Archive for February, 2014

After the Agency Model, is there price competition again?

February 28, 2014

After the Agency Model, is there price competition again?

When the Agency Model came into being in the USA in April of 2010, publishers using it set the prices on e-books (rather than the retailers selling you the books). That basically meant that there was no price competition: the price would be the same wherever you bought it.

The US DoJ (Department of Justice) then went after those publishers…and they all settled, eventually ending the Agency Model.

A comment by reader Jamie Bothen got me wondering…are the prices different now at Barnes & Noble and Amazon?

I first checked some New York Times bestsellers:

  • Amazon $5.99: B&N $5.49
  • Amazon $5.49: B&N $6.15
  • Amazon $5.99: B&N $5.99
  • Amazon $8.52: B&N $10.99
  • Amazon $11.47: B&N $11.47
  • Amazon $10.65: B&N $10.99
  • Amazon $11.89: B&N $16.99
  • Amazon $5.99: B&N $7.99
  • Amazon $6.83: B&N $7.99
  • Amazon $10.65: B&N $10.99

Well, that answers the question in the affirmative!

Out of these ten books, only two were at the same price at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Only one of them was cheaper at B&N, and that was by fifty cents. Amazon does do price matching, so if people report the difference (there’s a link to do that on the book’s Amazon product page), the price would be likely to go down.

Interestingly, you could save up to $5.10 on a single book at Amazon!

Looking at the difference if you bought all ten (I went by the default order at Amazon…which happened to be by publication date), you would save $11.57…which could certainly get you another book.

I would actually expect the prices to be more similar on bestsellers than on “long tail” (older) titles…I would think competition would tend to keep them similar, since people are more likely to be comparing prices and shopping around.

So, I thought I’d try the

Science Fiction Classics (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

  • Amazon $3.99: B&N $3.99
  • Amazon $5.74: B&N $9.49
  • Amazon $4.95: B&N $5.99
  • Amazon $7.50: B&N $10.19
  • Amazon $8.04: B&N $9.99
  • Amazon $5.74: B&N $7.99
  • Amazon $10.74: B&N $12.99
  • Amazon $5.99: B&N $7.99
  • Amazon $5.99: B&N $7.99
  • Amazon $7.69: B&N $9.99

As I guessed: prices were significantly lower at Amazon on the backlist: the savings was $20.23, close to twice as much.

There’s the answer: prices are different at this point, and Amazon tends to be cheaper (but they are sometimes the same, and rarely, B&N is cheaper…but not by as much as Amazon tends to be cheaper on the average).

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* 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. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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.

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NOOK revenues down more than 50%

February 26, 2014

NOOK revenues down more than 50%

In this

press release

Barnes & Noble their fiscal 3rd quarter 2014 financial results.

While CEO (Chief Executive Officer) Michael P. Huseby says:

“During the third quarter, the company significantly improved its balance sheet and bottom line, while making real progress on our strategic priorities…”

that may not be the message most people take away from the numbers.

In particular, for e-book users, this is not good news.

Here’s a short excerpt about the NOOK part of the business (which includes the devices, accessories, and e-books):

“The NOOK segment (including digital content, devices and accessories) had revenues of $157 million for the quarter, decreasing 50.4% from a year ago.  Device and accessories sales were $100 million for the quarter, a decrease of 58.2% from a year ago, due to lower unit selling volume and lower average selling prices.  Digital content sales were $57 million for the quarter, a decline of 26.5% compared to a year ago, due primarily to lower device unit sales.” 

Clearly, the NOOK business is sliding, even if it might not be sliding as much as it was. A drop of 50% (closer to sixty for the devices) means that at this rate, in two years, it would make no money at all.

The device declines were due to, according to them (although I’ll put it in other words), they didn’t sell as many and the ones they did sold, they sold for less money.

Lower sales of NOOK hardware is a bad number for Kindle users, because competition is good.

Also worrisome is that the content sales dropped about a quarter, which they blame on lower NOOK hardware sales (primarily). If the device sales dropped by half, and the content sales dropped by a quarter, that might seem like it suggests that about half the sales occur on NOOK apps, which would be one possible avenue for them for the future.

However…

Much of the content sale likely occurs to people who already own NOOK devices. It wouldn’t surprise me if 90% of Kindle book sales to people who own Kindles already.

That makes me guess that very few of their sales come from people who don’t own NOOKs. If they stop manufacturing NOOKs, as the NOOKs fail/are lost/get stolen, that pool of existing owners declines. That decline will be accelerated if the NOOK doesn’t keep up with the market in terms of features.

