Archive for January, 2016

Prime on sale this weekend for $73

January 16, 2016

Prime on sale this weekend for $73

For new members,

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

is on sale this weekend (through 11:59 PM Pacific on Sunday, 1/17) for $73 for your first year instead of $99.

Prime is great and keeps getting better!

Among the benefits:

  • No additional cost two-day shipping on many items
  • No additional cost streaming (and some downloading) of a wide variety of videos
  • No additional cost streaming of lots of music
  • One free Kindle book a month to own from a very small set
  • No additional cost unlimited photo storage

You can also now do add-on subscriptions for video services…for example, you could add on Showtime for $8.99 a month. As the Millenial Hulk might say, “It’s cable cuttin’ time!” 😉

Update: I meant to include why they are doing this. 🙂

They are doing it to celebrate

Mozart in the Jungle (at AmazonSmile*)

which just won two Golden Globes (Best Television Show – Comedy or Musical, and Best Actor in the same category).

You can watch it as part of Prime at no additional cost…it’s also the second Amazon Studios TV series to be recognized.

Among other Prime movies and TV shows…

  • Interstellar
  • Ex Machina (came out in 2015, Oscar-nominated)
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (the one before last year’s)
  • Selma (particularly good for this weekend, but I thought it was brilliantly directed for any time of year)
  • The Craft
  • True Blood TV series
  • Firefly TV series

I did want to include something in this post for people who are already Prime members, and I haven’t written about this yet.

This holiday, I got a

HooToo Wireless Travel Router, USB Port, High Performance- TripMate Nano (at AmazonSmile*)

It was something I wanted to try…my Significant Other didn’t quite get what it was, but it’s been great for me!

It’s a little router…I’d say two of them could just about fit in your palm.

It does a number of things, but here’s a key one. You can plug in an internet cable (like you might have in a hotel or at work), and it creates its own wi-fi network, with its own password.

Yep, I can just go into a hotel, plug the cable into my HooToo, plug the HooToo into power (USB)…and that’s it. All of my devices would just log into it…and it’s fast!

I haven’t tested it in a lot of situations, but so far, I’m quite impressed!

How much does it cost?

At the time of writing…$17.99!

I know, that’s a lot of exclamation marks for me, but like I say, I’m happy with it at this point.

It’s not going to give you internet where you don’t already have it…but I could take our

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

to a hotel with us…gee, wouldn’t you just love being in the room next to ours? 😉

When people visit your home, you could also use this…and not give them the password to your regular wi-fi.

As I mentioned, it does other things…media streaming, storage, but I haven’t tried those yet.

Is this just how I feel about it?

4.3 stars (out of 5) with 1,187 on Amazon…

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.

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Concepts of Copyright

January 16, 2016

Concepts of Copyright

You are a reader.

What books you have to read depends, to a large degree, on copyright.

If there was no copyright protection, arguably, a lot of existing books would suddenly become available to you for free.

One of the questions, though, would be how it would affect future books.

Could someone make a living writing books if anyone could reproduce them and sell them with nothing paid to the author?

It is possible.

People might make a point of paying the author to support them.

Many people, though, wouldn’t, of course.

The USA didn’t invent copyright…it was at the least inspired by England’s Statute of Anne. America’s copyright came about 80 years afterwards, but even the idea that copyright belonged in the courts was derivative.

The copyright clause from 1787 explains the reasoning this way:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

There was a lot of discussion of the clause at that time…and the discussion still goes on today.

The way it is written, it doesn’t say anything about a natural right to the copyright…that authors should own their creations because they created them.

It says it is to “promote the Progress”: I think we can safely say that means to encourage the production of new works.

With that idea, it goes basically like this:

“Authors will not create if they can’t have compensation for having created their works, so we offer them protection for a limited time.”

After that, the works then become available to everybody.

How long should that term be?

That’s where some of my readers, have a very definite idea.

I respect these readers a great deal, and am…impressed by their passion.

I wanted to take a post to explore this a bit more.

First, I do want to bring up one thing that to me seems quite weird.

In much of the world, including the USA, the copyright term is based on the author’s life plus a certain number of years.

I’m open to a lot of things, but I particularly don’t like that one. 🙂

It seems inherently ageist and unfair, and I’m surprised that there haven’t been legal challenges to it.

It’s simple.

If you publish a book when you are 90 years old, and the copyright term is Life+70 years (which it is in the USA right now), you and your estate will be able to make a lot less money on it than if you published it when you were 20.

People also talk about Life+70 as being designed for the author’s kids to become mature adults.

So, should a childless author get a shorter copyright term?

The other reason I don’t like life+ systems is it makes it much harder to tell if something is in copyright or not. You can’t just look at the publication date and know.

My readers haven’t proposed that change (to a finite term), by the way.

I think a finite term would tend to “promote the progress”. Some books take a considerable amount of time and effort to create, especially some non-fiction. While a 90 year old might have the same passion to create as a 20 year old, the money they could get for the book would be less…because the publisher would have a shorter time to make money.

If there is a finite term, how long should it be?

Ah, there’s the rub. 😉

Proponents of shorter terms (as short as fourteen years) may believe that we have a shared culture. They may point out that, if Shakespeare was still under copyright, poorer people would have less access to it.

I think that’s a reasonable point…I read a lot of public domain works which I got legally for free.

However, those of lesser means can read in-copyright books now…through public libraries and donations, often from the publishers.

