Archive for January, 2013

Do you need a quiet place to read?

January 31, 2013

Do you need a quiet place to read?

Hats off to Laura Miller at Salon for this post:

Bring back shushing librarians

That’s not because I particularly endorse the admonition in the headline. It’s for catching something which hadn’t stood out to me in the recent

Pew survey on libraries in the digital age

Miller observes, that, in what people value about public libraries

“”Quiet study spaces for adults and children” comes in fourth, and here is where the results go rogue. The percentage of people who consider quiet spaces to be a very important element in any public library is 76, only one percentage point less than the value given to computer and Internet access. A relatively silent place to read is almost exactly as valuable to these people as the Internet!”

That one fascinates me, because it’s the opposite of how I read.

I prefer to be in a noisy environment. I want to read with the TV on in the background, or in a crowded and noisy restaurant.

Now, I know that’s not how most people feel, and the Pew survey demonstrates that to some extent. I say to “some extent” because the question isn’t just about reading, but about study, which could be different.

It’s more important for me to have a data rich environment when I am studying than when I am reading for pleasure (although studying is a pleasure for me…but I digress). ;)

I remember when our kid (now an adult) was first starting to do serious studying for school. My Significant Other said (and I’m paraphrasing): “Should we allow music during the studying?” I said, “How can the kid study without music?”

That concept actually baffled me. I couldn’t imagine studying for school while in the low-tech equivalent of an isolation booth.

I want something else happening…so I don’t get bored with the studying. The studying doesn’t take up my full attention, typically. I’m understanding and remembering it all with only part of my mind. If there isn’t already something going on in the environment, I’ll look for something…and that’s a distraction.

I was explaining this to a class once (of highly educated adults), and somebody said to me, “Is that like attention deficit?” I replied, “No, it’s more like attention surplus.” :) I have “more attention” available than the work can occupy. It’s not that I can’t keep paying attention to the work…it’s that I want to pay attention to that and to something else.

I want to put up a sign that says, “People are trying to work…please make some noise.” ;)

Now, I’ve heard from people over and over again about how humans can’t really multitask. While I won’t debate the mechanics of what is happening (are successful multitaskers really just very good at switching back and forth rapidly and repeatedly), I’ve found that about fifteen percent of people are good at having two things happening at once.

With that group, if you stop them from being on the internet while you are teaching, they aren’t going to learn it.

The problem arises because a lot more than fifteen percent of people think they are in that group, when they really aren’t. :)

Not too long ago, they asked us not to use our computers while we were in a recurring team meeting…that lasts basically a whole day. It was nice that they asked if anybody had a problem with that, and I explained that I did. There would be little point in my being in the meeting if I couldn’t be doing something else at the same time, since I wouldn’t absorb any of it. I was the only person to say that, by the way. Oh, and I am perhaps the most participatory person in the meeting in those situations (one of the top three, I’d say), while I’m checking my e-mail. :)

The solution in that case was for me to take the minutes (and fortunately, I’m good at that). That gives me something else to do, and that certainly helps.

I am not saying that this is superior. I think it’s connected in some ways to my having quite a lengthy process to get to sleep, and to waking up slowly. I am very envious of my Significant Other’s ability to just announce a twenty minute nap, and then be up, active, and refreshed twenty-two minutes later! It takes me that long just to get to sleep (although I now have the process down so it isn’t difficult, it’s still a complicated procedure).

It’s just different.

So, I was curious about you.

I realize some of you would pick all three of these answers: try to do the one that’s true the most often:

I’m also puzzled when people seem to think that having multiple things happening around you at once is a modern development. I’ve never understood that. If you were painstakingly making a stone knife in the Paleolithic Age and weren’t constantly aware of rustles in the tall grass, and movement behind the rocks, you’d never get a chance to use your fancy high-tech artificial fang. ;)

I think we’re likely to have evolved to work on one task while paying attention to what is happening around us.

This “Cone of Silence” idea for studying? That just seems very artificial.

That people rate it nearly as highly as having internet access while in a library is surprising to me. Oh, it’s cool when I’m in a library and it’s all quiet…I think in part because that makes it a different environment than what I normally encounter. I suppose a laser light show might have a similar sense of “altered reality” for me. ;)

For those of you who like the quiet (and again, my guess is that’s the vast majority of people), have you ever gone to the library just to have that around you? Do you ever go in, find a quiet spot, lean back, lace your fingers behind your neck, close your eyes, and just soak it all in? I’m sure people must.

Maybe we should have “quiet booths” on the street, where you could just go in there and shut everything else out. Of course, those would inevitably be used for activities some would consider unsavory.

