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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.

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Scholastic, the award-winning powerhouse in children’s publishing, made a quiet 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 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.

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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.

Categories : Digital Comic News
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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.

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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.

Categories : E-Book News
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Hugh Howey posed with Hugh Howey...or is it Data Guy?

Hugh Howey posed with Hugh Howey…or is it Data Guy?

Ludicrous accusations have come out from various corners of the publishing industry, some of which are rabidly anti-Amazon and anti-self-publishing, claiming that the information in the notorious Author Earnings reports is flawed at best, and intentionally misleading at worst. The reports, which claim to only be interested in helping all authors make sound decisions based on a clear look at ebook sales data, are updated quarterly with different facets of bookselling.

Some of these allegations state that the “data is beyond bad,” and even well-known figures in the industry have called into question the very existence of the so-called Data Guy who assembles the numbers. Phillip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, was quoted in an article for The Guardian as saying, “The fact that we don’t know who this ‘Data Guy’ is or where he’s come from suggest that we should take the Author Earnings report with a large pinch of salt.”

Hugh Howey, bestselling author and much of the driving force behind the Author Earnings report, spoke with Good e-Reader about some of the accusations that have been hurled at the reports and their creators.

“Amazon might be surprised at how much writers love having access to information,” Howey explained in the interview. “They have to be good businesspeople. We’re curious about what works, so the more we can provide information, the better.”

One key point Howey made in reference to Amazon’s new pricing tool, KDP Pricing Support, is this: “While Amazon’s been fighting with publishers to get ebook prices down, I also think that a lot of self-published authors aren’t pricing their books high enough. What Amazon wants is to sell as many books as possible, and that means finding the most efficient price between where traditionally published authors and self-published authors price their books.”

But how does this wealth of information translate into arming authors with data?

“In all the punditry, there’s a lot of analysis of the book industry and it’s all focused on gross dollars: how much are bookstores making, how much are publishers making? But if authors are making a very small cut of a lot of those numbers, how is it helping authors to know the percentage of those dollars that are in print? That’s why we chose [Author Earnings] for the name of our website, because we wanted to focus on, ‘How much are the artists getting paid?’”

The site itself has had more than 100,000 unique visitors just in the six months the site has been in operation, which is fairly astounding considering the parties involved haven’t incorporated any promotional tactics other than basic social media sharing of the reports. It demonstrates a clear desire on the part of involved individuals to know more and to see clear data.

That data has been called into question, though, often by sources who see it as faulty but haven’t really explained why other than the argument that Author Earnings’ reports are free to the public and some companies charge for their data, causing some critics to wonder how thorough and accurate this information can be. Howey’s explanation of the information almost seems too simple, even to him, but it involves a tremendous amount of number crunching of the available data.

“If you believe that Amazon ranks books according to how well they’re selling, then there’s no flaw you could find with what we’re doing. We’re doing what you could do with a pencil and a web browser. Anybody could go through all these web pages for all the books  and write down on a spreadsheet what the list price is, who published the book, and what its overall Amazon ranking is. With that information, you could figure out, okay, if a third of these books are self-published and only forty percent are traditionally published, and you do that for 120,000 books, that’s incredible. And we know that self-published authors are making seventy percent and traditionally published authors are making seventeen and a half percent, so even though the price for self-published books is lower it’s more than made up for by the royalty. The reason you haven’t seen anyone tear the methodology apart is because there’s nothing to it. It’s as simple as counting books on the bestsellers’ lists.”

Howey mentioned that the launch of Kindle Unlimited could have an impact on future reports, since there may be a need to correct for the fact that KU borrows are counted in the bestseller rankings. Given the fact that the book has to reach ten percent consumption on the part of the reader to even count as a “sale” or “borrow” for royalty purposes, it would be logical to think that a KU borrow would serve much the same purpose as a typical book sale for ranking purposes.

