Archive for the ‘Audiobooks’ Category

AAP-reporting publishers losing children/YA e-book sales: down 43.3% YoY

April 28, 2016

AAP-reporting publishers losing children/YA e-book sales: down 43.3% YoY

I think I’d better first explain the initialisms in the headline.:)

The AAP is the

Association of American Publishers

It gathers statistics from over 1,500 USA publishers, and traditionally, has been considered a good source for information about what is happening with publishing (and by extension, reading) in America.

However, it’s worth noting that I’m not part of it.😉

I know, I know…you aren’t either, probably. ;) However, I am a publisher, in a very small way…just my own works. Anyone who makes books for the public to purchase is a publisher, and I feel confident in saying that there are over a 150,000 in the USA. That would mean the AAP might have stats from 10% of the publishers…and it could be a lot lower than that.

Anybody who writes a book and puts into the Kindle store using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is a publisher.

Prior to e-books gaining popularity after the introduction of the Kindle in 2007, there was a lot of investment involved in publishing a book. Very few entities had the resources, and the access to distribution (connections with and acceptance by brick-and mortar bookstores for one…I’m a former manager).

E-books can be published and be equally available for purchase by an individual investing no money as by one of the Big 5 publishers.

That means that the AAP may be decreasingly reflective of what people are purchasing and reading.

To be clear, I’m not saying that reduces their relevancy: the most influential and bestselling books still tend to be published by tradpubs (traditional publishers)…it’s just that you can’t consider the AAP’s data now as being a steady state indicator of the popularity of e-books.

I’m setting that up because if it was a constant  measure, the stat in the headline might be terrifying if you thought it was reflective of reading overall, and concerning if you thought it reflected e-book adoption.

Children/YA is a segment of books intended for children and “Young Adults”. Many of those books are read by adults…The Hunger Games is a good example.

YoY is short for “Year over Year”: in the case, how did 2015 sales compare to 2014 sales?

According to this

Book Business report

and other sources, overall book sales were down YoY, and trade books (the kind you would have bought in a bookstore…not tetbooks and such) were up slightly.

Reported e-book sales were down, with children’s/YA’s sales down by close to half.

According to a graph in the article, it looks like paperback/mass market book rose more in dollars than e-books dropped.

What’s happening here? Are e-books a failed experiment?

I certainly don’t think so.😉

My guess is that, especially young adult, e-book sales are market shifting to independent publishers who don’t report…and perhaps more importantly, to subsers (subscription services), including Amazon’s own

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

Certainly, when I was a “young adult”, KU would have been terrific for me. Some YAs are almost obsessive readers…they want to read a lot of books. That doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t get some books outside of KU, but you could read ten books a week at a manageable cost. My record is 3 1/2 novels in a day.😉

For young children, Amazon continues to improve FreeTime Unlimited. It might not seem like e-books are a good fit for young children, but they can certainly be one element.

I don’t want to take too much away from the Book Business article (I recommend you read it), but I do want to point out one other thing.

Downloaded audiobooks are way up.

While this may be a coincidence, that has tended to be the case since text-to-speech (TTS) was introduced in the Kindle 2.

Publishers blocked TTS access** after influencing Amazon to give them that option…one argument has been, presumably, that the presence of TTS competes with the sale of audiobooks.

I’ve suggested that it may do the opposite…that TTS may accustom people to listening to books, even though the experiences of listening to an audiobook or TTS are quite different.

There may be other factors. I’m sure a lot more people listen to audiobooks because of their inclusion in KU…but I don’t think those listens will count as sales of downloadable audiobooks (although I’m not sure).

Still, I think it’s hard to argue that TTS has significantly hurt audiobook sales.

My intuition is that children and young adults are reading more than they were five years ago…it’s just not being reported to AAP as much.

Bonus note: Amazon financials call is today (4/28) a 5:00 PM Eastern:

Webcast link

I’ll report on that later.

Bonus deal: the Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*) is $5 off (which makes it $34.99 for it without a voice remote, $44.99 with one). Without a voice remote (and using the free app), this is the least expensive way to get the Alexa Voice Service, most associated with the Echo. They are doing this to celebrate 100,000 reviews and it is for a limited time.  Makes a great gift…

What do you think? Have e-book sales peaked? Is this one year just a fluke, because there wasn’t a new breakout Young Adult series in 2015? Is there a difference in appropriateness for e-books for Young Adults and children versus adults? What is the role of the AAP in the future? 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!

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

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

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

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, 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.

Round up #258: WSV for apps, access instead of ownership

June 13, 2014

Round up #258: WSV for apps, access instead of ownership

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

Mayday heyday

I’ve said:

“Having a tablet without Mayday is like having a car without a windshield: it doesn’t matter how fast your car is, or how cool it looks, if you can’t see how to get where you’re going.”

