Archive for June, 2013

Amazon Aisle: Arts & Photography

June 29, 2013

Amazon Aisle: Arts & Photography

I used to love to go into a brick and mortar bookstore, and literally walk down every single aisle (yes, it might take hours).  I pride myself on being an eclectic reader (although I do have preferences, of course), and I always hoped to find something outside of what I might expect.

When I managed a brick and mortar bookstore myself, I encouraged my employees to read something from every section (I did try to do that myself). I would suggest that they ask a regular customer who shopped in the section for a recommendation.

Well, I don’t find myself wandering through Amazon like that. I tend to notice the deals, or things that they are promoting, like the “best” lists. It’s a bit like I go into a store, and only look at the end caps and the wishing wells. 😉 Oh, end caps are the shelves that are on the end of the aisle facing perpendicular to the shelves in the aisle, and wishing wells are those giant structures of books on the floor…I don’t see those much any more.

Yes, I only look at what they really want me to see, or look for a specific book, or perhaps “surf” from one book to another via connections.

I feel like I might be missing something by not being as systematic…and you might be, too. 🙂

That doesn’t mean I’m going to look at all of the nearly two million* books in the USA Kindle store! What I can do, though, is look into each of the sections that they provide on the side links. I think of those as being like aisles in a bookstore (although the romance or science fiction sections in a store would typically be several physical aisles.

I’m going to start with the first on alphabetically: Arts & Photography.

Arts & Photography

There are 121,989 at time of writing. That is about 6.1% of the total, which is showing as 1,995,917 right now.

That is then broken down into these categories:

Architecture (4,806) 3.9% of Arts & Photography
Art (8,008) 6.6%
Dance (657) 0.54%
Fashion (40) 0.03%
Graphic Design (3,192) 2.62%
Individual Artists (1,419) 1.16%
Music (70,444) 57.75%
Performing Arts (2,062) 1.69%
Photography (12,644) 10.36%
Theater (15,203) 12.46%

Note that there can be overlap here…the same book might appear in both Performing Arts and Theater, for example.

It’s also important to note that categories are, I believe, assigned by the publisher, not Amazon. That’s the case for sure with independently published books using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, and I’m guessing that’s the case with traditionally published books as well. That can lead to some odd things, since the decision is made for marketing purposes, not to bring the greatest clarity or accuracy. I’ve seen the same book categorized as fiction and non-fiction, for example.

The sidelinks show these authors:

Melissa Foster (4)
William Shakespeare (432)
Shameek Speight (5)
Christine DeMaio-Rice (1)
Arnold Bennett (18)
pleasefindthis (1)
Lois Lavrisa (1)
› See more…

If you click “See more…”, you get lots of choices…with 54 on the first page and 39 pages, you have over 2,000 authors just in this section.

The first page might make for an interesting dinner party…here are five people appearing in the first column:

50 Cent
Abraham Lincoln
Ace Frehley
Al Gore

That would make for some interesting conversation! 😉

Hm…I notice they are alphabetized by their first names…that’s a bit odd, although easier for the computer.

I was curious as to why Al Gore showed up in this category: it was sheet music for a song called “Diggin’ Up Bones”, as performed by Randy Travis…and yes, written by Al Gore (and Nat Stuckey and Paul Overstreet).

Returning to the main Arts & Photography page, 184 of them had Whispersync for voice. That seems like a lot to me…you wouldn’t have that in a photography book, typically. However, I have to remember that there will be things like musician biographies here, I would guess, and plays.

Many (but not all) of the main categories have sub-categories:


Architects, A-Z (174)
Building Types & Styles (689)
Criticism (231)
Drawing & Modelling (589)
Historic Preservation (180)
History & Periods (899)
Interior Design (366)
International (30)
Landscape (387)
Project Planning & Management (342)
Reference (235)
Study & Teaching (196)
Urban & Land Use Planning (1,228)


Art History (4,451)
Instruction & Reference (1,791)
Museums & Collections (291)
Other Media (642)
Painting (799)
Religious (311)
Sculpture (322)
Erotica (424)


Ballet (30)
Ballroom (6)
Classical (164)
Folk (63)
Jazz (8)
Modern (70)
Notation (4)
Popular (75)
Reference (39)
Tap (6)

Graphic Design

Airbrush (18)
Animation (103)
Calligraphy (60)
Cartooning (210)
Clip Art (202)
Commercial (1,083)
Design (725)
Drawing (883)
Graphic Arts (90)
Printmaking (73)
Typography (92)


Business (609)
History & Criticism (2,458)
Instruments & Performers (3,105)
Musical Genres (6,460)
Recording & Sound (557)
Songbooks (2,341)
Theory, Composition & Performance (2,906)


Architectural (75)
Cinematography (112)
Collections, Catalogues & Exhibitions (173)
Color (34)
Criticism & Essays (67)
Darkroom & Processing (55)
Digital Photography (1,255)
Equipment (355)
Erotica (6,159)
Fashion (81)
History (378)
Lighting (183)
Nature & Wildlife (713)
Photo Essays (768)
Photographers, A-Z (530)
Photojournalism (312)
Portraits (479)
Professional (243)
Reference (960)
Travel (299)


Acting & Auditioning (1,055)
Broadway & Musicals (276)
Circus (75)
Direction & Production (217)
History & Criticism (1,508)
Miming (12)
Playwriting (657)
Puppets & Puppetry (50)
Stagecraft (337)

Now, let’s do a quick analysis of the top ten Arts & Photography bestsellers:

Rank Category Price Prime TTS X-ray Lending Overall Rank
1 Music $6.99 Yes Yes Yes Yes 22,209
2 Theater $3.99 Yes Yes Yes Yes 4,369
3 Art $9.55 No No Yes No 5,036
4 Art $8.89 No Yes Yes No 2,158
5 Music $11.04 No Yes Yes No 888
6 Drama $2.99 Yes Yes Yes Yes 6,619
7 Graphic Design $0.00 No Yes Yes No 582
8 Art $8.89 No Yes Yes No 7,251
9 Graphic Design $2.99 No Yes No Yes 19,409
10 Photography $9.98 No Yes Yes Yes 4,741
Average %Yes
$6.53 30% 90% 90% 50%

Hm…I’m not quite sure why the book that is topped ranked in Arts & Photography is considerably lower ranked overall in the store than almost all of the rest of the top ten. I guess they must compute them differently…probably on a different periodicity.

There was one really odd duck in this group:

Blackjack Wayward (The Blackjack Series)

Everything I can see on this page, including the reviews, suggests to me that this is a superhero novel (and not a graphic novel…I even “looked inside” to check). My guess is that the author just thought that it should be in the Drama section because, you know, it’s dramatic. 😉 However, “Theater” is another category…it didn’t appear to be a play, though.

Well, I did find this an interesting exercise. It reminded me that there is sheet music in the Kindle store, for one thing…that could a good way to work with it (I’ve used sheet music before).

