Archive for July, 2014

Amazon gives numbers: it’s about prices, not share

July 30, 2014

Amazon gives numbers: it’s about prices, not share

Amazon has added a fascinating

Kindle forum post (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which does something Amazon rarely does: it gives specific numbers.

I know when I do my analysis posts, some people just skip them. 🙂 Not everybody likes seeing the mathematical interiors of something they enjoy:  for some, it’s like seeing an x-ray of the person they are dating. 😉

However, these are statistics as a weapon…a weapon in what I call the Hachazon war. That’s the ongoing disagreement between Amazon and Hachette, one of the Big Five publishers (presumably, Amazon is also in or going to be in similar negotiations with the other four).

It’s a carefully crafted post, with again, Amazon taking the populist/consumer point of view…and tacking on support for authors.

I’m not saying that isn’t how they sincerely feel: it certainly could be. It’s just apparent to me that the statement has a very large position framing component…and it’s reasonable that it does, of course.

I recommend that you read it, and I do want to point out some key points.

The biggest argument made is that Amazon isn’t fighting with Hachette over revenue share, as has been reported. It’s not (according to the e-tailer) about trying to get, say, 50% of the sale rather than 30%.

It’s about keeping the prices low.

Amazon argues that e-book prices should be lower than p-book (paperbook) prices. Since the rise in popularity of e-books with the release of the Kindle in 2007, that’s been many consumers’ intuitive sense. We would see posts about that all the time in the forums: “There is no paper cost, it’s just a file.”

For many of those posts, it was clear that they didn’t understand the economics (which Amazon presumably does). They were only talking about manufacture, and that is a small part of the cost of producing a book. I remember an analysis, way back when, that an e-book was about 12.5% less expensive to produce than a p-book.

How can that be?

What costs the most money isn’t the paper, it’s the people. Even for an e-book, you still need to pay the author (although not necessarily the same amount), the editor, the cover designer, the proofreader, the layout artist, and so on.

You still have the same legal costs.

Marketing costs could be different, but are still significant.

Amazon adds in other costs including, interestingly, used sales. Since e-books can’t be sold used, they argue, the initial price can be lower.

If a p-book is sold for $20, and then sold used for $10 and used again for $5, the publisher only gets money out of that initial $20. If the people who paid $10 and $5 for it would have paid $20 otherwise, those second and third sales are a loss of revenue…which the publisher has to make up on the first sale.

Of course, many people who buy a used book at a reduced cost wouldn’t have bought the new book at the full price…but it’s a reasonable argument. Amazon has worked on creating a used e-book market, but that would presumably be a case were the publisher would get a cut of subsequent sales.

Here’s the big stat in this short excerpt from the post:

“We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.”

Amazon is saying, “Lower the price and make more money.”

They explain how that benefits everybody: publishers; readers; authors; and Amazon.

You know what it doesn’t benefit?

P-books.

That’s always been one of the publishers’ concerns with Amazon pricing many new and popular e-books at $9.99 (which sometimes meant Amazon was selling them to consumers for less than what the e-tailer paid the publisher). It’s “price perception devaluation.” If a Stephen King novel is worth $9.99 as an e-book, why is it worth $25 as a p-book?

If e-book prices set the market perception of what a book should cost, it hurts p-books.

You might think that would hurt Amazon as much as it does the tradpubs (traditional  publishers), but tradpubs have a massive percentage of p-book sales in brick-and-mortar stores (and those do still matter), and a likely significantly decreasing percentage of e-book sales.

I was a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager…and almost all of our stock came from the biggest publishers (the few that didn’t came from smaller traditional publishers, represented by a distributor such as Publishers Group West).

We simply needed the size and services of the big tradpubs. You need to be able to replenish stock quickly when a book is hot, and get credit for copies when a book is cold.

The smaller independent publishers didn’t have the resources to do that.

All of that goes away with digital reproduction and distribution.

The Big Five’s power is disproportionately in p-books…and POD (Print On Demand) hasn’t changed that (yet).

The other thing Amazon says in the post is that the publisher should get 35%, Amazon should get 30%…and the author should get 35%.

To me, that’s a little…manipulative, I guess. Amazon (as they say later in the post) can’t control how much the author gets from the publisher…that’s a matter of their contracts.

It would be like…looking over at another table at a restaurant, and saying to the six-year old, “You know, if your parents really loved you, they’d give you the whole pizza.” 😉

Authors, of course, are not like six-year olds…I expect we’ll see some pointed comments from some of the Hachette-side authors about this part of the post.

Brand new or aspiring indie-authors may have the relative “life experience” of a six-year old, in terms of publishing, but they’ll have different abilities to judge.

Speaking of those indie (independent) authors, you may think that what Amazon is saying isn’t unreasonable: after all, Amazon pays KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) authors either 35% or 70% (the latter if they meet certain guidelines).

Yes, but that’s a different case from Amazon’s traditional publishing efforts.

With KDP, the author/publisher (they are often one and the same in that situation) takes on the costs and risks of development of the book. Amazon takes on some of the marketing costs, although the publisher will many times continue to have those as well. Amazon will also have Customer Service costs, and accounting costs, but for the bulk of the costs, it falls on the indie.

KDP is a platform: the author delivers the book and updates it as needed, and Amazon sells it.

Amazon’s traditional publishing, and the Big Five’s, involves a lot more investment.

The other thing about pricing is that consumers (and Amazon is positioning itself as seeing things from that viewpoint) look at an individual sale, while publishers (and stores) look at populations of sales.

Popular books support unpopular books.

As readers, we do want publishers interested in something besides profits on each title.

We want them to take risks on new authors, and we want them to publish “meaningful” books which won’t be popular.

If a researcher spends ten years documenting working conditions in 19th Century America (I’m just making that up as a topic), it’s not going to top the bestseller lists…but it’s important that the information be out there and preserved.

That book will probably never make back its developments costs…so popular books have to be priced somewhat higher to enable the publisher to take a loss on the “public good” book.

That’s not inherently different on e-books and p-books…except that the risks are quite a bit lower on e-books.

Right now, it’s likely that e-books are, to some extent, supporting the publishing of p-books. They are providing, if not a higher margin, a better cushion for taking risks on the development of p-books.

All of that said, this is an extraordinarily revealing post, as far as Amazon goes.

What do you think? Will it persuade the public to be more on Amazon’s side? How will authors react? Would consistently lower e-book prices hurt p-book sales? Would that cause publishers to take fewer risks with p-books, resulting in less innovation? Would indies pick up that slack? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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! :) 

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.

KDD: The Hunger Games for $1.99

July 29, 2014

KDD: The Hunger Games for $1.99

One of today’s

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

is Suzanne Collins’

The Hunger Games (at AmazonSmile)

for $1.99.

As always, check the price before you click or tap that Buy button…the price may not apply in your country (I have readers all over the world), or you may be seeing this after the sale has ended (it is a Kindle Daily Deal, after all).

