Archive for July, 2010

Flash! Current Kindle six inch sold out

July 27, 2010

Flash! Current Kindle six inch sold out

The current Kindle six inch (AKA the Kindle 2 international) has been sold out for at least 24 hours now.

While Kindles do sell out from time to time, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that they allowed the stock to dwindle in anticipation of the release of a new model (which would presumably be a Kindle six inch Graphite). 

That doesn’t mean the old one would be gone: Amazon is currently carrying both a Kindle DX ($359) and a Kindle DX Graphite  ($379).  The Graphite has better contrast.

 Could it also mean that there’s some Jetsons version of the Kindle about to be released, maybe with color, a touchscreen…and, um, a jetpack?  ;)

Maybe…but I’m going to guess a Kindle six inch Graphite within the next week. ;)

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

 

Flash! “Tell Us About a Lower Price” at Amazon

July 27, 2010

Flash! “Tell Us About a Lower Price” at Amazon

Maybe this is something I just haven’t noticed before, but it’s interesting!

I’ve seen it on a couple of e-books, Agency Model and not.

There’s a link, under the Amazon Bestsellers Rank, that says “tell us about a lower price”. 

When I clicked that link, I got a choice to say whether it was online or at a store.  Online, I got this:

Found a lower price? Let us know. Although we can’t match every price reported, we’ll be using your input to ensure that our prices remain competitive.

Found a lower price? Let us know. Although we can’t match every price reported, we’ll be using your input to ensure that our prices remain competitive.

Where did you see a lower price?
 Website (Online)
 URL:  
Price ($):  
Shipping cost ($):  
Date of the price:

Actually, maybe this has been around for a while, since it asks for a shipping price.  :) 
Agency Model books should be the same at every “sales agent” under that agreement.
I would definitely suggest you use this…I think it’s great that Amazon makes it available.  It’s way to gather competitive data, and that will help keep Kindle prices low.
 
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

More information on circumventing TTS

July 27, 2010

More information on circumventing TTS

Yesterday, there was a great deal of buzz in the Kindle community about a ruling from the Librarian of the Library of Congress.  It was widely interpreted to mean that it would now be legal to circumvent (“hack”) the access controls (DRM…Digital Rights Management) to undo the blocking of text-to-speech (TTS) in Kindle store books.

The language seemed to me to be clear and to state what had been stated in previous findings.

If a publisher makes a book available in an accessible manner to those with print disabilities, it is legal for the publisher to block the text-to-speech access in the Kindle store edition, and illegal to circumvent the preventions placed therein.

There were many people, and people whom I particularly respect, who were seeing it the other way.

I think one of the things that gave us a different perspective was that I’ve previously read quite a bit (and written some) about it.  I suspect that one of the things that made us see it differently was my familiarity with the term “authorized entities”.  That refers to the Chafee Amendment, which allows specific types of groups to produce versions of copyrighted works exclusively for those with print disabilities without first obtaining permission from the rightsholder(s).

You can see more information on the documentation is this previous post of mine, The Disabled Deserve to Read.   I have a link there to information on the Chafee Amendment, for example, and to a previous finding on the same topic.

Let’s take a look at the widely-quoted portion of the current ruling:

“(6) Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format”

http://www.copyright.gov/1201/

This seems unambiguous to me. 

Let’s take, for example, The Passage by Justin Cronin, a current New York Times fiction bestseller.  I’m not linking to it, because I don’t want to benefit from a book from a company that blocks text-to-speech access.

This was has the text-to-speech blocked in the Kindle store edition.

Is there an edition available that allows text-to-speech or conversion to a specialized format (that means Braille, as one example)?

Yes.

It’s available from http://www.bookshare.org .  That’s a site that requires certification of a disability, essentially.  It would fall under those “authorized entities” that were mentioned.

Do “…all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format”?

No, there is one at Bookshare. 

That means it is not eligible for the exemption to the prevention of circumvention.

However, I thought the language in the 2003 ruling was clearer…there was a paragraph that talked more about the print disability issue.

