Archive for February, 2013

Do fictional heroes read?

February 20, 2013

Do fictional heroes read?

I believe that reading makes a person more likely to perform heroic deeds.

Certainly, that’s a tricky point for me. There have been many discussions (and some studies recently) examining the idea of whether or not fiction can encourage people to behave in “anti-social” ways (such as becoming violent). My instinct is to reject that idea, but I’m too scientifically minded to do that without the data.

I do think that someone who is already violent can model behavior on something fictional.

Where I have the problem is with the idea that fiction can change the motivations of a person (as opposed to the ways in which they carry out the actions which they are already motivated to do).

I would be very, very cautious about banning specific books because of a belief that they can lead to bad behaviors.

I believe that reading broadly exposes readers to different points of view. Reading is the closest thing we have to experience something through someone else’s eyes…or rather, through their brains. In a way similar to how we may dream about very anti-social things, it allows us to explore those feelings without carrying them out…and may, in so doing, give us a solid rejection of them.

I do speculate that reading a single book to the exclusion of all others might guide one towards an agreement with things in that book. We hear about people who have behaved in non-societally-standard ways that read a single book over and over again. I don’t think, though, that the single book molded them into that behavior, but rather that there was already an inclination towards obsessive tunnel vision.


I also believe that I have been positively impacted by being influenced by “good” characters, which I will refer to as “heroes” as a way of shorthand.

I think that I am a much better person because I admire the selflessness of Doc Savage…the drive to improve oneself for the purpose of helping others, rather than for personal gain.

Again, that’s just anecdotal. I’d love to see studies that show that people who watched, perhaps, The Lone Ranger versus oh, the Halloween movie series, behave in more “positive” ways.

My guess, though, is that someone who consumed both would behave in the “best” ways out of the three. That person would have “experienced” both a non-lethal, helping viewpoint and a revenge driven murderous viewpoint, and I would presume would (if initially a typical person, as opposed to someone with a pathology) elected for the former…and would have a personal basis for doing so.

Arthur C. Clarke famously said:

“Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories.”

My thought is that perhaps they should read all three.

Given these two things (people can model their behaviors on heroes and reading is good) got me thinking. Do famous heroes read?

Doc Savage is a brain surgeon, among other things, so we know Doc read textbooks…but does Doc Savage read for fun?

Does James Bond?

Certainly, some heroes show familiarity with books. Captain Picard read on Star Trek: The Next Generation (Shakespeare, for one). Don Quixote, of course, was a big reader…although that wasn’t necessarily perceived as a positive thing by other folks (been there!). 😉

I also understand that showing somebody reading is, well, not that exciting an activity. We don’t typically see heroes brushing their teeth, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do it (hm…question. Does Superman need to brush those super-teeth? Presumably not).

When I tried to do a little research on this, I ran across this interesting Tumblr:

Fictional Characters Reading Books

It’s mostly screenshots of characters reading books…and they do a nice job of identifying the character and the book.

Skimming through it, I’m not sure I’m seeing a lot of pictures of people the average person would call heroes…yes, there is Doctor Who (reading a fictional piece of fiction), and a list of the book’s Roald Dahl’s Matilda read.

I think Superman spent time reading up on Kryptonian history in the Fortress of Solitude, but I’m not sure. Holmes, Spock, and Sherlock all seem to know about books…but do you really picture them sitting and reading for hours?

Perhaps that’s another issue in fictional depictions of reading. It is sometimes suggested that heroes act while others think (a very peculiar notion to me). In the Tom Jones sung theme song to Thunderball, we’re told that James Bond “…acts while other men just talk”.  John Carter says:

“My mind is evidently so constituted that I am subconsciously forced into the path of duty without recourse to tiresome mental processes.”
John Carter (Captain Jack Carter)
A Princess of Mars
written by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Do we think of thinking (which to me equates in many ways with reading) as inherently non-heroic?

I certainly don’t.

Einstein supposedly said something like

“If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.”

I’ve heard some variants on that, but that seems like a reasonable approach to me, especially when the last part is said as “implementing the solution”, which is another way I’ve seen it.

Let me call on you, readers. Can you comment on this post and add some fictional heroes who read? I know that real heroes do. 🙂

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



Round up #149: The Hidden Empire, Reader’s Digest bankruptcy

February 19, 2013

Round up #149: The Hidden Empire, Reader’s Digest bankruptcy

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

Reader’s Digest files for bankruptcy (again)

As this

Bloomberg article

suggests, this doesn’t mean it is the end of the brand.

However, when you make a strategic move because you are $465 million in debt, it says that the decision wasn’t entirely due to your engineering of your own situation. 😉

To me, RD was a forerunner of the internet. Founded in 1922 and eventually reaching tens of millions of readers worldwide, it combined the curated nature of the web (providing shortened versions of longer written material), and the social feel by encouraging and publishing reader contributions. The latter often are short enough to fit in a tweet, and I can definitely see an evolution from

to Twitter.

I think it is likely to survive in some form, but they’ll really need to figure out the digital landscape.

Did Netflix create the first video novel?

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of Netflix’ original series, House of Cards.

