On Social Networks
Just when it seems that digital publishing has reached the peak of innovation, someone has to make it even better. Ruckus Media Group, known for its interactive enhanced children’s ebooks, announced that it received grant funding from the National Science Foundation to make a collaborative ebook which will enable parents and their children to read and play embedded games within the same title, even when they are physically separated by distance.
“The challenge to collaborative learning comes when the parent is not co-located with the child — when a parent is away from the family home serving in the military or on a business trip, for example,” explained Ruckus in a press release. “Currently eBook platforms do not provide the opportunity for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to work, in real time, with non-mobile devices like desktop and laptop computers; by automating the process and tapping into the growing ubiquity that networked, mobile technology can address, Ruckus’ RTWA technology will provide a parent and child with the experience of being co-located so they can take advantage of the value of synchronous collaboration.”
This collaboration between parents and young readers, even while apart, not only fosters a love of reading and establishes the importance of literacy, but can also greatly benefit emerging readers who are still only learning.
“Nothing fosters literacy like parents, caregivers and kids reading and sharing books together,” says Jason Root, Ruckus’ Chief Content Officer. “Storytelling has a rich read-along, read-out-loud heritage. We are honored to have been selected by the NSF to further our idea of utilizing proprietary mobile technology to create remote read-together experiences in real time. Parents may be separated from their children due to military or business assignments or divorce, and grandparents often live in different states or countries — yet they all want to read with their children. Our goal, simply, is to keep families connected through reading, whether they are physically co-located or not.”
For its part, the NSF funds not only science, but broader spectrum approaches to education. Its annual budget of approximately $7 billion goes to support a number of projects in education, for which it received about 50,000 requests each year.
Public libraries and bookstores around the country are rolling out their summer reading programs in an effort to help students retain the progress they’ve made throughout the school year. While educators are all too familiar with the so-called “summer slide,” programs that encourage reading comprehension and exploration can have a valuable impact on students’ ability levels when they return to school in the fall.
This summer, Barnes and Noble is once again encouraging participation in its summer reading program by offering prizes and free books to students who participate. Aimed at students in grades one through six, the program, Imagination’s Destination, runs from May 21st through September 3rd and offers unique incentives throughout the summer weeks.
“Our Summer Reading Program encourages children to read for pleasure, inspiring a lifelong love of reading. It’s so much fun to see a child’s face light up when they turn in their completed journal sheet and get to choose a free book from the store display,” said Sarah DiFrancesco, Director of Business Development for Barnes & Noble, in a statement unveiling the program. “Our stores partner with their local schools and libraries to get the word out in the community. Educators and librarians love the program, too, because they also want to encourage children to read during the summer months. Add our special promotions with Roald Dahl and Dan Gutman books and the best lineup of summer skills workbooks, and Barnes & Noble is truly the best destination for summer reading fun, learning and savings.”
Educators also have special promotional tools and items that can be shared with their students during these last few days of the current school year in the Summer Reading Activity Kit. More than just announcements for the program, these tools help students engage in active reading by asking them to transfer the words on the page to higher order thinking and characterization, and can actually serve classroom purpose throughout the school year.
Information for both parents and teachers can be found in a special educators’ section at bn.com/summerreading.
Today, the final piece of the Big Six puzzle fell into place. Months after the initial co-defendants in an antitrust lawsuit settled out of court, the remaining publisher, Penguin, settled with the attorneys general from 33 states for $75 million. This settlement comes less than a year after Penguin settled a similar claim with the Department of Justice.
“This proposed settlement is a powerful demonstration of what is possible when federal, state and private class antitrust enforcement lawyers work together,” said Steve W. Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, in a statement issued by the firm today. “In this case, the level of cooperation was unprecedented, and the results that we were able to deliver to the states and consumers demonstrate that.”
All of the controversy in these court proceedings surround the claim that five of the Big Six publishers colluded with Apple to prevent Amazon from discounting the price of ebooks in order to further sales of Kindle e-readers. Industry professionals from every corner of the publishing world have weighed in on the issue since it was first raised in 2010, some in favor of the suit brought against allegations of price fixing, but others in support of taking down the corporate empire in Amazon.
Despite the lengthy proceedings, today’s statement from the lead counsel actually applauded the publisher for taking the initiative and taking step to move forward in the best interests of ebook consumers.
“Penguin’s senior management deserves credit for working with us and the attorneys general to reach a comprehensive agreement in such a hotly contested case,” said Jeff D. Friedman, Hagens Berman partner. “They’ve agreed to a settlement that will go a long way toward making e-book consumers whole and restoring a thriving, again-competitive e-book marketplace.”
