Archive for July, 2012

Round up #100: Cloud Player’s big update, Amiciville

July 31, 2012

Round up #100: Cloud Player’s big update, Amiciville

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

ABA and B&N file to be friends of the court

Barnes & Noble (B&N) and the American Booksellers Association (ABA) have filed a motion to “friends of the court” (amici curiae) in the DoJ’s (Department of Justice’s) settlement in the Agency Model action.

What does that mean?

The issue is between the Department of Justice, five publishers, and Apple. Legally, the ABA and B&N aren’t involved. However, they think that they can help the judge in making a decision, by providing relevant data and opinion.

You know when someone says, “Hey, buddy, can I give you some friendly advice?” Somehow, the next thing that follows is never, “You’re doing a swell job! My advice is that you don’t change a thing.” ;)

Of course, being a friend does have benefits…so to speak. ;) They would get to be in the loop on things, and have a voice.

In this

B&N press release

they make their point.

“…elimination of the current pricing and distribution method for e-books, known as the agency model, will injure innocent third parties, including ABA member bookstores, Barnes & Noble, authors, and non-defendant publishers; hurt competition in an emerging industry; and ultimately harm consumers. “

The DoJ has already made it pretty clear that they aren’t there to protect the retailers, they are there (in this case), to protect the customers. Even if the ABA and B&N are granted to leave, I don’t think it’s going to make much difference.

The DoJ says that the Agency publishers and Apple colluded to raise e-book prices, and did. If they did something illegal, the DoJ can’t look at “future evil” which might possibly result. In other words…

Let’s say that B&N and the ABA’s worst case scenario happens. The Agency Model goes away. Amazon lowers prices so much, no one else can compete. All other e-book sellers go out of business. Brick and mortars get crushed in the process. Then, Amazon is the only bookseller in the world, and they raise prices to a gazillion dollars a book…mwah hah hah! Then, nobody can afford to read any more, and we all become illiterate, and aliens come down and challenge us to a Scrabble game, and if we win, they give us endless free energy, and if we lose, they eat us, and since we can’t read, we can’t play Scrabble…and we all become extraterrestrial entrees.

Even if that might be true, the DoJ can’t act on Amazon’s crime in that scenario before it happens…this isn’t Minority Report.

B&N nicely provided the filing on line:

B&N document

I think they may be moving pretty quickly on this, since David N. Wynn declares in the document, and I quote: “I am an partner…”

This could mean that we see Agency Model pricing for the settling publishers go away before the end of the year, but I’m not going to try to put a timetable on it…the microwave of justice cooks at conventional oven speeds. :)

Cloud Player gets a major update

Amazon isn’t messing around:

press release

They’ve revolutionized their Amazon Cloud Player.

This definitely affects Kindle Fire, but if they could analogize it to e-books, it would make things really interesting.

They cite three big updates:

  • It sounds like they are automatically going to add previously purchased Amazon MP3s to your free Cloud storage. They were doing that with newly purchased stuff, but if they can go back and get all your old purchases for you automatically, great
  • They are going to add more devices (including Roku…yay!) and I think access will get easier
  • Here’s the big one, though. Your Cloud Player is going to scan your iTunes and Windows Media libraries. It will look for matches to those songs that you bought somewhere (even ripped from CDs), and if Amazon has a match to it, that gets loaded into Cloud player. Oh, and they are upgrading the quality, too (to 256 kbps)

You see, Amazon worked out a deal with the rightsholders. Even if you bought it somewhere else, Amazon can make it available to you.

The free tier of the Cloud Player will let you store 250 non-Amazon purchased MP3s. The premium version ($24.99 a year) lets you store 250,000 (!) non-Amazon purchased MP3s.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if they could do this with e-books? So that, even if you bought them from Barnes & Noble, you could have them in your Kindle library?

I’m sure they wouldn’t have any trouble convincing the publishers to go along with that…they are getting along so well with them already. ;) Just kidding…but hey, a blogger can dream, right?

Update: one of my readers, Emily, pointed out a problem with the update for people who already had 250 non-Amazon songs in the cloud. If they want them  (and their playlists) to continue to work with the Cloud player, they are given a choice (according to her): delete some songs, or get a free month of premium and then pay the $24.99 a year. I was curious as to how many people that is affecting, so…

Joe Wikert on used e-books

Joe Wikert’s 2020 Publishing Blog post

Once again, Joe Wikert and I come from very different places. I do think Wikert is a smart person, and there is an interesting idea in here…but we just think about things differently.

For example, there is this from the post:

“That’s yet another reason why consumers want low ebook prices. They’re lacking some of the basic features of a print book so of course they should be lower-priced.”

Yes, e-books lack some things that p-books have…like mildew, yellowing, and non-adjustable text sizes. ;) Just kidding. The thing is that each of the formats have some advantages and disadvantages. Why don’t people think paperbooks have to replicate everything e-books have to make it fair? If e-books have to be resellable, why don’t p-books have to be automatically searchable?

What if the publishers said, “You can resell an e-book…but only one person can read it at a time”?

Right now, you can have a hundred or more people on your account, and all read the same book for one purchase price. You can’t usually do it at all at the same time, but still.

One last thing before I let you go read the article:

“In the print world we’d pass those [books] along  to friends, resell them or donate them to the local library.”

I’m sure like a lot of other people, I didn’t do any of those things….I kept my books. That’s why I have something like ten thousand paperbooks on shelves in my home, and a dedicated floor to ceiling library. If you typically got rid of your p-books after you read them, that’s a plus for that format. If you didn’t, but just wanted to share books with friends and family (especially ones that don’t live with you), that’s a plus for e-books.

