Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Breaking: Australian Government Mandates New eBook Initiative

overdrive australia nsw

The New South Wales Government in Australia is gearing up to push eBooks into schools and libraries. They are initiating a new statewide collection of eBook resources accessible to all 2243 public schools, beginning in 2013. The new program will be run by the State Education Department’s School Library and Information Literacy team, which is based in Sydney.

The first phase of this new eBook program will take place in June beginning with 230 schools participating in the Commonwealth’s ‘Empowering Local Schools’ initiative. The rest of the schools will see a staggered release in 2014 and 2015, in which all public schools will have access to thousands of eBooks. NSW plans to standardize all public school libraries and associated facilities statewide on a single, hosted school library system.

Overdrive, the leading facilitator of digital content to libraries, will be providing the audiobooks and eBooks for the schools.  Their main Australian partner, Softlink, will spearhead the IT and local customer service. A whopping 5000 titles will be available early June to the first batch of schools participating in program. They will be able to read the titles on State issued e-readers and tablets, or devices students own. The School Literacy Team is currently working out the kinks on lost or stolen devices, or tablets kids bring from home.

There is no word yet on what titles will be made available to schools or the pricing structure that the Government will have to pay. Likely, it will be a combination of royalty free open source books, that are in the public domain and paid content. We have reached out to Softlink and Overdrive for comment on this breaking story.

Breaking: Australian Government Mandates New eBook Initiative is a post from: E-Reader News

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Plus Revealed


A new tablet from Samsung with a HD AMOLED display almost stands confirmed now, with a formal launch likely to happen later in the year (maybe IFA in September). However, official images of the device or information on its specs have been elusive so far, though the efforts of SamMobile has helped illuminate the picture. SamMobile has built a good reputation with reporting future devices from Samsung and has presented an image likely to be that of the upcoming Galaxy Tab 3 Plus.

From the image, what immediately becomes evident is its lineage with the same style cues as seen on the Galaxy SIII, S IV, and the Galaxy Note 8.0 also present on the image purported to be that of the Galaxy Tab 3 Plus. This makes it quite a familiar design that we have seen quite a lot of and could lead to its undoing. Obviously Samsung will pack it with a lot of power, and it seems likely that the tablet will sport an Exynos 5410 Octa processor with eight cores, Power SGX 533MP3 graphics, 2 GB RAM, a microSD slot, an 8 megapixel shooter at the rear, and a 9,000 mAh battery. The display that is sparking the most interest, what with Samsung expected to offer a 10.1 inch of full High Definition AMOLED display with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels. That has the iPad 4's retina display fully covered for sure, though Samsung is also rumored to be into developing an 8 inch version of the same as well.

So that's plenty of tablet activity coming our way from Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Plus Revealed is a post from: E-Reader News

Kobo Finally Allows US Customers to Buy e-Readers Online


has announced today that it has finally opened online sales to customers living in the United States. Starting today you will be able to purchase the Kobo Touch, Kobo Mini, Kobo Arc, and Kobo Glo via the main website.

The USA has never really had a taste of Kobo and many customers end up switching to other brands due to poor retail visibility. The move to sell e-readers directly online will ensure that you should get the devices rather quickly and will be shipped to all states.

Kobo believes e-reading is a global movement and is focused on rapidly expanding its footprint through retail and publishing partners around the world. In 2013, Kobo will continue its goal to be the best e-reading service in the world and is on track to becoming a billion dollar company. Kobo now has more than 13-million readers enjoying its superior ebookstore, which offers more than 3.2-million titles across 68 languages including bestsellers, classics, self-published works, comics, children's books, manga, and graphic novels. Already this year, Kobo's customers turned more than 1.3-billion pages reading for 10-million hours.

Kobo Finally Allows US Customers to Buy e-Readers Online is a post from: E-Reader News

Sony Revealed Its Xperia Z Is Not Delayed, Was Always Set for May Release


Sony has let it known its Xperia Tablet Tablet Z was never meant to be released in April. Rather, it clarified that the official company website reporting the release date to be mid-April was an error.

“The Xperia Tablet Z is not delayed and was always planned to arrive during May 2013.
“References made to the tablet arriving in April were results of a technical error which has now been corrected,” a Sony spokesperson revealed.

Towards this, pre-orders for the water and dust proof tablets are underway and those who have placed their orders are on track to receive the device towards May. Delays have always come as a part of the tablet game and its good to see a device sticking to its launch schedule, albeit with a few detours along the way.

