Archive for May, 2013

Jack Vance reported dead

May 31, 2013

Jack Vance reported dead

While I think of Jack Vance primarily as a science fiction author (with multiple Hugo awards), Vance was also a mystery writer, winning an Edgar and publishing three books as Ellery Queen.

While not Vance’s best-known work (that would arguably be The Last Castle, a novella which won both a Hugo and a Nebula, I think The Languages of Pao is a great example of the kind of “what if” science fiction which isn’t dependent on gadgetry. In it, one society tries to affect another by introducing languages. It’s only fair to say that my kid is a linguist, but this book attracted me well before that.

Amazon’s Jack Vance page

lists 59 Kindle editions, and that spans a wide variety of stories. You can find popular series (including The Dying Earth), and stand-alones.

You don’t have to be a geek like me to enjoy Jack Vance. If you have any recommendations for my readers, feel free to comment on this post.

Thank you, Jack Vance, for all you have given us.

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


BEA: why conventions matter

May 30, 2013

BEA: why conventions matter

BookExpo America is happening right now (I have live video on it on my Fire running* right now as I speak). It continues through Saturday.

I always like to question everything…not in a challenging way, I hope, but in a thoughtful way. It’s a game of “why” and “what if” and it has sometimes brought me really important insights that have improved things in the future.

There’s an obvious question here: why gather people, in person, from across the publishing industry, in one place?

Well, as somebody who has attended science fiction conventions (including big ones), I can see the real advantage, and I’m not sure everyone can.

You might think you could do it all remotely, but there is a key factor here…comfort.

Oh, it’s often not comfortable to travel to a convention or to actually be there. 🙂 You might be up all night long, or standing in long lines, eating food you might not choose at home, encountering technical difficulties during lectures, and so on.

What matters is that the speakers are comfortable…they often feel like they are with a “home town crowd”. That may make them relax the walls a bit, and say things they might not say otherwise.

That can produce some really newsworthy statements, as well as giving us insight into the people who impact what and how we read. We’ve already seen that this year, with John Sargent of Macmillan:

C-SPAN video

While Sargent suggests that being public is not part of the nature of this CEO, I’ve quoted John Sargent before. This, though, is an interesting talk. I haven’t had time to watch the whole hour yet, but I will.

If you take a look at it, though,  you’ll see that it’s under a hundred people in a relaxed setting. I would argue that John Sargent would feel more like this was a case of addressing like-minded individuals, rather than something like a press conference.

One great example of what this can produce is what this

Publishers Weekly article

says Sargent said about the DoJ (Department of Justice) case at about 18 minutes and 45 seconds into the recording (I’ve heard it now):

“The senior guys, Eric Holder, are just incompetent,” he added, to resounding applause.”

Sure, that got applause in the room…but that may be the sound bite that travels outside the BEA.

Somehow, I can’t see Macmillan’s PR (Public Relations) management okaying that statement ahead of time. 😉

I mean, what can go wrong with ridiculing a sitting Attorney General? 😉

Certainly, John Sargent is entitled to that opinion, and to make it publicly. However, I often address groups of people as part of my job. You have to be aware of what the impact will be of what you say. It’s very different from sitting with one person in a private booth at a restaurant.

To be clear, the person introducing the talk points out that C-SPAN is there, and that this could be recorded (and by implication, broadcast). The introduction also lauds John Sargent for supporting the Agency Model…and Macmillan has already settled (without admitting wrong doing) with the DoJ on that one.

I just don’t think there are very many venues where the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of a corporation would make a statement like that with TV cameras running.

That’s part of the importance of conventions. It’s not just what we call “hallway consults” in the medical world (where a doctor is stopped by a patient in the hallway and asked a question). It’s that they are presented as “safe havens”…speakers feel like the audience is already on their side and understands them. In this media-rich world, though, entities that rely on the public need to be aware that you are rarely speaking just to the group in front of you.

Will Sargent have gained support from some people with the statement? Absolutely…this isn’t the only negative statement about Holder in the public recently. Will some people who agree with Sargent still regret that the statement was made? Yes, I think that’s true as well.

I may add to this after I’ve been able to see the whole talk…I’m listening to it as I write, and I strongly recommend it to you if you are interested in what happens (and has happened) in the publishing industry.

I can’t wait to see what else comes out of the BEA this year!

Update: I’m still working through the recording, but I thought some of you might want to comment on this which I transcribed:

“…we’ve been frustrated, most independent booksellers, we’ve been so frustrated with the environment at the DoJ [Department of Justice]. You know, having gone there and spoken with them a few times and just understanding after all the letters that so many authors and booksellers and people within the industry sent to the DoJ, but yet their attitudes…it didn’t matter, it didn’t matter. That somehow, consumer was king, and it had nothing to do with the fair and equal marketplace. That’s what really was frustrating for us.”

