Start up: evaluating ebooks, EU’s tax quiz, no more Here on Windows, two cameras on iPhone 7?, and more

Hey, what if you put them in the back? Wouldn’t that get readership up? Photo by San Antonio Food Bank on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Moneyball for book publishers, for a detailed look at how we read » The New York Times

Alexandra Alter and Karl Russell:

»Andrew Rhomberg wants to be the Billy Beane of the book world.

Mr. Beane used analytics to transform baseball, famously recounted in “Moneyball,” a book by Michael Lewis. Now Mr. Rhomberg wants to use data about people’s reading habits to radically reshape how publishers acquire, edit and market books.

“We still know almost nothing about readers, especially in trade publishing,” said Mr. Rhomberg, the founder of Jellybooks, a reader analytics company based in London.

While e-books retailers like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble can collect troves of data on their customers’ reading behavior, publishers and writers are still in the dark about what actually happens when readers pick up a book. Do most people devour it in a single sitting, or do half of readers give up after Chapter 2? Are women over 50 more likely to finish the book than young men? Which passages do they highlight, and which do they skip?

Mr. Rhomberg’s company is offering publishers the tantalizing prospect of peering over readers’ shoulders. Jellybooks tracks reading behavior the same way Netflix knows what shows you binge-watch and Spotify knows what songs you skip…

…On average, fewer than half of the books tested were finished by a majority of readers. Most readers typically give up on a book in the early chapters. Women tend to quit after 50 to 100 pages, men after 30 to 50. Only 5% of the books Jellybooks tested were completed by more than 75% of readers. Sixty percent of books fell into a range where 25% to 50% of test readers finished them. Business books have surprisingly low completion rates.

«

link to this extract

 


Amazon comments on “table of contents” crackdown, inadvertently confirms Kindle Unlimited page count scam » The Digital Reader

Nate Hoffelder:

»As David Gaughran explained, and as was laid out in detail over on KBoards, scammers were using tricks “such as adding unnecessary or confusing hyperlinks, misplacing the TOC, or adding distracting content” to artificially  inflate the number of pages read by Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

This statistic matters because in July of last year Amazon started paying authors and publishers with ebooks in Kindle Unlimited by the number of pages read, rather than the number of times an ebook is borrowed. This was generally viewed as a response to authors who were cheating the system by uploading really short works and getting paid each time one was borrowed, and it was supposed to level the playing field by making sure that longer works are valued the same as a short story.

That’s the way things were supposed to work, but alas, the scammers are smarter than that.

«

They always are.
link to this extract

 


Apple, McDonald’s, Google and IKEA to face EU lawmakers over tax deals » Reuters

Foo Yun Chee:

»Apple, Google, McDonald’s and IKEA will be asked about their European tax deals on Wednesday as EU lawmakers ratchet up the pressure on multinationals to pay more tax on their profits locally.

The hearing, organized by the European Parliament’s tax committee, follows a similar event in November last year when Anheuser-Busch InBev, HSBC, Google and eight other companies were quizzed on the same subject.

While the committee has no power to order changes, the hearing reflects the political concerns over multinationals avoiding local tax liabilities.

«

link to this extract

 


Schell: Nintendo probably working on VR gaming device » GamesIndustry.biz

James Brightman:

»Here’s a quick overview of [Carnegie Mellon professor and game designer Jesse Schell’s] predictions:

1. This isn’t some fad, it’s going to stay. VR headsets in the market permanently starting this year.

2. By the end of 2017, 8m gamer headsets (meaning console/PC) will be sold. Schell adds it up as follows: 4m PlayStation VR headsets, 3m Oculus Rifts, and 1m Vives.

3. Schell said that “it’s like all of us have entered into a great conspiracy to bore gamers to death” and they are ready to buy new stuff. In general, there will be four mobile headsets for each gamer headset, he said.

4. Headset sales are going to double each year until saturation is reached, so by 2022 there will be 512m gamer headsets and 2bn mobile VR headsets.

