Archive for December, 2015

The Year Ahead: 2016

December 31, 2015

The Year Ahead: 2016

This is my annual post where I look ahead to the next year. I’ll make some predictions, but I’ll warn you ahead of time…I don’t always get things right. ;) I did really well predicting what would happen in 2014 (for example, I not only predicted Kindle Unlimited…I got the name right!), but spoiler alert 😉 I didn’t do as well for 2015 (I wasn’t as confident…gee, I was right about I…) 🙂 This is my fifth year predicting the year ahead, but progress isn’t always steady.

First, let’s see how I did do with my predictions and speculation for 2015:

At least one Big Five publisher joins Kindle Unlimited

Hit (but it’s really more of a glancing blow). 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 still counts. I also suggested we might see more of the tradpubs (traditional publishers) and Amazon developing separate markets: that did happen (and I think it will continue to happen), but that wasn’t the main prediction.

The Amazon Echo is a hit and we see competitors

Hit. The Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) is a hit (one of Amazon’s best sellers in electronics). In terms of a competitor, I’d argue that the latest Apple TV with onboard Siri falls somewhat into that category. I’d also call the LG SmartThinQ Hub (being shown at CES next week) a competitor…it’s a bit complex defining clearly what the Echo does. If, however, the LG device is talktec, then it’s a definite competitor…and it looks a lot like an Echo (although it has a small screen). Engadget post by Timothy J. Seppala

Amazon brings Dynamic Perspective to a few e-books

Miss. Just flat out didn’t happen.

Amazon does a digitization service for authors and for public domain books

Partial hit. While this didn’t happen with the mechanism I suggested, Amazon did release Kindle Convert (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) software on February 3rd. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have done well (I tried it out..didn’t win my heart). There are 25 customer reviews at the time of writing, with an average of 2.0 stars out of 5 (which is really quite low). It is currently ranked at #3,353 in software…and #84 in Home Publishing software. That’s out of 2,979 home publishing titles (which include things like clip art and fonts)…that puts in the top three percent or so, but that doesn’t necessarily suggest a lot of sales. I think my idea of sending it to Amazon to convert it, and them getting an exclusive for a public domain title with some new added content (creating a new copyright) would work better. 🙂

A new text-to-speech device

Miss. I’m still holding out hope for the future…

I also had these speculations, which I didn’t call predictions:

  • I said it seemed unlikely to me that Apple would win their appeal: they did lose an appeal, but it’s not really over yet
  • I had an intuition that we might see something big with Stephen King, including “…could be something personal, although we’ll know about it”. That did happen: Stephen King given National Medal of Arts
  • I thought we wouldn’t see a mainstream color EBR, and we didn’t
  • My feeling was that the new Congress wouldn’t pass “…equal collection legislation, or do a lot of copyright reform”. They didn’t.

Okay, time to make predictions for 2016!

“Kindle Splash”: Amazon introduces a water resistant Kindle

As I noted in my recent post, The Year in E-Books 2015, this year wasn’t really about new EBR (E-Book Reader) hardware. There was a whole new generation of Fire tablets, a second generation of Fire TV, and the rise of the Echo, but nothing revolutionary for non-backlit readers. During that time, the industry (which is pretty much Kobo and the NOOK, in addition to the Kindle) has introduced a feature the Kindle doesn’t have: water resistance. The NOOK Glowlight Plus was introduced October 21st of 2015 and was called “waterproof”. The Kobo Aura H20 could be ordered on September 1st, 2014. One question for me here is whether this would be released as a high end “Voyage 2”, an update of the very popular Paperwhite, or perhaps a new model (maybe the “Kindle Splash”, which sounds a bit like the “Kindle Touch”?). The Kobo was relatively expensive, but the NOOK was more middle-priced. While I would love to see Amazon introduce an EBR with audio (for text-to-speech, especially) that doesn’t feel to me like it is going to happen…I think that’s migrated to the tablets, although a stand-alone wearable for text-to-speech still seems possible.

Continued international expansion of content development and discovery

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) is now available in the USA, Canada, and Mexico, and look for that to expand to other markets. In fact, there is a placeholder page for it at the UK site: Kindle Unlimited UK. It shows a price of £7.99 a month, and while it says it is currently unavailable, it says to “stay tuned”. Similarly, Kindle Scout could begin in other countries.

Amazon moves into the news business

“What’s the news, across the nation? Amazon has information…”** Amazon has been producing their own content, and that’s been doing well and getting respect (some more than others, of course). Amazon is in the mix for Emmys and Golden Globes, and it’s possible Chi-Raq will get some sort of Oscar nomination recognition on January 14th. They have a music service and a video service. Hey, if I had an option to get all of my content through Amazon (not necessarily produced by them, but through them), I would. When I look for a segment that is still an opportunity for them, I think it’s news. I can already get news from our Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*), and of course, there are news apps on our Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) and my Kindle Fire HDX (now discontinued). What I could see them introducing is an Amazon news app, to compete with Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) and others. I see a couple of reasons for it. First, Amazon does not own the Washington Post…but Jeff Bezos does. 🙂 I could see real synergy there, with some WaPo branded content in the app. I see some of WaPo in Flipboard now. Another one is being able to get their own message out when there is a story in the news that involves them. Elon Musk got a lot more publicity for landing a rocket than Jeff Bezos did. There are issues involving drones, equal (tax) collection legislation, and even the report about Amazon’s working conditions. That doesn’t mean the app would be a mouthpiece…Amazon could produce content about media and tech (the things they sell), and then let you use the app to access your Twitter feeds (like Flipboard) and other sources. They could use this to partner with producers, which they seem to like doing. I hate to say it, but I could even see them folding their blog publishing into it…that might be a bad thing for me and some others, but I don’t think 90% of the blogs in the Kindle store are making anybody any money.

Those are my predictions, and I’ll do my hits and misses based on those. Now some musings…

  • I don’t think the Apple case will get to the Supreme Court in 2016…that’s probably too fast. However, it is possible the Supremes would decline to consider it…I think, though, it doesn’t happen during this Presidential election year
  • I think that equal collection legislation could happen in the next administration (whoever the President ends up being)…there is enough bilateral support for it, but nobody wants to give anybody ammunition during the election. Hold that off for 2017
  • Barnes & Noble will continue to sink…I think they could limp through the year, even after what I think will be a disappointing holiday season report
  • Prime continues to be a big priority, getting us more content
  • Fire TV and the Echo will have great years. We’ll see the Echo “Skills  store” expand considerably
  • Virtual Reality could have some book tie-ins…imagine going to Hogwarts in VR, or playing in The Hunger Games. However, I’m unconvinced VR is ready for Prime Time…although I think Microsoft’s Hololens will have industrial application
  • Amazon could have AI (Artificial Intelligence) produced content, which might tie into the news service above. They could also use AI to do book summaries on Amazon product pages
  • Amazon could consolidate their three social reading sites: Goodreads, Library Thing, and Shelfari. I like Shelfari, but I think it would be most at risk of being absorbed

What do you think? Do you have predictions for 2015? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join over a thousand 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 is a reference I suspect almost no one will get…especially without hearing it being sung. I was inspired by Laugh-in: “What’s the news, across the nation? We have got the information….”

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.

ILMK’s WordPress stats for 2015

December 30, 2015

ILMK’s WordPress stats for 2015

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 460,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 20 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

===

That’s what WordPress prepared. 🙂 I want to call attention to a few things myself.

