Hacking Fitness

Published in the Ottawa Citizen – Saturday February 27, 2012 – written by Vito Pileici


OTTAWA — Skyreader Media is hoping to jump-start a fresh wave of growth in the world of eBooks.

The Toronto company, which is a subsidiary of Skywriter Media & Entertainment, does its software development here in Ottawa and is preparing for the launch a new software product that will allow publishers to automate the creation of electronic books for iPad so they can be released far more quickly than current methods allow.

According to the company, publishers turn out more than 95,000 books annually and often have a hard time converting those to eBooks because of the cost.

“Right now it probably takes three or four months and $20,000 or $40,000 to produce an animated book on the iPad,” said Steve Davis, chief technical officer with Skyreader. “We’re now putting technology in place that removes the developers from the loop. That allows our animators and our illustrators to create those books directly with our editing tools. We can get the costs way down, which allows us to create more books.”

Using Skyreader’s services, a publishing company can release an animated book in as little as a week, for around $5,000.

The privately held company employs 15 at its Ottawa offices and seven at its Toronto headquarters. The firm plans to double its head count over the next six months.

Skyreader’s chief executive is Kevin Gillis, the creator of the popular ’80s TV show The Raccoons. Gillis is an Ottawa native who resides in Toronto. Gillis knows about the city’s deep talent pool for technology workers and artistic talent. He said that is what spurred him to set up Skyreader’s technical development team in the nation’s capital.

“We realized that Ottawa is a mecca for technology and certainly for animation,” he said. “It just made a lot of sense to build it out from Ottawa and marry those two disciplines together.”

The company will be launching its automated eBook software offering in the coming weeks. It hopes to licence its software to large publishing companies that are looking to sell their products into new electronic markets.

Prior to eBooks, Skyreader was involved in creating animation and TV shows for youth. It’s more popular creations included Jimmy Two Shoes, Captain Flamingo and Camp Lake Bottom.

Aside from offering tools to allow publishers to make their own books, the company has licensed more than 5,000 children’s books which it will be gradually pushing out to the Apple Inc. App Store as animated storybooks in the coming months. The company already has 20 eBooks on the App Store, ranging from popular Cartoon Network character Atomic Betty and Robert McConnel’s Norbert Nipkin to self-created titles such as Banana Ninja and Coyote’s Tale.

It has also signed well-known children’s book author Leslie McGuirk, who has written titles including Pip The Penguin and Wiggens learns his manners at the Four Seasons restaurant. The deals signed with McGuirk will see Skyreader release new eBooks based on the author’s characters. It is in the process of creating a new Wiggens book in partnership with the San Diego Zoo called Wiggens at the San Diego Zoo.

The company believes by making eBooks more interactive, it can attract a younger generation of readers who are growing up with computers and technology.

“This is taking stories and finding new ways of telling them to kids who, as you know, have grown up on computers and got away from the reading experience,” he said.

“This is about trying to reintroduce the reading experience to kids so they can enjoy it in new ways.”

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Read the complete article here (Business Insider)

A popular saying goes that programmers are machines that turn caffeine into code.

And sure enough, ask a random programmer when they do their best work and there’s a high chance they will admit to a lot of late nights. Some earlier, some later. A popular trend is to get up at 4am and get some work done before the day’s craziness begins. Others like going to bed at 4am.programmer night

At the gist of all this is avoiding distractions. But you could just lock the door, what’s so special about the night?

I think it boils down to three things: the maker’s schedule, the sleepy brain and bright computer screens.

The maker’s schedule

Paul Graham wrote about the maker’s schedule in 2009 – basically that there are two types of schedules in this world (primarily?). The traditional manager’s schedule where your day is cut up into hours and a ten minute distraction costs you, at most, an hour’s worth of time.

On the other hand you have something PG calls the maker’s schedule – a schedule for those of us who produce stuff. Working on large abstract systems involves fitting the whole thing into your mind – somebody once likened this to constructing a house out of expensive crystal glassand as soon as someone distracts you, it all comes barreling down and shatters into a thousand pieces.

This is why programmers are so annoyed when you distract them.

Because of this huge mental investment, we simply can’t start working until we can expect a couple of hours without being distracted. It’s just not worth constructing the whole model in your head and then having it torn down half an hour later.

In fact, talking to a lot of founders you’ll find out they feel like they simply can’t get any work done during the day. The constant barrage of interruptions, important stuff to tend to and emails to answer simply don’t allow it. So they get most of their “work work” done during the night when everyone else is sleeping.

Read more: http://swizec.com/blog/why-programmers-work-at-night/swizec/3198#ixzz2I9Y5Ot2o

How long does it take to build a mobile app?

Original Article Here on ReadWrite Mobile web site


eBook Publishing Statistics

Found this cool infographic regarding ebook publishing trends.


eBook Stats

What is the best tool for converting iBooks to/from KF8?

From LinkedIn (Ebooks Discussion Group)

What is the best tool for converting iBooks to/from KF8 (within the constraints of legality and without hacking DRM?)

I guess there are two answers to this.

