Monday, September 9, 2013

ComiXology Adds HTML5 Retailer Storefronts—Why You Should Care


I was laid low by a bout of the flu when the news came out two weeks ago that comiXology has converted its retailer storefronts to HTLM5, so I didn’t think too much about it. But it is kind of a big deal, because it reinforces the broad base of comiXology’s business.

If you think of comiXology as the guys who make the Comics app that you use to read and buy comics, you’re missing part of the story. Before there was an iPad, comiXology was out there with a service that allowed readers to create digital pull lists. While Diamond has yet to put the full Previews catalog online, comiXology has full solicit information on all upcoming comics on their website. That makes it easier to buy print comics at a retail shop as well as digital comics online.

ComiXology started offering digital storefronts to retailers two years ago. When a user buys a comic through the storefront, the retailer gets a cut of the sale—and the customer can read it on comiXology’s Comics app alongside all his or her other comics. The idea is that digital readers who are loyal to their local comic shop can support it by buying their digital comics through their retailer’s digital storefront. Some readers like to buy both the print and the digital version of a comic, while others might want to buy digital comics to fill in back issues they can’t find in print.

The most recent news is that the digital storefronts have been retooled to be HTML5 compliant, which means that readers can now visit their retailer’s storefront on their mobile devices; I believe the previous version was Flash-based so it didn’t work on iOS devices. It’s a little surprising that Apple allows this, actually; comiXology has to fork over a percentage of its in-app purchases that go through iTunes, but my understanding is they don’t have to share sales that go through their website, although of course they do give a percentage to the retailer.

At any rate, the retailer storefront program must be working pretty well if comiXology is still investing in it, which means that both sides must be making money. It also shows comiXology’s continuing commitment to serving brick-and-mortar comics shops.

ComiXology Adds HTML5 Retailer Storefronts—Why You Should Care is a post from: E-Reader News

Adobe Joins the Readium Foundation to help with EPUB 3


Adobe has announced today that the company is joining the Readium Foundation, with the intention to make a significant contribution to the development of the Readium SDK project, a full-featured EPUB 3 rendering engine optimized for native apps on tablets and other mobile devices.

"Adobe has been a strong supporter of EPUB since its inception" said Tridib Roy Chowdhury, General Manager and Sr. Director of Products at Adobe. "We are delighted to be taking another important step in promoting this important open standard by joining the Readium Foundation and collaborating with other key industry stakeholders in development of the Readium SDK project."

It is anticipated that through Adobe's contribution, in the near future it will be possible for any client application built with Readium SDK to directly incorporate support for handling EPUB 2 and EPUB 3 content protected via Adobe Content Server 4, the most pervasive Digital Rights Management (DRM) solution for eBooks and other digital publications.

Adobe Joins the Readium Foundation to help with EPUB 3 is a post from: E-Reader News

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San Antonio Public Library shares the Connect at Central experience

Recently, San Antonio Public Library premiered Connect at Central, a brand new 12,800 square foot space at their Central Branch devoted exclusively to bringing the digital media experience into the physical library. In addition to two OverDrive Media Stations (OMS) for users to discover, sample and send to their devices the titles in San Antonio Public Library's digital collection of eBooks, audiobooks, video and music, Connect at Central boasts hundreds of  computers and dozens of devices, along with a dedicated training center and tech lounge for users to learn new skills and explore digital content.


To learn more about this awesome and ambitious project, I spoke with San Antonio Public Library's Community & Public Relations Manager, Caitlin Cowart.


Tell us a little about the Connect at Central space – what can patrons expect to find when visiting the Central Branch?


Connect is an innovative, sleek 12,800 square foot space located at our Central Library downtown. Connect provides free, faster Wi-Fi that can handle more users; reduces public wait time by providing 114 desktop computers as well as 15 laptops, and 20 Google Nexus tablets for check-out; provides easier access to training opportunities; and educates about emerging technologies through our Technology Test Drive that features the OverDrive Media Stations.



Technology Test Drive is an exploration area with a "sandbox" where patrons can experiment with tethered tablet devices and interact with staff to understand basic functions and features. Technology Test Drive also includes tethered iPads downloaded with apps that are intended to teach digital literacy, stimulate the imagination and provide entertainment.


Training at Connect offers classes in Back to Basics, eReader U, Life and Learning Skills and 21st Century Tech Skills. In an effort to bridge the digital divide for San Antonio, we are really excited about the enhancements to our training classes.


What prompted the initial idea of Connect at Central and how will this initiative benefit your library's community?


A grant from the Federal Broadband Technology Opportunity Program enabled the San Antonio Public Library to make technology and broadband enhancements at 13 branch libraries and the Central Library. As for Connect, this was the brainchild of the library director. He has a vision of improving the overall library experience for visitors of the San Antonio Public Library. It was an opportunity to make the best use of the grant in a way that would have the greatest positive impact on the community. The entire process was truly a team effort among partners at the Texas State Library, OverDrive, City of San Antonio ITSD department and San Antonio Public Library staff.


