Archive for December, 2012

My wish list for Amazon wish lists

December 23, 2012

My wish list for Amazon wish lists

With another end of year gift giving season coming to a close, I’ve been thinking about what Amazon could do with a really useful “friends and family” gifting service.

They recently introduced

Amazon Friends & Family

and they may add features to it over the year. As they do, these are some of the things I’d like to see.

All of this would be opt-in, by the way. None of it would happen automatically, and you could choose to participate in each one or not.

Here are the basics:

Each possible recipient would have a page. That page would only be available to people they chose to have see it, possibly by providing a simple code you could enter into Amazon (finding wish lists right now could be easier). If somebody wanted it to be public, great. Otherwise, only those in the “circle” saw it.

Let people list the “players” they use

This was a weird and different question this year when buying gifts: “How does so and so read books?” This went from children to people in their eighties. We love giving books as gifts, but you need to know the preferred method. Do they read paperbooks? Do they read on a Kindle? If so, which one?

That’s also important for other things, like videogames and apps. Music, interestingly, is much less of an issue; you give someone an MP3 album and they are good, generally.

This also changes from year to year for some folks.

One thing that would make this easier is to give people who buy a “player” (a Kindle, a PS Vita) an option to have it show on their…I’ll say “gift profile”. People could also add a comment (that is already a function of wish lists), in case they use one player in one situation, and another in others.

There also can be “aware” shopping connected to this (and other items in this post). If you went to a product page for a videogame, it could give you links for people on your list. “Buying for Bob? Click here.” That would then get the appropriate version, based on their player(s).

Let people list sizes

That would be similar to the above. If you were on a page for a jacket, it could show you the right sizes for the people on your list.

Let people list preferences

We don’t use leather, so it would be great if we could just put that on the gift profile…and if it would warn people when they bought things: “Buying this for Bufo? Bufo has said that this product isn’t one that they would use.” Certainly, this could also go for food allergies and dietary preferences, among other things.

Let us see what other buyers in the “gift group” have bought for people

This would be a huge function. As a giftee, you wouldn’t see your list change, but other buyers could see that someone already bought that Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB that was on so and so’s list. Now, you can buy a cover, or a gift card for content. I think that would be the killer app here, ,the one that got people to use it.

Want to go in with me?

On a gift list item, a buyer could indicate a willingness to split the cost with other people, who could then jump in. You could indicate the amount you wanted to spend, or just have it do an even split. When enough people get in there, the gift gets ordered.

I already own…

Simple. You can publicize the ones you already have to the “gift group”. That’s especially true with book series, but would also go for things like special cards for some games, videos, and more. This could also include “I just finished…”, which might inform us for other choices, and show us what is big in the person’s life right now.

Social media feeds

I think this would also be transformative. On my Amazon Author Central Page, you see my Twitter feed. That would be cool! Twitter, Facebook: show us on the gift profile what is going on (again, only opt in). That would keep you going to the gift profile even when it wasn’t an expected time for a gift, like a birthday. You might buy a gift just because it’s fun for that person right then.

Ideally, this would also be interactive, and include a forum for the person (which they could see), right there. Unique content and social content combined…that’s the glue for a website like this.

Show us their recommendations 

Okay, the recommendation function could be a whole lot better, but this would be helpful. The big problem would be that it might compete with what the person is buying for themselves. Hm…I wonder if it could block you buying something someone else just bought for you? Probably not, due to Prime meaning you would know in a couple of days that you didn’t actually get it. Fortunately, returns at Amazon are easy, so you might end up with two, but you could return one.

Remind us

This functionality exists in the new page, but it is nice. Let us know when somebody’s birthday is, and alert us to it.

Include services

This is a big opportunity for Amazon, but would involve a lot more than a wish list change. Let us get somebody a restaurant coupon, or a travel gift certificate. Costco does this, and I would guess it is effective. Amazon is now doing it with AmazonLocal, although those deals aren’t on their website in the store.

Give us alerts when a price goes down

This would be huge! If something on a gift list goes on a special (maybe a Gold Box deal at Amazon, or just drops in price), send us an alert. People would jump on the opportunity, and probably buy something they wouldn’t have bought otherwise.

Well, that’s a few of my ideas. I think this spectrum of ideas would be big moneymakers for Amazon, and would make its customers happier and more loyal.

What do you think? Are there other things you’d like to see? Does this seem too crass to you? Does your family have a wish list tradition? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

A Kindle Carol, Part 2

December 23, 2012

A Kindle Carol, Part 2

This is part 2 of a story inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  It originally appeared in ILMK on December 22, 2009.

This is part 2 of the story that had begun in this earlier post.

“The Greasy Cat!”

The spirit child rippled with laughter at the name.

Scrooge’s eyes grew large, and he shook his head to clear it.  There could be no doubt.  Although it was much smaller than he remembered it, he was seeing the treehouse of his youth.  They had called it “The Greasy Cat” after a secret meeting place in The Scarlet Pimpernel.  While the name, Le Chat Gris actually meant “The Gray Cat”, that had been beyond his level of French at ten years old.  Marley had known that “chat” meant “cat”, and the rest had been a guess.

“But how can it still be standing after all this time?”

The spirit child rippled again.

“It couldn’t be, could it…the house was sold years ago.   This whole area is an industrial park now.”

“Not now, silly head,” said the child.

