Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 10 April 2014

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 09:30 PM PDT

Top stories this morning include a collection of wrong opinions from history (link), a possible scam site which targets indie authors (link), how to advertise ebooks that are available outside of the Kindle Store (link), new hype about self-published audiobooks (link), and more.

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Dropbox’s Solution to the Email Problem is Now Available for Android

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 06:11 PM PDT

A year mailbox-logo[1]after buying the email management app Mailbox, today Dropbox launched Mailbox for Android.

Have you ever been annoyed by the clunky sorting options in the average email client? Mailbox is the solution. This app lets you swipe to delete, archive, delay emails in your inbox. It has been available for iPhone and iPad for some time now, but it only launched for Android today (there’s also a beta app for OSX).

This app just came across my radar today, and I wish I had known about it a while ago. The app offers an interface that appears to fix many of the problems I see in the more common email clients.

Gmail for Android, for example, has awkwardly placed archive/delete buttons, and I believe that the stock email client on the iPad is so completely useless for dealing with even a moderate volume of emails that I won’t even express a negative opinion.

But now that I have Mailbox, none of that matters.

tumblr_inline_n3rvc65Uh61rwxcgm[1]In related news, the Mailbox team is also launching a new feature today called auto-swipe. The app will learn from how you sort your email and automatically repeat your actions on any incoming emails. Mute that discussion you don't care about, snooze messages from your friends until after work, and route receipts to a list — automatically.

Gmail has a similar filtering option, but you have to set it up manually (and it doesn’t always work). I can’t wait to try Mailbox and see how it improves on Gmail.

Mailbox blog

Google Play

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Dropbox Launches New Dropbox for Business, This Time With Collaboration Tools

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 05:04 PM PDT

Dropbox isdropbox-logo[1] launching a new business service today, and just as I predicted collaboration is going to play a big role.

The new Dropbox for Business features dual account logins as well as the same great features Dropbox had last week, but most importantly in the near future it will offer collaboration tools a la Google Docs.

The new features are being developed under the codename Project Harmony, and they’re going to launch later this year. Few details were shared today, but according to the Dropbox blog Project Harmony is going to primarily focus on letting users collaborate on office docs, and it will “let you see who's editing a file, have a conversation with other editors, and keep copies in sync — all right inside the apps you already use.”

As you can see in the screenshot below, both the editing and the conversation will occur online.


Dropbox plans to reveal more details on Friday, but in short this is why Dropbox bought Readmill a couple weeks ago.

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Booktrack Raises $3 Million in Funding Round

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 12:21 PM PDT

eBook booktrack logostartups are giving up on enhanced ebooks left and right as they find that there’s simply not enough of a market. That bad luck doesn’t seem to be discouraging Booktrack, which announced on Wednesday that they had raised $3 million in Series A funding.

Booktrack plans to use the funds to expand their new education-focused version of its ebook sound track platform, Booktrack Classroom.

Booktrack launched 4 years ago with a simple idea: adding sound tracks to ebooks. While this idea may not appeal to everyone, Booktrack has seen some success. Their most recent expansion, Booktrack Studio, enables the average author to add sound tracks to ebooks and it is seeing some success. Booktrack says that in the five months since the launch, it has drawn 300,000 users to its site and mobile apps, with more than 3,600 Booktracks created in 30 different languages.

Booktrack is expecting similar success in its new venture. Booktrack Classroom enables students to read, create, and share audio-enhanced ebooks for free. According to Booktrack, it supposedly capable of dramatically improving student reading and writing abilities, They cite 2 small studies which show that students with Booktrack ebooks spent more time reading and showed greater comprehension compared to students who read regular ebooks.

I remain unconvinced that sound tracks in ebooks will prove useful or popular, but you don’t have to take my word for it. You can try the ebooks yourself. Booktrack has free apps in iTunes and Google Play, and you can also read and listen to the ebooks on the Booktrack website.

Have you tried Booktrack? What did you think?


The post Booktrack Raises $3 Million in Funding Round appeared first on The Digital Reader.

New Smartphone Security Protocol Could Prove More Effective than Passwords, Gestures

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 09:31 AM PDT

Any numberButton-Combo-Allows-People-to-Misuse-Locked-iPhones-2[1] of solutions to the smartphone theft problem have been proposed, including a few that were more melodramatic than practical, and now a team of researchers at Georgia Tech is proposing a new solution that could prove more secure than passwords or gestures.

They’ve developed a new system that learns how the device’s owner interacts with the screen, and then watches how each subsequent interaction is carried out. If the movements don't match the owner's profile, the system recognizes the differences and can be programmed to lock the device.

The system is called LatentGesture, and it is going to be presented in Toronto at ACM Chinese CHI 2014 from April 26 to 27. It has been tested in the lab on 20 test subjects, and it has proven nearly 98% accurate on a smartphone and 97% correct on tablets – in the lab.

The test subjects were asked to complete a set of tasks, including tapping buttons, checking boxes and swiping slider bars on a phone and tablet to fill out the form. The system tracked their tendencies and created a profile for each person.

The researchers designated one subject’s profile as the owner of each test device and then had the test subjects repeat the earlier test. LatentGesture successfully matched the owner and flagged everyone else as unauthorized users.

