Monday, 25 August 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 26 August 2014

Posted: 25 Aug 2014 08:19 PM PDT

The reading list is quite short this Tuesday morning.

  • The Great Audiobook Survey: The Results (BOOK RIOT)
  • I Don’t Know How To Shop For Books Anymore (BOOK RIOT)
  • Playboy goes (mostly) smut-free for a digital rebrand (Digiday)
  • Should Indie Writers Self-Edit? (LinkedIn)
  • Stuff I Want to Know (Hugh Howey)

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Calibre Hits 2.0

Posted: 25 Aug 2014 07:41 PM PDT

calibre-logoCalibre v2.0 was released late last week (I only got the news this morning).

Following the 1.0 release almost a year to the day, this major milestone adds a number of improvements, including better support for Android devices when running the calibre app on OSX,  touchscreen support on Windows tablets, and behind the scenes improvements to boost performance.

Last week’s update improves upon the ebook editor which was added in December; users can now not only edit and save an ebook in in Epub and Kindle formats, they can also compare two ebooks and see the differences. An earlier update also added a spell checker for thse uv os woh ned it.

You can find more information on the calibre website, and tech support on MobileRead Forums.

Calibre is the leading free ebook library management app, as well as the most widely used. At last count it had been installed almost 25 million times, and is in active use on over 3.5 million computers. The app supports conversion to and from a wide variety of ebook formats, and it also helps users to manage their ebook collection both on their PC as well as on almost any reading device they own, be it ereader, tablet, smartphone, or what have you.

Initially launched in October 2006, calibre was originally intended to support the then new Sony Reader PRS-500.  A certain grad student wanted to use his new ebook reader with Linux, so he reverse engineered the USB driver for Sony’s proprietary software. From those humble beginnings came libprs500, which quickly added features and support for more devices and ebook formats, growing into the best open source ebook management tool anywhere. After it was clear the focus had expanded beyond Sony's first ereader, libprs500  was renamed as calibre in mid-2008.

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Facebook Is Cracking Down on Buzzfeed-Style Clickbait

Posted: 25 Aug 2014 11:19 AM PDT

facebook thumb downIt looks like anyone working to reverse engineer the FB news feed algorithms will need to start anew; Facebook announced a couple of changes which will change what you read.

Much to the chagrin of Upworthy, Buzzfeed, and The Onion’s Clickhole, your new news feed will show fewer clickbait titles and more link and excerpt style posts.

Facebook says that they are responding to user surveys which showed that people readers valued informative titles over clickbait titles, and that “80% of the time people preferred headlines that helped them decide if they wanted to read the full article before they had to click through”.

atlantic-seafood2[1]The social network indicates that they’ll be paying closer attention to the amount of time users spends away from the site after clicking a link, and how they interact with it after they come back. If a user returns immediately, or if a lot of users click a link but don’t like or interact, Facebook will conclude that they didn't find something that they wanted.

The other major change FB made today was to give greater weight to links shared as updates, as opposed to links shared as a caption to an image.

As with clickbait titles, FB says that they have found that users prefer posts that offer more useful information rather than less. A link style post often includes an image, title, and either an excerpt or a slug. All that extra detail helps users decide whether a link is worth their time, so FB plans to give link style posts more space in your news feed.

Following an update in April, this is the second major update to the FB news feed this year. All in all, this is great news for anyone who posts substantial content without trying to game the system; it gives us a better chance of not being smothered by eye candy.

The post Facebook Is Cracking Down on Buzzfeed-Style Clickbait appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Kindle Unlimited to Launch Internationally at Frankfurt Book Fair?

Posted: 25 Aug 2014 10:10 AM PDT

kindle unlimitedThere’s a new report going around today that Amazon will be expanding their ebook subscription service in the next couple months.

In a story behind a paywall (and referenced here), is saying that Amazon will launch Kindle Unlimited at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. I can’t see who their source is and no other details are available to me, but I tend to believe this rumor.

As I reported when Kindle Unlimited launched in July, there was a report coming from a French publisher via the French media blog Actualitte that Kindle Unlimited would launch in France in September or October.

The Frankfurt Book Fair runs from 8 to 12 October this year, so it fits with the time frame, and since it is a major international book fair this would be an ideal time and place for Amazon to launch Kindle Unlimited. We still don’t know for sure whether Amazon will launch in select countries or every where at once, but I would bet on a global launch.

Launched in the US just over a month ago, Kindle Unlimited enables Amazon customers to download and read up to ten ebooks at a time. It costs $8.99, and offers access to a catalog of over 600,000 titles.

Amazon hasn’t revealed yet how many subscribers have signed up, but there are signs that KU is already having an effect on the Kindle Store best seller list.

