You Can Now Pre-Order Books in Google Play Store


Google has enhanced its Google Play Store with the ability to pre-order upcoming books.

The best way to find books that will be available soon is to check out Google’s “New and Coming Soon” section on the Play Store. From there, pre-ordering the book is simple: you purchase it just as you would any other book, and you’ll receive it upon release.

Titles currently on offer include Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector, Michael Palmer’s Political Suicide, Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You.

The feature is available on Android as well as on the Google Play Store website.

Image credit: Toby Hudson (Wikimedia Commons)

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47 Digital Media Resources You May Have Missed


Back to school for the kids, and back to work for the adults — hopefully it’s been a good summer.

Well, we know the shortened week after a holiday weekend can go by in a blur. Plus, you might have been busy following the Democratic National Convention or the start of the NFL season.

If this is the case, and you haven’t had time to read up on digital resources that could enrich your day-to-day life, don’t fret — we’ve compiled a helpful guide for your reading pleasure.

This week’s list includes back-to-school apps, tools for small business owners and entrepreneurs, and even an app that can help you decide how to be an equitable tooth fairy.

In anticipation of soon-to-be-released tech products, we have an in-depth look at what new perks the devices will feature and how they compare to older models. For NFL fans, we have a list of Twitter users you should follow to stay informed. For parents, we have a list of things you should never do on Facebook!

There’s a little bit of everything this week, so sink your teeth in to Mashable’s weekly digital resources guide.

Editor’s Picks

Social Media

For more social media news and resources, you can follow Mashable‘s social media channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Business & Marketing

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Tech & Mobile

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For more digital lifestyle news and resources, you can follow Mashable‘s lifestyle channel on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Image courtesy of Flickr, webtreats

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Developer Tips for the New iOS 6 App Store


Apple’s iOS 6 means big changes for iTunes, and developers have to adapt.

There are optimizations for the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 that users will expect. But there are changes in the new App Store that developers need to be aware of as well.

Some of these changes you can see right away when navigating the redesigned App Store. Others take a little more digging and the rest are really only known by Apple but will affect your game or app, too.

The Redesigned App Store

One of the nice things about the redesign is that users now pretty much get the same experience no matter which device they use. And that experience brings several new things.

Search results are now displayed “Cards-style.” No more lists showing 25 results for a search. Results are now displayed showing “cards” for each app. After a search, users see one result on iPhone and six on the iPad. On the iPhone, users have to swipe to see each additional result.

If you’re ranking between #11 and #100 under a keyword (or a combination of keywords), your organic downloads are most likely to be affected. That’s why you might want to choose keywords for which your app appears in the top 10 results. Also, make sure your first screenshot really shows what your app is all about.

Categories are now hidden. Search was already estimated to account for 63% of app discovery, according to Nielsen. With this change we can expect users to do more search and less browsing.

Apple bets on Genius for app discovery. Categories have been replaced by Genius, and that shows Apple trusts its algorithm to help with app discovery.

The Redesigned App Details Page

Several things have changed in the way a specific app is displayed, which are impacting App Store Optimization.

Screenshots are more important as they are now displayed above the description. Make sure they are relevant and put them in an order that allows users to understand how your app or game works. Once again, text can help understand game play and features. You have to use them as advertising.

As only the first lines of your description now appear on iPhone and iPad, you have to get them right. And don’t overlook the “What’s New” section, as Apple has made it almost as important as your description. Show that your app is getting better and being updated.

Reviews have now their own tab, which is great news. An “App Support” button appears next to the “Write a Review” one, so make sure you’ve specified a support address in iTunes and that it leads to a page where users can get help or contact you. Facebook integration in iOS 6 also means that users can “Like” your app. It might not be as important as reviews, but you can reach out to your community so you get as many likes as possible (who knows, Apple might use that in its ranking/search algorithm soon).

The Modified Search Algorithm

What people call the “Chomp” update started back in June, and we can expect it to keep changing the way search works. App Store Optimization experts like, SearchMan or MobileDevHQ have noticed several changes.

