Archive for October, 2010

A Halloween classic to read aloud

October 31, 2010

A Halloween classic to read aloud

This is one of the classic horror stories.  It was first published in 1843 and written by Edgar Allan Poe, who died in 1849.   The story should be in the public domain everywhere.  As a Halloween treat, you may want to read it to each other out loud.  You can take turns, or one person can read it all.  You could let your Kindle take a turn…but that won’t be the same.  This shows the advantage of free distribution of the classics that e-books facilitates.  Be prepared, though…it’s scary!   It should take about fifteen minutes…hokey Halloween voices optional.  Parents, be advised…this could cause nightmares.

Enjoy?  Or at least…experience.  I now present…

THE TELL-TALE HEART (by Edgar Allan Poe)

TRUE!–nervous–very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses–not destroyed–not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily–how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture–a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees–very gradually–I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded–with what caution–with what foresight–with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it–oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly–very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have been so wise as this, And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously-oh, so cautiously–cautiously (for the hinges creaked)–I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights–every night just at midnight–but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers–of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back–but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out–“Who’s there?”

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening;–just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief–oh, no!–it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself–“It is nothing but the wind in the chimney–it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “It is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel–although he neither saw nor heard–to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little–a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it–you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily–until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open–wide, wide open–and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness–all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness of the sense?–now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!–do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me–the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once–once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye–not even his–could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out–no stain of any kind–no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all–ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o’clock–still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart,–for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled,–for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search–search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct:–It continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness–until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew _very_ pale;–but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased–and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound–much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath–and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly–more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men–but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed–I raved–I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder–louder–louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!–no, no! They heard!–they suspected!–they knew!–they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now–again!–hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed!–tear up the planks! here, here!–It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Bonus: Quoth My Kindle

I originally published Quoth My Kindle (with apologies to Edgar Allan Poe) in this thread in the Amazon Kindle forum.   It is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem, The Raven.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore-
As I reached to slide to sleep mode, suddenly I found my hand slowed
As if driving up a steep road, driving with a heavy load
“I can’t seem to move it forward, as if some Kowboy had ‘whoa’d,
It’s a fluke and nothing more.”

Suddenly, a wheel was spinning, a face appeared, and it was grinning
I gasped and nearly dropped my m-edge, dropped it on the hardwood floor
I shook my head, I couldn’t take it; wasn’t sure if I would make it
Then that voice: speakers of portent – portent I would know the score
Then the robot quirkily intoned words that shook me to the core
Quoth my Kindle: “READ SOME MORE.”

“I need sleep!” I firmly stated, yet I found I hesitated
Reading – reading how it drew me like it never had before
So I sat there, pushing buttons, appetite of sev’ral gluttons
Bestsellers, public domain, ’til I think I filled up my brain
“Tis some magazine I’ve never even purchased at the store”
“I need to get up early!” I heard myself again implore
Quoth my Kindle: “READ SOME MORE.”

My eyes opened and I woke up; knew I dreamt my Kindle spoke up
So I dragged myself off to what had become my bedtime chore,
Although fact is what it did seem, I knew it was just a weird dream
So as I brushed my teeth, I felt safe behind my bathroom door
I kept my head beneath my covers, as I sailed to Morpheus’ shore…
Quoth my Kindle: “READ SOME MORE.”

For more Edgar Allan Poe, try this search for Poe freebies in the Kindle store. If you want to keep it simple, you can get this collection, which has an interactive table of contents. 

Some of you may have recognized this post from last year…yeah, ILMK has been around long enough to have annual traditions.  ;)

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

Flash! I buy a Kindle 3 cover

October 31, 2010

Flash! I buy a Kindle 3 cover

Since I’ve had a Kindle 3, I’ve been using a bubble mailing envelope as a cover.

That’s not my preference.  I really liked my m-edge platform cover I had on my K2.  That’s definitely what I wanted for my K3, too, but it’s not available yet.  M-edge has, for some reason, not been able to produce their full line of covers for the K3 yet.  That’s been surprising me…the Kindle 3 was announced July 28…three months ago.  It doesn’t seem like it should be that much work to resize existing covers…even though they may not have had a model at first. 

I have some things I want in a Kindle cover:

  • Non-leather (I don’t use leather)
  • A “reading easel” configuration
  • It has to be small enough to fit in my big pocket in my photojournalist vest
  • A pocket for a screen wipe
  • Easy access to the power switch and the headphone jack
  • Not looking like an expensive electronic gadget (I walk though some tough areas some times)
  • The ability to take it in and out easily
  • Easy to hold when reading…and to work the buttons with either hand (I’m ambidextrous)
  • Under about thirty dollars

I’ve been looking at various places (including Amazon, of course).  Someone recommended TJ Maxx: I tried that, but they didn’t have a K3.  They also just had sleeves…I prefer a cover.  With a sleeve, you slip the Kindle out of it to read, and then read it naked (not you, the Kindle…well, it could be you, I guess).  ;)  With a cover, you read the Kindle with it still inside it.  My preference comes because of the drop protection, mostly.

I’d taken a look at Staples, which carries the Kindle.  Interestingly, they were promoting that the Kindle DX was coming.  I suspect that might mean a model of it with wi-fi (before the holidays), but we’ll see.  In fact, it was kind of funny…they had $189 under a cardboard Kindle DX, but the description explained it was for the 6″.  They had some Kindle covers, but nothing that I wanted.

Somebody recommended Ross, and that was on our list of possibles today.  However, we had to stop at Target first today, so I thought I’d check those out.  They did have Kindle 3 covers.

One of them had a reading easel…that was a big plus.  I checked it out: it fit in my pocket.  I have to admit, I was hoping that an employee didn’t walk by while I was sticking merchandise in my pocket!  It actually had a very nice way of snapping the Kindle into it, rather than using elastic.  The buttons and headphone jack were easily accessible.  It wasn’t leather, and had microfleece inside the cover.

It didn’t have pockets to hold anything, though.  It was $29.95…that’ s right at my upper limit.  I didn’t like the mechanism of the reading easel as much.  With an m-edge, there is a strap that slips into a hole on the front of the cover.  That lets me use the strap to secure it around a towel bar (for when I’m brushing my teeth).  This easel is like a picture frame…that also doesn’t feel as solid.   The “footprint” is also much bigger.

The only color they had was red.  I’m not that big on color (I have some color vision deficiency…”color blindness”), but the red was a little flashy…I prefer to not attract attention with my Kindle when it is in the case.

However, my Significant Other (SO) thought the red color and design of the cover was cute…sold.  :)

I switched from the mailing envelope right away…it’s raining a little bit here today.  I don’t like the configuration of holding it left-handed as well as on the m-edge, but I can probably get used to it.  Besides, I can just switch to right-handed…doesn’t really make a difference, but I like being able to trade off.  The cover is too stiff for now…I’m hopig it will get to folding flat.  Right now, the “spine” maintains its shape too much.  I think that will happen, though.

What kind of cover is it? 

It’s the http://www.speckproducts.com

It just says it’s a DustJacket (which is says is trademarked…ah, the magic of removing a space) ;)

I’ll let you know how it goes.  Maybe surprisingly, I’m not that big on change.  :)  That’s not really true for technology…I’m intrigued to see new versions, and I like seeing the software changes.  But it can take me a little while to adjust to changes in physical objects.

Have you found a cover/sleeve/case you like for the K3?  What’s on your list of wants when you shop for one?  Feel free to let me know…

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

Freebie flash! Dancing, Dead, Spinning, Beans…and more

October 30, 2010

 Freebie flash! Dancing, Dead, Spinning, Beans…and more

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.

Unti James Novella
published by HarperCollins (a general interest publisher)

I assume this is supposed to say “Untitled James Novella”.  A novella is shorter than a novel.  The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America defines it as 17,500 to 39,999 words.  For them, novels start at 40,000 words.  I don’t know what this one is going to be…there are a lot of authors with “James” in their names.  :)  It’s not going to be published until February, 2011.

The Hangman’s Daughter (chapters 1-3)
Oliver Pötzsch (author), Lee Chadeayne (translator)
published by AmazonCrossing (a part of Amazon that specializes in books first published outside the USA)

This is an “historical thriller” from a German television writer who is “…a descendent of the Kuisls, a famous Bavarian executioner clan.”

Kaplan New GRE: An Introduction to the GRE Revised General Test
published by Kaplan (a test prep publisher)

The Graduate Record Exam is being redesigned, and Kaplan is a famous test prep publisher.

Dancing in the Lowcountry
by James Villas
published by Kensington Books (a genre and romance publisher)

James Villas is a famous food writer.  This is a “contemporary fiction” novel.

Half Past Dead
by Zoe Archer, Bianca D’Arc
published by Kensington Books (a genre and romance publisher)

Two novellas by different authors bring you paranormal romance…with zombies.

Cool Beans: A Maya Davis Novel
by Erynn Mangum
published by NavPress (a faith-based publisher)

Spinning Forward
by Terri DuLong
published by Kensington Books (a genre and romance publisher)

This one was free last year…it’s a contemporary fiction novel and involves knitting.

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

Drake, me, out to the ballgame

October 29, 2010

Drake, me, out to the ballgame

We were at the World Series last night!

Drake at the World Series

It was a great game!  The weather was good (we thought it might rain), and the crowd was into it.  Nice to be at AT&T where they have vegetarian food at the park. 

We sat in front of home plate.  ;)  That is, in the bleachers under the scoreboard.  I’d never sat there before, and I did enjoy those seats…you could see the pitches and call balls and strikes yourself, which was great. 

My parents bought a dozen tickets for family members, and we had three generations in the row.  We were sorry our offspring was away at college and couldn’t join us!

I enjoy baseball, although my Significant Other is more into it.  I wouldn’t have paid $500 a seat to go, certainly, but it was wonderful that we had the tickets as gifts.

Oh, and no, I didn’t read Drake the entire time.  :)  I just pulled my Kindle out to take a picture for you readers (which did amuse some of my family).  Of course, we did have quite a lengthy discussion with somebody on BART on the way back after the game.  Both my SO and I had Kindles out (a 2 and a 3), and I let somebody try it out…I keep a demo book on there for that purpose.

As to the game itself…I”m not going to get all sporty on you.  I did do my research before the game (by listening to the local sports station), and I already knew some of it.  I think that a knowledgeable person should be knowledgeable of pop culture as well.  I always loved an ad lib from Tony Randall.  He was on a game show (I think it might have been Pyramid), and I believe the clue was Cheap Skate.  You were supposed to get Dorothy Hamill from that, as I recall.  He had no idea who she was, and the other players were surprised.  I remember him saying, “It is something an educated person need not reproach himself for not knowing.”  :)

I don’t agree with that, though…all knowledge is valuable.  That doesn’t mean you need to try to know everything (the more you know, the more you know there is to know), but there is no worthless information, in my opinion.

So, back to the game.  :)  The Giants have been treated in the national media somewhat like the Kindle was (see how I did that) ;) when it was first released.  They were seen as not having a chance…and still are seen that way.  The last time we were going for world championship, it was largely about Barry Bonds.  On this one, we’ve got a pretty diverse group…kind of quirky, certainly, but no real overshadowing by a couple of players of the rest. 

The most amazing thing to me was the series of walks by the Rangers.  I leaned over to my SO and said, “Maybe the strike zone is bigger in Texas.”  ;)  11 balls called in a row!  That means, for eleven pitches, you or I could have gotten it across the plate as well as a World Series pitcher!  I mean, they kept bringing out pitcher after pitcher…I thought they were going to run out!  They walked in runs in the World Series!  I wanted to say it’s more fun if you let us hit one once in a while. 

Not that I minded us getting all those runs.  ;)

I’m not at all a sports prognosticator, but I think we have to be a bit cautious about thinking that the games in Texas will have the same results as the two games here so far.  That’s going to be a very different situation…and hey, Steve Perry of Journey really got us all pumped up!  Oh, and we had a Psy Ops officer sing God Bless America…I couldn’t help wondering what the real agenda was.  :)  Seemed to work, though…  :)

Well, that’s enough sports stuff for right now.  I think I might have jeopardized my geek cred with this post…nah, that couldn’t happen…and I think taking a picture of my Kindle at the World Series means my reputation is safe.  :)

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

In honor of the World Series

October 28, 2010

In honor of the World Series

I’m actually going to the World Series game 2 tonight.  I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and my parents (who have worked with the Giants organization) were nice enough to get the immediate family a dozen tickets.   So, my Significant Other (SO) and I are very excited to go to the game!  Hey, you might see us on TV…I’ll be the one with the graphite K3.  ;)

It’s also kind of a busy work day (not too busy, but I may not get a real lunch) tomorrow, so I was thinking I may not get to write a post. 

I decided to give you Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer.  It was originally published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1888, so it’s in the public domain. 

CASEY AT THE BAT

BY ERNEST LAWRENCE THAYER

It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to six with just an inning left to play;
And so, when Cooney died at first, and Burrows did the same,
A pallor wreathed the features of the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go, leaving there the rest
With that hope that springs eternal within the human breast;
For they thought if only Casey could get one whack, at that
They’d put up even money, with Casey at the bat.
But Flynn preceded Casey, and so likewise did Blake,
But the former was a pudding, and the latter was a fake;
So on that stricken multitude a death-like silence sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single to the wonderment of all,
And the much-despisèd Blaikie tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and they saw what had occurred,
There was Blaikie safe on second and Flynn a-hugging third![Pg 1149]
Then from the gladdened multitude went up a joyous yell,
It bounded from the mountain-top, and rattled in the dell,
It struck upon the hillside, and rebounded on the flat;
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place,
There was pride in Casey’s bearing, and a smile on Casey’s face;
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt,
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then, while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance glanced in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there;
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped:
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;[Pg 1150]
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted some one in the stand.
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew,
But Casey still ignored it; and the umpire said, “Strike two.”
“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and the echo answered, “Fraud!”
But the scornful look from Casey, and the audience was awed;
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched with hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

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

Will this law end the blocking of text-to-speech?

October 28, 2010

Will this law end the blocking of text-to-speech?

“In general- With respect to equipment manufactured after the effective date of the regulations established pursuant to subsection (e), and subject to those regulations, a manufacturer of equipment used for advanced communications services, including end user equipment, network equipment, and software, shall ensure that the equipment and software that such manufacturer offers for sale or otherwise distributes in interstate commerce shall be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, unless the requirements of this subsection are not achievable.”
–Section 716 (1) (a) of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010

This act, signed into law by the President on October 8, 2010, may be used by advocates for the print disabled to force publishers to stop blocking text-to-speech in Kindle store editions of e-books.

I’ve written before about the blocking of text-to-speech access, and there were a number of elements involved:

  • Text-to-speech is not the same as an audiobook (because it is not recorded), and the same reservation of rights by a rightsholder do not apply
  • Publishers are required to have at least one version of every book that has “read aloud” enabled.  That edition can require certification of a print disability (such as the books available from http://www.bookshare.org
  • It was legal for Amazon to provide text-to-speech without prior permission: however, it is also legal for publishers to block it (as long as at least one other edition exists that has “read aloud” enabled

That’s all based on my understanding of relevant statements from the U.S. Copyright Office.

This law, however, adds another factor…one which organizations may use to try to compel publishers to stop blocking text-to-speech access in Kindle editions. 

The law was sponsored by Senator Mark Pryor (Democrat of Arkansas), and had five co-sponsors, including some well-known names: Democrats Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan (North Dakota), John Kerry (Massachusetts: former Presidential candidate, member of a variety of committees, Chair of the important Senate Committee on Foreign Relations), Charles “Chuck’ Schumer (New York; Chair of two committees, Vice Chair of two others, member of several more); and Republican John Ensign (Nevada, sits on several committees including Communications and Technology).  Ensign and Kerry, in particular, represent different political factions…this suggests that the Act has broad-based support.

 At first glance, it may appear that the Act applies to things like telephones.  Does it apply to e-books?

Well, one of the questions is whether e-books are software.  The Kindle can do “read aloud”, so it has met the requirement.  Since the e-books are delivered across state lines, if they are considered software, it would seem they would be subject to the act.

President Obama seems to indicate this is going to cover a wide range of devices.  He says:

“This legislation will make it easier for people who are deaf, blind, or live with a visual impairment to use the technology our 21st-century economy depends on, from navigating digital menus on a television to sending emails on a smart phone.”
http://www.nfb.org/nfb/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=682

I honestly don’t know enough about the technical elements of this bill, but my feeling is that blocking text-to-speech will be a thing of the past within eighteen months.

I’ve been very wrong about this before.  :)  I didn’t think the publishers were really going to fight text-to-speech on the Kindle, after the first few comments about it.  Why should they?  Amazon was considerably expanding their markets at its cost. 

Well, one argument is that text-to-speech was going to cut into audiobooks sales.  I didn’t ever buy that: they aren’t the same thing.  I think text-to-speech may actually increase the market for audiobooks, because it accustoms people to listening to books.

I can certainly see how there could be internal politics protecting audiobooks.

However, my guess was that, as the e-book market increased, protecting the audiobook market would be relatively less important (compared to expanding the e-book market).

The other factor is that Amazon’s 70% royalty plan for their independent-publishing program, the DTP (Digital Text Platform), requires allowing text-to-speech.  While I haven’t seen Draculas (an independently-published book written by authors with solid success in the traditional publishing world) break the top 50 paid at Amazon, I would say it is a success.

I’ve also noticed some publishers who have been blocking text-to-speech access allowing it on some new books.

So, if it looks like legal action might happen, if the e-book market has expanded enough, it might make sense to just end the policy before you run into some bad publicity.  Ironically, I could see Random House, which first blocked text-to-speech, leading the pack in dropping the policy.  If they did, I think the others would follow.

I’d really like to see text-to-speech access be universal on e-books.  That’s mostly because I think it disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, but I won’t deny that I benefit from it as well.  I listen to TTS for hours a week in the car.  I don’t intentionally buy books from companies that block text-to-speech…and one of my really favorite authors has a new book just released from one of those companies.  Hopefully, they stop blocking, and I start buying from them again.  :)

This act will have whatever impact it will have late next year.  Hmm…the first year of the Agency Model will be over before that, and that might go away as well (there is legal investigation into that already).

We’d be back to open competition and convenient public market access for print disabled readers…two nice things in my opinion.

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

Flash! B&N launches NOOKDeveloper program

October 27, 2010

Flash! B&N launches NOOKDeveloper program

In this earlier post earlier post (which has been considerably updated), I reported on Barnes & Noble’s new color LCD reader, the NOOKColor, which they are calling a “Reader’s Tablet”. 

Well, I just got an e-mail from them, and I assume it will be in their press releases soon.

It talks about a new app developers’ service, called NOOKDeveloper. 

It has some interesting information as they invite people to develop “reader-centric” apps. 

One is that the NOOKColor comes with QuickOffice, which will enable people to view Microsoft Office files (Excel, Word, presumably PowerPoint). 

They are also looking for word games, and a whole lot more.  A Netflix or Hulu Plus app would certainly be welcomed by some people. 

You can sign up for the SDK (Software Developer’s Kit) and get more information here:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nookcolor/developer/index.asp?

Since it is based on Android, people should be able to port apps to it pretty quickly, I think.  This could be a big plus for them. 

Ah, I found a press release (in pdf) when I went to that site:

NOOKDeveloper press release

They list some big name content partners: Lonely Planet, Dictionary.com, Chronicle Books…if you are a developer, you may want to jump on this, although I haven’t looked at terms and such.

Fascinating!  To me, this is almost as big an announcement as the NOOKColor itself (although they are symbiotic).

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

Flash! B&N introduces the NOOK Color

October 26, 2010

Flash! B&N introduces the NOOK Color

Just have time to get out a quick flash for you, but Barnes & Noble has introduced a color NOOK, called the Nook Color.  :)  It’s a 7″ LCD screen, and $249, shipping in late November

Official Site

New York Times article

More information later…

UPDATE: Features List

  • 7″ VividView Color LCD touchscreen (1″ bigger than 6″ Kindle, 2.7″ smaler than Kindle DX or iPad…touchscreen/color/backlit like iPad).  This will appeal to some people quite a bit…not so much to serious readers (who may prefer the reflective E Ink screen on the Kindle, the Sonys, and the old Nook (169ppi for the geeks out there)
  • Wi-Fi connection (no 3G)
  • Sharing with FaceBook and Twitter (available on the Kindle, but this may look different)
  • Really pushing use by kids, including interactive books using the touch screen
  • 6 text sizes (Kindle has 8)
  • You can change the background color
  • 8GB built-in memory, microSD up to 32GB (Kindle 3 and Kindle DX have 4GB built-in, not expandable)
  • Lots of emphasis on kids, including interactive books with the touchscreen (pet the kitten it purrs, I assume…that kind of thing)
  • Battery good for an 8-hour charge (as opposed to up to a month on a K3)…similar to other tablets
  • Web-browsing through Android…will it run the Kindle Android app?  Don’t know yet.  UPDATE: Actually, I see it won’t let you get apps from the Android store, so I’d say no.  :)  Not a surprise…
  • You can customize sleep mode pictures…even keep personal videos on the device
  • Chess, Sudoku…and Pandora
  • You can read books in a Barnes & Noble…each book for an hour a day…for free
  • Lendme book-lending
  • They are showing pictures of some big name magazines, although the newsstand isn’t up yet

Supported file types

  • EPUB (including Non or Adobe DRM)
  • PDF
  • XLS, DOC, PPT, PPS, TXT, DOCM, XLSM, PPTM, PPSX, PPSM, DOCX, XLX, PPTX
  • Graphics: JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP
  • Audio: MP3, AAC
  • Video: MP4

Bottom line: it’s a purpose-built tablet, somewhat different from a dedicated EBR (E-Book Reader), in my opinion.  It would depend on how good the web-browsing is, but I see this competing with the iPad for some people.  Will it cut into Kindle sales?  Maybe..it’s a very different device, but it will depend somewhat on how sophisticated the buyer is, and how much they want to do long-form reading.

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

Freebie flash! Curious, Netflix, Rhythm…and more!

October 26, 2010

 Freebie flash! Curious, Netflix, Rhythm…and more!

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.

The Holy Bible English Standard Version (ESV)
published by Crossway, a faith-based publisher

The Truth About Public Speaking: The Essential Truths in 20 Minutes
by James O’Rourke
published by FT Press (a business publisher)

Get a Life, Not a Job: It’s Your Time–Make the Most of It (Mini E-Book)
by Paula Caliguiri

published by FT Press (a business publisher)

The Fearful Rise of Markets: Global Bubbles, Synchronized Meltdowns, and How To Prevent Them in the Future
by John Authers
published by FT Press (a business publisher)

Curious Folks Ask: 162 Real Answers on Amazing Inventions, Fascinating Products, and Medical Mysteries 
by Sherry Seethaler
published by FT Press (a business publisher)

John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, Doxology
edited by Burk Parsons
published by Reformation Trust Publishing (a faith-based publisher)

How Netflix Produces Happy Endings 
by New Word City
published by FT Press (a business publisher)

The Truth About Starting a Business
by Bruce Barringer
published by FT Press (a business publisher)

Spiritual Rhythm: Being with Jesus Every Season of Your Soul
published by Zondervan (a faith-based publisher)

Your Secret Name: Discovering Who God Created You to Be
published by Zondervan (a faith-based publisher)

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

Flash! Kindle books outsell paperbooks (hardback and paperback combined)

October 25, 2010

Flash! Kindle books outsell paperbooks (hardback and paperback combined)

I’m heading out the door, but I wanted to share this.

In this

Press Release

Amazon says that for the top 1000 books, Kindle editions outsold paper editions at Amazon.   That’s hardback and paperback combined…they’ve previously announced Kindle books outselling hardbacks overall.

Maybe more analysis later, but there are some fascinating numbers here.

  • Kindle store books are outpacing the growth of e-books overall
  • In the top ten, Kindle books outsell printed books 2 to 1

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


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