Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 15 May 2014

Posted: 14 May 2014 09:32 PM PDT

Top stories this Thursday morning include an argument for university presses bundling ebooks with print books (link), the stereotypical covers of books set in Africa (link), a more nuanced view of the latest iteration of “kids don’t read any more” (link), a look at one of the last remaining e-textbook startups (link), and more.

  • Apple's iOS Human Interface Guidelines Now On The iBooks Store (MacStories)
  • Are University Presses Missing Out on Sales? (An American Editor)
  • Argentine Ebookstore BajaLibros Benefits by Amazon’s Absence (Publishing Perspectives)
  • Kids Don’t Read Books Because Parents Don’t Read Books (Forbes)
  • Last e-textbook startup: Why Flat World is not afraid of govt efforts to make textbooks free for all (PandoDaily)
  • The novel-is-dead article is dead. (This time for real.) (The Globe and Mail)
  • Pressure on Post to cover Amazon-Hachette (
  • What Makes People Think Ebooks are a Disruptive Innovation? (The Passive Voice)
  • Why Every Book About Africa Has the Same Cover (The Atlantic)
  • A World Without Wattpad (Wattpad)

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AAR Joins the Fray in the Amazon-Hachette Contract Dispute

Posted: 14 May 2014 04:19 PM PDT

Hachette and 2844902161_f66b8f9bdf_b[1]Amazon’s brutal months-long contract renegotiation picked up a  peanut gallery commentator today.

The AAR (Association of Authors Representatives) has sent an open letter today to Amazon, calling Amazon out for delaying new orders of Hachette titles and reducing the number of copies they stock in their warehouses.

Amazon is reportedly negotiating new contracts with Hachette, and Amazon is using the stock situation to pressure Hachette into signing a deal. This is much the same as what B&N did last year, only the Amazon-Hachette negotiation should matter more to the average consumer than last year’s fight.

According to PW the negotiations cover both paper books and ebooks, but most importantly the ebook negotiations could decide whether Amazon will retain the ability to discount ebook prices. Hachette was one of the first to settle the ebook antitrust lawsuit in 2012, and the 2 year period where they were required to relinquish price controls is about up.

Amazon’s negotiation with Hachette is going to set the tone for all of the subsequent ebook contract negotiations. If Amazon loses this round, Agency pricing could make a comeback, resulting in financial harm to ebook buyers.

Here is the letter:

Dear Amazon Team,

I am writing as the President of the AAR, the Association of Authors Representatives, the largest organization of literary and dramatic agents in North America. The AAR has more than 400 member agents, who in turn represent tens of thousands of authors, dramatists, and other rights owners.

The AAR has heard from many of its members reporting that Amazon has delayed delivery and/or otherwise impeded the sale of many of their clients' books that were published by Hachette. Apparently, those actions are a part of Amazon's current business dispute with Hachette. Without knowledge of the issues underlying that dispute, and without taking a position on that dispute, we want to advise you in the strongest possible terms that the AAR deplores any attempt by any party that would seek to injure and punish innocent authors–and their innocent readers– in order to pursue its position in a business dispute. We believe that such actions are analogous to hostage-taking to extort concessions, and are just as indefensible.

The AAR supports the maximum possible sale and dissemination of all published works, which benefits not only the authors and readers of those works but all of society. On a purely commercial basis, we believe that such unrestricted dissemination of published works leads to repeat readers and buyers, which serves the economic interests of not only their authors and publishers but their sellers and distributors, including quite prominently Amazon. Each of us has a role to play in this ecosystem, and surely Amazon does not need to–and should not in any event–hold the works of selected individual authors hostage as a weapon in a negotiation with a publisher. This is a brutal and manipulative tactic, ironically from a company that proclaims its goal to fully satisfy the reading needs and desires of its customers and to be a champion of authors.

