Google Books Deal Bolsters Dream of Universal Bookstore

Google’s deal to settle a seven-year conflict with five major publishers over the search giant’s book-scanning initiative is a milestone in the publishing industry’s grinding transition from print books to e-books. The pact, struck by Google and the Association of American Publishers (AAP), does not address the underlying question of whether Google violated copyright law by scanning millions of books over the last several years. Both sides, apparently weary of legal wrangling, have agreed to disagree on that point. The deal also doesn’t affect an ongoing lawsuit filed against Google by the Authors Guild, which represents thousands of authors.

Nevertheless, this landmark agreement is an important step toward the ultimate end-game in this conflict: a system in which Google works together with the publishing community to make millions of hard-to-find books accessible to consumers. That’s the bottom-line: Google’s book-scanning project — now known as the Google Library Project – holds out the promise of a giant Internet library and bookstore, but that outcome is only possible if Google and the publishing community work together.

“In the last few years, Google and the publishers have made their peace; this is just the treaty-signing ceremony,” James Grimmelmann, a copyright expert at New York Law School who has closely followed the case, wrote on his blog. “The publishers have embraced the digital transition in books; Google is now a player and partner in that ecosystem, rather than a dangerous disruptive presence.” The five major publishers included in the settlement are McGraw-Hill, John Wiley, Simon & Schuster, Pearson Education and Penguin Group (also owned by Pearson).

(MOREExplaining the Google Books Case Saga)

When Google announced its book-scanning project in 2004, the concept captured the imagination of many in the tech world. What if millions of books — including rare and out-of-print books — were made available on the Web? At the time, Google, which had just gone public and was the toast of the tech world, seemed like the only entity with the resources and resolve to undertake such a massive and ambitious project. Google Books was a signature project for company co-founder Larry Page, who made the effort a top priority.

To kick off the initiative, Google announced partnerships with several important academic and cultural libraries including Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and the New York Public Library, to digitize their collections. This meant a time-consuming effort to scan thousands of print books, page-by-page, using sophisticated robotic cameras, some capable of digitizing 1,000 pages per hour. To date, Google has scanned over 20 million books.

Finally, it seemed, the dream of a universal library — a mythical goal that has existed for two millennia since the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the classical world’s central repository of knowledge — could be within reach, or at least somewhat closer to becoming a reality. (Harvard has since withdrawn from the project in favor of an academic effort called the Digital Public Library of America — but not until after Google had already scanned some 850,000 books from its collection.)

Not so fast, said major publishers and the Authors Guild, which filed a lawsuit in 2005 claiming that the project violated copyright law, and didn’t adequately provide for compensation to rights-holders and authors. Since then, the two sides have waged an epic and closely watched legal battle that’s come to be viewed as a central front in the larger struggle between legacy pre-Internet industries, including publishing, music and movies, and new digital upstarts, led by Google, who aimed to bring those industries into the digital age.

The two sides have tried to settle the dispute before, but failed, including last year, when U.S. federal judge Denny Chin rejected a proposed $125 million settlement, saying it violated the “property rights” of people without their consent, particularly in the case of “orphan works,” out-of-print books whose authors can’t be located to obtain their consent. Google maintained that its project was protected by “fair use,” a legal concept that allows for certain types of reproduction, when used for criticism, journalism, teaching, and academic research. After last year’s deal was rejected, the publishers and authors split, which is why the former were able to strike a new accord with Google, while the latter continue their lawsuit.

(MORENew ‘Google Play’ Puts Music, Movies, Books and Apps in the Cloud)

The settlement gives publishers the choice to make their books available to Google for its project. Those who participate will have the option to receive a digital copy for their use, including to sell online. In Google’s model, users can browse up to 20% of books and then purchase digital versions through the Google Play online store, with rights-holders receiving an unspecified cut of the proceeds of the sale. (Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. As a settlement between private parties, the pact is not subject to court approval, according to the AAP and Google.)

“We are pleased that this settlement addresses the issues that led to the litigation,” Tom Allen, President and CEO of the AAP, said in a statement. “It shows that digital services can provide innovative means to discover content while still respecting the rights of copyright-holders.” David Drummond, Google’s Chief Legal Officer, said: “By putting this litigation with the publishers behind us, we can stay focused on our core mission and work to increase the number of books available to educate, excite, and entertain our users via Google Play.”

Michael J. Boni, a lawyer for the Authors Guild, told the Associated Press that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the potential for a settlement with authors. ”We’re delighted that Google and the publishers forged an agreement,” he said. “We see that as a sign of Google’s willingness (to be open) to the concept of settlement. And we hope we can get to the bargaining table as soon as we can.”

Google’s deal with publishers is a welcome step in the right direction, after seven years of litigation. Now, if Google can come to agreement with authors, the dream of a universally accessible digital book database may finally have the chance to become a reality. Consumers will always have to buy books, of course, but the Google Library Project holds out the promise of dramatically increasing the number of books that are available for purchase, particularly rare and out-of-print books. This will be good for Google, publishers, authors, consumers, journalists, scholars, and society at large. If we can increase the amount of knowledge available to all, we all win.

via Time

Amazon directly addresses problems with new Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite in the dark

Consumers have logged many complaints about spotty screen illumination, lack of storage, and missing speech-to-text on the Paperwhite. Amazon has decided to address the naysayers directly.

Amazon decided to be refreshingly upfront when faced with a growing number of complaints pertaining to the new Kindle Paperwhite. As you may know, the Paperwhite is the first Kindle to have a self-illuminating screen that lets you read in the dark without a separate accessory.

However, as more and more people begin to use the new device, complaints have been turning up in Amazon forums, specifically targeting the uneven lighting provided by the device under certain conditions.

A quick Google search of “Kindle Paperwhite problems” turns up a wide range of screen issues:

“Noticed the screen had ‘light spots’ all over the display, think looking at the night sky and seeing the stars.”

“I have a bright spot on mine too, as well as annoying screen blotches. I’m sending it back for a refund instead of getting on the replacement merry-go-round.”

“This is my first kindle and so far I’m disappointed. The dark spots are bothersome and I don’t like how blue the ‘white’ is.”

But rather than ignore the public’s complaints, Amazon decided to address the issues head-on through a public statement. The online retailer acknowledged the Paperwhite can produce uneven illumination when used improperly in particular lighting conditions. However, Amazon defended themselves, saying the unevenness only affected a small portion of the screen that didn’t hold text anyway. Amazon also included examples of how the screen should look in various lighting scenarios and offered advice for optimal settings.

Other users found issue with the 2GB of storage available on the Paperwhite, a 50 percent reduction when compared to previous models that shipped with 4GB. Amazon claims the 2GB of storage is enough to hold 1,100 books in your local library, pointing out that additional books are stored in the cloud for free.

And when faced with complaints about the lack of audio and speech-to-text available on the Paperwhite, Amazon said it was omitted to make the device thinner and lighter. It was also quick to bring attention to the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD‘s support of both features.

Whether the Paperwhite’s issues stem from the limits of its technology or oversights by the company, we respect that Amazon has acknowledged the shortcomings of its newest device. You can read the full statement below:

Kindle Paperwhite is the best Kindle we’ve ever made by far, but there are certain limitations and changes from prior generations that we want you to know about. Kindle Paperwhite does not have audio or Text-to-Speech. This makes the device smaller and lighter than it would otherwise be. Audio and an improved Text-to-Speech engine are supported on Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD.

Under certain lighting conditions, the illumination at the bottom of the screen from the built-in light is not perfectly even. See examples of how the screen looks in different lighting conditions. These variations are normal and are located primarily in the margin where text is not present. The illumination is more even than that created by a book light or lighted cover. The contrast, resolution and illumination of the Paperwhite display is a significant step-up from our prior generation.

The Kindle Paperwhite has 2 GB of storage. Some previous Kindle models had 4GB of storage. 2GB allows you to hold up to 1,100 books locally on your device. In addition, your entire Kindle library is stored for free in the Amazon cloud, and you can easily move books from the cloud onto your device.

Do you have a Kindle Paperwhite? Have you had any issues with it or is it performing as expected?

via DigitalTrends

Say Goodnight, Gracie – The Kindle DX is Out of Stock at Amazon

nyone who has been following ereader news has probably been expecting/fearing  today’s news. the Kindle DX is only available on the Amazon website as a used device (it’s not even available as a refurb).

Amazon is no longer selling the Kindle DX, and based on their general disinterest in updating the hardware or software, I don’t expect it to come back into stock. This ereader was released in 2009, updated in 2010, and then basically ignored since then. After the price cut a few weeks ago, and now an OOS message (with no expected return date), it looks like this ereader is no longer going to be available.

Amazon first unveiled the Kndle DX in June 2009, making this 9.7″ ereader the third Kindle released as well as Amazon’s first large screen model.  This was the ereader which Amazon expected to be adopted as a textbook platform.  And in order to promote that goal, Amazon also announced that June that several major US universities were going to run pilot programs using the Kindle DX in the classroom.

Yeah, that didn’t turn out well. Amazon learned the hard way that when you pitch a product for the student market one, it needs to be usable by the visually impaired, and two, it needs to actually function adequately at its intended purpose. The Kindle DX failed on both counts.

Several lawsuits were filed in late 2009 by visually impaired students and the National Federation for the Blind. In general, the universities were faulted for failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This law specified that the disabled students were to be given equal access.  That has long been interpreted both by the NFB, the Dept of Justice, and quite a few judges to mean that schools and institutions can’t buy radical new tech if the visually impaired cannot use it. This interpretation of the ADA has long been a thorn in the side of ereader makers and it is still tripping them up. Witness the recent settlement by the Sacramento Public Library as an example of the law being enforced, and the K3 (Kindle Keyboard) as evidence of Amazon’s response to the lawsuits in 2009 (that ereader is ADA compliant).

But even if the Kindle DX had been accessible for the visually impaired, it was still not all that usable as a textbook carrying ereader. The several partner universities released reports in 2010 on their various pilot programs, and for the most part students didn’t care to use the device.

Universities as diverse as Reed CollegeUVA, and Princeton (as well as several later pilots like the one at the University of Washington) all reported that students didn’t care to use their digital textbooks on the Kindle DX. Leaving aside the difficulty in getting the text into the Kindle format so it could be used on the KDX (this isn’t nearly as much trouble now), many students found the Kindle DX generally slow to respond as well as not terribly comfortable to use.

Students commonly needed to make a lot of annotations and then access them quickly and the KDX simply couldn’t match the speed of a student with a pen  in their hand.  The students who participated in the pilot programs also reported that the Kindle DX couldn’t turn the page fast enough nor jump around inside a textbook as quickly as they needed. And then there’s the issue of having only one screen to display several textbooks for a course, but that is a problem all ereader share.

All in all, the Kindle DX turned out not to be nearly as useful as the 6″ Kindle, but I suspect it was more successful than we might think – at least, Amazon sold enough units to justify an update in 2010 and continuing to keep it in stock.

Given that this ereader debuted less than a year before the iPad, and yet managed to stick around for 3 years when most every other large screen ereader died in early to mid-2010, Amazon must have done something right.

Nevertheless, I will not mourn the passing of this ereader. I have one and the iPad (or most any Android tablet) is frankly a better value.

Goodnight Gracie.

via The Digital Reader

Nook UK Launch Delayed Until the End of the Month

It looks like my hopes that Barnes & Noble’s UK retail partners would start selling the Nook Glow last week was a tad optimistic; B&N’s UK launch has been officially delayed by 2 weeks.

The Bookseller is reporting today that B&N’s retail partners won’t be selling the hardware just yet. According to sources it was B&N who informed retailers today of the postponement, though no details have been released as to why.

The several websites I checked show an out of stock note in place of the buy buttons, with no other explanation given.

A spokesperson for B&N said: “Nook Simple Touch and Nook Simple Touch GlowLight will be available in the UK beginning in late October, in plenty of time for the Christmas shopping season. Barnes & Noble’s award-winning E Ink products will be available in leading retailers as well as”

The Nook UK launch had originally been planned for the fifteenth, but thanks to this delay UK reades will be able to buy the Kindle Paperwhite before they can buy the Nook. B&N is also going to have egg on their face because their ex-fiance Waterstones will also have the Kindle in store before the Nook will be available.

via The Digital Reader




Readmill的创始人亨利克•贝尔格伦(Henrik Berggren)与大卫•谢尔克鲁德(David Kjelkerud)都是书虫,他们对书籍的看法却不尽相同。谢尔克鲁德觉得:书本不管怎么说是冷漠且非社会化的,人们总是独自阅读;而当我们想要和别人谈论某本书时,首先得合上书本。贝尔格伦认为:即使通过电子书,以及连接到互联网的电子书和其它阅读工具似乎也并没改变什么,网上有很多的电子书服务,但却没有一个是做到了社交化的,而Readmill就是如何将书本与读者联网化的创意。

Readmill iPad版下载地址(美国区)、视频演示

社交电子书Subtext融资300万美元 阅读体验融入iPad




一些硅谷著名的风险投资机构有意愿参与投资,支持这家新创企业所做的努力。参与投资的风投机构包括:谷歌风险投资基金、梅菲尔德基金(Mayfield Fund)、创业投资基金新企业联合会(New Enterprise Associates )和Omidyar Network,他们总共向这家新创企业注入300万美元的种子资金,以期这种新型的富有创意的阅读体验能够改善电子书的面貌。

作为这项新服务的一部分,Subtext还宣布公司正在与一系列著名出版商力挺的畅销书作者合作更有效地实现读者和这些知名作者之间的互动,这些图书出版商包括哈珀柯林斯公司(HarperCollins)、法国著名图书出版商Hachette、企鹅出版集团(Penguin)、全球最大图书出版商Random House、西蒙舒斯特出版集团(Simon & Schuster)等等。

尽管Subtext书架上的第一批书单至今为止仅有18本,但并不包括Nathaniel West、Amy Stewart和 Max Barry所提供的知名插画作品。很快Subtext会有更多的图书上架。(网易科技报道  董珊珊)