Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

Amazon@home

May 16, 2016

Amazon@home

I considered writing this as a humor piece, but I like the idea too much.:)

I was reading about Amazon opening another college center (their seventh) at Pennsylvania University. Here’s one article on it:

CNET article Ben Fox Rubin

These aren’t college bookstores…they don’t have books.:) They are pick-up centers (and media centers…you can hang out and use Wi-Fi, try out Amazon hardware, that sort of thing).

The articles generally talk about Amazon getting closer to their customers…so I was thinking, why not give me a pick-up center at my house?

Right now, we don’t have Amazon items delivered to our house, due to a history of mail theft in our area (it has happened to us personally). We have them delivered to where my Significant Other works…which is a bit awkward sometimes. It can mean we get it a day later (it has to go through central receiving), and it’s obviously not good on the weekends.

We considered buying a locking mailbox, but they are pretty expensive.

What if Amazon sold you a mailbox just for their own deliveries? They could make it inexpensive, since they don’t have to profit on the box. If you were in a Prime Now city, you could get a delivery in an hour. It would be better for them, because they don’t have to gamble on you actually being there.

The other thing they could do very effectively is put something like a “dashback” button inside it for the delivery person. It would be like their

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

where you just push a button to order something. Instead, the delivery person would push the button…and it would automatically e-mail/text you to tell your package had been delivered.

They could sell it in different sizes…maybe even a Block size where neighbors might go in on it for big deliveries (although that would complicate the dashback idea).

You could secure it by locking it down, or installing it in a wall (Amazon can help connect you to handypeople who could help you with that).

At some point in the future, this could also be accessible to drones (flying or ground delivery). They would have some way to unlock the Amazon@home box…although it has to be something that people couldn’t steal from it easily.:)

Well, this is all just an off the cuff idea…but I like it.:)

What do you think? Do you think this would work? What would you pay for it? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Oh, two quick follow-ups to recent stories: Amazon has confirmed for me that you do not need to certify a disability to buy their

Kindle Paperwhite Blind and Visually Impaired Readers Bundle – Includes Kindle Paperwhite with Wi-Fi and Special Offers, Kindle Audio Adapter, and $19.99 Account Credit (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and their new Amazon Video Direct, which I wrote about here

Round up #140: Megapacks in KU, B&N’s future?

is a non-exclusive license, which is great! You can monetize your videos through YouTube or your personal website, and still offer them through Amazon!

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!

*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.

So, you want to be a blogger…

May 8, 2016

So, you want to be a blogger…

I recently had a conversation with somebody who was considering starting a blog, and that has come up from time to time.

I’m happy to give you what advice I can. I think I can reasonably say that I’m a successful blogger, although there are certainly people with more readers, and even more people who make more money at it. I’m not big on monetization: I have a full time job, so this isn’t paying the bills. I do want to make a certain amount to justify the time and energize I spend on it, and I do that. The subscribers (thanks, subscribers!), some of whom have been with me more than half a decade, really make it possible.

ILMK has been one of the top-selling blogs in the USA Kindle store almost from the beginning, although the audience of people who pay for a blog subscription is relatively small. I always like to recall the day I passed the Huffington Post and The Onion on the same day, and I’ve stayed above them since. Obviously, they have more readers and make money than I do.

For me, it’s not about making money…and that’s the first thing I’d say to anybody thinking about starting a blog…or any other project (I’ve taught project management). You need to decide how you’ll be able to tell it’s a success. That’s how you know where to put your energies.

  • Are you doing it to make money?
  • Are you doing it to promote a cause?
  • Are you doing it to improve your writing skills through practice?
  • Are you doing it because…you just have to do something creative?
  • Are you doing it to help people?
  • Are you using it to promote something else you are doing?

There could be other motivations, and it’s up to you what they are and how you will measure them. You can have more than one motivation.

For example, if you say you are doing it to help people (that’s one of my motivations), how will you know you’ve helped somebody? One way I can tell that is through the comments.

Once you’ve made that decision, you want to think about how much time, and perhaps more importantly, how much social energy you want to spend on it. I blog, but I don’t really do Facebook, because I don’t have the social energy left over for the latter. You can do the blog itself for free…I don’t pay for my WordPress.com blogs.  I could pay for a more robust blog,  but this one suits my purposes. It’s those energy and time costs that you need to consider.

Oh, and you need to decide on a subject area…but most people know that already.

At this point, you know what you want to do, how you’ll know if it’s a success or not, and how much time you are going to spend.

You are just about ready to start writing…but I do want you to think about how you are going to deal with comments. Will you allow them at all? I do…one of my favorite parts of the blog is the comments I get, especially when people respectfully disagree with me. I’ve learned a lot that way! Will you moderate them (review them before they are published)? If you don’t, you’ll have a lot of ads…I get (and reject) them every week.

Okay, start writing.:) I recommend that you write two weeks worth of the blog before you publish your first post. If you figure you are posting one post a day, write fourteen posts before you put the first one up. Two weeks is enough of a buffer so you won’t fall behind. If something else sparks you while you are in the middle of the fourteen, that’s fine…write  about that. You just don’t want to feel the pressure in the beginning, while you are finding your footing.

Part of writing the blog is thinking about the content. Will you just write articles yourself? Will you do interviews? Will you have guest writers? There are a lot of possibilities.

Now, pick a platform. As I mentioned, I use WordPress…it’s pretty simple to use,  and seems to work reasonably well and reliably. It’s been around for a long (knock virtual wood), which suggests stability for the future.

Perhaps part of that decision: if you are going to monetize it, how will you do that? Will you take paid advertising (like Google AdSense, or other ads)? I’ve chosen not to do that….if you ever see ads on the website, WordPress put them there, not me. :) Will you do paid subscriptions, perhaps through Amazon (that works well for me)? Will you ask for donations? Will you be an Amazon Associate, so you can get paid when people follow links from your blog and then buy something?

You’ll also have to decide how you will promote the blog. Social media? If you don’t have a Twitter account, will you start one? Will your blog have a Facebook page? Are you going to promote the blog by offering your expertise…if so, where?

Once the blog is running, how will you evaluate how it is doing and make adjustments in order to improve it? You’ll get stats…you’ll probably get so many of them that you can become addicted just to looking at them. I don’t pay much attention to those…I do look from time to time. If I was trying to make my living just on my blogs, I’d pay more attention to it. I do poll my readers from time to time…that helps.

