Friday, June 19, 2015

Why Do Libraries Pay More Money for e-books?

Libraries in Canada and the United States have been quite enamored with establishing digital collections. This includes audiobooks e-books, magazines, newspapers and video. 95% of all libraries in these two countries have an e-book collection and the costs are starting to add up. Predatory pricing by major publishers are pricing their e-books almost 500% more than the Kindle edition and libraries have had enough.

The simple truth is that there is no uniform landscape of e-book pricing for libraries. Some publishers only allow for an e-book to be borrowed 26 times before the library has to purchase it again. Others opt for the digital license to expire after a single year. Random House and Hachette charge between 100% and 500% more for an e-book over the Kindle or Nook edition.

The Toronto Public Library have been providing some very illuminating figures that really drive home how expensive e-books really are. The new Michael Connelly novel Burning Room costs $14.99 on Amazon, but they are paying $106.00 per copy. John Grisham's Grey Mountain costs $15.99 for anyone wanting to buy the Nook version, but libraries pay $85.00. Interested in checking out the new David Baldacci novel the escape? You can purchase the Kobo digital edition for $14.99 and libraries are gouged $106.00.

Why are e-book prices so expensive for libraries? Well to answer that question we have to look at the fundamental difference between print and an e-book.

When a publisher sells a book directly to a library or from a distributor such as Ingram it abides by the first sale doctrine. Libraries can do whatever they want with the title, including loaning it out without restriction or selling it in a book drive.

e-Books on the other hand do not abide by the first sale doctrine because they are licensed out to the library, there is no clear and defined path of ownership. This allows any publisher to basically establish their own parameters, some are quite perplexing.

Simon & Schuster started offering bestselling frontlist e-books to libraries in 2014. Part of the condition of them making their collection available was to force the e-book distribution companies to implement a Buy it Now button on the libraries websites. Anyone who did not want to be number #891 on the waiting list on a very popular new book, could purchase it and the library got a small commission. In order for libraries to get a hold of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson or The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, they had to all agree to S&S weird policies.

I have talked extensively to the administration of the American Library Association about their efforts to get more favorable e-book pricing and they told me that “The reason why publishers are so hostile to libraries is because the e-Books are loaned out to people who might otherwise be customers, they the publishers need to compensate for those perceived losses.”

How can libraries get more favorable pricing on e-books? A new coalition has just been established in Canada, which comprises of The Toronto Public Library, Canadian Library Council, Ontario Library Association and the Canadian Library Association. They are getting the word out that they are mad as hell and aren’t going to stand for it anymore.

Toronto Librarian Vickery Bowles was promoting the new working group in an  interview to the Toronto Star, she said “In 2009, the Toronto City Library spent under $200,000 on its electronic collection, 1.1% of total spending. That figure is expected to be more than $3 million for this year, almost 20% of the entire collections budget. E-books are now growing faster than the library's ability to provide them, causing wait times longer than four months as six people wait for a single book.”

Will this organization have meaningful impact in Canada? Well, its the first time a group like this has been put together, so there’s that. In reality, they can get some media attention, but nothing will happen unless there is new government legislation. Something has to be done to compel the publishers to enact a unilateral e-book pricing strategy.

In the end, I don’t think that e-book pricing will change anytime soon. Publishers have only been doing the whole e-book thing with libraries since around, some of them as late as last year. I think everyone is trying to figure the whole e-book thing out, but for profit publishers can’t do it on their own. There needs to be a concentrated effort by consortium’s, library associations, and government to establish common operating parameters for publishers.

Would you Buy an E Ink Table?

Blackberry Developing an Android Smartphone


Blackberry is developing a new smartphone with slider keyboard that will run Google Android, instead of Blackberry 10. Industry insiders are alluding that Samsung will be making the phone, with a keyboard and Blackberry will be providing a fleet of apps.

The leaked images and details of the Blackberry Slider, code-named Venus shows a new slider handset comprising of a 5.1-inch dual-edge display sporting 2K resolution and would be powered by an octa-core processor. What will reportedly make this device different is that it has a QWERTY keyboard that would slide out and make old-school Blackberry loyalists right at home, even if it is on Android.

One of the big selling points of all the new phones that Blackberry has produced in the last three years is the Android emulator.  This was a way Blackberry could get thousands of new apps working on their phones, but there is a major drawback. The emulator is not very advanced and really suffers on phones such as the Blackberry Classic or Q10, since they have square screens. Most apps such as Vine have the video clipped and many games simply can’t fit everything on the screen.

Blackberry and Samsung have partnered together in the past on various projects. One of the most notable is the BES12 a cross-platform EMM solution on Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets embedded with Samsung’s own enterprise Knox technology.

I think Blackberry would do very well to run a native version of Android on a smartphone, as long as they continue to support the Blackberry 10 OS. It would have more market appeal because users could easily install their app market of choice, and not be locked into exclusively dealing with Amazon or Blackberry World.

Does Anyone Care About Amazon Publishing Contracts?


Amazon has now signed deals with all five of the worlds largest publishing companies to continue to sell print and e-books in the United States and United Kingdom. Does the average person really care about this sort of news even though mainstream news media all report on it?

Yesterday, Amazon signed off on a new agreement with Penguin Random House, the largest publishing company in the world. The new contract was confirmed by Amazon. A PRH spokesperson said: “We do not discuss our relationships with our retail partners. But, as you can see, we still are in business with Amazon, and with all our retail partners, and will continue to be.” Very exciting stuff.

The Boookseller, a UK publishing blog broke the story and the news generated zero comments.  The Wall Street Journal and  ABC News also reported on the new deal but failed to garner a single comment or social media interaction.

