Monday, September 21, 2015

Oyster is Shutting Down their e-Book Subscription Service


Oyster has announced that they are shuttering their e-book subscription service in the next few months and customers will have to look for new options. The company raised over $17 million dollars during the lifespan of their company and this was not enough to keep them solvent.

In a statement on the official Oyster Blog the company stated “we will be taking steps to sunset the existing Oyster service over the next several months. If you are an Oyster reader you will receive an email personally regarding your account in the next few weeks. We look forward to sharing more details soon, but rest assured, your account will continue to operate normally in the meantime. If you'd like to request a refund, please contact us at”

Oyster is the second company in the last few months to find that the entire e-book subscription concept is flawed and is an unsound business model. Entitle went out of business in July and like Oyster they were solely reliant on venture capital funding in order to keep the lights on, because the e-book subscription market does not have enough paid readers to make the business model viable on its own.

One of the challenges that Oyster faced faced was having to constantly placate publishers concerns.  The vast majority of them are very apprehensive about going the same route music or movies went.

In a recent interview with the Bookseller, Arnaud Nourry, the CEO of Hachette said"We now have an ecosystem that works. This is why I have resisted the subscription system, which is a flawed idea even though it proliferates in the music business. Offering subscriptions at a monthly fee that is lower than the price of one book is absurd. For the consumer, it makes no sense. People who read two or three books a month represent an infinitesimal minority."

Penguin Random House's CEO Tom Weldon echoed Arnaud's sentiments at the Futurebook conference a little awhile ago in the UK. "We have two problems with subscription. We are not convinced it is what readers want. 'Eat everything you can' isn't a reader's mindset. In music or film you might want 10,000 songs or films, but I don't think you want 10,000 books."

The Penguin and Hachette bosses sentiments are oddly prophetic, it seems as though the e-book subscription service is flawed and all of the major companies in this space are going out of business.  How a company burns $17 million in two years and is totally abandoning their business is totally beyond me.

Kindle for Samsung Free e-Books for September 2015


Amazon developed a customized version of their seminal Kindle e-reading app for Samsung in early 2014. It is now bundled on most of the companies smartphones and tablets and available in 80 different countries. Every month there are four e-books available in a pool and you can pick one to read completely for free. Today, lets look at the titles that are available for September.

The Drowning Guard: A Novel of the Ottoman Empire by Linda Lafferty


Each morning in the hour before dawn, a silent boat launches on the Bosphorous, moving swiftly into the deepest part of the waters halfway between Europe and Asia, where a man will die…

The Drowning Guard is the tale of the Ottoman princess, Esma Sultan—one of the most powerful women in Ottoman history and unlike any other woman in the Islamic world. In a gender reversal of Scheherazade in 1001 Arabian Nights, Esma seduces a different Christian lover each night, only to have him drowned in the morning. The Sultaness’s true passion burns only for the Christian-born soldier charged with carrying out the brutal nightly death sentence: her drowning guard, Ivan Postivich.

The Drowning Guard explores the riddle of Esma—who is at once a murderer and a champion and liberator of women—and the man who loves her in spite of her horrifying crimes. This textured historical novel, set in the opulence and squalor of Istanbul in 1826, is woven with the complexity and consequences of love.

Bad Blood by Casey Kelleher


n the underbelly of Soho's organized crime ring, everyone knows that retired boxer Harry Woods is not one to mess with. And that goes double for his family.

Harry has it all: the big house, the flashy cars, and an abundance of wealth. As much as money talks in his world, Harry knows deep down the only thing that really counts is family. Haunted by the sudden death of his wife, he'll do anything to protect his children, but truth is a heavy burden and hidden secrets can unravel even the strongest of bonds….

Without loyalty, family are bound together only by blood. Bad blood.

Once Bitten by Stephen Leather


There’s a full moon over Los Angeles, and for police psychologist Jamie Beaverbook that can only mean one thing: the crazies will be out in force. But when he is called into the station for a consult in the middle of the night, even the jaded Beaverbrook can’t believe his ears. The innocent-looking girl in the interview room doesn’t look a day over fifteen, yet the cops say Terry Ferriman was discovered in an alley off of Sunset Boulevard, her mouth smeared with blood as she crouched over the body of a man whose throat was torn out. A basic psych evaluation convinces Beaverbrook of Terry’s sanity and yet he can’t ignore the evidence that seems to point in one extraordinary direction. He tells himself he doesn?t believe in vampires, but after some digging, the good doctor begins to realize that the shadows of L.A. conceal a world where girls like Terry never age and where blood is more valuable than gold.

