Archive for March, 2010

Freebie flash! The Homeplace

March 31, 2010

Freebie flash! The Homeplace

As usual, I don’t vouch for this book, and it comes from a company that is not (to my knowledge) blocking text-to-speech.   As a promotional title, it may not be free for long.

The Homeplace
Series: Singing River #1
By Gilbert Morris
Published by Zondervan (a faith-based publisher*)

Morris is the author (sometimes with his daughter, Lynn, or son, Alan, of more than twenty (!) series.  This particular book kicks off a series that takes a family through the Great Depression.  The Winslow series has 40 books in it, and there are quite a range of other books by Morris, including animal books, mysteries, and animal (cat) mysteries.  If you do like this, you’ll have a lot more Morris to read.

There are also over 500 excerpts available for free from contenders for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel award:

Amazon Breakthrough Novel excerpts

I haven’t been sending out a separate flash on these…you can get free samples of over 400,000 books from the Kindle store, so this seems a bit odd.  It’s presumably to help the selection process for the award.   They are continuing to add titles to this group.

*I recently polled my readers to see if I should identify publishers as “faith-based”, and the response has been overwhelmingly in favor (88%)  so far.  In thinking about it, I will probably identify all publishers in some way (even if it’s just “general interest”).  You can still participate in the poll here.

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

You Tell Me…the results

March 31, 2010

You Tell Me…the results

On March 22, in an earlier post, I polled my readers about features in ILMK.

While I think the blog has more value when it reflects how I feel and think, I do like to know how the readers are reacting.  That’s one of the things educators do in a classroom: adjust what they are saying based on an empathetic sense of the room.  That doesn’t mean you skip what you are supposed to teach, but you might emphasize some areas more and de-emphasize others.  If you get into a classroom and you are supposed to be starting from a very low level and you realize everybody is bored, you step up the technicality of the discourse.  You might switch to more tips and tricks, for example.

I had a reader ask me why I gave the options as “too few, about right, too many” rather than asking you what you liked or disliked.

I was looking for advice about what I should do.  You might like something personally, but think it doesn’t belong in the blog.  You might hate something, but think it is worthwhile.  The purpose of this is to help me adjust the mix. 

There will definitely be a mix…that’s how I have fun.  I also think that’s the best value: I want everybody to get ninety-nine cents a month worth.  If you get one post that’s worth a buck, that’s probably a good thing.  I know you don’t want to wade through thirty or so others to find that one, though.  I really hope that at least every several days, you get something you want.  The best way for me to do that is to stay eclectic.  That’s also the way I personally like things…I usually like to jump around from one thing to another.  It’s inevitable that we are going to have some significant posts about the “agency model” and the impact if the iPad in the next week.  I’m going to try and make sure to rotate some other things in there as well.

The results

It seems like he best result would have been 100% of people saying the number is about right for a feature.  That didn’t happen.  :)  So, is the question with the highest “about right” percentage the best?  Not necessarily.  If I had eighty percent saying something was “about right” and twenty saying there were “too many”, that feels worse to me than 75% “about right” and 25% “too few”.

For example, the highest “about right” was Opinion pieces at 73%.  That one also has 7% saying it is too many, though.  The second highest is Tips/How to at 72%.  That was has zero saying it is “too many”…I have to say, that’s the most popular.

I like writing the tips, too.  :)  The weird thing is that I’ve really written about all the basic functions.  A reader correctly points out that newer readers haven’t been sent those earlier posts, though.

Well, that’s one of the tricky things.  I have two (or even three) sets of readers.  One gets the blog on the Kindle (I’m especially grateful to them).  They only have the ten most recents articles (unless they take steps to preserve particular articles.

The second set reads it on the web, or has it sent to them.  If you are on the website, you can search the previous articles, back to the beginning. 

The third set (and it’s a small one), are getting the Collected I Love My Kindle  title in the Kindle store.   They get the convenience of having it on the Kindle and the searchability.  However, they don’t get the timeliness, and sometimes that matters (such as when I announce promotional free titles).

I have to think about how to make the how to information available for new subscribers without just duplicating things for longer-term readers.

As to the least popular, that one was clear.  :)  Fiction had 43% too many, and 11% too few.  I can totally see that: I’ll probably move all non-Kindle related fiction to another blog of mine, The Measured Circle

The second highest “too many” category was humor.  Well, I’m not going to drop those altogether…I get good responses to them, and honestly, they are too much fun to write.  :)  There were also 18% that said there were too few.  If you don’t like the humor ones, I’m going to ask you just to wait for the next day.  :) 

What got the most “too few” votes, the one I probably should step up?  It was Recommendations, which surprised me a bit.  I think that says something about how many titles are available for the Kindle.  There are so many that it is hard to pick.  I guess that makes sense: definitely, recommendations were one of the things people most wanted when I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore.  Tied for second on that were Freebie Flashes and Recent Releases…no question, people want to know about content.

I was pleased to see that the “Inside E-publishing posts” are something people think I should keep strongly in the mix.  9% thought there were too many, but 24% thought there were too few.  This is something where I can really help make it easier to understand…and you may not want to think about it when you are just looking to read a book, but I thnk it matters.

