Category Archives: Vendor News

NY Times Reader – Brilliant

The NY Times released it’s 2.0 Reader today, powered by Adobe Air.   The basics:

  • works on Windows, MAC, linux
  • updates every 5 minutes
  • stories run in multiple sections of the paper
  • news feed for breaking news
  • read off-line
  • 7 day archive
  • even has the crossword
  • all for $3.95 a week

This short flash clip highlights the reader –Long Live the Newspaper!

NY Times article explaining the Reader.

Kindle DX – Text to Speech

An abledbody news article last week discusses the new Kindle DX and it’s text-to-speech program that will read a book aloud.  According to the abledbody article, the Kindle does not go far enough to provide an accessible player to persons with disabilities.  The eBook menus and controls are not audio accessible, limiting access to those with visual disabilities.   I’m not certain Kindle had persons with disabilities in mind when they created this new text-to-speech feature since it is not limited to those with disabilities. Kindle will work with Pearson, Cengage Learning, Wiley and 75 other University Presses to provide textbooks on the Kindle this year.  Additionally, 3 newspapers have given Amazon the rights to text-to-speech content, NYT, Washington Post, and the Boston Globe.  Sounds to me like the much broader market, with a potential to listen to books in the car, while walking, doing housework, or any other multitude of activities is what got Amazon tickled pink about text-to-speech.  Just in case you didn’t hear, Kindle will begin a text book pilot program with 6 Universities this fall.

Case Western Students will use Kindle for Textbooks

CWRU Chemistry and Computer Science students will use the new Kindle to access textbooks in Fall ’09.   See the full article in either the Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 6, 2009 or The WSJ, May 5, 2009. Amazon has worked a deal with publishers to load the textbook content on the Kindle, which will be “supplied” to students.  Nothing in the articles about costs…

The other universities are:  Pace, Princeton, Reed, Darden School at the University of Virginia, and Arizona State.

Gale Offers Free Access to Health & Wellness Resource Center

Farmington Hills, Mich., May 5, 2009 – In support of National Women’s Health Week, Gale, part of Cengage Learning, is providing one month’s free access to Health & Wellness Resource Center, an electronic resource providing a comprehensive array of medical reference and periodical materials. To obtain access to the resource center, libraries can download a specialized widget throughout the month of May at http://access.gale.com/widgets/whm. Continue reading Gale Offers Free Access to Health & Wellness Resource Center

Interview with Kari Paulson, President of EBL

We’ve posted a new interview to our interviews page.  This time, it’s with Kari Paulson, President of EBL.  In this interview, Kari discusses various business models offered by EBL and unique features of their interface.  She references some case studies that were done by CERN and Swinburne University.  Kari’s interview adds to NSR’s collection of 12 previous interviews.  Check them all out on the interviews page.

Twitter your Haiku on DailyLit, and then some

DailyLit Logo

DailyLit, the site that lets you read ebooks in small chunks via email or RSS, has announced some new features including daily poems, the affiliate program, and twitter feeds.  For more information on DailyLit, listen to the NSR interview with Susan Danziger, CEO/Founder.

-DailyLit collaborated with Poets & Writers to launch DailyLit’s public serialization program with daily poems.  The series, launched yesterday in celebration of National Poetry Month, is called Masters of Verse: 30 Poems by Late, Great Authors. If you check out the landing page of the Poets & Writers site, you’ll see that if you click onthe “Read More” button a lightbox appears so that you can view a different poem a day directly on their site (the poem automatically changes each day).  DailyLit supplied the widget that allows this public serialization.   This widget is a great way to build community around a site (folks can return to the site each day to read a new installment — in this case a new poem — and if a reader wants to have a private RSS feed or have the installments sent to his or her email, they can sign up for the DailyLit book via that site.)

-DailyLit also just launched an affiliate program.  If a third party affiliate site features a DailyLit title, and someone signs up for that title via that third party site, then in each installment of the featured book will be a note “You found us through [insert name of site]” with a link to that site.  For instance, if you subscribe to Masters of Verse on the pw.org site, each installment says “You found us through Poets & Writers”).  In fact, today Etsy, the huge online marketplace for buying and selling all things handmade, is announcing Thoreau’s Walden as its new selection for its book club; DailyLit is working with Etsy to provide this book to their readers via the new affiliate program.  It’s an exciting initiative particularly since Etsy has over two million community members!

-DailyLit recently launched an integration with Twitter that allows folks to link their DailyLit profile to Twitter.  Their actions on DailyLit are automatically tweeted to their followers, e.g.  starting a particular book, commenting in our forums, reviewing a book, adding a book to their “To Read” list or completing a book.

