Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 28 March 2014

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 09:23 PM PDT

Must read stories this morning include a new perspective on the NYTimes story about rent driving bookstores out of Manhattan (link), a snarky response to that same story (link), a look at the three antitrust suits filed by indie ebook retailers against Apple and the 5 publishers (link), and more.

  • ALLi campaigns for inclusion (The Bookseller)
  • Apple, Publishers Battle New E-book Antitrust Claims (PW)
  • Do indie bookstores really have to fear digital disruption? (TeleRead)
  • The Ebook Market + Big Five Survival (Jane Friedman)
  • New York Times reports 17-year-old “news” (Rocket Bomber)
  • Publishing: Why You Should Care About Ebook vs Print Formatting (The Creative Penn)
  • A tale of the digital ebook in the tablet era (Medium)
  • The Times is just trolling indie booksellers now, and it’s sort of brilliant (MobyLives)

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Amazon is Working on a Free Streaming Video Service

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 08:37 PM PDT

The WSJ is amazon orange tvreporting that Amazon is planning to follow in the footsteps of Hulu and launch an ad-subsidized streaming video service:

The new service, which could launch in the coming months, likely will feature original series and may include licensed programming, these people said. As part of the project, Amazon has held talks with the creators of “Betas,” a series about a Silicon Valley startup that Amazon produced last year for Prime, these people said.

Amazon also plans to offer free music videos with advertising to people visiting its retail website, two of the people said. A search for Bruce Springsteen CDs, for example, might yield an option to watch the “Born in the U.S.A.” video.

There’s a chance that this might debut at Amazon press event next week, but that’s just speculation. I don’t know for a fact that Amazon is going to launch this program but I can confirm that they have the tech. In fact, they’re already testing it.

Over the past couple weeks I have watched a couple pilots for Amazon’s original series, and I can confirm that both pilots had adverts which played before I saw the show. They’ve been showing the ads since at least February, according to AdAge, and Amazon is even inflicting them upon Prime members.

I never watched more than a few minutes  of either show (they just weren’t that interesting) so I cannot say whether there were commercial breaks, but I know that I saw adverts before the shows.

So yes, this story is real, and Amazon has the tech.

But I hope they don’t deploy it. The adverts on Hulu are so annoying that I stopped using the service.  The breaking point was when they started putting 2 adverts in front of movie trailers, thus forcing me to watch two adverts in order to watch a third one. That was just ridiculous.

And if Amazon is willing to inflict the adverts on Prime members then you know that non-paying viewers will have an experience as bad as what Hulu users go through.

But in spite of my distastes, I fully expect Amazon to launch this new service.  There is reportedly a lot of money in that market:

The ad-supported streaming video project also would give Amazon an opportunity to flex its advertising muscle. Amazon has been quietly building out a service for placing ads on its own and other websites. Market researcher eMarketer estimates the unit will generate nearly $1 billion in sales this year, rivaling AOL and IAC/InterActiveCorp.

By comparison, YouTube—which streams a combination of music, television, film and original content such as home videos—generated about $5.6 billion in sales last year through advertising, eMarketer estimates.

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Sony Now Sending Out Emails About the Transition to Kobo

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 04:35 PM PDT

When sony kobo logoSony announced back in February that they were closing the North American branch of the Sony Reader Store, they promised that their customers would have a chance to shift their accounts to Kobo. 

The Sony Reader Store has been dead for about a week now, and I finally got instructions on how to transfer my Sony account to Kobo.

The process was far simpler than I expected. All i had to do was click the link in the email, and then after I was directed to the Kobo website I clicked the button labeled Get Started. Everything after that happened automatically.

Of course, the fact that I already had an account with Kobo and I never did buy any ebooks from the Sony Reader Store, may have helped. One could argue that I didn’t go through the full process.

Have you gotten the email yet? Did you lose any ebooks in the transfer process?

If you haven’t transferred your account yet, I would  do it soon. Sony has stated that the store credits will only be transferable until 31 May 2014, and it’s better to transfer the credits than it is to let them go to waste.

In related news, Sony is also promising that they will be sending out an update for the Sony Reader next month. The PRS-T1, PRS-T2, and PRS-T3, will be getting an update that replaces the integrated ebookstore with one that is tied to Kobo. A second later update will add the ability to buy ebooks from Kobo directly, saving readers the effort of transferring the ebooks over a USB cable.

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Three Guesses Why Dropbox Wants to Buy Readmill

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 01:57 PM PDT

TechCrunch dropbox readmillis reporting that a certain cloud storage service is looking to acquire Readmill, a social reading platform. I’m still waiting for Readmill to deny the report, but I believe it’s true and I bet I can tell you why Dropbox wants Readmill.

From TechCrunch:

According to what we're hearing, the deal value is around $8 million, made up of mostly stock but with a small amount of upfront cash for the startup's founders who will be moving to Dropbox in San Francisco. What will happen to Readmill is unclear — I pinged co-founder and CEO Henrik Berggren for comment late yesterday but have yet to hear back so all of this is unconfirmed. However, considering this is a talent acquisition, it's likely the service will be shuttered or possibly kept going with minimal support in the near term. The acquisition also points to a trend of consolidation and a number of exits coming out of the Berlin tech scene.

