Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 10 January 2014

Posted: 09 Jan 2014 09:35 PM PST

Top stories this Friday morning include a reconsideration of the Bechdel test (link), a post which questions why some memes took root in publishing circles (link), another critique of 60 Minutes general lack of journalistic ethics or standards (link), and more.

  • Astroturfing: The Source of Zombie Memes in Publishing? (David Gaughran)
  • The Bechdel Test needs an update: We've set the bar for female representation too low. (Slate)
  • Blogging has trained me to assume you're stupid (Studio Tendra)
  • Court: ISP Subscribers Not Liable For Pirating Family Members (TorrentFreak)
  • Five Rather Odd Trends for 2014 (TeleRead)
  • History as Caution — When Paid Scientific Articles Were Legally Considered "Advertisements" (The Scholarly Kitchen)
  • How Hybrid Publishers Innovate To Succeed (Forbes)
  • Scientists find secret to writing a best-selling novel (Telegraph)
  • What’s The Matter With 60 Minutes ? (Cleantech Edition)
  • When The Economy Stinks, Our Books Get More Depressing (Gizmodo)

The post The Morning Coffee – 10 January 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

No, Amazon isn’t Blocking Downloads of DRM-free Kindle eBooks

Posted: 09 Jan 2014 04:25 PM PST

Everyone panic! amazonempire[1]There’s an unverified story about to break across the internet, and it involves a big mean internet giant being evil.

One Kindle customer has encountered a bug on his Manage My Kindle page and then after being misled by an uninformed Amazon rep, he concluded that Amazon had deliberately decided to no longer allow downloads of Kindle ebooks – not even the DRM-free ones.

To be more exact, the troubling report concerns the “Download and Transfer” which can be seen on Manage My Kindle page. According to this source that option has disappeared.

The Kindle customer in question is Eric Rosenfield, and over on his Wet Asphalt blog he posted a damning transcript of his conversation with the Amazon rep. I won’t quote it here because of length but I will say that it had me worried at first.

Unfortunately for Eric there’s a major problem with his conclusion. He’s flat out wrong.

I double checked and I can still download ebooks from the Manage My Kindle page. I can download DRMed ebooks, I can download DRM-free ebooks, and I can even read the latter in calibre (without removing any DRM). And just to be doubly sure, I went and bought a Cory Doctorow ebook (his work is bound to be DRM-free). It downloaded just fine and I read it in calibre without any issue.

Here is my evidence:

amazon isn't blocking downloads 1 amazon isn't blocking downloads 2

Given that I had no issue, I can only conclude that Eric encountered a bug of some kind. That stinks, but it’s not a sign of nefarious misdeeds on the part of Amazon.

P.S. If you should happen to see Eric’s tale being passed around, please do everyone a favor and give them a link to this post.  I am all for blaming Amazon but let’s limit ourselves to only yelling about their actual misdeeds.

P.P.S. And since I did not say it earlier, I’d like to thank the commenters who set me straight on the Kindle DRM contract story that I got so incredibly wrong.

The post No, Amazon isn’t Blocking Downloads of DRM-free Kindle eBooks appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Vending Machines Now Popping Up in Airports, Malls

Posted: 09 Jan 2014 03:22 PM PST

My biggestAmazonRetail_2013_04_21[1] issue with the Amazon retail store rumor is that Amazon has always chosen to make capital in hardware and systems as a way of reducing operating costs.

That’s why they bought the robotics maker Kiva Systems, and that’s why they invested in delivery boxes, so when I learned today that Amazon’s retail footprint now included a vending machine spotted in McCarran Airport I was not at all surprised.

If you should happen to be flying through Las Vegas and in the mood for some uber-geeky sight-seeing, stop by Terminal C. That is where you will see this:

DSC05947[1] If you should think that vending machine looks familiar, your eyes aren’t tricking you. I think it bears a striking resemblance to the vending machines which were said to be part of the Amazon booth which popped up last month. I only had a single poor quality image to post last month, but I thought the general design was the same.

Geekwire was the first to notice the vending machine in Las Vegas, and they report that they were the second to buy from it (a Kindle power adapter). The machine stocked Kindle ebook readers and tablets as well as accessories, including the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9. While it might surprise you that someone could buy a $380 tablet from a vending machine, it’s not the most expensive item I’ve seen. best buy has similar vending machines in airports and they sell iPads.

According to Geekwire Amazon's vending machine is operated by Zoom Systems, a company which makes similar vending machines for Media Markt, Reebok, Best Buy and other retailers. This is just one of the vending machines that Amazon has been installing in malls airports, and other locations across the US. They also reported that the shopping experience was not without issues; the machine hung once or twice before finally dispensing their purchase and printing a receipt.

