Round up #171: XBOOKS, Stephen King’s latest horror

Round up #171: XBOOKS, Stephen King’s latest horror

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

Up to 25 specific Kindle children’s books for $2 each

One reason why the Kindles with Special Offers have been more popular than the ones without has been the offers on books.

Well, I’m always happy to see book offers extended to even those who decline advertisers reducing the price of their Kindles in exchange for viewing the ads.

Today, AmazonLocal has a

deal on Kindle children’s books

You don’t need to have a Special Offers Kindle, although you do need to set up an AmazonLocal account if you don’t have one.

The deal is any of up to 25 specific children’s books for $2 each.

You need to claim this deal by Friday.


deal details page

shows you the books. However, if this is available to you (it may not be in your country), I’d go ahead and get it. If you don’t use it, it hasn’t cost you anything.



Microsoft is making a big announcement today at 9:30 Pacific about the next XBOX. There has been a lot of speculation about how it might integrate with your TV.

One obvious question to me (but maybe not to most of the people covering this) is will it somehow incorporate the NOOK, since Microsoft has invested so much money in it?

I don’t think most people are going to want to read e-books on their TV screens.  I have a hard time seeing that: my TV is more like music in the background for me…I don’t tend to stare at it and not do anything else at the same time, as would be necessary when sight-reading a book.

However, I can see three applications.

One would be to have text-to-speech. NOOK has never done much with that, but I could see having my TV reading a book to me while I folded laundry or worked on a spreadsheet.

Another would be to select books on an XBOX, and then have it send them to an EBR (E-Book Reader), phone, computer, and so on. Especially given the Kinect’s increasing Minority Report type gestural interface, it might be fun to make it seem like you were using your fingers to take a book off a shelf and open it. When shopping, it could include book trailer videos. I suppose you could make in-game purchases of e-books a possibility as well…although I’m not sure that many videogame characters have interesting libraries…

The third one would be to play to kids…there are many interactive book apps where you might want to bounce between a bigger screen (where shared reading might happen) and a personal screen.

My best guess is that we won’t hear anything about “XBOOKS” (just my off the cuff term for e-books on an XBOX), but wouldn’t it be cool…

Male and Female Announcers

I’ve been using the CNN App on my Kindle Fire with the sound off in the morning (while I exercise). That way, it doesn’t disturb my Significant Other. That means I’ve been using “closed captions” (those are words that appear on the screen to show you what is being said, basically…you have to choose to see them).

Generally, even though the show is live, they tend to be pretty accurate. I can see why they are so important to some people, and I’ve been happy to see them become more available on the Fire.

However, there is something…intriguing to me during the commercials (yes, those get closed captioning as well).

Sometimes, a voice is just described as VO (voiceover). Sometimes, though, it says “male announcer” or “female announcer”.

I love how the internet lets people be judged just on their thoughts (and the way they express them), if they want. To help give people that freedom, I try not to identify inherent characteristics much. I try to write these posts without reference to gender, for example.

So, I’m interested as to why the closed captioning identifies the gender. Oh, I guess I know why…people being influenced by a stated gender (even for something genderless like a computer), is demonstrated in The Man Who Lied to His Laptop (which I highly recommend). That would be an interesting study: are people more likely to buy something that is stereotypically female, just because the closed captioning says, “Female Announcer”? I would guess that is the case, but a study would give that hypothesis validation (and give an idea about the extent of the effect).

I also find it intriguing that music is usually just represented by two music notes. I would think that they would describe it: “spooky music”, “triumphant music”, that sort of thing…but they don’t, usually.

Unintended consequences: Amazon business details to be revealed?

Hm…maybe this is why Apple still wants to go to trial in the legal action with the Department of Justice over the Agency Model.

In this

Publishers Weekly article

by Andrew Albanese, you can read about Apple trying to make documents from Amazon public in the case, and Amazon fighting it.

Tech writers get annoyed that Amazon doesn’t release specific sales figures, and honestly, I do think that secrecy has a negative impact on people trusting Amazon (although many people do trust the e-tailer…in a recent poll I did, more than ten percent of people said that trusting Amazon is why they bought e-books from them.

Amazon is arguing that releasing the information publicly would hurt their competitive advantage.

Apple argues that Amazon’s filed documents would not do so, and it’s not unreasonable for them to want the evidence about the different business models to be out there.

I’m not quite sure how this will go. If the judge feels that releasing it would hurt Amazon, they could look at them in closed session. If they do get released, it could be  embarrassing  for Amazon, although I don’t think it would be devastating. Sure, the blogosphere would be all over it, but that’s not the same thing as damage. I wonder if we might even learn things that make Amazon look good?

