Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 7 March 2014

Posted: 06 Mar 2014 09:30 PM PST

This week wraps up with a morning coffee that includes tips on how to prepare for tech withdrawal when we unplug on Saturday (link), 5 reading rules to break (link), Facebook’s new news feed (link), Apple’s latest protest in the antitrust case (link), and more.

  • TLotR atlas shrugged

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    5 Reading Rules for Book Lovers of All Ages from Book Riot’s Rebecca Schinsky (Reading Rainbow)

  • Apple: Biased Judge Should Not Decide Damages (PW)
  • Facebook launches an improved version of the News Feed redesign teased last year (The Next Web)
  • Half of books in homes are unread (Telegraph)
  • A Library In Your Pocket: How Having an E-reader Has Changed My Reading Habits (
  • Open Access Honesty (Go To Hellman)
  • The Ten Year Itch: Rereading Books After A Decade (BOOK RIOT)
  • Tips for Unplugging and What to Do Once You Do (PBS)
  • Why DRM’ed coffee-pods may be just the awful stupidity we need (Boing Boing)

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Google Updates Text-to-Speech Engine With New Voices

Posted: 06 Mar 2014 05:03 PM PST

Google google text to speechhas updated their text-to-speech app with high-quality English voices and new language support today.

The app now features high-definition male and female voice packs for the UK language option, as well as a high-definition female voice pack for the US language option. All 3 packs have smoother enunciation and more natural intonation than the standard speaking voices.

Speaking of which, Google has also added new voice options for Brazilian Portuguese and US Spanish (in addition to Spanish Spanish). This brings the total number of supported languages to 7 (or, if you count the duplicate Spanish and English options separately, 9 language options).

Actually, now that I have tried the voices I think we should count US Spanish separately; it’s basically the American English voice shouting at you, with the volume controlled by speaking the word “que”.

Once you have the updated app (I’m still waiting), you can download the new voice packs from one of the settings menus. Look for the Language & Input option, and after you go about 3 menus deeper you’ll find the download menu. You will have to sit through a sizable download to enjoy the new higher quality voice packs, however – they each take up over 200MB, while the normal quality recordings are only 6.8MB.

Google released text-to-speech as its app in Google Play back in October, opening the way for fast, seamless updates to this important part of the Android user experience. I believe this is the second or third update since October, and like the previous update this update should be pushed out to compatible devices automatically.

Android Authority

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Amazon Rolls out an Update for the Original Kindle Paperwhite

Posted: 06 Mar 2014 01:33 PM PST

Amazon Kindle-Paperwhite-product-image-7[1]might not be selling the original Kindle Paperwhite in very many markets but that doesn’t mean it’s been forgotten.

The publisher’s bane has just released a new update for the 18 month old ereader, and it more or less gives the first-gen Kindle Paperwhite all of the features found on the newer model, including Kindle Freetime, Goodreads integration, vocabulary builder, and more. (Now if only Amazon would release a similar update for the Kindle Touch, that would be great.)

As with all Kindle updates, this update will be sent out automatically to your Kindle Paperwhite when you connect to Wifi or 3G. If you would like to install the update yourself, or if your current firmware is out of date and this needs to be manually updated (a problem suffered by Kindle Touch owners) then you can download the update from the link listed below.

Kindle Paperwhite 1st Generation Software Updates

Here's the entire list of changes with the new update:

  • Kindle FreeTimeFreeTime lets you create personalized profiles for kids, and give them access to titles from your collection of books. Kids can keep track of their personal reading progress and earn achievement badges. To learn more, go to Kindle FreeTime
  • Goodreads on KindleConnect with the world's largest community for readers from your Kindle Paperwhite. See what your friends are reading, share notes, and rate the books you read. To learn more, go to Find and Share Books with Goodreads on Kindle.
  • Cloud CollectionsUse Cloud Collections to organize your content in custom categories. See your collections in a Collections view, and customize where your collections show on your device. To learn more, go to Organize Your Content with Cloud Collections.
  • Page FlipWhile reading, you can skim the book page-by-page, scan by chapter, or skip to the end for a sneak peek without losing your place. To learn more, go to Go To Other Locations in a Book
  • Enhanced Bookmarks, Highlights & NotesAccess and manage all of your bookmarks, highlights, and notes more quickly and easily. To learn more, go to Bookmarks, Highlights & Notes
  • Smart LookupWhen you look up a word or character, Smart Lookup provides you with dictionary, X-Ray, and Wikipedia information.To learn more, go to Explore Your Book with X-Ray.
  • Vocabulary BuilderWords looked up in the dictionary are automatically added to Vocabulary Builder. View the definition and usage of the words, and quiz yourself with flashcards. To learn more, go to Expand Your Vocabulary.


