Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 31 October 2104

Posted: 30 Oct 2014 07:58 PM PDT

Here are 8 stories to read this morning.

  • After privacy glitch, the ball is now in our court (District Dispatch)
  • Agents Behaving Badly(A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing)
  • Amazon's Impact on Publishing? It's Complicated (PW)
  • Ask The Chefs: How Do You Stay Informed About Scholarly Publishing? (The Scholarly Kitchen)
  • Flipboard, Circa, And Yahoo Deliver The News (ReadWrite)
  • Madefire Updates Motion Book Tool to Add Animation Features (TNW)
  • OdiloConsortia to power the eBook pilot project for the State Library of NSW in Australia (No Shelf Required)
  • The publishers that put their content directly on social platforms (Digiday)

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UK Moves to Solve Orphan Works Problem

Posted: 30 Oct 2014 05:54 PM PDT

web-copyright-2[1]Copyright may be one of the underpinnings of the publishing industry but it has clay feet: orphan works. It’s not uncommon for a really old work, or old personal documents, to sit molding in an archive because the copyright holder either can’t be identified or can’t be reached.

To solve that problem, the UK is implementing a license scheme which is expected to make up to 91 million works available for public use, including cultural artifacts which literally had no owner:

Another beneficiary is The Museum of the Mind, which holds a wide range of culturally valuable works created by people who worked and were treated at the Bethlem Royal Hospital, which was founded in 1247 and was the first institution in the UK to specialise in the care of the mentally ill.

Many of the works they hold were collected from patients and staff by psychiatrists interested in the therapeutic value of creative expression and the rights then transferred to the museum.

The Imperial War Museum is among an alliance of UK museums, libraries and other bodies backing the Free Our History campaign, which is seeking to allow original letters, diaries and other important historical works to be displayed for the nation during the First World War Centenary.

That last is rather interesting from a US viewpoint; under US law those antique personal documents would have no copyright until they were published for the first time. I know of a very similar situation where a US university is digitizing and publishing personal journals from the 1800s. The journals had been either left to the school or collected by a historian, and now the school is filing for the copyright. (It’s not a perfect parallel, I know.)

The UK is making the works available in compliance with the EU’s Orphan Works Directive, the European Union’s patchwork solution to the concatenation of current copyright law’s problems: automatic registration and a copyright term of death plus 70 years.

While one could argue that automatically conferring a copyright on every single possible work helps creators, a copyright term of death plus 70 years helps no one – aside from a handful of corporations, and possibly a cryogenically suspended Walt Disney.

This has kept valuable historical documents hidden away, including:

The National Records of Scotland have a collection of over 150,000 maps and plans, most of which are unpublished. The archive sometimes knows the name of the authors but often does not know when they died or who their beneficiaries might be.

The collection includes a large number of plans relating to Victorian engineering projects, such as the Forth Bridge, which were unavailable for reuse as they couldn’t be copied.

Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased that these documents are finally seeing the light of day, but I also think that the orphan works law is a solution which is just as flawed as the problem it is trying to solve.

The orphan works directive itself creates a problem, namely that if and when the copyright holder is identified that individual will find that his IP has been infringed.

I think a better idea would be to fix copyright law by removing the compulsory registration or shorten the term, thus eliminating the problem in the future.

A radical idea, I know, but when you have century old documents which can’t be used because of copyright issues, it’s a sign that there is an inherent flaw in the existing laws.

The Independent

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Spain Passes the Google Tax, And Makes Other Terrible Changes to Copyright Law

Posted: 30 Oct 2014 06:24 PM PDT

7027608495_daeb33feb7_b[1]A new amendment to Spanish copyright law passed the upper house of Spain’s Cortes Generales today, and it is due to become law next year. El Pais reports that the amendment makes a number of revisions to existing law, including the creation of a controversial tax on news aggregators.

The new law makes many problematic changes, including requiring universities to pay fees to a collection society for digital course materials which had otherwise been released under a CC license, but the one I am most interested in today is the tax on news aggregators.  (You can find a complete breakdown on the changes on Google en Espanol.)

Colloquially known as the Google tax, the new law is intended to force Google as well as other search engines and news aggregators to pay for the use of links to news articles published elsewhere.

But it probably won’t work – at least not with Google.

The text of the changes to Spanish copyright law (PDF) is difficult to understand, but Spanish news sources say that it is actually worse than previously expected.

The law gives copyright holders the inalienable right to be paid for the use of their work – including a link. This means that they can’t decide to give away the content for free, something Google has required in Germany and elsewhere.

TBH, I’m not sure myself that the law says that links must be licensed, but the text of the law  (PDF) is convoluted enough that I am not comfortable arguing with a native speaker.

