Archive for December, 2009

Suffering by comparison

December 31, 2009
     
    “Mom always liked you best.”

That’s a catchphrase for The Smothers Brothers.  I like their act very much, and may still catch myself breaking into “Boil that cabbage down” or that one about the three-legged waltz or their version of Streets of Laredo.

It was used as an intended argument ender by Tommy to Dick (who was the straight man).   If “Mom always liked you best”, you had an unfair advantage.

Was your immediate thought, “But if Mom liked you also, why does it matter?”

I’ll admit it, this one is largely an opinion piece.  I like giving tips, analysis, news, and fiction, but I do these from time to time.  I’m certainly not going to say I’m right and someone else is wrong…I think two opposing opinions can both be right…or partially right.

However, this is one of those that still suprises me.  I honestly don’t quite get it, although I can come up with some of the logic behind it (although I don’t think it’s really logic driven).   If there are a limited number of necessities, and someone else gets more of them, that’s a negative.  However, when you are talking about luxuries, that seems different to me.  If your mother gave your sibling a toy and didn’t give you one (assuming the toy doesn’t provide a competitive advantage later), why is that a problem?

I know, that’s unrealistic.  Most people get into that “ten dogs and one bone” mentality.  Competition is good: I jokingly say to my Significant Other, “I can be less competitive than you can!”  If people didn’t want the next bigger better thing, we’d probably still be using hundred dollar calculators in our Model Ts.  ;) 

I think what I have is a good competitive sense.  If I’m playing you in something, I’m not going to try and make things harder for you.  I’m going to give you all the tips and tricks I can.  I’ll give you the side of the court you want.   I want you to have the best day you’ve ever had…and I want to beat you.  It’s not as much fun to beat you on an off day. 

I had a flatmate who told me a great story once.  My flatmate was fairly small.  This FM had been in a bar when a fight broke out.  The FM grabbed a pool cue and broke it over the head of this giant opponent.  The Goliath just looked.  My FM said roughly, “I knew that was the best hit I was ever going to do…so I felt no shame in jumping out a window and running away.”

As Dirty Harry said in Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”  ;)

So, what does all this have to do with e-books and EBRs (E-Book Readers)?

It’s just that I see this same sort of jealousy in the e-book world.

“I have the better one.”

D. Cary, in this thread in the Amazon Kindle community, reported being greeted that way by another mass transit rider with a nook (sic).  Another poster has called the nook the EBR of the season.

Why can’t they both be good? Let’s say you were perfectly happy with your EBR, and someone introduced one that allowed you to turn the pages with your mind.  Did yours get worse?  Nope, it’s the same, and you should still be satisfied, right?  Could you be happy for the other person?  I think it’s great that people love their EBRs, and that they are reading more (that’s what people report). 

It’s not just nook people, of course.  I don’t run into much from Sony owners right now, but when the wireless Daily Reader gets out there more, we may.  People use the terms “fanboy” for people who enthusiastically support something…with the implication that they won’t listen to criticism.  The sort of opposite is a “troll”…someone who goes into a product forum, for example, just to knock down the product.

I think there may be more of a tendency on the part of nook people to want theirs to be better right now because, well, they waited.  Early adopters expect devices to get better.  We pave the way…we are pioneers, the pilgrims into the new land.  Yes, when we got there, there was only a rock to greet us.  Four hundred years later, people will fly into an airport and take a cab.  That’s okay with me…jealousy of future generations is particularly bizarre to me.  I’m not jealous that my offspring’s future kids may have it better than I did.  :)

So, you want to prove you were smart to wait…while we were enjoying what we had.  You want that, “Ha, ha…you see?” moment. 

Not all people with nooks, or most, or anything.  Some Kindleers did it to people with paperbooks…oh, not that they had waited since Gutenberg, but that they had the “better one”.  Kindleers tend to love paperbooks as well, but were defensive.

It can be natural for those with more power to feel more comfortable.  It’s to the advantage of those with less power for the current situation to change, so they may be more likely to challenge it.

Do I like my Kindle better than a nook?  I haven’t played with a nook much…some, certainly.  There are factors that I like better about the Kindle.  But what if the nook was clearly better…would that bother me?  Nope, I would see it as a good thing.  It would drive innovation in EBRs in general, and in the Kindle in particular.  If the nook was better, my Kindle would get better in response.  I’m not saying it would copy the same ideas, necessarily, but it would eventually need to offer a more attractive alternative.  

I’m happy when more people are happy.  :) 

Upgrade envy

Whenever Amazon introduces a new feature, some people who don’t have it get jealous…downright mad!  When the Kindle 2 came out, people with the Kindle 1 complained.  When the Kindle 2 international came out, people with the Kindle 2 complained.  If you were happy before, what’s changed?  What’s wrong with the idea that other people might be happier?   When there’s a price reduction, how does that hurt you?  If you made a good decision, it’s still a good decision.

I find the same thing with people who want to get a free e-book because they bought a p-book version of the title before.  When you paid $4.95 for that paperback in 1995, did you not get a good deal then?  Have you been griping about it for fifteen years, because the price was such a rip-off?  If not, why should you get something more now?  If you didn’t think the price was fair back then, why did you buy it?  Yes, it would be cool if they gave you a free e-book, but it would cost Amazon money…probably more than they made on your first purchase.  It would be cool if they gave you the DVD of the movie adaptation, too…why doesn’t that make just as much sense?

“An e-book should never cost more than a p-book.”

I addressed the reasons why this happens in this earlier post.  It’s rare, but it happens.  I’ve seen people say that they would never buy an e-book that was more expensive than the p-book.

