Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Plastic Logic debuts Flexible Screen Technology for Wearables


The e-Reader industry is crashing all around us and companies such as E-Ink, Neonode, Plastic Logic, Pixel QI and Plastic Logic are all diversifying away from standard e-paper technology E Ink, the undisputed leader in the screens synonymous with the Kindle and Kobo is gravitating towards digital signage, while Plastic Logic is focusing on wearable tech. It is in this spirit that a new flexible AMOLED screen is being demoed at SID Display Week in San Diego.

The flex AMOLED display was made using Plastic Logic's truly flexible oTFT backplane technology, combined with Novaled's OLED frontplane materials. It displays 16 shades of grey and unlike the poor refresh rate in E-Ink products, Plastic Logic has generated 30 frames per second. The market for flex AMOLED displays is set to grow to $23bn by 2023 (IHS 2014 report), fuelled by the pull for flexible displays for wearables and the Internet of Things.

Plastic Logic debuts Flexible Screen Technology for Wearables is a post from: Good e-Reader

Airbnb Helps Book Last Minute Travel to LA and SF Quickly

airbnbBoasting itself as the way to book inspiring and unique accommodations around the world, Airbnb has been a tremendous resource to travelers. In response to the requests and needs of their users, the app better assists those looking for spontaneity by making it possible to book a trip for tonight or tomorrow.  This new service will highlight listings that can be booked immediately (whether you have just had one of those weeks and need to get away or you have some last minute plans requiring accommodations) at every available price-point. Also added is an experimental feature called “This Weekend” which will allow you to be inspired by nearby locations and adventures ready to be booked for an impromptu getaway.

For those that haven’t yet tried Airbnb, a quick download will have you searching through up to 34,000 cities and hundreds of thousands of potential places to stay  (be that a castle, treehouse, hotel room –you may be surprised by what you’ll find!). From there you can manage your listings, connect with your hosts and other guests and prepare for your trip with To-Dos.

This new last-minute travel service has been rolled out to San Fransisco and Los Angeles to start, but more cities will be added soon!

Airbnb Helps Book Last Minute Travel to LA and SF Quickly is a post from: Good e-Reader

Amazon is Unveiling a New Device on June 18th

Amazon has placed an interesting banner at the top of their homepage. The banner says, “Want an invite to our new device unveiling?” It includes a link to request an invitation to the launch event in Seattle, Washington on June 18th, 2014. The event is open to Amazon customers, developers, and journalists. It’s rather unusual […]

Todd Humphrey Leaves Kobo to Join New Stealth Project


Todd Humphrey the EVP of Business Development at Kobo Books has left the company. He worked for Kobo from 2010 to 2014, where was responsible for all worldwide business development activities for Kobo, including OEM’s, retailer’s and wireless providers.

Todd has joined former Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis in a new stealth startup called The Everlong Project. Not much is known about the company, but they seem to be involved in wearable technology in the health sector. On the companies official blog page they do illuminate a bit on what they are doing with the statement “IOT is going to revolutionize how we manage our health, but the real trick is not in all of the various data-emitting, wearable devices. As someone who once saw 100′s of eReaders at CES (what we affectionately called the eReader ghetto) and then saw that turn to dozens, then 3-4 and eventually…you know the drill. It's not about the hardware, ultimately. It's not even in the data. The data on its own will be almost useless. It's in the services that use that data, and engage consumers, and keep them coming back. If there are any people out there who actually, regularly, use their FitBit dashboard, and find it indispensable….please let me know…”

Former CEO Michael Serbinis confirmed that Todd is actually the Co-Founder of the Everlong project by stating “Todd has joined as co-founder at the Everlong Project where we plan on building another great company.   As we are just rounding out Month 2, doubling our space, growing the team, and working toward launch – it's great timing.”

We should be hearing more about the Everlong project when they formally announce their first product in early 2015.

Todd Humphrey Leaves Kobo to Join New Stealth Project is a post from: Good e-Reader

The Truth about eBook Piracy – Infographic

NeoMam Studios has produced a new infograph talking about the piracy issue in regards to eBooks.  The infographic looks at the facts and counter-measures that are in place, to keep eBooks secure.