One last thought: how will you make your writing good enough for what you want to do? I do get asked that one, although not always phrased that way. The most important thing about being a writer is writing.:) You become a better basketball player by playing a lot. You become a better writer by writing a lot. However, the second most important thing is reading. Writers read, it’s that simple. That doesn’t mean you are going to copy what someone else is doing, but you may find rhythms of speech that you like, and you’ll recognize what makes you feel good when you read it.

Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Writing a blog, especially a daily one, isn’t like writing a book. That would be like comparing your casual conversation to your doctoral dissertation.😉 They are two different types of communication. Some people may spend a week when writing a book on one page…and I write the equivalent of something like four pages a day. Naturally, it won’t be as polished…but for many blogs, that’s part of the charm. It’s more like a conversation than a lecture, and readers like feeling the spontaneity and emotion.

Well, I hope that helps! Blogging is a big part of my life, and helps fulfill it. I think it makes me a better person, which helps with my relationships, both at home and at work. When I help someone, that makes me feel good…and that’s a good influence on how I treat others.:)

If you have more questions about blogging, or comments about what I’ve said (you may be wiser on part of this than I am), 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!

*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.

Advice to Amazon #2

January 4, 2016

Advice to Amazon #2

Who am I to offer advice to Amazon, one of the most influential companies in the world?

I’m a customer…like you.:)

I like Amazon. I want them to do well. If I can suggest something that helps them, that’s a win-win.

If they don’t take my advice, that’s fine. They may know things about the situation I don’t know.

I do have an

Advice to Amazon

category on this blog, but I think it’s good to gather some of it together into a post from time to time. That also lets you comment on it.:)

 In my first post in this series

Advice for Amazon #1

I made three suggestions:

  • Do a speed-reading display (that has recently arrived on some Fire tablets, in the for of “Word Runner”)
  • Do a Daltonizer (to change colors to help those with color vision deficiency like me. They haven’t done that yet…still wish they would)
  • Personalized coupons (discounts based on past buying habits…hasn’t happened yet)

Here are some more suggestions/advice:

Suggested feature: friendly names

I have made this suggestion directly to them, and I think it could be great for us and for Amazon!

We would be able to give “friendly names” to items we buy…”Pat’s vitamins”, “Fluffy’s toy”, “Bufo’s floss”, and so on.

One big application for that would be ordering through the

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

It would be so much easier to tell Alexa what to re-order that way.

This would also be “sticky” for Amazon…it would make people much more reluctant to shop somewhere else. In many cases, people probably wouldn’t even remember the actual names of the items.

Suggested event: Amazon event

I think I described this pretty well when I first suggested it, so…

“Amazon could host something in Seattle. They could show off new hardware, have Amazon KDP authors there, have developers of Amazon apps and Alexa Skills, do some international things, maybe show off the Prime Air drones…even Prime Now riders. :) Wow, people would really talk about that! It could also counter some bad publicity, by letting people get behind the curtain a bit, and showing happy employees.”

I’d love to see them do this once a year…and I would totally want to go!

Suggested feature: digitizing service

There is still a lot of content out there which is in the public domain and hasn’t yet been digitized. There are also cases where someone has the rights, but only has paper editions.

Amazon could offer a digitization service.

People would send in something to be digitized, and they would attest that it was either public domain or that they had the rights to it.

Amazon would digitize it (they could invest in hardware/process which would make it relatively easy).

The owner could be required to add something to it to create a new copyright (illustrations, an introduction).

The item then appear in Amazon’s store. The owner gets a cut. Amazon gets a cut…and there is a period (maybe three months) of exclusivity for Amazon to sell it.

This is another one I think could be a very big deal…I think Amazon could do it safely, in terms of reasonably avoiding infringement.

Suggested feature: social playlists

I originally suggested this for Prime music, but it could work for videos and books (especially Kindle Unlimited), too.

Customers create playlists.

Other customers “like” them.

Ones with more likes are more visible.

I don’t think Amazon would even need to compensate the customers for that.

Ideas to producers marketplace

I think Amazon has really tried to get around the traditional content providers (at least to some extent) in the past year.

If you are able to create your own content, Amazon has a way for you to get distribution. You can put your blog into the Kindle store, you can put book into the Kindle store, and so on.

I’d like to see Amazon set something up where producers can connect with people who have ideas…and Amazon takes a cut for facilitating it, and again, could get a short term exclusive for selling.

Let me give you an example.

I have what I think is a good idea for an app (I’ve had it for years).

I think it would sell moderately well…no Angry Birds, but I do think people would like it.

I could write the content…but I’m simply not going to program it.

I used to teach programming, and I could learn it…but I’d rather just write the content, sell it to somebody to develop and distribute, and get royalties.

I’m sure many other people have ideas for apps…or TV series or movies or books.

Amazon wouldn’t work out the deals…that would be between the producer and the person who thought of it.

There would be reviews and ratings of the producers, to help people choose.

This one is a bit tricky, but Amazon could do it, I think.

This idea of “three month exclusivity” would make Amazon very attractive, and keep people visiting. The rights reversion would mean that the items would get to other stores…but as a secondary market.

I’m always curious what you think, and you are more than welcome to comment on this post. I’m also going to do a poll:

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 device bestsellers: two things more popular than Kindles

August 24, 2015

Amazon device bestsellers: two things more popular than Kindles

Well, this was interesting!

Amazon has lists of the top 100 bestsellers in a lot of categories.

I’ve never noticed this before, but they have a category specifically for

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

Are there 100 pieces of Amazon-built hardware?

Absolutely!

There are a lot of varieties of Kindles and Fire tablets, for one thing…but that’s not the only thing.

In fact, the highest rated Kindle or Fire tablet is only number three right now.

Before I reveal which one that is, and where some of the other devices rank, let me just point out…eight years ago, there were no Amazon devices!

Prior to the first Kindle’s release in 2007 (on November 19), there was a lot of skepticism about Amazon introducing any hardware at all.

Amazon was a retailer: not a gadget maker.

The Kindle succeeded, and transformed the then tiny e-book market.

I would guess that now, many people would think of the Kindle as one of the first things that comes to mind when you say “Amazon”.

I was curious as to what was ranked where…and surprised to see two items ranked higher than any Kindle or Fire:

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

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

The Fire TV Stick is an inexpensive streaming gadget: we use it in one of the rooms in our house…and we use the full-powered

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

in the other.

We’re watching the latter right now.

Which Kindle is the top-selling?

