Monday, 17 November 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 18 November 2014

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 07:46 PM PST

Here are 6 stories for you to read this morning.

  • Amazon Won't Be Earth's Biggest Bookstore. Facebook Will. (The Passive Voice)
  • Digital rights management: it's not as if wanting to read is a crime (The Guardian)
  • Malcolm Gladwell: Amazon Has Turned on Us Writers: Video(Bloomberg)
  • Robert Gray: Just Say No to Robot Booksellers (Shelf Awareness)
  • Vice Launching Sci-Fi Site (PW)
  • Why I Am Teaching a Course Called "Wasting Time on the Internet" (The New Yorker)

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If You Don’t Own The Platform, You Don’t Control It Either

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 06:09 PM PST

9771579591_bc18b61795_oTumblr has just given us a graphic example of why independence, even if it comes at a cost, is still better than relying the generosity of a free service provider.

Sarah Moon reported on her blog earlier today that Tumblr had recently taken away a URL which she had been using for several years in order to give it to an advertiser (or at least a potential one):

Last week, Tumblr notified me that they were going to give a Tumblr URL I've had for nearly five years to the NBA (the basketball league).

They claimed that I was harming the NBA's SEO because I had this password-protected URL with a reference to their acronym (hint: this isn't how SEO works at all—this is utter bullshit and Tumblr was basically hoping I was too stupid to know how search works). Keep in mind, "NBA" is an acronym used by many entities, as well as casually for things such as "No Boys Allowed."

So, driven by the principle of the thing, I protested with Tumblr.

I argued that NBA can stand for any number of things, that I would be happy to remove any reference to the NBA from my password-protected Tumblr blog, that there are many, many other Tumblrs with that acronym in it, and explained to them how search works, and how my URL didn't impact the NBA's search results. (Also, it's not like Tumblr's search function works anyway.)

Today, Tumblr got back to me and informed me that they'd given the URL to the NBA, whom I assumed wanted it so they can start a style blog devoted toCarmelo Anthony's hats. 

Moon went on to add that this wasn’t the first time that Tumblr had seized a URL for spurious reasons; she mentions that when she tweeted about loosing her URL, “loads of people replied saying they knew people whose Tumblr URLs were handed over to advertisers”.


This is by no means the first time that a platform has taken something away from a user to hand it to an advertiser oe trademark holder. To name one example, in 2009 Twitter yanked the @towerbridge handle and handed it to the official non-profit that maintained the bridge. That handle had previously been belonged to a Brit which used it to humorously announce when the bridge was going up and down.

And that’s just one example; there are dozens more going back years. In fact, horror stories about the capricious management at Blogger are why I never considered using any of the free hosting services when I first started blogging on my own in 2010.

Getting back to why this matters to authors…

Folks, Tumblr has given us another example of why authors should (whenever possible) directly control the website addresses related to their work, and not register it through a third party.

For example, if an author setup a Tumblr at, they run the risk of losing that URL to a studio or publisher if that entity decides they also want to use the character name in one of their works.

Moon described a similar situation:

If you run a fan blog on Tumblr, for example, and the television studio that owns the show you're a fan of wants your URL, Tumblr will take it away from you.

But if an author registered on their own, the author would at least have a fighting chance of keeping that domain from being taken away. The author might lose it, but the process required to take the domain is not nearly as easy as asking Tumblr politely.

In short, authors should own and control their web presence for exactly the same reason they own the rest of their IP, including the copyright, artwork, etc. If someone else, including Tumblr and Twitter, controls it on your behalf then you run the risk of that other party owning you.

P.S. If you are looking for a suggestion for where to register your domain, GoDaddy is not terrible. They’re not great, either, but they’re not terrible.

images by melenita2012

The post If You Don’t Own The Platform, You Don’t Control It Either appeared first on The Digital Reader.

NYC to Offer Free Public Wifi by 2015

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 07:54 PM PST

link_manhattan2[1]Now that almost everyone has a cellphone  pay phones  have mostly gone the way of the buggy whip, but that doesn’t mean that they’re completely useless. In the past phone booths have been modified to serve as lending libraries, and now New York City is going to make them to serve a 21st century version of their traditional role.

NYC unveiled a new plan today to adapt some 10,000 pay phone locations to fill  a new need as Wifi hotspots. LinkNYC is going to be a free city-wide wifi network that officials say will be the fastest and most wide-reaching network of its kind in the world.

