Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Blloon’s eBook Service Lifts Off in the UK

Posted: 22 Oct 2014 04:51 PM PDT

H4wg3d7V1[1]Following two months of private beta testing, Blloon opened ebook subscription service to the UK public today.

Launched in July by txtr founder Thomas Leliveld, Blloon aspires to offering a lower cost ebook service in a market already crowded by Scribd and Kindle Unlimited. Blloon’s service is free to start, and every new reader starts with a credit for the equivalent of 3 books.

That credit is in the form of pages (1,000, to be exact), and additional pages can be earned by promoting Blloon, bought (similar to a pay-as-you-go phone), or readers can sign up for a monthly subscription: £3.99 for 500 pages.

That’s enough to read around a book a month, which is rather a high price considering how little a reader gets in return. (In comparison, Kindle Unlimited costs £7.99 in the UK for unlimited reading.) Blloon justifies their prices by pointing out that they are targeting a specific reading demographic.

Leliveld said: “We aren’t offering an expensive 'unlimited' service simply because that isn't the demographic we are targeting. And people can only read so much. We're welcoming young people, the majority of whom currently read up to 12 books a year. Providing a package that allows them to expand to two or three a month makes it an attractive and affordable offering – without any compromise on the quality of the titles. In time we hope it will encourage them to read even more.”

I think that sounds like a load of hooey, but let’s wait and see what the market decides.


Blloon’s service is available on iPad and iPhone, and there is an Android app in the works. They haven’t disclosed how many titles they offer, but I do know that their catalog includes titles from HMH, Open Road Media, Allen & Unwin, Diversion Books, Lonely Planet, Profile, RosettaBooks, Faber Factory, Guardian Books, and Workman Publishing.


At launch Blloon will include titles from publishers including Allen & Unwin, Diversion Books, Faber Factory, Guardian Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Lonely Planet, Open Road Media, Profile, RosettaBooks and Workman Publishing and publisher titles from Ingram Content Group’s CoreSource Plus solution offered through Lightning Source Inc.. It is also working closely with Gardners to collect titles from a range of publishers.


The post Blloon’s eBook Service Lifts Off in the UK appeared first on The Digital Reader.

German Publishers Cave, Grant Google Free Permission to Use Snippets in Search Results

Posted: 22 Oct 2014 03:58 PM PDT

google-germany-logo-06[1]Google’s 4-month-long fight with German news publishers over license fees for search result snippets came to a close today when the publishers threw in the towel.

VG Media, the rights management firm which 12 German publishers had intended to use to collect the fees, announced on Wednesday that they would be granting Google a free license to use the snippets, saying that they were “forced to this extraordinary step, given the overwhelming market power of Google”.

In short, this latest effort to force Google to pay for the privilege of sending web traffic to other websites failed as completely as past attempts. This both is and isn’t a surprise in that for once the publishers had the law on their side, but given Google’s past refusal to pay similar fees (they’d rather remove links from search results) I am not surprised that Google prevailed again.

This fight started in June of this year when VG Media started legal proceedings against Google, alleging that Google was violating German law. They asked to be awarded 11% of Google’s revenues based on, well, I’m not quite what they were smoking.


But I do know that VG Media had based its claim on a law passed in Germany in August 2013, which had been written to cover pretty much this situation. It explicitly granted publishers the right to license their content or parts thereof, except in the case of single words or very small text snippets.

Unfortunately for the publishers, German regulators didn’t see things the same way. In August the Bundeskartellamt rejected the antitrust complaint filed by VG Media, and while at first it looked like VG Media would win on the license front earlier this month Google announced that they would stop using excerpts from the websites belonging to the publishers behind VG Media.

To be clear, Google would still link to the sites, but it would not use snippets. This puts the publishers at a disadvantage compared to other news sites in the search results.Nate HoffelderNathaniel the greatest

While VG Media might have a legal right to demand the license fees, they didn’t have any way to force Google to use the snippets (that is what the antitrust complaint was supposed to accomplish, I kid you not). And without that, the publishers have two choices: either give up the free traffic Google sends them or let Google use the snippets for free.

VG Media chose the latter option, just like I predicted. This is not the first time that a European publisher has tried to get Google to pay for the use of snippets, for the most part Google came out ahead each time.

Even when Google initially lost, as in the case of the copyright infringement suit filed against  Google in Belgium, the search engine giant came out ahead. In that case, after Google complied with the ruling and delisted the websites which had sued Google, it was then accused of punishing the sites by no longer sending them web traffic.

Eventually the Belgian sites had to agree to let Google list them for free – which is exactly what VG Media did today.


