Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

Google’s new move: good for readers, bad for Amazon?

October 18, 2017

Google’s new move: good for readers, bad for Amazon?

Amazon and Google don’t exactly walk through the consumer wonderland hand-in-hand. 😉

While Amazon has never been the walled garden some suggest (for example, the e-tailer had the Netflix app in the Appstore and available on their tablets from the beginning, when it directly competes with Prime Video), there’s been a clear division for people who use both companies (as I do).

Amazon tablets can’t use Google Play directly. That’s a real limitation, and my sense is that it is Google’s decision, not Amazon’s.

They compete in music, appstores…and books.

On the latter, I don’t think Google has hurt Amazon much…the percentage of e-books that people own which they purchased from Google (not just found free public domain books) has to be tiny compared with Amazon.


Google has a new search result tool which could make some difference.

I (and apparently others) had missed, or missed the significance of, an announcement from Google about a month ago. I’m grateful to this

Lifehacker article by Nick Douglas

for the heads up.

When you search for a book title on Google, it now tells you which public libraries have the book available near you…and you can borrow it right there (if you have a “library card”). On a mobile device, you tap, “Get book” (then “Borrow ebook”, but you might be able to see the latter without tapping), on a laptop/desktop, you should see the options, probably on your right.

I’ve been testing it out, and it’s clearly inconsistent at this point. It doesn’t happen for lots of books, but that may just be because they’d rather not show negative findings. Still, it apparently only searches Overdrive, which is the predominant e-book server for individuals using public libraries for e-books, but it isn’t the only one.

For the sake of argument, let’s just say postulate that when people search for a book title with Google, they’ll be able to borrow the book from the public library if it’s available.

What would that mean?

Before I speculate, here’s a link you can try:

search for “It Stephen King”


First, this does have the potential to hurt sales at Amazon…but only for a particular segment of customers/readers. Traditional publishers (at least some of them) were pretty reluctant to have e-books in public libraries, initially…part of the argument was that the e-books didn’t wear out like p-books (paperbooks) do, so libraries wouldn’t have to replace them as often. There were some strong restrictions, if the books were available at all. This would seem to play into those fears.

That said, my guess would be that most people who are using Google to search for a book are looking for a free one. Not all of them are particular about the books being legal, either. It’s not difficult to scan a p-book and make a PDF out of it, then put it up online. There are a lot of reasons people do that…they aren’t all trying to make money, although some do by having advertising on the site hosting the downloads.

If someone wants to buy an e-book, my bet would be that the vast majority of them go to Amazon (or Barnes & Noble, if they have a Nook), or perhaps iTunes.

It is possible that people search for an e-book and don’t find a free copy, then they push further.

I would think this would affect bestsellers, more than smaller market or older titles. Google searching for a book feels to me (and I freely admit, much of this post is speculation) like it is more likely to be used by a “casual reader” than by a “serious reader” (I define the latter as reading fifty books or more a year).

I think the impact will be small.

Second, Amazon could lose all income from selling e-books…and it wouldn’t make much difference to their bottom line. It’s no longer a big part of t

Right now, the Google search includes buying the book…but not at Amazon. 🙂 Barnes & Noble, Google Books, and Kobo all showed for me on the search for “It”. I doubt that pulls that much from Amazon’s sales.

I think it hurts Amazon a small amount, and considerably helps some readers. I usually don’t borrow e-books from the public library. I can afford books to read, including being a happy member of

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

and there is “scarcity” for public library e-books, although a lot of people find that counter-intuitive. A library can’t just copy the file for everybody who wants it; there are legal licensing issues.

That may change for me: I’ve mentioned that we have a life change coming up, and now we have more of a timeline for it. My Significant Other is voluntarily leaving a job, and we aren’t quite sure what will happen after that (we’ve done the math…we’ll be okay). If money got a lot tighter, and there was a book I really wanted to read and the public library was the only way to get it, I don’t have any hesitation or see a negative to it. It’s just not my habit now.

Now, some of you may wonder about how this is different from this

Chrome extension tells you if that Kindle book is in your public library

that I wrote about previously.

When I go to a book’s Amazon product page in Chrome, I automatically see if it’s available at the public library…and yes, that’s similar.

It’s also different, though, because people who are at Amazon are already likely to get books from Amazon. It’s convenient to keep it altogether: if I could have every single payment I ever make for anything go through Amazon, I would. To use the extension, people have to also first install the extension…a much smaller slice than the people who just search with Google.

One more group I want to mention: does this help or hurt authors? Many of my readers are authors, so that’s obviously a concern.

Authors may not get as much for each library borrow as they get for a book sold, but that’s going to depend on contract.

The reason why this helps is that it may replace, to some extent, people getting pirated copies (for which authors get nothing).

