Thursday, March 5, 2015

Amazon e-books Once Again Available in US Libraries

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Overdrive has been engulfed in a massive technical issue that made thousands of Kindle e-books unavailable to libraries. Patrons quickly found out that since December it was hard to find a bestseller from Penguin or Hachette that was compatible with their e-reader. Overdrive, Libraries and the media was oblivious of this issue, until a Good e-Reader Report prompted the industry to evaluate what exactly was going on.

95% of all libraries in the United States currently has an e-book collection. The undisputed market leader in facilitating digital content such as audiobooks, e-books, music and videos is Overdrive. They are the only company that actually has a business deal with Amazon to provide the e-books it sells in the Kindle format. This has been a tremendous advantage and major selling point when Overdrive approaches libraries to deal with them.

In December a glitch hit the Overdrive system that started preventing the delivery of e-books in the Kindle e-book format. Small presses and self-publish titles were available, but hundreds of bestsellers from major publishers were not. Nobody really noticed it at first, as libraries were dealing with an influx of people coming into the branches with their shiny new e-readers, smartphones and tablets. The collections management departments and IT were likely swamped with all the new and existing users all logging in at the same time and borrowing a ton of content.

I think it came down to the fact that everyone was stuck in their routine. Digital books were always delivered in Kindle and EPUB format and people were complacent and rest assured in that knowledge. The holidays, News Years, CES and ALA Mid-Winter quickly occured and everyone was focused on that.

In February, things tend to slow down for everyone and a few tech savvy users begun to ask questions. New bestsellers started to come out and they weren’t available in the Kindle format. A few users emailed into Good e-Reader about this issue and asked us to investigate. We contacted several libraries in the US and they all confirmed that there was a problem with Kindle e-books, but they did not know why. We made Overdrive aware of the situation and they promised they would investigate.

Within a week of the media picking up on this story and asking questions the industry was caught off-guard. Why weren’t libraries told by their Overdrive rep there was a problem? Is Overdrive working on a new deal with Amazon because their existing contract was expiring and they were negotiating? This would not be the first time that Amazon made certain books not available during a contract dispute.

Within two weeks Overdrive wrote the whole situation off to a technical bug. They did not elaborate on what the issue was, they simply said that had been solved.

Was it a simple bug, is there a greater story here? Who knows.

Amazon e-books Once Again Available in US Libraries is a post from: Good e-Reader

PocketBook 630 e-Reader Now Available in Russia

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The Pocketbook 630 was originally announced last September and its now available for sale in Russia. It looks like Pocketbook is selling two different variants, one with the Kenzo cover, which features a sweet embossed crocodile leather case and one model without the case.

The PocketBook 630 Fashion features a six inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 1024 x 758 pixels. One of the innovative design elements beyond this device is the built-in ambient light sensor. It will automatically adjust the front-lit display based on the surrounding conditions. So the brightness with be different outside in the shade then reading in complete darkness in bed.

The e-reader supports 19 popular text and image formats and provides a set of pre-installed ABBYY Lingvo dictionaries, which makes it easy to read books even in a foreign language. 4GB of built-in memory plus a microSD slot will be enough to keep even the largest collection of favorite literature. Using the device is simple and, which is more important, incredibly comfortable due to the multi-sensory display and the new PocketBook user interface. Access to the Internet via built-in Wi-Fi opens up limitless opportunities not only for reading, but also for social networking using via ReadRate service. The pre-installed Dropbox and Send to PocketBook services allow to transfer content to the device without connecting to a PC.

This e-reader is only available in Russia right now. You can get the 630 with the case for 14,999 Rubles or just buy the e-reader straight up for 12,999 Rubles. There is no word yet on when this will be available elsewhere.

PocketBook 630 e-Reader Now Available in Russia is a post from: Good e-Reader

Hands on with the Good e-Reader App Store for e Ink

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Earlier in the week we unveiled our new Android App Store 100% optimized for e Ink e-Readers. This is the first online store in the world that was developed work exclusively ondigital readers that have the Google Android operating system installed. Today, we give you a comprehensive hands on review of the store, giving you a sense on how it performs and what you can expect by installing it.


