Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

How Not to Solve the Comment Troll Problem: Make Readers Pay

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 06:41 PM PDT

11953788265_7bc317a876_z[1]No one knows how to solve the comment troll problem, but that doesn’t stop sites like The Kernel from proposing ideas which won’t work.

While websites left, right, and center either killing their comment sections or adopting stricter policies, The Kernel wants to add a financial incentive to discourage trolls and encourage constructive comments.

But failing that, there is a way to save comments and shore up the flagging news industry simultaneously. It is this: Make comments cost money.

Hear me out before you decide I'm a capitalist swine. I'm not proposing just charging to comment, which would mean the richest people had the most voice. I also believe we should paypeople when their comments reach a certain threshold of value.

How do you determine whether a comment has value? Probably editorial judgment—that's how you determine whether an opinion piece should be published—but in the spirit of democracy and not overburdening the editors, we might fold in votes from users. The point is, the comment has to do something for someone else, not just act as a release valve for a particular person's poison.

That’s a novel idea, but I don’t think it would work out in practice.

For one thing, there is the issue of selection bias. Asking the editorial staff to rate commenters can result in the staff rewarding people they agree with or people they like.  Or in the case of letting commenters vote, it can result in a discharge of trolls supporting each other.

But more importantly, this system would to raise the cost of commenting on a site and thus drive away commenters. Even when commenting has no financial cost, there’s still an investment of time and, with some sites, the aggravation of dealing with their account management system.

Add a financial cost on top and you’ll find far fewer people interested in commenting. What’s more, financial transactions require a verified id of some kind, something that the anonymous (and sometimes most valuable) commenters will avoid like the plague.

TBH, I don’t know of a solution to the comment troll problem, but I don’t see charging for comments, or simply banishing all comments, as solutions. The latter strikes me as a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water, while the former carries to high of a price.

But I do know of one solution I liked. I can’t tell you where I saw it, but one of the blogs I follow has replaced the comment section with an option to instead email the blogger. This allows engagement and also prevents trolls from gaining any satisfaction from publicly being a troll.

This won’t work on a high traffic blog but I do like the concept.

image by Marcy Leigh

The post How Not to Solve the Comment Troll Problem: Make Readers Pay appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Agency eBook Pricing Will be Alive and Well in Canada Until at Least May 2015

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 03:24 PM PDT

7377803204_082e31e953_z[1]The major US trade publishers may have relinquished control of their ebook prices here in the US and in Europe but Canada, well, that is a different story.

A comment left on my earlier post (thanks, Anne!) about the Canadian ebook market has revealed that, thanks to an appeal filed by Kobo, said market could be stuck in a pricing limbo well into next year.

As you might recall, earlier this year 4 Canadian publishers ( Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster) announced that they had worked out a settlement with the Canadian Competition Bureau to settle an investigation into what they might have done to bring about agency ebook pricing in Canada.

That settlement was similar in concept to the settlement that some of the publishers reached with EU authorities, and it is had details in common with the settlement in the US between the DOJ and 5 publishers. I won’t go into the details here because I want to skip to the important part.

About a month after the Canadian settlement was announced, Kobo filed an appeal. They argued that having to compete with Amazon would kill their business, and they were awarded a temporary stay to give them a chance to argue their case.

All this happened 6 months ago, and i don’t know about you but I had not heard a pee about this story. So when new details crossed my desk I was eager to report on the news.

Alas, there isn’t anything new that is worth reporting. The only new development is that the Canadian Competition Tribunal has released a ruling which detailed exactly how one should interpret a particular section of the Canadian Competition Act. That ruling was so arcane that I had to contact the  Canadian Competition Bureau and ask what it meant and find out what was going on.

I’m still not sure what the ruling means, but I was told that Kobo’s appeal, the one which could vary or stay the consent agreement signed by the 4 publishers,  is still unresolved. It’s not scheduled to go to court until 15 May 2015.

Yes, May 15th, 2015 (5 months and 11 days before Marty McFly shows up in a flying DeLorean). And even that date is not set in stone; I’m told it has been suspended and that a new date will have to be set.

In short, Kobo has managed to stall the end of Agency pricing in Canada for at least a year.

Meanwhile, I’m told the Canadian Competition Bureau is still investigating the publishers to see if they violated the Competition Act in bringing Agency ebook pricing to Canada. That investigation was exactly what the publishers wanted to avoid, and it’s why they settled earlier this year. I don’t think they’re happy about it continuing or what it might find, do you?

image  by Free Grunge Textures

The post Agency eBook Pricing Will be Alive and Well in Canada Until at Least May 2015 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

BendGate: iPhone 6 Plus Owners Report Bending the Phone Simply by Pocketing it

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 10:41 AM PDT

fake-iphone-6-03Apple’s new 5.3″ i{hone 6 Plus may not be all that large compared to many Android smartphones but it looks like the phablet may have been too much of an engineering challenge for Apple.

There are several early user reports that the 5 day old smartphone both is and is not as sturdy as one would like. The owners report that iPhone 6 plus can be damaged by nothing more than sticking it in a pocket.

And not a back pocket; the reports claim that the phablet was in a front pocket when they were damaged. The good news is they didn’t break the screen; the bad news is they still managed to bend the rear shell:

bent_iphone 10371400_10205055827498064_1172548732661597996_n bent_iphone2

As a dedicated snarkist, several comments went through my head when I first read this story, including references to limpness, performance issues, and sexual references. Alas, I deleted them all after snickering to myself.

I had trouble believing the reports. While I could see a phone getting broken in a pocket, I can’t picture how that bend occurred – not without the screen also being broken. But apparently it can happen, and this isn’t even the first Apple product to have this issue; it was also reported in the 5th-gen iPod Touch.

