Archive for the ‘Jeff Bezos’ Category

Round up #314: Discovery Zone, A Truth Worth Tellin’

December 19, 2015

Round up #314: Discovery Zone, A Truth Worth Tellin’

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

This is how Kindle Unlimited should work

I read a good book recently.

Now, that shouldn’t be a rare thing. 🙂 I often say I’ve never read a bad book, and I do believe that. I think I’ve gotten something good out of every book I’ve read…although there have been parts of books I haven’t liked and certainly, there have been some with massive flaws.

That doesn’t mean I’m uncritically accepting, or think that all books are equal. 😉

It was refreshing to read a novel that I felt had a strong voice, good plotting, and wasn’t gimmicky.

That book was

A Truth Worth Tellin’ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
by Toni Teepell

This isn’t a case where I know the author at all, or had even heard of the book.

What happened was that my Significant Other wanted a new book to read (especially on the treadmill).

We are happy members of

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

Amazon’s subser (subscription service). People pay $9.99 a month (although there have been discounts for longer subscriptions) for an “all you can read” service. You can have up to ten books out at a time, and multiple people on the account can be reading a book at the same time.

We like to do that. 🙂

If we both read the same book, we can then talk about it later…it’s a social thing.

I looked for a book, and I started by looking for Southern fiction. That’s something my SO particularly likes…both more serious, like Pat Conroy, and funny, like Fannie Flagg.

I think I searched for “Southern fiction” in Kindle Unlimited, then limited it to Contemporary Fiction, and then sorted by average customer review.

I skipped what appeared to be romance (I read that sometimes, but it’s not my SO’s preference)…the publishers pick the classifications, by the way.

Then, the cover of A Truth Worth Tellin’ caught my eye…and it currently has 18 customer reviews, all 5-star.

I don’t want to build this up too much, 😉 but that was a good rating…so we tried it.

It is, in a sense, a bit old-fashioned. By that I just mean that it isn’t saying, “Hey, look at how I’m disrupting the traditional novel by adding graphic sex, non-linear storytelling, and characters you hate!” 😉 I’d say it could have been written in the 1950s…not in a bad way. 🙂

It was interesting: I didn’t even look at the price of it until I started writing this post. It’s $4.99.

I’m hoping that some of you read it and enjoy it…both for your benefit and for the author’s.

When people criticize KU, they tend to bring up the alleged lack of well-known novels (although there are actually a lot of famous books, they don’t tend to be current bestsellers). A Truth Worth Telllin’ (a first novel) exemplifies the argument for KU as discovery for lesser known novels.

And of course, if you borrow it, read a bit of it, and don’t share my opinion, you can just move on to another book…

Why Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an argument for permanent copyright

More than five years ago, I published what may be my most controversial post:

Should copyright be permanent?

In it, I explored the idea of making copyright permanent in exchange for greater Fair Use provisions.

In other words, an author and the author’s estate would continue to control the commercial use of a creation (which might, of course, include having licensed it to a publisher) in perpetuity, but the work could be used for educational and research purposes generally without compensation.

That’s the simplified version.

There are reasonable arguments on both sides.

One thing I hear from people is that a work staying in copyright deprives society of a common culture…that te world (or, at least the USA) should own works like Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland.

Well, I have to point out: is Star Wars any less of our shared culture than Romeo and Juliet?

Do people know “May the Force be with you” less than they know “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?”

Do they talk about Star Wars less than they do about Shakespeare? Are fewer kids named after Star Wars characters and actors than Romeo & Juliet ones? Well, okay, there are a lot of Romeos out there…but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many Lukes and Leias born in early 1978. 😉 There also aren’t that many Mercutios…

You might guess it’s because Star Wars is more contemporary…but, based on the original copyright terms in the USA, it would have been in  the public domain by now (the original term was 14 years, renewable once for a total of 28, if the author was still alive…not as probable then as it is now).

Three quick tips

  • On a touchscreen device, “long press” (hold your finger or stylus on something for about a second) for more options
  • Menus often look like three horizontal lines on top of each other
  • To get help, you can go to http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

Help other readers find books

Just a reminder about

ILMK Readers’ Recommendations: book discovery zone

There will be many people new to KU in the next couple of weeks, especially since you can

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

You can help them out by going to the Book Discovery Zone and “voting” in the polls to endorse books, and by narratively suggesting books I can add.

Skipping the Flip(board)

Ooh, this was tough for me!

I skipped my morning

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

read this morning, although I will do it later today.

Why?

To avoid Star Wars spoilers. 🙂

My favorite thing in entertainment is to be surprised, and it can be hard to do. For that reason, I really don’t like spoilers, myself…and I also think they are…well, when done intentionally, I would consider them morally wrong.

