Author Archives: ari

Tips for finding a place to work and sleep in Algarve, on the south coast of Portugal

2018-01-03

These tips were written with digital nomads and remote workers in mind, but the travel guide where the tips have been extracted from (Algarve, Southern Portugal) features much more information on accommodations, sights, beaches, villages, culture, activities, food, and towns.
Carvoeiro, Algarve, PortugalHouses on the coastal cliffs of Algarve, Portugal.
Professionals who can work anywhere as long as the supply of electricity and decent Internet access are guaranteed have discovered Algarve’s pleasant climate and peaceful lifestyle. Lisbon and Porto are the business centers of Portugal, but the whole point of staying in Algarve is to manage a business remotely.

Even though the region lacks big cities, the largest towns have nightlife, and popular pubs have crowds from lunch time onwards. Internet access in coastal towns is relatively reliable, but having a backup connection, like a mobile data connection for Internet access, is imperative.

A wide range of hotels and holiday homes are available for short and long term stay in Algarve. If you want to stay in large towns, like Albufeira, Lagos, or Portimao, the chances are that the best selection and best prices are for rooms in apartment blocks. Townhouses, bungalows, and other types of places with a terrace or a small garden are easier to find in small towns or villages, such as Luz or Carvoeiro. In addition, villas are available for rent on the outskirts of towns and in the countryside.

Many apartment blocks built for tourism come with a community pool. In winter, the pool may be closed. Another nice feature with recently-built apartment blocks is that they tend to have spacious balconies. For instance, a place where I stayed on the outskirts of Albufeira was a one-bedroom apartment with three balconies. The kitchen, living room, and bedroom had their own balconies.

If you love to watch television, here is an important tip. Verify the channels that can be viewed in the place you are going to stay. If it is only RTP (Portugal’s public broadcaster), you may have to do something other than watch television during your stay. I stayed one month in a place with only RTP channels, and I could only find one show that I could understand and watch: “The Voice of Portugal” singing contest every Sunday.
apartments for tourists in Albufeira, AlgarveApartments for tourists in Albufeira.
If you are looking for a place to stay and work for a few weeks, month, or more, I recommend getting in touch with local real estate agents. First, book a place for a few days only – perhaps via an online service. It will be your base while you search for a long-term place. You should have an idea of the area where you want to stay. If not, hire a car and drive along the bumpy roads of Algarve and explore. Once you have decided on the area, contact a real estate agent in that particular district. They will show you the places available at your price level. For instance, I once dealt with an agent who handled the maintenance and rentals of apartments for entire buildings in a particular section of a town.

The important thing in this whole process is that you actually see the place before you pay. The big, ugly problem with booking a long-term stay via an online service is that you have to pay without seeing the place. When you open the door, step in, and find that it is not like the web pages, you have already lost. In that situation, the only thing you can decide is what kind of loss you are going to take: money, time, or both. Maybe you grit your teeth and decide to stay, demand reimbursement from the landlord, or negotiate with the online service. In any case, you are going to lose precious working time with the hassle – and even more time if you have to start searching for new place to stay.

The better way is to research the area, contact an agent, and ask the agent to show you the place you intend to rent.

Even if the apartment where you are going to stay comes with Internet access, always get a backup connection. This is ridiculously easy to accomplish. Walk in to a mobile phone shop (for instance, Phone House) or a mobile network operator shop (MEO, NOS or Vodafone), ask for a data only SIM card, and choose your initial data amount. There are no formalities. After you have used the initial amount of data, you can top up online, at an ATM, or in a post office. I managed to top up my SIM card at a post office (cash only accepted).

book cover image: Algarve, Southern Portugal
The travel guide Algarve, Southern Portugal is available in all major bookstores, such as Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks, and Kobo.

Algarve, Southern Portugal travel guide

Publishing year 2017 in review: trends, analysis, developments

2017-12-16

It is not business as usual in the world of digital media. Ebooks and other digital media content products are still taking their first steps in the global and local markets. Many things in book business and digital technology changed in 2017 and will change in the coming years. It is only 10 years since the launch of Amazon Kindle, but 500 years from Gutenberg’s invention.