Amazon has just put out this new

press release

with some very interesting (and positive) information about the live on-screen tech help for the

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

They say that 75% of contacts about the KFHDX come through Mayday…and that the average response time is 9.75 seconds.

Imagine getting knowledgeable help in under ten seconds by walking into a chain brick-and-mortar bookstore! Not very likely…and I used to be a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager. Our store was small enough that we were likely to say “Hi” to you as you walked into the store, although not always (we might have been on the floor helping somebody else or merchandising). In a Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million, though? You’ll probably either need to wait in line at the front to ask a question, or work your way through the aisles to an advice desk…where you may still need to wait for somebody.

They tell several anecdotes in the press release, including somebody getting help with Angry Birds, and a rep singing Happy Birthday (I’ve wondered before if Amazon pays royalties when that happens…).

It is one of my major reasons to recommend the Kindle Fire HDX…and I think it is the future of Customer Service (although, I suspect that Artificial Intelligence responses will be part of this sort of instant help eventually).

I did just recently have a reader comment on getting someone through Mayday that they had difficulty in understanding. That’s the first time I’ve heard that, and I’ve used Mayday several times myself without an issue like that.

Whispersync for Voice added to apps

In another

press release

Amazon announced an update to their free reading apps for Android and for iDevices which brings Whispersync for Voice to them.

WSV allows you to switch between sight-reading a book and listening to an audiobook.

While I use text-to-speech often for the same purpose (listening in the car, sight-reading at home or on a break at work), I really don’t use WSV.

As regular readers know, I’m not a big fan of audiobooks…unless I’ve already read the book. I don’t like the actor/author interpreting the characters for me. I like TTS better because it is generic, which I know seems odd to some people.

Still, WSV seems to be a success for Amazon, and I’m sure many of you will be happy to hear this. Once again, Amazon gives us more at no additional cost.

To find which books you already own as e-books that having matching reduced cost audiobooks under the WSV program, you can go to (at AmazonSmile)

Music studios probably don’t want to hear this…

With yesterday’s implementation of

Prime Music (my post on it)

I can’t imagine buying music for myself again.

That’s how the world has changed for a lot of people.

I have something like 10,000 paperbooks on shelves in my home. I have…oh, more than a 100 DVDs.

I definitely was somebody who owned things for the sake of owning them.

Now (and isn’t this modern of me?)😉 I’m generally good with paying for access instead.

I’ve been using Prime Music since yesterday. I’m listening to it right now…The Andrews Sisters are singing, and it’s a song I have bought in the past. It’s part of the Prime Playlist

50 Great Swing Era Songs (at AmazonSmile)

It’s sort of like listening to a radio station…with no ads.:)

I consider myself a pretty eclectic music listener, just as I think of myself as an eclectic reader (although I do have some preferences, I can read pretty much anything). With Prime Music, there are plenty of things I want to hear…and in many categories. I may listen to the Taiko (Japanese drumming) album I see later this day, but I also listen to contemporary music.

Do they have everything? No.

Do they have enough? Looks like it.😉

I feel the same way about video. There is enough TV and enough movies for me to watch through Prime and Netflix (and legal free online sources) that I’m trying to see a path where I would buy a DVD for myself…and not finding one.

I suspect that Amazon could (and may this year) introduce a book subser (subscription service) where I feel largely the same way.

It’s been quite a mental shift for me to not need to watch a specific video or listen to a particular tune…and I think I’d get there with books.

That would really change the economics of things, if many people did that.

We might end up with ten percent of the number of new books being released each year by the tradpubs (traditional publishers)…and the cost going up a lot.

I’ve talked about $50 as a reasonable price for a new hardback novel in the future (as a possible scenario).

If subsers take off, I could see that going to $100.

Early access would become a true luxury.

Sure, there would be some specials on things like that, but you’d have the “golden gateway” crowd, which pays more to “get in” first, then the average person, who pays monthly or annually for a subser and gets books that are a year old or so…and disadvantaged people, who get them free from sources like the library, but perhaps even slower than that. Of course, the libraries could have them as quickly…if governments support them paying licenses that the publishers consider reasonable.

What do you think? Are we seeing and will we continue to see a shift towards people paying for access rather than ownership? How will that affect the production of content? Do you find that it’s happened for you? What has your experience been with Mayday (if any)? Are you a Whispersync for Voice user? 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!

My new free Flipboard magazine, The Weird Old Days features vintage articles on ghosts, sea serpents, psychic phenomena, and more

* 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.

Audio, Paper, E: is one of these things not like the others?

May 9, 2014

Audio, Paper, E: is one of these things not like the others?

