Archive for the ‘Amazon Echo’ Category

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.

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New Echo Dot introduced

September 15, 2016

New Echo Dot introduced

I’m not always right (I thought publishers would embrace Amazon adding text-to-speech to the Kindle 2, since it means people get through books more quickly and will buy more…quite wrong there), but I have gotten a few good predictions in over the years.

This one was just from two days ago

Did Pew just find that nearly twice as many paperbooks are read as e-books?

but I wasn’t seeing much speculation along this line before I said it.

I said:

“Bonus thought: is a refresh coming to the Echo line? Amazon has announced a September 14th event of some kind for the UK, and some people think that might be the Echo coming to the UK. The Echo Dot (I use one every day) is no longer available, with no indication of when it might be coming back in stock.”

Well, today they introduced a new version of the Dot:

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

available for pre-order for October 20th. It also comes in black. The white is new, and can be a good option for some rooms, like many kitchens.

The Dot is the version of Amazon’s Echo without a big speaker. It doesn’t have a tinny speaker, which is fine for voice, but it will sound scratchy on music. Still, I use a Dot every day…we have one in the bedroom, and for one thing, it turns our lights on and off. It also gives me weather reports, tells me what’s on my calendar, and so on.

They’ve reduced the price to $49.99. You can also buy six for the price of five or 12 for the price of 10 (which is the same either way). That way, you could have one in each room…or give them as gifts.

If you want good sound, you can connect it to a Bluetooth or wired speaker. I use mine with

iClever BoostSound Portable IP65 Waterproof Outdoor/Shower Bluetooth Speaker with 12hr Playtime (iClever BoostSound Portable IP65 Waterproof Outdoor/Shower Bluetooth Speaker with 12hr Playtime)

which was a gift from our now adult kid.

I have it in the bathroom, and I like the interface a lot. Pairing it was easy and now, I just turned it on and in a second or two, the sound from my Dot is coming through it…even if I do that in the middle of a song. The sound is fine…and again, nice that it is waterproof.

The price for the speaker right now is $23.99, which is nice!

Besides coming in white, it’s a bit shorter, but I suspect there are more hardware changes, even without that many more software features.

Also, it comes with a new “ESP” (Echo Spatial Perception) feature…which will also come to the earlier Echoes in the near future.

It will enable an Echo to know if you are talking to it, or to another Echo.

That’s been a…challenge for us. The Echoes hear really well. When I say something to the one in the bedroom, the one in the family room usually hears me, too. That’s down a pretty long hallway and around a corner. Sometimes one of them hears me correctly and the one doesn’t, but they usually answer in harmony.

This is supposed to help with that issue, and to improve over time.

There are, by the way, more than 3,000 skills (like apps) available now! That’s up from about 1,000…just since June.

One more bit of Alexa news. The Echo is coming to the UK and Germany.

Bonus story: I read a Rizzoli and Isles novel by Tess Gerritsen:

Die Again (at AmazonSmile*)

I read a lot of things, but I don’t tend to read a lot of…well, let’s call them mainstream bestsellers. I’m not opposed to them…I’m not one of those people who thinks that if something is popular it isn’t good. 🙂

These are very popular mysteries, starring a police detective and a medical examiner.

They are a disparate pair, and that’s clearly part of the attraction…and what lead to a TV series based on them.

I did enjoy the book, and found it well written. Interestingly, though, the main characters were not the ones that made the book work the most for me. In fact, my Significant Other read the book also…and felt the same way. We both had some trouble telling them apart…even though they are supposed to very physically and temperamentally different. I would guess that if I gave most people a selection of quotations from the two characters, they would have difficulty assigning them correctly.

There were other characters and situations that were richly done.

I wonder if that’s normal in the series…that Rizzoli and Isles are more framing characters than the focus of the plot.

Speaking of the plot…I didn’t find the mystery all that difficult. I suspect I was aided in that by having some somewhat esoteric knowledge, but it’s an unusual mystery where I haven’t considered the proper solution…even if it’s only one of several things I’ve considered. In this case, I anticipated a couple of main elements.

Regardless, it was still worth reading for me. I liked a series of scenes set in Africa very much.

Back to more obscurities… 😉

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.

Did Pew just find that nearly twice as many paperbooks are read as e-books?

September 12, 2016

Did Pew just find that nearly twice as many paperbooks are read as e-books?

I keep seeing various things which seem to suggest that e-book growth has stagnated…that it had a meteoric rise from when the Kindle was introduced to something like 25% of the market, and then has hit a plateau.

That narrative certainly wouldn’t fit what I thought would happen.

Quite simply, I think e-books are generally better for most people, in terms of simple recreational reading of novels or popular non-fiction.

There are all sorts of advantages: the increasable font size, how portable e-books are, the ability to look up words, the way it can remember where you were without a bookmark, and so on

Sure, there are some disadvantages as well, but I honestly think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

At the very least, p-books aren’t twice as good as e-books for the most popular kinds of reading.

Pew regularly surveys Americans on their reading habits, and looking at it comparatively from year to year, it isn’t obvious that there is the same kind of explosive growth.

Taking a look at this year’s

Book Reading 2016 report

as summarized by Andrew Perrin, there is a lot of interesting information (based on their survey).

I don’t want to take too much away from it. I’ll mention that I was surprised that the younger the age segment, the higher percentage of them say they have read an e-book. My impression, in the beginning, was that e-books appealed more to older readers. The benefits one gets from e-books apply more to typical seniors than to Millenials.

I suspect that this change, if it is one, may have to do with a trend to read e-books on SmartPhones and other non-reading dedicated devices, as opposed to EBRs (E-Book Readers). My guess would be that SmartPhone use is more prevalent among younger people…I don’t tend to read e-books on my phone, because the screen is simply too small (among other reasons).

What I’ve seen as the main headline from this report, when it has appeared in the blogosphere, is soe variant of this which appears in the actual report summary:

“…print books remain much more popular than books in digital formats”

I think people writing those headlines may have missed something.

While it may be true that 54% of respondents reporting having read a “print book” in the past 12 months, only 28% having read an e-book, that doesn’t mean that about twice as many p-books were read as e-books.

My intuition is that serious readers are more likely to read e-books than casual readers…they also benefit from the advantages (especially the storage and portability) more.

Let’s say that a serious reader reads fifty books a year and a casual reader reads ten books a year. The latter number is actually high, but let’s go with it.

Next, let’s say that 75% of e-books are read by serious readers.

That would mean that serious readers read 37.5 e-books a year and 12.5 p-books.

The casual read would read 2.5 e-books and 7.5 p-books.

That would make 40 e-books versus 20 p-books.

That seems more accurate to me. I also think e-book growth will continue, especially since younger people seem to be reading them the most.

I do recommend you read the report (it’s not very long). I’d love to discuss some of the other points, if you want to ask me about them. You can do that, and tell me and my readers what you think about what I’ve said, by commenting on this post.

Bonus thought: is a refresh coming to the Echo line? Amazon has announced a September 14th event of some kind for the UK, and some people think that might be the Echo coming to the UK. The Echo Dot (I use one every day) is no longer available, with no indication of when it might be coming back in stock.

You can still get the

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

or the

Amazon Tap (at AmazonSmile*)

We might hear more on the 14th than some are currently guessing…Amazon is good at that.

By the way, this is an interesting third party device! It’s a

Portable Battery Base for Echo (Use Echo anywhere) (at AmazonSmile*)

For $49.99 at time of writing, you can run your Echo off this base for something like 5 hours…without plugging it into power! The Tap is still more portable, but for many people, this would serve that purpose. It also enables you to talk to it from across the room, which you can’t do with the Tap.

The reviews are very good, with 4.6 stars average out of 5 with 145 customer reviews.

This might be a fun gift for somebody who has already been “Alexified”. 😉

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.

Echo and Tap on sale today only

April 20, 2016

Echo and Tap on sale today only

Amazon was #1 in the Reputation Institute’s U.S. Reptrak 100 report (they often finish at the top of these sorts of things…which is great!) and to celebrate, they are doing a 1 day sale (they’ve done that before, too).

The

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) is $153.71 (normally $179.99)

and

Amazon Tap (at AmazonSmile*) $111.01 (regularly $129.99)

This is probably only in the USA, and they say it is only for today.

We use our Echo every day, and I’m surprised, but I use the Tap every day at work.

The Dot, by the way, is not on sale.

I’m going to get this post out right now so my readers on the East Coast have a better chance of seeing it. I may add to it, though.

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.

Two NEW Amazon Alexa devices announced

March 3, 2016

Two NEW Amazon Alexa devices announced

I’ve written about the details here, but I wanted to give you my readers here a heads-up, since these could sell out and/or get long waiting lists:

The Alexa family grows! Two NEW devices from Amazon

Update: here’s my new post comparing the five (counting the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick separately) Amazon Alexa devices…

Echo, Dot, Tap, or Fire TV? Which Amazon Alexa device is right for you?

