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.

(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.

Round up #314: Discovery Zone, A Truth Worth Tellin’

December 19, 2015

Round up #314: Discovery Zone, A Truth Worth Tellin’

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

This is how Kindle Unlimited should work

I read a good book recently.

Now, that shouldn’t be a rare thing. 🙂 I often say I’ve never read a bad book, and I do believe that. I think I’ve gotten something good out of every book I’ve read…although there have been parts of books I haven’t liked and certainly, there have been some with massive flaws.

That doesn’t mean I’m uncritically accepting, or think that all books are equal. 😉

It was refreshing to read a novel that I felt had a strong voice, good plotting, and wasn’t gimmicky.

That book was

A Truth Worth Tellin’ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
by Toni Teepell

This isn’t a case where I know the author at all, or had even heard of the book.

What happened was that my Significant Other wanted a new book to read (especially on the treadmill).

We are happy members of

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

Amazon’s subser (subscription service). People pay $9.99 a month (although there have been discounts for longer subscriptions) for an “all you can read” service. You can have up to ten books out at a time, and multiple people on the account can be reading a book at the same time.

We like to do that. 🙂

If we both read the same book, we can then talk about it later…it’s a social thing.

I looked for a book, and I started by looking for Southern fiction. That’s something my SO particularly likes…both more serious, like Pat Conroy, and funny, like Fannie Flagg.

I think I searched for “Southern fiction” in Kindle Unlimited, then limited it to Contemporary Fiction, and then sorted by average customer review.

I skipped what appeared to be romance (I read that sometimes, but it’s not my SO’s preference)…the publishers pick the classifications, by the way.

Then, the cover of A Truth Worth Tellin’ caught my eye…and it currently has 18 customer reviews, all 5-star.

I don’t want to build this up too much, 😉 but that was a good rating…so we tried it.

It is, in a sense, a bit old-fashioned. By that I just mean that it isn’t saying, “Hey, look at how I’m disrupting the traditional novel by adding graphic sex, non-linear storytelling, and characters you hate!” 😉 I’d say it could have been written in the 1950s…not in a bad way. 🙂

It was interesting: I didn’t even look at the price of it until I started writing this post. It’s $4.99.

I’m hoping that some of you read it and enjoy it…both for your benefit and for the author’s.

When people criticize KU, they tend to bring up the alleged lack of well-known novels (although there are actually a lot of famous books, they don’t tend to be current bestsellers). A Truth Worth Telllin’ (a first novel) exemplifies the argument for KU as discovery for lesser known novels.

And of course, if you borrow it, read a bit of it, and don’t share my opinion, you can just move on to another book…

Why Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an argument for permanent copyright

More than five years ago, I published what may be my most controversial post:

Should copyright be permanent?

In it, I explored the idea of making copyright permanent in exchange for greater Fair Use provisions.

In other words, an author and the author’s estate would continue to control the commercial use of a creation (which might, of course, include having licensed it to a publisher) in perpetuity, but the work could be used for educational and research purposes generally without compensation.

That’s the simplified version.

There are reasonable arguments on both sides.

One thing I hear from people is that a work staying in copyright deprives society of a common culture…that te world (or, at least the USA) should own works like Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland.

Well, I have to point out: is Star Wars any less of our shared culture than Romeo and Juliet?

Do people know “May the Force be with you” less than they know “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?”

Do they talk about Star Wars less than they do about Shakespeare? Are fewer kids named after Star Wars characters and actors than Romeo & Juliet ones? Well, okay, there are a lot of Romeos out there…but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many Lukes and Leias born in early 1978. 😉 There also aren’t that many Mercutios…

You might guess it’s because Star Wars is more contemporary…but, based on the original copyright terms in the USA, it would have been in  the public domain by now (the original term was 14 years, renewable once for a total of 28, if the author was still alive…not as probable then as it is now).