On the plus side there is an exception for excerpts used for news and entertainment purposes, which means sites like this blog are safe (social networks might also be covered), but the law is still going to compel aggregators like Reddit, Google News, and Spain’s own Menéame to pay for the use of links.

And just so we’re clear, one of the core concepts of the internet, the web link, is now considered to be copyright infringement in Spain when used by certain parties.

Please excuse while I go roll a SAN check.


It’s not clear where news sites and aggregators in Spain will be going from here, but I do know that Google has already issued a statement (originally in Spanish):

We are disappointed with the new law because we believe that services like Google News help publishers to drive traffic to their websites. As regards to the future, we will continue working with Spanish publishers to help them increase their income while we consider our options under the new regulation.

Google hasn’t said how they will respond to the changes in the law but I would bet that at a minimum Google will be delisting any site that might be covered by the new provisions. The search engine giant has taken similar steps in the past, including in Belgium and Germany, when other publishers tried to force it to pay for the free advertising it sends them.

There’s even a chance that Google might pull out of Spain entirely, but at this point that is just wild speculation.

All I know for sure today is that most if not all of the publishers who pushed for this Google tax will come to regret it in short order. It is safe to say that these sites rely on Google for anywhere between a quarter and half of their site traffic, and with Google no longer sending visitors their way the drop in traffic will quickly be felt in the pocketbook.

To be fair, some of the publishers may have already adapted their business model to depend on other sources. The UK’s Telegraph, for example,  boosted their site traffic by 20% in June by focusing on better promoting on Facebook.

I do not know that any of the Spanish publishers who backed the Google tax will be able to make similar boasts, though.

image by Tax Creditsefile989

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Xiaomi is the Fourth-Largest Maker of eReading Devices

Posted: 30 Oct 2014 06:22 PM PDT

xiaomi_mi_3_india_launch[1]When it comes to ereading devices, smartphones and tablets will always outnumber true ereaders. This has led to Apple being one of the largest seller of ebooks, and if Xiaomi can find a way to capitalize on their device sales they too could be one of the majors.

New estimates from IDC today peg Xiaomi as the 4th largest seller of smartphones and tablets. While Xiaomi has only a negligible presence in the global tablet market, IDC estimated that it sold 17.3 million smartphones. That put Xiaomi just ahead of Lenovo in terms of smartphone sales but behind Lenovo in terms of combined sales.

For a company that is not active in Europe or the Americas, that’s not bad.


Xiaomi is focused primarily on China, and it has recently expanded into India, Singapore, and the Philippines. The company is reportedly gearing up to enter other major Asian markets as well as Brazil, Mexico, and other parts of South America.

The company makes a number of smartphone models as well as several phablets and a tablet, but that’s not where it gets most of its revenues. As the founder explained in an interview earlier this year, Xiaomi operates more along the lines of Amazon than Apple.

Xiaomi sells smartphones cheap so it can make money off of the services that run on the devices. This includes an ebookstore which was launched late last year, but that’s just one of the services integrated into Mui, Xiaomi’s custom version of Android.

I don’t know that Xiaomi will ever be a major ebook retailer, but with the kind of sales it has now this is a company to watch.  On the other hand, Xiaomi might end up taking the same route as Samsung, and simply letting third-party sellers like Amazon dominate its hardware platform.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

idc_tablets_q3_2014 idc-stats

Liliputing, VentureBeat

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Google Play Books Updated with New Skim Mode, Better Support for Non Fiction

Posted: 30 Oct 2014 06:21 PM PDT

google play booksGoogle first got its start in ebooks with the often maligned book scanning project, and with the latest update to Google Play Books it is returning to its academic roots.

The tech giant announced a new version of Google Play Books today which features better support for non fiction ebooks. (The apps have not been released as of the time I published this post.) According to Google, the new apps will enable readers to  easily skim an entire book, browse all their notes and highlights, and quickly jump back and forth between different locations in the book.

The new apps will feature better support for managing your notes and highlights, which could be a nice compliment tor textbooks and study guides. Readers can also use the quick bookmark function to quickly jump around in a book, back and forth between multiple spots (different parts of a history book, for example).

And last but not least the app now features a skim mode which should make it easier to flip through an ebook in much the same way that a reader might flip through a paper book while searching for the info they need.

Books Update - Skim Mode (1)

Google Play Books is now available in 61 countries around the world, and supports apps on Android, iOS, and Chrome. it is, by my guess, one of the top 5 ebookstores in the world. I like to sum up the market as: Amazon, Apple, and the trailing three (Kobo, Google and B&N).

