Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Colorado’s Statewide Library eBook Pilot Project Enters Beta Tests

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 03:59 PM PDT

Douglas 7413758502_b9b95654cb_b[1]County Libraries announced on Monday that their statewide digital library project was entering small scale pilot test.

The DCL had partnered with the Colorado Library Consortium last year to create eVoke 2.0. Using funds provided by a federal grant, the eVoke project seeks to duplicate the Douglas County Libraries’ pioneering ebook library platform and enable other library systems in Colorado to launch similar platforms.

The Douglas County Libraries is well-known in library circles for their ebook library. Unlike the majority of public libraries, which have partnered with OverDrive or one of the other library ebook vendors, the DCL launched their own ebook platform several years ago.

This library system, which is about 30 miles south of Denver, does have contracts with 3M Cloud Library and OverDrive, but they also buy ebooks directly from publishers (and some distributors like Smashwords). As of last November, the DCL had a collection of 45,000 titles, including 27,000 titles which they were maintaining on their own servers (and checking out the ebooks to patrons). In January the DCL added another 10,000 titles purchased via Smashwords, and they have probably added more since.

Buying ebooks directly enables the Douglas County Libraries to reduce costs and to better invest their funds. Unlike the libraries who have solely partnered with OverDrive, the DCL will not lose access to their self-hosted ebook collection if they stop paying the maintenance fees to OverDrive and 3M.

And with the launch of the eVoke project, other libraries will be able to share in the DCL’s good fortune. The Colorado Library Consortium and the Douglas County Libraries announced on Monday that the project is now entering the testing and demonstration phase, in which select libraries from around the state will be invited to test the platform.

When complete, the eVoke 2.0 platform will enable each of the participating libraries to maintain their ebook collections and check titles out to patrons. They will also be able to acquire new titles from publishers.

eVoke 2.0 website

image by Muffet

The post Colorado’s Statewide Library eBook Pilot Project Enters Beta Tests appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Quietly Retires the Kindle DX – Again

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 12:57 PM PDT

Amazon’sKindle DX (graphite) Angle-Hand on again off again flirtation with large screen ebook readers appears to have cooled off once more.

There’s been no announcement from the retail middleweight, but news is circulating today that the Kindle DX is out of stock at Amazon.com with no mention of when it will return. The Kindle DX is still available via 3rd-party retailers, but none are listed as being fulfilled by Amazon, so I doubt that the device is coming back.

And that’s a shame, because I had been hoping Amazon would release a new KDX with a higher resolution screen, more features, and other improvements.

Originally launched in May 2009, the Kindle DX was Amazon’s first bid to enter the academic market. The KDX was the first Kindle model to directly support PDFs, and Amazon hoped that the KDX’s larger 9.7″ screen would work as an adequate replacement for paper textbooks.

Unfortunately for Amazon, the pilot programs they arranged showed just how wrong they were. As part of promoting the initial release of the Kindle DX, Amazon convinced a number of major US universities to launch digital textbook pilot programs based on the ereader, and they did not go well.


The pilots pretty consistently showed that the Kindle DX is too slow and too feature limited to work well with textbooks. Universities as diverse as Reed College, UVA, and Princeton (as well as several later pilots like the one at the University of Washington) all reported that students didn’t care to use their digital textbooks on the Kindle DX. Sure, E-ink is a great for reading, but it’s not so good at the meta-activity of studying.

Students commonly needed to make a lot of annotations and then access them quickly, and the KDX simply couldn’t match the speed of a student with a pen  in their hand.  The students who participated in the pilot programs also reported that the Kindle DX couldn’t turn the page fast enough nor jump around inside a textbook as quickly as they needed. And then there’s the issue of having only one screen to display several textbooks for a course, but that is a problem all ereader share.

But even before the pilots were done, the Kindle DX effectively was banned from any widespread deployment. In 2009 the National Federation for the Blind sued several universities on behalf of visually impaired students who couldn’t use the Kindle DX.

The universities were sued for failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This law specified that the disabled students were to be given equal access, and that has long been interpreted to mean that schools and institutions can't buy new tech if the visually impaired cannot use it.

