Archive for the ‘Discovery’ Category

Amazon Spark: a new social network (and product discovery) for iOS

July 20, 2017

Amazon Spark: a new social network (and product discovery) for iOS

I have these bizarre mixed ideas of what product/service development at Amazon is like.

There are times when I see it as super high tech, like something Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne would have in their basements.

There are others when it feels like a mad scientist’s laboratory, in a castle on a imposing mountain with lightning crashing in the background, and mood lighting by Strickfaden (and, of course, controlled by Alexa).

Then there are times when it seems like the Invention Exchange segments on Mystery Science Theater 3000. 😉

I’m not quite sure where

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

falls yet.

The very basic idea, of being able to share how you feel about an Amazon product, makes sense. Of course, we can write reviews on Amazon, but I don’t think most people discover your comments that way. Not everything is a review, either…it might just be a comment or a question.

However…

This implementation is quite limited, at least at this point.

It only works through the Amazon Shopping App, and right now, only on iOS (Apple).

My concern there isn’t just that it isn’t available for Android: it’s that it can only be seen through the app, and that I can’t add things when I’m shopping on my computer.

That isn’t really very social for a social network. 😉

It makes it feel more like an attempt to lock people into using the app.

If that’s the case, I don’t think it’s going to get people to add one more social network into their day. I already don’t do Facebook much myself, because I don’t feel like I have the social energy/capital to spend on it. If I was active on Facebook, I can see how I would spend an hour a day, and I just don’t have that in terms of my creative priorities.

That’s going to be the case with Spark as well, although I did just post something to test it.

It took a while bouncing around to even get it to show up. It’s supposed to be in the menu under Programs and Features, but it wasn’t there for me at first.

The interface is not really intuitive, but it works okay. There isn’t enough discovery in the discovery yet.

It could work, but this one doesn’t seem like one of Amazon’s home runs to me. It’s like the posting we used to do in Kindle books…that eventually faded, even though it was an interesting idea.

I’ll be interested in your opinion on it, if you try it. Hm…somebody did just smile on my post, so it is already working. Maybe I’ll be wrong about this, which would be great!

In the mean time, I’ll keep waiting for Amazon to burst into the VAM (Virtual/Augmented/Merged/Mixed Reality) space, which I expect to happen later this year. 🙂

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

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

All aboard 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 you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! 🙂 

Amazon’s Best Books of the Year So Far

June 27, 2017

Amazon’s Best Books of the Year So Far

Amazon was born from the womb of the computer age, employs and releases cutting edge technology, but is, and has always been, at it heart…human.

That statement may surprise some people. Sure, you may have gotten an e-mail response which didn’t seem to understand your question, or you got recommendations for things you already own.

However, it’s clear that humans make most of the important creative decisions. Titles are featured, not through algorithms, but through feeling.

There is a team (and that’s different from a group) of Amazon editors. In the recently announced

Best Books of the Year So Far (at AmazonSmile:benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

they describe a bit of the process: “Then we face off in a monthly Best Books selection meeting to champion the books we think will resonate most with readers.”

Sounds like fun. 🙂

It also sounds like one of those things that would be great to do once…for charity…as long as nothing went wrong. You know, like being an auctioneer or a starship captain. 😉

Reading for work has to be different from reading for fun. There have to be times when something you support just doesn’t get the same reaction from your team or higher ups.

That said, it still must be a great job!

In my day job, I’m a trainer, and I like to tell people that trainers wake up in the morning and say, “Oh boy, I get to go to work today!” That’s really true…a day I work is a good day. I suspect that’s true for the Amazon Editors, too.

So, what have these oh so human beings chosen as the Best Books of the Year So Far?

They have a general category of the top twenty, and then twenty more each in additional categories:

  • Amazon Editors’ Top 20
  • Biographies & Memoirs
  • Business & Leadership
  • Children’s Books
  • Comics & Graphic Novels
  • Cookbooks, Food & Wine
  • History
  • Humor & Entertainment
  • Literature & Fiction
  • Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
  • Nonfiction
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Teens & Young Adults

When I’m looking at lists like this, what do I hope they’ll do for me?

Discovery.

I hope I’ll read about some book I didn’t know existed which really appeals to me.

I also want context and insight. While I’m careful to separate

The art and the artist

there can be more to a book than just the words. Is it unique, or at least a fresh approach? How does it tie into what already exists? Are there circumstances of its creation which inform it in such a way that there is more meaning “between the lines”?

Looking at their top 20…

They are generally what I call “People Magazine” books, books you would have seen mentioned in that magazine. Almost all of them are priced over $9.99 (some well over: one is $17.99 at time of writing, and another is $17.99). A notable exception is The Impossible Fortress** by Jason Rekulak which is only $2.99 at time of writing.

They also all look like they are selling pretty well, or have done so.

That doesn’t feel like a lot of discovery to me.

Now, let me be clear: for me, popular doesn’t equal less worthy. 🙂 I consume mainstream movies, TV shows, and books…although I also certainly like indies (independently published books or released video, and so on). Is it likely to me that all of the best books are mainstream? No, not really…but I would expect that some of them are. 😉

Those are just the featured choices, though.

I would expect that the categories would give me more discovery, and that they would also tend to champion more of the outsider…and that does seem to be the case.