First, I thank each and every one of you who read this blog! I’d do it individually, but it might take a while. 😉

The more people who read it, the more people I help, and that’s really the thing in the world that makes me feel the best.

I also specifically thank the subscribers through the Kindle store!

I Love My Kindle blog (automatically on your Kindle!) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

While feelings are important, I also need to be able to justify to myself the time and energy I spend on the blog…and the subscribers are a very big part of that.

I also want to thank everybody who commented!

I always want to improve myself, and intelligent, empathetic, and respectful disagreements are one of the things which can most contribute to personal growth. I’ve learned a lot…both about the world and myself.

These were my top five commenters, according to the report:

  1. Lady Galaxy
  2. Edward Boyhan
  3. Phink
  4. Tom Semple
  5. Harold Delk

Their criterion is just the number of comments, but I consider them extraordinary in several dimensions. 🙂

The stat that blows my mind every year is the cosmopolitan nature of the blog…readers in 217 countries this year!

The United Nations has 193 member states. 🙂

Here are those countries:

Country Views
United States 297966
United Kingdom 60755
Australia 10815
Canada 10573
India 9914
Germany 4538
Ireland 3762
Singapore 3338
Spain 3017
France 2556
New Zealand 2442
Italy 2305
Brazil 2242
South Africa 2223
Poland 2104
Japan 1634
Hong Kong SAR China 1603
Philippines 1544
Mexico 1522
Netherlands 1304
Romania 1197
Israel 1103
Switzerland 1084
Turkey 1038
Hungary 971
Argentina 937
Czech Republic 933
Norway 927
Russia 855
Sweden 828
Vietnam 827
Thailand 794
South Korea 782
United Arab Emirates 750
Malaysia 718
Austria 702
Belgium 655
Bulgaria 636
Denmark 633
Indonesia 616
European Union 613
Taiwan 560
Ukraine 559
Pakistan 558
Slovakia 556
Portugal 513
Chile 492
Greece 469
Colombia 403
Saudi Arabia 386
Finland 383
El Salvador 354
Trinidad & Tobago 339
Croatia 330
Lithuania 267
Serbia 265
Egypt 265
Puerto Rico 261
Slovenia 260
Bangladesh 229
Peru 223
Jamaica 213
China 204
Costa Rica 196
Sri Lanka 193
Kenya 192
Dominican Republic 188
Nigeria 186
Venezuela 173
Nepal 165
Malta 163
Ecuador 161
Qatar 156
Bahamas 155
Guatemala 151
Belarus 146
Cyprus 136
Estonia 135
Barbados 132
Iceland 127
Luxembourg 119
Tanzania 117
Uruguay 116
Bahrain 115
Panama 114
Georgia 113
Lebanon 109
Latvia 108
Kuwait 106
Jersey 105
Morocco 104
Albania 98
Guernsey 95
Jordan 91
Isle of Man 88
Cambodia 87
Kazakhstan 80
Ghana 75
Bosnia & Herzegovina 75
Armenia 75
Mongolia 73
Oman 73
Uganda 71
Myanmar (Burma) 68
Ethiopia 65
Bolivia 63
Zimbabwe 62
Brunei 62
Moldova 59
Maldives 58
Honduras 57
Algeria 55
Guyana 54
Azerbaijan 54
Belize 52
Guam 51
Bermuda 48
Mauritius 48
Nicaragua 43
Gibraltar 43
Iraq 42
Antigua & Barbuda 41
Macau SAR China 40
Haiti 39
St. Lucia 39
Macedonia 37
Cayman Islands 35
Paraguay 33
Aruba 33
U.S. Virgin Islands 32
Montenegro 31
Zambia 31
Namibia 29
Tunisia 28
Kyrgyzstan 23
Rwanda 23
St. Kitts & Nevis 23
Botswana 23
Réunion 21
Suriname 21
Grenada 20
Turks & Caicos Islands 19
Curaçao 19
Afghanistan 18
Senegal 18
Mozambique 18
Laos 17
Malawi 16
St. Vincent & Grenadines 16
Sudan 15
British Virgin Islands 15
Fiji 13
Palestinian Territories 12
Dominica 12
Uzbekistan 11
Bhutan 10
Papua New Guinea 9
Angola 9
Monaco 9
Samoa 9
Cuba 9
Northern Mariana Islands 8
Libya 8
Guadeloupe 8
Cameroon 8
Madagascar 8
Seychelles 7
Vanuatu 7
Cape Verde 7
Djibouti 7
Burkina Faso 7
Sint Maarten 7
Côte d’Ivoire 6
Somalia 6
American Samoa 6
New Caledonia 6
Benin 6
Sierra Leone 6
Falkland Islands 5
Swaziland 5
Burundi 5
Mali 4
Martinique 4
Chad 4
Andorra 4
South Sudan 4
Liberia 4
Guinea 3
Congo – Kinshasa 3
St. Martin 3
Anguilla 3
Niger 3
Mauritania 3
Faroe Islands 3
Congo – Brazzaville 2
French Polynesia 2
Solomon Islands 2
Iran 2
Micronesia 2
Marshall Islands 2
Tajikistan 2
Syria 2
Gambia 2
Gabon 1
Togo 1
St. Helena 1
French Guiana 1
Vatican City 1
Yemen 1
Greenland 1
Timor-Leste 1
Eritrea 1
Caribbean Netherlands 1
Cook Islands 1
Liechtenstein 1
Mayotte 1

I’m always impressed with the number of views in countries which don’t have the legal sale of Kindles and Kindle content. I wonder how much of it is from people who are traveling there, and how much of it is from people who live there who are just interested in the topic. I assume some people find it by mistake 🙂 but there are hundreds of views in some “Kindle free zones”. Honestly, of course, some people may also have the devices or content outside of their government’s policies.

The five most popular posts have a lot of overlap with last year, which doesn’t surprise me much. You can see last year’s here:

ILMK’s WordPress stats for 2014

Some posts are of more lasting interest than others,  because of the nature of the topic (people will, unfortunately, probably always lose or have stolen their devices).

The top five most viewed ILMK posts for 2015 were:

  1. The reading experience: Paperwhite vs. Kindle Fire HDX (from 2014) (#2 last year)
  2. Which Kindle do you have? (from 2011) (not in the top 5 last year)
  3. Got a new Kindle? Here’s the most important thing to know (from 2011) (#1 last year)
  4. You can now reset your Kindle password yourself (from 2011) (#3 last year)
  5. What to do if your Kindle is lost or stolen (from 2009) (not in the top 5 last year)

The “Reading Experience” post is impressive: clearly, that’s an important question for people still.

I’ll also say, it wouldn’t bother me at all if Amazon took note of these stats, and looked at revising their own Help Pages on the topics…

Finally, I want to note that the number of views was up by about 30,000…we can call that about an increase of about 14%! That’s not bad for a six-year old blog. 😉 Looking at the posts, I do see I made fewer of them this year…I didn’t average quite a post a day (I had 335). It’s been a busy year for a lot of reasons, but I’ll try to step it up again in 2016 (although some of you may feel you get quite enough the way it is) 😉 . I should hit my 3,000 post for the lifetime of the blog in January.

Once again, thanks to all of you for a wonderful 2015, and I’m looking forward to continuing the ILMK journey with you in 2016!

