Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 4 June 2014

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 07:57 PM PDT

Most of the must-read stories this Tuesday morning  focus on Amazon and Hachette, but not all. You might also want to read about the possibility that Judge Cote has been asked to skip the damages trial and issue a summary judgement against Apple (link) or the Seattle indie which is promising to hand-deliver JK Rowling’s new novel (link).

  • Apple Damages Trial Delayed Again (PW)
  • Hachette vs. Amazon: Big publishers messed up, small publishers rejoice, and ordinary people don't care « (TeleRead)
  • In the fight over ebook pricing, why Amazon is not the bully (Len Sherman’s Blog)
  • Let's go Amazon Bashing! (madgeniusclub)
  • Seattle indie bookstore jabs at Amazon, promises to hand-deliver J.K. Rowling’s new novel (GeekWire)
  • Self Publishing With Nook Press And Marketing To Nook Customers (The Creative Penn)
  • Why Amazon Is Battling Book Publishers — in Three Charts (Time.com)

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UK eBook Market to Surpass Print Sales by 2018, and Other Nonsense

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 07:55 PM PDT

The ebook market in the UK is growing nicely at the moment, but analysts predict that it is going to grow by leaps and bounds. In a prediction which should sound familiar, PricewaterhouseCoopers believes that ebook sales in the UK will triple over the next 4 years and surpass print sales by 2018.

From The Guardian:

The ebook will overtake the paperback and hardback as Britons’ preferred format for reading their favourite novels by 2018, according to a report. The UK consumer ebook market – which excludes professional and educational books – is forecast to almost triple from £380m to £1bn over the next four years.

Over the same period, accounting group PwC predicts that sales of printed editions will fall by more than a third to £912m as the UK population’s reading habits become dominated by tablets, with 50% of the country expected to own an iPad, Kindle or a similar device by 2018.

That prediction is about as likely to come true as PwC’s similar predictions for the US. As you might recall, PwC made a nearly identical forecast last year, saying that US ebook sales would exceed print by 2017.

And PwC made this prediction in 2012 as well. Oh yes, PwC also predicted in 2012 that US ebook sales would exceed print by 2016.

Do you see where I am going here?

Given the generally flat behavior of the US ebook market this past year, it’s pretty clear that neither of PwC’s predictions for the US will come true. Sure, I am expecting to see some growth, but not enough to fit with PwC’s growth curve. What’s more, I am one of the few people expecting to see growth; many are predicting a flat ebook market or possibly even a declining market.

And if PwC is wrong twice in the US ebook market, what are the chances that their identical prediction will come true in the UK market?

I would rate it as not too damn likely.

Admittedly, we don’t know how the UK ebook market will grow, but we do know that ebooks are currently estimated to make up a smaller share of that market than ebooks make up in the US book market.

But do you really think that the UK ebook market is going to see 4 years of spectacular growth? That doesn’t even pass my BS filters.

Thanks, Malcolm!

The post UK eBook Market to Surpass Print Sales by 2018, and Other Nonsense appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Is Byliner About to Close?

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 05:03 PM PDT

screen-shot-2012-11-30-at-8-49-26-am-e1354283904224[1]The self-pub ebook platform Byliner is having a rough time of late. Following only weeks after co-founder Mark Bryant stepped down as editor-in-chief, a newly leaked email reveals that the company might be about to shut down.

This 3-year-old digital publisher launched the the goal of helping blogs and websites monetize their content via ebooks sales, and over the years it had developed a reputation for quality.

The company has worked with fiction writers like Elmore Leonard, Margaret Atwood, Amy Tan, and Jodi Picoult, and it has also helped both independent writers and news organizations like the NYTimes publish longform journalism as short ebooks. The NYTimes, for example, used Byliner to publish original ebooks by David Leonhardt, Amy Harmon, and Adam Liptak, among others. Over the past few years it has experimented with both selling ebooks and offering subscriptions.

I have to say that aside from the occasional news story Byliner rarely crossed my desk, which could be part of the problem. In many ways attention equals market share, and  according to the email from Byliner the business hasn’t grown as fast as they would like. The company is not dead yet, but it is looking for a new way forward.

Dear Byliner author,

In the Spring of 2011 Byliner released its first e-short, and began to invite readers to participate in a new way of discovering and enjoying stories by their favorite authors. We're proud of the award-winning fiction and nonfiction we published in the three years that followed, and also of the reading experience we created with our site and our apps. Mostly, we're proud to have been able to provide a bit of reading pleasure to people who love great stories.

As for our own story, it's undergoing some changes. We've struggled to reach the level of growth we'd been hoping for the business, and thus we've begun conversations with possible partners about the future of Byliner. We're working to find a good home for our platform and your stories, and we'll be in touch shortly with specifics about your titles. If you have immediate questions about your revenue reports and payments, please use author@byliner.com.

