Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Adobe Updates Digital Edition, Stops Sharing User Info With the Internet

Posted: 23 Oct 2014 11:43 AM PDT

102270156_9df8e81154[1]Adobe rolled out a new update for their Digital Editions Epub app today, and I have good news, bad news, and okay news.

This is a relatively minor update to the month-old Epub app, and the good news is that it adds a full text search option as well as a new display window for search results.

The bad news is that we don’t know for sure whether Adobe is still spying on users, because (and here’s the okay news) they say that they are now encrypting the data uploaded to their servers. According to the changelog posted by Adobe, one of the new features is:

Enhanced security for transmitting rights management and licensing validation information. With this latest version of Digital Editions 4.0.1, the data is sent to Adobe in a secure transmission (using HTTPS).

I got the tip from Adobe a couple hours ago, after having run several tests I can confirm that the data uploaded to Adobe’s servers is no longer being sent in clear text.

I can’t speak as to the quality of the encryption or what data Adobe is collecting, but at least they have taken the basic step of making it difficult for everyone in the world to listen in when that data is sent to Adobe’s servers.

Update: I’ve heard from another tester who identified that Adobe was using SSL, and that it didn’t appear to be sending any data at all.

For those just tuning in, earlier this month I broke the news that Adobe’s newest ebook app was logging users’ reading habits and scanning the storage of any attached ereader and uploading that data to Adobe’s servers in the clear.

After my initial report was confirmed by Ars Technica, the shit hit the fan. Following criticism from the EFF and from librarians, leading to a partial admission from Adobe that they had been collecting data “in accordance with their privacy policies” (which just goes to show that Techdirt is right; such policies are a joke).

You can find a timeline of events on my original post.

My report has sparked a debate in the ebook world over just what activities are acceptable. Some took the position that Adobe’s actions were similar to the conveniences that we take for granted with the major ebook platforms (and web services in general). That would be a good point if not for the fact that Adobe was not providing me with any service which would require collecting that data, much less uploading to their servers.

The best you can say for Adobe is that they might have been intending to provide a syncing service in the future, possibly as part of the iPad app which I have been told is in the works, or as part of the ebook platform which they license to other companies (Kobo, B&N, Pocketbook, and so on). That could be true, but again Adobe was not providing that service and thus did not need to collect the data, much less upload it.

This is less a case of a company screwing up in supporting users than it is one of a major tech company grabbing more user info than is required and then, when they are caught, trying to write it off with a “My bad” and a promise to add encryption.

That is entirely the wrong response. What they should have said was that they would stop the spying, not that they would make it more difficult for the world to listen in.

Unfortunately there’s not much that users stop Adobe. This company is too central to the ebook world and that means that we will have to do business with them at some point.

The best the average user can do is to use a firewall or other utility to block Adobe’s apps from accessing the web, or possibly use one of the older versions of Adobe DE (which to the best of my knowledge does not collect user data).

Or we could always flee into the welcome embrace of Amazon, but many in the ebook world would call that a fate worse than death. Plus, there is no guarantee that Amazon is not collecting similar data on users.

If anything, this ensuing story has reminded us that there are maony circumstances where privacy is more of a figleaf than a reality. The best we can really hope for is that the services we use won’t blab our person details to the world.

image by Soctech

The post Adobe Updates Digital Edition, Stops Sharing User Info With the Internet appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Fire Phone Sales are so Bad, AT&T is Now Bundling a Fire HDX Tablet for $49

Posted: 23 Oct 2014 08:24 AM PDT

fire phoneAT&T may have just confirmed what that market survey report suggested last week: practically no one has bought the Fire Phone. The telecom has just announced a new bundle offer for the Fire Phone. Buy one and they will throw in a Fire HDX tablet for $49.

That tablet retails for $179 on, which means that AT&T and/or Amazon have decided to eat $130 of the retail price in order to move more Fire Phones. And that is on top of the current low low price for the Fire Phone, which is available with a two year contract for under a dollar.

The deal will go live tomorrow, and it expires on 20 November.

While the Fire HDX tablet was released last year, it’s still in some ways a current tablet which makes this offer very tempting. This tablet has only a single camera but it does have a 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU with an excess of RAM, adequate storage, and great sound. It’s also going to be getting an update to run the latest FireOS Sangria, removing any temptation to upgrade.