Say, I do remember that in The Jungle, a sort of giant Habitrail for kids, they did have a quiet room for parents! You’d be there for a birthday party, and two hundred kids were yelling and screaming and getting stuck on a platform because they were afraid to go down a tunnel, and you could just go somewhere else and let the employees deal with it. ;) I do think people read in there…when we were going, we didn’t carry the internet with us.

What do you think? How important is quiet to you when you read? Is it natural to prefer focus and exclusion when studying? Is it a reason why you go to the library? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Oh, and I do recommend the post I linked at the start of this article…just read it quietly. ;)

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

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal: Predictably Irrational

January 30, 2013

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal: Predictably Irrational

One of today’s Kindle Daily Deals is

Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
by Dan Ariely.

I consider this one of the important books for people to read, if they want to understand their own behavior and that of others. I was impressed when I read it, partially because there were experiments done to back up the ideas.

As the title suggests, the key thing is that people behave in irrational ways…but that the irrationality can be predicted in many cases.

Let’s say you introduce a $100 item which isn’t selling. Introducing a $150 item to the line can help the sales of the $100 item…even though the $100 item hasn’t changed at all. It’s the same value it was before, but now people feel like they are “saving $50″.

Another example was the huge difference it makes when something is free. Suppose something costs three cents, and then you can get an equivalent item for two cents. Why should that affect the sales less (for a single unit) (assuming you can easily afford three cents) than something which is one penny versus something which is free? The first comparison is still one penny cheaper…but we know that “free” will move a lot more units than two pennies, again, even if you can only have one of each.

Will this enable you to behave entirely rationally? Nope, and you probably wouldn’t want to do that anyway. ;)

“Another romantic lunacy. We assume that a personality problem can be liquidated merely through an understanding of it — as though a man could lift a mountain once he admitted it was heavy. No: recognition is not synonymous with solution. I fly toward freedom as a moth toward the candle, and nothing so insubstantial as Reason will turn me aside.
–Dr. Charles “Doc Bedside” Bedecker Chthon
written by Piers Anthony
collected in The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations

As usual, check the price before you click that Buy button. For me, in the USA, it’s $2.99 right now, but the price could certainly be different in different countries…and the deal may have stopped if you don’t read this blog on the day it goes out.

This is also a good one to give as a gift…and you can delay that delivery until the proper occasion. If the person already has it, they can get “store credit” instead.

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

Amazon 2012 Q4: more wind in their “sales”

January 30, 2013

Amazon 2012 Q4: more wind in their “sales”

Amazon has announced their fourth quarter (Q4) results for 2012…and their sales were up 22% over Q4 2011!

press release

It’s always hard to communicate how big a jump that is for an industry leader. Again, we are just talking about sales right now.

Yes, their GAAP (I presume that’s Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) Net Income was down 45% in a year to year, but as usual, this is Amazon investing in the future.

You can listen to the webcast of the announcement

here

and also download the slide deck (which some of you will want to view, to see the details.

This one might be well received by the stock market, although I don’t think I’m great at predicting that. The timing of the announcement (which was set in advance) is good, though. Everybody seems to be running the story that Barnes & Noble sees themselves closing stores steadily for the next ten years
(WSJ: “B&N Aims To Whittle Its Stores For Years”). People have buzzed concerns about Apple and Netflix, which can both be seen as competitors for Amazon (but really, who isn’t a competitor for Amazon?) ;)

Listening to the Q&A, it was interesting to me that the first questions were more about fulfillment centers. That’s important, of course, but investors on the call didn’t go right for Kindles or sales tax, which have both been big topics in the past.

One question did have to do with whether Kindle owners buy more directly from Amazon than, say, Amazon apps on other devices. The response was that there was “very good progress” on digital media. Prime membership has increased dramatically, and people are watching a lot more of the free Prime videos…and they pay for new content more. Autorip was mentioned as well.

They said specifically they couldn’t keep up with demand on the Paperwhite in Q4 2012, and that they could have sold more if they had more.

They mentioned that they plan to spend more on expanding Amazon Instant Video.

By the way, I recently watched an episode of Bloomberg Game|Changers about Jeff Bezos. I thought it was fun, especially to see the childhood pictures, :) but also to hear other people talking about Amazon’s CEO. Ironically, I couldn’t find it for you on Amazon, but you can watch it on Netflix:

http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Bloomberg_Game_Changers_Jeff_Bezos/70219867?trkid=2361637

Based partially on that, I would say that investors shouldn’t figure that Amazon is going to get to some point and then just sit back and make profits. They are going to keep it scary for some time…as it has always been for pioneers. :)

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

Beier Book Awards announced

January 29, 2013

Beier Book Awards announced

Note: this is a work of humor. There are no Beier Book awards, to my knowledge, and no connection to Ulli Beier, or anyone else named Beier, is intended.

