Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 13 March 2014

Posted: 12 Mar 2014 09:30 PM PDT

This morning I have 5 interesting stories and 2 that must-read stories. The interesting topics include Dy Suess, predatory pricing, audiobooks, and Google Books, while the 2 must read stories are going to require that you block out a chunk of the day to read.

The second to last link in this list is a long and detailed response to Toni Weisskopf’s take on the Hugo host kerfluffle. It’s a reminder that Fandom isn’t just an American phenomenon (Toni missed this point).

And the very last link is Bob Mayer’s take on Harlequin’s most recent financial report. He correctly points out that they have little evidence to support their optimism that their finacial situation will improve.

  • 20 Things You Didn't Know About Dr. Seuss (Flavorwire)
  • Forget about predatory pricing leading to monopoly exploitation (PandoDaily)
  • Mary Jo Putney on indie audio books: The new, new thing (USAToday)
  • Transformative or just taking? Lawyers struggle to define fair use in wake of Google Books case (GigaOm)
  • World’s 20 Most Stunning Libraries (Fodors)
  • The Problem of Toni Weisskopf (shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows)
  • True Lies 10: Reality Sucks (Write on the River)

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Google Translate for Android Adds Support for 13 Additional Langauges

Posted: 12 Mar 2014 07:12 PM PDT

Who’s google translateready for a new round of stump the app?

Google rolled out a new version of the Google Translate app on Wednesday. The app now supports handwriting recognition for a geographically diverse group of  13 additional languages, including Arabic and Persian as well as Indian dialects like Gujarati, Kannada, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu.

Continuing east,  the app also now recognizes Hmong and Cebuano. Bosnian, Maltese, Mongolian, and Somali round out the list.

The app supports 80 languages, but not all of them have an option for handwriting recognition (and speech recognition is similarly limited). I also can’t find any list of languages whose written characters are accepted, but I can add that you can find the app in Google Play.

This is great news for anyone who uses the languages listed above, but not so great news for me. My user experience with handwriting recognition can be summed up by the classic Doonesbury cartoon:



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Ubuntu Smartphones Expected to Cost Between $200 and $400

Posted: 12 Mar 2014 01:25 PM PDT

Whenubuntu-phone-group-270x167[1] Meizu showed off their MX3 smartphone at Mobile World Congress a few weeks ago they inadvertently told us that the first smartphones running Ubuntu would cost $400, and today Canonical confirmed the news.

New reports are coming in today that the Meizu MX3 is going to be one of the pricier Ubuntu smartphones. Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical and founder of Ubuntu, spoke to reporters today at CeBIT and said that ubuntu smartphones will probably sell for between $200 and $400 when they hit the market.

That is considerably cheaper than the iPhone and a lot of newer high-end Android smartphones, but Mark feels that phones in this price range are still powerful enough to meet the goals of the project. “We’re going with the higher end because we want people who are looking for a very sharp, beautiful experience and because our ambition is to be selling the future PC, the future personal computing engine.”


A lot of the smartphones on the market are nearly as powerful as desktop PCs, and the Ubuntu smartphone project is intended to take advantage of that fact. The primary goal is to produce hardware that can act as a smartphone and also work as a PC when plugged into a keyboard, monitor, and mouse.

This idea wouldn’t work well with an iPhone or Android due to the inherent limitations hampering those mobile OSes, but Ubuntu is primary a desktop OS which can be shoehorned into a smartphone. “Android wasn’t designed or built to be your personal computer,” Shuttleworth said. “We have the benefit of starting late so we were able to think about it very deeply before it got going.” He goes on to add “I think as people get more and more excited about having a personal computing device that can be a TV or a piece of wearable computing, they’ll be more excited about being part of Ubuntu’s mobile story.”

Canonical has been working towards releasing an Ubuntu smartphone for over a year now. Last year they tried and failed to crowd fund the Ubuntu Edge smartphone on Indiegogo, and since then they have been working with device makers to get Ubuntu running on their hardware.

ubuntu smartphones

Two models have been announced so far. One, from the Spanish gadget maker BQ, is still in the mockup stage, but the other is based on existing hardware. The MX3 is a $400 smartphone with 5.1″ (1800 x 1080 resolution) screen, an octa-core Samsung Exynos 5410 CPU, 2GB RAM, 16GB Flash storage, and 2 cameras (2MP and 8MP).

It was initially released in October 2013 running Flyme OS 3.0, Meizu’s own custom version of Android, but later this year Meizu plans to release a new version that runs Ubuntu.


The Inquirer

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Goodreads Expands Their Book Database With More German-Langauge Titles

Posted: 12 Mar 2014 12:01 PM PDT

GoodreadsAmazon launched a new publishing imprint in Germany on Wednesday but that’s not all they did. The Amazon-owned book community Goodreads also signed a deal to add more German-language titles to its database.

Goodreads has finished negotiating with the German book and ebook distributor Books on Demand, and Goodreads will shortly be adding that service’s catalog of 45,000 titles to the Goodreads database, where they can be searched for by GR members and added to a member’s virtual bookshelves.

This latest deal comes as part of a renewed effort by Goodreads to expand the coverage of their database, and to better server their international members. The site is now claiming 25 million members from around the globe, including Germany.

According to their FAQ:

Goodreads is striving to be a complete database of all published works, including works that are out-of-print. We like our members to be able to add their exact edition to their virtual shelves. Just as a library would not remove a record from its catalog, so do we not remove books from our database.

This has lately led to some rather interesting situations.

In addition to expanding the catalog with data from book distributors, Goodreads is also adding more entries based on metadata sourced from Amazon. Unfortunately whoever was in charge of importing the Amazon data wasn’t quite as careful as they could be. I’m told that a lot of non-book content was mixed in, including some issues of Maxim magazine as well as other paper goods like post cards, calendars, and stationery.

Goodreads is in the process of removing those titles, but until they do so GR members can amuse themselves by adding postcards to their TBR piles.


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Leaked Benchmarks Show that Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Models are Only a Slight Upgrade

Posted: 12 Mar 2014 10:35 AM PDT

Samsung SM-T535[1]has long targeted their 7″ Galaxy Tab model as a budget Android tablet, and now it seems they may be taking the 8″ and 10.1″ models in that direction.

Newly leaked benchmark test results have confirmed past rumors that the new Galaxy Tab 8 and Galaxy Tab 10.1 will have largely the same specs as their predecessors.

Both tablets feature the same quad-core CPU and screen resolution, and they have similar amounts of storage. In fact, aside from a slight bump in the amount of RAM and the CPU being faster than on last year’s model, these are basically retreads of hardware that Samsung released last year (8 inch, 10.1 inch).

The benchmarks (here, here) show that both tablets are running Android 4.4.2 KitKat on a 1.2GHz quad-core SnapDragon 400 CPU with 1GB or 1.5GB RAM, and 16GB Flash storage. Like last year’s models the tablets have 2 cameras, with a 1.2MP front-facing camera and a 3MP rear camera.This is actually a step down for the 8″ model, which had a 5MP camera last year. Screen resolution is 1280 x 800, just like last year’s tablets. And of course they will have Wifi and Bluetooth.

Update: I just notiecd that the Tab 3 10.1 had a dual-core Intel Atom chip.  That means that the quad-core chip in the Tab 4 10.1 is more of a sidestep than an improvement.

On a related note, the Tab 4 10.1 has also recently cleared the FCC, and there will be a model with cellular connectivity.


After perusing these specs, it seems to me that Samsung is largely treading water with the Galaxy Tab line. Just about the only nice part of the specs is the (possibly ) more powerful CPU, and even that might not be much to write home about. While it is a SnapDragon CPU, it’s by no means the best chip made by Qualcomm.

When the Tab 3 line launched last year Samsung offered tablets that were several steps up from the bottom of the market. But now that Samsung has decided to hold still, they’re going to let the bottom of the market catch up with them.

Let’s hope that Samsung adjusted their prices to match.

The Droid Guy

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InoReader Launches Updated Chrome Extension, Android App

Posted: 12 Mar 2014 08:03 AM PDT

InoReader is inoreader logoone of the many independent news reader services that launched following the demise of Google Reader (it’s still thriving in the shadow of Feedly), and it came across my desk today with the news of a couple updates.

They’ve released new versions of their Android app and their Chrome extension.  The former is still under beta development, while the latter is now does more than simply notify you when your feeds have new content to read.

The Android app can be found in Google Play, and in addition to bug fixes and design improvements, the app also now has an option for only updating over Wifi, an offline sync mode, and an option to disable the in-app web browser.

inoreader android

The full list of improvements can be found here. On a related note, the app in Google Play has been updated again since that list was posted, but the latest update only added a single feature.

InoReader’s Chrome extension has also been updated. It can’t pull double duty as an feed reading web app, but it has been improved so it acts as more than just a reminder than you have posts to read.

This extension now tells users which feeds have new content, and it also lets users subscribe to the website they are currently visiting:


The extension can be found at the Google Chrome Web store.


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Amazon Publishing Expands German-Language Publishing Imprints

Posted: 12 Mar 2014 07:08 AM PDT

It’s been someAmazonPublishing.jpg 9 months since Amazon Publishing announced the launch of Kindle Singles in Germany, and on Wednesday Amazon expanded their efforts with a new German-language publishing imprint.

The European Amazon Publishing team, which is led by Sarah Tomashek,  will acquire German-language fiction for publication as Kindle ebooks and print editions available on The team has already picked a number of titles for a Spring release, including:

  • Klang der Gezeiten (The Sound of the Tides), a new work of contemporary fiction from international best-selling author Emily Bold
  • A new murder mystery featuring Berlin police investigator Jan Tommen from best-selling author Alexander Hartung, and a new edition of the first book in the series, Bis alle Schuld beglichen (Until All Debts Are Cleared)
  • New York für Anfängerinnen (New York for Beginners), the romantic best-selling debut novel from FOCUS Magazine New York Bureau Chief Susann Remke

"We've been delighted with the reader response to the German translations released by Amazon Publishing, and are excited to have Publisher Sarah Tomashek and her team in Munich supporting our efforts to bring great works written in German to a wider audience," said Jorrit Van der Meulen, Vice President of Kindle, EU.

Tomashek has worked for Amazon Publishing for 2009, and she has been leading this team since January 2014. Before that she spent 2 years at AmazonCrossing as an editorial leader and acquisitions editor. AmazonCrossing is dedicated to publishing translated works (both to and from English), thus giving Tomashek a good start on publishing German-language titles.

In fact, this new imprint builds on the success of AmazonCrossing, which had published German translations of selected English language works. Since launching in July 2012, six of the imprint's titles have reached #1 on the German Kindle best seller list.

P.S. There’s no mention in today’s press release of the Kindle Singles program which launched in Germany late last year.  That efforted is headed by Laurenz Bolliger, formerly of DuMond, and it has been accepting and publishing original works since November 2013.

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Amazon’s Rumored Set-Top Box to Ship With Netflix, Hulu Apps

Posted: 12 Mar 2014 06:06 AM PDT

No one amazon-tv[1]knows for sure whether Amazon’s rumored set-top box is going to be launching this Spring, but if it does show up a new rumor says that it will have Hulu and Netflix apps.

GigaOm reported late last night that the set top box, which they describe as a Roku competitor, will ship with apps for not one but two of Amazon’s competitor’s:

Amazon originally intended to launch its TV box in time for last year's holiday season, but the launch got held up for unknown reasons. At the time, the New York Times reported that Amazon intended to ship the device with Netflix.

I've now confirmed that this will indeed be the case, and that Hulu Plus will be available through the device as well. However, some mid-sized, more niche-focused video publishers told me that they haven't been asked to join. Netflix wasn't available for comment on the subject, and Hulu and Amazon didn't reply requests for comment.

The gadget is also reportedly going to ship with a remote control, which would make sense given its focus.

At this point there is exactly one piece of evidence that Amazon has a set top box in the works. That would be the Best Buy planogram which leaked a few weeks ago. That didn’t name the device, but it did show that Amazon was listed as having a Chromecast and Apple TV competitor. The planogram was dated in May, giving us a time frame for the launch, but it didn’t include any details other than that.

At this point there’s far more speculation and rumor concerning this device than there is real data, but as the launch date approaches that will change.


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