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The Not-GoodReads Book Community BookLikes Adds Kindle Integration

Posted: 06 Mar 2014 12:42 PM PST

Bookloversbooklikes logo, rejoice. The blog-focused book community BookLikes has added new support for the Kindle.

BookLikes members can now sync their Kindle account with BookLikes  and share their reading stats with other members. Members can share their reading status and the latest information on the ebooks they have read and rated.

I’ve just checked it out, and apparently BookLikes handles the Kindle integration via a member’s Twitter account, and not directly with Amazon. So if you want to integrate BookLikes with your Kindle account you’ll also have to add Twitter as well.

In addition to letting members share their Kindle reading stats, BookLikes also supports Facebook and Goodreads integration. And if you have an account at LibraryThing or Lovely Books you can also import your bookshelf.

Book lovers use BookLikes to share their reading milestones, connect with book bloggers and share book reviews and book recommendations with their followers. The site offers a unique blog-like focus that lets each member decide whether they want to share a status update, post a snippet of text, or write an entire blog post.

The site is a couple years old, but its current focus dates to a May 2013 redesign that changed Booklikes layout as well as how members interacted.

The post The Not-GoodReads Book Community BookLikes Adds Kindle Integration appeared first on The Digital Reader.

HP Launches the HP8 1401 Budget Android Tablet – $170

Posted: 06 Mar 2014 10:33 AM PST

hp 8 1401Having long since run out of good names for their tablets, HP has launched a tablet that merely has a model number in place of a name.

The HP 8 1401 is an iPad Mini sized tablet which is just launching today in the US. HP is listing the retail at $169, which is a rather steep price given the unimpressive screen resolution, underwhelming CPU, and generally meh specs.

This tablet is running Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean on an Allwinner Quad-Core A31s CPU. It has 1GB RAM, 16GB Flash storage, a microSD card slot, and 2 cameras. At 7.85″, the screen is about the same size as on the iPad Mini, but at 1024 x 768 the resolution is only that of the original iPad Mini.


This tablet has an accelerometer, gyro, stereo speakers, and a VGA camera on the front and a 2MP camera on the back. It weighs in at 11 ounces and comes equipped with a 3.8Ah battery which is projected to offer 7 hours of runtime before needing to be recharged.

All in all, this tablet offers little to justify its price – not even the CPU. I’ve encountered the Allwinner A31s chip before, and it offered about the same performance as dual-core CPUs. If you’re lucky, the cameras will be better than average but I would not bet on it.



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Two Economists File Pro-Apple Brief in eBook Antitrust Case

Posted: 06 Mar 2014 09:19 AM PST

When Apple-logo[1]Apple’s ebook antitrust lawsuit went to trial last summer, some argued that Apple was merely acting in their own best interest and that the judge didn’t understand the economics of the situation. Those arguments got a little extra heft yesterday.

Two economists, including one who had previously testified for Apple as an expert witness, filed an amicus curiae brief on Wednesday. The 33 page brief (PDF) supports Apple’s appeal to overturn the verdict for the ebook antitrust case which Apple lost last year, and it presents a very different view of Apple’s motivations.

The brief is the work of CalTech’s Bradford Cornell, who has no obvious ties to Apple that I can find, and NYU’s Janusz Ordover, who had previously testified in one of the Samsung-Apple trademark /patent/schoolyard squabbles. It’s long and detailed, but the heart of their argument is laid out in a three-paragraph summary:

Efficient markets depend on firms acting in their independent business interests. In this case, the District Court’s failure to consider the economics of the vertical agreements between Apple and the Publisher Defendants led it to infer that Apple facilitated and participated in a horizontal price-fixing conspiracy. The District Court never considered evidence and economic reasoning that the vertical agreements were in Apple’s independent business interest in entering e-book retailing, wholly apart from any horizontal conspiracy.

