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Other posts by Chris Meadows

Amazon’s Kiva robots herald warehouse automation
December 1, 2014 | 10:28 pm

kiva_robotsHere’s an interesting feature on Amazon’s Kiva robots, used to automate the process of filling orders in some of its warehouses. I hadn’t been entirely clear on how those robots worked, but the article does a great job explaining. The Kiva robots essentially resemble oversized Roombas—squat hockey-puck-shaped gizmos that trundle along the warehouse floors. They operate by latching onto huge inventory shelves and carrying them along with them to “stow stations” where workers load incoming shipments of merchandise into them, or to “picking stations” where order pickers grab the merchandise and put it into a box. To hear...

Diane Duane holds Cyber Monday sale; may have to close e-book store
November 30, 2014 | 4:58 pm

Diane Duane’s e-book store is running a 50% off sale for Black Friday/Cyber Monday. All e-books in the store are half-off, no discount code required. But as Duane explains in a blog post, this could very well be her last Cyber Monday sale, because of the new VAT MOSS regulations coming into effect as of the New Year. As Duane points out via a quote from a Huffington Post article on the matter, the new regulation—and its removal of the minimum threshold at which UK businesses need to worry about VAT—is going to hit many UK small businesses particularly...

New European VAT law could threaten small e-businesses
November 29, 2014 | 10:19 pm

New European Union regulations regarding value-added taxes (a sort of European equivalent of sales tax) will take effect January 1, 2015 that could cause problems for businesses selling electronic goods and services. Referred to as VAT MOSS (for “Mini One-Stop Shop,” the web portal each member state will run to make payments easier), the new regulations put the onus on businesses that provide “telecoms/broadcast/electronic services” to EU customers to keep track of and charge each customer VAT at the rates that apply to the country where that customer lives. Previously, businesses were free to charge at the rate that...

Copyright Office posts DMCA exemption petitions
November 25, 2014 | 6:17 pm

A few weeks ago I discussed the need for a DMCA exemption for e-books, in light of the US Copyright Office requesting petitions for such exemptions. The Copyright Office has now posted all 44 petitions it received as PDFs. There are a number of interesting petitions there—not least of them my own. Now that I read my petition again, I see a few typos and other tweaks I wish I could go back and fix (and they miscategorized it under “Audiovisual Works – Multimedia E-Books,” rather than “Literature Distributed Electronically”), but on the whole I’m satisfied with it....

Motorola’s ‘Duet’ tells a story as only a smartphone can
November 20, 2014 | 7:41 pm

Screenshot_2014-11-20-18-35-16I was just answering a message on Google Hangouts in my Moto X when I saw a blue stylized figure of a ballet dancer dance across the bottom of the screen. It left a glowing blue circle that I tapped on, and I was presented with a screen that said “Duet”. This puzzled me, as I certainly hadn’t installed anything by that name lately. A quick Google revealed that this was a new animated short from Motorola’s Moto X Spotlight Player. Directed by veteran ex-Disney animator Glen Keane, “Duet” tells the story of a boy and a girl who...

James Patterson wants Amazon to do more to promote reading
November 20, 2014 | 7:16 am

Salon Magazine has an interview with bestselling author and literary franchise James Patterson that is refreshingly free of the anti-Amazon rhetoric that has characterized both institutions of late. At least they’re not currently trashing Amazon for what it’s doing. They’re complaining about what Amazon ought to be doing but isn’t. And I can’t say that I necessarily disagree. Patterson is planning to launch a new public awareness campaign to encourage reading, following on the heels of his $1 million in grants to bookstores. The campaign will include a TV ad featuring a public book-burning (a bit of a cliché,...

Blurred lines: Social media and news media feeding into each other
November 19, 2014 | 7:35 pm

On GigaOm, Matthew Ingram expresses fascination with the way that the news media and social media have collided and blurred the lines between each other, in the context of the recent Uber scandal. We’re increasingly seeing major news stories break and grow in social and new media—Twitter, Facebook, blogs—with the traditional media being relatively slow to catch on. Rather than issue press releases, public figures and companies are issuing quick responses via Twitter or Facebook. So is this a good thing or a bad thing? That depends a lot on your perspective. Obviously if you’re...

Why is Black Friday now Black Thursday Night? Blame Amazon
November 18, 2014 | 11:06 pm

black-friday-comic-2Tis the season. As we gear up for the Christmas shopping rush to begin, we face a dilemma that’s become a lot more prominent in recent years: many retailers are going to open for early Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving evening. This has horrified a certain percentage of people who see it as another sign of the commercialized holiday’s insidious creep. If the slippery slope slide continues, before you know it we’re going to witness a sort of reverse Nightmare Before Christmas scenario in which Santa Claus decides he wants to take over Halloween. But what really seems to...

The Indie Author Power Pack aims for the NYT Best Seller list
November 7, 2014 | 6:29 pm

indie-power-pack-blogDavid Gaughran blogs that he and some other authors are attempting to reach the New York Times Best Seller list with a super-cheap bundle of writing advice e-books. The Indie Author Power Pack bundles together three writers’ guides at the low low cost of 99 cents: Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant Let’s Get Digital (2nd ed.) by David Gaughran How To Market A book (2nd ed.) by Joanna Penn PLUS exclusive content. Gaughran also suggests that it would...

Personal hotspots: Wal-Mart vs. Karma
November 5, 2014 | 6:12 pm

karmaIn March of this year, I took a look at the current options for pay-as-you-go cellular wi-fi hotspots—just the thing for giving wi-fi-only tablets and e-readers connectivity wherever you go. At the time, I switched over from TruConnect to Wal-Mart’s equivalent 3G MiFi, to get away from TruConnect’s $5 per month fee, and was more or less happy with it, as far as it went. But one of the other competitors I mentioned at the time, Karma, is about to change things up, and it looks like it might just be worth trying. A lot of people with smartphones...

Opening the Inbox: Google’s new paradigm for reading email
November 5, 2014 | 5:20 pm

Screenshot_2014-11-05-17-12-58If you’ve heard about Google’s new “Inbox” system for reading GMail, you’re just about to have your chance to request an invitation. Between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Eastern (3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific) today (starting just about 40 minutes from now), Google will send invitations to everyone who requests one. Just send an email to inbox@google.com between 6 and 7 and you’ll get your invitation by 8 p.m. (5 p.m. Pacific). I requested an invitation the day it launched and got it the very next day. I’ve been using it since then, on my PC, tablet, and...

Why we need an e-book DRM DMCA exemption
October 30, 2014 | 8:54 pm

It’s that time again. Ars Technica reports that the Copyright Office is accepting petitions on activities to exempt from the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions, making it legal to crack DRM for certain restricted purposes. We’ve reported on this procedure a few times over the last few years. The way it goes is that various people or organizations make proposals and the copyright office considers whether to grant them for the next three years. The exemptions then have to be requested again at the next session if they are to continue. Public Knowledge will be submitting requests to legalize...