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Young woman reads electronic book sitting on the grass. Shallow depth of field.

Amazon Publishing currently has 15 different imprints that span every single literary genre. These books are not only sold online for Kindle e-readers but also physically printed and sent over to bookstores. Finding the next great book to throw their marketing engine behind has always been a risky proposition. Amazon is quietly approaching authors who self-publish under Kindle Direct Publishing for a new program that will kick-start a book and potentially earn a new publishing contract with Amazon – in 45 days or less.

Within the next few weeks KDP Authors will be asked to submit their complete, never-before-published book and cover. After a few days, Amazon will post the first pages of each book on a new website for readers to preview and nominate their favorites. Books with the most nominations will be reviewed by the Amazon team for potential publication.

Readers who are selected for Amazon publishing contracts will get incentives that compete with first time contracts by major publishers. Authors will receive a guaranteed $1,500 advance and 50% royalties on net eBook revenue. Amazon will also acquire worldwide publication rights for eBook and audio formats in all languages, but the author will retain all other rights, including print.

As a small reward to the people who nominated the eBook to become published will receive a free, early copy to help build momentum and customer reviews.

The titles selected for this yet unnamed Amazon program will not have their books published by Amazon Publishing. This is mainly why they are not offering book editing or cover art design. Instead, Amazon is hoping to give authors another reason to exclusively publish with them and forgo submitting their titles to the competition. It would make sense that this new program is the first phase for using KDP as a feeder system for Amazon to make more money off of the next great author. If anything, this might be a nice visibility booster for people with a good book and a great cover, who are struggling to be found.

I think more likely, Amazon is tired of authors who make a name for themselves selling their eBooks with Amazon then signing with traditional publishing houses for lucrative print contracts. The end game for this new eBook project is to publish audiobooks and eBooks and rope the authors into just dealing with Amazon and then saying “hey, why don’t we give you a bigger reason to continue to publish with us?”

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The UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit has shut down a pirate eBook website called OnRead. This service provided over two million eBooks and bestsellers for a monthly fee. OnRead is claiming innocence, even though their entire domain has been seized by authorities.

OnRead made a name for themselves by providing an illicit Neflix for eBooks concept. Their low monthly fee attracted many e-reader, smartphone and tablet owners looking to get around paying anywhere between $9.99 to $29.99 for the eBook.

One of the alarming indications about how this site operated without publisher sanction was their terms of service. It stated “all materials presented on this site are available for the distribution over the Internet in accordance with the license of the Russian Organization for multimedia and Digital Systems (ROMS) and intended for personal use only. Further distribution, resale or broadcasting is strictly prohibited,” the recent archive reads.

ROMS is a Russian collective rights management organization that was originally founded in 2010, but the authors guild. It is ironic that this organization basically turned into a puppet for audio, video and eBook pirates to safeguard themselves by saying any content may not be resold and is only for private use.

eBook piracy is becoming a large concern for many nations and their publishers. According to research by Dutch firm GfK, only 10% of all eBooks on devices were actually paid for, with most of the digital books being pirated. Meanwhile a survey conducted by Book Industry Study Group fond that during the Spring 2013 semester, 34% of college students in the United States illegally downloaded course materials from unauthorized websites. In 2010, the percentage of textbook piracy 20%. According to figures published by Russia: Beyond the Headlines, 70% of Russians read eBooks, nearly a quarter more than the number who did a year ago. Yet 92% of those readers download their books from pirate websites.  eBook piracy resulted in €350 million ($467.1 million) in lost revenue for the €3 billion Spanish publishing industry in 2012.

Some publishers are seeking to combat piracy, such as HarperCollins. Recently, they announced the advent of digital watermarks to work in conjunction with standard Adobe DRM. It is quite easy to remove standard eBook encryption, but is quite difficult with the watermark. This serves as a deterrent for anti-piracy agencies that scan the internet for books posted on file sharing, pirate and torrent sites and serves them cease and desist letters.

