Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Amazon Developing KDP Cover Creator for Indie Authors


When an indie author self-publishes an ebook, cover art is one of the most overlooked components. Traditional print book covers draw many parallels with billboards and conventional marketing strategies to appeal to casual readers. When you walk into a bookstore and there are thousands of books present, they start to all blur together. Bright colorful images and racy cover art are increasingly becoming more bold to grab people's attention and hopefully prompt an impulse buy. Self-Published authors are often on a shoestring budget, and competing against the big six publishers with really great art is a hard task. Contracting out the cover art, hiring models, and getting the fonts just right is often out of reach for a small time author. Amazon is seeking to make the process easier for indie authors to make great cover art with KDP.

Amazon is currently running a beta test for a new cover art generator. You will be able to choose from a gallery list of templates and customize it to your specific tastes. After you’ve selected your image, you can choose from one of ten base designs, which can then be further customized with various layouts as well as font and color schemes. In case you can’t find an image you’re satisfied with,  Amazon has included some basic designs that don’t incorporate an image from your computer or the stock image gallery.

What this new tool does is it basically allows indie-authors to make passable cover art, without having any prior graphic editing experience. Many authors are just writers and not artists, so this program is surprisingly necessary. Having horrible cover art severely degrades your product and great cover art is one of the most important components with impulse buys.

Right now the KDP Cover Creator is only available for US authors and can be found when you are creating a new title from your KDP Dashboard. If you are an existing author, I encourage you to check it out if you want to add a little flair to your next title.

Amazon Developing KDP Cover Creator for Indie Authors is a post from: E-Reader News

Best Buy and MacMall Now Offering Discounts on iPad and iPad Mini Models


The retailer Best Buy is now offering a 30 percent discount on the iPad 3. No reasons were made available to explain this generosity, though the retailer had offered a similar discount scheme for the iPad 2 just prior to the launch of the iPad 3. Now the same iPad 3 can be purchased at a starting price of $315 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi only model. Subsequent 32 and 64 GB versions will cost $385 and $455 respectively. The same would have cost $450, $550, and $650 for the 16, 32, and 64 GB versions respectively, which makes it a good reason to opt for the sparkling retina display equipped iPad 3 at this time.

However, MacMall is also offering a discount on the latest iPad Mini and iPad 4 as well. Click the link here to get all the latest prices for the Apple tablet.

Best Buy and MacMall Now Offering Discounts on iPad and iPad Mini Models is a post from: E-Reader News

Curata, a Google Reader Alternative Aimed at Business Users


The impending demise of Google Reader has left a fertile breeding ground for other companies to sprout. While Feedly has already made the start as an alternative to the Google Reader service, there is a lot of room for others to flourish as well. Curata is one such company that is hoping to cash in on the situation and has picked up a niche area of news for business users. In fact, Curata is of the opinion that Google Reader’s demise will not only open up a window of opportunity for others in this field but will also lead to some much needed innovation the way news feeds operate, something that Google’s all encompassing presence in the field has been hindering. So how does Curata aim to be different in the quickly growing RSS feed segment?

Curata believes its long association with the business sector (where it has been providing curation services for the past few years) already provides it with the head-start needed to be seen as a reliable source of online news feeds for those whose livelihood depends on it. The Curata Reader has already been doing what the Google Reader does, and intends to outdo it with what it calls “Natural Language Processing technology.” This, the company hopes, will let them provide a more customized and personalized news feed that suits a user’s requirements. Curata believes its ability to specific deliver news is most relevant to a user,  rather than providing customers will an overwhelming amount of random news feeds. That is what Curata says will set it apart from the others.

Curata, a Google Reader Alternative Aimed at Business Users is a post from: E-Reader News

HarperCollins and Hachette Disband Agency Model for the UK

agency books

HarperCollins and Hachette are the first major publishers to absolve the agency pricing model for the UK version of Amazon. The two literary giants have removed the text that appears under ebook listings that said “The Price has been set by publisher.” This move was due to the European Justice Department ruling that basically said price fixing cartels were illegal under EU law.

The move to abandon the agency model in the UK will benefit price conscious consumers. Books on the Amazon website have already started to slightly decrease in price, for example the The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is now £3.65 on Kindle, instead of £4.99.  JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy is now selling for £8.08 and the old price was for £9.99. As you can see, the savings are not massive, but the prices have decreased.