As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, I’m also interested in the bookstore sales, and I’m sure many of you are, too.

Even though they were down 6.3% year over year, it is by far mostly the NOOK’s fault, according to them. They say that without the NOOK, they’d only be down 0.5%…up is better, but that’s tolerable.

That’s another bad thing for the NOOK, though. Barnes & Noble pushed as a strength for e-book readers that they had a physical presence (even though they weren’t going to actually repair your NOOK at your local store). They started out with letting you read e-books on your NOOK in their stores, and they had these NOOK desks in the stores.

If those are major anchors on the stores, holding them down, and they eliminate it…that reduces the strength of the NOOK.

Does this mean that B&N will abandon the NOOK?

Not according to Huseby:

“We remain committed to delivering world-class reading experiences to our customers through our reading centric e-Ink and color reading devices.  The Company is actively engaged in discussions with several world-class hardware partners related to device development as well as content packaging and distribution.   As a result, we plan to launch a new NOOK color device in early fiscal 2015.” [emphasis added]

A NOOK color device does not mean a color non-backlit model, based on the way they use it…it suggests  a new tablet.

Early fiscal 2015 is probably sooner than you think. The third quarter ended on January 25, 2014. Three months later would be the end of April, which would end fiscal 2014. So, we’d be looking at likely the summer.

The third leg of B&N’s stool, College, were also down. The best number they can give us is down 3.1% for comparable stores. It looks like they are doing better with non-book items in college stores…but as I wrote about at the end of January, Amazon has a pilot program which may challenge B&N in that area as well.

Overall, this is a report that isn’t encouraging for e-book readers. However, there are ways that good things could happen here. B&N could have a turnaround…or the resources currently being used to support B&N might end up doing something better for readers…

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

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.

Judge dismisses dinosaurs’ case against Mammazon

February 26, 2014

Judge dismisses dinosaurs’ case against Mammazon

NEW PANGAEA – February 26 225000000 B.C.–Triassic Judge Denise Jaket has dismissed a suit brought by the American Association of Dinosaurs against Mammazon, the largest mammal company in the world.

“The defendants failed to demonstrate illegal tactics on the part of the mammals. While we are sympathetic to their loss of dominance and recognize the worthiness of their concerns about future ecological impact, we can only rule on the merits of the case as it exists today.”

“Naturally, we are disappointed,” said Rex Tee, President of the AAD. “The mammals have benefited unfairly from new regulation…body heat regulation…and from changes in the global climate. They may be able to reproduce more quickly, but our culture needs the slower, traditional exploitation of dinosaurs. They may be small and seemingly insignificant now, but in time, they may develop into larger beings, perhaps even becoming bipedal like many of our members. At that point, their rapid breeding and constant tinkering with the environment may place unsustainable burdens on our planet. We plan to appeal to the Cretaceous court, although we realize that may take tens of millions of years.”

Mammazon CEO (Chief Executive Organism) Jeff Biezotherium declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing appeals process. In an earlier interview with Charlie Cenoz, Biezotherium said:

“We don’t set out to disrupt anything. We just look for the best ways to do business. We think adaptability is key, and that has enabled us to cope efficiently with changes that others have found challenging. Doing things the old way, like lying on a sun-warmed rock to maintain your body temperature, is certainly one strategy. We prefer to invest now in anatomical structures that allow us to be more independent of external fluctuations.”

Experts we consulted for this article had mixed responses.

“It’s ironic that the dinosaurs are complaining. They conveniently leave out their impact on the trilobites and the other invertebrates. There are lessons to be learned there,” said Arthur Pod.

“I don’t think we are afraid enough! The dinosaurs based their complaint on breeding speeds and fur, but they ignored the mammals speedier and increasingly complex processors, ” warned Ted O’Saurus. “We’re already seen what they can do with their current state of physical development. Imagine what they are going to do with those increased brain to body ratios and whatever that new brain thing is they have on top of regular brains if they ever get big enough to break some trees!”

We will continue to watch this developing story.

Update: I forgot to give thanks to Edward Boyhan, one of my regular readers and commenters, who said something that in part inspired this post…thanks, Edward!

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

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.

Kindle Fire update now available!

February 25, 2014

Kindle Fire update now available!

It’s he-ere! 😉

You can now do the manual update for the Kindle Fire HDX from

http://www.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates (http://smile.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’m most interested in it because it is supposed to address wireless connection instability, from what I’ve heard.

Amazon says:

“The software update includes general improvements and the following feature enhancements:

Protect your device with encryption
You can now encrypt your accounts, settings, and downloaded apps and their data, media, and other files on your Kindle Fire. To learn more, go to Protect Your Data with Security Settings.