While Howey was not willing to “out” Data Guy or state the person or persons’ identity, he did assure outright the veracity of Data Guy’s status as a human being, and not some generic algorithm that spits out questionable information.

“What’s been funny is that we use the singular masculine pronoun because that’s what one blogger called my partner. It’s funny because it could be three other people working on this, it could be a company that I’m hiring, it could be a woman. My mom was a math teacher. The bias about who’s good at spreadsheets is funny.

“I’ve provided the data to download. Everyone wants to know what’s going on with Amazon, and our last data report was 120,000 titles. Every ranked book on Amazon has all the information right there if you want to go through and do some additional crunching on it. You can’t crunch it and come up with any other result than self-published authors are taking this huge chunk of income from writers’ market share. You can play with the variables all you want and it does not change the outcome.”

Despite rumors that circulated–and even a few sarcastic remarks–Howey would not name Data Guy specifically due to the fact that authors are prohibited by terms of service from openly sharing their sales figures. He and the other parties involved in creating Author Earnings stood a very real chance of violating those terms, and as Howey himself stated, he worried about pressing publish on the website and finding all of his books removed from Amazon the very next day.

“I’m not going to out the person unless they want to be outed.”

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With so many updates to Google Maps these days, users of the app are likely to feel a little spoiled. Everybody knows they should rely on Google Maps when they need directions, but what if you aren’t actually sure where you want to go? We all think of exploration while on holiday, but consider that with the tap on the new Explore button, you could be well on your way to finding a new favourite place to eat in your own neighbourhood.

Exploring with Google Maps is about more than just restaurants; you could also find things to do or points of interest depending on the weather, how far you are willing to go, or the time of day.

Once you arrive at your destination, tapping on My Location will fill you in on the details (include things like restaurant reviews or transit schedules). Do you agree with Google’s recommendation (or you know you just can’t live without that poutine with the BBQ pulled pork shredded on top)? Save locations in the app that you’d like to return to later. As an added bonus, the more you visit and save locations, the better Google Maps will get at predicting what you’re going to love!

If you haven’t yet embraced Google Maps for Android, download it now for free.

Categories : Android News
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While Facebook provides their stock and Messenger apps for free (at least to the end-user, in reality there are ads paying the way). According to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, that may change.

Facebook recently had their latest earnings call, during which Zuckerberg indicated that payments and Messenger are headed for overlap –though no details were really provided as to what that really means. It is assumed that this has something to do with why he recently hired the former president of PayPal, David Marcus (to date, most have speculated it has something to do with Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp).

Regardless of how it plays out, Facebook is clearly looking for new ways to make money; whether it be a new way to make purchases through their existing apps, or pay-for-features in updated versions of their apps.

Categories : Android News
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If you live in Canada and watch television, undoubtedly you might have seen the Next Issue advertisements. The premise of their campaign is trying to convince you that physical magazines take up a lot of room. It makes it unsuitable for reading at home, or on the go. So the question is, is Next Issue viable for Canadians wanting to read digitally?

Next Issue has over 100 digital magazines in their catalog and offers a free one month subscription. Afterwards, it costs $9.99 a month to read as much as you want. Well, there is a catch, you don’t get People, Hello! Canada, The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Maclean’s, or Time unless you pong up $14.99 a month.

If you like content, Next Issue has you covered. They have established relationships with most of the leading publishers. This includes Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Rogers and Time. For your average reader, they have most of the mainstream magazines, such as Wired, Popular Mechanics, Bloomberg, Entertainment Weekly, Fast Company, Macleans, People, and Vogue.

Canadians do have access to a fair amount of content, but Next Issue is heavily skewed towards the very mainstream. There are no magazines from major publishers in England, such as Imagine. Basically, there is hardly any international representation in the overall catalog. Instead, you mainly have stuff printed and published in Canada and the US only. I am a big fan of Games TM, Vice, T3 and other tech magazines, sadly there is none of these.

