Archive for October, 2016

Twilight on sale for $2.99…and other vampire fiction

October 15, 2016

Twilight on sale for $2.99…and other vampire fiction

One of today’s

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

is

Twilight (The Twilight Saga Book 1) by Stephenie Meyer (at AmazonSmile*)

for $2.99.

The young adult vampire novel was a huge hit, reaching #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, spawning three direct sequels, a gender-swapped 10th anniversary version (the book was released in 2005), a massive movie franchise, a graphic novel, and more.

It arguably ushered in a new era in young adult success (especially if you consider Harry Potter to be for a younger set of readers)

It’s often credited as bringing back from the dead (so to speak) vampire novels…but I would suggest that Anne Rice’s

Interview with the Vampire (at AmazonSmile*)

had already done that in 1976…with its sequels continuing the mainstream acceptance.

Being about a generation apart, though, Twilight deserves its own spot in popular vampire literature history.

That history is a long one, going back (in popular prose fiction form) to

The Vampyre; a Tale by John Polidori (at AmazonSmile*)

in 1819.

It was clearly inspired in part by Lord Byron’s 1813 poem, The Giaour, which I’ll excerpt below:

But first, on earth as Vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the stem.

Polidori was Byron’s personal physician, and was part of that ghost-story-telling summer that also produced Frankenstein from Mary Shelley.

1847 saw the publication of a “penny dreadful” called

Varney the Vampire Or the Feast of Blood by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest (at AmazonSmile*)

A penny dreadful was the British equivalent of a “dime novel”…and what mass market paperbacks and later the early popular e-books largely were: unpretentious, often clearly-defined genre fiction.

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, published in 1872, was another important piece of vampire fiction.

Admittedly, those aren’t well-known nowadays…but Bram Stoker’s 1897 “Dracula” certainly is. It’s been adapted for movies and TV, many, many times and in many ways. It established much of the modern mythology of the vampire…although some of it really derives from the 1931 Bela Lugosi adaptation of the stage play. In that movie, Dracula can only change into a bat, while in the novel, the Count can (and does) become a mist and a wolf as well. It’s worth noting that Le Fanu and Stoker knew each other.

Vampires continued to be a part of genre fiction over the next fifty years or so, but weren’t really part of the mainstream. There were a lot of variations, including vampires from space.

1954’s I Am Legend (at AmazonSmile*) by Richard Matheson was highly influential. It brought us the urban vampire, one that existed in our world, our neighborhoods. It also had a scientific explanation for vampires, although that had happened before. One human besieged by “monsters” was used by other works (such as Night of the Living Dead), and the demoralizing tone was different from the adventure or horror stories that had been commonly seen.

Outside of these, there are literally hundreds of vampire books, and notable series. A handful of others:

  • Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris’s  (the basis for the True Blood TV series)
  • Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton
  • The Hollows series by Kim Harrison
  • The Hunger by Whitley Strieber
  • ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

You could probably just read vampire fiction for the rest of your life, if you wanted. 🙂

On the other hand, maybe you’d rather not spend a lot of money on vampire novels…well, you can get some of the ones I mentioned in this post for free, and this is a really good deal on Twilight. It’s the right month for it… 🙂

Do you have other vampire novels you’d particularly recommend? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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.

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New! Collection management comes to MYCD (Manage Your Content and Devices)

October 13, 2016

New! Collection management comes to MYCD (Manage Your Content and Devices)

Thanks to a reader who let me know in a private e-mail (if you want credit in the blog, just let me know) about a new development!

It’s something people have wanted for years…or at least, it’s a step in that direction.

There was a banner at

MYCD (Manage Your Content and Devices), formerly MYK (Manage Your Kindle)> (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

saying,

“Cloud Collection Management is launched. Cloud Collections can be created, edited, and shared from the Manage Your Content and Devices page.”

I’ve had a chance to check it out, and it’s going to be useful, but it may not be everything people expect (but what is?). 😉

A little overview on Collections first…

“Collections” are sort of like folders on a computer or a phone. They are organizational tools. You can “put” books (and some other items) “into” these Collections.

The Collection is not the books, though. You can delete the Collection without losing the books.

Originally (once we eventually got them), the Collection just lived on one device. You created it on your Kindle (nowadays, that might also be a Fire device), and it was just there…it didn’t exist on another device on your account. You could import them, but that was a bit tricky.

Then, Amazon introduced “Cloud Collections” in 2013…I wrote about them in some depth here:

Understanding Cloud Collections

Those were visible from any compatible devices on your account…and I use them a lot. I have a Collection which is the “Guest Bookshelf”, and I’ve used that on multiple devices. I have one for apps which is “Bufo Morning”…that goes from one Fire to another.

What we haven’t been able to do, though, is actually create, rename, or delete Collections from the cloud (Amazon’s central account management system).

Well, you can now!

