Round up #221: PODBAM!, customizable covers

Round up #221: PODBAM!, customizable covers

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

Now you can judge a Kindle by its cover

In this

press release

Amazon announces a new ability to customize your Kindle cover. You can upload a picture, and get it printed on an Origami cover (or some other options).

Well, I should say, “…a new to Amazon ability”. It’s been possible to have custom covers/sleeves made at third party sites for some time (I had one years ago that my adult kid had done for me), and these are being done by those other companies from what I’ve seen, and being sold through Amazon. I’ve seen ones both from CafePress and DecalGirl.

It’s pretty simple.

You go to

or, if you want to support a non-profit while shopping*, to

You pick your device (the HDXs, the new HD, the Paperwhite ((both generations use the same cover)), the Touch), the underlying color of the cover (you may be covering only one side), and the type of cover (mostly Origami now, Marware coming in the future, from what I saw).

You pick from existing library images, or upload your own…and that’s about it.

The cost?

The same as without the personalization!

Why not do this? Here’s a great idea for a gift: buy the cover through AmazonSmile, support your gift recipient’s favorite non-profit (you can switch to it just for that one purchase), and upload an image that says something like, “I support XYZ”. The recipient gets a nice cover, gets to make a statement, and Amazon donates to that non-profit (for a $50 cover, they get twenty-five cents).

I just have one problem with this so far, and I asked Amazon about it when they sent me the press release.

The release says,

“… a library of hundreds of images, logos, designs and patterns—including popular comic, movie and television show graphics from Peanuts, National Geographic, Breaking Bad, Star Trek, and more.”

I haven’t found any of those brand name image options, and I’ve checked quite a few of the choices.

For some people, of course, there will be an irony here: Amazon doesn’t generally let us change the sleep pictures/screensavers/wallpaper on our devices. 🙂 That’s different, and would be complicated for people who have Special Offers on their devices, but this is a nice option.

Buy a Kindle Fire HD, get a $15 gift card today only

If you buy a

Kindle Fire HD 7″

Kindle Fire HD 7″ and support a non-profit through AmazonSmile

today (Thursday, November 14) only, you get a $15 Amazon gift card for free! Do make sure you see that banner on the page before you click…this certainly might not apply in your country (I know I have readers around the world).

It applies to any of the configurations of this model, so you could get a Kindle Fire with the new Mojito operating system for $124, effectively.

By the way, I’ve also seen a story today that you could get $40 off, but when I’ve tested that links, that doesn’t seem to be working. It might be for only certain people, or it may have been withdrawn.

BAM! goes POD

This one will particularly appeal to my reader, Roger Knights, who has advocated for the idea of Print-On-Demand (POD) in bookstores…we’ve had some lively discussions about that.

Well, Books-A-Million, now the second largest bookstore chain in the USA, has just announced in this

press release

that they are going to start installing the Espresso Book Machines in their stores (two at this time, one in Maine and one in Alabama).

What does that mean?

A customer can select a book from about seven million titles, and a machine prints the book for them right then.

One concern in the past has been the selection of books, but it looks like that has been solved. They say,

“These titles are available through partnerships with Google, Lightning Source, Harper Collins, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan, McGraw Hill, and others, and includes content from publishers like Random House, W.W. Norton, and Simon & Schuster.”

That probably won’t mean every book from those publishers, of course, but it might be a great way to do the backlist.

How long does it take?

It happens “within minutes”, and produces a bookstore quality paperback.

How much does it cost?

Hmm…it says they are priced according to length, but I’m not seeing what the prices would actually be.

Still, this is an exciting option for people who still want p-books. I was really expecting us to see them in other kinds of stores, retailers of more general interest (is that like Rodents of Unusual Size?).

Score one for Roger! 😉

How much is that Penguin in the galley?

You know how Amazon recently introduced Kindle First (Kindle First and support a non-profit), where eligible Prime members can get an Amazon published book before it is released at no additional cost?

Penguin has something similar.

First to Read

You can sign up (through Facebook, if you want, but you can do it without that), and then request upcoming books (just like Kindle First, from a very specific short list)…for free.

Although, I have to say, it’s a bit weird and complicated.

I signed up for it today, and it kept kicking me out (I had to switch to Chrome from Maxthon).

There was a particular book I wanted to get…and it didn’t show up in all the places I could see choices.

There are appear to be a limited number of “copies” available, and there seems to be some sort of lottery for who gets them.

