Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 4 April 2014

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 09:08 PM PDT

As you can see, the reading list is short this morning.

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The Authors Guild Forgets They Lost the Google Books Case, Proposes an ASCAP-like Agency to Solve the Issue

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 08:35 PM PDT

When The the authors guildAuthors Guild lost first the HaithiTrust case and then the Google Books case, I knew that they would not rest until they had successfully countered these two fair use decisions.

I was expecting to report on appeals filed by The Authors Guild, but it now seems that they are pursuing a legislative effort to overturn and erase both court rulings.

Earlier this week Jan Constantine, General Counsel of The Authors Guild, testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Her written testimony is posted online, and it is everything that The Authors Guild’s detractors fear the most.

The testimony focuses on the Google Books case, the HaithiTrust case, and the “need” to resolve the issues in the cases in ways that are beneficial to authors. This comes as no surprise, nor should it surprise you that, in 20 pages of testimony, there is no mention of the rulings which ended both of those cases (and expanded fair use in the process).

But the testimony does include misleading statements like:

To the extent Google's unauthorized displays of books encourages readers to search at its ad-supported search engine, rather than logging in to Amazon's retail environment, Google is hurting the sales of authors' books. For this reason, and many, many others, authors and other rights holders should have control of when their books are copied in their entirety, and where their books are displayed.

Google, in other words, disrupted the commercial, permission-driven development of booksearch-and-display at online bookstores in order to gain a competitive advantage over other search engines.

On a related note, this written testimony is worth reading if only for the fact that it is the first (and probably the last) time that The Authors Guild has said nice things about Amazon.  The novelty of that alone made this worth my time.

The Authors Guild has very carefully neglected to mention to Congress that the issues they want Congress to solve have already been addressed in the courts. Instead, The Authors Guild is asking Congress to pass new laws to “solve” the copyright issues in ways that effectively nullify the rulings.

Here’s The Authors Guild’s own summary of what they want:

1. We're proposing that Congress empower the creation of a collective licensing organization (something like ASCAP or BMI) to deal with both mass digitization and "orphan" books.  Such an organization would pave the way for a true national digital library, but it would have to be limited in scope, just as ASCAP is.

Here are the key components:

A. Authors get paid for the uses, naturally.

B. Licenses would be non-compulsory.  Authors get to say no.

C. Licenses would cover out-of-print books only.  No disrupting commercial markets.

D. Display uses only.  No ebooks or print books.

E. There would be a tribunal to go to if the licensing agency and an institution couldn't agree on the fee.

Does anyone else see the problems here?

The first and most obvious problem is that the agency proposed here would “solve” an issue which had already been settled in court. It is also incredibly limited in scope, and is hobbled in ways that worry me.

In particular, this agency is supposedly intended to solve the orphan works problem (where no one knows who owns the copyright to a work), but given that participation is voluntary I don’t see how that is possible. If you don’t know the identity of the copyright holder then it is impossible for that person to sign up. This leads me to wonder whether stage two involves either a compulsory license or an opt-out license. In either case the cure is worse than the disease.

I would say it is clear that The Authors Guild has given up on directly fighting the court cases they lost and have instead decided to try to get Congress to overrule the courts. it’s too early to say whether they will succeed, but I for one hope that they fail. As a creator, I think that my interests are better served by the fair use rulings than by the creation of yet another government agency which is supposed to help me.

The Authors Guild


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Liberty Media Sells off Shares of Barnes & Noble

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 04:23 PM PDT

Nearly 3 yearbarnes noble logos after making an unsuccessful bid to buy Barnes & Noble, the investment firm Liberty Media has announced that they are selling off most of their stake in the bookseller.

Liberty Media plans to retain about 10% of its stake in B&N. This firm spent $204 million to acquire a 17% share of the bookseller in August 2011, shortly after its failed takeover bid. There’s no information on how much Liberty Media is getting for their B&N stock, but the press release does say that they sold the majority of its shares to qualified institutional buyers. B&N’s stock price dropped slightly on the news, and is now trading for around $19 a share.

Barnes & Noble has had a tumultuous 16 months ever since the disastrous 2012 holiday season, with declining bookstore and digital sales most quarters. And now it would seem that at lest one investor doesn’t expect the situation to improve.

