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August 2014 Kindle book releases

August 1, 2014

August 2014 Kindle book releases

While I don’t generally pre-order Kindle store books myself, I know many of you do.

I understand the fun of just having the book show up, but I figure I’ll order when I want it…since I could have it within a minute, usually.…

These aren’t necessarily the most popular of the pre-orders…I’m just going to list ones that catch my eye. Since we might not agree on that, here’s a link to the 3,683 (at time of writing) August releases in the USA Kindle store:

August 2014 USA Kindle store releases (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

As usual, I won’t be deliberately linking to books which block text-to-speech access blocked**.

One interesting thing before I get into some individual titles: the first four (sorted by new and popular) are the

Kindle First (at AmazonSmile)

picks for this month!

Since Prime members can already be reading one of these (even though they aren’t officially released until August) at no additional cost, you can see how that would drive up their popularity as compared to actual pre-orders. Still, I think that’s the first time.

The other thing is that there are some Kindle Worlds titles way up on the list, and those are part of Kindle Unlimited. I’m concerned (and I’ve alerted Amazon about it) that people are confused: they think they are pre-ordering a KU borrow, when they are actually pre-ordering a purchase. In other words, they may be thinking they’ll get the book at no additional cost, and actually be charged for it. Amazon has confirmed for me: you can not pre-order a borrow from KU.

Okay…books!

Night Moves (at AmazonSmile)
by Nora Roberts
pre-order for August 4 (first Kindle issue of 1985 title)
romance – historical
$5.38

One of the most popular authors…period.

The Evolution and Equilibrium of Copyright in the Digital Age (Cambridge Intellectual Property and Information Law) (at AmazonSmile)
edited by Susy Frankel and Daniel Gervais
pre-order for August 31
law – intellectual property
$76.80

Okay, this isn’t for everybody…but I don’t like to just list super popular books. :) There are quite a few books from Cambridge being released on August 31st in the USA Kindle store.

Doing It (at AmazonSmile)
by Melvin Burgess
pre-order for August 31
fiction – young adult
$7.99

This is a Carnegie medal winning young adult novel (think the Newbery in the USA), but it sounds like it would get challenged as inappropriate a lot in school libraries…if those who would challenge can figure out the British slang. ;)

Election Administration in the United States: The State of Reform after Bush v. Gore (at AmazonSmile)
edited by R. Michael Alvarez and Bernard M. Grofman
pre-order for August 31
politics
$9.99 ($85 in print)

Avian (The Dragonrider Chronicles) (at AmazonSmile)
by Nicole Conway
young adult – fantasy
$3.49

I thought it might be related to Pern…it’s not.

Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 ( at AmazonSmile
by Dav Pilkey
pre-order for August 26
children’s
$7.39

Often a challenged books in libraries. There is a Captain Underpants movie scheduled for release in 2017…

Sidewinders: Bleeding Texas (at AmazonSmile)
by William W. Johnstone with J.A. Johnstone
pre-order for August 5
fiction – Western
$5.49

J.A. is Bill’s nephew (Bill died about ten years ago, I think).

The Serpent and the Rope (at AmazonSmile)
by Raja Rao (translated by John Murray
pre-order for April 15
contemporary fiction
$9.99

Enjoy!

One more thing: in preparing this small selection, I was struck by how few of the Big Five publishers books I was seeing. That seemed quite unusual, and it actually worried me that negotiations might be keeping a high number of them out of the store. That could still be the case, but I did search by HarperCollins, and by Schuster (to find Simon &), and found books from both publishers scheduled to be released in August. While there still could be some being withheld, there are some scheduled.

That could just mean that they are dropping in relative popularity, so I’m not running across them as easily…hard to say, exactly. I’ll try to keep an eye on it.

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

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

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

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

Heads up! LTO on Fire at 3 PM Pacific. ..Coffeemaker for $20

July 22, 2014

Amazon: Upcoming Limited-Time Special Offer on Kindle Fire: Hamilton Beach Coffeemaker for $20. Deal starts at 6:00 PM ET/3:00 PM PT.

Amazon’s infinite stockroom

June 28, 2014

Amazon’s infinite stockroom

This may be one of Amazon’s biggest disruptions yet…and it could really benefit small publishers.

According to this

The Bookseller article by Benedicte Page

Amazon UK is pushing for new contract conditions with small publishers.

One of them I don’t like, and could run afoul of anti-competition agencies. That’s the so-called “MFN” (Most Favored Nation) requirement.

Essentially, having an MFN means that you can’t sell your product at a lower price anywhere else. In this case, it would mean that publishers would have to give Amazon as good as they give anybody else…including themselves.

MFNs haven’t been inherently found to be illegal, but they were a problem in the legal action taken against the Big 5 publishers for conspiring to raise e-book prices.

It feels to me (and I’m not a lawyer) like restraint of trade, since it controls what you do with another entity. That may be subtle, but I think it’s different from paying somebody for exclusive rights. Again, it’s just my feeling about it, but exclusive rights says, “Sell this just to us.” An MFN says, “We will control the pricing even when we are not part of the sales chain.”

The other rumored condition, though, is far more significant as far as I am concerned.

When I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, we would  occasionally  have someone come in who wanted us to carry a book they had self-published on a contingency basis.

In that situation, we don’t pay them anything for the book unless it sells.

They think that doesn’t cost us anything, which would demonstrate a lack of understanding about retail, as far as I was concerned.

