Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Podcast – Books-A-Million, B&N and Amazon News


Today on the show we talk about all the major deals that Amazon will having for its one day Prime Day event on July 15th. Also, Books-A-Million has announced they are taking the company private and Barnes & Noble has given us a date in which the Nook College Bookstore and educational unit will become its own company.

This week has been crazy for authors organizations trying to fight the power. The Authors Guild is demanding a revenue increase from 25% to 50% citing e-books are selling like crazy and they are partners with the publishers.

Almost every single organisation that represents authors have simultaneously filed their own petitions to the US Justice Department to look into Amazon and how they control the e-book market. How will this play out and will anything actually happen?

Tons of other tech and e-reader news is also on the show! Find out more about the new Kindle Paperwhite 3 and how it stacks up against the Kobo Glo HD.

Barnes and Noble to Form a New Education Company August 2nd


The Barnes and Noble board of directors has approved the spin off of their college bookstore and educational branch from the main company. The official date this will occur is on August 2nd 2015.

Barnes and Noble operates their educational unit  at 714 campuses in the U.S. and posted a sales decline of 0.9 percent to $1.75 billion during the fiscal year ended in May. It accounted for about 27% of total revenue, which is very appealing for investors looking to buy into this new company.

One of the biggest advantages the college division has over the retail stores is that it doesn't hold leases, so it has fewer costs. The unit instead signs multiyear contracts to run stores for the schools.

John Tinker, an analyst at Maxim Group, said the new structure makes sense. "What this does is create a pure play for investors interested in the college market," said Mr. Tinker. "Keeping the Nook inside the retail group is logical because they don't currently know where it stands. Nook losses are shrinking, but it is still uncertain what's really happening there."

Overdrive Digital eBook Lending Now Available in Japan


Overdrive, the largest company devoted to digital library lending has just expanded into Japan. Ryugasaki Public Library is the first branch to children's and young adult literature, graphic novels, manga and much more. In the coming days, Itako Public Library will also launch their OverDrive-powered website enabling readers to take the library with them wherever they travel on their smartphones or tablets.

These launches come as a result of OverDrive's partnership with Media Do whose experience in the Japanese market enables them to be in touch with new library users who may have been previously unaware of OverDrive. It also helps that Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten purchased Overdrive later this year and likely they are going to be introducing Overdrive to libraries all over Asia.

Amazon to Heavily Discount Kindle e-Readers and Fire Tablets Tommorow

PRIME DAY22-1200-80

Starting at 12 AM and running all day tomorrow is the new Amazon holiday Prime Day.  If you are an existing Amazon Prime member there will be thousands of deals all day long for you to take advantage of, but if you are looking to buy a new tablet, there will be some mega deals.

The company has sent out a press release just now to tease the kind of deals that will be up on Amazon tomorrow. For example the Fire TV Stick will be $15 off during the day, with $30 being cut off the entry level Kindle Basic Touch and $60 off the Fire HD 7 and Fire HD 7 Kids Edition.

Amazon wants to get as many people signed up for its Prime service as possible, since members generally make a lot of purchases. Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated in 2014 that Prime members spent an average of $1,500 per year, compared with $625 for non-members.

Firefox Now Blocks Adobe Flash Automatically


Indie authors are encouraged to update their websites and blogs as soon as possible because the Mozilla Firefox internet browser no longer supports Flash. Mark Schmidt, the head of the Firefox support team at Mozilla, tweeted that all versions of Flash Player are blocked in the browser as of its latest update.

Adobe has scrambled to fix problems as they have become public, but they are unable to keep up with the rising tide of hackers exploiting vulnerabilities with the plugin.  This has promoted some serious companies from abandoning the platform altogether.

Remember back in 2010 when Steve Jobs memorably explained his problems with Flash and why his iPhone and iPad wouldn’t support it? Or when YouTube dropped Flash as its default player in favor of HTML5 in January, or how Chrome now intelligently pauses instances of Flash video on its pages? Even Blackberry disabled Flash on their internet browser a few months ago.

If you are browsing the internet and are using Chrome or Firefox you will likely start seeing a ton of popup messages telling you that Flash is disabled or you have to update your player.  If you want to disable these messages altogether you can uninstall Flash from your computer, using this tool.