Britannica’s Overhaul

Original article in Boston Globe.  By Hiawatha Bray Boston Globe Staff / March 31, 2009

Enter Britannica
For 241 years, it’s been the gold standard of reference books, a premium-priced digest of the world’s accumulated knowledge. Now it’s being overwhelmed by an eight-year-old online upstart authored by amateurs and available at no charge. How can Encyclopaedia Britannica survive in a wiki world?

The venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica is preparing for the most radical overhaul in its 241-year history, and it’s recruiting its readers to do much of the work.

It’s a bid by Britannica to remain relevant at a time when the world’s most popular encyclopedia, the eight-year-old website Wikipedia, is written entirely by amateur experts. The new version of Britannica Online, set to debut this summer, will emulate the Wikipedia concept by letting subscribers make changes to any article, ranging from minor edits to near-total rewrites.

But Britannica president Jorge Cauz scoffs at the idea that he’s merely imitating his giant online rival. “I don’t believe it’s accurate to say that Britannica and Wikipedia are becoming more similar,” he said. While Wikipedia is written and edited by amateurs who often work anonymously, Britannica Online articles will be overseen by professional editors. In addition, there will be no anonymity: Authors and editors will be identified by name. Cauz said this will give Britannica Online articles a credibility and authority Wikipedia can’t match.

If Wikipedia’s credibility is lower than Britannica’s, users don’t seem to mind. With its 10 million articles – 2.7 million in English – and its 275 million readers per month, Wikipedia’s scale and popularity dwarf that of Britannica’s online edition, which serves just 200,000 households and offers just 112,000 articles.

Wikipedia grew so popular partly because it’s free, while Britannica Online charges $70 a year. And Wikipedia’s array of articles is so vast because anybody can write for it. Only paying subscribers will be eligible to write for Britannica Online.

Cauz concedes that Britannica will never have as many articles as Wikipedia. But he said many Wikipedia articles are about trivial topics Britannica has no interest in covering. “They can talk about porno actors and cartoon characters as well as heart attacks,” said Cauz. “That is something we will never do.”

Instead, Britannica will still focus on its core market: schools, libraries, and homes, where people need authoritative information on important topics.

Britannica still prints a traditional multivolume encyclopedia and other reference works, but about 75 percent of the company’s revenue come from online sales. Privately held Britannica won’t reveal its revenue and earnings numbers, but Cauz said the company has turned a profit for the past five years.

The upgraded encyclopedia is set to debut this summer, but a test version is already up and running. Users who open an article are given an editing option that turns the Web browser into a mini word processor, where they can make small or large revisions. These changes are submitted to a Britannica editor, and perhaps to the article’s author.

“We have full responsibility,” said Cauz. “Every article will have to go through the rigorous editorial review of Britannica.” If the changes pass muster, they’re added to the official Britannica article, and the name of the user who made the changes is published on the website.

Cauz noted Britannica Online will allow edits of all its articles. Ironically, this will give Britannica a more open editing policy than Wikipedia’s. Despite its reputation for openness, Wikipedia permanently “locks” some articles on controversial people and subjects to prevent changes. “We want to stop . . . what we call drive-by vandalism,” said Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales.

Indeed, since its founding in 2001, Wikipedia has gradually tightened its standards, according to Andrew Lih, a Wikipedia editor and author of a new book, “The Wikipedia Revolution.”

“When it was first started, it was completely open editing,” Lih said. “Over the years, they’ve started to put more restrictions on it, simply because as you have a larger and larger crowd, it attracts more vandals.”

For example, about 3,000 articles are “semiprotected,” meaning that they can only be modified by Wikipedia users who have been members of the site for more than four days. Wales said he’s not entirely happy with this limitation. “One of the problems with semiprotection,” he said, “is that it’s difficult for newcomers to get involved.”

The German edition of Wikipedia addressed this problem by using “flagged revisions” of sensitive articles. These can be freely modified by anybody, even Wikipedia newcomers. But the modifications are flagged for review by a trusted editor before being published.

Now Wales plans to introduce flagged revisions to the English-language version of Wikipedia. He called it “an effort to open up pages to public editing that we have not had open to public editing for several years.”

If flagged editing works, it will make Wikipedia more open to public revision. But since some articles will remain locked, Wikipedia still won’t be quite as open to revision as Britannica Online.

Another addition to Britannica Online will come even closer to the original Wikipedia model. Cauz said Britannica subscribers and authors of articles for the encyclopedia will be given access to a separate area, where they can write articles on any topic they choose. When a Britannica Online user searches for information on a topic, links to these independent articles will appear alongside the official Britannica article. Each article will carry the names of its author and anyone who’s edited it, but there will be no review by Britannica editors, and the company won’t vouch for its accuracy.

Its critics say Wikipedia’s good name has been damaged by poorly written or libelous articles posted on the site. Britannica’s new feature could put its own reputation on the line. But determined to reinvent itself, Britannica is taking the risk.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.