Archive for December, 2011

The Year Ahead: 2012

December 31, 2011

The Year Ahead: 2012

I recently did my annual review for 2011. As has been the case in the past, the radical changes are both hardware and what I can loosely call software…but actually involves all sorts of cultural elements, not just written computer code.

For the year ahead, it feels like the world of e-books is moving into a new stage. Late in the year will give us the fifth “birthday” for the Kindle. There were millions of Kindles sold…in December alone. I think the resistance to e-books among serious readers has been overcome, for the most part. They are the mainstream.

That’s both good and bad.

It’s good, because more resources will be committed to e-books. More of an effort will be made to secure the rights to older titles. Global availability will have a great value.

It’s bad, because we are getting past that early adopter phase. Newbies now expect it to be a mature medium. An early adopter is fine with there being a few flaws…you don’t set off to sail around the world with Columbus and expect a luxury suite. 😉 The expectation now is that an EBR (E-Book Reader) should work flawlessly…certainly, as well as a SmartPhone or laptop computer. That may be unrealistic at this point. It also means that things are starting to become established, and that inevitably concentrates power. Spill a bag of dog food on the floor so it goes everywhere. Even the lowliest beta dog can snag a piece or two in the beginning. Shortly, though the alpha will have claimed a large pile…a lot more than the alpha can eat. Then, the beta depends on the alpha. We’re getting to that point, I think.

As I do each year, let me start out by looking at the predictions I made last year for this year (2011). Then, I’ll go out on a limb and make some guesses for 2012.

An Amazon Android Tablet

Status: hit

At this point, the Kindle Fire may seem like it was an inevitability, but that wasn’t the case when I was writing about it nine months before it was announced. I said:

  • could be a really big success
  •  a backlit, web-surfing, movie-streaming tablet
  • They’d promote it for their streaming video service, among other things.
  • would appeal outside of serious readers
  • It wouldn’t be a replacement for a Kindle for that serious reader group, but an addition to it
  • it wouldn’t be the top tablet, but there would be a place for it

I feel good about this one. I said I had hoped it wouldn’t be called a Kindle, but I didn’t really make that a prediction, just a desire. I thought there might be a larger screen version (which I said might be a negative for there being a next gen Kindle DX…there wasn’t one). Again, I didn’t make that a prediction header, like I did for an Amazon Android tablet.

The Agency Model goes away

Status: miss

Not only did this “publisher sets the prices” model not go away, the last of the Big Six, Random House (which I consider a thought leader) followed the rest of the group and adopted it.

Ruling on the Google Settlement/Orphan Books Legislation

Status: miss

Oh, come on! 😉 Judge Chin put this off…again.

E-book Market and the Kindle store

Status: mixed

I thought there might be two million titles in the USA Kindle store, and we’re not close to that. However, I did predict more non-English books, and said, ” E-magazines will gain a strong presence on tablets.  Mass market paperbacks will continue to see market share erosion.” Those two pieces are really solid. I thought that e-books might be 25% of the USA publishing market. We don’t know that yet…we’ll get the figures from the Association of American Publishers in the next two months (maybe soon).  The last figure I’ve seen from them was for September, and e-books were $80.3m out of $576.6m…that’s about 13%. I said that e-books might be 25% by the end of the year…and I think that’s possible still. Many of the e-books are sold outside of the AAP. I think the holiday season will have been heavily e-books, although a certain biography did very well in paper.

More text-to-speech access

Status: hit

This has happened, I’m pretty sure, and in a manner similar to what I suggested…a quiet moving away from blocking the text-to-speech access.

Web-E-Books become more popular

Status: uncertain

Amazon did introduce its Cloud Reader, and I could claim this as a hit, certainly. No question that many people downloaded it. I’m not sure, though, that the idea was embraced in the way I was suggesting. Amazon didn’t announce this as a success at the end of the year. We didn’t see tablets being marketed specifically with web-e-book reading being a feature.

More active content

Status: hit

Of course, having the Kindle Fire and apps makes this unquestionable, but there was still more and more active content added for RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles).

Enhancements to the Kindle

  • Parental controls: this was a hit for the Fire, but they didn’t really implement it like I thought they might. I’m going to call this mixed. I said, “…people will start  complaining in a big way about this if their kids are reading pornography”, and the people complaining part was right 🙂
  • Use of the microphone on the K3: miss
  • Better descriptions of the books on the Kindle and better integration with Shelfari: mixed. There was definitely better integration with Shelfari, but they didn’t really improve the descriptions on the device…in fact, they eliminated them altogether on the Fire. I was expecting more social features…something like NOOK Friends

I do want to take credit for a mid-year hit before I move on to 2012. 🙂 In this post, I was guessing what Amazon was going to announce. I said:

My guess is that it may be several things.

  • A Kindle backlit tablet (which might be called the Amazon Kindle Fire, but we’ll see). I would guess they’ll announce a low-priced one (on the order of $200…maybe $189, to take the price point of the currently most expensive Kindle that isn’t the DX) and maybe another one with free Prime for maybe $239 (to underprice the NOOKColor by $10…they like that)
  • Two new reflective Kindles, one an entry level ($129?) which is stripped down (I don’t know if they can do that with a touchscreen, but maybe), and one that is touchscreen and more expensive…maybe even a larger screen (time to bench the DX)
  • Prime E-Book Lending, so Amazon Prime members can read very select e-books for free (again, I think that would be included with the tablet…maybe with a more expensive flavor, as I indicated above)
  • Price drops on existing Kindles (including the K3 wi-fi only ad-supported going under $100)

Overall, that was a lot more accurate than most tech writers were saying. 🙂 I was happy about it.

Now on to…



More than one new Kindle Fire

I do think we’ll see a larger screen Kindle Fire…around ten inches. My guess is that it will come soon…announced before the end of January, probably. However, I also think we’ll see another seven-inch Kindle Fire…with more features (GPS, cameras), and that it will be more expensive.  My guess is we’ll see at least two of the larger screen…and that 3G (not free 3G) will be part of this. We may see Amazon offering data plans themselves, and they could partner with AT&T on this. I think it likely, though, that they will let people go with different carriers. There were a lot of complaints I saw from people who couldn’t get their Kindle Fires to connect with their wi-fi, and 3G would resolve that issue. I’m not convinced this means a lower-priced Kindle Fire, but they have surprised me with lower prices before.