Thanks to everybody who responded!  You can still vote, of course, and I’ll probably do something like this again later.

I really appreciate it when people take the time and effort to tell me what they think.

Here are the full results (so far):

Response Tips/How To
Too few 28
About right 72
Too many 0
   
Response Freebie Flash
Too few 29
About right 57
Too many 14
   
Response Focus on Free
Too few 18
About right 71
Too many 11
   
Response Inside
Too few 24
About right 67
Too many 9
   
Response Humor
Too few 18
About right 48
Too many 34
   
Response Fiction
Too few 11
About right 46
Too many 43
   
Response Recent Releases
Too few 29
About right 64
Too many 7
   
Response Analysis
Too few 18
About right 64
Too many 18
   
Response Opinion
Too few 20
About right 73
Too many 7
   
Response Recommendations
Too few 30
About right 67
Too many 2

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

Logophile liberty: how built-in dictionaries may change how we write

March 30, 2010

Logophile liberty: how built-in dictionaries may change how we write

Most people adjust the way they speak based on their audiences.

Teenagers can be particularly chameleonic.  They may have one way of speaking with their parents, one with teachers, one with aquaintances…even a specific set of slang for the inner circle.

I think it’s very widespread, though.  You may speak one way to your boss, another way to your coworkers, and another way to your Significant Other.

Vocabulary, especially slang and jargon, serves a lot of  purposes.  It may be a way to challenge someone, to see if that person is a member of the group.

Remember when the space hippies on Star Trek called Kirk “Herbert” but Spock knew what they meant and they agreed to go to Sick Bay?  No?  That’s okay.

Knowledge like that is also a way we speak.  We may test somebody (even subconsciously) by making a particular reference and looking for recognition (or non-recognition). 

As a professional educator, I certainly try and keep things understandable.  However, I may make a joke or an allusion using the jargon to scope out who knows and who doesn’t.  That lets me know who might need more help, or if everybody knows the term, I can notch the geek speak up a level.

What does this have to do with Kindles  and other EBRs (E-Book Readers)?

A lot, actually.

 I recently wrote a post responding to something Stephen King had said. 

In it, I used the word “concomitant”.  Now, I had written it without thinking about it much, but one thing trainers (should) have is empathy.  We should be able to look at something that is being said (by ourselves or in a book) and get a sense of how easy it is going to be to understand.

We put ourselves into the “shoes” (neurons?) of our audiences.

I recognized that not everybody would know that word.  That’s not a slight, by the way.  I wouldn’t think less of someone who didn’t know what it meant.  Honestly, I think it’s pretty geeky myself. 

I questioned whether I should use something more common.  I could have said “at the same time”, I suppose. 

I actually ran the sentence

“The fact that he put out a unique-to-Kindle title,  UR, concomitant with the release of the Kindle 2, was key in getting it more respect with the mainstream reader.”

through the Flesch-Kincaid grade level check in Microsoft Word for this article.  It came out as 12th grade, with a 49 “ease” score.

Oh, before I go ahead, let me explain a little bit about that.

Those are tests developed by Rudolf  Flesch, and they allow you to use math and word analysis to determine how difficult something is going to be to read.

The nice thing is that Microsoft Word has that built into it…although it is off by default.

Go to Tools-Options-Spelling & Grammar, and check the box for “Show readability statistics”. 

Then, run your spelling and grammar check as you normally would (F7 works).  You’ll get your score at the end.

I advise people that a document to be read by the general population should probably have a third-grade reading level.  Most people read beyond that, of course, but that will typically cover people with language difficulties of various kinds. 

So, why didn’t I choose something that would reduce the grade level, or at least get the ease score up around 60?

I thought to myself, “Well, they have a built-in dictionary.”

I know not all of you are reading this on a Kindle, but that’s what I was thinking.

Stephen Windwalker, of the very successful Kindle Nation blog, contacted me after that post to congratulate me on the use of that word.  :)

I’ve had people comment on other words I’ve used…I don’t use them on purpose, although I’ll admit that I may be a bit more literary and highbrow when I write then when I speak (although not much). 

I’m not particularly trying to score points with the literati.

What happens, though, when everybody can understand every word?  When vocabulary is no longer a litmus test, because everybody passes?

I, for one, am going to feel a bit less constrained.  I know, I know…it’s harder to look words than it is to know them.   It does interrupt the flow.

I do fully expect, though, that EBRs (and computers generally) will be able to tell when we don’t know something.  That’s not in the immediate future, but I expect them to do biometrics on our faces, and realize when we are hesitating over something.  The face-reader notices a pause, a glance up, and just floats the definition on the screen. 

You may have done that in a lower-tech way already.  Come on, haven’t you ever looked up something during a meeting, without letting people know that you didn’t know it before?  Especially on those conference calls.

This is going to be true on pop culture and historical references as well.  When someone mentions Zeno’s paradox (as I saw happen recently on a 24-hour newschannel), will the point be made to everybody and not just a few?

If a geek mentions that something is a “Kobayashi Maru” scenario, will everybody know that means it is unwinnable?

What is that going to mean for our culture? 

