Amazon Prime subscribers now have free ebooks, magazines and more with Prime Reading

If you have been looking for one more reason to become an Amazon Prime subscriber, the newly launched Prime Reading feature could just be the clincher. Prime Reading gives US subscribers access to a library of free Kindle ebooks, magazines, comics and other publications completely free of charge. At the moment Amazon is proclaiming there are “over a thousand popular books”, but there is also the promise of exclusive content. In addition to books, Prime Reading provides access to “a rotating selection of fresh, full issues of top magazines”. Amazon is quick to point out that a Kindle device is… [Continue Reading]

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Hyphen is nearly the best DRM-free ePub reader available for iOS

Why does iOS have so many good plain-vanilla DRM-free ePub reading applications? I already checked out Marvin, whose latest version carries on the tradition of offering a remarkable number of features in a single application. Now I’ve had a look at Hyphen, which is very nearly as good.
Hyphen is available in a free trial version, which limits you to reading the single book you just added, or a full version for $2.99. It’s certainly a worthwhile purchase at the price. My one reservation is that Marvin may make it a touch redundant.
I suppose it just goes to show how impressed I was by Marvin that while I was reading with Hyphen, I kept catching myself thinking, “That’s just like Marvin” or “That’s almost as good as Marvin.” For starters, you can add e-books to the device from Apple’s Cloud Drive, Dropbox, or Google Drive, just as with Marvin. (Though you

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Windows 10 e-reader app review: Nook reader

nook-starting-screenGiven that we’re now in the age of Windows 10, it seemed like a good time to take a look at the Nook universal Windows app. The last time I reviewed the Nook e-reader apps was all the way back in 2011, and a remarkable amount has changed since then.

I’ve had mixed luck with Barnes & Noble’s e-books through the years, but I used to be a regular customer—early on I figured I might as well keep buying from Nook, since it already had (most of) the books I’d bought from eReader and Fictionwise. As a result, I still have nearly 200 titles in my Barnes & Noble library, and I might as well be able to keep reading them.

Downloading the app is simple enough: just click or tap on the Windows logo shopping bag on your status bar to open the Windows Store, then type “Nook” in the search box and it pops right up. (It calls itself “Nook for Windows 8 v1.9,” but it works just fine on Windows 10.) Downloading and installing it is just as simple as installing any Windows universal app.

As with any universal Windows app, Nook will work with both PCs and Windows mobile devices, though since I don’t have a Windows mobile device I can only review how it looks on my desktop.

Launching the app brings up a multi-paned page with access to your library, or you can scroll the screen to the right (with your finger, or your mouse scroll wheel) to access several panes of Nook Store shopping options. Clicking on the title to any of these panes drills down into another screen with more options. For example, clicking on “My Library: View All” opens a broader view of your library, where you can click on “All,” “Books,” or “My Files” to view different sections. You can also sideload your own EPUB files from directories on your computer.

nook-textOnce you’ve chosen a book, it opens up a view of the text. You can page forward and back using the scroll wheel, or right-click on it to bring up the menu bars with options to access various bookmarking, annotation, or formatting functions. You can also left-click on words to highlight or annotate them. If you compare the photo here to the ones of the old PC app in my earlier review, you’ll note it looks a lot more polished by comparison. It might not be Google’s Material Design, but it nonetheless does look like it belongs in Windows 10.

nook-menu-barsOn a related note, it looks like I might owe the old Nook PC app an apology. In my earlier review, I complained that the Nook reader put blank lines between the paragraphs as well as the indentation—but now that I check again, I find the Young Wizards book I reviewed at the time still opens with the excess blank lines, whereas other books don’t. It turns out that was the fault of the e-book file, not the software itself.

nook-fontsThe formatting options available in the “Text” menu are pretty good. The menu is a lot more like those on mobile apps rather than Windows apps now—you no longer choose font size by point, but from a row of different-sized letters. There are options for line spacing, margin width, number of columns (from 1 to 4, or automatic based on font size), font, and theme. There aren’t too many fonts available, but it has my favorite reading font of “Georgia,” so I’m happy.

One area where the formatting options have backslid is that there is no longer any way to disable full justification, and there’s no automatic hyphenation. The books don’t look too bad on a desktop-sized screen all the same, though.

Turning pages is swift and responsive; the text slides left or right to move to the next or previous set of pages. The text find function is fast and snappy, too. I could see using this to read my Nook titles or my own EPUBs and not feeling too boxed-in by a lack of choices. In fact, it actually has more formatting options than the Adobe Digital Editions I normally use for reading EPUBs on my desktop—and unlike ADE, its user-interface gets out of the way when I don’t need it.

