Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Amazon saves brick-and-mortars? AmazonSource

November 6, 2013

Amazon saves brick-and-mortars? AmazonSource

Bookstores selling Amazon selling.

That’s basically what’s happening with a new, innovative…even mind-boggling program from Amazon announced in this

press release

Here is the key concept:  your local bookstore can sign up for a program with Amazon. They then sell Kindles in the store, and the store gets ten percent of the purchase price of the Kindle store books you buy on it for the next two years.

It’s an extraordinary idea, and certainly, some bookstores may jump on it.

After all, it may feel like they are going to get ten percent of e-book sales for two years without doing anything…free money, right?

I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, and a big fan of Amazon…but like the Golden Ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, entering the magical world of a genius may not always have positive results. ;)

At the site for the program

https://source.amazon.com/

Amazon calls it “completely worry-free”.  They say:

“If you decide that e-readers and tablets aren’t the right fit for your store, we’ll buy back any tablet, e-reader or accessory that was on your first order, no questions asked.”

This is short-term thinking for the store. If you can get into it with no risk on the hardware, and you simply sit back while the money rolls in from e-book purchases, why not do it?

I’m not telling people not to do it.

It certainly could be a benefit.

It also feels a bit to me like Amazon may have just started a two-year death clock on the independent bookstore, though.

When you sell one of your customers a Kindle, you may be selling them on the idea that they don’t need to come into your store any more.

You get some money from their Kindle store purchases for two years. When those two years are up, you don’t…and will your customer then stop buying e-books from Amazon? Seems unlikely.

For this to work for stores, people have to continue to buy both e-books from Amazon and p-books (paperbooks) from the stores. Yes, many people buy both. One of the questions is going to be whether or not the customers will continue to buy their p-books from your store, when you’ve sold them a Kindle Fire HDX 7″ that lets them buy the same p-book online from Amazon.

I would think that p-book discounts may start showing up in our Special Offers when this deal gets rolling (maybe early next year).

There are a lot of subtleties and complexities to this, and when books are written about Amazon fifty years from now, this may be seen as one of their most brilliant moves.

  • It’s great PR (Public Relations): “Amazon saves Mom & Pop bookstores”
  • Customers feel like they are “donating” to their local stores
  • Every bookstore that joins becomes a salesperson for Amazon
  • Every bookstore that doesn’t join loses a competitive advantage with their customers
  • People who buy Kindle Fires, in particular, will buy other profitable items, partially because they may become Amazon Prime members. That may make sense in terms of what it will cost Amazon. Buy $200 a year in e-books from Amazon, it only costs them $20 (plus administrative costs). Will they earn more than that $20 on your other purchases (“diapers and windshield wipers”)?
  • Veteran booksellers are incentivized to get people to buy Kindle books. Those booksellers may then start writing reviews and blogs, and become Amazon Associates, and make much more of a transition to online (and specifically Amazon)

Amazon has a cost for this for about two years: how many of those bookstores will still be around in two years doing what they are doing now?

If Amazon launches real digital storefronts for bookstores (perhaps something like I wrote about here: Hey, Amazon, buy this: BookAnd), I think many of them may go that way.

It gets even more interesting.

There are actually two programs as part of this announcement. One is for bookstores, and includes the e-book component. The other is for other stores, and gives them a deeper hardware discount, but no e-book cut.

That part about non-bookstores is fascinating. This certainly may mean that your local convenience store, hardware store, grocery store, and so on, start carrying Kindles.

They also risk opening their doors to the wolf, but in a very different way. Depending on weekly (perhaps daily) content sales is different from “Somebody kicked in my door and I need a replacement right now”.

Here is something else: it isn’t available in every US state, just these:

Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin

Why is that?

I suspect it has to do with how friendly the state is to Amazon, especially tax-wise. I know California and Amazon (after a messy situation) worked out a deal and are now effectively partnering (Amazon now has fulfillment centers there). I also understand that Maine and Amazon are in dispute right now…and Maine isn’t on the approved list.

Another thing: Amazon is not requiring exclusivity. A store can continue to sell Kobo devices, for example. There may be legal strategy behind that, but there will also be the idea for people that they support the bookstore if they buy the Kindle (in a different way than the other devices). Additionally, space is at a premium in stores (you are always fighting the rent), so will people really allot space to several different brands of devices? You know who used to do that? Borders…and they aren’t around any more.

Do I think this is an evil move by Amazon? Not at all. If I was managing a bookstore still, I’d probably do it.

It feels more like…Amazon is giving stores two years to get their things together as the world of bookselling transitions. Some people may see that as an eviction notice, but maybe it is more like a reverse mortgage: “We’ll pay you now for ownership later.”

I should be clear: I don’t think this wipes out independent bookstores, because many of them don’t need to make a profit. They are there because people love to be in a bookstore, both from the selling and buying sides. They love the community feel and the expertise of the sellers. They like being in the company of other booklovers and, yes, thousands of books all around you. Those stores, and that experience, will be around for a long time.

However, strictly in terms of business, I think the clock is now ticking…

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

Should any books be banned? Banned Books Week 2013

September 23, 2013

Should any books be banned? Banned Books Week 2013

We are now into Banned Books Week. According to the

Official Site

“Banned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read.”

Since 1982, the group (which includes the American Library Association) has listed the most “challenged” books.

It’s often a surprising list. What do you think the most challenged book was in 2012? 50 Shades of Grey? Nope, that’s number four.

The most challenged book?

Captain Underpants.

A kids’ book.

More accurately, a series of kids’ books, published by Scholastic, with a 4.7 out of 5 star rating (for the first one) at Amazon.

What reasons are cited?

