Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

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.

Waiting for Turow

April 10, 2013

Waiting for Turow

Who are the power players in reading?

Clearly, there are the readers…you and me. We can greatly impact things, even if we don’t always do it consciously.

If we don’t buy a book, that influences what other books are published. It can decide the fate of editors and even publishers.

The publishers are another power force. While the decentralization of distribution is sending them scrambling, traditional publishing still has the biggest impact on what is available and what authors make the most money the most regularly.

The retailers also have power…at least, until and unless direct distribution from publishers (who may simply the author of the book) gains a lot more market share.

That brings us to the authors.

Those are the people who actually write the words we read.

Who speaks for them?

For traditional authors, the obvious answer is

The Authors Guild

an advocacy group that is just over a century old.

Who speaks for the Authors Guild?

Scott Turow, their President, is undeniably one of their spokespeople.

The best-selling author recently made quite a statement in The New York Times:

The Slow Death of the American Author

Cheerful, forward-looking title, right? ;)

Just what I would want to read from my leader…”We’re doooooomed!”

We can hold Turow responsible for the statements in this piece. Not only is Turow a writer, but a Harvard educated lawyer. This is not a spur-of-the-moment e-mail, or even a blog post like this (I try, and succeed, to average at least 1,000 words a day for you in this blog, in addition to a full-time job and other interests…that means I can’t always be as careful as I might be if I had a week to write something).

Assuming that Turow is saying exactly what is intended, there are some really quite odd suggestions in this article (which I highly recommend you read).

The opener talks about the Kirtsaeng case, in which the Supreme Court recently decided that even if a book was made outside of US jurisdiction, someone who bought that book could still resell it in the US without the copyright holders’ permission.

Turow, not unreasonably, suggests that the decision could mean that more books are sold used in the USA, which could reduce the royalties authors receive.

It’s easy to see scenarios where that isn’t true (if publishers raise the price of foreign editions to match that of USA editions, this resell model becomes much less likely). It’s also worth noting that this was done with textbooks…and I would venture to guess that many of the contributions to textbooks are done as works for hire, with the author being paid a lump sum rather than a royalty (although I don’t know for sure). The decision isn’t limited to textbooks, but they are high-ticket items. It would be much harder to make a profit by importing novels.

Raising the prices for overseas editions might even result in more money for authors.

However, one of the things that Turow says is that this is…

“…the latest example of how the global electronic marketplace is rapidly depleting authors’ income streams.”

Wait, what?

The student had friends and relatives outside of the country buy the paper textbooks, mail them to Kirtsaeng in the USA, and then sold them on eBay at a profit.

Physical books were snail mailed and resold.

Arguably, eBay is the global market mentioned, but all the electronic part of this happened here.

If eBay didn’t exist, Kirtsaeng could still have sold the physical books here.

It’s just an odd leap to go from what Kirtsaeng did to the “global electronic marketplace”.

Turow next lists groups of people who are “…vying for position at authors’ expense”.

Ready for the roster of evildoers?

  • Publishers
  • Search engines
  • Libraries
  • Pirates
  • Some scholars

Go back and look at the third one again.

Scott Turow, the President of the Authors Guild, is saying that libraries are hurting authors.

Libraries.

…where many people become readers, and which are an increasingly important source of discovery, with the loss of brick-and-mortar bookstore chains.

Whether libraries actually are a problem or not, is that really where you want to go in an op-ed?

And don’t get Scott Turow started on e-books! Whoops, too late! :)

The weird thing here is that Turow acts like independent publishing of e-books doesn’t exist. Traditional publishers are ripping off authors of e-books, Turow suggests…as if there is nowhere else to go.

Turow’s tirade goes on…go ahead and read it to see what else is making the future for authors so dark.

Let me say right now: things have never been better for authors in America than they are now.

Many people who want to write and be read now have the opportunity who didn’t have it ten years ago.

Many authors are making money (even if it’s not brand name author kind of money) on their writing.

Authors have more freedom, more choices, more opportunity.

Yes, it’s different for someone who is already established like Scott Turow, and used to things being done a certain way.

Those ways be changing, but that doesn’t mean authorship is dying.

I’ve got to quote one more short excerpt from the piece, for the sake of criticism:

“Authors practice one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution, which instructs Congress “to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The idea is that a diverse literary culture, created by authors whose livelihoods, and thus independence, can’t be threatened, is essential to democracy.”

Remember that Turow is a lawyer.

