Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Two weeks without my Kindle

April 17, 2010

Two weeks without my Kindle

It’s been two weeks since I last had my Kindle.

No, this isn’t some Yogic exercise in self-discipline.

No, I haven’t switched to a competitor.

It disappeared.

I say disappeared, because I had it with me so much, I think relatives thought it was some kind of weird growth on my hand, rather than a separate device.

In an unusual workday circumstance, I got to have lunch with my Significant Other that day (my SO had the day off).

We did go to a restaurant…well, it’s more of a sort of gourmet food court.  You buy food the different places, take it to a table yourself, and clean up after yourself.

Could I have left it there?

It’s possible.  I’m almost obsessive about stuff.  I check my pockets every time I head off somewhere.  I practically have a ritual.  However, when I’m with my SO, that’s where my attention is.  Where I would have said it was virtually impossible that I would walk off without it if I was by myself, I could have been paying attention to the love of my life, instead of my Kindle.  “I only have eyes for you…”

However…

My SO dropped me off at work.  When I went up the stairs into the building, my SO remembers seeing my Kindle in my hand.  The only reason that would have been unusual is that it was just sprinkling a little bit.

Now, I was also carrying a bag of magazines (I bring them to work to put in the lunchroom for people to read), and I had my laptop (which is in a rolling case).  That’s an unusual.

I dropped off the magazines, and went to the planned meeting.

During the meeting, I was working on my laptop.  What I normally do is set the Kindle down to type.  It was a busy meeting, with a lot of people in the room. 

When it was time to go (and I was one of the last people left), I didn’t have the Kindle any more.

It’s quite ironic to me, since I’ve advised so many other people what to do if their Kindles are lost or stolen.  I’d taken appropriate steps: I have a TrackItBack* sticker on it, I have a slip of paper in the cover with my contact information, and I had identifying information on the device itself.

I’m going to go through the scenarios and let you know why I’m holding out hope (besides just being a generally optimistic guy), but I wanted to share with you first the experience of going back to paperbooks (p-books).

Oh, I do want to say that my SO has generously offered to let me use my old K1…but that doesn’t seem fair to me.  The K2 went missing under my watch, so I don’t want to take the K1 away from my SO.

This was my interesting experience today, though.

I finished a p-book, and went in to my floor-to-ceiling library to pick one of the thousands of books to take with me when I went to work.  I always have a book with me, of course.  🙂

The first thing was the fact that I had to go into the library before I left the house…kind of in a hurry, so that felt like a bit of a chore (even though I love the library).

I started scanning the books.  I rejected all the mass market paperbacks.  Honestly, the odds are too high that the print size is too small.  Oh, I can read them, with an effort, but reading the Kindle is so effortless in that regard.  Some of them are fine, but I just didn’t have time to look through a bunch to find one that was big enough.

So, I was looking at hardbacks and trade paperbacks.  They couldn’t be too big to carry around (along with my laptop case).  I felt like Goldibooks..some were too big, some were too small…I needed one that was just right.  😉

Next, I was eliminating all the books I had read.  I had a couple of shelves of “to be reads”: I concentrated on those.

Another factor was that I was going to have this with me at work.  That limited the topics.  I read some pretty controversial stuff (as well as things like kids’ books).  Other people knowing what I’m reading isn’t a concern with a Kindle…it is with a paperbook.

I also wanted something that probably wasn’t available on the Kindle.  I prefer to read on the Kindle now.

I finally settled on an old Gerald Durrell book I’d gotten at a bag sale at a library (you pay $5 for a grocery bag full of books).  I like Gerald Durrell…seemed like a good bet.

I had the book with me at a restaurant (the same one where we had lunch on that fateful day).  I noticed right away: there were stains on the page edges.  That’s another issue e-books don’t have. 

I pretty promptly lost the bookmark I was using (just a little cardboard tag): who knew that keeping a bookmark in a book was a skill on which you could get rusty?  😉  I’m guessing I set it down “the wrong way”, or something like that.

Reading it at lunch was fine…but I do want my Kindle back.  🙂

Okay, I said I’d mention some scenarios.

1. Somebody picked up at the meeting by mistake and just hasn’t noticed yet.  That might seem odd, but there were people there supporting other people.  If that’s the case, I do think someone will find it when we have the next meeting…in a couple of weeks.  I’d get it back then.

2. Somebody deliberately stole it at the meeting.  That seems very unlikely.

3. My SO is wrong, and it was left and/or stolen at the restaurant.  Since it has been deregistered, the thief couldn’t use it to buy new books (Amazon know it has been reported missing).  I think most thieves would steal a Kindle to sell it.  When it was going to be registered, I think I’d get it back then.  It’s possible someone is actually reading on it.  If that’s the case, maybe they’ll sell it when they finish what is on it.  They could use it with books from other sources, but I find that less likely.

4. It got thrown out by accident.  I think it’s pretty noticeable, I doubt that happened.

Bottom line: my virtual fingers are crossed, I still think it could come back.  I’m not ready to buy one to replace it, yet.  There are sentimental factors in wanting that one back (my offspring had a custom skin made for it that is on it). 

You know, of all the non-return scenarios, I’m most comfortable with somebody reading on it who couldn’t afford one of their own.  I wouldn’t want it to just be stolen to sell, and I wouldn’t want it to be thrown out. 

Most all, though, I would like it to come back.  🙂

Tip of the day: get a return services sticker (I use TrackItBack).  That will give you some peace of mind.

* Note: I am required to disclose (but I would do so any way) that TrackItBack sent me free stickers after I wrote about them the first time.   I did not know they were going to do that when I wrote the piece.

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

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You Tell Me…the results

March 31, 2010

You Tell Me…the results

On March 22, in an earlier post, I polled my readers about features in ILMK.

While I think the blog has more value when it reflects how I feel and think, I do like to know how the readers are reacting.  That’s one of the things educators do in a classroom: adjust what they are saying based on an empathetic sense of the room.  That doesn’t mean you skip what you are supposed to teach, but you might emphasize some areas more and de-emphasize others.  If you get into a classroom and you are supposed to be starting from a very low level and you realize everybody is bored, you step up the technicality of the discourse.  You might switch to more tips and tricks, for example.

I had a reader ask me why I gave the options as “too few, about right, too many” rather than asking you what you liked or disliked.

I was looking for advice about what I should do.  You might like something personally, but think it doesn’t belong in the blog.  You might hate something, but think it is worthwhile.  The purpose of this is to help me adjust the mix. 

There will definitely be a mix…that’s how I have fun.  I also think that’s the best value: I want everybody to get ninety-nine cents a month worth.  If you get one post that’s worth a buck, that’s probably a good thing.  I know you don’t want to wade through thirty or so others to find that one, though.  I really hope that at least every several days, you get something you want.  The best way for me to do that is to stay eclectic.  That’s also the way I personally like things…I usually like to jump around from one thing to another.  It’s inevitable that we are going to have some significant posts about the “agency model” and the impact if the iPad in the next week.  I’m going to try and make sure to rotate some other things in there as well.

The results

It seems like he best result would have been 100% of people saying the number is about right for a feature.  That didn’t happen.  🙂  So, is the question with the highest “about right” percentage the best?  Not necessarily.  If I had eighty percent saying something was “about right” and twenty saying there were “too many”, that feels worse to me than 75% “about right” and 25% “too few”.

For example, the highest “about right” was Opinion pieces at 73%.  That one also has 7% saying it is too many, though.  The second highest is Tips/How to at 72%.  That was has zero saying it is “too many”…I have to say, that’s the most popular.

I like writing the tips, too.  🙂  The weird thing is that I’ve really written about all the basic functions.  A reader correctly points out that newer readers haven’t been sent those earlier posts, though.

Well, that’s one of the tricky things.  I have two (or even three) sets of readers.  One gets the blog on the Kindle (I’m especially grateful to them).  They only have the ten most recents articles (unless they take steps to preserve particular articles.

