Cybercrime Officials Shutdown Large eBook Portal, Three Arrested

Three individuals believed to be behind a large illicit eBook portal have been arrested. Lul.to carried an estimated 200,000 titles, including eBooks, audiobooks, and newspapers, each downloadable for a small fee. It claimed to be the largest site of its type in the world. Bitcoin and a large quantity of cash have been seized.

download-keyboardBack in February 2015, German anti-piracy outfit GVU filed a complaint against the operators of large eBook portal Lul.to.

Targeted mainly at the German audience, the site carried around 160,000 eBooks, 28,000 audiobooks, plus newspapers and periodicals. Its motto was “Read and Listen” and claimed to be both the largest German eBook portal and the largest DRM-free platform in the world.

Unlike most file-sharing sites, Lul.to charged around 30,000 customers a small fee to access content, around $0.23 per download. However, all that came to end last week when authorities moved to shut the platform down.

According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, searches in several locations led to the discovery of around 55,000 euros in bitcoin, 100,000 euros in bank deposits, 10,000 euros in cash, plus a “high-quality” motorcycle.

As is often the case following significant action, the site has been completely taken down and now displays the following seizure notice.

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Authorities report that three people were arrested and are being detained while investigations continue.

It is not yet clear how many times the site’s books were downloaded by users but investigators believe that the retail value of the content offered on the site was around 392,000 euros. By volume, investigators seized more than 11 terabytes of data.

The German Publishers & Booksellers Association welcomed the shutdown of the platform.

“Intervening against lul.to is an important success in the fight against Internet piracy. By blocking one of the largest illegal providers for e-books and audiobooks, many publishers and retailers can breathe,” said CEO Alexander Skipis.

“Piracy is not an excusable offense, it’s the theft of intellectual property, which is the basis for the work of authors, publishers, and bookshops. Portals like lul.to harm the media market massively. The success of the investigation is another example of the fact that such illegal models ultimately can not hold up.”

Last week in a separate case in Denmark, three men aged between 26 and 71-years-old were handed suspended sentences for offering subscription access to around 198 pirate textbooks.

Author: Andy
Twitter: @torrentfreak
Source: https://torrentfreak.com

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How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’

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Books as objects of desire: photographs by Jennifer Cownie. Composite: Jennifer Cownie/@cownifer

Just a few years ago, the Kindle was being blamed for the death of the traditional book. But the latest figures show a dramatic reversal of fortunes, with sales of ebooks plunging. So what’s behind this resurgence?

Here are some things that you can’t do with a Kindle. You can’t turn down a corner, tuck a flap in a chapter, crack a spine (brutal, but sometimes pleasurable) or flick the pages to see how far you have come and how far you have to go. You can’t remember something potent and find it again with reference to where it appeared on a right- or left-hand page. You often can’t remember much at all. You can’t tell whether the end is really the end, or whether the end equals 93% followed by 7% of index and/or questions for book clubs. You can’t pass it on to a friend or post it through your neighbour’s door.

A few years ago, I was given a Kindle. I had become a student again. I was reading lots of books and I needed them cheap and light. But now the Kindle has slipped to the back of the desk drawer behind the Blu-Tack that comes out only at Christmas. Meanwhile, the stack of hardbacks and paperbacks on the bedside table has grown so tall it has spawned sub-stacks on the floor; when I get into bed at night, it is like looking down on a miniature book city. I don’t want to speculate about what goes on in other people’s bedrooms but I suspect it might be something similar, because figures published today by the Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015. So why is the physical book winning through?

Ten years ago, when the Kindle launched, the idea was miraculous. Here was the ability to carry hundreds of books enfolded in a tiny slip of plastic, countless stories in a few hundred grams. It seems hard to believe when you look at the thick, black plastic surround – stylistically it bears more resemblance to a cathode ray tube TV than a tablet – that it predated the iPad by two years. Within five hours, it had sold out, despite a price tag of $399 (then £195). A decade on, lay a Kindle next to a smartphone or tablet and it looks so much older, while the reading experience it delivers has scarcely progressed.

“It was new and exciting,” says Cathryn Summerhayes, a literary agent at Curtis Brown. “But now they look so clunky and unhip, don’t they? I guess everyone wants a piece of trendy tech and, unfortunately, there aren’t trendy tech reading devices and I don’t think people are reading long-form fiction on their phones. I think your average reader would say that one of the great pleasures of reading is the physical turning of the page. It slows you down and makes you think.”

