Round up #306: Overdrive “page turners”, KU gets a Big 5 publisher (slightly)

Round up #306: Overdrive “page turners”, KU gets a Big 5 publisher (slightly)

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

A tradpub tests the KU waters

In my The Year Ahead: 2015 post, I speculated in a “shaky” way that at least one of the Big 5 traditional publishers would test the waters by putting some books in Amazon’ subser (subscription service…a flat fee, “all you can read” membership),

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

” I do think this is possible, especially if it is in a limited way. For example, Macmillan might just make some backlist titles, but not the frontlist.”

Well, in this

The Digital Reader post by Nate Hoffelder

it’s pointed out that Simon & Schuster has done just that…but in a really limited way.

Two of Vince Flynn’s popular Mitch Rapp novels (the oldest and the most recent) are available for KU readers to borrow at no additional cost.

This is an important “philosophical” breaking of what felt like an embargo. I’m sure they’ll look carefully at how it affects the sales of those two titles, and other inspired sales (more books by Flynn, for example), but whether it is good or bad, it’s still a quantum shift.

My guess? We’ll see more Big 5 titles in KU by the end of  the year, although I’d be surprised by any really large scale participation.

Changes in the video streaming market

Many of my readers watch streaming video…both on Amazon devices, such as my

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

and as part of Amazon Prime.

Amazon spends a lot of money on licensing video, and what happens there will affect Amazon generally.

Recently, there have been major changes!

Amazon previously enabled Prime members to download some videos to their Fire tablets (I’ve watched Warehouse 13 that way, for example). Now, some other Android and IOS users can also download them.

Amazon Expands Prime Video Downloads to iOS and Android Platforms—The First and Only Subscription Streaming Service to Offer This Feature

That’s a big deal! You can’t do that with Netflix…download some movies and TV shows to watch offline (when you are on a plane, or for your kids on a car trip, for example).

One important question: does this mean that pushing the hardware of the Fire tablets is now less important  to Amazon than getting people to be Prime members even when using other company’s devices?  I think yes. I don’t think Amazon is abandoning tablets or EBRs (E-Book Readers), but hardware development may be becoming more focused at Amazon, as I mentioned recently.

There are a number of players (so to speak) in the streaming video market, but let’s mention four and the changes for them recently:

  • Amazon has just expanded downloading, as above…which is a competitive advantage
  • Hulu just announced a new plan: for $4 more per month ($11.99 from $7.99), you can watch almost all videos commercial free! This is huge for me…we watch some currently running series on Hulu, and it was irritating to have the same sort of commercial breaks you would have on ad-supported TV. We upgraded immediately, and watched So You Think You Can Dance without commercials last night…glorious! I have nothing against advertising (my Significant Other and I have gone to the Clios, the advertising equivalent of the Oscars, more than once), but when I’m paying specifically for TV, it feels like I’m paying twice to watch ads. I’ve taught Project Management, and one of the things to consider is that your time is worth money. If you take your annual salary, you can get it down to minutes…and you should count that when, for example, you need to walk over to printer and perhaps wait in line for it. Let’s say you make $50,000 a year. Even if you figure you work every minute of every day of the year, you can still figure your time is worth maybe ten cents per minute. Will I save 40 minutes a month not having commercials on Hulu? you betcha! At roughly eight minutes per half hour, we saved about 24 minutes last night, I think (I think it is a ninety minute show). All of that is very rough calculation…let’s just say it was so much more pleasant. 🙂 Hulu may have about the same number of commercial minutes as a traditional broadcast, but not the same number of commercials…you see the same ones over and over again
  • Netflix: very significantly, they are going to let a deal lapse with Epix. Basically, they are going to stop carrying a lot of major movies, like The Hunger Games series. Variety might think this is a good idea, but I don’t. Netflix is becoming an original content network in some ways. While original content can be great (I am enjoying the Daredevil series), it’s a far bigger risk. I sometimes just want to watch a major movie…even if it’s older. Those movies are going to Hulu…and it also gives Amazon a positional advantage
  • Apple is reportedly looking at getting into original content…that’s part of why it’s scary for Netflix to count on original content

Netflix has been the powerhouse (people use it as a way to define other things…literary subsers are often called the “Netflix of books”), but I think this is a move in the wrong direction. Prime is many, many things, but even if you got it just for video, it’s only $8.25 a month. Prime video will rise with the downloading, Hulu will rise with ad-free and Epix, and Apple will rise if it introduces original content in the rumored way. What’s going to be new and different for Netflix?

