The Pebble update for Android has finally arrived, after being in the testing phase for quite some time. Pebble Version 2.0 can be downloaded from the Google Play Store to the watch, and among the new features are a watchapp directory, watchapp locker, and a new app interface that has been given a thorough once over. Users will also be given prior notifications about the update.
There are a few new watchfaces as well, with some showing essential information such as temperature and battery life. Some inform the user via a vibration that the Bluetooth connection with the mother Android device is lost. Similarly, the GetApp section will allow one to download apps such as Foursquare, Yelp, eBay, Plex, Runtastic Pro, to name a few.
Overall, it’s a nice update that goes a long way towards enhancing the functionality of the Pebble smartwatch.
Kobo is beginning to feel the pinch of prospective lower profit margins in Canada. The Canadian Government is forcing them to renegotiate contracts with all of their major publishing partners. Kobo sees this as being “Devastating for the company” and will relegate them to “an ineffective competitor.”
Two weeks ago, the Commissioner of Competition in Canada mandated to Kobo that it had 40 days to re-negotiate contracts with Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Hachette. Immediately the publishers starting mailing letters to Kobo, demanding their existing contracts be augmented or cancelled completely. Complex contract negotiations take time, and Kobo may find themselves being unable to sell thousands of titles to customers in Canada. In contrast each publisher in the United States DOJ settlement took 16 months each.
The US Justice Department has been running a very high profile case with Apple and the top 5 major publishers. All of the publishers settled out of court with specific agreements. Most of the exact proclivities of the publishers settlements were varied and not consistent, none were publicly available. Kobo is contending that the DOJ lacks jurisdiction in Canada and any settlement in the US, is not binding, because no one knows exactly what they were.
Kobo first started implementing agency pricing with publishers in 2011. The essence of agency was to have eBooks sold at a common value. Normally, the publisher sets the price and Kobo gets 30% of each book sale. If the publisher price matches the book against another site, Kobo would still get the same commission, but at a reduced rate. Each publishing contract is negotiated separately, some adhering to the wholesale model and others agencies, or a combination of both.
A new term most people have not heard of before is called “Agency-Lite.” These agreements arose after the settlement agreements and final judgements that transpired in the US. The essence of Agency-Lite is that allows the publishers to set the price, but allows Kobo to diverge from the sale price. One of the conditions entail the discount cannot exceed the total margin that the retailer earns from annual book sales, this is called the “discount pool.”
When Kobo first formed their company, they abided by the wholesale model, which was tremendously unprofitable. They had lost millions in their first few years trying to compete against Amazon, Sony, Apple and Barnes and Noble. Kobo contends that the Wholesale model is not indicative to an online environment of price matching algorithms.
The Canadian government is now forcing Kobo to iron out new contracts with Hachette, Macmillan, Harper Collins and others. If they can’t do it in 40 days the existing ones will be void and Kobo will be forced to remove thousands of books from their bookstore. Without a full catalog of eBooks from all of the Canadian publishers “Kobo would be an ineffective competitor. Customers choose eBooks and e-Readers based on the breadth of their catalogs”. If Kobo lost any of these “they would cease to be a credible player in the market place.” Conversely, if Kobo accepts the amendments and shifts it operations to Agency-Lite, it will suffer unrecoverable losses.
If you live in the USA, you will likely know that you would find it difficult to find a Kobo e-Reader available. This is primarily due to when the USA adopted Agency-Lite, Kobo saw its net revenues decline and stopped investing in that market. It closed down its office in Chicago and decided to focus aggressively on international expansion. In a legal filing Kobo said that the reason Barnes and Noble and Sony’s business collapsed in the US was directly attributed to the abolishment of agency pricing. Now, we might see Kobo abandon the Canadian market, just like they did in the USA.
The only play Kobo has in a legal battle against the Canadian Government is to play the jurisdiction card. The publisher settlements and the abandoning of Agency pricing was purely based in the United States. The Justice Department and the settlements have no legal jurisdiction in Canada. If Kobo fails to make a case and have to absorb profit loses by switching to a hybrid of wholesale and agency-lite it looks likely Kobo will kill their Canadian ebook business. They certainly won’t be able to compete against Amazon and Apple. I mean they could, but it wouldn’t be worth it anymore.
The Asus Transformer Book Duet TD300 seems to have been delayed indefinitely and Google is tipped to have played a part in it, as per a report carried by Digitimes. The reasons are obvious as Google feels the device that dual boots both Windows and Android would provide an undue advantage to Windows that is struggling to gain a foothold in the mobile OS segment. Such a device is being perceived to allow Windows to piggyback on Google’s Android on the path to success that Google had so painstakingly created over the years. Such a scenario could also lead to Google having to wage a two front war, with the Apple iOS on the one hand and Windows on the other.
This isn’t the first time though that Google is believed to have forced its hardware partners to cancel projects involving dual booting devices. A Samsung ATIV model that could dual boot both Android and Windows was reportedly pulled off given Google’s concerns over letting Windows build on the success Android has made.
