Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 8 May 2014

Posted: 07 May 2014 09:30 PM PDT

Top stories this morning include a post on assembling a legal and free library (link), how copyright fails society (link), comic book characters as magazine covers (link), and more.

  • Blurb acquires HP’s MagCloud, aims to dominate long-tail publishing (The Passive Voice)
  • Day Against DRM: Why Librarians Should Just Say No (Librarian in Black Blog)
  • The Drinkable Book Has Water Filters For Pages (Co.Design)
  • EBay Wants to Be a Digital Magazine of Things (The Atlantic)
  • I Own 3,000 E-Books. I Paid $0: How to Build an E-Library Free (DailyFinance)
  • If Comic Book Characters Were Cover Models on Classic Magazines (Mashable)
  • Judith Kerr: E-books will not replace print for children (The Bookseller)
  • Kindle for Samsung eBook App Review (Video) (The eBook Reader Blog)
  • Login to all your Amazon Android apps at once with Single Sign On (Liliputing)
  • Mattoon public library says bye bye to Overdrive program (
  • To Kill A Mockingbird is a fine example of how copyright is failing us all (The Reinvigorated Programmer)

The post The Morning Coffee – 8 May 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Feedbin Updated With New Sharing Options

Posted: 07 May 2014 06:04 PM PDT

feedbin[1]The news reader service Feedbin rolled out a major update this morning.

Readers will now find that they have a wide variety of sharing options, including email, Facebook, Twitter, and more. The update also adds options to save an article to be read later, including Pinboard, Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, Evernote, and there’s also an option to send an article to a Kindle account.

Having launched only a couple days before Google announced the Readerpocalypse in March 2013, Feedbin was one of many services poised to pick up the reins. This service now supports apps on Android and IOS and includes features like search, tags, filters, a recently read menu, and more.

With a less common 3 column design, Feedbin stands out in the crowd:


Feedbin costs $3 a month or $30 a year, with a 14 day free trial. You can find more details on the Feedbin website.

The post Feedbin Updated With New Sharing Options appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Textbook Publisher Claims License on New Edition, Demands Students Return the Paper Textbook

Posted: 07 May 2014 01:38 PM PDT

No publisher 41Sx9dh9WoL[1]hates the first sale doctrine more than textbook publishers. Over the years they have tried numerous tricks to stop students from reselling their books, including releasing new editions containing minimal revisions, bundling licensed digital content, and convincing professors to create custom editions.

Wolters Kluwer, via their law publisher subsidiary Aspen, has come up with a new scheme to discourage law students from reselling their legal casebooks. According to Josh Blackman, a law professor in Texas, they are attaching a license to the sale of paper books:

I recently received a bizarre email from Aspen, the publisher of the Dukeminier/Krier/Alexander/Schill/Strahilevitz Property casebook I use. In short, the next edition of the book will be have to be returned at the end of the semester, and cannot be resold. This temporary usage comes with a permanent digital version. In effect, buying the textbook gives the student a license to use the book for a single class, as well as a digital version. And it's the same price! Of course, students are not going to actually return the book (BarBri offers a payment to incentivize that), but the book stores will not be able to legally resell it. This will instantly dry up the reused market for casebooks.

He goes on to quote the email he received, which says in part:

Dear professor,

Thank you for adopting Dukeminier/Krier/Alexander/Schill/Strahilevitz, Property text. We are pleased to announce that this title will be part of our new Connected Casebook program. The Connected Casebook program is intended to provide students access to a greater wealth of learning tools than offered previously, with no change in price. Under the Connected casebook program, your students will receive:

• A new, bound version of the casebook, which can be marked-up, highlighted, and kept through the length of the course, but which must be returned to us at the conclusion of the class.

• Lifetime access to CasebookConnect, a rich digital companion to the casebook, containing a full digital version of the casebook as well as selected proven learning accelerators, such as examples, explanations, and a collection of issue-spotting and hypothetical exercises

This almost certainly won’t stand up in court, but you have to give Wolters Kluwer credit for a novel attempt at rewriting constitutional law (and for using law students as its victim).