Amazon never stops innovating…and there will likely be some very interesting announcements before the end of the year.

Overdrive is now listing most borrowed e-books from public libraries

I’m not really a user of the public library for e-books.

I have borrowed a couple to test it, but there two main reasons for my lack of use:

  • The selection just isn’t that great. Bestsellers might have a waiting list of  months (libraries have a limited number of licenses, meaning that only so many people have the book at the same time…just like with p-books ((paperbooks))). Other books I want to read are often not available. I have lots of books available to me, especially as a Kindle Unlimited member. The public library just doesn’t have anything that draws me into the additional complication necessary to get one from them, as opposed to getting books from Amazon or that I already own
  • I don’t want to take away from people who can’t otherwise afford books. Yes, public libraries are for everyone…I got massive and perhaps not undeserved pushback when I suggested that tradpubs might be willing to make e-books available to people for free on a needs-tested basis. In other words, the books would not be available for general public library check-out, but would be available to people who could show that they are below the poverty line or otherwise unable to purchase. That sort of plan was announced, as I reported earlier this year: Obama’s plan for needs tested library books…where have I heard that before? 😉. However, since that isn’t generally the case, I feel bad taking using up one of the  library’s licenses to read something which I could otherwise afford, becoming an impediment to someone who can’t afford it

Here is

Overdrive’s Page Turners from your local library

It’s about e-books and audiobooks…neither of which actually have pages, of course, but you know…it gets the point across. 😉

The five most borrowed in August were all major bestsellers (including Go Set a Watchman and Grey). Hopefully, that’s a message for publishers: lots of borrowing from public libraries doesn’t meant that your book won’t be a bestseller.

Dash! Ah-ah…ruler of  the universe!

That headline was a reference to the Queen theme from the Flash Gordon movie with Sam Jones, and…never mind. 😉

Amazon Dash buttons (at AmazonSmile*)

While it’s going to be a bit of a stretch to tie this into e-books (don’t worry, though, I’ll do it…I’m much more mentally flexible than I am physically flexible) 😉 it shows part of Amazon’s direction.

They sent me this in an e-mail:

Amazon Dash Button – Program News:

  • We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from both customers and partners.
  • We’re moving into the next phase of the program today.
  • We’ve come off the invitation platform, making the program more broadly available—it’s open to all Prime members now.
  • We’re kicking off a new pricing offer – Prime members can purchase each Dash Button for $4.99 and with their first button purchase we’ll give back $4.99 to their account.
  • Of course, Dash Button customers also get the same low prices that they see online sold by Amazon.
  • We’re adding new brands and products – we will launch 11 new brands for Dash Button with new categories like gum and trash bags, table wear, and nutritional supplements.
  • We are being thoughtful as we scale the program and we’re focused on increasing the breadth of the categories for customers.
  • With these new additions, Dash Button is now available for 29 different brands, representing more than 500 products for Prime members to choose to purchase with the press of a button.
  • New brands:

o   Ice Breakers Mints

o   Orbit Gum

o   GREENIES Dental Chews and GREENIES Pill Pockets Treats

o   Hefty Trash and Storage Bags

o   Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day

o   Ziploc Brand

o   Depend

o   Finish Dishwashing Detergent

o   Digestive Advantage Probiotic Supplements

o   Dixie tableware products

o   Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein

  • We’ve heard customer usage feedback including:

o   I like how easy it is to order commonly used items quickly. In my case, baby wipes. When I notice I am getting low on the wipes I can very easily and quickly order more by simply pushing a button. A simple push button is much easier to operate than getting the computer or phone out, especially when holding a baby in the other hand. Additionally, I also like that the button has color coded LEDs to tell me whether or not the order went through. It makes it so much easier.

o   I can put it anywhere, which means that I can have it where I’m most likely to notice that I need to reorder. My Gillette dash button is on my bathroom mirror where I shave. When I put the last blade on my razor, it’s right there for me to place the next order immediately, before I forget.

o   I’ve placed the Dash buttons where I normally place the toilet paper and cleaning products to remind me when to order the items.  Whenever I’m low on the product I just press the Dash Button and it’ll arrive in a couple of days.  My girlfriend and I announce when we get the chance to press the button because we’re excited whenever we get the opportunity to press it…it’s fun and efficient. 

It’s the opposite of a multifunction device, like the Amazon Echo. One button, one function…sort of like Amazon’s very successful 1-click way of buying things online.

How could this relate to e-books?

I could see having something like a virtual dash button for e-books (or perhaps a physical one). You push (or click or tap) one labeled “Stephen King” or “Romance”, and you get a new one delivered to your account. It could even be a virtual button on the Kindle/Fire homescreen. It might have to check the price with you first (although you could just review it in your confirmation method), it might have to be configured for your tastes and cost parameters, and it would only be able to eliminate books Amazon knows you already own…but I certainly might use it! That’s especially true if it was curated in some way…tap a button for a J.K. Rowling recommended fantasy book,  for example.

I’m not sure I made the stretch there, but I tried. 😉

My sibling’s book now has over 50 reviews on Amazon…and a 4.8 star average

I just want to congratulate my sibling, whose first novel

One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

50 hardback copies of which are also being given away through Goodreads right now

One Murder More on Goodreads

for getting over fifty customer reviews on Amazon…with a remarkable 4.8 star average out of 5!

None of my books have gotten anywhere close to that, of course. 🙂

The Kindle edition is now $4.99.

To broaden this out a bit, it’s worth noting that the book is sales ranked #289,949 paid in the Kindle store. Great reviews, blurbs from top selling authors…and still, I think I can objectively say it hasn’t really broken out (although that number is very respectable…easily top ten percent).

If that’s going to happen, it could still happen at the holidays. For a first time novelist, it can take more than a year for a book to build momentum. This is also the first in a series…and it sometimes takes several books in a series for it to find an audience.

Regardless, congratulations!

An Echo/Alexa article

I told you I’d let you know about Amazon Echo/Alexa articles I publish in The Measured Circle. I hope to do a big round-up soon (there have been a lot of things happening), but I did do this one recently:

Shopping with your Amazon Echo
Have a comment on any of these stories? Feel free to share it with me and my readers!

* 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.

5 Responses to “Round up #306: Overdrive “page turners”, KU gets a Big 5 publisher (slightly)”

  1. Tom Semple Says:

    Re public library borrowing, I have a couple of suggestions.

    First, as a Bay Area resident, you should take a BART over to San Francisco library and get a card. SFPL is one of (I think) 5 California libraries which serve the entire state, and it has a correspondingly large selection, and often dozens of copies of popular titles. (For example, they have 60 copies of the Ta-Nehisi Coates book, “Between the World in Me”). San Jose Library is also statewide but selection pales by comparison (they have 5 copies of the Coates book). The library system local to my home has even less. So it really depends on where you borrow from (if I ever go to LA, I’ll probably get a card there as well!). And of course, only half of the major publishers participate, so there is a content gap. But for me it is a glass half full. Of course there are many worthy books that aren’t there, but I can’t read more than a tiny fraction of what is ‘worthy’ even by my own obviously superior standards.

    I have over 350 items on my Kindle wish list, and nearly 40% of those are available at SFPL, SJPL, or both, and about 80% of those can be borrowed immediately at any given time. I know this because…

    I have added ‘Library Extension’ addon for Google Chrome browser. Now when I visit an Amazon book listing, it wakes up and shows whether the book is available one of my libraries, how many copies it has, how many are available (with a Borrow button to take you to the library site), and if none are available, a button to place it on Hold. Works with ebooks or Books. Given my other reading, I can usually only consume one or two library books at a time within a 3 week borrowing period, but it is an important component of my reading diet. These are books I’d otherwise be paying $12 or more to purchase and hopefully read. So after I add something to my Kindle wish list (usually on my Fire or Kindle device), eventually I fire up a browser check the book listing, and add a note on my wish list about which libraries I can get it at. The Overdrive web sites are pretty horrible for discovery. I only go there to borrow things I know are there (by virtue of Library Extension), or to check on my wish list there.