This is a book beloved by many. In the more than five (!) years since its initial release (someone who was thirteen and read it when it first came out could be voting by now), it has remained popular. The third movie based on the series (there are two more books in The Hunger Games trilogy) will likely be one of the biggest movies this year, and was a buzzy property at the just ended San Diego Comic Con.

I wrote my own review of it in this blog more than two and a half years ago:

Review: The Hunger Games

Outside the value of the book as a book, it’s an important example of something else.

Its publisher, Scholastic, is not one of the Big Five…but it is a large publisher with major bestsellers.

They don’t fall in line with the Big Five, often giving customers benefits that the Big Five tend not to do.

They weren’t part of the Department of Justice legal action against publishers and Apple for price-fixing: they didn’t do the Agency Model.

Programs in which they participate in the Kindle Store (and specifically on The Hunger Games):

  • Text-to-speech access is not blocked…you can listen to being read to you by software
  • X-ray is enabled, meaning you can get information about the characters and other elements
  • It has “real page numbers”
  • Lending is enabled: you can loan the book (once, for fourteen days) to someone not on your account
  • Eligible Prime members can borrow the book as part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library
  • You can read the book at no additional cost as part of Kindle Unlimited
  • It has Whispersync for Voice (which also means you can listen to an audiobook version at no additional cost as part of KU)

Scholastic (in business since 1920) doing all of this (and participating in community programs), while keeping customers and (as far as I know) authors happy puts the big challenge to the Big Five…why can’t they do it, too?

However you’d like to get the book, be it purchasing it or borrowing it, enjoy!

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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! :) 

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.

Fire Phone: first impressions and tips

July 29, 2014

Fire Phone: first impressions and tips

I’ve had my

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

since Thursday, which has given me an opportunity to use it over the weekend and at work.

I can say that the best is yet to come. 😉

This is a new and radically different device. Think of the people who bought the first automobiles, before there were purpose built roads. They had to bounce and rattle along over streets intended for entirely different vehicles. It wasn’t until people responded to the invention that it became completely indispensable.

At this point, the Fire Phone’s two breakthrough features (Firefly and Dynamic Perspective, which I call “dyper”) are like that.

I’m coming to the Fire Phone from a Galaxy S4…and I have an iPhone 5S that I use for work. The iPhone is new for me (the way Apple handled e-books left a bad taste in my mouth for their products), but I do have some experience with it.

I wouldn’t say I’m a power user of SmartPhones: not like I am with Kindles. However, I do know what I’m doing and I use them quite a bit.

At first, I found the Fire Phone’s interface less easy to use than my S4. After doing more research, playing around with it, and making a couple of calls to Mayday (the almost instant live online screen tech help…which is a huge plus for the FP over anything else), it’s growing on me.

It does all of the basics fine: e-mail, calendar, text.

The navigation is new. Without learning that, the phone can seem frustrating, like it takes a lot of steps to get anywhere.

Let’s talk this through.

The way I have the phone set, I turn it on by pushing a power button once…reasonable.

The lock screens look amazing! They have dyper…just by moving my head, I can see more of the image. For example, I have a neon sign up right now, like a tourist trap in the desert (it includes the date and time). By moving my head (even from probably half a meter away from the phone), I can see the streetlamps which are otherwise off the screen. I can see how many new e-mails I have, the signal strength and battery level.

To unlock it, I swipe up from the bottom…that’s an adjustment for me, I’m used to going side to side. However, as an ambidexter, I appreciate that it isn’t better for right or left handers. 🙂

I’ve put a password on mine.

Once it opens up, there is a Carousel, like there is an a Kindle Fire. It’s going to be easier for Kindle Fire users to adapt to this phone than other people.

At the bottom of the screen are four icons:

  • Phone
  • Messaging
  • Email
  • Silk Browser

Here’s the first thing you might not realize.

Swipe those four icons up, and you’ll be on the apps screen.

It will default to being the apps on your device, but you can switch it to the Cloud easily enough (it’s an obvious choice in your top left corner).

Okay, here’s are a few gestural things on this homescreen which aren’t intuitive.

In addition to swiping from the left or right side, you can just “flick” the phone.

Flick it where you are turning the phone with a rapid motion with the left side getting closer to you, and you reveal the main navigation. That has

  • APPS
  • GAMES
  • WEB
  • MUSIC
  • VIDEOS
  • PHOTOS
  • BOOKS
  • NEWSSTAND
  • AUDIOBOOKS
  • DOCS
  • SHOP
  • PRIME

Flick it back to remove that menu.

Generally, that left menu will be available in most places you are working, and will be the same.

Flick it the other way, with the right side getting closer to you, and you’ll reveal a context sensitive menu…one that varies depending on what you are doing.

ON the home screen, I get a weather report (which I could set to be in Celsius, my favorite…and which autodetected my location), and Google Now type cards. Right now, I’m seeing calendar events, but I may see an e-mail from people I designate, or texts. There is an ellipsis (“…”) at the bottom to go to the full calendar.

Flick left, flick right: two of the main gestures.

Three other big gestures:

Tip the phone to one side (either direction), and you’ll see a ribbon at the top with quick access to functions:

  • Airplane mode
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • Flashlight
  • Sync
  • Settings
  • Mayday
  • Search
  • Brightness

How would you know what they were?

You peek.

Really, that’s what they call it.

Move your head to the side and look back at the phone, like you are trying to look behind the icons.

The captions magically appear.

You’ll use that a lot.

The last gesture I’ll mention is how to get back to what you were doing last.

The first couple of days, I really missed the Back button on my S4. Then, one of the Mayday reps told me that you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen. They didn’t describe it quite right: the thing is that you start off the edge of the screen at the bottom, at about the same level as the home button. Then swipe up on to the screen: that will take you back to the last function.

Before I go on, let me say that is seems to drink battery charge like a Chevrolet Suburban drinks gasoline! 😉 Just while I’ve been writing this post, it went down four percent. I expect that will get better after I play with some settings.

In terms of the pre–installed apps, I recommend that you play with Clay Doodle and Monkey Buddy (although the latter might drive you crazy, if you are an adult). The first one is like Play-Doh, and takes advantage of the dyper. The second one is a virtual pet, like a Tamagotchi in concept. Since it can see where you head is, it responds to you nodding your head yes in approval, for example.

Believe it or not, the integration with Amazon could be better. My Prime music wasn’t available until I downloaded an app…that was weird. My biggest disappointment so far has been that gestural scrolling doesn’t work in the Kindle app! It only works in Silk on websites.

I was really looking forward to having an endless scroll in my Kindle books, where I could get to the next text by just moving my head or tilting the phone.

