Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 21 May 2014

Posted: 20 May 2014 09:30 PM PDT

I have a short and eclectic reading list for you today.

  • Amazon’s Drone Team Is Hiring: Look At These Nifty Job Ads (Forbes)
  • The Amazon – Hachette Spat (Nelson Literary Agency)
  • Classic Authors Who Suck, According To Other Classic Authors (INFOGRAPHIC) (HuffPost)
  • The Postmedia chain is trying to rethink not just how people read its content but where and when (GigaOm)
  • What NOT to do on CreateSpace (Indies Unlimited)
  • What Publishers Can Learn From the New York Times's Digital Transition (DBW)

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The (Not So) Final Word on the RT Booklovers Convention Fracas

Posted: 20 May 2014 04:50 PM PDT

RTBookloversConv5-14red_logo500[1]Over the past weekend the RT Booklovers Convention ignited a conflagration when their madhouse of a book fair did not go according to plan.

As you might recall, a story has been going around (largely at the instigation of the rabble-rouser Hugh Howey) that at the Giant Book Fair on Saturday, self-published authors were maligned with the label “aspiring author”.  First-hand reports tended to disagree with that claim. I already adequately covered this story on Sunday night, so I won’t repeat myself. But I do wish to address Hugh’s claim that self-published authors were labeled “aspiring”.

Imagine selling two million books, having half a dozen of your novels hit the New York Times bestseller list, being inundated with thousands of fan emails every month, and then having someone call you an "aspiring writer."

That's what happened to some authors in New Orleans this weekend, when the planners of the RT Booklovers Convention decided to place self-published authors in a dinky room off to the side while the traditionally published authors sat at tables in the grand ballroom.

It turns out that the label of aspiring author did in fact exist. Several sources report that it was one of many badge ribbons which attendees could add to their conference badges. According to Mur Lafferty, it was voluntary:

RT gave away several identifying badge ribbons. I received one that said "Published Author." Another one I saw several people wearing was "Aspiring Author." People weren't forced to wear these. Aspiring wasn't a derogatory term. Aspiring also didn't mean indie.

And according to another attendee, self-published authors also got the ribbon which said “published author”:

It's worth noting that there were ribbons saying "Published Author."

You got them regardless of how you published, if you were published. I talked to plenty of self-pub authors with them. It was super-duper inclusive that way, and I thought RT did a great job on that.

The sales floor was a deranged madhouse, it was only four hours of the con, and I kinda suspect anyone expecting to make their money back on the event was out of luck, regardless of who they were with or how they were published. (I also would say "smaller ballroom off the same hall as the main one" is a pretty cushy form of exile, but eh.)

And when you add in the fact that numerous people, starting with the convention organizers (and continuing on to include a dozen or more who have no reason to defend the organizers), have denied that anyone intentionally cast the aspersion that indies were aspiring and not published authors – I can’t help but conclude that there is much ado about nothing here.

And don’t forget that RT has a reputation of inclusion, and a history of supporting  self-published authors long before anyone took them seriously:

I wasn't there, but RTBookclub has always championed ebooks and self-published authors. They were the first to review the early ebooks in the Nineties, they've always included ebook and self-published authors into all their events, and they've added special awards for ebook only and self-published books in their annual awards.

This makes it hard to believe they are prejudicial.

At this point I would say that it is damned clear that this is not nearly the story that Hugh Howey and a few others would make it out to be. The status of self-published authors wasn’t under attack, it wasn’t diminished, and they weren’t, to use Hugh’s words “being forced to sit in the backlist”.

While there are plenty of real issues affecting authors everyday, this isn’t one of them, and it is past time to stop pretending that it is.

Thanks, Jeremy, Marilynn!


The post The (Not So) Final Word on the RT Booklovers Convention Fracas appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Pocketbook Launches the 6″ Ultra, 8″ Ink Pad eBook Readers

Posted: 20 May 2014 01:09 PM PDT

pocketbook ultra 650Pocketbook’s much-leaked, camera-equipped, high-end Pocketbook Ultra ebook reader officially launched today in Russia.

The Ukrainian ereader maker held a launch event today for their new devices. In addition to the Ultra, Pocketbook also showed off the CAD Reader (with its 13.3″ screen), the Aqua, the CoverReader (an E-ink case for the Samsung Galaxy S4), and a wholly unannounced and unexpected 8″ ebook reader – the Ink Pad.

Few details are known about the new models aside from the price (The-eBook.org didn’t post much), but I do have some new info on prices and the expected release date (in Russia).

The 6″ Pocketbook Aqua, which launched in Germany a few months ago, is going to be available in Russia in 2 to 3 weeks. Retail will be 6990 rubles, or about $200 USD.

The Pocketbook CoverReader, which as you may recall was first shown off late last year (video), is already available in Russia. It’s selling for 3490 rubles.

The 13.3″ CAD Reader is still in the works. Pocketbooks hopes to have it on the market by the end of the year, price unknown.

pocketbook ink pad 840Ink Pad 840

And then there’s the PocketBook Ink Pad 840. This device came as a complete surprise, and it sports a high resolution 8″ E-ink screen with a touchscreen and frontlight. This is basically the same device as the Pocketbook Color Lux, only without the color E-ink screen.

