Monday, August 31, 2015

8% Tax will be applied to all Kindle ebooks in Japan


Starting October 1, 2015 an 8% consumption tax will be applied to all Kindle ebooks sold to customers living in Japan.

One-time Adjustment for Existing KDP Titles  Beginning October 1, list prices set for will be tax-inclusive, meaning that the 8% consumption tax will be included in the list price that authors establish. For example, if you set your list price at ¥1250, your new tax-inclusive list price would be ¥1250. Tax will be deducted from this price, and your royalties would be calculated on a resulting price of ¥1157.

Minimum and Maximum List Prices

The minimum and maximum list prices for the 35% and 70% royalty plans will now also be inclusive of tax. Previously the minimum and maximum list price for the 35% royalty plan were ¥99 and ¥20,000 respectively.  The new minimum and maximum list prices for the 35% royalty plan will be ¥99 and ¥20,000 inclusive of tax (or ¥91.67 and ¥18,518.52 exclusive of tax).    Similarly, the minimum and maximum list prices for the 70% royalty were ¥250 and ¥1250.  The new minimum and maximum list prices for the 70% royalty plan will be ¥250 and ¥1250 inclusive of tax (or ¥231.48 and ¥1,157.41 exclusive of tax).

Setting List Prices for

Starting October 1, to make it easier to set customer friendly list prices without having to calculate tax, authors will set list prices for the JP marketplace that include consumption tax. To accommodate this, the KDP pricing grid will be updated to accept tax-inclusive list prices. In the pricing page, authors will also see their suggested price without tax to help them understand how royalties will be calculated. For those authors who set their JP marketplace price automatically from their US list price, we will convert the US list price to local currency and that will be the list price that includes tax.

Rachel Kray’s 10 deserted island books

Ed. Note: This is the 3rd in our series of books we'd take on a deserted island if we could only pick 10. Thanks again to Time Magazine for the idea!


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Stories don't get more compelling than this. I plan to read this book once a year and no desert island will stop me!

Just Kids by Patti Smith

A powerful love story that paints a rich picture of the New York City lifestyle and culture in the 60s and 70s. Anyone who has ever loved a punk rock song, a piece of art, or has loved love itself will be captivated by every one of Smith's words.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Three words: The Prince's Tale.

Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins

Tom Robbins obviously had lots of fun writing this book and I always have even more fun reading it. Quirky, brilliant, and hilarious – this book is my go-to read when I'm feeling down.

The Stand by Stephen King

If I was stranded on a deserted island, I might finally have time to read this one J

The Weirdness by Jeremy Bushnell

A "hipster" sells his soul to the devil in a last ditch attempt to sell his novel. And there's also werewolves and an evil wizard trying to end the world with a very special lucky cat. Hilarious with brilliant prose, this book in unlike anything else I've ever read.

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Exceptionally well written and equally disturbing, I would bring this book with me to remind myself that there are worst things than being stuck on a deserted island.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

I generally consider this title my all-time favorite book so this was a no brainer. I could also learn from survival and coping tips from the characters.

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

I love a good memoir and they don't get much better than Augusten Burroughs. I could read his writing all day and would love to do so. This book is my idea of a perfect beach read. Is that weird of me?

Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

This is my ultimate 'feel-good' read. Also, I'm sure I'd miss my own orange tabby while marooned on an island so this book would certainly make me feel better.

10 Free Kindle eBooks and 90% Off Book Deal for Students

Amazon is running a big sale on Kindle ebooks for students today only, August 31st. The deal takes up to 90% off Kindle ebooks for students, with over 425 titles being offered. I’ve also included a list of 10 highly-rated free Kindle ebooks below. Please note that the Kindle ebooks are free as of August […]

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein: A perfect back to school book club read

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein is a New York Times Bestseller and has received starred reviews from both Booklist ("An ode to libraries and literature that is a worthy successor to the original madman puzzle-master himself, Willy Wonka.") and Kirkus (“Full of puzzles to think about, puns to groan at and references to children's book titles, this solid, tightly plotted read is a winner for readers and game-players alike.”).  It is recommended for ages 8-12, grade levels 3-7 and boasts a mere 336 pages of fun from Yearling Publishers.

This is a story about an eccentric billionaire, Mr. Lemoncello, who decides to donate funds to rebuild the town library.  Mr. Lemoncello made his fortune by creating games and this influences the making of an eclectic library layout.  He decides to award some children a sneak peek at the library before it officially opens.  Reminiscent of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we follow the adventures of these children trying to "Escape for Mr. Lemoncello's library".

I recommend this book to book clubs and readers of all ages.  Additionally, there are many ways you can incorporate this book into your fall library programs.

For schools, consider displaying the book prominently in your media center.  Make it your book club's first eRead of the school year. (Don't forget that September 18th is International Read an eBook Day!)  Display the eBook on your monitors in the media center during Open House night.  Create gaming tables and include old favorites like checkers, Candy Land, and Jenga!  Be sure to load your digital library with plenty of fun read-a-likes and gaming books from OverDrive.

OverDrive has curated lists for the books in Mr. Lemoncello's Library and read alikes. Chris Grabenstein even has a scavenger hunt for your library. Simply go to his web site, and follow the clues…er directions. Enjoy the Escape from Lemoncello's Library, have fun with your students and patrons while reading fun books like this one and others like it, and may you all have a successful year.

As Mr. Lemoncello says: "Knowledge not shared remains unknown."


Sheila Henline is a Collection Development Analyst with OverDrive

Toshiba BookLive! e-Book Store is Closing



Toshiba has been operating their own online digital bookstore since 2010 called Bookplace. They initially co-developed it with a company called Blio, but a year later they started a new in-house project called Book Live which was designed to replace Bookplace. The main premise behind the re-brand was to focus on the Japanese market. All good things must come to an end and it looks like Booklive! will be closing its doors on September 30th 2015.

We have official confirmation from Toshiba that they will be transferring all of their customer data and billing information from Booklive! to a company called U-Next.