A Mayday rep told me that an update is coming soon which will include more functionality…and better interface with the Kindle app is one of the things we may see. Right now, you can get the X-Ray background data by flicking from the right…good to know, right? 🙂

I may do a full menu map at some point (that kind of thing might make a good short “book” for people to borrow through Kindle Unlimited), but let’s go through the settings at a high level:

Wi-Fi & Networks

  • Connect to Wi-Fi
  • Enable Airplane Mode
  • Pair Bluetooth Devices
  • Set up a Wi-Fi hotspot (only if that’s part of your data plan, I think)
  • Enable NFC (Near Field Communication)
  • Turn off cellular dta usage
  • See your cellular data usage
  • Change your mobile network operator

Display

  • Adjust screen brightness
  • Turn off automatic screen rotation
  • Hide (or show…the commands change based on current state) status bar
  • Change time to sleep
  • Share your screen via Miracast
  • Configure low motion settings (this will turn off some of the gestural stuff, which would be useful for those with unsteady hands or heads)

Sounds & Notifications

  • Change your ringtone
  • Manage notifications
  • Select ringtones for specific people
  • Select text message tones for specific people
  • Change volume levels (there  are also physical volume buttons)
  • Change touch feedback settings (my first call to Mayday: how to turn off hepatic feedback, the vibrating you get when you touch a key…I just don’t like it, and it uses battery charge)

Applications & Parental Controls

  • Configure Amazon application settings
  • Manage applications
  • Prevent (or enable) non-Amazon app installation
  • Turn off product recommendations
  • Enable Parental Controls

Battery & Storage

  • View battery usage (the system is taking 50% of my usage right now)
  • View available storage
  • Free space on your phone (not how much you have…this one is designed to free up space)
  • Change USB connection type

Location Services

  • Configure Location Based Services for your applications
  • Enable Enhanced Location Services
  • Disable Find My Device (enabled by default)

Lock Screen

  • Select a lock screen scene (the default is that it changes every day)
  • Set a password or PIN (Personal Identification Number)
  • Change the automatic lock time
  • Turn off (or on) notifications on the lock screen

Keyboard

  • Change the keyboard language
  • Configure auto-correct and spell-checking
  • Manage advanced keyboard features
  • Edit your personal dictionary

Phone

  • Configure call waiting
  • Configure caller ID
  • Forward incoming calls
  • Edit Reply-with-Text messages
  • View your phone number
  • Set up voicemail
  • Contact your carrier

My Accounts

  • Deregister your phone
  • Manage e-mail accounts
  • Connect your social networks
  • Manage your Amazon account
  • Manage your Amazon payment method
  • Manage your Amazon Newsstand subscriptions
  • Manage your Send-to-Device email address

Device

  • Change the date and time
  • Disable auto backups
  • Change your language
  • Install system updates
  • Factory reset your phone
  • Get info about your Fire
  • Configure your emergency alerts
  • View your emergency alerts
  • Manage your SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) card PIN
  • Manage enterprise security features
  • Manage accessibility (it has nice magnifier features…I turned  those  on)
  • View Legal and Compliance Info

Voice

  • Configure voice settings (oh, it does take voice commands…hold down the home button, like accessing Siri. I have found that I have to say “Search the Web” to get it to do that…it doesn’t just guess that’s what you want if you say something for which it doesn’t have a command)
  • Change Text to Speech (TTS) language (it does have TTS for Kindle books…it comes with English and Spanish, but you can download quite a few others for no additional cost)

Help & Feedback

  • Get help from Mayday (there is a lifesaver for that on the quick access ribbon…remember, you can tip your phone quickly for that, or swipe down from the top. Use it to get the most out of your phone)
  • Browse online help
  • Contact Amazon technical support
  • Provide feedback

There, that gives you a pretty good idea of its capabilities.

Overall, I’m starting to like it. If you want everything to be easy, if you want it to be as good as the most popular other phones, you may not want to be an early adopter. You can download apps to do things it doesn’t do right now (in many cases), but a year from now, it will be much more capable…I suspect it will be a lot more capable before the holidays.

It’s certainly satisfactory…and the hardware (the four cameras that enable dyper) and Firefly (the real world recognition system) promise much greater things in the future, once people start designing for it. The killer apps are yet to come.

I think it’s a great first SmartPhone (which is where I think the market is), and an adequate transition phone (with amazing potential).

Hey, my Kindle app has an update available! That sort of thing is going to happen a lot…I won’t focus on the Fire Phone a lot in this blog (just as I haven’t done that with the Fire Phone), but it is a Kindle reading device, and  I think it deserves some coverage here.

If you have any specific questions about it, or things to say, feel free to comment on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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! :) 

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.

KU titles dominate paid bestseller list

July 28, 2014

KU titles dominate paid bestseller list

One of my regular readers and commenters, Tom Semple, noted that there seemed to be a lot of Kindle Unlimited titles on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list.

The books in

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

can be borrowed by customers who pay $9.99 a month for the service (although there is a free month available right now). The publishers are compensated with a royalty based on when the customer has read 10% of the book.

Would that count as a sale for the paid bestseller list (as opposed to the free list)?

I have asked Amazon, but haven’t heard back yet…and they might not reveal that information (I’m sure they wouldn’t be obligated to do so).

So, I thought I’d take a look at the paid and free bestseller lists, and see how KU titles are represented.

Let’s start with the paid list. I’ll indicate if it is KU or not, and if there is an icon (there isn’t alway) indicating if it has been rising or falling:

  1. KU, rising
  2. KU, none
  3. KU, rising
  4. Not KU, falling
  5. KU, none
  6. KU, rising
  7. Not KU, falling
  8. KU, rising
  9. Not KU, rising
  10. Not KU, falling (recent freebie)
  11. Not KU, falling
  12. Not KU, falling
  13. KU, falling
  14. Not KU, falling
  15. Not KU, falling
  16. KU, falling
  17. Not KU, none
  18. KU, rising
  19. KU, rising
  20. Not KU, falling

Well, that’s pretty obvious!

Seven books are shown as rising…and six of them are KU!

It certainly suggests that KU books are pushing traditionally published (by places other than Amazon) down the Kindle paid bestseller list.

That’s not good for discovery for the tradpubs (traditional publishers)!

The Goldfinch (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) by Donna Tartt (a Pulitzer Prize winning novel) is down to #11.

How does it look on the free list?

  1. KU
  2. KU
  3. KU
  4. Not KU
  5. KU
  6. KU
  7. KU
  8. KU
  9. Not KU
  10. Not KU
  11. Not KU
  12. Not KU
  13. Not KU
  14. Not KU
  15. KU
  16. Not KU
  17. KU
  18. KU
  19. Not KU
  20. KU

Interesting that so many more of the freebies are not Kindle Unlimited…no icons for rising and falling on that list that I saw.

I also have to tell you: the list order changed while I was compiling the second list: it’s done every hour. I think it’s a pretty good representation, though.

My guess is that KU counts as sales (at least at the ten percent point), and not as freebies.

It would be possible that the initial KU download is a freebie “sale” and the 10% point is a paid sale, but I doubt that.

The ones that are not KU on the free list may not be in KDP Select, meaning that they aren’t exclusive to Amazon, and also would not be available through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

Indies and Amazon tradpubs have been pretty well represented on the paid bestseller list before, but this does really look different to me…especially with the trending indicators being what they are.

