Friday, 16 May 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Samsung Gives up on eBooks, Tells Customers to Eat It

Posted: 16 May 2014 07:04 PM PDT

Onekindle for samsung of the potential heavyweights of the global ebook market is throwing in the towel.

I have just learned (Thanks, Laura!) that Samsung has officially announced they have retired the Readers Hub (aka Samsung Books) app, and replaced it with the Kindle for Samsung app which launched last month. The Kindle for Samsung app is available in 90 plus markets (far more than Samsung Books), and in addition to the Kindle Store it offers Samsung customers special deals including  one free ebook each month.

Samsung actually retired the Samsung Books app last week, but the closure has gone unreported until today. Samsung will be shutting down their ebook platform on 1 July 2014, and readers will lose access to all of their purchases.

Given Samsung’s years-long investment in ebooks, this news comes as a surprise. But in light of the fact that Samsung and Amazon announced a co-branded Kindle app last month, today’s news could also be seen as  other shoe dropping.

Following Sony’s closure of the Reader Store, Samsung is the second major device maker to given up on the ebook market in the past month. Sony handed their customer accounts to Kobo, but Samsung is simply going to walk away from their customers and tell them tough luck on the content they bought.


This is a sad exit for a company that I described last year as potentially being the next iBooks.

Samsung has been interested in ebooks since at least January 2010, when their ereaders were revealed at CES 2010. Samsung showed off 4 ereaders, including a 5″, 9.7″, and a pair of 6″ models, but unfortunately between the iPad and the drop in ereader prices in mid-2010 those devices never had much success on the market.

After those devices failed, Samsung turned their focus towards selling ebooks on tablets and smartphones. Samsung first partnered with Kobo in early 2011 and released their own branded reading apps for Windows Phone and Android, but later broke ties with Kobo in June 2012.

In the 21 months since breaking up with Kobo, Samsung has built up an ebookstore with 2.3 million titles at last count, and in January 2013 they released a new ebook app which supported Epub3. Unfortunately, that app was never very widely available. In the US market, for example, the Samsung Books app was only available on a a handful of the dozens of Samsung smartphones and tablets on the market.

Samsung is hands down the second largest smartphone and tablet maker in the world, and if they had put real effort into their ebook efforts they could have been a major player in this market. Samsung could have been one of the top five, but from what I have heard they never really invested in ebooks.

But even though Samsung never amounted to much in ebooks, their departure could have a significant effect. Samsung makes hundreds of millions of smartphones and tablets every year, and now some unknown percentage of those devices will ship with the Kindle for Samsung app. This could give Amazon a presence in markets that they previously were unable to pursue due to a lack of time, personnel, or money.

In fact, I would be terribly surprised if Amazon doesn’t end up with a growing market share as a result of this deal.

The post Samsung Gives up on eBooks, Tells Customers to Eat It appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Adobe Creative Cloud Servers Back Online After 27 Hour Outage

Posted: 16 May 2014 01:37 PM PDT

Adobeadobe-logo has provided a graphic demonstration of the problems with relying on cloud services for core functions.

Starting late Wednesday night, and continuing well into Thursday, Adobe suffered from an unexpected server outage. Many users of the cloud-based FormsCentral, Photoshop Illustrator, TypeKit, and other Adobe tools were unable to log in and get work done. (This, in spite of previous claims by Adobe that users would be able to access the services for up to 3 months while offline.)

From some user reports, this outage also affected installed desktop apps such as InDesign and Photoshop: “Several [Creative Cloud installations] in our office have been down for over 10 hours here,” user @Rikki_B told MacUser via Twitter on Thursday morning. “Seems to be no way to access [apps], trying to open them results in the login screen, can't see a way around it.”

The exact cause of the outage has not been explained by Adobe but it was belatedly confirmed, and after the issue was resolved Adobe indicated that the failure happened “during database maintenance activity”.

Adobe had launched the new suite of Creative Cloud-only apps and services last May, including Photoshop CC, InDesign CC, Illustrator CC, Dreamweaver CC, and other apps. The new online apps were replacements for Creative Suite 6, making them effectively Creative Suite 7.

As of February Adobe had an estimated 1.8 million paid Creative Cloud subscriptions. At an annual cost starting at $600 to $840, users get free updates, services like online backup and file-sharing, and the shared joy of knowing that a couple million people are sharing your pain.