That said, it does have one more annoying aspect. The Nook app is full-screen-mode only. You can’t restore it down to take up only part of the screen, and you can’t move it from one monitor to another—not even using the shortcut of Windows key plus arrow that works on just about everything else. It remains stuck to your primary display. If you right-click at the top of the screen where the title bar should be to bring up the movement options, everything but “Minimize” and “Close” is greyed out.

There’s no particular reason why this should have to be the case. I’d guess it was because the app has to work on both tablets and desktops, but other Windows universal apps such as Netflix and Hulu restore down and move from screen to screen just fine. Maybe it’s because it’s a Windows 8 app rather than Windows 10?

Finally, it’s worth noting that this app will still let you get around Barnes & Noble’s annoying decision to disallow downloading its e-book files. Finding where it actually puts them took some doing. It turns out to keep them in the hidden directory C:Users[Username]appdatalocalpackagesBarnesNoble.Nook_ahnzqzva31encLocalState, and it names them by seemingly-random series of letters and numbers. (So if you’re looking for a specific one, you have to go by the date and time you downloaded it.) Also, if the titles had DRM on them on the Nook store, they’ll still have it after you download them. But if you have some reason for wanting to have access to those files all the same, well, there they are. (Just be sure not to do anything illegal with them!)

In the end, the Barnes & Noble Nook Windows app offers a reasonable EPUB-reading experience, especially if you’re one of the Fictionwise/eReader early adopters who ended up with titles in your Nook library that you never bought from Barnes & Noble. And given that it’s free, if you’re running Windows 10 you might as well install it and try it out. Some of the reviews on the Windows Store note it has problems running on Microsoft Surface tablets, but it works fine on the desktop for me.

The post Windows 10 e-reader app review: Nook reader appeared first on TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond.

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The OCLC officially sunsets its library card catalog program

cardcatLibraries just reached a milestone yesterday. In some ways it’s a sad one, but in other ways it’s one that you would honestly have expected to have been reached years ago. As found on Facebook, and confirmed via the OCLC’s official catalog cards page, as of September 30, 2015, the OCLC ended support for physical paper catalog cards—it will no longer be printing or sending them out.

If you’re like me, you’re probably scratching your head in wonderment at the idea anyone actually still used those cards—even small public libraries now have access to computerized cataloging systems. But for a service as basic as that, you pretty much have to continue providing access to it long past the time most would have switched over, because some might still be using it.

But that’s over now. If anyone still is using physical cards, as of today they will have to make up cards for each new book themselves. Or else maybe they’ll finally have to get around to putting in a computer system.

Of course, we still have some way to go before e-books push out paper books in the same way, if in fact they ever actually do. But at least you can rest secure in the knowledge that the closest thing library science has to a cataloging standards body has now left the last vestiges of paper cataloging behind.

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Seeking Alpha contributor: Barnes & Noble not doomed after all

Barnes-NobleJust how much trouble is Barnes & Noble really in?

It seems to be in a good deal of it. We haven’t covered it that much lately on TeleRead, but Nate mentioned on The Digital Reader in the last couple of weeks that its revenues and losses were down last quarter, and that while it claims it’s still “considering” closing stores, it actually is closing stores.

But not so fast. An article on investor-advice site Seeking Alpha suggests that looks can be deceiving. The author, who goes by the handle “12 Quarters,” states that he is long on Barnes & Noble (that is to say, he invests in favor of B&N gaining rather than losing money), and proceeds to explain why. (The article is behind a free-registration wall, but I’ve found Seeking Alpha to be worth the registration.)

The explanation is a bit overfull of financial jargon, but given that it’s used mainly in supporting his contentions, you can get the gist from context without worrying too much about it. If there’s some term you want to know more about, I suggest checking a financial encyclopedia like Investopedia for definitions.

12 Quarters thinks that the profitability of the B&N stores is still very good. B&N has closed some of its weaker stores, which has served to cut into revenue, but it’s also increased its cash flow, which is what really matters. And 12 Quarters notes that the number of all brick and mortar bookstores has actually increased over the last 5 years, suggesting that people aren’t through with paper books just yet. This bodes well for B&N’s future, as it’s basically the only major nationwide bookstore chain left. Amazon might be king of the hill digitally, but B&N still has the real-world catbird seat.

The weaker part of the B&N business is the Nook division, which has been a money sink over the last few years. But B&N has been acting to rationalize that division—that is, reorganize it to increase efficiency and cut the money loss—with moves such as shifting Nook from a hardware to a software business and outsourcing it to third parties rather than try to make tablets itself. But 12 Quarters’s more interesting contention is still to come.

Secondly, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that there is no reason to be in the e-book business at all.

For example, as mentioned previously, independent bookstores have been growing in recent years, and they don’t have digital platforms. Secondly, consumer research indicates that popularity of e-books peaked several years ago and has been trending down. People are simply over-screened, and they prefer a physical book during their leisure time.

