Welcome to the Monday edition of the Good e-Reader Radio Show with Michael Kozlowski and Mercy Pilkington. Today, we talk about the new Amazon Credit Card Reader and how its a boon to indie authors to accept mobile payments while at events. Scholastic has announced the closure of their Storia eBook platform and is transitioning to a subscription system. Finally, many eBook resellers have gone out of business in the past few years, is your purchases protected?
Buying that special someone a book for their birthday or Christmas is on the decline in the United Kingdom. The Nielsen Book Survey has just decreed that the share of books bought as gifts fell from 24% to 22% – equating to a decrease of nine million books.
Jo Henry, director of the research, said that the decline in giving books as gifts would be of particular concern to publishers and called it a “concerning trend” which has also been seen in the US. Gifts accounted for 22% of book sales in 2013, down from 24% in 2012. She is calling for more research to find out the reasons why people are not buying books as gifts as much anymore.
Nielsen also provided data on continuous climb of the eBook industry, as a whole. The survey found that digital eBooks now account for 25% of all book purchases (up from 20% in 2012) and that their growth is at the expense of paperbacks.
There is no true path of ownership when you purchase eBooks, digital comics or manga from online retailers. Instead, you are merely granted a license and if the store closes you will lose everything. In the last few years we have seen BooksonBoard, Diesel eBooks, FictionWise, JManga, Scholastic Storia, and the Sony Reader Store all shutter their doors. Do we need consumer protection laws to protect our eBooks?
When Amazon sells you an an eBook for the Kindle they have the right to remove it at any time. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is referenced and Amazon can take your books away if it finds you’ve been naughty.
Being naughty is fairly general and can apply to a myriad of factors. A Norwegian women tried to purchase a Kindle book from the UK bookstore. Under Amazon’s rules, this type of action is barred, as the publisher seeks to control what content is read in which territory of the world. Her account was promptly deleted and all content lost. Should you attempt to break the DRM security block or transfer your purchase to another device, Amazon may legally “revoke your access to the Kindle Store and the Kindle Content without refund of any fees.”
In the past, Amazon has remotely deleted purchased copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from customers’ Kindles after providing them a refund for the purchased products. This was primarily due to a rift with the original publisher and rights issues. Commenters have widely described these actions as Orwellian, and have alluded to Big Brother from Orwell’s book.
When eBook stores decide they cannot stay in business anymore they allow for a small window period that allows you to backup the purchases and store them locally. If you are an average reader who might check the website or a use a reading app periodically, you will likely miss out the opportunity to save your books.
Backing up your books presents a wide array of challenges when you want to read them in the future. When Sony or Diesel eBooks closed, the content was incompatible with the Kindle. Instead, readers had to find a third party reading app for iOS or Android, which are not heavily promoted. If readers have an e-reader such as the Kobo, Onyx or Icarus, they can use Adobe Digital Editions to transfer them over. This program is not the most intuitive and may present a barrier to the non tech savvy.
There are only a few online bookstores of note that do not sell their books using Digital Rights Management (DRM) and allow for a somewhat clearer path of ownership. TOR books is a science fiction and fantasy imprint and they made the call to abandon DRM and sell books directly to customers. Pottermore came into existence as an avenue to use digital watermarks as a way to sell Harry Potter books, and not restrict how a user can read them. Self-publishing companies such as Smashwords leave it up to the author to decide if they want to employ DRM or not, but when you buy a Smashwords title from iBooks, it does have DRM. Theoretically, what would happen to your purchases if Smashwords went out of business?
According to the latest numbers from the Association of American Publishers, adult trade ebooks brought in $1.3 billion in revenue in 2013, up 3.8% from $1.25 billion in 2012. Ebooks now account for 27% of all adult trade sales. With this much money at stake and more customers adopting them, consumer protection for digital books is going to be needed.
Australia, Canada, Europe, UK and the United States do not have any current protection laws for digital books. They leave it up to the publishing industry and resellers to determine how best to run their own businesses and to develop their own licensing agreements. With millions of eBooks, comics and manga being lost after purchasing on a worldwide scale, something needs to be done to augment the First Sale Doctrine, Copyright Software Rental Amendments Act and Digital Millenium Copyright Act to protect customers from companies indiscriminately removing purchased content or to save it from a company going out of business.
In a move that industry watchers are already calling a direct competition to Amazon’s purchase of book discovery platform Goodreads, TechCrunch has reported through an anonymous tip that Apple has bought Boise, Idaho-based BookLamp, creators of the Book Genome Project discovery site. The site, which pairs readers with books based on the “DNA” of books, meaning an in-depth analysis of the language in titles readers have read, offers suggestions for new reads based on what users have already enjoyed.
According to TechCrunch, things became a little cryptic in April of this year, at least on BookLamp’s end. Once the anonymous tipster let it be known that Apple had completed the purchase for between $10million and $15million, which includes all of the technology and the manpower within the company. Facebook (of all places) provided some more of the clues, as key team members from BookLamp still listed Boise as their places of residence but had multiple FB posts that were tagged from the Cupertino, California, location.
As to how this is going to help Apple take down Amazon, as some reports are already claiming, that remains to be seen. Amazon purchased Goodreads over a year ago, with some estimates on the cost ranging from between $150 million and over one billion dollars. While the move has been good for Amazon, for Goodreads, and even for readers, it doesn’t appear to have been a game changer within the bookselling industry, at least not in the way that these kinds of dollars reflect.
One thing that has come out, though, is a renewed focus on Apple’s part in terms of selling titles through its iBooks platform. With agreements already in place with publishers and even Smashwords, and with the iOS8 update coming this fall that is supposed to make book purchasing even more streamlined, incorporating a search feature for right-fit books makes a lot of sense.
Of course, as Apple explained to TechCrunch, the company has a long history of buying smaller tech companies and then not discussing the details. Apple could just as easily have plans for the BookLamp technology–say in the area of app discovery–that doesn’t have much to do with bookselling.
There are millions of apps floating around out there, and you’ve installed a good number of them… which are worth keeping? Often the best apps on your smartphone or tablet came to reside there by way of recommendations from friends and family, and thanks to PayPal co-founder Max Levchin you can find out what they are using without even having to ask. Homer is an app available for the iPhone that lets you share your app picks with fellow users.
There is no magic to Homer, it’s all about screenshots of the screens on your phone. Not to worry, privacy features are built-in –which shots you share are completely voluntary.
Is there value in an app like Homer? Truthfully I’m not so sure that I care what most of my friends have installed, but I’m terribly interested in what productivity apps colleagues are using. Consider the lists of tips put out by highly successful people, wouldn’t it be interesting to see what they have installed on their smartphones?
Unfortunately there isn’t an Android version of Homer available just yet, but it seems reasonable to expect that one will head our way soon.
Santa Monica hotel Shutters on the Beach is doing something very interesting. They will buy the books you want to read during your holiday and have them awaiting you in the room upon check in
In order to have one or a bunch of books waiting in your room, simply call the front desk up to 24 hours in advance. A dedicated book buyer will purchase books, magazines and newspapers from the local Barnes and Noble bookstore. The cost of them will be billed in your room and your poolside
For lovers of the genre, great news came out of Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con video game panel: Marvel Contest of Champions is headed to Android this fall!
The official press release whets our appetite, but doesn’t offer much for detail:
“In development at Kabam’s Vancouver studio, players fight their way through iconic locations from the Marvel Universe and collect their favorite Marvel super heroes and villains such as Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man and Thor to build their ultimate team of champions.”
We’re expecting a brawler, and if experience tells us anything, Kabam typically makes freemium games. Beyond that, the storyline should be the real heart of the game, which is being written by Sam Humphries (who you may recognize from previous projects like Marvel’s John Carter: The Gods of Mars series and the Ultimate Comics Ultimates).
A specific release date hasn’t been announced, but the sooner the better as far as I am concerned!
I know everybody out there search for a job is wishing that it was as easy to find that next position as it is to find the next love of your life. Or maybe not, but thanks to a new app (and $630,000 in seed money raised by the developers) called Weave, searching for a job became easier and more fun from your mobile device.
To begin, you use your LinkedIn credentials to login and then let the app pair you with professionals located nearby. If you are interested in chatting with them or meeting up, swipe left to pass or right to initiate contact. While the main focus of the app isn’t necessarily applying for jobs, it is about professional networking, which is all about meeting the right people and hoping it is the right time.
While the idea behind Weave Networking is a good one (and pulls at the career-oriented heartstrings), it also seems a little unnecessary –though I suppose it bypasses the need to pay for a full-service LinkedIn profile where you could do proper searching and networking in the originating app itself.
If you are considering a career change, download the Weave Networking app for free now.
Verdict: 5 Stars
This book was fun for the very reason that books are meant to be read: it provided an escape into a world of “wouldn’t it be great if I could, but I never will.”