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.

Round up #137: Brick and mortar bookstore sales up, chance to win a $50 Amazon gift certificate

February 14, 2016

Round up #137: Brick and mortar bookstore sales up, chance to win a $50 Amazon gift certificate

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

Netpop is doing an Echo survey and giving away 10 $50 Amazon Gift Certificates

I moved most of my coverage of the

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

to another blog of mine, The Measure Circle

It seems more appropriate there, but when I did, I told readers of this blog that I would link them to interesting posts I make about it there. The Echo does, after all, read books with text-to-speech and play audiobooks, and quite a few of my readers of this blog have them.

This is also a chance that you could win one of ten $50 Amazon gift certificates…and we could all use that. 🙂

Here’s the information:

Netpop is conducting a survey about the Echo with a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift certificate

You can see the details there, but I also want to thank Netpop for how responsive they were to a concern of mine. That is customer service!

If you win one of the gift certificates, I’d appreciate hearing about it. 🙂

For the first time since the Kindle was released, brick-and-mortar bookstore sales rise

The Kindle was released in 2007.

According to this Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

the U.S Census Bureau has reported a drop in brick-and-mortar bookstore sales (I’m a former manager of one) every year since…until 2015.

Last year, bookstore sales rose.

While the post suggests that may be due to rising p-book (paperbook) sales and declining e-book sales, that doesn’t prove that people are abandoning e-books for print.

First, brick-and-mortar bookstore sales and p-book sales are decreasingly a one-to-one correlation. Barnes & Noble regularly touts how well their non-book sales are doing (games, toys, shirts, that kind of thing…I assume coffee counts). My guess is that’s contributing to their rise.

Second, I’ve mentioned before that e-book sales may be increasingly a shadow event…they may not be tracked by organizations that are reporting a slowing or decline in e-book sales. Yes, the Big Five (top US trade publishers) have reported declining e-book sales…but if people are buying more e-books from indies (independent publishers), there may not have been a decline overall.

I’m happy to see the increase…but I just caution about building a narrative that e-books are failing and people are returning to paper in mass numbers.

I expect some bookstores to thrive in the next ten years…but I also expect the percentage of books read as e-books versus p-books to also increase during that time.

Books I got for my birthday

It was fun to give away my books in my annual birthday promotion!

Happy my birthday, 2016!

I love giving things away!

However, yes, it’s nice to get things as well. 😉

My adult kid gave me eight (!) books in the

The Science Fiction MEGAPACK® (at AmazonSmile*)

series from Wildside.

Each book is an anthology of stories by a variety of authors, some well-known, some not as much. Many of the stories are, I believe, public domain, and some are not.

Authors in the first volume include Poul Anderson, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Philip K. Dick, just to name a few.

I’m really looking forward to reading these! I’ve already started, partially with text-to-speech in the car. My family knows that’s a habit of mine from when I was a kid…I at least briefly “use” every gift I get within a day or so. When we were kids, we were encouraged to do that so we could write honest thank you notes to everyone. 🙂 I don’t write paper thank you notes any more, but I still try to thank people.

My Significant Other got me a p-book, but as a collector’s item. 🙂 As regular readers know, I’m a big Oz fan, and have 100+ year old versions of the original L. Frank Baum books.

This is an autographed copy of

Dorothy of Oz (at AmazonSmile*)

by Roger S. Baum, a great-grandson of the original author, L. Frank Baum.

I’m going to get the Kindle version I just linked, so I can read it while keeping the other one in great shape. 🙂

Here’s one place Amazon’s X-ray for Books would come in handy!

I though the infographic in this

post by Ola Kowalczyk in EBOOK Friendly

was great fun for me!

It’s fifteen books with lots of named characters.

The Stand (at AmazonSmile*) by Stephen King

for example, has 463 named characters, according to this, and 1,344 pages…that’s almost one named character every three pages!

“18 Reasons Why Reading Is Just Like Exercising” at Book Bub

I know Book Bub as a place to get free e-books..I hadn’t realized it had become such a pop culture website full of listicles!

I enjoyed this:

18 Reasons Why Reading Is Just Like Exercising

I actually do exercise quite a bit (my baseline is ninety minutes a day), but I really appreciated these! Some are available as shirts or e-cards…

Lee Child on Amazon brick-and-mortar bookstores

I recently wrote

Rumor: is Amazon planning to open hundreds of brick-and-mortars?

