have suffered.

What's more, the AAP data does not capture sales by the self-published or indie author market. This segment makes up 25 per cent of Amazon's ebook sales. Such sales are also increasing for other retailers such as Kobo, despite the much publicised recent controversy over self-published ebooks of questionable taste (and questionable legality) that appeared on Kobo's catalogue.It has since purged the offending titles.

Now, at first I was tickled to see that Eoin was repeating many of the same arguments which I made in August, and I was all set to simply pat myself on the back. But then I remembered that my post was published was 5 months ago, and that the subsequent reports from the AAP (here, here) and indie authors (link) just may have invalidated the arguments.

So rather than just repeat myself I went looking for new data to throw into the mix.

For example, I can explain exactly why you shouldn’t generalize from the AAP data, and that is because even the AAP will tell you that they estimate that their data represented only half of the US ebook market in 2012. That is publicly available info, and it was revealed in the press release when the BookStats report was published in May 2013.

If their data covered only half of the market then and covers an unknown percentage of the market now, do you really think it’s valid to draw conclusions from it?

And that’s not all.

A few days ago Smashwords posted their year end review, and buried down at the end of the post was a bullet point about their revenues. Smashwords is the second largest indie ebook distributor after Amazon KDP, and Smashwords’ revenues were up in 2013:

Our authors’ sales grew to $20 million, up 33% from $15 million the year before.  We’re proud that 100% of our revenue in 2013 came from the sale of books to readers.  We don’t sell publishing packages and we don’t employ sales people.  Our income is entirely based on our commission on book sales to readers which for most sales is 10% of the retail price.

That $20 million is only a drop in the bucket compared to the $1 billion plus in sales recorded by the AAP, but it also represents data that the AAP doesn’t have.

There’s hardly any solid info on indie ebook sales, so it’s difficult to say how well half of the US ebook market is doing. What little info I have is anecdotal, incomplete, and only covers a minority of the market, but it is enough to raise a doubt as to whether the whole ebook slump is actually happening.

For all we know there is more sales data that isn’t being reported anywhere, and that’s why I think it’s too soon to close the book on the growth of the ebook market.

P.S. In the interests of full disclosure, I am reminded that Matt Blind may have predicted the flattening of the AAP data – in June 2011. His model assumed a sigmoidal growth curve, but unfortunately it doesn’t fit the data available for 2013.

Update: Mark Coker of Smashwords got back to me with an extra detail about ebook sales growth:

I didn’t put this in my post because it was already longer than I expected, but 2013 started off strong post-holiday at all retailers, but the rest of 2013 was fairly lackluster at all retailers and flat compared to the growth trends of previous years.

The post If the eBook Market is Flattening Out Then Why did Smashwords’s Revenues Grow by a Third in 2013? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Samsung to Debut 12.2″ Galaxy Note Pro at CES 2014

Posted: 06 Jan 2014 05:02 AM PST

Rumors have been circulating for the past 7 months that Samsung had a behemoth of a 12″ tablet in the works , and something tells me that those rumors are true:


Engadget found a huge banner stuck on the front of the Las Vegas Convention Center last night which touted not one but 2 new large tablets from Samsung.  No dimensions are given, but the product name is a new one and the scale of the pen to the screen suggests that this tablet is larger than the Galaxy Note 10.1.

Samsung is probably going to announce the new tablets today, but given how much we already know that could be a rather anticlimactic announcement. Past leaks have suggested that this tablet has a 12.2″ screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1600. It’s going to be running Android 4.4 Kitkat on a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU with 3GB RAM, a pair of cameras (8MP and 2.1MP). In terms of connectivity it will have Wifi, Bluetooth, an IR blaster, and optional LTE (or so the FCC filing suggests). And it will of course have the pen and touchwiz interface that the Samsung Galaxy Note is famous for.

All these details come from a benchmark test which was leaked about a week ago, so I would regard them as solid.

note-pro-back[1]This is quite the well leaked tablet, and past teasers froM Samsung even included a photo of the rear of the tablet.

This tablet had previously been spotted in November when Samsung filed paperwork for its FCC certification, and this is probably the same tablet whose details appeared on the Bluetooth SIG website in September. Those filings didn’t include any mention of the screen size, but as my sources note there wasn’t much else it could be other than a new tablet model. And what little detail we could glean from the FCC paperwork certainly suggested that it was a BAT (big-arsed tablet).

The only real question left today is how many models will Samsung announce? One rumor is suggesting that there will be 3 Galaxy Note Pro models, not just the 12.2″ monster. The smaller models are said to measure 8.4″ and 10.1″, and the rumor even included plausible model numbers. And given that this rumor comes from the same source as the leaked benchmark test results I would say that there is a good chance that the rumor is true.

The post Samsung to Debut 12.2″ Galaxy Note Pro at CES 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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