Come See Us at the IDPF Digital Book Conference and BEA

Heading to New York for the IDPF Digital Book Conference and Book Expo America? Attend our session on reading systems and visit our booth!

Micah will be speaking in the “Reading Systems: Adding Value vs. Content Becoming Enhanced” session on Thursday, May 30th at 11:10 AM. Here’s a description of the session:

There’s a natural tug-of-war between publishers, who want enhanced and customized presentation of specific titles, and reading systems , who want to deliver enhanced experiences that work consistently across multiple titles. And users of course have their own needs and preferences. As titles are increasingly enhanced, how will reading systems differentiate and add value? What will be the drivers of product and content success?

Micah Bowers (Bluefire), Roger Webster (B&N), Steve Vinter (Google), Matt MacInnis (Inkling)

Bluefire will be exhibiting in the Digital Zone in booth 2071C. 

We look forward to seeing you there!

- Cliff

Announcing the Readium Foundation and the Readium EPUB 3 SDK Project

As you may already know, today marks the public announcement of the Readium Foundation and the Readium EPUB 3 SDK project. Bluefire has made a big investment in this initiative, supplying executive leadership, development resources, and funding. We want to share our thoughts on why the work we’re doing as part of the Readium Foundation is so important—both to the future of Bluefire and to the future of digital publishing.

EPUB 3 is the expression of a dream. It embodies the publishing industry’s hopes for rich, interactive books of all kinds that are widely distributed and easily read on a broad range of PCs and mobile devices. But EPUB 3 will remain a dream without a robust, consistent rendering experience that works across a multitude of vendor and device platforms. As Bluefire progressed in its independent development of our EPUB 3 renderer it became clear to us that the EPUB 3 spec is open to a considerable amount of interpretation—and that developing a great EPUB 3 rendering engine would require substantial ongoing investment. So we started talking to and meeting with other interested industry players. What evolved was a small working group and a new dream: a collaborative project focused on the development of a robust, open source EPUB 3 rendering engine that each of us, and others in the industry, could use as the foundation for commercial-grade reading systems. The dream is now on its way to becoming a reality.

Publishers need to know that the books they release look great and function as intended no matter which reading application is being used—a Bluefire-powered application or an app from a developer or retailer from anywhere around the world. It’s clear that critical mass matters in ebook technologies. The challenge for the incredibly diverse range of digital publishers and retailers is achieving critical mass. Working together is a great start. We don’t expect the Readium open source engine to be a silver bullet, and it is unrealistic to think that every ebook platform in the world will utilize this engine. However, we do believe that the use of a common, shared rendering engine across a wide spectrum of large and small companies will be an important step forward—similar to the manner in which Webkit has facilitated consistency in HTML5 rendering across browsers, even in those that don’t utilize Webkit.

Bluefire has worked along-side the other initial founders of the Readium Foundation to bring this initiative to life. We will be working even harder moving forward to bring it to fruition. We will also be integrating the Readium EPUB 3 SDK with the Adobe Reader Mobile SDK so that our publisher, retail and library customers can use Bluefire-powered apps to distribute EPUB 3 content that leverages the industry-standard Adobe Content Server rights management system.

We know that many of you are hungry for details about when we will be rolling out our next generation apps, features, and pricing. We will share this information as the development effort progresses in the months ahead. Today, we’re celebrating: our industry has come together in an unprecedented way to help realize a vision of the future that creates and sustains opportunity for all—especially for readers.

- Micah

Visit Us At the London Book Fair (April 16 – 18)

We will be heading to the U.K. again in April for the London Book Fair (April 16 – 18 at Earls Court). Contact us to setup a meeting or drop by our stand (V600). We will also be giving two talks on tools for publishers who want to sell direct to consumers. The talks are   in Digital Theatre 2 at 2:00 PM on Monday, April 16th and Tuesday, April 17th. See you there!

- Cliff

A Little Love for Libraries

Bluefire Reader 1.94 is now available in the iTunes App Store. It’s a little box of sweets for library patrons, with improved management of loaned library books (including the display of upcoming expiration dates and loan status in the Library view) and the option to sort your books by expiration date. Check it out!

- Cliff

Bluefire Reader for iOS Version 1.9.1

Bluefire Reader for iOS version 1.9.1 is live. This post holiday season treat includes the following:

1. Improved management of large libraries with faster scrolling

2. Cleaner display of cover images

3. Improved text selection on iOS6 devices

4. “Back” button for easier navigation back from footnotes and other internal links

5. Fixed a bug that could cause the app to hang on jailbroken devices

We think you’ll be particularly pleased with the new treatment of covers and the “back” button. The back button appears in the lower left corner of the screen after you’ve jumped ahead to a new page. Let us know what you think!

As always, enjoy your reading!

- Cliff

Looking Back at 2012 and Ahead to 2013

Happy New Year! We’re back at work and are looking forward to a great 2013. This post recaps our 2012 product enhancements and provides some insight into our plans for 2013.

2012 In The Rearview Mirror

It’s been a good year for Bluefire and a good year for our industry. The eBook business is growing worldwide. Over sixty percent of our customers are located outside of the US. We’ve also seen our customer base expand to include businesses and associations who distribute high value content including ebooks, industry briefs and other professional publications.

We released major updates to our iOS and Android white label apps in 2012 with exciting new features as well as performance and user experience enhancements.