Three quick tips

  • On a touchscreen device, “long press” (hold your finger or stylus on something for about a second) for more options
  • Menus often look like three horizontal lines on top of each other
  • To get help, you can go to http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

Help other readers find books

Just a reminder about

ILMK Readers’ Recommendations: book discovery zone

There will be many people new to KU in the next couple of weeks, especially since you can

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

You can help them out by going to the Book Discovery Zone and “voting” in the polls to endorse books, and by narratively suggesting books I can add.

Skipping the Flip(board)

Ooh, this was tough for me!

I skipped my morning

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

read this morning, although I will do it later today.

Why?

To avoid Star Wars spoilers. 🙂

My favorite thing in entertainment is to be surprised, and it can be hard to do. For that reason, I really don’t like spoilers, myself…and I also think they are…well, when done intentionally, I would consider them morally wrong.

Let me be clear: I don’t mean when you accidentally reveal a twist in a story, or when you do it without thinking about it.

I mean when people do it intentionally.

I read an article recently where the writer recalled standing outside of a movie in the Star Wars franchise, shouting the twist at people before they entered the theatre.

To me, it’s a form of intellectual bullying. That’s not to minimize traditional bullying. I think, though, it comes from similar impulses. You are using your superior power (knowledge, in this case), to take something away from someone else.

I love discussing movies (and books), but only when everybody present wants to do that.

I also think there is no statute of limitations on spoilers.

I believe that a nine-year old reading The Wizard of Oz in 2015 has the right to the same experience of the book as a nine-year old reading it in 1900 had.

I’ve been very pleased to see that mainstream media, and much of social media, has recognized the value of avoiding spoilers with regards to SW: TFA.

However, Flipboard (at least the way I have it configured) contains many non-traditional sources, and I’m guessing there will be spoilers in it this morning.

We are seeing the movie at 11:25 this morning…so I’ll read Flipboard after we’ve seen it. 😉

Jeff Bezos is one of Barbara Walters Most Fascinating People of 2015

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO (Chief Executive Officer) has had an interesting year: space news, an attack on the Amazon work culture, and an explicitly political comment.

Here is an

ABC video

of Barbara Walters’ “Most Fascinating People of 2015” segment with Bezos.

What do you think? How did Jeff Bezos do on Barbara Walters? What will happen to Amazon after Jeff?  Should people make references to plot twists openly (for example, jokes about maybe the Wizard of Oz in relationship to public figures), or should there be spoiler alerts? Have you discovered any books or authors through KU? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.

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

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

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

Should Amazon stop making high end devices?

December 18, 2015

Should Amazon stop making high end devices?

This is a time of year when people are typically more willing to buy luxury items…to give a gifts.

In addition to managing a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I managed a game store. We carried $500 chess sets…and we figured we were very unlikely to sell one, except during the holidays at the end of the year.

Based on that, it would be reasonable to expect that Amazon’s top of the line EBR (E-Book Reader), the

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

would be doing relatively well right now.

To be clear, it doesn’t mean that it should be the bestselling Kindle EBR. If Amazon’s profit on the Voyage is twice what it is on the least expensive

Kindle, 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and it sells half as many, they are equal.

Note that the Voyage costs more than twice as much the least expensive Kindle…but there are also certain costs which will be constant between the two (they both have delivery expenses, customer service expenses, that sort of thing).

I decided to take a look at the

Amazon Electronics Bestsellers (at AmazonSmile*)

to see what was selling best.

I was also curious about other Amazon devices.

When Amazon got into the device business in 2007, it was with a Kindle EBR. Many people thought (and said) that Amazon shouldn’t get into hardware…that it wasn’t their area of expertise.

They said the same thing when Amazon was expanding into tablets.

When they released the Fire Phone…well, okay, that one wasn’t a success. 😉 I do use one every day as my SmartPhone, though.

With the

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

tech writers had learned more caution, I think…they didn’t simply reject its market possibilities because it was from Amazon.