It didn’t, unfortunately, offer to let them enter an email so the sale could be associated with an account, and that is a pity. It would be nice if this machine were capable of vending Kindles and then attaching them to an account; the new user would be able to get them up and running that much faster. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea if the machine offered a Kindle-only Wifi hotspot so customers could register new devices and download content.

P.S. Does anyone want to start a betting pool on when Amazon will buy Zoom Systems?

The post Amazon Vending Machines Now Popping Up in Airports, Malls appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Pocketbook CAD Reader Comes to CES, Plays a Great Slideshow

Posted: 09 Jan 2014 10:54 AM PST

Pocketbookpocketbook cad reader ces 2014 1 sent a couple of their next gen devices to CES 2014, but unfortunately only one worked.

The Pocketbook CAD Reader, that Android tablet with a 13.3″ screen, was present at CES in name only. Due to an unfinished firmware this device was restricted to only playing a slideshow but couldn’t do anything like load apps, display blueprints (its raison d’etre), or browse the web.

But even so, I got a chance to play with this tablet and I was surprised. It was much lighter than any of the tablets with a similar sized LCD screen (I’ve seen a couple here at CES 2014) and it was much lighter than any other mobile device that large. The shell was featureless aside from the power button and USB port (for charging, obviously) so don’t worry about not seeing the back or sides; there’s nothing worth seeing.

The laptop in the gallery below is my Lenovo U410; it has a 13.3″ screen. Yes, the CAD Reader really is that big.

pocketbook cad reader ces 2014 1 pocketbook cad reader ces 2014 2 pocketbook cad reader ces 2014 3 pocketbook cad reader ces 2014 4 pocketbook cad reader ces 2014 5

The Pocketbook CAD Reader is the second device to launch with a 13.3″ E-ink screen. Along with the Sony DPT -S1, the CAD Reader is one of the 2 largest consumer devices to use an E-ink screen (though there is some signage that is larger).

The CAD Reader has a 13.3? screen with a resolution of 1600 x 1200, but rather than use the flexible Mobius E-ink screen (found in the Sony DPT-1) the CAD Reader instead uses the new Fina E-ink screen. This screen tech replaces the plastic backplane with a glass backplane similar to the one used in 6? E-ink screens. According to the launch press release, the PocketBook CAD Reader is going to be running Android 4.0 Jelly Bean on a dual-core 1 GHz CPU with 2 GB RAM, 16 GB Flash storage, and an 8Ah battery.

It’s expected to launch first in Russia, but based on the English language promo video I would say Pocketbook is eager to launch in the US and other markets. I have no specific details on the launch date, but if the software isn’t done then it’s clear that the launch won’t be happening anytime soon.

The post Pocketbook CAD Reader Comes to CES, Plays a Great Slideshow appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 Chip Turns Your Pad of Paper Into An Extension of Your Touchscreen

Posted: 09 Jan 2014 08:07 AM PST

Hands qualcomm ces 2014 stylus demo 1off touch technology like the tech demoed earlier this year by Neonode is going to be a hot topic for 2014, and Qualcomm will be in the middle of it.

They were at CES this year to show off any number of tricks, and buried in the back of their booth was a demo which used the microphones on a Qualcomm tablet to listen for and track a special pen stylus. I got to watch as the stylus was used to write on paper (and see the scribbles show up on screen), and I also got to see the stylus manipulate another tablet without ever touching it.

This was one of the more exciting tech demos at CES this year, and it is a big improvement over the similar feature that E-Fun integrated into a tablet in 2011. This tablet maker used sensor tech from a sister company (Pegasus) to create a tablet/stylus combo which could track what you write/draw on the paper next to it. That platform was restricted to only working when the paper and stylus were in one specific location, but the Qualcomm tech won’t have that limitation.

It could potentially affect everything from how we interact with mobile devices to sales of Wacom tablets (why spend hundreds on a special tablet when a smartphone can almost match the functions).

Due to the poor lighting conditions in the Qualcomm booth, I have to use this demo video rather than shooting my own. It’s not a good video – the tech is at least twice as impressive in person:

And to make things even more interesting, picking up your pen on paper notes isn’t all that this platform can accomplish. I also got to see the stylus be used to manipulate a tablet simply by pointing and clicking – no contact involved.

This could also have some rather interesting effects on presentations. If you used this stylus as a pointer, the presenter could control a wall sized display. Sure, there are already was to do this, but this would be better than (for example) motion tracking, voice control, even standard tv remotes because the presenter wouldn’t have to put up with pranksters interfering with the show (unless the prankster also has one of these pens).

qualcomm ces 2014 demo 1 qualcomm ces 2014 demo 2 qualcomm ces 2014 demo 3 qualcomm ces 2014 demo 4


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B&N Reports 2014 Holiday Sales Decline Not Quite as Bad as Last Year’s Sales Decline

Posted: 09 Jan 2014 06:52 AM PST

Barnesbarnes noble logo & Noble put out a new press release today which touted their performance over the 2014 holiday season, and about the best you can say is that the decline in sales this year wasn’t as large as the decline in sales last year.

