Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 12 September 2014

Posted: 11 Sep 2014 08:37 PM PDT

The reading list this morning is quite short, and is limited to just a copy of Gawker’s new policy banning clickbait headlines, a rehashing if the revival of indie bookstores, the value of book coaches, and how Stephen King teaches writing.

  • Gawker memo: No more headlines that start with 'Sorry,' 'No,' or 'Yes' ()
  • Independent bookstores rising: They can't compete with Amazon, and don't have to. (Slate)
  • How a Book Coach Can Jumpstart Your Writing Career (Writer Unboxed)
  • How Stephen King Teaches Writing (The Atlantic)

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College Students Are Less Likely to Own and Use a Tablet Than the Average 10-Year-Old

Posted: 11 Sep 2014 06:14 PM PDT

13976398100_bbaec61cab_b[1]While researching yesterday’s post about mobile device use by kids for schoolwork, I came across a related survey report which showed that college students were in some ways lagging behind younger age groups when it came to mobile device adoption and use.

It’s been some time since I last came across a survey which asked these types of questions; aside from the Pew Research Center everyone seems to have stopped asking about device adoption in late 2012 or early 2013.

The 47 page report (PDF) is based on a survey group of 1,228 college students between the ages of 18 and 30. The survey was conducted by Harris Poll in February and March, and was sponsored by Pearson.

Here are the highlights.

Device Ownership

  • 89% of college students own a laptop, down from 91% in 2013
  • 83% own a smartphone, up from 72% in 2013
  • 45% own a tablet, up from40% in 2013

I was not too surprised to read about the high rate of laptop or smartphone adoption, but I was surprised by the comparatively low rate of tablet adoption. It’s been almost 5 years since the iPad launched, and yet less than half of college students own one.

What’s even more surprising is that yesterday’s survey report showed that elementary and middle school students were more likely to own a tablet than college students (51% vs 45%).

I would have expected those figures to be reversed, but in fact the survey found that college students adopt a wait and see attitude with new technology.

  • Over half (54%) said they usually wait until they see others try new technology, and then they try it themselves,
  • 11% tend to wait a long time with new tech, and
  • only 35% described themselves as early adopters.

7747691718_483d888b71_b[1]That wait and see attitude would seem to be in conflict with a later section of the survey which showed that the students were highly optimistic that tablets would change how college students learned. Over 80% thought that, and 66% thought that tablets would replace textbooks, and help students study more effectively.

The combination of optimism and the wait and see policy suggests that students are avoiding the new tech not because of distrust or dislike but because of financial reasons. College is expensive and students are notoriously cash-strapped, leading them to be parsimonious with new purchases – especially expensive ones.

Among those who do own a tablet, most (45%) own a 10″ or larger tablet, while 38% own a smaller tablet and 25% own a medium-sized tablet. And 29% of tablet owners also own a matching keyboard.

Gadgets & Coursework

Of the entire survey group, 89% reported using a laptop for schoolwork at least two or three times a week (basically  everyone who owned one). A far smaller number used their smartphone (53%, compared to an 83% ownership rate). And even fewer used their tablet for schoolwork on a regular basis (33%, compared to an 45% ownership rate).

The usage rates suggest that college students may be adopting the tech but they are adapting it for use with school at a lower rate than their younger counterparts.

It’s going to be interesting to see if that changes as the younger groups age into the college bracket, and possibly bring their device habits with them.

You can find the report here (PDF).

images by U.S. Naval War

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EU High Court Clears the Way for European Libraries to Digitize Their Collections

Posted: 11 Sep 2014 01:29 PM PDT

2712540324_7e67a4a917_b[1]A new decision handed down today by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is going to make it possible for university and other libraries in the EU to start HaithiTrust style digitization projects.

For a number of years now the Technical University of Darmstadt has been digitizing the textbooks and reference books in their library, and offering up digital copies to students. The university had limited the digital copies to the same number of copies as the print collection, and believed that their actions were covered by the an exception under the EU copyright directive.

A German publisher by the name of Eugen Ulmer KG disagreed, and sued the university for copyright infringement when it declined to buy a license for the digital copies in its collection.

This case was heard in German courts before finally ending up in the German Federal Court of Justice, which bumped it up to the ECJ so that higher court could provide a much-needed clarification of the scope of the relevant exception to EU copyright law (2001/29/EC), which allows publicly accessible libraries to make works available to users via dedicated terminals.