Here’s an example from science fiction (a category where I have a bit more expertise than most, even though I knew it a lot better decades ago):

Battle Hill Bolero (Bone Street Rumba) from Daniel José Older (at AmazonSmile*)

Older is a New York Times bestselling author, but I would guess the average reader probably doesn’t know it.

There are only twelve reviews (with a 4.7 average).

It’s the third book out of three, but appearing on this list will perhaps encourage people to read Older who might not otherwise have done so, which is one of the real values of a list like this.

I do recommend that you look at the

Best nonfiction of 2017 so far (at AmazonSmile*)

That’s where you are more likely to have discovery. While non-fiction books can certainly be bestsellers and get media coverage, they have to break through before that happens. More fiction seems to get more coverage. There is a lot of variety here: space, cowboys, the future, murders, and dictionaries.

Now, I know some of you don’t read non-fiction, and that’s up to you. I get that reading can be escapism, and the relationship with a book is so intimate that encountering something there which you might encounter without that safe distancing can be particularly…unnerving. However, for me, not reading non-fiction would be like saying I’m only going to be friends with characters on my TV. 😉

As always, a fascinating list! I appreciate that Amazon lets their human employees have their say. 😉

What do you think? Any books on this you’d particularly recommend? Any books not on this list which you would say are some of the best of 2017 so far? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

All aboard 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! :) 
** I didn’t link to this book because the publisher, Simon & Schuster, has chosen to block text-to-speech access. I think purchasing books where that decision has been made is a personal choice, but I choose not to link to them mysef.

 

Amazon and bibliodiversity

May 27, 2017

Amazon and bibliodiversity

Bibliodiversity is the idea (perhaps originated in Chile as bibliodiversidad) which parallels the concept of biodiversity. The argument is that having greater variety available is beneficial.

That seems simple, and there is evidence to support it in biodiversity. If you have a population with relatively little genetic variation, and if there are few species available in an environment, there is great risk if something changes (a disease arises, a natural disaster, climate change…). A recent example would be DFTD (Devil Facial Tumor Disease). I’ve been saddened to read about it: Tasmanian devils (yes, they are real animals, not just a cartoon) bite each other on the face socially. They are able to transmit what becomes cancerous tumors (I was surprised to see a contagious cancer, even if that isn’t exactly what’s happening) which prove fatal.

 It’s been devastating to the wild population: I’ve seen estimates of a 90% total loss, and many populations have reportedly been completely lost. This has happened in just a couple of decades.

Some devils, though, have shown resistance…very few, but they do seem to be genetically different.

If these marsupial predators were all the same, it would probably have been over already. Thanks to diversity within the population, it’s possible the species will survive in the wild.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil_facial_tumour_disease

I’ve read a couple of articles recently citing Amazon as significantly reducing bibliodiversity, with the implication that they could be the cause of a least a massive die-off in publishing.

One concern was about Amazon changing the way the Buy button works, where a small publisher might not find that its own book is the first option for buyers (it might be a third-party seller). I wrote about that one about three weeks ago here:

HuffPo article: Amazon is “potentially terrorizing”

The other one is another

HuffPo article

by Maddie Crum.

Here’s the title: “Amazon’s Grip On The Book World Could Silence The Stories That Matter”.

This one focuses on one of Amazon’s new brick-and-mortar bookstores, and how the store use rankings from the Amazon website, in part, to determine which books appear in the store.

The article is correct, in my experience, that classic literature tends to be lower rated than now, popular books. Most people just don’t go back and rate a book they read years ago.

That, in turn, Crum suggests could lead to a concentration of titles.

My opinion?

Nobody else has done more to increase bibliodiversity in the past ten years than Amazon.

E-books existed in a minor way before the Kindle launched in 2007, but they exploded after that.

Amazon introduced its own digital publishing platform, and thousands of people have published books to it on all kinds of topics. It’s hard to imagine that readers have ever had more options and had the ability to hear more voices. The barrier to entry is so much lower.

There are well over FIVE MILLION titles in the USA Kindle store…no physical bookstore comes close that.

No, authors and bibliodiversity are doing fine.

What is being hurt? Traditional publishing of paperbooks, especially by small publishers.

When you needed a book factory to get a book to readers, and when physical bookstores needed to carry you (I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager), authors needed the publishers to crack the market.

Now, that’s not necessary…which reduces the need for publishers, so some extent.

There may be less…um…publishersity, I guess.

Publishers have definitely added value. They’ve discovered authors, nurtured them, promoted them, and improve the quality of the books themselves, through editing, lay-out, proof-reading, and promotion.

Some of what publishers traditionally did will shift to other places, including agencies which will edit..and artificial intelligence may eventually play a role.

It may also be that some people won’t be able to  make a living as an author who could do so before…and that arguably could mean fewer books…as could the loss of some publishers.

However, that will be more than offset by authors who can make a living as indies (independently published authors).

Look at who is quoted in articles decrying Amazon’s practices…they will tend to be people who are in the space between authors and readers. That’s what Amazon really threatens, and it will seriously remold the experience of discovery and cash flow.

Fewer books and less diversity, though? That seems unlikely to me.

