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Nate Hoffelder

Nate Hoffelder auf Twitter.

Morning Coffee 18 January 2021

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.

My Sunday Morning Reading List

This Sunday morning finds me reorganizing my RSS feeds so I can make better use of the limited time I can devote to blogging.

As I was getting caught up on the several thousand items in my RSS feed, I noticed that there were 4 or 5 blogs which I was loath to simply skip. After some thought I realized that this constituted my "read for pleasure list", and I thought it would be fun to share it with you.

In no particular order, those blogs are:

1. Making Book

I frequently do not see eye to eye with Rich Hollick when it comes to publishing matters, but I do enjoy reading his posts on book publishing ephemera and minutiae.

2. Plagiarism Today

Jonathan Bailey’s blog is a great source for both links to IP stories I need to read as well as in-depth analysis of current trends. (I really need to visit more often.)

3. Awful Library Books

Run by librarians, this blog is one of my secret pleasures.  Each post focused on a book so terrible or so out of date that it deserves to be weeded from public libraries. I often buy copies of these books just to have them on my shelves simply because they make me laugh.

4. Book of Joe

Remember back when there were many many bloggers each posting about what interested them? Many of those bloggers have since moved to Twitter and other social networks, but Joe is still publishing blog posts.

5. Kristine Kathryn Rusch

If you know publishing, then you have to have heard of Kris Rusch. She is a veteran author and publisher, and her weekly posts on the business of publishing are a must-read.

image by RG in TLV via Flickr

Connecticut is Investigating Amazon’s eBook Business

When I reported last Thursday that a class-action suit had been filed against Amazon, accusing them of conspiring with publishers, I apparently had missed that the state of Conn. is pursuing its own investigation.

That have not released specifics, alas:

The probe is one of many into the e-commerce platform’s business practices. Amazon is also under investigation by the attorneys general in New York, California and Washington state and the Federal Trade Commission.

“Connecticut has an active and ongoing antitrust investigation into Amazon regarding potentially anticompetitive terms in their e-book distribution agreements with certain publishers,” Attorney General William Tong said in a statement to Reuters.

The probe comes as technology platforms face a backlash in the United States and across the world, fueled by concerns among regulators, lawmakers and consumer groups that firms have too much power and are harming users and business rivals.

While this does raise my hopes that the agency contracts will be broken, I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that there’s a case here. This is not nearly the same situation as when news broke of the price-fixing conspiracy involving Apple and five publishers. It was patently obvious to bystanders at the time that the Price Fix Six had conspired, but we have no similar evidence now. (Frankly, publishers hate Amazon too much to enter into a conspiracy with the retailer.)

I would love to be proven wrong, but at this point we have no reason to expect that to happen.


image by ActuaLitté via Flickr

Amazon Sued Over Its Dominance of the eBook Market (Finally)

News broke this week that Amazon is being sued for colluding with five major publishers to inflate prices. The case was filed by the same law firm that lead the lawsuit against the Price Fix Six back in 2011.

The law firm of Hagens Berman is accusing the world’s largest retailer of colluding to artificially inflate the retail price of e-books through anticompetitive agreements with the nation’s five largest book publishers.

This is a fancy way of saying that the Agency 2.0 contracts, which gave publishers control over their ebook prices, were negotiated conspiratorially, and that the MFN clauses in those contracts illegally helped keep Amazon in a dominant position in the US ebook market.

This case has been well-covered elsewhere, so I will merely link to various sources before getting into a discussion.

Here’s the biggest problem with this lawsuit:

Five independently negotiated contracts does not a conspiracy make.

That, folks, is the Achilles heel of this lawsuit. I agree that consumers were harmed by these contracts, yes, but this lawsuit makes a big deal about a conspiracy without presenting any evidence that Amazon conspired.

Sure, that information could come out later, but it probably does not exist. Amazon is well-known for keeping its negotiations so secret that parties are not even allowed to talk about the process, much less the terms agreed to or the information exchanged.

And these lawyers think Amazon conspired with publishers?

Pull the other one, it has bells on.

Furthermore, while I want this lawsuit to be decided in favor of consumers, it probably won’t result in the contracts getting tossed. That is my desired goal, but I don’t see it happening. (Unless of course Amazon also wants the contracts thrown out, so it settles the suit and switches sides in the lawsuit.)

In any case, we are in for a very entertaining 6 to 8 months.

image by luckypines via Flickr

The Book Designer Blog Has Been Sold

The Book Designer is a blog which most authors should know. Founded by Joel Friedlander, this blog has been around for over ten years now, and in that time it has dispensed sage advice from dozens of experts (including myself).

For the past couple years I have been an occasional contributor to The Book Designer, which is how I found out that The Book Designer was sold just before Christmas. This has not yet been publicly announced (and I don’t know why not) but I just learned that Chandler Bolt bought it.

I can’t really say I know Chandler, but I have interacted with his staff at Self-Publishing School. A few times now, we have talked about a guest post, but so far nothing has jelled. I am not terribly familiar with that site (it’s way out of my price range) but I did find a couple reviews.

Update: Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware tweeted this when I told her the news. She also directed me to BBB complaints about Bolt’s school.

If you’ve worked with Chandler Bolt, or used his Self-Publishing School, I would love to hear about your experiences.

No plans have been announced for  the future of The Book Designer, but I do know that publication of new blog posts has been suspended for the time being (I had a guest post scheduled for 4 January).

Edit: I have been asked to clarify the sale:

FYI – just to clarify, Book Design Templates and Author Toolkits were not a part of the sale to Chandler Bolt of the Self-Publishing School and both remain under the ownership and control of Joel Friedlander and Tracy Atkins.


