Major online bookstores and e-book subscription sites often have to walk a fine line between a large library and quality content. There is something very alluring about establishing partnerships with self-publishing services such as Draft2digital and Smashwords. They both have over 225,000 titles combined and can instantly make a startup very relevant in terms an overall catalog. Scribd though, is bucking the trend and has just announced plans to cull their catalog of self-published books.
Scribd was one of the early pioneers of the Netflix for e-Books concept and raised millions of dollars to convince publishers that there business model was viable. The company engaged in a partnership with Smashwords in late 2013, which added a few hundred thousand e-books into their library.
e-Book discovery has been the most talked about subject in the last three years. How do you balance a large catalog of content, while showcasing things that are relevant to the reader? Amazon spends untold millions on improving their algorithms with recommendations and social book discovery networks. For everyone else though, its a slippery slope balancing bestsellers from major publishers and hundreds of thousands of self-published titles.
Scribd has announced that they have had enough and are banishing over 200,000 self-published books from their catalog in the coming weeks. They plan on still maintaining a robust catalog of romance books and will manually add and remove books to keep that section fresh. Almost every other genre though will be a victim of the “great self-publishing purge of 2015.”
Smashwords will be hit hard by the news that their e-books will be gone from Scribd. CEO Mark Coker said “We’re a profitable business without any contribution from Scribd. Scribd is our fastest growing retailer over the last 12 months, but they’re still smaller for us than iBooks, B&N, Kobo and the Smashwords store. We have a sizable catalog of free books, and many of them are series starters, so those will ultimately drive readers to our retail partners. I also expect some percentage of Scribd subscribers to cancel their subscriptions and return to single-copy sales at our retail partners.”
I think Mark might be dreaming if he thinks even a single customer will cancel their subscription with Scribd to buy Smashwords titles from other bookstores. The entire reason why e-book subscription sites work is that you get a ton of value for your money. Why buy two e-books a month, when you can read as much as you want for the cost of one?
It is important to note that one of the best advantages Scribd has is their robust audiobook catalog, which is very compelling. The company has been tweeting out that they have the new E.L. James Grey audiobook available for all of their members, which has likely resulted in thousands of new signups.
Scribd CEO Trip Adler posted a state of the union address on his companies blog which sheds light on exactly what is transpiring.
“Today, we've heard several friends in the Scribd community who have voiced concerns about our commitment to the romance genre. Let me state loudly and clearly that we remain committed to our romance audience.”
“Romance has been one of our top genres since day one, and we're so proud that we've attracted such a passionate, voracious audience of readers. We've grown to such a point that we are beginning to adjust the proportion of titles across genres to ensure that we can continue to grow in a sustainable way. We are in the subscription business for the long haul, and while we are facing some growing pains today, we remain fully committed to our readers.”
We're a business in uncharted territory, and as any successful startup business knows, innovation requires iteration, and that's the process we're going through now. We've extensively explored a variety of options, and we feel this solution has the potential to best serve our audience. We believe that the end result is going to be a thriving romance section with a terrific selection that will be sustainable in the long run for readers, publishers, authors, and for Scribd.”
I have to give Scribd a large amount of kudos from recognizing the fact that a very large catalog does not mean success. A smaller store, filled with great titles and a vibrant romance genre is the key to success. If you can offer a compelling value proposition for the average reader and not have the entire site cluttered up with indie author rabble, likely Scribd will be around for a very longtime.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Apple is starting to take audiobooks very seriously. In the past, if you wanted to buy one, you had to find a hidden section in the iTunes store and then open up the music app to listen to them. Things have gotten more intuitive with 8.4 firmware update for the iPhone and iPad.
The iBooks app has received a dramatic upgrade if you are a fan of audiobooks. All of your audiobook purchases are now stored alongside all of your e-books and PDF files. You can sort the audio editions from written content by clicking on the main sorting menu. If you fancy buying or browsing a new title you can click on the store option and there is a brand new audiobook section, within the iBookstore.
I think having everything contained within the iBooks app makes a lot of sense. One of the big problems I had with the old way that Apple did things is that iTunes audiobook purchases never properly synced if you had muiltiple Apple products. I have made 3 purchases on my iPhone and my iPad cannot find the paid content. Now that everything is on iBooks, syncing works great.
In the video below, I document the big changes to the Apple iBooks app and some of the major changes, including a new sleep timer.
Apple has been fighting the US courts and Justice department for the last three years trying to convince them that a more competitive landscape for e-book sales is best for business. Sadly, Apple has just lost a landmark case that will see the company process over $450 million in e-book refunds from anyone that purchased something from iBooks from April 1, 2010 to May 21, 2012.
The 2-1 ruling Tuesday by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan is basically the nail in the coffin for Apple. "We conclude that the district court correctly decided that Apple orchestrated a conspiracy among the publishers to raise e-book prices," wrote Second Circuit JudgeDebra Ann Livingston. The conspiracy "unreasonably restrained trade" in violation of the Sherman Act, the federal antitrust law, the judge wrote.
There are few legal options left for Apple and they will likely have to give customers $3.17 if that book was a New York Times bestseller and a credit of $0.73 if the book was never a NYT bestseller. If you had purchased an e-book from Apple, you likely won’t get a check, but credits in your iBooks account that you can use to buy more books.
Liz: The wildlife cam kit has landed. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know we’ve been following the Naturebytes team’s work with great interest; we think there’s massive potential for bringing nature to life for kids and for adults with a bit of smart computing. Digital making for nature is here.
Naturebytes is a tiny organisation, but it’s made up of people whose work you’ll recognise if you follow Raspberry Pi projects closely; they’ve worked with bodies like the Horniman Museum, who have corals to examine; and with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Pis watching for rhino poachers in Kenya? Pis monitoring penguins in Antarctica? People on the Naturebytes team have worked on those projects, and have a huge amount of experience in wildlife observation with the Pi. They’ve also worked closely with educators and with kids on this Kickstarter offering, making sure that what they’re doing fits perfectly with what nature-lovers want.
