Round up #177: $5K from 7-11, OCR oops

Round up #177: $5K from 7-11, OCR oops

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

HarperCollins wants you to reinvent publishing

There is this mythology that the tradpubs (traditional publishers) are stuck in the 19th Century…that they can’t see beyond tree-gobbling, smoke-belching book factories and brick and mortar stores.

I’ve said before that I expect the large publishers to be able to make adjustments…oh, not all of them, and not completely, but this industry has already seen major changes, during the life of most of these companies. Look at how railroads and TV have changed publishing. In 1930, publishers hired Edward Bernays (who basically invented modern public relations) to increase sales…and Bernays convinced architects to include built-in bookshelves in new homes. That’s not traditionalist thinking: that’s the ability to go to an expert for help, and to accept it…not what you get with hidebound organizations.

Now, HarperCollins is asking app developers to

“Use imagination and technology to build software that goes beyond the traditional ways we read and discover books.”

This is a contest, with monetary rewards (as high as $15,000).

They aren’t just saying, “Hey, do what you do.” They are making the HarperCollins Open Book API (Application Programming Interface) available. According to the

Booksmash Challenge details page

the API has

“…exclusive book data, author data, and content not available to the general public. These tools will allow developers to think about how to make readers fall in love with books all over again, and how to lead a reluctant reader to just the right story.”

Notice that part about “content”. This suggests that apps will interact with what  you read in some way. Suppose an app noticed the content of a book you read, and maybe took note of what you highlighted. It could then (after you are done reading, hopefully) suggest something else similar. That’s sort of like “people who bought also bought”, but it could be based on actual content, not just the fact that five disparate books were on sale at the same time. Applying “sentiment analysis” might also be a great tool. That would guess, based on the language in the book, if the book was in favor of something or against it. The app could then suggest “other books that support this idea” or “hear from the other side”.

I think this may end up producing something which has a significant impact on the industry. It doesn’t necessarily mean it happens within the confines of the contest: just the fact that it exists may inspire others to come up with their own apps.

Kudos to HarperCollins for encouraging innovation!

Similar to Kindle Worlds, though, there may be developers who are uncomfortable with the terms…out of the box thinking like this tends to naturally encourage the contributions of outsiders. That can be both good and bad, as you get people with less understanding of the situation, but you may also get people who had never thought (or written) about something turning considerable talent and intelligence to it.

7-11 giving away $5,000 in Amazon gift cards

Here’s an opportunity for you to win $5,000 in Amazon gift cards!

https://7eleven.promo.eprize.com/awesummer/

That’s only going for this week, but it does cost anything to enter. I was first alerted to this by my Special Offers on my Kindle Fire…which is one reason the ad-supported  versions of the devices tend to be more popular than their ad-free, but more expensive, counterparts.

I think you could now refer to Amazon gift cards as “Anything Money”. 😉 I mean, there are so many options!

If you win, let me know… 🙂

Doctor W In47o

You know how sometimes you run across books in the Kindle store that are clearly the results of bad OCR (Optical Character Recognition)? No? Let me explain that a bit.

Let’s say that you have a print copy of a book, and you own the rights to it…and you don’t have an electronic file. You want to digitize, to make it into an e-book. You have a few options:

1. Have somebody re-type it. That’s time-consuming, labor intensive (and therefore expensive). With professionals doing it, you are likely to get a pretty good result

2. Have somebody read it into voice recognition software (speech-to-text). That requires less skill, but tends to be somewhat less accurate…and takes quite a long time

3. Scan the book, and ask software to read the images which are created and turn them into words. That’s what OCR does…it looks at (optical) the images to find the letters and numbers (characters). That’s relatively fast, inexpensive…and can be quite inaccurate

I borrowed

Doctor Who Short Trips: Life Science

from the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library) this month…and the faults of OCR are obvious and atrocious.

