Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Round up #264: monkeying around with the Fire Phone, the 11th book

August 17, 2014

Round up #264: monkeying around with the Fire Phone, the 11th book

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

The 11th book

People talk about the “tenth man” in baseball (that means the fans in the stands, who, in addition to the nine players on the field at a time are believed to influence the outcome of the game).

Well, I’ve run into an interesting situation with the “eleventh book”. ;)

I’ve mentioned before, and other readers have brought it up, that since I’ve joined Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s “all you can read” subser (subscription service), I haven’t been able to borrow a book through the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library). That’s part of my benefits as an eligible Prime member with a hardware Kindle.

I had been borrowing a book every month (that’s the maximum…one a calendar month), and I’ve come to think of it as one of the reasons we have Prime in my family…although certainly not the most important. The “no additional cost” two-day shipping is the main reason, and I use Prime video quite a bit. Prime music is fun, but I haven’t integrated it into my routines yet.

I checked with Amazon, and I published how they told me it should work here:

Kindle Unlimited: how does it affect authors, and what’s the deal with the KOLL?

It just wasn’t working that way for me: even when I was eligible to borrow a book from the KOLL, I wasn’t being given the option to do so on

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

Well, one of my contacts at Amazon suggested I check with Kindle Support: so I used Mayday on my Kindle Fire, and that person knew the answer right away!

When a book is in both the KOLL and KU (there are more books in KU than the KOLL, but just about all the KOLL books are part of KU), and you are a KU member and eligible for the KOLL, it will default to KU…unless you already have the maximum ten books (at a time) out from KU.

Hey…I just tested this by borrowing ten books from KU…and my options didn’t change! I still can’t borrow a book from the KOLL.

I’ll follow up with Amazon: false alarm. :(

I can at least report that when you have ten books borrowed from KU and try to borrow one more, it will offer to return the one you borrowed the longest time ago…or let you pick another one.

Update: I just spent, oh, half an hour or so with Mayday on this. I was passed from my first rep to another one, who then consulted extensively with another person. The best they can tell me at this point is that they are aware of the issue, and they’ll follow up with me when it is solved.

Bookstore sales fall 7.9%

According to this

Publishers Weekly article

the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that bookstore sales are down 7.9% year over year for the first half of 2014.

That’s a huge amount for an industry without a lot of margin (I used to be a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager).

My guess is that there are some small stores doing quite well, and even growing, and that we are seeing this impact mostly from large or “undifferentiated” stores…ones without a specific “personality”.

I think it’s likely that more books are actually being read, thanks to e-books, but physical bookstores have to be destination stores to survive. You have to make people care about you enough that they will willingly pay more money than they would have paid online just to support you. That is entirely doable, but it does take focus and effort.

Entertaining a kid on BART

My Significant Other and I went to see a San Francisco Giants game today (a rare treat…my parents took us). On the way home on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit…that’s sort of our subway system around here), there was a fussy three-year old.

I always keep apps on my Kindle Fire specifically to entertain kids. :) After clearly gaining permission, I let the kid play with

Fingerpaint Magic (at Amazon Smile*)

That went well…we had a smiling and laughing kid in a short period of time. My SO also pointed out that this three-year old figured out how to start a new drawing, and select a background…much sooner than my SO would have. ;)

After a while, we switched to

Monkey Buddy (at AmazonSmile*)

a free app on my

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile*)

It’s an interactive animal…you can think sort of like a Tamagotchi.

It reacts to what you do…stroke the ears, for example, and it gets happy.

It will also take a picture of you when you tap a camera…and then draw on the picture (putting glasses on you, for example), and then discards it (the picture is not saved).

Although a three-year old won’t discover this right away (and this was a bright kid), it will also react to your head movements. Nod your head “yes”, and it gets happy, recognizing it as approval. Shake your head “no”, and it gets sad. It also gets sad if it can’t see you.

I do want to mention something about using the Fire Phone. When I try to demonstrate the dynamic perspective (which I can “dy-per”, just for fun), I will tell someone to move their head to look at the phone to see the effect.

Most people stare steadily at the phone without moving their heads…even after I say it.

I have to point out that it is like you are trying to peek into the side of the phone.

Before the Fire Phone, I hadn’t noticed how rigidly people hold their heads when looking at a phone, but I guess that makes sense with most phones.

51% of kindergarteners through 5th graders prefer to read on a screen over paper


EBOOK FRIENDLY article by Ola Kowalczyk

has some interesting facts in an infographic from a survey by

The one I’ll point out is preferred reading medium.

37% prefer reading on a tablet (the infographic includes “Kindles” in that, and I would think not just the Kindle Fires), 35% prefer paper, and 14% prefer a computer. 12% preferred someone else reading to them (I’m going to guess they weren’t thinking text-to-speech, but a human being).

That’s extraordinary, and important.

Little kids’ books lagged behind adult and young adult titles in getting into the e-book market. Part of that was they waited for the technology: color, for one thing.

If screens are now the preferred method, bookstore sales may drop a lot more than 7.9% in a few years…

I think we’ll see an impact on the “books as gifts” market this holiday…Amazon should promote very strongly giving Kindle Unlimited (maybe for three months) as a gift this holiday! Not sure exactly the mechanism for that, but we serious readers know how intimidated other people can be in trying to pick out specific books for us. Netflix gifts have been a significant thing for a while: subscriptions to subsers (subscription services) for e-books could be really big.