Update: This ereader runs Pocketbook’s reading software on a 1GHz CPU with 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage, Wifi, and a 1.5Ah battery which is expected to give up to a month of runtime (source). Thanks, Name!

The Ink Pad 840 has a screen resolution of 1,600 x 1,200 (the same as on the Onyx Boox i86), and it will cost 9990 rubles (about $290 USD) when it ships in Russia in July.


And finally we have the Ultra.

pocketbook ultra 650There is in fact very little which we don’t know about this device, and in fact today’s launch doesn’t add any details other than confirmation that it has support for audio.

The Pocketbook Ultra is equipped with a 6″ Carta E-ink screen (screen resolution of 1024 x 758). It has a frontlight, touchscreen, page turn buttons mounted on the rear of the device, and a rear-facing camera. I cannot tell you the resolution, but I can confirm the reports that the camera is used to take photos so the user can OCR the text and add notes.

Update: The Ultra has a 5MP camera with Flash. It runs Pocketbook’s reading software on a 1GHz CPU with 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage, Wifi, and a 1.5Ah battery which is expected to give up to a month of runtime (source). Thanks, Name!

The Ultra is scheduled to ship in Russia in early July, and it will sell for 8990 rubles (about $260 USD) . Previous leaks indicate that the price in Germany will be 199 euros, but I don’t have any details about pricing in other markets.

pocketbook ultra 650 pocketbook ink pad 840 pocketbook cad reader coverreader pocketbook pocketbook aqua 640 pocketbook ultra 650


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Kobo to Launch New Book Reviews Section

Posted: 20 May 2014 11:29 AM PDT

Whether kobo itunes ios logothey come from Goodreads, iDreamBooks, or Amazon, book reviews make the ebookstore. For the longest time now Kobo has lacked book reviews, but in the not too distant future that is going to change.

A few days ago Kobo announced on the Kobo Writing Life blog that they are growing their own review section:

In the near future, Kobo will begin featuring book reviews! Customers will be able to write reviews and choose star ratings for your titles and post them on the book page. We want to give KWL authors the opportunity to begin collecting reviews for their titles before the feature goes live!

The new review section is being developed in partnership with Evolcalize, and just about anyone can post a review. All that is required is a Facebook account; you don’t even have to log in with your Kobo account (in fact, you cannot).


kobo review system

If you would like to post a review, click this link, log in with your Facebook account, and search by  either title or author. Your review won’t be immediately posted to the Kobo website, but it will be added to the site in the near future (once this feature officially launches).

As you might recall, Kobo used to rely on Goodreads as a source of reviews, but they broke ties in July 2013. This was about 4 months after Goodreads was acquired by Amazon, raising questions as to whose idea it was to break up.

Frankly, I was a little surprised that it took Kobo this long to organize a replacement, especially considering that there already was a readily available alternative. iDreamBooks, which bills it itself as the Rotten Tomatoes of book reviews, launched in 2012. This review aggregator last crossed my desk in April 2013 when it announced a deal with Sony to supply reviews to the Reader Store.

It’s a shame Kobo couldn’t work out a similar deal.

Thanks, Stephen!

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Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 Wants to be a Laptop Killer, Could End up Killing Itself

Posted: 20 May 2014 09:41 AM PDT

surface pro 3 microsoftMicrosoft is holding their press event for the Surface  tablet today, and it looks like many of the rumors circulating over the past couple weeks have come true (just not the rumors about the 8″ Surface Mini).

The Surface Pro 3 is a larger tablet than previous Surface models, with a more powerful CPU. It sports a 12″ display, a screen resolution of 2160 x 1440, and it runs Windows 8.1 on a Core-i7 CPU.

According to Microsoft, the Surface Pro 3 has the same dual touchscreen tech found on previous models, but the high end models are around 10% faster than the Surface Pro 2, offers longer battery life, and offer 6% more screen real estate than the Macbook Air. This tablet is intended to replace your laptop, which is exactly the same goal that Microsoft had for the previous models (and look how well that turned out).

The Surface Pro 3 measures a mere 9.1mm thin and weighs in at 800 grams, making it thinner and lighter than its predecessor. The Pro 3 is even lighter than the 13″ Macbook Air, as MS pointed out at the press event:


In addition to the new tablet, Microsoft is launching a new Typecover that includes a larger trackpad which is 68% larger and slicker.The new cover attach differently than the ones that came before. It still snaps into the bottom, but then it also folds up a little at the hinge.

There’s also a new desktop docking station which offers 4k video output as well as a plethora of ports.

All in all, Microsoft has made a number of changes that improve the tablet and bring it closer to being a true laptop replacement; if only they had stopped there.

Microsoft is so eager to pitch the Surface Pro 3 as a laptop replacement that they went a step too far and tried to convince us that it could be used on our laps. This strikes me as a recipe for disaster:

surface pro 3 microsoft

If you use your Surface Pro 3 like this, don’t be surprised if it falls and breaks. Unlike a laptop, which has most of its weight in the base, the Surface pro 3 has all of its weight behind the screen. The mildest bump could send it sliding to the floor, resulting in a loud and expensive crunchy noise.