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

I find the ranking fascinating:

  1. Fire TV Stick
  2. Amazon Echo (a relatively expensive nascent technology)
  3. Kindle Paperwhite 3 with Special Offers (the latest Kindle introduced)
  4. Mindle Touch (that’s what I call the 7th generation entry level Kindle…no lighting on this one)
  5. Fire HD 6″ (the least expensive Fire tablet)
  6. Fire HD 7″ with Special Offers
  7. Kindle Paperwhite 3 without Special Offers (the latest Kindle introduced)
  8. Amazon Fire Phone 32GB unlocked
  9. Fire HD 7″ without Special Offers
  10. Certified Refurbished Fire TV Stick

Where’s the top of the line EBR (E-Book Reader), the

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

?

#15.

That’s right: the

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

is selling better than the Voyage!

That doesn’t mean the Voyage is selling poorly…#15 is still pretty good.

They had a recent deal on the Fire Phone, which might have bumped it up…but it supports what I have been suggesting…that the Fire Phone isn’t done yet.:)

I’m still thinking they might find a way to tie especially into the Amazon Echo…although when the Alexa Voice Service starts showing up on other devices (which will happen soon, I believe), it might be harder to make that a selling point.

It’s interesting: there are a bunch of Dash buttons in the top 100. I wouldn’t have thought those were doing much at this point.

None of this suggests any weakness for the Kindle EBRs or for the Fire tablets, in my opinion. It’s just a paradigm shift for me to think of that as not the whole of Amazon’s hardware business…and not even the leading component it of it (based on bestseller rank…more EBRs are sold overall, I’m sure, since there are so many models).

It’s very likely that we’ll see a refresh of the EBR/Fire tablet line announced soon…maybe in September, so not far away.

Of course, with all of this Amazon hardware, we may start seeing an Apple style announcement of lines. We could even start seeing some sort of developer meeting…even a Disney-style D23 type of event. Actually, that could really work!

Amazon could host something in Seattle. They could show off new hardware, have Amazon KDP authors there, have developers of Amazon apps and Alexa Skills, do some international things, maybe show off the Prime Air drones…even Prime Now riders.:) Wow, people would really talk about that! It could also counter some bad publicity, by letting people get behind the curtain a bit, and showing happy employees.

I would totally want to go!

What do you think? Surprised by the rankings? Do you think of the Kindle when you think of Amazon? Would you want to go to an Amazon Expo? 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.

 

 

AAP’s (Association of American Publisher’) 2014 report: the huge growth was in…

June 14, 2015

AAP’s 2014 report: the huge growth was in…

According to this

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

the AAP (Association of American Publishers) has released its final figures on book industry sales for 2014.

You can see a lot of the specifics in the article, and I don’t want to take too much away from that (I recommend you read it if you want to get a sense of the future-building trends).

I want to just highlight a couple of things.

First, there was generally growth. Oh, not across every genre and every format, but overall, the publishers grossed more. They also generally had higher unit sales.

The latter is probably the more important if you care about how many people are reading (or how much they are reading). If the public as a whole reads 100 books in one year, and 200 books in the next year, they read more books in the second year. Of course, I suppose that if the books were on average less than half as long, they’d be reading less.:)

I always try to be careful about asking the right questions.

One of the things I do is “performance improvement”. I look at processes, and see what I can do to make it better.

I’ve had quite a bit of training on this, but I often find that it doesn’t really address the important question.

Let me give you an example.

I was given a sample problem.

A recreational tourist spot is concerned because people are catching fewer of a specific sportsfish. Before we go further, let me say that I am a vegetarian and don’t fish.:) However, that doesn’t mean I can’t address a hypothetical.😉

We were given specific figures for two years, and asked to formulate a proper “problem statement”.

Well, you could plunge right into trying to solve the problem of why they aren’t catching as many of that species. We were even given a guess by them, that it had to do with barbed hooks and catch and release.

They’ve told us “what’s wrong?” which is the first question we are supposed to ask.

However, my second question would always be, “What’s bad about that?”

That’s because I don’t want to waste time and effort “fixing the problem” if it isn’t really the problem.

Does the place really care if people aren’t catching as many of one type of fish?

Probably not.

They care if they are making as much money as they were.

They might assume that people are less happy, and therefore less likely to come and spend money.

What if, though, they are catching fewer of that fish…because they are catching more of another fish they like better?

What if they are spending more time (and money) in the resort arcade, and less time fishing?

That’s what you need to determine: what’s bad about that?

It might also be, “What would be good about that?” You are usually trying to remove something bad or add something good. The bad exists now; the good is an (currently non-present) aspiration. Of course, the good may be more of something they have now, but the volume they want doesn’t exist now.

What we often really trying to influence is how people feel about things, since that will tend to influence their behavior.

So, my guess is that publishers selling more units means that people are reading more books, and I think an increase will suggest that will happen more in the future…but I don’t know for sure.

The growth in gross could indicate more sales, but may indicate higher prices. Since the book sales were up 4.6%, and the unit sales increased a smaller 3.7%, that suggests that prices are rising faster than unit sales.

Second, there was a particular figure that was literally two orders of magnitude higher (the “tens” is an order of magnitude, the hundreds is another, the thousands is another…that’s pretty much the way it works) than any other figure in the tables in the article!

It is also, I think, highly significant.

“Trade books” are the books you would have bought in a bookstore: not textbooks and that sort of thing, but fiction and popular non-fiction.

Looking at “Trade Book Sales by Format”, comparing 2014 to 2013, the standout was a new category: e-book subsers (subscription services).

They went from .3 million dollars in 2013 to $13.5 million in 2014, a more than four thousand percent increase!

You might immediately guess that was due to the launch of

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

on July 18th of 2014, but it’s unclear if the AAP figures would be impacted that much by KU.

Indies (independent publishers, like me) make up the bulk of KU…and they aren’t members of the AAP.

However, even though none of the Big 5 (the larges US trade publishers: Simon & Schuster; Penguin Random House; Hachette; Macmillan; and HarperCollins) are currently participating in KU (I’m thinking that at least one may join before the end of the year, at least for some backlist titles), other traditional publishers are (Scholastic, for example, is both a member of the AAP and in KU).

The article says

“For both 2013 and 2014, estimates for the entire industry are based on actual sales supplied by about 1,800 U.S. publishers, from which AAP extrapolates by using a variety of sources to estimate sales for publishers that don’t report data.”

That means the AAP is at least guessing at the sales for the non-reporters.

My guess is that subsers are going to see even bigger growth in 2015 versus 2014.

Then, they may slow down.

I think they have a limited, but significant, appeal.

They are most cost effective for (in the aggregate for the user of the account) people who read a lot.

In the case of KU, you can have ten books out at a time. A family with four readers will tend to get more value out of KU than one person…unless that single person reads a lot, and the family doesn’t.

As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, my guess (there is a lot of guessing, in this post)😉 is that the majority of books in a single year are bought by people who don’t buy a lot of books.:)

That may seem odd, but look at it this way.

Let’s say that ten percent of the people are “serious readers”…they read a book a week.

We’ll work with a population of 100 people to make this easy.

The casual readers read…let’s go with four books a year.

The ten serious readers read about 520 books a year.

The casual readers read 360 books a year.

However…

At the holidays (including things like Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, graduation, birthdays…) those casual readers buy books for the serious readers, and for other casual readers.

Hm…according to this

Bookmarket.com article by John Kremer

17% of the total books sold are given as gifts.

If my 880 books above represent 83% of the sales, that would make about 1,050 total (rough guess). Let’s make this easy…and say that half of the books are bought by serious readers.

I think the bigger market for subsers is serious readers…so based on all that geeky, highly speculative math stuff I just did😉 I wouldn’t expect subsers to get easily beyond 50%.

Regardless, that’s a lot of room for growth.:)

You can give KU as a gift. If KU gets a Big 5 publisher, and/or people really start to perceive as being a good way to encourage kids to read (I’m hoping Amazon is working on marketing for that…showing a kid saying, “I can’t find anything to read I like”, that sort of thing), it could get higher.

I’d be impressed if the subser sales doubled next year, and were half again as high in 2017.

I’ll keep an eye on it…

What do you think? Will subsers continue to grow? Were my numbers above so speculative as to be silly?:) If you think so, what are your guesses? If we could include indies, how much would that change this? Would e-book growth be much higher? 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.

Alexa, tell me a bedtime story (Audible comes to the Echo)

June 5, 2015

Alexa, tell me a bedtime story (Audible comes to the Echo)

Update: as June 23rd, the general public can now pre-order Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) with an “in stock” date of July 14th.

Thanks to regular reader and commenter Harold Delk for the heads up on this!

Woo hoo!

This is something people with the

Amazon Echo

have wanted, and it’s another major new feature.

Your Echo (not yet available to the public on general sale, but a number of people have them, including me, when they opened it to invitation only sales) can now read you your Audible audiobooks!

Now, some of you might be surprised that I’m excited by that. Regular readers know I great prefer to listen to text-to-speech (TTS…software reading a book out loud to you) as opposed to audiobooks…unless I’ve already read the book.

For me, an audiobook is like a movie: it gives me someone else’s interpretations of the characters. Even when the person reading the audiobook is the author, I prefer to layer that onto the words myself.

Listening to TTS is, for me, like sight-reading…reasonably neutral. Yes, there are some mistakes (is “lives” the plural of “life” or a verb, for example?), but that’s akin to typos in a p-book (paperbook)…I do okay with those in both formats.

So, there are definitely times I might want the Echo to read me a book I’ve already read.

If you go into your Echo app (you probably have it on your phone, but you could be getting to it on a computer at http://echo.amazon.com), you’ll now see “Audible” as a choice in your menu.

“Audible” is an audiobook company, owned by Amazon.

Even though I’ve almost never bought an audiobook, I have 41 books there. That’s from free audiobooks, often that you can get because you bought the e-book.

If I want to hear Tim Curry reading A Christmas Carol, for example, I can now ask the Echo to play that for me.

This also works with Audible books you have with many books you may have borrowed from

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

This could work very well for kids, although I would use it as an adult.

These are the commands (maybe we should call those “requests”….commands sounds so…imperious)😉 you can do audibly with the Echo:

  • “Alexa (or “Amazon”, if you’ve chosen that as your wake word…more wake words may be coming…that’s going to be true for the rest of these requests), play the book [title]”
  • “Alexa, play the audiobook [title]”
  • “Alexa (or “Amazon”, if you’ve chosen that as your wake word…more wake words may be coming), play [title] from Audible”
  • “Alexa, (or “Amazon”, if you’ve chosen that as your wake word…more wake words may be coming), read [title]”
  • “Alexa, pause”
  • “Alexa, resume my book”
  • “Alexa, go back  [30 seconds]”
  • “Alexa, go forward [30 seconds]”

Skipping chapter is not currently supported by voice. You can skip chapters using the Echo app.

It will, by the way, know where you were in the book…even if you were sight-reading the e-book (if it’s Whispersync for Voice compatible).

By the time the Echo is released for general purchase (I’m guessing that’s in July), it will be quite impressive and even practical.

I guess I should say a quick word about what the Echo is. It’s an “ambient computing” device. You are using it somewhat like you would use Siri on your iPhone, but it’s always on and available. It can hear you quite well…across a room, perhaps in other rooms (and the latter definitely with an included remote).

Will it become part of your life?

I think so. It has recently been passing a test of that for me.:) I find myself wanting to use it when it isn’t available. In other words, I spontaneously see a use for it, not just when I see it or consciously think of it.

For example, I got out of the shower this morning, and wanted to hear the news. I’m away from my Echo right now, but I just wanted to say, “Alexa, what’s the news?” I would have heard a summary from several sources, some of it in recorded human voices, some of it via text-to-speech. Instead, I had to go into a different room and turn on the TV for CNN. That doesn’t sound like much, but it was an inconvenient time.

More than once, I’ve wanted to ask the Echo for weather information when it wasn’t available.

Oh, I’ve also now reordered something using the Echo. That worked just fine. It’s really a remarkable product:

Mint-X MX2427W40DS Plastic Rodent Raccoon Repellent Tall Kitchen Trash Bags, 13 Gallon Capacity, 24″ Width x 27″ Height (Box of 40) (at AmazonSmile*)

We have animals around our house. We aren’t in the wilds, we’re in a suburb…but there is open space not far from us. We don’t see raccoons at our house, for example, but they might get under the deck. All of this gets our terriers really going: that’s part of why we are having somebody do yard clean-up right now. That should reduce unwanted animals. Oh, and I just found out one of our neighbors had a  family of red foxes under their house! As the California drought continues, we’ll see a lot more of this…particularly, cougars in the suburbs.

This product is just like a regular kitchen garbage bag…but it smells like mint. The smell is somewhat strong at first, but not unpleasant.

