Spritz, a Boston-based startup that’s been developing a speed-reading technology in stealth since 2011, is in the process of closing a $3.54 million seed funding round. Investors include Denis O’Brien, investing through his telco company Digicel.
$1 million of the seed was raised earlier, when the company was known as Spritz Technology LLC (it’s now Spritz Technology Inc), but the rest of the round — $2.54 million — is committed and due to be closed within a couple of weeks, TechCrunch has learned.
Spritz’s patent-pending technology streams text at readers, one speedy word at a time, to cut down the time the reader’s eye has to spend moving from word to word — letting them consume text more quickly (or that’s the theory).
To aid the reading process, Spritz aligns words using what it refers to as an “optimal recognition point method” which presents the portion of the word that apparently allows the reader to most quickly recognize it, so the next word can be speedily pushed out.
The focal point Spritz has identified for the eye to best parse words is where the letters coloured in red appear in the below examples:
To use Spritz, readers choose their word per minute rate, hit play and simply stare at the same spot where each single word appears, aligned for fast consumption.
Spritz says the technology can support variable speed reading rates of between 100 to 1,000 words per minute — albeit, at 1,000wpm you’re really going to feel like a robot. Blink and risk missing whole sentences.
The company is making grand claims about “reinventing the way people read”. But, as others have already noted, rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) techniques date all the way back to the 1970s. And studies of RSVP speed-reading methods have indicated that comprehension and retention of data falls as speeds increase.
Despite this, Spritz argues that its take on speed reading is different. And, indeed, it rejects any similarities with “other RSVP-based software” — beyond the fact that both show users one word at a time — claiming its technology is based on a comprehensive re-analysis of how people read and comprehend text that’s also specifically tailored to consumption on mobile devices.
“Other than single word display, we are very different from anything else that’s been tried in the past and we think people can see that immediately,” says co-founder and CEO Frank Waldman. ”Anyone who has tried Spritz knows how fast and easy it is to learn. There is nothing else out there that we have seen where most users can significantly improve their reading speed in less than five minutes.”
“Spritz is based on a complete and systematic re-analysis of the reading process,” he adds. “For the redesign and optimization components, we thought about all of the new possibilities that new digital devices and mobile capabilities create. When we started researching Spritz, there were many other (speed) reading techniques but they either relied on conventional (static) text representation on a printed page or they didn’t integrate well into the modern mobile landscape.”
Waldman also claims Spritz’s technology “promotes increased comprehension of the material versus traditional reading” — truly a grand claim, considering the history of RSVP. (I asked Spritz what studies it has done to back up its comprehension claims and will update this post with any response.)
“From our tests we have seen that many people can reach speeds around 600 wpm while still exhibiting high comprehension rates,” he says. ”Every person we tested so far was able to read with Spritz. Some did stay on low speeds of 300wpm. But this is still faster than conventional reading speed. People only have to know that they have to focus on the red character and the hash marks. Then after 2-3 short texts they already start to relax as they understand that they can easily get the words without eye movement.”
Spritz is not making any apps itself, but is rather focusing on licensing its technology to others — to websites, device and app makers — to spread its reworked reading system further. Its business model is not cemented yet; it wants to get users first. Its ambition: one billion readers.
“At this time, Spritz is focused on building a user community of 1 billion readers,” says Waldman. ”We want everyone to make their apps and webpages ‘Spritzable’.
“Our goal is ubiquity, we want to make sure that everything that makes sense to spritz can be spritzed. We are not just a consumer-play and expect to partner with large technology companies. For example: Google Mail can be powered by Spritz so users can easily open and read emails on the go. Google can also integrate Spritz into Google Maps so users can view comments, reviews, ads and promoted content from businesses. Companies like Amazon can also integrate Spritz into their e-readers. With Spritz, Yahoo! can let users easily find what they’re looking for without leaving their current web page.”
“We also hope that some of the bigger players in tech, most of whom we showed Spritz to last fall, will wish to partner with us instead of attempting to copy our technology, we have worked incredibly hard and almost everything that you see with Spritz is patent-pending,” he adds.
The startup publicly outted its technology earlier this month and has its first partners lined up to deploy it. The first implementations on mobile will be the email applications of the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch, and the Galaxy S5 smartphone.
The smartwatch use-case — with its constrained screen size — has an obvious application for a technology that can break a large amount of tech down into consumable chunks. Albeit, users may not want to sit and stare at their wrists for very long periods.
