Monday, 31 March 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Digital-First Publisher Momentum Books to Drop Digital, Switches POD

Posted: 31 Mar 2014 06:25 PM PDT

If the latest Momentum-Avatar-e1328049705378[1]news from Momentum Books is any indication then April is going to be a month for surprised.

This Pan Macmillan Australia imprint has just announced, in a blog post dated 1 April, that they are giving up on ebooks.  Momentum Books has accepted the fact that the majority of the book market is still paper, and it’s going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

In a shock announcement sure to make waves in the Australian publishing industry, Momentum, the digital-first imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia, has announced that they will no longer be publishing books digitally. Their entire back catalogue will be converted to print, as will all upcoming books.

Momentum's publisher Joel Naoum said, "While we've had an extremely valuable experience working in digital, we've had to make the decision to go to a print-based model. We'll still be publishing the same kinds of projects, but we'll be delivering them via an exciting new system."

Momentum Books is still going to be an experimental imprint for Macmillan, only they’re now going to focus on a delivery method other than ebooks. Momentum Books is going to be the first publisher to combine POD and delivery by drone.

The second part of the announcement was that instead of sending print books to bookstores, the books will be delivered to individuals via drone. This follows the death of an extremely wealthy relative of Naoum's, who bequeathed the publisher an undisclosed sum.

This pivot was inspired in part by Amazon Prime Air, the drone delivery system Amazon debuted late last year, as well as other early drone delivery projects, including one created by an Australian startup.

Momentum sees drones as the future, though of course the  tech still needs to be debugged. For those who want the books without drone delivery, Naoum said "get with the 21st century, man."

P.S. You might want to check the date on Momentum’s blog post.

The post Digital-First Publisher Momentum Books to Drop Digital, Switches POD appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Student Launches in the UK

Posted: 31 Mar 2014 04:31 PM PDT

Amazon Amazon_Student_Logo[1]expanded their student discount program into the UK today.

British university students can now take advantage of 6 months of free and discounted shipping, followed by up to 4 years of half-priced Amazon Prime membership.

The students will first have to provide a school email address, and in addition to the discounts Amazon is also offering an extra 20% on books sold to the Amazon Trade-In program. Once the 6 months are up, the students then get access to the full Prime service, including both the free streaming video and the free Kindle ebook loans – all for £39 per year.

Amazon has long focused on recruiting college students as customers. They’ve been offering Amazon Student here in the US for at least 6 or seven years. That program is quite effective, and it even worked on a cheapskate like me.

Amazon has also lately been actively recruiting students by setting up booths on college campuses, including one at the University of Washington.  And the retailer has also been running a pilot test where the UC Davis bookstore acts as an Amazon affiliate. That pilot launched in September 2013, and is expected to run for the rest of the school year.


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Barnes & Noble Rolls Out New Update for the Nook Glowlight

Posted: 31 Mar 2014 01:40 PM PDT

Pokingbarnes-noble-nook-glowlight-hand holes in the rumor that they fired their entire hardware staff, Barnes & Noble released a new update today for the Nook Glowlight, their latest ereader.

Readers can now enjoy a better shopping experience, improved search capabilities,, and the ability to redeem access codes on the device (this previously required the B&N website).

This update also includes the usual bug fixed and performance improvements. It’s going to be pushed out to Nook Glowlights over the next few weeks, but if you don’t want to wait you can download it manually.  You can find the update and instructions on how to install it on the B&N website.

Here is the changelog:

- Improved Shop browsing
- Easier search capabilities
- Ability to redeem access codes on device
- Newsstand list view now displays issue count
- Whole page viewing now the default setting for side-loaded PDFs
- Bug fixes for stability and performance

With the retirement of the Nook Touch, the Nook Glowlight is currently Barnes & Noble’s only ebook reader. It is complimented in B&N’s gadget stable by a couple rather old Android tablets, the Nook HD and Nook HD+.

