Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 8 October 2014

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 04:54 PM PDT

Your reading list this Wednesday morning includes MobyLives bashing Amazon again over Orwell (while the true Orwellian story occurred elsewhere), the case for automatic encryption, the analytics of longer stories, responses to a Luddite peice on ebook readers, and more.

  • Bertelsmann Planning to Lift Penguin Random House Stake (Bloomberg)
  • The Case for Automatic Encryption, Especially for Journalists (Mediashift | PBS)
  • Fascinating look at sales numbers and effect of Kindle Unlimited (TeleRead)
  • Have we fallen out of love with e-readers? (The Passive Voice)
  • Is Amazon About To Put All KDP Titles Into Kindle Unlimited? (Ebook Bargains UK Blog)
  • Longer stories draw more attention, but with diminishing returns (Digiday)
  • Longreads: Now Publishing Original Storytelling (Fast Company)
  • What is it with Amazon and George Orwell? (MobyLives)

The post The Morning Coffee – 8 October 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Adobe Responds to Reports of Their Spying, Offers Half Truths and Misleading Statements

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 06:00 PM PDT

adobe-logoThey may be a day late and a dollar short, but Adobe has finally responded to yesterday’s news that they were using the Digital Editions 4 app to spy on users.

Adobe hasn’t addressed all of the evidence against them, but they did admit that they were gathering info from users. They won’t admit to scraping my library, but they did admit to tracking a user’s activities. Adobe claims that it was covered by the their privacy policy and by the TOS for the app:

Adobe Digital Editions allows users to view and manage eBooks and other digital publications across their preferred reading devices—whether they purchase or borrow them. All information collected from the user is collected solely for purposes such as license validation and to facilitate the implementation of different licensing models by publishers. Additionally, this information is solely collected for the eBook currently being read by the user and not for any other eBook in the user's library or read/available in any other reader. User privacy is very important to Adobe, and all data collection in Adobe Digital Editions is in line with the end user license agreement and the Adobe Privacy Policy.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see how sending a user’s reading history in clear text over the web could possibly be in line with a privacy policy.

On a related note, I took some time today to read the TOS for Adobe Digital Edition 4, and I do not see where it gives them permission to track user behavior, much less upload said tracking data in the clear. What’s more, I have also heard from a couple other techies who also read the TOS and were unable to find mentions of this program.

Update: Robert has pointed out in the comments the relevant section of Adobe’s privacy policy.

I have asked Adobe for an explanation on this last issue, and I will update this post if they respond. Sadly, I don’t expect that to occur; Adobe has not responded to my emails on this issue (I got this statement second-hand from Rich Bellis of DBW).


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Opera Mini is Coming to the Samsung Gear S Smartwatch

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 12:00 PM PDT

Opera-icon-high-resSome people might need Windows 95 on their smartwatch but for those who would be happy with just a good web browser Opera has you covered.

News is coming out of Scandinavia today that Opera has released a new version of Opera Mini for the Samsung Gear S.  

This smartwatch, which is due out later this year, runs Tizen on a 2″ screen. I don’t know that very many people are going to want to browse the web on such a small screen, but the Gear S’s 3G connection and Opera’s cutting edge data compression tech does make this a serious possibility. Opera’s tech can shrink a webpage by as much as 90%, making 3G browsing both cheap(-er) and fast.

What’s more, the app also offers custom interface which was developed for small screens. For example, the website shortcuts on Opera Mini's Speed Dial appear as large buttons, enabling Gear S users to reach their favorite sites in a single tap.


There’s also a “Smart Page that aggregates social updates plus the latest news, and the users can save webpages for offline viewing (this could prove useful for maps and directions.) Opera Mini for the Gear S even has a private browsing mode for those queries which are too secret to share.

According to the Opera blog post, Opera  Mini will be available for download by the time the Gear S ships, and Gear S owners will be able  to find it in the tSamsung Gear Apps Store.


The post Opera Mini is Coming to the Samsung Gear S Smartwatch appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Adobe Digital Editions 3 Probably Safe From Adobe’s Spying, Experts Say

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 12:14 PM PDT

what are you looking atIt has been some 16 hours since I first broke the news that Adobe was spying on anyone who installed and ran Digital Editions 4, Adobe’s latest and greatest ebook app, and while I still do not have a response from Adobe I do have some new information to share.

I have followed up on this story and looked into the earlier versions of Digital Editions, just to see how long Adobe may have been spying on users. After testing DE2 and DE3 I can report, and others can confirm, that neither app appears to be tracking my reading habits nor uploading details about my ebook library.

The older apps do send some information to Adobe, but the data packet is small enough that it can’t hold much more than info required to authorize the DRM. So if you need one of Adobe’s apps, you do have safer options than DE4.

Adobe DE 3 can be downloaded from the Adobe website.

While the news about the older versions of Adobe DE is not enough to get me to use an Adobe app again, I thought this information could prove useful for librarians, teachers, and industry pros. Speaking of which, my story yesterday is taking on a life of its own and it turns out to have ramifications which I hadn’t considered.

This isn’t just a privacy violation any more; now there are concerns about how this breach would violate NDAs. According to Richard Pipe of Infogrid Pacific:

We have thousands of publisher books on our production workstations, many under non-disclosure agreements. Fortunately we have not yet rolled ADE4 out for testing (because it can't handle inline images amongst other silly things).

