Archive for the ‘Recommendations’ Category

Short stories

October 31, 2014

Short stories

I’m much more likely to read novels than short stories…but I do like both.

They are obviously very different sorts of works, and some authors are only good at one or the other.

What’s the strength of a short story?

To me, it’s often that it is so…direct. In a great short story, there isn’t a lot of wasted time. Not a lot of exposition, or secondary plot lines. You are involved, and you know you are going somewhere.

That’s another thing: short stories often give you less description…more suggestion than exposition. You build the rest of it yourself. They don’t have to tell you hair color, and height, and all of that. If a cop yells, “Drop it!” they don’t take the time to tell you what the officer had for breakfast.

Similarly, you don’t need to build up to a whole situation. In some cases, we are just dropped right into the middle of the action.

With a novel, you usually want it to be logical and organic…think of a novel like a three course meal, and a short story like a candy bar. ;) They are both good, but the latter can be much more intense.

The USA Kindle store actually has multiple “aisles” devoted to short stories.

Literature & Fiction: Classics: Short Stories (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

for example, has 2,114 at the time of writing…and 122 of those are eligible through

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

That latter option opens up new possibilities. You see, with KU, you could borrow an anthology, read just the short story you wanted, return it, borrow another book, and so on. It wouldn’t surprise me if people start putting together “playlists” of short stories they recommend.

I’m not quite ready for that tonight, though. ;)

I can talk about some of my favorite short stories.

Before I do that, let me mention a little bit about getting into short stories in the Kindle store.

Generally, there are two terms you might hear: anthologies and collections. People don’t always follow these definitions (there are no regulatory bodies in literature), but traditionally, it goes like this:

  • An anthology is a group of short stories by different authors. They are often put together around a theme…for example, I’ve read an anthology about cats in space. Often, the theme is chosen and existing stories are brought together…and maybe a couple of new ones are written just for the book. Another common type of anthology is “Best Stories of 2014″, or things along those lines. Again, different authors, and the theme being the year in which they are released
  • A collection, on the other hand, is usually all the work of one author. There might be a collection of short stories by Mark Twain or Edgar Allan Poe

The third thing, and one really enabled by the electronic format, is that the Kindle store title might have just one short story in it. I often see complaints from people that they think they’ve overpaid in that case…they paid ninety-nine cents for ten “pages” of story.

You’ll find all three types in the USA Kindle store.

In the case of anthologies, one of the best things to do is get familiar with who the editors are. The editors choose the stories, and that’s often the most important thing. Groff Conklin and Gardner Dozois come to mind for me as two I like.

Anthologies and collections both often draw on magazine work. In the heyday of the pulps, some authors were highly prolific. They were paid by the word, and they wrote in multiple genres (often under multiple names), making a living. That doesn’t mean it was “hack” work: there was some  tremendously  imaginative work done under those circumstances. I think working under a deadline is often beneficial…even if it can cause problems in other circumstances.

Next let me make some specific recommendations:

  • The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells is one of my absolute favorites
  • The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  • The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain
  • A Scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle (and picked by Doyle as one of the author’s favorite Sherlock Holmes stories…it features Irene Adler)
  • The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
  • The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
  • The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe (I’ll be running that as my annual Halloween read-aloud)
  • Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling
  • The Oracle of the Dog by G.K. Chesterton (a Father Brown mystery)

Those are just ten…there are many, many more. I’d be happy to hear your suggestions…and yes, I’ve already read The Platypus of Doom by Arthur Byron Cover. ;) That was is arguably a novellette, but I’m willing to be flexible with length definitions. I’m fine with using the Nebula Award definitions:

  1.  Short Story: less than 7,500 words;
  2.  Novelette: at least 7,500 words but less than 17,500 words;
  3.  Novella: at least 17,500 words but less than 40,000 words
  4.  Novel: 40,000 words or more.

http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-awards/rules/

and including anything significantly under a novel. :)

What do you think? Do you read short stories? Do you ever just read one at a time? What are your favorites? Do you have a favorite anthology (I’d have to put Apeman, Spaceman edited by Harry Harrison and and Leon E. Stover up there for me)? What really makes a short story work for you? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

 Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

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.

 

Halloween non-fiction

October 27, 2014

Halloween non-fiction

Let me address one question first: should you let children read books which purport to be true stories about the supernatural?

I’m sure it won’t surprise my regular readers if I give a resounding yes. ;)

Obviously, if you “believe” in ghosts, it makes sense for your child to read books about them.

What if you believe that ghosts don’t exist?

My feeling would be that it’s even more important for your child to read books that present the opposition opinion.

You want your kid (if they are interested) to read them with your knowledge…and encourage an open dialogue.

Ideally, you would also read the same book at the same time, and then you could have a full discussion.

Fortunately, the licensing in the Kindle store makes that easy to do. Even if you buy a book (and there are many well-known books on this topic available through Kindle Unlimited as well), you can typically have the book on up to six devices on the same account at the same time…for that one purchase price.

Not everybody agrees with this…even fictional books with supernatural elements are commonly “challenged” in schools and public libraries. Harry Potter is a good example. I think the basic argument is that children can be seduced into evil by reading about  it.

There is also a group of Skeptics (with a capital “S”) who worry about children being confused by unscientific ideas. For me, though, it would be a great opportunity to foster critical thinking. I would think for most kids we are looking at about eight years old an up for these discussions, but it would go something like this: “Why might that not be true?” That’s a core of critical thinking (and I’ve done a lecture on critical thinking before)…what are the other possibilities?

Does this mean I think every child should read non-fiction books on ghosts and such?

Nope.

If a kid isn’t interested, or is scared, I wouldn’t push it. What I’m looking at here is a kid who self-selects to read something…and whether or not a guardian should veto it.

Again, that’s just my opinion: feel free to offer your own by commenting on this post.

Last thing before I point out some books: these aren’t just for kids. :) I read books on these topics now. I’m fascinated with how people come to conclusions, and reading advocatory books on all sides helps illustrate that.