The kiosks, which you can see below, will replace existing pay phones with entirely new hardware, so they won’t technically be adapting existing units (mores the pity – I wanted to see a kludged together retrofit). Officials are talking about one gigabit per second wifi speeds within a radius of 150 feet of each kiosk, the first of which is scheduled to go into service in late 2015. The kiosks will offer free domestic phone call, charging stations for your mobile device, and video conferencing.

The kiosks will be free to use, and will be funded by streaming digital adverts. Officials are anticipating that the ads will generate  at least $20 million in ad revenue annually, reducing taxpayer costs to nothing. I wouldn’t be so sure about that; another source says that the kiosks will be funded by “as much as $500 million in advertising revenue over a dozen years”, suggesting that no one really knows how much it will cost or whether it can be funded without taxpayers footing the bill.

Even so, it’s a cool idea and a natural expansion on existing municipal efforts to provide internet access as a social good. Similar past efforts include free wifi at public libraries as well as broader efforts like that of  Minneapolis, where 117 hotspots blanket the entire city.

And NYC has been trying to provide this type of service for some years now; many city parks boast free wifi now, and last year Google started providing free wifi to the area of Manhattan that surrounds its offices.

link_residential_front link_commercial_front

WSJ, Re/code

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French Court Expands “Right to be Forgotten” Beyond Europe

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 07:53 PM PST

1674586821_487642df27[1]Europe’s censorship law has been causing any number of difficulties for European search engines ever since a ruling by the European Court of Justice confirmed the “right to be forgotten” in May, and now the problems have spread internationally.

A recent court ruling in France finds Google’s French subsidiary being penalized for the actions of its US-based parent. From The Guardian:

Google's French subsidiary has been ordered to pay daily fines of €1,000 unless links to a defamatory article are removed from the parent company's entire global network.

The punitive judgment by the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance, based on the controversial right to be forgotten online established by the European Court of Justice, breaks new ground in making the subsidiary liable for the activities of its parent company – in this case Google Inc.

The court handed down the ruling in September but it has barely been reported reported outside France. At one level, the decision represents a pioneering attempt by a European court to enforce its order of justice on the internet worldwide.

The case was brought by Dan Shefet, a Danish lawyer who works in France. Shefet says that he and his law firm had been the subject of a defamation campaign. He filed for Google to remove search results which led to blog posts and sites related to the supposed campaign, which Google did for its search engine.


According to The Guardian, Shefet sued Google last year. “We obtained a court order on August 6 2013 from the court in Paris enjoining both Google France and Google Inc to cease referencing the URLs in question,” Shefet explained.  “Google France complied, but in spite of serving judgment on Google Inc nothing happened. They simply didn’t comply and didn’t even respond to the French court order.”

It’s not clear to me how he sued Google in 2013 without any news site noticing that this individual was censoring Google, but that is what several sources are reporting (including in French and Danish).

Do you know what’s also not clear to me? Why this would be covered under the “right to be forgotten”. That is for personal info, not professional, and arguably does not apply in circumstances where someone is targeting a law firm with a smear campaign.

Following the May ruling, Shefet sued Google again earlier this year and got a ruling which fined Google France for the actions of its parent company.

At the time of the ruling in September, it was reported that Google had received 135 thousand requests to remove links relating to 470 thousand individual pages. Google has declined around 60% of the requests on the grounds that they related to professional rather than private life, but as the search engine giant has been getting a thousand requests per day the number of censored links is growing.

A Google spokesperson said: “This was initially a defamation case and it began before the CJEU ruling on the right to be forgotten. We are reviewing the ruling and considering our options. More broadly, the right to be forgotten raises some difficult issues and so we're seeking advice – both from data protection authorities and via our Advisory Council – on the principles we should apply when making these difficult decisions.”

I thought that this legal concept was a terrible idea when I reported on it in May, and my opinion hasn’t changed in the intervening months.

A right to be forgotten is a right to censor. While it is now in the hands of the individual and is only limited to search results, it is a safe bet that the right will be expanded, and eventually come under control of the State.

1984, anyone?

images by Cédric PuisneyJason Rosenberg

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eBooks Now 7% of Book Sales in the Netherlands

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 07:51 PM PST

10129824094_900333acdf[1]It looks like Amazon may have launched a Dutch Kindle Store just in time for it to take off.

