Archive for April, 2015

Whispercast rules the schools!

April 30, 2015

Whispercast rules the schools!

When I first wrote about Amazon’s Whispercast on October 17, 2012

Amazon revolutionizes mass distribution with Whispercast

I said

“This is the kind of big scale, forward thinking concept that Amazon does well…”

Well, I’m not always right 😉 but according to this

Amazon press release

many learning institutions have adopted this Enterprise management system for Kindle books…honestly, for under three years, I would deem this a massive success.

A couple of stats in the press release:

  • 130 of the 250 largest US school districts are using Whispercast
  • 2,400 higher education organizations use it…including 24 of the 30 largest

That is great market penetration! It’s entirely possible that smaller institutions may not be a good fit for this, so I’m impressed that so many of the large ones are using it.

They’ve also upgraded it to Whispercast 3.0. According to the press release, new features include:

  • Tiered Administration and Group Management – Whispercast administrators now have more control to easily setup organizational hierarchies and permissions, enabling scalable, centralized or delegated control—as well as organize into structures that make the most sense, whether classes, grades, groups, or other.
  • Digital Transition Services – Amazon will now offer Digital Transition Services tailored for K-12 and higher education organizations with named service representatives to assist with onboarding and implementations at-scale, based on best practices.
  • Easier-to-Use Interface – The updated design includes a new step-by-step setup wizard, making it possible for educators to create groups, add and move users, procure digital content and distribute to their organization, without requiring technology training.
  • New Purchasing Options – Whispercast is expanding the payment methods accepted to procure digital content with purchase orders and purchase cards, in addition to credit and gift cards.

Purchase orders are a big deal for this, and gift cards may create some interesting opportunities for student organizations and alumni to contribute.

While this is not a solution for families and other non-Enterprise users, it’s clearly working well for organizations.

I don’t know what kind of income generator it might be for Amazon, but being used by school districts is always a good they are notably not agile. Once you are in, it’s a good bet you’ll stay there, because it is hard for them to change something.

I’ve always thought that Apple survived its early days in part because it was widely adopted by universities (through active effort on Apple’s part).

At the time, local government institutions didn’t really do their own computing all that much: they would get the local university to do it.

So, the court system might have Apples to be compatible with the university.

That, in turn, meant that lawyers and such needed Apples to be compatible with the court system.

Apple obviously got way beyond all that, and became a beloved consumer brand.

In some ways, Amazon is not just the “Everything Store”…it’s the “Everything Strategy”. 😉 They find a good market and go after it.

That’s something Disney has famously done. They’ve found other attractions which are successful, and done their own version. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, for example, is a Disney waterpark…to compete with other waterparks near Disneyworld.

For some people, it wins because it is Disney.

For many people, something wins because it is Amazon.

Angie’s List works?

Amazon recently introduced

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

Would I rather book somebody through Amazon, using my regular Amazon payment options?

You betcha!

Do I want Amazon’s “Happiness Guarantee”?

You know it!

Amazon wants to keep me as a “happy customer” (I’ve said before, that’s their most important product). I feel like they are going to make very sure this works before they put it out there.

No, they don’t always do that with every Kindle/Fire feature…but for a service like this? I think it was carefully tested.

We’ll see if it succeeds like Whispercast has…but I love it when Amazon has big ideas, and I love it even more when they work. 😉

Join thousands 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.

 

Want diverse representation? Try books

April 29, 2015

Want diverse representation? Try books

I’m a geek.

A proud geek, by the way. 🙂

There has been a lot of discussion in the last couple of years about diversity in the geek world.

We’ve seen a real push for and shift towards female superheroes, for example. The latest incarnation of Thor is female (not in the movies, but in the comics)…there is even a female version of the Transformers that has recently appeared in the comics and will be released as toys (yep…robots with breasts).

We’ll be seeing more movies and TV shows with solo superheroes who aren’t white males in the next few years.

Daredevil, of course, on Netflix, represents a Federally protected class…which they define as “disabled”.

Then, there was the huge and ongoing “Gamergate” situation, which involves women and gaming and attitudes and treatment of them.

Catwoman was recently identified as bisexual, and Ice Man, one of the X-Men was “outed” (by a telepathic character) as gay.

Still, it’s not unreasonable to say that movies, TV shows, and games have a ways to go to have their leading characters reflect real world demographics.

I’m not about to argue that books are demographic mirrors. There may particularly be an imbalance in children’s books, and there is a campaign around that:

We Need Diverse Books.org

Still, I have to say…I’d be pretty shocked if you couldn’t find fiction that fits any protected class of which you are a member…and plenty that aren’t protected.

You can probably find a whole sub-genre of romances for any of those groups!

Why is that?

Is it because publishing is more “noble”? I’m not going to argue about that one, it’s awfully subjective.

However, I do think there are some factors.

