Tuesday, September 22, 2015

German Publishers Accuse Amazon of Audiobook Monopoly


The Association of German Publishers have filed a complaint with the European commission that Amazon has created an audiobook monopoly via their Audible unit.

Each year, Germans buy more audiobooks than e-books, and the voice actors are as big as rock stars. This past summer, 20,000 Germans filled a Berlin stadium just to listen to the most popular audiobook series.

In 2013 close to five million German customers have purchased an audiobook and this is a huge deal, considering this accounts for 7% of the overall population. Audiobooks is one of the hottest segments currently operating in Germany and ironically 90% of all sales stem from Audible.

Alexander Skipis, the head of the German Book Trade body, said: "The business model of Amazon and Audible is aimed at destroying the excellent book trade structure in Germany. These companies are avowedly on the way to establish a monopoly." He went on to say that Audibles dominant market position to force publishers to accept "unreasonable conditions."

I really doubt anything will come of the petition to the European Commission to look into Amazons audiobook practices in Germany. There is simply no homegrown companies that have built any sort of traction and the ones that do exist are fighting for less than 10% market share because they are short on cash to woo publishers to investing into their ecosystem.

Top Manga Reading Apps for Android – 2015


Manga e-reading apps have really grown up in the last few years as companies are starting to employ more features in order to standout in a crowded landscape. Some are trying to emulate the flat design principles that Google is hyping and others are just giving you an excellent user experience. Lets take a look at the best manga apps of 2015.


Zingbox Manga – ZingBox is a free manga reader app for Android which provides the most amazing manga reading experience. You can read manga in a clean and easy-to-use interface. It supports paper-rolling, page-turning, landscape and portrait mode.

What I like about this app is that they have a ton of original content. They make it easy for independent artists and self-publishers to submit their manga into their service.


Manga RockManga Rock is a brilliant app to read manga, not only has it one of the best reading UIs out there, but it's also extremely easy to get hold of manga as well. It can ever deliver manga in more than just English, which is great for those in other parts of Europe and even Latin America. I can't stress enough how good it is to see a developer take advantage of what Android 4.1 and above can bring to app design, the slide-out drawer and action bar are used to great effect and there's even smart use of gestures such as pinching and more.

The vast variety of manga and fast speed of the app makes this a no-brainer for those already heavily invested in manga but, those just starting out will find a welcoming app to start something new. For those starting out I'd recommend just taking a look at the huge catalogue on offer and choosing something to get your teeth stuck into. Manga Rock will make your commutes quicker and your lazy Sundays more fulfilling. Don't forget to download which version you need, there's one for US residents and one for those outside of the US.


Manga Box – This app was developed by DeNA who have an extensive track record of quality app development for Android. Manga Box is hosting manga from Kodansha, as well as Shogakukan and DeNA itself. The company also plans to add more publishers to the app in the future.

Some of the manga featured on Manga Box are being published simultaneously in both English and Japanese, and the app is available on the iTunes Store and on Google Play in 140 countries and regions around the world. DeNA also plans to add more languages to the app in the future.

Manga Box will allow users to read the 12 most recent issues of manga for free, and the users can also read the first 100 pages of the first volume of each series at all times.

Shin Kibayashi (one of the many pennames of Tadashi Agi and the creator of The Drops of God, Kindaichi Case Files, and GetBackers), is serving as editor-in-chief of the app. DeNA is selling e-books and printed books of the manga published on Manga Box, and also plans “a variety of movie adaptations and merchandise based on the series in collaboration with Dentsu Inc.


Viz Manga – Viz is certainly a force to be reckoned with when it comes to manga production. They have lots of really great retro stuff such as Random 1/2, Berzerk and Bleach. The free VIZ Manga App continues to be the top application for reading digital manga and features a massive library of 2,000 volumes across nearly 200 different series.

You can read manga in both portrait (where it appears as a single page) and landscape (where it appears as a two page spread) orientations. Portrait gives you a larger page, which is very nice, but landscape feels a bit more natural to me. They're both quality ways to read manga, and it's easy to adjust your reading experience to your preferred orientation.