Book as a concept has proven it has its place – independent of the format. Year 2017 didn’t challenge that, although new ways of enjoying a book became more popular. The following key development points in publishing are reviewed primarily from the digital side of book publishing.

a speaker and audience at Frankfurt book fair

Ebook markets continue to grow

One publishing industry expert claims that the ebook market is shrinking, whereas another expert says it is growing. Both experts can be right when they only look at their own data sources. Big US publishers have lost ebook market share to small publishers and self-publishers. No one knows the actual sales numbers of indie publishers and self-publishers, but one can always estimate, and it looks like a large, growing market that is eating market share from big publishers.

Data collected from other than English-language markets indicate a healthy and innovative digital market development, for instance, in Continental Europe, Spanish-language markets and China. Even France is accepting ebooks and ereaders.

Audiobook is the fastest growing format

Book lovers in English-speaking markets are familiar with Audible audiobooks, but in many others parts of the world, Swedish startup Storytel is the reason for rapid growth of audiobooks. Storytel has been so successful that it has acquired traditional books publishers in order to secure rights for as many books as possible.

A key development that will have an effect on audiobook market is computer applications that can read aloud texts. They may be individual applications running on a tablet or smartphone, or voice assistants, like Alexa or Siri. The technology is pretty good already, and as it develops, it may lower product prices.

Attempts to automate writing may be more common than we are aware of

For years, we have heard of projects that have tried to automate the reporting of sports results and simple news reports. Meanwhile, the development of artificial intelligence (AI) software has reached a level where it can be applied to simple writing tasks. The Washington Post is already using a robot writer, and clever programmers have created an algorithm that can imitate Harry Potter fiction.

Should a writer be worried? No. Someone must produce the source material for writing robots and review their output, among other things.

Ereaders are still here and still wanted by avid readers

I am the first one to admit that I expected tablets and large screen smartphones (phablets) to replace ereaders as ebook reading devices, but it hasn’t happened. In some markets, like the US and the UK, people who want an ereader already have one or two, and the market is saturated. In many other large markets, such as Germany, France, Spain and China, the market for ereaders is growing because the market for ebooks is still growing.

A key development during 2017 was the emergence of large screen ereaders. Devices from 7 to 13 inches are now available. Some of these have a stylus for making it easy to jot down notes on documents and books. A development path from one purpose device (reading ebooks) to a device that is designed for working with documents maybe going on.

Reading has moved to mobile devices

An ereader and a tablet is a mobile device, but the big hype of recent years has been reading on smartphone screens. Wattpad, a reading and writing community of young generations, says about 90% of its users read on mobile devices.

Digital reading is most popular from 5-inch smartphone screens to 10 tablet screens. It means that fixed layout ebooks still face challenges that reflowing ebooks can manage.

EPUB3 didn’t take off (and probably won’t next year, either)

Two ebook formats dominate the digital book markets: Amazon’s proprietary Kindle format and the industry standard EPUB. The advanced, multimedia-enabled EPUB3 ebook format was announced years ago, but is hasn’t made a commercial breakthrough. In February 2017, the organization behind EPUB, IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum), was merged into the W3C (the organization that sets the standards for the World Wide Web). New working groups, committees and strategies have been formed, and the result is that a high level agreement for the next standard EPUB4 is in the works. EPUB4 is defined as a subset of Portal Web Publication that merges HTML and EPUB.

The euphoria of self-publishing is settling down

In large English-language markets, a small number of self-publishers have made it big. Their books have been produced into successful Hollywood movies and publishers are competing for their next manuscripts. The laws of economics haven’t changed, however, as indie authors are discovering that it is just as difficult to write a bestseller as it was before. Interest in self-publishing may be settling down in the US, but in many other large markets, such as Spanish-speaking countries, Continental Europe or in China, self-publishing is only beginning to take off.

Newspapers and magazines that have reinvented themselves are making it

Attempts to turn a newspaper or magazine web site visitors into subscribers who pay for the digital content on a web site have largely failed. Only a few strongest brands have become successful when they have started to charge readers for digital content. Newspapers and magazines, like The New York Times and The Economist deliver so much value to readers that visitors are willing to pay for news stories, and especially, long reports, analysis and background stories of major events. Some other publications have discovered their own strategies for thriving in the digital era while maintaining their valuable printed heritage.

Smart computer applications automatically write news, scientific papers and even Harry Potter sequels

2017-12-13

Long before the term artificial intelligence (AI) was invented, clever computer programmers tried various methods to automatically produce texts for different purposes. Early attempts have been unsuccessful, but now, technology has developed so much that serious attempts for automating the writing of news reports and scientific papers are underway. What does it mean for authors?

keyboard on fire
Computer-generated brief news reports are perhaps more widely used than we are aware. For instance, The Washington Post newspaper is using a news robot called the Heliograf.