“Of course!  This is the past.  Oh, the times Jakey and I had up there!  The laughter and the secrets.  I’d love to see the inside again…but my legs are more rickety than that old board ladder.”

There was no whirlwind, just a whisper…like the too loud hsh-hsh-hsh of small children hiding behind a couch.

Scrooge suddenly found himself inside The Greasy Cat.  He thought he would feel claustrophobic, but he didn’t.   The room hadn’t gotten bigger…and he didn’t seem smaller.  In fact, he didn’t seem to be there at all, and yet, it was all perfectly clear.

The only lighting in the room came from a two-battery flashlight with a cracked lens.   If Scrooge needed any more convincing, that would have done it.  He remembered reading so many things with that thin black jagged line across the words.  They pretended it looked like a Z, and that they could use it like a Zorro signal to call that masked defender of the people.  Although there was one night when they would swear they had both heard Tornado’s hooves, Don Diego remained as hidden from them as he had from Sargent Gonzales.

But who was holding the light…

“Jakey!”

“They seek him here,
They seek him there…”

The boy with the flashlight read on, paying Scrooge no heed.

Suddenly, another child’s voice echoed through the gloom in a lightning crack:

“They seek him in his underwear!”

Both kids exploded in raucous laughter, slapping each other and rolling on the floor.

The older Scrooge smiled.   The spirit child became a cloud and whirled around the room, mirroring the boys as they made no attempt to control themselves.

“Oh, I loved that book.”

“Not a book,” said the spirit child sternly.

“Of course it is!  That’s The Scarlet Pimpernel!  That’s why we named the treehouse the Greasy Cat.”

“Comic book.”

“Comic…say, that’s right!  We were reading the comic books!  I remember now.  We would get them at Fezziwig’s.  We used to ride our bikes down there and sneak the comics back under our shirts.  Wouldn’t do to have Dad catch me with a comic, even if it was a classic.”

“Not a real book.”

“They were real to us!  Realer than school, realer than anything!”

“Fake books.”

“Hey, at least we were reading, right?  I might not be what I am today without those comic books.”

The spirit child flew at Scrooge, and for a moment all he could see was a wall of white.

He blinked his eyes and found himself back in his office.

He jumped when a figure suddenly entered the room.

“Hey, Unc…I just need to make one more call…gotta follow up on something with one of the kids.  You know how kids are, right?”

Scrooge’s nephew turned away, his thumbs flicking on the keys.

Left alone in his office, Scrooge gave the question more consideration than it had been meant to deserve.

It had been a long time since he’d thought about children.  Children didn’t buy JMP books.  He didn’t have any kids of his own.  This company had been his life.  When Marley died, he had felt like a single parent.  JMP had been theirs…it still was.  But he had suddenly had to do it all by himself.  They had always divided everything.  It wasn’t as simple as good cop/bad cop, or tough love/tenderness.  They were both tough, and everybody knew it.   They were just tough in different ways.  Marley was tough with people…Scrooge was tough with the numbers.

When he’d been left by himself, he didn’t try to copy Marley.  He couldn’t, there was no point to it.  So, he’d just let that part die along with Jacob.

He missed him now.  He’d know kids.  He’d known what people…all people wanted.

Didn’t Cratchit have kids?  Scrooge thought he did…in fact, he was sure he did.  He’d never met Cratchit’s family…not that he could remember.

“I wish I knew more about them.”

A breeze seemed to cause the potted plant in the corner to wave from side to side.  But it couldn’t be a breeze: there were no windows, and the air conditioning was off.

“Hmph.”

The plant continued to move.  Scrooge smelled that distinctive plant smell, like walking by a park after a rainy day.  The smell terrified Scrooge.

The plant was plastic.

The smell began to fill the room.  It reminded Scrooge of a particularly unpleasant trip, when he had gone to Hawaii for a publishing convention.  He’d always hated travel…meeting with people had been Marley’s part of the deal.  But Marley had been too sick to go…he’d gotten better, that time.

Scrooge coughed and hacked.  Why wasn’t his allergy medicine working?

When he could stand again, he saw that the room was covered in ivy, overgrown in leaves.  They were still growing…flowers sprouted, tendrils twisted around branches.

A man stepped into the center of the room.  At least, “man” was the closest approximation Scrooge’s confused mind could make.  Whatever it was, it was part of the jungle that was all that Scrooge could see.  He couldn’t see where the man started and the plants stopped.

“Ebenezer Scrooge.”

“Are you the second of the spirits?”

“I am here and now.”

“What will you show me?”

“I am here and now.”

The ivy continued to grow and expand.  Scrooge felt it pressing against him, wrapping around him.  He struggled. It covered his face.  He couldn’t breath!  He felt it go through his skin, becoming part of him…or he of it?  Scrooge found it hard to think…his mind was stretched, and the thinner it became the less of him was left.

He fought to control it…control was always how he got through things.

He lost.

To be continued…

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

Baen comes to the Kindle store

December 22, 2012

Baen comes to the Kindle store

In this

announcement

Baen announces that their e-books are available in the Kindle store for the first time.

Baen is a major publisher of science fiction titles (authors include Poul Anderson, Robert Asprin, Greg Bear, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and many more).

For years, they’ve sold directly from their own website.

