Archive for the ‘Copyright’ Category

Kindle’s 10 most wanted: July 5, 2014

July 6, 2014

Kindle’s 10 most wanted: July 5, 2014

When I last wrote about this, back in August of 2010, the situation on “backlist titles” being in the Kindle store was quite different.

The backlist books are typically books that are at least a year old, although that’s a bit of a fluid definition. I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager. We would get catalogs (yes, on paper) of books from publishers.

The front of the catalog would be the new titles…often with the splashiest ones first. A new Stephen King, for example, would be in the very front.

The older titles (which still sold) would be in the back of the catalog…they were the “backlist”.

Four years ago, there were about 650,000 titles in the USA Kindle store: now there are 2,663,833.

The books that I listed as being most discussed as wanted (based on my impressions of what I saw in the forums?

So, all three of those are available.

Here are the ones I listed as most wanted back then, based on the list at


which I consider the most valuable resource on the web for Kindleers:

  • Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina by Robert Graves: available
  • And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmeyer: not available
  • The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny: while that particular omnibus is not available, several Zelazny Amber books are
  • Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutheford: available
  • Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart: not available
  • Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters: available
  • Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman: available
  • Crimes Against Liberty by David Limbaugh: available
  • When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman: available
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: not available

As you can see, great progress has been made. Only three out of those ten are really not available (legally through the USA Kindle store), and then we have the Zelazny Amber situation…which I think we can consider to be unavailable, since I don’t think the ones available are the ones in that omnibus.

What are the top ten most wanted now?

#10: The Neverending Story
by Michael Ende

#9: Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart (repeat from above)

#8: The Belgariad, Volume 1 by David Eddings: the first one of the three books in this series is available…and can be borrowed through the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library). The other two are not

#7: Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey: a number of other Pern books are available

#6: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

#5: The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye

#4: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKindley

#3: Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy: these books were available (under the title “Legacy” at one point, but don’t appear to me now)

#2: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

#1: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (hasn’t dropped in rank since I checked in 2010)

Some of you may be thinking that some of these are “classics” and should be out of copyright protection. That’s not the case. If they were, you can bet that there would be versions legally available in the Kindle store. When something is in “the public domain”, the public owns it: anybody can publish it without getting permission.

Eventually, all books (under the current rules) will fall into the public domain, but it could be a while. That’s especially true for authors who are still living…the current basic term is Life+70 years, at least for books first published in the USA since March 1, 1989. That can be stretched back to 1978, provided that the book had a proper copyright notice (I think we may be the only country with copyright rules which are this convoluted).

The Crystal Cave, for example, was published in 1970…if it followed all the rules (and it will have), it would fall into the public domain on January 1st of 2066, I think.

That doesn’t mean we will have to wait that long, though. :)

As you can see from the number which have been Kindleized since the 2010 list, deals do get made.

That’s the key thing.

Authors retain rights which they haven’t licensed.

If they haven’t explicitly licensed the e-book rights to somebody, no one can legally publish the book as an e-book (except the author)…even if they have licensed other rights.

That’s why you’ll see audiobooks of some of the “missing” title above…the audiobooks were negotiated, the e-books were not.

Prior to about 2005, it wasn’t common to license e-book rights. In the case of The Crystal Cave, it would have been very unlikely for anyone to license the rights back in 1970 for a medium which didn’t really exist yet. :)

In that case, a publisher would need to go to the author (or the author’s estate) and negotiate the rights…and often, negotiate them separately for different markets (although I do believe that global rights sales are becoming more common).

As you can imagine, that can be complex.

Under the current situation, we’ll get a bunch of books falling into the public domain in 2019 (books published in 1923…earlier books are already in the public domain).

However, you can count on there being a push to extend copyrights again.

Now that there is a market for older works (that really wasn’t true until we had media which could both store those works and make retrieval commercially viable), the rightsholders will want to be able to keep control of them.

Copyright terms have only gotten longer over the years…again, in part, I think, because of the improvements in technology.

Works published fifty years ago (1964) have a lot of commercial value still (think of a number of the Beatles’ songs, for example).

In 1964, how much commercial value was there for works published in 1914? Some, but the percentage of popular works from 1914 in 1964 is much lower than the popularity of 1964 works now in 2014.

In one of my most controversial posts, I explored the idea of making copyright permanent, in exchange for a considerable expansion of Fair Use rights:

Should copyright be permanent?

Non-commercial uses, such as academic use in a classroom, would become much easier, while commercial rights would tend to stay out of the public domain.

I have to say, I think many of my readers hated the idea. ;)

Back to the list of the books that are the “most wanted” (to be Kindleized).

You can go to eReaderIQ and start a “watch list”. They’ll send you a free e-mail letting you know if a book you have listed has been Kindleized. There is no charge for that.

I’m not connected to that site except as a user, although we have had some correspondence…

What do you think? Are there any books you are particularly waiting to see Kindleized? Feel free to let me and my readers know 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! :) 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.

** A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. 

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.


Round up #248: write your way to a Kindle Fire, “me-colored glasses”

April 4, 2014

Round up #248: write your way to a Kindle Fire, “me-colored glasses”

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

“I’m not at Liberty to pay…”

“‘By reducing our preferred position and eliminating some of our related rights, Barnes & Noble will gain greater flexibility to accomplish their strategic objectives,’ Mr. Maffei said in a statement.”
–quoted in a New York Times article by Michael J. De La Merced and Julie Bosman

Flexibility? Yes. Capability? No.

Yes, I’m sure all that money you were giving them was reducing their choices. It’s like a parent saying, “You don’t like my rules? Fine. Then you can just get an apartment on your own and live your own rules. Of course, you might have trouble finding someone who will rent to a ten-year old…”

I don’t really see how to spin this and make it a good thing for B&N, and neither can the stock market…following the announcement, B&N’s stock took a more  precipitous  dive than an Acapulco cliff diver. ;)

CNNMoney graph

That doesn’t mean that they won’t recover…but I would be very interested to hear what people think does mean that Barnes & Noble is going to get back to robust health.

I think this does make the continued existence of Barnes & Noble bookstores as we know them today less likely (and I’m speaking as a former manager of a brick-and-mortar bookstore).

The article was generally pretty good, but I doubt the folks at Books-A-Million liked this statement: “…Barnes & Noble, the nation’s last major bookstore chain”.

 Digitizing your paperbooks will be legal…in the UK

America’s copyright system is often relatively complex compared to many other countries’ systems.

I honestly don’t really expect us to lead on this front.

