Monday, 10 March 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 11 March 2014

Posted: 10 Mar 2014 09:35 PM PDT

Top stories this Tuesday morning include a new development in the Apple antitrust case (link), a round up of 4 speed reading apps (link), a post on piracy as an influencer on the market (link),  and more.

  • 4 Speed-Reading Apps To Give You Lightning Fast Eyes (ReadWrite)
  • Children’s publishers respond to ‘gender’ debate (The Bookseller)
  • Financial Times CEO: ‘We’ve now achieved critical mass in digital’ (The Media Briefing)
  • Finland leans into stereotype, puts sauna in library (MobyLives)
  • If Ezra Klein's Vox can be the Wirecutter of news, it'll be a must-read for me (GigaOm)
  • Interesting article on how piracy is devaluing digital goods (TeleRead)
  • Plaintiffs: No ‘Do-Overs’ For Apple in E-book Case (PW)

The post The Morning Coffee – 11 March 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Speed Reading Startup Spritz Raises $3.5 Million in Funding

Posted: 10 Mar 2014 07:22 PM PDT

Boston-based a8e87_spritz-speed-reading-technology[1]Spritz unveiled their buzzworthy new speed-reading tech a couple weeks ago, and they’re back in the news today with a funding round.

Spritz is currently working to close a $3.5 million seed funding round. Around $1 million had been raised while Spritz was still operating in stealth mode, but the funding round for the remaining $2.5 million is due to close in a few weeks. Denis O'Brien, investing through his telco company Digicel, will be among the investors.

This company was turning heads at Mobile World Congress a few weeks ago with its patent-pending reading tech. Spritz has reportedly come up with a new way to increase your reading speed. Rather than move a bunch of words in front of your eyeballs at a faster clip, Spritz flashes one word at a time, showing an average of 4 or more words each second.

Their tech is based on an old idea called rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP). It’s been around since the 1970s, and it has seen mixed results.  For example, it’s quite easy for readers to miss vital information, and studies have shown that a reader’s ability to retain and comprehend what they’re reading drops as their reading speed increases.


Spritz says that they have solved these problems. "Other than single word display, we are very different from anything else that's been tried in the past and we think people can see that immediately," says co-founder and CEO Frank Waldman. "Anyone who has tried Spritz knows how fast and easy it is to learn. There is nothing else out there that we have seen where most users can significantly improve their reading speed in less than five minutes."

They are looking to license their tech, and at the moment they are working on an email client that enables users to read each email quickly.




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NewsBlur v4.0 Adds New Menu, Gestures, Sharing Options

Posted: 10 Mar 2014 03:43 PM PDT

NewsBlur avatar_61949be6aadf_128[1]is one of those apps that did quite well before Google Reader shut down last year and it has thrived since then. This news reader app is back in the news again today with the launch of a major new release.

NewsBlur v4.0 features a new dashboard in the iPad app, new gestures, including one for the iPad, new preview options, and an improved landscape mode for reading on the iPad.

Readers can also share links to stories on FB, Twitter, email, or save the stories to services like Pocket, Readability, Instapaper, and more. And with improved video support, videos are now fit better for each device.

This blogger is content with using Mr Reader paired with BazQux for his mobile news reading news, otherwise he’d be all over NewsBlur.

ios v4 - 2

According to the changelog, the update includes:

  • New dashboard for the iPad app: All Site Stories are now on the dashboard for easy access to stories. More to come with this new dashboard.
  • Tons of new gestures: double tap, 2 finger double tap, long press.
  • New gestures for the iPad app: swipe to dismiss the original story view.
  • Brand new sharing controls work with Facebook, Twitter, Email, iMessage, Instapaper, Pocket, Readability, App.Net, Pinboard, OmniFocus, Safari, Chrome, and Airdrop.
  • Inline images show a preview of the story in the story title.
  • Inline descriptions show a preview of the story's content in the story title.
  • Improved landscape support for the iPad app.
  • Improved video support: videos are now fit better for each device.
  • Numerous bugs fixed resulting in speed improvements and cleaned up code.

You can find the app in iTunes.

NewsBlur blog

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Could Any of These 3 iPhone Concepts Come True? (videos)

Posted: 10 Mar 2014 12:41 PM PDT

No oneiphone 6 concept knows for sure what the next iPhone will look like but that hasn’t stopped the speculation. In fact, the unknown has only fed the rumor mill, with many speculating new details simply because it’s a slow news day (like today, for example).

