Tag: books

Amazon gets into VR

AmazonA job advert indicates that the online bookseller Amazon is getting into VR.

The ad, posted to Amazon’s Glassdoor page, is for a ‘Senior Software Development Manager’ who will be responsible for ‘the Virtual Reality experience within Amazon Video.’

The basic qualifications are a degree in computer science, at least 15 years of relevant experience in engineering, seven years of technical experience and an additional five years of experience as a software development manager. Previous experience with virtual reality is optional apparently.

Netflix recently said it wanted to create 360-degree VR projects, it is likely that Amazon will do the same for its Prime service. Intel just wrote a cheque for a company which also makes this sorts of projects.

However it is possible that the bookseller could also be looking into hardware too. It has filed a patent for a VR headset and releasing its new game engine, Lumberyard, which supports VR technology.

The job posting said: ‘Entertainment is evolving rapidly. The future will not be limited to passive 2D experiences. The Virtual Reality team will explore and create the platform and interface for immersive storytelling. This will include an ingestion and playback platform for Virtual Reality experiences.’

Apple fanboys trading up to Samsung

It seems that Apple might have been a little late in getting its latest model into the shops.

The release of the Samsung Galaxy S5 has seen a sudden spike in the number of Apple fans trying to offload their iPhones to get their paws on the new Samsung.

A week ago, the Samsung Galaxy S5 was made available in 125 countries around the world and in the UK at least the availability of the new smartphone saw a rapid increase of iPhone devices being traded in.

According the trade in website CompareMyMobile, 38 percent of consumers getting the Galaxy S5 were former iPhone owners, and the website saw a 210 percent rise in customers trading in their iPhone 4S for the new device from Samsung.

Other handsets being traded in for the Galaxy S5 in big numbers included the iPhone 5S and the Galaxy S3.

To be fair, the Apple iPhone 4S being traded has been around since October 4, 2011 and it is known as the phone that was released the day before Steve Jobs’ death. The iPhone 5S was Jobs’ Mob’s attempt to release a cheaper phone and it did not really work.

In other words, the trade-ins are not for Apple’s latest flagship phone, but are older Apple products from people who failed to follow the Apple creed of upgrading each year. Apple would probably say that since these people are heretics anyway it does not really matter that they fall by the wayside and go to the devil Samsung. 

Apple has another crack at innocence

The fruity cargo cult is having another go at trying to convince a court that it is not an evil company which set up a pricing cartel to force its customers to pay far too much for ebooks.

Despite the fact that its co-conspirators have admitted that they have done wrong and paid fines, Apple’s reality distortion field will not allow it to admit that it has done wrong.

In fact it is currently urged a US appeals court to throw out a judge’s “radical” finding that it violated antitrust law by manipulating electronic book prices. Instead, it claims that the publishers were running a conspiracy it claimed to know nothing about.

This argument is a little amusing as Steve Jobs actually bragged about the conspiracy in his biography and there are a few Apple emails which indicated that Jobs’ Mob did know about the whole thing.

Apple claimed that it lawfully took advantage of market “discord” and the publishers’ own frustrations with Amazon, and “kick-started competition in a highly concentrated market, delivering higher output, lower price levels, and accelerated innovation”.

It will be a matter for the Appeals court to decide if that sentence is just a spinning of the phrase “set up an illegal cartel with publishers to force its customers to pay more than they needed to”.

Apple tends to believe that its perception is reality and its experience in the courts has so far been met with total denial.

US District Judge Denise Cote in New York concluded last July after a nonjury trial that Apple had played a “central role” in illegally scheming as early as December 2009 with five publishers to raise e-book prices and impede competitors such as Amazon.com.

The publishers previously agreed to pay more than $166 million to settle related antitrust charges.

Apple insisted that Cote’s decision was a “radical departure from modern antitrust law” and If allowed to stand, the ruling will stifle innovation, chill competition, and harm consumers.

Apple also again faulted Cote’s appointment of Washington lawyer Michael Bromwich to monitor its antitrust compliance, calling that oversight unconstitutional.

Already the 2nd Circuit rejected Apple’s request to halt Bromwich’s oversight during its appeal so it is not likely that things are going to go as Jobs’ Mob plans. 