The Transformer Book Duet TD300 device was unveiled at the CES event early this year and had attracted a fair bit of consumer response. The one most distinct capability of the device was that it came with a key on the keypad that allows users to toggle between either Android or Windows operating systems. The same could also be invoked via a tab on the tablet as well and was being hailed as a device that would be just right for both business and domestic usage. Chipmaker Intel too had been seen actively promoting the Transformer Book Duet TD300. Currently, it is only Intel chips that can support dual booting of both Android and Windows.
The Transformer Book Duet TD300 was scheduled to be launched by the second half of 2014 though its not known now when is that going to happen.
Barnes and Noble wanted to tackle the e-reader and eBook market in a big way. The company has lost over one billion dollars on their digital enterprise and are seeking new ways to stop the blood flow. The company has fired most of their executive team and sacked 190 jobs in the last year. New SEC filing has the Nation’s largest bookstore cutting Nook funding by 74%
Barnes & Noble’s fiscal quarter ended at the end of January, and the filing shows a $61 million loss on $157 million in revenue. It also notes their capital expenditures where a paltry $7.4 million on the Nook. That represents a massive decline in spending over last year, with a 55% drop in the past nine months. This is about the same time that the rumors starting about the accelerated decline of the entire Nook division.
The management shakeup and employee reorganization has been taxing on B&N. So much so, that they have failed to adhere to the terms of the Microsoft investment of 300 million. Barnes and Noble has not meant the content thresholds Microsoft established by opening up Nook stores in over 30 different countries. Because of this, Nook has not been able to attain the total funding until they meet their goals. Rumor has it, they might be able to do it by the end of April 2014.
Subscription ebook reading is nothing new. Companies like 24Symbols have been offering Netflix-style reading since as early as 2010, all vying for an all-you-can-eat approach to reading. It’s been difficult to get publishers on board with the concept without a clear structure for royalties, and it’s been equally difficult getting readers to shell out money to consume books when they’ve been happy with their reading options all along.
Now, a new company is launching with a new approach to the subscription model. Instead of trying to target readers with a “read everything you possibly can get your hands on in a month” idea, Rooster is looking at reading as something that consumers can do in bite-sized pieces whenever time allows. To that end, the company is building a platform that offers serialized content optimized for smartphones, for a much lower price than the subscription big boys.
Rooster’s co-founder and editorial director Yael Goldstein Love spoke to Good e-Reader today about the appeal of serialized subscription reading. While much of the content is currently in the public domain or sourced from the company’s other site, Daily Lit, a different model is underway in which classics are paired with contemporary content.
“We’ve been working directly with authors to try to create content that is specifically tailored for the Rooster experience.”
The shorter length of Rooster content is perfect for smartphone reading during snippets of time, something that speaks to the company’s model. Rather than luring consumers with a model that affords them the ability to read mountains of content for one price, Rooster’s clientele is expected to read serialized and novella-length works for far less than the cost of a typical ebook subscription plan.
Rooster is working with publishers to stock novella length or shorter novels, especially titles that just–for one reason or another–just don’t take off in the way that had been anticipated.
“Every publisher has this list of books that they loved so much, that they thought were just going to find an audience and be loved by so many people, but for whatever reason, it just doesn’t pick up or find its audience. It’s just this gem that goes unread. Those are the things we want to find, those books that deserve a second chance.”
While Rooster is in beta at this time, full launch of the site is anticipated for March 11. Users can sign up now for a free two week trial at the company’s website at readrooster.com.
The SXSW Trade Show this year will see the launch of two new web comics platform, TappyToon and Amootoon. Those behind the new medium stated they wish to innovate the segment by ‘breathing new life into the medium’. The way this is achieved is by integrating aspects of film making, comics, and web development into a single medium which they claim will make things simple for the content creators. What this means for the comic readers is that they will get to experience sound, special effects and animation in what otherwise has only been a static medium so far. Readers will also be able to interact with the characters ‘for a more immersive experience’.
The Korean start-up also stated the new TappyToon and Amootoon format has been optimized for viewing on smartphone and tablet devices and are designed to make the most of the digital rendering capabilities of these new age mobile devices. TappyToon will be available for free on iOS devices from May 2014 while making its Android debut in June. Those eager to know more will be able to experience TappyToon first hand at the SXSW Trade Show at booth no. 1206.
Amootoon, on the other hand will launch in beta form on April 2014 and can be previewed at booth no. 1111 at the SXSW Trade Show that runs from 9 – 12 March.
Canadian based Kobo was one of the first e-reading companies to have an app on the Windows 8 App Store. They actually developed it about a year before the official launch of the OS and beta tested it extensively. A few months ago Kobo pulled the app down from the app store, because of a lackluster UI and uninspiring features. Today, Kobo has reissued the app and its now available to download.
The new Kobo Windows 8 app will allow you to buy eBooks directly through the app. It also allows you to pin books you have purchased directly to your home screen, to allow easy access to your eBooks. Once you start reading a book, your exact page is synced across all of your devices.