When you are on MYCD, you can switch where it says “Show” in your top left corner to be Collections.

From there, you’ll see your Collections, including how many items (it says “Books”, but some of mine don’t contain books) are in them. Depending on how they are sorted, you’ll get a modified date or created date. You can sort by those (either newest to oldest or oldest to newest) or alphabetical (A-Z or Z-A).

In an Actions column, you can delete or rename the Collection.

You can also use checkboxes to select Collections, and then bulk delete (you’ll see the button after you select at least one).

Those are nice…it will allow us to easily delete unused Collections. Many people experimented quite a bit at the beginning, so this is a good opportunity to clean up.

There are two big things it can not do that people want.

It won’t tell you which books (and other items) are downloaded to which devices.

You can’t move books into and out of Collections.

So, you can’t work on the items in the Collections here, but you can work on the Collections themselves.

Update: thanks to regular readers and commenters Edward Boyhan and Ann Von Hagel for pointing out that you can, in fact, move books in and out of Collections at MYCD now!

I was looking at the Collections selection, thinking that I would be able to choose a Collection and move things in and out of it. That’s an option on your device. It works, though, the other way.

You set the “View” selection to Books. Then, if a given book in at least one Collection, you’ll see that indicated with the number of Collections of which it is a part. There is a dropdown, and you can select a Collection. If you select the Collection in that dropdown, you then get to see all of the books in the Collection. That’s great! I hadn’t realized you’d be able to see them there. From there, just as you can in the Books view, you can click the Actions ellipsis (…) and choose to add or remove from Collections.

One interesting thing there: when I added one to a Collection on MYCD, I could then remove it from there. When I got to the Collection with the method I described in the previous paragraph, where I selected the Collection from the dropdown in the Books view, it was showing me it was in a Collection…but didn’t give me the option to remove the book from a Collection. I may have to experiment with that more…it might be that MYCD doesn’t give you the remove option unless it was added there.

When you choose to add a book to a Collection at MYCD, you get the option to create a new Collection in situ…that’s also a nice feature!

I just did that…very simple, pretty much just typing in a new name. It was smart enough to add the book to the new Collection, without having to take an extra step. I added a few books to that Collection, then checked on my now discontinued Kindle Fire HDX…and the Collection was immediately there (I was connected to Wi-Fi, but did not have to tell it to sync).

That means that (unless I’m missing it), the only big thing I’m not seeing is on which devices the books/Collections reside currently.

Thanks, Ann and Edward!

This is a beginning…I’m sure there will be more coming in the future. They do have a content management system for enterprises (companies and schools and such) called Whispercast, but this is unrelated to that.

The other thing they’ve added to MYCD that I noted was that they’ve added Prime Reading

Frequently Asked Kindle Questions: Prime Reading edition

to the choice of items to review.

As long as we have Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*), I don’t think we’ll ever see anything in that section in my family…just in KU. People who don’t have KU will see their Prime Reading borrows there.

What do you think? If you have any questions or th0ughts, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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.

Frequently Asked Kindle Questions: Prime Reading edition

October 11, 2016

Frequently Asked Kindle Questions: Prime Reading edition

Q. I’ve been hearing a lot about Prime Reading (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*): what is it?

A. It’s a new benefit for people who have Amazon Prime (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*). It lets Prime members read books from a special selection of books at no additional cost.

Q. No additional cost to what?

A. To their Prime memberships. Prime members typically pay $99 a year for a number of benefits, including free two-day shipping on many items, a vast music library, and videos.

Q. How do I know if I’m a Prime member?

A. You can check by going to “Your Account” at the top of any Amazon page and choosing “Your Prime Membership”.

Q. So, if I’m a Prime member, I can now read books free?

A. Some books, yes. When it was introduced there were 1,014 titles in Prime Reading (at AmazonSmile*) and that’s still the case now.

Q. What kind of books are they? Will I have heard of them?

A. Some of them for sure, if you already are a reader…and some you’ve probably heard of even if you don’t follow books that much. That includes the first Harry Potter book, for example, and The Man in the High Castle.

Q. Like the TV show?

A. Right, yes…the TV show is based on that book. There are also a lot of books you probably haven’t heard of before. There are also some graphic novels and comic strip collections.

Q. And it doesn’t cost me anything to read them?

A. Not if you are a Prime member.

Q. Do I get to keep them? Can I give them as gifts?

A. No, this is just the ability to read them. Think of it like Netflix for books. People have been using that term for a while for different things, but this is really quite a bit like that. You have a certain selection of media, you can enjoy them, but you don’t own them and you can’t give them away.

Q. Okay, I get that.

A. Another thing that is like Netflix is that this is a rotating selection. There will be different books, probably every month, which is the way Netflix does it. I expect we’ll see stories about which books are coming into Prime Reading and going out of it, just like we do with Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video.

