Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category

Author Profile: Richard Matheson

April 6, 2014

Author Profile: Richard Matheson

This is one in a series of posts where I focus on a particular author.

If you were a fan of a certain type of dark science fiction in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s (one which brought an often intellectual horror to a contemporary world; that used the rational to create an irrational fear), you were a fan of Richard Matheson’s…whether you knew it or not.

That would be true for readers, but also for television viewers. Matheson wrote 14 episodes of the original The Twilight Zone, and also wrote the two TV movies which were the basis for Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

In terms of books, you can find both novels and short story collections by Matheson in the Kindle store:

Richard Matheson’s Amazon Author Central page (at AmazonSmile)

Several of the works have been adapted for movies or TV (sometimes being adapted more than once). It’s interesting, because I wouldn’t say that  The Shrinking Man, for example, is particularly cinematic when you read it. Matheson (sort of like Michael Crichton, who came later, of course) is definitely writing a book when you read them…getting into inner monologues, crafting metaphysical journeys. Yet, even though the movies (even when adapted by Matheson) are not “faithful” to the written word, they still have such intriguing ideas that they work.

Here are a few suggestions for Matheson Kindle books:

I Am Legend (at AmazonSmile)
4.2 out of 5 stars, 1024 customer reviews

I would probably start here. This was Matheson’s first big successful novel (in 1954), and has had four definite movie adaptations (and George Romero cited it as an inspiration).

The basic idea, which may now seem familiar, but was pioneering at the time, is a lone human survivor holding out against…well, what are sort of vampires. There is a routine to this existence: humans adapt. I definitely also see echoes of this in AMC’s The Walking Dead…the characters are frightened and in danger, but killing zombies is all in a day’s work.

My favorite adaptation of this is actually the low-budget Vincent Price version, but you might be familiar with The Omega Man with Charlton Heston, or the Will Smith version.

Hell House (at AmazonSmile)
3.9 stars, 309 reviews

Stephen King has called this the “…scariest haunted house novel ever written.” Even though it is a “haunted house” book, it is still grounded in reality (with a physicist as one of the main characters).

Somewhere In Time (at AmazonSmile)
4.1 stars, 136 reviews

Do those two sound too dark for you? This time travel tale was the basis of a romantic movie with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.

I’m going to just list some more, although that doesn’t mean that I recommend them any less:

  • What Dreams May Come (made into a movie with Robin Williams)
  • Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (remember the Twilight Zone episode with William Shatner and the “thing on the wing”? That was based on one of the short stories collected here…it also includes “Prey”, the basis of the classic killer African doll segment of  the TV movie Trilogy of Terror with Karen Black)
  • The Shrinking Man
  • Duel: Terror Stories (the first one was made into Steven Spielberg’s first movie)
  • Steel: and Other Stories (the basis for Real Steel with Hugh Jackman…and of a Twilight Zone episode with Lee Marvin)
  • The Box: Uncanny Stories (the title story here was a movie with Cameron Diaz)
  • Shadow on the Sun (a supernatural Western)
  • The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickock

From Star Trek to an episode of The Family Guy…to the inside of your head…Matheson will take you on a voyage you might wish you could forget, but that you hope you never will.

* 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 #228: Silk fix, what did Melville make?

December 18, 2013

Round up #228: Silk fix, what did Melville make?

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

Coming in 2014: Give a Kid a Kindle

I’m going to give away a Kindle to a child in 2014 (I hope to do it every quarter), and you’ll be able to help.

You can nominate a child that you know, by commenting on this page:

Give a Kid a Kindle

which I have just made public this morning.

Nominating comments can be made now (see that page for more information), and I will begin displaying those nominations (which may be edited) on the page in January.

Readers will be able to recommend a child for the Kindle in March of 2014, by using a poll which will be on that page.

There is no charitable organization involved in this, and there won’t be any tax write-offs associated with it…it’s just something that I want to do personally (and I’ve discussed with my Significant Other, of course).

I’ve tried to keep this simple. I just want to do something nice. :)

I think reading is important, and that readers can (but don’t have to) change the world.

I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions you have for this. I can certainly see some challenges in doing it…

Amazon promises Silk “accordion” fix

It has seemed pretty obvious lately that Amazon needs to do more testing before they release updates.

Don’t get me wrong, I love getting free updates with new functionality! It’s just that you don’t want them to make things worse. That’s clearly how some people are feeling about Amazon’s updates…I know of people saying that they are afraid to turn on the wireless, because they don’t want to get a new update.

Recently:

  • A Kindle Fire update appears to have made wireless connections unstable…I have to frequently toggle the wireless on and off now
  • The introduction of Cloud Collections to the Kindle Paperwhite in a recent update has been widely criticized as confusing and unwieldy
  • An update to the Silk browser caused pages to “accordion” as you scrolled, making it impossible to read them

As to the last one, Amazon had now addressed it in this:

Kindle forum thread

They’ve said that a fix has been released, and that the Fire should automatically update within the next few days.

I really appreciate that Amazon employees will go into a public forum and make a statement like that…but it would be better if the problems were discovered pre-release, and fixed.

I’m guessing that when Amazon gets a little distance on all this after the holiday season, they’ll re-evaluate their quality control and testing for updates. That might mean we get them farther apart, but I think that would be worth it.

Hugh Howey writing in the world of Kurt Vonnegut

My feeling is that Kindle Worlds has been a bit slow getting off the ground. This is Amazon’s bold venture to mainstream fanfic (“fan fiction”), in a sense, by licensing properties from the rightsholders and then letting anyone write within those worlds (within certain guidelines), and splitting the royalties.

I’ve been following the forum at the

and after some initial activity, it’s been quite slow.