“We believe that the best use cases for Spritz involve daily tasks that involve improving convenience and efficiency for our users,” adds Waldman. ”We think that Spritz is wonderful for cutting through all of the things that you HAVE to get done during the day. A smartwatch running your email on Spritz is a great example.”
Another arguably more interesting potential use-case for Spritz could be low-cost feature phones which have small and low resolution screens — with the technology acting as an enabler for mobile users in emerging markets to comfortably access large amounts of information on budget devices.
“Our goal is to make Spritz available anywhere that our partners and their users think that it makes sense,” adds Waldman. “We expect a lot of innovation in the ways that partners integrate spritz technology into webpages and apps in all kinds of devices throughout the Internet of Things. You may see spritzing in all types of media, including broadcasts and movies. Billions of readers around the world could soon be spritzing as way to effortlessly consume information.”
TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez contributed to this report[Image via Flickr by Sam Bald]
Read the rest here: Speed-Reader Startup Spritz Closing $3.5M Seed
The startup, which was founded a year ago, has built a presentation creation platform that lets businesses quickly create online tutorials and manuals, utilizing content from around the web — or building presentations using their own marketing materials.
The platform can also be used by individuals (and SMEs) — with Roojoom using a freemium pricing model to support different customer strata.
The startup claims high engagement levels for people viewing presentations built using its platform. ”The average time a person spends reading a piece of content on the web is 20-40 seconds, which is not enough time to educate your customer or drive them to action. Roojoom closes this gap by connecting multiple pieces of content in a fun and engaging way, keeping readers engaged for over 9 minutes,” it tells TechCrunch.
“During this time the reader is led by the brand, step-by-step, through the content. Roojoom’s interface also includes a customizable call-to-action button that encourages them towards taking an action, such as purchasing a product or service, subscribing to a newsletter, following on twitter, etc.”
Its current b2b customer roster includes Microsoft Ventures, Clarizen and eToro, as well as “major banks and publishers”. Roojoom says its user numbers have tripled since November — although it’s not disclosing the exact size of its user-base at present.
Ronen Smooha, former MS executive and a managing partner in 2B-Angles, is joining the round as an investor after previously working with Roojoom as a mentor at the Accelerator. “After working closely with Roojoom for four months, I believe that Roojoom has a winning team, great vision and the ability to execute,” commented Smooha in a statement.
Although Roojoom was not initially focused on the b2b market it said today it plans to use the seed funding to further develop its product offerings for businesses — with a specific focus on content marketing and training – having gained most traction as a platform for businesses and publishers to create content that can educate their own customers.
In terms of competitive landscape, Roojoom says this focus on delivering a “guided learning experience” sets its apart from other companies that offer presentation tools or simply act as content aggregators.
“Our advantage is that businesses can increase brand awareness and re-purpose available content to suit their customers – while leading them through the content step-by-step,” it adds.
Notably, Roojoom is not scraping any online content — rather it shows live web pages (and includes a link back to the original content), which allows it to circumvent imagery reuse copyright issues.
Read more from the original source: Roojoom Closes $600K Seed To Push Its Online Tutorial-Builder At More Businesses
At its core the device is a very simple cased or uncased e-ink reader. It consist of a very simple, waterproof device with an e-ink screen and allows programmers to build HTML5-based applications that can be pushed directly to the platform. Built as less of a dev kit than a thin client system, you use the Visionect screen as sort of a dumb terminal for your web projects although the system does allow for complex app development.
It should cost about 240 Euro when it launches. The Slovenian Team added a 120Mhz processor which powers the very basic terminal features of the device. Most of the heavy lifting, then, is done on the Visionect servers and pushed to the devices as needed.
It’s an interesting strategy – cheap hardware and a focus on cloud services – and I suspect it could catch on in situations where an e-ink interface would be ideal due to environmental concerns. In other words, don’t think of this as a denuded Kindle but instead a Star-Trek-esque flat control panel that is weatherproof and won’t be overpowered in sunlight.
Inq Mobile, one of the first companies to build a Facebook phone, announced that it has shut down with a message on its site (h/t Android Police). The U.K.-based, Hutchison Whampoa-backed company didn’t say why it decided to close. We’ve emailed them for more information.