The second set reads it on the web, or has it sent to them.  If you are on the website, you can search the previous articles, back to the beginning. 

The third set (and it’s a small one), are getting the Collected I Love My Kindle  title in the Kindle store.   They get the convenience of having it on the Kindle and the searchability.  However, they don’t get the timeliness, and sometimes that matters (such as when I announce promotional free titles).

I have to think about how to make the how to information available for new subscribers without just duplicating things for longer-term readers.

As to the least popular, that one was clear.  🙂  Fiction had 43% too many, and 11% too few.  I can totally see that: I’ll probably move all non-Kindle related fiction to another blog of mine, The Measured Circle

The second highest “too many” category was humor.  Well, I’m not going to drop those altogether…I get good responses to them, and honestly, they are too much fun to write.  🙂  There were also 18% that said there were too few.  If you don’t like the humor ones, I’m going to ask you just to wait for the next day.  🙂 

What got the most “too few” votes, the one I probably should step up?  It was Recommendations, which surprised me a bit.  I think that says something about how many titles are available for the Kindle.  There are so many that it is hard to pick.  I guess that makes sense: definitely, recommendations were one of the things people most wanted when I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore.  Tied for second on that were Freebie Flashes and Recent Releases…no question, people want to know about content.

I was pleased to see that the “Inside E-publishing posts” are something people think I should keep strongly in the mix.  9% thought there were too many, but 24% thought there were too few.  This is something where I can really help make it easier to understand…and you may not want to think about it when you are just looking to read a book, but I thnk it matters.

Thanks to everybody who responded!  You can still vote, of course, and I’ll probably do something like this again later.

I really appreciate it when people take the time and effort to tell me what they think.

Here are the full results (so far):

Response Tips/How To
Too few 28
About right 72
Too many 0
   
Response Freebie Flash
Too few 29
About right 57
Too many 14
   
Response Focus on Free
Too few 18
About right 71
Too many 11
   
Response Inside
Too few 24
About right 67
Too many 9
   
Response Humor
Too few 18
About right 48
Too many 34
   
Response Fiction
Too few 11
About right 46
Too many 43
   
Response Recent Releases
Too few 29
About right 64
Too many 7
   
Response Analysis
Too few 18
About right 64
Too many 18
   
Response Opinion
Too few 20
About right 73
Too many 7
   
Response Recommendations
Too few 30
About right 67
Too many 2

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

You tell me…what do you like in ILMK?

March 22, 2010

You tell me…what do you like in ILMK?

I write this blog because it’s fun.  That’s not the only reason, but that’s the main one.  If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it. 

I also think I’m performing a public service.  I’m a big advocate of people reading, and yes, people need help to get the most out of their Kindles.  I like helping people…that’s fun, too.

Yes, I also get some money from it.  It’s not ten percent of my income for a year, although it has been growing.

It’s true I want to please my readers…sure, that’s part of what makes it fun.  🙂 

I write eclectically…I like to have a variety of tones and topics.  Any time I write anything, I know that somebody isn’t going to like it.  My hope is that every few days, you do get something you like.  If you subscribe through the Kindle store, each post costs you about three to four cents.  What I want is that you think you get your ninety-nine cents a month worth…even if you thought one particular post wasn’t worth four cents.  😉

I pay attention to what people say about the blog, and a couple of people have noticed a change in the mix over time.

That’s true.  When I started this in August of last year (2009), I had more tips.  There’s a simple reason for that: I’ve already covered all the basics.  I don’t want to just re-run the same post…if I’ve written about the Kindle dictionary, and nothing has changed, I don’t want to just re-write the same material.  So, inevitably, the “tips” mix has gone down.  As new features are introduced, or if I find something new, or if Amazon changes something else, that gives me a new “tips” topic.  I’ll be writing about the two major updates we are getting this year (one for increased accessibility, and one for better organization).  I write about other devices too, but I’ll freely admit I don’t know them as well as I know Kindles.  I can close my eyes and, at pretty much any time, reach my arm out and pick up my Kindle.  I can’t do the same thing with a nook or a Sony.

What I’m going to do in this post is talk about the different categories of posts I’ve been doing.  I know what my most popular posts are.  However, there are a lot of factors that affect that.  Some topics attract people who aren’t regular readers, for example.

On each of several topics, I’m going to tell you what I think about them, and then let you answer a poll question.  I wanted to keep the poll simple: do you want to see more of these, are there about the right amount, or do you want to see fewer?  You are more than welcome to make a comment to the post to tell me more specifics. 

I’m not going to just list the categories…I want to know a bit more about your areas of interest, not just how I cover them. 

Tips/How to

This is one of my favorite categories to write, no question.  This is where I tell you how to do something with your device…download a book, play music, get to your notes, that kind of thing.  There is a limit as to how many of these there are, though…at some point, if nothing changed, I would have written about absolutely everything you can do.  🙂  Fortunately, things do change (typically getting better, in my opinion). 

Free book listings

A fairly new feature has been the Freebie Flash.  I describe a bit about books which have been recently listed for free in the Kindle store.  I also profile sources outside of Amazon where you can get free books.  I don’t know how much people like this.  I think that the fact that so many free books are available for the Kindle (and other e-books) is a major argument in the devices’ favor.  I haven’t heard much about it, though, so I don’t know if people like it or not.

I’m going to ask about the two separately, since the feel is pretty different:

The inside of e-publishing

I’ve written a lot about this recently…because a lot has been happening, mainly.  This is opening up the hood, and looking at what drives the books you have to read.  This includes the contracts between booksellers like Amazon and publishers, as well as legal matters, like the Google settlement.  It’s not about your EBR (E-Book Reader) specifically, but about the content.  I find this fascinating, but I assume some people sort of glaze over.

Humor

I love writing the humor posts!  I have fun doing it, and I know some people like them.  However, I suspect some other people just find them a diversion from why they read the blog.  I hope those folks are willing to just stick their fingers in their ears and say “lalalalala” until the next post.  🙂

Fiction

Everyone once in a while, I write a post that isn’t exactly humor, but is more fiction generally.  For example, I did a short vampire piece around Halloween, I did a “Kindle Carol”, and I did a contemporary Sherlock Holmes story.   I like those, but they’ve been referred to as “ravings”.  😉  I could just move those sorts of things to my other blog, The Measured Circle, and that’s my inclination.   That blog is by definition eclectic.  I’m curious what you think, though.

Recent Kindle releases

This is a fairly new feature, and they are pretty hard to do.  I think it’s fun and interesting, and I’ve gotten some good feedback.  I just list some recent releases…although I look for an interesting set of titles.

Analysis

Yes, I’m a geek…I love crunching the numbers.  I particularly like it when I have a hypothesis, examine the data, and have it turn out I was wrong.  I know, that’s all science-y of me, right?  So, I’ll just go in and check something…I find some very interesting (to me) trends that way.  I’m going to include the monthly Snapshots in this.  That’s where I’ve been tracking the prices, for one thing.  I’m sure there are some people who don’t like the math and graphs, though.

Opinion

Sometimes I speculate about what will happen, and sometimes I comment on what is happening.  I know that’s all some blogs have, and that’s perfectly fine.  I didn’t particularly start the blog to have a soapbox.  I do have one issue I mention pretty often: the blocking of text-to-speech access to books, which I think it disproportionately disadvantages the disabled.  I don’t mind that other people may have a different opinion on that, and I’m not trying to change yours.  It’s just an important issue to me, and it’s going to influence what you read here.  I don’t deliberately link to books from companies that block text-to-speech…that’s probably the main impact on you.  I’ll be interested to see what you say about opinion posts…

Recommendations

I’ve done a few posts where I make recommendations for books (and more rarely, other things, like blogs or websites).   What’s your recommendation on my recommendations?  😉

Well, those are some of the main types of posts…I haven’t listed everything.  I’ll look forward to seeing what responses I get.  If you have other suggestions or comments, feel free to let me know. 