We had a spot where there was a rat hole, and I tried a few things. Just sticking one of these bags in the rat hole worked! No sign of them at that hole again (which I had even covered up with aluminum foil previously, which often works…they chewed through that).

I was told what the cost of reordering the bags was going to be (you can currently only reorder Prime eligible products…not order something new, and not something which isn’t Prime) and could have declined. Interestingly, despite what I just said, this order wasn’t Prime…but had been last time, I think. It still ordered it.

Let me share with you a suggestion I’ve made to Amazon (through the Echo app), which I think could be huge for them.

I suggested that they let us give items we’ve ordered “friendly names”…”Pat’s vitamins”, “Mint garbage bags”, “Fluffy’s favorite cat toy”, and so on). That’s especially useful for the Echo, but would also be valuable for searching orders at the website

It would greatly add to “stickiness” for Amazon customers as well. You might not even remember the formulation of those vitamins (although it would give you the official name when you reordered it as part of the confirmation), which would make you less likely to want to go somewhere else. If you had one hundred of those (we could have that), recreating it would be a bear, even if another site allowed it.

I told them I’d like to be able to retroactively go back through my previous orders and add those names.

We’ll see if we get it.:)

Until then, for those of you who can, enjoy your Echo reading you a book around the house!

Whoops, one last thing: at this point, the Echo doesn’t have a sleep timer…so if you start it reading a book and then fall asleep, I assume it would just keep going until the book finished.  I suspect a sleep timer is coming…

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.

Why the Big 5 should join Kindle Unlimited

April 5, 2015

Why the Big 5 should join Kindle Unlimited

I’ve been a happy member of

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

since it became available July 18th of last year.

There are a lot of things to recommend Amazon’s subser (subscription service), where you pay $9.99 for an “all you can read plan”.

I could easily recommend enough books to you that are part of the program right now that you could read (and enjoy) one every day for a year and still have plenty to go.

The biggest knock you’ll hear against it, though, is that it doesn’t have the best-selling books from the biggest publishers.

Actually, if you are talking about the Big 5 (the biggest “trade” publishers in the USA…trade books are the ones you would have bought in a bookstore, not textbooks and such), it doesn’t have their worst-selling ones, either.😉 None of the Big 5 is part of Kindle Unlimited, although some of them are participating in some other subsers (Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster all have some of their books available through Scribd and Oyster).

I think that’s a mistake.

No, not just for me as a reader…I think it’s a mistake for the Big 5 publishers not to be part of Kindle Unlimited.

Part of it might be simple antagonism towards Amazon, I really don’t think that’s the deciding factor. While there are rumors that HarperCollins is considering pulling out of Amazon (something I consider very unlikely, for any length of time), they currently all do business with the e-tailer. It would be a rare publicly-held business indeed that would give up a bunch of business just because their company hadn’t gotten along with another company in the past…stockholders would not be happy.

I think it comes more from a fundamental misunderstanding of how consumers will use subsers…and KU in particular.

It’s reasonable that they would see subser use through the lens of current book buying; I just don’t think it is accurate.

Recently, in an excellent

The Bookseller interview by Fabrice Piault, translated by Barbara Casassus

Arnaud Nourry, Chief Executive of Hachette, discussed the future of publishing, and e-books in particular.

In expressing skepticism of subsers, Nourry said in part:

“This is why I have resisted the subscription system, which is a flawed idea even though it proliferates in the music business. Offering subscriptions at a monthly fee that is lower than the price of one book is absurd. For the consumer, it makes no sense. People who read two or three books a month represent an infinitesimal minority.”

I’m sure many of my readers fall into that “infinitesimal minority”, but it’s a mistake to think that is the only group served.

As a former successful brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, I think I have some idea about what motivates people to buy books.  I’m going to put forth five reasons here why I think the Big 5 should join KU…and I made a “shaky” “prediction” that at least one of them would by the end of this year.

1. Just because people use KU doesn’t mean they won’t buy other books

That’s my case. I read KU books, but I also read others. My guess is that for that small group of “serious” readers (you can also use the term “regular readers” or “habitual readers”…people who read way above the average…I might set it at fifty books a year, but even ten a year would be relatively high), joining KU may not even reduce the number of other books they buy. Many of them have never been able to afford all the books they possibly could want to read in a month…this would be a supplement, not a replacement.

2. You don’t have to put your frontlist in KU

This goes with point number one. Let people buy your Gone Girls and your Fifty Shades of Greys, until they drop out of popularity and become part of the “backlist”. That backlist right now, even though it may provide the majority of your income, doesn’t do it based on individual title unit sales. Many of your backlist would be far more likely to be borrowed than to be bought…and while the revenue might be lower, the volume could be considerably higher

3. “Casual readers” are “burst readers”

“Casual readers” are another group than “serious readers” (of course, there’s a third group…non-readers). They tend to read on specific  occasions…notably, going on vacation. They might even read (gasp) two or more books on a week-long trip, and then not read the rest of the year. Kindle Unlimited is not an annual membership…it’s month to month. Sure, if subsers didn’t exist, they might buy a book from you for that vacation…but since they do, why wouldn’t they pay $9.99 for a month and take care of ten (!) members of the family? Let’s say the whole Brady Bunch goes on vacation…two parents, six kids, and they bring Alice the housekeeper, and Sam, Alice’s Significant Other comes along, too. That’s ten people. Each one can read all the books they want. As they finish one book, they return it and start another one…and you never get over the ten at a time you are allowed to have. A “burst reader” (I just made that up) often wants to buy more than one book at that time. They also may not be that picky about getting that frontlist title…they might read genre books and classics, for that matter. Get those otherwise dormant titles moving!

4. It’s about discovery

Look, you are trying every which way to find ways for consumers to find your books. You are, rightfully, concerned about the reduction in the number of chain bookstores as “showrooms”. Subsers are going to be the new discovery engines…bigger, perhaps, than chain bookstores were. It’s not going to be hard to do this: put first titles in a series in the subser. Put short stories that supplement the series in the subser. That’s an important point: people won’t mind borrowing a twenty page short story, when they would never buy one that size. Get those serious readers hooked, and they’ll buy your other books! This is much cheaper than starting your own website or doing television advertising, or those other things you’ve been considering.

