Archive for September, 2012

Wal-Mart throws in the towel

September 21, 2012

Wal-Mart throws in the towel

What would you call a singer who said they weren’t going to sing any more, a boxer who wouldn’t box, or a poet who wouldn’t…um…Poe? 😉

You might call that person a quitter.

Well, yesterday, Wal-Mart said they weren’t going to sell Kindles any more:

Reuters article

For me, as a former retailer, that’s just giving up.

They are going to keep selling iPads and NOOKs…so what’s different about the Kindle?

Amazon is clearly a competitor. Barnes & Noble does (increasingly) sell toys, but they don’t sell those “diapers and windshield wipers” I keep saying are the driving force behind Amazon promoting Prime.

This is another one of those moves that just feels like spite to me, and will ultimately hurt Wal-Mart.

People are going to want Kindles (this includes the Kindle Fire line, the tablets) this holiday season. They are going to be “magnet items”…they will draw people into stores.

Not into Wal-Marts, though.

It also creates a big opening for Amazon to have touchable Kindles in other stores…and they have been looking at opening their own stores (somewhat like Apple stores).

Kindle vending machines are another real possibility.

When people don’t go into a Wal-Mart to buy a Kindle, they may just get the other things they need at the same time online….hm, I wonder where that would be? 😉

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


The Things That I Think That They Mean

September 21, 2012

The Things That I Think That They Mean

When I tell people I’m reading a book
I always get respect
“An intellectual using some brains”
Is what they think, I expect

But when I tell people I watched my TV
The reaction is just not the same
That’s something I clearly don’t understand:
Why the visual gets so much blame

After all, they both give me someone’s ideas
Which I process inside my head
If I don’t make it contextualized
They both are equally dead

For me, it’s quite simple: thoughts fascinate
Whether seen on a page or a screen
It isn’t the way that they say what they say
It’s the things that I think that they mean

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

Round up #114: Update swarm, Agency Model EU

September 20, 2012

Round up #114: Update swarm, Agency Model EU 

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

Agency Model preliminary assessment in EU

When the Agency Model, in which publishers set consumer prices for e-books and former retailers become merely “sales agents”, first arose, many people on both sides of the Atlantic thought it sounded legally suspect.

Investigations of the legality happened both in the USA (with the Department of Justice) and in the European Union (with the European Commission).

Rather than continue on in a legal battle which is costing them large amounts of money (even showing up in their financial reports), some publishers have settled with the USA (and with a civil action brought by 49 states and four other American entities).

Today, in this

press release

the European Commission says:

” The Commission has concerns that this switch may have been the result of collusion between competing publishers, with the help of Apple, and may have aimed at raising retail prices of e-books in the EEA or preventing the emergence of lower prices.”

Interestingly, four publishers and Apple appear to be making “commitments”:

“In the proposed commitments, the five companies offer to terminate existing agency agreements and refrain from adopting price MFN clauses for five years. In case any of the four publishers would enter into new agency agreements, retailers would be free to set the retail price of e-books during a two-year period, provided the aggregate value of price discounts granted by retailers does not exceed the total annual amount of the commissions that the retailer receives from the publisher.”

The reason why this is particularly intriguing, is that Apple and Macmillan, which have not agreed to settle in the USA, appear to be going along with this EU action.

Penguin, which is, of course, on its home turf (um…ice? Tundra?) in Europe, has not yet reached an agreement.

People have a month to comment on it, and then I think it would go into effect pretty quickly. We’ve seen (so far) HarperCollins’ prices drop in the USA (with Hachette and Simon & Schuster likely to follow soon), and this should result in lower prices in the EU as well.

Tradpubs updating many books?

Smokey Ramone, in this Amazon Kindle Community Forum thread

a lot of available updates by the big publishers today

reports finding a lot of updates from major publishers (traditional publishers…tradpubs) being made available at

I’ve written before about the process in getting one of my own books updated.

Honestly, I think this is one of the best things about the Kindle store…the fact you can get an updated book at no additional cost.

I didn’t see a bunch of tradpub updates available to me, but we don’t buy a lot of those (although we do buy some).

You can see which updates are available to you.

Go to that MYK page above.

In the


dropdown at the top of the page, switch it from

All Items


Available for Update.

I think if you don’t have any, you may not have that option.

If you did the update, it used to be that it would wipe out your annotations (notes, highlights), but it now says:

“Before clicking update, please be sure the wireless and Annotations Backup settings are turned on for each of your devices. Doing so will retain any highlights, notes, and furthest page read. You can check and adjust your Annotations Backup settings by navigating to the settings menu on your device. For further help with modifying settings, go to and check the help pages for the devices or applications you are using.”

That’s a big improvement!

I think what may be happening here is publishers updating their books to KF8 (Kindle Format 8), which has a lot more capabilities and is becoming available on more devices over time.

Amazon asks not to share clippings?

According to this

gigaom article

Amazon asked to stop sharing clippings from Kindle books.

The article seems surprised that the publishers would do that…don’t the clippings help sell books?

That, to me, seems naive. The big publishers, in order to protect their rights in their view, often make decisions that would seem to be a negative for sales: blocking text-to-speech and not allowing lending, for two obvious examples. Both of those features would seem to facilitate sales.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all that publishers would tell Amazon that their system, which was being utilized by, might be infringing on their rights. Amazon tends to go with the publishers’ desires in those cases…that may change if the e-tailer’s efforts in traditional publishing become big enough.

Books written while you watch


TechCrunch article

alerted me to a fascinating experiment.

You can “watch” author

Sylvia Hartmann

write The Dragon Lords as a public (uneditable by others) Google document


When I was writing something, I think I would find that disconcerting. For me, writing feels like a pretty private activity…just me, and whatever characters I’m creating…well, and maybe pets. I can blog with my Significant Other in the room, but I when I write more long form, I tend to do that in isolation.

Watching somebody else write? That might be fun. 🙂

FastCompany: “Why Books Are the Ultimate New Business Card”

I thought this was a fascinating


It’s not really a new thing, especially for non-fiction writers, but the basic idea is that authors write the books as a stepping stone to really making money by doing lectures, personal appearances, and so on.

