Friday, June 7, 2013

Microsoft Previews Windows 8.1 at Computex 2013

windows 8.1

With Microsoft set to launch the Windows 8.1 preview on June 26, it is quite natural for the company to have it showcased at the Computex event, which is the last big event before the official launch. The new updates and design changes are the highlight of the sneak peek provided at Computex 2013, with the biggest feature being the return of the start button. In fact, no other single factor symbolizes the Windows experience more than the start button, something that has been conspicuously missing in Windows 8.

The start button is less than even half the story, as its functionality is vastly reduced this time, according to the video the company released to showcase the new Windows 8.1. All it does is return the user to the Metro UI and nothing more, a far cry from the start button of yore that led to the interiors of the device by allowing the user to deal with files as well as launching programs. Interestingly, the button is still at the same bottom left corner.

Another of the biggest changes brought about to Window 8.1 would be the extensive enhancements introduced to make the operating system equally appealing to sub-10 inch sized tablet devices. "We did some work at the device interface level around edge detection and things like that to make it easier to have smaller bezels on these devices so that OEMs and folks who build devices like this could build exactly the kinds of devices they want, and Windows 8.1 will be great on them," stated Antoine Lebond, Microsoft's Windows corporate vice president of program management.

This is of critical importance to Microsoft at it struggles to gain traction in the mobile computing devices segment, and the sub-10 inch segment here is attracting the maximum attention. Also, with tablets projected to emerge as the future of personal computing, it is turning out to be a litmus test for Microsoft's Windows OS, something that could even determine the company's existence in the long run. Towards this, Microsoft is also seen including its Office 2013 suite in all 7 and 8 inch tablets, complete with Excel, Word, OneNote, and Power Point.

The new improved Bing based search feature is also a highlight of the new Windows 8.1. The real attraction is not just the way a search term is treated by pulling up data from both the device as well as the web, but also the way the search result is actually displayed. Here different content types are displayed in a different color schemes for easy recognition. Thumbnails of websites will also be displayed if those match the search term, with the option of exploring them further.

With Windows 8.1, the lock screen is turned into a digital photo frame with images pulled from the device as well as the SkyDrive account. Image orientations change automatically to allow for optimum viewing.

Other features to look forward to in Windows 8.1 include the ability to open two windows simultaneously, introduction of the latest IE 11, or better customization options for the home screen. As for the other contentious issue of reducing licensing fees to push further adoption of the platform, particularly in the small tablet segment, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of OEM division, Nick Parker, evaded a direct response but said Microsoft is offering its Small Screen Touch Program to the tablet makers, enabling them to include the Office software suite on their devices. So far, the Acer Iconia W3 is the only tablet running Windows 8 that offers a 8 inch display. Also interestingly, it was at Computex 2012 that Microsoft had previewed Windows 8 before its eventual release in October.

Meanwhile, here is a video that highlights the new features of Windows 8.1.

Microsoft Previews Windows 8.1 at Computex 2013 is a post from: E-Reader News

Authorgraph Big Data Illuminates Trends in Digital Publishing


Authorgraph is an innovative service that allows authors to personally autograph Kindle and EPUB eBooks. The community has over 7,000 authors that are very engaged in the community and sign a copious amount of digital eBooks every day. The company is starting to mine into its big data and is able to tap into popular trends of hot genres, authors and a myriad of other factors.

For the month of May the hottest genres were: “Romance”, “Teens (YA)”, and “Science Fiction”. We talked to various authors at Book Expo America, including bestselling author Sylvia Day. She mentioned that Paranormal Romance in general is getting harder to break into, due to the inundation of titles. Authorgraph has continued to see this sub-set of eBooks to be the most popular in their network of authors and people wanting autographs.

Over the course of May, the most popular authors on the service that had the most autographs fulfilled was Sylvain Reynard, E.L. James, Raine Miller, Abbi Glines and Sylvia Day. This leads to further credence that Romance and Erotica are the hottest genre in all of publishing.

The month of May had the following interesting trends, compared to April. Travel was up 83%, Health, Fitness, & Dieting: up 78%, Gay & Lesbian: up 76%, Sports & Outdoors: up 73% and Religion & Spirituality: down 57%. The CEO of Authograph, founder and CEO Evan Jacobs remarked “Many of these trends appear to be seasonal but I’m not sure what to make of the decline in Religion & Spirituality or the rise in Gay & Lesbian.”

Next month, Authorgraph intends on monitoring the big data trends and will begin a predictive analysis of emerging authors and the genres that are on the rise. This type of data is useful to publishers and indie authors struggling to find their niche in the industry.

Authorgraph Big Data Illuminates Trends in Digital Publishing is a post from: E-Reader News

PressReader Makes Digital Newspapers Social


NewsPaperDirect has brought new social functionality to its seminal PressReader application for iOS today. Digital subscribers can now comment on newspaper articles and interact with each other. Traditional newspapers are mainly a quiet, solitary experience, and if you really want to make your viewpoint known, you have to write an editorial. No longer, as you can easily comment on any one of the company’s 1,000 newspapers that carry and make your viewpoint known.