Just to be clear: if you could get an electronic version of the entire Oxford English Dictionary for two cents, you wouldn’t buy it if people could get it in paper for one penny?   I’d much rather have it as an e-book, by the way, but that’s sort of beside the point.  You want to buy it in paper in that situation, go ahead.  “But then I need to have a bookshelf to keep them on, and pay to move them, and…”  Yes…so it sounds like the paperbook may have disadvantages for you?  The  e-book may be worth more to you?  E-books and p-books are both good.   However, even if I thought one was better, I wouldn’t mind if mine that was “worse” cost more…if it was a fair price for what I was getting.

If the one penny/two penny thing sounds ridiculous, it brings to mind the possibly apochryphal story with Winston Churchill.  The way I recall the story is Churchill saying to a woman at a party, “Would you sleep with me for a million pounds?” and the woman saying yes.  He then says, “Would you sleep with me for five pounds?”  She: “No!   What kind of a woman do you think I am?”  Churchill: “We have already established that, madam.  Now, we are just haggling over price.” 

:)

Just pointing out, it’s a matter of scale.  If the p-book was $5 and the e-book was $7.50, the question is still, “Is the e-book worth $7.50 to you?”

Someone recently cited the example of The Unseen Academicals  (published by Harper, a company currently not blocking text-to-speech in e-books, to my knowledge).

As I write this, yes, the e-book is more expensive than the p-book at Amazon.

The hardback is $12.99.

The Kindle edition is $14.29.  (UPDATE: Since I wrote this, the price dropped down to $9.99…not a surprise to me)

“Outrage!  How dare they charge me more for it?’”

Well, let’s look at the discount on this book.  Both the paper and digital list prices (set by the publisher) are $25.99.

The e-book is 45% off!

The p-book is 50% off!

Those are crazy huge discounts.  The paperback isn’t due until July 26, 2010.

Now, if the hardback didn’t exist, a 45% discount would seem huge for an e-book…or pretty much, anything else.  Of course, the digital list price probably wouldn’t be $25.99, so the Kindle price would be lower.  I think this book was $9.99 for awhile as a Kindle book, as I recall…not positive.

If you don’t want to buy it because it is more expensive than the paperbook, you can wait.  The p-book price is likely to go up, and/or the Kindle price will come down.  The Kindle price will almost certainly come down when the paperback is released.   If the p-book price went up,would that make you happier, that other people who don’t have e-book readers have to pay more?  Why? 

However, if you want to point out the price discrepancy to Amazon, they may lower the e-book…I’ve heard of it apparently working that way before.  They do want the perception that e-books are cheaper.  Right now, a lot of people think of e-books as less valuable than p-books, because they can’t sell or lend them…well, not as easily on the lending, anyway.  Well, not in the same way.   See, even that perception has started to erode. 

So, I’m not claiming I do this perfectly.  I do, though, tend to feel good when things get better for other people…and worse when they get worse, like a lot of people.

Technology is an interwoven ecology.  If things get better for other people, they’ll probably get better for you eventually.

So, be selfish: hope that the iTablet is way better than your current e-reader.  Hope that the next generation of your EBR is cheaper and does more than yours.  Eventually, that will improve your lot as well…so it’s in your own self-interest.  :)

“Wait, that guy has more self-sacrifice than I do!  I want more!”  ;)

Okay..this is me.  This is my soapbox.  Getting off now.  ;)

Disagree?  Great!  Let me know what you think…

 This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Flash! According to UCSD, reading is UP!

December 30, 2009

I’ve just started through the study…I’m converting the pdf to have my Kindle read it to me on a commute, of course. ;) 

It’s a study from the University of California at San Diego about information consumption.   It’s by Roger E. Bohn and James E. Short. 

They say: 

“U.S. households in 2008 spent about 5 percent of their information time reading newspapers, magazines and books, which have declined in readership over the last fifty years.” 

 However, they say that reading itself has increased.  

They also say: 

 

“Printed books – on which Americans spent barely 2 percent of their information time, and 4 percent of words – may someday be displaced by digital devices such as the Amazon Kindle, but the electronic book platforms had more potential than actual readers in 2008. Yet, in many ways electronic documents have already taken over for paper…”

Looks like a great study!   I’ll let you know more when I’ve had a chance to go through it thoroughly. 

You can get it here.

On any Kindle except a Kindle one, you can download the pdf and just put it right into your Kindle’s documents folder, if you want.  I prefer being able to enlarge the text and use the text-to-speech, so I’m sending it for conversion to my free Kindle address (by putting the word “convert” in the subject line).  More on that in this previous post.  It’s possible it won’t be converted if it has security, but we’ll see.

This post by Bufo Calvin first appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Flash! US Amazon store breaks 400,000 titles!

December 30, 2009

I knew it was coming soon…I’ve been watching for it.  :)

The count right now is 400,450.  I would bet on half a million by the end of 2010.

I plan to do one of my regular Snapshots on January 1st, but I thought you’d want to know.  :)

This post by Bufo Calvin first appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

The pithy version

December 30, 2009

It is a reasonable postulate that I can be excessively verbose (translation: I may talk too much).  ;)

I’ve done this once before, and I think it was helpful for people.

In this post, I’m going to give you short (no more than seven words) answers to some frequently asked Kindle and e-book questions.  I may link you to a post I’ve done with a more thorough answer…I’m not counting that link as a word.  ;)

Please recognize that my goal here is to give a straight ahead, simple answer.  I won’t be as polite as I usually like to be, and if there is a workaround that lets you get to what you want but isn’t the actual answer to your question, I may not be able to get that in here.  To keep these short, I’m going to leave out Kindle 1 answers (since it works significantly differently from the others in several areas).   If you want a more complete answer to anything, feel free to ask.  :)

Oh, and my feeling is that the answer “no” should almost always read “not yet”.