Stephen King’s latest horror…no e-book edition for Joyland

Oh, the conglomeration of contradiction that is Stephen King!

The author led on e-books…at first. Then, there was the “windowing” (delaying the e-book version) and blocking text-to-speech access (which may not be a decision made by King, but could certainly be influenced by arguably the most powerful author in the world).

I’ve written about this before:

My Response to Stephen King

This is more of the same issue.

E-books advance accessibility. It is perhaps noble to want to advance brick-and-mortar bookstores…but not doing an e-book is choosing a commercial enterprise over individuals with challenges. That includes print challenges, but also with mobility issues. Yes, they can order the p-book (paperbook) online, but according to this

Wall Street Journal article by Jeffrey Trachtenberg (you may have to search for “Stephen King Says No to E-Book, to Scare Up Business” in Google to be able to read it), King said:

“…let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one.”

Easier for some than others…and this doesn’t even accomplish that goal, if people can by the book online (which they will be able to do).

While King’s biggest book of the year, a sequel to one of the author’s most popular books, is not being windowed, it is scheduled to be released with text-to-speech access blocked.

I think The Stand is one of the great American novels, and I try not to judge the art by the artist. However, I have to admit that emotionally, these moves make me like Stephen King less…not necessarily as an author, though.

I should be clear: I probably wouldn’t have bought the new Stephen King books right away, even if they were available in digital form. I don’t tend to buy big name fiction like that when it is first released, although I do sometimes. I have a lot to read, and don’t usually feel the urgency. My concern here is really for others…and I always hope that Stephen King will recognize who is impacted the most by these choices in the future.

What do you think? Do you want to know Amazon’s business details? If they come out, do you think it would hurt them? Will Microsoft mention e-books with the XBOX? Would you sight-read a book on a TV? Are you aware of being influenced by the gender of announcers in commercials? What do you think of Stephen King’s decision not to do an e-book version? Is a good move to support brick-and-mortars? Was calling the decision a “horror” over the top (I was a bit ambivalent about that…I liked the tie-in to King’s genre writing, but thought it might be overly sensationalistic)? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Update: thanks to regular reader and commenter Joe Bowers for improving this post.

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

11 Responses to “Round up #171: XBOOKS, Stephen King’s latest horror”

  1. Zebras Says:

    One of the reasons I wanted an HD Kindle Fire was so I could connect it to the TV to watch Prime movies, so when my husband wanted to buy me a diamond necklace for thanking me for all that I’ve done for him during his recent surgery, I talked him into the larger HD Kindle Fire, and we just named it Diamon Necklace. 😉

    At the same time, we were getting terribly annoyed with our TV, as the cable remote wouldn’t operate the power or the volume anymore, we decided to go TV shopping too, and chose a model partly based on size and partly based on price. The larger Vizio model was much cheaper than a smaller LG model. Didn’t look for any special features, as our AT&T U-verse version of cable is excellent, and we had the Kindle fire for the Amazon stuff. TV is installed while I am at work and I come home and see the remote and it has an Amazon button right on it! Wow. It integrates with your Amazon account, has its own password to rent movies, probably to keep kids from charging up a storm etc.

    I love your idea of having your TV to the TTS for you while you work around the house.

  2. Adrian Says:

    re. Stephen King
    I had a similar thought when he announced his ‘noble’ goal of only releasing a paper version of his new book to help out bookstores. What, are you not going to let Amazon sell it? Because if you allow Amazon to sell it then goal = failed.

    If I read it at all I’ll get it from the library but I haven’t read any King in a long time. I wouldn’t buy his (or any other traditional pubbed author’s) book as an e-book either though simply because of the cost.

  3. Joe Bowers Says:

    Hello, B.C.,
    In the second paragraph of the section on “Xbooks,” I believe you put Amazon where you meant Microsoft, regarding having invested in the Nook. I may be wrong.

  4. loneybaloney Says:

    The captioning identifies gender so that a HOH (hard of hearing) or deaf person will know everything that people without hearing loss know — which includes the likely sex of speaker. Music is frequently identified/described as triumphant, spooky, captioning, less so in real time captioning when speed is a factor. These are court reporters wearing headsets doing their best to keep up. CC’ing is done by humans and different humans do different things. U should ask CNN why their music descriptions are so generalized. They will probably ask Caption Colorado or whoever does their captioning. Caption Colorado will probably ask the guy who has the CNN assignment.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, loneybaloney!

      I think they do an excellent job! I’d prefer it if they didn’t identify gender, since I know that’s likely there in the ads just to influence my buying decisions. 🙂 They don’t try and put everything into it…it doesn’t say “Old male announcer”, for example. They don’t identify age. They don’t typically identify accent, right?