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


My current Amazon Giveaways

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

the award-winning, highly-rated mystery by my sibling, Kris Calvin!

Giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/398897583537603c

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Kris Calvin on Amazon (to my knowledge, all that you’ll get is a notification when Kris publishes a new book in the Kindle store, although I don’t know that for sure…that’s all I’ve ever seen for authors I follow, I think. Kris is working on the second book in the Maren Kane mystery series.
Start:May 20, 2017 5:20 AM PDT
End:May 27, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

Thanks to the hundreds of people who have entered my previous giveaways for a chance to win Kris’ book! I don’t benefit directly from Kris’ book, although we have had a lot of conversations about it. 🙂

Amazon Giveaway for And Then There Were None!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/3e6a60b4814649a3

Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winner.
Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
18+ years of age (or legal age)

Start:May 12, 2017 6:24 PM PDT
End:Jun 11, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

===

Star Wars Day through 40 years of Star Wars!
Giveaway by Bufo Calvin
  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)

Giveaway:
https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/0ce7b24b32a4a670

Start:May 4, 2017 6:32 AM PDT
End:Jun 3, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

It’s going on that long in part so that it covers the actual 40th anniversary of Star Wars (of the release in the USA) on May 25th 2017. Also, this book, which has good reviews and is new, is $14.99 in the Kindle edition…which is a lot for me for a giveaway. 🙂

Good luck, and may the Force be with 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!

* 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! :) 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon Charts: reinventing the “bestseller” list

May 18, 2017

Amazon Charts: reinventing the “bestseller” list

Amazon is always innovating!

I loved the press release they sent me this morning  about their new feature

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

This is about the top twenty books…but not just the top 20 fiction and non-fiction books sold, but about the most read!

Some people think of Amazon as being tight-lipped with their data, and that can certainly be true (actual sales figures for Amazon devices, for example). However, we also know they have a lot of data…a lot, lot, lot of data. 😉

As the

press release

explains, there are two lists for each category of fiction and non-fiction (so, 40 books a week).

The one for bestselling is already innovative, because it is including borrows, which I think are increasingly significant. That should include

Actually, I’m not sure on the last one, since it says it counts subscription services (what I call subsers), and the KOLL isn’t really that. I think Prime Reading does count, because Prime is a subscription service. It would not count peer-to-peer loans, presumably, where you loan a book to someone you know. Interestingly, “bulk purchases” count as a single buy for this. Also, a borrow has to get to the minimum reimbursement level…about the length of a sample, according to Amazon.

Most read counts borrows and purchases read (or heard…Audible counts).

This is huge new information!

It will be informative to compare the two lists…suppose a book is widely purchased, but not widely read? What if the opposite is true? Could being on the “most read list” mean that the publisher (which may be just the author) can raise the price? Will the “read” ranking start showing up on Amazon product pages?

I’ll need to dig into this more, but I’m interested in what you think. Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.


My current Amazon Giveaways

Amazon Giveaway for And Then There Were None!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/3e6a60b4814649a3

Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winner.
Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
18+ years of age (or legal age)

Start:May 12, 2017 6:24 PM PDT
End:Jun 11, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

===

Star Wars Day through 40 years of Star Wars!
Giveaway by Bufo Calvin
  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • Follow @TMCGTT on twitter
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)

Giveaway:
https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/0ce7b24b32a4a670

Start:May 4, 2017 6:32 AM PDT
End:Jun 3, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

It’s going on that long in part so that it covers the actual 40th anniversary of Star Wars (of the release in the USA) on May 25th 2017. Also, this book, which has good reviews and is new, is $14.99 in the Kindle edition…which is a lot for me for a giveaway. 🙂

Good luck, and may the Force be with 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!

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

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

 

Amazon Giveaways: so fun I’m running four (update: 5!) right now :)

April 12, 2017

Amazon Giveaways: so fun I’m running four (update: 5!) right now 🙂

It’s been a bit over two years since Amazon introduced

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

The idea is simple. You can give something away through Amazon. Amazon handles everything…determining the winner (according to your choice of method), taking the payment, and delivering the prize(s). If you already buy things from Amazon, it’s pretty painless…in fact, I’ve just done my first real ones and I’m finding it really fun!

Why would you give something away to a stranger?

Mostly, it’s going to be for marketing purposes. However, think of marketing very loosely…you could just be supporting a cause, or even celebrating a birthday (it’s up to you whether or not Amazon lists the giveaway publicly…you could have it be just for people to whom you give a link).

My guess is that quite a few of you would also enjoy doing this…especially authors who might be marketing their own books, but it could be anything. I’m going to give you some information on it first, then I’ll list the four I’m running now.

Amazon “how it works” page for Giveaways (at AmazonSmile*)

Amazon Giveaways FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) (at AmazonSmile*)

So, breaking this down…

You go to the Amazon product page of something you want to giveaway. It seems like most things are eligible: I’m doing e-books, but I’m also doing an electronics item. I think it probably parallels what you can give as gifts for specific people: that would mean no apps or subscription items, which is what I find when I check.