If KU books really are causing even a relative drop on the Kindle store bestseller lists for tradpubs, there has to be some worrying going on at the Big Five, and some high fiving at Amazon.

I may look at this in more depth later, and it’s possible that there is an initial rush to borrow from the KU which may slow down (especially if there doesn’t continue to be a first free month available), but this really could be seen as a turning point for publishing.

If this looks like a significant enough trend, it might even give Amazon leverage in dealing with Hachette, and the with the other publishers.

It wouldn’t be enough to end anything…but it could portend some real changes in readers acquisition habits.

Thanks for suggesting I look at this, Tom!

Update: Amazon has responded to my inquiry, and it confirms (and clarifies) what I thought was probably happening:

“Hello,

If your book is borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library or Kindle Unlimited, the borrow will affect your book’s sales rank the same way a normal sale would.

When a Kindle Unlimited customer chooses your book for the first time and reads more than 10% of it, their choice qualifies as a borrow and toward royalty payment for you. Customers can always read your book again, as many times as they like, but that won’t qualify toward your royalty payments. You can even choose your own book and receive one royalty payment—as long as you’re reading it only for the first time, and read more than 10% of it.

These requirements apply to books in both the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited.”

That means that KU and the KOLL are affecting the paid bestseller list and not the free bestseller list. The impact on the paid bestseller list is significant and will add significant momentum to the “discovery of disruption”, to coin a phrase.

People will continue to do things the way they usually do things, unless something changes them. As a trainer, that’s a major part of the challenge of my profession.

Are people trained to buy things from major publishers? I’d argue “no”: they are trained to buy things in certain places and certain ways…and that includes getting them from the bestseller list.

I don’t think most people look at the top ten bestsellers, and then look at the publisher to make a buying decision. Yes, I do think they look at authors, but I would guess that buying an interesting title from the top ten is a common purchasing habit for folks.

If KU disrupts the top ten, that will disproportionalize the non-tradpubs versus the tradpubs…which will in turn tend to move the former up the lists. It becomes a “virtuous cycle” for Amazon and indies…the more books on the bestseller list due to KU means that more of those books will be bought outside of the KU…which will make them again more likely to be on the bestseller list, which means…well, you get the idea.

Sure you want to ignore this, Big Five? I go back to what I suggested before: we may see non-canonical works (short stories, reference works) to major series in the KU, with the main books staying outside of it. That gives the tradpubs discovery (and in a big way…how many people would borrow a story about Grandma Mazur from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series…when she was in college? I’m guessing that would sit right on the top of the KU list. It wouldn’t have to be long…if you don’t pay additionally for it, who cares if it is ten “pages” long?), and could give Amazon exactly the kind of material it wants in KU. With that, they could even work out exclusivity…Janet Evanovich could indie publish it with the author’s tradpub’s tacit approval.

What do you think? Are you borrowing books from Kindle Unlimited? Have you borrowed when you would otherwise have bought a book (the same one or a different one) from a tradpub? What will be the “stickiness” of KU? In other words, what percentage of people who try the free month will keep it to pay for at least one month? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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! :) 

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.

 

Binge reading with Kindle Unlimited #1

July 27, 2014

Binge reading with Kindle Unlimited #1

While “binge watching” entire TV series may be all the rage, serious readers have been “binge reading” for decades.

Many of us have picked a series and just plowed through them, start to finish.

How many of you had a “Summer of Sherlock”, where you decided you’d read all the original Sherlock Holmes books?

No?

Gee, where else were you during the summer…on the beach? 😉

I once read three and a half novels in the same series in one day…that’s my record, by the way. 😉

It was

The Expendables by Richard Avery (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) (not available for the Kindle)

I’m not going to pretend that they were “thick” reading (like War and Peace or The Lord of the Rings): they are definitely “popcorn books”, plain and simple. They are meant to be snacks…finish one, on to the next, like a bag of potato chips. 🙂

However, I’ve also read much more serious books…and again, right through the series.

Generally, I don’t want to start a series unless I have access to all of them, and I can start at the beginning.

In the past, that has been challenging, though.

For one thing, it could be a big investment before I even knew if I liked it.

Let’s say a series had ten books in it, and I could get the paperbacks for $5 each. I’d have to invest $50 before I’d even start reading the first one.

Well, okay, I can’t say I’d really go that far all the time. 🙂 I often would read the first book in the series first…and then, if I decided to go for it, buy the other nine.

So, only $45 at a time. 😉

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

changes those calculations.

I don’t have to worry about how much each book in the series costs.

I can choose to read a series, and go for it.

Yes, you can only have ten books out at a time, but unless you are going somewhere where you won’t have access to the internet (even without wireless, you can typically use a computer to download books from Amazon and then transfer them via USB), that’s not a problem. You just keep returning books as you finish them and you can keep taking more out.

There is the risk that you are part way through a series and the other books get removed from Kindle Unlimited…books are going to come in and out of it. If there’s a series where Amazon is the publisher now, that doesn’t mean that they will be later…licensing can change hands.

Still, I don’t think that’s a huge risk.

I thought I’d give you some suggestions for binge reading.

One fun thing: for $9.99 a month (and free for the first month right now), you could race other people on the account. 😉 Typically, a book can be on six devices on the account at the same time, at no additional cost. If a book does have a different number of “simultaneous device licenses”, it will say so on the book’s Amazon product page…none of that changes with KU.

However, you can’t return the first book in the series until everyone is done with it, or they won’t be able to finish it. So, if the fastest person reads more than ten times faster than the slowest person, the speedy one will have to wait until that slower one finishes the first book. Of course, you could always buy it…that’s going to happen with some KU books.

Let’s look at some of these series (and other groupings)!

Blow your mind with Philip K. Dick

I can’t imagine what it would be like if you read ten PKD books in a row! I have to believe that virtually everyone would come out of that changed. Reality can be so warped in these…many people struggle to get through one. That’s not because the writing is bad, but because you put yourself in someone else’s head when you read, and PKD’s is like that feeling you get on the teacup ride at Disneyland. 😉

Search for PKD in KU (at AmazonSmile)

That search has 63 results, although some are false positives (they aren’t really PKD). They also don’t have all the books. I’d say try these first:

  • Valis
  • The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
  • Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
  • Total Recall
  • We Can Build You

From there, you can just keep going. 🙂

Harry Potter

If you haven’t read Harry Potter, here’s a great opportunity! We paid more than $9.99 for each book when they were released. You could borrow them one a month through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, but wouldn’t it be fun to read all of the original seven on a week’s vacation?

Search for Harry Potter in KU (at AmazonSmile)

What if you have already read them?

That’s where KU really works!

There are 154 results in that search! Again, some are false positives, but there is a whole series of interactive quiz books, Harry Potter cookbooks, parodies, analyses…you might never buy a book on the sociology of Harry Potter, or the “magickal spirituality”, but at this “smorgasbook”, you can just toss them on your plate. Would you buy a book on how to host a Harry Potter party? Maybe not, but you could borrow one from KU if the event is on your calendar.