U-Next is well known for being one of the top anime, movie and music services in Japan and many big companies rely on their content distribution network for gaming consoles and televisions. Recently, they got into selling e-books with a platform that is very much akin to Toshiba Booklive! and it should because the two sides collaborated on the development.


The Book Place for U-Next sells e-books, manga and graphic novels individually, and regularly updates the site with deals and promotions.  One of the new initiatives they recently started was an unlimited magazine subscription service that costs $20.00 US a month.

There hasn’t been any mainstream news coverage over this situation yet, so details are fairly scarce on what type of role Toshiba will be playing with the Book Place for U-Next. Likely, Toshiba is just withdrawing completely from the e-book market and got financially compensated by U-Next for all of the customer data. This is very much akin to what occurred when Sony closed their digital bookstore and worked out an agreement with Kobo for customer data.

Digital Magazine Subscriptions are on the Rise


It might be considered a moot point by now, but digital magazines are experiencing growth while print is on the decline. According to the latest ABC audit, the average circulation of magazines fell on average by 5% in the first half of 2015, while digital circulation rose to 409,414 in the period, up 21% year-on-year.

What is interesting about this latest report is that magazines such as Empire and Men's Health are hampered by both tough competition and also shifting consumer attitudes toward their content from online-first to online-only. That is to say, people are getting entertainment and movie news from websites such as the Hollywood Reporter or IGN on a daily basis and not Empire.

The other major component to the audit has to do with publishers starting to be successful with turning their print titles into premium advertising channels. Cosmo, for example, is still a key magazine brand and alongside its print version, has successful events such as Fash Fest and high profile awards like Ultimate Woman of the Year. The magazine has also started to double down on social media, such as Facebook where clickbait articles on sex are shared millions of times a day. They also have over 1.3 million Twitter followers – all of which are unaudited audience extensions.

Joker: a Raspberry Pi + Python joke machine

Today is a public holiday here in the UK, and Pi Towers is silent and still. Clive’s in a field “with no network (not even mobile),” he specifies, just in case someone were tempted to try and make him do something anyway. By the time this post appears, I’ll be pursuing a couple of kids around the Cambridge Museum of Technology. Liz and Eben have one-upped everyone by going to Scandinavia. So, in keeping with the leisurely, end-of-summer vibe of today, we thought we’d share a project that’s designed to amuse. We hope it’ll cheer up all those of you unlucky enough to live in places where you don’t automatically get to bunk off on the last Monday in August.

Raspython, a new project aiming to offer tutorials and learning resources for the Raspberry Pi community and for new makers and programmers in particular, brings us instructions for making Joker, a Raspberry Pi joke machine.

A fact that ought to be more widely known is that our own Ben Nuttall is founder and chairperson of the Pyjokes Society. He and co-founders Alex Savio, Borja Ayerdi and Oier Etxaniz have written pyjokes, a Python module offering lovingly curated one-liners for programmers, and it’s from this that Joker gets its material. Ben and friends encourage you to improve their collection by submitting the best programming jokes you know that can be expressed in 140 characters or fewer; you can propose them on GitHub via pyjokes’ proposal issue or via pull request.

Joker’s display is an affordable Adafruit 16×2 LCD Pi plate; this comes as a kit needing assembly, which Adafruit’s detailed instructions walk you through gently. With the LCD assembled and mounted, getting Joker up and running is just a matter of installing the pyjokes module, LCD drivers and Joker script, together with a little bit of other set-up to allow your Raspberry Pi to talk to the LCD.

Everything you need is in the tutorial, and it makes for a really great self-contained project. Give it a whirl!

The post Joker: a Raspberry Pi + Python joke machine appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Nova Scotia Libraries Now Has e-books by Local Authors


Library patrons in the US are fairly spoiled when it comes to local self-published and traditionally published authors having their e-books available. The Library Journal has a program called Self-e and Smashwords also connects everyone up together. Here in Canada, there are less choices for local authors to get their digital titles in the local library. A new initiative by the Nova Scotia Library is hoping to change this paradigm.

The Nova Scotia Provincial Library, Halifax Public Libraries, and the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association have collaborated to provide greater access to the region's e-Books through a project called Read Local.

Twelve regional publishers are participating in this program and over 600 e-books are currently available. This is the first province-wide agreement of its kind between libraries and locally based publishers.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Kindle for PC Updated with Bookerly and KFX Support


Amazon has just updated their seminal Kindle for PC app and it now has support for the brand new Bookerly font and also KFX. This will allow readers with Windows branded tablets and computers to be able to read books in much high resolution.

Have you heard of Bookerly or KFX before? Well, a few months ago Amazon developed a new font for e-reading in mind called Bookerly. In order to really take advantage of the new format, Amazon had to generate an entirely new e-book extension and named it KFX.

Amazon claims there are around 100,000 e-books on their website that their titles in the new KFX format. If you want to find out if a specific title will give you the optimal reading experience you look on the book's description page at Amazon. There's a new label that shows if enhanced typesetting has been enabled.

When you download the Kindle PC update and already have e-books downloaded to your machine, there are a few things you need to know. If you have a collection of e-books on your local machine, chances are a few of them have the new KFX extension. You need to delete them and download them once more from the cloud. Once you download the fresh copy, it might have the new e-book format.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

New Kobo Touch 2.0 e-reader Available Now


Kobo has just quietly unveiled a brand new e-reader that is designed for people on a budget. The Kobo Touch 2.0 is now officially listed on the Chapters/Indigo bookstore website for $89.99. Likely, this e-reader will make a great back to school gift or for the upcoming holiday season.

Nothing much is known about the new Kobo Touch 2.0, it is very likely that Chapters posted the details before Kobo was ready to make a formal announcement. What we do know is that it has an older e-ink Pearl HD screen and it is not illuminated, so you won’t be able to read in the dark.

I think Kobo primarily designed the Touch 2.0 to heavily compete against the basic model of the Kindle. If you look at the price difference the Touch 2.0 costs $61 in the US, while the Kindle has a price tag of $79 US.