Here are 3 iPhone concept designs which I find fascinating. It is unlikely that the next iPhone will have any of the details shown in these videos, but I like the ideas like holographic displays, edge displays, or the way the final one unfolds and projects a virtual keyboard and virtual screen.

This first video shows an iPhone which is thinner, lighter, and larger than the current model, but is otherwise fairly unremarkable.

That’s not a terribly ambitious design, but this next one is. This concept design has screens on the edges of the model, and it also includes other subtle improvements like a battery indicator surrounding the lightning plug.

This final design is one that we probably won’t see in a million years, which is unfortunate. Do you know how some people have made their phone their main computer?

This concept design tries to make that a reality. It has integrated projectors which can show a user a virtual keyboard and project an OSX desktop on a nearby wall.

The post Could Any of These 3 iPhone Concepts Come True? (videos) appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Scribd, Piracy, and Why You Can’t Always Believe What You Read Online

Posted: 10 Mar 2014 10:47 AM PDT

When scribd-logo-blk_100x28Scribd launched their ebook subscription service last Fall many in the book co0mmunity faulted Scribd for their past history of piracy issues, and it seems that Scribd still hasn’t managed to escape that specter.

Rich Meyer, writing over at indies Unlimited, is advising authors to pull their Smashwords titles from Scribd because users might pirate them.  (The fact that Smashwords sells the same titles as easily piratable DRM-free ebooks seems to have escaped him).

In a post that mixes equal parts factual errors, fear, and a misunderstanding of the tech involved, Rich writes:

I really had no problem with the service, as long as it was limited to the iPhones and Google Android stuff. I don't have a smartphone myself, and don't care to get one. People aren't going to go out of their way to monkey with that sort of stuff, so they'd be using it and poof, book gone. But Scribd now has the ability to be used on a Kindle Fire, and that's a whole different kettle of fish when it comes to illegal access and piracy.

The problem with Scribd's view on piracy is that they are working on the WRONG bloody end of the stick. Pirates aren't going to be UPLOADING books – they're going to be DOWNLOADING CONTENT. I just can't believe they've not figured this out: Any subscription service for e-books is basically a smorgasbord for piracy. There is absolutely nothing I can see that stops a person from just downloading books wantonly and copying them to another source (laptop, memory card, thumbdrive) and then cracking the pointless DRM on them and having a field day with them. Believe me, it's very, very easy, and once you know how, you can set up your system to do it automatically – all you have to do is drop your book into a folder and *POOF* it's as free as a bird. And if they didn't bother to even open the books before they return them, the author gets ZILCH.

As Juli Monroe pointed out to me this morning, that bolded section is simply not true. I had linked to Rich’s post in the morning coffee post, and Juli called me on it because she didn’t think the section quoted above was accurate.

She had already looked for the ebooks she had downloaded from Scribd, and she couldn’t find them (not as ebooks, per se). She’s not interested in prating the ebooks, obviously, but she was curious about the technical details and went looking. If she can’t find a recognizable ebook file, do you really think it will be easy for the average user to strip the DRM?

I don’t think so, and so far as I know there’s no easy DRM stripping tool for Scribd. But just to sate my curiosity I looked into the matter myself. I didn’t currently have a Scribd account, so I took advantage of the free trial. After I downloaded a few ebooks, I went looking and eventually found what I think is the correct folder.

Juli and I both think that Scribd stores their ebooks in a folder called documents_cache. We came to this conclusion independently, and if that is where Scribd puts the ebooks then I seriously doubt the average user will be able to strip the DRM. The ebooks aren’t stored as ebooks; instead they are stored as collections of JSON, CSS, and image files. And while I can’t speak for the JSON files, the image files have DRM of some kind.

I wouldn’t know where to start to convert this format – but I can guess. Scridb’s ebook format may or may not have something to do with the HPub standard. That is one of the lesser known ebook file formats, and it can be used for sending rich format ebooks over the web. The spec mentions JSON files, but it also mentions certain requirements not met by the Scribd psuedo-ebook format.

I won’t go into the full details here; if you’re interested you can check yourself. but the short version is that I wouldn’t worry too much about someone stripping the DRM from a Scribd ebook; it’s going to take a real hacker to pull it off, not your average user.

The post Scribd, Piracy, and Why You Can’t Always Believe What You Read Online appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Marvel Adds Soundtracks to Digital Comics

Posted: 10 Mar 2014 08:27 AM PDT

Marvelmarvel unlimited unveiled their long awaited adaptive audio feature yesterday at SxSW, and it has proven much more interesting than I had expected.

