Archive for March, 2012

Tweading in the bookstream

March 31, 2012

Tweading in the bookstream

It’s rare that a new feature blows me away, but Amazon has just introduced something in the latest Kindle Fire update that has me reeling with the possibilities.

Like a lot of game changers (Twitter, perforated toilet paper), it’s a simple concept.

You are reading a book.

You tap the top of the screen, and then tap a little word balloon at the bottom of the screen.

You are seeing a stream of comments from other readers…and, maybe, from the author! You can add your own comment and if the book is popular enough, get a response in seconds. Of course, with the kinds of books I read sometimes, it might be hours…or days…or never. ;)

That’s it.

Social interaction based on books…not TV shows, not pop music, not videogames.

While I would certainly like to see some added features, it’s brilliant in its simplicity.

For me, this is the killer social app that the Kindle has always suggested it could do.

I’ve written about it a couple of times already (here and in The Writers Guide to E-Publishing. I’m seeing some very interesting reactions.

One is authors saying that they’ll now need to buy a Kindle Fire…because they see the potential of being part of it.

Another one was somebody being sad about the concept. For that person, reading is a contemplative activity, and chatting seemed to be interrupting that “quiet zone”.

I do get that (even though it’s not the way my mind works).

However, there is no need for it to affect you, if you don’t want it to do that. You have to choose to be involved.

I’d never do it with a novel which I haven’t finished and haven’t read before. I wouldn’t want the spoilers: you aren’t commenting about a specific point in the book (although you can include a passage, if you want), but about the book generally. I’d be too worried about spoilers.

However, with a novel I have read?

Absolutely!

I first went to The Hunger Games, figuring if anything would be live with social media, it would be.

I’ve gone back several times already, and it’s very active! I’ve seen seven posts in a single minute.

A lot of the conversation is simple social, and not even about the book. However, I’m surprised that people identifying themselves as in fourth and fifth  grade are reading that book.

I’ve also seen good questions about the book, and added a couple of answers.

Similarly, there is a lot of activity in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but it is much more serious.

I’ve added my own comment to Love Your Kindle Fire…and mine is the only one so far. :) Not surprisingly, I may also be the first person to run into the 300 character posting limit. ;)

While I see tremendous opportunities here, particularly with nonfiction and academic uses, I did have some questions about exactly how it worked.

For example, my comments have my name…but a lot of them said, “Unknown”. I wasn’t sure why that it is. I suspected it may be because the posters are under age, and I’m still not quite sure about that.

What I did, though, was ask Amazon some questions…and I got an answer back within a day! That’s not because I’m a blogger…it’s just how good they typically are at Customer Service, at least in my experience.

Let me give you my questions and their answers;

===

I think that the new sharing feature in 6.3 is a real game changer in connecting authors and readers. However, I do have some questions:

1. Are there guidelines about what can be posted? Could an author, for example, promote another book in a “twead” (that’s what I’m calling these public notes…from “tweet” and “read”)?

2. Why are some people shown with their names (as I am) and some people just shown as “unknown”?

3. Is there any connection with Amazon Friends (the old version or the Facebook version)?

4. Why are some tweads from months ago? Does this include any public notes?

5. How does this relate to being followed at kindle.amazon.com?

6. How long do the tweads stay visible in the book?

I’d love to see:

1. A way to limit the note’s visibility to a specific group of people…I could see teachers using that for a class

2. A notification of a new twead

3. An ability to search the tweads in a book

4. An ability to connect with people (if they allow it) by long-pressing on their twead…or perhaps, to follow them that way

Thanks!

The answer I got:

===

Hello, Thanks for contacting us with your inquiry. I’d love to help you and explain the situation. I see that you’ve written to us about several issues. I’ll do my best to provide a thorough answer to each of your inquiries in this message.

I checked and see that there guidelines about what can be posted using share feature on Kindle Fire.

I see that an author can promote another book in a “twead”. Amazon is pleased to provide this forum for you to share your opinions on books.

I see that the same rules for that apply for reviewing books listed below apply for sharing your thoughts using this feature. http://www.amazon.com/gp/community-help/customer-reviews-guidelines

I see that some people are shown with their names if they are logged into their account and submitted their name for the shared content. Otherwise it will be listed as unknown.

I also see that the sharing feature is enhanced in Kindle Fire. It is still connected to the older version. To share your favorite passages from your Kindle books and your thoughts about them, tap and hold on a word or phrase while reading. Tap “Share.” Tap within the text field that says “Share your thoughts with the Kindle community” to enter any thoughts about the text you selected, then tap the Share button.

Your entry will be added to your Amazon Kindle profile at http://kindle.amazon.com/your_reading.

If you also check the boxes next to the Twitter or Facebook symbol, your entry can be shared through your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Follow the onscreen instructions to set up sharing features and follow your Twitter or Facebook friends on kindle.amazon.com.

I see that shared content also includes public notes and it will be listed along with the date it was created and some are older notes. Public Notes lets Kindle users choose to make their book notes and highlights available for others to see. You can review and turn on Public Notes in your own books, follow people to get their Public Notes and reading activities, as well as check out Popular Highlights, your annotations, and your full library of books at https://kindle.amazon.com

If someone you follow has highlighted a passage in a book and has turned on Public Notes for the book, you’ll see that passage highlighted along with the name of the person who highlighted it. You’ll see the “@” symbol displayed in the text where any notes were made.

You are unable to restrict who can see your Public Notes once you turn them on in a book. Public Notes is a feature that allows Kindle users choose to make their book notes and highlights available for others to see. You have to turn on Public Notes for a book through our website before anyone else can see your highlights and notes in that book. Go to https://kindle.amazon.com/your_reading to make your highlights and notes visible through Public Notes. With this feature turned on for a book, all your notes and marks for that book become public.

If you’ve any further queries or need additional information, please let us know so we can assist you further.

That doesn’t tell me everything I want to know, but it’s a big help.

