Friday, September 4, 2015

Goodreads Comes to Kindles in the UK and Ireland

Goodreads and Amazon have announced that Goodreads integration is coming to Kindle ebook readers and Fire tablets in the UK and Ireland. A software update will add the new Goodreads features to the Kindle Paperwhite (all models), the Kindle Voyage, and the current entry-level Kindle, as well as the confusing number of Fire HD and […]

Publishers Earning Less Revenue From High e-book Prices


Major publishers have all signed new deals with Amazon, giving them the power to set their own prices. This has dramatically increased the cost of the average bestselling title and customers are steadily buying less of them.

Within the last calendar year Penguin/Random House, Simon and Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Macmillan have all signed long term contracts with Amazon. In the past, Amazon had the ability to sell e-books on a wholesale basis.  Due to the rising popularity of the format, and the billion dollar digital book market, publishers wanted more control over the price. The end result is e-books costing significantly more money.

This week there wasn't a single title priced at $9.99 among the top 20 titles on the company's Kindle best-seller list. Last summer, Amazon offered the digital edition of James Patterson's thriller "Invisible" for the bargain price of $8.99. Mr. Patterson's newest tale of suspense, "Alert," went on sale Aug. 3 on Amazon for $14.99, a price set by Hachette.

The average e-book a year ago cost $9.99, and many customers found that was the ideal price for a digital title.  It was cheaper than a paperback and dramatically more affordable than purchasing the hardcover edition.  Now, things are almost reversed. Many new digital titles cost in excess of $17.99, which are driving away people looking for digital deals.

Publisher e-book sales have been stagnating since 2013, when they fell 2.5%, according to Publishers Marketplace's analysis of AAP data.  The Association of American Publishers has just released their annual data report a month ago and in the first three months of 2015 e-book sales have plummeted 7.5% from the same period last year. Meanwhile, Hachette is reporting that  e-books fell to 24% of its U.S. net trade sales in the first half of 2015, from 29% a year earlier. Declining e-book sales contributed to a 7.8% drop in revenue in the period.

The high e-book prices we pay now are directly attributed to publishers greed. They wanted to prevent Amazon from lowballing e-book prices and putting other digital bookstores out of business and they have now shot themselves in the foot. e-Book sales are falling all over North America because people don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for an e-book.

GoBox: A Robotics Subscription Service

Kit maker Dexter Industries pulled the wraps off their latest Kickstarter, GoBox, the first-ever robot subscription service. It’s aimed at kids age 7 and up along with the help of an adult. No prior knowledge of robotics is required and step-by-step guides and videos will be provided.

In the first month of service, kids will receive the popular GoPiGo kit to act as the core of their robot. This kit includes a Raspberry Pi, chassis, battery pack, motors, motor controller board, and wheels. Each subsequent month, they’ll receive a new component such as a sound sensor, servo, light sensor, and many more. Each month, they’ll also receive step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish a particular mission. See their Kickstarter page for details on the different backer rewards and a sample draft mission.

Of course, we’re delighted that Dexter Industries uses Raspberry Pi in their robotics kits. Why do they like our computer? I’ll let John Cole, Dexter’s Founder & CEO, speak for himself:

We’re using the Raspberry Pi because it’s the most open, flexible, and easy to start with hardware for learning programming. We can use Scratch to start with, which is super-easy for young learners to use. And we can walk learners all the way up to command line programming.

There are two interesting and important aspects to what makes GoBox different. The first is that we are starting with little to no background assumed. When we looked at other platforms for starting robotics, they assume you know something (maybe something about coding, about electronics, or about computers). We really wanted to minimize that, and make starting with robotics and programming as easy as possible. So that is why the Raspberry Pi is a perfect platform — because we really start the story from the beginning.

The second is that we’re trying to design the program to keep learners engaged over a long period of time with the subscription service. We’re helping learners gradually, and encouraging open-ended design problems, but with a new delivery every month, you keep learning over the course of a year, rather than rush in, try a few things, lose interest, and throw the program in a corner. A new box every month really encourages people to keep going, and to keep trying new things without overwhelming them all at once.

We think this is a powerful formula to learn some of the most important skills needed in the world today. We also are seeing the creative projects (“missions”) we have developed appeal to girls and boys alike, which is really encouraging.

Check out the GoBox Kickstarter for more details.

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