Friday, March 29, 2013

BeWrite Books to Close March 31st


BeWrite Books launched at the turn of the millennium as a publisher of exclusive, new, and high-quality fiction and nonfiction. It releases at least a dozen titles a year in paperback, each covered by an ebook edition. It also releases three sole-author poetry collections each year. By the end of 2011, BB had brought more than 250 exclusive new titles to recognized and international publication. The company shifted into an ebook only distribution model in 2012 and saw 30 new books a year being printed. The company announced today that it was shuttering its business model and closing all operations on March 31st.

The website has the following statement: “We worked incredibly hard with a dedicated and passionate professional in-house team and some of the most gifted writers imaginable. We were ahead of the game for so long, surviving on tireless labour, wits, cooperation, friendship, love of the art … and hope. But recent market forces beyond our control force us to call a halt and – sadly and most reluctantly – wind down to a spring closure. Our job now is to find effective and prestigious new publishers for BB-published titles and to assist those BB authors who choose to take the self-publishing route. We're working flat-out on that and are succeeding in keeping works alive. But it's dispiriting and often heart-breaking to now count our every loss a success.”

BeWrite Books to Close March 31st is a post from: E-Reader News

The Amazon Kindle Touch Back in Stock in the US


Amazon has quietly reintroduced the Kindle Touch e-Reader on their main US website but is not internationally. This was the last fully functional device the company released that had speakers and support for audiobooks. It is available with Special Offers and 3G, there is also refurbished models available, but you have to dig through the website to find them.

The Amazon Kindle Touch is relevant again with a recent firmware update that mirrors the UI of the Paperwhite. The older iterations of the Kindle did not really have a proper homescreen, it would list the books in text form. With the new update you now have cover art and personalized reading recommendations. With the Kindle Touch, you basically have the same experience as the Paperwhite gives you, minus the illuminated screen.

The Amazon Kindle Touch Back in Stock in the US is a post from: E-Reader News

Google to Name Its Unified Messaging Service ‘Babel,’ Not ‘Babble’


We all know Google is in the process of launching a unified messaging service that would serve to bring all its diverse chat options (like Voice, Gtalk, and G+ messenger) under one big umbrella. However, while we were informed is will be called Babble, Droid-Life is reporting that the name is actually Babel. Babel as a name is perfect for the intended service it is going to represent.

As for its features, Droid-Life reports it would allow a cross platform messenger experience as the service will not only be compatible with iOS, Android, Chrome, Google+, and Gmail, but will also enable one to carry on with the chat seamlessly across platforms and devices. Among the expected features, Babel is believed to include a new conversation UI, the ability to post images, an advanced group conversation facility, as well as better notifications across devices.

However, there still is no word on when Babel is going to be launched, though that is likely to happen at the upcoming Google I/O conference to be held May 15-17, 2013.

Google to Name Its Unified Messaging Service ‘Babel,’ Not ‘Babble’ is a post from: E-Reader News

Kindle Fire to Now Accommodate Video-Enhanced eBooks


A release from ebook developer Vook today announced that Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet will now accommodate embedded videos in ebooks, which is long-awaited news for authors who have until now not been able to promote and sell their titles on one of the largest retail platforms for ebooks. Matthew Cavnar, VP of Business Development for Vook, spoke with GoodEReader today about what this means for authors and enhanced ebook customers.

“Amazon always said they were committed to [it], and they were true to their word. They released the update today, and it shows that consumer demand was there for the product. It’s been available on the iPad and iPhone and the Amazon Kindle for iPad app all along, but the number one request we got from authors was, ‘When will my book be available for my Amazon Kindle device?’”

Now, the Amazon tablet has basically caught up with the rest of the tablet market in terms of devices that were already enabled for video enhanced ebooks, titles that haven’t been as huge yet because this single missing piece wasn’t available.

“Even if it’s just one Amazon device, people want to know that Amazon supports their vision and that readers have an option for video-enhanced ebooks. The Nook tablet actually plays video enhanced ebooks now, so this is another competitive advantage for Amazon.”