This is a timely warning of corporate irresponsibility. We will ensure our publisher production contacts are all made aware of this. From a production facility perspective this is somewhat intimidating. If someone wants to ADE4 test a book under non-disclosure it will have to be on an isolated workstation modified as Michael mentioned. For us that will become a production services sales feature!

I didn’t directly discuss this need for security in my post yesterday, but it was at the back of my mind. It was safe to assume that someone’s corporate IT dept would run security tests on the new app before deploying it, so Adobe should have known that this privacy and security breach would have been caught and likely publicized.

In any case, if you are looking for an alternative to Adobe Digital Editions, the older versions still work. But if you wish to avoid Adobe entirely, as I plan to do, you could try competing apps like Bluefire Reader for Windows.

Independently developed by Bluefire, this app was released earlier this year. I’ve run it through the same check that revealed Adobe’s spying, and so far as I can tell it does not spy on you. (Adobe has made me so paranoid that I am still double checking this.)

Bluefire does offer the feature of syncing your reading position between the Windows app and Bluefire’s apps for Android and iOS, so you can expect them to send at least some info back to their servers, but this app does not require that you log in.

To be fair to Adobe, all of the major ebook platforms offer the option of syncing your reading position, and that does require that information be uploaded to their servers. But one would also expect that the info is transmitted in a secure manner, and not left visible to all and sundry.

Speaking of syncing options, Adobe might have been tracking the reading position with plans to offer a sync option of their own. I am told they have an Adobe DE iPad app in the works, and I can see that syncing between the PC app and the iPad app would be a useful feature.

However, this still does not excuse the lack of security, nor does it excuse the fact that Adobe scanned my ebook library and uploaded the metadata.  That is beyond the pale.

image  by nolifebeforecoffee

The post Adobe Digital Editions 3 Probably Safe From Adobe’s Spying, Experts Say appeared first on The Digital Reader.

3M Cloud Library Launches New Hardware Lending Program with the Nook Glowlight

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 12:47 PM PDT

nook glowlight 3m cloud libraryIt looks like this is going to be a week for bad ideas, because 3M just stepped in it.

I just got a press release which touts the 3M Cloud Library’s new hardware lending program. This library ebook vendor was pleased to announce that their platform was now compatible with the Nook Glowlight, B&N’s latest ereader.

Libraries can now buy $99 Nook Glowlights from B&N and then check them out to patrons. A reader can check out a library ebook, and then with the assistance of a librarian, load the ebook on to the Nook and read it.

That sounds like a rather clunky process to me (loading a library ebook on to a Kindle is much simpler), but I do not believe it will be a major issue. The thing is, I wonder how many libraries will buy Nook Glowlights when we know that buying one could trap a library in a legal mess.

nook glowlight 3m cloud library

While this program looks like a great idea at first, some of the legal aspects render it moot.

As you may or may not know, libraries have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This means they have a legal obligation to buy hardware which can be used by patrons who have impaired hearing and eyesight. The Nook Glowlight lacks sound, and thus cannot be used by a blind library patron.

Admittedly, a library could buy a mix of devices. So long as some units met accessibility requirements the non accessible devices could probably squeak by, but I for one would not want to take the chance.

I would not want to suffer the fate of the Philadelphia Free Library or the Sacramento Public Library. These libraries were sued in 2012 because they loaned out Nook ereaders, which lacked sound and thus could not be used by the blind.

But I could be making too much of the legal issue. If you are a librarian, would you buy a Nook Glowlight to lend?

I have asked 3M about this issue, but they have not responded. If they respond I will update this post.

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Kindle Unlimited Launches in Germany

Posted: 07 Oct 2014 07:54 AM PDT

kindle unlimited germanyAs predicted, Amazon launched their flat rate ebook subscription service in Germany today.

Amazon’s German (and probably Austrian) customers can now enjoy unlimited reading from a catalog of over 700,000 titles. This includes around 40,000 to 50,000 titles in German, but it doesn’t include very many titles from major publishers (pretty much what we expected). Instead, KU draws much of its catalog from self-published titles, with only a sprinkling of ebooks from major publishers mixed in.

Kindle Unlimited is launching with an impressive catalog size but not such an impressive selection.

The service costs 9.99 euros a month in Germany, slightly higher than the US price of $9.99 but about the same as the UK cost of £7.99. The KU price is also slightly higher than the cost of a Scribd subscription, which is available in Germany, but on the upside Amazon is launching with a price that is competitive with Skoobe.

Up until yesterday, Skoobe was the leading ebook subscription service in Germany. It has a catalog of 70,000 titles in German, and costs anywhere from 9.99 to 19.99 euros per month. The lower price tiers have more restrictions, including limits on how long you can stay offline. (In comparison, Amazon’s service lets a user have up to 10 ebook and stay offline effectively forever.)

Skoobe is owned by Bertelsmann and von Holtzbrinck, and it has access to German language titles published by those media conglomerates.  And since von Holtzbrinck owns Macmillan, Skoobe also has access to the backlist of SF publisher Tor/Forge Books.

Amazon, on the other hand, boasts that they have 30,000 exclusive titles in German. Boersenblatt also reports that Amazon is promoting the Kindle Singles available in KU as being a “fast reading experience for a short escape from everyday life”.

While it looks like I was overly optimistic to expect to see Kindle Unlimited launch internationally all at once, I do think Amazon has a serious competitor in Germany. However, so long as Amazon’s competitors have deals with major trade publishers that Amazon lacks, I don’t think they will be able to dominate the subscription ebook market quite so completely as the dominate certain ebook markets.

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