Facebook just launched a news service called FB Newswire. It is designed to give writers, journalists and news companies a way to stay in touch with trending and developing stories. The company hopes to mirror how Twitter has become a global news service, that breaks stories before anyone else.
FB Newswire content will come from two sources. The main one is Storyful, a social-news service that News Corp. acquired in December for $25 million. As a Facebook post by Andy Mitchell describes it, the service will highlight content that has been posted by users and media entities who are reporting on breaking news events around the world, and comes complete with an easy-to-use “embed” function.
The second source of news stories will be sourced by users status updates that link to a 3rd party news website. The Facebook algorithms will incorporate video, pictures and headlines. Users will be able to embed the stories, with special code, similar to how Twitter handles embedded Tweets.
The sole premise of this initiative is to give journalists and news companies the ability to trust the sources. This is why the vast majority of it will come from confirmed companies like Storyful.
Kobo is based in Toronto Canada and the company today axed over 60 jobs. They also reshuffled existing employees into different departments in a bid to refocus on e-readers and their line of apps. Currently Kobo employees over 500 people worldwide, from executives to agents.
In a statement today to Good e-Reader, Kobo said “To focus resources on innovation, partners, and readers, the leadership team has realigned the organization’s structure, which has also meant some staff reductions. As part of this change, teams have been restructured and optimized; redeploying employees to best use their skills to support the company’s core goal of providing the best global eReading experience. All our offices will continue to operate as usual, with a mandate to grow the business in each of our territories.
While these decisions are never easy, we believe that we have the structure that puts us in the best position possible to aggressively compete in an ever-challenging global marketplace. By ensuring the Kobo team is lean and agile, we will be able to strengthen our business position and continue our trajectory of global growth.
Kobo’s mission remains to lead the global transformation in reading by inspiring people to read more and more often – anytime, on any device, anywhere around the world.”
The Canadian based e-Reader company did not mention whether these dismissals were on the executive level, junior or both. Many industry experts are surmising that this is partly due to the new President Michael Tamblyn and new CEO Takahito Aiki. Likely some of the old guard has been let go and the two executives are trying to surround themselves with people who have the same vision as they do.
Amazon Prime members are getting an exclusive benefit in the form of Prime Pantry. This new program is exclusively aimed at Prime members who love to shop at Amazon. You can fill up a box with whatever you want, as long as it weighs 45 pounds for a flat rate price of $5.99.
When you order lots of items and have them shipped it, the costs can sometimes be prohibitive. The essence of Pantry is fill it up with how much or little you want. As items are added to the box the Pantry service tells you exactly how much the box is full on a percentage basis. Pantry boxes are large and can hold up to 45 pounds or four cubic feet of household products.
If you were to order a box of detergent, a 12 pack of Coke and a toaster, the costs would be high. Instead of having everything shipped out individually you can fill up as singular shipping box with Prime Pantry. The service only deals with non-perishable foods and is US only to start.
Amazon is betting big on tapping into the lucrative consumer packaged goods industry. This is dominated by big box retailers such as Sams Club and Costco. The Seattle based company is hoping that they can leverage themselves to giving good deals on small items and not forcing them to buy the Ultra King Size version.
The Yotaphone is one of the most unique smartphones on the market due to its secondary e Ink display screen. There is only a one single reading app that is compatible with it and Yota is hoping to remedy the situation. The company has announced that they are working on a new app store and it will be ready in Q3 2014, about the same time as their second generation Yotaphone will be released.
One of the drawbacks of the Yotaphone is that there are not many apps that have been made to take advantage of the secondary screen. There are a few on Google Play that uses the e Ink screen as a virtual controller for the main color LCD touchscreen. CEO Vladislav Martynov notes that YotaDevices has already discussed concepts for a wide variety of specialized software for the second screen with app developers. By way of example he notes a program that displays recipes on the smartphone’s second screen and a program that controls the front-facing color screen using the back touchscreen.
The Yota App Store is not meant to be revenue driver for the company. The main intention is not to sell apps or to charge developers to list apps in their store. Rather, it hopes the store will attract additional attention to YotaPhone from users and shore up interest in the device, which is new to the market.
App Stores are big business and encourage developers to utilize the ecosystems to make some serious money. Apple noted that in 2013 over three billion apps were downloaded and generating over $10 billion in revenue. The Samsung App Store is installed on 100 million Android devices, SlideMe is installed on 20 million devices, and the Amazon App Store runs on 33% of tablets in the U.S. Good e-Reader is also the largest app store in Canada with over 80 million visitors in 2013.