Adaptive audio, which was initially announced at SxSW last year under the codename Project Gamma, adds an audio element to Marvel’s digital comics. Described last year as a way to add an “adaptive, non-repetitive score” to digital comics, Project Gamma was intended to a background soundtrack which changed as a reader read the comic. The sound track was keyed to certain panels, and it was also supposed to respond to the speed at which the reader turned the page.

Or at least that’s what Project Gamma was supposed to do when it was announced last year; how well does it perform now?

If you like, you can find out for yourself. The new feature is available in the Marvel Unlimited app. This is a free download, and all of the titles that have the new audio are available as free samples. You’ll only get a part of each volume, but it’s enough to at least give you an idea of how the soundtrack adds to the reading experience.

marvel adaptive audio I tried the new feature on my iPad, and I think the soundtrack improves upon the original comic. The sounds ranged from music clips that set the mood to sounds that were tied to specific events in the story, and in general they improved upon the story.

Should I encounter new titles from Marvel that include audio I might buy them. But I won’t be buying any of the several titles released so far.

Marvel debuted the adaptive audio by adding it to comics originally published 10 years ago. Captain America: Winter Soldier is the inspiration for the movie that is coming out in April, so this move makes sense, but unfortunately the original comics are so old that they do not translate well to Marvel’s digital format.

The latest trick in comics is to avoid showing an entire page at once, and instead show each panel in sequence. This introduces time as a story telling element, which can add a lot to the reading experience.

The CA:WS comics I read are so old that they were not created as high definition digital files, and that is blindingly obvious when I tried to read them. Have you ever zoomed in on an image to the point that it was started getting fuzzy? That is what I frequently saw with the CA:WS comics.

This is regrettable because it detracts from the new audio feature. It also tells us that Marvel is only making a half-hearted effort to convert and sell their backlist, but that’s a tale for another post.

But in spite of Marvel’s early stumbles, they could have a real winner here – if it is used correctly. But if Marvel treats it like another gimmick and adds it to old titles simply to try to get you to buy them again, then they’ll ruin it. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.


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Onyx E-ink Smartphone Gets New Name & Launch Partner in Poland

Posted: 10 Mar 2014 07:05 AM PDT

The Chinese EinkPhone_small[1]ereader maker Onyx has been teasing us with visions of their E-ink Android smartphone for well over a year now, and new reports suggest that it is about to hit the market. It’s now called the Midia InkPhone, and it is the hot story this week at the CeBIT trade show.

The InkPhone has a 4.3″ E-ink screen. The specific details on the current model are scarce, but my latest info (from October 2013) says that the screen resolution is 800 x 480 (specs confirmed by a new press release).

This phone is running Android 2.3 Gingerbread on  a 1GHz CPU with 512MB RAM, a microSD card slot, Wifi, Bluetooth, and support for EDGE networks. Unlike the Yotaphone, there’s no LCD screen. There’s also no camera, but given the limitations of the E-ink screen I don’t think you would want to take photos with it anyway.

This smartphone was developed by Onyx, but it’s being shown off this week by Arta Tech. This Polish firm is a local retail partner for Onyx, and they have committed to releasing the Midia InkPhone in Poland. There’s no word on the retail price or release date, but I have learned that Arta Tech initially announced this phone back in December 2013. This story only crossed my desk this morning when Engadget got to play with the InkPhone (those lucky bastards).


Engadget says that this phone will ship with only 4GB Flash storage and a Rockchip CPU. They don’t have any details on the price, but they did repeat the detail that the InkPhone should run for more than two weeks on a single charge of its 1.8Ah battery. They also posted a gallery of 9 photos. I can’t see them for some reason, but you may want to check them out.

Update: Engadget is now reporting that the InkPhone is expected to be available in Germany and Poland at some point in April. It’ll be priced at around €140 ($195).

But even though I can’t see those photos I do have a video I can share. Charbax got a look at this smartphone back in October:

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Infographic: 4 Ways the Internet is Making Kids Smarter

Posted: 10 Mar 2014 06:05 AM PDT

4 ways infographic It’s still not clear that digital textbooks are a better alternative to paper textbooks, but over the past 10 years educators have reported that digital technology in general has improved their students ability to think, write, and study.

For example, Stanford University compared freshman composition papers from 2006, 1986, 1930, and 1917 and discovered that the quality of writing has improved and that the later papers are significantly longer.



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