«

Note that the HTC Vive won’t be setting the world on fire. And some people think that those are ambitious forecasts.
link to this extract

 


Here Maps drops support for Windows Phone and Windows 10 » The Verge

Tom Warren:

»[Nokia-owned] Here is announcing today that it plans to pull its mapping apps for Windows 10 on March 29th, and “will limit the development of the apps for Windows Phone 8 to critical bug fixes.” If you own one of the latest Lumia 950 handsets then Here maps will stop working after June 30th. If you’re still on a Windows Phone 8.1 device then Here maps will keep working, unless you upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile once it’s available in the coming weeks.

“We made the Here apps compatible with Windows 10 by using a workaround that will no longer be effective after June 30, 2016,” explains Here spokesperson Pino Bonetti. “To continue offering the HERE apps for Windows 10 would require us to redevelop the apps from the ground up, a scenario that led to the business decision to remove our apps from the Windows 10 store.”

Here is the latest in a line of high-profile apps that have started disappearing from Microsoft’s Windows Phone store. American Airlines, Chase Bank, Bank of America, NBC, Pinterest, and Kabam have all discontinued their Windows Phone apps in the past year. These huge apps have simply disappeared or will no longer be updated.

«

I remember when people were telling me here that Windows 10’s compatibility mode would solve everything in mobile, especially the app gap.
link to this extract

 


Explaining the struggles of Apple Pay and mobile payments » Tech-Thoughts

Sameer Singh:

»From the perspective of mainstream consumers, mobile payments are no more “mobile” than a credit card or cash. Security and privacy have never been a draw except for a vocal minority. The only benefit left is transaction processing time or “convenience”. Last year, most early adopters (and some analysts) argued that mobile payments were so much more convenient than existing payment solutions that it was only a matter of time until adoption exploded. Except, it hasn’t. And the longer you think about it, the more superficial this “convenience” argument seems.

If a “normal” iPhone user has to make a trip to the closest big box retailer, say Walmart, would Apple Pay improve his experience? Does saving ten seconds at the checkout counter matter when he has to wait ten minutes for his groceries to be scanned and bagged anyway? Even if the wait is a few minutes for other types of in-store purchases, the added convenience is minimal. At the very least, it isn’t enough of an experience boost to change the deeply-ingrained habit of pulling out a credit card. Now, if the credit card itself could save a few seconds, it would be actively utilized. And that’s a selling point for contactless payments, not for mobile payments.

«

True, but that’s only applicable in the US (where the survey comes from), where amazingly insecure but fast-to-use credit cards have been in use for decades; in Europe chip-and-PIN has been in use for much longer. Singh points out that in-app purchases are a better use, but I’d love to know how much Apple Pay is used for travel in London, where it’s accepted on the underground.
link to this extract

 


Egypt’s dirty wheat problem » Reuters

Eric Knecht, with an excellent investigation:

»President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has made ending corruption – including graft in the wheat industry – one of his government’s priorities. In 2014, his government rolled out a system of smart cards designed to stop unscrupulous bakeries selling government-subsidised flour on the black market.

Cairo says the system has been a big success, saving millions of dollars in bread subsidies, reducing imports, and ending shortages that once prompted long queues outside bakeries across the country. Supplies Minister Khaled Hanafi told Egyptian reporters in late 2014 that roughly 50 percent of the country’s flour supply was stolen. In December last year he told Reuters that the new system had saved more than 6 billion Egyptian pounds ($766 million) worth of flour.

But industry officials, traders and bakers say those reforms have failed – and even made abuse of the system worse.

Eight sources in the wheat industry said the smart card system could be hacked, allowing some bakers to falsify receipts and request far more subsidised flour than they officially sold. Instead of reducing the amount of flour the state paid for, the critics said, the smart card system actually increased it. That triggered a wave of fraud higher up the supply chain that the sources say cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars last year.

«

Bread (or the lack of it) was one of the principal causes of the Arab spring, in Egypt and elsewhere. So this matters.
link to this extract

 


Google faces challenges in encrypting Android phones » WSJ

Jack Nicas:

»“There is a push and pull with what Google wants to mandate and what the [manufacturers] are going to do,” said Andrew Blaich, lead security analyst at Bluebox Security Inc., which helps secure mobile apps. In some ways, Google is “at the mercy of the larger (manufacturers) like Samsung and LG that are driving the ecosystem.”