Gail Hochman, President,
and the Board of Directors of the Association of Authors' Representatives


image by mararie

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Mozilla to Bake-In DRM in Next Version of Firefox

Posted: 14 May 2014 12:37 PM PDT

Earlier262875283_ca33f09edd[1] today Mozilla acquiesced to a market reality which ebook retailers have known for years.

Ask anyone who has tried to launch an ebookstore and they’ll tell you that the only way to get titles from major publishers is to integrate DRM into the ebookstore – often times at high cost. Many publishers simply won’t distribute to an ebookstore that lacks DRM, with some even going so far as to question the security of new types of DRM (like the custom DRM used by Oyster).

Similarly, the only way for a browser maker to support commercially streamed video is to enable support for DRM. In the past that meant indirectly supporting DRM via Flash and Silverlight, but in the future streaming DRM is going to have to be built in to the web browsers.

And so today, in a long and meandering blog post, Mozilla announced that they would be integrating DRM into the next version of Firefox. They will be using closed-source code, but to add an extra layer of protection they will wrap that code in open source code.

Ostensibly this change is going to make it easy for end users, but it also puts web browser makers between a rock and a hard place. Either they integrate the new DRM, or they lose relevance.

I agree with them when they say they don’t really have a choice:

We very much want to see a different system.  Unfortunately, Mozilla alone cannot change the industry on DRM at this point.  In the past Firefox has changed the industry, and we intend to do so again.  Today, however, we cannot cause the change we want regarding DRM.  The other major browser vendors — Google, Microsoft and Apple — have already implemented the new system.   In addition, the old system will be retired shortly.  As a result, the new implementation of DRM will soon become the only way browsers can provide access to DRM-controlled content.

There’s no definite timeline for crippling Firefox with the new DRM, but they did say that it is coming. It will be first be tested in developer builds, before it is inflicted upon users. Mozilla plans to have the DRM disabled by default, requiring a user to enable it before watching a streaming video, but it will be present in future Windows, OSX, and Linux versions of the Firefox web browser.

There’s no mention of Android, which is unfortunate. As we know from trying to get Amazon Instant Video working on the platform, Flash support on Android is spotty at best, and Silverlight is not supported at all. This is part of the reason why so many streaming video services have deployed their own app.

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Crazy Idea of the Week: iPhone 6 will have a 4.7″, 1704 x 960 Resolution Display

Posted: 14 May 2014 11:07 AM PDT

iphone 6 dummyIt is a truth universally acknowledged that Apple will release an iPhone later this year with a larger screen (probably a 4.7″ screen). Few solid details are known about this screen, not its construction, resolution, or exact size, but today 9to5Mac has put forward a novel theory which guesses at the resolution.

They say they have sources which put the resolution of the new screen at 1704 x 960. While that is not a clean multiple of the resolution of the existing 4″ screen, 9to5Mac has an explanation as to why this is the new screen resolution.

But first, a little background. Apple has had 3 standard screen resolutions on the iPhone since the first model launched in 2007:

  • The first iPhone had a 3.5″ screen with a resolution of 320 x 480.
  • The resolution was quadrupled three years later to 960 x 640, while the screen size remained the same.
  • And then in 2012 Apple debuted a 4″ iPhone with a longer screen (1136 x 640).

And that brings us to today. The iPhone 6 is expected to have a 4.7″ screen. Clearly the new and larger screen is going to have more pixels than the existing screen on the iPhone 5s, but your guess is as good as mine as to the number.

The simple and straightforward solution would be to quadruple the resolution again, this time jumping to 2272 x 1280. That would result in a screen which was so sharp you would be able to see an angel dance on the head of a pin. This screen would have a pixel density of around 555 ppi, which so far as I know is sharper than anything else on the market.

But rather than quadrupling the resolution, 9to5Mac is proposing that it will only increase by  one and a quarter (to 1704 x 960). They have an intricate explanation for the change:

From a developer's perspective, the current iPhone 5/5s/5c display has a resolution of 568 x 320, up from 480 x 320 in the original iPhone. However, there are actually twice as many pixels in each direction to create a sharper image. In other words, an iPhone 5s with a non-Retina (or "1X") display would have an actual resolution of 568 x 320 (which is the 1136 x 640 resolution divided by 2). We'll call this the "base resolution" of the iPhone 5/5s/5c.