I talked about what I thought it might really mean, and some possibilities for what I called “Amazon showrooms” might contain.

I thought this

The Guardian article by Lee Child

was…interesting. Child, a bestselling author, has voiced an opposition opinion to some of Amazon’s decisions in the past.

Honestly, this is an opinion piece…and I don’t want to say too much about it. It’s worth reading…I’ll just say we don’t see things the same way. 🙂

I did want to point out one thing…it’s a technique I’ve taught people myself.

I have trained trainers (and I’m a trainer myself).

One thing that comes up for trainers is credibility.

You can’t really get someone to adopt the behaviors you want if they don’t believe you know your subject.

There are a lot of little things you can do, but one is to use precise numbers.

When I taught Excel years ago, I would sometimes use this: “Does anybody know how many rows there are in Excel? 65,556.”

That’s not true any more, by the way, but just by doing that, I convinced people I knew Excel well.

Child says, “So now, rumour has it, Amazon plans to open another 299 physical bookstores (it already has one, in Seattle).”

299…a precise number, therefore increasing credibility.

I think the what set off the original broad coverage was this quotation

“You’ve got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400…”

reported in a

Wall Street Journal article by Greg Bensinger

I did a quick search, and I’m not seeing another source for a precise number of 299.

I know that is, perhaps, nitpicky. 🙂 I’m not trying to argue the number…I’m pointing out that using any specific number when one isn’t known can be an intentional rhetorical technique.

I’m sure many of you will find the article worth reading.

What do you think? Do you find it confusing when books have lots of named characters? What do you think of Lee Child’s article? Why are bookstore sales reversing the downward trend? 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.

 

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

January 12, 2016

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

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

From Kindle indie to Golden Globe

Congratulations to Andy Weir!

The adaptation of

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

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

That marks a considerable change in the industry.

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

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

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

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

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

😉

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

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

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

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

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

As laid out in this

Amazon press release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strong rumor: new, portable, cheaper Echo

In this Wall Street Journal article by Greg Bensinger

Amazon to Release Portable Version of Echo Speaker in Coming Weeks

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

they give some details on a rumored little sibling of the

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

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

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

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

I would definitely want one! 🙂

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

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

Oh, and I want Alexa on my phone. 🙂

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

Big things are coming!

Fourth generation Fires are getting updated to Fire OS 5 soon

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

However, they sent it by mistake. 🙂

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

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

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

You can tell which version you have here:

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

Update to Kindle for iOS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 9, 2016

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

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

You can now use your

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

to listen to text-to-speech!

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

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

I would expect it to come to the

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

and

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

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

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

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

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

Home – Menu (three horizontal lines) – Kindle Books

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

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

Enjoy!

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

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

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

Words of a feather: Kindle book categories

October 27, 2015

Words of a feather: Kindle book categories

I’ve written before about how I’ve seen the same book in the Kindle store categorized as both fiction and non-fiction.

That’s the publisher’s doing.

The publisher (certainly in the case of independently published books) picks the categories…and they do it largely for marketing reasons.

Now, I have to say…as a former manager of a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I think the publishers are sometimes making…non-optimal choices.

For example, they take a look at the categories they think sell the most, and put their books in there.

If your book doesn’t belong there, that’s not going to work.

Let’s say that it was a grocery store, and the candy aisle sells the most. Just because you take your broccoli and stick it in the candy aisle doesn’t mean it’s going to sell like Snickers bars. 😉

Similarly, if you put your candy bar in with the produce, it’s not going to sell as well as if it was with the other candy (or in an impulse area, like the checkout line).

Shoppers get into a “head space” about what they want to buy…it’s not that easy a process. I’ve read several things lately about the energy cost of decision making. It’s hard to make decisions. They’ve pointed out how some creative types (Steve Jobs, for example) tended to wear the same things most of the time…eliminating one taxing decision to make each day. 🙂

You may actually irritate someone by shocking them with the “right thing” in the “wrong place”.

Some people think the publishers are trying to trick the audience. For example, they think that faith-based publishers will hide that the book is faith-based…putting it just in the mystery category, without revealing that is faith-based.

