Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 4 December 2014

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 07:24 PM PST

Must read stories this morning include an insiders explanation for why Chromebooks are displacing iPads in education, Nature dropping its paywall and replacing it with DRM, a different take on ethics in journalism, the latest on the Google Books lawsuit, and more.

  • Apple’s Big Misstep In Education (Applepeels)
  • Discussion: Sometimes I Just Don't Feel Like Writing Reviews (BookShelfery)
  • In Wayzata, Minnesota, a school spies on its students (Boing Boing)
  • In Google Books appeal, judges focus on profit and security (GigaOm)
  • Is a “Wikipedia For News” Feasible? (Slashdot)
  • Journalists and Patronage (from the Glog)
  • Nature Drops Its Paywall… But Replaces It With Insane, Anti-Research Proprietary DRM (Techdirt)
  • Second Bite: Can Apple clear its name in the ebooks drama? (Fortune)
  • Tumblr Now Has 'Buy,' 'Pledge,' And 'Get Involved' Buttons From Etsy, Kickstarter, Artsy + Do Something (TechCrunch)
  • Why you shouldn’t give your book away (Build Book Buzz)

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Why Chromebooks are outselling iPads in the school market

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 08:48 PM PST

samsung-chromebook[1]Many bloggers have been writing lately about recent estimates which suggest Chromebooks are outselling iPads in the school (I broke the news 4 months ago), but few have been trying to explain why it’s happening.

eWeek is perhaps the one exception to this; they looked at some of the more obvious causes:

One big factor is price. At starting prices ranging from $159 to $199, Chromebooks are more economical to purchase than an iPad with comparable functions. “Price is certainly a big factor. The education sector is highly, highly price-sensitive,” Singh noted.

Chromebooks are also fairly simple to manage, a huge plus for cash-strapped schools. Technologies like Google’s Web-based management console for Chromebooks have made the devices easy to set up and manage for school administrators.Using the console, schools, for instance, can configure and push down a standard image for the devices or customize and change settings across multiple units relatively easily, the IDC analyst said.

Integrated keyboards are also another big reason many schools appear to be choosing the Chromebook over the iPad, Singh said. While touch-screen devices may be suitable for younger students, older ones typically require a keyboard for many of the tasks they are expected to perform at school.

lenovo-s-new-touchscreen-chromebook-with-300-degree-hinge[1]While all that is true, there’s an underlying question which eWeek didn’t answer. Why is Google making a product schools want, and not Apple?

Remember, there was a time when Apple dominated the academic market. When I was in high school in the 1990s, all of the better computers were Macs.  While there were a number of PC computer labs, those machines were running Win 3.11 (if you were lucky) and their only recommendation was that it was very easy to fudge around with DOS (I am so lucky the statute of limitations has run out).

But 15 years later, most of the computers in schools run Windows, with Apple products coming in second (and losing ground as Chromebook sales outpace iPad sales).

Did you ever wonder why that’s happening?

How did US schools go from this:


to this:


According to David Sobotta, it’s because Apple stopped listening to their customers. He draws on his years as an Apple manager to write over on his ApplePeels blog that:

One of the biggest things that changed after Steve came back was how Apple interacted with its higher education and large business customers.  …

Much of this changed when Steve came back.  The first to go were customer meeting with publishing professionals.  Steve did not enjoy customer meetings when he was not on a stage.  While the higher education meetings continued, it was clear that Apple was not listening seriously.

The Cupertino briefings kept going for business, higher education, and K-12 customers but the amount of useful planning information that came out of the meetings declined.  It was not unusual for Apple to pay the way of some K-12 executives to come to a Cupertino briefing but the true education partnerships were gone.

Sobotta goes on to detail the faults he sees in Apple’s current product and services, but IMO many of the points he raises stem from Apple no longer trying to fill a customer’s needs. That includes the way that Apple ties too many services to its own hardware:

Google has always abstracted the data from the hardware, Apple has always tied the data to a device in the hopes that you will buy a new one.

You can use Google Docs from just about any device including Macs of all stripes.  Just try using Apple’s cloud services from an Android device. Of course I have found Apple’s cloud apps are often hobbled like the inability to do notes in Pages or presenter notes in Keynote.  Actually you cannot even upload files from an old Mac to Apple’s own Cloud drive.  You have to use DropBox.  How many schools have you visited where old Macs and in fact any old computers that they can find are part of their educational computing program?

It’s almost as if Apple is afraid that you won’t buy their nifty new hardware if they don’t force you to do so by tying all of the web services to it.

And I think Apple’s not listening to customers extends to even the iPad.