Therefore, I was happy to find that on the same page where the new ruling was made, there was a link to the Register’s recommendations, which has  much more narrative feel:

The Recommendation of the Register of Copyrights (pdf)

In over 250 pages, it looks at the recommendations.

There were some very interesting passages.  This is probably the most significant one:

“If an accessible ebook edition of a work is available in the marketplace or a digital text is available through a § 121 authorized entity, then the exemption does not apply.”

When a book is made available through a Section 121 authorized entity, the exemption does not apply.  Bookshare (and this is just one such organization) cites Section 121 on its website.

Notice that this paragraph doesn’t say the enabled version must be available commercially AND through a Section 121…one or the other is sufficient.

This was another important one to me, that mentions the Kindle specifically:

“Thus, there is insufficient evidence in the record to support a conclusion that there are restrictions on ebooks distributed for use on the Kindle that have adversely affected the ability of users of ebooks to engage in noninfringing uses, or to determine how a class might be fashioned if such an adverse effect were shown to exist.”

There is a lot of talk in the recommendation about the quality of the evidence presented.  They aren’t saying that restrictions on the Kindle haven’t adversely affected people, but that they haven’t seen the necessary evidence to reach that conclusion.

It’s also stated that

“…the prohibition does not apply to public domain works.”

This section suggests that, since books that are in the public domain don’t follow under the aegis of the Copyright Office, whether you circumvent the controls on those books or not is not up to them.  It felt to me as though it would be legal to circumvent access controls on a purely public domain book, but I’d be careful on that: a new introduction in that book, new illustrations, or if it is a new translation, could place at least portions of the book under copyright protection.

Finally, the recommendation makes it clear that:

“There is no dispute that making an ebook accessible to the blind is a noninfringing use.”

But that doesn’t mean that they have to make every version of every title accessible.  Think of it this way: if you have one entrance with a wheelchair ramp, you don’t have to have all of your entrances have a wheelchair ramp.  You are allowed to have a ramp and stairs next to each other.  You can have both a non-accessible revolving door and an accessible button operated swinging door next to each other.

To re-emphasize, I would love it if all the books in the Kindle store had the blocks to text-to-speech access removed.  However, this ruling doesn’t seem to change it being legal for the publishers to place those blocks, and illegal for users to circumvent them (as long as an edition exists that is accessible, even if it requires print disability certification).

One last point: I know that some of you, I’d even venture to guess the majority, don’t care about this issue.  I ran a poll a while back, and 71% of the respondents said they don’t use text-to-speech.  I would suggest that you might care about this issue even if you don’t personally use TTS, but I do want to say this.  Even if the majority of my readers don’t care about these posts, there is a minority that considers this a very important issue.  That minority includes me.  I try to keep my posts varied, so all my subscribers feel like they are getting their ninety-nine cents a month worth.  Some people don’t like the “mathy” posts, or the inside publishing posts, or the humor, or the free book posts…well, most people like the last one, I think.  ;)  I’d love to never write about the text-to-speech issue again…if it was because all the publishers that block TTS had reversed their positions.  Well, I’d write about it thanking them and saying how great it was for the disabled and those whose print challenges don’t rise to the legal level of a disability, and um, exercisers, knitters, commuters…oh, well.  :)  Next post will probably be some freebies, so hang in there if you don’t like hearing about TTS. 

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

Flash! We’ve read our last Stephanie Plum

July 27, 2010

Flash! We’ve read our last Stephanie Plum

Well, this was disappointing news!

According to this

AP Article

Janet Evanovich is going to leave her current publisher, St. Martin’s, and go back to Random House.

Why is that disappointing?

Random House blocks text-to-speech, Macmillan, St. Martin’s parent, does not.

My Significant Other (SO) and I don’t knowingly buy books from publishers that block text-to-speech access.

My SO has read all of the Stephanie Plum books.  Since we got the Kindle, I’ve gotten into them.  Why not, when we can both read them for one purchase price…at the same time.