Inq, which was founded in 2008 and pivoted a year ago to focus on mobile software, said it will no longer update Material and SO.HO, its apps. Material, a news reader, released its final editions on Jan. 28, while social media aggregator SO.HO will not be updated after today, though it will continue to function. Support pages for the Cloud Touch smartphone and Inq’s featurephones remain on its site.
The timing of Inq’s closure and Material’s shutdown is interesting because several of tech’s largest companies have recently started to offer their own news apps and tools. These include Yahoo’s News Digest; Twitter and CNN’s Dataminr; and Paper by Facebook, which will launch next month.
Inq Mobile began as a maker of low-priced Android smartphones. It was one of the first companies that collaborated with Facebook to create a social smartphone in 2011, around the same time HTC and the social network struck the partnership that yielded the Salsa and ChaCha.
Inq’s Cloud Touch, which was released exclusively in the UK three years ago, had a custom Facebook wrapper built on top of Android, and an early version of SwiftKey. Though cheaply priced (starting at $50 with a subsidized contract), the Cloud Touch couldn’t compete with Samsung’s rapid takeover of the Android market. The company pivoted and started developing mobile apps one year ago.
Material, which TechCrunch covered when it launched its iOS version in August, was a social magazine app that used Inq’s “interest extraction engine” to look at the Facebook and Twitter accounts of users and figure out what kind of articles they wanted to see. Content was delivered in two daily editions.
Inq CEO and co-founder Ken Johnstone told TechCrunch at the time that Material differentiated from other news readers by offering an easier set-up than its rivals because all users needed to do to power Material’s algorithms was connect their Facebook or Twitter accounts.
“For somebody who has invested a lot of time in Twitter and Facebook anyway, this is about getting a return on that investment,” Johnstone told TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas.
Yahoo, Twitter, and Facebook’s news aggregation products all feature some human curation, but, like Material, they also rely heavily on algorithms to customize content for each user. Inq had planned to monetize Material by harvesting enough data to build an advertising business, but its failure to do may be a cautionary tale for other developers of news readers, even as they continue to rethink how content is organized.
Though algorithms are necessary if a news aggregator wants to scale up (and collect enough data to be profitable), they still can’t replace the discernment of a human editor. Like Feedly, Pulse, and Zite, Material’s customized content stream suffered from problems like miscategorized stories, irrelevant content, and “the overall feeling you get from flicking through an edition is not a cohesive, editorially unified whole, but an algorithmically generated bunch of mostly random stories with (at best) a few loose, overlapping themes,” as Natasha put it.
In the world of news consumption, there’s certainly no shortage of ways consumers can find out what’s going on. Some popular services have emerged, including Flipboard, Circa, Feedly, Zite, and others. However, with multiple publications reporting on the same thing, readers could run into duplication and grow tired of trying to find unique and relevant content.
Inside.com is a company that aims to give readers what they want — content that’s uniquely suited just for them — and today it opened up to the public. Founded by serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, Inside.com today equates itself to being the “Pandora for news” and says it will deliver “over 1,000 of the world’s most important and fascinating stories each day.” But unlike the major news distribution platforms out there, Calacanis says that all content on Inside.com will be human-curated and only the best.
At the core of Inside.com’s app is the notion of a new atomic unit that Calacanis remarked mirrors what Twitter did with 140 characters. Each news listing contains a main image and a maximum of 300 character description. Each one will contain up to 8 facts that are in the story, designed to provide valuable insights to the reader without having to tap or click to read more. The company designed the interface so that each listing will fit snugly onto the screen of a smartphone — but this may not be the case in some listings.
Users can also voice their opinion about a story by thumbing up or down on whether they found the story informative. In doing so, the feedback gets counted by Inside.com’s algorithm to fine-tune the news content that a particular reader cares about. As expected, if a user thumbs down something, that topic will be removed from the user’s feed. But by thumbing up, it will be added to the user’s personalized feed section, aptly labeled “My Feed.”
Similar to Prismatic, Inside.com will display news based on interested topics — and there are a few of them, between 2,000 and 3,000 supported to date. Each feed will be different for each user. Each news item will have up to three topics assigned to it by an editor, including a main topic and then two sub-topics that are derived from content within the summary. So a story about the upcoming Super Bowl could have #SuperBowl as its main topic, but then have #NFL and #Football as its two sub-topics.
Each news item that’s displayed is featured in a format reminiscent of Circa, a news startup that Calacanis is an investor in. Everything in the summary is rewritten by a human being, including the title and description. And as stated earlier, the format is limited to just 300 characters.
One interesting trick to the app is the ability to parse through multiple stories in your news feed with similar topics. With a deck of cards feature, users can swipe to the left to read more updates about a particular topic, giving quick access to more topical stories without having to leave your main news feed.
Calacanis told us that the idea for Inside.com came about through the success he had with the LAUNCH Ticker, a service he launched in 2012 to curate technology-related news. To date, that project has 700 paying subscribers and was a test to see whether using human curation could be a successful endeavor. Considered to be the minimal viable product Calacanis needed, the service eventually evolved to become Inside.com to provide readers with a detailed, but succinct summary of any news across a variety of topics and categories.
One of the interesting features of Inside.com is its goal of only displaying the best article about a specific story. The app will look at publications with original reporting and commentary and select the best one. In extremely rare occasions, it might choose press releases, but most likely the best source will be listed. It intends to block out “low-quality non-journalists”.
Calacanis appears to be on a crusade to stop the publicity of things that he calls “bad journalism”:
There’s a ton of great journalism out there. The problem is that it gets lost with all the rebloggers and aggregation sites that craft sensationalized and often times false headlines to trick the reader into clicking. Inside solves this by writing fact-filled updates and only directing our users to the best stuff. The people who lose here are those who don’t do original, high-quality journalism.
For Calacanis, Inside.com’s focus on news makes the most sense as he’s been infatuated with news ever since he started Weblogs, Mahalo, and his popular This Week In podcast series of shows. But, he tells us that the industry is in “turmoil” because publications and sites are looking to optimize their content and readership to their own advantage, not to the benefit of consumers.
Following Mahalo’s fall from grace after Google modified its search algorithm, Calacanis set out to launch Inside.com. But, would another news service be welcomed in the ecosystem?
He has hired Gabriel Snyder, the former editor of The Wire, to help dive into the slew of content and extract the ones that aren’t “schlocky” and display it for the world to see. As you’d expect from any entrepreneur, Calacanis boasts that Inside.com is the best in that it has summarization technology that is more advanced than the likes of Summly, a company that was acquired by Yahoo in 2013 and powers its Yahoo News Digest app. Calacanis says that readers want to find the 10 best stories that are specific to them, not what another company says should be displayed.
Interestingly, it took a bit longer than expected to get Inside.com to this point. Following Mahalo, there had been talk as far back as 2012 about Calacanis’ next act, but it wound up being more than a year later before that dream became a reality. He attributes it to the fact that the first version of the app was built for iOS 6 right before Apple unveiled iOS 7. That meant a two month delay while the team rebuilt the whole thing. Then, another delay happened when Calacanis found himself dissatisfied with the service’s algorithm. However, he’s not worried at all, saying: “If you’re in it for the long-term, then take your time.”
Inside.com is available today as a mobile app and also on the Web. Users can log in using Twitter OAuth, Facebook Login, or through email authentication. However, in an era of social media and sharing, it doesn’t have much in the way of pushing content to the major social networks.
Users can download the app onto their iPhone and BlackBerry device. Yes, that’s right — Inside.com is supported on the platform. Calacanis says that it’s because the Canadian phone manufacturer is an investor in his company and recognizes that device owners need to have a news application. Native versions for Android, iPad, and Windows Phone will be released in a few months, although the mobile Web version is available in the meantime.
So how will Inside.com make money? Right now the team isn’t thinking about that and won’t be for the next two years. Calacanis says that the company’s focus is going to be on growth and quality. However, he hinted that native advertising may be inserted into the news feed in the future, but didn’t offer specifics.
See related: 20 West-Coast based startups to watch in 2014
Photo credit: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
From books and magazines, to op-eds and reviews, if the digital onslaught has been responsible for anything, it’s been for delivering a myriad of content. Oftentimes, way too much content, in fact.
But where problems lie, solutions normally follow, so here’s a quick snapshot of some of the best apps out there to help you get lost in a world of words.
There’s just no getting away from it, Pocket is one of the best apps out there for bookmarking all those articles you never quite get around to reading.
Unlike Flipboard, Pocket is all about those articles that you personally want to read – so it’s not automated or curated by any third-party. You can start reading an article in your browser on your laptop, suddenly realize it’s way longer than you anticipated and you have a bus to catch, hit the little Pocket bookmarklet, and it’s saved to your account where you can read it in full later from your mobile device.
