Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 31 March 2014

Posted: 30 Mar 2014 09:09 PM PDT

Here are seven stories worth reading.

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B&N Should Sell Nook Print Titles in Store, and Other Impractical Ideas

Posted: 30 Mar 2014 03:38 PM PDT

Much question-markink has been spilt on the topic of Barnes & Noble, the Nook, and how B&N might best move forward. So many ideas have been put forward that I was surprised to read about an entirely new one last week.

Jeremy Greenfield, writing over at Forbes, has put forward the suggestion that Barnes & Noble should use Sterling, their publisher subsidiary, to release a new imprint for self-published titles. This imprint would draw from ebooks distributed through Nook Press and select the best ones for print publication:

Barnes & Noble is already dedicating a ton of store space to selling Nook devices. Some of that space should be converted into shelves especially for self-published titles. Nook Press should have its own version of Kindle Direct Publishing Select (a program wherein authors make their self-published titles exclusive to Amazon's Kindle for several months in return for marketing benefits) but with much longer terms (say, exclusivity for six months or a year) and as part of the deal, Barnes & Noble will guarantee at least some print distribution for titles.

The company owns Sterling Publishing, a New York-based publisher. On Nook's dime, Sterling should add a print-only imprint for these titles, called something like Nook Print. This imprint will exist solely to bring these Nook-exclusive digital self-published titles to print and into stores. Editors should determine, based on the quality of the work, whether authors should be distributed in one or two stores, more, or nationwide. For the least suitable work, Sterling will distribute into one or two Barnes & Nobles of the author's choice (within reason — the assumption here is that the author would choose for distribution in her local Barnes & Noble). For the best work, Sterling could distribute to all or most Barnes & Noble stores, based on shelf space.

So what’s wrong with the idea?

For one thing, Jeremy over estimates the amount of space devoted to Nook hardware in the  average Barnes & Noble store. It varies greatly between stores, with newer stores usually having larger Nook sections. But there are also B&N stores, like the one closest to me, which only devote a couple tables to Nook hardware. That store doesn’t have the room to spare.

And then there is the simple fact that B&N is cutting back on the space devoted to books, and giving that space to other products which B&N hopes will generate more revenue. B&N doesn’t even have the space to fit all of the books published each year, and yet Jeremy wants B&N to save prime real estate for self-pub titles.

I would also ask whether it is really a good idea for authors to give B&N an exclusive. The print edition would come at a cost of either abandoning the majority of the global ebook market or playing some kind of inadvisable territoriality game where the title will be available in the Kindle Store in every market but the US. Neither option is ideal.

Luckily authors won’t need to make a choice, because the overhead costs render the program impractical:

Editors should determine, based on the quality of the work, whether authors should be distributed in one or two stores, more, or nationwide. For the least suitable work, Sterling will distribute into one or two Barnes & Nobles of the author's choice …

Jeremy wants Sterling to devote their limited time and money to publishing titles which they know will be market failures. No offense intended to self-published authors, but if a print book is only available in a couple stores then it won’t sell enough copies to justify the time and money Sterling invested in it. Sterling’s costs would have to be recouped from B&N’s share of the related ebook sales, and there’s no guarantee that this would happen.

And this is what’s going to save the Nook?  I just don’t see it.

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Facebook Reveals Why They Killed the new News Feed Last Year

Posted: 30 Mar 2014 01:42 PM PDT

Whenfacebook thumb down Facebook tested a new news feed last year, many people loved it. It featured large images, a clean design, and looked wonderful.

Many missed that design when Facebook killed it, and it wasn’t until today that we learned why FB never adopted it. It turns out that Facebook passed on it not because of revenue, as some would have you believe, but because it didn’t work well for most users.

Julie Zhuo posted an explanation today today over at Medium. She’s revealed that Facebook had to learn the hard way that no matter how pretty that design may have look it didn’t work very well on small screens:

It turns out, while I (and maybe you as well) have sharp, stunning super high-resolution 27-inch monitors, many more people in the world do not. Low-res, small screens are more common across the world than hi-res Apple or Dell monitors. And the old design we tested didn't work very well on a 10-inch Netbook. A single story might not even fit on the viewport. Not to mention, many people who access the website every day only use Facebook through their PC—no mobile phones or tablets. Scrolling by clicking or dragging the browser scrollbar is still commonly done because not everyone has trackpads or scroll wheels. If more scrolling is required because every story is taller, or navigation requires greater mouse movement because it's further away, then the site becomes harder to use. These people may not be early adopters or use the same hardware we do, but the quality of their experience matters just as much.