Today’s guest post is from Naturebytes’ Alasdair Davies. Good luck with the Kickstarter, folks: we’re incredibly excited about the potential of what you’re doing, and we think lots of other people will be too.
We made it! (quite literally). Two years after first being supported by the Raspberry Pi Foundation's Education Fund and the awesome folk over at Nesta, we finally pressed the big red button and went into orbit by launching the Naturebytes Wildlife Cam Kit – now available via Kickstarter.
We've designed it for a wide range of audiences, whether you're a beginner, an educator, or a grandma who just wants to capture photos of the bird species in the garden and share them with her grandchildren – there's something for everyone.
This was the final push for the small team of three over at Naturebytes HQ. A few badgers, 2,323 coffees, 24 foxes, and a Real Time Clock later, we signed off the prototype cam kit last week, and are proud of what we've achieved thanks to the support of the Raspberry Pi Foundation that assisted us in getting there.
We also get the very privileged opportunity of appearing in this follow-up guest blog, and my, how things have changed since our first appearance back in September 2014. We thought we'd take you on a quick tour to show you what we've changed on the kit since then, and to share the lessons learnt during our R&D, before ending with a look at some of the creative activities people have suggested the kit be used for. Suggest your own in the comments, and please do share our Kickstarter far and wide so we can get the kits into the hands of as many people as possible.
Then and now – the case.
Our earlier prototype was slick and thin, with a perspex back. Once we exposed it to the savages of British weather, we soon had to lock down the hatches and toughen up the hinges to create the version you see today. The bird feeder arm was also reinforced and a clip on mechanism added for easy removal – just one of the lessons learnt when trialing and testing.
The final cam kit case:
The final cam kit features:
A great deal of our development time has focused on the creation of a useful website back end and resource packs for teacher and educators. For Naturebytes to be a success we knew from the start that we’d need to support teachers wishing to deliver activities, and it’s paramount to us that we get this right. In doing so, we tagged along with the Foundation’s Picademy to understand the needs of teachers and to create resources that will be both helpful and accessible.
Print your own
We've always wanted to make it as easy as possible for experienced digital makers to join in, so the necessary 3D print files will now be released as open source assets. For those with their own Pi, Pi cam and custom components, we've created a developer’s kit too that contains everything you need to finish a printed version of the cam kit (note – it won’t be waterproof if you 3D print it yourself).
It’s not much fun if you can’t share your wildlife sightings with others, so we’re looking at how to build an experience on the Pi itself. It will most likely be in the form of a Python GUI that boots at startup with a modified Raspbian OS to theme up the desktop. Our end goal is the creation of what we are calling “Fantastic Fox” – a simple-to-use Raspbian OS with pre-loaded software and activities together with a simple interface to submit your photos etc. This will be a community-driven build, so if you want to help with its, development please contact us and we’ll get you on board.
This is where the community aspect of Naturebytes comes into play. As everyone’s starting with the same wildlife cam kit, whether you get the full complete kit from us or print your own, there are a number of activities to get you started. Here are just a few of the ones we love:
Participate in an official challenge
We'll be hosting challenges for the whole community. Join us on a hedgehog hunt (photo hunt!) together with hundreds of others, and upload your sightings for the entire community to see. There will be hacking challenges to see who can keep their cams powered the longest, and even case modification design competitions too.
Identify another school’s species (from around the globe!)
Hook up a WiFi connection and you’ll be able to share your photos on the internet. This means that a school in Washington DC could pair up with a school in Rochdale and swap their photos once a day. An exciting opportunity to connect to other schools globally, and discover wildlife that you thought you may never encounter by peeking into the garden of school a long way away.
Build a better home (for wildlife)
It’s not just digital making that you can get your hands into. Why not build a garden residence for the species that you most want to attract, and use the camera to monitor if they moved in (or just visited to inspect)? A great family project, fuelled by the excitement of discovering that someone, or something, liked what you build for them.
Stamp the weather on it
There’s an official Raspberry Pi weather station that we love – in fact, we were one of the early beta testers and have always wanted to incorporate it into Naturebytes. A great activity would be connecting to the weather station to receive a snapshot of data and stamping that on to the JPEG of the photo your camera just created. Then you’ll have an accurate weather reading together with your photo!
Time-lapse a pond, tree or wild space
It’s fantastic to look through a year’s worth of photographic data within 60 seconds. Why not take a look at the species visiting your pond, tree or a wild space near you by setting up a time-lapse and comparing it with other Naturebytes users near you?
We’d love to hear your ideas for collaborative projects – please leave a note in the comments if you’ve got something to add!
Monday, June 29, 2015
The entire publishing industry has been zeroing in on the hottest new segment, millennials. A new gold rush is currently underway to sign up superstar YouTube celebrities who have built a ravenous community that will likely buy anything they write.
The term millennials often refers to anyone born after the turn of the century and are between the 16 and 24. This demographic is notoriously hard to market books to, because they don’t read very much. Recently Deloitte released their annual Media Consumer Report and it surveyed 2,000 UK consumers about their media habits. It found that 25% of 16-24 year-olds had bought an e-book in the last 24 months and less than 14% read daily.
The vast majority of millennials are watching YouTube and Vine videos and are fiercely loyal to Alfie Deyes, Grace Helbig, Zoe Sugg or the beauty queen Michelle Phan. The book deals these creators get pale in comparison mainstream celebrities have enjoyed crazy million dollar deals, but the lack of sales soured most publishers.
This year there are a number of surefire bestsellers that are all slatted to sell thousands of copies. Lets take a look at the most notable ones that have been released this year or will come out in the near future.
Mamrie Hart: You Deserve a Drink (May 2015)
Mamrie is the last of the unholy trinity (that includes Helbig and Hannah Hart, no relation) to release a book into the world. You Deserve a Drink is a combination cocktail recipe book and memoir, with drinks accompanying each tale of Hart's debaucherous life.
Shay Carl: Fat Dad, Fat Kid (September 2015)
YouTube forefather Shay Carl put pen to paper to craft a father-son weight-loss memoir, coming this fall on Keywords Press, Simon & Schuster's dedicated YouTube imprint.
