Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Amazon ‘Send to Kindle’ Function Now Available for WordPress

send to kindle wordpress

Amazon has announced today that they have introduced new developer tools that will allow WordPress Bloggers to incorporate the Send to Kindle functionality into their websites. Customers can check out the Send to Kindle Button today on The Washington Post, TIME, and the popular blog Boing Boing.

The Send to Kindle program has official extensions for Google Chrome and other popular web browsers. It allows users to flag articles and any written content on the internet directly to their e-Reader. This is very useful for offline reading, when you are not in a WIFI area or outside of a coverage area. Students, Researchers and avid online website readers all love this feature and use it regularly.  Amazon basically introduced this plugin to combat the forces of Instapaper and other services.

I really think Authors and Writers can benefit from this new plugin, because it allows you to automatically incorporate it into your existing website. You can get it for free at www.amazon.com/gp/sendtokindle/developers/button or at http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/send-to-kindle/ for WordPress bloggers.

Amazon ‘Send to Kindle’ Function Now Available for WordPress is a post from: E-Reader News

Dark Horse brings Graphic Novels to Google Play

dark horse google play

Dark Horse has brought a copious amount of graphic novels to Amazon, Kobo and Barnes and Noble in the last few years. Today, the company has struck an agreement with Google to bring over 400 graphic novels to the platform.

"We are very excited to be working with Google to bring Dark Horse graphic novels to the Play store," said Dark Horse's director of digital publishing, Mark Bernardi. "It is an important addition to the growing list of platforms where our digital books can be enjoyed."

Each graphic novel costs around $3.99 and there is something from everyone. All of your purchases will follow you to your various Google devices, so this might be perfect for someone heavily invested in the Android ecosystem.

Dark Horse brings Graphic Novels to Google Play is a post from: E-Reader News

Amazon Now Allows Schools to Buy Apps in Bulk with Whispercast

amazon whispercast

Amazon launched their Whispercast for Kindle tablets a few months ago and this new program allows schools to deliver eBooks and content to an entire fleet of tablets. This is very useful for IT staff that need to deliver a specific eBook or eTextbook to a whole class of students. The Kindle Fire got an upgrade today that will allow schools to make bulk purchases of apps and have them automatically install on as many tablets as they want.

In the past, organizations would have to manually make a purchase through each of their user accounts–this was a lengthy and often laborious process. Now, an administrator can simply login to Whispercast, find the app they want to buy, and push it out to their managed Kindle Fire tablets. If their users have their own personal Kindle Fire, the organization can also use Whispercast to invite them to "opt-in" and gift Kindle Fire apps directly to their Amazon account.

This new program enhancement will really help schools that need to deliver specific apps like Overdrive or various learning apps. It should be an added incentive to turn to the Kindle tablet line to handle distribution and ease of use.

Amazon Now Allows Schools to Buy Apps in Bulk with Whispercast is a post from: E-Reader News

Public service announcement!

We’ve just had an email from one of our distributors:

I have noticed an increase in the quantity of returns where it's claimed by the customer that the Pi will not boot. My view is that in the majority of instances they are attempting to use the unit with an OS that is not compatible with the Hynix chip, often inserting a card from a Pi they already have which reinforces the view in their mind that the new unit is faulty.

Just yesterday I received a batch of 21 units from a school and upon testing with the latest version of Raspbian Wheezy all booted normally.

If your 512MB Pi has a Hynix memory chip in the middle of the board (that’s the black, square RAM chip right in the centre, and it’ll either say Samsung or Hynix on it in white letters), please ensure you are using the latest version of Raspbian, which you can get from the downloads link at the top of the page. The version on that page will always be the latest available. It seems a lot of the people who have been caught out by this are folk who have bought a pre-flashed card from someone on eBay or Amazon. We always recommend against this, because the images on those grey-market cards are often months out of date – and a lot of work is done on the software every week, so a months-old operating system will bear little resemblance to the newest version. If you absolutely must buy a pre-loaded SD card, make sure you buy it from a reputable source.

Amazon Publishing Speeds Up Royalty Payments to Authors

In the I-want-it-now, fast paced environment brought about by the advent of digital publishing, one of the major frustrations that authors still face is the lag time involved in the traditional publishing industry. Slow-to-market publication dates and quarterly holds on royalty payments are just a couple of the reasons that even seasoned traditionally published authors are taking a closer look at their options.

Today, Amazon Publishing, the more traditional arm that oversees seven different genre-specific imprints, announced in a letter to literary agents that it would no longer force its authors to wait up to three months to receive royalty payments on a quarterly basis. By switching to a monthly payment schedule just like the one that self-published authors enjoy through Amazon’s own Kindle Direct Publishing, its authors will no longer feel the delay that the publisher seems to feel is artificial in the digital book era.

