Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NewsHunt Ventures Into eBook Space in India


The news aggregating app NewsHunt is the newest to enter the ebook scene in India. The above development couldn’t have come at a better time for the company which has reached the milestone of recording over a billion page views a month. The company achieved this feat in four years after its inception in June 2009. On offer will be ebooks in several Indian languages, something that is an absolute necessary for any ebook app to operate in a multilingual country like India. To begin with, it will be ebooks in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam, and English that will be on offer, sourced from more than 50 regional publishers spread all across the country. Vishal Anand, Chief Product Officer at NewsHunt has further stated it is regional language books that they will be concentrating in the near term.

“Just imagine the scale of problem – hundreds of publisher for each language..each publisher using their ‘set’ of proprietary fonts for their books. Almost none of these books are available digitally to be converted easily to ebook format. Large problem like this presents a large opportunity,” said Vishal.

Also, the ebooks on offer will comprise of both free and paid titles. As for the mode of payment, users can either pay via their credit or debit cards or from the mobile balance iPayy, the carrier billing platform created by Ver Sé which again is the same company that launched NewsHunt.

The ebooks via NewsHunt is however only available for Android as of now though the company stated they are working on the iOS and Windows versions of the app as well. The ebooks will be available in readable text eBooks format. The NewsHunt app for newspapers and magazines is compliant with Symbian, Blackberry, Android & iOS platforms.

However, with their decision to venture into the ebook space as well, NewsHunt will have to ward off competition from existing players of the likes of Flipkart, Amazon or Google. Rockstand too has a considerable presence in the ebook segment in India and NewsHunt will have to start from behind these.

NewsHunt Ventures Into eBook Space in India is a post from: E-Reader News

Archie and iVerse CEOs Talk Archie Unlimited

Archie Unlimited

With the launch of the latest version of its app, Archie Comics is combining two different types of digital comics services: Readers can buy comics one at a time (as they do with comiXology and Comics Plus) or they can subscribe to an “all-you-can-eat” service that allows them to read thousands of comics for a single monthly fee (similar to Marvel Unlimited).

Both of these models have been around for a while, but the twist here is that Archie has put them in a single app (designed and run by iVerse Media). Open up the Archie iOS app and you have two options: Pay $9.99 a month for unlimited access to thousands of comics, or buy the comics one at a time and keep them forever. Right now the Archie Unlimited feature is only available for iOS devices, but iVerse CEO Michael Murphey says an Android app will be coming in a few weeks. We talked to Murphey and Archie CEO Jon Goldwater to get the details on this as well as some of Archie’s other digital plans.

Why did you decide to add Archie Unlimited to the Archie app?

Murphey: Earlier this year, around Comic-Con, we released a 5.0 version of the Archie Comics app. Compared to previous apps, it’s a major redesign. We did a lot of focus group testing with different types of users, including kids and adults. We wanted to go through and find out what can we do to make it easier to access free content, find what you are looking for.

This was one of the things we thought would be a very good value to the consumer. The single purchase, single download model is great, being able to publish comics on the day they are released is great, but when you have a vast back catalog like Archie does, it makes sense to offer an-all-you-can-eat model. Thankfully, Jon and the guys at Archie are very willing to experiment in the digital space. They were able to put it together so everything in the app that’s a year old you can get for one monthly price.

Is this a streaming-only app?

Murphey: You can download up to six issues at a time for offline reading, so if you don’t have a WiFi connection you can still access them.

Why did you decide to include both Archie Unlimited and single purchases in the same app?

Murphey: The great thing about having single purchase comics and Unlimited in the same app is if you are reading a story that is part of the Unlimited program and you move into newer material that is not part of the Unlimited option, you can purchase if you want

Look at a lot of the all-you-can-eat options, for example, Spotify, Netflix, and Amazon Instant. When I was looking at how we wanted to do this for comics, I was looking at how I was interacting with those products, talking to Jon and the guys and bouncing it off them.

With Amazon Instant, I have been watching Doctor Who like crazy this week, because of the 50th anniversary. You can watch it on the subscription service, and then when you get to the newer episodes, you are able to purchase them without leaving the application. With Netflix you have to go to iTunes or somewhere else.

So when I was looking at doing the subscription model, we were looking at these examples. As long as you keep it clear within the app what is what, it’s easy for the user to understand what they get and for us to allow them to purchase what they want without having to go to a separate app. With digital users you have a variety of different consumers. Some want to look at free content, some want to purchase new stuff, some want to dig through the archives for months and months. All should be able to use the application.

What happens to your comics if your subscription ends?

Murphey: If the subscription ends, you keep the ones you have purchased. There are two kinds of shelves: The ones you purchase and the ones that are available in Unlimited. If you go to an Unlimited comic you want to read again, and you have canceled your subscription, a pop-up comes up and you can re-subscribe, or you can purchase it if you just want that book and don’t want to re-subscribe. You also have the option to delete the product if you don’t want it taking up space any more.