Jenn McAllister: Really Professional Internet Person (August 2015)
Scholastic recently announced the publication of teenage YouTuber Jenn McAllister's first book, a compendium that uses her trademark top 10 lists and social media posting to document her life. McAllister has also expanded beyond YouTube into film, with a role in the upcoming Bad Night.
iJustine: I, Justine: An Analog Memoir (June 2015)
Justine Ezarik's memoir, inspired by nine years of documenting her life online as iJustine, will be released this spring. In addition to writing and her digital life, Ezarik also served as a producer on an anti-bullying film that premiered at South by Southwest.
Connor Franta: A Work in Progress (April 2015)
It's bold to want to share a life story at the ripe old age of 22, but YouTuber Connor Franta has packed a lot in a short time. As formerly one-sixth of YouTube collab sensation Our2ndLife, Franta gained a massive fan base, and after breaking off from the group and coming out on his channel, he's grown even more. In addition to penning a memoir about his journey from small town kid to Internet sensation, he's also released a coffee line and series of compilation CDs.
A few months ago Overdrive was acquired by Rakuten, the same Japanese e-commerce company that purchased Kobo. When the deal went through many librarians were quietly wondering if the status quo would be maintained or if the company would pivot into a new direction.
At the American Library Association annual conference Overdrive has released a new road map that will give librarians a sense of what the company has planned for the rest of 2015.
The New OverDrive is based on three pillars of success designed to enable libraries to win in the increasingly competitive landscape of digital books and media:
The features of the new OverDrive align with the needs of today's library customers. According to more than 10,000 respondents in a June 2015 Patron Survey conducted by OverDrive (complete survey results will be available at Digipalooza), device compatibility (74%), ease of use (63%), and immediately available content (52%) are among the most influential criteria stated when obtaining digital content.
Issue 35 of The MagPi is here. It’s rammed full of projects, and features some of the most amazing builds and hacks we’ve seen so far this year. We've got 22 pages of step-by-step tutorials and the chance to win a beautiful Raspberry Pi robot (thanks to Dawn Robotics).
For me, the absolute highlight this month is Mike Cook’s sprinting game, which will have you building physical controllers you operate with jogging feet. This is something you’ll be able to put together as a fun physical computing project with friends or as part of an after school club or Raspberry Jam. Here’s Mike to demonstrate.
Your feedback on The MagPi has been fantastic, and we’re working to make it better every month. So far, we’ve had 100,000 downloads for issue 31 (we’ve had nearly 300,000 downloads overall since we started the new version of the magazine).
And we’ve got some news: next month, The MagPi goes into print. We are absurdly excited.
Russell Barnes, editor/Babbage owner, says:
So here’s a date for your diaries: the print magazine is coming on 30th July.
The magazine will be even bigger and better than ever, with 100 pages of Raspberry Pi projects, tutorials features and reviews. You'll be able to buy the magazine in store and online; in the UK it’s £5.99 UK. Other territories will vary.
The magazine will be available to buy in store from WHSmith, WHSmith Travel, Barnes & Noble and Micro Center, and all good newsagents. You'll also be able to order a copy online from the Swag Store from July 30.
Subscriptions are open now! If you want to be among the first people to receive the magazine you can subscribe today. You can get six issues of the magazine from £30 and 12 issues from £55. It's available online by visiting www.bit.ly/MagPiSubs, by calling +44 (1)20 258 6848, or by printing out the form on pages 28 and 29 of this month’s issue.
The MagPi is (and always will be) free to download as a PDF. Russell says:
We hope you enjoy this month’s magazine as much as we enjoyed making it.
Sunday, June 28, 2015
There are hundreds of e-readers on the market and the vast majority of them receive no firmware updates. Even the big companies like Barnes and Noble hardly ever update their older models with new functionality, opting instead on marketing new devices. Amazon continues to buck this trend by continuing to support older models and today the Kindle Paperwhite 1 has received a major firmware update.
|This past week Amazon issued a press release with a list of the best books of the year so far. The titles on the list were hand-picked by the Amazon.com Editoral Team. To see the complete list of titles selected, check out this Best Books of the Year page at Amazon. The list includes an […]|
|For quite some time now Amazon has been offering Kindle ereaders and Fire tablets through a monthly payments plan where you only have to pay 20% up front to get a new device. It’s actually a pretty good offer because there are no interest charges or extra fees, so the price is the exact same […]|
Friday, June 26, 2015
Amazon wants you to start sharing previews and samples of e-books you like with your friends via Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or texting. Your buddies who receive a share can instantly start reading right from their phone without having to make an Amazon account or install any software.
I think there are a few obvious benefits to this new initiative by Amazon. If you just read a book or are super excited about a new one that just came out you can paste a special link to Facebook or via any instant messaging service so they can read the first few chapters. What I like most about this, is that it is platform agnostic, even if your friends use Barnes and Noble or Kobo, they don’t need an Amazon account or to download the Kindle app for Android or IOS.
The second major benefit is primarily authors who want to promote their e-book by giving away a free sample via social media. Instead of spamming #buymybook, they could simply promote the book and hopefully get people hooked.
On the 18th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, author J.K. Rowling has announced a new stage play to open next year. It is entitled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and will only be playing in London at the Palace Theater.
Details are scant when it comes to the overall plot of the first stage play adaption of Harry Potter. Likely, it has something to do with the delve into what happened to Harry’s parents before they were killed by Lord Voldemort, forcing an infant Harry to be raised in miserable circumstances by his mother’s sister, Petunia, her horrid husband Vernon and their spoiled son Dudley.
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels have sold more than 450 million copies around the world, and spawned an eight-part film franchise that grossed more than $7 billion at the worldwide box office.
The play will be at the 1,400-seat Palace Theater, which was home to theatrical blockbuster Les Miserables for a record 19 years. Tickets go on sale in the fall and Pottermania will likely grip the world.
The big question is, would you fly to London to see it?