While the terms of the settlement have been agreed upon, it is still ultimately up to the courts to decide if these terms meet the best interests of the consumers. Those proceedings will get underway later this summer, while the lawsuits brought against Apple are slated to begin next month.
While US lawmakers continue to debate the merits or lack of justification for in-flight bans on electronic devices, Australian airlines Qantas is taking a different approach by commissioning a series of paperback books that are the perfect length for an extended flight. The series, called “A Story for Every Journey,” will be published by Hachette and feature some of the more popular genres based on typical airport sales like thrillers and non-fiction.
“It occurred to us that, in this world of Kindles and iPads, the last bastion of the humble, paperback novel is actually at 40,000 feet,” said Droga5 Sydney Creative Chairman David Nobay in an interview with Advertising Age. “Just take a look at the bulging shelves at any airport bookstore. But, for all its relative clumsiness, there’s an unmistakably reassuring charm about thumbing through a good book as you recline amongst the clouds.”
These flight-length titles will be created with the purpose of allowing passengers to finish their books just as the flights land, even allowing for time for passengers to sleep or stop reading for meals on longer flights. The estimates on book length are actually calculated based on average reading speed.
“According to our literary friends at Hachette, the average reader consumes between 200 and 300 words per minute, which equates to about a page per minute,” said Mr. Nobay. That idea was applied more specifically to the shorter novels and flights, but “for the longer flights, we accommodated some napping time and meals,” Mr. Nobay said. “After a few hours with a fine Qantas in-flight meal with Australian Shiraz, most people need a break from reading.”
If this concept in reading takes off (pun intended) and if lawmakers insist on holding to strict regulations on the use of mobile devices during air travel, there is potential for a surge in not only print-reading, but also a shift towards more books being written with an intentional audience already in mind.
With some reports showing that the Android platform currently holds about 68% of the market for applications, digital content creators are taking steps to increase their current offerings to meet these customers where their devices are. CourseSmart, a leading provider of digital educational materials and textbooks, has been available on the Android platform for some time, but today announced that it is enhancing its current Android capabilities.
“We have been a leader in the Android space for a long time, and our new application takes that commitment to the next level, offering consumers several highly-anticipated new features,” said Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart, in a statement today. “As mobile devices continue to proliferate, we will maintain our track record of offering innovation and convenience to both Android and IOS users.”
While the free CourseSmart app for Android has offered a number of support features like thumbnails, in-book search capability, zoom for graphics and charts, and more, today CourseSmart announced the ability for students to access content while offline.
“CourseSmart eTextbooks is reflective of the company’s long-standing commitment to the platform as well as a response to the growing market demand for Android applications,” stated the explanation in a press release. “CourseSmart’s enhanced Android app provides real time mobile access to students, even while an eTextbook download is occurring. CourseSmart users will also have the ability to checkout titles for offline use and sync notes and highlights across the reading system, ensuring access to their own notations regardless of which device they use.”
In addition to new features and access capabilities, CourseSmart materials have grown in popularity due to the full catalog of titles from 90% of the educational publishers that the company offers at as much as a 60% discount over the original print price. Students and faculty alike are able to access their course materials through any Android-enabled device, tablet, or smartphone.
Verdict: 4 Stars
The Sea of Tranquility (Atria) has everything I don’t look for in a book. Chapter-by-chapter point of view switches, mysterious story lines that don’t become clear until the last page, and characters so full of raw and deep-seated hurts that you feel like an intruder just for reading about them. So it was surprising to even me that this book was a one-sitting read, something that I couldn’t put down until I’d made my way to the end to see if these people turn out okay.
Told in alternating viewpoints from the two main characters, Josh and Nastya, the reader is given only partial glimpses at a time of the endurance race the two teenaged protagonists have had to run. Josh, whose entire family has died before the book’s opening, and Nastya, whose musical prodigy status was ripped apart by a violent attacker who destroyed her hands and her soul, are left holding the pieces of their former lives and slowly learn to let their other carry a piece of the burden.
In keeping with the fact that Nastya stopped speaking about a year after her attack, the book doles out the details painfully slowly. While that is part of its allure, I was left occasionally feeling like I didn’t know enough to keep reading. Fortunately, the writing style was so spot-on that I was easily caught back up by the end of the chapter, only to be left disoriented again and repeat the cycle until the very end of the book.
