Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Self-Publishing Startup Pronoun vies for Indie Authors Attention


Pronoun is a new company launched by the folks at Vook. They want to convince indie authors that they are a better alternative to LULU, Nook Press, Kobo Writing Life and Smashwords.  How can a startup basically come out of nowhere and be a compelling value proposition for digitally savvy authors? Simple, they will put you in every major online store and give you 100% of all the royalties.

Pronoun knew they had to present a better alternative to most of the major online bookstores, which only pay authors between 60% or 70% per each sale. The sales should be fairly steady, as Pronouns distribution network includes Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo.

Authors do not need to be skeptical about Pronouns intentions. They are a profitable company without dipping into the pockets of authors.  Pronoun just raised $3.5 million in new funding from Avalon Ventures, so they have enough to remain in business. They also have big clients such as the New York Times, Forbes, and Fast Company who pay them for their real-time data and analytics service that stemmed from the Vook acquisition of Booklr.

Pronoun is not only appealing to authors but has picked up some allies in the formation of their company. Stefan Pepe, who formerly served as Director of Amazon's North American books division, had joined its Board of Advisers at Pronoun.  Stefan previously held executive roles at Ideeli, Gilt, and Zynga.

I think Pronoun is a safe bet for indie authors. They have an online digital e-book creator suite that can create cover art and insure everything from table of contents to mobile readiness can be established. They are utilizing their real-time data service to monitor sales and report them faster than anyone else. Hell, they even throw in a free ISBN number so your books aren’t relegated to the shadow realm.

Kobo SuperPoints – a Loyalty Program for Free e-Books


Kobo has been actively developing a loyalty program for the last six months. The idea was to reward people who bought e-books with credit, that can be used to get free content. Today, Kobo officially announced Superpoints.

Kobo SuperPoints rewards you with 100 points for every $10 you spend on e-books and digital magazines. You can use the virtual currency to get free e-books, the average title costs around 2,400 points and there are over a million of them to select from. If you manage to accrue 4,500 points you can enroll yourself in the Kobo VIP program which saves you 10% off everything in their bookstore and you can also select one free e-book a year. If over four thousand points is a bit daunting, you can spend $10 as a one time fee and become a VIP member.

At certain times during the year Kobo has promised that they will run “Bonus Days” which will reward double the credits on everything in the store. Likely they will do this at certain times of the year, such as Christmas, Halloween and Mothers Day.

I think Kobo did something really great with this loyalty program. It rewards people who read the most with discounts and free books.

The New Products Google Announced Today


Google announced plenty of new devices today at an exclusive event in San Francisco. The phones are made by LG and are dubbed the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. Likely, one of the coolest new offerings is a a 10.2-inch tablet with USB-C that starts at $499. And instead of running Chrome OS, the Pixel C runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Both of the new Google Phones will come with a free 90-day subscription to Google Play Music, and if you’re pre-ordering in the US you’ll also get $15 Google Play credit. Also available only for US customers is Nexus Protect ($69), which extends the standard one-year warranty to two years for mechanical breakdown and accidental damage. You can get a replacement phone the next day.

Nexus 5X Review

Nexus 6P Review

Pixel C Review

64% of UK youth don’t Read e-Books


Youth in the United Kingdom are not very enamored with the entire concept of reading on a e-reader, smartphone or tablet.  The first survey from a new company called YouthSight asked 1,000 people what type of medium they regularly employed to read novels.  64% said they preferred print books, while 16% said e-books.

When it comes to electronic reading devices, nearly half of all of those surveyed (43%) said they read using their smartphones. The next most popular device was a Kindle, used by 34%, then iPad (27%), laptop (23%), other tablet (19%), desktop computer (3%).

The majority (64%) said less than £3 is the right price for an e-book, whilst 26% said they would be willing to pay between £3 and £5.

Kobo Starts New Super Points Program for Free eBooks

Kobo has just launched a new promotion called Kobo Super Points. Basically customers earn Super Points when purchasing ebooks and magazines that can be used to get free ebooks. There are two levels to the program. One that’s free for all customers to use (Super Points automatically accumulate with each purchase). And there’s an upgraded […]

Add a #BannedBooksWeek curated collection to your digital library today!



At OverDrive we know a few things for certain: 1) #BannedBooksWeek is awesome and 2) offering your users customized curated collections is a great way to boost your circulation. Why not marry those two undeniable facts by creating a #BannedBooksWeek curated collection for you site today! We’ve even done the hard work for you. At overdrive.com you’ll find some of our favorite banned books in a collection you can sample and share and then, when you’re ready to purchase check out this complete list of over four hundred banned and challenged books in Marketplace. In fact, adding all of these titles is a great way to boost the value and variety of your library offerings.