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Onyx Teases Us With New Glimpse at the Boox i86 8″ Android eReader

Posted: 30 Oct 2014 06:20 PM PDT

onyx boox i86 1 Onyx hasn’t said much about their upcoming 8″ ebook reader since first quietly announcing it this spring, so when these several photos crossed my desk today I had to share.

Onyx showed off the i86 and other ereaders at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair earlier this month, and got a few photos. To be honest, I don’t have much to show you and tell you other than the 3 photos, but I found them interesting and I bet I am not the only one who feels that way.

Zol didn’t offer much in the way of detail, but the photos tell us that the i86 now sports a pair of page turn buttons to the left of the 8″ screen. In comparison to the original product image, it has a decidedly lopsided appearance (which may or may not be a good thing).

onyx boox i86 3 onyx boox i86 4 onyx boox i86 2

According to the original specs, the i86 runs Android 4.0 on a 1GHZ CPU with 512MB RAM. It has Wifi, Bluetooth, 4GB internal storage, and a microSD card slot. The spec list also mentioned text to speech, suggesting that the i86 also has at least a headphone jack.

The 8″ Pearl E-ink display has a resolution of 1,600 x 1,200. That gives it a sharpness of about 250 ppi. That’s not a sharp as the 6.8″ screen on the Aura H2O or the T68 Lynx, much less the super high resolution screen of the Kindle Voyage, but what the i86 lacks in sharpness it makes up for in size.

When it comes to larger ereader, the screen on the i86 is the sharpest available.  And on top of the high resolution screen you’ll find a frontlight and an IR touchscreen from Neonode.

In terms of ebook compatibility, the i86 supports a broad range of formats, including ebook formats like (DRMed) PDF, (DRMed) Epub, and FB2 in addition to document formats like Doc, CHM, html, and RTF. There’s also support for MP3 playback. This device is running the same reading app as on Onyx’s other Android-based ebook readers (with the same note-taking and scribbling abilities).

Onyx hasn’t said when we might see the i86 on the market, and since we have so little information it is too early to speculate. Instead I will be keeping an eye on Mobileread Forums; Onyx sometimes posts product announcements there.

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Sony Developing New eBook DRM Platform, Exploring the Idea of Used eBooks Sales

Posted: 30 Oct 2014 06:16 PM PDT

5164025887_98f2a9d37c[1]Sony may have gotten out of the consumer ebook market in May of this year, but that doesn’t mean they lost all interest. A new report is coming in today that, in addition to developing a new ebook DRM, Sony is looking into used ebooks.

Details are still scarce, but reports that the new project is being developed by Sony DADC, a completely different part of Sony from the previous ebook efforts. This firm is primarily interested in DVDs and CDs (they also made LaserDiscs way back when) but Sony DADC also develops the DRM and related tech used on those physical disks, and they have recently turned their attention to ebooks.

Sony isn’t sharing very many details, but they are saying that under their system, the seller will be able to transfer a sold ebook to the buyer and in the process lose access to the file. I can also report that this new DRM platform is indeed based on the work of Marlin, the cooperative DRM development group that Sony has been investing in for the past several years.

The Marlin ebook DRM platform, which I have reported on once or twice in the past, doesn’t have a huge presence in the market but it has shown up here and there. The platform supports consumers lending an ebook to their friend, and it also supports library loans and on the fly renewals.

And yes, it also supports the option of reselling a used ebook.

Sony hasn’t said how wide the interest is in the new DRM, but they did report that the first contracts with publishing customers have already been signed. The system is due to go live in the next 3 to 6 months.

To be honest, I think my source is overstating the possibility of used ebook sales; at this point we don’t even know who is planning to adopt the DRM and to what degree it will be supported, so it’s far too early to suggest that consumers will be able to resell ebooks.

eBooks are actually licensed and not sold, but it is arguably legal to sell them in the US and in parts of Europe. But since this issue hasn’t been decided either in the courts or by legislators it is too early to say whether it is a practical possibility.

And then there’s the question of publisher and retailer adoption, without which you have nothing to resell.

But in spite of the unanswered questions, I do expect to see this DRM platform show up here and there. FBReader announced earlier this year that they will be integrating Marlin DRM into their app. This should enable the app to support ebooks bought from ebookstores which (I assume) are working with Sony support this DRM.

I doubt Sony new DRM will supplant Adobe in the larger ebook market, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be used. Adobe might be the most visible DRM when it comes to Epub ebooks but they’re not the only one. Kobo, Google, and Apple all use their own unique type of DRM internally, and so does Oyster, the subscription ebook service.

image by Steve A Johnson

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