What do you think? Why do so many kids like to read on computers (that surprised me)? Is it because those kids don’t have “tablets”, perhaps? Are there books that you prefer to read on a computer? Would you let your kid play with a stranger’s phone/tablet/Kindle? Do you keep things with you to entertain kids? Would you give KU as a gift? Are bookstores on the way out, or is it only certain bookstores? 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.

Does high school unmake readers?

August 7, 2014

Does high school unmake readers?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a voracious, insatiable learner.

A really key part of that is reading. You learn, even when you are “reading for fun”. When talking to other people, I have to monitor my language and references, if I want to really communicate with them. Not everyone will understand relating taking a work assignment to the Charge of the Light Brigade, for example.

You would think, then, that I would have loved high school. After all, that’s supposed to be about learning, right?

Certainly, there were parts of it I did love. I had a couple of great teachers. In particular, I was lucky to be able to take a science fiction class with a wonderful teacher.

I remember, though, having an epiphany.

I had noticed (with dismay) that my reading speed had slowed. It hit me as to a possible reason.

In reading for school, they were taking the fun out of it. They were wanting me to constantly analyze what I was reading.

In addition, there was a lot of rote memorization, and not as much about connections. We learned history, to some extent, by learning dates and names, not motivations and relationships.

I believed then (and still do now) that that approach was making me a less effective reader.

Thanks to


for the heads up on this

Common Sense Media reporton Children, Teens, and Reading

which, unfortunately, confirms that many fewer kids report reading for fun at age 17 than do at age 13.

The report covers a lot of topics, but here’s a statistic that may suggest that school degrades reading for fun: 53% of nine-year olds report reading for fun every day, while only 19% of seventeen-year olds do.

In testing my hypothesis, though, I have to point out that the drop is even greater going from nine to thirteen years old than it is for going from thirteen to seventeen.

So, it might not be just high school…but reading in school generally. :)

Of course, I could just be conflating two things…maybe it’s not the school, maybe it is other factors. Perhaps kids are more social by age seventeen, and may have less time for essentially solitary pursuits. Maybe a significant portion of seventeen-year olds work, or have after school activities.

While I don’t want to take too much away from the report and I do recommend that you read it (and/or look at the infographic, also at the site linked above), I want to mention one more thing.

In 1984, 9% of seventeen-year olds say that they “never” or “hardly ever” read. That number is up to 27% today.

I’m going to have to think about that, to come up with ways that it is a positive. I almost always can find more of a positive than a negative, and I can almost always find both.

Right offhand, though, I can’t think of much that I believe is more valuable than reading…

What do you think? Could the reporting be incorrect in some way…perhaps kids today are more likely to downplay their reading, an misrepresent it on a survey? Could kids be defining reading in a different way? Is it a case of opportunity? In that case, will e-books reverse the trend? 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!

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 #259: read to your kids, Prince of Tides

June 25, 2014

Round up #259: read to your kids, Prince of Tides

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

KDD: Prince of Tides

One of today’s Kindle Daily Deals (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) is

The Prince of Tides (at AmazonSmile)
by Pat Conroy
4.5 stars out of 5, 501 customer reviews
$1.99 at time of writing

Very successful and made into a movie, this is a good one for your guest Kindle, or just for a read for you. :) It’s almost thirty years old at this point: I’m sure some people wonder why a “classic” like this isn’t available legally free on line. ;)

Supreme Court rules against Aereo

According to this

The Guardian article by Dominic Rushe

and other sources (I have the TV on in the other room while I write this, so I can listen to CNN), the Supreme Court has just ruled against “rebroadcaster” Aereo.

This is a copyright issue at heart, and I think a lot of people generally expect those to go in the direction of more access in the future…but this one didn’t.

For example, my guess is that it is legal to digitize a p-book (paperbook) you own to turn in into a digital file for your own use (sort of like using a DVR to record a broadcast program), but to my knowledge, that has not been established. I’ve been thinking that it will be solidly established at some point, and nobody is hunting anybody down at this point, but it hasn’t happened yet.

This is a bit different, though, because Aereo is a commercial enterprise.

Aereo uses antennae to pick up over the air signals, and then stream them to subscribers.

They argued that they were an antennae company, not a streaming company…at least, that’s my understanding. Picking up the signals by antenna is legal, of course: it’s the way they got to consumers that was in question.

This could impact literary content, at some point, as hardware becomes more capable of digitizing things. That ability will be one of things I test early on my Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile)…on something in the public domain.

13 single issues of magazines, $0.99 each

I do read magazines on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

both from the Kindle store, and from Zinio.

I often mention the roughly ten thousand paperbooks I have on shelves in  our home…but I also have quite a few old magazines.

Many years ago, there was a store going out of business (I think) in my town, and I bought a wooden magazine shelf…I think I paid $5 for it.

I’m sure we’ve paid more than that in gas hauling it around when we’ve moved over the years. ;)

It’s about a person tall and a couple of people wide, and has a lot of horizontal slots…you can put maybe ten issues of a magazine in one, and still see the top one to see what title it is.

My intuition, though, is that some people haven’t even tried magazines on their Kindle Fires.

One reason for that is that the experience on a non-Fire Kindle just didn’t approach that of paper.

For me, the Fire’s experience of reading a glossy magazine often exceeds paper.

Yes, one reason is the “digital extras” you may get. I’ve been an


for a very long time. I’m not usually big on watching the trailers they include, but I do listen to song samples sometimes. They also may include a video interview, and that can be quite an enhancement.