“Offensive language, unsuited for age group”

This is a series which is widely said to encourage children to read…it may be the book that gets a child to become a lifelong reader.

Now, some of you are probably getting upset at this point, and I understand that. My natural inclination is always to lean towards literary freedom.

However, whenever I recognize a “natural inclination” in myself, I want to challenge it.

I want to look at it, and see if it makes sense.

Maybe it does…and maybe it doesn’t.

I thought I’d start with this simple question (both for me and for you): should any books be banned?

First, we need to define what we mean by “banned”, and that’s a huge issue here.

They call it “Banned Books Week”, but they report on “challenged books”.

Those are two entirely different things.

I define “banned” as something that the government does. It uses its governmental power (including the law) to prohibit people from reading a particular book.

“Challenging”, as used here, is most often done by private individuals. They request that a school/public library/bookstore not have a certain book.

For me, people have the right to challenge books. That is, in and of itself, a matter of free speech. I’m going to very often disagree with their reasons…but that’s exactly when the issue of free speech comes into play.

I analyzed the reasons given for challenging the ten books on the list:

BannedBooks2013

  • Sexually Explicit: 7 (cited in seven of the cases)
  • Offensive Language: 6
  • Unsuited for Age Group: 6
  • Homosexuality: 2
  • Religious Viewpoint: 2
  • Violence: 2
  • Racism: 1
  • Suicide: 1

Certainly, if this was the government banning these books, I think we would all expect “religious viewpoint” to be invalid grounds.

What about the others? In what circumstances?

Let’s look at the issue of public schools (which are government entities…private schools are not).

If you are against banning all books, would that include sexually explicit books for  grade school kids? Should a ten-year old be able to check 50 Shades of Grey out of the school library?

If they shouldn’t be able to do that, what about a fifteen-year old?

How about a thirty-year old…from the public library?

What if a parent or other legal guardian gives 50 Shades of Grey to a ten-year old to read…in their own home? Should the government do something about that?

I’ve been using 50SoG as an example, because I think that many Americans have similar ideas about pornography…even if they can’t agree on what specifically is pornography.

How about some other topics?

What about a book full of hate speech? One that advocated violence against a group of people…repeatedly and unrepentantly?

How about one that shows how to make tools of violence…step by step to make chemical weapons, or build a bomb?

Suppose a book gives false medical advice…which, if followed, will result in death. Should that be banned?

Then there is defamation, which is the more generally used international term for  intentionally  damaging false information. Somebody publishes a book saying terrible things about you…which aren’t true. Does the government have the right to stop people from reading that book?

One more: what if a book infringes on the rights of another person under copyright? If we go to the world of the movies, we could look at 1922’s Nosferatu as an example. It was an unauthorized adaptation of Dracula, and a court ordered all copies to be destroyed. The movie did survive, and is now considered a great piece of early film-making. Was destruction the proper course?

As you can tell, this is more complex than it might appear at first.

Before I ask you some questions, I want to bring one of my own issues into this, and one on which I’ve been challenged.

I think blocking text-to-speech access in an e-book disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I do believe it is legal.

I don’t intentionally link to books where the publisher has taken this action.

For quite a while, I didn’t even mention the titles.

Is that censorship?

For me, it’s important that it isn’t government censorship. If you don’t want to have certain books for sale in your store, or have them in your home, that feels very different to me from the government banning things. If a magazine won’t review books that take a particular viewpoint, I see that as their right.

I made the choice in this post to list Captain Underpants by name, even though the publisher blocks text-to-speech access (and this is not a picture book where the text would be indecipherable images to the software that reads the book out loud). I didn’t link to it, though, because I don’t want to benefit from people buying it.

It’s not my choice to support that, but I don’t think less of you if you do buy the book…I like Dav Pilkey. I guess I could have linked to the paperbook…I’ll have to consider the consequences of that in the future.

Now, some polls:

While the polls are a good way to express your opinion, I always like hearing more. I think I’ve done enough in this post to stimulate conversation, so I’ll just say that you can feel free to express your opinion to me and my readers by commenting on this post.

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

The many kinds of Kindleers

September 13, 2013

The many kinds of Kindleers

We were one.

That didn’t last, though.

Starting in November of 2007, and continuing until February of 2009, there was pretty much one kind of Kindleer. That’s how long it was from the release of the first Kindle until the release of the Kindle 2…when the fragmentation began.

Oh, I remember the demands to keep the two forums on Amazon separate. The Kindle 2 was a very different device, introducing text-to-speech to the line, for one. However, it was also seen as a step backward in two big regards: no user-replaceable battery, and no SD card slot.

The two camps faced off: those rugged pioneers who insisted that having a Kindle without an SD card was like going into the rain forest without a machete, and those who thought the Kindle 1 was as boxy as a 1950s RCA TV set.

In some households, they got along with each other. After all, they probably shared 80% of their functionality.

However, March 4th introduced a brand new faction: the Kindleless Kindleer. That’s when Kindle for the iPhone was released.

“Eww!” said the E-Inkers, “You are going to read on a tiny backlit screen? It hurts my eyes just to think about it.”

“Dude,” said the iKindleers. “iPhone.”

The big Kindle DX entered the scene in May, with a promise of great textbook integration. The DX lovers weren’t many, but they were (and are) enthusiastic.

On October 22, the Kindle for PC app was released.

E-Inkers: “Reading on a computer? You’re kidding me!”

iKindleers: “Dude. iPhone.”

PCers: “I can get forty bestsellers for what you paid for that tiny status gadget with its data plan or that doorstop…which one of loves books more?”

At least, the Kindle 1 and Kindle 2 folks had bonded over their love of an unlit screen…until the Kindle 2 started to getting things the Kindle 1 didn’t.