One is that books are just inherently more complex.

I’ve mentioned the “Bechdel Test” in this blog before. There are a lot of formulations of it (even though we have a specific origin in Alison Bechdel’s comic), but I’ll go with this one. To pass the test a movie (that was the original line) has to have two named female characters in it who have a meaningful conversation about something other than a man.

Yes, that should be a pretty low bar (intentionally), but many movies fail it.

Even with the most generous version of it (“two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man”), a large number of movies and TV shows fail.

http://bechdeltest.com/

However, there just aren’t that many conversation in many movies. When you read a novel, they could have five sub-plots and fifty conversations.

A movie, in maybe two hours and requiring a lot of visual action, has a hard time handling one sub-plot and ten  conversations.

Another issue is that relatively, there aren’t that many movies released in a month.

If you look at wide releases, you are looking at around ten.

The USA Kindle store, on average, adds more than 1,000 books…a day!

Of course, those aren’t all major titles (the vast, vast majority aren’t), but they have an equally wide release (at least within the USA). Just as many people have the option to buy a book from an independent as have the option to buy the latest book from a brand name author. Movie theatres just don’t book that many movies…they can’t. There are times when I might want to see a movie…and the nearest theatre with it is fifty miles away (and I live in a good theatre area). If I want to read a particular book, thanks to the Kindle store, it usually isn’t fifty inches away. 😉

That’s another thing that e-books have made better.

When all you had was the airport bookstore to buy something, you might have had a hundred titles from which to choose.

If you want to most bookstores (I’m a former manager), you might have had tens of thousands, maybe even a 100,000 titles.

Sitting on my couch, though, I have access to millions.

So, I’m not saying that we can’t use more diversity in books, but I am saying that, with a little bit of looking, you can find books that focus on virtually any real world social group.

Is that an issue for you?

I’m trying to figure for myself if it ever has been…if I’ve sought a book because the lead character was “like me”. I’m having a hard time coming up with that.

I have read a book because the characters were interested in something in which I’m interested…that doesn’t seem the same to me, though.

I haven’t cared about reading a book because the character was the same gender, the same religion, the same national origin, the same race, the same sexual preference…hm. I don’t even care if characters have the same philosophies I do…I’ve really enjoyed characters who do things I would never do (for moral reasons), for example.

I will admit to being intrigued by an app that has, as a background,  a stylized version of a city in a country that is part of my heritage…not sure that’s the same. I didn’t know much about the city, so it was kind of fun to see.

Now I’m really taking a tour inside my own head. Would it bother me if every book I read had characters which were demographically identical…if they were intellectually and emotionally different?

Hmm…

The first question for me is, would I notice right away? Maybe not…I often don’t identify people by their inherent characteristics. That includes in “the real world”, by the way, not just online.

Let’s say I’m trying to remember who in a meeting said something. I’ve had people ask me if the person was a particular race…and I didn’t know. Clearly, the person asking me identified that person by that characteristic…I might something like, “They were tall.” That’s an inherent characteristic, but I do notice that one.

I might also identify them by where they were sitting in the room, which seems odd to people. I’ll say, “They were in the back row, third seat in from the door.” That often doesn’t help them.

Let me imagine this a different way. Would it bother me if, when I read books, it wasn’t just that the characters were all the same demographic…it was that they were the same demographic, and I wasn’t that one? For example, let’s say that every single book I could buy had people of a different ethnic origin as me.

I honestly think it wouldn’t bother me.

I suspect some of you are guessing at this point that it is because, you assume, I’m part of the majority or dominant group.

That’s not the case for all of the protected classes.

Here’s a simple one: I walk with a cane.

While I haven’t ever gotten legal disabled status, I think I could…I have a diagnosed condition which qualifies.

So, I’m not in the majority or the “privileged group” based on “disability status”.

That one may not be the same for you as, say, race or religion.

You might assume that people with a shared protected class tend to think the same way, but figure that’s not the case for people with disabilities.

Well, I’m very big on reading a diversity of thought.

I would be very disappointed if every book I read had characters with the same opinions!

That’s a place I do care about diversity!

No conclusions on this one…I’m just thinking in pixels.

I will stick with my original assertion: books have more diverse representation than movies, TV, or games.

What do you think? Is character diversity an issue for you? Do you think it negatively impacts children if none of the books they read have characters which “look like them”? Empathy is easier when there is similarity…but is it too difficult when there isn’t? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

* 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.

A bookstore just for indies

April 28, 2015

A bookstore just for indies

I’ve seen a lot of bookstores in my time.

From a mega-used-bookstore in San Francisco’s Tenderloin (Albatross) to tiny-hole-in-the-walls that specialize in just one genre to dinostore chainstores, I’ve spent a big chunk of my life in them.