Stay tuned to Good e-Reader for an upcoming review and full product specs. In the meantime, if you live outside of the Canada you can have your Kobo Touch 2.0 shipped out in 24 hours from Shop e-Readers.

Amazon Echo Can Now Play Audiobooks from Multiple Amazon Accounts


The Amazon Echo now has the ability to play audiobooks from multiple Amazon accounts  and switching between them is as easy as a voice command. In order to get started you simply need to access the settings menu within the updated Alexa App for Android and add your second account.  Once this is completed all you have to do is say “Alexa, switch accounts.”

This might seem like a trivial change at first, but the multiple account support will be welcomed by many. People who live in homes with family members who have different accounts will be able to access their individual libraries of audiobooks.

New Kobo Touch 2.0 Quietly Released for $89

It looks like Kobo has quietly started rolling out their latest ebook reader, the Kobo Touch 2.0. So far there’s been no official announcement from Kobo about the new device, and it still isn’t listed on Kobo’s website at all, but the Kobo Touch 2.0 has just turned up for sale at Chapters.Indigo, one of […]

Friday, August 28, 2015

New Braille Smartwatch can Read e-books and Texts


People with vision disorders or who are completely blind are quite limited when it comes to using smartphones or reading e-books on an e-reader. There are a few solutions currently on the market, but they retail for thousands of dollars. A Korean company is seeking to address this issue with a new Braille smartwatch that can read text messages and read e-books for $300.

The new device is called DOT has a raised sequences of bumps, which are readable, or touchable as words, are created by four rows of six dots that rise up or are lowered to make up to four letters at a time. This is perfect for reading e-books while on the go, but once paired with a smartphone small vibrations will let you know when there is an incoming text message.


The US-based National Federation of the Blind estimates that just 10% of visually impaired people actually learn braille, while the UK’s Royal National Institute of Blind People reports literacy figures of less than 1%.  The World Health Organization estimates that there are 285 million people with severe visual impairment around the world, of whom 39 million are completely blind.

Those are some very depressing figures, but one of the most unique aspects about the DOT is that it employs a Braille learning system.  If you want to buy one of these puppies it will be available in Canada and the US this December for $300.

Sony Stops Selling the Digital Paper (DPT-S1) Direct Today


The entire Sony e-commerce network is shutting down today and by September 30th 2015 it will be deleted. This will result in Sony being unable to directly sell products, such as the Sony Digital Paper. This is not the end of the world for people who want to buy this device though, Sony has setup a new marketing site that heavily leans on 3rd party re-sellers to fill the void.

I talked to a number of high ranking executives in charge of the Sony Digital Paper today and they informed me that a new marketing site  has been developed. It replaces the old product landing page and has new pictures, videos and links to all of their official partners where you can purchase a DPT-S1. I would recommend using B&H Photo, who will sell to the general public in the US. Their inventory shows that it is on pre-order right now, but I have been assured that they will get their shipment within the next week. Sony’s other retailing partners are highly specialized in the medical or legal fields and will only sell the product within those industries.

Sony has also confirmed with Good e-Reader that they will continue to provide customer support for their online partners. So if you purchase a Digital Paper from B&H Photos and have a problem, you will contact the Sony guys via email or call them at 877-723-7669.

Emma’s 10 deserted island books

Ed. Note: This is the 2nd in our series of books we’d take on a deserted island if we could only pick 10. Thanks again to Time Magazine for the idea!


The Likeness by Tana French

Tana French is one the best mystery/thriller writers that I've ever had the pleasure of reading. If I had to pick just one of her novels, it would be this. Murder, mystery, doppelgängers and the Irish countryside? Count me in.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Perhaps I'm just desperate to rekindle the way it felt to read J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books for the first time, but to me, the Cormoran Strike series is like Harry Potter for adults. A bit grim at times, this novel is well-written, gripping and makes you question how you didn't identify the killer from the start.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

I'm a sucker for a tragic love story, especially one that contains some unexpected twists. The prose is beautifully done. I can't say enough good things about this book, which might be why I wrote several papers on it during my undergraduate and graduate years.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

I've been reading Sarah Dessen since I was 13 and she's one of the only authors I've stuck with even into adulthood. I am always excited for the release of her next book and her newest work, Saint Anything, doesn't disappoint. This story of family and forgiveness and friendships might be my favorite one of Dessen's yet.

London Walks by David Tucker

London is the best city in the world (in my opinion). Samuel Johnson once said, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” This book holds a special place in my heart (the author, David Tucker, was my professor and tour guide when I studied abroad in London) for the way it describes the city in nice little vignettes. It is meant to be read in London itself and comes with suggestions of where each chapter should be enjoyed.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky

I picked up a copy of this book at Shakespeare and Co. in Paris and then read it on the 3-hour train ride back to Grenoble (where I was studying abroad at the time) so my memory of reading this book for the first time is quite charmed. Perks is relatable at any age and perfectly captures what it means to grow up and navigate all the messy parts of life.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

This classic resonated with me a lot when I first read it in high school. I admire Edna's wish to do as she pleases, during a time when it was frowned upon if a woman was anything less than a great wife and mother.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

"Something wicked this way comes…" Who doesn't love plotting, murder and great monologues in Scotland? As an English major and a literature student, I've read a good amount of Shakespeare, but none is as interesting to me as this one. Lady Macbeth is a villain I love to hate.

Monarchy by David Starkey

Concise, informative and dramatic, this history of the Monarchy in England is a page-turner. It covers the early aught of the monarchy all the way up to the Windsor family that we so knowingly love and adore today.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

This series doesn't really need any explanation. It's amazing. I grew up with these books. Prisoner of Azkaban is crucial because of the introduction of Sirius Black, and, for the first time, Harry sees firsthand that everyone deserves forgiveness, not matter how difficult it seems. Plus, I always wanted a time turner so I could be in two places at once!