Many websites and blogs that indie authors run heavily depend on Flash, especially if they have been around for a number of years. I recommend that you visit your sites using Firefox and checkout what Flash elements are on your site so you can either remove them altogether or look for HTML5 alternatives. How do you detect Flash? Well, you can install a browser plugin called Firebug which is really popular.

Prime Day Deals: $30 off Kindle, $60 off Fire HD 7, Lots More

Tomorrow, July 15th, Amazon is going to be running a huge sale, with “more deals than Black Friday” to celebrate their 20th anniversary. It’s called Prime Day, so it’s only for Amazon Prime members, which costs $99 per year to join, but you can get setup with a 30 day free trial if you just […]

OverDrive launches the first two public library digital collections in Japan


This week Ryugasaki Public Library launched their OverDrive digital collection, becoming the first Japanese public library to do so. Ryugasaki offers their users everything from children's and young adult literature, graphic novels, manga and nonfiction titles for health and fitness, arts and crafts and much more. In the coming days, Itako Public Library will also launch their OverDrive-powered website enabling readers to take the library with them wherever they travel.

These launches come as a result of OverDrive's partnership with Media Do whose experience in the Japanese market enables us to be in touch with new library users who may have been previously unaware of OverDrive. This venture has resulted in the launch of OverDrive Japan which enables us to acquire more Japanese native content. Media Do also have added to OverDrive's industry leading collection of titles available in Marketplace by providing bestselling, high quality content including Manga, comics, magazines and graphic novels in their original right to left fixed layout format.

We're excited about expanding OverDrive's global reach and look forward to continuing to add new digital collections in libraries around the world. Be sure to check back soon to learn about the latest additions to the OverDrive network!

Astro Pi: Mission Update 4


Just over a week ago now we closed the Secondary School phase of the Astro Pi competition after a one week extension to the deadline. Students from all over the UK have uploaded their code hoping that British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake win run it on the ISS later this year!

Last week folks from the leading UK Space companies, the UK Space Agency and ESERO UK met with us at Pi Towers in Cambridge to do the judging. We used the actual flight Astro Pi units to test run the submitted code. You can see one of them on the table in the picture below:

The standard of entries was incredibly high and we were blown away by how clever some of them were!

Doug Liddle of SSTL said:

“We are delighted that the competition has reached so many school children and we hope that this inspires them to continue coding and look to Space for great career opportunities”

British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake - photo provided by UK Space Agency under CC BY-ND

British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake – photo provided by UK Space Agency under CC BY-ND

Jeremy Curtis, Head of Education at the UK Space Agency, said:

“We're incredibly impressed with the exciting and innovative Astro Pi proposals we've received and look forward to seeing them in action aboard the International Space Station.

Not only will these students be learning incredibly useful coding skills, but will get the chance to translate those skills into real experiments that will take place in the unique environment of space.”

When Tim Peake flies to the ISS in December he will have the two Astro Pis in his personal cargo allowance. He’ll also have 10 especially prepared SD cards which will contain the winning applications. Time is booked into his operations schedule to deploy the Astro Pis and set the code running and afterwards he will recover any output files created. These will then be returned to their respective owners and made available online for everyone to see.

Code was received for all secondary school key stages and we even have several from key stage 2 primary schools. These were judged along with the key stage 3 entries. So without further adieu here comes a breakdown of who won and what their code does:

Each of these programs have been assigned an operational code name that will be used when talking about them over the space to ground radio. These are essentially arbitrary so don’t read into them too much!

Ops name: FLAGS

  • School: Thirsk School
  • Team name: Space-Byrds
  • Key stage: 3
  • Teacher: Dan Aldred
  • The judges had a lot of fun with this. Their program uses telemetry data provided by NORAD along with the Real Time Clock on the Astro Pi to computationally predict the location of the ISS (so it doesn’t need to be online). It then works out what country that location is within and shows its flag on the LED matrix along with a short phrase in the local language.


  • School: Cottenham Village College
  • Team name: Kieran Wand
  • Key stage: 3
  • Teacher: Christopher Butcher
  • Kieran’s program is an environmental system monitor and could be used to cross check the ISS’s own life support system. It continually measures the temperature, pressure and humidity and displays these in a cycling split-screen heads up display. It has the ability to raise alarms if these measurements move outside of acceptable parameters. We were especially impressed that code had been written to compensate for thermal transfer between the Pi CPU and Astro Pi sensors.

