Archive for the ‘Authors’ Category

Round up #269: how Amazon spent the summer, AmazonShack?

September 16, 2014

Round up #269: how Amazon spent the summer, AmazonShack?

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

Should Amazon buy Radio Shack?

Several articles are talking about Rob Peck of SunTrust Robinson Humphrey’s suggestion that Amazon could buy Radio Shack if the latter declares bankruptcy. Here’s one that I thought had a good discussion of the idea:

MarketWatch article by Jennnifer Booton

I don’t really see it. They certainly don’t want the name or the operating strategy. Generally, when Amazon takes over a business (IMDb, GoodReads, Zappos) it keeps the name and the business runners…and the basic system.

Would owning the physical stores do them any good? Well, first, that would depend on the leases, but let’s skip that.

Many Radio Shacks now are tiny, and they don’t seem to me to have a good layout. I don’t think people would go to an old location out of habit, and then shop at an Amazon store.

They are in expensive malls in many cases.

I suppose they could become lockers, where you can pick up your Amazon orders in your town, but it doesn’t seem like the most efficient place to do it.

Would a strictly Amazon hardware place work? Kindles, Kindle Fires, Fire TVs, Fire Phones? Nope, I don’t see it…maybe as a pop up store at the holidays, but not year round.

It’s not to Amazon’s advantage to encourage you to go to physical stores. They live online…it would be like a shark trying to stalk a New York alley. ;)

Who had a bad summer?

I think you’d be hard pressed to find another three month period that was so negative for Amazon, in terms of public relations. Yes, people didn’t like it when Amazon removed a George Orwell book from their Kindles, and they are still having some repercussions from that, but generally, they got past it.

Recently (in the September 5th issue), Entertainment Weekly did a Summer Winners & Losers piece. In the books category, they classified Amazon as a loser, saying in part that they had made enemies of “…book publishers, the German Government, George Orwell’s estate, and Stephen Colbert — to name a few.”


Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile)

is being pegged (prematurely, in my opinion) as a loser. I have one myself, and there are some real attractions to it. I’ve recently used Firefly a few times to identify TV shows: worked great! Within about ten seconds, it could tell me the name of the episode, who the actors are, and so on. I suspect Amazon will give it three years…if developers start really building for Firefly and dy-per (dynamic perspective), I think it could be a solid 15% player in the SmartPhone market…and a much bigger moneymaker than that for Amazon.

However, Amazon’s success (in terms of sales and market share, not profit) has depended to a large extent, in my opinion, on good will with customers. It doesn’t help that many of the customers’ favorite authors are part of Authors United, which is about to send a new letter to the Amazon boardmembers. You can read the letter here:

It’s worth reading. They make some important points, including that many of them are not Hachette authors, and are therefore not directly impacted by what I call the Hachazon war.

I think this short excerpt from the letter sums up the argument:

“Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand. But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last?”

Going to the Board (and publishing their contact information) is an interesting tactic. The Board could pressure the company to change a position.

That’s not to say that I agree with everything in the letter. Amusingly, they suggest that Amazon can’t be forced into doing anything. I say that’s amusing, because Amazon has in the past always lost when they’ve gone up against the big publishers…text-to-speech and the Agency Model are two good examples. In the latter case, it took the Department of Justice to make a change.

That history might be part of what may have convinced Amazon to do an “end around”…to try to keep customers without being so reliant on the tradpubs (traditional publishers). We now see that many of Amazon’s bestsellers are not published by the tradpubs. Would it take a long time to get people to make that switch? Sure, but Amazon is famous for taking the long view.

That can’t possibly do it if the customers aren’t on their side, though…

Checking in on my free Flipboard magazines

I continue to be amazed at the growth of my free Flipboard magazines.

The main idea is that you can use the

Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

app, which I read every morning anyway on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

to “flip” articles into a magazine of yours, which you make available to other people for free.

To me, it’s a different medium, in the way that Twitter is.

I doubt I’ve had anything else which has reached more people…although I don’t make any money directly from it, and it certainly doesn’t satisfy my creative nature like this blog does.

Don’t worry…I still love you best. ;)

The Measured Circle

“A geeky mix of pop culture, tech, and the weird world”

The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

  • 2,278 readers
  • 5,630 page flips (by other people of my article choices)
  • 6,124 articles

ILMK (I Love My Kindle)

“The long-running blog about the world of e-books and publishing, which is one of the most popular blogs of any kind in the Kindle store, brings you related news stories”

ILMK magazine at Flipboard

  • 654 readers
  • 35,590 (!) page flips
  • 3,607 articles

The Weird Old Days

“Has the world always been weird? These news stories from the 19th and early 20th centuries bring you tales of lake monsters, the Hollow Earth, ghosts, and more! Edited by Bufo Calvin, of The Measured Circle blog. Note: these articles reflect the culture of their times. As such, they may use terms and concepts which some modern readers will find offensive”

  • 112 readers
  • 381 page flips
  • 269 articles

Doc Savage Fanflip

“Doc Savage, the forerunner of Superman and Batman, has been one of my fictional heroes for a very long time. Thanks in part to Doc, I try to better myself to help others, and to do so with “…no regard for anything but justice.” A “fanflip” is my new term for a Flipboard magazine by a fan, dedicated to one topic. I will bring you not only Doc Savage news, but Doc stories and resources from around the web. Think of it as a scrapbook with news.”

  • 100 readers
  • 272 page flips
  • 89 articles

As you can see, The Measured Circle has the most readers…but ILMK has by far the most article flips by other people.

