Archive for the ‘Apple’ Category

Round up #243: under $50 Kindle, blogs on Fire

March 4, 2014

Round up #243: under $50 Kindle, blogs on Fire

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

Mindle under $50, Paperwhite under $100

“Today only” per Amazon, two popular models of the Kindle are $20 off:

Kindle, 6″ E Ink Display, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (Black) (what I call the “Mindle” (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and the

Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High Resolution Display with Next-Gen Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile)

That brings the least expensive version of the Kindle down to $49, and the least expensive Paperwhite down to $99.

The twenty dollar discount still applies if you decide not to let advertisers support your purchase (if you get it without Special Offers), it’s still $20 less than it would have been. For some people, this basically means that they’ll get the “ad-free” version for the price they would normally pay for the one with ads.

It does not apply to the Paperwhite 3G.

According to Amazon, this is to celebrate National Reading Month.

This offer may not apply in your country (I have readers around the world…which is so cool!), so check the price before you buy.

This is a good deal! Having a “guest room Kindle” worked out very well for us, and you might consider that.

Does this indicate new models are coming soon? Perhaps…there have been rumors of a new Paperwhite. However, unless they release a color version later this year (which I think is a possibility), I doubt the next generation would be so much better that you’d be sorry you got this. It could have some new features, and it could be cheaper…hm, a sound-equipped Paperwhite might make me back off that statement.

Regardless, right here, right now, this is a good price.

Are Kindle store blogs finally coming to the Kindle Fires?

This blog has typically been in the top ten in the USA Kindle store (thanks, subscribers!), although we do sometimes drop to still being in the top twenty.

However, the number of subscribers went down after the introduction of the Fire tablets.

Naturally, that could be because of some factor intrinsic to the blog, but I don’t think that’s the case…my ranking hasn’t changed considerably at the same time that the number of subscribers dropped, suggesting that everybody else at the top was dropping right along with me.

I think one main reason was because you haven’t been able to have your Kindle store blogs delivered to your tablet. If someone switched to mostly using a Fire for reading, I can understand them not wanting to pay for a blog which wasn’t being directly delivered (even if it is only ninety-nine cents a month).

I am sure that some readers have continued to subscribe just to support my efforts, for which I am truly grateful.

Now, a sharp-eyed reader alerted me to something in a private comment (thanks!) which strongly suggests that situation might change!

If you go to

http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle (at AmazonSmile)

and click or tap

Subscription Settings

you’ll see a column for “Deliver future editions to” for each of your subscriptions. There is an “Edit” link, that you can click to choose a device.

Checking those options, our Fires are now listed!

However, if I actually choose a Fire, it says:

“Upgrade Your Device

To start reading I Love My Kindle, you must first install the latest software update for HDXter. Once installed you may deliver this title to your Kindle. For detailed instructions on installing the free update please visit Kindle Support.”

My device is updated. :) It just recently updated to 13.3.2.1, which is the current version.

Since that message is there, that strongly suggests that having the Fires listed is not a mistake…just premature.

Now, it’s possible that they intended to implement it with the last update and didn’t manage it somehow, and that they could abandon it…but I’m going to hold out hope (virtual fingers crossed) that this is coming soon. I hope there is a new update that also addresses the wi-fi instability (I have that) and text-to-speech stopping at some images, both of which appears to have happened after a previous update. There are a lot of things I love about my Fire, but this wi-fi thing does give me friction every time I use the device.

Apple appeals

Apple said that they were going to appeal the decision against them in the DoJ (Department of Justice) action that found them guilty of conspiring to fix e-book prices.

Regular reader and commenter Lady Galaxy gave me a link to an article with both a summary and the original filing:

Apple Insider post by Mikey Campbell

I waited to post about it (it was filed on February 25th) until I read at least a substantial portion of the filing…I don’t like to go just by what a summary says, and I didn’t think there was any real time pressure (or likely, surprise) here.

The filing says:

“Apple’s entry as an e-book retailer marked the
beginning, not the end, of competition.” [emphasis in the original]

Okay, that’s something you could try to argue. Were there more options from which people could buy e-books after the introduction of iBooks? Yes. Were there more price options? No.

That, for me, is key.

The Agency Model, which came into play at the same time (and the DoJ argues was…led, at least, by Apple) homogenized the prices at the existing retailers, largely eliminating price competition (which has returned, as I showed in a recent post, since the accused publishers all settled with the DoJ).

I’m often surprised by the…pugnacious language in legal filings. I always expect them to be polite and in carefully restrained language. That’s just not the case, often, and shows my own prejudices, rather than the reality. So, I’m not going to claim that this is unusual when Apple says:

“The court repeatedly applied the wrong legal standards, which led it to jump to the false conclusion of a price-fixing conspiracy from Apple’s lawful, unilateral, and procompetitive business activities.”

This next one is an important claim. The accusations included conspiracy. If Apple independently offered the same deal to multiple publishers, and if the publishers independently decided it was a good deal, that’s not a conspiracy. The issue becomes if they worked as a group to set the price the same, as I understand it:

“Apple never met or spoke with more than one publisher at a time.”

Here’s where Apple has an interesting argument:

“At those very first meetings, the court found, Apple “willingly joined” a pre-existing publisher conspiracy. Dkt326.113;
see also

Dkt326.129 (“Apple made a conscious commitment to join a scheme with the Publisher Defendants”).

This finding forms the bedrock of the court’s entire decision, and is demonstrably wrong. The undisputed record reflects that Apple had no prior dealings in the publishing industry and that everything it knew it had gleaned from public sources
— like reports inThe New York Times and The Wall Street Journal
— none of which reported on a conspiracy”

In other words, Apple is arguing that if there was a conspiracy between the publishers, they weren’t part of it.

That is actually a hypothetical possibility.

Apple could have “unilaterally” suggested a deal to each of the publishers.

The publishers could then have consulted with each other (hypothetically conspiring) to take the deal…and even suggested similar terms to Apple.

Could Judge Cote’s decision be overturned on that basis (and on their suggestions of improper use of inadmissibility, and possible prejudice)?

I think that is a possibility.

Would that bring back the Agency Model?

I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t think so. The publishers settled, and took deals. I believe they’d be bound by the deals, even if Apple successfully got their verdict overturned. The publishers dropped out of the case before the verdict.

I’m not 100% on that, though: if you are a lawyer, I’d be interested to hear what you think on that score.

I also think that the response to the appeal may be strong and definitive, refuting Apple’s allegations.

The beat goes on…

Amazon workers will be heard by Supreme Court

In this

Salon.com article by Andrew Leonard

it is reported that a case brought by Amazon workers is going to be heard by the Supreme Court.