It’s often been true that you made some money for the book, but you made the real money when it was sold to the movies or TV. Yes, some authors wrote the book with that in mind.

Certainly, I could name some authors who made money by doing, say, the college tour…even speaking hundreds of times in a year.

Will having written a book still have that cachet when just about everybody has written one? 😉 As the barriers to getting publish dissolve, will that also reduce the ease of getting into the “speaking market”? It will be interesting to watch.

What do you think? Are you happy with the EC commitments (especially if you live in the EU)? Are you seeing a lot of updates? Are you going to check out the book in progress? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

Two cool things about the Kindle Fire HD

September 19, 2012

Twoool things about the Kindle Fire HD

I’ve been using my Kindle Fire HD 7″ 16 GB (KFHD) for several days now. I’ve already given you my first impressions.

I’ve used it at home (including over a weekend) and at work, and although I haven’t gone through it systematically yet, I’m finding some cool things. 🙂 I thought I’d take this post and share a couple of  them with you:

Ivona text-to-speech (TTS)

As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of text-to-speech (TTS). I’ve been listening to it, typically for hours a week, since the Kindle 2.

With the Kindle Fire 1st Generation, there wasn’t TTS that worked with Kindle store books (although I did use it with free books in text format from Project Gutenberg).

Well, the KFHD has the


TTS app, and I believe the specific voice is Salli.

I listened to We Bought a Zoo, the basis for the movie with Matt Damon.

I was impressed!

Sallie is considerably better than Tom (one of the voices on the RSKs…Reflective Screen Kindles).

Salli was smoother and more natural sounding. If you listened to TTS a few years ago and rejected it, I’d give it another try. It’s not perfect…a “parking COM-plex” was pronounced as a “parking com-PLEX”. It used the pronunciation for something that was complicated.

That’s a minor thing.

There were some pretty complicated (or should I say, “com-PLEX”) 😉 words, and they were handled well. The only problem I had was that there was also quite a bit of French…I’m not sure if I would have known how to pronounce if I had sight-read it (my linguist kid says I use a stage French accent…sure, I learned it from Maurice Chevalier and Pepe Le Pew). Those were just proper nouns, for the most part, and didn’t impede it.

Something that disconcerted me at first, but that I like now, is that, when you turn your KFHD from portrait to landscape, the TTS stops. That could be a convenient way to cut off something when someone walks into the room…maybe something you’d rather not share. 😉

With the previous TTS, some people with print disabilities wanted faster speeds…well, you have them now.  You can go up to 4 times speed, which is too fast for me for convenient listening.

I can also see the impact of the improved battery charge life…TTS is a gobbler, and the KFHD handles it better than the KF1.

Overall, an improved feature I’ll use frequently.

To start TTS:

Tap towards the top middle of the screen, then tap Aa.

Turn TTS on.

You’ll get a play button, and you can start playing. To stop it playing, just tilt the device…if you started in landscape (wider than it is tall), go to portrait (taller than it is wide), and vice versa.

The camera

Yes, it’s a front-facing camera (it is looking at you when you are looking at the screen), so it’s designed more for video calls for taking pictures of other people.  You can certainly do that, though…you just have to get used to looking the opposite direction of the thing that you are photographing. It’s like brushing your hair in the mirror.

There doesn’t seem to be a built-in way to use the camera, which is a bit odd, but easily remedied.

You can use this free app from the Amazon Appstore:

PicShop Lite

When you open it up, there is a handy little instruction about where to click…it’s on a picture in your bottom left corner of the screen. You can then choose


(although you can also choose Gallery or Facebook if you just want to edit).

There’s a slider on the screen which is the zoom, and a blue button which is the shutter.

There is also something that looks like three sliders, like on an equalizer for sound. Tap that, and you can adjust the exposure, the mode, and all that stuff.

Once you take the picture, you can discard it with an X, or save it and work on it with a checkmark.

If you use the checkmark, you get edits and filters…there are more things, but they are locked in the free edition.

If you want to save it, there is what now seems to be a common symbol for saving…what looks like a 3.5″ floppy diskette. 🙂 I wonder how many people have no idea what that is? You can then just save it (only low quality in the free edition), tweet it or send it to Facebook.

I haven’t found an easy place to find it from the app: it says it is in the “camera roll”, but I don’t know where that is. I’ve asked them, and I’ll let you know what I hear back.

I find them using the free

ES File Explorer

app, which I highly recommend. They are in the DCIM folder.

ES File Explorer can also access the camera…and very well!

Launch ES File Explorer, and tap AppMgr at the top of the screen.

Tap Category, and choose System Apps.

Then, tap Camera, and choose Open (rather than Detail).

Now, you can use all three functions of the camera app…still pictures, video, and panorama.

From there, you can use it with apps, including with the built in e-mail app.

That panorama thing is fun…you slowly turn the KFHD, and you get a big sweeping panorama…something they were touting on the iPhone 5. 🙂

I’ve also used

Audio, Photo, Video to E-Mail LITE

It does what it says. You can record audio, video, or take a picture, and easily e-mail it.

It’s an ad-supported app (free, but ads appear in it), and I’ll need to use it a bit more to do a real report.

One of my favorite apps works on the KFHD:

Paper Camera

It makes the world look like different things…my favorite is a pencil sketch. If you do take a picture with that, it shows up in the Photos tab…and you can also e-mail from there.

I also did buy (for $2.99) the

Juice for Roku


You need to have a Roku to use this, and you need to install a free channel.

Once you’ve done that, though, you can “throw” pictures wirelessly from your KFHD to your TV!

It’s a bit slow establishing the connection, but from there, it was pretty easy. You can also send videos, but I think only your personal videos…I still need to test that one.

One last thing about images, and this was found by Tink-erbell ♛, one of the Kindle Forum Pros.

You can take a screenshot!

Hold down the lower volume button (the one nearest the middle of the device) and the power button at the same time for about a second, and it will take a picture of whatever is on the screen (I’ve heard it does not work with video).