We both finished Sizzling Sixteen already.  I listened to quite a bit of it in the car through text-to-speech, sight-read other parts of it.  My SO has a Kindle 1, so no TTS.

My guess is that Janet Evanovich didn’t take TTS into account when she decided to make the switch…which is too bad.  I’d rather think that she was unaware of the issue than that she chose to ignore it.  I hope if St Martin’s was aware of the “wooing”, that they’d push the TTS to their authors, but perhaps they didn’t.

There’s a movie version in the works (with Katherine Heigl…you can see more of the cast at that link), which should heighten interest.   It’s unfortunate that it will reach a wider audience through the movies at the same time that future books will be less conveniently available.

The ideal solution to this for us?  Random House reverses its decision to block text-to-speech access.  I’ve got a number of books I’d buy in that case. 

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

Flash! Hacking Kindle TTS still not legal

July 27, 2010

Flash! Hacking Kindle TTS still not legal 

There is a rumor roaring through the Kindle blogosphere that the Library of Congress has recently allowed the circumventing (“hacking”) of the DRM (Digital Rights Management) of Kindle store books that blocks text-to-speech access.  It’s being presented as a new ruling by the Library of Congress (LoC). 

Unfortunately, that’s incorrect. 

We have the same situation we’ve had since the Kindle 2 was introduced with the RealSpeak TTS software from Nuance. 

As regular readers know, I’d love to see TTS remain unblocked (which is the situation unless the publisher takes an action to block it) on all titles. 

However, the part that is being quoted to show that it is okay to hack it has the statement in it that makes it not okay: 

“Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.”
http://www.copyright.gov/1201/  

What all the bloggers and forums seem to be missing is the 8th word…”all”. 

If any version of an ebook title has “read aloud” enabled, it is legal for the publisher to block it in other editions. 

That’s true even if the one version where it is enabled requires print disability certification to obtain it. 

When the blocking first happened, I checked for alternate versions at http://www.bookshare.org .  That’s a website where people who certify a print disability can get books, including ebooks with TTS.  

It was legal for Amazon to include the TTS feature, as they have always maintained.  It was legal for the publishers to block it in the Kindle version…provided at least one version of the ebook has “read aloud” enabled…even if it’s one you can’t get without certifying a print disability. 

The LoC made that very clear in an earlier version of the same basic ruling: 

To be included in the exempted class, a literary work must exist in ebook format. Moreover, the exemption is not available if any existing edition of the work permits the “readaloud” function or is screen reader-enabled. Thus, a publisher may avoid subjecting any of its works to this exemption simply by ensuring that for each of its works published in ebook form, an edition exists which is accessible to the blind and visually impaired in at least one of these two ways.

http://www.copyright.gov/1201/docs/fedreg-notice-final.pdf

   

I cited that one in article, The Disabled Deserve to Read.  
I’m making a big point of this because I don’t want people to think something is legal when it isn’t.  Circumventing the DRM to enable text-to-speech on Kindle store books is illegal (if at least one other version of the ebook has text-to-speech enabled), and it will violate your Terms of Service with Amazon. 
 I think the odds that you would get “caught” are quite small, but I’m hoping that’s not what drives most people’s behavior. 

I still hold out hope that the major publishers which have chosen to block text-to-speech access reverse that policy.  I’ve noticed a number of Hachette books recently where it is not blocked. 

Here’s the disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, just an interested layperson.  This is my understanding of the law in this case, but you may want to check with an intellectual property rights lawyer. 

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

Freebie flash! Revenge, The Track, Calling, Seduction

July 26, 2010

Freebie flash! Revenge, The Track, Calling, Seduction

As usual, I don’t vouch for these books, and they come from companies that are not (to my knowledge) blocking text-to-speech. As promotional titles, they may not be free for long. Note: these books are free in the USA: prices in other countries may vary.