Emma Kanagaki is a Collection Development Analyst with OverDrive

My library and me: making life better one book at a time

This video was a big hit at DigiPalooza, so I wanted to share it with you, and tell you a little bit about the inspiration behind the video.

Does anyone out there remember "My Buddy?"  It was this doll with one of the most persistently obnoxious TV commercials of all time.  It was always there, jamming its jingle into my brain between my favorite Saturday morning cartoons.  For those of you that don't remember, here it is:

Why am I talking about My Buddy?  The idea behind their entire marketing campaign was that you could and should take My Buddy with you everywhere, living your daily life with a doll by your side.

That's how I feel about my library now.  In the morning, I use a waterproof Bluetooth speaker to listen to my audiobook in the shower.  As I eat my cereal, I read an eBook on my phone.  Then, I get in my car, connect my phone to the stereo, and listen to my audiobook during the commute to work—sometimes looking forward to traffic jams (depending on the book).  I even want my next car to have Android Auto on board for better audiobook control.

After work, I get home and walk the dog: audiobook.  I go to the gym: audiobook.  Eventually I go to bed, where I read an eBook on my tablet before I fall asleep.  You get the idea.

Yes, I read a lot.  However, I suspect that I'm not the only one.  My deep love of reading has often had to take a back seat to things like lighting, weather, chores, availability of content, and a plethora of other obstacles.


Thanks to my nerdy obsession with technology, however, I'm now connected to my books whenever I want them, and I couldn't be happier.  I'm a firm believer in the idea that education and reading can change the world for the better.  It doesn't matter what you're reading, be it a comic book, Sci-Fi novel, or a Nikolai Tesla biography because just about every book, story, or poem you pick up can teach you something.

My favorite example of this is Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.  The opening scene involves a man calling himself the "Deliverator" (his real name is Hiro Protagonist) on a "mission" to deliver pizza for Costa Nostra Pizza.  He's in an armored, and wildly advanced, stealth pizza-mobile, and his quest to deliver the hot pies in the back reads more like a chase scene from a futuristic 007-style novel.

I know, it doesn't actually sound like an educational piece, but Snow Crash taught me a lot about the mythology surrounding the origin of language.  It got me to research Babel a little, and really got me thinking about the role it (and the origin of language in general) has played in religion and mythology across the ages.  On top of that, Snow Crash was published in 1992, but it predicted a world wide web, in which people could log in using avatars to interact in a virtual space.  We're not quite up to Snow Crash levels of VR yet, but the current trend is eerily similar to what Stephenson predicted.

Did I pick up Snow Crash to learn about Babel, high-speed pizza delivery, or advancing computer technology?  Nope.  But I learned something anyway.  That's the power of reading—it's why I work at OverDrive, and it's why I am writing this blog post right now.  I want to help build a world in which everyone can get the books they want whenever they want them regardless of perceived obstacles.  Together, with the help of companies like Google and Apple, we can bring reading to the masses—educating millions, even if they can't tell they're learning.  Technology can, will, and does work for us in this space like it never has before.

In short, share the video at the beginning of the post.  Let's show off the fact that books from the library can go with you wherever you want to be!  Let's come up with our own jingle!  Let's make the world a better place together.

Quinton Lawman is a Product Owner (and one of our many awesome resident nerds) at OverDrive

Capacitive touch HAT from Adafruit

While we’re on the subject of HATs, here’s one of my favourites, from our friends at Adafruit.

We had email a couple of weeks ago from José Federico Ramos Ortega, who has prepared a video and tutorial about the HAT (which he calls a Sombrero Capacitivo) in Spanish. Extra points for the use of cactus fruit to change instrument.

You can get your hands on one of these at Adafruit, who, despite the name, do not sell the fruit required to build a fruit piano of your own, but who do sell everything else. Lettuce turnip the beet!



The post Capacitive touch HAT from Adafruit appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Should Amazon Release Another Kids Tablet?


Late last year Amazon released their first Fire Tablet that was aimed at kids. This device included a 1 year unlimited warranty and a protective case that was designed to withstand the trials and tribulations of capricious youth. The Fire HD Kids edition also had an augmented version of Amazons Android OS, that is a bit more kid friendly and is very tightly integrated with Freetime Unlimited. Customers have been very apathetic about this tablet, should Amazon maker another?

Amazon prides themselves on their review system and many people are quite enamored with products like the Kindle Voyage or Paperwhite 3. The Amazon Kids tablet on the other hand, well that is an entirely different story. One star ratings dominate the front page where people are complaining about the lack of memory, terrible battery life and woeful customer service when trying to get a warranty replacement.

Most of the reviewers do have a point about the lack of memory. The cheapest version of this tablet has 8 GB of memory, but when you take it out of the box for the first time there is only 4.5 GB available. This simply isn’t enough for kids who want to download a few movies and a couple of Disney games, not to mention interactive books. The lack of memory is the number one complaint from angry parents.

Amazon did not clearly make a kids tablet from scratch, they simply took the same Fire HD 7 and HD6, gave you a free case and changed the OS a bit and called it a kids tablet. Many of the devices from companies like Leapfrog or V.Tech were built with kids in mind. Amazon just saw a marketing opportunity and decided to run with it.

Every year Amazon releases more and more gadgets and people are getting burned out. I remember a time when there would be a couple of new e-readers and a few tablets every September or October.  Now we have so many devices, its almost ridiculous. Amazon Dash, Echo, smartphones, streaming media boxes and a bevy of  e-readers and tablets. It seems to me that Amazon is saturating the market with haphazard devices, and the Fire Kids Tablet deserves to die.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Barnes and Noble has Two New Nook e-Readers


Barnes and Noble has two new e-readers that they will formally announce them in the next week. The first is a six inch device and the second has a much larger eight inch e-ink screen.

Details are this point are sparse because the FCC report keeps most specs close to the vest. What we do know is the six inch variant is going to replace the existing Nook Glowlight that was released in 2013.  The eight inch edition is much more compelling, it is the first time that Barnes and Noble has ever deviated from the six inch formula and will give readers a much larger screen to read e-books.