The robot working for the newspaper is not fully autonomous, but writes reports in cooperation with news editors. The editors have created templates for political news stories that feature key phrases for particular events, like elections. Heliograf is connected to a source of structured data where it can access the required data for reporting. The robot searches the database, matches the discovered relevant data with the corresponding phrases in the template, and inserts the data into the template for publishing a news report.

It is not a coincidence that the Heliograf robot was developed and taken into use after Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, took over the newspaper. With the help of the robot, The Washington Post wants to publish more news stories that can reach small local audiences that previously were out-of-reach for a major newspaper.

SciNote, an enterprise that provides scientists cloud services where they can store all their notes, papers, references, ideas – anything that has to do with their research has also chosen the human-robot collaboration method for its automatic writing application. Slate talked to the people behind the Scinote’s software technology and found out that already 20 000 scientists use the company’s cloud service.

Manuscript Writer is Scinote’s automatic tool for drafting a scientific paper from pieces of data. The data must be structured and organized by the researcher for the Manuscript Writer to be able to do its job, but that’s exactly what Scinote’s cloud service enforces researchers to do. The result from the Manuscript Writer is a draft paper for further work, review and editing.

A community known as Botnik has developed a writing application that can automatically continue your work once you feed the robot enough source material for analysis. That’s how Botnik has written a sequel for Harry Potter, TV show manuscripts, advertisements, and other texts. Below a page from Botnik’s Potter adaptation (photo by Botnik.org).
Botnik bot writer, Harry Potter variation, photo by Botnik.org

Most writers (and all internet users) use artificial intelligence applications daily without paying any attention to them. A search engine is a very clever piece of technology that constantly learns more about you and what you want in order to return better search results. Facebook and other social media services constantly follow and listen to you in order to tailor their newsfeeds and ads to match your desires.

The software algorithms used in writing robots and in social media services know what to do because they have enough data to start their work, and when they are fed with more data, they can improve the results.

Can a robot write books like The Lord of the Rings, Catch 22 or The Innovator’s Dilemma? No. At the moment, a robot can write something where the results are known in advance (a fixed number of possible outcomes), and the robot fills in the key data; a robot organizes a large set of data into a document; or produces variations derived from an existing source text.

Here is a big 13.3-inch ereader that can also be used as a PC monitor

2017-12-09

A new application has emerged for ereader devices that originally were intended for reading ebooks alone: they are also used as secondary monitors for PCs. So far, tech-savvy PC users have had to hack an ereader to plug it into a computer as a monitor, but now, the Onyx Boox Max 2 provides the feature out-of-the box.
Onyx Boox Max 2 ereader and PC monitor
The Onyx Boox Max 2 is a big ereader with a 13.3-inch E ink screen. A device like this is optimal for reading PDF documents and PDF books (the product can open all common ebook file formats). The Max 2 has been developed with this in mind – it lets users write and draw on the screen with a stylus. The device can also be used like an ordinary touch screen device by touching the screen with fingers.

One more key feature that at the moment separates the Max 2 from competitive products, like the Sony DPT-RP1, is the HDMI port that lets you plug the Max2 into a PC and use it as a secondary PC monitor.

People who stare a monitor their entire work day or can’t setup their PC displays for ideal lighting conditions, can greatly benefit from a E ink screen that doesn’t flicker and provides high contrast. It is, of course, a grayscale display without even the possibility to watch videos – perhaps an important feature for easily distracted workers.
Onyx Boox Max 2 e-reader with stylus for handwriting and drawing on screen
The Onyx Boox Max 2 is available in a few online stores for 800 Euros. The official Onyx stores are listed on the company’s web page.

The product is shipping to customers, some of whom have had time to record hands-on videos of the Max 2. Here is one:

As the video and the reviewer’s reply to questions on YouTube indicate, there are some teething problems in the product that may cause problems for some users, but may not affect others.