Hands on with the Good e-Reader App Store for e Ink is a post from: Good e-Reader

Entry-Level Kindle Touch on Sale for $59 Through Saturday

Amazon’s latest entry-level Kindle is on sale this week at Amazon.com for $59. That’s $20 off the regular price, a 25% savings. The sale ends Saturday, March 7th. The entry-level Kindle is also on sale for the same price from authorized retailers like Best Buy and Staples, if one of those stores is nearby and […]

First Reviews of Onyx Boox M96C with Capacitive Touch

The Onyx Boox M96 is an Android-powered ereader with a 9.7-inch E Ink screen. Up until recently it was only available with a touchscreen that requires using a stylus pen for input. Then toward the end of January the Onyx Boox M96C was released. The “C” means it has a finger-friendly capacitive touchscreen instead of […]

You can now add Disney streaming videos to your digital library!

Team OverDrive is incredibly delighted to announce the addition of streaming videos from The Walt Disney Studios for your OverDrive digital collection. Each of us has fond Disney memories from Tinker Bell flying around Cinderella's castle to watching intently and trying to find hidden Mickey Mouse ears. All of your patrons can now make these memories at the touch of a screen on any internet connected device with a web browser.

Disney is the latest in a string of big name studios to offer their content in the Cost Per Circ (CPC) lending model, meaning there is no upfront cost to add these titles. You only pay when a patron uses the content. Simply login to Marketplace, click the Shop dropdown at the upper left, select Cost Per Circ, and add your parameters to the Budget and Policies section for Disney. Popular available titles include A Goofy Movie, 3 Ninjas, Air Bud, Annie, Ducktales the Movie, The Muppet Movie, Oliver and Company, The Sword in the Stone, and the list goes on! As an added bonus, anyone who signs up for the Disney CPC plan will automatically get an OverDrive Screening Room. Check it out live in action at Greater Phoenix Digital Library.

Login to Marketplace and sign up today. Contact your Collection Development Specialist or collectionteam@overdrive.com for more details.

As a reminder for your patrons (or an introduction to new ones) here is a helpful article on how they can get started with your streaming video collection.

Have a Hot Dog Day!

B&N’s Nook Press in Bed with the Author Solutions Devil?

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It’s no secret among members of the self-publishing community that there are some names you should just run from. Some of those names, like Author Solutions–who is currently embroiled in not-its-first legal battle with authors in a class action suit–are simply synonymous with ripping off authors who have a dream of being published, but who don’t have the various tech and publishing know-how to realize they’re being taken advantage of.

But when Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press division announced last year that it was expanding what it can do for its authors by offering new services such as editing, artwork, and print-on-demand, more than a few industry watchers had immediate concerns: Barnes and Noble is the largest bookselling chain left in the US, so where did they find the talent pool to shift into book creation?

In articles like this one, this one, and this one, various experts speculated about such a talent pool, and it would seem that their initial fears were correct. Nook Press has apparently partnered with one of the most notoriously ill-reputed companies in operation, Author Solutions. Now, one of the most outspoken and well-documented critics of Author Solutions’ shady practices, David Gaughran, provides not only his thoughts on the apparent partnership, but also his proof of why this is not good for authors.

Gaughran’s article is HERE, but essentially, Nook Press authors–at least on the surface–should just be receiving the things they request and pay for, all under the direction of and association with Nook Press. In theory, a Nook Press author should never even hear the name Author Solutions, and any of the notoriously bad customer service experiences that authors have lobbed against the Penguin Random House-owned Author Solutions shouldn’t even be an issue.

But as Gaughran points out, the agreement with Author Solutions allows AS to contact Nook Press authors and try to upsell them expensive packages of services, which documents show is to the mutual benefit of both partners in this agreement. Presumably that implies that B&N will be earning some kind of return if its authors sign on with AS for additional services like their so-called marketing packages.

Also, further documentation shows that Author Solutions is entitled to the personal contact information of Nook Press authors who sign on for any of the new Nook Media services, and can use those authors’ names as evidence of AS’s great service. This means that an author who signs on with Nook Press’ services and may have never even heard of Author Solutions can find himself as the posterboy in an AS advertisement.

Perhaps the most alarming issue, though, is one that Gaughran highlights specifically, and that relates to the rights any customers have to take legal action. The terms of service an author agrees to when signing on for services offered through Nook Press/Nook Media results in waiving the right to take direct legal action against the companies and forfeits any participation in a class action suit (like the one that Author Solutions is currently fighting), and instead requires the parties to go to arbitration.