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: up to 80% off each of 14 of Amazon’s Editors’ Best Books of 2015

December 29, 2015

Today’s KDD: up to 80% off each of 14 of Amazon’s Editors’ Best Books of 2015

Today’s

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

is up to 80% off each of 14 of Amazon’s Editors’ Best Books of 2015.

Here’s the list:

  • Pretty Girls by Karen Slaughter
  • Smoke by Catherine McKenzie
  • Purity by Jonathan Franzen
  • Blackout by Sarah Hepola
  • Dreamland by Sam Quinones
  • The Mearsault Investigation by Kamel Daoud
  • The Pentagon’s Brain by Annie Jacobsen
  • Orhan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
  • Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
  • It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell
  • Hold Still by Sally Mann
  • Saint Mazie by Jamie Attenberg
  • Dietland by Sarai Walker
  • Green on Blue by Elliott Ackerman

Prices range from $1.99 to $4.99 each…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 weird (but fun) holiday stats 2015

December 28, 2015

 Amazon’s weird (but fun) holiday stats 2015

This is one of the things I look excitedly anticipate at the holidays!

It’s a tradition (well, at least what we call a “tradition” in the digital era) 😉 that, Amazon, famously close to the vest on sales figures, breaks with that at the end of December…sort of. 🙂 They do a

press release

where they do give us some pretty clear figures (“…more than three million new members worldwide joined Prime during the third week of December alone.”) and then give us other stats that are striking and funny, but not specifically numerical.

That’s fine with me. 😉 I like their real world analogues.

For example:

  • The total number of hours customers spent reading The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir in 2015 on Kindle is equivalent to more than 1,000 trips to Mars on the Curiosity rover
  • The books read by kids in Amazon FreeTime this holiday season would reach Mt. Everest’s peak more than 10 times if put in a straight line in their physical form

I think you’ll be amused if you check some of the non-book related ones.

Now, let’s parse a bit more what they told us:

  • Prime did well! That’s important to Amazon’s overall success, which affects readers. I’ve said before that Amazon’s most important product is happy and satisfied customers, and Prime members tend to be that
  • The All-New Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) was one of the three most ordered items with Prime FREE one-day shipping. I wrote recently about how it sold much better than the Kindle Voyage (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)…and the latter is not mentioned in the press release
  • Amazon device sale were “…up 2x over last year’s record-setting holiday”. Does that mean twice as many? It seems like a bit of an odd way to say it. I could also see it meaning that if three were sold last year, nine were sold this year (up two times 3 then plus 3 then plus 3 again). Regardless, good year. 🙂 It’s also evident that EBRs (E-Book Readers) and even tablets weren’t Amazon’s dominant selling devices. The Fire TV family appears to have excelled
  • The most gifted Kindle book “during the holiday season” was Rath’s Deception (The Janus Group Book 1) (at AmazonSmile*) by Piers Platt.  That’s fascinating to me! I would have expected (and I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager) for it to be a traditionally published brand name author, and a somewhat expensive book. Instead, this is a $2.99 book which appears to be independently published. Not only that, it’s available through Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*), meaning that members of Amazon’s subser (subscription service) can read it at no additional cost. My guess is that there is an interesting story behind the marketing of this book…maybe I’ll try to find out what that is. If anyone knows Piers Platt, feel free to let the author know I’m interested in what marketing strategy was used, and that I’d like to share the success story with my readers. I also plan to read the book myself, now…it also has good reviews
  • The book most borrowed through KU in all of 2016 was No Ordinary Billionaire (The Sinclairs Book 1) (at AmazonSmile*) by J.S. Scott. Importantly, while this is a traditionally published book, it was published by Amazon. In my recent The Year in E-Books 2015, I noted that this year was much more about Amazon becoming less dependent on the tradpubs (traditional publishers)…and based on this and the previous point, that seems to be working

Love this annual press release!

By the way, for contrast, this

Seeking Alpha post by Clark Schulz reports that Barnes & Noble’s stock is down by more than 5% “Post-Christmas”.

One more thing while we are on the holidays.

I got two Kindle books as gifts…and have finished one of them already. 🙂 I read every day, but it’s been a while since I started and finished a book in just a couple of days.

The one I finished was

21st Century Dodos: A Collection of Endangered Objects (and Other Stuff) (at AmazonSmile*) by Steve Stack

It was ninety-nine cents, on my Amazon Wish List…and I loved getting it! I think some people hesitate on an inexpensive gift like that, or think that it’s better to get something not a Wish List. I like gifts which surprise me, too, but this was a terrific little gift.

It’s about things which are “going extinct”…not species, but lifestyle-type things. That is something in which I’m especially interested…I may write something on it myself at some point (I’ve had a name for my possible work for years).

Something that I hadn’t realized, though, was that the book was British…very, very British. 😉 That’s fine with me (I read a lot of British writing), but it did mean that we didn’t share the same cultural  experiences. For example, the nostalgic candies in the book were things I never had. Some Americans might also be confused by some terms which appear many times: “came a cropper” and “punter”.

“Come a cropper” (or the past tense above) basically means to fail at something. Let’s see…Americans might say it “went belly up”.

Oh, here’s a good write up on it:

The Phrase Finder entry

“Punter” is used in a way that I would say is derogatory…and I would have read it as something like “slacker”. All of the “punters” in the articles are losers in the situation, I’d say. With a quick bit of research, it has to do with making a risky bet…or being the customer of a prostitute. I suppose there is some similarity in meaning there…

The fact that they are used repetitively is perhaps due to the articles coming from a blog. I use the same phrases much more often on this blog than I would if I was sitting down and writing a 200 page book. Part of that is that if you read a book and the same phrase appears twenty times, you might be seeing in multiple times in an hour. If I use a phrase twenty times over the course of 200 posts on the blog, you might encounter a duplicate every ten days or so.

Duplication can also build familiarity. Many of us fans of Doc Savage are happily to repeatedly see Doc’s eyes described as “stirred pools of flake gold”.

The other book I got was

Cryptozoologicon: Volume I (at AmazonSmile*) by by Darren Naish (Author), John Conway (Illustrator), C.M. Kosemen (Illustrator)

This one was also from my Wish List, also appreciated! Not far enough into it yet to have much of an opinion…

What do you think? Do you like getting books from a wish list? Are you reluctant to give something specific like that…or do you, perhaps, look for something  similar but not the same? Is Amazon becoming less dependent on tradpubs…and will the time ever come when they really don’t need them? What can the publishers due to counteract that…and perhaps become less dependent on Amazon? 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. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

The Year in E-Books 2015

December 27, 2015

The Year in E-Books 2015

Every year, I look both backward and forward. This is my annual post, looking at what happened this year. If you want to see the details, please see the ever-expanding ILMK E-Books Timeline. For posts in this series for previous years, see The Year in E-Books category. For a more numerical comparison between 2015 and previous years, I plan on doing my Annual Snapshot January 1st.

There was one obvious factor to this year: it wasn’t about the hardware, it was about content.

Amazon did introduce an updated version of the

All-New Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

on June 17th, but I think I can safely say it wasn’t a radical departure…more evolutionary than revolutionary.

When the big hardware announcements came on September 17th, there wasn’t a new model EBR (E-Book Reader) in the bunch. Yes, there were new tablets, and certainly many people (including me) do at least part of their reading on them. Eventually, Amazon would include a reading specific app on them…Word Runner, designed for speed reading. They also introduced a tablet billed as a “Reader’s Edition” on December 7th, but again, no new model of EBR.

