Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 30 May 2014

Posted: 29 May 2014 09:31 PM PDT

This Friday morning finds me busy with BEA 2014, so here is a short list of stories to read.

  • BEA 2014: Measuring the E-book Market (PW)
  • EPUB3 Key to Growing Illustrated Ebooks Internationally? (DBW)
  • The Great BookCon Experiment (Vulture)
  • How I Became a Book Quitter (BOOK RIOT)
  • Kindle Cloud Reader arrives in UK (The Bookseller)
  • Whither the Kindle Killer? (TeleRead)
  • Why I won’t buy more Nook books (TeleRead)

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Camer-Equipped Pocketbook Ultra eReader Caught on Video

Posted: 29 May 2014 07:07 PM PDT

Pocketbook’s latest and greatest ebook reader may have officially launched last week but there has been a surprising lack of press coverage. Aside from the leaked videos I found a couple weeks ago, there has actually been very little first hand coverage of this device.

In fact, the following video, which was reportedly shot at the Warsaw Book Fair, is the first hands on video I have seen. It doesn’t show much of the Ultra, but it does offer a glimpse at how well the Ultra will function.

The Ultra has a 6″ Carta E-ink screen, and it runs Pocketbook’s reading software on a 1GHz CPU with 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage, a microSD card slot, and Wifi. In addition to the cutting edge E-ink screen, the Ultra also has a touchscreen, frontlight, and page turn buttons mounted on the rear of the shell.

This ereader’s most notable feature is the 5MP rear-facing camera (with an LED flash). Alas, we don’t get to see it put through its paces in this video, but I did get to see the camera in action in one of those leaked videos.

It worked surprisingly well:

pocketbook ultra 1

According to Pocketbook, the Ultra is expected to ship in Russia in July with a retail price of 8990 rubles. And according to unconfirmed leaks the price in Germany will be 199 euros (it was supposed to launch in May), but I don't have any details about pricing in other markets.


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Help Needed

Posted: 29 May 2014 05:27 PM PDT

Can someone recommend an expert who can help me trouble shoot the problems with my blog?

Over the past 3 days I have been having serious issues with my blog using excess resources and hitting the limits imposed by my web host. (This is why the blog has been inaccessible.) I have tried everything I can think of to resolve this issue but nothing works. At this point I need an expert.

The problems started sometime on Tuesday.  Without any increase in traffic, my blog suddenly started maxing out its resources limits. Since then I have run security checks, turned off plugins, replaced the blog theme, and tried everything else that I could find online (short of switching to a new webhost.)

I’m stumped. If anyone has any suggestions, or knows an expert that I can hire, please let me know.

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Wowio’s Back With New Ad-Subsidized eBook Service

Posted: 29 May 2014 04:00 PM PDT

wowio[1]An early entrant into the ad-subsidized ebook market is back again with a new platform.

Originally founded in 2006, Wowio was one of the first companies to offer ad-supported ebooks – long before Bookboon or Germany’s Readfy. It’s not clear what happened to that earlier service, but Wowio is back again today with the launch of a new service that boasts a catalog of 350,000 titles from Ingram.

Wowio promises that users will be able to read any title for free, just so long as they also see ads. That service won’t actually go live until later this year, but when it does you will be able to read the ebooks via a recently launched Android app (iOS and Windows Phone apps to follow).

I haven’t had a chance to test the app but my competition went hands on and he is not impressed:

At this point it's a bare bones app that needs a lot of work.

First off, it requires a phone number, among other things, to even get started. Not a good start. I used all zeros and it passed, at least. But then I was met with a wonky user interface with far fewer features than I'm used to with an ebook app.

I wanted to test out an ebook to see how the app performed, but that wasn't really possible. Currently there are no free ebooks available. The few books that are available are by totally unfamiliar authors, aside from a few public domain ebooks. Some books have nonsensical descriptions. Free samples aren't even long enough to get you to the beginning of the first chapter, and the two samples I tried didn't work right—they were laggy to turn pages and sometimes reverted to displaying landscape in portrait mode.

Wowio is going to have to do better than that if they want to keep the attention of readers. There is an excess of free ebooks available from virtually every ebook retailer as well as free ebook sites, none of which have ads. Wowio is going to have to come up with some way to appeal to readers otherwise their new ebook effort will likely be as unsuccessful as their last.

On a related note, I would like to raise a red flag on the claim concerning a 350,000 title catalog. Ingram is a retail distributor, and so far as I know their contracts are based on the concept of selling ebooks, not ad payments. That new business model would likely require agreement from publishers, and I have not heard that Ingram had offered new contract terms to publishers. In short, that catalog of 350,000 titles might not actually exist.

We’ll have to wait and see.

The post Wowio’s Back With New Ad-Subsidized eBook Service appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Diamond Comics Signs Digital Distribution Deal

Posted: 29 May 2014 02:17 PM PDT

DC_ComicsDiamond Comics, which in February shuttered its own digital comics store, announced on Wednesday that they had signed a multi-year agreement for Trajectory to convert comics for digital distribution worldwide.

Diamond will be working with Trajectory to convert comics publishers’s existing titles from PDF to formats compatible with Comixology, the Kindle Store, and other ebook retailers. The conversion will be handled by Trajectory at a facility in Shanghai, and Trajectory will also distribute the titles through its global network of online retailers as well as school and library vendors.

Alas, this is not the digital comics store that some (I, for exaple) have been hoping would launch in response to Amazon buying Comixology. Instead this is a distribution deal that enables Diamond Comics to offer comics publishers a digital option alongside Diamonds floppy and graphic novel distribution system.