Every new venture requires a leap of faith, and we thank you for taking that leap with us. Your enthusiasm, passion, and contributions have been humbling, and for that we will be forever grateful.


The Byliner Team


NYTimes, Pando Daily

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A Brief Hands On With Printless Plans’ 21″ eReader

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 04:11 PM PDT

zephyr 2When Printless Plans announced the Zephyr last November I was pretty sure I would never see it. Today I was proven wrong.

I caught up with Jonathan Meyers and Jared Lyles of Printless Plans today at Display Week 2014, and while they couldn’t answer my questions about price or release date they did have a prototype for me to play with.

It is huge.

The Zephyr’s 21″ screen made from 4 of PlasticLogic’s 10.7″ screens, giving it a resolution of 1920 x 2540. It’s about the size of a 15″ laptop laid flat, and like a laptop the Zephyr can fold in half. This makes it easier to store and carry around, but it also introduces a few problems.

For example, the Zephyr has the problem of having a touchscreen extend to the hinge. Few devices have this issue, and so far as I know none are using the solution that Printless Plans chose. Rather than put a touchscreen on top of the 4 screen panels, the Zephyr has a pressure sensitive touchpanel mounted behind the screen. That touchpanel was developed by Tactonic Technologies, one of PP’s suppliers (for the prototype, at least).

Tactonic is working on tech that would enable manufacturers to make any surface touch sensitive. No screen is required, and the surface doesn’t even have to be flat or smooth. I did not catch the name of products where it is already being used, but Tactonic is selling development kits on their website. The demo videos are pretty cool:

That demo has little to to with the Zephyr, but since it was new (and nifty) to me I thought it was worth sharing.

TBH, the Zephyr was less impressive than the related demo. I only got to play with a nonworking prototype, so I can’t say anything about how well it runs. But I did get to hold it – until my arms started cramping. Like a laptop, this I definitely not a device to be snuggled in your arms.

But as you can see in the gallery, it was never intended to be held. The unit I saw was a early and rough prototype, hence the visible screens, rough seams, and stained metal shell. It was big and heavy, but the next unit will be thinner and lighter.

For reference, I took a couple photos with my 7″ Kindle Fire HD sitting in the middle of the Zephyr. In retrospect I wish I had thought to pull out my laptop; they were roughly the same size (I think my laptop is actually smaller).

printless plans zephyr 1 printless plans zephyr 2 printless plans zephyr 3 printless plans zephyr 4

The Zephyr is being developed as a paperless blueprint solution. The target market is the construction industry, where Printless Plans sees an opportunity to replace Panasonic Toughbooks with a more efficient and sunlight-friendly alternative.

The post A Brief Hands On With Printless Plans’ 21″ eReader appeared first on The Digital Reader.

PlasticLogic Debuts New Flexible AMOLED Prototype at Display Week 2014

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 01:30 PM PDT

image003PlasticLogic has been teasing me since January with hints of their new flexible AMOLED screen tech, and today I finally got to see it in person.

PlasticLogic had their new prototype on display today. Like the previous demo units, it uses a color filter on top of a flexible grayscale screen, but unlike the earlier units this one was capable of 256 shades of gray and was capable of full 30fps image rendering.

In comparison, E-ink’s best screen can do close to 15 fps, at 16 shades of gray.

As you can see in the gallery below, the demo unit is impressive more for what it promises might come in the future, rather than what it can do now. It’s not very high resolution, though it colorful.

plastic logic flexible OLED 1 plastic logic flexible OLED 3 plastic logic flexible OLED 2

There’s still no news on who will license the tech and actually produce the screens, but I do know that PlasticLogic won’t be building it; they are looking to license the tech once it is fully developed.

PlasticLogic’s flexible AMOLED screen tech is being developed in partnership with NovaLED, a specialist in OLED and AMOLED technologies. They contributed the expertise to build the half of the screen which is visible to the naked eye, while PlasticLogic contributed the rear of the display, or backplane.

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E-ink Debuts a 32″ Color E-ink Screen

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 12:51 PM PDT

CMNews_1407444615358406E-ink hasn’t had much luck making a color ebook reader screen which was worth buying but their latest color signage might have a better chance of success. The screen tech company debuted a 32″ color sign at Display Week 2014, and compared to E-ink’s 8″ and 9.7″ color screens it looks surprisingly good.

The 32" color display sports a resolution of 2560 x 1440, and measures 27.75" by 15.75". That give it a dpi of 94, which is very low compared to tablets or smartphone screens, but not for signage. What’s more, E-ink also had a black and white unit on display which sported a much higher resolution screen (5012 x 2880).