The provisions of the agreements at issue—agency, ‘most-favored-nation’ (MFN) clauses, and price caps—can be instrumental in facilitating new entry, particularly into markets with an entrenched, dominant firm. In this case, the District Court disregarded economic evidence and reasoning that these provisions served Apple’s independent business interest in entering the e-book market, where Amazon was a near-monopolist. The District Court also ignored economic evidence and reasoning suggesting that Apple’s entry into e-book retailing, and not the MFNs, allowed the Publisher Defendants to persuade Amazon to switch from a wholesale to an agency business model.

The District Court also erred in equating price increases for some e-books with harm to competition. Apple’s entry into the e-book retail market dramatically increased competition by diminishing Amazon’s power as a retail monopolist (and its ability to pursue a “loss-leader” strategy that inefficiently priced e-books below their acquisition cost).  That increased competition gave publishers more bargaining power, thereby bringing ebook pricing closer to competitive levels. These errors threaten to chill competition by discouraging the use of common vertical contracting techniques that are often essential to facilitating the expensive and risky investments needed for entry into highly concentrated markets.  Our antitrust laws should encourage, not penalize, vertical contracting arrangements that facilitate entry and enhance competition.

Apple appealed Judge Cote’s ruling two weeks ago. A DOJ spokesperson said it would file its brief in May.


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A New Perspective on B&N: Staples to Close 12% of their Stores by 2014

Posted: 06 Mar 2014 08:33 AM PST

Staples Staples-Logo[1]has announced that sales were down last year, and as a result they plan to close 225 stores by the end of 2015.

The office supply company released their quarterly and annual earnings report this morning and the picture isn't terribly rosy for Staples stockholders or its employees.

Staples’s retail and online sales totaled $23.1 billion in 2013, down more than $1.2 billion from 2012. Even when you factor out the extra week in fiscal year 2012  in that the 2013, Staples’s revenue for 2013 was still down 3.4% ($800 million).

click to embiggenPart of that decrease can be blamed on the Staples stores that were shut down during 2013, but even then sales were down 2% in 2013 when compared to 2012. As a result of the decreasing sales, Staples has announced plans to cut cost by closing under-performing stores.

And since most of the drop in revenue can be attributed to Staples’s NA stores ($700 million, in fact), they’ll be the first to go. The company plans to close up to 225 stores in North America by the end of 2015. Staples has also initiated a multi-year cost savings plan which is expected to generate pre-tax cost savings of approximately $500 million a year by the end of 2015.

So what does this have to do with Barnes & Noble?

Remember last January when B&N let slip that they plan shutter 20 stores a year for the next decade? A story in the WSJ caused a shitstorm of negative press in the blogosphere when a senior manager revealed B&N had plans to shrink for the next decade.

At the time it seemed reasonable to freak out over the news, but in light of recent news from other retailers I think it might have been a mistake. After Tuesday’s news about Radio Shack and today’s news about Staples, I think we may have over reacted to the report.

I still think B&N should not have let that remark slip, not given the holiday season they had just had, but in their defense it now appears to have been blown out of proportion.

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New Persian eBookstore Launches in Iran

Posted: 06 Mar 2014 07:46 AM PST

Iran’s first head_logo[1]“piracy-proof” ebookstore is now open for business., which initially opened in January 2014, officially launched on Tuesday.

A ceremony was held to celebrate the opening, and in attendance were Iranian Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati, his cultural deputy Seyyed Abbas salehi and some of the members of the Union of Tehran Booksellers and Publishers.

The site sells ebooks in Persian and English, and it also reportedly offers a wide selection of out of copyright titles. Customers can read the ebooks in apps for Android, Windows, OSX, iPad, and iPhone. A live internet connection is required in order to read the ebooks.

According to my source, that live connection is supposed to guarantee that the ebooks cannot be pirated, but I am not so sure. Netflix has similar restrictions on their streaming content, and shows like House of Cards are readily available on pirate sites.


Fidibo is the latest in a growing trend of ebookstores that focus on just a single niche market. While the indie stores are quite common in Europe and in eastern Asia, much of Africa and the Middle East are still an underserved ebook market, presenting a ripe opportunity for sites like Fidibo or the recently launched Kotobi ebookstore, which got a lot of press last month.


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ComiXology Discovers Security Breach, Wants You to Reset Your Password

Posted: 06 Mar 2014 06:55 AM PST

Digital ComiXology-Comics-Appcomics distributor comiXology revealed on Thursday that a wide-ranging and worrisome security breach has been discovered during a security review and upgrade. They don’t believe that any password, account info, or payment details were compromised, but just to be safe they are asking that you reset your password.

According to the email I got this morning, the blanket password reset is being called a "precautionary measure" by comiXology. They report that an unidentified individual had gained unauthorized access to one of comiXology’s databases which contained passwords, emails, and usernames.

Yes, the hacker may have gained access to your email, giving them a good opportunity to phish for your password by sending a fake email. Just to be safe, I went and confirmed this report via comiXology‘s Twitter accounts. (If the hacker got control of both accounts as well the database info then I just give up; I welcome my new hacker overlord.)

If you have an account with comiXology, go here to reset your password ASAP. I have already changed mine, and I don’t even have any payment info attached to the account.

Here’s the email comiXology sent out:

Dear Comics Reader,

In the course of a recent review and upgrade of our security infrastructure, we determined that an unauthorized individual accessed a database of ours that contained usernames, email addresses, and cryptographically protected passwords.

Payment account information is not stored on our servers.

Even though we store our passwords in protected form, as a precautionary measure we are requiring all users to change their passwords on the comiXology platform and recommend that you promptly change your password on any other website where you use the same or a similar password. You can reset your password here.

We have taken additional steps to strengthen our security procedures and systems, and we will continue to implement improvements on an ongoing basis.

Please note that we will never ask you for personal or account information in an e-mail, so exercise caution if you receive emails that ask for personal information or direct you to a site where you are asked to provide personal information.

We apologize for the inconvenience. If you have any questions, please contact us by sending an email to


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Kobo Relaunches their Reading App for Windows 8, Windows Phone App is in the Works

Posted: 06 Mar 2014 05:26 AM PST

Justkobo itunes ios logo 5 months after Kobo pulled their Windows 8/RT app, it’s back. Kobo announced on Thursday the relaunch of their reading app for Windows 8 and Windows RT.

The new app boasts access to a catalog of 4 million titles, all of which can be read via a friendly user interface and synced across a reader’s Kobo account. The app also features a new ability to pin specific ebook titles as live tiles to the Start screen.

“We are excited to give our Readers access to their Kobo eBooks on the Microsoft Windows ecosystem. Just like Kobo, Microsoft understands the importance of providing users with greater mobility and new ways to enjoy their favourite content. The Kobo for Windows app is designed to make Kobo content come alive on Windows devices,” said Sameer Hasan, Director of Reading and Mobile Platforms, Kobo.

Kobo had been one of the first to release a reading app for Windows 8 when that OS launched in 2012, and many pundits were surprised when they pulled their app back in November 2013. They never gave an explanation for its removal, but one user commented at the time that:

I’ve been struggling with the very poorly developed Windows 8 Kobo app for the last year. I finally got it working on a Microsoft Surface RT tablet. I upgraded to a Surface Pro 2 and went to download the app from the Windows Store – and couldn’t find it!

If that is the reason for the removal then it was a smart move. Kobo probably took the last 5 months to rebuild the app from the bottom up and fix all of the issues with the old app. Of course, this is just speculation; all we know is that the app has been restored.

In related news, Kobo is also reporting today that they will soon be launching a reading app for Windows Phone.The Windows Phone experience will operate with the same functions as the Windows App for notebooks, tablets and desktops, offering the best content and experience to its readers.

So have you tried the new Kobo Window s8 app? How well does it work?

Kobo – Windows Store


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