Atherton, CA: The annual Beier Book Awards winners have just been revealed.

The awards, pronounced “Buy-her”, are solely intended to promote the works of authors who otherwise would never be bought by the average reader.

“Most people make the mistake of only purchasing books which they will enjoy,” said Justus Nobb, Director of the Selection Committee. “We feel that it is our duty, for the good of humanity, to advocate for those books which no one wishes to read. It is our hope that in doing so, authors who write odious and/or overly pretentious books, can enjoy the fruits of their labor as much as those who write accessible claptrap that anyone can understand and appreciate.”

This year’s winners:

  • Fiction: YR 2 S2PD 4 THS BK, by Wanda B. Young. In this contemporary take on the epistolary novel, 92 year old grande literateur Young composes a moving story of two immortal philosophers who communicate entirely by texting each other. In refusing the award, Young said: “I don’t need your meaningless trinket. No one should read my book who isn’t smart enough to have done so without your tiny approbation. Be gone!”
  • Nonfiction: Civil War Buttons of Central Louisiana, by Min Yu Tsieh. In this mind-numbing 1,487 page tome, Tsieh reproduces  daguerreotypes  and sketches of every type of button used in the US Civil War by soldiers fighting in the central part of Lousiana, with details of their manufacture and weaknesses and strengths. In explaining the length of the book (which necessitated  reproducing  some buttons through a $50,000 3D imaging program designed for this express, so that the front, back and edge could be shown on different pages), Tsieh explained that, “It was the same number of days the Civil War, or as I call it, ‘The Fasteners’ Conflict’, lasted.”
  • Children’s: My Parents Suck, by Sunshine Everett “Evry” Day. This depressing picture book reproduces children’s sketches made when they are angry at their patients. Caution: contains scenes of stick figure violence. This is a follow up to Day’s extremely unsuccessful volume, “Dogs Bite, Cats Scratch, Goldfish Die”
  • Design: A Pulverized Life, by BzzrrrCHANGCHANGCHANGbzzzrr.  In this unique (there is only one copy) work, the author had painstakingly written down every personal utterance since the age of five. The earliest writings were  in crayon, and then on eventually to other more sophisticated media. On BzzrrrCHANGCHANGCHANGbzzzrr’s 75th birthday, the papers were put into a food processor, and ground into an unrecognizable lump, which is on display in the author’s home. While having no commercial aspects would generally disqualify a book from the Beier, the merchandising lines of a perfume, rainboots, and golf balls were deemed acceptable substitutes

We would include links to purchase these books, but really, what would be the point?

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

WSJ: “B&N Aims To Whittle Its Stores For Years”

January 28, 2013

WSJ: “B&N Aims To Whittle Its Stores For Years”

I saw this in my morning Flipboard read, and then several people alerted me through private e-mails.

WSJ article

You may not be able to read it by clicking or tapping on the above link, due to the WSJ’s paywall. If that’s the case, search for

B&N Aims To Whittle Its Stores For Years

through Google, and I think you’ll find the full article.

The article is by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, who, as I’ve said before, is my favorite mainstream writer on e-book issues (although this isn’t specifically e-book, it has an impact). Trachtenberg is accurate, insightful, and entertaining: a great combination. :)

The basic point is that Mitchell Kipper, “chief executive of Barnes & Noble’s retail group”, has said that they will close something like 20 stores a year, getting down to 450 or 500 stores in ten years.

I strongly recommend that you read the article: your interpretation may be different from mine, and certainly, mine doesn’t match everybody else’s who is commenting on this.

First, I think that projecting a steady closure rate is…optimistic at best. Unless they significantly change their inventory (which they could do), I’m guessing that it will happen in lumps, and may certainly accelerate. Leases may be staggered somewhat, but I would think 100 closing in a single year is not unreasonable.

Second, Kipper says that most stores are making money, and why would you close a store when it’s making money? Well, the simple answer is, “Why would you keep a store open until it is losing money?” It makes more sense to close a store that is making a marginal profit, than to commit that store through another lease if it looks like it might be losing money in three months. Even if leases are month to month, it can still make sense. Let’s say a store is making a $100,000 profit in a year…and will start losing $250,000? in three months? You don’t want to wait until the losses start.

My last point before you take off to read is the one that seem the strangest to me.

“Mr. Klipper said that bookstores serve a different purpose than many other retail outlets. “You go to Barnes & Noble to forget about your everyday issues, to stay a while and relax,” he said. “When you go to Bed Bath & Beyond, you don’t sit down on the floor and curl up with your blender and your kid.””

