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eBook subscriptions services are making headlines right now, especially following the launch of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. In some ways, correlations can be made that two other pioneering subscription services–Scribd and Oyster–could have paved the way for KU, despite the various differences in their platforms. While other ebook subscription startups have been around for years, Oyster and Scribd have made the most headway with not only enticing readers into the benefits of their programs, but also in working with some publishers to put their titles in the catalogs with the most viable compensation models so far.
Oyster announced today that it is now including web-based reading in its platform, meaning users no longer have to rely on the mobile app for content. While the Android and iOS apps are still fully operative, Oyster added a new layer of accessibility to the platform in a throwback move to browser-based reading.
“Knowing that about a third of ebook readers regularly read on the web, we’ve had our sights set on this launch for some time,” said Eric Stromberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Oyster. “This marks an important next step on our mission to provide the best product on as many devices as possible.”
Billed as the Netflix of reading, ebook subscriptions have kept a similar pricepoint–Oyster’s is $9.95 a month for both the app-based and web-based option to read unlimited numbers of ebooks–while trying to offer compelling content. Oyster has had a measure of success in signing two of the largest publishers in the world to provide some of their content to the growing catalog, and has agreements with more than 1,600 publishers overall.
Oyster’s CEO had some welcoming remarks for the introduction of Amazon’s service into the ebook subscription sphere, seeing the launch of KU as yet another sign that reading consumers are responding to this model.
“We’re not surprised. [Amazon has] pivoted from transactional to subscription-based in other media, and had limited success. They really paved the way in ebooks, and it’s exciting to see them embrace the market we created as the future of books.”
New members can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Oyster by clicking HERE.
The PA Digital Sales Monitor, new report from the UK-based Publishers’ Association, showed that ebook sales are on the rise for the first quarter of 2014. This report, which showed a 10.5% increase in digital sales, comes at a time when the debate around ebooks and their viability from different angles is starting to make waves again.
According to a press release issued on the first quarter sales, “The growth in sales was also spread across all recorded categories. In the consumer sector digital sales of fiction increased 8%, with a 10% rise in sales of adult non-fiction. Digital sales of children’s titles meanwhile enjoyed a particularly strong performance, with a 33% rise.
“In the educational/professional sector the largest growth was seen in Scientific Technical and Medical (STM) books, where sales increased by 16%, however, there were also strong performances by schools/English Language Teaching (ELT) sales which grew 14%, and social sciences/humanities which saw an 11% rise.”
eBooks as a viable source of industry revenue for both traditional publishing and indie has been called into question in the past, especially given the fact that critics love to indicate the plateau that ebooks seem to have hit with readers. While their growth had seemed to slow in recent years, they remained steady with e-reading fans. This growth indicates a forward movement in the format, giving even more credence to the disputes currently taking place between retailers and publishers regarding sales agreements, and between publishers and their authors over royalties.
Richard Mollet, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, said, “The Publishers Association Digital Sales Monitor shows the continuing development and growth of digital publishing in the UK. Increases in digital sales in both consumer and non-consumer sectors shows how publishing as an industry has embraced digital technology and continued its strong track record of innovation and service delivery.”
Verdict: 5 Stars
This is a book entirely about love: love between spouses, love between siblings, love for nature and the land. When the author’s wife lost her brother to suicide, he had no way of bringing her out of her pain other than through the thing he loved, hiking. Having just completed the 2000-mile Appalachian Trail himself, he turned around and lured his wife on a more than 200-mile journey along the entire John Muir Trail with the purpose of helping her work through her grief while raising awareness about the depression that cost her brother his life.
The book details every aspect of this kind of adventure. Everything from mundane descriptions of how they ate, bathed, slept, and survived, to descriptions of the more harrowing encounters with wild animals, grueling conditions, and uncertainty were outlined in the book.
Avid fans of adventure titles and non-fiction travelogues may find themselves disappointed in this book because it’s not meant to be a title about hiking or about the geography. While those factors play an important role in the story, that’s not the focus of Alt’s title. This is a book about healing through pushing oneself farther than anyone ever thought possible, and refusing to stand by helplessly while a loved one is in pain.
Four Boots One Journey is available now.
Most people don’t think of copyright law when they think of gripping drama and suspenseful twists and turns, but the truth is copyright is actually quite fascinating. Of course, no one is more fascinated right now than the litigants in a case involving copyright over Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes characters.
To understand the ramifications of a case that is currently working its way through the courts, it’s important to know the history behind a new book by American crime writer Leslie Klinger. Klinger, a known expert on Sherlock Holmes and other classics, has a new book potentially entitled In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, but the heirs to the original author’s estate are contesting the use as it falls under copyright restrictions.
Here’s where it gets fascinating: under copyright law, a work enters the public domain after a set period of time, roughly one hundred years following publication. Muddying the waters somewhat is the distinction between when Sherlock Holmes was published in the UK versus the US. Further confusing the issue is the fact that the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories were published over a multi-year time span, meaning some of the stories are currently in the public domain, and others still are not; the final ten stories, for example, will not become public domain until the end of 2022.
Just to make it even more confusing, lower courts have already ruled on this specific case, and the result of the ruling is actually very interesting. Essentially, modern authors can use any settings, characters, and specific characteristics of the characters that appear in works that are already out from under copyright restriction, but cannot use any details that are still under copyright without permission and paying a licensing fee to the estate. For example, in one of the later works that is still under copyright restriction, it is revealed that Dr. Watson had played rugby for a specific team when he was younger. This little detail comes out in conversation with Holmes, and is not part of the action of the story, however that detail was only revealed in a later work. Therefore, a current author is allowed to use the character Dr. Watson, for example, but cannot state where he played rugby or allude to an old rugby injury.
Conan Doyle’s estate is attempting to overturn the lower courts’ rulings and sought an “emergency petition” from the Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear arguments in the case, presumably citing that there was nothing in the lower court’s ruling that required a new review. Lawyers for the estate have said they will still move forward with their request for a review, but one of the issues that will be determined in court is who has to foot the bill for this legal battle. As it stands, Klinger (and presumably his publisher) has had to engage his own attorneys to represent him against the suit, and the responsibility for paying his legal fees will also be decided by the court.
It’s the same in every classroom, in every school, in every subject area. Certain students are “getting it” and engaging with the content, while other students are trailing behind, getting more and more lost and less and less likely to admit it. But a new assessment tool that lets students structure their own questions, responses, and discussion points offers teachers the ability to understand what every student is thinking about the material without having to conduct individualized assessments at every step along the way. Even better, the students are equipped to provide their feedback without calling attention to themselves, making them more likely to engage and offer genuine insight into where they might be lagging.
The Verso App lets students work through teacher-driven material and then respond, while also allowing them to see classmates’ interactions after they complete the material. This equips teachers to know before approaching each lesson where the students are still having trouble with comprehension, as well as know which areas the class has mastered in order to avoid wasting instructional time.
“Using the Verso App, teachers enter the classroom fully aware of students’ questions, ideas, misconceptions and what they are revealing as their individual learning needs,” Collin Wood, CEO of Verso Learning, said in a press release. “Teachers now know what they have to do to support every student in moving forward.”
“Since these responses are anonymous, it gives students the confidence to take risks they may not otherwise take. As they collaborate and reward quality contributions with ‘likes,’ they are giving and receiving feedback and using that feedback to shape their thinking.”
Tools like this one have the power to take today’s digital natives and prepare them for the higher order thinking and technology incorporation that so many state and national curricula around the world are now focusing on. Information on the free app is available from Verso Learning at VersoApp.com.
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