Best Buy is Now Using Spectra E-ink Shelf Labels

I was in Best Buy this morning, buying a  new laptop when I happened to notice that the store now had digital product labels decorating the shelves.

Best Buy has bought a shelf label system from a company called Pricer, and deployed labels in the 2″ and 4.2″ size. The larger sizes uses a 3-color Spectra E-ink screen (red, black and white), but I can’t say for sure whether the smaller shelf labels uses that screen or just a regular E-ink screen.

One thing I can tell you is that the screens are not as high of a resolution as on your Kindle; the smaller text on the 4.2″ screen was almost illegible due to fuzziness.

But even so, it was pretty cool to see digital shelf labels in widespread adoption. I had almost give up hope of seeing them in the stores I visit. Honestly, despite the obvious advantages (reduced labor, faster turnaround, etc) for a while there it had seemed like retailers had decided to pass on the tech.

Morning Coffee – 11 January 2021

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.

Dasung is Working on a 25″ E-ink Monitor

Dasung is quietly famous for developing an E-ink monitor with a 13.3″ screen, and over the years they have released new models with incremental improvements.

Now they are making a huge change, and I do mean huge. I was just reading over on Notebook Italia that Dasung has a new model in the works.

The Dasung Paperlike 253 is a computer monitor with a 25.3″ E=ink display. Its screen resolution measures an impressive 3200 x 1800, and it will have a frontlight when it ships sometime this year.

The price has not been announced, but I do know it will come with a full-size HDMI port and a VESA mount.

If you want to get one, you better start saving up now. The 13″ Paperlike sold for $1,000, so this one will likely cost significantly more (the screens are unbelievably expensive).


1,172-Character Japanese Typewriter (video)

The average typewriter had up to 40 keys and could type around 60 characters.

Originally made in Japan in the late 1940s, the Toshiba Typewriter Model BW-2112 had over 1,000 characters in three different languages (Japanese, English, and Chinese).

One would assume it was intended for typing out official documents in occupied Japan, but that is just a guess.

It is cool, though.

via Book of Joe

Netronix Sends 6.8″ eReader Through FCC

Christmas came late this year, but I have a present for you. I just got an email notification that a new ereader cleared the FCC. This ereader was built by Netronix, but carries the brand MobiScribe, and according to the manual, it is called the Origin.

The Origin features a 6.8″ screen with a frontlight that offers color-changing, contrast, and brightness settings. (There’s also a 4th setting which I have not figured out). In addition to the capacitive touchscreen, this ereader also ha a Wacomstylus.

According to the test results, the Origin has Wifi but not Bluetooth. The internal photos show that it is a chip for the stylus, but it’s hard to make out the CPU or RAM.

Virtually all the interesting details were left visible to the public, so I would love it if you would take a look and tell me if you spotted something I missed.


Morning Coffee 3 January 2021

Here are a few stories to read this first Monday in 2021.

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.

NetGalley Has Been Hacked

NetGalley sent out an email today (and put a notice on their home page) informing users that the e-galley service has been hacked on Monday. The hackers defaced the NetGalley home page, and they also may have made off with a backup copy of the NetGalley database.

Here’s the text of the email, which can also be found on the NetGalley website. (There’s also an FAQ.)

Dear NetGalley Member,

It is with great regret that we inform you that on Monday, December 21, 2020 NetGalley was the victim of a data security incident. What initially seemed like a simple defacement of our homepage has, with further investigation, resulted in the unauthorized and unlawful access to a backup file of the NetGalley database.

It is with an abundance of caution that we wanted to let you know this incident may have exposed some of the information you have shared with NetGalley.

The backup file that was impacted contained your Profile information, which includes your login name and password, name and email address. Also, if supplied by you, your mailing address, birthday, company name, and Kindle email address. We currently have no evidence of the exposure of any of this data, but we cannot at this stage rule out the possibility. We expect that you may have many additional questions–below are the questions we would have if we received this email.

Please be assured that we take the security of our members' information very seriously and we sincerely regret that this incident occurred. We immediately reviewed our security standards and just implemented further means to protect your data. The next time you sign in you will be prompted to change your password.

We appreciate your understanding, and thank you for your support. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have other concerns. We wanted to provide you with this information as soon as possible, but like most companies, our team will be offline during the holidays–we will absolutely be available to answer your questions on December 28th. We hope you have a wonderful holiday.

All best,
The NetGalley Team


Morning Coffee – 21 December 2020

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.

  • AP tried to do an end of year overview of the book publishing industry, but neglected to venture outside of Manhattan. 
  • Alan Dean Foster isn’t the only author who is being cheated by Disney. The juicy details are paywalled, but the authors who wrote the novelizations for the original Star Wars trilogy have come forward with similar stories. 
  • I wrote a post on how to write the Q&A part of a Twitter chat
  • LitHub has a great deep dive into why the book publishing industry is so white

P.S. If you need a tech VA or help with your website, email me at [email protected] Got a story that I should include in next week’s list? Shoot me an email.

Xiaomi Mi Reader Pro Up For Pre-Order – $168, 7.8″ Screen

The Chinese gadget company Xiaomi  has just launched a crowdfunding campaign for their next ereader.

The crowdfunding site is in Chinese, with all the text embedded in images, so it is kinda ahrd to discern many details. But I do know the Mi Reader Pro features a 7.8″ Carta E-ink dispaly with color-changing frontlight. It’s powered by a quadcore CPU with 2GB RAM and 32GB internal storage.

Th graphics also suggest that the Mi Reader Pro can pair with a smartphone, and that it supports standard office formats. GSMArena reports that it runs Android Oreo 8.1 and comes with both Wifi and Bluetooth. You can even use voice search to find and open ebooks, although that is probably only available in Chinese.

The price is listed at 1099 CNY, or about $168 USD.