Friday, 24 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Author Lawsuit Against Harlequin Certified as Class Action

Posted: 24 Oct 2014 02:05 PM PDT

37The off again on again royalties lawsuit against Harlequin has moved a step forward. Passive Guy reported yesterday that Judge William Pauley has formally certified the plaintiffs as a class.

Originally filed in July 2012, Keiler et al v. Harlequin Enterprises Limited et al was brought by a group of authors who allege that Harlequin had cheated them out of their royalties.

In the early ebook era (before 2005) contracted for ebook rights offered a standard contract that included an “all other rights” clause which promised authors 50% net royalties. While that sounds like a good contract, as a result of an accounting slight of hand on the part of Harlequin the actual royalties paid to the authors were far less than what Harlequin received from distributors and retailers.

Harlequin designated one of its Swiss subsidiary as the publisher, which then licensed the rights back to the parent company at about 6% to 8% of the retail price of the ebooks, enabling the publisher to keep the difference.

It was a smooth trick, and they got away with it for quite a few years. They also almost won the lawsuit filed by the authors in 2012 when it was thrown out last year. Unfortunately for Harlequin and its new corporate parent HarperCollins (which is owned by Newscorp), the lawsuit was reinstated by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in May of this year. That court ruled that Harlequin et al had “calculated their e-book royalties based on an unreasonable license fee”.

In short, the appeals court pointed out the obvious: Harlequin gave itself a sweetheart deal which assigned a far lower value to the ebook rights than what would have been negotiated with an outside publisher.

The plaintiffs are now a class which includes authors from the US, Canada, UK, Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand who signed standard Harlequin publishing contracts between 1990 and 2004 which included the following All Other Rights clause:

On all other rights exercised by Publisher or its Related Licensees, fifty percent (50%) of the Net Amount Received by Publisher for the license or sale of said rights. The Net Amount Received for the exercise, sale or license of said rights by Publisher from a Related Licensee shall, in Publisher's estimate, be equivalent to the amount reasonably obtainable by Publisher from an Unrelated Licensee for the license or sale of the said rights;

Would anyone care to bet on how long it will be before Harlequin’s corporate parent Newscorp decides to settle?

image by anoldent

The post Author Lawsuit Against Harlequin Certified as Class Action appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Audiobookers, Take Note: Downpour Launches Audiobook Rentals

Posted: 24 Oct 2014 10:41 AM PDT

downpour-logo[1]Amazon’s Audible might dominate the audiobook market in the US but they’re not the only retailer., an independent audiobook retailer, recently launched a new rental service which could help readers/listeners save a few bucks.

Downpour customers can now rent audiobooks for 30 to 60 days at a reduced price. The audiobooks have to be read in Downpour’s app, and they will expire at the end of the rental. This breaks with Downpour’s policy on selling audiobooks DRM-free, but makes sense.

According to the catalog around 8,000 titles are available for rental, compared to 30,000 titles available for sale in all formats. TBH I’m not sure how accurate that 8k figure is; I spot checked and a number of the titles listed in that section didn’t show rental as an option alongside MP3, CD, etc. There are also quite a few public domain titles which may not be worth renting, not when you can also find the audiobook for free on another site (here’s a dozen sites you can browse).

But there are other titles for rent, including Atlas Shrugged. This is one of the 60 day rentals (because it’s a bajillion hours long). It rents for $8, and can also be bought for $32. You can find more info at

So is this a good deal?

I’m not into audiobooks, and I’m also not into renting content, so I can’t tell. I’m going to have to wait for audiobook users to weigh in.

What do you think? (Besides that the Downpour website is as slow as molasses, that is.)

The post Audiobookers, Take Note: Downpour Launches Audiobook Rentals appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Comparison Review: Kindle Voyage vs Onyx Boox T68 Lynx

Posted: 24 Oct 2014 08:47 AM PDT

kindle voyage onyx boox t68 Lynx 1The Kindle Voyage from Amazon may be getting all the ereader buzz this week but it’s not the only premium ebook reader on the market. There’s also the Kobo Aura H2O, and the Boox T68 Lynx, an Android ereader with a 6.8″ screen.

A couple days ago I pulled my T68 Lynx out of storage to test a couple apps at the request of a reader, and now that I have it in my hands again I’m remembering why I liked it so much.

Before I get into the comparison review, let me first point out that I reviewed the T68 Lynx extensively back in June. Many of the details shared here are written in the context of that post, so if you are thinking about buying a T68 Lynx you should read that review as well.


There are nine ways that these two ereaders differ.

