Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Medium Relaunches Matter, Will Focus on Long-Form Journalism

Posted: 10 Jun 2014 12:55 PM PDT

medium-matter_616[1]The publisher/platform Medium has just announced that it is relaunching the digital magazine that it acquired last April.

Created from the ground up specifically for the Medium platform, Matter is a new online magazine committed to telling deeply engaging stories with fun, feeling and impact. From science and tech to pop culture and politics, Matter stories provoke and entertain while providing a unique point of view on the people and issues of the day.

Medium co-founder Ev Williams notes in his blog post that Medium is a platform, and that one of the publishers on the platform is Medium itself (I’m glad he cleared that up). As such the publisher will be using the platform to reach new audiences.

“The relaunch of Matter is our most ambitious publishing effort to date, but it's likely not our last,” he writes. “What we care about is enabling the best stories and ideas to be told, to be presented in the best light possible, and to find their right audience quickly and efficiently.”

Williams goes on to add that readers will likely find Matter using features that will not generally be available on Medium?. The Matter homepage, for example, is considerably more colorful than Medium’s own homepage or most most Medium collection pages. In addition to being a publication on the Medium platform, Matter is also going to be a testbed for ideas which may be incorporated into the Medium platform.

Given that there is no mention of distribution or a subscription fee, it looks like this is a relaunch in name only.

Funded in a Kickstarter campaign in February 2012, Matter was a subcompact publisher that had made a name for itself by publishing a single in-depth article in each monthly issue, while Medium is a blogging platform which launched in 2012 with the goal of offering a new way for readers to contribute to a blog post. Medium acquired Matter for its expertise last year, moving all of its operations to Medium’s online platform.

While Medium has garnered rave reviews since it launched,  it has also seen a fair amount of controvers. While this platform has invented a new way to publish, a growing number bloggers are saying that it has yet to find a good model for paying writers.

Medium is currently paying most* writers (as well as the mid-level independent editors who recruit and manage those writers) on a pay-per-view model where the writers get from 2 to 5 cents per view . As LadyBits editor X noted in her farewell post, this has led to a rapid turnover of editors and writers as well-written content got little attention while the occasional viral post attracted huge amounts of traffic.

The wage disparity turned outrageous. I watched several artfully curated collections dwindle in traffic and drop out while a few black swan posts went viral and the collection editors were contractually bound to receive insane payouts from Medium.

The platform also lacks any obvious form of revenue, leading this blogger to wonder just how long this new experiment in publishing will be around.



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HathiTrust Wins Latest Round of Book Scanning Lawsuit

Posted: 10 Jun 2014 10:49 AM PDT

11715358785_efe84106ea_h[1]The Authors Guild had the ground cut out from under them today in an important copyright lawsuit.

The Second Circuit of Appeals released a ruling this morning which largely upheld Judge Harold Baer’s October 2012 decision in The Authors Guild v HathiTrust, and went one step better. The court affirmed that the HathiTrust’s book scanning efforts were fair use, and they also ruled that The Authors Guild had no standing to sue in the first place.

The HathiTrust Digital Library is a consortium of universities and public libraries which banded together in 2008. This group had the goal of digitizing out of print and rare tomes in their collections in order to preserve the works and make them more widely available. A number of these organizations have also participated in the similar Google Books project, but unlike Google HathiTrust has no plans to commercialize their efforts.

The Authors Guild, along author groups in Canada, Norway, Australia, and Sweden, sued the HathiTrust in 2011, alleging that the book scanning amounted to copyright infringement. In October 2012 Judge Baer ruled in favor of the HathiTrust, issuing a summary judgement which stated, in part, “Although I recognize that the facts here may on some levels be without precedent, I am convinced that they fall safely within the protection of fair use”.

The author groups of course appealed the ruling, and today they lost.

The Appeals Court ruled that “the doctrine of fair use allows defendants-appellees to create a full-text searchable database of copyrighted works and to provide those works in formats accessible to those with disabilities”, thus giving the HathiTrust a green light to continue their work.

In addition, the Appeals Court also sidestepped one of the issues, noting that the HathiTrust’s intention to let member organizations create a replacement copy of a scanned book was outside the scope of this trial. The Appeals Court pointed out that it’s not clear “whether the plaintiffs own copyrights in any works that would be effectively irreplaceable  at a fair price by the Libraries and, thus, would be potentially subject to being copied by the Libraries in case of the loss or destruction of an original”. And since the

And finally, the Appeals Court declined to rule on the University of Michigan’s related Orphan Works Project, stating that “the infringement claims asserted in connection with the OWP were not ripe for adjudication because the project has been abandoned and the record contained no information about whether the program will be revived and, if so, what it would look like or whom it would affect”.