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

Blogress Report #1

December 27, 2009

Well, I’ve been doing the I Love My Kindle blog for four months now.  The first post was August 28, 2009.

You’ve been a part of that, so I thought you might be interested to know how things are going.  It will give you some insight into blogs as well.

I started the blog for a couple of reasons.  First, people asked me to do it.  🙂  Second, I had people who didn’t know me from my forum posts or titles in the Kindle store who suggested it.  I was a little scared of it, because of the sense of responsiblity I knew I would feel towards it.  When I commit to something, I really commit: I tend to be very black and white.  I can’t cut back on something, I have to drop it altogether. 

I knew that once I had paid subscribers, I’d really want to put in the time and effort to give them something worthwhile.

After awhile, I settled on a goal of at least 1000 words a day.  That would be about four pages in a book, by the way, and it is really quite a bit of writing.   Why did I pick words a day as a measurement?  Partially because a word count shows up as I’m writing the post.  🙂

I also wanted from the beginning to make it diverse.  I wanted to give tips, humor, fiction, news…keep it varied.

I’m satisfied on both of those.

A big question for me is whether I can justify the time and the energy.  It’s fun, absolutely, and I really try and do it where it doesn’t interfere with family stuff (which comes first) or work.  

 One measurement for that is the number of subscribers.  It was a lot of fun to watch it creep up to paid one thousand paid subscribers, which it hit on December 22.    That number has quite a bit of fluctuation, by the way, but it tells me that there are people enjoying the blog…otherwise, they’d drop it after the free trial.

Another measurement is page views, but I don’t think I get a really reliable number on that.  According to WordPress’ own reporting, my highest day was 308 views on December 1.  That number has been trending higher, but something big (like the release of the K2 international) can make it spike.

Another measurement is the money I get from it.  Does money matter?  Sure.  I don’t manipulate things deliberately to get more money, but I couldn’t justify the time if I didn’t get any.  I have a goal I’ve set for myself for February.  If I’m not hitting that goal, I’ll reevaluate my approach to the blog.  The money comes from two sources, really.  One is subscribers: at thirty cents apiece a month (roughly), that’s about $300 a month with 1000 people.  Another source is the referrer fees I get from Amazon.  I’m just not doing very much in that area.  I haven’t hit fifty dollars this month yet, and this should be a giant month.  I think it’s because people who read this blog probably already have Kindles, so I don’t get those purchases.  I’m not going to plug stuff just to get the money.  We also don’t get referrer fees for e-books, so that doesn’t help.

I also can see how it ranks at Amazon…it’s been as high as number one, and recently has been sitting around number four.  I was thrilled on the first day I beat The Onion and The Huffington Post!  I really didn’t think that would happen.

Yet another indicator is when other sites mention this blog.  I’m not trying to make a lot of media appearances (I used to do that more on a different topic, and it’s too much time away from the family).  Still, I’m excited when somebody mentions it.  I probably like it just as much when a somebody posts about ILMK on a forum (like the Disney Boards or QVC, both of which have happened).   I do think about it being mentioned in a more mainstream source, but not yet.  🙂  I’m going to send out review copies of The Collected I Love My Kindle Blog, Volume 1.  If you have a public platform (you write a public blog, you write book reviews for Entertainment Weekly, that kind of thing), let me know.   Just tell me what that public platform is…I don’t want to send out a bunch of duplications to the same place…I want there to be a chance you’ll review it.  My fantasy is that sombebody at Enternainment Weekly mentions it, honestly. You know, in a review, or Stephen King in his column, or Diablo Cody in her column…dream big, right?  I’ve been a faithful subscriber to EW for years, in case they are listening.  😉

I also kind of imagine people wanting to license the material, especially the fiction.  I’m proud of some of the fiction I’ve done here.   I actually looked into submitting Doctor Watson’s Blog for an Edgar Award, but I was too late in the year…and they don’t quite know what to do with self-published material like this.   I didn’t think I’d win, but it would have been fun to be listed.

Another really important thing for me is the comments.  I like to know I’ve helped people, and whether I get a comment on the blogsite, or in a forum…it’s nice.  I like it when people say I helped them solve a problem, or just that they enjoyed something I’ve written.  Helping people makes me feel good.  🙂

I’m writing this ahead of time, and if I can update these figures, I will.  Here, though, are the top ten most popular posts as I write this:

Title Views  
What to do if your Kindle is lost or sto 282
A look at the nook 274
“Hear, hear!” Listening to your Kindle 215  
This time it’s personal…documents 214  
Frequently Asked Kindle Questions: speci 196  
Interesting and useful Amazon links 153  
To sleep, perchance to screen 125
Round up #3: cheap pre-orders, nook pric 117  
A hundred books for ten bucks! 109
How to love your Kindle 109

Yes, I know…none of those are the fiction ones.  🙂  Maybe that’s more for me…but I’m not planning to cut them out at this point.

Top referrers

Here are some of the top people who have sent readers my way.

The Kindle Chronicles
Red Adept 
Stumble Upon 
I Reader Review 
KindleBoards 
Disney Boards 
QVC 
The Kindle Nation

So, generally, I’ve been very satisfied.  It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of work, and I for me, those two tend to go together.  I’m going to experiment more, but I expect to keep it varied and to shoot for that thousand words a day, at least until I assess it seriously in February. 

I want to thank you all for being a part of what has been a great experience, and I’m looking forward to ILMK in 2010!

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

License and registration

October 15, 2009

No, you weren’t just pulled over by a cop…and if that didn’t even occur to you, congratulations!  😉

I see quite a bit of confusion about what having a device registered to your account means, and what the “device licenses” are.  I thought it would be worth explaining.

The Account

To buy books from Amazon, you need an account.  Fortunately, the account is automatically created when you buy your first item.  For more information on accounts and ordering, see this page at Amazon.

You can have lots of people on your account: friends, family, coworkers, and so on.  Remember that they’ll all have access to it, and can charge books to your account.  All you have to do is give them your login (e-mail address) and password.  I think it’s important that you have at least one other person on your account, in case something happens to you.

Registration

Once you have that account, you then can register a Kindle to it.

  • You can register as many Kindles as you want
  • You can also register iPhones and iPod touches, again, as many as you want
  • A Kindle can only be registered to one account at a time

When a device is registered to your account, it has access to all the Kindle store books bought on that account, even before the new Kindle was registered.  All Kindles can see all the books on the account. 

How do you register a device?

Kindles

If you didn’t specify that it was a gift, it will probably come registered to your account.  You can check that at http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle .

There are three main ways to register your Kindle:

  1. At that Manage Your Kindle page…you’ll need the 16 digit serial number from the back of the Kindle
  2. From the Kindle itself: Home-Menu-Settings (you’ll need your e-mail address and password…the ones associated with your Amazon account)
  3. When buying a Kindle book, you can choose “Register a new Kindle” in the “Deliver to” box…you’ll need that serial number, and you’ll need to name the Kindle

Notice that anybody who has a Kindle can register it to their own account.  The Kindle can also be deregistered either from the device or from the Manage Your Kindle page.   So, if you lose it, you’d better have that serial number some place so you can report it to the police.

iPhone or iPod touch

First, you download the “Kindle for iPhone App” from The App Store.

Then, you’ll enter your e-mail address (the one associated with your Amazon account) and Amazon account password.  After that, you just tap the Register choice.

More information on using the Kindle for iPhone app is here

Remember, you can register as many devices as you want.  I’ve heard of groups of co-workers getting together on the same account, for example.  If you trust each other, that could work out well. 

Device licenses

Okay, so you have a hundred Kindles/iPhones/iPod touches on your account.  Does that mean you can pay one download price from the Kindle store and read the book on all of them?

Actually, some Kindle books do come with unlimited licenses, so that is possible.  Here’s an example: Alice’s Adventures Underground.

That’s not going to happen with most books, though.  The publisher gets to choose how many “device licenses” they allow.  The most common number is reported to be six.