Cory Doctorow said in a recent interview with Good e-Reader  “Saying piracy is not acceptable is like saying gravity makes my back hurt. There is a difference between a problem and a fact. You can say that the Earth is only 5,000 years old, but if you want to make money in the oil industry you have to dig where the Earth would be four billion years old.” The problem-versus-fact scenario that Doctorow refers to is one that he feels is being fostered by people who see a difference in readership and sales.

“You can very firmly believe that it’s incredibly bad for people to pirate things, but there’s no future in which the internet makes it harder to copy. There’s no articulatable theory of reducing piracy on the internet that doesn’t come from someone trying to sell you something. What I say when people claim that piracy is unacceptable is, ‘Well, what do you plan to do about it?’ You end up diverting a huge amount of money into alienating people.”

The entire modern generation of internet users feel entitled to everything and have no moral qualms about what they do. From various interviews and research we have conducted over the years, there are three main reasons why people pirate. The first reason is the type of person that grows  up pirating content and has absolutely no moral qualms about doing so. The second is people who have a lack of a stable income or fixed income and still wants to satiate their literary thirst. Third, in the eBook realms people tend to pirate books they cannot get locally due to geographical restrictions or the lack of an official copy (such as Harry Potter).

When users buy into the whole OnRead system of eBooks, they know what they are getting involved in. The website may be shut down, but the users paying the monthly fees, will simply find another site to fill the void.

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Visually impaired people have a very hard time when it comes to reading and interacting with the written word around them. A new app developed by the National Federation of the Blind and Ray Kurzweil, a well-known artificial-intelligence scientist and senior Google employee is seeking to remedy this problem.

Taking advantage of new pattern recognition and image processing technology, the app allows users to adjust or tilt the camera, and reads printed materials out loud. One feature I really liked was the ability to take pictures of menus, signs or small serial numbers and convert it to text. This text can then be blown up using really large fonts to assist people with moderate visual problems. People with refreshable Braille displays can now snap pictures of print documents and display them in Braille near-instantaneously, said NFB spokesman Chris Danielsen.

Some early adopters like Mark Feliz said “I just finished sorting today’s mail. What a great feeling I have to be able to accomplish this seemingly trivial task. I didn’t have to interrupt my son or daughter, I didn’t have to wait for a pair of eyes, and my wife does not have to spend time sorting. [...] As my students would say, ‘The K-NFB Reader rocks!” Another user, Gordon Luke, tweeted that he was able to use the app to read his polling card for the Scottish Referendum.

The KNFB Reader app was designed for the Apple iPhone and an Android version is currently in the works.


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Barnes and Noble has just removed the ability to download eBooks that you have bought from the online Nook Store. They did this so users could not download purchased content locally on their PC and either strip it of the encryption or use a 3rd party reading app.

The Barnes and Noble customer care division has sent out a tweet, letting people know that this is their new policy and not a bug. “The ability to sideload NOOK purchased content has been discontinued. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

If you own a Nook e-reader or tablet, you will continue to enjoy purchasing and reading books right on your device. Ditto for people who use the official Nook app for Windows, Android or iOS. This issue mainly affects people who use an internet web-browser and accesses their Nook Library. In the past, a download option would appear, but now this has been removed.

There are some rare cases where select eBook titles still have the download button, but include the text “We’re working on making this title available on NOOK for Web. In the meantime, read it on our free NOOK Reading Apps.” I also confirmed that graphic novels still have the download button, because they are currently incompatible with the Nook for Web HTML5 based e-reading app.

The elimination of downloading titles to your PC will mainly effect the “power users” that tend to use 3rd party e-reading apps for their mobile devices or strip the DRM completely and bypass Nook security.

Barnes and Noble is currently in the process of totally revising their website for purchasing content and also the way Nook books are presented. In early 2015 it will be formally unveiled and likely this change to downloading content is likely a precursor to reading everything exclusively online.