Okay, here we go…

Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*
by Hans Holzer
Kindle Unlimited (KU)

Holzer really popularized the idea of “ghost hunting”. An urbane and witty writer with more than 100 books published, that included being a New York Times bestselling author. This book is a series of short articles on investigations Holzer made. This is simple: either Holzer is lying, or there is very strong evidence here for something paranormal. Holzer couldn’t have been hoaxed in some of these situations without things being very, very complicated. While the book never gets explicit, there is some…I’d say racy material, but it isn’t really that. You might have to explain to a nine-year old why adults would go to a club to paint a partially naked woman, for example…although the accounting of that is written in good taste.

Monsters Among Us (at AmazonSmile*)
by Brad Steiger
KU

Steiger is another super prolific writer. This book is again one of short articles, although with a bit more structure as it covers different topics. For example, there is that Hollow Earth stuff…

Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magic (at AmazonSmile*)
by Isaac Bonewits
not KU

This one isn’t scary…it looks at magic and breaks it down into engineering like laws. I’m going to from memory here, but there is something like the “law of similarity” (if it seems the same, it is the same…that’s why you can make a replica of something and use it to affect the real thing) and something like the “law of contagion” (the more intimate contact something has with a person, the more of their “essence” it picks up. In other words, if you want to cast a spell on somebody, their fingernail might be better than a spoon they touched once at a restaurant).

Strange Creatures From Time and Space (at AmazonSmile*)
by John A. Keel
KU

Keel was highly influential, and brought a sort of hard-headed, blue collar approach to the paranormal (Keel was, to me, the clear inspiration for Kolchak, the “night stalker”). While many people’s favorite is The Mothman Prophecies, this is a fun, wide-ranging book. One minor warning: Keel isn’t always what would now be considered to be “politically correct”. That might also be a topic for conversation with a young person reading the book…

Adventures in Paranormal Investigation (at AmazonSmile*)
by Joe Nickell
not KU

Nickell is one of those capital “S” Skeptics, but unlike some of them, doesn’t come across as vitriolic. If you want a kid who is leaning towards belief to get the other side, Nickell is a good choice.

There are a lot of choices…here’s one of the main categories:

Kindle eBooks : Religion & Spirituality : Occult (at AmazonSmle*)

Be aware that some of the books in there may be fiction…publishers get to choose their categories, and they don’t always make the categorizations that you or I might make. In some cases, it’s for marketing purposes, in others, it’s just not knowing which one to pick.

If you have questions about any specific titles, feel free to ask me. If you have any other comments for me or my readers, I look forward to those. Perhaps you think children should be protected from occult books, or you don’t want them to be led astray. Maybe you have other books you’d like to recommend (advocatory for the paranormal, or skeptical)…either way, happy Halloween! :)

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

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

#1 New York Times bestsellers available through Kindle Unlimited

October 5, 2014

#1 New York Times bestsellers available through Kindle Unlimited

It doesn’t surprise me that there have been a lot of…I was going to say “cynical”, but let’s go with “dismissive” comments about the selection of books available through Amazon’s subser (subscription service):

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

I think people tend to test it in the same way they tested the Kindle store in the early years.

They look for books they already love, and see if they would be available.

Well, there is something to be said for discovery. :)

After all, you didn’t love those books you love before you read them, right?

You may have particular authors you like, or want to read the next book in a series…I completely understand that.

That’s why it’s important to realize that, if you do pay the $9.99 a month for Kindle Unlimited, you can still buy other books if you want. I know there will be a desire to have it eliminate all of your other book spending, and that’s certainly possible. However, if you have KU and you spend $9.99 on one other book, that’s still less than $20 that month for books.

I have to say, what I’m finding is that I’m reading much more expensive books than I would have otherwise through KU.

I read quite a few public domain classics, which are free, and I often find books that are on sale or are inexpensive. The big difference for me with KU is that I’m reading books which cost $9.99 or thereabouts, which I would not have read otherwise.

That’s a bit of a mental shift. You may have stopped looking at well-known older books, since they can be quite expensive (much more expensive as an e-book than they were in mass market paperback years ago). I don’t find that unreasonable, by the way. I’ve never quite understood why some people think an older book should automatically be cheaper than a new one…when the value you derive from reading it is the same it was when it was initially released.

I’m amazed at books which I stumble across in KU. Sure, there are a lot of indies (independently published books) which are unknown to me, but there are also some which were bestsellers.

What I thought I’d do in this post (and which I may do again in the future) is list ten New York Times fiction bestsellers which are available through KU.

To make it harder, I went only with ones which had been a #1 bestseller.

I started at the excellent site

Hawes Publications site

which has lists of NYT bestsellers.

The page to which I linked above is specifically #1 NYT fiction bestsellers.

Then, I just started going through them to see which ones were available through KU.

I started chronologically at the beginning (which is how they are listed).

The Robe (at Amazon Smile*)
by Lloyd C. Douglas
November 22, 1942
4.6 out of 5 stars, 203 customer reviews
$9.39 at time of writing without KU
Whispersync for Voice (WSV) ready

This is a faith-based novel set in Roman times. It was on the NYT list for something like a year, and was later made into a movie with Richard Burton.

Forever Amber (at AmazonSmile*)
by Kathleen Winsor
November 14, 1944
4.4 stars, 370 reviews
$10.99 without KU
historical romance

Otto Preminger directed LInda Darnell, Cornel Wilde, and George Sanders in the movie.

So Well Remembered (at AmazonSmile*)
by James Hilton
September 23, 1945
5.0 stars, 2 reviews
$13.99 without KU

The Kindle edition may seem expensive, but it’s actually a bundle with three complete Hilton novels (So Well Remembered, Random Harvest, and We Are Not Alone). Hilton is arguably best known for Lost Horizon and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Trevor Howard was in the adaptation of So Well Remembered.

Gentleman’s Agreement (at AmazonSmile*)
by Laura Z. Hobson
April 27, 1947
4.2 stars, 23 reviews
$7.69 without KU

Huge bestseller which tackled the issue of anti-Semitism, and became a Gregory Peck starring Best Picture Oscar winner.

House Divided (at AmazonSmile*)
by Ben Ames Williams
November 9, 1947
4.7 stars, 37 reviews
$9.99 without KU

Historical novel set during the American Civil War.

Raintree County (at AmazonSmile*)
by Ross Lockridge
April 25, 1948
4.6 stars, 45 reviews
$9.99 without KU

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor starred in the movie adaptation of this novel set in 19th Century America.