Apple plays its get out of jail free card

The fruity cargo cult Apple has once again proved it is above the law by managing to get a court to defer using a monitor to protect its customers from its anti-trust antics.

A court ordered Apple to work with a monitor after it was found guilty of running a cartel to jack up the price of e-books for its customers. Jobs’ Mob denied it had ever run a cartel and refused to work with the monitor Michael Bromwich even after it had been found guilty. When he complained to the court, as any good probation officer would, Apple claimed he was biased and demanded he was removed.

Now according to Reuters  it seems that the US appeals court have backed Apple’s antics. It has given it a reprieve from an external monitor appointed to oversee its compliance with antitrust laws after the company had been found liable last July for conspiring to raise e-book prices.

The excuse is that Apple should not have to have a monitor while it is going through the appeal’s process. After all the appeal will prove that Apple is innocent and a monitor will never be appointed.

Oddly, the US Department of Justice did not oppose the short stay but said it will fight Apple’s effort to get rid of the monitor or else disqualify Bromwich. It has until January 24 to file opposition papers.

Apple has complained that Bromwich has been too intrusive, including by seeking interviews with top executives and board members, and has been charging an inflated $1,100 per hour for his services to rack up high fees.

However, it seems to have forgetten that it has broken the law and would not have to pay that fee if Steve Jobs had not formed an illegal cartel with the book publishers.

Apple moaned that Bromwich’s activities could interfere with its ability to develop new products which was dumb unless it was inventing new products which would create another price cartel.

Apple claimed that US District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan, who in a non jury trial found the company liable for a price-fixing conspiracy with five major publishers, improperly granted Bromwich too much power.

However given that he has not been able to get Apple executives, or even talk to them about their anti-trust cartel we would have thought he did not have enough powers. 

Computer program predicts best sellers

Three computer scientists at Stony Brook University in New York believe that they have found some rules which might predict when a book will be a best seller.

By putting already published manuscripts through the machine, they have managed to get a more than 84 percent accuracy.

They claim it will be brilliant for publishes who often kick themselves for failing to spot that books like Harry Potter or Watership Down will do well.

They claim it is the first study to correlate between a book’s stylistic elements and its popularity and critical acclaim.

In a paper published by the Association of Computational Linguistics, Vikas Ganjigunte Ashok, Song Feng, and Yejin Choi said the writing style of books was correlated with its success.

They used a method called statistical stylometry, which is a statistical analysis of literary styles in several genres of books and identified characteristic stylistic elements more common in successful tomes than unsuccessful ones.

They used Project Gutenberg’s database of 44,500 books in the public domain. A book was considered successful when it was critically acclaimed and had a high download count. The books chosen for analysis represented all genres of literature, from science fiction to poetry.

The software took the first 1,000 sentences of 4,129 books of poetry and 1,117 short stories and then analysed them for various factors. They looked at parts of speech, use of grammar rules, the use of phrases, and “distribution of sentiment” – a way of measuring the use of words.

More successful books made a greater use of conjunctions to join sentences (“and” or “but”) and prepositions than less successful books. There were also a high percentage of nouns and adjectives in the successful books. Less successful books relied on more verbs and adverbs to describe what was happening.

This proves to me that John Steinbeck’s Pearl, which I had to study in English, really was the pile of dog poo I said it was – or at least was never going to be a best seller.

More successful books relied on verbs describing thought processes rather than actions and emotions. If you use words like “wanted,” “took” or “promised” you were doomed. Successful authors employed “recognised” or “remembered”.

Choi claimed that in order to resonate with readers, instead of saying ‘she was really sad,’ it might be better to describe her physical state, to give a literal description. In other words, write more like a journalist.

Hacks believe journalists use more nouns, pronouns, and prepositions than other writers because those word forms give more information. So novelists who write more like journalists have literary success, she said. 

Apple execs have hissy fit over losing book case

Fruity cargo cult Apple is feeling that the US legal system is persecuting it over its faith in the Messiah Steve Jobs.

Jobs came up with a wizard wheeze to kill off Amazon and make users pay more money for eBooks by arranging a price fixing racket with other publishers.

Over the years, Apple has come to believe its own bullshit which is that it is OK to run a price-fixing cartel if it is you that is doing the fixing.