The picture then shows up in Photos.

Well, there you go! Two cool things (with some “sub-things”) 😉 about the KFHD.

I know some of this was a bit sketchy…if you have any questions, feel free to ask. Found anything else cool? My readers and I would appreciate you commenting on this post.

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

An unsettling settlement

September 18, 2012

An unsettling settlement

recently wrote about Judge Cote approving a settlement agreement between 49 states, four additional American entities, and three publishers over the Agency Model pricing structure.

 The basic idea in this civil action is that the three settling publishers (HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster) damaged consumers by colluding (along with two other publishers and Apple…those have not settled yet) to raise e-book prices.

As I understand it, that’s how a civil suit works: someone is damaged, and someone else is found to be at fault and forced to “make right the wrong”.

That’s different from a criminal case. The criminal has broken a law, and is going to be punished…there isn’t necessarily a specific individual or other entity that has been damaged a certain amount. When you are speeding, you aren’t damaging another person. If you run over somebody’s petunias, they’ve suffered a specific loss. Speeding is criminal…running over the petunias would be civil.

So, the basic result of this suit is that consumers will get recompensed for the higher prices they paid…I’d be surprised if anybody got as much as $20, although it’s certainly possible.

That’s the way it works.

I want to thank regular reader and commenter Lady Galaxy for crystallizing my thoughts on this with a generous and wise comment.

In a comment on the above post about the settlement, Lady Galaxy said that essentially that getting the cash wouldn’t be the best result…buying the books at that price had been a choice. If that cash does come, Lady Galaxy would donate it to a library (you can read more of the details in the comment).

I thought that was very insightful.

Let’s say that someone bought a book for $12.99 that “should have been” $9.99.

Is that the person who was most damaged by the Agency Model?

I would guess that many (perhaps the majority) didn’t even know there was an Agency Model, didn’t even realize that prices were higher than they had been.

They were willing to pay $12.99 for the book…I respect that consumers can make an intelligent decision on that.

What about the people who decided that they couldn’t afford the book at $12.99? Weren’t they injured more?

Is getting a check for $3 (which may have cost more than that to process and send) going to make you feel satisfied?

I know…that’s the system. The directly injured person is recompensed, the indirectly injured person gets nothing.

The settlement is for $69 million dollars.

Just fantasizing, wouldn’t it be nice if that money could go to help people get books who couldn’t afford them?

Civil suits don’t punish, and aren’t really about the future, but if they were…

Let’s say they take that $69 million and donate it to Project Gutenberg to help digitize public domain books?

Honestly, I’d be a lot happier with that.

That wouldn’t really hurt the publishers…the public already owns those books. One could argue that having more public domain freebies available would hurt sales of current books, I suppose.

What if they were compelled to improve their deals (when they even have them) with public libraries?

None of that’s going to happen…I’m sure people will get checks.

Those same three publishers have settled with the Department of Justice in a separate action.

The two publishers (Penguin, Macmillan) and Apple, who haven’t? They may eventually be subject to criminal penalties…or, they could win, and owe nothing.


Two asides to people who have recently commented.

In a private comment, a reader urged me to write something for the KFHD (Kindle Fire HD). I am considering that. I’ve been working a lot, and I may have some “writing days” coming up as a result. There’s another book I want to finish before I do something else.

I think I wouldn’t do something as…formal as Love Your Kindle Fire. I may do something and introduce it at ninety-nine cents. There are lots of differences between the KFHD and the KF1 (Kindle Fire 1st Generation), and some of them are non-intuitive. For example, I got to listen to the new text-to-speech (TTS) today on a commute…I was impressed! It’s the Ivona software, and I think it is the Salli voice.

The surprising thing was that turning the KFHD from portrait (taller than it is wide) to landscape (wider than it was tall) stopped the TTS. That was disconcerting at first, but I can really see the value. If someone walks in when you are listening to something… embarrassing, perhaps, you can stop it quickly. 🙂

You can lock the rotation so it doesn’t turn off, if you want…swipe down from the top, and you can tap the “Unlocked” icon to make it “Locked”.

So, I appreciate your encouragement, reader, and I’ll certainly think about it.

As to the other comment…

That person wanted me to post it (or at least, didn’t say it was private).

I’m not going to do that.

It was really basically an ad…it linked to their own blog. I’ll sometimes allow that if I think it’s just an interesting article that would interest my readers.

However, the comment was partially this:

“Why not strip the drm, then you can read the ebooks anywhere any without limitaion.”

The answer for me is, because I believe it is likely to be illegal.

I don’t typically promote activity I believe to be illegal.

On top of that, the author made the deal with the publisher, and the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) protected DRM (Digital Rights Management) was part of that understanding.

While the author might prefer that there be no DRM, and I believe it disrespects the author to strip that. The author might have gotten more money if the book was being released without DRM, since that might, hypothetically, reduce the sales…meaning that the publisher pays a higher royalty to make up for that.

So for me, that’s why.

Some major publishers are releasing books without DRM…that’s a different story.

Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think. Is giving money to consumers who paid a higher price due to the Agency Model the right action? If the non-settling publishers lose their case, what would you like their punishment to be? Are you fine with stripping DRM? Should I write something on the KFHD? If I do, how do I handle the multiple models in that line? You can comment on this post…if you’d like it to be private, please say so in the post.

Thanks again to Lady Galaxy!

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

Ten public domain freebies #3

September 17, 2012

Ten random public domain freebies #3

This is the third in a series. I’m including the opening of the book, to replicate that feeling of picking up a book and reading it a bit to see if you like itIf my random search returns a title from a previous post in this series , I’ll randomize again.

One of the things people say they miss when shopping online is that sense of random discovery you get in a physical store.

When you go online, you tend to search for something specific.

When you walk in a store, you never know what you’ll find. Heck, they might even have changed where the sections are.

That was especially true of used bookstores. I loved finding some obscure old title…the kind you couldn’t figure out how it ever got published in the first place.

Alternatively, maybe it was something that was clearly popular at one time.