“Just like your fingerprint, everyone is unique when they use a touchscreen,” said Polo Chau, a Georgia Tech College of Computing assistant professor who led the study. “Some people slide the bar with one quick swipe. Others gradually move it across the screen. Everyone taps the screen with different pressures while checking boxes.”

In addition to recognizing the owner, the research team has also configured the system to store 5 profiles, enabling the device to be shared. “This feature could be used when a child uses her dad's tablet,” said College of Computing sophomore Premkumar Saravanan. “The system would recognize her touch signature and allow her to use the device. But if she tried to buy an app, the system could prevent it.”

As a passive security system, LatentGesture has a number of advantages over passwords and gestures. At the very least, a thief won’t be able to get around your security simply by deducing a security password or gesture simply by looking at the pattern of smudges on the screen.

Georgia Tech



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New eBook Dstributor Distee Launches Flat-fee Model

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 07:48 AM PDT

Most distee logoebook distributors, whether it’s Draft2Digital, PigeonLab, EpubDirect, Smashwords, or Bookbaby, charge a commission on the sales of the ebook titles they distribute, and the amount they earn goes up as sales increase.

Distee, a new distributor which launching this week, takes a different approach.

This firm is offering to distribute an author’s ebooks to major ebookstores in exchange for a flat monthly fee. They’re charging just £6.99 per book, per month to distribute to “Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Kobo, Sony, Google, WHSmith” as well as other ebookstores.

In addition to the low fee, Distee also promises monthly payments, fast updates, and a sales analytics platform which will let authors track their sales by channel.

Distee is promising that their cost structure is better for any publisher or author who earn more than £80 per month per title, and they could be correct. Draft2Digital, for example, takes a 10% commission on the retail price. It wouldn’t take more than a few dozen sales of even cheap ebooks before Distee’s deal starts paying for itself.

As the global ebook market continues to grow, ebook distributions will become an increasingly competitive market as new startups appear and try to attract customers. This is potentially a great opportunity for authors and publishers to lower their costs, but it does also come with some risk.

The downside of a competitive market is that some competitors will lose, and if (when) they go out of business they could take their customers’ content and earnings with them. Authors need to be aware of the risks, and be prepared for the worst that could happen.


The post New eBook Dstributor Distee Launches Flat-fee Model appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Serious Reading Takes a hit from Online Scanning and Skimming, and Other Hand-Wringing

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 06:43 AM PDT

Whenever a 7658272558_1d83fa7b32[1]new technology is first made available, someone somewhere is going to point out that many perils and pitfalls. In the past radio, newspapers, and even the printing press has been viewed with alarm, and in this modern age the internet has replaced them all as the boogieman.

The Washington Post joined in the hand-wringing on Sunday with an article that claims reading online is harmful to comprehension. The article is woefully short on actual facts or research, but it is replete with anecdotes like:

Claire Handscombe has a commitment problem online. Like a lot of Web surfers, she clicks on links posted on social networks, reads a few sentences, looks for exciting words, and then grows restless, scampering off to the next page she probably won't commit to.

"I give it a few seconds — not even minutes — and then I'm moving again," says Handscombe, a 35-year-old graduate student in creative writing at American University.

But it's not just online anymore. She finds herself behaving the same way with a novel.

"It's like your eyes are passing over the words but you're not taking in what they say," she confessed. "When I realize what's happening, I have to go back and read again and again."

While this might sound worrying, a close reading of the article shows that there isn’t actually much research to back up the anecdotes.

In fact, there is only a single research study mentioned in the article:

Already, there is some intriguing research that looks at that question. A 2012 Israeli study of engineering students — who grew up in the world of screens — looked at their comprehension while reading the same text on screen and in print when under time pressure to complete the task.

The students believed they did better on screen. They were wrong. Their comprehension and learning was better on paper.

That is rather thin evidence for such a wide sweeping claim, isn’t it?

I think so, and what’s more I know of conflicting research that says the opposite. I reported on a similar paper back in 2012:

Jordan Schugar, a professor at West Chester University (outside of Philly), has been studying this for some time now. Back in spring 2011 Jordan ran a study to test the reading comprehension of students in a freshman comp class. A total of 30 students participated, and they self selected into a control group and a test group. The latter were given Nooks to read on. Note that this was in the spring so they didn’t have Nook Touch, so instead the students were in fact given the original Nook to read on (this should be kept in mind, given how clumsy it was to use).

After rigorous analysis, the results showed that the students who read on the Nook had a very slight increase in comprehension. The paper (here) called the difference in scores insignificant, and I’m not going to argue with the folks who have PhDs (not this time anyway). Even though the paper says that the results didn’t show one was better, they did show that neither was worse. So any anecdotes that say otherwise are likely bunk.

So who is right?

I don’t know, but given that I have anecdotal evidence which contradicts the anecdotes in the article, I tend to disbelieve the claims that the new technology is bad.

Similar fears have been expressed about new technology throughout the centuries. They’ve mostly turned out to be nonsense, and I would expect that the current panic over the internet making people stupid will be equally groundless.

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