Continued support for Reflective Screen hardware…and a wi-fi large screen

The biggest selling, gifted, and wished for item of the holiday season, was the Kindle Fire…but the best reviewed electronic item according to Amazon was the $79/$109 Kindle (which I call the Mindle). I think we’ll see a Mindle-esque, stripped down, large screen RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle). If they can get the price sub $150 (which I think they can), for a wi-fi only large-screen RSK, I think that can be a good seller for them.

Current TV through Prime

In a recent homepage letter (those ones that appear at, Jeff Bezos mentioned that there were more interesting things coming for Prime members. Amazon is willing to spend big bucks to get content for Prime…because I think they make a lot of money off physical items bought through Prime. As I’ve said before, I think their economic model going forward (not counting web services…just in the area of retail goods) is about “diapers and windshield wipers”. Being able to watch a current TV show within a day or two of broadcast as part of your paid Prime membership would be a big incentive. It could actually cut into the  DVR (Digital Video Recorder) market. They might also do some kind of original programming. I’m less sure about this, but I think there might be some kind of Prime deals with magazines and apps. The ability to borrow an app (even with a lot of restrictions)…or maybe have a one or two-day trial period would appeal to folks. Same thing with magazines and newspapers…read one free issue a month (and you can’t do the same magazine twice in a year). That would sell a lot of magazines subscriptions in the long run. I know you can do a fourteen-day trial now, but this would not autorenew…and maybe they could do back issues this way. Publishers would love a market for back issue e-periodicals, I think.

Barnes & Noble hardware does well, Kobo doesn’t, mini iPad

It wouldn’t surprise me if people were more satisfied with the NOOK Tablet than they were with the Kindle Fire. It did cost more, but my guess is that it hit the expectations better for a lot of purchasers. I’m expecting that we’ll hear good reports on how well that sold. I don’t think the Kobo Vox caught on very well…it just didn’t get into the news cycles. I’m guessing those sales are disappointing. I think Apple will likely come out with a “mini” (or micro or nano  or whatever) iPad that competes more directly with the Fire. I would guess it would still cost more money, but be cheaper than the current generation.

Voice command

No doubt, the coolest tech development for many people this year was Siri, the natural language engine on the new iPhone. It certainly works imperfectly, but that wasn’t the only computer language use in the news…there was Watson understanding the Jeopardy questions. The measurable part of this prediction will be that in 2012, Amazon, Apple, and/or Barnes & Noble will release a mobile device with at least a six-inch screen that can take voice commands. I think we are going to begin to expect this from our tech. I think it will be beyond a carefully phrased, “Open A Christmas Carol”. I’m not sure we’ll quite be at “What’s new in sci fi?” level this year, but maybe. I think we should be at, “Open the last book”, though.



This is new this year…I’m splitting out less measurable, more trend thoughts into a different section. I’m also less sure about these.

Governments make more public domain titles available

Project Gutenberg is absolutely to be lauded, and the loss of founder Michael S. Hart was one of the sad stories this year. I think, though, that governments are going to spend tax dollars making mainstream classics available for digital download. Len Edgerly of The Kindle Chronicles did a very interesting interview with Robert Darnton about the Digital Public Library of America. I may be a year early on this prediction, but I do think some other countries will move more quickly than we do. The British Library is definitely moving this way. This one will be hard to measure for success…but I think we may see some of the private industry public domain repository start to fade as this trend increases.

E-book sales growth rate eases

I think the growth rate continues to be good, but I think it may stop accelerating as much. Mass market paperbacks will continue to lose market share, and I would think we may see some famous imprints stop publishing MMPs (and that will get some discussion in the blogosphere). Hardback sales will also decrease (in terms of unit sales), but I do think they increase in price…wouldn’t surprise me if that was more than ten percent for bestsellers.

Control over what is on each Kindle

I think this has to happen in some way in 2012. I’m not quite sure what the implementation will be…but I think parents/legal guardians will be able to control what kids can see on their devices from the archives.

Color reflective screens

I think may be seen as a bit of a ho hum when it finally arrives this year…but I know I could be wrong on that (I don’t care that much about color). This would be color on a non-backlit screen. I’m guessing it will be in the market in the USA…the devices will sell, but it will be hard to keep the price low enough compared with a tablet that people don’t just go with that.

Kindles get better social features

I predicted that last year, and it didn’t really happen…but I’m still looking for it this year. This might be some kind of easy tie-in with your Facebook friends or Google Plus circles,. They could do something like NOOK friends: I do think Amazon would rather “grow their own” than just tie-in to existing systems.  You’d be automatically sharing books you finished, notes, getting recommendations (“Your friends like…”) and so on.

Challengers to traditional publishing

Independent publishing, especially through platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing, will become more accepted. One big story for me this year will be keeping an eye on the traditional publishing Amazon is doing. They’ve invested a lot (some financially, some emotionally, some strategically) in their imprints: Montlake for romance, Thomas & Mercer for mysteries/thrillers, 47North for science fiction/fantasy/horror, and more. We’ll get a sense this year about how that is going. Will they make bestseller lists? Will they attract more big names?

Blended media and synergistic marketing

Books with audio and video? Sure…I think that will happen on the Amazon tablet(s), just as it does on iPads. However, I think we may also see books getting into more places. It may seem silly, but I can see reading a book on my TV screen while I do aerobics on my Wii Fit.

Legal battles

I’m now thinking we may see equal collection legislation (setting a national sales tax policy, but not a new national sales tax) passed this coming year..but with it going into effect after the Presidential election. That might be a way to get it done. I think the lawsuits about the Agency Model will settle out of court…and I hope the Agency Model really does end in 2012 or 2013, but that’s hard to say. I think the European Union will make find the Agency Model to be illegal.  I think Amazon and M-Edge will become buddies again. 🙂  The Google Settlement may have a resolution…or it may get postponed or tossed out. By the time it gets done, it could be that government digitizing give Google less bargaining power on it.