In a brick-and-mortar, one of the biggest things you are battling is rent. Every day a book sits on a shelf, you lose money, because you have to pay the rent on the space under that book.

That’s one reason why books may turn over pretty quickly: if a book sold five copies the first day, three the second day, and one the next day, you might return it to bring in something hotter.

So, contingency was never risk free for the store.

However, what if the book did sell well? Wouldn’t that be worth it?

Books have a short sales cycle in a store. There just aren’t that many people who are going to come into a bookstore every day, and you have a core of regulars. If a bunch of your regulars buy a book as soon as it is released, they don’t buy it again, typically. Book sales are front loaded in most (but not all) cases. You need the book when it is hot…waiting a week can really cut into sales.

So, I would say to the self-publisher: “If I need ten more of these tomorrow, could I get them?”

Their answer would always be, “No.” It might take them weeks to get more printed.

That was why I would tell them I couldn’t carry it. A traditional publisher could drop ship me books that fast…certainly within a couple of days.

If a Random House author went on a local radio talk show (which was a huge driver of book sales), I could ask for a hundred more and get them while people still wanted them.

The little, independent publisher simply couldn’t compete, because they didn’t have the supply infrastructure.

That’s also been true online.

If you want a p-book (paperbook) from a small publisher, it might take weeks for Amazon to get it, even if they can then send it to you in two days.

Amazon has a solution (according to sources).

They are reportedly telling the small publishers that, if the publisher is out of stock, Amazon wants the right to print the book themselves.

Amazon has a huge “print on demand” operation already:

CreateSpace

I think most of the writing I’m seeing about this doesn’t adequately recognize what a game changer this would be.

Let’s take an easy example.

An author publishes a horror novel with a small press.

They print 500 copies, which seems likely to be adequate.

Stephen King writes about loving the book.

Suddenly, demand is huge.

Amazon could sell 10,000 copies tomorrow…but the publisher only had 500 for everybody…and it will take them two weeks to print more.

Under the reported proposal, the publisher has given Amazon the file from which to print the book, and Amazon just prints it themselves and gets it to the customers.

The publisher still gets paid.

My guess is that Amazon doesn’t need to charge them much (anything?) for having had to print it. The cost of printing a book is actually a small portion of what creates the consumer price. There are a lot of people costs (editors, cover artists, the author), marketing costs, and other things involved beyond the paper and ink.

The book now shoots up the bestseller list, and becomes an even bigger hit (competing strongly and directly with large publishers’ products).

If Amazon couldn’t print the book, they would likely lose the vast majority of those sales…some people would wait for it, but I think most would not.

Now, in the writing about these contract proposal rumors, the feeling is that publishers are pushing back against this one.

They don’t want Amazon to control the process…they may be concerned (not unreasonably) that the quality of the book might suffer. In the scenario that I’ve proposed in the past that new novels might cost $50, that includes them being printed in a much higher quality way than we usually see now…or that we would expect from print on demand.

What this does, though, is level the playing field between small publishers and the big tradpubs. Amazon becomes the back-up “factory” for the little guys.

In the same way that we’ve seen huge successes in e-book publishing for independents (where no factory is necessary), we would see gains for small publishers in p-books.

I also don’t see this being a problem under anti-competition laws.

This would further weaken the bargaining power of the Big 5 with Amazon, since little pubs could also have blockbusters.

I suspect this will come to the USA as well, if it hasn’t already.

What do you think? Would this be as big a deal as I think it would be? Will publishers push back against it to keep Amazon from having too much control…even if it might benefit them? What can the Big 5 do to maintain their marketshare? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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.

The Xcanex: a better book digitizer

March 23, 2014

The Xcanex: a better book digitizer

Well, I got a chance today to do some experimenting with my new

piQx Xcanex Portable Book and Document Scanner (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’ve digitized entire public domain books before in my work as the Education Director for a non-profit…and it was a lot of work. It could certainly take many hours to do a single book on a flatbed scanner.

That’s, in part, because I didn’t want to destroy the books. Ripping them apart and feeding them into a scanner would have been simple, but part of what I want to do is preserve the paperbooks.

This new device has a very different technique…and it works!

They’ve done a lot of thinking about it.

It works more like a digital camera. It comes with a solid stand, or you can attach it to a laptop (I did the former).

It has a built-in light, and a scanpad (something on which to put the object being scanned).

I would say the interface could be more clearly labeled: it’s not obvious what icon does what. They do, though, give you a manual and there are videos.

There is a learning curve to it…just getting the book positioned correctly, that sort of thing. It’s not that hard, though: there is a nice preview screen on your computer, and I figured it out in a few tries.

How long does it take to finish a page?

Oh…ten seconds or so.

That’s much faster than a flatbed!

You can save the pictures into a single file.

You can take the pictures by doing all of the pages on one side first (all the left pages) and then all the pictures on the other side (just the right pages). It puts them all in order for you. Alternatively, and I tried this, you can take pictures of two pages at once! That, of course, cuts the scanning time roughly in half.

It comes with the AABBYY FineReader Engine 10 OCR. That’s something that converts the words in the scan into text.

While replica books are nice, I’d really like to be able to work the text…find it, copy it easily, and so on.

Does it work?

I’d say yes, quite well, although there were a few problems. I suspect that is in part due to the way I was placing the book for the scan. I probably should flatten the book a bit more (not enough to break the spine, of course). You can hold it with your fingers: one cool feature is that it can digitally remove your fingers!

Here’s a selection…remember, this is one of my first times trying it, and it is with a book being opened to two pages (I think doing one page at a time will give better results:

Something hidden, go and find it. Go
A nd look behind the ranges …
Something lost behind the ranges,
Lost and waiting for you. Go!
— RUDYARD KIPLING
^ SIGHT I THINK NEVER TO FORGET”
YOUNG EXPLORER—he was all of twenty-
five years old—ended once and for all 2,500
years of argument about whether a mysterious, huge man-
like monster lived in Africa. The young man ended (he
quarreling by proving that the animal was real.. He found
it. He put a stop to two-and-one-half thousand years of
bickering about whether a “wild, hairy man” existed or not
by proving that one did. He walked right up to it.
Someone had to be sent to track down the unknown crea-
ture. A skull, completely unknown and unidentifiable, had
reached Philadelphia and Boston. Its skeleton had readied
— and startled — the Royal College of Surgeons in Lon-
don. When another skeleton reached Philadelphia, it was
decided that a search for the animal should begin without
delay, and Paul du Chaillu was at hand. It was 1854.
Paul du Chaillu, a French boy who had become an Amer-
ican citizen, was sent out to Africa to look for the unknown
monster by the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.
Paul’s father had been a trader in Africa, and as a small boy
Paul had spent some time on the continent.

 

This, by the way, is from a book I believe to be in the public domain (having researched it at the Copyright Office’s webpage). I’ve written about the book (by Gardner Soule) here:

A book that changed my life: The Maybe Monsters

I copied it into an e-mail program to send it, then copied it again and pasted here. The lines break in the book the way they do here, except that a full line of the book may not fit above. In other words, there does appear to be a manual line break in my OCR’d text at the end of each line in the book. That would pretty easy to fix in, say, Microsoft Word.

The place right at the beginning where it has a caret (“^”) was a drop cap in the book…there was a large letter “A” which started a few lines of the paragraph. No surprise to me that it didn’t figure that out.

The “The young man ended (he quarreling…” should have been “The young man ended the quarreling…”

Mostly this is impressive! I added the bolding, by the way, to make it look better in the blog.

Saving it as a replica, it would simply look good and include the images from the book.

This device can do a number of things, including serving as a webcam and a videocamera.

I definitely need to work with it more, but this is as close to a “magic book machine” as I’ve seen so far…by leaps and bounds.

You can have the Xcanex automatically take a picture of the page when you stop moving it.

You can also set it to take a picture every five seconds. That might be a challenge to get things in place at the right time, but I think I could do it.

Overall, I’d recommend it (already) for people who want to digitize books.

One word of caution on that. No question, this could be used for illegal purposes, infringing on someone else’s copyright. If you used it to scan an in-copyright book and sold it on the internet, you’d be a pirate.

It’s a little fuzzier to me if you copy an in-copyright book for your own use. I fully expect that to be found to be legal at some point (similar to using a DVR…Digital Video Recorder…to watch a program later). To my knowledge, though, that case law does not exist at this point.

I have mentioned the price yet. Right now, in the USA, it’s $269.11. It’s Prime eligible, so I didn’t pay anything additional for two-day shipping.

Is that worth it?

That’s going to depend on your use case. :)

If you used it to copy books, and then sold them or even just got them out of your house, that could make up for it.

I say “get them out of your house”, because you are paying to keep books there. We have a floor-to-ceiling library, so it’s more obvious for us. You are likely either

  • paying rent for the space the bookshelves/boxes are taking up
  • paying property tax for the space the bookshelves/boxes are taking up

Another possibility (which I may do) is to scan public domain books, add additional material which both creates a new copyright and makes them acceptable to Amazon, and then you could sell them there.

That would be entirely legal…if they are in the public domain (not under copyright protection.

Oh, and the Xcanex can also be used for magazines, pictures, newspaper clippings, business cards…all sorts of things.

I may suggest to the non-profit for which I volunteered that they try to get one: Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaigns might work well.

There may be better devices in the future…but there are books dying now. Xcanex may help save them.

Do you have other questions about the Xcanex? Have you used one yourself? Do you know of an alternative scanner you like? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

===

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

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

 

Scribd app now available for Kindle Fire: “all you can read” for $8.99 a month

February 11, 2014

Scribd app now available for Kindle Fire: “all you can read” for $8.99 a month

Scribd is a one of a couple of big “subsers” (subscription services) for e-books.

You can subscribe to it, and for $8.99 a month, read as much as you want from a decent selection of books (including many well-known ones).

I was sent an e-mail about the now available app, although I’d heard about it as well.

I just tested subscribing to it, both from that e-mail on my Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) and going from scratch on my Significant Other’s KFHDX7.

Let me first commend them on making this easy.

On my SO’s device, I just searched for “Scribd” in Silk (I’m going strictly onboard with that device for test).

It found it,and as soon as I got to the site, there was a link to install the app.

Note that you’ll find the apk (what you need to install it) by clicking on the menu in Silk, and going to Downloads. You also have to have allowed the installation of apps from unknown sources, but it will help you with that if needed.

I signed up (I already had a Scribd account, because I read some government documents and such there). I did need to put in a credit card, although you get one month free. All in all, though, this was a pretty easy process.

You can search with the magnifying glass in your top right, or browse with the menu (three horizontal lines) in your top left.

Both worked reasonably well.

When you find a book, you can read it online, store it on your device, or add it to your library.

The reader is pretty basic. You can increase the font size, and change the background color and font.

Tapping an open book gave a nice navigation window, to jump by chapters.

There is no text-to-speech (at least, I can’t find any…I’ve written to them asking). That’s something that I would miss personally, but the program isn’t blocking it…it just doesn’t have that feature. That’s a very different thing for me from a publisher blocking the access.

Update: further demonstrating their professionalism, I got a  response back from Scribd. It reads in part:

“We currently do not support text-to-speech, I’m sorry. We’re still small and we’re working our way towards such features, but right now we don’t have that capability and there’s no current release date for that feature either.

Let me know if there’s anything else I can answer for you or if you’re having any other issues.”

Outside of text-to-speech, let’s just accept that this is a decent reading app for now.

The obvious question for most people is going to be, “Does it have books I want to read?”

Well, I think the answer is going to be yes, for most folks…certainly, probably worth $8.99 if you read tradpubbed (traditionally published books).

Here’s a quick look at some of their most popular books:

  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman
  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Gee, the top ten is dominated by Neil Gaiman! That suggests to me that either Gaiman has promoted this, or we are only seeing early adopters so far (who may be more techy and science fiction oriented).

Let me skip around a bit:

  • A Prayer for Own Meany by John Irving
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • A Tree Grown in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  • A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
  • The first three Miss Marple novels in a bundle by Agatha Christie
  • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
  • Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

Well, well, well…definitely some books in there I have read or would recommend.

Adding more books each month will also matter to people. It looks like 16 books were added in the past three days.

I’ll be interested to get feedback from my SO on this, who may be a bit more of a mainstream reader.

I will also say that their “similar to” sections do actually look useful for me.

I also checked to see if we could use on multiple devices. Scribd says,

“You may read commercial content using up to 3 different browsers or computers in any 24-hour period. If you use our Android or iOS apps, you can save content on up to 6 devices for offline reading.”

Works for me. :)

This is simple: Amazon will likely need to do a subser for adults this year, or they will start feeling the impact of this from Kindle Fire users.

If you have a Fire, I would say, go ahead and try the free month. Remember to cancel if you don’t want to continue. You can do that right from the device, easily…use the Menu, then go to Settings. Again, this all looks very professional: I can see the next bill date and amount and which plan I have, right there. If you do try it, let me know what you think by commenting on this post.

Here’s the link directly to where you can subscribe, just to make it easy:

http://www.scribd.com/mobile/app/kindle

Hey, Amazon! I have to admit that I feel sort of funny linking to a direct competitor like this, but I have to keep my readers informed of the options. The ball is in your court: I’m looking for you to return it with your spin on it…and dominate Scribd with superior features (including TTS, of course).  ;)

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! :) 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.

Round up #229: acts of literary kindness, p-books have a bright future?

December 20, 2013

Round up #229: acts of literary kindness, p-books have a bright future?

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

The Book Is Not Dead infographic

Here is an interesting infographic in an

EBOOK FRIENDLY post by Ola Kowalczyk

Of course, the name of the infographic immediately makes me want to doubt the data. It’s really talking about p-books (paperbooks), not books. That emotionally resonates to me as them wanting to be inflammatory, which doesn’t then make me think they are neutral and reliable. :)

Even some of the data appears to be skewed. It looks like, in order to exaggerate a flattening of the e-book curve, they used the first eight months of 2013 to compare to previous full years. While you might guess that the rate of growth is consistent throughout the year, it’s certainly possible that December sees a considerable jump in e-book sales: I believe December 25th last year might have been the biggest day for Kindle e-book sales, as people need to “feed their new beasts”. ;) It’s also possible that hardback sales go way up at the end of the year…either  or both might be true, but I do think it could affect this data significantly to leave off the last four months of the year.

That said, there are other interesting data points here…the main message being that p-book sales are doing fine, thank you. ;)

Video: Indie bookstores doing well

CTV News Channel

It isn’t a surprise that independent bookstores are seeing some growth. I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, and I’ve been talking about that in this blog as a likely outcome.

Large, generic bookstores? They can’t compete with the internet, which is why both Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million have had…non-encouraging financial reports (even if B&N was able to cut costs). You can’t compete with Amazon and e-books (and those are two different things) on cost or selection.

You have to give people a good experience. You have to have it be that they are willing (even wanting) to give you more money than they could pay somewhere else, because they want to support you.

That’s entirely doable, although it takes work, and not everybody can do it.

It’s cheaper, more convenient, and there is a heck of a lot more selection to watch movies on our devices (including TVs…remember those? ;) )…but movie theatres are still in business.  Sure, part of that is the concessions, and some bookstores work it that way. Part of it, though, is the experience.  Even when we have home technology that gives us a more story immersive experience than even an IMAX screen, people will still go to the movies…because they like the idea of it.

People will pay to express support for a concept…they just have to believe that you hold that same opinion.

9 Ideas for Random Acts of Literary Kindness

Hm. I’m not quite sure I agree that all of the acts proposed in this

BuzzFeed post by Novelicious

are kind…certainly, not always to the books!

However, I do like the idea of using a love of literature to bring joy to the world. :)

We recently had one of those little pop up sort of libraries appear in our neighborhood (I’ll get you a picture at some point…we walk past it with the new dog, and can’t stop easily).

It’s, oh, maybe the size of a mailbox where you would put the mail for pickup. It has a clear front, and you just take and leave books. That’s my understanding of it: no charge, no record, just leave them.

We do have a hardback we bought to give as a gift at one point, and didn’t…we’ll probably put that one there, even though we aren’t likely to borrow anything ourselves (I just don’t really read p-books any more…I’ll go back to ones I already own, but it’s so much easier to read e-books that that is how I do it nowadays).

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

Round up #211: Jeff Bezos, Fannie

October 13, 2013

Round up #211: Jeff Bezos, Fannie

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

Don’t fear the e-books

Wasn’t that a Blue Öyster Cult song? Oh wait, no…that’s not quite it. Sorry about that…where was I? Oh, yes… ;)

Don’t fear the e-books. I see a lot of people worried that e-books are going to wipe out p-books (paperbooks). They seem particularly concerned about kids reading on screens, rather than on paper.

Well, let’s start out with the fact that kids haven’t been reading for entertainment for all that long. Books were really an elite thing for quite some time. Even though we appear to have had children’s books for a couple of thousand years, they weren’t widely distributed in the beginning: they couldn’t be, since the technology wasn’t there.

It wasn’t until the 1800s, and arguably the mid-1800s, that we can consider reading books to be something that a large percentage of children did…that’s not much time to figure out what’s good and bad about it.

Now, there is sometimes a conflation of reading an e-book and other things kids do on screens which many people see as “bad for them”: watching television, playing videogames…the list goes on.

For example, there is this recent

Express article

where author Joanne Harris reports this exchange with the Queen:

“She asked me what I thought about e-books and computer games and said she feared that children were playing with those more than they were reading books. I told her that we start them on e-books and computer games, then try to get them on to books later.”

First, e-books are books. It feels like Harris may have just been reflecting the Queen’s question by using the terminology that way. Whether you read Alice in Wonderland on material made from dead trees or on a screen, the words are the same…it’s still a book.

Second, why do we think p-books are better for kids than e-books? Where’s the data?

This

Digital Book World article by Beth Bacon

reports on a study that shows two ways that kids engage more with an e-book with recorded narration than with that same e-book being read by a parent (I’m simplifying it, but that’s the thrust).

For one thing, they look at the words longer as the words “highlight” when read by the recording. That was determined by eye-tracking. Looking at something longer generally indicates more interest in it.

That makes perfect sense to me, but I’m not sure it’s more likely to make kids into readers. I think at the age they are talking about (pre-school, really), seeing how reading affects their role models may be more important than engaging with the shape of the letters. That’s just speculation on my part.

For another, the recorded narration is considerably slower than a human reading it.

Sure…humans tend to rush, especially if they are trying to get to bed themselves. ;)

I am always amused when someone leaves me a message and they are very carefully saying their name…articulating it very clearly. Then, they get to the phone number, and it’s all blurred together into one thing: “fivefivefiveonetwothreefour”. As someone who gets people to remember things, I understand: they don’t have the number memorized as seven pieces of data, they have it as one.

Still, the recording is going to be more consistently slow.

Again, though, do we know that is a good thing? The human reading with the child will (hopefully) react to how the child is reacting, even asking questions about the response: “That’s funny, right?”

As you can see, this may have seemed like I was starting out saying that e-books were as good or better than p-books, and now I seem to be arguing the other way.

My point is that we don’t know yet. We won’t know about the effect that learning to read on e-books has on life-long reading for another century or so. We could make a determination for how it affects you in high school in another, oh, maybe fifteen years, but there isn’t any reason to fear it now. We just don’t know. We do know that not many adults in the USA are “serious readers” now, so defending the status quo is…challenging.

Thank you, Fannie Flagg!

My Significant Other is a big fan of Fannie Flagg‘s books (I still tend to think of Flagg first as a panelist on Match Game). ;)

However, we don’t buy books where text-to-speech access has been blocked…so there are some now that my SO hasn’t read.

That’s why we were so pleased to see that Fannie Flagg’s next book

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion

can be pre-ordered right now (for November 5 delivery) and Random House has not blocked TTS access on it!

I have said that I think blocking TTS is becoming less common, and here is a case where the publisher hasn’t changed, but the policy has.

I’m thanking Fannie Flagg because I do think authors can impact this, but thanks also have to go to Random House.

New Jeff Bezos biography

Speaking of upcoming books, this one is getting a lot of coverage:

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
by Brad Stone

I’d like to read that one! It seems clear that, to a large extent, Amazon is Amazon because of Jeff Bezos.

Now, that obviously doesn’t mean that Jeff did everything without help…quite the opposite.

Being able to help other people actually produce things is a rare skill…especially when that involves innovating.

It reminds me of this quotation from Henry Ford (I think this is right):

“Asking, “Who ought to be the boss?” is like asking, “Who ought to be the tenor in the quartet?” Obviously, the man who can sing tenor.”

That’s not the way it usually works, though. ;)

I don’t expect that everyone who has been made a better producer has necessarily been made a happier employee. Most adults are all about social standing, and you may need them to get past that (which is constitutionally unpleasant) to get the best product.

From what I’ve read about it, it should be an interesting book.