My feeling right now is that this may be worth doing again with other sections, but feel free to let me know how you liked it…it will also help if you can give me an idea why you did or didn’t. 🙂

* As of writing, there are 1,996,105 titles in the USA Kindle store (in the e-books part). It’s likely that we’ll break two million in the next week or so, but it’s hard to predict exactly…and we could slide back under it afterwards.

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


Reading in school

June 28, 2013

Reading in school

People reading is a good thing.

That seems obvious to me…although, whenever I realize I have that feeling of a “self-evident fact”, I want to challenge it. I want to test it, to look at it from different perspectives. In some cases, it survives and comes out stronger. In others, I may actually change my idea. Even if I don’t change my opinion, just the intellectual exercise of having considered it is both fun and, I believe, valuable.

That ability to look at things from different points of view is part of what reading does. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, you end up inside the book looking back out at yourself. That’s the only way to understand what the author is saying. You have to put yourself into the author’s place, because you need to understand not just the words, but the thoughts and feelings behind (and next to and in front of) them.

That’s part of why I question the traditional concept of assigned reading in school.

Let’s look at the model as this:

  1. The teacher (often mandated by a school, district, state, or in the case of Common Core, even Federal list or guideline) assigns a particular book to a class of students
  2. A certain amount of it has to be read by a certain time
  3. The teacher then tests that the students have read to that point. That test may involve questions about specific facts (“Who is Kris’ sibling?”)
  4. There may also be discussions about what has happened in the book, and writing assignments. Students may be discouraged from reading ahead of the assignment, so that their foreknowledge doesn’t impact those discussions

Certainly, some wonderful insights may come out of reading something which you would otherwise have not read. Analytical thinking skills can be developed, and you can learn a great of historical context in order to explain what is happening and how the culture of the time.

However, I’m not convinced that doing that sort of “particulate examination” actually encourages someone to be a reader in the future. It is much easier to score a test if you ask for facts. It’s a daunting task for a teacher to measure whether or not a student has understood the feelings of a character. First, even scholars may debate for decades the inner life of a fictional being, particularly when it isn’t explicitly delineated. Second, students may have different levels of ability expressing how someone feels…particularly if some students have similar life experiences to the character and others don’t.

I had a gut-wrenching and epiphanic moment in high school when I realized that all of the emphasis on measurable fact extraction was slowing my reading speed. It made me doubt the value of the classes, and to actually see them as a negative.

Now, that wasn’t the case with one of my favorite teachers. I was lucky enough to be able to take a class specifically in science fiction. This teacher would introduce a topic to us, or a sub-genre, and explain the history of it, and the driving forces behind it. Then, we would be given a list of books…although we could also submit our own, as I recall, and the teacher could approve it or not.

We were not all reading the same book at the same time.

We did not have detail-oriented tests.

It was much more discussion driven, and sometimes with just me and the teacher, but sometimes in a group.

For example (and I’m not sure any of this is “historically accurate” for what we actually did), we might have a presentation on time travel literature. Then, we might pick a time travel book to read. In class, we might have a discussion about the “grandfather paradox” (if you go back in time and kill your grandfather, you won’t have been born…so how could you exist to go back in time?). The books we read (at our own pace, of our own selection) would inform that discussion…but it was the idea, and the books relationship to the idea, that mattered. It wasn’t about remembering names or what came first in the book.

Right away, I know there are teachers who read this who know that it was an an0malously generous situation. Teachers aren’t usually given that kind of freedom in assignment and measurement of performance. I think we only had about ten students in the class, and we were all high performers. We could be counted on to pick legitimate books that fit the topic. It would be different trying to do this with a class of thirty, of whom we’ll say ten have never read a book before.

I don’t have an answer here as to how to proceed. I just do feel like the way we assign reading in school now does not produce the optimum results. I’ve had many people tell me that they hated a book which was assigned to them in school…but realize they might have liked it if they had discovered it on their own.

I’ve very interested in your thoughts on this, and I’m going to encourage you to comment on this post. Let me first, though, use a poll to establish a more general picture:

Obviously, I haven’t listed all of the possibilities…and I’m sure some of you may see my choices as leaning towards a negative opinion of assigned reading (part of that will depend on how you interpret the questions).

Definitely, though, feel free to tell me and my readers what you think/feel about it.  I don’t expect any changes to come out of this, or even grand plans at this point. This one is just at the level of playing with the idea, and looking at possibilities.

You know, like you do when you read a book… 😉

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

Brave new (Kindle) Worlds: the KW store opens

June 27, 2013

Brave new (Kindle) Worlds: the KW store opens

Ever since I first wrote about Kindle Worlds, I’ve been looking forward to seeing what the actual implementation of this “authorized and compensated fanfic” program was going to be like: how many titles, who was writing them, and how they would do?

Well, Amazon informed me today that

Kindle Worlds

is up and running!

They said they were going to do it this month, and they made it. 🙂

First, I do like the layout. It looks much like other Kindle storefronts, including sidelinks to authors. It also has two sections for the worlds: one for the new Kindle Worlds titles, and one for the canon (the official works).

There are 56 titles as I write this in 5 worlds:

The Vampire Diaries (24)
Pretty Little Liars (11)
The Foreworld Saga (9)
Gossip Girl (5)
Archer & Armstrong (3)
Shadowman (2)
Harbinger (1)
XO Manowar (1)

Let’s take one book as an example first, both because it caught my eye and because…well, it’s the first book you see on the page. 😉

The Vampire Diaries: Bound By Blood (Kindle Worlds Novella)
J.R. Rain
414KB (123 pages)
TTS, Lending, X-Ray all enabled

The Amazon bestseller rank right now is 176,939. My guess is that will jump up considerably during the day…could certainly make top 50,000. Rain’s bestselling book in the Kindle store right now is ranked #284 at time of writing.

J.R. Rain is a familiar name to me, as I’m sure is the case with many of you…the author claims to have sold over a million e-books.

The books seem to be priced at $1.99 and $0.99 (although Amazon says that they could price the books up to $3.99, I believe).

It’s interesting to me that there are some well-known/successful authors here (including Barbara Freethy). I’ve seen comments from fanfic authors who are very concerned about the licensing agreement…but it appears to me that people who have been in the “writing business” are less concerned. I suspect that’s because they don’t feel as much like they might just have one chance to hit it big with some special piece of writing. I think the ones who have written commercially have a better sense that there are different types of writing, and different markets. Some things you want to hold just for yourself; some can be sold to other people. Sometimes you play by your own rules; sometimes you play by other people’s. Both can be fun. 🙂

Speaking of authors, I really expected there to be something along the lines of the “bible” that TV series do for the Kindle Worlds. That would describe the characters, tell you about the settings, and so on. It’s a way that TV series keep continuity.

Instead, there doesn’t seem to be much of that. Just a short paragraph (at least in the case of the World I checked), and content guidelines.

There was this

Kindle Worlds blog

which had an interesting Q&A with author Barry Eisler and Philip Patrick (who is listed as the “publisher” of Kindle Worlds).

