Monday, 1 September 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

And Yet Another Teacher is Punished for Writing a Novel

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 06:18 PM PDT

91EkRRhGseL._SL1500_[1]The Atlantic reported earlier today that a Maryland middle school teacher was involuntarily committed for nothing more than writing a book:

From the Dept. of Insane and Dangerous Overreactions to Fictional Threats:

A 23-year-old teacher at a Cambridge, Md. middle school has been placed on leave and—in the words of a local news report—”taken in for an emergency medical evaluation” for publishing, under a pseudonym, a novel about a school shooting. The novelist, Patrick McLaw, an eighth-grade language-arts teacher at the Mace’s Lane Middle School, was placed on leave by the Dorchester County Board of Education, and is being investigated by the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office, according to news reports from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The novel, by the way, is set 900 years in the future.

According to The Atlantic, the police have also searched the school and the victim’s teacher’s house, with no weapons found. “The residence of the teacher in Wicomico County was searched by personnel,” Sheriff Phillips said, all without finding signs that he owned a time machine which he planned to use to commit the crimes described in his book.

And yes, it is that ridiculous. We live in a time when no one blinks an eye at the average teenager playing violent video games, and yet this teacher is a dangerous threat simply because he wrote a novel?

There are just no words to describe that level of nonsense.

Sadly, this is not the first time an author has suffered from the over-reaction to gossip that they have written a novel with unusual themes, and thanks to the rise of self-publishing it will almost certainly not be the last.

As you may recall, in 2011 an English teacher in Pennsylvania was the focal point a national media storm, simply because one parent realized that this teacher of 25 years also wrote racy romance novels:

When parents discovered that an English teacher at Midd West High School had a second job as a novelist, they weren’t impressed.

What’s causing criticism is the content of the teacher’s writing — a subject matter that is strictly for adults.

Judy Buranich, an English teacher in Middleburg, Penn., is also a published romance novelist. Local parents say she should choose between her writing and her profession, as her second career detracts from her role as a teacher, AP reports.

Fortunately for this teacher it had already been common knowledge that she wrote romance novels under a pen name, leading many in the community to take to her defense when a few parents started saying things like:

“It’s unbelievable … I can’t even imagine someone would write such stuff… And I don’t want my son sitting in her class thinking, is she looking at him in a certain way…”

I just don’t know what to say to that, or to the nonsense going on this week in Maryland.

Coincidentally, that county in MD is just on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay from Manassas, VA, that infamous city with a police force so dedicated to fighting child porn that it created child porn. (Given my often strange view of the world and the fact that I live in between Manassas, VA, and Shaw, MD, I think it’s time to start asking whether I might have a mental condition which is contagious.)

The post And Yet Another Teacher is Punished for Writing a Novel appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Goodreads Adds Kindle eBook Previews

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 10:39 AM PDT

GoodreadsGoodreads has made many changes since it joined Amazon’s evil ebook empire early last year, and late last week they added one which many readers and authors will appreciate.

From over on the Goodreads blog:

Don't judge a book by its cover…judge it by what's inside with our new Preview feature, which launches today! With Preview, you can sample the story before committing to the whole book. Now our U.S. members can get a taste of their next amazing read right on the Goodreads website. 

The preview feature is built on close integration with the Kindle Store.  Click the open preview button  and the ebook’s sample will open in Kindle Cloud Reader.

This feature is obviously only available with ebooks which are sold through the Kindle Store, and it’s only available to Goodreads members in the US, so it won’t do GR’s majority non-US membership much good.  But I would not be too concerned about the restrictions; Goodreads regularly launches new features as US-only before releasing them internationally. I suspect that limiting access is part of their beta test methodology.

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Blinkist Brings Its Cliff Notes Style App to Android

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 09:49 AM PDT

Blinkist-Logo-Weiss[1]Blinkist publishes condensed ebooks that are designed to help you get the gist of a topic in 15 minutes or less. I first brought you news of Blinkist back in March, when the firm launched its iPad app, and it came across my desk again today with the news that it has finally landed on Android as well.

The new Android app looks much the same as the Blinkist app for iOS. After you install  the app (registration is required, but there’s a several day free trial)  you can peruse what's new by category or what was hand-picked by Blinkist’s staff.

After you add a title to your reading list, Blinkist will tell you how long it should take to finish. The app offers over 400 titles, all of which were written or curated by experts in the related field, and Blinkist is reportedly adding 40 additional titles every month.

blinkist android

Blinkist isn’t the first to offer condensed ebooks and they might not be the last, but they are taking an approach which could help them outlast the competition. Rather than sell each condensed ebook, Blinkist offers a subscription service. It costs $8 a month (or, $15 a quarter or $50 a year) and lets readers access as many titles from Blinkist’s catalog as they like.

I’ve never tried the service myself, but a lot of people are.  According to TNW, Blinkist claims 140,000 registered users have downloaded more than 1.5 million books since the platform launched first in Germany in early 2013.

You can find the app in Google Play. If you would like to try it, Android Police reports that you can get a 3-month long free trial through StackSocial.