Kindle Fire HDX’s are in customers’ hands

I’m seeing very convincing reports that the Kindle Fire HDX 7″ has been delivered to some customers, although it isn’t supposed to be released until the 18th (that’s when I should get mine). If I get it early, I won’t mind. ;)

What do you think? Is there some inherent superiority in kids reading books on paper rather than on a screen? Is all screen time (regardless of backlit, frontlit, or non-lit) equally bad? Can one person shape a corporation? Are you a fan of Fannie? ;) Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

Review: The Transparent Society

February 5, 2013

Review: The Transparent Society

The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us To Choose Between Privacy And Freedom?
by David Brin
published by Basic Books
original publication: 1999
size: 913KB (545 pages)
categories: nonfiction; technology; civil rights liberties
lending: no
simultaneous device licenses: six
part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: no
text-to-speech: yes
suitability for text-to-speech: generally good, but frequently references a couple of diagrams which are not read aloud
x-ray: no
Whispersync for Voice: no

“In all of history, we have found just one cure for error—a partial antidote against making and repeating grand, foolish mistakes, a remedy against self-deception. That antidote is criticism.”
–David Brin
writing in The Transparent Society

In this fascinating book, science fiction writer and futurist David Brin explores how the increased observational capabilities of technology may cause us to rethink personal privacy.

Early in the book, Brin has the reader consider two cities.

In both cities, there are cameras on every lamppost.

In one, those camera feeds go only to the police, who can see everything that is happening.

In the other, those camera feeds are available to every citizen.

Most likely, neither one would make you very comfortable.

Which would be better, though?

What if the “all access” city included feeds from inside the police station? So regular citizens can watch the police watching the videos, and see what they do about them?

While Brin essentially advocates for “reciprocal transparency” (people in power can watch people who aren’t…and vice versa), this is no polemic. Brin says:

“If it seems at times that I am fence straddling, that is because I do not claim to have all the answers. While this book makes strong contrarian points about general principles of freedom and accountabiliy, the details have been left somewhat murky, because that’s the way life is. Despite the simplifying rhetoric of idealists and ideologues, the process of finding pragmatic solutions will always be a messy one.”

While the book was written some time ago, many of the core concepts are still true…and the implementation isn’t all that different. The book is pre-YouTube, pre-Vine, pre-SmartPhones…but it posits a future in which every citizen is “armed” with a camera. It certainly doesn’t get everything right:

“Ponder an image of everyone sauntering down the street with one of these “weapons” on their hips. Naturally, one result is a near absence of street crime—that is a given.”

This presumes that people are inhibited from committing crimes by fear of exposure as the criminal. I remember seeing videos of bank robbers making sure their faces are seen by security cameras…as part of an initiation into a criminal group. The camera didn’t prevent the crime, and arguably, that specific crime is that specific place was committed to get on the camera.

That makes the book no less valuable, though. Thinking about how we will deal with universal knowledge of everything we do is important.

I thought one of the most thought-provoking parts of the book was peripheral (although related) to surveillance and privacy.

“The characters we find admirable in books and films often exhibit driven individualism and have difficulty accepting regimentation by formal organizations. They are irked by rules and routines, and above all display suspicion of authority. This archetype is copied in such endless profusion that the “lonely rebel” might by now have become the most dreadful of clichés. But in fact, it seems to have escaped the notice of most social observers that the principal moral lesson carried by neo-Western media is scorn for stodgy establishments of any stripe.”

The idea here is that people in our “neo-Western” society have been propagandized by media into believing that rebellion against the establishment is the way to succeed…and that the preponderance of this message is largely unprecedented.

I had to really think about that one.

Do so many of us think it’s good to be different because that is what our entertainment has been telling us?

We cheer when the lone hero disobeys orders…and saves the day.

Is it just, perhaps, because our society is freer somehow, and we are expressing what people have always felt? Or, does our society really feel  differently about this?

If you enjoy media from other cultures, you’ll know that this reverence of anti-authoritarianism isn’t universal. You’ll be able to come up with examples where the “hero” can only succeed by supporting the group and sublimating personal desires.

While we could discuss this for hours, it’s only one of the concepts in the book that will get you going.

Does it get too technical? Sure, I’d say there is a lot more discussion of encryption than some people will want.

I think the biggest flaw in the book for me, and this may be influenced by Brin being a scientist, is a feeling that once something has been explained, it doesn’t need to be explained again.

As a trainer, I can assure that’s not the case.

For example, there may be a matrix of possibilities shown (and unfortunately, not able to be read aloud by text-to-speech, which is how I consumed most of the book). Let’s say it went something like this:

  1. Cats who like cats
  2. Dogs who like dogs
  3. Cats who like dogs
  4. Dogs who like cats

Later, when Brin is referencing this list, the author doesn’t say, “So, in the case of dogs who like cats”, but will just say, “In point four…” That’s true even if we got the list five chapters ago. It would simply be better, in my opinion, to reiterate the relevant factors, rather than assuming that everybody has the sort of memory for diagrams and variables that many scientists do.

That doesn’t change me recommending the book, though. No, not everybody will enjoy it, but if you like to think about possible reactions to inevitable realities, this is one you should put on your list…whether everyone can see your list or not. ;)

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

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal: Predictably Irrational

January 30, 2013

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal: Predictably Irrational

One of today’s Kindle Daily Deals is

Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
by Dan Ariely.

I consider this one of the important books for people to read, if they want to understand their own behavior and that of others. I was impressed when I read it, partially because there were experiments done to back up the ideas.

As the title suggests, the key thing is that people behave in irrational ways…but that the irrationality can be predicted in many cases.

Let’s say you introduce a $100 item which isn’t selling. Introducing a $150 item to the line can help the sales of the $100 item…even though the $100 item hasn’t changed at all. It’s the same value it was before, but now people feel like they are “saving $50″.