The basic argument is that Amazon warehouse workers have to spend a long time going through Security, and aren’t compensated for that time.

While it might seem obvious (let’s say you have to spend three hours a week at work doing something that your employer requires you to do to have the job) that workers should be paid for that time, it doesn’t work out that way.

Suppose you are required by your employer to park in a certain lot. That lot is fifteen minutes away from your place of employment. When you get there, you clock in…they aren’t going to pay you for your time from the parking lot to the door, even though you basically have no choice.

Whether they should (in an ethical sense) pay you for that time is not the specific legal issue: it’s whether they have to do it.

The article suggests that this Court will not be likely to rule against Amazon.

If they did, I think it would just accelerate Amazon’s use of robots (they own a robot company that does this sort of thing) in the warehouses.

They might have to (in the worst case for them scenario) pay back wages to a lot of people…and then they might just say, “Fine, people are too expensive,” and get rid of a lot of staff.

Amazon has been touting the number of jobs they’ve been creating, but there is a real debate about the quality of those jobs.

What do you think? If Amazon is proven to be treating their employees unfairly at some point, and if they don’t rectify it, would that affect your shopping? Will Apple win on appeal? Would you subscribe through the Kindle store to blogs on your Fire? Would you switch the delivery of a current subscription? What new feature could Amazon release on a non-Fire Kindle that would make you want to upgrade? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle. You can also now recommend a child to be the recipient.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #238: Yo, Joe! Adobe obsoleting some EBRs

February 5, 2014

Round up #238: Yo, Joe! Adobe obsoleting some EBRs

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

Bloomberg: “Apple Inc. (AAPL) faces as much as $840 million in state and consumer antitrust claims related to electronic-book deals”

According to this

Bloomberg article by Patricia Hurtado and Christie Smythe

Apple may end up owing close a billion dollars in the State attorneys general e-book price-fixing case.

Apple is appealing.

However, to put that in perspective, that is more than PG&E’s entire profits for 2013 (Fortune listing).

There was another hearing on Tuesday about a separate case, the DoJ (Department of Justice) case.

As a result of that case, there was a monitor appointed to keep an eye on Apple. Apple has complained about it, and this hearing was about that.

According to this

Fortune article by Philip Elmer-DeWitt

it looks like the monitor may stay in place, but with new rules.

A real American fanfic?

Okay, Kindle Worlds isn’t really fanfic (fan fiction), but it made for a fun headline. ;)

According to this

press release

Amazon has licensed seven more “Worlds” for

Kindle Worlds (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

One in particular stands out to me, and gives me hope for some exciting opportunities in the future.

That’s G.I. Joe.

Yes, they mostly mention characters from the 1980s (and forward…including the recent movies,  presumably, although purely movie characters might not end up being part of this), but this is still a licensing of a “nostalgia brand”.

If this does well (and I suspect it might), that might lead to licensing of more properties which I have suggested before, like The Addams Family and The Man from U.N.C.L.E..

The other new licenses:

  • Veronica Mars: this is the popular TV series, and soon to be Kickstarter-funded movie. Interestingly, Amazon’s Prime Instant Video has the exclusive streaming rights right now, and I think that probably played into the deal
  • Ravenswood: Kindle Worlds already had Pretty Little Liars…they pick up the spin-off
  • The Abnorm Chronicles, from the Marcus Sakey novel, Brilliance (at AmazonSmile)
  • The Lizzy Gardner Files, from the Theresa Ragan book series (at AmazonSmile)
  • Quantum and Woody, and Eternal Warrior, adding to the Valient Entertainment comics worlds

They join (with the number of KW titles so far):

  • The Vampire Diaries (113)
  • Silo Saga (70)
  • Pretty Little Liars (36)
  • The World of Kurt Vonnegut (34)
  • Harbinger (25)
  • John Rain (19)
  • Gossip Girl (18)
  • Wayward Pines (13)
  • The Foreworld Saga (11)
  • Archer & Armstrong (10)
  • Bloodshot (10)
  • Unity (9)
  • Shadowman (5)
  • XO Manowar (5)
  • The Dead Man (3)

Update on  Give a Kid a Kindle

Nominations for a child to receive a free Kindle from me have been open for more than a month, and we have one so far:

[Nominee #1] is a ninth grade student who comes to class every day with a stack of books. [Nominee #1] seems to read very rapidly, perhaps a book a day, and [Nominee #1] checks out stacks of library books so that [Nominee #1] has enough to read. [Nominee #1] would benefit from a Kindle because [Nominee #1] could read free classics and not have to carry around a stack any longer!

The ability to recommend one (or more) of the nominees will begin on March 1st, and nominations will continue through March 31st, with the Kindle being award in April.

I’m hoping to get more nominations…I suspect there may be a significant uptick when recommending is available, and I think there may be a rush of entries towards the end.

I’d appreciate you letting people know about the opportunity.

I also appreciate that people have offered to help in some way with the giveaway (either through money or through contributing a Kindle), but I need to keep this simple, so there are no tax or legal complications. I want to be able to continue to do this in the future.

If you know of a child to nominate, you can do so at

Give a Kid a Kindle

Kindle Fire wi-fi connection wonky again

For quite a while, it seemed as though the problems I was having with my

Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (at AmazonSmile)

staying connected has somehow resolved themselves.

However, in the past few days, they are back. I need to toggle wi-fi on and off pretty often…at least several times a day.

My sense is that an update to the KFHDXs is imminent. I ran into someone who said they were told that an update was coming to fix a text-to-speech problem. For some people, on at least some books, the TTS stops at the end of each chapter. That wasn’t true before,but I have experienced it. That can be a problem: my drives are certainly sometime more than a chapter long, so having it stop part way is…inconvenient.

In addition to other upcoming features they’ve mentioned (press release), I’m hoping for bug fixes for both of these issues.

Manage Your Kindle update

Speaking of updates, I wrote about changes to Amazon’s Manage Your Kindle page back on January 19th. Well, they are still rolling out…and there has been a lot of negative reaction to them.

Lots of people don’t have the new look yet, or, like me, only have it in some places. Different browsers, different devices…that can all apparently affect it.

Amazon, which is, I think, getting better at communicating with customers, posted this

Amazon Kindle forum announcement

to basically say, hey, if you don’t see it yet, you should eventually.

What speed do you read?

Staples has a fun test you can take at

http://www.staples.com/sbd/cre/marketing/technology-research-centers/ereaders/speed-reader/

to see how quickly you read, and how that compares to the national average.

It includes comprehension.

I see a considerable flaw in the test.