First, it was “genetically engineered”.

Who do our members like to watch? Kevin Spacey.

What director do they like? David Fincher.

What source material appears to them? Adaptations of European TV shows.

Check, check, check…

While certainly most big risk entertainments make these sorts of calculations, it does sound like Big Data matchmade this one (“Six drops of essence of terror…three drops of sinister sauce…” That’s a tough one! 75 trivia points if you can identify the source of that “recipe”! Remember that trivia points are null and void if you look them up…you have to just know).  😉

More intriguing is that they released the entire first season (13 episodes) at one time…not once a week. Their research showed them that’s how their viewers liked to consume a TV series…often in one or two sittings, as a marathon.

In other words, rather than doing a “chapter” at a time, they released the entire book.

That moves us out of the less expensive “serialized” distribution, and into “all at once” (something that happened more will mass market books as the means to produce and distribute them got cheaper).

It’s literary cartoon time

A reader of mine, joeyboy55, alerted me to this “silly joke” by using the forum at my Amazon Author Central page (

Frank and Ernest February 15 2013

Book Patrol post

reproduces several book related cartoons by Tom Gauld (I presume with permission). There are some I think you’ll enjoy, including one featuring an EBR (E-Book Reader) in the kitchen.

Ironically, Gauld’s book (You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack) doesn’t appear to be available in the Kindle store.

faberNovel: “ The Hidden Empire” (2013 update)

I’d suggest you check out this presentation about Amazon: The Hidden Empire

It’s an info-packed slideshow (84 slides) about the e-tailing giant, how it got to be that way, and where it might be going.

It’s not perfect: slide 60 refers to the Paperwhite as being “backlit” (it’s not…it’s frontlit. That may seem like a small distinction, but it’s very important for user experience, including long battery charge life). There is a typo on slide 79 (“…Amazon growing its tentacular business in every directions may…” should be, I would say, “in every direction”).

However, I do think it’s quite a valuable read, and I recommend it.

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

Review: Redshirts

February 18, 2013

Review: Redshirts

Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas
by John Scalzi
published by Tor (a Macmillan imprint)
original publication: 2012
size: 449KB (318 pages)
categories: fiction; science fiction
lending: no
simultaneous device licenses: six (but released without DRM?*)
part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: no
text-to-speech: yes
suitability for text-to-speech: good
x-ray: yes
Whispersync for Voice:yes ($8.49 at time of writing, read by Wil Wheaton)

“I want you to think about what it means when I am the person in a group who is making the case for reality. I’m the least responsible person I know. I resent having to be the voice of reason. I resent it a lot.”

The human mind observes what is happening around it, and creates ways to deal with dangerous situations.

Imagine that you were a member of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise on the original Star Trek series.

Would  you notice that there was something…odd about the ship?

Would people gossip about the fact that every time a “redshirt” (often a security team member, but it could be a different specialty…certainly, not a major decision maker) beams down with the bridge crew on an away mission, it becomes very likely that they are going to get killed?


That sounds like something that would be important to you, right?

That’s the basic concept that launches John Scalzi’s well-written and clever novel, Redshirts.

I’d heard it was a Star Trek parody, and expected absurdity and silly wordplay, like in a 1960s Mad Magazine issue.

The beginning of the book turned out to be quite a bit more interesting than that.

It’s not the Enterprise, exactly, but fairly close to it.

We follow a group of new recruits…as you can imagine, the ship has quite a bit of turnover. 🙂

Generally, I enjoyed this first part, and its commentary on the original series (how did Chekov keep healing so quickly?).

The characters with whom we relate are more than just cartoon characters (even including Star Trek: The Animated Series 😉 ).

It’s also clear that Scalzi, President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, isn’t a poseur as a fan. While I thought the Dr. McCoy equivalent was quite flat and uninteresting (I’m guessing Bones is not one of Scalzi’s favorites), I was amused that the Doctor was named Hartnell (as in William Hartnell, the first actor to play Doctor Who in the TV series…The Doctor).

However, the book shifts in tone…more than once.

That could be innovative entertaining, and certainly, the book is highly-reviewed at Amazon (3.7 stars out of 5 with 364 reviews at the time of writing).

For me, though, that meant that what I thought was great in the first part, wasn’t quite as good in latter parts.

It’s important to note, though, that I have a sibling who enjoyed the second part better…and said the same was true of a friend.

I also want to be clear that I liked the whole book…I just liked the first part better. 🙂

As I was barely into it, I predicted to my Significant Other that it might turn out that way…that the tone would change. For me, it was a bit like a Saturday Night Live sketch that they make into a movie (Coneheads, for example). In a desire to give an expansion more length and depth, something that I find deliciously whimsical can become more…mundane, I suppose.

I do recommend the book, although if you weren’t a fan of ST:TOS, I don’t think it would work as well.

* DRM is Digital Rights Management, which is code inserted into a file to control how the file is used. Tor has been releasing their books DRM free in the Kindle store (an option also available to publishers using Kindle Direct Publishing). That means that nothing mechanically inhibits someone from converting the file into another format, for example. It does not change the nature of the license.