Q. Can I send a Kindle book as a gift to someone else’s Kindle?

A. No.  Use gift cards.

Q. Will I run out of memory on my Kindle?

A. No.  Remove books you are done reading.

Q. Can I buy books from Barnes and Noble and read them on my Kindle?

A. No.

Q. Is it true that I can only read books I buy from Amazon on my Kindle?

A. No.  Lots of other sources.

Q. Is there a charge for using the internet on my Kindle?

A. Only for sending yourself documents wirelessly.

Q. If I bought a book in paper before, do I get it for free for my Kindle now?

A. No.  Amazon pays publishers, you pay Amazon.

Q. Can I share Kindle store books with my friends and family?

A. Yes, if they are on your account.

Q. Do all books have text-to-speech?

A. Not if the publisher blocks it.

Q. Can I tell if a book has the text-to-speech blocked before I buy it?

A. Yes.  Amazon’s page will say “not enabled”

Q. Do the current Amazon Kindles have a memory card slot?

A. No.  Connect to computer, back up that way

Q. What do I do if my Kindle is lost or stolen?

A. Deregister immediately at Manage Your Kindle

Q. Is the Kindle backlit?

A. No, it’s like paper.  More eye friendly

Q. Why aren’t there more books available/available in my country?

A. Legal, licensing, marketing…expect more soon

Q. Why can’t I get the Harry Potter books for my Kindle legally?

A. J.K. Rowling says no

Q. Why aren’t all books $9.99?

A. Amazon never said so.  Many are less.

Q. Can I listen to music on my Kindle?

A. Yes.  MP3s only. Put in music folder

Q. Should I turn off my Kindle or put it to sleep?

A. Sleep, better for it, unless it’s acting weird

Q. Where can I see the Kindle documentation online?

A. Here

Q. My favorite book isn’t on the Kindle.  What can I do to get it “Kindleized”?

A. Write the rightsholder: author/estate, publisher

Q. Can I add “sleep mode pictures” to my Kindle?

A. Kindle 1, yes.  Others need a “hack”

Q. Can I install my own fonts?

A. No.  Would require a hack

Q. Do the “hacks” that are out there void my warranty?

A. No, but they violate Terms of Service

Q. Can the Kindle display languages other than English?

A. Some.  Depends on characters needed.  Images ok.

Q. Can I change the contrast on my Kindle?

A. No.

Q. What are some other sources for books I can use on my Kindle besides Amazon?

A. Gutenberg.org, Feedbooks.com, ManyBooks.net, Baen, Fictionwise, many more

Q. Will Amazon pay me a referrer fee for getting people to buy Kindles?

A. Yes.  Become an Associate first.

Q. Can I share magazine and newspaper subscriptions with Kindles on the same account, like I can with books?

A. No.

Q. What are the charges for using the wireless internationally when I’m a US customer traveling abroad?

Q. $1.99/book, $4.99/week/subscriptions

Q. Can I avoid those charges by using my computer and transferring via USB?

A. Yes.

Q. Can I set the clock on my Kindle myself?

A. No.

Q. Does it play games?

A. Yes.  Alt+Shift+M

Q. Can I permanently delete a book, so I don’t see it anywhere?  I don’t mind if I have to buy it again later.

A.  Yes.  Manage Your Kindle, plus box, delete

Q. Can I update my US only version to be an international version with software?

A. No, it’s a hardware difference

Q. Is an international version of the larger DX model coming?

A. Yes, in 2010

Q. What does public domain mean?

A. Not under copyright protection

Q. Why are there different versions of the same book for sale at different prices?

A. Anyone can publish public domain, set prices

Q. Is Amazon doing anything about the bad formatting in some Kindle books?

A. Yes.  Recently, may remove from store

Q. How do I know if a book is poorly formatted before I buy it?

A. Get a free sample

Q. If I get an e-book I don’t like, can I return it?

A. Within seven days: Amazon, not Sony, B&N

Q. Can I buy books from Amazon if I can’t get a wireless connection?

A. Yes.  Buy from computer, transfer via USB

Q. Can I organize the books on my Kindle?

A. Yes.  Use tags.  More coming in 2010

Q. When is the Kindle 3 coming out?

A. 4 so far, 5th in 2010

Q. If Amazon goes out of business will I not be able to read my e-books?

A. No.  Would be legal to circumvent DRM

Q. Wouldn’t it be like having Beta videotapes?

A. No.  That was hardware, this is software

Q. Is Bufo your real name?

A. Yes.  :)

This post by Bufo Calvin first appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Watching the watchers #1: Washington Post December 27 2009

December 29, 2009

I make mistakes…oh boy, do I make mistakes.  ;)

Since I’ve been blogging (only since late August 2009), I certainly have empathy for people who write on a deadline. 

If I was writing a couple of hundred words once a week, or if I could wait to publish until I felt everything was perfect, well, everything would be pretty darn near perfect (or at least, to my satisfaction).  What would be left to debate would be debatable topics…opinions, not grammar, spelling, and facts.

It’s inevitable that people in the media are going to make mistakes. 

I used to see it all the time when I was following a controversial and marginalized area very closely.  People would make the simplest mistakes, as if fact-checking was unimportant on that topic.  Assertions would be made, and arguments would hinge on them…and two minutes of checking could have shown that they were, at the least, under dispute.

Well, I’m going to take this post to respond to another article.  :)  I’m not looking to be critical of the person, but I do want to look critically at the assertions in the article.  If I agree with them, great, I’ll let you know.  If I think I can provide you some counter evidence, I will.  It’s not a competition: you might like both articles, or neither of them.  You might decide that the evidence supports one side or the other…or again, both of neither.

One more thing: would I welcome this kind of analysis of my own articles?  Absolutely!  I’ve been able to go back and correct some things to which people alerted me, and I really appreciate that.

Today’s article is by Marion Maneker, a Washington Post Staff Writer, and was published at that publication’s Website dated December 27, 2009.

You can read it here.

I’m not reproducing the article itself, of course, because that would violate their copyright.  I do suggest your read it, though.  I may quote a few short snippets.

The first interesting assertion to me was that there are two camps in the e-publishing world: readers and authors versus publishers.