Connect at Central is among the first library spaces to feature OverDrive Media Stations (OMS). How will OMS help accomplish your library's goals?


A couple of key goals are ease of access and public awareness of our digital collections. The new OverDrive Media Stations help us to reach a wider audience and in turn, better serve the citizens in our community by providing them with valuable information and resources. With the OMS, patrons can get to know our growing collection of 36,000 items and also have librarian support if they have questions. It's the best of both worlds!


What has the response been like so far and how do you expect it to grow?


We've had a ton of positive patron feedback! Our regular visitors have seen the evolution of the space from the start of construction until today and the enthusiasm has been building for quite a while. Our computer usage numbers are way up and our reference librarians are receiving positive feedback left and right.


As the community continues to visit Connect, we believe that many will be inspired by the digital learning opportunities available in the space. We expect a lot more interest in the months ahead!


Is there anything else you'd like to share with other libraries on your experience launching this innovative space?


Libraries around the country are experiencing transformation in best practices for information access and digital literacy. As mentioned, the themes of the project were vision, teamwork and partnerships. It's time to get creative and together, we make it all possible! We hope that Connect is a model for our system that will eventually be rolled out to our branches. As far as our fellow libraries out there – good luck to all who are considering or undergoing any project that provides innovative services to the community. Feel free to reach out to us with questions at any time.


Heather Valentine-Gold is an Account Specialist with OverDrive


Mindsy’s Subscription-Based eLearning Content Now Available


As more and more content providers look at subscription-based platforms for distribution–all of whom seem to compare themselves to the company who has succeeded globally on a large scale, Netflix–a wide variety of formats have begun their own experiments. Everything from film to books to music has been made available in the “all you can eat” model, often in both freemium and ad-free paid subscriptions.

Now, Mindsy is bringing that concept to online learning. Unlike similar learning platforms, Mindsy is for a broader type of content rather than market-specific materials that focus on the learning needs of a particular audience. With everything from academics to art instruction, Mindsy is looking at reaching anyone who needs online video-based content, all for $29 a month.

Currently, the catalog of titles is broken down into categories such as technology, business, design, arts and photography, health and fitness, lifestyle, personal growth, math and science, languages, music, crafts and hobbies, sports, games, and its broader category, simply called Other.

What makes Mindsy so interesting in its offering is that the company openly admits that this level of content is available elsewhere, but that it is often available for a fee that equates to one video module costing users the same amount as an unlimited month of instruction. By aggregating content from across a variety of fields, Mindsy hopes to lure users in with the implicit value of a subscription versus pay-as-you-go.

Mindsy’s Subscription-Based eLearning Content Now Available is a post from: E-Reader News

PiHub – a robust powered hub, made especially for your Raspberry Pi

Here’s Pimoroni’s latest.

We love Pimoroni. Their history as a company has been very intricately linked with ours, starting from the day that Paul Beech won the competition to design our logo back in 2011. Since then he’s gone from being a penniless graphic designer to owning a small factory with his friend Jon Williamson, and employing a growing group of people in Sheffield, all on the back of his work with Raspberry Pi. They’ve become an incredibly valuable part of the Pi ecosystem (we’re teaming up with them for Maker Faire NY later this month – come and visit us at the Pimoroni stand), and have been crazy-busy manufacturing cases and accessories for the Pi, running our Swag Store (please buy some swag – every penny of profit goes to support our charitable aims and educate kids), and bringing manufacturing and employment back to a part of England that really needs it. They’re also extraordinarily nice people. (Jon is a vegetarian, but he’s so lovely that we don’t hold it against him.)

PiHub is a sign of the way things are moving at Pimoroni: you may have noticed that until recently, they were only making things they could laser cut. Recently they took delivery of a pick and place machine, have done a lot of work with PCB design packages, and have started producing electronics too. PiGlow was their first product in the range: PiHub comes about because they spotted that not all powered hubs are created equal, and that many of you are looking for a hub designed especially to work with your Raspberry Pi.

And they’re made in Pimoroni’s workshop in the UK. Let’s take a quick trip through the arched window:

PiHub retails at Pimoroni and at Cyntech for £13.95 on its own, and £19.95 with a 3000mA power supply. We think that’s an insanely good deal. It’s made in the UK, it’s made with your Pi in mind, we think it’s adorable (there’s one on my desk, one on Emma’s desk and one on Gordon’s desk at the moment), and we love watching Pimoroni go from strength to strength.

Alex at RasPi.TV has had a prototype PiHub to play with for a while, and has put together this video introducing it. Let us know what you think of it too – and thanks to Paul, Jon and everybody at Pimoroni!


