Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 24 April 2014

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 09:40 PM PDT

Top stories this Thursday morning include criticism of BEA’s reader-focused BookCOn (link), editing (link), DRM as a transmission tax (link), and more.

  • 4 Levels of Editing Explained: Which Service Does Your Book Need? (The Book Designer)
  • Blurb Teams up with Amazon for Self-Published Photo Books (TNW)
  • Ebook, Used Book, or New? The Choice Reflects A Range of Values | (DBW)
  • Fans of Quibb, a content-sharing network, can now buy shares in the company on its website (GigaOm)
  • How Much Data Plan Bandwidth Is Wasted By DRM? (Slashdot)
  • MacAdam Cage Authors Look to Resolve E-book Dispute (PW)
  • Readers Deserve Better Than BookCon (BOOK RIOT)
  • What Makes the Best Infographics So Convincing (Harvard Business Review)

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Amazon Launches Prime Pantry – a $6 Shipping Charge Aimed Across the Bow of Target

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 05:54 PM PDT

However muchpdp_header_all[1] the average Amazon Prime member is spending on groceries at Amazon, it’s clearly not enough for the retailer.

A new program was quietly launched today on It’s called Amazon Prime Pantry, and it is basically a challenge to see how many groceries an Amazon customer can fit into a box.

Amazon Prime Pantry is a flat rate shipping option that Amazon is now offering to Prime members. In addition to free 2-day shipping and ridiculously cheap overnight shipping on hundreds of thousands of items, Amazon is now going to let Prime members pay $6 per box to ship as many grocery items as can fit into a 4 cubic foot box without going over a weight limit (45 pounds).

This shipping option is not available for all Prime items, just consumables like food, soaps and detergent, pet care, and other household items that need to be replaced on a regular basis. It’s the type of goods that everyone buys a lot of but no one really likes to go shopping for, and now Amazon wants to save their customers the headache.

And given the timing, Amazon is probably also firing back at Target. With annual revenues of $72.5 billion in 2013, Target is actually a larger retailer in the US market than Amazon, and Target expanded their Target Subscription service last week to include 1,500 consumables. Target customers can schedule regular purchases and get free shipping, a 5% discount, and an additional 5% off if the purchase is made with a Target card.

Does anyone else think this is the early stages of a price war?

Amazon Prime Pantry

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Apple Reports iPhone Sales Up, iPad Sales Down Last Quarter

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 02:55 PM PDT

Apple12_9_ipad_ipad_4_mini_light-800x450[1] released their quarterly financial statement today, and now I think we know why they re-released the iPad 4 late last month.

The smartphone maker reported that they sold 43.7 million iPhones in Q2 2014, while iPad sales reached 16.4 million. Smartphone sales increase 17% over last year, but iPad sales dropped 13%. iPod sales and revenue dropped by more than half, to 2.8 million units.

Update: During their conference call Apple also reported sales of 20 million Apple TVs (9to5Mac). This $99 set top box is underpowered when compared to its new rival the Fire TV, but it is still selling at a decent clip.

In terms of revenue,  Apple reported a quarterly revenue of $45.6 billion and quarterly net profit of $10.2 billion. this is up slightly from the same quarter last year ($43.6 billion and net profit of $9.5 billion). iPhone revenues increased 14% last quarter, while iPad revenues were down 13%.

Like any other quarter without a major Apple launch, Spring is usually relatively quiet. The only part that surprised me today was that iPad sales dropped. I was expecting them to at least hold steady, but it looks like the 4 models Apple was selling weren’t quite as popular as the three models (iPad Mini, iPad 4, and iPad 2) Apple offered in the same quarter last year.

Apple has recently retired the iPad 2 again, and replaced it with the iPad 4. This will probably cause a spike in sales in the April to June quarter, but we won’t know that until July.

P.S. The lead image shows one blogger’s concept design for the iPad Maxi, the 129″ iPad model which like Schrodinger’s cat both does and does not exist. There’s no hard evidence of its exitence, but given the drop in iPad sales I do expect to see it eventually.

The post Apple Reports iPhone Sales Up, iPad Sales Down Last Quarter appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Tales of Amazon’s Dominance of UK Online Retail may have been Greatly Exaggerated

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 01:42 PM PDT

Theamazoncoms-secret-retail-empire[1] BBC is reporting this week that Amazon has half of Britain’s online retail market, but I’m not so sure that there are enough facts to back up the claim.

On Sunday the BBC broadcast and published a documentary that examined Amazon’s dominance of UK retail. The text version of the piece led with a startling claim:

On average, every person in Britain spends just over £70 a year on Amazon. That’s more than half the country’s entire online retail spend. It’s an impressive result for a business started on a couple of computers exactly 20 years ago.

This is quite the newsworthy story, but when I went to confirm the story and find details which would put it into perspective I ended up with new information that made me doubt whether the BBC is correct.