87th Precinct

Do you really want to disappear into another world for awhile?

You can read more than forty books in the classic series by Ed McBain:

Search for 87th Precinct in KU (at Amazon Smile)

Maybe you aren’t going read them all at once. 🙂 Maybe you read them on your public transit commute (or listen to them in the car…that’s what I do). If you get through one book a week that way, you could commute to work and to the 87th Precinct at the same time…for the best part of a year.

Learn something new with lots of perspectives

Something else you can do with KU is pick a non-fiction topic, and read and discard books as soon as you want. Sure, you could do something like that with free samples, but what if the part you want to learn isn’t in the first ten percent (or so) of the book?

For example, suppose you want to publish your own book in the Kindle store (or elsewhere). There are hundreds of results in this

Search for publish your book in KU (at AmazonSmile)

If all you want to know about is how to promote a book by going to conventions, you can hop and skip from book to book.

I definitely plan to give you more suggestions for binge reading in Kindle Unlimited in the future, but let me also ask you: what would you recommend to me and my readers? I tend to read several books at the same time (those wouldn’t be books in the same fiction series), but I love to find series that can be in that mix. Feel free to make your recommendations known by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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! :) 

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.

Amazon’s Q2 Financials: net loss 18 times larger than last year

July 26, 2014

Amazon’s Q2 Financials: net loss 18 times larger than last year

Customers can be happy about all of the money Amazon is investing to make their lives better. They are spending money on more content at no more cost (for example, hundreds of thousands of more songs for Prime Music), they continue to update devices, they are introducing new devices which lets us do things more of the same way in more places (which is easier).

Investors may not feel the same way about it, though.

Let’s take a stand-out figure, according to this

press release

“Net loss was $126 million in the second quarter, or $0.27 per diluted share, compared with net loss of $7 million, or $0.02 per diluted share, in second quarter 2013.”

That’s a big proportional difference: as I mentioned in the subject of this post, it’s eighteen times larger.

However, a loss of $126 million just isn’t that much for a company the size of Amazon.

The big thing, of course, is that we have to believe that this is an extraordinary circumstance and not a trend.

After, all if the losses continued to grow at the same rate, they would lose two BILLION, two-hundred and sixty-eight million dollars in the second quarter of 2015…and then you’d be talking real money. 😉

Of course, that’s not likely.

Amazon just introduced a whole new hardware line for them with the

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile)

Mine arrived yesterday (I’ll make some comments about it at the end of this post).

That’s a very big investment. It’s not just development: I’ve seen full page ads in magazines, for example, and that’s not a cheap thing to do.

Starting up a new service like

Kindle Unlimited

also has significant costs.

So, what did investors think about this?

This

CNN Money graph

shows a drop of 9.65% today…which comes with the smell of fear.

Now, that may bounce back, but my intuition is that investors are actually becoming even less secure with Amazon right now.

What does that mean for customers?

I suspect we may go into a “building” year where there aren’t any more radical product launches (that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t get a new Kindle Fire or Paperwhite…but that they won’t launch any more hardware lines).

They need to show that some of these risks are going to pay off. They need to show a record of success for Kindle Unlimited with an indicator of continued success.

They need the Fire Phone to be accepted and to be in a position for growth (the AT&T exclusivity is likely to only be for a year).

Amazon Web Services (AWS) needs to show it is a solid income stream going forward.

None of this concerns me for the viability of Amazon long-term…but we may see them painting the boats rather than launching new ones for a little while.

You can listen to the webcast of the conference call here:

http://edge.media-server.com/m/p/drh3z532/lan/en

Often the Q&A (Questions and Answers) portion is the best part…there is an index and you can jump right to that, if you want, but I didn’t hear any bombshells in it this time.

I’m actually listening to it right now on my Fire Phone.

I need to use it more until I can give you a real report on it (I’ll use it more over the weekend).

Let’s start out with a few things:

It works. 🙂

It sounds fine as a phone, I set up my e-mail, texting, and calendars. I was able to import everything pretty painlessly from my Samsung Galaxy S4 (which I hate to give up). I was already on AT&T, and they have a wireless transfer app that moves things between the two phones.

I did have one weird thing. Since I’d ordered the phone on one phone number on the account (which was eligible for an upgrade), but wanted it to work on another phone line, I had to call AT&T. The rep there was great, by the way! Surprisingly good.

The negative was that I needed the number on the SIM card on the new phone…and I could not get it to come out of the phone! I actually ended up calling Mayday on my

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

It was kind of funny, because I had the AT&T rep on speaker phone, and that person could hear the Mayday person.

However, try as I might, I couldn’t get the SIM out. Fortunately, I found the number on one edge of the box for the phone…but I still haven’t gotten th SIM card out.

As to the “dy-per” (what I call Dynamic Perspective)…so far, it’s cool, but I wouldn’t feel like I need it. When I’m looking at the sleep screen, I can tilt the phone to see more of the scene. That’s a little hard to describe…it’s like when you were a kid, and you put your face right up to the mirror and were surprised that you could see things “in the mirror” that weren’t directly in front of it…suggesting it was actually showing you another world. Oh, was that just me? 😉

The Carousel, though, looks really busy. I have to check on how to maybe eliminate some of the data.

For example, if I swipe over to the messaging icon, the most recent messages show below that icon. Same thing with e-mail, the Help menu, Settings…it’s sort of like “customers also buy” on the Kindle Fire HDX…but there is a lot of text.

I haven’t seen it react to where I’m looking, yet, outside of dyper..and I’d really like to be able to scroll my book by looking! I may have to Mayday that (the Help search is unimpressive).

Flicking left and right does bring up some useful things…but it’s so far hard to predict when it will work or what it will show. I think that will come in time (I haven’t used it for a total of two hours of actual interaction time yet). There are people who still don’t right-click…you have to use it to get used to it. 😉

While you would think that this would integrate super well with Amazon’s stuff, I haven’t found Prime Music yet…despite looking for it for a few minutes. I can find my other music, but not Prime.

The other big feature that make the phone a stand-out is Firefly, the “real world recognition” functionality.

I pointed it at a superhero sticker today…it thought it was looking at a thermos with that superhero.

I pointed it at a can of Dust-Off which I had bought from Amazon: it first linked me to an inhalant abuse website that was on the can, then I repointed it at the SKU (the zebra stribe Stock Unit number) and it got it then.

It also got a toner cartridge package…again, by pointing it at the SKU.

I think at this point, the features are ahead of the functionality: I suspect there will be some killer apps for both Firefly and dyper, but casual use of the phone at this stage may not reveal their power.

What do you think? Do you have specific questions about the Fire Phone? Will Amazon raise consumer prices to make lower losses for investors? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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! :) 

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.

Comic Con inspired bargains

July 23, 2014

Comic Con inspired bargains

Tonight is the preview night for

San Diego Comic Con (SDCC)

which is one of the biggest pop culture events of the year.