Now, it becomes easy to get these books in the Kindle store:

Baen books in the Kindle store

That includes Ben Bova’s Cyberbooks (available as part of the anthology Laugh Lines), a remarkably prophetic book about e-books, which I reviewed here. I paid $6 for it more than a year and a half ago, and it is $6.99 now, which is pretty close.

Baen also says that the books will be released without DRM (Digital Rights Management) in the Kindle store, which is the way they were at Baen as well. That means that you could convert it to a different format, if you wanted to do that.

I also checked: while it looks like the Baen Free Public Library is currently being restructured, I did find at least one of the same books available for free and in the Kindle store (not for free there). That might surprise indies, but the deal we have through Kindle Direct Publishing isn’t necessarily the same for a traditional publisher like Baen.

Overall, I think this is good news. :) It certainly gets Amazon closer to their old “every book ever written” goal.

What do you think? Are you happy to be able to get these well-known books through the Kindle store? Does it feel like Baen “sold out”? Will it cause changes in the Baen Free Public Library? Would you pay $7 to get a book from Amazon you could get free somewhere else? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

A Kindle Carol, part 1

December 22, 2012

A Kindle Carol, Part 1

This story, inspired by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, originally appeared in ILMK on December 1, 2009. 

It was a cold night in the publishing house.  Every night was cold, and the days weren’t much better.  The employees (well, the ones that were left after the latest round of layoffs) had been told it was a cost-cutting measure.  Samir in Accounting had gotten quite a laugh when he suggested it was to match the CEO’s reptilian heart.  Michel had disagreed…he said Scrooge had no heart.

Bob Cratchit would have disagreed for a different reason, if anyone had shared the joke with him.  He’d been Mr. Scrooge’s Executive Assistant for nearly twenty years.  He believed that there was some humanity left in the Old Man, although it had been diminished by years of declining sales.  It had been ten years since his last raise…before any of his children had been born.  Company policy prohibited raises based purely on longevity, and Scrooge had given him a perfect review ten years ago.   Nine years ago, his boss had said there wouldn’t be any point in doing another review…unless Bob’s performance declined.  Bob was proud of the fact that it hadn’t.

Tonight was going to be a particularly difficult test.   It was time for the annual holiday marketing strategy meeting.  J. Marley Publishing hadn’t turned a profit in three years, and was rapidly depleting its cash reserves.  It had accepted an offer of twenty-five cents on the dollar for its audiobook business in exchange for a considerable loan that would see them through the spring.  If something didn’t change, there would be no Jay-Em romances on the beaches that summer.

“Cratchit.”

Scrooge’s voice carried into Bob’s little cell of a cubicle.  He didn’t shout: he saw no reason to spend the extra energy that would take.  The phones would only accept incoming calls…even salespeople had to use their own phones to call their clients.  There was no way to call someone’s extension from inside the building, and Scrooge wasn’t going to waste the valuable time it would take to walk the ten steps from his inner office.  Time was money: although when Scrooge saw his own face in the mirror, he knew he might soon have very little of either left.

“Yes, Mr. Scrooge?”

“How many are going to be in the meeting?”

“Just three of us, sir.  You, your nephew, and myself.”

“Don’t bother printing out any agendas, then.  We can’t afford the paper.  No coffee, no donuts.  Don’t bring the garbage can: we won’t need it.”

“Yes, sir.  Anything else?”

“No.  Don’t be late…I can’t abide tardiness.”

“Yes, sir.”  Bob Cratchit had never been late for anything in his life, much less a meeting.  He wondered what had made Scrooge forgetful, and hoped the Old Man wasn’t ill.

Scrooge wasn’t sick, or not especially sick.  When you get as old as he was, you were always sick with something.  You outlived most of the viruses…it was your own failing systems that would probably get you.   That’s why they call it natural causes…only fools were surprised when the end came.

Marley had been no fool.  Everything was in order, and Scrooge had found it all laid out in minute detail.   He had followed his old partner’s plans for three years.  Marley had always been the face of the organization, and his name could still open a few doors.  Lately, though, there had been fewer and fewer of those doors…open or otherwise.

He could almost picture Marley now.  They would strategize before these meetings.  But strategies suggest choices.  Nobody in the book industry had a lot of choices left.  “People just don’t read any more”, thought Scrooge, “unless it’s under 141 characters”.  Books were going to go the way of newsreels and LPs.   Even if the electronic cancer didn’t kill them, the rising cost of paper would…the expense of natural resources bringing on natural causes.

“Hey, Unca!”

Scrooge’s nephew burst into the room.

“Seven minutes early.”

“I figured that would be okay.  Why not get the meeting done, and we can get out of here early…it’s the night before Thanksgiving, after all.”

“Hmph.  That doesn’t mean today has to be any shorter.  Why not two hours…or half the day?  Why not take the whole week off?”

“Why not?  A lot of people do.”

“Idiots.  You can’t run a business by taking off time.  If it was up to me, we’d work through Thanksgiving.”

“You don’t mean that, Unca.”

“I do…and if you had any sense, you’d agree with me.”

“Oh, I have plenty of sense, Unca…runs in the family, right?  So, you want to have Bob join us in the Conference Room?”

“You’re already here.  Cratchit!  Cancel the lights and turn off the heat for the rest of the building.  We’ll meet here now.”

“Yes, sir.  Right away, sir.”

“You mean the heat’s on?  It’s like a refrigerator in here.”

“Mr. Scrooge, would you like to begin with old business?”

