Archive for Digital Publishing News
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.
The first ever digital publishing hackathon took place over the weekend at The Alley in New York. Organized by Perseus Books Group and Librify, the event transpired over 32 consecutive hours and was attended by 200 people. Over 30 different teams sought to develop new ideas for digital book discovery.
“It was exciting to watch 200 people come together at one time in one space and grapple with the challenge of digital book discovery,” said Rick Joyce, CMO of Perseus and one of the judges. “Not only were fascinating solutions developed, but there was a lot for a publishing person to learn about the ways content is connected and discovered digitally from these talented designers and coders.”
The finalists have now been selected and the final award will be announced at Book Expo America. All of the selected entrants will also receive coaching from publishing and technology mentors and have 10 days to work on their project. We now have a copy of the finalists that have participated in the hackathon.
•Library Integration Challenge from NYPL – $1,000 was awarded to Visibrary (Sara Michener, Carrie Segal, Alessandra Nova, Iv Segal) for the best library discovery project or the best integration of library data.
•Children’s / Literacy Challenge from NYPL – $500 was awarded to the Evoke team (listed above) for the best project for children and adults that either (a) enables book discovery, (b) encourages a love of reading, or (c) facilitates literacy.
•Avalon Travel Discovery Challenge – $500 was awarded to BookCity (listed above) for the project that best promotes discovery books related to travel.
•Manuscript to Metadata Challenge from PublicAffairs – $500 was awarded to Publy.io (Megha Gulati, Rajeev Gulati) for the best approach to improving metadata from the manuscript.
•Pearson API Challenge – $250 was awarded to Evoke for the best use of either (or both) of Pearson’s APIs.
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.
Digital readers may find themselves unable to read the next Stephen King novel. The author has announced today that his upcoming June 4th release, Joyland, will only be available via traditional bookstores.
Stephen King is no stranger to digital and released a novel in 2000 called Riding The Bullet, that was only available as an ebook. Last year, he released a Kindle Single exclusive that was basically an essay.
Today, King told the Wall Street Journal: “I have no plans for a digital version. Maybe at some point, but in the meantime, let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one.”
Many publishing industry experts are surmising that this book may draw people into their local bookstores, but people who prefer to read digital may end up pirating the book. If you look at the Harry Potter case study, when the books were unavailable in electronic form, it created a wellspring of book piracy, with some torrents having hundreds of thousands of seeders. Many people we spoke with at the time felt no remorse about downloading the books, because they were being ignored as digital readers. In the absence of a true digital copy that people can buy, it is only a matter of time before this book is scanned and posted online, stinging the very bookstores Stephen King is trying to help.
Amazon is also selling the physical book at a very steep discount and in most cases will sell it for less than you can buy in a physical bookstore.
Simon & Schuster has created a new position within the company to focus on the growing popularity of ebooks. Doug Stambaugh has been named to the newly created position of Vice President, Global eBook Market Development and Strategy, reporting to Dennis Eulau.
S&S released an internal email confirming the news saying, “Doug’s responsibility will be to help us further develop our ebook business in a manner that best positions us for success in all our markets around the world. He will work with sales colleagues from each of our companies to identify and evaluate opportunities for retail expansion, and new partnerships, digital channels, and publishing initiatives. He will develop company-wide strategies, policies, and best practices for all our domestic and international publishing units in areas ranging from terms and pricing to digital rights management, technology platforms and new business models. He will assist our teams from legal, sales, technology, and operations in opening up new accounts and in negotiations with existing retailers, and will help all our divisions around the world to work in a unified fashion with our common retailers. We will also look to Doug to assist us in tapping the potential for ebooks in nonretail channels, such as special sales and the school, library, and academic markets.”
The statement went on to say “Doug is ideally suited for this position. He has been with Simon & Schuster Digital since 2007, most recently as Vice President, Business Development, and has been a central figure in establishing our presence in the digital marketplace. He has worked with colleagues across the company to finalize ebook agreements with all our major retailers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Open Market. Most recently, he was instrumental in launching our pilot e-lending program with three New York area libraries that were our entry into this important channel.”
Doug will serve as the point of entry into the company to assess these new prospects, and will advise senior management in our publishing and operations groups on the many opportunities and issues that will inevitably arise in this exciting and ongoing transition.
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.
The New York Times attracts over 40 million readers to its website every month and the company sees it as a drop in the bucket. The newspaper is planning to expand into foreign language markets with a localized edition and unique content written by reporters based in those countries.
One of the big reasons why the New York Times is expanding its digital unit outside of the US is because 30% of its internet traffic stems from outside the US. This will increase the amount of advertising revenue generated. NYT obtained $191 million via advertisements in Q1 2013 and the expansion into the Portuguese market in the next few months should bolster the bottom line.
Other markets of consideration according to Marc Frons, the senior vice president and chief information officer at The New York Times, are “Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Spanish. We don’t know the timing [for launch], these things are a little more complicated than just going abroad.”
Currently the NY Times has close to 700,000 active digital subscribers that can read as much as they want on the website every month. Non-subscribers are limited to 10 free articles, and then prompted to take out a subscription. This loyal readership accounts for 45% of the newspapers entire subscription base and should increase to 52% by 2016.
Postmedia Network Canada Corp will be updating the remainder of its digital newspapers and implementing a full paywall structure. The National Post is one of the last big name newspapers only allowing the general public to view 10 free articles a month, before being asked to take out a subscription.
Print subscribers of the National Post and the Financial Post can continue to get full access to the newspaper’s digital properties. Digital readers who do not have a print subscription can pay $0.99 for the first month and then $9.99 a month thereafter. Digital-only readers can also sign up for the reduced subscription rate of $99.50 for an entire year.
This move into the paywall arena follows the arrival of the Vancouver Sun, Province, and Ottawa Citizen, introduced to the lineup last year. “We’re no longer in the business of chasing page views from all over the globe,” said Postmedia chief operating officer Wayne Parrish in a recent interview. “We’re in the business of trying to provide deep, rich experiences for those who value the content that we focus on, which is local content and Canadian content.”