Apple Promotes Self-Published Titles with New ‘Breakout Books’ Section

Apple today introduced a new section of the iBookstore, featuring books that have been independently author-published to the iBookstore. Entitled “Breakout Books,” the curated collection highlights titles that have earned four and five star reviews.

Find the next reading sensation with this hand-picked collection of books from emerging talents. All are independently published directly to the iBookstore and have earned high ratings from customers like you. Check back regularly – new titles are added as they begin taking off.

Apple’s content rival Amazon has long promoted books that are published via its Kindle Direct Publishing platform. Apple has carried and highlighted popular self-published books for quite some time, but the new section serves to put the indie titles further into the limelight.

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The featured books are organized into four categories: Romance, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Mysteries & Thrillers, and More to Explore. There are 70 books in the section.

According to The New York Times, price is a major incentive for the promotion, as most of the books in the featured section retail for far below the cost of a traditional publishing house book. The majority of the titles are priced at $6.99 or less, making them more affordable than the average book.

eBook self-publishing and distribution platform Smashwords is where many of the featured titles originated. The site uploads submitted content to Apple, and founder Mark Coker says the relationship has been mutually beneficial, with many titles hitting Apple’s best seller lists in a short period of time.

Although the iBookstore has always carried and supported self-published ebooks, today’s launch signifies an escalated commitment on the part of Apple, whose iBookstore currently sells books in 50 countries. The iBookstore first piloted the Breakout Books feature in their Australian store and has since implemented similar features in Canada and the U.K.

In the process, Apple is helping to shape a brighter, more democratized future for book publishing. More writers will have the freedom to publish and more readers will have the freedom to discover and enjoy a greater diversity of high-quality books than ever before.

Apple’s “Breakout Books” section will remain featured at the top of the iTunes store for two weeks or more, after which it will be removed to a less prominent spot in the iBookstore.

Apple Apparently Moving Ahead with Online Store in Russia [Mac Blog]

Rumors that Apple plans to open an online store in Russia have been given additional credence by a report on TechCrunch noting that the company has begun recruiting staff for the operation.

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The ad is for a Russian Chat Team Manager responsible for managing between 12 and 15 advisors. Although aimed at the Russian market, the role is actually based in Cork, Ireland. Apple is also advertising other roles in the region, including a Market Manager for Russia, CIS and Turkey.

Apple does not currently sell direct to consumers in Russia, selling via third-party resellers, though it did introduce the iTunes Music Store there in December.

Mophie Announces Juice Pack Helium for iPhone 5 [iOS Blog]

Mophie has announced the iPhone 5 version of its popular Juice Pack line of battery cases. The $79.95 Juice Pack Helium comes with a 1500mAh battery that can give the iPhone 5 80% more battery life, good for an estimated additional 6 hours of LTE use.

Helium

Engineered with edge-to-edge protection and outfitted with 80% more battery life to keep your iPhone 5 safe and charged, the juice pack helium allows you to truly Do more™. Its elegant, thin design makes it the perfect accessory, easily fitting into any pocket or handbag. The enhanced forward-ported acoustics redirects the iPhone audio towards you, optimizing playback and maximizing your experience.


The dark metallic color ships on February 14th, while the silver units will ship in early March. They are available through Mophie’s online store.

Hidden Buttons in iOS 6.1 Lend Weight to Apple Radio Service Rumors

9to5Mac reports finding files for radio buttons in the iPad Music app in iOS 6.1 that could lend weight to last year’s rumors that Apple plans to launch a Pandora-style service, providing streaming access to music which could then be purchased if desired.

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The files, first found by iAust1n, include a series of eight “radio” buttons, several of which have the word ‘buy’ in the filenames, suggesting plans to allow the purchase of music tracks from within the app. Interestingly, the piece notes that the files are found only on the iPad, not the iPhone.

The files are called some variation of “radio button” with an icon that looks similar to the radio icon that used to be in iTunes for Mac (it was traded for a more prominent top location in iTunes 11 without the antena tower). The iPad music app currently doesn’t have any radio functionality so our first thought was that Apple would be adding an iTunes-like ‘traditional’ streaming radio to the iPad.

More interestingly, the name of these button files and are labelled with ‘buy’ in the filename which could imply exciting new functionality.

Bloomberg had suggested a Q1 2013 launch date for the service, although follow-up reports had indicated that negotiations with record labels were moving slowly. With files perhaps related to such a service now apparently in place in iOS 6.1, Apple may be laying the groundwork for a launch once it is able to strike content deals.

Apple Product Placement Reaches New Heights in Netflix Show ‘House of Cards’ [iOS Blog]

Engadget notes that there appears to be a somewhat extreme example of Apple product placement in an episode of the new made-for-Netflix show House of Cards.

