Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 26 March 2014

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 09:33 PM PDT

Top stories this morning include a look at YA dystopias (link), a fascinating Slate article on Calif being featured heavily in SF (link), a Pew report which predicts what the internet looks like 10 years from now (link), and more.

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Four Additional eBook Titles Added to the Humble eBook Bundle #3

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:31 PM PDT

Humble humble bundleBundle launched their third ebook bundle last week, and today they sweetened the pot. I just got an email from Humble Bundle, and it says that they’ve added 4 more ebooks to the bundle.

The basic bundle included 4 ebook titles last week, with an additional 2 bonus titles for those who choose to spend more than the average price as well as an Cory Doctorow audiobook for those who spent more than $15.

According to the email I got today, Humble Bundle is adding 4 additional bonus titles:

  • The God Engines by John Scalzi
  • Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
  • To Be or Not To Be by Ryan North
  • Arcanum 101 by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

At this time, you can only get the extra 4 titles if you spend more than $12.24 (the current average price). But if you already bought the bundle and paid more than the average price you will be able to download the extra titles. The ebooks are available in either PDF, Epub, or Kindle, and they do not come with DRM.

This bundle is available until 1 April, and can be found on the Humble Bundle website.

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Cybook Ocean 8″ eBook Reader Caught on Film

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 04:51 PM PDT

Bookeen’s Bookeen Cybook Oceanmuch delayed ereader was on display at the Salon du Livre (a book fair in Paris) this week, and a French gadget blog called Les Numériques got to play with it for a few minutes.

The Cybook Ocean has an impressively large 8″ screen (1024 x 768 resolution), and it’s running Bookeen’s proprietary reading app on an 800MHz CPU with 256MB RAM. As you can see in the video below, this ereader has a touchscreen, frontlight and is reasonably responsive.

It’s expected to ship in May or June of this year, with a retail of 179 euros. That’s a fairly steep price, IMO, and I think that a similarly priced tablet will offer a better value.

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Amazon is Getting Ready to Sell Books in Brazil

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 02:20 PM PDT

AmazonAmazon_rainforest[1] has been selling ebooks in Brazil since December 2012 and later this year they will be adding paper books to their catalog.

A Brazilian newspaper is reporting that Amazon has signed distribution deals with most of the major Brazilian publishers. No sources have been identified, and of course Amazon has not commented on the story, so of course this is little more than a rumor.

But it is quite plausible. Amazon only recently started selling Kindle hardware in Brazil (previously it had been sold by retail partners, including at mall kiosks), and according to my source the delay was probably due to logistical and bureaucratic hurdles. Amazon might have faced similar hurdles in launching their general retail operation, which could explain why it hasn’t launched in the past 2 years.

There has been talk of Amazon launching a Brazilian retail website for at least a couple years now,  and in fact they were supposed to have launched in 2012 with their stock limited to only CDs, DVDs, books, video games, and software. But as you can see from the current state of Amazon.com.br that simply hasn’t happened.

As we look back, two years later, I can’t help but wonder whether Amazon is facing active  resistance in Brazil. Such a long delay doesn’t make much sense, otherwise.

And while I have no evidence to support it, I do know that this type of resistance has cropped up elsewhere. For example, Amazon’s retail efforts in India were hindered in 2012 by regulations that prevent foreign-owned retail sites from selling directly to the public (ain’t protectionism grand?).

Folha de Sao Paulo

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Tesco’s BlinkBox Books Launches in the UK

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 12:30 PM PDT

With littleindex fanfare, the UK retailer Tesco launched their new ebook store today. This highly anticipated site was first announced last March, and its launch completes Tesco’s digital trifecta.

BlinkBox Books offers a broad selection of titles which can be read on the related Android, iPhone, or iPad apps as well as on compatible ebook readers or on Tesco’s Hudl tablet. Tesco hasn’t revealed just how many titles they carry, but reports have been circulating that Tesco has been aggressively pursuing deals with publishers.

Update: Guess what? Blinkbox Books doesn’t support ereaders. I think that’s a good reason to avoid the store.

This UK retailer has been working to build a digital content store for several years now. They’ve bought several companies, including Blinkbox (a movie service), We7 (music), and MobCast (a white-label ebookstore). That last was bought in September 2012, which should give you an idea just how long Tesco has been working towards today’s launch.

tesco hudl 4Tesco has also launched an Android tablet in September 2013. The Hudl, which was developed in partnership with the French tablet maker Archos, was clearly intended to compliment the BlinkBox content store in much the same way that the Kindle Fire tablet complements Amazon’s music, video, and ebook retail operations.

As of early December Tesco reported that they had sold 300,000 Hudle tablets in just under 2 months. A second model was rumored to launch in March, but I think that window may have passed.

BlinkBox Books is being launched into a highly competitive market where several strong retailers have already staked a claim. In addition to Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Google, there are also local competitors like Sainsburys and Waterstones, which sells Epub ebooks in addition to selling Kindles.