Fans of the original series may also enjoy my (very different from Scalzi’s book…different purposes) post,

Star Trek parody: The Kindle Encounter

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

Round up #148: 9.7″ wi-fi EBR, Fire to go worldwide?

February 17, 2013

Round up #148: 9.7″ wi-fi EBR, Fire to go worldwide?

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

Amazon soon to set the world on Fire…Kindle Fire, that is?

Andrys Basten, of the

A Kindle World blog

spotted something interesting in an article that was really related to app developers.  Take a look at Andrys’ post (and I recommend the blog generally), to get the context of this quotation:

Amazon’s VP in charge of the Kindle noted that they are working hard to launch the Fire lineup worldwide…”

Worldwide, of course, wouldn’t necessarily mean every country in the world (the Middle East is famously underrepresented on Kindles and Kindle content), but could certainly mean South America, much of Africa, large parts of Asia, and so on.

As I’ve mentioned, I think this will be more of a consolidation year in terms of hardware…we might not be blown away by a radically innovative device in the e-reading world, but we could certainly see these sorts of changes, and new software features.

A wi-fi 9.7″ EBR

I had thought that Amazon might release a wi-fi version of the 9.7″ Kindle DX. There certainly may be a market for a large reflective screen (not backlit) device.

Well, if you are interested in one, there is this:

ICARUS eXceL 9.7″ E-ink Ebook Reader

It’s really intended for the European market (I believe you’d need a plug adapter), but you can get it through in the USA (although not directly from Amazon).

It has some nice features. It is the Pearl E Ink screen, it does have wi-fi, and I’ve seen some indications that it handles PDFs quite well. It has a touch screen, and relatively high resolution (1200 x 825). It uses wi-fi, and allows for web-browsing. You can also make handwritten notes, using a stylus.

It can natively read these formats:



I don’t know if you could use the Cloud reader on it to read your Kindle books when using the web browser.

You can’t count on Amazon’s level of support (especially since you are out of the market country), but I think some people might really like it. It’s not inexpensive at $349.95 currently through Amazon, though, but it’s a lot more value than the Kindle DX was when it was comparably priced.

The Guardian: “Ian McEwan: when faith in fiction falters – and how it is restored”

In this

The Guardian piece

Ian McEwan writes nicely about that thing that can happen to some people…when reading all fiction seems silly.

I don’t think that will ever happen to me…as a geek, I can’t imagine imagination 😉 ever seeming insignificant.

It does require a certain mindset to enjoy fiction, though. There are people who are perfectly good readers, and just don’t like fiction.

I’ve seen a couple of people recently suggest, though, that it is as you get older and realize that you don’t have an unlimited chronological distance to the horizon, that you feel like you should read more non-fiction.

That seems odd to me.

I think that with less time left, it becomes decreasingly important to understand things like quantum physics and the origins of the Boer War (just because, at that point, you have a pretty good idea how likely those are to impact your life), than it is to understand people…and understanding people is, to me, what fiction can strongly contribute to your life by helping you see things from another’s perspective (and by making you realize what your own perspective even is).

The Verge: “Best Buy to make internet price matching permanent to prevent ‘showrooming'”


The Verge article

says that Best Buy is going to follow what I think is generally a bad strategy for brick-and-mortar stores (and I’ve managed a couple of different types).

Your expenses are different in a brick-and-mortar than they are for an internet retailer.

You have to pay rent, you have to deal with “shrinkage” (shoplifting, damage, employee theft) in a very different way, you can’t effectively be open twenty-four hours a day, and you have to adjust to changes in the environment (a movie theatre opening or closing near you, schools being consolidated).

You can not stay in business by matching internet retailers on price.

You have to beat them on service and experience. People have to be willing to give your store more money than they would pay online, because they like you.

When a retailer announces this policy (and others have), it suggests to me that they either fundamentally misunderstand the market, or it is a short term strategy…perhaps to drive up the value before a buyout.

Recent Kindle software updates

Thanks to my reader Marvin who let me know about a recent update to the “starter Kindle”, the one I call the Mindle.

It’s version 4.1.1, and it should just download automatically, or you can get it here:

Mindle update

This one appears to just be performance enhancements and bug fixes…no new features.

On the other hand, the

Kindle for iOS Update version 3.6

for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad does add new features.

You can now have multicolor highlights, you get the same “end matter” we get on the Kindle (so you can tweet or update Facebook that you finished the book), and you can adjust the brightness from within the app. I’m seeing some particularly good responses to that last one. Until we get reflective screen SmartPhones (and I think that something that can switch back and forth between back-illuminated with good color and animation and reflective screen for good reading in bright light, like sunshine, will happen), the ability to control the brightness is important. If you are in bright light, turn the light up on your backlit device all the way. That might seem counterintuitive (why do I need more light when it is brighter?), but your device is competing with the sun…it’s not going to win, but more light does make the score a little more even. 😉

Taking the dog for a walk…er, swim

My Significant Other thought I should share this one. 🙂

When I use my iSpy Cameras app on my Kindle Fire, one of the ones we find most interesting (these are webcams around the world) is a lap pool at a “dog resort” where they walk the dogs in the water. It appears to be modified in some way to have a pool-length ramp for the dogs, and the person can walk alongside.