Pictures look great, and while not all magazines give you the text + pictures mode of

National Geographic (at AmazonSmile)

I’ve been able to zoom photos and have used that to show off the Fire’s screen. On the HDX, you can triple tap pretty much any screen (not videos) to magnify it, then use two fingers together to drag it around.

Why don’t more people read magazines on their Fires?

While you can get a 14-day free trial (or thirty day, in some cases), those renew automatically…and I think it concerns people. A year-long subscription is a lot more than most people pay for an e-book.

Amazon is having a

Ninety-nine cent single issue sale (at AmazonSmile)

for one week only.

I’ve bought a couple of single issues of magazines and newspapers from the Kindle store over the years. There was something specific in them that I wanted, but I didn’t really want a subscription.

Well, if you want to try out reading a magazine without worrying about a renewal, you may want to get one of these during the sale:

  • Eating Well
  • More
  • Do it Yourself
  • Family Circle
  • Better Homes and Gardens
  • Every Day with Rachel Ray
  • Fitness
  • Traditional Home
  • allrecipes
  • FamilyFun
  • Midwest Living
  • Parents
  • Wood – by Better Homes & Gardens (um…it may be a good thing they included the subtitle…) ;)

Michael Hart, The Grandfather of E-Books

This is a nice

Bidness Etc. article by Zoe Jacobson

about Michael Hart, who created Project Gutenberg…which is the reason we have so many free classics legally available to us today.

The article also talks about e-books generally.

I recommend it, although you may need to sign-up to be able to read the whole thing.

AAP recommends reading to your child

I used to work for The American Academy of Pediatrics, so I should mention that first.

According to this

NPR piece with Audie Cornish…transcript and audio

the AAP is specifically recommending reading to children, even infants, every day.


Not every adult serious reader was read to as a child, but many of us were…and I do think it matters.

They are talking about linguistic development for one thing. Let me give you some of my thoughts on that part of it.

When we read we use many words we might not otherwise use…it’s why so many of us appear to be British when we write, when we may never have been there. ;)

Also, when we read to a child, we are speaking steadily for a period of time. The focus is on words: the words on the page for us, but the words in our mouths for the child. How many people have a “conversation” with a pre-verbal child that lasts as long as

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (at AmazonSmile)

With older children, you are really modeling the act of reading, in addition to other positive elements. When you see the adults in your life reading as, say, a five-year old, you want to read, too. One great thing is that when kids are trying to establish themselves as separate from their intellectual guardians, I don’t think they tend to do that by becoming non-readers…they just read different things. Once you are a reader, you tend to stay a reader, I believe. Reading is like interacting with another person…just time delayed. ;) Not very many people stop talking to other people…

What do you think? Is digitizing a book for your own use legal? Do you read magazines on a tablet…or perhaps on an non-Fire Kindle? Do you haul old issues of magazines around with you from house to house…and if so, do you ever pull them out and read them again (I do)? Were you the first serious reader in your family? If so, what got you started? 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.


Get 300 Amazon Coins for browsing Summer Reading for Kids

May 20, 2014

Get 300 Amazon Coins for browsing Summer Reading for Kids

I think this one is clever, although I certainly expect to encounter some push back to it.

Amazon has a

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


It’s further divided into

  • Summer Reading for Kids (2,364) (at time of writing)
  • Summer Reading for Teens & Young Adults (1,114)
  • Summer Reading for Adults (1,878)

and has a lot more discovery options besides those age-based ones.

Well, if you click on a book featured in the Summer Reading for Kids section (you don’t have to buy it…just click on it), you’ll get $3 in AmazonCoins (you can only do this once per customer…in case you had dreams of a clicking frenzy). ;)

My guess is that there may be some criticism from people who think that apps are likely to distract children from reading, so they may see this as hypocritical (since the coins are used to buy apps or make in-app purchases).

However, that is a perhaps…shallow understanding of apps.

That’s like saying that “all books are good for you”. Oh, wait…I do think that one’s true. ;)

It would be like saying all comic books are for children. A medium, while it may influence the content, does not define it.

There are, for example, over 1,500

Children’s Book Apps (at AmazonSmile)

in the Amazon Appstore…some of those might actually encourage someone to do more reading.

Regardless, this is a low cost way to get $3 worth of coins. :)

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.

Round up #234: kids read e-books, “bigger than Kindle”

January 16, 2014

Round up #234: kids read e-books, “bigger than Kindle”

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

Census Bureau: bookstore sales drop 1.7%

The Census Bureau regularly releases sales figures, and the numbers are out for the first 11 months of 2013 versus the first 11 months of 2012.

The bookstore figure went down from $11,913,000,000 to $11,707,000,000 (I think I’m doing those zeroes right)…down about 1.7%.

For retail stores, where the margin may not be that big to begin with, that’s a big drop.

It’s also important to note that Barnes & Noble, for example, cited considerable growth in some non-book items in its holiday report. It’s likely that traditionally published paperbooks (p-books) being sold in bookstores saw a considerably bigger drop in 2013. I think we’ll see that accelerate in 2014…especially if we can get unit numbers. I expect the price of paperbooks to generally climb in 2014.

General retail, by the way, was rising during the same period…

Two thirds of children now read e-books

Here is one likely contributor to a reduction in bookstore sales.

