Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Apple Loses Latest Bid to Stall eBook Antitrust Trial

Posted: 01 Jun 2014 05:35 PM PDT

6315887289_cfa52dcf96_b[1]In a decision which comes as a surprise to no one, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday against Apple’s appeal to delay the damages phase of the antitrust lawsuit Apple lost last year.

In a brief order, the three judge panel ruled that the trial, which is scheduled for 14 July, should proceed on schedule while Apple pursues an appeal to overturn the verdict.

Apparently the Court of Appeals did not find Apple’s claims of irreparable harm any more plausible this time around than when that court denied Apple’s last appeal in February 2014. That appeal attempted to delay the antitrust case at an earlier stage, blocking the court-appointed monitor.

Or perhaps the court doesn’t expect Apple to have a very good chance of winning the appeal that would overturn Judge Denise Cote’s ruling that Apple conspired with five publishers to raise ebook prices and reduce competition in the US ebook market.

That lawsuit was filed in 2012 following a 2 year long investigation by the US Dept of Justice and the attorneys general for 33 states. That investigation led to charges that Apple conspired with 5 major US publishers to raise ebook prices in the US ebook market and prevent ebook retailers from competing on price. The 5 publishers (HarperCollins, S&S, Penguin, Hachette, and Macmillan) all chose to settle before the case went to trial, but Apple decided to defend itself in court. Apple lost the case on 10 July 2013, and they have been vigorously fighting a rear guard action ever since.

Given that Apple settled a similar case in Europe before it could go to trial, I am more than a little puzzled that Apple fought the US case so strongly. And given that Apple is facing damage claims in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars, it makes even less sense for a company to fight over what is effectively less than half of a percent of its cash reserves.


image by AlicePopkorn

The post Apple Loses Latest Bid to Stall eBook Antitrust Trial appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Even Hitler is Powerless Against Amazon

Posted: 01 Jun 2014 01:53 PM PDT

The inevitable Downfall parody video for the Amazon Hachette contract dispute.

Depending on your viewpoint, this video will either have you nodding your head in agreement that Amazon really is that evil and powerful, or the video might remind you just how some of Amazon’s detractors (Stross, Patterson, and others) sound.

The post Even Hitler is Powerless Against Amazon appeared first on The Digital Reader.

What I’m Reading On – June 2014

Posted: 01 Jun 2014 01:06 PM PDT

Kobo_Arc_colors_610x529[1]This Sunday morning finds me in between trips.

Having just gotten back from BEA 2014 yesterday and leaving for SID Display Week (a screen tech conference) tomorrow, I thought I would take a few minutes and post a “what’s in my gear bag” type of post.

In addition to my laptop and rarely used iPad 2, my main reading devices at the moment are a Kobo Arc (2012) tablet and a Kindle Fire HD (2013). For reasons which I will explain at the end of the post, I am mainly reading on the Arc.

Kobo Arc

Kobo has a trio of tablets named the Arc, and the one I have was released in 2012. It was a mid-grade premium tablet when it launched, but now it can be had for $99 from Kobo and a few other retailers.

The Kobo Arc is a very adequate budget tablet which runs Android 4.1 a dual-core CPU with front-facing speakers (with audio enhancement), 8GB or 16GB of internal storage, a 1.3MP camera, and wifi. It lacks a card slot, is running short of RAM (< 700MB), and doesn’t have Bluetooth, but it also has a high quality, high resolution 7″ screen (1280 x 800).

It comes preloaded with a lot of Kobo stuff, but once I replaced the execrable home screen I was able to ignore the other apps and simply use the Arc as a generic tablet.

I originally got the Arc at the prompting of a reader, who pointed out that it had good specs for a $99 tablet. (I was going to post a review, but then I noticed few people were really reading or commenting on the reviews so they stopped being worth my time.) This tablet is currently my leading choice for best value under $99, but that will likely change as new $99 tablets (in particular models with Atom CPUs) are launched.

Right now I have 4 reading apps on the Arc: Kobo, Kindle, Aldiko, and Baen. The Kobo app came with the tablet, and I added the Kindle app because a fair number of my ebooks are found in the Kindle Store (and I am too lazy/busy to load over the DRM-free copies found on my laptop).

The Aldiko app was added largely in response to the Baen reading app. That last app is Baen Books’s own branded app, and it lets their fans download purchases, follow podcasts, log in to the Baen’s Bar webforum, read ebooks, and so on.

Baen Books was perfectly positioned to release an app. They have a well established ebookstore with decent organization along the lines of author, publishers, series, and more, and much of the existing work went into the app. Baen Books also has an online version of their ebooks, and unfortunately those went into the app as well.