Native pdf support.

Landscape.

International models.

And then, the mighty wedge…on August 3, 2010, the Kindle 2 got active content. Two games, Shuffled Row and Every Word…and the Kindle 1ers said that was the end of the literate exclusivity of the Kindle…the Kindle 2ers were evicted from the “Garden of Readin'” by the temptation of the app(le), and the Kindle 1ers were done with them.

On July 28th of 2010, Amazon had introduced the Kindle 3…and, well, everybody was okay with that. ;) Pretty much…let’s say it was mostly seen as an improvement over the Kindle 2.

On April 11, 2011, another huge split was dropped, deus ex marketing, on the community…ad-supported Kindles! “Ads on my Kindle? No way!” “Um…you don’t watch network TV? It’s kind of the same thing…and the ads aren’t in the books. Cheaper Kindles…what’s wrong with that?”

September 28, 2011, brought the next horror/wonder…a touchscreen Kindle.

A Kindle without keys? That was the best/worst thing so far!

That’s also when they introduced the “Mindle”…the first Kindle without sound. No audiobooks, no music, no text-to-speech.

The keyboardless kindle and “I have no mouth and I must scream” models weren’t the most head-spinning things that day, though.

Fire.

Kindle Fire.

A backlit tablet that did video…and yet, called itself a Kindle.

That was the biggest rift ever…and one that still hasn’t healed.

Some of the E Inkers felt betrayed.

It was as if your e-mail provider sent you their annual report on paper, or your compostable tableware arrived in a non-biodegradable bag.

They wouldn’t sit with those tablet toters at lunch, that’s for darn tootin’!

I think, though, we’ll most people will eventually accept that we are really all bound together by one thing: our love of reading.

Whether it’s backlit, frontlit, candlelight, or a flashlight under the covers, we are  all connecting with other human beings through the amazing power of literature. You can read it with your eyes, hear it with your ears, or feel it with your fingers…a book is a book is a book.

While it may be true that, as Edmund Wilson said, “No two persons ever read the same book,” that doesn’t mean that we don’t all read them…and does it really matter so much how we do it?

Books aren’t upset about how you read them…they welcome every reader. That’s how I feel about it, too. :)

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

Kindle MatchBook: Amazon has the power

September 5, 2013

Kindle MatchBook: Amazon has the power

Amazon recently announced an upcoming program called Kindle MatchBook. Customers will be able to get an e-book copy of a p-book (paperbook) they previously purchased from Amazon (back to 1995) for a reduced price…sometimes for free.

When I wrote about it, I looked to anticipate some complaints that people would have.

I underestimated one…I should know better than to think I’ve plumbed the depths of people’s ability to complain on the internet. ;)

I said people would say this:

“Why isn’t XYZ book part of the program?”

[My response]: It’s going to take a while to get this going…there are agreements to make, and features (like X-Ray, which gives you information about the book) to add.

Well, I read right away in the Kindle forums that people thought this wouldn’t include books from the Big 5 (Big 6 at the time of a lot of these purchases, before the recent merger of Penguin and Random House) USA trade publishers.

After all, those publishers commonly don’t enable lending for their books, and they are the ones that sometimes (but diminishingly, I think) block text-to-speech access.

Let’s start out with the fact that we already know Big 5 books will be part of the deal.

Amazon shows some titles on the Kindle MatchBook page linked above.

They include several books from HarperCollins, one of the Big 5.

So, the basic premise of the complaint is invalid…but hey, that’s never stopped anybody from complaining before. :)

I, however, also jumped to a mistaken conclusion…which I will correct now.

When I wrote about “agreements being made”, I was picturing Amazon getting publishers to choose to put their books into this program.

You know what? Amazon doesn’t need their permission.

This is a rare case where Amazon really does have the power. Typically, when Amazon goes up against the publishers, they lose…text-to-speech, the Agency Model (the latter needed the Department of Justice to intervene).

That’s not going to happen here.

There are no additional uses covered under copyright being proposed here.

It’s just a sale.

With the end of the Agency Model (and maybe Amazon waited to announce this until they had new agreements with Penguin and Random House), Amazon can discount all of the Big 5’s books.

That’s all this is: discounts.

Let’s say that a given e-book normally has a digital list price of $9.99, and Amazon normally sells it for $7.99. Amazon probably paid the traditional publisher something like $5 in that case (it might be $7, but let’s go with the traditional 50%).

Amazon could choose to sell that book to somebody for $2.99, and take a $2.01 loss on that sale.

Would they do that?

Sure, if they thought it would inspire other sales. That’s part of what the publishers were so mad about when Amazon made many New York Times bestsellers $9.99. Amazon was often losing money on each sale, even though the publisher got the same amount for the book as if Amazon had sold it for full price.

Amazon was  driving  down consumer price perceptions about what a book is worth. The publishers thought customers might start thinking $25 for a hardback was too high if you could buy an e-book for $9.99…and that low price was possible if Amazon was willing to lose money on that sale.

As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, I can tell you that you have to think in terms of populations of sales, not individual transactions. We could lose money on a TV Guide sale, if it meant we made money on other books the customer bought at the same time.

Consumers often, reasonably, only think of it as one sale at a time…what am I, as the customer, paying?

Amazon could do the same thing here. They could offer every single book in Kindle MatchBook right now, no deals needed.

However, Amazon doesn’t want to lose money…despite what some investors may think. ;)

Ideally, they can make these Kindle MatchBook offerings and still make money on them…in addition to cementing customer relations like few programs before.

How could they do that?

If the publishers take less money for Kindle MatchBook sales.

Basically, the publisher would agree that the price of the e-book is less if the customer bought the p-book from Amazon, and their wholesale payment would be based on that.

