Things keep getting better #1

Things keep getting better #1

I’m an optimist.

Really…is it that obvious? ;)

While there are certainly terrible things that happen in the world, and we have the increasing problem of individuals who want to do bad things being able to hurt more people in more ways more quickly at the same time, generally, I think the world is good and getting better.

Even when we look specifically at the Kindle and e-books overall, we can see it.

One way is to look at things people about which people have complained in the past, and see if they have been changed.

In many cases, they have.

That doesn’t mean everything, of course…there are a lot of things which haven’t been remedied…yet.

I’m also not somebody who says something is bad just because it isn’t everything I want. I figure if I’m hungry and somebody gives me a third of a meal, that’s a third I didn’t have before. I don’t get mad because I didn’t get that full meal.

That said, let’s take a look at some of these improvements.

First, generally…Kindles are cheaper and do much more than they used to do. When the Kindle was introduced on November 19, 2007, it cost $399, and held about 200 books. There were only about 80,000 books available in the USA Kindle store (which was the only Kindle store there was).

Now, the least expensive Kindle is $69 in the USA (you can buy more than five of them for the price of one of the original Kindles), holds about 1,000 books (five times as many), and we are closing in on two million titles in the USA Kindle store.

Next, let’s look at some of the big improvements in chronological order:

Text-to-speech (February 9, 2009)

I don’t think people had really been asking for this: it came as a surprise to me and many others. This has been a long and bumpy road: initially, it was for all books, than Amazon allowed rightsholders to block it, and some did so…big time. However, it appears to me that has been reduced over time, and Amazon encourages independent publishers not to block the access.

SmartPhone access (March 4, 2009)

While this ability to read e-books without carrying an EBR (E-Book Reader) with you was originally just for the iPhone and iPod touch, free apps eventually let you read on Android devices, Blackberrys, Windows Phones…a wide variety.

Kindle Publishing for Blogs (May 13, 2009)

Amazon has given creative people many ways to make money with their art. This was one of them that was relatively simple. While you might not consider every blog “art”, it does allow people to get their ideas out there and get some compensation for it.

USA Today includes e-books in its bestsellers’ list (July 23, 2009)

There was a lot of talk about when the mainstream media would start recognizing e-books, giving readers of that format more information and authors more exposure. This is really when it happened.

Kindles go international (October 7, 2009)

People outside the US get Kindles, and this is when the announcement was made. Oh yeah, they also lowered the price on the US-only model with this announcement.

Kindle for PC released (October 22, 2009)

This greatly expanded access…in 2009, not everybody had a SmartPhone. ;)

Kindles come to Canada (November 17, 2009)

I’m not going to mention every time the Kindle began selling through a region-specific Kindle site, but people had been clamoring for this…well, perhaps asking nicely for it repeatedly. ;)

PDF support and landscape mode (November 25, 2009)

I wonder how many people remember that these weren’t available initially? It part of a free update…those have brought us so many features!

Barnes & Noble introduces the NOOK (November 30, 2009)

Yes, I consider this an improvement for the Kindle…the competition has been good for us Kindleers.

Permanent delete from the archives (December 9 ((?)), 2009)

That’s right…for the first two years, we could not delete books from our Kindle accounts (we could delete them from our devices). People had really wanted that!

Add to Wishlist button added to Kindle book product pages (December 11 ((?)), 2009)

Many people use this functionality for tracking, and they had been asking for it.

International rightsholders get Kindle publishing (January 15, 2010)

It was called the “Digital Text Platform” at that point…it became Kindle Direct Publishing later.

Amazon doubles the possible royalty rate for indie publishers (January 20, 2010)

It goes up to 70% from 35%.

Kindles become available in brick and mortar stores (April 25, 2010)

This was in Target…they were the first.

Collections (book “folders’) come to the Kindle (June 14, 2010)

In another free update, we get one of the most requested features…a way to organize our books on our Kindles.

Active content (games and apps) come to the Kindle (August 3, 2010)

The first two games were Every Word and Shuffled Row. There had been hidden games on the Kindle before that, but these were actual downloadable titles.

Gifting of Kindle books (November 19, 2010)

Wow, did people want to give Kindle e-books to people! Before this, you could do gift certificates, but this was a huge improvement.

Lending books to friends (December 30, 2010)

People wanted to lend e-books, just like they could p-books (paperbooks). ¬†Sure, it’s limited, just as it was for the NOOK, but that’s an improvement.

Ad-supported Kindles (April 11, 2011)

Okay, okay…nobody was walking around with a sign saying, “Please put advertising on my Kindle!” ;) However, this did lower the prices, and the ad-supported versions tended to outsell the full price ones, showing a preference.

Reading e-books in a browser (August 10, 2011)

The Cloud Reader was announced on this date, which would lead to the ability to read your Kindle store books without downloading and special software.

