Thursday, April 25, 2013

Adobe Releases Report on Viability of Digital Magazines


A report from Adobe, the State of Mobile Benchmark, demonstrated some interesting information about how consumers are utilizing mobile devices for magazine reading and subscriptions. The information specifically relates to readership of magazines produced using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, but the news gives insight into how the market as a whole is consuming magazines.

The data shows that the number of people reading on tablet computers is up nearly 200% during the last seven months, and digital magazine growth has increased from 300,000 issues per week to close to 2 million downloads per week. Some of the important information from this report is aimed at the publishers, as Adobe found that interactive ads in digital magazines stand to have a tremendous impact on consumer spending. While interactive ads are twice as likely to influence consumers as static magazine ads, ad revenue at one point increased by 200%.

“What is the big take away?” asks Adobe in its post about this news. “Consumers are buying digital magazines at an ever-increasing pace.  We're at the point where digital magazines are moving from early adopters to the mainstream, print-reading audience and they have the potential to deliver a massive amount of ad dollars. People who consume digital magazines are proving to be very high value customers given their propensity to pay for content.”

While digital magazines–either as stand-alone issues or subscriptions–were once for the forward thinking consumers, they’re becoming so much a part of the digital publishing landscape that publishers are able to recognize their viability as a necessary marketing tool. As tablets drop in price and tablet ownership becomes more widespread, digital magazine consumption can only be expected to increase.

Adobe Releases Report on Viability of Digital Magazines is a post from: E-Reader News

Outreach Training: Spring and Summer eBook Marketing Ideas

April showers bring May… Community Outreach trainings? I know that's not how that expression usually goes but it's true for us here at OverDrive. We're gearing up for our next open Community Outreach marketing training on Thursday May 2nd at 12:00 PM EST. (Click here to convert it to your time zone, if you're not in Eastern Time.)


Register now to come and review some promotional tips and tricks with a special focus on new ways to highlight your digital titles over the next few months. Why not encourage patrons to listen to audiobooks while doing spring cleaning? Your digital collection can also be incorporated into your summer reading programs or book clubs. For your patrons heading on holidays, they can bring a stack of eBooks on vacation without taking up extra room in their suitcase. Plus, you won't need to worry about the library’s physical copies of books getting dropped in the ocean or lost and never returned! :)


If you can't make it next week, we'll miss you but don't worry. You can sign up for the next session in June or at your convenience, you can view a recording of the Community Outreach webinar on demand in our Learning Center.


Hope to see you there!


Melissa Marin is a Marketing Specialist at OverDrive.


Instapaper Sold to Betaworks


Betaworks garnered some attention in the tech world when they purchased social media site DIGG. Today, it was announced that the company has absorbed read it later service Instapaper.

Instapaper originally launched in 2008 and quickly became one of the most beloved apps for the read it later crowd. It is available for PC, MAC, iOS, Android, and a myriad of other platforms. Registering with the PC service only involves choosing a login name and password, no other information is needed. This software basically prompts you enter a slew of links to websites such as and imports our entire website into Kindle friendly format or ePub. Once these ebooks are saved on your PC, you can load them onto your e-Reader or tablet via Windows Explorer or Calibre. They also have a bevy of dedicated apps that you can read on too.

Some cool options that this gives is being able to save an entire website to text and then change the font, font size, margins, and more. Once you got it looking the way you want, you can save it as an ebook. The mobile apps for iOS and Android both cost money, but is a worthy investment.

There is no word yet on the direction or future of Instapaper and how it will look in a years time. The main developer has promised to stay on as a consultant, and likely will see further integration with Digg.

