Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why do People Pirate e-books?


The European Commission’s Vice-President has admitted that EU copyright law is “pushing people to steal,” because users end up seeking pirated copies of e-books that might not be able to legally purchase in their own country.

Many people within the European Commission are publicly stating that one of the reasons why piracy is running rampant is because of Geoblocking. Actually, this has has nothing to do with copyright law – it’s a contractual issue concerning the markets that the publisher has purchased the right to distribute the material into and what ones they don’t. This is why the big events like the London Book Fair, Frankfurt Book Fair and Book Expo America are so important. They provide avenues for publishers to sell the distribution rights into other markets and have the works properly translated.

Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Google operate digital bookstores where customers can purchase and read e-books. Sadly, these retailers do not provide service in every country in the world. This is primarily due to publishers rights in that specific region or the bookseller not having the proper infrastructure to provide proper service. All of the big companies have their own content delivery network (CDN) or have server farms in order to quickly send data.

Does the lack of accessibility drive people to pirate?

I don’t think its the lack of accessibility, but the cultural drive to consume things for free, without having to pay for it. Just because the digital title might not be available in your own country, you can still likely order the print edition online.

DTI News recently did a report on e-book piracy in Vietnam. They stated "The problem here is the awareness of the copyright. In developed countries, where customers always believe that they have to pay for all products and services, thus facilitating the development of e-publication. Meanwhile, Vietnamese people have the habit of using products and services free of charge."

China is the second largest e-book market in the world and their digital publishing industry has shown impressive growth. e-books, digital newspapers, and digital magazine grew by 52.6% in 2012.  It is currently estimated that 200 million Chinese consumers read digitally on a daily basis.

The big problem in China is not e-book piracy, but the need to replicate physical books and sell them cheaper or offer digital versions for free. The local publishing industry has not really tackled this problem in a meaningful way, because its considered a cultural norm. Some companies do speak out though, "It's unavoidable to have so many pirated books on the market. I think all local publishinghouses should cooperate to combat piracy and build a market with a more rational order." Said Wu Hong, vice editor-in-chief, Shanghai Translation Publishing House.

That is certainly a tall order no doubt, given that cheap pirated editions crop up on a regular basis. In fact, a parallel industry thrives in China where they take pride in coming up with exact clones of the original, be it electronics or anything else. There have even been instances of an entire Apple store being replicated in China, which should be a clear indicator of how seriously they value their replicating skills.

Meanwhile in Spain e-book piracy resulted in €350 million  in lost revenue for the €3 billion Spanish publishing industry in 201  according to a new report from Spain's Federation of Publishers' Associations and Spain's ISBN Agency.

How can we Combat Piracy?

Hardly any countries have a clearly defined, unified anti-piracy standard, because publishing companies compete against each other.  If they magically banded together to discuss the issue, it would be collusion. This is would be illegal in the US and would likely be considered to be forming a Cartel, which is illegal in the EU.

France has stepped up their game to combat digital piracy. They ran national promotional campaigns that featured young actors and celebrities to build cultural awareness about this issue. Libraries and bookstores also got into the action, letting their customers know, this is bad behavior and has to be curtailed. Their efforts helped boost digital content sales by anywhere between 5% and 30%, depending on the content.

The United Kingdom is set to unveil a brand new anti-piracy campaign aimed at educating people about copyright and legal ways to download digital content, but e-books are not even the focus.

The goal is to send emails to UK internet users who pirate  films and music, warning them that their actions are illegal. Those suspected of copyright infringement will be sent up to four warnings a year, but the campaign does not include any punitive action, reports the BBC.

How will content providers be able to track who is downloading what from where? Well, four years ago the UK government brokered talks between media outlets and internet service providers.  This resulted in the creation of the Voluntary Copyright Alert Program (Vcap) and is supported by the largest UK ISPs , the UK recorded music industry trade association BPI, and the Motion Picture Association.  In a few months time, a massive new campaign will begin to get this thing rolling.

Oh Well

Many anti-piracy measures currently being employed worldwide are to protect the film and music industry. There simply hasn’t been any meaningful anti-ebook campaigns because as much as the publishers bemoan this is a problem, no one is really doing much to solve it.