Here are some of the things that I see:

  • Numbers randomly appearing throughout the book…in the middle of words, for example. They look like footnote indicators, but they aren’t. These are likely because there were wrinkles or smudges on the page, and the numbers are the software’s best guess
  • “M”s rendered as “I n” and things like that. That’s what makes it clear it is OCR…a human wouldn’t make that mistake
  • Sections randomly bolded
  • Completely illegible sections
  • Wordsallsmashedtogether and w o r d s w h e r e e v e r y l e t t e r i s s e p a r a t e. I listen to text-to-speech in the car, and Ivona on my Kindle Fire does a remarkably good job with words without spaces between them…but tends then to pronounce every letter separately in ones where there are unnecessary spaces. So, I might hear “TEE ATCH EE DEE OH SEE TEE OH ARE” instead of “The Doctor”, all said rapidly. I’m pretty good at understanding that sort of thing, but I’m going to stop listening to this book in the car, because it’s clearly going to create a distracted driving situation 😉

How could they have fixed this?

Proofreading, just like you do with any other book. I could have fixed all of it in probably a few hours.

They just don’t want to spend the money. Now, I’m happy to have the book available to me…the writing actually has been good in these short stories. It’s just been such a challenge to get to it! I’m glad I didn’t pay the $12.99 list price for it, certainly, and I think many people would return it as unacceptable.

Apple trial continues

It’s looking increasingly to me like Apple will prevail at trial, but we’ll see. We are getting some very interesting testimony from the publishers (John Sargent of Macmillan, for example), which makes it look less like a conspiracy and more like a game of Cosmic Encounter. 😉 Nobody seems to be able to remember anything specific, and they all have these weird powers they suddenly drop into the mix. They all think they are playing the other people for fools. Apple’s not coming across as a “ringleader”, manipulating these publishers into all working together. It sounds like the publishers were also willing to work with Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Google…or anybody they wanted to get the best deal. 😉

Sure, according to this

PaidContent.org article by Laura Hazard Owen

Rupert Murdoch wanted to “screw Amazon”…but it sounds like they were willing to do that to Apple, too. 🙂

It’s hard to imagine this group all agreeing to anything, based on testimony. I feel like I wouldn’t want to go to lunch with them unless they removed the butter knives first. 😉 Just kidding, but it sounds more like a mosh pit than lockstep…

What do you think? What would you like to see an app do to help you discover new books? Do you know someone who might enter the Booksmash Challenge…or who would choose to stay out of it? Is the testimony in the Apple trial getting you to change your estimation of who will win? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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6 Responses to “Round up #177: $5K from 7-11, OCR oops”

  1. Cassandra Blankenship Says:

    Bufo….how can one contact you about kindle “stuff” in general?
    Thanks,cassie

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, cassie!

      Just as you made a comment on that post, you can make one on the About page:

      https://ilmk.wordpress.com/about/

      You’ll see instructions there. The key thing is that if you want it to be kept between us, please tell me it is private.

      • Cassandra Blankenship Says:

        Ps. I have been to About page many times. Do i click on Share?
        What am I missing????
        Cassie

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Cassie!

        Scroll down to the bottom, and enter it under

        “Leave a Reply”

        Alternatively, go ahead and comment just like you have been doing (on the Round up), and let me know it is private…I can work with it that way. 🙂

  2. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I have special offers on my Kindle Keyboard, but the only offer I saw today was one of the books in the Kindle Daily deal, which irritates me because I already receive an e-mail for those! Maybe it’s device specific, or maybe it depends on whether you use 3G or wi-fi. The deals might also be part of the whole “betterizer” plan where Amazon uses what you buy to anticipate what you will buy next.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Oh, the ad for 7-11 was on my Fire, and the ads aren’t the same on the RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles). For one thing, they tend to be color (a lot of it)…

      Edited to add: I also think a difference here might be that this isn’t a “Special Offer” that came through Amazon. It’s just an ad for a 7-11 promotion that includes Amazon gift cards.

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