When I’ve explored the idea of permanent copyright (which would require amending the Constitution, so it’s very unlikely), I have suggested that, in exchange, greater Fair Use rights would be made available. I would allow the use of copyrighted books for scholastic study without compensation, for one thing.

Let’s ignore permanent for now.

What would be different if copyright was fourteen years versus if it was fourteen hundred years?

With the fourteen year term, you would be able to read a book published today for free in about a decade and a half.

That sounds good…but it seems obvious to me that publishers would have to do something different to make anything like the same amount of money they make now.

One option would be to charge a lot more money for the book. If a book can sell for, oh, one-fifth the amount of time it can now (at least, sell with compensation to the publisher), one could hypothetically charge five times as much for it to make the same amount of money.

That, of course, doesn’t work very well. 🙂

You wouldn’t sell the same number of copies.

Let’s go with $10 as a price for a new e-book novel (you can pay a lot less than that, of course, but we are really looking at the traditional publishing model right now). If the book cost $50, would as many people pay for it?

Nope.

Would piracy also increase?

Very likely.

Licensing might also tighten. We have what I consider to be quite generous licensing terms right now from the Kindle store. Typically, six people on the account can be reading the same book at the same time for one purchase price (what you are purchasing is a license). You could have 100 people (or more) on the account, and they could all read the same book…just, usually, not all at the same time.

If the rights are for a much shorter time, I would expect them to want to crack down on “serial reading”, where one person (or set of people) read the book, then another person does. I expect that my descendants can read my ebooks…clearly, with a fourteen year term, that’s not going to happen as much the same way. They’ll read the books for free.

As a purchaser, the value of the book goes down considerably if it’s only good for a relatively limited time…why not wait?

The value comes in reading it before other people, and while it is “hot”.

It becomes a luxury.

The value has gone down in terms of multiple readers with shorter terms, which could drive down the price, but the prestige has gone up, which could drive up the price.

Read the current Stephen King for $100, or one from the year 2000 for free? There would be people who would pay the $100, but there would be fewer of them.

I want to return at this point to the purpose of copyright.

I would say there are two basic conceptions here:

  • It is a business license
  • It is to protect a natural right

As a business license, it makes sense that it can be for a limited time. The only considerations, really, have to do with money. Authors are granted a limited term to have exclusive rights to the work so they can make money on it to encourage them (and others) to write more works, which benefits the culture.

After that limited time, the book becomes the property of the public, and becomes part of our shared culture.

The “natural right” concept says that the author created the work, and has a natural right to control its use. In that case, it seems to me that an unlimited copyright is a reasonable possibility.

One argument against the natural right means permanent argument is that the natural right only exists for the creator, and some extend it to the creator’s children. That creator’s children part supposedly explains life+70: seventy years is a reasonable approximation of life expectancy, so it means that if an author writes a book, dies right away, and has an infant child, that child can be supported by the book throughout its expected life. I find that a pretty unlikely scenario, personally.

Some people don’t like that properties end up under the control of a corporation: they say it then becomes “profits in perpetuity”, and that it likely is no longer benefiting the author or the author’s  descendants.

They wouldn’t want Disney or Sony determining how Mark Twain is used by the world, for example.

They also see it as benefiting an entity which has done nothing to deserve it.

The author, though, chose to license the rights to the publisher. If the author has control over the work, why isn’t that something they should be able to control? The longer the copyright term, the more potential value to the company, the more the likely purchase price will be. Authors should theoretically make more money when the copyright is longer, in terms of licensing fees.

It also seems to me that Disney has done a great deal of work on perpetuating the value of Mickey Mouse. The example of Mickey is often brought up in copyright discussions. We go back to Steamboat Willie, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon (1928). The Disney company has undeniably lobbied to have the copyright terms extended when Steamboat Willie’s protected end time was nigh. A 1998 act is sometimes colloquially referred to as the “Mickey Mouse Act”.

I’m not talking about those lobbying efforts as things Disney has done with Mickey…although that does show time and effort.

They have carefully promoted the character.

They have built on it over time.

Anybody who doesn’t think the Disney corporation is a large factor in why we even think the rights to Steamboat Willie are valuable…well, I’d be interested in hearing the arguments that without the Disney corporation, Mickey Mouse would be equally as valuable today as it would be if copyright had run out on Steamboat Willie in 1942 (or 1956…the original 14 year copyright term was renewable once).

Another argument in favor of earlier public domain status is that it allows more creative works to happen. People can then build upon the earlier works.

Two iconic examples of that are West Side Story (based on Romeo and Juliet) and Forbidden Planet (based on The Tempest).

The argument goes that those wouldn’t exist if the original Shakespeare works weren’t in the public domain.

I’m not convinced of that.

If the creators of those works had to license the originals, would that have made been an impossible hurdle or unreasonable burden?

Sure, it would have been up to the rightsholder. If the hypothetical “We Bought Shakespeare Corporation” didn’t like science fiction, or didn’t want the social commentary of West Side Story to happen, they could have refused the rights.

That is a perfectly legitimate argument: that’s a point I understand, about not wanting a limited group to control how something which is part of our shared culture to be used.

I also think it isn’t as simple as to say that when something is in-copyright, creativity is stymied.

