Round up #296: #givebooks, Echo general release imminent?

Round up #296: #givebooks, Echo general release imminent?

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

“Indie Bookstores Are Finally Not Dying”

I’m a former manager of a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and I follow the world of e-books quite closely.

I’ve long said that independent bookstores have a place in the future.

There are a few caveats to that.

People have to like the experience of going there so much that they are willing to pay more money than they would pay at Amazon (or Costco, to name a couple of alternatives) just to support you.

That’s right: they have to willingly pay more.

Do people do that?


We have to get our fence replaced.

Its’ been falling down for some time…oh, not literally falling, but leaning and in bad shape.

It doesn’t help that our two little terriers want to look out and see people…so they keep pulling a plank out of it.

Yep, the pair we call collectively “Butterscotch Chaos” (I say that’s their “band name”…and my Significant Other and I are roadies) actually can remove the plank.

They could easily jump through at that point, but they don’t.

Still, it’s not good to have a plank out, and I tried to get it to stay where they couldn’t do it.

I’m not at all handy, but I figured I could nail it to the two planks next to it.

You guessed…three planks out. 🙂

At any rate, we need it replaced.

We are going to pay a company more than we might somewhere else, because we have used them before and like the people.

For one thing, they were totally cool with the idea of putting in a “dog window”…in fact, they said they had done it before!

We like them: we are willing to reward them for doing a good job and, quite simply, for being nice. My guess is that we will actually pay maybe a couple thousand more dollars than the cheapest other bid we’d be able to find (they are also doing a lot of yard clean-up…removing baby trees, trimming hedges, that kind of thing).

That’s what independent bookstores have to do.

They can’t beat Amazon on selection.

They can’t beat Amazon on price.

They have to win on service and on shopping experience…with an emphasis on the latter.


The Daily Beast article by Joanna Scutts

talks about the state of independent bookstores in the USA today, and specifically, about this year’s first “Independent Bookstore Day”.

There are several success stories in the article, and this quote from Samantha Schoech of Independent Bookstore Day:

“In reality more bookstores have opened than closed in the last couple of years in the U.S.”

I think generic bookstores (large chains, the “dinostores”) may be doomed (or at least, books will become a minority of what they sell), but bookstores with personality? They can survive.

Amazon readying general Echo release?

I’ve noted that the

Amazon Echo

product page is now indicating an in-stock date of July 10th (less than two months away).

They’ve shown in-stock dates before without it resulting in a general release…but they also aren’t doing the invitation route any more, so there really isn’t much of a reason to say it is “in-stock” for that group.

I just got an e-mail which seems like another strong indicator to me that it is releasing soon.

I was invited to make a video testimonial about my experiences with the Echo.

People who do have to have availability for an in-person interview from May 29th to June 1st.

The only likely reason I can see to collect video testimonials is to use them to promote the product (that’s made clear in the e-mail).

You aren’t likely to be promoting what you aren’t selling. 🙂

By the way, I decided to go ahead and publish an embryonic page I’m making, called

Alexa says

If you are curious about the Echo’s conversational abilities, that should help. 🙂

I’m guessing that before release we may see: the ability to play Audible audiobooks you own (that could be a licensing issue); the ability to control a Fire TV (and, less likely, a Fire TV stick); and possibly multiple alarms (maybe even recurring alarms, which would be nice).

There are quite a few other things we could see:

  • They could admit that you can text with it (you can do that now using If This Then That, but it’s definitely a workaround…you have to add something to your To Do or Shopping List)
  • Text-to-speech for books. One easier implementation I could see would be to parallel the “Alexa, tell me a joke” format. You could say, “Alexa, read me a story,” and it could give you a public domain short story. I think it’s less likely that we see text-to-speech with books you own that are not in the public domain, but maybe eventually
  • Movie times. Amazon owns IMDb which does that, so that makes it more likely
  • Shopping for non-Prime items
  • Shopping for items you haven’t bought before
  • Ad hoc travel times…you give it a destination verbally. Right now, you have to put in one route in the app
  • Firefly: Amazon’s song/video recognition. It wouldn’t be the visual recognition of objects, of course

Those just some things.

We could also see some very interesting third party apps.

Something I don’t expect is new Echo hardware before the end of the year. Some people think that will happen: I think it’s unnecessary. I think the hardware as it is is good enough for a first release…and that’s what we’ll have this year.

I also think they may limit the shopping part of it to Prime members, initially. That’s simpler, for one thing, but it’s also an inducement to get Prime.

Over $110 in free apps

I’m glad I started with a book story, because I just did an Echo story and now I’m going to one about apps.

That’s not the normal plan, but it just worked out that way today.

I have to do this one soon, because it is a limited time thing…in fact, it ends tomorrow (Saturday, May 16th).

Amazon is giving away a bunch of normally paid apps.

They do this from time to time…and there are usually some good ones in there. 🙂

I pretty much get all the ones I don’t have. With apps, you can just store them in the Cloud, if you want: you don’t need to take up any memory on your device unless you want to use one.

Titles include:

  • Star Traders 4X Empires Elite
  • Bike Race Pro by Top Free Games
  • Bloons TD 5
  • Angry Birds Seasons HD (Fire Edition)
  • Highrise Word Heroes+
  • Cooking Dash Deluxe
  • SUPER WHY ABC Adventures: Alphabet
  • ShutterFolio
  • Rebuild
  • Time Mysteries 2: The Ancient Spectres (Full)
  • Grudgeball: Enter the Chaosphere
  • Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret (Full)
  • Mini Golf Mundo
  • Star Command
  • Angry Birds Seasons (Ad-Free)
  • Sorcery! 3
  • True Booster | Speed Cleaner
  • Smart Office 2
  • Photo Studio
  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 3
  • Game of Thrones
  • Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson
  • Genius Scan+
  • G-Stomper VA-Beast Synthesizer
  • Language Coach

and quite a few more!