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Inkling Releases a Digital Textbook App for Android

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 03:08 PM PDT

Inkling inklinghas been selling digital textbooks for so long that it is often easy to forget that this ebook company only offer apps for iPad and iPhone, so I was surprised today to read about Inkling’s new Android app.

Nearly 4 years after releasing their iPad app, Inkling is now available on Android. The new app is still in beta, and it should include many of the same features as the iPad app.

You can find the app in Google Play.

I have to say that I am doubly surprised to see the launch of the app. Given that Inkling has pivoted away from selling textbooks to students, there would seem to be little need for an Android app. Inkling now says that they get most of their revenue from licensing their platform to publishers, so it is possible that they developed the Android app with that in mind.

In any case, if you are looking for a way to spend money on textbooks which cannot be resold, you should check out the app.

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Why Everyone is Wrong: eBooks Can* be More Expensive

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 01:36 PM PDT

Earlier today I wrote a post on Frank Luby’s arguments about ebook prices, but as the day went by and I read the coverage and commentary (on TeleRead, here, and The Passive Voice) I have come to the conclusion that Luby may have been right and that much of the commentary was wrong.

This whole meta-discussion was sparked by a talk given by Luby yesterday at the OnCopyright 2014 conference where he argued that ebooks should be more expensive, and that publishers and retailers convince consumers that they’re paying for the convenience of immediate delivery.

While his arguments are being derided in some quarters as nuts, unworkable, or simply a bad idea, as the day wore on I began to realize that Luby wasn’t nearly as wrong as many assumed. In fact, if we change just a single word in his argument then it will make much more sense.

Rather than saying ebooks should be more expensive, let’s instead assume that Luby meant that ebooks can be more expensive. Rather than see his arguments as being in favor of an across the board price increase, let’s look at it possible to charge more in certain situations.

It turns out that Luby is not wrong in that publishers can charge more for the convenience of ebooks, and I can think of at least one publisher who already charges premium prices for early delivery.

Baen Books.

Yes, this small SF publisher may be synonymous with reasonably priced DRM-free ebooks, but they have also been quite successful in pursuing a premium pricing strategy and charging more for convenience.

For the longest time Baen Books has been selling digital Advanced Reader Copies to those fans who simply could not wait for the publication date. Each ebook costs $15, and you can get one months before the official publication date.

I don’t know how many copies Baen Books has sold, but I do know that I have succumbed to temptation at least 3 times. And I also know that I am paying extra for the convenience of immediate delivery.

How is that not a point in support of Luby’s argument?

Sure, it’s not quite what he said, but it is close enough that for all I know this is what he meant when he gave that presentation.

At the very least it proves that ebooks can be more expensive, and that means we cannot simply write off Luby’s talk as nonsense.

The post Why Everyone is Wrong: eBooks Can* be More Expensive appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Sony Issues Penultimate Update for Sony Readers

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 10:47 AM PDT

Sonysony kobo logo has released what will very likely be the second to last firmware updates for the Sony Readers.

As part of Sony’s plans to shut down the NA branch of the Sony Reader Store and transfer customers to Kobo, they issued an update which replaces the ebook store integrated in the Sony Reader PRS-T1, T2, and T3.

This update, which is dated last week, doesn’t actually let owners buy ebooks from Kobo but it does remove a few features. The link to the now disabled Sony Reader Store is gone, and so are the sharing options and the option for syncing bookmarks and annotations.

Sony T2 readerUnfortunately this update does not add any way to buy ebooks from Kobo, nor does it enable you to sync your existing Kobo ebook purchases. According to Sony’s emails, those features will be coming in a later update which is expected to be released in late May 2014.

Just to be clear, this update is only intended for the North American market. Sony is still operating the Sony Reader Store in the rest of the world, and unless you want to be cut off you should not install this update.

Now, if you like the idea of tying your Sony Reader to Kobo, then perhaps you should consider the update. But even then I would suggest that you wait for the later update before installing anything.


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eBooks Should be More Expensive, and Other Ideas (video)

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 09:09 AM PDT

There was frank luby on copyright 2014much debate on the future of content at the OnCopyright 2014 conference yesterday, but few of the discussions were as radical as the ideas proposed by Frank Luby.

Calling ebooks not a prodcut but a reader service, Luby lays out an argument that ebooks should cost more. “eBooks should be more expensive than they are, more than print books — a lot more,” said Luby. He thinks that ebooks are both under-priced and under-sold because publishers and retailers aren’t properly explaining their benefits, namely, convenience.