There’s also a chance that the tablet will jump to its death willingly, just to escape the ignominy of having a kickstand and a typecover.

According to Sunday’s rumors, the more expensive models will retail for $1,549 (Core-i7 chip, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage) and $1,949 Core-i7 chip, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage).

And according to what Microsoft is saying at the press event, the cheapest model will sport a Core-i3 chip and cost $800 when it goes on sale tomorrow. This tablet is suppressed to be up for pre-order now, but I can’t see any sign of it on the Microsoft website (yet).

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Publishers Weekly to Launch New Site Focused on News and Info for Self-Published Authors

Posted: 20 May 2014 08:29 AM PDT

logo[1]Publishers Weekly announced on Monday that they will soon be taking the covers off of BookLife, a new website dedicated to supporting self-published authors.

This site, which has been under development since at least January, is a joint venture between Publishers Weekly and the interactive media company Mediapolis. It is going to launch next week with the goal of helping authors navigate the steps required to self-publish their work.

“Self-published books and authors are having more and more impact on readers and the publishing industry,” according to Carl Pritzkat, the president of BookLife and VP of business development for PWxyz LLC, the parent company of Publishers Weekly. Pritzkat adds, “Through BookLife, Publishers Weekly will provide indie authors access to its knowledge of book publishing and its understanding of the tools and professional standards that contribute to success.”

According to the press release, BookLife will focus on three main areas: a book's creation, including editing and cover design; publishing – the physical making of the book; and book marketing (including distribution, publicity and sales).

In addition to providing information, resources, and how-to articles, BookLife plans to feature interviews with indie authors and present case studies. Authors will also be able to submit their titles for review consideration through BookLife.

The reviews, which used to be handled via the 4-year-old PW Select program, will be integrated reviews of self-published books into the main portion of Publishers Weekly, sorted by genre and appearing alongside reviews of traditionally published books.


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Self-published eBooks are Coming Soon to a Library Near You

Posted: 20 May 2014 07:11 AM PDT

Hot on thesmashwords overdrive heels of yesterday’s news about txtr, Smashwords announced  a new partnership with Overdrive today. At long last, authors and publishers can now use Smashwords to distribute their titles to the king of the library ebook market.

Smashwords has long had contracts with OD’s smaller competitors Axis 360 and 3M Cloud Library (and Smashwords has signed deals with individual digital libraries like The Open Library and Douglas County Public Library System), but OverDrive, with its network of 28,000 libraries and schools worldwide, towers over the competition.

Overdrive’s library partners will soon have the option of buying from Smashwords’s catalog of about 200,000 titles from 88,000 publishers and authors.

The ebooks will be loaned on a one copy/one user model, with no limit on the number of loans or an expiration date, and patrons will be able to read the ebooks on OverDrive’s apps for Android, iOS, ebook readers, and even the Kindle. Library patrons will also have the option of buying Smashwords titles through their library via OverDrive’s “Buy it Now” program, earning the library a commission and getting a DRM-free ebook for their troubles.

200,000 is quite a catalog to get lost in, so OverDrive and Smashwords have taken steps to streamline collection development. Smashwords has assembled curated lists of best sellers and popular genres. Libraries will soon have the option to purchase a buy-lists consisting of, for example, the top 1,000 best selling Smashwords romance titles, or the top 1,000 best selling mysteries and thrillers. Smashwords is also putting together buy-lists made up of the complete catalog of the top 100, 500 or 1,000 bestselling Smashwords authors.

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$99 HP 7 Plus Android Tablet Launches in the US

Posted: 20 May 2014 05:39 AM PDT

hp-7-plus_01HP started selling a $99 Android tablet in the US on Black Friday 2013, and earlier this week they launched a new model.

The HP 7 Plus probably won’t win any awards, but it has at least two things going for it: HP’s reputation for decent quality budget tablets, and a $99 price tag. It is available from HP.com.

This tablet runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean on a 1GHz quad-core Allwinner A43 CPU with 1GB RAM, 8GB internal storage, and a microSD card slot. It has 2 cameras, including the expected VGA front-facing camera and a 2MP rear camera of unknown quality.

It has Wifi (with Miracast wireless display support) but there’s no mention of Bluetooth. With a 2.8Ah battery, HP expects that it will run 5 and a half hours before needing to be recharged. Given my experience with the HP Mesquite (the $99 Android tablet HP released last November), that runtime is probably a low estimate (turn off the backlight and Wifi and the tablet will run longer).

hp-7-plus_01 hp-7-plus_02 hp-7-plus_03 hp-7-plus_04

All in all, the HP 7 Plus is not a bad tablet for the price but it’s also not a great tablet. It has an unimpressive 7″ screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600, and it is also running an old version of Android on meh CPU.

But that is pretty much what you should expect for a $99 Android tablet. The only $99 tablet that breaks the pattern is the old Kobo Arc, which can be found on the Kobo website. If you can live with Kobo bugging you with suggestions about buying ebooks, it’s a decent tablet.


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