While it does connect everyone, does it diminish the special connections that subsets have?

I fully expect this to eventually be seamless.  I think people may not even know whether they knew it or “looked it up”.

This may not seem like much, but people want to hold on to “specialness”.  I get upset if Microsoft Word wants to correct me on something that I know is an acceptable alternative spelling (it might be archaic or from another country).  Is spell-check standardizing our culture?

Does Urban Dictionary.com mean that nobody is cool any more?  How can you be cool when we are all the same temperature?

I personally like quirkiness.  I think people should know how to do something in the standard way, but I love specialized knowledge.  I’m thrilled to see both “color” and “colour” in the same book.

Maybe that’s just me, though.  Maybe uneven edges make you quiver.  Feel free to let me know, as always.

“Goodnight, Mrs. Byrne…wherever you are.”  ;)

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

Most popular free children’s books in the Kindle store

March 29, 2010

Most popular free children’s books in the Kindle store

Kids and books…a great combination!

It’s interesting, though: do kids have Kindles?  We’ve talked about this before.  I’m not sure that parents (or other guardians) are quite comfortable with giving, say, a ten-year old a Kindle at this point.  They worry about the kids breaking them, or losing them, or getting into inappropriate material (online through the Kindle or in books).

That makes the whole “popular children’s books) in the Kindle store thing an interesting category. 

I have to say, many of the things that are classified as children’s books are read by adults.  Certainly, geeky readers like me don’t let the fact that a book (or TV show or movie) is labeled for children stop us.  We like what we like…it doesn’t matter so much that it isn’t seen as being “cool”.

The other thing is that publishers make the classifications at Amazon.  Some of those can be weird…books that aren’t fiction in the fiction category, and vice versa.

That said here are some of the most popular books that search for “Children’s Books” turns up in the Kindle store.  I’m also only talking about free books.  Keeping your kids in books can be more expensive than keeping them in shoes.  :)  Whether you have them reading these on a dedicated EBR (E-Book Reader) or on a computer (including tablets), this ought to give you something to keep their heads fed (as the dormouse recommended in Alice on Wonderland).

I’m also going to stick with public domain books (ones that are no longer under copyright protection, basically).  Why am I doing that?  I’d like the list to be more stable.  If I list a promotional book (and there are a few), it may not be free by the time people get to it.

So, here we go: most popular free public domain books for children in the Kindle store:

Treasure Island
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Reading level: 6-10
Original publication: 1883

A lot of what we think about pirates comes from this adventure tale, with Long John Silver.  He’s a complex character, who could be confusing for younger kids.  It’s a ripping adventure yarn, but can be truly scary.

Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know
By Hamilton Wright Mabie
Original publication:

The writing is a bit complex on this one, and it isn’t all light and sugar, certainly.  I don’t see a grade listed, but I’ve been reading back through it myself.  :)   I would say reading it with an eight-year old might be good.  That could be a bit young, though.

The Swiss Family Robinson
By Johann David Wyss
Grade level 4.8
Original publication: 1812

A family is shipwrecked, and explores the flora and fauna of the island.  The book is intended to teach about nature, but is an adventure tale as well.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit
By Beatrix Potter
Original publication: 1902

Well, this is one of the most popular downloads…but according to the reviews, it doesn’t have the illustrations!  Those are, arguably, the most important part of this tale. 

Thomas Jefferson, a Character Sketch
By Edward S. Ellis

Ellis wrote literally hundreds of books under more than ten pen names.  I suspect the draw here, though, is Jefferson.  It’s interesting to see a non-fiction book this high in the list.

The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson
By Mark Twain

This is the most popular Twain book for children (for free in the Kindle store)?  Not Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn?  Interesting.  I don’t know that I would really say this is for kids, even though the style may seem appropriate.  It was also massively re-written by Twain, from what had reportedly started out as a different story entirely.

Edison, His Life and Inventions
By Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin

Another biography high up on the list…great!  Thomas Edison is one of the truly fascinating people, in my mind.  I haven’t read this, so I don’t know how far off the normal “legend” path it might tread…does it mentions Edison’s machine to talk to the dead, for example?  On the other hand, the same author had written a biography of Tesla more than fifteen years earlier, so maybe.  I think I might give this one a try.  :)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Part 1
By Mark Twain

Ah, here is young Mr. Sawyer!  Part of him, anyway…  ;)

The Memorable Thoughts of Socrates
By Xenophon

Xenophon, dude!  Top 10…get down with your bad Ancient Greek self!  :)  Looking for immortality?  Write a book!  More than 2,000 years later, and still popular. 

The Real Mother Goose
Illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright (illustrations NOT included)
Original publication 1916

Sigh.  I downloaded this one to check it, and what a mess!  Project Gutenberg has a decent HTMl version with the illustrations: this apparently came from the text version.  Not only does it not have the illustrations, the first pages are all jumbled together with no line breaks.  Pity.  I think Amazon always defaulted to the text versions when it was first putting the freebies together.  I can see the motivation…pictures make the files much larger, which costs more money during a wireless download.  I’d have to recommend you find this one somewhere else, unfortunately.

