Round up #136″ KF8.9 update, Google text-to-speech

Round up #136″ KF8.9 update, Google text-to-speech

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

NPR: “Don’t Hide Your Harlequins: In Defense Of Romance”

In this

NPR piece

Bobbi Dumas makes a defense of reading romance novels.

I’ve read a few. When I managed a brick and mortar bookstore, one of the things I did was encourage my employees to read one book from every section…and to ask regular customers for advice.

Certainly, there are many conventions in writing a typical romance. People famously refer to a “Harlequin formula”.

However, that familiarity is not a bad thing. I have read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and there are undeniably conventions in that writing as well.

I also will invoke “Sturgeon’s Law” here. The story goes that someone said to the author Theodore Sturgeon that ninety percent of science fiction was trash. Sturgeon’s response was, “Ninety percent of everything is trash.” The original word, by the way, may not have been trash…

There’s no shame in reading romances, and there are some exceptional ones.

New Kindle Fire 8.9″ update available

Thanks to my reader D. Knight for the heads-up on the new 8.14 update being available for the KF8.9″.

Kindle Fire 8.9 update page

While this looks like it is mostly to provide access to

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited

which is Amazon’s “all-you-can-eat” subscription service for kids, it also includes “…also includes performance and feature improvements”.

This is a case where it did happen wirelessly without me really noticing it…my guess is it is a relatively small update in terms of memory.

UK revising copyright to allow format shifting of e-books for personal use

According to this

Bookseller article

the UK is

“…to introduce exceptions to copyright law that would allow individual users to make copies of copyrighted materials, including e-books, onto “any medium or device” for their own private use, although they would still be prohibited from sharing them.”

This would make things much simpler for people, and would probably be a boost for the industry.

While the USA leads in some interesting areas (Amazon’s reinvention of book distribution being a good example), it doesn’t surprise me that we might not lead in legislative reform right now…

欢迎到中国来, Kindle!

Amazon is now selling Kindle books in China…although they aren’t selling Kindles on the site: Kindle store

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, has always maintained that the Kindle hardware and Kindle content businesses were separate, and this appears to be a validation of that.

How are they going to read the books?

They can get free readers apps (similar to those we have in the USA) for the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Android devices.

What’s the bestselling paid book in the Chinese Kindle store?

Heavy taste Psychology
by Yao Yao

That’s how Google translated the title, at any rate. It appears to be one of those “insights into those around you” books. I have to say, reading the translated customer reviews was interesting.

What’s the “bestselling” free book in the Chinese Kindle store?

Pride and Prejudice


Macmillan’s Joe Sargent says they will continue to fight the DoJ

According to this

Publishers Weekly article

John Sargent, who was arguably the most visible tradpub (traditional publishing) figure during the change to the Agency Model, has said that Macmillan will continue to fight the Department of Justice in its case against that model.

This follows Penguin recently agreeing to settle, leaving Macmillan the only one of the publishers not to have settled (neither has Apple).

I have to say, Sargent strikes me as the kind of person willing to go it alone in this sort of situation.

The full letter is here, and it addresses a lot more than the DoJ:

Sargent letter at

I recommend giving it a has a lot of interesting information. One thing where I think Sargent might possibly have missed something is in this statement:

“Our e-book business has been softer of late, particularly for the last few weeks, even as the number of reading devices continues to grow. Interesting.”

The suggestion seems to be that digital is not growing as fast as it was, and that certainly may be true. However, isn’t it possible in this case that the settling publishers are getting a bigger share than they were, since Amazon is significantly discounting in some cases?

By the way, Macmillan has renegotiated contracts to allow some discounting, and they say that library e-book lending of some of their titles will start in 2013. Those are both good things, in my opinion.

Google’s books app has text-to-speech

It was nice to find that the Google app for reading the “Play” books (the ones you get from their store) on my Samsung Captivate can do text-to-speech. Regular readers know that I am a frequent user of TTS (I typically listen to it for hours a week in the car).

When you’ve opened a book, you can use the menu to choose “Read Aloud”.

It’s not as good as the Ivona that we have on the Kindle Fire’s, but it isn’t bad.

I checked, by the way: it was not available on my PC.

Still, this is a nice option. I think it’s only going to work with books you get directly from Google, and I only tested it on a public domain title (I don’t know if a title has it blocked in the Kindle store if it will also have it blocked from the Google store).

Tech rumors

I’m seeing a lot of speculation about a Kindle (or Amazon, at least) SmartPhone for 2013. I could see that happening, although as I’ve speculated before, I think  people will start opting to use their tablets for phone calls rather than carry two devices. I can already do that on my Kindle Fire, using the FREE Calls with magicJack app. Am I doing it? Not yet, but I haven’t made a voice call on my phone in some time either. 🙂

The other thing is the idea that Nexus will release a $99 version of their Nexus 7 tablet before May of 2013. That would likely put downward price pressure on  Amazon, even if the new one might have fewer features than the current model.

What do you think? Do you hide the romances you are reading? Is John Sargent’s letter a principled response?  Will Amazon eventually crack the Middle East market…and do Kindles need to be sold where Kindle books are? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

3 Responses to “Round up #136″ KF8.9 update, Google text-to-speech”

  1. Tom Semple Says:

    “Google TTS” is as good as the TTS engine that you have installed on your Android device. I have both Ivona and SVOX. And Google TTS seems to have improved in at least the latest version of Android (I have 4.1.2). Ivona is still free, I believe, and SVOX is only $2.99 per voice. So there are more choices. I like the british or australian voices.

    I kinda like the Play Books app. It has improved over time. TTS works well (and highlights each sentence as it is spoken), and it has this rather unique ability to switch between ‘flowed text’ (‘epub’) and ‘original pages’ (‘pdf’), while maintaining your reading location (for books with both formats available). If there were a way to access (with sync) one’s own content (say from Google Drive), I’d use it more for reading epub files that I have. As it is I’ll probably use it more now that it has ‘read to me’ feature. I have purchased a handful of books from Google and they all allow TTS (but the same titles are TTS enabled in Kindle Store also). Again, availability of multiple formats is a plus for me. I like having PDF available when I’m reading on larger screens, and you can usually export to portable (Adobe DRM for most commercial titles) files which can be read by non-google apps/devices.

    I’ve been wondering about Fire HD/Ivona: can you install additional voices for various languages or locales? They don’t seem to be in the Amazon Appstore but may be possible to side load them. But I don’t know if settings allow any configuration, where for example, you would want to choose one english voice over another. I keep checking for a user manual for Fire HD on amazon (to glean more details of what its features are) but there does not seem to be one.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      Well, it may be subjective, but Ivona seems a lot smoother and sophisticated than the one I got in the Google app. We had Pico on the first Kindle Fire, which wasn’t anywhere near as good. 🙂

      I’m not aware of a way to switch voices in Ivona on the Kindle Fire HD, but it does seem to me that you might be able to sideload something that would access the engine and use a different voice. I haven’t tried that, though.

      There have been a number of concerns expressed about there not being a user’s guide for the KFHD on the website. There is access to a lot of online help on the device, but that’s not the same.

      • Tom Semple Says:

        Just to clarify, Play Books app will use whatever TTS you’ve set up in the accessibility options. It is not tied to Google’s.

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