Monday, May 18, 2015

Google Play Books is a Cesspool of Piracy


Google Play Books is quickly becoming a den of iniquity and a veritable cesspool of piracy. It is ridiculously easy for someone to start a publishing company and upload thousands of pirated books and piggyback on the success of established authors. Google won’t do anything about the pirated copies and has even told authors inquiring about their illegitimate books that they have to contact the publisher. It is a vicious cycle and so far Google Play Books is firmly endorsing piracy.

If you casually browse the Google Play Books section, it is fairly easy to find all of the modern bestsellers, at a fraction of the price. This includes pirated copies of the entire 50 Shades trilogy by E.L. James, all seven Harry Potter books, or even George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series – all bundled together and sold alongside legitimate content offerings.


So how exactly are pirated books being uploaded to Google Play Books? There are a few commonality factors that are currently being employed. Fake authors such as Flamanca Hollanda are posting a ton of books and racking up thousands of dollars in sales, which Google gets a cut. Upon closer inspection these books were really written by legitimate authors such as Sylvia Day, Orson Scott Card or Tom Clancy.

Fake publishing companies are also taking advantage of the Google Play Books Partner Program. This allows anyone to call themselves a publishing company and sell books on behalf of the authors.  One dastardly company particular is called Bestsellers – Books USA Press and they sold hundreds of pirated e-books for a number of years.

Books USA Press is officially shut down, but it took a number of news outlets to  petition Google in order to bring it to their attention. What is not known, is how much the pirate publisher made in the last few years selling bestsellers for only a few dollars.  Likely the publisher is already back on Google Play Books under a new name.

Currently Amazon controls 75% of the digital book market in the US and 95% in the UK. Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Google fight over the rest of the users. It is no small wonder why pirates are turning to Play Books, after all it comes installed on most modern Android smartphones and tablets, similar to how iBooks is bundled on the iPhone and iPads.

Google made the following statement to Good e-Reader when asked about the rampant piracy issue on Play. “Google Play takes copyright seriously. We take swift action when we receive a DMCA complaint, which the copyright holder can complete here. Additionally, we're constantly improving our systems to provide a better experience.”

It honestly does not seem like Google is taking piracy seriously at all. They do not have cover art algorithms that cross-reference newly published content with an original author.  Not does it employ any methods to scan for ISBN numbers and reference it against the Open Library or any other mainstream database.

Googles indifference to piracy may change as the Dutch Publishers Association has been made aware of the issue, due to Netherlands based authors complaining that their books are being pirated.  Authors closer to come are start to bring it to the attention of Penguin Random House and HarperCollins. They said they are aware of the issue are doing their due diligence to see how wide spread the issue is. A HarperCollins spokesperson said: “Piracy threatens the creativity and intellectual rights of authors; as publishers we seek to protect both our authors and their work. We are aware that there is currently an issue with pirated titles being uploaded onto Google Play. We have highlighted this to Google and are working closely with them to resolve the issue.”

Will it take a lawsuit by a major publisher in order for Google to see the error of their ways? After all, lawsuits have spurned innovation that has reverberating effects on the entire industry. After all, it took a lawsuit against YouTube to implement ContentID. This results in videos uploaded to YouTube are scanned against a database of files that have been submitted to them by content owners. Copyright owners get to decide what happens when content in a video on YouTube matches a work they own. When this happens, the video gets a Content ID claim. Will we get a similar system for Google Play Books? Likely not without a major lawsuit.

Google Play Books is a Cesspool of Piracy is a post from: Good e-Reader

Baker & Taylor Developing Unified Android App for Libraries


Baker and Taylor’s Axis 360 platform is embraced by hundreds of libraries in the US and their Android offerings are tremendously woeful. They rely on Acoustik, Blio and axisReader and Axis 360 to deliver e-books and audiobooks to schools and library patrons. Needless to say with so many apps in their arsenal it is creating massive fragmentation, users simply don’t know what apps to use and many of them receive little to no updates. This will all change this July when Baker and Taylor announced they are creating a unified Android app.