That seems odd to me: why would we put the authors with the readers, rather than with their publishers?  Certainly, most authors are probably readers and consumers of books…but many of them are also publishers (or in the publishing industry). 

If we look at it purely selfishly, it would seem that the authors and the publishers have more similar goals than the authors and the readers do.

For example, it benefits both authors and publishers for people to pay higher prices for books (assuming they actually pay them).  It benefits readers for the prices to be lower.  Sure, many readers want to see authors get a fair royalty for their work…and some even realize that the publishers deserve money for their work as well.  ;)  However, if a million copies would sell at twenty dollars a book, that benefits both authors and publishers.  If those same million copies sell for five dollars a book, that is good for readers.

Is it because we think of authors as individuals, like ourselves (as readers)?  Do we think of publishers as big bad corporations?  I think that’s overly simplistic. 

There is a conflict between authors and publishers in the sense that publishers would like to keep the costs low on books…and authors are part of that cost (and rightly so).  Authors would probably be as happy getting five dollars of a ten dollar books as they would be getting five dollars on a twenty dollar book. 

Maneker also says that while there is all of this debate going on between Amazon and the authors and publishers, there is “…little time for conceiving new content…”  Is the suggestion here that there are fewer books being published because people are too busy fighting?  I don’t have enough months’ worth of data to say for sure, but for December so far, the average number being added per day is still over 500.  It’s possible, but I don’t think that’s clear to me.  The interesting thing is the possibility that the titles are being added increasingly by independent authors who publish through Amazon’s Digital Text Platform (DTP).  That’s something I think traditional publishers (tradpubs) need to fear.  While people are waiting for those backlist (older but still under copyright) titles to get published, they are discovering new authors, and new places to get books.  That’s an erosion of market share that they need to fear.  Indies are lighter and nimbler and tend to have a shorter publication cycle.  Since a tradpub needs to negotiate for the book and work all of that out, they probably won’t keep up…unless they get books that are already written and negotiated into e-book form rapidly.

The next thing is that the author of the article points out the success of the Kindle, but describes the device as “limited and rudimentary” and having a 1980s computer vibe.  Hmph.  Does he not like keyboards, maybe?  It might be embryonic, but I wouldn’t call it rudimentary.  I think this is the techies’ misconception that a device has to do more, more, more.  It can do more and it will do more in the future, but it largely has accomplished the goal of giving you access to a library in your hand, and books that you can read long form without eyestrain.  Yes, the contrast will improve, yes, we’ll get better organization, yes, page turn speed will get faster.  The Rocket eBook reader fit the definition of rudimentary for me…this can do what it needs to do. 

He also suggests that it is hard to choose what material to read on the Kindle.  Well, yes, the Kindle store could be friendlier.   I think many of us shop for Kindle store books through the Amazon website…that’s what I usually do.  There is a lot of good information there, some of it consumer provided (like reviews).  They could improve categorization and definitely could improve understanding how a book fits into a series.  However, I feel like I get a lot of information to help me decide (ratings, reviews, publisher’s descriptions, sometimes author interviews, what other people are buying who looked at this…and so on).

He says that publishers are not reacting to what people want and are instead consolidating what they already have.  I’d agree with that for some publishers, like those that are following the strategy of staggered releases for some titles.  Blocking text-to-speech (which he doesn’t mention) is an even bigger sign of a turtle pulling back into its shell, in my opinion.  The race for readers is on, and some publishers are pulling into their shells.  Oh, they may not get hurt that way (they aren’t taking a risk), but they aren’t going to win.  I know, I know…slow and steady wins the race, right?  Perhaps…but I don’t think inert and backwards is going to win it.  Why protect an already shrinking audiobook market at the expense of an exploding e-book market?  I think there may be a lot of internal politics going into that.  On the other hand, some publishers (like Pocket) are embracing the race: they are diving off the starting block, while others are sitting down and hugging their legs to their chests.

The next assertions have to do with price, and here, the author makes a statement that is simply…contrary to the evidence I’ve found.  He says that most e-books are priced “much higher” than $9.99, and seems to be suggesting that’s true at Amazon for Kindle books.  Here is what I found:

 Of the 399564 books in the Kindle store right now, 150363 are more than $9.99…that’s only 38%. I’m going to arbitrarily say that “much higher” would be at least 150% of the first figure…only 85965 are $14.99 or higher (22%). Nearly half of those (47%) (40733) are $50 or higher…few of those will be popular novels or non-fiction. They’ll tend to be more specialized titles.

Then there was this statement:

“Amazon’s customers have made it clear that $9.99 is still too high for their taste. Most titles in the company’s list of top 100 Kindle bestsellers are priced below $9.99, and the most popular price point is $0.00.”

Um, it’s not clear to me from the data at all that people think $9.99 is too much.  Let’s break this down.

First, these ratings change hourly, so I could be looking at different data that Maneker saw.  I certainly admit that, but my intuition is that it isn’t massively different.

The idea that free is the most popular price…well, yes, based on the top 100 that’s true.  63 out of 100 of the titles I saw were free.  Some were promotional titles, some were public domain.  No argument, publishers could probably move a lot more titles if they gave them away…you know, until they went bankrupt.  :)

However, once we get past that, the most popular price point is…$9.99. 

Seventeen of the remaining 37 titles are priced at $9.99.  That’s 46 percent of them. 

The second most popular price point: it’s a six-way tie for ones that have 2 each!  Those are: $0.99, $4.25, $6, $7.99, $8.80, and $9.60.  All of the other prices only have one book each. 

What that says to me is that, outside of free, $9.99 is by far the most popular price point in the top 100. 

That’s in the top one hundred…it may change as you get further down.

The other thing is that $9.99 is a price point for books that are currently in hardback as well…I don’t think anybody expects that a book that is in paperback for $7.99 is going to be $9.99 as an e-book, regularly.