Onyx Boox Max2 key features and specifications

13.3-inch E Ink Carta display. Made of plastic, it is light and flexible.
Resolution 2200×1650 pixels, 16 levels of grey.
High contrast 15:1.
Electromagnetic (WACOM) and capacitive dual touch screen. With the included stylus it is possible to write and draw on the screen. The capacitive layer allows touching and controlling the screen with fingers, just like using it as a tablet.
Four buttons: Menu, Back, Next Page and Previous Page.
WIFI
Bluetooth 4.0
1.6 GHz quad-core processor.
2GB RAM + 32GB of storage space.
Android 6.0 operating system software.
HDMI port for connecting the ereader to a PC as a secondary monitor.
Speaker and microphone.
3.5mm audio port for text-to-speech, playing music or audio books.
Ebook and document formats: PDF, EPUB, TXT, MOBI, CHM, DJVU, HTML, RTF, FB2, DOC, PDB. Audio: MP3, WAV.
7.5 mm thin.
Weight 550g
4100mAH lithium-polymer battery. Up to 4 weeks of standby time.

Onyx Boox Max 2 e-reader and computer monitor

Via The Verge.

For writers who like to jot down notes with pen and paper: Smart Moleskine paper notebook connects with PCs

2017-11-29

Even today, when practically every writer is carrying a powerful computer in their pocket, many like to write notes, ideas and short texts on paper. A common tip from seasoned authors to novices is to always carry a (paper) notebook and a pen along. Now, Moleskine has introduced a product that lets writers use pen and paper, but conveniently connects paper to the power of computers.
MOleskine Smart Writing Set with tablet
The concept behind Moleskine’s writing system that connects paper with computers is to let writers freely write, scribble, and draw their notes on paper, and automatically transfer all those notes to a smartphone, tablet or PC. If the writer is near his or her computer, the transfer of notes happens at the same time as the pen touches the paper. If the writer is separated from her computing device, the notes are stored in the Moleskine pen and automatically transferred to the computing device once reunited.

The Moleskine Smart Writing Set product consists of three elements:

1. A paper notebook. It looks and can be used like an ordinary Moleskine notebook but it has some special features for use with the Smart Writing system.
2. A pen with a standard replaceable ink fill. It can be used as an ordinary pen for writing on paper, but it can also wirelessly connect to a smartphone, tablet, or computer via Bluetooth.
3. An application for a smartphone, tablet or PC that connects and interacts with the pen.

The Moleskine ink pen connects via Bluetooth
All the elements are included in the Moleskine Smart Writing Set that costs $199. The product has been available since 2016 for smartphones and tablets, and in 2017, it has also become available for Windows 10 devices. The Moleskine Notes app must be downloaded from the Apple App Store, Google Play or Microsoft Store to the device that connects with the pen.

There are many features in the Moleskine Smart Writing product that let writers enhance their notes, such as recording voice memos, applying colors to notes, but for a writer who jots down more than a couple of lines of text, the key feature is transcribing. The application on a PC can turn handwriting into digital words that can be further processed in a writing application.

Moleskine’s tutorial video below shows how the system works with a tablet, but the functionality is the same on a PC or a smartphone.

There are other similar products, like Wacom or Livescribe in the market that are priced lower than the Moleskine Smart Writing Set, but the products also have many differences in features and functionality.

For writers who prefer handwriting, another option is the use a tablet, such as the Apple iPad, Samsung Tab, or Microsoft Surface to write directly on the screen with a stylus. It is not the same as paper, but the technology has developed quite close mimicking the paper and pen experience.
Moleskine smart writing set connects to Windows 10 PC
The Moleskine Smart Writing Set product contains:
– Paper Tablet (notebook) dotted with special paper designed to work with Pen+ in dotted layout. (Once the pages have been used, you must purchase a new one with the special paper for it to work with the pen).
– Pen+ smart pen.
– 1 pen tip ink refill.
– USB cable for recharging the pen.

Via The Verge.

European Union stops geoblocking between EU countries

2017-11-25

European Union (the Parliament, the Council and the Commission) has agreed to make geoblocking illegal in specific situations where consumers want to buy a product or service from another EU country. The EU Commissioners who are championing the new legislation see the new policy as an important step towards the Digital Single Market for Europe, a key EU strategy.
cartoon character looks at a computer with an error message
Geoblocking is a technique commonly used by online services that enables a service provider, such as an online shop to block access to their web pages because the customer’s computer seems to be located in another country. The conclusion is drawn from the network address of the customer’s computer (IP address). Another way to block access to services and products is to only accept payments from customers who have a local payment card.

Especially for citizens of small countries, the product and service prices, and also choices for products and services in large European countries are often more attractive than in their home countries. Buying and downloading an digital product from Germany is in many cases a good deal for a consumer in Denmark, for example.