Becky Anderson, President of the American Booksellers Association, at about 15 minutes and 45 seconds into the recording

* I should point out that I have installed Flash on my Fire, and am watching it on the Maxthon browser. I’ll test it in Silk right now…hm, didn’t work there, and that’s one reason I prefer Maxthon. 😉

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

Round up #174: BAM vs. Kobo, Kindle accessories discount, Fire update

May 30, 2013

Round up #174: BAM vs. Kobo, Kindle accessories discount, Fire update

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

Kindle Fire 8.9″ update 8.4.1

It’s been some time since one of my Kindle’s just updated itself over wireless…I usually go to

Kindle Software Updates

and do it manually. You can do that, if you want, or you can just wait. 🙂

This one brings two main features:

  • The ability to switch to Canadian English and Canadian French (Swipe down – More – Language & Keyboard – Language)
  • The option to display the amount of battery charge life remaining (as a percentage) in the status bar, up next to the battery icon (Swipe down – More – Device – Show Battery Percentage in Status Bar)

At least the second one will let you know when it’s a 100% charged…when you have it turned on, anyway. A lot of people would still like a light or a sound to let them know when it is fully charged even while it is in a case, but this is a nice plus. Be aware, though, that (somewhat ironically) displaying that battery status is likely to drain the battery more quickly.

The Kindle Fire HDs and the 2nd Generation Kindle Fire got updates with these features…the first generation Kindle Fire did not.

AmazonLocal deal for 40% off select Kindle accessories

You can go to

in the next six days or so (there is a countdown clock on the site) and get a free 40% off voucher for select Kindle accessories. If you aren’t a member of AmazonLocal, you would need to join, I believe…that’s free, too.

They are promoting this as a Fathers’ Day deal, but you can take advantage of this regardless. Don’t wait too long: they’ve indicated this is a limited quantity thing, meaning they’ll only give out so many.

Pew Research: “In a digital age, parents value printed books for their kids”

In this well-illustrated

Pew Research article by Kathryn Zickuhr

they’ve done some polling about how people feel about e-books versus p-books (paperbooks).

Yes, parents are more likely to read e-books than non-parents, but Zickuhr correctly points out that that isn’t necessarily cause and effect. It may be that parents also have other things in common (besides kids) that may make that behavior more likely…age, income, and so on.

They also point out that 81% of parents think it is very important that their children read print books. I’m going to guess here that the question was asked in a way that it made it clear that these were print books versus books period.

I do think that’s interesting. My Significant Other and I had a couple of…I’ll say discussions when our child was quite young. I didn’t see any point in a very young child learning to tell time with an analog clock…you know, with the hands on it. I think kids had to do that when there weren’t digital clocks, but it was often a daunting task at the age at which it was taught. I think our kid was likely to see only one analog clock…in a room with several digital clocks visible.

The other one was learning to tie shoes: again, our kid had shoes with velcro. I didn’t think tying shoes was a big thing on which to focus when a kid is relatively uncoordinated…it’s quite frustrating. 🙂

I suppose what’s contradictory about that is that my SO has always credited me with helping our kid be particularly academic (never having gotten anything but an A in school, I believe…and that does include Physical Education). 😉

One reason is that I would expose our kid to concepts quite early…if it’s understood, great, if not, it makes it easier later.

I think concepts and physical skills are different. I’ve seen some young kids with amazing physical skills…dancing, playing an instrument, but generally, I think kids have an easier time tying their shoes at, say, seven than at five.

My point, I guess, is that I’m not sure I see the value in reading paperbooks over reading e-books for a child. Certainly, it can be more appealing to the parent/legal guardian. You can see when the child is reading. It looks like what you did as a kid, and that’s probably rewarding (and for some, stokes the ego).

I’m willing to listen to arguments in favor of the need for a, say, eight-year old to read p-books…I can think of a few, but I’ll leave that up to you. 😉

The article has some other points (like for which activities people prefer e-books or p-books)…I recommend it.

Publishers Weekly: “Slow Start for Books-A-Million”


Publishers Weekly article

says that Books-A-Million’s sales were down 7.4% for the first quarter year over year.

That’s a huge drop for the second largest USA book chain!

Sure, Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy was a phenomenal seller last year, and that skews the numbers a bit…but news flash, brick-and-mortar bookstore managers (from somebody who used to be one)…it’s going to be a whole lot harder for books to dominate the print market like that in the future. Just as it is tough for a network TV show to have the kind of ratings they used to have with a gazillion cable and online options, the same thing is true of books from tradpubs (traditional publishers).

Actually, that’s not a bad analogy. You can think of the Big Six tradpubs as being like the old three TV networks. They controlled distribution (if you weren’t on one of those channels, very few people would see your show). Then, we got cable (and some other things, but cable is one of the big ones), and people had many more (and edgier) choices. The same thing is true with e-books and independent publishing…

Meanwhile, Kobo grown 98% in revenue

As a contrast to a brick-and-mortar, take a look at this

press release from Kobo

They rightfully trumpet their successes in hardware, content, and services.

Interestingly, the $169 Kobo Aura HD is now “up to” 27% of the Kobo devices sold at retail…and it’s what half of the new to Kobo people are buying. This goes against the idea that some people have that cheaper is always more attractive. You can get EBRs (E-Book Readers) for a lot less than that…but people are making the choice to pay more for it. Kudos to Kobo 🙂 for a good year!

What do you think? Do the last two stories suggest that the end of chain bookstores is nigh? Why should kids read p-books over e-books (if you think they should)? Or is it really that kids should read both? 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.