Test your knowledge with Flashcards for Kindle Print Replica textbooks
Create flashcards to help you learn more about key terms and concepts in a textbook. To learn more, go to Reading Enhancements.”

I’ll get it updated and then update this post with my experience with it, but I figured you’d want to know right away.

There should also be other updates available for other Fire models…you can get to it from the page I linked above.

Update: I was also able to download it the easy way…by doing

Home – Swipe down from the top – Settings – Device

and then having it check for System Updates.

It found it, and then started downloading it.

Before the update, I was at 13.3.1.0. I believe this will be 13.3.1.1 (on my Kindle Fire HDX 7″).

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* 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. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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.

March 2014 Kindle book releases

February 25, 2014

March 2014 Kindle book releases

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

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

These aren’t necessarily the most popular of the pre-orders…I’m just going to list ones that catch my eye. Since we might not agree on that, here’s a link to the 3,570 (at time of writing) March releases in the USA Kindle store:

March 2014 Releases USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

As usual, I won’t be deliberately linking to books which block text-to-speech access blocked**.

The Finisher (at AmazonSmile)
by David Baldacci
pre-order for March 4

Since there is a free preview of this available, there are already reviews…and those are interesting (and I think the book is deceptively low-scored).

Baldacci is known for harder-edged adult books, like Absolute Power…and this is a dystopian young adult novel. Many of the customer reviews freely say that it isn’t their cup of tea…yet the professional reviewers quoted seem to like it. I’m not sure the preview was the best idea…and perhaps a pseudonym might have been in order. Oh, not to fool people, just to differentiate it…I’d be fine with “David Baldacci writing as…”

Aftershock (Cosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin) (at AmazonSmile)
by Sylvia Day
pre-order for March 11

One of the bestselling authors who…actually, I can stop right there. One of the bestselling authors. 😉 Harlequin has had this business figured out for quite some time.

Night of the Hunter: Companions Codex, I (at AmazonSmile)
by R.A. Salvatore
pre-order for March 11

Salvatore has written a bunch of New York Times bestsellers…this is another Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms novel.

The Auschwitz Escape (at AmazonSmile)
by Joel C. Rosenberg
pre-order for March 18

Honestly, I’m having trouble with the concept of this one…a novel about escaping from Auschwitz. I don’t know how you do this without it seeming exploitative…but I’m open to the possibility.

A Circle of Wives (at AmazonSmile)
by Alice LaPlante
pre-order for March 4

The author teaches creative writing at Stanford, and this mystery is set in Palo Alto. “Lesson 1: write what you know.” 😉

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History) (at AmazonSmile)
by Eric H. Cline
pre-order for March 23

I love a book that tells me about something everybody knew at one point…but that I don’t know about now! It’s from Princeton University Press, so the scholarship should be good…but it also sounds enthralling. Let’s see, 1177 BC…it was the end of the world as who knew it? Bronze Age Egypt.

Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes from I Love Lucy to Community (at AmazonSmile)
by Saul Austerlitz
pre-order for March 1

You say you are too into TV to care about ancient history like the last book? Well, you could be like me…and enjoy both. 😉

The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance (The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance)
by Steven Kotler
pre-order for March 4

This is about extreme sports athletes (and apparently, psychology & counseling, according to the categories), but it looks like it might be inspirational for a lot of people. It reminds me a bit of Stan Lee’s Superhumans (at AmazonSmile) where Spider-Man’s creator sends out the world’s most flexible human to search for real-life superhumans…it’s on Prime streaming at no additional cost. It can be quite remarkable. As to this book: I can’t see that it has anything to do with \S/uperman, and if that’s the case, I find the title misleading…but that’s just me being geeky. 😉

As you can tell…March isn’t always a month with the most respected, bestselling books of the year. Still, you are going to read every day, right…right? Whew! You had me worried for a minute there. 😉

Enjoy!

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* 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. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

** 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. 

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.

Articles aiming at Amazon

February 23, 2014

Articles aiming at Amazon

Amazon isn’t perfect.

Some of you may be surprised to hear me say that.

After all, this blog is called, “I Love My Kindle”.

I’ll admit to thinking that my customer experience with Amazon is probably the best I’ve ever had with any company.

However, everyone can always improve.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have always liked Yul Brynner’s response to the question of what the actor would like as an epitaph (“on your tombstone”). I’m going from memory, but this may be close:

“I would like it to say ‘I have arrived’…because when you believe you’ve arrived, you’re dead.”

Anyone who doesn’t want to hear respectful criticism is driving a car high-speed without a windshield…and headed for a crash.

