Read An eBook Day

Read an ebook dayJust in case you were going to miss it, Thursday is “Read an a eBook Day“, a celebration of modern storytelling. Surprisingly, it’s not sponsored by Amazon on behalf of the Kindle but rather OverDrive whose apps let you borrow library books for free. Yes, for free.

It’s probably one of the best keep secrets in the whole tablet and ereader business. Contrary to what Amazon would  have you believe, you don’t have to buy ebooks from them as there are plenty of up-to-date novels available from your local library. The downside is that transferring books isn’t that slick and you need an ereader that’s not tied in to the Amazon ecosystem. I have a Nook, but ereaders from Sony and Kobo are supported as well, and you need to load the books via a PC rather than downloading across the Net.

If you have tablet, it’s much easier as the OverDrive app is available for iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows Phone, as well as for Windows and Mac desktop platforms. Check the appropriate app store or else try OverDrive‘s web site. Once you have the app, all that’s needed is a membership of a library and you can download directly from your library to your tablet.

Instead of “Read an eBook Day”, Thursday should be “Read a Free eBook from your Local Library Day”.

Free eBooks From Your Local Library

These are tough economic times and if you want to save yourself a few pennies, stop buying ebooks, join your local library and borrow ebooks for free. The OverDrive Media Console app lets you download and read ebooks offered by your local library for nothing, and if audiobooks are of more interest, the app can handle those as well. The OverDrive app is available for most common smartphones and tablets, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Kindle Fire and Nook tablets. If you have a Kobo, Sony or Nook ereader, you can still borrow books from your library but you’ll need to use Adobe’s Digital Editions to download via your PC. If you have a Kindle ereader, you’re out of luck.

The app can be downloaded from most app stores and directly from OverDrive if your device’s app store doesn’t host the app. In the first instance, the app asks you to find your local library via simple search. Poking around I was able to find libraries in UK, USA, Canada, Mexico, Germany, India and Japan, so it has worldwide coverage but I’ve no real idea of how extensive it is.

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For my library, I had enter my borrower number and again I assume it will be similar for most public libraries. Once you are in the system, you can browse for your favourite novels and authors, and then borrow the book you want. Before you can download the book, you’ll need to sign-up for an Adobe ID and put it into Overdrive’s settings. This is all part of the ePub DRM, but getting an ID is straightforward and free of charge.

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Obviously the range of books is entirely dependent on your library but I found a good selection of books available (several of which I already owned!) and once you’ve got your reading selection downloaded, you can swap to Overdrive’s bookshelf to see what’s available for reading.

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As a reader app, OverDrive Media Console is good. There’s a bit of delay when opening a book for the very first time, but after that it’s snappy. All the other usual features are there – typeface selection, font size, line spacing, colour schemes, animations, but overall it’s well done. Reading books is easy and a pleasure.

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So, if you don’t want pay for ebooks and you’ve a tablet or smartphone, download the OverDrive Media Console, join your local library and start saving money. It’s a no-brainer!

The Paperback is an Endangered Species

Nook ClassicPicture the scene….I’m on holiday, lying by the swimming pool, relaxing in the summer sun. It’s a 4-star hotel, nothing fancy, catering to families from all round Europe; Britain, France, Germany, Norway. As I look around my fellow guests, I notice that many of them are reading from ereaders – Kindles, Kobos and the odd Nook. A few people are reading celebrity magazines like Hello and Chat. What does surprise me is the total absence of paperbacks – in all the rows of sun loungers that I can see, there’s not a single paperback book. It’s as if the paperback became an endangered species from one year to the next.

In reality this shouldn’t be a surprise. Ebooks and ereaders have become popular and the continual reductions in weight allowances by the budget airlines have encouraged travellers to leave heavy paper at home. The result is children, parents and grandparents are all lying round the pool, electronics in hand. The paperback is on the verge of extinction.

And while the paperback is all but gone, this isn’t the death of the novel. By all evidence round the pool, the written word is still alive and well. Only the medium has changed from paper and ink to glass and eInk. I see a bright future for authors and novelists.

I’ve certainly no regrets myself, but it does make it very hard to see what your fellow sun-worshippers are reading.

Eason Fails to Sell eBooks via Billboard

…or “Why DRM is killing ebook sales outside of Amazon or Barnes & Noble”.

Being a international superstar and global jetsetter*, I had the pleasure of passing through Dublin’s Connolly railway station today. In the atrium there was a billboard display of book covers complete with QR codes.

Billboard of Books

“Totally cool,” I thought. Scan the QR code, buy the ebook, download to my tablet and start reading. The bookstore, Eason, had helpfully included free wifi in the area to get on-line. (For those not familiar with Ireland, Eason would be the leading newsagent, stationers and bookstore, comparable to WHSmith in GB). I scanned this book:

Book cover

The QR code took me to this page. Strangely, the book offered was a paperback and not an ebook. Huh?

Book purchase

Then I looked at the original poster, “1. Choose your book 2. Scan your QR code 3. Make your purchase 4. Wait for the post 5. Enjoy your book!”

Seriously…”Wait for the post”. Have these guys actually heard of ebooks or did the Kindle completely pass them by? Sure enough, Eason does have a section for ebooks on their website. It says, “Eason eBooks are compatible with Sony, Iriver and Elonex eReaders, as well as all devices that support Adobe EPUB DRM eBooks. Our eBooks are not currently compatible with Apple iOS, Google Android or Amazon devices – this includes iPads, iPhones, iPods, Android phones and tablets, and Kindles.

So let me get this straight….Eason is appealing to a travelling customer, offering the QR codes to smartphones that will typically be iPhones or Android devices, but ebooks can’t be offered on these because of Adobe’s ePub DRM? Fail, fail, fail.

It’s both totally unbelievable yet completely expected. It’s no wonder Amazon and the Kindle are dominating the market because everyone else is fighting with one hand tied behind their back with DRM. Eason, I had a two hour train journey ahead of me and you had a 100% chance of an ebook sale but you blew it. I’ll turn on my tablet, fire up my Kindle or Nook app and buy directly from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Fail.

* This is completely untrue.

Will You Be Getting an eBook Refund?

Those of you who have a Kindle might have a refund coming your way, eventually. This is a result of a recent antitrust lawsuit settlement between Amazon and the ebook publishers that were named in the lawsuit: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, and their many subsidiaries.

Amazon.com has started sending email to some of their customers to tell them that they may be eligible for a credit This specifically relates to ebooks that were purchased between April of 2010 and May of 2012 by the above mentioned publishers. Consumers might receive anywhere between $0.30 and $1.32 for each ebook they purchased during that time frame.

How much you get depends on a few things. First, you have to have purchased an ebook from Amazon during that time frame. The amount of refund you get depends upon if the book was on the New York Times Bestseller list when it was purchased. If so, you could be getting a $1.32 refund for that book. If not, you may be getting less, (as low as $0.30) as a refund for that particular book. If you bought a bunch of ebooks during the time frame the settlement specifies, you could be in for quite a refund.

Before you get too excited, realize that the refunds will not be made until after the courts approve of the settlements. That hearing is scheduled for February of 2013. In addition to Amazon.com, Apple and Barnes & Noble will also be issuing refunds (but the amount hasn’t been released as of yet). The refunds will come in the form of an account credit. It may also be possible for you to request your refund in the form of a check, instead.

It seems to me that most of the time, when lawsuits like these happen, consumers don’t end up receiving anything at all. It is interesting that this time, at least some people will be getting a credit.

Image: Stock Photo Young Woman Reading On eBook by BigStock

How a Classic Book Got “Nookd”

I love to read, but I’ve never quite trusted eReaders. To me, it doesn’t matter if the eReader in question is a Nook, or a Kindle, or any of the other varieties. It just isn’t the same as holding an actual book, made of paper, in my hands. The electronic version cannot replace the feel of the weight of the book as I pick it up, the sound of the pages turning, the texture of those pages, or that freshly-printed book smell.

A blogger named Phillip Howard, who writes the Ocracoke Island Journal found another way that eBooks are vastly different from paper books. The text in an eBook can easily be changed from what the original author wrote into something the author never intended.

Phillip was reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace on his Nook. He downloaded this classic work of literature onto his Nook for $0.99. The Nook is the eReader that comes from Barnes & Noble. As he was reading, he came across a sentence that stuck out. Something seemed different about it. The sentence read:

“It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern….”

That odd misspelling made the sentence jump out. Tolstoy never used the word “Nookd”. When Phillip compared the Nook version of War and Peace to an actual hardcover book version, he found that what Tolstoy actually wrote was:

“It was as if a light had been kindled in a carved and painted lantern…”

In other words, the work kindle had been removed from the text, and had been replaced by Nook. Conspiracy theorists on the internet are saying that this error was intentional, in an effort to prevent people from reading the word kindle and having that lead to the desire to purchase a Kindle from Amazon.

What most likely happened was that the substitution of the word kindle with the word Nook, (odd capitalization included), was nothing more than a Copy-Paste error.

The publisher may have originally put together a digital copy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace in a format designed for the Kindle. Later, the publisher made a version that would be the right format for the Nook. It is possible that the publisher told the software to do a universal find-replace, and change the word Kindle to Nook – never realizing that the word kindle actually appeared in the text of the book.

I think I’ll just stick with the old-fashioned books made of paper, thanks.

Image from Bn.com.

The DOJ Sues Apple and Various Publishers for Ebook Price Fixing

DOJApple and several publishers including Penguin, Harper Collins, Macmillan, Pearson and Simon & Schuster and Hachette have been accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of price-fixing and collusion. According to the Bloomberg various high level officials of these companies along with a representative from Apple met several times in secret at various locations in New York city prior to the release of the iPad 1. They agreed that the prices of e-books should be set by the publishers and the retailers could not make any changes. It also appears they agreed to the price they would be set at. According to the DOJ this was clearly directed at retailers especially Amazon, who had offered discount prices on e-books.

Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Harper Collins have settled the suit with the DOJ and have agreed to cancel any contract that would allow the publishers to set prices. They also agreed that for two years all contracts must allow for discount pricing by the retailers. Apple, Penguin and Macmillan Publishing have refused to settle. They are fighting to keep what they call the agency model. Apple appears to be the one that encouraged this model. They get 30 percent of all books sold in the iBook store. The agency model means the books will cost more for the consumers but it also means more money for Apple and the publishers. “Sales of e-books rose 117 percent in 2011, generating $969.9 million, Publishers Weekly reported Feb. 27, citing estimates from the Association of American Publishers.”

The European Union is also investigating the arrangement made between Apple and the publishers. It clear that the major publisher like the agency model. The cost of creating and publishing e-books is much lower than physical books and before this agreement the prices for books was going down. With this agreement, prices were stabilized or raised to a level agreed on by all participants and competition was removed. I have to admit I am a fan of Apple products, but I have found that I am less of a fan of some of their business practices and this is one of those times.

Ford has In-Car Tablet Compatibility

Ford has produced a brand new feature called SYNC. This is the perfect name for the first system designed to give you in-car tablet compatibility. In other words, SYNC will allow drivers to hook up their favorite tablet device to their car, and access it through voice commands while they are driving.

The voice commands make things safer. Drivers won’t need to actually look at their tablet, or touch it, in order to listen to an audiobook, a podcast, or a song. It truly makes a tablet into a hands free device, and does not require the driver to take his or her eyes of the road.

This is exciting in many ways! This is the first time that drivers will be able to safely make use of their tablets while they are driving. The voice commands that a driver uses to access their tablet make the road a safer place to be. We live in a world where people have gotten into car accidents, and died, while trying to send or receive a text message. The SYNC allows drivers to be entertained without making them into a distracted driver.

Imagine how great this would be for road trips! Tell your tablet to start reading you an audiobook. Choose your favorite playlist, and listen as you drive through places that you have never been before. The SYNC will charge some tablets and e-readers when they are connected through SYNC’s USB connection. You won’t have to worry about finding an outlet to plug your tablet into long enough to charge it. The Ford SYNC will do that for you!

Right now, Ford engineers are testing the SYNC’s compatibility with the new iPad3. The SYNC is already compatible with the original iPad and the iPad2. Other SYNC-compatible devices include: Amazon Kindle, Amazon Kindle Fire, HP Touchpad, HTC Flyer, Barnes & Noble Nook Color, and the Sony Tablet S.

The SYNC also allows you to make a hands-free call with your phone. Answer the phone with the push of a button. Make a call using a voice command. SYNC automatically downloads the names and numbers programed into your compatible phone. Tell your phone to call Mom, and it will do exactly that.

While you cannot put SYNC into an older model Ford, there are several different 2012 models of Ford vehicles that are SYNC compatible. They are the 2012 version of the: Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, Mustang, Taurus, Escape, Edge, Explorer, Flex, Expedition, Transit Connect, F-150, E-Series Wagon, and Super Duty.

Image: Autoshow by BigStock

CourseSmart On-Line eTextBooks

CourseSmart logoCourseSmart is a higher education content delivery system that delivers e-textbooks to over 2.5 million students and faculty members. Sean Devine, CEO of CourseSmart talks to Jeffrey and Andy about the system.

CourseSmart brings together content producers and content consumers, typically publishers, lecturers and students in over 7,000 universities and colleges. The organisation is owned by a group of publishers but it distributes content from a wider range of content producers. Over 30,000 original textbooks and other products are on-line at their website and the publications can be integrated into the college’s electronic learning environment.

As with most things digital it’s not possible to buy or sell e-textbooks secondhand and the book is really just rented. The CourseSmart books are typically 60% cheaper than a new paper book and naturally they’re always in stock. For today’s mobile student the books are delivered through multiple devices – web browser, web app, iPad, iPhone and Android apps.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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SolarKindle Lighted Kindle Cover

SolarKindle Lighted Kindle CoverThe E Ink screens of e-book readers are much easier on the eyes than traditional LCD ones but as they’re not backlit, reading in low light or the dark is a little tricky. SolarFocus‘s lighted Kindle cover solves this problem and more. Andy takes a look.

The SolarKindle lighted Kindle cover is a combination of a hard case, LED light, battery and photovoltaic charger. The Kindle clips into the back of the case which has a white LED reading light at the top. The solar cell is on the front cover, letting the SolarKindle charge the battery when the cover is closed. The clever part is that the 1500 mAh battery not only powers the reading light but also the Kindle itself, giving several days of extra reading from a fully charged battery.

SolarFocus won a CES Innovation Honoree Award for the SolarKindle – congrats. Available now for $79.99.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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