Never Kiss a Rake (Scandal at the House of Russell #1) by Anne Stuart


Bryony Russell and her two sisters are left destitute by the disgrace and unexpected death of their father, a wealthy shipping magnate. He left a cryptic note, and Bryony is determined to find the real villain and clear her father's name. In disguise as a servant, Bryony infiltrates the home of her father's business partner to find proof of his guilt…or innocence. It's not just clues that Bryony finds, but temptation too…

Adrian Bruton, Earl of Kilmartyn, immediately suspects there is something not quite right about his new housekeeper. The brooding, irresistible rake plays along because he has his own guilty secrets, and his venal, scheming wife holds the key to them, trapping him in a hate-filled marriage. But against his will he's fascinated by Bryony, seeing past the scars on her face to show her the beauty she never knew she had. Bryony must uncover the truth and attempt to preserve her father's legacy, before things go too far and she falls in love with a man who might very well be her worst enemy.

Nokia Developed a Secret e-Reader in 2013


Nokia is well known for their foray into smartphones and to a lesser degree tablets, but did you know they were secretly developing an e-reader? In 2013, the same year the Kindle Paperwhite came out, Nokia had designed an e-reader that they were hoping to market all over Europe.

The Nokia e-reader was known internally as Pine and it was running on Linux based system, where Nokia were teaming up with book providers to develop "interactive content".

Stephen Elop the former CEO of Nokia decided to kill this device, as his first major decision when he joined the company. This might have been a bad move because the e-reader and e-book industry have blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industry.  Likely, he was just totally inept when it came to technology because under his tenure Nokia annual revenues fell 40%. His only saving grace was selling the company to Microsoft.

Could the Nokia Pine made a difference in the e-reader sector? I guess we’ll never know.

10 e-Books to read this Fall

girl reading in fall woods

GoodReads has just crunched the data from over 40 million users and put together a list of the top e-books that are going to be available in the next few months. If you are looking to curl up and read a new title or discover a new read, this is the list for you.

Did You Ever Have a Family  by Bill Clegg

This debut novel from a writer who is better known as a superstar literary agent is generating both a lot of anticipation and also stellar reviews on Goodreads. Goodreads member, Maxwell, says "It's these kinds of books, ones that you can't put down, that bring you to tears, or resonate deeply within you, that stay with you the most. It makes you grateful for the community around you; friends, family, even the people you don't think affect your life, but at the end of the day are all part of your story." Tip: This is a great book club choice, likely to provoke a lot of discussion about regret, redemption, and how life is impacted by small decisions and actions.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

From the author of bestseller, The Secret Keeper, comes a new mystery set in Cornwall. A child goes missing in 1933, and in 2003, a London police officer on disciplinary leave, stumbles across the case and starts investigating. On Goodreads, Susan says "The book has so many layers and so many secrets that it's like an onion. The layers keep being peeled away and everything you thought you knew is gone in a poof of smoke. Things keep being revealed and you can barely put the book down because you just have to know what's going to happen next." (Will be published on October 20, 2015)

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

One of the most talked-about literary novels this Fall, "Fates and Furies" is getting rave reviews from readers on Goodreads. In this story about a marriage of 24 years, you first hear the husband's side and then the wife's. Karen's review on Goodreads says "this is a story of the moving parts that keep a marriage going; the sacrifices and the machinations under the smooth fa├žade. It's about how much work it takes to make it look effortless. It's about secrets."

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

A coming of age story about a young woman called Ijeoma that reveals the suppression LGBTQ people continue to face daily in Nigeria.  In her Goodreads review, Betsey writes "As the story progresses with a compassionate and vital energy, the reader is taken on a courageous journey of a woman who is fighting for love, family, personal justice, and as sense of inner peace. Okparanta, in this touching novel, gives voice to the many Nigerians who have been forced to go into hiding. She speaks up for love, in different forms." (Will be published on September 22, 2015)

