Monday, 3 February 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 4 February 2014

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 06:30 PM PST

Top stories this Tuesday morning include grammar guerrillas (link), a reminder from Publishers Lunch that the new 840 million dollar damages claim against Apple is nothing new (link), S&S’s new business book site (link), and more.

  • Cambridge grammar guerrillas battle against council’s war on street sign apostrophes (Mail Online)
  • Considerations for publishing without DRM (TechRepublic)
  • Facebook’s Paper Splashes A New Coat Of Paint On The News Feed (ReadWrite)
  • FYI, There’s Nothing New About the Latest Demand for Big Damages from Apple (Publishers Lunch)
  • Here’s how to download Facebook Paper even if you don’t live in the US (TUAW)
  • How I would fix the paywall model, by Joe Wikert (Olive Software)
  • In defense of the Book (unfound)
  • Infinite Scrolling is Not for Every Website (Jakob Nielsen)
  • Neil Gaiman Reading Green Eggs & Ham (GalleyCat)
  • Simon & Schuster Launches 250 Words, Website Dedicated to World of Business Books (DBW)

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XinXii Adds More Author Tools to Their eBook Distribution Service

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 01:10 PM PST

With 25,000 85511c32824dd1ff3530fd8af64899e6_g[1]titles from 15,000 authors, XinXii is by no means the largest indie ebook distributor out there, so they have decided to start working on being the best. They’ve put out a press release with news about several new features, including a new author community, style guide, and more.

XinXii is now promising daily sales info from Apple and Amazon, as well as up to the minute sales details from XinXii’s own ebookstore. The sales figures are shown not only on a per ebookstore basis but also per country (where available).

And not only can you get daily sales info, you can also get a free ISBN. XinXii has updated one of their distribution options, XinXii Power, with the inclusion of a free ISBN for your ebook. That’s not so amazing, given that Smashwords already offers free ISBNs, but XinXii goes one step better by also including a free professional ebook conversion as part of the XinXii Power option. Also, ISBNs in Germany, Xinxii’s home market, are not normally sold but are rented by the year. This effectively makes the free ISBN an annual freebie for participating authors.

XinXii Power has no initial cost for novels, but it will cost $13 to distribute a nonfiction title. If you’re interested in the service, you might also want to check out the new XinXii Style Guide. XinXii’s Katja Nauck has compiled the knowledge and experience of the XinXii team and crafted a guide. The German edition is available now, for free, and the style guide will shortly be available in English, Portuguese, and Russian.

In other news, XinXii has launched a new forum where authors and publishers can discuss important matters. XinXii Community is the new meeting point for XinXii users and those interested in XinXii. It gathers questions about eBook creation, distribution and marketing, facilitates discussion as well as public answers to detailed question by users.

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Readfy’s Ad-Subsidized eBook Service Launches in a Limited Beta

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 12:05 PM PST

Willreadfy_logo_cmyk__large_500_500[1] readers be willing to subject themselves to ads just to read free ebooks?

Readfy set out to answer that question today. This “Spotify for ebooks” opened to the public today, launching a beta test for their ebook subscription service.

German ebook readers will now have the option of reading ebooks from a catalog of 15,000 titles for free, on the condition that they subject themselves to ads. The ebooks are available via Readfy’s own Android app, and include ads along the lines of:


The ads interrupt the reading experience and are displayed over the text, including both as a footer and centered in the middle of the screen. They also require that readers stay online so the reading app can stay connected with the ad server.

Readfy plans to offer text, image, and video ads which will be sold via an ad network at first; the startup would like to launch their own direct ad sales in the near future. They are also going to release an iOS app later this year, and they are working on plans for paid services that will have fewer ads and, at a premium price of 10 euros per month, be completely ad-free and offer an offline reading mode.

RTEmagicC_start.jpgAnd that’s not all that might be coming. Once Readfy has worked out the bugs they will be doubling the catalog to 30,000 titles, and they already have their sights set on international expansion. In 2015 the service is expected to expand to other European countries and the US. And of course Readfy plans to add English-language and Spanish-language books to their catalog.

Readfy, which is affiliated with the Dusseldorf-based 1stMover startup incubator, was founded about 7 months ago by Felix Bauchspiess, Ryan David Mullins, and Frank Großklaus. It first came to my attention last November, but has been operating in stealth mode both before and since.

