Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Amazon Launches the Fire Phone

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 10:48 AM PDT

4514af9c-46eb-430e-bce1-b341911e815e[1]This blogger couldn’t score an invite to the event du jour, so he is glued to his computer like everyone else. Here’s a detail to keep you entertained while we wait through  the early bits of the presentation.

Amazon’s smartphone, which only showed up on the FCC website this morning, carries the model number SD4930UR. It’s appeared on a few websites over the past few weeks, including one that tested its html5 support, but few usable details have been revealed.

It’s called the Fire Phone (product page, not yet live). Like the rumors said, it has a 4.7″ screen, with Gorilla Glass on both sides. It’s running on a quad-core 2.2GHz SnapDragon CPU with  2GB RAM, a 13MP rear-facing camera (with five element lens and optical image stabilization) and dual speakers – a silly feature to talk up  given the size of the device (and that a lot of smartphones have it already).

The Fire phone is going to be tied into Amazon services, including free cloud storage for photos taken from the phone, Amazon Instant Video, Kindle, Second Screen and X-Ray for Movies, and other features found on the Kindle Fire tablets.

And in case anyone is wondering, we can see the 4 cameras in the slideshow images of the Fire Phone (from Cnet).


The phone also features Firefly, Amazon’s next step in mobile shopping. This app combines the abilities of Amazon’s existing mobile shopping app with that of the Amazon Dash, their handheld bar code scanner. You can take a picture of a bar code or you can simply photograph the object and  the app should recognize it.

It also does character recognition (and audio), so you can use it to scan business cards, phone numbers, etc. Firefly recognizes a hundred million different items in real-world situations, Bezos said.

And now, the 3d. Amazon calls it dynamic perspective, and yes it does use the 4 IR cameras to trtack the user and adjust the screen contents to create a faux 3d:


It sounds awesome (I called it), but we’re going to have to wait for Amazon to post the presentation video later today before we see it for ourselves.

There’s also an infinite scroll feature which uses tilting the phone as a control (Samsung did it first).

According to Amazon, the dynamic perspective requires 4 cameras because the minimum requirement is two, and by using 4 cameras the system is robust and offers a larger filed of view (bother wider and taller).

More to come …

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German Publishers Sue Google, Demand Google Pay for Giving them Free Advertising

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 09:58 AM PDT

google-is-evil-300x270-1314103412[1]Not satisfied with simply getting free advertising from search engines like Google, media companies in one country after another have tried time after time to force Google to pay for all the visitors that Google sends to other website.

This idea has so far failed in Germany, Belgium, and France, and it is currently being considered in Spain. So far none of the attempts have had much success (although the French media did squeeze a token payment out of Google), and today I learned that a newspaper cooperative in Germany is going to mount a second attempt to force Google to pay for the free advertising it gives them.

Given Google’s past patterns, this effort is almost certainly doomed to failure. But apparently that is not going to stop anyone from trying.

According to PC World:

German news publishers are escalating their fight to get a cut of the ad revenue that Google makes when it republishes parts of their news articles.

The publishers' society VG Media has started legal proceedings against Google after the search-engine giant refused to negotiate with the collecting society and publicly declared it would not pay such a compensation, VG Media said Wednesday.

Twelve German online news publishers took a 50 percent stake in VG Media last February with the aim of beginning to start collecting compensation from search engines. They want some of the advertising revenue that search engines and aggregators generate by republishing parts of their content.


The publishers are basing their demand on a law which went into effect in Germany in August 2013. That law, which was enacted at the demand of German publishers, requires search engines (as well as other websites, but that’s not important here) to pay a fee for the use of snippets of text copied from other sites.

The law came about because the publishers were eying the revenue that Google earned from putting ads next to the search results – some of which led to the publishers. Even though the publishers were already benefiting from the search traffic Google was sending their way, the publishers wanted to also be paid for the use of their content. They were getting free advertising, and they wanted Google to pay for the privilege.

The law in question states that publishers have the exclusive right to commercialize their products or parts thereof, except in the case of single words or very small text snippets. The publishers are saying that this law gives them the right to demand payment from Google. I’m not convinced they have a legal leg to stand on, and even if they do I still don’t think this ploy will work.

For one thing, this law took effect in August 2013. What are the chances that Google isn’t already complying with the law? I would rate it as slim to none, leaving the publishers to argue the relatively weak argument that Google’s snippets are too large.

Even if that argument passes muster in court, it’s not clear that the publishers have a case in the first place; they may have waved their rights.

In anticipation of that law, Google Germany changed their ToS in June 2013. News websites had to agree to be listed in Google News for free, otherwise Google would remove them from the search results. So basically all of the news sites in Germany which are listed in Google already gave Google permission to list them – for free.

At this point I have to say that I don’t see this case going anywhere, but even if the publishers win  they will still lose. If Google loses this case, it will most likely respond by delisting the plaintiffs’ websites. In fact, Google might even be explicitly ordered to do so; that happened in Belgium in 2011.

In winning this lawsuit, publishers are still going to lose out on the future free advertising they get from Google. While it might not hurt all of the publishers equally, it still strikes me as being pound wise and penny foolish.

