Round up #210: KPW search tip, France’s stance

Round up #210: KPW search tip, France’s stance

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

Dans votre visage, Amazon!*

While Amazon has  benefited from some legal actions in the USA (notably the Department of Justice action against five publishers and Apple, and the State Attorneys General suit against the publishers), that’s not the case everywhere…notably in France.

This

The Guardian article by Angelique Chrisafis

gives you a pretty good rundown on a recent action by one house of government there that limits the discounting that Amazon (and hypothetically other online booksellers…but we know who they mean) can do…and they sort of count free shipping as a discount.

It’s intended to help brick-and-mortar bookstores compete, and is part of France’s long tradition of trying to provide cultural support within its borders.

I think you are going to know how I feel about this. You don’t protect your culture by making books more difficult to afford and obtain. That’s especially true if you think  your culture goes back more than five years or so…brick-and-mortars have a much harder time stocking the backlist than Amazon does.

While it isn’t an excuse, less affordable and available books do, I think, lead to more piracy (in the world of paperbooks, that includes counterfeits, which are surprisingly common in some places).

Today: “8-year-old flags ‘sexist’ children’s books; bookstore takes notice”

Personally, I’d like to see Amazon carry anything that’s legal, in terms of books.

I don’t really want them making editorial choices about what options I have.

However, there are some people complaining about the book mentioned in this

Today.com article by Morgan Brasfield

It sounded really ridiculous…and an 8-year was moved to tears by seeing them in a store.

They are two “survival guides”…one for boys, and one for girls.

I’m going to briefly quote the article:

“In the boy version, the chapters covered topics such as “How to Survive a Shark Attack,” “How to Survive in a Desert,” and “How to Survive Whitewater Rapids.”

The girl version addressed such issues as “How to Survive a BFF Fight,” “How to Survive a Fashion Disaster,” and “How to Survive a Breakout.””

Yes, these are recent books (not available in Kindle editions). I wanted to see what people were saying on Amazon…

Girls Only: How to Survive Anything
by Martin Oliver (illustrated by Daniela Geremia)

had the lowest possible rating a solid 1 star out of 5. That was with eleven reviews.

This one

Boys Only: How to Survive Anything
again by Martin Oliver, although illustrated by Simon Ecob

had 2.3 out of 5 with three reviews.

Ban the book (ironic given the timing around Banned Books Week)?

I think most of you would say no. I could see how it could be absolutely instructive to sit down with your kids (of both genders) and discuss this book…

Kindle Paperwhite tip: searching

I’m still exploring my new Kindle Paperwhite, which is the second generation. I did a complete menu map (linked above), but that doesn’t mean I tested everything at that point.

Both the first generation and second generation Paperwhites (I have mine open side-by-side right now) have a magnifying glass at the top of the home screen that you can use to search.

They also both have dropdowns where you can choose what to search.

Here’s the difference, though:

Gen 1:

  • My Items
  • Kindle Store
  • Dictionary
  • Wikipedia

Gen 2:

  • My Items
  • All Text
  • Kindle Store
  • Dictionary
  • Wikipedia

Notice that in both of them, you can search for a word in the dictionary. That’s something people had wanted earlier, and it works pretty well.

The Gen 2 adds All Text…which means you can test to see if all of your books are  indexed.

Let me just explain indexing on the Kindles briefly. When you put a book on a Kindle, the device “reads” the book to figure out where the words are in it. It might make a note that “cat” appears at location 200, 355, 1420, that sort of thing.

That’s how it can find those words when you search for them.

As you can imagine, reading the book and building that index is energy intensive. If  you put a bunch of books on your Kindle in short order, you might want to leave it plugged in overnight…it can index while it sleeps.

How do you know if an e-book on your device hasn’t been indexed yet?

Search for a nonsense word (I use something like “xxy”).  When it gives you the result, it will tell you if there are any unindexed books yet…and which ones they are.

On the KPW2, switch to All Text when you do that search.

ON the KPW1, you can have it search My Items.

That’s likely to make the searches faster on the KPW2 when you search under My Items, since it only searches titles and authors.

Cutting the cable?

We used to get cable TV channels on a TV in our bedroom without a cable box. We weren’t stealing them…I think we paid something like $5 a month for some time, and we always let the cable company know that we had that TV.