Why do People Pirate e-books? is a post from: Good e-Reader

Kobo Touch e-Reader Gets New Firmware Upgrade


The one thing that Kobo has done better than any other e-reader company is support their older devices. The Kobo Touch first came out in 2011 and this model has just received a huge firmware update.

The first thing that is evident when you install the 3.16.0 update is the overall design changes. It now maintains the same look and feel as modern Kobo devices, such as the brand new Kobo Glo HD.

There has also been major enhancements with being able to search effectively.  As well as the existing “Bookstore” and “Library” searches, you can also select to search from the five most recent books, all annotations and the dictionaries. The results list display the details of the match and can be view by tapping the item. The search also maintains a list of recent search strings that can be selected.

Finally, there is a new “Quick WIFI” selection setting.  There is now a new icon in the header that can be tapped to display a list of available networks. If connected to one, a tick will indicate this. The WiFi can be turned on and off by tapping the indicator at the top of the popup and there is a link to the main WiFi settings at the bottom. The main system drop down also shows the name of the connected network.

Aside from these bigger changes, there also is a slew of minor ones that are available.

  • Improved ‘Related reading’ tab on Book details screens
  • Renamed ‘Document Default’ font to ‘Publisher Default’
  • Improved EPUB performance – I can’t comment as I didn’t see the performance degradation that some others saw with 3.15.0.
  • Improved hyphenation handling – kepub and epub and should improve all languages.
  • New checkout flow arrives for Kobo Touch
  • Fixed some timing issues in which the device could stay in a black-and-white-only mode instead of greyscale
  • Re-enabled image/PDF zoom on non-Aura devices
  • Pocket: End-of-article dialog text cut off

Kobo Touch e-Reader Gets New Firmware Upgrade is a post from: Good e-Reader

First Look at New 9.7-inch Onyx Boox N96 eReader

It looks like Onyx is getting set to release a new ebook reader or two, and maybe a new E Ink phone, soon. The folks at Onyx posted some pictures of the Onyx International booth at the Taipei Electronics Show for 2015. It looks like they have a number of different devices on display, and […]

New Robert Galbraith Book CAREER OF EVIL Out Oct 22nd


Author J.K. Rowling has taken to Twitter to announce that a new title by her alias Robert Galbraith that is due out October 22nd. The 3rd novel in the Cormoran Strike series Career of Evil  deals with what happens to people after they leave the military.

Here is the description of the book “Robin Ellacott is mailed a strange package—which just so happens to contain a woman's severed leg. Private detective Cormoran Strike, Robin's boss, is slightly less shocked by the contents, and has four possible suspects from his past in mind. As the police tread down a path Strike knows is wrong, he and Robin must investigate the remaining men, all of whom could be capable of such horrific brutality—before even more terrible acts occur.”

Career of Evil follows The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm.

New Robert Galbraith Book CAREER OF EVIL Out Oct 22nd is a post from: Good e-Reader

EU: Amazon Publisher Contracts Stifle the Competition


Every wonder how Amazon manages to sell e-books for less than their competition? So does the EU and they are investigating the contracts Amazon makes publishers sign.

The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation into certain business practices by Amazon in the distribution of e-books. The Commission will in particular investigate certain clauses included in Amazon’s contracts with publishers. These clauses require publishers to inform Amazon about more favourable or alternative terms offered to Amazon's competitors and/or offer Amazon similarterms and conditions than to its competitors, or through other means ensure that Amazon is offered terms at least as good as those for its competitors.

The Commission has concerns that such clauses may make it more difficult for other e-book distributors to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services. The Commission will investigate whether such clauses may limit competition between different e-book distributors and may reduce choice for consumers.If confirmed, such behaviour could violate EU antitrust rules that prohibit abuses of a dominant market position and restrictive business practices.The opening of proceedings does not prejudge in any way the outcome of the investigation.

EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: “Amazon has developed a successful business that offers consumers a comprehensive service, including for e-books. Our investigation does not call that into question. However, it is my duty to make sure that Amazon’s arrangements with publishers are not harmful to consumers, by preventing other e-book distributors from innovating and competing effectively with Amazon. Our investigation will show if such concerns are justified.

