Books on my Kindles #2 (part 1)

August 22, 2014

Books on my Kindles #2

Books on my Kindles is a series of posts where I list what books I currently have on my devices.

This listing is quite a bit different from the last one.

One reason for that is

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

I normally only keep about ten Kindle store books on any of my devices at a time. I like to keep my devices lean if I can: I do think they run better. So, even though I could hypothetically have over 5,000 e-books on my

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

for example, I normally don’t carry more than I need with me (and being an inveterate book lover who reads multiple books at a time, “need” means ten or so). :)

I was testing something with KU, though, and needed to get to the limit…so I borrowed ten books. I didn’t have to download them all to my Fire, but I think I did.

The other big thing, as I mentioned last time, is that this is kind of hard for me to do. I know people judge people by what they read…both in good ways and in bad. This particular grouping (I did not manipulate them before writing the post) leans pretty heavily in the geeky direction. I am a proud geek, but I also mention on here that I’m an eclectic reader. This grouping won’t look much like that: it seems like much of a muchness, as I glance at it at first. Still, as a bit of a random snapshot, I’ll go with what’s here. There are too many to really list in one post, so I’ll take a few to go through them.

Not counting the dictionaries that come with the device, magazines, items filed under Docs rather than Books, here are the first of the 37 Kindle store titles in descending order of most recent (most recent first):

The City on the Edge of Forever (at AmazonSmile*)
by Harlan Ellison
borrowed through Kindle Unlimited
47% complete

I borrowed this one Wednesday morning, because a couple of my readers (Allie D., jjhitt) and I have been talking about Harlan Ellison after I recently listed a Kindle Daily Deal with Hugo Award winning and nominated books.

There’s a lot of controversy over Ellison’s script (and pre-scripts) for The City on the Edge of Forever, which became an episode of the original Star Trek…and cited by various sources as one of the best.

As regular readers know, I’m not fond of vituperation, and Ellison certainly isn’t hesitant about it.

Ellison’s version of the events does sound…plausible, for the most part, with appropriate details. The way the author describes it and characterizes other people does make me less sympathetic, though.

One interesting point: Ellison (and other sources which can be seen) quote Gene Roddenberry as saying, “He had my Scotty selling drugs…” The script and treatments are in the book, and that’s not it.

However, Ellison also says, “Geezus bleeding Kee-rist on a crutch! Scotty doesn’t even appear in the g*ddam script!” (I added the asterisk, even though the author left out the “n”).

Perhaps not in the script, but in the first version in the book, there are a few references to the “SCOTTISH ENGINEERING OFFICER”, who participates in a court martial with Kirk, Spock, and “THE MEDIC”.

That isn’t in one of the actual script versions, and it isn’t Scotty by name…and, most importantly, that’s not “selling drugs”, but I think it’s not unreasonable for someone to think Scotty was in Ellison’s story based on that.

At this point in reading it, I’d say that Ellison wrote well, and not inexpertly for the medium…but the feel is certainly not Star Trek (it lacks the optimism about the future), and the characterizations aren’t on target (although they improve in successive versions which are in the book).

Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change your Life (at AmazonSmile*)
by Michael Merzenich
borrowed through Kindle Unlimited
6% complete

This one was recommended to me by a physical therapist (who wasn’t treating me…I was training the PT) who thought it might be useful for me. The main point is the idea that the brain can be changed…I’m not far enough into it to judge it well, yet. I like to always be reading something that can relate to my day job, and that’s the one right now…

These are the Voyages – TOS: Season Two (at AmazonSmile*)
by Marc Cushman with Susan Osborn
4% done
borrowed from Kindle Unlimited

I really enjoyed the first one of these! At times, it was a day by day “biography” of the original Star Trek (which is where I got the “other side” view of The City on the Edge of Forever), and quite well done. Again, not really far enough into this one to judge, but I’m enjoying it so far.

These Are The Voyages, TOS, Season One ( Season One Book 1) (at AmazonSmile*)
by Marc Cushman
100% done

I just haven’t deleted this one yet, because I still want to write up a review at my Goodreads account:

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/3037617-bufo-calvin

I’ve been doing an okay job of keeping up with that, but things have been super busy lately. I’ll catch up. :)

Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond (at AmazonSmile*)
by Hans Holzer
50% done

I really like this book! I’ve always enjoyed Holzer, and have suggested elsewhere someone could do a good TV series based on the original “ghost hunter”. This is kind of an emergency book for me…I go to it from time to time between other books, and maybe on a long drive. I always enjoy it.

The Painted Word: A Treasure Chest of Remarkable Words and Their Origins (at AmazonSmile*)
by Phil Cousineau
100% done

Another one I just need to review. I was disappointed in this one. I love words, and books about words. I just didn’t find it that engaging. It was also weird to read this: “…it’s hard not to hear the echo of Sly and the Family Stone’s funkadelic song ‘Play that funky music right, boy!…'” Um…I don’t think that’s quite the right lyric, which then makes me doubt the scholarship of the rest of the book. It’s also not the right band, from what I know, but I haven’t checked to see if there was a “cover” by Sly. By the way, do you know why they are called “cover” versions? Originally, it was because radio stations and certainly stores didn’t want to play music by African American artists. So, the songs would be re-recorded by Caucasian American artists…putting a more “marketable” face literally on the cover of the record. It always surprises me a bit that many people don’t seem to know that nowadays, and blithely use the term “cover”. It has changed over time, though, and I can accept that it has a different meaning now.

That’s enough for part 1!

Not all of the books will get this much coverage (and I wrote the big introduction in this post), so I think I can do this in…two to three more posts, most likely.

What do you think? Any comments on these books? Do you enjoy somebody being caustic? I can’t deny having liked Simon Cowell. ;) Do you want to just list the books on your Kindle (or, say, ten of them)? 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!

* 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.

A new NOOK…sort of

August 21, 2014

A new NOOK…sort of

I last wrote about a new NOOK back at Halloween.

Now, Barnes & Noble announces in this

press release

a new NOOK tablet.

It’s not exactly a NOOK, or at least, not just a NOOK. It’s co-branded with Samsung…it’s the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK.

I had a Galaxy S4 phone which I really liked, although I gave it up for my

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

which I am starting to like more and more as its easy access to recent activities are becoming more populated. For example, I’ve been driving to places where I need to use GPS. I can easily see my history of searches I’ve done…right from the Carousel. I also like that I get notifications about packages being delivered from Amazon or en route…and I’m made aware of them from the lock screen.

Let’s get back to this new device

Official Page

and the press release.

It’s a 7″ wi-fi only tablet. The screen resolution is 1280 x 800, with 216 ppi.

