Wednesday Links 2-24-10

J.K. Rowling Sued Again + Other News

Not really a full links post, but a few things caught my eye this morning. So here we go.

First of all, J.K. Rowling has been sued for plagiarism, again, hilariously. This time the plaintiff is the estate of a writer who died thirteen years ago. They claim she stole from a 36-page pamphlet called “The Adventures of Willy the Wizard.”

The entire case rests not on copied passages, but on the fact that “both Willy and Harry [are] required to solve a task as part of a contest, which they achieve in a bathroom assisted by clues from helpers.”

So, your case rests on the word “bathroom.” Good luck.

My other favorite line from that story is the estate’s PR guy (not lawyer) saying: “‘All of Willy the Wizard is in the Goblet of Fire.’” That’s a joke, right? Because “Willy” is only 36 pages long? Right?

And there’s a lot of other funny stuff in the Guardian piece. In other news:

  • Engadget reports the new iRex ereader is finally coming out, only four months late. This new model, the cutely named DR800SG, is notable because it costs less than $800, and it gives Engadget a chance to backhand the stupid Nook by calling the iRex “Barnes & Noble’s first big play in the space.” Since it has a stylus-driven touchscreen, file it under Y for Yet another reason not to get a QUE.
  • And, finally, The Rapture, one of my favorite bands, says this about their upcoming release:

“Our new album’s gonna be fucking 100 times better than the iPad,” [band member Gabe Andruzzi] jokes. “With this record you’re going to be interfacing with your soul in ways that have never happened before.”

So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

Anecdotally: Piracy Is Hurting; DRM Is Not Helping

I’ve noticed a mini-trend in the past week or two. First, in the Millions, I saw Confessions of a Book Pirate, an interview with a real, live ebook pirate, code-named “The Real Caterpillar.”

He does a little defense of piracy, which I’ll leave alone in this post, and he also has a few interesting things to say about DRM. Most importantly, he says he would pay more for an ebook without DRM and, when asked what would make him stop pirating books, he says:

I guess if every book was available in electronic format with no DRM for reasonable prices ($10 max for new/bestseller/omnibus, scaling downwards for popularity and value) it just wouldn’t be worth the time, effort, and risk to find, download, convert and load the book when the same thing could be accomplished with a single click on your Kindle.

Caterpillar also lays out the excruciating process he goes through to upload a single book, a process that involves scanning a hard copy page by page, and then proofing the scan by hand, which can take “5 to 40 hours.” Damn.

So, for pirates like Caterpillar, DRM has no stopping effect on their piracy (Caterpillar started years ago, when he couldn’t find digital copies of the books he wanted, so he’s used to scanning), and instead it’s actually a reason to keep doing it, because publishers still don’t offer “clean” copies.

And Caterpillar isn’t the only one who scans. In this summary of a panel at Digital Book World, Peter Balis says the majority of pirated ebooks are scanned galleys, manuscripts, or hard copies. This means DRM is powerless to stop widespread piracy.

From other corners, there have come cries of falling sky, from Macmillan president Brian Napack (and we all know Macmillan isn’t afraid to go to the mattresses), and from music industry group IFPI, whose latest report claims “95% of music is pirated.” That’s a grossly misleading stat, since IFPI also says that the industry has shrunk by only 30% since 2004. Evidently IFPI means 95% of albums are pirated by at least one person—and they don’t seem to know how much revenue loss piracy actually causes. Ars Technica does a pretty thorough examination/dehyperbolizing of the report here.

Still, piracy is a problem. So stipulated. But, as I’ve said for a long time, DRM is not a solution, and providing media in DRM-free formats is actually an incentive to buy it and not pirate it. The argument against DRM-free is that piracy will be easier and more widespread since pirates won’t even have to scan the books. That may be, or it may not (it didn’t happen with DRM-free music). But one thing’s for sure: DRM does not help paying customers in any way. With the iPad coming out soon—along with a whole new slew of DRM headaches—it’s a good time to remember that lesson.

If publishers (and content distributors) continue to fear a potential future threat more than they care about their present, spending, legal customers, I’m afraid I’m not going to shed many tears when major houses tell sob stories about lost revenue.