Was this really about a “diverse literary culture”, or about “Science and the useful Arts”? I don’t think the framers were looking to particularly protect fiction with this…I think they wanted people to take the risk to create something, such as a map, and be able to profit from it to encourage that risk-taking.

Regardless, if this really is about a “diverse literary culture”, e-books are really delivering on that! There are thousands more independent e-books published each month than traditionally published e-books…and by a much, much wider group of authors with different viewpoints.

The Authors Guild should be embracing these changes, trumpeting them…and looking to protect authors’ rights. They should be cutting edge and innovative, not backward-looking and stodgy, as even their name indicates…I mean, “Guild” sounds so much like the Middle Ages, right? It makes it sound like you are hanging out with blacksmiths are arrow fletchers, well, except that the former has an active and welcoming web presence. ;)

Lead, don’t impede.

Tell us about how authors make the world better, and what we as a society can do to help them do that.

We’d all get behind that.

Until then, there’s just this absurdist sort of comedy, and like Vladimir and Estragon, we are waiting for Turow…

What do you think? Is Turow right? If things do look that bad, what can authors and/or the Authors Guild do about it? Want to challenge my statement that things are better for authors now than they have been in the past? 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.

What should the role of public libraries be?

January 4, 2013

What should the role of public libraries be?

What do you think about when you envision a public library?

I think I still first go to being there as a kid. Walking through narrow aisles, looking up at all the books. I knew the Dewey Decimal system early, and I was often heading for non-fiction. There might be only a few books on a particular topic.

I did check out books, but I also read them right there in the library.

I also think of them for their reference desks. They would have huge, expensive, non-circulating titles. I would use those to research something (this would have been when I was older).

I was aware of them having a rare book collection, which they were really preserving, rather than sharing.

I’ve looked up newspaper articles in microfilm.

I also used to wander through the magazine aisles…those were often micro-market titles that were fascinating.

I have used them for internet access when it wasn’t handy (when I was on a jury, for example, and we’d get a lunch break…there was a public library right nearby). Now, of course, I would bring the internet with me.

The time has come for us to seriously think about what the role of a public library should be.

There are disagreements between public libraries and tradpubs (traditional publishers), and I can see a rational on the side of publishers (although I’d prefer that they make the books much more available to public libraries).

Here’s the question:

Should public libraries circulate current, popular, in-copyright books to people who can otherwise afford them?

Sure, it’s great to go a library and borrow a current bestseller (even though you might have to wait for it).

Is that an appropriate role, though?

I know, you figure you paid your taxes for the library, you should have access to everything in it. However, if you paid your taxes for a place with a food program for the disadvantaged, do you feel like you should be able to have lunch there when you are making a good living?

I think we need to break this down a bit.

First, let’s talk about the content…to keep this simple, I’m going to keep it on books.

There are books that are in copyright and books that aren’t. The latter are in the “public domain”…the public owns them. I think it’s a great use of the libraries to make public domain works available…I wish they were doing a lot more of that.

Project Gutenberg is one of the greatest public good works in history.

http://www.gutenberg.org/

There has been tremendous, selfless work done by this private organization to preserve and make available public domain works at no cost to users.

While I definitely recognize and admire the work they have done, the government should be doing it.

There should be professionals using high-quality scanning equipment digitizing and reviewing every public domain book possible, and making it available to the public just for the taxes.

That seems to me like a great function for the government, and we do already have the Library of Congress. The books should be preserved regardless of their perceived value, although I know that priorities would have to be used. I have some books in my own collection that I would love to have available to other people, and that will not be high on the government preservation list.

So, I’d like to see public libraries doing much more with public domain.

What about in-copyright books?

I don’t know that I see that as part of a public library’s role any more, when we are talking about the general population.

I’m not quite seeing the clear public good in the latest New York Times bestseller being available through your local public library.

Emotionally, there is a difference for me if it is an expensive work which is harder for people to access. I don’t think that’s logical, though: either public libraries compete with booksellers on in-copyright works, or they don’t.

Now, it’s very different for me for people who are disadvantaged…that’s the second element. I would say we needs-test people, and if they can’t afford the books, that’s where the public library comes into play. The public library should also make EBRs (E-Book Readers) available to the disadvantaged.

I think that’s very important: it shouldn’t be that a $100 book is only available to the upper classes…but it also doesn’t mean we should make it available for free to those who can afford it, in my opinion.

In terms of being preservatories of paperbooks, yes, that’s a very important thing. Those “ephemeral” titles I have, the ones that wouldn’t generally be seen as having lasting value, should be preserved and shouldn’t count on me to do it.