The Truth about eBook Piracy – Infographic is a post from: Good e-Reader

The Worst Dressed Authors of Book Expo America 2014



Book Expo America Wrapped up last week at the Javits Center in New York City, which is the largest publishing event in North America. Thousands of authors were in attendance, signing autographs and promoting their books. Some were fairly dapper, but others sent shivers down the back of any true fashionista.

Eric Flint (left) and Charles E. Gannon (right), authors of the new novel in the best-selling “1632″ alternate world

Eric Flint (left) and Charles E. Gannon (right), authors of the new novel in the best-selling "1632″ alternate world. You can tell Eric spent lots of time coordinating a pink striped shirt and multicolored jacket.

Jack Heath

Jack Heath talking with Harlem school teacher (right) with Author's Boutique assistant Carol Clinton (middle). Sunglasses on the head, a bright orange long sleeved shirt, terrible!

Jana DeLeon, Theresa Ragan, Denise Grover Swank, Liliana Hart, and Jasinda Wilder

Jana DeLeon, Theresa Ragan, Denise Grover Swank, Liliana Hart, and Jasinda Wilder. Where to begin with this picture, a jean jacket shirt, bright stripes on someone with no business wearing a bright striped shirt,  Denise wearing a dress inspired from Zubaz.


The  Thimble the Fairy went into Book Expo with the Idea that she did not want to everyone to see her rolling her eyes at autograph requests. So she wore flowers covering her forehead and eyes, a bold move. Her wings look a tad bit dilapidated, quick, someone water her, STAT!


Lena Dunham  received much attention for autographs, but her pseudo satin, japanese inspired dress was a travesty of justice.

hm ward

HM Ward may write compelling books and her sales do quite well, but she is a likely candidate for TLC What Not to Wear. I could see Stacy and Clinton  throwing out her entire wardrobe and cackling maniacally.  Seriously, a black t-shirt, classy.

2012 Book Expo America: Adult Book &  Author Breakfast

On the very  last day of Book Expo America Kirstie Alley who was there to promote The Art of Men. The book actually plays, like much of her post-Cheers career in general, on the art of self-sabotage. Her dress reminds me of fall, with pink leaves raining down and sticking to your feet. This dress is terrible and makes me feel violently ill.

Hilary Davidson & Jen Forbus at BEA

At the Mystery Writers of America booth author Hilary Davidson is posing with book blogger Jen Forbus. Leopard skin dresses fell out of favor last year Jen, and satin on satin, for shame!

Julie Kagawa

Julie Kagawa, author of The Iron Queen looks like she is firmly stuck in the 1980′s with a silver headband, purple shirt and acid wash jeans. In this picture she was firmly channeling Flock of Seagals.


OH GOD where to start! Matching patterned shirts on Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.  I bet they totally planned this, I will dye my hair bright blue, you do it bright red and lets wear the same clothes, TOTALLY! This was a tremendously bad judgement call and likely scared off a number of people hunting for an autograph.

The Worst Dressed Authors of Book Expo America 2014 is a post from: Good e-Reader

The top 10 reasons to listen to audiobooks this month

June is a big month around Blue Sky Campus. In addition to the launching of our first OverDrive Challenge as well as kicking off our most recent Big Library Read, June is also Audiobook Month! Audiobooks are enjoyed by millions of people around the world but if you've never listened to one, now is the perfect time to try them. Just like eBooks are a great complement to printed titles, audiobooks are excellent for when you aren't able to physically read a book.

With that in mind, we'd like to offer our top ten reasons to listen to audiobooks this month.

1)      Multitasking- If it were up to us we'd spend just about every waking moment reading. Unfortunately that's not possible. However, there are countless times during the day that you can use audiobooks to keep "reading with your ears." Many jobs come with mindless hours of data entry or filing, so make those hours fly by with an audiobook!

2)      Beating traffic- If I actually thought about the amount of time I used to spend sitting in traffic mindlessly flipping through channels on the radio I might start crying. Thankfully, now I spend all that time enjoying audiobooks through my car's Bluetooth.

3)      Narrators & author readings bring characters to life in ways your mind may not be able. In fact, audiobook lovers will often search out titles based entirely on who is narrating the book. A good narrator can create an entire world with just their emphasis and vocal talents.