The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies
By Beatrix Potter

Once again, I’m going to presume this does not include the illustrations.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Part 2
By Mark Twain
Original date: 1876

Here is some more of Tom!  Looking at Gutenberg, there are probably 8 (!) parts in this series before you would complete the book.  Pieces of eight indeed!  Oh wait, that would by Treasure Island.  ;)

Well, I have to say, I’m disappointed looking at this list.  I research these partially to inspire you to try some good books you may not know or may have forgotten.  The Kindle can handle illustrations, and books with illustrations can look great on the Kindle for PC (and I presume, the Kindle for Mac, and the Kindle for Tablets like the iPad). 

We’ll have to hope that Amazon upgrades the quality of the free children’s books as the market increases…or, at least, that people don’t download the incomplete ones as often.  If I were Amazon, I think I’d pull the unillustrated illustrated books out of the store…the bad reactions they get probably outweigh being able to say you have “x” free books in the store.  Just my thought on it, though.

Hmmm…I’ll have to do another post and give you some of my recommendations.

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

Freebie flash! A Gift of Grace

March 28, 2010

Freebie flash! A Gift of Grace

As usual, I don’t vouch for this book, and it comes from a company that is not (to my knowledge) blocking text-to-speech.   As a promotional title, it may not be free for long.

Gift of Grace
By Amy Clipston
Published by Zondervan (a faith-based publisher*)

There is a sub-genre of novels featuring Amish characters.  This book finds an Amish woman dealing with suddenly having custody of her sister’s non-Amish teenagers. 

Clipston also has a blog and a website.  Some may find new media and Amish fiction an ironic combination, but writing is writing.

There are also 500 excerpts available for free from contenders for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel award:

Amazon Breakthrough Novel excerpts

I haven’t been sending out a flash on these…you can get free samples of over 400,000 books from the Kindle store, so this seems a bit odd.  It’s presumably to help the selection process for the award. 

*I recently polled my readers to see if I should identify publishers as “faith-based”, and the response has been overwhelmingly in favor (88%)  so far.  In thinking about it, I will probably identify all publishers in some way (even if it’s just “general interest”).  You can still participate in the poll here.

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

My response to Stephen King

March 28, 2010

My response to Stephen King

I’ve been a subscriber to Entertainment Weekly for years, and I read literally every word (well, maybe not all the ads and legal stuff, but the articles).

I was happy when Stephen King started his column, The Pop of King.  Here he is, one of the most loved, most successful authors in the world, and he’ll just shoot the breeze with the readers.  He’ll champion the lesser-known (in music, books, TV, movies…you name it), and I respect him for that.

He clearly consumes pop culture voraciously…for years, he’s been providing blurbs for books he has obviously actually read.  What a great way for a successful person to contribute to someone who might be an up and comer and could use a little boost up the ladder of acceptance.

His most recent column, in the April 2nd edition (it’s not online yet), has this subtitle:

“The Kindle certainly has its charms, but e-reading can never fully replace books.”

Well, I have to respond to that one.  :)

I could just cheat, and pull out this quote:

“When it comes to reading, the Kindle supplies everything I want…”

If I did that, though, we’d have to remember the famous Manny Farber quotation:

“…context…”

:)

Instead, I want to address more of what he said. 

King likes his Kindle.  The fact that he put out a unique-to-Kindle title,  UR, concomitant with the release of the Kindle 2, was key in getting it more respect with the mainstream reader.

On the other hand, there have been two negatives with King and the Kindle.

The first major hit was King approving of the “windowing” of his last big book.  Windowing is the publishing term for the delay of an e-book for a considerable time after the hardback is released.   That was a battle that was happening at the time.  The biggest e-book of last year had been released simultaneously: in fact, it sold more initially in e-books than it did in paperbooks (p-books) at Amazon…which we know thanks to the research of Stephen Windwalker of Kindle Nation.

The hardback of King’s book was released in early November: the e-book was delayed until December 24th.

King stated that he approved of the move.  He reportedly said, “My thinking was to give the bookstores a chance to make some money.” 

The difficult thing in that case was that Target and Costco (and Amazon) were selling the hardback for about $9.  Independent bookstores couldn’t match that price very effectively.  Delaying the e-book release certainly could help those megastores, but I’m not sure that people who would have paid $35 for it in an independent store are the same people who wanted to get it in e-book form.

Following that windowing, the practice became more common (although it wasn’t unprecendented at the time).  That’s not necessarily why, of course, but I think that if Stephen King does it, publishers feel more comfortable doing it with other popular books. 

The other major blow involved with King’s books was the switching to blocking text-to-speech access.  That’s not a decision King makes: that’s done by the publisher inserting code into the book.  However, King certainly had the power to say that he didn’t approve of the practice (if he didn’t).  That’s why I’m not naming his book now, or the biggest e-book of last year.  I listened to quite a bit of that book on commutes, and I miss that option with other books King has.  The book’s publisher, Scribner, was not blocking text-to-speech when we got it…they are now. 

What King says is important: readers listen…I know I do.

So, what is he saying in his column?

I have to first take objection to the part of the subtitle that says, “…never fully replace books.”