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PBSVolunteers

Television and Radio programs often have to rely on sponsors and public donations to keep everything running smoothly. Bookshout is pioneering a new eBook program that can be used to give literary rewards to donors and philanthropists.

How exactly does this new program work? Jason Ilian the CEO of Bookshout spelled it out out. ” Existing radio and television stations that do fundraising campaigns are normally in touch with Forest Incentive.  Forest has integrated the Bookshout API,  so free eBooks can be given out with the campaign.  The station will work with Forest to choose which book(s) they want  and a special link is set out to the receipt via phone or email. The link will take them to a branded one-time redemption page where all they have to do is enter a username and password. Then the donor will be reading the ebook on BookShout.  They can use the iOS, Android, or web app at any time for their ebooks.”

Publishing giants such as HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Open Road Integrated Media, Simon & Schuster, Wiley, Workman Publishing, and numerous others have committed to participating in the program. “HarperCollins is honored to provide our great content to all public broadcasters via the BookShout!/Forest partnership,” said Chantal
Restivo-Alessi, the Chief Digital Officer at HarperCollins. “We believe this will be a powerful new sales channel for our ebooks and authors.”

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The European Court of Justice has just concluded that EU member states are free to charge differing rates of VAT on eBooks and paper books. This will allow all countries in Europe to basically change their VAT on all books and not break ‘fiscal neutrality’, an EU concept whereby markets for the same goods are distorted by varying tax rates.

There have been major disagreements between member states and the European Commission on this subject over the past three years. Luxembourg dropped eBooks from the standard 15% VAT rate to 3% in 2012. France then followed suite with a drop from the then standard French VAT 19.5% to 5.5%.

Most countries in Europe have different VAT prices on digital content and were remiss to change their policies because they did not want to get smote by the European Court of Justice. With their new ruling, member states are now totally free to change the taxes on eBooks, without worry.

The 3% VAT based in Luxembourg was very advantageous to Amazon, Apple, Google and Kobo as an entry point to Europe. By basing their operations there, they could sell books in most European countries at a reduced VAT rate. This really helped them penetrate the lucrative UK market, where the established VAT rate is 20% on digital content.

Publishers, bookstores and small presses have been lobbying the UK government for change. They found that being based in the United Kingdom was inherently disadvantageous, because they had to charge 20% VAT, while Amazon could get away with 3%. This has prompted the EU to change their legislation in early 2015. Ebook companies will have to charge VAT at the rate where the customer is who buys the e-book, rather than at the rate where the servers of the e-book business are based.

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Kobo has announced that they have formed a new partnership with Bol.com, the largest provider of eBooks in the Netherlands and Belgium. Starting today, customers will be able to order the entire Kobo Arc line of tablets and modern e-readers like the Kobo Aura and Aura HD directly on the Bol website. This agreement though, goes far beyond e-readers and may be a blueprint of how Kobo forms relationships with eBook retails going forward.

Bol.com introduced digital reading in the Netherlands and Belgium five years ago, and since then has experienced amazing growth. In addition to the 1.2 million eReaders sold in the Netherlands, customers can also read their eBooks digitally via tablets and smartphones. The selection of eBooks has grown enormously over the past few years. One in seven non-fiction books sold in the Netherlands is digital.

Every so often, a Kobo press release hits the Good e-Reader offices, and it normally involves them establishing new relationships with booksellers to get their e-readers in as many retail channels as possible. One specific element on the official press release piqued my interest “Over the next few months, bol.com and Kobo will launch innovations to make digital reading even more user-friendly.” What exactly does this mean?

I talked to Pieter Swinkels, Vice President, Publisher Relations & Merchandising at Kobo. He stated “Starting today we are combining our libraries to offer the widest selection possible in the Netherlands and Belgium. This takes some time; the transition has begun and should be complete very soon. As well, customers will be able to buy books across the two platforms (bol.com store, Kobo store, Kobo device store, apps stores) and be able to access them through one cloud-based library (the Kobo library), they will have the full regular Kobo experience, including Reading Life, Notes and Bookmark Synchronization. We will continue to have the Dutch version of the global Kobo apps for all platforms, but also in coming weeks expect to launch a special bol.com-Kobo app.”