Th thing is, this is not the first time that a publisher has tried to attach a license to the sale of a paper book. It has been tried before, and in 1908 a lawsuit over a similar license led to Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus, the Supreme Court decision which formalized the First Sale Doctrine.

According to Wikipedia:

Bobbs-Merrill Company sold a copyrighted novel, The Castaway by Hallie Erminie Rives, with the notice, “The price of this book at retail is $1 net. No dealer is licensed to sell it at a lower price, and a sale at a lower price will be treated as an infringement of the copyright” printed immediately below the copyright notice. The defendants, R.H. Macy & Co., purchased large lots of books at wholesale and sold copies of the book at retail at the price of 89 cents a copy.

That case is not identical with the trick Wolters Kluwer is trying to pull, but it is clearly close enough that it can be cited as a precedent. With that in mind, I don’t see how a student who buys their casebook online or via a college bookstore can be forced to give it up.

Sure, if the casebook is bought directly from the publisher it might be able to extract a contract from the student, and it is also possible the ToS for the website might also include a clause which would require the casebook be returned (and even that might not be enforceable; a student could simply refuse to use the site).

In any case, law students have a strong financial incentive to not go with the flow. According James Grimmelman:

Casebooks are a noticeable part of the cost of a legal education. Aspen casebooks now frequently cost upwards of $200. A student who used one in each of four classes a semester for three years of law school would spend nearly $5000 on casebooks alone. Students have quite understandably responded by turning to used copies—a practice Aspen now appears to be trying to stamp out. If it succeeds, the added cost will hurt students, schools, professors, and the legal profession. I hope that Aspen will reconsider this ill-advised move.

That’s a heck of a lot of money for a student, even for one who is already working a day job and going to law school at night.

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OverDrive eBooks are now Compatible with Kindle FreeTime

Posted: 07 May 2014 11:20 AM PDT

kindle-free-time[1]The library ebook distributor OverDrive announced on Wednesday that their ebooks were now compatible with Kindle FreeTime.

Kindle FreeTime (not to be confused with the paid Kindle FreeTime Unlimited service) is a suite of parental control software that Amazon has built into the Kindle Fire Android tablets and the Kindle ebook readers. It allow parents to filter or restrict certain content to protect their kids from mature material, stop the kids from messing around with the device's settings, and otherwise lock down one of Amazon’s devices.

And today OverDrive announced that their ebooks were compatible with Kindle FreeTime. (They weren’t already?) Parents can check out ebooks from more than 20,000 schools and libraries in the US and use them with Amazon's Kindle FreeTime.

eBooks borrowed from libraries and schools in the Kindle format may be added to FreeTime profiles on a Kindle Fire by following these instructions, or through the "Manage Content & Subscription" section in FreeTime by taking the following steps:

1)     On the Start screen for FreeTime, tap "Manage Content & Subscription."

2)     Tap "Add titles to [name of profile]'s Library."

3)     Select "Books" from the dropdown menu.

4)     Check the box next to the desired title and tap "Done" in the upper right corner. The title will be added.

OverDrive is the only library ebook provider integrated with the Kindle platform, and that integration is still limited to the US. Tablet owning parents outside the US as well as those who don’t have a Kindle Fire might want to consider adding the OverDrive Android app to your kid’s tablet. That will probably take less effort since it would only have to be approved once, rather than repeated each time an ebook is checked out.

More details as well as an FAQ can be found in Amazon's Kindle support pages.

The post OverDrive eBooks are now Compatible with Kindle FreeTime appeared first on The Digital Reader.

New TouchScreen Tech Enables the Blind to See with Their Hands (video)

Posted: 07 May 2014 10:16 AM PDT

Researchershamsa touch at Japan's University of Electro-Communications have developed a new way for the visually disabled to feel what is on the screen in front of them. Dubbed Hamsa Touch, the prototype device converts images from a camera into a pattern of electrical impulses that can be felt on the palm of your hand.

The Hamsa Touch, which is detailed in the video below, is designed to be used with either a smartphone or larger screen. It incorporates a grid of 512 photo-sensors which are mapped to a similar grid of electrodes (think of them as mini-Tasers). This device is intended to be placed directly over a screen, and when a photo-sensor detects a shift in light it triggers the corresponding electrode.