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

If your knowledge of the Bible's King David is limited to the battle of David & Goliath, this book by the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "People of the Book" will open your eyes to his extraordinary life and times. Goodreads reviewer, Tony, writes: "Brooks' capacity to tell a gripping story, of a person who is immensely talented and deeply flawed is wonderful. David has an insatiable hunger for victory, love and sex. He is driven to rule and all that this entails—there is as much blood and slaughter as in several seasons of Game of Thrones here and almost as much lust." (Available on October 6, 2015)

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

Everything about this debut novel is big; from the bidding war between ten publishers which led to an advance of nearly $2 million to its 944 page length and its pantheon of vivid characters who live in the New York City of the 1970s. Goodreads member, Susan, says "To try to capture the essence of this is impossible, but I would suggest that if you have read, and enjoyed, books such as "The Goldfinch," you might also like this. It has a huge depth and takes in disgruntled youth, those living on the margins, the ultra wealthy, the art scene, drugs, infidelity, insider trading, and much more." And for Goodreads member, Loring: "This book will haunt any reader for months, perhaps years, because it never is quite clear what we have and have not lost in the fire."  (Available on October 13, 2015)

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt

In this dark and peculiar fairy tale, high jinks ensure when Lucien Minor takes a job at the isolated Castle Von Aux as an assistant to the majordomo. There's a crazy missing baron to find, the heart of the winsome Karla to win, and many secrets to uncover. Goodreads member, Sarah, calls it "wonderfully smart … a yarn for adults, a fable without morals/talking animals, and it made me remember what it felt like to be a wide-eyed kid being told a new favorite story of the very first time.”

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

This is the revealing and raw memoir of Carrie Brownstein, the star and co-creator of the award-winning series, Portlandia, and musician in the feminist punk band, Sleater-Kinney.  Goodreads member, Lisa, calls it "Terrific: sharp, smart, introspective, complex, funny, and sad. What you (I) want in a music memoir – a little creative process, a little zeitgeist of the times, a lot of self-awareness without too much self-indulgence." (Available on October 27, 2015)

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse: An Extraordinary Edwardian Case of Deception and Intrigue by Piu Marie Eatwell

Secret identities. A request to dig up a body. The debate over the heir to a dukedom. Sounds like something out of a novel, but this is the true story of one of the most famous court cases in the Edwardian era in England. Jane sums up many Goodreads reviews with "The question at the center of the case—whether T C Druce and the 5th Duke of Portland were two men or one—was beautifully balanced, and as the case twisted and turned, as new claimants and new evidence emerged, I could never quite make up my mind. I knew I could go away and look up the case, and I so wanted to know what would happen, but I resisted because I knew this was too good a book to spoil."  (Available on October 5, 2015)

How did Writers Create their own Ink?


Writers and self-publishers in the middle ages had their work cut out for them. You could not just run to the local merchant and buy ink, you often had to make it yourself. It was equally hard to find a good quill and get your hands on parchment, papyrus, and vellum.

There are several ways to make ink in the middle ages and many have recorded their instructions on how to do it. The following recipe comes from Theophilus Presbyter, who in the early twelfth-century created a work known as De diversis artibus (On various arts).

To make ink, cut for yourself some wood of the hawthorn – in April or May before they produce blossom or leaves – collect them together in small bundles and allow them to lie in the shade for two, three or four weeks until they are fairly well dried out.

Then have some wooden mallets, and with them pound these thorns on a hard piece of wood until you completely peel off the bark, which you immediately put in a barrel full of water. When you have filled two, three, four or five barrels with bark and water, allow them to stand like this for eight days until the water has drawn off all the sap of the bark. Then put this water into a very clean pot or into a cauldron, place it on the fire and heat it. From time to time, put some of this bark into the pot so that, if there is any sap left in it, it can be boiled out, and, when you have heated it for a little, take it out and put in some more.

This done, boil down what remains of the water, to a third of the original quantity, pour it from this pot into a smaller one and continue to heat it until it becomes black and begins to thicken, taking particular care that you do not add any water except that which was mixed with the sap. When you see it become thick, add a third part of pure wine, put it in two or three new pots and continue to heat it until you see that it develops a kind of skin at the top.

Then left these pots off the fire and put them in the sun until the black ink resolves itself from the red dregs. Afterwards, take some small, carefully sewn, parchment bags like bladders, pour the pure ink into them and hang them up in the sun until it is completely dried. When it is dried, take from it as much as you want, mix it with wine over a fire, add a little iron vitriol and write. If, as a result of carelessness, the ink is not black enough, take a piece of iron, an inch thick, put it on the fire until it is red hot and then throw it into the ink.