Borrowing books from public libraries (September 21, 2011)

There still is work to go on this, but we can now borrow e-books from public libraries for our Kindles. The Big Six publishers have all at least announced plans for some representation in public libraries.

I’m gong to stop there in this post…the next big era comes with the release of the Kindle Fire. That doesn’t mean improvements stopped at that point, though! They just keep coming. I fully expect to get comments pointing out the things that haven’t happened yet, and maybe I’ll address those myself in another post. I just wanted to leave you with this list of improvements, often at a lower cost.

See? Things are getting better. :)

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

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16 Responses to “Things keep getting better #1”

  1. oldiesuz Says:

    I love your attitude towards life Bufo! I share it in many ways – I wish it were contagious!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, oldiesuz!

      Gee, I’m not aware of any studies that say it isn’t contagious… ;) I think, evolutionarily, it makes more sense for negative attitudes to be quickly contagious. Let’s say you have a bunch of primates hanging out in the savanna.

      One of them senses a predator, and screams and runs. If Primate A is right, the ones that also screamed and ran (without actually detecting the predator) are more likely to survive.

      If Primate A is wrong, it doesn’t hurt much to have “agreed” with that. Yes, you expended some “escape energy” unnecessarily, and you might have to jockey for position again when you get back to the first place, but you didn’t get eaten.

      If you didn’t react to Primate A and there was a predator, you might be lunch. If you didn’t react to Primate A and there wasn’t a predator, you don’t gain a whole of advantage.

      On the other hand, let’s say Primate B sends a signal that everything is fine and likely to get better…a self-satisfied sigh. If you agree with that and there is a predator, you might end up being lunch. If you agree with that and things are better…well, it didn’t take any change in what you did to get the good situation, so there is no advantage.

      So, while I can see an evolutionary advantage to panic being contagious in the short term, I’m not sure that’s the best survival strategy in today’s world and in the long term.

  2. Brian Hartman Says:

    I fear there is nothing getting better about TTS when it come to RSKs Currently none offer it. The KK was last that did and as of today, it no longer shows on the Kindle page where Amazon displays its Readers and Fire models. This is sad news to me; I used TTS and Audible a lot on my RSKs. The Fire is nice but the battery life doesn’t even come close when just using audio with the screen off. I bought a ton of Audible titles from my Kindle itself. I certainly hope a model with speaker and/or a headphone jack in soon forthcoming. I’m very sad about this. I did nor buy my Audible titles from an “app” on a fire, but through my RSKs from the Kindle Store. Why no more models with audio? Why did they sell the Audible titles in the Kindle store if they weren’t going to sell Kindles that could play them?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Brian!

      The “Kindle Keyboard” (AKA Kindle 3) is still available through Amazon, at least in the USA:

      Kindle Keyboard 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6″ E Ink Display

      That one, with 3G is $159 right now. It’s not in the “family stripe”, but it’s there.

      I suspect they will have rethought not having audio on RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles) in the next round…not that all of them will have it, but I do think it will be part of the mix going forward.

      Oh, and I do think the TTS (text-to-speech) software is better on my Kindle Fire HD than on the RSKs, but you are right about the battery charge use.

  3. Brian Hartman Says:

    Hey Bufo!
    I just left a reply here but I don’t see it. Was something wrong? It was about no current RSKs offering TTS. –Brian

  4. Brian Hartman Says:

    Sorry, there it is! My mistake! I’ll blame it on the browser, yeah, that’s the ticket, the browser.

    Incidentally, yours is still the first blog I read when I download my updates on my KK. You’ve had a lot of fun, personal stuff lately and I think I’m not alone in saying that it’s fun to read.

  5. Brian Hartman Says:

    For someone as invested in TTS as you are, I find it a bit weird that you don’t seem to care that Amazon is not offering a TTS Kindle on its Kindle Selection Page. Yes I know you can dig around and find one, but I’m confused about your nonchalance. It is not a good thing, in my humble opinion.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Brian!

      That’s a very interesting point, and I’m going to think quite a bit about it.

      I am opposed to blocking text-to-speech access.

      However, that is different from thinking that it needs to be promoted.

      For example, I haven’t protested the Kindle Paperwhite or the “Mindle” (that’s what I call the lowest priced model), neither of which have any audio capabilities (which means no TTS). I don’t think there is an obligation to make TTS (text-to-speech) available on every model in every situation.

      In this case, I think the most likely reason that Amazon has dropped the Kindle Keyboard from the stripe is that they are getting ready to replace it…and I am hoping that the new model will have TTS. Reflective screen devices (anything but a Kindle Fire at this point) are a great convenience to those with print disabilities and print challenges. That’s not because they are typically sight-reading the screen, of course. It’s the battery usage and how light and small the devices are…and people with print challenges may certainly use visual input in some cases.