Barnes and Noble has admitted to me on many occasions that they will likely be abandoning making tablets and will instead focus on software and e-readers. I am very exited that in the next week we will see a formal unveiling and Good e-Reader will be reviewing the two models ASAP.

40,000 Audiobooks Now Available on TuneIn Premium


If you have an Android or iOS device and listen to the radio, you are likely familiar with TuneIn. The company has been around since 2002 and has over 100,000 radio networks available. Recently the company has expanded to offer a Premium service for $8.99 per month that give you play-by-play from every MLB and Barclays Premier League game, all season long in addition to 40,000 audiobooks.

Findaway, formally Findaway World is a major player in the audiobook industry. Their platform powers  everyone from the 3M Cloud Library  to Nook Audiobooks.  Their latest contract with TuneIn signed last week will be a boon to anyone that wants an unlimited number of audiobooks to listen to on a monthly basis.

TuneIn Premium might be the only game left in town with an extensive catalog of audiobook content. Recently Scribd axed their unlimited program, because customers were listening to so many audio editions that the company was losing money.

Issue #37 of The MagPi, the official Rapsberry Pi magazine, is out now!

The second print edition of The MagPi is here and this month our cover feature is all about digital home automation!

Click to see the latest issue and admire Sam Alder's amazing artwork!

Click to see the latest issue and download your Creative Commons PDF

UK readers can buy it today in newsagents & WHSmiths and US readers can buy the previous issue in Barnes & Noble or MicroCenter.

Buy now from the Raspberry Pi Swag Store

Call +44(0)1202 586848 or visit The MagPi Subscriptions site.

Take a closer look at what's inside this issue

Click for a closer look at what’s inside this issue

Highlights from #37: 

  • The Raspberry Pi digital home
  • Stream to your PC
  • Build a computer vision sequencer
  • Make a fridge monitor
  • The Fallout Pip-Boy
  • Pi in the movies
  • Cool beats with Sonic Pi
  • and much more!


Another new face!
Barely a month seems to have gone by recently without an announcement about an exciting new appointments. Well here’s one more: Rob Zwetsloot.

Rob has joined us in the role of Features Editor fresh from a long stint as a staffer on Linux User & Developer magazine.

Rob Zwetsloot is The MagPi's new Features Editor

Rob Zwetsloot is The MagPi’s new Features Editor

He’s got some great ideas for the magazine, though his mission right now is to find yet more writing talent hidden in the Raspberry Pi community. If you have an article or idea you’d like to see featured in the magazine you can reach him via

By the way, if you’re unsure how to pronounce his surname (it’s Dutch), just vocalise the sound that the TurboLift doors make in Star Trek: TNG (at least that’s what I do).

The post Issue #37 of The MagPi, the official Rapsberry Pi magazine, is out now! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Amazon Fires Engineers Responsible for the Fire Phone


Amazon has fired dozens of employees at Lab126, the secretive hardware development center in silicon valley.   The vast majority of them were from the engineering division that worked on the first Amazon branded smartphone, the Fire Phone. This was the first time in the companies 11 year history that  key employees were let go from Lab126.

According to the Wall Street Journal “The company also has scaled back or halted some of Lab126's more ambitious projects—including a large-screen tablet—and reorganized the division, combining two hardware units there into one, people familiar with the matter said.”

It does not look like their will be a second generation Fire Phone, as many engineers months ago were told. It looks like all future phone plans are shelved.  This may be a good thing, because it really looks like Amazon is branching off into two many directions and none of the products are really that good.

The last calendar year  Amazon developed a small cult following in the form of the Echo. They also released various models of the Dash shipping button, Fire TV, Fire TV Stick,  not to mention 4 new tablets and two e-readers.

Lab126 and Amazon have dozens of secretive things in development including a smart stylus internally called Nitro, which translates a users' scribblings into digital shopping lists; a device dubbed Shimmer for projecting images on walls and other surfaces; and a tablet code-named Project Cairo, with a 14-inch screen.

I have heard that most employees who work on prototype projects at Lab126 want to make cool tech, but CEO Jeff Bezos wants to sell things at cost and turn them into gateways to buy more things from Amazon. This is causing some friction and many employees such as Jon McCormack, the chief technology officer are jumping ship to other companies.

Barnes and Noble Bookstores at War with the Homeless


Many Barnes and Noble bookstores in the US are starting to remove couches and comfy seating in order to combat the homeless problem. Apparently the bookstore chain has policies in place that make it problematic to deny patrons access to the bookstore itself, so many locations are removing couches so homeless people will pick another location to sleep for hours at a time.

This story has been confirmed by the USA Today, where a journalist spoke with staff at their favorite B&N bookstore. The employees – albeit not overtly — said Barnes & Noble chose to get rid of its big, cozy chairs to prevent the homeless from loitering in its stores. While they never used the term "homeless," the employees instead referred to these loiterers as "undesirables," or even "smelly people."

Not only are B&N bookstores all over the country removing reasons for homeless people to chill, but libraries are dealing with the exact same issue. Libraries are considered public spaces that are kept in business because of public funding. This prevents the libraries from acting as a gatekeeper or putting security in place to deny certain people entry. Unlike a bookstore, a library simply can’t remove chairs to solve the problem.

I think Barnes and Noble needs to augment their internal policies to give stores more flexibility to freedom to deny entry to people who do not buy books but use the store as a bathroom and a bedroom.  Sure this might ruffle a few feathers, but paying customers want chairs and couches to chill on while they are reading a book they intend to purchase. Screwing over legitimate patrons by removing couches to give homeless people the boot is doing nothing but punishing people with money to spend.

Walking Dead and Other Image Comics Arrive at Hoopla


If your library patrons are fans of the Walking Dead you might have another reason to deal with Hoopla. Image Comics and Hoopla have just come to terms on single issue and graphic novels. Starting today Libraries that have a contract with Hoopla will find hundreds of new comics available in their collection. Remember, with Hoopla you don’t pay a fee to host their content, Hoopla only gets paid if a patron checks out a title.

Kindle for Kids Bundle Not Getting Much Attention

About three months ago toward the end of May, Amazon started selling a new Kindle for Kids Bundle for $99. There’s nothing “new” about it really, but the idea is new as far as E Ink Kindles are concerned. The device itself is the exact same as the $79 Kindle that was released last October, […]

My 10 deserted island books: Cindy Orr

Recently Time Magazine has released a series of wonderful articles where they asked famous people their ten favorite books or the “ten books they’d take with them if they were marooned on a desert island.” We simply love this idea and wanted to share Team OverDrive’s deserted island reading selections. This first list comes from Cindy Orr, our Digital Collection Advisor.

A note from Cindy: This was incredibly painful, and I'll change my mind tomorrow…


Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

My desert island would most likely not be anything like the Roanoke Valley in Virginia, but Annie Dillard's book, which won the Pulitzer Prize, would help me to slow down, think deep thoughts, and really see the nature around me while contemplating God, the universe, and everything else. Oh, and did I mention that the whole thing is written in beautiful, poetic language?


Dune by Frank Herbert

This is an epic story, and Herbert did an amazing job of world building, including inventing a language. Some would call it science fiction since it is set thousands of years in the future, but it's more than that. This book is even more relevant today than it was in 1965 when it was published, as several great powers are duking it out over which will gain control, and its many Middle Eastern references will resonate even more now.  You'll recognize some features that have become iconic in the science fiction world (like sandworms and sand people), but Herbert did it first.


The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

This book is a sobering account of the five mass extinctions that have occurred on Earth so far, and why the sixth extinction is looming if we don't do something about it. An amazing overview that puts global warming in a very scary perspective, and if I'm on a desert island, I'll probably want to know if the water is rising.


The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Gotta have a mystery, I thought. But why not one that is also a gothic novel, an adventure novel, a thriller, a historical novel, all woven together with folklore and a dash of horror, since it's about Dracula. Even better, one of the themes is the love of books—all of the characters, including Dracula, love books.


Stalin: Vol. I Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 by Stephen Kotkin

I know this seems like an odd choice, but three of my four grandparents got out of Russia just in time in the early 1900s. Those in their villages who didn't leave ended up dead or in Siberia. We're just beginning to understand how horrible Stalin was, and this book was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.


A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch

I would need a really long book or two on my island, and this one is definitely long. I read it as quickly as I could once, and realized that I needed to read it again someday and go much more slowly. Everything you ever wanted to know about the history of Christianity in only 1,016 pages.


Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry 

It's long, so that's good, but it's just an awesome story with characters who seem to live and breathe. If I were cheating, I'd add all the books in the series, but this one is the best. Yes, it's a western, but it's so much more than that. It will immerse you in the real life of the West in the 1870s.


He, She, and It by Marge Piercy

Terrible title, and you'll think the first chapter is a cliché, but this book was written in 1993, and a world run by multinational corporations wasn't a cliché back then. Marge Piercy is a literary writer who some people have said wrote the first cyberpunk novel. (Her reaction: "What is cyberpunk?") This book has so much going on that you could read it many times and not absorb it all. Deep and layered, it compares the creation of the Golem in 1600s Prague with the creation of an android in the near future about fifty years from now when hackers can kill you through cyberspace.


The Sunbird by Wilbur Smith

I'd need some fun reading on my island too, and The Sunbird is one of those books that stand out over my long career for the sheer number of unsolicited rave reviews from library patrons, so you know it's a winner. For nearly 2,000 years, a brilliant and unknown civilization has existed in Africa. Archaeology, mysticism, great plot and characters, and it's long too—perfect for the island.


A Room of One's by Virginia Woolf

This small book has been a favorite of mine for decades now. I love it not just for its message that women need a room of their own and money of their own in order to have a hope of being creative, but also because its structure is fabulous and it's even funny at times.


Cindy Orr is a Digital Collection Advisor with OverDrive

Buy the Sense HAT – as seen in space*!

*Not actually in space yet. Wait till December.

Today we have a new product launch: the Sense HAT is now available from the Swag Store, and through our partners RS Components and Premier Farnell/CPC. Here’s a video from Matt Timmons-Brown, freshly released from GCSE exam hell, to show you around.

The Sense HAT was originally developed around James Adams’ idea to make a cool toy-style board that showed off just how much you could do with your average modern MEMS gyroscope, 64 RGB LEDs and some Atmel microcontroller hackery.

Somewhere between prototype and production, it seems to have attracted extra features like a pressure sensor, a humidity/temperature sensor and a teeny joystick. It also seems to have been comandeered and made an integral part of the Astro Pi mission, which will see two Raspberry Pis, two Sense HATs and a lot of code written by UK schoolkids hosted on the International Space Station – I guess I’m to blame for that.

Astro Pi sense HAT LED

The board forms the basis for many of the experiment sequences that will be run on the ISS – many of the schools competition winners’ entries made good use of the HAT’s sensors to gather their experimental data. The LED matrix also provides a feedback mechanism and interactivity for Major Tim Peake when he’s tasked with deploying the Astro-Pi board on the ISS (he’ll be setting it up on-orbit to run the experiment sequences). One of the winning entries – Reaction Games – programmed a whole suite of joypad-operated games played via the LED matrix. Snake is hilarious on an 8×8 screen.

The board itself has a suite of sensors, a “D-pad” style 5-button joystick and an 8×8 RGB LED matrix driven by a combination of an LED driver chip and an Atmel AVR microcontroller – an ATTiny88.

For the terminally curious, here are the schematics of the board.

