Monday, July 8, 2013

Chinese Publishers Banding Together to Launch Super Book City


Chinese Publishers are banding together to develop a new ebook distribution system that allows them to deliver content in a unified way. Sino United Publishing, Commercial Press, Joint Publishing, and Chung Hwa Book are going to launch Super Book City at the end of the month.

Super Book City will open with 1,000 digital titles that will be available to purchase at rock bottom rates. New ebooks will cost 30% less than their printed counterparts and older books will cost 60% less. Not only will readers be able to enjoy a hefty amount of digital content, but there will be a extensive collection of real books. A million books are eventually going to be included in the catalog.

With the launch of the the Super Book City e-platform, the publishers will be releasing a series of apps. These reading apps will have all of the normal features, such as note taking and annotations, but also will be compatible with accessing the books you buy. The Android version will allow readers to buy content directly from the store.

Terence Leung Wing-chung is the general manager of Sino United Publishing, and he said, “The development of ebooks in Hong Kong is much slower than in Europe or the United States. By launching the new platform, we would like to speed up the pace… Publishers in China have produced ebooks before, but never so many titles at once.”

Chinese Publishers Banding Together to Launch Super Book City is a post from: E-Reader News

UK Unveils New Technology-Rich Public Education Standards


While individual teachers and schools can be a source of great innovation where educational advancement is concerned, as a whole, government entities that oversee education can be painfully slow to adapt to new ideas and practices. For example, the state of Indiana shocked the nation only two years ago when it took cursive handwriting out of the curriculum, meaning that it would be made available for instruction but no longer required, and would be replaced by a greater emphasis on computer readiness at a much younger age.

Today, England released an announcement of its new and far more rigorous set of educational standards, ones that will place a greater emphasis on building a global community of learners that reaches the same standards as other international educational foundations, while focusing on higher math, more in-depth study of language and literature, and a much stronger foundation in technology, including computer programing for students as young as elementary school.

According to a statement by Prime Minister David Cameron about the new curriculum,”We are determined to give all children in this country the very best education—for their future, and for our country's future. The new national curriculum is a vital part of that. This curriculum marks a new chapter in British education. From advanced fractions to computer coding to some of the greatest works of literature in the English language, this is a curriculum that is rigorous, engaging, and tough. As a parent this is exactly the kind of thing I want my children to be learning. And as Prime Minister, I know this revolution in education is critical for Britain's prosperity in the decades to come. This is a curriculum to inspire a generation—and it will educate the great British engineers, scientists, writers, and thinkers of our future.”

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, also said, “We are introducing a tougher, more rigorous national curriculum. Schools will focus more on essay writing, mathematical modelling and problem solving. For the first time children will be learning to programme computers. It will raise standards across the board—and allow our children to compete in the global race.”

As often happens with announcements such as this one, the teachers’ unions have not been overly receptive to the ideas presented in the new curriculum standards, seeing it instead as an effort to play a game of catch-up against other countries rather than an actual effort to produce a more qualified student.

UK Unveils New Technology-Rich Public Education Standards is a post from: E-Reader News

N2Aos Turns Your Old Kindle Fire Into an Open Android 4.2 Tablet for $20

One of the good things about Android tablets is their software can often be modified from the original factory version to get newer software with more features, even when manufacturers fail to provide updates to newer versions of Android themselves. That’s case with the original Kindle Fire from Amazon. It runs an ancient version of [...]

Barnes and Noble CEO Steps Down


Barnes and Noble has announced today a slew of major executive changes for the top management positions in the company. William Lynch has resigned as Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Company effective immediately. He will be replaced by Michael P. Huseby, who has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of NOOK Media LLC and President of Barnes & Noble.

Mr. Huseby joined Barnes & Noble as Chief Financial Officer in March 2012, and has led the company's financial organization since that time. Prior to joining Barnes & Noble, he had a distinguished career in the media communications industry, having most recently served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Cablevision Systems Corporation, a leading telecommunications and media company. Mr. Huseby also served in leadership positions at Charter Communications, Inc., the fourth largest cable operator in the U.S, as well as AT&T Broadband, a provider of cable television services.

The company also announced that Allen Lindstrom, Vice President and the Company's Corporate Controller, has been promoted to Chief Financial Officer of Barnes & Noble, Inc. Kanuj Malhotra, Vice President of Corporate Development, has been promoted to Chief Financial Officer of NOOK Media LLC.

The main reason William is stepping down is due to the declining revenues of the online digital content sales at Nook Media and sagging bookstore sales. Barnes and Noble basically has to turn its fortunes around and its last investors call seeks to do just that. The main changes in the immediate future are to suspend development of the line of tablet computers and start licensing out the app store to 3rd parties. The company will continue to develop and market lower cost e-readers, because the overhead is quite low. B&N also plans to shut down a number of bookstores by 2016 across the US.

"I appreciate the opportunity to serve as CEO of this terrific company over the last three years," said William Lynch. "There is a great executive team and board in place at Barnes & Noble, and I look forward to the many innovations the company will be bringing to its millions of physical and digital media customers in the future."