There’s just something…joyful about it. 🙂

If you don’t have that app, here’s a link for those of you reading this on something with a browser:

Dulles Pool Pet Cam Cybercam


What do you think? Are you anxiously awaiting the Fire in your country? Is Best Buy offering to price match the internet a sign of weakness or strength? Have you used the Icarus eXcel and want to share your opinion? 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.

Personal Reading Consultants

February 16, 2013

Personal Reading Consultants

It happened again. 🙂

I thought I had come up with something new, and it turns out it already exists…although, in this case, in quite a different form (that’s not unusual).

I was thinking the other day about just how many books (and other reading material) are available to people.

Right now, just in the USA Kindle store, there are 1,882,850 results under e-books.

How do you choose?

Well, although I consider myself an eclectic reader, not all of these books are going to appeal equally to me.

Step one, I could eliminate any book that blocks text-to-speech access…I just don’t buy those. That’s not going to be all that many, though…I’d be surprised if it’s 20,000 altogether.

That would still leave me with more than 1,850,000.

Step two, we could take out books I already own (although I might re-read some sometimes, it’s not common for me). Figuring both paperbooks and e-books, again, that’s probably not more than 20,000. I may have read more than that over my life, but that’s not the same as owning them.

Still not much of a reduction.

There are topics which might not appeal to me, like certain hobbies interesting. I can’t say I wouldn’t find a book on…1930s hockey players or some kind of actuarial formulae interesting, but they wouldn’t be high on my list.

Oh, we could reasonably eliminate books in languages I don’t read! That would help.

As a vegetarian, I’m also not going to be interested in books on preparing meat dishes…although I do see that on TV a lot as we watch cooking competition shows.

Once we got all of those out of the way, there are still going to be much more than a million books to consider.

Let’s say I spend on average ten seconds evaluating the appeal of a book. Hmm…10,000,000 seconds comes out to something like 115 days (non-stop, no sleep), I think. Of course, during that period, more books are being published (we can figure something like a 1,000 a day to the USA Kindle store).

So far, this is all just very broad strokes…it’s eliminating books I wouldn’t want to read, but it isn’t finding books I would find exceptionally good.

That got me thinking about the publishers’ representatives that would come to the brick-and-mortar bookstore I managed.

Somebody would come in, cull out the books that weren’t selling well, and suggest more for us to buy.

It would, of course, be up to me to finally say yay or nay, but the recommendations were quite valuable.

What if there were people who did that for individuals?

You would pay someone to make book recommendations to you on a regular basis.

I think there might be a real opportunity there.

It’s not just about saving a hundred dollars a month on books (after all, you can “return” any Kindle store book within seven days of purchase for a refund, so money isn’t really a risk).

It’s about saving time.

Time is a super valuable commodity.

I remember having a conversation with somebody years ago about how truck commercials had changed.

They had been largely about the utility of the truck, or the sexiness. You’d see the wheels spinning as it towed a dinosaur out of a ditch or something, or the back of the truck would be full of “beautiful people” in swimsuits going to the beach.

Then, it started to be that you would just see the truck parked on top of mountain.

It didn’t even have to move during the commercial.

The owner would, presumably, just be kicked back, doing nothing (maybe reading, but they wouldn’t show you that…”brains” and pickup trucks? Not a classic combination for advertisers).

The suggestion was that owning the truck would give you leisure time away from it all.

I always finish a book I start reading (even though some are a slog). I have people say to me, “Who has time to read bad books?”

Picture this.

You pay a consultant, say, $50 a month. That person Skypes or calls you once a month, and talks with you for maybe five minutes.

They recommend books to you.

You personally.

Based on what they know about you…maybe through surveys first (like a dating site for books), then through getting to know you.

You love almost every book they recommend to you.

Would that be worth it?

If you had a lot of money and your time was really valuable, it certainly might be. Maybe it would be business books for a CEO…or just novels for a busy person.

I do think this could work.

There could also be cut-rate versions, where you met in a group (a Google hangout, perhaps).

That person could also (with permission of clients) announce (and make available for purchase) books that they have recommended. Would people want to read the same books that, say, Beyoncé was reading, or Nate Silver, or Joss Whedon? Yes, I think they might.

I don’t think this would likely be a business that would make you rich, but I think people could make a living at it.

If they were good, or course.

If they weren’t good, the relationship would end in a hot second…or at least, they wouldn’t pay again next month.

That’s one of the things that would make this much better than reviews in magazines. It’s not just that the recommendation is specifically for you…it’s that, if you don’t like the recommendation, it has a direct impact on the person making the recommendation. The money flow depends on being right.

Let’s take a quick look at the economics.

I’m going to say you can do four client contacts an hour, and you do that six and a half hours a day (I’m giving you a lunch and breaks), and you do that four days a week (you need one day just for research).

Twenty-six clients a day, let’s go with 17 days in a month, so that’s 442 clients (with once a month calls).

442*50=$22,100 a month.

Hey, that’s a pretty nice living!

Of course, finding 442 people who would pay you $50 a month would be a huge challenge.