Let me be clear: I don’t mean when you accidentally reveal a twist in a story, or when you do it without thinking about it.

I mean when people do it intentionally.

I read an article recently where the writer recalled standing outside of a movie in the Star Wars franchise, shouting the twist at people before they entered the theatre.

To me, it’s a form of intellectual bullying. That’s not to minimize traditional bullying. I think, though, it comes from similar impulses. You are using your superior power (knowledge, in this case), to take something away from someone else.

I love discussing movies (and books), but only when everybody present wants to do that.

I also think there is no statute of limitations on spoilers.

I believe that a nine-year old reading The Wizard of Oz in 2015 has the right to the same experience of the book as a nine-year old reading it in 1900 had.

I’ve been very pleased to see that mainstream media, and much of social media, has recognized the value of avoiding spoilers with regards to SW: TFA.

However, Flipboard (at least the way I have it configured) contains many non-traditional sources, and I’m guessing there will be spoilers in it this morning.

We are seeing the movie at 11:25 this morning…so I’ll read Flipboard after we’ve seen it. 😉

Jeff Bezos is one of Barbara Walters Most Fascinating People of 2015

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO (Chief Executive Officer) has had an interesting year: space news, an attack on the Amazon work culture, and an explicitly political comment.

Here is an

ABC video

of Barbara Walters’ “Most Fascinating People of 2015” segment with Bezos.

What do you think? How did Jeff Bezos do on Barbara Walters? What will happen to Amazon after Jeff?  Should people make references to plot twists openly (for example, jokes about maybe the Wizard of Oz in relationship to public figures), or should there be spoiler alerts? Have you discovered any books or authors through KU? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.

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

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.

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Round up #253: Jeff Bezos in class, best reviewed “mother” books

May 11, 2014

Round up #253: Jeff Bezos in class, best reviewed “mother” books

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

My Flipboard magazines take off!

Thanks to those of you who are reading my new Flipboard magazines:

ILMK magazine at Flipboard

and

The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

I already have over 100 readers, which seems like a lot to me at this stage.

I wrote about this before:

Flip your way into being a magazine editor…I did

but I have to say, it is fun to see these results!

What happens is that I do my normal morning

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

read on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

and as I read the articles, I “flip” them into one of the two magazines…which you can then read.

This is just my curation: I don’t even get to add comments, which I think is fine.

Oh, and how do I get compensated for this?

Just by knowing people are reading it. 🙂

Unlike the subscribers to this blog (thanks, subscribers!) I don’t get royalties. If you are seeing any ads, they are put there by Flipboard, not me.

I’ve actually flipped more articles into The Measured Circle (174 at time of writing, versus 160 into ILMK), but ILMK is a lot more active (there have been 1,382 page flips there, as opposed to 233 at The Measured Circle).

There are lots of magazines being created by others…have you created one?

If you are reading either of mine, do you have any feedback to share?

Jeff Bezos speaks…to an eighth grade class

I’m always interested in what Jeff Bezos has to say. While I certainly find the company interesting, I’m also interested in Jeff as a human being. Often what the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) communicates is philosophy…and it’s important to keep that first in a business setting.

In this

New York Times article by Nick Wingfield

we get to see a parent’s tweets when Jeff spoke to a class of kids.

This is pretty different from that Princeton commencement speech back in 2010 (which you can watch here), but the ideas are not that different.

One thing which was? Jeff brought a drone!

Bezos is quoted as saying, “Who succeeds at amazon? “Explorers and pioneers”. Who fails? Those who focus on killing our competitors.”

I think that’s key to success…that, and not over-estimating your customers’ loyalty. I’ve said before, I think that’s how market leaders tend to lose that position…

HarperCollins credits e-books when profits jump 83%

Now that they aren’t spending all that money fighting over the Agency Model, publishers can start making money again. 😉

According to this

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

HarperCollins said, “…sales of more profitable e-books, ongoing operational efficiencies and higher revenue, EBITDA rose 83% at HarperCollins for the third quarter of fiscal 2014 which ended March 31. EBITDA hit $53 million, up from $29 million in last year’s third quarter. Revenue increased 14%, to $354 million. Both sales and profits were driven by the Divergent series which sold more than 8 million units in the quarter. Total e-book revenue increased 46% and accounted for 26% of HC sales, up from 21% a year ago.”

It might surprise you that only 26% of HC sales are e-books…but units for e-books are going to be much higher than that.

They mention the

the Divergent series (at AmazonSmile)

as being a major contributor.