In Freudberg’s title, main character Martin Muntor made it a goal early in life to excel, not in the psychotic driven way of a man who cannot fathom failure, but more in the way of a man who had early examples of how not to live, and rose to overcome them. He takes good care of himself, works hard at a good job, and basically enjoys life.
Until he is diagnosed with lung cancer thanks to secondhand smoke from a childhood surrounded by smokers, only to follow that up with a doomed marriage to a smoker.
Everyone wants to point fingers at lung cancer patients as though to ask, “What did you expect to happen?” But in Muntor’s case, he was neither a smoker nor able to escape from an environment filled with the toxic stuff. Given that the book is set in 1995 when smoking was more prevalent and the effects of secondhand smoke were downplayed, the man is a casual victim who refuses to go down without a fight.
Instead of a medical fight, though, Muntor becomes a man on a mission, hellbent on taking down the tobacco industry, serial killer-style.
Much in the same way that we can enjoy TV shows like Dexter for both the sick pleasure of watching the bad guys suffer and the “it’s never gonna happen but what if” plot, Freudberg’s story line is both a sick pleasure and a fun pseudo-warning to the corporate entities who hurt the population in the name of twisted greed. I’d love to see what the author comes up with in addressing Monsanto, but that’s for another book.
There were places where the writing dragged for me, but I am admittedly not a massive fan of the genre. I can appreciate good writing and a highly unique plot, though, both of which the author provided in abundance.
Find Virgil is available now.
Scholastic, the award-winning powerhouse in children’s publishing, made a announcement today that their ebook reading app Storia would be closing, making way for a bigger focus on its Storia School Edition subscription reading program. In a cryptically worded graphic on their website, a lot of unanswered questions were alluded to, particularly that the ebooks parents have already purchased for their young readers as part of the platform “may soon no longer be available,” and that consumers “may be able to continue using your eBooks by making sure to open them on a bookshelf at least once by October 15.”
While that may leave consumers with even more head-scratching than understanding, a more confusing offer of a refund on all titles purchased is both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, parents who act by
August 1st can have a refund on their ebooks, but if they don’t ask for a refund, their content might still work.
The industry has been very forgiving of Scholastic’s recent drops in revenue by acknowledging that the company simply can’t produce a Hunger Games trilogy every year. Just how significant was the series for Scholastic? Given that at one point all three books were in the top spots on various bestsellers lists and that the movie franchise is still in production, it’s easy to see what a monumental percentage of revenue it was. At the same time, Scholastic can’t continue to rest on its publishing laurels and excuse a drop in revenue due to not producing another blockbuster. A recent shareholder presentation outlined the areas where improvement has been steady, as well as sources of decrease.
All in all, it means that Scholastic is smart to fund its drive in a market where it’s possibly most well known with consumers, and that’s in education. As ebook subscription models continue to gain ground with consumers, keeping a student-centric model in motion through classrooms instead of only through private consumer subscriptions seems to be the smarter approach. With the recent announcement of Lee Peters as the new SVP of Strategic Marketing in the education division, there are already new directions underway for increasing the brand and putting Scholastic content where people expect it: in the classrooms.
UPDATE: The deadline for refunds is NOT this Friday, but rather August 1st of next year, and the family streaming service that was announced last April is still available. We apologize for any panic this may have caused.
Marvel is attending the San Diego Comic Con in a big way and is spearheading many discussion groups, where the top brass is announcing the future. A few months ago Disney announced that all Expanded Universe books are not considered canon and decades worth of content is null and void. This opens up a new world, of new stories to tell and some of its coming in the form of three new digital comics.
The three series announced were Star Wars by Aaron and Cassaday, Star Wars: Darth Vader by Gillen and Salvador Larocca, and Star Wars: Princess Leia by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson. All three series will take place in a timeframe immediately following the end of the original Star Wars movie – A New Hope.
The one story arc I am excited about is the new Darth Vader one. “With the Empire suffering a crushing defeat that resulted in the loss of the Death Star, Vader has a lot to make up for. He needs to restore his reputation as the most feared man in the galaxy, as well as prove to the Emperor that he’s still got what it takes. The title is billed as the story of the epic battle for the galaxy, only this time told from the dark side.”
Marvel intends on making Star Wars and Darth Vader both an ongoing series and Princess Leia is going to be a limited five-issue miniseries. The first issue of all of these new comics will be released in January and February of 2015. Likely they will hit Marvels own official app for iOS and Android first and then be available on Marvel Unlimited six months later.