Sony Revealed Its Xperia Z Is Not Delayed, Was Always Set for May Release is a post from: E-Reader News

HP Slate 7 on Track for April Launch


After Sony, HP also revealed the information that revealed the launch date of the company’s budget tablet has been delayed to June from the original April was incorrect. It was just a few days ago that the purported mistake came to light, though it’s good HP officials quickly made the clarification. The site has also been rectified and is now showing the April launch period. However, that is applicable only to the US and it’s still not known when the Slate 7 will be launched worldwide.

The tablet sports a pocket friendly price tag of $169 and offers specs that can be considered befitting to the price. Obviously, the tablet is not designed to be a speed demon, but will get the job done well enough. Towards this, the 1.6 Ghz dual core chip, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage (microSD card support for more), and Android Jelly Bean can be considered quite sufficient. The tablet was revealed during the MWC event in Spain.

HP Slate 7 on Track for April Launch is a post from: E-Reader News

Amazon Hires Microsoft Smartphone Expert


A smartphone from Amazon has long been a hot topic for rumor mongers. Now that has got a fillip on the back of news about Amazon having poached a smartphone expert who has rendered 2 decades of service at Microsoft. Charlie Kindel’s most recent attachment at Microsoft was the Windows Phone Division. His LinkedIn profile mentioned he had been associated with the Richmond based company since 1990 though he left in 2011 to work on two start up organizations before making it to Amazon. The online retailer, on its part had secured the services of two other senior Windows phone managers in 2012.

Amazon currently offers the Kindle range of ereaders and tablet PCs, the USP for both series being its low initial cost. That the same pricing strategy will also be followed in the smartphone venture is almost a surety. Amazon is up against the likes of Apple and Samsung both of which has a thriving smartphone and tablet business (though it should be mentioned Apple at this moment is far ahead of Samsung in the tablet segment). This makes it almost mandatory for Amazon too to have a strong contender in the smartphone segment as well.

However, a possible timeline for the smartphone’s release continues to be elusive while Kindel described his latest role at Amazon saying he is “hiring cloud and mobile developers and testers, program managers, and product managers.” His newest update on his Linkedin profile has described his role at Amazon as ‘something secret’.

Amazon Hires Microsoft Smartphone Expert is a post from: E-Reader News

IDPF Announces the List of Speakers for the Digital Book Conference at BEA


Book Expo America continues to be the largest publishing and book fair in North America. Before the show actually kicks off, there is a two day digital conference that brings the movers and shakers in the industry together to talk about the current status and future of digital publishing. Today, the IDPF announced the full list of speakers that will be attending the event.

The final program is still under development, but featured speakers include the following experts: Chantal Restivo-Alessi (HarperCollins), Michael Tamblyn (Kobo), Jeff Jaffe (W3C), Paul Belfanti (Pearson), Matt MacInnis (Inkling), Ken Brooks (Cengage Learning), Samantha Cohen (Simon & Schuster), Dominique Raccah (SourceBooks), Hugh McGuire (PressBrooks), Josh Schanker (BookBub), Pip Tannenbaum (Parragon), Nicole Passage (Open Road Media), Sanj Kharbanda (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Liisa McCloy-Kelley (Random House), Richard Nash (Small Demons), Laura Hazard Owen (paidContent/GigaOM), Sanders Kleinfeld (O'Reilly Media), Mark Ury (Storybird), Phil Sexton (F+W Media), Micah Bowers (Bluefire), Liz Castro (author and noted EPUB 3 expert), Marc Aronson, Ph.D (Core Curriculum expert) and more. Special guest keynote speakers will be announced soon.

Topics include: The Evolving Digital Book, Digital Publishing in Transition, The Open Web Platform, From Textbooks to Learning Platforms (Implications for Early Education Publishers), The Changing Role of Authors, Enhanced Illustrated Digital Books, In-Sourcing vs Outsourcing, Best Practices, Reader Engagement, Selling vs. Licensing, Reading Systems, K-12 Content and Adapting to Early Learners, and much more.

Of course, Good e-Reader will be live on the scene for the entire conference, bringing you coverage of every single session. If you can’t attend BEA or the Digital Book show this year, you can live vicariously through us!

IDPF Announces the List of Speakers for the Digital Book Conference at BEA is a post from: E-Reader News

Microsoft Hiring New Designer for Next Surface Device


That the current crop of Surface devices with both PRO and RT versions failed to live up to the expectations of Microsoft is all too evident. The company is undeterred, however, and is already into developing the next gen versions. Towards this, it has already started a hiring spree and is on the lookout for a new designer to join the Surface team.