Amazon doesn’t need that price-lowering to do this, but it’s better for the e-tailer if they get it.

So, my guess is that what is happening is that Amazon will not put traditional publishers’ books into the program unless the publishers agree to lower payments.

It’s Amazon’s choice whether a book is available for Kindle MatchBook, not the publishers.

HarperCollins tends to be pretty consumer forward in their policies (leaving out the weird thing they did with e-books for public libraries). They didn’t block text-to-speech access, for example. I’m not surprised they would have agreed to this earlier than some others who tend to be more drag-foot about these kinds of innovations.

Why can’t the publishers simply do this themselves, and maybe charge $3.99 instead of $2.99?

Simple…they don’t know which customers bought their books in paper.

When you buy a book from a retailer (online or in a brick-and-mortar), the publisher isn’t told that you, as an individual, bought it.

They don’t know who you are…but Amazon does.

Nobody would want to just offer this discount to everybody, regardless of whether or not they bought the p-book. That’s just lowering the price across the board, and not using a special discount to influence future shopping behavior (which is what makes discounting work).

Amazon has the data needed to make this program work. Amazon can discount the books without the publishers’ permission…they could even discount an e-book that is from a different publisher than the p-book (say, an Open Road e-book of a p-book published by Random House). However, they would rather have the publisher give them a better wholesale price when they do it.

My guess is that publishers generally want to be in this program. I think customers will make buying decisions on whether or not they get this…I also think it will draw people away from Barnes & Noble and Kobo. Those two would have a tough time matching it, especially if they lost money. Remember, Amazon can make money on “diapers and windshield wipers” (as like to say) when you are their customer. B&N and Kobo just aren’t diversified enough in their offerings to use that strategy.

Yes, it’s possible that bundling costs publishers some money in the future. Will customers buy p-books as gifts, and that way get the e-books for themselves as a reduced price? Sure, that’s possible.

However, if it shifts that people don’t want to buy the books at all unless they get this bundle, being in the bundling business is almost necessary.

Looking at the future, I wouldn’t want to be the only Big 5 publisher not in this deal…authors might not want to go with me if I wasn’t part of it, customers might opt against my books even if they don’t know one publisher from another.

Well played, Amazon!  Leveraging your data to give you an advantage…and for once, having the power over the publishers.

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

I’d love to recommend your books, but…

August 26, 2013

I’d love to recommend your books, but…

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

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

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

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

However…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing.

Nothing to you, nothing to your publisher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me address you each individually.

Ellen DeGeneres

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

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

Loren Coleman

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

You have so many accessible titles in the Kindle store:

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

Star Trek

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

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

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

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

Why did Apple go to trial?

June 5, 2013

Why did Apple go to trial?

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

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

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

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

They settled.

Apple?

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

Why?

Well, there are a few possibilities.

1. They thought they’d win

If you look at the

Opening Statement from the DoJ

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

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

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

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

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

However…

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

Fortune article by Philip Elmer-DeWitt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. It’s the principle of the thing

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

4. It’s ego

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

Those seem to me to be the main possible motivations.

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

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

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

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

Is Amazon readying a new RSK?

May 19, 2013

Is Amazon readying a new RSK?

Brian Hartman, a reader and commenter of mine, and others, have expressed concern that the Kindle Keyboard (formerly colloquially called a “Kindle 3″) is no longer featured in the Kindle “family stripe” at Amazon.

At first, it was still available new from Amazon after that: now, it isn’t (you can find used ones). I have a place where I can search for ASINs (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers), and I’m not even finding it there. That suggests to me that this is just a fluky supply problem.

One could make the assumption that they are just going to discontinue it, but there is a particular reason why this one fills a niche that the other RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything but a Kindle Fire) don’t.

Text-to-speech on an RSK.

Text-to-speech is software that reads the book’s words out loud to you. I typically use it for hours a week in the car. More importantly, it’s valuable to those with print disabilities, and print challenges which do not rise to the legal definition of a disability.

Yes, the Kindle Fire has TTS (and I do think the software is superior to what is on the Kindle Keyboard). You might think, then, that since the visual part doesn’t matter to those with print disabilities, the backlighting shouldn’t be a problem.

That’s not the case.

First, certainly, some of those with print issues still can see enough that they use the screen sometimes.

Second, the RSKs weigh considerably less (the Kindle Keyboard is 8.7 oz…the lightest Kindle Fire is 13.9 oz (yes, you’ll probably feel the difference), the battery charge lasts much longer, and the RSKs are cheaper.

Neither the Kindle Paperwhite, nor the “Mindle” (which is what I call the least expensive Kindle) have sound…so they can’t do TTS.

As of right now, you can’t buy an RSK with TTS new from Amazon.

I wasn’t particularly concerned at first, because I thought it was probably just a temporary shortage of devices. Now, I’m more convinced that the Kindle Keyboard will not come back into regular stock.

That would get me upset…I think TTS RSKs are a huge convenience for the disabled.

My guess, though, is that Amazon may release something else (and may announce it before too long). It could be a Paperwhite with sound. If they did that, they might drop the price of the current Paperwhite, and then release the new one at the same price as the old one.

That is my sincere hope.

In my

The Year Ahead: 2013

prediction post, I didn’t think we’d get any real anything groundbreaking in Kindle EBR (E-Book Reader) hardware, and a Paperwhite with sound would be an improvement, but no groundbreaking.

If we go, oh, a week with no announcement, I’ll contact Amazon.