The Sense HAT and its Pi tucked snugly in the Astro Pi flight case

The Sense HAT and its Pi tucked snugly into the Astro Pi flight case

Here’s the hardware run-down:

Sensing elements:

Pressure / Temperature
ST Micro LPS25H
– 24-bit pressure measurement resolution (260hPa to 1260hPa)
– 16-bit temperature measurement resolution (0-125°C)

Humidity / Temperature
ST Micro HTS221
– 16-bit humidity measurement resolution (0-100% relative humidity)
– 16-bit temperature measurement resolution (0-60°C)

Acceleration/Gyroscope/Magnetic field
ST Micro LSM9DS1
– 9 degrees of freedom (X, Y, Z independent axes for all sensors)
– ±16 g acceleration measurement range
– ±16 gauss magnetometer measurement range
– ±2000 dps (degrees per second) gyroscope measurement range
Each of these measurement channels has 16 bits of resolution.

All of these sensors have features for periodic sampling of sensor values – complete with internal FIFO storage. The LPS25H and HTS221 have maximum sample rates of 25 per second, the LSM9DS1 has a maximum sample rate of 952Hz – we are already imagining the birth of a million Pi-controlled stunt quadcopters.

LED Matrix
The LED matrix is driven by a combination of a constant-current LED driver and an Atmel ATTiny88 running a custom firmware that delivers an 8×8 display with 15-bit resolution RGB colour. If you want to get into the gory details, the AVR firmware is available on Github.

The Atmel is responsible for sampling the joystick. We didn’t have enough pins left on the Atmel to dedicate the five that we needed to sample the joystick axes independently, so they’ve been spliced into the LED matrix row selects. The joystick gets updated at approximately 80Hz, which is the scan rate of the LED matrix.

All of the sensors (and the base firmware for the Atmel) are accessible from the Pi over I2C. As a fun bonus mode, the SPI peripheral on the Atmel has been hooked up to the Pi’s SPI interface – you can reprogram your HAT in the field! We use this method to get the firmware into the Atmel during production test – and we leave it unprotected so you can substitute the stock firmware to get it to do whatever you want. Seriously. First person to turn this sensor HAT into a quadcopter controller HAT wins a cookie from me.

If you’re not assembly-language inclined, you can always use the HAT’s sensors from our shipped Python library – standard function calls return sensor values, give you joystick key events and allow you to display things on the LED matrix. The Sense API is available through the Raspbian APT repositories.

To access the magic, simply enter:

sudo apt-get update  sudo apt-get install sense-hat  sudo pip-3.2 install pillow  

into a terminal window. Note you will have to reboot for the Sense HAT to be recognised.

The API is well-documented (and tested extensively by schoolchildren as part of Astro-Pi) – get reading here.

The LED matrix appears as a Linux framebuffer device – for fun you can compare the results of

cat /dev/urandom > /dev/fb0  


cat /dev/urandom > /dev/fb1

to fill either your attached monitor or the LED matrix with random noise. The joypad appears as a standard input device – the “keys” map to Up/Down/Left/Right and Enter.

The baseline price (excluding spacers and screws, and local taxes) is $30. You’ll be able to buy from all the usual suspects – the Swag Store (which is bundling spacers and screws for free), RS Components/Allied, Premier Farnell/Newark and all their subsidiaries have stock today. Secondary suppliers may take a couple of days to get their hands on stock.

So, what are you waiting for? Get sensor hacking!

The post Buy the Sense HAT – as seen in space*! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Amazon is Developing a 12 Inch Fire Tablet


Amazon is developing a 12 inch variant of the fire tablet that will be released in limited quantities. Unlike the Kindle e-reader that is produced in ungodly quantities Amazon has only placed an order for 100,000 units a month for the 12 inch tablet.

The large-size tablet’s panel is supplied by a Taiwan-based touch panel maker, sources have said. Although Amazon is estimated to be able to ship 4-5 million tablets in a year, most of them are 7- to 8-inch models, with their panels being supplied by China-based touch panel makers.

Apple has been rumored to be developing a 12 inch iPad Pro for a number of years, but it has not come to fruition yet. I think Amazon could make a go out of a large screen tablet in order to watch content from Amazon Instant Video.

Tablet Keyboard Cover With an E Ink Screen (Video)

Here’s something a bit different. The Microsoft Applied Sciences Group has built a prototype of a keyboard cover for tablets that includes a secondary E Ink display that offers some unique new ways to use a tablet and help make productivity easier. It’s called the DisplayCover. It’s a new take on the two displays experiment. […]

There’s something for everyone in our Back to School sale!


As August starts to sundown into September and the back to school season kicks into high gear, it's time for librarians and educators to turn our attention to the great mission before us: engaging young readers. The voracious readers are easy, but how do you encourage the more reluctant ones? Or how do you support the regular readers by fostering their love of the written word?

One of the best ways to capture the attention of readers of all levels and interests is by continually providing them more new content. This isn't just a job of school librarians. The public library serves an equally important role in the development of the community's children. Of course, we here at OverDrive are aware that there are always budget concerns to keep in mind and for that reason we’re excited to share with you some of the awesome things happening in our Back to School sale, which runs through the end of September.

If one of the obstacles you find is that the kids and teens you work with don't want to read a book, consider encouraging them to give audiobooks a try or even a comic or graphic novel. For younger audiences there is a fantastic collection of Narrated eBooks which mom and dad will surely appreciate as it means they won't have to be the one to read the same book over and over again each night before bed time. This is also a chance to build your collection to meet the needs of community language speaking kids and to that end we have a Spanish Language list as well as Asian Content titles.

For school librarians, consider seeing this as an opportunity to support the faculty and staff at your school thanks to the Teacher Essentials list which is full of professional development tools. We've also curated lists of STEM titles as well as Classroom Essentials and Novel Sets.

Our Back to School sale features over 30,000 titles across multiple platforms and publishers with savings up to 50% off. Also, don't let the Back to School moniker stop you from really digging into the deals as there is a collection of fiction and non-fiction Adult titles on sale and our Australian partners, currently in the middle of their winter season, can stock up on Kids & Teen titles.

Happy shopping!