As Chicken Week here at Pi Towers draws to a close, we are all thinking deep thoughts about roasting temperatures and the very best fillings for omelettes.
The eggs Dennis Hejselbak is working with are not for omelettes.
Dennis, who lives in Denmark, has built a Raspberry Pi-powered incubator, complete with camera. Chicken eggs take about 21 days to hatch, and today is day 11 of the incubation period, so if you keep an eye on the stream on his eggs page, you should be able to watch them hatch in ten days’ time.
When you’re hatching eggs, there are a few variables you’ll need to keep an eye on. There’s heat, which in this incubator is controlled by a light bulb (the box is polystyrene, so it’s well insulated) and an old CPU fan. Dennis needs to make sure the box is humid enough – that’s what the sponges are doing in the picture above, while a hygrometer attached to the Pi checks for humidity levels – and he turns the eggs manually two or three times a day, which is vital for a successful hatch. (He says that he’s hoping to automate the turning for the next batch of eggs he raises in this incubator.) Temperatures and humidity are captured on the live stream (this is a static image: click on the picture for the real stream on Dennis’ website).
Why would you build your own incubator? It’s much cheaper than commercial alternatives; you can add features like that camera; and the satisfaction you get out of building something like this yourself is enormous. This project is well within the grasp of schools: Dennis has made complete build instructions, with all the Python code and wiring schematics you’ll need available. (If you do start an incubator at school, make sure someone has access to the classroom at weekends to turn the eggs three times a day if you haven’t automated turning; chickens do not stop incubating outside school hours.)
Frankly, I’d rather like to start a chicken incubator at Pi Towers, but Emma has already forbidden office dogs, hamsters and anything more highly evolved than brine shrimp, so I’m guessing we may be out of luck.
This marks the end of Chicken Week.
Barnes and Noble has announced that they are redesigning their website that sells e-books, e-readers and consumer products. It will launch next week and this is the primary reason why people have been reporting various issues, such as pages not loading or certain functionality that is missing.
During the financial quarterly results released yesterday the bookseller reported that retail sales, which include both e-commerce and in-store sales, fell 10.4% during its fiscal fourth quarter, and 4.4% in fiscal 2015.
To counteract that trend, the retailer aims to make it easier for shoppers to use BN.com, CEO Michael Huseby said today during a conference call with analysts. "We expect the website to be a valuable resource for customers, whether they choose to have their orders shipped to home or made available for in-store pickup," he said.
Customers aren't the only ones who should benefit from the new platform, Huseby said. "We can now take advantage of opportunities to streamline and consolidate systems and processes that are common to BN.com and Nook," he said. "There’s an opportunity to consolidate not just technology platforms, but processes and that means reduction of cost as well—not just personnel, but in terms of maintenance, hardware, software and maintenance of those types of things."
He went on to say that the new website is a " strategic shift from hardware to content-focused activities is reflected throughout our financials, including improved margins and lower expenses as content becomes the focus of the Nook sales mix. Combining Nook with our retail business will give us all of these benefits and, most importantly, the ability to provide Barnes and Noble customers any book anytime, anywhere in any format that they choose."
No one from the media or outside Barnes and Noble really knows what the bookseller has planed or how the new design may sell more e-books.
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Qualcomm Mirasol technology was originally developed for the next generation of color e-readers. The company has spent over two billion dollars trying to make it work but only a handful of devices ever employed it, such as the Kyobo and Koobe Jin Yong Reader. Since they failed to make a meaningful impact in the digital reader space they pivoted and started to optimize it for smartwatches and phones, but no one launched any meaningful products. Today, Qualcomm is hoping this will all change with the advent of Optica.
Using a simple structure comprising a mirror and an absorbing layer to take advantage of the wave properties of light, researchers at Qualcomm MEMS have developed a display technology that harnesses natural ambient light to produce an unprecedented range of colors and superior viewing experience.
This display technology, which could greatly reduce the amount of power used in multiple consumer electronics products, is the latest version of an established commercial product known as Qualcomm Mirasol. Based on a new color rendering format that the researchers call Continuous Color, the new design helps solve many key problems affecting mobile displays such as how to provide an always-on display function without requiring more frequent battery charging and a high quality viewing experience anywhere, especially in bright outdoor environments.
The innovation was made possible by using a combination of a mirror with a thin absorbing layer separated by a precise and controllable gap. While the mirror by itself would simply reflect all of the incident light energy, the absorbing layer selectively filters out a narrow slice of the spectrum, thus coloring the reflected light. The gap is controlled to produce nearly every conceivable color, not just the red, green, and blue (RGB) of earlier display technologies.
"We have developed an entirely new way of creating a color display," said John Hong, a researcher with Qualcomm MEMS Technologies, Inc. and lead author on the Optica paper. "The incredibly efficient display is able to create a rich palette of colors using only ambient light for viewing, much like the way we would read and view printed material."
Harnessing Ambient Light
To save on power and extend the life of these devices, engineers have been exploring ways to replace emissive technologies with displays that can reflect ambient light.
Earlier attempts to create reflective light color displays, however, presented a number of vexing problems. The designs required using three separate pixels to produce the red, green and blue of a traditional display. Though adequate for certain applications, the fact that only one-third of the incoming light can be reflected back toward the viewer in a typical reflective RGB format limits the gamut of colors and brightness of the display.
The new display reported in Optica is able to overcome these hurdles by reflecting more of the incoming light and enabling the full spectrum of visible light to be displayed, including bright white and deep black.
Hong and his colleagues were able achieve these results by using a property of light they call interferometric absorption to create a broad spectrum of colors. To produce this effect, the researchers designed, in essence, a two-layer device. The first layer consists of a thin absorbing material that lets most of the light pass through to the second mirror layer where it is reflected back upon itself.
With this design, the incoming light and the reflected light interfere with one another, producing a variety of standing waves with each component periodicity producing a unique color in the spectrum.