There will be a link at the bottom of the page to set up a giveaway…you can search on the page for “giveaway”. 😉

Then, there will be some decisions to make:

How many of the item do you want to giveaway? You can do from one up to fifty (although that may be affected by the type of item). Remember that you’ll be charged for each one. With e-books, you won’t get a refund if they aren’t all claimed. You can either continue the sweepstakes (if that’s what you choose), or gift certificate you can giveaway.

Then you choose a giveaway type:

  • Sweepstakes (at the end of the sweepstakes)
  • Random Instant Win (3 in 9, for example)
  • Lucky Number Instant Win (every third, for example)
  • First-come, First-served

You don’t have to make a requirement for people to enter, but if you do…

  • Follow author on Amazon
  • Follow you (or someone) on Twitter
  • Tweet a message you specify
  • Watch a Video Short (hosted at Amazon)
  • Watch a YouTube Video (can enter after watching for two minutes)
  • Answer a poll

You can see the possibilities here.

I’ve done two follow the authors, one watch a YouTube video, and one follow me on Twitter. 🙂

Then you’ll pick a duration…that is clearly impacted by the item. I’ve seen different durations, I think from up to fifteen days to up to thirty.

The last big choice is whether you want it to be public or not…whether you want Amazon to list it for anybody.

Why wouldn’t you do that?

You could do the giveaway for a party, or for an incentive for people at your work. In that case, you don’t want somebody not involved to get it.

After that, you need to write an intro message, a “thanks for entering” message, and a winner’s message…I think you are required to do all three, although I’m not sure. You also name the giveaway, but in your name (I’ve seen organizational names there), and you can put up an image.

Those parts are creative, so they can be some work.

Once you are finished, it takes a little while for it to go live (oh, and you need to pay for it, of course). The e-books happened quite quickly, the electronics item took a bit longer.

Amazon sends you a link you can share, and it will appear on the

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

page if you said it could be public. Amazon may also alert people through an e-mail to which people can subscribe.

I’ve been astonished at how well it has worked! One of them has been averaging about 500 entries a day!

Here are the ones I’m running right now. I think I’m going to start listing them at the end of all my posts I’m not sure yet if I’m going to do giveaways all the time…they do cost money. I’ll have a better sense if they are justified or not after these first few finish.

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

by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Two winners

Giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/b079fbab9711319a

Start: Apr 8, 2017 11:39 AM PDT
End: Apr 16, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
    • Follow Robert Scoble on Amazon

Entrants at time of writing: 163


Blitzwolf VR Headset (at AmazonSmile*)

in honor of “Virtually Mike & Nora”

One winner

Giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/0ab8bc9943c50e4f

Start:Apr 8, 2017 1:25 PM PDT
End:Apr 15, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

  • Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • Watch a YouTube video (on the giveaway page)
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)

Entrants at time of writing: 163


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

by my sibling, Kris Calvin

Ten winners

Giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/e39ec1bca3592757

Start:Apr 8, 2017 12:05 PM PDT
End:Apr 23, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
    • Follow Kris Calvin on Amazon (I like that it is Amazon and not Twitter…probably less intrusive for most people)

Entrants at time of writing: 1


Oh Myyy! – There Goes The Internet (Life, the Internet and Everything Book 1) (at AmazonSmile*)

by George Takei (in honor of the actor’s 80th birthday on April 20, 2017)

1 winner

Giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/0a55a7230ccfd4aa

Start:Apr 11, 2017 3:56 PM PDT
End:Apr 21, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Follow @TMCGTT on twitter (that’s the Twitter account for my  The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project
18+ years of age (or legal age)

Entrants at time of writing: 64

===

Update: I’m also giving away Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle in honor of the beloved children’s author’s 101st birthday 4/12/2017!

Happy 101st birthday, Beverly Cleary! (and a giveaway)


If you enter, good luck! I figure I won’t be told who wins, but if you do, I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to promote them…and if you are doing a giveaway that relates to the topics of this blog (e-books, Amazon media devices…I’ll make the call), you can mention it in a comment on this post. If you have other thoughts or questions, you can also do that with a comment. 🙂

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! :) 

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.

“I found it through ILMK” 2016

December 20, 2016

“I found it through ILMK” 2016

There is no longer a challenge in having enough to read.

The issue is in having things that you want to read.

One of the things I want for this blog, I Love My Kindle (ILMK), is for it to help people with discovery. That’s discovery both of books and of devices. It could be that it is a book of which you’ve never heard, or (and I would guess this is more common) a sale on a book.

The interchange I have with commenters on this blog is one of my favorite things about it…that covers a wide range of topics, but I do especially like it when someone says I helped them find something!