Again, I realize that some of you will never dip your minds into the bookstream, and certainly may not ever “twead”.

However, if Stephen King was going to appear in a book at a given time and answer your questions, wouldn’t that intrigue you? Anne Rice?  How about a scientist…or a celebrity or political figure?

This could be the new book signing, a new way to connect authors with readers.

By the way, this has also finally gotten me to start doing public notes. :) I’ve always wanted to provide notes for people on books I’ve read, but it was too hard to write the notes on an RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle…anything but a Kindle Fire). If you’d like to follow me, or see my notes, you can do that from here:

https://kindle.amazon.com/profile/Bufo-Calvin/827

I’ll have to edit those more…I highlight errors to send to publishers, and I don’t think you want to see those. :) You’ll only see public notes if I turned them on for specific books, by the way. I’ll take a look at that for the ones I’ve done in the past.

What do you think? Am I blowing this tweading thing all out of proportion? Is it just going to be taken over by recess talk? Is it just too different from your reading experience? Could you see it being used by book clubs? Is the ability to limit it to a circle essential before you will use it? Feel free to tell me what you think.

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

Ten random public domain freebies #2

March 30, 2012

Ten random public domain freebies #2

This is the second in a series. In this one, I’ve expanded the listings by including the opening of the book, to replicate that feeling of opening a book and reading it a bit to see if you like it. If my random search returns a title from the previous post, I’ll randomize again.

One of the things people say they miss when shopping online is that sense of random discovery you get in a physical store.

When you go online, you tend to search for something specific.

When you walk in a store, you never know what you’ll find. Heck, they might even have changed where the sections are.

That was especially true of used bookstores. I loved finding some obscure old title…the kind you couldn’t figure out how it ever got published in the first place.

Alternatively, maybe it was something that was clearly popular at one time.

The point is, you never quite knew what you’d see.

So, I decided to replicate that experience.

When you do a search at Amazon, you can only see 400 results.

I used

http://www.ereaderiq.com/search/

to limit my search to free public domain titles, and to rank the results by popularity.

Next, I used

http://www.random.org/integers/

to find me ten random numbers from 1 to 400.

The books below are the results of that search…have fun wandering down the aisle! :)

#15. Great Expectations
by Charles Dickens
original publication: 1861

Opening:

“My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.”

#32. The Chessmen of Mars
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
original publication: 1922

This is the fifth book in the Barsoom series (the basis for the current John Carter movie).

Opening:

“Shea had just beaten me at chess, as usual, and, also as usual, I had gleaned what questionable satisfaction I might by twitting him with this indication of failing mentality by calling his attention to the nth time to that theory, propounded by certain scientists, which is based upon the assertion that phenomenal chess players are always found to be from the ranks of children under twelve, adults over seventy-two or the mentally defective—a theory that is lightly ignored upon those rare occasions that I win. Shea had gone to bed and I should have followed suit, for we are always in the saddle here before sunrise; but instead I sat there before the chess table in the library, idly blowing smoke at the dishonored head of my defeated king.”

#39: White Fang
by Jack London
original publication: 1906

London tells the story of a wolf-dog hybrid…partially from the point of view of the dog.

Opening:

“Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean towards each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness–a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.”

#43: A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
original publication: 1843

One of the greats! I’ve parodied it in A Kindle Carol.

Opening:

“I HAVE endeavoured in this Ghostly little book,
to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my
readers out of humour with themselves, with each other,
with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses
pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”

#176: Legends of the Gods The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations
by E. A. Wallis Budge
original publication: 1912

Opening:

“THE LEGEND OF THE GOD NEB-ER-TCHER, AND THE HISTORY OF CREATION. The text of the remarkable Legend of the Creation which forms the first section of this volume is preserved in a well-written papyrus in the British Museum, where it bears the number 10,188. This papyrus was acquired by the late Mr. A. H. Rhind in 1861 or 1862, when he was excavating some tombs on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes. He did not himself find it in a tomb, but he received it from the British Consul at Luxor, Mustafa Agha, during an interchange of gifts when Mr. Rhind was leaving the country. Mustafa Agha obtained the papyrus from the famous hiding-place of the Royal Mummies at Der-al-Bahari, with the situation of which he was well acquainted for many years before it became known to the Egyptian Service of Antiquities. When Mr. Rhind came to England, the results of his excavations were examined by Dr. Birch, who, recognising the great value of the papyrus, arranged to publish it in a companion volume to Facsimiles of Two Papyri, but the death of Mr. Rhind in 1865 caused the project to fall through. Mr. Rhind’s collection passed into the hands of Mr. David Bremner, and the papyrus, together with many other antiquities, was purchased by the Trustees of the British Museum. In 1880 Dr. Birch suggested the publication of the papyrus to Dr. Pleyte, the Director of the Egyptian Museum at Leyden. This savant transcribed and translated some passages from the Festival Songs of Isis and Nephthys, which is the first text in it, and these he published in Recueil de Travaux, Paris, tom. iii., pp. 57-64. In 1886 by Dr. Birch’s kindness I was allowed to work at the papyrus, and I published transcripts of some important passages and the account of the Creation in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, 1886-7, pp. 11-26. The Legend of the Creation was considered by Dr. H. Brugsch to be of considerable value for the study of the Egyptian Religion, and encouraged by him[FN#1] I made a full transcript of the papyrus, which was published in Archaeologia, (vol. lii., London, 1891), with transliterations and translations. In 1910 I edited for the Trustees of the British Museum the complete hieratic text with a revised translation.”

#217: The Awakening and Selected Short Stories
by Kate Chopin
original publication: 1899

This one was pretty controversial in its day…

Opening:

“A green and yellow parrot, which hung in a cage outside the door, kept repeating over and over: “Allez vous-en! Allez vous-en! Sapristi! That’s all right!””

#223: The Symbolism of Freemasonry
by Albert G. Mackey
original publication: 1882

Opening:

“Preliminary. The Origin and Progress of Freemasonry. Any inquiry into the symbolism and philosophy of Freemasonry must necessarily be preceded by a brief investigation of the origin and history of the institution. Ancient and universal as it is, whence did it arise? What were the accidents connected with its birth? From what kindred or similar association did it spring? Or was it original and autochthonic, independent, in its inception, of any external influences, and unconnected with any other institution? These are questions which an intelligent investigator will be disposed to propound in the very commencement of the inquiry; and they are questions which must be distinctly answered before he can be expected to comprehend its true character as a symbolic institution. He must know something of its antecedents, before he can appreciate its character.”

#225: Welsh Fairy Tales
by William Elliot Griffis
original publication: 1921

Opening:

“Long, long ago, there was a good saint named David, who taught the early Cymric or Welsh people better manners and many good things to eat and ways of enjoying themselves. Now the Welsh folks in speaking of their good teacher pronounced his name Tafid and affectionately Taffy, and this came to be the usual name for a person born in Wales.”

#335: Silas Marner
by George Elliott
original publication: 1861

“In the days when the spinning-wheels hummed busily in the farmhouses—and even great ladies, clothed in silk and thread-lace, had their toy spinning-wheels of polished oak—there might be seen in districts far away among the lanes, or deep in the bosom of the hills, certain pallid undersized men, who, by the side of the brawny country-folk, looked like the remnants of a disinherited race. The shepherd’s dog barked fiercely when one of these alien-looking men appeared on the upland, dark against the early winter sunset; for what dog likes a figure bent under a heavy bag?—and these pale men rarely stirred abroad without that mysterious burden. The shepherd himself, though he had good reason to believe that the bag held nothing but flaxen thread, or else the long rolls of strong linen spun from that thread, was not quite sure that this trade of weaving, indispensable though it was, could be carried on entirely without the help of the Evil One. In that far-off time superstition clung easily round every person or thing that was at all unwonted, or even intermittent and occasional merely, like the visits of the pedlar or the knife-grinder. No one knew where wandering men had their homes or their origin; and how was a man to be explained unless you at least knew somebody who knew his father and mother? To the peasants of old times, the world outside their own direct experience was a region of vagueness and mystery: to their untravelled thought a state of wandering was a conception as dim as the winter life of the swallows that came back with the spring; and even a settler, if he came from distant parts, hardly ever ceased to be viewed with a remnant of distrust, which would have prevented any surprise if a long course of inoffensive conduct on his part had ended in the commission of a crime; especially if he had any reputation for knowledge, or showed any skill in handicraft.”

#370: The Way We Live Now
by Anthony Trollope
original publication: 1875

Opening:

“Let the reader be introduced to Lady Carbury, upon whose character and doings much will depend of whatever interest these pages may have, as she sits at her writing-table in her own room in her own house in Welbeck Street. Lady Carbury spent many hours at her desk, and wrote many letters wrote also very much beside letters. She spoke of herself in these days as a woman devoted to Literature, always spelling the word with a big L. Something of the nature of her devotion may be learned by the perusal of three letters which on this morning she had written with a quickly running hand. Lady Carbury was rapid in everything, and in nothing more rapid than in the writing of letters.”

I have to say, I can completely imagine walking through a used bookstore and coming across these books! Maybe in the dollar bin, beaten up without dust covers…and a wild cover on a paperback of Chessmen!

The ability to get books like this free? One of the things I like best about e-books…

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

Kindle Fire update 6.3

March 29, 2012

Kindle Fire update 6.3

I reported a Kindle Fire update earlier today, along with some non-Fire news (for those of you keeping score). ;) I said I’d give you a fuller report when I had a chance to work with it, and I’m going to do that now. I’ll also update my book, Love Your Kindle Fire. That may take a few days…I have to do that in a neater fashion, and I also want to add some how-tos. After I update, I’ll ask Amazon to offer the update to previous buyers.

Let me also mention here that I’m doing this with the advantage of being able to compare two Kindle Fires side-by-side, one which has been updated and one which hasn’t. My Significant Other is off at the gym, and a reflective screen Kindle got that assignment. :)

First, your Kindle Fire should update on its own. You’d have to be connected to  wi-fi for it to get the download for the update, and then it would need to install the update. When I’m trying to get a Kindle of mine to do that, I typically sync with Amazon

Settings Gear – Sync

then turn off the Kindle (hold down the power button for a couple of seconds…it will ask you if you want to shut down) and then restart it.

However, I didn’t want to wait in this case, and you might not want to wait, either.

You can go to

http://www.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates

and then pick the Fire, or go directly to

Kindle Fire Software Update Version 6.3

Again, that shouldn’t be necessary…it’s just if you are in a hurry.

They have pretty good instructions there…if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Here are things I’ve noticed about the upgrade:

The Keyboard

This is a picture with the old version on top, the new version on the bottom. The top is “shifted” to capitals, by the way….

It’s different! The “hide button” has moved from your right to your left. If “long press” (hold your finger or stylus on it for about a second) the period, you’ll get a bunch of other punctuation…that’s a nice touch. There is now a “Next button” (I was comparing this in the native e-mail app on the Fire).  There was a .com button in this situation, which I really like.

The Settings Menu

This has really changed! It’s the same when you tap the Settings Gear, but when you tap More, they’ve certainly rearranged things

The old version was this:

  • Help & Feedback
  • My Account
  • Restrictions
  • Sounds
  • Display
  • Security
  • Applications
  • Date & Time
  • Wireless Network
  • Kindle Keyboard
  • Device
  • Legal Notices
  • Terms of Use

The new version (I’m comparing each choice, and if they are different, I’ll let you know):

  • Help & Feedback
  • My Account
  • Parental controls (this was called ‘Restrictions” before)
  • Sounds
  • Display
  • Applications (these are different on our two devices, but the options look like they are the same)
  • Date & Time
  • Wireless Network
  • Kindle Keyboard
  • Device
  • Legal Notices
  • Terms of Use

Web

What you may notice right away here is a little “glasses” icon at the bottom of the screen. That puts a web page into “article” mode. I wanted to test it, but interestingly, as I went to many webpages, the icon was gone. It did look nice on one page where I found it to work. You had to click a little x in your top right corner to get out of it…I was afraid that would close the webpage, but it didn’t.

I did check the settings for the Web…no different options.

Next, I went down the features they’d announced.

Sharing

I used The Hunger Games for these tests, figuring that if anything has been annotated and social mediaized, this would be it. ;)

I highlighted a passage, and in addition to Note, Highlight, Share, and Search. On the old version, it’s Note, Highlight, and More…(with More…giving you Search in Book, Search Wikipedia, Search Google).

Choosing Share was fascinating! I immediately saw a choice to share the highlight with “the Kindle Community”, and also to share to Twitter and Facebook. There was a blue “options” link I didn’t find stood out. Tapping that let me set up my Twitter and/or Facebook accounts, and showed samples.

More interestingly, I saw a series of other comments, when they were uploaded, and by whom (although many said by “Unknown”).  Clearly, there were forum like threads. They didn’t seem to be tied to a specific place in the book.

I entered something, and it also included my highlighted section, which is going to be confusing (since I just highlighted something at random).Still, this has real potential.

Oh, got it! There is a little word balloon, like in a comic book, on the menu…you can tap that and share without highlighting.

Yow! Must tear my eyes away! That’s going to be super-addictive. I think it’s generally better than some other technology based additions (this is, after all, literary), but I can also see people meeting up in a book to chat, oddly. Hmm, that’s an idea which I may use. Set up a date and time for people to chat with you…excellent idea for authors and experts!

This is a super winner for Amazon…amazing social. It could blow up like Twitter, but again, based on books. Not as big, of course, but I can absolutely see how people could disappear into it for hours at a time. Book clubs, here you  go! The only thing is that you can’t limit the group at this point…but it wouldn’t surprise me if Amazon let people set up groups of friends in the future. I’m also not quite sure what happens to…what to call them? Hm, maybe “tweads” because you are tweeting while you are reading? Okay, I’ll go with that…I’m not sure what happen to tweads over time…can you go back and read a thousand of them? Can you search them? Will they appear online somewhere?

Hmm…my highlight and the note I made with the highlight show up at

http://kindle.amazon.com

but not the twead I made without a highlight.

Book Extras

Bring up the menu in a book, and you’ll see Book Extras. No need for X-Ray for the Fire…well, no, it’s not the same, but very, very valuable. Characters, glossary, organizations…another big winner!

Archives of Personal Documents

I love this! You can go to the Docs tab, and you may need to sync. Then, you’ll see the documents you’ve sent through the personal document service (by e-mailing them to a Kindle). You’ll need to be on the Cloud tab. Tap one and it downloads.

You can also search on this page! I’m liking this.

They’ve said it will sync, meaning you could use books from Gutenberg, for example, or work documents, and start on one device and pick up on another.  I tested it by opening Just So Stories on my Fire, going to a spot, syncing, opening it on my Samsung Captivate (after syncing)…perfect! I’m impressed!

Print Replica Textbooks

Untested at this point

Movie Rentals

Not something I need to test, but it changes it so that the rental period (often 48 hours) from Amazon Instant Video doesn’t start as soon as you download to the Fire, but after you start watching it (you probably have to start watching within thirty days).

All in all…wow! These are major advancements.

I am noticing an oddness in response: I seem to end up on the Home page when I don’t mean to do that. It may just be more sensitive and I have to get used to it, but we’ll see. Let me know if you notice that.

Anything else you’ve noticed? Any questions? Feel free to comment on this post.

Update: I’ve written a post on “tweading” from the independent authors’ point of view in The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing. I really think this could be a breakout method for connecting authors and readers.

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

Round up #74: Fire update coming, global Touch

March 28, 2012

Round up #74: Fire update coming, global Touch

Amazon touches the world…all over

As of yesterday, the Kindle Touch 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi is available for pre-order (for release on April 27) in 175 countries.

press release

What, you thought they’d had it all along? :)

The Mindle has done very well abroad, apparently, ranking highly. The addition of the Touch has a couple of interesting implications.

First, it shows that Amazon is continuing to support reflective screen devices (as opposed to backlit devices like the Fire). Some people express concern about that…after all, the Fire has been the number one item, and there are people who are reading it on it regularly.

As I’ve mentioned before, that was a surprise for me. I didn’t expect to have the Fire be my main reading device, but it has become that. Even at home, I don’t usually switch to my Touch or Mindle.

Another interesting thing is that they are releasing it in seven languages (well, six languages and two variants):

  • German
  • French
  • Italian
  •  Spanish
  •  Brazilian Portuguese
  • American English
  • British English

The language experience appears to be similar to the Mindle. Text-to-speech is only in English, and it appears that you’ll be able to select your language on the fly (probably requiring a restart)…they aren’t offering seven different models, which is what the press release suggested to me.

My guess is that we’ll get this as an update for our current Touches.

Also, the press release is headlined about the Touch with wi-fi and 3G, but I checked both the British site and the French site, and they are offering both the wi-fi only and the wi-fi and 3G.

Fire update “coming soon” with added features

Amazon doesn’t usually tell us about an upcoming update until some people have started to get it. On the

Kindle Fire Software Update page

they are telling us about 6.3. If you’ve gotten it already, let me and my readers know. :)

I haven’t, yet, but I’ll check again later today.

I’ll do a full post after I have it and can test it, but I thought you might want to know what they tell us it will have.

Before I address the feature adds, though, I do want to say that two bug fixes would really matter. One is this “partial download” of books problem. I’ve had it happen a couple of times, as I’ve written about previously. You download a book, but part way through reading it, you have to connect again to continue. Yes, I have had that happen on an airplane, where I couldn’t “complete” the download. The other one is this issue with books that open up and they are blank. There are workarounds for that, but I’m hoping the update just makes it work.

So, a brief listing of the new features (again, I’ll do more in-depth in a later post:

  • Sharing passages: similar to what we’ve had on some other Kindles, you’ll be able to share a passage you highlight in a book via Twitter or Facebook, and it appears to be that these will also be part of the Popular Highlights program
  • Book extras: we’ll get the Shelfari information about the book that readers contribute to that service. That means you can get character profiles and more…great for homework :)
  • Archive of Personal Documents: if the implementation is like the recent update to the Kindle for Android app, it will be nice. :) I think you’ll see your personal documents on your Docs tab
  • Print Replica textbooks: that’s more availability for more robust textbooks
  • Reading View for Amazon Silk: again, bringing us something we’ve had on other Kindles…an “article mode”, make it easier to read websites
  • Movie rentals: this has been pretty inconvenient in the past. Once you downloaded a movie rental, your 48 hour viewing period started. That meant you could load up a few movies to watch over a week while you were on vacation away from wi-fi, for example. Now, the viewing period will start once you start watching it. If it’s like it has been for other devices, you will need to watch it within thirty days of download, but that’s fine
  • They also say there will be performance enhancements, including faster reconnect to wi-fi

I’m looking forward to seeing it! I expect I’ll have it within a day.

Update: reader and commenter jjhitt has posted this link:

http://kindle-fire-updates.s3.amazonaws.com/update-kindle-6.3_D01E_4019920.bin

That looks legitimate…still not official, though.

Update: this is the “I’ve done the update” update. ;) I’ll do it as a separate post when I get to test it. One good thing: it appears you can actually turn off the autocorrects now. That setting is in

Settings Gear – More – Kindle Keyboard

I tested it by typing “teh” with and without it. When the setting was on, it corrected it…when it was off, it didn’t. This has been a major complaint, particularly from those trying to type in non-English languages.

How did I do the update?

I was on my Fire and “long pressed” (I held my stylus on it for about a second) the link above from jjhittI chose to save the link.

That then put it in the Download folder. I used the free ES File Explorer to move it from that folder to KindleUpdates.

Then, I could go to

Settings Gear – More – Device

and choose to “update your Kindle”.

Three new Fires?

I’ve been hearing rumors about the number of Kindle Fire (or at least, Android) devices Amazon might add.

A reader sent me this link in a private e-mail:

Amazon May Launch Three More Kindle Fires in 2012

That would fit my expectations. In my speculations for 2012, I said

“…I also think we’ll see another seven-inch Kindle Fire…with more features (GPS, cameras), and that it will be more expensive.  My guess is we’ll see at least two of the larger screen”

So, three would fit right into it. :)

Feel free to tell me what you think…

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

All seven Harry Potter books can now be purchased for the Kindle

March 27, 2012

All seven Harry Potter books can now be purchased for the Kindle

They’re here!

Well, they are there…on Pottermore, but you can order them through the Kindle store.

Here are the seven books:

and here is the “landing page” that gets you started:

Harry Potter on Kindle
The first three books are $7.99 each, the second four are $9.99 each.

No omnibus at this point. UPDATE: thanks to reader Katie McQuage for pointing out that there is an omnibus available at Pottermore for $57.54…that’s about a 10% discount. I’m not quite sure that it works the same way since I’m not seeing that at the Kindle store…it may, and at Pottermore it does say the omnibus is available in Kindle format. Thanks, Katie!

You will have the typical abilities that you have with other Kindle books.

No samples are available. UPDATE: You can download a sample to your computer from the Pottermore site. I did that, and it came as an EPUB.

Text-to-speech access is not blocked.

Here is the Amazon help page on it: Harry Potter on Kindle help page

The process is more complicated than just buying a book from the Kindle store: you need to set up a Pottermore account. I’m going to do this later, and I’ll update this post. I wanted to let you know about the ability to buy them right away, though…I know a lot of you have felt like it was “Harry Potter and the Endless Wait”. ;)

I’m really excited about this! It makes the books so much more available to people with certain challenges. I had a relative who had one of the books torn into pieces (despite the cringeworthiness of that) because it was just too heavy to hold, due to physical conditions.

UPDATE: The process for Pottermore

1. Go to one of the books above and click the “Buy at Pottermore” button

2. The Welcome to the Pottermore shop screen appears. You may need want to click a redirect link at the bottom of the screen, or just give it a few seconds.

3. If you’d rather have the original British version rather than the American version, switch the book language in the dropdown to English (GB) (for Great Britain)

4. Click the blue Add to Basket button. If you are quick, you may be able to click a Go to Basket link. Otherwise, click the Basket button in your top right corner of the screen (that’s like your Cart at Amazon)

5. Click Proceed to Checkout

6. You’ll now either create a Pottermore store account, or sign into your existing one (if necessary). You’ll be asked for

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • E-mail
  • Password (at least six characters with both letters and numbers)
  • A security question choice
  • The answer for the security question
  • Your country of residence
  • Your preferred language (they only currently give you US or GB English)
  • Whether or not you want to get promo offers

You’ll need to type enCaptcha words that you see.  You’ll also need to agree to the Terms & Conditions and the Privacy Policy.

I’ll say that it was pretty irritating that it rejected my password because it thought it was weak, and I had to do a different choice.

The next screen asked you for payment information. It let you use Mastercard, Visa, or Maestro.

The third screen is order confirmation.

Then, click a link that says, “Proceed to download”.

You’ll then select the book you purchased.

You can then choose:

  • Sony
  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble (for the nook)
  • Direct download (it says that’s for Apple iBooks, Adobe, Kobo, and many others)

I chose Amazon.

It then asked me if I wanted to link to my account. I said yes. It also told me that I could remove this account later.

When I clicked on it, I was asked to log into my Amazon account. I did.

It returned me to Pottermore, where it told me I was successful. Pottermore asked me to name the account.

Then, there was a link to send to my account. I did.

There was a link to Go to Amazon. I did. :)

It took me to the Manage Your Kindle page.

From there, I could click

Actions…

and choose to send it to any of the devices (Kindles or reader apps) on my account).

This decremented my eight personal downloads by one. Note that the one allows me (apparently) to send it to each of the Kindles/devices on my account. My guess is that it has the normal six simultaneous device limits.

The download to Amazon only counts for one, even though I could use it on several devices.

I sent it from MYK to my Fire, and it looks great there…even has a “drop cap” (a capital letter the size of more than one line, usually bolded, sometimes illustrated), and the original illutrations.

I went to my Touch, and got it from the archives there. It looked good (no drop cap, though). I tested the text-to-speech…no problem.

I checked, and it doesn’t appear to allow me to connect the book to two Amazon accounts, which makes sense.

So, it looks to me like I could pay for it once, and read it on both a Kindle (several Kindles) and a nook…cool!

UPDATE: Here’s the

press release

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

Is the battle for text-to-speech over?

March 27, 2012

Is the battle for text-to-speech over?

As regular readers know, I’m very interested in the blocking of text-to-speech access in Kindle store books.

I’ve written about it before, and I’ll just say it: I don’t like it. :)

I think it disproportionately disadvantages the disabled. I think publishers have the right to do it (under the current interpretations of the Copyright Office), as long as they have some version of each e-book that has some kind of “read aloud” available…even if that version is limited to those who certify a print disability.

I think it’s a bad idea for them to block the access, though.

I’ve been periodically checking on it…seeing how many books have it blocked.

My impression recently was that the big publisher who had been blocking it have started to back off on that policy.

Well, I just checked the top twenty sellers in the Kindle store:

Rank TTS Publisher
1 Yes Scholastic
2 Yes Scholastic
3 Yes Scholastic
4 Yes Scholastic
5 Yes Random House
6 Yes Beacon
7 Yes Random House
8 Yes Random House
9 Yes Indie
10 Yes Penguin
11 Yes BelleBooks
12 Yes Random House
13 Yes Hachette
14 Yes Straightline
15 Yes Random House
16 No Hachette
17 Yes Indie
18 Yes Bell Bridge
19 Yes Tyndale
20 Yes Random House

As you can see, only one of the books blocked text-to-speech access…that makes it 95%.

Now of course, I considered the possibility that the nature of the top twenty has changed. You can see, though, that there are books from Random House in there that aren’t blocking it…and they led the move to block the access in the first place. They used to have a policy that they blocked it in all of their e-books.

There are also books from Penguin and Hachette not blocking it.

I figured that I’d better also check the New York Times bestsellers, though. That’s a very different mix of books, by the way. It may be that the NYT list is becoming less relevant. They haven’t figured out how to measure e-book sales very well, I think. For one thing, they don’t even count indies. For another, they don’t count e-books available at only one vendor (like Amazon).

Still, I ran the New York Times bestseller hardback fiction equivalents:

NYT Rank TTS
1 No
2 Yes
3 Yes
4 No
5 Yes
6 Yes
7 Yes
8 Yes
9 Yes
10 Yes
11 Yes
12 Yes
13 Yes
14 No
15 N/A
16 Yes
17 Yes
18 Yes
19 Yes
20 Yes

While the percentage was higher (about 16%…three out of the available 19…surprisingly, one book wasn’t available in a Kindle edition), it was still quite low, compared to the past.

It’s always possible that publishers will start blocking the access again, but I do feel like we’ve surmounted a hill.

There have been people who have actually protested this, in particular

http://readingrights.org/

I’m happy to see that those with print disabilities, print challenges, and who simply like to listen to text-to-speech are finding it increasingly as convenient as other people do to get the titles they want.

I do think this trend increases the chances that we’ll get a text-to-speech app on the Kindle Fire that can work with Kindle store books.

Regardless, I consider this good news. :) I know it’s a small sample, but I do think it’s a telling one.

Feel free to tell me what you think…

For more information on the text-to-speech issue, see

http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/the-disabled-deserve-to-read/

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

Why are you paying for e-books?

March 25, 2012

Why are you paying for e-books?

Seriously.

That may sound like a rhetorical question, but if you are paying for e-books, you are doing it by choice.

Project Gutenberg has approximately 38,000 free e-books available in the USA.

Let’s say you read three books a week…the Project Gutenberg books alone will last you more than 243 years.

Believe me, the availability of free e-books is concerning some publishers and authors.

The question becomes very serious: when you do pay money for e-books, why do you do it?

I’m going to give you some hypotheses, and I’m going to let you tell me (and the world) why you pay for e-books…if you do.

First, let’s establish what we mean by “paying for” the e-book.

I only want you to count that you are paying for a book if you pay money for that specific book. If you pay for the ability to get the books for no additional cost, don’t count it as paying for it.

For example, if you pay property taxes in your town which go in part to fund your public library and then you get e-books from your public library with no additional cost, don’t count it as paying for it.

If you get books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, don’t count the $79 a year you pay to be a Prime member as paying for the book.

If someone else buys the books on the account to which your device is registered, don’t count it as paying for it. Even if you kick money in once a month with a gift certificate into a general pool for the account, don’t count it as paying for it.

Why not?

What I’m hoping to do in this post is give authors and publishers some insight into what makes you pay for a specific book…not for books in general. What is it that gets you to say, “I’ll pay ninety-nine cents…or $2.99 or $9.99 or more,” for this particular book.

Authors and publishers can use that. They can’t do much to encourage you to pay an annual fee for Prime in hopes that you’ll use it to borrow one of their books.

Okay, before we get into my idea on why you might do it, let’s get some idea of how often you choose to pay. I’m going to ask this as two different questions: how often do you pay for the books you get for your Kindle, and how often do you pay for the books you read on your Kindle.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if people are far more likely to read the books for which they’ve paid than the free ones. I’d guess that’s the case with me, although I’ve never really measured it.

Here’s the getting poll:

Here’s the reading poll:

Now, let’s take a look at some possible reasons you’ll lay out that hard-earned cash (or, um, gift certificate).

That new e-book smell

No question, people like “new”. Some want to read a book before anybody else does. They are willing to pay a premium for that (for example, they might have bought the hardback rather than waiting for the paperback for that reason). If I think that something is complex and that I might hear about a surprising element before I read it/see it, I want to do that right away. I don’t want to hear about something on the news or from a friend before I’ve discovered it myself.  This can be especially true with non-fiction: the value of it might be less later as the situation changes in the future. This is also where I’d count the “next book in the series”.

Other people are reading it now

The book may not be new, but maybe people in your social group are reading it. You want to participate in the conversation, so you don’t want to wait, even though you could get it free or cheaper. Social media might impact that this one…getting a tweet on a book might encourage a purchase.

You are giving it as a gift 

Many people want to give something that has monetary value when they give a gift. They may even have a budget in mind.  Even if a free book might be as good as a ten dollar book, giving the free one might seem…inappropriate. If it’s a free book, you could just tell the person about it. The recipient might be less likely to get it if it isn’t free…which increases the novelty of the gift. I’ve done this: I’ve bought an e-book for a family member as a gift when I wouldn’t have bought that same book for myself…even though I would have liked it.

You want to support the author

I think this impacts quite a few purchases. I know people sometimes shopped in my bookstore because they liked me (and my staff). I’m sure people subscribe to this blog through the Kindle store just to support me (even though they might be reading it through a different channel), and I do really appreciate that. Extending this, you might also be supporting a cause or some other entity. I may buy a book on a topic I consider worthwhile to help support that cause in the market.

You think it costs less now than it will later

If there is something that you think you might want and that won’t ever be free (or at least, not for a long time), you might buy it because it is on sale. That’s how the Kindle Daily Deal  works for me sometimes. If a ten dollar book is on sale for ninety-nine cents, I might buy it…even though I probably would have never bought it at tend dollars. I know that’s just psychological, it’s not really al logical way to make a decision.

I think those are five of the big drivers, and I’m going to poll you on those:

I’m sure there are other reasons, and I’d be interested to hear them by having you comment on this post.

So…why are you paying for e-books?

Update: thanks to reader Arni Vidar for catching an error, which has now been corrected!

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

Review: Cats’ Most Wanted

March 25, 2012

Review: Cats’ Most Wanted

Cats’ Most Wanted TM: The Top 10 Book of Mysterious Mousers, Talented Tabbies, and Feline Oddities
by Alexandra Powe Allred
published by Potomac Books
original publication: 2005
size: 944KB (320 pages)
categories: cats; humor; trivia
lending: not enabled
simultaneous device licenses: 6
part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: no
text-to-speech: yes

“…never jog with a goat in cougar country.”
–Alexandra Powe Allred
writing in Cats’ Most Wanted

I like cats, and I like trivia. I would presume that’s why my adult kid got me this book, and that makes sense.

From the subtitle, I might have also expected something a bit more on the “paranormal” side…undiscovered species, out of place animals (like big black cats in England), that sort of thing.

While Cats’ Most Wanted doesn’t include those sorts of stories, there is a lot of interesting information here. The idea that the Black Plague basically saved cats in Europe is an intriguing one. Basically, cats were decreed as evil by the Church, in conjunction with witchcraft. However, when you have a phenomenon of mass destruction which appears to be spread by rodents, you might have to rethink rehabilitating the image of all those cats you’ve been burning and throwing off towers.

As you can tell from the quotation above, there is some wit in this book, not just a dry recitation of facts.

The book is divided into five sections, and within that, you get a chapter and lists. There are also some nice pictures to brighten it.

The book could have used additional proof-reading, and if I can find a way to reach the publisher or author, I will send them my notes. For example, there may be a repeated phrase:

“Americans borrowed this popular expression, which references the disheveled condition of a person’s appearance, from the British as well, from the British as well.”

and there are times when spaces are missing between words. This sentence is fun, but the referenced character is rendered two different ways:

“Cat-woman—like the feline—was simultaneously self-reliant and demanding, aloof and demonstrative, comforting and frightening. In other words, Catwoman was a perfect cat.”

Another odd thing is that we see some of what appears to be mark-up…maybe comments from the author to the editor, or vice versa?

“Europeans began to see the worth of this cat [Au: when?]“

That aside, I did enjoy the book. I won’t say it’s timelessly impressed on my memory, however, it did provide some light amusement on vacation.

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

Kindle for Android updated (3.5)

March 24, 2012

Kindle for Android updated

Amazon has released an update for their Kindle for Android.

You may need to go into the store on your phone to be able to get the update.

I do sometimes see people say that the Kindle Fire app is the same as the Kindle for Android app…one thing that says it isn’t is that it doesn’t update at the same time, like this.

This update does three main things (in addition to unspecified bug fixes):

  • Support for Kindle Format 8, which is the newer, more computer-friendly format. This enables you access to illustrated children’s books and comics/graphic novels that have otherwise been available for the Kindle Fire. However, you have to be careful: some of these books are optimized for larger screens (which it will say on the book’s Amazon product page) for good reason. For example, after you upgrade, get yourself a sample of Watchmen. You’ll need better eyes than I have to read what’s in the word balloons.
  • You can now get your personal documents on your Android phone! that’s a nice touch. What I found easiest was to tap Menu – Search. Then, I can search for the personal document by name…I can see what the names are at http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle. You should also be able to send them from there, but it didn’t show up right away for me. I tried a pdf…that didn’t work very well, because I couldn’t see a way to increase the text size or zoom. Still, this is a nice addition. You can also send directly to the device. You can see the “Send-to-Kindle e-mail address by doing Menu-Settings, and you can change it at that Manage Your Kindle link above, Personal Document Settings
  • You can now choose a specific-language dictionary when you look up a word. That was a bit confusing to me, and there was no help on the help page. Once you “long press” the word (hold your finger on it for a bout a second), you’ll see the definition. There is an icon of a book in your top right corner. Tap that, and choose your language (from Deutsch, English UK, English USA, Espanol, Francais, Italiana, Portugues…and two Asian dictionaries which I can’t identify by sight…let me know if you know for sure). Once you choose a language, you’ll be prompted to download the dictionary. Fortunately, they don’t put all of the dictionaries on your device at once! This app is big enough as it is. I downloaded the Spanish one to test it. Once I’d downloaded the dictionary, it would show me the definition in the last language I used…and then I could tap the dictionary icon, switch to another dictionary which I had downloaded, and see that definition (I tested English USA and Espanol with the word “no”, which is in both). That’s better than the Mindle, where you can switch languages, but it requires a restart of the device, and you can only have one at a time.
I thought you might be interested in the stats:

Before the update:

Version 3.4.1.1

Storage

  • Total: 28.84MB
  • Applications 204KB
  • Data 28.63MB

After the update

  • Total 31.44MB (without the Spanish dictionary: with it, 33.02MB)
  • Applilcations 216KB
  • Data 30.77MB (with the Spanish dictionary: 31.22MB)

Overall, I think the update is an improvement, although I’m not sure how valuable the Kindle Format 8 is on my SmartPhone…probably more valuable on an Android tablet.

Feel free to let me know what you think about it…

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

Don’t dys the topia

March 23, 2012

Don’t dys the topia

The Hunger Games movie opens today, and is likely to have a blockbuster opening weekend (the biggest of the year so far).

One of the terms you are going to hear in conjunction with it, over and over again, is “dystopia”.

I thought I’d give you a little background on the term, and the literature.

Let’s start out in 1516, with Utopia by Thomas More (later knighted, and literally centuries later, declared a saint).

The title of the book suggests that it takes place in “no place”. I have a sibling who reads ancient Greek (and Latin), and I’m not going to pretend to know the precise definitions, but “u” is basically “not” (like “unknown” meaning “not known”, I believe) and “topia” is sort of “place”.

The book depicted a “perfected society’ on the fictional island of Utopia. The title may have suggested to people not only  that this society did not exist, but that it could not exist…but might still be an example of something for which to strive.

The book was a hit (and that was possible for books to have popular appeal by that point, since Gutenberg’s movable type had been around for half a century or so).

Jump ahead more than two centuries, and politician John Stuart Mill assails an idea he opposes by calling the proposers “dystopians”, contrasting them with More’s Utopians. It was the politics of fear, saying that while the other side is telling you it will be a good thing, it will actually be bad for you.

It’s important to note that both the idea of “utopia” and of its opposite, “dystopia”, is political…it’s about societal systems.

That’s one of the thing that distinguishes dystopian literature from post-Apocalyptic literature.

Post-Apocalyptic literature portrays a society after some major upheaval. It could be a war (especially atomic/nuclear), a plague (as is the case with Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague), an Electro-Magnetic Pulse, and so on. Commonly in the PAW (Post-Apocalyptic World), following TEOTWAWKI (“The End of the World As We Know It’), there is no real political system. It may be a small band of survivors (or even one person), and there may be groups trying to get going, but it isn’t a functioning society.

In a dystopia, there is an organization. It’s often portrayed as authoritarian and stratified. A dystopia isn’t usually bad for everyone: there is a top tier that is often doing well, a usually larger group that is repressed by them.

A book could be both post-apocalypic and dystopian. The destruction of the society by whatever the upheaval was could lead to a group seizing control and building a new society.

Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy portrays a classic dystopia. There is a strong functioning society…the residents of The Capital have a luxurious life. There are also the Districts, which are kept down by policies of the Capital, most notoriously the use of The Hunger Games. It’s a televised spectacular, where randomly selected kids fight to the death.

The poster shown in this

The Mary Sue post (and available here)

echoes real life propaganda.

There is a long literary tradition of dystopias. The two pillars are clearly George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

It’s interesting how dystopian literature is a popular genre for the young adult audience. You can see how the parallel of a powerful authority repressing someone could appeal to a teenager struggling to establish a personal identity and place in the world.

Kindle Daily Deal today is a tie-in to the movie release, with five young adult dystopian books marked down to $1.99 each:

Note that all of these are by Scholastic Press…we can thank this large publisher again for not adopting the Agency Model, thus not preventing Amazon from doing these sorts of discounts with their titles.

There are many dystopian works, and I’m sure you may have some favorites about which you’d like to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post. :)

I’ll mention one more, which was not literature.

In the 1970s, there was an anthology TV show called Norman Corwin Presents (Corwin was well-known as a writer for radio). I really liked the show, and would love to see it again…but I don’t believe it’s ever been released legitimately on video, and may even have been lost.

For that reason, I’m going to go ahead and risk spoiling one episode (Aunt Dorothy’s Playroom, written by Don Balluck) of it…because I don’t think you’ll get to see it, unfortunately. Oh, it’s possible it will be released at some point, I suppose.

Spoiler Alert

In the future, adults live in a Romper Room type environment…literally treated like children. Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) is one of the adult kids…but Gwynne doesn’t want to do what everybody else is doing at the same time. Gwynne’s character is going to be tried for this dissent, and is allowed to bring up one person from the past to aid in the defense case. Gwynne chooses Ralph Waldo Emerson, which makes sense to the audience. Emerson’s classic Self-Reliance is about the value of non-conformity and the strength of the individual. In a wonderful twist, though, when Emerson testifies, the author basically says to Gwynne, “You’re on your own,” and Gwynne is executed.

That’s the way I remember it, at any rate. Again, I’ve only seen the show once…about forty years ago. :) If anybody finds a legit source for video of the series, I’d love to hear about it.

End Spoiler

So, I hope that The Hunger Games movie is a good one…I’ll probably find out how I feel about it this weekend. Regardless, you may now know a little more about what a dystopia is…

May the odds be ever in your favor. :)

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


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