B&N has said that they plan to launch a new tablet this year, possibly in partnership with a hardware maker. They are also making moves into the academic market.


The post Barnes & Noble Rolls Out New Update for the Nook Glowlight appeared first on The Digital Reader.

New York Times Reports 17-Year-Old “News”

Posted: 31 Mar 2014 12:37 PM PDT

"Rising rents in Manhattan have forced out many retailers, from pizza joints to flower shops. But the rapidly escalating cost of doing business there is also driving out bookstores, threatening the city's sense of self as the center of the literary universe, the home of the publishing industry and a place that lures and nurtures authors and avid readers."
- Literary City, Bookstore Desert: Surging Rents Force Booksellers From Manhattan : Julie Bosman, 25 March 2014, New York Times

…this sounded really familiar to me for some reason. Oh, right:

"The B. Dalton on Fifth stayed open for close to two decades, until 1997. At that point the chain was owned by Barnes & Noble — and the hubbub wasn't about new big boxes forcing out bookstores, but about rising rents in New York forcing some of the big boxes to close."
- Rocket Bomber, 24 February 2009

…and the B. Dalton on fifth, that Rocket Bomber made note of five years ago?

"After 36 years of business, the Doubleday Book Shop on Fifth Avenue, a cerebral antidote to Tiffany's glitter and Bergdorf's finery, is shutting its doors at the end of the month. It will be the seventh bookstore to close on the avenue since the early 1980's, signaling the end of midtown Manhattan's strolling boulevard for book lovers."
- Another Fifth Ave. Bookshop Is Felled by High Rents : Lisa W. Foederaro, 17 June 1997 …that was seventeen years ago, as reported in some local rag, which one was it again? oh, yeah: the New York Times.

"'You just have to walk down Fifth Avenue to see what New York has become — it's become an outlet mall for rich people,' said Esther Newberg, a literary agent, adding that she had just received an email from a Random House editor noting that the company was able to print books quickly because it owns its own printing plant. 'Why don't they own their own bookstore?'"
Bosman, op. cit.

Barnes & Noble could stand to own a little real estate, too: I mean, why negotiate rents, why not own the building? Of course, they did own a building, but they closed that bookstore in January.

I find it hard to cry for Manhattan. I feel sorry for some New Yorkers but it seems like the Powers That Be are rebuilding that borough into exactly what they want, a gated community and theme park for the rich …and apparently, also a collection of neighborhoods without bookstores.

Perhaps this should instead be a wake-up call for every publisher who still maintains an office in Manhattan: is it really worth the rent? I mean, when you can't walk down the street to see your product for sale in a store window, is New York really the "book capital" of the US anymore?

"What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul."
? Neil Gaiman, American Gods

reposted under a CC license from Rocket Bomber

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Google Teases Dual-Screen Nexus Smartphone in Google Maps April Fool’s Day Joke (video)

Posted: 31 Mar 2014 12:02 PM PDT

Google google nexus 5 smartphone dual screenhas made a name for itself in crafting elaborate April Fool’s Day Jokes, and they have outdone themselves this time. The Google maps team has already posted a joke video, and buried in the video is either Google’s next smartphone or a second meta-joke.

The video, which is ostensibly a job ad for the new Google Maps position of Pokemon Master shows what looks like a dual-screen smartphone that resembles the Nexus 5 (but is more likely a prop made up of two nexus 5 smartphones.).  You can see the front and the back of the device at about the 1:28 mark:

So is this a prop or a planned device?

Common sense tells me it is probably a prop which was used just to mess with us, but the gadget geek in me (an 8-year-old who jumps up and down and goes “Oh! Oh! Oh! Want! Want! Want!”) is hoping that this smartphone is real.