In the letter, Jeff Belle, Vice President of Amazon Publishing, explained:

“We're particularly excited to tell you about upcoming changes to the way we pay royalties.  In this digital age, we don't see why authors should have to wait six months to be paid.  Beginning with our March payment cycle, we will move to paying our authors on a monthly basis.  More specifically: each month's royalties will be released within 60 days of the end of that month, every month.  For example, royalties for sales in January will be released by March 31, royalties for sales in February will be released by April 30, etc.”

The letter went on to discuss some other interesting news for 2013, mostly pertaining to the translated-works imprint Amazon Crossing and to Kindle Serials, the newly developed ongoing platform that allows authors and readers to interact with a story while it is still in the process of being published.

Amazon Publishing Speeds Up Royalty Payments to Authors is a post from: E-Reader News

Bowker Report: eBook Retailers Outbuying Print Retailers

According to a Bowker report first published by Digital Book World, ebook sales overreaching print sales aren’t limited to digital consumers anymore. eBook retailers in 2012 made nearly half of all book purchases, beating out print retailers, at least in the US where almost 44% of all books sold through November of that year were purchased via an online retailer.

Jeremy Greenfield for DBW pointed out a phenomenon that some are calling the “Borders effect;” with the demise of one of the largest physical bookstore chains, consumers sought out other sources for their book purchases. For the sake of price and convenience, many of those customers turned to internet retailers rather than making the effort to travel to a physical bookstore other than Borders.

Interestingly, one of the noted discoveries in the report is that Amazon customers, at least those in the UK, are more likely to turn to the online retailer for their print book purchases after becoming seasoned digital customers. While relying on a favorite online retailer for ebooks is to be expected, especially if consumers use brand specific dedicated devices, it speaks more to the customer service experience that readers are likely to rely on specific retailers for other purchases.

"It is clear that the e-book format has really come of age in the US," said Jo Henry, Director of Bowker Market Research, a service of ProQuest affiliate Bowker, in a press release. "E-books' market share has seen steady growth since January 2009, with steep rises after each Christmas."

The complete report by Greenfield on the news from Bowker can be found here.

Bowker Report: eBook Retailers Outbuying Print Retailers is a post from: E-Reader News

Blio Restructures Company as Media Arc


eMusic and K-NFB Reading, the parent company of Blio, have joined forces and restructured their company today. The new entity is known as Media Arc and will condense all of their eBook and audio offerings under one roof. Blio is well known for providing audiobooks and technologies that appeal to visually disabled people and Baker & Taylor are strong supporters of the enterprise. Over 7 million songs, 40,000 audio books and 600,000 eBooks are now properly of Media Arc.

According to an email sent to current eMusic partners “Media Arc's mission is to provide the best digital media discovery experience possible by leveraging cross-content insights to recommend new music and books to avid readers and music collectors alike. This will present both authors and artists with a unique opportunity to expand their fan base, reach new audiences, and of course sell more content. Founded by Futurist Ray Kurzweil with financial backing from former Microsoft CFO Michael Brown and media distribution giant Baker & Taylor, Blio, Inc. has built one of the most technologically advanced e-readers on the market. eMusic is a pioneer of the digital music space, with roots in helping music fans discover their next favorite artist or album dating back to 1998.”

eMusic has struggled to find the right business model since first launching in 1998. With the advent of iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Google Play, they faced stiff competition in the music space. Their subscription model never really caught on, with users buying credits to purchase songs. The company currently has licensing deals with Sony, Warner, Universal and EMI.

Blio Restructures Company as Media Arc is a post from: E-Reader News

Google Developing Unified Chat Service ‘Babble’


The next time we are in a babbling mode, Google would like us to be doing so via its Babble service which is nothing but a grand amalgamation of all its diverse messenger platforms now in operation. These includes the likes of Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, Google Voice and such. This they believe will help them put up a better competitor to the likes of the BlackBerry Messenger or the iMessage with each having a better fan following than any of Google’s chat services taken alone. Quite expectedly, on offer will be better service with a more refined user experience with sources claiming users will be able to share pictures on the chat window. Another unique quality of babble will be that it will allow the user to start a hangout with anyone on the contact list while the users can be rest assured their conversation will be threaded across all the services.

There are no release dates made available as yet though.

Google Developing Unified Chat Service ‘Babble’ is a post from: E-Reader News

5 Tips for Protecting Yourself from Email Spam and Scams

You don't have to be a victim of email scams and viruses. Follow these five tips to protect yourself.

The secret to buying a good HDMI cable: They're all good

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The Da Vinci Code eBook by Dan Brown is Free This Week

Tens years ago The Da Vinci Code was released and has since sold over 81 million copies worldwide. And now you can snag an ebook copy for free until March 24th. Doubleday, the publisher of The Da Vinci Code, announced earlier in the week the free giveaway promotion to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the [...]