      I guess I don’t intuitively feel that Amazon is abandoning text-to-speech by not making it front and center. I didn’t require that there be a large print version of a book right next to every standard sized print book in a brick and mortar bookstore. I was happy when they had them available (even though I didn’t use them personally), but I understood that people might have to go to a special section for them. I suppose that could be seen as discriminatory, but it doesn’t feel that way to me.

      I will definitely be thinking more about this in the next few days…thanks for raising the issue!

  6. Brian Hartman Says:

    Thanks Bufo. As always, a very well-reasoned response. I waited a day or so to see if it would change, but this is the second day that no ebr Kindles with TTS are sold by Amazon, at all, not even through your link. They simply are not offering an ereader with sound anymore. I hope they are not trying to force those who want TTS to buy a tablet. If I recall, my Fire 1 doesn’t have TTS either. (I love it for Pulse every morning and out of state radio shows at night, though.)

    An excellent comparison with large print, but after the noise made by Jeff Bezos interviews and by Amazon PR, I thought TTS (and Audible) was a Kindle EBR standard–if not a standard, well, available.

    I hope you’re right about future models having sound, but even if that is true, how many people buying Kindles in the interim have no choice but to forego the option, or buy used. Not what I expect from my favorite company in the world.

  7. Brian Hartman Says:

    This last, concluding sentence was accidentally deleted when I hit post: (I added some more to it,)

    If you are going to offer TTS in a future model, you should at least mention that you’re working on it. A lot of sight-impaired folks are in the dark now, and so are the well-sighted ones. No one ever said Ammy has to tell all its plans, but slyly removing TTS and Audible from all available models feels sneaky and leaves a bad taste–something Amazon has never done before. I know I ramble here, but I think it’s an important point.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Brian!

      The model I linked has become unavailable since I posted it, I think.

      My strong intuition here is that this isn’t a planned elimination…that they are out of stock. That could certainly be true if they are about to launch a new model, and underestimated demand for the current one.

      It could also happen if there was a supply channel issue.

      In those instances, it would be better if they didn’t announce it as a discontinuation.

      However, it would greatly concern me if they actually strategically stopped offering an RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle) with TTS (text-to-speech)…unless they stopped offering RSKs altogether. I still wouldn’t like that, but I would want it to be both (with and without TTS) rather than just without TTS. If I believe it has been a strategic move, I would expect to write about it.

      You could listen to TTS on the 1st generation Kindle Fire, but not ones from the Kindle store:

      I did that a lot, even though I really wanted to be able to listen to my Kindle store books.

      I’ll tell you what: if I don’t know that something is coming within a few days (not that a device is coming in a few days, but that we know one will be coming), I’ll ask Amazon and report back.

  8. Brian Hartman Says:

    Bufo, thanks, as always, for your well-reseaned thoughts. A little background might be in order and I’ll keep it short. K1, show my dad on Christmas 2007–how great! He says, “Nah, I like newspapers. Can you do a crossword?” Forward “Hey Dad, Kindles have crossword games now, wanna’ try?” Dad says Nah, Brian, thanks but using the pen and my hands helps me.” Ok, I thouight, fair enough. Now 85+ Dad has to go into the hospital. “I’ll take one of those Kindles now,” he says, “one with the late night book reading to you that you’ve been bullsh*tting me about..”
    Me: “Dad it’s no lie you can read and then listen and then it will pick up where you left off.”
    “How do I leave off?”
    “Hit the space bar. You can turn it on or off with the spacebar.”
    “Get me one of those.”
    “Dad, I’ve got a couple that you can use and–”
    “You think I’m poor? I can’t buy one? This is Amazon, get me one.!”

    Unfortunately I could not and it wasn’t pretty at all. Suffice to say my Dad hates Amazon and thinks very little (to put it mildly) of me for supporrting this company that he’s sure is doing “Bait–ahhh, you get it never mind….” TTS would have mede it easy…

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Brian!

      I’m sorry you went through that! My guess is that it was just bad timing (you could have bought one last week, and might be able to buy a satisfactory one before long), but I understand the frustration.

      It would be a little bit of an odd bait and switch…because they would have had the bait in the water for almost three years. ;)

      I’ll keep my eye (and ear) on this…

  9. Brian Hartman Says:

    That was funny, thanks for the laugh. And thanks for all you’ve done and do for us Kindleers.

    P.S. Sorry about the off-color word I used above. I read several tech blogs daily and they throw around the f-bomb and all its cousins freely. I’m sad to say I may have become inured to it. I know you dislike those words in your blog and will be more mindful in the future.

    In my defense, I was quoting Dad, though…!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Brian!

      I considered censoring it…and still might. :) That particular word does get used pretty freely, though.

  10. Brian Hartman Says:

    No problem., if it’s not a word you accept. I understand..

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