The ad mentions, “Are you passionate about building cool devices and technologies? The Surface Team focuses on building devices that fully express the Windows vision… We are currently building the next generation and Surface needs you!”

Microsoft is reported to have been able to sell just about 1.5 million of its Surface tablets with the RT version making up the bulk 1 million and the remaining comprises of Surface Pro devices. That is dismal by any means when Apple during the same period has sold about 23 million iPads.

Interestingly, the job ad comes at a time when Microsoft has lowered the minimum display resolution for devices running Windows 8 to 1024 X 768 pixels from the earlier specified 1366 X 768 pixels. This is significant as it is seen as means of promoting development of smaller sized tablets. This in turn will be priced lower and bring in the volumes. Maybe Microsoft is building a new smaller Surface.

Microsoft Hiring New Designer for Next Surface Device is a post from: E-Reader News

Feedly Claims Three Million New Users in Just Two Weeks, New Update Released


Feedly can't exactly be considered a novice in the field, though it's only since Google announced the termination of its Reader service that Feedly began to get some serious exposure. Among the few that have joined the rush to fill the void created by Google Reader's impending annihilation on July 1, Feedly is already a stalwart, going by the 3 million subscriber base it has garnered in just the past 2 weeks. In fact, half a million have switched allegiance with Feedly in just 48 hours after Google served the termination notice to its RSS news service. Now with over 7 million active users under its belt, no wonder the company is now aiming higher, which includes a paid premium service for those who are willing to pay for a better service.

The premium version will be launched later in the year and will justify its branding with better features such as Dropbox integration and a better Evernote service. As Feedly co-founder Moutran revealed to Laura of paidcontent.org, “Feedly will emerge as a marketplace that facilitates the discovery, consumption and sharing of great content…We have been working with publishers, and intend to offer an easy way for our users to discover, purchase, and access premium content.”

Meanwhile, the company has also come up with an update for both Android and iOS to make for an even better experience using the service. On offer is a better search and discovery feature, and it is a lot easier to share on the social networking scene as well. For instance, Google+ is not well integrated and can be accessed from within the menu dropdown list itself. An Android specific update with a new layout has also been introduced and can be viewed with tablets like the Nexus 7, Nexus 10.

However, the biggest improvement (and arguably the most important one) is the enhanced search feature. With an entirely new search engine, there will be 50 million feeds that will be searched for results.

Overall, it's good to see Feedly is being fine tuned to deliver a fast and slick user experience, something important for it to emerge as a comprehensive alternative to the Google Reader. Digg is also in the race to offer a Google Reader alternative and it will be interesting to see what it has to offer.

Feedly Claims Three Million New Users in Just Two Weeks, New Update Released is a post from: E-Reader News

Competition: name our bear!

In about a month’s time, we’re going to be launching a brand-new range of Raspberry Pi merchandise. (My desk is currently awash with notebooks, gym bags, pencils, mugs, umbrellas and…stuff.)

This little guy is going to be one of the additions to the line-up.

He’s soft, he’s cuddly, he’s only about 20cm tall, and he doesn’t have a name yet. That’s where you come in.

To win a bear, as well as some other goodies I’ll select from what’s kicking around in the office, and to have your choice of name used in the shop, leave a comment below with your chosen name, with an explanation of why you selected it. (Make sure the email address you log in with is a genuine one, so we can get in touch with you if you win.) The competition ends at midnight on Tuesday April 16.

Kobo Now Selling eReaders and Tablets Direct Online Again

Kobo announced the launch of a revolutionary new concept today. They’ve finally decided to enter the 21st century and start selling their Kobo ereaders and tablets directly from Kobo.com. Gasp! Kobo used to sell the Kobo Touch and Kobo Vox from their website, but inexplicably removed the buy option last fall right before the busy [...]

LDAP Authentication New Option for Schools

Last summer, OverDrive piloted a new method of authenticating users that has become increasingly popular with our school partners: LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol). Using LDAP allows users to sign into their OverDrive-powered website using their existing network username and password that they are already very familiar with. Once LDAP is setup for your OverDrive service, there is no additional maintenance on user accounts required! In many cases, the setup is as easy as filling out a brief form including the specifics of your LDAP server, and allowing the OverDrive servers to connect to it. We also support working with LDAP over SSL.


Common LDAP systems include Microsoft Active Directory, Novell eDirectory and Apple Open Directory. Users will still sign in directly to your OverDrive-powered website, as they have previously, to check out and download digital titles. Authentication happens in real-time, so we query the LDAP database and confirm if the user is valid at the point of signing in. User updates such as new or removed users or updated passwords are seen immediately on our side as a result. Partners using LDAP authentication can also still take advantage of the full range of reports that they are accustomed to.