I think Mr. or Ms. Quarters is oversimplifying the point here. It’s not that e-books’ popularity has been “trending down.” It’s that the amount of popularity they’re gaining has slowed. Their popularity isn’t increasing as fast as it was, but it’s still increasing. More people are still adopting e-books every day, it’s just that not as many more of them are doing so as before. Even if some publishers reported a percentage point or two decrease in e-book revenue last year, that doesn’t necessarily bespeak a downward trend. There’s certainly no sign that there’s a mass movement to give e-books up, which is what would be necessary for their popularity to “trend down” even if no new users were picking them up!

But we can let that pass. Whether more or fewer people are adopting e-books is largely beside the point, because if more of them are, most of them are doing it via Amazon, and Barnes & Noble’s best attempts to compete for e-book share with Amazon have obviously not been good enough. (And its weird decisions on matters like changing up its DRM and cutting off downloading and sideloading e-books haven’t helped.) So it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other, and we’ll cede 12 the points that the Nook division’s performance has been rotten so far, and people are still interested enough in paper books to come out to the paper bookstores.

It’s interesting to contrast this with Mike Shatzkin’s recent discussion of the problems with Barnes & Noble and the Nook. Shatzkin thinks the biggest problem is that B&N simply hasn’t been using its dot-com and Nook knowledge to benefit the stores the way it could have. For example, it could use its customer database to look up and email customers who’ve bought books by a given author and let them know the author will be doing a signing in their area, and perhaps get some promotional money from the publisher in return for doing that kind of thing.

12 Quarters thinks that, as an ostensibly “rational actor,” B&N owner Len Riggio will not continue to throw bad money after good, especially after he just bought another million shares in the open market. Therefore, 12 Quarters predicts, the Nook division will either find some way to break even or be eliminated altogether within the next couple of years.

The rest of 12 Quarters’s arguments don’t have as much to do with e-books. He brings up various opportunities members of B&N’s board have had to be influenced by investors who make copious use of stock buybacks, and thinks that such a buyback could be a recipe for recovery for the bookstore side of B&N’s business if it can deal with the Nook money pit. He notes that such buybacks have rescued companies such as Best Buy, GameStop, and Outerwall that were previously thought to be goners but have since doubled in price.

12 Quarters concludes with several paragraphs of financial jargon to suggest that a buyback would be relatively easy and could drive stock price as high as $30 a share. He sums up:

If that seems aggressive, that is fine. The point here is that the margin of safety is HUGE for patient investors. At this point, an investment in BKS is not an investment in a struggling bookstore chain, but rather an investment in human nature. All that needs to happen is that the owner operator wants to maximize his own wealth through buybacks. That is a bet that I make with a smile.

Now, sometimes these investment sites’ advice articles aren’t worth the electrons they’re printed on. If I had a nickel for every “short Amazon and sooner or later you’ll be right” article I’ve seen on Seeking Alpha, I would be independently wealthy. And I lack the financial expertise necessary to evaluate 12 Quarters’s contentions with the fullness they deserve. Still, the non-jargonistic sides of his arguments make some sense. It’s going to be interesting to see what they do with the Nook division in years to come.

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AP Stylebook comes to e-book format

1-2015-ap-stylebookThe AP Stylebook is a singularly important newsroom resource, used in English-language newspapers and magazines all over the world to provide guidelines on things like whether to hyphenate “email” and a zillion other formatting niceties that no one person can ever remember all of. With that being the case, it’s a little surprising it’s taken as long as it has for an e-book version to come out, but it finally has. (A PDF version has been available for a while, but that’s really barely an e-book at all.)

For just $9.99 on Kindle, or presumably other digital platforms, you can now own a fully “interactive e-book” edition of the 2015 AP Stylebook. While the article isn’t clear on exactly what makes the e-book “interactive” and whether it is any more so than a regular e-book, even having it as a regular e-book means that it can now be text-searched. And at least a digital version will be more manageable than that annoying spiral binding.

Sadly, you’ll have to re-buy the book once it hits its 2016 edition, as it gets updated every year. But $10 for such a resource isn’t bad.

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How long should a book chapter be?

How long are your chapters (Poll)The answers from writers on KBoards are all over the map. But the sweet spot from 53 respondents to the poll seems to be 1,000-3,000 words. Three-fifths of the answers fall into that range. Try clicking or double-clicking or tapping on the image for a better view of the numbers after you open up the full post.

So what are your own thoughts on the chapter length issue? I say it, “It depends.” For a D.C. suspense novel, I used chapters much shorter than I did for some nonfiction books on the computer industry.

Now here’s a related question. Are chapters shorter these days than in the past, because readers’ attention spans aren’t as long? I suspect so.

Detail: Yes, we want TeleRead community members to be able to click on links from posts as displayed on the home page. An eventual fix is on our to-do list.

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