The English department and student library are undergoing some trying times when it comes to reading classic literature. A very high majority of young scholars find it a chore to have to read or being forced to do it. The libraries are seeing record number of seminal classics such as The Odyssey, Catcher in the Rye or the Great Gatsby not even being checked out once in a school year. This is resulting in some libraries removing classic novels from the shelves and sold off, or offered as donations.
Wisconsin parents and librarians are concerned that classic novels are being removed from schools. This is prompting a ton of complaints against the Department of Education. District workers over the summer are removing thousands of books and school workers at a loss why.
District workers who lack library training and collection management are entering libraries and removing of books that had been rarely checked out or were older than 2000, including classics, often without the knowledge or input of the librarian on staff, because they are on summer holidays.
One of the hardest-hit schools was Mitchell Middle School, according to Gabrielle Sharrock, she lamented “I was not consulted about books being removed and two days after the school was “weeded” I found dozens of boxes full of books slated to be destroyed, numerous shelves bare and most of the non-fiction section nearly cleared out.”
Middle school and high schools often employ a single librarian or a squad of two to maintain the entire collection. In order to keep the library updated district workers are dispatched during the summer months to weed out the books not loaned out at all during a school year, are in reprehensible shape or simply not relevant. Apparently classic novels such as Brave New World is not hip anymore, but Grumpy Catis permanently loaned out.
Do Students Hate the Classics?
District workers removing thousands of books and either donating or destroying them is sobering news. This does raise the interesting point of how current students view remedial reading or spending time in the library.
One student said “the point of English class is not to make you love books but trying to get you to deconstruct the author’s work. However, all throughout high school, I did no deconstructing of my own and instead just regurgitated what sparknotes said. This was partly due to laziness but more so because I didn’t actually understand the subtle points the book was trying to make.”
A recently graduated high school student countered “This is something the modern education curriculum needs to grapple with – information is now insanely pervasive, accessible, and instantaneous. It doesn’t require a dedicated night of research to figure out how to do your taxes by going to a library and digging through books.”
He continued “In terms of social benefit, through, this entire mess calls into question the systemic function of school in the first place – is deconstruction and analytical interpretation of literature a necessary skill in life? Hell no. So here is a question – why are you forcing it on all the nations youths, especially when it actively detracts from a long term healthy engagement with mentally stimulating writings? My own experiences pay privy to that notion since a good 90% of my peers haven’t read a book for leisure ever. Mainly because they were scarred by compulsory curriculum with arcane language and no modern cultural relatability.”
Finally, a current student at a Wisconsin High School said “I was utterly bored with Lord of the Flies and The Great Gatsby just because I didn’t have a choice in reading them”
Students over the years really have not changed. I remember with compulsory reading, 99% of the students hated it and used Sparknotes or Cliff Notes. At the middle or high school age students don’t like to be forced to read books and do essays on them. This is partly because of the books being unrelatable by modern conventions. It is no small wonder the books that go unread are the ones being tossed in the rubbish bin. I just hope that the future of humanity is not culturally devoid and speak exclusively in Emoji.
NASA is the US government agency responsible for space exploration and designing new technologies to achieve it. They have seen better days, since they have abandoned space shuttle launches and instead rely on the ISS in Russia to provide access to the International Space Station. Due to the complicated political landscape with Russia, Space X is hoping to leverage their reusable rockets and take over manned missions. The one thing NASA is not known for is digital publishing, and the agency is quietly building an eBook empire.
NASA eBooks has been an ongoing project that started in the last decade. They have two different repositories, one that is mainly available in PDF and has hundreds of titles and a more optimized library that is more heavily promoted.
NASA eBooks is a new initiative that only has 16 titles, but most of them are fairly accessible and deal with broad subject matter. They are all 100% free and are available in EPUB, MOBI and PDF formats. This basically allows them to be read on any e-reader, tablet or smartphone.
The new eBook system NASA employs deals with titles printed from 2009-2014, which half of the list being very current. You can learn about the new F-18 research or the evolution of the Russian Space Agency. My favorite, which was released recently is Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication and edited by SETI Director of Interstellar Message Composition Douglas Vakoch, the document draws on “issues at the core of contemporary archaeology and anthropology” to prepare us “for contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, should that day ever come.”
NASA does not sell or distribute their eBooks on any other platform, such as Amazon or Kobo. Instead, you have to download it directly from their website in the format of your choice. This is a great resource for people looking to pursue an aeronautics career or solid resources for teachers. For everyone else, there are few really cool titles on how the Hubble Telescope got built or how NASA is testing drones.