Another example was the huge difference it makes when something is free. Suppose something costs three cents, and then you can get an equivalent item for two cents. Why should that affect the sales less (for a single unit) (assuming you can easily afford three cents) than something which is one penny versus something which is free? The first comparison is still one penny cheaper…but we know that “free” will move a lot more units than two pennies, again, even if you can only have one of each.

Will this enable you to behave entirely rationally? Nope, and you probably wouldn’t want to do that anyway. ;)

“Another romantic lunacy. We assume that a personality problem can be liquidated merely through an understanding of it — as though a man could lift a mountain once he admitted it was heavy. No: recognition is not synonymous with solution. I fly toward freedom as a moth toward the candle, and nothing so insubstantial as Reason will turn me aside.
–Dr. Charles “Doc Bedside” Bedecker Chthon
written by Piers Anthony
collected in The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations

As usual, check the price before you click that Buy button. For me, in the USA, it’s $2.99 right now, but the price could certainly be different in different countries…and the deal may have stopped if you don’t read this blog on the day it goes out.

This is also a good one to give as a gift…and you can delay that delivery until the proper occasion. If the person already has it, they can get “store credit” instead.

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

Excerpt: Tobermory by Saki

June 8, 2012

Excerpt: Tobermory by Saki

Saki (Hector Hugh Munro) is considered by many to be one of the great short story writers of all time. The stories, though, can be quite harsh, while sardonically clever. I’ve chosen the first part of a short story from the The Chronicles of Clovis, first published in 1911. The tale becomes darker after the part I’ve selected, and you are welcome to finish it yourself (the linked book is free).

===

TOBERMORY

It was a chill, rain-washed afternoon of a late August day, that indefinite season when partridges are still in security or cold storage, and there is nothing to hunt—unless one is bounded on the north by the Bristol Channel, in which case one may lawfully gallop after fat red stags. Lady Blemley’s house-party was not bounded on the north by the Bristol Channel, hence there was a full gathering of her guests round the tea-table on this particular afternoon. And, in spite of the blankness of the season and the triteness of the occasion, there was no trace in the company of that fatigued restlessness which means a dread of the pianola and a subdued hankering for auction bridge. The undisguised openmouthed attention of the entire party was fixed on the homely negative personality of Mr. Cornelius Appin. Of all her guests, he was the one who had come to Lady Blemley with the vaguest reputation. Some one had said he was “clever,” and he had got his invitation in the moderate expectation, on the part of his hostess, that some portion at least of his cleverness would be contributed to the general entertainment. Until tea-time that day she had been unable to discover in what direction, if any, his cleverness lay. He was neither a wit nor a croquet champion, a hypnotic force nor a begetter of amateur theatricals. Neither did his exterior suggest the sort of man in whom women are willing to pardon a generous measure of mental deficiency. He had subsided into mere Mr. Appin, and the Cornelius seemed a piece of transparent baptismal bluff. And now he was claiming to have launched on the world a discovery beside which the invention of gunpowder, of the printing-press, and of steam locomotion were inconsiderable trifles. Science had made bewildering strides in many directions during recent decades, but this thing seemed to belong to the domain of miracle rather than to scientific achievement.

“And do you really ask us to believe,” Sir Wilfrid was saying, “that you have discovered a means for instructing animals in the art of human speech, and that dear old Tobermory has proved your first successful pupil?”

“It is a problem at which I have worked for the last seventeen years,” said Mr. Appin, “but only during the last eight or nine months have I been rewarded with glimmerings of success. Of course I have experimented with thousands of animals, but latterly only with cats, those wonderful creatures which have assimilated themselves so marvellously with our civilization while retaining all their highly developed feral instincts. Here and there among cats one comes across an outstanding superior intellect, just as one does among the ruck of human beings, and when I made the acquaintance of Tobermory a week ago I saw at once that I was in contact with a ‘Beyond-cat’ of extraordinary intelligence. I had gone far along the road to success in recent experiments; with Tobermory, as you call him, I have reached the goal.”

Mr. Appin concluded his remarkable statement in a voice which he strove to divest of a triumphant inflection. No one said “Rats,” though Clovis’s lips moved in a monosyllabic contortion which probably invoked those rodents of disbelief.

“And do you mean to say,” asked Miss Resker, after a slight pause, “that you have taught Tobermory to say and understand easy sentences of one syllable?”

“My dear Miss Resker,” said the wonderworker patiently, “one teaches little children and savages and backward adults in that piecemeal fashion; when one has once solved the problem of making a beginning with an animal of highly developed intelligence one has no need for those halting methods. Tobermory can speak our language with perfect correctness.”

This time Clovis very distinctly said, “Beyond-rats!” Sir Wilfrid was more polite, but equally sceptical.

“Hadn’t we better have the cat in and judge for ourselves?” suggested Lady Blemley.

Sir Wilfrid went in search of the animal, and the company settled themselves down to the languid expectation of witnessing some more or less adroit drawing-room ventriloquism.

In a minute Sir Wilfrid was back in the room, his face white beneath its tan and his eyes dilated with excitement.

“By Gad, it’s true!”

His agitation was unmistakably genuine, and his hearers started forward in a thrill of awakened interest.

Collapsing into an armchair he continued breathlessly: “I found him dozing in the smoking-room, and called out to him to come for his tea. He blinked at me in his usual way, and I said, ‘Come on, Toby; don’t keep us waiting;’ and, by Gad! he drawled out in a most horribly natural voice that he’d come when he dashed well pleased! I nearly jumped out of my skin!”