Still, if you find…100 people who pay you $10 a month, that’s $12,000 a year. That could make a decent side salary.

That doesn’t count having a website and making peripheral sales that way.

Do I think I’d be good at this?

Yes, I’d probably be pretty good. Having been a bookstore manager would help…and that’s one group of people that I could see making this work.

I mentioned that when I looked up the term I was going to use (“Personal Reading Consultant”), I found something that was already in use.

It’s used by libraries for librarians that recommend books:

Library Developments article

It’s in place in several libraries. You give them a list of books (or perhaps movies and TV shows, as the article explains) and a librarian recommends books for you.

That’s not really a proof of concept for my idea, since you don’t pay for the service (directly) or buy the books.

Of course, with mine, the books recommended could be free sometimes, although I think the Personal Reading Consultant could work some things where they got referral fees. My Significant Other pointed out that it might also get you press releases and such from publishers, if you were a known, successful…hm, I need a new term.

“Personal Reading Advisor”? Already being used (although it isn’t actually personal, the way I mean it.

“Royal Book Taster”? 😉 That one’s not being used, but doesn’t really fit.

I’ll think about that more, but I hope this idea helps some of you out there. If it starts you on a new path, I’d love to hear about it. If you have reasons why this wouldn’t work, feel free to say so. I do think it would be successful for a small minority of people who tried it…like being a tailor, or…a personal chef or something. A lot more people would think they could do it than actually could, and there would certainly be luck involved. Do you think social media can fill this need for most people…at no expense? 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.

6 free “listens” from Audible for Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2013

6 free “listens” from Audible for Valentine’s Day

Thanks to “Emily Bronte” in the Amazon Kindle community for the heads up on this!

Through February 21st, you can get up to six Audible “listens” for free:

Definitely make sure it is free for you before you do that final click.

I think they are calling them “listens” because one is only three minutes long…but others are longer, and there is an unabridged Pride and Prejudice that is more than ten hours long!

The listens are:

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love
by Amir Levine, Rachel S. F. Heller
Narrated by Walter Dixon
Length:7 hrs and 9 mins

Undead Sublet: A Free Story from ‘The Undead in My Bed’
by Molly Harper
Narrated by Sophie Eastlake
Length:4 hrs and 29 mins

Romeo and Juliet (Dramatized)
by William Shakespeare
Narrated by Calista Flockhart , Matthew Wolf , Julie White , Alan Mandell , Richard Chamberlain , Nicholas Hormann , Josh Stamberg
Length:2 hrs and 53 mins

Love in the Afternoon
by Alison Packard
Narrated by Gia St. Claire
Length:10 hrs

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Narrated by Flo Gibson
Length:11 hrs and 32 mins

Eureka: A Free Story from ‘The Last Girlfriend on Earth’
by Simon Rich
Narrated by Simon Rich
Length:3 mins


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

Round up #147: Amazon has a better reputation than Apple, James Bond deal

February 14, 2013

Round up #147: Amazon has a better reputation than Apple, James Bond deal

Voucher…James Bond Voucher

There’s a free voucher available at


which will let you buy up to fourteen (that’s all of them) of the original Ian Fleming James Bond books for $1.99 each.

You have to get the voucher in the next five days (I think it will be available through the 18th), and then redeem it by the end of the 24th.

For more information see the

James Bond deal details

As usual, I believe you could buy them as gifts and delay delivery…so you could be shopping right now for a birthday or the holidays.

If you haven’t read them yet, I’d start with the first one,

Casino Royale

Harris: Amazon more trusted, has better products than Apple


Harris Interactive report (pdf)

ranks sixty “most visible” companies on reputation in six categories.

Amazon was top five in five out of the six (only missing on Social Responsibility, where #1 went to Whole Foods). Overall, Amazon (barely) beat out Apple, which was #1 last year.

It’s interesting to me that Amazon beats Apple on Products and Services, which is made up of

  • High Quality
  • Innovative
  • Value for Money
  • Stands Behind

Congratulations, Amazon!

Barnes & Noble does not appear in the study.

Advice to people opening a new bookstore

In this

Concentrate Media article

current bookstore runners in Ann Arbor, Michigan (former home of Borders’ flagship store) give advice to some people opening a new bookstore there.

It’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows.

If you read Richard Retyi’s article (which I recommend) you’ll get a very interesting perspective from people who are making brick and mortar bookstores work.

I think you’ll find some of the advice odd, and maybe not in line with what you think selling books should be like (for example, some of the advice it also sell other things besides books).

As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager myself, I’ll throw in my opinion. 🙂

It’s not too complicated. You aren’t going to beat e-books and the internet on selection or on price.

That leaves service and experience.

It’s pretty simple: people have to like you enough that they are willing to spend more money than they could somewhere else just to support your efforts.

Well, that sounds easy, but of course, achieving that is not a formula.

You need to give service. You need to have people get to know the customers. You have to attract other customers with similar interests. You can’t leave unpacked boxes around. You have to help people find books. You have to make it all very pleasant (cool works, too).

That’s it…I can’t see anything else that will work.

Pay to browse in a bookstore?