The display of this is a little weird…I’m not seeing an easy way to get them all on one page, but it’s definitely worth exploring. They appear to almost all be four stars (out of five) and up, and some have more than a thousand customer reviews.

Little Free Library Book Drive on Saturday, May 16th

We have a Little Free Library in our neighborhood.

I think these are really cool!

It’s just a little birdhouse sort of thing that people build and put outside.

Other people put free books in there, and you can take whatever books you want.

Saturday is their third anniversary as a non-profit, and they are doing a book drive, specifically for children’s books:

If you post a picture of yourself dropping off books with the hashtag, #givebooks, you might win something…but that’s clearly not the main reason to do this. 🙂

I don’t usually give away my books, but I may look for something (or maybe buy something to give).

I won’t take a picture, though. Same reason I won’t do one of those video testimonials.

I’ve been on TV in the past, and used to go out and do more public stuff (radio and such).

Now, I like that we can be known on the internet for what we think and how we say it, rather than who we are physically.

That just means I don’t tend to promote myself as a physical identity, and that includes being in pictures. 🙂 There is at least one photo labeled as being of me on the web which isn’t, so even if you do look me up, it’s not reliable.

If you want to post your picture doing this, or do a video testimonial for the Echo, though, I whole-heartedly endorse that! I love to see my readers get out there…those who want to do that. I also love my readers who prefer, like me on this blog, to be incorporeal. 😉

Update: thanks to reader Susan Cassidy for a comment which helped improve this post.

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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.


6 Responses to “Round up #296: #givebooks, Echo general release imminent?”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    My take on the Echo is a bit different. I think Amazon is in the middle of a soft opening for this device. The SDK was only given to 3rd parties relatively recently.

    I expect that the trickle of new features will continue through the summer. I don’t expect a formal release until the fall, when I expect that it will be part of Amazon’s usual pre-holiday announcements. I do agree that I don’t see any additional Echo H/W enhancements (in fact I can’t think of any meaningful ones at this point).

    I do expect a lot of integration between the echo and other Amazon products — especially the Fire TV and Stick — as well as a new Fire Phone 2. Also with non-Amazon products like Smart TV’s, Roku’s, non-Amazon smart phones, Insteon, etc.

    There was an article today (in PC Mag I think) saying that the Echo slowly but surely with little fanfare is turning itself into a “whole house” hub — stealing a march on Apple’s homekit, Microsoft’s Xbox & Hololens, and others.

    I expect to see Amazon make a big product splash in the Sept/Oct time frame, and that Echo will figure prominently in that. 😀

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I agree with much of what you say, but I think there is a big motivation for a general release of the Echo in summer.

      One of the features of the Echo (and one which I think will greatly expand) is the ability to buy things through it. Those of us who have them may be doing holiday shopping through the devices…so you don’t want to wait to get it into people’s hands until the holiday itself.

      Also, the Echo is going to create some significant “inspired sales”. I don’t have a Smart Home device which is compatible with it…but I’d certainly be happy to get WeMo or Hue outlets as gifts to use with it.

      Big splash for the Echo at the holidays? Absolutely! I maintain that it is one of the top tech stories of the year.

      Release in the summer? Yes, I think that as well.

      Word of mouth and “word of mouse” (as I call it) on it will probably be quite good. Getting it out a few months before the holidays helps with that as well.

  2. Susan Cassidy Says:

    July 10 is not less than a month away. We have the rest of May to go, then all of June, then 10 days of July. If this were June 11, then we’d have less than a month to go before the release.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Susan!

      Absolutely right…and thanks!

      I think I’ve written before about my having what I jokingly call TAD (Temporal Awareness Disorder). However, I can read a calendar…you know, if I ever see one of those. 😉 I’ll fix it, thanks again!

      Update: I’ve fixed it and credited you. I always appreciate it when readers take the time and effort to let me know about things like that. 🙂

  3. John Aga Says:

    Could you clarify why there would be licensing or other issues with using Echo to play books or text to speech for BOOKS you purchased. As it is now you can do either regardless of the tablet. The only thing that came mind was that the Echo is a “horse of a different color” because it is not a tablet and therefore not part of a current contract. I also think Echo would be perfect for Old Time Radio (OTR) or the Star Wars raid plays done several years ago.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, John!

      Sure. Let me start out by saying that I don’t necessarily agree with these, but they are two arguments that might be made by agents and lawyers.

      First, as you note, it is a different device. My understanding is that courts have not supported clauses like “…or any technology not yet invented”. 😉 So, if your license allowed use on tablets, phones, and laptops, it could be argued that it doesn’t cover “ambient computing devices”. Now, no rights have to be licensed to use text-to-speech…Amazon just allows publishers to block that access if they so choose (they didn’t in the beginning…and we saw the sort of pressure I am suggesting).

      Second, there is the issue of a public performance, which is a specific right under U.S. copyright.

      An agent or lawyer could, I think, reasonably argue that an Echo is more likely to be used in a room full of people outside the normal circle of the person who bought the book license. Again, that’s less of an issue for text-to-speech legally…as I understand it (I’m not a lawyer).

      Audible, in particular, may have very specific contract terms.

      I have listened to some OTR on my Echo already. You can do it through Tunein radio stations, for example, or through “music” in your library.

      This public performance issue sometimes trips up people who don’t realize the issue. I remember something about a girl scout camp getting a cease and desist for having the girls sing songs under copyright protection…something like that, at any rate. 🙂

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