Viz's pricing is pretty good. It seems like it's divided up according to page count, with exceptions for certain titles. Most manga, such as the popular Shonen Jump or Shojo Beat titles, will run you $4.99. These books run in the neighborhood of two hundred pages, give or take a couple dozen pages. For $5.99, you can purchase longer works, from 200 to over 300 pages. This includes many of Viz's SIGIKKI books, several of which we've talked about before. These books tend to be aimed at a more mature audience than Naruto or other shonen titles.


Crunchyroll Manga – Crunchyroll is best known for their television and streaming manga video app. They have dedicated apps basically for every single platform out there, including Android, Apple and Xbox. Last year they launched their impressive Android Manga Reader app and the big selling point is it has new manga chapters the same day they are released in Japan.

Crunchyroll is different from almost all other manga services in one important respect: It is a streaming service. The user cannot download the manga. Given a choice between free streaming manga or download-to-own manga at a price, a substantial part of the manga audience has opted for the free service. There is no shortage of users that can use the service either, its available in almost 180 different countries.

So how does the app actually perform? Crunchyroll Manga comes with a sleek, minimalistic interface and responsive swiping and zooming-in gestures, which make the reading quick and enjoyable. Also, the content, itself, looks great on a good screen. The guide mode shows you mangas, panel by panel, allowing you to focus on the drawings and observe even the smallest details. This is a great feature that no other manga apps we know of have. There is also a huge number of free chapters are available for sampling, making it easy for you to discover interesting titles.

Amazon Kindle Basic Touch vs Kobo Touch 2.0

kobo touch 2.0 vs kindle basic

Amazon and Kobo are heavily competing against each other when it comes to entry level e-Readers. The Kindle Basic came out at the tail end of 2014, whereas the new Kobo model was issued a few week ago. What device is better? Today, we evaluate the overall hardware and e-book experience.

The Kobo Touch 2.0 and Kindle Basic are fairly similar when it comes to the specs. They both feature a six inch e-Ink Pearl display with a resolution of 800 x 600 at 167 ppi. It is important to note that these aren’t capacitive touch, like the Kindle Voyage or Kobo Aura, instead they are employing older Neonode Infrared technology.

Underneath the hood is a 1 GHZ Freescale processor, 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of internal memory. The one advantage Kobo has is the ability to clone the SD card that is hidden underneath the removable back plate and boost the memory up to 32 GB.

In the video we will document the design differences between these two devices and look at the main UI features. You will get a sense of what Amazon and Kobo are both doing to differentiate themselves from each other and the competition. Additionally, we will also look at the internet browser and checkout e-books.

1 Year of Amazon Prime Membership is $67 on September 25th


Amazon is going to be discounting their Prime membership from $99 to $67 this Friday.  This is a limited time offer that will start and end this Friday and they are doing it because of Amazon's five Emmy wins at this year's 67th PrimeTime Emmy Awards, the company says – and this is its way of celebrating.

Many people are hearing about Amazons original content from their Instant Video service, due to the mainstream media attention. It is similar to Netflix, but the platform is only available in the US.

Prime membership gives customers two-day, free shipping on tens of millions of items, as well as access to tens of thousands of free TV shows, movies, music, and books. It includes unlimited cloud storage for photos, too.

A Thing Explainer word checker

Want to try writing using only simple words? Here’s a writing checker you can use: xkcd.com/simplewriter.

To help me write the words in my Up Goer Five picture, I taught my computer to watch my writing and tell me when one of the words I used wasn’t in the top ten hundred. After I put up my Up Goer picture, other people made things to check writing, too (like this one).

When I decided to write Thing Explainer, I went back to the writing checker I had used and made it better. Now, I’m happy to be able to share it with everyone!

To use it, just touch here and start writing. If you use a word that’s not in Thing Explainer’s set of the ten hundred, the word will turn red. (I usually count all forms of a word, like “kick” and “kicked,” together as one word, although there are a few special cases where I don’t.)