It seems obvious to me: e-books are like p-books (paperbooks). Despite how much some literati looked down on them (as they did on paperbacks, once upon a time), they are really largely the same thing…you are reading words.

Eventually, they may diverge more, as e-books become more interactive. We do see that now, to some extent. You may, for example, choose to read a more complex book as an e-book, because it is easier to look things up if you get lost. Some e-books have audio/visual content.

I was talking about Game of Thrones with a family member yesterday, and I said I could imagine a time where you could choose a particular character, and follow a set of events through their perspective. Then, Rashomon style, you could go back and follow somebody else, if you wanted, through the same events (or at least the same time frame). Yes, that seems possible to me.

Audiobooks, I would think, appeal to a different audience…so I would expect the top titles between e-books and p-books to be pretty similar, and the audiobook list to be different. That’s just my initial hypothesis. I know, of course, that e-book exclusives will change the e and p lists. Even when a book is available in both e and p, if it is published as a very inexpensive indie in e-book, I think it’s going to have a bigger impact on the e-book market than on the p-book market (where it can’t really get much distribution in the mainstream…at Amazon, indie e-books arguably are the mainstream).

Audiobooks, though…they seem relatively expensive. They require a very different interaction. For me, they engage my emotions more and my intellect less than either an e-book or a p-book.

Okay, let’s take a look at the top lists (at…updates hourly) and see where we have overlaps:

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

  1. The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
  2. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  3. Field of Prey by John Sandford
  4. Unlucky 13 by James Patterson
  5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  6. The Target by David Baldacci
  7. A Game of Thrones #1 (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin
  8. The Martian by Andy Weir
  9. The Collector by Nora Roberts
  10. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Bestelling Kindle Books (at AmazonSmile)

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (#5 audiobook)
  2. Balancing It All by Candace Cameron Bure
  3. Finding Me by Michelle Knight
  4. The One by Kiera Cass
  5. Unlucky 13 by James Patterson (#4 audiobook)
  6. Field of Prey by John Sandford (#3 audiobook)
  7. Moving Day by Jonathan Stone
  8. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  9. The Target by David Baldacci (#6 audiobook)
  10. Dragon’s Triangle by Christine Kling

Bestselling Books (at AmazonSmile)

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (#5 audiobook, #1 Kindle book)
  2. Capital by Thomas Piketty
  3. Finding Me by Michelle Knight (#3 Kindle book)
  4. Conform by Glenn Beck
  5. Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
  6. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
  7. Frozen Little Golden Book
  8. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
  9. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (#8 Kindle book)
  10. Journey to the Ice Palace Frozen Jumbo Coloring Book by “RH Disney”

So, let’s analyze:

  • The Fault in Our Stars was on all three (and was the only one that was…we may be able to guess that movies affect all three media. I would also venture to say that young adults may be more impacted by paperbooks than by e-books)
  • Four books were both Kindle books and audiobooks
  • Three books were both “books” and Kindle books

That means…that the audiobook and Kindle book lists were more alike than the audiobook and paperbook lists.

Outside of Stars, there was no overlap between audiobooks and “books”.


My sense here is that children’s books (often given as gifts) may have a much bigger share of the p-book market than of the e-book or audiobook market. That makes sense to me: a Dr. Seuss book is kind of short for an audiobook, for one thing.

Also, if we take Glenn Beck as an avatar of conservatism, it might be true that conservatives are more likely to be reading p-books. I’m not sure where my personal “stereotyping” would fall on that. I may think of conservatives as “old-fashioned”, but I can also conjure up an image of liberal hippies wanting p-books.

We had certainly seen in the past that older people, who one might guess to be more conservative, were the earliest, strongest adopters of e-books (despite the demographics of people in early Kindle ads).

One of the p-books on the bestelling “books” list is a coloring book…something like that can be done with an e-book, but not with an audiobook.

My intuition looking at this?

People are giving p-books as gifts, especially to children and young adults. Oh, the Places You’ll Go may be thought of as being on here as a children’s book, but it is a very popular graduation gift…and we are getting close to that.

It may be that for simply recreational reading for themselves, people are shifting towards e-books…but for gifts for other people, they like the literally more substantial nature of a paperbook.

Hmm…I would also say, except for the #1 book, that the audiobooks are more likely to be or have been New York Times bestsellers. It’s expensive and time-consuming to produce an audiobook. I would also guess that most audiobook users are attracted by big names doing the reading, be they the authors or actors…so that may still be the purview of the tradpubs (traditional publishers). An audiobook is a relatively big investment (over $20, typically), so people may want the security of the establishment.

If we come back to this in a year, I think we’d see the tendency for kids’ books to dominate the “books” list to be even stronger.