Instapaper Sold to Betaworks is a post from: E-Reader News

Dark Horse Celebrates Two years of Digital with 50 Free Comics

Black Beetle

It has been two years since Dark Horse, the publisher of Hellboy, Buffy, and the Star Wars comics, launched its digital service, and they are celebrating this week with a giveaway of 50 #1 issues on their website. Readers can download all 50 with a single click if they have a Dark Horse account. The list includes some fan favorites such as Hellboy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the two I would start with are Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT, a freaky story about psychic spies; Francesco Francavilla’s Black Beetle, a retro superhero title with more than a whiff of noir to it; and Mike Richardson and Stan Sakai’s 47 Ronin, a retelling of the traditional Japanese legend. But act fast: The freebies will vanish at 9 a.m. PST on Friday, April 26. After that, though, they will have a 10% off sale on all digital bundles from April 26 through April 28.

Dark Horse also announced that they will begin selling comics published by Dynamite via their digital service, which includes a web store, an iOS app, and an Android app. This is a logical partnership as both publishers specialize in licensed and creator-owned comics with a strong genre feel; Dark Horse publishes the Star Wars comics, while Dynamite has Battlestar Galactica; Dark Horse has Francesco Francavilla’s Black Beetle, Dynamite has The Shadow.

It’s also an interesting shift in Dark Horse’s role, from publisher to retailer. That matches their strategy in the print world, where they have close ties with the online retailer Things From Another World (TFAW). While Dynamite has a period of exclusivity, publisher Nick Barrucci said he is encouraging creators with creator-owned comics to reach out to Dark Horse Digital.

Dark Horse Celebrates Two years of Digital with 50 Free Comics is a post from: E-Reader News

Kobo Launches New Interactive Detective Mystery – The Descent


Kobo is launching its first interactive contest entitled ‘The Descent.” The essence of the game is having players solving a maze of hidden clues and visiting websites, and like any mystery, the path leads to a great reward — a $5,000 cash prize. As part of the game, players will be required to find clues and decipher symbols located within each story and online through Kobo's dedicated contest site and social media channels.

Solving codes and ciphers will be the main aspect of this contest, which runs in parallel with the new book by Dan Brown that comes out on May 14th. The majority of clues will be available in three original short stories authored by J.F. Penn, that are free in the Kobo eBook Store. Penn is currently a featured Kobo Writing Life author. She is based in London and has a panache for all things thriller and mystery. Her studies provide the foundation for her historically based, yet modern thrillers, including the free eBooks on which 'The Descent' contest is based.

'The Descent' contest is open to residents of the U.S, UK and Canada and runs from April 25 to May 14, 2013. You can visit the full contest website HERE! It is time to channel your inner codebreaker and earn a cool five g’s.

Kobo Launches New Interactive Detective Mystery – The Descent is a post from: E-Reader News

OverDrive and III announce plans for deep API integration


This week, OverDrive and Innovative Interfaces, Inc. ("III") agreed on plans for deep API integration of OverDrive services into III products, including Sierra and Encore Discovery Services Platform.  Building on the success of the first round of OverDrive APIs, the coming API updates will include the ability to check out and place a hold on eBooks from a library's online catalog.


The plans with III also include an option to take the integration beyond digital and into the physical collection.  In addition to providing an enhanced user experience through a library's online catalog, OverDrive and III will enable a seamless experience for OverDrive library partners in our collection portal, Content Reserve.  Libraries will be able to see their physical and digital holdings side-by-side within Content Reserve so that collection development decisions can be based on physical holdings, circulation, and other criteria.


At the 2013 ALA Conference this summer, OverDrive and III plan to demonstrate III's integration of OverDrive's much anticipated 'Content API' which supports placing holds and checkouts on titles from a library's digital catalog.  To support this, our companies will also collaborate on a 'Patron Authentication API' to ensure secure access to user accounts.  The Content API release will follow soon after with a pilot available for partner libraries and approved vendors.


Included in the Content API will be direct access to both downloadable and browser-based (OverDrive Read) eBooks, as well as eBook samples in the OverDrive Read format.  These will work the same way as the current Read and Download buttons do on OverDrive-powered Next Generation digital library collection websites, allowing users to directly read or download titles with integrated API calls.


