Archive for February, 2013

NOOK Media LLC earnings (BITDA) decline 129%

February 28, 2013

NOOK Media LLC earnings (BITDA) decline 129%

Ruh-roh.

Barnes & Noble released their 3rd quarter (ending January 26, 2013) financial results today, and it’s not looking good for the NOOK:

press release

The NOOK Media LLC part of the company isn’t just the NOOK hardware, it’s also digital content (NOOK Books, apps) and accessories.

Digital content sales increased 6.8% year over year…which makes the NOOK hardware drop even more severe.

There just isn’t a way to make this look good, and to their credit, Barnes & Noble doesn’t even really try to spin it that way in the press release:

“In terms of the NOOK Media business, we’ve taken significant actions to begin to right size our cost structure in the NOOK segment, while also taking a large markdown on NOOK devices in order to enhance our ability to achieve our estimated sales plans in subsequent quarters…”

Okay, CEO (Chief Executive Officer) William Lynch did use the businessy term of “right size”, but everybody understands that’s an admission of currently being the wrong size.

So, their losses (based on EBITDA…Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) for the NOOK and accessories were probably something like $200 million…in one quarter. I say “probably something like” because the loss for the whole segment was $190.4 million, and the digital content likely had positive earnings.

That included the holiday season.

If that trend continued, we could reasonably say that the losses for a year would be the better part of a billion dollars.

It appears that the NOOK hardware may have even dragged down brick-and-mortar results.

“The Retail segment, which consists of the Barnes & Noble bookstores and BN.com businesses, had revenues of $1.5 billion for the quarter, decreasing 10.3% over the prior year.  This decrease was attributable to a 7.3% decline in comparable store sales, store closures and lower online sales.  Core comparable store sales, which exclude sales of NOOK products, decreased 2.2% as compared to the prior year.  Sales of NOOK products in the Retail segment declined during the quarter due to lower unit volume.”

I like the explanation in the last sentence…that seems like answering the question of, “Why did your team lose the game?” with “They scored more points than we did.” ;)

I’ve said before that I think the NOOK is a good piece of hardware, and they have done some things to innovate. However, this certainly doesn’t look good.

B&N did say, “…NOOK Media still remains committed to its Tablet and e-Reader business.”

What do you think? Should B&N just give up on the NOOK? Is this just a temporary lull, and it will recover fully in the future? Does this mean Barnes & Noble is more or less likely to accept the offer on the table to buy the retail segment? 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.

Kindle for iPad app update glitch

February 28, 2013

Kindle for iPad app update glitch

One of Amazon’s core Kindle strategies has been the ability to read Kindle store books on devices other than Amazon’s.

Jeff Bezos has said that the hardware and software businesses are separate  (although I recall that from years ago)…you could hypothetically buy a Kindle and use it with e-books from other sources, and you could buy Kindle store books and use them on things other than the Kindle.

I suspect the markets are considered to have merged much  more over time. How many people who use Kindles don’t buy any Kindle store books for them? A tiny percentage, I’m guessing.

However, the Kindle app for the iPad is undoubtedly one reason why iBooks never really dominated the market. You could read your Kindle store books on the iPad, so why split your library compatibility (you couldn’t read iBooks on your Kindle) by investing in two lines?

That’s why it is just flabbergasting that Amazon could release an update for their Kindle for iPad app with as big a flaw as the one they released (and then re-released with a fix) yesterday.

What was the flaw?

For some people, updating the app (which might have happened without their surface awareness…just tapping an “updates available” type link), it removed all of their Kindle store books from their devices.

Ouch.

It’s important to note that it didn’t remove them from their accounts. They (in the vast majority* of cases) didn’t lose things they bought and had to rebuy them…they could redownload them again from the archives/Cloud at no additional cost.

That’s always key, and not always understood…it’s easiest to think of it as the books belonging to the account, not a device. If one of your devices is lost/stolen/fails…or has a “glitchup” like this, your books are still yours.

That doesn’t mean this wouldn’t be highly irritating and inconvenient for certain users.

One of my readers, Pam, let me know about this (I have read about it other places), and mentioned having many cookbooks on the device, which would now need to be redownloaded one by one.

I’ve seen other people comment that they weren’t sure which books they’ve read and which they haven’t, and the Cloud doesn’t really have organization at this point, so you can’t just find them in a TBR (To Be Read) folder there.

Even Amazon warned people not to do the update yesterday (although they have since uploaded a new version (3.6.2) that has a “…Fix for Registration Issue”. If you download it today, you should be okay.

The question for me, though, is how does this happen?

It apparently got fixed in hours…that suggests that once the problem was identified, it wasn’t that complicated.

So why didn’t Amazon know about it before they released it?

This doesn’t sound like some sort of odd behavior on the part of customers (I can understand how that happens). They appear to have just done what they were supposed to do.

Can’t Amazon test that effectively? I know they want to keep updates secret, but does nobody at Amazon own an iPad? ;)

I’m exaggerating that, of course, but seriously…I’m having a hard time understanding how such a catastrophic (but recoverable) failure could be undiscovered until after release.

I mean, I don’t think there was any urgency in releasing this update. It could have waited a day while Amazon employees/friends/betatesters tried the process.

This seems different to me from the way I’ve heard that we got screensavers.

That goes back to Pong.

When we played the Ping Pong simulation at home originally, we did it by hooking a device to the TV…which is not that different from what you do now with a gaming console.

There were bright white paddles and a bright white ball.