Instead, innovation was really tied into Amazon producing or enabling the production of content:

This is a year, then, when Amazon really went after the traditional publishers. All of the above programs help authors who decide not to go with the Big 5. Clearly, that’s a strategy. Amazon’s negotiation with tradpubs have not all gone smoothly, to say the least. I’m not saying they would want to stop carrying those books, but I think they would like to lower their dependence on them.

We’ve also seen Amazon whittling away at the big brick-and-mortar stores, although they already aren’t growing (independent bookstores are a different story). Amazon expanded

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

to Canada and Mexico, and that subser (subscription service) may really change things. Not only does it only work with e-books, it may considerably change discovery. People used to find books by walking into a bookstore (I’m a former manager of one) and browsing. If, though, people are looking through KU to find books to borrow, they’ll also see books to buy (particularly for other people). They might also read a KU book and decide to buy it for someone.

That has the potential to have a noticeable impact on the power of the brick-and-mortars.

Amazon also opened their first brick-and-mortar.

That doesn’t mean that they plan to open a bunch of them, but if it succeeds (or at least survives), that will have to have some folks sweating a bit.

I think it will survive: they don’t have to profitably sell books in the store itself (no easy feat). It it can serve as a showroom for the website (which is clearly at least one of the intents…if you don’t have a SmartPhone to scan a book to see the price (and to buy it at Amazon.com, if you want), a sales associate will help you with that.

So, this year was less about Amazon competing with Kobo or Barnes & Noble’s NOOK, but more about them engaging with Macmillan and Hachette (and to a lesser extent, the Barnes & Noble stores and Books-A-Million).

In other news, legal issues were less in the forefront, although the Apple case is still continuing and the Google case was upheld.

It was intriguing that previously unpublished older books, especially

Go Set a Watchman (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

did as well as they did.

That will certainly have publishers digging into the vaults and authors’ heir rummaging through attics and garages in the next few years.

In terms of next year specifically, I’ll be doing my The Year Ahead post soon.

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. 

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.

January 2016 Kindle book releases

December 26, 2015

January 2016 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 largely returned to the Agency Model, but Amazon is allowed to discount in some circumstances.

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 5,722 (at time of writing) January releases in the USA Kindle store:

January 2016 USA Kindle store releases (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Of those, by the way, 747 are in

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

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

We’ve gone back and forth recently on whether the top four were the

Kindle First (at AmazonSmile)

picks for this month.

Amazon no longer does the “New and Popular” search as a default, but does “Featured”. Presumably, a human being picks those titles in some way…and the list is clearly not the same. This time, the top four are Kindle First picks…when last time they weren’t.

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!

  • Feverborn: A Fever Novel by Karen Marie Moning
  • Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time omnibus by Scott and David Tipton (and others)
  • The Great Train Massacre: Matt Jensen The Last Mountain Man by William W. Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone
  • We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think: Selected Essays by Shirley Hazzard
  • Pulitzer’s Gold: A Century of Public Service Journalism by Roy J. Harris
  • Building a Recommendation Engine with Scala by Ansari, Saleem A.
  • Scandalous Behavior (A Stone Barrington Novel) by Stuart Woods
  • The Chicken and the Quetzal: Incommensurate Ontologies and Portable Values in Guatemala’s Cloud Forest by Paul Kockelman
  • Batman: Gotham City’s Guardian (Backstories) by Matthew Manning
  • The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing by Roy Peter Clark
  • Perry Rhodan Lemuria 4: The First Immortal by Leo Lukas
  • The Dust Rose Like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux, Second Edition by James O. Gump
  • L.A. Math: Romance, Crime, and Mathematics in the City of Angels by James D. Stein
  • The Man Without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates
  • Manga in America: Transnational Book Publishing and the Domestication of Japanese Comics by Casey Brienza
  • The Power Of Soft: How to get what you want without being a **** by Hilary Gallo
  • Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin
  • The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics (Postmillennial Pop) by Ramzi Fawaz
  • Missing Woman (The Albert Samson Mysteries) by Michael Z. Lewin
  • Innovation the Cleveland Clinic Way: Powering Transformation by Putting Ideas to Work by Thomas Graham
  • A Pocket Full of Lies (Star Trek: Voyager) by Kirsten Beyer
  • Blood and Steel: Throne of the Caesars: Book II by Harry Sidebottom
  • The Movie Book (Big Ideas Simply Explained) by DK
  • NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football by Johnny Anonymous
  • Cheech Wizard’s Book of Me by Vaughn Bode
  • Dog Soldiers: Love, loyalty and sacrifice on the front line by Isabel George
  • Mindful Tech: How to Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives by David M. Levy
  • Keeper of the Stars (A King’s Meadow Romance Book 3) by Robin Lee Hatcher
  • How To Be Great: From Cleopatra to Churchill – Lessons from History’s Greatest Leaders by James Adonis
  • What Is a World?: On Postcolonial Literature as World Literature by Pheng Cheah
  • Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World by Al Pittampalli
  • Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics by Rick Shenkman
  • Scarlet Widow by Graham Masterton
  • DeForest Kelley Up Close and Personal: A Harvest of Memories from the Fan Who Knew Him Best by Kristine Smith
  • Spice Yourself Slim: Harness the power of spices for health, wellbeing and weight-loss by Kalpna Woolf
  • National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States, 8th edition by National Geographic and Phil Schermeister
  • Paddington at Large by Michael Bond and Peggy Fortnum
  • My Time With The Kings: A Reporter’s Recollections of Martin, Coretta and the Civil Rights Movement by Kathryn Johnson
  • Warriors of the Storm: A Novel (Saxon Tales) by Bernard Cornwell
  • The Case of the Fickle Mermaid: A Brothers Grimm Mystery (Brothers Grimm Mysteries) by P. J. Brackston
  • Sage’s Eyes (Forbidden) by V.C. Andrews
  • The Time of Their Lives: The Golden Age of Great American Book Publishers, Their Editors, and Authors by Al Silverman
  • Pugs of the Frozen North (A Not-So-Impossible Tale) by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
  • Lanny Budd novels by Upton Sinclair
  • Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye by Michael Shermer
  • The Gilded Age of Sport: 1945-1960 by Herbert Warren Wind
  • The Bands of Mourning: A Mistborn Novel by Brandon Sanderson
  • Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain by Douglas Fields
  • A Geek in Thailand: Discovering the Land of Golden Buddhas, Pad Thai and Kickboxing by Kenneth Barrett
  • Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira
  • Doom of the Dragon (Dragonships of Vindras) by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  • UFO Hunters Book Two by William J. Birnes
  • The Regulators by Stephen King (and a bunch of others by King, including Cujo, Firestarter…even Thinner)
  • Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson
  • Be You. Do Good.: Having the Guts to Pursue What Makes You Come AliveJan 12, 2016 | Kindle eBook
    by Jonathan David Golden and Bob Goffe You. Do Good.: Having the Guts to Pursue What Makes You Come Alive by Jonathan David Golden and Bob Goff
  • Warriors 1 by Gardner Dozois and George R. R. Martin
  • The Big Bucket List Book: 133 Experiences of a Lifetime by Gin Sander
  • NeuroLogic: The Brain’s Hidden Rationale Behind Our Irrational Behavior by Eliezer Sternberg
  • NYPD Red 4 by James Patterson and Marshall Karp
  • John J. Nance novels
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George and John Schoenherr
  • Stephen Becker novels
  • Next Generation Paper Airplanes: (Downloadable Material Included) by Sam Ita
  • The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz (basis for the 1977 movie)
  • Max Shulman novels (including Dobie Gillis)
  • Ringo Starr And The Beatles Beat (Part Two) by Alex Cain and Terry McCusker
  • Once a Crooked Man by David McCallum (yes, that David McCallum, the actor)
  • The Book of the Month: Sixty Years of Books in American Life by Al Silverman
  • When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain: History’s Unknown Chapters by Giles Milton
  • Teen Frankenstein: High School Horror by Chandler Baker
  • Harlequin Heartwarming January 2016 Box Set: When Love Matters Most\A Boy to Remember\The Missing Twin\Under the…by Kate James and Cynthia Thomason
  • What Decade Do You Belong In? (Best Quiz Ever) by Brooke Rowe
  • Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author by Herman Wouk
  • The World’s Your Stage: How Performing Artists Can Make a Living While Still Doing What They Love by William Baker and Warren C. Gibson
  • Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science by John Gribbin and Michael White
  • This Census-Taker by China Mieville
  • Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature by Meredith Maran
  • Better Call Saul: The World According to Saul Goodman by David Stubbs
  • Hollow City: The Graphic Novel by Ransom Riggs
  • Radioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World by Winifred Conkling
  • Trouble’s Child by Mildred Pitts Walter
  • The Mammoth Book of Kaiju by Sean Wallace
  • Barbie Spy Squad Big Golden Book (Barbie Spy Squad) by Mary Tillworth
  • All the Conspirators by Christopher Isherwood
  • Geek Girl: Picture Perfect by Holly Smale
  • Does the Yeti Exist? (Top Secret!) by Nick Hunter
  • Kingdom Come: An Elizabeth Harris Mystery by Jane Jensen
  • Study Hall of Justice (DC Comics: Secret Hero Society #1) by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen
  • The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny by Justin Hill and Wang Dulu
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
  • Pawn’s Gambit: And Other Stratagems by Timothy Zahn
  • The Jack Reacher Field Manual: An Unofficial Companion to Lee Child’s Reacher Novels by George Beahm
  • Sherlock Holmes, The Missing Years: Timbuktu: The Missing Years by Vasudev Murthy
  • Earnest by Kristin Von Kreisler
  • Choose Your Own Misery: The Office Adventure by Mike MacDonald and Jilly Gagnon

