Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pubsoft, Vidalhia Sign to Deal to Foster Prison Publishing

Digital publishing has arguably opened more doors to publication than any other innovation since Guttenberg’s press, but there are still segments of the writing population for whom publishing is still virtually off-limits. Sadly, it’s not only geographical or language barriers that stops authors from reaching wider audiences with their work, sometimes it is actual, tangible, physical barriers.

Pubsoft, the publishing solutions provider that is opening up new tools and features for authors and publishers, announced a deal today with Vidahlia Press to enable incarcerated inmates to publish their works.

"We're glad to assist Vidahlia with their INK Prison Writing Contest by providing software that helped them achieve their operational and social goals," said Pubsoft Marketing Director Heather Wied in a press release on the partnership. "Their mission of identifying and rewarding talent within the corrections system is admirable. The Pubsoft system will serve as a delivery mechanism for the anthology that will be one of the final results of the writing contest, and we're excited about helping Vidahlia provide a voice for individuals who are often overlooked by society."

"We want Vidahlia Press & Publishing House to be the voice of prison literary talent worldwide, and collaborating with Pubsoft is a terrific way to reach our readership to share these incredible stories," continued Roy J. Rodney Jr., President, founder, and principal investor. "We plan to continue reader engagement through various events and contests, and through a collection of electronic products, multi-media products, music, video game treatments, magazines, catalogs, gifts, and collectibles."

Vidahlia has previously announced its INK writing contest that opens the doors to publication and readership to inmates. Using Pubsoft’s publishing engine, Vidahlia can help those authors who don’t have the reach their voices need move forward in order to be heard.

Pubsoft, Vidalhia Sign to Deal to Foster Prison Publishing is a post from: Good e-Reader

Oyster Aids eBook Discovery with new Explore Feature


Oyster is one of the few companies in the world that has been a subscription based eBook service actually work. Right now you are only able to read the books on iOS and the PC, with a rumored Android app in the works. Today, Oyster has announced an upgrade to their app, that aids eBook discovery.

The new 1.3 version is all about design, personalization, and community. Here a number of enhancements the company has integrated into the new build today.

· A brand new "Explore" tab to browse our library by genre and discover the perfect book.
· New Home design has more prominent and beautiful Spotlight features.
· Follow Facebook friends when you sign in for the first time.
· Remove books from your Recent Books list.
· Access your Reading List from Home.
· See which other Oyster users have read, rated, or saved a book when viewing its details.
· Refined visual design, color, and typography throughout.

Oyster Aids eBook Discovery with new Explore Feature is a post from: Good e-Reader

Scribd Announces They Now Have 300,000 eBooks


Scribd has announced today that they now have over 300,000 titles in their library. They are the second most popular platform next to the Kindle Lending Library, which has 475,000 eBooks.  Scribd is considered the definitive Netflix for eBooks and is backed by HarperCollins.

Currently Scribd is one of the more popular eBook subscription platforms out there, that let you read an unlimited number of books, at a low monthly cost. Content comes from HarperCollins, Kensington, Red Wheel, Rosetta, Smashwords, Sourcebooks and Workman.

Oyster and Scribd are the only two companies to really make the entire eBook subscription service a viable business model. Others have tried and failed in the past, but their timing was right, as publishers are starting to embrace this type of eBook service.

Scribd Announces They Now Have 300,000 eBooks is a post from: Good e-Reader

Get your Cooking on with the Netchef Tablet


The Netchef tablet, by Sungale is the first time a tablet was developed to resemble a classic cooking appliance. This device is brimming with recipes that lay out what you need to buy and even shows videos of exactly how to cook it, step by step. When it comes to tablets in the kitchen, this seems to be a fairly viable product.


The Netchef is built into a very durable plastic enclosure with two giant speakers on the side, that video tutorials can heard over the din of cooking a meal. The tablet itself features a 8" Hi-Resolution 1024 x 768 capacitive LCD Touch Screen. It also has 16GB storage and can be enhanced further with a microSD card. You can connect up to the internet via the WIFI. This is critical for fetching new recipes, or checking your email.

Why clutter your counter with gadgets? NetChef comes with a built-in timer! The NetChef timers will notify you with tones as each cooking time expires. The NetChef also comes complete with a measurement converter available on the bottom of every recipe page to assist in calculating your measurements if need be.

Via the webcam on the front of the tablet, you can scan and store Grandmas secret handwritten recipes and they’ll be waiting for you in your personal recipes folder as required. You can also write your own recipes and save to the SD Card with Notebook on your computer, or scan recipes card as JPEG files and save also.



