Archive for January, 2012

Amazon’s sales up 35% for 2011 Fourth Quarter

January 31, 2012

Amazon’s sales up 35% for 2011 Fourth Quarter

Thirty-five percent! That’s a huge number, as reported in this

Press Release

That’s not something you’d expect in a company that has been around  for more than fifteen years…and has already been successful.

Clearly, in terms of sales, the Kindle Fire had a big impact.

  • The number of Amazon Instant videos rented or purchased (these are not the Prime free streaming ones) more than doubled…presumably, a lot of those went to Kindle Fire owners
  • Amazon Appstore purchases nearly tripled in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter (it hasn’t been around long enough for a year-to-year comparison). While an increase would be expected in the holiday season, this seems like a lot
  • Kindle sales (counting the Fire and the RSKs…Reflective Screen Kindles) were up 177%

It’s not just the Fire, though. The $79/$109 model, which I call the Mindle, was the number one selling product on five of the Kindle sites (Amazon.it, Amazon.es, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, and Amazon.de).

Now, that doesn’t mean that net income was up 35%…far from it. It was down 58%.

Why?

Well, one reason is that Amazon is spending a lot of money increasing the content available to Prime members. That certainly sells Fires, but it also sells “diapers and windshield wipers”, as I like to say. That’s where the money is, I think. There is a huge potential for growth for Amazon in the physical goods market.  Amazon licensed more videos. They paid half a million dollars in December alone to increase the number of books in the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library)…and it definitely worked.

I never quite know how investors will react, but I think the headline will more be the 58% drop than the 35% increase.

I also think that’s short-sighted…and the market will know that.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Amazon’s shares dropped initially, and recovered by Friday.

I’m just guessing on that part, though…I’m not a stock guru by any means. :)

What do you think? Is Amazon over investing in getting people to be Prime members? If there are a lot of Kindle Fire returns, does this make that a bad strategy? How likely is it that somebody who bought a Fire and returned it would renew Prime? How is the market going to react to this report? Feel free to comment on this post and let me know…

Update: as I expected, the stock dropped the next day and has been recovering pretty quickly. It may not get back to where it was by the end of Friday, but you can see the progress here:

http://money.cnn.com/quote/quote.html?symb=AMZN&iid=HP_Last5

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

Review: Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3)

January 31, 2012

Review: Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3)

Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games)
Third of The Hunger Games trilogy
by Suzanne Collins
published by Scholastic
original publication: 2010
size: 559KB (400 pages)
categories: young adult, science fiction
lending: enabled
simultaneous device licenses: 6
part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: yes
text-to-speech: yes

“Everything screams in my dreams tonight.”
–Katniss Everdeen
Mockinjay
by Suzanne Collins

War can make good people bad…and bad people worse.

There are no winners amongst warriors, there are only those who survive.

I was very impressed that (as was the intention from the beginning), the three books in The Hunger Games show a not unreasonable evolution of a child soldier…before, during, and after.

I would say there is nothing “young” about this supposed “young adult’ novel, and that’s important. I’m not surprised that some fans of the first book didn’t like the third.

It’s not like an episodic TV show, where you know things will largely turn out okay.

I think that’s brave.

People in terrible circumstances don’t always come out the other end the way they were before, and that’s a tough reality to take.

“I hate them. But, of course, I hate almost everybody now. Myself more than anyone.”
–Katniss Everdeen
Mockinjay
by Suzanne Collins

Obviously, that’s not going to be for everyone…and it may be disillusioning, which feels to me like the intent of the books.

Overall, I thought the writing was good. We got new characters, and more depth on old characters. The plot made sense to me, and the…sensibility of the series worked for me.

I would definitely read the books in order, by the way. These are not stand alone novels:

If you are buying them, you can also get an omnibus edition (with all three books), but it isn’t available through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL).

The Hunger Games Trilogy

SPOILER ALERT

As to content warnings: this is a harsh novel. There is more explicit violence than in the first two books…and it will likely have more of an emotional impact.  Sex is definitely mentioned…including exploitation and incest.

END SPOILER

Well, now that I’ve read all three, I’m ready for the movie on March 23rd. :) While you can’t now spoil the books for me, because I’ve read them, please be careful about not spoiling them for others in comments you may want to make.  I’d love to sit around and talk with you about it for an hour…but we’d have to do it where people couldn’t overhear us. :)

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

Round up #66: Unused Kindle gifts, pubs love B&N?

January 30, 2012

Round up #66: Unused Kindle gifts, pubs love B&N? 

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

New York Times: “The Bookstore’s Last Stand”

New York Times article

Does Barnes & Noble hold “…the fate of American book publishing in (their) hands”?

That’s the contention of this article by Julie Bosman.

If that’s the case, we’re in serious trouble.

I don’t think it is, though.

While publishers may be waxing all apocalyptic in the article, I don’t think they believe it, either.

It’s all up to Barnes & Noble if: chain bookstores are necessary to sell enough paperbooks, and if paperbooks are necessary at all for the publishers to succeed, and if no other chain bookstore arises.

I’m going to take these in reverse order.

I think the last one is somewhat unlikely…at least in the form we’ve seen before with large generic stores. There may be other brick and mortar channels for books that happen…even things like print-on-demand book vending machines. I don’t think that there is a vacuum to fill with Borders gone…and I think that’s still true if Barnes & Noble stopped having paperbook stores (even if they had games, toys, t-shirts, and a cafe).

As to the second one…I don’t think paperbooks are necessary for the traditional publishers (tradpubs) to survive. I think the nimbler tradpubs will switch over, find a way to secure a market slice. They adapted to mass market paperbacks, and they’ll adapt away from those, too. That’s why I don’t think they believe that their survival is dependent on Barnes & Noble.

I also, as I indicated above, don’t think that chain bookstores (the big “dinostores”, as I call them) are necessary even if they do keep paperbooks as significant in the mix. The internet is one reason for that: publishers may start selling directly and effectively. I also think specialty bookstores, or rather media stores, have room in the market.

At any rate, it’s a very interesting article, and I recommend it. Oh, two other key points I will mention (and this doesn’t take too much away from the article: it suggests a new NOOK this Spring; and the NOOK being sold overseas.

By the way, this

TechCrunch article

came up with a very interesting stat, using one of the numbers in the New York Times article. According to them, Kindle sales grew 177 percent during the “nine-week holiday period” of 2011, compared to 2010. At the same time, B&N device sales grew…seventy percent. Amazon did have the Kindle Fire , but Barnes & Noble also introduced a tablet, so I don’t think that’s an unfair comparison.