One could argue that it is due, in part, to us being so successful in creating intellectual property. Most countries in the world consume American media, even if we don’t return the favor in equal proportion. You can also see this in the use of our software.

So, I wasn’t surprised the the UK beat us to saying something that I’ve been hoping would get said here in the USA.

Starting 1 June 2014, it is legal to digitize your paperbooks (turn them into e-books) at home for your own purposes in the UK, according to this article by Olivia Solon

This decision wasn’t specifically about p-books to e-books, but it does cover them (it also covers things like “ripping a CD” to digital).

It doesn’t allow you to do that for other people, but that’s fine. If I knew it was legal here, I’d probably start digitizing a lot more of my books (I do public domain ones now…just started on that with my new Xcanex scanner, although I did it with a flatbed for a non-profit).

I don’t think this is much of a threat to the e-book industry. Not very many people are going to scan a book when they can buy one already done and nicely formatted. I think, as would be the case with me, that it would be books that aren’t available otherwise in most cases. Certainly, some hobbyists might scan the books instead of buying them…but it would be a bit like saying that people who build their own computers are a threat to HP. It just isn’t going to be that large a group.

I hope this inspires a similar decision in the USA…

Amazon Fire TV

My Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile) should be here today. I meant to order it with one-day shipping, but apparently, in my haste (I would afraid they would sell out), didn’t click the button to switch it. That’s okay…I probably won’t really get to explore it until Saturday, and I’ll write more about it then.

Of course, many people don’t wait to explore it before they write about it.  :)

I was…intrigued with all of the 1-star reviews that showed up before almost anybody had the device. The vast majority of those were from people who didn’t have it yet.

1-star reviews for the Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile)

A lot of the “reviews” (I don’t believe you can actually “review” something until you have viewed it) had to do it with it missing something the poster wanted.

That just seems very self-centered to me. Its like giving Baskin-Robbins a 1-star review because, out of the 33 flavors of ice cream they have, they don’t have Banana-Coconut-Mango…and that’s your favorite! So, it doesn’t matter if their service is excellent, prices are good, and the vast majority of people who go there like their ice creams…the place sucks! :)

Now, that’s not quite a fair comparison…arguably, at $99, Amazon is not a price leader on this (they are comparable to many other devices in the category, although not the the Google Chromecast). It does seem like a very narrow focus…seeing the world through “me-colored glasses”.

One of the most commonly mentioned ones, and one that Amazon even includes in the comparison chart, is

HBO GO (at AmazonSmile)

That also messes up the analogy, because that’s a popular “channel”…it’s more like Baskin-Robbins not having strawberry ice cream. To me, that wouldn’t mean BR should get a 1-star review…there would still be a lot of good in that place, and a 1-star review is as low as you can go at Amazon.

Notice, though, that I have a link for HBO Go? That’s because you can get it in the Amazon Appstore…for your Kindle Fire.

That means that, if you have both a

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

and an

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile)

you will be able to watch HBO GO through the AFTV, since you can mirror the Fire to it (display what’s on the Fire’s screen on your TV). I assume that will be true: I won’t be testing that specifically, since we don’t have HBO.

The app is free, by the way.

Equally worth noting: no reason to suppose the app won’t get added directly to the AFTV at some point.

I expect AFTV’s 3.1 star average to rise considerably in the next week, once the initial flood of negative reviews by people who don’t have it is countered. Don’t know where it will get, don’t know how good the experience is yet…but I think it has been front-loaded with negativity.

If you don’t have and don’t plan to get an AFTV, does this part of this post matter to you?

A bit…it’s making some changes on the site, and possibly pointing to some interesting strategic shifts.

First, the AFTV appears in the Kindle “family stripe”. That’s the thing at the top of a Kindle’s product page which shows you what other Kindles are available.

If you go to a Kindle Fire’s page, you now see the Kindle Fires…then a “show all device types” illustration, which includes a Fire, a Paperwhite…and an Amazon Fire TV.

I have said many times that I wish they hadn’t named the Fire a “Kindle”, since they are such different devices…I wish they had kept “Kindle” for dedicated EBRs (E-Book Readers).

While I had suggested the “Amazon Current”, I would have been much happier with the “Amazon Fire” rather than the “Kindle Fire”.  It has created a great deal of confusion, with people wondering why they can’t read their “new Kindle” in the sun as well.

This family striping seems to be a step away from branding everything as a “Kindle”, which I think may be a good thing.

Similarly, while the links to

Manage Your Kindle (at AmazonSmile)

still work, the page is now branded, “Manage Your Content and Devices”.

Students: write your way to a Kindle Fire

I mentioned this briefly, but wanted to call it out more.

Amazon has a nice

student guide


Timebound (The Chronos Files) (at AmazonSmile)

One of the elements there is a contest:

This lesson will allow your students to write an account of an American History event as seen through a CHRONOS historian. Students can submit their work here to enter to win one of 5 autographed editions of Timebound. One lucky student will win a Kindle Fire. Submissions must be received by 12/17/2014. For more information on the content visit:

This is, in my opinion, a good academic and creative contest. The rules will require some real research, and I see this as a legitimate school exercise.

What do you think? Should I cover the Amazon Fire TV at all in this blog? I do think I will do it some (not a lot), but I’m interested in your opinion. Will the USA follow the UK in legitimizing format shifting? Should they? What would be the impact? Were you ever given an assignment in school with a prompting question? If so, was it valuable? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

* 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.

** A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. 

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 #237: Bezos goes to college, stealing from yourself

January 30, 2014

Round-up #237: Bezos goes to college, stealing from yourself

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


One of my readers gave me a heads-up to this one in a private comment:

Wall St. CheatSheet article by Nathanael Arnold

You know those science fiction stories where a robot or computer decides the best way to serve homo sapiens is to protect it from its biggest threat…itself?

Apparently, a “highly automated” system at Digimarc, working on behalf of HarperCollins, has asked Apple to remove from the iTunes store e-books listed there to which HarperCollins has the rights…and which HarperCollins itself put there!

In other words, what is most likely happening here is that the system is looking for the books online, but doesn’t know where they are supposed to be.

That is one way to stop piracy! If you could stop a book from being distributed by anybody at any time in any way, there would be no piracy…or legitimate sales, for that matter. ;)

Thanks to the reader for the heads-up! I think you intended that to be private: if not, let me know and I’ll credit you here.

Amazon expands into…

One of \S/uperman’s powers, according to the old opening was (besides bending steel, etc.) was that the Kryptonian could “…change the course of mighty rivers”.

The Amazon, of course, is one of the mightiest rivers…and its e-tailer namesake is constantly changing its course.

In fact, anybody can change the course of a river: drop a rock in right next to the bank, and the river will flow around it, carving out a new spot.

That’s the way Amazon is…oh, it’s very hard to change where it has already been going (you know, except for online auctions) ;) , but it keeps going new places.

This year they may, according to this

Forbes article by Erik Kain

and other sources, release an Android game console for under $300.

“A console…really?” That seems to be what a lot of people are saying, given how much gaming is moving to mobile (phones and tablets).

My guess is that, if this happens, it will be far, far more than a gaming console.

Make it Miracast compatible, and it’s everything your Kindle Fire HDX is…on your big screen.

Videos? Sure. Websites? Absolutely. Your music? Check.

I can already mirror my

Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

on my TV using the

NETGEAR Push2TV (at AmazonSmile)

and while it isn’t super cheap (it’s around $50), it’s a lot less than $300.

My guess is that an Amazon set-top box would bring more than mirroring. It would likely bring a significantly interesting interface, with a lot of curation (suggesting things for you).

It would have to sync with Amazon, of course, and seamlessly with your Fire.

It could have Mayday on it! That could make it hugely attractive.

With the way Amazon has done things in the past, it’s possible that it would have some desired software ability that would be more exclusive to it originally. For example, I could see it being the way to manage your Collections in your Cloud initially. It could let you drag and drop books from one Collection to another, with the argument being that the big screen makes it more possible somehow.

Yes, some people who didn’t get that would be upset…but they likely wouldn’t lose sales because of it.

Interface would be an interesting question. Would it have gesture detection? Would they make hardware joysticks for it?

Would it do text-to-speech? You know, I haven’t tried that with my Push2TV! If that worked, I would definitely use it with the louder speakers while doing things in the house. I’ll let you know…

Pre-release update (yes, I checked this before I actually published the post): Eureka! I can use my Push2TV to display the text from my Kindle Fire HDX while my TV plays the text-to-speech! Putting the KFHDX into landscape mode makes the print quite large, but it means I can listen while doing things that take my eyes away from the screen. That may sound super-bookwormy to some of you, but I will definitely use this. It also won’t hurt to have some of the images in the books on the big screen…and mirroring allows that. You could pause on a map to take the time to examine it carefully, or a graph in a non-fiction book. Seeing some images more than life-size will also be entertaining. This is the sort of  serendipitous find I make when writing these posts that really makes me smile. :)

Update: this also means that we can read our Kindle Fires hands-free with “autoturn”, something people have wanted for a long time, while, for example, exercising or knitting. We’ve been able to turn down the volume on Kindles with text-to-speech (which “turns the pages”) for some time, but because we have variable speed (which can get quite fast) on the KFHDX, it will work better. This means that I can exercise with my KFHDX mirrored through the TV, the sound turned off, the TTS speed cranked up, and read while I work out…a whole new world! ;)

Amazon is also possibly going to expand into point-of-sales processing, according to this

CNET News article by Desiree Everts DeNunzio

and other sources.

This could actually be a very big deal. It’s not just that it would compete with Square, that little gadget that you see stuck on a cellphone or tablet to process your credit card (although it would do that, too).

I could see this going a lot more than that.

Picture this scenario:

You are shopping in a brick-and-mortar hardware store. A knowledgeable employee has helped you pick the right set of blinds for your guest room. That employee checks you out on a Kindle Fire…right there in the aisle.

Further more, you need some hardware to mount the blinds, and the store is out of it (or just doesn’t carry it). The store orders it from Amazon for you, it will arrive in a day or two (or maybe the same day, in the future, via drone), and the store gets a commission…or Amazon knocks off part of the processing fee for the credit card (which can be significant).

That’s what Amazon could do that other credit card processors can’t: add access to additional products, so the store doesn’t have to have as deep a stock.

That, in turn, could enable Amazon to charge lower processing fees.

Oh, and what if you could choose to pay in the store with your Amazon account? Even if the store doesn’t go through Amazon to fulfill your order, Amazon getting the information about what you are buying (and where) could be a big plus for it…and again, could lower processing fees.

We can already pay with our Amazon accounts at many websites…why not in brick-and-mortars?

There are a lot of interesting possibilities here…

One more potential expansion, which could be really disruptive for a major competitor (at least in one part of Amazon’s many businesses).

According to this

UC Davis News and Information post

the university has entered into a pilot program for students to buy things through Amazon.

University/College sales have been one of the relatively bright areas for Barnes & Noble. If that Amazon river gets diverted into college sales, it could result in a Carthaginian peace for Barnes & Noble and Amazon. ;) A “Carthaginian peace” (at least in the idiom) is basically when you make peace with your enemy…by destroying them. I actually thought the story had gone that a river was diverted to wipe out what was left of Carthage after the war, but I must be conflating mythologies.

At any rate, free delivery with the Amazon Student Prime program could mean that you don’t have to pay $10 for a Post-Its pad while you are in college any more.

This is just a pilot program, but if it works well…it could knock the last sturdy leg out from under Barnes & Noble’s three-legged (retail, digital, college) stool.

Marcus Books fundraiser this Saturday

I’ve written before about attempts to save Marcus Books in San Francisco from closing. It’s an historic bookstore…and there was an effort to get it officially designated as such.

Now, according to this

SF Weekly post by Jessica Nemire

there will be a fundraiser this Saturday, February 1st.

Here is more information about the event:

Keep It Lit’

You can also donate directly through the Marcus Books website:

What do you think? Would you buy a set-top box from Amazon, or are you about gadget-ed out? What would it have to have? Are traditional publishers too concerned about piracy? Are bookstores any more entitled to efforts to save them than any other kind of store? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

* 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 #232: B&N closings, get better Jeff Bezos

January 6, 2014

Round up #232: B&N closings, get better Jeff Bezos

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

Jeff Bezos airlifted from the Galapagos for medical emergency

Things have had a positive outcome, but this was a serious situation. I mention that, because there is a temptation to do jokes about this, which I am going to resist. Jeff Bezos has had a big positive impact on my life, and right now, I just wish Amazon’s CEO (Chief Executive Officer) a speedy recovery.

Jeff was apparently celebrating the new year in the Galapagos Islands. I’ve been there: amazing place! According to this

USA Today article by Alistair Barr

and other sources, Bezos had a kidney stone problem, and was helicoptered out by the Ecuadorian Navy to where the CEO’s private jet could rush back to the USA.

No surgery was required, and things look good.

There are a lot of non-surgical ways of dealing with kidney stones nowadays.

Best to Jeff Bezos and family!