I don’t think Amazon is so close-minded that they don’t think that they can improve…and that they don’t believe that listening to other people can be helpful.

However…

I also believe that there is a tendency for people to want to attack people and organizations that are succeeding.

Part of that, I think, is to make it easier to believe that no one can succeed while being good.

If you believe they can, you have to ask why you aren’t as successful.

After all, it’s easier to believe that only the evil succeed…because it justifies the level to which you’ve risen (presumably without being what you perceive as evil).

There are two articles which recently have criticized Amazon which you might find interesting. I would recommend you read them, and evaluate them yourself. You might think that what they say is true. If you do, then you’ll have to consider for yourself what the proper response should be.

This first one has gotten a lot of buzz, and I was alerted to it by readers (thanks, readers!). It appeared on February 17th in the New Yorker:

article by George Packer

It’s a lengthy piece…over 10,000 words.

It talks about how bad Amazon is for books.

It also assigns a pretty Machiavellian motive:

“Bezos said that Amazon intended to sell books as a way of gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers. The books would be priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume. After collecting data on millions of customers, Amazon could figure out how to sell everything else dirt cheap on the Internet. (Amazon says that its original business plan “contemplated only books.”)”

Now, I know Jeff Bezos is seen as forward-looking, but I have to admit…that seems a bit far-fetched.

Amazon only sold books because the sales were good for datamining?

That seems…rather ahead of the game for the mid-1990s.

It also suggests that only “affluent, educated” people would buy books (otherwise, based on this, you would have an increased noise to signal ratio in your data), and yet, the prices would be reduced?

I’d have to see the data, but if this is the plan, it doesn’t seem to me like it would work very well (and whatever Amazon has does, if you look at in terms of sales and not profits, it has worked very well).

It reads to me sort of like this:

“Rich people buy diamonds. We want to know where the rich people are, so we’ll sell diamonds. However, rich people don’t buy very many diamonds, which won’t give us enough information…so we’ll price our diamonds like they are rhinestones.”

You see the problem?

You could attract rich people (who would presumably be better customers for other goods) with a superior shopping experience and service…you wouldn’t decrease the price to get more data.

I genuinely believe that Amazon, as an entity, liked books from the beginning…even though they may have liked sales equally as  much.

I still believe that Amazon has been good for books.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve been good for the book industry, the way it existed before 1994.

Those are two different things, though.

More people can get more books more easily because of Amazon…tens of thousands of them for free.

Crucially, more people can publish books, creating a more diverse literature.

However, that’s only one small part of the article. There are a lot of specific allegations in it. I have to read it myself yet, thoroughly, but I think many of you will want to do that (perhaps on your Kindles…).

The question of the impact Amazon has on books is one that we can certainly debate. I think it may be decades before we really know. That’s how it is with a transformation: will what results be a butterfly or a werewolf…or a bit of both? Um…a butterwolf? 😉

You my find this other article more disturbing:

Salon article by Simon Head

It’s not about how Amazon treats books…it’s about how Amazon treats its employees.

The title and subtitle make the position clear:

“Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers
You might find your Prime membership morally indefensible after reading these stories about worker mistreatment”

This is not a hypothetical assessment: it contains reports of specific allegations.

I do recommend that you read it, although it may be hard on your emotions.

Essentially, it suggests that Amazon abuses its workers, in part because of its customer focus.

I’ve mentioned concerns about fulfillment center workers before, and I do think that might be part of why Amazon bought Kiva, a robotics company, some time back.

While the article focuses on Amazon, and on how computerized monitoring and analysis can lead to harsher conditions for human workers, it is actually an excerpt from a book that deals with the topic more widely:

Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I do want to point out something I found…interesting.

At the bottom of the article is a link to the book. Where does it take you? To the Kindle store, with what appears to be an affiliate link (I’ve used a different link above).

In other words, it appears to me that Salon posted an article, wrote a headline for it suggesting it was “morally indefensible” to give Amazon money…then linked to a place where you could give Amazon money…and they would benefit from it if you did.

Hm…

What do you think? Has Amazon been good or bad for books? Do we know yet? As books become increasingly democratized, is that a positive or a negative? Is increasing the number of “poorer” quality books available a risk to quality literature? How about Amazon’s workers? If these allegations are true, would you stop shopping with Amazon? What if Amazon was working to change its practices? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* 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. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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.