Let’s say you wanted to take the beloved Archie Andrews characters (Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and so on), and put them into a violent zombie comic. That would be up to the publisher…and Archie Comics allowed just that with the popular and critically-acclaimed

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

If Archie had been in the public domain, anyone could have created an Afterlife with Archie type comic, of course…but how many people would ever have seen it? Since it was under license (being in-copyright) to a major distributor, it could get comic book store distribution…and the company spent money on promotion and quality control.

What about Superman flying or the existence of Kryptonite? Both brought to the company from outside, both approved by the company (see my article, xxy).

Remember, also, that in the USA, parody is protected by copyright. There are also some rights around “fanfic” (fan created fiction), at least where characters are not trademarked. What allows both of those? Fair Use. I do think that balancing longer copyright terms with greater Fair Use provisions is a possible balance.

Stepping away from the corporations for a minute, another argument I hear is that people don’t want there to be a class of people who are well off through inheritance, in this case, inheritance of intellectual property rights. That’s an interesting question of social engineering. My own feeling on that is that it should apply in a similar manner to other property rights. If intellectual property rights have limited inheritance, so should other property rights. I’m sure there are people who would agree with that:  I’ve seen serious proposals for a 100% death tax: you die, and your property goes to the government, which then uses it to for the public good…including taking care of orphans, presumably.

I think that sort of discussion is beyond the scope of this post. 😉

Oh, I also hear people say that authors are only able to create their works because of the society in which they grew up, and that the audience for their works exists because of society. The public paid for their educations, and the readers can read because of the school system. When people say that, I wonder…do they think someone who immigrated here as adult and then wrote a book should get a longer copyright term, because they don’t have to “reimburse” society for the public schooling? 😉 Do we really educate people only as a loan for the good they can do society, and they should have to pay it back? What if someone calculated the costs of their education, then paid the government that money, then wrote a book…should they be entitled to longer copyright terms?

I’ve gone on quite long enough, but I do want to make one more point.

The 14 year term came about in 1787.

What was the intent of that length?

Presumably, it had something to with exploitation of the value of the created work, and the point at which it would benefit the public for it to be free to copy

I would suggest that neither of those are the same today.

There are so many more revenue streams today than there were in 1787.

One of the most significant is movie/TV adaptation.

Publishers, and authors, can make a great deal of money from licensing the rights for the kind of media adaptations which just didn’t exist in 1787.

If the copyright term was fourteen years, how often would a movie or television studio simply choose to wait fourteen years before spending significant money on the production? A book might not become popular for a few years after publication, which makes it a shorter time from interest to screen.

Of course, on the flip side, how many movie studios would pay $200m to make a blockbuster movie…when it would be free to distribute in fourteen years? I’m guessing you could say good-bye to movies like Star Wars:  The Force Awakens and Jurassic World  if the copyright term was significantly shorter.

At any rate, this is all a very complex topic. I’m not decided on anything (although, as I mentioned, I really don’t like life+ terms). There are people who have it as a matter of faith (they believe they will never change their minds) that copyright terms should be short, or that there should be no copyright, or that it should be permanent. I’m not one of those folks.

I know, as a writer myself, I’m probably emotionally prejudiced in favor of longer terms. I do feel like I should own my creations (although I 100% accept the idea of Fair Use, including where my own works are concerned). I can set aside emotional prejudice, though: I suppose that’s one reason I’ve been on three juries in the past ten years. 😉

I’m very interested in what you think about this. I have no doubt many of my regular readers are skipping this one, and waiting for something lighter in the next post…which is okay by me. Others of you are deeply interested and will want to express your opinions to me and my readers. Feel free to do so by commenting on this post.

 

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

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

** A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. In this particular case, text-to-speech is not available, but that will be due to a technical issue. The “text” is actually part of the illustrations, and not available to TTS.

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.

Book related 2016 Oscar noms (and two you can watch with Amazon Prime)

January 14, 2016

Book related 2016 Oscar noms (and two you can watch with Amazon Prime)

The Oscar nominations were announced this morning: I cover those pretty extensively in The Measured Circle, another blog of mine:

2016 Oscar noms

However, I did think it was worth noting book-related nominations here…you might want to read them, and yes, movie adaptations effect which books are available to us. While most authors can’t count on an adaptation, it’s clearly part of the appeal to publishers…can the rights be sold for a movie, TV show, videogame, and so on?

Before I do that, I wanted to mention something I thought was cool. 🙂

I could actually watch two of the Oscar-nominated movies right away as part of

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

I could do it on my (now discontinued) Kindle Fire HDX, or really, any of the Fire tablets (or my now discontinued Fire Phone).

I’d be more likely to watch them on our

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

or our

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

We use one of each. 🙂

The two movies are:

Ex Machina (at AmazonSmile*)

which was nominated for Special Effects and Original Screenplay (note: this one is NSFW…Not Safe For Work, with nudity and violence)

and

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (at AmazonSmile*)

which was nominated for Makeup and Hairstyling.

Only one of those was based on a book…we’ll get there next. 🙂

Again, you can watch those at no additional cost as part of your Amazon Prime memberships. Other nominees are available on Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go (for no additional cost streaming).