A closer look at the KOLL #1

May 29, 2013

A closer look at the KOLL #1

Amazon introduced the

Kindle Owners Lending Library

on November 2nd, 2011.

This no additional cost benefit for eligible Prime members who own a hardware Kindle has grown incredibly quickly…the first time I got a count on the titles, it was 5,156. Now, not even two years later, the count is 351,178. That’s an average of over 600 books added…per day!

Now, it’s worth noting that books go in and come out of the KOLL. When independent publishers using Kindle Direct Publishing put their books into the library (using a program called KDP Select), they have to have the books there exclusively during that period. That doesn’t mean you can’t also buy them from Amazon, but the publisher (and that’s often just the author) can’t sell them anywhere else. So, publishers might bounce books into and out of the KOLL, and I do think that happens.

I’ve been using it every month, and I do think if that was the only reason I had Prime, I would have saved more than the annual cost of Prime. However, I can’t say I would have bought all of the books I’ve read through it…in fact, I can confidently say I wouldn’t have done so.

That got me thinking: what sorts of books are in the KOLL?

I can’t tell you which books are most borrowed: what I can see is what are the most popular books that are in the KOLL. It’s possible that a book is very popular, and in the KOLL, and not being borrowed much…no good way to tell.

First, let’s look at the categories in the KOLL:

Literature & Fiction 159,805
Romance 41,646
Religion & Spirituality 40,798
Professional & Technical 32,184
Children’s Books 29,023
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense 28,502
Self-Help 27,306
Science Fiction & Fantasy 26,226
Education & Reference 23,119
Health, Fitness & Dieting 21,986
Business & Investing 20,162
Christian Books & Bibles 17,352
Humor & Entertainment 16,614
Biographies & Memoirs 13,610
Arts & Photography 12,899
Parenting & Relationships 11,210
Politics & Social Sciences 10,430
Cookbooks, Food & Wine 9,917
History 9,054
Crafts, Hobbies & Home 8,725
Travel 7,349
Computers & Technology 6,765
Science & Math 6,415
Sports & Outdoors 6,246
Medical Books 5,094
Comics & Graphic Novels 3,136
Gay & Lesbian 2,683
Law 1,960
Teens 425

For comparison, here is the general population of Kindle books:

Literature & Fiction 730,977
Professional & Technical 292,985
Education & Reference 229,451
Religion & Spirituality 221,409
Romance 215,050
Politics & Social Sciences 158,117
Business & Investing 127,741
History 124,208
Christian Books & Bibles 111,679
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense 108,509
Science Fiction & Fantasy 104,180
Arts & Photography 102,076
Health, Fitness & Dieting 99,154
Children’s Books 97,457
Biographies & Memoirs 94,779
Self-Help 93,557
Science & Math 89,710
Humor & Entertainment 66,858
Medical Books 61,474
Computers & Technology 46,199
Crafts, Hobbies & Home 41,508
Parenting & Relationships 41,503
Sports & Outdoors 33,379
Travel 32,060
Law 31,226
Cookbooks, Food & Wine 27,855
Gay & Lesbian 22,302
Teens 17,677
Comics & Graphic Novels 17,328

When you look at those two, the available titles don’t look massively different. Even though they aren’t in the same order, 17 of the top twenty categories (out of 29) are the same.

The three that are in the top for the KOLL and not for the general population?

Parenting & Relationships
Cookbooks, Food & Wine
Crafts, Hobbies & Home

How about when we look at popularity?

Romance Romance Yes
Cookbook Cookbook Yes
Crafts, Hobbies & Home Crafts, Hobbies & Home Yes
Crafts, Hobbies & Home Crafts, Hobbies & Home Yes
Health, Fitness & Dieting Health, Fitness & Dieting Yes
Cookbook Cookbook Yes
Cookbook Cookbook Yes
Business & Investing Business & Investing Yes
Professional & Technical Comics & Graphic Novels No
Computers & Technology Professional & Technical No

Nine out of the top ten are the same, with the first eight in the exact same order!

Hm…this suggests that being popular in the KOLL might have a massive impact on being popular in the general population, although it’s possible that a popular book is a popular book in either case.

Let me try taking a look at books that are not in the KOLL.

That changes things!

We have to get to #9 in the general population before we find a book that isn’t also in the KOLL.

Here are the top ten ranked books not in the KOLL (with their ranks in the general population):

Rank Pre-order Free
9 No No
12 Yes No
20 No No
21 No No
24 Yes Yes
25 Yes Yes
26 No No
28 Yes No
29 Yes No
30 No Yes

In other words, two thirds of the top thirty books in the Kindle store are in the KOLL! We used to have people thinking that the most popular books aren’t part of the deal…and if you were looking at tradpubs (traditional publishers), that would likely be true.

The tradpubs don’t rule the Kindle store any more, though.

You can see from the two other columns above that half of the ones not in the KOLL are only available through pre-order. I’m sure they can’t be in the KOLL while that’s the case, so they might be in there after release.  Three of them are also free…you can have a free book in the KOLL, but I”m not sure if a search will find it as Prime eligible. Oh, I just checked: yes, a book will be found by the search I used as both free and in the KOLL.