The point is, you never quite knew what you’d see.

So, I decided to replicate that experience.

When you do a search at Amazon, you can only see 400 results.

I used

to limit my search to free public domain titles, and to rank the results by popularity.

Next, I used

to find me ten random numbers from 1 to 400.

The books below are the results of that search…have fun wandering down the aisle! :)

#45 Tom Sawyer, Detective
by Mark Twain
original publication: 1896


“WELL, it was the next spring after me and Tom Sawyer set our old n—–* Jim free, the time he was chained up for a runaway slave down there on Tom’s uncle Silas’s farm in Arkansaw. The frost was working out of the ground, and out of the air, too, and it was getting closer and closer onto barefoot time every day; and next it would be marble time, and next mumbletypeg, and next tops and hoops, and next kites, and then right away it would be summer and going in a-swimming. It just makes a boy homesick to look ahead like that and see how far off summer is. Yes, and it sets him to sighing and saddening around, and there’s something the matter with him, he don’t know what. But anyway, he gets out by himself and mopes and thinks; and mostly he hunts for a lonesome place high up on the hill in the edge of the woods, and sets there and looks away off on the big Mississippi down there a-reaching miles and miles around the points where the timber looks smoky and dim it’s so far off and still, and everything’s so solemn it seems like everybody you’ve loved is dead and gone, and you ‘most wish you was dead and gone too, and done with it all.”

#104 Master Tales of Mystery, Volume 3
collected and arranged by Francis J. Reynolds
original publication: 1915









#133: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
by Ludwig Wittgenstein
original publication: 1922




Mr Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, whether or not it prove to give the ultimate truth on the matters with which it deals, certainly deserves, by its breadth and scope and profundity, to be considered an important event in the philosophical world. Starting from the principles of Symbolism and the relations which are necessary between words and things in any language, it applies the result of this inquiry to various departments of traditional philosophy, showing in each case how traditional philosophy and traditional solutions arise out of ignorance of the principles of Symbolism and out of misuse of language”

#218: The Miser
by Molière
Original publication: 1668


“Val. What, dear Élise! you grow sad after having given me such dear tokens of your love; and I see you sigh in the midst of my joy! Can you regret having made me happy? and do you repent of the engagement which my love has forced from you?

Eli. No, Valère, I do not regret what I do for you; I feel carried on by too delightful a power, and I do not even wish that things should be otherwise than they are. Yet, to tell you the truth, I am very anxious about the consequences; and I greatly fear that I love you more than I should.”

#351: Edgar Huntly or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker
by Charles Brockden Brown
Original publication: 1799


“I sit down, my friend, to comply with thy request. At length does the impetuosity of my fears, the transports of my wonder, permit me to recollect my promise and perform it. At length am I somewhat delivered from suspense and from tremors. At length the drama is brought to an imperfect close, and the series of events that absorbed my faculties, that hurried away my attention, has terminated in repose.

Till now, to hold a steadfast pen was impossible; to disengage my senses from the scene that was passing or approaching; to forbear to grasp at futurity; to suffer so much thought to wander from the purpose which engrossed my fears and my hopes, could not be.”

#355: Mouser Cats’ Story
by Amy Prentice
Original publication: 1906


“On that day last week when it stormed so very hard, your Aunt Amy was feeling very lonely, because all of her men and women friends in the house were busy, and it was not reasonable to suppose any of her bird or animal acquaintances would be out. As she sat by the window, watching the little streams of water as they ran down the glass, she said to herself that this was one of the days when she could not hope to be entertained by story-telling.”

#365: Facing Death The Hero of the Vaughan Pit. A Tale of the Coal Mines
by G.A. Henty
Original publication: 1882

“A row of brick-built houses with slate roofs, at the edge of a large mining village in Staffordshire. The houses are dingy and colourless, and without relief of any kind. So are those in the next row, so in the street beyond, and throughout the whole village. There is a dreary monotony about the place; and if some giant could come and pick up all the rows of houses, and change their places one with another, it is a question whether the men, now away at work, would notice any difference whatever until they entered the houses standing in the place of those which they had left in the morning. There is a church, and a vicarage half hidden away in the trees in its pretty old-fashioned garden; there are two or three small red-bricked dissenting chapels, and the doctor’s house, with a bright brass knocker and plate on the door. There are no other buildings above the common average of mining villages; and it needs not the high chimneys, and engine-houses with winding gear, dotting the surrounding country, to notify the fact that Stokebridge is a mining village.”

#380: Are Women People? A Book of Rhymes for Suffrage Times
by Alice Duer Miller
Original publication: 1915


“Father, what is a Legislature?

A representative body elected by the people of the state.

Are women people?

No, my son, criminals, lunatics and women are not people.

Do legislators legislate for nothing?

Oh, no; they are paid a salary.

By whom?

By the people.

Are women people?

Of course, my son, just as much as men are.”

#393: Memoirs of Marguerite de Valois – the Volume 1 [Court memoir series]
by Marguerite de Valois
Original publication: 1628

“I should commend your work much more were I myself less praised in it; but I am unwilling to do so, lest my praises should seem rather the effect of self-love than to be founded on reason and justice. I am fearful that, like Themistocles, I should appear to admire their eloquence the most who are most forward to praise me. It is the usual frailty of our sex to be fond of flattery. I blame this in other women, and should wish not to be chargeable with it myself. Yet I confess that I take a pride in being painted by the hand of so able a master, however flattering the likeness may be. If I ever were possessed of the graces you have assigned to me, trouble and vexation render them no longer visible, and have even effaced them from my own recollection. So that I view myself in your Memoirs, and say, with old Madame de Rendan, who, not having consulted her glass since her husband’s death, on seeing her own face in the mirror of another lady, exclaimed, “Who is this?” Whatever my friends tell me when they see me now, I am inclined to think proceeds from the partiality of their affection. I am sure that you yourself, when you consider more impartially what you have said, will be induced to believe, according to these lines of Du Bellay:

“C’est chercher Rome en Rome, Et rien de Rome en Rome ne trouver.”