I want to point out that I’ve seen people now routinely referring to September as a time for Amazon hardware announcements. While that did happen last year (September 6) and in 2011 (September 28), that hasn’t always been the pattern:

  • Kindle 1: announced November 19, 2007
  • Kindle 2: February 9, 2009
  • Kindle DX: May 6, 2009
  • Kindle 3: July 28, 2010
  • Mindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire 1st Generation: September 28, 2011
  • Paperwhite, Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire 2nd Gen: September 6, 2012

So, while they have been “clumping” several things together in September for the last couple of years, I could see them doing a new Paperwhite during the summer. That especially seems true to me if they start a new line (like an Amazon phone) in September…they might not want to dilute that  announcement.

I’ll keep my eye on it. Thanks again, Brian, for getting me thinking about this.

Bonus deal: one of today’s Kindle Daily Deals is Dead Witch Walking, the first book in Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series. I reviewed it close to three years ago, and did recommend it. It’s $1.99 today: do check the price before you click that Buy button.

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

Does Amazon need DRM?

May 7, 2013

Does Amazon need DRM?

Why do people buy e-books at Amazon? Will they continue to do so in the future?

Let’s take the latter question first: I think they will, and I’m going to explain why. That should also answer the first question (although I’m going to ask you why you buy them also).

What got me thinking about this was a nice

iReaderReview article

I saw it in my morning Flipboard read, although I have some correspondence with the author of that blog. Some of us Kindle bloggers do correspond some, but we don’t send each other a heads-up on every article we write. :) We probably all read each other pretty much, but reasonably assume that we’ll look at the blogs.

The article explains about gatekeepers, and breaks it all down with bullet points and speculation.

I’ve written about the idea of flattening the market, of consumer buying directly from creators, notable in this article:

A Tale of Two Middles

However…

I think Amazon has an appeal to people that will survive the removal of apparent competitive advantages. This is a key short excerpt from switch11’s post linked above:

“It’s all a House of Cards. The New Gatekeepers lording over Authors and Readers and Publishers. Pretending they are indispensable. Using everyone’s fears to exploit them and gain power.

What’s going to happen if DRM is eliminated and Authors, Readers and Publishers (especially Publishers) realize that Amazon and B&N are 100% redundant and replaceable by hot air.”

In the status quo, people obviously buy e-books from Amazon.

The status quo isn’t going to continue, though.

There is a chance that equal collection legislation will pass, and internet companies will collect sales tax at the point of sale the same way that brick and mortar stores do. That wouldn’t affect me on e-books (California doesn’t currently charge sales tax on e-books sold electronically…they are treated like contracts, not like objects). Some other states apparently do, since I see a lot of people commenting on sales tax on their e-book purchases.

That’s a change.

Another potential change, addressed by the article that sparked this, is the possible end of DRM (Digital Rights Management). Basically, that is electronic code inserted into content by the publisher to control the use of the content.

As I wrote about yesterday, Tor (part of Macmillan) has been DRM-free through Amazon for over a year, and they aren’t reporting adverse effects from it.

DRM is part of what keys your file to your device, meaning that you can’t just copy your e-book file from one Kindle to another and read it. It also limits your ability to copy and convert the file…you can’t simply take your Kindle e-book file and turn it into a file which can be read by a NOOK.

The article (which I recommend) suggests that if DRM was gone, people would have no reason to buy e-books from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

I just don’t think that’s the case.

Equal access doesn’t mean equal trust.

Equal access doesn’t mean equal convenience.

Equal access doesn’t mean equal service.

I want to get my content from Amazon because I trust them, because I can centralize everything in one place, and because of their service.

Let’s say that five different publishers start making their books available broadly from their own sites.

Even if the prices are equivalent, I don’t want to have to go to five individual sites to get those books…and I don’t want to have to go back to them to retrieve them (if they’ll even archive them for me for free, like Amazon does).

We use the term “one-stop shopping” to describe all sorts of things…it’s a shorthand for convenience, for not having to go several places to do several things.

That’s one of the big appeals of Amazon.

My life is my life…it’s not a whole bunch of separate transactions. I might want to know if I bought a household product at the same time I bought a food or an e-book. I want to be able to look at my purchases for a month sometimes…not just my e-book purchases, but all of them.

I can’t do all that from Amazon right now…but I can do a lot of it.

There are times I want to browse for something…I want to see all of the e-books on one subject. If I was at publisher A’s site, I wouldn’t see publisher B’s books. The publishers are trying to address that with Bookish.com. Bookish, though, isn’t going to show me independently publisher books. It’s also not likely to show me critical reviews of books by other readers, like Amazon does.

Hey, I might also want to browse for movies, games, t-shirts, and toys related to that topic…not as likely from a publishers’ site.

So, centralization is key. It’s like the internet: can you imagine logging into separate networks for each of the sites you visit?

Trust is another issue.

The “middle-less market” imagines that I’ll see a tweet from somebody with a link in it for a book. I’ll click on that link, and end up directly on the author’s website. I would then presumably give my credit card (or Paypal, or Bitcoin) information to this person that I have maybe never heard of before. I’m going to trust them with my information.

I’m also going to trust them to send me a good quality copy of the e-book. I’m going to trust them to deal with any problems I might have.

Look, if there is something I find unacceptable about an e-book I buy from Amazon (whatever it is…I don’t have to give a reason), I can “return” it myself within seven days of purchase for a refund. I can do that just by going to

http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle

and click or tap

Actions…

Is every author going to have that reassurance and convenience for me?

It’s like when I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and an independent would come in ask me to put a book on the shelf “on consignment”. I wouldn’t pay them unless the book sold.

One of my first questions to them would be, “If I wanted a thousand copies of this tomorrow, could you get it to me?” A traditional publisher typically could (or nearly that quickly). That indie didn’t have those resources. In a physical store, shelf space costs you money, because you are paying rent on it. It’s advertising space…I couldn’t have something sitting there that couldn’t result in more sales if I needed it.