As I’ve heard it (and I have not checked to see if this is true, but it’s a good story) ;) kids would just leave the TV and the game on, and go outside and play.

The paddles and the ball would “burn” into the TVs of the day. When an adult later turned off the TV, those images would still be there…forever. Even during Donny & Marie, you’d see those paddles.

So, later on, screensavers were invented. The defining characteristic of a screensaver? The images move, preventing burn-in. You won’t get burn-in like that on modern screens, from what I know.

The point of that story is that the engineers who made Pong never imagined somebody leaving the game on the TV for hours with no one watching.

Engineers tend to turn off unattended, unneeded devices.

That made it clear that you need to test things in real situations with real people to see how they work.

In this situation, Amazon has apologized to people, but it’s not clear to me that it couldn’t have been efficiently avoided.

This has impact beyond just the people who updated yesterday (and may be spending some time downloading again).

It points out two long-standing issues:

1. Why can’t we download more than one book at once?

2. Why isn’t there organization in the Cloud?

I understand that there are significant technical issues involved in both, and I’m not saying these are things that Amazon should have already resolved…but this other glitch does bring them to the fore in people’s minds again.

I’m actually a bit more confused about why the first issue, multiple download, is still around…for tablets. My understanding was that you couldn’t really do it with RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles), because sending a thousand books at once (or even in very rapid succession) to a device like that would overwhelm it.

With a tablet, though, which can download an HD (High Definition) movie with a single command (although it takes a while), it’s hard to see how that situation is comparable.

Anyway, I feel for people who had this happen. Amazon has told people they can keep their libraries on their devices. I don’t do it that way myself…I usually only have about ten Kindle store books on any of my devices at a given time. Amazon says you can do it, though, so releasing an update that causes a big problem for people who do seems a bit…careless, I suppose.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on Amazon…is just a case of “these things happen”? Shouldn’t I just give Amazon props for fixing it so quickly? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

* My understanding is that if a book has been removed from the Kindle store for legal reasons (such as it was infringing), Amazon can’t allow you to download it again from your archives. In those very rare cases, losing a local copy could mean losing access to the book. I’ve had people tell me that isn’t true any more, but my guess is that it is…haven’t tested it, so I can’t say for sure

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

Round up #150: NOOK $50 credit, Daily Variety ankles paper

February 28, 2013

Round up #150: NOOK $50 credit, Daily Variety ankles paper

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

Daily Variety ankles paper

For about 80 years, Variety (the showbiz newspaper) has published a daily edition in paper.

That ends March 19th of this year.

That’s part of a number of changes, including an updated version of the website which will be available on March 1st:

Variety article

I’ve written about other well-known print periodicals ending publication in that format and/or declaring bankruptcy. I think Variety will do just fine after the dust clears. That might just be my prejudice, though…I’ve really enjoyed it over the decades. :)

By the way, “ankle” is Variety slang from someone leaving a position…it purposefully doesn’t indicate whether someone quit or was fired. As regular readers know, I love making up neologisms, and Variety has done so many, they have a dictionary of them online:

Variety slanguage dictionary

Buy a NOOK HD+, get a $50 credit for content

You can buy a NOOK HD+ 16GB ($269) or NOOK HD+ Tablet Slate 32GB ($299) through March 12th, and get a $50 credit towards buying content. Terms and conditions apply, so go to the link above to find the rules and make sure you do it correctly.

One nice thing: you can do this online (with a checkout code of 50FREE) or in a store by printing out a coupon.

I do feel like B&N’s NOOK future has gotten cloudier (more uncertain) in the last couple of days, and they’ll be announcing their third quarter results on Thursday.

If you are already in the Barnes & Noble ecosystem, this is a nice deal…

Apple settles on kids’ in-app purchases

New York Times article

Well, this proves two things: in-app purchases are a problem; and Apple sometimes settles. ;)

I’ve written about

Parental controls and your Kindle

and no question, it’s something you want to understand. The default is that your kid (or anybody else using the device) can make  in-app purchases with real money while, for example, playing a game. It might be a case of buying virtual food for a virtual pet, or some sort of power-up, but it can add up pretty quickly.

You can require a password for in-app purchases on your Kindle Fire HD but you have to actively make that choice.

I think it would be nice if Amazon could let you check a box for “this is for a child” or something like that, and default parental controls (probably with a generic password initially, which you would change), but that’s not how it currently works.

Sticknfind Bluetooth item finder has started shipping

Ever panicked because you couldn’t find your Kindle?

You knew it was probably in the house somewhere, or in the office, or the car, but weren’t sure where?

Sticknfind

has started shipping (earlier than announced). For about $50, you can get two of the quarter-sized devices. You stick it on, well, pretty much anything, and within about a 100 feet of the lost device, a SmartPhone (with Bluetooth…check the site for specifics) can locate it. It sort of plays “warmer/colder”…it figures out the distance, but not the direction, so you walk around to see the signal getting stronger or weaker.

A single SmartPhone can handle up to 20 of the stickers, and they show them being used on things like remote controls, luggage…and cats (on the tag on the collar).

You can set different alarms for different items, and those alarms can alert you when something moves in or out of range (so you know the cat got out, perhaps).

It would work for any of your Kindles (the device on which you put it doesn’t need Bluetooth, the sticker does that). You could put it on your SmartPhone…but hopefully, that’s not the thing you lose. ;)

I suspect Amazon will carry them eventually, but you can’t be sure.