In a note to libraries, Baker and Taylor sent out an email early this afternoon that said “eBooks will download and open within the Axis 360 mobile app for an enhanced reading experience. In most cases, you can begin reading instantly! The Axis 360 mobile app is all you need! Our mobile app provides a single user experience for both eBooks and eAudiobooks! With hundreds of thousands of titles available from major publishers, as well as independent authors, Axis 360 is your single source for the eBook and eAudiobook titles your users will be looking for.

In the coming weeks, the Axis 360 team will provide all the resources necessary to navigate this change. Resources will include FAQs, online webinars, app training, legacy app retirement schedules and more to make the transition seamless. As part of our transition resources, we will offer colorful Web ads, posters, shelf-talkers and more to enable awareness for your patrons via our Axis 360 Marketing Support portal. You can simply download and use the assets as needed.”

Honestly, why didn’t B&T do this sooner? Leaning on 5 different apps for different segments of the library industry is totally crazy. I guess we will have to wait until early July to see if the new Axis 360 Mobile App is viable.

Baker & Taylor Developing Unified Android App for Libraries is a post from: Good e-Reader

Top 10 Instant Messaging and SMS Apps for Android


Many people are going beyond the instant messaging app bundled on your smartphone and installing custom solutions. One of the advantages of Android is the sheer amount of instant messaging apps that are available. Some of them have a massive amount of 3rd party content, such as games and apps. Others specialize in giving you an experience similar to iMessage for iOS. Today, we look at the top 10 instant messaging and SMS apps for Android.

WhatsApp Messenger – This app lets you text for free with other users of the app, regardless of platform. Neat customization tools, group chat features, and easy location adding are all cool additions. Though you only get a few extra useful features, WhatsApp Messenger is an excellent choice for sending free texts across platforms, even internationally.

Chomp SMS – The first thing to notice when beginning to use ChompSMS is its smooth performance. Scrolling through conversation lists and messages is a pleasant experience with the speed and fluidity this app delivers. It's also a breeze to open and reply to messages and the app never had a lag as I was using it for this review. Even long messages that took a while to open with other SMS apps, ChompSMS had no problem pulling up in a fraction of a second.

Handcent SMS – This app is another popular free option which brings full SMS and MMS support powered by the Handcent network. It features an integrated spell-checker, optional quick-reply, and advanced security options. You get full support of over 20 different language and can improve/export vCards straight through the app. Similar to Chomp, Handcent is highly customizable and there is a variety of pre-made templates to choose from.

Google Hangouts – This app gives you quick access to chat with or place video calls with individuals or groups across platforms. The interface is easy to navigate, and the app performs well. If you use Google Hangouts or you used to use Google Talk frequently, then you should enjoy the convenience of a chat and video-calling app. Its important to note that the Hangouts app isn’t all about video calling. As the replacement to Google Talk, Hangouts is now the go-to app for chatting with your Google contacts.

Hike Messenger – A cross platform messenger app, Hike is similar to WhatsApp but is better in the sense that it also allows users to communicate over SMS, which is certainly a big advantage for those who do not have access to mobile Internet or data on the-go and for communicating with your friends without Hike app from within the same app.

Google Messenger – Google Messenger is a stripped back text messaging app that can only send and receive SMS and MMS, and can't send messages over the internet like rivals WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or even Google's Hangouts app. It updates the basic text messaging app that comes pre-installed on almost every Android smartphone, and is part of Google's strategy to uncouple its apps from its Android operating system.

Textra – This app is great if you like a lot of customization options in your apps. For each of your contacts, or just a few, you get to pick the notification icon color and alert tone that plays when you get a new message. That means you can tell, at a glance, the difference between a text from mom and your best friend.

LINE: Free Calls & Messages – LINE reshapes communication around the globe, bringing you closer to your family, friends, and loved ones—for free. With voice and video calls, messages, and a limitless variety of exciting stickers, you'll be able to express yourself in ways that you’ve never thought possible. This app also has a slew of 3rd party games from companies like Disney.

Facebook Messenger – Facebook recently made the decision to take all instant messaging off of its platform and create a dedicated app. If you want to privately message your friends and are on a mobile device, you basically need to install this app. Not everyone uses Facebook, but if you do and want to remain in contact with people on a phone or tablet, you need this app.

