Archive for the ‘Polls’ Category

3 years of Special Offers

April 11, 2014

3 years of Special Offers

Three years ago, on April 11, 2011, Amazon introduced Kindles with Special Offers in this

press release

The basic idea is that the buyer of a new Kindle could agree to see ads, and in exchange for that, that initial purchase price was lowered.

That’s why they are also called “ad-supported” models.

It was up to the customer: get “paid” for watching ads by getting a discount, or pay the normal price and avoid seeing ads.

It’s a simple idea, but there was a lot of buzz around it at the time.

Many people decried it, equating it with ads in books.

First, there were ads in books before that…I have some mass market paperbacks that have a cardboard ad stuck in the middle of them.

Second, the ads don’t appear in the books themselves. They appear on the sleep screen, and (originally) at the bottom of the list of books on the homescreen.

This idea may have been complicated by Amazon having gotten a patent to put relevant ads in e-books. I wrote about that a bit here:

Advertising in E-books

That wasn’t this, though…and Amazon hasn’t followed through on ads in books themselves.

Another concern people expressed was that the ads might be “inappropriate”. Basing it on television, they though that kids might see ads for “mature products”, as one example.

While we did see ads for things like cars, we haven’t had alcohol or intimate  hygiene products.

Over time, my feeling is that the ads have actually gotten more tied into what the Kindleers want…more ads for books and Kindle accessories, for instance.

Now, that could be because it didn’t turn out that a Kindle was a great way to sell a car…so those companies stopped buying the ads.

I think it must work somewhat, though, since we still have Special Offers.

It’s also tended to be that SO models are more popular than their non-ad-supported, full price counterparts.

If you think that’s just because people want to save the money (and that they don’t really like the ads), I’ll tell you that I’ve seen plenty of statements to the contrary. Many people like seeing the ads: they know they sometimes get deals that way, and hey, if nothing else, it’s something new to see. :) A lot of people didn’t like the old “woodcut” type pictures we had, and one reason was that after a while, you’d “…been there, saw that”.

With the advent of the Limited Time Special Offers on the current Kindle Fires, folks (including me) have been saving a lot of money.

Looking at the list of “recent deals” on the above linked page, you could have saved $674.96 buying those six items…an average of over $100 per deal!

We bought a Kindle Paperwhite for $19, when it was normally $119 at the time.

These LTSOs are a big incentive to go with a Kindle Fire, that’s for sure!

If you want to stop getting Special Offers, you have that choice.

You would, naturally, have to pay the difference between the original discounted cost of the device and the full price…on the order of $20.

You do that by going to (at AmazonSmile)

and clicking or tapping

Manage Your Devices

You can then “unsubscribe” from Special Offers if you want.

Can you opt into getting Special Offers if your device came without them?

Sure…same thing as unsubscribing above, except that you choose to subscribe.

Oh, and they won’t retroactively give you the discount.

Still, I think many people do make that choice, just to have the option of getting a discount on something.

While we are talking about this, let me ask you hypothetically about ads in the books themselves (again, this is something different and not on the table right now):

If you want to tell me and my readers more about what you think about this, feel free to comment on this post.


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

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.

How many Kindles do you have?

March 13, 2014

How many Kindles do you have?

My guess is that there are still some K1s out there…in fact, I personally know that’s the case. ;)

Still, with the proliferation of models (and perhaps, more coming soon), I’m curious about what you have.

When you count, count the ones which are registered to an account, and which you (or someone on your account, at any rate) has. If it’s gone, but still registered, don’t count it. If you have one, but it’s an orphan (no account) or on somebody else’s account, don’t count it…there’s no accountin’ for the count of the no-account no account Kindles. ;)

I’m also going to ask you about apps…again, they should still be registered.

I know it may be hard for you to figure out. You can go to (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

then click or tap

Manage Your Devices

I think we are all back to the same Manage Your Kindle (MYK) page, while they analyze the data from some experimenting they did. If so, you will likely be able to tap or click one of your devices or apps, and see the “Type” displayed (you may need to scroll to your right to see it). There should also be a picture, to help you identify it.

Oh, and when you get to apps, you may discover that you have “phantom” ones. I think it may be when we get an app updated, but you might have several Kindle apps registered for one iPhone, for example. This might be a good opportunity to thin those out. What I suggest in that case is to name them something identifiable (maybe adding a number at the end of the name…1, 2, 3, and so on), and then looking at the device to see which is the right one. Try to avoid counting the phantoms, if you can.

Whew! :)

Believe it or not, I actually didn’t name every possibility. If you have something else, feel free to mention it by commenting on this post. My guess is that there won’t be many, though: that should be all of the hardware (ignoring “flavors” of models, like international or Pearl), and all of the currently available apps.

I also totally understand if you aren’t sure which one you have, even with the MYK listings. You can make your best guess, or this page of mine can help:

Which Kindle do you have?

We have:

Kindle 1st generation: 2
Kindle 3: 1
Kindle Fire HDX 7″: 2
Kindle Paperwhite 1st gen: 1
Kindle Paperwhite 2nd gen: 1
Mindle: 1
iPhone: 1
Android phone: 1
Kindle Cloud Reader: 1
Kindle for PC (XP/Vista/7): 1

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle. You can also now recommend a child to be the recipient.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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

Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

February 4, 2014

Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

Amazon just announced in this

press release

a new feature:

100 Books to Read in a Lifetime (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

As with most lists like this, there will be a lot of debate. I’m surprised at what seems like a high number of recent books, but I perhaps shouldn’t be.

Amazon now owns Goodreads, and has set up a poll of sorts there, which lets you suggest books not on the list (and vote for ones which are):

Interestingly, it told me how many I had read, based on their data, and how many I “wanted to read”. That’s one of the biggest problems I have with Goodreads: you can’t simply say you own a book from what I can tell. They assume that if you own it, you must want to read it, have read it, or are reading it. That’s not always the case: for one thing, not everybody in a family reads every book. I also have to recognize that I may never end up reading every book I own…newer ones I get move up in the list over older ones frequently, and, well, I’m unlikely to be reading forever (books are published faster than they can be read, of course…even if you want to read every book in the world ((and I understand that)), you can’t keep up).

So, I thought I’d go ahead and list them here, and then ask you how many you’ve read. :) I’ll let you know my count as well.

Oh, an observation: there is at least one book on here which I would have read if text-to-speech access had not been blocked in the Kindle edition by the publisher. I don’t buy paperbooks to read for myself any more, and I don’t buy books with TTS blocked**.

I also did a quick count: looks like fifteen of them are available in print, but not as Kindle editions. I’m just basing that on the links on the page, but I suppose that suggests that they aren’t doing this purely based on which books would be the bestsellers for them (I’ll state pretty confidently that not having a Kindle edition reduces your sales).

I’m going to follow Amazon’s order here, which is not based on merit (it’s supposed to be alphabetical, but they count the words “a” and “the” as full words for alphabetization purposes…quite non-traditional, and easier for a computer. That doesn’t reinforce their desire for this to be seen as curated by human editors, in my opinion):

  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  • A Long Way Gone by Ismael Beah
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Teh Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Selected Stories by Alice Munro
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  • Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  • Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid (#1) by Jeff Kinney
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared M. Diamond
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Love in the Time of of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  • Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Out of Africa by Isaak Dinesen
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  • Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Color of Water by James McBride
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  • The Little Prince by Antoinde de Saint-Exupery
  • The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  • The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • The Wind-up Bird by Haruki Murakami
  • The World According to Garp by John Irving
  • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  • Things Fall Aprt by Chinua Achebe
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

My own count is that I’ve read 26 of these. How about you?

Feel free to comment on this list: what would you have done differently?

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

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


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

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

Poll Party #5

December 13, 2013

Poll Party #5

My regular readers know that I really like to hear your opinion. I often ask for it at the end of posts (and I try to give you conversation starters), and I love reading (and responding to) the comments.

