Friday, July 11, 2014

Amazon Circumvents French Ban Free Shipping for Books

cookandbook-French-bookshop (3)

Amazon has found itself in hot water in France, as government authorities were ready to hit the company with hefty fines.  This stems from a new law that was signed by France’s ruling Socialist Party and the opposition UMP Party  that banned online retailers from shipping discounted books for free. It comes in the form of an amendment to a 32-year-old law that sets the value of new books at fixed prices. Instead of fighting it out with the French government, Amazon has bowed to pressure and will no longer ship books for free.

Amazon has increased the cost of shipping books by one centime. This is basically sending books out for only a penny, which satisfies the new laws but circumvents the spirit of it.

Culture minister Aurelie Filippetti has previously singled out Amazon, saying that it "destroys" bookshops. “Once they are in a dominant position and will have crushed our network of bookshops, they will bring prices back up,” she told a conference of booksellers last year.

France is highly protective of its bookshops, enshrining measures to preserve them in law since 1981 when discounts above 5% were banned to prevent big chains from using bulk orders to undercut smaller independent bookshops. France has 3,500 bookshops compared to just 1,000 in the U.K., of which roughly 700 are independent.

Amazon Circumvents French Ban Free Shipping for Books is a post from: Good e-Reader

Russia Slams Marvel Comics as a Propaganda of Violence


A Russian state company that distributes comic and graphic novels of Marvel has asked a federal media watchdog to investigate Marvel for denigrating Soviet symbols and amounting to “propaganda of a cult of violence.”

Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor has agreed to investigate the books and is considering giving the publisher an official warning, two of which within a year is grounds for revocation of its license, the Ekho Moskvy news outlet reported.

The specific comic in question is The Avengers, issue #1 poised to be released in August 2014. It was designed for middle school age children and Russian officials are concerned over the use of Soviet symbols, the presentation of the characters as Russian service personnel, and the incitement of violence and cruelty," the press and mass media agency wrote in its letter.

According to Izvestia, the request was likely filed because one of the characters, Vanguard (Krasnogvardeets in the Russian version), has the Soviet symbol – the hammer and sickle – on his breastplate. Vanguard is affiliated with the Winter Guard: three human mutants and a bear, a group of superheroes based in Russia. When the Avengers ask who they are, Vanguard answers: "We are servicemen for the Russian Federation."

Marvel’s own site makes it clear that his real name is Nikolai Krylenko and his alias is Great Beast.  He apparently joined the “KGB-sponsored Soviet Super-Soldiers and a “staunch communist.”

Is it possible that a Marvel Ban could be employed in Russia? Comic books could be considered art in many circles and acquiescing to demands could compromise the artist process and could open the floodgates for more vanilla stories.

Russia Slams Marvel Comics as a Propaganda of Violence is a post from: Good e-Reader

Time-Lapsed Video of Edan Lepucki Signing 10,000 Books


Edan Lepucki the author of California recently autographed 10,000 copies her book at Powell’s Books warehouse in Portland. It took her over three days to sign every books and this time lapsed video documents the entire process. The most interesting aspect is that she did it all by hand.

This book is garnering a tremendous amount of press because Amazon editors showcased it as one of their top picks, but customers were unable to pre-order it. What is the book about? California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind’s dark nature and deep-seated resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.

Time-Lapsed Video of Edan Lepucki Signing 10,000 Books is a post from: Good e-Reader

Amazon Sued by the FTC for in-app Purchases


The US Federal Trade Commission is suing Amazon for not having enough safeguards in place to prevent children from racking up millions of dollars worth of virtual currency and in-app purchases.

FTC chair Edith Ramirez said in a statement: "Amazon’s in-app system allowed children to incur unlimited charges on their parents’ accounts without permission. Even Amazon’s own employees recognized the serious problem its process created."

Amazon  keeps 30 percent of all in-app charges, the FTC said in its complaint. The case "highlights a central tenant" of consumer protection laws in the U.S., that companies should get customer permission before charging them, said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Consumer Protection Bureau, during a press conference about the lawsuit.

Amazon, in a letter to the FTC July 1, said it was "deeply disappointed" that the agency was moving toward filing a lawsuit. "We have continuously improved our experience since launch, but even at launch, when customers told us their kids had made purchases they didn't want we refunded those purchases," wrote Andrew DeVore, Amazon's associate general counsel.

This is not the first time the FTC went after a company over in-app purchases by children.  In January 2014 Apple  provided full refunds to consumers, paying a minimum of $32.5 million, to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint that the company billed consumers for millions of dollars of charges incurred by children in kids' mobile apps without their parents' consent.

Likely Amazon will have to make a token payment to make the FTC complaint go away. Given that Apple has the larger ecosystem and more user engagement, the likelihood of having to pay the same amount or more is not viable.

