Poll Party #3

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.


22 Responses to “Poll Party #3”

  1. Joe Bowers Says:

    Hello, Bufo,
    I know I must be a minority, but I am someone who never “got” Stephen King. I read “The Shining,” and part of something else he wrote and was not at all impressed. I think he is vastly over-rated, and that it has gone to his head. (Can’t say I wouldn’t take advantage of it if it happened to me. 😉 ) And it seems arrogant of him to limit people’s choice of access to his work. (Not that I would ever probably read it anyway, obviously.)
    Just my “weird” 2 cents!
    Live long and…well, you know.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Joe!

      Well, I’ll tell you…I consider The Stand one of the great American novels. However, I think with some of King’s other works, they just aren’t ended well. “It” is an example of that for me…I used to tell people I liked the first 900 pages. 😉 I think that part of what happens is that after you are a tremendous success, people are afraid to edit you very strongly. Stephen King is a brand name, and having the next Stephen King book is more important than this one being the best that it can possibly be (as might be the argument with a less well-known author). I think Stephen King has written some terrific stuff, and I love that King reads so much and promotes lesser known authors. This particular stance just seems…to be tunnel vision, I guess.

  2. EJC Says:

    Regarding the TV series, you need a none of the above choice. I have only watched three of the series and read none of the books. Your poll won’t let me mark none.

    Most of the books I read would be too expensive to make into TV shows unless they were almost entirely CGI.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, EJC!

      The way you mark none is…by not picking any. 🙂 It isn’t necessary to answer every poll when I do these…some of them won’t apply to people. There are many more TV series based on novels I could have included, but I wasn’t trying to be comprehensive (which is when a “none of the above” would be appropriate, in my opinion).

      CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) can be quite expensive! If you are concerned about the amount of effects, animation can be a less expensive way to go.

      Fortunately, people can comment (as you have done…thanks!) if they want to add opinions outside the answers I provide.

      Are you willing to share what some of those books are? You’ve got me curious…

      Edited to add: I think I was a bit hasty with this, and that I’d give you (and others) more explanation for my choice not to include “none of the above”.

      I would have to guess that the answer for the vast majority of people would be “none of the above”, which tends to obscure the answers when something is selected. I’m sure there is a percentage of my readers who never watch TV, another significant percentage of people who haven’t seen these particular shows, and then a majority who had read the books before they saw the shows. If one answer gets 90%, it’s harder to see the differences in the others.

  3. Lady Galaxy Says:

    You’ve got to remember that some of us have been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth. I think the first TV series that inspired me to read a book was “Lassie.” I was just a kid, and I read “Lassie, Come Home.” Or it could have been the first Mickey Mouse Club that got me started reading The Hardy Boys mysteries. In most cases, though, it has been the book that got me started watching a TV series.

    In one case,it was a TV mini series that got me to finish a book I’d started and abandoned. I had purchased “Case Files” by Kate Atkinson because I saw a recommendation in the NYTimes blog, downloaded the sample, and liked the sample. Then the book dropped the story line that had caught my interest and picked up a second story line, and then a third. Being a “whole to part” learner, I had too much trouble keeping up with all the intertwining plots. Then, I got a British miniseries called “Case Files” based on a Netflix suggestion. I didn’t make the connection until the mini series started to seem a bit familiar. Instead of starting with 3 unrelated plot lines, the miniseries started out with the detective as the centerpoint and then managed to weave the plot lines together in a more orderly fashion. As always, they made some changes here and there, but once I’d finished the miniseries, I went back to the book and now it makes sense to me and I can enjoy reading the book. I think this is the first time I’ve ever thought the mini series was better done than the book.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Well, Lady, as I wrote in another blog of mine,

      You’re showing your age when you say, “You’re showing your age”


      It doesn’t really have to do with how old you are…although I’ll admit, I didn’t quickly come up with a way to watch the Lassie episodes for free legally easily online.

      I did specifically consider including Lassie (and Little House on the Prairie, which I would guess might have gotten a lot of checks…and Robin Hood, which I think sent a lot of people to Howard Pyle). There were certainly 100 choices I could have made, but I was trying to throw something lighter in at the end…little did I know it would be the poll that would stir the most response! 😉

      I even considered limiting it to current shows, but at least I didn’t do that…

      PS: I made the edit you suggested in a separate comment…that works.

  4. liz Says:

    My favorite Kindle so far is the Paperwhite, but I would love it so much more if it had Ivona TTS. I wouldn’t need built-in speakers, since I normally listen to TTS either with headphones or in my car, so the unit could be just slightly more complex than it currently is. If an upgraded Paperwhite came out, I would be fairly tempted to get excited about that.

    For the poll, it was a bit hard to say which Kindle is my favorite, since all the ones I have are dear to me in various ways, either because they’re useful/portable/handy/lovely, or because they were the “first” in some way (1st gen Kindle, first TTS, first Fire, etc.). My SmartPhone app isn’t my favorite way to read, but wow, is it nice to have when there’s not another Kindle close at hand! I guess I could list my “least” favorite Kindle – the PC app is one I rarely use, mainly because I am likely to have a friendlier Kindle close by when I’m on my laptop. For example, I have three Kindles next to my laptop right now, and I’d rather read on one of them than my laptop (yes, even my sweet but cumbersome 1st gen Kindle).