However, its reality distortion field came crashing down when a court bluntly told them that it was illegal.

Now Jobs’ Mob is back in federal court trying to re-litigate its loss of a huge e-books price-fixing case in July.

According to documents filed in the case, Apple’s top executives remain “extremely angry” and will “never get over the case”. They are so made they are prepared to ignore court orders connected to the case.

Their main problem is that the court case questions a central item of faith within the Apple creed; Steve Jobs was a good man who cared for Apple fanboys. Yet this case shows him raising the cost of ebooks by 50 percent overnight because he felt like it.

Losing the case will also cost Apple billions in damages.

Losing the case is completely unsurprising. The evidence as described in the ruling shows that Apple’s top executives, Eddy Cue and Jobs meeting with the heads of the major book publishing houses and got secret agreements from almost all of them to set prices across the board.

It was an open and shut case, yet Apple’s top execs remain livid about the loss. They believe the judge’s requirement that the company’s e-book division cooperate with a court-appointed compliance monitor is “flatly unconstitutional,” and have vowed to overturn it on appeal.

According to Social Reader, the court appointed monitor, Michael Bromwich has complained to the court that Apple’s lawyers are stonewalling. It is refusing to let him have a meeting with CEO Tim Cook, top designer Jony Ive, Cue, or most of the members of the board.

An Apple lawyer said that the company was very concerned about the request for interviews with Board members and senior executives, that they were very busy, and that we would see “a lot of anger” about the case that still existed within the company.

However, that is disobeying a court order and is bluntly in contempt. Only Apple would think that it has a right to ignore the law.

What is even more amazing is that Bromwich has been receiving hate mail from Apple fanboys who wrote following Apple’s Objections filed with the Court on November 27. It seems that the fanboy boys believe that if Steve Jobs jacked up the price of ebooks it must have been good for them. 

Now your books are spying on you

The latest things to start grassing you up to advertising companies and spooks are your favourite books.

According to Apple’s free press office the New York Time,  books are the lastest thing to get advertising spyware.

So not only will you have to put up with the fact that you are paying huge amounts of dosh for something that takes a few dollars to make, it will be ratting you out to the authorities and advertising companies.

Last week, Smashwords made a deal to put 225,000 books on Scribd, a digital library here that unveiled a reading subscription service in October.

It is being seen as a way to exploit reading data. Amazon and Barnes & Noble already collect vast amounts of information from their e-readers but keep it in house. Now a new breed of start-ups, such as Entitle want to make cash by telling the world+dog.

The justification is that the data will help authors and publishers make better books, but the reality is more sinister.

Not only will it mean that readers of a book on cars will get plagued by car adverts for months afterwards, it also means that reader habits will be closely monitored by the publishing companies.

For example, they will know if you ever finished a book. That will lead to an obvious conclusion that some books sell better than others, or are more engaging. This will, in turn, lead to publishers wanting the sorts of books that they think readers are more likely to finish.

This same mentality has plagued the ratings obsessed television industry and led to the cancellation of great shows like Firefly and Alphas.

For example, Scribd’s early efforts have revealed that the longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who did it. Thus if you want to wrote a murder mystery you have to keep it short.

People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but will only read a chapter of a yoga book. Romances are read faster than religious titles, and erotica really quickly.

The top book at Oyster is called “What Women Want,” promoted as a work that “brings you inside a woman’s head so you can learn how to blow her mind”.  Everyone who starts it finishes it. However Arthur Schlesinger  “The Cycles of American History” is only finished by one percent of the readers who start it.

So what publisher is going to invest in something that only a small percentage are going to get to the end of?

The Oyster data shows that books with shorter chapters do better because people are reading in short sessions during the day on smart phones.

Kids of today like books

It has been assumed that the kids of today are obsessed with ebooks, but it turns out that they still like paper.

According to a survey conducted by Voxburner, more than 62 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds prefer print books to ebooks.

Printed books were more popular than movies, newspapers and magazines, CDs and video games. In fact only a third of the age group liked video games.

Luke Mitchell of agency Voxburner, which researched questions about buying and using content with 1,420 young adults said that that the results were surprising because everyone thinks that 16-24s are attached to their smartphones and digital devices.