Update: There was some confusion before, and I got the stats mixed up. It turns out the grayscale screen has a resolution of 2560 x 1440, while the color screen is rated at 720p resolution. That’s a lower resolution but still workable, IMO, especially at a distance.

e-ink 32 inch screen both e-ink 32 inch screen color e-ink 32 inch screen bw

The color screen was obviously low resolution, but that turned out to be a plus. By making the color pixels large, E-ink was able to get around the grayness issue I and many others have seen on the 9.7″ Triton E-ink screen. The color pixels on this screen are almost a quarter of a millimeter in size, large enough that you can see them with the naked eye from about a foot away.

The screen looked quite good, and in fact it came close to showing a true white. E-ink’s past color screen have not been able to pull that off, only getting as close as a light gray color.

The new signs was developed in cooperation with Global Display Solutions (GDS). E-ink made the screen, and GDS finished the design with enclosure technology that enables the displays to be deployed in outdoor conditions with very low power consumption. This display is targeted primarily at applications in the digital signage and information kiosk markets, and is available in black and white and color modules.

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Hack Turns a Kindle into an Expensive Thermometer

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 10:15 AM PDT

The Amazon Kindle was originally designed to let you read for weeks on end on a single battery charge, but as with most consumer electronics that idea went by the wayside once it got into customer’s hands. We’ve seen Kindles hacked to act as second monitors, stream video, be a weather station, and even play video.

And now one enterprising hacker has come up with a way to use a $79 Kindle as a thermometer.


The hack requires nothing more than a jailbroken Kindle and some software you can find on GitHub. The software has to be installed on the Kindle, and it displays the temperature in Fahrenheit or Centigrade.

There’s no need to add any sensors, and that’s because this hack uses the temperature sensor which is built into the CPU. The Kindle runs on a Freescale CPU, and that sensor is intended to monitor the CPU so it can shut itself down if it overheats.

And since the CPU spends most of its time in standby, the temp sensor is going to return a value that is close to ambient air temperature in the room. Or at least that is how it is supposed to work; I’m not fully convinced that the CPU won’t be running a couple degrees warmer.

If you would like to try the hack yourself, the code can be downloaded from GitHub.


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Amazon Launches TenMarks Math App for the Kindle Fire

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 09:46 AM PDT

41cgcJP9chL[1]Amazon surprised many when they acquired the edtech startup TenMarks last October, and today they revealed a hint as to why they wanted the company.

The retailer released a new Android version of the TenMarks Math for Students today, and it is only available in the Amazon Appstore (it was not in Google Play when I wrote this post).

This app, which had previously only been available in iTunes, helps students improve their math skills. It’s designed for self-paced learning, and it covers everything from basic math skills taught in the first grade Algebra 2 and Geometry.

The app is being launched just in time for kids and parents to take advantage of TenMarks’s free summer math program. The app is free, but the math program usually costs $40 and it’s free this summer for all students.

The TenMarks acquisition marked Amazon’s first step beyond the consumer ebook/audiobook market into other markets for digital content. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I predicted Amazon’s expansion last July, but it does make sense. Amazon has only a minimal presence in schools, and that is largely due to the Kindle.

TenMarks, on the other hand, licenses their math software to schools for $20 per year per student. And as anyone who watches edtech can tell you, the real money is in selling programs to schools, not selling content to students and parents. Thanks to all the tax dollars, schools can have pretty deep pockets compared to you or I.

TenMarks Math for Students

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DOJ Starts New Inquiry into Publishers’ Negotiations With Amazon

Posted: 03 Jun 2014 08:52 AM PDT

I was waiting for this shoe to drop.

The WSJ reported yesterday that the US Dept of Justice is asking questions of publishers. It seems someone at the DOJ has noticed that 2 years have passed since 3 major US trade publishers settled an antitrust lawsuit over a conspiracy to fix prices, and the DOJ wanted to see if the trio weren’t back up to their old tricks.

The inquiries, made in recent weeks by letter to Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group, CBS Corp.’s  Simon & Schuster and News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers, have created anxiety in the publishing industry. The inquiries reopened a sensitive and costly issue that publishers thought they had resolved, and raised the possibility of additional constraints on how they do business.

While some might see this as DOJ once again taking the role of Amazon’s pawn, I regard the DOJ’s letters as merely prudent. Only a fool would believe there’s no chance of the publishers conspiring again, and what better way to discourage that possibility than by sending a scary letter?

That letter comes shortly after the 2 year anniversary of the antitrust lawsuit filed by the DOJ and 33 state’s attorneys general against Apple and 5 publishers. Apple is of course still fighting the lawsuit in court, but all 5 publishers settled in advance of the trial.

Hachette, S&S, and HarperCollins had the good sense to settle as soon as they knew the lawsuit was coming, and that’s why they are being singled out for this letter. One of the requirements of the settlement was that the publishers had to give up any hope of retail price maintenance for a period of 2 years. That period ended in April 2014, right in the middle of the nasty Hachette-Amazon contract dispute (which actually started in November 2013).

So, does anyone think that the DOJ has evidence of a new conspiracy?

It might be unlikely but it’s not out of the question.

Thanks, Felix!

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