Millay’s book could easily blur the lines between young adult and new adult, and effortlessly crosses back and forth between the two genres. The characters’ ages and the high school backdrop speak to younger adults, but the conflicts and plot are not for the fainthearted.
It’s just a known and accepted fact about the internet that there are trolls everywhere. If you post a video of your six-year-old’s dance recital on YouTube, someone out there invariably will down-vote it and make a rude remark in the comments section. There is almost an air of acceptance about the process, a sentiment that users understand that putting content on the internet opens the door to people hiding behind computer screens and spreading negativity, and there’s not much that can be done about it.
One publisher, however, is taking a stand against what it claims is a troll-like level of criticism from an online grump. The problem is, the so-called grump has spent years collecting and gathering data on the subjects he disparages on his blog, and can fairly-well back up his accusations of less-than-honorable business practices aimed at taking money from scholars at institutions of higher education.
In an article by Jake New for The Chronicle of Higher Education, the plight of one University of Colorado – Denver librarian was exposed. Indian publisher OMICS Publishing Group, who claims to publish around 200 scholarly journals, is suing the librarian for $1 billion and threatening him with criminal prosecution, which they claim under Indian law can result in up to three years in prison.
The metadata librarian in question, Jeffrey Beall, has been featured in prominent journals and newspapers for his work on his site, Scholarly Open Access, which exposes publishers and journals who may be operating under false pretenses or bad business practices. Beall’s site has come to be known as “Beall’s List” within higher education circles for its accuracy and comprehensive depictions of academic publishers.
At the university level, the pressure to publish one’s work is incredibly high, and publishers are available to charge a professor or researcher thousands of dollars just to be able to state that his work is published. Beall has written about OMICS’ practices of using prominent people’s names without permission, their charge of as much as $3,000 to publish one’s research, and hosting sham conferences whose names are misleadingly close to real and prestigious events.
For its part, the publisher claims that Beall’s information is completely unfounded and is suing for the potential damage he can cause their company. The group also claims that under India’s laws, Beall can face a lengthy jail sentence for his “unfounded” accusations; Beall’s attorneys are countering that this is nothing more than a publicity stunt on the part of the publisher, and are taking a stand against the accusations.
Fortunately for Beall, his roles as both the originator of the list and his work as a librarian mean he knows the power of excellent documentation and record preservation, and he counters that he has saved evidence of shady business practices on every publisher he’s ever included on his comprehensive list.
There is no shortage of websites that aim to connect books with readers, and most of them offer some pretty familiar features. Find books, rate books, review books, talk about… books. Occasionally, though, a site comes along whose goal is to bring something new to the book discovery realm.
BookLikes, the Poland-based multi-national site whose eight month beta launch finally went public yesterday, does bring some new twists to book discovery. While still incorporating the same kinds of features that have made sites like Goodreads so popular and well-trafficked, BookLinks offers its users a greater scope by creating book blogs rather than profiles.
“We don’t think of BookLikes as a direct competitior to Goodreads,” explained BookLikes’ CEO Dawid Piaskowski in an interview with GoodEReader today. “Whatever you’re going to do on BookLikes is going to land on your profile on Goodreads soon. We’re just a different type of service. If Goodreads is like Facebook, we’re more like Tumblr.”
To illustrate that comparison, Piaskowski pointed to one popular BookLikes users’ site, HappyBooks. Similar to a blog platform that lets users create their web addresses and incorporate the platform name into the URL, BookLikes users establish actual template-driven book blog pages and write their reviews, host comments about titles, and more. What is somewhat more appealing to users and to readers is the ability to link directly through the blog to the sales pages from various retailers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and more. As a reader clicks the sales page for a book that a BookLikes blogger reviewed, a portion of that purchase goes back to the book blogger as part of the retailers’ affiliate programs.
Despite being headquartered in Poland for the present, BookLikes has already had an international following, with over 8000 users creating pages from twelve different countries. The global scope of book discovery isn’t all the makes BookLikes stand out, however, opting instead to build itself in terms of keeping up with an ever-evolving publishing landscape.
“We have a strange rule that we will release mew features every Thursday. It’s just something we believe we must do.”
It’s no secret that newspapers, even those with online subscriptions and digital-only editions, are scrambling to keep both subscribers and advertiser revenue while still producing top-notch content. For institutions like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, turning to digital publishing of long-form journalism and back content may do more for their bottom lines than simply bringing the news.
While both papers and several others have turned to publishers like Vook to release volumes of archived collections in ebook forms, other news outlets around the country are looking at keeping their digital publishing ventures in-house in order to save money and exert complete control over their content.