Certainly, people like going to a bookstore and relaxing. Is that a viable business model, though? As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, I can tell you that you are always fighting rent. If you have taken up a couple of square feet for an easy chair, that’s space you don’t have for a popular book. The concept is that somebody browsing a book is more likely to buy it…but what are the odds now that they browse it, and then buy it online? Becoming a bit hyperbolic, wouldn’t more people hang out in your grocery store if you put a swimming pool in it? Sure, but that doesn’t make sense for a grocery store to do…it’s too expensive for the amount of return.

I have said that bookstores that changed to a luxury sales model could work, and that could certainly involve “reading rooms”. However, I don’t see your typical Barnes & Noble becoming that. That would be a lot fewer stores with a lot higher prices, and much more customer service.

Investors may like this in the short run, because I don’t think anybody is seeing having all those stores as a good investment. However, people may also see it a red flag indicator, which could create a spiral of sell-off.

It’s interesting to me that people have reacted so strongly to this story, since it isn’t really much of a surprise…and B&N isn’t exactly confirming all of this. It feels like it is because it has such cognitive resonance: it confirms for people what they already think is true (but hidden from them), and that feels good. :)

What do you think? Can Barnes & Noble close stores on a steady rate? Is this an overreaction? Do you think B&N will be here for ten years? 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.

AmazonLocal deal today: 1 of 25 e-books for $1

January 27, 2013

AmazonLocal deal today: 1 of 25 e-books for $1

AmazonLocal is sort of like Groupon. They have special deals, and you often buy something for much a smaller amount than you normally would…like getting a $100 value for $20, things like that.

Today’s deal costs you nothing, and then lets you buy one of a select group of 25 e-books for $1 (you pick the book out of the group):

https://local.amazon.com/national

This doesn’t obligate you to any future purchases, but I would guess you do have to create an account if you don’t have one.

You can see the books and all the details here:

Exclusive Offer for AmazonLocal Customers: Get 1 of 25 Great Kindle Reads for $1

One thing that stood out to me was that there are a few of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct books in this bunch. Those are now published by Amazon.

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

Hey, Amazon, buy this: BookAnd

January 27, 2013

Hey, Amazon, buy this: BookAnd

I don’t think that when Amazon buys something it’s automatically a bad thing, although I know some see them as the United Fruit Company* of the past couple of decades. ;)

They generally buy something which is already working very well…and I believe they tend to continue to work well. However, they can become better integrated with Amazon.

IMDb.com

is, I think, a good example. I liked it before, and I like it now. It’s my favorite movie reference site on the web, and I visit it literally every day. Now, though, it can take me to Amazon Instant Video, show me something related that’s on sale from Amazon, and supplies data for X-Ray for Movies on my Kindle Fire.

I’ve also been saying a lot about how I think Amazon should get more social.

Well, I downloaded a free app from the Amazon Appstore this morning:

BookAnd : Your Dream Bookstore

and I think it has great potential for Amazon. It has a good concept…and does not execute it particularly well. Tying it into Amazon directly would also be a big benefit.

Here’s the idea:

Users create virtual 3D bookstores. They put their own books in there, and you can (even as an unregistered guest) wander around them. You see the books on stores in aisles (with their actual covers), pick one up, read what the person has said about it (if anything).

The “bookstore manager” (I’m a former brick and mortar bookstore manager) names the aisles, groups the books, writes the reviews.

You can go from the review of a book in one store to other users reviews…and jump from there to their stores.

It’s a brilliant idea, and has just the right amount of social for me. I’m not going to be interrupted: it isn’t user to user, it’s user to book to user (as far as I’ve seen).

The negative for me is that the interface is unusually clunky. It’s very slow to respond. I had to lock the rotation (swipe down-locked), because it kept insisting on being upside down. Searching for a book to add to your store was painfully slow and hard to work.

Amazon could fix all those interface issues. They could let us add books we’ve bought from Amazon, or easily import the results of a search at the Amazon store.

BookAnd supposedly lets you import from book sites, but you need the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) to be showing on the screen, I think, so I couldn’t import from Manage Your Kindle or kindle.amazon.com or my media collection.

Right now, it’s purely social, except for some public domain books, which you can read in the store. You find a book in BookAnd, then you would go to Amazon to buy it.

Here’s the other piece that would be cool: let Amazon Associates get advertising fees from the virtual bookstores, and people can buy them directly through Amazon’s version of the store (although you’d really be going to Amazon, of course).

I really think this could be hugely innovative. Instead of shopping around Amazon.com, you go into a virtual mall of bookstores (you can mark favorites and move them around, in my vision of this). The users “decorate” the stores (you can do this in BookAnd…I believe they sell you decorations, but I haven’t tried that part yet).