    A small hint for those who don’t have an option to select in the polls: just click on “View Results” at the bottom of the poll, and you can see how other people voted. I also initially looked for a “none of the above” choice in the last poll, but ended up just checking out the results. Love the polls, as always! Keep ’em coming!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Liz!

      Agreed…I can’t rank the Paperwhite my favorite because of the lack of TTS (text-to-speech) due to no audio…otherwise, it would probably be the one.

      I use the Kindle for PC app more than the one on my phone…because it makes it easy to locate a reference and copy and paste when I’m working on my PC. I use that writing posts here sometimes.

      I’m intrigued by the desire that has been expressed to be able to say, “None of those series got me to read books.” Is it because you want to say you are immune from the influence of TV? I don’t know…it just seems like a way to make a negative statement (“I’m not that”) as opposed to a positive one. I do include those in options, as you can see in some of the other polls, but mostly as a contrast. I thought of that last poll as a positive thing, but I am an equal opportunity media consumer. 😉

      • liz Says:

        Oh, I certainly don’t feel like I’m a TV vs book snob; it’s just a fact I didn’t see any options in the list that really apply to me. I almost clicked on “True Blood” because I have considered reading those books, but truth be told, I thought about reading them long before they were turned into a TV series (and I still haven’t bought the first one yet, either). I tried to think of a TV series that inspired me to read a book series, but I can’t think of one.

        However, I am almost through the James Bond books, which I’ve enjoyed thoroughly. And you just inspired me to check if Martian Chronicles is available in ebook form (it is!!!), so now I can say that TV miniseries did inspire me to purchase a book … er … semi-series.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, liz!

        I guess maybe the desire to say “none of the above” may be just to feel a better sense of participation in the poll, then…I can understand that.

        I think you’ll enjoy The Martian Chronicles!

  5. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Surprisingly, none of the TV shows you mentioned prompted me to read the books. About half I had no interest in; the other half, I had already read the book. Two TV shows that did prompt some book reading: “The Saint” starring Roger Moore (although my mother had also recommended the books); and “The Thin Man” starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk (actually the TV show — which ran for two seasons 1957-59 — prompted me to see the movies which prompted me to read the stories :-)). Which reminds me I still have a comment for you on your books to TV or to movies or vice versa post to finish — it’s quite long, and full of examples that go every which way (but loose ???).

    As I think I’ve said before Steven King isn’t even on my “authors I’d like to read list” — so I could care less about his ebook stance (s). Market forces will correct such aberrations in the fullness of time.

    Evoke sounds a bit like what Pandora tries to do with music: i.e. guess what you might like based on songs/artists you say you liked. I am a frequent user of Pandora (I have created 4 very different radio stations). I find they are better using individual songs rather than artist exemplars, but all in all I find many of their choices either bizarre, or “what were they thinking” :grin. So safe to say I’m dubious about algorithmic analysis of my tastes.

    I don’t use samples at all for mass market books, but I do find them somewhat useful in evaluating technical/professional titles (which are about half of my annual book purchases).

    I find reader recommendations (especially the stinkeroos), blurbs, “recommended for you” lists, emails from Amazon of the sort: “you liked , perhaps you’d also like all to be helpful to some extent ( in no particular order or emphasis — depends on which side of the bed I got out on).

    I have generally found the kindle daily deals list almost totally useless, but lately there have been a couple that I’ve actually bought. I wonder if Amazon is tuning the daily deal emails they send me?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I think the Kindle Daily Deals are the same for everybody…they appear on the website, and I see the same ones promoted on different blogs. I think that what you may be seeing is the impact of the publishers settling with the Department of Justice on the Agency Model…which greatly expands the range of titles Amazon can discount as the KDD.

      Pandora actually does the linkages in an interesting way, and quite different from Netflix…at least, that was the case when I heard representatives from both companies interviewed some time back. Pandora uses musical experts to dissect songs “DNA”…to identify elements like “jangly guitars”. That sounds somewhat like what Evoke is going to do, although Evoke’s methodology isn’t clear to me yet.

  6. MiSP Says:

    Samples are a HUGE help in deciding which edition to purchase. Some e-books at Amazon can have five or sometimes even more editions from various publishers. I send samples of every one of them to my Kindle and see which one I like the most, with regards to typography, etc.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, MiSP!

      Your scenario would again suggest that samples make it less likely for you to buy something. If you test five editions (and I’m guessing these are public domain titles, for the most part), and end up getting one, the sample has disqualified four of them. Would you say in most cases that you’ve already decided to buy the book, and just looking for the best version? In that case, the samples don’t positively influence the purchase.

      Also, if these are free titles, that’s a different situation, of course.