According to The Independent, Amazon’s revenues for 2013 were under £5 billion:

Analysts said Britain's biggest online retailer was feeling the squeeze as traditional players such as John Lewis and Dixons raised their game — particularly with "click and collect" services.

Accounts filed by the US parent company show Amazon's UK sales were $7.29 billion (£4.46 billion) — a rise of around $800 million on a year earlier. British revenues rose by $1 billion to $6.48 billion in 2012 and by $1.4 billion to $5.35 billion in 2011.

Depending on your perspective, that could be a large sum. But before I posted I went looking for details on the overall retail spending in the UK, which I thought would present a useful perspective on Amazon’s share of UK retail.

I was aiming for a post similar to the one I wrote on Friday which compared Amazon’s revenues to other US retailers, but instead I ended up with information that lead in a completely different direction.

According to the latest estimates, online retail in the UK were a lot larger than the BBC would have you believe:

UK shoppers spent £91bn online in 2013, according to new figures.

The internet retailing market grew by 16% during the course of the year, according to the IMRG-Capgemini eRetail Sales Index for December. It was capped by a final month in which online sales rose by 18%, with £11bn spent up from £9bn in December 2012. Twice as much was spent via mobile devices as was spent using them in December 2012. The figures beat IMRG's original estimate, last January of 12% growth.

The BBC said that Amazon accounts for “more than half the country’s entire online retail spend”. I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t add up. There isn’t even any way to massage the numbers and make that statement come out true.

Does anyone have a clue as to why the numbers don’t add up?

I will admit to being baffled.

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Project Naptha Chrome Plugin Lets You Edit, Translate Text in Images

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 11:50 AM PDT

Google project napthaand many other companies have long used OCR technology to convert words in an image to text. This used to require a lot of computing power and expensive scanners, but now you can pull off the same trick using nothing more than Chrome web browser and a plugin.

A new browser plugin called Project Naptha enables users to copy/paste, translate, or even change the text of any image they can find online (assuming it’s not protected in some way). This extension is the work of developer Kevin Kwok,, and it is only available for Chrome.

project napthaThe plugin doesn’t work on everything (handwriting, vertical text, and some scripts are still iffy), but it can capture the text in photos, screenshots, and diagrams (graphs, charts, etc) – just so long as the source is an image.

Project Naptha uses a number of optical character recognition (OCR) algorithms to identify text and characters. It does almost all of its work from your web browser, with a small amount of the OCR and other tasks performed by the Project Naptha servers. You can in fact disable the plugin’s access to the servers, but the accuracy will reportedly drop.

You can find the Chrome plugin over on the Project Naptha website. That site also hosts a live demo of the plugin so those of us who don’t have Chrome can join in on the fun.

On a related note, if you find the demo useful but don’t use Chrome then please do us all the favor of signing up for the email list. I’m told that plugins to support FF, IE, and other browsers might be released if there is enough interest.

Project Naptha



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iThing Users Can Now Get up to 100GB Cloud Storage for $1 per Year

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 10:00 AM PDT

Only two idriveweeks after making a similar offer to Android users, cloud storage provider iDrive announced on Wednesday that they are offering iPad and iPhone users 100GB of combined backup and sync cloud storage for just $1 per year.

The offer includes 50GB of data storage and another 50GB for backing up a device’s data, including contacts, calendar events, photos, videos, SMS, call logs, and apps.

The iDrive app offers 1-button backup and it also offers a number of security measures including optional private key encryption, password protection, 256-bit AES encryption, and the option to remotely unlink devices that have been lost or stolen.

iDrive has apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone, and as you can see from the deal mentioned above it has highly competitive prices. In comparison, Apple offers 50GB for $100 a year, while Dropbox offers 100GB for $10 a year.

Google is perhaps the best offer short of iDrive; they recently dropped their prices to only $2 a year for 100GB of storage. Of course I am looking at it from the viewpoint of a single user, not a business, and as a user I find iDrive’s offer of device backups to be quite tempting.



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Japan Display Debuts a New 10″ Screen With 438 ppi Resolution

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 08:16 AM PDT

Samsung20140423_b has a reputation for making the highest resolution and best quality tablet and smartphone screens, but now it looks like they have some serious competition.

Japan Display unveiled a new 10″ panel today, and it puts both Samsung’s and Apple’s best displays to shame.

The new panel has a resolution of 3,840 by 2,160. That is a higher resolution that the Retina display on the iPad Air and it’s even higher than the 10.1″ screen on the Galaxy Note Pro 10.1. This is Japan Display’s second hi-res tablet screen; the first debuted last year and measured  12.1″ (365ppi).

There’s no word yet on who will be buying the screen or when we might see it in a tablet, but JDI is already shipping samples to device makers. They’re also saying that the new panel uses the same amount of energy as Samsung’s best WQXGA screen, meaning that the extra pixels don’t come at the expense of battery life.