Creating the camera board

Liz: We’re very close to being able to release the $25 add-on camera board for the Raspberry Pi now. David Plowman has been doing a lot of the work on imaging and tuning. He’s very kindly agreed to write a couple of guest posts for us explaining some more for the uninitiated about the process of engineering the camera module. Here’s the first – I hope you’ll find it as fascinating as I did. Thanks David!

Lights! Camera! … Action?

So you've probably all been wondering how it can take quite so long to get a little camera board working with the Raspberry Pi. Shouldn't it be like plugging in a USB webcam, all plug'n'play? Alas, it's not as straightforward as you might think. Bear with me for this – and a subsequent – blog posting and I'll try and explain all.

The Nature of the Beast

The camera we're attaching to the Raspberry Pi is a 5MP (2952×1944 pixels) Omnivision 5647 sensor in a fixed focus module. This is very typical of the kinds of units you'd see in some mid-range camera phones (you might argue the lack of autofocus is a touch low-end, but it does mean less work for us and you get your camera boards sooner!). Besides power, clock signals and so forth, we have two principal connections (or data buses in electronics parlance) between our processor (the BCM2835 on the Pi) and the camera.

The first is the I2C ("eye-squared-cee") bus which is a relatively low bandwidth link that carries commands and configuration information from the processor to the image sensor. This is used to do things like start and stop the sensor, change the resolution it will output, and, crucially, to adjust the exposure time and gain applied to the image that the sensor is producing.

The second connection is the CSI bus, a much higher bandwidth link which carries pixel data from the camera back to the processor. Both of these buses travel along the ribbon cable that attaches the camera board to your Pi. The astute amongst you will notice that there aren't all that many lines in the ribbon cable – and indeed both I2C and CSI are serial protocols for just this reason.

The pixels produced are 10 bits wide rather than the 8 bits you're more used to seeing in your JPEGs. That's because we're ultimately going to adjust some parts of the dynamic range and we don't want "gaps" (which would become visible as "banding") to open up where the pixel values are stretched out. At 15fps (frames per second) that's a maximum of 2592x1944x10x15 bits per second (approximately 750Mbps). Actually many higher-end cameras will give you frames larger than this at up to 30fps, but still, this is no slouch!

Show me some pictures!

So, armed with our camera modules and adapter board, the next job we have is to write a device driver to translate our camera stack's view of the camera ("use this resolution", "start the camera" and so forth) into I2C commands that are meaningful to the image sensor itself. The driver has to play nicely with the camera stack's AEC/AGC (auto-exposure/auto-gain) algorithm whose job it is to drive the exposure of the image to the "Goldilocks" level – not too dark, not too bright. Perhaps some of you remember seeing one of Dom's early camera videos where there were clear "winks" and "wobbles" in brightness. These were caused by the driver not synchronising the requested exposure changes correctly with the firmware algorithms… you'll be glad to hear this is pretty much the first thing we fixed!

With a working driver, we can now capture pixels from the camera. These pixels, however, do not constitute a beautiful picture postcard image. We get a raw pixel stream, even more raw, in fact, than in a DSLR's so-called raw image where certain processing has often already been applied. Here's a tiny crop from a raw image, greatly magnified to show the individual pixels.

 Surprised? To make sense of this vast amount of strange pixel data the Broadcom GPU contains a special purpose Image Signal Processor (ISP), a very deep hardware pipeline tasked with the job of turning these raw numbers into something that actually looks nice. To accomplish this, the ISP will crunch tens of billions of calculations every second.

What do you mean, two-thirds of my pixels are made up?

Yes, it is imaging's inconvenient truth that fully two-thirds of the colour values in an RGB image have been, well, we engineers prefer to use the word interpolated. An image sensor is a two dimensional array of photosites, and each photosite can sample only one number – either a red, a green or a blue value, but not all three. It was the idea of Bryce Bayer, working for Kodak back in 1976, to add an array of microlenses over the top so that each photosite can measure a different colour channel. The arrangement of reds, greens and blues that you see in the crop above is now referred to as a "Bayer pattern" and a special algorithm, often called a "demosaic algorithm", is used to create the fully-sampled RGB image. Notice how there are twice as many greens as reds or blues, because our eyes are far more sensitive to green light than to red or blue.

The Bayer pattern is not without its problems, of course. Most obviously a large part of the incoming light is simply filtered out meaning they perform poorly in dark conditions. Mathematicians may also mutter darkly about "aliasing" which makes a faithful reconstruction of the original colours very difficult when there is high detail, but nonetheless the absolutely overwhelming majority of sensors in use today are of the Bayer variety.

Now finally for today's posting, here's what the whole image looks like once it has been "demosaicked".

My eyes! They burn with the ugly!