Round up #242: Prime prices to rise in the UK, Gold Box deal on Kindle books

February 22, 2014

Round up #242: Prime prices to rise in the UK, Gold Box deal on Kindle books 

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

Gold Box Kindle book sale, today only

Gold Box Deals can be all kinds of things, but sometimes they are on e-books. That’s the case today:

Gold Box Deal of the Day: 50 Top-Rated Kindle Fiction Books, $1.99 Each (at AmazonSmile*)

There are some well-known books in there (top-rated doesn’t always equal well-known), including books by Louis L’Amour. There’s a pretty good variety: I’d recommend you take a look.

Updates for both generations of Kindle Fire happening?

While they aren’t available for manual download yet, from what I can see, and they haven’t been announced, I’m seeing people on the Amazon Kindle Forums talk about new updates for Kindle Fires…and it may be for all generations and models.

They wouldn’t be the same updates for the different gens, and they wouldn’t have the same features, most likely.

What I really want is a bug fix for my

Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

When I first got it, the wi-fi connection was great.

After an update that brought more enterprise network capability to it (I’m not saying that was the cause, but it might be), I usually have to toggle wireless on and off…many times a day. I’ve never counted, but I would guess I’ve done it ten times today already…and that’s with having taken the dog to the dog park for a couple of hours. 😉

I’ll keep you informed: if you’ve been updated recently, I’d like to hear about it.

When they are available for manual download, they will be at

http://www.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates (at AmazonSmile)

Amazon set-top box coming in March of this year?

I’ve written before about how I think a TV gadget of some kind may be coming from Amazon this year, and this

Re/code (formerly AllThingsD) article by Peter Kafka

has created a buzzstorm.

Many people are reporting it, even though there is nothing official.

I do think this is likely…and that it may include both video content and games.

There are a couple of related stories which strengthen it.

Amazon has been pinning down more exclusive streaming video deals, and that’s going to be a big point for sales.

In this

press release

they announce that Amazon is going to be the “…exclusive online-only subscription home for streaming all past seasons and episodes of the popular MTV series Teen Wolf”.

Teen Wolf has quite a following, and I have watched it. It’s an interesting, very differently-toned adaptation of what was first the comedic Michael J. Fox movie. Don’t worry, though…Styles is still funny. 😉

It surprised me that Amazon would be able to pin that down, taking it away from other services.

I suppose it shouldn’t have, though. The same press release says,

“Prime Instant Video is the exclusive online-only subscription home for PBS series Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge, FX drama The Americans, CBS summer blockbuster series Under the Dome and later this summer, Extant. Other hit TV series exclusives include Veronica Mars, Justified, Falling Skies, Grimm, Workaholics, Suits and Covert Affairs. Prime Instant Video also offers an exclusive collection of kids shows from Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. that customers won’t find on any other online-only subscription service, including favorites like SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Team Umizoomi, Blue’s Clues, and The Bubble Guppies. “

I’d say the odds are pretty good that most TV consumers have at least heard of some of those.

Pumping up the content exclusives (and the content generally) would be an important thing to do before launching a service/device.

In the UK and Germany, Amazon just announced a merging of Lovefilm (roughly equivalent to Netflix…Amazon bought it a while back) and Prime, according to this

24/7 Wall St. article by Paul Ausick, via Yahoo! Finance

and other sources.

The price is taking a big jump: in the UK, it’s going up the equivalent of roughly fifty dollars a year, from a close to USA equivalent of about $81 to an equivalent of about $131.

However, people will be able to make some choices about what services they get, affecting the price. The $131 equivalent will be the full platter. You could order just the Prime Instant Video “side dish” for $10 equivalent a month. However, that works out to only $11 less for the year…so, if they could give you installment payments for Prime, who wouldn’t go for the shipping benefits, too?

Will something like this happen in the USA?

Well, we already have Prime Instant Video as part of our Prime price, but yes, Amazon said it might raise prices on Prime in the USA…and I think they will (I’m guessing $20).

This could also clearly tie into a set-top box or other TV gadget.

It’s also worth noting that Amazon is in the midst of its “pilot season” for original works.

press release

Viewer feedback helps determine which pilots become original series on Amazon.

The only one that was interesting to us so far (and much more to me than to my Significant Other) was Chris Carter’s (The X-Files) The After. It was an interesting cast with some intriguing concepts and imagery, although it did feel unfinished, which is often the case with a pilot. Full disclosure: my Significant Other knows a parent of the editor of that episode, and yes, that’s why my SO even watched. 😉 I probably would have watched anyway…

Amazon Pilot Season (at AmazonSmile)

Speaking of visual media, I am doing my annual BOPmadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness) again. You are all invited to play. 🙂 It’s all free, and the more people we have, the better we usually do as a group. I’m doing it technically a different way this time, using SurveyMonkey, rather than sending out Excel spreadsheets. You can get the information and the links here:

2014 BOPMadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness)

Oh, and something else that may tie into a possible Prime price hike for the USA…one of my readers sent me a heads-up (thanks, reader!) in a private e-mail to this

Wall Street Journal article by Greg Bensinger

It suggests that Amazon is looking to make deals with other major retailers. The retailers products would be listed at Amazon, and buyers could use their Amazon accounts and Prime benefits to get them. The other retailer would then pay Amazon.