The latest estimates peg the UK ebook market at £80 million in 2013, an increase of 20% from 2012. Around 29% of respondents in a survey have read an ebook recently.

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Apple Just Shipped the 500 Millionth iPhone, But if They Don’t Ship an iWatch in the Next Couple Months They’re Doomed

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 11:11 AM PDT

In the past old-apple[1]7 years Apple has sold more smartphones and more tablets than anyone, but according to one analyst none of that matters if Apple neglects to ship a smartwatch. The company is doomed, Doomed, DOOMED if they don’t ship an iWatch in the next 55 days.

For your reading pleasure today, let me present 2 stories about Apple. In one story we have a factual report on Apple’s success in the smartphone market, while in the second story we have one analyst predicting Apple’s doom.

Forbes reported this morning that Apple has shipped over 500 million smartphones in the past 7 years:

Apple has been known to mark big numerical milestones, celebrating the 50 billionth download from its App Store last May and the 30th anniversary of the Mac earlier this year. But it appears to have quietly let a big one pass within the last few weeks as somewhere on earth, the 500 millionth iPhone was sold.

The consensus would have placed the milestone sale around March 8 given that entering the quarter Apple had sold 472 million iPhones. So even if it proves a bit high as it did last quarter, we've crossed the point where it's safe to assume that Apple has sold 500 million smartphones in less than 7 years. And the most recent 100 million took somewhere between 2-6 weeks less than the previous 100 million did.

That’s great news for Apple, isn’t it?

Not according to one analyst. No matter how many smartphones and tablets Apple may be selling, and no matter how much Apple may have in the bank, Trip Chowdhry thinks Apple is doomed if they don’t release an iWatch tout suite:

Apple needs an iWatch sooner rather than later, or the company will risk losing its innovative edge to rivals, analysts say.

“They only have 60 days left to either come up with something or they will disappear,” said Trip Chowdhry, managing director at Global Equities Research.

“It will take years for Apple’s $130 billion in cash to vanish, but it will become an irrelevant company … it will become a zombie, if they don’t come up with an iWatch.”

In case you were wondering, that report came from CNBC, not The Onion. I double checked.

Chowdhry made this prediction on 20 March, leaving Apple only 55 more days to avoid irrelevancy.  Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, otherwise we’re all going to have to get rid of your Apple gadgets. We wouldn’t want to associate with an irrelevant company, now would we?

The post Apple Just Shipped the 500 Millionth iPhone, But if They Don’t Ship an iWatch in the Next Couple Months They’re Doomed appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Is Diesel eBooks Shutting Down at the End of the Month?

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 09:39 AM PDT

When186284-1-m[1] I reported yesterday about Diesel eBooks filing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and 5 publishers, I described the ebookstore as a thriving retailer. That may have been an error on my part.

Earlier today a reader tipped me to a notice on Diesel eBooks support page which announced the imminent closure of this ebook retailer:

Diesel eBooks is Closing Shop
Diesel eBooks will be closing at the end of this month. It’s been a great ride!  We’re exploring our options – eBooks are still in the infant years and there are many opportunities opening up now and in the future.
IMPORTANT: you must download your eBooks by month end. Downloads will not be possible on April 1st.  We want to thank you for being such loyal customers. Understand this doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t see Diesel in another form in the near future.

If this notice is a surprise, you’re not alone. This is the very first I had heard that Diesel eBooks was shutting down. There is no notice on their homepage and they haven’t sent out emails with the news. I have an account with Diesel eBooks and I have not received any notification. Also, no one has forwarded any notice to me, nor has this been mentioned on MobileRead.

And I know at least one person who was buying ebooks from them only two weeks ago. He didn’t have a clue at the time, which should tell you just how little notice Diesel eBooks has given. (Thanks, George!)

I am still waiting for a response from Diesel eBooks, and in the absence of confirmation or denial I plan to cling to the hope that this is either an error or someone’s idea of a 1 April joke.

But just in case this is for real, I suggest that you download and backup your ebook purchases. It’s better to be safe than sorry, I say, and given how little notice BooksOnBoard offered before they went under last year I think caution is in order. That site was open one day and closed the next, and if I hadn’t already heard that BoB was having trouble paying publishers I would have been caught as flatfooted as BoB’s customers.

Last August I heard similar reports about Diesel eBooks, but I wrote them off because I could not verify any of the details. Also, one publisher named in the rumor denied its factual accuracy, making it nothing more than gossip.

Was that report an early sign of problems or simply a coincidence? It’s too early to say, so stay tuned and I will post an update once I get more information.

Update: I have not received a response, but several readers have informed me that they got an email from Diesel eBooks with a similar message.

Thanks, Kevin!

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Amazon to Acquire Stake in UK Delivery Firm

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 08:11 AM PDT

Amazon yodel_standard_service[1]has taken the first steps to solve the shipping snafu they experienced during the 2013 holiday season.

