Sunday, June 22, 2014

Organized Crime Focuses on Book Scanning in Spain


Asian organized crime is focusing on  book scanning on a massive scale in Madrid and Seville. Police recently arrested three people and seized 8 large printing machines, at various facilities, that were capable of printing and scanning 1,000 books in a few weeks.

The investigation and subsequent arrests follows a complaint from the copyright protection arm of Spain’s authors and publishers association. It said it had detected evidence of a large-scale operation to scan original works.

Over 10 additional hard drives were seized with over 10,000 mainstream bestsellers and digital textbooks from all of the major publishers. The texts were available in both English and Spanish.

A recent study by Attributor, a firm that specializes in monitoring content online, came to the conclusion that book piracy costs the industry nearly $3 billion a year. Selling “used” textbooks to students is big business and often large scale scanning operations will sell their books on eBay, Craigslist or a website that charges access to digitized books.

In an interview with The Millions, a confessed book pirate elaborated on how easy it really is. “The scanning process takes about 1 hour per 100 scans. Mass market paperbacks can be scanned two pages at a time flat on the scanner bed, while large trades and hardcovers usually need to be scanned one page at a time. I'm sure that some of the more hardcore scanners disassemble the book and run it through an automatic feeder or something, but I prefer the manual approach because I’d like to save the book, and don’t want to invest in the tools. Usually I can scan a book while watching a movie or two.”

Organized Crime Focuses on Book Scanning in Spain is a post from: Good e-Reader

eBook Review: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Verdict: 2 Stars

Something strange is afoot with Stephen King…

First, he writes what is arguably one of his worst books yet. Completely devoid of supernatural story line (which I realize is not a requirement for a King novel, but it certainly does make it amazing), King’s approach to crime fiction is more about a deranged mass murderer than any kind of horror plot. I may be a little too old school-King fan to see the value in this story line, but humans killing other humans (specifically by running them over with a car before planning out an even bigger, farther reaching genocide-level event) is the stuff of news headlines, and I thought King was a little more creative than that.

The story, unfortunately, features characters that I wouldn’t want to ride on a crowded elevator with, let alone sit down and read about. His take on an African-American male character (complete with outrageously inappropriate dialogue) is practically offensive, and his detective who comes out of retirement specifically to stop this killer is a walking stereotype, the star of about thirty different cop movies. Throw in a romance element with the out-of-shape, sickly, nearly-suicidal Detective Hodges, and you’re sure to throw up in your mouth a few times.

I found the fact that King released an essay on gun control and then wrote a plot about a man who barrels into a crowd of people with his car to kill as many as possible a little too coincidental. It felt contrived. I’m certainly willing to believe I’m reading way too much into this, but the timing was odd, especially given the propensity of people on both sides of the gun control debate to say ridiculous things about other methods of killing people. Archie Bunker’s quote comes to mind: “Would you rather they was pushed outta windows?”

Sadly, long-time King fans may be disappointed in this title. I keep hoping it was a fun social experiment in which King pops up in two months and yells, “Surprise! My neighbor’s kid wrote this one, and I published it as mine to prove that the publishing industry will sell anything with my name on it! I could publish my grocery list and you people would line up to buy it!” (I’m not holding my breath for that scenario, however.)

There is a really strange phenomenon happening, though; the Amazon reviews for this book are incredibly unnerving. The one- and two-star reviews for this book are filled with paragraphs on what’s wrong with this title (and I’m relieved to see that these people had almost the same problems I had with it, minus the lazy “ripped from the headlines” quality of the story line and my deranged conspiracy theory about King simply highlighting other methods of killing people), but if you look at the five-star reviews, they are frighteningly identical. It’s like the Stepford Reviewers came along. If you want the hair on the back of your head to stand up, this is the only thing about this book that will do it.

Page after page of five-star reviews are filled with almost verbatim copycats. “Great book, can’t wait to read the next one, will definitely recommend it!” A number of them even casually mention, “I’ve already preordered his book that’s due out in November!” They tell nothing about the story line or plot, they’re almost all the same length, they’re all overexcited and peppered with exclamation points; even more interesting is the fact that they are all “Verified Purchase,” as if no one received a copy of the book as a gift or bought it at Walmart or even an airport bookstore. They look…planned. I’m in no position to throw around accusations about the reviews, but where were the die-hard fans who couldn’t wait to throw out spoiler alerts or drag out every nuance and every side character? No one wanted to expound on it for more than eight words?