Those suits weren’t settled until mid-2010, but naturally that put the kibosh on large-scale adoption by schools and libraries.

A second-gen Kindle DX was released in 2010. It had a faster screen and more features, and even though Amazon released a firmware update in early 2011 the Kindle DX has largely been ignored. So far as I know it doesn’t even support KF8, Kindle Print Ready (Amazon’s own PDF format), or the Kindle fixed layout spec.

This is the second time that the Kindle DX has been discontinued. Amazon first retired the ereader in October 2012, only to launch a comeback tour in May 2013. And now, nearly a year later, it has been retired again.

image by torus

The post Amazon Quietly Retires the Kindle DX – Again appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Humble Bundle Teams up with Image Comics to Offer All-Graphic Novel Bundle

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 10:16 AM PDT

Humblehumble bundle Bundle is one of the first websites to make the pay-what you-want concept work with bundled content, and today they are announcing a deal with a comic book publisher for a graphic novel bundle.

The Humble Image Comics Bundle launches later today, and for the next two weeks readers will have the option of setting their own price for a bundle of Image Comics graphic novel titles.

The bundle includes Fatale Vol 1. by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Morning Glories vol. 1 by Nick Spenser and Joe Eisma, East of West Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta, and Lazarus Vol 1. by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark and Santiago Arcas.

Anyone who pays above the average payment will also pick up 3 bonus titles, and the big spenders who pay $15 or more will also get Vol. 1 and Vol. 20 from The Walking Dead. The 3 bonus titles are Revival Vol. 1 by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton, Chew Vol. 1 by John Layman and Rob Guillory, and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples blockbuster bestseller, Saga Vol. 1.

Humble Bundle and Image Comics will also be adding additional bonus titles half way through the promotion; anyone who spends above the average will also receive The Manhattan Projects Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, Saga Vol. 2, and Invincible Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker's.

As with past bundles, customers will be able to choose how to divide the money between Image Comics, Humble Bundle, and one of several charities. This time around Humble Bundle has added a new charity, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

In related news, Humble Bundle also announced plans today to launch a Book tab on the HB website. They expect to have the new page up by 13 May, and it will be dedicated to ebook and audiobook promotions. Humble Bundle plans to offer two audiobook or ebook bundles each month. Over the past couple years Humble Bundle offered several ebook and a couple audiobook bundles, but those bundles were all one-off events.

Humble Bundle


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The Amazon Smartphone’s Parallax 3D Effects are Already Showing up on Amazon.com

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 08:53 AM PDT

One5535071771_d2df343c71_m[1] of the more interesting rumors circulating concerning the Amazon smartphone was first reported by TechCrunch a few weeks ago and then expanded upon by BGR. According to their sources, Amazon will be using the 4 IR cameras to let users rotate the phone and see 3d models of products on Amazon.com  (as well as other uses).

I thought this was in fact one of the more unlikely uses for the smartphone, but I have just learned about an existing feature on the Amazon website which suggests otherwise. The Little Big Details design blog tipped me to a 3D book display effect on Amazon.com. This effect might have nothing to do with the rumored 3D parallax effect, but it does tell us that Amazon is looking in that direction.

If you browse the book section of Amazon.com you might have noticed that Amazon is now doing a faux 3D effect for book covers.It looks something like this:


You can find another example here.

This trick isn’t used in the Kindle Store (which is why I didn’t know about it), so I don’t know how long Amazon has been doing this.  But it would seem to me that if Amazon is making the effort to animate a 3D book cover then they could well be interested in developing a more complex parallax 3D effect for their smartphone.

Does anyone know how long Amazon has been using this effect?

image by zigazou76

The post The Amazon Smartphone’s Parallax 3D Effects are Already Showing up on Amazon.com appeared first on The Digital Reader.

NewsBlur Updated With Full Text Search

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 08:11 AM PDT

newsblurThe news reader service Newsblur rolled out a new update today which adds the holly grail of RSS feed readers: full text search.

Readers can now search all of their feeds for a given term. The search function will check all of the titles, tags, and articles for the term and return a list.