I find this quite interesting. First, that a book in the KOLL appears to be much more popular as a part of the general population than one that isn’t. Why is that? Does being in the KOLL drive sales? Maybe…especially for less-well known authors. Maybe it’s that borrows in the KOLL drive the book up the bestseller list… a lot.

Second, my intuition was that people might tend to borrow non-fiction, including things like cookbooks, relatively more than fiction. I don’t think people tend to re-read non-fiction as much. That’s not obvious from the figures.

I may do this again later on…I always like to see what happens over time. 🙂

Anything stand out to you in this research? 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.

Round up #173: E Ink Mobius, NOOK to vanish in 2014?

May 27, 2013

Round up #173: E Ink Mobius, NOOK to vanish in 2014?

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

NYT: “One-Day Deals Making E-Books Brief Best Sellers”


New York Times article by Julie Bosman

talks about the impact of the Kindle Daily Deal and other “flash” sales of e-books on the bestseller list.

It has some surprisingly precise numbers, and I”m not sure how they would have obtained them. Amazon doesn’t release those numbers, and the publishers (which may just be the author) aren’t really supposed to do that if the sales are through Amazon, I believe. At least, that’s true for independents: maybe tradpubs (traditional publishers) can do it.

Regardless, I think you’ll find it interesting. Not all books are affected equally, of course, and as you might imagine, sometimes the prices are higher after a book has been a KDD than before.

Sure, why not? If demand has been demonstrated, and good reviews added, they may reasonably assume that people are willing to pay more for it.

E-book prices can fluctuate much more rapidly than p-book (paperbook) prices. That’s good if you catch them at the low point.

If you want to track particular books, you can do that for free by using


I’ve found that useful, because that is going to tell me about the books I want. However, I do check the KDD (Kindle Daily Deal) every day, and sometimes buy books from there and/or alert you to them.

If you want to be surprised by what’s on sale, there are services you can use. Some time back, I signed up for

That’s from Kindle blogger Stephen Windwalker (we have some correspondence, but have never met). It sends you an e-mail every day, with bargain books in categories you specify. It’s worth getting, although I haven’t actually bought anything through it yet. I think I need to play around with my preferences.

The NYT article also mentions

It seems to be a somewhat similar idea. I haven’t gotten an e-mail yet with books, so I’ll have to see how it goes.

NOOK one of ten brands to disappear in 2014?

24/7 Wall St makes an annual prediction about which ten (relatively) well-known brands will fail in the following year.

According to this

Yahoo! Finance article by Douglas A. McIntyre

they expect the NOOK brand to be one that goes bye-bye in 2014. While you might not exactly agree with their definitions (if Microsoft renamed the tablet the MS-NOOK, I think that might count for the brand having vanished), their reasoning on this one is not out of line.

If I had to bet, I would guess that the NOOK brand will outlast 2014…but not that the hardware under that name necessarily will. We’ll see, though…

Thanks to someone who alerted me to this story in a private e-mail.

E Ink Mobius: flexible E Ink screen

I expect we may see some big tech breakthroughs in EBRs (E-Book Readers) in 2014, and this may be one of them: E Ink Mobius.

Publishers Weekly article

It’s a super-thin, flexible screen from the folks who make the reflective (not backlit) technology screens used in the Kindle, the NOOK, and the Sony readers.

What, you forgot that Sony had readers? 😉

They were the first big name in the US market with them, but the EBR didn’t really take off here until Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007.

In recent years, they’ve kind of fallen out of the spotlight. We hear about the Kindle, the NOOK, the Kobo reader…even the iPad before the Sony readers.

However, this new flexible screen will be exclusively available on Sony EBRs for the first year (since, apparently, Sony helped develop it). We may see it in other devices, but I wouldn’t expect it in a Kindle until 2015 (and they might have an alternative by then).

The buzz on this has been around a big screen EBR intended for academic use, but I can see some other market sectors.

One would be for SmartWatches…the advantage of E Ink over a backlit device isn’t just the appearance, but that the battery charge lasts for so long. An E Ink device could do a lot of what you would want a SmartWatch to do (e-mail, text messages, news and sports highlights, contacting Chief Patton back at Police Headquarters…no, wait, that last one is just Dick Tracy). 😉 Wouldn’t it be great if the SmartWatch could flex around your wrist, not have a torquing problem…and stay charged for weeks? That would make it work well for camping, even if you didn’t use it for video.

The lightweight nature of it and the flat morphology presents other possibilities, including clothing. You could have a t-shirt that could display a whole book, rather than just one quotation. 🙂

Flexible screen eventually will lead to morphing screens, where it is small some times and large other times…I whimsically imagine something like a screen you can stretch like Silly Putty to make it big enough to stick on a wall, or small enough to hide in your palm when reading private messages. Something like that will happen, I’m sure, although this screen isn’t it.

Amazon’s net income versus revenue

I’m always amused when somebody on the Kindle forums talks about how Amazon is all about making a profit. Apparently, those people don’t know Amazon very well…since the e-tailer is not making a lot of profit.

This chart is a great illustration of it:

Business Insider chart by Ben Evans

It shows Amazon’s net income versus their revenue (sales) over time.

It’s interesting how the two start radically diverging in 2007 (although you can see the trend before that)…the year the first Kindle was released (although, since it was released towards the end of the year, it wasn’t the only impact on that).