It uses a particular public domain book (I don’t want to tell you which, so it doesn’t prejudice your test.

I was familiar with the book, which probably made it easier to answer the comprehension questions (I got them all correct).

According to this, my reading speed was 460 words per minute…84% faster than the national average, and somewhat above the average college student.

Again, according to the page, the world speed-reading champion is more than ten times that fast. :)

There are a lot of other factors involved (I used a mouse to scroll, for example), but I still think it is fun. You don’t need to sign up, so if you’re curious, I’d recommend this.

GOODEREADER: “Adobe has Killed e-Readers”

According to this

GOODEREADER article by Michael Kozlowski

Adobe is making changes in April that will require an update to a device for it to be able to access Adobe Digital Editions books. The big problem there is that many devices (especially from defunct product lines) won’t get the update:

“Unless thousands of app developers and e-reader companies update their firmware and programming, customers will basically be unable to read books they have legitimately purchased. In effect, Adobe is killing eBooks and e-readers.”

I would presume that, if someone bought a device that had the update, people would still be able to access those books.

Still, this is somewhat ironic for people who were always pushing for Amazon to license EPUB for their Kindles, so that we wouldn’t be “trapped in the walled garden” of Amazon.

Amazon devices, if they had licensed it, would presumably get the update, but I think there is an argument to be made here that companies that benefited directly from people buying books are likely to support those formats and security. Companies that aren’t the book sellers may be less likely to do so.

Following an “industry standard” makes you less dependent on updating your product for your customers…

We’ve seen another issue with Adobe in the last couple of years, when they stopped supporting Flash on new mobile devices…making it require a workaround to get it to work on a Kindle Fire.

My guess is that a lot of people will take the opportunity to migrate to other devices, including Kindles.

What do you think? Will Apple eventually prevail? How’s your Kindle Fire’s wi-fi stability? How did you do on reading speed test? Would you want to write a G.I. Joe story? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Collections come to a Kindle reader app

September 18, 2013

Collections come to a Kindle reader app

Well, well, well!

One of the main concerns people express when they go from an RSK (a Reflective Screen Kindle…not a Fire) to a Fire is that they don’t have a way to organize their books on the device. There have been some third-party (not Amazon) apps to try to address it, but they’ve had real limitations.

In this Amazon Kindle Forum thread

What’s New in Kindle for iOS Version 4.0?

they announce changes to the iOS (mobile Apple devices) app.

Most of it is appearance and interface (how it looks and menu changes), but the Collections addition is new functionality.

We have it on current RSKs: it lets you create “Collections” (sort of like folders in Windows, although they work differently) such as “To Be Read”, “Romance”, or whatever you want.

Does this mean it will come to other apps…Blackberry, Windows for PC, Windows for Mac, Android…and the Kindle Fire?

Well, it shows that they are working on Collections, but you can’t easily take something you built for iOS and presto changeo make it work for another platform. It would be like…designing a play in American football, and trying to use it in rugby. ;) The basic goal might be kind of the same, but how you get there is very different.

My guess is that the next generation of Kindle Fire (which I think may be announced soon maybe might have Collections, and this again shows that there is an effort to get Collections into apps…but we’ll see.

They haven’t updated the page on Amazon yet, but the iTunes listing does show the information on 4.0:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id302584613

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

DoJ proposes Apple punishment…and it’s a doozy

August 2, 2013

DoJ proposes Apple punishment…and it’s a doozy

It’s not approved yet, and Apple will appeal…but the Department of Justice (DoJ) is definitely looking to have Apple punished for their behavior in the e-book pricing conspiracy…and it goes way beyond just addressing specific consumer losses.

The

DoJ press release

gives you the highlights…and some of them will certainly affect some of my readers.

One interesting one: Apple would be prohibited from stopping Amazon (and others) from having links to buy books in their apps (for two years).  That’s a biggie: right now, if you are using Amazon’s Kindle for iPad app, you can’t buy books directly from it…you have to leave it and use a browser. There was a lot of talk about that when that prohibition was put into the Apple Appstore (I wrote about it in Bye-bye, Buy: Apple changes app policy? more than two years ago).

The proposed rules would also go beyond e-books, affecting music and movies in specific ways.

Here are some of the proposals:

  • Apple would have to terminate its contracts with the five publisher co-defendants (who all settled before it was in court). Terminating contracts can cost you big money, since negotiations begin again…and who doesn’t think Apple would be more constrained in negotiating this time?
  • For five years, Apple can’t enter into e-book distribution contracts which would “constrain it from competing on price”…I would think this means no “most favored nation” contracts (“you can’t sell it for less somewhere else), and possibly no Agency Model
  • Apple can’t serve as a conduit of information between publishers. That means they can’t say, “We have three on board with our deal already”, for example. Again, that hurts negotiations
  • Apple can’t retaliate against publishers that don’t adopt an Agency Model (maybe they are okay…I need to read the actual proposal, and we need to see what the court approves)
  • I’m going to quote this one: “Apple will also be prohibited from entering into agreements with suppliers of e-books, music, movies, television shows or other content that are likely to increase the prices at which Apple’s competitor retailers may sell that content.” I doubt Apple expected videos to get pulled into this court case
  • A full-time external compliance monitor would be hired…and Apple would have to pay all of the salary and expenses? I assume somebody like that makes six figures. I was also amused by this part of it: “The antitrust compliance officer will be responsible for training Apple’s senior executives and other employees about the antitrust laws and ensuring that Apple abides by the relief ordered by the court.” Like they didn’t already know the rules…I couldn’t help but be reminded of being sentenced to Traffic School ;)

Again, this is not final, and Apple will almost certainly fight it.

It feels a little to me like the DoJ is trying to seize on a rare legal victory over Apple…like putting Al Capone in Alcatraz for tax evasion. ;)

We’ll keep an eye on it (this one might even affect Apple stock), but 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.

Judge Cote rules: Apple loses Agency Model case

July 10, 2013

Judge Cote rules: Apple loses Agency Model case

“…the Plaintiffs have shown that Apple conspired to raise the retail price of e-books and that they are entitled to injunctive relief. A trial on damages will follow.”
–Judge Denise Cote, decision in Apple Agency Model case (quotation added in update to post)

This is the breaking news, and I haven’t yet read the decision, but I thought you’d want to know right away.

I’ve praised Judge Denise Cote before on how quickly decisions come down, and this one seems fast to me.

According to this

Reuters article

and others, Judge Cote has found Apple guilty of conspiring to raise e-book prices.

What does this mean?

It likely means Apple will appeal. ;)

That would be my guess, but I need to look more into what was said and exactly what happened. I’ll expect to update this post when I have more data.