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! :) 

** A Kindle/Fire 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.

n 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.

A Kindle Carol, Part 3

December 25, 2015

A Kindle Carol, Part 3

This is part 3 (and the conclusion) of the story that had begun in this earlier post.

It was like being everywhere at once.

Warmth and sorrow, family and fear, here and there…it was all the same.  It seemed to flicker like an old nickelodeon…phft-phft-phft as each smallest split second changed to the next.

At first, Scrooge/Everything couldn’t focus.  It was one rush of feelings, emotions, thoughts, and nothing.  You couldn’t look anywhere in particular because wherever you looked, you saw something else…or was it the same thing?  You (and I) saw yourself (and it) whenever we/they tried.

Eventually (although it happened instantly), Scrooge/Everything became aware of scenes.  Not as things separate from himself or from each other, but as part of existence (and yet, the whole of it).

Scrooge felt the immersion of someone reading a book…how you enter the author’s universe, while still being part of yours.

He was a single mother, a soldier in Iraq, the captain of the high school football team, himself, a surgeon, a small child sleeping on a cement floor with five other siblings, a cat, a dog, a thought, a prayer, a kiss, a tear…a moment.

He became aware of the Cratchit family.  Bob was still at work…we had that meeting tonight.  He felt his (Bob’s?) wife’s resentment, but resignation at the same time.  Two young children, who he knew were the twins, were playing a videogame.  A third tiny youngster shouted encouragement.

“Get him, Robby, get him!”

“I’ll get him, Tim.”

Scrooge knew there was nothing on the screen right then for Robby to get.  He was humoring Tim, who was blind.  His video self fired off a shot at the wall…the TV made the distinctive “pzzoo” sound of the ray rifle.

“Did you get him, Robby?”

“Sure did, Tim!  Sure did!”

The other gamer, a girl named Kelsea, rolled her eyes.  She didn’t really approve of lying, but it made Tim happy to be a part of the game.  She was itching to see the next level, and they weren’t going to have as good a chance of getting there if Robby kept wasting his ammunition charge like that.  Still, she figured it was worth it to see Robby high-five tiny Tim’s outstretched hand.

Buzz!

A voice came through the intercom.

“Mom, it’s me!”

Scrooge knew it was Martha, the oldest daughter.  “I’ll get it!”  Tim ran unerringly to the button and buzzed his sister up the stairs.

“Hey, Double-T!  I got you something!”

“Whatizitwhatizit?”

“Well, the teachers let us out early for Thanksgiving, and Ms. Ramirez dropped me off at the library–”

“Did you get me a book?”

“I did,” Martha said smiling.  “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”

“Oh boy, thanks!  What’s a pimplemill?”

Tim’s mother called from the kitchen.  “Pimpernel.  It’s a flower.”

“A flower?”  Tim was still holding out his hands to Martha.

“Not this Pimpernel, Double-T!  He’s a hero…with a secret identity and everything.”

“Like Daredevil?”

“Even better.  He saves people from the bad guys in old France.  If he didn’t, they’d cut off their heads!”

“Yaaaaay!  I’m going to go listen to it right now!  Thanks, Martha!”

Tim took the box of CDs that Martha slapped into his open hands and ran down to the room he shared with Robby and Kelsea.

“That was nice of you, Martha.”

“Well, Mom, Ms. Ramirez offered to drive me.  Mr. Cho brought turkey in for everybody, so I had enough lunch money left for the bus.  I can probably get one of the other kids to take it back.”

“Mom,” Kelsea said hesitantly, “Latella’s cousin is blind.  They don’t have to get books from the library…he gets all the audiobooks he wants sent to him for free.”

“That’s great, dear.  But to do that, you have to have a doctor certify you as blind as there is a lot of paperwork to fill out.”

Scrooge/Kelsea fell silent.  S/he knew that they couldn’t afford a doctor.  Scrooge/Mrs. Cratchit wished again that Bob had a job with full benefits.  She’d always wondered if little Tim’s eyesight could have been saved if they weren’t just going to the community clinic.  She knew it probably wouldn’t have made any difference, but she couldn’t help wondering.

“Mom, when is Dad going to get here?”

“I don’t know, Robby.  They have that annual marketing meeting tonight.”

“Dumb old Scrooge!”

“That’s Mister Scrooge, Robby…he is your father’s boss, after all.”

“I know.  I just hate that guy sometimes.  Why doesn’t Dad just quit and get a better job?”

“We don’t say hate in this house, you know that.  It’s not that easy, Robby.  It’s a hard time to find work out there.  Besides, your father likes working for Mr. Scrooge.”

Martha pouted.  “I don’t know why.  He treats him like dirt.  He doesn’t pay him anything, and he makes him work all the time.”

“I can’t say I really understand it either, dear, but it’s what your father wants.”

Scrooge suddenly found himself back in his office.  He was just himself again.  He was thinking about Bob, when a dark figure grabbed him by the wrist.

“Wait!  Slow down”

The ghost of tomorrow did not wait…it never does.

“Where are you taking me?”