But given the time and financial investments involved in creating the actual videos to embed within their ebooks, is this really a lucrative move for authors?

“Now, Amazon also provides up to 60% of sales of ebooks and iBookstore is another strong marketplace. We’ve built a platform that makes it very cost effective to get a video into your ebook, which means that suddenly the solution that we’ve been built to provide has a whole other compelling reason to do it. The price is not prohibitive for an individual author, and I would think that the marketplace that has opened up with the Kindle Fire allows authors to see the larger marketplace and channels as worthwhile when setting their budgets for their books.”

One of the first authors to be standing ready for this development is Elle Lothlorien, who is currently in production of a video-enhanced ebook. “It was just a matter of time before Amazon went in this direction,” she said in an interview today. “A video for an ebook that was developed as an ePub for Nook or iPad, when the readers saw it the video would simply play within the book. The Amazon mobi platform didn’t support that, so you would have to have a link that took you out of the book to a video somewhere, then that reader would have to come back to the book. You don’t want to take the reader out of your book.”

Vook is now ramping up production of the titles that have been ready to go, waiting for this news from Amazon. “We’re going to be putting more emphasis on authors who are working on exploring this option. It’s exciting for authors because the largest player in the game has now opened up to video enhanced ebooks, and we’re ready to help them get onto these devices.”

Kindle Fire to Now Accommodate Video-Enhanced eBooks is a post from: E-Reader News

Are Smaller Windows 8 Tablets on the Way?

Microsoft Surface

Microsoft has quietly changed the minimum display requirement for manufacturers to place the Windows 8 logo on their products. While earlier it would require a display to have a minimum of 1366 x 768 pixels to justify its association with Windows 8, the same has now been reduced to 1024 x 768 at a depth of 32 bits. This could pave the way for manufacturers to start offering smaller tablets with 7 or 8 inch displays running Win 8. While there is no stopping tablet makers from launching a smaller tablet with a 1366 x 768 display, 7 inch tablets with that resolution are often prohibitively expensive and don’t do well on the market. Most tablets in this genre boasts of a cheap price tag of around $199 or so. No wonder there haven’t been any Win 8 tablets so far that offer a display of less than 10.1 inches.

However, before we start to celebrate the prospect of smaller and hopefully cheaper tablets running Win 8, there will be a few compromises to be made. We may have to give up on a few unique features. These include Windows Snap, which enables two Windows Store apps to be viewed simultaneously. Microsoft has stated in its Windows Certification Newsletter that all companies that wish to make the best of the changed scenario will have to clearly mention what features their devices will not be able to support.

The Win 8 operating system has given birth to a whole new segment of hybrid tablet devices, which are tablets with attachable keypad units that combine to form a notepad. Typically, they also cost much more than what the average tablet buyer would like to spend. Also, with the focus seemingly shifting towards the smaller tablets, which are a lot more affordable and portable, Microsoft would be stupid not to create a presence in that market. What remains to be seen now is how manufacturers respond to the scenario. HP, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and others have all launched low cost Android tablets and maybe a Windows 8 version is next. Word on the street is that a smaller Win 8 based tablet from Barnes & Noble might also be in the making. Or maybe a low cost version of the Surface tablets with a 7-8 inch display. However, what is almost a surety is that manufacturers will most likely wait till Microsoft launches the nest Windows iteration, Blue, before venturing in the low cost Windows 8 tablet game. Microsoft Blue is due out this summer.

Are Smaller Windows 8 Tablets on the Way? is a post from: E-Reader News

HP Slate 7 Shipment Pushed Back to June


HP had earlier gone to town trumpeting its low cost Android tablet the Slate 7 will be launched in April. However, that does seem to the case anymore as the shipping date has now been pushed back to June. That is the date that HP is now mentioning on its website as the likely launch period for the Slate 7. Interestingly, the tablet has already paid its customary visit to the FCC though there is still some waiting to be endured in between.