I’d also to see much more universal availability in digital collections. It seems strange to me that somebody in one town doesn’t have access to a public domain title that someone in another town can get.

These are the things I see as the appropriate functions of public libraries in the future:

  • Preservation of paper materials
  • Digitization and circulation of public domain materials to anyone
  • Circulation of in-copyright materials on a needs-tested basis, including the necessary equipment on which to access it

Would that be a radical change? Yes. I see the three of those as absolutely serving the public good, though. I think tradpubs would be more likely to support those ideas.

What do you think? Would taking out the bestsellers make it less likely for the average person to support a library, since it has less value to them? At what level of government could this all happen (city, county, state, federal), and how much of a problem would that be? Should pubic libraries simply go away, and be replaced by private efforts, like Project Gutenberg? Would people be less likely to be attracted to going into the library profession, if it didn’t involve current titles? 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.

My wish list for Amazon wish lists

December 23, 2012

My wish list for Amazon wish lists

With another end of year gift giving season coming to a close, I’ve been thinking about what Amazon could do with a really useful “friends and family” gifting service.

They recently introduced

Amazon Friends & Family

and they may add features to it over the year. As they do, these are some of the things I’d like to see.

All of this would be opt-in, by the way. None of it would happen automatically, and you could choose to participate in each one or not.

Here are the basics:

Each possible recipient would have a page. That page would only be available to people they chose to have see it, possibly by providing a simple code you could enter into Amazon (finding wish lists right now could be easier). If somebody wanted it to be public, great. Otherwise, only those in the “circle” saw it.

Let people list the “players” they use

This was a weird and different question this year when buying gifts: “How does so and so read books?” This went from children to people in their eighties. We love giving books as gifts, but you need to know the preferred method. Do they read paperbooks? Do they read on a Kindle? If so, which one?

That’s also important for other things, like videogames and apps. Music, interestingly, is much less of an issue; you give someone an MP3 album and they are good, generally.

This also changes from year to year for some folks.

One thing that would make this easier is to give people who buy a “player” (a Kindle, a PS Vita) an option to have it show on their…I’ll say “gift profile”. People could also add a comment (that is already a function of wish lists), in case they use one player in one situation, and another in others.

There also can be “aware” shopping connected to this (and other items in this post). If you went to a product page for a videogame, it could give you links for people on your list. “Buying for Bob? Click here.” That would then get the appropriate version, based on their player(s).

Let people list sizes

That would be similar to the above. If you were on a page for a jacket, it could show you the right sizes for the people on your list.

Let people list preferences

We don’t use leather, so it would be great if we could just put that on the gift profile…and if it would warn people when they bought things: “Buying this for Bufo? Bufo has said that this product isn’t one that they would use.” Certainly, this could also go for food allergies and dietary preferences, among other things.

Let us see what other buyers in the “gift group” have bought for people

This would be a huge function. As a giftee, you wouldn’t see your list change, but other buyers could see that someone already bought that Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB that was on so and so’s list. Now, you can buy a cover, or a gift card for content. I think that would be the killer app here, ,the one that got people to use it.

Want to go in with me?

On a gift list item, a buyer could indicate a willingness to split the cost with other people, who could then jump in. You could indicate the amount you wanted to spend, or just have it do an even split. When enough people get in there, the gift gets ordered.

I already own…

Simple. You can publicize the ones you already have to the “gift group”. That’s especially true with book series, but would also go for things like special cards for some games, videos, and more. This could also include “I just finished…”, which might inform us for other choices, and show us what is big in the person’s life right now.

Social media feeds

I think this would also be transformative. On my Amazon Author Central Page, you see my Twitter feed. That would be cool! Twitter, Facebook: show us on the gift profile what is going on (again, only opt in). That would keep you going to the gift profile even when it wasn’t an expected time for a gift, like a birthday. You might buy a gift just because it’s fun for that person right then.

Ideally, this would also be interactive, and include a forum for the person (which they could see), right there. Unique content and social content combined…that’s the glue for a website like this.

Show us their recommendations 

Okay, the recommendation function could be a whole lot better, but this would be helpful. The big problem would be that it might compete with what the person is buying for themselves. Hm…I wonder if it could block you buying something someone else just bought for you? Probably not, due to Prime meaning you would know in a couple of days that you didn’t actually get it. Fortunately, returns at Amazon are easy, so you might end up with two, but you could return one.