Wednesday Links 1-27-10

  • Basically, nobody wants to shut up about the new Apple tablet (supposedlydubbed the iPad–consider it nominated for this week’s dumbest new ereader name award). It’s slated to be revealed today, so I’m not going to bother parsing out the rumors. This one bit about pricing strategies and the coming battle between Apple and Amazon is interesting though. Not sure where B&N is in all this. I guess they probably shouldn’t have f-ed up the Nook launch so badly. Perhaps they are waiting for a boost from Apple? If you’re foolishish enough to get a first generation iPad (thus ignoring Apple’s track record of vastly superior second gen devices), here are some other fun uses for it.
  • It looks like Asus’s EeeReader (or are they Asustek?) will have two models. Acer’s got one running Chrome. Then there’s Mustek. And the Lenovo Tianji. And Endless Ideas has a WiFi BeBook Neo. There’s the Oppo Enjoy (dumbest name: winner). Copia is still hanging around. Even Nintendo is getting in the fray, selling romance novels on their DS. Man, the market is officially awash.
  • Amazon has quietly laxed their DRM policies. So quietly that hardly anyone has noticed. In what could be an enourmous shift, Apple will allow iTunes users to store libraries in the cloud, rather than their harddrives (hopefully it doesn’t require a .Mac subscription). Besides fighting with China, Google is also in a tiff with its old buddy Apple. This may lead to Apple dumping Google integration from their devices and adopting Bing, which is of course owned by–Mac geeks are fainting left and right over this, I’m sure–the evil Microsoft. Regardless of Google’s early success (maybe) with Android’s apps, Apple is still the undisputed ruler of App-land.
  • It’s kinda old news, but apparently colleges are being sued for using ereaders  in classrooms because blind students can’t use them. How using a braille edition to supplement a Kindle (which reads books–poorly–out loud) is less fair than if the other students use deadtree, I do not understand. It won’t help the blind, but if you’ve no backlight on your ereader and can’t figure out how to turn on your lamp, try this dongle. This Boogie Board doodle toy isn’t an ereader (and probably isn’t much use to anyone not a basketball coach) but it does seem pretty cool, and uses no power at that.
  • We’ll be posting on Friday about some of the many changes we have planned for our second year. There’s a lot of good stuff planned, and we’ll be getting bigger and better as time goes on. Check back Friday for that.
  • I really like this comic explaining proper semicolon use; there’s also one for the apostrophe. Also at The Oatmeal, the best Twilight review I’ve yet read (yes, I read the books). Everyone in this school district should be given a lobotomy. And Scholastic Surprise! should chill on this one and use their noggins. Finally, Farmville is stupid (no link, just spouting the truth).

The Problem of Providing Digital Content; Or, How to Solve Publishing’s Problem

I recently got an Android phone; among the apps I’ve discovered are two content providers that have radically different (but equally flawed) philosophies on distribution.

One (i Music) lets you download mp3s for free, the other (TV.com) lets you watch really bad CBS shows, but not the good ones…

So what does TV.com get wrong? What’s the catch with i Music? What are these content providers doing wrong, and how are they actually encouraging piracy? How does all this apply to books and what’s a simple, one-step solution to it? All that and more, after the jump.
Continue reading »

Wednesday Links: 12-30-09

Here’s our last links update of the decade. First though, we’ve updated our eReader Comparison page as well as our Best Ways to Get eBooks, so check them out. Both will be seeing quite a few more updates in the coming weeks and months as much is happening with ereaders and ebook sellers. In fact, we’ve got a lot of changes planned for C4 in the near future as well; we’ll be posting on many of them at some point in January. Also, be sure to check out our Best Books of 2009 series if you haven’t already. We’ll be continuing the series through January.

Wednesday Links: 12-23-09

We’ll have some Christmas reading recos tomorrow, and then we’ll be back on the 28th with a new installment of our Best Books 2009 series.

In the meantime, here’s an extra-long installment of news about books and ebooks from around the web.