I believe that the vast majority of people would rather do something that is legal, and something that would benefit the author, than something that wouldn’t.

If somebody searched for It, and could borrow it easily from the public library or get a PDF from an iffy source, I think they’d go with the library…even though they don’t end up owning the book. Ownership is arguably less important to people than it used to be.

Well, those are my thoughts on this, and there is a lot of speculation and presumption in this piece. What do you think? When would you search for a book with Google as opposed to just going to Amazon? Would you rather own a PDF of uncertain provenance, or borrow an e-book from a library for a couple of weeks? Will this make any real difference to Amazon? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!

My current Amazon giveaway:

Beyond Curie: Four women in physics and their remarkable discoveries 1903 to 1963 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)


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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! :) 

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.


Google breaks through “book under glass”

February 5, 2016

Google breaks through “book under glass”

One of the knocks on e-books, from some people, is that they really haven’t taken advantage of their own technology.

Certainly, in the beginning, the marketing was about how much like a paperbook (p-book) they could be. After all, p-books have been an incredibly successful and satisfying technology. They have changed over time (popular paperbacks, as we know them, haven’t been around for a hundred years yet), but if I take one of my hardback original Oz books over the shelf, which is more than a century old, it feels and operates very much like a hardback you could buy today.

Why mess with near perfection?


Many of us already like some features in e-books that aren’t part of p-books.

A big one for me is the ability to increase the font size. Like a lot of folks, my vision isn’t what it used to be.

The in situ dictionary is also very popular.


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

just haven’t taken over.

Some of them sell pretty well…there’s a yoga book, for example, that is a bestseller.

Still, I keep reading pieces by writers wondering when we will move away from the “book under glass”.

The time…is now. 🙂

It’s just beginning, but Google has announced an “experiment in unprintable books”…and you can try a sample now (in addition to buying them).

Editions at Play

I tested a sample on my now discontinued Kindle Fire HDX tablet…and it worked. 🙂

One of the things that I do think is cool about this is that they are trying different things.

The one I tried, Entrances & Exits by Reif Larson, shows you explorable Google street view maps of locations.

Did it still feel like a book?

Sure, there was a page of text…that’s one of Google’s few requirements, that they have pages.

When I went to the street view part, though, it didn’t feel integrated to me.

In another book, you can take sides…read the same story from two different viewpoints.

There are other ideas for books, and others that are coming soon. In one of them, the book deals with someone with memory issues…and the text will in some way erode to reflect that.

What might be the most fun for my readers is that you can submit ideas for books by tweeting

They are careful to say that this is not intended to replace books under glass…it’s another format, certainly.

Overall, I think it’s fascinating…and intriguing that Google got there before Amazon.

I guess that makes sense…Google is known for being experimental, and if Amazon did something, people would expect it to be a real consumer product when it debuted.

By the way, this is Google Australia, but I don’t think that matters much in this case…I’m in America, and i could get a sample and presumably purchase it. There’s also another company involved, Visual Editions.

I’d be interested in what you think about it. There is a presentation here:

but if you are interested, go to

Editions at Play

and get a sample.

It won’t work on an EBR (E-Book Reader) like a Kindle…it says it will work on Android and iOS, although as I mentioned, at least the one I tried worked on Fire OS (which is a “forked” version of Android).

If you do submit an idea for a book and want to share (or if it is selected for display by Google…I assume you’ll be willing to share then), I’d appreciate you letting me know.

What do you think of the idea? Intrigued? Uninterested? Do you think Amazon should have done it first…and should do it now? How popular do you think they would be? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

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

Round up #191: certified refurbished Kindles, Google Chromecast

July 25, 2013

Round up #191: certified refurbished Kindles, Google Chromecast

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

Google introduces Chromecast, new Nexus 7

It was announced today…and it’s already sold out.

What is it?

Google Chromecast

It’s a small device you plug into the HDMI port on your HDTV. It then uses another device, such an iPhone or an Android phone to show video on the TV…wirelessly.

It apparently will work with Netflix and YouTube.

It could enable some people to “cut the cable”, and stop paying for cable TV.

How much does it cost?


That’s cheaper than a Roku, cheaper than some other alternatives.

Assuming it works well (and it’s too soon to tell), this could be a real game changer.

There are some obvious questions for us:

Will it work with a Kindle Fire?

My guess is that it will. From what I’m reading, I don’t think you need an app specifically for Chromecast on your device. I think the Netflix app on our Kindle Fires might work with it.

Will it work with Amazon Instant Video (including Prime streaming)?

Don’t know.

Will it display a game while we play it? Not sure. This isn’t true mirroring, like you get with the HDMI cable…that shows you everything that’s on your screen…unless it is blocked by the app (which is the case with some content from Xfinity).

If it’s blocked to an HDMI cable, will it be blocked to this? Not sure.

