Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 1 May 2014

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 09:30 PM PDT

Hot stories this morning include a compendium of Facebook’s announcements at F8 on Wednesday, how to judge whether you should take a story seriously (link), 13 essential truths of writing (link), a proposal to ban a Dr Seuss book (link), and more.

  • Everything Facebook Announced at F8 (TNW)
  • Flipkart eBooks refreshes their Windows Phone app to compete with Amazon Kindle in India (WPC)
  • The Pocket Guide to Bullshit Prevention (The Last Word On Nothing)
  • So You Want To Make A Living Writing? 13 Harsh Truths. (Write on the River)
  • States Accuse Apple of Stonewalling E-Book Case (PW)
  • "Violent" Dr. Seuss book should be banned from library, patron says (Toronto Star)
  • Why ComiXology ditched Apple’s in-app purchase system (Macworld)


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Author Solutions Class Action Lawsuit: Update #2

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 03:02 PM PDT

It’s been logo_authorsolutions[1]nearly a year since a group of authors filed a class-action lawsuit against Author Solutions (ASI) and its parent company, Penguin (now Random Penguin Solutions). In the past 11 months the case has been neither settled nor thrown out, but the gears of justice have been turning, albeit slowly.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed in May 2013, includes allegations of unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and violation of state statutes in California and New York. According to lawyers for the 3 authors who filed the suit, ASI had:

  • failed to pay royalties
  • failed to send authors accurate sales statements
  • introduced numerous and egregious errors into the books produced by ASI
  • sold useless and ineffective marketing and promotional services

Penguin and ASI filed a motion to dismiss in June, and in July the plaintiff’s attorneys filed an Amended Complaint (PDF) which raised new allegations. Legal wrangling over the Amended complaint, as well as the second amended complaint, proceeded over the following months while discovery continued.

Earlier this month Judge Denise Cote issued a ruling that’s good news for Penguin, but mostly a defeat for Author Solutions. (Writers beware posted the full ruling here).

All claims against Penguin were dismissed.

Penguin is dismissed as a defendant in this action. The activities at issue here were undertaken by Author Solutions, a subsidiary of Penguin. Plaintiffs concede that they are not attempting to pierce the corporate veil in order to hold Penguin liable for Author Solutions' actions. Accordingly, under basic corporate law principles, Penguin cannot be held liable for the alleged misconduct of Author Solutions.

ASI’s motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claims is granted in part and denied in part:

Plaintiffs allege two distinct forms of unjust enrichment by defendants. First, defendants unjustly profited by failing to pay royalties at the rate set forth in the contractual arrangement. Second, in failing to provide services that members of the class purchased without entering into a contract, defendants were unjustly enriched in the amount of the revenue received for those services.

Plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claim as to unpaid royalties is dismissed. The royalty rate is governed by written contracts, which plaintiffs seek to enforce in their breach-of-contract claim. Accordingly, these royalties cannot be recovered under an unjust enrichment theory.

Plaintiffs' unjust enrichment claim as to the non-contractual publishing services, however, is adequately pled. Unlike the claim regarding unpaid royalties, plaintiffs allege that there was no written contract setting forth the nature of the services for which they are seeking damages in their unjust enrichment claim.

Author Solution’s motions to dismiss the claims of various state statutes were denied. The lawsuit is going to proceed to discovery, and the parties have been ordered to submit a proposed pre-trial schedule.

Author Solutions has a bad reputation that goes back for years, so this lawsuit was well-nigh inevitable. In fact, the only surprise is that the lawsuit wasn’t filed almost as soon as the Penguin-ASI deal was finalized.

Penguin bought Author Solutions in July 2012 for $116 million, in spite of ASI's infamous reputation. ASI has been operating  under a variety of logos, including AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Palibrio, Trafford, and Xlibri. ASI is also providing similar sketchy services under contract to a number of otherwise respectable companies, including Simon & Schuster (Archway), Lulu, Penguin India (Partridge), F+W Media (Writers Digest), and Harlequin (DellArte Press).

Writers Beware


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Publishers are Signing up with eBook Subscription Services in Droves

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 12:05 PM PDT

Hot 9689712379_cb6599218a_b[1]on the heels of news that Oyster had signed a trio of publishers comes new reports that their competition is doing the same.

Earlier this week the kid-focused service Epic announced a deal with Capstone Young Readers to add 500 titles to Epic’s current catalog. The new additions include licensed titles from DC Entertainment, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Tony Hawk and Warner Brothers. Epic offers Netflix-style subscription access to nearly 4,000 ebooks for kinds aged 7 to 12 for $9.99 a month, and currently offers an iPad app.

And today the globally-focused Scribd unveiled a deal with Wiley to add 1,000 titles, including For Dummies titles to Scribd’s catalog. The new additions include many of Wiley’s cheaper titles, but not their more expensive books, which can cost $100 or more. Scribd charges $9 a month for access to a catalog of over 300,000 titles which can be read on iPad, Android, iPhone, and in your web browser.

