Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recorded Books and FastPencil Deal Allow Self-Publishers to Distribute Books to Libraries


Self-publishing used to be the option of last resort for frustrated authors, but more and more authors are abandoning the frustrations of the traditional publishing industry in favor of the immediacy and creative control of self-publishing. Now that self-publishing and digital publishing have garnered some long overdue respect in the publishing industry, one of the last hurdles for indie authors is getting their content into libraries.

FastPencil and Recorded Books have just signed a landmark distribution agreement that will put self-publishers books in the library. FastPencil’s powerful technology provides libraries with an end-to-end publishing network that helps authors write, manage, convert and distribute books and eBooks. With access to robust management capabilities, libraries can also ingest, store and post library content to patrons.

"This unique service is a game-changer in the publishing and library industry," said Rich Freese, Recorded Books president and CEO. "FastPencil for Libraries removes the hurdles that inherently come with traditional book publishing, making it possible for authors to collaborate with their local library to write and prepare their own books for publication."

Recorded Books will Market this new program as “FastPencil for Libraries.” It is not clear right now if this new program will be just for eBooks or just print books, or a combination of both. We have reached out to both companies for a response.

Recorded Books and FastPencil Deal Allow Self-Publishers to Distribute Books to Libraries is a post from: Good e-Reader

Washington Post Gives Away Free Digital Access


The Washington Post is giving a free digital subscriptions to their online website and the myriad of apps they have to existing premium subscribers of other newspapers.  Smaller newspapers can leverage themselves to give away a free digital subscription to the Washington Post, on top of their normal promotions.

The new program will officially kick off in May and the following partners already plan to sign on: The Dallas Morning News, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, The Toledo Blade, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos purchased the paper last August, the mandate was to focus on digital. The paper has seen a 44% decline in operating revenue over the past six years. Although the paper is one of the most popular news sources online, print circulation has dwindled an additional 7%.

The average person can only subscribe to so many digital editions, before it gets overwhelming. The Washington Journal and New York Times are the most popular digital editions around and are often cited in many online circles, such as Reditt. The Post, is hoping that giving free access away will boost their own subscription numbers.

Washington Post Gives Away Free Digital Access is a post from: Good e-Reader

Trade-In Old eReader to Amazon for Gift Card and $20 Bonus Toward New Kindle

For a limited time, Amazon is offering a $20 bonus toward the purchase of a new basic Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, and Kindle Paperwhite 3G when you trade-in your old Nook, Kobo, Sony, or Kindle ebook reader using Amazon’s trade-in program. Like usual, you’ll also get an Amazon gift card for the trade-in value of the […]

We’re seeing Starz!

In addition to the thousands of titles already available in the OverDrive catalog, we are pleased to inform you that hundreds of new Streaming Video titles from Starz Digital Media are now available for pre-order in OverDrive Marketplace! We recently announced the addition of award-winning titles and major media distributors, and now, we will have even more available to add to your growing Streaming Video collection.


Prepare to offer your patrons Streaming Video blockbusters such as Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Oscar®-winner Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress); The King's Speech, winner of Academy Awards® for Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Original Screenplay and Best Motion Picture; Django Unchained, Academy Award® winner for Best Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz) and Best Original Screenplay (Quentin Tarantino); The Men Who Stare at Goats, starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey; The Master, nominated for three Academy Awards® and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams; and many more.

Popular TV series such as Seasons 1 and 2 of Spartacus, anime series Ghost in the Shell, and Sci-Fi hit Painkiller Jane (starring Kristanna Loken) will also be available as Streaming Video titles through OverDrive. Click here to see the full list of pre-order titles from Starz Digital Media.

The Starz Digital Media catalog titles are available under the one copy/one user model (no costs per checkout or metered access). Users can select their lending period for three, five or seven days. Once a video first streams, users have 48 hours to watch the video (messaging is in place on the site for end users). The presale list includes introductory pricing, so make sure to act now and save!

OverDrive Streaming Video is a convenient and exciting way to instantly watch videos anytime, anywhere, on any computer, tablet or mobile device with an internet connection (and coming soon: the OverDrive Roku channel)! Check out the growing list of Streaming Videos available for simultaneous access in Marketplace as well.

Talk to your OverDrive Collection Development Specialist to add Streaming Video today.

Sony PRS-T3 eReader Available in U.S. via Amazon for $149

Oh, the irony. Just as Sony is getting set to close the doors on their ebook store for good in the United States and Canada on March 20th, their latest and probably last ebook reader, the Sony PRS-T3, is finally available for purchase in the U.S. from Amazon for $149. It’s being sold by a […]

Amazon Whispercast Technology Delivers eTextbooks Across Brazil

Teacher In Classroom
In a victory for education across language barriers and distance, Amazon and the Brazilian Ministry of Education announced today that the Whispercast technology that makes ebooks magically appear on consumers’ devices will now deliver textbooks to hundreds of thousands of teachers across Brazil. Due in part to the efforts of the National Fund for Educational Development (FNDE), this partnership will bring a catalog of more than 200 different titles to the 600,000 government distributed teacher tablets in the country.