So do you think this service will prove to be popular?

I don’t think so, but then again I dislike ads so much that I have them blocked in my web browser. (Yes, the irony of a blogger subsisting on the ads he hates has not escaped me.) As such I might be an outlier.

But as I noted when I wrote about Readfy in November, this service has to walk a careful tightrope. It has to bring in the right amount of users, advertisers, and content, and failing on any one of those could doom this effort if Readfy isn’t careful.


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Visionect Launches New ePaper Development Kit

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 09:25 AM PST

Got visionect-restaurant-menu-demo[1]an idea for a mobile device with an E-ink screen custom ebook reader and a few hundred dollars to spare? Then you should check out Visionect. This Slovenian startup is now showing off a development kit based around an epaper screen.

While there are numerous kits based on smaller E-ink screens, this the first readily available kit based on a 6″ screen. The  Visionect kit, which reportedly costs €239, comes equipped with a 6″ E-ink screen (larger screen sizes are available) wrapped in a sturdy plastic shell. It has a capacitive touchscreen, Wifi, a g-sensor, but no frontlight. The CPU is a rather anemic 120 MHz,  but since this is development kit and not intended to be a prototype that shouldn’t be a problem.


The kit works with a development platform, Visionect Server, which is designed to use standard web technologies (HTML5, CSS and Javascript) and show you what it would look like as a product running on an E-ink screen.  Visionect Server doesn’t technically convert your content, but it can take any web application, process it, and push it to the kit. This process looks seamless to the end user and gives an impression that applications are running directly on the kit itself.

So if you wanted to mock up a faux E-ink ebook reader from Apple just to mess with someone’s head, you could use this kit.

Visionect reports that they are working with Slovenia Telecom to develop an e-signage product for its stores. Other partners include ImagoTag, an Austrian firm working on epaper shelf tags, and Weimar, a maker of marine equipment. The Nautipad Display (pictured above and below) is based on Visionect’s platform.

This is the first time I have heard about the Nautipad Display, which is designed to work as a wireless display for the Nautipad Server.


E-ink Info




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World’s Second Largest eBook Subscription Service Nuvem de Livros to Expand into Latin America in 2014

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 08:19 AM PST

AmazonNuvem de Livros is going to be facing increased competition from Brazil’s Nuvem de Livros later this year. This ebook subscription service, which boasts a million users in Brazil and Argentina, is planning to expand their service in South America and Central America later this year.

Jonas Suassuna, president and founder of Gol Mobile Group (Nuvem de Livros’s parent company), was speaking at Campus Party Brasil in São Paulo last week when he shared the news. Students and readers in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile will soon be able to take advantage of an education focused subscription service. “We are on the path of growth in Brazil and in other Latin American countries, and knowledge is the way to enter the world of better jobs and better quality of life, “said Suassuna, according to Google Translate.

Nuvem de Livros offers a catalog of only 11,000 titles, which even though it is small compared to Scribd, Oyster, or the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, still manages to focus on what students need most.

In addition to accessing interactive maps, audiobooks, educational videos, and author interviews, students who subscribe to the service can read novels, biographies, short story collections, or essays, and they can also look up terms in encyclopedias and dictionaries.

I don’t have details on Argentina or other countries, but in Brazil regular subscribers pay 6 Brazilian reais per month, while students pay a discounted subscription of 2 reais per month (under $1). They can read ebooks in their web browser or in apps for iPad, Android, and iPhone.

The Brazilian service was reportedly developed in partnership with Vivo, a subsidiary of the Spanish telecom Telefonica, and has also recently been integrated into Terra Networks, a web portal service which is also owned by Telefonica. Terra Networks operates in the US, Spain, and over a dozen other countries, so this could represent a sign of future expansion plans.

According to my sources, Nuvem de Livros will be launching in the 4 Latin American countries with 3,000 titles, which I am assuming refers to Spanish language works.

With the exception of Mexico and Brazil (2 hotly contested ebook markets), much of Latin America is still a virgin ebook market and presents an excellent opportunity for Nuvem de Livros to recruit readers. Other than iBooks and BajaLibros, none of the majors are actively operating in much of Latin America.