Revenge of Innocents
by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
Published by Kensington Books (a genre and romance publisher)

Rosenberg is a New York Times bestselling author, and this is a sequel to Sullivan’s Law.  The main character is a probation officer and single mother.  Keep your eye on this: another book in the series was offered free and reported here on July 18th…and it’s not free now. 

Once Around the Track
by Sharyn McCrumb 
Published by Kensington Books (a genre and romance publisher)

Interesting!  This is a similar situation…I reported another book by this author as free about a week ago.  Maybe Kensington is doing some kind of free e-book of the week?  I don’t see a mention of that on their website.  This is another NASCAR themed novel.

Calling Home
by Janna McMahan
Published by Kensington Books (a genre and romance publisher)

This is a first novel…but Kensington lists it as a classic…and contemporary fiction…and fantasy.  :)  A rural mother of two teens find herself suddenly alone when her husband leaves her.

Seducing Jane Porter 
by Dominique Adair
Published by Samhain  (a fiction publisher with an emphasis on romance and genre works)

I think this is the first of her Jane Porter books.  Now, I’m sure some of you know that Jane Porter is the Jane in Tarzan, but this doesn’t seem to be connected.  Here’s the Samhain warning (although it isn’t as entertaining as some): 

Warning: Graphic sex, bondage scenes and the use of masks.

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

Harvard Magazine profile of Andrew Wylie

July 24, 2010

Harvard Magazine profile of Andrew Wylie

Andrew Wylie is well-known within the literary community…and has recently become better known than he was outside of it.

He’s a literary agent, but one with his own mind and style. 

In a way, he has recently broken the blockade around bookstores.  While he has in the past negotiated with the guards at the gate to let his clients enter to sell their goods, he has just taken them off the well-trodden main road and brought them through a side entrance.

He has taken well-known and prestigious books, and rather than sold the e-book rights to a publisher, placed them directly in the Kindle store.

See this earlier post for a list of titles.

This has ignited a firestorm of response. 

Who is this bold freethinker? 

Harvard Magazine has an excellent

article

about Wylie that gives you some real insight and information.

It was written before the recent deal, as evidenced by this short excerpt:

“In his personal reading, Wylie has little use for e-book devices like Kindle, although e-book rights are currently a topic of intense discussion among all publishers and agents. “We spend 96 percent of our time talking about 4 percent of the business,” he says (e-books’ current share of publishing revenue). “That 4 percent will climb slowly, and I think it will grow first for frontlist,” he continues. “I suspect that the trashier the book, the more likely it is to be converted to an e-book. You don’t have a desire to save James Patterson in your library. Those who want to keep a book for a long time will buy a physical book.”

Now, I happen to think his opinion will evolve on this.  The books he recently published are backlist, and have leapt into the top half a percent of books in the Kindle store. 

Booklovers love the books…not just the medium in which it appears (although they love paperbooks, too).  I think those that love the words adapt more easily to e-books.  If you think of a book as “that thing on the shelf”, or in some cases, “that thing in the humidity-controlled case”, you may have more trouble getting past that.

I think those who want to keep the book forever may be more likely to want an electronic file.  I feel more secure that my e-books will be able to be read fifty years from now than my paperbooks (especially mass market paperbacks of the past sixty years or so).  I know of people who have lost a library to a fire, and know that it happens with floods and other issues as well.

I think when he sees how well these books sell that he will see that it is the booklovers, the constant readers, the word venerators who are leading the way to e-books.

I found the article quite fascinating, and I suspect many of you will as well.  Of course, virtually all of you will read it in electronic form…

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

Flash! Odd Odyssey Categories

July 24, 2010

Flash! Odd Odyssey Categories

I’ve written a couple of times recently about the new Odyssey Edition e-book exclusives in the Amazon store.

I thought I’d take a look at their ranks in the Kindle store…see how well they are selling already.

In doing that, I also looked at their categories.  Those categories are normally set by the publisher: they certainly are in the independently-published Digital Text Platform books, but I believe it goes for traditionally-published books as well.

That showed me some odd choices!