I thought this year, for the first time, I’d go back through the comments and share some where ILMK readers said they found something through it. That may help others. It might help you find gifts or items for yourself. Note that prices mentioned may certainly not be the same for you now. The commenters may be responding to a one-day sale I reported, or the item may have the same price in your country (and indeed, may not be available there). Discovery just leads you to the encounter…what you do there is up to you. 🙂

“Got my iClever speaker today and as you said, it works great. Thanks for that tip!”
—Karen Salmons, December 4
Item: iClever BoostSound Portable IP65 Waterproof Outdoor/Shower Bluetooth Speaker with 12hr Playtime (at AmazonSmile*)

“Thanks for the heads up. I’ve been meaning to read “The Fireman” By Joe Hill. I was pleasantly surprised to see it in the list. Grabbed it.”
–Genre Book Reviews, November 28
Item: The Fireman (at Amazonsmile*)

“One of the books I picked up about a month ago was “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a family and Culture in Crisis” which had been on my wish list for awhile. You featured it when Amazon had a daily deal for memoirs. I can really identify with the family history of having grandparents move out of Appalachia to a factory town. While telling the story of his life, he gives insight to what has happened to our country as the economy has shifted away from factory jobs leaving behind many, many towns where no comparable paying jobs moved in to replace them. It is currently in the running for best memoir & autobiography at Goodreads.”
–Lady Galaxy, November 22
Item: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (at AmazonSmile*)

“Well, I just ordered “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams, which you listed above, so that’s one! I’m sure there were others.”
–rogerknights, November 20
Item: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big (at AmazonSmile*)

“Have to say, among most reviews I went through online, yours is detailed and well explained. Thank you so much! Paperwhite it is for me!🙂”
–JC, October 16
Item: All-New Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile*)

  • “I passed on the Dot the last time it was offered, and am getting one this time They are preparing for construction next door, and are digging constantly, so we have to keep the windows shut, air conditioning running, and two air purifiers running, and I notice my SO turning up living room Echo super loud probably to listen from our bedroom, so this is an affordable way to add Alexa to our bedroom, if he finds the sound too tinny for the small amounts of time he would listen in there, I will invest in a speaker.”
    –Zebras, November 15
  • “Although I recently sold my Dot I still quickly ordered a 6 pack of the 2nd gen Dot’s. I am giving them away for Christmas to our adult kids and one Grandchild. That is only four total but since I could use four why not just get a six pack. I’m not really sure what I’ll do with the other two. I love the speaker you linked above. Is the sound good? I might order that and keep one of the new Dot’s myself for the sole purpose of listening to music or audiobooks while in the shower in the mornings.”
    –Phink, November 15
    Item: All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
    Item: iClever BoostSound Portable IP65 Waterproof Outdoor/Shower Bluetooth Speaker with 12hr Playtime (at AmazonSmile*)
  • “I did already buy a copy, so I don’t need a copy for myself. If you have extras, I would certainly gift a copy to a friend who’s a passionate reader of mysteries on kindle, and this book seems right up her alley. I’m very happy for your sibling’s impressive awards.”
    –Amy, August 26
  • “Bufo, thank you and your sister Kris. I received my link to Amazon, downloaded “One Murder More” and have been eagerly devouring it. As I read, I find myself trying to “figure it out” which to me indicates a high degree of involvement. The book is very enjoyable and I look forward to many more in this series and/or written by Kris. In addition to the plot, characters and descriptive language, I really appreciate the quality of the writing. A book with language errors really annoys me. This one is very well written, extra enjoyable. [Okay, yes, I confess. I was a teacher. But mostly French. Writing and lit my last six years.]”
    –Barbara Berry, August 16
  • “I already have the book and enjoyed reading it very much, so I just want to say “congratulations!””
    –Lady Galaxy, August 16
  • “Kris, I loved the book! Can’t wait to see wbat Maren is up to in the next novel.”
    –Jennifer Martin, July 3

Item: One Murder More (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) [This is worth explaining a bit. My sibling wrote a first novel, and I mentioned it, and then we did a giveaway when it won a major award. I’m assuming anybody who wrote about it heard about it through ILMK. 🙂 I should point out that it’s sold pretty well, so that may not be the case. I’m also not including people who hadn’t indicated that they had already read it).

“Thanks to you, I just bought “The Mystery Monsters” ($1.27 used paperback). I has only one review, titled, “You haven’t lived until you’ve read this.”

“The Mystery Monsters” is $196, used hardback.”
–rogerknights, July 2
Item: The Mystery Monsters (at AmazonSmile*)

  • “I wanted to thank you for the heads up regarding the sale of books from McFarland Publishing. As a result I have purchased a few of their e-books: “Television Horror Movie Hosts”, “Universal Horror, The Studio’s Classic Films, 1931-1946”, “Keep Watching the Skies!, American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties”, “A History of the Doc Savage Adventures”, “Encyclopedia of Television Pilots, 1937 to 2012”, and “The Heritage of Heinlein, A Critical Reading of the Fiction”. Good reading ahead🙂”
    –John Aga, June 10
  • “OH this is awesome. Thanks for the heads-up! These are texts that can be priced to the point that they may not be affordable at all, not in any great quantity.$3.99 is shockingly low for some of these books. Good for gifts, as you note, although I agree with you that these are generally best for tablets, not a general e-reader.The first book that caught my attention is: Oscar Wilde in Quotation: 3,100 Insults, Anecdotes and Aphorisms, Topically Arranged with Attributions I will definitely be getting this one for myself.In your list, the one on Heinlein caught my attention; I’m going to take a look and see if that’s for me.I am now off to comb through these pages. Thank you!”

Item: There are a bunch here. 🙂 This was a big sale on McFarland publishing books, and I also bought several of them myself

Thanks to my readers for letting me know that I helped them find books/devices!

I also appreciate it when readers recommend books/items…I’ve read some great things myself that way.