Q. I don’t read a book very quickly. What happens if I’m not done with it and they take it out of Prime Reading?

A. You can still finish it. You can hang on to a book as long as you are a Prime member. If you stop being a Prime member, you lose access.

Q. How many books can I have? Can my family members read them?

A. There is no limit to the number of books you can borrow, although you can only have ten at a time. If you return one of those ten, though, you can get another one. As to family members, yes, if they can read books on your account they can read these.

Q. That means that if my three kids are reading Harry Potter, I have seven more books for the adults in my family?

A. Actually, if three people are reading the same book, that only counts as one book. Your three kids could read Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, and you’d still have nine more books to go.

Q. Wait, so my Significant Other and I can read the same book at the same time and it only counts as one book?

A. That’s right. You can talk about it with each other…even race to finish it, if you want. The number of people who can read the same book at the same time is set by the publisher; unless it says otherwise on the book’s Amazon product page, which you can see before you download it, that number of “simultaneous device licenses” is six.

Q. That sounds pretty good. I have somebody on my account who never reads books, though…any benefit for them?

A. Yes! Prime Reading includes magazines, and really well-known magazines: People, GQ, Vogue,  Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated…

Q. We read those!

A. A lot of people do…they are some of the most popular magazines.

Q. I’ve got a kid who is a geek and a bookworm. Are there weird magazines in there too?

A. Not really. This selection, both books and magazines, is mostly more mainstream choices. Think of it as like what you would see in an airport bookstore.

Q. I get it. Oh, are videogames part of this?

A. No, but Amazon did introduce Twitch Prime, which does have videogames. To use Prime Reading, you have to be a Prime member…that means you do have access to music, TV shows, movies, and games, just not part of this program.

Q. How about Audible? I listen to books on my commute.

A. Not exactly, but if an e-book has an audiobook and is set up for Whispersync for Voice, you can listen to that audiobook as part of this. Right now, there are about 350…just about a third.

Q. How much does that cost? Some of those audiobooks are expensive!

A. It’s part of the deal…it doesn’t cost anything more.

Q. That’s going to save me a lot of money!

A. Prime’s an investment, but yes, it can save you a lot of money.

Q. I’ve heard about the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library? Is this the same thing?

A. No, that program required you to own a hardware Kindle, and you could only borrow one book a month. It did require a Prime membership.

Q. Hardware Kindle?

A. A Kindle e-book reader or a Fire. You can use Prime Reading with a free Kindle reading app…and those are available for lots of devices, including iPhones  and iPads.

Q. Why would anybody use that Lending Library thing, then?

A. There are a lot more books there, about a million and half versus a thousand. That’s where there are more books your geek kid may like. Outside of that, I don’t see a real advantage to it. I’m thinking that the Lending Library may be going away.

Q. What about those million books, then? Would nobody be able to borrow them?

A. They are available through Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*). That’s a separate program. People pay, usually $9.99 a month for access to those books. Outside of that, it works just like Prime Reading…the ten book at a time limit, for example.

Q. I don’t think I’d need that if I have these thousand books as part of Prime.

A. Maybe not. That will be the case for a lot of people. For people who want a lot more choices, though, KU will be worth the price.

Q. If they have Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading, can they have twenty books out at once?

A. No. I confirmed that specifically with Amazon. Getting a book through Prime Reading or Kindle Unlimited counts towards your limit of ten. In fact, I don’t think there’s a way to say whether the borrow if from KU or Prime Reading.

Q. Well, they are paying more for Kindle Unlimited,  so it seems like they should get more.

A. They do…they have more choices, just not more borrows. Think of Prime Reading as free access to a small part of Kindle Unlimited.

Q. Okay. Doesn’t seem worth it to me to pay that extra ten bucks a month.

A. It might not be for you, but some other people will think it’s a good deal.

Q. I can see that. One more question: why doesn’t Amazon just do this with all the books?

A. They have to pay the publishers, and they have to have permission.

Q. Oh, I have a cousin who wrote a book…can they do this to get more money?

A. It’s a very small group of books, and it sounds like it has been invitation only.**

Q. Alright, I’ll ask my cousin. Why would Amazon do this at all, then, if it costs them money and they don’t get anything more for it?

A. To make people more likely to stay with Prime. Prime members spend a lot with Amazon and they often spend it on higher profit items. There isn’t a lot of profit with e-books, not like with some physical items.

Q. That makes sense.

A. Do you have any other questions?

Q. Not right now. I guess I’ll check it out.

===

Readers, if you have other questions or comments, feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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.

**There has been some very interesting public discussion about indies (independent publishers) and Prime reading. There have been rumors of “signing bonuses” (like an advance in traditional publishing) and then similar payments to KU. Here’s a forum thread on it: https://kdp.amazon.com/community/thread.jspa?messageID=1069009&#1069009

This is where I was tonight

October 11, 2016

Today’s KDD: “Fall reading picks”

October 9, 2016

Today’s KDD: “Fall reading picks”

Today’s

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

is any of a group of 13 titles for $2.99 each.

Now, “summer reading” is clearly a thing, but is “fall reading”? I suppose they might be more serious and arty, and more likely to be read indoors. 😉

I’d say, overall, that’s not a bad description of these books. These aren’t really light “popcorn” books/page turners/button mashers.

This sale only applies to the USA. Check the price before you click or tap that “Buy button”. Remember that you can buy the book at a discounted price and then delay the delivery until the appropriate gift giving occasion (or print it out to give when you want).

Books in this sale include:

  • I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes | 4.6 out of 5 stars |Go 5,907 customer reviews
  • The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant | 4.0 stars | 2,647 reviews
  • Brush of Wings (Angels Walking #3) by Karen Kingsbury | 4.8 stars | 635 reviews
  • House of the Rising Sun (Holland Family) by James Lee Burke | 3.9 stars | 417 reviews
  • The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck | 4.2 stars | 844 reviews
  • The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace | 4.4 stars | 1,220 reviews
  • The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende | 4.3 stars | 525 reviews
  • The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future by Steve Case | 4.1 stars | 155 reviews
  • The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr | 4.3 stars | 214 reviews
  • The Hand That Feed You by A.J. Rich | 3.8 stars | 214 reviews
  • The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II  by Jan Jarboe Russell | 4.5 stars | 291 reviews
  • Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner | 4.2 stars | 97 reviews
  • Delancey by Molly Wizenberg | 4.0 stars | 190 reviews

Enjoy!

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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.

Meanwhile, at Barnes & Noble…Columbus Day sale

October 8, 2016

Meanwhile, at Barnes & Noble…Columbus Day sale

Sure, some of you may be wondering if Barnes & Noble is really still a competitor with Amazon, but when you think about it…isn’t everybody? 😉

Well, they are pretty much the last of the dinostores (the large chain bookstores where the main attraction was the number of books they carried…the B. Daltons, WaldenBooks, Borders…), if you don’t consider Books-A-Million in the same group (and I don’t…and I’m a former  brick-and-mortar bookstore manager). They also still have an e-bookstore. Perhaps significantly for my readers, they can still impact Amazon through its price-matching policies.

In this

press release

they announce a “Huge Columbus Day Weekend Savings In-Store and Online, October 8-10”.

Hm…as I look at their listing more carefully, I don’t know that’s going to help Kindleers that much. The discounts for books seem to be mostly in-store, and I don’t think Amazon is matching that.

  • 50% off “Must Reads”…but in-store only
  • 30% off the Maze Runner series…in-store only
  • Buy one, get one half off in-store and online…but that’s on coloring books
  • Buy Where the Sidewalk Ends and get collectible editions of some things for $5…but they are B&N exclusives

The rest of the discounts aren’t on books, which seem to me like they are becoming a smaller part of the B&N business.

Barnes & Noble is also having a sale for Pre-K-12 teachers and administrators for October 8-16th:

press release

This is the relevant part:

  • 25% discount on personal and classroom books, toys, games, music, movies and more;
  • 10% off the list price of select NOOK devices;
  • 10% discount on all Café consumable purchases;
  • Other local giveaways, such as gift cards, books, posters, educator guides, sticker sheets, activity kits, tote bags and more.

You can get the eligibility form and shop online at

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/h/bn-educators

If you want to see what Kindle books are on sale, you can check here:

USA Kindle store deals on Kindle books (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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.

Round up #148: review rules tighten, Google announcement

October 6, 2016

Round up #148: review rules tighten, Google announcement

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

Here comes Google!

Sure, Google is everywhere…especially up in my business. 😉 I really like my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (even though I have to keep explaining to people that it’s not the Note, which is the one that’s blowing up…and I don’t mean it’s making a lot in sales, it is literally blowing up on some people…or at least, burning up), but I admit I find it a bit creepy when it has a list of places I’ve parked, and asks me if I want to add photos for some place I’ve been. Note that that isn’t Samsung, it’s Google…and I know I could change settings, but I have found it useful sometimes. I don’t have to be completely comfortable with everything which helps me. 🙂

What I mean by my headline here is that Google just make some very big hardware announcements, which do impact Amazon fans.

I’ll say first that the actual announcement venue looked…cheesy, I guess. You can see video here:

YouTube search

The chairs weren’t matched, speakers were dressed very casually, and the audio wasn’t always in sync with the speaker, at least from what I saw. Tech announcements are often very slick, sometimes too slick…but outside of the giant projector screen, this looked like it was hastily done in a warehouse. I suspect that was on purpose, to make it more…approachable.

Amazon doesn’t make its own Fire Phone any more (I was one of the few who had one, until it failed), but I will say that Google’s new Pixel (a brand they’ve used for other hardware) sounds awesome! One point for all devices in the future: they claim to be able to charge your phone for seven hours of use…in fifteen minutes.

Google Home is a direct competitor to Amazon’s

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

Google Home is considerably cheaper than the standard Echo…but more than twice as expensive as the

All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which ships in two weeks.

Google Home may do search better. It may understand your speech better (I’m very impressed with “OK Google”‘s speech recognition…soon to be Google Assistant, as I understand it). It will have Google Translate capability, although that’s quirky. Alexa (the “parse-onality” of the Echo) has some translation skills (skills are like apps for your phone) as well.

It will do some of the things that our Echo devices do…but it won’t do some of the things we like the best. I don’t expect it to be able to reorder Amazon products. I don’t think it’s going to read my Kindle books with text-to-speech (or play Audible audiobooks). It might do those things through apps, but we’ll see.

Competition stimulates innovation, so I’m more than fine with this. I suspect the microphones aren’t as good, but that’s just a guess…still, places where it is better will encourage Amazon to make the Echo better.

I don’t see it as a threat…I see it as a spur. 🙂

Of course, you have to be comfortable with Google having a device in your home which could hypothetically literally listen to every time you flush the toilet. 😉

A more direct impact on Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers) and Fire devices is

Google Wi-Fi

It’s a cute little hub, looking a bit like the Echo Dot. If it makes Wi-Fi coverage in a home better, that might be a help.

I tried the Amazon locker again, and it was…

great! When I wrote this

I had my first experience with an Amazon locker and it was…

it had been very frustrating. The concept is really good: I order from Amazon, and they deliver it to a locker at a Safeway near us. We’ve had mail theft, so this is secure and convenient. I get a code, put it in the locker bank screen, and get my item.

The first time, the touchscreen wouldn’t work…can’t do much without it.

This time, it did…so this was a good experience.

Amazon changes review rules…no freebies in exchange for reviews, eligibility to write reviews now tougher

Customer reviews are very important to Amazon…that can make shopping online more informative than shopping in person in a store.

That is, if customers trust the reviews.

I wrote recently that

ZDNet uncovers an apparent massive gaming of the Kindle publishing system

which included manipulated purchasing, but manipulated reviewing has also been a big issue.

Publishers have literally paid people to write reviews for their books…using “Fiver”, for one. That’s not illegal, by the way…there may be some risk of criminal fraud in false reviews, but that’s quite complicated. If I give you a free book if you promise to write a review, that’s not illegal…I haven’t told you what kind of review to write (“wink, wink, nudge, nudge” as Monty Python might say).

One of my readers, Marjorie, commented that Amazon has now said that “freebies for reviews” is not okay…and looking into it, there were some interesting guidelines:

Amazon says that this is not okay: “Offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content.”

and

“Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.”

Community Guidelines (at AmazonSmile*)

and sub-pages.

As I read this, you can give books away, as my sibling did with

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

through this blog (I get no financial benefit from that book…I’m not a publisher of it, or have gotten paid anything for advice I’ve given), and encourage a review (“I’d appreciate a review”) as long as you don’t say that you have to write a review to get a book, or say, “I’d appreciate a good review.”

Another interesting line:

“To post Customer Reviews or Customer Answers, post on Customer Discussion Forums, or submit content to followers, you must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card. Prime subscriptions and promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the $50 minimum. You do not need to meet this requirement to post Customer Questions, create or modify Profile pages, Lists, or Registries, or to read content posted by other customers.”

So, gift card purchases don’t count…and you can’t just buy a book and write a review of it, if you’ve never bought anything else from Amazon. That might cut back on some “sockpuppetry”, specifically where someone might set up a bunch of accounts just to buy their own book and write positive reviews.

Overall, I’m okay with this. I don’t mind the reviews getting a bit more filtered. I suppose it could be argued that this will make the reviews tend to be better, since it will have to be Amazon customers who write the reviews…but I think Amazon likes having negative reviews of items, too. While it might cut down on sales, it probably also cuts down on returns and bad feelings, and that’s quite important.

What do you think? Thinking of trying Google Home? Is it a risk for the Echo? Does the amount of time it takes to charge your devices bother you? Are you concerned that the new review rules will end up skewing the reviews towards the positive? 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!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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.

Amazon introduces Prime Reading…and hits a sweet spot for many consumers

October 5, 2016

Amazon introduces Prime Reading…and hits a sweet spot for many consumers

Amazon has introduced yet another Prime benefit…and I expect bloggers to massively underestimate its appeal:

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

This is included in the regular price of

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

and, speaking as the former manager of a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and as someone who has covered the world of e-books for more than seven years, I think this is going to appeal to the vast majority of readers. Those are what I call “casual readers” as opposed to “serious readers”. I’m a serious reader, and I think most of the readers of this blog are: at a minimum, you can define a serious reader as reading a book a month (many read many more than that).