New! Try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

What do you think? Is this too small a sample? If you give a gift, to prefer to give a p-book? Would you buy an audiobook from an indie author you didn’t know…with the same frequency that you would buy an e-book or p-book from a similar author? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

* 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 #250: $5 Audible credit, challenging Underpants

April 21, 2014

Round up #250: $5 Audible credit, challenging Underpants

250? Wow!😉

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

Captain Underpants challenged more often than 50 Shades of Grey in 2013

The good news for many people will be that the American Library Association reported about a third fewer “challenges” to books in 2013 than in 2012: 307 versus 464.

The list is, as always, a bit puzzling to me. It may have to do with the age of the kids. Perhaps a school library that would carry Fifty Shades of Grey is less likely to be scrutinized by people who would complain than one that would carry Captain Underpants.

However, looking at my post on the 2012 books:

Should any books be banned? Banned Books Week 2013

they are actually in the same positions they were then…Captain Underpants #1, 50SoG #4.

One thing that does stand out to be when I analyze the

report from the American Library Association

is that one of the top ten, the Bone series of graphic novels (they count it as one listing) by Jeff Smith is challenged on the grounds of…political viewpoint.

I haven’t read these, but I know it’s a series of graphic novels set in a fantasy world: I wonder what the politics are from which you want to protect your child? “Don’t let my kid read that book! They might end up voting for a dragon for President!”😉

Here’s my analysis of this year’s challenges:


U.S. Customers: $5 coupon for Audible

Thanks to Books on the Knob for the heads-up on this one!

Customers of Audible in the United States can get a $5 credit, but you need to act quickly (it ends Monday).

I’m not much of an audiobook person (I prefer text-to-speech: I don’t like the narrators interpreting the characters for me), but I know a lot of people do like them. Audible is owned by Amazon, and it’s easy to play Audible audiobooks on your Kindle devices…at least, the ones which do audio at all.


What happens to the rights when a publisher goes bankrupt?


Publishers Weekly article by Calvin Reid

may seem a bit “inside baseball”, but it’s important.

A major independent publisher, MacAdam Cage went bankrupt.

Let’s say you were an author, and you had licensed the rights to publish your book to them.

They are out of the publishing business.

Can you license the publishing rights to somebody else?

Not right away…and not all of the rights, apparently.

The authors of the books in this case (and they include Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, among other well-known titles) have gotten their p-book (paperbook) rights back…but not the e-book rights.

That’s because the e-book rights were apparently farmed out to another company…which didn’t go bankrupt, but which, according to the article, may not be paying the authors royalties for those books (that’s an allegation…I don’t know if it is true).

Well, at least it suggests more strongly that e-book rights and p-book rights are separate, which will tend to benefit authors. What a mess, though! Some may see this as an argument for independent publishing…

I’ve ordered the Fire TV Game Controller

I am liking my

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

a lot! I had debated whether or not I was going to order the

Amazon Fire Game Controller (at AmazonSmile)

and now I’ve decided to…er…mash the button?😉

I would be, by the most generous definition, a casual gamer. I actually rarely play video games. My Significant Other, a bit oddly to me, plays them much more…particularly Candy Crush.

However, I am planning to write a small guide to the Fire TV, and I really need the controller to test out some of the apps…and, you know, the tax refund came in.😉

While I was able to order it now and get the special deal that gives you 1,000 Amazon coins (basically, $10 for purchase of apps and in-app buys), and their new exclusive game, Sev Zero, I’m not going to have it for a while…it is sold out.

Expected delivery?

May 13th.

Riggio sells some Barnes & Noble stock (which then loses value)

Leonard Riggio, who is basically the architect of the modern (last forty years or so) Barnes & Noble, sold stock in the company, dropping down to a 20% stake.

BloomergBusinessWeek article

Riggio said it was partially for “estate planning”…but it may not help to suggest “after death” plans and Barnes & Noble in the same breath.😉 Following the announcement, the stock dropped more than 10%…and unlike when Amazon drops after a financial report sometimes, I don’t expect it to immediately bounce back up to where it was.

I don’t know who, casual investor or serious player, is thinking B&N is a great place to put their money right now.

What do you think? If you were an MBA (Master of Business Administration) student and I gave you an assignment to come up with a plan to save Barnes & Noble, what would you do…and how high a grade do you think you could get?:) When you hear a book has been challenged, does that make you more or less likely to buy it? Have you ever sight read a book, listened to the audiobook, and saw the movie…and thought the audiobook was best of the three? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

* 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.

Finding Whispersync for Voice or TTS enabled books

September 22, 2013

Finding Whispersync for Voice or TTS enabled books

Kindle books have a lot of features that p-books (paperbooks) don’t have. However, not all of them work in all books or all types of devices/apps.

You probably don’t care about all of them equally, either.