Next up, the “Battle for the Backlist”.  Random House did recently send out a communication claiming that they own the rights to e-books, because an e-book publication is a publication in book form.  An astounding statement is that there aren’t that many books involved, because, according to Richard Curtis, e-book rights became standard in 1990.  I don’t know that is true, and it would surprise me…but it could be true.  Still, there are tons of books that are under copyright and marketable that were published between 1923 and 1989 in the US!  It’s not “few books”, in my opinion. 

An interesting statement is that Stephen Covey is getting fifty percent for the well-known books he is doing as Kindle exclusives, as opposed to the twenty-five percent he would have gotten from Simon & Schuster.  Typically, if you self-publish through Amazon’s Digital Text Platform, you get 35% of the Digital List Price you set.  A tradpub presumably typically gets fifty percent.  Covey is reportedly going through RosettaBooks, which basically came out on top in a legal issue with Random House some time back.   So, is Amazon paying Rosetta more than fifty percent for the books?  Possibly.  Rosetta could also be taking a loss on those books to promote others.  According to rumor, Apple is offering publishers seventy percent for the rumored new iTablet (likely to be announced on January 26, 2010).  If that’s true, they’ll be making less per title…but I would guess it’s to attract exclusives.

Next is an interesting suggestion that in the past twenty years, the right strategy was to increase book supply.  Certainly, Amazon didn’t advertise itself as “The World’s Most Efficient Bookstore”.  :)  Amazon says the key elements are price, selection, and convenience. 

He says that the nook was going to win through better functionality…and failed at that, at least initially.  Really?  I thought the nook (sic…he capitalizes it, which Barnes & Noble doesn’t) was going to win by looking cooler, and giving people more options (like customizable sleep mode pictures).  He says that having a device is not enough to enough to get the market…and that’s true.  However, one of the big advantages of the Kindle is that they have more books in copyright and better prices.  Yes, having a slower interface might be a disadvantage…but I’m not sure how sophisticated people are about that.  Most people won’t compare them hands on before deciding.  He says that “Amazon’s advantage is its customer base and brand loyalty.”  Yes, that counts…especially the large customer base part…for online shopping, anyway.  Readers presumably have loyalty for B&N as well.  I think that one reason Amazon jumped past the Sony was that book readers had faith with Amazon as a bookseller.  Another big reason, though, was the wireless access.  Sony has that in the latest version (although it’s much more expensive for an inch bigger screen, compared to the Kindle 2), and of course, the nook has it. 

I’m going to leave her conclusions alone…I do want you to go read her article (which is well-written), so I’ll leave you wanting more.  :)  Besides, that’s opinion and projection, and those are valuable commodities. 

Well, let me know if you found this valuable.  I may do it again, but I’d love to hear what you think first.

This post by Bufo Calvin first appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Flash: “This mobile site does not currently support the purchase of this item.”

December 28, 2009

This was an odd one, and reader and podcast host (The Kindle Chronicles) alerted me to it.

In my last post, I put a link for readers to download a free version of Alice in Wonderland from the Kindle store.

When Len tried it, he saw this message:

“This mobile site does not currently support the purchase of this item.”

That’s a message that MP3 users have seen before, as well (I believe) those trying to get digital video downloads from Amazon.  It’s something people see on cell phones…and the Kindle does behave somewhat like a cell phone.

The message (and it appears on the page, not as an error message), tells you to add it to your Wish List and buy it from your computer.  You can do that, but that seems unnecessarily convoluted.

I tried switching modes (Basic and Advanced), clearing cookies…hmm…

After a long phone call with Amazon, I may have the answer…and it’s interesting.

The second-tier Customer Service rep, Josh, was helpful, if this all turns out to be correct.

So, the link in the blog doesn’t go to the Kindle store you get to on your Kindle…it goes to the website version you would get to on your computer.  If this has been true all along, and I’m surprised no one mentioned it to me.  I was told you can’t buy from the website version while on the Kindle. 

Does that mean all the times that we’ve been linking to books, people from their Kindles haven’t been able to buy them?

Anyway, when I looked up the title in the Kindle store from my Kindle, I originally got the same message.  However, Josh had me use a “soft restart”…

Home-Menu-Settings-Menu-Restart

After that, it was okay from the Kindle store (by searching for it), but not from the link in the blog.

Josh also recommended the soft restart, rather than using the switch, when possible…I’m going to start suggesting that.  He said the hard restart (via the switch) was “harder” on your Kindle.

So, I’ll update the post to have people shop from the Kindle store for it.

Thanks for the heads up, Len!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Getting to know your Kindle

December 28, 2009

In a previous post, I talked about your first steps with your Kindle.

Now that you may have been using it for a few days, I want to give you a sort of “Tour de Kindle”.  In this post, I’m going to give you ways to get familiar with some of the more advanced features of the Kindle.

Note: this information will apply to all currently available Kindles, but not the Kindle 1.  The Kindle 1 is a good device, but operates differently and does not have all of the features of the Kindle 2 international and the Kindle DX.

Enhancing reading

First, let’s get you a book so you can play around with it (or, you know, you can say “practice” if anybody asks you).  ;)

Let’s go with Alice in Wonderland.  Don’t worry, it’s a free version from the Kindle store.  I’m picking this one because, well, you’ve probably read it and are familiar with it.  That will help avoid spoilers (I hate those) while you are practicing.  If you want to use a different title, feel free.

You can buy a book directly from your Kindle by doing

Menu-Shop in Kindle Store

Then, just type the title you want using your keyboard, flick to your right, and click with your 5-way (this is on any Kindle but a K1).  I typed in

Alice in Wonderland

I picked the first one, which is a freebie.

If you are reading this blog on your computer, you can use this link: Alice in Wonderland.   If you try that from your Kindle, you may see a message that says, “This mobile site does not currently support the purchase of this item.”   They’ll give you a workaround, but basically, when shopping for Kindle books from your Kindle, they want you to use the Kindle version of the store.