The Young Lions (at AmazonSmile*)
by Irwin Shaw
November 7, 1948
4.5 stars, 172 reviews
$9.99 without KU

A World War II novel…published three short years after the war ended. Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and Dean Martin starred in a 1958 adaptation.

From Here to Eternity (at AmazonSmile*)
by James Jones
March 25, 1951
4.2 stars, 151 reviews
$9.99 without KU

The World War II novel became one of the most-Oscar awarded movies, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra), and Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed).

Exodus (at Amazon Smile*)
by Leon Uris
May 17, 1959
4.5 stars, 445 reviews
$6.83 without KU

This one is about the founding of Israel, and became one of the bestselling novels up to that time in the USA. Paul Newman starred in the movie.

The Group (at AmazonSmile*)
by Mary McCarthy
October 6, 1963
3.3 stars, 263 reviews
$9.99 without KU

Almost two years on the NYT list, this novel was seen as a cultural touchstone. Sidney Lumet directed Candice Bergen and Joan Hackett, among several others. The controversial subject matter may have hurt the movie at the Oscars (no noms),but there was recognition from BAFTA (the UK) and the Golden Bear (Germany).

There you are! While you might not buy these books at these prices, you certainly might want to read some of them at no additional cost through your KU membership.

If you are a fast reader, you might get through all of them during your free month. ;)

If you aren’t a KU member, you can still buy them, of course.

I may add another set of these…and I think I would include some non-fiction. Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Enjoy!

 Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

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

Kindle Unlimited dictionaries

September 21, 2014

Kindle Unlimited dictionaries

My Significant Other made good use of

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

I think, by borrowing cookbooks just to get a few recipes.

Now, I did think about whether or not that was taking advantage of the authors.

If you don’t read ten percent of  KU book, the author isn’t compensated.

However, I assume that if you go to a spot more than ten percent of the way into the book, even if you don’t read the material before that, it’s going to count. I don’t know otherwise how they can tell how much you’ve read.

I also think if you had a 400 page book, and ninety percent of your readers were more than 10% of the way through in the first day, Amazon might investigate. I’m just picking the 400 and 90 figures for illustration…I don’t know what they might really be.

The idea of just using a small part of the book is a whole new way of thinking about books, at least for me.

Oh, sure, people go into the public library just to look up one thing, and some people would come into the brick and mortar bookstore when I was a manager and do the same thing…but I didn’t like that. If you were looking at the book to legitimately decide whether you wanted to buy it or not, it seemed like you were “stealing” the material to me.

In the case of KU, it seems different…especially if reading one recipe a third of the way into the book would trigger compensation.

I’m not likely to be looking at a cookbook for a recipe…I just don’t cook that much (although I’m quite good with a microwave). ;)

Dictionaries? That I could see.

I read an unabridged dictionary cover to cover when I was a kid, and I do like them.

Especially specialized dictionaries…ones where I might not know the word, or have forgotten it.

Well, I checked

Dictionaries in Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile*)

and there are 375 (including 30  thesauruses).

I do expect at some point I’ll jump in and check a few words in one of these.

A few that stand out:

  • A Sea of Words: A Lexicon and Companion to the Complete Seafaring Tales of Patrick O’Brian by Dean King and John B. Hattendorf: 4.5 stars out of 5, 89 customer reviews
  • Most Comprehensive Origins of Clichés, Proverbs, and Figurative Expressions by Stanley J. St. Clair and S. John St. Clair: 4.8 stars, 9 reviews
  • Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Intellectuals: Synonyms, Antonyms, and Related Terms Every Smart Person Should… by David Olsen and Michelle Bevilacqua: 4.2 stars, 12 reviews
  • Well-Spoken Thesaurus: The Most Powerful Ways to Say Everyday Words and Phrases by Tom Heehler: 4.0 stars, 18 reviews
  • Let’s Bring Back: The Lost Language Edition: A Collection of Forgotten-Yet-Deligh… Words, Phrases, Praises,… by Lesley M. M. Blume: 4.2 stars, 17 reviews
  • An Uncommon Vocabulary by Jim Boyd: 4.6 stars, 5 reviews
    SALTY LANGUAGE: An Unabridged Dictionary of Marine Corps Slang, Terms and Jargon by Andrew Bufalo: 5.0 stars, 6 reviews
  • The Dictionary of Made-Up Languages: From Elvish to Klingon, The Anwa, Reella, Ealray, Yeht (Real) Origins of… by Stephen D. Rogers: 4.2 stars, 13 reviews
  • Talk the Talk: The Slang of 67 American Subcultures (Second Edition) by Luc Reid: 4.2 stars, 10 reviews
  • The Big Black Book of Very Dirty Words by Alexis Munier: 3.8 stars, 10 reviews
  • The 1333 Most Frequently Used IT Terms (The 1333 Most Frequently Used Terms) by José Luis Leyva: 5.0 stars, 1 review
  • Shesaurus: Dictionary-Thesaurus by Keshia Kola, Marquisha Gatewood and Howard Simpson: 5.0 stars, 1 review
  • Geektionary: From Anime to Zettabyte, An A to Z Guide to All Things Geek by Gregory Bergman and Josh Lambert: 3.9 stars, 10 reviews
  • Chop Squads, Molls, & Suckers A Brief Dictionary of the Vernacular from the 1930s and 1940s by M. S. Scicchitano: no reviews
  • The Dictionary of Vampspeak, Second Edition: Terminology & Lingo in the Vampire Community by Elizabeth Widell: no reviews
  • Dictionary of Imported English: Contributions to the Global Language (Knowledge of the Nerds Book 1) by David Govett: no reviews
  • A Martian Earthly Dictionary by Yavar Dehghani: no reviews

Again, that’s just a small sampling…I do think I’ll read some of those. That last one is particularly odd: it’s supposed to be a humorous dictionary that defines “Earthly” words for Martians. I glanced a bit at it…the English in it is imperfect, and the humor…is intended to be dry, but seems to bring in quite a few stereotypes.

There’s a lot more besides these. You can get travel dictionaries, for example, which could be quite useful to have at no additional cost when on a trip.

Naturally, you don’t have to be a KU member: you can pay for these if you aren’t. I have to say, though, I’m a lot more likely to read some of these as part of KU than I would be if I had to pay for them individually.

You might also consider some for gifts…remember that you can delay a gift book so it is delivered on the appropriate occasion.

I’m really hoping Amazon gives us an elegant way to gift KU this holiday season! Sure, we could do gift certificates, but it would be nice if it was like a gift certificate to Netflix or Audible.com. I might get a lot of those!

What do you think? What has been your favorite dictionary? Do you like reading word origin books just for fun? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

 Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

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

 

Fire Phone reduced in price…by 99.5%

September 9, 2014

Fire Phone reduced in price…by 99.5%

I bought my

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

when it was recently released for about $200.

In this

press release

Amazon announced the new price…of ninety-nine cents (with a two-year contract…same requirement I had)!

Wow, a drop of that much in about a month and a half! That makes me want to…smile. ;)

Yup, I’m happy that other people will be able to get such a great deal.

As I’ve written in previous Fire Phone posts, it took me a while to warm up to it…but I like it now.

The biggest plus for me is the easy access to things you’ve done before. I go a lot of different places, and I really like having access to previous navigations right from the Carousel.

Of course, I couldn’t get a feel for that until I’d been there, done that a few times.

Certainly, I’m looking forward to a software update to the voice assistant. It’s still pretty limited, although it understands what I say well.

Generally, I think one thing that makes it a good phone for many people is Mayday, the live, onscreen technical help. This is the first phone you can give to someone who is not at all tech savvy, and they’ll be able to really use it to send texts and e-mails.

I think we’ll see tremendous improvements to the phone over the next year, in the way of software updates.

So, why the big drop?

Rumors suggest it wasn’t selling well. One speculation I saw mentioned a figure of 15,000 phones…which would make me one in about 200.

They need to get them into people’s hands…they can’t have this be seen as a failure. Well, they could…pretty much every company has had failures, but they don’t want Fire Phone to be to Amazon as the Newton is to Apple. ;)

I suspect adoption will be slow, but will get up there. The included year of Prime (even for current Prime members) will mean some folks will try it as another phone at the holidays. I suspect we may see this some kids’ first phones…and that’s part of why their advertising campaign with the two children makes sense.

The press release also says,

“In the U.S., Fire is available exclusively on AT&T – the nation’s most reliable 4G LTE network. Fire with 32GB is available for 99 cents with a two-year contract or $0 down and $18.75 per month (for 24 months) with AT&T NEXT 18.”

Readers Edward Boyhan and Tom Semple have also pointed out that you can now buy the Fire Phone without a service plan for $449.

We’ll know after the holidays how effective this was…even if Amazon doesn’t release figures, people can do some analysis and make some guesses.

Bonus story

I didn’t want to do a story just on the Fire Phone…I know a lot of you reading this blog may see it as somewhat outside “…the Kindle and the world of e-books”, as I say on the masthead for the blog. It is in some ways involved with e-books, and certainly affects Amazon (and that affects the Kindle’s fortunes), but I understand.

So, here’s a purely book story. :)

Annotated Classics series (at AmazonSmile*)

This is a series of low-priced (but not free) public domain classics.

The reviews are generally good, and they do seem to be pretty inclusive for the given author. They also have quite a bit of other material…not just pulling one essay off Wikipedia, as some books do.

For example, for the Shakespeare collection, they say:

“* NEW: Easily look up text that is linked to local Shakespeare glossary.
* Illustrated with the original images.
* Annotated with concise introduction, including analysis of William Shakespeare’s works as well as modern view on Shakespeare’s historical background.
* Original footnotes are hyperlinked for easy reference.
* The collection includes alphabetical and chronological indexes of Shakespeare’s works.
* Each book features its own active Table of Contents.
* Includes William Shakespeare’s Biography.
* Includes William Shakespeare’s most famous quotes.
* Includes famous quotes about William Shakespeare.
* Includes analysis of William Shakespeare’s literary style.
* Includes analysis of English Renaissance theatre.
* Includes analysis of characters of Shakespeare’s Plays.
* Includes glossary of Shakespeare’s words.
* All Annotated Classics books are beautifully designed for easy reading and navigation on e-Readers and mobile devices.”

In terms of completeness, here is the listing for the H.G. Wells set…nothing is standing out as missing to me:

NOVELS:
Ann Veronica
The First Men in the Moon
The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth
The History of Mr Polly
In the Days of the Comet
The Invisible Man
The Island of Dr Moreau
Joan and Peter
Kipps
Little Wars
Love and Mr Lewisham
Marriage
Mr. Britling Sees It Through
The New Machiavelli
The Passionate Friends
The Research Magnificent
The Sea Lady Illustrated
The Secret Places of the Heart
The Sleeper Awakes
The Soul of a Bishop
The Time Machine
Tono-Bungay
The War in the Air
The War of the Worlds
The Wheels of Chance
When the Sleeper Wakes
The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman
The Wonderful Visit
The World Set Free

COLLECTIONS
The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents
Twelve Stories and a Dream

SHORT STORIES
Aepyornis Island
The Apple
The Argonauts of the Air
The Beautiful Suit
A Catastrophe
The Chronic Argonauts
The Cone
The Country of the Blind
The Crystal Egg
A Deal in Ostriches
The Diamond Maker
The Door in the Wall
A Dream of Armageddon
The Empire of the Ants
A Family Elopement
Filmer
The Flowering of the Strange Orchid
The Flying Man
The Grisly Folk
The Hammerpond Park Burglary
How Gabriel Became Thompson
In the Abyss
In the Avu Observatory
In the Modern Vein: An Unsympathetic Love Story
The Jilting of Jane
Jimmy Goggles the God
The Land Ironclads
Le Mari Terrible
Little Mother Up the Morderberg
The Lord of the Dynamos
The Lost Inheritance
The Man Who Could Work Miracles
The Man With a Nose
The Magic Shop
Miss Winchelsea’s Heart
A Misunderstood Artist
The Moth
A Moonlight Fable
Mr. Brisher’s Treasure
Mr. Ledbetter’s Vacation
Mr. Marshall’s Doppelgänger
Mr. Skelmersdale in Fairyland
My First Aeroplane
The New Accelerator
The Obliterated Man
A Perfect Gentleman
The Plattner Story
Pollock and the Porroh Man
The Purple Pileus
The Rajah’s Treasure
The Reconciliation
The Red Room
The Remarkable Case of Davidson’s Eyes
The Sad Story of a Dramatic Critic
The Sea Raiders
A Slip under the Microscope
The Star
The Stolen Body
The Stolen Bacillus
A Story of the Days To Come
The Story of the Inexperienced Ghost
The Story of the Last Trump
The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham
A Story of the Stone Age
The Temptation of Harringay
The Treasure in the Forest
The Triumphs of a Taxidermist
Through a Window
The Truth About Pyecraft
Under the Knife
A Vision of Judgment
The Valley of Spiders
The Wild Asses of the Devil