For example, I won’t buy a book without text-to-speech (unless it is a graphic novel where the feature isn’t possible). I typically listen to it for hours a week in the car, and I don’t want to support books which don’t have it, because I feel that blocking the TTS (which is the way it works…if a publisher does nothing, TTS works) disproportionately disadvantages the disabled.

For you, though, TTS (software which converts the visual words into spoken words on the fly) might be no big thing. Most people probably don’t use it…that would be my guess.

On the other hand, you might like Whispersync for Voice, where you can sight read part of a book, switch to an audiobook (a recording of a person reading the book out loud, typically…very different fromTTS) and pick up where you left off.

Me? Meh. I just don’t use that…I’m not a big fan of audiobooks, unless I’ve already read the book (I don’t like the actor/author interpreting the characters for me), and I don’t tend to re-read very much. I can absolutely understand why people like it, though.

What’s weird to me is that Amazon doesn’t make it equally easy to search by all the different features.

Oh, I suppose some of it is marketing. If you point out that some books have TTS, you are really pointing out that others have blocked it…that may not be a message you want front and center as a retailer.

So, let’s take a look at finding books where you can use these two features, and then you can use one or both of them…up to you.

Whispersync for Voice

Amazon has a special easy-to-use web address for this one:

This actually takes you to the front page for this feature, which explains it and gives you links to free WSV books, ninety-nine centers…and in a wonderful new feature, it will automatically search your Kindle books looking for matches!

That was cool! It’s the best listing of WSV books I’ve seen. It shows you, easily, who the narrator is, and how much you’ll save getting the book as WSV as opposed to buying it separately as an audiobook (which you would have to do if you hadn’t bought the e-book). For me, for example, it showed this for

More Than Human
By Theodore Sturgeon
Narrated by Harlan Ellison
List Price: $20.97
Upgrade Price: $3.99
You Save: $16.98 (81%)

The fact that this is read by the truly significant author, Harlan Ellison, makes this much more intriguing for me.

If you want WSV, it’s easy to find.

If you only want books where text-to-speech hasn’t been blocked? Not so much.

Amazon doesn’t let you search by that, and doesn’t have a page for it.

What I’ve done, however, is use Google.

You can specify the site you want Google to search, by starting your search with something like “”.

I’ve then added some search terms to make it more likely to find what I want.

For example, Kindle book product pages will have the term “ASIN” (Amazon Standard Identification Number) on them. That helps cut down on false positives in my search…for one thing, TTS gets discussed in the Amazon forums, and if I don’t include that ASIN, I’ll get a number of hits for those discussions, not for actual books.

Here is the search I used: “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price”

and the results:

Again, it’s not perfect, but it will work pretty well. You could add other things to that search if you want…for example, an author’s name: “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price” “Harlan Ellison”

or a topic: “Text-to-Speech: Enabled” ASIN “Kindle price” vampire

If you are wondering when to use the quotation marks and when not to use them, use them if you need more than one word to be taken as a single term. For example, if I did “vampire romance”, the found books would have to have that as a phrase. If I did

vampire romance

it will probably find books which have the word “vampire” and books that have the word “romance”. When I tested it, there were many, many more results when I didn’t use the quotation marks.

Have fun getting an earful of your books!

While we’re here, let’s do a quick poll:

Want to tell me more about it? Do you find that people consider it inferior to listen to books rather than sight-read them? I’ve gotten that from people: “You didn’t read it, you listened to it.” I wonder if those people think people with print disabilities aren’t reading the book? I will say, though, that I think my retention may not be as good when listening…perhaps because there is less mental processing involved. Do you prefer audiobooks over TTS? If so, why? Have you ever listened to TTS because you didn’t want to pay extra for an audiobook? That is, I think, why some publishers block TTS…they think that’s what happens. Feel free to let me and my readers (which likely include some publishers) know by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Round up #204: Over 100 WSV audiobooks for $0.99 each, Amazon won’t phone home

September 11, 2013

Round up #204: Over 100 WSV audiobooks for $0.99 each, Amazon won’t phone home

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

“How Google Fights Piracy”

I believe that most people generally want to behave in a way that doesn’t harm others.

I remember talking to my (now adult) kid years ago, explaining why “The good guys always win.” What I said was that the average person wants to help the good guy (oh, I should mention, “guy” has always been a gender neutral term for me). So, if the bad guy is running down the street, the crowd will tend to want to help the good guy intervene or not lose track. If the good guy is running away from the bad guy, the crowd will tend to help the good guy get away.

So, it’s a numbers thing.😉

There are a lot of things you can say philosophically, of course, and come up with different reasons why good guys tend to come out on top, or give me examples of when that hasn’t happened…but for a little kid, it made sense.