The post German Publishers Cave, Grant Google Free Permission to Use Snippets in Search Results appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Guest Post: Is Kindle Scout Worth the Risk? For Me, Yes

Posted: 22 Oct 2014 11:44 AM PDT

2084662654_b1d38ba1a5[1]The Kindle Scout program is getting a lot of buzz, and some controversy, from the writing universe. Is it worth the risk? For me, the answer is yes. Here's why.

Earlier this week I submitted my crime novel, The Invisible Hand, to the Kindle Scout program. Within 24 hours, after vetting my manuscript, cover and description, Amazon gave me the green light for a campaign to start on Oct. 28. For those not in the know about Kindle Scout, Nate did a great job of summing it up when it launched last week.

I'll skip the specifics of the program and cut right to my reasoning for submitting. Here's my thought process:

1) Time Crunch. I'm in a situation right now where sending out a ton of submissions is not viable. With a kid on the way soon, there's plenty to do at home. The 45-day turnaround of Kindle Scout wins out for that reason alone. I suppose I could've gone the standard KDP route instead, but a shot at a Kindle Press contract via Kindle Scout is appealing. That's all because of…

2) Visibility. Ask any KDP author, or even those published through established houses, what the biggest issue is for them in the e-book market, and they'll probably say visibility (aka discoverability). There isn't a line of readers sitting on their thumbs wishing there were more titles in the Kindle marketplace. This glut makes visibility difficult no matter the quality of the novel. A leg up through Amazon marketing, as well as through its internal algorithms, is one way to gain exposure. This seems like a smart move as an authorpreneur, because any good business will try to…

3) Minimize Risk. There are no guarantees in writing, with the exception that you'll work hard without knowing if anyone will give a damn. With a $1,500 advance and an Amazon contract I can live with, I'll have a solid foundation for moving forward. That includes print possibilities with some other entity, since Amazon isn't asking for those should my novel be accepted. That security is important, because…

4) The Age of the Curated E-Book Experience is Here. That's not a proper name or anything, but it gets my point across. The gist is that in a crowded market, having a curator to turn to makes a good deal of sense. The curator in this case is also the retailer, which can control the customer (reader) experience. This retains customers. It's like the difference between having a grocery store with the food set out randomly and one that divides products into aisles. Which one would you rather shop? But "curator" isn't just a re-wording of the dreaded "gatekeeper." Instead of a grocery store, you get something more akin to a farmer's market organizer, where there's an open door for people looking to sell food (e-books), but a set way of how they're presented to the customer (reader). Getting my novel on board with Kindle Press is one way to stay hip in the Age of the Curated E-Book Experience, which I think is set to swallow up 2015. Sure, that's a risk, but…

5) I'm Willing to Experiment. I already have a book coming out next year with a traditional publisher, Writer's Digest Books, called Weapons for Writers: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction. I spent way too much time on that to take any chances with it. That's why it went to a capable publisher that knows how to handle that type of content. On the other hand, my crime novel, The Invisible Hand, is worth the risk of Kindle Scout. It's not that I didn't spend years on it (I did), but it seems like the earliest adopters of an Amazon program are the most successful. Of course, that comes with the price of exclusivity with Amazon, but…

6) The Exclusivity Thing Doesn't Bother Me. Sure, I could crunch hypothetical sales numbers and come up with a list of reasons exclusivity is a bad deal for me. But those are only hypothetical. Right now, my income from this novel is exactly zero dollars. This shot through Kindle Scout is the best bet in front of me right now. Worst-case scenario, I'll wind up going through the standard KDP process or some other publisher/agent later on. But when I look at the road in front of me, Kindle Scout offers the best chance to make the most money. If that sounds shallow, that's OK, because…

7) I Want to Make Money. Anyone who says different is lying or trying to sell you something. If I wanted to suffer for my art, I'd stick this novel in a coffee can and never submit it anywhere. But with the aforementioned kid on the way, you bet I want to pad that bank account with a little extra scratch. That advance and Amazon's money-making potential are two ways to do it.

Am I saying Kindle Scout is a sure thing? Nope. And it's definitely not right for every writer out there. But for me, yes, it's worth the risk. If it turns out I'm not offered that Kindle Press contract, the worst I'm out is 45 days of my time. If I do get the contract and come to regret it, well, as they say around here, I owe you a Coke.

