Friday, October 3, 2014

Facebook $19B Acquisition of WhatsApp Approved by the EU


Facebook announced their intention to purchase WhatsApp in February of this year for a cool $19 billion (or $21.8 billion at Facebook’s current share price); a deal that received approval in the United States a few months later in April. Unfortunately for the social media giant, the acquisition wasn’t all smooth sailing –the European Union (EU) opposed the deal, stating that the deal could harm the telecom market. After due consideration, the EU has determined this will not be the end result of these companies joining forces.

Following news of their decision, European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia released a statement:

“We have carefully reviewed this proposed acquisition and come to the conclusion that it would not hamper competition in this dynamic and growing market. Consumers will continue to have a wide choice of consumer communications apps.”

Between you and I, this idea that using messaging apps and services is unfair to the telecom market is as ridiculous as suggesting email is responsible for the downfall of the postal service. Sure it sucks for those companies affected, but don’t feel sorry for them too quickly… just remember every time you paid a ridiculous long-distance phone bill or opened a bill to find a huge (surprise) cellular roaming charge. These companies became wealthy for a reason, and in many cases it came without paying all due attention to innovation. It’s how business works: evolve or become extinct.

With approvals in place giving permission to move forward, the owness is now on Facebook to show us what they plan to do with their new toy.

Facebook $19B Acquisition of WhatsApp Approved by the EU is a post from: Good e-Reader

Hardcovers and Paperbacks Still Outselling eBooks


In the first six months of 2014 eBooks are still not outselling print, whether its a hardcover or paperback novels. According to a new report by Nielsen paperback sales accounted for 42% of all book sales, followed by hardcovers with 25% and finally eBooks with a paltry 23%.

In the real world, eBooks still have ground to make before they can ever compete with trade paperbacks. The average person still finds themselves purchasing content from their local bookstore. How exactly do people find that next great read? 12% of book buyers said that they learned about the titles they purchased through in-store displays, which is quite telling on the role bookstores continue to play in book discovery.  The second most widely reported discovery method was via friends and family members at 10%.  The most surprising aspect is the reverse show room method, where people browse books online and then buy them from a store, which only accounted for 8%.

There is no denying that we still  have a penchant towards print and according to a new report, young people in the UK think that reading on paper provides a more holistic experience, especially when engaging with images and text which can't be replicated in digital.  73% of youth stated that they prefer print over eBooks.

Hardcovers and Paperbacks Still Outselling eBooks is a post from: Good e-Reader

Hide App Store Purchases Thanks to iOS 8


There are plenty of complaints directed toward iOS 8, but there are plenty of good things too. One of my favourite new features (if we can call it that) is the ability to hide your app store purchases (a term which also applies to free apps) directly from your mobile device.

To remove an app from your list of purchases while on your mobile iOS device: load up the App Store app, select Updates, choose Purchased, swipe right-to-left on any app you’d rather wasn’t visible, and finish by tapping on the large, red ‘HIDE’ button that appears.

Removing an app from the list will not erase history. If you search for the app in the store, you will still see the little cloud beside it that lets you download the title again (which is good, I suppose… because some of these apps may have cost you money, and you don’t want to lose record of that in case you later change your mind about removing it).

Some of you may be wondering why this is an important feature in the first place. Well, some of us who have been using iOS devices for quite some time have likely amassed quite a list of apps that have been taken for a test drive. Some make the cut, some don’t. Those that don’t seem to haunt us forever. Every time we setup a new device that doesn’t start with a backup (like iPads for your children) means flipping through an endless list of apps, many of which you hoped to never lay eyes on again. Flash forward another few years and this list might become quite difficult to manage.

Sure you could do this from your computer using iTunes already, but these days I am delighted by any feature that means I can boot that thing up a little less… Besides, I install my apps directly on my mobile device and I back-up to the cloud –so this next stage of independence is a good thing.

Hide App Store Purchases Thanks to iOS 8 is a post from: Good e-Reader

Sony Digital Paper Now Costs $999


Professionals representing many industries and institutions have been embracing the 13.3 inch Sony Digital Paper as a better way to read and write. This has promoted Sony to officially slash the entry level price from  from $1,100 to $999.

The lower price should be more appealing towards schools and businesses looking to divest themselves from a copious amount of paper.  Many of the clients that deal with Sony normally buy a few for a trial run and this discount should assist them in further adoption. The $999 price tag will also be a boon towards power-users  who find themselves editing PDF files on a daily basis.

Sony is also hyping the the device's built-in WebDAV protocol, that enables users to wirelessly transfer electronic documents created on Digital Paper to and from a user's compatible online document file-sharing and storage services, such as

Many people have been on the fence about purchasing the DPT-S1 and a $300 discount is very compelling. This is simply one of the best e-readers ever made and has technology from e-Ink not really seen in any commercial device. Battery Life, resolution and document editing are the main attractions and no other e-reader or tablet comes close in this regard.

Sony Digital Paper Now Costs $999 is a post from: Good e-Reader

Kindle Screen Comparisons

Whenever a new Kindle gets released, everyone wants to know how the screen compares to other models, so I took a few pictures to show the differences. The pictures were taken outside in direct sunlight and the Kindle Paperwhite’s frontlight was turned all the way down. In all the pictures the top left is the […]

Sci-Fi pick of the month: Trapped in a book

Lock In, by John Scalzi

When reading Lock In, by John Scalzi, I felt trapped, but in a good way. What I mean is, I couldn’t put the thing down. It’s a gripping and fast read. Scalzi’s track record of good Sci-Fi is holding steady with this one.

Some background

Lock In is all about a virus that causes meningitis-like symptoms, but ends up rearranging the human brain a bit (this is called “Haden’s Syndrome”). In some cases, it’s terminal. In some, there are no outward effects. In a few, the afflicted patient becomes trapped within their own bodies, unable to voluntarily move while remaining fully cognizant of everything that’s happening around them. They continue to process sensory inputs (like hearing, taste, and pain) normally.

In the last scenario, the condition is known as “lock in.” The virus was one of epidemic proportions, and drove a major research and development effort (to the tune of $300 billion) in the field of neuroscience.

In a relatively short period of time, assistive technologies are invented to help locked-in patients live life. We invent the heck out of some things to make sure Hadens (this is the term for locked in people) can live in both virtual space and the physical world.

All of that stuff, however, is just a setting—a backdrop for a pretty darn intriguing murder mystery that hits on industrial espionage, corporate conspiracy, bigotry, politics, and more.

Scalzi is no stranger to throwing people into speculative fiction settings without a life preserver. He lets you figure out how the world works by forcing you to experience right along with the characters. There isn’t, typically, a cute and curious history of hobbits to set his books up.

However, Lock In is a little different.

This is a detective story. That means it’s complicated, and you’ve got a lot of details to pay attention to. There are crime scenes, suspects, interviews, and back-stories that are, of course, influenced by the setting, but we’re talking about human beings here. That means that, if you know enough about the setting, then it sort of fades away, and you can pay attention to figuring out whodunit.

So, to make sure you’re paying attention to the right stuff, the book opens up with an excerpt from a fictional website that gives a brief history of Haden’s Syndrome. The Exerpt is definitely an information dump, and it’s a lot to process, but it’s well worth the read, because it sets up the setting (for lack of a better way of putting it). There’s also a more in-deph history of Haden’s here: Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome, by John Scalzi

What I didn’t like

I’ll keep this short, because there isn’t a lot to say here (I liked most of the book). Chris Shane, who’s the main protagonist, isn’t a badly done character, but he falls a little short of great. I really wanted a little bit more development there–a little more . . . life, I guess.

Shane’s partner, Leslie Vann is a hard-boiled FBI investigator—she’s also a hardcore stereotype. This didn’t bother me as much as it normally would because Scalzi really used the stereotype well, and came up with a pretty great back-story to explain how Vann became Vann. I was taught that, if you’re going to have a stereotype, you’d better own it. In other words, you make sure it’s clear that you know the stereotype exists, and you make real sure you use it for a good reason.

I only mention the stereotype thing in the “didn’t like” section because the hard-boiled detective thing is so immediately obvious that it’s a bit jarring at first. Once you adjust, and understand why Vann is Vann, then you realize it works pretty well.

What I did like

iO9 calls Lock In “one of John Scalzi’s most accessible (and relevant) novels,” and they’re not wrong. I still like The Android’s Dream, personally, but Lock In is definitely good. The whole book felt like an intro to me. I kept finding new details about the world and the characters that kept me turning pages all the way to the end. I agree with iO9 in that I’d have liked a little more depth to the characters (specifically on how Haden’s Syndrome has affected them as people) but I think that Scalzi was trying to keep the focus on social and political situation, which is where the real meat of the book is. Hadens are still people, but they’re people in need.

The book opens just before a new bill goes into effect that cuts off government-funded Haden’s research, potentially leaving thousands of citizens in a pretty crappy state. Private corporations are chomping at the bit to take advantage of the situation to turn a profit.

It’s no accident that this all sounds familiar. The climate in Lock In is quite reminiscent of the debate on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and the rhetoric and money-grubbing that’s occurred around it. Is privatization bad? Is it good? Will it help those in need, or bleed them dry?

Meanwhile, Hadens represent a new type of citizen; somewhat analogous to an ethnic group. There is clear bigotry and bias on both sides of the fence (Hadens versus everyone else), and tensions are ramping up throughout the novel (just like they are in the United States today).

So, to sum up, my two favorite things about this book: 1. It’s a fast read, and the whole thing feels like a gripping intro that doesn’t end. 2. It’s so relevant to problems we’re having right here, right now, that it almost hurts. However, none of the commentary (metaphorical or otherwise) gets in the way of what is a pretty darn good thriller/mystery novel. Well done, Mr. Scalzi. Well done, indeed. Read a sample, and check it out for yourself.


Quinton Lawman is a Technical Writer for OverDrive.

Fire HD 6 is Year’s Most Portable Tablet – First Impressions Review

Yesterday the new Fire HD tablets for this year were released, along with the $79 basic Kindle. I posted a first impressions review of the new Kindle yesterday—I’m not at all impressed with the plastic and blocky design, but at least the software is solid because it is basically the exact same as the Kindle […]

Slimline point-and-shoot camera from Ben Heck

Ben Heck, King of the Makers, has made the prettiest point-and-shoot camera build we’ve seen done with a Raspberry Pi. The secret to it is a bit of desoldering and depopulating the Pi he uses, to slim down the profile of the board – he’s yanked nearly everything except the SoC – the processor and memory package in the middle of the Pi. (If we were you, Ben, we’d have used a Model B+ so you didn’t have that SD card sticking out.)

Our own Ben Nuttall, who affects to be totally unimpressed by everything, was overheard saying: “That’s a very cool camera.” There is no higher praise.

There’s no writeup, but the video is very thorough and walks you through everything you need to know, including a parts list (that nice little TFT touchscreen, which is the thing I anticipate most of you being interested in, is from Adafruit). Let us know what you’d do differently, and if you plan on making something similar yourself, in the comments!

Amazon Kindle Voyage and Fire Tablets Now Available


The complete line of new Amazon e-readers and tablets are now available and folks that pre-ordered them online are now having their orders shipped out.

The Amazon Kindle Basic and Kindle Voyage are the latest generation e-readers and they pack a serious punch. The Basic is only $79 and for the first time ever, has a touchscreen. The Voyage on the other hand, breaks traditional e-reader conventions by having ambient light sensors to change the brightness of the screen based on your environment. It also has physical page turn keys that have haptic technology that is only discernible by your thumb. New Voyage orders will take a bit of time, and the current estimated shipping date is November 16th 2014 and November 4th in the UK.

The Kindle Fire HD6, Fire HD7, HDX 8.9 and the Kids tablet are all shipping today for people who ordered them online and new orders will be fulfilled right away. I always get a bit concerned when new devices are so abundantly available on launch day, it’s as if the demand just isn’t there.

Stay tuned to Good e-Reader in the coming weeks, as we have every single new Amazon device being dispatched to our lab. We will be doing unboxing, review and comparison videos. If you are on the fence about any and all of these devices, stay tuned.

Amazon Kindle Voyage and Fire Tablets Now Available is a post from: Good e-Reader