I can give you three reasons why Dropbox wants Readmill:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Collaboration
  3. Collaboration

I think Dropbox wants to build online collaboration tools for its business customers.

Aside from simply sharing an entire file, Dropbox doesn’t have any collaboration tools at the moment, but I bet they want to build something like Google Docs. While I have no proof, it is the next logical step after letting people share a file.

I know it might sound strange for Dropbox to be interested in Readmill’s social reading platform, but Readmill currently enables readers to share note, highlights, and their other reading habits. That’s really only half a step away from what I think Dropbox wants, which is for 2 or more Dropbox users to edit a shared document online.

This would explain the recent purchase of Zulip, a startup that was still in private beta. Zulip is a workplace chat solution, and I’m sure you would agree that enabling 2 people to discuss the document they are co-editing would be a useful feature.

I’m still waiting for confirmation or denial, but at this point I think this story is true – for the most part. That is no guarantee that the deal will happen, but if it does I would bet that Dropbox plans to announce the acquisition and the new features on 9 April.

Dropbox reportedly has an event planned on that day where they plan to announce new features. While the rumor did not mention collaboration tools, it would make sense for Dropbox to announce them at that event.

Unless the deal falls through, in which case we probably won’t hear anything at all.

If I were a more frequent user of Readmill I would be praying that the parties couldn’t come to terms. This deal will probably result in the death of Readmill’s existing platform.  Even if it survives, it’s going to lose several key people as they turn their attention to building Dropbox’s new collaboration tools. As a result the current platform could wither away.

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Sony Sells More Real Estate, Turns a Profit of $148 Million

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 12:09 PM PDT

Sony sony-logoannounced on Thursday that they are selling yet another office building in Tokyo.

They’ve signed a deal to sell Building 5 to a Japanese real estate developer. The new owner has agreed to pay around 7 billion yen for the building, earning Sony a net profit of around 5 billion yen or $49 million.

This but the latest asset to be sold off as part of Sony’s turnaround plan. Sony has also sold their US headquarter building and put their old Tokyo HQ on the market. Earlier this month Sony also sold Building 4 for 16 billion yen, netting Sony a profit of around 10 billion yen. Both of the recent real estate sales are going to be recorded as operating profit in the coming fiscal quarters.

Sony has also sold off their PC division, and last but not least they’ve started to shut down unprofitable retail operations. Sony has abandoned most of their retail stores in the US (and in other countries). The Sony Reader Store closed in North America, with the remainder being run by the German ebook firm txtr. Sony has also shuttered the Crackle streaming video service in the UK, citing too much competition.

On a related note, I am concerned that Sony might shutter the remaining Sony Reader Stores as soon as their contract with txtr is up. I wouldn’t be too alarmed about the possibility; if or when that happens I would bet that any existing Sony customers will probably become txtr customers. Your account will simply transfer over.

The post Sony Sells More Real Estate, Turns a Profit of $148 Million appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Microsoft Launches Office for the iPad

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 10:48 AM PDT

It’s true. office ipadMicrosoft is officially launching MS Office for the iPad.

The app is pretty much everything I had assumed it would be. Like the existing Office apps for iPhone and Android, the new app includes the ability to create and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, and it has the same OneDrive integration as the iPhone app.

It’s a free download but it also requires an Office 365 subscription. This costs $6.99 a month for a single user license and $9.99 (and up) for a multi-user license. You can find the app in iTunes.

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Amazon is Holding a Press Event Next Week

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 10:09 AM PDT

Amazon isAmazon-Instant-Video-on-Kindle[1] sending out press invites today for an event next week.  While we don’t know exactly what is going to happen, there’s wide speculation that this event will feature Amazon’s much hyped set top box.

The invite, which you can see below, asks the press to “please join us for an update on our tv business”. Between the image of the couch, popcorn, and the mention of tv, it would seem Amazon is confirming all of the leaks which have been circulating over the past few months.

amazon invite

Rumors have been circulating for well over a year now that Amazon was working on a media streaming device, but it was only in the past few months that the density of the rumors was high enough to suggest that the device existed and was about to launch.

At this point we still don’t know the name, price, or abilities, but recent leaks suggest that next week Amazon will unveil a dongle-shaped media streaming device. It’s expected to run Android and will ship with a number of competing video services, including Hulu and Netflix.

According to a leaked planogram, Best Buy is expecting to carry it in May. That planogram also suggests that the upcoming device will have Wifi.


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Verso Books Launches Retail Site, Offers eBook/Print Bundles

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 09:02 AM PDT

Verso Books announcedVerso_Logo_Red_Text[1] on Thursday that they are now bundling ebooks and paper books on their website. This publisher has around 350 titles in print, and you can now find those books on the website.