Andy Powell of the Knowledge Transfer Network said:

“All of the judges were impressed by the quality of work and the effort that had gone into the winning KS3 projects and they produced useful, well thought through and entertaining results”

Ops name: TREES

  • School: Westminster School
  • Team name: EnviroPi
  • Key stage: 4 (and equivalent)
  • Teacher: Sam Page
  • This entry will be run in the cupola module of the ISS with the Astro Pi NoIR camera pointing out of the window. The aim is to take pictures of the ground and to later analyse them using false colour image processing. This will produce a Normalised Differentiated Vegetation Index (NDVI) for each image which is a measure of plant health. They have one piece of code which will run on the ISS to capture the images and another that will run on the ground after the mission to post process and analyse the images captured. They even tested their code by going up in a light aircraft to take pictures of the ground!


  • School: Lincoln UTC
  • Team name: Team Terminal
  • Key stage: 4 (and equivalent)
  • Teacher: Mark Hall
  • These students have made a whole suite of various reaction games complete with a nice little menu system to let the user choose. The games also record your response times with the eventual goal to investigate how crew reaction time changes over the course of a long term space flight. This entry caused all work to cease during the judging for about half an hour!

Lincoln UTC have also won the prize for the best overall submission in the Secondary School completion. This earns them a photograph of their school taken from space by an Airbus or SSTL satellite. Go and make a giant space invader please!


  • School: Magdalen College School
  • Team name: Arthur, Alexander and Kiran
  • Key stage: 5 (and equivalent)
  • Teacher: Dr Jesse Petersen
  • This team have successfully made a radiation detector using the Raspberry Pi camera module, the possibility of which was hinted at during our Astro Pi animation video from a few months ago. The camera lens is blanked off to prevent light from getting in but this still allows high energy space radiation to get through. Due to the design of the camera the sensor sees the impacts of these particles as tiny specks of light. The code then uses OpenCV to measure the intensity of these specks and produces an overall measurement of the level of radiation happening.

What blew us away was that they had taken their Astro Pi and camera module along to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and fired a neutron cannon at it to test it was working!!!

The code can even compensate for dead pixels in the camera sensor. I am wondering if they killed some pixels with the neutron cannon and then had to add that code out of necessity? Brilliant.

These winning programs will be joined on the ISS by the winners of the Primary School Competition which closed in April:


  • School: Cumnor House Girl's School
  • Team name: Hannah Belshaw
  • Key stage: 2
  • Teacher: Peter Kelly
  • Hannah’s entry is to log data from the Astro Pi sensors but to visualise it later using structures in a Minecraft world. So columns of blocks are used to represent environmental measurements and a giant blocky model of the ISS itself (that moves) is used to represent movement and orientation. The code was written, under Hannah’s guidance, by Martin O’Hanlon who runs Stuff About Code. The data logging program that will run on the ISS produces a CSV file that can be consumed later by the visualisation code to play back what happened when Tim Peak was running it in space. The code is already online here.


  • School: Cranmere Primary School
  • Team name: Cranmere Code Club
  • Key stage: 2
  • Teacher: Richard Hayler
  • Although they were entitled to have their entry coded by us at Raspberry Pi the kids of the Cranmere Code Club are collectively writing their program themselves. The aim is to try and detect the presence of a crew member by monitoring the environmental sensors of the Astro Pi. Particularly humidity. If a fluctuation is detected it will scroll a message asking if someone is there. They even made a Lego replica of the Astro Pi flight case for their testing!

Obviously the main winning prize is to have your code flown and run on the ISS. However the UK Space companies also offered a number of thematic prizes which were awarded independently of those that have been chosen to fly. Some cross over with the other winners was expected here.

  • Space Sensors
    Hannah Belshaw, from Cumnor House Girl's School with her idea for Minecraft data visualisation.
  • Space Measurements
    Kieran Wand from Cottenham Village College for his ISS environment monitoring system.
  • Imaging and Remote Sensing
    The EnviroPi team from Westminster School with their experiment to measure plant health from space using NDVI images.
  • Space Radiation
    Magdalen College, Oxford with their Space Radiation Detector.
  • Data Fusion
    Nicole Ashworth, from Reading, for her weather reporting system; comparing historical weather data from the UK with the environment on the ISS.
  • Coding Excellence
    Sarah and Charlie Maclean for their multiplayer Labyrinth game.