(‘Tis to seek Rome, in Rome to go, And Rome herself at Rome not know.)”

#397: The Fair Maid of Perth Or, St. Valentine’s Day
by Sir Walter Scott
Original publication: 1828


“The ashes here of murder’d kings Beneath my footsteps sleep; And yonder lies the scene of death, Where Mary learn’d to weep.

Every quarter of Edinburgh has its own peculiar boast, so that the city together combines within its precincts, if you take the word of the inhabitants on the subject, as much of historical interest as of natural beauty. Our claims in behalf of the Canongate are not the slightest. The Castle may excel us in extent of prospect and sublimity of site; the Calton had always the superiority of its unrivalled panorama, and has of late added that of its towers, and triumphal arches, and the pillars of its Parthenon. The High Street, we acknowledge, had the distinguished honour of being defended by fortifications, of which we can show no vestiges. We will not descend to notice the claims of more upstart districts, called Old New Town and New New Town, not to mention the favourite Moray Place, which is the Newest New Town of all. We will not match ourselves except with our equals, and with our equals in age only, for in dignity we admit of one. We boast being the court end of the town, possessing the Palace and the sepulchral remains of monarchs, and that we have the power to excite, in a degree unknown to the less honoured quarters of the city, the dark and solemn recollections of ancient grandeur, which occupied the precincts of our venerable Abbey from the time of St. David till her deserted halls were once more made glad, and her long silent echoes awakened, by the visit of our present gracious sovereign.”

Wow! I love the results of this experiment in literary serendipity. 🙂 It does feel to me like being in a used bookstore. I thought the opening from Alice Miller was great! I’m going to read that one. Marguerite de Valois has inspired a lot of fiction (Loves’ Labours Lost, and La Reine Margot, to name two)…if you are intrigued by royalty, or by people who walk their own path’s, you might want to try that volume.


* Mark Twain uses what is now called the “n word”. I haven’t reproduced it in this post, but it is in the original book.

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

Round up #113: Print on Demand blooms, States suit approved

September 16, 2012

Round up #113: Print on Demand blooms, States suit approved

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

Judge Cote approves States agreement with 3 Agency Model publishers

Recently, I wrote about Judge Cote approving the settlement between the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and three publishers (HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster) over the Agency Model.

Once the process finishes, that Federal level action ends the Agency Model for those three (which had allowed the publishers, rather than the retailers like Amazon, to set consumer book prices) and the publishers avoid criminal prosecution. That will result in Amazon being able to lower e-book prices. As I wrote about recently, we are already seeing that happen with books from HarperCollins. Within weeks, we’ll almost certainly also prices drop on Hachette and Simon & Schuster.

In a second, separate action, 49 states (not Minnesota), the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico had their own action. That one would result in the publishers giving money to consumers to “right the wrongs”. In this

Bloomberg article

it is reported that Judge Cote has also approved the agreement between the States and those same settling publishers above.

Don’t expect to get much, but these are now the two ends: affecting future prices, and recompense for the earlier actions.

Kodak and Print on Demand brings 100,000 machines into the mix

Roger Knights, one of my regular readers and commenters, has championed the idea of traditional publishers utilizing “Print on Demand” (POD) machines. The idea is that you go to a machine, in a store or other location, and tell it to print you a specific book. You pay for it, and it makes to book for you right there.

Think of it as an automat (a place where you put coins into a machine to buy your lunch) for books…hmm, playing off “Laundromat”, I dub thee…”Libromat”. 😉

I’ve been more skeptical about it, partially because of the cost of investing in the machines.

Well, as this

Publishers Weekly article

points out, that problem may have been solved.

This is going to bring seven million titles (and that can include independently published titles) to over 100,000 machines…and it will be starting to happen in the USA this year. The machines will be able to print in full color, which is a plus.

The Kodak machines were apparently not designed for sophisticated searching, so they may need to work some other way around it. Roger, though, may get a big “I told you so” out of this. 🙂 I still seem some hurdles…how long will it take, how much will it cost, that sort of thing. The bottom line questions are whether customers will do it and if it can be done in a cost effective manner for the publishers.

I do hope it succeeds, because I like people to have more options to get their books…we’ll find out fairly soon.

Harvard Business Review: ” We trust that our customers will abide by copyright law and refrain from distributing ebook files illegally.”

Okay…you, you, and you: close your eyes, fingers in your ears, and say, “LaLaLaLaLa”. Great. I was just about to mention the term DRM (Digital Rights Management), and I’m afraid that incites apoplexy in certain people. 😉

However, this is a case where another major publisher is choosing to release e-books without DRM. You’ll be able to convert them to different formats, if you want…legally use the same book on a Kindle and a NOOK.

The publisher in this case is the Harvard Business Review, and in their

E-Book FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

they make it explicitly acceptable to convert the files they send you to different formats…they even help you do that with instructions.

Many of you will cheer this, which is fine. I don’t have an immediate rejection of DRM…used properly (and it often isn’t), I can see the value in it. If you’d like to see that go away, though, this kind of…experimentation (if successful) is what will hasten that change.

Oh…sorry…you can stop “LaLaLa-ing” now. Hm? Of course, yes: “YOU CAN STOP LALALA-ING NOW.” That’s better… 😉

Amazon reveals success of their traditional publishing…with figures

We don’t usually get actual figures from Amazon about sales…not of e-books, nor EBRs (E-Book Readers). shares in this


what is says is an e-mail from Jeff Belle, Amazon’s Vice President of Amazon Publishing.

I think you’ll find it interesting if you read it, citing specific authors (including well-known ones) and numbers…including 250,000 “copies” of Ed McBain’s Precinct 87 books sold since December.

I’ve written before about how significant I think Amazon’s move into traditional publishing is. It’s a way for Amazon to shift the balance of power. In the past, if the publishers wanted something one way, and Amazon didn’t (text-to-speech, Agency Model), the publishers won by suggesting that they might withhold the books. Customers want books…it’s hard to do business without them. 😉

If Amazon publishes the books that customers want, that seriously changes things.