Well, I suppose that particular one would work…if they didn’t bring religion into the book until the end of it. 🙂

You see, you get seven days from purchase to return a Kindle store book for a refund. You can even do it yourself by going to

http://www.amazon.com/myk

That’s why it doesn’t make much sense to think that the publisher is trying to trick you into buying a book you won’t want. Well, people do foolish things, so they might be trying to do that…but it won’t work very well. 😉

I’ve also seen people say that Amazon is trying to “bait and switch” people with books.

That’s actually even less likely.

I keep saying in this blog that Amazon’s most important product is happy customers.

It makes no sense for them to rip you off of $10 and lose you as a customer.

Imagine somebody on their trial month of

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

and feeling that Amazon tried to trick you so you quit?

That’s a big loss for Amazon!

That doesn’t mean that no one ever feels that way, I will guarantee you it is not a corporate strategy. 😉

That’s why I was intrigued to see this page on the publicly visible part of Kindle Direct Publishing:
>
Selecting Browse Categories

They have some great advice there, including things that use the technical parameters of the search properly.

Their (literal) number one rule?

Pick the most accurate categories. Make sure the categories you pick correctly describe the subject matter of your book.”

Yup.

They also give information about what makes a book show up in the children’s sections…and the rules are different for the USA and the UK, for example.

Interestingly, and I didn’t know this, the categories actually come from  third party, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG):

https://www.bisg.org/bisac-subject-codes

I suppose I should have known that…I’m familiar with BISG, but just didn’t know that was the source of the categories at Amazon.

Outside of recommending, there isn’t a whole lot that Amazon can practically do.

Some people on the forum will suggest that Amazon just use the Dewey Decimal system, or the Library of Congress classification, but that misses a big point.

Many of the books are being published directly to Amazon…they haven’t been published anywhere else, and the copyright hasn’t been registered (which isn’t necessary in the USA: copyright is automatic, although registering does make going after somebody legally for infringing on your rights easier).

No one has evaluated these books to determine their categories.

Amazon could do it: but do we want Amazon to being that sort of curating? It certainly might discourage independent publishers…even thought it might be better for the customers.

It’s a bit of a tough call. Right now, Amazon enjoys a reputation, at least with customers, of broadly carrying many titles. If they ever do stop carrying a title, it can become a news story. There are sometimes movements to get them to stop carrying something people deem offensive. It takes a lot of convincing before that happens, assuming the book is legal to sell.

I like that. I like Amazon selling as much of everything (as far as books go) as is legal and is practical.

That means they sell things I don’t like, and it means it sells things advocating actions of which I disapprove.

That’s fine with me. 🙂

However, I would prefer that the categories were accurate…I’m just not sure what I’m willing to pay for that, in terms of both costs to Amazon (and subsequently me) and diversity of inventory.

Bonus story: I thought some of the readers of this blog would find my recent post

“Alexa, what did all those Back to the Future stories miss?” (and fact future v fict future)

It’s not just that some of my readers are interested in the

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

It’s also because I speculate a bit there about the future of technology…which does apply to EBRs (E-Book Readers),  of course.

What do you think? Should Amazon do more to make the categories accurate? Does it bother you when they aren’t? Have you ever bought a book on Amazon and felt like the publisher tried to fool you? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

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

Round up #310: Amazon sues over false reviews, membaca lebih banyak buku

October 19, 2015

Round up #310: Amazon sues over false reviews, membaca lebih banyak buku

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

Follow up to a recent post on translations

I recently wrote

Found in translation
about Amazon’s commitment to their AmazonCrossing imprint, which translates works.

Following that, Amazon sent me this, which does not appear in their normal press release archive:

AmazonCrossing Announces Spotlight on Indonesian Literature 

Amazon Publishing commits to publish Indonesian authors beginning in 2016

Spotlight part of $10 million investment to increase publication of international books into English

SEATTLE—October 15, 2015—(NASDAQ: AMZN)—AmazonCrossing, the literary translation imprint of Amazon Publishing, today announced a commitment to publish exceptional works of literature from Indonesian authors translated into English beginning in early 2016. The announcement coincides with Indonesia’s participation as Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair this week.

