Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Eddie Cue on the price-fixing case: I’d do it again

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 05:57 PM PST

15241805765_2b07993008[1]With the court date for Apple’s appeal of the July 2013 antitrust ruling coming up in a couple weeks, the topic just how Apple is going to get out of the hole it dug for itself is on the minds of many pundits. If this Fortune interview of Eddie Cue is to be believed, Apple’s answer is to dig the hole even deeper.

That article starts with an overview of the entire 5 year long agency saga, starting with the initial meetings between Cue and 6 major US trade publishers and continuing to today. It also includes some telling quotes from Cue, including:

Many are surprised Apple didn’t settle long ago. The case seems to be more about reputation than money. (Under a conditional settlement worked out in June, if Apple loses the appeal, it will pay $450 million in damages and attorney fees. If it wins, it pays nothing.)

"We feel we have to fight for the truth," says Cue. "Luckily, Tim feels exactly like I do," he continues, referring to Apple CEO Tim Cook, "which is: You have to fight for your principles no matter what. Because it's just not right."

Given that the 5 publishers accused of conspiring with Apple settled before the lawsuit went to trial, I’m not sure what Apple stands to gain here other than the self-satisfaction that they fought to their last breath.



I guess principle is as good of a reason as any to continue to litigate this case, and if Cue had limited to talking about principle then he could have come out of this looking good. Instead he made a mistake which will almost certainly come back to haunt Apple.

The end of the article closed out with this Cue quote:

As for Cue, how does he look back at this nightmare?

"If I had it to do all over again, I'd do it again," he says. "I'd just take better notes."

Yeah, that wasn’t smart. Viewed from the right perspective, that could be made to look as bad the infamous Steve Jobs quote about ebook prices in the iBookstore.

As you may recall, at the iPad launch event Walt Mossberg asked jobs why anyone would pay $14.99 for a book which was available on Amazon for $9.99. “That won't be the case," Jobs responded. "The prices will be the same.”

If you look at it one way, Jobs is referring to the MFN clause which gave Apple the right to drop the ebook’s price to match the price in the Kindle Store. But if you look at it another way, that was a tacit admission that Apple new that Amazon’s ebook prices would be going up.

Guess how that Cue quote will be spun by the next lawyers to file an antitrust against Apple?

images  by grongarRob.Bertholf

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B&N Will Give you a $30 Credit for Your Old Nook

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 09:00 PM PST

nook trio If you’ve been thinking about replacing that old Nook ereader then I have some good news for you. Barnes & Noble just launched a new trade in program for their older ereaders. Bring your Nook 1st Edition, Nook Color, or Nook Tablet in to a B&N store any time between now and 17 January and B&n will give you a $30 off the purchase of a Galaxy Tab Nook.

The offer isn’t good for the Nook Touch (which B&N was still selling as late as the middle of last year), and it would seem to only be good for buying new hardware (in other words the credit can’t simply be applied to your Nook account). But if you’ve been thinking about upgrading your existing Nook device, now would be a good time.

It is a shame that this wasn’t announced last week, though. You could have combined this credit with the Black Friday sale and gotten the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook 7″ for under $100.

For more details on the trade in offer, check out B&N.

Thanks, Steve!

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Kobo launches OEM program to bring Kobo software to 3rd-Party eReaders

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 09:00 PM PST

kobo itunes ios logoWhen Kobo was just getting started in 2010 it didn’t have much in the way of ereader hardware, and to make up for that lack Kobo partnered with 3rd-party device makers to load Kobo’s reading app on to those other devices.

This program fell by the wayside as Kobo  released first the Kobo Touch in 2011 and then later other ereaders including the Kobo Aura H2O, but it’s now making a comeback.

E-ink and Kobo have just announced a new program called Kobo eBook Access which, when you filter out the marketing spiel, is effectively a revival of Kobo’s earlier hardware project. This time around Kobo is going to focus on getting their app on to Android ereader hardware (like the ones I’ve been talking about lately), starting with the Sony Readers. Sony got out of the ebook business earlier this year and handed its customer lists over to Kobo, after which a new firmware was released for the Sony Readers which integrated the Kobo ebookstore.

