Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Digital book publishing: Penguin publishes deluxe eBook teacher's edition of Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men' ; NOOK and Kobo both commit to the ePUB3 standard; 360 Sound enhanced eBook comes in two flavors, and with problems

Penguin Group released an enhanced eBook edition of John Steinbeck's classic Of Mice and Men, designed to be "the ultimate teacher’s guide for student discussions."

Of Mice and Men: Teacher’s Deluxe Edition includes video clips of student's offering their own perspectives on the themes of the book, as well as instruction on how to project the eBook for use during classroom discussions.
The eBook is priced at $11.99 and is available for the iPad, B&N's NOOK Color, Google Books for the desktop, and the Amazon app for any iOS device.

Additional materials include an audio interview with actor James Earl Jones describing his experience performing in the Broadway version of the play, an introduction and suggestions for further reading by Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw, the Robert Burns poem from which the novel’s title derives, and Steinbeck’s 1962 Nobel Banquet Speech.
Nobel Prize-winner John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men remains one of America's most widely read and taught novels. An unlikely pair, George and Lennie, two migrant workers in California during the Great Depression, grasp for their American Dream. Laborers in California's dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations, nor predict the consequences of Lennie's unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.
Penguin Group’s CEO John Makinson was an early supporter of Apple's tablet plans, stating that the publisher "will be embedding and streaming audio, video and gaming in to everything we do. This will present us, and the platform owners with technology challenges," Makinson said, referring to the original iPad.

Penguin's app team, though, appears new to submitting apps for Apple's iBookstore as the name of the eBook contains a typo and there are no screenshots to accompany the enhanced eBook. An update, though, would correct this situation easily enough.

Barnes & Noble looks like it will be supporting the EPUB 3 stamndard for its NOOK eBooks, according to a report on the Digital Book World website.

"We’re very supportive of open industry formats,” said Kashif Zafar, Director, NOOK. "We are in line to make sure migration happens successfully and effectively in the coming months and year. When the Nook Color came out we wanted to lead the way with picture book formats. NOOK is very supportive of open industry formats now that EPUB3 is maturing."

The move follows a similar statement from Jim Dovey, ePub Content Formats Evangelist at Kobo Inc. "Kobo is aiming to be the first company to support all of EPUB3," said Dovey back in December at a conference in New York.

I've finally gotten a good chance to work my way through the enhanced eBook of 360: Sound: The Columbia Records Story. The eBook of author Sean Wilentz's history of the legendary record label was created using iBooks Author by Trailer Park Inc. (The original book was published by Chronicle Books.)
The eBook is priced at $14.99, and as I mentioned in my preview, is currently out of stock as a hardbound version over at, making the eBook option quite attractive.

The book is well worth the hefty download of 857 MB if you are interested in the subject. Columbia Records's history goes back to the early days of the industry, and the label, though sometimes prone to releasing mostly popular music, was also the home to Miles Davis and Bob Dylan, after all.

But Trailer Park has made a bit of a mess of its eBook efforts here. While the main eBook is certainly worth the price, the digital publisher has also released what it calls a companion book by Dave Marsh under the same name – and that eBook is a free download.

360 Sound: The Columbia Records Story, the Dave Marsh edition, is even larger, 1.09 GB, and comes with problems.

When the reader downloads the eBook, then installs it, the eBook immediately appears to begin downloading an updated version. This download has a tendency to stall and not complete its download. Readers have complained inside iTunes of having incomplete downloads and not being able to delete the book (or read it).

The problem is that an app, or book, or whatever, can not be deleted until it becomes a completed file. The trick is to get the app to finish the download, and at over one gig, that is quite a chore. I eventually was able to get the eBook to finish downloading the update and all appears OK for now.

But the whole mess begs the question: why would you release two eBooks with the same name, and give one of them away? Surely this is confusing readers and depressing sales.

In any case, here is a walk-through a very small part of the new eBook by author Sean Wilentz: