Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 17 September 2014

Posted: 16 Sep 2014 08:27 PM PDT

Something something something link, something something something another link, something something something a third link, and more.

  • Authors United vs. Amazon: a Primer (Jen Rasmussen)
  • Authors United may not want to admit it, but most books are consumer goods like any other (GigaOm)
  • David Streitfeld is Dangerous and Disingenuous (Hugh Howey)
  • If Only Pageviews Were Dollars (PW)
  • Libraries Balk at OverDrive Changes (PW)
  • Texas textbooks butcher climate change coverage—in social studies (Ars Technica)
  • Two month with Kindle Unlimited. It rocks for readers (TeleRead)

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Librify Launches a Digital Book Club

Posted: 16 Sep 2014 08:01 PM PDT

librifyTaking the idea of a stealth launch to an extreme, Librify launched its book club service into an open beta some time in the past couple months.

Initially announced at BEA 2014, Librify is an ebook subscription service which planned to bring the book club type of experience to the modern web. Readers can sign up for a monthly subscription (currently $6.99) and receive one selected title each month. They can also buy more ebooks, including some at sale prices, from Librify’s ebookstore which had around 500,000 titles in stock in early June.

I’ve just signed up for the service myself to check it out, and at first glance I am not impressed. Librify was supposed to be built around the idea of creating a virtual book club-type experience, but from what I can tell all of its social aspects require Facebook integration so you can see what your existing Facebook friends are reading in the Librify app.

Speaking of which, this 18 month old startup has an iPad app but no app for iPhone or Android. And the iPad app is unable to access the ebook I bought, so it’s not doing me much good either at the moment.


Since all of the social aspects seem to require Facebook, I’m not sure why someone would need Librify as opposed to joining a book group on Facebook or Goodreads. On the latter site you can find millions of like-minded readers, and you can also integrate your Kindle account.

The prices in the bookstore don’t justify joining. I got a very nice discount on the monthly free ebook for September, but the prices in the rest of the store are unremarkable. I spot checked a dozen titles and found that the Kindle Store had about the same price on eleven titles, and a slightly higher price on one.

To be fair, I’ve only looked at the service for a couple hours, and that’s really not enough time to form a real opinion. Instead, ask me again in a couple months. I plan to hang around for at least that long, and possibly longer. (At the very least I need to give Librify that chance to fix the iPad app.)

I can’t speak for other readers, but I plan to use Librify to step outside of my safe zone for reading materials. I’m comfortable reading mainly a limited set of authors and genres, but over the past year I have been experimenting a little. I’ve bought bundles right and left in the hopes of finding something new and readable (results: oy, vey), and now I plan to see if Librify can fill a similar need.

Stay tuned.

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Toshiba’s Encore 2 Write is a Pen-Equipped Windows 8 Tablet

Posted: 16 Sep 2014 12:43 PM PDT

toshiba_encore_2_writeIf you like Samsung’s premium priced Galaxy Note tablets but think they’re out of your price range then you might be interested in the next offering from Toshiba. This gadget maker is now teasing a pair of tablets that will come with a stylus. We don’t have details yet on the price and release date, but according to a misplaced fact sheet from Intel we do know they will run Windows 8.

According to Intel the Encore 2 Write will come in both 8″ and 10″ screen sizes. it’s going to run Windows 8.1 on an Intel Atom Z3735 CPU with an unknown amount of RAM and internal storage. It will have Wifi, the pen shown in the product image, and a pair of cameras (8MP and 1.2MP).


The fact sheet says that the Encore 2 Write was “made specifically to write and take notes, sketch, edit photos and more”, and like Toshiba’s Excite Write tablets the Encore 2 Write will come with the TruCapture app, enabling uses to quickly photos of whiteboards, documents, or signage, and then convert said image into a clean and usable note. (Curiously that app doesn’t seem to include any OCR abilities, just image correction.)

Given the CPU and cameras this would be a mid-range to high end Android tablet, but the fact it’s  Windows tablet lead my source to speculate that the Encore Write 2 will fall towards the lower end of the price spectrum. I’m betting the price will be around $199, but we’ll have to wait and see.


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OverDrive Updates Their App for Android, Windows 8, iPad/iPhone

Posted: 16 Sep 2014 10:38 AM PDT

overdrive logoYour favorite library ebook provider rolled out a new version of their reading app yesterday, bringing a new version of the app to Android, iOS, and Windows 8.

The new app gained a few minor bug fixes and performance improvements, a new name, and the option to return Open Epub ebooks early. Most importantly, the app no longer requires users to have an Adobe ID to check out an ebook. A library card is of course still required, but now readers can use an OverDrive account to log in and read the ebooks they check out.

The apps can be found in the appropriate app stores, including Google Play, iTunes, and the WIndows Store. For more detail, visit the OverDrive website (the help articles and videos have also been updated to match the new app).

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Amazon Expands KDP Select with New Bonuses for Top-Performing Indie Authors

Posted: 16 Sep 2014 09:57 AM PDT

4340980647_3237664cc3_o[1]Amazon quietly expanded  the funding for KDP Select yesterday, adding nearly three million dollars in bonuses.

Launched in late 2011, KDP Select is a program in Amazon’s self-pub platform which offers indie authors special  privileges in exchange for exclusivity.

Any ebooks submitted to the program cannot be sold elsewhere, and in return Amazon gives authors extra promotional opportunities. eBooks in KDP Select are also entered into the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited, earning the author a share of a pool of money ($2 million for August 2014) for each time their ebook is loaned to a Kindle user.