NewsBlur is a freemium service; free users can follow up to 64 feeds, and for $24 a year users can follow as many feeds as they like. The service now boasts over 60 thousand users, but before Google announced the Readerpocalypse last March Newsblur only had around 2,000 paying users.

Readers can catch up on the news in Newsblur’s Android and iOS apps, and they can share links to stories on FB, Twitter, email, or save the stories to services like Pocket, Readability, Instapaper, and more. Premium users get more sharing options, faster updates, and other bonuses. For example, the full text search is only available to premium users.

This blogger is content with using Mr Reader paired with BazQux for his mobile news reading news, otherwise he’d be all over NewsBlur.

search screenshot

NewsBlur blog

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New Video Reveals Rockchip’s Multi-Window Android Multi-Tasking is Useful, Functional

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 06:41 AM PDT

Samsung is mwav2p1001[1]well-known for the polished multi-window feature on their tablets, but now it looks like the Chinese chip maker Rockchip is about to show up the Korean gadget maker.

Mike Cane found a brief video on Youku which demos some of Rockchip’s latest multi-window features, and let me tell you it looks a lot more polished than what debuted last year. The newer video shows that it is easier to open, move, and resize videos than before.

Rockchip’s new tech is being demonstrated on the Pipo P1, a Chinese tablet which has a 9.7″ Retina-class screen and runs Android 4.4.2 Kitkat on a Rockchip 3288 CPU with 2GB RAM and 16GB internal storage.

To be perfectly honest, last year’s video (embedded below) was pretty cool in and of itself, and it showed a number of features that made me drool. But one important different between the videos is that the one released last year was created by Rockchip’s marketing dept, which means it is as real as any photoshop render of a product.

The new video above was shot by a real user with a production release tablet. That makes it a much more accurate depiction of what Rockchip’s multi-window tech can actually do.

The post New Video Reveals Rockchip’s Multi-Window Android Multi-Tasking is Useful, Functional appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Samsung’s New 20 Megapixel Camera Doubles as a Phone

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 05:58 AM PDT

Galaxy K zoom_Shimmery White_03In an age when mobile photography is more popular than ever, Samsung takes the idea to an extreme. They just unveiled a new smartphone equipped with a 4.8″ screen and a 20MP camera – with optical zoom, no less.

The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom combines a 1280 x 720 resolution screen with a 6-core CPU and a camera that is actually higher in resolution than the semi-pro model I carry. This could have been the solution I am looking for as an alternative to tablet photography, but unfortunately Samsung doesn’t have plans to release it in the US.

This camera runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat on a Samsung Exynos hexa-core CPU (1.3GHz quad-core processor and a 1.7GHz dual-core processor). It has 2GB RAM, 8GB or 16GB internal storage, and a microSD card slot. In terms of connectivity, the Galaxy K Zoom has LTE or 3G depending on the market, and it also packs in Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC, and GPS.

This camera also packs in the usual smartphone sensors (Accelerometer, Gyro, Proximity, Geomagnetic, Light), but it is the camera where sensor where this thing really shines. In addition to a 2MP front-facing camera, the Galaxy K Zoom also has a 20.7MP rear camera with a 10x optical zoom and flash.

Galaxy K zoom_3 colors_01 Galaxy K zoom_Charcoal Black_01 Galaxy K zoom_Charcoal Black_02 Galaxy K zoom_Charcoal Black_06 Galaxy K zoom_Electric Blue_09 Galaxy K zoom_Shimmery White_03

Based on the list of camera features, I would say this is for all intents and purposes a camera with a phone shoved inside, and that’s why I am willing to forgive it for having smartphone specs on par with the Galaxy S3, which was released nearly 2 years ago.

Like its predecessor, this camera wasn’t made to appeal to smartphone buyers looking for the latest specs; it was built for people who want to slim down their gear bag by combining a couple gadgets.

And unlike the earlier model, the Galaxy K Zoom eschews the camera-like bump on the back in favor of a more smartphone-like curved rear shell – one which is heavier (200g) and thicker (2 cm) than most smartphones of a similar size.

Check out Android Central for a complete set of specs.

The post Samsung’s New 20 Megapixel Camera Doubles as a Phone appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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