The bestselling Kindle Worlds books tend not to break the top 10,000 in the Kindle store. That doesn’t mean that can’t be profitable and popular, but my intuition is that Amazon would like more out of the program.

Part of this is chicken or the egg: they may need hits to get people interested in the program, and people need to be interested in the program to write those hit titles.

Well, this title should help.

Hugh Howey (at AmazonSmile) is a best-selling (New York Times and USA Today) science fiction author. I’m reading Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga) (at AmazonSmile) myself, although it’s not first in line for me (I’m reading a galley copy of something right now, as part a “beta reader”, and then there is always the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library book to finish). My guess is that I’ll finish the five books in the next few months.

Howey is writing a Kindle Worlds’ title in the world of Kurt Vonnegut:

It can be pre-ordered now, for delivery on January 14, 2014.

Howey’s books are well-reviewed on Amazon, and this announcement has gotten some media play. It’s an interesting mix of inspiration (Slaughterhouse-Five (at AmazonSmile)) (which is only $2.50 at time of writing) and author. Howey had a personal experience with the September 11th World Trade Center attacks, which may certainly inform this piece.

Janet Dailey reported dead

We sold a lot of Janet Dailey (at AmazonSmile) when I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore…and we certainly weren’t the only ones.

Reportedly, the author’s books sold something like 300 million copies, certainly making the romance novelist one of the best-selling novelists of any kind.

Amazon lists over 100 Janet Dailey titles in the Kindle store, including at least some of the Americana series (Dailey wrote a novel for each state).

Dailey began writing in the 1970s, and the latest book from the author was published this year.

New York Times article by Paul Vitello

Herman Melville’s Lifetime Literary Earnings

Bibliokept has this nice

post

which shows you how much Herman Melville got paid for writing. While not complete, let’s just say that the figures might be surprising…you do have to remember that we aren’t talking about constant dollars, though. Money went further back then. Still, being an author is rarely one of the best paid occupations.

* 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.

Round up #214: Amazon will pay you to get these apps, Gaiman gets it

October 26, 2013

Round up #214: Amazon will pay you to get these apps, Gaiman gets it

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

AmazonLocal deals: e-books, tablets, and Audible subscriptions

AmazonLocal is Amazon’s deal service. You create an account for free, and then they offer limited-time deals. You typically say you want the deal, and then are given a certain amount of time to use it.

Some of the deals are a case of buying something for a discount: pay $15, get $30 worth, that kind of thing.

Others are free vouchers that allow you to buy something at a special price.

There are  three  of the latter right now that might be particularly interesting to readers of this blog.

Free Voucher for Select Kindle Books for $0.99 Each

You can see the books on the

Offer Page (must receive code before using)

This is an impressive set! The thing that ties together is almost all of them have at least 50 ratings, and a 4+ (out of 5 star) average: that’s good. Authors include Louis L’Amour and Ed McBain.

Another deal is

Get 30% Off a 12-Month Subscription to Audible

Not every Kindle can do audiobooks, because not every Kindle has sound (the Paperwhite and the “Mindle”, the lowest priced Kindle, don’t). You also don’t need to have a membership to buy books from Audible: that’s a common misconception. However, as they say, membership has its privileges, and there are many happy Audible (owned by Amazon) members.

The third one I’ve written about previously, and it looks like some of my readers have taken advantage of it, based on comments. There are fewer than three days left to get a 20% off voucher for refurbished Kindle Fires.

My readers have said (and I agree), that refurbs are a great way to go. You get the same warranty you would on a new one, and honestly, I think the quality control is probably better because they’ve been inspected carefully and individually. If you buy a new one, I think you have a better chance of getting a “lemon”. However, I recognize that a lot of people want new ones (that’s what I buy), but there’s nothing wrong with saving some money (even more with the coupons) if you are comfortable with an equal or better quality refurb.

Amazon will pay you to get these apps

Not only does Amazon give away a lot of things, they sometimes give you a benefit when you buy something.

A common thing used to be that you might get an MP3 credit when you bought certain apps.

Well, today only, from your Fire (go to Apps, then Store, and watch the banner change for the ad), you can six popular apps for free…and with each one, you get 20 Amazon coins.

The Amazon Coins can be used to buy more apps or some in-app purchases.

A coin is worth a penny, basically, but still…that’s up to $1.20 for free, plus the apps.

The apps are:

  • The Room: 4.8 stars out of 5, with 2,567 (!)  customer ratings…I wonder if people are more likely to rate apps, and why? Age appeal, perhaps?
  • Angry Bird Star Wars Premium: 4.2 stars, 1,851
  • Diner Dash Deluxe: 4.0 stars, 210 reviews (the non-deluxe version has thousands of reviews)
  • Toca Builders: 4.4 stars, 31 reviews
  • Fishdom Premium: 4.6 stars, 189 reviews
  • Splashtop Whiteboard: 3.8 stars, 4 reviews (normally $9.99)

I’ve used  a Splashtop app before, and I’ll try this one out (I went ahead and got all of the apps which we didn’t already have. We only had Angry Birds Star Wars…which interestingly meant we couldn’t get the coins for that one). This will give you a whiteboard to use with a computer. You’ll use your Kindle Fire as the interface, and what you do that will appear on the computer over wi-fi.

Speaking of apps, I haven’t mentioned this.

Candy Crush Saga

which is a popular enough app to get in the zeitgeist and become the topic of jokes, has come to the Kindle Fire.

It’s free, and rated 4.7 stars with 3,130 reviews.

My Significant Other has tried it. The weird thing is that you’ll get to the point where you want to play another game, and your choice is either to pay with real money, or wait fifteen minutes…something like that. I think that’s pretty clever!

Gaiman gets it

I thought this was a great

essay by Neil Gaiman in the Guardian

It explains the value of fiction in a way that is both relatable and reliable.