And now KDP Select is getting better. Amazon revealed yesterday that they are boosting the funding for KDP Select by $2,700,000, and giving it all away to the best performing authors. The top 100 best performing authors will receive any where from $1,000 to $25,000, while the authors of the 100 most popular titles in KDP Select will get anywhere from $500 to $2,500.

The bonuses are going to be awarded based on participation in August 2014, so there is no way to affect the awards now, but I don’t think anyone who is in the program will care much.

Amazon also announced:

Finally, many authors outside the U.S. derive most of their qualified borrows from the KOLL and have not been able to benefit from the growth of KU. This has meaningfully altered their ability to compete within the wider pool of KDPS loans. To adjust for this, we are adding an additional bonus of $80,000 to be paid out on all KOLL loans outside of the U.S.

At last report, Amazon said that there were over 500,000 titles in KDP Select. That body of work makes up most of the catalog of Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and for Kindle Unlimited, the ebook subscription service which Amazon launched in July 2014.

KOLL is a freebie for Amazon prime members in the US, UK, and Germany, and KU cost $10 a month, but is US-only at the moment.

image  by Emily Carlin

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EU High Court Dashes Hopes for Lower Taxes on eBooks

Posted: 16 Sep 2014 08:39 AM PDT

1000px-Court_of_Justice_of_the_European_Union_emblem.svg_[1]The European Court of Justice released a new ruling last week that will keep ebook prices higher in Europe. In a confusing ruling which likely only makes sense to madmen and lawyers, the ECJ ruled that there was no reason that EU member nations can’t collect different amounts of VAT (value added tax) on print vs digital books.

The ruling (K Oy case C-219/13), which you can find at the end of this post, was made at the request of a Finnish publisher. In addition to printing books and releasing audiobooks, that publisher also released ebooks on CD and USB thumb drive.

Under EU tax regulations, ebooks are assessed a higher tax rate than paper books, but when the Finland tax authorities tried to collect the higher rate the publisher argued that the ebooks on CD were physical books, and thus should be assessed at the lower tax rate.

The ECJ disagreed – mostly – and ruled that there was nothing to stop Finland from collecting the higher tax rate on those ebooks on CD. The ruling doesn’t actually say that the higher tax rate is required, just that it is not against the rules.

While this doesn’t preclude an EU member state following in the footsteps of France and Luxembourg and lowering the tax rate on ebooks, it does suggest that the EU could move in that direction.

If you’re wondering why one type of book can be taxed at a higher rate than another  type of book, there’s a simple explanation: lawyers.

To be more exact, EU tax regulations require member states to collect a certain level of tax on all good and services. Some items, like books, were granted an exception and are taxed at a lower rate. eBooks, on the other hand, are not classified as books under EU tax regulation. eBooks are (still) classified as a service, and thus they are taxed at a higher rate than paper books.

Not everyone agrees with the regulation, and in fact a couple countries have defied it. First Luxembourg and then France illegally lowered the tax rate they collect on ebook sales so that ebooks would be charged at the same rate as books  (3% in Luxembourg, 5.5% in France).

Jokingly referred to as the Amazon tax loophole, Luxembourg’s lower tax rate encouraged some ebook retailers, including Amazon and even small fry like Bilbary, to relocate their operations to the Grand Duchy.

Naturally this upset the local ebook retailers who could not make a similar move and thus were put at a disadvantage, but this tax loophole is at best a fleeting one. Starting in January 2015, a change in EU tax regulations will close the loophole. eBook retailers will be required to collect tax based on where the customer is located, not based on where the retailer is located.

The Ruling:

The first subparagraph of Article 98(2) of and point 6 of Annex III to Council Directive 2006/112/EC of 28 November 2006 on the common system of value added tax, as amended by Council Directive 2009/47/EC of 5 May 2009, must be interpreted as not precluding, provided that the principle of fiscal neutrality inherent in the common system of value added tax is complied with, which is for the referring court to ascertain, national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, under which books published in paper form are subject to a reduced rate of value added tax and books published on other physical supports such as CDs, CD-ROMs or USB keys are subject to the standard rate of value added tax.


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Kindle Store to Launch in the Netherlands in October?

Posted: 16 Sep 2014 06:20 AM PDT

4444210397_2d0504d1f4[1]Hot on the heels of Saturday’s news of Kobo signing a new retail partner in the region comes new rumors that Amazon is going to launch a local Kindle Store in the Netherlands.

Citing unnamed sources, two different Dutch news sites are reporting that Amazon will launch a Kindle Store in the Netherlands next month (a seimilar report also showed up in my comment section). MustReads.nl first reported the rumor on Saturday, and they were followed by Boekblad this morning (or at least that’s when the story came through my RSS feeds).

Few specific details are available, but Boekblad is saying that the Kindle Store will launch on 1 October. MustReads is less specific, simply saying that the launch will happen next month.

I have no information one way or the other, but I do know that Amazon has shown an interest in the region. Support for the Dutch language was added to the Kindle Store in September 2013, making it easier for Amazon to sell ebooks there, and Amazon also recently posted a job listing for a Dutch translator to help localize the Kindle apps and devices.

I’ve been expecting Amazon to launch more local Kindle Stores ever since they expanded language support last year, so I will not be surprised when this rumor comes true.

image  by KJBO

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