In fact, it’s big enough that companies tie into it with merchandise/content sales…and not just on comics.

The con itself certainly goes beyond comic books/graphic novels. Some old timers complain that it has become too much about movies and TV…even ones that aren’t even especially geeky (and I use that adjective as a proud geek).

Authors of text-based books (you know…what many people just call “books”) 😉 also appear: Diana Gabaldon, Robin Hobb, Jim Butcher, and more. Even the publishers (Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House) have panels.

So, through this weekend, we’ll be able to find bargains…even if they don’t specifically say they are there because of Comic Con, that may be the case.

For example, one of today’s Kindle Daily Deals is

Batman Day graphic novels sale (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

This is Batman’s 75th anniversary year..the Dark Knight (or Caped Crusader…depends a bit on your perspective) debuted in what is sometimes considered the best pop culture year, 1939.

Batman (along with Superman) certainly seems to have taken some inspiration from Doc Savage (Doc was a wealthy crimefighter with specialized vehicles and equipment…including a “utility vest”, which arguably became Batman’s utility belt), but that’s another story. 🙂

There have been some Batman graphic novels that are really considered classic by Batman fans…and yes, they are included here for $2.99 each.

That includes:

  • Batman: The Dark Knight by Frank Miller
  • Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

If you’ve never read a graphic novel, I’d recommend The Dark Knight…and warn you ahead of time, those two in particular are not written for children.

Amazon is also giving us

Batman Eternal #1 (at AmazonSmile)

for free!

You need to enter a promotional code (BATMAN75) first…you can see all the details here:

Batman Eternal #1 promo detail page (at AmazonSmile)

I suspect we’ll see more related specials over the next few days in the

Kindle Daily Deals (at AmazonSmile)

Another place at Amazon where we’ll see savings through the weekend, and these may be explicitly SDCC deals, is

The Geek Boutique (at AmazonSmile)

One more thing before I leave Amazon. Here’s a link for

Prime Video Comic-Con Favorites (at AmazonSmile)

If you are an eligible Prime member, you can watch these at no additional cost…and there are 227 results at time of writing.

Let’s move off of Amazon for a minute to go to Marvel.

Marvel has “Marvel Unlimited”, which you can think of as similar to Kindle Unlimited…just for digital Marvel comics.

Normally, that’s $9.99 a month. It includes a lot of comics…typically, you can expect that when a Marvel comic is six months past its publication date, it may appear here.

As a special tie-in to SDCC, though, you can get the first month for $0.99!

You can have 12 comics out at a time (KU allows ten titles).

You can get more information on it here:

http://marvel.com/mu?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=AcquisitionEmail&utm_content=072314EMSubscribeNow&utm_campaign=SDCC14

The necessary app isn’t in the Amazon Appstore, but you could get it at

1Mobile

Amazon allows us to install apps from “unknown sources” on our Kindle Fires, but you have to make the call. Since the app won’t have been reviewed by Amazon to make sure it is safe and that it works on the KFire, you take responsibility for that.

This is one where I would feel comfortable getting it, and I have gotten things for my KFire from 1Mobile before.

You can count on bargains from other geeky sites, too, like

ThinkGeek.com

and

SuperHeroStuff.com

Enjoy!

Bonus story:

In a

press release

today, Amazon announced that it has added hundreds of thousands of songs to Prime Music (at AmazonSmile)…and hundreds of playlists.

That’s the no additional cost streaming music for eligible Amazon Prime members.

In my recent post

A Day in the Life of a Kindleer 2014

I didn’t talk about using Prime Music, but I have used it sporadically…I sometimes write with it on, for example.

It looks like Prime Music has been quite successful. Adding hundreds of thousands of songs to it is great! I haven’t been terribly impressed with their playlists, although it is nice to have fifty songs of one genre play with one selection. I’m just not sure that I’m seeing genuine creativity n how songs are grouped together in the playlists. I some cases, they seem a bit more like…search results, rather than curated music lists.

For example, the press release mentions one called “Fire for Your Fire”, and describes it as “Odes to all things fire make perfect listening on your Fire Phone or Kindle Fire”. I’m guessing that it’s just a bunch of songs with “fire” in the title, although I’m not seeing it yet on the site.

Curation seems to be better at Songza, but this is new for Amazon. One thing they could do is let customers share playlists, then have people “like” them…and with enough likes, a playlist moves up into a better discovery spot. That would create social engagement, and probably result in better playlists.

New! Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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! :) 

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 Unlimited: how does it affect authors, and what’s the deal with the KOLL?

July 23, 2014

Kindle Unlimited: how does it affect authors, and what’s the deal with the KOLL?

You know that look Indiana Jones has in that one scene, where the  adventuring archaeologist  thinks everything cool, and suddenly, it all goes reverse  Sisyphus? 😉

That’s the look a lot of the book industry still has after Amazon introduced its subser (that’s what I call a subscription service) for e-books and audiobooks for adults.

I’ve already written about it more than once, but there’s a lot more to say since I wrote

It’s official! Kindle Unlimited is here with 639,621 titles

way back on…Friday. 😉

I said at that point I was going to address how this was affecting authors, and that’s going to be one of the two parts of this post.

A lot of people want to know if this is good or bad for authors, and like almost everything, in my opinion, it’s both.

My guess is that some authors are going to see tremendous increases in revenue by being part of Kindle Unlimited (KU). Others, rightfully, are concerned about the restrictions involved.

Let’s first lay things out a bit.

Authors get paid for the sale of the books they’ve written. In the traditionally publishing world, they licensed the rights to sell the book to a publisher (the deal was usually made by an agent acting on the author’s behalf), which sold the books to stores, which then sold them to customers.

A tradpub (traditional publisher) might give the author an advance against the royalties. Let’s say that you could be reasonably sure that Stephen King was going to sell a million copies of the next novel, and that you knew as the publisher you could get $10 per copy (I’m basically working with this as a hardback for this example). $2.50 of that is going to go to King.

However, the author needs a year to write the book, and needs to spend that year largely unconcerned about earning a living besides that.

You are looking at getting in $7.5 million…you’ll have expenses out of that, of course, including the actual manufacture of the book and marketing, but you’ll advance King $1 million.

The first million dollars which would have gone to King from the royalties once the book starts actually selling, you keep to pay off the advance.

So, that’s one model.

In the independent (“indie”) e-book model, the author may publish the book themselves, going perhaps through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. The author, following certain guidelines, can get 70% of the list price they set for the book. Sell it for $2.99, keep about $2.09. Of course, the author has also taken on all the expenses: they might have paid for an editor, done marketing, and so on.

If the indie set the price outside of the $2.99 to $9.99 range, they can only get 35% for it…that’s going to become important as this explanation continues.

When Amazon introduced the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) in 2011, they created a new income stream for authors.

Eligible Amazon Prime members with a hardware Kindle can borrow up to a book a month from a certain set of books.

The indie publishers (and those might be just individual authors) divide a variable pool of money, getting a cut of it for each borrow that happens.