You get points, and you might be able to spend them to guarantee that you get a copy…but none of that was spelled out easily for me.

Overall, I’m happy that a publisher is trying this…but it really shows you what Amazon has figured out about making things simple!

Yes, we pay $79 a year for Prime…but in terms of Kindle First, getting a book is super easy.

This “First to Read” was a bit complicated and frustrating, certainly by comparison.

Still, you know…free books. 😉

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. I recently polled my readers about my linking to AmazonSmile, and while more than two-thirds of the respondents said they would like it or didn’t mind (and about 15% didn’t know), there were enough people who wouldn’t like it that I’m not going to just jump into it and do it for everything. I’m going to try doing both links in this post, and see how hard and/or confusing that is for people. You can let me know how you feel about having both links by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

20 Responses to “Round up #221: PODBAM!, customizable covers”

  1. Zebras Says:

    Just now I signed up for First to Read based on your post, without facebook, and had no trouble. Just using Explorer at the office. It wasn’t clear to me what the rules were, so I just entered the lottery for each book, not knowing how many members they have, I have no idea what my odds are! They don’t give you enough points up front to guarantee a copy of any of the books. If my chances are really slim, I don’t see me making much of an effort on an ongoing basis.

  2. Eileen E. Says:

    Thank you so much for keeping us informed about what’s going on! I had gotten an email and had already signed up when you told us about Amazon Smile, but if not, I’d have learned about it from you. I DID learn about the customized covers (among many other things!) from you and have ordered mine (through Smile). I appreciate your efforts.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Eileen!

      Great! I’m glad that I can point people to AmazonSmile…even though it isn’t typically a lot per purchase, many non-profits can use even small amounts to do good things.

  3. Leigh Caroline Says:

    There’s also a chrome extension, Smile Always, that automatically redirects any amazon links to Smile. (And when I add up just how much I spend on Amazon in a typical year, even half a percent adds up!)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Leigh!

      Thanks for sharing that! I use Maxthon most of the time, but I do use Chrome sometimes…and I know many other people do.

  4. Miriam Says:

    You referenced a story about $40 off. I saw that option at Amazon – and took advantage of it. It was good for Nov. 14 only. I believe I got to see it because I use Kindle for PC but had no Kindle device on my account. The $40 off could apply to any Kindle e- reader or any Kindle Fire.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Miriam!

      Yes, it’s possible it was only available to people who met certain criteria (which would explain why I couldn’t see it), and what you suggest makes sense.

  5. rogerknights Says:

    I was really expecting us to see them in other kinds of stores, retailers of more general interest (is that like Rodents of Unusual Size?).

    Score one for Roger!

    And I was expecting a full-featured roll-out, where at least half the store’s books would be replenished wirelessly, to reduce the cost of shipping and returns. But of course I should have realized that these machines would be phased in gradually, initially only serving to allow stores to supply customers with books not in stock locally. This access to a much greater selection blunts one of Amazon’s key advantages.

    But it’s awfully late for the paper book publishers and retailers to be sticking a toe in the water with this. (Perhaps only recently have these POD machines become more reasonably priced.) And it only addresses one of Amazon’s advantages, not its much lower prices. It doesn’t reduce the cost of shipping and returns, which is a necessary preliminary to lowering paper books’ list price enough to be competitive with Amazon.

    Within six months we’ll see how much follow-through there is on the movement of PODs into bookstores. If there’s a lot, and they sell a lot of POD books, it could mean that a bigger step is waiting in the wings.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Roger!

      Yes, it will be interesting to watch. I understand where you are going with stock replenishment through POD, but once those books are on the shelves, they are taking up space…which equals rent. That’s why my guess is still that POD machines will tend to be in places without lots of shelves, and printed on demand of the customer, rather than to create stock anticipating the demand.

      We shall see, though… 🙂

      • rogerknights Says:

        Hi Bufo. Actually, my vision is that the POD system would enable stores to stock only one copy of each book on its shelves—or maybe two or three for bestsellers. After each copy is sold, the POD machine would automatically ask to print a new one, ready for shelving. So “stock” would take up less space. (Necessary to make room for the POD machine!)

        PS: That’s for your recent thread on collections.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        Yes, but you do picture it being a copy of the book, right? Let’s say you have, oh, 100,000 titles displayed…that’s still a lot of real estate, even if it is only one copy of each book. When you “face” the books on the shelves, it doesn’t take that much more room to display a few copies of a hardback than it does to display one of them, typically.