When it comes to dry corporate publishing news the average person simply doesn’t care and is tremendously apathetic.  Two big companies signing off on a new contract is not riveting or captivating. The only time it gets remotely interesting is when there is a contract dispute and it makes international headlines.

Video Comparing Kindle Paperwhite 3 with Paperwhite 2 and Kindle Voyage

Amazon announced a new upgraded Kindle Paperwhite the other day that will be released at the end of this month. It’s basically the exact same as the old Kindle Paperwhite but it adds a higher resolution 300 ppi E Ink screen to help make text appear sharper and clearer. Len Edgerly from The Kindle Chronicles […]


Through working with the UK Space Agency on the Astro Pi project we’ve learnt about something called Outernet. Internet, Outernet – see what they did there? Outernet is a small company started by Syed Karim that broadcasts the most useful stuff from the internet via satellites in geostationary orbit.

Anyone receiving the broadcast then has access to all that stuff for free! The idea is that you can receive it in locations around the world where there is little or no internet infrastructure; or perhaps where the regime in power curtails access to information.

The UK Space Agency is working with Clyde Space, a Scottish technology company, to manufacture and launch a constellation of cube satellites to extend Outernet’s global coverage.


The content is the kind of thing you would find in a public library, with resources on human health, anatomy, encyclopaedias, how-to guides and news feeds. The data is broadcast cyclically so that any new receiver joining the broadcast can catch up with everyone else. The content received from the satellites is cached and served out to the users via http pages, meaning that any device with a browser can be used to read it (both Ethernet and WiFi are supported). It’s worth noting this is only one-way content, because you can’t send messages back up to the satellites.

Outernet also has a board of trustees whose job is to curate which content from the internet makes it into the broadcast. They’re also planning a voting system, which will allow anybody with internet access to participate in that process.

What’s all this got to do with Raspberry Pi? Outernet offers several different kinds of receiver; and the DIY one is based on a Raspberry Pi! After learning this, we decided to get one up and running at Pi Towers to evaluate the tech! So I contacted Syed Karim, and he generously sent us three DIY receiver kits to play with.


The main piece of hardware you need is a USB DVB-S2 dongle. The one included in the kit was designed specifically by Outernet to keep costs down. The dongle allows you to plug in the coaxial cable from a satellite dish and consume the data on the Pi.

In Europe, the Outernet broadcast is delivered through the Hotbird satellite, which has a footprint covering all of Europe, North Africa and parts of the Middle East. Because of its orbital position you need a slightly larger than normal dish to receive it. 60cm or larger is required, so we just ordered an 80cm one from Amazon.

Here it is installed on the roof of Pi Towers:


Aligning a satellite dish correctly can be a bit of a dark art, so we hired a professional with his own equipment to come and make sure it was pointing in the right direction.

It’s then simply a matter of burning a special SD card image provided by Outernet to an SD card, and booting the Pi up. This is essentially a minimal Linux ARM distro that has everything required to make the reciever work; it’s not Raspbian based and currently only works for the Pi 1 CPU.

Here’s our one:


The DVB-S2 dongle on the top plugs in via USB and has its own mains power supply. Currently, we think, we’re the first receiver online in the UK (up since the 2nd of June).

The software you use to access the downloaded content is called Librarian, and looks like this:


At the moment, it’s mostly news articles that are being broadcast. Each row in the list above is a different article, and each has one or two medium-resolution images along with the text.

There is also a nice configuration page allowing you to choose which satellite you’re using, and to monitor how large the database has grown.


New content coming down from the satellites is held prior to being added to your library, allowing you to choose which items to keep or discard.


Currently about 200MB of data per day is delivered through the broadcast; however, in the future they hope to offer up to 1GB per day.

We see this technology as being a fantastic solution to the problems with offline web servers that go out of date over time. When something is updated on the internet, the Outernet service can just retransmit the new version and all the receivers will update their local copies. We’re also aware that various NGO charities are already using Raspberry Pi networks in remote places with equipment like RACHEL-Pi (which we’ve covered here before). This system could easily be dropped into a network like that as an additional resource, providing a great source of searchable information.

We’re going to be watching Outernet with interest in the future,12-1 and we are considering the possibility of having some of our educational resources broadcast by their service.

If you want to buy a DIY reciever they’re available in the Outernet online store now.

The post Outernet appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Smashwords New Preorder System is Great for Authors


Smashwords has unveiled a bold new feature that will allow authors to start taking pre-orders without the need to upload a final manuscript or e-book cover art. This is a boon because an author can start earning money right away and help finance the actual writing.

Two years ago Smashwords initiated the first stage of their pre-order system, but it required authors to upload the final version of their book, alongside the cover art. This was great if an author had a few titles ready to go, but did not want to release them at the same time.

It is obvious that pre-orders for e-books has been a resounding success for Smashwords. “Despite the poor adoption, over the last 12 months Smashwords books born as preorders accounted for 7 of our top 10 bestsellers and 67% of our top 200 bestsellers. When you consider how such a small fraction of books accounted for an outsize percentage of bestsellers, you begin to realize something special is happening here.”

The obvious benefits of being able to list your book now, even if its not done yet is the ability to have 12 full months of marketing and hype. The book, once approved by Smashwords will also be posted on iBooks, and within a couple days at the Nook bookstore and Kobo.

I doubt that the vast majority of Smashwords authors will ever sell one copy of their book, much less sell them in advance. Out of the 100,000 authors currently selling their books on the self-publishing platform, less than 5% will be able to make writing and selling books viable. I suppose these are the exact types who will take advantage of this successfully and everyone else will hope for the best.