What does that mean?  A six “device licenses” book means that you can simultaneously have that book on six devices for one download price.

That’s key: when you “buy a book” from the Kindle store, you actually are buying device licenses.  That’s different from when you bought a p-book (paperbook).  There, you basically got one license and the container (the paper and ink).   You couldn’t legally copy it yourself and give it to other people (under most circumstances). 

It’s also important to note that this is six simultaneous licenses, not six licenses ever.  If you have the book on six devices, and you sell one of the Kindles and replace it, you can still put it on the new device (you’ll have to deregister the old one and delete the content, of course).  There’s been some confusion about that over time, but Amazon says this:

“If you reach the device limit and wish to replace one of your current devices with a new one, you must first deregister and delete the content from the device you wish to replace before you can access the content in question from your new device.”
http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200316870&#howmany

So, what happens if you want that six-license book on ten devices on your account? You pay for it twice…and you’ll still have two licenses left over.  🙂

How can you tell how many devices licenses you are getting?  It’s right on the product page, in the Product Details…usually.  I think if it isn’t there, you can assume it’s six. 

Summing up: your account can have as many people on it as you want, your account can have as many Kindles/iPhones/iPod touches as you want, and each individual book determines the number of device licenses you get.

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

The Disabled Deserve to Read

October 11, 2009

Note: this is substantially the same (at time of posting) as the title that is for sale in the Kindle store, and which I allow to be copied and distributed freely for non-commercial purposes.  The Kindle store version has an interactive table of contents, and there are some other slight differences (including the price listed for a Kindle 2).

Either one may be updated without the other reflecting the change, although I will probably inform people if that is the case.

The Disabled Deserve to Read

The Controversy Over the Amazon Kindle’s Voice

by Bufo Calvin

1. Introduction 
  • The Issue
  • Initial Research and Reactions
  • Amazon Changes Its Stand
  • Random House Blocks Access
  • Response to the Guild and Random House
  • The Guild Responds: The “Unnecessary and Unfortunate” Statement

2. The Arguments

  • 1. The Kindle 2 creates an unauthorized audiobook version
  • 2. The Kindle 2 threatens the audiobook industry
  • 3. A company should not be forced to spend its money to support a special interest group
  • 4. There are alternatives available for the disabled
  • 5. The Kindle 2 itself is not blind-accessible
  • 6. The voice is creepy and inhuman. Nobody should care about having it
  • 7. Blocking the voice is against the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

3. Proposals

  • June 27 2009: The Disabled Deserve to Read Day
  • The Viral Campaign

# Timeline

# Notes

# Acknowledgments

# Permission to Reproduce for Non-commercial Purposes

# Proceeds Donation

Introduction

There is something magic in the power of the written word. It can allow a reader to connect with the writer in a unique way. It can take you to places that never existed, or let you share in a past that is long gone. It can help you imagine a future that is yet to be, or make sense of your every day life. It can make you laugh, cry, and think. It is a great leveler: all who can read encounter the same words, but each can leave with something different.

In the words of Helen Keller:

“…literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourse of my book-friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness. The things I have learned and the things I have been taught seem of ridiculously little importance compared with their “large loves and heavenly charities.”
— The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (free e-book version from ManyBooks.net ) 

It would seem that universal access to the written word would be an uncontroversial goal in a democracy. In America, we speak pejoratively of book-burning and censorship. We lament the limited boundaries of the illiterate, and seek to remedy the condition. We set up vast systems of publicly-funded libraries, and consider the mighty Library of Congress one of our great national achievements and ongoing institutions. Volunteers and charitable organizations work selflessly to literally spread the word to those less fortunate.

Reading adds to the productivity, wisdom, and happiness of our population.

Who then would want to impede access to books, newspapers, and magazines to a significant segment of Americans?

Surprisingly, this challenge has come from one of the groups that stands to most directly benefit from increased readership: publishers. An industry whose very livelihood depends on readers is threatening to block an already existing way to access the materials they sell. They are working to defeat a technology that directly costs the publishers nothing, and gives the disabled everything that language can give.

On its face, it would seem like this is self-destructive behavior, as well as being unfair to those who will lose access. It is an issue that is being debated right now, often heatedly, with many arguments presented on both sides. It involves issues of diversity, free enterprise, fairness, and ownership.

I’ve been involved in a number of those debates. I have welcomed the thoughtful points presented on both sides, and regretted the personal attacks that an emotional issue like this provokes some people to make.

I also know where I stand on it.

The Disabled Deserve to Read is my attempt to lay out the issues. I will do my best to present both sides of the various arguments, and to give you the facts relevant to those points. I won’t pretend, though, that this is unbiased journalism. I do hope you come to the same conclusion I did. However, after you read the ideas and information in this work, you may disagree with me. Just remember if you do, that you at least had the opportunity to read them…

The Issue

On February 9, 2009, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos introduced the world to the Kindle 2 at a high-profile event in New York City. The device was the updated version of the company’s successful e-book reader. While the company’s press release highlighted a number of features, the stand-out change was the experimental “Read-To-Me” feature. This “text-to-speech” (TTS, sometimes T2S) software allowed the Kindle 2 (K2) to read out loud books, magazines, and newspapers downloaded to the device. Users could literally listen to a book hands-free while exercising, driving a car, eating, or knitting. This feature was included with the K2, and since it worked on any book you bought, no additional charge per title was imposed.

While text-to-speech software had been commercially available since at least 1984, this promised the most book-like experience to date. The visually impaired, and those with debilitating conditions (like muscular sclerosis), could enjoy the same reading material as the general public. This was without the need of a specialized device, or having to be tied to a computer, or having specially-prepared versions. On the same day that anyone could get a bestseller on the Kindle, they could do so too. They could get the latest news and opinion from such well-known sources as the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.

Three days later, the Authors Guild (sic) published an “alert” on its website. It warned its members that:

“…Amazon may be undermining your audio market as it exploits your e-books”.

Authors Guild article

The alert equated what Kindle 2’s voice did with an audio book:

“Bundling e-books and audio books has been discussed for a long time in the industry. It’s a good idea, but it shouldn’t be accomplished by fiat by an e-book distributor.”

This would become the crux of the disagreement. Did Amazon’s Kindle 2 violate intellectual property rights by creating an unauthorized derivative work? If so, the rightsholders (authors and/or publishers, typically) had the legal right to block the use of it without compensation. On the other hand, if it simply provided another way to access the existing material (in a sense, the same way that a booklight does), it would be a “non-infringing use”, and thus legal.

Initial Research and Reactions

I decided to check to see if the Copyright Office had said anything specific on text-to-speech. It didn’t take much searching to find what seemed like a fairly definitive statement.

Copyright Office statement

This Final Notice addressed a question submitted to the Registrar about when it would be permissible to circumvent (“hack”) DRM (Digital Rights Management). DRM is software included in digital media (movies, books, music, video games, and so on) that technologically limits the use of that file. Commonly, it serves as: “copy protection”, to prohibit the user from making unauthorized copies; or to prevent access by unauthorized parties.

It reads in part:

“Literary works distributed in e-book format when all existing e-book editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling of the ebook’s read-aloud function and that prevent the enabling of screen readers to render the text into a “specialized format.” For purposes of this exemption, “specialized format,” “digital text” and “authorized entities” shall have the same meaning as in 17 U.S.C. 121. The final exempted class is based upon proposals by the American Foundation for the Blind and five major library associations. It is in response to problems experienced by the blind and visually impaired in gaining meaningful access to literary works distributed as ebooks. Ebooks can offer accessibility to the blind and the visually impaired that is otherwise not available from a print version. Ebooks may allow the user to activate a “read-aloud” function offered by

certain e-book readers. Ebooks may also permit accessibility to the work by means of screen reader software, a separate program for the blind and visually impaired that interacts with an e-book reader and that is capable of converting the text into either synthesized speech or braille.

