Thursday, April 30, 2015

Kobo Next Puts the Spotlight on Indie Authors


Kobo Writing Life is a self-publishing platform and it was first unveiled in 2012. It was originally launched to compete with Kindle Direct Publishing and provide a viable avenue to sell books internationally. Kobo has faced many challenges in the marketplace and they are always looking for new things to try out to see what pops. The latest, is Kobo Next, an extension of their digital bookstore that exclusively promotes self-published titles.

Kobo Next is a new section of the Kobo online bookstore that gives readers a chance to discover new authors, they likely have never heard of. Not only are the indie books promoted online, but also in mailing lists and new release newsletters.

The one thing I like about Kobo Next is how they showcase from many different genres. Mysteries, Romance, Science-Fiction, Fiction and Non-Fiction are the ones they are showcasing this month. This honestly makes sense, because mysteries, sci-fi and romance account for the majority of Kobo book sales.

I hope that Kobo expands upon Next and puts all self-published titles in their own category and create separation from their  traditionally published books. This is best for business.

Two years a go a massive firestorm erupted due to hundreds of adult eBooks with topics ranging from threesomes to incest were being listed in the same category as kids' books. This was primarily attributed to meta data that was incorrectly putting taboo subjects and created a global outrage. Major booksellers such as WH Smith shuttered their digital bookstores, resulting in thousands of customers unable to buy books at all. This was basically a Kobo problem, since WH Smith actually has a license with Kobo to sell digital books.  Not only did Kobo get dissected by mainstream media, but they pissed off authors by deleting over one thousand titles from vanity presses and their own Writing Life platform.

I have always been a strong proponent of sequestering independently published books into their own categories, instead of having them mixed into everything else. There are a myriad of reasons for this, such as quality and control, accepting everything submitted by default and the sub-par nature of the vast majority of titles. I think Kobo Next is laying down the foundation of a separate area for indie titles which is fine by me.

Kobo Next Puts the Spotlight on Indie Authors is a post from: Good e-Reader

The Kobo Glo HD e-Reader is Now Available


Kobo has just released their latest e-reader, the Glo HD. This device is now available to purchase at Chapters Bookstores in Canada and is already shipping out in the post to people who pre-ordered it online.

The brand new Kobo Glo HD features a six inch e-ink Carta screen with a resolution of 1448×1072 and 300 PPI. It has the same front-lit display as the Kobo Aura H2O, so you will be able to read in low-light conditions or complete darkness. One of the cool tricks you can employ is dragging your finger down the left side of the screen to adjust the light.

Underneath the hood is a 1 GHZ processor and 4 GB of internal storage. When you take the e-reader out of the box for the first time you only have 3.1 GB of memory, primarily because the OS  takes up a fair amount of space.

The Kobo Glo HD does have an SD card, but it requires you to remove the back plate off of the device. If you want to put a larger card in, you must first clone the partitions using advanced software. Obviously this will be beyond the average user, but advanced ones can easily do it.

I think this e-reader is perfect for those who have never had one before or have an older Kobo model.

The Kobo Glo HD e-Reader is Now Available is a post from: Good e-Reader

Books for the Terror and Glory of Wedding Planning


Together with my fiancĂ©e, I am currently dealing with the joy and stress of planning our wedding.  And despite the fact that I am a 4x bridesmaid and a former cater-waiter, I still need A LOT of help.  Help from our parents and friends, help from blogs and websites, and help from books at the library. It can take a legion of people to make this very specialwedding animated GIF day happen, whether the couple is having a budget-conscious casual wedding at a local park, or an expensive and lavish wedding at a swanky banquet hall.

So for the variety of patrons who will be involved in a wedding this year, I'm happy to present you with a collection of wedding and marriage books for brides, grooms, members of the wedding party, professionals, and beyond.  More than a list of wedding guides and lookbooks, this list includes books for those who may need a little help reducing stress (guilty), fitness and diet guides for those who want to look their best before the big day (guilty), and self-improvement and advice titles for the Happily Ever After of post-wedding life… you know, that whole marriage thing I've heard so much about lately.  Also included manuals for wedding professionals such as photographers and officiants, and craft books for the DIY'ers and Etsy sellers (doubly guilty).

And to keep a little levity and perspective, there are plenty of humor books as well.  Because after an afternoon of mutual ranting and shared stress-eating of Girl Scout cookies with your chosen life-partner-to-be (aka my last Sunday), you need a good laugh.

Liz Tousey is a Collection Development Analyst with OverDrive 

Amazon’s Whispercast Update Meets the Needs of K12 Classrooms

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was a classroom teacher for almost twenty years, the last seven of which were spent using a classroom set of Kindle e-readers. My classroom had more than 200 ebooks for the students to choose from, and it was a nightmare trying to make that innovation work.