Benjamin Sobieck is the author of "Weapons for Writers: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction" (Writer's Digest Books), "8 Funny Detective Stories" and numerous short stories. His website is

image  by Editor B

The post Guest Post: Is Kindle Scout Worth the Risk? For Me, Yes appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Voyage vs Paperwhite Comparison Review: the Web Browser

Posted: 22 Oct 2014 10:41 AM PDT

paperwhite screenshot web browserWhen I first reported on the new Kindle Voyage earlier this week I mentioned that the Voyage was running the same software as the Paperwhite. It turns out that is not entirely correct. While the two Kindles use what looks like the same web browser, the software running underneath the UI is not even close to being the same.

At the request of a reader, I spent some time yesterday playing with both Kindles, testing the web browsers, and I can report that the Voyage has the much better web browser. It’s enough better that I sincerely hope that the Paperwhite gets it in an update otherwise this could be a strong selling point for the Voyage.

While the web browsers look the same, offer the same features (like article mode), and are about equally fast at loading a page, there are ways that they differ.

For example, the Voyage loads the settings menu faster, but the Paperwhite responds faster when you scroll the page. I played with both web browsers, and I visited websites like Google, Boing Boing, Techcrunch, and this blog. I noticed that simple things like website menus opened faster on the Paperwhite.

I also found that the web browser on the Voyage is more stable.  It didn’t crash, while the web browser on the Paperwhite crashed a bunch of times – and it also froze when I tried to plug it in to the USB cable. This necessitated a holding down the power button to force a reboot.

Update: At the request of another reader, I tried Dropbox and the Manage Your Kindle page on Those crashed on the Paperwhite, and they also crashed the Voyage’s web browser.

All in all, the Voyage has the better web browser, but rather than laud it I am going to sit back and hope that the Paperwhite gets the improved web browser in an update. I for one would rather browse the web on the Paperwhite’s lower resolution screen.

This might sound counter-intuitive, but the higher resolution screen on the Voyage might not actually be a good thing when it comes to web browsing. Because the resolution was so high (1080 pixels wide), websites with responsive layouts served up the full desktop webpage to the Voyage. The Paperwhite with a screen width of 758 pixels, on the other hand, was served a mobile version of the same website.

The latter was IMO much easier to use on a 6″ screen.

As you can see in the screenshots below, the Voyage packs more content into a single screen image. This gives you smaller text and more ads.

voyage screenshot web browser paperwhite screenshot web browser voyage screenshot web browser paperwhite screenshot web browser

To be fair, I’m sure you would appreciate the higher resolution of the Voyage’s screen more when reading in article mode, but getting there is another matter. Much to my surprise, we’ve found an example of where more is not necessarily better.

But that’s just my opinion, and as I read it again I think it might be a minority opinion. What do you think?

The post Voyage vs Paperwhite Comparison Review: the Web Browser appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon-S&S Deal Sparks Debate, Commentary

Posted: 22 Oct 2014 09:16 AM PDT

3190443246_77ab8e8245[1]Many in publishing were surprised Monday night when news broke that Amazon had signed a new contract with Simon & Schuster. What few details are publicly available for the deal suggest that it is a modified version of agency, which surprised pundits just as much as the fact that the deal was signed two months before the old contract expired.

The S&S-Amazon deal has led some to look at the ongoing dispute between Amazon and Hachette in a new light, raising the question as to why exactly that fight has continued so long.

Some, including Doug Preston and David Streitfeld, sounded like broken records when they discussed the deal. NPR sought out Preston when they covered the deal, and he said:

If Simon and Schuster is happy with this agreement, and if Hachette’s being offered the same terms, I would, you know, be wanting Hachette to strive to solve this problem as soon as possible. But it doesn’t solve the problem of Amazon. Every time they get into a negotiating problem with a publisher, are they going to target the authors? I mean, it’s just unacceptable.

I do agree that it was terrible how Amazon targeted S&S authors … No, wait, I’m thinking of B&N and their 8 month long negotiation with S&S in 2013. Amazon hasn’t been accused of taking any steps to curtail S&S sales. My mistake, sorry.

Elsewhere, the commentary is far less friendly to Hachette. Passive Guy weighed in the story yesterday, writing:

The deal between Amazon and Simon & Schuster has put Hachette in a box.

The Amazon/Hachette agreement was critical to Big Publishing because Hachette's was the first of the court-ordered Price-Fix Six contracts to expire. The new Hachette deal would set the pattern for the other miscreants when their Amazon contracts expired.

By making a deal with S&S two months before the S&S contract expired, the Amazon/S&S contract is the pattern contract for the other publishers. One does not assume that S&S has harmed its authors or itself with its Amazon contract.

Amazon has performed a switcheroo. Now the onus is on Hachette. What's wrong with Hachette that it can't get the same contract that S&S has?