Let’s say the pool is $1.5 million for January. If there were 750,000 borrows that month, everybody in the pool gets $2 for each borrow. If your book was borrowed ten times, you get $20. That $2 figure is close to what it has been actually running.

That’s a big plus if someone borrows a $0.99 book: $2 instead of $0.35. It’s about a wash with a $2.99 book that meets the other requirements to get 70%.

There are also traditionally published books in the KOLL, although not from the biggest publishers. They get paid differently: they probably mostly get paid like it was a sale, and so the author would get their normal royalty…presumably. Publishers don’t release those kind of contract details, normally.

Now, along comes KU, and the economics change.

The one big technical change is that the indies publishers don’t get a royalty unless someone “reads” ten percent of the book (not based on when they simply download it). I put “reads” in quotation marks, because of course, the system doesn’t know if you actually read it or just flipped through it…or even, I think, jumped ahead to 10%.

That’s not that big a deal, though. I doubt very many people downloaded a KOLL book and didn’t read at least 10% of it.

What makes the difference is the “Unlimited” part.

KU isn’t really unlimited, of course, but it would be unreasonable to think that “unlimited” was a literal term, in my opinion. For example, you can’t go back in time and read the book. 😉 You can’t read a book on the surface of the sun. “Kindle Unlimited” is a name, not an actual definition.

In practice, though, it is pretty much all you can read. You can have ten books out at a time. I think that’s to limit the number of people using it, not to limit an individual. I could borrow ten books on August 1st. If I read all ten by August 10th, I could just borrow ten more…it’s not ten per month, it’s ten at a time.

I do find that it feels freeing. I had to make careful choices with the KOLL…I don’t with KU.

That’s going to be a big boon for books which most people would not have bought.

In this

TechCrunch article by John Biggs

In the article, Biggs says:

“My son, for his part, has already downloaded a few dozen Minecraft ebooks…”

A few dozen!

The article also suggests those books may not be that good, but the point is,  that would not have happened without KU.

It wouldn’t have happened with the KOLL: after the first book, you’d have to wait until the next calendar month to get the next one.

Even if we figure they were all ninety-nine cents, we can be sure they wouldn’t have spent more than $30 on them.

Those publishers will all get royalties…and possibly, much bigger royalties than they would have gotten for sales which probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Authors whose books were part of the KDP Select program (that’s what gets indie books into the KOLL) were automatically made part of KU:

“All books currently enrolled in KDP Select with U.S. rights will be automatically included in Kindle Unlimited. KDP Select books will also continue to be enrolled in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) available to Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Japan where authors will continue to earn a share of the KDP Select global fund when their book is borrowed. KOLL borrows will continue to be counted when a book is initially downloaded.”

–Amazon e-mail

So, why wouldn’t every indie author jump into KU?

There’s one big sticking point.

KU requires exclusivity for Amazon for indies…that’s part of the KDP Select rules.

Put your book in KU (through KDP Select) and you can’t sell it through SmashWords or Barnes & Noble.

I actually think it’s possible that requirement will go away at some point, or at least, have two tiers of royalty for exclusive and non-exclusive.

Obviously, the exclusivity rules don’t apply to tradpubbed books…Harry Potter e-books aren’t exclusive to Amazon, and are part of KU.

So, KU is most beneficial to books which weren’t selling well, and to very low-priced books. It’s not as beneficial to books which do sell well and are higher priced.

How will this affect Big 5 publishers and their brand name authors?

Unless it starts significantly cutting into “piece” sales (buying a book at a time), it doesn’t affect them much. They may think that putting books into KU will cannibalize their piece sales…at least for the frontlist (the new and bestselling books).

If it does start to cut into piece sales…the game changes.

I can imagine that by the end of 2015, 10% of e-book downloads happen through KU.

That’s not ten percent of the income…a lot of those would be books with micro sales.

It could be, then, that a brand name author starts putting short stories and other “peripheral” material to big series into KU.

Not necessarily through their tradpub.

They may correctly feel that so much discovery is happening through KU that they can’t ignore it.

This might also spur a growth of Kindle Worlds (Amazon’s program which licenses books, comic books, TV shows, movies, and so on so that anyone can write in them, following certain guidelines, and the rightsholder, author, and Amazon all get a cut).

A tradpub could license a series to KW, which would then result in non-canonical works in KU…which in turn serves to promote the non-KU books.

The more successful KU is, the more successful it will become.

Now, people are undoubtedly thinking of ways to game the system. I asked Amazon what happens if somebody borrows a book, reads ten percent of it (triggering a payment), returns it, and then borrows it again and again reads ten percent.

One of my regular readers and commenters, Tom Semple, asked what would prevent someone from just asking a bunch of people to borrow it, jump to the ten percent mark, and then return it.

The answer is that Amazon has made it clear that if they decide you are doing things like that, you are out. Naturally, they can always stop carrying someone’s book, they don’t really need a reason. I don’t want to get into any non-public details about this…suffice it so say, they aren’t going to get “tricked” much and suffer the consequences. I think it’s far more likely we will hear about them thinking someone has done something wrong who hasn’t. They are pretty good about taking “appeals” in those cases…but we see it happen on the forum that someone’s posts are deleted, and they never figure out why, for a much smaller example of what might be Amazon being overly cautious.

Now, as to what is happening with the KOLL:

As you can see from the quote from the Amazon e-mail, the KOLL continues to exist: no change at this point.

That said, I’ve seen many threads in the Amazon forums where people think it has been discontinued.

That’s because the interface for getting to it has changed, and that has been affected by KU.

Basically what has happened, according to Amazon (and I asked them a detailed question) is that, if you are a KOLL member who is not eligible for a loan right now (because you’ve already borrowed a book this calendar month), you’ll see the KU “Read for Free” button instead of the KOLL “Borrow for Free”.

According to them, it works like this:

  • A Prime member and eligible for a KOLL loan will see “Borrow for Free” button on Prime eligible titles
  • A Prime member who has hit the KOLL limit will see “Read for Free” with KU eligible titles
  • Someone who is neither a Prime nor a KU member will see “Read for Free” with KU on KU titles which are also Prime titles, and will see “Borrow for Free” with Prime on Prime titles which are non-KU titles
  • Quoting Amazon: “For the E-readers and Kindle Fires, you’ll see the above, except for Kindle Touch and Kindle Paperwhite users will see the “Read for Free” button regardless of their current KOLL status.”

Hypothetically, then, the confusing thing has been that a “borrow” button wasn’t available in the browser, but only when a KOLL loan wasn’t availbale..and Kindle Touch and Kindle Paperwhite users didn’t see a KOLL button regardless.

That doesn’t answer everything: how does a Paperwhite owner make a KOLL borrow? Apparently, from what I’ve heard anecdotally, clicking that “Read for Free” on your Paperwhite will make it the KOLL loan if you haven’t done one yet that month.

I hope that makes it clearer.

What do you think? Is KU a good deal for authors, a bad deal for authors, both or neither? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

New! Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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! :) 

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.