If all of the experts’ concerns are true–and it’s looking more and more like they are–this is genuinely sad news. B&N and its Nook Press division have always been quiet underdogs in self-publishing, to be sure, especially since they’ve only offered authors a streamlined ability to distribute an ebook to readers while not directly stocking their POD print titles in stores or on their website, but they’ve been there for authors and have made self-published works available to their Nook e-reader users. The ebook creation platform they’ve built is straightforward and easy to use, even for first-time authors. They’re just not a company you hear a lot of complaints about, but this unfortunate partnership could erase that hard-earned reputation.

B&N’s Nook Press in Bed with the Author Solutions Devil? is a post from: Good e-Reader

Pedalumi – the illuminated pedalboard

We received an email a little while back from Christian Schw√∂bel in Germany. He’d found one of our blog posts from a couple of years back, about a guitar effects unit, and thought we might be interested in his project too.

It’s a light organ built into a guitar pedalboard, with LPD8806 strips to provide digitally addressable glowiness in a case made from lots of acrylic glass in an MDF frame, all controlled by a Raspberry Pi Model B. It visualises sounds using varying colour, brightness and pattern, and it’s also capable of functioning as a tuner or a visual metronome:

The woodwork, lighting, hardware and software aspects of this impressive project are all written up on the project site at http://xwoe.net/pedalumi, and you can find the source code at https://github.com/Xwoe/pedalumi.

Pedalumi - image by Christian Schwöbel

“Hope you like it!” Christian signs off his email. We really do, Christian; thank you for sharing it with us!

EA Drops the Axe on SimCity & Sims Developer Maxis

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Sometimes it is a good thing that details are forgotten over time. For me, this includes a tally of the total hours spent playing SimCity since the original version of the game was released in 1987. I had certainly played my fair share of games before then, but this one was different. Until then, games didn’t make an effort to be authentically ‘ongoing‘. Every other game could be beaten. Every other game ended. Every other game waited patiently for your next move or response. Time passed for the residents of SimCity in much the same way it does in real life, and with it came change (and progress, good and bad). It may be hard for younger generations to understand how that felt for us as gamers then, because simulated reality is just a given now; but for those of us growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, it was basically magic. And now it’s over. EA has announced the closure of the Maxis development house in Emeryville, CA originally responsible for SimCity.

News of the closure came as a surprise, but it was inevitable. EA has closed historically significant development studios in the past when they have failed to produce, and this Maxis location never seemed to find another slam dunk in offshoot titles like SimAnt and SimCopter.

SimCity and Sims are iconic titles, and they will carry on without Maxis (in sequel’ed perpetuity), but it doesn’t much matter because they aren’t the same anymore. They are flashy and streamlined, and just like hundreds of other apps out there.

I am well aware how dramatic and cheesy it is to declare it to be the end of an era, but this announcement does carry a hefty amount of nostalgia. My children live in a world where video games are inextricably embedded into pop culture: a new movie means a corresponding app, a new toy will be the star of a game before it has ever seen a retail shelf. Not only that, these games are relatively cheap (or free) and can be carried in the palms of their hands. They can download them moments after a friend recommends them.

That isn’t all that has changed. People have a much clearer view of where technology is headed these days: there is an understanding that it will all get faster, stronger, and more affordable. Flash back almost 30 years, and I can tell you that my peers and I had no idea. There was no Internet, no bloggers waxing poetic, and no emails to read. You read the news that was delivered physically to your front door. If you were lucky, your TV got a few more than 3 channels and there were a couple of cartoons to watch on Saturday mornings. So with that in mind, understand that when I got my hands on SimCity, it meant something to me. It was maybe even a little inspiring (I did become a software developer some time later after all).

SimCity was successful at a time when we didn’t have tablets filled with hundreds of apps, downloaded for free (or nearly free) and ready to play with a single tap. Video games were expensive, and playing a new release often meant costly upgrades to your hardware as well. Would you still play half the games you enjoy if they each set you back over $80 dollars?

If you’ve never played SimCity, this is where I lose you… but for the benefit of those who would like to reminisce along side me, it entertains me to admit that these sorts of thoughts still go through my head as I move through life on any given day:

Oh look at that, a park –that will make the people near-by a lot happier!