It’s also worth noting that the Appeals Court also ruled that 3 of the author groups who were plaintiffs (The Authors Guild, Australian Society of Authors Limited, and Writers’ Union of Canada) did not have standing to sue under US law. As was pointed out by the Appeals Court, US, Canadian, and Australian copyright law “does not permit copyright holders to choose third parties to bring suits on their behalf”. Only 4 of author groups are ruled to have standing to proceed on this claim based on their respective national copyright laws.

It’s a shame no one noticed that years ago when the Google Books lawsuit was originally filed; it would have short-circuited years of litigation.

Publishers Lunch


image by archer10 (Dennis)

The post HathiTrust Wins Latest Round of Book Scanning Lawsuit appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Integrates Audible Audiobooks into Kindle Apps for Android, iOS

Posted: 10 Jun 2014 07:39 AM PDT

Whispersync-for-Voice[1]Amazon is bringing one of the more useful features from the Kindle Fire to iDevice and Android owners everywhere.

The retail giant announced today that they are integrating audiobooks from Audible directly into the Kindle apps for both iOS and Android. Once readers install the new update released today they will be able to listen to Audible audiobooks without ever having to leave the Kindle app.

Having launched Whispersync for Voice with the Kindle Fire HD in late 2012, Amazon has long supported syncing between the Audible and Kindle apps. They currently offer 45,000 titles which support this feature, and Kindle users can add an audiobook to their existing Kindle purchase for an additional fee.

The matching titles are identified on their pages in the Kindle Store, and for those with an extensive existing Kindle ebook collection Amazon also offers a service called Matchmaker. This handy tool scans a user’s library of Kindle ebooks for titles compatible with Whispersync for Voice and then offers a list of titles that have a matching audiobook.  Readers can bundle an audiobook with the Kindle ebook at a relatively low price (between $1 and $4, in my experience).

While that might be more than a reader paid for an ebook, it’s still far less than the price of most  audiobooks.

If you would like to try Whispersync for Voice yourself, Amazon offers a free bundle each month. Right now you can get Black Beauty as both a free audiobook and ebook. All you have to do is buy the Kindle ebook, and then on the next page scroll down and elect to also buy the audiobook.

In related news, Amazon reports that the Kindle Android app gained improved notifications and cross-device sync as well as a couple improvements which will likely please students and note takers. The Kindle app for iDevices also got new features, albeit different ones:

  • Download an entire collection – gives customers the ability to download an entire collection with the tap of a button, making it easier for readers to download in bulk and load their favorite books on a new iOS device
  • Students can now find terms that are in X-Ray for Textbooks by using search – occurrences in X-Ray are shown right above occurrences in the book
  • Finding where an X-Ray term occurs on a textbook page is now easier – tap a page thumbnail in the X-Ray feature and you will see the term highlighted in the page of the book


Google Play

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Macmillan is Testing the eBook Subscription Market – Adds Titles from Tor Books to Skoobe

Posted: 10 Jun 2014 06:05 AM PDT

9689712379_ddf4fcf536_o[1]Only two of the 5 major US trade publishers have shown an interest in the ebook subscription market, and Macmillan is showing signs that they could be the third.

Late last week Macmillan announced, via their German parent company Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, that 1,500 Macmillan titles are now available through Skoobe. a German ebook subscription service.

The 1,500 titles are drawn from the US and UK based SF publisher Tor Books. All of the titles are in English, including Ender’s Game, Mistborn, and Children of the Mind. As the first and (so far) only Macmillan imprint to go DRM-free two years ago, this publisher is Macmillan’s guinea pig for testing new markets and new ideas, and now that includes subscription ebooks.

This deal represents Macmillan’s first foray into this market, and while it might sound odd to see Macmillan sign with a German service it makes sense once you look at Skoobe. The ebook company was launched in 2012, and it is owned by Holtzbrinck and Bertelsmann (which also owns Penguin Random House).

Far from being one of the major services, Skoobe offers a relatively small catalog of around 40,000 titles from 900 publishers, and its service is limited to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Readers can pay between 10 and 20 euros per month to read as many titles as they want, albeit with some restrictions on the lower service tiers.

Skoobe is no Oyster or Scribd, and that could be what attracted Macmillan in the first place. Both of those larger services offer catalogs with hundreds of thousands of titles, and they both serve the US market (and they charge a heck of a lot less than Skoobe). Oyster and Scribd both offer titles from HarperCollins and S&S, along with many other publishers and distributors, and they get the most attention in the press.

Macmillan likely declined to sign with one or the other out of concern for lost ebook sales. (Or possibly because Scribd could not afford the advance that some publishers are rumored to be demanding.)

This is a hopeful sign from Macmillan, but I would not read too much into it. Macmillan also experimented in letting Tor Books be sold DRM-free. This started in 2012, and even though the past two years have shown that there’s no downside to the move Macmillan has shown no indication of plans to remove DRM from all of their imprints.

image by melenita2012

The post Macmillan is Testing the eBook Subscription Market – Adds Titles from Tor Books to Skoobe appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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