Okay…books credited as being the basis (at least in part) for 2016 Oscar-nominated movies:

Best Picture nominees:

The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge (at AmazonSmile*) by Michael Punke
Room (at AmazonSmile*) by Emma Donoghue (who also wrote the screen adaptation)
Brooklyn (at AmazonSmile*) by Colm Tóibín
The Martian (at AmazonSmile*) by Andy Weir (originally published in novel form as a Kindle indie)
The Big Short (The Big Short (at AmazonSmile*) by Michael Lewis

Lead Actor nominees:

TRUMBO (at AmazonSmile*) by Bruce Cook
The Revenant (see above)
The Martian (see above)
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (not linked due to text-to-speech being blocked**)
The Danish Girl (at AmazonSmile*) by David Ebershoff

Lead Actress nominees:

Carol (at AmazonSmile*) by Patricia Highsmith
Room (see above)
Brooklyn (see above)
45 Years (In Another Country: Selected Stories) (at AmazonSmile*) by David Constantine

Supporting Actor nominees:

The Revenant (see above)
The Big Short (see above)

Supporting Actress nominees:

The Danish Girl (see above)
Steve Jobs (see above)
Carol (see above)

Directing nominees:

The Revenant (see above)
The Big Short (see above)
Room (see above)

Adapted Screenplay nominees (all listed above):

The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian
Room

Animated Feature nominees:

When Marnie Was There (at AmazonSmile*) by Joan G. Robinson

Cinematography nominees:

Carol (see above)
The Revenant (see above)

Editing nominees:

The Big Short (see above)
The Revenant (see above)

Production Design nominees (all listed above):

The Martian
The Revenant
The Danish Girl

Costume nominees (all listed above):

The Revenant
Carol
The Danish Girl

Score nominees:

Carol (see above)

Song nominees:

Spectre (based on characters by Ian Fleming)
Fifty Shades of Grey (at AmazonSmile*) by E L James

Sound Mixing nominees:

The Revenant (see above)
The Martian (see above)

Sound Editing nominees:

The Revenant (see above)
The Martian (see above)

Visual Effects nominees:

The Revenant (see above)
The Martian (see above)

I thought I’d mention that the last Hunger Games movie was shut out, which did surprise me a bit. 🙂 I thought it was likely for Makeup and Hairstyling at least.

I was also pleased that only one out of these books had text-to-speech access blocked.** That was nice! I recently wrote to another author to inform them about TTS being blocked on a book which I might otherwise have read. That didn’t work last time, but I feel better doing it. 🙂

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

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

** A Kindle/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.

Round up #315: Big retailer on campus, Kindle indie wins Golden Globe

January 12, 2016

Round up #315: Big retailer on campus, Kindle indie wins Golden Globe

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

From Kindle indie to Golden Globe

Congratulations to Andy Weir!

The adaptation of

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

which was published as a ninety-nine cent Kindle indie (independently published book), after having been given away as a serial, won a Golden Globe this weekend!

That marks a considerable change in the industry.

Now, it is important to point out that it was traditionally published (tradpubbed) in-between, but that demonstrates one model for tradpubs for the future.

They may be able to take fewer chances themselves on unknown authors or offbeat topics, and instead, let indie authors take the (considerably lower) risks. After a book demonstrates having a market, then they can bid for it and get their machines in motion.

It won for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, one of the top two whole movie awards.

There has been quite a bit of commentary about it having competed in the comedy category, but that’s like the categories that show up for books on Amazon…the people behind the property choose where to submit them. This was my tweet on that:

“Don’t be an Earthist, Tim. We don’t judge what you think is funny.” –Martin O’Hara on win at

😉

It’s also likely to get significant Oscar nominations on Thursday.

I want to additionally note that Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle also took top honors. That’s important, because it proves that Transparent wasn’t a fluke…that Amazon is an important player in original video. That affects us as readers because what affects Amazon generally can also impact what they do with regards to books and e-book readers/tablets.

How Amazon is ending Barnes & Noble’s college store business

One of Barnes & Noble’s (relative) bright spots has been their university stores.

They have often been the place on campus to get…well, a lot of things, going beyond books to pens, paper clips, t-shirts, and other items.

As laid out in this

Amazon press release

I think Amazon has really figured out how to disrupt their model.

They started in 2015 but are moving up a bit by opening at the University of Pennsylvania. That’s not to minimize Purdue or UMass (or their other two locations), of course, but it is an “ivy league” location.

Students can order by noon and pick up items the same day in a staffed location.

That’s great, but they are also making it a practical working and social site:

“In addition to mobile-enabled, self-service package pick up, it will be the firstAmazon pickup location to feature communal work spaces with interactive media pods where students can connect their laptops and mobile devices to TV monitors for presentations, brainstorming, studying, and collaborating.”

Gee, are they going to sell coffee and really hurt Barnes & Noble’s core business? 😉

No, but they are opening in the dining facility! They won’t need to sell coffee.

They are expanding this to two more universities this year…Berkely and Davis (also in my area).

I think this model could very well in other areas, like business parks. I don’t think you’d see it in shopping malls…but if it is a destination where you are already, I think it could be huge.

Strong rumor: new, portable, cheaper Echo

In this Wall Street Journal article by Greg Bensinger

Amazon to Release Portable Version of Echo Speaker in Coming Weeks

(if the link only shows you part of the story, try pasting the title of the story into Google)

they give some details on a rumored little sibling of the

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

This is now definitely an e-books story, by the way, since the Echo now does text-to-speech in addition to audiobooks.

It would fit into your hand…and would not need to be plugged in to work! It would charge up, and then you could carry it around with you.

You would need to push a button on it to get it to listen to you…the battery drain would reportedly be too much to have it listening all the time.

