Monday, November 24, 2014

JetBlue to Provide eBooks as in-flight Entertainment


If you are a seasoned airline traveler, likely you will be familiar with the quintessential in-flight entertainment system. It provides an animated map with the location of your flight and also a host of movies, television shows, music and children’s content. You can now add eBooks to the list to keep the literary minded entertained.

Starting November 26, HarperCollins will be providing excerpts from a selection of bestselling eBooks, and each digital sample will include buy buttons to a variety of retailers. Excerpted titles include Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton, and Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by James Dean.

I think its great that Jetblue recognizes that more and more airline flyers are reading on their e-readers and tablets. This is chiefly because of the relaxing of restrictions regarding the gate to gate use of these gadgets.

JetBlue to Provide eBooks as in-flight Entertainment is a post from: Good e-Reader

Gates Foundation Mandates Research it Funds Must Provide Free Digital Access


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds thousands of health and research scientists to solve many of the worlds most dire issues. Until this point, the reports and data the foundation funded were sometimes published in magazines, sold online and generally out of reach for the general public. This is set to change.

The Gates Foundation has announced that starting in 2017 it will require that the researchers it funds publish only in immediate open-access journals. In order to setup a proper pipeline for scientists the Foundation is mandating that current grantees can publish in subscription-based journals as long as their paper is freely available within 12 months. But after that, the journal must be open access, meaning papers are free for anyone to read immediately upon publication. Articles must also be published with a license that allows anyone to freely reuse and distribute the material. And the underlying data must be freely available.

"By reinforcing the global health community's commitment to sharing research data and information, we can accelerate the development of new solutions to tackle infectious diseases, cut maternal and child mortality, and reduce malnutrition in the world's poorest places," wrote Trevor Mundel, president of the foundation's Global Health Division, on the group's website on 20 November.

The Gates Foundation spends roughly $900 million dollars a year on research. This equates to 1400 papers a year that soon will be available for anyone to read right away. Only 30% of the existing reports actually are open-access right now, so within a few years this number will increase to 100%, which will be a boon for free digital access.

Gates Foundation Mandates Research it Funds Must Provide Free Digital Access is a post from: Good e-Reader

Amazon Prepares for Free Video Service


In many ways, Netflix has enjoyed being the de facto standard in the video streaming game –but that is all starting to change. Other services are gaining ground, particularly Amazon, and especially with their plans for a free video service (where currently you must have a $99/year Prime membership).

Some of you might recall that this isn’t the first time that the rumour has circulated stating Amazon is readying a free video service, but they aren’t denying it anymore (at least not exactly). When asked for a comment, Amazon spokesperson Sally Fouts stated:

"We currently offer the first episode of some television shows free with ads through our First Episode Free feature on Amazon Instant Video, and there are display ads on some short videos such as movie and game trailers. We're often experimenting with new offers and experiences for customers, but we have not announced any plans to offer an ad-supported video streaming service."

Expanding upon the ad-supported service that currently offers the first episode of certain TV shows makes sense, offering Amazon a means by which to expand their advertising network (known as the Amazon Media Group and operating across all of their properties:, Quidsy,, and DPReview). A larger video streaming service would also help encourage brand loyalty, making sales of their devices more attractive for would-be consumers.

For some, choosing a video streaming service comes down to pricing; others won’t (can’t) stray from their first choice because of the growing library of original content being produced (any other Netflix subscribers completely addicted to House of Cards?).

Amazon Prepares for Free Video Service is a post from: Good e-Reader

ramanPi: an open source 3D-printable Raman spectrometer

The 2014 Hackaday Prize offered fabulous prizes for the best exemplars of an open, clearly documented device involving connected electronics. Committed hardware hacker fl@c@ (we understand that’s pronounced “flatcat”) wasn’t in the habit of opening up their work, but had been thinking that perhaps they should, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a go. They decided to make an entry of one of their current works-in-progress, a DIY Raman spectrometer based on a Raspberry Pi. The project, named ramanPi, made it to the final of the contest, and was declared fifth prize winner at the prize announcement in Munich a couple of weeks ago.

ramanPi optics overview

Raman spectroscopy is a molecular identification technique that, like other spectroscopic techniques, works by detecting and analysing the characteristic ways in which substances absorb and emit radiation in various regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It relies on the phenomenon of Raman scattering, in which a tiny proportion of the light falling on a sample is absorbed and then re-emitted at a different frequency; the shift in frequency is characteristic of the structure of the material, and can be used to identify it.

The ideal molecular identification technique is sensitive (requiring only small quantities of sample), non-destructive of the sample, unambiguous, fast, and cheap; spectroscopic methods perform pretty well against all but the final criterion. This means that fl@c@’s Raman spectrometer, which uses a Raspberry Pi and 3D-printed parts together with readily available off-the-shelf components, removes an obstacle to using a very valuable technique for individuals and organisations lacking a large equipment budget.