I will comment on one thing…according to the article (and again, other sources), Jeff said, “Galapagos: five stars. Kidney stones: zero stars…”

That may confuse some people. It’s a reference to the rating system at Amazon…but you can’t give zero stars there (you have to go between one and five). I’ve seen people complain about that inability to give a zero. Obviously, buying a paper towel holder can’t have a negative effect on you like having kidney stones can, so perhaps that was the suggestion here.

Round of Barnes & Noble closures

It was quite a surprise recently when a local Barnes & Noble closed! There hadn’t been a big sale or anything, as far as I know…it was just gone. There is still one not too far away, but this is the one I would consider to be most local. Doing a quick Google search, looks like quite a few closed at the end of 2013 (I’ll link articles):

  • Two closed in Fort Worth, Texas…one of them had been open since 1996
  • One closed in Pasadena, California after doing business there for about twenty years
  • One closed in Pleasant Hill, California after 19 years…according to the article, it was the last new bookstore (as opposed to used books) in that town
  • One closed in Gainesville, Florida after about twenty years
  • One closed in Kahala Mall in Hawaii (the link to the story didn’t work)
  • One looked like it would close in Royal Oak, Michigan…the city appeared to be looking for other tenants
  • Despite an online petition, one closed in Tracy, California, where, interestingly (but unrelated…it does no retail business), an Amazon fulfillment center recently opened

For balance, here is a nice article which quotes the manager of a Barnes & Noble that just opened in Princeton, New Jersey.

Is this the beginning of the end?

Probably not…Barnes & Noble has often closed stores at the end of the year. Most of these stories seemed to mention the rents going up. That’s something that is going to happen, particularly as some things in the economy appear to be improving.

However, that would have been less of an issue if they’d been stronger.

Interesting also how many of these opened about twenty years ago…

Is Sherlock Holmes in the public domain? Judge makes a statement

I’ve written extensively in this blog about copyright and public domain. The latter is what happens when a book is not under copyright protection (most commonly, because the term has expired). The book then goes into the “public domain”…it is owned by the public. At that point, anybody can do anything they want with the book, without getting the permission of the (former) copyright holders.

It gets much more complicated when a character appears in a series of books, though. There may be some books which are still under copyright protection, and some which are in the public domain.

The Conan Doyle Estate has been quite protective of Sherlock Holmes, and people doing new works based on the character (the Robert Downey movie, Elementary on CBS, the BBC series) typically pay the estate a license.


Leslie Klinger was concerned with what the estate wanted, and challenged the control (at least over the characters as they appeared in what are now public domain works in the USA, ones published before 1923).

Here’s an article that summarizes it:

New York Times article by Jennifer Schuessler

What the estate argued was considered to be a stretch by some, but it is fascinating.

As I understand it, they basically said that works written about Sherlock Holmes are based on the “completed” character, which has to take into account things written after the 1923 cut-off…even if they don’t mention specific events from the later books.

I think I’ve come up with a good way to explain the argument.

When Superman started out, he didn’t fly…he could “leap tall buildings in a single bound”, but not actually fly. I’ve always thought that it showed brilliant management that DC allowed others to add to Superman’s “definition”. I wrote about that here:

When Superman wasn’t so super

However, for the sake of explanation, let’s pretend (and this is not true) that the Superman stories before he could fly were in the public domain, and the ones where he could fly weren’t.

Now, let’s further imagine that someone writes a story about Superman. In the story, Superman “arrives on the scene”, but it isn’t specified how. Wouldn’t you naturally assume Supes flew there? Sure, because that’s the Superman you know. I suppose that the writer could even have Superman say, “I just flew in from Metropolis.” That could have been in a plane, right? ;)

That was the basic argument, from what I can tell. You can’t write about Sherlock Holmes without benefiting from elements that are under copyright, even without mentioning them specifically.

While I still need to read

Judge Ruben Castillo’s statement (pdf)

completely, the judge ruled against that argument (again, based on my understanding). The judge’s carefully ruled in favor of Klinger in regards to pre-1923 elements and against in terms of post-1923 elements.

I believe there could still be appeals here. We don’t have our next round of books going into the public domain in the USA until 2019, by the way…but that’s not true everywhere.

What do you think? Did your local Barnes & Noble close at the end of the year? If it did, will you miss it? While this is not at all the case here, how dependent do you think Amazon is on Jeff Bezos? If Jeff wasn’t able to be the CEO, what kind of impact would that have on the company and on your perception of 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.

Round up #204: Over 100 WSV audiobooks for $0.99 each, Amazon won’t phone home

September 11, 2013

Round up #204: Over 100 WSV audiobooks for $0.99 each, Amazon won’t phone home

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

“How Google Fights Piracy”

I believe that most people generally want to behave in a way that doesn’t harm others.

I remember talking to my (now adult) kid years ago, explaining why “The good guys always win.” What I said was that the average person wants to help the good guy (oh, I should mention, “guy” has always been a gender neutral term for me). So, if the bad guy is running down the street, the crowd will tend to want to help the good guy intervene or not lose track. If the good guy is running away from the bad guy, the crowd will tend to help the good guy get away.

So, it’s a numbers thing. ;)

There are a lot of things you can say philosophically, of course, and come up with different reasons why good guys tend to come out on top, or give me examples of when that hasn’t happened…but for a little kid, it made sense.

I’ve said here before that the best way to combat piracy (in this case, the distribution of unauthorized copies of a copyrighted book) is to have a legitimate copy of it easily available at a reasonable price.

I’m sure the average Kindle owner looks on Amazon first. If they don’t find the book there, they may Google it…and that’s when they run into pirate copies (perhaps not even realizing that they are pirated).

Well, it’s nice to see that Google agrees with me on that. :)

In this

Google PDF

they explain how Google fights piracy.

In their first point, they say

“The best way to battle piracy is with better, more convenient, legitimate alternatives to piracy…”

You may be interested in the rest of the “paper”…including how they work to keep pirate sites out of the top results, and how they “…process copyright removal requests for search results at the rate of four million requests per week with an average turnaround time of less than six hours”

Get audiobooks for use with Whispersync for Voice for ninety-nine cents

Update: Thanks to reader and frequent commenter Tom Semple for pointing out that the below promotion has ended (which happened after I wrote the post…some of my readers were able to take advantage of it).

Amazon’s been really, really promoting audio books lately…which might seem a bit counter-intuitive, since the newly announced Kindle Paperwhite 2 (KP2) doesn’t even have audio capability (so it can’t play them). That’s one reason I think there is an audio-enabled frontlit device coming at some point.

They’ve combined the p-book (paperbook) and audiobook sections at Amazon .com, and added audio samples to the books’ product pages.

Now, they are pushing Whispersync for Voice, which enables you to sight read part of a book, switch to an audiobook and pick up where you left off, then switch back. For more on that, see

This promotion includes this page:

Buy a Kindle Book, Then Upgrade with Narration for Just $0.99

You buy an e-book, say, The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger. Then, you can buy an audiobook at a typically greatly reduced price. In this case, Amazon’s price for the audiobook is $15.95, so it’s quite a savings.

Do I do this?

No, not really…I prefer text-to-speech to audiobooks, unless I’ve read the book already (I don’t like the narrator interpreting the characters for me…TTS is software, not a recording). I haven’t tested it recently, but when I had gotten an audiobook to use with WSV (Whispersync for Voice) it appeared to prevent me from using TTS.

I think most people prefer audiobooks to TTS, though, so I did want to let you know about this deal.

This offer is for a limited time, and may not apply in your country.

No Amazon phone this year

Thanks to a reader who sent me a heads-up to this

Bloomberg article by Brad Stone (and it’s been covered other places as well).

I’ve been referring to statements from Amazon’s Director of Communications, Drew Herdener, for about four years.

Herdener says there won’t be an Amazon phone this year…and that when there is one, it won’t be free.

Take that, internet rumor mill! ;)

I have a Collections follower

No, that doesn’t mean a collection agency is after me…darn these multiple-meaning words! ;)

While Amazon hasn’t announced it yet, I do think this has a lot of potential to be a “big thing”.

I’m having some fun just getting started (things have been super busy lately). I have three Collections there right now: A Fortean Education; Seventies Social Sci-Fi; and 1939: The Best Pop Culture Year Ever.

The trick to making this work for me was installing Amazon’s Collect button in Chrome (it doesn’t work in Internet Explorer). That lets me easily add any item to a Collection.

I would have a lot of fun putting together a Collection at the suggestion of a reader, so feel free to do that.

Don’t worry, I’ll be careful not to let this take up too much of my time. :) You come first…

If you have your own Collections there and would like me to follow you, please let me know.

One thing that has been taking some of my time is getting used to my new Galaxy S4. It has some great capabilities! I love that I can just say, “Text [a name] I’m on my way home,” and it does it (with an okay from me). You do have to get its attention, and you can choose your “wake up” phrase for that. I’m using, “Old man in the cave.” I’m guessing some of you know why. ;)

Frank Schaeffer: “Why I’m Risking My New Book by Self-Publishing Even Though I’m a Bestselling Author”

Okay, a lot of this

Huffington Post article

by Frank Schaeffer is plugging a new book, but it does have some good insight on why someone who had been successfully traditionally published would go the indie route. I think you can guess most of them, but one interesting statement is that tradpubs (traditional publishers) are holding on to book rights by keeping the book in print…by making it available in “print on demand”.

In other words, when the author license the rights for a book, the publisher can hold on to those rights (if that’s the deal that was signed) for as long as they keep the book in print (there might be other limitations).

However, it’s expensive to stock a slow selling book, in case a store wants it.

According to this, the work-around is to make it available by “print on demand”. You don’t print the book until somebody wants it.

I suspect literary agents are going to get a clarification on that in future negotiations…but in the meanwhile, other authors will see the same attractions that Schaeffer did to controlling the process, and switch over. I mean, they can sign up with Amazon and do print on demand themselves, if they want.

That doesn’t mean that big brand name authors are going to immediately go indie. I’m sure a lot of them feel loyal to their editors and publishers, and they can get nice advances and significant promotion.

Still, some of those midlist authors are going to become brand names…and will they sign with tradpubs then?

What do you think? Do you want to hear news about phones? I do that partially because for some people, that’s where they read e-books. Why do midlist authors need tradpubs at this point? Do you like audiobooks? If you do, who do you like to have read them? The author? A famous actor? A voice professional? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: thanks to regular reader and commenter Zebras for helping me make this post clearer.

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

Round up #199: bundles, B&N

August 21, 2013

Round up #199: bundles, B&N

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

Digital downfall! 

Okay, I would not want to be Barnes & Noble trying to compose this

Press Release on Q1 finances

Actually, I might…I do love a challenge. ;)

Maybe you could hire somebody like an old Catskills comedian to do it like a stand-up routine…

“Hey, it’s nice to see all the investors in the audience. You know, I was afraid this place was going to be like one of our stores…empty. Just kidding…revenues were only down 9.9%, which comes out to 111,000,000 bucks. With all those ones and  zeroes, it looks like our name on the internet. Speaking of digital, if you think our retail sales are bad, you should see our NOOK sales! Yeah, take a look at them…no, lower…lower…lower…yep, that’s them down there. Our NOOK sales were down 20.2% over last year. A 20% decrease…that’s like saying you have a perfect attendance record at work…if you don’t count Fridays. On the other hand, we only dropped $39 million there…so we lost almost $72 million less than we dropped in the bookstores: go, progress! You ready for the good news? Wait, wait, don’t get so excited…I didn’t say there was any good news, I just asked if you were ready for it. Actually, the college bookstores did have a 2.4% increase…up 5 meeeeeeellllllliooon dollars! Let’s see…five million up, compared to $111 and $39 million down: I’d do the math for you, but I couldn’t afford my algebra textbook after I paid ten dollars for a pack of Post-It notes in my campus Barnes & Noble…”



GIGAOM article by Laura Hazard Owen

does a nice job of analyzing the Q&A part of the investor call. Are they going to stop making tablets inhouse? Um…maybe not. They are committed to continuing with the NOOK side of the business…at which point, I’m all of the investors in the room snuck a sideways peek at the person next to them, to see if they were dumping the stock and making a break for the exit.

Owen included this quotation:

“At least one new Nook device will be released for the coming holiday, and further products are in development. At the same time, we will continue to offer our award-winning line of Nook products, including Simple Touch, Simple Touch with GlowLight, Nook HD and Nook HD+ at the best values in the marketplace today.”

I think we may continue to see reductions in NOOK hardware prices, which does exert a downward price pressure on Amazon…which the latter might choose to ignore, of course.

The USPTO wants your input on “Copyright Issues in the Digital Economy”

There is a debate going on right now about extending copyright terms.

This is going to be worth another, separate post from me, but I wanted to go ahead and give you the place to make your comments, if you want:

It relates to this


I plan to listen to that in the car today, after which I’ll write my response.

Listen to a PDF?