Most books are sold to casual readers: they read a lot fewer books, tend to read more popular books of which they’ve heard already (or something very genre, like you might get in an airport bookstore), and to buy books as gifts.

They aren’t so much looking for surprising, innovative works, in my opinion. They want reading a book to be what they expect it to be. Sure, these are broad generalizations, but it’s my sense as a bookseller.

They don’t spend $100 a month on books for themselves to read…they may spend that for the year.

What is this benefit?

Prime Members (who may pay $99 a year) can read books from a specific selection (1,014 at time of writing). This includes some well-known titles:

  • Harry Potter
  • The Complete Peanuts
  • Lonely Planet travel guides
  • The Man in the High Castle
  • Pines (Wayward Pines #1)

There are a lot more books in Prime Reading that casual readers may not know…but they are generally clear as to what they are (I was intrigued by how many were arts/crafts oriented).

Again, picture being in an airport and you are about to get on a five hour flight. These are books you might grab for that purpose.

It’s worth noting that a lot of Amazon published books are not in Prime Reading…I didn’t see the original James Bond books or the 87th Precinct series, for example.

What else do you take on a plane to read?

Magazines, and they’ve included that.

Sports Illustrated, People, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Sunset, Vogue, National Geographic Traveler…outside of a notable lack of newsmagazines, this selection could also be in an airport bookstore.

I’m not saying this is going to sell a lot more Prime memberships…but I do think it improves “stickiness”, the odds that someone will stay with Prime.

Does this cannibalize anything for Amazon?

It might. It might reduce book purchases by those casual readers, since many of them will already be Prime members. They also may not care as much about owning books (this service is borrowing them, not owning them). It won’t limit them buying books for others, though, and may encourage them to

Give the Gift of Prime (at AmazonSmile*)

which is a giant benefit for Amazon, since Prime members buy more of the higher profit items (what I call diapers and windshield wipers). They would much rather have new Prime members than a casual reader spending $100 on books in a year.

It also competes with two other existing Amazon services. Let’s talk about the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library first.

The KOLL also lets you borrow something to read…but just one book a calendar month (that’s not a limitation with Prime Reading). It requires you to own a physical Kindle; Prime Reading can be used with Kindle reading apps on other devices. Yes, the KOLL has many more titles but seems a lot more restrictive.

I’m not sure how much it is costing Amazon to maintain KOLL. I’m guessing it’s not insignificant, in part because of the number of customer service calls they must get on it (and those are expensive). It does have the advantage for the consumer (but not for Amazon) that you don’t have to be a Prime member…it may sell some Kindles/Fires. However, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they quietly let the KOLL sunset.

The other one, and this is more interesting to me, is

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

Like the KOLL, this has many more books than Prime Reading…close to one and half million, much more than 100 times as many.

Every book in Prime Reading (I just can’t bring myself to abbreviate it as PR, because of it being the same as “Public Relations”) is also in KU.

You can get top magazines in both.

The big difference is that you pay an additional $9.99 a month (although it’s sometimes on sale for a longer commitment, as has been the case on Prime Day).

The casual reader may not find that to be necessary. It might seem better if you aren’t also paying for Prime already…but if you are, do you want to add more than $100 a year?

Some will…we pay for Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix in our house, for example…but I wouldn’t describe myself as a casual viewer, either. 😉

I think many bloggers are going to say that it doesn’t have enough books, or diverse enough books…but that’s like when tech reviewers give people pixel per inch counts for phones and tablets and think you should pay significantly more money for more of them. For the typical user, they don’t really care that much about the specs. Good enough might be good enough. 🙂

All in all, Prime just keeps getting better, including the recent addition of

Twitch Prime (at AmazonSmile*)

for videogame fans.

If you can afford Prime, I don’t see why you wouldn’t get it. 🙂

Speaking of affording and Prime members, there is a great sale right now on Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers) for Prime members! It’s definitely not too early to be thinking of holiday gifts! I don’t know how long this will last, but at time of writing, there are these deals (probably just in the USA):

This may just tie into the Prime Reading announcement, for Prime members who don’t have Kindle EBRs.

I was going to write about Google’s announcement yesterday, which had really significant things to release (including a major Echo competitor), but Prime Reading took precedence…with this sale an added bonus story!

What do you think? Will Prime Reading make you change anything else…like dropping KU or adding Prime (perhaps for someone else)? If the KOLL went away, would that make a big difference for you? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

One more note: a couple of subscribers noted an interruption from Amazon in the delivery of this blog (and at least one unrelated blog in one case). It seems to be okay now…please let me know if there is still an issue.

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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.

ZDNet uncovers an apparent massive gaming of the Kindle publishing system

October 4, 2016

ZDNet uncovers an apparent massive gaming of the Kindle publishing system

There is what appears to be a great bit of investigative journalism in this

ZDNet article by Zack Whittaker

I don’t want to take away from them so I’ll just hit the very highlights.

