August 10, 2015 Last Updated 10:23 am

Google Play Books iOS update introduces Literata font as company morphs into Alphabet

Pandora brings on J Boogie to curate hip hop content as steaming music services look to stay in the game (last week Apple claimed 11 million have signed up for Apple Music)

The latest craze in eBooks, apparently, is introducing your own font. Google did that today with its update for its iOS version of the app Google Play Books. The new font is called Literata, and it was originally introduced back in May for the Android ecosystem.

GoogleBooks-font(Google originally tried to launch version 2.5 earlier, but pulled it after complaints about the app not downloading books.)

Amazon earlier this year introduced its own font, Bookerly, so it looks like Google just had to come up with their own serif font with a cute name.

Apple has its own fonts, too, of course. Though it is interesting to note that their new one is sans-serif (called San Francisco).

So, how is it? It’s nice, a bit like Minion Pro, though you may disagree.

There is also a new look to the Read Now section, though to be honest, it is hard for me to tell as I simply rarely use Google Play Books. I think the issue is that on all platforms the Kindle reading app is generally uses, and then iBooks for iOS or Google Play Books for Android. In others words, most iOS device owners simply have no reason for a third eBook reading app (which makes it almost impossible for NOOK and Kobo to gain much traction, either).

Here is the app description for the update:

What’s New in Version 2.5
Read Now has a new look
A new default font, Literata, designed for book lovers
Sync notes and highlights to Google Drive – turn it on in Settings
Left-alignment is now available as a display option
Stability and performance enhancements

Alphabet-200Meanwhile, Google itself is morphing into a new company called Alphabet, and I really don’t know what to make of it…

“What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google,” Larry Page wrote on the Google Investor Relations page. “This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main internet products contained in Alphabet instead. What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences (that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens), and Calico (focused on longevity). Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run things independently that aren’t very related.”

Google now becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet.

The move is being touted as a way to better manage diverse businesses. But my cynical side tells me this about stock shares. By putting its mature businesses in one pot, and its more exciting new ventures into another (under the umbrella of Alphabet) Google can spin-off products, dump assets that under perform, etc. There will be money to be made in all this, of course, and Wall Street will love it. It means possibly more IPOs and the like, and that means shares and fees all around. What’s there not to like? Right? (Google shares are up nearly $35 in after hours trading.)

Another company that is hopping on a bandwagon is Pandora. Responding to Apple’s move to introduce the DJ to streaming music, Pandora has brought on Justin Boland (aka J Boogie) as its hip hop curator.

JBoogie-400“I’m a music fiend who has been selecting tunes and sharing them with my friends and fans for over 20 years,” Boland wrote on the Pandora blog. “I have a soft spot for soul and reggae too, so you can find me digging into several genres for the music you hear on Pandora. My job is to make sure we have the best music library for you, no matter what you like. From well known to emerging artists, I spend all my time thinking about acquiring music and programming new genre stations. I also help write our blog and social media posts, interact with artists when they visit our Oakland office and get lost listening to anything I can get my hands on. Before I joined the team at Pandora, I worked at a radio station, record store, night club, record label and one of the first internet radio services,”

Music curation is one area where I feel completely left out. I hate the whole idea of anyone picking out my music for me. For instance, I have Pandora on right now, my station being centered on John Coltrane. The song now playing is from saxophonist Tom Scott, a version of the Wayne Shorter song Children of the Night which was first recorded in 1961 when Shorter was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Scott’s version is nice but sounds like pop music to me compared to the original. In other words, it is not at all what I would want to hear. I would not envy anyone trying to select music to fit my tastes.

But most people are not like that, I get it. So Pandora is trying to make sure it has tastemakers on staff. Pandora will have to pull out all the stops to stay in the game as Apple has claimed that over 11 million people have signed up for Apple Music, though since the service is free for the first 90 days there really is no reason even more iOS device owners have not signed up.

Note: Pandora reached out to object to the thought that the company is hopping on any bandwagon, saying that “We have – and have had – roughly 95 musicologists employed at Pandora.” So I can’t imagine why they would make a big deal out of this, any ideas?

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