I would definitely want one! 🙂

I put this in the “strong rumor” category, because the WSJ is pretty reliable…and they have convincing sounding details (code name: “Fox”).

I’m also looking for Alexa to come to my Ford Fusion, and it sounds like that might be on the way as well.

Oh, and I want Alexa on my phone. 🙂

See, one of the things they’ve done is make Alexa a central repository for some things for me, like a Shopping List and a To Do. I can read those and manually edit them in the app on my phone…but I can’t talk to Alexa through my phone.

Big things are coming!

Fourth generation Fires are getting updated to Fire OS 5 soon

I was excited to see a notification from Amazon appear on my (now discontinued) Kindle Fire HDX that it would be updated to Fire OS 5 soon…I have that on our newest generation Fire, and it’s a big improvement.

However, they sent it by mistake. 🙂

I got a e-mail from Amazon that said in part:

“Recently we sent a message to your Amazon Fire tablets about a software update coming soon. We wanted to clarify that this update is for your 4th generation Fire tablet and will start rolling out in the coming weeks.”

My 7″ HDX is a third generation…they did a 4th generation 8.9″ HDX, the 7″ HDX is a 3rd generation.

You can tell which version you have here:

Which Fire tablet do I have? (at AmazonSmile*)

Update to Kindle for iOS

Amazon sent me some information about a new update for Kindle for iOS (Apple devices):

  • Native Social Sharing –  This feature makes it easier than ever to recommend a book to a friend or chat about a funny quote. Kindle book readers (or senders) can recommend the book or share a quote from the book with whomever they want – one friend, a group of friends, or more. Customers can choose from the apps they use every day to chat with friends like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, as well as email, texting, and more.
  • Parallel downloads – up to 3 books will download at the same time, allowing customers to get to their content faster
  • Audible player adjustments – remove the (X) from the Audible player bar to simplify the CX and align with other platforms”

I think the big one for most people there will be parallel downloads! Currently, you have to wait for one book to download, then the next one starts.

I’ll be looking forward to that coming to other Kindle platforms!

What do you think? Would a place to pick up Amazon packages, and to use multimedia and wi-fi, work in an office park? Why would someone shop at a B&N university store if this was available? Have you tried text-to-speech on yur Echo yet (by the way, I expect that to come to the Fire TV family soon)? Does it bug you that Apple mobile devices get some features before other devices? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

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

Amazon revised the public domain publishing policy again, and I think it’s…

January 11, 2016

Amazon revised the public domain publishing policy again, and I think it’s…

great! 🙂

Back in 2011, I wrote about

New guidelines for public domain content

for publishers (often one person) using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

At that point, they required that original material be added to public domain works for them to be published through KDP.

Let me explain that a bit more.

A “public domain” work is one that is not under copyright protection…in this case, that would often involve a book where the copyright term has expired. That work is no longer owned by the author or the author’s estate…the public now owns it (hence “public domain”).

Throughout the history of copyright in the USA, there has been a limited term of protection*. In fact, the idea of a limited time is in the original “copyright clause” of the Constitution:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

So, once a book falls into the public domain, anyone can publish it and sell it and do whatever they want with it, without having to get permission from or pay anybody who originally created it.

One advantage of that to society is that it is a way for books (and magazines and newspapers) to become available to the public again. If you have a book in your garage which is out of copyright, you could digitize it and put it online…legally.

This is, by the way, not quite the same as “orphan works”. You may hear about that. The issue there is books which are not in the public domain, are “out of print”…and have no one to “speak for them”. For example, a book might have been published in the 1950s by a publisher that then went out of business, but had no “reversion rights” (under which the rights would have gone back to the author or author’s estate). That is being reviewed at the national level.

The one big drawback to Amazon’s 2011 policy was that it likely had a chilling effect on the variety of books available to us…and may have lead to the loss of some material.

Why is that?

Quite simply, not everyone is a creator. If someone had a box of old magazines in the garage, they might have digitized them and made them available (for a price) through the Kindle store…but not if they had to write something new about them.

Under the 2011 policy,they might have just tossed them.

Well, I was looking today, and the policy has changed! It now says

“In order to provide a better customer buying experience, our policy is to not publish undifferentiated versions of public domain titles where a free version is available in our store.”
https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2OHLJURFVK57Q

This should make more books available to us…and provide people with another way to make some money. The money can compensate them for the not inconsiderable work of digitizing a public domain work.

I have done that myself in my work with a non-profit (in the past)**.

In fact, this makes it quite a bit more likely that I will digitize some of the works I have for the Kindle store…and ones that aren’t available now. Don’t look for anything soon…it does take quite a while to do it reasonably well. It will be on my list of things, though. 🙂

If you have some old books/magazines/newspapers, and are curious as to whether or not they might be in the public domain, I recommend starting with the

That can show you if a book is pretty definitely in the public domain.

If that doesn’t say it is the case, then you can go to

http://copyright.gov/records/index.html

and start researching there.

Within certain timeframes, you can determine if a work is in the public domain there.

It’s all gotten much more complicated since it became no longer necessary to include a copyright notice, among other things. Copyright is now automatic…you don’t have to register them, although it can help.

The Copyright Office is working on getting older records to be searchable online through the Digitization and Public Access Project…they are making progress, but they don’t indicate they are done yet.

Summing up, I think that this loosening of the guideline is a good thing which may save some works from being lost, give us more options for things to read, and provide another possible revenue stream for individuals and organizations.

What do you think? Do you read public domain works? Do you think it’s reasonable for someone to charge for a book they didn’t write or help to initially create? Do you have any works you might digitize? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this work.

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

* I have explored the idea of permanent copyright in exchange for more robust Fair Use rules in Should copyright be permanent?

**One of the books I digitized (and Norberto Pellicci worked on it after me) was Behind the Flying Saucers [Annotated] (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping) I  added an afterword where I gave some of the historical context

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.

New! Text-to-speech comes to the Echo!

January 9, 2016

New! Text-to-speech comes to the Echo!

This is one of those crossover stories, which belongs both here and in my The Measured Circle blog!

You can now use your

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

to listen to text-to-speech!

This is a huge development for me, and it will be for other people.

People with print disabilities, for example, can use the Echo to read a book…and making the request verbally may be a lot easier than using a tablet. It also means they don’t need to have a tablet. 🙂

I would expect it to come to the

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

and

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

soon (it wasn’t there right now)…meaning that a print disabled  person could have a TTS device for under $50.

It’s very simple. Just say, “Alexa, read The War of the Worlds” or whatever book is in your Cloud which has not had text-to-speech access blocked by the publisher (and has text…graphic novels usually aren’t accessible to TTS even if the publisher doesn’t take an action to block it).

It also means that kids can have Alexa read to them…no, I don’t think that’s the same as a loving adult reading to them, but it could still be good developmentally, and might really help with kids with certain learning disabilities as they sight-read and listen at the same time.

You can tell which books you have with TTS available by going to the Alexa app and going to

Home – Menu (three horizontal lines) – Kindle Books

You can see more details in my post in The Measured Circle:

New to Alexa/the Echo: movie times and making phone calls…and text-to-speech!

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.

The four books I’m (actively) reading now

January 8, 2016

The four books I’m (actively) reading now

I’ve mentioned before that I read more than one book at a time.

That’s always been the case with me…and it’s one of the reasons I like e-books and the Kindle so much.

I used to leave books in different rooms in the house, and just read whatever book happened to be in the room I was in at that time.

I know a lot of people don’t do that (my Significant Other doesn’t). You get one book, and read it straight through, then just go on to another book.

Just not my style.  🙂

I never get the books confused. I think reading them in different contexts probably helps with that…I’m reading the same book in the same setting.

As a trainer, I know how important context can be.

There was a great study where they taught people something when they were standing in water (I think up to their waists). When they re-tested people, those who were standing in water again could do it much better than those on dry land.

Here’s a context memory trick I give people.

Let’s say you are in the car and you hear something mentioned on the radio: a phone number, a website, or maybe a book title. You want to remember it later, but you can’t write it down or record it easily.

Slap your leg, then say what it is you want to remember out loud.

When you get home, sit down again…simulating the car. Slap your leg (same hand, same leg) and you’ll probably remember it.

I also had a great example of it. I was helping someone at their desk in an office. They said (approximately), “I don’t know why I can’t remember how to do this…I knew it before.”

I looked up and said, “Was there a picture behind your computer before?” There had been, and it had just recently been removed.

That was the problem.

If we had gotten the picture back, the person would have known how to do it. As it was, we had to retrain…

So,  I like reading multiple books at once, and don’t have a problem with that.

Right now, I’m actively reading four books…by actively, I mean I read all of them just about every day. There are a number of other books I’m reading…but that’s more catch as catch can. I’ve been rationing

Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

because I like it a lot, it’s short essays, so it makes a great transitional “emergency book”, when I’m between other books.

I only read it maybe once in a month, so I don’t consider that one an active one.

Here are the four I am actively reading…and why these. 🙂

I’m re-reading an omnibus edition of the fourteen original Oz books by L. Frank Baum. The edition I have is no longer available, so I’m not linking. I’ve never been a re-reader, so this is a bit of an experiment for me. I read it on my

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

when I’m going to sleep…usually not even completing a chapter at a time.

It is interesting: I am seeing new things as I re-read them, even though I’m a big fan.

At home, I’m also reading

Who Goes There? (at AmazonSmile*) by John W. Campbell

on my

All-New Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile*)

This work (shorter than a novel) was the inspiration for the science fiction classic The Thing (from Another World), and other versions (including John Carpenter’s gonzo adaptation starring Kurt Russell). I’ve never read it before, and one non-spoiler but that surprised me. One character seems to me to clearly be Doc Savage! The character is described very much like Doc, and it would make perfect sense for Doc Savage to be in this situation under an alias.

When I’m out on the road, I’d usually be focused on one book…but a gift that I got,

The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History (at AmazonSmile*) by Jon Morris

has some great excerpts..typically, a cover or one page from these mostly public domain works.

Text-to-speech is important to me, and I don’t want to miss the illustrations, so this isn’t my book for the car. I’m reading it on my now discontinued Kindle Fire HDX. I’m loving this one! Good scholarship and context, and the right amount of snark. 😉 Not disrespectful, but pointing out some of the ridiculousness of some of these characters. I mean, with many of these origins, the hero survives something which should have killed them, but somehow imbues them with incredible powers instead. I guess what doesn’t kill you makes you super…

In the car, I’m listening to

The Man Who Fell to Earth (at AmazonSmile*) by Walter Tevis

I’m reading this one as a borrow from

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

I certainly knew about the book…I think I own a paper copy, but I’d never read it.

