Monday, 7 July 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Wired: Using Multiple Screens Focuses, Not Fragments, Your Attention

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 01:49 PM PDT

Wired has cottoned to a pattern of behavior that I noticed myself a couple years ago. As gadget owners get more devices they tend to use them all at once, each for a different task:

10053155455_bdbbec3dcd_b[1]Now that people have several devices at work—a laptop, a phone, a tablet—they're finding their way to a similar trick, where they use each piece of hardware for a different purpose. Consider it a new way to manage all the digital demands on our attention: Instead of putting different tasks in different windows, people are starting to put them on different devices.

At the heart of this multiscreen life is a counterintuitive realization: that a profusion of devices can help focus one's attention rather than fracture it. A pile of browser tabs on your laptop becomes mentally confusing; tasks get hidden and maybe forgotten. But when screens are physically separate, the problem evaporates.

In a sense, screens are beginning to absorb some of the cognitive ergonomics of paper, one of the oldest reading devices of all. With paper, after all, we've always put down one document and picked up another, shifting our attention organically. And as Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper note in The Myth of the Paperless Office, spreading out papers on a desk lets our eyes easily roam—a property hard to replicate on a single screen. Now the plunging price of hi-res mobile devices means it's possible to own a few of them.

This comes as no surprise to me; I saw this kind of behavior in late 2011 (commented upon similar behavior about a month ago). That’s when I started actively using an Android tablet for sorting through (but not necessarily reeading) tweets, Google Reader, and email. When I initially started using the Android tablet, I wanted to spend more time on my bed so I could snuggle my dogs.

But even when I was at my desk I still tended to use my Android tablet for sorting through emails and news feeds; it was just faster. (It also made me realize that a lot of mobile devices were used while stationary as a compliment to laptops and PCs.)

What’s more, I would bet that I am not the first to find myself using a mobile device for a focused purpose. The iPhone is a good example of an earlier focuser of attention; I bet I’m not the only person who knows someone who only does email on their iPhone.

And before that, there were ereaders (and dare I mention the Blackberry).  I know that Wired probably wouldn’t think to include ebook readers, but they are an example of how multiple screens focuses your attention. I’m sure a lot of people have sent articles to their Kindle via one of the many bookmarklets that support this.

Now that I think about it, the idea of finding an article on your PC and moving it to a mobile device or ereader is over a decade old, and was supported way back when by apps like Plucker. I don’t think those earlier methods worked all that well, but people were still using them.

Do you use more than one gadget at a time? How do you like to divide your reading and other activities?

image by Martin Voltri

The post Wired: Using Multiple Screens Focuses, Not Fragments, Your Attention appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Google Responds to Authors Guild in Google Books Appeal

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 10:54 AM PDT

5226636919_34c460f5f9_b[1]The Authors Guild may have lost its 8-year-long lawsuit against Google last November, but they’re not through. The AG filed an appeal of that ruling in April of this year, and on last Thursday Google filed its response (PDF).

In the appeal, Google starts by reiterating its arguments that its book-scanning project fell under the Fair Use clause of US copyright law. Frequently citing the similar HaithiTrust ruling, Google’s brief takes us through the four parts of the fair use exception while noting that “statutory factors are not a scorecard”.

In addition to going through the factors point by point, Google also took a moment to respond to the arguments raised in The Authors Guild’s appeal, including that Amazon was harmed by the Google Book project. Describing it as a “blatant distortion of the record”, Google notes that all of the material cited was drawn not from the library project but from “Google's Partner Program, which involves extensive display of book excerpts with rightsholder permission.”

The search engine giant later disputes the facts of some of The Authors Guild’s arguments, including that Google displays “78% of the verbatim text of millions of in-copyright books”. While The AG was correct in that at least 22% of each book is inaccessible, according to Google (and anyone who has used Google Books) they’re wrong in claiming that Google displayed the full 78% to any single user.  Instead, Google contends that  “Google Books displays no more than three snippets from a book in response to a search query” and points out that it is simply not practical for any user to search for multiple snippets and reassemble a book.

Google extensively rebuts the arguments made in The Authors Guild’s appeal as well as points previously raised. All in all, I would bet that Google stands a better chance of winning this appeal than The Authors Guild. After all, this appeal is being tried before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. This is the court which initially suggested that Judge Denny Chin consider fair use as a defense, so it seems likely that the 2nd Circuit will follow its earlier ruling by denying this appeal.