5. They don’t need to get whole books

This is a big, big factor why people will use subsers! They can get one recipe out of a cookbook, one “how to” out of a do it yourself book, one city out of a travel guide for a country, one exercise routine out of a workout book, and so on. They can bounce from book to book. This is new, and it will change things. Figure out how to make it equally valuable to get a lot of small things, rather than one big thing. Got a book out on all the baseball teams? Break it into one book per team…and get paid every time they borrow each “chapter”. Somebody will borrow a book on their favorite team, who wouldn’t buy a book on all the teams. You couldn’t sell them that way as p-books (paperbooks) in a brick-and-mortar, but you can easily do it in a subser.

That’s five.:)

Consumers are creatures of habit. You know this already. People like to buy things where they’ve bought things before. This is especially true with Amazon, where they already have your financial information, and where many services tie your library together (notes, bookmarks, and so on). I think the value of subsers for consumers is there, and will be recognized. When they do want to buy books (including expensive p-books as gifts at the holidays), they are first going to turn to where they have been reading books…and if you haven’t been part of that, it makes it harder for them to think of you.

Publishers, let’s be honest: do I and my readers benefit if you follow my advice to join KU? Yes, they do. On the basis of the reasons above, though, I think it would also be a win for you. Let me read your ten, twenty, thirty year old titles in KU…and I’ll buy your new ones.

What do you think? Does this make sense for publishers? Will any of them do it…this year? Is this a way for them to make money from books which are going into the public domain (which starts happening again in the USA in 2019)? If you’ve joined KU, has it reduced your book purchases? 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!

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.

 

Hey, Amazon! Sell me MORE stuff

August 5, 2014

Hey, Amazon! Sell me MORE stuff

One of the criticisms I often see leveled at Amazon is that their devices are just selling machines for Amazon.

If that’s the case, they are more like mechanical looms than SmartPhones.😉

I would looove an easy, seamless, 1-step process to buying things when I’m using my Amazon devices, but it just isn’t there yet.

On a daily basis, I use:

What may happen in all of these cases is that I’m reading/watching something, and it references something else…and I might want it.

Let me give you an example.

Right now, I’m reading (and enjoying very much)

These Are The Voyages, TOS, Season One ( Season One Book 1) (at AmazonSmile)
by Marc Cushman
4.8 stars out of 5, 84 customer reviews

It’s sort of an authorized “biography” of the first season of Star Trek: The Original Series. The author had official access to materials (and people). At times, we actually get a day by day description of what was happening…and why.

It’s priced at $9.95: but I’m reading it as a

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

loan, covered byour free month (and it would have been part of my $9.99 a month after that).

The author says:

“In the latter half of Day 4 and for the first half of Day 5 the action moved to sickbay, where the world gets its first glimpse of an ebook (as Gary Mitchell reads from a video screen)…”

While I might quibble with that statement (I pointed out a reference to a “pocket reading machine” in 1945 in Flash! Kindles foretold in 1945), I did want to go back and see that scene, to see just how close it was to how e-books are today**.

That episode

Where No Man has Gone Before (at AmazonSmile)

is available for me to watch as part of Prime video at no additional cost. We are Prime members, and one of the benefits of that is being able to watch a lot of videos which are covered by our annual fee.

I did do that…but I had to go to one of my devices and look up the episode.

What would be really cool is if I could highlight the name of the episode in the e-book, and it just automatically took me to the Amazon Instant Video product page, where I could watch it. Having to go look for it is a barrier.

Now, I realize that some of you may think that my title for this post doesn’t apply, here because: I’m only borrowing the video, not buying it; and I’m not paying anything additional for it.

I think the same concept applies. I’m doing a “secondary buy”. Amazon wants me to “buy” Prime (they really, really want that…they are spending tons of money getting people to do that), and to remain a Prime member. Having me enjoy Prime is part of that, and getting me easily to a video I want to watch is a way to get me to enjoy it.

I’d also like to see them tell me how much money I saved…like I get at the end of my Safeway grocery receipt.

They don’t have to show me a running total (which could conceivably disappoint some people), but popping something up that says I saved $2.99 by watching this as part of my Prime (as opposed to buying it) would be nice and a validation for me to be in the program. The same thing should happen when I order a physical object with Prime…let me know what the two-day shipping would have been.

Oh, and even the highlighting could be easier. If I press one word in a title, there could be logic to look to see if that is part of an italicized phrase, in quotations, or part of a group of words in “Title Case” (all major words capitalized). It might have to offer the full selection (in case you were trying to look up one word in a quotation in a book), but I think it’s entirely doable.

The key thing here is that Amazon needs a search from within content for things it can sell you or secondarily sell you.

If one book mentions another book, let me jump to it with the option to borrow/read it.

If a book mentions a person, let me jump from that name to a store at Amazon…and a complete store, not just one kind of content.

These Are the Voyages mentions

George Takei (at AmazonSmile)

If you click that link, it takes you to Amazon’s author page for Takei, which has a bio, a picture, latest tweet, blogposts…but no links to videos, games, clothing, and so on featuring the actor.

Absolutely, give me a way to filter to just books if I want (and they do let you filter by book format now), but give me a hub to everything Takei.

This should even work for non-brand names.

If I’m reading about somebody eating trail mix, I should be able to highlight that and be taken to a search at Amazon for trail mix.

Here’s another idea.

If a book mentions “…great movies of the 1930s”, and I choose to pursue that, first check for books or content with that phrase in the title. Then, do a search (using Silk) on the web. Here’s the kicker: give me a choice to filter to Amazon results.

So, the search finds The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

The “Amazon results” search then reenters those names into the content search at Amazon…and bam! I can get them there.

That would make Silk useful for me.😉

Even though I wrote about

Why I don’t use Amazon’s Silk browser

I have started to use it more on my Fire Phone.

That’s because they have a nice feature that works there…and doesn’t work in other browsers (I have Maxthon, my browser of choice) added to the phone.

When you are on a website, you can tip the phone back to scroll. The steeper the tip, the faster the scroll. It’s surprisingly nice to be able to scroll without touching the screen. The Fire Phone specializes in “no touch navigation”…which really does keep the screen considerably cleaner.

That’s a feature that is getting me to use Silk…having Amazon search results, reached intuitively and conveniently from my content would be another…and would result in more sales and borrows (and thus, enhanced loyalty) from Amazon.

These sorts of things should also happen when I’m watching video. See a TV character wearing a piece of clothing you want? I’d love to be able to ask my device to note it, and maybe find it for me later on Amazon. On a touchscreen device, it might be a question of tapping the clothing. When you wanted, it would ask you if you wanted more information on the actor, on what they were wearing, on the profession the person represented, on the character…lots of possibilities.