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! :) 

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

Amazon’s “2016 Top-Selling New Releases”

December 8, 2016

Amazon’s “2016 Top-Selling New Releases”

I recently asked a question in a meeting at work about “aggregate curation”, and I could tell the speaker didn’t quite get it. 🙂

We were talking about interaction with the public online. It’s fascinating to me that many people seem to think that the “Wisdom of the Crowd” is going to be superior to the experts. When I’ve helped people on the Amazon forums, they may ask something like, “Does anyone know how…?” The answer is quite often, “Yes. Contact Amazon.”

I think Amazon makes it quite obvious about how to contact them. There is, for example, a Help link at the top of every page in the Kindle store.

Still, some people think the crowd, people like them, are a better bet to answer questions than the company itself.

I would guess that a lot of that is the general suspicion of authority. After all, Amazon clearly has a motivation to have people make purchases, so mightn’t they be more likely to recommend replacing a device than someone who has no financial stake in your decision? Sure…although I would argue that Amazon has a bigger interest in keeping you as a happy customer (their most important “product”) than making an individual sale.

I see this in a lot of things…some people would rather go with “People with your medical condition opted for this treatment most often” than what their doctors suggest.

That’s not to say that I’m not interested in what the aggregate of Amazon customers think! I do look at customer reviews at Amazon, and I have considered items more strongly when Amazon told me either that people who bought one product also bought another, or that people who had visited this page most often bought this other product.

This time of year, there are a lot of “Best of” books listed being released. Quite often, that’s a single reviewer making recommendations.

Amazon has things like that…but they also have released their

Best-Selling New Releases list (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

In terms of the list itself, they haven’t separated out Kindle sales this year…and those might be quite different. Amazon says:

“List counts only first editions published in 2016 and includes paid units in print and Kindle”

“Paid units” presumably means that borrows don’t count…meaning that

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

might not affect it. Not sure on that, though.

The top overall are “frontlist” books, generally from brand name authors. The top five are:

  1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne
  2. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  3. The Whistler by John Grisham
  4. The Last Mile by David Baldacci
  5. Killing the Rising Sun by Bill O’Reilly, Martin Dugard

Interestingly, that puts two non-fiction books in the top five (#2 and #5).

They also have top twenty lists for Kids & Young Adults, Most Wished For, and Most Gifted.

I also find it intriguing that Most Wished For and Most Gifted aren’t a one for one correspondence. 😉 Obviously, book gifters don’t always give people what they want. That could be because they don’t know (Amazon does have a pretty easy Wish List program you can share with specific people), or they want to get them something different (some givers love to surprise people, or want to illuminate new pathways). It may also be because people use the Wish Lists as a way to manage their own shopping (or just for general reference), and those books aren’t really what they want for gifts.

Something that stands out to me on that page: open obscenities (sh*tty, bullsh*t). Since these are hypothetically facts about what is most wished for or gifted, they have to list them…but I’m surprised there isn’t a family/work friendly version of the page. Ordinarily, I don’t think you’d expect to be looking at a list of very popular books to purchase online at work and run afoul of HR. 😉

Amazon does have a regular place where you can see best-selling Kindle e-books (for the USA) for the year so far…and, for that matter, for previous years:

Amazon Best Sellers of 2016 (So Far) (at AmazonSmile*)

That list is quite different, and part of that is that they use different parameters. The “so far” list includes books released in previous years…sometimes decades earlier.

I would guess that all of the top 20 for the year Amazon listed appear on the top 100 “so far” list. One thing that does stand out, though, is that there are cheaper and independently published books on the “so far” list. The number 2 is a ninety-nine cent title from “Bookouture”, The Girl in the Ice: A gripping serial killer thriller (Detective Erika Foster Book 1) by Robert Bryndza. There are also almost 7,000 customer reviews for The Girl in the Ice at time of writing.

“Best-selling” is one example of aggregate curation. It’s not something that experts think, or something that even an individual reader would put together as a “best” list. People certainly buy books that they don’t think were the best books of the year…or that they even liked all that much. 😉

I’m planning to do some writing before the end of the year, as I usually do, looking back at the year (and looking ahead). I don’t want to promise too much, but I am taking an extra PTO (Paid Time Off) day for writing after our adult kid visits for almost a week (during the visit, I may write less than usual…we’ll see). I’m considering a couple of ways to surface the “wisdom of the crowd” for ILMK readers…

Thanks to Amazon for the press release on this list! One thing they noted there: more than half of the top 20 books are part of a series…people like series in movies and books (and TV, of course). 🙂

Any thoughts on the bestsellers list? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.

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

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

This post was improved through a comment from Edward Boyhan.

* 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 #151: 5 reviews a week, don’t pay as you exit

December 6, 2016

Round up #151: 5 reviews a week, don’t pay as you exit

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

Check this out…or rather, don’t and just walk out

I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, and I managed a couple of other types of stores, too.

This is truly revolutionary! Sure, Amazon does revolutionary things, but this is not online…it’s in a physical store.

What is it?

It’s called “Amazon Go”. It’s a new store concept…and the first one is opening in Seattle in 2017, so it’s not just a concept.

You have an app on your SmartPhone. As you walk into the store, you scan your phone while passing through a turnstile (sort of like some mass transit systems). Then, you just take what you want off the shelves, and you walk out.