Appin had preached to absolutely incredulous hearers; Sir Wilfrid’s statement carried instant conviction. A Babel-like chorus of startled exclamation arose, amid which the scientist sat mutely enjoying the first fruit of his stupendous discovery.

In the midst of the clamour Tobermory entered the room and made his way with velvet tread and studied unconcern across to the group seated round the tea-table.

A sudden hush of awkwardness and constraint fell on the company. Somehow there seemed an element of embarrassment in addressing on equal terms a domestic cat of acknowledged dental ability.

“Will you have some milk, Tobermory?” asked Lady Blemley in a rather strained voice.

“I don’t mind if I do,” was the response, couched in a tone of even indifference. A shiver of suppressed excitement went through the listeners, and Lady Blemley might be excused for pouring out the saucerful of milk rather unsteadily.

“I’m afraid I’ve spilt a good deal of it,” she said apologetically.

“After all, it’s not my Axminster,” was Tobermory’s rejoinder.

Another silence fell on the group, and then Miss Resker, in her best district-visitor manner, asked if the human language had been difficult to learn. Tobermory looked squarely at her for a moment and then fixed his gaze serenely on the middle distance. It was obvious that boring questions lay outside his scheme of life.

“What do you think of human intelligence?” asked Mavis Pellington lamely.

“Of whose intelligence in particular?” asked Tobermory coldly.

“Oh, well, mine for instance,” said Mavis, with a feeble laugh.

“You put me in an embarrassing position,” said Tobermory, whose tone and attitude certainly did not suggest a shred of embarrassment. “When your inclusion in this house-party was suggested Sir Wilfrid protested that you were the most brainless woman of his acquaintance, and that there was a wide distinction between hospitality and the care of the feeble-minded. Lady Blemley replied that your lack of brain-power was the precise quality which had earned you your invitation, as you were the only person she could think of who might be idiotic enough to buy their old car. You know, the one they call ‘The Envy of Sisyphus,’ because it goes quite nicely up-hill if you push it.”

Lady Blemley’s protestations would have had greater effect if she had not casually suggested to Mavis only that morning that the car in question would be just the thing for her down at her Devonshire home.

Major Barfield plunged in heavily to effect a diversion.

“How about your carryings-on with the tortoiseshell puss up at the stables, eh?”

The moment he had said it every one realized the blunder.

“One does not usually discuss these matters in public,” said Tobermory frigidly. “From a slight observation of your ways since you’ve been in this house I should imagine you’d find it inconvenient if I were to shift the conversation on to your own little affairs.”

The panic which ensued was not confined to the Major.

“Would you like to go and see if cook has got your dinner ready?” suggested Lady Blemley hurriedly, affecting to ignore the fact that it wanted at least two hours to Tobermory’s dinner-time.

“Thanks,” said Tobermory, “not quite so soon after my tea. I don’t want to die of indigestion.”

“Cats have nine lives, you know,” said Sir Wilfrid heartily.

“Possibly,” answered Tobermory; “but only one liver.”

“Adelaide!” said Mrs. Cornett, “do you mean to encourage that cat to go out and gossip about us in the servants’ hall?”

The panic had indeed become general. A narrow ornamental balustrade ran in front of most of the bedroom windows at the Towers, and it was recalled with dismay that this had formed a favourite promenade for Tobermory at all hours, whence he could watch the pigeons—and heaven knew what else besides. If he intended to become reminiscent in his present outspoken strain the effect would be something more than disconcerting. Mrs. Cornett, who spent much time at her toilet table, and whose complexion was reputed to be of a nomadic though punctual disposition, looked as ill at ease as the Major. Miss Scrawen, who wrote fiercely sensuous poetry and led a blameless life, merely displayed irritation; if you are methodical and virtuous in private you don’t necessarily want every one to know it. Bertie van Tahn, who was so depraved at seventeen that he had long ago given up trying to be any worse, turned a dull shade of gardenia white, but he did not commit the error of dashing out of the room like Odo Finsberry, a young gentleman who was understood to be reading for the Church and who was possibly disturbed at the thought of scandals he might hear concerning other people. Clovis had the presence of mind to maintain a composed exterior; privately he was calculating how long it would take to procure a box of fancy mice through the agency of the EXCHANGE AND MART as a species of hush-money.

Even in a delicate situation like the present, Agnes Resker could not endure to remain too long in the background.

“Why did I ever come down here?” she asked dramatically.

Tobermory immediately accepted the opening.

“Judging by what you said to Mrs. Cornett on the croquet-lawn yesterday, you were out for food. You described the Blemleys as the dullest people to stay with that you knew, but said they were clever enough to employ a first-rate cook; otherwise they’d find it difficult to get anyone to come down a second time.”

“There’s not a word of truth in it! I appeal to Mrs. Cornett—” exclaimed the discomfited Agnes.

“Mrs. Cornett repeated your remark afterwards to Bertie van Tahn,” continued Tobermory, “and said, ‘That woman is a regular Hunger Marcher; she’d go anywhere for four square meals a day,’ and Bertie van Tahn said—”

At this point the chronicle mercifully ceased. Tobermory had caught a glimpse of the big yellow Tom from the Rectory working his way through the shrubbery towards the stable wing. In a flash he had vanished through the open French window.

===

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. The Chronicles of Clovis originally appeared in 1911.


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