By using digital rights management tools that implicate access controls, publishers of ebooks can disable the read-aloud function of an e-book and may prevent access to a work in e-book form by means of screen reader software. The record indicates that many ebooks are

distributed with these two functions disabled. The disabling of these functions is alleged to prevent the blind and visually impaired from engaging in particular noninfringing uses such as private performance, and to prevent access to these works by blind and visually impaired users altogether. The uses that such persons make by using the “read-aloud” function and screen readers are noninfringing, and are likely to be the most reasonable means of meaningful access for such persons to works that are published in e-book format.

To be included in the exempted class, a literary work must exist in e-book format.

Moreover, the exemption is not available if any existing edition of the work permits the “readaloud”

function or is screen reader-enabled. Thus, a publisher may avoid subjecting any of its works to this exemption simply by ensuring that for each of its works published in e-book form, an

edition exists which is accessible to the blind and visually impaired in at least one of these two ways.”

http://www.copyright.gov/1201/docs/fedreg-notice-final.pdf

(reproduced portion of a government document)

My understanding of this (and it seemed to be pretty unambiguous) is this: if a publisher blocked access to “read aloud” in all versions of an e-book, it would be legitimate for a user to circumvent the DRM to gain that access. It seemed clear that not allowing the “text-to-speech” would more likely be a problem than allowing it.

So, I incorrectly predicted that the issue would quietly go away. 🙂 I thought the Authors Guild would find the statement, realize that “read aloud” and an audiobook are two very different things, and let it drop. I thought authors would complain and distance themselves from the position: why would they want to block part of the audience for their works? I thought publishers would see that having text-to-speech might lead to increased audiobook sales, since it would accustom people to listening to books. Amazon commented that the text-to-speech was legal, and I thought they would just have to (ironically) be silent for a few days and it would all go away.

I was wrong.

Amazon Changes Its Stand

On February 27, 2009, Amazon issued a press release.

While reiterating the legality of the text-to-speech in the Kindle, Amazon decided to leave it up to rightsholders to decide on a title by title basis as to whether or not to block the now present access.

The justification they gave was, in part, this:

“…many rightsholders will be more comfortable with the text-to-speech feature if they are in the driver’s seat”

I was, honestly, floored by this. Amazon had always seemed to me to be a caring company, and has been (and continues to be, generally) responsive to their customers. It appeared in this case, though, that the company had put the “comfort” of the rightsholders ahead of the customers. Since Amazon continued to state in the very same press release that allowing access was legal, it is safe to assume that other pressure was brought to bear. Given the nature of the relationship between the online bookstore and the publishers and authors, it is safe to assume that it was economic. It’s possible they were threatened with a loss of content, or perhaps with a public relations war in the media. For whatever reason, Amazon changed its position.

The next thing to see is if any publisher would actually choose to block it. It seemed like a risky move to me, but not one that wouldn’t eventually happen. Why risky? It had the potential to be a public relations nightmare. On the one side, there would be the publishing company, which could certainly be perceived to be a “big corporation”. Ideally for them, the authors would be aligned with the publisher’s decision. That would allow that side to also being “fighting for artists rights”. The book buying public often knows and loves specific authors: if it could be painted as the publisher standing up for them against the more faceless online retailer, that could help gain sympathy.

That would only work, though, if the authors stood with the publishers. While some would, it was also clear that some would not. If an author publicly opposed the publisher’s stance, that could be a problem.

On the other side, you would have the disabled, their friends and family, and others who support them. How would it appear to the public to have people in wheelchairs and people with guide dogs picketing your company? Reading, we’ve been told for years, is fundamental. The somewhat arcane issue of intellectual property rights would be up against the visceral appeal of equal access for the disabled.

Consumers would also likely see it as a takeaway. The text-to-speech is fun and convenient. The number of people who benefit from it is likely to grow as challenges that fall short of legal disabilities grow with an aging Baby Boomer population. Arthritis, having to find your glasses, and all manner of aches and pains can simply make it attractive at times to have somebody read to you. With text-to-speech, you don’t have to hold the book and turn the pages. For the average person, that may sound like a silly inconvenience: for many people, it is a life-changer.

Random House Blocks Access

On March 19th, I read online that Random House was intending to disable the text-to-speech for its e-books. If there was going to be a false rumor, this was a likely target. It is a very large and diverse company, and one that a prankster would know.

I went to the Random House website to attempt to verify the information. The same date, I was able to verify the information in its FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):

http://www.randomhouse.com/about/faq/index.php?ToDo=view&questId=130&catId=26

It stated very simply that,

“…all of our eBooks have the text-to-speech feature disabled.”

While as of this writing, I am unaware of anyone actually getting a book from Random House with the text-to-speech disabled, their intention to do so was clearly stated. [UPDATE: Many Random House books now have text-to-speech disabled.]

Response to the Guild and Random House

I e-mailed Random House for a clarification. I received an e-mail back from them on March 23rd. I was told in part that:

“This is an issue that involves author’s rights and royalties as well as the rights and royalties of the narrators of our audiobook titles and is currently under study.”
–Random House e-mail to the author

It also confirmed that TTS was disabled.

 
My personal decision at that point was to stop purchasing Random House products while the policy was in place. If Random House was not providing alternative access for the disabled to its e-books, my best guess was that the policy was illegal. However, I didn’t know that, and couldn’t confirm it. Even if they were providing that access, I still disagreed with the policy. The disabled should be able to access books through the Kindle 2 like anyone else. I do enjoy the text-to-speech. I’ve listened to non-fiction while driving. I’ve listened to it while doing household chores. I don’t think, though that I am entitled to it. I do believe that the disabled are.

A demonstration was held outside of the Authors Guild headquarters in New York City on Tuesday, April 7, 2009, by a group calling itself the Reading Rights Coalition (http://www.readingrights.org/). The expanding list of members includes well-known disability support groups such as: the American Foundation for the Blind; Lighthouse International; National Disability Rights Network; National Federation of the Blind; and United Cerebral Palsy. Hundreds of people from several states joined the demonstration, including many with mobility issues and other disabilities. The demonstation was webcast.

The Guild Responds: The “Unnecessary and Unfortunate” Statement

In one of the most extraodinary public statements I have ever read, the Guild responded to the protest. ( http://www.authorsguild.org/advocacy/articles/kindle-accessibility.html )

The first interesting point is that they referred to the protest as being by the “National Federation of the Blind”. This is, I believe, a carefully crafted statement. It seems interesting that they singled out one of the groups, rather than referring to the Reading Rights Coalition. This could be because the rules for the visually impaired and the rules for those with other disabilities are different. It could also just be an attempt to minimize the protest.

It could also be because they go on to cite a statement from the National Federation of the Blind in October of 2008, praising the Guild, which is accurate. This is in association with the Guild’s legal action against Google. They correctly state that the NFB praised the settlement.

However, it seems disingenuous that they did not then also cite the NFB’s statement of February 12 2009, responding to the Authors Guild’s expressed concerns about the text-to-speech capabilities of the Kindle

2. The statement reads in part:

“…blind people routinely use readers, either human or machine, to access books that are not available in alternative formats like Braille or audio. Up until now, no one has argued that this is illegal, but now the Authors Guild says that it is. This is absolutely wrong.”

The Guild then goes on to state “E-books do not come bundled with audio rights.” This is, of course, the crux of the legal argument. They do not come bundled with audiobook rights, but a “read aloud” system is not an audiobook. The separation is clear: an audiobook must be in a fixed format, text-to-speech is streaming (not recorded).

The Guild then goes on to lay out a three step plan which they say they had communicated to the NFB some time prior.

The first step cites the Chafee amendment. The Chafee amendment was enacted to give authorized entities a way to produce disabled-specific editions to copyrighted books without first obtaining the permission of the rightsholders. In other words, it was created to get around the rightsholders. It seems odd to cite this as an argument proposed by those same rightsholders. Furthermore, that exemption only applies to “specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilites.” This does not seem to describe the text-to-speech in the Kindle, which is accessible to those without disabilities. It’s possible their proposal was to make such access unavailable to the general public, an only available to those with qualifying disabilities.