I’ve said here before that the best way to combat piracy (in this case, the distribution of unauthorized copies of a copyrighted book) is to have a legitimate copy of it easily available at a reasonable price.

I’m sure the average Kindle owner looks on Amazon first. If they don’t find the book there, they may Google it…and that’s when they run into pirate copies (perhaps not even realizing that they are pirated).

Well, it’s nice to see that Google agrees with me on that.:)

In this

Google PDF

they explain how Google fights piracy.

In their first point, they say

“The best way to battle piracy is with better, more convenient, legitimate alternatives to piracy…”

You may be interested in the rest of the “paper”…including how they work to keep pirate sites out of the top results, and how they “…process copyright removal requests for search results at the rate of four million requests per week with an average turnaround time of less than six hours”

Get audiobooks for use with Whispersync for Voice for ninety-nine cents

Update: Thanks to reader and frequent commenter Tom Semple for pointing out that the below promotion has ended (which happened after I wrote the post…some of my readers were able to take advantage of it).

Amazon’s been really, really promoting audio books lately…which might seem a bit counter-intuitive, since the newly announced Kindle Paperwhite 2 (KP2) doesn’t even have audio capability (so it can’t play them). That’s one reason I think there is an audio-enabled frontlit device coming at some point.

They’ve combined the p-book (paperbook) and audiobook sections at Amazon .com, and added audio samples to the books’ product pages.

Now, they are pushing Whispersync for Voice, which enables you to sight read part of a book, switch to an audiobook and pick up where you left off, then switch back. For more on that, see

This promotion includes this page:

Buy a Kindle Book, Then Upgrade with Narration for Just $0.99

You buy an e-book, say, The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger. Then, you can buy an audiobook at a typically greatly reduced price. In this case, Amazon’s price for the audiobook is $15.95, so it’s quite a savings.

Do I do this?

No, not really…I prefer text-to-speech to audiobooks, unless I’ve read the book already (I don’t like the narrator interpreting the characters for me…TTS is software, not a recording). I haven’t tested it recently, but when I had gotten an audiobook to use with WSV (Whispersync for Voice) it appeared to prevent me from using TTS.

I think most people prefer audiobooks to TTS, though, so I did want to let you know about this deal.

This offer is for a limited time, and may not apply in your country.

No Amazon phone this year

Thanks to a reader who sent me a heads-up to this

Bloomberg article by Brad Stone (and it’s been covered other places as well).

I’ve been referring to statements from Amazon’s Director of Communications, Drew Herdener, for about four years.

Herdener says there won’t be an Amazon phone this year…and that when there is one, it won’t be free.

Take that, internet rumor mill!😉

I have a Collections follower

No, that doesn’t mean a collection agency is after me…darn these multiple-meaning words!😉

While Amazon hasn’t announced it yet, I do think this has a lot of potential to be a “big thing”.

I’m having some fun just getting started (things have been super busy lately). I have three Collections there right now: A Fortean Education; Seventies Social Sci-Fi; and 1939: The Best Pop Culture Year Ever.

The trick to making this work for me was installing Amazon’s Collect button in Chrome (it doesn’t work in Internet Explorer). That lets me easily add any item to a Collection.

I would have a lot of fun putting together a Collection at the suggestion of a reader, so feel free to do that.

Don’t worry, I’ll be careful not to let this take up too much of my time.:) You come first…

If you have your own Collections there and would like me to follow you, please let me know.

One thing that has been taking some of my time is getting used to my new Galaxy S4. It has some great capabilities! I love that I can just say, “Text [a name] I’m on my way home,” and it does it (with an okay from me). You do have to get its attention, and you can choose your “wake up” phrase for that. I’m using, “Old man in the cave.” I’m guessing some of you know why.😉

Frank Schaeffer: “Why I’m Risking My New Book by Self-Publishing Even Though I’m a Bestselling Author”

Okay, a lot of this

Huffington Post article

by Frank Schaeffer is plugging a new book, but it does have some good insight on why someone who had been successfully traditionally published would go the indie route. I think you can guess most of them, but one interesting statement is that tradpubs (traditional publishers) are holding on to book rights by keeping the book in print…by making it available in “print on demand”.

In other words, when the author license the rights for a book, the publisher can hold on to those rights (if that’s the deal that was signed) for as long as they keep the book in print (there might be other limitations).

However, it’s expensive to stock a slow selling book, in case a store wants it.

According to this, the work-around is to make it available by “print on demand”. You don’t print the book until somebody wants it.

I suspect literary agents are going to get a clarification on that in future negotiations…but in the meanwhile, other authors will see the same attractions that Schaeffer did to controlling the process, and switch over. I mean, they can sign up with Amazon and do print on demand themselves, if they want.

That doesn’t mean that big brand name authors are going to immediately go indie. I’m sure a lot of them feel loyal to their editors and publishers, and they can get nice advances and significant promotion.