  • OverDrive released an Android audiobook app Monday (via). You can get it here. I’ve tried it, and it’s awesome. You can download mp3 audiobooks from you local library straight to your phone. Once you have the app installed, just check out the book from your library on your phone’s browser, and OverDrive automatically loads it. You can then download the audiobook in parts. Transferring audiobooks from your computer isn’t supported with Android devices (at least, on Macs)—it goes through iTunes for some reason—but it’s not necessary. This is still in beta, but I didn’t get so much as a hiccup in my few days using it. The Android app only works with mp3s—no WMA books (sadly, since the vast majority are WMAs, for now)—and an OverDrive smartphone app is also available for Windows Mobile.
  • Barnes & Noble’s Nook is turning out to be more popular than they’d expected. More news of shipping delays has surfaced, along with customer service snafus. Although, if you don’t get your Nook by Christmas, you get $100, so things could be worse. Meanwhile, switch11 at the Kindle Review has posted a quick hands-on comparison of the Nook and the Kindle. If you can’t guess from the title of his blog, switch11 leans heavily toward the Kindle in ereader comparisons; however, he seemed to like the Nook, especially for its clearer font. Personally, the features and mixed reviews of the Nook, combined with the hamfistedness of its rollout, have me more excited for Spring Design’s Alex ereader, which—so far—seems a lot like the Nook, only better. Maybe this update will help. (Update: it didn’t help much.)
  • Macworld has reviewed seven major ereadersfind the roundup here. Surprisingly, their favorite was the Sony PRS-600, the Touch. They dinged the PRS-300—which you can get extra-cheap these days if you’re a student or teacher—for not having a dictionary or image support. If you don’t care about those things and you read mostly novels, the 300′s your best bet, in my opinion. Macworld finds the Kindle’s controls kludgy, and while whispernet’s great, you’re going to be spending most of your time reading, not downloading books.
  • Here’s a couple of anti-DRM pieces. One by Cory Doctorow (via), one by switch11 (see above). Also, David Pogue’s DRM experiment has found (unscientifically) that lack of DRM has no effect on sales. And, the scary Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement threatens to be a DMCA for the whole world (that’s bad).

Continue reading »

Barnes & Noble eReader Device Revealed (sort of)

There have been a bunch of images and rumors floating around over the weekend about the soon-to-be released Barnes & Noble ereader device, and they’re some pretty slick images and rumors.

If all is to be believed, the machine–maybe named the Athena–is designed by former Apple designers (who also worked on the original Kindle?) and will feature two screens on a single plane. The main screen is black and white, utilizing E-Ink, and the second, smaller, navigation/data entry screen features full color multitouch LCD.

Pretty awesome and innovative. Such a combination could possibly obviate a lot of the discussions on the disparities between the various  ereaders’ screens in the current generation.  The machine supposedly runs on Google’s Android OS, meaning it could stand well above the rest in the firmware department as well.

Barnes & Noble has been selling ebooks at competitive prices in eReader format for some months now. They are clearly aiming to take a big bite out of the Kindle’s (not entirely deserved) pie. No word yet on whether they will take a similar propritary format approach as their competetion, but it would definitely be interesting if the device remians open to other formats (particulary if it can handle library books).

There will be a press conference on Tuesday–most likely a full, official reveal with specs. We’ll know more then. Check back later in the week for the skinny.

via BrighthandDVICE, BusinessWeek, Gizmodo

Wednesday Links 10-7-2009

  • After a week off, let’s get right to business. First: ereaders. Best Buy and Verizon are teaming up on one of the competitively priced iRex models. Read more here. The Hexaglot supposedly will have handwriting recognition, which would be awesome, if a little unnecessary, if it worked. Despite appearances, the Biblio is not primarily a phone, and the Cybook Opus finally ships. How much will you bet the AUO will be a POS with broken firmware and cheap plastic?




Wednesday Links 9-2-2009

While Nico’s on hiatus, we’ll try our best to keep up with the Wednesday links. We’ve been having some techinical troubles so far this week, so I’ve kept this one short (since I was worried I might not even be able to post it). Bear with us while we work out the kinks: we can’t all be all-star internet scourers of Nico’s caliber.