There is something deeply romantic about forgoing a computer and all technology to write something. I think it would be a neat project to make your own ink, paper and go on a journey to find a writing quill and pen some short fiction.

Librarian’s Share: Merchandise Your OverDrive Collection Like a Pro

Last month I did something that I normally avoid like the plague – public speaking!  Somehow I found myself at the podium at the 2015 Digipalooza Conference addressing a HUGE group of people (something I am more than a little phobic about). I was asked to speak about the experience our library has had merchandising our OverDrive collection with the curation tool in Marketplace.   You know that I have to feel pretty strongly about something if I have agreed to do this dreaded task.

First off, I want to tell you that curating collections is the favorite part of my job. I select adult eBooks for Toronto Public Library and oversee our OverDrive collection.  I love putting together lists of great books and I create or add to existing curated collections almost daily.  (Quite frankly, I am a little obsessed…in a good way.)  The constant flow of new titles keeps the collections fresh and has helped to grow a following of avid eBook readers who go there first for reading recommendations. If you feature good content that you know you customers want, they will keep coming back for more.  The feedback about our collections has been overwhelmingly positive. Our most popular curated collection is the "Hot Releases of 2015" list where we gather all the best sellers and books that have received media attention this year so far.


Let's face it, browsing through tens of thousands of eBook offerings is a daunting task foranyone. Offering a selection of hand-picked titles significantly enhances the user experience and allows us to engage with our public by providing a remote readers' advisory service. Curated lists can help your customers find the content they are looking for in one easy place. If you don't have a lot time to create and maintain curated collections, inviting your branch staff to help put together book lists might work for you. We maintain a "TPL Staff Picks" collection that does just that. Not only does it allow staff to let their expertise shine but it also fosters a positive attitude towards digital collections in general.  Library branch staff are readers' advisory pros!maria

The curated collections have also had a positive impact on our circulation and the overall turnover rate of our collection (Our library is on target to hit three million downloads for this year alone!). I regularly feature older best sellers or well-reviewed titles that have many available copies to get them circulating again. Do you have a ton of available copies of "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett on your virtual shelves right now? Are you awash in older John Grisham eBooks that cost your library an arm and a leg? Feature them in your curated collections and watch them get snapped up.

Featuring titles works like a charm. If you need proof check out these two slides from my Digipalooza talk:


mindy1 mindy 2



In addition to improving our circulation, featuring content has helped our library get a better return on our investment for our eBook collection. The harsh reality is that our budget is finite and many of the high demand titles are punishingly expensive. It's a struggle to provide adequate copies of the latest best sellers while the demand for eBooks continues to grow. Waiting lists for the hottest titles is a fact of life. Our curated collections help guide our customers to their next great read while they wait for the latest best seller. Read-alike lists are fantastic for this. I make it my mission to feature as many pricey older titles as I can in order to ensure that we are getting a good bang for our buck!

Here are some examples of some lists that have been popular on our site:

  • Book Club Favorites
  • Pulitzer Prize: Winners and Finalists Throughout the Years
  • New York Times: 100 Notable Books of 2014
  • Girl on the Train Read-Alikes
  • Great Beach Reads
  • Get Ready for the Holidays (holiday cookbooks, crafting and gift making)
  • Start a Mystery Series (The first book in the series)
  • The Book Was Better! (Books that have been made into movies)
  • Toronto in Fiction
  • African American & Urban Fiction



The possibilities to promote titles in your collection are endless.  Curating is fun, easy and highly addictive – you should give it a try if you haven't already.


Maria Cipriano is a Collections Librarian and manages the Electronic and Online resources for Toronto Public Library 

Guitar boy

Is it a guitar that’s also a Game Boy, or a Game Boy that’s also a guitar? We just don’t know.

This is a thing of beauty. Best of all, for me, is the way the A and B buttons don’t just control the Game Boy; they’re also volume and tone dials.

The build uses the guts of a real guitar. Fibbef, the maker, who created the Guitar Boy for the BitFix Gaming 2015 Game Boy Classic build-off, built his own guitar body with a screen and rammed a Raspberry Pi running the RetroPie games emulator in there, ending up with a functional guitar that’s also a functional (giant) hand-held gaming device.

If you want to see more of the build, Fibbef documented it in this thread at the BitFix forums.


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