Remind us

This functionality exists in the new page, but it is nice. Let us know when somebody’s birthday is, and alert us to it.

Include services

This is a big opportunity for Amazon, but would involve a lot more than a wish list change. Let us get somebody a restaurant coupon, or a travel gift certificate. Costco does this, and I would guess it is effective. Amazon is now doing it with AmazonLocal, although those deals aren’t on their website in the store.

Give us alerts when a price goes down

This would be huge! If something on a gift list goes on a special (maybe a Gold Box deal at Amazon, or just drops in price), send us an alert. People would jump on the opportunity, and probably buy something they wouldn’t have bought otherwise.

Well, that’s a few of my ideas. I think this spectrum of ideas would be big moneymakers for Amazon, and would make its customers happier and more loyal.

What do you think? Are there other things you’d like to see? Does this seem too crass to you? Does your family have a wish list tradition? 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.

Gutenberg gaffe: when someone good does something bad

December 18, 2012

Gutenberg gaffe: when someone good does something bad

I consider Project Gutenberg one of the great unselfless acts for the good of the community in the history of humanity.

I really mean that. In a way similar to the public library system, Michael S. Hart’s brain child has made public domain books available to virtually anyone at no cost.

That’s why it really pained me to see the site direct me to a “review” of the Kindle Fire which was (in my opinon) negative about the people who have bought it or received it as a gift, and ignorant as well.

It particularly saddened me because this is by their webmaster, and it validates the stereotypes many people have of geeks who act as though they are intellectually superior and enjoy making those they see as less intelligent suffer and feel bad about themselves.

I’m a geek, and like many others that I know, I love helping people. If I see someone who could benefit from something I know, I want to assist them, to make their lives better…not leave them wallowing in a pool of tears.

As you can tell, I’m emotional about this one…and I think it’s because I see Project Gutenberg as doing so much good in the world, and this, in my opinion, sullies their site. This “review” will probably discourage some people from donating to the project, and that’s a shame.

Read it and judge for yourself:

Project Gutenberg Kindle Fire review

Note that the review says it is by Project Gutenberg; the organization takes responsibility for it.

This excerpt is one of the main problems I have with it:

  1. Don’t buy a Kindle Fire. Buy the very similar Google Nexus 7 instead, that costs the same and is not locked down.
  2. If you have already bought a Kindle Fire, return it, and then buy the Nexus 7 instead.

At best I can describe that as insensitive.

I called the review ignorant. Now, there is nothing wrong with being ignorant, it just means you don’t know something. However, one can always hope that a person writing for public consumption knows when they don’t know something, and will frame a statement to indicate that.

According to the site, the page was last modified on November 27, 2012. That is well after the ability to opt out of the ads on the Kindle Fire was made available.

That means that at that point, a customer chose to see the ads in exchange for a discounted price, or paid the full price not to see them. Yes, the default on the site is for the more popular version (the one in which advertisers help defray your cost of the device), but that’s really how it works.

The review indicates that the writer, a webmaster, could not figure out how to get it to stop showing ads…not even buying out of them, by the way, but just getting it to stop displaying. The person claims that even turned off, it turned itself back on to show an ad. Now, it’s possible that the device updated and rebooted, but if it was really off, I’m hard-pressed to see how it would have turned on. My guess is that the device wasn’t off. If it was having electrical problems, it seems excessive to thereby condemn the entire model (and those who purchase it or give it as a gift). Amazon is very good at replacing defective Kindles, when that does occur (and it has happened to me).

Second, the writer suggests that Amazon has made it difficult to get free books onto the Kindle Fire from outside sources.

I”m not sure what the author found so cumbersome. I just tested it (admittedly, I tested it on my 2nd generation Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless 32GB, which is what I had handy when writing this). I long-pressed (held my finger on it for about a second) the book I wanted on Project Gutenberg. It told me it was downloading. I went to the notifications (as is typical). I tapped the book: I could start reading it.

Of course, Amazon makes it easy to share public domain books, like those from Project Gutenberg, through its free

Kindle Personal Documents Service

You can start reading your Project Gutenberg book on one device, pick up where you left on another and sync your notes and bookmarks…with up to 5GBs of material stored for you for free.

Project Gutenberg could make this easier by adding an “e-mail link” to the books (as, say, the Baen Free Library had done), but even without that, e-mailing it doesn’t seem that difficult.

A public service organization such as Project Gutenberg shouldn’t, in my opinion, post needlessly cruel “instructions” on their website.