Customers in the Philippines will now have access to the Kobo Touch via Smart Communications. Starting today the Kobo Touch is available will be given away for free to subscribers of their new data plans.
Available under Plan 499, the Kobo Touch e-Reader will come bundled with 30 Internet hours every month via the Smart Bro Pocket WiFi, delivering up to 7.2 Mbps of download speeds powered by the country’s largest broadband network. A free e-Reader just for signing up for internet access, not too shabby.
The Kobo Touch e-Reader is a great new addition to our quickly expanding lineup of premium mobile devices available through Gadget Plus Plans, which makes it easier for Filipinos without a credit card to get the latest gadgets that they want,” Michele Curran said in a statement.
Kobo has been running an online bookstore in the Philippines since mid 2013. Customers can purchase the devices in major bookstores across the country and buy millions of books.
Kobo has just signed a new deal with Hibernia CDN to boister the performance of their global eBook network. This will basically speed up browsing the companies online bookstore and syncing data from the Kobo servers to your ereader or tablet.
HiberniaCDN is now available in Kobo’s over 190 points of presence spanning North America, South America, Europe and Asia/Pacific. The CDN leverages deployed infrastructure that is integrated with Hibernia’s IP network. The HiberniaCDN platform enables users to access anytime, anywhere media and applications, including VOD and Live streaming video, website acceleration, video downloads, software updates and releases, music downloads, online game releases and updates.
“The emergence of HiberniaCDN as a global platform for secure, cost-effective delivery of content services satisfies the needs of media providers whose end users increasingly demand content on an anytime, anywhere and any device basis,” states Bjarni Thorvardarson, the CEO of Hibernia Networks. “Our agreement with Kobo not only reflects an evolution in how digital content services are delivered, but also confidence in Hibernia’s IP network to establish, deliver and sustain an exceptional user experience to Kobo’s readers worldwide.”
Ok what does this all mean for your average Kobo user? Likely if you just use their standard e-reader you might notice a slight increase in speed when you purchase and download an ebook. This is because there is now a proxy between the main Kobo servers and your own WIFI network. Since there will be less network congestion the overall speed will increase on delivered media.
There is a big reason why Amazon issues a number of press releases every single month on the things they are doing with Prime or the Kindle. Today for example, Amazon signed a deal with HBO to bring a number of its most popular television programs, sans Game of Thrones to Amazon Instant Video. Prime and Kindle owners statistically spend the most money on Amazon, which is why these are the top priorities for media coverage and customer adoption.
According to a recent survey by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners The two programs “have become significant drivers of Amazon sales, even in light of the recent Amazon Prime price increase and significant competition in the tablet computing market,” the company said.
“Both serve as superb affinity programs for Amazon, as Kindle owners spend 30% more, and Prime members spend twice as much, as the rest of Amazon’s customers,” said CIRP co-founder Mike Levin.
The Amazon Kindle Fire and Kindle e-Readers drive the bulk of digital book sales. Of the 500 people surveyed 23% owned a Kindle Fire tablet, 13% owned a Kindle e-reader, and 12% owned both for an overall 48% ownership rate. Overall, in the US there are currently 31.3 million Kindles in circulation.
Amazon Prime drives sales to the Kindle so customers can take advantage of the free eBook given out every month and encourages tablet adoption so people purchase them to watch Instant Videos. When you buy a new piece of hardware you get a month of Prime membership for free, which Amazon normally includes in their overall registered user figures. Currently there are currently 27.8 million Prime members in the U.S.
“These newer Amazon Prime customers have not yet made their first renewal decision, so they may not have completely considered whether Amazon Prime shipping and video benefits are worth it to them them, and thus are susceptible to churn,” CIRP Partner Josh Lowitz said in a statement. “However, our analysis suggests that 85% of current customers were already aware of the increase in price to $99 per year. And, even with the price increase, almost 90% of current Amazon Prime members say they will ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ renew their membership, just 5% less than the responses we saw prior to any discussion of a price increase.”
Smashwords signed a distribution agreement with eBook subscription service Scribd last December. Indie authors who elect to include their titles in the Scribd catalog are now getting extra benefits, a free one year subscription to Scribd.
The one year free subscription to Scribd is only available to authors who have included their books in that distribution platform. Your complimentary subscription will activate when you claim your new Scribd author profile. The subscription will be valid for 1 year. If you’d like to renew your subscription after that, Scribd will remind you to enter your payment information. No payment information is necessary now to redeem your complimentary subscription.
Basically, in order to get your free subscription you have to create an author profile on Scribd. Smashwords is sending out emails this week to get users to sign up for the service and opt into the free subscription. Time is of the essence because the offer expires April 30th 2014.