The European Court of Justice found in favor of the university. From IP Watch:

The ECJ held that even if a rights owner offers a library a licence agreement for use of the work on appropriate terms, the library may take advantage of the exception, since it otherwise could not fulfill its core mission of promoting research and private study. The directive doesn’t bar governments from giving libraries the right to digitise books, and, if necessary, from making the material available on dedicated computers, the court said.

But the right of communication which public libraries may hold doesn’t allow people to print out the works on paper or store them on USB sticks, because those are acts of reproduction which aim to create a new copy of the digital copy, the court said. Nevertheless, it added, member states may provide an exception or limitation that allows library users to print the works or store them on a USB stick, so long as compensation is paid to the rightsholder.

This ruling closely resembles the 2012 ruling in favor of the HaithiTrust here in the US. That case ended in summary judgement for the HaithiTrust, a coalition of university libraries, when Judge Denny Chin ruled that the book scanning project undertaken by the universities was covered by the fair use exception to US copyright law.

image by KeithBurtis

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Updated: Vook Acquires Byliner, Will Bump Royalties from 50% to 85%

Posted: 11 Sep 2014 12:27 PM PDT

360505392_69557c287d_o[1]The beleagured boutique digital publisher Byliner has found a solution to their money problems.

Byliner has been acquired by Vook, an ebook startup which specializes in ebook creation and distribution.

Update: Vook and Byliner also sent out an email to Byliner’s existing authors (found via Pando Daily) which revealed that Vook will be ending Byliner’s subscription service (I thought it was dead already) and boosting royalties. I’ve added an excerpt of the email to the end of this post.

Byliner is going to be Vook’s first in-house imprint. While Vook has published its own ebooks in the past (this is how the firm got its start in 2009), Byliner has in the past acted more of a publisher, working with external authors and companies to develop and publish their work. Byliner will continue to operate as it has before.

Vook has announced that they plan to support Byliner’s existing catalog, and acquire new projects for release under the Byliner imprint. “We have always been huge fans of Byliner's writers and books. We're looking forward to working with Byliner writers to publish more titles, and to adding new writers to the imprint,” said Vook Co-Founder and Publisher Matthew Cavnar.

That is good news for Byliner’s remaining staff and for authors signed with Byliner. This publisher was at one time the pre-eminent boutique publisher of the world's best short fiction and non-fiction, but it has also been in dire financial straits since this spring. In June Byliner sent out an email which did not say that the publisher was bankrupt but did imply that finances were dire:

We've struggled to reach the level of growth we'd been hoping for the business, and thus we've begun conversations with possible partners about the future of Byliner. We're working to find a good home for our platform and your stories, and we'll be in touch shortly with specifics about your titles.

Byliner is Vook’s second acquisition this year; in February Vook bought Booklr, an ebook analytics startup. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Letter to authors:

Dear Byliner Authors & Partners,

Today we are announcing that Vook has acquired Byliner. We wanted to share the good news with you first before issuing a press release. As the CEO of Vook, I also wanted to explain what the acquisition means for the future of Byliner and Vook.

As our first step towards giving authors what we believe they deserve from their publisher, we will be increasing your royalty rates across the board to 85% of net revenues. In the coming days, our team will be reaching out to you to answer any questions – and make sure you're set up to receive your royalties without any delay.

In the spirit of ultimate transparency, something we believe is still lacking in the book industry, we've included a question and answer section below.

Q: Will Vook pursue Byliner's subscription program?

A: No. Vook is focused on publishing and promoting books to successful online retailers and maximizing the value of sales through those channels.

Q: What are Vook's royalty rates?
A: At Vook, you keep 85% of your net royalties. There are no out of pocket costs and no hidden fees.

Q: Will my books remain on sale in the ebook marketplaces?A: Yes. Your books are currently up for sale and will continue to be for sale without interruption.

Q: What about my backlist content that I have licensed to Byliner?
A: Vook will be talking with authors and agents in the coming weeks about ways we can maximize the value of your work. If you're curious to talk to us right away, you can reach out to Matthew at [redacted]

Q: Is there any way for me to track the sales and performance of my book with Vook?
A: Yes! We're currently customizing our enterprise tracking tools for Byliner authors. Vook will be contacting you with more information soon.


image by Gastev

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LeesID Cloud Bookshelf Gains New Partner: Kobo

Posted: 11 Sep 2014 09:30 AM PDT

leesid[1]The Netherlands’ response to the oncoming might of Amazon will soon have another supporter. The Dutch ebook blog has reported that LeesID is now working to integrate Kobo’s ebookstore into its platform.