Well, not objection, because I think it is absolutely true.  Kindles don’t replace books because…we still read books on them.

I know some people see that as semantics, but I think the diminuition of calling e-books “e-books” and paperbooks just “books” implies that e-books ar something different, or smaller.  Books are books, whether you read them on paper or read them on a screen.  That’s why I tend to use the terms “e-books” and “p-books”, to equalize it.  Books are the words of the author.  I know there are a lot of other contributions, both in paper (layout, typography, deckling) and e-books (searching, active tables of contents), and I’m willing to say that the editor is a major contributor in both cases.   But paper or pixels (or E Ink), they are all books.

I like that “Comrade Stevie” (as he says in the article) just wants a dedicated EBR (E-Book Reader) to be about reading.  Yes, the iPad is going to do lots of other things, and people are going to read on it.  But I like that the main focus of my Kindle is reading…I certainly agree with that.

However, when he goes on to talk about some of the more things he would like it to do, I have to comment.

One is the idea that footnotes are difficult to access on the Kindle.  When done properly, they are easier than in paperbooks.  Well, correction: the footnotes become end-notes but outside of that…easier.  I click the number, I go to the endnote.  I read the note, I click Back.  Not that hard.  Now, a short footnote at the bottom of the same page in paper would be easier…and I do think that will be an option in the future (I expect it to work like the dictionary does now).  But if you’ve ever read a footnote that ran across several pages, that’s not a very elegant thing.  An electronic endnote works much better.  That was certainly true in Battle of the Network Zombies.  At least, it was for me.  I don’t find it counterintuitive to read a note and then when I want to go Back, hit Back.  :)

King also suggests there is consumer resistance to e-books, because they don’t feel present.  He likes the heftiness of a large book (gee, who’d have guessed?). ;)

But don’t we want those books to feel formidable in our minds, not just in our hands?  The power of War and Peace doesn’t come just because it takes a Muscle Beach goer to hold it comfortably.  It’s the sweep and the epic nature.  Believe me, when I see that something has 17,000 locations, I’m just as impressed as when it’s as heavy a small dog.

Another concern in the column is the small size of some images on the Kindle.  Yep, that’s true…it can be tough to read some text inserted as images in a book on a Kindle.   Of course, it can be harder to read all of the text in some p-books…can’t make that print larger. 

One other big point expressed: drop a book in a toilet, and you can dry it out.  You may not be able to do that with your Kindle.  Yes, but drop a flood on your house, and your books are gone forever.  You can’t call up the publisher ask them to send you a replacement copy.  Same thing with fires.  With a Kindle, you can just download download the books again.  You don’t need to buy another Kindle (but honestly, wouldn’t you?).  You can read them on PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPod touches, Blackberrys, and soon, iPads.  I’ve known somebody who lost a library (well, comic books and magazines, mostly) in a fire.  That’s not a problem with e-books.

E-books will save the book business, not “eat” it.  I think they’ll reverse the trend of people reading fewer books.  Profit will increase with lower distribution and production costs.  Those unknown, independent authors?  They’ll have a real chance, with their books being judged on their contents, not as much on the ability of their publishers to supply the “hardwords” to the stores in a convenient way. 

If we step away from the “book business”, and just look at reading, there is no question e-books make books more accessible.  That’s true for people with print disabilities (text-to-speech, the ability to enlarge the text, the physical lightness of the device) and for those with economic challenges.   E-books are bringing the world’s literature to remote locations where it would simply be too expensive to truck in paperbooks (see Worldreader.org).

So, Uncle Stevie, I look forward to reading your future columns, even if I disagree with this one.  P-books may furnish a room, as you suggest…but all books furnish the mind.  E-books just make books more accessible for everyone.

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

Round up #18

March 27, 2010

Round up #18

Amazon claims credit for John Grisham books

Well, this was interesting!

On the front page of the Kindle store, they are trumpeting the arrival of the John Grisham books in e-book form.  That’s fine, people have been wanting them since the Kindle was first released in 2007.

The weird part is that they say,

“You asked and we listened.”

The implication is that they controlled whether or not the books got in the store.  You know, because people asked for it, they made it happen.

Well, they can ask a rightsholder to put it in the store, but Amazon doesn’t have control over whether it actually happens or not.

I think they are really opening themselves up to criticism with this statement.  People are going to say, “I’ve been asking for Harry Potter for three years…you aren’t listening to me!”  Of course, Amazon can’t make J.K. Rowling agree to e-book editions…she hasn’t so far.  She reportedly wants people to have more of the experience she had reading when she was a kid…you know, going to the Wind in the Willows amusement park.  ;)  Just kidding…it’s up to her, but that’s the real point. 

“Faith-based publisher”

 A reader, Stephen, recently asked me why I list some publishers as “faith-based”.

It’s an entirely fair question, and I’ve been a little up in the air about it.

I don’t list that as a plus or a minus.  Some people will prefer the parameters that tends to place on books, and others may see it as a negative.

First, I’m not telling you anything the publishers don’t tell you themselves.  If you look at the books at Amazon, they’ll be identified as “religious fiction”, or something along those lines.