Bloomberg: “Amazon Fire Tablet Leaves Google Apps Behind: Tech”

Bloomberg article

Okay, maybe this one belongs in a Firestorm round-up…you can skip it if you don’t want to read about the Fire. The next one is more general interest. :)

The basic idea is that Amazon (and some other hardware makers) are using Google’s Android operating system, but not including the Google apps.

That may put a drag on Google’s revenue protections…they certainly may have hoped that Android would promote Gmail and such.

Google can’t make them do it, by the way. Some of you may remember when there was a flap about Microsoft basically making Internet Explorer part having Windows for hardware manufacturers. That was about ten years ago…here’s a

New York Times article

for nostalgia’s sake. ;)

PC Advisor: “Amazon Kindle tops list of ‘unused’ Christmas gifts”

PC Advisor article

This was a fascinating little survey.

Have you ever gotten a Christmas gift, opened it, and then never used it?

Even a pricey gadget?

I have to say, and my family laughs at me about it, I use every single gift I get (unless I’m returning it because it’s the wrong size or something…or it’s a gift card) within a day or two. That’s because, when I was a kid, my parents had us write thank you cards for the gifts…and you couldn’t honestly say what you liked about a gift if you hadn’t used it. Hmm…I wonder if those sorts of things my parents did have anything to do with me being a blogger today? Maybe…

In the survey, done weeks after Christmas, 48% of respondents said that they had opened a gift and not used it yet. Of those, 22% (the highest number) said it was a Kindle.

Remember that the UK (where the survey was done) did not have the Fire yet, so we are talking about RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything but a Fire).

Why hadn’t they used it?

More than half said it was because they hadn’t download a book on to it, yet.

I’ve always sort of scoffed at the idea that some other EBR (E-Book Reader) manufacturers put free public domain classics on their devices when you bought them. I figured I wanted to pick which books were on there.

However, I wonder now if it wouldn’t make some sense. I noticed that Amazon did put a couple of books in my Kindle for Android installation. Maybe part of the welcome letter could be something like, “Get started right now! Download any of these ten classics for free!” That might actually work very well…that way, you could skip it if you wanted…and they could put another link in the same place for “Shop the store” that took you to the bestsellers as a gateway.

That might get people into using the Kindle right away…and then, they are far more likely to get hooked.

What do you think? Do publishers genuinely see Barnes & Noble as necessary, or are they just trying to make Amazon jealous? ;) How bad a thing is it if people open Kindles they get as gifts…and then not use them? Is it scary for Barnes & Noble that the Kindle growth rate is so much higher? Do we need paperbook stores…and if so, what will they look like? Feel free to let me know by commenting this post.

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

unglue.it: a new concept in publishing

January 29, 2012

unglue.it: a new concept in publishing

For an industry based on the products of human creativity, publishing has been astonishingly unimaginative.

There has been, for decades, one dominant model*** for books getting from the author to the reader.

The author writes the book.

The author licenses the rights for the book to a publisher.

The publisher sells the book to the public, giving the author part of each sale.

Now, I’ve greatly simplified that, of course. The author certainly may work with an editor who works for the publisher in writing the book. The rights are usually negotiated by an agent, not the author. The publisher traditionally sells the book to retailers, who actually sell it to the public.

E-books have certainly brought some changes. The “book factories” of the publishers aren’t needed, so that’s loosened their grip on controlling distribution. That, in turn, has enabled more direct selling from author to reader, or the use of “publishing platforms” where retailers handle the sales for the authors with no publisher in between.

The basic economics, though, have been the same. Sell more books, more money to the author.

Even Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL), which is innovative, works on that same principle: the more “borrows” you have in a month, the more money you get. It is different, because it doesn’t matter what the price of your book is. Somebody who has an eligible borrow an e-book that sells for $9.99 gets the same amount of money as somebody who has an e-book priced at $0.99. There is a finite amount of money for independent publishers (which may just be an individual author): in January 2012, it’s $700,000.

Yes, that’s different. Amazon knows ahead of time how much they are going to pay KDP select publishers in a month…it’s not based on sales.

The amount the publisher gets, though, is based on popularity. If your books are more popular, you make more.

That may seem logical, but it’s not the only possible way to do it…and I’m impressed that

https://unglue.it/

has come up with something really different.

What if, instead of paying an author royalties, the book was simply bought for a flat amount?

Instead of waiting years for royalty checks to trickle in, the author gets, say, $100,000 right up front.

Obviously, there are advantages to that. Brand name authors right now get a substantive advance (a lump sum) against future royalties. I’m sure it’s nice to know how big a mortgage you can afford…and even to know you can afford one. :)

A disadvantage is that you might underestimate the value of your book when you sell it. You take that $100,000…and the book is a smash hit and you could have made a million dollars under a royalty system.

Well, first, let’s back up a little bit.

For most authors, we aren’t talking six or seven figures.

Let’s say you write your first novel. A publisher likes it, and offers you a flat $10,000 for it. You still have a full-time job, and you know enough to know the odds aren’t good that your book is going to sell 50,000 copies.

Would you take the sure thing?

That’s part one of the Unglue it concept: flat fees instead of royalties.

Here is the next part.

What if it wasn’t a publisher paying you, but the public?

You are Stephen King, in this example, and you’ve been getting royalty checks from Pet Sematary for years. Sales aren’t what they were when the book was first released, of course, but there are checks every year.

What if a bunch of your fans got together and pooled their money and said, “Mr. King, here’s $50,000. We want to buy the rights to Pet Sematary…and then it will be distributed for free by anybody and to anybody.”

That might be tempting.

At that point, you don’t have to worry about it. The book is released without DRM (Digital Rights Management) and you agree that legally, people are allowed to copy it, give it to friends, convert it to different e-book formats, and so on.

Of course, you’d have some concerns. You wouldn’t want people editing the book…no mashups with Pet Sematary and Little Women. You’d want your name to be on it…you don’t want somebody pretending to have written it. You want to retain the rights to adaptations: at somebody, you know somebody is going to want to remake the movie (that sounds like a hypothetical, but at this point, there may actually be a new movie in 2013, and there has already been a sequel).

Those are actually all conditions built into Unglue. The rightsholder keeps the rights for derivative rights, and the license doesn’t allow editing or lack of attribution.

So, yes, I can certainly see the advantage for an author with an established track record who can estimate the value of a book. It’s bit like those “J.G. Wentworth” ads on structured settlements: “I have a structured settlement, and I need cash now!” ;)  They pay you a lump sum, and they get your settlement checks…they get more than you do, but you get it now.

Similarly, Unglue gets paid by the author/rightsholder if the “campaign” achieves its goal.

The other side of it, though, the crowdfunding side of it, is the part that is less clear to me.

You’ve got a book you love, and it’s not in e-book form. It would be worth twenty dollars to you to get it. You pledge $20. If the campaign succeeds (the goal is met), you pay your $20. Then you, and everybody else, can get and copy the book as much as you want (but you aren’t allowed to sell it, by the way…it’s not going into the public domain, it’s still protected under copyright…there is just a broad use license).

I’m just not sure how many people would do that.

I was talking to my Significant Other about it, and the conversation got me thinking about it.

The people who would do it would either pledge very small amounts…or, they might pledge large amounts if they thought the public should have the book. The latter group wouldn’t be doing it for themselves, but to affect society.

That actually concerns me a bit.

It’s like political campaign contributions.

Let’s say that people of one political persuasion decide this is a good thing to do, and pour millions of dollars into it…the equivalent of a Super PAC (Political Action Committee). Let’s hypothesize farther that an opposing group doesn’t have that kind of money.

Does it suddenly become that one viewpoint’s widely read and another one isn’t?

Of course, one could argue (easily) that those sorts of prejudices already exist in traditional publishing.

I’m also very aware that it is a mistake to expect a new system to fix all of the problems of the old system. I run into those sorts of objections all the time when I am presenting a new technology: “But what if somebody doesn’t enter the data on time ?” Well, that person probably wouldn’t have written it down on time , either. You can’t reject a technology that makes a process better on the basis that people don’t always follow the process.

I know that partially Unglue.it is attractive precisely because it’s a new idea.

I went through the website, and it did raise a couple of concerns for me.

For example, there was this line:

” (TBA: I think ePub does NOT work on Kindle so we need to address that, & how people can deal)”**

Now, it would not have taken five minutes to put “EPUB Kindle” into Google, and had that answer.

I write quickly, daily, and I make mistakes, absolutely. Even in books I’ve published, there have been errors I’ve corrected.

If I was trying to convince business people to do something, though, I wouldn’t put something out there without reviewing thoroughly and doing the research.

This one also worried me:

“Can I Unglue only one of my books? Can I unglue all of them?

Yes! It’s entirely up to you. Each Campaign is for a individual title and a separate fundraising goal.”

How can you have a Frequently Asked Question with contradictory results, and answer it with “Yes!”  As you continue through the answer, you can see that they do mean that you can have more than one campaign at a time. However, did you notice that they said, “a individual title” not “an individual title”?

Again, if that was a blog post, it wouldn’t particularly concern me…but if it was a business proposal? That’s different.

This website is a business proposal.

Now, I’m not going to reject the idea because of these website issues…that would be too easy.

I think this is a fascinating concept, but I’m not sold on it.

I’ll be very interested to hear what you have to say about it.

* Thanks to a reader who gave me the heads-up on this in a private e-mail!

** By the way, in case they see this, if EPUB books are released without DRM, they can be converted for the Kindle using the free program Calibre…not a big problem, and if Unglue were to succeed, people would convert the books and make them available, most likely

*** Update: a couple of clearly intelligent and informed readers have raised the issue that there is another payment method: work for hire. I’ve talked about that before in conjunction with copyright, but it’s worth adding the idea of it to this discussion.

In a work for hire, an author is paid for work product, and typically a flat amount. That’s quite a bit different from Unglue’s idea, in my opinion, for several reasons.

In a work for hire, the author is hired to write something, not paid for something the author has already written (as is the case with Unglue). Suppose you were going to publish an encyclopedia. You went to different experts, and hired them each to write an article on a topic in their respective fields.

You sign a contract with an expert on quantum physics for a two thousand word article on the topic for a flat fee of $1,000.

You also pay an expert on Screamin’ Jay Hawkins $100 for a 250 word summary on the singer.

It doesn’t matter how many copies of the encyclopedia sell, those authors have gotten their flat fees. In that way, it is similar to Unglue.

However, the works are created at the request of the publisher: the authors were hired to write it. That’s different. In Unglue, they are talking about rights to existing books.

With Unglue, the rights go to the public…the book, under Creative Commons, can be freely copied and distributed (as long as it isn’t sold, modified, or adapted). That’s different.

Another situation that is work for hire is when your writing is part of your normal employment.

Let’s say you are a technical writer for a company. You show up from nine to five every day, and they tell you what to write that day. You get paid a regular salary…the use of your work product doesn’t affect what you get paid.

Another example: you aren’t a  writer, usually. You are…maybe a trainer. During your job, at work, you are asked to create a job aid for accomplishing a work process. You write it during your work time. You aren’t paid extra for it, and the company owns that job aid.

That can also be a bit tricky if, for example, you write a funny song for a party at work. If you did it during your work day, and your bosses knew you were doing it, the company might own that song as well. If you wrote it on your own, during your own time, and not at their request, you probably own it.

“Wok for hire” is another method of payment to authors outside the royalty model I discussed at the beginning of the article, but it has significant differences from what Unglue is proposing, the biggest one being that the work is being created at the direction of someone else.

For more information on works for hire, see this Copyright Office document:

http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ09.pdf

Thanks to my readers Wyndes and Jennifer Brinn for suggesting this clarification! I’m sure some people will find it informative.

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

Round up #65: Firestorm #4

January 28, 2012

Round up #65: Firestorm #4

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later. The Firestorm designation is to indicate that these will be stories about the Kindle Fire. I am being careful to mix up the stories, so I don’t overwhelm people with one topic. Some of my readers are, understandably, not interested in the Fire (after all, it’s not very like the Kindle I loved when I started this blog)…but there are others that are. I figure by identifying this as a Fire based post, that should help. Not interested in the Fire? Read the previous post…or the next one. :)

Paying for 5-star reviews

I’ve recently written about reviews on Amazon and polled my readers about how they use them.

More than 75% of my respondents said that reviews are important to their buying decisions (31.98%) or “I rely on them: I don’t buy without looking at them” (44.16%).

Obviously, there is a lot of motivation to get five-star reviews.

I won’t kid you: I love seeing five-star reviews for my works. I also like seeing lower ranked ones that tell my why…I have learned valuable things from those.

However, I always tell people I want them to write reviews that are honest and specific.

Allegedly, there is at least one entity out there that doesn’t share my love for honesty. ;)

I’m not talking about “sock puppet” reviews, where people connected to the author/publisher of the book write glowing five-star reviews (without disclosing the connection). You know, “Oh, I happened to find this wonderful book! It’s the best book…I’ve ever read! You have to get it! It’s a total coincidence that my kid wrote it.” ;) Of course, you don’t see that last line.

No, according to this

New York Times article

by David Streitfeld, a company rebated people what they paid for their product…if the buyers wrote a review on Amazon.

They didn’t specifically require a five-star review…but did say they really wanted them.

According to the article, when Amazon was informed of this situation, they removed the reviews…which had been overwhelmingly five-star.

The product is a Kindle Fire case, which is why this is in a Firestorm round up.

As a blogger, I’m required to reveal if somebody gave me something when I write a review. I think I’ve always done that, even before I was aware of the rule. It actually complicates things if somebody gives me something…I’d rather just be directed to it, and I’ll buy it if I want. Oh, but Amazon, I’d love to get review copies of Kindles early…I don’t mind returning them, and I’m probably going to buy one any way. :)

I recommend you read the article…but it might make you mad. :)

Fire Consumes the Galaxy!

I could not resist that headline. :)

This is a

Business Insider graph

you have to see.

It shows the shift in share of application usage on Android tabs from November of 2011 to January 2012.

Here is the key statistic:

In November, the Samsung Galaxy Tab was 63% of the app usage tracked by Flurry.

I would certainly have considered a Galaxy if the Fire hadn’t been out there. I’m quite happy with my Samsung Captivate phone.

The Kindle Fire was out for about ten days in November.

In January (which isn’t over yet, of course), the Galaxy had dropped from 63% to 36% (a drop of 27% of the share).

Where did it go?

The Fire in November was 3%…in January, it was 36% (the same as the Galaxy tab).

Found it! ;)

Obviously, there was a bit more shuffling, but I think that’s the main shift. No other tab had much of the Android market at that point.

Android takes ten percent of the tablet market from the iPad

Clearly, the Fire was part of this.

Comparing Q4 (fourth quarter) share of the market from 2010 to 2011, iOS (the iPads) went from a 68.2% share of the global tablet market to a 57.6% (dropping 10.6%) while Android tablets went from 29.0% to 39.1%.

Does that mean that Android will have more than half of the market by the end of 2012?

Not necessarily.

If Apple releases an iPad 3 (which seems likely), that will be a flush of sales for iOS.

On the other hand, I expect Amazon to release more than one new Android tablet this year…that could really pump up Android.

Failure of other Android models, though, could weaken Android’s share.

We’ll keep an eye on it, but certainly, the iPad isn’t the dominant power it was at this point.

Strategy Analytics press release

Microsoft releases free Hotmail app for the Kindle Fire

I like the e-mail app on the Kindle Fire, but it does have some limitations. I don’t see an easy way to import my contacts, and you can’t change the text size.

Microsoft has put a free app in the Amazon Appstore specifically for the Kindle Fire:

Hotmail

I don’t know at this point if it addresses the text size issue, but it does let you use your Hotmail contacts. :)

Hotmail is free, by the way, if you want to sign up for an account to use this:

http://explore.live.com/hotmail-get-started

It has improved over time: it allows for an integrated inbox with other e-mail (including AOL) and using contacts from other services.

Feel free to tell me what you think about any of these stories…

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

Amazon blocks new audiobooks from public libraries?

January 26, 2012

Amazon blocks new audiobooks from public libraries?

One of my readers, Deborah Meyer, gave me a heads-up on an interesting story.

According to this communication from Overdrive reproduced by Infodocket:

Overdrive document from Infodocket

Brilliance Audio (acquired by Amazon in 2007…Press Release) “…will suspend the availability of all download audiobook titles across all vendors…” on January 31st, 2012.

Licenses for titles already in the system will stay there, but purchasing additional licenses (for the same or different titles) will not be possible, according to that communication.

When the publisher Penguin recently restricted Overdrive access, there was a lot of pushback. People don’t like the idea of books (e-books, audiobooks or other) not being made available to public libraries.

Macmillan and Simon & Schuster don’t license e-books to libraries at all.

HarperCollins restricts the number of check-outs.

Honestly, this just doesn’t feel like an Amazon move to me, but I know that’s just my emotional reaction based on having had a good personal relationship with Amazon as a customer.

Of course, Amazon wasn’t in the Overdrive system for e-books for quite a while after people with NOOKs and Sony Readers were able to get them.

This does seem like a dramatic change. Brilliance has promoted its connection to libraries in the past:

BrillianceAudio for Libraries

However, when I look at the

Most Downloaded Books at Overdrive

I’m not seeing anything from Brilliance in any of the categories they list.

I see a few possibilities here:

  • Amazon is doing something substantial to Brilliance overall, and this is just part of that
  • Amazon is doing something dramatic with its relationship with Overdrive…maybe setting up some distribution of its own with public libraries? Overdrive really dominates that market right now
  • Amazon is going to add Brilliance audiobooks to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). Amazon has indicated that Prime members were going to get additional benefits. This might make a lot of sense: It could introduce people to audiobooks. It takes a long time to go through an audiobook…which would reduce the number of “borrows” from the KOLL, which improves the profitability for Amazon. It makes the KOLL more attractive, which sells more Kindles (people with Kindle apps can’t use the KOLL, currently), and gets more Prime members, which sells more “diapers and windshield wipers”. Of course, it wouldn’t automatically mean that the books couldn’t also be available to public libraries, so this might be it. I can imagine there having been a negotiation with rightsholders…”We’ll put you in the KOLL and drop you from public libraries.”
  • This could just be temporary while some contract negotiation with Overdrive is worked out

I have written to Brilliance this morning, asking for a statement.

I’m also interested in your thoughts on this, especially if you work for a public library…or if you use one for audiobooks. If this Amazon/Brilliance simply withdrawing from Overdrive, how would that affect your perception of the company? Would you use audiobooks as part of the KOLL? Are audiobooks a significant part of your book experience? Feel free to comment on this post and let me know.

Update: One of my readers, Mary, made the good point that this apparently doesn’t impact audiobooks on CD, just digital downloads. Interestingly, those presumably work outside the Overdrive ecosystem…

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

Answers to Classic Openings #1

January 25, 2012

Answers to Classic Openings #1

recently did a post where I gave people the opening lines from some classic novels, and let them guess which ones they were.

These are the answers. If you want to play for yourself, click the link above before reading these.

This just for fun. :) I recommend you give yourself ten points for getting the title right, and five points for getting the author right (I think it’s easier to recognize an author’s style than a specific book…but that may be because I’m particularly tied into who the author is of a book).

One other important note: thanks to e-books, and particularly the pioneering work of the late Michael S. Hart and the volunteers at Project Gutenberg, you can read these books for free. I’ve linked to the books in the Kindle store…so if I’ve whetted your appetite, you can read the whole book. :)

Book #1

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

Answer: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Book #2

“The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.

The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Book #3

St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17

TO Mrs. Saville, England

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. I arrived here yesterday, and my first task is to assure my dear sister of my welfare and increasing confidence in the success of my undertaking.

I am already far north of London, and as I walk in the streets of Petersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves and fills me with delight. Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has travelled from the regions towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes. Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent and vivid. I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight. There, Margaret, the sun is forever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon and diffusing a perpetual splendour. There—for with your leave, my sister, I will put some trust in preceding navigators—there snow and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe. Its productions and features may be without example, as the phenomena of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered solitudes. What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle and may regulate a thousand celestial observations that require only this voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent forever. I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river. But supposing all these conjectures to be false, you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind, to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries, to reach which at present so many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which, if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.”

Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Book #4

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”

Peter and Wendy (Peter Pan) by J.M. Barrie

Book #5

“Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.”

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Book #6

“It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,”

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Book #7

“In 1815, M. Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of D—— He was an old man of about seventy-five years of age; he had occupied the see of D—— since 1806.

Although this detail has no connection whatever with the real substance of what we are about to relate, it will not be superfluous, if merely for the sake of exactness in all points, to mention here the various rumors and remarks which had been in circulation about him from the very moment when he arrived in the diocese. True or false, that which is said of men often occupies as important a place in their lives, and above all in their destinies, as that which they do. M. Myriel was the son of a councillor of the Parliament of Aix; hence he belonged to the nobility of the bar. It was said that his father, destining him to be the heir of his own post, had married him at a very early age, eighteen or twenty, in accordance with a custom which is rather widely prevalent in parliamentary families. In spite of this marriage, however, it was said that Charles Myriel created a great deal of talk. He was well formed, though rather short in stature, elegant, graceful, intelligent; the whole of the first portion of his life had been devoted to the world and to gallantry.”

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Book #8

“On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the market town of Meung, in which the author of ROMANCE OF THE ROSE was born, appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second La Rochelle of it. Many citizens, seeing the women flying toward the High Street, leaving their children crying at the open doors, hastened to don the cuirass, and supporting their somewhat uncertain courage with a musket or a partisan, directed their steps toward the hostelry of the Jolly Miller, before which was gathered, increasing every minute, a compact group, vociferous and full of curiosity.

In those times panics were common, and few days passed without some city or other registering in its archives an event of this kind. There were nobles, who made war against each other; there was the king, who made war against the cardinal; there was Spain, which made war against the king. Then, in addition to these concealed or public, secret or open wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels, who made war upon everybody. The citizens always took up arms readily against thieves, wolves or scoundrels, often against nobles or Huguenots, sometimes against the king, but never against cardinal or Spain. It resulted, then, from this habit that on the said first Monday of April, 1625, the citizens, on hearing the clamor, and seeing neither the red-and-yellow standard nor the livery of the Duc de Richelieu, rushed toward the hostel of the Jolly Miller. When arrived there, the cause of the hubbub was apparent to all.”

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Book #8

“A sharp clip-crop of iron-shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage.

Jane Withersteen gazed down the wide purple slope with dreamy and troubled eyes. A rider had just left her and it was his message that held her thoughtful and almost sad, awaiting the churchmen who were coming to resent and attack her right to befriend a Gentile.

She wondered if the unrest and strife that had lately come to the little village of Cottonwoods was to involve her. And then she sighed, remembering that her father had founded this remotest border settlement of southern Utah and that he had left it to her. She owned all the ground and many of the cottages. Withersteen House was hers, and the great ranch, with its thousands of cattle, and the swiftest horses of the sage. To her belonged Amber Spring, the water which gave verdure and beauty to the village and made living possible on that wild purple upland waste. She could not escape being involved by whatever befell Cottonwoods.”

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

Book #9

“During whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows—upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life—the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart—an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it—I paused to think—what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of…”

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

Book #10

“When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too. She had a little thin face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression. Her hair was yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been ill in one way or another. Her father had held a position under the English Government and had always been busy and ill himself, and her mother had been a great beauty who cared only to go to parties and amuse herself with gay people. She had not wanted a little girl at all, and when Mary was born she handed her over to the care of an Ayah, who was made to understand that if she wished to please the Mem Sahib she must keep the child out of sight as much as possible. So when she was a sickly, fretful, ugly little baby she was kept out of the way, and when she became a sickly, fretful, toddling thing she was kept out of the way also. She never remembered seeing familiarly anything but the dark faces of her Ayah and the other native servants, and as they always obeyed her and gave her her own way in everything, because the Mem Sahib would be angry if she was disturbed by her crying, by the time she was six years old she was as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived. The young English governess who came to teach her to read and write disliked her so much that she gave up her place in three months, and when other governesses came to try to fill it they always went away in a shorter time than the first one. So if Mary had not chosen to really want to know how to read books she would never have learned her letters at all.”

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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

Telling tales or making sales? The author as entrepreneur

January 25, 2012

Telling tales or making sales? The author as entrepreneur

This is just me, thinking in pixels.

I don’t have an answer for you, or even advice.

I’m just pondering something, and I’ll be interested to see your response (if any).

In the traditionally published world, an author can just be an author.

It’s possible for someone to really want to simply tell a story.

They write a book, submit it to agents, get one who finds a publisher, and don’t have to be concerned about much else.

If the book is good, reasonably promoted, and the publisher finds it an audience, the author has focused on the writing.

Almost all of the advice I see for people who are independently publishing is how to get people to buy the book.

Not how to write it.

There is a sense to me that if you write a mediocre book and promote it extraordinarily well, you can be a successful author.

That’s obviously idealized on my part. Authors in the traditional publishing system certainly might have written a book in a way to get it selected by a publisher. The author might be consulted on non-writing issues (the cover, the layout). The author might have to do a lot of promotion outside the publisher’s efforts to get the book to sell.

Still…

I have a hard time picturing Hemingway or Capote figuring out how to get more user reviews and timing giveaways to move up the bestseller lists.

One of the clear strategies for indies: quantity.

When we hear about really successful authors using KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), I notice they’ve often published ten books in a year or two.

Ten books!

Is it really because the bureaucracy of traditional publishing slowed the production so much that the author could have been writing a classic book every month or so if they had only gotten it together? Is it because of the publishers that we didn’t have fifty Rabbit Angstrom books from John Updike instead of six?

Now, I greatly admire Lester Dent who wrote most of the Doc Savage pulp adventures (under the house name* of Kenneth Robeson). I’m always impressed that Dent was writing an eighty or hundred page novel a month.

I suppose some people would equate pulp work like that with somebody publishing ten novels through KDP in a year, and that may be a legitimate comparison.

However, it just feels like all the advice is on gaming the system.

Do a free day. Put the book in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library**. Exchange reviews with other authors. Tweet. Comment here (and not there).

It suggests to me…that promotion is more important than product.

Now, certainly, the publishers have always thought like that…how to get the maximum sales through promotion.

They were paid to do that…so the authors didn’t have to do it.

Does it change writing? As promotion becomes more of a science, will really great books fail because their independently-publishing authors don’t know the rules? “You tweeted twice on a Tuesday? No wonder no one read your book, Mr. Twain.”

recently wrote in another blog I have (that apparently almost no one reads, but I have fun writing in it from time to time) about the movie, The Devil Inside.

It’s an inexpensive horror movie, picked up by a distributor for $1 million. In the opening weekend, it grossed $33.7 million in the USA.

“Yay!” you think, “a quality small movie found a distributor and reached the audience it deserved.”

Unfortunately, by pretty much every measure we have, the movie isn’t a good movie. It got overwhelmingly, practically historic, bad user reviews (and terrible reviews from professional critics, by the way).

More importantly, the box office has absolutely crashed, dropping an astounding 83% from the first week to the second.

People all over the movie industry are going to try to emulate that success. :)

After all, it’s easier to find bad movies than good ones…they are more common.  It you can make tens of millions of dollars with very low risk, that’s a good business model.

Okay, sure…you still want blockbusters. I don’t think Burger King is going to do The Devil Inside action figures, and merchandising makes a lot of money.

Is that the model for new authors, though?

Promotion over product…the book doesn’t have to be good, you just have to find that elusive formula that gets people to buy it…whether they like it or not?

I’m not good at promotion. I’ve had people tell me that I should be breaking up my books into a bunch of small books. I’d make more money with ten books each on one topic rather than one book with ten topics in it.

That’s probably true…but it doesn’t seem like as good a value for the reader.

In fact, I recently combined three of my books into one…at the same price for which I was selling each of the individual titles.

I go back and add more to books I’ve already written…because I want to give people more.

I’m certainly not saying I’m better than anybody else for doing that. I just want people to get value. I don’t want to have to spend time promoting ten different titles like that…I do want to concentrate on the writing.

I’ve had people ask me how to promote their books: I dunno.

This blog sells well. My latest book is selling better than I might have expected.

I don’t have anywhere near the sales as the successful independent authors that get into the news, though.

I congratulate them on that. Getting large numbers of sales like that is great! It’s not something I do well, but I’m impressed by other people doing it.

Again, I’m just thinking about this. I suppose my main question is, “Does the traditional publishing model allow authors to just concentrate on the art, where independently published authors concentrate on the business?”

It’s funny, because my first thought would be that indie publishing is passion publishing…you want to get that one novel you’ve been writing for years out to the public, so people can read it. It seems, though, to be more about, “How can I make a living as a writer?” Nothing wrong with that…I think authors should be compensated for their work, and I like the idea of professional writers.

I’m just not sure that I like authors focusing on how to make sales, rather than how to tell tales.

What do you think?

* A “house name” is owned by the publisher, and several author may write using that name. “Kenneth Roberson” was an example of that

** The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) is a set of books from which eligible Amazon Prime members (who typically pay $79 a year to get free two-day shipping on many items) can borrow up to one a month for no additional cost

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

Classic Openings #1

January 24, 2012

Classic Openings #1

We haven’t done a game in a while, so here you go. :)

These are the opening lines from famous classic novels.

The game?

Guess the novel…and/or the author.

Give yourself ten points for the title and five points for the author.

Note: these may not be the very first words (I might skip a preface or introduction), but they are arguably the first words of the story.

Book #1

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.”

Book #2

“The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.

The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

The nineteenth century dislike of realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.”

Book #3

St. Petersburgh, Dec. 11th, 17—

TO Mrs. Saville, England

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. I arrived here yesterday, and my first task is to assure my dear sister of my welfare and increasing confidence in the success of my undertaking.

I am already far north of London, and as I walk in the streets of Petersburgh, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves and fills me with delight. Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has travelled from the regions towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes. Inspirited by this wind of promise, my daydreams become more fervent and vivid. I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight. There, Margaret, the sun is forever visible, its broad disk just skirting the horizon and diffusing a perpetual splendour. There—for with your leave, my sister, I will put some trust in preceding navigators—there snow and frost are banished; and, sailing over a calm sea, we may be wafted to a land surpassing in wonders and in beauty every region hitherto discovered on the habitable globe. Its productions and features may be without example, as the phenomena of the heavenly bodies undoubtedly are in those undiscovered solitudes. What may not be expected in a country of eternal light? I may there discover the wondrous power which attracts the needle and may regulate a thousand celestial observations that require only this voyage to render their seeming eccentricities consistent forever. I shall satiate my ardent curiosity with the sight of a part of the world never before visited, and may tread a land never before imprinted by the foot of man. These are my enticements, and they are sufficient to conquer all fear of danger or death and to induce me to commence this laborious voyage with the joy a child feels when he embarks in a little boat, with his holiday mates, on an expedition of discovery up his native river. But supposing all these conjectures to be false, you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind, to the last generation, by discovering a passage near the pole to those countries, to reach which at present so many months are requisite; or by ascertaining the secret of the magnet, which, if at all possible, can only be effected by an undertaking such as mine.”

Book #4

“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”

Book #5

“Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.”

Book #6

“It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,”

Book #7

“In 1815, M. Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of D—— He was an old man of about seventy-five years of age; he had occupied the see of D—— since 1806.

Although this detail has no connection whatever with the real substance of what we are about to relate, it will not be superfluous, if merely for the sake of exactness in all points, to mention here the various rumors and remarks which had been in circulation about him from the very moment when he arrived in the diocese. True or false, that which is said of men often occupies as important a place in their lives, and above all in their destinies, as that which they do. M. Myriel was the son of a councillor of the Parliament of Aix; hence he belonged to the nobility of the bar. It was said that his father, destining him to be the heir of his own post, had married him at a very early age, eighteen or twenty, in accordance with a custom which is rather widely prevalent in parliamentary families. In spite of this marriage, however, it was said that Charles Myriel created a great deal of talk. He was well formed, though rather short in stature, elegant, graceful, intelligent; the whole of the first portion of his life had been devoted to the world and to gallantry.”

Book #8

“On the first Monday of the month of April, 1625, the market town of Meung, in which the author of ROMANCE OF THE ROSE was born, appeared to be in as perfect a state of revolution as if the Huguenots had just made a second La Rochelle of it. Many citizens, seeing the women flying toward the High Street, leaving their children crying at the open doors, hastened to don the cuirass, and supporting their somewhat uncertain courage with a musket or a partisan, directed their steps toward the hostelry of the Jolly Miller, before which was gathered, increasing every minute, a compact group, vociferous and full of curiosity.

In those times panics were common, and few days passed without some city or other registering in its archives an event of this kind. There were nobles, who made war against each other; there was the king, who made war against the cardinal; there was Spain, which made war against the king. Then, in addition to these concealed or public, secret or open wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels, who made war upon everybody. The citizens always took up arms readily against thieves, wolves or scoundrels, often against nobles or Huguenots, sometimes against the king, but never against cardinal or Spain. It resulted, then, from this habit that on the said first Monday of April, 1625, the citizens, on hearing the clamor, and seeing neither the red-and-yellow standard nor the livery of the Duc de Richelieu, rushed toward the hostel of the Jolly Miller. When arrived there, the cause of the hubbub was apparent to all.”

Book #8

“A sharp clip-crop of iron-shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage.

Jane Withersteen gazed down the wide purple slope with dreamy and troubled eyes. A rider had just left her and it was his message that held her thoughtful and almost sad, awaiting the churchmen who were coming to resent and attack her right to befriend a Gentile.

She wondered if the unrest and strife that had lately come to the little village of Cottonwoods was to involve her. And then she sighed, remembering that her father had founded this remotest border settlement of southern Utah and that he had left it to her. She owned all the ground and many of the cottages. Withersteen House was hers, and the great ranch, with its thousands of cattle, and the swiftest horses of the sage. To her belonged Amber Spring, the water which gave verdure and beauty to the village and made living possible on that wild purple upland waste. She could not escape being involved by whatever befell Cottonwoods.”

Book #9

“During whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it was—but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say insufferable; for the feeling was unrelieved by any of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the scene before me—upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain—upon the bleak walls—upon the vacant eye-like windows—upon a few rank sedges—and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees—with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream of the reveller upon opium—the bitter lapse into every-day life—the hideous dropping off of the veil. There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart—an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. What was it—I paused to think—what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of…”

Book #10

“When Mary Lennox was sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. It was true, too. She had a little thin face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression. Her hair was yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been ill in one way or another. Her father had held a position under the English Government and had always been busy and ill himself, and her mother had been a great beauty who cared only to go to parties and amuse herself with gay people. She had not wanted a little girl at all, and when Mary was born she handed her over to the care of an Ayah, who was made to understand that if she wished to please the Mem Sahib she must keep the child out of sight as much as possible. So when she was a sickly, fretful, ugly little baby she was kept out of the way, and when she became a sickly, fretful, toddling thing she was kept out of the way also. She never remembered seeing familiarly anything but the dark faces of her Ayah and the other native servants, and as they always obeyed her and gave her her own way in everything, because the Mem Sahib would be angry if she was disturbed by her crying, by the time she was six years old she was as tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived. The young English governess who came to teach her to read and write disliked her so much that she gave up her place in three months, and when other governesses came to try to fill it they always went away in a shorter time than the first one. So if Mary had not chosen to really want to know how to read books she would never have learned her letters at all.”

Answers to come in a future post…have fun!

Update: one of my readers, Jj Hitt, asked where to send the answers. I’ll give people a day or so to guess, then I’ll do the answers and publish any comments. You were right, by the way, Jj. :)

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

Top 20 analysis January 22 2012

January 23, 2012

Top 20 analysis January 22 2012

Taking a look at the top twenty paid titles in the USA Kindle store, there is some very interesting data this time.

First, the list:

Rank Price Agency KOLL TTS Lending Indie
1 4.69 No Yes Yes Yes No
2 7.70 No Yes Yes Yes No
3 1.99 No No Yes Yes No
4 5.98 No Yes Yes Yes No
5 7.03 No No Yes No No
6 0.99 No Yes Yes Yes Yes
7 9.99 Yes No Yes No No
8 2.99 No No Yes No Yes
9 4.99 No Yes Yes No No
10 10.51 No No Yes Yes No
11 12.99 Yes No Yes No No
12 1.99 No No Yes No No
13 12.99 Yes No Yes No No
14 0.99 No No Yes Yes Yes
15 9.99 Yes No No No No
16 2.99 No Yes No No No
17 12.99 Yes No Yes No No
18 12.99 Yes No No No No
19 9.99 Yes No No No No
20 4.98 No No Yes No No

Again, these are paid bestsellers in the Kindle store…freebies don’t count. That listed is updated every hour, which is why I stopped at twenty. I’ve done it before with larger numbers, and had them shift under me while I was working on them.

Now, here is some basic analysis:

  • The average price is $6.99
  • Only 7 out of the 20 were Agency Model titles (35%)
  • 6 of the 20 were in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL)*  (the ones eligible Prime members can borrow for free) (30%)
  • Only 4 of the 20 had text-to-speech blocked (20%)
  • 7 of the 20 had lending enabled (35%)
  • Only 3 of the 20 were from independent publishers (15%)

The next question for me is how each of these factors affects the sales. I do that by averaging the ranking of the ones that have the feature versus the ones that don’t. The lower the ranking, the better (it’s better to be number 1 than number 20).

Agency: 14.29

Non-Agency: 8.46

It is significantly better to be non-Agency than Agency.

KOLL: 6.33

Non-KOLL: 12.29

It is close to twice as good to be in the KOLL as out of it.

Text-to speech: 8.88

Text-to-speech blocked: 17.67

It is much better not to block text-to-speech.

Lending enabled: 5.71

Lending not enabled: 13.08

It is much better to have lending enabled.

Indie: 9.33

Traditionally published: 10.71

Indies have a slight edge.

I know it’s only the top twenty titles, but I’ve been feeling like fewer and fewer titles are having text-to-speech blocked, and this seems to suggest that. I was interested to see how many of the books are in the KOLL. Amazon has indicated that they think being available for those kinds of loans helps paid sales. I would presume that the “borrows” don’t directly affect this ranking, although I’m not sure.

What appears to be the rise of traditionally-published non-Agency books is also intriguing. Part of that is Scholastic, and part of that is the Hunger Games trilogy.

I’m surprised the peer-to-peer (customer to customer) lending had that much of an impact. Most major publishers don’t allow that, so it’s interesting to even have this many in the top twenty.

Oh, and one other thing not reflected above: one of the titles was from Montlake, Amazon’s own romance imprint. That may really be another reason that the power of the Agency Model publishers may be fading, at least at Amazon itself.

Update: one of my readers, Marvin, brought up my use of the word “only” on some stats and not others…good job with the observation! I responded to Marvin in the comments, but I’m going to copy it here, because I do think everybody might find it interesting, and on-Kindle subscribers don’t always see the comments:

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Marvin:

Hello Bufo.
Looking at the basic analysis just after the table I can see what you prefer and what you don’t like. You put the word ‘only’ in those features you don’t like, but to confirm a ruke, you have one exception, because I think you like independent publishers.
You put ‘only’ with 20 and 35%(blocked TTS and agency model, you do not like these), but you did not use that word with 30% for KOLL which you like. What do you think about my analysis ?

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My response:

Thanks for writing, Marvin!

Yes, the inconsistent use of “only” was intentional. :) It’s not so much what I prefer…as is often the case with analysis, ascribing motivation is often over-reaching. As a trainer, I’m usually (but not always) aware of the motivational impact of the words I choose. Using “only” was intended to indicate what was a surprise, what was outside what might have been expected, based on analyses I’ve done in the past or what I take to be general expectations.

I wasn’t trying to hide my preferences, which I’ll state openly for you here (and which I have probably made clear in the past in the blog). I appreciate you asking…it lets me be a bit more thorough here:

Average price: I’m pretty neutral on this. I don’t mind e-books costing more than $9.99. However, I did want to show that the average price was neither near ten dollars (as we might have thought two years ago) nor near $1 (as we might have thought a year ago).

Agency model: One might presume that the Agency Model books, being from the Big Six US trade publishers, would be a higher percentage. They are the bestsellers in the country, after all, so it’s interesting that so few of them are the bestsellers in the Kindle store. I am negative on the Agency Model: I think it is not only anti-competitive for the consumer, but a business model that is negative for the publishers. I may be prejudiced about that, being a former retailer

KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library): This is a very new feature, and Amazon has suggested that being in the KOLL improves sales. Having that large number of KOLL titles in the top twenty was telling, in that regard. I’m positive on Amazon trying something new, and I think it’s a clever way for them to get people to buy physical goods from them (by making Prime more attractive). I’m unsure of the impact on authors/publishers yet, so I’m neutral on that

Text-to-speech: I deliberately use the phrase “blocking text-to-speech access” when I describe the situation. It’s a more accurate description of what is happening, in my opinion, than “enabled” or not, as the description is on the books’ Amazon product pages. If the publisher does nothing, text-to-speech works. Blocking the access is the active position: they have to insert code into the file to achieve that. I use the term “access” because it is associated with the disabled, and I think blocking TTS disproportionately disadvantages the disabled. I’m negative on blocking text-to-speech access, and have written about that extensively. The surprise here is that so few of the popular books have it blocked. In my past analyses, I had not seen that being the case. So, again, the “only” here is because of the surprise

Lending enabled: the high number of books with lending (between consumers) enabled here absolutely shocked me. My intuition is that it is on so few books and so limited, people don’t make buying decisions based on it. That appears to be incorrect, and I love being proved wrong by the data. Now of course, there are intertwined factors. Traditional publishers don’t tend to enable lending, and they tend to have higher price points. It would take a lot more analysis to separate the factors…do people prefer lending to be enabled, or is it that they like something else that happens to go along with it? That danger of conflation is common in analysis. I’m not sure how I feel about enabling lending or not. I don’t mind that publishers don’t enable it…it doesn’t fall into the same category as text-to-speech to me, which seems to be controlling a non-infringing use. I don’t think that it is a right of people to be able to share the rights they’ve licensed…but I do think it’s nice. :)

Independent publishers: I don’t side automatically with indies, and in fact, my guess is that many people would think I like traditional publishers too much. :) I like breaking the dominance that the tradpubs had over paperbook distribution, but I like what a lot of traditional publishers have done in the past, and I think that some will be more flexible and innovative than might be commonly supposed. For example, I like Del Rey, and I liked the Ace Doubles. Those are publisher decisions. The surprise for me here was that the rest of the questions seemed to fit the profile of independent publishers (not blocking TTS, enabling lending, being in the KOLL), but I was seeing traditionally published books that weren’t part of the Agency Model doing the same thing, to some extent.

As to your question about your analysis:

The first part of the process is excellent. You made a good observation: I used “only” on some statistics, and not others.

The second part is the hypothesis, saying why you think that’s true. You’ve stated that, although it’s hard to test whether I prefer something or not. That’s where it veers from what I would consider analysis and scientific propositions. It could certainly be appropriate in criminology.

The next step would be experimentation (or at least, observation) to see if your hypothesis is confirmed. You could also go back to look at my previous analyses to see if they match up with what you would predict (which you would have to state clearly).

Oh, and “the exception proves the rule” isn’t something I’ve ever found a convincing construct. Do we think gravity is less good as a postulate unless it inexplicably fails on something? :)

I think I’m going to move part of this into the main article…thanks again for asking!

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* Thanks to reader Larry James for pointing out that I didn’t put KOLL and “Kindle Owners Lending Library” right next to each other. I’ve changed that to make the terminology clearer.

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


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