By adjusting the distance between the reflective and absorbing layers with tiny actuators known as Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), the absorbing layer is moved to match a node in the standing wave that corresponds to a desired color. The spectral components not associated with that node are efficiently absorbed, allowing only the desired color to leak through the structure and back toward the viewer. Each pixel therefore behaves as a colored mirror, with the color tunable across the entire visible spectrum.
Extending Power and Saving Energy
The design presented in the paper consists of a panel that is about 1.5 inches across and contains approximately 149,000 pixels. Both the resolution and area of the display, however, can be scaled to match those of various mobile devices such as Internet-of-Things (IoT) enabled wearables and smartphones.
Fabrication can be achieved in one piece, with the MEMS, upper layer, and lower layer created using the same deposition, lithography and etching processes that are used to create liquid crystal displays.
"Our goal is to improve the technology and design so it can be easily integrated into manufacturing processes at existing factories." said Hong. The researchers believe that this technology has the potential to change the smartphone experience and that of other personal devices.
"No more squinting at a hard to read display outdoors where we spend much of our time," noted Hong. "We ultimately hope to create a paper-like viewing experience, which is probably the best display experience that one can expect, with only the light behind you shining on the page."
|Amazon has started rolling out a new software update for the first generation Kindle Paperwhite that adds several new features, including support for Family Library and Word Wise. The new software version is 184.108.40.206—it basically takes the first gen Paperwhite to the same level as the second gen Paperwhite with these newly added features. Like […]|
|Today Amazon announced that they’ve introduced some new social reading features to the Kindle for Android app. The sharing features will be coming to Kindle ereaders and other devices later this year as well. The new Kindle sharing features let users share quotes and recommendations with specific friends using popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger […]|
Barnes and Noble has announced that they have had a dramatic decrease in Nook sales and sales have plummeted 40% in their last quarter. The Bookseller has also scraped their plans to spin the Nook division into its own company and has decided to keep the business in-house.
Barnes and Noble just issued a press release that breaks down the 4th quarter results, but also gives us prospective on how they did during the entire year.
The NOOK segment (including digital content, devices and accessories) had revenues of $52 million for the 4th quarter and $264 million for the full year, decreasing 39.8% for the quarter and 47.8% for the year. Device and accessories sales were $13 million for the quarter and $86 million for the full year, declining 48.2% and 66.7%, respectively, due to lower unit selling volume. Digital content sales were $40 million for the quarter and $177 million for the full year, declining 36.5% and 27.8%, respectively, due primarily to lower device unit sales.
Barnes and Noble once had plans to sell one million Samsung Galaxy 4 Nook tablets, and it looks like according to these figures it might be a pipe dream. Additionally their market share for e-books have fallen from double digits in the US to single digits. A few weeks ago the bookseller announced they closed their Luxembourg head office in Europe and ceased all future plans for international expansion.
I cannot say I am surprised about this latest figures, the constant decline in sales of hardware and digital content is unending. Normally when companies see a decline of 1-3% it is a big deal, but Barnes and Noble consistently reports loses of double digits, every quarter, without fail.
|I recently stumbled upon a trick that makes reading on an iPad or iPhone at night a lot easier on the eyes. There are two things you can do: lower the screen’s brightness beyond normal limits and/or use inverted colors. This also reduces blue light so that it helps maintain healthy sleeping habits, as some […]|
Regular readers with an interest in poultry will be all agog to find out what we’re posting about today; yesterday’s post covered a chicken coop with automated doors, and we promised more chickens today. (AND TOMORROW! It’s all chickens all the way down at Pi Towers this week.)
Darren Steele, a Pi owner from Lancashire, was faced with the same chickens/predators problem that Eric Escobar dealt with in yesterday’s post by mechanising the coop door, and programming it to shut after dark.
It turns out that a couple of years ago, Darren also automated his chicken coop to solve the same problem.
The way he automated it is perhaps not the first solution that might have sprung to your mind or to mine; but that’s why Darren got a spot on the BBC news and you and I didn’t.
Libraries all over Canada are disheartened because of the high cost associated with e-books. This has prompted a new coalition to be formed that is trying to bring public awareness to just how bad it is getting.
The Toronto Public Library, Canadian Library Council, Ontario Library Association and the Canadian Library Association want to bring awareness to the super high prices publishers are charging them for e-books. They cite number examples, such as the new Michael Connelly novel Burning Room costs $14.99 on Amazon, but their libraries are paying $106.00 per copy. John Grisham's Grey Mountain costs $15.99 for a retail edition but costs libraries $85.00.
Not only do some e-books cost an arm and a leg but some publishers charge a more “reasonable” price, such as $30 per copy, but allow access for a limited period of time, such as a year, or a limited number of borrowers. Once the limit is reached, the book disappears and the library has to repurchase it.
Many Canadian media outlets have been reporting extensively about this issue including the Toronto Star and Good e-Reader. The high cost of e-books is even attracting the national media outlets, such as the CBC who ran a story a few days ago on television in Ontario and the web.
When the CBC runs a story about e-books and the library they turn to experts in the field, including the Toronto City Librarian Vickery Bowles and Good e-Readers own Michael Kozlowski.
Here is the video they posted below, so you can get a sense of the plight most libraries are facing and how their budgets have gone sky high as the demand for digital content intensifies.
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
E.L. James has just released a new book that is entitled Grey. It retells the original 50 Shades of Grey from the prospective of Christian Grey and it looks to be a smash for the book selling industry. The title has sold over 1.1 million copies in the first four days.
Vintage Books has confirmed that 1.1 million copies of Grey have been sold in audiobook, e-book and print in the first 4 days. This is prompting the publisher to order a third, fourth and fifth reprint of Grey – working with multiple printers – bringing the total number of copies in print up to 2.1 million in the US alone.
James herself has appeared at American bookstores to celebrate the release of “Grey.” She did a book signing in New York at Barnes & Noble and then, with very little notice, appeared outside Dallas in Sulphur Springs, Texas, where she signed books for fans at a sold-out event.