Update: I should talk about two more things…Amazon selling advertising on the Kindle Fire and an Amazon/Kindle branded cellphone. I think the former will definitely happen…and I have gotten reports that suggest they may be testing it now. I don’t think they’ll give us a price break on a Kindle Fire with ads…but it might be an opt in/opt out situation. I suggested a while back that Amazon might eventually do a phone, and there has been some talk about that. It’s possible they’ll announce one in 2012, but I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other.

Well, there you go! Predictions and speculation. As always, I predict there will be things I haven’t predicted. 🙂

What about you? What do you think is in store in 2012? Have I underestimated Kobo? Does Amazon overspend, and worry investors? Do mass market paperbacks make a comeback? What happens to brick-and-mortar bookstores? Used bookstores? How do the traditional publishers fare? Feel free to let me know by commenting on this post.

Happy new year!

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


Freebie flash! Skinny, Elephant, Games, and more

December 31, 2011

Freebie flash! Skinny, Elephant, Games, and more

As usual, I don’t vouch for these books, and none of them block text-to-speech access. As promotional titles, they may not be free for long. Note: these books are free in the USA: prices in other countries may vary.

Elephant Girl: A Human Story
by Jane Devin
size: 488 pages (620KB)
categories: biographies & memoirs

61 out of 64 5-star reviews…impressive!

Skinny models secret:250 vegetarian Recipes under 300 Calories:Low sodium & High Fiber
by Olivia Turner
size: 143 estimated pages (402KB)
categories: nonfiction; advice & how-to; diets

Cloning Christ: The Second Book of Daniel
by D.S. Hay
published by Arson Books (independent?)
size: 833KB
categories: Christian fiction; mystery & thrillers

The Hunger But Mainly Death Games: A Parody
by “Bratniss Everclean”
published by Splatterbrain & Son (independent?)
size: 188 pages (459KB)
categories: parodies

Anne Droyd and the House of Shadows (The Anne Droyd Adventures)
by Will Hadcroft
published by Nordic (independent?)
size: 221 pages (estimated) 428KB
categories: children’s; action & adventure

Strange Attractors
by PD Allen
published by Fiddlesticks Press (independent?)
size: 280KB
categories: humor

Cute Puppies and Dogs
by G. Alexander
size: 1605KB
categories: children’s; pets

Photographs of dogs

Squidoo Success: Squidoo Lens Creation and Promotion
by Trevor Dumbleton
published by Stonham House (independent?)
size: 168KB
categories: nonfiction; computers & internet

The Golden Gate Bridge Story
by Ira Krakow
size: 322KB
categories: professional & technical; architecture

BOI MEETS GRL – a vampire screenplay
by David Sloma
published by Web of Life solutions (independent?)
size: 382KB
categories: arts & entertainment; performing arts; fiction; horror

This one actually is formatted as a screenplay: that’s unusual in the Kindle store, but not unprecedented. It would be interesting if this were to be sold for a movie as a result of its publication as an e-book…

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

Is Amazon running ads on the Kindle Fire?

December 30, 2011

Is Amazon running ads on the Kindle Fire?

An interesting question came up in the Kindle Customer Service Q&A forum:

Kindle fire is displaying Girl With Dragon Tattoo ad on browser open

Lauren, who asked the question, described it as

“…startling and loud and very, very annoying.”

Well, we know that with many RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles), you have a choice of having an ad-supported model or not.

There aren’t two choice for the Kindle Fire (one with ads and one without).

Yes, there are ads on the Kindle Fire…you can have ad-supported free apps, websites show you ads, there are ads in magazines…all sorts of places.

To my knowledge, though, Amazon wasn’t putting ads on the Fire that you saw because you have the Fire.

I responded this way:

“Lauren, that’s very interesting to hear.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an ad on my Special Offers Kindle Touch recently.

However, I haven’t heard that from other people yet, and I would think I might.

My guess is that it isn’t connected to Amazon…that movie has been promoted a lot of places a lot of ways. My guess is that you might have gone somewhere where that was a promotion, and it’s just that when you go the Web tab, it loads a page you left open.

Try this:

First, go to Web and click the little X on the name of any pages you have open to close them.

Then, while still on the Web tab, do


Under Saved Data, clear your Cache and your History. you may also want to clear your cookie data.

Having done that, it won’t remember webpages you’ve been to before…i would guess that will take care of it.

If it doesn’t, contact Kindle Support at

You’ll see a

Contact Us

button on your right. I’d call them or have them call you.

If they tell you it is part of Amazon, I’d be very interested to hear that…and so would other people. I’m guessing that’s not it, though.”

I thought that might be the end of it.

However, another poster, GeoHueb, also reported the issue. My intuition is that GeoHueb was pretty knowledgeable. GeoHueb said in part:

” Its also frustrating that this doesnt show in the browsers history and there are no other links or info. It just plays the trailer and then goes to the browser. grrrr.”

I have not experienced this myself…I tried going to the web this morning to test it. No trailer. So, I thought I’d ask you:

I kept the question generic, because there might hypothetically by different ads.

The poll only applies to the Kindle Fire…I know there has been a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ad on my Kindle Touch with Special Offers. 🙂

Let’s take this one step further…what if Amazon has sold ad space for the Silk browser? Would that be a problem for you? I often see unasked for ads when I’m on the web. Google often shows me an ad (or several) at the top of my search results. They do label them as ads and put a different color behind them. I don’t think you need to label a trailer as an ad, by the way…that’s what it is. 🙂

Is advertising on the browser philosophically different from advertising on the device? I’d feel that way…if I saw an ad on the Kindle Fire’s splash screen (when it is booting up or coming out of sleep), that would seem more intrusive than just another billboard on the information superhighway.

That doesn’t mean that I’d mind it, by the way…but I would assess it as “pushier”. Let’s say you have a kid who just uses the Kindle Fire with apps you’ve selected (using the free app Kids Place) . A movie trailer in that situation would seem to be more outside the intended use.

Going on the web? That’s a much less self-directed act.

Feel free to let me know what you think (and what you’ve seen). I haven’t allowed the installation of apps from unknown sources (Settings Gear – More – Device)…that could possibly be a variable. I haven’t changed the “Accelerate page loading” setting (Web – Menu – Settings)…mine is still checked. I haven’t changed the “Block pop-up windows” setting (Web – Menu – Settings)…mine is still set on “Ask”).