And to be fair to Apple, this issue is being reported by a handful of owners out of something like 10 million units sold. With only a handful of reported cases, BendGate is probably still a smaller issue than manufacturing defects, a problem shared by all gadgets.

But for those of us with a juvenile sense of humor, this is still funny.

Update: And it’s going to be a fairly common problem. One blogger posted a video showing that he could bend his phone using just his hands. It looks like the iPhone 6 Plus has a structural weakness around the volume buttons:

The post BendGate: iPhone 6 Plus Owners Report Bending the Phone Simply by Pocketing it appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Is the Canadian eBook Market Leveling Off?

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 09:51 AM PDT

2590434432_1dded106a0_b[1]Recent data shows that the ebook markets are growing in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and elsewhere, but not curiously enough in Canada.

PW reported last Friday that BookNet, Canada’s leading book industry market research firm, had stopped surveying consumers on their ebook purchases:

BookNet's Noah Genner says that BookNet has "paused" its consumer panel survey research on e-reading because the growth in digital books seems to have paused. "The numbers we're hearing for e-book unit sales is still around 17%, 18%, 20%, that kind of range," he says, noting that the rates vary considerably depending on genre. "We know for the genre categories inside fiction, some of [the rates of e-reading] are quite high."

I personally have trouble believing that Canada has unique market conditions that would preclude further growth, not when the UK saw a 20% growth rate in 2013. On the other hand, it is worth noting that with 20% of consumers’ book funds spent on ebooks, the Canadian ebook market is more mature than the UK market, where ebooks still made up less than 5% of sales in 2013.

What’s more, Booknet Canada has reported unusual market trends in the past, including extreme seasonal fluctuations. And what with Agency pricing still in effect in Canada, it’s entirely possible that the rigid price controls are depressing the market.

Perhaps Canada really is a special case. What do you think?

image  by archer10 (Dennis)

The post Is the Canadian eBook Market Leveling Off? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

New Jersey Passes New Reader Privacy Act, Expanding Laws to Cover eBooks

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 08:34 AM PDT

3649499550_2c58ccb1eb_b[1]Earlier this week the New Jersey state legislature passed a new bill which expanded NJ state privacy laws to include ebooks.

Working from the precedent that readers have a right to keep their library records private, the new Reader Privacy Act ( S-967) expands that right to include ebooks as well as paper books. The law, which you can read here, prohibits service providers (both bookstores and ebook retailers) from sharing a reader’s info absent a court order, explicit permission from the user, or in certain circumstances such as evidence of a crime against the service provider or user.

“This legislation will ensure that information about the books consumers have browsed, purchased or read online is not disclosed unless there is a proven public need,” said state Senator Barnes, who co-sponsored the bill. “This measure appropriately meets the need to protect the consumer and the safety of the public.”

Having been passed by both the state Assembly and state Senate, the bill is now on its way to the desk of Governor Chris Christie to be signed into law.

New Jersey is at least the third state to pass this type of law; the first and best known is California, which passed a law in 2011. The state of Arizona passed a similar law in 2013, and New Jersey also considered passing a reader privacy law in 2013.

It’s not clear what happened to that earlier proposed bill, but from the way it was discussed by its sponsors last year I would say that it was inspired by the same motivations as S-967.

The 2013 bill was co-sponsored by several legislators, including Assemblyperson Mila M. Jasey. The bill stemmed from Jasey's interest in libraries, and the significant role they play in communities.  “Our library—the South Orange Public Library—doesn't even keep a list of books that a patron checks out. Reading material in any other format deserves the same sort of protection,” said Jasey.

Politicker NJ

image  by MPD01605

The post New Jersey Passes New Reader Privacy Act, Expanding Laws to Cover eBooks appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Boyue T62 6″ Android eReader Now Available at Amazon

Posted: 23 Sep 2014 06:12 AM PDT

Boyue-T62[1]Remember that 6″ Android ereader I reviewed a few weeks back (the one with Android 4.2 and a bad frontlight but otherwise appealing design)? My competitor noticed yesterday that the new and improved model, the T62, is now available on Amazon.com.

The Boyue T62 features much the same hardware as the T61, but it comes with audio support and twice the storage – plus a hefty markup which puts it well into the range of premium ebook readers like the Kobo Aura HD, Aura H2O, and within shouting distance of the Kindle Voyage.

This device runs Android 4.2 on a dual-core 1GHz CPU with 512MB RAM and 8GB internal storage. It has the same Pearl HD E-ink screen found on the T61, and like that earlier model the T62 also has a frontlight and two-point touchscreen. (There’s no info on whether the T62’s frontlight is as poor as the one on the T61, and that’s something to look out for.)

boyue t62

The Boyue T62 has Wifi, a microSD card slot, and a headphone jack for audio, and it also has the excess of page turn buttons found on the T61 (this, I like).

You can find it on Amazon for $169 plus shipping.  That’s pretty expensive, IMO, and I’m not sure it’s worth that much. At that price I think the Kobo Aura H2O, which costs $10 more and has a bigger and sharper screen, is more attractive.

On the other hand, the Boyue T62 does run Android. That gives you the option of installing just about any reading app which can be downloaded from Google Play (or the Amazon Appstore). The Boyue T61 worked with virtually all the apps I tried when I reviewed it, and many of the reading apps also worked with the page turn buttons (an unexpected bonus).

Perhaps the best compromise might be to buy the T62 from a Chinese retailer like BangGood (where I bought my T61). They have the T62 for $117 with free shipping. At that price, I’m tempted to get one.

Do you have one? What do you think?

The post Boyue T62 6″ Android eReader Now Available at Amazon appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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