Here’s the

Kindle Worlds for authors site

That has all the extensive, detailed information for authors, including the content restrictions, licensing, and pay structure.

One tidbit there was that the books won’t initially appear in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, but should later.

You also have to be 18 or older to participate, and it’s currently just for people with a “…valid U.S. bank account and social security number or tax identification number”.

There is also a

Kindle Worlds forum

I’ve already responded to a thread there, where the official team is asking for suggestions for other worlds.

This is just the first day, but I really feel like this is one of the most innovative things Amazon has done. It has great benefits for them, of course, in giving them exclusive content with a built-in audience. It’s good for the rightsholders and publishers, because they can both raise awareness of properties and perhaps discover new authors (along with the royalties they’ll get, of course). It’s good for the authors, because it gives them another avenue for revenue and creativity.

I expect some pushback on that last one. 🙂 There could be negatives to this…for example, it might cause publishers to make more assertions of their rights for works outside of the program. I think that, generally, though, you’ll be able to keep writing the uncompensated and freely distributed fanfic that you have in the past, if you want to do that. I fully expect some people to do both: write within Kindle Worlds and still write fanfic outside of it.

It’s going to take more time before we really see how this goes. Do feel free to tell me and my readers what you think now, by commenting on this post. Are you excited to read Kindle Worlds stories? Which Kindle Worlds would you like to see? Would you consider writing one? Why are established writers participating? What are the dangers..and are they different for hobby writers, aspiring writers, and professional ones?

I’m going to keep my eye on this…and yes, if they get a World that appeals to me, I might write in it. 🙂

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

Round up #182: Outlander TV series, Advanced Search for Kindle store

June 27, 2013

Round up #182: Outlander TV series, Advanced Search for Kindle store

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

Amazon adds Advanced Search to USA Kindle store

Well, this is nice to see, and I’m not quite sure when it happened!

In the past, I’ve gone to the Books (not Kindle Books) part of Amazon, and then used the Advanced Search there (limiting it to Kindle format) to find things like books being released in the future.

They’ve now added that feature (I’m not sure when) to the side navigation links in the Kindle store:

Kindle eBooks: Advanced Search

Here’s what it looks like:


They have four categories of ages for kids, and quite a few subjects.


Kobo Mini under $40 for the USA

That’s right…you can get a major company’s reflective screen (non-backlit) EBR (E-Book Reader) for $39.99 through July 18th.

Now, it’s important to note that this a 5-inch screen (not a 6-inch, like most non-backlit EBRs), but it is a touchscreen. Amazon’s cheapest touchscreen is the Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High Resolution Display with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers for $119.

You can’t read your Kindle store books on it, but it does do Adobe DRM (Digital Rights Management). It might be good for emergencies…you know, like that little donut spare tire in your car. 😉

It also might be good for classrooms or offices, if you are just doing public domain titles, or proprietary company documents.

I don’t think this will force Amazon to match the price with the Mindle, but I’m sure they are not unaware of it, and will be looking to see how it does as they st the pricing for any new hardware they might introduce this year.

Um…like forgetting how to punctuate a contraction? 😉

On the other hand, I have to admit I was amused by this with Kobo. I really try to match my adult kid’s approach to grammar. My kid is a linguist, and tries to get me to not be so strict about English, since it is evolving.

However, the irony of the headline on this Kobo blog post caught my eye:

Schools out for summer, but books are always in! (sic)

Now, I know that part of why people talk about wanting to keep kids reading in the summer is that it tends to reduce the “brain drain” that supposedly occurs during the academic break.

What’s funny to me is that the first part of the headline should be “School’s out for summer”, right? It’s a contraction of “school is”…

Amazon’s “Summer Sun, Reading Fun”

Amazon has a bestseller list of books for

Summer Sun, Reading Fun

Since this is a top 100 list, it should change from time to time…but there were some interesting suggestions in there.

Not all games are apps

While apps for the Kindle Fire certainly get a lot of attention, the “active content” for the RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything but a Kindle Fire at this point) are still growing.

I thought this was an interesting category:

Interactive Fiction for RSKs

Oh, they don’t call it “RSKs”, by the way…that’s one of my terms, and a lot of people don’t like that I refer to them as “reflective screen” devices. 🙂 Technically, that is what they are (you read by light reflecting off the screen, the same way you read paperbooks), but people think a reflection means a glare, so they do (I think understandably) think there might be some confusion about whether a hard-to-read-in-the-sun tablet is a reflective device or not. It’s not reflections that make those backlit devices hard to read, it’s because they are competing with the sunlight…but I understand.

These are books for the Kindle Paperwhite, Mindle, DX, that kind of thing…where you make choices which affect how the story continues.

While the Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf books (which some of you may remember from paper) are classified here, the Choose Your Own Adventure books are not. I think that might be up to the publisher, as most  categorization is.

These can certainly be fun, and I think they can appeal especially to tweens, who do find the ability to control things (besides just their families) 😉 something that they don’t always have, but are looking forward to being able to do in the future.

Outlander to be a series on Starz

I know a lot of people are fans of Diana Gabaldon’s

The Outlander Series

I’m linking the seven-book bundle, which doesn’t block text-to-speech access, and which looks like it saves you 20% overall.

I’ve always liked time travel books, but I haven’t read this romance series.

Obviously, broadcasters are looking for the next Game of Thrones, and they might think this is it.

According to this

USA Today article by Bill Keveney

Starz has ordered 16 episodes, to be broadcast in 2014.

John Grisham to Broadway

Speaking of adaptations, John Grisham’s A Time to Kill (I’m not linking to it because it blocks text-to-speech access*) is heading for Broadway.

According to this

Entertainment Weekly article by Jason Clark

the play (not a musical, I think…disappointed?) 😉 will be written by Rupert Holmes, who did The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Re-purposed books…as art

Okay, this is probably about as close as you’ve seen from to a rant. 😉

From time to time, we are either in places where artists are selling their works, or I see them online. People will take books (and vinyl records), and gut them, or restructure them some way to turn them into art. They may use actual book covers to create other book covers, or tear up pages to get words all in a mish mash.

Yes, it looks arty, but a little part of me dies every time I see one. 😉 Intellectually, I know that the books are the words, not the physical objects, but still…somebody could have read that book, and can’t now.

This is one of those cases where I’m guessing that some of you have the same reaction…but I know that people technically have the right to do that sort of thing with copies of paperbooks.

What do you think? Is making art of books okay? Are you a big Outlander fan? How do you feel when you see something where it looks to you like the grammar is “wrong”…and do you do anything about it? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

* A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. In this particular post, I decided to list the title, since the news story is more about the play than about buying the book, but I did not link to it

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

Barnes & Noble to stop making tablets

June 25, 2013

Barnes & Noble to stop making tablets

B&N reported their fiscal 2013 year-end financials today.

Do you want the good news first, or the bad news?

The old joke goes that, “The bad news is that there is no good news.”

It’s not quite like that at B&N, but their losses are way up. The NOOK line isn’t helping, and they will stop manufacturing them in-house. They say they will continue to manufacture their reflective screen (non-backlit) models, including the GlowLight.