Publishers could also try to eliminate Amazon by selling directly from their own websites, but we haven’t seen that happen much yet.

Some app news on the Kindle Fire HD

As I continue to use my new Kindle Fire HD, I’m experimenting and finding out a lot of little interesting things. I still have to decide exactly how I’m going to disseminate that. I don’t think I could do another full book very quickly, but I might do something a bit more casual. I’ll continue to share things with you, of course, and do feel free to ask questions.

I tried the Book Collections app, which allows you to organize your books on the KF1 (Kindle Fire 1st Generation). Unfortunately, while you can still organize the books, you can no longer open them to read them. I did check with the publisher, and yes, that’s due to something Amazon has changed.

I was hoping that the Maxthon Mobile Web Browser would be approved for the Kindle Fire HD, but not yet. I use that just about daily on my KF1. I’m hoping that’s just temporary. I can probably go find it and sideload it, but I’d rather get it from the Amazon Appstore, given a choice. Getting an app approved can take a bit of time…I’ll be patient for now: I’m good at that. 🙂

In case you are wondering, an app in the Amazon Appstore will tell you for which devices it is available (and checked by Amazon to see that it works and doesn’t damage the device). My KF1 and KFHD are listed separately (each individual device is), and some are available for one and not for the other.

What do you think? Is POD going to keep print books in the mix? Will you buy Harvard Business Review books because they don’t have DRM? Is having DRM ever an incentive for you to buy? If you get a couple of dollars out of the States suit, will you be satisfied or upset? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

Kindle Fire HD: first impressions

September 15, 2012

Kindle Fire HD: first impressions

First, a little background:

I’ve had Kindles since the original Kindle 1, and I’ve been using a Kindle Fire First Generation (KF1) since its release.

For disclosure, Amazon gave me this Kindle Fire HD 7″ 16 GB. That is not because I’m a blogger, and it didn’t affect whether I would have gotten it or not. I actually had ordered one before I knew I was being given one for my help on the Amazon Kindle forums. I am not an Amazon employee, and I don’t believe that having been given it will affect these first impressions.

The first thing I’d say I noticed is the change in shape. The KFHD is not as thick, but is considerably wider. It’s wide enough that I can see how holding it with one hand with the thumb on one side and the fingers grasping the other is going to be difficult for some people.

It’s odd, but it actually makes the screen look bigger…I’m not sure why.

I found the physical on button more difficult. It is out of the way more, and some people had problems with accidentally putting it to sleep before. This will resolve that, and I think I’ll get used to it…but initially, it’s harder to use.

Update: this issue may matter less with a cover that automatically sleeps it and wakes it. Amazon makes those, but only with leather, which I don’t use. I ordered a non-leather third party one (thanks to the heads-up from reader Jands1515):

rooCASE Ultra-Slim (Black) Vegan Leather Folio Case for Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7 Inch Tablet – Slim Profile 17mm – Support Landscape / Portrait / Typing Stand / Auto Sleep and Wake

It was under $10 including shipping when I ordered it, and it is cheaper now. I should have it on Wednesday, and we’ll see how that feels.

There are physical buttons for the volume control…those work fine.

The screen looks much better! It’s sharper, and the illumination seems more even somehow. That’s definitely a plus.

One weird thing: the screen rotates even before you wake it up…no big deal, and some people will like that.

Oh, and it updated by itself very quickly after I got it…my guess was that it was getting the Special Offers, which showed after that.

It came at about 65% charged. I did buy the

Amazon Kindle PowerFast for Accelerated Charging (for all Kindle Fire models, not included with device)

and it didn’t take it two hours to charge from that point.

The homescreen navigation has significantly changed from the KF1.

There is no Settings Gear…you now swipe down from the top to get to those features.

The Carousel, oddly, started out just showing me e-books. As I opened other types of things, though, they did appear there.

The tabs at the top have changed:

  • Shop
  • Games
  • Apps
  • Books
  • Music
  • Videos
  • Newsstand
  • Audiobooks
  • Web
  • Photos
  • Docs
  • Offers

That “Photos” one was a big improvement over the Gallery app. My photos from the Cloud just appeared there…easy to use.

No Favorites shelves on the homescreen…instead, you get “Customers who bought this also bought”. I don’t see any way to turn that off at this point…some folks will definitely be irritated by that one!

You can add things to Favorites by “long pressing” the icon. You can then access the Favorites many places (not just on the homescreen) by tapping a star in the corner of the screen. Again, that may confuse people…they may think they are tapping the star to add something to Favorites.

When I did check apps and games I downloaded, none of them seemed to have brought over game progress, favorites, that kind of thing.

I checked the text-to-speech right away. You do that with the Aa button. First, you turn it on, then you press play. It appears to be the female voice from Vocalizer…only one voice is available….however, you can move the speed up to four times the speed. I just checked in the Applications…this seems to be Ivona. I’ll research that later.

One problem: it appeared that once I had bought the audiobook, for an e-book I owned, I couldn’t use text-to-speech…only the audiobook. For me, that’s a considerable disappointment, since I prefer text-to-speech. I’ll have to check that out more.

The sound, by the way, is greatly improved…much louder and clearer.

I tried Skype, but I’m not a regular user…and I didn’t have anybody with whom to Skype. 😉 I couldn’t see an easy way to test the camera with that, so I switched to one of my favorite apps from my SmartPhone, Paper Camera. It changes the appearance of the world so that it looks like a comic book, or a pencil sketch (my favorite), or more. That looked fine.

Downloading does seem faster…for me, a movie was about three seconds per minute.

I have not been able to get X-Ray for Movies to work, despite trying it on Men in Black, which it tells me it should have the feature.

Let’s take a look at the menus, then I’ll do a brief tour of the tabs…I’ll write more about the device after I’ve had more time with it.