As you can tell, it is too soon to tell much…but this may be a very big story.


Google Blog article

has a video for it, and another announcements. There is a new version of Jelly Bean (an operating system), a new Google Play App…and the new Google Nexus 7 (being introduced July 30th in the USA for $229).

It looks to me like evolutionary change, rather than revolutionary…better sound, better screen. I’m not yet seeing features that are shocking. 🙂

Salon interview with Martin Amis


Salon article by Jane Graham

is a nice, lengthy interview with author Martin Amis. I quite enjoyed it…I’d love the bit in which Amis compares different authors to the type of hosts they would be if you appeared in their homes. Amis wants to make things pleasant for the reader…and doesn’t think some authors (and names are named) do. 🙂

“Here’s how Amazon self-destructs”

This is another

Salon article

this time by Evan Hughes.

It’s been getting some play in the blogosphere, but honestly, I think it depends on a basic intellectual fallacy.

The argument is that Amazon is going to put brick-and-mortar bookstores (I’m a former manager) out of business, and then Amazon is doomed because people depend on the stores to discover books:

“According to survey research by the Codex Group, roughly 60 percent of book sales — print and digital — now occur online. But buyers first discover their books online only about 17 percent of the time. Internet booksellers specifically, including Amazon, account for just 6 percent of discoveries. Where do readers learn about the titles they end up adding to the cart on Amazon? In many cases, at bookstores.”

Um, yes…they depend on bookstores now.

Just as the book sales themselves have shifted to online, the discovery of books can (and has been) shift to being online.

It’s a case of mistaking form for function, and I’ve commented on that before.

It’s like when someone would say, “I want an SD card slot in my Kindle Fire!”

That’s not what they really want. They want the functionality of an SD card slot. If there was another way to easily store and access information, would they really care that it wasn’t that specific technology? I don’t think so.

It would be like saying, “CD players will never be popular because so many people own vinyl records.” The CD players themselves changed the percentage of vinyl records being bought…and Amazon (and other e-book retailers) can change the way people discover books.

They are still looking for the best ways, but it is going to work…someone will really crack it.

It also seems obvious to me: as people buy more books (e-books and p-books…paperbooks) on line, the value of the brick-and-mortar as a showroom will diminish.

Suggesting that Amazon is hurting itself by diminishing book discovery in brick-and-mortars (and therefore diminishing book buying) only works if some other mechanism doesn’t replace it…which seems like an unnecessarily reductive assessment of social behavior.

Australian officials decline to investigate e-book price fixing

Thanks to mobileread (which is one of the most valuable sites about e-books and EBRs (E-Book Readers) for the heads up on this

Financial Review article by James Hutchinson

The European Union already dealt with the e-book price fixing issue. The US Department of Justice recently won against Apple over the alleged (now found evident in court) conspiracy (and got the publishers to settle), although there will be appeals.

What about Australia?

Well, Nick Xenophon, and independent Senator there, asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to look into possible misdeeds connected with e-book pricing.

The Commission replied, “…the conduct of concern occurred in the US and we note that conduct is being sanctioned by the regulator in the US”.

Wait, what? 😉

I don’t think the behavior has been sanctioned…since Apple was just found guilty in Federal court. I know the prices for e-books aren’t the same in Australia that they are in the USA (although some of that may have to do with taxes and the like), but I would think that decisions are made in Australia…prices don’t just get set in the USA and then transferred unfiltered to Australia.

The door wasn’t closed, but the case wasn’t opened, either.

Weirdly, to me, they give over the last part of the article to Jon Page, former President of the Australian Booksellers Association, who thinks investigators shouldn’t look at Apple, but just at Amazon. Take a look at the statement yourself, but that seems strange to me…why not look at them both, if you think there’s a problem?

Certified Refurbished Kindles from Amazon

I think this makes sense for a lot of people.

Amazon is now selling

Certified Refurbished Kindles

That means that they are used, but they have been inspected, repaired if necessary…and they come with the exact same warranty as new Kindles!

Not only does that mean you can get a Kindle Paperwhite for $104 (although they are out of stock on that one right now), you can also get discontinued models, like the Kindle Touch.

Personally, I would not hesitate to do this…I like a refurbished model, just like I like a used car from a reputable source (we’ve bought from rental agencies on the latter). No, it’s not new…but it goes through more of a check. If a Kindle is a lemon and you buy it new, it doesn’t work. What do you do with it? You send it back…and Amazon assesses it. If it’s unfixable, it’s gone. If it’s fixable, so it works like new…it’s refurbished. You just have to be okay with someone else having tried it first.

What do you think? I have readers in Australia…do you think action should be taken there to investigate e-book prices? Would you buy a refurbished Kindle, or is it worth more money for a new one? Are you intrigued by Chromecast? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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