The second step was to suggest that Amazon make a more blind-accessible version of the Kindle available, with a Braille keyboard and “audible menu commands”. By this time, Amazon had already announced that it was working on a more accessible model. It’s also unclear how this would impact the text-to-speech discussion, unless the suggestion was to make the text-to-speech only available on this specialized device.

The third step talks about the need to amend contracts. It states that for the previous 16 years, contracts had not been permitted that bundled e-book rights with audio rights. These contracts to not cover the non-infringing text-to-speech right, so (in my opinion), no amendment is necessary.

The statement then goes on to talk about the importance of authors retaining rights as publishing moves into the digital era. It says in part:

“…Knowing how difficult the road ahead is for the already fragile economics of authorship, we are particularly troubled at how all this arose, with Amazon attempting to use authors’ audio rights to lengthen its lead in the fledgling e-book industry. We could not allow this rights grab to happen. Audio books are a billion dollar market, the rights for which are packaged separately from — and are far more valuable than — e-book rights.”

This suggests that the text-to-speech was a right of the rightsholders to initially, and again conflates it with audiobook rights. For there to have been a “rights grab”, there must have been a right initially.

The suggestion that audio book rights are more valuable than e-book rights is an interesting one. While it is arguably true at this time, the e-book market is showing huge growth, which can not be said of the audiobook market. In the future, it is reasonable to assume that the value situation will be reversed.

The final paragraph began with the line, “Today’s protest is unfortunate and unnecessary.” Some people, who had traveled a long distance with unusual difficulty, found this statement dismissive of their efforts.

The Arguments

This section presents arguments which have appeared about the Amazon Kindle’s voice. I encountered many of them on Amazon’s Kindle forums. I disagreed with some people and agreed with some. Often, the arguments on both sides were well reasoned and respectful. My intention here is to summarize some of those arguments for the reader.

1. The Kindle 2 creates an unauthorized audiobook version

This argument says that the voice of the K2 creates an audiobook version. The key issue here is that the Kindle 2 doesn’t create a new version. Nothing is “fixed” by the Kindle 2 reading in streaming audio: no new copy is created. If, after you used the Kindle 2, you had an .mp3 of the book, I could see the argument. Even then, if it was for personal use, I could see a parallel being drawn to using a Tivo or a VCR. However, the issue of personal use is irrelevant here. In its Copyright Basics Circular http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf, the Copyright Office defines the rights of a copyright holder. These include:

A. The right to reproduce the work in phonorecords

It defines a phonorecord thusly:

“A phonorecord is the physical object in which works of authorship are embodied. The word “phonorecord” includes cassette tapes, CDs, and vinyl disks as well as other formats.”

There is no phonorecord created when the Kindle 2 reads.

B. The right to publicly perform a sound recording by means of digital audio transmission

It defines a sound recording in a bold note:

“…Sound recordings are defined in the law as “works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds, but not including the sounds accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work.”

The Kindle 2 does not “fixate” the sounds it makes. So the sound recording issue does not apply.

C. The right to publicly perform a literary work

The key word here is public. In its Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies, as noted earlier, it stated that:

“The uses that such persons make by using the “read-aloud” function and screen readers are noninfringing…”

The issue of the Kindle 2 violating copyright appears to not be supported by the Copyright Office itself.

2. The Kindle 2 threatens the audiobook industry

Audiobooks are typically performed by human actors, called voice artists. I have been a huge fan of voice artists for years. The work that they do in interpreting a book can be truly impressive. They bring human emotions, and may use a variety of voices. The recording may include sound effects and music. The current state of the text-to-speech on the Kindle does not approximate this. However, it is reasonable to assume that the capabilities of the voice will improve over time, especially if the market continues to grow. Already, there are many alternative voice simulators on the market. There may come a time when software can produce a convincingly “human” performance. If this is the case, why would people buy an audiobook if they can get the computerized version for free? This has largely been the argument of the Authors Guild.

The first thing to note is that text-to-speech has been around for many years. In fact, the rise of audiobook sales paralleled the development of text-to-speech in some particulars. This is not too surprising. It took new technology for them to catch on with the public, despite Congress establishing a “talking book” program in the early 1930s for the visually impaired. With the popularity of cassette players in cars in the late 1970s, portable cassette players, and then CDs, the market grew to around a billion dollars annually. It wasn’t until 1987 that the Audio Publishers Association (http://www.audiopub.org/) was established…three years after Apple introduced MacInTalk.

Perhaps the highest profile audiobook seller is Audible.com. Amazon bought the company in 2008. It seems reasonable to ask why Amazon, after spending something like $300 million dollars the company in 2008 would introduce the text-to-speech feature on the Kindle in 2009.

I have heard from a frequent user of audiobooks that, if a free alternative was available, that person would purchase fewer audiobooks. However, one question is whether a reduction in sales by “power readers” would outweigh an increase in sales from casual readers. I have never been a person to listen to audiobooks: I’ve tried a couple of them, but not been a big fan. However, I am now becoming accustomed to listening to books through the Kindle 2. I would now consider buying audiobooks in a much greater way. I think could certainly turn out to be true: the text-to-speech of the Kindle 2 could lead to much greater audiobook sales.

The operative word there, though, is could. Nobody knows for sure what will happen: there just isn’t enough data yet. My feeling is that the known rights of the disabled to have access to the material outweighs the unknown possible loss to the audiobook industry. Many publishers do both e-books and audiobooks. Will the increase of sales in e-books by allowing text-to-speech make up for the losses in audiobook sales? Again, nobody knows yet.

3. A company should not be forced to spend its money to support a special interest group

A reasonable “free market” argument can be made in saying that a company should be able to control how it legally spends its money.. However, it does not apply here. It costs the publishers nothing to leave the Kindle 2 text-to-speech access the way it is. It will, presumably, cost them money to develop the technology to block it. Amazon spent the money to include the feature, and that cost was probably passed on to the purchasers of the Kindle 2. No one is forcing the publishers to spend money to enable it…it’s already done. The possible cost to the publishers is if it cuts into their audiobook sales (see above). It is as if the government provided wheelchair ramps to all the buildings in a town at no cost to the companies in those buildings. However, one company chose to block the wheelchair ramps, because they have a really cool helicopter ride to the roof. Maybe they charge $100 for the ride, and they are afraid that people will just use the ramp and the elevator instead. The audiobook is the equivalent of the helicopter ride: it costs money, and is admittedly much more elaborate and fancy than the simple computerized voice used by the Kindle 2. If I was aware of a company that blocked a ramp like that, I would not shop there. I would also let them know why I took my business elsewhere, in the hopes that the policy would change.

4. There are alternatives available for the disabled

There are other ways to listen to books. The DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem) (http://www.daisy.org/) is one such method. Like most other accessibility systems, it requires special preparation to make a book available. Some systems require special software, others require special hardware, or both. It’s important to note that DAISY, along with others, is part of the Reading Rights Coalition. While alternative methods do exist, they do not offer the mainstream integration that a Kindle 2 does. I often get approached by people in public who think my Kindle is cool. I don’t think that the disable necessarily have a legal right to be cool 🙂 , but why deny it to them when it is free to the publishers? Speed does matter in this information age. Helen Keller, in her autobiography, talks about the difficulty of getting study materials in time in college. They had to be specially prepared. The Kindle requires no preparation, just downloading or transferring. Even work materials can be read on the Kindle. The Kindle provides the closest simulation to reading a book: it’s lightweight and portable.

The Chafee amendment does allow “authorized entities” to produce disabled-specific editions of copyrighted books without first getting clearance from the rightsholders. However, it does not give them the resources to do so. While organizations like Bookshare (to which Random House directs inquiries) do make many books available, they simply can not make everything available. A book available on the Kindle does not require any special preparation: the text-to-speech works for everything (unless blocked).