Not only has PressReader introduced new social commenting, but it also implemented a support and oppose button to each article. You can let people know how you feel about a particular story or even oppose someone’s comment.

Finally, it has enhanced the ability to search for a specific newspaper publication, instead of having to manually browse for your particular publication. There is also the ability to search for newspapers based on particular keywords, which is useful if you are traveling abroad and want to see what’s happening in the city you are visiting. For example, I can search for New York, and see all the local papers that are available from that particular city.

I think the ability to bring more social interactions to thousands of newspapers to be fairly compelling. Sure, some existing digital editions like The Guardian allow you to do this on their website, PressReader brings it to thousands that would normally never allow people to comment on their various articles. Regrettably, all of these new features are only on the iPad and iPhone right now, but hopefully they are pushed to Android and other platforms soon.

PressReader Makes Digital Newspapers Social is a post from: E-Reader News

DC Delays Price Drop on Its Digital Comics

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 8.18.10 PM

For a couple of years now, comics fans have had the option of getting new comics from Marvel and DC (and a variety of other publishers) digitally the same day they are released in print. While the Big Two were willing to make that leap, they were not willing to give any discount: When the comic is fresh, the digital edition costs the same as print. That’s $2.99 or $3.99 per comic. For those who are willing to wait a bit to save a buck, though, DC has had a policy of dropping the price by a dollar 30 days after the release date.

Until now.

DC is now delaying the price drop for two months, as Kiel Phegley of Comic Book Resources learned when he followed up on a tip from a reader. Here’s what an apparently nameless DC Entertainment spokesperson told CBR “Digital comics is still a very young business and as such we are constantly evaluating the best business models and pricing strategies. Moving forward, all same-day digital books released on May 1 or later will drop in price by $1 two months after the initial release date. We will continue to offer an extensive back catalog of titles at a discounted rate, and all of our digital-first titles are available for $.99 per weekly issue. Unlike many of our competitors, we still offer a policy of discounting across our entire line.”

A little defensive toward the end, no? In fact, delaying the discount may make perfect sense for DC, if not their readers. Let’s talk about comiXology, the main digital outlet for single-issue superhero comics. When I spoke to comiXology CEO David Steinberger in January 2012, I asked him specifically if comics get any sort of sales bump when the price goes down. His reply: “Not as much as much as you might expect, but sure.” That’s a rather anemic response. Later that year, comiXology inaugurated a “Recently Reduced” section so readers could easily track those discounted comics. It seems to have disappeared.

So, what can we conclude from this? That any sales bump those comics got when the price dropped wasn’t enough to cancel out the price difference. That’s just a guess, but since DC is in business to make money, I’d say it’s a good one.

There’s an interesting debate about whether digital comics cost DC more than print in the comments to the CBR article, but that misses the point. (If you’re curious anyway, Jim Zubkavich lays out the costs of digital on his blog.) The question is not “How much does it cost DC to produce?” The question is “How much are customers willing to pay?” At the moment, the answer seems to be full price. Take a look at the image at the top of this post—it’s a screenshot of the best-selling comics on comiXology as of this writing. All are this week’s releases; all are full price (the two 99 cent comics are digital-first issues). And DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson just revealed that over 1 million DC comics are downloaded each month. Given the overwhelming acceptance of full-price digital comics by the core consumer, it makes sense for DC to kick the discount further down the road. It’s a bit tough on their readers, but it’s safe to say that if sales dropped off drastically, that decision would be revisited.

DC Delays Price Drop on Its Digital Comics is a post from: E-Reader News

Barnes and Noble’s Q4 Earnings Call to Occur on June 25th


Barnes and Noble has announced today that its fourth quarter earnings call will occur on June 25th, 2013 at 10 AM EST. This will give us a clear indication on how the Nook Media unit is doing and if it continues to follow the trend of being a loss leader.

Currently, Barnes and Noble is supporting the Get London Reading Campaign and has been doing brisk business in the United Kingdom with price slashes on its E Ink line of devices.  In the USA, Walmart and Target are giving massive discounts on the hardware. Many new customers are buying into the Nook brand for the first time with the inclusion of Google Play on the Nook HD and HD+.

This call is being webcast by Thomson/CCBN and can be accessed at Barnes & Noble, Inc.’s corporate website at The webcast of this call will be archived and available at

Barnes and Noble’s Q4 Earnings Call to Occur on June 25th is a post from: E-Reader News

Amazon Begins Selling e-Readers and Tablets in China

kindle china

Amazon opened up its Kindle store in China last December and also updated its popular reading apps to support complex Chinese characters at the same time. Amazon really wanted to put its e-readers and tablets on sale around the same time, but various regulatory bodies put the kibosh on it. The online giant has worked with the government of China and is now officially selling the Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Paperwhite on its main Chinese website.