Have fun explaining things!

A note on the words: Some words are used more often in certain kinds of writing and talking than in others, which means different ways of counting words will give different answers for which ones we use the most. The set of ten hundred words in Thing Explainer comes from putting together many ways of counting how much people use a word to come up with a single set of ten hundred words that should sound familiar and simple to lots of people. 

Thank you to James Zetlen, who helped make the word checker work on other people’s computers and not just mine.

Fire OS 5 Adds New Accessibility Features to Fire Tablets

Amazon’s new line of Fire tablets get released next week, and with their release comes a new operating system called Fire OS 5, aka “Bellini”. The updated software adds some new features like Kindle Word Runner, the new speed reading tool. Fire OS 5 also adds a few new accessibility features to Fire tablets for […]

I’m going on a book trip!

I made a book that explains things. It’s called Thing Explainer. It will be out soon! It’s a big flat book full of pictures of things with lots of parts. There are also little words that tell you what all the parts do. You can read more about it here!

When my book comes out next month, I’m going to visit a lot of places with it! I’m going to New York, Seattle and Portland, San Francisco and Berkeley, Houston, Chicago and Naperville, and Toronto. If you live near one of those cities, maybe you can come see me!

In each city I visit, I’ll be standing in a big room and talking to people. I’ll also be writing my name in people’s books, but only if they want me to.


Here’s how you can come see me in each city. (This part doesn’t use simple words, but that’s because I like the people whose buildings I’m visiting and don’t want to make problems by using different words from the ones on their signs and stuff.)

33 E 17th Street
Note: A limited number of wristbands and seats will be available to those who provide proof of purchase of Thing Explainer from a Barnes & Noble retail location or BN.COM. For details, click here.

In Conversation with Hank Green
1119 8th Avenue
Tickets: $5 includes admission. Seating is limited. A portion of proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to Zeno: Math Powered. To purchase tickets and for details, click here.

3415 SW Cedar Hills Boulevard
Note: Book signing only. Purchase of Thing Explainer from Powell's is required for admission. Space is limited. For details, click here.

155 Fell Street
Tickets: $35 includes one book and admission. Seating is limited. To purchase tickets and for details, click here.

First Congregational Church
2345 Channing Way
Tickets: $35 includes one book and admission. Seating is limited. To purchase tickets and for details, click here.

1601 NASA Parkway
Tickets: Free with the price of admission to Space Center Houston. Seating is limited to those who RSVP here. To purchase tickets and for more information about Space Center Houston, click here.

North Central College at Pfeiffer Hall
310 E Benton Avenue
Tickets: Free, but required for admission. Seating is limited. To get tickets and details from Anderson's Bookshop, click here.

222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza
Tickets: $43 includes one book and admission. Seating is limited. To purchase tickets and for details, click here.

In Conversation with Ryan North
93 Charles Street W
Tickets: $40 includes one book and admission. Seating is limited. To purchase tickets and for details, click here.

Other places

Can’t make any of these events, but still want a signed copy? A limited quantity of signed Thing Explainers are available to pre-order from Harvard Bookstore and Porter Square Books.

Already pre-ordered your copy? Email your proof of pre-order for the print edition of Thing Explainer—either a copy of your e-receipt or photo of print receipt—and mailing address to trademarketing@hmhco.com by November 15, 2015 and you’ll be entered to win one of 300 signed bookplates, which look like this:

TE bookplate

Fire Tablets 2015 Comparison Tables

Now that Amazon has unveiled their new lineup of Fire tablets for 2015, a lot of people are wondering how each model compares to the other new and previous Kindle Fire tablets. A few days back I updated the Kindle Comparison Table to add the new Fire tablets to the list. The table includes all […]

Put on your pageant dresses because we’re reviewing Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

By Kristin Milks, a librarian and Collection Development Specialist with OverDrive

Put on your Dolly records, get out your tiaras, and make sure your pageant smiles are plastered on your face because Julie Murphy's new book Dumplin' is here.