For more information on them, see Update on my free Flipboard magazines.

What do you think? What would Amazon’s best strategy be to get public opinion back…or do you think they haven’t lost it? Do you think Amazon is working to make the tradpubs irrelevant to their success strategy? Should Amazon buy Radio Shack? Would that be like Futurama coming back after it was canceled? ;) Should Amazon even have brick and mortar stores? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

 Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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.

Their other books

June 9, 2014

Their other books

Amazon has an interesting

Amazon Author Rank (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

page (it says it is in beta…test mode) where they rank their most popular authors (and update it hourly).

I thought I’d make a game out of this!

I’m going to give you one of the books that the author wrote…but not that author’s most popular book. It will be one of the more popular ones, though (top four)…that’s the easiest way to do this (and it keeps me from going deliberately obscure).

I’m doing these in order: the most popular author wrote the number one book on this list.

Without looking it up, let’s see how many authors you can identify…

  1. Looking for Alaska
  2. Revival
  3. Insurgent
  4. A Feast for Crows
  5. Middle School: Get Me out of Here!
  6. Dark Witch
  7. City of Lost Souls
  8. The Space Between
  9. Slow Burn
  10. The Finisher
  11. The Chase
  12. A Halflings (sic) Rescue
  13. Obsessed
  14. Letters to My Daughter
  15. Quarry
  16. Grave Peril
  17. Never Go Back
  18. Deadline
  19. The Little Friend
  20. The Mark of Athena
  21. Three Wishes
  22. John Grisham’s The Partner
  23. Sharp Objects
  24. 4 fer au feu
  25. The Racketeer
  26. Hold On My Heart
  27. Happy Birthday to You!
  28. Ring in the Dead
  29. When We Met
  30. The Death Cure
  31. The Quiet Game
  32. Where We Belong
  33. The Eye of Heaven
  34. Castle of Sand
  35. The Atlantis Gene
  36. Steelheart
  37. The Elite
  38. I Want to Hold Your Hand
  39. The Way Life Should Be
  40. Catching Fire
  41. A Dark Mind
  42. White Lace and Promises
  43. The Proposition 3
  44. Club Prive Book 4
  45. X-Men: Messiah Complex
  46. Heart Stealers
  47. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  48. The Black Box
  49. Surrender
  50. A Tap on the Window
  51. The Snake Handler
  52. FaceOff
  53. Earth Awakens
  54. This Regret
  55. Shadow Kiss
  56. Clockwork Angel
  57. The Chance
  58. Thankless in Death
  59. Deeply Odd
  60. Wonder
  61. A Kiss of Shadows
  62. Just One Day
  63. Innocent Blood
  64. Beyond Desire
  65. The Last Letter from Your Lover
  66. I Am the Messenger
  67. La ladrona de libros
  68. The Great Divide
  69. The Economies of Rising Inequalities
  70. Magic Tree House Boxed Set #52
  71. Reaper’s Legacy
  72. When the Heart Waits
  73. Autumn in the Vineyard
  74. Gone for Good
  75. Killing Lincoln
  76. Killing Patton
  77. Hidden Order
  78. Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends (only one book listed)
  79. Brothers in Battle, Best of Friends (only one book listed) (co-author)
  80. The Lost Symbol
  81. The Cold Truth
  82. The Longest Ride
  83. Night Shift
  84. King for a Day
  85. When Day Breaks
  86. A Tragic Wreck
  87. Dark Wolf
  88. Good Omens
  89. SuperFreakonomics
  90. SuperFreakonomics (co-author)
  91. Maid of Murder
  92. The Back Road
  93. First Sight
  94. Living History
  95. Cockroaches
  96. Out of Breath
  97. The Great Hunt
  98. David and Goliath
  99. Other People We Married
  100. Doggies

Wow! That was a lot harder than I would have thought! I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager (although it’s been some time), and I would not have done well in this game. Better than a lot of people, I’m sure, but I don’t think I would have gotten twenty of these.

There are also some weird things in their algorithms: the same author may show up more than once, for example. I guess it’s reasonable that if there are co-authors, they show up separately. One person is listed as an author, but isn’t, exactly…

I’ll be curious to hear how many you got! I’m hoping this also leads you to some discovery of additional books to read.

Update: one of my regular readers and commenters, Lady Galaxy, correctly pointed out that I didn’t say I was going to give you the answers. :) I will…I’ll probably give it a couple of days.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

My new free Flipboard magazine, The Weird Old Days features vintage articles on ghosts, sea serpents, psychic phenomena, and more

* 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.

Maya Angelou reported dead

May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou reported dead

It is with sadness that I report the apparent passing of

Maya Angelou (at AmazonSmile)

Maya Angelou writes with an unusual combination of strength and gentleness. Injustice is called out, but the response is not in fighting it…rather, it is in being unbroken by it.

If you are moved by this to buy some of Maya Angelou’s works, please consider doing so through AmazonSmile, and designating a Maya Angelou related charity (so they can benefit from your purchases). You can always change your designation to a different non-profit later, if you like.

For example, there is the See Forever Foundation, which runs the Maya Angelou Schools.

This page also lists some other causes Maya Angelou supported:

Look To the Stars

Here is a suggestion for you. It isn’t the best known, but may feel particularly connected right now:

Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (at AmazonSmile)

The audiobook, read by Angelou herself, is available through Whispersync for Voice. The sample on that page is quite long, and worth hearing this morning.

New! Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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.

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.


  • 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


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…


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?


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 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.


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