Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 12 March 2014

Posted: 11 Mar 2014 09:30 PM PDT

Top stories this morning include a roundup of amazing book apps (link), tips on how to rpice ebooks (link), a look back at tech predictions Apple made in 1995 (link), and more.

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LA Times Festival of Books to Add Buy Buttons for Indie Bookstore

Posted: 11 Mar 2014 08:34 PM PDT

Last 911[1]week’s controversy over the LA Times Festival of Books and its promotion of Amazon as a retailer has come to an abrupt end.

When that book festival updated their website last week local booksellers were dismayed to discover that the festival had listed the authors who were attending, and then included a link to where that author’s work could be found on Amazon.com.

Naturally the booksellers kicked up a fuss, and the festival has proposed a compromise. They won’t be removing the links to Amazon because that would inconvenience readers and cost the festival money (it’s an Amazon affiliate). But the festival will add links that direct readers to indie bookstores.

Specifically, the festival will be adding links for the ABA’s IndieBound program. As the LA Times spokesperson explained: "The L.A. Times is also an IndieBound affiliate," said Times communications director Hillary Manning. "Our Creative team is testing adding the relevant links to the Festival of Books site, and we plan to make them officially live within the next couple of days."

I see this as a sub-optimal solution, but it has mollified the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association. "It's good to know that SCIBA members are now considered on the same page, literally, with Amazon," said executive director Andrea Vuleta. "We want to make sure that consumers have the choice to buy locally. IndieBound is a perfectly good alternative to Amazon."

My suggested alternative, when I wrote about this story a few days ago, was that the festival instead link to each author’s website. I thought that offered the best long term solution for authors to connect with fans, but it would seem both the festival and the booksellers are more interested in a direct financial gain.

That is understandable; money makes the world go round.



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Amazon Prime Radio Rumored to Have a $30 Million Pot to Pay Record Companies

Posted: 11 Mar 2014 03:08 PM PDT

Remember 6687987361_ea4f077ae3_m[1]that rumor from a couple weeks ago about Amazon launching a streaming music service?

It’s back again, and this time the WSJ is adding a few details to the mix:

Amazon has told record companies it would pay them out of a fixed pool of money, according to people familiar with the matter, instead of compensating them based on how often users listen to their songs. Music companies are seeking to withhold their newest music from the service, a person familiar with the matter said, though details were unclear as the negotiations are in process. The retailer has told some music companies that it plans to impose time limits on how long a user can listen to a given song or album on the service. The average duration of that limit couldn’t be learned.

Several weeks ago Amazon told one music-rights holder that it planned to offer record companies a total of $20 million to add their music on a limited basis for Prime customers.

Billboard published a similar story yesterday, only their sources say that the pool was $30 million dollars and not $20 million. But aside from the size of the pool the general details were the same. Assuming this rumor is true, Amazon plans to offer record companies a fixed pool of money which will be divided in much the same way as Amazon currently splits KDP Select.

8426787137_169a12003c_m[1]I’m not sure they’ll have much luck with signing major labels. Billboard says that several executives they spoke with were shocked and disappointed by the terms offered by Amazon, and the WSJ concurs with a report that the terms are far less than what some of the record companies are willing to accept.

There’s talk that some record companies are planning to withhold their newer titles from the service, which I am calling Amazon Prime Radio (simply because it sounds cool). There’s also talk that Amazon may restrict how long a Prime member can listen to a song or an album, though the limitations are not clear.

Amazon Prime currently costs $79 a year in the US. Subscribers get free and reduced shipping on many items sold by Amazon, free streaming video from a catalog of TV shows and movies, and one free ebook loan each month from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.

In their past quarterly analyst’s call Amazon mentioned that they were considering raising the price of Amazon Prime by $20 or $40. I would expect that price increase will only arrive in the company of the Amazon Prime Radio, or not at all.

image by thomselomsen, ** RCB **

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MS Surface Power Saver Cover Costs $200, Adds Battery, Keyboard

Posted: 11 Mar 2014 12:49 PM PDT

Microsoftsurface-pro-100024472-large[1] stepped up their hardware game this week.