That would be huge for Amazon! They would really be becoming the “everything store”, and they would know so much more about you. As a consumer, I would think it would be great. It doesn’t quash competition on prices…other retailers could still undercut Amazon’s prices. It just makes it much easier logistically.

That’s putting more and more power in Amazon’s hands, though, and some people won’t like that. If Amazon got hacked, it would expose a lot more data.

Still, overall, I think shoppers will love this…and competitors will submit to it.

Bookstores: more in the USA, fewer in the UK

I suspect some of this has to do with definitions, but this

The Guardian article by Sarah Butler

talks about independent bookstores in the UK dropping to under 1,000…they say

“The number of independent bookshops gracing British high streets has fallen below 1,000 – a third fewer than nine years ago, amid cut-throat competition from supermarkets, Amazon and ebooks.”

At the same time, the ABA (American Booksellers Association), in this

American Bookselling article

lists (with contact information…addresses and websites) 44 stores which were added to the ABA in 2013.

That’s a good sign of vitality in the USA.

Some of these are additional branches of existing stores, but many are not. They also listed a number of stores which changed hands…another reasonably good sign. That means that someone thought the business was worth buying, rather than it just going under.

Check out the list…you might find someone in your neighborhood. 😉

Which books would you add to the “classics” category?

I’ve written before about how I feel about classics…and been a bit challenged on it, too. 😉

This is a fascinating list from Jason Diamond at Flavorwire:

The New Classics: 21 Writers Tell Us Which Books They’d Add to the Canon

My guess is that you’ll see something there that intrigues you…I recommend that you check it out.

Maybe it’s from my years as a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, but I do tend to think that a true classic needs to be in the public domain. 🙂 That’s one thing many people expect when they look for classics…that they aren’t under copyright protection any more (although they pay for copies in a store, of course).

Update on Give a Kid A Kindle

We are about a week a way from when you will be able to recommend nominated children to be the one to get the Kindle which I plan to give away. I’m hoping that once the recommendation process happens, I’ll get more nominees…just because I want more stories exposed (I think that’s good for people to see).

I do have one nominee so far, so at least I know I’ll be giving away a Kindle…

What do you think? What defines a classic book? Would you buy a set-top box from Amazon? Why haven’t more people nominated kids for a free Kindle? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* 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. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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.

The Scribd reading experience

February 22, 2014

The Scribd reading experience

I recently wrote about Scribd now having a

Kindle Fire (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

app for their “all you can read” for $8.99 a month subser (subscription service).

I’m in the midst of the free trial (and have almost finished a book on it), and I thought I’d give you some feedback on how it is as a reader.

My general impression is that it is a good, bare bones reader.

It’s interesting to me how I am missing some things which I never had with a p-book (paperbook), though, and which I do use when reading in the Kindle application on my Fire or on one of our non-Fire readers.

Especially noticeable to me are the lack of:

  • Text-to-speech. At this point, that by itself will keep me from renewing. While I have a philosophical objection to publishers blocking text-to-speech, I don’t think it’s necessary for every device or app to have it. It is impractical for me not to have it, though. I use it often in the car, and I almost feel like I only have half the book without it
  • Dictionary look-up. I don’t use that all that often, but there is no kind of look-up (web or otherwise) that I can see
  • Highlighting. I’ve held my finger on the screen several times not thinking about it, wanting to highlight a passage. That might be because it was an interesting quotation, or because there was a minor error (this book is well proof-read) about which I might want to notify the publisher
  • Bookmarking
  • Notes

You have the text on the “page”…that’s about it.

Even “long pressing” a picture didn’t seem to do anything…I don’t think it has a zoom function.

On the good side, there are controls over the appearance of that text, and navigation controls.

I think my favorite feature is one that the Kindle doesn’t have: “pages left in chapter”. Rather than pages, that’s actually a reference to the number of screens that are left…and if I change the text size, the number adjusts. Interestingly, that’s the most useful measure I’ve found…the amount of time I have left in a chapter just doesn’t seem to be very accurate. I often leave my Kindle open on a screen while I do things, and I think that might be throwing it off.