OverDrive's partnership with III is an exciting one, and it builds on the success we're already seeing with our existing API partners, currently serving hundreds of libraries.


We also have a booth (#18) set up at IUG 2013, meeting with III's many customers and users in San Francisco this week.


As we make progress on the new APIs, we'll be sure to keep you in the loop right here on the blog.  In the meantime, you can read more about our APIs on our developer portal.

Square Enix To Shut Down Digital Manga Stores in U.S. and France

Square Enix manga store

The Japanese site AnimeAnime is reporting that Square Enix will shut down its U.S. and French digital manga websites; although this news has yet to appear on the U.S. site, the news sites Crunchyroll and Anime News Network have picked up on it and there is a notice on the French site. The news comes as no surprise, as Square Enix has been having a bad year. They were projecting a net loss at the end of last fiscal year, their president is stepping down, and they laid off a large portion of their staff earlier this month.

Square Enix is the Japanese publisher for a number of popular properties, but they don’t publish them in the U.S. under their own name; their line includes Fullmetal Alchemist (published by Viz) and Black Butler (Yen Press’s top-selling Japanese manga).

Yen Press publishing director Kurt Hassler announced at New York Comic Con that Yen would be partnering with Square Enix to release their manga digitally on a variety of platforms worldwide.

Unlike JManga, which despite its myriad faults was user-friendly and relatively easy to use, the Square Enix North American digital manga store was poorly designed and embodied many of the worst aspects of digital comics distribution.

It was a streaming website, so you couldn’t download the comics, but it also required the reader to download a special manga reader, so that the comics were locked to a single computer, taking away the portability that is the saving grace of streaming manga. The special software was buggy and, to put it bluntly, just didn’t work. Tech assistance was nonexistent. But not too many people even got that far, because the site required users to go through five separate registrations—not steps, registrations—in order to sign up. And the DRM on the site was the worst, most obnoxious DRM ever. You can read all about it in my review at MTV Geek and Melinda Beasi’s review at Manga Bookshelf. How bad was the web store? So bad that when Square Enix did a free manga promotion at San Diego a few years ago, it backfired when people couldn’t claim their manga—just read the comments to Melinda’s post. So while the JManga announcement caused a lot of angst among readers who will lose access to manga they had “bought” from the streaming service, the Square Enix shutdown doesn’t seem to be causing widespread panic, perhaps because so few people have used the site.

It’s worth spending a few minutes discussing why the site was so bad. A fundamental problem was that Square Enix seemed to think of it as a site to be used chiefly by people who were already engaged with the company as gamers, assuming that people who were already members of the site would welcome the opportunity to have manga added to its other offerings. They don’t seem to have realized that manga readers are a separate group, and that having to become a site member before signing up for the manga service is an unnecessary (and annoying) step.

The site could have been streamlined quite a bit by either eliminating the membership requirement or combining it with the registration for the manga site. Furthermore, they used a fairly obscure payment service, so everyone had to sign up with that separately; if they had gone with a universally used service such as PayPal they could have saved their customers a lot of aggravation.

Finally, the DRM was ridiculous. Requiring readers to download a separate reader that only ties in to one device is already a failing strategy; nobody has just one device any more. The fact that the damn thing didn’t work is a separate issue. Not only was it buggy, it was only designed to work with the Explorer browser, effectively cutting out all Mac users and everybody else who doesn’t use Explorer. But that’s not the worst of it. As Melinda Beasi explains in her review of the site, it actually was quite easy to defeat the DRM and download the manga directly to the user’s computer as a PDF. On the other hand, Viz and eManga, which don’t have burdensome DRM, do a much better job of protecting their files. So the DRM is not only annoying, it’s ineffective. And finally, when the competition is a free, easy-to-use pirate site, requiring your readers to jump through hoops to read an overpriced comic is a losing strategy.

Yen Press has a nice iPad app, and their deal with Square Enix means the comics will be available digitally worldwide, not region-locked. The Square Enix site was old technology, poorly done, and it’s doubtful anyone will miss it.