Here are some of the rankings for Amazon devices right now (and it can change every hour):

#1 Fire TV Stick (the least expensive Amazon TV option)

#2 Fire 7″ tablet (the least expensive Amazon tablet option)

#3 The Kindle Paperwhite (interestingly, this is the middle priced option) with Special Offers

#4 Fire 7 tablet without Special Offers (ad-supported devices, which are less expensive to purchase in exchange for viewing ads, are generally more popular than their full-priced, ad-free counterparts)

#5 Amazon Echo

#7 Fire 6″ HD tablet with Special Offers

#8 The least expensive Kindle with Special Offers

#9 Kids Fire Edition

#10 Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote

#13 Fire 8″ HD with Special Offers

#14 Another Kids Fire Edition

#15 Fire 10″ with Special Offers (the most expensive Fire tablet model)

#16 Amazon Fire TV

I’m going to skip a lot of other configurations of these devices, to get down to the Kindle Voyage at…#79.

That does show it trending upward to get to 79, by the way.

My guess on what this means?

People don’t think of Amazon as a luxury brand. When an Amazon device is relatively expensive, compared to competitors, it just doesn’t do as well.

That would include the Kindle Voyage and (when it was introduced), the Fire Phone.

Does that mean Amazon should just give up on high end devices?

I don’t think so.

While there are considerable costs involved (development, manufacture, marketing, support), there are probably public image benefits which aren’t directly reflected in the sales.

Also, having an expensive model like the Voyage will increase the sales of the middle model, in this case, the Paperwhite. People can justify buying the middle model rather than the lowest price model because off the money they “saved” compared to buying the most expensive model.

I don’t think there is an imminent danger that Amazon will discontinue the Voyage the way they did the Fire Phone…although, unlike diamonds, device models aren’t forever. 😉

What do you think? Surprised the Echo its doing so well? Did you think the Voyage would be doing better? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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* 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.

Why we geeked

December 17, 2015

Why we geeked

At midnight tonight, the whole world will proclaim its geekness.

That’s when Star Wars: The Force Awakens officially opens, and it may go on to be the biggest box office hit to date.

No one is going to hide the fact that they are going to the movie.

No one is going to hide a Star Wars shirt under a YourLocalSportsFranchiseHere shirt, and then take off the camouflage before going into the theatre.

Every mainstream news outlet on TV will have a story about it. Even The Economist has found not one, but multiple angles for stories.

It wasn’t always that way.

When I was a kid, loving science fiction and fantasy cut you out of the inner circle.

That doesn’t mean that we all hid it. I never hesitated to be seen reading a current science fiction novel…or one from the 1930s…or the 1800s.

I think it’s safe to say that there were a core of us who were never ashamed of being geeks. Some of us might find each other in school and hang out, but if we weren’t part of the social scene, so be it. We had worlds to visit.

I was lucky enough, in high school, to be able to take a science fiction elective. I had a wonderful teacher…we weren’t made to take the joy out of geeky literature in order to dissect it and look at it dispassionately in order to give it gravitas. We often got to choose or suggest books. My teacher was as willing to learn as to teach, which is one of the things that can make a great teacher.

As a result of that class, we did form a club, and we did publish a “fanzine”. We even had a library.

It’s safe to say, though, that while there were tremendous benefits to being a geek, there were costs, too.

So, why do it?

It’s easier to give a reason now: geek is the in crowd. The biggest movies, TV shows, and even some of the biggest books are geek-friendly. There is even a stereotype of people being fake geeks…I don’t find that to be impossible (I’m sure some geeks have pretended to be sports fans from time to time to fit in…not that some geeks aren’t big sports fans in reality and vice versa, of course), but I think it can be…unfairly belittling. For me, part of being a geek is embracing diversity, and that should include being accepting of people who don’t know the difference* between Star Wars and Star Trek, or are new to the party, or who like what you may derisively call “skiffy”.**

Embracing diversity: certainly, that’s one of the reasons people were geeks pre-1977 (when the first Star Wars movie was released and became a big hit).

While there is no question that geek-friendly works could be full of prejudice (racial, class, sexism…and a noted lack of diverse characters in terms of sexuality), they were also a place where an alien could be a hero, and women could be social equals.