Naturally, language issues may still stop consumers from shopping around in other countries, but English is a common second language at many online shopping services.

Removal of geoblocking doesn’t mean avoiding value added taxes. EU has already earlier ruled that the taxes must be paid in the country of the customer.

The end-of-geoblocking rules apply to three specific situations only (according to the EU announcement):

1. The sale of goods without physical delivery. Example: A Belgian customer wishes to buy a refrigerator and finds the best deal on a German online store. The customer can order the product and collect it from the shop or organise delivery to his home at his own cost.
2. The sale of online services. Example: A Bulgarian consumer wishes to buy hosting services for her website from a Spanish company. She can buy and access the service without having to pay additional fees.
3. The sale of services provided in a specific physical location. Example: An Italian family can buy a trip directly to an amusement park in France without being redirected to an Italian website.

The new regulation does not impose an obligation to sell and does not harmonise prices. It does, however, address discrimination in access to goods and services in cases where it cannot be objectively justified (e.g. by VAT obligations or different legal requirements).

The geoblocking legislation will come into force by late 2018.

At the high level, the new EU legislation is easy to understand, simple and fair. Details concerning, for instance, purchasing digital content products from currently geoblocked stores will be interesting to discover. Many small EU countries don’t have a local Amazon, or another large online store. If someone in Estonia wants to buy a digital product from Amazon.de, the buyer is redirected to Amazon.com. In 2018, the buyer should be able buy directly from Amazon.de?

These two ereaders are the best – which one to choose?

2017-11-22

Two most acclaimed ereader devices at the moment are the Kobo Aura One and the Kindle Oasis 7-inch model. Both are larger than an ordinary 6-inch ereader and both have practically every feature required in a reading device – they are even waterproof. If you are planning to get the best ereader available at the moment, which one to choose? Here is our guide.

Kobo Aura One and Kindle Oasis 7-inch model
The Kindle Oasis 7-inch model (also known as the Oasis 2) and the Kobo Aura One have many similarities, but also some crucial differences. Let’s take a look at the features and then, view a video that shows how the devices feel and behave when used for reading ebooks.

The Aura One comes with a 7.8 inch E ink screen and the Oasis 2 with a 7-inch screen. This is a major difference in real life, even though on paper it doesn’t seem a big deal. Both screens are very sharp: 300 pixels per inch (PPI). Screens also have a front light for reading in poorly lit nooks.

The Kobo Aura One price starts from $229. The Kindle Oasis starts at $249.
Amazon KIndle Oasis 7-inch model is waterproof
Both devices are waterproof, which makes them also sand and dust proof.

The weight of the devices is similar, the larger Aura One weighs only 36 grams more than the Kindle. The Kindle Oasis 2 measurements are 159 x 141 x 3.4-8.3 mm and the Aura One is 195 x 138 x 6.9 mm.

The design of the Kindle Oasis is unique, but you can hold it in right or left hand, and it has dedicated hardware keys for turning pages. The Aura One doesn’t have dedicated buttons, but its design is easier to approve.

The Aura One has plenty of fonts to choose from and it is possible to adjust the fonts and the page layout. The Kindle doesn’t provide as many choices.

The Oasis 2 lets you listen to Audible audiobooks via Bluetooth headphones or speakers.

The crucial difference between all Kindle ereaders and all other ereaders (of any brand) is the ebook file formats the devices can open. The Kobo Aura One can open EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR documents. The Kindle can open AZW3, AZW, KFX, TXT, PDF, MOBI, PRC documents, which means the Kindle Oasis 2 (and all other Kindle) devices are intended for ebooks downloaded from the Kindle Store only. Amazon has a separate file conversion service that can be used to send HTML, DOC, DOCX documents to a Kindle ereader.

Below is a video where The Ebook Reader Blog compares the Kobo Aura One and the Kindle Oasis 7-inch model.

Hardware aside, this is what really matters when choosing an ereader

The key difference between any Kindle device and all other ereader products (be it Kobo, Onyx, Cybook, or another brand) is the commercial system where the device can connect to. What does it mean in practice?
kobo aura one ereader by a pool
Amazon has created the world’s largest bookstore, but ebooks purchased from the Kindle Store can only be opened in Kindle ereaders, Fire tablets and Kindle reading applications. The Kindle ebook system is a closed system that you can only access with Kindle devices and applications. Kindle ereaders, like the Oasis 2 can not open EPUB ebooks (without troublesome tweaking of ebook files on a PC).

The world outside Amazon uses an ebook standard known as EPUB. It is the file format for ebooks purchased from practically all bookstores, except for Amazon, across the world. If you have a non-Kindle ereader, such as Kobo, you can purchase ebooks from practically all other stores except for the Kindle Store.

My recommendation is: first, carefully choose which commercial ebook system you want use – Amazon Kindle or the rest of the world – and after that, choose the ereader you like the best.

More information on large-screen ereaders and a few tips for deciding on the screen size.

Investors are betting big time on an ebook startup in China

2017-11-11

Tencent is a large social media and gaming enterprise in China, but the company has also been developing an online book publishing business. The ebook arm of the enterprise grew so rapidly that Tencent decided to detach it from the mother ship by issuing an IPO (Initial Public Offering) at Hong Kong Stock Exchange on November 8, 2017. Investors couldn’t get enough of shares, raising the price so high that it became the largest technology related IPO in Hong Kong since Alibaba.com was listed in 2007.

Chinese book cover images
The new startup is simply called China Literature, but the development of its digital publishing business was not simple.

China Literature already has a mind-boggling catalog of 9.6 million works from 6.4 million authors. Sure, China is a vast market, the largest in the world, but still, the numbers are incomprehensible. Here is how it is possible.

The company has developed two popular applications: QQ Reading and Qudian. Readers can use these apps to download ebooks, see what their friends are reading, rate and review titles, and receive recommendations from others.

In addition to purchasing titles from established publishing houses, readers who have written a book can self-publish their works directly to China Literature’s ebook store.

China Literature’s apps have proven to be the drivers for reader engagement. The applications let readers interact with writers and it helps writers to learn about their audience. For example, micropayments are used for allowing readers to download sections from ebooks. That is one of the features of the QQ Reading app.

Opening chapters of books are free, but after the first chapter readers have to pay 5 yuan ($0.75) per 1,000 characters. China Literature also has a subscription service that gives customers full access to select titles. The subscription fee is between 10 yuan and 18 yuan per month ($1.51 and $2.71).

New developments include readnovel.com that promises “literary works concerning campus life and contemporary romance”, and possibly TV shows and movies as well.

Via Quartz.

Tips for making successful research work for a nonfiction book

2017-11-06

In order to write a nonfiction book manuscript, the author has to do research to make sure all the facts are correct. A motivational book on igniting a career is more about excitement than historical facts, but a book about the application of artificial intelligence in electric vehicles certainly must be based on facts. Research can be time consuming work, but it can be conducted effectively and without wasting valuable time.
man writing at office desk, stack of folders in front
Jeff Biggers, a narrative nonfiction author, has collected tips for research that he has learned during his long writing career. He has written nonfiction books, articles, radio stories and plays, and monologues. His published books include travel books, memoir, cultural and literary history, and investigative journalism. Biggers says that the research strategies he employs in one genre typically are the same for others, including fiction and poetry. Here are his tips.

Notebooks

Jeff Biggers recommends carrying a notebook (paper and pen) everywhere you go. Some writers may agree with the pen and paper strategy, while others prefer a tablet or a smartphone. The advantage of an electronic note-taking approach is that the notes can (and should) be copied to a safe storage instantly after new points have been written down.

Read

It is elemental that the author thoroughly understands the topic. Reading, listening and viewing all kinds of stories about the subject is helpful.

Interviews

Interviews of people who know something about the topic not only adds information to the research, but also adds color to the book. I couldn’t agree more. In addition, interviews can be the most fun part of the entire research project.

The scene

Movies are made of scenes, as well as many fiction books. Nonfiction book can also use the same techniques: have interesting characters, a plot and a conflict.

Folders

Jeff Biggers recommends organizing research material into folders. He uses physical folders, but the concept is the same if you use folders on your computer. Again, it is vital to backup folders to a safe place if anything terrible happens to your computer’s hard drive.

Enough research

It is likely that all nonfiction authors do more research that they can use for their books. It is inevitable. It is practically impossible to know in advance if a lead or a hint of information will lead somewhere that is valuable for the book.

I believe one of the best ways to restrict the amount of research work required for a nonfiction book is to really carefully plan its scope. And one of the best ways to quickly assess the scope is the Table of Contents of the planned book. It is even possible to show the TOC to someone else, say, an editor, agent or publisher and ask their opinion about the book’s planned scope.