If you are using the Next Issue app for Android or iOS you normally pick and choose what issues you want to subscribe to, and they download to your device. Each one is around 100MB in size, and this warrants monitoring of space limits. Most people have the 16GB iPad or iPhone, and a few months of storing magazines could really take up a ton of space.

There are some very noticeable drawbacks when using their app. New issues don’t download automatically unless the app is open. If you have many downloading at once, they take a long time to complete.

When it comes to reading digital magazines in Canada, we are somewhat limited to who offers them and what type of deals they offer. Amazon, Apple and Kobo all sell individual magazines directly and have way more content than Next Issue. There are also companies like Magster, PressReader and Zinio that all offer subscription plans. These three companies all have larger catalogs than Next Issue. Zinio allows you subscribe to 3 magazines a month, with their ZPass program, while PressReader allows you to subscribe to them all, and puts a heavily emphasis on international magazines from over 80 countries.

Most Canadians just want to read the popular and mainstream magazines and Next Issue may make sense. The price is low enough, that you can read as many as you want, without having to pay for them individually. If you like to read magazines in other languages and from other countries, avoid it.

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Golf World is the oldest American magazine and first started publication in 1947. Conde Nast has made the call to suspend the print edition, due to declining sales and focus on digital distribution.

The changes were announced Wednesday as part of its “new strategic vision” for Golf World. By going exclusively digital, the magazine will start pumping out 50 issues a year, up from 31 issues of the print version.

Jerry Tarde, the chairman of Golf World said “It’s a response to the times and people’s reading habits, and the changing nature of the 24-hour news cycle,” Tarde said. “The notion of a print magazine that lands a week after the action … the perspective is really good, but it’s much better if it can be delivered immediately. That’s what our readers’ expectations are.”

According to Adage, Golf World averaged paid and verified circulation of 213,387 during the last six months of 2013, according to its filing with the Alliance for Audited Media, down slightly from nearly 215,000 a year earlier. Print ad pages were off 28.5% through its July 21 edition, according to Media Industry Newsletter.

Apparently they will not be releasing a digital magazine, per say. Instead, everything will be o instantly viewable from GolfDigest.com with daily updates on the latest golf news and tour coverage.

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Apple is looking to beat Amazon at the eBook discovery game with the acquisition of BookLamp. The Idaho based startup has focused their company primarily on analytics services that is specialized on big data.

BookLamp’s claim to fame was the Book Genome project, a book discovery engine that analyzed the text of books to break them down by various themes and variables to let readers search for books similar to books they liked.

BookLamp also provided content analysis services to a number of e-book distributors like Amazon, Apple, and other publishers, screening books for categorization and providing a platform for publishers to screen manuscripts.

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The one thing that BookLamp did really well was look at a specific title and extrapolate the underlying metadata. As you can see from the Stephen King example above, it categorizes all of the main themes of the book, to help with indexing and organization in the bookstore.

Apple has not formally announced the amount of cash it has ponied for the company, but the rumor was between $10 and $20 million dollars. BookLamp was actually in negotiation with Amazon prior to the sale to Apple, but the talks fell through.

What will Apple do with BookLamp?

Aside from the clientbase that BookLamp already has, there are a number of things Apple could do with the technology. The first would be to develop a competitor to Amazon X-Ray, which would give you the people, places and things in a book, but also major themes. It would also assist in vetting out titles that would not be appropriate for kids or young teens.

Apple iBooks currently does not really focus on recommendations or personalization. They mainly have a series of top lists, editors choice, or recommended titles from Apple curators. Some of this data is changed based on geography, for example in Canada you would see a number of French language titles.

BookLamp technology would allow Apple to give more personalization based on past purchases. This is similar to the type of data Amazon employs and it often leads to more sales, especially if the data could be displayed on the iPad/iPhone, but also via Email.

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giigke

Next month, Spring and Google will begin working together for the good of enterprise customers. According to a new agreement, Sprint business users will be granted full access to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Sites, Google Drive and Google Docs.