Swiping down from the top (the equivalent of the Settings Gear) gives you:

  • Locked
  • Volume
  • Brightness (this has an Auto Brightness setting when you tap it)
  • Wireless (tapping this gives you easy access to Airplane Mode, Bluetooth, Wi-fi On and Off, and Connect to a Network)
  • Sync
  • More

More gives you

  • Help & Feedback (your User Guide is here)
  • My Account
  • Applications
  • Parental Controls (at this point this is similar to what we have on the KF1…FreeTime is coming later. E-mail, Contact, and Calendar have their own place to be blocked)
  • Sounds & Display (this includes an Auto Brightness setting)
  • Wireless
  • Device (Storage is here, and is broken down by category, which is nice…it does not appear that the Apps & Games have a separated memory…it seems to all be the same. It takes it a while to calculate the memory usage, though…seconds for sure)
  • Location-based Services (you can turn this on or off)
  • Keyboard
  • Sound on Keypress
  • Auto Correction
  • Show correction Suggestions
  • Spelling Suggestions
  • Security
  • Legal & Compliance

Now, for a quick run through the tabs:

  • Shop (this is greatly improved, at least in appearance…the ad here scrolls on its own, showing you different “play now”/”watch now” options. You can really see the improved interface here. It’s fast and smooth)
  • Games
  • Apps (this also includes games…it’s easy to switch to List View, by the way. That was sort of hidden on the KF1)
  • Music
  • Newsstand
  • Audiobooks (nice to have these separated out and easy to find)
  • Web (this now was a “Trending Now” section)
  • Photos
  • Docs
  • Offers


It’s a more elegant device, certainly…it’s cooler. 🙂 The image is so much better (I’ll test out the glare factor), and the sound is better.

The interface will take some getting used to. 🙂 One thing that throws me off is that the screen spins when it switches (on its own) from landscape to portrait. It doesn’t do 360s, but it’s some sort of effect.

Having text-to-speech for Kindle store books is great!

The keyboard has some new odd things. They’ve named the “enter” key “return”…so I think people will think it takes them back somewhere. I had a point where I could not get the keyboard to get off the screen…I had to hit the new tiny menu button, then hit back. That was not intuitive.

I’ll play with it more over the next few days, and I do think I’ll be carrying this one rather than my KF1 as my standard.

If you have any specific question, let me know, and if you want to share your impressions of yours, that would be great…just comment on this post.

Update: I know some of you are wondering what I’ve named it. 🙂 I’ve listed the names for my other Kindles before. This one is Lucas, after George Lucas…wait, HD does stand for Howard the Duck, right? 😉

Update: I am now typing this part with a Bluetooth (wireless) full-size keyboard. That is really going to work, although it does take a bit of  adjustment. Sometimes, it types several of the same letter, but that’s just going to take a minute or two, I think, to get the feel of it. I got the Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Keyboard 5000. I like the size and the feel of it…I haven’t used a Bluetooth keyboard before. I don’t particularly like that it needs batteries, but it was recognized reasonably easily (I had to type a code on it twice, but I think I might have waited too long the first time). It’s going to be small enough to take on trips…I do have a pocket into which I can put it in my “utility vest”, but most people wouldn’t. 🙂

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

Round up #112: Discover $10, Coinstar bonus

September 13, 2012

Round up #112: Discover $10, Coinstar bonus

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

Take care of the pennies, and the MP3s will take care of themselves

Coinstar has always been an interesting business model to me.

You bring your coins to a machine (maybe in a grocery store), pour them in, and the machine counts it for you.

You can get a receipt that you take to a cashier, who gives you paper money for it.

It used to be an 8.9% charge for that in the US…now it’s 9.8%.

We used to do that…it was fun. We literally have a piggy bank, and we put all our coins in there. Periodically, we take that into a Coinstar and have what we call a “Pig Day”. When we had less money, that was a great way to go to lunch and a movie. Now, it’s a way to treat it as “found money”, and indulge a bit.

Nearly ten percent may seem like a lot to have something take your money from you. 🙂

Another alternative is to get a gift certificate instead. In that case, the company  where you can use that gift certificate basically counts the cost as advertising. You put $100 into the Coinstar machine (and we get more than that every few months), you get $100 to use at one of several stores/restaurants. The company covers the counting fee you would normally pay.

One of the companies is Amazon.

Right now, you get more than the money you put into the machine…you get a $5 gift certificate for MP3s (when you put at least $20 in coins into the machine on top of the full value of your coins.

Amazon Coinstar $5 MP3 bonus

That’s a good deal…and gets your coins back into circulation, which is actually a plus for the economy (hoarded coins mean needing to make more coins, which costs money).

You can also choose to donate the value of your coins to a charity (you get a receipt for tax deduction), although I don’t think that would get you the MP3 gift certificate in this case. You could put in twenty dollars (you can see it counting), get the MP3 deal, then put in the rest of your coins for charity…

Discover $10…by using your Discover card as your 1-click

This is one of those Special Offers available through your Kindle…if you have a Special Offers Kindle, you may need to sync with Amazon to see it. You select it there, and Amazon sends you an e-mail about it.

In this case, what happens is that you change your 1-click method to a Discover card. You can do that at

Then, buy something digital…even a ninety-nine cent e-book.

For doing that, you get a $10 Amazon gift card…and you can switch your 1-click payment back right afterwards.

If you select the offer (Home-Menu-View Special Offers), they’ll send you the details.

Update: thanks to reader Jeanne who pointed out something I should have mentioned…if you have a gift card balance, 1-click draws from your gift card balance before going to the payment method you specified…

For people who are paying $15 to have ads taken off their Kindle Fire HDs, I’m not sure they all realize that they lose out on Special Offers like this. I understand why somebody might want ads removed (trailers for R-rated movies on a five-year old’s device, for example), but I think it can be a bit…knee jerk for some folks who haven’t had a Special Offers device.

Let’s get ready to Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiindle!

I got the e-mail this morning…my Kindle Fire SD is shipping, and should be here tomorrow! 🙂 Again, I’m surprised at how excited I am.

The e-mail is supposed to help me get ready, but I feel like there is increasingly less to do to prepare for a new device. I have a couple of pictures I like to have on my devices…those are now going to just show up for me in Docs, since I’ve sent them with the Personal Document Service. I don’t need to go through hoops to get those on the new device after I get it.