What sort of content is on the app?

Murphey: It’s everything that goes back more than 12 months. Every month new stuff is added, going all the way back to the very beginning of Archie.

Do you mean every Archie comic ever made?

Murphey: It’s not every single book.

Goldwater: My vision is to get everything up there. That’s a tremendous number of books, and it takes time. We really haven’t scratched the surface yet.

Murphey: I think there are about 4,000 comics right now you can get inside Unlimited, and that’s both new and classic material. When we add older products they are available for individual purchase but also go into the Unlimited program.

Are there any regional restrictions?

Murphey: No, it’s available worldwide.

What about the Archie Digital product you have now?

Murphey: We still have subscribers to that. We are talking about how we will unify it. The content at archiedigital.com is almost exclusively older, classic material. With Archie Unlimited we have been able to introduce a lot of newer material from the last few years. As we sync the databases, all that new stuff will fly over here, too.

Are you planning to discontinue archiedigital.com?

Murphey: No, we are going to evolve it into the product we are talking about today. Digital has reached the point were we are starting to see the unification of things in different spaces. It’s an evolutionary process as we have to develop these different things and slide them all together.

Are you planning on moving onto any e-book platforms?

Murphey: You are going to see Archie product in the iBookstore in the next couple of weeks. We have several items that we have submitted to them that we are waiting for approval on. One of our goals is being able to get the material out anywhere and everywhere. We are not concerned with things being on our proprietary platform, we are concerned with getting things out to as many spaces as possible.

Will those be single purchases?

Murphey: Yes. Those will be holding to the Apple iBooks business mode.

Last year you released the Red Circle app that allowed subscribers to read the older comics in an Unlimited format and also buy the New Crusaders comics one at a time—so it’s a bit like the new app. What are you doing with that?

Murphey: We learned some great things with the Red Circle app. We quietly released an update that moves us out of the Newsstand and lets us get back into the main area of iTunes. The model there is where the genesis of this idea came from.

What about Sonic the Hedgehog?

Murphey: There are Sonic books in the Archie app, but we have a Sonic Comics app that has been very successful for us. Both Sonic and Mega Man have their own apps. Those apps are currently running the 4.5 version of our system, and we might in future move them to some of these other options.

Would you do a Sonic Unlimited app?

Goldwater: We really haven’t looked into that yet, but everything is on the table. Michael and I need to have that discussion. If it makes economic sense to do it, we would do it. Absolutely.

Archie and iVerse CEOs Talk Archie Unlimited is a post from: E-Reader News

B&N Finally Expands Nook Books Internationally to 30 Countries – Sort of

Yesterday Barnes and Noble finally took a big step toward realizing their international expansion plans by opening their ebookstore in 30 new countries around the globe, with support for 21 languages. Up until now the Nook store has only been available to residents of the United States. Then the United Kingdom about one year ago. […]

Barnes and Noble Nook Hardware Sales Down 41.3%


Barnes and Noble has just released their 3rd quarter financial results and things are not looking good. The company has seen a decline of 41.3% in Nook e-Reader, Tablet and Accessory sales and the entire division only brought in $51 million dollars. eBook sales were also down 21.2% due to the lower average selling prices of books and total sales were $57 million.

Part of the reason Barnes and Noble is seeing huge declines with their hardware is because of the price slashing. If you look at their portfolio of tablets last year they were making 20% to 30% more on each device sale. In Q2 '13 the NOOK device prices were $99 for the Nook Simple Touch, $139 Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight, $199 for the NOOK Color, and $249 for the NOOK Tablet. Those were some very solid profit margins, but if you look at the prices this year you can get a Nook Simple Touch for $79, which is a 20% loss. Or you can purchase a Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight for $119 at a 15% loss, or a Nook HD $129 -35% loss or finally the Nook HD+ for $149, -40% loss.

As you can see, Barnes and Noble is trying to remain competitive in the hardware sector but it is no surprise that their sales are significantly down. They are trying to still make a go out of selling Nook devices in the hope that digital book sales will make up for the diminishing returns.

If you look at the recent decline in eBook sales, this is partly attributed to the abolishment of the Agency price model of selling books. For the longest time book retailers could charge what they wanted for eBooks and then Apple and the six major publishers came together to even the landscape and charge a unified pricing model for books. Needless to say after about a year in court this pricing model was axed and all contracts had to be renegotiated. This is a win for customers, but B&N is now making a few dollars less for each digital book sold.

eBook prices are one thing, but we have not seen any runaway success stories this year that have been getting people out in droves to buy it. 50 Shades of Grey and the Hunger Games have been critical success stories and those 2 trilogies comprise of the highest grossing eBooks of all time. The lack of 2013 bestseller to capture everyone’s imagination is also a big part of the decline.

Barnes and Noble Nook Hardware Sales Down 41.3% is a post from: E-Reader News

Quinton’s geeky holiday device buying guide (Part 2)

I know you've all been on pins-and-needles waiting for the second installment of my little device buying guide.  In this episode, I'll cover a couple more tablets, and tell you a little bit about our upcoming "Hot Holiday Devices" webinar.  Oh, and don't forget to enter to win your own hot holiday device in the OverDrive Marketplace!

I hope these guides are helping somebody out there—if you have questions, or some feedback, post in the comments below!

Microsoft Surface 2

The Surface 2 is a lot like the original Surface RT, but with better everything.  The screen is better, it's lighter, the speakers are better, it's more responsive, and recent updates to Windows RT really do a lot to increase overall usability.

Here's the kicker: the original Surface RT is actually a decent tablet, with solid specs and build quality.  So the Surface 2 is a nice improvement over a product that was already pretty good.

There are two reasons that the Surface isn't higher up on my list:

  1. It's a little unwieldy.  This has mostly to do with the aspect ratio (16:9 versus the typical 16:10).  It's a little wider and shorter in landscape than your average Android tablet (16:10), and Apple uses 4:3 which is more square-ish.  It's also a little heavier than average (though lighter than the RT).
  2. The current Windows RT app selection is a little limited (though growing fast).  Microsoft has also locked 3rd party web browsers out of Windows RT, which I do not like at all.

That being said, if you're fine using Internet Explorer all the time, and you want a tablet that grants you a whole lot of excellent productivity options (the best out there, really), the Surface 2 is where it's at.  The price is not cheap, but reasonable at $450.  If the tech geek on your list has a serious need for heavy word processing and other officey type things, then you can't really beat the Surface as a tablet option.

Honorable mention: Sony Xperia Tablet Z

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z gets an honorable mention because it's a great tablet that also happens to be water resistant.  Yup, that's right; you can have this out in the rain and not really worry about it.  It's a much more useful feature than you might think, and it means that the Tablet Z is pretty resilient.


In fact, if it weren't for the price (starting at $449 on sale), I'd have probably picked this as my second or third recommendation.  It has a good screen (1920 x 1200 for around 224 ppi), and a decent processor (Snapdragon S4 Pro), but neither make it top of the line.  That's my gripe—the Tablet Z is priced as a top of the line machine (the 32 GB model is $550).  If they were charging $400 and $450 for the 16 GB and 32 GB model respectively, this tablet would be a great buy.

What, no iPad?

Anders will talk more about the iPad in his post next week.  Both the mini with retina display and the Air are solid devices, but I personally prefer the tablets above.  If you're buying for a big Apple fan, or that special someone on your list already has a lot invested in Apple products, then stay tuned.  Anders is the man you are waiting to hear from.

Hot Holiday Devices webinar (chat with me!)

Pretty soon we'll be hosting a "Hot Holiday Devices" webinar for partners.  To be specific the dates are:

  • December 4th at 7:00 PM EST
  • December 5th at 10:30 AM EST

I'll be on chat support with a friend or two while Anders and Shannon will be presenting.  It was extremely popular last year, and we're expecting a similar (if not better) turnout this year, so don't forget to register!  We'll help you navigate the path to technological happiness so that you can, in turn, help your users get the content they want.  It'll be fun!  And, you'll have a chance to pick my brain.  I'm looking forward to it (I had a blast last time).


Quinton Lawman is a Technical Writer on the Knowledge Services team at OverDrive.

Home-made CNC laser engraver

Before you go any further, please take a minute to consider your eyes. You only have two of them, and they’re not replaceable. You need both for certain applications. Lasers are dangerous, and they can burn flesh: please be careful around them.

And with that out of the way…

I found this project on our forums, and it knocked my socks off. Daniel Chai has made something incredible with a Pi and parts salvaged from a pair of optical drives: a very low-priced, fine-resolution laser engraver. This differs from Arduino-driven engravers we’ve seen before: Daniel only uses a Pi, and he’s written his own control system, where his Python interprets G code and drives the stepper motors on both axes at the same time.

Engraving in progress

Final output

Daniel says:

The reason why I choose Raspberry Pi is: it is a much more powerful device than Arduino; it has a complete OS; the GPIO pins can be controlled by python, a more intuitive and simpler language than C (the disadvantage of python would be the slow speed); I don’t have to buy a separate controller for this project–I can use a single Raspberry Pi to do a lot of different things without reloading firmware. Most importantly, I have a Raspberry Pi but don’t have an Arduino right now!

The most expensive parts of this project, namely the stepper motors and laser diodes, were salvaged from two old DVD writable drives which had been abandoned as e-waste. (DVD drives are much preferable to CD drives, which can be ultra-dangerous because their laser is an infra-red laser, invisible to the naked eye – don’t go poking around the innards of those if you value your eyesight.) Other parts of those drives are also used to make a tray to hold the item being engraved: this is a thrifty project.

Daniel has made everything you’ll need, from a parts list, instructions on liberating the bits you’ll need from the DVD drives, all the relevant code, wiring diagrams and tips on construction, on his website. This is an advanced project with lots of different stages to it, but it’s inexpensive and yields extraordinarily professional (and expensive-looking) results. We’d love to hear from you if you attempt your own build.

Cook a Turkey with Excel!

What do Excel and a turkey recipe have in common? Answer: They both use numbers! Learn how to calculate your holiday cooking with a few useful Excel formulas.

Easy, effective holiday promotion


One of the many advantages of your digital collection is that users have access to those titles even when the library doors are closed. Remind your community about your digital collection at those times with a quick Facebook post or tweet. We have created a whole suite of social media images that you can use this holiday season (or anytime). Pick and choose the ones you would like to use and be sure to include information about your digital collection in the description.


You can schedule your Facebook posts in advance so you can take it easy on your day off. These images are also the appropriate size to use for Twitter and Pinterest too.


A full set of Holiday and other social media images can be found in the Social Media section of the Partner Portal. If you aren't already following OverDrive on Facebook, we recommend you “Like” us for more images like these regularly.


In addition to the social media images, don't forget about the print-ready holiday promotional flyers that you can hang around your library and community.


Cassie Renner is a Marketing Specialist with OverDrive


Flipboard Raises Another $50 Million in Latest Round of Funding


Flipboard is on the verge of adding another $50 million in the form of venture capital funding that is in the final stages of negotiations. This will be in addition to the $50 million that the social news app had picked up just about two months ago, raising the amount it has raised so far to $160 million since launching in 2010. The investors who have picked up stake in the company include Goldman Sachs, Index Ventures, Insight Venture Partners, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The latest funding will raise the company’s valuation to $800 million.

Meanwhile, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue stated the company’s user base has grown 60 percent to 80 million, compared to what it was just six months ago. The company, whose app allows users to read digital magazines on tablets, now boasts a catalog of 3.5 million magazines. The company also added some exciting new features, which includes a desktop version of the app as well as the ability to share content with others even if they are not members of Flipboard. The app allows individuals to create their own personal magazines as well.

“It's definitely early days for us still but the traction this quarter will be 2x or 3x what last quarter was,” said McCue while also adding: ”The combination between the traction we've seen on the revenue side with these brand advertisements and brand magazines combined with what we did with 2.0 where anyone can build their own magazine—that really got us moving towards doing another round of fundraising.”

The company first started out by developing an app for the iOS platform before registering a presence on Google Android. An app compatible with Windows is also believed to be in the making, though that is still privy at the moment.

Flipboard Raises Another $50 Million in Latest Round of Funding is a post from: E-Reader News

DC Offers Free Digital Comics All Week

Digital First Sale

DC Comics has an early holiday gift for readers: They are giving away the first issues of their digital-first comics all week long, so you can load up your e-reader with Batman, Superman, even the Vampire Diaries.

The official press release says they are giving away one comic per day, but when I checked the DC digital store and the comiXology website this morning, both had all the comics available now, as did the DC and comiXology iOS apps. So you might as well grab ‘em all now, so you’ll have something to read while traveling or recovering from your turkey coma.

Here’s the lineup, with the days in case they go back to doling them out one at a time:

Today: Legends of the Dark Knight #1
Wednesday: Batman '66 #1
Thursday: The Vampire Diaries #1
Friday: Smallville #1
Saturday: Batman Beyond #1
Sunday: Batman Li'l Gotham #1
Monday: Adventures of Superman #1

The nice thing about these comics (aside from being free) is that you don’t have to be a hard-core superhero fan to enjoy them. DC’s digital-first comics are designed to be accessible to new readers, so the stories are self-contained or very short, and you don’t have to know all about some complicated backstory. It’s like comics were when I was a kid! In fact, Batman ’66 is based on the old Batman TV show that was on when I was a kid, and it has the same goofy humor and over-the-top graphic sensibility that that show had. This comic makes full use of digital-only techniques like having the background of a panel change, or a word balloon drop in, with every swipe. Adventures of Superman is more of a classic comic story, a well crafted, well drawn story of Superman fighting a villain with telekinetic powers. That means we get to see him fly through the air and throw around enormous objects—he even hoists a car into the air, in what may or may not be an homage to the cover of Action Comics #1. Anyway, you can’t go wrong with any of these comics—they all feature talented artists and writers, and hey, the price is right! Just grab ‘em now, before they disappear.

DC Offers Free Digital Comics All Week is a post from: E-Reader News