Of course, I’ve got a bit of an advantage there: I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore. 🙂

One thing I haven’t seen a lot in bookstores, though?

Independently published books.

Oh, I would have authors bring them to me in the bookstore and want us to carry them, but it just didn’t make sense.

One of the first things I would ask them was something like, “If I wanted one hundred more copies here tomorrow, could you do that?” The answer was universally “no”.

In a bookstore, you need that flexibility.

You are fighting three main things in a physical bookstore: rent; salaries; and “shrinkage” (shoplifting, employee theft, and damage).

If something is hot (maybe because the author appears on a local talk show) you need copies…now. Not a week from now, but right away.

Those indie (independently published) authors would sometimes want me to take a book on consignment.

That would mean that I wouldn’t pay anything for it unless it sold.

That seemed to think that would mean that I couldn’t lose anything by having their book on my shelf.

Well, I would.

I still had to pay for the rent. If that book didn’t sell for a week, I paid the rent for that space for nothing.

I still had to pay for salaries. My employees had to shelve the book, merchandise it (make it look neat…people don’t always put books back carefully), dust them, sell them, handle returns…the combination would of the last two would be particularly costly (and not just in money…if a customer really didn’t like the book, it could hurt our relationship).

There was still the risk of shoplifting (shockingly common in bookstores, at least in those days) and damage.

They also didn’t get that the traditional publishers generally guaranteed me I could sell the book. If I didn’t sell it, I could return it for credit. That’s not how consignment functions, but it can be pretty equivalent in terms of risk.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to carry indies…it just didn’t make economic sense.

That’s why I’m impressed with the idea reported in this

Publishers Weekly story by Judith Rosen

It’s about the

Gulf Coast Bookstore

which has a different business model.

What happens is that authors “rent a shelf” for three months for $60 (plus a $15 set up fee).

The authors get 100% of the sale price of the book.

It’s sort of like…having a “chair” in a beauty salon. 🙂

I think it’s a cool idea, and it’s a bookstore I would like to visit.

I’m guessing that the owners have figured out their “nut”, what they have to make to make a profit.

Since they are fully booked at this point, I’m guessing they are doing okay. 🙂

For that to continue, though, they’ll need to keep the shelves rented…and that’s going to depend on the success of the indies.

It’s a reasonable price point…but the authors/publishers also have to do the restocking. I’m assuming for most authors/publishers they’ll have someone else (maybe a relative) do that…you can’t do the “hustling” as an indie author if you have to go to the store every day to “face” the books (turn the covers so they face the customers, when there is room).

There’s more to the article, which shows that the owners have thought about this, and how to keep the store interesting. I recommend you read it.

I have to say, though, I don’t think I would enjoy managing a store like this.

I liked curating the collection. I liked recommending specific books to people. I liked the excitement of juggling what was on the shelves…moving something over here, putting this with that, see that constant shuffle of titles, and watching some rise to the top.

Still, I can see a market for shelf-rental locations like this.

One thing I didn’t like?

I couldn’t see a way to buy the books online from the store.

I get that it changes the nature of the relationship a bit to do that, but I don’t see a reason why that couldn’t have a more traditional set up with the bookstore getting a cut of each book sold. You could still make it that the publisher has to fulfill the orders…the bookstore would just provide a link to the books, and get…well, it would be an advertising fee, really.

Seems like that might be an additional factor which would make it more dynamic.

Bonus deal: three Fire tablets on sale

Amazon’s having a limited time sale right now on three Fire tablets:

I’ve seen people describe this as a Mothers’ Day sale…although buying the kids’ edition for your Mom seems…atypical. 😉

These are good prices. The Fire 7 is the larger of the current models, and has a front camera and a rear camera (which mine doesn’t). However, mine does have Mayday (the almost instant onscreen tech help), and the Fire 7 doesn’t. That could be an important feature if your mother isn’t comfortable with technology. Many Moms are, of course, but some aren’t.

The Kids’ edition might be a good gift as we are going into the summer. It’s ruggedized…if you are going on a trip, that might be important. It could also make a great graduation gift…not from high school, but younger. 🙂

I don’t know how long these prices will last, but enjoy!

What do you think? Would you go to a bookstore just of indies? Do you think those will succeed? If you are an author and/or publisher, would you want to try that? Do you see a franchise opportunity here? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands 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.

Round up #292: literally embarrassed, hey kid stop reading!

April 27, 2015

Round up #292: literally embarrassed, hey kid stop reading!

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

It’s not as dangerous as not reading on the bus!

Look, I’ve read pretty much everywhere in my life. Okay, no, I don’t read when I’m driving a car (but I do listen to text-to-speech). However, planes, trains, and automobiles (as a passenger)? Absolutely!

I did have a friend who got stitches once…riding a bicyble and reading a book. Glanced up from the book, and hit a parked truck.

Still, this

Galleycat story by Dianna Dilworth

really gets my goat!

It’s about a schoolbus driver in Canada who has asked an eight-year old to stop reading on the bus!

Never, ever, ask someone to stop reading…especially children.

The bus driver apparently thinks it is dangerous.  According to the story, “The bus driver claims that other students might want to see what she is reading and stand up or that she might get hurt herself if the corner of the book pokes her in the eye.”

Puh-lease!

I hope to Hemingway that other students want to see what the student is reading! Maybe they’ll start reading themselves. 🙂

As to getting “poked in the eye”…um, what is this kid doing, reading the book sideways? I would guess every one of my readers had gotten a book in the face at some point (falling asleep, for example), and it’s never a corner.

Nobody else has other “pokey” things? Maybe not…don’t want to presume.

When I was in school, we had some ridiculous safety rules passed. You couldn’t bring troll dolls to school…because you might choke on the hair. Mind you, these were at least fourth graders. You couldn’t wear the big Batman buttons (Bang! Pow!) because you might get poked by the pin back (okay, that’s possible…but not likely). You couldn’t bring

Clackers

(two balls connected by string that you rhythmically swung into each) because they might shatter.

Yes, yes, those things could happen…but really, we all felt they were denied because they were distracting, not because they were unsafe. I mean, we had a jungle gym and monkey bars, right? They weren’t all that concerned about our safety. 😉

Oh, you don’t often see me get riled up like this, and I’m smiling while I’m writing it, even though I think it’s a serious issue.

I shall meditate this evening on how I can frame it for myself that the bus driver has a legitimate point…but I’m not there yet. 🙂

Oh, and I remember Dr. Dean Edell (I think it was) talking about distracted driving rules…I think it was banning even hands free cellphone calls. The doctor made the point that we would save a ton of lives each year if we made people wear crash helmets in cars, the way we do on motorcycles, but that’s not going to happen. That doesn’t meant that talking on a cellphone is good…it obviously raises distraction levels…as does talking to another person in the car and listening to the radio…

This me, soapbox…getting off now. 🙂

Fire TV vs. Fire TV Stick…round two

Not too long, I wrote about our

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

working noticeably better than our

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

One of my regular readers, Tom Semple, suggested that it might have to do with the placement of the devices in the house.

Well, with a recent update, the Fire TV can connect with Bluetooth headphones…and the Fire TV Stick can’t (at least, it doesn’t have the choice in the same place).

That got me to switch the to devices…putting the Fire TV in the family room. That’s where I work out in the morning, and I’ve been watching CNN while I do that on closed captioning…at least, the part where I can’t do it while reading on my

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

I figured having Bluetooth headphones and listening to news apps would work better.

I’d never used Bluetooth headphones, by the way. I chose a second product from Arctic. I’d recently bought the

ARCTIC Breeze Mobile USB-Powered 92mm Portable Fan, Portable Cooling Solution, Quiet Fan – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

for $7.99.

My office at work is stuffy, and this has been a wonderful thing…and it’s quiet enough that I can have it on during conference calls or while on a Webex.

So, I thought I’d try their

ARCTIC P324 BT (Black) – Bluetooth (V4.0) Headset with Neckband – Headphones with integrated Microphone – Perfect for Sport (at AmazonSmile*)

Again, that’s relatively inexpensive, but I’m pleased. I can’t tell yet how durable they will be, but both the fan and the headphones are serviceable. I’m not a fan of earbuds, and even though my Significant Other said these over-the-ear models made me look like Princess Leia 😉 I like them.

It’s also a little weird getting used to how they go on your head (not over the top of your head, but across the back of them), but they seem to stay even when I’m moving around. The range was pretty good, too…and it really surprised me that someone could hear me okay when making a phone call. The microphone is on the earpiece…not sticking out in front by my mouth.

Listening to music on Bluetooth headphones from your Fire would be nice, too.

Anyway… 🙂

Having switched the two devices, it still seems to me like the Fire TV is much better than the Fire TV Stick, although the latter is also a good device. The Fire TV is faster in loading something (like Hulu or Netflix), and doesn’t have the performance issues I get sometimes with the stick. They are both worth the price, in my opinion…but the Fire TV is worth the higher price. 😉

Imagine how much more embarrassing it would be if they were reading on the bus! 😉

This is an interesting

World Book Day infographic reproduced in a Publishing Perspectives article by Hannah Johnson

As regular readers know, I’m not that visually oriented, but there were some interesting statistics here.

One was that 18% of children 8-11 said they would be embarrassed if their friends saw them reading. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that we can conclude that 82% would be proud. It could be that a large percentage are neutral on it…perhaps because many of them don’t read, but I hope that’s not the case.