You could have some very specialty stores this way…Dutch Military History or Science Fiction Sleuths, for example.

Ooh, and physical bookstores could do it, too! What a way for Amazon to work with them! They could sort of simulate the physical location. Amazon could let them upload a picture of the actual storefront! Hm…you could also do avatars of employees whether it was pros or not.

I’m liking this more and more the more I think about it. How about a science fiction bookstore…that you virtually enter in space and is staffed by aliens?

You could also do book events with real authors, certainly by running a chat, but perhaps traditional publishers would set up a video stream.

I think some folks from Amazon read this blog…maybe this will get them looking into it.

They could, of course, develop this all from scratch. It didn’t look to me like BookAnd was being used much yet, but buying it might be a good way to go (and avoids some legal issues).

If you try out the app and have a comment, please let me know. I’d be interested in the experience in using the app on other devices, like an iPad. Maybe it’s just clunky on the Fire. That’s another thing Amazon could do…make PC and Mac versions. :)

There’s a world of opportunity out there yet in books…we’ve seen something, to refute Al Jolson, but we haven’t seen it all. ;)

* United Fruit Company bought out many other banana suppliers in Central America, and has not earned a good reputation for corporate citizenship, to put it mildly. It was nicknamed El Pulpo (“The Octopus”). I’ve been reading it about it in The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King

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

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book

January 26, 2013

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book

It was interesting to see

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book

as one of today’s Kindle Daily Deals for $1.99.

I’d heard about the book, and read the sample (mostly with text-to-speech in the car). I planned to borrow it from the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library), and then write about it afterwards.

However, I thought there was a good chance I’d want to buy it, because I was impressed with the fairly large sample (the size of a sample is based on the length of the book).

I’m not going to call it “no nonsense”, because fortunately, it has a somewhat whimsical style. However, I will say that it was quite realistic in its advice and approach.

If you are thinking about maybe independently publishing a book, or are interested in how that whole thing works, I’d recommend it based on the sample (certainly at $1.99 (a $7 savings for the e-book). I bought one as a gift for a relative (in addition to the one for me). When I’ve gone through the whole thing, I’ll give you my take on it.

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

Kindle Paperwhite now available in 175 countries

January 26, 2013

Kindle Paperwhite now available in 175 countries

The

Kindle Paperwhite

which I’ve told people is the most comfortable reading experience I’ve had (including paper) is now available in many more countries.

I recently wrote about Amazon extending availability in Canada, but this is  different from that. That was a case of Amazon opening a localized store (with localized content). This is people buying from Amazon.com, and having the Kindle Paperwhites shipped to their countries.

The link I put the product shows the option to check for a country, but I thought I’d take a look for myself. I’m fascinated by the slight differences in book  availability, so even though that’s a lot of work ;) I’ll include that:

  • Afghanistan: no
  • Aland Islands: yes (1,560,000 English-language books)
  • Albania: yes (1,600,000)
  • Algeria: no
  • American Samoa: yes (1,630,000)
  • Andorra: yes (1,590,000)
  • Angola: yes (1,610,000)
  • Anguilla: yes (1,590,000)
  • Antartica: no (but yes for Kindle books: 1,610,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Antigua and Barbuda: yes (1,590,000)
  • Argentina: yes (1,600,0000
  • Armenia: yes (1,610,000)
  • Aruba: yes (1,610,000)
  • Australia: yes (1,570,000)
  • Austria: from Amazon.de
  • Azerbaijan: no
  • The Bahamas: yes (1,580,000)
  • Bahrain: no
  • Bangladesh: no
  • Barbados: yes (1,590,000)
  • Belarus: yes (1,600,000)
  • Belgium: yes (1,710,000)
  • Belize: yes (1,590,000)
  • Benin: yes (1,610,000)
  • Bermuda: yes (1,580,000)
  • Bhutan: yes (1,610,000)
  • Bolivia: yes (1,610,000)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: yes (1,600,000)
  • Botswana: yes (1,590,000)
  • Bouvet Island: no (but 1,580,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Brazil: yes (1,610,000)
  • British Ocean India Territory: no (but 1,590,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Brunei Darussalam: no
  • Bulgaria: yes (1,700,000)
  • Burkina Faso: no
  • Burundi: yes (1,610,000)
  • Cambodia: yes (1,620,000)
  • Cameroon: yes (1,600,000)
  • Canada: from Amazon.ca
  • Cape Verde: yes (1,610,000)
  • Cayman Islands: yes (1,590,000)
  • Central African Republic: yes (1,610,000)
  • Chad: no
  • Chile: yes (1,600,000)
  • China: no
  • Christmas Island: no (but 1,590,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands: no (but 1,580,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Colombia: yes (1,590,000)
  • Comoros: no
  • Congo: yes (1,580,000)
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo: yes (1,600,000)
  • Cook Islands: yes (1,610,000)
  • Costa Rica: yes (1,600,000)
  • Cote D’ivoire: yes (1,570,000)
  • Croatia: yes (1,600,000)
  • Cuba: no
  • Cyprus: yes (1,690,000)
  • Czech Republic: yes (1,700,000)
  • Denmark: yes (1,700,000)
  • Djibouti: no
  • Dominica: yes (1,580,000)
  • Dominican Republic: yes (1,610,000)
  • Ecuador: yes (1,600,000)
  • Egypt: no
  • El Salvador: yes (1,610,000)
  • Equatorial Guinea: yes (1,600,000)
  • Eritria: no
  • Estonia: yes (1,710,000)
  • Ethiopia: yes (1,600,000)
  • Falkland Islands (Malvinas): yes (1,590,000)
  • Faroe Islands: yes (1,600,000)
  • Fiji: yes (1,590,000)
  • Finland: yes (1,710,000)
  • France: from Amazon.fr
  • French Guiana: yes (1,620,000)
  • French Polynesia: yes (1,610,000)
  • French Southern Territories: no (but 1,600,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Gabon: yes (1,610,000)
  • The Gambia: no
  • Georgia: yes (1,600,000)
  • Germany: from Amazon.de
  • Ghana: yes (1,580,000)
  • Gibraltar: yes (1,590,000)
  • Greece: yes (1,710,000)
  • Greenland: yes (1,600,000)
  • Grenada: yes (1,590,000)
  • Guadeloupe: yes (1,610,000)
  • Guam: yes (1,630,000)
  • Guatemala: yes (1,600,000)
  • Guernsey: from Amazon.co.uk
  • Guinea: no
  • Guinea-Bissau: yes (1,600,000)
  • Guyana: yes (1,590,000)
  • Haiti: yes (1,610,000)
  • Heard Island the McDonald Islands: no (but 1,590,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Holy See: from Amazon.it
  • Honduras: yes (1,600,000)
  • Hong Kong: yes (1,620,000)
  • Hungary: yes (1,700,000)
  • Iceland: yes (1,630,000)
  • India: yes (1,590,000)
  • Indonesia: no
  • Islamic Republic of Iran: no
  • Iraq: no
  • Ireland: yes (1,680,000)
  • Isle of Man: from Amazon.co.uk
  • Israel: yes (1,600,000)
  • Italy: from Amazon.it
  • Jamaica: yes (1,590,000)
  • Japan: from Amazon.co.jp
  • Jersey: from Amazon.co.uk
  • Jordan: no
  • Kazakhstan: no
  • Kenya: yes (1,590,000)
  • Kiribati: yes (1,590,000)
  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: no
  • Republic of Korea: yes (1,620,000)
  • Kyrgyzstan: no
  • Lao’s People Democratic Republic: yes (1,610,000)
  • Latvia: yes (1,700,000)
  • Lebanon: no
  • Lesotho: yes (1,590,000)
  • Liberia: yes (1,600,000)