Still, some of those midlist authors are going to become brand names…and will they sign with tradpubs then?

What do you think? Do you want to hear news about phones? I do that partially because for some people, that’s where they read e-books. Why do midlist authors need tradpubs at this point? Do you like audiobooks? If you do, who do you like to have read them? The author? A famous actor? A voice professional? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Update: thanks to regular reader and commenter Zebras for helping me make this post clearer.

This post by Bufo Calvin first appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Round up #180: free audiobooks, open-minded readers

June 21, 2013

Round up #180: free audiobooks, open-minded readers

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

Reading fiction makes you more open-minded


No, actually, it is science. I mean, this seems intuitively obvious to me, but I like to see those kinds of things tested. My guess is that people who read a variety of literature are generally more open-minded about the world than people who don’t. I would have a couple of hypotheses about that.

First, when you read, you put yourself into someone else’s shoes…or neurons, perhaps.:) Within the same book, you may see things from the point of view of the hero, the villain, the sidekick…and none of them may be your own. For you to feel the right emotional resonances (which I think is part of why you read), you need to “practice” those perspectives. If you have tried thinking like someone else, that may encourage you to do that again in the future in real life situations.

The second thing is that I think that imagination aids open-mindedness, and reading aids imagination. You can see possible consequences without experiencing them…so you might find out that a lifestyle you would never actually want to experience appears, in the fiction, to have advantages. The plot can actually reward thinking which is different from yours…which might, again, make you consider that IRL (In Real Life).

In this

Pacific Standard article by Tom Jacobs

they talk about a University of Toronto study in which they gave participants either fiction or non-fiction to read, and then tested them on their need for certainty. Fiction readers had a lower need for a definitive answer.

I’m going to have to paraphrase here (I’ll track down the quote at some point…I only have a paperbook version of it, so it’s tougher), but I loved this advice given to somebody who was explaining to a therapist about how they were in a situation which just couldn’t be pinned down. It was stressing the person. The doctor said something like, “Is it possible to get an answer?” The patient said “No.” As I recall, the therapist gave this advice: “Learn to live at a high level of uncertainty.”😉

Well, many people have a very, very difficult time doing that…but maybe reading more fiction would help them.

I have to say, I was somewhat amused by psychologist Maja Djikic’s quoted comments about the study. In particular, there was this:

“Their results should give people “pause to think about the effect of current cutbacks of education in the arts and humanities,” Djikic and her colleagues add. After all, they note, while success in most fields demands the sort of knowledge gained by reading non-fiction, it also “…requires people to become insightful about others and their perspectives.”

I have to say, I’m unconvinced that the people who are responsible for school funding have much motivation to try to mold people to be more open-minded! It’s much more complex to govern folks who may change their minds…not to mention trying to sell them toothpaste.😉

“Fanatics are the worst enemies, and the worst friends, as well. We employ a few, for special purposes, but dislike them as a matter of policy.   Any man who cannot be bought cannot be trusted.   He may sell you out on a whim.”
–A T.H.R.U.S.H. Agent
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. #4 The Dagger Affair
written by David McDaniel
collected in The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations
by Bufo Calvin

New (Kindle) Worlds to conquer…

When I first wrote about Kindle Worlds, I suggested that we might see a lot more rightsholders license their “worlds” to the program. What happens is that someone with the rights puts a property (a TV show, a book, a movie, a game, a comic book, and so on) into the program, and provides guidelines for writing in it. Authors write stories in the world, and Amazon sells them…and both the author and the rightsholder get royalties.

I thought that could be very attractive, especially for older properties.

Well, in this

press release

Amazon announces the next wave of Kindle Worlds…and says that they are working on more licenses. They expect to launch later this month (so, in the next eleven days) with fifty works.

What got added?

“…leading comic book publisher Valiant Entertainment and best-selling authors Hugh Howey, Barry Eisler, Blake Crouch and Neal Stephenson. Through these licenses, any writer will be able to create and sell fan fiction inspired by the popular Worlds of Valiant superhero comic book series Bloodshot, X-O ManowarArcher & ArmstrongHarbinger, and Shadowman, with more to be added at a later date, as well as Howey’s Silo Saga, Eisler’s John Rain novels, Crouch’s Wayward Pines Series, and the Foreworld Saga.”

I have to say, though, the negotiations may not have been too tough on some of these…I know the Foreworld Saga and Wayward Pines are both already published by Amazon!

I do think we are going to see a lot more licensors, especially if these do well. I mentioned before, I think a great way to go would be to license older properties: The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Dark Shadows, that kind of thing. I think there is a chance this becomes a solid market slice for Amazon.