Barnes and Noble CEO Steps Down is a post from: E-Reader News

Sparkup Reader Launches Late July with Read-Aloud Capability on Any Book


The children’s book market has become the focus of a lot of attention from a variety of branches of publishing. From retailers and publishers who promote book with summer reading incentives, to ebook distributors who are rolling out plans for focused marketing of children’s content, this once tiny sliver of the digital publishing market is growing by leaps and bounds.

One aspect of of the children’s book market that has gained a lot of ground in terms of startups and technology is the read-aloud capabilities of nearly any book. Companies like Sourcebooks first pioneered a cross-platform approach to recording human voice over at the consumer end, and then new devices like the QR code-driven Story Sticker have allowed more and more people to experience story time in a recorded way.

Now, Tel Aviv-based Sparkup Reader has developed a visual recognition device that allows users to record their own voices reading any children’s book, and the program uses the installed camera to sync the words with the page. This allows emerging readers to explore the words and illustrations on each page without getting left behind.

“It's been a long journey, a long pregnancy of development of the technology and making the technology available in a real, tangible product,” said Sparkup’s founder and CEO Amir Koren in an interview with Good E-Reader, discussing the 2009 launch of the company. “A lot of development and research went into this. The barrier of any startup company is to make a tangible product when so many companies are starting software or app products.”

Sparkup’s device, which is currently available in Europe and will be available in North America later this month via QVC’s Christmas in July promotion, offers users the allure of a read-aloud narration feature while still letting children experience the print edition books that so many parents still want for their children. But in addition to user-generated recordings, Sparkup is currently in negotiations with publishers like Random House, Disney, and HarperCollins to market their professionally pre-recorded titles for this platform. Additionally, Sparkup’s community board will eventually include areas where users can upload their own recordings to share, without concerns of copyright infringement, since the recording only functions after the device scans each page.

New developments in the children’s book arena such as this will only serve to further the book industry as a whole, as new generations of readers are introduced to a life-long love of reading.

Sparkup Reader Launches Late July with Read-Aloud Capability on Any Book is a post from: E-Reader News

Amazon Japan Brings In Interesting New Staff


Part of the allure of bringing a new branch of Amazon to your home state or country is the potential for a boost to the local economy. Amazon historically has a history of creating jobs through its call centers and distribution centers, making the online retail giant a highly sought after partner.

But the recent launch of Amazon Japan has meant the retailer had an even greater need for staff members than originally planned. An entire herd of employees, you might say.

Amazon has connected with local farmers to bring the goats to its new facility in order to combat a serious weed problem around the facility. Like other companies and private sector individuals before them, the retailer has learned about the benefits of hiring goats to nibble away, while supervised, of course. And while this certainly isn’t the first time a major corporation has taken a greener initiative with its landscaping–Google brought in roughly 200 goats to manicure and fertilize its corporate headquarters back in 2009–it might be the first time any corporate retailer has issued employee ID cards to livestock. Yes, the goats will have ID cards.

Interestingly, according to a blog post at the time from a Google spokesperson, this is less a cost-saving measure and more about environmentally sound practices. While methane concerns as a result of goat digestion might be an environmental factor, it apparently is offset by the reduction in emissions from gas-fueled lawn care equipment.

“It costs us about the same as mowing, and goats are a lot cuter to watch than lawn mowers,” explained Dan Hoffman, Google’s director of real estate and workplace services.

Amazon Japan Brings In Interesting New Staff is a post from: E-Reader News

New Collections Lists in OverDrive Marketplace

OverDrive works hard to make our content available to libraries. Some recently created lists will make great additions to any collection.


IFC Collection List:


IFC has great titles that you should take advantage of! A leader in the independent film industry, IFC Entertainment consists of multiple brands that are devoted to bringing the best of specialty films to the largest possible audience with titles such as:




Rosetta Books Collection List:


Rosetta Books launched in 2001 with a list of 100 preeminent backlist titles; the company now has a list of over 500 titles including 19 works by Kurt Vonnegut, the popular work I am Legend of the late Richard Matheson and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.


NPR Collection List: 


Debuting in April of 1971 NPR (National Public Radio) began coverage of the Senate Vietnam War hearings.  Currently NPR is covered by over 975 public stations with daily updates on pop culture and critic reviews of newly published titles. NPR covers its own bestseller lists by surveying independent bookstores nationwide that carry titles such as:

These lists can be found in OverDrive Marketplace

eBook Pricing Still Hotly Contested Issue


Despite the well-documented and sound studies conducted by some of the top companies in ebook retailing, and in spite of the Department of Justice lawsuit involving the alleged price fixing between Apple and five of the then-Big Six publishers, ebook pricing still seems to mystify industry professionals and consumers alike.

An article that appeared in the New York Times over the holiday weekend clearly placed the blame for some of the confusion squarely on the shoulders of everyone’s favorite publishing whipping boy, Amazon. And admittedly, with the clout that Amazon has within the bookselling industry, it’s possible that some of the price changes books have undergone in recent years have to do with solid competition from the retail giant.