If you aren’t seeing the chart easily, I can explain it to you.

Net income just looks pretty much like a line across the bottom. The revenue goes up at about the same angle you would expect a firetruck to use to get the ladder to the top of an eight-story building. 😉 Not quite, but it’s easy…Amazon is making more and more sales without increasing net income. They are spending a ton of money on things like video licensing, but the EBR and tablet business simply don’t seem to produce income in the same category as revenue. That’s why it’s easier to be an Amazon customer than an Amazon investor… 😉

Kudos to switch11!

I just want to take a moment to give kudos to switch11 of

Under that byline recently, the blog (also known as Kindle Review) has recently been doing a lot of thoughtful, informative, content-filled articles. There is some fascinating speculation there of an informed nature, and it’s really nice to see that. I recommend the site.

What do you think? Will the NOOK brand vanish? Will Amazon eventually start having to charge more to turn a profit, or can they keep people investing in future profits? Would you consider a Sony EBR, or would you wait for the technology to spread out more? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Thanks to Dave Sparks, one of my regular readers, for helping make this a better post.

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

Why do we read?

May 27, 2013

Why do we read?

Why do we read?

The answer for some of us seems simple: we can’t not read. It’s a part of our lives, a part of us, and we wouldn’t be who we are if we didn’t.

However, if you are a marketer, that’s not a good enough answer.

Sure, you can say that you read for entertainment, for relaxation, for knowledge…but we have other ways to get those.

I’m an omnivorous input consumer: TV, movies, radio, apps, books, magazines, conversation, food packages, watching animals. I want a lot happening, and I want to think about it and experience and share my insights about it with other people.

If you are looking at marketing a device or content, though, you want to know: why should we include books?

There is a cost to everything you include. It’s not necessarily a high cost, but a screen that is good at showing you Star Wars or playing Angry Birds just doesn’t have the same goals as a screen that is display Dostoevsky or Doc Savage.

They’ll need to understand why we choose reading over other forms of input if we want them to continue to include it as an option.

I think I know why, and some features being offered to us go directly against it.

I read because it is the most direct form of input I can get. The words create concepts, and my concept of them and the author’s are somewhat similar.

You can’t have a face-to-face conversation with someone and not have who they are influence how you perceive it. If your Significant Other says something to you and a stranger says the exact same thing, you process it differently. If a child said something and someone who was 100 said it, you would evaluate it as two different statements.

In a book, the words are the words.

I think that’s the key thing. I don’t even like fancy fonts. I think italics and bolds, even though I use them sometimes in this blog, are added special effects.

I’m a big movie fan, but you are being given multiple channels of information: the sound, the actors’ bone structure, the lighting…and somewhere in there are the words.

We don’t have that with a typical novel.

I read what you say and I think what I think and feel what I feel.

You don’t feel it for me.

That ties into why I prefer text-to-speech to audiobooks (unless I’ve already read the book). I want to interpret what the words mean myself: I don’t want the actor to do it for me. I like that I hear the same voice in all my e-books in the car: I don’t want it to be that I am judging what the book means because I didn’t like the delivery of a line. If I”ve already read the book, I’ve already processed it once: then the additional inputs can be fun.

Reading isn’t easy: that may be why some people don’t like doing it. It’s also why you hit a quantum leap point when you are learning to read (whether it’s your first language or an additional one). At some point, you become able to read without thinking about the mechanics…you move into that zone of pure  ideas.

I also think that’s why many typos in an e-book bother some people so much. It gets them back to thinking about something other than the book (“How could they make a mistake like that?” “Oh, it looks like it thought a small “l” was a “1” every time.”).

When you are sight-reading, you actually shift your mind into an altered state. You can experience what something is like, even if that thing never really happened. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t visualize when I read, but that doesn’t lessen that part of the experience for me.

Sight-reading puts the book first, and the world second. As I’ve mentioned, I can read and watch TV and have a talk with someone at the same time. However, which of these three take precedence? I’ll be looking at the book 90% of the time. I may glance up at the TV, or look at the person from time to time, but the book is my focus…the others are background. I want that background very much, and that seems to be the case with about 15% of people who express a preference (you can see that in this earlier post). If you saw me, though,  you’d say I was reading with the TV on…not that I was watching TV with a book in my hands.

I read because I want to immerse myself in the ideas.

That should give marketers a rule of thumb: if it takes away from the words being in the foreground, it won’t enhance reading.

I don’t think video, audio, and live chat are what most serious readers want. I do want them, by the way…for when I’m not reading seriously. 😉 That might be after I’ve finished a book, and then I want to share that experience with someone else. It might be for non-fiction, where you are trying to understand a concept more than have a fluid experience.

I don’t think instant messaging and incoming calls are what serious readers want, either.

You might be thinking, “What about the lookup dictionary? Do you think that gets in the way?”). The lookup dictionary is a help for readers. Not understanding what a word means takes you out of that altered state. To continue, you may need to understand that word…it might be essential to your brain creating the right experience for you. Leaving your book to go get a dictionary, look up a word, and then come back is far more disruptive than holding your finger on it for a second (or moving your 5-way next to it).

The same thing can be said for Wikipedia lookup.