Feel free to comment on any of these…

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

Review: Funamo: sophisticated parental controls for the Kindle Fire

July 31, 2012

Review: Funamo: sophisticated parental controls for the Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire opens up a world of possibilities.

For parents/legal guardians, that can be both good and bad.

There are lots of great games for kids, and educational websites.

There is also Rule 34 of the internet. If I explained what that was I’d probably get many more hits today, but I’ll let you look it up. ;) I try to keep this blog safe for work.

Suffice it to say that there are parents/legal guardians who would like a software solution to guide how a child uses the Fire.

It’s interesting: when I’ve seen people ask about that on the Amazon Kindle community, they sometimes get remonstrated for either: wanting to control anything about their kids’ media consumption; or wanting technology to help them do it.

My natural tendency is to lean towards more freedom…but I wouldn’t want somebody to tell me that wasn’t okay, and I understand that other people may have different levels they want to set (more or less restrictive).

I also don’t have any problem with using a technological tool to help. That doesn’t mean you can’t do all the communicating you were doing anyway. It’s important to understand that it isn’t always about a child consciously wanting to go somewhere…it’s also about them accidentally going somewhere they really didn’t want to go.

A great example years ago was a site that was named WhiteHouse.com…not WhiteHouse.gov. It was…um…a Rule 34 site. A lot of kids ended up there unintentionally, and would have been happy not to have that risk.

Amazon has given us some parental controls on the Kindle Fire, but as far as the internet goes, it’s an all or nothing solution. You let the user go anywhere on the internet, or you don’t let them go anywhere with the browser (although you can still let them use the Amazon site and Wikipedia).

Enter

Funamo

They give you much more sophisticated “parental controls”, and I think they’ll appeal to a lot of people.

I’m going to go over the features…and then I will mention what is going to be a major negative for some.

When you log into Funamo, you have several main choices:

  • Start or stop Funamo

When Funamo is started, it does something right away…password protect the Settings. That means that someone can’t go in and remove the application or deregister your device. That in itself is probably significant to people. I hear on the forum about kids who accidentally deregister, which can cause some headaches (including, with the Fire, removing Kindle store books from the device…meaning you have to redownload them).

  • Device history

On the device, this will show you all of the sites visited using the browser that day, and all the applications that have been used that day. Want more than that day? You can go to Funamo’s website, and they keep thirty days of data. Yes, you can check what sites your kid has been visiting without even having access to the device. If you get Funamo for a phone, it gets much more Big Brotherish. It will show you the contacts, the texts, and with GPS, even where your child has been! The locations part does not work with the Fire, and we aren’t currently using it for phone calls…so it shows you applications and websites. You do not need to turn this on, but if you do, it is stored on Funamo’s website. I asked them about that…I think some people might be more comfortable just having that information stored locally.

  • Internet filtering

Here’s where it gets particularly good. First, you (and it’s up to you), enable content filtering and “safe search”. I put that on, and tested it. It did not let me go to the Playboy.com site, but did let me go to a breast cancer site (making it more sophisticated than older “net nannies”).

You can also use both a “blacklist” and/or a “whitelist”. That lets you control this yourself. You can use a blacklist to prohibit specific sites. You can use a whitelist to allow specific sites.

Why would you use both a blacklist and a whitelist at the same time?

To fine tune their built-in content filtering/safe search. That software might block something you want your child to access, and your whitelist overrides that. Their filtering may not block a place you would like blocked: your blacklist overrides the decision-making in the software.

You can also just allow whitelisted sites. You could pick a few major kids sites, allow a news site or two…up to you.

  • Protected apps

You can allow only certain apps to be available without knowing a password. You click a button to “select apps”, and you get an easy checkbox list.  You can block whatever you want.

You can manage these whitelist and blacklists on the website or on the device.  Want to punish your kid by taking away Angry Birds for a day? You can do it right on the website.

  • Time-limited apps

This one is clever. You can restrict the use of a list of apps you choose to only be available at certain times of the day and days of the week. In other words, you could make the games and social media only available outside of school hours. The entire list has one set of time restrictions…might be nice to be able to set different restrictions for different apps, but this is still a potentially great feature. If you know you have that weekly event where using certain apps would be inappropriate, you can restrict them.

  • Account settings
  • Upload on Wifi only (not an issue on the Fire, of course)
  • Sync contacts to Funamo (you can turn that on or off)
  • Log device history (again, you can turn that on or off)
  • Change password
  • Manually sync with server (if you don’t do that, it does it once a day)
  • Unregister this device (that will remove all of the information…it will remove it from the website as well ((I asked)), although you’ll still have your free Funamo account)
  • Block other browsers (Funamo needs to use it’s own browser, which you download separately, for the whitelist and blacklist to work). This prevents your child from just downloading another browser, like Maxthon, and using that

Overall, I think that’s a big improvement over Amazon’s choices (at this point). It would be great if they could control specific books, but not yet.

The big negative, a potential showstopper for some?

The price.

It’s $19.99 (per device).

That’s quite high for an app, but of course, they are continuing to service your account after the purchase. That has ongoing expenses, including Customer Service.

Speaking of which, I’m always curious about that. Funamo’s Customer Service has been superb. I have e-mailed them twice (asking questions for this review), and gotten very fast, thorough responses. That’s a big argument in favor of a company for me.