giphyWillowdean is a Texas teen who is confident and sure of herself, her friendship with Ellen, her love of Dolly Parton, and her extra curvy body. But things start to change in Willowdean's world. First there's Bo, the private school boy she works with. He's handsome and quiet, and he is into Will, but his attention starts making her question her body. Then Ellen starts hanging out with a new girl who is irritating and rude to Will, and she feels their friendship start to strain. In the midst of it all, Will decides to take back her confidence and show the world that she may be fat, but that doesn't mean she can't be a queen, a pageant queen that is! With her mother, a former beauty queen and the head of the local pageant, nipping at her heels, boy troubles, drag queens, and a new group of rag-tag pageant contestants, Will has a lot on her plate this year.

While reading this book, I told some friends that Willowdean is my new spirit animal. She is a great role model with her love of who she is even when the world (and her mother) tell her to change her body so she can be happy, even though she's already happy. She's fierce, not letting the school bully get in her way or make her or her friends feel bad. She calls people out on their baloney and when her friends do the same to her, she listens. The secondary characters were great as well. Her group of three other "misfits" who enter the pageant start becoming close and their relationships enhance the book.

This book was exactly what I wanted! Its light hearted, yet tackles some issues that everybody deals with, namely the loss of a loved one, self-perception, body image, and bullying. What I really loved about this book is that it didn't over dramatize everything. It felt real because it wasn't over the top, full of angst, or melodramatic. I also enjoyed that this was a book about women sticking together for the most part. A beauty pageant invokes images of hair pulling and gossip, but Julie Murphy stayed away from that stereotype, instead showing these girls rallying behind each other. SISTERHOOD!

If you're thinking you need a great YA read or you need to recommend a YA read, I HIGHLY suggest Dumplin'. It's a great read-alike to Eleanor and Park and The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things. Oh and just try NOT listening to 'Jolene' when reading this book. I dare you.

Oyster Closing eBook Subscription Service

Yesterday Oyster announced on their blog that they will be closing the doors on their ebook subscription service after just 2 years of being in business. Oyster’s explanation is rather vague and ambiguous; the post reads more like a plug for reading on mobile phones than a business closure statement. Giving customers an honest explanation […]

Win big with OverDrive’s “In The Classroom” Contest!

We’re excited to announce the 2015 “In The Classroom” content where schools can win content credit by showing how you’re using and promoting your OverDrive services with your students and your curriculum. One of the best ways to get students reading is enable them to do so with their favorite devices and by having them use the technology everyday.

OverDrive wants to showcase how your school or district is utilizing digital content in the classroom. The top three submissions will win a $1,000 content credit and be showcased by OverDrive (with your consent) in our monthly webinars to prospective schools. All entries will be entered in a drawing to win an iPad mini.

Key areas of OverDrive in the classroom implementation include:

  • Digital Novel Class Sets
  • Textbooks
  • Informational Texts to support specific units of study (Social Studies, Science, Math, etc.)
  • Professional Development
  • Elementary Literacy Development
  • English Language Arts
  • Special Education
  • Career and Tech Education

If you’re looking for more ways to spread the word about your digital content be sure to check out our brand new school resources hub! Please be creative and tell us your story of how you are using OverDrive in the classroom. Submit your application by Monday, October 12, 2015. If you have any questions regarding this contest, please contact us

Sci-Fi your Pi

Liz: Today we’ve got a guest post from our friends at element14, who have been running a competition over the last few months that’s had Raspberry Pi owners making movie magic. Our very own James Adams did the judging, and we’ve really enjoyed seeing the entries – we think you’ll find them as amazing as we did.

Thanks folks!

Whatever the science fiction film, television show or novel, all sci-fi fans share one commonality: an appreciation for the technology that helps their favourite heroes overcome even the most impossible odds. That appreciation is also evident with the Raspberry Pi, which has spurred countless science fiction-themed projects and inventions around the world. That's why we set up the Sci Fi Your Pi design competition, in which 25 challengers used the Raspberry Pi to bring their favourite science fiction projects to life.