As for the tablet, we all know the Slate 7 will pack in a dual core 1.6 GHz Rockchip RK3066 ARM Cortex-A9 chip, a 1 GB RAM, 8 GB of storage and a 7 inch 1024 x 768 pixel display. The tablet will run Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and will also include a microSD card slot, front and rear cameras along with access to the Google Play Store. Sure the specs are not expected to turn heads around though HP is banking on a super cheap price tag of $169 to do that. Also, with such cheap tablet becoming dime a dozen these days, HP will also like to make the best of its star stature to lure in buyers. Reaching markets early is also of equal importance as such cheap devices usually have a very short life span.

HP Slate 7 Shipment Pushed Back to June is a post from: E-Reader News

Samsung Developing 8 Inch Tablet to Take on iPad Mini


Samsung is reported to be developing a new 8 inch tablet to take on the iPad Mini or Nexus 7. This will be in addition to the Galaxy Note 8.0 the company unveiled at the MWC in February, the pricing for which is still being withheld. Also, according to Sammobile, the tablet will sport a HD AMOLED display that will put it in a better position against the upcoming iPad Mini, which is also expected to carry a retina display. The company was earlier rumored to be working on a 10.1 inch tablet featuring a HD AMOLED display, though the emphasis seems to have shifted to the smaller 8 inch version right now. Also, the 8 inch tablet is likely to be launched at the upcoming IFA event in September, though the bigger 10 inch version will also be up for display, if not ready for launch. Then there also is a tablet in the offing from the South Korean manufacturer that can be considered to be a competitor to the Nexus 10. The biggest USP of the 10 inch Nexus is its resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels, which is the highest on any tablet currently available. The last time Samsung has launched a tablet featuring an AMOLED display was the Galaxy Tab 7.7.

While specs are anybody’s guess right now, the tablet will assuredly sport a quad core chip and Android Jelly Bean as the OS with maybe a 2 GB RAM. A stylus can be ruled out as Samsung has kept it exclusive to its Note series of devices. It is also likely that Samsung will keep two lines of tablet series, the Galaxy Tab as well as the Galaxy Note. Finally, if Samsung is indeed in the process of developing a new 8 inch tablet to put up against the iPad Mini, it will probably be cheaper in an attempt attempt to undercut the next gen mini iPad.

Stay tuned for further updates.

Samsung Developing 8 Inch Tablet to Take on iPad Mini is a post from: E-Reader News

Amazon Owns Goodreads… What Now?


So far, the official press releases and arranged interviews about Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads have had a chance to make their way to the news front. An equal number of readers, if not more, have taken to social media to share their concerns and criticisms. But one surprising response has come from industry insider Mark Coker, the CEO and founder of Smashwords. Coker responded to several questions from GoodEReader about what this may mean for publishers, authors, and reading consumers.

When asked about how a deal like this stands to have an impact on the all-important status of book discovery, Coker felt that this was actually a positive opportunity for for book fans.

“This is a brilliant acquisition for Amazon, for a few reasons,” explained Coker. “It allows Amazon to forge closer relationships with customers and indie authors alike.  This is important, because customers and indie authors ARE the future of publishing. In customer and author-recruitment, Amazon just gained an advantage. It prevents Goodreads from falling into the hands of a competitor. It gives Amazon a multi-year advantage in discoverability.  Between Amazon and Goodreads, I don’t think any other retailer will have access to such a depth of discoverability information.  It means Amazon has better data by which to match readers with books they want to read, and better data for identifying books that deserve merchandising promotion.  It means Amazon will have better data to make customers happy, and better data to sell more books, which makes authors and publishers happy. Goodreads controls the eyeballs of millions of readers, so these are eyeballs Amazon can start funneling in the direction of Amazon. I see a lot of opportunity for Goodreads to integrate Amazon buylinks everywhere, and the opportunity for Amazon to integrate Goodreads reviews and social aspects of Goodreads into Amazon.”