For those just tuning in, The Authors Guild and Google are locked in round N+1 of a court case which started in 2005. Following Google’s announcement in 2004 of a program to scan books in university libraries and show snippets online, The Authors Guild and other parties sued in 2005. After numerous rounds of motions, appeals, a settlement between the AAP and Google as well as a settlement with The AG which was rejected by Judge Chin in 2011, and even more appeals, the lawsuit came to an abrupt middle in November of last year with a decision in Google’s favor. Using the earlier HaithiTrust decision as a guide, Judge Chin ruled that the Google Books project was fair use.

I don’t know about you but I don’t see why this case is still in court. By the time that ruling was issued, the case and the legal points it covered were relatively unimportant and had been subsumed by larger issues including ebook sales and online sales of print books. Snippets don’t matter as much in 2014 as they did in 2005 because now they’re used to sell books online. Authors and publishers (as well as students and academics) unquestionably benefit from Google Books, so I think there are better ways to spend our time.

found via Publishers Lunch

image by smilygrl

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Amazon Launches new Section of the Kindle Store for Exclusive Titles

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 08:04 AM PDT

Kindle_Paperwhite_35438287_35437744_35438313_35438312_02_620x433[1]News is coming out of Germany today that the local Kindle Store has a new category page. Amazon has added a section for exclusive titles.

The Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive tells me that Amazon added a similar section to the main Kindle Store on back in February 2014, and now they are duplicating their efforts in the German Kindle Store.

The “Exklusive Kindle eBooks” section, as it is known on, offers over 500,000 ebooks which can only be found in the Kindle Store. Many of these titles are published by indie authors, including through the KDP Select program. Most (all?) of the titles are also available via the Kindle Owner’s lending Library. I’m not sure Amazon intended to do so, but in adding the new section they gave Prime members an easy way to find ebooks which they can read for free.

On a related note, and I do find this a little amusing, none of the titles in the Kindle exclusive section of are from German publishers. Thanks to Germany’s book pricing laws, it is illegal for a publisher to offer books exclusively to a particular retailer. It’s not clear whether that also applies to self-published authors in Germany, but it might.

Self Publisher

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Smashwords’s New 2014 Survey Shows the Value of Pre-Orders

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 06:33 AM PDT

smashwords_logoLast night Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, posted the slides from the talk he gave at the RWA Booklovers Convention back in May (yes, that convention).

The slides make up the report for the annual Smashwords “Money, Money, Money” survey. The report is based on 12 months of Smashwords’s sales data, and it reveals a few clues as to how self-published authors might best make money in a turbulent market.

I’ve gone through the slides, and there are really only a few new details which we didn’t have in last year’s report.

For example free ebooks aren’t moving at nearly the same rate as they did last year. In 2013, free ebooks in iBooks were bought 91 times as often as paid ebooks, while this year the ratio has dropped to 38. It’s not clear why free ebooks are less popular, but I suspect that the price point is saturated with junk, leading readers to buy ebooks. Curiously, free still seems to be working as away to promote a series. Or at least the series which sold the most also had the first book in said series as a freebie, but there’s no way to really tell from the SW data whether it had any effect.

The report also gave an explanation for Hachette being upset over the loss of pre-orders in the Kindle Store. The report shows that pre-orders, when they are available, can boost sales. Few indies have this option in the Kindle Store, but it can be used in iBooks to hit the best seller list.

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So I have a new blog theme

Posted: 07 Jul 2014 05:43 AM PDT

If you have been visiting The Digital Reader over the past week you may have noticed that this blog has been offline a lot. 

I have been suffering from a still unidentified bug in either my WordPress install or the server it runs on, or possibly somewhere the two intersect. After trying the basic first steps (turning off all the plugins to trouble shoot), and the more advanced diagnostic steps (stripping out as much content loaded from offsite as possible), I still don’t know what is causing the issue. Media Temple’s tech support is similarly baffled.

With all possible causes eliminated, I am going back through them again, only this time I am also replacing my blog theme.  And so I have switched out the theme I have been using for the past several years with a basic free theme from WP, and I’m currently using it with as few plugins as possible. If the problem continues then I know for sure that the problem is the hosting company, and not me.

P.S. On the plus side, one side effect of this debacle is that my site will be about twice as fast as it was a couple weeks ago, and each page will be about a third of the size. That’s how much detritus I have cleaned out from the blog.

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