Another interesting assertion was that children with more than 500 books in their homes had language skills on average two years ahead of kids with fewer than ten books in their homes. Gee, I wonder how having hundreds of thousands of books available to you through the Kindle store impacts it? Do they read at super genius level? 😉 Seriously, even without paying for Kindle Unlimited (which would get you access to nearly a million (945,365 at time of writing in the USA) books, there are more than 50,000 free books you can own. I do think that opportunity probably makes a difference.

Cute Kobo cartoon

I thought this one from Kobo was cute:

https://twitter.com/kobo/status/592090412728233984/photo/1

What do you think? Is it dangerous to be reading a book on a school bus? What should the parents do in that situation, if anything? Convince me that the school bus driver has a legitimate concern…please. 🙂 What about reading at the dinner table? That was always okay in my house growing up…at least, I like to remember it that way. 🙂 We also had to say how our day was, so we did interact. Were you ever embarrassed to be seen reading when you were a kid? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands 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.

Today’s KDD: books from best-selling series up to 80% off

April 25, 2015

Today’s KDD: books from best-selling series up to 80% off

One of today’s Kindle Daily Deals (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) is any of more than fifty (!) books from best-selling series for up to 80% off (each).

As always, remember to check the price before you click or tap that “Buy” button: these are only supposed to be good for today, and the prices may not be valid in your country (Hello, readers around the world!).

They do break it down further on the offer page:

  • Mystery & Thriller series
  • Literature & Fiction series
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy series
  • Teen and Children’s series

You would probably guess that these are the first books in the series, to get you interested in buying the others (and quite a few are), but there are also multiple books from the same series in some cases.

For example, you can get all three books in Marie Lu’s Legend series for $2.99 each. That might make a good gift…you can buy e-books now and then delay them for delivery until an appropriate gift-giving occasion.

I think a great thing to do is to give a kid a series of books when summer arrives, for example. It’s a way to make an iffy reader a more committed reader, because they get to read at their own pace and with no obligations to someone else. I’ve talked before about remembering your “summer of whatever series”. 🙂

What happens if they don’t like the first one?

Well, in this case, you might have wasted about six dollars for the next two…but the reviews are quite good on these. The first one if 4.5 stars out of 5 with 1,720 customer reviews at the time of writing. Significantly, the next two are higher ranked…4.6 for #2 and 4.7 for #3. That doesn’t always happen for series. 🙂

Not looking for a kid?

How’s this for a gift for an adult reader?

For $29.99, you could buy all ten of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries!

Buy #10 in hardback right now, and it’s $13.99 at Amazon…the e-books are a big savings, and a more convenient way to take ten of them “up to the cabin” with you.

Want something with a pop culture tie-in?

How about the Nikki Heat series, written by “Richard Castle”…the author portrayed by Nathan Fillion in the ABC TV series Castle?

That literature (and I’m not sure why they added “and fiction” to it) category?

Six books in the Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell.

Here are the series represented in this sale:

  • Chief Inspector Gamache by Louise Penny (Mysteries & Thrillers)
  • Jonathan Grave by John Gilstrap (Mysteries & Thrillers)
  • Nikki Heat by Richard Castle (Mysteries & Thrillers)
  • Sean O’Brien by Tom Lowe (Mysteries & Thrillers)
  • Bess Crawford by Charles Todd (Mysteries & Thrillers)
  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (Mysteries & Thrillers)
  • Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell (Literature & Fiction)
  • Star Force by B.V. Larson (Science Fiction & Fantasy)
  • Safehold by David Weber (Science Fiction & Fantasy)
  • The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett (Science Fiction & Fantasy)
  • Mither Mages by Orson Scott Card (Science Fiction & Fantasy)
  • Legend by Marie Lu (Teen & Children’s)
  • The Testing Trilogy by Joelle Charbonneau (Teen & Children’s)
  • His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers (Teen & Children’s)
  • The Grisha by Leigh Bardugo (Teen & Children’s)
  • Vehicles at Night (I don’t know that the series actually has a name, but that’s what the books are about…illustrated kids’ books about biomorphic trucks and trains at bedtime) by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld (Teen & Children’s)

Enjoy!

Join thousands 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 2015 Q1: the investors like it!

April 25, 2015

Amazon’s 2015 Q1: the investors like it!

I’m used to Amazon announcing their financials, making massive sales, losing money overall, and the investors being mad.

Sales?

Worldwide revenues grew fifteen percent…that’s a massive amount for a company this big and this dominant. Paid unit growth grew faster (20%), which means that their growth of revenue grew more slowly than their growth of units. That doesn’t necessarily mean they were discounting more, it could mean that they were selling more units of the inexpensive stuff.

Massive sales, though? Check.

Profit?

Well, they muddied the waters a bit by breaking out their Web Services (which did really well), but contrary to when people tell you that Amazon is just trying to make a profit off its customers when they do things (which, by the way, is what they should be doing, right?), they aren’t. 🙂

Investors?