  1. Design – The Voyage has a polished design with a smoothly curved rear shell, a recessed power button, and a screen mounted flush with the front of the device. The T68 Lunx, on the other hand, has a design which looks like Onyx slapped a thin gray box around their electronics, added a scallop accent to the edges, and called it a day. The T68 Lynx’s design is simple and functional but quite utilitarian.
  2. Page Turn Buttons – The Voyage has touch sensitive page turn buttons on either side of the screen, while the T68 Lynx has a pair of awkwardly placed page turn buttons on the right side of the screen, and home/back buttons on the left.
  3. Storage – Both devices ship with 4GB internal storage, but the T68 Lynx also has a microSD card slot.
  4. Screen – While both devices have similar screen resolutions (1,080 x 1,440), the Voyage packs those pixels into a 6″ Carta E-ink screen which is a generation newer than the 6.8″ Pearl E-ink on the T68 Lynx. The Voyage has a whiter and sharper screen (300dpi vs 265dpi) but the T68 Lynx’s is larger, which can be a plus when viewing PDFs and other fixed layout documents.
  5. kindle voyage onyx boox t68 Lynx 2Frontlight – The frontlight on the Voyage is brighter and whiter than the one on the T68 Lynx, which looks fuzzy in comparison. The Voyage also offers better software to control the frontlight including a much lower minimum setting.
  6. Software – The Voyage runs the latest version of  Amazon’s Kindle OS, while the T68 Lynx runs Android 4.0 with Google Play and the option to sideload apps. This means that the Voyage is the better Kindle, but that is all it is. The T68 Lynx, on the other hand, can read Kindle ebooks as well run apps for Comixology, Nook, Kobo, and Logos Bible software (just to name a handful). The T68 Lynx might not be as good at being a Kindle but it is hugely better at being everything else, including supporting some features of the Kindle platform like audio and PDFs. For example, RepliGo is simply awesome at displaying PDFs on the T68 Lynx.
  7. Software, Redux – And it’s not just ebooks. The T68 also offers the option if installing better web browsers as well as  Audible, Pocket, Feedly, and other apps.
  8. Speed and Responsiveness – Given that the T68 Lynx supports far more formats and lets you install apps, it’s not really possible to compare the responsiveness. But I can say that the Voyage is marginally faster at turning the page when compared to the stock reading app on the T68 Lynx. But when it comes to third party apps like Aldiko or RepliGo, those are about as fast as the Voyage.
  9. Accessories – The T68 can work with external Bluetooth devices and as you can see in the following video it can accept USB mouses and keyboards:
  10. Price – Both the Voyage and the T68 Lynx can be bought on Amazon for $199. They both have smartcovers.



The T68 Lynx has a noticeably clunkier design, but it also has its strengths. As a general purpose ereader it’s not going to be as good as the Voyage at being a Kindle, but the T68 Lynx is better than the Voyage at pretty much everything else.

The post Comparison Review: Kindle Voyage vs Onyx Boox T68 Lynx appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Fire Phone Has Fizzled

Posted: 24 Oct 2014 05:08 AM PDT

fire phoneYesterday afternoon Amazon confirmed in their quarterly investors briefing what pundits had been saying for months: the Fire Phone has fizzled.

Amazon reported quarterly revenues of $20.58 billion, up about 20% from the same period last year. The retailer says that they lost $437 million last quarter, with a good third coming from a write down on the Fire Phone.

Amazon Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak disclosed on Thursday that Amazon had taken a $170 million write down in the third quarter largely related to their unsold stockpile of Fire smartphones as well as supplier commitment costs. The retailer is sitting on $83 million in unsold Fire Phone stock, which means that it is actually possible that Amazon is sitting on more unsold units than they have managed  to sell in the past 4 months.

I know that I snarked about this topic yesterday when AT&T announced they were bundling a $49 Fire HDX tablet with new Fire Phone sales, but damn. That gimmick-packed wunder-phone really isn’t selling.

What’s next, do you think? Amazon already okayed a great bundle deal with AT&T; do you think that will become permanent, and will Amazon offer a similar bundle for an unlocked Fire Phone?

I was all set to get a Fire Phone following news of yesterday’s bundle but as I sat down this morning and priced the monthly cost I lost interest. That bundle looks like a great deal, but it comes with a $60 a month contract. Considering how rarely I would need the smartphone (I do have a landline, after all), that is a lot of money over 2 years – especially when you remember that this is a crippled smartphone.

As Juli Monroe pointed out in the comments yesterday, Amazon’s platform lacks Google apps, and even though the Amazon appstore has most of the apps found in Google Play, ” it is missing some of my must-have apps (or was, I haven't checked recently) like the Starbucks app. Even when they have apps which are available on Google Play, they are often an upgrade or two behind, which annoys me. “

The post The Fire Phone Has Fizzled appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Morning Coffee – 24 October 2014

Posted: 23 Oct 2014 08:32 PM PDT

The reading list may be short this morning but it’s full of stories worth reading, including an update on the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit, a reader’s manifesto, a look at how Indian publishers are running a FUD campaign against Flipkart and Amazon, and more.

The post The Morning Coffee – 24 October 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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