Here’s the kicker.

The last item in the “review” is that they have a free app for the Kindle that makes getting Project Gutenberg books on to it even easier than it already is.

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:K_Download

I thought it had a very nice interface, although I didn’t find downloading particularly easier that way (after I’d found the book, which was easier) than with the Silk browser.

I will continue to support Project Gutenberg as I have done in the past, but my hope is that they remove that “review”, or rewrite it substantially. The intended result seems to be to make Kindle Fire users feel bad, and that doesn’t seem to fit Project Gutenberg’s mission.

I’m going to include here the place where you can donate to support their efforts:

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:Project_Gutenberg_Needs_Your_Donation

If you do donate, and I hope you will, you might want to mention how you feel about that review. I know you may not feel the same way I do, but regardless, expressing yourself is a good thing.

What do you think? Am I overreacting to some not atypical online snark? Am I being oversensitive because this is anti-Kindle and anti-Amazon? Do you think I wouldn’t have reacted the same way if it was a NOOK “review”? Do you feel like the webmaster has the right to say what they want to say? Does having the review muddle Project Gutenberg’s public image, or does it really not matter? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: I have edited this post to remove language which I think was overly inflammatory on my part. I used an especially negative term, and I think one of my commenters correctly called me on that. I think I was being overly defensive about Project Gutenberg. My hope is still that the “review’ is either rewritten or removed.

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

Should strangers get to know what you are reading?

December 17, 2012

Should strangers get to know what you are reading?

“I ended my night at Lolita, on Broome Street in SoHo, recommended to me by friends. It’s a languid, sprawling space, with an excellent pink cursive neon sign in front, where most of the women looked like extras from an episode of Lena Dunham’s HBO series, “Girls.” I would report to you the books they were carrying, but the only readers in the bunch were grasping Kindles. When it’s no longer possible to tell what attractive young women are reading, part of the romance of Manhattan is gone. It’s time to move to Sheboygan and open a deli.”

One of my readers alerted me in a private e-mail to that quotation, which is in this

New York Times article

by Dwight Garner.

Honestly, my first reaction was that the author seemed like a creep.

It felt like an invasion of privacy. That writer wanted to tell the public what people were reading?

That’s like telling people what other people are thinking…or whispering to each other…or who they are dating.

Reading can be a very private thing. What if the book was one to help you through a time of grief? What if it was to help prepare you to do something deeply personal?

This is a bit of a head-spinning change of perspective for me.

After all, I’ve actually met people because of what I was reading.

I was in a park once, reading a specialized magazine. I had someone tentatively approach me who was part of a non-profit involved with that issue. That led to a long and significant part of my life, where I ended up sitting on the Board of that group for a period.

That wouldn’t have happened if the magazine wasn’t apparent.

However, as I think about it, weren’t we largely acting as unpaid advertisers for the publisher?

After all, the cover not only attracted us in a store, it probably sold the book to others who saw us reading it on public transit as well.

Some people don’t like reading ads on their Kindles…I wonder how they felt about being an ad with a paperbook?

Yes, some readers put p-books in slip covers. Some tried hard to obscure the cover. Some even put one book inside another one.

Now, none of that is necessary.

You can read a book without what is effectively an intimate relationship being exposed to others.

Naturally, I don’t have any objection to you sharing if you want to do that. People tweet the books they read, and post them on Facebook. The old opening like, “Read any good books lately?” still works.

Let me ask you, though: if you could have the title of the book you are reading displayed on the back of your Kindle (on the outside of a cover, if you use one) so other people could see what it was, would you do that?

Wouldn’t that feel like egotism?

What if you had an app that would broadcast the title you are reading on your Kindle Fire to other people around you? Maybe just to people in a certain group to which you belong?

Eventually, information about us will flow pretty freely, I think. We may wear “Google glasses”, or the equivalent, that do facial recognition. They’ll search the web for you, find a tagged picture of the person in the opposite seat on the subway, and tell you their name, and their likes and dislikes.

It’s going to be hard to avoid that…and if you do, it may make you seem strange and dangerous. You know how you can get weirded out when you see someone who always wears impenetrable dark glasses, or when a limo with tinted windows is parked near you? What if you looked at someone, and instead of the normal background information your “datacles” (I just made that up…data spectacles) gave you, you saw nothing about them? Would you hold your things a little tighter, and maybe move to another seat?

Bottom line…should strangers get to know what you are reading?

Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Thanks to my reader for the heads-up!

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


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