“I am not the least bit surprised,” says Sara Nelson, editorial director of books and Kindle at Amazon. “I imagine it will be No. 1 for a while.” Grey will debut this week at No. 1 and has remained No. 1 in print and digital sales on the site for four straight days.
Harlequin has just launched a new rewards program in Canada and the United States. Readers can get Skype conversations with their favorite authors, gift basket or autographed books.
A new website has been established called Harlequin My Rewards and readers can earn points by leaving online book reviews, buying books and participating in fun mini surveys.
Now I know what you might be thinking, surveys? Tradtionally surveys are daunting and time consuming. Harlequin has made mini-surveys where they get you to role play or vote on your favorite summertime hunk. They often comprise of a single answer and you earn points with each vote.
Likely the most innovative element about this rewards program is that you earn points not only on e-book purchases but also on print. If you buy a print book from Chapters/Indigo or Barnes and Noble you can take a picture of your receipt and then email it to Harlequin or use the automatic upload tool. If you buy an e-book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble you merely have to upload your purchase confirmation to get points.
What I find most interesting about this program is that you don’t need to horde points for years in order to get anything for free. You get 2,000 points from just signing up and 2,000 points from setting up your romance profile. Earn 200 points from filling out the mini surveys or 100 points from submitting a receipt of a book purchase. You can get free books for 5,000 points, which means you can immediately get something for just signing up.
Harlequin My Rewards is the first program of this type setup by a well known publisher. Women who read romance and erotica are fairly loyal to the genre and this service gives you rewards for reading books. You only have to go out of your way a little bit with My Rewards and I think the publishing industry will be watching this closely, if its successful it will be emulated by others.
Dark Horse has finally made the decision to make their entire library of digital comics available on ComiXology. The publisher was the last major holdout from signing a deal and they now join Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dynamite, BOOM! Studios, IDW, Archie, Top Cow and Image Comics — along with a slew of smaller publishers.
More than 800 Dark Horse Comics titles have become available digitally on ComiXology, including “Hellboy,” “Sin City,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” “The Goon” and “Usagi Yojimbo.” Under the agreement, Dark Horse Comics collections, graphic novels and manga will be available on comiXology the same day the print versions arrive in bookstores.
There are now 75,000 comics, graphic novels and manga from more than 75 publishers on the comiXology platform.
|Earlier this week I came across a YouTube video showing a Nook Simple Touch running the latest and final version of the FastMode + USB Sound ROM. As the name implies, FastMode helps make the Nook refresh the E Ink screen faster—even fast enough to play videos—and USB Sound adds audio support to the Nook […]|
If you are reading this, you are probably a lover of words. Written before you or broadcasted through you headphones, words matter to you. They matter to us too. Audiobooks may take a backseat to their shinier, newer eBook counterparts sometimes but they offer a world of possibilities eBooks can't always compete with.
Maybe they'll work for that little boy who can't seem to connect with the characters in his assigned summer reading. Or they'll help that truck driver on his long commutes across the country. They may work for the woman who's eyes have gone bad from years of squinting at a computer and then later at home before bed, reading her favorite words. Or, they might make the girl writing this post smile because they remind her what it was like when her father read books aloud. It's okay to love both. It's what happens in that secret place inside your mind that makes reading, reading.
June is Audiobook Month and as it comes to an end, we want to help you promote your collection now and though out the year. On OverDrive's Partner Portal you'll find updated promotional Audiobook materials for schools and public libraries. Offered as a zip folder, you'll find bookmarks, half and quarter sheets and even stickers to reach the different audiences visiting your digital collection.
Words matter. Reading matters. Reach all imaginations and highlight your Audiobook collection today.
Christina Samek is a Launch Specialist with OverDrive
My friend Tony always excuses himself early from parties, because he has to get home at dusk to shut his chickens in their coop. Tony, this one’s for you so that next time, you get to stick around for dessert.
Chickens are birds of habit. You don’t need to shepherd (bird-herd?) them into their coops when the sun goes down; they’re programmed to head to their perches as night falls. Foxes and other predators, unfortunately, take advantage of this to chew on stationary, sleeping chickens, so the door of the coop needs to be firmly closed once all the birds are roosting, and opened again at a repellently early hour in the morning. Usually a human will go and do that job. (When I was a kid, I had to do the same for our family’s ducks. I hated those ducks.)
Let’s face it: given a chance to exercise a bit of laziness, most of us will jump at it. (Metaphorically. Lazy people don’t like jumping.)
Eric Escobar has a very neat Pi-powered solution to the problem of night-time chicken imprisonment, which is safer than some others we’ve seen, which use linear actuators. This door’s lowered using gravity, so there will be no very, very, very slow and eventually deadly crushing of any chickens or small children with Eric’s setup. The door is programmed to be lowered at a certain time of day, once it’s dark enough for all the chickens to have moved indoors.
Everything you need to replicate it yourself, right down to schematics, is at Eric’s GitHub.
The nice thing about using a Pi for this sort of thing is that it enables a certain amount of feature-creep. Now the basic functionality’s there, Eric (or you) can add things like the ability to count chickens in and out of the coop; a camera; automated feeding…I’m trying to come up with a way to get the Pi to collect eggs, too, but I’ve got nothing. Ideas in the comments please!
Chicken-owners will be pleased to hear that we’ve got more chicken-husbandry content for you coming up tomorrow. And something that’s a bit like a chicken for Friday. We’re all about the poultry this week at Pi Towers.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Australia has just passed a new law that would require internet service providers to block websites that show pirated material, such as e-books. The websites are not up to the internet companies, instead publishers and rights holders have to make a case to the Federal government and demand sites whose “primary purpose” is the illegal sharing of copyrighted material be blocked.
This is a big win for the publishing and entertainment industry and the popular torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and KickAssTorrents, which allow people to illicitly download books, movies and TV shows online without paying, are expected to be among the first websites in rights holders’ sights. This is expected to garner lots of publicity because the Pirate Bay is the largest of its kind and a household name.