The participants worked tirelessly to complete their projects, documenting their progress along the way via blog posts, photos and video at element14. Today, we’re excited to announce the winning entry.


After much deliberation, Enrico Miglino was named the winner for his MediTech system, inspired by the Star Trek series. Enrico's device used the Raspberry Pi 2 and a multimeter to create a portable multi-tool medical examination kit. The device measures heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure and blood glucose, assess eye health and is capable of doing body surface image analysis. For his design, Enrico will receive a replica of Boba Fett's Mandalorian helmet created by the legendary Don Post Studios valued at $2,300 (£1,500).

Boba Fett's ACTUAL helmet is currently a bit acid-etched.

Boba Fett’s ACTUAL helmet is currently a bit acid-etched.

Several other participants impressed us with their creations. Finalist Michael Hahn also drew inspiration from Star Trek to build a scientific tricorder that can evaluate the environment's atmospheric conditions, temperature and humidity.


Finalist Joey Thompson built a QuadCop, a low-cost, custom-built quadcopter that performs security screenings, inspired by the Terminator series.


Frederick Vandenbosch, the fourth finalist, created a PiDesk, which leverages the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B+ to turn an ordinary work desk into an interactive series of touch and motion controls, similar to the one featured in the Tron Legacy franchise.


As part of the challenge, element14 created the movie posters you can see above, representing each finalist's project and the film that inspired it.

All 25 of the projects submitted show just how much the Pi has captured the imagination of engineers and tech enthusiasts alike. And while the Sci Fi Your Pi challenge may officially be over, this is just the beginning of new opportunities to creatively use our technologies in fun ways. Thank you to everybody who took part in the competition and to all Raspberry Pi enthusiasts at element14 and beyond who continue to inspire new applications for the Raspberry Pi 2. To learn more about the Sci Fi Your Pi challenge and view the full gallery of projects, visit www.element14.com/scifiyourpi.

The post Sci-Fi your Pi appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Official Harry Potter Website Relaunches

Pottermore.com today reveals its newly imagined website and positioning as the digital heart of J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World with a major redesign and packed with exclusive writing, features, and news. New writing by J.K. Rowling continues to be at the core of the site which also features a never before seen article by the author, revealing the history of the wizarding Potter family from its illustrious beginnings in the twelfth century.

The new writing from J.K. Rowling sheds unexpected new light on the origins of the Potter family name, delves into Harry's ancestry, explains how his grandfather quadrupled the family's fortune and how the Invisibility Cloak became a family heirloom.

Recently undergoing a design transformation, pottermore.com now includes more content than ever before and is designed to be consumed in a completely different way to the original site, which was launched in 2012. The new site contains entertaining features, commentary and articles about the Harry Potter series and the wider Wizarding World.  Being designed first for mobile also helps users to easily share on social media as they go.

For the first time ever, there will be reporting and features by the Pottermore Correspondent, a journalist dedicated to reporting on all the latest updates going on in the Wizarding World. In the months to come the Pottermore Correspondent will report on the forthcoming Warner Bros. feature film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, based on an original J.K. Rowling screenplay, and the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, written by Jack Thorne, which is set to open in London in 2016.

Susan L. Jurevics, Chief Executive Officer, Pottermore, said: 'J.K. Rowling is continuing to expand her magical universe, and as the Wizarding World expands, so does Pottermore. The fascinating story of the Potter family, from the author herself, will enthrall everyone interested in this world and shows just how J.K. Rowling's writing remains at the heart of our new site. Users will find all areas easier to access, due to the elimination of mandatory registration, as well as responsive designs for optimal viewing across a wide range of devices. Our new digital destination is tailored to unlock and stimulate the imagination like never before.'

The new version of pottermore.com is an English-language site only and is a flexible and evolving digital platform for the Wizarding World. The Harry Potter eBooks and digital audio books remain available to buy in multiple languages via the Pottermore Shop: https://shop.pottermore.com