Amazon Sued by the FTC for in-app Purchases is a post from: Good e-Reader

Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi: This Month’s Free Kindle eBook and Audiobook Pair

Last month when Amazon issued an update for their iOS and Android Kindle reading apps to add support for Immersion Reading, the syncing of audiobooks and ebooks together, they started a new promotion of giving away a free classic ebook and audiobook pair each month. This month’s freebie is Life on the Mississippi by Mark […]

MagPi issue 25 – out now!

For your weekend reading pleasure, here’s issue 25 of the MagPi! Published just yesterday, the latest issue of everyone’s favourite free, monthly, community-produced Raspberry Pi magazine is as full of fantastic stuff as ever.

The MagPi issue25

Click to read The MagPi!

The cover story is one that’ll definitely get some attention in our house this weekend: it’s a full Python simulation of the Pocket Enigma Cipher Machine, a cleverly devised toy that demonstrates some of the principles of a real Enigma machine like the one many of you will recognise in the cover photo. Used by the German armed forces during World War II to encipher messages, these used rotating disks to achieve a sophisticated substitution cipher; the Pocket machine, and its Python simulation, use two disks to arrive at a fun, if not exactly unbreakable, cipher.

We’re delighted to see an article by Andrew Suttle, the MagPi’s youngest guest writer so far. Andrew reviews the Fish Dish, an easy-to-build add-on board aimed at beginners, which he has tested with ScratchGPIO and Python. Also aimed at beginners is a new series on learning BASIC, which opens this issue with the kind of background that has most of Pi Towers sighing wistfully and exchanging anecdotes about our childhoods.

There’s the second half of a two-part article on understanding networks and network analysis tools, an introduction to electronic measurement with Raspberry Pi and BitScope Micro, a background piece by one of the creators of the Navio autopilot shield which the many backers of its successful Indiegogo campaign will be eager to read, and — another personal favourite — a tutorial on building an iPad/iPhone control panel for Raspberry Pi with RasPiConnect, taking the wonderful MouseAir deluxe automated cat toy as its example.

As usual, there’s so much here that I can’t mention even half of the articles, tutorials and reviews you’ll find here for beginners, advanced users and everyone in between. Download your copy now!

Author Rejects Award Due to Amazon Backing

Allan Ahlberg
The ultimate in low class and poor breeding has occurred in the book world as an author turned down a major award due to its association with Amazon. UK-based children’s book author Allan Ahlberg declined the Booktrust Best Book Awards' Lifetime Achievement Award because the £5,000 prize money had been donated by Amazon.

Unlike vocal protests from other authors lately, Ahlberg’s stance wasn’t due to the common issues of Amazon’s growing chokehold over the book industry or the tired topic of publisher contract terms. Instead, his protest was over Amazon’s practice–like many international corporations, it bears mentioning–of basing its European headquarters in Luxembourg to take advantage of the significant tax breaks. That means Amazon pays far less in taxes than both independent booksellers and retail chain bookstores that are based in the UK, a fact that has left many citizens and businesspeople alike wondering why their government allows it to continue. Criticism of companies like Amazon, Starbucks, and Google has led to the release of figures that show how many billions of pounds this tax structure has already cost the UK alone.

While Ahlberg is entitled to his views on Amazon and its practices, it is to his credit that he didn’t publicly blast Amazon then quietly deposit the prize money. It would, however, have been a far more noble thing to graciously and appreciatively accept the inaugural award from Booktrust, and then openly donate Amazon’s funds to the UK’s independent booksellers and their member organization.

Author Rejects Award Due to Amazon Backing is a post from: Good e-Reader

New Screen Technology Provides the Future of Fonts


e-Readers and tablets have almost hit the glass ceiling in how they handle resolution. Pixel Density when reading makes a huge difference in the clarity and readability of fonts. New technology developed by researchers at Oxford might provide the future of e-reader tech with miniscule pixels half the width of a human hair.

The essence of the technology is miniscule layer of a phase-change material, that flips between two chemical states when hit with current.By sandwiching it between transparent electrodes, researches made pixels just 300 nanometres across. Within 5 years the screen technology should be ready for commercial prime time. Ushering in a new era of flexible, thin, high-resolution displays.

We didn’t set out to invent a new kind of display,’ said Professor Harish Bhaskaran of Oxford University’s Department of Materials, who led the research. ‘We were exploring the relationship between the electrical and optical properties of phase change materials and then had the idea of creating this GST ‘sandwich’ made up of layers just a few nanometres thick. We found that not only were we able to create images in the stack but, to our surprise, thinner layers of GST actually gave us better contrast. We also discovered that altering the size of the bottom electrode layer enabled us to change the colour of the image.’

The research suggests that flexible paper-thin displays based on the technology could have the capacity to switch between a power-saving ‘colour e-reader mode’, and a backlit display capable of showing video. Such displays could be created using cheap materials and, because they would be solid-state, promise to be reliable and easy to manufacture. The tiny ‘nano-pixels’ make it ideal for applications, such as smart glasses, where an image would be projected at a larger size as, even enlarged, they would offer very high-resolution.