It appears that one person used a sophisticated computer system to both publish inexpensive and low content e-books and open many, many accounts to download them when they were offered free, and perhaps to purchase them.

That drives up the books’ rankings.

That in turn creates real sales, even if only for a short period.

According to the article, this generated literally millions of dollars in royalties.

I’ll let you read the article, which I highly recommend.

What I’m going to do here is talk about this from a broader perspective.

There seem to me to be two main points here

First, it’s the idea of “fake” reviews.

These are probably pretty common, although Amazon does crack down on them.

They likely fall into three broad categories:

One is so-called “sock puppets”. That’s when an author, or someone else with a fiduciary interest in a book, pretends to be someone else (or has friends/family/coworkers pretend to be someone) to talk up a book.

I’ve seen this happen, sometimes not so subtly. Someone might post on the Amazon Kindle forum, or even in a comment to this blog, something like, “XYZ is a great novel! I’ve never read anything better. I was so surprised and it blew my mind.” While I often don’t know where a piece of fiction I am writing is going when I start, I can’t say I’ve ever been surprised reading one of my works after I finished it. 😉

I’ve seen this be done in a clumsy and unsophisticated way, but it can also be done in a very difficult way to discern.

The second source is, I would guess, purchased reviews.

That differs because they are more like mercenaries than loyal citizens.

This could be a literal payment for a good review (Amazon has caught people doing that before), or it might be an exchange. For example, two authors might write each other good reviews, even if they haven’t read the other’s book.

Reviewers are supposed to reveal if they got an e-book for free from the publisher when they review it. I’m sure not everybody does.

I pointed out the appropriateness of revealing it when some of my readers got free copies of my sibling’s first novel

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

If they got it from me, they probably wouldn’t have to reveal it (although I still think it’s a good thing to do), but if Kris Calvin paid for it, my understanding is that they should. Since readers couldn’t be sure if it was me or Kris who paid for it, I feel they should reveal…and I was happy when I saw that at least one of them did.

The third group of reviews are those with an ulterior motive…a political agenda might be one reason. For example, people of one political party might write that another party’s candidate’s book was poorly written or inaccurate, when they hadn’t even read it. I’ve seen something similar happen with people with a social issue do the same thing.

Those, I think, are the three main sources of fake reviews.

I said there were two main points…here’s the second.

This shows the value of reviews and purchases on Amazon.

The vast majority of people don’t write reviews of books they read…but this strongly suggest that doing so can make a difference. Please consider doing so for books you read that you like (or don’t like).

Oh, and more thing…many returns would have probably sunk this system.

You can “return” a USA Kindle store book for a refund within seven days of purchase by going to

http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle

If you return an anonymously high percentage of items (unspecified, of course), Amazon might ask you to call them before returning items, rather than being able to do it yourself.

Still, if you get a significantly deficient book, it makes sense to return it.

Of course, this is also an argument for downloading a sample before buying an e-book…but I’ll admit I rarely do that.

I also don’t return e-books…I’m not sure I ever have, but I’m not 100% positive. I think I might have returned one I accidentally bought which had text-to-speech access blocked by the publisher.

I generally have a pretty good idea what a book will be like before I get it, I’d say…certainly, if I’m paying for it.

I think I can tell quite a bit from the reviews…and that doesn’t mean I just go by the highest averages, or get dissuaded by the lowest ones. I always take a look at the low rankings to see if the reasons they give are ones with which I might agree; often they aren’t.

There will always be people who will try to game the system. I’m not going to judge whether this was legal or not…I don’t know enough about what the agreements were, and whether there might or might not be fraud involved. It certainly sounds like it might violate Amazon’s Terms of Services…and there were apparently efforts being made to conceal the activities, which is not a great argument for having confidence in the legitimacy of your actions.

I will again suggest you read the post: it wouldn’t surprise me if it is in contention for award consideration at some point, if it all holds up.

Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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.

Monthly Kindle Deals for $3.99 or less each: October 2016

October 2, 2016

Monthly Kindle Deals for $3.99 or less each: October 2016

Amazon does the Kindle Daily Deal (at AmazonSmile…benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*), which used to discount four books a day (often general fiction, a romance, a science fiction/fantasy book, and a kids’ book). Now, it seems like it is generally more books than that, and not categorized.

They also do Monthly Kindle Book Deals for $3.99 or less each (at AmazonSmile). There used to be about 100 of them, but there are many times that now: 366 at the time of writing…37 more than last month. They are up to 80% off…and eleven of them are $4.99, so we can really call this 355 this month

Those prices only apply to the USA, and one weird thing is that sometimes some of the books seem to sell out at that price (or become unavailable for some other reason).