When I first read about this on DBW, it sounded like a crazy idea which I knew would go over like a lead balloon among indie authors. But rather than just write Luby off as a nut, I went looking and I found a video of his talk (link).

I’ve embedded the video below, and I think it’s well worth watching. Luby’s arguments are much less crazy when you consider them from a marketing standpoint and not as economics. Luby isn’t saying that the ebook market as a whole should be more expensive; he’s suggesting that individual publishers convince readers that their ebooks are worth more.

I still think it’s a crazy idea, though. Luby is arguing that publishers can convince readers that their works are worth more digitally than in paper, even though those same publishers are competing with free digital content, a lot of which is quite good. Also, there are any number of authors and publishers who cannot make the convenience argument given that they are digital only.

He does try to support the idea by pointing to Netflix and how that company raised prices in 2011. According to Luby that only cost the company a small number of subscribers (quarterly statements reveal that Netflix lost 800,000 subscribers while revenue increased by 6.7%), but what he leaves out is that few publishers or retailers have a product which even vaguely resembles the Netflix DVD+streaming subscription bundle at the time, thus limiting the possibility that Netlfix’s move can be repeated.

In fact, the closest publishers have gotten to Netflix is by bundling ebooks and paper books, and that is still uncommon. In short, O’Reilly and a handful of other publishers can repeat the Netflix trick, but it’s not applicable to the rest of the industry.

If nothing else, this video is going to be thought provoking.

Video streaming by Ustream

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Amazon Rolls Out Update for Kindle Fire HDX, Adds Support for Fire TV

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 07:49 AM PDT

Amazon AmazonFireTV-FireStandingquietly rolled out an update for their latest Android tablets on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Few details have been released concerning the update, but I can see that my Kindle Fire HD (2013) received one, and I have also been told that the Kindle Fire HDX has also been updated.

Amazon says that the update “includes general improvements and performance enhancements”, but it is my guess that the update actually added new features which support the Fire TV.

Amazon’s media streaming device launched in NYC yesterday, and one of its more interesting features is that you can stream content from a Kindle Fire HDX to the Fire TV. I think support for that feature was added to the Kindle Fire HDX earlier this week, but of course that is merely speculation.

On a related note, I can also see that the older Kindle Fire HD tablets also received a vague update, but I don’t have any information on when that update happened or whether that update added similar support for the Fire TV.

Does anyone know the last time the Kindle Fire HD (2012) was updated?

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BlogLovin Raises $7 Milion in Series A Funding Round

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 06:39 AM PDT

Proving thatlogo-bloglovin[1] there is more to news readers than Feedly, niche blog reader service Bloglovin announced that they had raised a $7 million in funding.

Bloglovin was initially started as an RSS feed reader, but it has since grown to include more features for browsing and sharing popular content as well as new ways for bloggers to interact with readers. The service was founded in 2007 in Sweden, but the company shifted its offices to NYC last year. It now serves more than 16 million monthly website visitors, a sizable increase from the 10 million a month reported in November 2013.

According to Bloglovin CEO Joy Marcus, “The investment will be used primarily to recruit engineering talent.” She continued “Our focus remains on enhancing the user experience, particularly around discovery and curation, as well as growing our key women's lifestyle verticals, including fashion, DIY, beauty, and food.”

This round of funding was lead by European investor Northzone, with participation from Lerer Ventures, White Star Capital, Bassett Investment Group, and Betaworks, owners of Digg and Instapaper.



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Single Issue Comics Now Available from DC Comics via Google Play

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 06:02 AM PDT

At long dc comics google playlast, the best of DC Comics is now available in Google Play as single issues.

This Time Warner subsidiary announced this morning that their current slate of monthly periodical comics are now available for download in Google Play.

This expansion in distribution brings DC Comics and Vertigo titles to an even broader audience of digital readers and follows the release of DC Comics omnibus editions and graphic novels in Google Play last Fall .

Curiously enough, I browsed Google Play earlier but don’t see a way to buy the single issues; all of the DC Comics titles I saw were priced in the range of graphic novels, not the $1.99 to $3.99 I would expect from a floppy. I also don’t see any obvious divisions between the single issue floppies and the more expensive graphic novels.

Perhaps the content will go live later today?

Google Play

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