What does Apple think would make a great educational platform? The iPad. What are schools buying? Chromebooks.

To be honest, I’m probably overstating the trend of Chromebooks replacing iPads, but it is one I expect to increase over time. At last count Apple had sold 13 million iPads to schools since the first model launched in 2010, while schools have bought (at best) a few million Chromebooks.

But as those 13 million iPads grow old and are replaced, I fully expect most to be replaced by Chromebooks which cost a third as much, are twice as useful, and are much easier to deploy and support.

image by kjarrettflickingerbrad

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3M Adds Audiobooks to its Cloud Library

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 08:46 PM PST

2940043913227_p0_v2_s260x420[1]3M is playing the catchup game this week in the library ebook market.

3M Library Systems announced earlier today that they had inked a deal with Findaway World to add 40,000 audiobook titles to the catalog of the 3M Cloud Library. Libraries who have signed with 3M can now buy the audiobooks and check them out to their patrons.

The audiobooks can be played in the latest version of the 3M Cloud Library apps for Android and iOS. The apps have recently been updated with new features, including a dictionary (iOS app).

If the quotes in the press release are to be believed, the reception is quite positive. “We're very pleased to be able to offer both eBook and eAudiobook titles within our 3M Cloud Library collection,” said Melissa Gearhart, Acquisitions Librarian at West Georgia Regional Library. “3M's user-friendly, dual-format platform makes it easy for our patrons to discover and utilize these digital resources.”

3M Cloud Library is the last of the major library platforms in the US to add audiobooks. OverDrive has had them since forever, and Baker & Taylor signed a deal in January 2013 with Findaway World to add audiobooks to Axis 360.

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Yotaphone 2 launched, Could be coming to the US next year (maybe)

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 08:45 PM PST

yotaphoneAs I predicted when I broke the news last month, Yota Devices officially launched their second dual-screen smartphone this week.

The Yotaphone 2 sports a 5″ AMOLED display on one side, and flip it over and you’ll find a 4.7″ E-ink screen on the back. (5″ + 4.7″, hey, we’ve got a 9.7″ screen on a phone). Kidding aside, that AMOLED screen has a resolution of 1920 x 1080, while the E-ink screen has a resolution of 960 x 540 (about 235 ppi). Both screens have a capacitive touchscreen, though at this point it looks like only the AMOLED screen is backlit.

There’s really very little new to report about the Yotaphone 2; it seems the specs haven’t changed since the first prototype was unveiled in February of this year.

All the press reports say that the new phone is running Android 4.4 KitKat on a quad-core SnapDragon 800 CPU with 2GB RAM and 32GB Flash storage. The production model has the same pair of cameras (8MP and 2MP) found on the prototype in February, and it also supports Wifi, Bluetooth, and GSM and HSDPA cell networks.

image via The Next Web
The Yotaphone 2 is going to launch in the UK, Europe, and Russia fairly soon. The UK/EU price will be £555/€700, while Russians will be paying 32,990 rubles. (One report says the US launch will happen early next year).

That price tag puts the Yotaphone in the same range as high-end smartphones, and at least one of the early reviewers thinks it doesn’t do enough to justify the price.

Cnet got their hands on an early review unit, and said in part:

The e-ink screen suffers from ghosting issues, the software for customising it isn’t particularly easy to use, the camera doesn’t impress and there’s no expandable storage. … Although the YotaPhone 2’s e-ink display is wonderfully novel, and can result in much better battery life, the phone needs to be considerably cheaper if it’s going to be a sensible purchase over other Android phones.

Other early reviewers include Engadget and TheNextWeb. Neither review was as critical as Cnet, though they do comment on the price.

As for me, I think it sounds like a great phone. It’s way outside of my reach (my smartphone cost $250, and that includes a year of service), but I do think the tech sounds cool. I look forward to playing with the new Yotaphone when CES rolls around.

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UK Minister proposes 25% Google Tax on corporate income, forgets that UK already collects a VAT

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 08:44 PM PST

5857156048_0fb35a8266_m[1]Many people have long been complaining that Amazon and other huge multi-nationals aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. I’ve heard these complaints in in the US, UK, and other countries, and now the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer is proposing a solution to the complaints.

The WSJ reports that George Osborne wants to enact what sounds like a corporate income tax:

The U.K. government Wednesday took aim at tech companies and other international firms, proposing a 25% tax on profits on "economic activity" that is shifted overseas.

Treasury chief George Osborne said in his autumn budget statement to Parliament that he wanted to make sure "big multinational businesses pay their fair share."

The proposal makes good on Mr. Osborne's warning in September that he was going to crack down on companies – particularly tech companies – that use complex structures to lower their U.K. tax bills.