Is any of this easy?

No, and I understand that.

Would it make me even more bonded to Amazon? Without a doubt.

Bonus deal:Amazon had a deal yesterday with $20 off lots of “flavors” of the Paperwhite. Today, there is a one day deal with a much bigger savings: $130 off this specific model of

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi, 32 GB – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile)

That’s just for the 32 GB version (with or without Special Offers).That brings it down to $299 (from $429) with Special Offers for this 8.9″ screen version of the latest Kindle Fire.

It also oddly makes the 32GB less expensive than the 16GB right now.

Check the price before you click that Buy button: this may not apply in your country, or you may see this after today’s sale has ended.

What do you think? How could Amazon be further integrated into your life…and should it be? Would “smart link shopping” be an attractive thing to you? Do you think you would buy more things from Amazon if it was even easier? Would you want to see a “you saved” statement? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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! :) 

** There’s no arguing that Mitchell is reading e-books…and yes, that includes classics. The mechanism isn’t like a Kindle…it’s more like the Kindle for PC app, reading them on a pretty large screen. Each book appears to come on a separate “tape”, and they do have a reference to page numbers. It doesn’t appear that the Enterprise has all that many books. Mitchell reads “half the library”, in what is clearly a fast time, but not super fast…and we see how quickly the “esper” can turn pages. 

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.

Comic Con inspired bargains

July 23, 2014

Comic Con inspired bargains

Tonight is the preview night for

San Diego Comic Con (SDCC)

which is one of the biggest pop culture events of the year.

In fact, it’s big enough that companies tie into it with merchandise/content sales…and not just on comics.

The con itself certainly goes beyond comic books/graphic novels. Some old timers complain that it has become too much about movies and TV…even ones that aren’t even especially geeky (and I use that adjective as a proud geek).

Authors of text-based books (you know…what many people just call “books”)😉 also appear: Diana Gabaldon, Robin Hobb, Jim Butcher, and more. Even the publishers (Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House) have panels.

So, through this weekend, we’ll be able to find bargains…even if they don’t specifically say they are there because of Comic Con, that may be the case.

For example, one of today’s Kindle Daily Deals is

Batman Day graphic novels sale (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

This is Batman’s 75th anniversary year..the Dark Knight (or Caped Crusader…depends a bit on your perspective) debuted in what is sometimes considered the best pop culture year, 1939.

Batman (along with Superman) certainly seems to have taken some inspiration from Doc Savage (Doc was a wealthy crimefighter with specialized vehicles and equipment…including a “utility vest”, which arguably became Batman’s utility belt), but that’s another story.:)

There have been some Batman graphic novels that are really considered classic by Batman fans…and yes, they are included here for $2.99 each.

That includes:

  • Batman: The Dark Knight by Frank Miller
  • Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

If you’ve never read a graphic novel, I’d recommend The Dark Knight…and warn you ahead of time, those two in particular are not written for children.

Amazon is also giving us

Batman Eternal #1 (at AmazonSmile)

for free!

You need to enter a promotional code (BATMAN75) first…you can see all the details here:

Batman Eternal #1 promo detail page (at AmazonSmile)

I suspect we’ll see more related specials over the next few days in the

Kindle Daily Deals (at AmazonSmile)

Another place at Amazon where we’ll see savings through the weekend, and these may be explicitly SDCC deals, is

The Geek Boutique (at AmazonSmile)

One more thing before I leave Amazon. Here’s a link for

Prime Video Comic-Con Favorites (at AmazonSmile)

If you are an eligible Prime member, you can watch these at no additional cost…and there are 227 results at time of writing.

Let’s move off of Amazon for a minute to go to Marvel.

Marvel has “Marvel Unlimited”, which you can think of as similar to Kindle Unlimited…just for digital Marvel comics.

Normally, that’s $9.99 a month. It includes a lot of comics…typically, you can expect that when a Marvel comic is six months past its publication date, it may appear here.

As a special tie-in to SDCC, though, you can get the first month for $0.99!

You can have 12 comics out at a time (KU allows ten titles).

You can get more information on it here:

http://marvel.com/mu?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=AcquisitionEmail&utm_content=072314EMSubscribeNow&utm_campaign=SDCC14

The necessary app isn’t in the Amazon Appstore, but you could get it at

1Mobile

Amazon allows us to install apps from “unknown sources” on our Kindle Fires, but you have to make the call. Since the app won’t have been reviewed by Amazon to make sure it is safe and that it works on the KFire, you take responsibility for that.

This is one where I would feel comfortable getting it, and I have gotten things for my KFire from 1Mobile before.

You can count on bargains from other geeky sites, too, like

ThinkGeek.com

and

SuperHeroStuff.com

Enjoy!

Bonus story:

In a

press release

today, Amazon announced that it has added hundreds of thousands of songs to Prime Music (at AmazonSmile)…and hundreds of playlists.

That’s the no additional cost streaming music for eligible Amazon Prime members.

In my recent post

A Day in the Life of a Kindleer 2014

I didn’t talk about using Prime Music, but I have used it sporadically…I sometimes write with it on, for example.

It looks like Prime Music has been quite successful. Adding hundreds of thousands of songs to it is great! I haven’t been terribly impressed with their playlists, although it is nice to have fifty songs of one genre play with one selection. I’m just not sure that I’m seeing genuine creativity n how songs are grouped together in the playlists. I some cases, they seem a bit more like…search results, rather than curated music lists.

For example, the press release mentions one called “Fire for Your Fire”, and describes it as “Odes to all things fire make perfect listening on your Fire Phone or Kindle Fire”. I’m guessing that it’s just a bunch of songs with “fire” in the title, although I’m not seeing it yet on the site.

Curation seems to be better at Songza, but this is new for Amazon. One thing they could do is let customers share playlists, then have people “like” them…and with enough likes, a playlist moves up into a better discovery spot. That would create social engagement, and probably result in better playlists.

New! 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! :) 

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.

Is Amazon delaying Hachette books?

May 10, 2014

Is Amazon delaying Hachette books?

This story is all over the blogosphere. Here’s a Google search with several big name results (CNNMoney, Christian Science Monitor, Publishers Weekly, Slate, New York Times…):

Google news search for “Hachette”

The source of it appears to have been this

New York Times article by David Streitfeld

The article, which seems to uncritically accept what one party in the situation says, starts with:

“Amazon has begun discouraging customers from buying books by Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Colbert, J. D. Salinger and other popular writers, a flexing of its muscle as a battle with a publisher spills into the open.”