I know not everybody wants to, or has the time and energy to, write something like that.

That’s one reason I love the polls we do here. It gives people another way to be heard. Even though we certainly aren’t a scientific sample of the mainstream, I find it interesting to see what we are saying. I suspect we might even be predictive as a group, as far as e-books are concerned, but I don’t really know that.

This time, I really wanted to focus on some trends, comparing this year to last. I’m starting to see those “Best of” 2013 lists, and I don’t tend to do those.

I do look backwards in my The Year in E-Books posts, but it’s not really about what is best (I always find that to be very subjective…what’s best for one person is not best for another). I also try to do those very late in the year…some surprising things can happen in the last weeks. :)

However, I do think you have a pretty good idea about how some things will have played out for you by the end of 2013, and hey, I was in the mood. ;)

Reading Increases by Format

My intuition has been that reading (of full-length books) has been on the rise since the introduction of the Kindle in 2007. That’s not just e-books: I think that e-books have also resulted in a more general acceptance of reading, which has likely resulted in more people reading p-books (paperbooks) and audiobooks as well.

For this question, I’m interested in which formats you find yourself reading more…not more compared to the other formats, but more compared to last year. I’m not looking so much of a shift from, say, paper to e, but whether you are reading more: you could have increases in all of the formats.

Source of Books

I actually think that traditionally published books may be reversing a trend, and getting market share back from independently published books. Some of them are starting to figure out the digital world, and they have a lot of resources (including relationships with brand name authors) to bring to the playing field. HarperCollins, in particular, seems to be experimenting with some interesting things, participating in Kindle Matchbook and Scribd’s “all you can eat” plan.

Voting with Your Dollars

Lots of times, we think we have a particular opinion…perhaps that we revere one thing more than something else. When we look at actual expenditures, though, it may turn out that we are supporting different things than we would have guessed.


There is quite a bit of argument over whether or not there is a renaissance in short stories.


While I generally consider myself an eclectic reader, I do think that e-books have broadened my horizons. I think I’m reading more books of different types, and due in part to independent publishing, more books which can’t be easily classified.

I’m going to take the categories from the Kindle store, although I won’t necessarily take them all.


Totally subjective, but I’m just curious…

Remember, you can comment on this post if you have more to say about these choices to me or my readers.

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

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

Chicken Little: “Amazon is removing all erotica and self-published books”

October 15, 2013

Chicken Little: “Amazon is removing all erotica and self-published books”

I’ve had a story brewing for a couple of days about the removal of some titles from some e-book retailers (including Amazon) because of their content.

However, this has just started to explode, with multiple threads in the Amazon Kindle forums with some really hyperbolic statements.

There is some real SIF (Sky Is Falling) panic possibility here, so let’s take a look at what is actually happening…and the implications.

Let’s start out with this article from October 11th (and warning, the article itself is going to be offensive to some):

The Kernel article: “An Epidemic of Filth” by Jeremy Wilson

This is the one that caused a lot of response…which may have resulted in Amazon and Kobo removing some titles.

Here’s a brief quotation:

“Unlike the bookshelves in physical stores, online bookstores appear to be a Wild West of depraved content sure to horrify every parent and book-lover.”

Now, it’s worth taking a look at the other articles on that site. I’ll let you judge the tone of the website yourself. I’ll say…that they would probably agree with me that “dispassionate” would not be an appropriate adjective.

Shortly afterwards, there was this

BBC article: “Amazon removes abuse-themed e-books from store” by Matthew Wall and Dave Lee

Not just Amazon, but other online retailers, are apparently removing books, both cited in the Kernel article and not cited.

That’s what is raising the concern.

These are going to be independently published books, from what I’ve seen.

This has been expanded into Amazon removing all independently published books and all erotica.

Neither seems likely.

The concern here is whether Amazon is selling illegal books…and that’s not the case for all erotica or all independently published books.

It is important to note two things about Amazon’s role here.