This might be a good gift for somebody…although I suppose they could be sensitive about not being able to find their keys. :)

I thought Dr. Dean Edell had a great line years ago when Alzheimer’s was first becoming well known. People were worried if they had it or were developing it, and they were taking normal  forgetfulness  as a symptom.

To point out the difference, Dr. Edell said, “If you are standing in the middle of the room wondering where your keys are, that’s not Alzheimer’s. If you are standing in the middle of the room wondering what your keys are, that’s Alzheimer’s.”

Amazon beats Nordstrom in Customer Satisfaction

I saw this headlined as Amazon beating Netflix, but Netflix has taken some hits in the last year or two (although House of Cards may really help it, especially if it wins some Emmys…and I’ve read that it is eligible).

Looking at the

American Customer Satisfaction Index

ratings, I’m more intrigued that Amazon, an internet retailer, is a point ahead of Nordstrom, which is legendary for shopping experience.

As a former brick-and-mortar store manager, that seems odd to me. How much service do you really get from an online store? Well, a lot, apparently. ;) Certainly, Amazon’s ability to deal with returns is super easy, especially for Kindle store books. You can just go to

http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle

within seven days of purchase, and “return” a Kindle store book for a refund.

Last time I checked, neither Barnes & Noble nor Sony allowed e-book returns at any time for any reason.

Amazon leads the internet retailer category…which leads everything else, including specialty stores.

Service, selection, and price…the three principles Amazon follows.

Amazon changing the rules on sites that promote free Kindle e-book downloads

This may change what websites do, making free Kindle e-books not as widely promoted.

This

goodEreader article

quotes the new policy.

I don’t think it is going to affect me and you…I have linked to free books…for example, in the

Random Public Domain freebies posts

but that doesn’t result in 20,000 or more free downloads (which is one of the conditions). Websites could have more than 20,000 free downloads…as long as those downloads don’t amount to 80% or more of their referred “sessions”.

I’m not exactly sure who this will affect…perhaps

http://www.ereaderiq.com

but I don’t know how their stats work out.

If somebody has a month like that, they get no affiliate fees for the month.

I’d appreciate you letting me know if you notice a change in any sites you use…I’m just curious.

What do you think? Do you now get better Customer Service online than in a brick-and-mortar? Would you worry about buying a NOOK tablet at this time? Are you going to get a Sticknfind, for yourself or somebody 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.

The Barnes & Noble bookstores buy back bid

February 26, 2013

The Barnes & Noble bookstores buy back bid

Right now, Barnes & Noble is sort of split into two pieces.

One of them is the digital sector, including NOOK hardware and NOOK Books. Also in this part is the college bookstore business.

The other part is largely the brick-and-mortar side, the physical bookstores.

If you were an investor, looking to buy one or the other, what would look more attractive to you?

Well, if you are Leonard Riggio, the answer is apparently the latter.

That may seem odd…aren’t e-books all the rage and the future?

Yes, that’s certainly possible…although they aren’t the majority of income being generated right now in the book business. It’s like…e-books are a candelabra sitting on a table. They are getting all the attention, but you still need the table to be able to serve dinner. ;)

That certainly may change over time.

Why would Riggio make an offer like that?

Leonard Riggio already owns a large part of Barnes & Noble…and is really the founder of the company.

Part of this may certainly be sentimental…wanting to get back into the core business.

On the other hand, the NOOK is considered by some to have had a disappointing 2012. Getting into tablets put them into a different market, and a very competitive one.

I think it is possible that Barnes & Noble will take the deal, whatever it is exactly.

There is speculation that, if that happens, the NOOK is in trouble.

There’s been a lot of money invested into the NOOK line (including by Microsoft), and perhaps the NOOK investors really didn’t want to be in the brick-and-mortar business.

You might feel like it is all about selling books, so it should be the same market drivers, but that’s not the case. Selling paperbooks (p-books) and selling e-books may have some strong overlap, but running a brick-and-mortar store (and I speak as a former manager) and selling a piece of hardware are two very different things.

I have to say, I’m seeing a lot of talk about how heavily B&N bet on the NOOK.

That’s where I see something that feels fundamentally different to me about Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Barnes & Noble bet on a device…Amazon bets on ideas.

Three ideas, specifically: service, selection, and price.

I always picture somebody pitching an idea in an Amazon meeting (after they sat around and read the summary together…they do that).

The idea is presented, and somebody says, “Yes, but how does that deliver better service, greater selection, or lower prices?”

I think Jeff Bezos has correctly identified those as core tenets that never need to change.

The Kindle brought people amazing new service…a bookstore at the end of your sleeve. ;)

Kindle books initially brought you better prices (compared to hardback equivalents on New York Times bestsellers, for example).

The goal was for it to eventually improve selection (“Every book ever published”) although that wasn’t going to happen at first.

It’s not that every idea needs to serve all three tenets at once…service and price can be at loggerheads, for one thing.

Barnes & Noble led in some important ways with reading hardware and service (they had peer to peer booklending first, and a frontlit EBR…E-Book Reader).

It just didn’t feel to me, though, like it was an idea that was driving the NOOK…it was “MEtooism”, trying to compete with others.

If something came along that gave better service, better selection, and lower prices than the Kindle, do I think Amazon would embrace it?

Absolutely.

We’ll see what happens (Barnes & Noble will announce third quarter results on Thursday, February 28th). I remember that some people were concerned about going with a NOOK (which I do think is a good piece of hardware) because of worries about Barnes & Noble having the long-term stability that they saw for Amazon…they may be feeling vindicated, although it’s a bit soon to tell.