The reason that 16 to 24-year-olds prefer physical books is that they are seen as value for money. On questions of ebook pricing, 28 percent think that ebooks should be half their current price, while just eight percent say that ebook pricing is right.

The top-rated reasons for preferring physical to digital products were: “I like to hold the product, “I am not restricted to a particular device”, “I can easily share it”, “I like the packaging” and “I can sell it when used”.

Others liked books because they wanted to collect them, or they liked the smell or wanted full bookshelves.

“Books are status symbols, you can’t really see what someone has read on their Kindle,” Mitchell said. 

Court rules Apple must obey in ebook antitrust case

A judge has told Apple that it can’t bully the legal system so that it is not punished for its anti-trust antics.

Apple, which has always denied that it is an evil monopolist, was doing its best to prevent it copping any form of punishment for running a cartel in the publishing industry.

One remedy which stuck in its craw was that it had to hire a policeman with the authority to kick its arse when it did anything that remotely stank of breaching anti-trust rules.

This is like appointing a Catholic priest to police Scientology, and Apple wants the demand dropped.

Apple said that hiring a monitor would be “extremely costly and burdensome” we guess because it is such a small company and can’t afford it.

But US District Judge Denise Cote said a monitor would be necessary, after Apple had failed to show it learned its lesson from its “blatant” violations of antitrust law.

The monitor, she said, would likely be installed to review Apple’s internal antitrust compliance program and procedures and recommend changes, and also required annual antitrust training for employees in Apple’s e-books and content businesses.

So far the Judge has been fairly laid back about the injunction and allowed Apple to negotiate with the DoJ about a list of remedies, but she finally seems to have worked out that she is not dealing with a business but a religion which believes it can do no wrong.

Cote suggested a final injunction would be narrower than what the US Department of Justice has been seeking, and would not restrict Apple’s agreements with suppliers of other types of content such as movies, music and TV shows.

According to Bloomberg,  she said that she wanted an injunction to rest as lightly as possible on how Apple runs its business.

Cote is expected to issue an injunction next week.

The Justice Department, joined by 33 US states and territories, is now jostling with Apple over the scope of what Cote should do to prevent further antitrust violations.

Cote suggested that Apple hold staggered negotiations with publishers beginning in two years in an effort to avoid future collusion.

She said she would wait for the parties to hash out suggestions for final language for the injunction. 

Apple warns book world it must submit

Apple, which is on trial for orchestrating a price cartel on ebooks, has closed its arguments by threatening grave consequences if it does not get its way.

Apple said that an adverse ruling against it would have a “chilling effect” on how businesses investigate new markets.

According to NDTV Gadgets, the company’s lawyer, Orin Snyder, said that if Apple was found guilty, it would “send shudders through the business community”.

It would condemn the ordinary negotiations that companies undertake to enter new markets, he warned.

“A ruling against Apple sets a dangerous precedent,” Snyder warned.

Outsiders agree. It means that companies will not be allowed to collude with others to fix prices and arrogantly brag about it in public.

The trial heard evidence that Apple’s antics with the book publishers did raise the price of books for consumers generally.

This is more or less what Steve Jobs bragged about in his biography.

The trial heard evidence that Apple conspired with US publishers beginning in late 2009 to increase the price of ebooks in an effort to undercut the pricing established by then-dominant Amazon.com. The publishers have settled with the government.

US district judge Denise Cote was not giving Apple an easy time. She had already warned that before the case had opened the DoJ had produced enough paper evidence to prove a price cartel.

Now she has asked if it was correct that Apple “understood publishers were willing to work together to put pressure on Amazon”.

Snyder insisted that there was no evidence Apple understood the publishers were allegedly conspiring together before it proposed creating an online bookstore for its coming iPad.

He said that Apple had no idea the publishing executives were calling each other and having dinners together.

Snyder claimed that there was no such thing as a conspiracy by telepathy.

The Justice Department is not seeking damages against Apple. It wants Apple to be prohibited from the agency model for two years and a five year prohibition against the use of price-parity contract clauses at the centre of the case, among other remedies.

If the government wins, there will be a separate trial which would be held on damage claims asserted by 33 state attorney generals whose case on liability was also being heard during the last few weeks.