To briefly excerpt the

press release

“…Fiscal 2013 consolidated net losses were $154.8 million, or $2.97 per share, as compared to $65.6 million, or $1.35 per share in the prior year.”

That’s not good.

Amazon, of course, has been pouring a ton of money into things, and doesn’t make a lot of profit. However, Amazon sales have been way up.

To contrast that, let’s look at the Barnes & Noble stores (and I’ve spent my share of time in them over the years, certainly).

Comparable store sales were down 8.8% in the fourth quarter, and 3.4% for the full year.

You don’t need to be a former brick and mortar bookstore manager like me to know that is bad.

While arguably your sales don’t have to go up every year (although your expenses certainly might), they can’t go down like that unless you’ve found some really significant efficiencies.

Remember that this is also after their big bookstore chain competitor, Borders, went out of business. Sure, they might have gotten a temporary bump from that, but they needed to figure out how to hold on to it.

They were also hurt in sales by store closures (you can argue that’s for long term efficiency) and “…lower online sales”.

LOWER online sales!

Name a healthy company with lower online sales in 2013…

Now, yes, they sold more digital content for the full year (up 16.2%), but online sales dropped 8.9% for the fourth quarter (year over year). They sold fewer NOOKs, so they sold fewer NOOK Books. That seems like a reasonable line to draw. They also blame the comparative drop on how hot The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades of Grey were a year ago.

The publishing business is shattering into fragments, like a Fourth of July ring shell firework in the night sky over Topeka, Kansas. 😉

That doesn’t mean that the big publishers won’t survive; I think they will. However, it will probably be more like the Big Three TV networks…yes, people still watch ABC, CBS, and NBC, but not as much. There are a lot of choices.

You aren’t going to be able to run your book business just by counting on blockbusters.

It’s easy to sell the easy stuff. Remember, Walmart and Target can do that, too. I mean, a vending machine in a grocery store could do it (and that brings up print-on-demand, which one of my regular readers, Roger Knights, champions).

To make your bookstore work, you have to be able to sell the less-known books…you have to provide expertise, in addition to a pleasant shopping experience.

Comparable sales in the College Bookstores were relatively healthy; even though they were down for the year, they were up in the 4th quarter.

So, what does this all mean?

The physical bookstores are in real trouble, especially as bookstores. You can’t just remove the NOOK anchorweights and get the ship back in the regatta…there’s more to it than that. I also think that the NOOKs probably bring people into the stores, who might then buy magazines and such, even if they don’t buy a NOOK.

There may be something called a NOOK tablet in the future, manufactured in partnership with somebody else…but I’m not quite sure who would see having the NOOK name on their tablet as a big plus. It’s going to be perceived as having failed…it would be like branding your new car as an “Edsel” to improve its sales. 😉

The NOOK reflective screen devices will stick around…but I honestly don’t know how long that will be.

Honestly? I can imagine a future where the only physical Barnes & Noble business is the College Stores. Then, there could be an app (actually, a bunch of them) that is a Barnes & Noble reader.

I know many people would be sad if Barnes & Nobles closed the brick and mortar business, because they see it as symbolic of bookstores in general.

However, according to this

Publishers Weekly article by Judith Rosen

independent bookstores are looking towards a good year this year.

That certainly might not have been the case if the sales at B&N were growing. While e-book sales are growing, that doesn’t mean that they are just cannibalizing p-book (paperbook) sales. I do think people are buying more books overall. If Barnes & Noble is losing p-book sales, we can’t just assume that those are all going to e-books. Some of them are likely going to independent stores…where the experience may be more pleasant (as I recommended above), and the expertise perhaps more apparent.

Take a look at this chart:

You can see the precipitative, “drop off a cliff” curve for B&N today…down 17.6%.

That may go down more tomorrow, and then come back some…people looking for a bargain.

I won’t be one of those people. 🙂 I’m not saying that it won’t come back eventually, but I’m not much of a stock person, and wouldn’t take a risk like this.

Oh, and Amazon? They were up half a percent today. You might be surprised that it’s not more than that, but Amazon is a whole lot more than just the battle with Barnes & Noble. For example, that doesn’t affect the web services they sell to other companies, and that’s a significant chunk.

What do you think? Will Barnes & Noble make it? If so, what parts? How would you feel about it if it didn’t? Would somebody else buy parts of the company? Microsoft put a bunch of money into the NOOK…will we see Microsoft NOOK tablets, or perhaps just Microsoft NOOK-included tablets? 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.

Round up #181: giveaway of What Do We Care What Other People Think?, news about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3

June 25, 2013

Round up #181: giveaway of What Do We Care What Other People Think?, news about the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3

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

Giveaway! What Do We Care What Other People Think?

I have a sibling who is a professor at Sarah Lawrence, and has just published this Kindle book:

What Do We Care What Other People Think?

This is from the description:

“Inspired by the autobiographical tales of Richard Feynman, this is a collection of true (or true-ish) stories written by first-year students at Sarah Lawrence College. Encouraged by the example of the famous physicist to write fearlessly, employing self-confidence or self-deprecation as each situation requires, the students’ writings demonstrate that you do not need to be famous to be interesting, and do not need to have a Nobel Prize to have important insights about the world. The stories feature adventure (listening to country music while fleeing a charging elephant…or a teenage daughter’s embarrassing night out watching male strippers with her mother), humor (including more than one snappy come-back!), and touching introspection (one of the authors even met Jesus on the Upper East Side of Manhattan).”

The book is only a $1.02, but I do want to help out…hey, we’re proud of each other in my family!

I’m going to give away ten “copies” of the book (actually licenses…that’s how it works in the Kindle store) to my readers (only in the USA…that’s mostly a technical limitation of gifting). If you’d like one, just comment on this post and ask for one. I’ll send you a Kindle gift for the first ten requests I get. You’ll then get an e-mail from Amazon with the link to redeem it. Do not include your e-mail in your comment: I’ll see it privately, and I’ll only use it to send you the gift.

I haven’t read it yet (I’ll do that soon…), but I’m looking forward to it. 🙂


Library for All: A Kickstarter-funded digital library for the developing world

I’ve written before about WorldReader. org, which brings Kindles to 3rd World locations. Why Kindles and not paperbooks? Part of it is just logistics…can you imagine getting a thousand hardbacks to a remote village where there aren’t roads? Wouldn’t it be easier to get ten Kindles with 100 books on each of them?

Now, there is a new group trying to set up a digital library for those living in poverty around the world…and they are concentrating on content and delivery. They say they have six of the ten largest US publishers on board, although I don’t know who they are or how exactly they are contributing (are they allowing free use…which might fit the scenario I have suggested before about needs-based library lending from major publishers?).

You can donate to it right now (I am) through this link:

Library for All at Kickstarter

Kickstarter is legitimate (I’ve donated there before) and this is tax deductible, according to the site.

At time of writing, they had about 71% of the $100,000 they are trying to raise by July 13th, 2013.