This type of dual-screen smartphone isn’t a new idea. In addition to the much larger and quite different Entourage Edge tablets, several dual-screen Android devices like the Nexus prop shown in the video have been released over the past few years. Sony released the dual screen tablet P, and there have been a couple smartphones including like the Kyocera Echo, which was released in 2011, and the Medias W N-05E from NTT DoCoMo. So it is entirely that Google could make a dual-screen nexus smartphone.

But that doesn’t mean that this prop is real, just that Google added an extra dimension to the joke.


The post Google Teases Dual-Screen Nexus Smartphone in Google Maps April Fool’s Day Joke (video) appeared first on The Digital Reader.

New Details Revealed for Harry Potter Spin-Off Movie(s) – Plural

Posted: 31 Mar 2014 10:30 AM PDT

When J-K-Rowling-s-Fantastic-Beasts-and-Where-to-Find-Them-Will-Get-a-Video-Game-Version[1]Warner Brothers announced last September that JK Rowling would write the script for a new movie set in the Harry Potter universe, few details were known other than that the movie would be based on the 42 page magical zoology book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Thanks to a new article in the NY Times, we now know that there will be not one but 3 movies. Details are still thin but we do know that the author is enthusiastic:

The main character will be a "magizoologist" named Newt Scamander. The stories, neither prequels or sequels, will start in New York about seven decades before the arrival of Mr. Potter and his pals.

Convincing the famously independent Ms. Rowling to dive back into film was a coup. "When I say he made 'Fantastic Beasts' happen, it isn't P.R.-speak but the literal truth," Ms. Rowling said in response to emailed questions. "We had one dinner, a follow-up telephone call, and then I got out the rough draft that I'd thought was going to be an interesting bit of memorabilia for my kids and started rewriting!"

51xzrfq0UPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_[1]The character of Newt Scamander was mentioned in the first Harry Potter novel as the author of Fantastic Beasts. That book generated such interest that it was later published in 2001 as a faux zoology book.

There are still no firm details on production or when the movies will debut, but Rowling has said elsewhere that she wrote the initial script in 12 days. She had always had a back story in mind for the character:

Warner Bros. came to me ages ago and said they wanted to do something with Fantastic Beasts. I could see the potential in it. I knew something about Newt [Scamander, the fictional author of Fantastic Beasts] having written a little something for Comic Relief. I had imagined a little bit of back story for him…

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Amazon Faces New Strike in Germany

Posted: 31 Mar 2014 09:15 AM PDT

Amazon’samazon-logo3 ongoing low-level conflict with German unions flared up again on Monday.

Reuters is reporting that some of the workers at one of Amazon’s distribution centers have gone on strike.

Hundreds of workers at online retailer Amazon in Germany went on strike on Monday, the first stoppage this year in a pay dispute that has been dragging on for months.

A spokesman for the Verdi labor union said about 500 of the around 1,200 workers at Amazon’s distribution center in Leipzig were expected to strike.

Given that Amazon employs a total of 9,000 people at nine different distribution centers in Germany (as well as up to 14,000 seasonal workers), this is a relatively minor issue for the retailer.

Amazon has been in conflict with a certain German union for some months now, and this isn’t the first time that there have been strikes. Three of Amazon’s German warehouses were hit by  stoppages in the 2013 holiday season; Amazon said that deliveries were not affected.

Verdi has been agitating for Amazon to increase what it pays workers at the warehouses to match the collective bargaining agreements for the mail order and retail industry, but
Amazon has countered with the point that they regard the warehouse staff as logistics workers who  receive above-average pay by the standards of that industry.

Given that Verdi has been unable to muster a widespread strike against Amazon, it’s not clear that the workers feel they are underpaid. On the other hand, Amazon does employ contract workers from other parts of the EU, and those workers might feel pressured to keep their heads down.

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My Buying Community Want to Help Authors Beat the Kindle Store Best Seller List

Posted: 31 Mar 2014 07:55 AM PDT

It’s long unnamed been known that publishers (and even some authors) have bought their way onto prestigious best seller lists, but until now it hasn’t been very easy to pull off the same trick in digital best seller lists.