The story above explains why I think the idea presented in this

Washington Post article

does seem like an odd one, despite what UK HarperCollins CEO Victoria Barnsley says.

Barnsley suggests that bookstores could charge shoppers when they browse in them.

Now, there are some variants of that that might work. You could have a membership, sort of like Costco. That would basically charge people to browse.

You could, and I think this is a better strategy, raise the prices of the books.

I just can’t see people ponying up, say, $5, to wander around a bookstore.

They are trying to deal with what is called “showrooming”, where someone browses in a brick-and-mortar, but buys online.

That’s often unintentional, by the way.

Let’s say you are browsing in a store, and see a book you think looks interesting.

Two weeks later, you are at home and realize there is a birthday coming up and that book would be perfect.

Will you go back to the bookstore to buy it?

Probably not…you can get it cheaper online, and the trip to the store is a big effort.

You hadn’t planned not to buy the book in the store, but that’s how it worked out.

No, just as in the preceding story, you have to have people want to support your brick-and-mortar to the point where they will pay more and do things that are less convenient.

HuffPo: “Why eBook Retailers Are Embracing Self-Published Authors”

In this

Huffington Post article

Mark Coker, founder of independent publishing site Smashwords, give several reasons why e-book publishers are choosing to go with indie authors.

There are some good points in this article, including that “readers are the new curators”.

One of them,  surprisingly  to me, is simply wrong, in my opinion. Coker says:

“With ebooks, the books are immortal. They never go out of print. They’re always available to be discovered and enjoyed by new audiences.”

I know of a number of e-books (legitimately published) which have become unavailable. One thing that can happen is that the publisher (which may be just the author), simply decides to withdraw the book. I’m giving serious thought to that with some of my older non-fiction books, which are largely outdated. I love the idea that they could be “immortal”, but if people get them and are dissatisfied by the now obsolete information, it makes it less likely they’ll get my other books.

Generally, though, the article is good and I recommend it.

NYT: “Read Any Good Web Sites Lately? Book Lovers Talk Online”


New York Times article (via Publishers Weekly)

talks about the success of

and posits that readers recommending books to the readers may be the new discovery engine.

I found it interesting that GoodReads was so much more prominent than Shelfari…which is owned by Amazon.

I’ll go back to one of my main points recently: Amazon should become more social, and this article does a good job of suggesting why that is an appropriate strategy.

What do you think? Will Apple regain the “reputation crown”? Have you ever  knowingly  spent more in a store than you could have spent somewhere else, because you liked the people and the place? Would you pay to browse in a bookstore? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

Happy my birthday, 2013!

February 13, 2013

Happy my birthday, 2013!

February 12th is my birthday, along with

  • Charles Darwin
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Cotton Mather
  • George Meredith
  • R.F. Delderfield
  • Judy Blume
  • Darren Aronofsky

among many others (I’ve tried to stick mostly with writers in this listing).

I decided I wanted to celebrate by giving you something. :)

After all, you readers (and especially the subscribers…hello, subscribers!) give me so much.

Part of KDP Select (the program through which uses of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing make books available for eligible Prime members to borrow through the KOLL…Kindle Owners’ Lending Library) is the ability to make books free for five days (they need not be consecutive) in a ninety-day period.

Please check that a title is free for you before buying it.

I have asked Amazon to make them free on February 13 (that’s the day after my birthday), but I can’t say exactly when it will happen. I think they will also only be free to customers in the USA.

Some might be fun to give as a little Valentine’s Day present…you can buy it today as a gift, and schedule delivery for the 14th.

So, you can click on the titles before, but please make sure it is free when you click the 1-click buy button.

The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations

When this one was first published in December of last year, it was the number one bestselling book of quotations at Amazon…including paper! That didn’t last long, but it was fun while it did. 🙂

Love Your Kindle Fire: The ILMK Guide to Amazon’s Entertablet

This one has been a bestseller. It was written before the Kindle Fire HDs, so it doesn’t match up exactly with those. If you do have the first generation Fire, though, I think you’ll find it useful.

The Kindle Kollection: Three Early Books about the Kindle

This one combines three of the below into one volume:

* ILMK! (I Love My Kindle): Being an Appreciation of Amazon’s E-Book Reader, with Tips, Explanations, and Humor
* Free Books for Your Kindle
* Frequently Asked Kindle Questions

You may or may not prefer it as one volume. You can do it either way…or both.:)

ILMK! (I Love My Kindle!): Being an Appreciation of Amazon’s E-Book Reader, with Tips, Explanations, and Humor (Revised Edition)

This has some fun stuff…and other things that are out of date. If you want The Happy Little Bookworm, this one has it. :)

Free Books for Your Kindle (revised edition)

This one has some value for locating sites, although it isn’t up to date…it doesn’t discuss the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL), for example.

Bufo’s Frequently Asked Kindle Questions

Again, somewhat outdated…

The Collected I Love My Kindle Blog Volume 1

This is the first 101 posts in this blog. :) I did 101 posts so I wouldn’t cut off Doctor Watson’s Blog: A Kindle Abandoned (which is a four-part story).

Remember, double-check that they are  free to make sure before buying.

