Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

German Publishers Lose Antitrust Complaint Against Google

Posted: 24 Aug 2014 09:51 PM PDT

google-is-evil-300x270-1314103412[1]German publishers suffered a major defeat last week in their campaign to force Google to pay for the use of their snippets.

In addition to filing a copyright complaint which demanded 11% of Google’s revenues, in June 2014 a coalition of German publishers also filed an antitrust complaint against Google. That complaint was rejected last Friday by the Bundeskartellamt, the German Federal Cartel Office, which said in a statement (here, in German) that the German publishers had not offered sufficient basis to justify an investigation.

Google’s ability to offer free advertising to websites (aka search result listings) while still generating revenue has made publishers around the world jealous, and earlier this summer German publishers mounted another of their periodic attempts to collect fees from the search engine giant.

I caught the news in Spiegel and FAZ, both of which are part of the coalition which filed the antitrust complaint. While the coalition alleges that Google’s dominant position in the search engine market gave it undue power to force German publishers to agree to its terms, the Bundeskartellamt is described as saying that the antitrust complaint was inconclusive and unsubstantiated, and that the complaint did not tie in with a specific behavior of Google.

googlevil1[1]I am frankly surprised by that ruling, and given that I saw this antitrust complaint as the publishers’ best shot at squeezing money out of Google I have to wonder where they will go from here.

The publishers are seeking to collect fees from Google under a 2013 copyright law which covers ancillary copyrights and was basically written to cover search engines. They want Google to pay for the use of their snippets and links in Google News. In addition to the antitrust complaint, they also filed a request for compensation with the Copyright Arbitration Board of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office.

Unfortunately for those publishers, Google anticipated the new law going into effect in August 2013 by changing their ToS in June 2013. Anyone who wanted to show up in Google search results (in Germany) had to agree to be listed for free.  In short, those German publishers already signed away their rights for nothing, and are now demanding that Google pay.

Not all German publishers agreed to Google’s new ToS, but the ones which did not are not listed in Google News. Since Google is not using their snippets I do not see how they would have grounds to sue.

It’s not clear where this story will go from here, but I do know that Google has in the past delisted websites rather than pay for the privilege of sending them free traffic. The search engine giant was even ordered to do just that when it lost a similar copyright infringement lawsuit in Belgium in 2011.

Should Google lose this fight, it is more than likely that it will delist those publishers in order to avoid having to pay any fees. It would seem the lack of search engine traffic over the long run will likely outweigh whatever short term boost in revenue the publishers get from Google, but the publishers do not appear to think that will happen – or at the very least, they think the potential gain is worth the risk.

German publishers have been trying to extract fees from Google for over 4 years now, but so far they have failed. Well, Nth time is the charm, as they always say.


The post German Publishers Lose Antitrust Complaint Against Google appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Morning Coffee – 25 August 2014

Posted: 24 Aug 2014 07:55 PM PDT

The reading list this morning includes a library’s view of licensing special collections, a critical view of accounting issues in publishing, Flipboard, a query into whether it’s time to take suggested retail prices off of print books, and more.

The post The Morning Coffee – 25 August 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon’s UK Best Seller List Affected By Free eBook Offer – What, Again?

Posted: 24 Aug 2014 06:08 PM PDT

So Porter Andersen reported on Friday that a free Kindle ebook promotion sponsored by a telecom was playing merry hob on the UK Kindle Store’s best seller list:

amazon-kindle-ukAmazon officials confirm to The FutureBook that downloads of #Kindle ebooks from Amazon Publishing imprints made available free of charge to customers in a telephone-company promotion have temporarily skewed the UK’s ‘Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store’ rankings at

A fix is being attempted, according to the company.

I read that post on Friday, and when Sunday night rolled around I thought it would be useful to expand on Porter’s always excellent work.

The point that Porter left out is that free ebooks have always affected the Kindle Store’s best seller list for “paid” titles. Ask any group of self-published authors and they’ll tell you about strategies they have used to boost their ebooks’ ranks in the Kindle Store by making the ebook free for a day. According to Lyndsay Buroker, this doesn’t work as well as it used to, but it is still having an impact.

For example, Kindle First, Amazon’s program to give Prime members a free ebook each month, is having enough of an impact that in June of this year DBW decided to jigger their ebook best seller list to remove said titles:

Kindle First allows Kindle owners a low-priced shot at Amazon Publishing ebook titles before they're released to the wider public at a discount (in this case, the $4.99 titles are being sold for $1.99). Prime members can download one of these free per month and that's the issue.