Netchef comes with 500 preloaded recipes, and the content can be expanded and updated momentarily from the Internet via Cloud technology. Netchef automatically synchronizes recipes with prorecipesite.com whenever Wi-Fi is connected.

It comes with a very basic version of Google Android 2.3 and has its own custom launcher. The launcher is bright and bubbly, and easy to click things with one finger, if you are juggling things in the kitchen.

While you are cooking, you can listen to music with the built in Pandora app, and the speakers are big enough that it generates lots of great sound. I have talked to a few people that own this and they say they are eating in more often, now that they have this.

Wrap Up


NetChef is available from Sungale through Amazon for $270. If you are looking to start cooking or to buy a present for your mom, take a look at this. Some of the tech is a bit outdated, sometimes the touchscreen is not as responsive as you would like, and it doesn’t support faster WIFI connections. All in all, its a viable investment and was designed as a cooking and kitchen aid. Not many of these currently exist in the market.

Get your Cooking on with the Netchef Tablet is a post from: Good e-Reader

Barking up the right tree: Funny dog eBooks

Meet my puppy, Captain Boots.


captain boots

When I travel and have to be away from the Captain, I like to read eBooks about other silly dogs to cheer me up and make me laugh. For fellow dog-lovers, here are a few recommendations:


And who could forget Boo, the "world's cutest dog"? Just look at his big fluffy head!


If that fuzzball made you say "Awww", make sure to check out all of the eBOOks about Boo!

Find canine-centric heartwarming stories, children's books, training resources and much more in OverDrive Marketplace.

Titles may have limited regional or platform availability.


Melissa Marin is a Marketing Specialist at OverDrive.


Mission Control desk

Some parents take the carrot approach to homework enforcement, others the stick.

This is the best carrot I’ve ever seen. Some world-class parenting skills are on display right here. This is the homework desk of Jeff Highsmith’s older son:

And this is what it looks like when he’s finished his homework and is allowed to raise the lid.

The desk came about as the result of a family visit to the Kennedy Space Center. It’s not an exact facsimile of an Apollo Mission control desk (the real ones don’t make whooshy fizzy rocket noises, deep mechanical clankings and exciting beepings, and, as Jeff says, they do more monitoring than controlling), but those of you who have seen the real thing will definitely recognise what this is based on.

Here is a wonderful, wonderful how-to video which walks you around the build and the finished desk. We love the clear panel to display the Pi and the Arduino!

(Eben got to the bit in the video where Jeff’s son issues the command to stir the oxygen tanks and shouted: “NOOOOOOO!”)

The whole thing is run on a Raspberry Pi and Arduino, working together. Jeff says:

The programming of the console, which I posted to GitHub, has the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi working cooperatively. The Arduino uses four I/O expanders (MCP23017) to read the state of switches and buttons. Whenever a switch (be it a momentary push-button switch, a rocker switch, or a toggle switch) changes state (on to off or off to on), the Arduino tells the Raspberry Pi over a serial connection (USB cable). The Raspberry Pi plays a sound or starts a sequence of events, if necessary, and sends any commands for controlling LEDs to the Arduino. The Arduino uses five LED matrix drivers (HT16K33 on a carrier board from Adafruit) to control all of the LEDs. That allows for 640 separate LEDs, which sounds like a lot, until you consider that the numerical displays have eight LEDs per digit and the LED bargraph displays have 24 LEDs per graph (they make three colors by having a red and green LED in each segment so they can make red, yellow, or green). The potentiometers are read by the analog inputs of the Arduino.

The EECOM panel contains four potentiometers that are each mapped to a 12-segment bargraph display. Turning the knobs adjusts the number of segments lit, and I made it so all the segments change color to reflect how urgent a given value is. If the value is adjusted to the safe middle four segments, all segments lit are lit green. If it's adjusted a bit higher or a bit lower, all lit segments are lit yellow. If the level is adjusted way too high or way too low, lit segments are red.

It even plays real clips from the real Apollo 11 mission, which Jeff was able to source online. You can read much more about the build, what all those wonderful switches and dials do in Jeff’s article for MAKE. Jeff, I hope you’re at the big Maker Faire Bay Area this May. We’re sending our education team, and they’re big fans; they’d like to pick your brains!

Towerbabel and the Launch of Social Writing

For the past several years, social reading has been an undercurrent of the possibilities of digital publishing and ebooks. A number of companies have been launched since as early as 2010 to encourage readers with tools that make it easy to share in the discussion of a book across their social networks–and even with strangers–within the digital pages of a book. Companies like Copia have kept the focus more squarely fixed on the educational opportunities that social reading presents, such as allowing students around the world and professors at different institutions to all come together within the ebook to foster discussion and understanding; at the same time, companies like Readmill just enjoy the possibilities of connecting readers of fiction titles in what amounts to almost a virtual book club.

Now, Hong Kong-based self-publishing platform Towerbabel is furthering not only digital reading and enjoyment of ebooks, but has built its platform to also be a collaboration tool for authors, editors, designers, and artists, while also helping participants engage in social writing. The platform enables different writers to all participate in the same story, an especially intriguing idea for alternate ending and science fiction fans.

“Ebooks shouldn’t just be a retelling of text,” explained Anthony Chan in an interview with Good e-Reader. “More interactive storytelling can happen in an ebook.”

Through Towerbabel’s 30,000-strong user base and social media reach, a number of stories have already been drafted with the help of collaboration. Of course, readers are also welcome to discover single-author books to read, and authors are invited to submit their stand alone titles through the platform. For those who want to experiment with the collaboration, the write pad tool is available through the platform.

When looking at how a process such as this one compares to a well-known and heavily trafficked site like Wattpad, it’s important to remember the intention. Wattpad‘s newest update allows readers to discuss authors’ works while they are still in progress, but the major focus is still connecting readers and writers; Towerbabel is looking to actively build writing and publishing collaboration in one secure location.

“We built a writing pad on our platform and we’re getting a following from more and more authors as we foster collaboration. We want to focus on these collaborations to let people work out the book together and let different writers co-write a book.”

Towerbabel and the Launch of Social Writing is a post from: Good e-Reader

More News on Authors Behaving Badly, Using Well-Known Authors’ Names as Pseudonyms

In an interesting chain of events, ebook retailers’ crackdown on erotica titles that were mislabeled as children’s content–intentionally or not–led to another crackdown of sorts. During the process of examining the titles in their online stores more carefully, retailers like Amazon enforced an existing aspect of their terms and conditions that prohibits using famous book titles in the keyword search for unrelated books. For example, a particular self-published memoir about high school was threatened with removal from Amazon’s store due to the presence of the title The Hunger Games in the keyword search, an attempt to make the book more visible as consumers looked for Suzanne Collins’ bestseller.

While that practice is shady enough, a new phenomenon has cropped up in the race for book discovery: using authors’ actual names. Readers who were thrilled to purchase bestselling author Jack Higgins’ latest thriller title were instead treated to fairly lousy erotica.

Higgins, a well-known author who’s seen several of his titles adapted for film, suddenly had new books appear on his Amazon author page. Sadly, the reviewers took to the books to voice their discontent with the books, horrified that the quality of writing and the story line was not what they were used to from the author.

This new money making scheme is certainly not the first time that a thoughtless scammer has tried to make a quick buck off the back of someone famous, but unfortunately the industry reaction seems to be blaming digital publishing and self-publishing. Great literary hoaxes existed long before ebooks were born, but this situation makes self-published authors as a whole look bad, a fact that critics are happy to point out.

Higgins’ author page has been restored to reflect that he is not associated with these underhanded files (calling them books at this point would be painful), and the speed with which that repair took place is something for which even critics can be grateful to the digital era.

More News on Authors Behaving Badly, Using Well-Known Authors’ Names as Pseudonyms is a post from: Good e-Reader

Blackberry Outlines Growth Strategies for 2014


Blackberry has announced that they are working on two new phones that will be released sometime in 2014. Their growth strategy is low-cost phones that build upon the trials and errors of the Q10 and Z10, the first devices to use the Android friendly Blackberry 10 OS.

The first phone the company talked about during the popular Mobile World Congress conference was the Z3, codenamed Jakarta. It features a 5-inch display with 540 x 960 resolution. It will pack a solid 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 1.5 GB RAM, 8GB storage, 2650 mAh non-removable battery, 5MP camera with a 1.1MP front-facing camera. It will be released in Indonesia, this April for $200. The company plans to sell the device, which is a collaboration between BlackBerry and Foxconn.

The second phone is going back to basics with a full keyboard and trackpad. Currently the model is dubbed the BlackBerry Q20, but will likely be marketed as the Blackberry Classic.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen said "We do have a few high-end devices that we are working on, but I am unable to show you and share with your right now." Also there apparently is no wearables from Blackberry in the works either, or a new tablet.

Blackberry Outlines Growth Strategies for 2014 is a post from: Good e-Reader