"We are pleased that Whispercast is one of the foundation technologies for this innovative program. Amazon working with FNDE enhanced Whispercast, which has been used by thousands of schools in the U.S., to meet the needs of the teachers and administrators in Brazil. We are very enthusiastic in helping to bring new technologies that will help the education segment in Brazil," said Alex Szapiro, Country Manager, Amazon.com.br. "We hope to work with FNDE on the rollout to reach students and teachers in all grades with the goal of improving education in Brazil."

According to a statement on the partnership, “Teachers using the free Kindle Reading App are able to read, highlight, make notes and reference the dictionary directly in the textbooks, even when the tablets are not connected to the Internet. To date, more than 40M eTextbooks have been delivered.”

All-digital classrooms have been slow to become a reality all over the world, but initiatives such as the FNDE and programs that are aimed at distributing cost-effective tablets instead of quickly obsolete and highly damage-susceptible print editions are making the digital classroom an even more likely reality.

Amazon Whispercast Technology Delivers eTextbooks Across Brazil is a post from: Good e-Reader

New camera mode released

Liz: you’ll notice that this post has no pictures or video. That’s because we’d like you to make some for us, using the new camera mode. Take some 90fps video using our camera board and the information below, slow it down to 30fps and send us a link: if yours is particularly splendid, we’ll feature it here and on the front page. Over to JamesH!

When the Raspberry Pi camera was released, the eagle-eyed among you noticed that the camera hardware itself can support various high frame rate modes, but that the software could ‘only’ manage 30 frames per second in its high-definition video mode.

There’s is no hardware limitation in the Raspberry Pi itself. It’s quite capable of handling these high frame rate modes, but it does require a certain amount of effort to work out these new ‘modes’ inside the camera software. At the original release of the camera, two modes were provided: a stills capture mode, which offers the full resolution of the sensor (2592×1944), and a 1080p video mode (1920x1080p). Those same eagle-eyed people will see that these modes have different aspect ratios – the ratio of width to height. Stills outputs 4:3 (like 35mm film), video 16:9 (wide screen).

This creates a problem when previewing stills captures, since the preview uses the video mode so it can run at 30 frames per second (fps) – not only is the aspect of the preview different, but because the video mode ‘crops’ the sensor (i.e. takes a 1920×1080 windows from the centre), the field of view in preview mode is very different from the actual capture.

We had some work to do to develop new modes for high frame rates, and also fix the stills preview mode so that is matches the capture mode.

So now, finally, some very helpful chaps at Broadcom, with some help from Omnivision, the sensor manufacturer, have found some spare time to sort out these modes, and not just that but to add some extra goodness while they were at it. (Liz interjects: The Raspberry Pi Foundation is not part of Broadcom – we’re a customer of theirs – but we’ve got a good relationship and the Foundation’s really grateful for the volunteer help that some of the people at Broadcom offer us from time to time. You guys rock: thank you!)

The result is that we now have a set of mode as follows :

  • 2592×1944 1-15fps, video or stills mode, Full sensor full FOV, default stills capture
  • 1920×1080 1-30fps, video mode, 1080p30 cropped
  • 1296×972 1-42fps, video mode, 4:3 aspect binned full FOV. Used for stills preview in raspistill.
  • 1296×730 1-49fps, video mode, 16:9 aspect , binned, full FOV (width), used for 720p
  • 640×480 42.1-60fps, video mode, up to VGAp60 binned
  • 640×480 60.1-90fps, video mode, up to VGAp90 binned

I’ve introduced a new word in the that list. Binned. This is how we can get high frame rates. Binning means combining pixels from the sensor together in a ‘bin’ in the analogue domain.  As well as reducing the amount of data, this can also improve low light performance as it averages out sensor ‘noise’ in the absence of quantisation noise introduced by the analogue to digital converters (ADCs), which are the bits of electronics in the sensor that convert the analogue information created by incoming photons to digital numbers.

So if we do a 2×2 ‘bin’ on the sensor, it only sends a quarter (2×2 = 4 = a quarter!) of the amount of data per frame to the Raspberry Pi. This means we can quadruple (approximately – there are some other issues at play) the frame rate for the same amount of data! So a simple 2×2 bin theoretically means quadruple the frame rate, but at half the X and Y resolution. This is how the 1296×972 mode works – it’s exactly a 2×2 binned mode, so it’s still 4:3 ratio, uses the whole sensor field of view, and makes a perfect preview mode for stills capture.

We also have a very similar mode, which is 1296×730. This is used for 720p video recording (the sensor image is scaled by the GPU to 1280×720). This is a 2×2 binned mode with an additional crop, which also means a slightly increased frame rate as there is less data to transfer.