I do think that, if, Riggio ends up owning the stores, it improves their chances to stick around. Leonard Riggio is able to innovate, and is clearly passionately committed to the business.

Here are some stories I found interesting on this:

What do you think? Is the NOOK a mature enough device to stand without the trade bookstores? Is Riggio doing this just because it makes good business sense, or is there an emotional component to it? Am I painting too nice a picture of Amazon, and not a nice enough one of Barnes & Noble’s motivations and vision? Could the bookstores survive without the NOOK for, say, ten years? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

The Big Deal through March 10: up to 88% off selected Kindle books

February 25, 2013

The Big Deal through March 10: up to 88% off selected Kindle books

Amazon has done this before, and you can find some interesting bargains!

Over 500 (!) Kindle store books are discounted, up to 88%. This will include some well-known ones.

As always, check the price before you click that Buy button. These deals may not be good in every territory, and Amazon can change which books are in the group at any time…that means something might be on sale when I write this post, but not when you click on the link.

If you want to look for yourself, here’s the main page:

The Big Deal: Kindle Books Up to 88% Off

Remember also that you can buy these books now, and delay when they are delivered to someone as a gift…great way to save some money for birthdays, anniversaries, or the holidays!

I’ll list some of the ones that caught my eye (as usual, I won’t deliberately link to a book that blocks text-to-speech access*):

Childhood’s End
by Arthur C. Clarke

A true science fiction classic, now about 60 (!) years old. It’s $2.99 at time of writing, $6 off the digital list price. This might be a particularly good gift for a Baby Boomer geek. According to one review,the introduction is a bit spoilery, so you might want to skip that if you haven’t read it before. There are also several other Clarke books in this offer.

Lamb
by Christopher Moore

This religious satire has a 4.6 (out of 5 star) rating with 851 reviews at the time of writing…impressive! I’m not quite convinced by the professional reviews, although it sounds like it might be funny.

Bonnie (Eve Duncan)
by Iris Johansen

Johansen is, of course, a New York Times bestselling author. I think this is the third in a trilogy, though.

The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success
by William N. Thorndike

No, Jeff Bezos isn’t one of them. ;) This a real savings on this Harvard Business Review book…$3.99 at time of writing, with a digital list price of $27.00. Might make a great gift for somebody in the corporate world!

I Know This Much Is True
by Wally Lamb

A popular novel…

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee
by Sarah Silverman

You probably already know if you like Silverman or not. :) The book is $1.99, and you can get the Whispersync audiobook, narrated by Silverman, for an additional $7.99. The audiobook actually says you have to be 18 to buy it…

The Reagan Diaries
by Ronald Reagan

$1.99 at time of writing…

Anathem
by Neal Stephenson

In paper, the popular science fiction writer’s book is more than 900 pages…in this deal, $1.99. ;)

Septimus Heap, Book One: Magyk
by Angie Sage

It’s listed for grades 4-8, but with 245 reviews, I suspect those kids aren’t the only ones reading it. ;)

The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America
by Douglas Brinkley

Tales of the City
by Armistead Maupin

Popular first book in a series, originally published in the 1970s. One television adaptation included Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis in the cast.

A Moveable Feast
by Anthony Bourdain, et al

Great gift for a foodie…and at $14 off the digital list price, only ninety-nine cents! This is a well-known book with a well-known author, for those of you who doubt that happens for under a dollar. :)

Thomas Jefferson (Eminent Lives)
by Christopher Hitchens

$1.99 at time of writing…

The Falls
by Joyce Carol Oates

To Dance with the White Dog: A Novel of Life, Loss, Mystery and Hope (RosettaBooks into Film)
by Terry Kay

Founding Mothers
by Cokie Roberts

Who Goes There? (RosettaBooks into Film)
by John W. Campbell

This is the basis for The Thing (from Another World) and John Carpenter’s version (and I think we’ll just stop there…)

Friday the Rabbi Slept Late (RosettaBooks into Film)
by Harry Kemelman

Bang the Drum Slowly (RosettaBooks Sports Classics)
by Mark Harris

Baseball…

New York City City Guide
by Lonely Planet

The Happy Hooker: My Own Story
by Xaviera Hollander

Originally published in the early 1970s, this book had a big impact on pop culture.

Jellicoe Road
by Melina Marchetta

Grades 8 and up…

Venom vs. Carnage

This is a collection of Spider-Man comics, but that doesn’t mean it is for kids. Might look mighty fine (I suppose I should say “Amazing”) ;) on a Kindle Fire…

Rake’s Progress: A Novel of Regency England – Being the Fourth Volume of A House for the Season
by M.C. Beaton, Marion Chesney

Double Impact (Watch Me Die and McGrave)
by Lee Goldberg

Sexy Book of Sexy Sex</a
by Kristen Schaal and Rich Blomquist

You may know Schaal from The Daily Show or Flight of the Conchords. Schaal has also appeared in many movies. Read the description first to see if this kind of humor is for you. :)

Dracula (Illustrated Classics)
by Bram Stoker

The original text, with 50 new illustrations by Becky Cloonan

Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II (Oxford Oral History Series)

$15 off brings this Oxford University Press book down to $1.99 (at time of writing).

Batman Classic: Gotham’s Villains Unleashed!
by John Sazaklis

* Note: while this one says that text-to-speech is not enabled, it won’t be because the publisher blocked it, but because the words are part of the images. This looks like a Batman book that would be good for little kids…and that’s not all that common. Check the available devices before buying…you are going to need a backlit device for this one.