He went on to specifically address Sony users “Customers using a Sony device from bol.com will continue to have the experience they have now, so they’ll buy on the bol.com site and download their purchase with Adobe DE or Watermark. They will also be able to access those books on Kobo devices and apps, with their bol.com or Kobo account. In other words, we’re completely connecting the two platforms and creating one, seamless experience of searching, buying and reading. This is a tremendous departure from the previous bol.com experience, which was, as you write, basically a side loading experience.”

So what we are seeing now with the Bol partnership is Kobo willingly including another retailers digital library into their own. This might appeal towards other online booksellers such as Txtr.

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HarperCollins has introduced new digital watermark technology that will be very appealing towards customers in Europe. Digimarc Guardian watermarks are fully compatible with DRM solutions. The tractability they provide remains fully effective even in cases where the DRM layer has been removed by users, using 3rd party tools.

Digital watermarking technology caught on a few years ago when the entire Harry Potter eBook collection adopted it, instead of going the traditional DRM route. This allows users to seamlessly load their purchased content on as many devices as they wish, without the need for bulky third party programs or apps.

Digimarc’s cloud-based platform offers easy-to-integrate API support for most e-book formats, including EPUB, PDF and MOBI. For each transaction, the platform generates a unique, traceable digital watermark and embeds it throughout the e-book. The imperceptible digital identifiers are extremely difficult for pirates to locate and remove. Adding Digimarc Guardian
Watermarks takes just seconds and is invisible to the end customer.

Digimarc’s anti-piracy service then crawls the web 24×7 searching for watermarked content. When a watermark is detected, Digimarc provides the unique identifier to the publisher to match against its own transaction records. Digimarc Guardian Watermarks do not contain any user information; the Digimarc Watermarks contain only anonymous digital IDs.

HarperCollins confirmed with Good e-Reader that watermarks will have a very gradual roll out, and not all new titles will have this technology. They also neglected to mention if specific markets will have this feature introduced first, such as Europe, where watermarking is the current rage.

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There is a vast segment of Kindle owners that download pirated eBooks from the internet. It is estimated that up to 20% of eBook downloads stem from bit-torrent or pirate sites. There is a new online threat that is targeting Kindle owners, that may hijack your entire Amazon account.

Digital Books have a great deal of metadata that assists online retailers and publishers in understand reading habits and key metrics. Most of this data is harmless and can be equated to cookies, when you visit internet websites. A new vulnerability has been discovered, that targets pirated eBooks and key metadata in the header or authors name can run external scripts and compromise your Amazon account.

Here is how the vulnerability works. Hackers have been injecting links to external websites in the book’s title or in the field reserved for the name of the author, or in both. The script is triggered when you visit the Amazon Kindle Management page and have used the Send to Kindle Plugin. The Kindle Library takes whatever is inside the book’s title or author fields and inserts it into the Kindle Library web page. As a result, if the title or author fields contain HTML code, this code becomes part of the Kindle Library web page and is treated as if it had originated from Amazon’s server.Send to Kindle remains a very popular function, Amazon has an official version and many 3rd parties have developed alternatives for Android, Chrome, Firefox or iOS. It basically allows you to send documents and eBooks directly to your Amazon account to be read by a Kindle e-Reader, tablet or official reading app.

Piracy has been running rampant ever since the Kindle was first released. The Publishers Association issued 115,000 legal threats to websites to stop free pirated books in 2011, a rise of 130% on 2010. Many websites and file sharing services allow anyone to download them, and the person who cracked it normally just wants to give it away. This new vulnerability should give you pause, that a free eBook may come with a catch.