Now by reducing the resolution output by the sensor even further and by using ‘skipping’ of pixels in combination with binning, we can get even higher frame rates, and this is how the high speed 640×480 VGA modes work. So, the fastest mode is now VGA resolution at 90 frames per second – three times the frame rate of 1080p30.

So, how do we use these new modes?

The demo applications raspistill and raspivid will already work with the new modes. You can specify the resolution you need and the frame rate, and the correct mode will be chosen. You will need to get the newest GPU firmware using sudo rpi-update which contains all these shiny new modes.

One thing to note: the system will always try to run at the frame rate specified in preference to resolution. Therefore if you specify a high rate at a resolution it cannot manage, it will use a low resolution mode to achieve the frame rate and upscale to the requested size – upscaling rarely looks good. It may also be too fast for the video encoder, so some of the extra frames may be skipped. So always ensure the resolution you specify can achieve the required frame rate to get the best results.

So, a quick example, to record a 10s VGA clip at 90fps

raspistill -w 640 -h 480 -fps 90 -t 10000 -o test90fps.h264

There have also been minor changes to the V4l2 driver to support these new modes. These should be included when you do the rpi-update to get the new GPU firmware.

The V4L2 driver supports the new modes too. Just using the normal requests, you can now ask for up to 90fps. So doing the same streaming of VGA at 90fps to H264 would be the following set of v4l2-ctl commands:

v4l2-ctl -p 90  v4l2-ctl -v width=640,height=480,pixelformat=H264  v4l2-ctl --stream-mmap=3 --stream-count=900 --stream-to=test90fps.h264

There are a few provisos that you will need to consider when using the faster modes, especially with the V4L driver.

  • They will be increasing the load on the ARM quite significantly as there will more callbacks per second. This may have unpredictable effects on V4L applications so that they may not be able to keep up.
  • The MJPEG codec doesn’t cope above about 720P40 – it will start dropping frames, and above 45fps it seems to be able to lock things solid. You have been warned.
  • H264 will keep up quite happily up to 720P49, or VGA@90fps

That said, most people should find no problem with these new features, so a big thank you must go to Dave Stevenson and Naush Patuck at Broadcom for finding the time to implement them! Also, thanks to Omnivision for their continued support.

Pew Internet Study Finds Technology to Be a Draw for Public Libraries

The Pew Research Center has become a mainstay for detailed data on how Americans use technology and the internet. One of the many areas of focus for Pew’s studies continues to be libraries, specifically how the public interacts and engages with them. A new report, released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the world wide web, took a look at how Americans consume the technology resources that are available from their local public libraries.

In this latest report, the organization uncovered perceptions on technology use especially, and found that a growing number of patrons are encouraged by the abundance of technology options for patrons. The days of the “newfangled” desktop computer that replaced the card catalog are gone; patrons now seek out fully stocked computer labs, online learning opportunities, touch screen interfaces, and more.

According to the survey report, “Libraries loom large in the public imagination, and are generally viewed very positively: 90% of Americans ages 16 and older say that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community. This means that many people have a stake in the future of libraries, and as the digital age advances, there is much discussion about where they are headed.

“In recent years, public libraries have continued to add new technologies and formats to their holdings, with the goal of providing patrons resources in whatever form they prefer. Many libraries have also expanded into community centers, serving as unique gathering places in their towns and cities. Today, they offer many events and services, and are experimenting with providing the next generation of ‘expensive and scarce’ resources, from 3-D printers to recording studios.”

The findings of the report can be accessed HERE via the Pew Research Center’s website. This is the third and final report in a three-part series on how consumers perceive libraries and place worth on them.

Pew Internet Study Finds Technology to Be a Draw for Public Libraries is a post from: Good e-Reader

Firefox Mobile OS vs Blackberry vs Android vs iOS


The Firefox mobile operating system is one of the youngest out there. The ZTE Open is one of the first devices to be marketed from the official Firefox website. It is meant to basically showcase the OS and be sold to emerging markets. Today, we look at the OS and compare it to Blackberry, Android and iOS.

There are 3 current generation phones that run the Firefox mobile OS. You have the ZTE Open, LG Fireweb, and Alcatel One Touch Fire. All of these devices have 3.5 to 4.0 inch screens and 320 x 480 pixels for the resolution. You mainly just have a single core processor and around 512 MB of storage. All phones have a 3 MP rear facing camera to snap some pics.

You will need to invest in an SD Card to take advantage of video, camera, music and other core functions. There really isn’t enough internal memory to devote to media. Instead, default memory is allocated just to the simple apps that are available.

Firefox OS has a fairly young app market with standards such as Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and Line. There are a few thousand, but no support for paid apps.

In the videos below, we show you the total ecosystem and core functionality of of the operating system. We are not really looking at the hardware, but how everything gels together. You can get a sense on how Blackberry 10, iOS 7, Android 4.0 and Firefox Mobile OS compare against each other.

Firefox Mobile OS vs Blackberry vs Android vs iOS is a post from: Good e-Reader