David Gaughran concurs, noting that the sky hasn’t fallen as a result of deal between Amazon and S&S:

It also begs a question: what exactly is Hachette holding out for? As everyone knows at this point, Hachette's contract with Amazon expired in March and the two parties have been unable to agree a deal since.

The narrative being pushed by the media was that Amazon's desired terms would harm Hachette and its authors, yet Simon & Schuster was able to agree a contract very quickly which CEO Carolyn Reidy called a "positive development." She characterized the deal as "economically advantageous for both Simon & Schuster and its authors and maintains the author's share of income generated from e-book sales."

Gaughran also brings up the same point I did about Bonnier and its new deal with Amazon in Germany, and if you haven’t yet read the second half of his post, you should.

He explores the history of one of the previous times Amazon was accused of bullying (the Macmillan buy buttons removal in 2010) and notes how the details revealed later in court documents cast a different light on the behind the scenes events than what the media reported at the time.

It’s worth noting, though, that not all of the commentary is as critical of Hachette. Hugh Howey, in particular, is far more magnanimous than I would have been. He offers a nuanced dissection of the deal and the affect it will have on Amazon’s upcoming contract negotiations.

Starting with the point that the KDP TOS is what Amazon would see as an ideal contract, Howey notes that the S&S deal is probably structured along the same lines:

There isn't a sliver of a leak about this deal that doesn't fit the model of Incentivized Agency. S&S sets prices; Amazon can discount; there are "financial incentives to drop prices."

My guess is that Streitfeld learned the split is dependent on price, but he doesn’t want to be the one to break that news. Eventually, it'll be public knowledge that Amazon pays a higher rate when wholesalers provide ebooks at a sane price. And people will be shocked. Except for self-published authors, who have been pressured by Amazon to keep ebook prices in a reasonable middle range for years.

The one statement we have from Amazon about this deal claims: "Importantly, the agreement specifically creates a financial incentive for Simon & Schuster to deliver lower prices for readers."

If Howey’s expansion on the limited public statements is right, then Amazon has managed to avert what I and many others feared most: that the publishers would push for a return to straight agency.

It’s a shame we don’t know more, because I for one would really like to know if Amazon actually got a major publisher to agree to a KDP-style contract. That would represent a major shift in the landscape of the publishing industry.

image by thisisbossi


The post Amazon-S&S Deal Sparks Debate, Commentary appeared first on The Digital Reader.

B&N Launches the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 10.1

Posted: 22 Oct 2014 06:31 AM PDT

As predicted by this blogger a couple weeks ago, Barnes & Noble officially launched the 10″ version of their co-branded Galaxy Tab 4 Nook. The new Android tablet is available today in B&N stores and on, where it is selling for a retail of $299. 

galaxy tab nook 10.1

According to the specs B&N posted on the Nook developer pages and then confirmed on the product listing for the new tablet, the co-branded Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 10.1 runs Samsung’s flavor of Android 4.4 KitKat on a quad-core 1.2GHz Marvell CPU with 1.5GB RAM and 16GB internal storage.

This tablet has a 10.1″ display has a screen resolution of 1,280 x 800, and it also has Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, a pair of cameras (1.3MP and 3MP), and a microSD card slot. Weighing in at 487 grams, the new Tab Nook measure 8mm thin and has a 6.8Ah battery which is specced for 10 hours of web browsing.

I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on one of the 10″ Tab Nooks yet, but its smaller sibling is in all the important ways a Samsung Galaxy Tab, with additional Nook software. That model launched just over 2 months ago.

I am pointing out the close similarity between the Samsung branded unit and the co-branded unit because the high retail price offers a strong incentive to shop around. Amazon, for example, is selling the Samsung galaxy Tab 4 10.1 for $279 today. That is $20 you can spend elsewhere.

To be fair, B&N is boasting that their 10″ tablet comes with $200 in content, but Samsung makes a similar claim ($300 in products and services, in fact). What’s more, much of the dollar value of what B&N is giving away comes in the form of 3 single tv episodes and a double handful of single magazine issues.

Given the tight price competition in the larger tablet market, I have to wonder if B&N may have made a mistake in taking on a 10″ tablet in addition to the 7″ Galaxy Tab 4 Nook. B&N is committed to selling a million of the co-branded tablets, but I don’t think savvy shoppers will be buying very many.

The post B&N Launches the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 10.1 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Morning Coffee – 22 October 2014

Posted: 21 Oct 2014 08:09 PM PDT

With only 5 links, there’s not much to read this morning, but the demise of another boutique digital publisher, Chuck Wendig’s guid on how to respond to a bad review, the Passive Guy’s take on Hachette post S&S-Amazon, and the other links are all worth reading.

The post The Morning Coffee – 22 October 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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