NON-FICTION
Anticipations
Certain Personal Matters
An Englishman Looks at the World
First and Last Things
Floor Games
God the Invisible King
In the Fourth Year
Mankind in the Making
A Modern Utopia
New Worlds for Old
Russia in the Shadows
The Salvaging of Civilization
A Short History of the World Illustrated
War and the Future
What is Coming?

BIOGRAPHY & HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Biography
Chronology
H.G. WELLS by J.D. BERESFORD

QUOTES & ANALYSIS
Quotes
Works’ Analysis
History of science fiction

I checked a sample, and it does look good. With the H.G. Wells, sample, I got more than one full book, by the way…and one of them was The First Men in the Moon.

These might be good gifts, or could be a good way for you to be an e-completist. ;)

Enjoy!

This post was updated and improved with comments from readers…and I also caught one of my own mistakes. ;)

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

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

Binge reading with Kindle Unlimited #1

July 27, 2014

Binge reading with Kindle Unlimited #1

While “binge watching” entire TV series may be all the rage, serious readers have been “binge reading” for decades.

Many of us have picked a series and just plowed through them, start to finish.

How many of you had a “Summer of Sherlock”, where you decided you’d read all the original Sherlock Holmes books?

No?

Gee, where else were you during the summer…on the beach? ;)

I once read three and a half novels in the same series in one day…that’s my record, by the way. ;)

It was

The Expendables by Richard Avery (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) (not available for the Kindle)

I’m not going to pretend that they were “thick” reading (like War and Peace or The Lord of the Rings): they are definitely “popcorn books”, plain and simple. They are meant to be snacks…finish one, on to the next, like a bag of potato chips. :)

However, I’ve also read much more serious books…and again, right through the series.

Generally, I don’t want to start a series unless I have access to all of them, and I can start at the beginning.

In the past, that has been challenging, though.

For one thing, it could be a big investment before I even knew if I liked it.

Let’s say a series had ten books in it, and I could get the paperbacks for $5 each. I’d have to invest $50 before I’d even start reading the first one.

Well, okay, I can’t say I’d really go that far all the time. :) I often would read the first book in the series first…and then, if I decided to go for it, buy the other nine.

So, only $45 at a time. ;)

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

changes those calculations.

I don’t have to worry about how much each book in the series costs.

I can choose to read a series, and go for it.

Yes, you can only have ten books out at a time, but unless you are going somewhere where you won’t have access to the internet (even without wireless, you can typically use a computer to download books from Amazon and then transfer them via USB), that’s not a problem. You just keep returning books as you finish them and you can keep taking more out.

There is the risk that you are part way through a series and the other books get removed from Kindle Unlimited…books are going to come in and out of it. If there’s a series where Amazon is the publisher now, that doesn’t mean that they will be later…licensing can change hands.

Still, I don’t think that’s a huge risk.

I thought I’d give you some suggestions for binge reading.

One fun thing: for $9.99 a month (and free for the first month right now), you could race other people on the account. ;) Typically, a book can be on six devices on the account at the same time, at no additional cost. If a book does have a different number of “simultaneous device licenses”, it will say so on the book’s Amazon product page…none of that changes with KU.

However, you can’t return the first book in the series until everyone is done with it, or they won’t be able to finish it. So, if the fastest person reads more than ten times faster than the slowest person, the speedy one will have to wait until that slower one finishes the first book. Of course, you could always buy it…that’s going to happen with some KU books.

Let’s look at some of these series (and other groupings)!

Blow your mind with Philip K. Dick

I can’t imagine what it would be like if you read ten PKD books in a row! I have to believe that virtually everyone would come out of that changed. Reality can be so warped in these…many people struggle to get through one. That’s not because the writing is bad, but because you put yourself in someone else’s head when you read, and PKD’s is like that feeling you get on the teacup ride at Disneyland. ;)

Search for PKD in KU (at AmazonSmile)

That search has 63 results, although some are false positives (they aren’t really PKD). They also don’t have all the books. I’d say try these first:

  • Valis
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
  • Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
  • Total Recall
  • We Can Build You

From there, you can just keep going. :)

Harry Potter

If you haven’t read Harry Potter, here’s a great opportunity! We paid more than $9.99 for each book when they were released. You could borrow them one a month through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, but wouldn’t it be fun to read all of the original seven on a week’s vacation?

Search for Harry Potter in KU (at AmazonSmile)

What if you have already read them?

That’s where KU really works!

There are 154 results in that search! Again, some are false positives, but there is a whole series of interactive quiz books, Harry Potter cookbooks, parodies, analyses…you might never buy a book on the sociology of Harry Potter, or the “magickal spirituality”, but at this “smorgasbook”, you can just toss them on your plate. Would you buy a book on how to host a Harry Potter party? Maybe not, but you could borrow one from KU if the event is on your calendar.

87th Precinct

Do you really want to disappear into another world for awhile?

You can read more than forty books in the classic series by Ed McBain:

Search for 87th Precinct in KU (at Amazon Smile)

Maybe you aren’t going read them all at once. :) Maybe you read them on your public transit commute (or listen to them in the car…that’s what I do). If you get through one book a week that way, you could commute to work and to the 87th Precinct at the same time…for the best part of a year.

Learn something new with lots of perspectives

Something else you can do with KU is pick a non-fiction topic, and read and discard books as soon as you want. Sure, you could do something like that with free samples, but what if the part you want to learn isn’t in the first ten percent (or so) of the book?