  • Libya: no
  • Liechtenstein: yes (1,660,000)
  • Lithuania: yes (1,700,000)
  • Luxembourg: from Amazon.de
  • Macao: yes (1,620,000)
  • The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: yes (1,600,000)
  • Madagascar: yes (1,600,000)
  • Malawi: yes (1,590,000)
  • Malaysia: no
  • Maldives: no
  • Mali: no
  • Malta: yes (1,690,000)
  • Marshall Islands: yes (1,600,000)
  • Martinique: yes (1,620,000)
  • Mauritania: no
  • Mauritius: yes (1,590,000)
  • Mayotte: yes (1,610,000)
  • Mexico: yes (1,580,000)
  • Federated States of Micronesia: yes (1,610,000)
  • Republic of Moldova: yes (1,610,000)
  • Monaco: from Amazon.fr
  • Mongolia: yes (1,610,000)
  • Montenegro: yes (1,590,000)
  • Montserrat: yes (1,580,000)
  • Morocco: no
  • Mozambique: yes (1,590,000)
  • Myanmar: yes (1,580,000)
  • Namibia: yes (1,580,000)
  • Naura: yes (1,590,00)
  • Nepal: yes (1,600,000)
  • Netherlands: yes (1,710,000)
  • Netherlands Antilles: yes (1,600,000)
  • New Caledonia: yes (1,600,000)
  • New Zealand: yes (1,570,000)
  • Nicaragua: yes (1,600,000)
  • Niger: no
  • Nigeria: no
  • Niue: yes (1,600,000)
  • Norfolk Island: yes (1,590,000)
  • Northern Mariana Islands: yes (1,640,000)
  • Norway: yes (1,630,000)
  • Oman: no
  • Pakistan: no
  • Palau: yes (1,590,000)
  • Palestinian Territories: no
  • Panama: yes (1,610,000)
  • Papua New Guinea: yes (1,600,000)
  • Paraguay: yes (1,600,000)
  • Peru: yes (1,600,000)
  • Philippines: yes (1,600,000)
  • Pitcairn: no (but 1,590,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Poland: yes (1,700,000)
  • Portugal: yes (1,710,000)
  • Puerto Rico: yes (1,610,000)
  • Qatar: no
  • Reunion: yes (1,610,000)
  • Romania: yes (1,700,000)
  • Russian Federation: no (but 1,600,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Rwanda: yes (1,610,000)
  • Saint Barthelemy: no (but 1,540,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Saint Helena: no (but 1,580,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis: yes (1,590,000)
  • Saint Lucia: yes (1,590,000)
  • Saint Martin: no (but 1,540,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon: no (but 1,590,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: yes (1,580,000)
  • Samoa: yes (1,600,000)
  • San Marino: from Amazon.it
  • Sao Tome and Principe: yes (1,600,000)
  • Saudi Arabia: no
  • Senegal
  • Serbia: yes (1,590,000)
  • Seychelles: yes (1,590,000)
  • Sierra Leone: no
  • Singapore: no
  • Slovakia: yes (1,710,000)
  • Slovenia: yes (1,710,000)
  • Solomon Islands: yes (1,600,000)
  • Somalia: no
  • South Africa: yes (1,590,000)
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands: yes (1,590,000)
  • Spain: from Amazon.es
  • Sri Lanka: yes (1,590,000)
  • Sudan: no
  • Suriname: yes (1,610,000)
  • Svalbard and Jan Mayen: yes (1,580,000)
  • Swaziland: yes (1,590,000)
  • Sweden: yes (1,700,000)
  • Switzerland: yes (1,650,000)
  • Syria: no
  • Taiwan: yes (1,620,000)
  • Tajikstan: no
  • United Republic of Tanzania: yes (1,590,000)
  • Thailand: yes (1,620,000)
  • Timor-leste: yes (1,620,000)
  • Togo: yes (1,610,000)
  • Tokelau: no (but 1,600,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Tonga: yes (1,600,000)
  • Trinidad and Tobago: yes (1,590,000)
  • Tunisia: no
  • Turkey: no
  • Turkmenistan: no
  • Turks and Caicos Islands: yes (1,590,000)
  • Tuvalu: yes (1,590,000)
  • Uganda: yes (1,590,000)
  • Ukraine: yes (1,600,000)
  • United Arab Emirates: no
  • United Kingdom: from Amazon.co.uk
  • United States: yes (1,840,000)
  • United States Minor Outlying Islands: no (but  1,620,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Uruguay: yes (1,610,000)
  • Uzbekistan: no
  • Vanuatu: yes (1,600,000)
  • Venezuela: yes (1,610,000)
  • Vietnam: yes (1,620,000)
  • British Virgin Islands: yes (1,580,000)
  • U.S. Virgin Islands: yes (1,630,000)
  • Wallis and Futuna: yes (1,590,000)
  • Western Sahara: no (but 1,610,000 Kindle books on your PC)
  • Yemen: no
  • Zambia: yes (1,580,000)
  • Zimbabwe: yes (1,580,000)