It also makes the excellent point that one of the most important things is that children enjoy reading, so trying to control what they read may be counterproductive. If you read a “good” book, but hate reading it, that doesn’t really help encourage you to read other things.

I’m going to highly recommend the article, and I do want to mention one thing I learned from it:

“I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. SF had been disapproved of for a long time. At one point I took a top official aside and asked him what had changed? “It’s simple,” he told me. “The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.”

So, pragmatically, the Chinese may have decided that their population should read science fiction. :)

Here’s a question, though, since I always like to look at both sides: science fiction readers may certainly be more imaginative, but are they more productive? Something to consider…some certainly are, but that’s an argument you would get from people who are anti-imagination. “Sure, they may be brilliant, but they don’t put their brilliance to work to help society.”

Amazon did not raise the price for Super Saving Shipping

I reported recently on Amazon raising the minimum for Super Saving Shipping from $25 to $35…but I am seeing a lot of people reacting to that as though the price has been raised.

Free is free…you are paying the same amount for Super Saving Shipping, which is nothing. ;)

The difference is that you have to have an order with a higher minimum value before you get that free shipping.

Hypothetically, that could just mean waiting longer in-between.

There is a sense, here, that we spend money and don’t get something for it if we add things to the purchase. I would hope that isn’t so: that you don’t just add something to the cart and then toss it in the garbage when you gets to your house. ;)

I’ve also seen some hostility expressed about the Amazon Add-on program, where you can buy some items only as part of a minimum $25 order (or maybe, only at what many people see as a reasonable price after you reach that level).

I wanted to poll you about some special programs of Amazon’s:

What do you think? Are science fiction readers “good members of society”, or does society just benefit from their creativeness sometimes? Should adults guide children to “good books”, or let them read what they want? Are you addicted to Candy Crush? If you are an Audible subscriber, what benefits do you think make it worth it? 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. 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

What do you think of these popular authors?

October 6, 2013

What do you think of these popular authors?

I’ve often say that I’m an eclectic reader, and I do think I tend to range more widely than a lot of people. If I was stuck somewhere with only some random books in a gift shop, I’d happily read any (and all) of them, whatever the topic.

However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have preferences. I’ve read a lot of science fiction/fantasy, and a lot of non-fiction (especially about animals, and about human behavior).

I’m interested in you, though.

I wanted to get a sense of what my readers like to read.

I figured that doing it by authors would work: even though some authors write in many genres, I think that’s a broader sense than asking about individual books. You could like one book by an author, and not like another one by the same author.

I didn’t want to be the one picking the list: that’s why I didn’t do genres. I wanted something that was, if not objective, at least outside me.

I first tried GoodReads, and then Shelfari (both owned by Amazon), looking for some good indicator of popular authors.

I wasn’t satisfied with those. They didn’t seem to me to have a good data sample, rather than a curated list.

Fortunately, I remembered that LibraryThing has the “zeitgeist” feature, which would give me what I wanted. I had previously compared those three sites…the research for that article came in handy here. :)

I’m going to poll you based on their “top 75 authors” list. That’s based on the number of copies that their users have indicated…and I was happy to see that it wasn’t just the most recent authors who dominated.

There are actually only 74 authors listed, because one of them is “anonymous”. :)

I don’t want to give you too many poll questions: I find that tends to lessen the number of responses.

Let’s do this. I’ll first ask you if you’ve ever read anything by these popular authors. They are going to be in order of most popular at LibraryThing first:

Next, let’s go with just the 25 most popular, and you tell me which ones you would recommend to other people:

Finally, tell me which of the 25 most popular do you not want to read (again). Whether you have read somebody or not, you may just feel like you don’t want to put one of their books on your “To Be Read” list. That doesn’t necessarily mean you think the author is bad…they just aren’t for something that you want to read (and much as we all hate to admit, it’s very unlikely that we can read everything we’d like to read before…well, time runs out).

Feel free, of course, to give me and my readers your opinions on other authors (but be nice, of course). :)

On that big list of seventy-four, I think I’ve read…I’m going to say 56 of them. Pretty much all the ones I haven’t read are contemporary, although that’s no excuse. ;) With some of them, I have books by them, but just haven’t gotten to them yet.

Here is that
LibraryThing Zeitgeist page

I think it’s fascinating.

Now of course, you might want to read some of these authors, if you haven’t. Here’s a link to help you find them:

Kindle store author search

I have to say, I’m really looking forward to seeing these results! I know the polls don’t always cover everything you want to say…feel free to add a comment to the post!

Update: Bonus deal: I meant to mention this one. It’s a Gold Box deal for today, and one of the Kindle Daily Deals. As always, check the price before you click that “Buy” button. These prices may not apply in your country, and may not still be in effect by the time you follow the below link:

50 Books in Popular Series, $1.99 or Less Each

 

Update: thanks to my reader Jack who made a comment which improved this post.

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

Round up #207: Russian sex education, the mile high book club

September 26, 2013

Round up #207: Russian sex education, the mile high book club

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

K(atherine) A. Applegate morphs into a new deal at HarperCollins

When my adult kid was younger, I read all of the books in the Animorphs series. Sure, my kid was reading them first, and I did get into it for that reason, but I enjoyed the putatively young adult series about kids who can change into animals (there is a lot more to it than that). In fact, my kid gave them to me, and the p-book (paperbook) copies are in my library…more than fifty of them.

That certainly would have been a big enough hit for one author, but Katherine Applegate has continued to grow and impress.

In fact, The One and Only Ivan one the Newbery medal this year…more than a decade and a half after the first Animorphs book.

So, it’s exciting to me to see in this

Publishers Weekly article by Sally Lodge

that Applegate has signed a deal to do a new series…and the premise sounds intriguing.