Speaking of increasing the text size, you do get some good controls there. Tapping in the middle of the page invokes some controls.

One looks like a book, and brings up the Table of Contents (in at least the book I am reading now, you can use it for navigation).

In your bottom right, there is an Aa button, similar to Amazon. Tapping that, I can increase or decrease the text size (there appear to be fourteen options), choose from Default, Sans-serif, or Serif typefaces, and choose white, black, or sepia backgrounds. I’ve been reading the default text on a black background, and it is crisp.

You have the ability to download the book to the device, so you can read offline. That is an icon in your bottom right that looks like a cloud with down arrow on it.

At the top of the screen (after you tap the page), there is a library symbol (three books), with which you can add it to or take it away from your “favorites”. There is a sharing symbol, which lets you like it on Scribd, e-mail it, or “other”. I haven’t played around with that much…e-mailing it would be information about the book, presumably.

So, I would describe it as being all about the reading, without the ability to annotate (or listen to TTS).

Would I pay the $8.99 if they had TTS? Maybe…my Significant Other hasn’t really checked it out enough yet to give me the impression of a less techy user.

The book I’m reading, by the way, is

Crash: When UFOs Fall From the Sky: A History of Famous Incidents, Conspiracies, and Cover-Ups (at AmazonSmile)

by Kevin Randle. Randle is going through all sorts of reported UFO crashes, and generally dismisses them for various reasons, or simply lists them without endorsing them.

The author is a recognized expert on the Roswell Incident and has been seen as an advocate of the reality of an extraordinary event there.

It’s interesting, therefore, that even though this is what we used to call a “seed catalog” type listing, it certainly doesn’t come across as the work of a simple true believer.

Randle writes more about some of the cases, including Shag Harbor and Kecksburg. I would describe the writing as largely intentionally dispassionate, which isn’t all that common (from Skeptics or true believers) in this field. I find that refreshing, although some of the customer reviews on Amazon describe it as “boring”. 😉

I also want to mention that I’ve started to look into

Entitle

another e-book subser, recently promoted on the Ellen Degeneres show.

It’s a very different concept, much more like Amazon’s own Audible.

You pay a flat rate a month, and can get a certain number of e-books.

For example, you can pay $9.99 a month and get two books. That’s pretty much how it works: about $5 per book, with a strict limit as to how many books you get.

However, you do own the books. If you stop paying, you still get them…so, in a way, it’s like getting an AmazonLocal coupon.

The selection seems very impressive, and they do have a free trial.

The books use the Adobe DRM (Digital Rights Management) system, but they do have an app for a Kindle Fire (hm…I wonder if that app would allow you to read other Adobe DRM books on your Fire?).

I haven’t tested this all much, yet, but I thought I’d let you know. 🙂

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* 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. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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.

B&N offer: company will buy stores for $22 a share, or NOOK for $5 a share

February 22, 2014

B&N offer: company will buy stores for $22 a share, or NOOK for $5 a share

I’ve simplified it in the headline, but basically, news broke according to this

Bloomberg BusinessWeek article by Nick Turner and Miles Weiss

and other sources (I first heard it on ABC News) has put an offer on the table to buy Barnes & Noble.

It’s important to note that this same company, G Asset, made an offer a few months back.

This is a better offer by about ten percent, but the big problem seems to be that G Asset just may not have the…gee…assets 😉 to buy it.

It’s quite a bit of money, and they may not have that much on hand.

Alternatively, though, they would buy the NOOK business (actually, 51% shares…that’s the case for both of these deals) for $5 a share. Comparing that to $22 a share for the other part of B&N, it’s a lot less to raise. Even for the NOOK, other people would probably have to kick in north of $100 million to make it happen, I think.

Who would do that?

That’s hard to say.

There might be some value in the “parts”. I don’t think that’s true for the NOOK much, but B&N probably owns some attractive physical assets and supply chains.

Honestly, though, I don’t think this will happen at this price with this company.

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

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.

Round up #241: messy bookstores, color screens

February 20, 2014

Round up #241: messy bookstores, color screens

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

Just around the corner: a color non-tablet Kindle?

pdurrant made this interesting

MobileRead post

It has to do with noticing new job openings at

Liquavista

a company Amazon bought from Samsung in May of last year.

Why does that matter?

Liquavista makes color screens…for non-backlit devices. I prefer the term “reflective screen”, but I know that confuses some people. You read a reflective screen by the light reflecting off it…the same way you read a p-book (paperbook).

There have been a lot of challenges to bringing a color reflective screen to market. They are likely to cost more, refresh the screen more slowly, and use more battery charge.

The real question is, do people want one?