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The highest court in Europe has ruled that libraries can digitize books without publishers permission and distribute them to dedicated reading terminals. The decision rests on exceptions built into the EU Copyright Directive for reproducing and communicating intellectual property. Specifically it says that publicly accessible libraries may make works available at “dedicated terminals… for the purpose of research or private study.”

Under the EU Copyright Directive, authors have the exclusive right to authorize or prohibit the reproduction and communication of their works. However, the directive also allows for exceptions or limitations to that right. 

“The right of libraries to communicate, by dedicated terminals, the works they hold in their collections would risk being rendered largely meaningless, or indeed ineffective, if they did not have an ancillary right to digitize the works in question,” the court said.

This is good news for library patrons that simply need to conduct research. However, libraries cannot permit visitors to use the terminals to print out the works or store them on a USB stick, by doing so, the visitor reproduces the work by making a new copy. This copying is not covered by the exception, particularly since the copies are made by individuals and not by the library itself. 

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HarperCollins has struck new partnership with JD.com and China National Publications Import and Export Corporation. Starting today, over 800 backlist eBook titles will be available in English.

The Chinese publishing industry generated an astounding $42.89 billion in 2013 and should reach $57.74 billion in 2014. This is the first time HarperCollins has entered the market in a digital capacity.

Some of the titles available include; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Divergent by Veronica Roth and several titles from bestselling authors C.S. Lewis, Lemony Snicket, Beverly Cleary and Neil Gaiman. Additional titles will be rolled out in the coming months.

“JD.com has been a key partner in selling HarperCollins print books in China for years and we are happy to work with them on our e-book business,” said Chantal Restivo-Alessi, Chief Digital Officer for HarperCollins Publishers. “By expanding our international e-book distribution we’re opening up a new market for our authors’ works.”

“The e-book market in China is poised for tremendous growth. We’re excited to bring great content from HarperCollins to our readers,” said Haifeng Yang, Head of Books, Audios and Videos from JD.com.

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oyster

The publishing industry has been trying to crack the Netflix for eBooks concept for a number of years. Oyster is one of the bright spots, offering 500,000 eBook titles and has established relationships with over 1,600 distinguished publisher partners. Today, Oyster is celebrating their one year anniversary and offers some key metrics on their ecosystem.

500,000+ titles– including New York Times and national bestsellers like Steve Jobs, Under the Dome, The Happiness Project, Beautiful Ruins, The Great Gatsby, Onward and hundreds of thousands more.

1,600+ publishers – from Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster to prestigious independent houses and self-publishing aggregators, including Houghton Mifflin, Rodale, Melville House, Other Press, Smashwords and Verso.

6 platforms — after an iOS-only launch, Oyster is now accessible on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Web, Mobile Web Reader, and Android!

You can now find 46 genres, 1,289 lists of books, and more than 200,000 authors on Oyster to satisfy any type of reader.

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File photo of Canadian author Atwood posing for a portrait in Toronto

Margaret Atwood is a Man Booker prize-winning novelist and her latest title will not be released for one hundred years. She is joining the Future Library, which will see 99 other authors lock their books away in a time capsule.

The Future Library was the brainchild of Scottish artist Katie Paterson, the project is based in Norway, where the city of Oslo has gifted a patch of woodland near the city to the Future Library Trust. Paterson has planted 1,000 trees there, which will grow for 100 years before being cut down and turned into paper to print an anthology of all the books which have been submitted over the century.

“It is the kind of thing you either immediately say yes or no to. You don’t think about it for very long,” said Atwood, speaking from Copenhagen. “I think it goes right back to that phase of our childhood when we used to bury little things in the backyard, hoping that someone would dig them up, long in the future, and say, ‘How interesting, this rusty old piece of tin, this little sack of marbles is. I wonder who put it there?'”

Every year the brain trust will select another title to be included in the project. The physical titles will be stored at the Deichmanske Public Library, which is opening in 2018 in Bjørvika, Oslo. The organizers are even setting up a printing press, to insure that the anthology will actually be printed, when the world switches to digital.

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