Yep. I recently bought

ezPDF Reader PDF Annotate Form

which has text-to-speech for PDFs. I actually finally spent some of my Amazon Coins on an app, and that was it and this is why. :)

Remember when a “bundle” in publishing meant newspapers tied together with kite string?

Many people bring up the idea of “bundling” e-books and p-books (paperbooks) in the Amazon Kindle forums.

The idea is that you would buy a p-book and get a free e-book, or vice versa.

That often comes from a position of  naivety: they think that Amazon can just give you a digital copy, I guess by scanning the p-book. They don’t understand (and there is nothing wrong with not understanding, as long as you are willing to learn) that Amazon pays the publisher for both the e-book and the p-book, and that in turn is part of how authors get paid.

However, a publisher (not Amazon) could work out a deal with the author that included both the e-book and the p-book…and some publishers (not a lot so far) are.

PM Press in Oakland is one, according to this

Publishers Weekly article by Judith Rosen

I have to warn you, though, when I went to the PM Press site to check it out, the home page had an NSFW (Not Safe For Work) image right at the top.

I tried to find something about their Paperback Plus! program, and they don’t seem to be promoting much. When I searched for Paperback Plus, I did find these eleven results:[search]=paperback+plus&s[title]=Y&s[short_desc]=Y&s[full_desc]=Y&s[sku]=Y&s[match]=all&s[cid]=0

So, you buy a paperback, and get a free e-book copy.

Now, honestly, I’m not sure to whom this appeals. I don’t want p-books any more, even for free. I’m sure I’m not the only person in that category. I love the ones I have, but I don’t want more in my house and I don’t like the ecological impact of the manufacturing process.

Also, I’m never quite sure what prevents somebody from simply doing a deal like this, and then selling the p-book. One barrier is that you would pay more for this combo than you might pay for the e-book alone, but I still don’t quite get it. It used to be different with DVDs and CDs, because there was a clear division in the player. You wanted a physical version to watch/hear on your superior, non-portable hardware, and a convenient digital version. I think increasingly, though, people don’t want the CDs or DVDs either, and for the same reasons that many of us don’t want the p-books.

Alexander Turcic reported in this

mobileread post

that the University Press of Kentucky is doing something interesting. You send them a picture of you holding the p-book, and they send you a pdf of it for free. Again, a kind of bundling…and I’m guessing they can use your picture for promotional purposes, although I haven’t checked.

I don’t expect bundling to become commonplace, except on expensive books, where it will be just part of the luxury service.

What do you think? How good/bad does the Barnes & Noble report look to you? Do you want both an e-book and a p-book when you buy something? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Update: bonus deal

I meant to include this this morning. :)

End of Summer Savings: Kids & Teen Kindle Books up to 75% off

Right now, there are 149 titles in there, and there are some good and “brand name” choices. They don’t say how long this will last, and it may not be available in your country, so as always, check the price before you click that Buy button.

Good time to look for gifts for the holidays…you can delay delivery.


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

Round up #186: fewer publishers, fewer books?

July 12, 2013

Round up #186: fewer publishers, fewer books?

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


You never know what is going to show up at

On July 10th, I got two new dictionaries, which were labeled in Chinese.

Google translation translates the name as “Modern English Dictionary”.

Not quite sure what these are, specifically…are they for when Chinese speakers switch to English on their Kindles, so they get the definitions in Chinese? I don’t think so…if you read Chinese and can check them out, I’d appreciate it.

These are likely to spark some threads in the Amazon Kindle forums about “books I didn’t order”.

Just to be clear, all of these foreign language dictionaries in MYK are not on your actual device, unless you download one. They are there so that the Kindle can function as advertised. If you switch your interface to a different language, the appropriate dictionary will then be downloaded, giving you the in-book lookup.

There are people who get mad because they delete them from MYK, and then they show up again. Yes, the Kindle (service) is basically repairing itself…you can think of the dictionaries as (loosely) part of the Kindle operating system…on a software update, I think it checks to see if the dictionaries are available, and if they aren’t, it replaces them.

If you don’t like them, just leave them alone. As you buy more items, they’ll get pushed down the list (when it is the default sort of most recent date first). Eventually, you won’t see them, unless you really dig for them. If you delete them, they’ll get moved back up to the front the next time they are restored.

These two must be new, although I already had a Chinese dictionary and user’s guide.

Stored magazine back issues are for the life your subscription

I wrote about subscription item improvements I’d like to see, and that led me to finding out about a huge new feature from Amazon. I’ve updated the other post, but I know a lot of people don’t see those updates. Sometimes, round-ups are used for just this purpose…to update you on a story.

The change, which appears to have happened since June, is that Amazon stores the back issues of your Kindle Newsstand magazines for you at that MYK page. I can go back and download any of the twenty issues of National Geographic which have been published since we got the subscription in 2011. That didn’t use to be true…but it is nice. :)

You can only get ones that far back through MYK…the Cloud tab on your Fire, for example, won’t show you that many.

The art and the artist: Orson Scott Card edition

We’ve talked before about

The art and the artist

The question there is do you judge a book by the qualities of the person who wrote it? If someone holds an opinion that is diametrically opposed to your own, and that opinion does not appear in the book, would the fact that the person had that  opinion  still make you less likely to read it?

We’re seeing this right now with Orson Scott Card. I mentioned back in March that I thought there might be protests about the movie based on Card’s popular book, Ender’s Game.

There are…calls for a boycott, in fact.

I thought Card’s response was interesting. You can read the statement in this

Entertainment Weekly article by Grady Smith

Essentially, Card says, “I lost on this issue, and it isn’t part of the book.”

First, Card describing the issue itself as now “moot” (that’s the exact word) is a big deal…this is someone who was an active advocate of one position.

Second…the question becomes, are you going to punish not only the person who had the idea, but everybody who depends on the success of the movie, because Card thinks differently than you do on an issue…if Card no longer is trying to make society conform to that different point of view?

I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit trepidatious writing about this, because I really don’t want this to be about this specific issue, and I”m concerned that I’ll get very emotional responses on one side or the other. As readers, though, we just have to consider…do we judge the art by the artist, and is that fair?

Will Barnes & Noble survive as a bookstore?


Businessweek article by Matt Townsend

lays out the question nicely, saying:

“Bookstores Not Dead Yet as Riggio Bets on Barnes & Noble”

I’ve written a piece for you that will appear later this year in this blog about how to save big bookstores, but this article does talk about the current state and immediate future.

Why hasn’t Barnes & Noble named a new CEO? Is it because they are about to splinter or at least really reorganize with Leonard Riggio buying back the trade bookstores?