New data from the market research firm GfK shows that ebook sales accounted for 7% of the consumer market in the Netherlands in the third quarter of this year, with 1 in 7 fiction titles sold as an ebook. That’s up from an estimated 4.7% of sales in the 12 months ending July 2014.

GfK also reported that paper book sales continued to decline last quarter, with overall sales down 14%. Children’s books and nonfiction titles, however, did better. The total estimated sales of books in the third quarter amounted to 108 million euros, down 8.9% from a year earlier, with 8.5 million books sold.

With several regional competitors and multiple international bookstores present, the Dutch ebook market is far more competitive than its small size might justify. In addition to iBooks, Google, and the recently launched Kindle Store, Kobo and its partner are the leading ebook retailer, with Tolino and its partner, the bookseller coop Libris, rounding out the top 5 most visible competitors in that market.

image by Luke,Ma

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New AAP Stats Show that Reports of the Demise of Paperbacks Were Greatly Exaggerated

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 07:50 PM PST

aap The Association of American Publishers announced today that the US ebook market, or rather the segment tracked by AAP member publishers, saw moderate growth in the first 8 months of 2014.

Trade revenues for the 1,209 publishers who submit data to the AAP were up 4.4% so far this year ($4.2 billion to $4.3 billion), and when all of the revenue data, including PSP, Pre K-12 Instructional materials, and higher ed, the total revenues grew by 5.7%.

The adult segment dropped by a couple percent, while the YA segment increased by 25% (from $903 million to $1.1 billion). The religious press segment was also up 2%.

In terms of formats, downloaded audiobooks continued to be the best performer, growing by 27.7% growth over the same period in 2013. eBook revenues grew by 6% (from $1.0 billion to $1.1 billion). Revenues from paperback sales were up 5.3% (from $1.26 billion to $1.32 billion), while hard back sales increased by 1.3%.

All in all, there is very little change from the data released last month, which brings me to my title.

Over the past few weeks, I have heard a couple people repeat the “ebooks are killing paperbacks” meme. While that appeared to be true in past years, I seriously do not think that is the case any more. Paperback sales fluctuate, and ebook sales are slowly growing, but the gross cannibalization is no longer taking place.

eBooks might replace paperbacks in the long run, but the change is occurring so slowly that it’s impossible to suggest the possibility without better long term data.

aap august 2014

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HarperCollins Partners with Kobo, Launches a Book Bundle Pilot in Australia

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 07:48 PM PST

60614323_40f4109202[1]Clearly a believer in the idea that one can never have too many pilots, HarperCollins has launched a new print/digital pilot program today in Australia.

Developed in partnership with Boomerang Books and Kobo, the new program will let readers buy one of five books from Boomerang and get a coupon code for a free ebook from Kobo. Said program is being tested with 5 titles, including two novels and 3 biographies:

  • Cleanskin Cowgirls by Rachael Treasure
  • Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetti
  • Kerry Stokes: The Boy from Nowhere by Andrew Rule
  • Last Woman Hanged by Caroline Overington
  • The Menzies Era by John Howard

The books are described by Boomerang as being bestsellers, but a quick check of reveals that the books have hardly any reviews – with one exception.

That exception is a biography called The Menzies Era. It’s a bio of Australia’s longest serving PM written by another former PM of Australia.  That book has 40 one-star reviews, most of which focus on the subject’s eyebrows. (Yes, they are worth reading.)

Those 5 books can be found on the Boomerang website with prices ranging from $24 to $70 for the eyebrow biography. Australia or no, those are high prices, and that makes me wonder just what HC and Boomerang expect to accomplish here.

While Boomerang reminds us that we can “easily gift a bundled book without fear of what device (if any) someone reads on”, I’m not sure who would want a copy of the biographies. I for one would not want to give the eyebrow biography to anyone other than as a very expensive gag gift.

But I could be wrong; we’ll just have to wait and see.

This is the 4th print/digital bundle launched by HarperCollins in the past year (actually, 14 months). Following a bundle launched in the UK in partnership with Foyles and txtr, over the summer HC launched two more bundles in North America, one in partnership with Vancounver-based BitLit, and the other with Bookshout.

And now HC has a bundle pilot in Australia.

image  by ~My aim is true~

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