Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 8 December 2014

Posted: 07 Dec 2014 08:30 PM PST

Must read stories this Monday morning include a dissection of the latest Doug Preston interview, ebooks in Star Trek, how book publishers are encouraging authors to not sign with them, and more.

  • 11 Joys of Re-Reading Books, Because Starting Over at Page 1 Is a Feeling You Can’t Replicate (Bustle)
  • 73% of Kids Would Read More If They Could Find Books They Like (GalleyCat)
  • Book publishers are incentivizing midlist authors to abandon them for Amazon (Simon Owens)
  • Douglas Preston on Amazon, Authors United, and What's Next (The Passive Voice)
  • eBooks in Star Trek?  (TeleRead)
  • Flickr's Wall Art Program Exposes Weaknesses in Licensing Automation (Copyright and Technology)
  • Kindle Needs A "Subscribe To Author" Button (TechCrunch)
  • Our bankrupt critical culture (VacuousMinx)
  • What are you reading on? (Dear Author)

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

NYC Libraries to Lend Hotspots

Posted: 07 Dec 2014 07:36 PM PST

8531490067_fdac605c86_m[1]New York City is planning to start offering a city-wide Wifi network starting in 2015, but that’s going to take some time to install, and in the meantime the NY public libraries are going to offer an interim solution to help more residents gain access to broadband.

The Washington Post reported that NYC’s three library systems, the NYPL, Brooklyn PL, and Queens PL, will soon be lending mobile hotspots:

The hotspots allow users to connect up to 10 mobile devices like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and gaming devices to zippy 4G LTE broadband. The devices, powered by Sprint, usually cost $49 with a two-year service agreement and a $110 a month fee for 30 GB of data.

But New York libraries will loan hundreds of them to residents. The catch? They’re free with unlimited data as long as the borrower is enrolled in a library program, from citizenship classes to adult literacy. …

The program, called “Check Out The Internet,” is part of an ambitious plan to get more New Yorkers online and close the digital divide. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a plan to turn city pay phones into WiFi hotspots and he has worked to push Verizon to expand its FiOS service.

While the libraries support patrons with free Wifi at branches, the librarians knew that there was still an unmet need in the community. According to a survey by the NYPL, more than half of those who use the computers and Internet at their branches don’t have broadband Internet access at their homes. “Too many Brooklyn residents are on the wrong side of the digital divide,” said Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library said.

She added: “Free Wi-Fi at local BPL branches is a vital resource, but it can’t make up for the lack of internet access in the home — access that helps children succeed in school, and provides parents with critical information on health, employment, education, and more.”


The program will  include 10,000 devices and cost $2.5 million. The library systems will be paying for it in part from the $10 million increase in funding provided by the city’s 2015 budget.  That’s the first increase in city funding since 2008, and it could mark an end to the semiannual fights to stave off budget cuts. It will also be funded by a  $1 million grant from Google and a $500,000 award from the Knight News Challenge.

There’s no word yet on how replacement units will be paid for should a hotspot be lost or stolen, but that doesn’t appear to be a major concern. If a hotspot isn’t returned the library’s could assess a fine, and if worst came to worst they could always disable the service remotely.

Byt the libraries don’t expect that to happen.  Asked about theft of the devices, NYPL president and CEOTony Marx said, “The library lends books, and we get them back. We lend out laptops worth well over a thousand dollars for use in the branches in the poorest neighborhoods in New York. There’s no security guard at the door, and we have almost no loss rate.”

Actually, that’s not strictly true; there were security guards in all of the NYPL  libraries I’ve visited, and they’ve always checked my bag on the way out.  I’m not sure what that was supposed to accomplish other than intimidation, given that it wouldn’t be hard to disguise a stolen item, but they did.

images by NYPL, catherinecronin

The post NYC Libraries to Lend Hotspots appeared first on The Digital Reader.