They loved this report!

According to

CNN.Money

the stock is up a remarkable 18.52% over the past five days.

Again, this is not a start-up.

Investors are starting to believe that Amazon can make the business pay off, especially the web services thing.

The consumer part of it, you and me, is certainly the public face of Amazon for most people, but they no longer live and die by it.

For those investors who are into the gadgets, I suspect that the Amazon Echo (not yet released to the public) is seen as a possible hit.

According to this

Boston Business Journal article by David Harris

Amazon is doing a lot of hiring for people to work on

the Echo

and has a whole floor dedicated to it already (in Cambridge).

Now, I should be clear: the Echo wasn’t mentioned in the call. You can read a transcript here:

Seeking Alpha

and listen to the call here

http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?p=irol-eventDetails&c=97664&eventID=5189997…click or tap “Click here for webcast”, then log-in

In fact, the words “Kindle” and “Fire” don’t appear at all in the transcript…but “Prime” does 46 times.

That is a shift…a considerable shift from past financial calls.

“Media” appears seven times…”books” appears once, but it doesn’t mean the kind Amazon sells, and it was a caller, not Amazon that used it.

“Video”, interestingly, appears thirteen times.

My guess is that that is part of what investors liked: Amazon was not positioning itself in this call as a retailer, as an organization that sells things.

It provides services, both to business (like AWS…Amazon Web Services) and consumers (Prime).

The Echo is about that, too…it’s not just that it is a device, it’s that it may become how some people connect to the internet (particularly when spending money at home).

I’m not worried about that focus. As consumers, we get some advantage if Amazon doesn’t really need to make money on the e-books and other items it sells. That means they can have lower prices (although the Big 5 publishers have some control over that for many books, Amazon can increasingly control it for books they publish or which are independently published but use Amazon’s platform).

I’ve said it before: Amazon’s most valuable product is happy customers (outside of its business to business work, and even then, it matters).

They need to keep us happy as consumers, so we’ll trust Amazon…or at least, want to purchase things through them (not necessarily from them).

That’s good for us. 🙂

What do you think? Has Amazon actually started shifting what it does, or is it just positioning itself differently? Do you have any concerns that they’ll decrease their focus on books? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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.

May 2015 Kindle book releases

April 24, 2015

May 2015 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.…

However, it’s worth noting that pre-ordering at a low price will tend to preserve that price. Back when the Agency Model was solidly in place, Amazon couldn’t guarantee that books sold by the publishers using that structure wouldn’t go up in price after you pre-ordered them. It wasn’t likely, it was just that Amazon couldn’t control it. We have started to return to the Agency Model, but Amazon is allowed to discount in some circumstances…I’ll have to dig into that effect.

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 5,729 (at time of writing) May releases in the USA Kindle store:

May 2015 USA Kindle store releases (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Of those, by the way, 991 are in

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

about 17%.

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

One interesting thing before I get into some individual titles: the first four (sorted by new and popular) are the

Kindle First (at AmazonSmile)

picks for this month!

Since Prime members can already be reading one of these (even though they aren’t officially released until April) at no additional cost, you can see how that would drive up their popularity as compared to actual pre-orders. The top four being Kindle First was also true the last time I did one of these.

The other thing is that some of those Kindle Unlimited titles are way up on the list. I’m concerned (and I’ve alerted Amazon about it) that people are confused: they think they are pre-ordering a KU borrow, when they are actually pre-ordering a purchase. In other words, they may be thinking they’ll get the book at no additional cost, and actually be charged for it. Amazon has confirmed for me: you can not pre-order a borrow from KU.

Okay…books!

  • Rock with Wings (Leaphorn and Chee Mysteries) by Anne Hillerman
  • A Shade of Vampire 13: A Turn of Tides by Bella Forrest (KU)
  • The Crown of Ptolemy (The Heroes of Olympus) by Rick Riordan
  • Born of Defiance (The League: Nemesis Rising Book 7) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles by Bernard Cornwell
  • Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig by Mark Essig
  • I, Ripper: A Novel by Stephen Hunter
  • Benchwarmer: A Sports-Obsessed Memoir of Fatherhood by Josh Wilker
  • American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith, and Renewal by Taya Kyle and Jim DeFelice
  • Sesame Street Let’s Cook! by Sesame Workshop
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
  • Archie 1000 Page Comics BLOW-OUT! (Archie 1000 Page Digests) by Archie Superstars
  • The Fall: A Novel by John Lescroart
  • Seveneves: A Novel by Neal Stephenson
  • The Enemy Inside: A Paul Madriani Novel (Paul Madriani Novels Book 13) by Steve Martini
  • Shigeru Miyamoto: Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda (Influential Video Game Designers)by Jennifer deWinter
  • Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News by A. Brad Schwartz
  • What’s Your Story?: True Experiences from Complete Strangers by Brandon Doman
  • The Secret History of Kindness: Learning from How Dogs Learn by Melissa Holbrook Pierson
  • Smart Blonde: The Life of Dolly Parton by Stephen Miller
  • The Rose Hotel: A Memoir of Loss and Renewal From Iran to America by Rahimeh Andalibian
  • Avengers Epic Collection: Behold… The Vision (Epic Collection: Avengers) by Roy Thomas and John Buscema
  • Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews
  • The Art of Inside Out (The Art of…) by Amy Poehler and Pete Docter
  • The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and its Analysis by the Moors Murderer Ian Brady by Ian Brady and Colin Wilson
  • Have Gun-Will Travel (TV Milestones Series) by Gaylyn Studlar
  • Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford
  • Piranha (The Oregon Files) by Clive Cussler and Boyd Morrison
  • The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Well, again…quite the mix!