Under the agreement, comics publishers pay a one-time fee of $1 page for production. Publishers can upload the source PDF to a Trajectory website, where it will be converted into the format for each retail channel, enabling Trajectory to distribute it to their network of vendors.

This deal comes in the wake of Amazon buying Comixology and of Graphicly, a competing distributor, shutting down following its acquisition by Blurb. The landscape of the comics market (both digital and print) is changing and the Trajectory/Diamond partnership will offer publishers distribution options beyond Amazon’s fiefdom.


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Is BEA 2014 the Year of the Rerun?

Posted: 29 May 2014 01:25 PM PDT

272c7eee9122c9b7409cc0fffcd44c08-thumb_jpg[1]As the first day of BEA 2014 draws to a close, I am reminded of just how many of the new startups I saw reminded me of startups I saw in 2010 and 2011. Several companies, including one which is getting a lot of attention today, launched new efforts to serve niches like social reading, enhanced ebook creation, and virtual author events.

Given the similarities between what I saw today and what I saw in the very same exhibit hall 4 years ago, I thought it would be interesting to look at 4 newly announced (or expanded) services in relation to their predecessors. Please note that I am not predicting doom for any of these companies, just noting the similarities.

Let’s start with the video conference startup Shindig.


shindigThis company is showing off a platform which is designed to support large-scale video chat events. It’s been under development for the past 3 years, and in fact it is already being used by The Atlantic Monthly, Forbes, TED, and other organizations for their conferences. Shindig had a big booth to show off their tech, but it doesn’t require much more than the webcams most of us already have in hour computers.

And more importantly, the platform already works.

That is a key difference between Shindig and a company I saw at BEA 2011, iDolVine. That company demoed what they said was “the world's only authentic, verifiable, personalized autograph and live face-to-face author/reader”. It was a cutting edge demo of a virtual book signing, and iDolVine went all out for promoting it. They got Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, and other famous authors to sign authographs either in person or remotely.

Alas, the demo didn’t come off well, mostly because the tech simply wasn’t ready:

IdolVine requires a fair amount of hardware, and that can be a problem. I was only watching the demo for a few minutes when they had to shut it down. Interference from something was causing feedback in the speakers. I later found out that they’d been having trouble the day before, too. I’m sure the technical bugs can be hammered out, but I’d rather go with a system that has fewer parts.

As I recall, IdolVine never could get the tech to work right. This company eventually dropped off my radar sometime in late 2012, and it now appears to be defunct.

Shindig, on the other hand, looks like it has a better shot at success. They went with a simpler and more universal platform which relied on tech most people already have. You can try it for yourself on the Shindig website.


beneaththeinkThis is another enhanced ebook startup. BeneathTheInk has a platform which gives authors the option of embedding footnotes, audio, video, images, and other bits of useful information in ebooks. BtI’s extras are hidden from readers until they click a linked word, and then the extra content appears in a small window. The company says that they can distribute ebooks to Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, and Nook Stores.

If you ask me, BeneathTheInk follows in the footsteps of Vook, which launched in 2009. That startup was the first enhanced ebook maker of the modern ebook era (this doesn’t include historical predecessors like Voyager’s Expanded Books). Vook made ebook apps with embedded audio and video, and later expanded to distributing the ebooks in the Kindle Store and in the iBookstore.

Vook later pivoted (in 2011) to making enhanced ebooks for 3rd-parties, and in 2012 the startup pivoted to focusing on ebook distribution as much as creation. Their first effort failed because most of the ebooks they sourced from just weren’t very good in the first place, and their effort to make enhanced ebooks for 3rd-parties didn’t work out either; in 2012 there just weren’t enough authors or publishers with both the content and the funds.

But that was 2 years ago, and BeneaththeInk might have better luck. (I decline to form an opinion on the matter.)


The Ohio-based media company Midwest Tape was at BEA 2014 to show off the latest addition to their Hoopla digital content platform. In addition to distributing movies, Music, and audiobooks, Hoopla now supports a pay-per-use ebook lending service. This transactional model means that libraries basically rent an ebook each time it is checked out.

The Hoopla platform carries 170,000 titles, though I couldn’t get specifics on how many titles were ebooks vs other types of content. The platform is live now, and includes media apps for Android and iOS.

I am expecting moderate success from Hoopla. After all, the idea of pay-per-use has already been successfully tried in the library ebook market. Library Ideas, one of Midwest Tape’s competitors, launched a similar service in 2011. Freading currently carries 20,000 titles, and counts a number of libraries as paying customers.

And last but not least, we have Librify.


This year old startup is getting a lot of attention this week with the announcement of a book club type of social reading platform. Librify has already signed numerous publishers, boasts of a 750,000 title strong catalog, and has signed a major retail partner, Target. It’s going to offer both an ebookstore as well as a membership program with both free and paid levels.

Librify was in fact the company that inspired this post. I spoke with its founder, Joanna Harper, today at BEA 2014 and what she told me about Librify reminded me of Copia.

Copia is now known for its white label ebookstore platform, but it originally debuted in 2010 with a social reading platform which included integrated ebook readers, apps, and a website. Copia’s platform never went anywhere, largely due to their inability to get the tech to work consistently.  The developers bit off more than they could chew, and by the time the platform launched in early 2011 there really wasn’t much interest in the idea any more.

Will Librify have more success? I don’t know, and I decline to prejudge. (This is the new, more optimistic Nate. Enjoy it while it lasts.)

Of the 4 companies profiled today, 3 are making a new try at an idea which had failed in the past. Nevertheless, I am hopeful that the new startups will have more  luck. Several years have passed since the previous startups tried and failed, and both tech and the ebook market have changed enough that one cannot assume that past failures predicts future failures.

The post Is BEA 2014 the Year of the Rerun? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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