The prototype, which was shown off in Toronto last week at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, is rather low in resolution, but if this were ever commercially released that would likely change.


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Findaway World Expands Playaway Distribution with new NeRD (Navy eReader Device)

Posted: 07 May 2014 08:02 AM PDT

NeRD Device and CaseThe consumer ereader market may be trending towards devices that are closer and closer to being tablets, but that doesn’t work for everyone.

The US Navy, in partnership with Findaway World, is announcing a new basic ereader today. Originally based on a hardware design licensed from a Singapore-based OEM, the NeRD (Navy eReader Device) a 6″ ebook reader which lacks a touchscreen or Wifi. It has also been made more secure via the removal of external storage and the USB port.

The NeRD is going to be distributed starting this summer, and each unit will come pre-loaded with 300 titles. The content will be a mix of newer bestsellers and public-domain classics, including titles from major publishers like Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette and Penguin Random House.

hgg_playaway[1]This device is the product of Findaway World, which both is and is not a surprise. Findaway World is best know for distributing content (audiobooks, in particular), and they have deals with a number of ebook companies to provide audiobooks for a variety of platforms.

But Findaway World also distributes Playaway devices. This is an audiobook player about the size of pack of cards, and you can see one at left.

Each Playaway device comes preloaded with a single audiobook, enabling libraries to check out an audiobook title much like they check out a paper book. Findaway World sells them to libraries and institutions everywhere, including all branches of the US military.

In short, this Ohio-based company has adapted their audiobook distribution system to support a similarly locked down ebook reader. From a technical standpoint, that is very cool.

NeRD Device and Case

Update: I now have a partial list of specs for the NeRD. It’s running Android 2.3 on a 600MHz CPU (+ 600MHz DSP). The screen resolution is 600 x 800, and the device comes with 4GB of storage.

An initial order of 365 devices will be distributed this summer by the Navy General Library Program, which will be using the NeRD to complement its existing ebook library catalog of 108,000 titles.

There are no plans for a consumer release, but schools and other institutions that are interested in buying NeRDs should contact your local Findaway World rep. I’m betting they will be happy to sell them to you.

Findaway World

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Microsoft Surface Mini Said to Use Qualcomm chip, Run Windows RT

Posted: 07 May 2014 05:52 AM PDT

Rumors surface mini 3continue to circulate concerning the new smaller Surface tablet which Microsoft is expected to launch in a couple weeks, and for once I am hoping that the rumors aren’t true.

Bloomberg reported this morning that:

Microsoft is planning to introduce a new, smaller version of its Surface that will use Qualcomm processors for the first time, according to people with knowledge of the companies' plans, a move that ends Nvidia's run as a chip supplier to the tablet.

Microsoft will unveil the new device at an event in New York on May 20, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren't public. Microsoft will also take the wraps off other new Surface models at the event, including ones powered by Intel Corp. processors, the people said.

Well that’s disappointing (assuming this rumor is true).

The problem with a Surface Mini running on a Qualcomm chip is that it can’t be running Windows 8, but instead has to be running Windows RT. That moves the Surface Mini firmly into the “why the Bleep  would I want to buy it” category.

As has been reported elsewhere, the biggest shortcoming of Windows RT is that it cannot run Windows apps, only Windows 8 apps. This renders the OS much less useful that Windows, much less Windows 8, which is why Windows RT is on my AVOID list.

microsoft surface mini 2

The Surface Mini is expected to have an 8″ screen, but unless it also ships with an Intel chip it simply won’t be worth buying. My recommendation is that anyone looking for a 7″ or 8″ Windows tablet instead look to Dell, Acer, Lenovo, etc rather than Microsoft. Those other device makers all offer one or more small Windows 8 tablets in the $200 to $400 range. Those tablets can run Windows apps, and are much better values.

But it is worth noting that this rumor might not be true, and we might also see a Surface Mini Pro at the event a couple weeks from now. There is a mention of Surface models with Intel chips, and that could be the Surface Mini Pro or it might be the next-gen Surface Pro.

The existing Microsoft Surface tablet models have a 10.5″ screen, and it has been close to a year since the last new models were released. Microsoft might be planning to debut new models a couple weeks from now.


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