So, gadget builders: we want e-books. We don’t want books to become movies or games. We want to experience the words as the words…keep it simple. If something gets in the way of reading the words, like the font is too small or we don’t know what a term means, feel free to fix that. If we are in the experience and you take us out of it, we aren’t going to like it.

That, at least, is my feeling on it. What do you think? Why do you read? Why should a tablet maker go to the time, expense, and effort to make the device friendly for long form reading…in your opinion? 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.

Kindle DX available again!

May 26, 2013

Kindle DX available again!

Well, a lot of people will be happy to see this…and it’s a bit bizarre!


Kindle DX, Free 3G, 9.7″ E Ink Display, 3G Works Globally

is available again, new from Amazon…it’s even in the “family stripe” at the top of Kindle pages.

That latter point suggests that this isn’t just some kind of fluke…they’ve really resurrected the 9.7″ RSK (Reflective Screen Kindle…not backlit like a Kindle Fire).

That also means that Amazon again has an RSK with text-to-speech…not quite the solution I was expecting, but interesting.

The price?


I didn’t really see anything that suggested that they’d changed it. It appears to still be 3G only, not wi-fi.

It’s possible this reappearance will be short-lived, but my speculation is that we’ll see more coming in RSKs before too long.

My guess has been that we won’t see revolutionary technology in RSKs this year…no eye or gesture tracking, or full color, or flexible screens, that sort of thing. For me, this sort of reinforces that, but we’ll see what happens. I think Amazon has some surprising tech in store for us later this year…but that might be a phone, a TV box, or something else.

Regardless, for those of you who love your KDXs or always wanted one, you can get them again.

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

June 2013 Kindle book releases

May 26, 2013

June 2013 Kindle book releases

While I don’t generally pre-order Kindle store books myself, I know many of you do.

I understand the fun of just having the book show up, but I figure I’ll order when I want it…since I could have it within a minute, usually.

May is a big month for books…it’s the unofficial start of summer, and just as we start to see the movie blockbusters, some of the books show up for that Memorial Day weekend as well.

These aren’t necessarily the most popular of the pre-orders…I’m just going to list ones that catch my eye. Since we might not agree on that, here’s a link to the 3,093 (at time of writing) June releases in the USA Kindle store:

June 2013 USA Kindle store books

I won’t intentionally link to individual books which block text-to-speech. That’s because I think that disproportionately disadvantages the disabled.

The Heist
by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
pre-order for June 18

Janet Evanovich is the author of the Stephanie Plum books; Lee Goldberg (among other things) wrote scripts for Monk and Monk novels. There’s probably going to be quite a bit of interest in this one. I’ll be interested to see how their styles mesh, and if that creates a new style between them.

The Long War (Long Earth)
by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
pre-order for June 18

This is a science fiction sequel to The Long Earth. Pratchett is the author of the Discworld books, and quite popular. Baxter is the author of the Xeelee sequence, and co-authored books with Arthur C. Clarke.

The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story
by Lily Koppel
pre-order for June 11

This is non-fiction about the wives of 1960s astronauts. I suspect there will be a lot of buzz about this one, and that it might be a great read. Hm…I wonder if Jeannie Nelson will be included. 😉

My Life with Cleopatra: The Making of a Hollywood Classic (Vintage)
by Walter Wanger, Joe Hyams, and Kenneth Turan
pre-order for June 4th

This is a re-issue (I guess I can’t say “reprint” for an e-book) of the story of the making of the Elizabeth Taylor version of Cleopatra. For the time, the movie was outrageously expensive…and many, many times over the intended budget. It seemed like they were trying to find ways to spend money. I remember hearing that they had not only reproduced the night sky over Egypt accurately…but accurately for the time period. I always pictured some astronomer in a theatre in Iowa seeing the picture and calmly saying, “Wow.” 😉 I also remember that the star wore a gold outfit that wore pounds…and that there was something like a $200,000 budget just for Elizabeth Taylor’s costumes.

The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths
by John Gray
pre-order for June 4

I’m happy to list a book which sounds like it has a very different world view from mine. 😉 As regular readers know, I tend to think the world is good and getting better over time. This non-fiction book, as you can tell from the subtitle, appears to argue the opposite…that intrigues me.

Choose Yourself!
by James Altucher
pre-order for June 3

It’s a self-help book, about taking advantages of opportunities that are out there as the world changes.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman
pre-order for June 18

A new book by Gaiman is a reason to celebrate, and my intuition is that this is going to appeal to people who may not have read the author before. I don’t usually do this, but I’m going to quote a bit from the product page:

“A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out.”

My guess? This may be a novel that makes a big impression on a lot of people this summer.

Gotcha! (Sisterhood)
by Fern Michaels
pre-order for June 25

Michaels is one of the most popular authors in the world. I also have to note the good work the author has done, including working to get police dogs special bulletproof vests. This is the continuation of a series.

Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill
by James Patterson, Chris Tebbetts, Laura Park (illustrator)
pre-order for June 24

Yes, this is that James Patterson (Alex Cross), but this is in a continuing series of young adult novels. Sounds like a fun read.