Categories are chosen for sales, certainly.  I’ve seen the same books in both fiction and non-fiction categories, for example.  Is that how Andrew Wylie is making the choices?  Maybe…but would you have put Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man under Men’s Adventure in Genre Fiction?  I never would have done that in the bookstore I managed! 

London Fields  by Martin Amis (sales rank: #2359 of paid books in the Kindle store: Category: Contemporary Fiction)

The Adventures of Augie March  by Saul Bellow (#1940/Thrillers-Psychological Suspense, Contemporary Fiction)

Ficciones (in Spanish) by Jorge Luis Borges (3927/Contemporary Fiction)

Junky  by William S. Burroughs (6712/Contemporary Fiction, Classics)

Invisible Man  by Ralph Ellison (1021/Genre Fiction – Men’s Adventure)

Love Medicine by Louse Erdrich (not ranked…pre-order/Contemporary Fiction)

The Enigma of Arrival  by V.S. Naipaul (6746/Contemporary Fiction)

The White Castle  by Orham Pamuk (12874/Contemporary Fiction)

Midnight’s Children  by Salman Rushdie (863/Contemporary Fiction)

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks (2684/Psychology & Counseling, Contemporary Fiction)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas  by Hunter S. Thompson (818/Biographies & Memoirs – Arts & Literature – Authors, Contemporary Fiction)

Rabbit Redux  by John Updike (5297/Genre Fiction – Family Saga, Mystery & Thrillers – Thrillers – Psychological & Suspense, Contemporary Fiction)

Rabbit at Rest by John Updike (4841/Genre Fiction – Family Saga, Mystery & Thrillers – Thrillers – Psychological & Suspense, Contemporary Fiction)

Rabbit is Rich by John Updike (4645/Genre Fiction – Family Saga, Mystery & Thrillers – Thrillers – Psychological & Suspense, Contemporary Fiction)

Rabbit, Run by John Updike (1053/Contemporary Fiction)

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1803/Contemporary Fiction)

So, it’s probably worth noting that I didn’t list every category…for example, I didn’t list Literature & Fiction each time).  Rabbit, Run isn’t a thriller, but the others are?  Junky is a classic…and Brideshead Revisited isn’t? 

I’m still struck by Invisible Man being in the same category as Dirk Pitt and Remo Williams…

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

Yes, we have e-bananas

July 24, 2010

Yes, we have e-bananas

It is the year 2057.  While teleportation technology has been perfected for a few years, it has recently gotten cheap enough to be commercially viable.  Although not approved for use by humans, scientists and techies are convinced that it is reasonably reliable for the transport of consumer products, including foods.  Despite reassurances, people were slow to accept the safety of the new technique.  Now, however, the tide has begun to turn, and more and more people are accepting “e-food” as a less expensive alternative.

The scene: a venerable produce company (now owned by an entertainment conglomerate)

VP in Charge of Marketing: “I think we may have a problem.”

Prez: “We have a lot of problems.  We’ve always had problems.  Overcoming problems…that’s what we do.  Post me.”

VPoM: “Well, it’s this e-food thing.  Our latest polling is showing that a significant number of people don’t see it as less valuable than our traditionally-delivered product.”

Prez: “Yuh, well we saw that coming.  We’ve invested in the transporters already.  People are porting our bananas into subways and we’re even delivering into some of the cars that are left.”

VPoM: “Yes, we’ve got those home purchases.  People just aren’t comfortable having somebody they’ve never heard of pop something into their homes.  Oh, there are a few folks getting super-cheap bananas directly from growers in Ecuador.  Most people, though, just want to buy the brands they know.”

Prez: “You’re not giving me the prob, Cobb…go ahead and drop me.  I don’t do the blue, give me the red, Fred.”

VPoM; “Well, you know that growers’ representative they call Mr. Coyote?”

Prez: “Who doesn’t?  That guy works totally without a backup.  He’s kind of a BeePee, but what can you do?  He’s signed up pretty much all the berries: straw, blue, goose…unscented durian?  Brilliant!  What happened?  Did he sell the season’s watermelons to some other store?”