According to this

Digital Book World post by Jeremy Greenfield

2/3rds of children who are readers read e-books. Now, that doesn’t mean that they read them exclusively, but it is up from 54% last year.

Looking at the figures broken out by age group, the younger the child, the more likely they are to read e-books at least once a day, with the two to five year old group at 50%.

Now, a two- year old isn’t going to be actually reading the book…at that age, they’d be more likely to be using board books in the physical world, and perhaps importantly, interactive books on tablets.

Still, the trend that the younger the child, the more e-books, bodes ill for bookstores in the future.

Children’s books are a very important part of the revenue stream for most brick-and-mortar bookstores (I speak as a former manager). They are often given as gifts, and people will pay more for them (although they may also cost more to produce for the publisher).

Class action suit against Barnes & Noble

Are you a Barnes & Noble stockholder? You may want to get involved in a class action suit against the bookseller:

press release

Here is a short excerpt of the release:

“The complaint alleges that during the Class Period, Barnes & Noble issued materially false and misleading statements regarding the Company’s financial performance and future business prospects.  Specifically, the complaint alleges that defendants misrepresented or failed to disclose: (1) Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-book reader sales had dramatically declined; (2) the Company would shutter its Nook manufacturing operations altogether; (3) the carrying value of the Nook assets were impaired by millions of dollars; (4) the carrying value of the Nook inventory was overstated by $133 million; (5) the Company was expecting fiscal 2014 retail losses in the high single digits; (6) Barnes & Noble had over-accrued certain accounts receivables; (7) Barnes & Noble was unable to provide timely audited financial results for fiscal 2013; and (8) the Company might be forced to restate its previously reported financial results.”

As I’ve mentioned before, the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) has been looking into Barnes & Noble.

None of that is good for them…

In related news, I keep seeing people asking when they’ll get the money from the successfully settled class action suit against the publishers. I also hear people complaining that it’s been repeatedly been pushed back.

Here is Amazon’s

Judge Denise Cote approved the settlement on December 6th. There was a thirty-day period after that, and then there is some essentially administrative time for companies to get the payments together:

My guess? Early February, from Amazon…

Amazon working on something “bigger than Kindle”?

Well, here is an intriguing

Engadget post by Jon Fingas

It has what appears to be a fascinating invitation from Amazon’s “Kindle New Initiative” team to an event which was scheduled for December 30th.

In it, they say they are working on a new product that will be “…bigger than Kindle”.

Obviously, there isn’t a lot of information in the invitation, but it does say it is a product, not a service…and the host does have “Kindle” in the title.

What could it be?

It might not be that hard to have something that has bigger sales than the Kindle, but it would be harder to have something that was more disruptive to an industry or more noted by the media.

Sure, it could be a phone…but would that be bigger news? Maybe if it was 3-D (which has been rumored).

Could it be a TV gadget? Yes, that could fit the bill. The Google Chromecast has already outsold the Kindles…at Amazon. If they could do something that disrupted network TV delivery, that would be big enough to be considered bigger than the Kindle. A lot more people watch TV than read books.

The big money in an industry to change would be videogames, but I would guess that is less likely.

Connected home?

Kindle car?

I’ve joked about some of those.

I just tried to look a little bit more into “Kindle New Initiatives”. One thing: apparently, December 30th was a mistake…they meant January 30th. That, or they are working on time travel. ;)

I will tell you this: I didn’t get an invitation…yet. :) My adult kid does live in the Boston area, Amazon, if that makes it any easier. ;)

What do you think? What, if anything, could reverse the slide in bookstore revenue? Are interactive e-books the new board books? What could Amazon be working on? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

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

Round up #226: E-book settlement, B&N investigation

December 11, 2013

Round up #226: E-book settlement, B&N investigation

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

Kindle Fire update in “the coming weeks”

In this

press release

Amazon announces an update coming to the Kindle Fires “… just in time for the holidays”. Of course, they don’t say which holidays. ;)

The PR focuses on some important and interesting changes to Kindle FreeTime, which helps guardians set limits on the use of the tablet. One interesting one is the ability to require a certain amount of “educational” use before you can use it for “entertainment”.

As a trainer, I can tell you that you really can’t have much education without entertainment, but that’s another discussion. ;) I’ve asked people to remember back when they were in elementary school: very few of them recall sitting in the classroom…most of them first remember playing with their friends. Kudos to their teachers if their now adult students do think of that first!

While this is great in and of itself (and they promise more improvements after that for FreeTime), I’m also excited because it’s quite possible (knock virtual wood) that the upgrade will contain bug fixes. As I’ve mentioned (and others have also said they have this issue), my wi-fi won’t stay connected since the last upgrade (Amazon is aware of the problem). I have to toggle Airplane Mode on and off many times a day…virtual fingers crossed that this upgrade might address that as well.

ITYS*: raptors will attack PrimeAircraft

When I wrote about Amazon’s PrimeAir reveal (delivery by small “octocopters”), I said:

“Certainly, dogs would pose a risk, as might bird strikes (perhaps even intentional ones, in the case of a raptor), but I’m not convinced it would be inherently more risky.”

I was pleased to see that this

Slate article by Nicholas Lund

not only agrees with me on the bird risk, but has video to prove it!

Also on the “drone” front (I don’t consider artificially intelligent craft to be “drones”, but I know many people define them as simply craft without humans on board…whether they have remote pilots or not), I saw this news today, and later saw a comment from one of my readers about it:

CNN article by Ann Cabrera

A town called Deer Trail in Colorado is going to vote (it was postponed) on a law allowing residents to shoot down drones.