Amazon has the right to carry or not carry whatever they want as long as it is legal. They are not censors when they choose not to carry something. That can be purely a business decision. If they decided that people didn’t like seeing books with purple font on the cover, they could just stop carrying those. They are under no obligation to carry anything.

Second, and this may be significant, Amazon can be seen as at the least a distribution platform for books coming through Kindle Direct Publishing, and is arguably a publisher. That may give them some more legal responsibility if the books are actually illegal.

That’s the next big question.

Are these books illegal?

This brouhaha is really happening in the UK, and I don’t know their laws about pornography well enough to make that assessment.

Let’s say, though, that the books depict illegal acts (using words, not pictures). That in and of itself does not make them illegal…if it did, huge categories of books, including all murder mysteries, would be illegal.

The books in question are fiction. It’s interesting to me that a society would make any fiction actually illegal. Suppose you take the very most vile kinds of sexual crime you can imagine, and depict them using just words. It’s somewhat different with images, since it is harder to fake some things there (but not a lot more difficult, any more).

With words, directly out of the author’s imagination, no one is actually harmed in the creation of the work.

There are those who argue that people are harmed by the consumption of the work, but that does get very complicated.

This is clearly illustrated by the lead article on Kernel today:


Even if you think something like Holocaust denial is absolutely reprehensible, is it a “shame” for a bookstore to carry books that take that position?

I’m a great believer in free speech (which has to do with what the government does, not what corporations are individuals do). If somebody has ideas with which I intensely disagree, I want those ideas exposed for everybody to see. Put them on TV, let them march, publish the screeds. If people agree with me, great. If they don’t, fine…but I don’t want those sorts of ideas to flourish only underground, where the greater society doesn’t know about them.

Certainly, the books listed in the first article which seems to have prompted their removal seem not only repugnant to me, but in violation of Amazon’s own self-publishing terms. In the US, their publicly available

Content Guidelines


We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.

Offensive Content
What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.”

Those have always seemed very fuzzy to me, especially the use of the word “offensive”. What offends me is not necessarily what offends you.

“A sodomite got very excited looking at a zoology text. Does this make it pornography?”
–Stanislaw J. Lec writing in Unkempt Thoughts, translated by Jacek Galaska

Amazon says it doesn’t accept pornography or “offensive content”, and yet it carries fiction that many people might find offensive (including depictions of incest, which was a focus of the first Kernel article).

Did the books cited simply get past Amazon’s review, due to a lack of diligence? Or was it a deliberate disregarding of their own rules?

In either case, I don’t think we are going to see Amazon sweepingly remove all erotica or all independently published books from its store. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Might they over zealously remove some books which “shouldn’t” be removed? Sure, that might happen…just as YouTube removed an Amazon ad for the Kindle Paperwhite that some people apparently found offensive. They won’t be any under obligation to restore books that got caught in too wide a sweep, but they will likely do so…it makes economic sense to have books in the store that aren’t in violation of the guidelines, and could affect their relationship with authors to remove books unnecessarily.

Summing up:

  • An article on a website in the UK called out Amazon and others for carrying offensive books
  • Amazon and others removed some books, apparently in response
  • Those books appear to violate Amazon’s own guidelines
  • This does not mean that Amazon is widely removing all erotica or all independently published books

I do want to ask you a few questions:

What do you think? If the polls aren’t enough for you to express your opinion, feel free to do so by commenting on this post. Yes, I do moderate which comments get published, but I welcome a diversity of opinion.

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

What do you think of these popular authors?

October 6, 2013

What do you think of these popular authors?

I’ve often say that I’m an eclectic reader, and I do think I tend to range more widely than a lot of people. If I was stuck somewhere with only some random books in a gift shop, I’d happily read any (and all) of them, whatever the topic.

However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have preferences. I’ve read a lot of science fiction/fantasy, and a lot of non-fiction (especially about animals, and about human behavior).

I’m interested in you, though.

I wanted to get a sense of what my readers like to read.