The post Adobe Creative Cloud Servers Back Online After 27 Hour Outage appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Future of eBooks? Streaming is Now 21% of Music Revenues in the US

Posted: 16 May 2014 11:03 AM PDT

streamingonefifth[1]One of my unanswered questions at the moment concerns the ebook subscription market. While some companies like Safari Online have been in this market for nearly a decade, the market really only took off in late 2013 when Oyster and Scribd launched competing services.

It’s too early to guess make any reliable predictions as to how this market will grow, but that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss the matter. And today I came across a chart which will add to the debate.

Earlier this week Digital Music News posted a chart from Statista which detailed the rise of streaming music as a share of overall revenue for the US music market:


This chart caught my eye because streaming music is the closest analogue to subscription ebooks that I can find in the music market. It’s not a perfect analog, but there are enough functional similarities between, say Pandora, and Oyster that I think it’s worth looking at streaming music with the viewpoint that this could be the future of ebook subscriptions.

Can you picture a market where 21% of the revenue comes from access and not sales?

I have my ideas, but I want to know what you think.


The post The Future of eBooks? Streaming is Now 21% of Music Revenues in the US appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Is This Proof of the 12.9″ iPad Maxi?

Posted: 16 May 2014 09:33 AM PDT

Rumors iPad-Pro-Maquette[1]circulated last year that Apple was working on a larger iPad, possibly with either a 12.9″ or a 13.3″ screen, but it wasn’t until today that any real proof existed to show that the rumors were real.

A new photo was posted to Weibo earlier today which appears to show an aluminum mold carved in the shape of a larger iPad. As you can see in the photo, Apple’s logo and the camera can be seen in the aluminum block. According to my source, if it is real then this would likely be used to protective shells for the iPad Maxi.

So is this real? I don’t know, but it is not implausible. I fully expect that Apple will seek to bolster their flagging tablet sales by releasing a larger iPad, and this mold might be used to make accessories.

I’m also told that this picture came from the same Weibo account which posted a photo of a similar  aluminum mold for the iPhone 6 (the one with a 4.7″ screen), and that does make this image more plausible.

Would you buy an iPad Maxi if you could?





The post Is This Proof of the 12.9″ iPad Maxi? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Xiaomi: A Company Obscured By Language

Posted: 16 May 2014 07:44 AM PDT

Reutersxiaomileijun[1] has an interview with the founder of Xiaomi, Lei Jun.

(Editor’s note: The interview was conducted last year, but Mike found it earlier this week.)

Here are some choice excerpts:

  • We're actually an Internet company.
  • The Internet represents an advanced way of thinking. Companies that are armed with this have an incredible competitive edge. Today we're already China's third-largest e-commerce company and we've already built a massive, massive mobile Internet platform and we have a lot of apps.
  • People just don't get it. The mobile phone itself is only the carrier. If people don't understand this, they can't understand what kind of company Xiaomi is.
  • Xiaomi and Apple are two completely different things. If you understand Xiaomi, I'm sure one day you will understand that Apple and Xiaomi are completely different companies. I think that the core problem is that people don't understand Xiaomi. The main difference is that it is the Internet that made Xiaomi.
  • Xiaomi selling mobile phones is like Amazon selling Kindles. So you can understand why we sell them for so cheap.

I think the main problem is that you have to be able to read Chinese to comprehend the scope of what Xiaomi does. To everyone outside of China, they look like Apple.

To everyone inside of China — who can access all of the Xiaomi Internet services — Xiaomi is completely understandable and isn't compared to Apple.

Now I see why there have been reports that expect the Xiaomi tablet to be priced very low despite its very high-end spec. Xiaomi isn't in business to sell hardware. It's in business to sell what they offer on the Internet — and all of that is what we can't see outside of China, except for those who can read Chinese.

That means in every country Xiaomi expands into, it must hire translators and cultural experts to customize their services for that local market. They don't make their money on the hardware — as he said, it's like the Kindle. The money is made when the device is used with Xiaomi's services. Every device not used with their services is money lost. While it's nearly impossible to buy a Kindle and not use Amazon to buy books, the same doesn't hold with a Xiaomi device — so they're really going to have to find a way to hook people to what they sell online. That won't be difficult to do. Amazon, Apple, Google, and everyone else has done and is doing it.