“We look forward to working on this initiative with E Ink to further Kobo's mission of getting more people, reading more often on any device they choose,” said Scott Cleaver, executive vice president, Supply Chain and Partner Management at Kobo. “We're truly excited to see our comprehensive eBook store made available on other E Ink-based devices, thanks to this great program led by E Ink.”

Pandigital-Novel-7-R70E200-2[1]Kobo’s past hardware partners included Pandigital, which in late 2010 loaded the Kobo Android app on one of the first 7″ budget tablets (the black Novel, to be exact). There were also several Kindle clones with 7″ LCD screens. Those devices featured keyboards and  unremarkable performance (I think I still have a couple).  I also know that Southern Telecom released a 5″ device under the Slick brand, and there were very likely other models released in other markets.

When I first read this press release, I immediately flashed back to those older devices with a feeling of dismay. Several of those older ereaders were junk, and they only hit store shelves because the manufacturers had no shame.

But just because Kobo’s older partners released bad hardware doesn’t mean its new partners will as well. eReader hardware has improved significantly over the past 4 years, so much so that even generic Chinese OEMs are now producing ereaders worth buying.

Now is a good time to recruit those OEMs as partners.

No new partners have been announced at this time, although I can think of couple Chinese OEMs, including Boeye, who might be interested. While many of those companies have their own reading app already, not all of the apps include an integrated ebookstore. What’s more, some of those apps were created for the Chinese market and would be less useful outside of China than Kobo’s app. If those OEms can ship their hardware with  Kobo’s app then it would likely be much more appealing to western resellers.

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Amazon changes KDP terms in response to upcoming changes in EU tax laws

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 08:58 PM PST

8723093834_7675453ca4[1]Tax laws in the European Union will be changing on 1 January 2015, requiring retailers to collect VAT based on where their customer is located. Many retailers are still working to comply with the new law, and yesterday Amazon revealed how they were changing their operations.

The retailer announced yesterday that they were changing the terms of KDP to reflect the new tax laws. Rather than let authors and publishers set a price which Amazon would then add the applicable VAT, under the new system authors are required to set a price which includes the local VAT.

Starting January 1st, to make it easier to set customer friendly list prices without having to calculate VAT for each country, authors will set list prices for EU marketplaces that include VAT. To accommodate this, the KDP pricing page will be updated to accept VAT-inclusive list prices. Previously, if an author wanted to provide a suggested list price of “£1.99″, he would have to set “£1.93″ as the VAT-exclusive list price to account for the 3% VAT we would have applied. Now, authors can simply enter “£1.99″ and we will deduct the applicable VAT to calculate royalties. In the pricing grid, authors will also see their estimated price without VAT displayed for each marketplace to help them understand how royalties will be calculated for sales to customers from that primary country.

For those authors who set their EU marketplace prices automatically from their US list price, we will convert the US list price to local currency and that will be the list price that includes VAT. For example, if an author sets the US list price to be $10.00, then we will convert that price to Euros for the Amazon.de marketplace, and assuming the exchange rate is 0.8, the Amazon.de list price including VAT will be €8.00. For a sale to a German customer, we would deduct 19% VAT and calculate royalty on a VAT-exclusive list price of €6.72.

The new calculations will go into effect at the beginning of 2015.

2427194598_cd5e84e22d[1]Originally intended to wipe out the advantage one retailer might have over another based on the EU country they operate from, the new laws are expected to have a painful impact on smaller businesses. While larger tech companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon can afford the infrastructure to track and collect the appropriate VAT, smaller entities like authors and publishers will face greater difficulty.

Authors and publishers who sell direct will now have to identify the EU country for each of their customers and collect the relevant VAT. While that is not an impossible task, it is daunting. Not all payment processing services like Paypal are ready to deal with the change, leaving authors to cope on their own.

images by EU Naval Force Medialiewcf

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Pocketbook Unveils Thinner, Lighter, 13.3″ CAD Reader Flex

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 08:57 PM PST

CAD_Reader_Flex(render)_1_When Pocketbook first unveiled the CAD Reader last December it had a chunky design and was no where near ready to hit the market. A year later the CAD Reader is still months away from being shipped, but now the prototype is thinner and prettier.

While we still don’t know what the production model will look like, Pocketbook says they’re now showing off a new CAD Reader Flex which measures only 6.5 mm thin. 

The new model still has a 13.3″ E-ink display with a screen resolution of 1,600 x 1,200, only now it is a plastic backed Mobius screen and not the Fina E-ink screen which was on the prototype when it was first unveiled last year. Pocketbook changed the design in June because the Mobius screen is more impact resistant.

Aside from the new screen, the new CAD Reader Flex looks to have more limited specs than the original design. Gone is any mention of Android; now the CAD Reader Flex runs Pocketbook’s software on a dual-core 1.5GHz CPU with 512MB RAM and 8GB internal storage.

And while the CAD Reader Flex also has Wifi and Bluetooth, the new design appears to lack a frontlight or touchscreen (or at least they’re not mentioned in the press release, even though the d-pad and page turn buttons are mentioned).

Update: I was right; Pocketbook has confirmed that the new CAD Reader Flex doesn’t have a touchscreen or frontlight, and it doesn’t run Android.

Assuming that Pocketbook didn’t trip themselves up and forget to include key details in their press release (I’m still waiting for confirmation), the new CAD Reader Flex is a much less appealing design than the prototype that Pocketbook lent to E-ink for CES 2014.

That earlier design ran Android 4.0 and had 2GB RAM, and while the CAD Reader was supposed to be simply a locked down ereader for displaying blueprints, the OS and specs hinted that an industrious hacker would be able to turn the CAD Reader from a simple ereader into an E-ink Android ereader.

This would have let us install other reading apps, but now it looks like that is no longer possible. I don’t know about you, but I suddenly find this design far less appealing.

Pocketbook is showing off the CAD Reader Flex at Autodesk University this week in Las Vegas, NV. If you have a chance to put your hands on it I would love to hear what you think.

CAD_Reader_Flex(render)_2 CAD_Reader_Flex(render)_4 CAD_Reader_Flex(render)_3

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Thalia Launches Audiobook Subscription Service in Germany

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 08:51 PM PST

Kopfhoerer1There may be some question as to whether Kobo will be getting into audiobooks, but there’s no reason to doubt Thalia’s interest. This German bookseller recently launched a new audiobook service which offers limited access to 15,000 titles.

This Audible-like service allows subscribers to download one DRM-free mp3 audiobook each month for €10 a month. The audiobooks are backed up to a user’s account in the Tolino cloud (just like their ebook purchases) and can be listened to on the recently launched Tolino Tab 8 or in any compatible app for Android, iOS, Windows, etc. Thalia’s ebook apps aren’t equipped yet to play the audiobooks, but lesen.net reports that support will be added in the near future.

In addition to the subscription service, Thalia is also selling audiobooks, with prices ranging from €5 to €29. According to lesen.net, the retail prices were sometimes higher than Amazon’s prices in Germany, and sometimes lower.

2273477696_a455440c7b_z[1]The subscription price, on the other hand, matches the cost of a subscription to Audible.de.  Anazon reportedly offers over 100,000 audiobook titles in Germany, about 7 times as many as Thalia. Most of those titles are encumbered by DRM.

In addition to selling books and audiobooks, Thalia also sells ebooks as part of the Tolino consortium. It’s the largest chain of bookstores in Germany, and coincidentally it is also up for sale. Reuters reported last week that Thalia’s parent company has directed a merchant bank to organize the sale of Thalia.


images by Stephen Cummings, Thalia

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