I think the answer is yes…I believe there would be a market for it.

The trick would be to make that the choice for a reflective screen device at the moderate price level.

Let’s think of it like the frontlighting on a Kindle Paperwhite.

You can get the least expensive Kindle, or you can  move up one step and get a frontlit device.

The market is supporting frontlighting.

If you had another device which was the equivalent of the Paperwhite, but didn’t have a frontlight, and was, say, $20 cheaper, which one would be more popular?

I think that’s harder to say.

If Amazon brings out a color reflective screen device, not as a more expensive upgrade, but as the next generation of device, I think that would be attractive to people.

It wouldn’t replace a tablet…it’s not going to do animation, most likely.

Many people, though, want both: a largely dedicated e-book reader, and a tablet.

I don’t think the vast majority of people would reject color for their EBR…if the costs for it (money, efficiency, and so on) were low.

Color can be useful for textbooks, and especially for magazines…which just aren’t an optimal experience on EBRs now.

We’ll see what happens, but that could really make a splash (which might not be an inappropriate term for “electrowetting” technology). 😉

“Why libraries deserve to be hip”

In this

Salon article by Mary Elizabeth Williams

the author makes an argument that libraries should be more “fashionable”…

One of the points is that the author likes having the sense that a book has passed through many hands, contrasting that with a Kindle (about which the author says, “…I’m sure someday I’ll get around to getting a Kindle or an iPad”).

My adult kid at one point mentioned the same thing.

It’s an interesting perspective, and one that many people share…but many don’t.

I love that people at another time read the same book…but for me, I don’t need it to be that they read the copy in my hands.

I don’t like finding marginalia, or dog-eared pages, or broken spines.

When I read a hundred year old e-book, I can imagine how it impacted someone a hundred years ago.

However, for me, it’s a bit like Shakespeare. People forget that audiences in Shakespeare’s day weren’t hearing archaic language (to them). If you wanted to experience Shakespeare the way those audiences did, it should be written in your contemporary language…with all the slang, double entendres, and dialectical humor that would be the equivalent of what they understood.

That doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t read Shakespeare in the original! Absolutely not…I loved getting some education in Shakespeare, so that I could recognize what six “feet” in a line instead of five meant, for example.

It’s just that…revering the object on which the play (or book) is written is not the same experience as people had when it was new. For them, it was like watching television is for us today (well, Shakespeare often was more exclusive than that, especially what were essentially commissioned works, but you get the idea).

Public libraries are great, and p-books are great…but should they be fashionable? I think that might go against their special status. Libraries do not equal reading…there is a lot more to them than that, and reading a current book for pleasure may be best done for many people on an e-book. Libraries serve in part as a place of honor for books…and it makes sense to me that history there is more important than fashion.

“In praise of neat and tidy bookshops”

In a related case of variant perceptions, this

Book Riot post by Peter Damien

criticizes messy bookstores (including used bookstores).

For myself, I like my bookshelves in my floor-to-ceiling library (in my home) to be very organized…but I do have books stacked horizontally on top of other books. The shelves of mass market paperbacks may also be two or three books deep, when possible.

They are, though, in alphabetical order and organized by category, typically.

I like order…people see that as an indicator of certain psychological conditions, and I don’t dispute that. I don’t have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)…it doesn’t interfere with my life, but I do like things in order.

For example, I was once in a videostore for, oh, a good forty-five minutes or so. Finally, one of the employees trepidatiously approached me, and asked me what I was doing.

Me: “I’m alphabetizing the shelves.”

Videostore employee: “They’re already alphabetized.”

Me: “Well, all the “A”s are on the same shelf, but they aren’t alphabetical within A.”

Yep…I was going through the whole store, putting the shelves in order…and having the best time!

What makes it not compulsive is that I could stop any time (they didn’t ask me to stop, by the way). It’s just fun! 🙂

That said, you might imagine I, like Peter Damien, would disdain disorganized bookstores.

Not at all…

It’s one of the attractions for me of a used bookstore (this is not the same for me in a new bookstore, by the way).

I want it to feel like I’ve made an  archaeological discovery…a lost city in the middle of the Fawcettian jungles…and I might stumble on a treasure no one has seen in decades.

Yes, I guess that’s sort of weird…but I do like it like that, and my guess is that some other people do.

I mean, some people like the dusty-musty smell in a used bookstore. Due to allergies, I’m really not one of those, but I want a sense of adventure and serendipity.

What do you think? Should your bookstores be neat? Should your libraries by trendy? Would you want a color reflective screen device, if performance and cost were roughly equivalent to a grayscale one? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

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.


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