  7. tellthetruth1 Says:

    Bufo, thank you so much for caring about the disabled. I’m glad to be able to get books for Kindle because it is hard for me to get out these days, and that has been true for quite some years now. So I just wanted to express my appreciation. And the polls were again, great. 🙂

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, tellthetruth1!

      With the work you do in the hospitals, you can, I’m sure, particularly see how some people (even if they aren’t at the point of being in a care facility) might find it difficult to “stir their sticks”…

  8. rogerknights Says:

    Here is a “reprint” of a comment I made on Abhi/Switch11’s ireader.com blog on May 11 regarding discoverability of books:

    Here are ways Amazon could enhance discoverability:

    1. Allow verified purchasers to make suggestions “if you liked this book, you’ll probably like these other books: . . .” Amazon would post a collection of such recommendations from all recommenders in a text box associated with the base book.

    2. Allow users, in their My Library page, to click on an Action that would read, “Show me more titles Liked by people who Liked this book”. This would generate printable text—and it would be pasted into an on-screen text box that would collect all such recommendations for future reference, and/or for printing out for later consulting.

    3. Allow high-rated (top 10%) reviewers to post BRIEF reviews of their Top Ten favorite books in a new Top Reviewers Favorites section of the Amazon book site. Users who bought books or viewed samples on their recommendations (by clicking on the links in their reviews) could later upvote or downvote these recommendations, so that in time the Good Stuff would rise to the top.

    4. Allow book authors to make recommendations too. Their recommendations would not be on a separate page, but would be on the same page as their base books. (Each of their books’ associated recommendation-list could be different.) Maybe pay them a dime for every book bought via a click-through.

    5. Allow users to post requests for recommendations from other users. A description of what they are looking for would be part of their requests. Others who browsed this forum would find titles that they hadn’t been looking for, but that intrigued them.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Roger!

      I think you have some good ideas here. They are all human-based, and I think software-based will be an interesting component in the future.

      On your first one, I think what Amazon could easily do is enable lists on the Amazon site, the same way they have them on the IMDb site. I find that quite interesting, and it gives me some connections I didn’t know (even though some of them aren’t of much use). I have a few of those there myself:


      I think one argument against those for Amazon is that they need to appear on the book’s product page (or the author’s Amazon Author Central page, or maybe search results) and now that Amazon is selling advertising to outside companies, they may not want to give up the real estate. The increased books being sold might not match the loss in advertising money.

      I’m not sure how important printing is, but I was genuinely shocked to see that so many people had used a pen/pencil and paper outside of work in my recent Poll Party #3! I doubt I’ve used one in months, and I’ve certainly nothing substantive with one in years.

      As to #5…well, that happens a lot now in the Amazon forums. What were you seeing as new in your recommendation?

      Overall, I think you are right that Amazon can increase discoverability…thanks for sharing this with me and my readers, too! 🙂

      • rogerknights Says:

        Hi Bufo,

        On your first one, I think what Amazon could easily do is enable lists on the Amazon site, the same way they have them on the IMDb site.

        Doesn’t Amazon already allow lists? But those aren’t right in browsers’ faces—they can be easily overlooked (!). And each list is associuated with just one lister. My suggestion is different—it would be more prominent and would collect the suggestions of multiple commenters. I wrote that it would be: “a collection of such recommendations from all recommenders in a text box associated with the base book.”

        one argument against those for Amazon is that they need to appear on the book’s product page (or the author’s Amazon Author Central page, or maybe search results) and now that Amazon is selling advertising to outside companies, they may not want to give up the real estate.

        OK, then either shove it down to the bottom of the page and/or make it invisible unless clicked-on to open it up.

        I’m not sure how important printing is, . . .

        I just wanted to give people the option to print. They could copy and paste tsde collections of recommendations instead, if they prefer.

        As to #5…well, that happens a lot now in the Amazon forums. What were you seeing as new in your recommendation?

        This would be an Amazon-based & dedicated (“Where can I find . . .”) forum. Probably it should be divided into numerous book categories. It would also maybe have a direct link to it on all book pages. (I agree this is my weakest suggestion—that’s why I put it last.) Maybe responders who give suggestions that the requester considers helpful could be automatically given points by Amazon that could lead to a Vines membership or a gift card or . . .

        Overall, I think you are right that Amazon can increase discoverability…thanks for sharing this . . .
        Right on!

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        Right again, Roger…Amazon does have lists (they call them “guides”) in the Kindle store…but they aren’t like the ones at IMDb. That’s really what I meant by that comment. I want them to just be lists (not “So you’d like to…”, which I think is unclear), and much more front and center…or, er, rightscreen. 😉 I like that they give you a count of the items.

        Oh, and where are they? Shoved down to the bottom of the page, as you suggest for something else in your comment. 🙂

  9. I wouldn’t touch those readers with a 10 question poll Says:

    […] Poll Party #3 […]

  10. Round up #207: Russian sex education, the mile high book club | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] yes, when I polled my readers a few years back, zero percent of them picked the Blackberry app as their favorite way to read […]

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