When phones aren’t encrypted, law enforcement can more easily view their contents. Authorities use specialized software to crack passcodes on locked—but unencrypted—Android devices in about an hour, said an investigator for France’s Gendarmerie Nationale.

The Manhattan district attorney said in November that investigators can bypass passcodes on some older Android devices, while Google can remotely reset passcodes on others. His office said encryption “will make it impossible for Google to…assist with device data extraction.”

Google said it complied with 63% of 65,500 government requests for user data in the 12 months ending in June 2015.

«

link to this extract

 


Apple iPhone 7 Plus dual camera module leak suggests advanced AR and 3D scanning capabilities » Pocket-lint

Luke Edwards:

»Sources of Pocket Now based in Taiwan have leaked the dual-lens camera module that they claim will appear in the iPhone 7 Plus. There is no word on it being in the standard iPhone 7 though. The source claims that the camera will be a first for the way it works.
The dual-camera will shoot one 12-megapixel standard focal length photo while the other lens will shoot a 12-megapixel shot in telephoto with up to three times zoom. That helps to explain the varying lens sizes shown in the module.

Apple recently bought Israeli start-up LinX which specialises in gathering camera depth information. This can allow for tricks like removing the subject from the background by gauging depth. It could conceivably also allow the phone the ability to scan real world objects into a virtual representation, or help to offer better depth for augmented reality applications.

«

Set a baseline, build on it. Suggests built-in VR/AR capabilities would be about three years out.
link to this extract

 


Radio Times: 6,000 readers’ views on BBC ignored by government » The Guardian

John Plunkett:

»The government has rebuffed a request to reopen its consultation into the future of the BBC after the Radio Times claimed 6,000 of its readers’ responses had been ignored.

The magazine said the government had never asked for the password to open an encrypted memory stick on which the responses were sent.

The culture secretary, John Whittingdale, said earlier this month that “every response we received matters. Every response we received has been read”, but the Radio Times said it had “serious concerns” that the “important voice” of its readers on the future of the BBC had been ignored.

Radio Times editor Ben Preston, writing under the headline “A broken promise”, in the new issue of the Radio Times published on Tuesday, said: “Is this shameful mess the result of a conspiracy or a cock-up? Or both?”

«

A very neat way to expose lying by the government. But this sort of action by Whittingdale’s dogma-crazed team is exactly what leads to people first becoming indifferent to politicians (“it won’t make any difference”), and then angry when it’s about something that does affect them. And then you get Donald Trump. (Don’t think the anger exposed by Trump will go away if he doesn’t win. It will continue boiling underneath.)

That’s why Whittingdale should apologise, admit the error, and read the submissions. He should also have a TV tuned to any of the main American networks on in a corner of his office, so he discovers what life without the BBC, and with a million adverts per hour, is like.
link to this extract

 


The snooper’s charter is flying through parliament. Don’t think it’s irrelevant to you » The Guardian

Scarlet Kim:

»Should the British bill pass in its current form, the UK government will have the power to force Apple and other technology companies to undermine the security of their products and services. The bill permits the agencies to hack – the government calls this “equipment interference” – to obtain “communications” or “any other information”, including through surveillance techniques, such as remotely “monitoring, observing or listening to a person’s communications or other activities”.

The bill authorises agencies to compel “telecommunications providers” to assist them in effecting a hacking warrant, unless “not reasonably practicable”. Apple has pointed out that the term “telecommunications provider” is so broadly defined as to expand the government’s “reach beyond UK borders to … any service provider with a connection to UK customers”. Apple and other technology companies have spoken against many provisions of the investigatory powers bill. In particular, they have noted that the bill “seems to threaten to extend responsibility for hacking from government to the private sector” and rejected “any proposals that would require companies to deliberately weaken the security of their products”.

«

And yet it is just barrelling through Parliament, without any reflection. The result is obvious – Apple will build a phone that even it cannot hack. (Software updates are something the user has to agree to.)
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

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