Could be…

And then there were five…

Many people have been writing about the completion of the merger between Random House and Penguin. The Big Six trade (those are the books you would buy in a bookstore…not textbooks and such) publishers becoming the Big Five.

There are serious talks that could make it the Big Four.

Then, three…two…one…?

Eventually, do we get a Rollerball syle megacorporation just named, “Publishing”?

I thought this was a good discussion of why reducing the number of publishers may be bad for the public:

New York Times article by Boris Kachka

Mergers make an industry more efficient and powerful, which can be good for the industry…but they reduce competition, which can be bad for the customers (and the authors, in this case). Companies don’t (generally) bid against themselves for a book deal…so authors can’t get as big advances. The recent Apple Agency Model decision made it clear that publishers don’t compete with each on price…but they do compete over authors and agents. The fewer competitors you have, the fewer chances you have to take.

It might seem like you could take more chances, since there are fewer people who might take advantage of your failures. However, I think it’s more that you have to be more sure when there is more competition. There are five of you. You have a limited amount of money. You all have a pretty good idea of the value of books by certain brand name authors. You’ll go up to a certain point for it, and that’s it.

There are also some unknown quantities…new authors out there. With five of you, you’ll take a chance on some them…they might hit big, which could tip the  equilibrium. With only two of you? There’s more room for you to get the brand name books…the competition isn’t as stiff. You don’t have to experiment with unknowns…there is room for both of you with the knowns.

I think we’ll see more diversity in the sources for books, especially from indies (independent publishers) in the future. I also think we’ll get books published by entities that don’t do books now. Every cable channel (gosh, there’s a techno-specific term that may become obsolete), every website, every blog, every food manufacturer…they may all become publishers.

Maybe that’s why “Big Guy” mergers are attractive…they want one big company that becomes the only place those brand name authors can get the service they are used to having.

Yep, that might work…until the new crop of brand name authors, raised in a disintermediated world (one without publishers…direct from authors to readers, perhaps through e-tailers like Amazon), decide they don’t need your marketing and legal departments.

New study suggests copyright makes books disappear from the market

Let me first say that I have not yet read this

Research Paper by Paul J. Heald

but I intend to do that.

I’ve talked here before about what I call “The Well” (no, not the old computer system). It’s that period between 1923 and about 2005. There have been relatively few e-books (legally) available published in those years.

That’s because books published earlier than that in the USA are in the public domain (not under copyright protection) in the USA, and e-book rights weren’t commonly negotiated before about 2005.

For the books in the middle, then, a publisher would typically have to find the author and negotiate the e-book rights…which could be complex.

As I said, I will read the article, but the blogosphere summaries people have suggest that the idea is that copyright is keeping those books from being available.

Well, I might argue that books after about 2005 are available partially because of copyright. :)

Certainly, if there was no copyright at all, everything would be in the public domain. Would there be as many things, though, since it would (reasonably hypothetically, in my opinion), be harder to make a living with those books?

I’m looking forward to reading the paper and seeing what it really says…

What do you think? Will there be Barnes & Noble stores around in five years…that don’t just sell coffee and games? ;) Should we judge the art by the artist? Would we have more e-books if we didn’t have copyright? Are fewer publishing companies a good thing for the industry…and for readers? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

To Kill a Mockingbird e-book at B&N, but is it legal?

April 14, 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird e-book at B&N, but is it legal?

You can go to


and list books to have them notify you when they are released in Kindle format. This is one of the great free services offered by that site, which is perhaps the most valuable Kindle resource on the web.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is the most watched book right now, and typically has been.

Why isn’t it already legally in e-book form?

Well, my understanding is that Harper Lee doesn’t like to talk about TKaM, and even perhaps wishes it was never published in the first place (for personal reasons).

Rather than being specifically opposed to e-books, my sense is that no one wants to approach the author about the issue, and while that unfortunately makes the book unavailable, I can respect that.

So, it was quite a surprise when I was alerted to this listing at Barnes & Noble:

To Kill a Mockingbird e-book

Thanks to Meya, one of the Kindle Forum Pros, for that heads-up!

If this was a legitimate edition, done with permission of Harper Lee, I would have seen it announced six ways to Sunday (even though this is Sunday). It would be as big a coup as when the Harry Potter books went to e-book (although somehow, I don’t think “Harpermore” would be as fun) ;) and if a publisher got it, they’d trumpet it.

I checked first to see that it was the book, and not a guide book or something. They have a “look inside” feature, and it appears to be the full work.

Then, I looked at the publisher listed. It says it is from “Micro Publishing”. A quick search doesn’t show me a publisher with that name.

Harper Lee has been with HarperCollins (I believe HarperCollins and Harper Lee are just  coincidentally similar) as a publisher for some time, so I checked their site: no evidence of an e-book.

Actually, that’s a good path for me: I’ll probably send HarperCollins something to give them a heads-up.

This could be a legitimate version, but I think that’s unlikely. You usually can’t complain about infringement on behalf of someone if you don’t have a personal stake in the book: it would make it too likely for nuisance removals, which is apparently what happens at YouTube.

Anyway, if this an authorized edition and Amazon also gets it, great. I think the most likely thing, though, is that this is someone using Barnes & Noble’s independent publishing platform to infringe).

What happens if you buy it as a NOOK book and it turns out it is infringing? You won’t be legally liable for anything…it’s the distribution that’s the problem. The Supreme Court has ruled that having infringing copies isn’t the same as having stolen goods (infringement and theft are two different crimes, for one thing). Amazon famously removed infringing copies of 1984 from Kindles, and said they wouldn’t do that again in the same circumstances (that was overstepping the bounds…as I mentioned, having the book wasn’t illegal). I would hope, though, that people would voluntarily delete it.

If I hear more, I’ll let you know.

Update: it appears to be gone from Barnes & Noble this morning. It’s possible that the post here and/or my contacting HarperCollins had something to do with it.

I suspect some people probably wish it was still there, but if it was infringing, I’m happy to see it gone.

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

Re-imagining copyright

March 27, 2013

Re-imagining  copyright

Maria A. Pallante, the Register of Copyrights, recently spoke before Congress about the future of copyright:

The Register’s Call for Updates to U.S. Copyright Law

The transcription linked above is fairly short. I’ve read it, and I had a couple of people direct me to it as well (thanks for that…even if I’ve already found something, I appreciate getting a heads up).