Second, I do identify the nature of other publishers.  For example, I think it may help you in your shopping choices to know that a publisher typically produces new age works, or science fiction, or mystery, or romance.  I don’t always describe a publisher…some of them are pretty general interest, although I suppose I could say that. 

One of the clear questions: is the fact that it comes from a “faith-based publisher” something that makes it a genre?  They may do Westerns, or romance, or even science fiction.  Does it tell you anything about the story?

Whenever I can, I link to the website, so you can get more information.

This one deserves a quick poll.

Video of the Samsung eReader E60

Who doesn’t have an e-reader coming out?  ;)

Samsung hasn’t announced a date yet, but their E60 is expected soon.

It has a 6″ E Ink screen, similar to the Kindle and nook (sic).  I think one kind of cool thing is a slide out set of buttons, so you only have them out when you need them.  It is likely to make it more fragile, though, in my opinion.  It also uses an EMR (Electro Magnetic Resonance) stylus.  I’m not a fan of a stylus, but I do have to say this was pretty responsive.  That lets you make hand-written notes.  I can see some technical applications for it, like someone sketching a design after receiving a document describing a desired product.  It will not have 3G when originally released, but will have wi fi.  I’ve seen a price listed of $299.99.  That’s higher than the 6″ Kindle is priced currently.  You can see a demo video on YouTube

here.

 Worldreader.org videos

Speaking of YouTube. Worldreader.org (which I discussed in the last Round Up) has posted a couple of videos from their work with Kindles at OrphanAid in Ghana.

The videos are great!  It shows the enthusiasm the kids have for learning, and for the e-books particularly.  Some people here may be amused though when one especially happy student does wish it had a light for reading at night.

There are several videos, but you might want to start with this one:

Worldreader.org in Ghana

Pre-orders for April by publisher

Okay, I like to crunch the numbers.  :)  I’ve been thinking that the Apple 5, the five of the Big Six US publishers who signed with Apple, might have pulled their books from Amazon in order to change the prices when the agency model kicks in.  Whenever I make an assumption, though, I always want to check myself objectively.

So, I ran the numbers.  I can’t tell you that this represents the most books.  What I did was take the most popular pre-orders, and then analyze those.  Here were my results:

Imprint Parent April
Oxford Oxford Univ 29
Berkley Penguin 28
Little, Brown Hachette 17
Harlequin Harlequin 13
Grand Central Hachette 12
Putnam Penguin 8
NAL Penguin 7
Signet Penguin 7
Viking Penguin 5
Bantam Random House 5
Crown Random House 5
Orbit Hachette 4
Roc Penguin 3
Griffin St. Martin’s 3
Ace Penguin 3
Pantheon Random House 2
Twelve Hachette 2
Bethany House Baker 2
Springboard  Hachette 1
Penguin Penguin 1

I was surprised that Oxford University Press had so many titles.  I think they are the largest university publisher, but it is nice to see them embracing e-boks to this extent.  It’s funny…I would think of Oxford books as being classic hardbacks: weighty and profusely illustrated. 

It’s also interesting to note the variety of imprints from Penguin.  Penguin was an innovator in inexpensive paperbacks, and clearly, they are riding the wave of e-books as well.

Book Chatter

I appeared on Book Chatter tonight with author Stacey Cochran (The Kiribati Test, Claws).   It’s an interesting set-up.  The host is on streaming video, and the guests are on the phone.  Andrys Basten of A Kindle World, a blog I highly recommend, was on as well.

I did find it a little hard to tell when to comment and when not to comment…I think I might have spoken too often (no surprise there, right?). ;)

There were authors on as well, including Elisa Lorello (Faking It), and Holly Christine (Tuesday Tells it Slant).

You can watch it

here

Not on your Kindle, though…at least not until next year.  ;)  Just kidding…it’s possible there will be a Kindle with limited animation next year, but not like this, I would think.

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

Flash! I’ll be on Stacey Cochran’s Book Chatter tonight

March 26, 2010

Flash!  I’ll be on Stacey Cochran’s Book Chatter tonight

I’ll be appearing on author Stacey Cochran’s Book Chatter program at 6:00 PM tonight, along with fellow Kindle blogger, Andrys Basten.

I believe you can participate here:

Book Chatterr

and if not, you’ll be able to see it archived there later.

Sorry for the late notice…we just got this pinned down today.

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

The pleasures of e-books

March 26, 2010

The pleasures of e-books

In the next year, a lot of people who have never read an e-book are going to discover the pleasures of the experience.

I can’t believe that five years ago, I was only reading books printed on paper.

E-books were available, but I wasn’t sitting at a computer reading them.

I loved (and still love) paperbooks.  I’m a former bookstore manager with ten thousand books on shelves in my home.

I never went anywhere without a book…actually, at least two.  I didn’t want to have the horror of running an errand, finishing a book, and not having another one before I got home.

I did not think I would like e-books.  For me, as for many people, books were magical objects.  I treated them with love, I’d say.  You couldn’t tell I’d read a book when I finished, usually…they’d be in perfect shape.

Older books were even more special, and deserving of respect.  The fact that you had to handle them carefully, that they could actually fall apart if you didn’t know what you were doing…wow. 

