Round up #20: Book Chatter, nook surfing

Round up #20: Book Chatter, nook surfing

New nook features

This is huge!  The nook (sic), the EBR (E-Bo0k Reader) from Barnes & Noble, has always been in direct competition with Amazon’s Kindle.  They are both dedicated e-book readers (although they do a couple of other things).  They both are connected to bookstores. 

There were significant differences, some favoring the Kindle, some the nook.  One big Kindle plus was text-to-speech.  One thing that some people liked on the nook was a little color LCD screen at the bottom.  It was there for getting books from your library (selecting from the color covers), but there was always talk from them that it could be used for web-browsing as well.

Well, now it’s here!  nook owners can now browse the web, do e-mail, and so on.  You navigate with the little LCD window, but the site displays on the E Ink (as well?).  They do label it as a “beta” (test version), but are promoting it.  No Java or Flash.

They also say they’ve sped up page turns and improved the book openings…the latter would be particularly nice.  I’ve only played with a nook once, and it completely locked up on me opening a book. 

You can also now connect in more places through wi-fi…the screen shot shows a place to enter a password. 

All in all, these are good concepts and greatly enhance the value of the nook. 

Book Chatter: media bias?

I was on author Stacey Cochran’s Book Chatter last night.  It was an interesting topic, and I felt honored to be invited.  I was on with Jim Naureckas of Fair.org and Andrys Basten of A Kindle World.  We were addressing the idea of media bias against Amazon, and particularly focused on two articles.  I barely got on to the call on time…heavy traffic coming back from work. 

One article

Amazon Threatens Publishers as Apple Looms

from the New York Times by Motoko Rich and Brad Stone on March 17, 2010, seems to me to be clearly a negative article in its approach to Amazon.  I think we can make some objective judgements about the subjective nature of media pieces.  I don’t think we can judge motivations, necessarily, but we can say if the piece is presented in a fashion likely to sway opinions in one direction or another.

For example, we can look at positive and negative adjectives and verbs used about one party or another in the article or segment.  We can debate whether a particular word is negative or positive, but that’s pretty easily determined by surveys. 

For example, there are these words applied to Amazon in the Motoko/Rich article:

  • threatened
  • stop
  • concessions (of other people)
  • hardball
  • shocked (other people)
  • use its clout
  • abusing (accused of)
  • pressuring
  • demanding

Those are just a few.  You could argue that “stop” isn’t necessarily a negative word…I included it on purpose.  I think, though, that most would agree that “pressuring”, “demanding”, and “threatened” are negative. 

On the positive side?

  • talking
  • briefed
  • conceded

My guess is that most people who look at the article will see it as negative against Amazon…whether or not that is deserved.

The other article is a much more fascinating case:

 Publish or Perish
Can the iPad topple the Kindle, and save the book business?

It’s a lengthy article, and I’d tweeted that I thought it was the best article to date on the e-book business.   Being the best doesn’t mean that it is perfect, of course, but I do think it gives a good sense of the history.  Many of the quotes are attributed, and there are facts and figures.

However, it does paint a picture of Apple helping publishers against Amazon, in my opinion.

But I don’t want to just go by my opinion…I always like to try and break things down more objectively.  I actually love it when I have one hypothesis, crunch the numbers, and get proven wrong.  Don’t get me wrong…I like being right, too.  :)  I’d say it appeals to my sense of fair play that I’m willing to be proven wrong by analysis: that’s what science is, of course.  You make a hypothesis, and invite others to destroy it…you can even help them do it.  That way, if it stands, you know it is a good one.

This article is not heavy on adjectives…generally.  I think it is key here to separate out the types of statements:

1. Those made in the voice of the author of the piece

2. Those directly attributed to named individuals

3. Those attributed to anonymous individuals

4. The “unattributed indefinites”, things like “Some publishers”

Before I do the analysis, I’m going to suggest here that anonymous negatives are the best indicators of bias…if the “author’s voice” elements aren’t obviously biased (such as was the case in the New York Times piece, based on the adjectives and verbs used).  Why?  Well, there can surely be selection bias in what attributed pieces are used, but you are quoting other individuals, rather than presenting your own ideas.  In terms of the “indefinites”, those are simply too weasely to affect people as strongly.  I use “weasel words”, by the way…nothing wrong with that.  ;)  I don’t want to presume the absolute when I am talking about something…I’ll use words that allow for some “wiggle room”.

So, let’s break this down a bit (but not so much that we go beyond fair use, of course).

 I took the story and began to separate it into four sections: author’s voice; named individuals; anonymous individuals; and indefinites.

When I look at the author’s voice, it was actually more negative about Amazon and more positive about Apple than I thought from just reading through it.  That doesn’t mean it is unfair, necessarily.  It may be true that Apple is more positive than Amazon for publishing (although that isn’t what I think).   There are definitely negative comments about Apple

“It would probably have been more accurate to say that Jobs planned to stand on Amazon’s neck and press down hard, with publishers applauding.”

However, we also get positive Apple statements like this:

“For the moment, Jobs is the publishers’ best ally.”

That’s pretty unequivocal.  Well, “for the moment” might be equivocating, but in the current situation, it makes it clear that Apple is the good guy.  I see standing on someone’s neck as a negative, but this seems to be set up as a battle: Amazon on one side, publishers (and authors and bookstores) and Apple on the other.  Some might see it as a positive, as Perseus defeating the Gorgon. 

As to Amazon, this may be the most astonishing statement that seems to be in the author’s voice:

“Bezos had devised a more efficient way to buy books. And, with the arrival of electronic books, he began to think of ways to replace paper entirely.”

Really?  In my opinion, the most damning part of the article is the suggestion that Amazon wants to kill paper books.  The author says it, in this case speculating about Jeff Bezos’ though process. 

We also have one of those anonymous sources saying the same thing:

‘“Don’t forget,” the chief of a publishing house said, “Bezos has declared that the physical book and bookstores are dead.”

Amazon clearly sells literally tons of paperbooks.  Yes, they sell a great deal of other things as well (include windshield wipers).  Where is the sourced statement (and we get many in the article) where Jeff Bezos says he wants paperbooks to go away?  He has talked about how paperbooks decay, but I think Amazon has been careful about suggesting e-books are better than p-books or should replace them. 

When I look at the unnamed individuals, I find words about Amazon including:

  • stupid
  • capitulated
  • blame
  • incandescent with rage
  • forced
  • irrational
  • destructive
  • dead
  • own the game

I didn’t find a lot of positives in those unnamed individuals’ statements.

Do I still think it is the best article written to date on the e-book business? Yes, I do.  While there is a clear narrative being presented, I don’t think the facts or timeline are inaccurate.  I think it hits the key points.

However, I think an equally accurate article could present Amazon as the savior of the publishing business and especially, as the authors’ friend.

Hmmm..I think I’ll save that for another piece, although you may want to go back and read this previous post, Why are authors so angry at Amazon?

Tip of the day: you can read Amazon’s current terms for independents using their Digital Text Platform here.

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

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