That free trial should also be good with the iOS app, which can be found in iTunes.

The post Blinkist Brings Its Cliff Notes Style App to Android appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The First Domino has Fallen: Random House Drops Adobe DRM in Germany

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 07:38 AM PDT

Penguin-Random-image-[1]News is coming out of Germany today that Random House has quietly stopped requiring Adobe DRM on the ebooks sold by German retailers.

Update: Alas, it has been confirmed as a technical error.

There’s been no formal announcement from Penguin Random House, but is reporting that they have numerous confirmations in their user forums that the change has been made.

Readers are reporting that the hard encryption DRM from Adobe has been replaced by a soft DRM, namely digital watermarks. Popular Random House titles like  The Summer of blueberries and The Goldfinch are available as clean Epub files which can be downloaded, transferred, or converted with no hassle.

Digital watermarks are a type of DRM which does not lock down a file but instead adds extra bits of code which can be used to identify who bought the file, and where. This type of DRM is still uncommon in the US ebook market, but it is used widely in the “DRM-free” music sold by Amazon, Google, and Apple.

Digital watermarks are also growing increasingly popular among European publishers; as this infographic from Dutch ebook distributor CB Logistics shows, the majority of Dutch publishers have switched to this type of DRM. So have a number of other publishers in Europe.

At this time I cannot confirm the status of RH titles at, but I do know that at least one German ebook retailer,, is offering the ebooks with the new DRM. is still waiting for confirmation from Random House about the new policy, so at this time it is not possible to rule out an error or technical snafu.

If this is a new policy then it will be the tipping point. The trade ebook market will have made a transition from hard DRM to soft DRM similar to the one which music went through in 2007 when Amazon was the first retailer to sell mp3 files from 4 of the major record labels sans DRM.

Amazon was allowed to sell “DRM-free” mp3 files because the market was then dominated by Apple and iTunes.  In a similar note, the German ebook retailer Libreka might have gained permission to change the DRM because Amazon dominates the trade ebook market.

I don’t know if that is why Random House made their decision, but I can add that the new DRM-policy is at best confined to Europe. I just bought a couple Penguin Random House titles from and B&N, and both were encrypted with DRM, darnit.

But in spite of the presence of Adobe DRM, I still think the change in Germany was a test and not a technical snafu; it matches too closely with the rumblings I have heard from other major US trade publishers.

As you know, Macmillan switched the SF publisher Tor-Forge Books to DRM-free in the summer of 2012. They have shown no visible interest in expanding that policy to the rest of the company, but I know of other US publishers who are considering similar policies.

Thanks to embargoes I cannot tell you much in the way of details, but I do know of two different US publishers considering radical shifts in their DRM policies. One could be announcing that change next week, but at this point I don’t have all of the details and cannot say for sure what will be announced.

You might want to go pop some more popcorn; the next month or so could be very interesting.

The post The First Domino has Fallen: Random House Drops Adobe DRM in Germany appeared first on The Digital Reader.

HarperCollins UK Relaunches Website, Adds Jacuzzi, eBookstore

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 05:28 AM PDT

2[1]HarperCollins has just relaunched their website in the UK, and I’m sure it comes as no surprise that they’re selling ebooks direct to customers.

Starting with the Pottermore-esque in October 2013 and continuing with the relaunch of the HarperCollins US website in July 2014, this publisher has been investing in direct sales.

And now that investment has expanded to the UK. The new HC website builds on the knowledge and experience HarperCollins gained from launching a US-based retail platform over the past year. The site currently offers ebooks which can be read on HarperCollins apps for Android, iPad, and iPhone,  and there are plans to also sell physical books as well.

harpercollins uk

“It's fantastic that readers can now access our brilliant content directly from, which really does once and for all put us in the retailer bracket – which begun with our brilliant Collins, Tolkien and C S Lewis platform,” said Digital sales director Wendy Neale. “I'm looking forward to the opportunities that the site presents us, and can't wait to see it go from strength to strength.”

Over the past year, HarperCollins has proven to be the major US trade publisher most willing to experiment with new business models. They’ve signed deals with ebook subscription services Oyster, Epic, Scribd as well as deals with BitLit and Bookshout to test two different print+digital bundle platforms.

This is definitely a publisher to watch, especially over the next week or so. I have gotten hints that they might be changing their policy on DRM . I have no info to share today, but this story has me on the edge of my seat.

The Bookseller

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The Morning Coffee – 1 September 2014

Posted: 31 Aug 2014 08:17 PM PDT

The reading list is quite short this holiday Monday morning.

  • Blinkist Arrives On Android To Cut Popular Non-Fiction Books Down To Tiny Bite-Sized Reads (Android Police)
  • Mini-review: Bookviser Reader a top 2014 client for reading free ebooks (AAWP)
  • Three Years Later: Tim Cook's Apple | Monday Note
  • When does giving the reader what they want turn into clickbait? It's complicated (GigaOm)
  • Why don’t authors compete? (The Passive Voice)

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