1. If the ebook was purchased from Apple and is being viewed in iBooks then it is highly unlikely that you will be able to convert to KF8 without “removing” the DRM on the iBook. (we can talk DRM morality issues later)

1. If the eBook is already unlocked (no DRM) then it is likely in PDF or ePub format and you can quickly convert to KF8 using the tool provided by Amazon (Kindle Preview http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/?docId=1000765261)

Hope this helps

Linking to eBooks Formats Directly from Your Web Site

What info should you put on your website so everyone who downloads your ebooks can use the files…

From LinkedIn eBook Discussion Group

My ebooks are available in 3 formats: ePub, mobi and PDF. But people pay their money then download many times before they find the file they’ve chosen. Then they can’t work out how to get that file to work on android, etc. Does anyone have a step-by-step process that anybody could follow. I don’t know enough myself to help them.


Hi Jocelyn,

I know I am weighing in here after quite a few comments but I just started following this group.

There are a couple things you should do to make it easier for your reader to get the right versions:

1. Put separate links on your web site for each eReader (as opposed to a link for each file type). Most people will not know that the MOBI version is for the Kindle and the ePub version is for Apple etc. So I would add links that are eReader specific.
– A Kindle link that points to your MOBI version
– An Apple link that points to the ePub2 version
– etc

2. You can also add Kobo, Nook, Sony and other ereader links pointing to the ePub version of the book. I would just make sure you test the ebooks in the specific ereaders before you set up the link .You can use the free software version of most ereaders on the iPad to do the testing.

3. Then add a PDF link to the PDF version of your book for those people that specifically want the PDF. They may want to read it on a laptop or on a PDF app on a tablet or in iBooks. But put it down towards the bottom of the list.

4. Add a link to “Other eReader” that points to the ePub version. But a small note that tells people to use this link for eReader that are not specifically listed on your web site.

That should solve most of your problems.

If you want to have your book sold directly by Amazon or Apple or Nook you can submit it to the self-publishing sections of those web sites. Most times it takes about a week to get a book listed for sale. They will want banking information and each site is slightly different but it is fairly painless.

Alternatively you can go to a site like Smashwords and they will submit you book to all of the book sellers (for a small percentage) and save you the hassle of interacting with all the different vendors.

Hope this helps, message me if you have any specific questions


My response to Rob Woodbridge’s email from Untether.tv (see below)

Finally, a company that sees the light.

I have been lobbying against HTML5 in mobile (and desktop) as an application solution for a couple years now. Every time I run up against a new project we sit down and assess HTML5 against the capabilities and performance issues. Every time we decide to go native.

The last project we decided to go with a Flex/Flash based solution, literally the day before Adobe announced the end of their mobile Flash initiative. But Flash still provides a much better cross platform web experience than any other environment.

HTML5 is not ready for prime time. It is a solution that marketing firms will lobby for as it gives them the greatest cross platform access with the lowest development costs, but it will always leave the customer with a less than optimal solution and end user with a less than satisfying experience.

Native applications will always give better performance and make better use of the device capabilities.

HTML5 has it’s uses, just be aware of its limitations so you don’t end up producing a solution your customers are unhappy with.



Sent by Rob Woodbridge untether@gmail.com
Facebook finally did something yesterday for their mobile strategy that, on first blush, the world seems to love. They updated their mobile apps with a fresh batch of faster, native ones and the response has been immediate with some of the highest praise the company has received.The key difference here is that they went native. They stepped away from HTML5 and built platform-focused native applications in order to really take advantage of the device and OS capabilities. If you haven’t upgraded to the latest versions, do so and you will see the difference. Pretty incredible.What is the business lesson that was learned here? This isn’t the end of HTML5 – nor is it a hit against the use of the cross-platform markup language. It just might not be ready for an app the size of Facebook right now – especially with the amount of pressure they are under to turn mobile into revenue (which I think was THE biggest reason they moved native – more on that in another email).

So what lessons can you learn from this to take to your own company?

What Facebook just did was rapid prototyping and you can do the same thing with HTML5 as you figure out your mobile strategy. First off, HTML5 is as cross-platform as you will get in the mobile world – build once, deploy (mostly) everywhere a smartphone goes. This satisfies the need to build Android, iOS, Windows and BlackBerry versions of your mobile app. This is important for 2 reasons: 1- Your users are on all platforms right now (and will be on more as they come out – think Bada and Symbian in Europe). 2 – You never know where your future growth will come from so you need an affordable way to test across all platforms without committing to deep, long and expensive development cycles for each.

For your business, don’t wait to get into the mobile game. Start the same way Facebook did. Build in HTML5 across all platforms, gather usage metrics (i.e. OS type, most popular content, visitor flow, commerce triggers, etc.) and build native when and where you need to. You may not be able to do everything you want in the first version but that’s ok. Understanding how your users interact with your app should be the first thing you do before committing a huge budget to build out an app that misses it’s point.

What Facebook did up to this point may have seemed a frustrating hot mess of mobile ineptness but use their simple test and release process to make sure you are giving your users the right experience – the one they want.

What do you think? Am I giving too much credit to Facebook? Have you already done this? Reply to this email and let me know!


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