"Some of the largest companies in the world, including those in the tech sector, use elaborate structures to avoid paying taxes," he said. "That's not fair to other British firms. It's not fair to British people either. Today we're putting a stop to it. My message is consistent and clear: low taxes, but low taxes that will be paid."

When I first read this story, I was terribly confused. You see, I was under the impression that a company’s revenues were already taxed directly.


As I understood it, the UK collects a VAT (value added tax) on (almost) all commercial transactions. This differs from an American sales tax, where few transactions are directly taxed (mainly when you sell to consumers), and that difference means that the VAT is in effect a corporate income tax.

Yes, I know that the popular view is that the tax burden is born by consumers, but if a company’s customers are other companies then there are no consumers involved. And since Google’s main source of revenue is advertising, the idea that they will pass the cost along to consumers simply doesn’t make any sense.

Or did I miss something?

images by Images_of_Money

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Opera 26 update adds a clunky and inconvienent way for you to share what you read

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 08:44 PM PST

Opera-icon-high-resOpera rolled out a new version of its desktop browser today, and in addition to bug fixes and behind the scenes improvements Opera also added an awkward way for users to share bookmarks with their friends.

As you can see in the following video, sharing a link in the new version of Opera is as simple as one-two-three-four-five:

It looks like Opera may have been influenced by the bookmark manager which Google recently launched for Chrome, which is a shame. That manager isn’t very functional or well-designed, and more importantly I think there already is a better way to share links online.

I’ve been sharing links online for about 5 years now, and in that time I have cut the steps required down to a minimum. Rather than use Operas’s clunky method of saving a link before sharing it, I simply use bookmarklets to share a link for whatever page I am currently viewing.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, a bookmarklet is a small bit of code which sits in your web browser’s bookmark folder (or more conveniently, the bookmark bar across the top of the browser window). A bookmarklet can be made to do many things, including enabling users to share links with a minimum of effort.

Most of the major social networks, including Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, have released bookmarklets which make it easier for users to share links on their respective networks. (Bitly has a good bookmarklet for Twitter, which is what I use.)

If you would like to use bookmarklets, here is where you can find a few of them:

Installing a bookmarklet is as easy as dragging it to your bookmark bar and letting go.

You’ll need to be logged into an account on a network, but once you’ve done that the process is much simpler than Opera’s method. Simply view the page you want, click the appropriate bookmarklet, and a pop up window will appear and let you can share a link to your preferred network.

Assuming you don’t also want to save a copy of the link, I think this is a much better method, and it’s one which works on all web browsers.

But that’s just me; how do you like to share links?


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Wattpad goes Freemium, announces plans to sell content

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 08:42 PM PST

wattpad_logoAfter dabbling in crowd funding and briefly experimenting with native advertising, Wattpad announced yesterday that their new plan to generate revenue would involve a more direct approach:

From the Wattpad blog:

To that end, we're making it simpler for readers to financially support the writers they love.

One way to accomplish this is through adding enriching, paid content to Wattpad. We're pursuing this kind of content as an early experiment intended to improve the experience for readers and writers alike. Where we introduce paid content, it will add new dimensions to existing free stories through bonus chapters, different points of view, or full stories that expand the original narrative.

For Wattpad readers, this paid content will take the form of optional extras added to your Wattpad reading experience. Wattpad was built free and will remain that way. The app will always be free, and there will always be a wealth of stories to read for free.

Like many free services, Wattpad struggles with finding a source of revenue, and Wattpad’s focus as a writing community made it doubly difficult.

Unlike reader-focused communities like The Reading Room, which are a natural fit for an ebookstore, communities like Wattpad usually have to charge for premium services, like the smaller writing community Wattpad acquired this year or like BookCountry (which crawled into bed with Author Solutions).

The compromise of a freemium model may not generate the most revenue but it does strike me as the least worst solution.


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Guest Review: Sony DPT-S1 in the construction industry

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 04:26 AM PST

sony-digitalpaper-dpt-s1I'm always on the lookout for new technologies that can make my work, and life, easier and more productive. Being in the construction industry, replacing large unhandy sets of drawings with an ereader was something I was looking forward to since I first spotted e-ink devices.

Unfortunately, e-ink has been developing at a pretty slow pace and construction industry is generally slow to adopt new technologies and also mostly ignored by tech companies. So when I first saw reports of Sony working on a large format ereader I was very excited and followed closely every report I could find on it.

Shortly after Sony started selling the devices directly in the US, I was fortunate enough to be able to order one DPT-S1 ereader so that we can test it and see if we can use it in the field to our benefit. The intention was to have one of our superintendents use the ereader instead of printed contract drawings for all of the project he oversees (we are talking about 10's of projects here). This is how that is working so far.