Okay, let’s go beyond just reading.

The dictionary is probably a good place to start.  Use your 5-way (the little joy-stick thingie) to get in front of a word.  You should see the definition at the bottom of the screen (if the Kindle knows the word…it won’t know a Klingon word, for example). ;)   You can hit the enter key to see the definition in the dictionary itself (where you can make it bigger).   For more information on the dictionary, see this earlier post.

Next, let’s bookmark this page so you can find it again easily.  That’s simple: Alt+B will do it.  You’ll see a little “dog ear” triangle in your top right corner of the screen.  You can go to your bookmarks by doing Menu-My Notes & Marks.  You can remove a bookmark by doing Alt+B again on that same page.

Next, let’s highlight a section…this is the same as clipping it.  It will cause the section to be underlined, and make that underlined section available to you outside of the book.  Use your 5-way to get to the beginning of the section you want.  Click (press the 5-way down).  Go forward to the end of the section you want: you’ll see it highlighted.  Click again. 

Since this is a book from the Kindle store, you can get to the clipping on-line at Kindle.Amazon.com.  You can copy and paste from there into an e-mail, for example.

You can only clip a limited amount from each book (the limit varies and is set by the publisher…it could be 100%, but that’s not likely).  If you can’t clip any more, it won’t let you do it.

Next, let’s add a note.  I do this a lot…it may not even have anything to do with the page on which I’m located…it could just be something like a phone number I want to save temporarily.  Move your 5-way to any spot on the page.  Click, like you were going to make a highlight.  Then, just start typing using the keyboard.  You’ll see a choice to save the note.  Again, you can see that by doing Menu-My Notes & Marks or at that Kindle.Amazon.com page.

Congratulations!  You are annotating.  :)

As you noticed, we used the Menu a couple of times.  Hitting the menu button is always worth a try…that’s sort of like right-clicking on a Windows PC: what it will do is give you more choices.

We’ve talked about things you may have done in a book before, although not the same way.  Now let’s do something different!  Let’s try the text-to-speech.

You have the book open.  Do

Shift+Sym

(Shift is the Up arrow…these are the two buttons in the outer edges of the lowest row, which I think is on purpose so they can be found easily)

You should see a circle spinning in your top left corner.  When it finishes, you should hear the voice.  To make changes (such as the speed or the gender), hit the Aa key while it is playing. Shift+Sym again to stop it, spacebar to pause or resume.  For more details on text-to-speech, see this earlier post.

Putting audio on your Kindle

Okay, now we are going to get a lot trickier.  This isn’t too hard, but you are moving up to the next level.  Many people do this, though.

You are going to connect your Kindle to your computer.  Amazon says that you don’t need to do this to use the Kindle, and they are right…if all you want to do is read on it.  If you want to listen to music or audiobooks, though, you will need to connect.

Slide the end off your power cable that goes into the wall: you’ll see the USB connector.  I’m going to give you the really simple version here: you can get more detail in this earlier post.

Plug the big end of the USB cord into your computer.  Plug the small end into the Kindle.  The Kindle should go into USB mode (you’ll see the screen change).

Next, you need an MP3 file.  That’s a common music file.  You can see more detail about this in this earlier post.  Put the music file into your Kindle’s music folder.  Go ahead and put a few in there, if you have them.  If you don’t have any, you can search your computer…you’ll probably find a few.

After doing the transfer, “eject” your Kindle.  Again, see that post under USB if you aren’t sure how to do that.

To play the music, do Alt+Spacebar.  You can skip to another song by doing Alt+F.  You can stop the music by doing Alt+Spacebar again.  You can’t control the order in which the songs play, except by skipping.

Next, let’s try an audiobook.  You can get free audiobooks at Project Gutenberg

Here’s a link to a human-read version of The Return of Sherlock Holmes.  You are going to download this using your computer.  Go to the website version of this blog if you are reading this on your Kindle (http://ilmk.wordpress.com). 

Put that file (it’s an MP3) into your Kindle’s Audible folder (not the music folder).  When you eject your Kindle, it should appear as a title in your homescreen.  When you open it up, you’ll see your options on playing it.

So, you’ve gone beyond just simple reading on your Kindle…congratulations!  In a future post, I’ll talk about getting Kindle books from sources other than Amazon.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Blogress Report #1

December 27, 2009

Well, I’ve been doing the I Love My Kindle blog for four months now.  The first post was August 28, 2009.

You’ve been a part of that, so I thought you might be interested to know how things are going.  It will give you some insight into blogs as well.

I started the blog for a couple of reasons.  First, people asked me to do it.  :)  Second, I had people who didn’t know me from my forum posts or titles in the Kindle store who suggested it.  I was a little scared of it, because of the sense of responsiblity I knew I would feel towards it.  When I commit to something, I really commit: I tend to be very black and white.  I can’t cut back on something, I have to drop it altogether. 

I knew that once I had paid subscribers, I’d really want to put in the time and effort to give them something worthwhile.

After awhile, I settled on a goal of at least 1000 words a day.  That would be about four pages in a book, by the way, and it is really quite a bit of writing.   Why did I pick words a day as a measurement?  Partially because a word count shows up as I’m writing the post.  :)

I also wanted from the beginning to make it diverse.  I wanted to give tips, humor, fiction, news…keep it varied.

I’m satisfied on both of those.

A big question for me is whether I can justify the time and the energy.  It’s fun, absolutely, and I really try and do it where it doesn’t interfere with family stuff (which comes first) or work.  

 One measurement for that is the number of subscribers.  It was a lot of fun to watch it creep up to paid one thousand paid subscribers, which it hit on December 22.    That number has quite a bit of fluctuation, by the way, but it tells me that there are people enjoying the blog…otherwise, they’d drop it after the free trial.

Another measurement is page views, but I don’t think I get a really reliable number on that.  According to WordPress’ own reporting, my highest day was 308 views on December 1.  That number has been trending higher, but something big (like the release of the K2 international) can make it spike.