In Europe, Simon and Schuster, Hachette Livre, HarperCollins, and the parent company of Macmillan all removed any previous deals with Apple to sell ebooks under the agency pricing model where the publishers set the prices. For the next two years, Amazon and other retailers will be able to sell the publishers' ebooks at their own determination of the price, or the original "wholesale model." This model is what Amazon originally relied upon to price ebooks for sometimes less than price paid to the publisher, a move that allowed the online retailer to encourage customers to purchase Kindles. When the publishers and Apple were accused of collusion in order to switch to the agency model, critics argued that it was simply an effort to tear down some of Amazon's stronghold on the ebook market.

These two publishers are the first to really come to grips with the entire agency pricing meltdown. It seems Amazon was the first large ebook reseller that they have negotiated new pricing and is only a matter of time before the discounted titles appear on the UK version of Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

HarperCollins and Hachette Disband Agency Model for the UK is a post from: E-Reader News

De Gruyter, Work Together to Crowdfund Open Source Textbooks


When first launched its platform to strip the copyright status of books once a crowdfunded, pre-determined amount of money had been raised, skeptics spoke out. Not against that concept of “ungluing” a book, of course, but against the idea that ordinary readers would be willing to donate money to a publisher to make a book permanently public domain. Happily, has already enjoyed the fruits of their labors and announced a number of open source books, thanks to the donations and promotional efforts of its followers.

"The demand for open-access books at De Gruyter has been increasing continuously," said De Gruyter CEO Sven Fund in a press release. "This has motivated us to offer select e-dition titles at and see if users are willing to help increase the number of open access works available."

Now, and German publisher De Gruyer have announced their partnership that stands to turn the textbook industry on its collective head. De Gruyer has released a list of 100 digital titles that it is enabling users to “unglue,” making the book free for use from now on. The publisher has set the minimum dollar amount per title at $2100.

"We’re really excited and honored to be working with De Gruyter. Their broad commitment to both Open Access and to high quality publishing really distinguishes them from their competitors," continued Eric Hellman, President of Gluejar Inc., the company behind

Interested funders can find the De Gruyer page at .

De Gruyter, Work Together to Crowdfund Open Source Textbooks is a post from: E-Reader News

Next Gen Nexus 7 Coming July, Will Sport a Qualcomm Chip


The next gen Nexus 7 will be ready for launch towards July, reports Reuters. The news agency further revealed Google and Asus will be banking on Qualcomm to power the new Nexus 7 device. Sources said chips from both NVIDIA and Qualcomm were put to test, and the latter made the cut reportedly due to its power saving credentials.

Other details of the upcoming device include a thinner bezel design and an even better display, both of which play a significant role in enhancing a tablet’s appeal. Sources also claim Google and Asus are aiming to ship no less than 8 million of the new Nexus 7 by the year end, which seems quite achievable if they can keep the basics right. The first gen Nexus 7 proved to be the perfect combination of good design, excellent display, and slick performance, which together with an affordable price tag ensured it was among the highest selling Android tablets.

While the new Nexus 7 is expected to improve on this, prices will continue to be an important factor in ensuring its appeal remains high. Google is likely to continue with the same $199 and $149 prices for the new Nexus 7 devices. What remains to be seen is whether the first gen Nexus 7 will be scrapped altogether or will featured at a discount of $199, something that Amazon has done with the original Kindle Fire. That would be a great deal for a tablet that still has a lot of appeal.

As for its competitor, Apple is expected to release the next iPad Mini 2 around the same time, while a new Kindle Fire is also on the horizon. Samsung is readying a new Galaxy Tab variant with a high resolution display for release during fall, and a smaller 7 inch tablet running Windows 8 cannot be ruled out. In short, it’s exciting times ahead in the tablet segment.

Next Gen Nexus 7 Coming July, Will Sport a Qualcomm Chip is a post from: E-Reader News

Libraries Save Time with ‘Recommend to Library’ Service

With the many exciting new enhancements to your OverDrive service this year, including Next Generation digital library platform, OverDrive Read, Next Generation Content Reserve and more coming soon, there's no better time to add Recommend to Library to your OverDrive-powered website!


Recommend to Library has been a huge hit with library staff and users. It's a free, seamless, and customizable means of exposing tens of thousands of additional titles in the OverDrive catalog to engage users to discover, sample and recommend titles to your library. Users will begin searches within your library's digital collection. Then, they can choose to expand results to include titles not currently in your collection. When they find titles they want to recommend, users can choose to be notified or placed on the waiting list automatically if your library purchases the titles. In Content Reserve, library staff can limit the number of recommendations a user can make and tailor the Recommend to Library Manager located in the Select Express tab to meet purchasing needs.