Now, though, due to regulation changes (as I understand it), we suddenly don’t get any cable TV channels on that set (we do get some radio channels).

So, we are considering using the Fire in that room to provide content, and cutting way back on which cable channels we get (and perhaps dropping cable altogether).

We’ll look at that carefully. I watch a lot of cable news. One solution to that is

US TV Free

which I’m using now. I can get some interesting news channels, including Russia Today (which is in English and intended for American audiences) and the BBC.

It’s not perfect: it ends up buffering sometimes. Still, it’s a good choice.

I also use

DroidTV – Free Trial

I pay about $3 a month for it.

That has a lot of current shows. You have to wait for downloads…sometimes for hours before it happens, but you can do “season passes”.

I do believe both of these are legal: I wouldn’t use them otherwise.

I’m watching right now by running an HDMI cable from my Kindle Fire 8.9″.

I think it’s very likely that Amazon will release some TV device before the end of the year, that will use the Miracast that will be available on my Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi. Mine is scheduled to come October 18th…they’ve been pushing back the date for people ordering now. Order one today (at time of writing), and they now think October 21st. This is the one I think will be the most popular model, and may be really popular.

I’m speculating that Amazon might release two TV devices: an inexpensive Miracast stick that works with the Kindle Fire (it would probably plug into your HDMI port on your TV, and then you could wirelessly mirror from your Kindle Fire HDX), and a somewhat more expensive set-top box that has a lot of content options.

Here is a

Wall Street Journal article by Greg Bensinger

that speculates on the box, but doesn’t mention a stick. If you can’t see it from the above link, try searching for “Amazon Readies Set-Top Box for Holidays”.

We’ll see what happens…

Scribd responds to my questions

I want to thank Scribd for responding to my questions about their new subscription (“all you can read”) e-book service.

It’s $8.99 a month, and HarperCollins has signed up with it, meaning that you can get well-known content…although it will be backlist, not the absolutely current bestsellers, you would be likely to find things to read.

I’m not signing up for it myself, for two reasons.

I asked this:

===

Bufo Calvin
Oct 03 04:48 pm (PDT)

I have one of the most popular blogs of any kind in the Kindle store (I Love My Kindle) and had just started a write-up on your subscription service, but I have two key questions before I complete that.

1. You indicate it is compatible with the Kindle Fire, but the user is directed to Google Play (which does not recognize a Kindle Fire) for the Android app. The app is available on 1Mobile, but do you also make it available directly on your site?

2. When I tried a sample, I did not see an option to use text-to-speech. That’s important to my readers: is it available through your app?

Thank you for your attention to these questions.

===

They responded (quickly and courteously) with this:

===

Hello Bufo,

Thank you for reaching out to us. I spoke to our engineering team and we currently do not support Kindle through our app, because Google Play Store is required as you said. We have submitted an application to Amazon, but it’s still being reviewed by Amazon. The app will not work with Kindle e-ink, but will work with the Fires if/when it’s approved.

Regarding your second question, we do not support text-to-speech, unfortunately. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Best regards,
Kay Jong
Scribd, Inc.

Questions? http://scribd.com/faq

===

That shouldn’t stop you. This isn’t a case of someone blocking text-to-speech access, but simply not providing it. I use TTS too often myself to ignore the lack of it, but I have no moral objection to not including it. While I’d like every device to be accessible to everyone, I don’t think that’s a requirement for every app and every device in every circumstance.

As to not being in the Amazon Appstore…well, it may be later. Contrary to what some people say, Amazon does not “wall you into their garden”. You can get the Netflix app, for example: a direct competitor.

You could get the app now, from 1Mobile, or you could when I checked earlier.

Update: I meant to include the Scribd page…you can get all the info (and see what books are available) from links there:

http://www.scribd.com/subscribe

My guess is that this will succeed, and that we’ll see more subscription e-book services. It’s possible Amazon will do one (and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is not all you can read, of course: it’s up to one book a calendar month).

Some of you might be thinking, “Amazon won’t do that…they want you to buy the books.” Well, yes, they’d prefer that…but they really want you to buy physical goods (“diapers and windshield wipers”) where there is more profit, and tying you into a subscription service (especially if it was linked to Prime) would help with that.

What do you think? Have you already cut the cable? If not, what would be necessary to get you to do it? Do you pay more than $100 a month for cable? Is it okay to sell a sexist book to kids? Do protectionist laws help or hurt book culture? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

* I was using Google translate to try to say, “In your face, Amazon!” Not sure how close it is, given the idiomatic nature of the expression.

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

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6 Responses to “Round up #210: KPW search tip, France’s stance”

  1. Phink Says:

    Bufo, I have not cut the cable but I did recently take some scissors and damage the outer edge of the protective skin somewhat. I watch two shows, football, and a certain news channel that I do not want to mention here because this is not a political site and therefore irrelevant. My wife however watches probably a dozen or so. Our satellite bill was almost $100 a month but recently I called Dish and told them I was leaving and they offered me a package they do not advertise and on their site says “no longer available” which is the ‘Welcome Package.’ It’s $20 a month, but after the DVR and taxes my bill is around $30 or $35 a month. We get very little however and no HD channels. No ESPN and mostly locals with a few extras in there. I no longer get that news channel either but that’s ok, they put a lot of their segments on the ROKU player, which by the way is by far my favorite gadget behind the Kindle e-Ink devices. I would love to cut the cable but my wife does not ask for much so $30 a month to keep her happy is a bargain. I am going to look at the apps you mentioned however. Thanx, for the info on those.

    As far as protective laws. Boy, this is a tough decision for me. On one hand I do not like the government involved in anything that is not absolutely necessary in order to protect our civil liberties or defend us. On the other, kids do need some protections from derelict parents. But, on the other hand, who decides which parents are derelict? Some cases are obvious, such as those who do not feed their kids, but I see a slippery slope here and that bothers me. In the end I am undecided.

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    When I was in HS in Switzerland my French teacher despaired of me ever being any good at the language :-) (where the school was, German was spoken — I’m reasonably fluent in that). French is highly irregular and idiomatic as you say — nevertheless “dans votre visage” is the literal translation of “in your face” and I knew right away what you meant — and what was coming — as I have been following the French antics v Amazon.

    It seems to me that the Europeans in general, unable to compete effectively with American technology companies are increasingly turning to antitrust laws, taxation, and outright targeted legislation to hobble American companies — there are exceptions: Poland and Estonia come to mind.

    Of course the Europeans may legitimately be drifting away (or we Americans are) from each other on a whole raft of social and cultural issues.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I appreciate that insight…and assessment of my French attempt. :)

      One of the issues, as I see it, is that the EU (European Union) either isn’t unified enough or isn’t separated enough: they haven’t found the right balance (and the USA is still debating that, of course). If the tax laws were the same, for example, Amazon couldn’t legally be in Luxembourg and taking the heat for not paying “appropriate” taxes in some other countries.

      It’s not just Europe: Canada has considered protectionist legislation for brick-and-mortar bookstores, too. In one way, it shows the reverence with which we hold books, but in another, it shows a conflation of the books themselves and the businesses that sell them.

  3. Tom Semple Says:

    To check index status, my preferred search string is simply ‘.’ (period), which is conveniently right next to the ‘enter’ button on the virtual keyboard. Punctuation is not indexed, so this never returns results, except potentially the summary item showing the unindexed items. It works on all ‘RSKs’.

    Adding the new ‘All Text’ option seems like a nice enhancement, as ‘My Items’ previously mixed the search of metadata (author/title) with content, and I sometimes found that confusing and it took longer when all I was looking for was a particular title or author (without changing sort order and using the page search option). Note that item search includes content on the device and in the Cloud. Hopefully older devices will get this.

    While I applaud Scribd for coming out with a subscription option (perhaps the best such offer to date) the problem I have with subscription models is that they don’t offer ‘universal’ access. You still have to go elsewhere for additional content. And if you pay for that additional content, and actually read it, there’s a very good chance that you won’t have time to take advantage of the subscription offerings (unless you let the paid content pile up, unread).

    For example, Netflix stopped being a good deal for us when 1) they could not rent out discs until months after release and 2) streaming library had only a fraction of the content available on disc. We were paying a modest subscription rate, but weren’t using the service because it didn’t have the content we wanted when we wanted it. Essentially we were paying $7.99 a month for nothing in too many months.

    It is much same reasons I don’t use KOLL or borrow ebooks from public library that much: these are sources of ‘free’ content, but doesn’t always meet the threshold of ‘what I want to read now’ and ‘something I can read now’, because of restrictions with borrowing period, content availability, etc. If I restricted my reading to what was available for free (or at low cost), I’d be missing out on a lot of wonderful reading opportunities.

    Another analogy: “All you can eat” sounds great until you realize you can only eat so much, and that the food is not necessarily commensurate with sustained health and well being.

    So for now at least I prefer ‘pay for what you read’ model even though I probably have several hundred dollars of unread ebook content at this point.

    None of this solves the true resource constraint: limited time for reading. Maybe someday there will be a virtual reading environment where you can read a 1000 page book in five minutes with full retention and enjoyment, but until then we need to choose what to read with some discrimination.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      The inevitable effect for most people of subscription plans is that their consumption choices change.

      That concerns some social observers. If a company favors (or perhaps more likely, tends not to include) content of a certain ideology, would consumers even be aware of that? If one has a million choices, would homogeneity of viewpoint even become apparent?

      I freely admit that I read things through Prime which I would not otherwise read, and that having Netflix has shaped my viewing selections.

      As to your last comment, it reminded me of the “School Pills” in the Oz series by L. Frank Baum. Here is an excerpt from this public domain work (slight SPOILER ALERT):

      ===

      “This college,” said Professor Wogglebug, complacently, “is a great success. Its educational value is undisputed, and we are turning out many great and valuable citizens every year.”

      “But when do they study?” asked Dorothy.

      “Study?” said the Wogglebug, looking perplexed at the question.

      “Yes; when do they get their ‘rithmetic, and jogerfy, and such things?” “Oh, they take doses of those every night and morning,” was the reply.

      “What do you mean by doses?” Dorothy inquired, wonderingly.

      “Why, we use the newly invented School Pills, made by your friend the Wizard. These pills we have found to be very effective, and they save a lot of time. Please step this way and I will show you our Laboratory of Learning.”

      He led them to a room in the building where many large bottles were standing in rows upon shelves.

      “These are the Algebra Pills,” said the Professor, taking down one of the bottles. “One at night, on retiring, is equal to four hours of study. Here are the Geography Pills–one at night and one in the morning. In this next bottle are the Latin Pills–one three times a day. Then we have the Grammar Pills–one before each meal–and the Spelling Pills, which are taken whenever needed.”

      “Your scholars must have to take a lot of pills,” remarked Dorothy, thoughtfully. “How do they take ‘em, in applesauce?”

      “No, my dear. They are sugar-coated and are quickly and easily swallowed. I believe the students would rather take the pills than study, and certainly the pills are a more effective method. You see, until these School Pills were invented we wasted a lot of time in study that may now be better employed in practicing athletics.”

      “Seems to me the pills are a good thing,” said Omby Amby, who remembered how it used to make his head ache as a boy to study arithmetic.

      “They are, sir,” declared the Wogglebug, earnestly. “They give us an advantage over all other colleges, because at no loss of time our boys become thoroughly conversant with Greek and Latin, Mathematics and Geography, Grammar and Literature. You see they are never obliged to interrupt their games to acquire the lesser branches of learning.”

      “It’s a great invention, I’m sure,” said Dorothy, looking admiringly at the Wizard, who blushed modestly at this praise.

      “We live in an age of progress,” announced Professor Wogglebug, pompously. “It is easier to swallow knowledge than to acquire it laboriously from books. Is it not so, my friends?”

      “Some folks can swallow anything,” said Aunt Em, “but to me this seems too much like taking medicine.”

      “Young men in college always have to take their medicine, one way or another,” observed the Wizard, with a smile; “and, as our Professor says, these School Pills have proved to be a great success. One day while I was making them I happened to drop one of them, and one of Billina’s chickens gobbled it up. A few minutes afterward this chick got upon a roost and recited ‘The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck’ without making a single mistake. Then it recited ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ and afterwards ‘Excelsior.’ You see, the chicken had eaten an Elocution Pill.”

      They now bade good-bye to the Professor, and thanking him for his kind reception mounted again into the red wagon and continued their journey.

      ===
      –L. Frank Baum, writing in The Emerald City of Oz

  4. Jamie Burch Says:

    Also, you could use EzTV. It’s a website that lets you download some shows for free. I’ve heard good things about it, though I’ve never tried it personally for myself.

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