I figured that doing it by authors would work: even though some authors write in many genres, I think that’s a broader sense than asking about individual books. You could like one book by an author, and not like another one by the same author.

I didn’t want to be the one picking the list: that’s why I didn’t do genres. I wanted something that was, if not objective, at least outside me.

I first tried GoodReads, and then Shelfari (both owned by Amazon), looking for some good indicator of popular authors.

I wasn’t satisfied with those. They didn’t seem to me to have a good data sample, rather than a curated list.

Fortunately, I remembered that LibraryThing has the “zeitgeist” feature, which would give me what I wanted. I had previously compared those three sites…the research for that article came in handy here. :)

I’m going to poll you based on their “top 75 authors” list. That’s based on the number of copies that their users have indicated…and I was happy to see that it wasn’t just the most recent authors who dominated.

There are actually only 74 authors listed, because one of them is “anonymous”. :)

I don’t want to give you too many poll questions: I find that tends to lessen the number of responses.

Let’s do this. I’ll first ask you if you’ve ever read anything by these popular authors. They are going to be in order of most popular at LibraryThing first:

Next, let’s go with just the 25 most popular, and you tell me which ones you would recommend to other people:

Finally, tell me which of the 25 most popular do you not want to read (again). Whether you have read somebody or not, you may just feel like you don’t want to put one of their books on your “To Be Read” list. That doesn’t necessarily mean you think the author is bad…they just aren’t for something that you want to read (and much as we all hate to admit, it’s very unlikely that we can read everything we’d like to read before…well, time runs out).

Feel free, of course, to give me and my readers your opinions on other authors (but be nice, of course). :)

On that big list of seventy-four, I think I’ve read…I’m going to say 56 of them. Pretty much all the ones I haven’t read are contemporary, although that’s no excuse. ;) With some of them, I have books by them, but just haven’t gotten to them yet.

Here is that
LibraryThing Zeitgeist page

I think it’s fascinating.

Now of course, you might want to read some of these authors, if you haven’t. Here’s a link to help you find them:

Kindle store author search

I have to say, I’m really looking forward to seeing these results! I know the polls don’t always cover everything you want to say…feel free to add a comment to the post!

Update: Bonus deal: I meant to mention this one. It’s a Gold Box deal for today, and one of the Kindle Daily Deals. As always, check the price before you click that “Buy” button. These prices may not apply in your country, and may not still be in effect by the time you follow the below link:

50 Books in Popular Series, $1.99 or Less Each


Update: thanks to my reader Jack who made a comment which improved this post.

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

Ready for a newer Kindle? Amazon’s trade-in program

October 3, 2013

Ready for a newer Kindle? Amazon’s trade-in program

Amazon has recently released a new Kindle Paperwhite, and has announced the third generation of Kindle Fires, including the Kindle HDX line.

As is often the case with electronics, the newer ones do more and/or cost less.

A lot of people want to be able to trade-in their older model to get a discount on the newer one.

Well, you can sort of do that through Amazon, and I’m going to tell you how.

First, though, let me say this. When I buy an electronic, I make a judgement at that time that the device is at a reasonable price for me. I honestly don’t get upset if a new one gets announced shortly after that that’s a better deal. If it was worth $100 to me when I bought it, it’s still worth $100 to me…even if somebody else gets more bells and whistles for $50. I’m happy for them, but I still feel like I made a good decision with the information I had.

Now, the other thing I’d say is that you might want to consider keeping the older Kindle “in the family” (or with a friend, or coworker). If you keep it on your account, and can give it somebody you trust, you are increasing your buying power. That’s due to the fact that Kindle store e-books have “simultaneous device licenses”. Unless it says otherwise on the book’s Amazon product page, six devices (Kindles and/or reading apps) can license the book at the same time.

Let’s look at this scenario.

Brix, Styx, and Straw are all band-mates in a combo called The 3 Little Pigz.

They could either have three separate Amazon accounts or share one.

They all want to read the same book, which costs $9.99.

If they have separate accounts (and if the book isn’t lendable, which is often the case), they’d have to pay $29.97 as a group (each one paying $9.99).

If the three of them are on the same account, they can pay $9.99 as a group ($3.33 each) and still all read that same book at the same time (usually).

For that $29.97, they can all read three $9.99 books on the same account: increased purchasing power.

Obviously, you need to be able to trust each other, although you can work on conditions. Not everybody needs the password for the account: you can buy books without that. I’ve written about “Kindle Klubs” before, and I might do it again, but for the purposes of this post, I think you get the idea.

Okay, but what happens if you do decide you want to get rid of last year’s (or 2007′s) model and get the newer one?

You could recycle your Kindle: Amazon will send you a pre-paid mailing label, so they make it easy.

You could donate it somewhere, or give it away.

You could sell it on eBay, or somewhere like that. I really do caution people about buying Kindles from strangers, though. The device could be stolen, and the person selling it to you might not even know that. If it stolen, you could end up out the device and the money you paid for it. Plus, you have to deal with the shipping and the “customer service”.

A simpler solution then selling it yourself is to use the

Amazon Trade-In Program

You probably won’t get as much value for it as you would doing it yourself, and you won’t get money for it…you’ll get an Amazon gift card.

Still, there’s something to be said for doing it the easy way. ;)

This isn’t exactly trading in your Kindle 2 for a Kindle Paperwhite 2. What happens is that you sell your Kindle to a third party through Amazon, and you get an Amazon gift card…which you could then spend on that Paperwhite 2.

You have to grade your device, and it has to be what you say it is.

How much can you get for it?

Remember, that depends in part on what the condition is. My Kindles are typically in quite good condition…I  usually keep them in covers, and I’m a pretty careful person (you typically couldn’t tell a paperbook had been read when I finished it).

These are subject to change at any time…even the models that they want might change.

What I’m going to list for you right now is only as of writing: if you go to the

Amazon Kindle Trade-In page

you’ll be able to figure out there what it is worth when you are ready for the trade-in.

With that said, here are a few of the 39 listings at time of writing

  • Kindle Fire HD 7″: up to $81.50
  • Mindle: up to $23.85
  • Kindle Fire 2nd generation non-HD: up to $46.75
  • Kindle Fire 8.9″ HD (wi-fi only): up to $128.25
  • Kindle Paperwhite (wi-fi only): up $70.25
  • Kindle DX: up to $93.75
  • Kindle Fire 1st generation: up to $40.00
  • Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3): up to $27
  • First generation Kindle (2007 model): up to $10
  • Kindle 2: up to $27

As I’m looking at those prices, that really isn’t too bad. Instead of $119 for the new Kindle Paperwhite 2, you could pay net (after applying your gift card to your account) $48.75.

Now, some of these prices may look weird to you when you look at them. For example, a model with 3G and wi-fi may get you the same as a model with just wi-fi.

I’m sure it has to do with demand. Remember, this is not Amazon buying it back…it’s another company, NorAm International. It isn’t Amazon rewarding you for your loyalty, or compensating you based on what you paid. Amazon is facilitating the deal between you and NorAm. I think it’s great that Amazon does that, but it is going to be what the market will bear.

It’s worth mentioning also that Amazon has a generous

Kindle return policy

within the first 30 days of purchase. If you just ordered one and a new one is announced, you could return the one you bought when you got it and then buy the new one. Amazon knows that’s a hassle for both of you: if you recently bought one, contact Amazon at

and see what they can do. If it’s in time, they might be able to switch you to the new one.

I like to keep my Kindles around for reference, and it makes sense with this blog and the other things I’ve written. That certainly may not be true for you, though, so it’s nice that the trade-in option is there.

Thanks to reader Phink who commented recently mentioning the program…I had planned to write about it, but I appreciated the nudge and effort to helpfully inform others. It helped convince this would be a good post to do. :)

What do you think? Have ever traded in anything at Amazon? How did it go? Do you keep your old Kindles? Actually, let me do a quick poll on that:

Have other thoughts? 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.

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:


  • 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.