Scrooge felt himself fall through the floors of the building.  He thudded on to the lobby floor.  Workers went past him, carrying chairs and tables.  They came out of the freight elevator, headed for a big truck on the street.

“Somebody must be moving,” thought Scrooge.

The spirit pointed to where the building receptionist was opening the glass case that contained the directory.  She slid out one of the printed names.

“Spirit, tell me…what is happening?”

The spirit continued to point.  The receptionist walked over to the garbage can where a security guard was standing.

The guard smiled at her.  “Well, that’s it, huh?  They are finally gone.”

“Well, it was only a matter of time, I guess.  I heard on the news that they went bankrupt.”

“Got any news on a new tenant?”

“It’s not that easy to fill a whole floor.  I’m guessing it will be awhile.”

She dropped the laminated name in the silver bin and walked back to her desk.

The spirit led Scrooge to the garbage can.  Scrooge stood, afraid to look inside, afraid at what he might see.

“No, spirit, no!”

The spirit stood, immobile and impassionate.  Scrooge couldn’t help himself…he saw the J. Marley Publishing sign, with the logo of Jacob on it.

“Bankrupt!  It can’t be!  I won’t let it happen!  You…you wouldn’t show me this unless I could do something about it, right?  Jacob said it could change…he said I had a chance if I could learn something!  I’ve learned, spirit!  I’ve learned that books are books, whatever the format!  Its not the paper, it’s the words that matter!  And poor Tim Cratchit, and a million others like him!  We…I can help them!  Please, spirit, please!  Give me another chance!”

“Unca?  Are you alright?”

Scrooge found himself back in his office again.

“You…you’re still here!  The business is still here!”

“Sure it is, Unc.  Geez, how long was I on that phone call, anyway?  So, you want to get back to that meeting?”

“Yes…yes, I do!  Cratchit!”

Bob was surprised to hear his boss yelling.

“Get in here.  No, wait, start some coffee first.  Nephew, tell me about those e-books.  I want to do them…I want to get started right away!  Make sure they have that read-aloud thing…that’s important!”

“Sure, Unc, that’s great!”

“Cratchit…Bob, I’ve decided you are going to get a bonus!”

“Uh..a bonus, sir?”

“Yep!  I’m getting everybody in your family a Kindle!  You tell Tim he can have all the books he wants, and you send me the bills.  When he gets done with The Scarlet Pimpernel, you tell him old Neezy wants to talk with him about it.”

“Yes sir!  Bless you, sir!”

Epilogue

Scrooge was never again troubled with spirits.  Jay-Em e-Romances were a permanent part of the bestseller lists, with the first one in the series  always being offered for free.  Martha Cratchit wrote a few herself, eventually becoming a successful author.  The company thrived, and the Greasy Cat Foundation, with Timothy Cratchit as its Executive Director, became a leader in providing free e-book readers to those in need.

May we all learn from the past, savor the present, and build a future not just for us, but for others.

The End

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog on December 24, 2009.

A Kindle Carol, Part 2

December 24, 2015

This is part 2 of the story that had begun in this earlier post.

“The Greasy Cat!”

The spirit child rippled with laughter at the name.

Scrooge’s eyes grew large, and he shook his head to clear it.  There could be no doubt.  Although it was much smaller than he remembered it, he was seeing the treehouse of his youth.  They had called it “The Greasy Cat” after a secret meeting place in The Scarlet Pimpernel.  While the name, Le Chat Gris actually meant “The Gray Cat”, that had been beyond his level of French at ten years old.  Marley had known that “chat” meant “cat”, and the rest had been a guess.

“But how can it still be standing after all this time?”

The spirit child rippled again.

“It couldn’t be, could it…the house was sold years ago.   This whole area is an industrial park now.”

“Not now, silly head,” said the child.

“Of course!  This is the past.  Oh, the times Jakey and I had up there!  The laughter and the secrets.  I’d love to see the inside again…but my legs are more rickety than that old board ladder.”

There was no whirlwind, just a whisper…like the too loud hsh-hsh-hsh of small children hiding behind a couch.

Scrooge suddenly found himself inside The Greasy Cat.  He thought he would feel claustrophobic, but he didn’t.   The room hadn’t gotten bigger…and he didn’t seem smaller.  In fact, he didn’t seem to be there at all, and yet, it was all perfectly clear.

The only lighting in the room came from a two-battery flashlight with a cracked lens.   If Scrooge needed any more convincing, that would have done it.  He remembered reading so many things with that thin black jagged line across the words.  They pretended it looked like a Z, and that they could use it like a Zorro signal to call that masked defender of the people.  Although there was one night when they would swear they had both heard Tornado’s hooves, Don Diego remained as hidden from them as he had from Sargent Gonzales.

But who was holding the light…

“Jakey!”

“They seek him here,
They seek him there…”

The boy with the flashlight read on, paying Scrooge no heed.

Suddenly, another child’s voice echoed through the gloom in a lightning crack:

“They seek him in his underwear!”

Both kids exploded in raucous laughter, slapping each other and rolling on the floor.

The older Scrooge smiled.   The spirit child became a cloud and whirled around the room, mirroring the boys as they made no attempt to control themselves.

“Oh, I loved that book.”

“Not a book,” said the spirit child sternly.

“Of course it is!  That’s The Scarlet Pimpernel!  That’s why we named the treehouse the Greasy Cat.”

“Comic book.”

“Comic…say, that’s right!  We were reading the comic books!  I remember now.  We would get them at Fezziwig’s.  We used to ride our bikes down there and sneak the comics back under our shirts.  Wouldn’t do to have Dad catch me with a comic, even if it was a classic.”

“Not a real book.”

“They were real to us!  Realer than school, realer than anything!”

“Fake books.”

“Hey, at least we were reading, right?  I might not be what I am today without those comic books.”

The spirit child flew at Scrooge, and for a moment all he could see was a wall of white.

He blinked his eyes and found himself back in his office.

He jumped when a figure suddenly entered the room.

“Hey, Unc…I just need to make one more call…gotta follow up on something with one of the kids.  You know how kids are, right?”

Scrooge’s nephew turned away, his thumbs flicking on the keys.

Left alone in his office, Scrooge gave the question more consideration than it had been meant to deserve.

It had been a long time since he’d thought about children.  Children didn’t buy JMP books.  He didn’t have any kids of his own.  This company had been his life.  When Marley died, he had felt like a single parent.  JMP had been theirs…it still was.  But he had suddenly had to do it all by himself.  They had always divided everything.  It wasn’t as simple as good cop/bad cop, or tough love/tenderness.  They were both tough, and everybody knew it.   They were just tough in different ways.  Marley was tough with people…Scrooge was tough with the numbers.

When he’d been left by himself, he didn’t try to copy Marley.  He couldn’t, there was no point to it.  So, he’d just let that part die along with Jacob.

He missed him now.  He’d know kids.  He’d known what people…all people wanted.

Didn’t Cratchit have kids?  Scrooge thought he did…in fact, he was sure he did.  He’d never met Cratchit’s family…not that he could remember.

“I wish I knew more about them.”

A breeze seemed to cause the potted plant in the corner to wave from side to side.  But it couldn’t be a breeze: there were no windows, and the air conditioning was off.

“Hmph.”

The plant continued to move.  Scrooge smelled that distinctive plant smell, like walking by a park after a rainy day.  The smell terrified Scrooge.

The plant was plastic.