Last but not least Scholastic has surprised no one with their plans to go it alone. This academic and children’s publisher doesn’t get mentioned much in the ebook news much, but in terms of revenue it is actually a larger publisher that a couple of the so called Big 5.

Today they are launching Storia School Edition, a new ebook subscription option for schools. This new service offers 2,000 fiction, nonfiction, and classic titles which are age-appropriate for kids 12 and under. In addition to a balanced library of fiction and nonfiction title, Storia School Edition also includes grade-appropriate dictionaries, comprehension quizzes, pronunciation tools, and highlighting and note-taking tools to help students focus their ideas.

With multiple competitors launching or building up a service, 2014 is promising to be the year of the ebook subscription.

image by melenita2012


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McDonalds Launches Free eBook Promotion in Partnership with Kobo

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 08:42 AM PDT

McDonaldsthe-secret-seven[1] started a new marketing effort in the UK on Wednesday.

The fast food retailer will be bundling ebook vouchers into Happy Meals sold in the UK. The vouchers are being provided by Kobo, and will allow children to download an age-appropriate ebook.

The marketing campaign will be running for 5 weeks, and it will feature Enid Blyton's Secret Seven,  a series of books published by Hodder Children's Books. Kids will be able to download one of 6 short stories from the series, and two additional titles will also be available to parents and children through a £1 book voucher redeemable at Kobo, Eason, or WHSmith. None of the 6 titles have been available separately before, but they have been previously published as a collection.

McDonalds has bundled books into their kid’s meals for several decades now, and they have also been running similar ebook bundling efforts for a couple years now. This is at least the 4th such marketing campaign that I have heard of; similar programs have been run in the US, Germany, and Portugal. There was also at least one earlier campaign in the UK as well.

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B&N Launches Windows-Only Promotions in the Microsoft Nook Store in Europe

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 06:37 AM PDT

Barnes & microsoft nookNoble is launching a new promotion today in the Nook Store on behalf of Microsoft.

Readers in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and the Netherlands can now get up to 5 free ebooks and free magazine issues when they download and install the Nook app for Windows 8.1. The free titles vary by country and are available in at least one local language, and they include at least a few bestselling titles for each country.

This is the third round of promotion since the Nook Store went international in Canada, Australia, and 29 European countries in November 2013, and like those earlier promotions this offer is only available for the Windows 8 app. Barnes & Noble has yet to launch their hardware in any of those countries, and in the past 5 months they have also neglected to launch their Android iOS apps in those markets.

Barnes & Noble is continuing to show every sign of handing over their international expansion to Microsoft. I was the first to point this out in early December 2013, and with today’s promotion my opinion remains the same. This conclusion is only reinforced by the joint announcement last month that the Nook Windows 8 app would eventually be retired in favor of a Microsoft branded reading app.

Banres & Noble’s own ebook efforts are now focused on Yuzu, the digital textbook platform which they plan to officially launch this summer. Yuzu was quietly launched earlier this month, and is still a work in progress.

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Chicago Tribune Newspaper Launches eBookstore

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 04:55 AM PDT

The Chicago Tribunetribbooks_logo[1] has long been republishing news articles as ebooks, and earlier this month they expanded their ebook efforts with the launch of TribBooks, a new ebookstore powered by Inktera and Page Foundry.

While it might sound strange for a newspaper to get into selling ebooks, this isn’t the Trib’s first such effort. They have been selling their own ebooks (and giving them away to digitalPlus subscribers) for a while now, so this latest move comes as only a small surprise.

The bigger surprise today is how the Trib managed to keep it so quiet; it’s been operational for at least a month but I only learned of it when they announced it to their digitalPlus subscribers last night (thanks, Matt!).

But what’s more important than the surprise is the disappointment. This ebookstore stocks over a million titles which can be read by the integrated Android and iOS apps, but the ebooks unfortunately cannot be transferred to ebook readers (or so says the FAQ). That is a startling difference from the other two ebook sites operated in The Chicago Tribune‘s name; one site did not use DRM, while the other used Adobe DE DRM and enabled users to transfer their ebook purchases to their ereaders.

Like any ebookstore TribBooks offers sales and special deals, but it also has deals that are exclusively available to The Chicago Tribune digitalPlus and Printers Row Journal subscribers. These subscribers can log in to TribBooks with their existing subscriber account and take advantage.

By offering special deals to Trib subscribers, the newspaper both adds value to the newspaper subscriptions (which is still one the newspaper’s main sources of revenue) and encourages those subscribers to come back and buy more ebooks later. This is a classic loss leader strategy adapted to serving two goals instead of just the one.

On a related note, this is the second time I have reported on a newspaper launching an ebookstore. In December 2013 launched an ebookstore on the Tolino platform. I can’t tell you how much work they are putting into cross-promotion but it would be smart for them to do so.





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