Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 14 April 2014

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 09:30 PM PDT

Top stories this Monday morning include an early report of a new ebook platform (link), the funny ways customers are using the Mayday buttons on their Kindle Fire HDX (link), The Guardian’s self-pub book prize (link), a new twist on PLR books (link), and more.

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Unlabeled Diagram, Random Chunks of Metal Show up Online, Bloggers Proclaim it the Next iPhone

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 08:25 PM PDT

In the Springiphone6_molds_die2-800x528[1] a tech blogger’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of – new Apple gadgets.

A new set of photos has shown up on the Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo, and in spite of any provenance to show that this has any relation to Apple many bloggers are already calling this an iPhone leak.

The photos are labeled iPhone 6 design drawings and show a blueprint, two halves of what may be an injection mold, and a couple photos of someone’s monitor (showing digital blueprints for the mold). It’s not clear from the photos exactly what device all this stuff is related to, so I would be careful about paying too much attention to the speculation.

iphone6_chasis1[1] iphone6_chasis2[1] iphone6_molds_die2-800x528[1]

IMO today’s leak falls in the same category of unsubstantiated rumor as last month’s Weibo leak. While this could be real, this kind of leak is far too easy for a practical joker to fake for us to consider it to be reliable.

The latest rumors going around the tech blogs say that Apple is going to release two larger iPhone models later this year, one with a 4.7″ screen and the other with a 5.5″ screen. But with a launch date not expected until September or October, it’s really too early to say whether that will happen. Even if Apple plans to release larger iPhones, there is always a chance that one or both models will hit a roadblock as a result of design, QA, or manufacturing issues.

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Entitle Adds eReader Support to Their Subscription eBook Service

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 04:16 PM PDT

When Entitle logofirst launched in September 2013, one of its stronger selling points was that readers would own the ebooks they acquired through the Audible-like subscription service.

This set the service apart from Oyster and Scribd; both of those let you read as much as you want but cut off your access as soon as you stopped paying, while Entitle let readers continue to read the ebooks – albeit only inside Entitle’s apps.

Today Entitle removed that last restriction. Readers can now download the ebooks they buy from Entitle, and what’s more they can transfer those ebooks to ebook readers.

Entitle has apps for the iPad, iPhone, Android, and the Kindle Fire, and today they are announcing  support for a broad spectrum of ereaders from manufacturers like Sony, Pocketbook, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. This support was actually added in late December 2013, shortly after I complained about its absence, but Entitle is only officially announcing it today.

The Kindle is of course not supported, but that comes as no surprise.

The  process of downloading the ebooks works much the same as from most other ebook retailers whose names don’t start with A. The ebooks are encumbered by Adobe DE DRM, so you’ll need either Adobe DE or a compatible app like Nook Study running on your PC. The ebooks can be downloaded from the Entitle website, and once on your computer they can be transferred to your ebook reader.

Entitle has changed a lot since they launched 7 months ago. The service now offers a 2 title per month subscription for $10 a month, down from the $17 a month in September.  The catalog has grown to include around 150,000, or about 50,000 new titles from 10 publishers. This including both backlist and frontlist works published or distributed by HarperCollins, HMH, IPG, Ingram Content Group, and Simon & Schuster.

The Entitle catalog is smaller than what you would find in a leading ebookstore, where you would expect to find millions of title. It is larger than the catalog offered by Oyster, but smaller than the catalog belonging to Scribd. Both of those services offer a buffet style subscription service for $9 to $10 a month.


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Why the Amazon Smartphone Might Need 6 Cameras, Part Two

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 08:59 AM PDT

While thesencogi eye tracking Amazon smartphone is now expected to arrive some time this year (June-ish), rumors have been circulating for some time now that it might have unusual specs. The Wall Street Journal, industry analysts, and unnamed sources have all said that the Amazon marathoner would have this feature or that feature, but which one is right?

That I cannot answer, but what I can do is examine each rumor and show you enough related information that you can make a decision.

In part one of this series I looked at an industry analyst’s speculation that the Amazon smartphone would have 6 cameras and use 4 of them for gesture recognition. In this post I plan to discuss a WSJ rumor that the 6 cameras would be used for a different purpose, and in part 3 I will cover whatever rumor makes an appearance next.