All four of these titles would have been in the top-25 this week — with two in the top ten — if both paid downloads and free downloads were counted. When we queried Amazon on this, a company spokesperson rightly pointed out that none of the downloads were technically free, since Prime is a paid membership program. Nevertheless, not each download was paid for and it could be misleading to include titles that are part free and part paid. When we suggested Amazon provide a breakdown of what percentage of the downloads were free to Prime members, the company declined further comment. Therefore, the only solution we could think of was to remove these titles from the list.

DBW also fiddled with their list last month to remove the impact of Kindle Unlimited.

Rightly or wrongly, Amazon uses many different factors to influence their best seller list, besides just actual paid sales. And that includes free ebooks.

Porter reported when he covered this latest that Amazon said the free ebooks were incorrectly applied, but I’m not so sure that Amazon made a mistake. According to Amazon’s statement:

Our paid list includes titles that are paid for either a la carte or through paid subscription programs like KU [Kindle Unlimited] and Prime. This does not include short term promotional programs with third parties that include free books. In this case the downloads were applied incorrectly and we are looking into a possible fix now.

That strikes me as an artificial distinction. Amazon has always let free ebook promotions affect the rankings on the paid best seller list, so to single out this particular free ebook promotion and exclude it strikes me as splitting hairs.

I think it’s better to include them all or remove them all.

P.S. And on a related note, I would also argue that DBW’s decision to filter out free titles is most likely an error. Yes, they are negating the effect of transactions where no one actually bought an ebook, but DBW is also missing any sales that may have resulted from an excluded title having a high rank on the Kindle Store best seller list. In short, their list isn’t an accurate reflection of the market.

The post Amazon’s UK Best Seller List Affected By Free eBook Offer – What, Again? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

New Review: Toshiba Excite Go

Posted: 24 Aug 2014 12:00 PM PDT

toshiba-excite-go[1] I’ve just finished a new review of the Toshiba Excite Go, a $99 Android tablet which got a lot of attention when it was launched in May but little attention (and no reviews) since it shipped last month.

You can find the review here.

Compared to last year, the budget and mid-range tablet market in general, and the 7″ segment in particular, has been relatively quiet over the past 6 months.

Sure, there have been a few new tablets but Hisense and Google both appear to have bowed out of the market, Samsung released a new line of android tablets which were basically retreads of last year’s models, and even the new OLPC tablet seems to have gone awol.

But the 7 inch tablet market hasn’t lost all signs of life; a few companies like Toshiba are still releasing new and interesting.  And that brings me to the Excite Go.

Toshiba is not a name that I would associate with bold experimentation, but in releasing the Excite Go Toshiba is definitely trying something new. This $99 tablet is built around one of Intel’s newer Atom Bay Trail CPUs.

For those not following the nuances of the CPU market, Intel markets the Bay Trail chips as being intended for mid-range laptops and for Windows 8 tablets – in other words, Bay Trail chips are up to the task of being a PC.

And Toshiba took one and put it in a $99 7″ Android tablet.

That is a heck of a lot more power than what I would expect to find in a $99 Android tablet, but unfortunately this is still a budget tablet. And that means that it has the screen, storage,  connectivity, and cameras which you might expect to find in a tablet in this price range.

In short, Toshiba released a tablet that is unbalanced.  I still don’t know yet if that was a good idea, but it is certainly different. And even if it is unbalanced, this is not a bad tablet.

Read on for the full review.

image via Laptop Magazine

The post New Review: Toshiba Excite Go appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Nobis 7 Tablet Now $50 at Staples – Quad-Core CPU, Android 4.4

Posted: 24 Aug 2014 09:58 AM PDT

nobis 7A reader has just tipped me to a new entrant in what i am taking to calling the lottery tablet category (Thanks, Fbone!Staples is running a sale on an off-brand tablet, the Nobis 7, a tablet from a company I’ve never heard of before.

This 7″ wonder sports an unnamed 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU with 512MB RAM, 8GB internal storage,  a pair of cameras, all for $49.

It runs Android 4.4, which is good, and it also has Google Play, bg/n/ Wifi, a microSD card slot, and a low-resolution 7″ screen (1024 x 600). The front-facing camera has VGA resolution, while the rear-facing camera has a resolution of 2MP. Weighing in at 20 ounces, the Nobis 7 has an estimated battery life of 5 to 6 hours.

All in all, those aren’t bad specs, but I think this is a tablet that is worth avoiding. As I pointed out in my buying guide last month, I have a minimum requirement of 1GB RAM. I also set a minimum price of $60 to screen out tablets made with truly junky components.

I’m not in the market to buy a tablet this cheap, but I still like to look. Do you think you’ll buy one?


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