One of the key concerns readers have had at both Amazon and Goodreads, and will undoubtedly continue to cause concern under the new partnership, is the validity of book reviews in a climate where accusations have been hurled about paid reviews, trolls, and worse. Coker actually expressed optimism that by working together, Amazon and Goodreads would actually support the opportunity for genuine reviewing.

“This is a win for both Amazon and Goodreads.  I don’t have any criticism for either of them on the reviews front.  Since they’re two of the most popular sites for book discovery, it means they’re going to be the biggest targets of those who try to game the reviews.  If anything, Amazon will now have more data to draw upon, which will give them a better ability to detect, isolate and remove the gamers.  For example, if a book averages 3 stars with 100 reviews at Goodreads, and a swarm of 20 5-star reviews come in at Amazon, they’ll know something’s amiss because the Goodreads data suggests that’s NOT a 5-star book.”

Coker’s most supportive reaction, however, was reserved for consumers and readers who may not be quite as optimistic about Amazon’s buyout as other entities might be. After all, some of the more instantaneous criticisms of the news were that Amazon is once again building up its “evil empire” status by buying up one of the most well-known book discovery sites.

“On the immediate front, I think we’ll see some changes.  Sony and Kobo are in a tough bind, because they use Goodreads reviews. Goodreads, a trusted partner, has now become Goodreads the fox in the hen house. There’s no way to sugar-coat the gravity of their problem. These retailers have lost control of their reviews. It means Amazon owns these reviews, and any branding benefit Amazon’s competitors give Goodreads – or any valuable customers they turn on to Goodreads – only benefits the one company (Amazon) who’s working so hard to put these very retailers out of business.  These retailers need to quickly wean themselves off of Goodreads.  It won’t be easy, because without Goodreads, they’ll have a lot of books with few or no reviews. They’ll have weaker discoverability. Every day that Kobo and Sony continue with Goodreads is another day they help Amazon’s discoverability data while neglecting their own.
“Amazon wins either way.  If Sony and Kobo stay on, they benefit Amazon.  If they drop Goodreads, the breadth and quality of their reviews will diminish, which means their ability to match customers with the right books diminishes, which means Amazon wins again.

“Luckily for Apple and B&N, they own their own reviews.

“Longer term, we’ll see tighter integration between Goodreads and Amazon.  We’ll see Amazon begin to squeeze out competing buylinks to other retailers. It’s inevitable that Amazon will start neutering or disadvantaging the buy links to their competitors. If they keep them, they’ll probably add a toll over and above the normal affiliate relationships.  This means Amazon stands to gain an ever-increasing share of each book dollar’s pie, even if the books are sold at Amazon competitors.

From the perspective of authors who benefit from Goodread’s discovery, these authors will probably see increased integration with KDP, and possibly increased incentives to enroll their books in KDP Select, Amazon’s exclusive program.  Imagine, for example, if KDP Select authors were offered increased discoverability at Goodreads as a perk for KDP Select enrollment.  This could further tilt the playing field in Amazon’s favor, and hobble competing retailers’ ability to attract books from indie authors.

“So today is a great day for Amazon, and a well-deserved reward for the incredible team at Goodreads.  But for Amazon’s competing retailers, it’s not a happy day.

“The acquisition may also cause Amazon’s competitors to reevaluate their own merger and acquisition strategy as it pertains to discoverability, and customer and author recruitment. I’ve got to think that B&N, Apple and Kobo are wishing they had snagged Goodreads first, if only to keep them away from Amazon.”