Verso Books has been selling paper books on their website for over a decade (or so the Wayback Machine suggests), and they have been pointing their ebook customers to major ebookstores for nearly as long, but it was only recently that the publisher started selling ebooks direct.

Readers can find many of Verso Books’s titles on their website in both analog and digital. Many of the print books will come bundled with an ebook, but ebook junkies such as myself can also buy the ebook separately. While it’s not clear how many titles are currently available, the press release does note that Verso Books offers free postage to anywhere in the world.

The ebooks will be available to download direct from Verso Books, and will come with only a minimum of DRM. It looks like the only format offered is Epub (but not Kindle), and the DRM is provided by Booxtream. This Dutch firm specializes in digital watermark DRM, which is a subtly way of marking files with details that can identify the original purchaser. This DRM will be largely imperceptible to users, making it an ideal compromise between security and convenience.

Verso Books



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Sony’s 13.3″ eReader to Ship in the US in May, Will Cost $1,100

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 07:21 AM PDT

When Sony1blue_box2-image[1] released their 13.3″ epaper writing slate in Japan in November, there was no indication that this 98,000 yen white elephant would ever see a wider release. Sony is well-known for releasing a product in single market, so I was surprised today when I learned that Sony had found a reseller partner who plans to release the Digital Paper DPT-S1 in the US later this year.

Worldox, a legal and financial document management company based in New Jersey, announced yesterday that they will be distributing the Sony Reader DPT-S1 in North America in May. Worldox isn’t a retail distributor, so this device is unlikely to show up in stores, but business and institutional customers will be able to buy it direct from Worldox.

1blue_box3-imageAssuming, that is, that they would want to waste $1,100 on a device which only supports PDFs and cannot be used for any related office tasks.

The DPT-S1 has simply amazing hardware, including a flexible screen which is to die for, but it’s severely hindered by the limited software running on it.

In addition to Wifi, a touchscreen, stylus, 2.8GB Flash storage, and a microSD card slot, the DPT-S1 has a 13.3″ Mobius screen, with a screen resolution of 1,600 x 1,200. E-ink announced this flexible plastic-backed screen tech last year, and while it has shown up on a couple smartwatches and smartphone cases, the DPT-S1 is the first product to use the screen (the Earl back country tablet should ship with a 6″ version later this year).

1blue_box4-imageThanks to the new screen tech, the DPT-S1 is both lighter and more durable than most of its brethren. It weighs in at 358 grams, less than many tablets. This writing slate also has 2 touchscreens, one (optical) designed to work with touch and the other (active digitizer) intended to work with the stylus.

That is an amazing screen and touchscreen, but I can’t make similar statements about the software. According to the English-language product page, the DPT-S1 is just as limited as it was when it shipped in November. It only supports viewing, editing, and managing PDFs, but no other formats.

Just to give you an idea of how limited it is, the DPT-S1 doesn’t even have an email client. And no, you can’t install apps and add abilities.

With that in mind, I predict that Worldox isn’t going to sell very many, and that’s probably a good thing. Buying $1,100 worth of tablets presents a much better return on your money.

But oh, how I want one.





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Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0 Images Leak

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 05:58 AM PDT

samsung galaxy tab 4 7 inch 1Samsung’s next planned leak of their new Android tablets happened right on schedule yesterday.

The ever reliable @evleaks posted a couple product images yesterday, and they reveal that Samsung’s newest 7 inch tablet is going to look pretty much identical to last year’s model.

Previous leaks of the specs for this tablet suggest that it will only be a slight upgrade on last year’s model. It will likely be getting a bump in screen resolution (to 1280 x 800), and it will run Android 4.4 KitKat on a quad-core 1.2GHz SnapDragon 401 CPU. It’s getting a slightly larger battery and will support 64GB microSD cards, but other than that the Tab 4 7.0 will probably have the same 1GB RAM, 8GB Flash storage, 1.3MP and 3MP cameras, and other specs found on last year’s model.

samsung galaxy tab 4 7 inch 1 samsung galaxy tab 4 7 inch 2

There will reportedly be Wifi, LTE, and 3G versions of the Samsung galaxy Tab 4 7.0, but at this point none of the models have cleared the FCC.

While I don’t have the real spec sheet to look at, the specs mentioned above are based on a concatenation of specs posted by a source that had previously proven reliable and leaked benchmarks for Samsung’s not yet released Galaxy Tab 4 8″ and 10.1″ models. I’m willing to bet that they are correct because the pattern of leaks fits with past Samsung marketing efforts.

Speaking of the benchmarks, you might have noticed that it looks like Samsung will be using the same resolution screen and largely the same guts in all 3 of their Tab 4 tablets. I’m guessing that this is a cost saving measure both in terms of production and for developing new firmwares.

Rather than customize Android for 3 CPUs and 3 screen resolutions, Samsung will only need to develop a firmware for 1 CPU and 1 screen resolution. That could save them some work. Of course, Samsung tends to not release firmware updates, so I don’t think this matters much but one can hope.

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