4)      Exercising –As a fan of distance running I can tell you that I'm always searching for something to listen to so those miles and hours don't seem so daunting. Insert audiobooks. What better way to enjoy a jog, walk or trip to the gym then 1hearing a new book! Audiobooks help pass the time and they let you work out your mind as well as your body!

5)      SYNC- SYNC is a program that lasts all summer long where you can download two free audiobooks every single week! Just like titles you borrow from your library these audiobooks are free, and they are also yours to keep! Discover new audiobooks all summer long at

6)      Better comprehension- A quick Google search will yield countless articles about how audiobooks are a wonderful tool to improve reading comprehension for young readers, students with disabilities and foreign language learners. While audiobooks can indeed help you learn a new language, they can also help you absorb a particularly difficult title in your own tongue as well. Listen to the audiobook version while reading the eBook and you'll better understand the flow of the story and sentence structure than with the book alone.

7)      Bed time stories- One of the best parts of being a kid is having someone read you a story as you drift off to sleep. It puts your mind at ease and is a peaceful way to end the day. With the OverDrive app you can experience that joy once more! Listen to an audiobook in bed and set the sleep timer so you don't miss anything after you doze off and relish the nostalgia of a new age bed time story.

8)      Chores – Whether you're 8 or 80 you likely have some chores you need to accomplish every day. Regardless if its yard work, cleaning or running errands you can pass that time much more quickly by putting an audiobook on w/ your headphones or through Bluetooth devices.

9)      A new perspective- One of the best things about reading is that it enables you to create new worlds in your mind. You're able to travel endless distances without leaving your couch. What's great about audiobooks is that it allows you to do the same but with a narrator emphasizing different details that you may not have. This new perspective can expand your imagination further than you thought possible.

10)   Tackling long titles and TBR lists- It seems like every day there's a new "must read" title released and it's nearly impossible to keep up with all the books you want to read. Let audiobooks help you catch up by allowing you to "read when you can't read." At bedtime, in traffic, and while performing mundane tasks are just a few of the times you can enjoy audiobooks. Not only will it provide you entertainment, but you'll find that you're finishing more books than you ever before.

Here's one more reason to try out an audiobook this month: there is a massive sale in OverDrive Marketplace going on all June long!

*Some titles may have limited regional or platform availability.

Adam Sockel is a Marketing Communications Specialist at OverDrive and a big fan of lists.

HM Ward on the Aftermath of Her Book Deal Decision

With so much debate currently raging about both book pricing and book deals–especially where indie authors are concerned–it’s good to hear some concrete news that worked in an author’s favor. While pioneers like Hugh Howey continue to release minutely specific and incredibly detailed reports on book sales for both self- and traditionally published authors, other authors are working at being as transparent about their decisions and their results as the terms of service for different retailers allow.

In the past few months, author HM Ward released a blog post that explained her decision to turn down a six-figure publishing deal from a Big Five publisher. In the post, she describes two phenomenon: the first was that the publisher was very tight-lipped about their marketing strategy for her book and the projected price point of the books, and the second was that the advance for both books demonstrated to her what return the publisher expected to make on the deal.

Good e-Reader sat down with Ward at BookExpo’s Author Hub to talk about that decision, and whether or not she regrets it now.

“This is the book that I ranted about, that I turned down multi-million dollar offers for,” explained Ward, holding a copy of her recently released title, The Wedding Contract. “My agent had gotten me an offer for a traditional deal, and they wanted two books. It was going to be a half-million dollar dollar [advance]. The reason I was considering it was I thought, ‘Why don’t we pool our resources? You wow me with your marketing, and I’ll combine it with mine.’ But the stuff that they gave me back was one of my own marketing plans that I’d pitched two years ago.”

Ward turned down the deal, much to the criticism of people who thought her refusal to take the bird-in-the-hand approach was foolish, especially for a self-published author.

The Wedding Contract was released on May 11th, and by May 30th it had already sold to cover almost the full amount of the deal for that title. The word “justified” doesn’t begin to cover it, as Ward would not have seen anything until the advance had been repaid, and after that would have received around 25% of her sales as royalties, which she would have had to share with her agent at typically fifteen percent.

“This book has already sold more than three-quarters of what they offered me, and it’s been out for two weeks. And that’s with me not really doing anything except announcing it to my fans. I had my release day stuff that I do, but I was thinking, ‘They don’t have anything to offer.’ It’s been two weeks, and I’ve played with the book price a little, but even at that lower price point it worked. If I had sold them all the rights, they would have made a lot more money.”