Unlike Amazon’s competitor’s Scribd and Oyster, the Kindle Unlimited catalog draws almost entirely upon indie titles distributed via the KDP Select program with only a smattering of traditionally published books mixed in.  Amazon has signed HMH, Scholastic, Wiliey, and a few other major publishers, but they do not yet have a deal with any of the Big 5 US trade publishers.

There’s also no information on major publishers in other countries and who they might have signed a deal with, but I would expect that information to be revealed when Kindle Unlimited launches internationally.

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Did Amazon Cage The Goldfinch Publisher? Here’s What the WSJ Didn’t Tell You

Posted: 25 Aug 2014 08:16 AM PDT

8291680651_ac17e28e41_m[1]Jeffrey Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal weighed in on the Amazon Hachette dispute yesterday, and he has a rather unusual take on the situation.

As he sees it, Hachette Book Group’s revenues were up in the first 6 months of the year so Hachette must not have been seriously harmed by the ongoing contract renegotiation with Amazon:

But the dispute hasn’t crippled the publisher. The Hachette Book Group generated about €226 million ($300 million) in the U.S. and Canada in the first half of the year, up 5.6% compared with the same period of 2013, according a filing made by French parent Lagardère. Among the factors Lagardère cited for the gain were sales of “The Goldfinch” and “The Silkworm,” written by J.K. Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

What I find most interesting about Mr Trachtenberg’s spin on this topic is what he leaves out.

For example, he neglects to mention that HBG’s ebook revenues dropped from 34% in the first half of last year to 29% in the first 6 months of this year, a sign that Amazon did have an impact on Hachette’s revenues.


He also neglects to mention the reason that Lagardère provided for that 5.6% increase in revenue. While Mr Trachtenberg made it sound like the revenue increase came from book sales, Lagardère attributed the increase to a slightly different source.

Here’s what Lagardère said in the press release for their last financial report (the actual financial report includes a similar statement):

In the United States, activity was up (+5.6%) thanks to the integration of Hyperion (acquisition of a catalogue) and the takeover of Disney's distribution activity. Note, too, the good performances in General Literature, with the publication of The Silkworm by R. Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), several reorders of The Goldfinch (D. Tartt) and Lone Survivor (M. Luttrell), and the release in theatres of the movie adaptation of The Monuments Men, which supported the sales of R. Edsel’s book published by the Group.

In other words, Lagardère  attributed the revenue increase to the late 2013 acquisition of Hyperion from Disney, a deal which was first announced in June 2013. That is kind of an important detail, is it not?

I certainly think so; IMO it changes the entire tone of the situation. I think it clouds the situation, making it difficult to claim that “the dispute hasn’t crippled the publisher” and that “Amazon hasn’t caged the Goldfinch publisher”.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that Amazon is crushing Hachette; I am merely saying that Mr Trachtenberg is wrong in giving the impression that Hachette is doing just fine in spite of everything Amazon has done.

That claim is probably not true. (I only wish it were true; it would demolish much of the criticism of Amazon’s actions.)

image by IllinoisLibrarydpstyles

The post Did Amazon Cage The Goldfinch Publisher? Here’s What the WSJ Didn’t Tell You appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Vellum Offers a new Way to Browse Links Shared in Your Twitter Feed

Posted: 25 Aug 2014 06:34 AM PDT

vellum logoAs an inveterate news junkie I am always looking for a better way to filter the firehose of news coming across my desk everyday, so when the Vellum app crossed my desk this morning I took some time to play with it.

Launched by the NY Times  in April of this year, Vellum is a simple webapp which takes your twitter feed, filters out everything but the shared links, aggregates those links, and turns it into a stream of links and excerpts. As the NYTimes said when Vellum launched, this app fixes one of the deficiencies with using Twitter as a news source:

Vellum acts as a reading list  for your Twitter feed, finding all the links that are being shared by those you follow on Twitter and displaying them each with their full titles and descriptions. This flips the Twitter model, treating the links as primary and the commentary as secondary (you can still see all the tweets about each link, but they are less prominent). Vellum puts a spotlight on content, making it easy to find what you should read next.

Vellum may have  launched 4 months ago, but it only came across my desk today. As I looked into it this morning I noticed a lack of coverage (or at least it is not showing up in Google). And so I thought this was worth a post.

Have you used the app?

I have, and while I like the idea the execution needs more work. Vellum doesn’t just aggregate all of the news links; it includes all of the links shared by people I follow, including dross like links to job listings at Lab126.  That is an example of what I don’t need, and I wish it had been filtered out.

vellum screen shot

But then I discovered that I can use Vellum to view a stream of links from one of the lists I created, and it suddenly became more useful. I keep several lists of high volume tweeters who share high quality links, and Vellum helps me browse the stories they shared.

I’m still not sure that Vellum is worth keeping around, but I do plan to give the app at least a week before making up my mind. From what i have seen so far it does a much better job at browsing Twitter links than, which was built to serve a similar purpose.

Have you tried it?


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