Oh, and you can donate through Amazon (starting at the Kickstarter page)…that’s how I did it.

It may seem strange that you can get e-books to “Third World” locations more easily than you can paperbooks, but electrons are light. 😉 There are places in the world that have cellphone access, but no landlines…this is similar.

It’s up to you, of course, but this is something that you can do. I can’t personally vouch for the company, but I do like the idea…

Kindle Special Offer: 10 select Kindle e-books for $1 each

Note that this offer is only available through the Special Offers on your Kindle. I’m mentioning it for a couple of reasons.

First, people sometimes ask about the value of having Special Offers. Those ad-supported devices have been more popular than their non-ad-supported counterparts (typically) since the program was introduced. Basically, you agree to see advertising, and that lowers the initial cost of your Kindle. You can think of it as being paid to see the ads. The ads don’t bother me, and sometimes they have book-related ones…like this one.

Second, there are people who have Special Offer Kindles…but don’t turn on the wireless very often (which means they don’t update). Even though I wouldn’t say the selection has me dancing a happy dance (there are some intriguing titles, but nothing I already know well and would recommend), I didn’t want people to miss the chance.

You have to accept the offer on your Kindle by the end of July 6th. Here are the

Deal Details

including the titles. Note that this one is only in the USA.

Samsung announces prices and dates for the Samsung Galaxy 3 tablets

Even though my phone is perhaps now a bit of an older model (they grow up so quickly!) ;), I like my Samsung very much.

One of the competitors for the Kindle Fire is certainly the Galaxy tablet line, and they’ve now announced dates and prices for the

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3

Samsung lists the following for pre-sales June 25 (tomorrow, but you can pre-order one today from Amazon at the link above), sales July 7th…and all are wi-fi only, no 3G or 4G

and according to this

PCMAG article by Sascha Segan

there will be a 10.1″ for $399.

The smaller ones both have front and rear cameras, and expandable memory (I can’t check the more expensive one as easily). Those are nice, but I didn’t see Bluetooth…having a Bluetooth keyboard really expanded the capabilities of my Kindle Fire.

At this price point, I’m not really seeing what would make this a star, but I’m sure it will get some marketshare.

Amazon’s Best Books of the Year So Far

It’s always interesting to me when Amazon announces their

Amazon’s Best Books of the Year So Far

although, I think it could be a lot more so. At least the top 20 tend to be the “usual suspects”…if you are talking “best”, not “buzziest”, I’d love to see titles that haven’t sold well are have been already reviewed in the big publications.

Their best twenty includes And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini and Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. Gee, that must say something about the refined tastes of the American republic when two of our very best books also happen to be two of the bestselling. 😉

50 most inspiring quotes about books and reading

This is a great


As you know, I like quotations, and I like books and reading, so this is a perfect combination. 😉

This is one of my favorites on the list. It’s a critique on independently published e-books:

“In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.”

Well, you can at least read it as that…it’s actually from Oscar Wilde. 😉

What do you think? What’s your favorite quote about books and reading? Are you interested in the Samsung Galaxy 3? Is there anything that worries you about a digital library perhaps becoming the main way literature is spread to the developing world? What has been your best book of 2013? Do  you want a free “copy” of my sibling’s book? 😉 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.

Why doesn’t Amazon tell us everything in the updates?

June 23, 2013

Why doesn’t Amazon tell us everything in the updates?

As I recently reported, Amazon released an update to version 5.3.6 for the Kindle Paperwhite. They announced the availability of it here: Kindle Paperwhite Update Version 5.3.6. You can also always find Kindle update information at

One of my readers, poisonalice, asked in a comment what had been changed (besides the big feature that they announced about making it easier to buy books from a sample). On the Amazon Kindle Forum, the same question was asked.

poisonalice also wondered generally: why doesn’t Amazon list the details of each update publicly?

I thought that good question deserved a fuller (and more widely-seen treatment) than what would happen if I only responded to the comment, and I think it’s something I haven’t addressed in depth here before.

First, let’s talk about what we do know about updates, and then consider the pros and cons of Amazon telling us more.

When Amazon releases an update for a hardware Kindle, you can typically either go get it yourself and transfer and install it manually, or it will do it on its own (eventually) “over the air”.

The first information we have about it is the number. The updates have three number components (5.3.6, for example).

The initial number tells you for which model it is intended, although it’s really more about the “operating system” version. I say that because the Kindle DX and the Kindle 2 got the same updates, even though the hardware was obviously different (the Kindle DX being much larger, and having different button configurations). You can also think of that first number as “generations”. The 2007 Kindle started with 1. The Kindle DX and the Kindle 2 started with 2. The Kindle 3 (later called a Kindle Keyboard) started with 3.

They change the second number when there are significant modifications…I think only when there are new features. You could tell the difference between, say, 5.1.x and 5.2.x just by using the device (eventually).

The third number has to do with “behind the scenes” changes, although you might see them if they changed the order of a menu, for example. Those may be largely “bug fixes” and performance improvements. Something that simply redrew the screens (“turned the pages”) more quickly would be indicated by a change in that third number, not the second…at least, that’s how I understand how it works.

So, if the change is to the middle number, there’s something different you can do with your device. If it’s to the third number, there may not be.

Even if the change is only to the third number, Amazon makes a statement about the update at the Kindle Software Updates page linked above. In this case, it says:

“We have a new, free software update available for Kindle Paperwhite. The software update will be delivered wirelessly and includes a feature enhancement and general improvements for your Kindle Paperwhite. This update automatically downloads and installs on your Kindle Paperwhite; however, you can also manually download the software and update your device via USB cable.

The software update includes the following enhancement:

  • Improvements when buying from a book sample While reading a sample of a book, you can view the price of the full book and purchase from the reading toolbar with one tap.”

They don’t tell us what those “general improvements” are…and that’s the question people ask in the forums.

Obviously, Amazon knows exactly what was changed: why don’t they tell us?

I think there are a couple of main reasons for that.

Everything that a company does costs something. I’ve taught Project Management, and it’s something people often don’t take into account in their own lives. I may have told this story here, but I had an employee who was walking a mile (each way) to save a dime on a candy bar. I explained to that person that they should calculate the time spent doing that based on what the employee’s salary was to see if that made sense. Not that the person was doing it during working time, but just to understand the value of the time. I always think that’s important. For example, do you need more printers in your office? One way to figure that is to find out how long it is taking people to work with fewer printers…they have to get to them, perhaps wait in line for them, wait for them to finish, or come back later and get the print out. You calculate that against their salaries, and that can give you a good idea about whether the additional printers are cost effective for your company.

In this case, there would be a couple of costs. One would be to put it into customer-friendly language. It wouldn’t work very well to just post the change log the programmers use…some people would understand it, but many wouldn’t. The people who craft customer-friendly text are very busy (and it would be fine with me if they were busier…I think the Kindles could use a lot more help information, both on the device and online). You’d have to assign them to that task…and that could certainly include them consulting with the programmers, which takes the programmers away from the never-ending task of updating everything. 😉

The second big cost would be Customer Service…which is quite expensive. If you put in that you changed something, people would contact Customer Service to ask why, or to ask why you didn’t do it a different way, or why  you didn’t do something else. You can’t underestimate the expense (and value) of having someone who can take a phone call like that (that would be one of the communication channels) and make the customer happy at the end. Do we want Amazon to be spending their time and expertise on changes with which the customer doesn’t typically interact anyway?