Just being in the presence of a hundred year old book would make me smile.

I almost imagined that there was something addictive in the physical book making process…that we booklovers actually had to have them, because of some chemical dependency.

I didn’t think there was any way a booklover like me was going to be satisfied with seeing words on a screen…I wanted pages.

I was wrong.

For those of you who are reluctant, don’t be afraid.

I know some of you are saying, “I’m not afraid…I’m disgusted.  Books have ben perfect for centuries.”  Others think that EBRs (E-Book Readers) are elitist: why pay hundreds of dollars when you can get used books for a buck, or free at a library?

Let me tell you a little bit about what having a Kindle has meant to me, as a booklover.

I have books wherever I am…any time, anywhere.  Not a book, or even two books…hundreds of thousands of books.

Have you ever looked up at the sky, and felt it was a Kipling kind of a day?  Ever seen a squirrel scamper up a tree, and thought about Tarzan?  Have you been out at a beach, and imagined you saw the Nautilus just off shore?

What about a philosophical discussion, and you start arguing about what Kant said? 

Have you been out with friends and had somebody say, “Ours is but to do or die”, and you insist the original line is “do and die” (the Light Brigade knew they weren’t going to make it back), but they think you’re crazy, and you can’t prove it?

With my Kindle, I can read the Just So Stories, or Verne, or Burroughs, or Kant…or Tennyson, by pulling them right out of the air.  I don’t even have to pay anything for them…those are all free.

Free.

Free books.

Not bad books…the world’s great literature. 

Not having to depend on the library to have it.  Not having to be put on a waiting list, and waiting for a postcard to tell you it’s on hold for you. 

Any time…anywhere.

Anybody.

That’s the biggest pleasure, obviously.  Reading the books I want to read when I want to read them.

Instant literary gratification.

It’s not just the things that would have been assigned in high school.

There are a lot of free books that would have been hard to find.

If you are willing to pay for books, there are so many choices.  We’ll hit half a million available from the Kindle store (in the US) this year.

Speaking of paying, that’s another great pleasure.  I save the price of my Kindle every year.

That’s not true for everybody, but it’s true for me.

Then, there is the actual experience of reading.

I like reading on my Kindle better than reading paperbooks…really.

Yes, the fact that books have different text sizes and characters and typography gives them character…no question.

I like that I can read all my books, though.  I can increase the text size if I need to do that.

It’s funny, but I like that the books all look the same.  It makes reading them more about the words.  Yes, there can be different fonts, but there usually isn’t.

I want to communicate with the author when I read.  The Kindle is a purer reading experience. 

I even like the dictionary.  I didn’t think I would ever use it…but every once in a while, I run into some 19th century carriage type and can’t remember which has two wheels and which has four.

I also love e-books for books I have already read.

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent picking up a paperbook and flipping through it, looking for some choice passage.  I’ll remember some of the words, but can’t remember exactly where it is.

With an e-book, I can search for it to find the exact context.

Search for it, “clip it”, and share it with somebody else.

Oh, and I love that I can share entire books with people!  This is especially true with the free classics.  If I suggested that somebody read The Monster Men, I could pretty much figure they wouldn’t.   If I didn’t have a copy to lend them, where were they going to get it?  Now, I can either send them the actual book (at no cost to me or them), or just point them where to get.  It doesn’t matter where they are or how big their towns are, or how many bookstores they have.

So, here’s the thing: if you are a booklover, you are either going to start reading e-books in the next couple of years, or you are going to be stubborn about it.  It’s going to be how your friends are reading…you know, those that read books.  ;)  All I ask is that you have an open mind, and at some point, give it a try.  My guess is that you are going to find out you like it better.  You don’t have to give up paperbooks…this isn’t an all or nothing deal.

You can still love your paperbooks…but you may discover…you just love books.

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

At what price glory? Pricing rumors and speculation

March 25, 2010

At what price glory?  Pricing rumors and speculation

I almost made this part of a general Round Up, but there was just too much going on in prices to let it get mixed in with other things.

Rumor #1: The price of the Kindle is going to go down

This one is very buzzy right now, and it makes some sense.  We have to clarify a few things, though.

There are two current Kindle models.  One is the Kindle DX, at $489, and other is the Kindle 6″ (formerly the Kindle 2) at $259.

They’ve both been at those price points for a long time.  For the DX, it’s been since it’s release on May 6, 2009.

The Kindle came down in price when the Kindle International was released on October 7, 2009.  The first Kindle had been introduced at $399.

Six months is not that long at a price point, even in consumer electronics.

Why the speculation that one or both models may be reduced?

Well, there’s this thing called an iPad… ;)

The iPad is going to be released April 3rd.  It’s lowest configuration is $499…ten dollars more than the DX is currently.

Whether we dedicated EBR (E-Book Reader) users like it or not, people are definitely going to think about the iPad for reading.  We’ve seen a couple of surveys where reading is one of the most popular intended uses.

Despite playing music and a couple of games, people buy the Kindles to read.  If they think the iPad is a reasonable way to read, you can’t have a Kindle for almost the same price and have it sell widely.  For ten bucks more you get movies, e-mail, color? 