That’s the same resolution as a

Kindle Fire HD 7″, HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile*)

and I think that’s the best direct comparison.

The NOOK is a lot more expensive.

With Special Offers (which is the more popular configuration), the 8 GB (same size as the NOOK) Kindle Fire HD is $139. Without Special Offers, it’s $154.

The new “Samsunook” ;) is $179…and that’s after a $20 rebate from the $199 price.

The Samsunook is notably lighter…about 20% lighter (9.74 oz versus 12.2 oz…276g to 345g). It’s also a bit thinner.

The Samsunook has a micro-SD slot. The KFHD doesn’t.

The Samsunook comes with two cameras: 1.3 MP front, 3.0 rear. The KFHD has zero.

The Samsunook directly supports Google Play and ePUB files…the KFHD doesn’t.

Interestingly, I didn’t find the processor speed right away. Online sources suggest it is 1.2 ghz…slower than the KFHD’s 1.5 ghz.

So, yes, the Samsunook has some advantages.

I don’t see any of this making people stand up and cheer, though. I think the most persuasive thing for someone looking for a cheap tablet compared to the Kindle Fires is the presence of the cameras.

They are also saying it comes with $200 worth of content.

The press release says:

“Free with Purchase: $200 in Popular NOOK Content
Barnes & Noble will welcome all Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK customers with more than $200 of free NOOK reading and entertainment content, including three free bestselling eBooks Freakonomics, The Wanderer, and I Am Number Four, and an episode each of three hit TV shows: HBO’s Veep, NBC’s Hannibal, and BBC America’s Orphan Black. As part of the package, magazine lovers can choose up to four 14-day free trial subscriptions from a selection of 12 popular magazines – including Cosmopolitan, Sports Illustrated, US Weekly and more, and also receive the previous 12 issues of each title at no cost. A $5 credit will also help customers get started as they explore the NOOK Store. More detail on the free NOOK content offer can be found at NOOK.com.”

If we look at those prices at Amazon…

  • Freakonomics $10.99
  • The Wanderer $4.00
  • I Am Number Four $1.99
  • Veep (HD): $2.99
  • Hannibal (HD): $2.99
  • Orphan Black (HD): $2.99

Let’s see…that’s about $25.

Then there is a $5 credit.

I think they are counting a lot of the money in those back issues. A current single issue of Cosmopolitan is $3.99 at Amazon…so 12 of them would be $47.88 (if you could buy the back issues).

You can also buy a year for $9.99…$0.83 an issue.

So, I’m not that impressed with the $200…but it will sound like a break even to some people.

My opinion?

It’s an okay tablet, not a stand out…people will have to want to have a NOOK to make it work. Fortunately for Samsung, it would be easy to convert it if the B&N branding became a liability or non-existent.

As to that press release…

It has some very interesting statistics, supporting the value of reading. This one in particular stood out:

“Seventy-six percent of U.S. adults state their reading habits have increased over the past three years, and nearly half, over two in five (44 percent), attribute access to an eReader, tablet or smartphone as the reason.”

I’ve been saying that I think the easy availability of e-books has probably increased the number of books being read. Certainly, anecdotally, I’ve heard that from people…they say that they used to read a lot, then it fell off     (sometimes busy lives are mentioned), and after the convenience of having books handy (on EBRs ((E-Book Readers)), tablets, and/or phones), it’s increased again.

However, we have to take that stat in the press release with a grain of salt, since they apparently are counting personal e-mail and social media, among others. I recommend you take a look at the press release…intriguing stuff.

I see some pushback in the comments, thinking it isn’t enough…but that happens with pretty much every new product release. ;)

We’ll see how this affects the stock of both companies…it’s kind of a drop n the bucket for Samsung, but really important for Barnes & Noble.

What does it mean for Kindleers?

Competition is good…but I’m not sure how much competition this is. We could hope that it nudges Amazon towards two cameras on future Kindle Fires…

The KFHDX blows this away, in my opinion…thanks in part to Mayday, the almost instant onscreen tech help. People will like having Google Play on the Samsunook, although you can get a lot of those apps (at least the popular ones) for your Fire through 1mobile and other sources.

What do you think? Do you care about this at all? Does it matter that B&N indicates it will continue to support non-tablet NOOKs? Does the all capital version of the name bug you? ;) 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.

Movies, TV shows boost tradpubs

August 19, 2014

Movies, TV shows boost tradpubs

Independently published books are making great strides.

Before the Kindle redefined the e-book market (there was one before that, but it wasn’t much) in 2007, bestseller lists were dominated by books published by traditional publishers (tradpubs).

That’s been changing. There is no longer a need for “book factories”. The rules of marketing have changed considerably. Amazon democratizes discovery, putting indie publishers (which may be just an author) on the same playing field as tradpubs.

You know what hasn’t changed?

Media adaptations.

At this point, a major movie studio or TV network just isn’t as likely to make a deal with an indie.

I’m sure the long history has something to do with it, and yes, there may be a bit of the “old company’s club”. In some cases, there may be direct synergy: the publisher and the studio might both have the same entity as a parent.

This was made obvious to me when I checked the

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

Those the are the ones which aren’t free…there is a separate list for that.

I was sort of thinking I might see just indies for the top ten. I guessed that a lot of indies, which are in

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

might dominate.

Nope…but what does are traditionally published books with movie or TV tie-ins.

Half of the top ten fall into that group!

#1: If I Stay (at AmazonSmile*)
by Gayle Forman
4.3 out of 5 stars, 2328 customer reviews
movie: If I Stay (opening August 22)
published by Penguin

#2: The Giver (Giver Quartet Book 1) (at AmazonSmile*)
by Lois Lowry
4.3 stars, 5766 reviews
movie: The Giver (August 15)
publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH)
available through Kindle Unlimited

#3: Outlander (not linked since the publisher blocks text-to-speech access…but there is an omnibus which is not blocked)
by Diana Gabaldon
4.5 stars, 5200 reviews
TV series: Outlander
publisher: Random House

#7: The Fault in Our Stars (at AmazonSmile*)
by John Green
4.7 stars, 29310 customer reviews
movie: The Fault in Our Stars (June 6)

#8: Where She Went (If I Stay Book 2) (at AmazonSmile*)
by Gayle Forman
4.6 stars, 901 reviews
movies: sequel to book adapted above…it’s safe to say that a movie can help all of the books in a series

At this point, the book to TV or movie market seems like a real lifeline for tradpubs.

Amazon does make TV series, and has adapted books for them…but it will be a while before that could become as important to a book’s sales as having a movie in the movie theatres.

I also think it would be hard for Amazon to go the other way…to be the publishers of movie/TV adaptations. I think that’s more likely, though.