20140423_bJapan Display might not sound like an impressive name but this is rapidly becoming a name to remember. This company, which went through an IPO last month, was created in 2012 by merging the struggling screen divisions of Sony, Hitachi, and Toshiba.

In the past couple years JDI has debuted a low-powered LCD screen that incorporated RAM into each pixel, a high resolution 5.5″ screen (which some assumed would be used in the next iPhone), and in January 2014 they debuted new screen units intended for the wearables market.

Far East Gizmos


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Amazon Expands Prime Instant Video With HBO Shows – But Not Game of Thrones

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 06:49 AM PDT

AmazonWebHero-HBOCollection-Multi_ComingSoon_460x208._V337939359_SX460_[1] sweetened their Prime membership offer this morning with a new deal with HBO.

Amazon Prime subscribers can now enjoy select seasons of select HBO shows, including The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Big Love, Deadwood, Eastbound & Down, Family Tree, Enlightened, Treme, early seasons of Boardwalk Empire and True Blood, as well as mini-series like Band of Brothers, John Adams and more.

The deal with HBO is part if a multi-year license agreement which will see new episodes be added to Prime Instant Video approximately three years after airing on HBO, which means that Game of Thrones won’t be available for another few months (or it might have been excluded).

The first of the new content will be added on 21 May, and whatever existing content was available has been removed. I’m pretty sure some shows like Veep already were available to Prime members, but that is no longer true. In related news, Amazon is also announcing today that HBO’s streaming video service HBO GO will become available on Fire TV, hopefully by the end of the year.

Amazon Prime Instant Video is one of several benefits available under Amazon Prime, a $99 membership program that offers reduced shipping costs, free ebooks, and other benefits.

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New 7″ Samsung Phablet Shows up at China’s FCC

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 06:14 AM PDT

Ansamsung 7 inch phone china 1 unnamed Samsung device has appeared on the website of Tenaa, China's Telecommunications Equipment Certification Center.

The SM-2558 doesn’t quite look like any of Samsung’s existing smartphones or tablets, but it does have aspects of either category.

With a reported screen resolution of 720 x 1280, this 7″ phablet is taller and skinnier than the Galaxy Tab 4 7.0.  It’s listed as running Android 4.3 on a quad-core 1.2GHz CPU with 1.5GB RAM, 8GB Flash storage, Wifi, and Bluetooth.

That actually sounds quite a bit like the Tab 4 7.0 (aside from the boost in RAM), but there are also some differences. The SM-2558 has much better cameras than on Samsung’s budget tablet (8MP and 2MP).  This phablet is also listed as being lighter than the Tab 4 7.0 (245g vs 276g.)

And this device sports TD-LTE and TD-SCDMA connectivity, confirming that it truly is a phablet.

samsung 7 inch phone china 1 samsung 7 inch phone china 3 samsung 7 inch phone china 2

At this point you might be wondering whether this is the Galaxy Note 4. Recent leaks have suggested that Samsung has another Note phablet in the works, but all we have so far is the name. But in spite of the curious coincidence of 2 leaks appearing close together, I don’t think this is the Note 4.

Samsung’s phablets have super sharp screens, while the SM-2558 has a fairly ordinary 7″ screen, and that’s not the only difference. The Note 3, for example, has 3GB RAM, a 13MP camera, and a stylus. It also has a faster CPU.

I really don’t think the SM-2558 is good enough to belong to the Galaxy Note line. In fact, if not for the few differences between this phablet and the Tab 4 7.0, I would have thought this was the 3G or 4G equipped version of that budget tablet (there’s one mentioned in the official specs). But the screen resolution, cameras, and weight shot that idea down.

So at this point we’re just going to have to wait and see if this phablet shows up anywhere.


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Kindle for iPad, iPhone Updated

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 04:56 AM PDT

kindle itunes logoAmazon rolled out a minor update today for the Kindle app for iOS, adding a couple minor tweaks which readers will appreciate.

Neither of the improvements today are a major change, and they won’t be available for all ebooks, but it will still be nice to have them.

Update the app and you’ll find that the TOC for some ebooks has been moved into the left menu panel (from wherever it was inside the ebook), and that the X-Ray feature has been integrated into the search function.

The TOC tweak is going to make it easier to navigate; the Kindle iOS app lacks a back button so simply looking at the TOC before meant I lost my place in the ebook. And thanks to the changes to the X-Ray feature, it’s now as accessible as looking up a term in the dictionary, Wikipedia, or Google. This will be nice should I ever pick up the next volume of Game of Thrones series (not likely).

You can find the app in iTunes.

Update: I’m wrong in saying that the app lacks a back button; there is a button but apparently I can’t get it to work reliably.

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