I recommend the article: you’ll get a sense of why editors still matter.

On the other hand, this

Publishers Weekly article by Marjorie Braman

shows why being an editor and being at a tradpub (traditional publisher) are not inevitably intertwined.

I would guess most people become editors because they like editing. ;) However, like many other jobs, there has been a lot of “mission creep”…they want you to do things beyond the core purpose. Editors may be expected to be more acquisition artists than people who actually help craft books.

We may see more cases of editors leaving tradpubs to get back to basics…

“We have now reached perusing altitude…”

We may finally be getting close to the FAA officially changing the rules to allow us to read on electronic devices during takeoff and landing.

I’ve been writing about that ban off and on for years…I found posts on the forum where I talk about it back in early 2009. :)

It simply doesn’t make sense that having an electronic device on in a plane, especially in “airplane mode”, would affect the avionics…and I’ve read that it isn’t the case. If you could download a book and crash the plane, do you think they would let you have them in the cabin? “Certainly, sir, you can have that giant Acme bomb on the plane…just don’t set it off.” ;)

I’ve heard some justifications for the rule…one is that takeoffs and landings are the most dangerous part, and they don’t want people to be distracted. I’ve even been on flights where they had us put away all reading materials, including paper.

However, they could still ask you to do that if the situation warranted it.

According to this

CBS Baltimore article

the decision will likely be made by the end of September, and new rules could go into effect in 2014 (which is quite soon).

I’d be happy about it. :)

Right now, I do follow the rules (I’m big on that), so it would be nice to be able to read while staying within the guidelines. On my last trip, I actually bought a paper magazine to read for take-offs and landings, but I would have preferred not to do that, given a choice.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Kindle app has outlasted the hardware

Amazon made a Kindle for Blackberry app available in 2010…and now, BB users have to be worried that the device might not stick around.

ABC news story by Joanna Stern

There certainly are adherents for the device, but I always say that market leaders lose that position when they underestimate the loyalty of their customers (not when they underestimate their competition…a common assessment which I think is not always accurate).

Okay, yes, when I polled my readers a few years back, zero percent of them picked the Blackberry app as their favorite way to read Kindle books, but there must be some people who do. ;)

I believe the Kindle for HP Touchpad had outlived that device (in terms of new sales in the marketplace) by that point.

Amazon adapts to changing conditions…not everybody does.

Is fiction ever the best way to learn something?

I have to think about my own question. I would certainly say that I’ve become interested in some topics because of fiction…but I’m not sure it’s how I really learned about something very often.

I thought this was a hilarious

article in The Guardian by Shaun Walker

deftly refuting “Russia’s children’s ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov”.

The latter apparently opposes sex education in Russian schools, saying that the kids can learn everything they need to know about love and sex from Russian classic literature.

Think about classic literature from anywhere…what makes the drama isn’t always what makes healthy relationships.

Walker cleverly cites some examples from Russian classics…I recommend the article.

Russia does have a wonderful literary history, and its people continue to love books.

I even took three and a half years of Russian in high school, partially to read works in Russian (although I was more interested in their non-fiction at that point).

I remember very little of it, but I am told I have a decent accent when I do speak a few words. :)

Oh, let me digress to tell a proud story about my kid, who is a linguist.

Recently, my kid was flying to Germany for work…and the bilingual (at least) flight attendants spoke to my kid in German…and to everybody else in that area in English. Apparently, they thought my kid was a native speaker. :)

Anyway, back to Russia…

This

Russia Beyond the Headlines article by Alena Tveritina

shows the great diversity of small Russian bookstores, and how clever they are in innovating and adding flavor. I would think these same stores would be the kind that might survive in the USA (although I’m guessing the internet/e-book competition is not as strung in Russia as it is here).

One of my favorite ideas one of them has is that people can pay a monthly fee of about $8 to borrow books. In other words, it’s sort of like a private library built along a Netflix model.

You’d have to really manage your stock to make that work, and probably only allow people to actually take one book out of the store at a time (but to read as much as they want in the store).

It would be tough to make that work where the rents are high, but I can see it being pretty effectively in a more rural area where entertainment options are more limited.

What do you think? Would it scare you to read your Kindle during takeoff and landing? Have you ever seen anybody else violating that rule…and did you ever see them get caught? Did you read the Animorphs books? Are you comfortable being seen reading “below your age”? Did a fiction book ever really serve as an education for you (as opposed to just getting you interested, or modeling actions or emotions)? Did the headline on this make me seem like any less of a prude to you? No? Didn’t think so. ;) Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

I’d love to recommend your books, but…

August 26, 2013

I’d love to recommend your books, but…

This is an open letter to two people and a universe.

I think you’ve all done wonderful things, and I’ve gotten great enjoyment from you.

It’s more than that, though: I think you all have made the world a better place.

That’s why I’d love to recommend all of your books to my readers. It’s not just that I think I do have some small influence on sales. It’s because I want to support you and what you do…and what better way to do that than to help others have the great experiences I’ve had?

However…

There is a situation with some of your books. I’m guessing you aren’t even aware of it, or at least, haven’t considered the impact it has.

It has to do with something called text-to-speech.

Text-to-speech is software which can read your books out loud.

It’s not a performance: it’s another way to access the material, like making the text size bigger.

That is a huge convenience for those who have print disabilities or challenges.

Certainly, there may be specialized versions of your books available for those who can certify a print disability. Those books may even be free to them.

It’s not the same, though, as buying them in the Kindle store, the same way most people do.

Buying them in the Kindle store means that those who need that functionality can get it the same day everyone else. They can enjoy the books on an easily portable piece of equipment. Importantly, they can share the book with family members who don’t have the same challenges and are on the same account.

They want to be able to pay your publisher for accessible versions of your books.

How much does it cost to add text-to-speech to your books?

Nothing.

Nothing to you, nothing to your publisher.

Amazon has licensed the necessary software for the devices (the current generation of Kindle Fires, the Kindle DX, and older Kindles models with audio capabilities going back to the Kindle 2).

The retailer has paid for the software for their devices, because they know it helps sales. In addition to those who need to use it, there are those who simply find it convenient. I typically listen to text-to-speech for hours a week in the car. It means that I go through books that much faster, and driving is no longer “wasted non-reading time”. :) Believe me, I’d much rather listen to your book than to music or talk radio.

That’s not why I don’t buy or recommend books with text-to-speech access blocked, though. It’s because I feel it disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, even though I’m sure that’s not your or your publisher’s intent.

Oh, and when I say the access has been blocked, that’s what happens. A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to the device: it doesn’t have to be prepared in any special way. It can be used to read aloud  a child’s school paper, or a friend’s document about a vacation.

The publisher has to insert code into the e-book file to block the access, which I believe they have the legal right to do (as long as at least one accessible version of the book is available…even if  someone has to certify a print disability to get it).

I think that, increasingly, blocking text-to-speech access is becoming rarer. Many of the bestselling books are accessible. Yours could be, too. If you (or your agent) want more information on the issue, you can read my free summary of the situation, or ask me privately by commenting on this post and telling me it is private (I will not then publish your comment).

I do believe it is a personal decision, and I completely understand when my readers choose to buy your books and others with the access blocked. I would love, though, to both read and promote them, but it is my policy not to promote books (even from people I admire) when that feature has been rendered unavailable.

Let me address you each individually.

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen, I record your show so I can watch every one. I am a vegetarian, and a lover of animals. I admire how you use your well-deserved celebrity to help those in need. Your support of the differently-abled is clear, when you share  your joy of dance with people in wheelchairs, who you have arranged to have front row seats in your audience: an area that could easily have been filled many times over with other people who want to see you perform.

I’m happy that I can in good conscience recommend My Point…And I Do Have One, which is text-to-speech accessible. I’d like to be able to that with your other books, too.

Loren Coleman

Loren, I think you know how much I appreciate the generosity you show your readers. I recently wrote honest tribute to you in honor of your birthday.

You have so many accessible titles in the Kindle store:

I’d recommend the Tom Slick book to anyone…and I’d like to be comfortable recommending the May Kindle store release as well.

Star Trek

As a universe, Star Trek has embraced people of all different types, including those with vision challenges. Geordi La Forge, of course, had assistive technology, but it goes back further than that.  Even in the original series, a blind character is a main character in one episode, and shown as uniquely capable (truly, a case of being differently abled).

It disappoints me every time I see a Star Trek book on sale or coming out in the future, and it has text-to-speech access blocked. A universe that has such an optimistic view of the future should strive to embrace the Vulcan concept of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations)…introduced in the same episode I mentioned above.

I will continue to support all of you where text-to-speech access is not an issue.  I thank you for what you have done, and what you will do…

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

Elmore Leonard reported dead

August 20, 2013

Elmore Leonard reported dead

Elmore Leonard, the New York Times bestselling author and screenwriter, has reportedly passed away.

Leonard’s work was frequently adapted, both to movies and TV. You can see a good chart of that on this

Wikipedia page

Published works for Elmore Leonard span nearly sixty years, beginning in 1953 with The Bounty Hunters and continuing into 2012 with Raylan (which ties into the TV series Justified, based on Leonard’s writings).

Elmore Leonard had a reputation for writing things which were both macho and intelligent. Bad things would happen, and fists and guns might be involved…but brains were not ignored.

While arguably a genre writer (Westerns, mysteries), Elmore Leonard was recognized outside of those fields, getting a National Book Award last year.

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

Round up #194: Detroit libraries, Kindle Fire updates now available from Amazon

August 9, 2013

Round up #194: Detroit libraries, Kindle Fire updates now available from Amazon

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

Barbara Mertz (aka Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels) has died

The mystery novels under the name Elizabeth Peters (including the Amelia Peabody books) have been very popular…as have been the books of Barbara Michaels, including the Georgetown series.  Those were both pennames for Barbara Mertz, who also wrote non-fiction about Egypt under her real name,

Barbara Mertz has reportedly died at the age of 85.

CBS News article

Update for Kindle Fires now available at Amazon

I wrote recently about being worried about my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB updating to the 8.4.5 version, which was breaking Flash video in non-Amazon browsers.

I updated that post when I had heard that 8.4.6 was out there, and that it didn’t have the same problem.

Well, my Kindle Fire did update last night…and I’m happy to report that Flash video is working fine in Maxthon (my preferred browser). In fact, it seems like it is working better, but it’s too soon to really tell that.

If your Kindle Fire hasn’t updated, it likely will soon now. You can also get the update from

Kindle Software Updates

and install it manually (they have instructions there on it).

Since it’s on that page, we also know what they tell us it does. :)

  • You can now choose Brazilian Portuguese for your device language (Home – swipe down – More – Language & Keyboard – Language…that brings us to eleven languages and variants)
  • You can download new keyboard languages (Home – swipe down – More – Language & Keyboard – Keyboard – Download Keyboard Languages). That’s a fascinating change! There are thirty-seven languages there, and even with a linguist in the family, I can’t tell you what they all are (since they are listed in their languages. They do include Russian and Tagalog, Hinglish and Magyar…quite a few choices. While this will greatly expand the usability of the Kindle Fire, this ability to download the languages is what’s intriguing me. That suggest to me that we could possibly get the same thing with accents and languages for text-to-speech…not that we don’t likeSeptember Day‘s Salli, of course, but more choices there could again expand the language accessibility. Could this also suggest a launch of a Fire in even more countries? Well, last I heard, it was already available for 170 countries, so maybe not
  • Multicolor highlights (highlight something in a book with your finger or stylus, and you’ll now be given four different highlighting colors from which to choose)
  • Share notes & highlights from a Print Replica textbook. The particularly interesting piece here is that you’ll be able to share them via e-mail…that could be the start of something big for Amazon. Not just e-mailing, of course, but texting (in the future). I frequently e-mail stories to family members from my morning Flipboard read. I know e-mail isn’t the choice method of communication for many New Millenials (which is why I’m also thinking texting, in the future), but tweeting and Facebook updates don’t work for everybody either

All in all, I’m happy Amazon fixed the problem with Flash before posting the updates.

Update: here are screenshots of the keyboard languages available for download, and some best guesses (not all mine…my adult kid who is a linguist helped, as did someone else) as to what they are. If you can correct any of them, I’d appreciate it:

Screenshot_2013-08-09-17-13-42

 

Screenshot_2013-08-09-17-13-54

Screenshot_2013-08-09-17-14-06

 

Bahasa Indonesia
Bahasa Malaysia
Catala – Catalan
Cestina – Czech
Dansk – Danish
Eesti – Estonian
Euskara – Basque
Galego – Galician (spoken in Spain and some other countries)
Hinglish – Hindi/English hybrid (although I believe some other languages are involved)
Islanski – Icelandic
Latviesu – Latvian
Lietuviskai – Lithuanian
Magyar – Hungarian
Nederlands – Dutch
Norsk – Norwegian
Polski = Polish
Portugues europeu – European Portuguese
Pу́сски;й – Russian
Romana – Romanian
Shqipe – Albanian
Slovencina – Slovak
Slovenscina – Slovak
Suomi – Finnish
Svenska – Swedish
Tagalog – Phillipino
Tiếng Việt – Vietnamese
Türkçe – Turkish
ελληνικ;ά – Greek
Казаk – Kazak
Україн;ська – Ukranian
Белару;скі – Belorussina or White Russian

Georgian
Armenian
Thai
Korean
Two varieties of Chinese (I’m assuming Cantonese and Mandarin)
I know there can be cultural sensitivities in some of these identifications…if there is something you think should be corrected there, please let me know. No offense is intended, and I freely admit I might be ignorant of some of the issues.

Summer Reading Snapshot: libraries and kids across the nation

This is a great

Publishers Weekly article by Karen Springen

which talks with children’s librarians in

  • Cleveland
  • Orlando
  • Cincinnati
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • New York
  • Boston
  • St. Louis
  • Kansas City, Mo
  • Detroit

about their planned Summer events, and what the “Big Reads” are for the kids this Summer.

As we all know, Detroit has had a lot of issues lately. I liked this quotation from Lurine Carter, coordinator of children’s and teen service at the Detroit Public Library:

“Life is very serious, not only in Detroit but all over. We try to relieve their minds. We want the library and the reading to be a pleasant getaway.”

I recommend the article, particularly if you are looking for books for your own kids to read.

Google play making a big…er, play for textbooks

There are so many clear advantages to e-textbooks that it seems inevitable to be that they become the standard format.

  • The weight of paper textbooks, especially when students can’t get to a locker between classes, is genuinely a health issue
  • The increased ability to be accessible (text-to-speech, increasable text size) is important
  • The ability of them to be updated easily over the years
  • The fact that they don’t wear out…which makes renting a really viable option
  • The relatively lower cost
  • Annotation without degradation
  • Search
  • Sharing supplemental material
  • X-ray

That doesn’t mean that getting them to be adopted is easy, but Google is likely to make it a bit more attractive:

Google Play Textbooks

I don’t see that they are bringing any stand-out features that aren’t available in

Kindle eTextbooks

but just the fact that it is Google may influence some schools.

Hearing in the Apple “penalty phase” today

Judge Cote has been ruling incredibly quickly in the Apple e-book price fixing case. That doesn’t mean we will hear something today…but Judge Cote will.

There is a hearing today for the DoJ’s (Department of Justice’s) proposed penalties for Apple, according to this

The Verge article by Greg Sandoval

and other sources. I’ve written before about how far-reaching the DoJ proposal seems to be. The five Agency Model publishers think it’s too much…but they aren’t exactly uninvolved parties (they settled with the DoJ in the same case). Others think it’s appropriate.

It will be very interesting to see what Judge Cote does. I think it’s possible that part of it is approved and part of it isn’t, but we’ll see. I’m not sure if Judge Cote would then send them back to rethink it or what can happen.

Librarians in the Movies

This site was right up my alley!

Librarians in the Movies: an Annotated Filmography by Martin Raish, Brigham YOung University

It’s a pretty extensive list…given my love of books and movies, I did find it fascinating (and I had seen a number of them). It’s not being maintained anymore, but is still interesting. Let’s see…any movies this Summer with librarians in them? Hm…

Have any thoughts about these stories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

Round up #193: Borders is back, the new journalism

August 1, 2013

Round up #193: Borders is back, the new journalism

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

The New Journalism

Is there anything that has to do with words that Amazon isn’t going to reinvent? ;)

I was sent a press release today about something that seemed truly extraordinary.

The President spoke yesterday at an Amazon facility…it was a speech, and had to do with jobs (and Amazon has recently added 7,000 jobs).

The amazing thing is that the next day, Amazon published

President Barack Obama: The Kindle Singles Interview (Kindle Single)

an interview with the President conducted by David Blum (the journalist who coined the term “The Brat Pack”, and is the head of Amazon’s Kindle Singles program)…the day before.

They made it available for free.

That’s right: Blum interviewed the President at the event, and published the interview for free the next day.

That’s the new written word journalism!

Of course, Amazon doesn’t need to make money on that one…they’ve got their own broad strategy that allows for not making money on some things.

I read the interview at lunch (it was a good length for that), having downloaded it in a Whole Foods.

I think it’s worth reading, with some interesting statements about how the President feels, even if (for obvious reasons), it wasn’t particularly in depth. I thought it was well proofread, by the way.

Zits on brick-and-mortar bookstores

No, no, that doesn’t mean they have pimples on the walls. ;)

Regular reader and commenter Lady Galaxy nicely pointed me to the online version of the comic strip Zits (by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman):

Zits at Arcamax

It’s a series of three days worth (might keep going) of a storyline about visiting a bookstore…I thought it was worth reading.

Thanks, Lady Galaxy!

Just when you thought it was safe not to go into the Borders…

Borders is reopening!

No, really.

Okay, just in Singapore…but still, it is the return of the brand.

Yahoo!News article by Sia Ling Xin

Somebody bought the brand there, and they are going to open Borders bookstores again.

Gee, next time you are in Singapore, maybe you can see if they’ll take those old Borders gift cards. ;)

“Amazon is worse than Walmart”

Sigh.

Salon.com article by Daniel D’Addario

It’s pretty simple…Amazon has been great for books.

More people are reading in more formats.

It is easier for people with print challenges to read.

Authors can get their books out there like never before.

More books are being published.

You can find used paperbacks more easily, often inexpensively.

You can get and read great works of world literature…for free…without leaving your couch.

That’s why a description like this makes me shake my head: “The company’s war on bookstores and book culture…”

War on bookstores? Well, I would say “competition with other bookstores”. After all, Amazon is a bookstore. And, as a former brick-and-mortar manager, I can tell you…they weren’t exactly a united front before Amazon. ;)

“Book culture”?

Perhaps if you want to define book culture as belonging only to the elites (which is arguably how it was before the 1920s or so…not counting penny dreadfuls and dime novels and such), then perhaps.

You want to make it so that you can only buy Dickens in a leather-bound volume for $50…if you have the mobility to get to a bookstore, that is? If that’s book culture, then yes, Amazon is out-competing it.

You want to have it so only a small group of people in New York and London decide what you get to read? If that’s book culture than yes, Amazon is weakening that.

If you define book culture as reading books, Amazon has only been positive, in my opinion.

See? It wasn’t about the money

J.K. Rowling has money, and I really don’t think it’s a driving factor in a lot of the author’s decisions any more.

Not doing books in e-book form for so long? There were these weird conspiracy theories that it was to build up demand, or some such, when what it really did was multiply the amount of piracy…and does anyone really think they sold more books or made more money through Pottermore than they would have having it available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble years earlier?

The more recent thing is this pseudonymous publication, which I’ve written about before:

What’s in a pen name? Jo Rowling and the Monicker of Male

There was this idea that releasing it under a fake name was just a publicity stunt so Rowling could make more money when the story came out.

That didn’t make much sense to me. It’s not like the book wouldn’t have done better being released first as by Rowling…or that it wouldn’t have had publicity.

However, evidence against the hypothesis is presented in this

Los Angeles Times article by Elisabeth Donnelly

First, Rowling sued the law firm that led to the reveal of the pseudonym…not very likely if it was planned from the beginning, in my opinion.

Second, royalties are going to charity.

That’s the net profits from the book for three years, going to The Soldiers’ Charity.

The settlement Rowling got from the law firm (wow, they move quickly in English courts!) also involves a donation to that charity.

A tip of the sorting hat to J.K. Rowling!

I really do think the use of the name Robert Galbraith for The Cuckoo’s Calling was an artistic choice.

If it hadn’t been for the fraudulent (fraud is a misrepresentation intended to unfairly make you money, and that’s how that bio seemed to me…it has since been removed) character bio, I think I would have been okay with it.

Australian Government may ban geo-blocking

Thanks to MobileRead.com

for the heads up on this

The Age article by Adam Turner

This is absolutely astonishing to me, and could have serious unintended consequences, if actually carried out.

Essentially, a report recommends ways for the Australian government to deal with companies that limit electronic distribution in Australia…and as a last resort, to ban the practice.

Well, to me, the obvious response to that would be, “Then we just can’t deal with Australia, so you get nothing.”

No e-books, no movies, no music.

That would seem extreme, of course, but the consequences for a company not making a good faith effort to stay within their legal agreements can be huge.

If a company (say, Netflix or Amazon) allows the works for which a company has only licensed North American rights to be sold in Australia, the rightsholder (and someone who may have bought the Australian rights) can seriously sue the publisher.

I can tell you right now, I do not think banning geo-blocking is going to happen.

What will happen, and has been increasingly happening, is that rightsholders will sell global rights (even though it may cost them more money) so these issues go away (except for countries where governments block things).

What do you think? Would you like to see the Borders brand return to the USA? How would you solve the geo-blocking issue (and yes, many people’s answer is piracy, which I don’t endorse)? Are instant publications the new journalism? Has Amazon been good or bad for reading? 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.

Amazon adds author new book e-mails

July 17, 2013

Amazon adds author new book e-mails

When we get

Press Releases from Amazon

they are often about something big and grand and (perhaps to the dismay of investors) cost Amazon a lot of money. Acquiring new content licenses, for example, tends to get a press release.

Sure, that’s fine…everybody’s just lamenting the lack of content options, right? ;) Just kidding…when e-books started out, that was the case, though. People were concerned that they didn’t have enough e-books available to them.

Now, I think many more people are concerned about figuring out which e-books to read. There are (literally, for the USA Kindle store) millions of options.

That’s why I’ve been recommending that Amazon work more on discovery:  that they find ways to let us opt into book recommendations…circles of friends, for example, and what they are reading…and perhaps, what they are finishing and how quickly they read it (as two new suggestions).

Actually, that might be an interesting statistic not just for circles. Show me a list of books that people have read the quickest (maybe with a formula taking book length into account). I do think that’s an indicator of reader interest in many cases.

However, there is an older-fashioned way to predict which books you’ll like, which I would guess goes back at least as far as the Neandertals and story telling.

The author.

We’ve recently seen how the revelation that J. K. Rowling wrote a book under a secret pseudonymThe Cuckoo’s Calling has increased the sales of what was already a well-reviewed book by (reportedly) hundreds of thousands percent.

That’s the strength of an author’s name.

There are authors where I always want to read what they’ve written. Even if the books aren’t always up to the same quality, there are certain people who are just interesting. :)

Well, I recently noticed something that people have been saying that they wanted for a very long time (I wrote about it almost three years ago, for example).

You can now go to an author’s Amazon central page and click a link to “stay up to date” by receiving e-mails when a new title is released.

SubscribeNewBufo

Personally, I think that (along with the change that recently gave us access to back issues of magazines to which we’ve subscribed electronically for as far back as we have been subscribers) deserves a press release. :)

It clearly benefits readers, it clearly benefits Amazon…and it benefits authors, both traditionally published ones and brand new indies.

It also benefits publishers, by reducing their marketing costs.

Sure, it cost Amazon something to create it, but outside of that, it’s a win all the way around.

I’m going to be doing this with some authors, and I thought you might want to do it as well.

You can start with the

Kindle store author search

You can browse or search there…browsing might be good, in this case. As we all know, when we ask our memories to recall something, it can make it difficult for it to deliver. If I just ask you to name your ten favorite authors, a lot of people will sort of freeze up. There isn’t a specific “action result”, so your mind finds it a challenge to do. It’s different from looking at an animal and identifying it as friendly or fierce. That has clear benefits, and your brain is on it.

If I just sprung the “favorite authors” question on you out of the blue, part of what would happen is that your brain would try to figure out why you were being asked the question. What’s the possible threat? What’s the possible benefit? To put it more simply, “What are you up to?”

Browsing through authors will eliminate that issue of having to pull names out of the air.

Once you find the author, then click or tap on a book, then click or tap on the author’s name. You may see a choice to “Visit Amazon’s so-and-so page”.

However, I just looked for Loren Coleman on the author page with no results…which was also the case for yours truly. :) That’s weird, because we both have Amazon Author Central pages (here is Loren Coleman’s Amazon Author Central page), and we both have the follow link.

Not sure why we don’t show up in the listing…Loren has p-books (paperbooks) in the store as well, so that’s not the break point.

Oh well…you can also search for your favorite authors in the searchbox at the top of an Amazon page.

Well done, Amazon! Nice to have a new free service available to us.

One other new thing, which I was seeing when I was researching for this post (but noticed a little while ago).

When I go to a category or do some (but not all) searches in the Kindle store, I now have two display options.

One is with Image results, which shows the covers with just a tad bit of text tiled on the page.

The other way is with Detail, which has more text, and the books are stacked vertically.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not very visually oriented. I much prefer the Detail listing, but the default is now Image. I’ll have to see if there is a way to change that.

When I was a manager, I would drive people nuts when they would come into me with this beautiful Excel chart that they spent hours creating, and I would say, “Can you just give me the numbers?”

The numbers made more sense to me. I remember somebody saying I wouldn’t be able to tell where the stand out elements were without the illustration. We flipped to a screen with just numbers, and I immediately pointed to something and said, “This one is too low.” That was the right answer, but the other person couldn’t see it. Just different brain styles…no big deal. ;)

I was having a discussion with somebody recently where they said they would get a 3% commission on $12,000. I said, “$360 is pretty good.” That person then had to do the math to see if that was right…and, by the way, I started to do it that way along with the other person. :) I had done no process to get to that $360…it was the same thing to me as asking me what 2+2 is…I just knew the answer.

I said to myself, “One percent of $12,000 would be $120, times three is $360,” when I did it the “process way”.

That got me in trouble in high school. I remember turning in a math test, maybe five minutes after we started (I think we were probably supposed to take half an hour or something). The teacher asked me to show my work. I said, “I didn’t do any.” Teacher: “You didn’t do any?” Me: “No, I just knew the answers.” That didn’t go over well. :) I had to go back and explain the process someone would use to get the answer…even though I hadn’t used it.

Incidentally, I don’t think I’m particularly good at math. I just sort of have a “random access” approach to a lot of things. I think I’ve told this story before, but my Significant Other wasn’t happy with this exchange:

SO: “Do you know where the 2002 taxes are?”

Me: “Yes. They are on top of the bookshelf under the window in the library, in the third pile from the left, about half way up next to something yellow*.”

;)

I don’t remember the exact details, but that’s about how it went…and that’s where they were.

That may be why I like the organization of databases so much. I’m really good at remembering disconnected facts, but not good at things that require placement within a flow, like chronology and geography (it would be easier for me to remember the populations of countries than it would be to remember where they are in relation to each other). However, perhaps because it is different from the way my mind works, I love figuring out rules for databases and organization.

But enough about me…enjoy your author alerts! ;)

* Regular readers may be surprised that I used color to identify the location of the taxes. I do have some color vision deficiency, but I can see colors…just depends on the color and how rich it is. However, since I know other people use colors so much, I may overemphasize their use sometimes in talking to others…although I’m not sure that’s the case. I probably see yellow like most of you do. My color issues are “red/green”, so greens may look brown, that sort of thing

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


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