The ramanPi uses a remote interface so that it can be viewed and controlled from anywhere. Like conventional Raman spectrometers, it uses a laser as a powerful monochromatic light source; uniquely, however, its design:

[…] is based on an open source concept that side steps the expensive optics normally required for raman spectroscopy. Ordinarily, an expensive notch filter would be used which is cost prohibitive for most average people. My system avoids this cost by using two less expensive edge filters which when combined in the correct manner provide the same benefit as the notch filter…at the minimal cost of a little extra computing time.

Once a cuvette containing the sample to be tested is loaded into the ramanPi, the laser is powered up behind a shutter and the first filter is selected while the cuvette’s temperature is stabilised. Then the shutter is disengaged and the sample exposed to laser light, and scattered light is collected, filtered and passed to a Raspberry Pi camera module for capturing and then analysis. The laser shutter is re-engaged and the process is repeated with the second filter. The Raspberry Pi combines multiple exposures into a single image and carries out further image processing to derive the sample’s Raman spectrum. Finally, the spectrum is compared with spectra in online databases, and any match found is displayed.

fl@c@ says,

I've been trying to build up the courage to share my work and ideas with the world because I think it benefits everyone. This project is my first to share, and for it to be featured here [in a Hackaday Prize Hacker bio] […] is really amazing. I appreciate this whole community, I've learned a lot from it over the years and I hope to be able to give back and contribute more soon!

We’re very glad fl@c@ did decide to share this – ramanPi is an astonishing first contribution to the open source movement, and something that’s likely to be of interest to schools, chemists, biologists, home brew enthusiasts, people who want to know what’s in their water, businesses, ecologists and the simply curious.

You can read about ramanPi in much more detail, with further videos, diagrams, discussion and build instructions, on its Hackaday project page. We hope that this is far from the last we’ll hear of this project, or of fl@c@!

Readers who Borrow e-Books from the Library Don’t Buy More Books

The British Library Prepares To Capture The Digital Universe

Sometimes we get spoiled in North America with the sheer of amount of options available to borrow eBooks from the library. Statistically over 90% of all libraries in North America have a digital collection and patrons can access all of the content remotely. Things are different in the United Kingdom where only a few major libraries have bothered with a modern eBook collection.

In May 2013 the UK government funded a review looking into the viability of allowing customers to borrow eBook, without all of the drama. The Sieghart Review said publishers should not limit the supply of e-books in the same way that physical book loans are controlled, including the lending of each digital copy to one reader at a time, securely removing eBooks after lending and having digital books "deteriorate after a number of loans”.

A pilot project was initiated in four UK libraries in March 2014 that augmented the digital loaning period for up to 21 days and included a number of front-list titles, including bestsellers that just came out. The essence of the pilot is to carry out real-time, real-world research into the impact of eBook lending in public libraries on authors, publishers and on the library service so that a suitable and sustainable model.

Its been around six months since the pilot was first initiated and there has been some interesting findings. All four participating authorities have seen a significant increase in e-lending,  with longer loan periods leading to more titles being borrowed. The project has also found the increase in e-lending is not decreasing physical lending or footfall to libraries.

One of the most important elements to the six month report is the fact that the increase in digital loans is not driving people to buy more eBooks. "There has been extremely low take up of the opportunity to buy the borrowed eBook through use of the 'click to purchase' facility," the Publishers Association said.

Click to Purchase is a relatively new e-commerce strategy Simon & Schuster and other publishers have been employing in order to allow libraries to generate additional revenue by selling the books on their website. The actual eBook sales are facilitated by companies such as Overdrive.

Readers who Borrow e-Books from the Library Don’t Buy More Books is a post from: Good e-Reader

Never got an Autograph from your Favorite Author? B&N Has you Covered


Serious readers have their favorite fiction or non-fiction authors and getting their autograph can be tremendously fulfilling. If you don’t live in a major urban center the prospects of getting something signed is challenging to say the least. Barnes and Noble, the largest bookseller in the US is undertaking a massive new initiative this upcoming Black Friday, by offering over 500,000 signed titles by 100 authors.

Starting November 28th, the bookseller will offer 500,000 signed editions from more than 100 of today's biggest authors, with a selection of 100 being available in every Barnes & Noble store nationwide beginning on Black Friday. An impressive group of leading authors including Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Amy Poehler, Donna Tartt, George W. Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jeff Kinney, Joel Osteen, Mario Batali, Mo Willems, Rick Riordan, Rick Yancey, Rainbow Rowell and many more personally signed thousands of copies of their books as part of this unique campaign to deliver meaningful gifts to Barnes & Noble customers.

Barnes & Noble has been planning this program for the last seven months, as getting this many autographs can be fairly daunting.  Some authors went beyond their signature to personalize the books, with Mo Willems, bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator of popular children's books (Pigeon series, Elephant & Piggie series, Knuffle Bunny series) drawing the head of his popular Pigeon character in his signed editions. Brandon Stanton, author of last year's runaway hit Humans of New York, included an illustration of a dinosaur in what he referred to as his special "dino" edition of all of the copies he signed. All signed editions will be featured on a special front-of-store display when customers walk through the doors of their local Barnes & Noble on Black Friday.

Want to see exactly what books will be available? Check out the press release below, it lists every title and who autographed it.

Never got an Autograph from your Favorite Author? B&N Has you Covered is a post from: Good e-Reader