Square Enix To Shut Down Digital Manga Stores in U.S. and France is a post from: E-Reader News

How to Remove the Background from Pictures with Word and PowerPoint 2010

Did you know you can use Word and PowerPoint to remove the background from photos? We'll show you how.

Kindle Paperwhite Update 5.3.5 Brings Dictionary and Search Enhancements

Amazon has issued another firmware update for the Kindle Paperwhite. This new version goes by the number 5.3.5. It includes the usual “general improvements” as well as a couple of new features. The first feature enhancement improves dictionary usage by showing the full definition of a looked-up word in the dictionary window instead of just [...]

The Raspberry Pi in scientific research

The cost implications that come with finding yourself able to buy a computer for $25 are significant for all of us, but they can make a real difference to the way cash-strapped researchers do things. We’re seeing a surprising number of university departments around the world using the Pi for the sort of tasks you’d previously have pointed a PC at, with very gratifying results.

I had email from Lorna, who manages some of our social media, about a video she’d been sent yesterday. “It’s about crabs,” she said. “The seaside kind.” (Just as well, or I wouldn’t have been able to publish it.) David Soriano, who is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford, has been using a webcam controlled by a Pi to monitor fiddler crabs which are being offered thermal polypeptides, rich in the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine starts the pathway to melanin pigment production in the crab, and David’s watching for colour changes that result from it. This is a long video, at 15 minutes, but it’s very interesting, as David describes the setup and some of the crabs’ behaviour.

David is also studying the effects of certain chemical agents on the American Cockroach with the help of a Pi. Cockroaches are much less cute than fiddler crabs, so I won’t embed the video here, but you can watch it on YouTube.

Meanwhile, over in France at Aix-Marseille Université, Sebastiaan Mathôt, a post-doc at the Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive, has been running his graphical experiment builder, OpenSesame, on the Pi.

Eben took part in a university psychology experiment once. The results, somewhat surprisingly, demonstrated that he had a closer relationship with Superman than he did with God.

Sebastiaan is testing the Pi for use in psychological experiments, and has found it very suitable. He found a few milliseconds’ inaccuracy in some measurements, but says:

If I were to set up a low-budget lab, I wouldn't have any problem with running my behavioral studies on a Pi, since this type of temporal jitter has a negligible impact on statistical power.

You can find out more about his setup on his blog; it’s well worth a read.

The biologists are in on it too: click the picture below to visit the University of St Andrews in Scotland, whose Centre for Biological Diversity have written a Raspberry Pi phylogeny reconstruction program, so students can look at the relationship between phylogeny and evolution on a Pi.

Daniel Barker, from St Andrews, said:

Given a bunch of DNA sequences and some pre-processing, LVB gives you an idea how they are related. If you give it one sequence per species, it gives you an idea of how the species are related. LVB combines an optimality criterion that’s rapid to evaluate and a subtle heuristic search – with the intention of working fast, and reasonably well, with large input.

If you’d like to learn more (undergrad-level biology is a whole new world to a lot of us), Daniel came and posted some more explanation on our forums last year. Come and take a look.

Of course, you don’t need to be at a university to use a Pi to research something. Yesterday I spotted a brand new Twitter feed, fully automated with a Pi, dedicated to capturing an image of the Beijing sky every 15 minutes. Zhe Wu, who works at, is collecting the visual data and will be using it to analyse changes in the condition of the city’s air. There’s not a lot of data to process yet; the images only started being collected yesterday. But we’re looking forward to seeing what he does with them. You can view the stream of pictures on Twitter.

Pictures of the Beijing sky today. It’s looking a bit less smoggy today than it did on my last trip!

Back in the UK, we’re seeing some pretty extraordinary research work coming out of schools too. The winners of the 16-18 section of the recent PA Consulting Awards competition, challenging schoolchildren to “make the world a better place” with a Pi, were Alyssa Dayan and Tom Hartley from Westminster School, whose Air Pi we’ve mentioned here before briefly; it’s a very sophisticated, very well implemented project we thought we should talk about some more.