      I actually have seen the music described in movie closed captioning, so you are absolutely right on that.

      I appreciate your comments! I don’t particularly want CNN to change it…I just find it interesting.

  5. liz Says:

    – I understood Amazon’s initial reticence to releasing sales figures when the Kindle was merely a fledgling (let it get on its feet first), but now it’s mature, I do wonder why sales info isn’t more transparent. I don’t expect anything really exciting or damaging to be in the hidden documents, but this might be what starts Amazon releasing that info openly.
    – I usually “watch” TV in the background and like to have CC on … if I don’t catch what someone said, I can quickly glance at the screen and read the dialogue. I’ve also noticed a difference in how certain things are typed up: some ads get the male/female differentiation, and some shows have the music described as happy/moody/slow/sad/etc. I’ve wondered if the difference in information is due to the individual typing it in, or if it’s related to expectations of different firms that handle the CC transcription for the different advertising companies (although the CC you’re reading for CNN live broadcasts is typed in live, the ads are not – they’re controlled by the ad companies … you’ll see the same mistakes every time the ad is shown, and some ads don’t have CC at all). I’ve sometimes noticed slight differences between the scripted show’s (or movie’s) spoken dialogue and the CC – in those cases, I suspect that the scriptwriter intended a character to say one thing, but the actor changed it up at the last minute … the CC was typed in based on the script rather than the spoken dialogue. It’s fun to spot the differences and decide which version is better!
    – I’m confused by Stephen King’s decision … apparently, the book is available for pre-order from Amazon, so why bother blocking the e-book version? Unless he’s actually standing up for the guys who actually print the paper books – it is a little sad to think their jobs are fading away.
    – I can’t imagine doing TTS on my TV – it uses a lot of electricity when it’s running, and it’s not at all portable. So if I want to “read” a book while folding laundry, I’ll take my Kindle 2 or my Fire with me and listen to that. But then, I do fold the laundry in the garage … if I folded it in the den, I might be tempted by TTS on TV. 🙂

  6. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I’m not much of a Steven King fan (even though he only lived a few miles away in Maine when I lived in Northern NH) — I don’t think I’ve ever read one of his books (although I have watched a few movies based on his books). So his positions on ebooks and TTS have little resonance with me.

    I’m not much of a gamer either, but the Xbox reveal was in a word: revealing :grin. There will be much made of the silicon choices made by MS and how they compare to the choices made by Sony for the PS4. I’ll just mention that the new Xbox is based on an X86 chip from AMD; and that an improved Kinect will be an included item — not a separately priced add-on. No prices were mentioned by MS, but rumor is it will retail for $499 (seems pricey to me).

    All that said, MS has nevertheless done something (IMO) quite clever. They have taken their hypervisor Hyper-V; stripped it down to bare essentials, and that is what runs when you turn the machine on. The hypervisor then runs two virtual machines: both based on the Windows 8 core. One is designed to run apps, browsers, and for various TV functions — it is designed to run many things at once (it is called the shared partition). The other virtual machine is designed to run games: every time you start a game, this virtual machine boots. Games can have tight coupling with the cloud while running (no details here, but presumably Azure). All of the 3 operating environments are based on the Windows 8 core, and utilize the much-maligned W8 “live tile” user interface (“Metro”).

    So while no mention of ebooks was made, it is quite clear that Kindle and Nook apps can run in the “shared” partition. Since everything is based on W8, the “snap” interface is also present. This allows the screen to be split: one side playing a game; the other running apps, browsing the internet, or watching TV. The TV integrations are reported to be quite slick. I can imagine game developers developing games along with a “companion” app so that while playing the game the companion app could provide hints or do interesting things in a multiplayer environment (like sass or trash talk your opponents via skype while playing the game — Take That! you evil Zorkaholic 😀 !)

  7. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I should also point out that the virtual machine goes a long way towards “future proofing” the machine. On the existing Xbox the operating environment was supposedly completely rewritten 3 time over its 8 year lifetime. VM’s will make these kinds of revisions less costly, easier to manage, and impose fewer headaches for existing users.

    The existing Xbox is based on IBM’s power PC architecture — so existing games will not run on the Xbox One which is X86 based. However, even though nothing was mentioned, it would be possible to create a power PC virtual machine capable of running old games (might be unacceptably slow though).

  8. Poll Party #3 | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] can’t believe how often Stephen King’s decision not to initially release Joyland as an e-book pops into my head! I know I’m having an emotional reaction to it. I see an ad for the Under […]

  9. Evi: free voice-input assistant for the Kindle Fire | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] wasn’t happy when I wrote about it last year…because Stephen King chose to “window” it, and not release it in e-book […]

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