Indeed, the take-up of tablets among book buyers has slowed since a flurry between 2012 and 2014, according to Steve Bohme, UK research director at Nielsen, which conducted the research for the Publishing Association. There are fewer new readers of digital books, and they tend to consume physical books as well. Oyster, the so-called Netflix for books, folded after a year.

Another thing that has happened is that books have become celebrated again as objects of beauty. They are coveted in their own right, while ebooks, which are not things of beauty, have become more expensive; a new digital fiction release is often only a pound or two cheaper than a hardback. “Part of the positive pressure that digital has exerted on the industry is that publishers have rediscovered their love of the physical,” says James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, which published a special Christmas edition of Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, more than 80,000 copies of which have been sold by the chain. (He, in common with most people involved with the publishing of physical books, reads on a Kindle, but afterwards buys the books he loves.)

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Young readers much prefer the immediacy of a book rather than an ebook. Photograph: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

“The physical book had become quite a cheap and tacky thing at the turn of the millennium,” Daunt says. Publishers “cut back on the quality of the paper, so if you left a book in the sun it went yellow. They were gluing, not sewing. They would put a cover on a hardback but not do anything with the hard case underneath. Nowadays, if you take a cover off, there is likely to be something interesting underneath it.”

And that something interesting is likely to gain traction on #bookstagram, a celebration of the aesthetics of books, where books are the supermodels and where readers and non-readers can see cats and dogs reading books, books photographed in landscapes, books posed with croissants, sprays of flowers, homeware, gravestones and cups of coffee, colour-matched and colour-clashed with outfits, shoes, biscuits and in what can only be described as book fashion shoots. You just can’t do a shelfie with an e-reader.

Physical books even feature in this spring/summer’s Fantastic Man magazine, which advises its fashion-literate readership to take five unread books to the sofa and spend five minutes with each one. “The difference between having read Proust for five minutes and for zero minutes is small, but it is also significant.” (This is how I’m going to crack my lifelong embarrassment about never having read Proust.)

Once upon a time, people bought books because they liked reading. Now they buy books because they like books. “All these people are really thinking about how the books are – not just what’s in them, but what they’re like as objects,” says Jennifer Cownie, who runs the beautiful Bookifer website and the Cownifer Instagram, which match books to decorative papers, and who bought a Kindle but hated it. Summerhayes thinks that “people have books in their house as pieces of art”. One of her authors’ forthcoming works features cover art by someone who designs album covers for Elbow. “Everyone wants sexy-looking books,” she says. She distinguishes these from “coffee-table books”, which is what we had before #bookstagram. This helps to explain the reinvigoration of independent bookshops, which offer a more styled, or curated, experience.

“We had a near-death experience,” Daunt says, referring to the recession. But, he adds: “When you come under pressure, you have to raise your game, and that’s what has gone on throughout the industry.”

There are other reasons for the decline of consumer ebooks. Children’s books, which represent an area of significant growth, just don’t work well on e-readers (although there are lots of children’s reading apps). Neither do young adult titles, even though this age group might be expected to opt for the most technological reading experience. Daunt’s children “can stick their noses in a book and they are lost in that book”. But when they try to read on a digital machine, “the allure of Snapchat pinging away, it’s a disaster. They think it’s a disaster.”

However, none of this is to say that digital publishing is the enemy of physical book publishing. At Forum Books in Corbridge, Northumberland, founder Helen Stanton has recently collaborated on a Silent Book Disco at the Biscuit Factory art gallery in Newcastle, where visitors could wander around and look at books (rather than works of art) while listening to an appropriate playlist. “A lot of my customers have bought e-readers and are now coming back to books,” she says; the shop is regional winner for the north of England in the Independent Bookshop of the Year category of the Nibbies. “We do a lot of events. We are really trying to connect readers with the author, to bring the book to life.”

Stanton is talking on the phone from a train down to London, where she hopes “to buy equipment” so she can do more silent book discos. Maybe, she says, customers could wander around the bookshop and hear poems at certain places on National Poetry Day. “It’s totally wireless, and if customers didn’t want to hear it, they wouldn’t hear it.”