Just think, Nuvem de Livros picked up a million users while competing against Amazon, Apple, Google, and Kobo in Brazil. That made them one of the largest ebook subscription service globally, and in fact the only one to speak publicly about their subscriber base.



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Adobe to Require New Epub DRM in July, Expects to Abandon Existing Users

Posted: 03 Feb 2014 06:03 AM PST

When adobe-logoAdobe announced their new DRM a couple weeks ago some said that we would soon see compatibility issues with older devices and apps as Adobe forced everyone to upgrade.

At that time I didn’t think Adobe would make the mistake of cutting off so many existing readers, but now it seems that I could not have been more wrong on the issue.

The following video (found via The SF Reader) confirms that Adobe is planning to require that everyone (ebookstores, app and device makers) to upgrade to the new DRM by July 2014.

The video is a recording of a webinar hosted by Datalogics and Adobe, and it covers in detail aspects of how and when the new DRM will be implemented (as well as a lot of other data). If the embed link doesn’t work for you, here’s a link to the video on Youtube.

The tl;dr version is that Adobe is going to start pushing for ebook vendors to provide support for the new DRM in March, and when July rolls Adobe is going to force the ebook vendors to stop supporting the older DRM. (Hadrien Gardeur, Paul Durrant, and Martyn Daniels concur on this interpretation.)

This means that any app or device which still uses the older Adobe DRM will be cut off. Luckily for many users, that penalty probably will not affect readers who use Kobo or Google reading apps or devices; to the best of my knowledge neither uses the Adobe DRM internally. And of course Kindle and Apple customers won’t even notice, thanks to those companies’ wise decision to use their own DRM.

But everyone else just got screwed.

If you’re using Adobe DE 2.1, come July you won’t be able to read any newly downloaded DRMed ebooks until after you upgrade to Adobe DE 3.0. If you’re using a preferred 3rd-party reading app, you won’t be able to download any new DRMed ebooks until after the app developer releases an update.

And if you’re using an existing ebook reader, you’d better plan on only reading DRM-free ebooks until further notice.

One thing Adobe seems to have missed is that there are tens of millions of ebook readers on the market that support the older DRM but will probably never be upgraded to the new DRM. Sony and Pocketbook, for example, have released a number of models over the past 5 or so years, most of which have since been discontinued.

Do you really think they’re going to invest in updating a discontinued (but otherwise perfectly functional) device?

I don’t, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not only will millions of existing readers be cut off, there are also hundreds of thousands of ebook readers sitting on store shelves which, as of July, will no longer support Adobe DRM.

And do you know what’s even better? All signs point to the ebook reader market having peaked in 2011 or 2012 (I have industry sources which have said this) so the existing and soon to be incompatible ereaders will probably outnumber the compatible models for the indefinite future (years if not decades).

If you look hard enough you can still buy many of the ebook readers released in 2010, 2011, and 2012 as new, and you can also find them as refurbs or used. They work just fine today (albeit a little slowly by today’s standards) but when July rolls around they will be little more than junk.

And that includes ebook readers owned by libraries and other cost conscious institutions.

If you’re beginning to grasp just how bad this move could be, wait a second because I’m not done.

Not only will readers be affected, but so will indie ebookstores. They’re going to have to pay to upgrade their servers and their reading apps. That cost is going to hit them in the pocketbook (potentially driving some out of business), and that’s not all.

Many if not most of the indie ebookstores are dependent on the various Adobe DRM compatible ebook readers on the market. They cannot afford to develop their own hardware so they rely on readers buying and using devices made by other companies including, Pocketbook, Sony, Gajah (a major OEM), and others.

Once those existing ebook readers are abandoned by Adobe the indie ebookstores will probably lose customers to one or another of the major ebook vendors.

In other words Adobe just gave Amazon a belated Christmas present. After all, everyone might hate Amazon but we also know we can trust them to not break their DRM.

Folks, the above scenario spells out all the reasons why I didn’t expect Adobe to completely abandon support for the older DRM. It is so obviously a bad idea that I thought they would avoid it.

With that in mind, I would also like to add an addendum and apply Tyrion’s Razor. Perhaps Adobe has internal data which says that this won’t be a serious issue.  I seriously doubt it, but it’s possible.

P.S. But if this turns out to be the utter disaster I am expecting, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Adobe for on yet another occasion giving DRM a bad name.

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