Alternatively, you can save articles you’re reading directly from your mobile device. On Android, the common browsers will let you share directly to Pocket, while on iOS you can install a little bookmarklet for Safari that lets you save any article, while a slew of third-party apps including Zite, Flipboard and Reeder let you share directly too.
Once you’ve synced, all your Pocket articles are available offline, which is great for traveling, and it also saves embedded video in any article to watch in-app – though you will need to be online to enjoy this facet. Besides reading, you can also use Pocket to save anything from recipes to gift ideas – it’s an indispensable service once you start using it. You can read our full hands-on guide here.
Instapaper is similar to Pocket in many ways, but there are some key differences.
Yes, you can save articles from the Web using a browser bookmarklet, and directly from your mobile device too. But Instapaper also serves up hand-picked ‘Editors Picks’, which helps surface pieces you may otherwise have missed.
Instapaper offers less third-party app integrations than Pocket, but you can still save content to your account using Android browsers’ built-in ‘share’ option, and mobile Safari. Also, Instapaper has a social layer, letting you follow other Instapaper users and view what they’ve saved.
Instapaper is a beautiful app for sure, but it’ll also set you back $2.99 (Android) or $3.99 (iOS). You can read our full hands-on guide here.
In a nutshell, Readability clears out all the crap, leaving you with a clean page. Now, that’s fantastic when reading from your desktop browser, but from a mobile perspective, well, this is pretty much what the likes of Pocket and Instapaper do too.
However, Readability does place a lot of focus on design and typography, and there’s little question it’s worth your time. As with Instapaper, it also features a ‘Top Reads’ section that serves up the most popular articles currently on Readability. You can read our full hands-on guide here.
For me, e-reader apps are really best used in conjunction with an actual e-reader. I’d rather not read a whole book from my mobile phone or tablet, but it’s a good option if you’re heading into town and don’t want to carry your Kindle with you. So, you can read a chapter or two on the train and then pick up where you left off on your Kindle at home later that night.
Kindle is a really easy-to-use app, letting you create ‘Collections’ for your reads, buy books directly from your device, highlight text for definitions and more.
I’m a big fan of Kobo’s e-readers, and its mobile apps don’t disappoint. As with Kindle, you can view your library, download previews, highlight text, create collections, and all the rest.
The one thing I’d add about the Kobo app is that navigating the library between books you’ve actually bought, and others that you’ve indicated you’d like to read, isn’t the most intuitive. You have to scroll horizontally between the various sections in the library with nothing on the screen indicating that it does indeed require a sideways scroll. And it always defaults to ‘Want to Read’ rather than ‘I’m Reading’, which is a little annoying.
A minor downside for sure, but once you’ve figured it out you really shouldn’t forget how it works if you use the app frequently. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker.
Barnes & Noble is a name synonymous with books, and it has been pushing hard to gain ground in the digital realm and reclaim its crown among the readers of the world.
The Nook app for iOS and Android is really good actually, and as with its Kindle and Kobo counterparts it lets you sync your reading, change fonts, styles, highlight text, and preview books.
There’s not really much more to say. Ultimately, which of the big-three e-reading apps you decide to plump for will be tied in with whatever e-reader you’ve purchased, be it a Kindle, Kobo or Nook. And each of their mobile offerings are decent.
Flipboard is the perennially popular news-aggregation magazine app, letting you stipulate your topics of interest and serving you with text-based tidbits accordingly.
It covers everything from business and travel, to sports and music. You can also integrate your subscriptions from publications such as the New York Times, and reel in a myriad of websites and RSS feeds manually. It basically blends automation, curation and personalization, and it’s easy to see why it’s proven to be such a popular service.
Flipboard also lets you integrate with social networks, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and you can view all the news your buddies are sharing directly in the app.
Digital reading platform Readmill optimized its app for iPhone and iPod touch last year, almost a year-and-a-half after it first launched for iPad. And it finally landed on Android just a few months ago too.
Supporting ePub, PDF and ACSM files (both DRM and DRM free), Readmill serves up a sweet, social way to read, letting you highlight quotes within a book and share these snippets across the social sphere. It also acts as a social network of sorts, letting you ‘follow’ other bookworms, leave reviews and get recommendations once you’ve finished a book.
Your whole library is stored in your personal cloud, with the reading experience synchronizing across devices, meaning you can pick up from where you left off last night in bed, while on the train to work.