There’s a new keyboard cover listed on the Microsoft Store website, and it adds a battery and the usual keyboard to the Surface tablets.

According to Microsoft this tablet includes a battery that will extend a Surface tablet’s battery life by 70%. They don’t include a spec for the battery capacity, though they do note that this cover is close to 2cm thick and weighs 1.2 pounds.

In addition to the extra battery, this cover will double as a protective cover for the screen, though of course it can’t help the edges or the rear of the tablet. It is designed to snap into place just like the smartcover for the iPad.

The Power Saver Cover is up for pre-order, with a retail price of $199. That’s a rather steep price for such a simple product.


Yes, it’s not much more expensive than Microsoft’s other covers for the Surface tablets; those lack batteries and cost between $120 and $130. But this cover is considerably more expensive than similarly equipped covers for other tablets from other manufacturers.

For example, my Asus Transformer 100 had an optional cover that added a keyboard,  battery, card slots, and USB ports. That cover only cost $99, and yet it included more features.

Of course, that cover went with a premium quality tablet that only cost $400, and not the $900 that Microsoft is charging for the Surface Pro 2, so perhaps Microsoft is targeting a customer base so rich that they do not care about overspending on a $200 cover.



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New Survey Shows eBook Adoption at 29% in the UK

Posted: 11 Mar 2014 11:16 AM PDT

The UKword cloud reading survey UK reading charity Booktrust has just released a report which looks into that nation’s reading habits, and it has some good news for this ebook-loving blogger.

The 53 page report is based on a survey of 1,500 adults in England, and it includes extensive details on reading habits including both paper and digital.

The report showed that a fifth of respondents never buy physical books, and that nearly as many (18%) don’t read paper books at all. A growing number of the respondents (45%) reported preferring watching tv shows and movies to reading, and over a quarter prefer the internet and social media to reading books (rising to 56% among 18-30 year olds).

This survey report mirrors the latest report from the Pew Research Center. The latter report doesn’t go into the same level of detail as the Booktrust survey nor does it ask the same questions, but its results did show a similar difference in reading preferences.

Both reports show similar levels of ebook adoption. Here in the US, Pew reported in January that 28% of Americans had read an ebook in the past year, while in England Booktrust reported that 29% of respondents had read an ebook at some point. The Booktrust survey goes on to break up that 29% and show that 20% of respondents read ebooks at least weekly, with another 9% reading ebooks less often.

booktrust survey report uk

Both reports show similar levels of paper book use, with Pew reporting that 76% of Americans had read a book in the past year, while Booktrust reported that 78% of the English had read a paper book “daily, at least week, or less often(?)”.

Audiobooks, on the other hand, have only been adopted by about 6% of the respondents in the Booktrust survey. This stands in stark contrast to the US, where Pew reports that 14% of US adults had listened to an audiobook in the past year.

A later section of the survey delves into book ownership. As you might expect, the 6% of the respondents who read the most also owned the most books, averaging 994 titles in their library. Those bookworms read 12 books a month, while the group of next most enthusiastic readers (15%) read  3 to 4 books a month and had 252 books in their library. A similar group of voracious voracious readers (14%) read slightly fewer books but more magazines and other periodicals, and actually owned more books in their personal library (262).

Report (PDF)


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Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Google Over Kids and In-App Purchases

Posted: 11 Mar 2014 08:45 AM PDT

Ask any3823683431_6fd4418996_m[1] developer and they will tell you that in-app purchases are a great way for users to dribble away a lot of money without ever realizing it, and this includes kids.

Apple had to learn the hard way that they were as much responsible for kids’ spending as parents and it cost them a $32.5 million dollar fine as well as $5 million to settle a lawsuit.

And now it’s Google’s turn. A class-action lawsuit was been filed in California on Friday. A group of 100 parents are alleging that Google’s policies for Google Play are responsible for their kids being able to run up large bills.

While Google does have an option for requiring a password for purchases, they also offer a 30 minute window where they won’t ask for the password again. After signing in to an account, a user (or their kid) will be able to make purchases on Google Play for 30 minutes without having to re-enter the password. Apple used to have a similar 15 minute window for in-app purchases made on the iPad and iPhone, but they will probably have to remove it as a result of the FTC settlement.

That 30 minute window is the lifeline and business model of unscrupulous developers.  They inundate kids with offers to buy in-game content which can cost anywhere from $.99 to a hundred dollars or more. Naturally this enables kids to run up bills to the tune of  hundreds of dollars, much to a parent’s dismay.

So where is the parent in all this, and why weren’t they parenting their child?

While one could blame the parents, one could also argue that they had already chosen to be responsible and require a password. It’s arguably Google’s fault for including the 30 minute window without an option to disable it.

In fact, given that kids spending too much on in-app purchases have been a known issue since at least 2010, you could also argue that Google had plenty of time to be aware of this problem and neglected to fix it.

In any case, they’re going to have to fix it now.


Lawsuit (Scribd)

image by xJason.Rogersx

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You Can Now Get to Sesame Street via the Kobo eBookstore

Posted: 11 Mar 2014 07:39 AM PDT

Kobo ABCs+of+Cookies,+The+(Sesame+Street+Series)[1]signed a new deal with the Sesame Workshop on Tuesday which added Sesame Street titles to the Kobo ebookstore. Readers of all ages will now be able to find 50 Sesame Street titles, including The Monster at the End of This Book, Count to 10, and How To Be A Grouch, at Kobo.

To celebrate the launch, The ABCs of Cookies, a read-along audio-enhanced ebook,will be discounted to under a buck until 22 March.

The Sesame Street titles are joining the nearly 100,000 titles currently in the Kobo Kids Store. This section of the Kobo site, which launched in October 2013, offers parents a kid safe place where kids can read age-appropriate content. It’s only available in the US and Canada, and it enables each kid to have their own account where they can read ebooks but cannot access the payment info or the possibly inappropriate content in the parent account.

“We are thrilled to make the Sesame Street titles available to Kobo customers,” said Michael Tamblyn, Chief Content Officer, Kobo. “Sesame Street is one of the world's premier children's entertainment organizations. We have always wanted to work with them and knew that making their books available to our customers was one of the best ways to round out our Kids' Store catalog.”

I reviewed the Kobo Kids Store in November, and while I can attest to its kid-safe nature I can also foresee that the restrictions are going to cause problems.  There’s no way for a parent to decide whether titles are age appropriate, nor is it possible for a parent to share a kid’s ebook; they must buy separate copies.

And as kids grow up and no longer need to have their reading material approved by their parents, the limitations enacted by Kobo will eventually chafe (for example, when teenagers need to start reading college-level books). Some of us reached that point at the age of 12 (or younger), so for some of us Kobo’s solution for a safe reading environment causes more problems than it solves.

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Italian Publisher Mondadori Buys eBook Community Anobii

Posted: 11 Mar 2014 05:43 AM PDT

Thelogo_anobii_v2[1] leading Italian publisher Mondadori announced on Tuesday that they had acquired Anobii, a social network for book lovers. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but based on the phrasing of the press release it would seem Mondadori owns Anobii outright.

logo_ame[1]This online book community was initially launched in January 2006, in the pre-Kindle era, and it reportedly has millions of members from all over the world, including around 300,000 members in Italy.

About 4 years after it launched Anobii was bought by a consortium consisting of the UK Retailer HMV and a trio of publishers (Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins). Anobii then changed hands again in June 2012, when Sainsbury’s bought out HMV and acquired a majority stake. This UK retailer bought a 64% share in the social network for £1 plus the promise of taking over certain debt obligations.

About 7 months later, Sainsbury’s revealed their intentions when they divided Anobii by splitting the existing community off from its ebookstore. That store was still under development as Anobii Beta, and it was intended to both be a source of funding for Anobii. It was also going to become the main Anobii site once development was complete.

That Anobii beta site is now known as eBooks by Sainsbury’s, and obviously it sells ebooks. Both the back end and the website, as well as the related reading apps, were developed by the Anobii team. It would appear that Sainsbury’s got what they wanted from owning Anobii, leading them to sell it less than 2 years after they bought it.

Mondadori is but the latest publisher to acquire or launch a book community; many US publishers, including Baen Books, Macmillan, Penguin Random House own one or more.

Thanks, Luca!

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