LDAP is an optional authentication method suitable for individual schools or school districts, corporate libraries, or any institution with a closed network. For partners that currently use our Library Card Manager because their library system (such as Follett Destiny) does not have a compatible protocol to communicate with our servers, LDAP is effective in automating the authentication process and eliminating the need to add new users manually.


The first school district to go live with LDAP authentication was Leander ISD in Texas, using their Novell eDirectory product. We also worked with the Marlborough School in California to transition their existing Library Card Manager account to LDAP authentication using Microsoft Active Directory. Since then, dozens of schools have started using LDAP authentication, and currently about 7.5% of our partners are utilizing this method. Several of the latest schools to take advantage of LDAP authentication are the Chicago Public Schools (IL), the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township (IN), and The Dalton School (NY).


If you are interested in this authentication method for your OverDrive digital library or have any questions on how it works, please contact your Account Specialist.


Melissa Higey is an Account Specialist at OverDrive.


Kindleberry Pi the second

Did you get a nice shiny new Paperwhite Kindle to replace your old one? (I haven’t yet. I’m waiting until the inevitable moment when I drop my Kindle Touch and break the screen; I’m currently on my third.) If you did, you might be interested to learn that when you’re not using it to read books or jailbreaking it so you can change the wallpaper, you can use your Paperwhite as a wireless, ultra low-power display for your Raspberry Pi.

We featured the original Kindleberry Pi hack from Ponnuki back in September. That hack required cables, and only worked on the old Kindle 3 (the version with the keyboard), not any later versions – plus, it looked a bit odd because to keep the screen in landscape mode you had to turn the whole assembly on its side, so the keyboard was rotated by 90 degrees. The new Kindle 5 (the Paperwhite) has no keyboard, a faster refresh rate, and a backlight that can be turned on in dark conditions. So Max Ogden has polished Ponnuki’s original Kindleberry Pi idea, and produced a really tidy piece of kit: a Raspberry Pi with a Paperwhite display, a wireless keyboard and a tiny wireless router. He says:

The advantages of the Kindleberry are pretty desirable for me:

  • Week-long battery life: the Pi and the Kindle both have low power ARM processors so you can use any USB charger to power them
  • The Kindle screen is designed for use in direct sunlight
  • The whole setup is small enough to carry around in a pouch inside my normal backpack along with my normal laptop. I work from coffee shops in Oakland and often move around by bicycle during the day — now I can work from almost anywhere and still be at least a little productive.

Here at the Foundation, we’re watching the development of e-ink products with great interest. At the moment it’s nigh-on impossible to buy an e-ink display as a consumer unless it comes bundled as part of an e-reader like a Kindle or a Nook; and that makes them very expensive. The technology has all kinds of potential for applications we want to see the Pi being used for: the low energy requirement makes an e-ink screen a perfect choice for places where you’re off the grid or reliant on solar power. We’re looking forward to seeing prices come down and displays becoming more easily available to consumers.

Obviously, you’re not going to be watching video on an e-ink display any time soon; the refresh rates just aren’t there yet, and if they ever do get there, it won’t be for many years. But for everything else, e-ink’s a great choice. Max says that the Paperwhite’s refresh rate added to the tiny lag that you get using a wireless keyboard means that he sees a ~200ms screen delay when using the Kindleberry Pi, but that this is barely noticeable when typing.

Max has made code and a list of required hardware available at his website.


Dark Horse to Launch the Star Wars Mini Series This September


When Disney first purchased Marvel and the Star Wars franchise, it was only a matter of time before the comics license did not get renewed with Dark Horse.  The company is initiating one last mini series that brings the entire series full circle. Dark Horse has announced that it is doing a new mini-series based on the original screenplay that George Lucas wrote.

The Star Wars was the original name to the first movie. It was a tale of fantastic adventures, daring escapes, "lazer swords," romance, and monsters. A story of Jedi Annikin Starkiller and General Luke Skywalker, an alien named Han Solo, and evil Sith Knights. The original screen play was obviously very different from what we saw on film.

The project is being written by an executive editor at Lucasbooks, J.W. Rinzler and illustrated by Mike Mayhew, an artist who has previously worked on Marvel’s Avengers: End Times. Rinzler said "While researching in the Lucasfilm Archives I've found many treasures—but one which truly astounded me was George's rough draft for The Star Wars. His first complete imaginings were hallucinating to read—mind blowing. While working with George on another book project, I once asked if we could adapt his rough draft. He was hesitant. Years later, with Dark Horse's invaluable help, we showed him a few drawn and colored pages of what it might look like. He gave us the okay."