Next: Feedly, Goodreads, Oyster and more…
Feedly is the popular RSS app that replaced Google Reader for many, and has really risen to the challenge with an increasingly slick, beautiful cross-platform reading experience.
Feedly straddles the gap between Pocket and Flipboard. On the one hand, you manually include the sites, blogs, recipes and podcasts you wish to keep tabs on, but all the content therein is automatically delivered in real-time, sporting a beautiful magazine-like format. It lets you save reads for later too.
There’s also a new speed-reading feature that lets users read content faster by tapping the edge of the screen to cycle through new stories, while organizing them as cards to make them easier to read.
While Feedly is actively seeking ways to help its users read more quickly, ReadQuick for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch is dedicated to helping you master the art-form by displaying your articles one word at a time.
ReadQuick taps Pocket, Readability and Instapaper to display your saved articles – at a pace set by you. It also has a built-in browser that lets you access and save directly to ReadQuick, and tells you how long each article should take to complete based on the stipulated words-per-minute rate. In theory, the more you use the app, the speedier a reader you shall become. You may also wish to check out Velocity, a very similar app for iPhone that launched recently.
➤ App Store [$6.99]
Similar to ReadQuick is Outread, which recently entered the fray with its own take on what speed-reading should be all about.
Outread takes a slightly different approach to ReadQuick, however, displaying a full page of text and guiding your eyes by highlighting which part you should be reading at any given moment.
Outread also integrates with Pocket, Instapaper and Readability, though you can add any content directly from Safari via the bookmarklet, or you can copy/paste a URL into the app too, or even add your own text – this could be manually typed, though it would be better suited to pasting in a chunk of text from an email or other source.
Outread is $2.99, but it isn’t yet optimized for iPad.
➤ App Store [$2.99]
While this app isn’t for reading per se, Goodreads will appeal to anyone who loves a good book. Launched originally in 2007, Goodreads in its simplest form is a social network for books.
You can read book reviews and keep a virtual bookshelf of what you’ve already read. You can also search for and review any book on the platform, and pick up ideas for what to read next.
There is basic functionality without a Goodreads account, but you’re best signing up to gain access to the full shebang. Oh, and did we mention that Goodreads was acquired by Amazon last year?
Oyster can best be described as like Netflix…but for books. The all-you-can-read subscription service arrived for iPad in October, one month after launching on iPhone. The service costs $9.95 a month, and gives users unlimited access to its catalog containing more than 100,000 books.
Unfortunately, Oyster remains both US AND iOS-only for now, but it’s an interesting initiative nonetheless, one that perhaps gives a glimpse into the future of e-reading. That said, it’s best suited for heavy-readers who could get a lot of value from this. It’s a veritable library in your pocket.
Paragraph Shorts is a curated iPad magazine, serving up a selection of hand-picked short stories in text, audio and video.
Each week, the guys at Paragraph Shorts select stories from the likes of The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The Moth, The Guardian and others, and present them in a beautiful magazine for the public’s consumption. And it’s completely free too.
Longform isn’t too dissimilar to Paragraph Shorts, except it feeds in content on a daily basis across a much broader range of publications. It also lets you save articles to read later in Pocket, Readability or Instapaper.
Longform will set you back a flat $2.99, after which you gain full unrestricted access.
➤ App Store [$2.99]
While services such as ReadQuick and Outread are designed to train your eyes to speed-read, Blinkist lets you get to grips with entire non-fiction books in fifteen minutes. But this isn’t about teaching you how to read like Superman. No, it’s more about curation and condensing – pure human brainpower and field experts with a passion for explaining complex matters is the name of the game here.
The platform still only counts 152 books at the time of writing – 80 in English and 106 in German, though some are in both languages (hence only 152). But the company’s adding, on average, 20 books a month, and they are starting to ramp up efforts to increase the book-count.
To give you an idea of what kind of books you can read in 15 minutes, there’s everything from Popular Science and Business & Career, to Entrepreneurship and Health & Happiness. In terms of specific titles, there’s Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth, Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, and the 2005 classic Freakonomics, from University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner.
Once you’ve found the book you wish to read, click, and you’ll see a series of chapters condensed into around 250 words each. Then there’s a ‘Final Summary’ chapter that basically sums up the key points from the whole book.
Following a free trial period, you’ll be asked to pay €4.49 ($4.99) a month, or save a little cash by agreeing to sign-up for a year and pay €44.90 ($49.99) in total. An iPad and Android-optimized version should be arriving this year.
