Monday, 16 June 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Facebook Paper Updated with More Reading, Sharing Fun

Posted: 16 Jun 2014 02:23 PM PDT

10333121_1488422484724904_1270069855_n[1]Disproving speculation that the app was going to be retired due to lack of users, Facebook rolled out a new update today for the Paper app.

The app is still only available for iDevices, but with the v1.2 update readers can now edit their profile details from inside the app, be more selective in sharing, and get updates faster.

Readers can turn to the new Trending section to quickly find the most interesting and relevant topics that people are talking about right now, and they can also tap a hashtag and view a list of related stpories. And while they’re reading the stories, users can now pull up a picture and see any tags included in the image. They can even zoom in and tilt their phone to explore all the tags in a photo.

And once they’re done getting caught up, readers also have more control over the stories they share. With the v1.2 update, users can easily change the audience for any post after they’ve shared it, and it’s now easier for users to mention or tag other FB users while writing a story or leaving a comment. Facebook has also made it easier to clip and repost interesting content.

Facebook launched paper in January 2014. The social network hasn’t revealed how many of their billion plus users also use the Paper app, but it is clearly enough that Facebook continues to invest in the app. There was speculation going around earlier this month that usage had dropped considerably, signaling the possible demise of the paper app, but I would say that today’s update proves the speculation wrong.


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Appeals Court Rules Sherlock Holmes is in the Public Domain

Posted: 16 Jun 2014 01:37 PM PDT

3089213278_25309b7794_b[1]The Conan Doyle estate suffered another defeat today in their efforts to profit off of the work of the long dead author.

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that Conan Doyle’s earlier works, including most of the stories featuring Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, are in the public domain. Writing for a three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Richard Posner wrote “When a story falls into the public domain, story elements – including characters covered by the expired copyright – become fair game for follow-on author.”

The issue at hand in today’s ruling is a tad esoteric but important for creators everywhere.

For years now the Conan Doyle estate has been collecting licensing fees from authors, publishers, movie studios, and other media companies who wanted to us the character Sherlock Holmes in a new work. And as one story after another fell out of copyright, the estate continued to demand the fees based on the legal theory that the characters were still under copyright because some of the stories were under copyright.

Given that Conan Doyle died in 1930, that argument became moot in much of the world in 1980 and 2000 (50 years and 70 years after the creator’s death), but in the US there are still 10 Sherlock Holmes stories still under copyright today. And on the basis of those 10 stories, the Conan Doyle estate has been collecting license fees for the last 14 years.

Or at least the estate was collecting fees right up until one lawyer decided that principle was more important than money.

Today’s ruling is the latest defeat in a legal battle that started in February 2013 when Holmes enthusiast and attorney Leslie Klinger filed a lawsuit against the Conan Doyle estate. Klinger, who had previously edited anthologies of new Holmes works, balked at the idea of paying yet another license fee to the estate.

Klinger was co-editing a new anthology of Holmes stories called In the Company of Sherlock Holmes. It was supposed to be published by Pegasus Books and include Holmes stories by numerous well-known mystery/sci-fi/fantasy authors, but the publisher pulled out after receiving letters from the Conan Doyle estate, threatening to block distribution of the anthology if the license fee was not paid.

Mr Klinger (or rather, his publisher) had paid license fees for his previous Holmes works, including The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library and The Grand Game: A Celebration of Sherlockian Scholarship, but not this time.

Klinger chose to stand on principle and sued the estate in federal court, seeking a ruling on whether the characters of Holmes, Watson, Moriarty, etc, had fallen into the public domain. And after spending more money than the license fees would have cost, Klinger won the lawsuit in December 2013.

And now Klinger has won the appeal as well. Next stop: the US Supreme Court.

While I don’t have a comment from the estate. I am willing to bet that they will file another appeal. Whether the US SC will hear the case, your guess is as good as mine.


image by shining.darkness

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The US Trade Publishing Industry: By the Numbers

Posted: 16 Jun 2014 12:19 PM PDT

5Wide[1]Ever wonder just how much revenue the 6 (five, now) major US publishers generate each year?

The leaked Legardere briefing doc last week (including the revenue chart which PL posted but I did not) generated so much attention among readers that Publishers Lunch dug in to their bag and pulled out some numbers magic.

Earlier today they posted a series of charts which showed the annual revenues of 5 of the Big 6 (Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Random House) since 2006. The charts are of course incomplete; Macmillan ( or rather its Germany-based parent company Holtzbrink) has never posted their annual revenues. And thanks to acquisitions and HarperCollins unusual financial year it’s difficult to generate an accurate baseline over the eight years, but what data we do have is better than nothing.

And BTW, the charts only reflect the revenues of 5 US trade publishers and their foreign subsidiaries and thus does not reflect the revenue of the entire US publishing industry. Some of the major US publishers left out include Scholastic, HMH, Wiley, Pearson, as well as other publishers that have revenues in the same range of the Big 5.

As you can in the following chart, the collected revenues for these 5 publishers peaked in 2008. The slight growth shown in subsequent years is partially due to acquisitions, including Penguin buying Author Solutions in 2012 and Random House acquiring the remaining 50% of RH Mondadori.


According to PL, the drop in revenue is largely due to the recession, which makes sense, while the slight increase in revenue is attributed to the acquisitions. Without the additional revenue from the newly acquired publishers, the cumulative 2013 sales total would be closer to $8.85 billion, and not $9.26 billion.

In short this segment of the industry is trying to acquire its way out of a decline. Let’s hope it doesn’t work.

You can find more details and the charts for HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Random House over at Publisher Lunch. It is behind a paywall.