My Buying Community wants to change that. This site launched some time back with the simply goal of helping authors game the Kindle Store best seller list, and it just crossed my desk this week.

Like the MyKindex site which operated for a period of time last year, MBC connects authors with a willing pool of book buyers. The site looks to be entirely author funded, and from what I can tell as a reader it works along the same lines as the services that sold reviews to authors like John Locke.

A user signs up, request to purchase a book, and after the purchase is verified the user is credited the price of the ebook plus an additional 30%. After a user buys enough books to pass the minimum payment threshold, they can request a Paypal funds transfer.

Or at least that is how the site is supposed to work; I just signed up today and I am still waiting for the credit for the ebook I bought. It’s a $.99 title in the Kindle Store with 4  five star reviews.

It’s not clear yet whether this site will have any effect on the Kindle Store best seller list, nor does the site claim it can do that. Instead it merely says that it connects readers to new authors.

But the site operates in a shady manner, and I learned of it via the developer of My Kindex,  which did boast of manipulating the French Kindle Store’s best seller list, so I am more than comfortable with attributing nefarious goals to this otherwise nondescript site.

My Buying Community claims to have 10,000 members, and if that is true and the site marshals all of its members to buy a single title then they well could affect that ebook’s rank in the Kindle Store.

Hopefully Amazon is already aware of this site, and is taking steps to thwart it.

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Tim Waterstone Predicts eBooks Will Decline. Also, Horseless Carriages are just a Fad

Posted: 31 Mar 2014 06:31 AM PDT

Tim 5374610955_19f68c73f0[1]Watersone, founder of the UK bookstore chain, had an old geezer moment at the Oxford Literary Festival last week.

The Telegraph is reporting that Waterstone has predicted that ebooks would decline:

The so-called e-book "revolution" will soon go into decline, the founder of Waterstones has said, insisting that the traditional physical book is here to stay.

Tim Waterstone, who founded the bookshop chain in 1982, argued that the printed word was far from dead and Britain's innate love of literature had made books one of the most successful consumer products ever.

He added that he had heard and read "more garbage about the strength of the e-book revolution than anything else I've known".

"I think you read and hear more garbage about the strength of the e-book revolution than anything else I've known," Mr Waterstone told the audience in Oxford.

"The e-books have developed a share of the market, of course they have, but every indication – certainly from America – shows the share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK."

I don’t know what’s the worst about this, Waterstone for making a questionable claim or the Telegraph for backing it up by selectively reporting market stats.

If you go read the original article you’ll see that the Telegraph mentions that the UK ebook market was worth £300 million in 2013. That detail comes from stats recently release by Nielsen Bookscan. That detail is completely accurate, but what the Telegraph left out was that Nielsen also reported that the UK ebook market increased by 20% in 2013.

That’s an interesting omission, isn’t it? I could understand if the Telegraph had simply left out the Nielsen data, but selectively reporting the data raises interesting questions about the Telegraph writer, Hannah Furness.

But that is the lesser story; the big story today is Waterstone pontificating about the future of ebooks. Based on no evidence other than the fact that the ebook markets aren’t growing as fast in past years, he argues that ebooks are going to decline.

I don’t see how he reaches that conclusion; growth is still growth. It would be different if Waterstone had argued a principle along the lines of ebooks no longer meeting the needs of readers or authors, but even that would be a stretch.

Authors and publishers like ebooks because they are a least effort way to get novels and other works of fiction to market, and readers like ebooks because with some types of works (fiction, mostly) they’re more convenient than paper books.

In short there is a segment of the publishing industry that likes ebooks, and there is a segment of the book-buying public that likes ebooks. Until one or both of those go away, ebooks are not going to decline.

Until someone can pull out data which shows a real decline and not just a market fluctuation (like what is shown by the 2012, 2013 AAP data), it is safe to assume that reports of the decline of ebooks are greatly exaggerated.

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