Indonesian titles planned for publication include:

  • Nirzona, a love story by Abidah El Khalieqy, set against the backdrop of the Aceh tsunami, a rare moment in recent history when the world’s eyes turned to Indonesia
  • English-language originals The Oddfits and The More Known World, the first two titles in the Oddfits series from Indonesia-born Tiffany Tsao, a translator and past Indonesia editor at large forAsymptote Journal
  • Paper Boats, a new adult love story written in glittering, quotable prose from popular novelist, actress, and singer Dee Lestari
  • A new edition of Laksmi Pamuntjak’s acclaimed A Question of Red and her latest, Aruna and Her Palate, which follows a food writer’s travels through Indonesia
  • Hummingbird, a stunning work of magical realism from Nukila Amal

“AmazonCrossing is committed to bringing great authors and stories to a global audience, and our spotlight programs have offered an opportunity to focus attention on a range of books from specific countries—something we plan to do more of as part of our continued commitment to the translation imprint’s expansion,” said Sarah Jane Gunter, Publisher of AmazonCrossing and General Manager of International Publishing, referring to previous programs showcasing literature from Iceland, Brazil, and Finland. “Indonesia’s contributions to world literature are not often available to English-language readers and this spotlight reiterates AmazonCrossing’s commitment to bringing stories into English from languages less frequently seen in translation.”

“I feel like my writing and I are difficult to categorize,” says author Tiffany Tsao. “The Oddfits resists classification in many respects. And as someone affiliated with multiple cultures and places, I don’t fit easily into ready-made boxes either. I’m so incredibly happy to be working with a publisher adventurous enough to give oddness a chance.”

The Indonesia spotlight program follows similar AmazonCrossing programs in past years featuring literature from Finland, Iceland and Brazil. The Finnish spotlight program included Katri Lipson’s European Union Prize for Literature-winning literary thriller The Ice Cream Man, as well as books by Leena Lehtolainen, Jari Järvelä, Marko Hautala, and Risto Isomäki. The Brazilian spotlight program launched in 2013 and has included the release of a dozen books of full-length fiction and short stories from Brazilian authors including Luiz Ruffato, Cristovão Tezza, Josy Stoque, and Eliane Brum. In 2012, the Iceland spotlight program included ten Icelandic books, three of which—The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning by Hallgrimur Helgason, The Flatey Enigma by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson, and House of Evidence by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson—became Kindle Top Ten best sellers.

The AmazonCrossing editorial team is accepting submissions in mystery, thriller, women’s fiction, historical fiction, literary fiction, memoir, science fiction and fantasy categories. Please visit translation.amazon.com/submissions for more information and to propose titles for translation.

Amazon Publishing is a brand used by Amazon Content Services LLC and Amazon Media EU Sarl.

About Amazon Publishing

Amazon Publishing is the publishing arm of Amazon.com. The Amazon Publishing family has 14 imprints: 47North, AmazonCrossing, AmazonEncore, Amazon Publishing, Grand Harbor Press, Jet City Comics, Lake Union, Little A, Montlake Romance, Skyscape, StoryFront, Thomas & Mercer, Two Lions, and Waterfall Press.

About Amazon
Amazon.com opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995. The company is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon.

_____________________

Amazon also did this press release (which is in the public archive):

Amazon Announces Winner of the Second Indie Literary Contest for Spanish-Language

The winner was Myriam Millán, with her title

La Hija del Dragón: Ganadora del Concurso de autores indie 2015 (Spanish Edition) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

It’s available for $0.99, and at no additional cost for members of

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

I’ve been a happy member since it started. 🙂 It’s been worth the $9.99 a month for my family.

I’m very happy to see Amazon not only working on globalization, but also embracing multiple languages.

Amazon sues over 1,000 fake reviewers

In a way, this is another follow up.

I recently wrote

The Sunday Times investigation shows bought reviews on Amazon

Well, now it turns out Amazon is suing 1,114 fake reviewers, according to this

Forbes article by Cheryl Connor

and other sources.
.
As explained in this

Seattle Times article by Jay Greene

this is Amazon’s second suit this year over false reviews.

Lawsuits are probably the right tool here. As I wrote before, it’s not clear that writing a false review for money is a criminal act, but a lawsuit could work, since Amazon could show damage. I’m not a lawyer, but that’s my understanding of it.

New Amazon Echo/Alexa round up

I alert my ILMK readers when I write new articles in another blog of mine, The Measured Circle, about the Amazon Echo and Amazon’s Alexa voice services.

This is my latest:

Alexa/Echo Round up #3: sports update, Alexa enabled phone calls on first 3rd party Alexa-enabled device

What do you think? Should Amazon be suing people who make $5 for a false review? What, if anything, should they do about false reviews? Do customer reviews actually make sense? Are you familiar with any Indonesian literature? Is there another culture you’d like to see get a focus from Amazon? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

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


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