For now, it may be a case of “old media” sticking together…

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.

KDD: Hugo winners/nominees for $1.99 each

August 18, 2014

KDD: Hugo winners/nominees for $1.99 each

One of science fiction and fantasy’s most prestigious awards, the Hugo Awards, had their winners announced last night:

The Hugo Awards

The winner for novel was

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
by Ann Leckie
4.3 stars out of 5, 347 customer reviews

Interestingly, the book is published by Hachette in the USA…and is available without impediment from Amazon.com.

I was thinking of listing some other Hugo winners available through the Kindle store, but Amazon beat me to it (at least in one way).

One of today’s Kindle Daily Deals (at AmazonSmile*) is twelve Hugo winners and nominees for $1.99 each.

Their selection is dominated by Harlan Ellison (seven out of the twelve), but that’s not a bad choice. ;) The books in the deal are:

  • Bloodchild: And Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
  • Tea with the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy
  • A Fire in the Sun by George Alec Effinger
  • Strange Wine by Harlan Ellison
  • Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison
  • The City on the Edge of Forever (I plan to read that one soon…it will tie in nicely to These Are The Voyages, TOS, Season One ( Season One Book 1) (at AmazonSmile) which I am just about to finish. It will give another side to the controversy over Ellison’s script which became an acclaimed Star Trek episode) by Harlan Ellison
  • The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World by Harlan Ellison
  • Selected Stories by Theodore Sturgeon
  • Slippage: Previously Uncollected, Perilously Poised Stories by Harlan Ellison
  • Harlan Ellison’s Watching by Harlan Ellison
  • The Whole Man by John Brunner

It’s not a very wide set of choices, though.

Amazon has a special section for

Hugo Award Winners in the Kindle store (at AmazonSmile*)

and there are 36 titles there, from Robert A. Heinlein to Neil Gaiman to Orson Scott Card.

Why not pick those for the deal?

Well, certainly, part of might have to do with deals with the publishers. Since the Agency Model was largely dismantled (but may be coming back) by the Department of Justice’s actions, Amazon can discount anything as much as they want. If they could get cooperation from the publisher, though, they might lose less money in doing so.

There was something interesting that tied the selected twelve together.

They are all available through Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*).

For people on their free month, or who are paying $9.99 a month (for people who joined right away, perhaps on July 18th, that’s just starting to happen), they can read them at no additional cost.

That could have been Amazon’s specific intent: to advertise KU with higher profile books by putting them on sale.

It could also just be a side effect of all of these being published by the same publisher: Open Road Media. Again, what could happen is that Amazon strikes a deal with Open Road to take a lower percentage while the books are on sale…as if they were list priced (the pricing set by the publisher) at a lower price than normal.

Regardless, if you are someone who is still buying books (as opposed to paying for access to them), this is a good deal. ;)

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.

Round up #264: monkeying around with the Fire Phone, the 11th book

August 17, 2014

Round up #264: monkeying around with the Fire Phone, the 11th book

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

The 11th book

People talk about the “tenth man” in baseball (that means the fans in the stands, who, in addition to the nine players on the field at a time are believed to influence the outcome of the game).

Well, I’ve run into an interesting situation with the “eleventh book”. ;)

I’ve mentioned before, and other readers have brought it up, that since I’ve joined Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s “all you can read” subser (subscription service), I haven’t been able to borrow a book through the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library). That’s part of my benefits as an eligible Prime member with a hardware Kindle.

I had been borrowing a book every month (that’s the maximum…one a calendar month), and I’ve come to think of it as one of the reasons we have Prime in my family…although certainly not the most important. The “no additional cost” two-day shipping is the main reason, and I use Prime video quite a bit. Prime music is fun, but I haven’t integrated it into my routines yet.

I checked with Amazon, and I published how they told me it should work here:

Kindle Unlimited: how does it affect authors, and what’s the deal with the KOLL?

It just wasn’t working that way for me: even when I was eligible to borrow a book from the KOLL, I wasn’t being given the option to do so on

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

Well, one of my contacts at Amazon suggested I check with Kindle Support: so I used Mayday on my Kindle Fire, and that person knew the answer right away!

When a book is in both the KOLL and KU (there are more books in KU than the KOLL, but just about all the KOLL books are part of KU), and you are a KU member and eligible for the KOLL, it will default to KU…unless you already have the maximum ten books (at a time) out from KU.

Hey…I just tested this by borrowing ten books from KU…and my options didn’t change! I still can’t borrow a book from the KOLL.

I’ll follow up with Amazon: false alarm. :(

I can at least report that when you have ten books borrowed from KU and try to borrow one more, it will offer to return the one you borrowed the longest time ago…or let you pick another one.

Update: I just spent, oh, half an hour or so with Mayday on this. I was passed from my first rep to another one, who then consulted extensively with another person. The best they can tell me at this point is that they are aware of the issue, and they’ll follow up with me when it is solved.

Bookstore sales fall 7.9%

According to this

Publishers Weekly article

the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that bookstore sales are down 7.9% year over year for the first half of 2014.

That’s a huge amount for an industry without a lot of margin (I used to be a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager).

My guess is that there are some small stores doing quite well, and even growing, and that we are seeing this impact mostly from large or “undifferentiated” stores…ones without a specific “personality”.

I think it’s likely that more books are actually being read, thanks to e-books, but physical bookstores have to be destination stores to survive. You have to make people care about you enough that they will willingly pay more money than they would have paid online just to support you. That is entirely doable, but it does take focus and effort.

Entertaining a kid on BART

My Significant Other and I went to see a San Francisco Giants game today (a rare treat…my parents took us). On the way home on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit…that’s sort of our subway system around here), there was a fussy three-year old.

I always keep apps on my Kindle Fire specifically to entertain kids. :) After clearly gaining permission, I let the kid play with

Fingerpaint Magic (at Amazon Smile*)

That went well…we had a smiling and laughing kid in a short period of time. My SO also pointed out that this three-year old figured out how to start a new drawing, and select a background…much sooner than my SO would have. ;)

After a while, we switched to

Monkey Buddy (at AmazonSmile*)

a free app on my

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile*)

It’s an interactive animal…you can think sort of like a Tamagotchi.

It reacts to what you do…stroke the ears, for example, and it gets happy.

It will also take a picture of you when you tap a camera…and then draw on the picture (putting glasses on you, for example), and then discards it (the picture is not saved).

Although a three-year old won’t discover this right away (and this was a bright kid), it will also react to your head movements. Nod your head “yes”, and it gets happy, recognizing it as approval. Shake your head “no”, and it gets sad. It also gets sad if it can’t see you.