PC World

The post German Publishers Sue Google, Demand Google Pay for Giving them Free Advertising appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Blackberry Really Wants You to Know the Amazon Appstore Will Ship in BB OS 10.3

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 07:58 AM PDT

BlackBerry_10_Amazon_Appstore[1]Amazon is expected to announce a new smartphone in about another 3 hours, and over the past few days they’ve been sending out press releases to build the buzz.

A couple days ago Amazon touted their appstore reaching 240,000 titles, and today Blackberry released an email which gushed about the next version of their OS, and that it would ship with the Amazon Appstore:

BlackBerry Limited, a world leader in mobile communications, today announced that the Amazon Appstore will be available with the launch of the BlackBerry 10.3 operating system this fall, greatly expanding access to thousands of the most popular apps and games to BlackBerry customers.

For various technical reasons this is a non story (aside from the Amazon-Google and competing app stores angle). But since today is turning out to be a slow news day, I thought it would be helpful to share those technical details. (I know this is off-topic for an ebook blog, but the following details will make your BB device a more useful ereader.)

The latest version of Blackberry’s OS has long been able to run Android apps, and that includes both the Amazon Appstore client (required to install apps purchased there) and Snap, an unofficial Google Play client. The only catch was that users had to install the apps themselves.

It’s cool that the next version of BB OS will ship with Amazon Appstore, but with a little bit of work you can also install Snap. This is a third party app designed for Blackberry which offers users a graymarket access to Google Play. So far as I know it’s not an official app, but Google hasn’t squashed it yet so at the very least Google must be turning a blind eye.

I for one didn’t know about Snap, so i thought this would be good info to share.

The post Blackberry Really Wants You to Know the Amazon Appstore Will Ship in BB OS 10.3 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Best Buy Will Give you $50 for Your Old Tablet

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 06:25 AM PDT

11470931345_1def45467b_b[1]An old tablet which is still in good condition can be re-purposed as a kid’s tablet or as a security camera or media player, but what do you do with a tablet which is simply to old or too junky to be worth using?

You could take it in to Best Buy. They will dispose of a truly dead gadget via their free electronics recycling program, but that’s not your only option. For the next two weeks Best Buy is running a special trade-in program. Starting on Friday, anyone who brings a still functional tablet in to a Best Buy store will get a minimum of $50 (as a gift card).

That’s not much, but when we’re talking about tablets that might get you $10 on Ebay, a $50 store credit is a much better deal – even in spite of the restrictions. In order to get the $50 gift card, the tablet has to be able to turn on, and it must have an unbroken screen. This offer is not available in all stores, and there’s a limit of two trade-ins per person.

The offer also excludes ereaders, and it excludes all Nook models. The deal is only good in US Best Buy stores between 20 June and 28 June, and you can find more details on the Best Buy website. YMMV

Has anyone tried the BB trade-in program? Do they make it difficult for you to get a credit?

I have never used trade-in programs anywhere, not with Amazon, BB, Walmart, anyone. The prices just weren’t good enough, not when I could sell a device locally for a better price. But I also have a few older tablets which have effectively no value and are just sitting around collecting dust. I’m going to give the BB program a shot.


image by IntelFreePress

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Kobo Kids Store Expands into the UK, Still Offers Protection at the Expense of Growth and Usability

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 05:37 AM PDT

kobo itunes ios logoKobo opened the Kids Store section of the Kobo ebookstore last October with little media attention or fanfare, and today they are expanding it in the shadow of Amazon’s smartphone launch.

Toronto-based Kobo announced on Wednesday that their Kids Store is now available to readers in the UK.  Limited to less than 100,000 titles from Kobo’s catalog of over 4 million ebooks, the Kids Store is designed to offer kids “age-appropriate” reading choices.

It is equipped with safe-search features designed to allow kids to easily browse and find safe books to read. Kobo makes it easy for children and young adult Readers to find the next safe book – from the latest bestselling series to "read along" books to colorful picture-books.

Kobo has given parents the ability of adding a limited-access kids account to their existing Kobo account. The subordinate accounts are limited to only accessing the Kids Store, and each account is can only spend as much as the parent allows (like buying gift cards).

kobo kids store

Kobo has taken steps to guarantee the safety of both the kid and the parent’s pocketbook, but unfortunately they did not build a system which is designed to help kids grow or one which reflects how a household shares books and ebooks. For example, there’s no way to share an ebook across both a parent and kid account, which is a little ridiculous given that one adult owns both accounts, and there’s no way for a kids account to be merged back into a parent account after the kid ages out, thus preventing parents from making use of the ebooks they bought.

It’s also not possible for a parent to buy an ebook and gift it to a kids account.  This both limits a parent’s ability to use their own judgement in choosing safe ebooks, and it will also negatively impair a kid’s schoolwork should they be assigned adult books to read.

For example, in high school I was assigned books like Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, and in the 8th grade one of the assigned books was Les Miserables. (I also wrote book reports in the 8th grade on Metamorphosis, The Elephant Man, etc but only Les Mis was assigned in class.)

Admittedly, I had a unique reading teacher in the 8th grade (not every teacher will make the effort to encourage and enable students to see Les Mis on stage) but that doesn’t make my point less true.

While the idea of protecting kids is sounds great, Kobo’s focus on keeping kids safe limits the usefulness of their platform.

I made that point when I covered the Kids Store in November, and unfortunately it is still true today. And that is a shame, because the idea of a kid account is a good one – it’s just Kobo’s execution that is still lacking.

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