It's recognisable, that's about the kindest thing you can say, but hardly lovely – we would still seem to have some way to go. In my next posting, then, I'll initiate you into the arcane world of camera tuning


Pottermore and Sony to Launch New Gaming Experience

After the success of JK Rowling’s interactive fan site Pottermore, based on the internationally bestselling books about the wizarding world of Harry Potter, and its collaboration with Sony to create an interactive video game for the Playstation system called Wonderbook: Book of Spells, Pottermore’s team is once again building a gaming experience for diehard fans.

Launching with two online experiences that allow users to enter Harry’s world as avatars and go exploring, the Pottermore creation for Playstation Home will take participants exploring through the famed wizard market of Diagon Alley and for a ride on the mysterious Hogwarts Express, the train that carries young wizards to the secret school. Apart from taking users into Harry’s world, the Pottermore and Sony partnership will also invite players to participate in mini-games, quizzes, and more.

“Pottermore reaches across multiple digital platforms, and Sony’s partnership has allowed us to forge this exciting connection with PlayStation Home, creating the most immersive experience possible within that space and giving users wonderful new ways to explore locations from the Harry Potter stories,” said Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne on the Pottermore Insider blog. “Following the successful launch of Wonderbook: Book of Spells [also with Sony], this is another example of the creative collaborations Pottermore is developing to bring the world of Harry Potter even more ingeniously to life.”

Launching next month, the game will also allow existing Pottermore users to link their online accounts to the game for the chance to see all new features and discover new twists in both the game and the website.

Pottermore and Sony to Launch New Gaming Experience is a post from: E-Reader News

German Digital Publishing Industry in a State of Flux Due to Amazon


The digital adoption rate in Germany two years ago was a paltry 4%. Today, close to 11% are starting to satiate their literary thirst with eBooks, eTextbooks and digital magazines. The growth of the iPad and Amazon Kindle e-Reader have been facilitating the growth due to their expansive ecosystems and stimulating publishers to jump into the fray. The German publishing sector was woefully unprepared for the jump to digital and the entire industry is transforming itself to deal with the new paradigm.

The vast majority of German citizens for the last few hundred years consumed the traditional book. Publishers like Suhrkamp, Hanser, Ullstein, Fischer and Rowohlt led the charge in producing some of the most compelling books. The bookstores are losing ground and feeling the pinch, as more customers gravitate towards the digital platform.

“The golden era of publishing, that is, of reading, contemplation and literary education, has somehow come to an end,” says Michael Kr├╝ger, the outgoing head of the Munich-based Hanser publishing house, who has the reputation of being one of Germany’s last great publishing figures.

He is not alone, the book pundits in Germany have also mentioned “For decades, the publishing business was pretty much the same. It is now entering a crisis for the first time, and everything will look different after that.”

The Bookselling industry in Germany is much akin to the same sort of experience customers see at Indigo or Barnes and Noble. Book sales are drying up and instead of exclusively selling them, these companies are all starting to sell stuffed animals, candy, candles and seasonal accessories. The German bookstores like Thalia, are all trying new models to sustain the lower cost of books and compete with the digital space.

How can Germany compete against Apple and Amazon, two worldwide juggernauts? Weltbild, Hugendubel, Bertelsmann Club, and Deutsche Telekom have banded together to offer a compelling reason with the advent of the Tolino Shine e-Reader and accompanied eBookstore. This is really the first time all of these companies have ever banded together to offer an alternative to Amazon and sell the hardware throughout their vast network of shops. Over 300,000 eBooks will be available to purchase, with a heavy emphasis on domestic bestsellers and local authors.

These companies did not just band together to launch a new e-reader, that limits the distractions of email and social media and puts the priority on reading a book. They did it to get access to customers data, something Amazon and Apple do not share with publishers. In order to understand and do well in the digital space, you have to know who your customers are, what they are doing and what they are buying. This was the real reason why this new eBook store formed and why the major bookstores are all involved in the logistics.

When it comes to the tangible and intangible, there is a huge shift going on in Germany. There are established prices of books across the board, which helps small shops compete with the big chains. eBooks, do not have a unified pricing structure in Germany, which allows overseas competitors to flood the market with cheap digital alternatives to the higher priced printed variants. A new campaign right now launched in conjunction with the Leipzig Book Fair to put the emphasis back on the printed edition. They are producing a very slick series of commercials and newspaper articles to put the sexy back in reading. This may be too little, too late, and equates to damage control.

Publishing companies and bookstores were unprepared for the elevated growth of digital books in the last few years. There are hardly any avenues to self-publish exclusively in Germany, and aspiring authors instead have to deal with overseas companies. Textbook companies have not made the move to digital and magazine companies are equally not up to the task. Things need to change in a big way, or you will start to see the traditional bookstore start to collapse by 2015.

German Digital Publishing Industry in a State of Flux Due to Amazon is a post from: E-Reader News