Print vs Ebooks: confusing and irrelevant?

A confusing picture of whether 'traditional' or ebooks are winning the 'format war' is further cluttered by a report about slowing Kindle sales.The report(paywall) by the Sunday Times, revisited by theMail Online, suggests that traditional books are now on the rise as ebook sales fall. The news is backed by word of an 8.9 percent increase in paperback sales, and a fall of 7.5 percent in ebooks (in the United States).

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Alexi - 'appy finding your next book?


Picking your next book is always a tricky task...unless you've just finished To Kill A Mockingbird... But anyway, could an app called Alexi - brainchild of Andrew Kidd and Ayesha Karim (former employees of literary agents Aitken Alexander) - be a true path to literary discovery?

Sure there's the excellent What Should I Read Next?, Goodreads Suggestion Shelf, and several other options. But do any of them offer a slickly designed, inspiring curator-led approach? Kidd thinks not.

Alexi's proposition is an intriguing one. It isn't simply a stylised interface hiding a mammoth collection of digitised titles. Authors and thinkers such as Ali Smith, David Mitchell, John le Carré and Sarah Hall on board. Contacted by Kidd himself to be involved as Alexi curators. They will provide suggested reading lists, and you can follow whoever you prefer.

This is Alexi at its heart. And Kidd wants people to trust that a solution for readers' next book quandary can be found in curated, smartly guided, suggestions. And not an unguided wealth of content:

Subscription is an interesting experiment in digitising content and it makes sense that people would attempt to build a Spotify for books. Book subscription services are vast digital libraries. From a reader’s point of view that is just presenting them with another problem, rather than a solution.

Ah yes, the subscription. The app, currently in beta, can be downloaded for free (devised for iPhone, with iPad and Android versions planned) and offers users a one month 'window'. During this time recommendations can be added to a reader's personal list, and can be read at no cost for as long as the reader remains a member. But there is a cost.

After the free month's use is up, users will need to pay a weekly fee which Kidd says will be "less than a Sunday newspaper or a cup of coffee". That seems fair, but is Alexi worth getting excited about? Authors and publishers seem to think so.

Authors, Kidd reports, are happy to foster engagement with great writing (good, good!). Publishers meanwhile see the app as a "fantastic way to unlock the backlist".

Hmm, we're going to say Alexi is definitely one to watch. It might not always best a bookshop browse or a friendly recommendation. But in a digital world driving instant-engagement, an app offering new book discoveries seems an excellent idea

We really hope Alexi pulls it off.

Amazon launches new Kindle Paperwhite

Ah a new Kindle Paperwhite.

The Kindle is without doubt the ebook market's leading e-reader. So what can Amazon do to press its advantage further, and develop the line? Target tablets and improve the specs.

With the proliferation of mobile devices, more and more of us are tempted to read on iOS or Android-powered tablets. Amazon knows this. But while tablets are really 'jacks of all', the Kindle's aim is to merely 'master of one'.

The key advantage of the Kindle line is glare-free reading. This isn't new, but Amazon has upped the screen resolution in the new model for even easier reading.

As well, the new Kindle Paperwhite work with Amazon's 'Bookerly' font, and a newly conjured typesetting engine to help address everything from character spacing and hyphenation to reading speed and eye strain.

It's a small improvement then - but easier reading can't be a bad thing. If you're in the market for a new Kindle (and can wait until June 30th) the product page can be found here.

Mills & Boon hotel 'The Chatsfield' launches

Mills & Boon publisher Harlequin has launched an intriguing online extension to the series' scandalous world - in the shape of a digital hotel, The Chatsfield.

We'll admit we're perhaps not the biggest followers of the series, but both fans and the curious should check out what is an interesting undertaking by the publisher. And one aiming to deliver "the next chapter in storytelling".

That line comes from Harlequin's UK MD, Tim Cooper, as The Chatsfield seeks to deliver an engaging expansion of the Mills & Boon world through a unraveling three month story. And explaining the launch, Cooper adds:

Women are engaging evermore with on-going characters and wanting to interact and learn more about them and are consuming content in different formats across different platforms. So I looked to create an intersection between our series publishing programme and other media.”

The site will act as the home for all manner of  scandal, delivered through a mix of multimedia linked to social media, uncovering a plot involving over 800 bits of content about a hotel which is rich in style, luxury and your typical Mills & scandal.

If that sounds right up your street get over to the site, perhaps 'check in' and enjoy the experience. If it doesn't, you may return to your favoured genre or series.