I don’t know about you, but I was frankly surprised to read her explanation. I’m more used to designers that make changes that fit their aesthetics, and to hell with the user.

For example, in late 2011 Google mucked up Google Reader as part of their poorly considered plan to make all parts of Google look like Google+. It frankly looked terrible and was horribly non functional on a 12″ laptop screen, but that didn’t matter to Google.

And let’s not forget Twitter, which radically redesigns there website every year or so, with each change uglier than the last.

And then there are designers like the ones at Feedly. For the longest time that service refused to offer readers a color theme with black text on a white background, probably because it wasn’t as pretty as the the themes they did offer. Of course, black text on white background was also easier to read and thus more functional than any the color combinations Feedly offered, but that didn’t matter to Feedly’s designers.

It’s a shame more designers don’t care as much as Facebook, isn’t it?

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E-ink Expects Revenues to Drop Next Quarter

Posted: 30 Mar 2014 10:53 AM PDT

Withflexible_image[1] tablet sales up year after year, ebook reader sales have been declining, much to the dismay of E-ink. This screen manufacturer is predicting that their revenues will decrease over this quarter and the next as a result of seasonal drops in ereader sales.

In a conference call with investors, E-ink CFO Eddie Chen reported that revenue is expected to decrease between 5 percent and 10 percent from last quarter's NT$5.86 billion ($192 million USD). With revenue at such a level, "there is a strong likelihood that E Ink will drift into the red during the first half of the year," Chen said, citing weak seasonal demand for ebook readers.

E-ink has made great strides over the past several years in pushing into new markets like shelf labels, signage, smartwatches, and smartphones (one, two), but with the decline in ereader sales down the company just doesn’t have the revenue it used to.

Is time running out for E-ink?

Is time running out for E-ink?

E-ink posted nearly double quarterly net profit for the last quarter, reaching NT$1.01 billion with most of the profit being attributed to royalties. Last quarter E-ink earned NT$820 million from licensing their screen technologies to other companies. This includes both their tech related to E-ink screens as well as the LCD screen tech developed by Hydis, one of E-ink’s subsidiaries.

Chen reported that the company is working to reorganize and reduce costs. “The company is still undergoing a series of corporate restructurings aimed at improving its financial health, and there is a long way to go,” Chen said.

Taipei Times




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The Recession has Driven this Bookseller to Drink

Posted: 30 Mar 2014 08:49 AM PDT

Indianapolis’sbooks and brews newest bookstore combines two old friends: alcohol and books.

Books & Brews, which just opened last week, is the work of Jason Wuerfel. Jason has always wanted to open a bookstore, but with a tight economy and businesses failing left and right he knew that the odds were stacked against him. But then a few years ago he hit on a novel sideline which just might help his bookstore succeed:

Beer. “The bookstore was always the dream,” said Wuerfel. “And then, when the market collapsed, there was no viability in a bookstore. How do you make your margins in order to survive?”

His solution is to open a bookstore which, if you added up the square footage, is far more bar than bookstore.

Wuerfel is joining a growing number of bookstores that are branching out into this related market. Besides The Spotty Dog, there is also the Quarter Barrel Brewery, which opened in Oxford, Ohio in 2010.

Wuerfel got the idea a few years ago when a friend told him about The Spotty Dog Books & Ale, a similarly themed bookstore in Hudson, NY that sells both new books and a selection of hand-crafted ales.

But even though Wuerfel had the idea, he still needed cash, so he turned to Kickstarter. He ran a crowd funding campaign last September and raised $17,000. He then used the funds to put in a nanobrewery and buy stock. Books and Brews is a used bookstore, and many of the fixtures were made by hand just for this store.

“One of things that always puts me off about the big-box bookstores is that there’s no sense of discovery,” said Wuerfel. “In a place like this, it’s so much smaller, so much more of a personal touch. We can direct people in much more specific ways than just, ‘Oh, here’s a horror section.’”

In addition to promoting good books and beers, Wuerfel is also planning events which will draw in the community, including live music, book clubs, tabletop games, movie screenings, author readings, wine tastings and open mic nights. Like many other booksellers, Wuerfel knows that simply selling books isn’t enough.





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