Scope of the investigation

E-books have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years and are of increasing importance to online retail. Amazon is currently the largest distributor of e-books in Europe. Initially, the Commission’s investigation will focus on the largest markets for e-books in the European Economic Area, namely e-books in English and German.

The Commission has concerns that certain clauses included in Amazon’s contracts with publishers concerning such e-books could constitute a breach of EU antitrust rules that prohibit the abuse of a dominant market position and restrictive business practices. In particular, the investigation is focused on clauses which seem to shield Amazon from competition from other e-book distributors, such as clauses granting it:

  • the right to be informed of more favourable or alternative terms offered to its competitors; and/or
  • the right to terms and conditions at least as good as those offered to its competitors.

The Commission will now investigate further whether such clauses may hinder the level playing field and potentially decrease competition between different e-book distributors to the detriment of consumers.


This is not the first time the European Commission is investigating the e-books sector under EU antitrust rules. In December 2011 the Commission opened proceedings in the sector because it had concerns that Apple and five international publishing houses (Penguin Random House, Hachette Livres, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Georg von Holtzbrinck Verlagsgruppe) may have colluded to limit retail price competition for e-books in the EEA, in breach of EU antitrust rules. In December 2012 and July 2013, respectively, the companies offered a number of commitments, which addressed the Commission’s concerns.

Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) prohibit respectively anticompetitive agreements and the abuse of dominant market positions. The implementation of these provisions is defined in the EU’s Antitrust Regulation (Council Regulation No 1/2003), which is also applied by national competition authorities. The fact that the Commission has opened proceedings does not mean it has conclusive proof of antitrust violations.

Article 11(6) of the Antitrust Regulation provides that the initiation of proceedings by the Commission relieves the competition authorities of the Member States of their competence to also apply EU competition rules to the practices concerned. Article 16(1) of the same Regulation provides that national courts must avoid giving decisions which would conflict with a decision contemplated by the Commission in proceedings it has initiated.

The Commission has informed Amazon and the competition authorities of the Member States that it has opened proceedings in this case.

There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anti-competitive conduct. The duration of an antitrust investigation depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the extent to which the undertaking concerned cooperates with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defense.

EU: Amazon Publisher Contracts Stifle the Competition is a post from: Good e-Reader

Firmware Update 3.16 Released for Kobo Glo HD and Kobo Touch

Kobo has started rolling out a new software update, version 3.16.0. Unlike most updates, this one is only being issued to a couple of models, the new Glo HD and the old Kobo Touch. Like usual, the update adds a couple of new features and fixes a few bugs (and hopefully doesn’t add new ones). […]

Protected: Google Pi RCE Giveaway

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A Smart Programming Language for a Smart Cities Hackathon

Liz: Here’s a guest post from Bernat at Wolfram, who has been putting the Wolfram Language on the Pi to work at a Smart Cities Hackathon in Barcelona. If you haven’t used the Wolfram Language before, this is a nice little glimpse into what it’s capable of: enjoy!
On Friday, February 20, I had the pleasure of giving a talk to a group of young and smart individuals enlisted to represent Barcelona in the Global Urban Datafest. For this hackathon, the organizers offered one Raspberry Pi platform per team and a variety of sensors to capture physical parameters. Their list of suggested project topics included data acquisition and actuation, monitoring and management, security transport and mobility, the environment, and more. The event lasted three days and was locally organized by Anna Calveras and Josep Paradells with the help of Universitat Polit├Ęcnica de Catalunya, Barcelona’s City Council, iCity Project, Urbiotica, IBM, and Wolfram Research.



Early on, hackathon participants were oriented to the various tools available to aid them with development. I showed the hackathon participants that the Wolfram Language knows about thousands of real-world entities, and that everything in the language is a symbolic expression.



Using CityBikes API to get real-time data, it was easy to track usage in a bike-sharing system in a smart city. Importing and visualizing this data with GeoGraphics was straightforward:



Then I explained how I used a Raspberry Pi to digest Friday’s bicycle data overnight. The microprocessor was set up to compute the total number of bicycles available in different cities every 10 minutes from 3:30–8:30am CET:



European cities showed a valley in the number of available bicycles at 8am when people cycled to work. Citizens from New York and Mexico City were found to head back home around 5am CET.