“Let’s dispense with that, Unca.  I wanted to let you know…I met with some guys from Amazon.”

“And?”

“They were talking to me about the Kindle–”

“Bah!  E-books!”

“Hear me out, Unc.  They were telling me that they thought the Jay-Em line would be a good bet.  Romances do well…all those Harlequin imprints…Kimani, Silhouette, Steeple Hill…Samhain’s moving titles, too.”

“We’re not in the software business.  We sell books.”

“These are books, Unc…they’re just a different format.”

“Paperbacks and hardbacks, those are different formats.  E-books are nothing.  What do they charge for those things?”

“Well, actually, they suggested we offer a couple of them for free–”

“FREE?  That’s not a business, it’s a charity.  Call Bill Gates…he can give them away in South America or something.”

“But Unca–”

“If those e-books were worth anything, they wouldn’t be giving them away.  Books are paper, period.  Nobody’s going to pay any real money for fake books.”

“They really open up the market, though, Unca.  People who have difficulty reading the paper books can really use the increasing text size and the text-to-speech.   It’s easier for people with arthritis and you should understand about the aging population.”

“Our market’s dying off, you don’t need to remind me.  As to the blind, they can already get books for free.  That’s no help.”

“But this is more convenient, and they can share with the family.  They don’t have to prove any kind of disability to buy books from the Kindle store.”

“We’re not here to make their lives easier…we’re here to make money.”

“But Unca, I’ve got some numbers here…oh, my cell!  It’s my wife…excuse me while I take this.”

“Cratchit, go work on those end of year calculations.  No point in wasting the time while my nephew conducts his personal business.”

Left alone in his office, Scrooge’s gaze fell on the J. Marley Publishing logo on the wall.  It was a stylized silhouette of old Marley himself.   As he stared at it, he fancied he saw the portrait turn and look at him.

“These old eyes of mine are playing tricks on me,” Scrooge thought.

“Ebenezer Scrooge.”

“Audio hallucinations as well.  It was only a matter of time.”

“I am no hallucination.”

“Nonsense.  My mind is starting to go…I haven’t been getting enough sleep lately.  After the holidays, I’ll catch up and then I won’t have to worry about mind slips like you.”

“You know who I was.”

“I know you appear to be Jacob Marley, but you could have been a two-headed giraffe.  It’s just a normal consequence of sleep deprivation.  See that stack of bills?  That’s real.”

At this, the figure of Marley let out a wail that shook Scrooge to his toes.  He was sure that Cratchit and his nephew must have heard it, and would rush in at any moment.  When that didn’t happen, he knew that only he could hear and see it.

“It seems it’s just the two of us.  Alright, I’ll play along. ”

“We do not play games in this office…you of all people should know that.”

“What do you want of me?”

“Much.”

“Good luck with that.  There is very little of me left…I’ve already given everything to this company.”

“You do not know what you have to give.  But you will.  If you can still learn, you will.”

These last words chilled Scrooge.  He was unsure that he could learn anything new…and if he couldn’t, what would be the consequences?  He frantically looked at the ghost, looked for anything there that might give him a way to avoid the lesson.  He noticed the spectral ruins of buildings at the feet of the phantom.

“What…what are those crumbled walls?”

“Those are the chains to which we sold when I was alive…Crown Books, B. Dalton, Waldenbooks…I am tied to them in death as I was in life.  I stumble over them, wander their empty halls…I can not leave them, can not move on to more fertile markets.   If you can not change, you will join me here in death.”

“Tell me, spirit…tell me what I have to do!”

“That is not for me to do.  When you see me, you see our lives together.  The echoes of the past will overwhelm any truth I might tell you now.  That will be for the others.”

“Others?”

Scrooge’s heart beat faster than it had in years.  Seeing your dead business partner was one thing…he could manage Marley.  But other people…other ghosts…Scrooge had always been better with numbers than people.  That had been Marley’s area.

“Three others.  Listen openly to what they tell you, Ebenezer.  You will not be given another chance.”

At this, the figure faded back into the logo on the wall.

The ruins crumbled into dust, and the dust to lesser dust, until there was no sign that anything had ever been there.

“Delusions,” said Scrooge, “brought on by stress and lack of sleep.  Where is that nephew of mine?  Work…that’s what I need.  Back to work, and I won’t be bothered by these ridiculous visions any more.”

He noticed the old-fashioned Rolodex that sat on a corner of his desk.  He flipped backwards, precisely one letter at time.  “Just the thing,” thought Scrooge.  “I’ve been meaning to get this organized.”

He began with the letter A.  He looked at the first card.  “Dead.”  He put it in a large envelope he used to take shredding to the bank…JMP wasn’t going to pay a shredding service while he was in charge.  He looked at the second card.  “Out of business.”  The third: “Merged.”

Soon, his envelope was filled to overflowing.  He decided he would need something bigger.  He took a dusty plaque honoring the company on its first million seller out of a box.  He tried to shake the cards into the box, but they wouldn’t come out of the envelope.

“Out, you lazy garbage!  Staying together isn’t going to save you!”

He shook harder, and the cards came out in a lump.  Scrooge was stunned, though, to see that they didn’t fall.  They hung in the air above the box.   Slowly, the cards began to spread out…first in one direction, then another.  Two long flows spread towards the floor, and two more towards the walls.  A fifth formed a lump at about Scrooge’s chest level.  It took on the shape of a child.

“Neezy,” it said in a soft and gentle voice.

“Neezy?!”  No one had called Scrooge that since he was a child himself.  Scrooge had almost no memories of his own childhood…they had long ago been crushed under the weight of corporate responsibility.

The figure, who ruffled and shuffled as its card body constantly flowed and changed, held out a “hand” to the Old Man.

“No, no!  What is it?  Where do you want to take me?”

“Only where you have already been.  You will see nothing new…nothing you haven’t already lived.”

Scrooge thought about that…if there was damage to be done by the past, it had already hurt him…and he had beaten it.  He had forgotten the worst of it before…he could do it again.

“Spirit, you do not frighten me.”

“It is your past we will see…do you frighten yourself?”

The hand began to withdraw, but Scrooge snatched it before it could merge back into the card cloud.  He had never been afraid to seize an opportunity.

The rustling became an overwhelming sound, like being swept up in a tornado!  The sprite grabbed Scrooge’s other hand, and they whirled in a mad game of ring-around-the-rosy, spinning faster and faster, until it seemed to Scrooge he was in danger of exploding outwards into a million pieces!

The spinning stopped, the sound subsided…and Scrooge saw something he would never have expected…

To be continued…

This story continues in Part 2.

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

Really last minute gifts: e-books and gift cards

December 22, 2012

Really last minute gifts: e-books and gift cards

While it still may be possible to get physical goods from Amazon by Tuesday, you don’t really need to worry about that.

With e-books and gift cards, you only need about ten minutes lead time to give a great gift.

Let’s talk about gifting Kindle books first.

The person getting the gift does not have to have a Kindle…they can read the book on a free Kindle reading app.

If they already have that book, they can contact Kindle Support (it’s easy) and get a credit for the amount you paid for the book.

http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

Here’s a really key thing: you do not need to know their e-mail address, and you can print out the information about your gift and wrap it for them. What happens is that you select the option to have your gift information sent to you, instead of to them.

When you do, you’ll get an e-mail like this within in about five minutes:

GiftExample

You can then print that out and wrap it, or forward it if you’d rather.

You can also delay when a gift is delivered, but you can only pick a day, not a time, I believe. That would work well on a birthday when you aren’t going to be there, but might not work on an occasion when you are in a group giving gifts (since the person might get the e-mail first.

For more information:

Giving and Receiving Kindle Book Gifts

If you don’t know what book to get, or want to give the person to option to get just about anything they want, ;) you can give an Amazon gift card.

There are so many options!

Amazon.com Gift Cards

This year, I like that you can do animated JibJab gift cards. You can upload your picture (or maybe that of your dog, or whatever you want), and they’ll turn it into a dancing card.

You can do physical cards (they are doing free 1-day shipping on cards that came in a gift box). You can do it digitally, and then you can go as low as fifteen cents (you can even do that with a card you can print at home).

You can buy multi-packs: great for office gifts (these go as low as $10 apiece, and as few as three cards).

You can compare the options here:

Compare Amazon.com Gift Cards

Your recipient applies it to their account, and 1-click draws from a gift card balance before going to the specified payment method (usually a debit/credit card).

Is somebody getting a Kindle? This is a great way to supplement the gift and get them started.

Yes, even up to about ten minutes before you give a gift (which might happen when a new Significant Other or unexpected relative appears), you can do it right. After all, good things are given by those who wait. ;)

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

Still need a gift?

December 21, 2012

Still need a gift? 

It’s still possible to get gifts by Tuesday if you use two-day delivery, but you are running out of time. Of course, if you have Prime, you can get that two-day at no additional cost.

My guess is that a lot of people have been waiting, and that retailers will figure that out next year. I think a number of online retailers are overly concerned about under performance year over year, because shoppers are waiting longer to purchase.

When we get down to same day delivery (which appears to be coming), it will be much harder for retailers to gauge when to discount and how much to do.

I thought I’d throw a few things in here that I’ve noticed, and that are eligible for Prime. Don’t forget to check the estimated delivery date, because it can easily change (especially if they go out of stock). Also please check the price, since that can change at any time. I would also guess you’d only be able to get these within the USA.

One other thing: I’m not endorsing all of these. In some cases, I’ve never used it, but it just looked cool. :)

Kindle Fire HD 7″

BookArmor Shield Case Custom Fit for the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7″
$32 at time of writing

This was in a hard, heavy duty case with a washable cover. I think this might be a good bet for a kid, or for someone who does rugged traveling. Note that it weighs more than a pound…

Kindle Fire 1st Gen

BUILT Kindle FIRE (first generation) Neoprene Twist Sleeve, Robot Uprising, Gray

This actually comes in several bold, funky designs.

Grace Digital MatchStick (GDI-GFD7200) Charging Speaker Dock for Kindle Fire – Portrait and Landscape Modes
$99 at time of writing

Charge your Kindle Fire, and have speakers. The speakers can also run for up to six hours (party in the park!) on battery power, with the battery sold separately.

Any Kindle with audio

Marware UpSurge Rechargable Mini Speaker for Kindle Fire
$24.99 at time of writing

Up to five hours on a charge (not a Bluetooth speaker), this one has great reviews.

Audio-Technica ATHM50S Professional Monitor Headphones
$129.99 at time of writing

High quality, luxury Bluetooth headphones. Very well reviewed.