Quite simply, I’m horrified. :( Even though this is aimed (so to speak) at government drones, there is no question that it would result in commercial drones being shot down as well (and kids’ toys, for that matter). I’m thinking that there would be a lot of mistaken identity (possibly even resulting in bird deaths), even though the bounty (really!) is higher on a complete drone with government markings.

Sure, shoot down the drone delivering a shut-in’s medicine, or the book a poor child saved up for six months to buy. Sure, those are “slippery slope” examples…even just the destruction itself makes me unhappy. This is specifically designed to destroy other people’s property…I think that puts it in a different category than a lot of other questions people might see as related.

On a lighter note…

Amazon Rockets parody on YouTube

My favorite clock is a Kindle

This seems a bit bizarre, but they gave us a new (free) clock app with the last Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers upgrade. Yes, it appears to have caused the wi-fi glitch I mention above, but there were a lot of good things about it. This app is one of them.

I’ve mentioned before that I have some color vision deficiency, and my understanding is that connected to that, I have superior night vision. Any light in a room (or the room next door, or down the hall…) can bother me at night.

We also got a used bedroom set. It’s nice, but it was hard to conveniently plug in a clock, just because of the design.

Well, the clock app on the Fire solves both of those problems. It has a “Nightstand” mode, which has the time (and a postmodern clock design…that one takes some getting used to, but I don’t typically use analog clocks anyway) in red. With the brightness turned down all the way, it’s been the most pleasant clock. I was also a bit worried about running it not plugged in, but it consistently takes about 50% of the charge over night (it hasn’t taken more than fifty). Again, I have the brightness turned down all the way (a big battery charge life saver), and the wi-fi off.

If I wake up in the middle of the night (we have a new dog…yes, in bed with us, so it happens), I can see the time without it seeming too bright.

Oh, while I’m talking about apps for the Fire, let me also mention

This is a goofy free app, but might be great for a little holiday fun. You can use video backgrounds, characters, and objects they supply…or you can add your  own pictures. Then, you animate them in a very simple way and do a voiceover. I found it to be easy to use…for example, the character will automatically flip to face the other direction, depending on how you move. They have licensed images from Pacific Rim. You can share your videos publicly, but that’s up to you.

State e-book settlements approved…pay-outs coming in 2014

According to this

Publishers Weekly article by Andrew Albanese

my favorite Federal judge (what…you have one, right? ;) ), Denise Cote, has approved the pay-out plan for the settlements between the States Attorneys General and Macmillan and Penguin (which completes the group).

That was on December 6th, and then there is a thirty day period, and then a bit of time after that…I’d say those of us getting pay-outs will see them…oh, by early February. Amazon told us before that they will show up as credits, and I expect the Smilin’ A (I’ve recently started calling Amazon that…I like it. ;) Feel free to let me know if you like it or not) to be one of the fastest at doing this.

Well, at least B&N hasn’t been in legal troub—uh, oh

Barnes & Noble has been in a bad news factory lately, with a particularly poor quarterly financial report…and I’m afraid to see what this quarter is going to be for them.

They didn’t need anything else to spook investors, but they got it.

According to this

Wall Street Journal article by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg

and other sources, Barnes & Noble is under investigation by the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) for questionable accounting practices.

A really healthy company could probably handle that better than one that is walking on such thin financial ice already…share prices are down.

Keep the text by blocking the tip

Just a little tip for you: when you want to listen to text-to-speech in the car, lock your device so it doesn’t auto-rotate. When a Fire autorotates, text-to-speech stops playing. I simply lock my rotation (swiping down from the top, or using the Settings gear, depending on your model) before starting TTS. That way, it doesn’t stop when I set it on the seat for the drive.

What do you think? Is shooting down a drone a legitimate thing to do? Is the the straw that breaks B&N’s back? Do you care about the refund you might get from the settlement? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

* I Told You So ;)

** 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! :) NOte: you can select as the non-profit you support, if you want.

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 #219: Kids need books, Black Friday deal revealed?

November 9, 2013

Round up #219: Kids need books, Black Friday deal revealed?

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

Mini-review: Teenagers from the Future

Teenagers from the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes
edited by Timothy Callahan
text-to-speech, lending enabled (no X-Ray, no Whispersync for Voice)
$4.99 at time of writing (can be borrowed through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library at time of writing)

Writing about popular culture and treating it as Significant Art can be tricky.

In some cases, it appears that the author really isn’t a fan or understands the genre all that well, but rather enjoys applying academic skills to any subject…sort of like trying to figure out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, without really believing there are angels…or caring about dance.

On the other side, you have “fans who write”, who don’t necessarily write all that well, but are enthusiastic and simply want you to believe that Superman is as deep as Shakespeare, with an understanding of the latter consisting mostly of education by Leonardo DiCaprio and Olivia Hussey. ;)

While Teenagers from the Future is almost by necessity uneven (being a collection of essays by different authors), it falls into neither of the above categories.

I found it both insightful and entertaining.

I read the Legion when it was first published, and haven’t really kept up with its development in subsequent reboots…but I find that it’s generally much more difficult to spoil comics for someone than to spoil a book. They aren’t always about this or that particular plot twist…sometimes, even if you know the plot, it doesn’t affect your enjoyment of it.

What is the Legion?