Smashwords has ironed out a fairly solid arrangement for authors who want to include their eBooks into Scribd. The author or publisher earns credit for a full read when the reader reaches a certain trigger point, measured by the percentage of the book that is read. The first 10% of the book is a free sample, similar to a retailer. Excluding the sample, once the reader reads an additional 20% of the book, a full sale is triggered and the Smashwords author earns 60% of the list price, up to a maximum of about $12.50 per read. In practice, what this means for most fiction writers is that after the reader reads more than the first 30% of your book, it triggers a full sale. For some non-fiction writers, where your book’s content is more likely to be read non-sequentially, it means if the reader starts their reading deeper in the book at Chapter 10, a sale could be triggered after reading only 20% of the book (As an aside, this underscores the importance of authors building fully functional navigation into their ebooks so that all their book’s content is easily discoverable.
JK Rowling departed the Harry Potter franchise for a number of years before she penned her first adult themed book. The Casual Vacancy centers around the major themes of class, politics, and social issues such as drugs and prostitution. The book was on the UK and US bestseller lists for over six months and has sold over six million copies. The book is now getting the miniseries treatment from the BBC and HBO.
The three-hour miniseries will be written by Sarah Phelps who worked on EastEnders) and will be directed by Jonny Campbell, who recently directed In the Flesh. Rowling will executive producer via her Bronte Film and Television production company that she runs with Neil Blair, her longtime literary agent and producing partner. The story focuses on a local election in the fictional town of Pagford after a sudden death.
Random House has just opened up a new online digital bookstore that caters to the inner cook in all of us. The new service is called TasteBook Bookshop and features 10,000 eBooks from major publishers all over the world.
Tastebook is the cooking blog that Random House has been operating for a number of years. It has developed a cult following of foodies and cooks who all check out the daily updates. The new store allows readers to buy the eBooks from many different retail channels such as Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and more.
Current best sellers featured on The Bookshop include The Chopped Cookbook by Food Network Kitchens from Clarkson Potter; My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz from Ten Speed Press; The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon from Avery; The Hungry Girl Diet by Lisa Lillien from Macmillan; and Eat What You Love Everyday by Marlene Koch from Running Press.
“We know that TasteBook’s half-a-million members are avid cookbook collectors who heavily rely on print cookbooks as tools and for inspiration,” says Lilly Kim, Associate Director, Digital Channel Development, who has spearheaded TasteBook efforts at Random House. “The Bookshop provides cooking enthusiasts an easy way to discover and purchase new cookbooks. It’s a great resource for frequent and occasional cooks who seek out new flavors and inspiration for everyday meals and entertaining.”
The newly created Bookshop rounds out the TasteBook offering, to provide home cooks the ability to discover, save, and share recipes, as well as a blog that serves up daily posts with recipes and inspiration. TasteBook members can also create custom recipe books using personal recipes and those from the site for $34.95 with the option to add additional recipes for $.29 each at any time.
The internet is hardly a safe place for kids to safely read content that is truly free. This has prompted numerous companies to release tablets specifically geared towards the kiddos or Amazon charging $10 a month for Kindle Freetime Unlimited. Storybird bucks the trend of charging for content or displaying nefarious advertising. Instead, they give everything away for free and even let the little tyke write their own book.
Storybird lets anyone make free visual stories in seconds. The company curates artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspires writers of any age to turn those images into fresh stories. There are over five million stories on the website and lots of interactive features to talk to the writer or just Heart the story.
Discovery of content is easily laid out so you can choose your favorite genre or by age appropriate ratings. The actual content is mainly created by kids, but some adults cut their teeth here too. There are plenty of genres to appeal to the sensibilities to everyone. You can read a ten page story or a single page image with poetry on it. There are rhyming books, love stories, adventures and everything in-between.
There are systems in place for readers to talk to the authors or comment on a specific image or story they liked. This is a great way to develop a following to that will follow you from story to story. There are extensive writer tools available that are quite simplistic in nature and basically designed for kids. You can choose from cover art and images that show up in the books. The images are often full screen with the text on the far left hand side. Once you read ten stories, there is a consistency factor in the way all of the books are developed.
80% of Storybirds core audience is between the ages of seven and fifteen and in order for the company to grow, they have to look beyond picture books. In the next few months Storybird will be developing a long-form system in the hopes of competing against Wattpad and finding that next Harry Potter novel.
This is a really great service and one of the best sites aimed at kids on the internet. I really implore educators, parents and most of all the lil tykes to check it out.