As plural form is now handled better, you can use single form to save some precious characters in your keywords. Also, don’t waste keywords on words like “game,” “center” or “free” (or even your category name). Apple adds them automatically. Finally, the time when your in-app purchase names served as keywords seems to be over.

According to SearchMan, another potential game changer is the fact that Apple might start taking into account external reviews of your game or app (as Chomp as been reported to do). In that scenario, a review would be an additional signal for Apple that your app is relevant.

These are the main changes and impacts on developers and App Store Optimization that have been observed so far. There are some things you can act on now, and some that are outside of your control. This new App Store and its search algorithm are kind of a big deal, and we can expect more changes to come so make sure you stay ahead of the curve to keep your app or game in the race.

This article originally published at Gamezebo

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Post Congressional Hearing, GM CEO Barra Unveils New Vehicles


Mary Barra introduces the 2015 Chevy Trax at an event in New York on April 15, 2014.
Image: Mashable, Will Fenstermaker

Huddled inside a cavernous presentation space in Manhattan, away from the rain-soaked streets of Midtown, a select group of media and industry professionals were given a look at GM’s latest.

Unveiled on Tuesday, GM rolled out its 2015 convertible Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and the U.S. version of the 2015 Chevy Trax.

First revealed at January’s Detroit Auto Show, the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 did not disappoint up close, looking every bit the supercar GM has been promoting it as. Equipped with carbon ceramic brakes and a performance data recorder, the company claims the car can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 3.5 seconds.

2015 Corvette
The 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06

Image: Mashable, Will Fenstermaker

The four-door Trax, already available in Canada, represents GM’s attempt to woo the urban crowd. The SUV puts a premium on space-saving for parking, as well as interior bells and whistles.

Chevy Trax
The 2015 Chevy Trax

Image: Mashable, Will Fenstermaker

To that end, GM touted the Trax’s use of Siri Eyes Free and MyLink, the company’s voice-activated in-car system that enables drivers to connect mobile devices to it, as well as access a wide range of apps on a 7-inch color touchscreen. The vehicle will also offer an OnStar 4G LTE connection, delivering a Wi-Fi hotspot to up to seven devices.

Chevy MyLink
Chevy MyLink dashboard app system

Image: Mashable, Will Fenstermaker

After testing out the MyLink and Siri Eyes Free at the event, we were curious about the safety measures GM had in place to ensure that the increasingly compelling dashboard computing space wouldn’t eventually lead to a distracted-driving hazard.

Alan Batey, GM Senior VP
Alan Batey, General Motors senior vice president

Image: Mashable, Will Fenstermaker

“We will approve everything that goes into our app store,” Alan Batey, General Motors senior vice-president, told Mashable. “We have over 17 years of experience with OnStar. So we have a lot of knowledge — arguably more than anyone else in the industry — and we’ll use that knowledge. We will not put any apps in our vehicles that will in any way affect people’s ability to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. That’s the number one priority.”

As for competition from dashboard-mounted devices that could offer alternative app experiences, Batey said, “I believe a manufacturer-based, fully integrated system is so much safer than someone driving looking at a mobile device.”

GM’s new CEO, Mary Barra, also made one of her first appearances since sitting before U.S. Congress earlier this month for a hearing related to the company’s recall of defective ignition switches.

Mary Barra, GM CEO
Mary Barra, General Motors CEO

Image: Mashable, Will Fenstermaker

Barra stuck to a pre-written script, primarily extolling the virtues of GM and its new vehicles, and did not address the controversial recall in her official statement.

However, Batey later addressed some questions surrounding the recall.

“Recall is a part of our industry,” he said. “It’s a big recall, but there was also one of our competitors announced a huge global recall, so they’re part of our business.”

Batey also confirmed that some of the first repair parts had gone out to dealers earlier this week, and claimed that, based on internal data from March, the recall had not adversely affected GM’s sales numbers.

“We’ve said everything we can about the recalls; we’re obviously extremely sorry about what happened,” he said. “We’ve told everybody we’re going to do this full investigation using the best people we can to go where the facts are. In due course, we’ll be able to share with everybody what we’ve found out, and take it from there.”

Google Play Music Updates App With Gapless Playback, Auto Instant Mixes


Google Play Music unveiled the latest version of its app, adding gapless audio playback and automatic “instant mixes.”

The app, which lets users store and listen to music online, is currently in v4.4.811H.

Users can now enjoy smooth, uninterrupted playback of tracks on devices with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or later, auto-generated instant mixes based on their favorite songs, as well as the ability to keep purchased, free, “thumbs-up” and recently added playlists on their phones, according to Google Play’s website.

Reviews of the update have been mixed, but users generally favor the long-awaited gapless playback feature.

Android owners, what do you think of latest version of Google Play Music? Tell us in the comments below.

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Did You Know 144.8 Billion Emails Are Sent Every Day?

Email-heart-640-400-e1347043798445For more information about BrandSpeak, click here.

We all send and receive a lot of email. In fact, a report earlier this year indicated that workers spend 28% of their time in their inbox. Yet only 14% of these emails are deemed “important.” Then there are all of the emails you get from family and friends, Fantasy Football commissioners and reading clubs and of course, social media notifications. Pretty soon, you’re finding that inbox zero seems like an impossibility.

Indeed, email has come a long way since its inception in 1971. Check out the infographic below to learn more about email, including how much we send and receive and how many email addresses exist in the world today.

Bob Al-Greene

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How to Choose the Best Instagram Filter for Your Photo


10 Most-Shared Apple Parodies on YouTube


Windows 8 Gets Unboxed


First they decided to kill the Start button. Now this: Microsoft is reportedly dropping the retail, boxed, full version option from Windows 8.

This is kind of sad, but also sensible. Not being able to find a full version of Windows 8 on retail shelves shouldn’t bother many, considering how many of us buy computers with the OS pre-installed.

Still, the demise of the Windows box (there may still be a Windows 8 upgrade DVD) marks a turning point in the software industry.

If you’ve been in computers for long enough, you’ll remember the rows and rows of software or application boxes (we didn’t start calling things “apps” until the iPhone), lining retailer shelves.

Back in the 80’s, such packaging made sense. They contained the giant disks: first 5-inch floppies and then, as software and computers grew more powerful, a stack of 3.5-inch floppy disks. Stuffed in with those disks was usually an inch-thick manual, which no one in their right mind read.

In the 90’s, optical media squeezed all that data onto a couple of CD-ROMs — and eventually a single DVD (which holds 4.7 GB). As a result, most software boxes were largely empty. They remained the exact same book-ish size, but were filled mostly with air and some structural-support cardboard.

I found the whole thing incredibly wasteful. The advent of the Internet did not change this. There were more, not fewer, boxes until the end of the century. Broadband access is what changed the retail packaging game. By the early 2000’s, many people were able to download their favorite software products.

With the advent of Windows Update (and slip-stream updates for virtually other major application on the planet), that packaged product and original disks because even less valuable (save for the Serial # or Product ID) as they represented frozen-in-time code.

These days, Microsoft updates its OS on a weekly basis. Install from original disks and you’d be starting all over again.

The other thing that hurt the retail software package business was the rise of the casual game and the app explosion. Soon all those boxed games for kids, utilities for families, single-purpose productivity apps could be found in Apple’s App Store.

No one has to visit the local MicroCenter to buy a $49 packaged app. Cloud-based service users need never touch a disk or tech manual.

The last big-box holdouts? Full-blown productivity products like Microsoft Office, and platform software, like Apple’s Mac OS and Microsoft Windows.

Last year, Apple ended retail packaging for Mac OS X Lion. Now Microsoft will, it seems, do the same with Windows 8.

Microsoft has promised to make its new Windows App Store live in time for the Windows 8 Release to Manufacturing (RTM) in August. Like the other, increasingly successful desktop-app-level online software options out there — Mac App Store and Steam, for instance — are your retail software shelf replacements.

Microsoft is actually expanding its retail presence, even as it diminishes physical packaging’s importance. The company wants to have 44 locations by mid-2013. Those stores will be devoted to Microsoft hardware, with the new Surface Tablet (which will never know retail, boxed software) taking center stage.

Getting rid of cardboard boxes, manuals and landfill-stuffing discs is a good thing. It’s good for the environment and saves us all some valuable space. On the other hand, I can’t help but get a little misty-eyed for some of that great 80’s and 90’s product packaging. My basement is full of it. When there are no more stores selling software, I may start giving tours.

Track the Spread of Flu With These Apps


No one likes having the flu — body aches, fever, laying in bed all day, but not everyone does something to prevent it. The Centers for Disease Control recommend people over the age of six receive a vaccine, especially those with compromised immune systems, pregnant women and the elderly. Flu season begins in October and spikes in February, so you still have time to get a vaccination.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the flu. But keeping abreast of influenza in your area, and what to do to prevent getting sick, are smart ways to stay healthy this flu season.

You’re especially vulnerable to the flu if you work in healthcare, with children or are around lots of people all day. There are a number of apps to keep you informed on the spread of flu in your community.

The free CDC Influenza app [iTunes link] is full of information to prevent various strains of flu — whether you’re a parent, employer or just a person trying not to get sick. You can listen to podcasts or view videos from CDC doctors and partners for specific flu-related topics like how to reduce the risk of H3N2v if you’re a fairgoer or swine exhibitor. Other titles include “protecting babies from flu” and “Flu-related hospitalizations by industry.” Both the podcasts and videos are short and informative. There is also a map that shows the country’s flu stats during a given week. States are colored according to how common flu outbreaks are occurring: white for “no report,” a beige herringbone pattern for “sporadic,” red stripes for “no activity,” golden for “regional,” yellow for “local” and brown for “widespread.” You can click an arrow to see previous weeks’ reports, too. The CDC offers a similar free app for Android [Google Play link].

Flu Defender [iTunes link] is a free iOS app. It has a handy main screen from which you can navigate to one of the nine buttons with flu information. One of the most unique features of this app is the “Twitter Updates” button — this shows you the latest tweets from the CDC. It’ll also be a useful reminder to search Twitter with flu-related keywords — sometimes Twitter is the fastest way to hear about an outbreak. It contains in-app articles about flu prevention and podcasts sourced from and

If you want to see your risk of flu, take the “Vaccine Assistant” quiz that will ask you personal health questions and rate your risk on a thermometer. It also has a symptom identifier (hint: if you are experiencing any of the symptoms, you might have the flu). We were disappointed that the “Vaccine Finder” button didn’t work — it took us to a “Not Found” page — however, the user experience with this app combined with all of the helpful information makes it worth the free download. We also liked the “Flu Smart” button, which shows quick facts such as “The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season. The protection you get from the vaccination will last throughout the season.”

Flu Near You is a free Android app by HealthMap. You can enter your zip code and see outbreaks of the flu in your community and region, reported by the CDC. View flu vaccination rates for your state and read breaking news about the flu. You can also use the symptom checker to see if you might have the flu. Use the vaccine finder to locate places to get the shot.

Honorable mentions: Medical Cures in your Kitchen and Reader’s Digest Easy Home Remedies [iTunes links] are both apps for iOS devices. Both offer a lot of good remedies to make you feel better while you’re sick.

Medical Cures recommends using vinegar to help with a fever. Click “flip” on the page that shows vinegar to see how it works. Mix vinegar and water and then dip a washcloth into the mixture and wash your arms and legs to offer a cool down. The app’s worth its $0.99 price since you’ll probably use it again (it offers treatments for indigestion, bug bites and insomnia). Although it would be wise to see a doctor first for something like a skin infection or an intestinal worm.

The Reader’s Digest app lets you search by ailment or type in a condition in the search box. Fever, for instance, has the following categories: “Home Remedies, “Recipes for Healing”, “Do This First” and “When to Call the Doctor.”

Have you ever used an app to find a doctor’s office or get healing advice for when you’re sick? Tell us in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Indiana Public Media’s photostream

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