Death of the Mantis: A Detective Kubu Mystery
by Michael Stanley

The Worst-Case Scenarion: Survival Handbook: Extreme Edition (Worst Case Scenario)
by David Borgenicht

A popular and long-lasting series of books, which can certainly be read as humor, on how to survive in situations you can only hope you won’t encounter (like being in an elephant stampede or controlling a runaway hot air balloon…hm, I hope the advice doesn’t conflict, in case both of those happen at the same time. Oh, hey, and when is a hot air balloon not a runaway?) ;)

The Tunnel Under the World (The Galaxy Project)
by Frederik Pohl

Short 1950s science fiction by a popular author

Well, I’ll say it…I’m impressed with this set of over 500 choices! Hope you find a good deal.  If you see another one you want to mention, or have a comment on one of these, 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.

Is original writing always better?

February 24, 2013

Is original writing always better?

Tonight is the Oscars*, and one interesting thing for me is that they split the screenwriting awards into two categories: original and adapted.

Why the difference?

Is it inherently easier to write an adapted screenplay…or perhaps inherently harder? Is one form of writing more “valuable” than the other?

That question pulls together a few threads I’ve been pondering recently.

One was when of my readers and commenters, JJ Hitt, expressed a concern about author John Scalzi having “reworked” earlier books.

Another is that there is a legal action, as reported in this

The Economist article

to establish the legality of authors writing new Sherlock Holmes works without the approval of the Conan Doyle estate.

Then there is the prejudice that some people have about tie-in novels, the art of which is eloquently addressed in this book

Tied In: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-In Writing

edited by Lee Goldberg.

All of that brings me to a question: do you think authors should write original things, and if they do, does that make them better than authors who aren’t as original?

I think the knee-jerk reaction from a lot of people will be, “Of course!”

After all, isn’t The Lord of the Rings better than a knock-off?

Most likely…but The Lord of the Rings drew on a lot of other sources (you can get some of them for free at http://www.sacred-texts.com/ring/index.htm). Would LOTR have been better if it wasn’t inspired by the Kalevala and Wagner?

Shakespeare, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark…they all had resonances to other works, and wouldn’t have been the same without that sense.

Now, note that I’m not talking about either plagiarism or copyright infringement here. I’m talking about using other works, often with permission, as a basis for a new work.

We should probably get the definitions of plagiarism and infringement out of the way, so we know what were discussing. I find those two terms commonly confused, although they are quite different.

Copyright infringement is a legal thing. Someone has registered a copyright which gives them certain authorities, and you are infringing on those authorities. In the USA, you can not commit a copyright infringement of Shakespeare’s plays, since they are not under copyright protection any more (they are in what is called “the public domain”…they are owned by the public).

If you were to publish a new book starring  Katniss Everdeen of
Review: The Hunger Games without the permission of the rightsholder, you would be infringing on the copyright. Copyright law includes protection for derivative works, which would include movie and TV adaptations…and new novels. That’s how I understand it, although I’m not a lawyer.

That brings up the idea of fan fiction (fanfic)…people who publish it without permission do so at the risk of legal action of the rightsholder. Lots of it is made available (see, for example, http://www.fanfiction.net/ but with certain notable exceptions, there is a risk in doing so.

J.K. Rowling has famously allowed fanfic about Harry Potter

BBC article

within certain guidelines (nothing sexually explicit, for example).

There is a Fair Use doctrine under US copyright law that protects certain uses of copyrighted material without permission (including parodies), but I think people think it allows much more than it does. Just because you aren’t charging for something doesn’t make it exempt from copyright protection, for one thing.

So, copyright infringement falls under legal definitions.

Plagiarism, on the other hand, means that you are claiming that someone else’s work is your own.

That is not, de facto, illegal.

Let’s say that someone sends a Shakespeare sonnet to someone, claiming to have written it as an original love poem. That is plagiarism, but not copyright infringement.

If someone copyrights and illegally distributes copies of, say,

Gone Girl

without permission, but with Gillian Flynn’s name still showing as the author, that is infringement, but not plagiarism.

Something can, of course, be both. When someone else’s work contained my material (beyond Fair Use) without my permission and without crediting me (see Infringement, plagiarism, and Amazon to the rescue), that was both infringement and plagiarism.

With those two out of the way, to you think that writing something original is more creatively valuable than adapting something else?

For example, there will be a

New James Bond novel

written by William Boyd, authorized by the Fleming estate, published in October of this year.

Do you automatically “downgrade” it, because it is based on someone else’s work? Do you think it is easier to do?

I’ve written parodies, and I love to try to write in other people’s styles.

One reason I like that is because it challenges me.

It adds a level of difficulty, as opposed to just writing my own material from scratch.

When I’ve captured the feel of it, and readers think I have, that makes me feel good. :)

It’s a bit like the rules in a boardgame…they are what make it interesting.

When we were kids, my family often made up new and more complicated rules. We liked that better. It’s like…if you watched the show Chopped. Chefs open baskets with these really bizarre ingredients, and have to make something good out of them n a very short amount of time. Would it be as fun or as hard if they could use any ingredients they wanted in any way?

I think writing a tie-in novel is both easier in some ways and harder in others.

If you were to write an authorized Star Trek novel, you don’t have to create main characters…if you use Spock, Kirk, and McCoy, it’s already established how they think and  interact  with each other.

That’s easier.

However, if you get that wrong, or some other tiny bit of Star Trek lore wrong, or write something that fans see as “out of character”, you are in big trouble.

That’s harder.