I do want to mention something about using the Fire Phone. When I try to demonstrate the dynamic perspective (which I can “dy-per”, just for fun), I will tell someone to move their head to look at the phone to see the effect.

Most people stare steadily at the phone without moving their heads…even after I say it.

I have to point out that it is like you are trying to peek into the side of the phone.

Before the Fire Phone, I hadn’t noticed how rigidly people hold their heads when looking at a phone, but I guess that makes sense with most phones.

51% of kindergarteners through 5th graders prefer to read on a screen over paper

This

EBOOK FRIENDLY article by Ola Kowalczyk

has some interesting facts in an infographic from a survey by TeachHub.com.

The one I’ll point out is preferred reading medium.

37% prefer reading on a tablet (the infographic includes “Kindles” in that, and I would think not just the Kindle Fires), 35% prefer paper, and 14% prefer a computer. 12% preferred someone else reading to them (I’m going to guess they weren’t thinking text-to-speech, but a human being).

That’s extraordinary, and important.

Little kids’ books lagged behind adult and young adult titles in getting into the e-book market. Part of that was they waited for the technology: color, for one thing.

If screens are now the preferred method, bookstore sales may drop a lot more than 7.9% in a few years…

I think we’ll see an impact on the “books as gifts” market this holiday…Amazon should promote very strongly giving Kindle Unlimited (maybe for three months) as a gift this holiday! Not sure exactly the mechanism for that, but we serious readers know how intimidated other people can be in trying to pick out specific books for us. Netflix gifts have been a significant thing for a while: subscriptions to subsers (subscription services) for e-books could be really big.

What do you think? Why do so many kids like to read on computers (that surprised me)? Is it because those kids don’t have “tablets”, perhaps? Are there books that you prefer to read on a computer? Would you let your kid play with a stranger’s phone/tablet/Kindle? Do you keep things with you to entertain kids? Would you give KU as a gift? Are bookstores on the way out, or is it only certain bookstores? 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.

Kindle indies getting pre-orders

August 15, 2014

Kindle indies getting pre-orders

When Amazon wanted to put pressure on the publisher Hachette during some recent negotiations, one thing they did was take away pre-orders from some books.

Pre-orders are important. One of the big things they do is drive a book up the bestseller list, even before it is released (it’s not uncommon that some of the bestsellers are on pre-release).

Broadly speaking, traditionally published authors have tended to side with Hachette during what I call the “Hachazon War”, and indies (independent authors) have tended to side with Amazon. That’s just a rule of thumb, though…your authors may vary. ;)

One ironic thing that some indies mentioned, though, is that they couldn’t do pre-orders for Kindle books when using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Amazon punished Hachette by taking away something it hadn’t given to any of the KDP indies.

Well, I’m happy to let you know that’s changing!

Indies can now also do pre-orders, as outlined in this

public KDP help page

It’s pretty simple: you say that a new book will be published at a future date, and allow pre-orders (it can happen in any of the KDP markets except India, which doesn’t do pre-orders for some reason).

Pre-orders push a book up the bestseller list.

The publisher (which may be just the author) doesn’t get paid until the customer is charged (on release day), but does get reports about pre-orders before that.

This certainly helps level the playing field.

One concern I have: what happens if somebody announces a pre-order…and then doesn’t have the book ready?

Do they just get to announce a new date, or are the orders canceled and then they have to be placed again?

Part of the idea of this is that you could announce a book while you were writing it or while it was in the production phase following the writing.

They only let you have up to ten at a time, but I predict right now that you’ll see people doing those ten, and doing them into the future. If somebody produced a series, and you could pre-order them now with a book coming out every year (or six months or month), that might make many people more likely to buy it.

Hey, here’s an idea: somebody could do one where a chapter or short story came out every day for ten days. You could pre-order them all on the same day, and then it would be sort of like a serialized novel.

I’m not big on pre-orders myself, but many of you may use this.

Oh, I should mention: you can’t pre-order Kindle Unlimited “borrows”. I’ve mentioned that before, but I’m sure some people are getting caught by that. They intend to borrow the book, and pre-order it…and then get charged for it.

I should also mention that Amazon announced much bigger “pool pay” for publishers in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited. That’s the money that people split for each borrow, and it made sense that they would raise it, since one has to assume that Kindle Unlimited has added a lot of borrows to the pool.

I wonder if Amazon was thinking that they needed to something good for authors right now, during the Hachazon War. I don’t think that would have been the sole impetus, but it might have accelerated a development schedule.

Amazon is, I believe, needing tradpubs (traditional publishers) less and less…and to do that, they need authors. Making publishing through Amazon more attractive helps get that content (and often exclusive content) that they need to thrive without the Big Five.

What do you think? Do you care about pre-orders? Do you deliberately check what is coming up in the future? Have you ever pre-ordered a book and not gotten it when promised? 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!

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.

Only on Amazon

August 14, 2014

Only on Amazon

Back in the old days ;) a number of people would get upset when they heard that an e-book store had gotten an exclusive on something. There was a bit of back and forth: Amazon might get something, Barnes & Noble might get something else.

Well, Amazon clearly sees this as a big strategy…and they are investing in it.

That doesn’t go just for e-books (which I’ll talk about shortly). There was this weird little app called Flappy Bird. It was really hard to play, and not much happened in it…but it was very, very popular.

So popular that, reportedly, the creator withdrew it from sale…because it was too addictive.

Naturally, that made it even more of a legend.

People were paying hundreds of dollars for used phones that already had that app installed, so they could keep playing it.

Well, Amazon must have paid a lot of money to get the exclusive rights for

Flappy Birds Family (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which, yes, is an official version (there are a lot of rip-offs out there).

You would think they might have licensed it for the

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile*)

which would make sense and be a good way to really push their new phone (which I’m liking more and more as I use it more).

Nope. they released it exclusively for the

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)

which, by the way, is discounted right now to $84 from $99.

I’m not sure if that will work to push people over the edge to get a Fire TV. I like mine a lot, and when we buy our next TV, we’ll get a second one to use. It’s still embryonic, but they are improving it. It’s really fast! When I use my Roku, it takes several seconds for YouTube to load. With the Fire TV, it’s a fraction of the time.

Okay, what about books?

There are more than 600,000

Kindle Exclusives (at AmazonSmile*)

in the USA store!

SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND!

That’s a lot of books to have locked into one source.

Of course, you don’t need to own a Kindle to get them…you can get free Kindle reading apps for a lot of devices.

Hey, there was a new option in the search results to limit them to Kindle Unlimited titles!

That resulted in 587,648 titles at the time of writing.

For $9.95 a month, you can read more than half a million titles you can’t read (as e-books) anywhere else.

Now, naturally, you may be thinking that it doesn’t matter how many books there are if there aren’t books you want to read.

Sorting by New and Popular, here are the overall rankings of the top five Kindle Unlimited Kindle Exclusives:

  • #55
  • #42
  • #83
  • #84
  • #19

Those are their ranking among paid books…not as free books.

Four out of five of them were Amazon imprints (traditionally published by Amazon): the fifth one may have been published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

This is one of the big problems for Hachette and the other Big Five publishers.

Amazon is rapidly growing it’s “direct to customer” business…where they don’t need to buy books from the tradpubs (traditional publishers).

I think it’s safe to say that the tradpubs have not come up with a robust direct to customer strategy yet (although they have made moves in that direction).

These aren’t all new authors, by the way: one good example is that the original James Bond books by Ian Fleming are here.

Hachette may be fighting so hard because they want to lock something into place before the situation just gets worse. Buying another year of time might let them get something going in direct to customer…maybe.

How does Amazon get the exclusives? After all, it seems like it would make more sense to have your book available to more people.

For the big name/tradpubs, they pay for it…presumably, big time. Amazon doesn’t need to make a profit on selling books: it’s a small part of their overall business.

For indies (independent publishers, might be just an author), exclusivity is a requirement to have your book be available through the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library)…again, if you are an indie (a tradpub doesn’t need to make a book exclusive to be in the KOLL, I believe).

Amazon is literally the only legal place in the USA to get some of the world’s literature as e-books.

It’s a different world than it was. Barnes & Noble used to have some exclusives in paperbooks in their stores, but nothing like this.

What do you think? Does it bother you that everyone has to deal with the same company to read such a large amount of books as e-books? If you can get them in the public library (meaning that they dealt with Amazon), does that make it okay? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Bonus story: Amazon Associates love to link to Kindle books…to promote the books they like and recommend to their audiences. Associates do not get money for Kindle Unlimited borrows…

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.

The Big Deal: over 400 books up to 85% off through August 24th

August 12, 2014

The Big Deal: over 400 books up to 85% off through August 24th

One of my favorite things that Amazon does is the “Big Deal”, which will discount hundreds of books, generally a large amount, for a limited time.

This time:

The Big Deal (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

there are 424 at time of writing. As always, check the price before you click that Buy button. It’s possible that books will move in and out of the deal, and it may not apply in your country.

Here are some that caught my eye:

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: Legacy: Legacy Premiere v. 1 (at AmazonSmile)
by Dan Abnett (Author), Andy Lanning (Author), Paul Pelletier (Illustrator)
4.4 out of 5 stars, 38 customer reviews
graphic novels
$3.99 at time of writing

I’ve been a bit concerned about saying publicly that I didn’t really like the movie. The characters just didn’t connect for me, and I didn’t buy the dialog. I predicted a pretty big drop off for the movie at the box office privately…I’m just not sure what you could say about it that could get somebody to see it who otherwise wouldn’t see a movie where two of the main characters are a raccoon and a tree (person). That’s different from, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars. When we came out of it, I said I thought it might do $175 million to $200 million…which is still huge, but might be a lot less than the opening weekend would suggest. I was probably under on that, but we’ll see. This is available for both the tablets (and, interestingly, its first suggestion was to send it to my Fire Phone…wouldn’t it be tiny there?) and the non-Fire Kindles. I know in the past people would use comics as a gateway to reading for kids: they liked the movie/TV show, let’s get them to read the comics to get them to read books. I don’t know of the appropriateness of this for kids…haven’t read them. Note: text-to-speech is not available on this title. If a publisher blocks the access, that precludes me from linking to it, but this will be a case where the issue is that the text is part of the image, and can’t be parsed by the TTS software.

Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse (The Midwife Trilogy Book 2) (at AmazonSmile)
by Jennifer Worth
4.6 stars, 654 reviews
biographies & memoirs
$1.99

In a bit of a twist, books two and three are in this sale…but book one isn’t. I still think that could work: people might be inspired to buy book one at a higher price if the later ones in the series are on sale…provided they already know they have interest. When a book is the basis for a TV show like this, that could certainly be the case.

True Detective (Nathan Heller Novels) (at AmazonSmile)
by Max Allan Collins
4.3 stars, 113 reviews
mystery, thriller and suspense – hard-boiled
$1.99
Available as part of Kindle Unlimited

Note: this is not connected to the recent TV series.

Some others:

  • Collision of Empires: The War on the Eastern Front in 1914 (General Military) by Prit Buttar
  • The Big Four (Hercule Poirot series Book 5) by Agatha Christie
  • The Long War (Long Earth Book 2) by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • The God Complex: A Thriller by Murray McDonald
  • Locked Doors (Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite Series Book 2) by Blake Crouch
  • The Wicked Wallflower (Wallflower Trilogy Book 1) by Maya Rodale
  • A Burnable Book: A Novel by Bruce Holsinger
  • The Complete Wardstone Trilogy by M. R. Mathias
  • The Case of the Sulky Girl (Perry Mason Series Book 2) by Erle Stanley Gardner (available through Kindle Unlimited)
  • Murder Strikes a Pose (A Downward Dog Mystery) by Tracy Weber
  • Sextant: A Young Man’s Daring Sea Voyage and the Men Who Mapped the World’s Oceans by David Barrie
  • Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian by Bob Saget
  • Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free by John Ferling
  • Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order by Noam Chomsky
  • The Queen’s Man: A John Shakespeare Mystery by Rory Clements
  • More Stories from the Twilight Zone by Rod Serling and Anne Serling (available through Kindle Unlimited) I read the first of these…I’ll plan to borrow it through KU
  • Back in Society (The Poor Relation Series Book 6) by M. C. Beaton (available through Kindle Unlimited)
  • Earthlight (Arthur C. Clarke Collection) by Arthur C. Clarke
  • A Season to Remember by Carson Tinker
  • Amy, My Daughter by Mitch Winehouse
  • Unnatural Acts (Dan Shamble, Zombie PI) by Kevin J Anderson
  • Supernatural: John Winchester’s Journal by Alex Irvine (yes, tied into the TV series)
  • Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Difficult People: Over 325 Ready-To-Use Words and Phrases For Working With Challenging… by Renèe Evenson
  • The Wisdom of the Myths: How Greek Mythology Can Change Your Life by Luc Ferry
  • Night Gallery by Rod Serling, Jim Benson and Scott Skelton (available through Kindle Unlimited)
  • Managing Your Mind: The Mental Fitness Guide by Gillian Butler and Tony Hope
  • After Auschwitz: A Love Story by Brenda Webster
  • Von Ryan’s Express (RosettaBooks Into Film Book 22) by David Westheimer
  • The Self Illusion: How the Social Brain Creates Identity by Bruce Hood
  • Flintlock by William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone
  • The Boer War (Winston Churchill Early Works Collection) by Winston Churchill
  • Samurai – The World of the Warrior by Stephen Turnbull
  • The Man by Irving Wallace, David Wallechinsky and James Earl Jones
  • My Gun Has Bullets (Charlie Willis Book 1) by Lee Goldberg (available through Kindle Unlimited)
  • The Wild Girls (Outspoken Authors) by Ursula K. Le Guin (available through Kindle Unlimited)
  • A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki
  • Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite
  • Foul Ball (RosettaBooks Sports Classics) by Jim Bouton
  • The Twenty-four Hour Mind: The Role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives by Rosalind Cartwright (I was a lucid dreamer and would also make a (largely successful) effort to remember my dreams upon waking…keeping a diary. Later, the hypothesis came to me that dreaming was like “defragging the disk” on a computer. It enabled you to run programs you wouldn’t typically use in real life ((but that you might need at some time)), to organize your day thoughts, and to clean things up. I stopped trying to remember my dreams, and I think I can say my memory is pretty good. :) Of course, it might have been anyway…
  • The Excellent Doctor Blackwell: The Life of the First Woman Physician by Julia Boyd
  • The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World by Nancy Jo Sales
  • Stuff Every American Should Know by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese
  • Television Fast Forward: Sequels & Remakes of Cancelled Series by Lee Goldberg (available through Kindle Unlimited)