Xiaomi will be expanding into ten more countries in 2014:

  • Asia: Malaysia, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam
  • Europe: Russia, Turkey
  • Latin America: Mexico, Brazil

However, that doesn't mean they'll have a complete presence:

MIUI, the company's homegrown Android ROM which powers its devices, remains more evolved in mainland China than in Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong (the three other markets where it currently operates). In those territories, Xiaomi hasn't yet implemented payments for its app store, theme store, game store, or book center. Those are all central to the Chinese Xiaomi experience, as well as a part of Xiaomi's business model.

My personal thing is this: I really can't have an Aha! Moment with Xiaomi until I can see all of it in English. And how long will it take them to do English? In fact, will they ever do English? If they have truly global ambitions, I think they must.

And now the video:

The post Xiaomi: A Company Obscured By Language appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Leaked Videos Confirm Pocketbook Ultra will have a Camera

Posted: 16 May 2014 06:48 AM PDT

A pocketbook ultra 1pair of videos have been discovered on Youtube which confirm that the highly anticipated Pocketbook Ultra will indeed have a camera as well as the interface which Pocketbook showed off in a set of screenshots earlier this week.

The videos were posted in April, but were only noticed today by They are short and weren’t shot in very high detail, so there’s not much to learn from them that is new.

Update: The videos have been made private. Sorry.

But there are a few details to glean. For example, the videos name the Ultra as the Pocketbook 650, which is probably its model number. The first video also confirms that the Ultra has a rear-facing camera and is reasonably fast at updating the E-ink screen:

According to past leaks, that camera is going to be used to support an OCR function which will enable users to take a picture, convert the image to text, and then edit and save the text on the Ultra.

The leaks have also told us that the Ultra has a 6″ Carta E-ink screen with a resolution of 1024 x 758, frontlight, touchscreen, and page turn buttons mounted on the rear of the case. It’s supposed to be shipping some time in May, with a retail price of 199 euros.

Of course, Pocketbook hasn’t made any official announcements concerning their highly anticipated new ebook reader so the details about the features, price, and release date are still up in the air.

But one detail I can confirm is that the Ultra has the interface which Pocketbook showed us earlier this week:

The post Leaked Videos Confirm Pocketbook Ultra will have a Camera appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon now Bullying Bonnier in Negotiations over Book, eBook Contracts

Posted: 16 May 2014 05:56 AM PDT

Hotamazon frown on the heels of news about the bitter Amazon-Hachette renegotiations, new reports are coming out of Germany today that Amazon is using similar hardball tactics against another publisher.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reported this morning that Amazon is renegotiating its contracts with Bonnier, a Swedish publishing conglomerate. Bonnier owns several German publishers (including Ullsteinhaus, Piper, Berlin, Carlsen), and Amazon is using tricks similar to the ones used against Hachette here in the US.

According to FAZ, Amazon is reducing the number of copies of Bonnier titles they carry in their warehouses, adding long shipping delays to newly ordered books.

Sources say that Amazon is seeking not just new terms for their book contract with Bonnier but also new terms for their ebook contract. The retailer is reportedly pressuring Bonnier into offering a steeper discount on ebooks. Rather than pay Bonnier the accepted industry standard 70%, Amazon wants to reduce that to only 50% to 60%.

And that’s not good news for anyone other than Amazon.

I know some might expect me to defend Amazon here in much the same way I took their side in the Hachette dispute, but one key difference between the Bonnier and Hachette negotiations is that with the latter there is a potential upside for consumers. Consumers stand to gain nothing from the Bonnier dispute.

In the US, Amazon’s fight is against a publisher which had previously conspired to raise ebook prices and restrict competition. If Amazon wins it means means lower book prices in the long run, but that probably will not happen in Germany.

Germany has fixed price book laws; publishers set the retail price and retailers are not allowed to discount their books more than (I think) 10%. As a result, any money that Amazon squeezes out of a publisher ends up in Amazon’s pocket, and not in the pocket of consumers.

The post Amazon now Bullying Bonnier in Negotiations over Book, eBook Contracts appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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