One often overlooked fact is that books are simply priced at different standards internationally, a concept that many self-published authors tend to forget when pricing their ebooks. But as international retail markets abound, that is changing as well. Customers who were once accustomed to paying a higher price point for a book are now beginning to take notice that consumers in other countries pay a significantly less percentage of their income for the same book.

Additionally, as Mark Lefebvre of Kobo’s Writing Life platform pointed out in an interview with GoodEReader in May, books have also priced differently according to genre due to the different costs of production of print editions of various genres. What was considered a reasonable price for a poetry collection or photoessay book would never be deemed appropriate by consumers for a mass market paperback. But as digital publishing opened the doors to inexpensive editions of books of every genre, authors and publishers are finding it difficult to convince consumers to pay more for a book that traditionally enjoyed a higher price point.

One interesting aspect of ebook pricing is that it seems to be a topic that not many publishers care to discuss, as though the price of a book is somehow a proprietary secret that consumers won’t learn the instant they attempt to purchase the book. And in the current climate in which an offhanded remark or a simple email can end up as evidence in a price fixing trial, it’s easy to understand why.

What the industry and the consumers need to take away from pricing is what has been known since the digital revolution first began: everything is changing. The publishing industry can continue to rail against the fast-paced changes and the startups can continue to throw their funds into the next big thing, but only entities that are willing to adapt while still keeping a firm grasp on what works and what doesn’t work will continue to thrive in this market.

eBook Pricing Still Hotly Contested Issue is a post from: E-Reader News

Pi synthesisers

On the road back from Wales this weekend, we listened to Liz’s Playlist for Driving Long Distances. Gary Numan’s Cars came on. (I am nothing if not literal-minded.) We started talking about the incredible depth and complexity of a lot of 80s music; and how the discipline of only having a limited amount of polyphony and a limited number of tracks brought about music that was, when at its best, so tightly and elegantly arranged that it keeps all of its impact today.

Cars was recorded using only four synth tracks (three monophonic and a Polymoog, I think, having just listened again – but I’m ready and willing to be corrected!) and a real live drummer. Held up against your high-falutin’ Reactables with billion-note polyphony (note: I have no idea how much polyphony is available on a Reactable, I’m just guessing) and clever-clogs plastic brick interfaces, Gary Numan knocks it out of the park every time. I spent the 1980s listening to the Pet Shop Boys – actually, I seem to be spending the 2010s listening to the Pet Shop Boys too – Erasure, New Order, Soft Cell and Depeche Mode, all of them engineering their music within technical boundaries that’d make some of today’s musicians run away and hide under the piano in horror.

Turns out, of course, that I’m not the only person with a Pi and a terrible and burning nostalgia for old synthesisers. Some of you, though, have actually done some work on this stuff rather than, like me, sitting around and thinking idly about it. There’s far, far more functionality available to you with a Pi than there was with an 80s synth, but the fundamental feel of the thing can remain the same with some considerate engineering. First up, here’s Marc Girard’s TronPi.

Marc says:

The TronPi is a Mellontron Emulator based on the 35$ Raspberry Pi computer. It has the 4 classic Tron sounds: Choir, Strings, Brass and Flute. The TronPi is controlled with a standard USB/MIDI Keyboard and doesn’t have any perceptible latency.

All the audio in this video was taken straight from the Raspberry PI’s audio output, no further processing was added to the source. It’s straight out of the computer. The reverb ambience you hear on the recordings is built in the sampler and adjustable.

The computer boots in 30 seconds or so. It supports MIDI program changes and once loaded, program changes are instant, no lag.

Back in Blighty, Phil Atkin has been working on Piana for about a year now. We featured it here last summer, and Piana has made some appearances at Raspberry Jams. Since then, Phil’s done more work on the project, and has produced this video to show off how far it’s come.

And earlier this week, I was sent some more video by Servando Barreiro, who has made a Pi-based Looper: a sort of polyphonic Korg monotron. He’s using Satellite CCRMA, a platform designed at Stanford University for embedded musical instruments and art installations – check out their homepage for a download, examples and ideas for getting started on your own project.

Here’s the Looper in action. Feel the depth and warmth!

You can find out much more about the Looper and see (and hear) more video at – CDM is a great resource if you’re interested in this stuff, and you’ll find lots of inspiration and ideas there.

There’s enormous education potential in this stuff too. The Raspberry Pi Foundation is currently working with Dr Sam Aaron, a researcher at the University of Cambridge, on Sonic Pi, an experimental school curriculum for teaching Computing through digital music. Kids use the Pi to build synthesisers and create music – acquiring a range of fundamental computer science concepts and basic programming skills while they’re not looking. We’ll have much more on that project at a later date; it’s a prime example of our concept of Computing as a creative subject which appeals to the kids who prefer to hang out in the music department and the art block just as much as it appeals to the kids we tend to treat as the usual suspects.

If you’re working on a musical project with a Raspberry Pi, give me a shout at We’d love to hear about what you’re doing.