To learn more about how libraries are benefiting from Recommend to Library, I spoke with Michelle Ross, the Virtual Branch Manager at Marion County Public Library System (West Virginia Downloadable Entertainment Library Initiative):


OverDrive: How has Recommend to Library enhanced the user experience on the Next Generation digital library website?


Ross: Our OverDrive consortium is made up with ten libraries, each with different people responsible for collection development. In the past, it has been difficult for patrons to figure out who to contact to make purchase requests. Some just wouldn’t bother because it seemed like a hassle; others weren’t even aware that they could make requests. The Recommend to Library feature not only makes our patrons aware that they can make purchase requests, it also makes the process easier for them.


OverDrive: How does Recommend to Library improve the ordering process for library staff in Next Generation Content Reserve?


Ross: Recommend to Library has improved the ordering process by enlightening library staff on what our patrons actually want to read, rather than what we think they want. Our Patron Recommendation carts provide specific titles, but they also give insight into which genres our patrons are interested in and current reading trends. Additionally, Patron Recommendation carts reduce the amount of staff time spent on collection development. Recommend to Library is a great tool.


For more information on Recommend to Library and to add it to your digital library website, contact your OverDrive Account Specialist today. You can find contact information specific to your account on the Support tab at Content Reserve.


Heather Valentine-Gold is an Account Specialist at OverDrive.


Bringing computing to rural Cameroon

Liz: I was going to post this tomorrow, but it’s so good I just couldn’t wait. We’ve just had some mail from Geert Maertens, from Anzegem in Belgium. He’s been working with a small group of volunteers to raise money to bring computing to a school in a remote area of Cameroon. I’ll quote him in full: what he’s got to tell us is fascinating, and makes us feel very, very proud. Thank you Geert, Kristel, Griet and Hans - please keep us posted!

I am a volunteer in a group that provides the funding to build a secondary school (Saint Marcellin Comprehensive College, or SAMACCOL) in a small village in Cameroon. The village is called Binshua and is located close to Nkambe in the Northwest region of Cameroon. This is a relatively poor region of the country, with no reliable water and electricity supply. Also, at present, the nearest internet connection is found in a town called Kumbo which is a three hour drive from Binshua, not so much because of the distance but rather because of the quality of the road.

Ever since we learned about the Raspberry Pi, we were dreaming of a computer lab equipped with these little wonders. And so we pursued this dream. For the necessary funds, we found a generous partner in Rotary International. Thanks to the efforts of the Rotarians in Waregem, Kortrijk and Kumbo and of the Rotary International Foundation, we have the money to provide the essential infrastructure for the school.

And so last month, we travelled with a group of four Pi enthusiasts (Kristel, Griet, Hans and myself) to Cameroon with 30 Pis in our suitcases. Also, we bought HDMI to VGA convertors here in Belgium because we knew it might be hard to find HDMI screens over there. Furthermore, the network equipment (router, switches, hard drive) and a small load of books all came along from Europe. The screens, keyboards and mice were bought in a local computer shop in Bamenda, Cameroon. Currently, it is not possible to connect the school to the public power network, so the class needs to be powered by a small generator of Chinese manufacture.

In the lab, we installed 25 Raspberry Pis. The remaining 5 RPis are currently unused. They certainly play a role in our plans for the future, but currently serve only as spare parts. All of the systems run on the Raspbian image from December, with LibreOffice and CUPS installed. The Pis are currently used to teach the children the basics of working with an Office suite. But we made sure that we gave the teacher a little introduction (and a good book) on programming in Scratch. So, now we are hoping that this will get Scratch introduced in the school curriculum as well.

The computers are all connected in a network. The central point of the network is a router that's ready to be connected to a WAN modem. We hope to be able to provide a connection to the internet in the near future, which would certainly bring a small revolution into this rural area. Even without an internet connection, we believe that we created an advanced computer lab in this underdeveloped area. Giving the children in the area a chance to work their way to a better future. And that is our motivation.

Geert Maertens

Calibrating a 3D printer with a Raspberry Pi

Jon Wise mailed Eben last night to tell us about a 3D printing project he’s been working on, and we thought it was so great we watched the video three times before going to bed. If you’ve ever used a 3D printer you’ll know that they need regular calibrating to make sure that the output is accurate. You have to ensure that various parts are parallel and orthogonal to each other, or your 3D object is likely to come out wonky; things are moving around on three axes, and usually you’ll be doing that calibration by hand.

Jon is sick of hand-calibrating, so he’s used a Pi to do the work for him. This video is a demonstration of how his setup works, using a pencil instead of the usual extrusion nozzle so you can better see what’s going on.

We got talking to Jon about how significant he thought the improvement in resolution you can get from automating calibration might be. He said:

I do not see it as competition to a machine tool approach, but for building products in new areas. I have a friend who would like to build edible products and this was one of the prompts to try alternative layouts – it would be easier to clean icing sugar off the flat base plate than from belts and bearings and the build platform could go into the dish-washer.

The design could be easily scaled by running on a large sheet of material as the arms are light and take no bending forces. The overall size will be big compared to the product but all designs have some down-sides. The key aspect is that anyone can make it. The rack and pinion bits are available from hobby stores and can be linked to any length. The motors come from old printers. There isn’t anything else.


We think this project is great. Using computing to automate repetitive tasks like this frees up time to use your brain to do other more interesting things, and leaves you more productive and more cheerful. It’s one of the reasons we think that giving everybody the opportunity to learn how to do this stuff is so important. What have you automated recently?

BiblioCrunch, Wattpad Connect Authors with Readers


There is so much that goes into creating a book, regardless of whether it is traditionally or indie published. Cover designers, editors, proofreaders, public relations and marketers… the list goes on. While the work of writing the book is only the first step, a behind-the-scenes team of professionals takes over to bring the book to readers. One site, BiblioCrunch, serves as a connection portal for authors and freelancers in order to put these necessary steps in motion.

BiblioCrunch serves as something very similar to a vetted and supervised Craig’s List, of sorts, for the services that authors and publishers need. Clients post their projects to the site, and freelance professionals can post their bids for the projects. Clients are also encouraged to post reviews of the services upon completion, so that future clients can form an idea before signing up to work with a specific professional. BiblioCrunch even handles the payment processing, so that clients can pay a down payment prior to completion of the project, but so freelancers aren’t fighting for their compensation.

Now, in addition to the extra perks, like discounts on conferences and events, that membership with BiblioCrunch has offered, the company has teamed up with Wattpad and MediaBistro to provide extra support and value to both authors and freelance publishing professionals.

“We are excited to team up with MediaBistro's Self-Publishing Finishing School to offer you an exclusive discount,” explained a press release on the partner program. “Discover the secrets to self-publishing success from Guy Kawasaki (author, APE), Mark Coker (founder, Smashwords), and more in Mediabistro's Self-Publishing Finishing School, a 6-week interactive online event.”

Wattpad, who is also working with BiblioCrunch, is an online reading community that allows authors to post their work to the 14 million Wattpad users, promoting book discovery and encouraging the growth of a reader fan base. While Wattpad is a free community, by teaming up with BiblioCrunch authors can post their work to Wattpad directly from BiblioCrunch’s existing platform, saving time while reaching out to readers.

BiblioCrunch, Wattpad Connect Authors with Readers is a post from: E-Reader News

Ematic Genesis Prime Jelly Bean Tablet Costs Just $80


Out of super cheap Android tablets, this is one of the most competitive devices. The Ematic Genesis Prime is a proper 7 inch tablet running the latest Android Jelly Bean, but at a tantalizingly low price tag of just $80. Ematic is already known for its pocket friendly attributes and it has even managed to get the Ematic Prime certified from Google, which means one can tap into the vast app world of Google Play.

The rest of the spec story isn’t anything exciting, which is quite understandable considering the ultra low price tag the tablet sports. With a 1.1 GHz dual core CPU, a dedicated GPU, 1 GB of RAM, and 4 GB of on-board storage, the Ematic Genesis Prime is designed to get most jobs done and not to impress with its speed. There is also 5 GB of cloud storage thrown in, along with a VGA camera at the front and an USB 2.0 port. Ematic is claiming a battery life of around 4.5 hours for the Wi-Fi only tablet, which is also capable of playing back 1080p HD video.

So there you are. The Ematic Prime offers a proper tablet at almost throw away prices, which makes it quite expendable.

Catch up with the PR below.

Ematic Genesis Prime Jelly Bean Tablet Costs Just $80 is a post from: E-Reader News