All Kindle Fires…with kids

GreatShield Chalkee Kids Stylus for Kindle Fire (all models), Blue
$24.99 at time of writing

This is a big, sort of crayon styled stylus, extra sturdy, designed for kids (but kidlike adults might like it)

Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Touch

TrendyDigital WaterGuard Plus Waterproof Case with Padding for Kindle Touch , Kindle Paperwhite (Blue)
$19.99 at time of writing

Read at the beach, read in the bathtub, or at the swim meet? This is a waterproof case (also good if you get caught in the rain).

Nonlit Kindles

Kandle by Ozeri LED Book Light in White — Designed for the Amazon Kindle (1st and latest generation), Sony Reader and other eBook readers.
$14.95 at time of writing

I used this one with my older Kindles. It’s a decent booklight, which will give you pretty even lighting Without a long-neck profile.

There are a few ideas…don’t worry, you have plenty of time. ;) Again, check the delivery, but I think you’ll get it by late on Monday if you order these by noon on Friday. Double-check, though…

If you have any other ideas, or have used any of these and have a comment, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: here are two I forgot to mention…and one has free 1-day shipping right now!

Roku HD Streaming Player
$49.99 at time of writing, with $5 Amazon Instant Video credit

Is this box, which puts internet content on your TV, really for Kindle owners? Yes, absolutely! Well, certainly for those who own Kindle Fire. It will show your Amazon Instant Videos on your TV…and it matches your place on your Fire. That means you can watch part of a movie in the car (with someone else driving, of course), and then continue watching it on your bigger screen. Also, with Juice for Roku, you can “throw” pictures and video from your Kindle Fire to your TV! I use that to show my Significant Other pictures we get in e-mail, for example. There are several varieties of Roku, and you can see the comparison on the page for this one. A Roku has a lot of value outside of its use with your Kindle. One of the biggest values, though, is that it is very simple to set up and use (if you have a wi-fi network in your home in particular).

I hadn’t listed something specifically for the 8.9″ Kindle Fire, and I really like my Bluetooth keyboard (not the below brand), so

Poetic KeyBook Bluetooth Keyboard Case for Kindle Fire HD 8.9 Black (Support Auto Sleep/Wake Function)(3 Year Manufacturer Warranty From Poetic)
$29.95 at time of writing

This is a detachable, Bluetooth keyboard…and a cover. I’m not crazy about the cover I have now, and I would consider this if I didn’t already have a keyboard. This is a physical keyboard, which I still find necessary for composing something somewhat lengthy (although I do really like the Swype keyboard, which is now on some Kindle Fires).

One other thing: a regular reader and commenter, Zebras, mentioned gifting a Kindle book. I’ll write about those options in a separate post (you’ve got days before you have to act on that). ;)

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

A Christmas Carol read by Tim Curry: free today

December 20, 2012

A Christmas Carol read by Tim Curry: free today

Thanks to “Emily Bronte” in the Amazon Kindle forum for the heads up on this!

A Christmas Carol read by Tim Curry

is available for free today from Audible.

You will need to set up an Audible account if you don’t have one. They are free, and you are not obligated to buy any certain number of audiobooks in the future (although it often looks that way to people).

This one is especially good for me for three reasons:

I like the story. :) Regular readers know I did a parody of it, which I’ll repost in the next several days (along with other posts). I am, by the way, writing ahead. Our adult (and now financially independent) kid is coming home for just a few days, and it will be a whirlwind of family events. That doesn’t mean I’ll be completely unresponsive here, but I didn’t figure I’d have time to write full posts every one of those days.

I like Tim Curry. The actor is one of my favorites, and has done lots of voicework. I look forward to hearing it. You can do that on any Kindle with sound, by the way.

It does not have Whispersync for Voice. Yes, I prefer that I have the choice as to whether I listen to text-to-speech, which I tend to prefer, or an audiobook. When Whispersync for Voice is in play on a title, you can no longer listen to the text-to-speech, in my experience. I even asked Amazon about that, and it was confirmed (although it’s been a little while since I checked).

Enjoy the book!

Thanks, Emily Bronte!

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

Round up #136″ KF8.9 update, Google text-to-speech

December 20, 2012

Round up #136″ KF8.9 update, Google text-to-speech

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

NPR: “Don’t Hide Your Harlequins: In Defense Of Romance”

In this

NPR piece

Bobbi Dumas makes a defense of reading romance novels.

I’ve read a few. When I managed a brick and mortar bookstore, one of the things I did was encourage my employees to read one book from every section…and to ask regular customers for advice.

Certainly, there are many conventions in writing a typical romance. People famously refer to a “Harlequin formula”.

However, that familiarity is not a bad thing. I have read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and there are undeniably conventions in that writing as well.

I also will invoke “Sturgeon’s Law” here. The story goes that someone said to the author Theodore Sturgeon that ninety percent of science fiction was trash. Sturgeon’s response was, “Ninety percent of everything is trash.” The original word, by the way, may not have been trash…

There’s no shame in reading romances, and there are some exceptional ones.

New Kindle Fire 8.9″ update available

Thanks to my reader D. Knight for the heads-up on the new 8.14 update being available for the KF8.9″.

Kindle Fire 8.9 update page

While this looks like it is mostly to provide access to

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited

which is Amazon’s “all-you-can-eat” subscription service for kids, it also includes “…also includes performance and feature improvements”.