Before I give some examples of that, I’d better define what I mean by geek-friendly, although I’ve done that before in the blog.

In a geek story, there is something to it that is impossible in consensus reality. It might be that there are dragons or spaceships or telepathy. For more of a discussion of that, see

Content, tone, or intent: what makes a genre?

Since they are outside of consensus reality, they have often been able to “get away” with showing things outside of social norms as well.

Let’s take the idea of women as social equals.

In

Surviving “The End”: advice for literary characters (part 3)

I wrote an appearance by Gerry Carlyle, the “Interplanetary Huntress”. Carlyle, who originally appeared in stories in the 1930s an 1940s, was not only a superior adventurer, she was the captain of the ship. Her love interest, a man, was clearly the less powerful one of the pair.

That would have been a very difficult sale to a mainstream audience.

Think it would have been tough in the 1930s?

How about the 1870s, when Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race had women as the dominant gender?

It was not unusual for people of different races and perhaps species to work together…even fall in love and have intimate relationships. After all, Dejah Thoris in the John Carter of Mars Barsoom stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs is not the same race…or species…or even, arguably, the same class of life (she may not be a mammal, like humans are…her species lays eggs).

One thing we were told as geeks: it didn’t matter who you were, or even what you were…you could contribute and be accepted.

Another reason to be a geek back then was that you saw and wanted to see that there could be more to the world than was generally believed.

A lot of fans of hard science fiction believed that, within the confines of current scientific thought, there were many more possibilities. That was sometimes the purpose of a science fiction story…to explore a possibility, perhaps to suggest it as an option.

For fantasy fans, it could be, “Don’t tell me what’s possible.” Anything could be true.

Geek-friendly literature has been described, in a belittling way as escapist, but yes, it could be that, too. When things in the real world didn’t look good, it could be fun to go to Narnia or Middle Earth. Now, it’s worth noting that if you could get to either of those places, it wasn’t likely to mean that your life would be any happier than it was in the “real world”. Both of them had some pretty horrible things happening in them, with an abundance of violence and a low life expectancy. “Escaping from” doesn’t necessarily mean you want no conflict. You might just want to get away from something for a while.

It could also simply be fun. 🙂 Yes, Oz had problems…there was violence, and a surprising predominance of slavery, but at least after the first book (which really doesn’t fit in with the rest of the stories), you weren’t going to die. You could have fun adventures and read a plethora of puns. We geeks would get criticized for being childish. Kids were encouraged to stop living a “fairy tale life”, and get serious. We didn’t agree that having an imagination and getting things accomplished were contradictory. With the rise of technology, our case was strongly made…imagination could be what made you a material success, not a failure. Maybe, if you were going to work on an assembly line, letting your mind wander wasn’t a good thing. You needed to focus on the physical reality in front of you. As jobs became more varied, that became less of the only option.

I’d say those are some of the main reasons, but whenever I write a post like this, I expect (and hope) that someone will add to it. So, I’ll ask you: if you were a geek before geek became cool, why did you do it? Do you agree with my assessment that you can openly be a fan of geek-friendly works now? Do you think that there were hardcore fans who weren’t ashamed, hardcore “realists” who were never going to accept it, and a large group in the middle that weren’t passionately for or against, and have now decided it’s not a bad thing to be a geek? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Oh, and may the Force be with you! 😉

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*The fundamental difference between Star Trek and Star Wars

** “Skiffy” is a belittling term I would never use. It’s a deliberate corruption of “sci fi”, which was coined by the great Forry Ackerman as an abbreviation of “science fiction”, which went along with the then popular term “hi fi” for “high fidelity” (sound). It’s used to refer to works which the speaker thinks are not worthy of being called “science fiction”…they may have the accoutrement of more serious or “nobler” works, but are considered poor imitations. Interestingly, many people saw Star Wars as that when it was released…it was space opera, not an extrapolation of science, and they didn’t like it being called science fiction
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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