This is a strange route for traffic to take, if they routed this street over one more block things would flow a whole lot faster!

Wow, this residential area is entirely too close to that commercial district!

There is a lot of land here unsuitable for residential development because of those power lines and how expensive it would be to properly excavate, this would be a great place to drop a little block of industrial space!

With this many blocks of residential, and ‘x’ amount of citizens per block on average (for light-density housing), there really should be a second police station and fire department somewhere close!

RIP Emeryville Maxis, rest assured you did good work.

EA Drops the Axe on SimCity & Sims Developer Maxis is a post from: Good e-Reader

YotaPhone 2 is Coming to the US – With A Catch

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The Yotaphone has the dubious distinction of being the first one to have e-ink on one side and a full LCD on the other. The first generation model suffered from a non-responsive e-ink screen and fairly woeful specs. The second generation model which is fairly new added a touchscreen and beefier specs. It has only been available in the United Kingdom so far and is coming to the US, but with a catch.

In an interview with PhoneScoop, the company’s Matthew Kelly said that the e-ink display-toting device will be made available to backers on Indiegogo. Backers will likely get some sort of discount or be put at the front of the line. There is no retail distribution deal yet, but ideally if the crowd campaign, likely the telecoms will come a knocking.

The YotaPhone is expensive, like really pricey. It currently costs £600 or over $900 US. Be prepared to spend come serious cash if you want to be an early adopter.

YotaPhone 2 is Coming to the US – With A Catch is a post from: Good e-Reader

HBO to Offer Standalone Streaming Service for $15/month

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Okay, it’s still kind of sitting in the rumours phase, but it appears HBO is finally ready to launch their standalone subscription streaming service (supposedly called HBO Now). For many cord-cutters (meaning those of us who have cancelled our traditional cable television services) HBO was reason enough to hold out, particularly for fans of certain HBO programming (Game of Thrones for instance; I may as well say it, you were all thinking it… particularly with the projected timing for an April launch).

The cost is being estimated at $15 USD per month, which quite frankly seems a little steep to me. While it’s true that HBO content comes with a lot of quality production value (which they hope will help justify their premium price-tag), when we start purchasing channels a-la-carte in this manner, it needs to make financial sense –and while $15 isn’t a lot, when you consider the library that comes along with the likes of Netflix or Hulu Plus for a lot less it becomes harder to justify the subscription.

Details are a little sketchy at the moment, including which platforms will be supported. It has always been assumed that Apple TV would be among the first on board (just like they were with HBO Go, which still required a cable package that included the channel), but it would seem careless to exclude others like Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV.

You can bet that lots of other networks are watching this launch carefully, waiting to see how quickly people embrace the idea of buying their favourite ‘channels’ one at a time. No matter the results, it won’t tell the whole story: not everybody can charge as much as HBO, so can smaller networks like ABC or CBS still make money if they come in at something like $0.99/month? can there be two rates (one with advertisements, one without)? will there be minimum time periods for subscription or can people drop service in the summer when it is all reruns anyway? will there be an easy way to manage multiple standalone subscriptions (at a certain point, your time is worth something too)?

There will be lots of details to sort out, but we need to see a little proof of concept first.

If you had your choice (or maybe you already do), which channels would you order a-la-carte that would satisfy all of your television viewing needs?

There are very few series that I watch while they are still current, so my needs are few: Netflix (can’t live without House of Cards now even if I tried), Hulu Plus (which may be missing a few titles, like Big Bang Theory from CBS, but it’s comprehensive enough to give me Vikings and keep me happy), NHL Gamecentre Live (seasonally, of course), and now HBO. I’ve toyed a little with Shomi and not been terribly impressed. I constantly flirt with Amazon Prime (which I have never had, so I don’t know what I am missing and that may be for the best).

Traditional cable is going the way of the dodo for real now, which means consumers no longer have to put up with the old way of doing television subscriptions (I bet there isn’t a single person reading this who hasn’t had to pay for an entire tier of cable just to bump your subscription up a notch so you can get a single other channel that of course is pretty much the main one you care about).

In other news, new episodes of Game of Thrones are coming soon!

HBO to Offer Standalone Streaming Service for $15/month is a post from: Good e-Reader