Overall, the only thing about the book that left me questioning what I thought I knew and understood about human nature turned out to have nothing to do with the plot. Here’s hoping King returns to his glorious roots and gives us something worthy of his name.

eBook Review: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King is a post from: Good e-Reader

Should Amazon Play Nice with Hachette, Publishers?

An article appeared this past week in the New York Times that finally shows a bookseller and book industry professional doing something about Amazon. Instead of blog posts about the retail giant’s underhanded ways or entire three-day conferences devoted to how publishers can bring down the largest online retailer their industry faces, one book shop is going about the competition a little differently, namely by offering the titles that consumers currently can’t buy from Amazon.

According to the article by James B. Stewart, Third Place Books’ Robert Sindelar decided to take the high ground and offer certain Hachette titles at a significant discount, and even went so far as to hand deliver an eagerly anticipated bestseller’s follow-up to customers who pre-ordered it, something those same customers cannot currently do on Amazon. This extra effort may have seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth, but Stewart stated sales of the title were around twelve times higher than they would have been without these steps.

While Amazon and Hachette battle it out over the terms of their contract, retailers like Sindelar stand to gain by turning consumers’ attention to the benefits of shopping locally for their books. The extra effort might have only resulted in a small pay out right now, but these are the kinds of customer service steps that booksellers and publishers are going to have to envision if they want to get serious about the rising power of Amazon.

Unfortunately, one comment in Stewart’s article is as misguided as it is explanatory of the reason that nothing has been done about Amazon’s stronghold yet. Sindelar remarked that Amazon’s withholding of Hachette titles and refusal to allow pre-orders “violates our ethics as retailers.” There’s a code of ethics that business people are supposed to follow? Did someone forget to tell Amazon? For that matter, did someone forget to tell the publishers, who needed the Department of Justice to remind them of their so-called ethics?

A lot of the anger directed at Amazon in this instance comes from the notion that somehow books are more sacred than other objects that are for sale. And in many ways, books are more special than oil filters or diapers, not that Amazon doesn’t sell those objects as well. Possibly the fact that Amazon does sell those objects is what has made the bookselling side of their business into just another commodity, but it is the public who’s in the wrong for thinking that Amazon has some noble duty to be better than that, to rise above the sheer desire to make a profit. When the rest of the industry understands that Amazon is first and foremost a for-profit business, then perhaps they will start to interact with the retailer as though they are a business. The downfall right now is in pretending that Amazon has any goal in mind other than profit, and once publishers finally treat the retailer like its profit margin is its ultimate goal, then they can start to see new ways of doing business–with or without Amazon.

Should Amazon Play Nice with Hachette, Publishers? is a post from: Good e-Reader

New Blackberry Passport Phone will Feature Amazon App Store


Blackberry reached an agreement with Amazon to have the Amazon Appstore bundled on future phones and will also be included in the 10.3 update.  The first phone to have the new store featured on it in an official launch will be the Blackberry Passport this September.

Passport was previously known as 'Windermere', the often-leaked QWERTY device will sport a 4.5-inch 1440×1440 pixel display and what is believed to be a touch-sensitive keyboard panel for easier autocorrection.  Underneath the hood will be a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 3GB RAM, a 13MP camera,  2MP front-facing camera, and a non-removable 3450 mAh battery.

The Passport has a 1:1 aspect ratio and is as square as a Vine video or Instagram photo. It is designed to be business tool, but may have some problems running apps downloaded from Amazon due to its totally square screen, similar to some of the problems facing the Q5 and Q10.

Blackberry is realizes that many of their core customers need a phone with a full QWERTY keyboard and the Blackberry Classic and Blackberry Passport will all feature one. The Waterloo based company took a gambit with appealing to the masses with the Z10 and Z5, and failed. They are intending on turning the company around by having Foxconn design and make the hardware, saving Blackberry money.

New Blackberry Passport Phone will Feature Amazon App Store is a post from: Good e-Reader

LG G Pad 7.0 Tablet Now Available for $149 – Galaxy Tab 4 Clone

LG is releasing a new trio of Android tablets for summer, the G Pad 7.0, the G Pad 8.0, and G Pad 10.1. The first model to hit store shelves is the LG G Pad 7.0. It’s available now at Best Buy for $149, but only in select stores and shipping isn’t offered yet. That’s […]