Enjoy!

Join thousands 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 Book features: which devices?

April 23, 2015

Kindle Book features: which devices?

We’ve seen a lot of features offered over the years inside Kindle books.

However, they haven’t all been available on all devices (Kindle hardware and reading apps).

One of the biggest jumps was from the Kindle 1 (the 2007 model) to the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX (which Amazon collectively calls the “5-Way Controller models”).

Those of us (including me) who had (or have) the 1st gen Kindle were rapidly left behind when the 2nd generation was released.

I never mind that. I figure if I thought something was a good value when I bought it, it’s still a good value…I don’t mind if others get more than I did. That doesn’t change my initial math, right? Oh, and you all do the math before you buy, right? 😉

It’s gotten a bit confusing as to which models have which features.

Fortunately, Amazon has a page which spells it out:

Features Available in Kindle Books (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

They describe the feature (these are currently available features, by the way…for example, NowNow, which was on the 1st gen isn’t listed…and what they do list isn’t comprehensive), then tell you which devices have it.

I wanted to make a grid out of that…so I did. 🙂

I let you look at either a device and see which features it has, or a feature and you can see which devices have it.

I want to explain my abbreviations before you look at it.

The devices are these:

  • K1
  • K2
  • KDX (the large screen Kindle)
  • K3 (also known as a Kindle Keyboard)
  • Touch (Kindle Touch)
  • PPW (Paperwhite…either generation)
  • MTch (Mindle Touch…the current least expensive model)
  • Vyg (Voyage)
  • KF1 (Kindle Fire 1st generation)
  • KF2 (Kindle Fire 2nd generation
  • KFHD (Kindle Fire HD)
  • KFHDX (Kindle Fire HDX)
  • FHD (Fire HD
  • FHDX (Fire HDX)
  • CR (Cloud Reader)
  • Droid (Kindle for Android)
  • Sams (Kindle for Samsung)
  • iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch…but check the asterisks)
  • Win8 (Windows 8)
  • PC
  • Mac

and the features are:

  • TPU (Text Pop-Up)
  • Pnl (Panel View: for comics)
  • Rep (Print Replica)
  • WSV (Whispersync for Voice…you can listen to an audiobook or sight-read, not necessarily on the same device, and maintain your place…I only listed the devices here on which you can sight read with this feature)
  • Imm (Immersion Reading…you can read and listen at the same time on the same device,with words highlighted)
  • XRy (X-Ray)
  • TTS (text-to-speech)
  • AV (Audio-Visual…movies and sound within the book)
Device TPU Pnl Rep WSV Imm XRy TTS AV
K1
K2 X X
KDX X X
K3 X X X X
Touch X X X X X
PPW X X X X
MTch X X X X
Vyg X X X X
KF1 X X X X
KF2 X X X X X X X X
KFHD X X X X X X X X
KFHDX X X X X X X X X
FHD X X X X X X X X
FHDX X X X X X X X X
CR X X X X
Droid X X X* X X
Sams X X X* X
iOS X X X** X X X
Win8 X X X
PC X X X***
Mac X X

* Tablets only (not phones)

** iPad or iPhone (not the iPod touch)

*** With an accessibility plug-in

That should give you current state on this, although it can change…both through the introduction of new devices, and by Amazon adding these features to more of the existing devices. I’d be quite surprised if they took any of the existing features away from existing devices…no real reason to do that, unless they abandon a feature altogether.

Hope that helps…

If you think something here isn’t correct (Amazon doesn’t always update the pages, and I could have made a mistake…I did make some interpretations of what Amazon was saying), or if you have any questions about these or other features, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post. Oh, I should also mention that I’m looking at Amazon.com: it’s possible that some of these features have not been approved for some countries…it may often be a negotiation with the publisher.

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

* 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.