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined
by Scott Barry Kaufman
pre-order for June 4

I love, love, love the idea of re-examining core beliefs. Are we wrong about not only how we measure intelligence, but how we should measure it? I believe it was Isaac Asimov who said that if an aborigine designed an intelligence test, all of Western civilization would fail it. It might presume some things as basic knowledge, such as what plants did what, and then use that as a basis for other questions. I recall hearing when very young students in Los Angeles took an intelligence test. Those students were doing poorly compared to the rest of the country, and there was a big hue and cry about how they were being failed. Somebody looked at the questions and answers, and these young L.A. kids were all “missing” the same question. It was a “one of these things is not like the others” test. The choices were a: a bird; a horse; and an elephant. You were supposed to pick the bird. The kids from Los Angeles were picking the horse. When the researcher asked the kids to explain their choice, it was perfectly logical: “Birds fly. Dumbo’s an elephant and he flies. Horses don’t fly.” Remember, these children lived near Disneyland…it was a common point of cultural knowledge for them. In this case, Kaufman was basically “diagnosed” as unintelligent, and went on to become a cognitive psychologist and adjunct assistant professor.

Those are few that caught my eye. One note: some of these are on the pricey side. If you don’t want to pay the full price, you can list them for free at


They’ll send you a free e-mail when the book drops an amount you specify. Generally, e-books drop in price when the paperback is released. Of course, it’s possible in the future that pattern doesn’t hold, especially if the “hardback now, mass market paperback a year from now” cycle goes away with the dropping popularity of mass markets.


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

Is TV a better medium for book adaptations than movies are?

May 24, 2013

Is TV a better medium for book adaptations than movies are?

I recently wrote about Amazon’s new Kindle Worlds program which creates an official bridge between rightsholders and fans who write fiction about movies, TV shows, books, videogames, and so on.

I think it is a fascinating experiment, and I expect many rightsholders to participate. I’d love it if some older properties were included, and I think that will be possible.

I did notice something about the first three “Worlds”:

Did you spot it? Sure, they have a lot in common…but these are all TV series based on books.

They also have fervent fan followings, and have been successful (it’s reasonable to call a TV series with at least three seasons a success).

That got me thinking…

Is TV a better medium for book adaptations than movies?

I can see why that would be. If you don’t pre-plan multiple movies, you only get about two hours for a movie (with rare exceptions). Most books, especially book series, are much more complex than that. You can get away with exposition in a book (“…the three years Pat spent on the farm were difficult: it was great to go home again”), but that’s much tougher to do in a movie. It just takes longer to do some things visually and without shortcuts. That means movies often have to chop out parts of the plot.

A TV series, whether open-ended or a “miniseries” (sometimes called “limited”), simply has a more leisurely time. We can explore more characters. We can do things out of order more easily: you can do flashbacks in a movie, but you only have so long to drive the narrative. Doing them in a TV series is less disruptive: some shows do entire episodes or even story arcs that are flashbacks.

One thing that complicates this question is that some TV shows were first adapted as movies, then made the leap to the small screen. M*A*S*H, which ran for eleven seasons, comes to mind. Certainly, the movie was a critical and box office success…is the series based more on the movie or on the book? I will say, though, that I’m sure most people now think of the series first…some might not even know there was a movie.

How would a movie have handled Game of Thrones, or True Blood? (I’m going with the TV series titles here). Hard to imagine…

Yet, I’m guessing that the prestige (and probably the money) still pushes authors towards wanting to do movies. The Hunger Games Trilogy went the cinema route…so did Harry Potter, and they were both blockbusters.

I’m not sure, though…if I’d written a fictional book series, I might be more interested in television. I suppose one of the concerns would be the greater likelihood that a TV series will (eventually) go off on its own territory…but certainly, movies do that, and many authors have limited control. I think it might be fun to see how your characters work under other writers’ imagination, although I’d have to think about that.

I think I’d like the fandom that a TV series can have, though. It seems more…interactive, collaborative somehow. TV series fans can impact the progress over years: movies can have diehard fans, but there seems to be a greater distance with a work that might take three years and a $100 million to produce.

Here are just some TV series based (directly or indirectly) on books:

  • Bones
  • Brideshead Revisited
  • Dexter
  • The Dresden Files
  • Elementary
  • Father Dowling Mysteries
  • The Flying Nun (really)
  • Hemlock Grove
  • Honey West
  • Jekyll (I enjoyed this British series)
  • Lassie
  • Little House on the Prairie
  • Mike Hammer
  • My Friend Flicka
  • Nero Wolfe
  • The Paper Chase
  • Please Don’t Eat the Daisies
  • The Saint
  • The Six Million Dollar Man
  • Spenser for Hire
  • Sweet Valley High
  • Tarzan
  • The Waltons

So, I’m just speculating here…I’m not arguing in favor of TV being better for books than movies are, but I’m curious as to what you think. What are you favorite TV shows based on books? Do you think they would have been better or worse as movies? Same thing…have you ever seen a movie, and thought it would have been better as a TV show? Feel free to let me know (and to perhaps start a “commentsation” with my readers) by commenting on this post.

Bonus deal: one of today’s Kindle Daily Deals is Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown. This was an extraordinarily impactful 1970 nonfiction book, which really started a social movement. Right now, in the USA Kindle store, it is $2.99 (with a digital list price of $14.99). As always, check the price before you click that Buy button…it may not be this price where you are.