EU country Portugal has banned the use of DRM in ebooks in certain cases

2017-10-25

Portugal may not be a forerunner of digital media business within the European Union, but Portugal’s lawmakers have taken a significant step towards consumer friendly digital media and ebooks. Portugal has banned the use of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology in ebooks when the works are in public domain or they are published by the government.

woman reading an ebook on the beach. Photo by  Michael Mol.
The new restriction for DRM technology in Portugal is included in the law (Law No. 36/2017 of June 2, 2017) that has been effective since June 2017. Three key points that deal with DRM technology in the law are permission to break DRM in certain cases, prohibiting the use of DRM completely in certain cases, and the requirement to have the copyright holder’s permission for the application of DRM.

1. Permission to circumvent DRM protection in digital media products.
In specific fair use cases, anyone is allowed to break or circumvent DRM restrictions in digital products. The cases include reproduction of content for private use, for news reporting, for use by libraries and archives, for teaching and education, in quotation, for persons with disabilities, and for digitizing orphan works.

2. DRM is not allowed at all in specific types of digital products.
The new law prohibits applying DRM to any works that are in public domain and to works published or financed by the government. Citizens are allowed to break DRM in these works if the technology has been applied.

3. Copyright holder must give an explicit permission to the use of DRM.
This may not have a large effect on the business of ebooks since all distribution agreements already include a statement if DRM will be applied to the products and what kind of technology is used.

What is Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

Digital Rights Management is a software technology that is used to control the ways a digital media product, such as an ebook or a movie download can be used by customers. The most common application is to restrict the number of copies a customer can make from an ebook he or she has purchased.

Some big digital media stores, such as the Amazon Kindle Store and the Apple iBooks Store have their own DRM technologies that are built in to the purchase process. Customers don’t see that the products have DRM until a built-in restriction is triggered.

Other stores that use Adobe DRM for controlling the use of downloaded products tend to have issues with the technology. Customers must create an Adobe account and a store account in order to purchase a product, which makes it a somewhat troublesome system.

News about Portugal’s new law via EFF.

The five tech giants are also media business giants that dominate the distribution of ebooks

2017-10-23

Five tech giants, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are marketing products that most of us use daily – some people perhaps use them most of the hours they are awake. Each of these tech giants is – one way or another – a media company. Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft sell digital media products from their online stores. Facebook and Google are categorized as publishers in a number of markets, because they distribute news and information to the public. All these companies have enormous powers to promote or block items and products.
Microsoft ebook store in the Edge web browser
Facebook reports it has more than two billion active users on its social media service. About 45 percent of American adults get news from Facebook. Although Facebook doesn’t admit it is a media company, that’s how it is treated, for instance, within EU.

Google’s search market share in the U.S. approaches 86 percent, whereas in Europe it is over 90 percent. Google’s primary business is advertising, but the Play Store features music, movies and ebooks as well.

About 43 percent of all online retail sales in the U.S. last year went through Amazon. The vast majority of ebook sales in the U.S. is conducted by Amazon.

Microsoft has a dominant position in PC software with its Windows software, and Apple has grown to the most valuable company in the world because of its computers and mobile devices that customers are ready to pay premium for.

Curiously enough, four companies out of five tech giants are also booksellers. Only Facebook hasn’t opened an ebook store.
Amazon Kindle Store
Amazon, of course, gets the credit for facilitating the ebook’s breakthrough into a mass market product with the Kindle and low ebook prices. The company is the undisputable leader of the ebook business in the world. Not only has Amazon a role as a book retailer, but the company is also a book publisher, translation firm and a marketer.

Apple was the pioneer of music downloads with the iTunes Store where people could find MP3 songs for their iPods and PCs. Ebooks were introduced to the iBooks store along with the iPad tablet.

Google started scanning printed books from libraries because the company wanted to archive and index all the information in the world. Many years and legal problems later, Google has agreements with publishers to sell their ebooks at the Play Store.

Microsoft has marketed applications and games in its digital download store, and has added ebooks to the store as well, although the market coverage is limited at the moment. The new Edge web browser can open EPUB books without any additional plugins or tricks.
Google Play Books store for ebooks

What do the tech giants’ media businesses mean for ebooks?

If we think about the global ebook business, the tech giants dominate the distribution of digital products to customers. Only Kobo has the global reach that is anywhere close to the giants, but Kobo probably does not have the customer base to generate the same amount of sales as the tech giants.