According to an article by Taylor Miller Thomas for Poynter.org, small circulation newspapers are experimenting with their options in ebooks, and are not limiting themselves to news stories. Some are reviving the tradition of the serialized novel or essay, while offering the complete piece as an ebook of print-on-demand title. One paper even creates its own cookbook based on reader-submitted recipes, which it makes available for sale.
But it’s the long-form journalism that newspapers seem to keep coming back to. Despite the sense that society is becoming reduced to streaming scrollers of news snippets and blaring sound bites, readers of every circulation size seem to be embracing the opportunity to go much deeper into a news item, if the number of outlets publishing long-form ebooks is any indication.
Of course, it’s not only newspapers and regional magazines that are turning to digital publishing to meet a greater need for their audiences while looking for new sources of revenue. Television icon PBS has launched a line of ebooks and print-on-demand titles with MediaShift, with two titles already available and more in the works.
As one newspaper professional pointed out to Thomas, there is not only a sense of urgency in terms of finances when it comes to providing a variety of media for audiences. The real fight is to keep audiences in the first place. Digital publishing allows an outlet or agency’s fans to continue to turn to their trusted sources for a broader scope of news and entertainment. As with all aspects of publishing, the ones who will survive are the ones who can adapt to the climate of technology.
Verdict: 5 Stars
As an entire subset of reading, business books have got to be the most diverse. Titles that promise to reinforce business ideas or shake things up give us new catch phrases like “out of the box” or slogans about colorful parachutes. They seem to develop an almost cult-like following among certain sectors of industry, with well-dressed professionals standing around holding paper cups full of coffee and asking each other, “What do you mean you haven’t read so-and-so? He’s changing the whole paradigm!”
The interesting thing about this business book, though, is that not only does it not force its way onto the scene with catch-phrases, but that its creation was actually born from a whole new attempt to shake things up in one key business: publishing.
Finding the Next Steve Jobs by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell was the first title released by innovative self-publishing platform NetMinds. Launched earlier this year, NetMinds brings together authors and industry professionals in a very complex system that lets self-published authors pay a portion of the professionals’ fee, as well as pay them via a portion of the royalties. This method ensures that top talent come to the project, but also that those professionals can build their portfolios with high-caliber projects. One of the immediate differences with this title is the Contributor page in the front cover, which lists the names and roles each person played by collaborating on this book.
Bushnell, who founded more than two dozen companies, is credited with seeing something unique in Steve Jobs and giving him his first real ” shot.” As the author describes in the beginning of this book, he was also very supportive of Jobs’ plans to leave Atari and create a little start-up known as Apple.
One of the things that makes Bushnell’s title, co-written with Gene Stone, so appealing is the high level of interest in the subject. This isn’t some far-reaching book for MBA students to read to “get ahead.” Apart from the international interest in Steve Jobs as an individual, Nolan’s title is actually about finding creativity and not being afraid of it. The author shares anecdotes from his many business ups and downs, while still bringing the subject matter back to creativity and how to ignite it. Whether you’re a CEO of a company or you’re the guy who dumps the garbage can in the CEO’s office at night, finding new ways to think about situations and how to put those ideas into practice is a skill that all people can stand to embrace. This isn’t a business book, it’s a “being alive” book.
Online educational provider Coursera was developed through partnerships with more than sixty universities, allowing the company to provide high-quality instruction from world-class speakers and experts. Now, Coursera is working on bringing educational materials to its students via the Chegg e-reader platform at a more affordable price structure.
Through agreements with top publishers like Macmillan Higher Education, Oxford University Press, and more, Coursera is working on creating free digital textbooks for its course participants for the duration of the course; participants who want to own the digital title for referencing without a timeline will be able to purchase low-cost ebook editions. The first titles to be released under these agreements, Writing II: Rhetorical Composing by Susan Delagrange, Scott Lloyd DeWitt, Kay Halasek, Ben McCorkle and Cynthia Selfe, and Introductory to Physics I with Laboratory by Michael Schatz, are both books that course students may wish to refer back to as they continue with future courses in line with those topics.
“We recognize the importance of forging partnerships with other stakeholders in the education space in order to help students overcome barriers and evolve the way they access education,” said Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera, in a press release. “By collaborating with publishers, we are able to provide access to some of the world’s best resources to Coursera students, supporting our goal of learning without limits.”
The ebooks will be available for viewing and referencing through the Chegg browser-based platform, meaning streamlined device compatibility with any internet-capable device or computer.
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