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

Round up #172: Z-Pass, International Fire & Appstore

May 23, 2013

Round up #172: Z-Pass, International Fire & Appstore

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

There’s some good stuff this time…let’s get started!

Wait a minute…I guess I do want to set the world on Fire

Amazon sent me two press releases today, and these are big news (especially for my readers around the world)!

Kindle Fire HD and Kindle Fire HD 8.9” Now Available for Pre-Order for Customers in over 170 Countries Around the World, Shipping June 13

Amazon Appstore for Android Now Open in Nearly 200 Countries Worldwide

First, it means that the

Kindle Fire HD 7″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB
Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, Dolby Audio, Dual-Band Wi-Fi, 16 GB

are available for order in many places around the world (but not all…while Amazon would undoubtedly like to sell everywhere in the world, and beyond if possible, it’s difficult to make the necessary arrangements in some countries, notably the Middle East).

It does not appear to include the 4G model,or the standard definition Kindle  Fire 2nd Generation.

Oh, but you can get the 32 GB versions.

It doesn’t look to me like you’ll be able to do Amazon Instant Video on them…and I’m curious about, say, Netflix.

You can do e-books, music, audiobooks, magazines…and apps.

That last one is the other announcement, and will be welcome to many people.  The Amazon Appstore is opening in even more countries than the Fire will be available. Does that make sense? Sure, the Appstore is limited to just the Fire as a market. Even where Amazon can’t sell their hardware, they can sell apps for Android SmartPhones (for example).

To celebrate this, the Free App of the Day is the very popular

Fruit Ninja

Some of you may remember Jeff Bezos demonstrating the CEO’s own limited Fruit Ninja skills at the Kindle Fire intro event.

As always, check the price before you get the app…


Oh, and please let me know your experience with the Amazon Appstore if you are outside the USA and notice any significant restrictions…or advantages.

Lud-in-the Mist: a fantasy classic as a KDD

“Ranulph had always been a dreamy, rather delicate child, and backward for his years. Up to the age of seven, or thereabouts, he had caused his mother much annoyance by his habit, when playing in the garden, of shouting out remarks to an imaginary companion. And he was fond of talking nonsense (according to the ideas of Lud-in-the-Mist, slightly obscene nonsense) about golden cups, and snow-white ladies milking azure cows, and the sound of tinkling bridles at midnight. But children are apt, all the world over, to have nasty little minds; and this type of talk was not uncommon among the children of Lud-in-the-Mist, and, as they nearly always grew out of it, little attention was paid to it.”
–Hope Mirrless
writing in Lud-in-the-Mist
collected in Bufo’s The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations
decade: 1920s

One of today’s Kindle Daily Deals (KDDs) is


by Helen Mirrlees, originally published in 1926 (and, I believe, not in the public domain).

Neil Gaiman and many others have praised it, and I recommend it to you (you can see above, I included it in my book of quotations). The price today is only ninety-nine cents…the digital list price is $12.95.

Borders hoarder? So sorry…

Have you been holding on to a Borders gift card, figuring you would get the value for it in the bankruptcy pay-outs?

Well, you and close to 18 million people with close to a quarter of a billion dollars worth of gift cards should get nothing for them, according to U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter, as reported in this

NPR article

Other debtors will get money, but not consumers.

This District Court is the last stop before you get to the Supreme Court, which may not happen in this case (this judge was upholding a lower court ruling).

It kind of makes you wonder if Judge Denise Cote, who has been great on so many consumer issues that involve e-books, could rule on everything. 😉

Zinio Z-pass: three magazines for $5 a month

As regular readers know, I prefer Zinio’s arrangement on subscriptions to Amazon’s Kindle Newsstand. One of the key things is that they store as many issues as you’ve had for you…unlike Amazon, which does a “rolling seven” (they store the current edition, and six previous ones: you can save them yourself, but just on the current device. Those saved issues aren’t backed up for you by Amazon).

The Zinio app is not in the Amazon Appstore, but you can “sideload” it entirely within the rules at Amazon…the information is here:

They have a new deal, called “Z-Pass”. You can get a free trial for it right now (and you can read Zinio mags on other devices like PCs, for those of you without a Fire).

The basic idea is that you pay $5 a month, and you get three magazines, which  you pick out of a list of over 200 eligible titles (and these are big names).

You can add additional magazines…could be $1.50 a month, might be more if they are “premium titles”.

You can swap up to three a month…I think what this means is that you can change which one you will get the following month, not that it is an “all-you-can-eat program”.  Definitely sounds like you aren’t committed to the magazine for a year…so if yo were going to buy a car, for example,  you might get car magazines that month, and travel magazines before you go on vacation.

I’m going to check with my Significant Other, but I do think we may do this.

One more thing to note: the magazine doesn’t appear in your newsstand on your Fire…you get to it through the Zinio app. Even though you sideload it, it does appear on your apps tab and can be added to your Favorites.

Here are the

Z-Pass FAQs

and here is the main

Z-Pass website

where you can see the magazine options.

What do you think? Should consumers have gotten money for their Borders gift cards? Will you use the Amazon Appstore outside of the USA? Do you have Zinio experiences to share? 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.


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