What was our arrangement if the book was shoplifted (surprisingly  common in bookstores)? What if I wanted to get rid of the book? How would I return it to them? How did I know the book wasn’t defective, and if it was, how would that get remedied for my customer?

As a manager, I had to go with the people who could best service the store.

As a customer, it’s similar.

One more major point: Amazon not only stores all those books for  me (and my annotations, if I want): I can share them easily with other people on my account. Amazon knows me. If somebody has a device registered to my account, they are fine with it being downloaded to that device (as long as it is compatible, and we don’t go over the simultaneous device limit the publisher has set).

How is an author with a website selling maybe one book going to know that someone else is on my account? Are they going to let me have unlimited devices on my account, the way Amazon does? Will I even have an account, or will it be one purchase and “see ya”?

Does DRM help Amazon lock in a customer base? Sure. If it was gone, would that mean people would stop shopping at Amazon? I don’t think so. You can already get DRM free books at Amazon (Amazon gives that option to publishers using their Kindle Direct Publishing, and there are those Tor books), and people still buy them from Amazon.

So, let me ask you…

While I think “middle-less” will certainly grow, I also think Amazon will still hold their “end” up in the future. ;)

What do you think? Do you feel trapped into buying from Amazon, or are you doing it entirely by choice and preference? If you could buy your e-books from a thousand different sources, would that be better or worse? Can you envision some other system besides either retail or “island suppliers” (everyone is independent) that would work as well as what we have now? Maybe some central rating and payment site for indies…and why wouldn’t that be Amazon? 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.

Things keep getting better #1

May 6, 2013

Things keep getting better #1

I’m an optimist.

Really…is it that obvious? ;)

While there are certainly terrible things that happen in the world, and we have the increasing problem of individuals who want to do bad things being able to hurt more people in more ways more quickly at the same time, generally, I think the world is good and getting better.

Even when we look specifically at the Kindle and e-books overall, we can see it.

One way is to look at things people about which people have complained in the past, and see if they have been changed.

In many cases, they have.

That doesn’t mean everything, of course…there are a lot of things which haven’t been remedied…yet.

I’m also not somebody who says something is bad just because it isn’t everything I want. I figure if I’m hungry and somebody gives me a third of a meal, that’s a third I didn’t have before. I don’t get mad because I didn’t get that full meal.

That said, let’s take a look at some of these improvements.

First, generally…Kindles are cheaper and do much more than they used to do. When the Kindle was introduced on November 19, 2007, it cost $399, and held about 200 books. There were only about 80,000 books available in the USA Kindle store (which was the only Kindle store there was).

Now, the least expensive Kindle is $69 in the USA (you can buy more than five of them for the price of one of the original Kindles), holds about 1,000 books (five times as many), and we are closing in on two million titles in the USA Kindle store.

Next, let’s look at some of the big improvements in chronological order:

Text-to-speech (February 9, 2009)

I don’t think people had really been asking for this: it came as a surprise to me and many others. This has been a long and bumpy road: initially, it was for all books, than Amazon allowed rightsholders to block it, and some did so…big time. However, it appears to me that has been reduced over time, and Amazon encourages independent publishers not to block the access.

SmartPhone access (March 4, 2009)

While this ability to read e-books without carrying an EBR (E-Book Reader) with you was originally just for the iPhone and iPod touch, free apps eventually let you read on Android devices, Blackberrys, Windows Phones…a wide variety.

Kindle Publishing for Blogs (May 13, 2009)

Amazon has given creative people many ways to make money with their art. This was one of them that was relatively simple. While you might not consider every blog “art”, it does allow people to get their ideas out there and get some compensation for it.

USA Today includes e-books in its bestsellers’ list (July 23, 2009)

There was a lot of talk about when the mainstream media would start recognizing e-books, giving readers of that format more information and authors more exposure. This is really when it happened.

Kindles go international (October 7, 2009)

People outside the US get Kindles, and this is when the announcement was made. Oh yeah, they also lowered the price on the US-only model with this announcement.

Kindle for PC released (October 22, 2009)

This greatly expanded access…in 2009, not everybody had a SmartPhone. ;)

Kindles come to Canada (November 17, 2009)

I’m not going to mention every time the Kindle began selling through a region-specific Kindle site, but people had been clamoring for this…well, perhaps asking nicely for it repeatedly. ;)

PDF support and landscape mode (November 25, 2009)

I wonder how many people remember that these weren’t available initially? It part of a free update…those have brought us so many features!

Barnes & Noble introduces the NOOK (November 30, 2009)

Yes, I consider this an improvement for the Kindle…the competition has been good for us Kindleers.

Permanent delete from the archives (December 9 ((?)), 2009)

That’s right…for the first two years, we could not delete books from our Kindle accounts (we could delete them from our devices). People had really wanted that!

Add to Wishlist button added to Kindle book product pages (December 11 ((?)), 2009)

Many people use this functionality for tracking, and they had been asking for it.

International rightsholders get Kindle publishing (January 15, 2010)

It was called the “Digital Text Platform” at that point…it became Kindle Direct Publishing later.

Amazon doubles the possible royalty rate for indie publishers (January 20, 2010)

It goes up to 70% from 35%.

Kindles become available in brick and mortar stores (April 25, 2010)

This was in Target…they were the first.

Collections (book “folders’) come to the Kindle (June 14, 2010)

In another free update, we get one of the most requested features…a way to organize our books on our Kindles.

Active content (games and apps) come to the Kindle (August 3, 2010)

The first two games were Every Word and Shuffled Row. There had been hidden games on the Kindle before that, but these were actual downloadable titles.