Essential for this hackathon was the new Wolfram Data Drop, an open service that makes it easy to accumulate data of any kind, from anywhere, which works great on the Pi while connected to the Wolfram Cloud. The following is a dataset that I created for Barcelona’s bike-sharing system. Every 3 minutes the total number of parked bicycles is added to a Databin:



One of the cool features of Data Drop is that you can directly analyze this data through Wolfram|Alpha:



Another dataset that I created using a Raspberry Pi monitored the pedestrian flow happening at the front door of my apartment. If any movement was detected by a PIR motion sensor, the RaspiCam would take a photo, and a new entry would be added into a databin:



This appears in the Data Drop cloud like this:



The result was this DateListPlot of cumulative numbers of movements detected:



Then I showed how it could be set up to monitor my home hall’s activity in regular periods of time:




Certainly, this opens up a new world of possibilities. For example, you can use Data Drop to combine data from specific events from different devices. This was exactly what one of the teams did. They set up a Twitter account with ServiceConnect to inform people of the current air pollution in “La Diagonal,” Barcelona’s most important avenue. Every 20 minutes they checked the latest values of 10 gas sensors, and then generated and tweeted a ListLinePlot with a map of the sensors:



Other smart city projects involved the use of the new Machine Learning capabilities available in Mathematica 10, such as FindFaces to estimate the number of individuals in a bar, or BarcodeRecognize for a universal citizen ID card project. For most of the participants, this was their first encounter with the Wolfram Language, and yet they made useful, functional prototypes in just 48 hours. So I can’t wait to see what they are capable of with just a bit more practice. I wish all of them tons of happy, smart coding!



If you haven’t participated in a hackathon yet, check out the Smart City App Hack. Also feel free to contact us for future events, and don’t forget to have a look at Create, Code, Deploy: Workshop for Hackathons if you missed it. Finally, if you are looking for a three-week-long hackathon, apply now to the Wolfram Innovation Summer School or the Wolfram Science Summer School.

Download this post as a Computable Document Format (CDF) file


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e-Book Sales have Peaked


The e-reader and e-book industry often run in parallel when it comes to consumer demand and broad acceptance of reading digitally. Since 2013 the sales of electronic books have been more or less flat, rising or falling by a percentage point or two. It looks like from all of the data currently available that e-book sales have peaked and it is very unlikely the format will ever account for more than 21% of global sales.

There is no denying that the printed format is enjoying a resurgence and many booksellers are reporting accelerated sales in during the last calendar year.  The CEO of the largest bookstore in the UK, Waterstone’s, went so far to say that Kindle sales have fallen off a cliff and nobody is buying them anymore.

The Amazon Kindle came out in 2007 and a year later only ten million e-books were sold. This figure dramatically increased by over four thousand percent a few years later, but demand for the electronic format has waned. Now less than 4% of people now read e-books exclusively, print continues to enjoy a 4:1 ratio over the electronic form.

The Association of American Publishes annual data that actually backs up the fact that e-books have peaked and are no longer enjoying double digital growth as they once did. Over the course of 2014 2.7 billion books were sold in the US, 510 million of which were e-books. It sounds like a large figure, but sales actually fell 6% over 2013.

“We still see a steady transition in reading from to print to digital,” says Amazon vice president Russ Grandinetti. He attributes the smaller growth rate to “the law of large numbers. As e-books have grown from practically nothing, you can’t expect it to keep doubling every year.”

The e-book industry has consolidated in the US from many different players to only two. Sony closed one of the longest lived e-book stores in the world and discontinued making e-readers. Kobo got the hell out of the US and is instead focusing on international markets and B&N continues to lose customers by the boatload, but somehow despite themselves still in business. In a few years Amazon will likely be the last one standing, as they already control 75% of the US market and 95% in the United Kingdom.

If you read lots of statistics and reports on the e-book and e-reader industry like I do, you start to notice trends. e-reader and e-book sales peaked in 2012 and have been stagnant ever since. The people who made the decision to read digitally are already doing it and the folks who enjoy the print format will continue to buy it. There will likely never be another e-reading boom period for at least a generation.

e-Book Sales have Peaked is a post from: Good e-Reader