HM Ward on the Aftermath of Her Book Deal Decision is a post from: Good e-Reader

Train your rat: behavioural science at home

Skinner boxes are a kind of apparatus used for conditioning and training animals in scientific studies. You’ll almost certainly have read about them or seen them on TV: an animal is rewarded with a treat for pressing a button; or trained to respond to a patter of lights or other stimuli (like shapes, music and other sounds, or drawings). This is the sort of arrangement where a sequence of behavioural primitives (light flashes green, animal pokes green button, is rewarded with a snack) can be threaded together to create really useful data for behavioural scientists. Is it harder for an old mouse to learn to solve the puzzle than a young mouse might find it? Do other environmental variables, like diet, gender or temperature affect the results?

rat eating someone's lunch

An example rat, engaging in behaviour.

They’re not just used by behavioural scientists: a Skinner box can be a useful device for training pets, especially pets with a reasonable amount of smarts, like parrots or rats. It can automate the process you may have already used with your pet, where “correct” behaviour is rewarded – walk to heel, get a doggy snack. (We also find this approach helpful here at Pi Towers. When Gordon behaves himself, we give him a biscuit.)

Skinner boxes are also pretty expensive.  So Katherine Scott, computer vision and robotics expert, electronics ninja and rat owner/trainer, has built her own, which she intends to release as an open source device when she’s finished refining it.

Open Skinner box

Prototype Open Skinner box, with ratty customer.

Katherine didn’t just want any old Skinner box, though – Open Skinner box is an Internet of Things device, and she says:

I wanted to create not just a Skinner Box but a web enabled Skinner Box, a sorta internet of things Skinner Box. So what features should it have? I came up with the following list:

  1. I should be able to see the rats using the Raspberry Pi's camera.
  2. The camera data should be used to create a rough correlate of the rat's activity.
  3. The box should run experiments automatically.
  4. I should be able to buzz and feed the rats remotely.
  5. The web interface should give a live feed of all of the events as they happen.
  6. The web interface should be able to give me daily digests of the rats activity and training.
Live camera output from the box

Live camera output from the box


Rat stats

Katherine presented Open Skinner box at Pycon: you can watch a video of her presentation at her website, and find schematics, source code, sample rat-stats, thoughts on where the device is going next, and much more there too.

Here at Pi Towers, we’ve been contemplating the acquisition of an office rodent, so we can make sure that the pet projects we’re working on for the resources section here work properly. (How many hamsters does it take to trigger a home-made tinfoil switch? What’s the best design for a Twitter-enabled food hopper?) If you’ve got suggestions for names, please leave them in the comments below.

iOS8 Means eBook Discovery for Indie Authors

Apple’s fall release of iOS 8 was unveiled in a press conference yesterday, and for people who are used to big things from Apple, there’s bad news: this is no iPhone launch. It wasn’t world-changing stuff, just a run down of new features and enhancements that will make everything consumers love about Apple run a little better.

If you’re a self-published author, though, your whole world just blew up in a very good way.

As Mark Coker, CEO and founder of Smashwords, stated in a post about the Apple announcement, iOS 8 will automatically include iBooks as an installed app. That means the 800 million or so users of Apple’s line of products will have access to ebooks and ebook searching at any moment of the day. As Smashwords has had a long-standing agreement with Apple, as well as recently announced that it updates its catalog to Apple’s iBooks five times a day, seven days a week (no lag times while they get around to it!), that means the 250,000 or so Smashwords titles are now available seamlessly for those iDevice users to browse and purchase.

“Prior to iOS 8, readers who wanted to shop iBooks were forced to click to the Apple App store, search for the iBooks app, sign in with their email address and password, and then install it,” explained Coker as to why this announcement was so profound. “The absence of a pre-installed app created unnecessary friction. It means only a fraction of Apple’s customer base today has convenient access to your books (which makes the enormous success of iBooks all the more impressive). Yesterday’s news means iBooks will become ubiquitous. “It’ll be like having a bookstore in nearly one billion pockets and purses. It’s not a stretch to speculate that within a couple years, the iBooks app will be ever-present on over one billion devices around the world.”