One of the obvious benefits of this new screen technology would be in clearer, higher resolution fonts. Current E-Ink pixels are roughly 100 microns in size (for a 250 dpi display). 1 micron pixels would increase the size of the display buffer by 10000 times. Obviously new rendering engines would need to be developed to keep the refresh rate tremendously robust.

New Screen Technology Provides the Future of Fonts is a post from: Good e-Reader

Leo’s Fortune 2D Platforming Adventure Game Now Available


We saw a lot of cool things at Google I/O 2014, not the least of which was a 2D platforming adventure game called Leo’s Fortune from a development house with an incredibly cool name (l337 Game Design, pronounced ‘leet’ for those of you slightly less nerdy than me).

The star of the game is a fluffy hairball (with a wicked-cool mustache) named Leopold –and you get to slide him across 24 different levels on a quest to track down the thief who made off with his fortune. It’s a simple premise, which is all part of the game’s charm; it isn’t hard to learn, the controls are easy to master and it doesn’t involve much strategy, leveling, or begging your friends for lives and goodies. Sound boring? See you in a few hours after you’re completely addicted to playing this one.

For those keeping a lookout, Leo’s Fortune does also offer gamepad support.

Leo’s Fortune can be downloaded now for $4.99 (with no sign of any in-app purchases, making the steep price-tag much easier to swallow).

Leo’s Fortune 2D Platforming Adventure Game Now Available is a post from: Good e-Reader

Samsung Renames App Store to Galaxy Apps


Samsung has had their own app store for quite some time, but now instead of carrying the “Samsung Apps” label, it is called “Galaxy Apps.” It may seem like a trivial change, but with the company diversifying their product line to include both Tizen and Android devices, a single Samsung app store couldn’t accommodate both.

Rebranding isn’t the only change Samsung has in store (if you will allow the pun), there are also hundreds of new apps that are exclusive to Galaxy mobile devices (arranged into a few categories, including: Best Picks, Top and For Galaxy). Of particular interest is that last ‘For Galaxy’ section that gives easy access to Galaxy Gifts, Galaxy Essentials, Apps for Professionals, and Galaxy Specials (those created by using Samsung SDKs).

Samsung claims they are trying to aid consumers in customizing their mobile devices, but most expectations are that the company is trying to make a play for Google Play market-share.

If you want to take Galaxy Apps for a spin on your Samsung Android device, open up the app store and the interface will ask you to update it (which means you will lose the home button).

Samsung Renames App Store to Galaxy Apps is a post from: Good e-Reader

Students Fail to Embrace Digital Textbooks



American students have yet to embrace digital textbooks in considerable numbers. Many of the top universities and colleges have a very slim minority that either use them exclusively or in parallel with print. A recent survey by Hewlett Packard illiminates the role digital is playing in the classroom.

HP conducted a survey last winter, talking to 527 students at San Jose State. 57% of the respondents said they prefer the standard textbook. A paltry 21% said they prefer the digital variant and 21% stated that they utilize both formats.

The preference for print was also much higher with ages 18 to 35 year-olds with 62%, which accounted for 75% of the respondents. Contrary to what most would expect, the younger and supposedly tech-savvy students are not all that into e-textbooks. The survey also reveals that Education and Library & Information Science students, representing 49% of the total respondents, used printed textbooks more than other majors, including Business and Science.


The sampling size of the survey was quite small and not indicative to all students, but it certainly is eye opening. The younger, more tech savvy demographic continues to use physical textbooks, instead of the digital editions.  As you can see from the chart above,  normal textbooks lead almost all categories.

via PW

Students Fail to Embrace Digital Textbooks is a post from: Good e-Reader

Vevo Gets New Look and Live Music Video Feed


July has been a pretty big month for Vevo: Michael Cerda resigned (their product head), Demi Lovato celebrated 1 billion views, and now the music video service has announced that they have an overhaul ready to go that includes a host of new features and an updated design.

Vevo already delivers more than 5.5 million videos each month to viewers, but now a sleeker user interface and faster load times for HD videos makes it a more enjoyable experience. What else can you expect? A new video player delivers higher quality content, a new navigation menu makes the app easier to work with, create playlists with greater ease, and a real-time feed offers live-streaming channels (Hits, Flow and Nashville) that promise to bring you the biggest and best artists from the US and Canadian markets.

So what are these changes all about? It’s likely Vevo is trying to compete with the likes of YouTube –something they may just be able to do with major music labels like Sony and Universal on their side (giving them access to a library of over 100,000 licensed HD music videos). Of course, rumours are swirling around the Internet suggesting that the company owners are shopping Vevo around for a sale… which may mean all of these upgrades are just value-adds.

Have a few minutes (hours) to waste watching high-quality videos in the palm of your hand? Download Vevo for Android for free now.

Vevo Gets New Look and Live Music Video Feed is a post from: Good e-Reader