Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 13 August 2014

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 07:59 PM PDT

The Wednesday morning reading list kicks off with a commentary on Authors Untied and where it should really be focusing its attention, the trustworthiness of Wikipedia vs British news channels, a review of Kindle Unlimited, and more.

  • Authors United Have Picked the Wrong Fight (HuffPost)
  • British people trust Wikipedia more than the news (YouGov)
  • Financial Times: Prescription for Publishers Surviving Amazon (DBW)
  • My Thoughts so far with Kindle Unlimited ()
  • Spain’s Ill-Conceived ‘Google Tax’ Law Likely To Cause Immense Damage To Digital Commons And Open Access (Techdirt)
  • Surveying Digital Comics after Amazon-Comixology (PW)
  • Teaching Kids Skills For Deep Reading on Digital Devices (MindShift)
  • The True History of Paperbacks: A Small Correction to Hachette CEO's Response to Amazon (Edward W. Roberston)
  • What Is An E-Book Worth? (terribleminds: chuck wendig)
  • Why the Public Library Beats Amazon—for Now (WSJ)

P.S. Did you know you can subscribe to a single category’s RSS feed? Here’s the link:


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Kindle for Android Updated with Improved Audio, Navigation Support

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 04:53 PM PDT

kindle itunes logo Amazon released a new version of their Kindle app for Android  and I think you’re going to like it. The Kindle app v4.6.0 adds a bunchaton of useful features, including a couple additions that should make it more fun to listen to audiobooks in the Kindle app.

In addition to a new option for controlling system brightness and screen orientation from inside the Kindle app, the app also now has a full screen immersive reading mode (Android 4.4 and above, alas).

And with this update  readers (and book designers, too) can use a multi-level TOC; to be more exact, Amazon says that the front matter (copyright page, title page, etc) has been combined into a single entry labeled fromt matter. The TOC has also been updated so they will all display a link to the cover as the first entry.

And that’s not all. Amazon also reports that the app can now be paired with Bluetooth devices (I’m thinking earpieces), andwhat’s even better is that playback will automatically pause if Bluetooth is disconnected. Also, if you put your Android tablet or smartphone to sleep while it is playing an audiobook you can wake it up and control playback from the lock screen.

It looks something like this:

Screenshot_2014-08-12-19-38-53 Screenshot_2014-08-12-19-39-01

I don’t much care for audiobooks, but if I were listening to one on my phone I would really appreciate the new features. Amazon just made it a lot easier to listen to audiobooks while leaving your smartphone in your pocket.

You can find the app in Google Play and other fine app stores.


  • Read books in immersive full-screen mode (Android OS 4.4+)
  • Tap the bottom right corner of a page to lock orientation
  • Control playback from the lock screen while audio is playing in the book
  • Choose system brightness in reader settings
  • Navigate table of contents by sub chapter
  • Pair with Bluetooth devices (Permission)

Google Play

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Hands-On with a $77 iPhone 6 Clone (video)

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 11:59 AM PDT

iphon3 6 clone androidWe’re still a month away from Apple showing us what the real iPhone 6 will look like, but the clones have been popping up left and right and they’re getting cheaper. Charbax is in Shenzhen right now and he got his hands on a exceedingly cheap iPhone 6 clone.

The smartphone sports a 4.7″ display with a WVGA resolution. That’s far less sharp than the 1,704 x 960 resolution display that one blogger speculated will be found on the iPhone 6, but then again what do you expect for a $77 Android smartphone.

According to Charbax, this is not a terribly convincing clone. At first glance it looks like the various leaked iPhone 6 components, but once you start to run apps the deception falls apart. The phone has a weak camera and CPU:

Anyways, this is thin and as Apple would do, it does not offer a removable battery, use Apple's lightning connector instead of MicroUSB, it does have an internal MicroSD card slot though, but you need to use tiny screwdrivers to get to it. This copy configuration comes with a basic WVGA display, a very basic camera (extremely basic), and I think they cut a few more corners when it comes to the CPU they use the entry-level MT6572 dual-core ARM Cortex-A7 with Mali-400 GPU, 512MB of RAM and a little bit of ROM.

This isn’t the cheapest iPhone 6 knockoff, but it does cost about half as much as the last one I’ve seen. It also costs about a 9th of what I expect the iPhone 6, with its 4.7″ display, to cost.

The post Hands-On with a $77 iPhone 6 Clone (video) appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Slimmer, Reversible Next-Gen USB Type-C Plug

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 10:55 AM PDT

universal_converter_box[1]Following an announcement in December 2013 and renders which popped up in April, the USB 3.0 Promoter Group announced today that they had finalized the next-gen USB Type-C connector, and that it is now ready for production.

Thanks to a new standard USB plug, gadget users everywhere are going to be saved from the fate pictured at right.