    Re Instant Video update, note that not all content is downloadable. Purchased video is, I think rented content is (for the term of rental), but apart from that, I’d say less than half of Prime (subscriber) content is. It’s not something I do very much, in fact the only time I might be interested in doing that is for a long flight, and even then it would need to compete with whatever I’m reading or listening to. But I can see where people might want to do it for road trips with children where they need something to occupy their attention. So for me I don’t see the download feature as a big deal or a competitive advantage.

    What I find more significant is that the selection from Amazon is composed of both ‘free’ content (via Prime subscription) and availability of paid content (pretty much equivalent in selection and price as Apple or Google). Neflix and Hulu do not have that paid option, you get what they offer at any given time, and that’s it. Apple and Google do not offer a subscription plan. So I think that’s where Amazon offering is unique (at least for Prime members).

    Wonder if you are planning an article about the Lab 126 layoffs, restructuring, Fire Phone ‘retirement’. I am a little concerned about the future of Fire platform. Is a ‘tablet only’ platform viable, when tablet sales growth has leveled off overall (I think Amazon’s share of that market is well under 5%, maybe less than 2%). There are a lot of labels with less than 2%, but shouldn’t Amazon be doing better than that by now? Should they just focus on mobile app development for more popular platforms? Deliver an Alexa-powered Firefly app for iOS and Android?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      SFPL is an interesting suggestion. The library where I have had a library card out here only has two copies of Between the World in Me…and fifteen people waiting. That’s one where I wouldn’t get on the waiting list, because I could clearly be keeping the book away from a disadvantaged person.

      SFPL has 65 copies…but there are still three people on the waiting list, so I’d still be in somebody’s way. When I have borrowed a book from the public library, I made sure it was one with no waiting list. 😉

      I guess I could have made more of a point about the downloadable videos only being some of them: I said, “…download some movies and TV shows”. I’s not at all a lot of them…I don’t think it’s 100 movies, but the TV series give you quite a bit to watch, because of the multiple episodes. There are some intriguing things in both, but you are right…it’s not going to appeal to everybody.

      I think it’s much less than half.

      Your point about purchases being in there as well is a good one.

      Here’s my post on the Lab126 layoffs:

      I’d love Alexa to be Firefly enabled! I might have mentioned that somewhere: as AVS (Alexa Voice Service) becomes available on other devices, we’ll see it. Alexa on my Fire Phone? Yes, please!

      The combination of

  2. Chris Baker Says:

    Re: streaming video/Netflix, I’m encouraged that there is something “new and different” for Netflix-their deal with Disney kicks in sometime in 2016. Starting with movies released in 2016, Netflix will stream new movies from Disney and its subsidiaries, which potentially includes the Marvel movies, the Pixar movies, and the new Star Wars movies. And this is an exclusive deal. I think that’s definitely a positive sign for Netflix.

    I’m thrilled to see both Amazon and Netflix doing new things. Competition is good, I think. I’m happy to see them pushing each other to be better.

    Thanks for your hard work on the blog!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Chris!

      Yes, that’s an excellent point! I’d forgotten about that deal, which I believe was signed a few years ago.

      Going back to look at stories from 2012 (yep, a few years ago), one thing I’m not seeing is how long the deal lasts. The stock went up about 14% at the time, so it might not create that big of a bump when it starts happening.

      Definitely, though, that can keep it in the mix for movie buffs…the streaming apparently starts about eight months after theatrical release. Movies will still be high in the public consciousness in that window.

      Netflix also has its first theatrical release opening in October: it will be in theatres (qualifying it for Oscars) and on Netflix on the same day. Amazon is also going to produce theatrical movies (I remember them saying up to twelve a year), so that’s not an exclusive for Netflix.

      Thanks for the kind words! It is hard work, but worth it. 🙂

  3. The Year Ahead: 2016 | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] I said this might happen in a limited way, and it did…but only with a couple of titles (see Round up #306: Overdrive “page turners”, KU gets a Big 5 publisher (slightly)). I’m being honest, and I’ll say that’s a lot less than I thought…but it […]

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