We’re also celebrating #BannedBooksWeek by using the hashtag on social media to share some “mug shots” of Team OverDrive getting caught reading banned books. We’re also giving away two devices a day to the first person who answers our banned books trivia correctly so make sure your users are following @OverDriveLibs for their chance to win! If we can let you in on a little secret, we actually read banned books all year along (*gasp*) but this week we get to shout that pride from the digital mountain tops. Join in the fun and give your users a whole new collection to discover because if it’s worth being banned it’s definitely worth reading!

JB Hi-Fi Now eBook Store is Closing


The largest electronics retailer in Australia JB Hi-Fi started selling digital books two years ago. Things haven’t been going so well for them and they announced that on September 30th they will be shutting down the JB Hi-Fi Now ebook store.

The company is the midst of emailing all of the customers who have registered an account on the platform or have bought an e-book.

Toronto based Kobo has picked up the contract for the users and all JB Hi-Fi Now purchased will be transferred over to the Kobo ecosystem. JB is also giving everyone a free $10 credit that they can use to buy any digital book they want from Kobo.  If you have any questions about the transfer to another bookstore JB Hi-Fi hascreated an FAQ page with 11 questions on the transfer from NOW eBooks to Kobo.

Kobo has an extensive track record of swooping down on companies about to go out of business and somehow works out a financial arrangement to buy the users. They did it with Blinkbox books, a UK bookseller that was run by the supermarket chain Tesco. But perhaps Kobo’s biggest triumph was when they took over millions of users from Sony, when the Reader Store went out of business in North America, Europe and Australia.

It is not very surprising that yet another digital bookstore is going out of business. Worldwide e-book sales have plummeted over the last two years and it seems as though the format is being deliberately sabotaged by the publishers.

Jessie Is Here


Jessie is here? Who’s Jessie? Wasn’t she the cowgirl doll in “Toy Story 2” – you know, the one who got abandoned in a park to that Sarah McLachlan song, resulting in at least one software engineer finding he had something in his eye at that point…?

Yes, it is that Jessie, but not in that context. The Raspbian operating system is based on Debian Linux, and the different versions of Debian are named after characters from the “Toy Story” films. Recent versions of Raspbian have been based on Debian Wheezy (the penguin who’s lost his squeaker in “Toy Story 2”), but Raspbian has now been updated to the new stable version of Debian, which is called Jessie.

So what’s new?

Many of the changes between Wheezy and Jessie are invisible to the end-user. There are modifications to the underlying system to improve performance and flexibility, particularly as regards the control of system processes, and as with any update, there are numerous bug fixes and tweaks. And at the same time as the upgrade to Jessie, we’ve added a bunch of changes and improvements to the desktop user interface.

Look and feel

The first thing anyone starting the new Jessie image from scratch will notice is that the default behaviour is to boot straight to the desktop GUI, not to the Linux command line. This was a decision taken because this is the expected behaviour for all modern computers; the default interface for a personal computer in 2015 is a desktop GUI, not just text on a screen. It is still possible to set the Pi to boot to the command line for people who prefer that – just toggle the relevant setting in the Raspberry Pi Configuration application described below.

When the desktop launches, you might notice some slight tweaks to the appearance of things like menus, check boxes and radio buttons. This is because the appearance of Raspbian is now based on version 3 of GTK+, the user interface toolkit used for the LXDE desktop environment. The older version 2 of GTK+ is slowly being replaced with version 3 in many applications, so this change was inevitable at some point – the new appearance isn’t a huge change, but does look slightly more modern. Many of the applications in Raspbian are still using GTK+ version 2, but the PiX theme for GTK+2 has been changed to bring it into line with that for GTK+3.

You’ll notice on the menu bar that there is now an eject icon at the top right – this is a new plug-in that allows USB drives and the like to be safely ejected without the risk of losing data. It’s slightly risky to just pull out a USB drive, particularly if you have just copied a file to it, as the system manages the write to a drive in the background, and the write takes a finite amount of time. If you pull the drive out before the write has finished, you’ll corrupt the file and lose data – clicking the eject icon and then selecting the drive to remove waits for any pending writes to complete and then prompts that it is safe to remove the drive.

Office applications

One of our main aims with regard to Raspberry Pi is not just to make it a great cheap computer for education, but also to make it a great cheap computer in its own right. To this end, we want to make it possible to use a Pi to do the sort of things you’d do on a Mac or a PC, so we’re including some more applications that we think people will find useful. In this release, we have added the LibreOffice suite and Claws Mail.