For reasons I won’t go into here, the reading experience in the Baen app is so disappointing that I switched to downloading Epub files and reading them in the Aldiko app. It’s extra work but I just can’t stomach Baen’s design.

Kindle Fire HD (2013)

In 2013 Amazon launched a new budget tablet under the name Kindle Fire HD. It’s not the same device as the model released in 2012. it lacks a camera and HDMI port, and it is also running the newer version of Kindle Fire OS.

It might strike you as strange to pack long a generic tablet to use as a reading device instead of Amazons tablet, but I have good reason for that.

For one thing, I like to keep the KFHD as a media device, mostly because the Kindle Fire HD simply stinks at basic tasks like email, twitter, etc. Also, Android still can’t multi-task adequately, so it makes sense to have 2 tablets in use; the added battery life is also a plus.

But the primary reason the KFHD (2013) isn’t my main reading device is that it is incredibly unreliable. I first got one of these in March 2014, and as I sit here today I am about ready to file a warranty request with Amazon – for the second time.  The tablet I bought in March died over the course of 6 weeks, and the replacement Amazon sent is showing many of the same symptoms. The battery mysteriously discharges, the tablet often won’t turn on, and the Wifi regularly forgets to stay connected.

I can’t explain how I managed to get two defective tablets in a row, but it is almost enough to turn me off of this tablet. But I am also addicted to the free streaming, so I keep gritting my teeth and putting up with the issues.

Yes, I know I could simply request another replacement, but I am not sure whether Amazon would give me another tablet. And frankly, the thought of setting up yet another tablet is simply not that appealing.

But once I am back from the trip I will revisit the replacement option. I frankly don’t have the time or energy right now.


So that’s what I am reading on; how about you?

Are you reading on a tablet, smartphone, or ereader? The comments are open.

The post What I’m Reading On – June 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Walmart, Books-a-Million Now Toasting Marshmallows on Amazon-Hachette Conflagration

Posted: 01 Jun 2014 09:12 AM PDT

9285812653_8eaa7eae43_b[1]When Amazon started short-stocking titles in their contract dispute with Hachette, they signaled a clear willingness to let customers go elsewhere.

Late last week 2 of Amazon’s competitors thanked them for the gesture.

A few days ago Walmart took belated notice of the contract dispute and started taking advantage. Walmart doesn’t carry many titles in store, but they do have an extensive selection of books on their website. According to the email they sent out to the press:

Earlier this week, Walmart reached out to customers to alert them about the online, in-stock availability of their favorite books from Hachette Publishing Group. All books are available online at the everyday low price, which is 40% off the cover price.

We've seen a strong customer reaction since alerting them to Walmart's in-stock availability, with a 70% sales lift for our books category on

We're committed to making it easy for our customers to have access to a broad assortment of the products they want, at the low prices they want – including copies of their favorite books that they might not be able to get elsewhere.

Walmart is the third retailer, following Books-a-Million and Zola Books, to take advantage of the ongoing contract dispute between Amazon and Hachette. This dispute has been going on since November 2013 but only went public in early May 2014.

The latest estimates place Walmart’s total online sales in the 10 billion dollar range, far smaller than Amazon, but as everyone knows the key to growing that figure is to attract and keep customers. And Amazon gave Walmart another opportunity to steal customers.

And the same goes for Books-a-Million.

This bookseller launched a new section on their website on Friday which focuses on Hachette titles and features discounts of up to 40%, in some cases. This announcement comes in addition to Books-a-Million's commitment to offer their customers a discount of up to 30% off a wide selection of Hachette Book Group pre-order titles. The discount is Books-a-Million's way of poking their larger competitor in the eye while also securing better terms for themselves.

But will they be able to keep those terms, once this is said and done?

It’s not clear that they will, nor even that this will be an effective tactic against Amazon. Both Books-a-Million’s and Walmart’s book sales are negligible, and in the long run neither party is likely to compete as aggressively as Amazon. One cannot afford it, while the other has too many other product categories (including more profitable ones) to keep its attention focused on marketing books.

And even if Walmart did decide to make books their focus for building up online sales (hey, it worked for Amazon) I’m not sure that publishers are really going to like the idea of an even bigger and scarier retailer aggressively discounting books. That is less likely to squash Amazon than to steal market share from smaller competitors and independents.

The US book market could end up being dominated by two huge retailers, with even fewer small fry to balance them out. That doesn’t strike me as being a better situation than what we have now.

image by Thomas’s Pics

The post Walmart, Books-a-Million Now Toasting Marshmallows on Amazon-Hachette Conflagration appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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