Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 14 March 2014

Posted: 13 Mar 2014 09:25 PM PDT

Top stories this morning include a look at ebooks in the dark mists of time (link), which type of website visitors are more valuable (link), World Read Aloud Day (link), and more.

  • 8 Hilarious Videos to Watch for National Grammar Day (Rob Blair)
  • An Estimated Million—from Italy to North Carolina—Participate in World Read Aloud Day (School Library Journal)
  • Readers who still click bookmarks are more loyal customers for news sites than Facebook flybys (Nieman Journalism Lab)
  • Seducing Your Writing Students Is Not in the Job Description (BOOK RIOT)
  • Scribd Knows Your State’s Favorite eBook (LitReactor)
  • Story Cards tablet CCG gamifies reading for K-12 students (TeleRead)
  • Where did the story of ebooks begin? (

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How to Get Another Year of Amazon Prime for $79

Posted: 13 Mar 2014 05:30 PM PDT

Amazon announcedgifting_landing_hero._V342263216_[1] today that they were increasing the cost of Amazon Prime membership to $99. How would you like to get another year of the service at the old $79 price?

Chances are if you’ve decided to keep Amazon Prime you think it’s one of the best deals in tech. I certainly do; the savings on shipping to APOs alone justified the expense for the past 2 years, and that’s why I was thrilled to learn of a way I can get another year of service at the old rate.

A clever trickster over at SlickDeals has posted a set of instructions that explains how to pull it off.  It’s pretty simple, and really only involves 2 steps.

  • You need to turn off the auto-renewal for your existing Prime membership, and then
  • Go buy a gift Prime membership and schedule it to arrive in your email inbox the day after your current membership ends.

I’ve already followed the instructions and it looks like it worked. My Prime membership is active, but it will expire in another 4 months. I won’t know for sure whether this trick  really worked until my current Prime membership ends in July, but I am confident that it will.

You can manage your existing Prime membership here. Look in the options on the left for one that mentions ending your membership. Start there.

And you can buy a Prime membership as a gift here. Be sure to set the gift to arrive the day after your current membership ends, and yes you can send it to the same email address as the one on your Kindle account.


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Digital Revenue up 33% at Hachette US, Now 30% of Total Revenue

Posted: 13 Mar 2014 03:10 PM PDT

TheHachette-Book-Group-LARGE11[1] French publishing conglomerate Lagardère released their year end financial reports  on Wednesday, and even though there was a noticeable lack of specific info on digital a few details were released.

Lagardère reported that total revenue for all units dropped to €7.2 billion euros in 2013, down 1.3% from 2012. The net income was €1.3 billion, with most of that amount being attributed to selling off a subsidiary.

The official press release doesn’t have any details on digital revenue or ebooks, surprisingly, but Lagardère’s US subsidiary Hachette Book Group  released a few details in an email yesterday.

Overall revenue was up. Digital revenues were up 33% in 2013, reaching a new high of 30% of total revenue. From the tone of the email it would seem that Hachette success was attributed less to good business and more to having picked the right best sellers:

HBG profit "was significantly higher than 2012, thanks to several bestsellers," states Lagardère's press release.  CEO Michael Pietsch said, "following a challenging 2012, 2013 was a strong year for HBG, with 6% growth in net sales and higher growth in profit."  HBG's digital sales were up 33% over the prior year, and represent 30% of the company's overall sales.  HBG broke its bestseller record in 2013, with 206 print and 84 ebook titles on the New York Times bestseller list, including 52 #1 bestsellers. The major releases driving the company's sales for 2013 include THE CUCKOO'S CALLING by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), THE LONGEST RIDE by Nicholas Sparks, ALEX CROSS, RUN by James Patterson and David Ellis, DAVID AND GOLIATH by Malcolm Gladwell, THE HIT by David Baldacci, THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt, and I AM MALALA by Malala Yousafzai.



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Huawei Committed to Dual-Boot Android/Windows Smartphones

Posted: 13 Mar 2014 01:36 PM PDT

No one huawei-ascend-g600-2-1[1]really expects smartphone manufacturers to only offer a single OS (well, aside from Nokia) but I doubt very many will be following in the footsteps of Huawei.

The Chinese gadget maker has recently said that not only are they going to release smartphones running Android as well as smartphones running Windows Phone, they plan to develop phones that offer both OSes.

In a recent interview, Huawei Chief Marketing Officer Shao Yang said that “Compared with Android, the priority of Windows Phone is much lower but is still one of our choices of OS. We are definitely using a multi OS strategy.” He goes on to add that “With Windows Phone, one direction for us – and one that we are now following – is dual OS. Dual OS as in Android and Windows together.”

Huawei_Ascend_W1_Blau[1]According to Yang, Huawei is planning to release a dual-boot smartphone in the US in the second quarter of 2014. The Huawei exec added: “If it is Windows only, maybe people will not find it as easy a decision to buy the phone. If they have the Android and Windows together, you can change it as you wish and it is much easier for people to choose Windows Phone.”

Call me a Luddite, but I don’t see the value.

I can understand why someone would choose an iPhone, Android smartphone, or a Windows Phone; each has different strengths which appeal to different people. But what I don’t understand is why a consumer would want multiple OSes on a single smartphone.

The benefits don’t outweigh the costs. Replacing the firmware on a smartphone takes time and is a risky procedure even under the best of circumstance, and even official firmware updates can bork the device. At the very least each time the owner wants to switch OSes he’s going to have to do without his smartphone for a period of several minutes to an hour or more, and that’s not counting the time lost setting up accounts.

And what would you gain, exactly, the ability to run more apps? Windows Phone has a shortage of useful apps; as you might recall this has lead Microsoft to commit frequent acts of copyright infringement. The limited supply of apps is also why Windows Phone makes up a negligible share of the  smartphone market.

Frankly, this idea has so little obvious value to the consumer that I have to wonder whether the Huawei spokesperson was quoted correctly, or whether there may have been a misunderstanding due to language differences. That would certainly make more sense than Huawei choosing to make multiple dual-boot smatphones.

Trusted Reviews

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Amazon Rival ShopRunner Offers Free Shipping For a Year to Ex-Amazon Prime Members

Posted: 13 Mar 2014 12:02 PM PDT

Unhappy shoprunner-300x257[1]about the price increase for Amazon Prime? ShopRunner has you covered.

This shipping service, which offers free two-day shipping across 85 retail sites including GNC, PetSmart, Neiman Marcus, and Toys R Us, launched a new offer today that is available only to Amazon Prime members.

ShopRunner is giving away free one-year memberships, and it’s only available to Amazon Prime members. The offer went live earlier today, and as you can see if you scroll to the bottom of the webpage ShopRunner has a simple set of instructions for proving that you have an Amazon Prime membership.

“If anyone feels that Amazon isn't filling your needs, you are welcome to try ShopRunner,” said Fiona Dias, ShopRunner's chief strategy officer, in an interview. “It is our guess that there is a fairly decent chunk of Amazon Prime members who will decide it's not for them anymore.”

In a move that came as a surprise to no one, Amazon raised the price of the US Prime member ship today from $79 to $99. This is the first time Amazon increased the price since the service launched in 2005, and Amazon pinned the increase on fuel and transportation costs.

Dias said it is not disingenuous to blame shipping costs on the increase since that is valid, but it's also not the whole story. “It's a matter of proportion,” she said. “Sure, shipping has gone up over the years, but the tens of millions they are spending on video to go after Netflix, that's a much bigger investment in money and resources, so I think that's what's driving the price increase.”

In October the Philadelphia-based ShopRunner raised $206 million in a new funding round to rival Amazon from investors which included the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and American Express.

In addition to free shipping, this service also offers free returns, though of course ShopRunner doesn’t offer the free streaming video or the free Kindle ebook loans included in Amazon Prime,  so this deal might not be for everyone.

You can sign up for the offer here. I strongly urge you to do so; even if you don’t plan to give up your Prime membership getting something for free is a nice deal. (Just be sure to sign up with Shoprunners before you renew your Amazon prime membership.) ShopRunner normally costs $79 a year.


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Google Cuts Prices for Storage on Google Drive

Posted: 13 Mar 2014 10:51 AM PDT

If you google_drive_logo_3963[1]have been thinking about storing your ebook library in the cloud then I have some good news today; one of your options just got a lot cheaper. Google announced on Thursday that they are cutting the prices on Google Drive.

Starting immediately, the free price tier will offer 15GB for the low price of nothing, and if that’s not enough you can get 100GB for only $1.99 per month (down from $4.99). The upper tier of one terabyte  is now only $9.99 a month (down from $49.99), and if you need more you can get additional storage, in 1TB segments, for $9.99 a month.


The new prices are considerably cheaper than some of Google’s competition. For example, Dropbox is charging $9.99 a  month for 100GB, and they only offer 2GB free.

There was a time where I had my ebook library backed up to Dropbox, but there came a point where it grew to big to fit into the free 2GB. And since I didn’t find the idea of paying for storage all that appealing (not when I am going to carry my ebook library around in my laptop anyway) I largely stopped using Dropbox.

Maybe it’s time I looked into Google Drive. I’m currently only using about 3GB of the free 15GB allotment, and that is mostly taken up by my Gmail account. That leaves a lot of room for an ebook library.

Google has Google Drive apps for Android, iOS, OSX, and Windows, so syncing your ebook library to the cloud is as easy as simply setting it up the first time.

You can find more information on the Google Drive website.

Google Blog

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New Specs Leaked on Google’s Smartwatch

Posted: 13 Mar 2014 10:02 AM PDT

Google google-watch-2[1]has long been rumored to be working on a smartwatch first internally through Motorola and now with partner LG, and now we finally have an idea what the specs will be.

The ever reliable @evleaks has just tweeted some details on the unnamed smartwatch. They’re incomplete, but it was enough to whet my appetite:

That is a larger screen than found on most smartwatches and in addition to being higher resolution it is also slightly sharper than other watches, many of which use a 1.5″ screen with a resolution of 240 x 240. But it’s still a smaller and lower resolution screen than on the recently announced Samsung Gear 2 smartwatches. This watch also has the same amount of RAM and storage as on Gear 2, but the processor is still a mystery.

@evleaks has been shown to be consistently reliable in the past, so these specs are the real thing. And they are probably also a sign that the watch is going to ship in the next few months. This  matches up with previous rumors. which had claimed that the watch would be announced this month and debut in June at Google I/O. And late last week, Google's Android and Chrome head Sundar Pinchai announced that Google would launch a wearable SDK within a few weeks, also suggesting that a new wearable would launch.

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B&N to Kill Nook Windows 8 App, Will Replace it With Microsoft’s New Reading App

Posted: 13 Mar 2014 08:32 AM PDT

Over the pastwindows-nook-tablet-new[1] few months I have been saying that the international Nook Store actually belonged to Microsoft, and it seems that my snark may have had a grain of truth.

Barnes & Noble and Microsoft have filed a new Form 8-K with the SEC today, and it has revealed that Microsoft is going to be taking a more active role in the ebook market.

According to the filing, MS and B&N have agreed to retire the existing Nook app for Windows 8. It’s going to be replaced by a new reading app from Microsoft.  This app has not yet been launched, but at the moment it is being called the Microsoft Consumer Reader. The new app will be co-branded with mentions of both Microsoft and Barnes & Noble.

Technically the filing says that B&N “would be permitted to discontinue distributing the NOOK Windows app”. It makes the same statement about the Nook Windows Phone app, which has not yet been released (and now probably won’t be).

While that does not explicitly say that the Nook app for Windows 8 is dead, I don’t think I am misinterpreting the filing.

There aren’t any details available yet as to what Microsoft’s new reading app will do, but we did have some clue that it was coming. Microsoft has been dropping hints since late last year that they were interested in developing reading apps. In addition to the leaked details on a reading app for MS Office, there were also signs that Microsoft wanted to release a second app – more specifically, a consumer reading app.

I think I may have been the first to notice their interest; last October I pointed out that the R in the name for the Xbox MVR team stood for reading. My speculation was subsequently confirmed by a job listing which Microsoft posted in February 2014.

Update: A couple screenshots were included with the filing (found via Publisher’s Lunch). As you can see in the images below, the new Microsoft app looks nothing like the existing Nook Windows 8 app.

Screen1[1] Screen2[1]

Barnes & Noble has also been telegraphing that they no were longer interested in developing apps for Windows (or OSX); the Nook app for Windows 7/XP as well as the Nook app for OSX were formally abandoned last June after being neglected and ignored for well over a year. While B&N had continued to develop the Windows 8 app, it was pretty clear that they were under contractual obligation to do so.

Microsoft has been an investor in Nook Media since it was spun off of Barnes & Noble in early 2012. They initially invested $300 million in the firm, and they committed to paying up to another $300 million in operational costs (the exact amount has not been made public). The additional funds were dependent on B&N meeting certain goals in expanding the international Nook Store; as of the latest quarterly report B&N has not met the goals.

Thanks, Stephen!

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Onyx Teases New 8″ eBook Reader with Hi-Res E-ink Screen

Posted: 13 Mar 2014 07:27 AM PDT

The Onyx i86 8 inch ereaderChinese ereader maker Onyx might not have the largest share of the global ebook reader market but they do have some of the more industrious and ambitious designers.

I have just found (via MobileRead) a spec sheet for the Onyx Boox i86. This big and beautiful ereader has an 8″ screen with a resolution of 1600 x 1200. At 250ppi this screen isn’t quite as sharp as the 6.8″ screen on the Kobo Aura HD, but it comes close.

The Onyx Boox i86 runs Android 4.0 on a 1GHZ CPU with 512MB RAM, 4GB Flash storage, and a microSD card slot. It also has Wifi and Bluetooth. On top of the high resolution screen you’ll find a frontlight and an IR touchscreen from Neonode.

I can also confirm that this device has at least one speaker or a headphone jack; one of the listed features is text to speech (provided by Ivona).

In terms of software, the i86 is probably running the same reading app as on Onyx’s other Android-based ebook readers (with the same note-taking and scribbling abilities). The spec sheet lists the usual broad range of format support, including ebook formats like PDF, Epub, and FB2 in addition to document formats like Doc, CHM, html, and RTF. There’s also support for MP3 playback.

Onyx i86 8 inch ereader

The spec sheet also lists the i86 as having a Pearl E-ink screen, and not the newer Carta screen, which makes sense. This is one of E-ink’s existing screen sizes, and it is actually on the market.

This 8″ screen unit is used in the Pocketbook Color Lux ebook reader.  That device has an 8″ color E-ink screen, and because it has a color E-ink screen the Lux also has a quarter the screen resolution (800 x 600).

E-ink creates a color screen by placing a color filter on top of a black and white E-ink screen. The filter changes each of the pixels in the underlying screen to either red, green, or blue, and it also leaves a 4th pixel as b/w. Because the color E-ink screen takes 4 pixels to display one color pixel (RGBW), it reduces the screen resolution by 75%.

Along with a grey tinge, the problem with screen resolution is one of the reasons I don’t like color E-ink screens. I’m glad to see someone using the 8″ screen sans color filter, and I hope to see it on the market.

Onyx i86 8 inch ereader Onyx i86 8 inch ereader

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Amazon Bumps Prime Membership Fee to $99

Posted: 13 Mar 2014 05:55 AM PDT

Amazon amazon primehas been hinting ever since their last quarterly report that they might raise the US price for their discount club, and today they followed through.

I can now report that Amazon is going to raise the cost of Amazon Prime to $99 a year. A reader has forwarded the email he received from Amazon which conveyed the bad news:

We are writing to provide you advance notice that the price of your Prime membership will be increasing. The annual rate will be $99 when your membership renews on December 16, 2014.

Even as fuel and transportation costs have increased, the price of Prime has remained the same for nine years. Since 2005, the number of items eligible for unlimited free Two-Day Shipping has grown from one million to over 20 million. We also added unlimited access to over 40,000 movies and TV episodes with Prime Instant Video and a selection of over 500,000 books to borrow from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

I haven’t received this email yet; have you?

There has been much debate in the past couple months about the possible price increase, with many predicting that Amazon would lose customers if they raised prices across the board.

But now that the price hike is here I don’t think that is going to happen. Speaking as a consumer, I can say that I will probably still renew my Prime membership.

Amazon successfully psyched me out by hinting at a $40 increase, and then only increasing the price by $20; they’ve created the impression that it could have been worse and as a result made the actual price increase more palatable. That was a subtle trick on the part of Amazon, and it was well-played.

And frankly, I still see the $99 as a good value – to me.  A Netflix or Hulu Plus streaming subscription costs $7.99 a month or $95.88 a year, and while those services might offer more content I also frequently use the Amazon Prime free two day shipping option. I have probably saved far more in shipping costs over the years than I spent in paying for a Prime membership, and I expect that I will still come out ahead when the price goes up.

Thanks, George!

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