In every market, local online bookstores compete against the global giants. In many markets, local booksellers may have a larger market share than the giants. Tolino in Central Europe, for instance, is a strong brand and sales channel for ebooks in the German speaking part of the world.

For tech giants, ebooks are not necessarily the core products they will bet their futures on. Tech companies’ priorities are in software, cloud services, hardware, artificial intelligence, and in other new technologies. Amazon is the only company that (at the moment) is an online retailer first, and technology supports that goal.
Apple iBooks Store
Let’s take a look at other types of digital media products and which companies dominate those markets. Online movies and television shows are streamed and downloaded from Netflix and Hulu. Music is discovered and streamed to homes and mobile devices from Spotify and Pandora.

Only ebooks are purchased from tech giants. Isn’t it a bit strange?

Perhaps ebook subscription services, like Scribd, 24 Symbols, Storytel, Bookmate will change the landscape of distribution of ebooks one day. Perhaps Kobo is able to compete against the giants in the future. Perhaps a group of investors believes there is a place for an independent global bookstore and establishes one that is in line with the interests of the ebook trade.

The new class of ereaders: products with 8-inch screens

2017-10-09

For many years, people who read ebooks on ereader devices have settled on products that have six-inch screens. Nothing wrong with a 6-inch display, but there are people who would like to read on a larger screen. Now, the time has come for more choice. Not only has Sony introduced a huge 13-inch ereader, but a number of 8-inch ereaders are available from renowned brands and less known manufacturers.
Cybook Ocean 8-inch ereader

Cybook Ocean.


There are, at least, four products available with an 8-inch E ink display at the moment. In fact, some of the products come with 7.8 inch screen and others with 8-inch, but we will refer to all of them as 8-inch ereaders.

Boyue Likebook Plus 172 Euros.
Cybook Ocean 189 Euros.
Icarus Illumina XL HD 199 Euros.
Kobo Aura One 229 Euros.

If you need help in deciding which device size is the right one for you (from 6 to 13 inches), read the article that also has a video where different ereader sizes are compared.

Here are the most important features for each four ereaders.

Key features and specifications of the Cybook Ocean ereader

8-inch Eink display, touch sensitive.
Display resolution 1024×768 px (160 PPI), 16 levels of grey.
Front light for reading in dark.
CPU: Cortex A8 TI OMAP3611 (800 MHz)
RAM : 128 MB
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n)
4GB internal storage for ebooks.
MicroSD memory card slot for additional storage space.
MicroUSB 2 port.
Dedicated keys for turning the page.
25 user interface languages.
Web browser.
Ebook formats: ePub, PDF Adobe DRM, HTML, Txt, FB2, DJVU
Li-Polymer battery 2100 mAh.
Dimensions: 196 mm x 150 mm x 7 mm
Weight: 300 gr with the battery.

Kobo Aura One key specifications

kobo aura one ereader

– 7.8-inch E Ink touchscreen, 1872 x 1404 resolution, 300 dpi
– Front light for reading in places with inadequate light. ComfortLight PRO technology that reduces blue light exposure.
– 8 GB on-board memory. Storage for up to 6,000 ebooks.
– 11 fonts and over 50 font styles. Font weight and sharpness settings.
– 14 file formats supported: EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, CBR.
– Access to public libraries that use Overdrive ebook library system.
– Wi Fi 802.11 b/g/n.
– Micro USB port.
– Battery life up to 1 month.
– Built-in device languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Japanese, Turkish.
– Weight 230 gr.
– Dimensions 195 x 138.5 x 6.9 mm.

Highlights of the Icarus Illumina XL HD ereader

Icarus Illumina 8 inch ereader.

7.8-inch E ink screen.
300 DPI resolution.
Touch screen .
Powered by Android software. Google Play.
Front light.
Wi-Fi.
Bluetooth.

Key features of the Boyue Likebook Plus

Boyue Likebook 7.8 inch ereader

7.8-inch display in 1448*1072 resolution. Touch screen.
Ebook formats: Html, Epub, Pdf, Mobi, Html, TXT, Djvu, Rtf, Fb2
WiFi.
Android operating system.
Bluetooth
Dimensions: 198*144*8.3 mm.
Micro USB port.
3.5 mm headphone jack.
16GB storage space.
2800mAh battery.
Weight 290gr.