A few days ago the Wall Street Journal reported:

The people said Amazon hopes to distinguish its phone in a crowded market with a screen capable of displaying seemingly three-dimensional images without special glasses, these people said. They said the phone would employ retina-tracking technology embedded in four front-facing cameras, or sensors, to make some images appear to be 3-D, similar to a hologram, the people said.

Eyeball tracking is a well-developed technology which is closely related to the gesture recognition tech mentioned in part one. Commercial solutions are available from a number of companies, and I also found one proof of concept project that used commonly available tech like webcams to track a user’s eyes. That project sacrificed quality for cheapness, but it does show us how little hardware is actually required.

Very few of the projects and products I found were mobile; most were tied into a desktop PC, and some even required goggles of some kind. Other products were based on easy to install sensor accessories, and there were even a couple products based on a smartphone.

For example, the Samsung Galaxy S4 launched last year with this feature:

On a related note, according to Samsung the S4 also had an IR sensor for simple gesture recognition.

While there is some dispute whether Samsung is tracking a user’s eye or their face, there are at least two other companies showing off similar tech that requires little more than the tech already built into the Galaxy S4 smartphone.

The first company, Sencogi, demoed a software solution last year. This literally requires no additional hardware than the S4:

The other company, The Eye Tribe, had to add a dongle to the Galaxy Note II in order for their tech to work. It’s not clear to me exactly what sensors are in the dongle, but as you can see it is quite tiny:

So far as I can tell, none of the current eye tracking tech requires 4 cameras, and some require just the hardware on a high end smartphone. With that in mind, it’s not clear why Amazon would need 4 cameras on their smartphone – especially when neither of the competing products require them.

It is worth noting that neither company is promising features similar to the WSJ rumor, which boasted a screen that “make some images appear to be 3-D, similar to a hologram”. So it is possible that Amazon’s trick is more complicated and thus requires more cameras.

We’ll just have to wait and see. I fully expect more details to leak in the coming months, and chances are the rumors will either confirm or deny the rumors discussed above.

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UK Library eBook Pilot Shows Library Loans Drive Sales

Posted: 13 Apr 2014 06:10 AM PDT

It’s 8886834883_e2e1c9651e[1]been just over a month since the Publisher’s Association launched a year long e-lending pilot in partnership with 4 libraries in the UK, and the early results are showing that ebook borrowers are also buyers. Janene Cox, the president of the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL), was speaking at the London Book Fair last week when she told The Bookseller that “people who loan books, buy books”.

The pilot, which is funded by a grant from the British Library Trust,enables the participating libraries to lend ebooks from a special catalog of 1,000 titles, most of which are otherwise unavailable to libraries.

There’s not enough information on just how much this pilot has increased ebook loans, but there is some early data to show that pilot is generating sales. In Derbyshire, for example, 464 ebooks were loaned in the first monitoring period, leading to about 20 sales to library patrons.  According to Cox, many of the patrons bought the ebook while they were  still only part of the way through reading the laoned ebook.

“Working in partnership has to have benefits for libraries and publishers; it has to be about creating an audience for reading,” said Cox. “Publishers should be working with libraries to make their titles as accessible as possible.”

One of the less obvious goals of this pilot is to show publishers that they benefit from library ebook loans. I don’t know that there is enough evidence yet from this pilot to prove the point, but this is a point worth proving.

While here in the US we might complain about major publishers charging high prices for ebooks that expire, the situation is much worse in the UK. According to Shelf Free, a UK library ebook advocacy group, only 3 major publishers (HarperCollins, Random House, and Hachette) sell ebooks to libraries in the UK.

Shelf Free found that in February 2013, 85% of ebooks were not available to public libraries. Out of the top 50 most borrowed adult fiction books of 2012, only 7 were available to libraries to lend as ebooks, and even then the selection depended on which vendor the library was signed up with. With one supplier, only two titles were available.

In short, the library ebook situation in the UK resembles the state of US library ebooks in 2011 or 2012, a time when Penguin pulled out of the market, and Simon & Schuster and Macmillan had yet to start selling ebooks to libraries.

The Bookseller

image by Bev Goodwin

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