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The site points out that the shot shown above, occurring 31 minutes and 42 seconds into episode six, appears to show nine Apple devices between just two people.

Just taking the devices that are angled towards Underwood, I count three iPads and three iPhones. The aide sitting across the desk adds two more iPhones and another iPad. I could potentially be wrong about a couple of those handsets, since they’re in cases, but I’ve watched the scene in slow-mo they all look like iPhones to me. That makes nine Apple devices for two people, with each device powered on and burning its battery simultaneously.

The piece goes on to note that the main character, played by Kevin Spacey, uses an iMac as his main computer, while his wife also uses an iPhone.

According to an update on the original article, sources involved in the shooting of the scene shared that Apple provided a significant amount of free equipment for the show and that those devices were what happened to be available for a scene in which characters were monitoring multiple police radio feeds.

Apple’s products have long been featured in movies and television shows, despite Apple’s claims that the company does not pay for such placements. The company does, however, provide free devices for product placement, and Apple’s popularity and design aesthetic have led many films and shows to take advantage of such offers.

House of Cards is the first program to be commissioned by the streaming movie and TV show service for exclusive broadcast on Netflix.

Dell to Return Funds to Shareholders in $24 Billion Deal to Go Private [Mac Blog]

dell_logoDell today announced that it is officially going private in a $24.4 billion deal that will see the company owned by founder Michael Dell and investment firm Silver Lake Partners. The deal also involves a $2 billion loan from Microsoft.

“Michael Dell is a true visionary and one of the preeminent leaders of the global technology industry,” said Egon Durban, a Silver Lake Managing Partner. “Silver Lake is looking forward to partnering with him, the talented management team at Dell and the investor group to innovate, invest in long-term growth initiatives and accelerate the company’s transformation strategy to become an integrated and diversified global IT solutions provider.”

Following completion of the transaction, Mr. Dell, who owns approximately 14 percent of Dell’s common shares, will continue to lead the company as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and will maintain a significant equity investment in Dell by contributing his shares of Dell to the new company, as well as making a substantial additional cash investment.

Apple fans have been particularly interested in the fate of Dell since Michael Dell recommended in October 1997 that Apple be shut down.

“What would I do? I’d shut [Apple] down and give the money back to the shareholders,” Michael Dell said before a crowd of several thousand IT executives.

At the time, Dell was surging to become the world’s top-selling PC manufacturer, but it has since faltered and now stands as the third-largest manufacturer as HP and Lenovo now battle for the top spot.

Today’s move is of course far from a shutdown for Dell, but Apple fans may take a certain pleasure in seeing the company turn private and return funds to shareholders as it continues its efforts to revitalize the Dell brand in a stagnant PC market.

Logitech Announces Ultrathin Keyboard Cover For iPad Mini [iOS Blog]

A new model of the popular Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for the iPad will be available for the iPad mini later this month, the company has announced.

boomlogitechultrathinkbmini7-1360026508The Bluetooth keyboard uses the Smart Cover magnets in the iPad mini to hold it securely attached to the device in both cover and keyboard modes. In use, the magnets in the iPad mini grip it tightly in a channel toward the rear of the keyboard.

Attaching securely with the click of powerful integrated magnets, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini has a slim aluminum cover that matches the iPad mini and brings durable protection to it with minimal weight. When you’re ready to use it, flip the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini around to reveal its built-in Bluetooth® EasyType keyboard, offering a traditional typing layout in a small seven-inch form factor, plus iPad mini function shortcut keys for the commands you use most often, such as copy and paste. It also doubles as a hands-free view stand so you can use your iPad mini without having to hold it.

The exterior is aluminum to match the iPad, with both black and white options to match the two available iPad mini colors.

The keyboard will cost $79.99, $20 less than its full-sized brother.

Apple Launches 128 GB iPad with 1-3 Day Shipping

Following last week’s announcement, Apple today began offering the 128 GB iPad in the Apple online store with shipping currently listed at 1-3 business days for most models in most countries. Wi-Fi + Cellular models in the United States are currently being quoted 3-5 business days for shipping across all three carriers.

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The new model, offering double the storage capacity of the previous top-of-the-line model, carries a $100 premium over the 64 GB versions and is available in all four combinations of black/white and Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi + Cellular models.

After supply constraints dogged both the new iMac and iPad mini, analysts will be watching closely to see how Apple manages supply times for the latest addition to the company’s product line. Stock levels have, however, generally been good on the full-size iPad, which has reportedly seen a significant drop in demand as consumer interest has shifted to the iPad mini.