Viber – Send free messages and make free calls to any device that has Viber, on any network, from your Android. Viber lets you make free phone calls and send text, sticker, photo, voice and video messages for free to anyone who also has the application installed. Viber integrates with the Android OS to give you the best experience and performance. It syncs with your contacts, detecting which ones already have Viber. Simply select a contact and talk for free.

Top 10 Instant Messaging and SMS Apps for Android is a post from: Good e-Reader

The Atlantic and Buzzfeed Now Publish Directly on Facebook


Facebook has grown to be a middle man of news We post, share, read, and discuss stories in our News Feeds every day. When someone you know posts an item from the New York Times or Buzzfeed the destination link is the publishers original site. Sometimes they aren’t mobile friendly or the content lurks behind a paywall. This all changes today.

Facebook has announced that starting this Wednesday big name publishers will have their stories exist solely on the Facebook platform and not link to independent websites. When you click, the story will open more like a friend's profile page rather than an outside post. Facebook says that this process will save you 8-12 seconds to view the content and will include GIFS, audio and video elements.

The new program is called “Instant Articles” and there are a number of publishers participating. Inaugural partners include NBC, National Geographic, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel, Bild, Buzzfeed and the New York Times.

One of the problems with Facebook Instant Articles is that it will only be available on the iPhone, which might be a fairly limited audience. In addition publishers rely on internet traffic coming to their main or mobile website in order to garner revenue from advertising or affiliates. Since the stories will only existing on Facebook it might be difficult to monetize the platform.

I think that users will ultimately be the ones benefiting from this program. You can read all of the news without having to actually leave Facebook and load external sites.

The Atlantic and Buzzfeed Now Publish Directly on Facebook is a post from: Good e-Reader

Reviewing Armada by Ernest Cline

Being a Librarian is awesome. It really, really is. One of the many reasons I love my chosen profession is Advanced Review Copies. I've been not-so patiently awaiting the arrival of the new Ernest Cline book, Armada, for months now and I was ecstatic when it arrived last week. Ready Player One blew my mind when I read it a few years ago so Armada had big shoes to fill. Well, I read it in one sitting this past weekend and I'm elated to report that it did not disappoint. Armada is by far the most entertaining, thrilling, and provocative book I've read in ages.

{933B1DF7-FD67-4FCA-93F2-C37FE67F4A9D}Img400Zack Lightman is counting down the days until his high school graduation, biding his time immersed in his favorite video game, Armada, and working his part-time job at a video game store. He constantly dreams of adventure or something exciting to happen in his meager suburban existence. All that changes one fateful day when he he sees a spaceship outside of the window of his match class. But it's not just any spaceship, it's an exact replica of the alien ships he sees every day in Armada. Soon Zack is called to put his impressive gamer skills to use and defend the planet from impending invasion. Thus begins an electrifying sci-fi tour de force that has shocking surprises around every turn.

Filled with Cline's signature pop-culture references, this book is a must-read for anyone who has ever proudly labeled themselves a Nerd, Geek, or Gamer. Cline's fast-paced and engrossing writing will appeal to anyone who loves an adventure. Armada also has immense YA/Adult crossover appeal. This is a perfect summer reading book for high school-aged boys (everyone's favorite reluctant readers!) and I see an endless opportunity for library programming tie-ins. With the movie version of Ready Player One coming soon, there will be a huge amount of author interest and I don't think anyone will disagree with my prediction that this will be an immediate bestseller. Wil Wheaton will be teaming up with Cline again to narrate the Audiobook so be sure to check that out as well!

Ernest Cline, I salute you. And I can't thank you enough for this phenomenal book.

This title will be available to borrow from your library on July 14th but you can place a hold right now!