The reader is lightweight and easy to hold with one had. The pen holder is well placed and practical. It feels solidly built but not durable enough to take abuse. Micro SD card slot is placed on the back side of the reader and not convenient for frequent access, but it is well protected. The reader comes with a protective sleeve which is soft and provides good protection from dust and scratches but not a lot of protection from impacts. Micro USB port for charging and connecting the reader is placed at the bottom of the reader and is not accessible when the reader is in its protective case. I see that as a poor design decision, it would have been better if one could charge the reader while it's inside the protective case.


The reader worked out of the box and the initial basic setup for things like date and time was easy. Wi-Fi worked but I did not find much use for it and the reception in my office was not that good so I let that one be for now. I was not able to figure out how to connect the reader to our Network. Instructions are setting the network up are limited and the process seems too complicated for anyone other than a seasoned network management professional. I ended up connecting the reader to my computer via USB and copying drawing files to the device. Built in memory is sufficient to load a huge amount of drawings and specifications in PDF format.


User interface is simple and intuitive. Multiple documents can be opened at the same time in a tabbed interface and it is easy to switch between them. It took me a little bit of time to figure out how to use the pen. I found that the reader was very slow in opening some of the larger sets of drawings (bigger file size with more pages) and navigating through pages. I used Adobe Acrobat Preflight to optimize the files for web viewing and that helped, making the files open noticeably faster. The experience varied greatly from file to file where scanned documents were much slower than those that were result of exporting a CAD drawing to PDF.

Most of the drawings we deal with are 24"x36" and full page view on the reader is in most cases only good for recognizing the page that you are looking at. Making out details and text requires you to zoom in on the page. Zooming gesture can be a bit tricky as it requires you to move both fingers at the same time. It is very easy to keep one finger immobile while moving the other without noticing it which results in no action on the part of the reader which can be a bit frustrating. Zooming in is a bit slow. You get to see a screen preview, which is a low resolution image, for a few seconds before the reader renders the high resolution image. Same happens if you move around the page while zoomed in. The zoom level is sufficient in 90% of situations but I wish that there was no limit on the zoom level or that it is at least twice of what it is now.

Pen works great. It feels smooth and you can actually make notes in different colors. You can not see the colors on the reader but they show if you view the PDF documents on a color screen device later. The biggest drawback to note taking is that you can't make notes while zoomed in on a page. That is especially problematic with large documents (I'm referring to document dimensions here).

Search feature is problematic. I ran a search on a 500 plus page document and had to give up after 10 or 15 minutes of having "Searching" on the screen.

There is an option to view multiple pages on the screen at the same time. The intent is to make it easier to find pages one is looking for. Unfortunately, this is another option that does not work well, especially with larger format documents. It takes a very long time for the screen to load the pages and I believe that this is due to lack of processing power.

2014-09-26 DPT-S1 in Sunlight 002


The main reason for my interest in an ereader device for viewing drawings is the fact that you can view them outside under direct sunlight and DPT-S1 is fantastic for that purpose. Below is a picture of the DPT-S1 next to a Galaxy 4S phone with its screen brightness set at maximum.

Enough said!


So how usable is this device as a replacement for printed construction drawings? My conclusion is that it is not a full replacement as of yet but it has proven itself as a helpful device. I got to use it in the field a few times, when our superintendent who is using it now was on the site, and it's a great way to take a quick look at the drawings. It's very practical if you have to walk around a large project site and look at the drawings along the way. Much easier than carrying around a large printed set. You can load a set of bid drawing to take with you when looking at a new project and save time and money on printing drawings that you may never use again. You don't have to worry about carrying dozens of printed drawing sets with you at all times.

The reader has a few drawbacks as well. It can be slow. Clearly, it was not designed to handle large format documents and it lacks processing power to do that with ease. Lack of ability to make notes while zoomed in on a page limits its usefulness to mostly just viewing of the drawings

Using the reader does take a bit of patience and getting used to, but overall, we have found a way to make beneficial use of it and will continue using it. It's clearly not the ideal device for construction industry but it's the best available option at this time. We have been satisfied with the purchase so far.

There is one thing I have to mention as well and compliment Sony on treating their customers with fairness. About a week after we purchased the reader for $1,100.00, Sony dropped the price to $999.00. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Sony refunded the difference a few days later. That was a great move on their part and it definitely makes me more likely to purchase another Sony product in the future.

Fe?a Hanki?

The post Guest Review: Sony DPT-S1 in the construction industry appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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