The smell began to fill the room.  It reminded Scrooge of a particularly unpleasant trip, when he had gone to Hawaii for a publishing convention.  He’d always hated travel…meeting with people had been Marley’s part of the deal.  But Marley had been too sick to go…he’d gotten better, that time.

Scrooge coughed and hacked.  Why wasn’t his allergy medicine working?

When he could stand again, he saw that the room was covered in ivy, overgrown in leaves.  They were still growing…flowers sprouted, tendrils twisted around branches.

A man stepped into the center of the room.  At least, “man” was the closest approximation Scrooge’s confused mind could make.  Whatever it was, it was part of the jungle that was all that Scrooge could see.  He couldn’t see where the man started and the plants stopped.

“Ebenezer Scrooge.”

“Are you the second of the spirits?”

“I am here and now.”

“What will you show me?”

“I am here and now.”

The ivy continued to grow and expand.  Scrooge felt it pressing against him, wrapping around him.  He struggled. It covered his face.  He couldn’t breath!  He felt it go through his skin, becoming part of him…or he of it?  Scrooge found it hard to think…his mind was stretched, and the thinner it became the less of him was left.

He fought to control it…control was always how he got through things.

He lost.

To be continued…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog on December 22, 2009.

A Kindle Carol, part 1

December 23, 2015

A Kindle Carol, part 1

It was a cold night in the publishing house.  Every night was cold, and the days weren’t much better.  The employees (well, the ones that were left after the latest round of layoffs) had been told it was a cost-cutting measure.  Samir in Accounting had gotten quite a laugh when he suggested it was to match the CEO’s reptilian heart.  Michel had disagreed…he said Scrooge had no heart.

Bob Cratchit would have disagreed for a different reason, if anyone had shared the joke with him.  He’d been Mr. Scrooge’s Executive Assistant for nearly twenty years.  He believed that there was some humanity left in the Old Man, although it had been diminished by years of declining sales.  It had been ten years since his last raise…before any of his children had been born.  Company policy prohibited raises based purely on longevity, and Scrooge had given him a perfect review ten years ago.   Nine years ago, his boss had said there wouldn’t be any point in doing another review…unless Bob’s performance declined.  Bob was proud of the fact that it hadn’t.

Tonight was going to be a particularly difficult test.   It was time for the annual holiday marketing strategy meeting.  J. Marley Publishing hadn’t turned a profit in three years, and was rapidly depleting its cash reserves.  It had accepted an offer of twenty-five cents on the dollar for its audiobook business in exchange for a considerable loan that would see them through the spring.  If something didn’t change, there would be no Jay-Em romances on the beaches that summer.

“Cratchit.”

Scrooge’s voice carried into Bob’s little cell of a cubicle.  He didn’t shout: he saw no reason to spend the extra energy that would take.  The phones would only accept incoming calls…even salespeople had to use their own phones to call their clients.  There was no way to call someone’s extension from inside the building, and Scrooge wasn’t going to waste the valuable time it would take to walk the ten steps from his inner office.  Time was money: although when Scrooge saw his own face in the mirror, he knew he might soon have very little of either left.

“Yes, Mr. Scrooge?”

“How many are going to be in the meeting?”

“Just three of us, sir.  You, your nephew, and myself.”

“Don’t bother printing out any agendas, then.  We can’t afford the paper.  No coffee, no donuts.  Don’t bring the garbage can: we won’t need it.”

“Yes, sir.  Anything else?”

“No.  Don’t be late…I can’t abide tardiness.”

“Yes, sir.”  Bob Cratchit had never been late for anything in his life, much less a meeting.  He wondered what had made Scrooge forgetful, and hoped the Old Man wasn’t ill.

Scrooge wasn’t sick, or not especially sick.  When you get as old as he was, you were always sick with something.  You outlived most of the viruses…it was your own failing systems that would probably get you.   That’s why they call it natural causes…only fools were surprised when the end came.

Marley had been no fool.  Everything was in order, and Scrooge had found it all laid out in minute detail.   He had followed his old partner’s plans for three years.  Marley had always been the face of the organization, and his name could still open a few doors.  Lately, though, there had been fewer and fewer of those doors…open or otherwise.

He could almost picture Marley now.  They would strategize before these meetings.  But strategies suggest choices.  Nobody in the book industry had a lot of choices left.  “People just don’t read any more”, thought Scrooge, “unless it’s under 141 characters”.  Books were going to go the way of newsreels and LPs.   Even if the electronic cancer didn’t kill them, the rising cost of paper would…the expense of natural resources bringing on natural causes.

“Hey, Unca!”

Scrooge’s nephew burst into the room.

“Seven minutes early.”

“I figured that would be okay.  Why not get the meeting done, and we can get out of here early…it’s the night before Thanksgiving, after all.”

“Hmph.  That doesn’t mean today has to be any shorter.  Why not two hours…or half the day?  Why not take the whole week off?”

“Why not?  A lot of people do.”

“Idiots.  You can’t run a business by taking off time.  If it was up to me, we’d work through Thanksgiving.”

“You don’t mean that, Unca.”

“I do…and if you had any sense, you’d agree with me.”

“Oh, I have plenty of sense, Unca…runs in the family, right?  So, you want to have Bob join us in the Conference Room?”

“You’re already here.  Cratchit!  Cancel the lights and turn off the heat for the rest of the building.  We’ll meet here now.”

“Yes, sir.  Right away, sir.”

“You mean the heat’s on?  It’s like a refrigerator in here.”

“Mr. Scrooge, would you like to begin with old business?”

“Let’s dispense with that, Unca.  I wanted to let you know…I met with some guys from Amazon.”

“And?”

“They were talking to me about the Kindle–”

“Bah!  E-books!”

“Hear me out, Unc.  They were telling me that they thought the Jay-Em line would be a good bet.  Romances do well…all those Harlequin imprints…Kimani, Silhouette, Steeple Hill…Samhain’s moving titles, too.”

“We’re not in the software business.  We sell books.”

“These are books, Unc…they’re just a different format.”

“Paperbacks and hardbacks, those are different formats.  E-books are nothing.  What do they charge for those things?”

“Well, actually, they suggested we offer a couple of them for free–”

“FREE?  That’s not a business, it’s a charity.  Call Bill Gates…he can give them away in South America or something.”

“But Unca–”

“If those e-books were worth anything, they wouldn’t be giving them away.  Books are paper, period.  Nobody’s going to pay any real money for fake books.”

“They really open up the market, though, Unca.  People who have difficulty reading the paper books can really use the increasing text size and the text-to-speech.   It’s easier for people with arthritis and you should understand about the aging population.”

“Our market’s dying off, you don’t need to remind me.  As to the blind, they can already get books for free.  That’s no help.”

“But this is more convenient, and they can share with the family.  They don’t have to prove any kind of disability to buy books from the Kindle store.”

“We’re not here to make their lives easier…we’re here to make money.”

“But Unca, I’ve got some numbers here…oh, my cell!  It’s my wife…excuse me while I take this.”

“Cratchit, go work on those end of year calculations.  No point in wasting the time while my nephew conducts his personal business.”

Left alone in his office, Scrooge’s gaze fell on the J. Marley Publishing logo on the wall.  It was a stylized silhouette of old Marley himself.   As he stared at it, he fancied he saw the portrait turn and look at him.

“These old eyes of mine are playing tricks on me,” Scrooge thought.

“Ebenezer Scrooge.”

“Audio hallucinations as well.  It was only a matter of time.”

“I am no hallucination.”