Kidding aside, as you can see in the image below, the new plug is much smaller than the standard USB-A plug found on thumb drives and USB cables everywhere. It’s designed to replace all existing USB plugs with a single reversible plug which is about the same size as the existing micro-USB plug while at the same time offering a significant boost in speed:

usb type cAs for speed, the new cable will offer SuperSpeed USB 10 Gbps (USB 3.1) and USB Power Delivery up to 100W.

The new plug is ready for production, and more details can be found at www.usb.org. Today's press release also notes that the specification has now been " transferred to the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) for ongoing management and the establishment of a compliance and certification program."

So this new plug is intended to unify all the disparate standards into a single standard used on all devices? I don’t see that happening – not unless the existing standard plugs are withdrawn.

My doubts come from the many devices I have used over the past few years. Most mobile devices use a USB cable of some kind, but they don’t all use the same one. Even in late 2014, I’m still seeing new gadgets with the old, old mini-USB plug – the one which many (but not all) device makers discarded in 2009.

Frankly, I expect the existing standard cables to hang around for another 3 or 4 years, if not longer. And I’m sure we all know why:


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Mobile Publishing Startup Onswipe to Close, Avoids Bankruptcy by Selling Itself

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 10:01 AM PDT

onswipeFrom the Not a Surprise Dep’t:

Fortune is reporting this morning (5 August 2014) that Onswipe has been sold off:

Onswipe, a New York-based ad-tech startup, has sold itself to Beanstock Media, a Silicon Valley-based adtech company, Fortune has learned. An announcement could come as soon as tomorrow.

A private message from Onswipe CEO Jonty Kelt, obtained by Fortune, called the deal a "soft landing," which is startup parlance for failure.

Update (12 August 2014): The deal was officially announced today. The following story is mostly correct, with one exception: at least one existing investor, Spark Capital, will be getting equity in Beanstock as part of the deal.

Not to be mean, but this is one of those times that I wonder why a company stuck with an unworkable idea for so long.

Initially launched in 2011, Onswipe set an ambitious goal: “to power the way the world experiences the web on tablets”. This startup developed a unique publishing platform which enabled websites to take their existing content, automatically generate an app-like layout for mobile devices, and monetize it by adding adverts. At first the  platform was only designed to support the iPad, but it was later expanded with support for a couple Android tablets, including the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire, the iPhone, and (in late 2013) Android smartphones.


As you can see in the screenshot above, this looks like a cool idea, but unfortunately the nifty-ness of the tech didn’t translate into market success. Hardly any publisher wanted to use Onswipe; last fall Onswipe boasted that 27 million website visitors were viewing an Onswipe supported site each month. Compared to the 500 million plus iDevices then in use, that is a relatively small number.

Frankly, I’m not surprised by the limited adoption or by today’s news. As I pointed out last fall, Onswipe was promoting a solution which was – at best- clunky when it launched. By the time it was working well enough to offer consistent performance, it had been made redundant by advances in website design.

Thanks to a concept called responsive web design, Onswipe’s proprietary platform was redundant. If you take a moment from reading this post and adjust your browser window so it is narrow and tall, you’ll see that a well-designed website (or even an adequately designed site such as this one) supports all screen sizes from smartphone to desktop. That effectively killed any need for Onswipe.

Onswipe  is reportedly selling for just enough to retire its $2.5 million in debts and pay off a $2 million convertible bridge note raised this spring. The latter was provided six months ago "to keep the company alive in order to find a soft landing," Onswipe CEO Jonty Kelt wrote in an email obtained by Fortune.

The company had raised around $12 million in funding.

According to Kelt’s email, Beanstock Media is acquiring Onswipe because it does not have a mobile strategy, and because it wanted more direct sales and a New York presence. This firm bills itself as a publisher trading desk company for ad placements. It had reportedly brought in $40 million in revenue in 2013, far more than the roughly $500,000 in monthly revenue Onswipe was reportedly generating.

It will absorb 24 of Onswipe's 28 employees.


The post Mobile Publishing Startup Onswipe to Close, Avoids Bankruptcy by Selling Itself appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Bloomberg: iPad Air, iPad Mini Are in Production

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 08:54 AM PDT

ipad air 2 dummy 5The launch date for the next iPad is still the stuff of rumors but one source says that the new hardware is already making its way down the assembly line.

Bloomberg reported this morning that we’re going to  see a couple new iPads this fall:

Apple’s suppliers have started manufacturing new iPads, according to people with knowledge of the matter, as the company works to reinvigorate sales of the tablet computers after two straight quarters of declines.

Mass production of a full-sized iPad with a 9.7-inch screen is already under way, with an unveiling projected for the end of this quarter or early next, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified because the details aren't public. A new version of the 7.9-inch iPad mini is also entering production and will probably be available by the end of the year, they said.