The app is not currently available in the Amazon Appstore, but they even have a video to show you how to set all that up and get it…nicely done.  Generally, the site looks pretty professional. I found a heading of “How Funamo Works?’ to be awkward. I would either say, “How Funamo Works” or “How Does Funamo Work?” That’s nitpicking, though.

You can test this for two days for free, and I would recommend that if this seems like a solution you would consider.

Bottom line: this is a solid product with good customer service. Not everybody is going to want to use it, but for those who do, they may find the price tag worth the value.

Update: When I first published this review, I mentioned a typo on the website. I’m very impressed that they have fixed the typo in the past ten hours, and e-mailed me to let me know. That’s another good sign of responsiveness, and that’s a big plus for me.

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

In honor of the Olympics: an excerpt from Olympian Nights

July 30, 2012

In honor of the Olympics: an excerpt from Olympian Nights

John Kendrick Bangs was a great comedy writer of the late 1880s and early 1900s, and a humor editor for major magazines as well. Bangs’ work is satirical, but broad, poking fun at society while not being afraid of verbal slapstick. Think of Jon Stewart when “cable” meant a message rather than a type of television. ;)

In this particular book, Olympian Nights (first published in 1902), it’s a first person account of a trip to Mount Olympus. While I don’t believe Bangs explicitly identifies the author as the narrator, the writer in the book is an author. Regardless, everyone reading it would know it was humor.

I was looking for an excerpt about the Olympics, and only one game is described here. I decided to go with this one, though, because I like the part that follows about the Olympian library. :)

I’m also going to link to two books that are on sale today after this excerpt…

===

From Olympian Nights by John Kendrick Bangs

“The Royal Arena,” he said, simply. “That is where we have our Olympian Games. There was a football game there yesterday. Too bad you were not there. It was the liveliest game of the season. All Hades played the Olympian eleven for the championship of the universe. We licked ‘em four hundred to nothing; but of course we had an exceptional team. When Hercules is in shape there isn’t a man-jack in all Hades that can withstand him. He’s rush-line, centre, full-back, half-back, and flying wedge, all rolled into one. Then the Hades chaps made the bad mistake of sending a star team. When you have an eleven made up of Hannibal and Julius Cæsar and Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and Achilles and other fellows like that you can’t expect any team-play. Each man is thinking about himself all the time. Hercules could walk right through ‘em, and, when they begin to pose, it’s mere child’s play for him. The only chap that put up any game against us at all was Samson, and I tell you, now that his hair’s grown again, he’s a demon on the gridiron. But we divided up our force to meet that difficulty. Hercules put the rest of our eleven on to Samson, while he took care, personally, of all the other Hadesians. And you should have seen how he handled them! It was beautiful, all through. He nearly got himself ruled off in the second half. He became so excited at one time towards the end that he mistook Pompey for the ball and kicked him through the goal-posts from the forty-yard line. Of course, it didn’t count, and Hercules apologized so gracefully to the rest of the visitors that they withdrew their protest and let him play on.”

“I should think he would have apologized to Pompey,” said I.

“He will when Pompey recovers consciousness,” said my guide, simply.

So interested was I in the Royal Arena and its recent game that I forgot all about Jupiter.

“I never thought of Hercules as a football player before,” I said, “but it is easy to see how he might become the champion of Olympus.”

“Oh, is it!” laughed the Major Domo. “Well, you’d better not tell Jupiter that. Jupiter’d be pleased, he would. Why, my dear friend, he’d pack you back to earth quicker than a wink. He brooks only one champion of anything here, and that’s himself. Hercules threw him in a wrestling-match once, and the next day Jupiter turned him into a weeping-willow, and didn’t let up on him for five hundred years afterwards.”

By this time we had reached one of the most superbly vaulted chambers it has ever been my pleasure to look upon. Above me the ceiling seemed to reach into infinity, and on either side were huge recesses and alcoves of almost unfathomable depth, lit by great balls of fire that diffused their light softly and yet brilliantly through all parts and corners of the apartment.

“The library,” said the Major Domo, pointing to tier upon tier of teeming shelves, upon which stood a wonderful array of exquisitely bound volumes to a number past all counting.

I was speechless with the grandeur of it all.

“It is sublime,” said I. “How many volumes?”

“Unnumbered, and unnumberable by mortals, but in round, immortal figures just one jovillion.”

“One jovillion, eh?” said I. “How many is that in mortal figures?”

“A jovillion is the supreme number,” explained the guide. “It is the infinity of millions, and therefore cannot be expressed in mortal terms.”

“Then,” said I, “you can have no more books.”

“No,” said he. “But what of that? We have all there are and all that are to be. You see, the library is divided into three parts. On the right-hand side are all the books that ever have been written; here to the left you see all the books that are being written; and farther along, beginning where that staircase rises, are all the books that ever will be written.”

I gasped. If this were true, this wonderful collection must contain my own complete works, some of which I have doubtless not even thought of as yet. How easy it would be for me, I thought, to write my future books if Jupiter would only let me loose here with a competent stenographer to copy off the pages of manuscript as yet undreamed of! I suggested this to the Major Domo.

“He wouldn’t let you,” he said. “It would throw the whole scheme out of gear.”

“I don’t see why,” I ventured.

“It is simple,” rejoined the Major Domo. “If you were permitted to read the books that some day will be identified with your name, as a sensible man, observing beforehand how futile and trivial they are to be, some of them, you wouldn’t write them, and so you would be able to avoid a part, at least, of your destiny. If mortals were able to do that—well, they’d become immortals, a good many of them.”