Well, that was fun! No, really, it was. :)

A few things:

  • I took the country names pretty much the way Amazon had them (although I changed the word order on some)
  • The numbers are what Amazon says for English-language books. Still, isn’t it interesting that you can get about 50,000 more books in the U.S. Virgin Islands than in the British ones?
  • If your country is a “no”, that doesn’t mean that Amazon doesn’t like you or doesn’t want to sell books there…I’m sure they would like to sell books everywhere in the world and beyond, if possible.  ;) There are things that have to be worked out, though
  • As is the case when I’ve looked at this before, it seems like the Middle East is one of the areas least well covered
  • This list has nothing to do with apps, videos, and other non-literary media
  • According to this report (http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2012/annual-report/) I had readers in 189 countries last year, so some of you aren’t on this list…but I hope you still found it interesting. Update: I realized that it may be because they count the countries differently…

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

Will genres disappear?

January 25, 2013

Will genres disappear? 

I recently wrote a post

Were novels a side effect of being published in paper?

where I speculated about the impact of the physical paper medium on the existence of novels (books of a certain length and structure).

Part of the driver of what we read in that case was the physical necessity of going somewhere to get a book.

Well, I’ve been thinking again. :)

If e-books mean that we can consider more than a million books when we make a purchase (or download a book for free), will genres as we know them become less important?

Let me start out by saying that I consider myself an eclectic reader…but you certainly wouldn’t find an even distribution of genres (romance, mystery, science fiction, narrative nonfiction about animals, narrative nonfiction about math) if you looked at the books I read and/or own. No question, certain genres would be much more represented than others.

However, if you looked at my book acquisition before owning a Kindle and after owning one, that distribution would be much more even after I started to seriously use my first EBR (E-Book Reader).

The investment in getting a book is much higher on a paperbook (p-book). It’s not just the price (although that tends to be higher, especially if you factor in free e-books). It’s also the time and effort.

When I went to a brick and mortar bookstore, even a very large one, that was a significant “expense” in time and energy (even though I enjoyed those trips very much). I couldn’t have started at one end of the store and gone through every book to reach the other end (although I was known to go through every aisle sometimes). Generally, I went to a section of interest and then went through that thoroughly. Without having a section for, say, science fiction, the bookstore would have been an impractical trip. Imagine books randomly distributed throughout the store: one Heinlein next to one Danielle Steele next to one Stephen Jay Gould. Even with a great employee helping me, it would be a lot of work to compare similar titles.

Having those physical sections for genres gave me a good idea where I would find books of certain types.

Why did books of “certain types” appeal to me?

Well, part of it was that I was making an acquisition decision with much less information than is available to me now. It gave more data to know that something was a regency romance or a space opera. Now, online, I can see reviews from other readers. I can download a sample, if I want. I can see what other people bought who bought this one. I can usually click or tap a link and find out about the author, and what else they have written.

Book acquisition now is much more informed.

We might not need the blunt instrument of knowing that this is a cozy mystery, if we can get much more fine tuned information about the book.

That may, and I emphasize may, encourage people to get books based on other qualities than genre.

Certainly, one reason why my reading has broadened has been free books. If I generally thought I didn’t like one set of conventions in story telling, I probably wouldn’t spend my money on any books in that group. When it’s free, though, the risk is much lower. If ten people you know told you (perhaps through what I call “word of mouse”) that they loved a free book, you could get it…even though you wouldn’t spend a dime on it just because of your preconceived notions about that “type of book”.

Free samples also allow us to experiment.

If people begin to make decisions less on a “low risk strategy”, will that also free authors not to follow a formula as much? I think it will. I think we’ll see more books that we can’t define as romance or science fiction or literary fiction. We may also see more that mix fiction and non-fiction.

Another factor is that people can’t see what you are reading. I’m certain that some people didn’t read some paperbooks in public because it would be  perhaps defining and potentially embarrassing. Let’s say somebody is projecting as an archetypal “high school jock”. Reading a book that a “brain” would read was a risk, if your friends saw it.

Social media means that a book can be marketed in a very different way than with talk show interviews and print ads (two big ways to sell p-books). If a book is a book is a book, we can select them based on different criteria (like great dialog or intricate character relationships).

Now that I’ve said all that, let me make some arguments why genres will continue.

I like books about time travel. Part of that is that I want to see how this author approaches this topic, which I have already read from several other authors. There gets to be an aggregate experience in reading books of a similar type. You can compare noir to noir. I also think there is some “coasting”. If you’ve read great noir, and then you read a mediocre one, I think you carry part of that great noir experience with you, letting you enjoy the mediocre book more.

People also like familiarity, which explains part of the success of sequels. Just as you might want to read the next book in a series, you might enjoy, say, American Revolution alternate history books. We have a dog who absolutely loves ritual and familiarity. If you do something slightly out of order, our dog doesn’t have that same self-satisfied projection of knowing what would happen. Not that this little terrier doesn’t enjoy novelty (a new toy, for example), but familiarity feels good. :)

There is also a sense of community. We see this very clearly in fandom. If you know that a certain subset of humanity likes the same type of books, you can feel like you are part of that community even when you are reading a book entirely on your own.

So, we’ll see. :) My guess is that genres will survive. I don’t think there will be a process entirely like the one that some hypothesize for the “disappearance” of Neandertals, where Homo sap bred them out of existence. Even though “cross-breeding”, books that mix what are now separate genres, will likely increase considerably, the time that we have to invest in selection will still be valuable, even if money investment becomes less important. I do suspect we will find new means of discovery that aren’t as dependent on grouping like books together…but I don’t think that categorizing will go away.

What do you think? Do you partially define yourself by the genres you read? Do you know you’ll enjoy certain books before you buy them, just because of what they cover? Are you more likely to read a “bad book” in your favorite genre than a great book in another? 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.


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