Pulitzers and Hugos, 2015

April 21, 2015

Pulitzers and Hugos, 2015

Pulitzer Prize winners

The Pulitzer Prize winners have been announced:

Official Site

and it’s reasonable to expect the prices to come down on the involved books in the next day or so, at least for a short time. People might cynically expect it to go up, but there is likely to be a mini price war, and Amazon tends to match others’ prices.

Congratulations go to:

Winning a Pulitzer is like winning an Oscar: for the rest of your life, you’ll be introduced as “Pulitzer Prize winning author so-and-so”. 🙂

The Hugo Awards

I was originally going to do a full story just on this, then I was going to put in a round-up…but it fit best in this post.

I’ve been holding off on writing about it, because I wanted to investigate it more, to get more angles on it…but it’s just continuing to grow and I want to alert you to it now.

The Hugo Awards are one of the most prestigious in science fiction literature, with a long and storied history.

Official Site

As reader and commenter John Aga pointed out to me in a comment,

Lines of Departure (Frontlines Book 2) (at AmazonSmile*)

by Marko Kloos, is a Hugo-nominated novel published by one of Amazon’s traditional publishing imprints, 47North.

Well, perhaps I should say, “was a Hugo-nominated novel”, because Kloos has withdrawn it from consideration.

If you go to the link I gave you for the Hugo Awards, you won’t see it listed.

It’s been replaced in the list by The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu (Ken Liu translator).

This has nothing to do with the book being published by Amazon.

It has to do with the way books get nominated for the Hugos, and concerns about how that may have been influenced this year.

Essentially, a group wanted to ensure that nominated books fit within their definitions of science fiction…so they took steps to see that happened.

The controversy is that there are many who don’t agree with their views, and feel that those steps they took may have “hijacked” the nominations.

I don’t want to get too much into it, because I want to know more about what “Sad Puppies” says about it.

I’ve read plenty of things about people who disagree with them, but before I possibly influence you, I want to see it more firsthand.

Kloos isn’t the only person to withdraw a nomination this year, and  even George R.R. Martin has commented on it.

Here’s a Google search for new on it:

https://www.google.com/search?client=aff-maxthon-maxthon4&channel=t26&q=hugo%20awards&gws_rd=ssl#q=hugo+awards&safe=off&affdom=thehugoawards.org&channel=t26&tbm=nws

What do you think? Have you ever read a book in part because it was a Pulitzer-winner (or nominee)? How do awards affect you? How do you think awards should be given? Should literary genres be “preserved” (by having them follow traditional guidelines)? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands 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! :) 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.

Great deal! Fire HD 7″ for $79 today

April 20, 2015

Great deal! Fire HD 7″ for $79 today

You may not think you are in the  market for a backlit tablet, like the

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

but today’s deal should make you seriously think about it.

Amazon has the 7″ Fire HD on sale starting at $79!

That makes it $20 less than the usually lowest-priced tablet, the

Fire HD 6, 6″ HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black(at AmazonSmile*)

and even more remarkably, the same price as the

Seventh generation entry level Kindle…I call it the “Mindle Touch” (it replaces the old “minimum Kindle”, and has a touchscreen) or the “K7″ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) (my review)

That’s right…you can get a tablet for the same price as the least expensive EBR (E-Book Reader).

Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m suggesting you would get rid of an EBR: like many people, I use both every day.

I use a

Kindle Paperwhite 2 (at AmazonSmile*) (Kindle Paperwhite 2: first impressions and menu map)

at home when I go to bed and a

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers (Previous Generation – 3rd) (at AmazonSmile*)

when I am out and about.

I should empathize that: I sight read on a tablet. When we first had a choice of a tablet or an EBR (or again, both), there was a great deal of talk about how much better it is to read on an EBR.

Yes, I get that: the Paperwhite is the most comfortable reading experience I’ve ever had, and that includes paper.

However, I find the HDX to be a serviceable reader. I think part of it is that the screen technologies and software have changed…with the brightness turned almost all the way down, and white letters on a black background, I don’t notice any extra eye effort (although I do have superior night vision, which I believe is tied to some color vision deficiency).

In addition (and for me, this is highly significant), the tablets (including the one on sale for $79) have text-to-speech (TTS), software which reads a book out loud to you.

I use TTS typically for hours a week in the car while commuting.

Of course, a tablet gives you other abilities…like video, apps, and web surfing.

This would be an excellent “guest Kindle”! We have the 6″ Fire hD for that purpose now, but a 7″ screen is a bit nicer.

What does this one not have that my HDX has?

The biggest thing is the lack of Mayday, the almost instant onscreen tech help.

On the other hand, this model has two cameras, front and back, and my HDX only has one (mostly for video calls and such, it faces you as you hold the device).

Bottom line: even if they bring out another generation later this year, this would be a good gift for the holidays, a nice intro to tablets, and a good guest device.

Check the price before you click or tap the Buy button…it may not apply in your country.

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

* 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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