Do I like the idea of true originality? Yes. If you can really do something someone has never done before (good luck with that, by the way), that’s wonderful.

However, I also admire someone who can do something new with an existing work. I think the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie is much better than the original book (and I’m a big Oz book fan). Some of my favorite Oz books were written by Ruth Plumly Thompson who (with permission) carried on after L. Frank Baum.

I think

Forbidden Planet

is a great movie, and is enhanced by being inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

What do you think? Is originality always better and harder? Is a bad original more of an achievement than a good derivative work? Does only originality show true artistry? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

* If you want to see my predictions for the Oscars, and the aggregate predictions of those participating in my annual Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness (BOPMadness) competition, see The Measured Circle’s BOPMadness category

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

YouTube removes Kindle Paperwhite ad

February 23, 2013

YouTube removes Kindle Paperwhite ad

I recently polled my readers for their opinions about a new ad for the Kindle Paperwhite.

I directed them to a link at YouTube.

This ad was appearing on the page where I have seen official Kindle ads posted before, and which is described as

“The official YouTube channel of Kindle and Kindle Fire. Watch TV commercials, exclusive author interviews, feature videos, and more!”

This morning, one of my readers in a comment, said that the link was going to a notice that the video had been removed “…as a violation of YouTube’s policy against spam, scams, and commercially deceptive content.”

I checked the link, and confirmed that was what happened: no video, but a notice that it had been removed.

My reader not unreasonably asked me what the video had said, and if it was from Amazon.

I had not described the video in the previous posting, because I really don’t like to spoil things for people, and at this point, close to 40% of respondents thought the video was “clever” and close to 20% said they had been surprised by it.

However, I am now going to describe the ad. The easy way there was to view it is currently unavailable. It’s worth noting that I did see this ad on TV during the Top Chef finale…although that might have been geographically limited, and limited by the way you were viewing it (I saw it through cable).

The ad is a callback to previous Amazon Kindle ads:

http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/new-kindle-commercial-follows-on-kindle-pool-ad/

It shows someone reading on a Kindle outside by the pool and another person struggling with reading a backlit device in the bright sunlight.

The Kindle owner, in this case as it was in the most talked-about of the previous ads, is a woman in a bikini. I’m mentioning that because it is important to the messaging in the ad.

The non-Kindle user is a man who looks like he is on vacation…not cleanly shaven, wearing what is probably a swimsuit with a shirt.

It wouldn’t be unexpected for this to be a flirtatious situation.

The non-Kindle user taps his device.

Him: “Done.”

Her: “With your book?”

Him: “Nope. I just bought a Kindle Paperwhite…we should celebrate!”

Her: “My husband’s bringing me a drink right now.”

Him: “So’s mine!”

They look over their shoulders and wave at their husbands.

They then go back to reading.

===

I don’t see anything here that would be a scam or commercially deceptive. If it is spam, so are the other Amazon Kindle ads…which are still up at YouTube.

I clicked the link at YouTube to get more information about the video being removed.

That took me here:

http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines#tips

Interestingly, not much of what was on that page had to do with “spam, scams, and commercially deceptive” material.

That wasn’t completely absent, but most of it was community guidelines that would affect non-commercial posters.

Looking at those guidelines, I don’t see where the ad is in violation.

Part of one of the explanations on that YouTube page says:

“Okay, this one is more about us than you. YouTube staff review flagged videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate our Community Guidelines. When they do, we remove them. Sometimes a video doesn’t violate our Community Guidelines, but may not be appropriate for everyone. These videos may be age-restricted.”

My guess as to what happened here?

People who were uncomfortable with the content flagged the video. YouTube removed it.

I suppose another scenario is that Amazon was hacked and a fake video was uploaded, but that seems unlikely to me, given that it was also on TV.

In my poll, at time of writing, the second most popular response (after “I thought it was clever”) was “What’s the big deal?”

About 7% of the respondents have said they were offended by the ad…and about 2.5% say it made them less likely to shop at Amazon.

The result that almost three times the number of people who said they would be less likely to shop said they were offended is what I would have expected. You can be offended by an ad without then changing your shopping habits based on it.

If you want to give feedback to YouTube about the removal* of this ad, you can do so on the page that previously housed the video by clicking a Send Feedback link. That page, linked above, is here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=lS3t9reE364

Update: you can see the ad here:

http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7d4I/amazon-kindle-paperwhite-husbands

Update: access to the video on YouTube has been restored. YouTube tends to err on the side of removal, since they have no legal obligation to display a video, but could get in trouble by doing so, at least in the case of infringement.  I didn’t think that would be as likely to happen with a major company like Amazon, though. I would guess that what happened here is some people flagged the video as iniappropriate, YouTube removed it, and then re-examined the case, perhaps prompted by feedback such as that left at the above link. They then reversed the removal.

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

Indie bookstores sue: the end of Kindle-specific DRM?

February 22, 2013

Indie bookstores sue: the end of Kindle-specific DRM?

I wanted to wait to write about the

lawsuit filing document

by three bookstores against Amazon and the “Big Six” publishers (Random House, Penguin ((those two are in the process of merging)), Simon & Schuster, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Macmillan) alleging that, through the use of DRM (Digital Rights Management), they have unfairly cut independent bookstores out of the e-book market, until I had a chance to really read it. This is a class action suit, on behalf of all independent bookstores which sell e-books.

IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer), but my basic understanding of the Sherman Act (which is the basis of the suit) is that on the one hand, you can’t get together and act to constrain trade, and on the other, you can’t have a monopoly.