Launched earlier this week, LeesID is a cloud bookshelf service based in the Netherlands. Right now it is primarily supported by Dutch ebook retailers, and is drawing its funding from the non-profit CPNB, but if the Kobo partnership goes through then this service could well take on an international flavor.

LeesID enables users to aggregate all of their ebook purchases in one location on the web, both saving them from having to remember which ebook was bought where and enabling them to easily transfer all of the ebooks to a single preferred reading app.

So long as this service was only supported by Dutch ebookstores it wasn’t going to attract much attention outside of the Netherlands (or rather, Benelux). But now that Kobo will hopefully be joining I just may sign up myself, and push for other retailers to join as well.

While cloud bookshelves aren’t a new idea, LeesID potentially solves a problem that could make it appealing to users.

It’s not too difficult for you to start your own cloud bookshelf in Dropbox or Google Drive, and you can sign up for one of the existing paid services like NeoLibrary, Bookmate, or Personal Book Space. Or you could even use the online space provided by Amazon (the Kindle Cloud) or txtr to store your ebooks.

But if you want to use any of those services, you’ll first have to strip the DRM from your ebooks. That can be a hassle, but since LeesID supports Adobe DE DRM (or so one FAQ suggests), transferring ebooks to that cloud bookshelf should be comparatively easy.

Not having to bother with DRM counts for a lot, IMO. Not everyone wants to invest time and energy in liberating their ebooks, so a service like LeesID will likely draw in users like flies.

Have you used it yet?

I have not, and I would love to read what you think.

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Did AT&T Force Amazon to Give up on a Budget-Priced Kindle Phone?

Posted: 11 Sep 2014 07:34 AM PDT

Amazon-Appstore-for-AndroidThere’s a new rumor going around today that Amazon’s deal with AT&T for exclusivity on the Fire Phone may just have killed the budget model which many of us would have bought.

When Amazon launched their smartphone a few months ago, many pundits were surprised that the $649 Fire Phone wasn’t accompanied by a budget-priced sibling. Plausible rumors had been circulating since at least the previous October that Amazon had two models in the works, and the retailer has a history of going for budget-priced hardware, but they only launched a single expensive model.

And now we might know why.

According to a rumor reported in The Information, Amazon was talking about developing a budget smartphone with HTC (and possibly even buying the company, like rumors suggested) but that fell through when AT&T stepped in. The telecom reportedly pressured Amazon with the threat that AT&T wouldn’t support Amazon's higher-end Fire Phone if it didn’t get an exclusive on the budget phone as well.

I can’t see what details The Information offers to back up this rumor (the story is behind a paywall), and so I can’t say whether this rumor makes any sense.

But based on what little I can see outside of the paywall, it doesn’t make any sense.  This rumor claims Amazon passed on launching the cheap smartphone everyone would have bought because they had already agreed to give AT&T an exclusive on the expensive model.

My problem is that I don’t see why  Amazon didn’t just walk on the exclusivity deal. That would have enabled Amazon to sell both models. What’s more, it would have let Amazon sell to everyone who wanted to avoid AT&T.

I for one would have bought that budget smartphone, but I’m not paying $649 for the Fire Phone. I don’t need that much of a phone, and I don’t need the 3d gimmick, and I sure as heck don’t want to be tied to a contract with AT&T.

And I am probably not the only one to feel that way. Given that the subsidized price of the Fire Phone was just slashed to under a buck, it would seem that Amazon made the wrong choice here (assuming the rumor is true).

What do you think?

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Onyx Boox T68 Updated, Now Speaks German

Posted: 11 Sep 2014 06:51 AM PDT

onyx boox t68 1Onyx released an update last week for the 6.8″ Boox T68 Android ebook reader –  one of them, anyway.

Onyx has released several different not quite compatible T68 models, and today’s update was developed for the unit sold by their German resale partner, Booxtor. Since I have a different model, I can’t test the update myself, but I am told that it adds a German language interface and a new contrast option for the stock PDF app which should make PDFs more readable.

You can find the update, as well as instructions to install it, at MobileRead.

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