 

Heads up! LTO on Fire at 3 PM Pacific. ..Coffeemaker for $20

July 22, 2014

Amazon: Upcoming Limited-Time Special Offer on Kindle Fire: Hamilton Beach Coffeemaker for $20. Deal starts at 6:00 PM ET/3:00 PM PT.

Round up #262: $100 off Kindle Fire, update for Kindle Paperwhite

July 22, 2014

Round up #262: $100 off Kindle Fire, update for Kindle Paperwhite

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

Kindle Paperwhite 2 update 5.4.5

Amazon has released a new update for the KPW2:

Update 5.4.5 for Kindle Paperwhite 2 (at AmazonSmile* Benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

You can wait and it will eventually happen on its own (that can be weeks), or you can go to the above link and update manually

It brings three main changes:

  • Sync on Your Kindle Paperwhite (at AmazonSmile): honestly, I’m not quite clear what the difference is here. I usually don’t bounce between devices when reading, and since my Significant Other and I may be reading the same book at the same time (so we can talk about it afterwards), we have Whispersync turned off. I’m not clear on what this is doing now that it didn’t do before. One interesting thing, though. I’ve always recommended that people return to Home after a reading session if they may need to sync, and the video on this page recommends the same thing
  • “When viewing a PDF in pan-and-zoom mode, you will now see a small preview window in the margin of the screen”: this one sounds helpful!
  • Read While Your Book Ships (at AmazonSmile): for those of us who answer questions on the official Amazon forums, there is a tendency (which can be avoided, with effort) to develop canned responses. One thing has always been about where you find sample in the Cloud. We would say they weren’t stored in the Cloud: I’ve likened it to getting a free sample at Costco…there’s no record of that in your account, either. 😉 One reason is that it lessens costs to not do the processing of the transaction and the storage of the sample. Well, now, when you buy a p-book (paperbook), you can often choose to “Start Reading Now”, and you get the sample of the e-book on your Kindle (so you can read while the p-book is on the way). Those samples (and only those samples), are going to be available in the Cloud: Read While Your Book Ships (at AmazonSmile)

Video: “When the Words Stop”

Thanks to EBOOK FRIENDLY for the heads up on this great video!

When the Words Stop by Epic Reads

I think a lot of you will appreciate it…it’s a humor piece about that deflated feeling you have when you finish a book…when the words stop. Back in the paper days, I remember feeling a great anxiety sometimes when I realized there was only maybe ten percent of the book left to go. With an e-book, I have to say, I find so often that it ends much before the percentage would indicate (because of back matter, or a preview, or something like that), that I can’t really judge it. I’ve had books finish at maybe 66%! This is funny and worth watching, in my opinion.

Gold Box Deal: $100 off Kindle Fire HDX 7″ 4G LTE

This is a today only deal (that’s how GBDs work):

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi and 4G LTE, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile)

It’s $100 of the models with 4G (like a cellphone connection to wireless, instead of just wi-fi…this has both). I tried having 4G on one of my Fire models, and didn’t find it was worth the monthly service plan cost to me. However, I’m in a pretty techie area, and there is a lot of wi-fi around here. For some people, having 4G makes a big difference in convenience, and they are willing to pay for it. It’s also nice for people who aren’t as techie, but want to be connected…no wi-fi required to use it (if you have a signal for 4G at home, you don’t have to enter passwords or anything to connect).

The least expensive configuration of this deal is $229…which makes it the same initial cost as having a wi-fi only version.

Kindle Unlimited mini-roundup

I’m still going to write another big post on Kindle Unlimited soon (following this one)

It’s official! Kindle Unlimited is here with 639,621 titles

including what I think the impact will be on authors (some will benefit…a lot), but I did want to hit a few high points:

  • Audiobooks: I’ve seen interest in the comments on the blog in the audiobook part, and that is something that makes KU stand apart from other subsers (that’s what I call subscription services) .ike Oyster and Scribd). As is, unfortunately, not uncommonly the case with Amazon, people want to do it…but have trouble finding instructions on how to do it. I’ve done it successfully, but it wasn’t as easy as going to “audiobooks” in KU and picking one. What I did was first find an e-book in KU that was set up for “Whispersync for Voice”. You can do that with this link: Kindle Unlimited Whispersync for Voice titles (at AmazonSmile). The e-book has to say that it is “with narration”, otherwise you might pay extra for it. I downloaded the e-book (one that I’ve read before, by the way…I don’t like listening to audiobooks if I haven’t already sightread the book). Once I’d done that, the audiobook was available to my Audible app…including on my Galaxy S4 (which should be, sadly, replaced later this week by my Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile). I’m not sad to be getting the phone: I’m excited for that! I’ve just really liked the S4). So, the counterintuitive part was getting an e-book I wasn’t going to read so I could get the audiobook. After that, it worked fine. One of my readers commented that they couldn’t get the audiobook part to work, even with help from both Kindle and Audible reps…but I still don’t quite know why. Might have been a different phone, or they weren’t following the above sequence
  • How authors get compensated: I will do a big post on authors and KU generally, as I’ve mentioned, but for indie (independent authors) using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, they split part of a pool fund (the same way they get compensated for borrows from Amazon Kindle Owners” Lending Library)…but they don’t get the cut until the borrower has read ten percent of the book. Tradpubbed (traditionally published) authors will have a different deal, and we won’t know the details…the publishers don’t usually release royalty contract terms. I did check, by the way: if someone borrows your book, reads ten percent of it (triggering the royalty), return it, borrows it again, and ten percent of it again, you don’t get a second royalty…in case you were planning to game the system 😉
  • Confusion for people who are both KU members and KOLL eligible: this has been very confusing, engendering many threads on the forums! I’m hoping they make this clearer…and soon. The KOLL has not gone away, and there hasn’t been an indication that it will. The BUTTON to borrow for free, however, has gone away in many cases. What I understand at this point is that, if you’ve already borrowed your KOLL book for the month, the button will convert to a “Read for Free” button, and it will be one of your KU borrows instead (assuming the book is in both programs). If you don’t have KU, clicking the button will take you to some place to sign up. If it actually works that way, that’s not too bad. However, I did see “The Artist” on the forum say that they had not yet borrowed a KOLL book in the month…and clicking “Read for Free” made it the KOLL borrow. That would be bad: what you want to borrow from the KOLL and what you want to read from KU may not be the same. You can have up to ten books out from KU at a time, and when you return one you can get another one. That seems to me like a generous amount for one person (unless, perhaps, you are going on a trip where you won’t have wireless access), but if you have five people on the account (and there is no limit), you may often bump up against that simultaneous ten limit

Wow! There is a lot happening (Fire Phone for hardware, KU for services), but what do you think? Have you ever feared reaching the end of a book? I know people who don’t want to buy a book unless there are more books in a series, just to try and stave off the eventual “separation”.  Do you find 4G worth it for a Fire? Are you weighing keeping Audible versus going with KU? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

New! Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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! :) 

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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