5. The Kindle 2 itself is not blind-accessible

While the buttons that start the text-to-speech are appropriately placed for the visually impaired (it is the two outer buttons in the lowest row of the Kindle’s keyboard), it does not allow for voice navigation for those with disabling conditions. A visually impaired person would also have difficulty selecting which title was which by themselves, and in buying titles directly from the device. First, many disabled people have family members and others who can start the books for them. Secondly, there isn’t an obligation for the device to be disabled accessible. It’s different from the text-to-speech: that technology already exists and is in place on the Kindle. Voice navigation (one potential option for the K2) has to be added technologically to the device. Third, Amazon has announced that they are working on just that: a more disabled-friendly Kindle.

6. The voice is creepy and inhuman. Nobody should care about having it

Creepy is in the ear of the beholder. Listening to “Tom” (the male voice on the Kindle) is like listening to a friend with a speech impediment or a heavy accent for me. As was once said on I Love Lucy, you learn to “listen with an accent”. I’m amazed at how good the voice actually is, knowing the difference between the pronunciation of “Arkansas” and “Kansas”, for example. I won’t deny, though, that he makes pronunciation errors. He doesn’t know the difference between “she lives” (rhymes with “gives”) and “the cat has nine lives”) (rhymes with “hives”). For somebody with a disability, though, that’s a small inconvenience to have access to the world of words.

7. Blocking the voice is against the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

I believe the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t apply here, unless use of the Kindle is part of your employment or a service the government is providing to you. The Act has a fairly narrow focus: employment, public services and transportation, public accommodations and commercial facilities, and telecommunications. I don’t think there is anything in the act that requires that something in that you access in your own home for your own purposes that does not come through telecommunications falls under this jurisdiction. So, even though it might help my position if this was true, I haven’t seen evidence that it is.

Proposals

June 27 2009: The Disabled Deserve to Read Day

I have proposed June 27, 2009 as The Disabled Deserve to Read Day. Why that date? It is Helen Keller’s birthday (she was born June 27, 1880) and it is a Saturday, which could help with participation in peaceful demonstrations. Helen Keller was deaf and blind, and could not have benefited directly from the Kindle 2’s text-to-speech technology. However, she often wrote about how books had enriched her life. She was also an advocate for social justice causes, a position that created challenges for her reputation. I’m sure she would have opposed blocking access to books for the “dear little blind girls”, as she called her friends at the Perkins Institute in her autobiography.

I’d like to see informational pickets on that day, across the country. I’d like to see people (especially authors and other celebrities, since that would raise the profile) who support access to books, newspapers, and magazines for the disabled to make public statements. Peaceful demonstrations could be held in public places, for example, outside stores that sold Random House products (if Random House has not reversed its stand by then). If Random House has done what I believe is the right thing, and which I think will benefit the company, their books would certainly not need to be boycotted. However, public statements could still be valuable, to show solidarity with those who face exceptional challenges in entering the world of words.

The Viral Campaign

Demonstations are difficult to arange, and participation in them can be hard, especially for those with mobility challenges. I have proposed a viral video campaign:

A video would just show a person who says, “I want to read.” The person could be identified: “Allison, muscular sclerosis”, “Luis, macular degeneration”, “Lashanda, reader”. Notice that the last one works for people like me without qualifying disabilities who support the access for those who have them. The link for the Reading Rights Coalition (http://www.readingrights.org/) would be on the screen, or be shown in the description of the video or a separate “slide”.

Authors could say, “I write for everybody.” They should be identified by first and last name, probably. It would probably be both identifications: “John Milton, poet, blind”; “Charles Dickens, author, reader”. Of course, it would be living people. 🙂 Fans could ask authors to contribute a video via e-mail, or approach them at signing events and the like.

These could be done at virtually no cost, done by individuals, posted on YouTube, Facebook, personal websites, and so on. Celebrities could be recorded (even on a cell phone camera), with their written permission, of course, and after explaining the situation to them.

The same sort of thing could be done with still images.

In the Amazon Kindle forum discussion in which I proposed this, forum member Brent P. Newhall offered to assemble a composite video or to link to individual videos.

Timeline

1984: With the introduction of the Macintosh computer comes MacInTalk, a limited text-to-speech system

July 26, 1996: The Chafee amendment is approved, allowing authorized entities to distribute copyrighted works in special editions for the disabled

September 16, 1996: President Clinton signs the Chafee amendment into law

October 31, 2009: The National Federation of the Blind praises the settlement against Google obtained partially through legal action on the part of the Authors Guild

February 9, 2009: Jeff Bezos holds an event announcing the Kindle 2

February 12, 2009: The Authors Guild releases a memo claiming that the text-to-speech “…presents a significant challenge to the publishing industry”

February 12, 2009: The National Federation of the Blind condemns the Authors Guild statement

February 24, 2009: The Kindle’s official on-sale date

February 27, 2009: Amazon releases the “comfort” press release making the feature “rightsholders’ choice”

March 19, 2009: The author confirms that Random House states that the feature is disabled in their e-books

March 19, 2009: An informal boycott of Random House products begins on the Internet by those who oppose the company’s policy

April 7, 2009: A demonstration is held outside of the Authors Guild headquarters in New York City

April 7, 2009: The Authors Guild issues its “unnecessary and unfortunate” statement

April 25-26, 2009: A demonstration is planned at the L.A. Festival of Books at UCLA

May 12, 2009: Random House books begin to actually have the feature blocked

June 27, 2009: Proposed date for “The Disabled Deserve to Read” day

Notes

Amazon

February 27 2009:

Statement from Amazon.com Regarding Kindle 2’s Experimental Text-to-Speech Feature

An appeal to Amazon to continue the current text-to-speech access in the Kindle 2

Random House website confirms text-to-speech disabled (begun on March 19, 2009)

The Viral Campaign (begun on May 16, 2009)

The Disabled Deserve to Read Day (begun on May 21, 2009)

The Disabled Deserve to Read Day thread

American Association of Publishers

Americans with Disabilities Act

Audible.com

Audio Publishers Association

Amazon to Buy Audiobook Seller for $300 Million New York Times article

Authors Guild

February 12 2009: E-Book Rights Alert: Amazon’s Kindle 2 Adds “Text to Speech” Function

February 25 2009: Kindle 2 Audio: How Does It Sound?  

March 2 2009: Amazon Reverses Stance on Computer-Generated Audio for the Kindle 2

April 7 2009:  Making the Kindle Accessible to the Print Disabled (the “unfortunate and unnecessary” statement)

Bookshare
 
Copyright Office:

37 CFR Part 201 [Docket No. RM 2002-4E]: Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies

Copyright Basics

NLS Factsheets
Copyright Law Amendment, 1996:
PL 104-197  December 1996
(Government information on the Chafee amendment) 

DAISY (Digital Accessible Information SYstem)

ManyBooks.net 

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (free e-book)

National Federation of the Blind

October 27 2008:  Google Settlement with Authors, Publishers Will Have Positive Results for the Blind

Random House

FAQ

List of “publishers

Contact:

Random House contact page

Reading Rights Coalition

Acknowledgments

I am very grateful to the participants on Amazon’s Kindle forums

I have had many intelligent and meaningful “conversations” with them, and this work would not have been possible without them.

I’d also like to thank Amazon for providing those forums at no cost to its customers and other interested parties.

Thank you to the late Helen Keller, for providing me additional insight into what books can mean to those who have special challenges. I found that her charming autobiography took me down many fascinating paths I might not have traveled, with a “deaf and blind girl” as my guide.

Thank you also to ManyBooks, for providing that autobiography (and many other fine books) for free to the public through its website.

To my family, I appreciate your support in making the decisions that went into this offering. It required sacrifice on your part, and for that (and everything else in my life), I’m grateful.

Permission to Reproduce for Non-commercial Purposes

I, Bufo Calvin, the author of this work and the rightsholder, grant permission to anyone to reproduce and electronically distribute this work for non-commercial purposes.