It was interesting to me how many books there were by a single author or in the same series: the Perry Mason books, M.C. Beaton, and so on. I’m also intrigued to find books in KU listed here. On the one hand, people might think that Amazon wouldn’t want to promote books during a sale that many people don’t have to buy…but it’s sort of the opposite. They are promoting KU by putting the books in where people are shopping. Somebody might see those books, and think, “You know, I could spend $1.99 each and get five Perry Masons…or maybe I should just try KU.” Right now, you could read all five of those during your first free month…and then decide from there about the future of KU for you. Those books won’t cost that next month: they’ll be more expensive. So, joining KU, you are likely to compare your savings to the more expensive price, not the sale price, which is reasonable…you don’t want to have to wait for a sale.

Enjoy!

Any others in the group to which you want to alert me and/or my readers? Feel free to comment 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.

 

Do literary characters need genders?

August 11, 2014

Do literary characters need genders?

There has been a lot of talk recently about the need for greater diversity in literature (and other entertainment).

This is especially true in the geek community (of which I am a proud member), but has also been a topic of discussion for children’s books, and for books in general.

While issues of race and other elements are also important, let’s take a quick look at recent gender controversies in the geek community:

  • The lack of a female-led superhero movie in recent years
  • A bizarre comment by a videogame maker that they didn’t have a playable female character because women were too hard to animate
  • A powerful and important female character in the Ant-Man movie being diminished to motivation for the male hero (diminishing might be appropriate for Ant-Man, but not in this case)
  • The initial lack of female characters announced for the new Star Wars movie
  • In my own review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I noted the lack of strong female characters
  • The paucity of Gamora (a female member of the Guardians of the Galaxy) merchandising

That’s just a sampling.

Female-led  movies and books have, of course, done very well (Lucy, The Hunger Games, Bridesmaids)…there just aren’t that many of them compared to male-led works. In case you are thinking that might be because the audience is predominantly male, that’s not the case. Besides, that suggests that men wouldn’t appreciate works where females are the driving characters, and I don’t think the evidence is there for that.

That gets me to the point of a little game I did recently in this blog. Let me explain a bit more first.

One response to the above complaints is to flip male characters into female characters. Marvel Comics’ Thor is going to have a female incarnation. Ghostbusters is reportedly going to be rebooted with all female leads.

Does that solve the problem, though?

If the problem is that people won’t empathize with characters who are fundamentally different from themselves, aren’t you just going to discourage the other gender from embracing the new versions?

We recently did something at work where we tied into heroes, and people came as their favorite heroes (fictional or historical…no family members/friends, no one living). A lot of people seemed to take it to mean superheroes, although that hadn’t been the point. One person who got it, for example, came as Clarence Darrow.

In the discussion, one of my co-workers said that the heroes “…didn’t look like me”, and that explained why that person hadn’t chosen someone.

Well, it did occur to me that if you weren’t a body builder, most of the heroes probably didn’t look like 99% of the readers. ;) That wasn’t always true, and that was part of the appeal of Spider-Man, who wasn’t pure muscle. By the way, I’ve always wondered: if Superman has inherent super strength, why does the Kryptonian need all those muscles? Kal-El should be able to have the build of a ninety-eight pound weakling and still move planets…but I digress. ;)

My fictional heroes include Spock from Star Trek and Doc Savage, a pulp hero…and they really look almost nothing alike (Spock is an ectomorph ((slender)), Doc is a mesomorph ((big muscles))).

Clearly, I don’t only like characters who look like me…or are like me.

They don’t need to have the same gender, race, or pretty much anything else…I can still empathize with them and find them interesting.

As regular readers here know, I make an effort not to reveal my gender online. It’s one of the things I love about the internet: if you choose not to be judged by your inherent characteristics, its possible to put your ideas out there without revealing it.

I don’t do it myself to make it easier for other people who don’t want to do it…they can feel more comfortable.

When I write stories on this blog, like my humor pieces, I generally don’t use gender.

So, I was thinking…would it work to have mainstream novels where the gender of the characters are never revealed…and where no point is made of that?

Of course, I realize that people will generally assign genders to the characters anyway. It’s one of the fundamental ways that people define other people (and it makes sense that there is some evolutionary imperative to do that). If you had only slight interaction with someone in a meeting and asked someone else who it was later, that would be one of the ways you’d be very likely to be able to describe them…even if you couldn’t say race or even height.

Regular readers also know that I don’t visualize when I read, generally. I’m not sure if that would make non-identified characters easier or harder for most people. Since most of you are going to picture the characters anyway, I assume you’d provide a gender, whether the book did or not.

Another thing is that we have names in English that are generally indicative of gender…that might be an issue.

Anyway, I was curious to see if people would notice it is I pulled gender references out of some public domain works.

Let me be very clear: I don’t recommend altering existing works. More than four years ago, I wrote

The Chronological Cultural Context Conundrum

I believe that works should be published as they were written…even though they may have words and concepts that are offensive today, and may not have been then. I wouldn’t pull the “n word” out of a book, for example, although I would warn people about it, and try to explain the context.

That doesn’t mean that I think people shouldn’t be allowed to make those alterations, either…but I don’t want the original works to disappear or become unavailable to those who want to read them as they were. Changes should be clearly labeled.

I did excerpts from three popular downloads at

Project Gutenberg

and altered them to remove gender references.

I will freely admit that the original versions are better. :) I didn’t make a real effort to make mine artful, and I’d never claim to be able to write as well as the authors of these classics.

I’m going to give you my version, then the original:

“William Lucas, and Maria, a good-humoured child, but as empty-headed as the older Lucas, had nothing to say that could be worth hearing, and were listened to with about as much delight as the rattle of the chaise. Elizabeth loved absurdities, but had known William’s too long.”
–Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (made gender neutral)

“Sir William Lucas, and his daughter Maria, a good-humoured girl, but as empty-headed as himself, had nothing to say that could be worth hearing, and were listened to with about as much delight as the rattle of the chaise.”
–Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (the original)

“I went down to the front garden and clumb over the stile where you go through the high board fence. There was an inch of new snow on the ground, and I seen somebody’s tracks. They had come up from the quarry and stood around the stile a while, and then went on around the garden fence. It was funny they hadn’t come in, after standing around so. I couldn’t make it out. It was very curious, somehow. I was going to follow around, but I stooped down to look at the tracks first. I didn’t notice anything at first, but next I did. There was a cross in the left boot-heel made with big nails, to keep off the devil.”
–Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (this one required no alteration*)

“Yesterday, however, just as I was thinking of leaving the office, my clerk entered to say there was someone waiting who wished to see me upon business. My clerk brought up a card, too, with the name of ‘Colonel Lysander Stark’ engraved upon it. Close behind came the colonel, who was rather over the middle size, but of an exceeding thinness.”
–The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle (made gender neutral)

“Yesterday, however, just as I was thinking of leaving the office, my clerk entered to say there was a gentleman waiting who wished to see me upon business. He brought up a card, too, with the name of ‘Colonel Lysander Stark’ engraved upon it. Close at his heels came the colonel himself, a man rather over the middle size, but of an exceeding thinness.”
–The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle (the original)

Now again, mine are absolutely clunkier. Part of that is due to retrofitting…if the original authors had written them to be gender neutral, they would undoubtedly have been better.

I asked people if they could tell what was the same about them. One of my regular readers and commenters, Lady Galaxy, compared the texts with the originals and correctly identified the main thing…that I had removed gender references.

I had sort of hoped that people wouldn’t do that: I wanted to see if it was inherently obvious, even in these short passages, that gender wasn’t being identified…and if that would be bothersome.

Since it’s not the way things are normally written, I think it would be much more obvious over two hundred pages than over two hundred words…but would that mean people would reject the book?

How important is it to you that inherent characteristics be identified in books? Would it irritate you not to be told if a character was male or female? I think it says something about us that descriptors like that likely bring strongly into us our expectations. If we read that someone is typical of a particular country, or that they are a specific religion in a book, does that make them much more three-dimensional? If so, that says something about what we assume about people.

This is an old logic puzzle:

“The police hear that a man named John who has recently committed a murder is playing poker in a particular house. They don’t have any more description than that. They raid the house, and see a truck driver, a carpenter, a prize fighter, and a mechanic playing cards. Without asking any more questions, they immediately take the prize fighter into custody. How did they know they had the right person?

Answer: The prize fighter was the only man there…the rest were women.

Even though you might have know this was a trick question, did you picture the other three as women when you first read their job titles?

The prize fighter could have been a woman too, of course…ask Laila Ali, for example.

I guess my real question is this: do you think you could enjoy a book as much if the genders of characters weren’t identified?

I was tempted to add a poll here, but I think it would be a hard question to answer until you’d tried it…and tried it without knowing. I am interested in what you think about this idea, though. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me and my readers by commenting on this post.

* It was interesting to me that Huck, who is not well educated, uses the indefinite pronoun “they” to refer to an individual. I do that myself a lot, and it has become more accepted, although some people complain when it it is applied to one person, since “they” typically means more than one

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.

 

Amazon’s “Important Kindle request” for KDP authors

August 9, 2014

Amazon’s “Important Kindle request” for KDP authors

I received an e-mail from Amazon, which I am reproducing below. My understanding is that is generally acceptable to distribute an e-mail you received, unless it is marked private or tells you not to distribute it. I don’t think Amazon will mind in this case, since they’ve also publicly published it. I’m going to let you see it without any commentary from me. If you have comments about it yourself, please feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post. I may respond to those or write more about this later, but I didn’t want to prejudice you about it before you had read it.

Update: I’ve gotten some good comments on this, and I see it is getting a lot of coverage in the blogosphere. I am going to add my opinion about it to this post, after the communication from Amazon. That will still give you a chance to read it first.

Dear KDP Author,

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the
foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to
overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like
paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not
united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at www.readersunited.com

Update: after seeing some comments from my readers, and being directly asked what I thought about it, I’ve decided to add my opinion and analysis to this post.

I suspect some of you will be at this blog for the first time because of linkages to other sites, so let me set up a little bit about what might affect my opinions.

I am a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, which might tend to align me with the retailer in this case, Amazon. However, a lot of brick-and-mortar folks don’t like Amazon, so that might dilute that impact. I am also an author of books which are published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, and so have made money from Amazon. This blog, as well, is one of the top-selling blogs of any kind in the USA Kindle store: another thing that might make me lean towards Amazon.

Also important: I’m a very happy Amazon customer, and use a Fire Phone, Fire TV, Kindle Fire HDX, and Kindle Paperwhite daily. I’ve had a very good relationship with Amazon.

I’m also a publisher, which might make me sympathetic to Hachette. That’s in a small way: I’ve only published my own work, not counting public domain books I’ve digitized for a non-profit.

I believe I can give you a fair analysis, regardless of those factors.

As to my overall opinion on the situation: Amazon shouldn’t pretend to carry the books. Either carry them, or don’t. If you can’t reach a satisfactory agreement with Hachette, drop the books. I think Amazon is seriously hurting their relationships with customers by having product pages for books, and then making getting them difficult or impossible. Customers will project that to all of your products, they won’t really care about the reason…and they will feel like pawns you are willing to hurt in the game.

I’d like to see the two sides settle, and have things get back to where they were. That’s my ideal outcome. If that doesn’t happen, I’d be happier with the Hachette books out of the store than in the store with barbed wire around them.

Now, as to Amazon’s e-mail:

It appears to me to be designed to lead people to an emotional conclusion, and one can certainly argue that it is designed to mislead them.

The first part is particularly bizarre, where they talk about the history of paperbacks. This is where Amazon is sticking to its positioning as being populist (using the word “nope” is another indicator of that) and against the establishment, and in doing so, it’s conflating things.

Let me restate what they said about the paperbacks, and which they then use to make Hachette the big bad (as part of the establishment):

Publishers produced a new cheaper version of books. Many retailers refused to carry them. An author opposed them.

See? When you restate it, the publishers were the good guys for readers, and the retailers were the bad guys… and “famous” authors were bad, too!

  • Publishers = Hachette = Good Guys
  • Retailers = Amazon = Bad Guys
  • “famous author” = everybody who signed a recent letter against Amazon’s tactics = Bad Guy Sympathizers

Isn’t that the opposite of what Amazon wants you to think?

That third bullet point is especially interesting because they addressed this e-mail to authors! It seems like they want to create a firm schism between traditionally published famous authors, and indies (independent authors).

The reference to Orwell is fascinating, because they then do a sort of Orwellian Nineteen Eight-Four “newspeak” to somehow make that an argument in the current situation in favor of a retailer versus a publisher.

The next thing, which sparked comments on this post, was the assertion that  “Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99″, which people naturally took to suggest that Hachette was making people pay $19.99 for a novel.

Amazon typically discounts books from the publisher’s suggested price (the DLP or Digital List Price), so it isn’t that easy to use pricing numbers at Amazon to determine how many books are being released at a certain price point. Looking at the analysis in my monthly Snapshot for August 1st, 2014, there are very few books (in terms of percentage of the store) at the price points I check between $19.99 and $24.99:

$ 19.99 | 7,239 | 0.27%
$ 20.99 | 717 | 0.03%
$ 21.99 | 744 | 0.03%
$ 22.99 | 2,679 | 0.10%
$ 23.99 | 960 | 0.04%
$ 24.99 | 915 | 0.03%

I doubt that one percent of the e-books have a DLP of $19.99.

I did a search for

$19.99 or higher e-books from Grand Central in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Grand Central is one of Hachette’s big imprints. My results?

Five titles: two omnibus (more than one book is included) titles, two cookbooks, and a “coffee table book”. No single novels.

My readers’ comments not surprisingly indicated a reluctance to pay $19.99 to Hachette, presumably for a single novel.

They aren’t asking us to do that.

The price you pay is up to Amazon, not Hachette. Part of the dispute with the publishers (which led to the publishers having to settle with U.S. Department of Justice over accusations of collusion to raise e-book prices) had to do with Amazon selling e-books at a loss. If Hachette did price a book at $19.99, Amazon could still sell it to you for $9.99. Amazon would take a bigger loss that way, which I’m sure they’d rather not do.

Amazon can take (and apparently has taken) a loss on many e-books. If good prices on e-books get you into Amazon’s ecosystem, which then gets you to become a Prime member where you’ll buy much higher margin physical goods (what I refer to as “diapers and windshield wipers”), then it is well worth it.

Hachette can not set the price you pay for a book through Amazon: that’s part of what the problem was with the Agency Model, where they were able to do that.

Another disingenuous thing in the e-mail, in my opinion, is Amazon’s numbers on how many more books an e-book sells at $9.99 than at $14.99.

They conveniently leave off the likelihood that the discrepancy is due in some part to the book being cheaper than other comparable books, not just to $9.99 as a discrete value.

Here’s what I mean:

If some books are $14.99 and some are $9.99, the $9.99 appears to be more attractive…people will see it as “saving five dollars”.

If almost all books were $9.99, that “comparison positive” disappears. Maybe then the 1.74 multiplier would apply to books at $7.99 versus books at $9.99, although I doubt it would be that high. I do think there is a psychological impact with books priced under $10 versus $10 or higher (we certainly saw that in my store), but I think the 1.74 multiplier wouldn’t be reliable if all books came down in price.

Again, these are observations of the e-mail, not of the position. I think the e-mail, which they knew would be seen by readers in addition to the authors/small publishers to which it was sent (Amazon posted it themselves at “Readers United” ((which has an e-mail address at Amazon.com)), and in fact, addressed it to readers rather than authors at that site) to manipulate readers and authors into pressuring Hachette.

That’s the part I don’t like.

To reiterate, I think Amazon’s Kindle has been wonderful for book culture. I think more people are reading books, including the classics, because of it. I think books are more accessible, and are able to be published by more people giving us a greater variety.

Here’s my best guess for the future:

  • Authors will increasingly control the distribution of their books, not needing the tradpubs’ “machinery” to get a book out there, both in terms of distribution and discovery. We’ll see more brand name authors independently publishing some of their work. It’s possible that an author collective might be part of it. Indie authors will see a relatively golden age, in the beginning
  • Tradpubs will figure out alternate distribution channels, although they won’t be as effective as Amazon is right now. Some of that will be direct selling from the publisher to the reader…they have to solve the discovery issue first. I think it will be a mix, with some tradpub titles at Amazon, some through other channels. I’ve mentioned that I think we might see “ancillary” and non-canonical works in Kindle Unlimited from the tradpubs (short story prequels, sequels, and sidequels ((a term I use for works set in the same universe, but not in sequence or focusing on the same characters)), reference works, and so on), and the main series (which requires less discovery) sold through alternate channels
  • Amazon will do fine. I wrote recently about how they could improve contextual linking, but Amazon will continue to make it easier for us to buy books. The books are not going to be their profit drivers, but I expect them to be part of the strategy
  • Readers will benefit from these changes. We’ll have more books for less money

As requested, now you have my opinion and analysis. I look forward to more of your comments on this issue.

Update: I’ve flipped several articles about this into the free ILMK Flipboard magazine, but I thought I’d link to a couple of the stand-outs here:

  • IN WHICH AMAZON CALLS YOU TO DEFEND THE REALM by Chuck Wendig: I have to warn you about this one first, because the “F word” shows up right away. That’s always an interesting choice: while it may more accurately reflect the way you speak and feel, it considerably limits your audience. That said, I thought this was a hilarious take on the Amazon e-mail, and the Hachazon War generally
  • Dispute Between Amazon and Hachette Takes an Orwellian Turn by David Streitfeld in The New York Times: I hadn’t researched the quotation Amazon uses to say that, “…famous author(s)…” “…are “wrong about that” (seemingly trying to equate George Orwell with established authors like Stephen King who recently signed a letter to Amazon decrying the e-tailer’s tactics). Streitfeld does a very nice job of explaining the context of the quotation, and how Orwell actually supported cheap paperbacks. There was no need to rush this e-mail out, as far as I know, and it appears to have come from an official Amazon source (although some have found it so strange, they wonder if Amazon was hacked). Presumably, they had time to actually research the quotation, and chose to use it in a way which the author would probably not have intended. According to Streitfeld, the original quotation is, “The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if the other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them.”

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.


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