This is a case where it did happen wirelessly without me really noticing it…my guess is it is a relatively small update in terms of memory.

UK revising copyright to allow format shifting of e-books for personal use

According to this

Bookseller article

the UK is

“…to introduce exceptions to copyright law that would allow individual users to make copies of copyrighted materials, including e-books, onto “any medium or device” for their own private use, although they would still be prohibited from sharing them.”

This would make things much simpler for people, and would probably be a boost for the industry.

While the USA leads in some interesting areas (Amazon’s reinvention of book distribution being a good example), it doesn’t surprise me that we might not lead in legislative reform right now…

欢迎到中国来, Kindle!

Amazon is now selling Kindle books in China…although they aren’t selling Kindles on the site:

Amazon.cn Kindle store

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, has always maintained that the Kindle hardware and Kindle content businesses were separate, and this appears to be a validation of that.

How are they going to read the books?

They can get free readers apps (similar to those we have in the USA) for the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Android devices.

What’s the bestselling paid book in the Chinese Kindle store?

Heavy taste Psychology
by Yao Yao

That’s how Google translated the title, at any rate. It appears to be one of those “insights into those around you” books. I have to say, reading the translated customer reviews was interesting.

What’s the “bestselling” free book in the Chinese Kindle store?

Pride and Prejudice

:)

Macmillan’s Joe Sargent says they will continue to fight the DoJ

According to this

Publishers Weekly article

John Sargent, who was arguably the most visible tradpub (traditional publishing) figure during the change to the Agency Model, has said that Macmillan will continue to fight the Department of Justice in its case against that model.

This follows Penguin recently agreeing to settle, leaving Macmillan the only one of the publishers not to have settled (neither has Apple).

I have to say, Sargent strikes me as the kind of person willing to go it alone in this sort of situation.

The full letter is here, and it addresses a lot more than the DoJ:

Sargent letter at Tor.com

I recommend giving it a read..it has a lot of interesting information. One thing where I think Sargent might possibly have missed something is in this statement:

“Our e-book business has been softer of late, particularly for the last few weeks, even as the number of reading devices continues to grow. Interesting.”

The suggestion seems to be that digital is not growing as fast as it was, and that certainly may be true. However, isn’t it possible in this case that the settling publishers are getting a bigger share than they were, since Amazon is significantly discounting in some cases?

By the way, Macmillan has renegotiated contracts to allow some discounting, and they say that library e-book lending of some of their titles will start in 2013. Those are both good things, in my opinion.

Google’s books app has text-to-speech

It was nice to find that the Google app for reading the “Play” books (the ones you get from their store) on my Samsung Captivate can do text-to-speech. Regular readers know that I am a frequent user of TTS (I typically listen to it for hours a week in the car).

When you’ve opened a book, you can use the menu to choose “Read Aloud”.

It’s not as good as the Ivona that we have on the Kindle Fire’s, but it isn’t bad.

I checked, by the way: it was not available on my PC.

Still, this is a nice option. I think it’s only going to work with books you get directly from Google, and I only tested it on a public domain title (I don’t know if a title has it blocked in the Kindle store if it will also have it blocked from the Google store).

Tech rumors

I’m seeing a lot of speculation about a Kindle (or Amazon, at least) SmartPhone for 2013. I could see that happening, although as I’ve speculated before, I think  people will start opting to use their tablets for phone calls rather than carry two devices. I can already do that on my Kindle Fire, using the FREE Calls with magicJack app. Am I doing it? Not yet, but I haven’t made a voice call on my phone in some time either. :)

The other thing is the idea that Nexus will release a $99 version of their Nexus 7 tablet before May of 2013. That would likely put downward price pressure on  Amazon, even if the new one might have fewer features than the current model.

What do you think? Do you hide the romances you are reading? Is John Sargent’s letter a principled response?  Will Amazon eventually crack the Middle East market…and do Kindles need to be sold where Kindle books are? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

Penguin settles with DoJ over Agency Model

December 19, 2012

Penguin settles with DoJ over Agency Model

Thanks to my reader Norma for the heads up on this!

According to this

US Department of Justice press release

Penguin has agreed to settle with the DoJ over its participation in the Agency Model. That’s a change in the way that e-books were sold, which turned former retailers (like Amazon) into “sales agents”, and thereby prevented them from discounting the books. Amazon fought it publicly, but it went into effect in April of 2010. For more information on that, see this category of posts.

It appears that this came about partially because Penguin’s proposed merger with Random House is currently under scrutiny.

Interestingly, the conditions proposed (which are similar to those already accepted by HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster) would also automatically apply to Random House if the merger goes through…and Random House was not named by the DoJ in their legal action.

Why didn’t they name Random House? Well, RH adopted the Agency Model almost a year after the others of the “Big Six” trade publishers in the USA, so it would probably be a lot harder to prove collusion. That’s part of the DoJ’s basis for the action…not just the Agency Model per se, but the concerted effort to set prices.

This will take a while to go into effect. A court has to approve it (but I don’t see a barrier to that). Then, they’ll have some grace period to negotiate new contracts. I would guess it would happen in the next few months.

That leaves Macmillan and Apple still fighting the DoJ.