With most pundits believing that the new iPhone will launch in early September, the new iPad will most likely launch in early October. That is pure speculation, but one thing I can say is that there have been enough leaked components that we know that the new iPad Air will be thinner and look subtly different.

Unfortunately, I can’t make similar claims about the iPad Mini. I know that Bloomberg says that it is in production, but due to the lack of leaks I am not so sure. There simply isn’t enough evidence to convince me that we’re going to see a new iPad Mini this year.

The post Bloomberg: iPad Air, iPad Mini Are in Production appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Icarus Illumina HD eReader Now Available on Amazon.com – Android 4.2, 6″ E-ink Screen,

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 08:23 AM PDT

illumina_big[1]The latest and greatest 6″ ereader from the Dutch reseller Icarus is now listed on Amazon.com. Yesterday my competition reported that the Illumina HD, a 6″ ereader which launched last month, can now be had via Amazon.com for the princely sum of $184 (plus shipping).

This ereader sports a 6″ Pearl E-ink screen with a capacitive touchscreen and frontlight. It runs Android 4.2 on a dual-core 1GHz CPU with 512MB RAM, and 4GB internal storage, It also has Wifi, a microSD card slot, and comes bundled with a cover (hence the high price tag).

As I mentioned when I covered the launch last month, this is a very attractive ereader. It’s not quite as good as the Onyx Boox T68 (which is also available on Amazon) but it does run a newer version of Android on a faster CPU – albeit without Google Play.

I don’t plan to get one myself; I don’t like Icarus’s customer service. But if you do buy one you should know that it ships from the Netherlands, and that you are paying the full EU price. Icarus sells the Illumina HD on their website for 135 euros (119 euros without the cover), and on Amazon.com they sell the same device for basically the same price: $183.

Icarus has neglected to deduct the EU taxes that US customers are not required to pay. In other words US customers are being overcharged by about $30.

While that shouldn’t necessarily stop you from buying from Icarus, it is an example of why I don’t like the company and will not shop there. And that is unfortunate, because my competitor has one and he says it is not bad:

I've only been using the device for a couple of days, but the software seems to run a little smoother and faster than the T68?s. For one, the Illumina HD enters partial refresh mode automatically when scrolling without having to manually turn it on, and it works quite well. The Kindle app comes pre-installed and it works better than on the T68, especially when shopping the Kindle store, which is almost impossible on the T68 for whatever reason.

So far it looks like a promising ereader. The built in reading app is pretty basic, but other apps can be installed. Without Google Play onboard it's harder to get apps, but I installed both the Amazon appstore and 1Mobile appstore and both work well enough to install Android apps.

Update: At the advice of a couple readers, I am going to buy the OEM version of the Illumina. It costs $100 when bought from China.


The post Icarus Illumina HD eReader Now Available on Amazon.com – Android 4.2, 6″ E-ink Screen, appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Yuzu for iPad Updated, But It’s Still Not Ready for the New School Year

Posted: 12 Aug 2014 06:25 AM PDT

YUZU-logo-tm[1]Barnes & Noble’s replacement for the NookStudy digital textbook app has matured somewhat in the 4 months since I reported on its launch in April, but the platform is still a work in progress.

A reader reminded me early this morning that the Yuzu app for the iPad had been updated, inspiring me to take another look at the platform. (Thanks, P!)

According to the listing, the v1.1 Yuzu app has benefited from accessibility improvements and bug fixes, and B&N also reportedly improved the customer experience. I don’t have any additional details on what has changed, but P did say that the app seems to be running better.

Scheduled to launch this summer, Yuzu is intended to be B&N’s next-gen digital textbook platform. When it officially launches, it will be available on Android, the iPad, and online via major web browsers.

Unfortunately, due to various technical delays, Yuzu is still limited to the iPad, IE, Chrome, and Safari.

But on the plus side, B&N does have the related ebookstore up and running. Yuzu won’t let students sideload their own content, so this really is good news. Said ebookstore is still lacking in basic features like categorization, sorting (price, pub date, etc), an index, and free content, but it is able to sell digital textbooks to students.

It’s not unusual for new platforms to suffer technical delays, so it’s not fair to fault B&N for the issues. But I do have to question their decision to promote Yuzu to college students, some of whom have used the app this summer without realizing that the platform was still in beta.

B&N has been touting Yuzu on the websites of college bookstores it operates. For example, at the bookstore website for my alma mater, B&N describes many of the “benefits” of Yuzu while neglecting to mention that it is still under development. I expect this will prove to have a negative impact on the future of Yuzu; if the students using the platform now have problems they will probably complain and thus discourage other students from even trying.

In fact, the iPad app’s 2.5 star rating in iTunes may already be having this effect.

The post Yuzu for iPad Updated, But It’s Still Not Ready for the New School Year appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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