Another thing is that 126 of them (25 more than last month) are available through

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

Amazon lists that information prominently…and it’s now commonly a filter in search results. If they are, then you need to consider whether it is worth buying them…even at these low prices. While they are in KU, you can, if you are a subscriber (and there’s a free month available right now), read them at no additional cost. There are, of course, advantages to owning books, especially if you want to re-read them. A book could move out of KU at any time. Even if you think you want to own it, if you are a KU member, you could always read it first to make sure. 😉 I will mark them with KU.

By the way, in the new version of the

eReaderIQ advanced search

you can make KU a filter. So, you can search for books by an author, a keyword, an average customer review which you can read as part of your KU membership…nice! I’m not associated with eReaderIQ except as a user (we have had some correspondence), but I do think it is the most valuable website for Kindleers.

I’m going to list some of the books in this sale that caught my eye…I’m not necessarily recommending them, but I do think they are interesting.

The ones I link (if I actually link to specific books) also don’t block text-to-speech access**…but I think blocking it is becoming rarer.

Okay, books!

  • The Short Drop (The Gibson Vaughn Series) by Matthew FitzSimmons | 4.6 out of 5 stars | 6,839 customer reviews | KU
  • Enter Helen: The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman by Brooke Hauser
  • Break Out!: 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life by Joel Osteen | 4.8 stars | 816 reviews
  • Max: Best Friend. Hero. Marine. by Jennifer Li Shotz (made into a movie)
  • Warriors Super Edition: Moth Flight’s Vision by Erin Hunter and James L. Barry
  • Ordination: Book One of The Paladin trilogy by Daniel Ford
  • The Boy Who Became Buffalo Bill: Growing Up Billy Cody in Bleeding Kansas by Andrea Warren | KU
  • Beating the College Debt Trap: Getting a Degree Without Going Broke by Alex Chediak
  • The PlantPure Nation Cookbook: The Official Companion Cookbook to the Breakthrough Film…with over 150 Plant-Based Recipes by Kim Campbell and T. Colin Campbell
  • Incredible Victory: The Battle of Midway (Classics of War) by Walter Lord
  • The Possibility Dogs: What I Learned from Second-Chance Rescues About Service, Hope, and Healing by Susannah Charleson
  • Heart of the Country by Greg Matthews
  • The Book of Kells by R. A. MacAvoy
  • Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
  • The Wolf’s Hour by Robert R. McCammon and Vincent Chong
  • The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Johnson, Spencer, M.D. (the original was a huge bestseller)
  • Three Down the Aisle by Sherryl Woods
  • Aunt Erma’s Cope Book: How To Get From Monday To Friday . . . In 12 Days by Erma Bombeck
  • People’s History of Quebec by Jacques Lacoursière and Robin Philpot
  • Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
  • Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick
  • Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard | 4.4 stars | 2,130 reviews (probably best not to think about the movie) 😉
  • Hotel by Arthur Hailey (big bestseller)
  • Homeland (The Crown Family Saga Book 1) by John Jakes
  • Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Body Movers (A Body Movers Novel Book 1) by Stephanie Bond
  • No Plot? No Problem! Revised and Expanded Edition: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty
  • Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently Book 2) by Douglas Adams
  • Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr. and Darren Aronofsky
  • The King Must Die by Mary Renault
  • Friday the Rabbi Slept Late (The Rabbi Small Mysteries #1) by Harry Kemelman
  • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (great book, made into at least three movies…dark, though)
  • Justine (The Alexandria Quartet Book 1) by Lawrence Durrell and Robert Ryan
  • The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Long, Tall Christmas (A Cowboy Christmas) by Janet Dailey
  • A Heritage of Stars by Clifford D. Simak
  • The Harder They Come: by T.C. Boyle
  • The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney
  • A Dark-Adapted Eye (Plume) by Ruth Rendell

There are some good choices here…really well-known authors. There are also well-known publishers: HarperCollins and Harlequin. Remember that you can buy them now as a gift and delay the delivery for the appropriate gift-giving occasion.

If there were others you’d like to mention for me and my readers, please comment on this post.

Prime members, don’t forget to pick up your

Kindle First books (at AmazonSmile*)

You can get one of the six (same as last month) books to own (not borrow) for free…these are books which will be actually released next month. The choices this month are:

  • Evelyn, After by Victoria Helen Stone (psychological suspense)
  • It Is Well by James D. Shipman (historical fiction)
  • Venom and Vanilla (The Venom Trilogy Book 1) by Shannon Mayer (urban fantasy) | 4.4 stars | 60 customer reviews
  • Before You Leap by Keith Houghton (thriller)
  • The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds (The Malayan Series) by Selina Siak Chin Yoke (historical fiction)
  • Wake in Winter by Nadezhda Belenkaya, Andrea Gregovich (literary fiction)

People like to know which one I pick…this one was easy. 🙂 I mentioned the number of reviews and the high score for Venom and Vanilla, and that was enough to convince me.

Enjoy!

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* 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. 

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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