That’s right…you don’t check out, you don’t pay, you don’t even scan your phone again on the way out.

Your Amazon account is charged.

That’s all a quantum leap change…we haven’t been gradually moving towards this, it’s a revolution, not an evolution

Watch this video:

YouTube

Note that is uses computer vision, among other things…it’s not just RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) or UPC (Universal Product Code) tags.

We do see an Amazon employee restocking the shelf, although that could largely be done by robots. You want some employees, though, at this point…for one thing, to answer questions (the app could probably help with that, perhaps in the future as an Alexa-enabled app, or by having Alexa-enabled devices in the store). The other major thing would be to discourage shoplifting…no doubt, people will try to run into the store (hopping the turnstile, perhaps) and grab and go.

This is brilliant for Amazon for several reasons.

Everybody who goes in there pays through Amazon.

I think customers will like it…a lot.

Customers will also have a lowered awareness of how much they are spending. I’ve seen people in front of me in line at a grocery store look at the total and put something back…not going to happen here.

This first store will have grocery type items, including prepared meals…not, I would presume, fresh produce, although I suppose that could be done.

Amazon could eventually expand this, especially at the holiday season. I see clothing being particularly appropriate here, so people could try on the clothes.

Amazon…always innovating, and increasingly, offline.

Specialty Best Books lists

Here are some links to specialty Best Books lists from The Guardian:

Note that this is a British news source, but that has affected availability less in recent years, I believe.

こんにちは, Dash buttons!

Do you know why Microsoft Word won out over WordPerfect?

I was active at the time in computing, and I remember it pretty well.

WordPerfect was, I think most serious word processors agreed, better.

However, we did everything with keyboard shortcuts…we didn’t have mice and menus, for the most part (it worked with them quite a bit later). Some of you will remember plastic trays you put around your keyboard that listed the shortcuts…you might have had several of them.

Microsoft brought in this “menu” thing. People laughed: the only people who used a word processing program were superior typists, and they weren’t going to want to take their fingers off the home row to pick up a mouse and go to a menu.

Well, of course, what happened was that lots of people who weren’t good typists started using word-processing…and if you were a bad typist, that was better.

Microsoft won because they provided multiple ways to do the same thing. They didn’t eliminate keyboard shortcuts…they added another modality.

I bring that up because some people may wonder why Amazon does

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

when they have the beauty of voice shopping with the Alexa-enabled devices, including the original

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

With a Dash button, it does one thing. It orders a specific product, whenever you push a button.

Those are two very different approaches…and Amazon is making them both work, and apparently they are both selling well.

The USA Kindle store now has 226 Dash buttons…and when you buy one for $4.99, you get a $4.99 credit on your first purchase (so it is effectively free).

Well, Amazon just introduced the Dash button to Amazon.jp (the Japanese store):

Dash buttons in Amazon.jp

They are starting with 16, but I think it will be a success there, too. 🙂

“Winner Wonderland”: win an Echo Dot and a whole lot more from C/NET

You could win an

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

and a whole lot of other home automation hardware in the

Winner Wonderland giveaway at C/NET

You do have to agree to get the e-mail newsletter (you can drop out), but this is a good giveaway. There’s a giveaway each day through December 15th, 2016.

“BANNED BOOKS AND BLOCKBUSTERS”

This

New Yorker article by Louis Menand

is one of the best articles on publishing I’ve read in quite some time…although, I will warn you that there is an “obscenity” early on in it (what some people call the “c word”…it can be used as an insulting term for women, and refers to part of the female anatomy, which is how it is used in the quotation appearing in the article). As regular readers know, I don’t use obscenities in my “real life”, and when I write in this blog, I typically censor them (even something like “H*ll”). However, I do not object to their use by others, and have used them when quoting something.

It’s important for this story, which gives real insight into the history of obscenity laws and the first amendment, and how they have affected publishing.

I found it insightful and edifying, and it’s relatively long.

If you can get past that word in this context, and some other discussions of what obscenity means (and potentially objectionable language), I recommend the article.

For a previous post of mine about judging books from older times by current standards, see

The Chronological Cultural Context Conundrum

That may not be exactly the issue here…both of these books use the “n word”, but in the latter especially, it’s used for a purpose, and the purpose is certainly arguably intended to be instructive.

Microsoft may challenge the Echo…through computers

The Echo really realized the home assistant market, but there are now multiple competitors…which is a good thing. Competition drives innovation, after all.

This

Engadget post by Jon Fingas

discusses rumors that Microsoft may turn Windows PCs into Cortana-powered home automation centers. Cortana is Microsoft’s digital assistant, like Alexa or Siri.

It’s an interesting idea and makes a lot of sense to me.

We don’t know if this is real, or what it would eventually be able to do…but I don’t see any great barrier to this. It might particularly apply in businesses…I use our

Amazon Tap (at AmazonSmile*)

at work, but that’s not very subtle. 😉 I’m not doing anything wrong listening to music on it and such, but I think it can distract people that it is there in a different way than a feature of Windows 10 would do. When I say that, I’m picturing the office having smart home technology which would tie to it, by the way.

Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird pulled from school district due to parent complaint

This kind of thing happens…a parent complains about a book, and it gets pulled from a school or school district, sometimes to be restored later:

Huffington Post article by Claire Fallon

The complaint was over the use of the “n word”. I’ve seen the parent (I think it was the complaining parent) comment, and the thought was that the word being in a book give it an imprimatur and children will feel okay using it.

As I’ve seen this story in multiple places, there is a tendency to tie it into current political events…I wouldn’t say I’m seeing something here that rules that in or out. After all, there is a Banned Books Week every year…

Amazon continues to go after “fake reviews”

A reader sent me a heads up to this

Washington Post article by Gene Marks

that asserts that there is a new Amazon review policy. I’ve written about Amazon’s customer reviews quite a bit…a powerful tool, but one that has been…vulnerable to at least attempts at manipulation.

According to this, the new policy is that an individual can only write up to five non-verified purchase reviews per week.

That will stop people who are “review factories”. They get paid (in cash and products) for writing those reviews…and they may use software or a team of people to do it.

They can still try to make a number of accounts, I suppose, but this does put a hurdle on the track.

Does it affect people who are legitimately reviewing?

Potentially, although I think not a huge number.

If I was retired, I could see deciding to sit down and write a review for every one of the Doc Savage paperbacks, for example, and that might be writing more than ten a week. They wouldn’t show as “verified purchases” at Amazon, since I bought them before Amazon existed. 🙂

However, older books don’t tend to have very many reviews, so I don’t think that sort of Before Amazon bulk reviewing happens much.

Thanks for the heads up, reader!

What do you think? How should schools handle parent challenges to books…and how should they handle “objectionable words”? What do you think of the Amazon Go store? How about a computer that did home automation? Do you like Cortana? 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!

This post was improved through a comment from Edward Boyhan.

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

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

Amazon’s new review filters

November 19, 2016

Amazon’s new review filters

There has been lots of discussion about review at Amazon…people paying for reviews, “sock puppets” (where an author essentially tells other people what to say to get good reviews and comments), and so on.

I’ve written about the subject some here, and I was pleased when regular reader and commenter pointed out a recent change.

It might at first seem like the change that was noted might not be good, but Amazon is giving you a lot of options now…they just didn’t make it obvious that they did it, so it might…mislead you a bit if you thought it was still going to work the same way.

The change you might initially notice is that you click to read the reviews on a product page…and not enough reviews appear to be there.

That’s because the new default is to only show you “verified purchasers”. That clearly can cut down on “fake reviews”…if the account has to have purchased the item, it makes it harder to sock puppet accounts (and certainly, more expensive).

For example, let’s look at the recent John Grisham book

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

They used to just show you the reviews, and you could pick most helpful or jump to critical or particular star ratings (I used to look at the one stars, for example, to see if I disagreed with the reasons).

Now, you get a lot more choices.

At time of writing, there were 1,312 customer reviews, with an average of 4.1 stars out of 5.

Top customer reviews show first…those are the ones voted most helpful, whether they are positive or negative. In this case, 118 voted for a 3 star review, then the next one was 53 people voting for a two star review.

On the other side of the page were the ten most recent reviews.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

There used to be a link that takes you to all of the reviews…now, it (and it is labeled this way) you first see verified purchaser reviews only.

Whoops, the numbers changed while I was writing this! So, there are 1,338 reviews now, and 1,211 of them are verified…that means not quite ten percent of them are not verified. There is a link right there to see all reviews if you want.

There is a sort option which defaults to Top, and you can choose to sort by most recent.

Then, there are three more controls:

  • Verified Purchasers or All Reviewers
  • 5 star only or 4 star only or 3 star only or 2 star only or 1 star only…or all critical or all positive
  • Finally, I could choose to see All Formats or just the Kindle format (I was on the Kindle format page)

That’s interesting! 1,211 reviews were available for all formats, and the Kindle format was 1,096…again, about 90.5 percent of them are Kindle. My guess is that’s largely a result of it being very easy to write Kindle reviews…they encourage you to do it every time you finish a Kindle book. If you read a hardback, you’d have to remember to go to Amazon and write the review.

This means that we could actually compare the different formats…so it may be possible to tell if the Kindle format is less well-received than the hardback. That used to happen sometimes, because it might have been less well-formatted. I think that’s less true now.

For example, 632 of the Kindle only reviews are 5 star out of 1,167 (all reviewers, not just verified). That’s 54%.

Switching over to the hardback format, 48 of the hardback only are 5 stars, out of 119…which is about 40%. That means a lot more Kindleers rated it 5 star than hardback readers.

Flipping to 1 star reviews, that’s 12 of the 119 for the hardback: about 10%. For the Kindle version, 48 out of 1,167, about 4%. Definitely seems like people like the Kindle version better. Now, does that mean it is better, or perhaps that Kindleers are less critical? Perhaps less expensive books are reviewed more highly, although the difference here is under $2.50 (worth noting that the Kindle book is under $15, and the hardback (after the discounts) isn’t.

Overall, I think this is a very good thing! It gives us more information, and more options…and I do thank Lady Galaxy for helping people go into it with eyes open!

What do you think? Do you like the new changes? Do you think you’ll use them? Feel free to tell me any readers 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.

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.

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* 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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