Rachel Kray is a Collection Development Analyst at OverDrive and is anxiously awaiting for the Earth Defense Alliance to recruit her…

B&N Galaxy Tab 4 Nook Trade In Promotion

Barnes and Noble has started running a new trade-in promotion to entice people to trade an old ebook reader or tablet for credit toward the purchase of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook tablet. B&N is accepting select Nook, Kindle, iPad, and Nexus devices for trade in. The credit ranges from $25-$200 toward the purchase […]

Siswoon R9 Darkmoon, a Dual Screen E Ink Smartphone

The Siswoon R9 Darkmoon is a new dual screen smartphone with an E Ink screen on one side and an LCD screen on the other. Smartphones that incorporate E Ink screens are starting to become more popular. Some like the InkCase are secondary E Ink displays often added to covers to pair with a phone […]

Is Digital Making Us Dumber?

Since the most recent advent of digital reading and ebook proliferation, the techno format has been blamed for  a drop in reading comprehension scores among grade school students, developmental concerns over children’s screen time, and even the overturning of a time-honored pricing and value structure within the publishing industry. With the abundance of content, ebooks have even been blamed for the drop in quality of the written word medium and for giving consumers so many choices that they opt for other forms of entertainment instead.

While those arguments can be disputed all day long, a recent study by Microsoft has found that tech and gadgets may be causing us to lose our focus. The study polled 2,000 Canadians via an online survey, as well as conducted more in-depth physiological response tests, but seems to have been aimed at reassuring the marketing and advertising sector that investing in advertising wasn’t a higher risk than in the past. That’s a small comfort when you look at the data from the study which showed the average attention span (for focusing on an ad, presumably) was 12 seconds, and is now only 8 seconds. As the study’s report indicated, that’s one second shorter than the attention span of the average goldfish.

Instead of determining that the digital landscape is making us lose our focus, the flipside to this information could also be that we’re becoming far more discerning and more capable of determining that an ad is not worth our time and focus. With the bombardment of online advertisements, we may have simply adapted to that reality and become better at returning our focus to the information we were seeking in the first place, rather than on a flashy advertisement.

While the report was quick to point out that 140-character tweets and “conversations whittled down to emojis” may be the culprit, it’s interesting to note that the option to download the full report from Microsoft came with two choices: download the entire report as a PDF or simply view this “whittled down” infographic of the data. Further, an article announcing the study and its results contained four separate online advertisements in the sidebar, three sponsored links from outside websites, seven hyperlinked headlines for featured articles published elsewhere on the site, and six click-bait articles from other websites. Even our news contains “distractions,” and rather than spout the inability to focus caused by digital, we might learn an even more valuable lesson: discerning tech users are better able to focus on the content they want than ever before, and have learned to tune out the fluff.

Is Digital Making Us Dumber? is a post from: Good e-Reader

Snapping Stills with the Red TED Letters

TED2015 Photo Booth

I’m a bit of a TED talk fiend, so I was delighted to find out that a few Raspberry Pis had a hand in letting TEDsters capture their photo along with the iconic red TED letters at TED2015 in Vancouver. To explain:

A funny thing happens at the end of every TED — after the show wraps, first one brave person, and then duos and groups, rush the stage to get their picture taken with the red TED letters. So at TED2015, our tech team thought, why not bring the letters out to the conference floor and let everyone play? In a nights-and-weekends project, our engineers built a self-service photobooth that encouraged all TEDsters — attendees, staff and more — to strike a pose. By the end of the conference, 1,296 photos had been taken with the booth.

"A lot of people wanted to get jump shots," says software engineer Joshua Warchol, who helped conceptualize and build the booth. "Some groups would spend 10 minutes trying to get the perfect aerial moment. And I also had not anticipated that people would feel an unstoppable compulsion to climb the letters. We had to get them repainted mid-week because of nicks and scuffs."

We see a lot of people implementing great photo booths with Raspberry Pi, but what I especially like about this one is that it’s activated when a group scans their NFC badges. After the photo is taken, it automatically emails it to the group that badged in. Of course, the whole operation comes together with a lot of different off-the-shelf technologies working in concert. Along with the Raspberry Pis, there’s a tablet interface, Adafruit NFC reader, a camera, and a BlinkStick LED module to indicate the camera’s position and status. Luckily for us, Joshua posted all the details about how he pulled this off, including the code. Thanks, Joshua!



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