Amazon Owns Goodreads… What Now? is a post from: E-Reader News

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Raspberry Pi for Dummies

The name Mike Cook echoes around the corridors of Pi Towers every now and then when we make awed conversation about our hardware heroes. Mike used to write a column called Body Building for Micro User magazine back in the days of the BBC Micro, in which he’d create hardware projects that made kids like me swoon at the sheer potential of those GPIO pins at the back of the Beeb’s casing. (The Beeb’s exposed GPIO was a big influence in the design of the Raspberry Pi.) Mike was an early adopter of the Pi, and you’ll have seen several posts here featuring his otherworldly Pi hardware hacks. (The solonoid glockenspiel and the first persistence of vision project we ever saw for the Pi were both Mike’s – see this tag for all the posts on this blog featuring Mikestuff.)

thought Mike had been quiet for a bit. We hadn’t heard much from him in the last few months: turns out that this was because he was busy with the whizz-bang hardware section of Raspberry Pi for Dummies, the rest of which was written by Sean McManus.  If you are even slightly interested in learning about hardware (and having fun with it), you should run to your nearest bookshop right now. Here are some videos to give you a taster of the sort of hardware projects you’ll be able to make with the book:

This second video is only the start of the potentiometer fun – you’ll end up making something that looks an awful lot like an Etch-a-Sketch.

Sean McManus, by the way, who wrote all the non-hardware bits of the book, is also someone I’ve chatted with by email in the past about Pi – and he’s someone to whom I owe a vote of thanks for another excellent book he wrote, this time in the Older & Wiser series. His iPad for the Older & Wiser has saved me many, many hours of shouting “No! Touch the blue thing that looks like an A!” down the phone at my Dad, clearing time to have lovely fatherly/daughterly conversation instead, for which we are all grateful.

So if you’re looking for an addition to your Raspberry Pi library, Raspberry Pi for Dummies comes highly recommended. Thanks to Sean, Mike and all at Wiley for your work on the Pi – we really appreciate it!

BlackBerry Fourth Quarter Results Revealed, 370k PlayBooks, 1m Z10s Sold


Blackberry just came out with its Q4 numbers which, it must be said contains all the elements of a brilliant comeback after what everyone had thought is almost over with the company. Revenue earned during the period stands at $2.7 billion which is a nice thing though a bit less than the expected $2.8 billion. Blackberry had also sold 6 million smartphones in the quarter of which, almost a million were Z10s that run the latest Blackberry 10 operating system. A total of 370,000 PlayBook tablet devices also found buyers during this quarter, which clearly shows the beleaguered tablet continues to linger on even in the presence of its more illustrious competitor. The company however has lost 3 million subscribers during the time so that its total consumer base now stands at 76 million worldwide. The same for the last 2 successive quarters stands at 79 and 80 million.

“We have implemented numerous changes at BlackBerry over the past year and those changes have resulted in the Company returning to profitability in the fourth quarter,” said Thorsten Heins, President and CEO. “With the launch of BlackBerry 10, we have introduced the newest and what we believe to be the most innovative mobile computing platform in the market today. Customers love the device and the user experience, and our teams and partners are now focused on getting those devices into the hands of BlackBerry consumer and enterprise customers.”

Also this would be the last quarter where Blackberry has a presence of its erstwhile BB OS7 platform. It's more modern and capable BB10 platform launched early this year has taken over the reins and though it's just the Z10 that the company can flaunt right now to be based on the new OS, more are in the pipeline. This also includes a successor to the PlayBook as well though the company is yet to acknowledge it officially. Meanwhile, the forst gen PlayBook tablets will be provided with an update that will enable them to run the new BB10 OS.

Heins added, “As we go into our new fiscal year, we are excited with the opportunities for the BlackBerry 10 platform, and the commitments we are seeing from our global developers and partners. We are also excited about the new, dynamic culture at BlackBerry, where we are laser-focused on continuing to drive efficiency and improve the Company’s profitability while driving innovation. We have built an engine that is able to drive improved financial performance at lower volumes, which should allow us to generate additional benefits from higher volumes in the future.”

A breakdown of the revenue earned reveals 61 percent from hardware, 36 percent from services and 3 percent from software and other revenue sources. Also in another significant development, Blackberry CEO Mike Lazaridis who has been associated with the company for the past three decades will step down with effect from May 1 this year.

“With the launch of BlackBerry 10, I believe I have fulfilled my commitment to the Board,” Lazaridis said. “Thorsten and his team did an excellent job in completing BlackBerry 10. We have a great deal of which to be proud. I believe I am leaving the company in good hands. I remain a huge fan of BlackBerry and, of course, wish the company and its people well.”

BlackBerry Fourth Quarter Results Revealed, 370k PlayBooks, 1m Z10s Sold is a post from: E-Reader News

Neelie Kroes Wants to Make Europe the Home of eBooks

LOGO CE_Vertical_EN_quadri

In 2010, Neelie Kroes became the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe. She has been a staunch advocate of eBooks and their accessibility for all citizens. She gave a talk in Salon du Livre, yesterday on the future of publishing in Europe.

Publishing in Europe has a long and storied history, for hundreds of years many companies have been in business producing some of the great literary works. Modern companies are facing a crisis because they are failing to adapt to the digital landscape that is starting to catch on in a big way. She mentioned “I know some see the advent of digital as a threat to the sector. But for me the biggest risk is that we fail to take advantage of new possibilities. Unless we embrace the future, the sector will for sure fall behind, overtaken by more forward-looking and dynamic parts of the world; overtaken by those who can look ahead and grasp the future. Then we will let down our economy, our people, and our cultural heritage. And as it stands we are not sufficiently taking advantage. We are not taking enough risks. In the US, eBooks are about one quarter of book sales; in only one European country does that figure go above 2%.”

Europe currently has a number of avenues for the general public to access eBooks via Europeana. This is Europe’s online cultural gateway, people can access over 26 million exhibits, including books, from over 2,000 institutions like libraries and archives. The Orphan Works Directive also provides a god framework for getting more content online

Neelie thinks that publishers have to think bigger then they are.”When competing with the American giants, piecemeal national initiatives won’t cut it. We need to think European to compete globally. Specifications and standards can help: for example, by supporting interoperability and portable eBooks. ePub is just one example. Most readers expect to be able to access their books in whichever country they are, and on whatever device they choose; if European publishers can’t meet those expectations, consumers will vote with their wallets; or go to the big American companies who can offer that kind of scale.”

European licensing remains a murky issue, for hundreds of years publishers have been printing books in their own countries and seldom exporting. Most scenes in France, Spain and Germany don’t translate that well to other countries and seldom do they see localization for your average title. Being able to market your books and gain the necessary permissions of the publishers to sell digital content to any country in Europe is something the industry has to strongly consider to develop a cohesive solution. There is also many different variations of VAT.

Neelie elaborated on the role that VAT tax in Europe plays a role in the current state of publishing and what it means going forward. “Globally, according to one study, the number of countries providing a VAT exemption or reduced rate to eBooks rose significantly, around 50%, over just three years. But not in Europe. Because in Europe we continue, for the most part, to charge the higher rate of VAT for eBooks; even when paper books enjoy a reduced rate. The EU Commission is obliged to enforce EU law. But that does not mean we all agree with it, or think it needs to stay as it is.”

She went on to say “The VAT system is changing. From January 2015, it has already been agreed that the rule will be the "country of destination" principle. That is highly relevant for e-Books; and we will work with booksellers next year to develop guidance on this. Even more importantly, the intention is for the subsequent system to align VAT rates applied to print books and eBooks. But – as with all tax decisions – member states will need agree, unanimously. I think such a change would be good for our publishing sector; good for an education system increasingly trying to go digital; and good to remove artificial market distortions. After all, it is common sense that the same rules should apply to same products. I support such a consistent, non-discriminatory tax regime for paper and e-publications; and so does the OECD”

The London Book Fair is right around the corner and it will be interesting to see the continued presence of digital this year and how companies are going to take advantage of a virgin landscape. There is a ton of business models that are available, that no one is doing. Such as informing a user in France when an eBook from Germany just came out. Unless you belong to that specific German eBook site, you will never know.

Neelie Kroes Wants to Make Europe the Home of eBooks is a post from: E-Reader News