Jill Grunenwald is a Collection Development Analyst with OverDrive

Amazon Discontinues the Fire TV


Amazon has just discontinued selling their Fire TV media streaming box. You can no longer place an order on their US website and many European countries are also showing it as unavailable. It is likely that Amazon is in the process of developing a second generation model that has more internal memory.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Microsoft Unveils Keyboard Cover with e-Ink Touchscreen


Microsoft has developed a new touchscreen e Ink touchscreen keyboard panel that might be built into your next laptop or keyboard accessory for a tablet PC.

The Microsoft DisplayCover is a peripheral cover designed for compact touch-enabled laptops. A tactile keyboard affords users with the comfort and ease of use provided by physical keys. A thinfilm e-ink display with a resolution of 1280 x 305 pixels extends the available screen real estate of the slate device by up to 8% (based on a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 with a 10.6", 1080p, 208ppi screen).  Microsoft basically selected e Ink  due to the bistable nature of electrophoretic ink, reducing the secondary screen's impact on battery life.
Microsoft is hoping to add a series of widgets in order to be compatible with a stylus. They are also going to be implementing pinching and zooming alongside trackpad functionality.

Amazon Technology Officer Jumps Ship to Google


Jon McCormack, the chief technology officer at Amazon was responsible for overseeing the teams making software for the Kindle, Fire phone and Amazon TV. He has left Amazon to take up a job at Google's Advanced Technologies and Projects group.

According to Re/Code McCormack first left Amazon late last year, but he returned in March after a two-month stint at Yahoo. At Amazon, McCormack most recently reported to David Limp, who runs the entire devices business and is one of only a handful of senior vice presidents at the company.

With such a major executive leaving Amazon it certainly puts the future of hardware in jeopardy. I have been following Amazon products since 2007 and basically they are much akin to Apple, in the respect they constantly release small incremental updates. This is hardly a challenging environment and I am not surprised he has left.

At Google, McCormack will build out an ecosystem of developers to contribute to Google's Advanced Technologies and Projects group, according to a spokesperson. ATAP is led by Regina Dugan, the former head of the Pentagon's research group, DARPA, who has described her group's mission as "trying to do epic shit." It is designed to tackle ambitious projects — like augmented reality and wearable tech.

Should there be a e-Book VAT Exemption for Schools in Europe?

Selling e-books in Europe is challenging, since the VAT rules keep changing. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google and Apple used to be based out of Luxembourg to sell their digital books, since they could get away with charging  3% VAT on e-books in every country in Europe. On January 1st 2015 the European Commission mandated that VAT will be payed based on where the buyer is located and not the seller. The United Kingdom, for example has a 20% VAT on e-books but does not charge any tax at all on print.  Why is there such a price difference between digital and print? This is primarily because according to EU law, reduced VAT rates can apply only to goods, not e-services.

Fundamentally e-books have no clear path of ownership because they are licensed to a particular user. When you “purchase” a title from Amazon, Apple, Google or Kobo you are entering into a complex agreement where the company acts as an agent on behalf of the publisher.

Some countries, such as Poland, are not just sitting back and letting the gulf between print and digital widen further. A number of Polish judges have petitioned the European Court of Justice to look into making the e-Book VAT mirror print.

Every European country has different rates of VAT that it charges for digital and print. This has become increasingly difficult for schools, colleges and universities to invest into e-textbooks and e-books in an meaningful way. Most institutions of learning cannot build an effective e-book library due to the exorbitant cost and this has resulted in massive print collections.

In North America there are plenty of players in the $14 billion dollar e-textbook business such as Chegg, Coursesmart, Vitalsource and Yuzu.

When it comes down to it, at least in North America it makes sense for schools to invest in digital. Apple, Aruba Networks, Chegg, Discovery Education, Idaho Department of Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Inkling, Intel, Knewton, Kno, the LEAD Commission,  McGraw-Hill, News Corp, Pearson, Samsung, Sprint, and T-Mobile talked recently collaborated with the FCC for a meaningful report. They found that a traditional learning environment, including traditional textbooks, paper, technology and connectivity, costs an estimated $3,871 per student per year. Whereas a learning environment today, including digital learning content, devices,
technology and connectivity, costs an estimated $3,621 per student per year.

Meanwhile in Europe there are hardly anyone participating in digitized textbook arena. When countries such as Poland try and make sweeping changes they devote a paltry $1 million US to the entire educational system, which is just enough for 62 e-textbooks per school. Obviously this is not enough to be even a drop in the bucket.

I think schools, colleges, universities and libraries should be exempt from VAT in order to encourage them to invest into digital and allow students to be able to buy and read them on their Android, iOS or e-reader. It would be far easier to coordinate on a government level some sort of VAT exemption then to try and reverse the decision that e-books are a service and not a product. Not only would this be good for the entire educational system but the European startup scene.

Celebrate Read an eBook Day and win content credit from OverDrive!

We are excited to share that OverDrive will once again be celebrating Read an eBook Day on September 18th. This year we’re giving away four separate content credits of $2,500 to libraries who are celebrating Read an eBook Day. Simply mention OverDrive in a social media post using the hashtag #eBookLove and to share how your library is celebrating.  Throughout the day, OverDrive will randomly select four libraries as winners.*

RAEBD_300x250-graphic_v2The purpose of Read an eBook Day is to celebrate digital reading as a great way to connect readers with their libraries and authors they love. Given that September is Library Card Sign-up Month we think Read an eBook Day is the perfect time to introduce all your new users to your digital collection! Libraries and users alike are encouraged to share what they’re reading and how they are celebrating on social media and join the #eBookLove conversation. You can also send users to for reading recommendations based on their favorite genres.

To help spread the word and get your community excited about your digital library we have three quick promotional ideas for you to use:

  1. Issue a press release to your local news outlets. We've created a template you can download here.
  2. Put a link to your digital collection prominently on your library website (We have provided 3 graphics you can use here, here and here).
  3. Use these marketing materials to promote both inside and outside your community


We hope that you will join us in celebrating digital reading and help bring new users to your library!



*Official rules can be downloaded here.