Smashwords also announced recently that its agreements with various distribution partners have offered more widespread discovery for its authors’ works, such as the agreement to place titles in OverDrive’s catalog. This partnership makes Smashwords’ Premium Catalog titles available to OverDrive’s member libraries for ebook lending to their patrons.

iOS8 Means eBook Discovery for Indie Authors is a post from: Good e-Reader

The Fight for eBook Viability

19_02_fri_news_BylinerPremium teaser
At publishing conferences and industry events, there are always a few common themes. Book discovery seems to be a constant thorn in rights holders’ sides, as does understanding how to price content in the digital age. Libraries are still being left out in the cold, even as industry professionals offer keynotes about what the future of libraries will look like (interestingly, these keynotes are almost never delivered by actual librarians). And lest we forget the most important running theme of all: Amazon is bad.

With news coming out today that long-form journalism and fiction e-short site Byliner is floundering, it begs the question as to what needs to be done in digital publishing. Byliner is an industry pioneer who began selling ebooks in 2011 by capitalizing on readers’ desires to know more than just what appeared in a 100-word blurb on Yahoo’s homepage, while still acknowledging that readers didn’t always have time to sit down with a full-length volume. Digital publishing made the speed-to-market incredibly fast, and just like other e-short platforms, Byliner was able to get quality non-fiction into the hands of busy readers with minimal delay, along with dedicated fiction works that were written expressly for snippet-like consumption from some of the top names in books.

So what went wrong?

In a publishing subset as specific as long-form journalism, we can’t really blame the self-published authors for filling the market with a glut of badly written, poorly edited trash. Book discovery in this instance may not be an issue, since readers who want this type of work are often looking for specific content, if not by title, then possibly by topic. There are a number of platforms that offer this type of content, but they’re certainly not as abundant as literary fiction or romance publishers. And since most platforms sold their content through Amazon, it’s not even a matter of Amazon refusing to play nice, at least not according to any news coming out of the company.

Pricing may have been somewhat of an issue for consumers. When Byliner launched in 2011, subscription models had just emerged but weren’t taking off, at least not in the way that they are today with companies like Oyster, Scribd, and Rooster. But even with Byliner’s $5.99 a month a month price point–lower than both Oyster and Scribd–that price still only leads to a choice of 30,000 titles, all of which are billed as novella-length.

Whether or not it is standard for their titles, the website didn’t seem to offer stand-alone sales; if this information is inaccurate, the site itself wasn’t intuitive enough to clearly state that stand-alone sales were possible, which could have left potential readers with the impression that it was all or nothing. There were some enticing titles on the homepage today, but it looked as though the only way to access them was through subscribing. Retail platform searches for some of Byliner’s titles turned up only a handful of options, and most of those were audiobooks.

In a more mundane complaint, the site is not easy to use. There is no scroll bar and the page down button on the keyboard won’t work there. Access involves scrolling the mouse repeatedly in order to move the screen at dial-up speeds. Just in browsing the site for this article I wanted to leave and never come back, and I wasn’t a potential reader trying to decide if the subscription was right for me.

Of course, there isn’t much news coming out of the company at this time. An email to its authors used scary words like “struggled” and “working to find a good home for your stories,” all of which foretold doom but didn’t provide any insight into what went wrong or how to fix it.

Are Byliner’s troubles just part of doing business in the industry? Possibly. Byliner’s current situation may not be anything other than a sad result of doing business in the digital era, but it should serve as an attention getter for other platforms.

The Fight for eBook Viability is a post from: Good e-Reader

Podcast: New and Featured Content for June

Fotor060471854Looking to spruce up your digital collection with fresh content? Tune into our June collection highlights podcast to hear all about recent additions to OverDrive Marketplace, including popular MP3 audiobooks from Macmillan, streaming episodes of the
beloved T.V. show Sesame Street, in-demand juvenile and young adult series from Scholastic, children's eBooks from an award-winning Chinese publisher, and more.

We'll also give you a sneak peek at content that's coming soon to Marketplace, as well as our personal picks for the month, information about June sales, and additional resources to help you make the most of Marketplace—all in a quick 15 minutes. Our June podcast will only be available through the end of the month, so make sure to tune in now. Happy listening!


Carrie Smith is a Technical Writer at OverDrive.