For example, suppose you want to publish your own book in the Kindle store (or elsewhere). There are hundreds of results in this

Search for publish your book in KU (at AmazonSmile)

If all you want to know about is how to promote a book by going to conventions, you can hop and skip from book to book.

I definitely plan to give you more suggestions for binge reading in Kindle Unlimited in the future, but let me also ask you: what would you recommend to me and my readers? I tend to read several books at the same time (those wouldn’t be books in the same fiction series), but I love to find series that can be in that mix. Feel free to make your recommendations known by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

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

Better than the book? Planet of the Apes

July 12, 2014

Better than the book? Planet of the Apes

I’m about to head out with my Significant Other to see

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

the second movie in the second reboot of the movie series (there have also been a live action TV series and an animated series).

Am I a Planet of the Apes (PotA) fan?

Does watching all five movies of the first series in a row in a movie theatre count? ;) Let me take that one step further…I did that…in an ape suit (with a Don Post mask).

I started writing a script (completely unsolicited) for the live action series, although it was canceled before I was finished. My script focused on a stereotype-busting intellectual gorilla…

However, it all started with a French novel:

Planet of the Apes (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

The novel was published in 1963, and was followed five years later by the Roddy McDowell/Charlton Heston version which was most Americans first encounter with it (at least back then):

Planet Of The Apes (at AmazonSmile)

That version, by the way, is available at no additional cost as Prime streaming…along with its four direct sequels! Good way to have a good binge watch. ;)

Generally, people tend to think that a book is better than the adaptation of it, and that’s often the case. Part of it just has to do with the nature of the two media: you can put a lot more into a book than you can into a movie, and the special effects are largely unlimited. ;)

This is the rare one, though, where I would submit that the movie (the 1968 version) is better.

It’s not just a question of the translation (I thought the translation I read was quite good).

There are a lot of similarities between the movie and the book…it’s clearly based on it, even with some of the same characters (down to their names).

As regular readers know, I’m very careful about spoilers…and spoiling the 1968 PotA movies is one of the great offenses in that area, in my opinion (along with Psycho, The Sixth Sense…I would argue, even the 1939 Wizard of Oz).

I was not happy recently when a journalist did just that: spoiled PotA, and unnecessarily, in my opinion. They could have left five words out of their piece, and been fine.

The key thing here is that the book and the movie are…different in their ideas (and in their tones). The book is far more philosophical: it’s not intended to read as reality.

The movie is gritty. We are supposed to think it could be happening (given the willing suspension of disbelief about the premise)…that it could be real.

I’ll recommend the book to you: I do think it is worth reading, and it’s only $5.43 at time of writing.

However, I’m also going to recommend the 1968 movie to you…and I feel more confident that most people will enjoy the latter.

One reason for that may be that Rod Serling, of the original Twilight Zone series, co-wrote the script.

As to the other movies in the first series? Well, there’s a whole through story that’s quite interesting, and there are some notable scenes in all of them (one, in particular, has something to say about celebrity culture). Roddy McDowell is brilliant in all of them. :)

I think, though, they do belong squarely in the geek zone (which is where I live)…non-geeks are just not going to enjoy them as much. ;)

What do you think? Are you a PotA fan? What was your first exposure to it? Was it the Tim Burton version? Are there other movies which you think were better than their source material? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post…but no spoilers, please. :)

New! Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

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

Books priced at $20.14

June 25, 2014

Books priced at $20.14

The e-book business leads to some weird pricing.

When I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, books tended to have prices which ended in ninety-nine, ninety-eight, ninety-five, zero, or maybe fifty.

As a general rule in retail, a price ending in ninety-nine is perceived as a bargain, a price ending in two zeroes (an even dollar amount) is perceived as a quality, prestige item.

I would never have priced a $500 chess set at $499.99…it wouldn’t have sold. Anybody willing to pay that much for a chess set (oh, I managed a game store, too…this wasn’t in the book store) doesn’t want a bargain.

With e-books, though, and actually with other products, too, we see all sorts of price points.

Why? Has the psychology changed?

Well, in a sense. It isn’t human psychology, it’s likely to be robot psychology…algorithms.

An algorithm is sort of a flow chart that takes you through a set of choices…you don’t improvise at decision points, you follow a rule.

You might want to set an algorithm that makes a give e-book at your store one penny less than the lowest competitor’s price.

You can see how that could make for weird prices.

You price it for $10.

Your competitor prices it at $9.99.

Your computer notices that, and drops it to $9.98.

Your competitor’s computer notices, and drops it to $9.97…and so on.

You could have a floor on how low it would go, but before it got there, we could get these odd prices.

I’m always looking for new ways to discover books…something which is out of the box may do that for me.

This time, since it is the year 2014, I thought I’d see if any e-books in the Kindle store were priced at $20.14.

There were!

$20.14 books in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping)

There were 25 results.

The first thing I noticed is that some of the books are available to rent. I wonder if that’s part of the algorithm…if the rental price is a certain percentage of the purchase price, but it is the former that drives the latter. In other words, they say, “We want the rental price of this to be $9.75, and that has to be 25% of the purchase price, so the purchase price goes to $39.00.”

I don’t know that, I’m just speculating. :)

Here are ten of the titles:

  • Religious Violence in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyo (NIAS Monographs) by Ian Reader
  • Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places (RAND Studies in Policy Analysis) by Robert J. MacCoun
  • CNC Machining Handbook: Building, Programming, and Implementation by Alan Overby
  • Creating East and West: Renaissance Humanists and the Ottoman Turks by Nancy Bisaha
  • Treating Bulimia in Adolescents: A Family-Based Approach by Daniel Le Grange and James Lock
  • Teaching Literacy in Third Grade (Tools for Teaching Literacy) by Janice F. Almasi
  • Lezioni di sociologia storica (Collezione di testi e di studi) (Italian Edition) by Massimo Paci
  • Exchange-Traded Funds For Dummies by Colin Davidson and Russell Wild
  • Winnicott na Escola de São Paulo (Portuguese Edition) by Elsa Oliveira Dias and Loparic Zeljko
  • Mary Wollstonecraft: Mother of Women’s Rights (Oxford Portraits) by Miriam Brody

I think I can be pretty confident there that there are some books you didn’t know were available. :) It also tends to refute the idea that e-books are just popular, genre titles. That does tend to be the majority, I think, but lots of things are covered.

The genre thing was true of mass market paperbacks in the beginning, too.

What happens is that it is hard to lure the brand name authors into a new format. Their agents don’t know what the market possibilities are, so they don’t know what kind of deal to negotiate.

They may just stay out of it for a while, until they can see what is going to happen. That happened with e-books…we are “missing” a lot fewer titles than we used to be.

Without brand names, how are you going to sell the books?

Genres.

It’s a way for the reader to be able to predict something about the content, even if that something is quality. ;) There are some people who will are willing to read any vampire book, or romance, or mystery. They may have preferences, but they like the topic more than the author.

I’m often surprised when people I consider to be serious readers can’t tell me who wrote the book they are currently reading.

I’m big on knowing who the authors are, and crediting them…you may have noticed I tend to do that with news story links, as well.

At any rate, the smaller market nature of these titles is an indicator that the e-book market has matured past that early genre heavy stage.

The Mary Wollstonecraft one intrigues me…

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

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

Judge a book by its jury

June 18, 2014

Judge a book by its jury

I’ve been on three juries in the past ten years.

That’s right…not just being called to jury duty, but actually serving on juries.

My most recent trial just finished today. That’s why I mentioned to a couple of you that I had an open-ended commitment that was taking up a lot of my time (and concentration). You don’t know how long they’ll go: I showed up for jury duty on this one on May 28th.

Being on a jury isn’t easy. In my case, my day job has good benefits, and I get my normal pay (that’s not true of everybody on every jury). It’s not about that for me.

On the previous trial (in 2010), my Significant Other said it was like I had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I had nightmares, and didn’t sleep well. It was a really bad case.

You listen to sometimes horrifying testimony. In that case, the perpetrator (there was a conviction) was also really glaring at us throughout the trial.

The hardest part about it is that you can’t talk to anybody about it. That’s not to say that talking to someone is more important than the work of the trial, but that’s a really big coping mechanism taken away from you. I’m used to talking to my SO about everything…so you have to picture being in this really stressful situation, and not being able to discuss it.

All three of my cases have involved serious, serious crimes…and the last two have had child victims.

I was surprised, though, when my adult child said, “You hate jury duty.”

I don’t.

I actually am trying to get on the jury.

Most people are trying to get excused…why do I want to serve?

I think it’s the most important thing someone in my position can do for the community…and I think I’m good at it.

Don’t get me wrong…lots of other people are good at it, too. Not everybody, though…and that includes people who actually serve.

I was part of a terrific jury this time. We had very different backgrounds, and even different approaches. However, we all took it very seriously, listened to each other, went over the evidence, asked the judge questions, and eventually, unanimously decided on all counts (we deliberated on multiple days).

I think a good jury knows that each of them have individual prejudices…and is able to decide based on the law as instructed. At its heart, a jury stands between the accused and the state (at least in the USA). A defendant comes into the trial “presumed innocent”…they don’t have to do anything at all. Hypothetically, the defense could choose to call no witnesses…they don’t need to present a case. The state has the “burden of proof”…if  you are on a jury and you believe that the person committed the crimes as charged, but the District Attorney (or other prosecuting attorney) didn’t prove it, you have to find the defendant not guilty (which should read “not proven guilty” in my opinion).

However, if you believe that the state did prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt” (that’s the burden in criminal cases…and it’s not beyond all possible doubt, just reasonable doubt), then you must find the accused guilty. Regardless of what you think of the law or the punishment, that’s what your responsibility is.

I had a good illustration of “reasonable doubt” today. When I got up this morning, my work iPhone was on the couch. It was in a place where the dog puts things (yes, we let the dogs on the couch) quite often. Now, it is possible that someone snuck in the house and moved my iPhone (it was on a part of the couch where I don’t sit)…that is possible, but it wouldn’t really be reasonable in this case. It’s basically not reasonable if when someone presented the explanation, you would raise eyebrows, tilt your head, and say, “Dude” in a disbelieving manner. ;)

While the jury selection process is not very dramatic, and listening to all the testimony can be lengthy, the whole trial makes for a good basis for literature (and that includes non-fiction).

While I “decompress” a bit from my service, I thought I’d mention a few books where juries play an important part.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll

While it certainly isn’t the most positive portrayal of a jury, I think it’s a way that a lot of people first encounter the concept in any meaningful way. Without spoiling much, Alice is a witness in a trial which has a lot of the structure of a real world trial, with evidence presented…but it all goes a bit wrong.

Twelve Angry Men (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
by Reginald Rose

This one was originally a teleplay, and in 1957, became a great movie with Henry Fonda (there were many stars, but I thought Jack Klugman particularly stood out here). It really does show what the dynamics in a jury room can be like.

To Kill a Mockingbird (at AmazonSmile)
by Harper Lee

Finally coming out as a legal e-book on July 8th (it can be pre-ordered for $4.72 at time of writing), the jury here is represented as less a set of individuals and more as a symbol.

Those are three that spring to mind, although there are thousands of novels featuring juries (including some by John Grisham, of course.

If you are interested in non-fiction, there is actually a separate category for that in the USA Kindle store:

Kindle Store : Kindle eBooks : Professional & Technical : Law : Procedures & Litigation : Jury (at AmazonSmile)

There are actually people who are consultants on picking a jury, and certainly, lawyers are usually very careful about the choice. That’s why it can take so long. I’ve been told that one of the reasons I’ve been on three juries in ten years is that my first one reached a decision (actually, all three have). Having a hung jury isn’t good for either side, so that makes you desirable. I have a sibling who is quite math oriented (a physicist and an astronomer), and pointed out that there is so much chance before you even get to that point that my experience was still unusual. You have to be called in, then there is a lot of randomization before you get to  “voir dire”, where the attorneys question people looking for juries. I’m thinking that I tend to pass that part…but there probably isn’t a ten percent chance that I’ll get to it.

Do you have any favorite books with juries in them? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

My new free Flipboard magazine, The Weird Old Days features vintage articles on ghosts, sea serpents, psychic phenomena, and more http://flip.it/ZtmYw

* 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.

Armchair Fiction: “nostalgic sci-fi and horror literature” for the Kindle

June 11, 2014

Armchair Fiction: “nostalgic sci-fi and horror literature” for the Kindle

I’m sure some of you, like me, remember the Ace Doubles (I still have some on my shelves). It was a series of science fiction paperbacks where there would actually be two books in one…and they were printed upside down to each other. In other words, you could flip the book over, and there would be another cover for another book on the “back”…both stories ended in the middle of the physical book.

I was excited to see that, in the spirit of that

Armchair Fiction

has been producing “double novels” of vintage science fiction and horror.

I was even more pleased when I ran across books from Armchair in the Kindle store:

Armchair Fiction in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Naturally, they don’t have any kind of special “binding” in the Kindle format (and not all are doubles), but the authors and titles were really intriguing to me and the cover images stood out. Regular readers know I’m not all that visually-oriented, so if something catches my eye, there must really be something to it. ;)

The authors included:

  • Edmond Hamilton
  • Frank Belknap Long
  • Stanton A. Coblentz
  • Richard Shaver (of the Shaver Mystery…I’ve referenced Shaver once before in this blog)

In doing a little research, I was still more pleased (see how life just keeps getting better and better?) ;) that Armchair comes from the same creative source as

Sinister Cinema

I knew SinCin from ads in some of the offbeat magazines I have read.

I wrote to Armchair to find out if the books were all in the public domain, although I suspected that the artwork might be new (and there were new introductions).

Greg Luce was nice enough to give me a lengthy reply…and to give me permission to share it with you:

===

Hi, Bufo.

Thanks for getting a hold of us. I’m the owner and founder of both Sinister Cinema and Armchair Fiction. I started Sinister literally thirty years ago–Spring of 1984. Armchair was started in December of 2010, so we’ve been around for roughly three-and-a-half years. Many of the Armchair titles are in the public domain, but certainly not all. We do have any number of copyrighted works, including most notably some of the works of Robert Silverberg, whom I consider one of the best science fiction authors ever.

The reason I started Armchair was essentially to do the same for nostalgic sci-fi and horror literature that I did with nostalgic sci-fi and horror cinema. There are literally thousands of older literary works of sci-fi and horror (including both novels and short fiction) that haven’t been in print since their initial publication. These are what we specialize in, although we are certainly willing to come out with more common works as well–Wells, Burroughs, etc. The thing that had always held us up were the costs of printing large numbers of books and maintaining large volumes of inventory. Being a mom-and-pop company, that was just never practical for us. However, when print-on-demand companies (like Createspace) started showing up, it changed the whole playing field and made it possible for us to move forward with a line of paperback books specializing in these forgotten works.

I grew up reading Ace Doubles, sci-fi digest magazines, paperbacks from Ballantine, Signet, etc., and these were the inspirations for what we’re doing. It’s been a real labor of love and the book side is, frankly, very labor intensive. There are only three of us–myself and two very good employees. I have plans for 400 double novels (we have 130 right now), 150-200 single novels (we’re currently at about 60), as well as many varied short story collections. I don’t know if we’ll ever get these all done, but we’ve been releasing 45 to 60 books a year, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep plugging along for many years to come. I’m not looking to become a millionaire doing this (although we did just recently sell our 10,000th book) and I’m not looking for any notoriety within the sci-fi community, I just want to do it for the people who like this kind of stuff. If I can make a little money on the side…great; but we’re in it for the long-haul no matter what. I really believe in what we’re doing.

One thing I discovered is that not everything ever written is on the generally high levels of works brought out by companies like Ace, Ballantine, and other companies. When you’re dealing with the Ray Palmer years of Amazing and Fantastic Adventures for instance, it’s really a mixed bag. Some authors like Berkeley Livingston, Leroy Xerxa, and other Palmer regulars were really not very good. Yet there were a few exceptions: Rog Phillips, David Wright O’Brien, and even Chester S. Geier churned out some surprisingly good tales. Then of course there was Richard S. Shaver, who is one of our best-selling authors, second in fact only to Edmond Hamilton. Shaver was a horrible writer, yet there is something about his stuff that has a unique appeal to many fans. I think that Shaver was to sci-fi literature what Edward D. Wood was to sci-fi cinema. They were both brilliant in their inspired lunacy.

Regarding the covers, many are the artwork pieces that were originally painted or drawn for the stories. However, there are many titles that simply never had any color artwork when first published. In these cases I have to go through literally hundreds and hundreds of PD artwork pieces looking for something that works. I’ve been very fortunate so far. Sometimes we have to do massive changes to make an artwork piece work for a story. For instance, one of our new double novels has a tale called “Voyage of the Asteroid” by Laurence Manning. The cover art we used here was originally for another story and appeared on the cover of the February, 1929 issue of Amazing. I think it’s a Frank R. Paul piece. This cover, as originally published, had a number of alien beings attacking a Tyranosaurus with ray guns. We had to get rid of the aliens and their ray guns in order for this cover to work. Using Photoshop (I’ve gotten pretty good with the clone tool!) I had to painstakingly get rid of them. It took me a while, but the end result was very good. Finding and preparing artwork is always a bit of a challenge.

At any rate, I hope this all helps. We don’t have that many Kindle editions of our books up yet (only about twenty) but more are coming. Right now the paperback editions are outselling their Kindle counterparts, probably because of the collectability aspects of the books themselves.

<snip>

Thanks for your interest,

Sincerely,
Greg Luce

Sinister Cinema/Armchair Fiction

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If you like science fiction of the “Golden Age”, I’d suggest you check them out. These might also be an excellent little gift for Father’s Day…especially if you have a geeky father in the “Monster Kids” generation (Baby Boomers, basically…if your Dad has ever mentioned Famous Monsters of Filmland or watching a local “Creature Features” type TV host in the 1960s or so, they are in this group).

The prices are good, and they look to be lovingly produced. :)

Enjoy!

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

My new free Flipboard magazine, The Weird Old Days features vintage articles on ghosts, sea serpents, psychic phenomena, and more http://flip.it/ZtmYw

* 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.


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