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Video Review of Onyx Boox i63ML Newton – Android 2.3, 6″ Carta E-ink Screen

Posted: 16 Jun 2014 10:35 AM PDT

Onyx-Boox-i63ML-Newton[1]Next up on the list of ereaders which will never launch in the US is the Onyx Boox i63ML Newton.

This 6″ ereader launched in Russia last month with a retail price tag of 6,990 rubles (around $200 USD). It’s a slightly updated version of the existing i63ML ereader with a Carta E-ink screen, 8GB internal storage, frontlight, and an IR touchscreen.

It runs Android and ships with Onyx’s reading app as well as Google Play, enabling readers to potentially install alternate ebook, RSS, and other types of reading apps.

The i63ML Newton has Wifi but no Bluetooth or sound, and like most Onyx ereaders it has physical page-turn buttons. It also comes with a sleep cover, an option which is slowly becoming standard practice on high-end ereaders not made by Amazon.

Depending on how you count, the i63ML Newton is either the third or 4th ereader to use E-ink’s new Carta screen, and it has a screen resolution of 1024 x 758. Like the second Kindle Paperwhite, the i63ML Newton offers improved contrast and the Regal wave form refresh tech.

This ereader runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread on an 800MHz CPU with 512MB RAM, making it both smaller and somewhat less powerful than the T65 Lynx which I got on Friday. When you combine the specs with the near parity in prices (the Lynx cost me around $250), there is little reason for anyone to import this ereader in to the US (not when you can also get the T68 Lynx).

But we can still look at the video and pine for a world where Amazon hasn’t crushed the US ebook reader market. In that world this ereader would be available locally for considerably less than $200.

The following video is about 46 minutes long and is annotated with Russian subtitles.  While it is long, it is also detailed. You can find a shorter 11 minute video here.

via my competition



The post Video Review of Onyx Boox i63ML Newton – Android 2.3, 6″ Carta E-ink Screen appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Springer Sued in Germany over Adobe DRM

Posted: 16 Jun 2014 06:32 AM PDT

4254099567_2ac8108be3_b[1]In the US consumers are used to thinking of fixed book prices only in relation to the actual retail price, but in countries where fixed prices (resale price maintenance) are mandated by law there’s more to it than just the retail price.

For example, Germany’s book pricing laws prevent Amazon from offering free shipping on books sold there, and those same laws are why Apple cannot sell you a discounted iTunes gift card and let you buy ebooks.

And now it looks like the laws might also force publishers to go fully DRM-free. A bookseller based in southwest Germany is suing a publisher over its DRM policies, and the resulting ruling could affect ebook sales in many market.

Springer, one of the larger publishers in Germany and globally, sells ebooks both on its website and via 3rd-party retailers. The ebooks sold directly are only encumbered by digital watermarks, while the ebooks distributed through booksellers are locked down with Adobe DE DRM (and Kindle DRM). This puts the booksellers at a disadvantage, and naturally they’re not too pleased.

An ebook protected by a digital watermark can easily be transferred from one ebook reader to the next or converted from one format to another, but the same can’t be said for an ebook encrypted by Adobe DE DRM. Adobe’s DRM complicates a task as simple as transferring an ebook, and as for converting the ebook to another format? Don’t bother – not unless you want to first strip the DRM.

Osiander, a chain of 29 bookstores located in Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Bavaria, is suing Springer over DRM. While both Springer and Osiander are selling ebooks at the same price and under the same ISBN, the bookseller argues that thanks to the differences in DRM it is forced to sell an inferior product.

It is illegal under German law for a publisher to put one retailer at a disadvantage in favor of another. True, this legal principle has never been applied to DRM, but it is arguably valid and that is going to cause problems for Springer and other publishers.

If Osiander wins this lawsuit then Springer is going to have a problem on their hands. They’ll either have to start using Adobe DRM on their website or they will have to distribute ebooks without Adobe DRM (or Kindle DRM). Springer can still require digital watermarks and get a minimum of protection, but that won’t help everywhere.

Unfortunately for Springer, not all ebook platforms offer digital watermark DRM. The Kindle Store, for example, doesn’t offer this option to authors who use KDP (I don’t know if Amazon offers it to major publishers). I’m also not sure how many other ebook retailers and distributors support digital watermarks (aside from txtr and Centraal Boekhuis), but I suspect it is a minority.

Edit: Curiously enough, Osiander’s ebook distributor, Libreka, offers the option of digital watermarks (source). This raises the question of whether Springer is either unwilling or unable o use this option.

Update: It’s been explained to me that Springer has already complied with this request. Nevertheless,  Osiander is still pushing the issue with the goal of getting it officially decided as to whether publishers can offer different levels of DRM in different ebookstores.They’ve filed a complaint with regulators.

As a result, Springer is between a rock and a hard place (and so are the other publishers who have chosen to adopt friendlier forms of DRM). They can either choose to be nice to readers, and have to go DRM-free in the Kindle Store, or they can adopt a stricter DRM policy.

Needless to say, no one likes that second option but I can see why publishers might choose it. Most publishers who opt for digital watermarks want at least a limited form of DRM, so I doubt that they would be willing to forgo DRM entirely.

On the other hand, this lawsuit could result in publishers pressuring ebook distributors to add support for digital watermark DRM. And that would be a win all around, I think.,

image by marc kjerland

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The Morning Coffee – 16 June 2014

Posted: 15 Jun 2014 09:01 PM PDT

reading then and nowMy short reading list for today includes Konrath fisking the Hachette briefing doc, the resilience of physical audiobooks, how not to teach your kid to love reading, and more.

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