Xbox Music Now Available On the Web For Free, iOS and Android Apps To Follow Soon


Microsoft is keen to position itself as a serious player in the devices and services segment, something borne out of its latest move to open up Xbox Music service for free on the web, and the Android and iOS apps are likely to debut soon. Microsoft also stated they are making Xbox Music available to those outside of Windows 8, a move that will introduce millions more to the Microsoft music service, as Windows 7 continues to be the most used Windows version even after almost a year since the launch of Windows 8.

“Xbox Music now, more than ever, powers music experiences between Windows 8, Xbox, Windows Phone, and now iOS, Android and the Web,” Xbox General Manager Jerry Johnson.

This will bring Microsoft into direct competition with Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, and other services and music providers. As of now, users can choose from over 30 million tracks. The service also allows tracks to be downloaded but for a fee while also offering a web radio service as well. Xbox Music can be enjoyed free on the web supported by ads, though there is an ad-free version available for a fee of $10 per month or $100 a year.

Xbox Music Now Available On the Web For Free, iOS and Android Apps To Follow Soon is a post from: E-Reader News

The Future of the Traditional Bookstore in a Digital World


We live in a divided world where some people buy digital and the vast majority still buy the real thing. Major publishers are seeing 24% of their global revenue stemming from eBooks and print still reigns supreme. The gap is quickly closing and many industry experts agree the total eBook market will account for $9.7 billion worldwide in 2016, more than three times the $3.2 billion in 2012. Bookstores have always played a pivotal role in book discovery and book culture in general. How will the bookstore change when digital becomes the preferred format?

The quintessential bookstore has changed drastically since 300 BC when scribes would sell books directly to philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. It also is easier to start one, then it was in France. In 1810 Napoleon created a system by which, a would-be bookseller had to apply for a license (brevet), and supply four references testifying to his morality, and four confirmations of his professional ability to perform the job. All references had to be certified by the local mayor.

Bookstores large and small are hubs of social activity and drive book culture. Not only can you find a large selection of detectible delights to purchase but also meet authors and participate in discussions. It is quite common in New York for a local bookstore to organize parties or wine nights for companies such as Flickr.

Book discovery is central to bookstores and they invest significant time and money into aesthetics. Barnes and Noble, Indigo and WH Smith all have it down to a science on the art of product display and maximizing space to visually draw the eye. Your average best seller shelf is filled with vibrant colors and display stands hype up other notable authors or themes.

How will the modern bookstore change when by 2015 the amount of digital books sold will reach 50%? We have seen the collapse of Borders in the US, Whitcoulls in New Zealand and RedGroup in Australia. Thousands of small bookstores all over the world have also closed due to readers shifting to digital. How will bookstores transition from exclusively selling physical books to actively promoting eBooks?

The one worry many bookstores face is being a showroom for 3rd party eBook companies. This is evident in the relationship with bookstores that belong to the American Booksellers Association and sell books from Kobo. The indie bookstore makes very little commissions on each eBook and relies on selling physical books to stay in business. Barnes and Noble is the only one in the world with quite a large ecosystem of content and makes hefty digital returns.

Indigo, Chapters, WH Smith, Foyles and many other bookstores all sell tablets and e-readers in their stores. Over the course of the last few years, reading devices have been a boon to these stores and they are seeing modest returns. Indigo recently has been launching a series of Tech Zones, which significantly increases the size of their product display area. They now sell iPad, iPad Mini and an assorted array of new e-readers and tablets. When customers buy these devices, where do they go to buy books?

The bookstore of the future must develop their own eBook infrastructure in order to preserve their own identity and maximize profits. It is critically important that major chains develop their own digital bookstore and sell eBooks directly to their shoppers. It is simply not sustainable to encourage all of your patrons to buy the digital editions from Amazon or Apple There is always more money to be made by phasing out the middleman and reaching your audience directly.

Bookstores are not positioned well to start their own online eBook system. I have heard on many occasions that for the most part, they have all lost touch with the publishers. In the past, great relationships will directly forged with the publisher and that is how the stores bought their books. Now, its all agents and sales reps, the average bookstore never even speaks with the publisher anymore. The majority of stores now deal with companies like Ingram, and rely on them for books, magazines and everything else. With no direct line of communication with the publishers, it is going to be a long-road to cultivate a relationship and get their own digital bookstore going.

In the end, bookstores need to develop their own bookstore and develop a series of apps for readers to use. These need to be loaded on any tablet or e-reader that their store carries. If the hardware vendor does not want to play ball, you ditch them. Bookstores sustain themselves from selling books, magazines and hardware. They need to unshackle themselves from a strict reliance on a 3rd party and bite the bullet and develop their own digital storefront.

The Future of the Traditional Bookstore in a Digital World is a post from: E-Reader News