Another measurement is the money I get from it.  Does money matter?  Sure.  I don’t manipulate things deliberately to get more money, but I couldn’t justify the time if I didn’t get any.  I have a goal I’ve set for myself for February.  If I’m not hitting that goal, I’ll reevaluate my approach to the blog.  The money comes from two sources, really.  One is subscribers: at thirty cents apiece a month (roughly), that’s about $300 a month with 1000 people.  Another source is the referrer fees I get from Amazon.  I’m just not doing very much in that area.  I haven’t hit fifty dollars this month yet, and this should be a giant month.  I think it’s because people who read this blog probably already have Kindles, so I don’t get those purchases.  I’m not going to plug stuff just to get the money.  We also don’t get referrer fees for e-books, so that doesn’t help.

I also can see how it ranks at Amazon…it’s been as high as number one, and recently has been sitting around number four.  I was thrilled on the first day I beat The Onion and The Huffington Post!  I really didn’t think that would happen.

Yet another indicator is when other sites mention this blog.  I’m not trying to make a lot of media appearances (I used to do that more on a different topic, and it’s too much time away from the family).  Still, I’m excited when somebody mentions it.  I probably like it just as much when a somebody posts about ILMK on a forum (like the Disney Boards or QVC, both of which have happened).   I do think about it being mentioned in a more mainstream source, but not yet.  :)  I’m going to send out review copies of The Collected I Love My Kindle Blog, Volume 1.  If you have a public platform (you write a public blog, you write book reviews for Entertainment Weekly, that kind of thing), let me know.   Just tell me what that public platform is…I don’t want to send out a bunch of duplications to the same place…I want there to be a chance you’ll review it.  My fantasy is that sombebody at Enternainment Weekly mentions it, honestly. You know, in a review, or Stephen King in his column, or Diablo Cody in her column…dream big, right?  I’ve been a faithful subscriber to EW for years, in case they are listening.  ;)

I also kind of imagine people wanting to license the material, especially the fiction.  I’m proud of some of the fiction I’ve done here.   I actually looked into submitting Doctor Watson’s Blog for an Edgar Award, but I was too late in the year…and they don’t quite know what to do with self-published material like this.   I didn’t think I’d win, but it would have been fun to be listed.

Another really important thing for me is the comments.  I like to know I’ve helped people, and whether I get a comment on the blogsite, or in a forum…it’s nice.  I like it when people say I helped them solve a problem, or just that they enjoyed something I’ve written.  Helping people makes me feel good.  :)

I’m writing this ahead of time, and if I can update these figures, I will.  Here, though, are the top ten most popular posts as I write this:

Title Views  
What to do if your Kindle is lost or sto 282
A look at the nook 274
“Hear, hear!” Listening to your Kindle 215  
This time it’s personal…documents 214  
Frequently Asked Kindle Questions: speci 196  
Interesting and useful Amazon links 153  
To sleep, perchance to screen 125
Round up #3: cheap pre-orders, nook pric 117  
A hundred books for ten bucks! 109
How to love your Kindle 109

Yes, I know…none of those are the fiction ones.  :)  Maybe that’s more for me…but I’m not planning to cut them out at this point.

Top referrers

Here are some of the top people who have sent readers my way.

The Kindle Chronicles
Red Adept 
Stumble Upon 
I Reader Review 
KindleBoards 
Disney Boards 
QVC 
The Kindle Nation

So, generally, I’ve been very satisfied.  It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of work, and I for me, those two tend to go together.  I’m going to experiment more, but I expect to keep it varied and to shoot for that thousand words a day, at least until I assess it seriously in February. 

I want to thank you all for being a part of what has been a great experience, and I’m looking forward to ILMK in 2010!

This post by Bufo Calvin first appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Flash! Kindle book sales outstrip paper at Amazon!

December 26, 2009

Wow, I would have made this the headline!

Amazon sent out a press release to say that Kindles are the most gifted item ever at the site.

However, this is the really revolutionary part to me:

“On Christmas Day, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books.”

That’s with about 400,000 Kindle store books and over 17 million paperbooks!  If they said that correctly, it would mean that on the average, a Kindle store book outsold a paperbook at Amazon by more than 40 times! 

They may need to clarify this to say that it’s only true if they were in both editions, but if not, yow! 

Amazon press release

This post by Bufo Calvin first appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Predictions, guesses, and hopes for 2010

December 26, 2009

2009 was an amazing year for e-books!  The changes were astounding…I addressed those in this earlier post.

While there was huge progress made, I think that 2010 is going to be a truly crucial year as well.  This coming year, consumers will have largely accepted the idea of e-books, and loyalties will be re-aligned as they face the reality of them.

I’m going to make a few guesses here, but I should be clear…my track record is imperfect in this area.  ;)  I though publishers would welcome free text-to-speech for their books (more access=bigger markets), but they didn’t all do that.  So, don’t bet the house on what I say here, but it’s fun to take a shot at it.

Oh, and some of these may happen before 2010…I just didn’t want to wait until New Year’s Eve to put this post out there.

More platforms for Kindle books

This is clearly going to happen.  There are already pages at Amazon for a Kindle app for Macs and one for Blackberrys.  I think this will continue…is there a Droid in your future?  Mobile PC?  It appears that Amazon is comfortable that selling e-books on other devices doesn’t diminish Kindle sales.  In fact, I would guess it may increase them.  You might be comfortable reading on an iPhone (especially if you are younger…young eyes seem to be more able to tolerate backlighting), so you buy a bunch of books.  Later on, someone else in your family wants an EBR (E-Book Reader), or you find you want a more comfortable reading experience.  You already have a bunch of books you bought for the iPhone: that’s a very strong argument for a Kindle (since you’ll be able to read them there with no additional cost).