At this point, although it is certainly worth reading, I’d say like the movie better. I’ll also say that David Bowie was perfectly cast….

Well, those are my actively reading books (I’m also reading a couple of  magazines). What about you? How books are you actively reading? Are you happy just reading one book at a time? Feel free to me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

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

LTO on Fire tablets: power bank for $15.99

January 6, 2016

LTO on Fire tablets: power bank for $15.99

Limited Time Offer on Fire tablets, running out quickly: power bank (recharge mobile devices on the go) for $15.99.

I’m on my phone so this is just a heads up before they are gone.

None of the top 10 bestselling USA Kindle store books are from the Big 5

January 6, 2016

None of the top 20 bestselling USA Kindle store books are from the Big 5

In my The Year in E-Books 2015, and other places, I’ve noted that Amazon is putting a lot of effort into having less dependence on the Big 5 tradpubs (traditional publishers): Hachette; Macmillan; Simon & Schuster; HarperCollins; and Penguin Random House.

Well, at least in the USA Kindle store, they appear to be achieving it.

I just checked the

Top 100 Paid (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and none of the top 10 were from the Big 5!

Here’s the detail on the top ten:

Rank Title Price Publisher K1st? KU? TTS? X-Ray? Word Wise? Lending? WSV Stars Reviews
1 The Moonlit Garden $5.99 Amazon Yes Not Yet Yes Yes Yes No No 4.2 26
2 Fields of Wrath $5.99 Amazon Yes Not Yet Yes Yes Yes No No 4.7 18
3 Harmony Black $5.99 Amazon Yes Not Yet Yes No Yes No No 4.7 47
4 Yours Completely $0.99 Indie No Yes Yes No Yes No No 4.6 136
5 The Short Drop $5.99 Amazon No Yes Yes Yes No No No 4.7 2,605
6 Becoming Marta $5.99 Amazon Yes Not Yet Yes Yes No No No 3.6 18
7 A Shade of Vampire $0.99 Indie Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No 4.3 5,225
8 Simply Tuesday $8.19 Revell No No Yes No No Yes No 4.9 258
9 Captain Riley $5.99 Amazon Yes Not Yet Yes Yes Yes No No 4.4 10
10 The Girl with No Past $2.99 Indie No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No 3.9 434

#12 is from Penguin Random House…but it’s also worth noting that it is priced at $1.99.

In fact, I didn’t hit a book that was over $9.99 until #21 (The Girl on the Train).

So many of these books were in

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

or will be (the Kindle 1st books, published by Amazon, can’t be in KU until they are published on February 1st), that I thought they had to be counting borrows in calculating this.

Why?

My guess is that being in KU might reduce sales…would you be just as likely to buy a buy a book that you can borrow as one that you can’t?

However, it could conceivably go the other way: people read or sample a book as part of KU, and then buy it for themselves or someone else.

I’m not seeing anything that indicates that KU is part of calculating sales…although I’m not seeing anything that clearly excludes it.

Text-to-speech is available on all of the books (yay!), but oddly, I didn’t see that any of them were Whispersync for Voice enabled, and that’s usually quite high. Maybe they’ve just changed the display of that information, and I’m not seeing it.

Pretty simply, based on the top sellers, Amazon really doesn’t need the Big 5…at least for Kindle formats. That’s a very small sample, though.

I serendipitously bumped into two things while writing this post.

One was this

Kindle Sales Rank calculator at Kindlepreneur

Supposedly, you put in the sales rank number, and it tells you about how many books (really licenses) a day are being sold.

I don’t know how accurate it is, but it was intriguing.

I’m surprised I didn’t know that site. I’ll have to read through it, but it looks interesting. The first blog post looks like it was in February of last year.

It appears to be centered around how authors can make more money through Kindle editions…and looks professionally designed, with actual numbers for some stats. I’ll give you a fuller report when I’ve had time to assess it.

The second thing was

Kindle Unlimited All-Stars (at AmazonSmile*)

According to Amazon, this is based on “…adding up the number of books sold, borrows from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and the number of books read in Kindle Unlimited.”

It’s even searchable here:

Kindle Unlimited All-Stars by Featured (at AmazonSmile*)

ILMK has the

ILMK Readers’ Recommendations: book discovery zone

but more resources are good. 🙂

I used my personal Kindle Unlimited wish list to pick a book this morning…I’m reading The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis (inspiration for the David Bowie movie).

I think KU is going to be of increasing importance, and the Big 5 are doing to need to figure out what to do about that: either join it or really ramp up D2C (Direct to Customer) efforts…

There could be a seasonal impact here: people might have bought tradpubs more during the holiday season and when they were spending gift certificates. The beginning of the month probably also benefits Kindle 1st books.

Regardless, my feeling is this is making the selections more customer-friendly…

What do you think? 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!

* 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.

Does the e-book sales plateau represent the digital divide?

January 5, 2016

Does the e-book sales plateau represent the digital divide?

This

American Libraries article by Alan S. Inouye

is one of the most insightful and interesting articles I’ve ever read on the current state and future of e-books.

It gets answers from four experts to a series of questions…and I found each of them worth reading.

I’ll pause for a moment for you to make the emotional commitment to read that article.

Ready? Good. 😉

I wanted to focus on one inference I drew from what was said.

After the introduction of the Kindle in 2007, the growth in the e-book market (which had been, to use a technical term, teeny tiny before that), was remarkable.

It was faster than the growth of some other digital media markets.

I thought that e-books would clearly dominate within about five years (and I speak as a former manager of a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and someone with something like 10,000 paperbooks on shelves in my home).

I was wrong…but I may also have been right.

First, I have to say that we may not really know how many books being obtained in the USA are e-books. The issue is that it was and still is much easier to tell how many books are sold by the traditional publishers (tradpubs) than it is by indies (independents).

Many, possibly most, e-books sold by independents are sold through Amazon…and Amazon is notably reticent to release actual sales figures.

It may be that we are able to measure reasonably well the e-books sold by tradpubs versus the p-books (paperbooks) they sell, and that we simply aren’t able to reliably measure the e-books sold by indies. The USA Kindle store typically averages adding well over a thousand titles a day…and a tiny percentage of those are from tradpubs.

However…

Let’s go from the assumption that our ability to measure that hasn’t gotten significantly worse, and that e-book sales have actually slowed down…maybe even having plateaued (stabilized).

Why would that have happened?

I hadn’t really thought about it this way before reading the article, but maybe what happened is that the market of serious readers (one person in the article refers to them as “core readers”) has overwhelmingly converted to e-books…and casual readers haven’t.

That makes sense.

E-books, especially in the beginning, required an investment.

People tended to buy a fairly expensive piece of hardware (the first Kindle was around $400) on which to read them.

Now, that’s less true.

You can buy a

Fire, 7″ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

for about $50, and you can get the

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

EBR (E-Book Reader) for about $80.

You can (and many people do) read e-books on SmartPhones…and while those aren’t inexpensive, many people feel they are essential. Home refrigerator/freezers aren’t inexpensive…but once people had them, it created a market for convenience foods that weren’t individually expensive, and has very probably affected some markets like restaurants, milk delivery, and local grocery stores/farmers’ markets.

What may have happened is that the serious readers were more willing to lay out for the devices, and more willing to try e-books.

The advantage of individual e-books being cheaper than p-books (which has generally, although not universally, been the case) helps people who get more books more. Let’s just say you could save $4 per e-book. If you bought a hundred books, you saved the $400 for the first Kindle…and serious readers could easily do that in a year. A casual reader, who might buy, oh, let’s call it four books in a year, needs 25 years to break even.

The same thing goes for the advantage of storage. As I mentioned, I have quite a few p-books…we dedicate a room in the house to be a floor-to-ceiling library. Many casual readers keep very few books in the house, and never take more than one book out with them when, for instance, running errands. They just don’t get the same advantage.

Could it be that the roughly 25% of the measurable market of e-books sales might represent perhaps 90% of the purchases of serious readers?

Yes, I think that’s possible…and if true, would explain the plateau.

Does that mean e-book growth is done?

Nope.

I agree with people in the article who think that e-book growth will rebound.

For one thing, there are those SmartPhones, and increasingly, tablets. If reading a book is happening on the same screen where you do everything else, it becomes more likely for casual readers.

For another, casual readers may slowly start to convert to e-book sales.

One of the reasons casual readers buy books is to give them as gifts.

Currently, the perception is that a physical book is a better gift than an e-book.

Over time, that may change.

When people’s sense of what serious readers do is to read e-books, that may be what people give.

Here’s another reason:

Casual readers buy books because of their kids needing them for school, and for educational purposes.

When schools inevitably switch more strongly to e-books (inevitable because of cost, including loss and damage), kids’ parents won’t be knocking on a bookstore’s door just after closing for a book needed for a book report the next morning (I literally had that happen).

E-books are better for education…and they will keep getting better.

I know, that’s an unusually definitive statement for me.

I think, though, it’s hard to argue that having a built-in dictionary isn’t better for learning than needing a separate dictionary.

That doesn’t mean stand-alone dictionaries don’t have value…I read an unabridged one cover to cover when I was a kid. They have value, but especially for a disadvantaged child, they may not be readily available. E-books mean that everybody has a dictionary, and that they are used in context.

There are also the links to the web (including Wikipedia, but not limited to it), and features like “mentioned in this book”, which can facilitate additional reading (including from diverse viewpoints on the same topic).

So, I think that slowly, three of the main drivers for casual readers will convert to a much greater degree to e-books:

  • Gifts
  • Education
  • Sporadic personal reading (such as on vacation)

In the meantime, though, I think it’s reasonable to be concerned that e-books heighten the digital divide.

I’ve been a big proponent of e-books broadening reading access, and I do think that’s true. Someone of little means can read the great literature of the world for free. They may need to go to the library to have access to a computer, but for public domain books (those not under copyright protection), they will have very broad access. Many people have some sort of internet access available to them at home, or at school. We see this especially in “developing” countries, where e-books have been used to get literature to places where getting p-books would be impractical (see, for example, WorldReader.org).

In the next few years it may be true that serious readers with more means may have access to more traditionally published books than those without those resources…and that they will access to more research tools.

It’s not a big concern of mine, and it is an argument to try to speed up the adoption of e-books in those casual readers.

It is, though, interesting…

Summing up, I may have incorrectly predicted the e-book market based on me and readers like me, and missed the prediction for the broader market where adoption may have been much slower.

What do you think? Do e-books heighten or lessen the digital divide? Is there actually an e-book sales plateau, or is it just a case of measurability? If there is, is it because of serious readers having converted to a much greater degree than casual readers? Was there anything else in the American Libraries article which especially struck you? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

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


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