There are certainly interesting things in this Federal document. I’m going to reproduce a couple of paragraphs here:

“A central equation for Congress to consider is what does and does not belong under a copyright owner’s control in the digital age. I do not believe that the control of copyright owners should be absolute, but it needs to be meaningful. People around the world increasingly are accessing content on mobile devices and fewer and fewer of them will need or desire the physical copies that were so central to the 19th and 20th century copyright laws.

Moreover, while philosophical discussions have a place in policy debates, amending the law eventually comes down to the negotiation of complex and sometimes arcane provisions of the statute, requiring leadership from Congress and assistance from expert agencies like mine. The list of issues is long: clarifying the scope of exclusive rights, revising exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives, addressing orphan works, accommodating persons who have print disabilities, providing guidance to educational institutions, exempting incidental copies in appropriate instances, updating enforcement provisions, providing guidance on statutory damages, reviewing the efficacy of the DMCA, assisting with small copyright claims, reforming the music marketplace, updating the framework for cable and satellite transmissions, encouraging new licensing regimes, and improving the systems of copyright registration and recordation.”

However, while the Register says that “…Congress does not need to start from scratch…”, I wanted to do just that.

I’m going to free us from the requirement to think about what could pass, and what is technically possible, and ask us just to re-imagine copyright. I’m going to act as if there had never been copyright, and look at the idea afresh.

After all, the original concepts of copyright largely had to do with protecting people who made maps. There was a lot of risk in mapping a coast, and if you couldn’t benefit from it (since other people just reproduced your map and sold it), there would be a lot less incentive for people to invest in the enterprise. Certainly, people would still have explored, but it wouldn’t be likely to produce the kinds of relatively accurate maps that other people could use.

So, let’s start at the very beginning.

Someone creates something intangible, a book, a song, which can be consumed by others.

Why should the government be involved in what happens next?

What are the societal benefits in creating law which controls what happens to that work?

Well, there are a couple of things.

The first thing we could say is that there is just a moral right that the person who created the work should have control over how it is used. In that argument, we are protecting people from unreasonable exploitation by others.

We do pass a lot of laws for that reason. For example, if someone is a “Peeping Tom”, that’s illegal. There doesn’t have to be any monetary use of that…the observer doesn’t have to sell, or even record, images of you for it to be a crime. We just say that you have the right to that privacy, and someone who violates that right can be charged with a crime. We could think of copyright the same way: you created that work, and you should get to control who consumes it.

The other big argument is an advantage to the economy.

That says that there is a plus to the society in people creating something, and that they won’t tend to do it without the ability to make money from it (this is akin to the map argument).

Would somebody spend $100 million to make a movie if there wasn’t a way to make that money back?

Would someone spend two years researching a non-fiction book, if they couldn’t be compensated?

This one suggests that copyright makes it more likely for valuable ideas to get into societal use, even if that use is controlled by the creator of the work. If you can’t make money with that documentary, would you share it with other people the way movie makers do now?

While emotionally, the moral argument is powerful to me, I think I would tend to set up a government system based on making money. The taxes from that clearly benefit the society, and an economic motive is going to encourage production and risk.

Here’s my first new copyright postulate:

If you create something, you have the right to make money from it.

Now, current copyright recognizes something called “Fair Use”.

U.S. Copyright Office – Fair Use

When you look at the elements of Fair Use, it currently suggests that there are times when your right to control your material is  overridden  by a societal good…such as criticism of your work, or teaching (within limits).

I’m going to expand this in my thinking.

Here’s my second new copyright postulate:

If what someone does does not impact your ability to make money on your work, you do not have control over it.

This is sweepingly broad, and would be a big change. It would create a lot of arguments when there was transmission involved from one person to another, but it would remove a lot of controversies over personal use.

The burden would be on the rightsholder to prove that making money was impacted.

For example, let’s say you have a p-book (paperbook). You want to scan it and turn it into an e-book for your own personal use. While many people assume that’s legal, and it may be, that isn’t clear.

Under my re-imagined copyright, the rightsholder has to prove that you would otherwise have bought an e-book if you couldn’t do that. There isn’t a presumed control over every copy produced, just a control over making money from your work.

This is, incidentally, how a lot of readers seem to think it should work (that doesn’t make it right, of course). If they bought the book once in paper, they think they are entitled to a free copy in e-book form. The same could be said for going from a hardback to a paperback…if you wouldn’t have bought the paperback, should it be okay for you to photocopy the book and reproduce it in a more convenient form?

I need to be very clear that I am not advocating these changes, I’m just thinking about them.

Under this new concept, it isn’t reproduction that matters: it’s consumption.

Could it be worked out that the rightsholder collects a fee every time you read a book? In other words, you buy the book, pay for reading it the first time, don’t pay anything more if it sits around in your archives (on your bookshelves in the paper world), then pay for it again if you read it again years later?

As you can see, I’m not worried about the technological implementation in this “thoughtabout”. I’m looking for the guiding principles.

What about somebody licensing/buying a book from you, and then distributing it for free over the internet?

Hm…if the purchaser could be charged for everybody who read that free copy, that could work.

Somebody reads it, the rightsholder gets paid.

Ideally, of course, the rightsholder gets paid before somebody reads it.

That might be the best way to go, in this hypothetical world. The rightsholder is paid per use.

Of course, that would mean that there would be some sort of record of who was using what, and people would resist that…but I’m not concerned with what’s practicable right now.

Another major issue is whether creative works eventually belong to society at large. I’ve asked this question before:

Should copyright be permanent?

Under my first postulate, if copyright is purely to protect an economic value, then you give up copyright if you are not using it to make money.

That sends shivers down my spine in a bad way…I want artists to be able to control their art, emotionally. However, is that what the government should be doing?

We do this already with patents…if you don’t use your patent, you can lose it.

We could say that if your book isn’t available to the public (“in print”, in the old parlance), or if you aren’t making a good faith effort to make it available, you lose control over it.

What about educational use? If the educational use doesn’t cut into the market, then it would be allowed in this new conception. If it did, if the students don’t buy the work because they can read for it free whenever they want to as part of a class, that would fail the test.

Oh, those might be some complicated court cases in the beginning!

Actually, I think these two postulates create an interesting balance. You control your creative works as long as you are using them to make money, and any other use of them is okay.

What do you think? I’m not terribly happy with this myself, and can poke holes in it. :) I just really want to rethink things. We shouldn’t have copyright which is based on individual ownership of physical containers, because that’s just not the entire future.

Do you think copyright should take into account art for art’s sake? Should educational use get any special and separate rules? Parody is legal in the USA, not legal in Canada…what should it’s status be? What do you think of what Register Pallante has actually suggested? 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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