3X mode:

Fast forward to 2014, and Apple is preparing to make another significant screen adjustment to the iPhone. Instead of retaining the current resolution, sources familiar with the testing of at least one next-generation iPhone model say that Apple plans to scale the next iPhone display with a pixel-tripling (3X) mode.

This means that Apple will likely be tripling the aforementioned "base resolution" (568 x 320) of the iPhone screen in both directions, and that the iPhone screen resolution will be scaled with an increase of 150% from the current 2X resolution of 1136 x 640. Of course, Apple tests several different iPhones and display technologies, so it is possible that Apple chooses to take another route for display specifications for the 2014 iPhone upgrade.

They got the description of the math wrong, but I still agree with their math and their argument which supports it.

While this idea is a little crazy, it is the best argument I have read so far. Would anyone care to take a bet on whether this is true?

The post Crazy Idea of the Week: iPhone 6 will have a 4.7″, 1704 x 960 Resolution Display appeared first on The Digital Reader.

What’s His Name Wins Legal Battle, Forces Google to Delete Search Results

Posted: 14 May 2014 09:50 AM PDT

Do you realize that the past, starting from yesterday, has been actually abolished? If it survives anywhere, it’s in a few solid objects with no words attached to them, like that lump of glass there. Already we know almost literally nothing about the Revolution and the years before the Revolution. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. (1984, Ch 2)

Yesterday the EU Court of Justice brought Orwell’s dystopia one step closer to existing. The court issued a ruling in a case against Google which basically said hang the historical factual record; the offended emotions of an individual trumped collective rights of everyone else and the needs of society.

Over the past few years the European Union has been toying with the idea that an individual would have the right to censor any mentions of himself or herself online. The EU called it “the right to be forgotten”, but censorship by any other name still smells as sweet.

Under this directive, an individual can sue companies to have them remove links or content which mentions the individual.

It doesn’t matter whether the details are factually accurate or not, just that they describe an individual. It also doesn’t matter that this would abrogate everyone else’s right to freedom of speech, nor that the EU Court of Justice Advocate General Niilo Jaaskinen argued that there is no such right under the European data and privacy directive, or that a European agency has already made it clear that this idea was fundamentally impossible to accomplish:

ENISA's report simply asks how government will implement an individual "right to be forgotten" when data are so often plural –- concerned with more than one person and freely exchanged with many more.  How, ENISA asks, would government force the forgetting of a couple's photograph when one person wants the photo forgotten and the other doesn't?  And how can data be tracked down and "forgotten" when we don't even know who has seen or stored it?

Today’s decision came as a result of a privacy lawsuit brought by What’s His Name. This individual sued Google in order to get the search engine to remove results which mentioned a legal proceeding from the 1990s.

What’s His Name claimed that newspaper articles written at the time which mentioned his insolvency proceedings violated his privacy. He was unable to get the newspaper to take the article down, so he instead he sued Google, again arguing that his privacy was being violated when the articles turned up in Google’s search results. Now that the matter was settled he wanted the details to vanish from the ether.

Google fought the case before a Spanish court, which kicked the case up to the EU Court of Justice. Yesterday the court ruled that:

Article 12(b) and subparagraph (a) of the first paragraph of Article 14 of Directive 95/46 are to be interpreted as meaning that, in order to comply with the rights laid down in those provisions and in so far as the conditions laid down by those provisions are in fact satisfied, the operator of a search engine is obliged to remove from the list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of a person's name links to web pages, published by third parties and containing information relating to that person, also in a case where that name or information is not erased beforehand or simultaneously from those web pages, and even, as the case may be, when its publication in itself on those pages is lawful.