I realized the justice of this precaution, and we passed on in silence.

===

Two books of note on sale today:

The Kindle Daily Deal for today is Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut for $1.99. While Vonnegut may not be for everybody (you have to like snarky humor and be at least tolerant of fantasy/science fiction), this is a good starting point.

The other one is Amazon price-matching a Barnes & Noble Spotlight Pick.

Red-Headed Stepchild (Sabina Kane)

It’s the first in the Sabina Kane contemporary vampire series by Jaye Wells…for ninety-nine cents. This is getting a tradpubbed (traditionally published) book, digital list priced at $7.99, for the price of ninety-nine cent indie.

Just wanted to alert you to these two before they go back up in price…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. Olympian Nights by John Kendrick Bangs was originally published in 1902.

Kindle Daily Deal: Hangman’s Daughter, sequel each $0.99

July 29, 2012

Kindle Daily Deal: Hangman’s Daughter, sequel each $0.99 

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal is two books, each for ninety-nine cents:

The Hangman’s Daughter
The Dark Monk: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale (US Edition)

The digital list price is $9.99, this is probably only in the USA, and interestingly, it’s “while supplies last”.

That’s always intriguing on a digital product…supplies should be effectively unlimited, right? I assume that means they set a specific amount that they are willing to sell at this prize.

These books are historical mysteries…written by a descendant of a famous family of executioners.

Also significant: this is part of Amazon’s traditional publishing line. In this case, it is AmazonCrossing, which takes books from outside the USA, and publishes them in it.

One thing that means is that the books have the features Amazon encourages in other publishers: text-to-speech and lending.

Remember, this is one of the important battlefields: can Amazon bypass the traditional publishers and publish editorially-selected books themselves? The first book has definitely been an example of that.

This is not just the Kindle Daily Deal, but also a Gold Box Deal, which gives it more visibility. I don’t know how many they’ve allotted, but it could “sell out” relatively quickly. As always, check the price before you click that buy button, just to be sure.

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

Unavailable…Olympics app and some popular books

July 28, 2012

Unavailable…Olympics app and some popular books

This first one is a definitely causing a bit of a ruckus.

Some very popular books, which have been available in the USA Kindle store, are currently unavailable.

This can happen to any book, and it can just be a temporary situation. Amazon suspended sales of my popular title, Love Your Kindle Fire: The ILMK Guide to Amazon’s Entertablet recently. In some sort of QA (Quality Assurance) review, they noticed that a picture that I had put into the file had not loaded properly to the Kindle store.

All I really had to do was remove the picture and re-upload…it wasn’t really necessary. I had described in words what to do at that point. The picture was just nice.

The Amazon rep even gave me instructions for how to include the picture. I may do that later, but I didn’t want to mess around with the book being off sale…especially with the first of the month coming. Why does the first of the month matter? People who use the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library)

http://www.amazon.com/kindleownerslendiinglibrary

can borrow up to a book a calendar month. If they borrow one on July 5th and finish it on July 10th, they still need to wait until August first to borrow another book. Amazon compensates us for every “borrow”. What happens is that publishers using Kindle Direct Publishing can be part of a program. We divide a pool each month based on how many borrows we have.

Missing the beginning of the month of borrows would have had a negative impact on that.

So, if this had only been one book, I wouldn’t have been worried.

It seems, though, that it is a number of books from Bantam, a well-known publisher and part of Random House.

Here are a few I found:

Update: the Auel and Evanovich books above are now showing as available in the USA. This appears to have been a temporary situation, unless it recurs.

As you can see, these are big name authors and not pre-orders…Random House is losing serious money while these titles aren’t available.

Could it be just an accident?

Maybe…it’s weird to me that it would be on so many books (I found others).

If it’s not, it could have been done by Amazon or by Random House.

Random House is not part of the current DoJ (Department of Justice) action concerning the Agency Model, so I don’t think it’s connected to that.

There could be some other negotiations going on between RH and Amazon, of course.

Amazon has pulled a publisher’s books before, but this is only some of the Bantam books, so that may not be it.

RH may be withholding the books for some negotiating point.

Hopefully, these will be restored soon.

Thanks to TuxGirl for working with this in the Amazon Kindle community.

The second unavailability has to do with the Olympics.

NBC has a couple of apps for their coverage. One of them allows you to watch the events live.

One of my readers nicely let me know about this in a private comment.

The app is available for Android tablets, and you can find it online for use on the Fire…not, however, from NBC.

I wrote to the network asking about that…did they approve of getting it from sites other than Google Play (which is how you get it from their site).

They said no.

For that reason, I’m not connecting to those third-party sites.

It might be fine, but it’s not clear to me that those wouldn’t be considered to be infringements.

I’ve seen a few people asking about it in the Amazon Kindle forums…as usual, it’s along the lines of , “Why doesn’t Amazon…?”

It’s still interesting to me that people seem to think that Amazon can publish whatever it wants.

Let’s say that Amazon wanted to publish…your driver’s license online. They couldn’t do that without your permission, and without access to it, right?

Same idea…a publisher needs to decide that an app/e-book/song/video should be for sale by Amazon.

The publisher sends it to Amazon. Amazon may or may not decide to sell it, but  the rightsholder has to make the first step.

In the case of apps for the Fire, Amazon reviews it first, to check that it is going to work and that it isn’t going to damage the device. My guess is that it can take days.

I think that tends to delay the availability in the Amazon Appstore versus Google Play in some cases.

Where’s My Perry?

a puzzle app variant on Where’s My Water? with a popular character from Phineas and Ferb.

I saw a thread where someone seemed quite upset that it wasn’t in the Amazon Appstore…and a few days later, it was.

I’m hoping that happens with NBC Olympics apps before the Games end.

If you’d like to get the app for other devices, that’s here:

http://www.nbcolympics.com/on-the-go/index.html

Update: I realize this update may be a bit buried, but I didn’t want to do a separate post for it. :) It’s just something that hit me. This issue with the books not being available (but now they at least mostly are), combined with another that people have where they are being asked for a credit card when they weren’t before…that might mean a change in something connected with geography.

When the books weren’t available in the USA, I saw people saying they could get them outside.

A credit card is one way Amazon determines where an e-book sale takes place, in terms of determining rights.

What major geographic change could happen very soon?

The Fire being released in other countries.

Maybe people being asked for their credit cards only have Kindle Fires, not other Kindles, so their residency has to be determined before it happens.

This is only wild speculation…but I did want to get it out there. :)

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

Let the Games begin: Olympics books

July 28, 2012

Let the Games begin: Olympics books

As the 2012 Games have their opening ceremony, I thought I’d list some of the books about the Olympics in the USA Kindle store…

2012 Games

Inside the 2012 London Olympic Games (Inside the Olympic Games)
Eligible to borrow through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library…and ninety-nine cents to buy

London Olympics Visitors Survival Guide (Magic Carpet Travel Guides)

Olympics History

Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel’s Deadly Response

Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever

The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final (Wisden Sports Writing)

Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush: The 1908 Olympic Marathon and the Three Runners Who Launched a Sporting Craze

Olympians

Breaking the Surface
by Greg Louganis with Eric Marcus

Running for My Life: One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games
Well reviewed on Amazon…

Shawn Johnson: Gymnastics Golden Girl (GymnStars)

Reference

How to Watch the Olympics: The Essential Guide to the Rules, Statistics, Heroes, and Zeroes of Every Sport

The Science of Sports: Winning in the Olympics
From Scientific American…yes, this is really about the science. Sounds interesting!

The Olympics’ 50 Craziest Stories

Fiction

The Games
Novel

Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics (Final Four Mystery)
John Feinstein is an Edgar-winning mystery writer

Children’s Books (some of the above books may also be for children)

Olympics For Kids: Olympics History and Fun Facts About the Olympic Games (Books For Boys 8-10)

Olympics Picture Book: Learn About the Olympic Games With Exciting Pictures of the Summer Olympics Sports (Picture Books for Children Ages 4 6)

Exposés?

Inside the Olympics: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Politics, the Scandals and the Glory of the Games
by Dick Pound

The Secret Olympian: The inside story of the Olympic experience
This one sounds interesting…it’s written anonymously, supposedly by a former Olympian, with the inside scoop. Ever wonder what happens in the Olympic Village?

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

1DollarScan: digitize your paperbooks for $1?

July 27, 2012

1DollarScan: digitize your paperbooks for $1?

I’ve been saying for some time that I’d love to have a machine where I could stick a paperbook into it and get an e-book out of it.

I have digitized a couple of books in my work with a non-profit…it’s a time-consuming, challenging task.

I have only done it with public domain books (ones not under copyright protection).

In the case of the non-profit, they wanted to distribute the books, so of course, public domain was going to  make sense.

It has been unclear to me and it is still unclear to me whether it would be legal to scan a paperbook copy you own to do your own format shifting and change it into an e-book, if it is under copyright protection.

It might seem obvious that it would be. I won’t go through all the legal stuff in this one (and I’m not a lawyer anyway), but the Supreme Court found it was okay to “time shift” TV programs by recording them, and it’s legal (as I understand it) to “format shift” CDs to digital files for your own use.

However, different media do have different rules, and I haven’t seen case law that specifically says it is okay to format shift your copies of paperbooks. In fact, the whole complicated Google scanning settlement has to do in part, with scanning copyrighted materials. Since its being settled, though, I don’t think case law is established…a lawyer could answer that better than  I could.

I bring that up, because

1DollarScan.com

says that what they do is legal under Fair Use…I’m not convinced, but I don’t know. I never quite knew how Fair Use allowed format shifting or time shifting, but let’s presume that what 1DollarScan does is legal*.

What do they do?

You send them a paperbook. For $1 per each one hundred pages, they will turn it into a pdf and send it back to you.

That’s super cheap, even though you do pay for the shipping there.

I have lots of paperbooks I’d rather have as e-books…but at this point, I’m not going to use this service.

It is a purely emotional reason, if we assume that it’s legal.

It has to do with the paperbooks.

They destroy them (in fact, they recycle them).

They tear them into pieces to scan them.

No question, that’s an efficient way to do it.

I didn’t damage the books I scanned. It’s much more awkward to scan a book and treat it gently.

I might have thought I’d gotten a bit past honoring the paper and ink, as opposed to the words.

This tells me that I haven’t.

I just can’t get past the idea of the books being destroyed.

Honestly, it would probably be better if I could. Paperbooks are likely to eventually be lost (damage from insects, fire, water, and general decay). PDFs and other digital files are more likely, to me, to make the book widely available when it goes into the public domain. Once that happens, I do think digital files have a much better chance of being available for future generations.

I won’t hold it against you if you use 1DollarScan. :)

If you do, there are more options. For another dollar per 100 pages, they’ll use OCR (Optical Character Recognition), making the books searchable. That’s not a perfect process, but it can be pretty good.

It sounds to me like they are doing a lot of things correctly, even though the website is arguably a bit unpolished. They’ll “fine tune” the PDF for different EBRs (E-Book Readers), for example, giving you a better output for a NOOK or a Kindle.

They do an “Amazon Direct” option. You buy the book at Amazon and have it shipped straight to them. So, you find a book not in e-book format for a penny (plus $3.99 shipping & handling, usually) and have it sent to 1DollarScan…and they convert it.

It’s a company that’s been successful in Japan, by the way. it’s been covered in the mainstream media.

At this point, they only take payment via PayPal…they say they are exploring other options, but that does keep the cost down.

They also do other things besides books…they’ll scan your old diaries or work documents. You could take that typed manuscript and have them convert it.

So, as I say, I’m not going to use it right now…but I thought some of you might want to know about it.

Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think about it…

* In terms of the legality, one interesting spin to me is that they let authors/publishers tell them not to scan the books. Why do that, if there is no question of the legality?

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

Amazon Q2: net sales up 29%, net income down 96%

July 26, 2012

Amazon Q2: net sales up 29%, net income down 96%

I was going to wait until after the conference call, but it’s not working for me right now…I’m not hearing anything, and the slide hasn’t changed.

Here’s the press release on Amazon’s 2nd Quarter (Q2) financial report:

press release

Let’s see if I can give you a good analogy…

“Hey, Sweetie, how did the lemonade sales go?”

“Great! Last week, I sold 100 glasses…this week, I sold 129 glasses!”

“Wow! That’s a lot more! Let’s put your money in the piggy bank.”

“Okay.”

“Let’s see…last week, you had $5. That was one hundred glasses at a nickel apiece. Where is your money from this week?”

“Here it is.”

“Honey, where’s the rest of it? This is only twenty cents.”

“That’s all there is.”

“What happened? Did someone take it?”

“No. I spent it.”

“You spent it? On what?”

“I bought some movies for people to watch while they bought the lemonade. I also bought some books that they can borrow to read while they drink it.”

“Well, that explains why you had more customers, I guess.’

“Yes, and they really like it! I’m sure they’ll come back next week!’

“Is that all you bought?”

“No…I bought a robot.”

“You bought a…why did you do that?”

“The robot puts the lemonade in the glasses for me, so I don’t spill any.”

“Okay, honey…but really, I don’t know how I’m going to get any more money to buy lemons for you when you keep spending all of it like this.”

“But next week, I’ll make loads of money!”

:)

It’s always been true that Amazon stockholders have to be made of sturdy stuff.   They have to wait years to see results sometimes. Amazon literally bought a robot company, and that cost a lot of money…but it’s likely to save a lot. Amazon bought videos for Prime streaming (well, licensed them), and pays for every book borrowed through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

Overall, I don’t think this is going to surprise people much. We’ll see, though…

Update: I listened to the recording. I had suggested they might tease new hardware, and there was mention of liking the “road map” for the Kindle Fire (and the question had included hardware, I believe). There was a lot of talk about sales tax, and they answered as they usually do, in terms of economic impact: they already collect sales tax or VAT (Value Added Tax) on something like half of their sales, and are still able to compete well.

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

Round up #99: “dumb” EBRs, 50MB limit on 3G browsing?

July 25, 2012

Round up #99: “dumb” EBRs, 50MB limit on 3G browsing?

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

engadget: “Amazon puts 50MB limit on 3G Kindle’s ‘free’ experimental browser”

engadget article

When I first had my Kindle 1 (more than four years ago), techies were shocked that it had free 3G web browsing. Of course, it wasn’t like going online on a desktop…I jokingly referred to it as “web slogging”.

It was, though, still a surprise. I could check on my kid’s flight status while at a restaurant…with no monthly fee, no use fee.

It was called “experimental”, and initially, it was only in the USA (and on Sprint).

Coming up on five years of the Kindle’s existence, and it’s still experimental…which apparently means they are still doing trials while altering the variables. ;)

The Kindle Touch 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, for example, doesn’t have free 3G web browsing. Amazon says:

“Kindle Touch 3G enables you to connect to the Kindle Store and access Wikipedia – over 3G or Wi-Fi. Experimental web browsing on other websites is only available over Wi-Fi.”
Amazon help page

We’ve always known it was possible that Amazon would change the conditions of use…they can do that with any of the experimental features.

engadget (sic) is now reporting that web browsing has been limited to 50MBs a month.

I think that they may not be interpreting things exactly correctly. Amazon does say

“The Experimental Web Browser is currently only available for some customers outside of the United States and may be limited to 50MB of browsing over 3G per month. This limit does not apply when customers are browsing over Wi-Fi.”

but note that this is under the “Kindle Keyboard – Using Wireless Outside the US” section:

Amazon help page

I’ve asked Amazon for a clarification on this…about whether it affects people in the USA or not, but my guess is that it doesn’t. Update: Amazon has confirmed that the 50MB per month 3G limit is only when “…outside your country of residence”. Going to Amazon or Wikipedia will not count against that 50MB. 

Update: I have received a further clarification. The 50MB limit is for 3G use outside your country of residence, not outside the USA. If you are a UK resident, you would not face the 50MB limit in the UK…but you would face it when traveling to the USA. The reverse is also true. That means that this will affect a lot fewer people than some of the news stories have been suggesting.

Understandably, people don’t like there being a limit where there wasn’t one before…but I don’t think most people will run into this. I think it’s a bit like saying, “You can only suck three pizzas through a straw in a month.” ;) I’m sure you’d be offended, but really, how many pizzas are you sucking through a straw?

I have a lot of international readers, and I don’t mean to minimize that this may only affect them. I just want to know for sure who it affects and who it doesn’t.

Oh, and one group it doesn’t and won’t affect? People who use wi-fi. Amazon doesn’t pay for your wi-fi use, so it has no reason ever to limit it. If you have a Mindle or a Kindle Fire or a wi-fi only model, no impact from this.

More from the DoJ response to the comments

I have had time now to read the Department of Justice response to the public comments on the Agency Model settlement.

Here’s the basic set-up:

The DoJ posts a settlement agreement between them (well, the people of the United States, supposedly) and publishers they have accused of wrongdoing in the Agency Model pricing structure for e-books.

The public then makes comments, which are also public.

The DoJ then responds to the comments

The idea is that they take those comments into account, and could, hypothetically, change the terms based on ideas suggested.

Well, in reality, it reads to me more like the DoJ responding to comments from the affected parties saying, “We got you, suckas!” ;)

That’s an exaggeration, but they go point by point dismantling the opposition comments.

We can sum it up:

  • It doesn’t matter if Amazon was doing something wrong, you can’t collude illegally to combat it
  • The DoJ has no responsibility to protect companies from competition…it protects consumers in this kind of case
  • We have the power!

Those are three of the themes. They are also pretty clear that they don’t think Amazon was doing something wrong, although they haven’t yet investigated that as they have with the Agency Model.

They do reference some other people in their review of comments, including author Lee Goldberg.

Here are a few excerpts:

“…the proposed Final Judgment specifically permits Settling Defendants to pay for e-book promotion or marketing efforts made by brick-and-mortar booksellers. PFJ § VI.A. Each Settling Defendant also may negotiate a commitment from any e-book retailer to limit its annual discounts, so that each Settling Defendants may ensure that its entire catalog of e-books is not sold by any retailer below its total e-book costs. PFJ § VI.B. Monitoring and enforcement of this provision is left to the discretion of Settling Defendants and the retailers with which they contract.”

===

“Comments opposing the proposed Final Judgment and those supporting it have at least one element in common: they agree that entry of the decree likely will reduce retail prices for e-books, at least in the short term. Detractors insist that lower pricing will mean reduced profits for bookstores, authors, literary agents, and publishers, and an eventual reduction in quality, service, variety, and other benefits to consumers. Supporters welcome a reduction in e-book prices for consumers, and dismiss any lost benefits to industry participants as undeserved, speculative, or irrelevant…”

===

“The booksellers’ objection is not that they were harmed as a result of the violation, but that the proposed Final Judgment ends the collusively-attained equilibrium that provided them with an anticompetitive windfall.”

===

“Many comments state or imply that Publisher Defendants must stand in the place of consumers to preserve quality. Such a paternalistic view is inconsistent with the intent of the antitrust laws, which reflect a legislative decision to allow competition to decide what the market does and does not value.”

===

One of the ideas I love in this is the DoJ responding to concerns that online retailers take advantage of consumers shopping in a brick-and-mortar store and discovering new books and then buying them online instead. The DoJ says to the publishers that, if the publishers want to pay brick-and-mortar stores advertising fees to make up for that, go for it. Why do I think that won’t happen…? ;)

Joe Wikert: “Why Aren’t E-Reading Devices Smarter?”

Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 blog post

Joe Wikert and I disagree a lot (never face to face), but I have to say, this is one of the weirdest proposals I’ve read.

The basic idea, that EBRs (E-Book Readers) don’t need to copy the model of books on shelves makes sense.

I’d love my technology to learn me better, and to adapt itself to me. I’d like it to eventually figure out that what I want to do on a Saturday isn’t the same as what I usually want to do on a Monday, and adjust what it offers me.

Wikert wants an EBR to nag you.

Would you want a text message from your EBR saying, “Dear, you bought that book two months ago, started it, but never finished it…don’t you think you should get back to it?”

How about a reminder about samples you haven’t opened in a month?

Now, I know I’m not always typical, but I’d never want that kind of friction to my reading. I don’t want my Tivo questioning what I’m recording because I don’t watch it before it gets deleted, and I don’t want my EBR getting on my back about my reading habits. :)

I wrote a story about that a couple of years ago:

http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/winston-the-librariandroid/

By the way, I’ve found a new workflow that made it much easier to retrieve the Joe Wikert post (yes, I recommend you read it) for you.

When using Flipboard, there is a “star” feature, but I hadn’t quite figured out how it worked. It’s easy to star something (which usually means you are making something a favorite), but I didn’t see an easy way to get back to it. That’s important with Flipboard, since the stories change frequently.

Well, it’s easier than I thought.

I star the story in Flipboard.

I can log into Twitter on my computer, and on my Profile page, there is a list of my Favorites.

That’s it.

I’ll be using that more for stories for you.

Quick comment on quarterly reports

I could really keep going this morning, but I did want to mention two things. Apple’s quarterly report is considered to be “disappointing”, and Amazon will do a public conference call to discuss theirs tomorrow, 7/26 2:00 PM Pacific Time.  Yes, you can tune in and listen. I usually do, although I sometimes have to listen to the recording. The first part can be dry, but the Q&A is often juicier. My guess is that Amazon won’t announce new hardware tomorrow during the call, but will suggest it will happen…and then do a big announcement event within a week, maybe Tuesday, July 31st.

Amazon press release, with link to call

Have a comment on any of these stories? Are traditional publishers paternalistic in saying that they have to decide what is worth publishing? If the market purely decides, will we only get teenage vampire books? ;) Is Wikert right…should your EBR help you manage your reading more proactively? Will free 3G web browsing eventually disappear from the RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles), outside of the Amazon store and Wikipedia? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting this post.

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

Memory use on a Kindle Fire

July 24, 2012

Memory use on a Kindle Fire

I often see people posting questions about running out of memory on a Kindle Fire

While that’s certainly possible, people typically seemed surprised…they don’t think they have that much on the device.

I thought I’d take a look at mine, and get some comparative values.

First, though, it’s important to understand that there are functionally three memory areas on a Kindle Fire.

The Fire has an 8GB hard drive.

1.47GB of that is being used by the device itself. The user doesn’t have access to that. Some of the things that people want added in future updates would presumably take up some of that memory.

1.17GB is the Application Storage. When you get apps from the Amazon Appstore, that’s where they go. Those vary wildly in size, but Amazon figures you can get about 80 apps on there.

The remaining 5.36GB is the “Internal Storage”. That’s where everything else you put on the device goes…magazines, music, videos, personal documents, and so on.

To be clear, if you used up the 5.36 of Internal Storage but had no apps, you still couldn’t use the Application Storage for your music.

I used the free ES File Explorer app (which I highly recommend) to gather some of this data.

Audiobook from Audible = 161MB (almost 3% of your available memory)

I used Water for Elephants as an example. Tom Clancy’s Dead or Alive was 289MB.

E-books from Amazon were all over the place, but that’s probably because that includes samples and such. Books with pictures obviously take up more. I’d say that about a megabyte is about right for many books…that’s about what Amazon figures. There are associated files, but they aren’t as big

Saved magazines: I think this is one of the things that people don’t realize is a significant memory hog. One back issue of National Geographic that I had my Fire “keep” was 34.43MB. That’s right…one magazine that was the size of maybe 35 books. It would be easy to keep a few magazines and really eat up the space.

My Old Time Radio MP3 files range around 6 or 7MBs.

My work PowerPoints? Not bad, half a meg or so…that can vary, of course.

A comic book I downloaded in CBR format? Around 20MBs.

MP3 songs? Two to five MBs.

A downloaded movie from Amazon? Men in Black was 470MB.

The big culprit that I’ve found (which wouldn’t occur to people) is when you manually download a Kindle Software Update. That can easily be over 180MB.

Here are some app usages:

  • Alarm Clock = 10.02MB
  • Amazon Kindle = 115MB
  • Angry Birds = 19.73MB
  • Book Collections = 0.98MB
  • Dabble = 27.19MB
  • Drawing Pad = 29.52MB
  • EZ Ruler = 7.12MB
  • Fandango = 5.93MB
  • Netflix = 29.12MB
  • OfficeSuite = 16.48MB

Those are just a few, not carefully chosen.

So, my basic recommendation for any mobile device remains the same: clean up after yourself. :) If you download something, try to remember you did that, and delete (again, ES File Explorer is a big help with this) when you are done.

Keep what you can in the Cloud. I do find I keep more on Kindle Fire than I did on my 3G RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles). It’s just tougher to get something on the road…so, yes, I have a picture of one of the dogs on there. It’s a really cool picture, though!

You talked me into it…I’ll post it here, even though it’s not really Kindle related. ;)

Years ago, we took the dog to the groomer (the dog is a terrier mutt). This dog’s fur never stops growing…like a cocker spaniel. If you don’t groom it, you’ll end up with a tribble.

My kid said, “Can you give the dog a mohawk?”

A young groomer in the back said, “Yo, I can do that!”

Those are approximate quotations, by the way.

So, here it is:

For the rest of that summer, my Significant Other kept imitating Shrek and calling the dog, “Don-kay!”

Where was I? ;)

Oh, yes…figure out about what you need on your device before you can get back to wi-fi. I keep more than that on my Kindle, but I don’t keep 1,000 times that. Yes, Amazon figures you can keep 6,000 books on your Kindle Fire (if you don’t use the Internal Memory for anything else).

Even at a book a day, that’s about 16 and a half years.

This is all just my advice. I know a lot of people keep a thousand or more books on an RSK. However, I also see them report difficulties with searching and the Kindle locking up.

When Amazon says you can have 1,500 books on your Kindle, it doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy having all those books. ;)

I used to teach Microsoft Access. I remember asking a group of students if anyone of them know how many simultaneous users you could have in an Access database. A few of them knew…256. I then pointedly asked them how many happy simultaneous users you could have…I think the highest number I got was four.

If you can put 1500 books on there (and that’s an approximate number), you can’t put 1501. Doesn’t it make sense that as you get closer to the failure point, performance might degrade?

I have people picture this for memory.

You are shopping. You buy a package and carry it. You buy another package..and another…and another.

Eventually, you’ll have more than you can carry, and you’ll drop them (crash, in computer parlance, if it’s the RAM…Random Access Memory…that’s another story).

Before you drop them, though, you’ll slow down, and you’ll be less able to do other tasks (like see where you are going).

I guess the bottom line is definitely get rid of things from your device you don’t need…and try and be mindful about what you do need. That’s if you want optimal performance. If you just want braggin’ rights, be my guest and pile on. ;)

Oh, one more thing…you can get additional portable memory you can use with the Fire:

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


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