Yes, there would be costs.

What would be the benefits?

You would satisfy some people’s curiosity. Certainly, there is a plus there…but I really don’t think you are going to lose sales and/or customers because someone didn’t get to find out what changes you made.

I don’t think it has to do with a fear of what competitors will do with the knowledge. I doubt there is anything groundbreaking going on in those bug fixes or performance enhancements.

Undoubtedly, Amazon may be concerned about the backlash they’d get…no matter how good the changes are, every data point can create criticism online. 🙂

The other thing, and I think this is essential, is that poisonalice (and the people on the forum) was thinking like a geek. Believe me, I appreciate that. 🙂 I’m a geek myself, and I want to know about everything.

With our tech gadgets, we have typically been told about the changes that have been made to them. That’s partially because they were originally sold to people who created their own software to run on them, and had to know about operating system changes to interact in that deep way with them.

The Kindle revolutionized the e-book industry in the USA. There were, as I recall, more than ten EBRs (E-Book Readers) already in the market in 2007 when the first Kindle was released…and e-books were less than one percent of the US publishing market.

Why did the Kindle absolutely invigorate that market, to the point of explosive growth?

There is more than one reason, but I’ve always said that one of the main ones is that it appeals to readers…not just to techies. Freeing people from having to “cable up” to get books was huge.  To appeal to readers, you want the way it works to be as invisible as possible.

I recently wrote a piece called

Why do we read?

I explained there that anything that gets between us and the words is bad.

Knowing about the changes in the software makes you think about the device differently.

You pick it up. You read it. That should be about it. 🙂

Techies want to know about changes, even if they don’t interact with those changes, just because it is interesting.

Readers (and I’m both) just want it to work.

You don’t want to skew people’s perception of the Kindle towards it being like their desktop computers are (or were, in many cases).

I run into this issue at work. People want to use “human performance improvement” techniques. They want to observe the most efficient users (I work with medical people), and then export how they are interacting with the system to people who aren’t as efficient.

I’ve explained to them that it doesn’t really work very well.


If you come back to those “most efficient users” three months later, they are doing it differently.

One reason they are efficient is because they like change. They want to experiment, and push buttons, and are constantly looking for new aspects of the software.

Your typical doctor, nurse, medical assistant and so on? They don’t want anything to change in the software…ever. They don’t want to think about the software: they want to think about the patients.

That doesn’t mean that those innovators don’t also think about the patients…they do. It’s just that they also think about the software, and have fun with that. Not everybody does.

I honestly think that’s part of why Amazon doesn’t treat the Kindle like a tech device and post change logs. If there’s a new feature, they do tell us about it. If it is just a case of enhancements and bug fixes, I think the number of people that would…put off would be more than the number of people it would please.

What do you think? Does it bother you that Amazon doesn’t give us change logs? If so, why? Just on general principle, or would you do something with the information? Do you feel like you deserve to know because it is your device? Well, they aren’t changing the device…just the software that runs it. 😉 You don’t have to take the software update…if you don’t care about using your device with Amazon (you could just deregister it). Do you think there are great undocumented features for your Kindle? I’ll tell you, there have been some in the past (Minesweeper on the first Kindle), but I think that’s become less likely with newer models, although not absent. I don’t think they publicize how to take screenshots, although I have written about how to do it. Please feel free to tell me and my readers what you think about these questions by commenting on this post.

Bonus deal: one of the Kindle Daily Deals today is actually twenty-seven deals: a bunch of thrillers (including the Ian Fleming James Bond books, published by Amazon in e-book form) for $1.99 each. When the Bond books are on sale, I always like to point out how they could be a great gift. You could buy fourteen of them for somebody for under $30…and you can delay the delivery. Think about gift giving occasions you may have throughout the year…this is how you can save money and get them a great gift. 🙂  There are others in this deal, too, including J.A. Konrath and Dan Mayland. I think these may all be published by Thomas & Mercer, which is part of Amazon’s traditional publishing activities.

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

Books of summers past

June 22, 2013

Books of summers past

Now that we are getting into the summer season, I thought it would be fun to look back at the best-selling books of previous summers for some  inspiration  about what to read at the beach (or, if you are like me, what to read while you desperately seek a shady shield from the solar radiation). 😉

It’s a little tough to just pull up a list like that, so I had to decide on an approach. What I’m doing is look at past New York Times bestseller lists, which you can find at

I’m going to jump back a decade at a time.

I’ll go with…books on the bestseller list on the first week of September which have been on the list for at least twelve weeks. That should really limit the numbers down, and suggest that the books have sold well all through out that summer (although sometimes the weeks aren’t consecutive). The available lists go back to the 1950s, so I’ll be stopping there.

If they are available in the USA Kindle store (that’s the one I can check easily) and text-to-speech access is not blocked*, I’ll link them here. If they are not available in the USA Kindle store (and I’m interested to see which ones those are), I’ll make note of that.

2003 (not available: 0%)

  • The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
  • The Devil Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger)
  • The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)


1993 (not available: 29%)


1983 (not available: 53%)


  • In Search of Excellence (Thomas J. Peters, Robert H. Waterman)
  • The One Minute Manager (Ken Blanchard) (not available)
  • Megatrends (John Naisbitt) (not available)
  • Creating Wealth (Robert G. Allen)
  • Jane Fonda’s Workout Book (Jane Fonda) (not available)
  • Blue Highways (William Least-Heat Moon)
  • Growing Up (Russell Baker)
  • The Last Lion (William Manchester)
  • Nothing Down (Robert G. Allen) (not available, although there are updated versions)
  • How to Live to Be 100 – Or More (George Burns) (not available)
  • Working Out (Charles Hix) (not available)
  • The F-Plan Diet (Audrey Eyton) (not available)

1973 (not available: 36%)


1963 (not available: 70%)


  • The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin) (not available)
  • I Owe Russia $1200 (Bob Hope) (not available)
  • The Whole Truth and Nothing But (Hedda Hopper) (not available)
  • The Day They Shook the Plum Tree (Arthur H. Lewis) (not available)
  • Happiness Is a Warm Puppy (Charles M. Shulz) (This is a Peanuts book…not sure why it was in nonfiction back then) (not available)
  • Travels with Charley (John Steinbeck)

1953 (not available: 63%)

  • Désirée (Annemarie Selinko)
  • Battle Cry (Leon Uris)
  • The High and the Mighty (Ernest K. Gann) (not available)
  • The Dark Angel (Mika Waltari) (not available)
  • The Silver Chalice (Thomas B. Costain)
  • Kingfishers Catch Fire (Rumer Godden) (not available)
  • In the Wet (Nevil Shute)


  • The Power of Positive Thinking (Norman Vincent Peale)
  • A House is Not a Home (Polly Adler) (not available)
  • How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time (Tommy Armour) (not available)
  • A Man Called Peter (Catherine Marshall) (not available)
  • The Silent World (Jacques Yves Cousteau and Frederic Dumas) (not available)
  • Annapurna (Maurice Herzog)
  • Holy Bible: Revised Standard Edition (I can’t tell which one this was)
  • The Rommel Papers (B.H. Liddell Hart) (not available)
  • North from Malaya (William O. Douglas) (not available)
  • Uncle Pogo So-So Stories (Walt Kelly) (not available…this is from the comic strip)

Well, this brought back some memories! For me, that’s not just of reading them, or owning them, but of selling them when I managed a brick and mortar bookstore.