I think Amazon will either have to significantly lower the price of the DX, or drop it altogether.

I’m actually leaning towards the latter.  People like them, yes, and Amazon could sell refurbs, but I can’t see them dropping the price enough to make the sales continue.  I don’t think Kindles are large margin items…in other words, I don’t think you could cut the price by a third and make money on them.  They must be kind of costly after sale as well, with all the Customer Service calls.

They might lower the price and try it, though.

The 6″, on the other hand…I think that price will come down.  Let’s say they take it down about 25%, to $199.  $199 is a very different feeling price than $259.  It seems like a lot less than half of $499. 

Any other reasons to think this might happen?

Well, I can testify that there has been a lot of interest in the Delstar OpenBook…lots of traffic finding my blog that way.  I think people would be very disappointed in it, generally…you can’t read most famous books on it.  Why the buzz?  It’s $100 at Walgreens right now. 

Sony also lowered the price of one of its readers.  Their Pocket edition is marked down to $169 right now.  When does that price go back up?  April 3rd, the release date for the iPad.  It’s important to note, this is not Sony’s Touch Screen edition, or the only one with wireless download.  The latter is the Daily Edition…and it’s still $399.99.

Borders is going to have the Kobo reader in their stores…for about $150.  This doesn’t have a wireless connection, either, from what I’ve heard.

So, just like publishers were afraid that $9.99 prices for e-books might lead to price value devaluation (thinking that the “right price” for a book is lower than it has been), Amazon may have to face that with EBRs.

Even though the Kindle is arguably much better than the Kobo or the OpenBook or the wired Sony, people may not realize how true that is.

I’d also think the nook (sic) from Barnes & Noble must cost more to manufacture than the Kindle.  It has the same E Ink screen from Vizplex, but it has a second screen as well.  B&N might not be able to match a Kindle price cut.

It’s also possible Amazon has another device coming out in the first quarter of 2011, with a touch screen and color.  That’s my guess.

I think Amazon needs to concentrate on content, and be very, very careful about getting into the hardware wars (where it is a novice). 

My guess?  April 3 (or 4th), the Kindle 6″ drops to $199.  The Kindle DX may go to $399…and then sell out of existence as a current product.

Rumor #2: iBooks prices for bestsellers will be $9.99

Even though there is an

allegedly leaked screenshot

I don’t buy it.

Oh, I’d really like this to be true…I think a lot of people would.  Not because I buy books in that price range all that often, but because I want to see the explosive growth in the e-book market continue.  Raising the prices is like lowering your foot…on the break.  On the other hand, there are going to be a whole more “cars” out there.  The e-book market will probably continue to expand, regardless.

Why don’t I accept this one?

First, let’s assume that what we’ve heard about the “agency model” is true in its basics.  The publishers set the prices, and get 70% of the sale price (which will be the same as what used to be called the “list price”).

So, number one: Apple wouldn’t set the price in the iBooks store…the publishers would.  Apple couldn’t guarantee that the prices would be any particular amount. 

Second, it would be illegal for the publishers to get together and agree on a set price point for books.  They can independently come up with the same price point, but they can’t all say to each other that $9.99 is the right price. 

Third, the publishers have been making a fuss about the $9.99 price point being too low for a long time: why would they now adopt that level when they don’t have to do it?

Fourth, that would be huge drop in the money they would make.

Under the old “wholesale” model, they set the list price where they wanted.  The retailers (like Amazon) would pay them fifty percent of that…and then the retailers (who have the expertise in direct sales to customers, in my opinion…I’m a former retailer) set the sale price for the customer. 

I checked ten of the New York Times bestsellers: the average Digital List Price was $26.48.

Now, under the wholesale model, they would have gotten $13.24 per download on those.

In the agency model, they would get 70 percent instead of 50 percent…but it would be of that $9.99.  That means they would get about $7 per book…only about 53% of that $13.24.

What sense would that make?

You could say, “Oh, but then the price would be the same as it is at the Kindle store.”

The agency model means that the prices at the Kindle store and iBooks will be the same…and it will be whatever they (the publishers) decide it is! 

They can raise the prices and the percentage they get. 

The publishers have cited prices for new bestsellers of $12.99 or $14.99, somewhere in there.

That does mean they make less money, by the way.  To make $13.24 at 70%, you’d need to set the price at $19.  I don’t think they are going to do that commonly, by the way…they’ll raise the prices on the backlist to make up for it.

Why would there be a screenshot showing prices at $9.99, then?

Three main possibilities:

1. The prices will actually be $9.99

2. Apple was experimenting with the prices before release.  They could have intended the word to get out, or it could have just been a fluke…somebody caught it while they were running some test.  A lot of books will be less than ten dollars, of course…books that have a current paperback version.

3. It’s a fake.

I don’t know which of the three it might have been.  I’d like to see the prices at $9.99 for popular bestsellers.  That’s the case if it’s reason number one. 

Summing up: my best guess is that the Kindle 6″ will go to $199, and iBooks will not be $9.99 for bestsellers. 

We’ll see what happens, though…I don’t have a spotless prediction record.  :)

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


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,256 other followers

%d bloggers like this: