Monday, 3 March 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 4 March 2014

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 09:30 PM PST

Top stories this morning include’s latest foaming at the mouth rant about Amazon (link), a look at a library’s circulation policies (link),  Oyster Books disrupting Amazon (link), the SC state legislature retaliating against a college for their curriculum choices (link), and more.

  • Amazon buried my novel: Those search algorithms are for sale (
  • The DMCA Takedown of a Feynman Lectures eBook Converter (Go To Hellman)
  • H&S targets commuters with erotic serial (The Bookseller)
  • Is There Anything More Slow-moving than a Publisher? (The Scholarly Kitchen)
  • L.A. kids can't read a Warren Buffett bio at their school library—because it's shut down (LibraryCity)
  • Oyster Books: Disrupting the disruptor, by Joe Wikert (Olive Software)
  • South Carolina legislature confiscates budget of college for assigning Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” (Boing Boing)
  • What it Takes to Get a Library Book Removed from Circulation (TeleRead)

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Amplify Launches New Tablet, Will Ship it with New Content

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 06:23 PM PST

With an Girl_with_orange_shirt[1]entire 15,000 unit order recalled after only a few months, Amplify’s first educational tablet was one of the more spectacular tech fiascoes of 2013. This resulted in quite a few disappointed and frustrated students, and that is a mistake that this 2 year old startup is not looking to repeat.

Amplify has just unveiled their second tablet, and it’s pretty clear that they’ve learned a thing or two. This tablet was developed in partnership with Intel, and it’s based on the reference designs that Intel has been developing over the past few years.

The new Amplify tablet takes the 10″ reference design Intel unveiled in January and improves upon it. Like the reference design the Amplify tablet has a rugged shell and is running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, but Amplify boosted the CPU, stepping it up to a 2GHz dual-core Z2580. This tablet also has twice the RAM, 16GB of storage, a microSD card slot, and Bluetooth.

amplify tablet

The 10″ screen still has a resolution of 1280 x 800, but on top of the screen you’ll find a layer of Gorilla Glass. There’s also 2 cameras (5MP and 1.3MP), Mimo Wifi antennas for increased reception, stereo speakers, and a microphone. And finally, the battery life is listed as 8 plus hours; according to the spec the battery is rated at 8.1Ah.

In terms of accessories, the new Amplify tablet will have the integrated stylus as well as headphones and an external keyboard.

As you can see from the specs, the new Amplify tablet is going to be faster and more rugged than the one it replaced. That tablet was based on an Asus consumer tablet which has proven to be less than sturdy in the hands of schoolkids. Counting the 15,000 rented to the Guilford School District, about 20 thousand have been distributed so far. They will be recalled and replaced by the new model, which is expected to ship in the Fall and be in students’ hands in time for the new school year.

Like their predecessor, the new tablets will be rented for $200 per year for 3 years.  It will come with device management tools as well as a suite of CC-licensed content from Khan Academy, Core Knowledge, CK-12 Foundation, and more. You’ll also find public domain ebooks as well as a number of useful educational apps, including the Desmos graphing calculator, Encyclopaedia Britannica, EverFi's digital literacy curriculum, Geogebra, Google Apps for Education, Merriam Webster Dictionary, Project Noah science tools, etc.

Amplify will also be licensing additional academic content separately. The first of the new content launched today, and it focuses on Language Arts curricula for 6th, through 8th grades. it  will set schools back $45 per student per year.

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The Writers’ Union of Canada to Accept Self-Published Authors as Members

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 03:16 PM PST

The 2da0f0214624ec2690416d022edde8551[1]Writers’ Union of Canada announced on Monday that they will be the soon be the second writer’s organization to accept self-published authors as members.

This decision, which has been under debate since long before it came to my attention in May 2013, was recently voted upon by TWUC members. For the past 3 weeks the union has been holding an online referendum, and nearly 4 out of 5 members voted in favor of amending the union’s bylaws to allow qualified self-published authors as new members.

79% of the votes were cast in favor of the idea, with 18% cast against and about 3% of the voters choosing to abstain. The question required at least a 67% majority to pass, and since it passed by a considerable margin the next step is to draft an amendment to the organization’s constitution.  That is scheduled for the next general meeting, which is going to be held in Newfoundland in May 2014.

The Writers’ Union of Canada is joining the Authors Guild in accepting self-published authors, and while that sounds like good news I think it might be too early to celebrate. You see, they’re only going to accept quote unquote qualified self-published authors. What exactly does that mean?

I don’t know because it has been defined yet. All I know at this point is that self-published authors will be required to jump through addition hoops to join TWUC:

Self-published books presented by authors applying to join the Union must demonstrate commercial intent, and must be peer reviewed before being forwarded to the membership committee of the Union for approval based on existing criteria.

The full step-by-step procedure for assessment of self-published books will now be developed, and will be launched by the Union's Membership Committee at the time of the constitutional change.

At this point it is too early to predict how this will turn out, but it bears watching.


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Hands on with the Huawei MediaPad X1 (video)

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 01:12 PM PST

HuaweiHuawei MediaPad X1 showed off their latest 7″ tablet at Mobile World Congress, and Charbax was there to get it on film.

The MediaPad X1 is running Android 4.2.2 on a quad-core 1.6GHz CPU with 2GB RAM, 16GB Flash storage, a pair of cameras (13MP and 5MP).

It sports a 7″ 1920×1200 resolution display, and according to Huawei the 5Ah battery offers 20-25 hours run time before it needs to be recharged. At just 7.8mm, this is one of the thinner tablets on the market. But with a weight of 239 grams it’s not the lightest. That’s a hefty battery inside the tablet, and it adds weight, but given that this tablet has an LTE chip in addition to Wifi I think the battery is worth it.

Retail is going to be 399 euros, and if that translates one for one to dollars then the MediaPad X1 is probably out of my price range.

Huawei MediaPad X1 specs

  • Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
  • 7″ 1920 x 1200 display
  • 1.6GHz quad-core CPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
  • 13MP and 5MP cameras
  • 5 Ah battery

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Ingram Buys Digital Textbook Distributor CourseSmart

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 10:24 AM PST

Ingram 3405811164_d49a982c6e_m[1]Content Group announced on Monday that they had acquired one of their competitors.

CourseSmart, a company which had been founded in 2007 to provide teachers with digital course materials, is going to be merged with Vital Source Technologies, Ingram’s digital textbook wing.

CourseSmart is one of the leading digital textbook providers for students, and they stock over 40,000 titles. Their next largest competitor, with 4 million users, was Vital Source.

There’s no word of the sale price, but I have been told that CourseSmart has been up for sale for a couple years now. It was owned by a consortium of textbook publishers, and they’ve been keeping it going by pumping money into it year after year. They almost sold it to Kno last year, but that startup would not have been able to shoulder the obligations or the debt load. And then Kno went bankrupt, putting the kibosh on the deal.

CourseSmart's strengths in inventory, instructor sampling and analytics will be integrated with Vital Source's reader platform and global, scalable distribution network. By combining the two organizations, Vital Source will offer the world's largest digital curricula catalog and provide better digital content solutions for the higher education community.

image by Ed Yourdon

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Karbonn to Launch Dual-Boot Android/Windows Smartphones

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 08:53 AM PST

The Karbonn newIndian smartphone maker Karbonn announced on Monday that they plan to launch a dual-boot smartphone by June 2014. The phones will run Android and Windows Phone 8, and Karbonn reports that they have Microsoft’s blessing to develop the phones.

According to Sudhir Hasija, chairman of Karbonn, “Microsoft has eased the regulations and is opening up its platform for other players. We signed the agreement two days ago and will launch a range of Windows phones in about three months.”

The dual-OS smartphones are going to target office-going professionals and ‘techies’, Hasija added. There’s no mention just yet of a price range or specs, but Karbonn licenses quite a few tablet and smartphone models with a variety of specs and price points, including several models that look like clones of Apple and Samsung products.

pro_list_image_193[1]Karbonn currently sources their smartphones and tablets from Taiwan and Korean OEMs, but the company is working on launching their own factory unit in India, with the capacity to make one million smartphones each month.

Android is growing increasingly popular as a dual-boot solution. A couple weeks ago the Spanish smartphone maker Geeksphone launched a dual-boot phone which ran Android and Firefox OS, and Asus unveiled several dual-boot Android/Windows 7 hybrids at CES 2014. I’m sure it won’t be too long before even Apple releases a dual-boot iPhone (kidding, of course).

The Times of India


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Leaked iPhone 6 Component Hints at a Larger Display

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 07:46 AM PST

RumorsiPhone-6-F02 have been circulating and analysts have been speculating for over a year now that Apple was working on a larger iPhone, and today the first proof may have shown up. is claiming that they have photos of the glass frontpanel component for the iPhone 6.  The photos had reportedly turned up on a Chinese forum which had previously been known for Apple leaks, and they show the front panels for what looks like a 3.5″ iPhone, a 4″ iPhone, and a new and larger model.

Note the lack of a bezel and the slightly larger screen area:


So does this part belong to the next iPhone? Maybe, but there’s also a good chance that we’re looking at a part intended for some Chinese knockoff.

The rumor about the larger iPhone has been circulating for at least a year, and at this point even I think Apple is working on one.  But as I have always said, you can’t believe Apple product rumors until the components, blueprints, or some other physical evidence leaks.  Given that this is just the first leak I think that it would be best to wait for more leaks before forming an opinion.