But nightmares no more! Amazon has released an update for its Whispercast feature that will make life so much easier for K12 administrators, reading coaches, teachers, and students.

Before you wonder how Whispercast even applies to this setting, remember not to confuse it with Whispersync. That feature just makes sure your downloads happen seamlessly without the need for a cable, and makes sure that readers are in the same location in a particular book no matter if they read on their e-readers, listen to an audio edition, and more.

Whispercast allows content holders to “mass distribute” their content across devices. To give an example, when I would purchase an ebook for my classroom–remembering that Amazon’s policy allows you to put a single purchase on up to six devices–I had to sit at my desktop and use the Manage My Kindle feature to deliver the book to six different devices, then had to turn on each device and tell it to sync. That process is time consuming, and really erased the “wow factor” of turning to a student who asked if I had a particular book and saying, “I do now. Check your Kindle.”

The real educational benefit to the Whispercast 3.0 update, though, is the purchase order feature. Again, when I purchased the Kindles in 2009, I had earned a grant to buy the devices. The first year, we could only read the free content, which at the time amounted to a lot of public domain classics. The following year, I received the same grant and was able to start purchasing bestselling titles; the problem was in the special permission I had to get to make purchases. I had to use our school’s credit card and store it in the Amazon account, something that is no small feat when you’re dealing with a tax-funded bureaucracy. Eventually the school allowed me to put the remaining balance of the grant money on an Amazon gift card and store that in the system, which did streamline the process.

Thanks to the update, teachers can finally use school purchase orders to buy ebooks. Many schools to this day will not let teachers buy anything that cannot be a) paid for with a purchase order or b) have a “property of” sticker placed on it. It’s a throwback to the olden days of purchasing, but at the same time, the slow adoption is at least forgivable when you factor in the fifty-plus teachers in a single school all trying to purchase supplies for their classrooms while still avoiding fraud.

One final headache that teachers have had to overcome was the need for an administrator (at either the school level or the school system level) to be “in charge” of the use of the devices and the Amazon account. That means that letting teachers buy ebooks for their class can take weeks before someone higher up has the chance to get to it, especially if it’s someone who oversees several schools. That defeats the purpose of instant downloads, and makes even more work on teachers and school officials. The Whispercast 3.0 update allows for administrator oversight while still putting more control in the individual teacher’s hands.

This might seem like a non-issue to ebook consumers on the outside of this situation, but this update is truly a huge development for bringing lower cost and highly adaptable ebooks to the classroom. It’s sad how little penetration ebooks have gotten in the public school setting, especially when you consider the typical cost effectiveness, the ability for students with disabilities to manipulate the book, and the fact that ebooks won’t become damaged and need to be replaced with even normal use.

Amazon’s Whispercast Update Meets the Needs of K12 Classrooms is a post from: Good e-Reader

Google Leaves Us With Few Choices Following Nexus 7 Retirement


Google retired the Nexus 7 earlier this week, leaving many of us wondering what could be in store at the upcoming I/O conference in late May. Generally considered to be among the higher-end mobile device hardware options (don’t be fooled by the number of sales, which will appear small by comparison to the likes of Samsung or Huawei), the Nexus lineup is overdue for a refresh (and there may not be much time, if Google gets out of hardware it may be more difficult for the company to keep the reigns tight on the direction taken by Android as a platform).

Not that Google has been sitting on their mobile hands, especially considering the recent announcement of Google Fi (a hybrid wireless carrier intended to increase competition and innovation in the carriers marketplace)… we just want more (by way of an amazingly affordable, completely unlocked, incredibly powerful, terribly versatile, smartphone and tablet line-up). That isn’t too much to ask for is it?

Rumour mills are circling, with many suggesting that there is new hardware coming our way (and it may just be a refreshed, Fi-friendly version of the Nexus 5, called the Nexus 5 2015).

Google Leaves Us With Few Choices Following Nexus 7 Retirement is a post from: Good e-Reader

Windows 10 for IoT

Back in February, when we launched Raspberry Pi 2, the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed the folks at Microsoft making an announcement about bringing Windows 10 for IoT to the Raspberry Pi. We’re excited to share that it landed today – along with a ridiculously cool demo. The chap in the video is HoloLens designer Alex Kipman.