Update: here’s the decision:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/152915071/United-States-v-Apple-Inc

Update: more quotations from the decision:

“Apple seized the moment and brilliantly played its hand.”

“It [Apple] provided the Publisher Defendants with the vision, the format, the timetable, and the coordination that they needed to raise e-book prices.”

“…the prices in the nascent e-book industry shifted upward, in some cases 50% or more for an individual title.”

“…removed Amazon’s ability to price their e-books at $9.99.”

“…many publishers set a wholesale price for e-books at a 20% discount from the equivalent physical book wholesale price to reflect the many cost savings associated with the distribution and sale of e-books. For instance, there is no cost for the printing, storage, packaging, shipping, or return of e-books.”

“This Opinion has already described several instances in which testimony given by Cue and Sargent was unreliable. Other witnesses who were noteworthy for their lack of credibility included Moerer, Saul, and Reidy. Their demeanor changed dramatically depending on whether Apple or the Plaintiffs were questioning them; they were adamant in denials until confronted with documents or their prior deposition testimony; instead of answering questions in a straightforward manner, they would pick apart the question and answer it narrowly or avoid answering i taltogether. Thus, the findings in this Opinion are informed bythe documentary record, the circumstantial evidence, including an understanding of the competitive landscape in which these events were unfolding, and that portion of each witness’testimony that appeared reliable and credible.”

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

Round up #179: updates, DRM that changes the words

June 18, 2013

Round up #179: updates, DRM that changes the words

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

Playing “Hangman”…

Amazon claims in this

press release

that its publishing division has had a million seller. It’s significant that Amazon could, with its traditional publishing business, sell enough of a work to challenge the Big Six publishers. As I wrote about a couple of years ago in A Tale of Two Middles, that’s one way that Amazon can potentially work around the publishers. The e-tailer has tended to lose when going up against them (text-to-speech, and the Agency Model, for two examples), but as indicated in the current Apple trial, the publishers are worried about Amazon gaining more power and luring away their authors.

Congratulations are definitely due to Oliver Pötzsch, who is the author featured in the press release.

However, this isn’t exactly Stephen King territory yet.

Here’s the telling part of the press release:

“… the first Amazon Publishing author to sell 1 million copies in combined print, audio, and Kindle English language editions worldwide.”

That’s right…this is not the same thing as selling a million copies of a hardback book: it combines hardbacks, paperbacks, audiobooks, and e-books. This is also the combined figure for three different titles (the fourth, The Poisoned Pilgrim: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale, can be pre-ordered for July 16th, 2013).

Still, this is no small accomplishment, and can’t make those other tradpubs any happier.

Steve Jobs in the Apple trial

We are winding down in the Apple Agency Model trial, and today, Eddy Cue talked about Steve Jobs role, as reported in this

AllThingsD article by Peter Kafka

Honestly, I looked at another article first to bring you, but it was too tacky. Steve Jobs didn’t always do things with which I agreed, certainly, but I do think that respect is reasonable here.

Cue talked about how Jobs got into the iBooks project, once it was decided it was a go…including picking Winnie-the-Pooh as part of the launch.

It looks like we’ll have closing arguments on Thursday, and I would expect there to be a decision fairly quickly…I like Judge Cote, and I don’t think this will get stretched out for months.

As this point, I do think it’s possible Apple will prevail…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of years…”

Just doesn’t have the same ring as the original, right?

Well, according to this

PaidContent.org article by Janko Roettgers

Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute is working on an anti-piracy DRM (Digital Rights Management) scheme that would change words in books so that you could identify which copy belong to whom, as a way to combat piracy.

Wait, what? ;)

I mean, I’m sorry, but authors sweat blood sometimes picking just the right combinations of vowels and consonants to tell their tales. I can’t imagine that this kind of “finger-printing” is going to be embraced. I hope-I hope-I hope… :)

Netflix to introduce user profiles

The video giant has figured out that not everybody on the same account has the same tastes. ;)

Huffington Post article by Alexis Kleinman

My adult kid and I share an account (my Significant Other just doesn’t use it), and that does make for some odd recommendations. For one thing, my kid is a linguist…we aren’t even always watching things in the same language! We don’t know quite how it will work yet, but it is supposed to be here by the end of the summer.

Why report on that?

We’re still waiting for Amazon to get something like that going for Kindle accounts. Yes, we have FreeTime for the Kindle Fire, and parental controls on the RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything but a Fire at this point), but we could certainly use something simpler. My SO is not going to read the Doctor Who book I borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library this month, so it just sort of clutters things up.

I mentioned that we might see more software/service changes from Amazon this year than radical hardware changes (although I would figure that we’ll get new hardware), and this “profiles within accounts” kind of thing could certainly attract a lot of people.

Kindle for Windows 8 update

In this Amazon Kindle forum thread

Kindle for Windows 8 update 2.0

Amazon announced a new version of Kindles for Window 8. It’s bringing quite a few new features:

* Ability to search from inside a book
* Redesigned home screen and in-book navigation
* Easier bookmarking
* Filtering of Notes and Bookmarks
* Option to sample recommended books
* Live Tile displays of the book you’re reading
* Updated view options menu, library and search views

I’ve seen quite a few threads where people complain about the limited functionality of this version, so this should help. I’m intrigued by “filtering of Notes and Bookmarks”…I’ll look for more info on that.

Kindle Paperwhite update 5.3.6

They also announced the

Kindle Paperwhite Update Version 5.3.6

While it appears to have brought some other minor changes, this is the big new feature:

* Improvements when buying from a book sample – While reading a sample of a book, you can view the price of the full book and purchase from the reading toolbar with one tap

That seems nice…we all want things that make it easier for us to spend money with Amazon, right? ;) Well, if it’s money you were going to spend anyway, making it easier is a plus for the consumer.

How to support a blog

I do get asked about this, and I’m reluctant to bring it up. I don’t accept payment for ads (any ads you ever see here are added by WordPress, and they get the money. You don’t see that in the regular blog feed, I think, but I have seen it on individual articles on the website.

You can certainly subscribe (thanks, subscribers!) if the blog is in the Kindle store…but that doesn’t work for a lot of people (if you are outside the USA, I think, or if you are using a reading app).

I’ve had people ask me if I accept donations, or if they can just send me money. I’m not a non-profit, and reporting money given to me for the blog on my taxes would really befuddle me.

One thing you can do: if the blog has a link for Amazon Gift Cards, that can be a good way to do it. You can buy gift cards for other people, or you could just buy them and apply them to your account. That’s a pretty painless way to help out. :) It doesn’t change what you pay for anything at all.

As long as I’m writing about this (and so I can get back to something where I feel more comfortable), let me talk about Amazon Gift Cards a bit…I often see questions from people who are confused about how they work with Kindle books.

There are no Kindle gift cards…there are Amazon gift cards with pictures of Kindles on them, but when you buy a gift card with a picture of a birthday cake, that doesn’t mean you can only buy cake. ;)

You apply the gift card to your account.

The way that we buy books in the Kindle store is with “1-click”. 1-click will draw from any available gift card balance on your account until it is exhausted, then go back to whatever 1-click payment method you’ve designated (if any).

Let’s say somebody gives you a $25 gift card, and you want to spend it on books. You apply it to your account, and someone else on your account buys, oh, mouthwash (I’m not suggesting anything about their personal hygiene here, by the way). ;) If they use 1-click, it will take away from that gift card balance.

You aren’t asked if you want your gift card balance applied to your current Kindle store purchase, because you would have to click on something to do that…and it’s called 1-click. :)

That’s why some people have an account just for Kindle purchases, so they can keep them separate.

Infographic of mysteries in different US states

This

Ebook Friendly article

has a nice infographic from Open Road with e-book mysteries in different states in the USA.

I have to say, I’ve never gone to this site before, and I’m impressed! I don’t follow a lot of sites on Twitter, but I’m going to start following this one, which will put it in my Flipboard read in the morning.

I’m going to explore

http://ebookfriendly.com/

more, and then report back to you on it. I always figure there is room for a lot of good writing on the web about e-books, EBRs (E-Book Readers), and publishing. You’ve probably noticed that I tend to link and credit…I like being a place you can find the good work that others do. :)

What do you think? Is changing words in a book an acceptable way to combat piracy? Will you just be happy when the Apple Agency Model trial is over, however it goes? ;) Am I making a mistake when I promote other sites, or do you like it? 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.

Round up #178: Screaming Kindle, DecalGirl discount

June 14, 2013

Round up #178: Screaming Kindle, DecalGirl discount

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

DecalGirl: Buy one, get one 50% off

DecalGirl is having a sale (through June 24th) on skins, cases, and more. Skins are essentially very strong decorative stickers, and they have them for Kindles. They can make very nice gifts for someone who already has a device.

Here’s the site for shopping:

http://www.decalgirl.com/?promocode=bogodad&trk_msg=66IQ6I5A39SKV5038DNLCINSC4&trk_contact=2TKDE83GIGKCJGK8UTEQKL4R74&utm_source=Listrak&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=http%3a%2f%2fwww.decalgirl.com%2f%3fpromocode%3dbogodad&utm_campaign=fathersday

Note: they list all Kindles, including RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything but a Kindle Fire) under “Tablets”. Select Tablets, then say it is made by Amazon.

Vlad Studio has some nice book-themed ones.

At checkout, you’ll be entering BOGODAD to get the discount…remember that you need to be buying two items, and the discount will be applied to the least expensive one.

Free app finds your Kindle Fire

I’ve tried a Kindle Fire locating app before and it didn’t work well for me, but now I’ve found a free one that does…and has some other interesting capabilities:

Webroot SecureAnywhere Mobile

There’s a premium version as well with more capabilities, but I did like what this one did. It could locate my Kindle Fire…I went to a website, enter a passcode (they did something clever with that which didn’t make it harder for me to remember, really, but would make it harder to guess), and showed me the current location of my Fire…within a couple of hundred feet. It actually gave me an address (not the right one), but it was nearby. That could let me know, for example, if I left it at the office or at home (not that I would do either accidentally…knock on virtual wood).

What if it’s just misplaced in the house?

You can send it a command to scream…and yes, it was loud and annoying! :) That’s what you want, though: a thief would likely ditch the device if they were in a public area and it started screaming like a person! That also locks the screen. You can also lock it without the screaming. So, you can locate, lock, and scream…with the premium version of this app (not free), you could send a remote wipe command.

It also scans your device for malware (software that does bad things, basically): it didn’t find any on mine.

Why wouldn’t you get this? Well, if you forget your password, that could be a problem. You might not want other people in your family (if they have access to the Webroot account) tracking you…or pranking you (I wouldn’t want it to scream in the middle of a meeting). You might be concerned about the government or hackers getting information about you through Webroot. Of course, if you don’t have wi-fi on and have misplaced it, it won’t help you much. If a bad guy when it reconnects, though, it will scream at that point (my test showed it wasn’t immediately…took a few minutes).

Generally, though, I would recommend it for most people who are comfortable with having online accounts and creating (and remembering) passwords. It has four stars (out of five) with 124 reviews at the time of writing, so that is somewhat reassuring. :)

Eddy Cue on Steve Jobs and iBooks

The Apple Agency Model trial continues, and I’m feeling more and more like Apple might win. I wonder if that means the publishers are kicking themselves for having gotten out?

There are definitely interesting revelations. This

AllThingsD article by John Paczkowski

relates some interesting insight from Eddy Cue, being painted by the Department of Justice (DoJ) as the driver of the Agency Model for e-publishing, and who worked closely with the late Steve Jobs.

Cue says he approached the CEO in 2009 (the year before the iPad was released) about doing a bookstore, and Jobs wasn’t interested.

The year before (and within six months of the Kindle’s initial release), Jobs was famously quoted in a

New York Times article by John Markoff

as saying, “…people don’t read anymore” in dismissing the Kindle.

By 2009, though, Cue doesn’t mention that overall condemnation and marginalization of serious readers…instead, it was because phones were too small and computers were too big.  That feels like a bit of a whitewash to me, but Jobs did change the position when the iPad was going to be released.

I think we’ll have a verdict by the end of next week…and if Apple loses, they could appeal.

Apple could appeal? I thought only bananas could do that… ;)

Oh, and Apple is mad that Random House isn’t being compelled to testify…

Publishers Weekly article

That could bolster that appeal effort…if it becomes necessary.

Comcast will use your router to provide neighborhood wi-fi

Well, it’s not exactly your router…it’s your wi-fi gateway that you got from them for your broadband. This is a clever idea, and part of their (successful) effort to expand wi-fi for their customers.

The devices won’t use the same signal you use, but will broadcast a second one that can be used for free…by other Xfinity customers. Non-customers can use it for free…twice, and then they’d have to pay.

CNET article

I’ve found wi-fi from Xfinity (we are subscribers) available to me before, and I think this will really expand it.

Comcast has to figure out how to get people not to “cut the cord” (and go without cable services). This is one way, as is their app:

XFINITY TV Player

The app would be a lot more attractive if it didn’t stop the video from running when I plugged in my HDMI cable to my Kindle Fire HD to watch it on my TV…I think they’ll work that out eventually.

Still, the expanded wi-fi should be good for wi-fi Kindle owners (Fire or not) who are Comcast subscribers…and others in a pinch.

Kindle hardware in India

The Papewhite, the “Mindle”, and the Kindle Fire HD 7″ and 8.9″ are now available from Amazon.in

http://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B007HCFU90/ref=gw_in_c1_ks/275-7716727-1685962?ie=UTF8&nav_sdd=aps&pf_rd_m=A1VBAL9TL5WCBF&pf_rd_s=center-1&pf_rd_r=10MHJXW9MFNNMSKY87JG&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=408409067&pf_rd_i=1320006031

It doesn’t appear to have local language support, though, so that’s a possible serious hindrance.

NPR’s Backseat Book Club

People might not like backseat drivers, but backseat readers? Joy for the reader, quiet for the driver. ;) Actually, we sometimes read out loud to the others in the car, but this is an excellent reading list from National Public Radio

The Complete List: What NPR’s Backseat Book Club Has Read So Far

Reading lists are tricky things, and I haven’t read everything on this one, but it looks solid to me. I mean, once you hit

The Phantom Tollbooth

you’re good :) but this includes The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Black Beauty) and more contemporary titles…as a former bookstore manager, I’m impressed. :)

Have comments on any of these stories? Feel free to let me and my readers know.

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

Round up #177: $5K from 7-11, OCR oops

June 12, 2013

Round up #177: $5K from 7-11, OCR oops

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

HarperCollins wants you to reinvent publishing

There is this mythology that the tradpubs (traditional publishers) are stuck in the 19th Century…that they can’t see beyond tree-gobbling, smoke-belching book factories and brick and mortar stores.

I’ve said before that I expect the large publishers to be able to make adjustments…oh, not all of them, and not completely, but this industry has already seen major changes, during the life of most of these companies. Look at how railroads and TV have changed publishing. In 1930, publishers hired Edward Bernays (who basically invented modern public relations) to increase sales…and Bernays convinced architects to include built-in bookshelves in new homes. That’s not traditionalist thinking: that’s the ability to go to an expert for help, and to accept it…not what you get with hidebound organizations.

Now, HarperCollins is asking app developers to

“Use imagination and technology to build software that goes beyond the traditional ways we read and discover books.”

This is a contest, with monetary rewards (as high as $15,000).

They aren’t just saying, “Hey, do what you do.” They are making the HarperCollins Open Book API (Application Programming Interface) available. According to the

Booksmash Challenge details page

the API has

“…exclusive book data, author data, and content not available to the general public. These tools will allow developers to think about how to make readers fall in love with books all over again, and how to lead a reluctant reader to just the right story.”

Notice that part about “content”. This suggests that apps will interact with what  you read in some way. Suppose an app noticed the content of a book you read, and maybe took note of what you highlighted. It could then (after you are done reading, hopefully) suggest something else similar. That’s sort of like “people who bought also bought”, but it could be based on actual content, not just the fact that five disparate books were on sale at the same time. Applying “sentiment analysis” might also be a great tool. That would guess, based on the language in the book, if the book was in favor of something or against it. The app could then suggest “other books that support this idea” or “hear from the other side”.

I think this may end up producing something which has a significant impact on the industry. It doesn’t necessarily mean it happens within the confines of the contest: just the fact that it exists may inspire others to come up with their own apps.

Kudos to HarperCollins for encouraging innovation!

Similar to Kindle Worlds, though, there may be developers who are uncomfortable with the terms…out of the box thinking like this tends to naturally encourage the contributions of outsiders. That can be both good and bad, as you get people with less understanding of the situation, but you may also get people who had never thought (or written) about something turning considerable talent and intelligence to it.

7-11 giving away $5,000 in Amazon gift cards

Here’s an opportunity for you to win $5,000 in Amazon gift cards!

https://7eleven.promo.eprize.com/awesummer/

That’s only going for this week, but it does cost anything to enter. I was first alerted to this by my Special Offers on my Kindle Fire…which is one reason the ad-supported  versions of the devices tend to be more popular than their ad-free, but more expensive, counterparts.

I think you could now refer to Amazon gift cards as “Anything Money”. ;) I mean, there are so many options!

If you win, let me know… :)

Doctor W In47o

You know how sometimes you run across books in the Kindle store that are clearly the results of bad OCR (Optical Character Recognition)? No? Let me explain that a bit.

Let’s say that you have a print copy of a book, and you own the rights to it…and you don’t have an electronic file. You want to digitize, to make it into an e-book. You have a few options:

1. Have somebody re-type it. That’s time-consuming, labor intensive (and therefore expensive). With professionals doing it, you are likely to get a pretty good result

2. Have somebody read it into voice recognition software (speech-to-text). That requires less skill, but tends to be somewhat less accurate…and takes quite a long time

3. Scan the book, and ask software to read the images which are created and turn them into words. That’s what OCR does…it looks at (optical) the images to find the letters and numbers (characters). That’s relatively fast, inexpensive…and can be quite inaccurate

I borrowed

Doctor Who Short Trips: Life Science

from the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library) this month…and the faults of OCR are obvious and atrocious.

Here are some of the things that I see:

  • Numbers randomly appearing throughout the book…in the middle of words, for example. They look like footnote indicators, but they aren’t. These are likely because there were wrinkles or smudges on the page, and the numbers are the software’s best guess
  • “M”s rendered as “I n” and things like that. That’s what makes it clear it is OCR…a human wouldn’t make that mistake
  • Sections randomly bolded
  • Completely illegible sections
  • Wordsallsmashedtogether and w o r d s w h e r e e v e r y l e t t e r i s s e p a r a t e. I listen to text-to-speech in the car, and Ivona on my Kindle Fire does a remarkably good job with words without spaces between them…but tends then to pronounce every letter separately in ones where there are unnecessary spaces. So, I might hear “TEE ATCH EE DEE OH SEE TEE OH ARE” instead of “The Doctor”, all said rapidly. I’m pretty good at understanding that sort of thing, but I’m going to stop listening to this book in the car, because it’s clearly going to create a distracted driving situation ;)

How could they have fixed this?

Proofreading, just like you do with any other book. I could have fixed all of it in probably a few hours.

They just don’t want to spend the money. Now, I’m happy to have the book available to me…the writing actually has been good in these short stories. It’s just been such a challenge to get to it! I’m glad I didn’t pay the $12.99 list price for it, certainly, and I think many people would return it as unacceptable.

Apple trial continues

It’s looking increasingly to me like Apple will prevail at trial, but we’ll see. We are getting some very interesting testimony from the publishers (John Sargent of Macmillan, for example), which makes it look less like a conspiracy and more like a game of Cosmic Encounter. ;) Nobody seems to be able to remember anything specific, and they all have these weird powers they suddenly drop into the mix. They all think they are playing the other people for fools. Apple’s not coming across as a “ringleader”, manipulating these publishers into all working together. It sounds like the publishers were also willing to work with Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Google…or anybody they wanted to get the best deal. ;)

Sure, according to this

PaidContent.org article by Laura Hazard Owen

Rupert Murdoch wanted to “screw Amazon”…but it sounds like they were willing to do that to Apple, too. :)

It’s hard to imagine this group all agreeing to anything, based on testimony. I feel like I wouldn’t want to go to lunch with them unless they removed the butter knives first. ;) Just kidding, but it sounds more like a mosh pit than lockstep…

What do you think? What would you like to see an app do to help you discover new books? Do you know someone who might enter the Booksmash Challenge…or who would choose to stay out of it? Is the testimony in the Apple trial getting you to change your estimation of who will win? 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.

Why did Apple go to trial?

June 5, 2013

Why did Apple go to trial?

Look, going to trial is never easy. It takes a lot of money, and a lot of time. You never have a guaranteed outcome.

Going to trial against the Department of Justice? That’s even harder.

That’s why a lot of people settle, when given the choice. In the current Department of Justice action about the Agency Model for pricing e-books, all five publisher defendants chose not to go to trial…they settled instead.

The publishers have money. They spent so much money fighting before they settled that it affected their financials when they did quarterly reports. They had expertise.

They settled.

Apple?

They made the choice not to settle, and to go to trial.

Why?

Well, there are a few possibilities.

1. They thought they’d win

If you look at the

Opening Statement from the DoJ

it seems obvious that there was a coordinated effort to take actions which would result in higher e-book prices.

Apple has said that those comments highlighted by the DoJ are just small snippets out of many, many e-mails and taken out of context.

Taken out of context would be if somebody said, “You know, it’s not like we are trying to fix the prices…” and quoted it just as “We are trying to fix the prices.” You generally see the entire communication in that slide deck, at least in the case of e-mails, so you know what the context is.

You also can’t defend it by saying that the vast majority of e-mails don’t show a conspiracy. That would be like a bank robber saying, “Gee, Your Honor, I walked by that bank on 364 days last year and didn’t rob it, so I must be innocent.” ;) They only have to show you saying something illegal one time…it doesn’t matter how many times you said legal things.

The issue here is conspiracy…so they don’t even have to prove that what you did worked. If two people agree to commit an illegal act, that’s a conspiracy…even if they don’t succeed in committing it.

However…

Apple may win. The facts are not the same as the law, as pointed out in this

Fortune article by Philip Elmer-DeWitt

I was once on a jury. When we first voted, it was eleven to one in favor of the State. The one person pointed out, correctly, that while we all pretty much knew the State was right, they hadn’t proven it, as was their legal obligation. We ended up with a unanimous verdict…the way the one “dissenting” vote had originally gone (it’s okay for me to talk about this at this point).

Even if it is obvious that what the DoJ alleges is true, that doesn’t mean that the judge will rule that way. The obligation is on the DoJ to prove it.

Will people be upset if Apple wins? Yes, I think that would be true for people who are following the case (a small percentage of the population, but not as small a percentage of serious readers), but it probably wouldn’t surprise a lot of lawyers. It’s hard to win an anti-trust case like this.

Apple could certainly be hurt by winning. There are a lot of things that could come out in this trial that could hurt their reputation…arguably, their most valuable asset. Oh, their rep certainly gets attacked in other ways…but if the public perceived it as Apple having been willing to hurt consumers to hurt Amazon (one interpretation), that’s bad.

2. They thought they’d lose…but it would be worth it

Just as Apple could lose by winning, they could win by losing. Suppose that, during the trial, bad things come out about Amazon. Apple could have figured that they could lose in a way that makes it look like Amazon and the Federal Government are working together, and are out to get Apple…a company that makes consumer-friendly products and “thinks different” (as an aside, I squirm every time I see that…shouldn’t that be, “Think differently?” Okay, okay, I can come up with interpretations where their construction works “What color should the wall be? Think blue” but it still bugs me). ;)

Losing, especially since nobody is going to jail and this trial won’t result in pay-outs as I understand it (a suit by the States Attorneys General could), won’t be that big a hit if they can manipulate the PR (Public Relations) so they come out shining like…an apple. :)

3. It’s the principle of the thing

While some people think Apple is fighting because the company believes it hasn’t done anything wrong, that doesn’t seem that likely to me. After all, they settled over basically the same thing with the European Union. The settlement would likely have included that they didn’t have to admit any wrongdoing, just change their practices.

4. It’s ego

Apple can generally outlast and outpay most adversaries…and they think they can outwit them (to paraphrase Survivor). They may have actually thought that the DoJ would back off. They may also just not want to be seen publicly to have “given in”. That’s a definite perceptual risk with a settlement.  It might be that they would rather fight and risk defeat than look like they were pushed into changing their position. There’s a lot of legal stuff going on with Apple, and that’s likely to always be the case. They might not want other people to think they’ll fold when pushed…make it clear that it is going to take a lot of resources, and they are going to hold their heads high through the whole thing.

Those seem to me to be the main possible motivations.

We’ve started to see the witnesses, including David Shanks, Chief Executive of Penguin (USA). The trial will likely go on for at least a couple of weeks. After it’s over, Apple can start assessing it’s strategy. If they lose, they could appeal…so a final answer might be some time away.

At this point, with all the publishers settled, Kindle owners have already gotten the results they needed (although the wheels are still grinding on Agency Model pricing going away altogether). The outcome of the trial may affect Apple more than it does us…

What do you think? Do you have another reason Apple didn’t settle? Do you think they’ll win? Do you care? You can let me and my readers know by commenting on this post…although I’m also going to add a couple of polls here.

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

Round up #175: my new hero, Apple trial begins

June 4, 2013

Round up #175: my new hero, Apple trial begins

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

Apple Agency Model trial begins

We can now refer to the trial as the Apple Agency Model trial. Initially, the Department of Justice (DoJ) went after five publishers and Apple for conspiring to raise e-book prices (basically…I’m simplifying here), but all five publishers have settled with the DoJ. That leaves Apple as the only defendant, so it’s not “Apple and the publishers” any more.

Even though lawyers can’t pivot very quickly, that does change the dynamic. I think, for one thing, it lets Apple set it up as much more that the DoJ was out to get them, specifically, and was supporting Amazon. If you are the only person being “picked on”, it’s easier to convince people that it is unfair, in my opinion.

Judge Cotes expects the non-jury trial to last three weeks, according to this

Washington Post article by Cecilia Kang

We could see some very interesting things come out of this. Who testifies? What industry secrets might be revealed (including ones about Amazon)? How does Steve Jobs’ reputation come out of it? Will any of the publisher big wigs testify against Apple?

I’ll keep an eye on it for you.

Update: here is a slide deck that the DoJ presented…I may write more about it later, but you can see why Judge Cote thought the government might have enough evidence, in my opinion:

http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/145535056

Kindle Fire sale

Through June 8th, US customers can get a Kindle Fire HD (7″ or 8.9″, with or without 4G) for $20 off, subject to these

Deal Terms & Conditions

One of the main things: you need to enter a code (DADSFIRE), meaning that you can not make this purchase with 1-Click.

Mini review: Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game (The Ender Quintet)
by Orson Scott Card

When I recently polled my readers about what they like in ILMK (I Love My Kindle), reviews weren’t very high (although they weren’t super low). So, to accommodate that, I may do more of these “mini reviews”…that way, you don’t have a whole post on one book as often, but for those not insubstantial numbers who liked them, you still get my opinion. ;)

One interesting thing for me about the current e-book market is that I’ll see books put on sale for a short period of time that may be books about which I’ve certainly heard, but have never read. As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore, I can assure you that prices fluctuate much more wildly in e-books than they do in paper!

Ender’s Game is a case like that. It’s not that expensive now ($4.39 at the time of writing), but it was on sale and I wanted to read it before the movie comes out on November 1st.

I’d heard a bit about it (it is one of my relative’s favorite books), but was going into it reasonably spoiler free. :)

I’m also aware of the…controversy over the author’s personal beliefs (I think that may lead to protests or boycotts of the movie), but as I’ve written about before, I try to separate the art and the artist.

The first thing I’ll say is that, if you think you don’t like science fiction…well, this book is probably not going to change your mind. ;) A lot of the book is involved with technology, and with some speculative social things. I didn’t recommend it to my Significant Other, partially for that reason…too much techno going on.

It does, though, also focus on people, and I’d be reasonably certain that the people who like it, like it mainly for that reason.

Well, more accurately, it focuses on one person…Ender Wiggins. In the same way that you have to empathize with Katniss Everdeen to like The Hunger Games trilogy (despite there being other interesting characters), you have to connect to Ender to like Ender’s Game.

“Empathize” might be a tricky word here, though…I don’t mean that you have to wish you were Ender, or even think you would like Ender in the real world, but what happens to Ender, what Ender feels has to matter to you.

I think Ender (and the whole book) may particularly appeal to adolescents who are feeling that “outsider” thing, and that the adults have too much power (and may not deserve it).

The book was a bit of an odd mix for me. There were definitely action sequences, but the book is much more conceptual than it is emotional (although it is that, too).

I did find it interesting…I think that may be a better way to put it than saying that I enjoyed it.

Mini reviews: Tetris Blitz and Plasma Sky

I try not to write too much just about the Kindle Fire (although one of my purely Kindle Fire posts has become one of the most popular in the blog). I did write about a Kindle Fire sale earlier, but I figure this won’t make it too much in this round-up. :)

While I still play Dabble (and I do like word games), I’ve been enjoying two other Kindle Fire games recently (to varying degrees and for different reasons).

TETRIS® Blitz (Kindle Tablet Edition) is from the makers of Tetris, and is sort of a speed round version of the game. Each game only last two minutes…I did think that sometimes a Tetris game would seem to go on forever (or at least too long) if I was playing well.

You also have to make decisions much more quickly…you don’t just let the blocks (“Tetriminos”) drip-drip-drip down from the top…you can tap on the screen and place them quickly, and you’ll need to do that to get a good score.

There are also “power ups”, and some of those are cool…I particularly like the “lasers”, which wipe out three rows at a time.

However…

The game is free, and that’s a problem.

Why is it a problem?

They constantly want you to buy more stuff (including the aforementioned power-ups). Even though we are both adults using our Fires, we’ve turned off In-App purchasing (Swipe down from the top – More – Applications – Apps (in the bottom part) – In-App Purchasing) so we don’t accidentally buy things. In this case, you buy things with coins. You can earn the coins (somewhat slowly…you’d need to play about ten games before you had enough coins to buy a power-up, usually), or you can buy them with real money.

I’d be very careful with kids with this one…the temptation to buy things is going to be as strong as the lure of a Vegas slot machine. ;)

It’s a fun game…but I would say I would have paid $2.99 to get a version without all of those enticements!

I got Plasma Sky – Rad Space Shooter as a Free App of the Day (it’s currently $1.99), and that worked just the way it is supposed to work.

I’m writing about it, to tell you it’s fun!

It’s really like an old 1980s style arcade game (in particular, Galaga), but you control your spaceship by tilting the Kindle Fire. It is the thing I’ve used so far that takes the most advantage of the inclinometer. The controls are easy, and you can just keep continuing the game if you want to get to different levels.

You have three game modes…I’ve mostly played Conquest, which has eighty levels.

Like many older videogames, you have to develop different strategies to defeat different enemies…which means it is a thinking game, in addition to being a shooter.

If, like me, you think of it all as being done by unpiloted craft, it’s not really violent…no screams, no blood.

It’s not frustratingly difficult, but it would take you a lot of work to get a perfect score…for me, that’s great design.

The enemies and power-ups are creative and fun.

I highly recommend Plasma Sky is you like a simple arcade style game. Tetris Blitz…well, if you are okay with being asked to spend more money all the time (you can say no…and then say no again, and again, andagainandagainandagain…), it’s an interesting game.

5-year old Sophia Moss is my new hero

My record is reading 3 1/2 novels in a day…at that pace, I could hypothetically read 1,277.5 books in one year of 365 days.

Sophia Moss, who is 5-years old, has read 875 books…this school year (kindergarten).

ABC News article

Sure, those aren’t full length novels, but come on! If we figure that was in only 3/4s of a year, Sophia could hit 1,165.75 books in a year…close enough to me, and I suppose this bookworm might read faster in the summer than when in school.

I, by the way, was never maintaining my pace!

A tip of the hat to you, Sophia Moss…and to your school and your legal guardian(s)! You did it, but they helped make it possible.

What do you think? Do you want to add in your congratulations to Sophia Moss? :) Will Apple prevail? If they do (or if they don’t), what will that mean for e-books? Are you a big Ender’s Game fan? 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.


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