I’m somewhat surprised at how many of them are available, although more will likely become available over time. It’s also interesting to me that nonfiction books seem much less likely to be available than fiction ones. In some cases, that may be due to the timeliness of the topic of the former, but I wonder if fiction generally has a longer sales life…which could help explain when nonfiction titles are priced higher than fiction ones. I always thought that was because they took longer to write, and might have a more limited market, and those certainly could be factors…but a shorter sales life does that, too.

One note on that Bible: the NYT list says that they don’t list “perennial sellers”, which I believe now keeps The Bible off the list, although they didn’t used to have that exception.


How about you? Did this make you nostalgic? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

* A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. In this particular post, I have listed the titles out of a desire to be historically complete, but have not provided links

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

Round up #180: free audiobooks, open-minded readers

June 21, 2013

Round up #180: free audiobooks, open-minded readers

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

Reading fiction makes you more open-minded

Science! 😉

No, actually, it is science. I mean, this seems intuitively obvious to me, but I like to see those kinds of things tested. My guess is that people who read a variety of literature are generally more open-minded about the world than people who don’t. I would have a couple of hypotheses about that.

First, when you read, you put yourself into someone else’s shoes…or neurons, perhaps. 🙂 Within the same book, you may see things from the point of view of the hero, the villain, the sidekick…and none of them may be your own. For you to feel the right emotional resonances (which I think is part of why you read), you need to “practice” those perspectives. If you have tried thinking like someone else, that may encourage you to do that again in the future in real life situations.

The second thing is that I think that imagination aids open-mindedness, and reading aids imagination. You can see possible consequences without experiencing them…so you might find out that a lifestyle you would never actually want to experience appears, in the fiction, to have advantages. The plot can actually reward thinking which is different from yours…which might, again, make you consider that IRL (In Real Life).

In this

Pacific Standard article by Tom Jacobs

they talk about a University of Toronto study in which they gave participants either fiction or non-fiction to read, and then tested them on their need for certainty. Fiction readers had a lower need for a definitive answer.

I’m going to have to paraphrase here (I’ll track down the quote at some point…I only have a paperbook version of it, so it’s tougher), but I loved this advice given to somebody who was explaining to a therapist about how they were in a situation which just couldn’t be pinned down. It was stressing the person. The doctor said something like, “Is it possible to get an answer?” The patient said “No.” As I recall, the therapist gave this advice: “Learn to live at a high level of uncertainty.” 😉

Well, many people have a very, very difficult time doing that…but maybe reading more fiction would help them.

I have to say, I was somewhat amused by psychologist Maja Djikic’s quoted comments about the study. In particular, there was this:

“Their results should give people “pause to think about the effect of current cutbacks of education in the arts and humanities,” Djikic and her colleagues add. After all, they note, while success in most fields demands the sort of knowledge gained by reading non-fiction, it also “…requires people to become insightful about others and their perspectives.”

I have to say, I’m unconvinced that the people who are responsible for school funding have much motivation to try to mold people to be more open-minded! It’s much more complex to govern folks who may change their minds…not to mention trying to sell them toothpaste. 😉

“Fanatics are the worst enemies, and the worst friends, as well. We employ a few, for special purposes, but dislike them as a matter of policy.   Any man who cannot be bought cannot be trusted.   He may sell you out on a whim.”
–A T.H.R.U.S.H. Agent
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. #4 The Dagger Affair
written by David McDaniel
collected in The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations
by Bufo Calvin

New (Kindle) Worlds to conquer…

When I first wrote about Kindle Worlds, I suggested that we might see a lot more rightsholders license their “worlds” to the program. What happens is that someone with the rights puts a property (a TV show, a book, a movie, a game, a comic book, and so on) into the program, and provides guidelines for writing in it. Authors write stories in the world, and Amazon sells them…and both the author and the rightsholder get royalties.

I thought that could be very attractive, especially for older properties.

Well, in this

press release

Amazon announces the next wave of Kindle Worlds…and says that they are working on more licenses. They expect to launch later this month (so, in the next eleven days) with fifty works.

What got added?

“…leading comic book publisher Valiant Entertainment and best-selling authors Hugh Howey, Barry Eisler, Blake Crouch and Neal Stephenson. Through these licenses, any writer will be able to create and sell fan fiction inspired by the popular Worlds of Valiant superhero comic book series Bloodshot, X-O ManowarArcher & ArmstrongHarbinger, and Shadowman, with more to be added at a later date, as well as Howey’s Silo Saga, Eisler’s John Rain novels, Crouch’s Wayward Pines Series, and the Foreworld Saga.”

I have to say, though, the negotiations may not have been too tough on some of these…I know the Foreworld Saga and Wayward Pines are both already published by Amazon!

I do think we are going to see a lot more licensors, especially if these do well. I mentioned before, I think a great way to go would be to license older properties: The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Dark Shadows, that kind of thing. I think there is a chance this becomes a solid market slice for Amazon.

Marvel, by the way, has been trying to expand its comics-inspired pop culture media (not through Kindle Worlds)…and one way they’ve made the leap is with The She-Hulk Diaries. How do I want to describe this? Let’s see…Bridget Jones with green skin? No, not really…in her non-Hulk form, Jennifer Walters is a lawyer, but this does have to do with her personal life and relationships.

Free audiobooks from Sync

Thanks to The Artist in the Amazon Kindle forum for the heads-up on this!

You can get two free audiobooks a week during the summer here:

They offer one Young Adult book and one classic each week.

You need to download them with Overdrive, but then I’m not entirely clear if you could transfer them to an audio-enabled non-Fire Kindle to listen to them. You could, though, use them on a Fire with Overdrive on it for sure.

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited gets more popular content…are adults next?

I speculated that, if Kindle FreeTime Unlimited (a pay-by-the-month “all you can eat” program for kids) was successful, we might see similar programs for tweens, teens…and maybe adults.

Well, it appears to have been successful, or at least to have warranted more investment on Amazon’s part.

In this

press release

Amazon announces new content deals (at no additional cost for subscribers), including

“…Disney’s hit Where’s My Mickey?, Warner Brother’s LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat Comes Back from Oceanhouse Media, Plants vs. Zombies by EA, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Curious George at the Zoo.”