Gifting of Kindle books (November 19, 2010)

Wow, did people want to give Kindle e-books to people! Before this, you could do gift certificates, but this was a huge improvement.

Lending books to friends (December 30, 2010)

People wanted to lend e-books, just like they could p-books (paperbooks).  Sure, it’s limited, just as it was for the NOOK, but that’s an improvement.

Ad-supported Kindles (April 11, 2011)

Okay, okay…nobody was walking around with a sign saying, “Please put advertising on my Kindle!” ;) However, this did lower the prices, and the ad-supported versions tended to outsell the full price ones, showing a preference.

Reading e-books in a browser (August 10, 2011)

The Cloud Reader was announced on this date, which would lead to the ability to read your Kindle store books without downloading and special software.

Borrowing books from public libraries (September 21, 2011)

There still is work to go on this, but we can now borrow e-books from public libraries for our Kindles. The Big Six publishers have all at least announced plans for some representation in public libraries.

I’m gong to stop there in this post…the next big era comes with the release of the Kindle Fire. That doesn’t mean improvements stopped at that point, though! They just keep coming. I fully expect to get comments pointing out the things that haven’t happened yet, and maybe I’ll address those myself in another post. I just wanted to leave you with this list of improvements, often at a lower cost.

See? Things are getting better. :)

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

“Book! Book!” said the dog

April 23, 2013

“Book! Book!” said the dog

I love animals and I love books.

There has been some talk recently (and I’ve indulged in it myself) about the role of dogs in books (versus cats on the internet).

I thought I’d take this post to mention some of my favorite literary dogs.

Toto, from the Wizard of Oz series, is certainly front and center.

I’m sure many people’s image of Toto comes from the portrayal by Terry, a cairn terrier (who was reportedly “paid” more than many of the human actors) in the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie.

That portrayal is not far off: Toto is very much a dog’s dog, and has to restrain instinctual responses (like not chasing the Queen of the field mice), but manages it.

Something that I particularly admired about Toto was revealed in the eighth Oz book by L. Frank Baum, Tik-Tok of Oz.

Toto had already been to Oz…and so had other animals from the Outside World (including a Billina, a yellow hen, and Hank, a mule).

It isn’t until the end of this eighth book, though, that it is pointed out to Dorothy that other Outside animals who come to Oz are able to speak like humans…but Toto hasn’t.

When Betsy Bobbin (another arrival from the Outside World questions that, Ozma (the ruler of Oz) points out that Toto should be able to speak, and must just be choosing not to do so.

“Do all the animals in Oz talk as we do?”

“Almost all,” answered Dorothy. “There’s a Yellow Hen here, and she can talk, and so can her chickens; and there’s a Pink Kitten upstairs in my room who talks very nicely; but I’ve a little fuzzy black dog, named Toto, who has been with me in Oz a long time, and he’s never said a single word but ‘Bow-wow!'”

“Do you know why?” asked Ozma. “Why, he’s a Kansas dog; so I s’pose he’s different from these fairy animals,” replied Dorothy.

“Hank isn’t a fairy animal, any more than Toto,” said Ozma, “yet as soon as he came under the spell of our fairyland he found he could talk. It was the same way with Billina, the Yellow Hen whom you brought here at one time. The same spell has affected Toto, I assure you; but he’s a wise little dog and while he knows everything that is said to him he prefers not to talk.”

“Goodness me!” exclaimed Dorothy. “I never s’pected Toto was fooling me all this time.” Then she drew a small silver whistle from her pocket and blew a shrill note upon it. A moment later there was a sound of scurrying footsteps, and a shaggy black dog came running up the path.

Dorothy knelt down before him and shaking her finger just above his nose she said:

“Toto, haven’t I always been good to you?”

Toto looked up at her with his bright black eyes and wagged his tail. “Bow-wow!” he said, and Betsy knew at once that meant yes, as well as Dorothy and Ozma knew it, for there was no mistaking the tone of Toto’s voice.

“That’s a dog answer,” said Dorothy. “How would you like it, Toto, if I said nothing to you but ‘bow-wow’?”

Toto’s tail was wagging furiously now, but otherwise he was silent.

“Really, Dorothy,” said Betsy, “he can talk with his bark and his tail just as well as we can. Don’t you understand such dog language?”

“Of course I do,” replied Dorothy. “But Toto’s got to be more sociable. See here, sir!” she continued, addressing the dog, “I’ve just learned, for the first time, that you can say words—if you want to. Don’t you want to, Toto?”

“Woof!” said Toto, and that meant “no.”

“Not just one word, Toto, to prove you’re as any other animal in Oz?” “Woof!”

“Just one word, Toto—and then you may run away.”

He looked at her steadily a moment. “All right. Here I go!” he said, and darted away as swift as an arrow.

I always considered that very intelligent…hiding that ability as long as things were going well enough without it. There are times, certainly, when I jump in (during a meeting, for instance) with something when things don’t really need it. I think many of us could learn from Toto’s example. ;)

Once the ability is revealed, Toto does speak…but I’m not really sure things are better off because of it. :)

In addition to dogs, we’ve had cats as pets (and I’ve had quite a few other species). With one particular cat, Leo, my family used to joke that Leo and I spoke “Felinglish”, a combination language (feline and English). Oh, I didn’t meow, but I understood very well what Leo was saying. I could prove it. Leo would come into the room and meow, and I could tell my Significant Other what the issue was (e.g. “Leo says the water is low in the bowl”) and it would be. I couldn’t always understand Leo…but I can’t always understand people, either. ;)

Speaking of speech and dogs, there was also Jip from the Doctor Doolittle stories.

Doctor Doolittle (and yes, I’ve been called that a few times) learned to speak with animals, and had a number of them as companions.