I’m not sure on this one…is it an ad from Amazon or not? Is it impacted by somewhere somebody has gone on the web before?

I need more data…and you taking the poll helps with that.  So does commenting (thanks, commenters!). 🙂

Update: GeoHueb is now reporting (in the above referenced thread) that Kindle Customer Service said that it was an Amazon thing, and that it was supposed to rotate trailers…and that they turned it off.

Since about 93% of respondents in the above poll at this point say they haven’t seen it, it might be some sort of beta testing…

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

Round up #61: M-Edge sues, Best. Kindle. Christmas. Ever!

December 30, 2011

Round up #61: M-Edge sues, Best. Kindle. Christmas. Ever!

Amazon: “2011 is the Best Holiday Ever for Kindle”

Well, no particular surprise that the Kindle Fire was the best-selling item of any kind at Amazon this holiday season.

However, according to this Amazon

Press Release

the second and third best-selling items were reflective screen Kindles.

  1. Kindle Fire
  2. Kindle Touch (they don’t specify which one, so I’m assuming they combined the 3G & Wi-Fi and the 3G only models)
  3. Kindle (the $79/$109 model that I call the “Mindle”)

There were people who were afraid that Amazon would abandon RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles), and that EBRs (E-Book Readers) were on the way out, to be replaced by backlit Tablets.

Not likely…with millions of RSKs sold this holiday season (along with millions of Kindle Fires). I did think it was interesting that Amazon didn’t say “more than five million Kindle Fires sold”…my guess is that means that wasn’t the case. they could just like the symmetry of the statements for RSKs and the Fire, though). What they specifically said was

“…customers purchased millions of Kindle Fires and millions of Kindle e-readers.”

I thought the terminology of “e-readers” to differentiate RSKs was interesting…that pretty much says that the Kindle Fire isn’t an e-reader. That’s logical, but I don’t think I’ve seen that said by Amazon before.

They also tout the success of Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)….which may be even more significant in the long run than the success of the Kindle.

One of the most exciting things for me about e-books is the way it opens up book distribution to people outside the traditional publishers. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t have a problem with the tradpubs. I expect some of them will adapt well to e-distribution and maintain prominence.

However, I like there being more choices as well.

Amazon’s KDP is one of ways that non-tradpubbed authors can succeed…if it succeeds. Clearly, it is this year, with KDP authors having books on the USA Today list, and top-selling books at Amazon.

They mention some specific names:

I also thought we might hear about the success of Amazon’s own traditional publishing imprints…but I don’t think those have really taken off yet.

There are a lot of other holiday facts for Amazon in there…and some pretty goofy ones (on purpose).

It’s worth reading…

BaltTech: “Maryland maker of Kindle cases sues Amazon”

However, all is not merry in the land of Amazon.

I’ve written before about Kindle covers from M-Edge…and I’ve been a bit disappointed that they haven’t been available for my later model Kindles. I’ve found good alternatives, but it seemed odd.

Well, here is apparently why:

Baltimore Sun article

M-Edge has sued Amazon.

It’s quite the suit…I’m always surprised people can make accusations like they do in lawsuits.

Here’s the “Nature of the Case” paragraph:

“This case presents a classic example of unlawful corporate bullying. M-Edge developed a very successful product line: personal electronic device jackets with multiple features for the Kindle and other e-readers. Amazon thereafter repeatedly sought to hijack the product through threats, deceit, interference with M-Edge’s customer relationships,and patent infringement. M-Edge now asserts claims for patent infringement, unfair competition,intentional interference with contracts and economic relations,and false advertising.”

Looking at the suit, I’m guessing this is settled out of court, and they become business partners again.

We’ll see, though… 🙂

Half of the top ten Kindle sellers are KOLL titles

After Amazon introduced the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL), from which paid Prime members can borrow up to a book a month for free, they opened it up to Kindle Direct Publishers to put their books in the system.

I’ve done it with a couple of mine

I’m proud to say they’ve both been borrowed multiple times.

One obvious question is how being the KOLL affects sales…does it help? Does it hurt?

Well, I just checked: half of the top ten paid Kindle e-books are in the KOLL as well.

That’s a much higher percentage than the general Kindle store.

That’s only a small sample, but it does suggest that being in the KOLL may help sales.

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

There are no R-rated books: should publishing adopt a rating system?

December 29, 2011

There are no R-rated books: should publishing adopt a rating system?

I was reading Water for Elephants yesterday.

I’ve been enjoying it…I borrowed it for free from the Kindle Owners Lending Library (as a paid Prime member).

A very popular book like that doesn’t automatically mean I’m going to think it’s great. Oh, I like pretty much every book I read, but I obviously like some books better than others.

This was well-written…a rounded main character, evocative situations. I’m partial to animal stories, and this one is partially set in a circus and focuses on that.

I sent it to my Significant Other’s Kindle as well (we’re on the same account, so we can both read the book for free).

However, I was quite surprised to run into sexually explicit material.

It was in more than one scene, and if it had been in the Robert Pattinson/Reese Witherspoon movie version (which I haven’t seen), it certainly wouldn’t have been rated PG-13.

That got me thinking about the idea of ratings for books.

Now, I should be clear: I’m not a prude. I’ve read and watched things knowing there would be sexual content. My Significant Other and I both like Dexter, for example, and that has sexual content (in addition to the violence). I enjoyed the first season of True Blood on HBO (based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris).

The issue here is that…well, I can certainly see someone getting Water for Elephants and not expecting those scenes. I can see a parent/legal guardian getting it, and a ten-year old on the account reading it faster and encountering those scenes unprepared.

Now, I’m not picking on Sara Gruen’s novel (which I still think is well-written) specifically. I’ve had the same issue with other books (Battle Of The Network Zombies comes to mind).

The question is this: why is the movie rated and the book not?

I see this issue come up on the Kindle forums repeatedly. It’s not that people are asking about the existence of a rating system, but that they want to block “inappropriate” books for children on the account…even from the children knowing the titles are in the archives.

How do you have software determine the appropriateness of something without a rating system?

Explicit books (both sexually and violently) have been in mainstream bookstores and libraries for decades. Is this particularly different with e-books?


Here is what has changed.

I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager. It was a mainstream sort of store…we didn’t have an erotica section. There were definitely books with sexual content (The Color Purple, Catcher in the Rye).

The difference is that a ten-year old kid was rarely shopping in the store and buying things without an adult there as well.

With a Kindle, books can be downloaded easily, without a parent/legal guardian there at the time.

Books which have already been purchased on the account can be downloaded by a child with no notification to the account holder.

That’s why it’s different…access is much easier.

Even in a public library, where I think children are more likely to handle the entire transaction, there is still an adult involved (the librarian).

Adults can be held liable for giving, say, pornography to children.

That’s the legal lever.

It’s not used very much with books.

There has always been an enforcement difference between pictures and words.

Show children x-rated movies? They can get you.

Leave sexually explicit books around the house? More difficult.

It’s important to note that in the USA, the movie rating system (the most famous one…we also have them for TV, music, and videogames) isn’t imposed by the government.

It’s done by the movie industry itself…to avoid that sort of government involvement.

That’s not true everywhere…while I believe the UK uses a non-governmental organization (funded by the movie studios), I think Australia’s rating agency is part of the government (or at least funded by it).

LIterature being more available is a good thing in my mind, and nothing does that better than e-books. I’ll generally want to err on the side of more openness than more control.

Will publishers find that pressure put on them?

Is e-book distribution the thing that makes books into a true mass medium?

Right now, anybody can go to Project Gutenberg and download the Kama Sutra.

No human interaction, no registration, no embarrassment.

Will somebody want to stop that?

If they do, will it force a rating agency?

Would the publishers be able to agree on something? Would they pay to fund a rating agency?

I do think something like this may happen.

I think it’s even more likely that there will be software (maybe in the form of apps) that analyzes the content of books and rates it for you.

People already use “net nanny” software which does that for you with websites.

There is probably a sizable amount of money to be had making a well-written, well-supported book filtering app.

The Amazon Appstore already has a couple of those, but not for books:

ESRB Rating Search App (videogames)

Movie Reviews – Kids in Mind (movies)

Oh wait…there is one that mentions books:

Kids Gifts

That’s done by

Common Sense Media

I’ve heard of them…but never connected them with books. It’s more in conjunction with videogames.


They have a sliding age scale of appropriateness. I checked for Water for Elephants…they have reviewed the movie, but not the book.

I downloaded the app…it’s actually a short gift guide for 2011…not a filtering app.

What do you think? Will there be some move towards book filtering software? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Would you use book filtering software? Whether you would use it or not, do you think it would be commercially successful? Is the appearance of “censoring” books simply too much of a political risk for it to be done by the government? Is the idea of book filtering offensive to you, and if so, how does it compare to a movie rating system?

Feel free to let me know by commenting on this post…

Update: I decided to add a poll:

Even though it’s a complicated subject, I kept the choices simple this time.

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

Round up #60: Amazon’s Customer Service is #1, Zinio

December 29, 2011

Round up #60: Amazon’s Customer Service is #1, Zinio

How to get Zinio on your Kindle Fire 

When Amazon announced that they were adding more apps for the Kindle Fire, I’m sure that they had included Zinio, a popular magazine subscription delivery app.

In fact, I didn’t have any trouble finding news articles about the inclusion.

However, where I thought I had seen it before, it wasn’t there any more.

There is a Zinio app in the Amazon Appstore…but they don’t list it as compatible with the Kindle Fire.

So, I decided go to

to contact them and ask them when they thought it might be available.

Well, according to them, their app is approved for the Kindle Fire…and they don’t know why it isn’t in the store:

“Users are encouraged to contact Kindle support here to find out why it isn’t available for download, despite being approved for the device. “

Interesting…I’d like to know more about the story.

In the mean time, you can download the app and then sideload it to your Kindle Fire…if you allow the installation of “Applications from Unknown Sources”.

Amazon warns you about that…they obviously can’t take responsibility for those apps.

While some people complain about the Kindle Fire not having access to the Android Marketplace, I think it’s great that Amazon gives us the choice whether to just go with apps they’ve tested and approved, or to take a risk and sideload apps from other sources…after letting us know about the potential negative consequences.

If you want to allow your Fire to sideload apps from other sources, its

Settings Gear – More – Device

In this case, I’d be confident in downloading the app from here:

I’m not going to do it, though…I don’t want to destandardize my Kindle Fire…I need it to be standard for testing purposes. I just don’t want to add the variable, and I’m hopeful they get whatever the issue is worked out between them.

Zinio has some great content, by the way. For example, they carry the digital version of

Fortean Times

which is one of my favorite magazines. 🙂

Amazon Customer Service is #1…again

Foresee has published its annual

Holiday E-Tail Satisfaction Index

Amazon is head and shoulders above the rest at 88%. The closer competitors, QVC, Avon, Apple, VistaPrint and JC Penney, are at 83%…a full 5% under.

That’s a lot at this level.

It’s also up two points from last year.

Barnes & Noble, by the way, is still in the excellent category, at 81%.

Netflix’s score dropped six percent from last year.

It will be interesting to see where Amazon goes with this over the next year.

I think it’s possible they’ll level off or drop a bit.

I don’t think it’s because their service will decay, of course. I think they do an incredibly good job.

It’s because the Kindle Fire may be many people’s first introduction to Amazon.

That hadn’t occurred to me until tonight, but I think that’s important.

The Fire is a relatively complicated piece of equipment, if you don’t know much about electronics. You have to get it on a wi-fi network to get it to work. That’s not hard for me, but I’ve done it. For people who never knew they had to know their password to get on the network (and may not even have a network), it may not be the best introduction.

They get a Kindle Fire and can’t get it to work at all.

They don’t know that calling Kindle Customer Service is a positive experience.

They consider it bad service because they can’t get the Fire to do anything for them…I’ve seen a number of people say that it messed up Christmas…not a good thing.

For those of us with years of experience with Amazon, we see the company differently.

First impressions matter. If millions of people might be introduced to Amazon by the Kindle Fire, that could be a detriment to the satisfaction index. Again, that’s not saying that the Fire has an unusual number of problems…it’s saying that people may get it thinking that it should be easier than it is.

Just a hypothesis, though…we’ll see what happens. 🙂

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

Conan O’Brien parodies Jeff Bezos…and I tell you real complaints people have with the Kindle Fire

December 28, 2011

Conan O’Brien parodies Jeff Bezos…and I tell you real complaints people have with the Kindle Fire

First, let me assure my long-time readers…I’m not just writing about the Kindle Fire. 🙂 One of my readers whom I especially respect brought that up to me in a private comment, so I did some analysis.

It may seem like I’m writing about it a lot, and certainly, it is the individual model which is getting the most attention in the blog right now. My analysis showed me that I am doing quite a few posts of global (to Kindle owners) interest.

However, I always try to keep this blog eclectic. If you don’t like the subject of one post (and I figure every post is disliked by somebody…not my intent, but that’s just recognizing the diversity of the human mind), just wait for the next one (or the one after that). I try to make sure all of my subscribers get their ninety-nine cents a month worth. 🙂

That said, Conan O’Brien (or at least Team CoCo) has posted a mock commercial of Jeff Bezos apologizing for problems with the Kindle Fire:

Conan starts out by calling the Fire “Amazon’s answer to the iPad”, and then says in part:

“…a lot of customers are complaining about a bunch of problems they experience with the Kindle Fire.”

They then go into a fake statement from Jeff Bezos.

I have to say that Conan has done some great comedy in the past…but I wasn’t crazy about this one.

For one thing, the actor playing Jeff Bezos was nothing like him. Jeff is a distinctive personality…he wouldn’t have been hard to parody a lot more closely. Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory could have nailed it (with a partial  bald wig). I’m sure he could do Jeff’s laugh. 🙂

I like Jeff, by the way…I think he’s charming. Amazon’s CEO seems to have the kind of enthusiasm for life I admire.

They mention one real complaint people have (about the power button being easy to hit by accident), but the rest of it is…unrelated to reality.

It’s a coincidence, because I was considering writing something tonight about what complaints I really am seeing. I’m going to go ahead and do that…even if you don’t have a Fire, I think you’ll find this interesting. It’s not all technical.

I should start out with my having gotten two Kindle Fires now (I returned one because the screen was scratched…not sure if we did that or it came that way), and it hasn’t been hard to set them up on my network.

That is one of the big complaints I’ve seen, though. People (understandably) angry because they got the Kindle Fire for Christmas for somebody, and they couldn’t get it to work.

The first thing that stands out for me about those complaints is that many of them had been frustratedly trying to get it to work for hours.

That tells me that they aren’t experienced with Kindle Support.

I wouldn’t sit there with an unworking product from Amazon trying to fix it myself while somebody was waiting.

I’d contact Kindle Support through

There’s a

Contact Us

button on your right.

You can e-mail them, call them, or have them call you.

People were going to send the Fire back without calling Kindle Support first.

I would guess, in many cases, that Kindle Support could have talked them through the process in just a couple of minutes.

I’m not sure how Amazon could promote their superior service better. I suppose many people don’t want to call a Customer Service line because they’ve had bad experiences with them elsewhere.

Here’s another thing: people are getting the Fire with no idea what it is or how it works.

They don’t know if they have a wi-fi network in their homes, for example.

That’s a bit like buying a car and the returning it because you don’t know how to drive. That’s not an unreasonable decision, but it does say something about the buying process.

The 3G Kindles actually did set up very easily, with no need for technical knowledge.

Wi-fi Kindles require knowing how to put something on your home wi-fi network (to use them as most people will), and many folks don’t know how to do that. It probably seems simple to many of us, but we’ve done it before. We know where the wi-fi password is, how to scan for a network, and so on.

A 3G Kindle Fire would resolve all that, but that’s pretty complicated to do. You’d likely then be dealing with a data plan..;paying a monthly fee. We don’t pay one with 3G RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles), but an e-book requires a tiny bit of bandwidth, compared to a movie, for example.

This also applies to RSKs…I’ve seen people complain about getting on the network with their new Kindle Touches.

The other major complaint would require reworking the way Kindles are used and viewed by Amazon…but I think it may be coming.

The Kindle Fire is clearly being given to a lot of children.

RSKs were given to children, too, but I’d guess that the percentage of Fires going to children is much higher than the percentage of Kindle Touches going to children.

That means that content that might not be appropriate for children is an issue.

This is more than just parental controls. Maybe one parent/legal guardian gets romances, and the other one gets shoot-em-ups. They might want to keep both of those away from their kids.

The long-term solution is something I’ve been talking about for some time…device specific archives. Those would have to be set up at

It would require a lot more active control by the account “Manager”…allowing certain content but not other content.

That Manager is just a customer who has the username and password for the account.

Again, that would be a major change…but I think something like that is inevitable.

In the mean time, they could simply lock the Cloud (archives) on the Fire with a user set PIN (Personal Identification Number). You wouldn’t see it without entering the PIN. Enter it, download, and lock it again.

That’s not as sophisticated as I picture device specific archives. With those, you designate a number of books for a device, and the user of that device can download those (and only those) when they want to do that.

Those are the two main complaints.

I also see a lot of confusion about the Kindle Owners Lending Library…people don’t get how it works, and I’ve seen people say they ordered several books expecting them to be free. I’ve run into a couple of people whose Kindle (the $79/$109 model that I call the Mindle) has gotten switched so that the menus are in a different language. I’m not at all sure how that would occur…it’s not something you could just change with one accidental click.

Anything else you’d say you are hearing about a lot? If so, let me know…I’ll see if I can give you an answer.

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

Specials today: Life of Pi, Where’s My Water?

December 26, 2011

Specials today: Life of Pi, Where’s My Water?

I don’t usually just list the specials, but these two seemed particularly good.

First, the

Kindle Daily Deal

today is

Life of Pi

for ninety-nine cents (discounted from $8.99).

This Man Booker Prize winner is challenging and charming, and has been very well-received. I’ve read it myself…I think you are going to run into the situation where somebody at some time on your account is going to mention it as “something I always wanted to read.”  It’s also going to be an important movie in December of 2012 (directed by Ang Lee and starring Tobey Maguire).

For Kindle Fire owners (or people with other Android devices), the

Free App of the Day

is the very popular Disney title,

Where’s My Water?

you try to help Swampy the Alligator (who lives under a city) get water.

I bought it today, but haven’t tried it yet. I just know I’ve heard about it repeatedly…

These deals are only good for today (December 26, 2011) and may not be available outside the USA (that’s definitely true of the app), but there are always new deals at Amazon. 🙂

If you have an opinion about either of these, feel free to share by commenting on this post.

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

Got a new Kindle model? Here’s what is different

December 26, 2011

Got a new Kindle model? Here’s what is different

This year, a lot of people who are already experienced with Kindles are going to get new models. That might be because they are buying a newer one and handing the old one, or getting a second Kindle (yes, people do that).

Kindles (except the Kindle Fire) all work largely the same way…but there are now some significant differences.

I’ve owned and used every Kindle model except for the Kindle DX 9.7 inch. Right now, I mainly read on a Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi only, but I also use a Kindle Keyboard 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi and a Kindle (the $79/$109 model I call a “Mindle”), in addition to my Kindle Fire.

I still have a Kindle 1 and Kindle 2 as well.

I do have an excuse for that. 🙂 After all, I write about them, so I need to have them for reference when I get questions.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that even though I adapt to a new model pretty quickly, I may still be looking for something from an old model…which may not even be there.

Here, then, are each of the currently available models (new from Amazon) and what makes them different. If you get one and want to return it, Amazon does have a generous Kindle return policy…usually, within thirty days of purchase.

Kindle (this is the $79/$109 model..I call it the “Mindle”. Others call it the “baby Kindle”, the “starter Kindle”, or the “basic Kindle”)

What it doesn’t have: audio of any kind (no music, no audiobooks, no text-to-speech); a keyboard (you use a “hunt and click” method); 3G (you’ll need to connect to a wi-fi network to download things)

What’s unique about it: it’s the smallest and lightest: you can set the menus to be in different languages

Kindle Touch, Wi-Fi only
Kindle Touch 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi

What it doesn’t have: landscape mode; the ability to highlight across two pages; not as many games for it

What’s unique to it: touchscreen (well, this and the Fire have it); X-Ray (which downloads information about topics and characters in the book with the book)

Kindle Keyboard, Wi-Fi (formerly the Kindle 3)
Kindle Keyboard 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi (formerly the Kindle 3 3G)

What it doesn’t have: I think of this as the sort of normal Kindle. It doesn’t have a touchscreen.

Kindle DX 9.7 inch

What it doesn’t have: it’s not up on the latest software…it’s a generation 2. No Special Offers option.

Unique to it: the size

Kindle Fire

This is a whole different type of hardware. No Collections at this point. No text-to-speech. If you deregister it, downloaded Kindle store books are removed. It doesn’t have the long battery life of the other Kindles (the old Kindle’s can be used for weeks without charging…the Kindle Fire will go for less than a day). It’s backlit, so bright sunlight will make it hard to read.

Unique to it: video; full web-browsing; Android apps; ability to require a PIN (Personal Identification Number) to use the internet; ability to read in a dark room without an external light source.

That’s a quick overview. If you have specific questions about any of these (or the older models), feel free to ask.

Update: thanks to one of my readers, Kerrin, for pointing out that the Kindle Keyboard can search the archives. It looks very different on the Touch, and I was thinking it was different functionality…but apparently not.

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

Free and cheap stuff for your Kindle today 12/25/2011

December 25, 2011

Free and cheap stuff for your Kindle today 12/25/2011

If you just got a Kindle today, be happy.

You might be worried that you are going to have to spend a lot of money to keep your new Kindle “fed”.

Actually, whether you ever spend money on a book, song, app, or video again is entirely your choice.

I’m not talking about anything illegal here…and I’m not talking about anything complicated.

I’m going to keep all of this very simple. I’m going to let you do everything right from the Amazon store (although there are other great sources out there as well.

There is one exception to that (videos), but I’ll talk about that more later.

The first obvious question: what’s the catch?

There really isn’t one.

Sure, Amazon has a goal here. They want you to use Amazon for purchasing. If they give you free stuff, you are more likely to choose Amazon when you do want to pay for something.

Yes, it’s possible you might only get freebies, and yes, that does cost Amazon a bit for maintenance and such.

That’s not very likely, though. I get lots of free books, but we also pay for some.

I’m going to start out with books, because all of the Kindle can use those. Then, I’ll talk about some things specific to the multimedia Kindle Fire.

Before I get to specifics, though, I want to give you a little bit of the strategy.

I said “today” in the headline. Does that mean there are things that are free today that won’t be free tomorrow?


Some things are pretty much always free…public domain classic books, for example. Those are books that don’t have copyright protection, most often because the term has expired. For example, books which were first published in the USA before 1923 are in the public domain in the USA. Many books published in other countries are, too.

Since no author royalty has to be paid in that case, the books can be given away.

In other cases, the item is promotional…the publisher may be looking to get reviews or positive online comments…what I call “word of mouse”. They may only do that for one day. Amazon does it, too.

In the case of Amazon, they may always have the same page where something shows, but it changes each day, I’ll point that out.

One last important point: the ones I’m going to mention are free in the USA, but may not be free in other countries. If something doesn’t say it is free, don’t assume it is because I listed it. The price can go up at any time before you buy it.

Here we go…


Here is a search for all the free books in the Kindle store:

Kindle store free books

Right now, there are 48,119 of those.  About 90% of those are public domain titles…but that still means there are about 4,000 that are promotional titles.

Amazon does let you click on categories there, but I do want to strongly recommend what I consider to be the most valuable resource for Kindle owners on the web.

They show you all the Kindle store freebies, let you choose whether or not you see erotica (the default is that you don’t), let you filter by category, show you whether a book has text-to-speech (the Kindle’s read aloud function), let you know if it is lendable, and more.

They keep improving this resource (the erotica filtering is new). You can also sign up here to get a regular e-mail with the new freebies. That’s well worth it…it costs you nothing, and you get a lot out of it.

You can also sign up to get a free e-mail when books you specify drop in price, when books you list have been newly published in Kindle format, and their search is much better than Amazon’s, in my opinion.

None of this costs you anything.

How does that work?

Presumably, Amazon pays them an advertising fee when you buy things after having clicked on the links they send you. That does not change your price…Amazon is just rewarding them for sending the business their way through the Amazon Associate program.

Those books will generally work on any model Kindle (or Kindle reader app). Some Kindle store books are better on some apps or Kindles than others. For example, I’ve gotten free books from eReaderIQ with audio/video content. Those don’t play on a Kindle (although they may on the Kindle Fire), but can be read on Kindles. You can view the audio/video on an iDevice (iPads, iPhones, iPod touches).

Here are some specific recommendations from me for free books from the Kindle store:

Public domain:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Pride and Prejudice
Treasure Island
Little Women
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Promotional (may only be free for a short time)

Note: I haven’t read these, and therefore am not recommending the. I’m listing them because you might be interested, and to give you an idea of the promotional freebies:

The Wedding Gift
by Kathleen McKenna
Warriors #1: Into the Wild
by Erin Hunter
Flee – A Thriller (Chandler Series #1)
by Jack Kilborn, Ann Voss Peterson, J.A. Konrath
The Rules of Management, Expanded Edition: A Definitive Code for Managerial Success (Richard Templar’s Rules)

The Kindle Owners Lending Library

If you are a paid Amazon Prime subscriber, you can borrow up to a book a month from the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL). You can get some bestselling and current books that way.

It’s really important to understand how this works, though…I’ve seen many people making mistakes because they didn’t understand it.

You must

  • Get to the book on a Kindle device
  • Click on a button that says Borrow for Free

I’ve seen people thinking that they were borrowing the book, when they were clicking a button that says “buy” and has a price listed.

The button you click will say “Borrow for Free”.

You can only borrow up to a book a month, and no more than one at a time.

If you have more than one Kindle registered to the account, more than one of you can read the same book at the same time.

These books aren’t exactly free: they are at “no additional cost”. If you are already paying the $79 a year for Prime (where the main benefit for most people is free shipping on many Amazon products), it does not cost you more to borrow these books.

This has been great for me!

We’ve borrowed

Water for Elephants: A Novel



so far (this program is new).

Those are both books I would have considered buying.

To find these, get to the Kindle store on your Kindle. You should be able to find a category for the Kindle Owners Lending Library…you may have to click All Categories or something similar to find it.

Remember, you have to click a Borrow button, or you’ll be charged for it.

If the Borrow button is disabled for you, you may already have a book out currently.

The Kindle Daily Deal

These books are not free, but they are cheap. 🙂

Every day, Amazon offers a book at a bargain price. I can legitimately say they are on sale, and I have seen some good ones offered. I’d check the below link daily, just to be sure. I leave it open as a tab in Google Chrome, myself.

The Kindle Daily Deal

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal?

Anyone of five holiday romances, each one only ninety-nine cents.

For example,

Call Me Mrs. Miracle
by Debbie Macomber

That’s usually $12.99…a twelve dollar savings.


All Kindle except the $79/$109 Kindle can play MP3s.

Amazon always has free MP3s available, and also runs specials.

Special MP3 Deals

They have lots of $5 albums…and lots of free albums and songs.

Like everything else in this post, if your tastes are more eclectic, that’s better. I’ve gotten some free albums I’ve really liked…but some of you would consider them pretty strange. 😉

Apps and games

We have to be very careful to separate this into two categories.

The first one is the RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything except a Kindle Fire). The technology differences between those and the Kindle Fire are really big…you won’t be able to play a game intended for an RSK on the Fire.

In fact, you won’t even be able to play the same version of the game on all the RSKs. The Kindle Touch line, for example, doesn’t take instructions from you the same way as the Kindle Keyboard line. You have to tell them what you want to do in different ways, and that means different game versions.

On every game’s Amazon product page, fortunately, it will tell you for which devices it is compatible.

Here’s another thing: RSK games are in the Kindle bookstore, and Fire games are in the Amazon Appstore.

Free apps and games for RSKs in the Kindle Store

Now, here are some things for the Kindle Fire:

Free App of the Day (Kindle Fire?)

What’s really happening here is that you are going to the Amazon Appstore. They do a Free App of the Day (FAOTD) every day, and it will be right on the mainstream.

I have that question mark here, because I suppose it is possible that the free app may only apply to other Android devices, and not to the Kindle Fire, but I don’t think I’ve seen that.

I’ve been amazed at some of the great apps I’ve gotten as the FAOTD. Yes, they might otherwise only cost ninety-nine cents, but still, I wouldn’t have gotten them otherwise.

Today (12/25/2011), the free app is

Atari’s Greatest Hits PRO (9 games included)

I haven’t tried that version yet, but I got it. 🙂

In addition to that, there are these

Free Apps in the Amazon Appstore

You need to check that they will work on your Fire…it will say that on the app’s Amazon product page.

You can read some of my reviews of some apps (including some free ones) here:

Don’t Worry, Get Appy #1


This only applies to the Kindle Fire…it’s the only Kindle that can play video.

This is the one where Amazon really doesn’t give us a lot of freebie…unless you are a Prime member…and then again, it’s really “no additional cost” rather than free.  When you get a Kindle Fire, though, they have been giving you a free month of Prime…so first your first month, this is free. 🙂

You also can’t download these videos…you are only going to watch them online on your Kindle Fire.

Still, there are many things here I highly recommend. I could see someone paying $79 a year to get these…and dropping premium cable.  $79/12 is about $6.58. However, you aren’t going to get movies that were recently in theatres that way, or really current TV shows. If you are like me, though, and like older movies and older TV, you are good. There are some current shows…BBC America, in particular, has some current shows.

Free Prime Streaming Video

There you go! Free books, music, games & apps, and video…directly from Amazon. You can get freebies from other places, too, but I wanted to make this easy.

You don’t have to spend money for your entertainment…but you can if you want. 😉

If you have specific recommendations for people, or anything else you want to say, feel free to comment on this post.

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

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