Air Pi is, say Alyssa and Tom, “an automatic air quality & weather monitoring device powered by a Raspberry Pi, capable of displaying, recording and uploading information about temperature, humidity, air pressure, light levels, UV levels, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and smoke level to the internet.” It’s cheap, it’s modular, it’s open: we love it. Here are Alyssa and Tom, who will explain a bit more about the project and what’s being done with it.

There’s a lot more information on the AirPi website – head over and have a look. You can set one up yourself for as little as £50 (including the Pi), and AirPis are already being used to monitor air quality as far away as India.

Are you using a Pi for research? Let us know in the comments.

A Little Competition for Smashwords?


When the free ebook distribution platform Smashwords was created, critics claimed that it was nothing more than  a portal for lousy ebooks to flood the market while supporters countered that it was the first genuine concept in stripping away the artificial barriers to publication. The founder, Mark Coker, stated quite freely that if a horrible ebook–horrible in terms of the writing, the formatting, or both–was published, the readers would be the ones to decide not to buy it. But for Coker’s vision, book publishing was for everyone who wanted to invest their time and talent in the process.

A few million ebooks later, Smashwords is a widely-respected and highly-profitable company that has launched a number of authors and has had a surprising number of titles distributed through their platform reach the bestseller lists. It has developed partnerships with the major online retailers to distribute vetted books to those retail marketplaces with the click of a button, and its model continues to be popular with authors, both indie and traditionally published.

Now, a new company has arrived a little late on the digital publishing scene and claims to be the solution to the problems created by Smashwords. Draft2Digital, who issued a press release stating that it was the “long-awaited alternative to Smashwords,” offers… exactly the same service.

Without indicating what was so frustrating about Smashwords that its company is the “long-awaited alternative,” Draft2Digital does provide a little healthy competition in the free ebook uploading marketplace, while still distributing the book to the typical retailers. Draft2Digital does claim to be working on allowing authors to choose CreateSpace as one of its distribution options, which is alarming; by its own FAQ admission, “e-books and print books are fundamentally different media,” yet the site also states that a Word document can be formatted as an ePub within minutes, and that same uploaded file can be formatted for CreateSpace exactly the same way. However, Draft2Digital admits that the paperback edition of a one-click upload is “a one-size-fits-all format for CreateSpace” will not contain things like headers or footers, or the options to select the page size.

As for the sticky ePub-vs-MOBI issue of uploading an ebook to both Barnes and Noble and Amazon, Draft2Digital states that it allows authors to upload a Word document without having to use that pesky “style guide” found on Smashwords and that their people will convert it to an ePub within minutes, regardless of the formatting used in the Word document. According to Draft2Digital, “Our conversion process creates a high-quality epub for us to distribute to the sales channels you choose.  But that’s only the beginning of D2D’s service. Once you’ve uploaded your document, you’ll be able to download it as a .mobi file for Kindle reading.” That doesn’t entirely explain how the ebook is distributed and sold to Kindle customers, but the site states that Amazon is one of the vendors authors can select.

Without having been able to locate specific titles created and distributed by Draft2Digital for comparison purposes, the major concern with the model is how “easy” they claim this process to be. eBook formatting is by no means an easy process, at least not if the author wants a professional-quality, non-frustrating-to-read edition. Formatting a Word document for professional-quality print-on-demand is equally time consuming and requires some know-how. And openly stating the authors no longer need to stick to the technical conventions of Smashwords’ style guide creates dangerous ground for ebook quality.

Overall, competition is generally a good thing because it causes all of the companies involved to up their games and ensure that they are providing the best possible service to their customers. But that only works in everyone’s favor if the end result is actually a superior product and experience.

A Little Competition for Smashwords? is a post from: E-Reader News