Proceeds Donation

At the time of writing, the digital list price for this work is $1.00 through the Amazon Kindle store. I will be using my proceeds (currently, thirty-five cents per copy sold) to purchase Kindle 2s which I will donate to non-profit organizations. If the price of the Kindle 2 remains at $299.00, I will donate a Kindle 2 to a non-profit organization every time I receive payment of $299, which would currently be about 854 net copies sold.

Good-bye, dog

September 19, 2009

The Kindle community has lost one of its most beloved members.

He was known simply as dog, with a small d.  

In the traditional sense, I never met him. I only knew him through the Amazon Kindle Community. However, I do feel like I know him a whole lot better than I would have if we’d met at some social event.  We don’t have much in common on the surface.   He was a former marine, a Vietnam vet who eventually rose to the rank of Brigadier General.   I’m a geek who didn’t serve in the military at all.

If we’d been introduced, I assume we would have just said, “Hello”, shaken hands and both moved on to other conversations.

Instead, we met in the forum.  I hadn’t been posting there long at all, and this was my first real experience with an on-line forum like that.  I asked how I could see a list of discussions I’d started.

dog said, in part:

“…there might be an ego.com but it probably won’t help!”

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that.  🙂  I didn’t know if he was being seriously sarcastic, so to speak, or just funny.  Another poster (P. M. H., who is still active) immediately defended me.

It’s a conscious choice for me, when I’m not sure, to assume that someone meant something positively.  I responded in part:

“…I tried ego.com…they were down. Apparently, they suffered a denial of service attack from id.com. ;)”

That particular thread established for me that it was, indeed, a community.  Concern was expressed, support provided, and answers given.  It was smart, friendly, and funny, and dog and I established a common ground that I don’t think would have happened in person.

For the past seven months or so, I (and many others on the forum) have looked forward to dog’s writing.   dog and I directly interacted in threads from time to time, with dog even weaving me into some Kindle fiction and choosing to interview me at one point.  When I searched the forum just now for “Bufo dog”, I got 131 posts where we were both mentioned.  ChuckC suggested we could do commercials, like the Justin Long/John Hodgman Mac and PC spots, and Inquiring suggested we were the same person.

We publicly disagreed about the nature of human interaction, and certainly didn’t always see things the same way.  I’d like to say, though, that we were friends.  For people who think the internet is degrading the way people relate to one and other, I present dog as exhibit A.  While he was truly accomplished in the physical world, he went on to enrich many more lives in the virtual one.   Released of our physicality and backgrounds, we know each online purely through our essences.

And thanks to people like dog, we can form true communities.

We’ll miss you.

The Best of dog

I’m going to list just a few of the threads where you can enjoy dog’s writing, and the writing about him:

I think “dog” deserves some kudos (January 15, 2009)

Forum member Roger started an appreciation thread for dog.

Constitutional amendment to ban kindle introduced in Congress  (May 7, 2009)

dog shows depth with a political satire featuring Michelle Bachman

ILB folds due to Kindle boycotts  (May 19, 2009)

dog slyly comments on the Kindle boycotts in a parody post

The homage to Lee Child consolidated thread  (June 8, 2009)

dog writes in the style of popular author Lee Child.

Twas the day (June 11, 2009)

dog writes about the new Kindle DX…in rhyme!

a song for kindle peace (May 26, 2009)

dog writes several song parodies.

A Day in the Life (August 16, 2009)

dog brings the Beatles into the Kindle age.

 REWARD: Missing dog… (August 31, 2009)

This thread was started by one of the other legends of the forum, Kindling Kowboy. The absence of dog brought out a lot of concern. On September 5, dog bravely and simply told us of his terminal cancer in this post.

Helga seek help with dog (September 17, 2009)

The day before his passing, dog was still writing humor to make other people feel better.

Requiem for Dog (September 18, 2009)

Following his wishes, Robert’s daughter Selena logged on and told us dog had passed on. She told of us his life. Even at the end, he had taken the time and what must have been his fading energy to write a final message, which she shared with us.

Those just represent a small part of what dog wrote.   If you have other favorite posts of his, or other things to say, please feel free to leave a comment here.

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

Welcome, Kindle store subscribers!

September 4, 2009

As of today, this blog is available for subscription through the Kindle store!

I’m guessing this may be the first blog subscription experience for some of you.  I know first times can be scary, so I wanted to reassure you.   Think back to your first airplane flight.  Your breath is shallow, you’ve checked your seatbelt ten times, and you’ve personally proven that it isn’t possible to leave your finger indentations in a plastic airplane seat arm.  That calming, oh so calming, voice comes over the speaker system:

“Good evening, folks.  This is your Captain speaking.  I’ve been told we’ve got a few first-time passengers back there who look a little worried.  Well, I wanted to give you some advice.  If you find yourself starting to panic, just close your eyes, forget everything about being in the air, and imagine yourself lounging in your favorite chair, safe on the ground at home.  Try it now: take a deep breath and relax.  There, don’t you feel better?  I really think that’s the best way to go…after all, this is my first flight, and that’s what I’m planning to do…”

😉

So, what’s the difference between getting the I Love My Kindle blog from the Kindle store (I Love My Kindle at the Kindle store) or getting it online (https://ilmk.wordpress.com )?

Kindle Store

Pluses:

  • If you have Whispernet access, the blog will show up automatically on your Kindle…no computer needed!  It makes it easy to read at lunch at work…or while you are waiting in line for two days for the Thundarr the Barbarian movie* 😉
  • You get that article list button (at the bottom of the screen) so you can see a little clickable preview of the titles
  • You can navigate between articles (at least with the K2) by just flicking right or left
  • You can make notes and highlight (hard to do on a computer screen)
  • You can “Clip this Article” (hit menu first) to save a whole article at a time…easy to then copy and paste
  • You can have the Kindle read it to you (Up Arrow + Sym)…you can catch up in the car!

Negatives

  • It costs $1.99 a month (price set by Amazon)
  • Older articles disappear as new articles are added

Online

  • Gazillion day free trial 🙂 (unless somebody figures out how to charge for the internet…)
  • The cool sidebar: it’s got links to helpful websites, searches and sites for free books, and news articles
  • Better navigation using hyperlinks in the posts
  • Archives
  • You can read and leave comments

You can search both of them.

Oh, computer users, a tip for you: click the name of the latest article when you get to the site.  That article will then be the only one on the screen, and you’ll get a navigaion click to go to the previous article.  You’ll then have forward and backward navigation (with the names of the articles).

Whether you are reading this on the Kindle or on the website, thank you!  I appreciate it.  🙂

* To my knowledge, there is no Thundarr the Barbarian movie in the works…demon dogs! 😉

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

Oh…um, Hi!

August 28, 2009

Oh…um, Hi!

Welcome to Bufo Calvin’s I Love My Kindle  blog! 

I…er…um, haven’t really started yet.  This is just in case you snuck in early, maybe having heard it on The Kindle Chronicles.  I’ll come back and do more with this later.

Okay, here’s a little more.  🙂  I’m the author of several titles in the Kindle store, available for the Amazon Kindle (and iPhones and iPod Touches that have downloaded the necessary “app”).  

I’ve also been very active in the Amazon Kindle community, especially in Amazon’s forums (http://www.amazon.com/tag/kindle/forum/). 

This is my first blog, although I was sending out an internet newsletter back in 1996.  My goal here to provide useful and fun postings about the Kindle and the world of the Kindle.  I plan to post fairly often: some will be “off the cuff”, but I also hope to have reference information and fiction of more lasting value, and pieces which have been more carefully crafted.  

Feel free to let me know what you’d like to see. ..I’ll take that into account.

Here are some things I’m thinking about doing:

  • Tips and tricks
  • Frequently Asked Kindle Questions
  • Humor and parodies
  • Links to other resources
  • Some listings/reviews of Kindle books and other items

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


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