Fuelled by the success of podcasts such as Serial, the rise of audio is one area of digital success, with downloads up 28%, according to the Publishing Association. Audio is becoming something of a new battleground in publishing, where audio publishers want to see books on submission at the same time as physical publishers, while physical publishers have become disinclined to acquire books without audio rights. In the US, the Audible Originals programme is commissioning new work – such as Tom Rachman’s interconnected short stories about Donald Trump – which is debuting in audio before print.

To complicate matters, some publishers of physical books are treating ebooks “almost as a marketing tool” before a book comes to print, says Summerhayes. One recent title, for instance, had little interest in its forthcoming print publication, so the publisher released it as an ebook for 99p. It began to sell, to be noticed and get reviewed. At which point the publisher went to the supermarkets that had previously spurned it and they took it up. (In music, this idea echoes how the first releases by artists such as the Weeknd and Frank Ocean were mixtapes given away online; by the time they released “proper” albums for conventional labels, they already had a big fanbase.)

The figures from the Publishing Association should be treated with some caution. They exclude self-published books, a sizable market for ebooks. And, according to Dan Franklin, a digital publishing specialist, more than 50% of genre sales are on ebook. Digital book sales overall are up 6%.

“It’s not about the death of ebooks,” Daunt says. “It’s about ebooks finding their natural level. Even in the years when ebook sales were rising greatly – and clearly cannibalising physical book sales – it was always very clear that we would have a correction and reach an equilibrium.” The UK, he says, has “adopted” ebooks and they will remain a substantial market (while in France, for instance, ebooks are only 3% of the overall market). The last thing he – or any seller or publisher of physical books – wants is the death of the ebook. “We want people to read. We don’t mind how they read,” he stresses. He knows that people who read, sooner or later, will buy books.

Paula Cocozza’s novel, How To Be Human, is published by Hutchinson at £12.99 rrp. To order for £11.04 with free UK p&p, visit bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846.

Author: Paula Cocozza
Twitter: @CocozzaPaula
Source: https://www.theguardian.com

Auburn Public Library launching Cloud Library program, working to expand offerings

58e1ce0d085f9.image.jpgThe Auburn Public Library is launching a new platform for its ebook and audiobook selection and is hoping to expand its offerings.

The library today uses OverDrive to offer cardholders ebooks and downloadable audiobooks. Patrons can access the books through a separate website and read or listen to them on most devices.

Over the next few weeks, the library will work to switch its collection over to Cloud Library, which will allow the library to offer econtent directly from the library’s site, alongside print content.

“Then they will be able to checkout and download directly from there without having to go back and forth,” said Brandon Rowland, digital services specialist. “It’s a really simple process, and you get to see everything we have to offer at once.”

Cloud Library will work in concert with the library’s new self-checkout system. When patrons use the system to checkout a book, they will also be prompted to download the corresponding ebook or audiobook.

Once the programs transition, the library’s entire catalog will be available in e-book or audiobook format. Rowland also hopes to expand the collection in the transition. Cloud Library will offer the library more purchase options for ebook or audiobook licenses, hopefully allowing them to offer more copies of back listed books, Rowland said.

Patrons using OverDrive will need to switch to the Cloud Drive app, which allows readers to read from their computers, smartphones and tablets. The app is available on Android devices, Apple devices, Nook tablets and Kindle Fire tablets. It will not work with basic e-readers.

The library first began looking into Cloud Library when planning began for the upcoming self-checkout project, said Library Director Chris Warren. More than 25,000 ebooks, downloadable audiobooks and digital magazines were borrowed last year, and Warren recognizes that the numbers are not dwindling.

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“We’re very aware that it’s a growing market, and it’s something that our customers demand,” Warren said. “We hope that this will help us fill that demand more easily and more quickly.”

The switch will take place in early May. OverDrive will be discontinued on May 9 and Cloud Library will launch on May 11. All ebook services will be unavailable on May 10.

Library employees are in week four of marking each item in the library’s collection with RFID tags and assigning barcodes to be used with the upcoming self checkout system, Warren said. They initially expected the process to take 10 to 12 weeks, but Warren now expects they will be finished in six to eight weeks.

The self-checkout will begin operation by the end of May, if not sooner, Warren said.

For more information about Cloud Library or the self checkout, visit www.auburnalabama.org/library.

Author: Cynthia Williford
Twitter: @cynthiwilliford
Source: http://www.oanow.com