Pat Norris of CGI said:

“It has been great to see so many schools getting involved in coding and we hope that this competition has inspired the next generation to take up coding, space systems or any of the many other opportunities the UK space sector offers. We were particularly impressed by the way Charlie structured his code, added explanatory comments and used best practice in developing the functionality”

We’re aiming to have all the code that was submitted to the competition on one of the ten SD cards that will fly. So your code will still fly even if it won’t be scheduled to be run in space. The hope is that, during periods of downtime, Tim may have a look through some of the other entries and run them manually. But this depends on a lot of factors outside of our control and so we can’t promise anything.

But wait, there’s more?

There is still opportunity for all schools to get involved with Astro Pi!

There will be an on-orbit activity during the mission (probably in January or February) that you can all do at the same time as Tim. After the competition winning programs have all finished the Astro Pi will enter a phase of flight data recording. Just like the black box on an aircraft.

This will make the Astro Pi continually record everything from all its sensors and save the data into a file that you can get! If you set your Astro Pi up in the same way (the software will be provided by us) then you can compare his measurements with yours taken on the ground.

There is then a lot of educational value in looking at the differences and understanding why they occur. For instance you could look at the accelerometer data to find out when ISS reboosts occurred or study the magnetometer data to find out how the earth’s magnetic field changes as they orbit the earth. A number of free educational resources will be provided that will help you to leverage the value of this exercise.

The general public can also get involved when the Sense HAT goes on general sale in a few weeks time.

Libby Jackson of the UK Space Agency said:

“Although the competition is over, the really exciting part of the project is just beginning. All of the winning entries will get see their code run in space and thousands more can take part in real life space experiments through the Flight Data phase”


The post Astro Pi: Mission Update 4 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Kindle Dictionary Guide: How to Add, Change, and Create Custom Kindle Dictionaries

Most people are misinformed on the subject of how dictionaries work on Kindle ebook readers, so I wanted to put together this guide explaining how to change, add, and create custom dictionaries for Kindle devices. Last week someone left a comment complaining about how Kindles sucked compared to Kobos because Kindles don’t allow you to […]

Go window shopping for marketing materials!

We are excited to announce a few promotional updates to support you library or school's marketing efforts. You can always count on OverDrive to assist in helping you get the word out about your digital offerings.

PPUpdateOne of the reasons I like window shopping so much is because I am a visual person. I can be more decisive if I can actually picture my purchases. Sometimes you just need to see something to know it's for you. OverDrive took this approach in our new update to the Partner Portal. We offer a wealth of promotional materials for libraries and schools to take advantage of at the ultra-low price of free (my kind of shopping!), but sometimes you need to see it to know you need it. Our Getting Started pages for Libraries and K-12 Schools now offer visual graphics, with size dimensions, to accompany our links. On these pages you'll find posters, sticker sheets, flyers, bookmarks, web graphics and more. Scroll through the page to see our offerings and choose material that works best for your community. If you don't see what you are looking for, click the link at the bottom of each page to see additional options. Keep in mind, you can request custom updates to any of the materials you see by way of your library or school's Account Specialist!

Speaking of visual, we now offer a short promotional video to embed or share on your library's social media page http://partners.overdrive.com/marketing-outreach/libraries/social-media/. We tried our hand at a commercial offering to simply make users aware of your OverDrive service and we think you'll like it. It's straight to the point and a lot of fun (School partners, you may notice the lack of youngsters, don't worry we hope to offer an equally creative short for you to share soon!).

Lastly, on point with the 'visual' them of this post, don't forget to make your users aware of your exciting periodical collection, if you have one. Magazines and periodicals are still one of the most wildly read media—how do you think I became the master shopper I am today? Magazines are my guidebook to all things fabulous and fresh in fashion.  We have valuable resources to help you promote your periodical collection, including newly added "Also available as a digital magazine" stickers that can be put on the cover of your print copies.

Stay fresh everyone and enjoy all the free options we offer before they go out of style!


Christina Samek is Launch Specialist with OverDrive