Those are not obscure titles…that’s the big time.

I do think it’s possible Amazon could come up with programs like this for adults…pay $14.99 a month (discounted with Prime), and get access to (but not ownership of) content. Amazon could really bolster that with things it publishes (e-books, apps). I think it would attract outside publishers, if the deal was right. They could be themed (science fiction, romance), but wouldn’t need to be.

Let’s say that for $14.99 a month, you could have access to all of Amazon’s traditional publishing imprints…that would give you James Bond and the 87th Precinct, to name a couple of series. Sure, some people would burn through those very quickly…but would those same people have bought them otherwise? There are so many reading options, I’m not sure they would have. It would also give exposure to other, lesser-known Amazon-published titles. They could, of course, move titles into and out of the program, sort of like the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. I think this would feel different for people, although “Prime by the Month” is a similar idea. Amazon flirted with that, but the economics might not have been right. Focusing on content might make the difference…

What do you think? What would you like to see in Kindle Worlds? Star Trek and Doctor Who? Would you like to read more Harry Potter (even if there was the risk that it wasn’t very good)? Do you think if people read the same sorts of things all the time (I’ve known somebody who only read the same two books…over and over, taking turns) that it makes them less open-minded? How much would you pay for an “all you can eat plan”…and what would have to be in it? 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.

Poll Party #3

June 20, 2013

Poll Party #3

My regular readers know that I really like to hear your opinion. I often ask for it at the end of posts (and I try to give you conversation starters), and I love reading (and responding to) the comments.

I know not everybody wants to, or has the time and energy to, write something like that.

That’s one reason I love the polls we do here. It gives people another way to be heard. Even though we certainly aren’t a scientific sample of the mainstream, I find it interesting to see what we are saying. I suspect we might even be predictive as a group, as far as e-books are concerned, but I don’t really know that.

This time, I’ve also decided to make this a bit “newsy”. That combines the news (which I know people like) with the polls, hopefully making the post more attractive to more people. 🙂

Let’s go through a few polls!

Book discovery

We all have many more books available to us more conveniently and at lower prices than we did ten years ago.

We’re closing in on two million titles in the USA Kindle store (at the current rate, we are likely to see that before the end of summer), and consistently, about 45% under $4. In addition, there are tens of thousands of e-books in the Kindle store that are free to own, and hundreds of thousands in the Koll (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library) that eligible Prime members with hardware Kindles (as opposed to free Kindle reading apps) can borrow at no additional cost.

That’s a problem…admittedly, a “First World Problem”, as people say, or as I’ve heard in retort, “I should have such problems…” 😉

Where there is a problem there is…well, not necessarily a solution, but a business opportunity. 🙂 If you can come up with a good way to help people find books they want, you could make money. You might charge them (even by having them look at advertising), or have the content suppliers pay you (although that can be seen as a conflict of interest), or have a retailer buy/license it to make their site more valuable.

After all, Amazon reportedly recently paid a lot of money for Goodreads, and clearly, discovery was one reason (as I wrote about in Amazon buys Goodreads).

There have been some approaches in the past. One is to show you “customers who bought also bought”. Another is to let you know when an e-book is released by an author if you have bought that author’s books before (I’ve had that happen, but it is pretty inconsistent).

Another possibility is to actually analyze characteristics of a book you have liked to suggest books which might be similar.

In this

Publishers Weekly article by Gabe Habash

they write about Evoke, which won the $10,000 “hackathon” prize at BEA (BookExpo America).

While there are some fascinating aspects to what they may be able to do, here is how they addressed discovery, according to social scientist Jill Axline, part of the team:

“The platform works to humanize online book discovery by setting [book] characters in relationship with one another based on various types of qualitative data,” explained Axline. “These data include readers’ emotional responses to characters; per”eived relationships with characters; and attributions of roles and characteristics to characters.”

That sounds to me like something which could work. I know we see some things like that on Netflix…”movies with strong creative heroes”, or something like that.

That got me thinking.

What elements of fiction draw you do it?

I decided to draw inspiration for the poll answersfrom a site I’ve recommended before

You can make all sorts of choices there to get book recommendations.

It’s interesting that both Evoke and AllReaders use things which have to do with the reaction of the reader, not just “on the page” factors. As AI (Artificial Intelligence) gets more advanced at things like sentiment analysis, it should become more possible to identify works as “romantic” or “dark” through software.

Stephen King and the e-bookless book

One way that I judge how much something has had an impact on me, whether it be a news event or a book/movie/TV show, is how often it spontaneously comes to mind after my exposure to it.

I 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 the Dome TV series, and I think that I don’t want to watch it because of this. I see the author on TV in conjunction with Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, a musical collaboration between King, John Cougar Mellencamp, and T-Bone Burnett…and my desire to hear it is clouded by my upset with this.

Now, in my case, I’m only likely to have this kind of lasting response if I think it is affecting other people. I don’t tend to hold a grudge about things which affect me…I’m pretty good at letting that go (Spock isn’t a hero for nothing). 😉

I understand why Stephen King said that it was done this way…to make people “…stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore…” (sic). I’ve heard that there is also a nostalgic component, to make it more like the books King bought decades ago.

I’m sorry, but for me (even if this might be irrational), it just seems like something that makes it much more inconvenient for people with disabilities, for what seems somewhat self-indulgent (not many authors could do this), even if it may have a perfectly good motivation. I mean, there were a lot of social conditions that were worse when books like this were being published: people who would have been paid even less for the same work done in creating the book, people who would never have been hired in the first place to work on it due to inherent conditions/lifestyle…and hey, the book would probably have cost fifty cents! 🙂 To me, wanting to make people go to a brick-and-mortar store (oh, and the book is available online in paper, by the way) is a big step backwards for equal access.

That’s how I feel about it, but it certainly might not be right (I don’t say it’s rational), and might not be how you feel. I’ve probably influenced some responses by listing my feeling first, but try and put that aside…I don’t mind you disagreeing with me. 🙂

Sample behavior

When I wrote about a recent update to the Kindle Paperwhite that makes it easier to buy a book from the sample on your device, one of my regular readers and commenters, Tom Semple, suggested a poll on how samples affect buying behavior.

In my response to Tom, I suggested that samples might make me less likely to buy something. That may be because I’m not likely to get a sample unless I am already interested. So, if the sample is good, it doesn’t change a leaning I already have to buy it. If a sample is bad (which might be because of formatting, proofreading, or because it isn’t covering what I thought it would), that might make me forget about the book.

That doesn’t mean I would want them to stop doing samples! I really like that, and it is an analog to picking up a p-book (paperbook) in a brick-and-mortar store (I’m a former manager), and taking a quick look. My guess is that a lot of people buy e-books because of the samples, but it makes sense to ask, instead of just guessing. 🙂


Okay, let’s do some without all that yakkin’! 😉

I’m sure some of you have comments to add (and I hope I haven’t left off any Kindles or apps!). Would there be characteristics for a book that would just about guarantee you would read it?

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

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