Are you sure you don’t want to throw an “allegedly” or “reportedly” in there?

I mean, this is the New York Times, right? Not some anonymous book blog?

Well, I’m sure they verified Amazon’s actions and motivations before running the article…or not.

The gist of the story is that Amazon is REPORTEDLY deliberately keeping low stock on some Hachette p-books (paperbooks), which results in waits of two weeks or more for customers to get them.

Before I start commenting on this, let me say that my background might paint me as prejudiced…on one side or the other.😉 I was a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, so that might put me in Amazon’s camp (since they are, in this instance a book retailer). I am also not an Amazon employee, but I have gotten money from them (royalties, for one thing).

On the other hand, I am (in a very small way) a publisher. I’ve published my own titles to the Kindle store…and Amazon could certainly mess me up if it chose to do that.

Okay, with that out of the way…

My first question is…is it true?

First, I did a search for Grand Central (one of Hachette’s imprints…and one suggested by the article) print books at Amazon.com:

Grand Central print books at Amazon.com (at AmazonSmile)

Looking at the “New and Popular” sort, I see

  1. No delay
  2. No delay
  3. No delay
  4. Pre-order
  5. Usually ships in 1 to 3 weeks (this is Robin Roberts’ Everybody’s Got Something)
  6. Pre-order
  7. No delay
  8. Pre-order
  9. No delay
  10. No delay
  11. No delay
  12. Usually ships in 3 to 4 weeks (The Hit by David Baldacci)
  13. No delay
  14. Usually ships in 3 to 4 weeks (Gone by James Patterson)
  15. No delay
  16. Usually ships in 2 to 5 weeks (Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams and Mario Batali)
  17. No delay
  18. Pre-order
  19. No delay
  20. No delay

Well, there are some books there with a significant delay.

My next question: are the books delayed at Amazon also delayed at Barnes & Noble?

Assuming that “usually ships within 24 hours” means that they don’t expect a delay, the answer was no…for all four of these.

Next, I’ll try some Random House titles, to see if they also have significant delays. I checked the top twenty Random House books, using the same technique I did for Grand Central: no delays.

So, tentatively at this point, I’ll say the evidence supports Hachette’s reported contention…Amazon may in fact be understocking Hachette’s books.

“Understocking?”

By that I mean that they aren’t keeping enough in stock to meet customer demand and get them delivered in a c0uple of days.

Why would that be the case?

It could be a deliberate bargaining tactic, as the stories suggest. The idea is that by delaying delivery, they are hurting Hachette.

However, wouldn’t that also hurt Amazon? The way they would be hurting the publisher is by reducing the sales…which also hurts Amazon.

I never think it’s a good tactic to annoy your customers to get back at your suppliers…I didn’t like it when stores did it to Amazon by not carrying Amazon’s traditionally published books, for example.

I think there might be a couple of other possible explanations.

One is that Amazon just blew it on the ordering. Certainly, that happened sometimes in my store. We way over-ordered on a Suzanne Summers book…because she lived in the area and we thought there would be a lot of interest. Maybe Robin Roberts got more publicity than they expected?

I don’t really think that’s likely. I think Amazon is generally good at ordering…and it would be pretty fluky if they just happened to be one publisher’s books (unless that publisher did something unexpected in terms of publicity).

Another one is that Amazon is experimenting…maybe trying to drive customers to e-books instead. In a case like that, they might pick one publisher’s books, or books that fit a certain profile (which might, coincidentally, align with a publisher’s content choices).

I would consider that…possible. Amazon has more (and I would guess increasingly) control in the e-book market than they do in the p-book market (although they are a major player there too, of course…and perhaps, becoming even more powerful as B&N wobbles on the edge of a cliff).

This might also simply be a way to try to cut costs and up profits…Roger Knights, one of my regular readers and commenters, had a strongly correct prediction about e-book prices rising at Amazon.

It costs money to store books. Every day a book sits in your warehouse (or back room, in a bookstore the size of the one I ran), you lose money on the sale. Maybe that’s making Amazon take more chances with low stock…and if Hachette’s return policies aren’t as friendly as other publishers, that could make them more likely to be hit by it…that’s just speculation, though.

Let’s sum this up:

Books unavailable? That’s a bad thing.

Is Amazon at fault here? I think that’s the most likely scenario.

What’s the plus side (there is always a plus side)? I suppose it might accelerate the shift to e-books, which I do see generally as a good thing (they are more accessible, less expensive for the most part, and as I understand it, more ecologically friendly).

If Hachette decides it needs to go more directly to readers, that’s very much more likely to be with e-books than p-books. Amazon is a behemoth in delivery, and does it for a lot of other companies. It would be very hard for a publisher to start doing D2R (Direct To Readers) with p-books…but a snap (logistically…marketing is a different question) with e-books.

Update: this additional

New York Times article, again by David Streitfeld

has two additional accusations against Amazon…claiming two more tactics against Hachette use by the e-tailer.

One is higher prices.

The other one, more intriguing, is running banner ads on a book’s Amazon product page…recommending similar, less expensive books.

That latter one, if true (and my intuition, without additional evidence, is that the story wouldn’t include this if it wasn’t), changes the math.

It would mean that Amazon could actually profit by reducing the sales of the Hachette books. Readers could be directed to books with more favorable terms..perhaps ones published by Amazon itself.

Nothing illegal about that…I wouldn’t even say it is unethical.

But it is sneaky.😉

This second article focuses on how authors are hurt in these sorts of “spats”…certainly, that’s a motivation for them to publish independently in the future. Is that good for Amazon? Sure, that’s where most of them would indie publish!

Is that the real goal? Get authors out of publishers completely, and into controlling their own destinies…but using Amazon’s distribution platform?

Hmmmmmm….

Customers, of course, are also hurt by this…that’s where I would advise Amazon to be careful, if they are doing this at all. Even if a customer can get a cheaper (perhaps even better) alternative, most of them won’t get that emotionally. They’ll just get that Amazon doesn’t have the book they wanted it, when they wanted it, at the price they wanted.

That’s the sort of mistake Amazon hasn’t tended to make in the past…I hope they don’t let pressure for greater profits make them change their three core values: price; service; and selection.

What do you think? How bad is this? If this is Amazon’s fault, would that surprise you? Do you see it as part of a general trend? If the move towards popular reading being done with e-books rather than p-books accelerates, do you think that’s a good thing? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

New! 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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