It’s a lot more shaded and complex than that, and even having 100% of a market doesn’t make you automatically a monopoly.

If the suit were to succeed, I think the likely result would be that publishers would sell e-books with “open source DRM”, meaning that you could buy an e-book from an independent store (but not meaning that you wouldn’t be prohibited electronically from copying and distributing that book).

The filing is not particularly long, or terribly steeped in legalese…you may want to read it yourself.

I think it is a long shot, but again, I’m no real expert.

From Amazon’s defense viewpoint, there are a couple of obvious angles.

First, Amazon allows publishers to sell e-books without DRM through Amazon. Tor (a division of Macmillan) does it, for example, and indie publishers using Kindle Direct Publishing can opt for that as well. If publishers don’t choose to do that, that is their choice.

Second, there are competitors. You can buy most of the same e-books from Barnes & Noble, Sony, or Apple…certainly, that’s true of many of the most popular books. The existence of Kindle-specific DRM coding doesn’t prevent other coding. Could independent bookstores come up with a DRM plan that the publishers would accept? I think so, but it doesn’t seem to me like that is Amazon’s issue.

On the publishers’ side, it might be trickier.

As I understand it, you can’t, as a supplier, not give retail stores an equal opportunity to buy and sell your goods, especially if you get together with other like entities to enact a policy like that. Let’s say you make a…widghookie. You set a wholesale price for it. Then, you decide you won’t sell it to any stores managed by people with…oh, blue eyes. Even though the blue-eyed people offer you the exact same compensation as the other people. That’s a very simple illustration, and lawyers, please be welcome to explain why it might be incorrect.

Let’s say your widghookie has a wholesale price of a gazillion dollars. That’s going to price small stores out of selling it, but it wouldn’t be a violation…as long as,if a small store can raise that gazillion dollars somehow, they can buy it (and resell it to the public).

If the publishers have not allowed independent stores to develop a similar DRM plan which they accept, then I think they have a problem.

I think that’s unlikely to be an issue, though.

The suit makes some odd points…

  • It suggests that the introduction of Kindles allowed e-books to be read on a portable device. Actually, there were already at least ten EBRs (E-Book Readers) in the US market when the Kindle came out in 2007…including Sony being in the market. The Kindle transformed the market in part by allowing wireless downloads, in part by being associated with Amazon (which was associated in a strong way with books), and yes, in part by getting fuller tradpub (traditional publisher) participation (in my opinion, on all three of these). That might have been an interesting argument: did tradpubs enter the market more strongly because of Amazon’s DRM? 
  • The suit is simply wrong when it says, “All e-books sold by AMAZON contain the AZW DRM.” As I mentioned above, selling with DRM is optional at Amazon

Let’s say that the suit continues to the point where Amazon might choose to settle. Could I see that happening?

While I think it’s unlikely, yes. I could see Amazon dropping DRM. There are other ways to bind buyers to you, including great customer service.

The unintended consequence of no DRM, of course, would be publishers suing people who were distributing books. DRM, when used properly, can work as an infringement preventative (by average users). This is always a difficult thing to discuss, because some people are very passionate about not liking DRM (and certainly, the success of DRM MP3s for music can be legitimately raised, even though the use models of books and songs are quite different). Publishers can reduce casual (and often unintended) infringement using DRM, or they can pursue people legally after the fact.

We’ll keep an eye on this suit, but I don’t think it will have the impact of the Department of Justice’s legal action against five of the Big Six and Apple over the Agency Model.

What do you think? Is the use of platform-specific DRM inherently anticompetitive? Would the publishing industry be helped or hurt by dropping the sort of DRM that exists now? Was DRM perhaps important in the nascent stage of the e-book industry, but no longer as important? 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.

New Kindle Paperwhite ad: what do you think?

February 22, 2013

New Kindle Paperwhite ad: what do you think?

Amazon has posted a new

Kindle Paperwhite ad (Update: YouTube has apparently removed the ad. For more information, see my later post. 2nd Update: access to the ad at YouTube has been restored.)

to YouTube, and I think we may get a lot of commentary about it. I don’t want to say a lot about it before you see it, but after you do, I’m curious about your opinion(s). The order of the questions you are seeing is randomized, and you can pick more than one answer:

Update: in looking at commentary and talking about it, I’m adding two polls (again, the answers are randomized and you can pick more than one in each poll):

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

Menu map: Paperwhite 5.3.3

February 21, 2013

Menu map: Paperwhite 5.3.3

In the Menu Maps series of posts, I take you through the menu options on a specific Kindle device. That will make it easier for you to find things, and may make you aware of things you didn’t know your Kindle could do.

This time, I’m going to run through the menus on a Kindle Paperwhite (specifically, a wi-fi only USA model with Special Offers). This is based on firmware version 5.3.3. By the way, that “5” at the beginning is the same thing that the Kindle Touch used, suggesting Amazon considers this to an evolution of that device (models are indicated by the first number in the firmware version).

I’ll add comments where I think that’s appropriate. Do feel free to comment on this post if you have more questions.

What is a menu?

It gives you options, just like a menu in a restaurant. You select a menu (you might be tapping, clicking, arrowing and hitting enter…depends on the device), and see a series of choices. You pick one (if you want), and that “launches” (starts) something on your device.

With the Paperwhite, you wake it up by pushing the power button on the bottom edge, and releasing it. That will light up the screen…you then swipe the screen (rub your finger on it) in any direction to complete the process. You may be opening to the Homescreen, or to something you were reading.