I’m guessing that this video will leave a lot of you wanting to get your hands on a version of Windows 10 for IoT that you can use with your own Pi. This is all in developer beta still, so you’ll have to sign up to the Windows 10 Insider program and grab a copy of Windows 10 Insider Preview (I know a couple of our forum mods did so overnight because I got excited messages about robots from them which I found when I woke up this morning) and download the Windows 10 Core IoT Preview, which is all free. This is pre-release software, so it comes with all the usual stability warnings – and yes, you will have to have a copy of Windows 10 on your PC.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 09.57.44

Steve Teixeira at Microsoft says:

We're embracing the simple principle of helping Makers and device builders do more by bringing our world-class development tools, the power of the Universal Windows Platform, direct access to hardware capabilities, and the ability to remotely debug, update, and manage the software running on Raspberry Pi 2 devices. This Insider Preview release of Windows 10 IoT Core is our conversation-starter. Our goal is to give Makers the opportunity to play with the software bits early and to listen to the feedback on what's working well and what we can do better. You may notice some missing drivers or rough edges; we look forward to receiving your feedback to help us prioritize our development work. We'll be incorporating the feedback we receive into regular software updates along with additional drivers, bug fixes and new features. Those looking for a commercial-quality release should wait for general availability this summer.

Microsoft have made setup information available all on one nice, tidy page of HTML. It’s on GitHub, so you can issue pull requests. Matt Richardson, who is at the Build conference (hanging out with that little robot: B2 is spending the next day living on the Raspberry Pi stand with Matt, and we fully expect Matt to have trained him to make tea by the time the conference is ready to wrap up), and who was able to have a bit of a play with the setup while we in the UK were all fast asleep, seems impressed. He mailed to say:

There’s no desktop and no real shell on Windows 10 for Raspberry Pi, so they made a really slick web backend and it seems trivial to use their UI libraries to draw elements on screen. 

For an early preview it looks really good. I’m actually really interested in trying it out myself.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 09.51.16

Matt’s new best friend

We’ll be watching to see what the community does with Windows 10 for IoT on the Pi with great interest.


What Happens when a Book Publisher Doesn’t Pay Royalties?


There is a growing cadre of publishers that have been not paying authors their royalties. There are many lawsuits currently in the works that seek to get compensation, but its a long and dark road.

Hesperus Press has been ordered by a British High Court to stop selling digital and print copies of Jonas Jonasson's smash-hit novel The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, following an alleged failure to pay royalties.

The book had sold 500,000 print copies and 700,000 e-book copies in the UK since 2012. The author and their agent both never received a dime from them.

The author had their hands tied and couldn’t directly sue the publisher. Instead the case was brought to court by Hachette Book Group, which owns world English rights to the Swedish book.

Jonasson is not the only Hesperus author looking for answers. All four members of staff at the small publisher have resigned from the company in the past few months. Jordan-based chief financial officer Ayman Al Asmar said that a "formal release about next steps and future plans would be issued 'soon'", according to the Bookseller, but gave no further details.

There has been a lot of drama in the publishing world about Author Solutions, the company no one can help themselves from doing business with. Sometimes when you are self-publishing you might not know who you are truly doing business with and some of these companies go to great lengths to hide the Author Solutions connection. Here is the latest list of who deals with them.

  • Simon & Schuster (Archway Publishing)
  • Lulu
  • Harlequin (DelleArte Press) – partnership terminated 2015
  • Hay House (Balboa US, Balboa Australia)
  • Barnes & Noble (Nook Press Author Services)
  • Crossbooks (LifeWay) – partnership terminated 2014
  • Penguin (Partridge India, Partridge Singapore, Partridge Africa)
  • HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson/Zondervan (Westbow Press)
  • Random House (MeGustaEscribir)
  • Writer's Digest (Abbott Press) – partnership terminated 2014

Many authors are very concerned about Author Solutions and their ability to pay royalties. A recent lawsuit was filed against them stating that they misrepresents themselves, luring authors in with claims that its books can compete with "traditional publishers," offering "greater speed, higher royalties, and more control for its authors." The company then profits from "fraudulent" practices, the complaint alleges, including "delaying publication, publishing manuscripts with errors to generate fees, and selling worthless services, or services that fail to accomplish what they promise."

In 2012 over 1,000 authors filed a class action lawsuit against Harlequin, alleging that they did not pay the authors the full amount of the agreed upon royalty for digital titles.

The issue involved the Swiss arm of Harlequin, which the publisher claims is not acting as a publisher. Therefore, the 50% that Harlequin receives—after the other 50% goes to the retailer—is then split with the author. But in the case of royalties from the Swiss branch, apparently the authors feel they have not received the full amount due to them. Harlequin, for its part, claims that this Swiss office is not a publisher and therefore does not share the royalties as other markets do.

When authors fail to get paid royalties who is to blame? When you deal with a very complex structure like Author Solutions do you directly contact them, or the publishing off-shoot?  What if you are traditionally published and a small publishing company that distributes your titles in Polish does not report the correct number of sales? The publishing world is murky, navigating it to make sure you are getting the correct amount is difficult. Maybe this is why so many indie authors are beginning to exclusively publish with KDP.

What Happens when a Book Publisher Doesn’t Pay Royalties? is a post from: Good e-Reader