The popular E Ink driven Amazon Kindle Paperwhite e-Reader is now available for ¥849 (USD $138), and the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD is ¥1499 (USD $244) for the 16 GB version, and ¥1799 (USD $293) for the 32 GB version. Customers now have the ability to purchase these directly, instead of importing them from abroad.

The Chinese Amazon Kindle Store now offers 47,000 ebook titles available in local languages. A number of major publishers have signed up with the service, and now that the hardware is available, it should attract even more to the distribution platform. The e-reader itself will be available online, but Amazon also struck a distribution deal with Suning and Tesco Shi to have the e-reader available in the retail environment.  Customers will be able to purchase them directly in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanjing, and Chengdu.

The Amazon Chinese site claims that the Kindle hardware is optional to read ebooks. This is  primarily due to the fact that most tablets purchased in that country tend to be lower-end Android devices. It will be interesting to see if Amazon can be successful at selling ebooks in that market, which is often plagued by online piracy.

Amazon Begins Selling e-Readers and Tablets in China is a post from: E-Reader News

Amazon Launches Indie Gaming Store


Amazon's Digital Video Game Store has a new interesting category, the Indie Game Store. This section will host games developed by independent developers who have never experienced much exposure. The developers will also benefit from the “Indie Spotlight,” along with a host of other features, all aimed at ensuring the developers get noticed. These include Q&A sessions, interviews, and biographies of the game developers on a weekly basis.

"It's hard to get noticed, though. If you’re an indie game developer, it’s usually a headache to get your game in front of people, both gamers and reviewers. Amazon recognizes this. As part of our commitment to independently developed games, Amazon is launching the Indie Games Store, a new category on Amazon in the Digital Video Games Store, designed specifically to address this problem," said Amazon's Peter Heinrich.

Amazon also plans to offer deals called “Indie Bundles” to keep consumer interest going. These special bundles will cost just $9.99 and can include up to 10 games. Users will also be provided with free games with the purchase of another. The special deal can be purchased from now until July 17th. Indie Games is also entirely developer oriented, in that all of the proceeds from the sales go to the game makers. However, the games are only compatible for Windows right now, though more platforms are expected to be included at a later date.

Amazon also intends to involve the users in a big way, as they get to say which game gets the focus for a specified amount of time as part of the Indie Gamer's Choice program. Two games will be pitted against each other and the users’ votes will decide which game gets featured at the store. Currently, the store can still be considered to be at a nascent stage with just about 200 titles to choose from. However, the numbers will go up soon, though the indie developers will have to get their games approved to get featured at Amazon. All in all, a nice development which will pit the online retailer against the likes of Steam and Humble Bundle, two of the biggest names in the field of online gaming.

Amazon Launches Indie Gaming Store is a post from: E-Reader News

Self-Published eBooks Account for 12% of the Entire Digital Market

eReading in Public

Bowker Market Research is reporting today that self-published eBooks now account for 12% of the entire digital publishing market. In some cases, the number actually rises to a very respectable 20%, but is fairly genre specific to crime, science fiction and fantasy, romance and humor.

Indie authors, much like the entire book industry is all about market data and trends to determine what the hot segments are. If you live in New York, you would be very hard pressed to have a new Paranormal Romance book approved, because the whole genre is cold. For example, self-published authors are struggling with  graphic novels, food and drink, and children’s non-fiction eBooks. All of these segments combined only account for 5% of volume sales.

The figures also show that heavy readers are more likely to buy self-published books, with 61% of people who buy self-published books likely to read every day compared to 37% of all book buyers. 36% of self-published book buyers are females over 45, who make up 24% of all book buyers.

Bowker reports can be taken with a grain of salt, as they are not indicative to the entire eBook industry. They tend to only talk to 3,000 companies and authors for their research and many of the leading eBook sellers do not publicly divulge their eBook sales.  So reports like this, aren’t the snapshot of the industry that everyone hopes they are. Barnes and Noble continuously hypes that their self-published titles via Nook Press account for 25% of their overall digital sales, while Amazon is thought to be around 15-30% and finally, Kobo Writing Life titles account for 10%.

Self-Published eBooks Account for 12% of the Entire Digital Market is a post from: E-Reader News

B&N Mysteriously Removes Nook for PC and Nook for Mac for Download

Yesterday a reader tipped me about some strange goings-on at Barnes and Noble that is leaving people wondering what direction B&N is headed with their reading apps. For some reason unknown Barnes and Noble has taken down the Nook for PC and Nook for Mac ereading programs from their website. The only program that remains [...]

Liz is poorly

Liz has spent most of this week suffering from an affliction picked up in Tokyo. We’re assuming this is flu, as even the worst sake hangover doesn’t usually last this long. I’ve sent her to bed to rest up; normal service will be resumed when she’s feeling better, hopefully early next week.