LibreOffice is a full-featured office suite which is compatible with Microsoft Office files – it includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation graphics, vector drawing and database programs, all of which should feel familiar to anyone used to using Office. It has had some optimisation for Pi, and runs pretty well, particularly on Pi 2.

Claws Mail is an email client for those of us who are old-fashioned enough to prefer not to do email through a browser – it supports all common email protocols, and offers all the functionality of a standalone mail client like Windows Mail or Thunderbird.

Java tools


There are also two new applications in the Programming category – these are two new environments for writing Java applications, called BlueJ and Greenfoot (from the University of Kent and Oracle). If you’re interested in learning Java, or already a Java programmer, have a look at them. There are some sample projects for both in the /home/pi/Documents directory.

Settings and configuration

There are a couple of new settings dialogs in this release, found under the Preferences entry in the main menu. The first is Raspberry Pi Configuration – this is a GUI version of the old raspi-config command-line application, which provides all the same functionality in a nicer interface. (The old raspi-config is still on the system and can be accessed from the command line by typing “sudo raspi-config”, but it shouldn’t be necessary to do so any more.)


The new Raspberry Pi Configuration allows you to enable and disable interfaces, tweak performance and configure internationalisation options, such as timezone and keyboard. It also allows some more control over boot options than was available in the past, with the option to automatically log in as the “pi” user available when booting to both CLI and desktop.


There is a new keyboard setting dialog, accessed from the Localisation tab, but hopefully many people won’t need this – the system will detect some common keyboards sold for use with Pi and set up the GUI keyboard driver correctly. If that doesn’t happen, it’s now easy to choose the right country and keyboard type in this dialog.


The other new setting dialog is the Main Menu Editor. This is a Pi version of a menu editor called Alacarte, written in Python – this should make it easier for people to add or remove items to the main menu. (And, by popular demand, the Other menu is back on the system – but it will now only appear if applications are installed that don’t appear in any other categories…)

Updated applications

There are updates to several of the applications that used to come with Raspbian. There are new versions of Scratch, Sonic Pi, and the Epiphany web browser; none of these have changed fundamentally in operation, but they all include bug fixes and performance improvements.

Support has been added for some of the new Pi peripherals that have been released recently, including the Sense HAT as used in Astro Pi – this is now supported under Scratch and Python.

Python users used to have to launch Python with sudo in order to allow access to the GPIO lines – Python can now access GPIOs as a standard user. Also for Python, the Pygame Zero game environment is installed by default – have a look at pygame-zero.readthedocs.org for information on what it can do.

One final small thing – if you want to get a screenshot of your Pi, just press the Print Screen button on your keyboard. A PNG file will be put in your home directory, thanks to the (slightly strangely named) scrot utility.

Where can I get it?

This is a major version upgrade – due to the large number of changes to the underlying operating system, we strongly recommend using Jessie from a clean image, so you’ll need to download a new Jessie image from the downloads page on our site.

Starting with a clean image is the recommended way to move to Jessie. If you really need to update a Wheezy image, we have tried an unsupported upgrade path which is documented on the forums here. This has been shown to work on a vanilla Wheezy image, but we can’t predict what effect it may have on any packages or data that you have installed, so this is very much at your own risk. Feel free to add your experiences and improvements to the upgrade process to the forum so others can benefit.

As ever, your feedback on the release is very much welcome – do add a comment below, and I’ll try to respond to as many as I can.

The post Jessie Is Here appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Apple is promoting their new San Francisco font to developers


One of the seldom mentioned centerpieces to iOS 9, is a new system wide font called San Francisco, which replaces Helvetica Neue.  Apple has mandated that this new font will be unifying every device from the Apple Watch to the MAC.  Developers now have access to San Francisco, giving them the ability to use it in all of their apps.

Helvetica, was created in Switzerland in 1957, when there were no digital devices. Helvetica is widely used by many companies as the corporate type even now, and no doubt it will be used in the future as a great classic font.

San Francisco, on the other hand, is a modern font. It will change the typefaces dynamically according to the context. It is a kind of "Digital Native" fonts for the digital age.

Apple is not the only company to develop and release a major new font that was designed for multiple pieces of hardware. Amazon generated a new font that was designed for an e-reading experience called Bookerly a few months ago, while Google crafted a new font that replaces Droid Serif and is very noticeable when you are reading an e-book from Google Play Books.

I think anyone who has an e-reader, digital comic or magazine app on iOS should start to use Apples new font. The key reason is so that your app remains modern and does not break immersion.