In a move that could signal an expansion of its e-book strategy, Google has purchased the online book publishing company eBook Technologies. Terms of the deal were not announced.
In a note on its web site, eBook said “working together with Google will further our commitment to providing a first-class reading experience on emerging tablets, e-readers and other portable devices.”
‘Automated Book Publishers‘
eBook Technologies supplies intelligent reading devices and licenses technologies that the company said “enable automated publishing and control over content distribution.” The offerings include an online bookstore, an online “bookshelf,” software that converts content to the format used by the company, and e-reading devices.
The book publishing company is headed by President Garth Conboy, an e-book veteran. In the late 1990s, he was vice president of software engineering for SoftBook Press, which developed one of the first dedicated e-book readers, and he owns several related patents.
The acquisition is the latest public move in Google’s positioning in this new and growing market. In December, Google announced Google eBooks, a service for buying and reading digital children’s book publishers ISBN publications. The service doesn’t require that a user have dedicated hardware, such as Amazon.com’s Kindle, but makes titles available via the cloud.
Google Books, which has developed a large library of public-domain books, has become part of Google eBooks, for a total of more than three million titles available. Of those, some hundreds of thousands are for sale.
As a device-agnostic service, Google eBooks also offers reading apps for Apple’s iOS and the Android operating system, currently the most popular for tablets and among the top OSes for smartphones. Since the titles are cloud-based, syncing between devices is irrelevant — the cloud remembers you.
Ads on Books?
The cloud is also a big bookshelf, so customers can buy titles from Google or its bookseller partners, such as Alibris or a variety of smaller retailers. Titles purchased from any source are stored in a user’s account.
As part of its stated objective to organize the world’s information, Google has also been working with university and public libraries to scan, store and make available their collections. But the effort has run into trouble, first with the Association of American Publishers and the Author’s Guild for copyright infringement, then with the U.S. Department of Justice. A registry backed by a $125 million settlement has been in the works, but there are still legal issues pending.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., views Google’s moves in e-books as an “extension of their core market of advertising.” She added that, eventually, Google is likely to offer ads with at least some of the digital reading material, in addition to outright sales.
She also noted that Google is positioning itself to remain a relevant source of reading content via mobile devices, rather than allowing Apple, Amazon and Barnes & Noble to control that access.
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A 76-year-old British writer has been jailed for six weeks in Singapore after the High Court found him guilty of contempt of court over a book that raised questions about the independence of the judicial system.
Alan Shadrake, who lives in Malaysia, had refused to apologise for the content of his book, Once a Jolly Hangman, which deals with the use of the death penalty in the island state.
Mr Shadrake had offered to apologise for offending the judiciary before being convicted two weeks ago, but Justice Quentin Loh ruled that his book had scandalised the court.
He said Mr Shadrake had shown “a reckless disregard for the truth” and “a complete lack of remorse”. The defendant had contended that the book amounted to “fair criticism on matters of compelling public interest”.
At a sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Mr Shadrake was also fined S$20,000 (US$15,400) and ordered to pay costs of S$55,000. The prison sentence was lighter than the 12-week term sought by the prosecution.
M. Ravi, Mr Shadrake’s lawyer, had urged the court to censure the author rather than imprison him. “This is by far the most serious sentence [for contempt]. It is the harshest punishment so far [for this offence in Singapore],” Mr Ravi said.
Mr Shadrake was arrested in his hotel room after travelling to Singapore to publicise the book in July. The Singapore authorities have said that charges of criminal defamation are also being considered.
Overseas human rights campaigners condemned the proceedings. Phil Robertson, deputy director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Singapore was “damaging its poor reputation on free expression by shooting the messenger bearing bad news”.
The Singapore authorities have robustly dismissed claims that the courts discriminate against individuals on grounds of nationality, background or status.
Ministers are unapologetic about restrictions on free speech, however, which they say are essential to prevent conflicts between the prosperous island’s mainly Chinese, Indian and Malay population groups.
K. Shanmugam, the law minister, said in a speech in New York two weeks ago that Singapore’s “small society” could not withstand the impact of US-style media freedoms.
“For example, the faultlines in our society, along racial and religious lines, can easily be exploited,” he told an audience at Columbia University.
Singapore’s controls on expression include a state-supervised and mainly state-owned media, tough libel laws and restrictions on street gatherings of more than four people.
Mr Shanmugam questioned the objectivity of organisations such as Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based press freedom organisation, and Freedom House, a US group that campaigns for civil liberties.
RWB ranks Singapore 136th in the world for press freedom, below Iraq and Zimbabwe, while Freedom House has angered Singapore by ranking it below Guinea, where more than 150 anti-government protesters were last year killed during a rally.
“I suspect that our rankings are at least partly due to the fact that we take an uncompromising attitude on libel – and the fact that we have taken on almost every major newspaper company [in the world],” Mr Shanmugam said.
Singapore, with a population of 5m, also imposes heavy penalties on criminal offenders, including caning for violence and vandalism, and the death penalty for murder and drug trafficking. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
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Stolen Law Books from Ohio State University netted $20,000 online, authorities and book publishers report
A law student in his second year of the three-year program at Ohio State University is believed to have stolen books from the school.
Not just any books; they were law books. Campus police say he took more than 200, one at a time, from the university law library and sold them online for more than $20,000.
OSU police searched the student’s apartment last week. The Dispatch is not naming the student because he has not been charged. Police say they will seek an indictment soon.
Officers had been tracking the thefts since the beginning of August, when the university got an e-mail from a Brazilian lawyer. She said that she had bought a volume online from the “Orion Bookstore” site on Amazon.com and found a crossed-out OSU ink stamp on its inside front cover, according to court documents.
A quick check confirmed that the title had vanished from the shelves. An investigation led police to the student, who had 1,351 more library books listed for sale.
“I haven’t seen anything like this before,” said OSU police detective Pete Dragonette, who is leading the investigation.
Book thieves usually go after antique volumes, not common titles, said Scott Seaman, dean of Ohio University’s library. An OSU library official said he couldn’t comment because the investigation is continuing.
In 1996, a retired OSU art-history professor was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison for stealing 14th-century documents and other rare manuscripts from the Vatican Library over 30 years. Kenyon College’s library was a target about 10 years ago, when a night librarian and his girlfriend stole more than 200 books and papers dating back centuries and sold them on eBay for thousands of dollars.
New technology, with improved alarms and digital ID tags, helps security, but thefts can be difficult to prevent in collections of several million volumes typical at universities, Seaman said.
It’s more difficult to prove the source of a common book, which can be bought at many regular bookstores and book publisher stores. At Ohio State, police used a sting operation, marked merchandise and a hidden camera.
They found that one of the books listed for sale on the website was still in the law library. They marked an inside page with invisible ink that shows up under ultraviolet light and hid a camera in a nearby wall clock, according to court documents.
Then, one of the investigators had a relative out of state buy the book. The video shows a man they believe to be the student taking the marked book from the shelf. It later turned up at the buyer’s address – complete with the mark.
However, the toughest part is determining that a book is gone, librarians said. As in the OSU case, Kenyon didn’t notice the theft until a collector called to report that a particularly rare volume was for sale.
“Conscientious buyers are the best friends we have when catching stolen books,” said Joseph Murphy, director of information services at Kenyon’s library.