Here is the original post: Word up: 16 apps to help you read on the move
Microsoft is making it easier for consumers to access its Office suite of products. The company has partnered with GW Micro to assist those who are blind or have low vision receive GW Micro’s screen reading software.This offer is for those customers who have purchased and installed any version of Microsoft Office 2010 or 2013, including both “perpetual and subscription clients.”
Consumers don’t need to have a receipt of their purchase, but do need to have a licensed version of Office 2010 or later. There is no cost to download GW Micro’s Windows-Eyes screen reader, but it can only be installed on PCs with Windows XP or later or servers that support Windows 2003 or later.
➤ Announcing improved access to Office (Microsoft)
Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
See the original post here: Microsoft offering visually-impaired customers free screen reader software to help them use Office
Ottawa-based ecommerce player Shopify introduced a totally redesigned version of its iOS mobile app today, with a new core concept that focuses on helping merchants do more to manage and run their stores from their devices. And in keeping with their new strategy post-gigantic raise, the company is looking to help both online and offline retailers in one package with the new app.
The new app comes with payment powers, so that you can use Shopify’s free, Square-like reader to collect funds from customers and complete sales in person. It’s restricted to U.S. merchants only for now, but the company says more regions will gain access to the device later on. Along with that, there’s also total store management for online Shopify clients, and management of Shopify POS, too, for customers who are also using their brick-and-mortar sales solution.
New for online merchants are notifications of each new order as they come in, as well as the ability to dispatch shipping notifications, and total control over inventory management so that you can snap product photos with your iPhone, delete old ones and more. The Shopify POS companion features let you make changes to your inventory and pricing, too, and with the help of the card reader, it doubles as another register in addition to the existing iPad-based software.
Shopify obviously isn’t resting on its laurels after its big raise and valuation of $1 billion, both announced at the end of 2013. This is its first product launch of 2014, but it definitely won’t be the last, the company says.
LinkedIn yesterday quietly sent out an email to some of its users announcing that its Network RSS feed will be retired on December 19. The company has thus given a week’s notice for the feature.
For those who have never used it before, the RSS feed allowed users to subscribe to their network updates via an RSS reader. The feed included the latest activity from people in your LinkedIn network, just like the LinkedIn homepage.
There are two main reasons for the feature’s removal. The first is the same one we’ve heard before: LinkedIn says it wants to focus its resources elsewhere (just like Google said when it announced Google Reader’s retirement).
The second isn’t given explicitly, but LinkedIn alludes to it by saying that all updates and content can still be viewed on its website or via its mobile apps. In other words, the company has decided the feature isn’t popular enough to warrant letting users browse content outside its service. Like so many companies before it, LinkedIn wants to keep users on its site.
For reference, here’s the full email:
At LinkedIn, we strive to provide a simple and efficient experience for members so we continually evaluate how our current products and features are being used.
This sometimes means we remove a feature so we can focus our resources on building the best products.
We’ll be retiring the LinkedIn Network RSS Feed on Dec. 19th. All of your LinkedIn updates and content can still be viewed on LinkedIn, or through the LinkedIn mobile app.
Please visit the Help Center for more information about the LinkedIn Network RSS Feed retirement.
See also – LinkedIn partners with 7 online education firms to let users add certifications and courses to their profiles and LinkedIn redesigns the inbox with larger pictures, centralized navigation, and message previews
Top Image Credit: mariosundar / Flickr
See the original post: LinkedIn will kill RSS support on December 19
Brian Krebs has found a fascinating example of a card skimmer – essentially a machine that steals your credit card number – that masquerades as a real POS terminal. The skimmer fits over the ubiquitous Verifone POS reader and even reads key-presses. It is virtually indistinguishable from the actual POS card reader and can be slipped on and off without the retailer’s knowledge – or, more chillingly, with the retailer’s consent.
Should you be worried? Well sure. Your credit cards are approximately as safe in the wild as your cash. If you give your card to someone, the rules of decorum allow you to assume they won’t cheat you. That’s not always the case, and it doesn’t help that the thieves are getting so wily when it comes to card skimming.
Heck, thieves don’t even need skimmers. Sometimes they can simply install new software onto cash registers, giving them backdoor access to all transactions. Here’s hoping none of us get hit this heavy shopping season.
Read the rest here: New Card Skimmer Attaches To A Real POS Card Reader Like A Nasty Succubus