Happy birthday! ;)

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

Eddiecoms #5: “its really remarkable in support of me”

February 12, 2013

Eddiecoms #5: “its really remarkable in support of me”

This is one in a series of posts about what I call “Eddiecoms”. You can see more detail about what these are in earlier posts on the topic, but it boils down to this. These are ads intended to promote something, disguised (often not very well) as comments on something I’ve posted. I test a comment in a couple of ways before deciding it is an Eddiecom, including doing a Google search for the same wording. When I do use Google, I’ll sometimes find hundreds of instances of the same comment on different blogs, ones which are often unrelated in topic.

“It’s awesome in favor of me to have a web site, which is good in support of my know-how. thanks admin”

That one had 139,000 Google results (of course, some will be false positives).

“artikelnya sangat informatif sekali..terimaksih banyak”

Interestingly, thanks to Google translate, I know this is Indonesian…and that it apparently has a  misspelling! The corrected version translates to “very informative article .. thanks so much”. Yes, it also failed the Google test. That same day, I got five comments in Indonesian…on five different posts. A couple of them duplicated each other.

“An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who has been conducting a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me breakfast simply because I found it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to discuss this subject here on your web page.”

356,000 Google results on that one…

“It’s not torture for most of these conserva-queens. The closeted lifestyle is a fetish. Anonymous hookups, the fear of getting caught, public sex with complete strangers — it all adds to the thrill.”

I only found that one on a couple of other blogs (word for word). Another interesting thing, though, is that the poster’s name included the word “marketing”, so they aren’t hiding their intentions very well. 🙂

“We absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to be precisely what I’m looking for.Would you offer guest writers to write content available for you?I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write about here. Again, awesome website!”

“Good day! I just noticed your web site: Understanding Whispersync � I Love My Kindle when I was searching It looks as though someone enjoyed your website so much they decided to bookmark it. I’ll certainly be coming back here more often.”

This one took a little more effort, since it includes the actual name of the post…but again, 126,000 Google results.

“I really like what you guys are up too. This type of clever work and reporting!
Keep up the terrific works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to our blogroll.”

Over five million results on this one!

“What’s up colleagues, how is everything, and what you wish for to say concerning this paragraph, in my view its really remarkable in support of me.”

This one had actually had some word variation in other postings, although it was clearly the same (they all started with the six words). Again, that’s getting cleverer.

“A person essentially assist to make significantly articles I’d state. This is the very first time I frequented your web page and up to now? I surprised with the research you made to create this particular post amazing. Excellent task!”

“Excellent blog here! Also your site loads up fast! What host are you using?
Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my
web site loaded up as fast as yours lol”

This one almost reads as though it is real, although I had over 7 million Google results, and it was posted on an older post (which is one of the red flags).

“I think that everything wrote was very reasonable.
But, think about this, suppose you added a little content?
I mean, I don’t want to tell you how to run your blog, however what if you added a post title that grabbed people’s
attention? I mean Flash! Early preview software 3.
1�page numbers! � I Love My Kindle is a little vanilla. You might glance at Yahoo’s home page and watch how they write post titles to get people interested. You might add a video or a related pic or two to grab readers excited about what you’ve written.
In my opinion, it might bring your posts a little livelier”

Again, this one incorporates the title of the post…a new trend, perhaps?

“Hi i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anyplace, when i read this piece
of writing i thought i could also create comment
due to this brilliant article.”

Adding a name gives it a nice touch of credibility…even if that credibility is then demolished with a simple Google search. 😉

“I am regular visitor, how are you everybody? This piece of writing posted at this website is truly nice.”

Seems simple, but fails more than one test.

“When the laptop division went to Lenovo, as in the T61, the design and appearance
declined. If you look around your community, our country, and the world,
there is little evidence of loving actions. Official Picture of President Reagan
by the Executive Office of the Presidency used under Public Domain.
As a rule of thumb, if an app has been successful in i – OS or
Android format, it is likely to also be found on Windows Marketplace.
Cons. Those pain killers and medications hide the problem without dealing with the true cause.
They will check into a purpose built sports complex 8 miles from the
venue of their first match in Rustenburg. I’m the kind who smokes and judges people’
Vanda pretends to demonstrate a yoga pose with a cigarette in her hand’ ‘Whoa, THAT guy’s out of shape”. I was excited to see what they would come up with, since I already have two children. We have witnessed this first hand in this business.”

This one is truly bizarre. I think it might have just picked up some random English phrases from websites to string this together.

“I feel this is one of the most significant information for me.
And i am satisfied reading your article. However want to observation on few common issues, The site style is great, the articles is truly great : D.
Excellent task, cheers”

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



Round up #146: Chinese challenges, DecalGirl discount

February 10, 2013

Round up #146: Chinese challenges, DecalGirl discount

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

50% off DecalGirl skins

This is an AmazonLocal deal (but you can get it nationally), which means you do need to set up an account, but outside of that, it’s just a voucher this time (it doesn’t cost you anything):


What you get is a voucher (just like a coupon, in this case) for 50% off DecalGirl skins for Kindles (including Kindle Fires), for a savings of up to $50.

There’s a good opportunity here for a Valentine’s Day gift, since you can do this with skins that are eligible for Prime shipping.

What’s a skin?

It’s a fancy sticker you put on your device, which usually has a design (sometimes, quite an artistic one).

It’s a good way to personalize your device, and a great way to indulge your Significant Other’s love of a Kindle…and of something else.

Some of you might remember that just about a year ago, I got my Significant Other a Fire…with a daisy design skin from DecalGirl

Round up #69: Stock, Amaphibians, Japan

For more on what skins are, see
Covers, skins, and sleeves

To see the selection in the Kindle store of DecalGirl skins, see

DecalGirl skins in the Kindle store

Note: you only have a couple of days to get the voucher, and then it is good until February 18th.

As is often the case, you can not redeem the coupon using 1-click ordering, since you won’t have any opportunity to enter your voucher code. Add the skin to your cart first.

“I’ve written a book about gator wrasslin’, eh?”

Oh, sweet irony! 😉

This is a great example of unintended consequences.

Back in 1985, Canada passed the

Investment Canada Act

which on its surface, looks like it

“…encourages investment, economic growth and employment opportunities in Canada”

but also includes this

“…the review of investments in Canada by non-Canadians that could be injurious to national security.”

If we go down South to the USA in the mid-1980s, “Buy American” campaigns were a big thing, and I assume that there was part of that same idea of economic nationalism here.

Certainly, there are some folks who don’t like it when multinationals buy traditional homegrown brands, and may even extend that to the idea of a threat to “national security”.

This could be seen to be particularly true with publishing…we all know the efforts that countries will make during conflicts to control popular opinion, and it’s understandable that you might not want your  national  media under the control of a potential enemy.

However, the practical impact of this was to discourage American publishers (which may, in turn, be owned by other countries) from significant investment in Canada…despite the fact that the last US invasion of Canada was a hundred years ago, and was not exactly a big threat (way to go, General Hull). 😉

So, has the Investment Canada Act led to a golden age for Canadian publishers, with major authors and big books flocking to their doors?

Um…not exactly.

As this

Globe and Mail article

points out, there have been some major closures (of course, they might have happened without the Act, but we can say it didn’t prevent them.

What about big books?

Let’s think of the most Canadian book we can possibly think of. Let’s see…it’ll be written by Bryan Adams…or William Shatner…or, um, The Crazy Canucks downhill ski team. Nah, let’s go even farther…how about a Prime Minister? How about the sitting Prime Minister, Stephen Harper?

Okay, now what really, really Canadian thing can the sitting Prime Minister write about?

The Dionne Quintuplets? Timbits? The Mounties?

How about hockey?

Yeah, that’s it! The sitting Prime Minister writing a book on the history of hockey! That’s got to go to a Canadian publisher, right?


It’s being published (this is real) by Simon & Schuster.

An American company founded in 1924, and still American.

Why did that happen?

Simon & Schuster can sell into Canada, but can’t print books in Canada (as I understand it). They could give the PM’s agent the best deal for selling books in both the USA and Canada. Michael Levine says that PM Harper didn’t have a hand in the decision.

The royalties will benefit Canadians (specifically, the Military Families Fund of the Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services), but that does mean all of S&S’s money from it will go back into the Canadian economy.

I’m guessing that this isn’t the result that was envisioned when the Act was passed more than twenty-five years ago…

My rotating post in The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing

Even though that blog is geared towards authors, I’m figuring some of you like being reminded when I have a post there. 🙂 I know some of you are also authors.

This is the one for this month (mine run on the second Saturday):

Paging Dr. Page: your Amazon Author Central page

It talks about all the public facing parts of the Amazon Author Central page…including a forum and videos. I know I could be doing more with mine at Just keeping up with the blogging is a challenge, though, albeit a fun one! I’m considering writing something that would just cover video for the Kindle Fire HD. I think it would take me too long to do a comprehensive book (things have been busy), but I think people might find that interesting. I’d include getting Flash on the device, getting free movies besides at Amazon, converting DVDs, making your own videos, a webcams around the world app, using the HDMI cable…I think there’s enough there to justify ninety-nine cents (or borrows, at any rate). Not quite decided yet, though.

Where Amazon is the little guy

This is a fascinating

The Seattle Times article

about how Amazon is facing such an uphill climb in selling the Kindle and Kindle content in China.

They are going up against a very established internet market there…imagine some Chinese company coming to American and trying to compete with Amazon here?

There are two other main problems, as I see it:

  • Amazon can’t yet get approval to sell the Kindle itself in China
  • It’s hard to sell e-books in China because there so many free unauthorized copies around

As Shaun Rein (Managing Director of the Chinese Market Research Group) is quoted as saying in the article (which I recommend):

“People will pay for good quality hardware, but they won’t pay for content…”

What do you think? Is it time for Canada to make changes to the Investment Canada Act (as they have suggested they might)? Are you surprised an American (who, by the way, doesn’t eat sweets) knew what a Timbit was? 😉 Will the Chinese government approve the Kindle for sale there in the near future? Does piracy in China really effect the market there…and if so, does it affect it here? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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