I’m hoping the User’s Guide shows up online at Amazon soon. 🙂

The headlines on the early reviews of the Fire have been that the response is “lukewarm”, but I think that’s really overstating it. What I’ve seen generally is the idea that it is good, but not the best tablet in the world. I’ll link some of the reviews here:

I’ll give you my own first impressions Friday and probably by Monday, I’ll do a lengthier post over the weekend about the device.

Apple doesn’t introduce…

Apple held a big presser (press event) yesterday, and there was speculation they would introduce a “mini iPad”, that might be the same size screen as the Kindle Fire.

That didn’t happen.

It would be interesting if they did…could they avoid the perception that Apple was copying Amazon? That concept wouldn’t be good for their positioning in the market, although I presume that wouldn’t stop them if it cold make them a ton of money.

They introduced the iPhone 5,and I feel like the contrast between their presser and Amazon’s really shows the stark difference between the companies.

Apple fans are enthused about the new device…but the general reaction to it seemed muted.

No question, it’s a big improvement in hardware…but is it a big improvement in user experience?

It adds panoramic photo taking, the screen is bigger and the device lighter…but will you really do different things with it?

Apple is, at its heart, a hardware company. They do cool software things sometimes, like adding Siri. This time, though, what they did was give you better hardware.

Amazon, on the other hand, is largely a content company (although they do a lot of web and other stuff). When I look at the Fire line, what I’m waiting for tomorrow isn’t how well it can do what it was already doing, but the new media experience elements…X-Ray for Movies, text-to-speech for Kindle store books (new to the Fire).

Certainly, the Kindle Paperwhite is bringing significant new hardware…and it is also reducing the media experience by eliminating speakers. There’s a lot of pushback in the Kindle forums about that.

That’s telling, to me…we want Amazon to give us “good enough” hardware and superior media experience and services.

What do you think? Is Apple more of an “experience” company than I indicated…with things like iTunes and FaceTime being super significant? Are you excited about your new Fire’s hardware (I am looking forward to the camera for videoconferencing), or the service features? Do you use Coinstar? Are going to get the $10 Discover card deal…and do Special Offers make a device better or worse? Are going to pay the $15 to have ads removed…and is so, why? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

Harper’s Droppers: post Agency Model savings

September 12, 2012

Harper’s Droppers: post Agency Model savings

Thanks to my reader Bailey, I was able to  report yesterday that the “This price was set by the publisher” line was gone from HarperCollins’ books in the USA Kindle store.

Harper recently settled with the Department of Justice in the government’s legal action against the Agency Model.

That meant that Amazon could go back to discounting the price of HarperCollins’ e-books.

While that seemed very likely to mean lower prices, it was a bit more complicated than that.

The publisher could raise the list price, which would raise the cost to Amazon, which would make it more expensive for them to discount the book.

Let’s say HarperCollins was selling the book for $12.99. Amazon would get thirty percent of that for being the sales agent…about $3.90.

Now, let’s say that Amazon wants to sell the book for $9.99, and still make that $3.90 on it. $9.99 – $3.90 = $6.09.

Not counting costs of sale, if the publisher sets the digital list price at…higher than $12.18, Amazon doesn’t make its $3.90.

I know, that was math geeky. 🙂

Of course, Amazon doesn’t have to continue to make that $3.90…they could choose to make $2.90 or $1 or even lose money…

But would they?

That’s where

comes in.

I’ve recommended them many times before…eReaderIQ is the most valuable site for Kindle owners on the internet.

In addition to helping you find free e-books, giving you search capabilities superior to Amazon, and letting you know when a book you list has been Kindleized, they’ll send you a free e-mail when a book you choose drops a specified amount in price.

As part of that, the information-rich site tracks (even graphing) the prices of Kindle store books which have recently seen price reductions.

Of the last twenty most recent drops they see, nineteen are from HarperCollins or its imprints.

The price graph for all of those HarperCollins titles looks pretty much the same…and it looks like it fell off a cliff. 🙂

Stable price, stable price, stable price, boom!

I thought I’d list the ten most recent HarperCollins price drops for you, and note the percentage of drop:

As you can see, those are substantial drops.

I also did some spot checking…some HarperCollins books (especially teen ones) have dropped fifty percent and more. For example:

The Sharing Knife, Volume Three by Lois McMaster Bujold $7.99/$3.99/50%

It’s also worth noting that eReaderIQ has been tracking that since December 21, 2010 (which would have been when somebody requested the tracking)…and this is the first time the price has dropped during that period.

Two other interesting things: while I was writing the post, another wave of HarperCollins price drops happened…it may be taking them some time to adjust.

Also, many of the books have already dropped twice since September 9th…that could be due to automatic adjustment to prices at other retailers. There was no price competition between retailers under the Agency Model.

How would you know about these drops if I didn’t tell you? Sign up at eReaderIQ…if you don’t, you could be wasting a lot of money (if you can wait for prices to come down).

Thanks to the Department of Justice for bringing this case!

Thanks to Amazon for reducing the prices!

Thanks to HarperCollins for settling! Yes, they went in on the Agency Model, but we can be thankful they settled, rather than continuing to fight. One could argue that the publishers and Apple which haven’t settled are standing up for what they believe to be their innocence, rather than caving to legal pressure…

Thanks (once again) to

I use them for a lot of purposes, and I do buy through their links when I’ve signed up for something there and they notify me about it…that helps them, and I do want to reward them for their efforts.

Update: my Flipboard app had this story this morning:

“Apple is already fighting Amazon in the ebook price wars”

and I was also alerted to it by regular reader and commenter Lady Galaxy.

Amazon’s price war right now might, ironically, be with Apple. As the hardware company continues to fight the Department of Justice in court to retain the Agency Model, which keeps the consumer prices the same everywhere, they are lowering the prices on iBooks, to counter Amazon. They are competing on prices, in a race to the bottom…which would seem to be  what they were complaining about Amazon doing before the Agency Model.

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

%d bloggers like this: