2012年10月14日

To be honest, I don’t really have much to say about Justin Hollander’s anti-ebooks op-ed that showed up in the New York Times on Tuesday. But because its main focus was Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s recent proclamation that “over the next few years, [paper] textbooks should be obsolete,” I figured it was an essay the e-book community should probably pay attention to.

Hollander is an assistant professor of urban and environmental policy and planning at Tufts University, and to be fair, his piece isn’t necessarily anti-ebooks per se. Instead, he’s arguing for the superiority of paper textbooks over their digital cousins.

“Digital-learning technologies, like e-readers and multimedia Web sites … certainly have their place,” Hollander writes. ”But Secretary Duncan is threatening to light a bonfire to a tried-and-true technology — good old paper — that has been the foundation for one of the great educational systems on the planet. And while e-readers and multimedia may seem appealing, the idea of replacing an effective learning platform with a widely hyped but still unproven one is extremely dangerous.”

I’d say it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that digital books are “still unproven.” But ultimately, Hollander’s essay makes a good (if cliched and overused) point: When advancements in new technologies lead us to discard the old ways of doing things, we often come to regret it. And while Hoffman probably is guilty of making way too much out of a couple sentences uttered at a press club, the point he makes may eventually lead to a conversation that’s very much worth having. As the omnipresence of e-books continues to grow and grow, for instance, perhaps we should be having more conversations about the importance of “good old paper.”

I don’t know. What do you think?

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By Dan Eldridge

via TeleRead

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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

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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

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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

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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 www.nook.co.uk.”

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

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2012年10月6日

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Readmill为用户提供了一个社交数字阅读平台。位于柏林的创业公司Readmill近日升级了其社交电子书阅读平台,为供书商和读者提供了一些基于云服务的应用体验。具体说来,这家公司为Readmill阅读器增加了两个新的特点,可以让那些从独立出版商和零售商那里购买图书的读者获得和从亚马逊、苹果购买图书一样的用户体验。同时,该公司还表示目前已经募集到一大笔资金。

作为一款提供社交数字阅读体验的产品,Readmill可以让用户高亮电子书的某些部分。通过评论和转发与朋友分享讨论,同时可以为想同步高亮章节的Kindle用户提供书签功能。当用户看到一本想读的书时,还可以将其标记为“想读”。新特征包括“书库”功能,可以让用户上传电子书到云服务器,随时随地下载到应用程序中进行阅读。另外,“发送到Readmill”功能可以让用户把已购买的电子书发送到他们的账号。除了这两个新特征,Readmill同时还宣布和一系列的独立电子书书店包括Leanpub、Readlists、Free-ebook、Publit等达成了合作协议。

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


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