“We are excited to give our Readers access to their Kobo eBooks on the Microsoft Windows ecosystem,” said Kobo’s Sameer Hasan. “Just like Kobo, Microsoft understands the importance of providing users with greater mobility and new ways to enjoy their favourite content. The Kobo for Windows app is designed to make Kobo content come alive on Windows devices.”
For the next few weeks to celebrate the apps launch, users can get a free copy of “Robert Ludlum’s The Janson Command” by Paul Garrison. It might be worth it to download it just for the free Book!
Finally, Kobo has announced they are developing a standalone app for Windows Phones. Likely it will be for the most current OS and not be backwards compatible with say Mango. There are no details on functionality or when it will come out, but likely soon.
Amazon has a very bad track record of updating the firmware for older devices. The original Paperwhite was a critical success for the Seattle based company with over half a million of them in circulation. Today, the Kindle Paperwhite 1 just received a massive firmware update that adds GoodReads functionality and a ton more.
Amazon had purchased eBook and social website GoodReads last year. The premise of the service is for people to discover new books and talk to kindred spirits. It is the most well executed site of its kind and something Amazon sorely needed. The Paperwhite 2 did not ship with GoodReads built into it, but pushed an update about a month after it first hit the store shelves. We were told that an update would be incoming shortly, and now we have it.
Another addition to the upgrade is Kindle Freetime, which allows you to setup profiles for your kids and add restrictions on what they can access, and what they can’t. This is tremendously useful for parents whose entire family shares the reader and wants to foster their child’s love of prose.
Here is a full list of all of the new features that went into the last update! You can download it HERE, if its not pushed out to you via WIFI.
Kindle FreeTime - FreeTime lets you create personalized profiles for kids, and give them access to titles from your collection of books. Kids can keep track of their personal reading progress and earn achievement badges. To learn more, go to Kindle FreeTime
Goodreads on Kindle - Connect with the world’s largest community for readers from your Kindle Paperwhite. See what your friends are reading, share notes, and rate the books you read. To learn more, go to Find and Share Books with Goodreads on Kindle.
Cloud Collections - Use Cloud Collections to organize your content in custom categories. See your collections in a Collections view, and customize where your collections show on your device. To learn more, go to Organize Your Content with Cloud Collections.
Page Flip - While reading, you can skim the book page-by-page, scan by chapter, or skip to the end for a sneak peek without losing your place. To learn more, go to Go To Other Locations in a Book
Enhanced Bookmarks, Highlights & Notes - Access and manage all of your bookmarks, highlights, and notes more quickly and easily. To learn more, go to Bookmarks, Highlights & Notes
Smart Lookup - When you look up a word or character, Smart Lookup provides you with dictionary, X-Ray, and Wikipedia information.To learn more, go to Explore Your Book with X-Ray.
Vocabulary Builder - Words looked up in the dictionary are automatically added to Vocabulary Builder. View the definition and usage of the words, and quiz yourself with flashcards. To learn more, go to Expand Your Vocabulary.
The audiobook industry is starting to undergo dramatic shifts in their content delivery methods and major publishing companies are now investing millions of dollars into expensive productions. The entire audiobook industry is currently worth around 1.6 billion dollars and that figure should climb further. Production is being stepped up and companies such as Overdrive and 3M Cloud are sourcing them out to libraries. Today, 3M has announced that they have ironed out a distribution deal with Findaway World for 40,000 titles.
The addition of eAudiobooks to the 3M Cloud Library will be a seamless transition for both readers and librarians, with the existing apps updated and optimized to include discovery, checkout and listening capabilities. As always, patrons only need to register to use the 3M Cloud Library through their local library the first time they sign in. Every eAudio title will be compatible on all devices using 3M Cloud Library applications, users will not have to differentiate which formats work on which devices. Once the eAudiobook is checked out, users can immediately start listening. Also for the user’s benefit, eAudiobooks are automatically bookmarked across the Cloud and available across all devices.
Titles from Findaway World are professionally engineered, enabling the highest-quality listening experience for users. Through Findaway World, 3M will have content from every major publisher in the Audiobook space.
Comixology is the largest digital distributor in the world for digital comics. This often puts them in the media limelight and paints a big target on their back. The company has acknowledged that they have suffered a major data breach today with usernames, passwords and email accounts were accessed by a rogue denizen of the internet.
In a letter sent out to anyone who has ever registered an account with Comixology, the company is encouraging people to change their passwords. Although no credit card or financial data was stolen, it is only a matter of time before all of your data is sold to companies that buy customer information in bulk.
The Comixology servers are currently overwhelmed with password changing requests and it is currently impossible to actually change your user information. This may change in the next few days, but it is unlikely.
Breaching databases and stealing customer data is nothing new. Its been happening more often with companies such as Adobe, that handle the bulk of eBook encryption technology. It looks like hackers are now targeting companies that readers cluster to.