Well, it’s kind of a bizarre concept, at least the way I knew it…and that’s part of what makes it work.

In the future, a group of teenagers, inspired by the adventures of Superboy (Superman when he was a boy) in their distant past, form a club of superheroes (yes, they have super powers…although in some cases, their powers would be normal on their home planets). They then interact with Superboy, through time travel.

Okay, that’s strange enough initially…super powered fans and the complexities of time travel.

However, the Legion was not your typical comic series. For one thing, they killed off a major character quite quickly.

For another, they had a group of reject applicants (the Substitute Legion) with powers that were either pretty useless (one could turn into a statue…not a moving statue, just a statue: another could change the colors of objects), or were dangerously unpredictable (Infectious Lass, for example, who could generate diseases…but not control reliably which ones or who they affected).

All of that was obvious to me when I was first reading it.

Not so obvious was some of the social commentary. As John G. Hemry writes in this collection in the essay, “Liberating the Future: Women in the Early Legion”, by the 30th Century, women were treated a lot more equally (usually).

The Legion was often led by Saturn Girl, and there wasn’t anything considered to be unusual about a woman leading the group (often into combat…and the female Legionnaires fought like the male ones, punching people, when not using their powers).

I wonder how much that did influence readers of the comics. I suspect that Legion readers were much more comfortable in the 1960s and 1970s with female bosses (whether the employees were females or males) than the average person.

I also enjoyed the “The Legion’s Super-Science” by James Kakalios. It includes an analysis of how the Legion’s “flight rings” might actually work.

One thing about the Legion: they celebrated intelligence, not just fighting ability. Kakalios points out:

“In Adventure Comics #321, June 1964, when Lightning Lad is locked up for the rest of his life for ‘betraying’ the Legion by  ‘revealing’ the  secret  of the Concentrator, his cell has buttons for the three essentials of life: food, water, and books!”

I don’t think you have to be a Legion fan (there are still many) to enjoy the book…but I do think it would help. ;) This might be another good gift for a Baby Boomer geek (the Legion started in 1958).

Best Buy Black Friday Kindle HD deal?

I’ve written before about

my favorite source for information about sales on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving).

Thanks go to a reader, though, who gave me a heads up in a private e-mail to this

ZDnet story by Sean Portnoy

I hadn’t started planning for the day yet, but according to them, a Best Buy employee mentioned some Black Friday deals during an interview with a local TV station in Arkansas, and one of them was the

Kindle Fire HD 7″, HD Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Without Special Offers

for $99.99.

At least, I think that’s the one: the “Blueshirt” says, in this

Arkansas Matters video

that it is usually $199.99. Well, I don’t know of any configuration that gets you as high as $199.99 at for the Kindle Fire HD, but that’s the closest.

“Doorbusters” like this often disappear quickly and are in limited quantities, so even if this is a nationwide deal, you can’t be sure you’ll get one.

Interestingly, doing a search for Kindle

at this point only shows deals on Fires, not on other models. That will likely change in the next couple of weeks, though.

Amazon may also offer deals: two years ago, they had a big deal on Kindle books on Cyber Monday (the Monday following Black Friday).

Eek! A mouse!

This is a bit weird! Here is a picture from Amazon’s own Lab126 of a wall of Kindles and Kindle insides:

It’s certainly nostalgic to look at it (it sort of looks like a room of hunting trophies), but what appears to be a Kindle Keyboard has a mouse attached to it!

There’s another one that could possibly be a color display on a large screen EBR (E-Book Reader…not a Fire), but it s more likely just a picture in a frame. :)

Kids need books!

I was actually shocked by this

UK Children’s Commissioner survey


The Telegraph article by Sam Marsden

highlighted the significance of technological gadgets to the young people:

“Invited to say what they could not live without, 8.9 per cent of those questioned said their games console, 5.7 per cent said their mobile phone, 4.3 per cent said music and 3.4 per cent said sweets or chocolate.”

However, while “reading books” (and “school books” as a separate category) were in the questionnaire (I checked), I don’t see them being mentioned in the article or in the summary.

I’m sure quite a few of you would have listed that quite high when you were children, as would I. As a kid, I would have ranked books higher than “sweets or chocolate”. We didn’t have game consoles or mobile phones, and perhaps (based on the illustration in the questionnaire), these children are only answering that question around p-books (paperbooks), thinking that if they had a computer and/or a phone, they could still read books.

That’s my hopeful hypothesis. :)

What do you think? Does what we read for entertainment influence our social paradigms? When you were a kid, where would books have ranked among “things you need”? Higher than television, music, or pets? Do kids now think of p-books as something old-fashioned, and a different category than the books they read on their devices? 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

Parental controls and your Kindle

December 24, 2012

Parental controls and your Kindle

This year, many children may start using a new Kindle. While that can be a really wonderful, life-expanding experience, adults may want to guide what that child does. For example, parents/legal guardians might not want a child spending a thousand dollars on apps, or having access to certain content that the adult considers to be inappropriate.

When this issue comes up within the Amazon Kindle community, there are always posters who chide the adult for even asking about it, saying that it should be the parent/legal guardian who watches over what the child does, not some “parental control” tool.

Well, that seems a bit to me like saying you shouldn’t put a lock on the cabinet that has your household deadly chemicals, because you should simply be there to prevent your kid from getting into them. “Parental controls” (and I’m going to use that term for simplicity’s sake, even though it may not be a parent-child situation) are a tool you can use (just like that lock). While we can certainly debate how much free access to content a child should have, I think it’s worth knowing what your options are to help you actualize that decision.

Parental controls can actually give a child more freedom. Let’s say that an adult does not want a child to get to websites that have content not intended for children. I have run into situations where parents will not allow kids to click on websites at all…the parent has to do it, if they are going to go there. With a parental control system, it can be possible to limit which websites the child can access. The parent approves the sites ahead of time, and then the child has the freedom to go to sites within that group without constant supervision.

Is that kind of specific content guidance (called “whitelisting”) possible with a Kindle? Yes, but not with all Kindles at this time.

I’m going to run through the possibilities here. I would set up the Kindle with the guidance you want before the first unsupervised use.  With one click, a child could buy a $600 Amazon Instant Video (you won’t be buying it if you click here, but I thought you might be interested in what it was), and unlike Kindle store books, Amazon Instant Videos are not refundable.

Before we get started, you need to know which Kindle your child is going to be using, since the parental control options and procedures are different on different models.

You can tell by looking at this Amazon help page:

Which Kindle Do I Have?

Next, let’s go through some of the concepts.

Content Purchase Control

This allows you to turn off the ability to purchase content (e-books, videos, apps) directly from Amazon. While you have seven days from purchase to “return” a Kindle store book for a refund, that is not the case with other digital content. Generally, I would turn this off for children who are not responsible for their own finances.

That also goes for a special subset, what are called “in-app purchases”. When you are using an app on a Kindle Fire, you may be offered the opportunity to buy real things with real money. For example, you might be able to purchase a “power up” for a character for ten dollars.

Content Access Control

There are two broad types of this, if we consider a website to be the equivalent of an e-book…the website is treated as one item, just as an individual book would be.

You can turn off access to everything in that category: not allow any videos to be accessed by the device, or not allow any books to be read on the device.

You could also selectively access items. In other words, you can have a “blacklist” of items you don’t allow, or a “whitelist” of items you do. You might let  your child use some apps you have purchased, but not others.

Curated Access Control

In this method, available on some Kindle Fire models, you don’t make the specific decisions for child, but allow your child access to a set of content chosen by someone else. It is sort of the equivalent of letting your child look in the children’s books section of a brick and mortar bookstore (I’m a former manager) and look at anything they want there, but not leave that part of the store.

On all of these, there are three main sources of content, and you may be able to block one or more of them:

  • Items you have already purchased from Amazon (your archives of “Cloud”)
  • Items you have not yet purchased from Amazon
  • Items from outside Amazon

Now, let’s go through the currently available devices:

2nd Generation Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HDs

One approach:

Swipe down from the top of the device – More – Parental Controls

You’ll be asked to enter and confirm a password. Make sure you can remember that password: if necessary write it down.

From here, you’ll have several choices:

  • Block the Silk Web Browser (it just says “Web Browser”). This does not block the device’s access to the internet…it just can no longer use Silk. If you’ve installed another browser (like Maxthon or Dolphin), that one will work just fine. The device will also still be able to download items from your archives/Cloud, and do Wikipedia look-ups
  • Block E-Mail, Contacts, and Calendars (but I believe that will only be the Amazon apps)
  • Password Protect Purchases (this will stop purchasing from Amazon)
  • Password Protect Video Playback (no video playback, regardless of where it was obtained…I have not tested this within apps that play video, and I suspect it might work there)
  • Block and Unblock Content Types (you can block all of a many of these as you want: the Newsstand, Books & Audiobooks, Music, Video, Docs, Apps & Games, Photos).
  • Password Protect Wi-Fi
  • Password Protect LBS (Location Based Services)
  • Password Protect Mobile Network (Kindle Fire 4G only)

If you’d like to block In-App Purchasing, you do that here:

Swipe down – More – Applications – Apps (under Amazon Applications) – In-App Purchasing

You can do that even without using Parental Controls.

The Kindle Fire HDs also have Kindle FreeTime, which is an app that allows you to “whitelist” books, videos, and apps. You can create a profile for each child, and then manage content. Under content, you can add Books, Videos, and/or apps you want them to access. While they are in Kindle FreeTime, they will not have access to anything else (including purchasing from Amazon, web browsing, and in-app purchasing).

Note: they can use the wireless (unless you’ve blocked that in parental controls) to download books from your archives/Cloud. They will not have the ability to share notes and highlights, or to look things up in Wikipedia (but they can look them up in the dictionary).

Even though I have other browsers besides Silk on my device, they did not appear to be available to put into Kindle FreeTime. I tried an app which I knew required the web, and it was able to connect…but browsing appears to be out. I also don’t think you can add the e-mail app.

Additionally, for each profile, you can control time limits. You can set a limit for the total screen time per day, and separate limits each for reading books (which defaults to unlimited), watching videos, and using apps.

Even if they shut the Kindle all the way off, it will restart in Kindle FreeTime. (unless you have previously exited it with your password). You have to enter a password to switch the kids’ profiles: if Raggedy Ann is using it, and Raggedy Andy wants a turn, they have to come to you first.

Still, Kindle FreeTime does give you quite a few options…even if whitelisted web browsing isn’t one of them.

You can actually get whitelisted web browsing for the Kindle Fire HDs…but not for access through Kindle FreeTime (I think…I haven’t tested this one), and not for free.

It’s by using a third-party browser…and a sophisticated one at that:


One last thing for the Fires: you can subscribe to a service called Kindle FreeTime Unlimited. For a monthly fee (as low as $2.99, if you are already an Amazon Prime member), your child can have “all you can eat” access to a curated set of  books, videos, and apps. This can be a great deal! You don’t own these items, and you’ll lose access if you stop subscribing, but there are a lot of well-known characters here, from Curious George to Shrek to Thomas the Tank Engine.

Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Paperwhite can’t play all the content that a Kindle Fire can, and subsequently, the parental controls are much simpler.

Home – Menu – Device Options – Parental Controls

You can turn each of these on and off:

  • Web Browser (Silk)
  • Kindle Store
  • Cloud (archives)

While you can have “active content” on a Kindle Paperwhite, no apps (which means you can’t install extra browsers), no videos.

One nice thing: even if you turn off the Kindle Store, you can buy books for your child on your computer and have them sent to the Kindle Paperwhite.

Mindle (“basic Kindle”, “baby Kindle”)

The Mindle (my name for it) is similar to the Paperwhite in this.

Home – Menu – Settings – Next Page – Parental Controls

You can turn each of these on and off:

  • Web Browser (Silk)
  • Kindle Store
  • Archived Items (same as the Cloud above)

Kindle Keyboard

This is similar to the Mindle

Home – Menu – Settings – Next Page – Parental Controls

and I believe it has the same options.

Free Kindle Reader Apps

I don’t believe these have Parental Controls at this time.

One other choice with all Kindles: you could set up a separate account for your child. That one could have a different payment method, and it would have different archives/Cloud. If you did not have a credit card/debit card listed as a payment method for 1-click, the child would only be able to buy things from Amazon with whatever gift card balance there might be on that account. I personally think it is easier to manage one account, but I wanted to make you aware of this as a possibility.

If you have any additional questions on Kindle parental controls, or have something else you want to tell me and my readers about it, feel free to comment on this post.

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

Amazon introduces Kindle FreeTime Unlimited

December 5, 2012

Amazon introduces Kindle FreeTime Unlimited

“Tablet, tablet in my hand
Who’s the kid-friendliest in the land?”

“Why, NOOK, it once was you, it’s true
But Amazon has something new”

I’ve written before about how Barnes & Noble was getting the jump on Amazon in bringing kids into their e-book ecosystem.

Amazon has certainly made strides, especially after the introduction of the Kindle Fire line, where we got famous kids books in interactive editions…and even apps.

In late October, we got Kindle FreeTime, which was a “parental control” app. While it had some good ideas, it was clunky. You could make it do what you wanted, which was choose things for your child to enjoy and exclude other things, but you had to constantly enter passwords in the same function, and while it may have been kid-friendly, it wasn’t particularly parent-friendly. :)

In this

press release

Amazon introduces a truly revolutionary new parent’s helper.

It promises to do what parents/legal guardians really want, and I think it will be very popular and be the deciding factor on which tablet to get (until somebody else counters it effectively…and then it may be too late for consumers to switch easily).

It’s called Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, and it’s a very different model from the way parents/legal guardians buy kids content now.

It’s an “all you can eat” plan, curated to be appropriate media for kids.

Your child (aged three to eight) will get access to content featuring Disney, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, and PBS (including Reading Rainbow titles)…unlimited access to carefully chosen titles.

In-app purchasing, social media, and advertising are all gone.

How much does it cost?

For Prime members, it’s $2.99 a month for one child, or $6.99 a month for up to six children.

For n0n-Prime members, it’s $4.99 per month for one child, $9.99 for up to six children.

For people with a “family plan”, joining Prime lowers the annual cost by $36…that could make that $79 a year for Prime a lot more attractive…and then Amazon’s got you buying those profitable “diapers and windshield wipers”.

I think this is a really huge announcement. You can read more about the program here:

I’ll be very interested to see the implementation of it.

It’s coming in an update to the new generation of Kindle Fires (apparently, not the Kindle Fire 1st Generation) in the “coming weeks”.

If this is as successful as I think it will be, I can see this expand into a “tween” version, a “teen version”…and could it go on to adults as well? Could we get, say, a $14.99 a month “all you can eat” romance or science fiction/fantasy package?

Well, of course, Prime gets us some of that already. We have all you can eat streaming movies, and one book a month from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

However, the simplicity of a set monthly bill could be attractive, even if you don’t own the media afterwards. Can’t you see gifting somebody a month of a themed media package (maybe mysteries, or Westerns)?

The adult version would be a lot more complicated.

I’ll also guarantee you that Amazon spent a lot of money getting these licenses…Nickelodeon and Disney?

It won’t surprise me to see Amazon’s traditional investors worried about this one…maybe even see the stock drop a bit for a couple of days.

I can also see some folks concerned about having other people curate what your kids read.

Many of my readers have talked about how they had pretty much carte blanche as a kid on reading.

Well, that’s fine: you won’t have to participate. :)

If you want to get an idea of what will be in and out, Common Sense Media (a non-profit) will be involved…here’s their website.

I think that this is potentially as paradigm-busting (what Amazon calls “messing with  normal” as the Kindle itself or Kindle Direct Publishing.

What do you think? Am I overestimating the importance? Will it depend on the way it’s done? Will people like it or not? Will the monthly price rise within the next year (Prime’s annual fee hasn’t)? Could this be expanded to adults? Would you not want to use it because you’d rather do the work (and have the control) or managing your child’s media consumption? 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.


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