A Lesson on contracts: Model sues photographer after her pics were used on the covers of erotica ebooks

Posted: 07 Dec 2014 11:51 AM PST

18486450.jpgI’m not usually one to quote the Daily Mail, but in their Sunday edition they published an article which, once you look past the salacious details, offers a useful lesson in knowing the difference between a written and a verbal contract:

Nicole Forni, a professional model from Cleveland, Ohio, claims that she only agreed to pose for the provocative pictures on the condition that they were not sold on for any ‘adult-oriented’ purposes.

But after the shoot she and her family found the images used on websites for sex guides in Germany and Spain, an escort website in Switzerland, as well as gracing the cover an erotic e-book entitled Horny Housewives of Dubai: Episode 4.

The model is demanding $75,000 from Joshua Resnick, who took the photographs, alongside the slew of sex-related companies who allegedly used them.

Her images have been used on at least two different erotica covers, the NYPost reports.

While I have some sympathy for her embarrassment, and I don’t want to come across as blaming the model, Forni is going to have an uphill court battle.  You see, she made a verbal agreement the photographer that the photos not be used on adult sites, and then signed a standard release contract which didn’t mention the verbal agreement.

This is a perfect example of why everyone, including authors, should always get key contract terms in writing. Or at the very least, get the agreement in some type of permanent form. Even an email exchange would have been better than a verbal agreement because it would offer proof that an agreement had been reached.

Yes, a verbal agreement is a contract, but without a permanent record this case could come down to he said she said. Forni could still win, but at this point it will come down to who has the better lawyer and whether the judge is sympathetic.


The post A Lesson on contracts: Model sues photographer after her pics were used on the covers of erotica ebooks appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Review: Framed struggles to add a graphic dimension to Interactive Fiction

Posted: 07 Dec 2014 08:07 AM PST

Framed_Screen_02x1024-940x705Framed got a lot of buzz for its novel game mechanics when it was first shown off in May 2013, but now that the game is finally available it simply doesn’t live up to its potential.

Developed by Australia-based Loveshack Entertainment, Framed offered a new take on interactive fiction that made the user the storyteller.

As you can see in the following early concept video, a user rearranges the panels on the screen to change the outcome.  By changing the order of events, the user can have the protagonist find a tool, overcome his adversary, and escape:

When it comes to gameplay mechanics (the motions involved in playing a game), moving panels around like that is a novel concept. I do not know of anything quite like it, which I have been eagerly anticipating Framed ever since I first read about it. So when I learned last night that Framed had been released for the iPad a couple weeks ago, I immediately bought it and played with it.

Frame had the same panel swapping move as in the concept video, and some levels also let the player rotate a panel 90 degrees and change the path the protagonist takes (but that doesn’t happen until much later in the game). There are also a couple levels which involve one protagonist tricking another, but again, that doesn’t happen until much later in the game.


After spending about half an hour with Framed, I’m pretty sure I wasted $5. While Framed is based on a clever dynamic, the actual game is repetitive to the point that I am bored.

Rather than have the user solve puzzles with different goals and different solutions, the vast majority of the levels I played all had the same goal: avoid the cops. Other than setting things up so the protagonist can either bypass cops or sneak up behind cops and hit them over the head, there’s not much to this game.

The official trailer sums up the repetitive nature of Framed nicely:

While there are a few levels here and there that are based around unique puzzles, most involve escaping the cops.

To be fair to the developers, writing a puzzle is very difficult, and that is doubly true when one also has to develop a new platform for the puzzle.  But writing puzzles is also not impossible, and Loveshack has been working on Framed for close to two years now. That is plenty of time to come up with more puzzle ideas than “avoid the cops”.

Don’t get me wrong, that is not a bad idea for a level design – so long as it is used as one of many puzzles to solve. But after it’s been used twenty or thirty times in a row (and is backed up by an annoyingly repetitive sound track) the idea gets old.

And that is a shame, because I would really have liked to have seen the puzzle idea explored to a greater degree. A true puzzle game based on Framed’s concept would provide hours of entertainment and offer a great value for the $5 price tag.

But as it is, I would not recommend that you get Framed.

You can find it in iTunes for $5.

The post Review: Framed struggles to add a graphic dimension to Interactive Fiction appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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