I must admit that I am sorely tempted to by this bundle, so I’m sure that AT&T will sell loads. This could well push Fire Phone ownership into the high 5 digits, but to be honest I think this bundle would have been more effective had it been announced before the new iPhones and not a month after the launch of Apple’s flagship smartphone.

Assuming you’re not already tied down with a contract, would you buy one

The post Fire Phone Sales are so Bad, AT&T is Now Bundling a Fire HDX Tablet for $49 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Books in Browsers Conference Kicks Off Today, and You Can Watch it Online

Posted: 23 Oct 2014 07:43 AM PDT

booksinbrowserslogo_xl[1]If you have a chance to knock off work early today and tomorrow, there’s a conference you might want to catch. The fifth annual Books in Browsers  conference is being held today, and the sessions are also being streamed online.

Described as “a small summit for the new generation of internet publishing companies, focusing on developers and designers who are building and launching tools for online storytelling, expression, and art”, Books in Browsers tends to spend more time on the theoretical than the practical, which sets it apart from your average digital publishing conference.

I have embedded the Ustream window below. The stream will be live from 11:50 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. eastern on 23 and 24 October, and after that the sessions will still be available (or at least they were last year).

You can find the full program here, and you can also catch the audience participation and debate on twitter by following the #bib14 hashtag.

The post The Books in Browsers Conference Kicks Off Today, and You Can Watch it Online appeared first on The Digital Reader.

New Firmware Update From Kobo Adds Improved Keyboard, New Page Turn Options

Posted: 23 Oct 2014 06:54 AM PDT

kobo itunes ios logoReports are coming in from MobileRead Forum that Kobo has rolled out another update for their ebook readers, and it’s a big one. Early adopters are saying that the new firmware lets them customize their reading experience and that there’s a new option to show or ignore Kobo’s X-ray-like Beyond the Book feature.

While no official changelog has been posted, users have reported the following differences:

  • kobo firmware update 3.11 twoTouchscreen Zones – As you can see in the screenshot at right, there’s a 4th option for setting the page turn zones. Readers can now set their Kobo to advance a page when they touch the bottom half of the screen.
  • Keyboard – As an American, I believe that an umlaut is some strange foreign country, but if you use them regularly then you will appreciate the new onscreen keyboard. Press and hold a key on the Qwerty keyboard and you’ll be offered the option to select a relevant accent, umlaut, or other special character.
  • Dictionary – Readers can now set the default dictionary for a book, saving them the effort of changing the dictionary each time they look up a word.
  • kobo firmware update 3.11 oneReading progress – The old firmware enables readers to track their position in a chapter, a feature which I always thought was useless. With the new firmware readers can choose to track their reading position based on the book, and not the chapter.
  • Beyond the Book – Readers now have the option to enable Kobo’s bonus content feature. I haven’t encountered this myself, but Kobo says that by “clicking on highlighted words in your eBooks, you can explore related articles, multimedia, and online discussions, letting you delve deeper and embrace your curiosity”.
  • Headers & Footers – When I reviewed the Aura H2O, I quickly learned to appreciate a hack which added the option to remove the headers and footers from ebooks bought from Kobo. (Sideloaded ebooks don’t have the header and footer.) With the new update Kobo has taken that hack and made it a standard option. This is going to free up screen real estate which had previously been wasted on the header and footer, so I’m sure many will love the option.

Update: It turns out the header and footer option is not included; it still requires the hack.

The new firmware updates can be downloaded from Kobo, but rather than send you there I will instead direct you to MobileRead, where there’s an ongoing discussion of the bugs and other issues in this firmware update.

MobileRead is also were you’ll find the modding community that adds tweaks and other useful features which improve on Kobo’s work.

The post New Firmware Update From Kobo Adds Improved Keyboard, New Page Turn Options appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Morning Coffee – 23 October 2014

Posted: 22 Oct 2014 08:34 PM PDT

Here are six stories to read with your morning beverage.

  • Amazon is doing the world a favor by crushing book publishers (Vox)
  • Apple Gives Itself Unfair eBooks Advantage (Mike Cane's xBlog)
  • David Balzer: how “curationism” influences our reading identities (Quill and Quire)
  • Q&A With Anna Todd, the Breakout Fanfic Star Who Writes Everything on Her Phone (Re/code)
  • A response to the support received by Kathleen Hale after she stalked a book blogger (Book Thingo)
  • Self-Publishing is Basically the YouTube of Literature (LitReactor)

The post The Morning Coffee – 23 October 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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