But before you do, it is worth noting that Harlequin's move is a noteworthy attempt to expand the fictional into the digital; potentially offering many fans another way to connect to their favoured titles. Perhaps the best way to do so is to just read them - but we can't help but admire potential innovation and added content.

We're certainly fans of David Mitchell's recent interactive leanings and - as the unofficial home of J.K Rowling's Hogwarts shows - there's high interest in making digital the worlds which much-loved characters inhabit.

Mills & Boon fans may perhaps already know that the series had a new site launched earlier this year. And with Harlequin becoming part of HarperCollings, support for any evolution will likely be well-backed.

Kindle for Samsung offers free ebooks


Do you own a Samsung Galaxy smartphone or tablet? If you do, Samsung and Amazon's new 'Kindle for Samsung' service offers you free ebooks. The service, announced today, comes in the shape of a custom-built app which you can have installed on any Galaxy device running Android version 4.0 or later (if you need to check your Android version, go into the Settings app, and look for the 'About Tablet/Phone' option).

If your device is up to scratch, the Kindle for Samsung app is available for install via Samsung Apps (not Google Play), and offers users a choice of one free title per month from a selection of four. That's not all it offers; there are around 500,000 ebooks, newspapers and magazines from the Kindle store too.

The service includes amazon's WhisperSync functionality, alongside the extra features 'Worry Free Archive' (a backup of your titles to the cloud), and Time to Read (which estimates how long you will take to finish your chapter).

Both Amazon and Samsung seem rather delighted about the partnership, and if we're honest free books - digital or otherwise - are always an interesting proposition.


Here are some quotes to make it all official:

“We’re delighted to be able to deepen our long-standing relationship with Amazon and offer Kindle for Samsung as the perfect app for reading on a smart device. With this service we demonstrate our commitment to creating and broadening key content partnerships that deliver rich and personalised experiences for our customers.”

~ Lee Epting, VP of Samsung Media Solution Centre Europe.

" “With Kindle for Samsung, people around the world will have instant access to the best digital bookstore and reading experience, including more than half a million titles that are only available from the Kindle Store, and innovative features like Whispersync, Time to Read and much more.”

~ Jorrit Van der Meulen, Vice President of EU Kindle.

New site allows Harry Potter fans to Enroll at Hogwarts

The wonder of the Internet has finally put right the slightly disappointing fact that Harry Potter's Hogwarts isn't real (sorry). Now, thanks to an unofficial website, Harry Potter fans can enroll online to study at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizadry. Really.

The site, Hogwarts Is Here, is a cross between a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC), and a sort of online role-playing game. It allows visitors to sign up and browse or to join one of the four Hogwarts houses, and take courses crucial to the acquisition of magical knowledge.

Studies include Potions, Herbology, Transfiguration and Defence Against The Dark Arts, and are apparently maintained and supported by attentive academic staff (volunteers).

The site seems an incredibly polished and engaging affair, especially for something not officially endorsed or linked to film licenses. With sections on student life, academic standards and a careers page, there's even  a considerable FAQ section on hand. Likely because even Hogwarts students want to see when their deadlines are.

Essentially Hogwarts Is Here is a site created and maintained by fans because they love the world of Harry Potter. And honestly we hope it's able to keep running on that basis.

If you're interested in having a look, why not head over now; you can even generate a Hogwarts acceptance letter. Oh, and one more thing: if you do sign up, perhaps consider joining House Hufflepuff.

They always seem to get the least amount of love, don't they...

Amazon now backs up Kindle documents

Amazon-CloudDrive_AppAmazon has tweaked its Amazon Cloud Drive service to automatically back up all documents users send to their Kindles using the "send to Kindle feature". Available on desktop and mobile devices, send to Kindle allows users to send documents, texts and ebooks to their devices - useful for reading materials not part of your Amazon ebook library. The change has reinforced that functionality in a rather intuitive manner.

Now Amazon will backup any documents you send to Kindle devices to your personal Cloud Drive folder for safe-keeping. It also means there's some changes to the 'Manage Your Kindle' section of Amazon accounts, and an Amazon email details those:

"You can use Manage Your Kindle to see a list of your documents, re-deliver them to Kindle devices and free reading apps, delete them, or turn off auto-saving of documents to the cloud".

The feature to back up documents can be disabled in the Your Kindle Account section of Manage Your Kindle - under the Personal Document Settings heading. You might want to leave it on though; the 5GB of free storage for document is added to the existing 5GB all Amazon account holders are given.

10GB of free storage is rather handy, and even 5GB will take a while to use up with documents unless you're a particularly heavy or regular 'sender'!