Article 12(b) and subparagraph (a) of the first paragraph of Article 14 of Directive 95/46 are to be interpreted as meaning that, when appraising the conditions for the application of those provisions, it should inter alia be examined whether the data subject has a right that the information in question relating to him personally should, at this point in time, no longer be linked to his name by a list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of his name, without it being necessary in order to find such a right that the inclusion of the information in question in that list causes prejudice to the data subject. As the data subject may, in the light of his fundamental rights under Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter, request that the information in question no longer be made available to the general public on account of its inclusion in such a list of results, those rights override, as a rule, not only the economic interest of the operator of the search engine but also the interest of the general public in having access to that information upon a search relating to the data subject's name.

By giving an individual the power to rewrite history, the EU has moved us one step closer to 1984.

And no, I am not being snarky or hysterical; today the individual has the right to be forgotten but tomorrow, when the state reserves that right to the authorities, we will be firmly in the era of 1984.

The post What’s His Name Wins Legal Battle, Forces Google to Delete Search Results appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Round Up: Revenue, eBooks Up and Down at HarperCollins, HMH, and Hachette

Posted: 14 May 2014 07:17 AM PDT

Over the past week 3 quarterly reports from major US publishers have crossed my desk, and rather than cover each one individually I waited to post a round up.


  • Revenues: $354 million, up 14%
  • Gross Profit $53 million, up 83% from last year
  • eBook Revenues grew by 46% over a year ago and represented 26% of company revenues, up from 21% last year.
  • press release

Hachette Livre

  • Revenues (US, UK, France, and elsewhere): €393 million, down 5.3% from last year
  • eBook Revenues made up 13.4% of net sales for the division (vs. 12.4% in the first quarter of 2013), including 34% of net trade sales in the US, as in the first quarter of 2013, and 40% of net adult trade sales in the UK (vs. 31% for the same period last year)
  • press release

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  • Revenues: net sales of $154 million
  • eBook Revenues: (not dislcosed)
  • press release

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Microsoft Accidentally Reveals Launch Details for New Surface Pro 3

Posted: 14 May 2014 05:09 AM PDT

Microsoft is microsoft surface mini 2holding a press event for their Surface tablet next week, and earlier today the company may have inadvertently revealed one of the announcements.

There’s a mention on one of Microsoft’s support pages which mentions the Surface Pro 3. It doesn’t tell us anything useful, just that an “update is available that adds support to the Surface Pro 3 camera”.

There’s a chance that this could simply be a typo, but given the rumors that circulated last week I don’t think that is the case. According to Cnet, Microsoft is going to be launching a new Intel-powered Surface tablet next week. This new model is in addition to the 8″ Surface Mini tablet which had previously leaked.

It’s been just over 6 months since Microsoft shipped the Surface Pro 2. While it might seem to soon for a new model, it’s only been about 15 months since the first Surface Pro shipped. If Microsoft is going for an extremely short upgrade cycle then launching a new model next week would make sense.

The Surface Pro 2 has a 10.5″ screen and runs Windows 8.1 on a Haswell Core i5 CPU. Starting with a retail of $900, it is intended as an all in one replacement for laptops and desktops.

The Verge

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George RR Martin Explains Why He Writes in a DOS-Based Word Program

Posted: 14 May 2014 04:13 AM PDT

George game-of-thrones[1]RR Martin is well-known for writing the immensely successful Game of Throne series, but he is also rapidly becoming almost as well-known amongst his fans for a particular writing quirk.

Last night the author confessed to late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien that he writes on a computer system which is older than some of his fans.

“I actually have two computers,” Martin told Conan. “I have a computer I browse the Internet with and I get my email on, and I do my taxes on. And then I have my writing computer, which is a DOS machine, not connected to the Internet. I use WordStar 4.0 as my word processing system.”

In short, Martin has created a distraction-free writing environment, and I envy him. The internet is a tempting distraction which I have to fight everyday. In fact, my better writing days can often be measured by how successfully I ignored the internet.


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