The new Star Wars comic project will be released in digital and tangible comic books this September. The license Dark Horse has expires in late 2013 and Marvel will begin to publish new comic books in early 2014.

Dark Horse to Launch the Star Wars Mini Series This September is a post from: E-Reader News

McGraw-Hill LearnSmart Compatible with Any Higher Ed Content


The selection, approval, and adoption of academic texts can be a lengthy and carefully vetted process, especially in the public school sector where variables such as the appropriate nature of the content and budget come into play. There is often somewhat more leeway when it comes to adopting texts at the higher education level, with many university professors and department heads having more input into the selection of course materials. Those circumstances have been some of the difficulties that have prevented even more widespread adoption of digital textbooks.

Now, McGraw-Hill Education’s highly-innovative LearnSmart platform is addressing one of the key obstacles plaguing both professors and students, namely, the proprietary nature of academic publishing companies. Until this latest announcement, students and educators who wished to take advantage of the wealth of tools that McGraw-Hill’s LearnSmart adaptive learning dashboard had to offer could only utilize it in conjunction with McGraw-Hill texts. Essentially, any professors who wished to offer her students the advantages of the interactive and personalized platform was limited in terms of textbook options. The LearnSmart tool, though, now works off of learning objectives rather than page-correlated learning and study, so professors are free to select any text for their courses while still affording their students the benefits of using LearnSmart.

"We've heard it from students, professors and institutional leaders — our adaptive learning technologies improve student performance and help institutions with critical issues such as engagement and retention," said Brian Kibby, president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, in a press release. "By providing more students with access to LearnSmart, we expect to see a greater number of students studying more efficiently and effectively, mastering their coursework and achieving stronger results in their classes."

LearnSmart helps students by assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of their study habits, which it does by checking content mastery and confidence and then targeting the material to where the deficiencies still lie. While LearnSmart and its family of learning products are currently compatible with computers and iOS devices, the company says an Android-compatible version is in the works, allowing students to work from anywhere and still access their study materials.

McGraw-Hill LearnSmart Compatible with Any Higher Ed Content is a post from: E-Reader News

Rising Android Tablet Sales Causing Worry for Digital Publishers


With research form IDC predicting the steady rise of Android tablets in 2013, so that it is all set to constitute the largest tablet base that is poised to surpass even the Apple iPad, such a development has only added a few more creases on the foreheads of digital publishers. This since while they had to be content at releasing content for just one tablet, the iPad running iOS, the publishers will now have to replicate their efforts on a plethora of tablet devices running Android. The challenge for them is to take into account far more number of variables such as processing power, screen size, display resolution and so on. Plus there also is the case of individual manufacturer's attempt of customizing the Android OS on their respective devices. The iPad, in contrast presents a far more simple proposition, so much that what worked bets on the bigger 9.7 inch iPad also delivered superior performance on the smaller 7.9 inch display of the iPad Mini as well. However, while the iPad still rules the tablet market and will continue to have a sizeable portion to itself in the foreseeable future, they will still need to take into account the ever rising brigade of Android tablet devices.

The plight of the publishers is evident in the words of Joyce Rice, creative director at Symbolia. "Some of the Androids are very powerful, but some of them aren't, and I don't think you get to make a lot of choices in the Android marketplace about who can see your content and who can't," said Rice while also adding, "So it's definitely a balancing act. I want it to look awesome for everyone, but it's really determined by the window you're looking at it through." Symbolia takes news reporting to a different plane where comics and thoughtful illustrations are used to present the news.

The biggest challenge that the Android tablet segment presents to the developers is to classify the tablet along common lines. This is easier said than done so that perhaps the best approach for the developers could be to take up one tablet at a time. A huge endeavor no doubt it will be considering the sheer number of tablet devices now available running Android. Or the much more simple approach that most developers have adopted is to launch an app that offers limited to no interactivity to the users. This does serves the purpose to maintain at least a presence in the Android tablet scene till they have come up with an app that offers a better experience.

Other factors for the publishers to be wary of is that Android tablet users are less inclined to pay more for an app compared to their iOS counterparts. This brings to the financial aspect of the problem as there is no guarantee investing in a more robust development team will indeed pay back their efforts. All of this has only added to their woes when a single app for the iPad can let them reach out to millions of users at one go. Wonder if Google has a easy solution up their minds.

Rising Android Tablet Sales Causing Worry for Digital Publishers is a post from: E-Reader News