Mike Fitz, vice president of business solution commercialization at Spring Business made a statement regarding the new relationship with Google, stating: “Sprint offers a variety of mobile tools to accommodate multigenerational work styles within the workplace, helping people to boost productivity and collaborate from virtually anywhere.” With the addition of Google services, Sprint has the largest offering among its competitors, AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

From Google’s side of the table, the comments were equally positive. Murali Sitaram, director of strategic partnerships for Google Enterprise noted: “Google Apps helps businesses work better together with familiar tools they can trust. We are pleased to welcome Sprint to the Google Apps Partner Program, where they will provide Google Apps and added services to help customers work the way they live.”

In order to purchase the Google Apps suite, users are not required to be current Sprint customers –but clearly the company is hoping that everyone eventually will.

Categories : Android News
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amazon

Today we look at the top 10 new Android apps of the week that are all available to download for free on the Good e-Reader App Store.

Madefire Motion Books & Comics – Madefire Motion Books & Comics is a free app that delivers the most innovative reading experience on devices with Motion Books and traditional print comics as it pioneers the next chapter in storytelling. In its purest form – the Madefire app is a free comic book reader with direct in-app purchasing and where traditional print comics coexist with a new digital format to take visual storytelling to the next level.

Barbie Fashion Design Maker – Barbie Fashion Design Maker allows you to be a real fashion designer. Choose from different photo realistic fabric swatches and patterns to create real outfits that you can put on Barbie. Use your own photographs as design elements for your fashions. Level up your designer ranking by completing challenges and winning awards!

BitLit – BitLit allows you to get an eBook of a print book you already own. As long as you own the book, you can use BitLit to download the eBook for FREE or highly discounted.

Bamboo Paper – Turn your Android tablet into a paper notebook. Bamboo Paper helps you capture your thoughts and ideas. Taking notes, sketching and drawing is as straightforward and as simple as using a real pen and paper.

French’s World - Grab your croissant and get your moustache ready for this new adventure throughout 52 entertaining levels. French’s World is a classic platform game that combines old school game play with modern playability. Run around 3 different worlds and several kind of scenarios and gather as many coins as you can. Avoid enemies and try to complete every level in time.

ChoreMonster – ChoreMonster makes chores fun by engaging and rewarding your kids! Kids earn points by completing chores to use towards rewards like an hour of video games or a camping trip. Parents get an easy-to-use tool that takes the tension out of household chores. Kids also earn tickets to the Monster Carnival for each chore completed, where they can win and collect our monsters. With ChoreMonster, your kids will beg to do their chores!

Sprout Now – Sprout Now is your mobile destination for full episodes of your favorite Sprout shows. Log in with your television provider account and open up a whole new way to enjoy Sprout – anywhere you are.

Microsoft account – Sometimes, Microsoft needs to verify your identity to help make sure that you – and only you – have access to your account. The Microsoft account app makes this easy, and you no longer need to enter security codes from text messages or authenticator apps! Instead, you’ll get a notification when you need to verify your identity. Just tap to approve, and you’re done!

Amazon Wallet - Use the Amazon Wallet app to simplify your shopping trips, and never lose another gift card or rewards membership number. Scan or type your gift cards, loyalty cards and membership cards to your Amazon Wallet to reduce the clutter in your leather wallet or purse. Wherever you are, the information you need is easily available as a barcode, QR code, text or image. For supported merchants, check the balance of your stored gift cards. Information saved in your Amazon Wallet is stored securely in the Amazon cloud. In addition, your Amazon Wallet cards can be viewed and edited at Amazon.com/wallet, where you will also find the credit cards, bank accounts, and other payment methods saved in your Amazon account.

HTC Sense Input - HTC Sense Input speeds up your typing and reduces accidental errors. It learns from your input and selections and offers you more precise word candidates. HTC Sense Input also supports the “trace” feature so you can type more efficiently with one hand.

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