The “icon ribbon” (series of pictures at the top) represent something like a menu (it would be called a “toolbar” on a Windows PC). The first one (going left to right as you look at the screen) looks like a house, and will bring you home. Then, there is a left pointing chevron < (like an arrow without the stick), which is a back button (it will take you to your last activity). The next icon is a lightbulb…that lets you adjust the lighting. Next, there is a shopping cart, which takes to the store. The magnifying glass lets you search your device, and then we get to the menu (three horizontal lines).

Tap the menu, and you get:

  • Shop Kindle Store
  • View Special Offers
  • Cover View (or List View…it will be whichever one you aren’t on now. List View shows you the names of the items on your device…Cover View will show you the cover of, for example, e-books)
  • Create New Collection
  • Sync (with Amazon) and Check for Items
  • Settings
  • Experimental Browser

I think most of these are pretty self-explanatory, but feel free to ask questions about the ones I don’t cover by commenting on this post.

If you tap Settings, you’ll get an important sub-menu:

    • Airplane Mode: you’ll see the current state, and you can turn it on or off. Airplane Mode means that the wireless is turned off. Why not just say that? On devices with other connectivity, Airplane Mode turns them all off, and calling it that makes it consistent. For instance, my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE 64 GB has wi-fi, 4G, and Bluetooth. Turning on Airplane Mode there turns off all three of those with one move. Some people find the term “Airplane Mode” confusing. When  you are getting on the airplane, you would turn on Airplane Mode. When you are getting off, you might turn it off (to gain access again)
    • Wi-Fi Networks: use this to connect to networks
    • Registration: tap this to deregister or register your device
    • Device Options: Tap this for another submenu:
    • *Device Passcode: enter a password to protect your Kindle
    • *Parental Controls: you can turn on and off access to: the Web Browser; Kindle Store; Cloud. The third one means the user (who may or may not be a child) can not access the archives on your account. If you enable Parental Controls, the device can not be deregistered or reset. When you’ve locked the Kindle Store, you can still send books to the device by buying them on your computer or sending them from http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle
    • Device Time: choose between setting it automatically, or set it manually. You might use the latter if you were traveling somewhere (say, camping) where you won’t have wi-fi
    • Personalize your Kindle: the choices there
    • * Device Name
    • * Personal Info (you can add a message here, including contact information)
    • * Recommended Content: you can turn on and off the recommendations that appear when you are in Cover View
    • * Send to Kindle E-Mail: this address is used when you e-mail documents to your Kindle. You can not change it here, but it is displayed here. You change it at the Manage Your Kindle address above
    • Language and Dictionaries: you can change which interface language your Kindle uses (SimplifiedChinese, English UK, English USA, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish); change keyboards (to match the above language choices); and set the dictionaries
    • Reading Options:
    • * Annotations Backup: on or off…this lets Amazon automatically back up your notes and  highlights, the last page read, and your Collections (so you can import them to another device)
    • * Popular Highlights: on or off…you can see what other people have highlighted in this book (if at least three people have, I believe)
    • * Public Notes (if you follow people at http://kindle.amazon.com, you can see their notes in your books
    • * Page Refresh (you can choose whether or not your Paperwhite refreshes the screen with each page turn)
    • * Social Networks: connect to Twitter and/or Facebook (you’ll need a wireless connection to do that)

When you are in the Settings menu, you can get to another menu by tapping the menu button again:

  • Shop Kindle Store
  • Update Your Kindle (this will only be active if your device has downloaded an update which has not yet been applied)
  • Restart: this is how Amazon says you should restart your device if it is responsive…if not responsive, you can hold in the power button on the device
  • Reset Device: CAUTION…while this often fixes things, it will wipe everything personal off your device. That means you would lose wi-fi networks you’ve had the device remember, internet bookmarks, personal documents, and so on
  • Legal: 274 pages of legalese
  • Sync and Check for Items

Within a book

To access the Menu from within a book, you first tap towards the top of the screen, in the middle horizontally, then tap the menu.

You’ll see the same icon ribbon as you saw on the homescreen, and there are four more options before you even get to the menu:

  • Aa: that’s where you can set the font size, the font, the line spacing, and the margins
  • Go To: lets you jump to the Beginning, the Page or Location…and may give you a link for each chapter, as well as to the end of the book
  • X-Ray brings up the x-ray information for the book…characters and terms. Not all books have this
  • Share: you can type a message about the book, and share it with Twitter and/or Facebook

In the Menu inside a book:

  • Shop Kindle Store
  • Book Description: it will need to connect to the book’s product page using wireless
  • About the Author
  • Landscape or Portrait Mode: it will show you whichever one you aren’t right now…landscape is wider than it is tall, portrait is taller than it is wide
  • Sync to Furthest Page Read: it will check with Amazon to get that information
  • Add Bookmark
  • View Notes & Marks
  • Reading Progress: you can choose between it displaying your location in the book, the time left in the chapter, or the time left in the book. This is what shows when you are reading the book and you don’t tap the menu. The latter two average out your reading speed, so it won’t work right when you first get the device
  • Settings: that opens the Settings menu from above. You can put your Kindle in Airplane Mode by tapping toward the top middle of the page, tapping the Menu, tapping Settings, and tapping Airplane Mode

Other types of content, like blogs, newspapers, and magazines will have additional menus, but that should get you started. :)

I like to do this from time to time to keep a record of the menus as Amazon issues updates which may change them in the future.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment this post.

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


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