“Nonsense.  My mind is starting to go…I haven’t been getting enough sleep lately.  After the holidays, I’ll catch up and then I won’t have to worry about mind slips like you.”

“You know who I was.”

“I know you appear to be Jacob Marley, but you could have been a two-headed giraffe.  It’s just a normal consequence of sleep deprivation.  See that stack of bills?  That’s real.”

At this, the figure of Marley let out a wail that shook Scrooge to his toes.  He was sure that Cratchit and his nephew must have heard it, and would rush in at any moment.  When that didn’t happen, he knew that only he could hear and see it.

“It seems it’s just the two of us.  Alright, I’ll play along. ”

“We do not play games in this office…you of all people should know that.”

“What do you want of me?”

“Much.”

“Good luck with that.  There is very little of me left…I’ve already given everything to this company.”

“You do not know what you have to give.  But you will.  If you can still learn, you will.”

These last words chilled Scrooge.  He was unsure that he could learn anything new…and if he couldn’t, what would be the consequences?  He frantically looked at the ghost, looked for anything there that might give him a way to avoid the lesson.  He noticed the spectral ruins of buildings at the feet of the phantom.

“What…what are those crumbled walls?”

“Those are the chains to which we sold when I was alive…Crown Books, B. Dalton, Waldenbooks…I am tied to them in death as I was in life.  I stumble over them, wander their empty halls…I can not leave them, can not move on to more fertile markets.   If you can not change, you will join me here in death.”

“Tell me, spirit…tell me what I have to do!”

“That is not for me to do.  When you see me, you see our lives together.  The echoes of the past will overwhelm any truth I might tell you now.  That will be for the others.”

“Others?”

Scrooge’s heart beat faster than it had in years.  Seeing your dead business partner was one thing…he could manage Marley.  But other people…other ghosts…Scrooge had always been better with numbers than people.  That had been Marley’s area.

“Three others.  Listen openly to what they tell you, Ebenezer.  You will not be given another chance.”

At this, the figure faded back into the logo on the wall.

The ruins crumbled into dust, and the dust to lesser dust, until there was no sign that anything had ever been there.

“Delusions,” said Scrooge, “brought on by stress and lack of sleep.  Where is that nephew of mine?  Work…that’s what I need.  Back to work, and I won’t be bothered by these ridiculous visions any more.”

He noticed the old-fashioned Rolodex that sat on a corner of his desk.  He flipped backwards, precisely one letter at time.  “Just the thing,” thought Scrooge.  “I’ve been meaning to get this organized.”

He began with the letter A.  He looked at the first card.  “Dead.”  He put it in a large envelope he used to take shredding to the bank…JMP wasn’t going to pay a shredding service while he was in charge.  He looked at the second card.  “Out of business.”  The third: “Merged.”

Soon, his envelope was filled to overflowing.  He decided he would need something bigger.  He took a dusty plaque honoring the company on its first million seller out of a box.  He tried to shake the cards into the box, but they wouldn’t come out of the envelope.

“Out, you lazy garbage!  Staying together isn’t going to save you!”

He shook harder, and the cards came out in a lump.  Scrooge was stunned, though, to see that they didn’t fall.  They hung in the air above the box.   Slowly, the cards began to spread out…first in one direction, then another.  Two long flows spread towards the floor, and two more towards the walls.  A fifth formed a lump at about Scrooge’s chest level.  It took on the shape of a child.

“Neezy,” it said in a soft and gentle voice.

“Neezy?!”  No one had called Scrooge that since he was a child himself.  Scrooge had almost no memories of his own childhood…they had long ago been crushed under the weight of corporate responsibility.

The figure, who ruffled and shuffled as its card body constantly flowed and changed, held out a “hand” to the Old Man.

“No, no!  What is it?  Where do you want to take me?”

“Only where you have already been.  You will see nothing new…nothing you haven’t already lived.”

Scrooge thought about that…if there was damage to be done by the past, it had already hurt him…and he had beaten it.  He had forgotten the worst of it before…he could do it again.

“Spirit, you do not frighten me.”

“It is your past we will see…do you frighten yourself?”

The hand began to withdraw, but Scrooge snatched it before it could merge back into the card cloud.  He had never been afraid to seize an opportunity.

The rustling became an overwhelming sound, like being swept up in a tornado!  The sprite grabbed Scrooge’s other hand, and they whirled in a mad game of ring-around-the-rosy, spinning faster and faster, until it seemed to Scrooge he was in danger of exploding outwards into a million pieces!

The spinning stopped, the sound subsided…and Scrooge saw something he would never have expected…

To be continued…

This story continues in Part 2.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog on December 1, 2009.

(free) Trials of the Century

December 21, 2015

(free) Trials of the Century

How do you know something is going to be worth your money?

Well, at Amazon, the answer often is…try it!

For example, most Amazon devices have a thirty-day trial period. You can get a

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

test it out, and see if it was worth the difference between that and the Paperwhite.

Generally, if the device is performing as advertised, you would be expected to pay the return postage…but that seems reasonable to me.

You can see the details here:

Kindle E-Reader, Fire Tablet and Amazon Fire TV Return Policies (Kindle E-Reader, Fire Tablet and Amazon Fire TV Return Policies (at AmazonSmile*)

That’s the hardware…what about other things?

Note that on some of these you may need to be new to it…you can’t just keep doing a free trial after you’ve ha it once. 🙂

  • Amazon Prime: 30 days
  • Kindle Unlimited: 30 days
  • Kindle e-books: within 7 days of purchase (this is a return policy, not really a trial period)
  • Kindle magazines: often 30 days, sometimes 14
  • Kindle blogs: generally 14 days
  • Add-on video subscriptions: 7 days

What happens if you get past that period? With an EBR (E-Book Reader), Fire tablet, or Fire TV, you can still get 80% of the price, if you are within 60 days. See below:

Partial refunds / restocking fees

If You Return You’ll Receive
Kindle e-reader, Fire tablet or Amazon Fire TV devices and accessories within 30 days from receipt of shipment 100% of the item’s price
Kindle e-reader, Fire tablet or Amazon Fire TV devices and accessories past the return window, but within 60 days from receipt of shipment 80% of the item’s price
Kindle e-reader, Fire tablet or Amazon Fire TV devices and accessories over 60 days from receipt of shipment 0% of the item’s price

Note that special terms apply right now:

“Holiday Return Policy
Items shipped by Amazon.com between November 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015, may be returned until January 31, 2016, for a full refund, subject to our other return guidelines listed below. Items shipped from sellers other than Amazon.com are subject to this same holiday return policy unless otherwise stated in the seller’s individual Return Policy”

Can you just do this as much as you want?

Well, Amazon can hypothetically drop you as a customer if you abuse the return privileges, although they really, really, don’t want to drop people. They’ll probably warn you multiple times first, depending on how severe it is.

For the Kindle books, I’ve heard more than once that somebody who had a lot of returns had the easy, self-service method taken away. That’s by going to

http://www.amazon.com/myk

In those cases, you’d have to contact Kindle Support…and I expect that’s a place you might get a warning.

I don’t think almost anybody who gets that warning won’t have understood the issue. My guess is that we’d be looking at something like returning 100% of purchased Kindle books for a month, with at least several bought.

There you go!

If you have some time off at the holidays (not taken up with other commitments), you can really enjoy some content for free…and maybe decide it’s worth paying the money to keep enjoying it. 🙂

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. 

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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