      • rogerknights Says:

        Oops–change “That’s” to “Thanks”!

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        Glad you liked it! I still see a lot of confusion (and some dismay) about it.

        Amazon does a lot of things well: telling people about how new features work hasn’t been one of them, nor has naming. These aren’t really Cloud Collections, they are “Shared Collections”. Too late for that, though. 🙂

      • rogerknights Says:

        Bufo: “When you “face” the books on the shelves, it doesn’t take that much more room to display a few copies of a hardback than it does to display one of them, typically.”

        Hmm: I once saw a motorized display rack that contained mass market paperbacks in face-front arrangement, with a few extra copies behind the front-facers. By pressing a button, gears at the top and bottom rotated the front tier of shelves down, hiding the lower shelf behind the front tier and bringing down into view at the top a shelf from the hidden tier.

        Perhaps this gadget, modified to hold standard hardback and trade paperback sizes, could be of use in conjunction with POD distribution to save shelf space and/or to goose sales with a more inviting display. (To save space only one copy would be face forward, reducing the depth of each tier. It would be replenished when sold.)

        There could be more than two tiers per bank, if a snaking arrangement were employed.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        While I’m sure there is some “cool” factor for users of a machine like that, I would find it a hard sell to get bookstores to:

        * Invest in the technology
        * Pay for the utilities
        * Have to have it restocked by someone with a key or code (I presume)
        * Believe that having untouchable books leads to sales as much as touchable ones
        * Rely on them being low maintenance (vending machines have, or at least used to have, terrible track records on that)

        I would also guess that the mechanism itself must have a considerable footprint.

        Again, similar to POD (Print On Demand), I could see it having some application in a non-bookstore, but retrofitting a bookstore with them seems like a behavioral change challenge. For example, I could see a vending machine in an airport that stocked monthly Harlequin paperbacks in that kind of arrangement…at least for a while. E-books would challenge that model, though.

      • rogerknights Says:

        I would find it a hard sell to get bookstores to:

        * Invest in the technology
        * Pay for the utilities

        The investment would be part of a conversion to a whole-hog POD book delivery system, since the books on a front-facing tier-rotating machine would tend to be the best-sellers or medium sellers that would be regularly replaced. If that whole POD system made sense, this rack would not be a big part of the expense. The one I saw was made of black wire slightly thicker than that used in coat hangers, with a little motor at the bottom. The electricity is used wasn’t much, since the weight going up equaled the weight going down.

        * Have to have it restocked by someone with a key or code (I presume)
        * Believe that having untouchable books leads to sales as much as touchable ones
        * Rely on them being low maintenance (vending machines have, or at least used to have, terrible track records on that)

        This gadget is simply a “motorized display rack” with rotating tiers, not a vending maching. It just enables a second tier of books to be placed behind the first one, to add to the effective density of books on display.

        I would also guess that the mechanism itself must have a considerable footprint.

        Its depth should be the depth of two front-facing books, plus a couple of gaps for clearance. It shouldn’t be more than an inch or so deeper than a regular bookshelf.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        I guess I’m just not picturing it very well. Is a customer able to remove one book to look at it? Does the rack only rotate when the customer chooses, or is it constantly in motion?

      • rogerknights Says:

        The one I saw was activated “By pressing a button, gears at the top and bottom rotated the front tier of shelves down.” However, now that you mention it, the store should also be allowed to set the default to be “in motion” until the customer presses a Stop button. That would perhaps attract more wary browsers to come back for a second look, later on.

        Thinking further along this line, the customer could alternatively press a Faster button to see more of the hidden tier sooner. And there could be a sign above the tier reading, “You may replace a book in any open slot.” (There would have to be an open slot left in every other row to make this work.) This would allow the browser to dip into the book without feeling time-pressured—and without having to press any buttons either, which some people might be too shy to do.

      • rogerknights Says:

        I guess I’m just not picturing it very well.

        I should have said that each “shelf” (row) of books hangs and pivots from a horizontal rod. And that each rod is attached to a vertical endless loop of bicycle chain. Thus, when a shelf on the front tier passes the lowest point in front and begins to rise behind the first tier, it pivots so that its books remain upright. Similarly when it passes the highest point on the loop and comes back into view.

  6. Amazon: room for improvement | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] I’m hoping that, maybe, Amazon has started to recognize this by having customizable covers. […]

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