The nook will get a major software update

There will be many happy nook users this year, with the device just the way it is.  However, some reviews have been savage.  The niftiest interface thing about the nook is the little color touchscreen.  However, since it is tied to the E Ink screen, it is much slower than if it was by itself.  I’d suggest they divorce the two for many operations, so you can have the speedy touchscreen to pick a book, for example, without it needing to reflect on the E Ink until you make a decision.

Kindle DX international will be released

This is a slam dunk…it’s already been announced by Drew Herdener, Amazon’s Director of Communications.  I think this will be very early in the year…after holiday sales for the current DX are over.  That may be pretty much now: there’s a delay on shipping the DXs.  I think we may even see the Kindle DX international announced in the first month, and people who were waiting for the old DX will get the option of the new one.  Amazon will also lower the price for the old DX at that point.

No new six inch model for the Kindle

I’m iffy on this, but I think Amazon will continue to enhance the current Kindle 2 through software, rather than do a major hardware redesign this year.  It looks good, it works well, generally.  I think we’ll get several software updates, including the accessibility update we’ve heard about (which will include audible menus and a larger text size).  I think the next truly new Kindle we see will be radically different: maybe a color screen, larger or smaller size, or be flexible or the like.  I could be really wrong on this, though.

Color E Ink

I do think somebody will have a commercially marketed color E Ink screen out there in 2010.  I’m guessing it will be expensive and the colors will be dull.  I don’t know that it will be a Kindle, though.  My guess is that a color E Ink screen that is good enough to be a Kindle is 2-3 years away.

The nook gets web-browsing

This may come about through the legal actions of Spring Design.  The nook’s little 3-inch screen could already surf the web, if they authorized that.  That was the plan for Spring Design, as I understand it…video and web access on the little screen.  Spring Design may have a reasonable argument, and Barnes and Noble and Spring Design are likely to settle.  I think that may work out with Spring Design not releasing independently and B&N either paying them a licensing fee or putting the “Alex” in their stores (even if its rebranded as a nook).   Either way, I’m guessing that B&N starts using that little touchscreen for video and web-browsing.

Dualume/dual screen devices

One way or another, I think we will get devices that can be either backlit or not backlit.  It could be devices with two screens, one of each, or screens that can switch back and forth (which I call “Dualume” screens, for dual illumination).  They may be more expensive, but there are certainly people who are going to want the comfortable/cool/cutting edge experience of a non-backlit screen and the convenience (for dark reading) and flexibility of an LCD screen.  I think the first one s will be expensive.

Market share shift in publishers

Publishers that make e-book readers happy are going to see a move towards them.  That means Random House, for example, may see a slip.  Successful companies aren’t stupid, though.  They’ll figure it out…adapt or die.  They may be trying to make the market conform to what they want to do (the old ways that they know well), but quicker, nimbler companies will pick up some share. 

Independent publishing will rise

This will continue to expand, and will be helped when brand name authors start going the direct route.  That doesn’t mean I think that Anne Rice or Stephen King will put all of their books out as e-books only…but I do think they may put out smaller projects that way, and/or publish in both formats simultaneously.  I think we’ll start to find new authors that come from independent e-publishing breaking through in the media.  Their books may be bought up by tradpubs (traditional publishers), they may appear on talk shows, they may have movie rights purchased (that’s happened once already, reportedly, to my knowledge) and so on.  It will be a bit like bloggers appearing on the newschannels now.

E-book boom

The e-book market will continue to show explosive growth.  Amazon will announce that more than fifty percent of books that have both a Kindle and paper editon have been sold in Kindle.  E-books will grow to at least ten percent of the American publishing market.  That doesn’t mean that p-books (paperbooks) necessarily fall off rapidly.  They can benefit from increased reading habits.  However, we will start to see more and more books be available (new) only in e-book.  That may include some backlist titles…maybe books that are well-remembered but have been out of print for awhile.  Here’s an easy one for Scholastic: the Animorphs series.  Huge hit, work well on the Kindle.   E-books will be reviewed in the major outlets.  More countries will come onboard, and the availability for books in some other countries will double (and then some, perhaps).  The Kindle store titles will break 500,000 at least.

Enhancing the Kindle

I think we’ll get some significant enhancements, in addition to the accessibility and organization updates already announced.  By the way, I think that organization will be a form of tagging, rather than a drag and drop folder system.  That will allow a change in sorting, maybe have some sort of tagging that comes with the books.  I think we’ll get the ability to gift Kindle books…soon.  That may happen before 2010, but soon, I would guess.  I think we’ll get the ability to password the device and to have parental controls (both implemented through the Manage Your Kindle page).  I think we’ll get customizable sleep mode pictures and the ability to install the character sets we want (although we may need to pay for both of those).  I think we’ll get more voice options, for different languages.  We’ll get searching and annotating on the Kindle for PC as well. 

Access to more books for the Kindle

Amazon could enable EPUB access and library lending pretty easily, I think.  I don’t think those are as great as a lot of people think they are, but people do want them.  I think that just as Amazon is selling books on more platforms, they’ll let you borrow books from the library (under the same limited conditions you can do it with a Sony) and, if you want, read EPUB without conversion.

Academic adoption

Despite a somewhat slow start, I think e-books will continue to increase their textbook share.   I think that the MLA will give guidelines for citing e-books (just at the APA has).  I think professors will begin accepting e-book citations.  I think more states will follow California’s lead in mandating e-book availability for some classes.  It won’t all happen in 2010, but the e-textbook direction seems clear.

I predict there will be things I haven’t predicted

:) 

Amazon has some very innovative thinkers.  For example, I’m not predicting we’ll get built-in translation or an external keyboard this year, but we could.  We could get a roll-up Kindle, or one that projects, but I’m not predicting that this year.

Whatever happens, it will be a wild ride and I’m looking forward to it! 

Have predictions of your own?  Feel free to let me know!

This post by Bufo Calvin first appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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