VPoM: “It’s worse than that.”

Prez: “He put orange juice over the ten dollar a gallon firewall?”

VPoM: “No, we think that’s a year away.”

Prez: “Did he give some other store an exclusive on something?”

VPoM: “Not exactly another store.  He opened his own store.”

Prez: “Replay?”

VPoM: “He opened his own store.  He’s selling fruit directly to customers.”

Prez: “What?  He can’t do that!  He doesn’t have the distribution network.  There aren’t a hundred ziprails we don’t know about.”

VPoM: “He doesn’t need them, remember?  He’s got transporters.”

Prez: “But…he sells to us!”

VPoM: “He used to sell to us.”

Prez: “Well, we know who Mr. Coyote is, but the average legaur out there doesn’t know.  He’s got to know people won’t just walk into a new chain.”

VPoM: “Prez, he’ll have all the watermelons.  He’ll have all the berries.  He’ll have the orange juice…and he promises bananas under a dollar apiece.”

Prez: “The public won’t stand for that.  They want competition.”

VPoM: “Um…they haven’t had competition on fruit prices since the Supreme Court okayed our cooperatives.”

Prez: “Right, TeeWhyVeeEm.  That restored us.  Get me Legal: there’s got to be something wrong with this.”

VPoM: “Will do, but I ran it by LawBot, and nothing showed up.”

Prez: “Maybe people don’t care that much about berries and orange juice.”

VPoM: “Of course, that’s possible.  I ran a few polls on that, and–“

Prez: “Never mind.  Port me a coffee.”

VPoM: “I would, but…have you seen this press release from Juan Valdez?”

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

Freebie flash! Yogi, water, irrationality, the 23rd Century, and a hussy

July 23, 2010

 Freebie flash! Yogi, water, irrationality, the 23rd Century, and a hussy

As usual, I don’t vouch for these books, and they come from companies that are not (to my knowledge) blocking text-to-speech. As promotional titles, they may not be free for long. Note: these books are free in the USA: prices in other countries may vary.

Autobiography of a Yogi
by Paramhansa Yogananda
published by Crystal Clarity  (“…dedicated to teaching principles and practices that help individuals develop an expanded, divine awareness, and to demonstrate practically how to apply these principles to every facet of life: business, family, health, education, and spirituality.”)

This book made a big splash in the US.  I believe it may have been following this that we saw the idea of climbing mountain and asking a “wise man” a question enter into jokes and the American public consciousness.  It was first published in 1946.

Out of Water: From Abundance to Scarcity and How to Solve the World’s Water Problems
by Colin Chartres, Samyuktha Varma
Published by FT Press (a business and finance publisher

Being in Northern California, we run into this discussion a lot.  We have water, but a lot of it has to do with getting the water to the right places in the right amounts. The demand for water globally is changing, because it is being used for different things in different quantities than in the past.  I’ll be giving this one a try.

A Taste of Irrationality: Sample chapters from Predictably Irrational and Upside of Irrationality 
by Dan Ariely
published by HarperCollins (a general interest publisher)

I’ve read Predictably Irrational, and rather enjoyed it.  I’m not big on listing samples (since we can get samples for free), even if a bit larger than usual.  This one may be bigger chunks of the two books.

http://www.amazon.com/Bright-Entire-Rose-Book-ebook/dp/B003N7MYQK/bufosweirdworld Bright of the Sky
Entire and the Rose #1
by Kay Kenyon
published by Pyr (a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Prometheus Books, a professional, scientific, educational, and general publisher)

This is the first in a series from Kenyon, set in the 23rd Century and featuring multiple dimensions.  It has some very good reviews on Amazon…and a few not so good.  ;)

All in Time
part of The Hussies series
by Ciana Stone 
published by Ellora’s Cave (an erotic romance publisher)

More erotica from Ellora…this one appears to have a supernatural element, and a mystery element as well.

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


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