The fight between Macmillan and Amazon over instituting the Agency Model in the first place was quite messy, and quite public:

Macmillan CEO John Sargent on the agency model

Amazon actually pulled the “buy buttons” from all Macmillan books during the process, but did eventually agree (under pressure of having e-books “windowed”, or delayed in release).

Apple has so much money, they can fight as long as they want. :) They did just settle with the EU (European Union), though.

All in all, I think this is very good news for readers, and should result in lower prices on very popular e-books before too long.

Thanks again to Norma!

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

Gutenberg gaffe: when someone good does something bad

December 18, 2012

Gutenberg gaffe: when someone good does something bad

I consider Project Gutenberg one of the great unselfless acts for the good of the community in the history of humanity.

I really mean that. In a way similar to the public library system, Michael S. Hart’s brain child has made public domain books available to virtually anyone at no cost.

That’s why it really pained me to see the site direct me to a “review” of the Kindle Fire which was (in my opinon) negative about the people who have bought it or received it as a gift, and ignorant as well.

It particularly saddened me because this is by their webmaster, and it validates the stereotypes many people have of geeks who act as though they are intellectually superior and enjoy making those they see as less intelligent suffer and feel bad about themselves.

I’m a geek, and like many others that I know, I love helping people. If I see someone who could benefit from something I know, I want to assist them, to make their lives better…not leave them wallowing in a pool of tears.

As you can tell, I’m emotional about this one…and I think it’s because I see Project Gutenberg as doing so much good in the world, and this, in my opinion, sullies their site. This “review” will probably discourage some people from donating to the project, and that’s a shame.

Read it and judge for yourself:

Project Gutenberg Kindle Fire review

Note that the review says it is by Project Gutenberg; the organization takes responsibility for it.

This excerpt is one of the main problems I have with it:

  1. Don’t buy a Kindle Fire. Buy the very similar Google Nexus 7 instead, that costs the same and is not locked down.
  2. If you have already bought a Kindle Fire, return it, and then buy the Nexus 7 instead.

At best I can describe that as insensitive.

I called the review ignorant. Now, there is nothing wrong with being ignorant, it just means you don’t know something. However, one can always hope that a person writing for public consumption knows when they don’t know something, and will frame a statement to indicate that.

According to the site, the page was last modified on November 27, 2012. That is well after the ability to opt out of the ads on the Kindle Fire was made available.

That means that at that point, a customer chose to see the ads in exchange for a discounted price, or paid the full price not to see them. Yes, the default on the site is for the more popular version (the one in which advertisers help defray your cost of the device), but that’s really how it works.

The review indicates that the writer, a webmaster, could not figure out how to get it to stop showing ads…not even buying out of them, by the way, but just getting it to stop displaying. The person claims that even turned off, it turned itself back on to show an ad. Now, it’s possible that the device updated and rebooted, but if it was really off, I’m hard-pressed to see how it would have turned on. My guess is that the device wasn’t off. If it was having electrical problems, it seems excessive to thereby condemn the entire model (and those who purchase it or give it as a gift). Amazon is very good at replacing defective Kindles, when that does occur (and it has happened to me).

Second, the writer suggests that Amazon has made it difficult to get free books onto the Kindle Fire from outside sources.

I”m not sure what the author found so cumbersome. I just tested it (admittedly, I tested it on my 2nd generation Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB, which is what I had handy when writing this). I long-pressed (held my finger on it for about a second) the book I wanted on Project Gutenberg. It told me it was downloading. I went to the notifications (as is typical). I tapped the book: I could start reading it.

Of course, Amazon makes it easy to share public domain books, like those from Project Gutenberg, through its free

Kindle Personal Documents Service

You can start reading your Project Gutenberg book on one device, pick up where you left on another and sync your notes and bookmarks…with up to 5GBs of material stored for you for free.

Project Gutenberg could make this easier by adding an “e-mail link” to the books (as, say, the Baen Free Library had done), but even without that, e-mailing it doesn’t seem that difficult.

A public service organization such as Project Gutenberg shouldn’t, in my opinion, post needlessly cruel “instructions” on their website.

Here’s the kicker.

The last item in the “review” is that they have a free app for the Kindle that makes getting Project Gutenberg books on to it even easier than it already is.

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:K_Download

I thought it had a very nice interface, although I didn’t find downloading particularly easier that way (after I’d found the book, which was easier) than with the Silk browser.

I will continue to support Project Gutenberg as I have done in the past, but my hope is that they remove that “review”, or rewrite it substantially. The intended result seems to be to make Kindle Fire users feel bad, and that doesn’t seem to fit Project Gutenberg’s mission.

I’m going to include here the place where you can donate to support their efforts:

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:Project_Gutenberg_Needs_Your_Donation

If you do donate, and I hope you will, you might want to mention how you feel about that review. I know you may not feel the same way I do, but regardless, expressing yourself is a good thing.

What do you think? Am I overreacting to some not atypical online snark? Am I being oversensitive because this is anti-Kindle and anti-Amazon? Do you think I wouldn’t have reacted the same way if it was a NOOK “review”? Do you feel like the webmaster has the right to say what they want to say? Does having the review muddle Project Gutenberg’s public image, or does it really not matter? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: I have edited this post to remove language which I think was overly inflammatory on my part. I used an especially negative term, and I think one of my commenters correctly called me on that. I think I was being overly defensive about Project Gutenberg. My hope is still that the “review’ is either rewritten or removed.

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


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