The retailer has just signed a deal to buy a 4.2% stake in Yodel, a UK-based delivery firm. The deal is going to cost Amazon around £8.7 million, giving the delivery company a value of  £207 million.

Yodel is primarily owned by Barclay. It’s based in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, and it is reportedly the second largest shipping service in the UK (after the recently-privatized Royal Mail). It originated as the delivery division of Littlewoods,  another part of the Barclay business empire, and it ships more than 135 million packages each year. Yodel owns and leases more than 5,000 trucks and employed more than 16,000 people delivering 14 million packages during the 2013 Christmas season.

Amazon is not buying a controlling interest, but I would not be surprised if that were their long term goal. Amazon is one of the largest shippers here in the US, and they are probably in the top 5 shippers in the UK.

But before Amazon buys the company, Yodel is going to have to do something about their customer service. A recent poll showed that 58% of customers who had goods delivered by Yodel rated the experience “bad”, while only 22% reported a good experience. Luckily this is something Amazon can help fix, which might explain why Barclay was willing to sell a stake in the firm.

Even if Amazon doesn’t buy Yodel outright, I still think this deal is a sign that Amazon is going to launch their own shipping service. The retailer has long since grown past the point where it made business sense for Amazon to build and manage their own warehouses, and I think they could be at the point where they are shipping so many items every day that owning their own delivery service could reduce their costs and improve their customer service.

Sure, Amazon’s drone program and their Sunday delivery deal with the US Postal service has been getting all the press, but the vast majority of packages are delivered the old-fashioned way, and that means a delivery service with trucks and drivers.

Amazon’s minority share in Yodel gives them the opportunity to pick the brains of Yodel’s management, which will prove useful when or if Amazon launches their own shipping service.

The Guardian

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Sony Won’t be Adopting Android Wear in Their Smartwatches

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 06:55 AM PDT

Ever sony smartwatchthe lone duck, Sony has recently announced that they won’t be jumping on the Android Wear bandwagon.

Google recently unveiled Android Wear, their platform for getting Android onto wearables. Two manufacturers (LG and Motorola) have already signed up to produce watches which run Android Wear, but Sony will not be the third. We’ve already invested time and resources on this platform, and we will continue in that direction,” said Ravi Nookala, head of Sony Mobile’s US arm.

Having released a smartwatch in 2012, Sony is one of the more established names in the market. They had already developed their own version of Android for their smartwatches, and they plan to stock with it rather than chuck all of their work and adopt Android Wear.

While this dashes the hopes of some pundits who wanted Sony to release an Android Wear smartwatch, it should really come as no surprise.


Android Wear had to have been under development for at least a year before it was announced, and Sony was bound to have at least heard about the platform. So when Android Wear was launched last week with no sign of Sony, it was a strong indicator that the electronics giant wasn’t interested.

The same can probably be said for Samsung. They announced a couple new smartwatches last month which run Tizen and not Android. If they were interested in Android Wear they could have delayed announcing those watches and launched them the same day as Android Wear.


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Amazon Just Sent Me My Share of the eBooks Antitrust Settlement

Posted: 25 Mar 2014 05:45 AM PDT

It’s been2229537166_4edb2679c0_n[1] over a year since the last publisher settled the antitrust lawsuit brought by the Dept of Justice, and we’re finally starting to get our money back.

A new email from Amazon showed up in my inbox this morning with the news. According to Amazon, the indemnity that the 5 publishers paid to the DOJ when they settled the lawsuit is now being sent out to ebook buyers.

All US residents who bought an Agency priced ebook between 1 April 2010 and 21 May 2012 should be getting either a credit via the ebook retailer or they will be getting a check (Google and Sony went old school). For more details, visit the official antitrust settlement website.

According to that website, Barnes & Noble has also started issuing credits, and Sony and Google have mailed refund checks. The status of Kobo’s refund efforts is not clear, but the site does say that anyone who bought an Agency priced ebook from a retailer not mentioned above will be getting a refund check in the mail. And Apple will shortly be mailing out refund checks.

I didn’t buy very many agency priced ebooks in this period, and I don’t expect to to get anything from B&N, Kobo, or the other bookstores. In fact, I was surprised to get even $1.46 credit in the Kindle Store.

The funds being distributed this week come from the $166 million settlement that Hachette, HarperCollns, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster paid to the DOJ when they settled the antitrust lawsuit. Four of the publishers settled in 2012, but Macmillan did not decide to settle until February 2013.

That antitrust lawsuit laid out, in detail, just how the 5 publishers colluded in December 2009 and January 2010 to bring about agency pricing, enabling them to control the retail price of the ebooks they publish. The 5 publishers subsequently increased the prices of their ebooks.

Apple, the one defendant which did not settle, took the case to trial in July 2013 and lost. They have yet to make any restitution, and in fact their penalty trial won’t be held until later this year. Should Apple lose that trial, and also lose their appeal, they will be assessed a penalty. This probably won’t happen until late 2014 at the earliest, and if and when it does ebook buyers should be getting another rebate.

image by Eric__I_E

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