The 2012 feature updates included:

  • Support for the new iPad Retina display
  • Support for the new iPhone 5 screen size
  • Support for iOS6
  • Support for multiple concurrent user accounts (Adobe ID’s and Vendor ID’s)
  • Single Sign-on option for Vendor ID customers
  • Improved PDF performance and reading experience
  • Support for system fonts, a feature that enables more reading settings and enhanced rendering of ePUB formatting
  • Online dictionary look-up
  • Support for external hyperlinks in ePUB and PDF titles
  • Streamlined highlighting
  • Sharing via Facebook, Twitter and email
  • Contextual ebook text search results
  • Collections (iOS only)
  • Swipe for brightness control (iOS only)
  • Enhanced side-loading (iOS only)
  • Annotation export
  • Support for Chinese, Japanese and Korean text, including vertical writing and right-to-left page order
  • Enhanced first-run user experience

The Asian language features noted above required implementation for support of specific elements of the ePUB3 spec. We will be adding more robust ePUB3 file format support to the platform moving forward.

Looking Ahead to 2013

In 2013 we will be focused on four primary areas of development:

1. Improvements to our iOS and Android White Label apps – This includes new features, user experience enhancements and performance improvements. Here are a few examples of our current high-priority new features:

  • Zoom and pan on images in ePUB books (particularly useful for maps and diagrams,)
  • Read aloud (when DRM permissions allow) – This is an important part of our ongoing effort to improve content accessibility
  • A Back button, so that readers can easily return to their last reading position after following search result, anchor link, and so forth…
  • Improved user management of loaned/rented items
  • Improved user settings interface and workflows
  • Major revamp of the Android user interface to reflect the recent and rapid evolution of common Android user experience paradigms, and to improve usability on new Android devices

2. Development of a new ePUB3 rendering engine with ACS4 DRM support.

3. Development of new web based services that are tightly integrated with our white label applications, with enhancements such as synchronization of reading location across multiple devices, analytics reporting of aggregate application usage statistics, and in-app notifications.

4. Development of white label reading applications for the Windows platform.

As our plans solidify we will provide regular roadmap updates with more granular details. We will also be demoing our work-in-progress at industry events and private meetings in the coming year.

We look forward to sharing a great 2013 with you!

- The Bluefire Team

White Label App Rush: It’s All About Choice…

The holiday season is shifting into high gear and so are we. You probably already know about our recent app updates and the great new features we’re delivering. But there’s more! We’ve also been rolling out new white label apps for our growing list of customers worldwide.

While we continue to add new customers in North America, most of our new business is coming from abroad. The growing availability of ebooks from publishers worldwide, the growing range of compelling devices at a variety of price points and the availability of cost effective, branded mobile reading/retailing apps (from Bluefire) are giving booksellers of all kinds a shot at competing in this fast growing market.

Here are the new white label apps that we’ve shipped in the last two months:

International

  • Booktopia Reader (Australia) – iOS
  • eBækur from D3 Midlar ehf (Iceland) – Android / iOS
  • eKitabu (Kenya) – Android
  • eBook.de Reader from Libre.de Internet GmbH (Germany) – Android / iOS
  • Kalahari.com Reader from MIH Internet Africa (Proprietary) Limited (South Africa) – Android / iOS
  • Saxo Reader from Saxo.com (Denmark) – Android / iOS
  • VLeBooks Reader from The Little Group (United Kingdom) – Android / iOS

North America

  • Better World Books – Android / iOS
  • HMH eTextbooks from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – Android / iOS
  • Reader – eBooks from Sony – iOS

We think this is an impressive list—and it will grow quite a bit over the next few weeks as we release more new partner apps and update our existing customers to the latest iOS and Android builds.

We’re also seeing our customers use their branded apps to expand their reach beyond the traditional app distribution channels (e.g. the iTunes App Store and the Google Play store). For example, Hastings preinstalls their branded app on devices that are sold online and in their stores—giving new device owners an easy way to connect with the company’s impressive goHastings.com online store.

Device manufacturers are also using the Bluefire platform to expand their reach. The release of the iOS Reader™ app – eBooks from Sony gives iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users access to their Reader Store by Sony purchases, helping Sony deliver on their goal of giving their customers the freedom to read the content they love, anytime and anywhere.

Over the past few years we’ve championed the notion of choice. We’re pleased to see that readers have a growing choice of retailers along with a growing choice of reading devices and apps. It’s a good way to start out the holiday season!

-  Cliff

iOS Again! Bluefire Reader now supports iOS 6 and the new iPhone

A short note for our iOS users: We’ve updated Bluefire Reader for iOS. Version 1.9 (available now) includes full support for iOS 6 and the new iPhone.

And don’t forget to check out the great new features we just shipped in version 1.8. Add full screen reading on the new iPhone to the list and you’ve got the best ebook reading experience available on iOS! Enjoy!

- Cliff

Announcing Bluefire Reader 1.4 for Android!

Android fans: We’re pleased to announce the release of a new version of Bluefire Reader for Android! Version 1.4 (available now) includes the following new features:

  • The ability to define words and terms using the Google online dictionary
  • Sharing for annotations, bookmarks and excerpts via Facebook, Twitter and email
  • An improved search function that that adds contextual information to your search results (including chapters and page numbers)
  • Improved PDF search
  • Support for system fonts
  • Support for Chinese, Japanese and Korean text, including vertical writing and right-to-left page order
Check it out!
- Cliff