This is a great section from The Story of Doctor Doolittle, showing how Jip interprets the world:

Then Jip went up to the front of the ship and smelt the wind; and he started muttering to himself,

“Tar; Spanish onions; kerosene oil; wet raincoats; crushed
laurel-leaves; rubber burning; lace-curtains being washed–No, my mistake, lace-curtains hanging out to dry; and foxes–hundreds of ‘em–cubs; and–“

“Can you really smell all those different things in this one wind?”
asked the Doctor.

“Why, of course!” said Jip. “And those are only a few of the easy
smells–the strong ones. Any mongrel could smell those with a cold in the head. Wait now, and I’ll tell you some of the harder scents that are coming on this wind–a few of the dainty ones.”

Then the dog shut his eyes tight, poked his nose straight up in the air and sniffed hard with his mouth half-open.

For a long time he said nothing. He kept as still as a stone. He
hardly seemed to be breathing at all. When at last he began to speak, it sounded almost as though he were singing, sadly, in a dream.

“Bricks,” he whispered, very low–“old yellow bricks, crumbling with age in a garden-wall; the sweet breath of young cows standing in a mountain-stream; the lead roof of a dove-cote–or perhaps a
granary–with the mid-day sun on it; black kid gloves lying in a
bureau-drawer of walnut-wood; a dusty road with a horses’
drinking-trough beneath the sycamores; little mushrooms bursting through the rotting leaves; and–and–and–“

Oh, and of course there is Nana, from Peter Pan!

Mrs. Darling loved to have everything just so, and Mr. Darling had a passion for being exactly like his neighbours; so, of course, they had a nurse. As they were poor, owing to the amount of milk the children drank, this nurse was a prim Newfoundland dog, called Nana, who had belonged to no one in particular until the Darlings engaged her. She had always thought children important, however, and the Darlings had become acquainted with her in Kensington Gardens, where she spent most of her spare time peeping into perambulators, and was much hated by careless nursemaids, whom she followed to their homes and complained of to their mistresses. She proved to be quite a treasure of a nurse. How thorough she was at bath-time; and up at any moment of the night if one of her charges made the slightest cry. Of course her kennel was in the nursery. She had a genius for knowing when a cough is a thing to have no patience with and when it needs stocking round your throat. She believed to her last day in old-fashioned remedies like rhubarb leaf, and made sounds of contempt over all this new-fangled talk about germs, and so on. It was a lesson in propriety to see her escorting the children to school, walking sedately by their side when they were well behaved, and butting them back into line if they strayed. On John’s footer days she never once forgot his sweater, and she usually carried an umbrella in her mouth in case of rain. There is a room in the basement of Miss Fulsom’s school where the nurses wait. They sat on forms, while Nana lay on the floor, but that was the only difference. They affected to ignore her as of an inferior social status to themselves, and she despised their light talk. She resented visits to the nursery from Mrs. Darling’s friends, but if they did come she first whipped off Michael’s pinafore and put him into the one with blue braiding, and smoothed out Wendy and made a dash at John’s hair.

No nursery could possibly have been conducted more correctly, and Mr. Darling knew it, yet he sometimes wondered uneasily whether the neighbours talked.

He had his position in the city to consider.

Nana also troubled him in another way. He had sometimes a feeling that she did not admire him. ‘I know she admires you tremendously, George,’ Mrs. Darling would assure him, and then she would sign to the children to be specially nice to father.

I actually played Nana on stage, many years ago. I was Smee in the same production, although I must say Nana was the more admirable character. :)

Those are a few of my favorite literary dogs…how about you?

This post is dedicated to Marty, a member of our family who passed away yesterday. In his honor, I include below the announcement I sent to our family:

As I think you know, Marty has had a lot of physical problems. He’s been blind, epileptic, diabetic, and had an eye removed.

 Recently, he’s had a chronic congestive condition.
About a week ago, his seizures became much more common and a lot more intense.
We were considering starting him on an anti-seizure medication, but today, it was apparent that his time had come, and he is no longer with us.
While I’ll admit to having been reluctant to get a pug at first, over time, Marty really became my buddy (although he was always [our kid's] dog first…that’s a choice he made very early on).
Marty had a great enthusiasm, and what I would describe as real joy in some simple things. We all remember when [my Significant Other] held out a five dollar bill for him to smell, kind of as a joke, and he grabbed it and starting prancing around with it, quite happy. We did get it back from him…before he could head off to PetSmart. ;)
When we moved into one house, there was a metallic sculpted cat head on a stake as a garden decoration. Marty would find it and bring it into the house, again, very happy. So, we would stick it back in the yard…in different places. He’d always eventually find it again.
It was also quite funny when we took him to [our now adult kid's] elementary school (yes, we had him a long time). We had put a collar and leash on him, but didn’t think about the fact that his neck was as big as his head. He just stepped backwards, and was out of the collar! It wasn’t a problem, but we learned to use a harness on him after that, sort of like one you would put on a guinea pig.
There are so many good memories with him. Our animals tend to get nicknames…one for him was “Buddha Boy”, because he would sit up on his butt next to you on the couch, leaning back (without his front legs touching anything) sort of looking like Buddha. That was also the “My Buddy” position. I said he looked like “Camel Poop” shortly after we got him (I was thinking partly of the fawn color), and that kind of stuck as well.
After he went blind (which is not that uncommon with pugs), he was so good about it. This was not my first experience with a blind dog (Kimba had gone blind as well), but Marty was just so even-tempered about everything. If he walked into something, like the vacuum cleaner, he would just pause and then go around, unconcerned. We would say he would just say, “Huh.” :)
We’re going to miss him.

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


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