Australia is now the second country to pass laws to block piracy websites. Four years ago in the United Kingdom the Voluntary Copyright Alert Program was established between the government, entertainment industry and the internet service providers. Their first big bust occurred last month when a UK high court ruled that five of the largest internet providers had to block access to several pirate websites. BT, Virgin Media, Sky, EE, and TalkTalk were told that had not display any links from AvaxHome, Bookfi, Bookre Ebookee, Freebookspot, Freshwap, and LibGen. The sites were said to offer more than ten million titles for download, more than 80% of which infringed copyright according to the Publishers Association. The websites in question had 1.75 million take down requests from authors and publishers in the last year.
There has been a steady tide of new bookstores opening in China in the last few years and English titles are selling at a rapid pace. This is primarily attributed to foreignness and the rising middle class looking to learn the language.
Research data shows that there are ten million English-language speakers in China, and three hundred million English-language learners. This might sound like big numbers to a Westerner, but in the grand scheme of China, that's a drop in the bucket. Still, there is an emerging market for this type of content and sales are thriving.
One of the big success stories in China in recent years is Page One Bookstore. Zhang Ying, chief of Page One’s marketing department, said English-language books account for 65% of the books on sale at the three Beijing stores, with most patrons being people aged 20-35, who hold at least a college degree and have medium-to-high incomes.
Page One Bookstore is focusing on the Chinese market because their Taiwan businesses are not doing so well. The company has just announced they are closing their Taipei 101 outlet, the largest bookstore in Taiwan which opened in 2004, as it has suffered from a continuous decline in sales in recent years. The store will follow in the footsteps of Page One’s Fuxing Road outlet at Sogo Department Store in Taipei, which closed in 2009 not long after opening.
China is a huge market and many publishers from the United States and Europe are trying to break into the market. This has proved challenging in the past because most of the publishing is done by the State and they limit the number of imports that can be brought in.
This year at Book Expo America there was a very large Chinese publishing delegation that had almost 500 people and they had a massive 25,000 square feet pavilion which was an "unprecedented" amount, according to BEA director Steve Rosato. It was led by Wu Shangzhi, deputy director of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) – the body that oversees books and other media in the country, answerable ultimately to the State Council and Central Propaganda Department. Their goal was to learn more about the way publishers in the US operate and to talk about relaxing restrictions on some imports.
The Chinese book selling market is massive, in 2014, approximately 446,000 books were published. This generated over $8.7 billion dollars, which makes it the second-largest in the world, after the US.
There are hundreds of bookstores in Beijing alone that serve English books, so what’s selling? According to the New York Times Genre fiction is exploding. In bookstores, crime stories and romantic fiction rub alongside wuxia, adventure stories of chivalrous martial heroes, and so-called "officialdom" fiction, tales of political intrigue that double as how-to guides for aspiring officials. Popular nonfiction books include self-help tracts on how to get rich or find love. Publishers at the Beijing Book fair last year described a growing children's book market propelled by the one-child policy: Chinese parents are eager to pour their resources into their single offspring. And English-language books — from novels to learning aids — are in demand among those who want to improve their language skills.
Monday, June 22, 2015
Amazon has taken the first steps to augment product reviews, one of the largest initiatives the company has taken in their 20 year history. Amazon reviews have proved to be critical for people looking to buy a product and have come to trust Amazon more than any other website.
A new in-house machine learning program will be putting more weight on verified purchases, new reviews and reviews that people have rated as being useful. This will be a tremendous benefit to books that often have a ton of negative reviews from customers who haven’t even read it.
There is a stark contrast between negative reviews and critical reviews. Critical reviews won’t be buried at all if they are helpful with this new system. They could instead jump up to the front page. Unhelpful critical reviews will be buried — as they should be.
“The system will learn what reviews are most helpful to customers…and it improves over time,” Amazon spokeswoman Julie Law said in an interview. “It’s all meant to make customer reviews more useful.”
The new review system sounds swell, and should go a long way with combating paid review services and internet trolls. On the other hand I know plenty of book reviewers that might not buy a book or Kindle e-book from Amazon, but leave amazing reviews. Does this new system mean that just because its not a verified purchase, less weight will be given to it? I guess if enough people give it an up-vote, it might not.
Freescale has played a pivotal role in the e-reader industry from the very first Sony e-Reader to the modern day Amazon Kindle Voyage. Their processors and internals allow e-paper to truly shine and directly impact everything from page turns to battery life. Today, Freescale has just announced the future of e-reader tech, IMX 7.
The IMX 7 Dual (1 GHZ) and IMX 7 Solo Lite (800 MHZ) are two new processors that will power the e-reader industry for the next four years.
The main attraction of the new product line is the dual core processor and how e-readers will basically take a huge jump forward in terms of overall performance, while remaining future proof.
The IMX 7 Dual will be the saving grace of e-readers, it has been totally optimized for e-ink Regal and whatever new technologies that are released by E INK in the future. Why is this important? Page turn speed will be dramatically increased. In the past this mechanism was handled by software, which prevented companies like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo from taking a big step forward in innovation. Now, page turns are handled by the hardware itself, so each page turn will be less than 100 milliseconds.
Solving the page turn program is a big step forward, but that’s not the only thing that is being remedied. Ghosting will also be solved with this framework, which is a huge deal. Normally with e-readers you will have a full page refresh every six pages or in some cases every chapter. The reason for this, is the longer the display goes without a full page refresh text gradually starts super imposing itself, which makes it difficult to read. I have never liked full page refreshes, as it breaks reading immersion. Now, this will also be fixed, which means less full page refreshes because again, its now hardware based, instead of software.
Likely the largest innovation in the IMX product line is the support for hardware dithering. This will allow e-reader companies that work with the Linux or Android platforms to be able to include animated content. This will include truly animated page turns, interactive menus and video.
The big trend in 2014 were European companies starting to adopt Android as the operating system of choice to power e-readers. Many brands empowered users to install their own e-reading apps, such as Kindle, Kobo and Nook. Sadly, all of these apps were designed for smartphones and tablets and had lots of animated page turns that really struggled with e-ink screens. The IMX 7 dual solves this and will make e-reading on Android way more viable.
Battery life has always been a big issue with e-readers. The companies who make them always are walking a fine line between developing cool features that users want and battery performance. Batteries are often one of the biggest costs when designing an e-reader, but this is no longer the case. Using the new processor framework companies can now use smaller batteries, saving on manufacturing costs and also gain 3x the performance vs IMX 6.
Mass production on the new IMX 7 product line will begin this November and I was told it was very likely we might see a commercial product from a big name company towards the end of the year. If Amazon, Kobo or Barnes and Noble can be first to the market with a next generation e-reader it could be game changing.
AUSTIN, Texas – June 22, 2015 – Today at the 2015 Freescale Technology Forum, Freescale introduced the i.MX 7 series – a new generation of power efficient and full featured applications processors based on its successful and broadly deployed i.MX platform. The i.MX 7 series delivers world class core power efficiency of 15.7 DMIPS/mW, a new Low Power State Retention mode (LPSR) of 250 μW and the industry's first general purpose microprocessor family to incorporate both the ARM Cortex-A7 and the ARM Cortex-M4 cores. These technologies, together with Freescale's new companion PF3000 PMIC, unleash the potential for dramatically innovative, secure and power efficient end-products for the wearable computing and Internet of Things (IoT) era.
The first members of the series are the new i.MX 7Solo and the i.MX 7Dual product families, which feature Cortex-A7 cores operating up to 1 GHz and a Cortex-M4 core operating up to 266 MHz. The Cortex-A7 and Cortex-M4 achieve processor core efficiency levels of 100 μW /MHz and 70 μW /MHz respectively. All of the cores can be individually power enabled to perform as needed. This performance-on-demand architecture allows the i.MX 7 series to meet bursty, high-performance needs of running Linux, graphical user interfaces, wireless stacks or other high-bandwidth data transfers with one or both of the Cortex-A7 cores. When high levels of processing are not needed, the work can be transferred to the smaller, lower powered Cortex-M4, enabling the power gating of the Cortex-A7 core.
Through the use of an advanced 28nm ultra low leakage process technology and discrete power domain architecture, the LPSR mode consumes only 250 μW, representing 48 percent power savings versus competition, while supporting DDR self-refresh mode, GPIO wakeup, and memory state retention. Creating a system with power efficient processing and low power deep sleep modes enables a new tier of performance-on-demand, battery operated devices requiring smaller batteries and becoming lighter and cheaper.
Freescale's i.MX 7 series processors are ideal for a host of applications including wearables, secure point-of-sale equipment, smart home controls, industrial products and a vast array of innovative IoT solutions. i.MX 7 series also continues Freescale's industry leading support for the e-Reader market via integration of an advanced, fourth-generation EPD controller.
"Freescale's i.MX 7 series scores industry leading dynamic and static power efficiency numbers, at a fraction of competing devices," said Ron Martino, vice president of Applications Processors and Advanced Technology Adoption for Freescale's MCU group. "We've combined our ultra-low power performance-on-demand architecture and the ARM Cortex-A7 – the most energy efficient ARM processor ever developed – to deliver innovative new features like a new battery savings mode consuming only 250μW, representing a 3x improvement that minimizes wake up times without requiring Linux reboot.
High bandwidth connections are provided through a variety of interfaces such as PCIe and Dual Gigabit Ethernet with AVB support. Both of the new i.MX 7 processors support the performance and power driven range of external memories including eMMC5.0 and LowPower-DDR3, meeting higher bandwidth applications.
Exceptional security for the Internet of Tomorrow
To address increasingly stringent security requirements for Point-of-Sale and IoT applications, i.MX 7 series products integrate Elliptic Curve Cryptography technology, active tamper detection, secure boot and other hardware-enabled features that help to secure sensitive information. In addition, the i.MX 7 architecture features independently controlled and secured resource domains, which partition to isolate security threats and enable a hardware firewall.
Driving i.MX 7 power still lower: Freescale's new PF3000 PMIC
Also debuting today at the 2015 Freescale Technology Forum is the PF3000 power management IC (PMIC), which was developed in parallel with and optimized specifically for the i.MX 7 series to provide the highest possible overall system power efficiency. With up to four buck converters, six linear regulators, RTC supply, and coin-cell charger, the PF3000 is engineered to support all specified i.MX 7 use cases and conditions. PF3000 PMIC is a fully integrated solution enabling system-level power efficiency by optimizing power delivery not just to the processor, but also to peripherals and various types of system memory resources in an overall component solution size of less than 100mm^2. The PMIC supports one-time programmable memory for controlling startup sequence and output voltages with no external components required. Best in class light load efficiency combined with user programmable Standby, Sleep/LPSR, and Off power modes maximize the i.MX 7 industry leading low power performance. Incorporated into multiple i.MX 7 reference designs and featuring a single price point extensible across multiple cores, operating frequencies and memory types, the PMIC also helps streamline development and lower overall bill of materials costs.
Freescale offers extensive enablement support for the i.MX 7 series and leverages the broad ARM ecosystem to enable customers to get to market faster. The i.MX 7 series is supported by the SABRE board for smart devices, which comes with the PF3000 PMIC, Wi-Fi 11ac/abgn, Bluetooth 4.1 and an SD card preinstalled with the Linux® operating system. Android™ OS is also available from Freescale.
Samples of the i.MX 7Solo and i.MX 7Dual applications processors are available now with full production planned for November 2015. The PF3000 PMIC is available now from Freescale and authorized distributors worldwide. Two PF3000 board designs are available now: the KITPF3000FRDMEVM evaluation board and the KITPF3000FRDMPGM programming board. For additional pricing or other information, please contact a local Freescale sales office.
About Freescale Semiconductor
Freescale Semiconductor (NYSE:FSL) enables secure, embedded processing solutions for the Internet of Tomorrow. Freescale's solutions drive a more innovative and connected world, simplifying our lives and making us safer. While serving the world's largest companies, Freescale is also committed to supporting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, enabling the next generation of innovators. www.freescale.com.