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Japan Display Seeks $3.8 Billion in IPO

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 07:01 AM PST

Japan Japan_Display_logo[1]Display Inc, one of the world’s largest makers of displays for smartphones, announced on Monday that they are planning to raise $3.8 billion in an IPO.

With a stock price projected to be between 900 yen and 1,100 ($8.88 to $10.85), the firm is setting a lower price than analysts had previously expected, signaling a cautious investor stance amid rocky market conditions. JDI plans to issue 140 million shares in this IPO, and Sony is going to be selling another 240 million shares.

Along with Hitachi and Toshiba, Sony was one of the initial investors in JDI when it was formed in 2012 by combining the 3 firms’ struggling screen manufacturing units. And now that Sony is selling most of the shares in the IPO, it would seem that JDI is the next part of Sony to go up for sale.  The electronics maker recently sold their PC division as well as a couple office building, and just last week they put their old HQ in Tokyo on the market.

3[1]Their loss is someone else’s gain. JDI is one of the leading makers of smartphone and tablet screens, and they maker displays for the Apple iPhone 5c and 5s as well as other top US and Asian smartphone makers, including Huawei.

The firm has been making a name for itself over the past couple years with new screen tech, including 5.4″, 5″, and 12″ screen units as well as a low-power LCD screen which integrates static RAM into each pixel, thus reducing the need to constantly refresh the screen. JDI first unveiled a 7″ demo unit in 2012, and in January 2014 they debuted new screen units intended for the wearables market.

JDI plans to announce the final offer price on 10 March, and the company is scheduled to be listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on 19 March.


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Samsung Leaks Galaxy Tab 4 Line in its own Fine Print

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 05:48 AM PST

There aresamsung-galaxy-tab-3[1] times where a large company’s right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing is annoying, and there are times that it’s useful.

Samsung has just inadvertently confirmed that they plan to release a new set of Galaxy Tabs this year. According to the new webpage for Gearfit, Samsung’s exercise accessory is going to be compatible with a wide variety of Samsung devices, including both smartphones and tablets and last but not least, the “Galaxy Tab4 (10.1/8.0/7.0)”.

This is the first solid leak concerning Samsung’s next tablets, and it backs up a rumor which circulated among Korean-language gadget blogs in mid-February. Neither the leak nor the rumor mentioned any specific details, but I would not expect the tablets to have specs a whole lot better than what’s on the market now; Samsung’s high-end tablets were announced as part of the Note and Pro lines, and that pretty much leaves the Galaxy Tabs as Samsung’s lower end tablets.

In the coming year the Tab 4 line will have the Note Pro, Note, and Tab Pro lines above it, and as a result I'm expecting all those better tablets to push the Galaxy Tab 4 down to a cheaper price range. The cheapest Tab 3 model is already pretty awful, and I think that the Tab 4 models will be just as bad.

I’m just not sure Samsung can make a budget tablet that is worth buying.

Android Central

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Gartner Estimates 195 Million Tablets Produced in 2013 – 22 Million Fewer than IDC’s Estimate

Posted: 03 Mar 2014 05:04 AM PST

The analysts screen-shot-2014-03-03-at-09-27-16at Gartner have released their tablet sales estimates for 2013, and once again Apple reigned supreme.

The Cupertino-based smartphone maker shipped 70 million tablets in 2013. Gartner is estimating that global tablet shipments totaled 195 million, giving Apple a 36% share of the market. Android tablet makers came in second, collectively making about 120 million tablets, or 61% of the market, and Windows tablets came in a distant third with an estimated 2 million units sold.

Among the Android tablet makers, Samsung lead the pack with an estimated 37 million tablets sold or about 19% of the market, taking the number 2 spot in the global tablet market (after Apple). Asus came in second with 11 million, while Amazon and Lenovo filled out the top 5 tablet makers with 9.4 million and 6.5 million tablets, respectively.


Gartner believes that Amazon only showed modest growth, increasing their sales by less than a couple million, while Samsung and Lenovo both showed explosive growth. Lenovo more than tripled their 2012 sales, while Samsung quadrupled theirs. According to Gartner, both are benefiting from their decision to target the lower end of the market; much of last year’s growth is attributed to low-end, smaller screen tablets as well as first-time tablet buyers.

“In 2013, tablets became a mainstream phenomenon, with a vast choice of Android-based tablets being within the budget of mainstream consumers while still offering adequate specifications,” writes research director Roberta Cozza. “As the Android tablet market becomes highly commoditised, in 2014, it will be critical for vendors to focus on device experience and meaningful technology and ecosystem value — beyond just hardware and cost — to ensure brand loyalty and improved margins.”

These figures more or less agree with the estimates released by IDC in late January, though there is a discrepancy of around 22 million tablets sold. IDC also reported that Apple dominated the tablet market, though I’m not sure how either firm can now that for sure. The only solid data on the global tablet market is what Apple releases every quarter; the rest is a WAG.




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