Finding Whispersync for Voice or TTS enabled books

September 22, 2013

Finding Whispersync for Voice or TTS enabled books

Kindle books have a lot of features that p-books (paperbooks) don’t have. However, not all of them work in all books or all types of devices/apps.

You probably don’t care about all of them equally, either.

For example, I won’t buy a book without text-to-speech (unless it is a graphic novel where the feature isn’t possible). I typically listen to it for hours a week in the car, and I don’t want to support books which don’t have it, because I feel that blocking the TTS (which is the way it works…if a publisher does nothing, TTS works) disproportionately disadvantages the disabled.

For you, though, TTS (software which converts the visual words into spoken words on the fly) might be no big thing. Most people probably don’t use it…that would be my guess.

On the other hand, you might like Whispersync for Voice, where you can sight read part of a book, switch to an audiobook (a recording of a person reading the book out loud, typically…very different fromTTS) and pick up where you left off.

Me? Meh. I just don’t use that…I’m not a big fan of audiobooks, unless I’ve already read the book (I don’t like the actor/author interpreting the characters for me), and I don’t tend to re-read very much. I can absolutely understand why people like it, though.

What’s weird to me is that Amazon doesn’t make it equally easy to search by all the different features.

Oh, I suppose some of it is marketing. If you point out that some books have TTS, you are really pointing out that others have blocked it…that may not be a message you want front and center as a retailer.

So, let’s take a look at finding books where you can use these two features, and then you can use one or both of them…up to you.

Whispersync for Voice

Amazon has a special easy-to-use web address for this one:

This actually takes you to the front page for this feature, which explains it and gives you links to free WSV books, ninety-nine centers…and in a wonderful new feature, it will automatically search your Kindle books looking for matches!

That was cool! It’s the best listing of WSV books I’ve seen. It shows you, easily, who the narrator is, and how much you’ll save getting the book as WSV as opposed to buying it separately as an audiobook (which you would have to do if you hadn’t bought the e-book). For me, for example, it showed this for

More Than Human
By Theodore Sturgeon
Narrated by Harlan Ellison
List Price: $20.97
Upgrade Price: $3.99
You Save: $16.98 (81%)

The fact that this is read by the truly significant author, Harlan Ellison, makes this much more intriguing for me.

If you want WSV, it’s easy to find.

If you only want books where text-to-speech hasn’t been blocked? Not so much.

Amazon doesn’t let you search by that, and doesn’t have a page for it.

What I’ve done, however, is use Google.

You can specify the site you want Google to search, by starting your search with something like “”.

I’ve then added some search terms to make it more likely to find what I want.

For example, Kindle book product pages will have the term “ASIN” (Amazon Standard Identification Number) on them. That helps cut down on false positives in my search…for one thing, TTS gets discussed in the Amazon forums, and if I don’t include that ASIN, I’ll get a number of hits for those discussions, not for actual books.

Here is the search I used: “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price”

and the results:

Again, it’s not perfect, but it will work pretty well. You could add other things to that search if you want…for example, an author’s name: “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price” “Harlan Ellison”

or a topic: “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price” vampire

If you are wondering when to use the quotation marks and when not to use them, use them if you need more than one word to be taken as a single term. For example, if I did “vampire romance”, the found books would have to have that as a phrase. If I did

vampire romance

it will probably find books which have the word “vampire” and books that have the word “romance”. When I tested it, there were many, many more results when I didn’t use the quotation marks.

Have fun getting an earful of your books!

While we’re here, let’s do a quick poll:

Want to tell me more about it? Do you find that people consider it inferior to listen to books rather than sight-read them? I’ve gotten that from people: “You didn’t read it, you listened to it.” I wonder if those people think people with print disabilities aren’t reading the book? I will say, though, that I think my retention may not be as good when listening…perhaps because there is less mental processing involved. Do you prefer audiobooks over TTS? If so, why? Have you ever listened to TTS because you didn’t want to pay extra for an audiobook? That is, I think, why some publishers block TTS…they think that’s what happens. Feel free to let me and my readers (which likely include some publishers) know by commenting on this post.

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

Poll Party #4

September 14, 2013

Poll Party #4

My regular readers know that I really like to hear your opinion. I often ask for it at the end of posts (and I try to give you conversation starters), and I love reading (and responding to) the comments.

I know not everybody wants to, or has the time and energy to, write something like that.

That’s one reason I love the polls we do here. It gives people another way to be heard. Even though we certainly aren’t a scientific sample of the mainstream, I find it interesting to see what we are saying. I suspect we might even be predictive as a group, as far as e-books are concerned, but I don’t really know that.

Kindle MatchBook

Amazon recently announced Kindle MatchBook, a service (starting in October) that will allow you to buy an e-book at a reduced price if you have bought the p-book (paperbook) from Amazon. Not all books will be eligible, but eligible purchases will go back to the beginning of Amazon.

There has been some interesting responses to this, in particular, I’ve seen articles that question whether or not this is even something people will want.

Idle Kindles

recently wrote about the many kinds of Kindleers, and it was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me.

I tend to keep all my Kindles, partially to have them as reference for questions.

However, I can honestly say I haven’t tried to turn on my Kindle 1 (the kind released in 2007) in over a year.

That got me thinking…there must by now be a lot of Kindles sitting unused in drawers and such.

Amazon’s Publishing Efforts

A lot is riding on Amazon’s publishing efforts, both as a traditional publisher and as a publishing platform (Kindle Direct Publishing).

In the past, pretty much every time Amazon has gone up against the publishers, they’ve lost (text-to-speech, the Agency Model…the latter wasn’t fixed until the Department of Justice intervened). It’s pretty simple: in terms of books, Amazon has needed the tradpubs (traditional publishers).

As Amazon continues to produce their own books, though, they need the publisher less…potentially shifting that balance.

That only really works if we buy the books, though…

I realize many people may not know (or care) who published their books, so here are some links to the options in the poll, in case you want to check:

Your Reading Profile

I’m just curious about this one…I always assume the readers of this blog tend to be “serious readers”, but I like to get more data.

Comfort Level with Your E-reading Device

When I started this blog over four years ago, I was doing a lot of basic “how tos” and tips and tricks.

Over time, my sense has been that the devices have gotten easier to use, and people come into them knowing more about them. That doesn’t mean that I don’t go back to the basics…I know that you always should do that in every endeavor, and that you are far more likely to overestimate people’s knowledge of a topic you know than underestimate it in most cases.

So, I’ll ask…

Used to Uses

Bookstore sales continue to drop this year (down 6.3% in July, according to this Publishers Weekly article). That’s leading some people to say that p-books are going away. I don’t think that myself, although I do think that how they are going to be used may change dramatically. For example, I’ve been suggesting that we may see $50 as a common price for a hardback novel by a brand name author (with better materials and manufacturing, and more of a luxury feel).

Another factor that got made me want to do this poll was that it is the 50th anniversary of the audiocassette (depending on how you measure it, of course). I remember when something came up with my now adult kid about an audiocassette, and my kid had no idea what they were…despite having frequently used an audiocassette player at maybe five years old (and something like ten years before the question about them).

That doesn’t mean they aren’t still around…somewhere…but they seem to be not much in the public consciousness of New Millenials.

I was also amused to a reference recently to an animal having a “…nose like Jimmy Durante“. I wondered how many people reading that story online got anything out of that line!

Glass Check

I’m often described as an optimist, and I wouldn’t argue with that. It sometimes suggests that I’m living in a fantasy world and am deluded about reality…I might want to refute that point. ;)

How about you?

I certainly expect the fewest answers on that last question, because most people aren’t gong to want to define themselves that completely…they are going to see themselves as a mix, or undefined. We’ll see, though. ;)

Polls are certainly just one way to express your opinion. I know some of you will have more to say on these, and may question my wording and options (which is fine, of course). Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

I’ll be interested to see what results we get!

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


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