The news still isn’t good, though. Sales via B&N’s stores dropped 6.6% from last year. In comparison, the 2013 holiday season showed a 10% drop from 2012. The Nook division took in $125 million in content and hardware sales, which is down from 311 million reported last holiday season.

Obviously B&N’s plans of closing stores and cutting staff hours until they achieve profitability is also resulting in a drop in sales quarter after quarter, but it has yet to actually accomplish the goal of making B&N profitable.

It’s also pretty obvious from the decline in digital content sales that the Nook platform is dead in the water. Whether this is going to inspire B&N to sell it or simply shut it down, I cannot say. But as anyone could have told you, B&N is going to have to do something with the Nook division this year. I don’t think the current plan of ignoring it to death is terribly productive, do you?

The Press release:

Barnes & Noble, Inc today reported holiday sales for the nine-week holiday period ending December 28, 2013.

The Retail segment, which consists of the Barnes & Noble bookstores and, had revenues of $1.1 billion, decreasing 6.6% over the prior year. The decrease was attributable to a 5.5% decline in comparable sales and store closures. Core comparable bookstore sales, which exclude sales of NOOK products, decreased 0.2% as compared to the prior year.

The NOOK segment (including digital content, devices and accessories), had revenues of $125 million for the nine-week holiday period, decreasing 60.5% as compared to a year ago. Device and accessories sales were $88.7 million for the holiday period, a decrease of 66.7% from a year ago, due to lower unit selling volume and lower average selling prices. Digital content sales were $36.5 million for the holiday period, a decline of 27.3% compared to a year ago due to lower device unit sales and lower average selling prices.

P.S. On a related note, this press release has convinced me that Apple now has a larger share of the ebook market than B&N. Apple might possibly be doing $500 million to $1 billion a year in ebook sales, and we can clearly see B&N is selling less than that.

The post B&N Reports 2014 Holiday Sales Decline Not Quite as Bad as Last Year’s Sales Decline appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Hands on With Gajah’s 3.5″ eBook Reader

Posted: 09 Jan 2014 04:51 AM PST

Remember gajah inkcase IC3510yesterday when I described the Alcatel MagicFlip as the smallest ereader I had ever handled? I wish I had held that post, because about an hour later I found an even smaller device.

Gajah, a Singapore-based OEM that specializes in tablets, ereaders, and consumer electronics, their InkCase smartphone cases a step further. They did away with the case entirely, and came up with a smartphone accessory which adds a 3.5″ E-ink screen to any Bluetooth enabled Android smartphone.

Gajah’s current InkCase models add an E-ink screen to  either an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, or Samsung S4. As I am sure you know, this is a rather limited selection of supported models (there are hundreds of Android smartphones on the market) so rather than try support all Android smartphones with unique covers Gajah instead released one pocketable device which should work with all of them.

The ic3510 has a 3.5″ E-ink screen with a resolution of 360 x 600. This is the same screen as on Gajah’s case for the iPhone 5, only the ic3510 has been stripped of the plastic needed to attach the screen to the iPhone. This resulted in a much smaller device that isn’t much larger than a credit card.

I didn’t think to compare the sizes when I had the ic3510 in my hand, but a standard credit card measures 4″ diagonally, so there’s a chance that this really is smaller. And if nothing else, the ic3510 is much smaller than the Alcatel MagicFlip I saw yesterday.

gajah inkcase IC3510 1 gajah inkcase IC3510 2 gajah inkcase IC3510 3 gajah inkcase IC3510 4 gajah inkcase IC3510 5 gajah inkcase IC3510

I got to play with the ic3510 at CES 2014. The firmware was still under development so didn’t do much and it wasn’t stable, but it was still fun to hold it in my hands. Then again, Gajah’s existing InkCase model’s don’t do much either; the cases were announced 6 months ago and there are still only a few apps which work with them.

The ic3510 is intended to pair with an Android smartphone over Bluetooth, and aside from the screen and BT the only other notable features are the 3 buttons on the front and the USB charging port. This is a very tiny and light ereader, almost dangerously so. Do you recall how one of the early Macbook Air review units got mixed in with a Sunday NYTimes and was accidentally thrown away? That could happen with the ic3510, only you wouldn’t need nearly as much paper. This device could disappear into a single paper bill, and that could be a problem.

Then again, maybe not. This device is small enough that you can carry it around in your pocket and never notice the weight. So long as an owner habitually puts the ic3510 in their pocket it should have little risk of getting lost.

The ic3510 is scheduled to hit the market in the first half of this year. If we’re lucky we’ll get reports from users, explaining what they did to avoid discarding their new gadget.

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