Marvel, by the way, has been trying to expand its comics-inspired pop culture media (not through Kindle Worlds)…and one way they’ve made the leap is with The She-Hulk Diaries. How do I want to describe this? Let’s see…Bridget Jones with green skin? No, not really…in her non-Hulk form, Jennifer Walters is a lawyer, but this does have to do with her personal life and relationships.

Free audiobooks from Sync

Thanks to The Artist in the Amazon Kindle forum for the heads-up on this!

You can get two free audiobooks a week during the summer here:

They offer one Young Adult book and one classic each week.

You need to download them with Overdrive, but then I’m not entirely clear if you could transfer them to an audio-enabled non-Fire Kindle to listen to them. You could, though, use them on a Fire with Overdrive on it for sure.

Kindle FreeTime Unlimited gets more popular content…are adults next?

I speculated that, if Kindle FreeTime Unlimited (a pay-by-the-month “all you can eat” program for kids) was successful, we might see similar programs for tweens, teens…and maybe adults.

Well, it appears to have been successful, or at least to have warranted more investment on Amazon’s part.

In this

press release

Amazon announces new content deals (at no additional cost for subscribers), including

“…Disney’s hit Where’s My Mickey?, Warner Brother’s LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat Comes Back from Oceanhouse Media, Plants vs. Zombies by EA, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Curious George at the Zoo.”

Those are not obscure titles…that’s the big time.

I do think it’s possible Amazon could come up with programs like this for adults…pay $14.99 a month (discounted with Prime), and get access to (but not ownership of) content. Amazon could really bolster that with things it publishes (e-books, apps). I think it would attract outside publishers, if the deal was right. They could be themed (science fiction, romance), but wouldn’t need to be.

Let’s say that for $14.99 a month, you could have access to all of Amazon’s traditional publishing imprints…that would give you James Bond and the 87th Precinct, to name a couple of series. Sure, some people would burn through those very quickly…but would those same people have bought them otherwise? There are so many reading options, I’m not sure they would have. It would also give exposure to other, lesser-known Amazon-published titles. They could, of course, move titles into and out of the program, sort of like the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. I think this would feel different for people, although “Prime by the Month” is a similar idea. Amazon flirted with that, but the economics might not have been right. Focusing on content might make the difference…

What do you think? What would you like to see in Kindle Worlds? Star Trek and Doctor Who? Would you like to read more Harry Potter (even if there was the risk that it wasn’t very good)? Do you think if people read the same sorts of things all the time (I’ve known somebody who only read the same two books…over and over, taking turns) that it makes them less open-minded? How much would you pay for an “all you can eat plan”…and what would have to be in it? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Free: The Picture of Dorian Gray audiobook

March 16, 2013

Free: The Picture of Dorian Gray audiobook

Thanks to jjhitt, one of my regular readers and commenters, for the heads up on this!

jjhitt informs me that it is because of St. Patrick’s Day, but I don’t know how long it will actually last. Audible has an unabridged

audiobook of The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde for free.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, originally published in 1890 (in a shorter form than what came out as Wilde’s only novel), may not be what you expect. I think a lot of people assume it is a simple horror story, but it’s much more than that.

Do check the price before you buy it, because, again, I don’t know how long this will last (and it may not be available in your country).

I believe you will need to create an Audible account to get it, but you do not to commit to any future purchases (that seems to be a common confusion with Audible).

Thanks again, jjhitt!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

6 free “listens” from Audible for Valentine’s Day

February 15, 2013

6 free “listens” from Audible for Valentine’s Day

Thanks to “Emily Bronte” in the Amazon Kindle community for the heads up on this!

Through February 21st, you can get up to six Audible “listens” for free:

Definitely make sure it is free for you before you do that final click.

I think they are calling them “listens” because one is only three minutes long…but others are longer, and there is an unabridged Pride and Prejudice that is more than ten hours long!

The listens are:

Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love
by Amir Levine, Rachel S. F. Heller
Narrated by Walter Dixon
Length:7 hrs and 9 mins

Undead Sublet: A Free Story from ‘The Undead in My Bed’
by Molly Harper
Narrated by Sophie Eastlake
Length:4 hrs and 29 mins

Romeo and Juliet (Dramatized)
by William Shakespeare
Narrated by Calista Flockhart , Matthew Wolf , Julie White , Alan Mandell , Richard Chamberlain , Nicholas Hormann , Josh Stamberg
Length:2 hrs and 53 mins

Love in the Afternoon
by Alison Packard
Narrated by Gia St. Claire
Length:10 hrs

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Narrated by Flo Gibson
Length:11 hrs and 32 mins

Eureka: A Free Story from ‘The Last Girlfriend on Earth’
by Simon Rich
Narrated by Simon Rich
Length:3 mins


This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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