While certainly adults have read those books, it’s nice to me that young people are, in a lot of ways, driving book profits. That bodes well for the future. 🙂

The “mother” of all best reviewed books 😉

Just for fun, here’s a search of the

Best reviewed books with “mother” in the title (at AmazonSmile)

One that stands out to me right away?

Are You My Mother? (at AmazonSmile)

by P.D. Eastman. I remember this one! It’s a great kid’s book…and even though it is illustrated, it is accessible with text-to-speech.

Have a great day on Sunday!

Enjoy!

What do you think? I’ve tended to like HarperCollins as a publisher…did it surprise you that the percentage of e-book sales are still that low? Does this result change your feeling about the future of traditional publishers? I mentioned kids’ books driving profits…but 50 Shades of Grey did, too. Neither of those are really the mainstream…what is the future of literary fiction? Do you have a Flipboard magazine? Should Jeff Bezos have brought a book, rather than a drone? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

New! Try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

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

Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareowners 2014

April 12, 2014

Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareowners 2014

There’s a lot of buzzy stuff in

Jeff Bezos’ 2014 letter to shareowners (filed at the SEC…U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission)

Bezos takes us on a tour (more on actual tours later) of the “…broad array of initiatives” at Amazon.

Prime

A million people joined Prime just in the third week of December of 2013. I thought at first that might be people opening up their new Kindle Fires (and getting a month free), but that was probably more likely to be the fourth week…unless they count you becoming a member when they ship it out.

The key thing here is that they aren’t “done” adding things to Prime. What might that be? Well, a streaming music service wouldn’t surprise me, and fairly soon. Separation of video from shipping (so you can pay for them separately) and installment payments or something other than an annual fee makes sense. Amazon bought comiXology: could they do something like adding comics to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library? I also really think some kind of subser (subscription service) for adults (as opposed to FreeTime for kids) from Amazon this year…and could have the Prime name on it.

Readers & Authors

It’s interesting to put those two together, because traditional publishers would immediately think something needs to bridge the two…not surprisingly, they would say it was traditional publishers. 😉

Bezos makes a point of mentioning some things which cut tradpubs out of the picture: “…Kindle Worlds, the literary journal Day One, eight new Amazon Publishing imprints”, and mentions expansion to other parts of the world for Kindle Direct Publishing.

I think they also  legitimately  take credit for getting Kindles (and other devices) cleared for using during more parts of commercial air flights.

The Kindle Paperwhite 2 is mentioned…and Kindle Fires don’t get mentioned under Readers & Authors (interesting, since I for one do a lot of my reading there, and I suspect that’s true for people who want color ((for magazines, for one thing)), text-to-speech, audiobooks, and multimedia enhancement…none of which the Paperwhite does).

A divider line in the letter takes us to this next section:

Prime Instant Video

Lots more titles, exclusives, original content…and growing rapidly. Prime Instant Video also expanded to the UK and Germany, and surpassed their expectations.

I’ve started using PIV more. The Kindle Fire has a better interface for PIV than my Roku or Tivo…and the Fire TV makes it even better (voice search helps).

Fire TV

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

Having been using it for a while now, I really like it. When we get a new TV (and we may soon…our family room one is quite old), we would probably get a second Fire TV for it. It was funny: AT&T just came by the house to try and get me to search internet, cable, and phone (they just put fiber optic cables in our neighborhood…which is tempting). They checked off a whole bunch of channels I could get…and I thought, “I don’t need all those channels…I have enough to watch on my Fire TV.” 😉 I mentioned Fire TV to them…they hadn’t heard of it, which didn’t help their credibility. We also don’t have a landline, so they can’t help me there.

I’m considering writing a short guide to the Fire TV, but let me mention some cool things:

  • The photo part of it is cool and seamless! I have the Amazon Cloud Drive on my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone. I took some pictures today at the dog park. I came home, turned on my Fire TV, went to Photos, and BAM! They were already there. I started a slideshow…and it smoothly panned across each picture, adding a real dynamic aspect
  • The mirroring with my Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) is astonishingly simple, even if it takes fifteen seconds or so to connect. I was already mirroring my Fire to my TV through a NETGEAR Push2TV (at AmazonSmile)…but this is much easier. My HDX doesn’t have to search for the Fire TV: when I go to the mirroring option (Swipe down from the top, Settings, Display & Sounds, Display Mirroring), it’s always sitting there. I can tap it while my TV boots up (this is a newer TV than the family room one, but still takes some time to wake-up, and that works). Why does mirroring matter? Anything I can see on my Kindle Fire’s screen I can see on my TV. So, for those of you worried about HBOGO and the FTV, you are fine if you have a Fire
  • The voice search really does work for Amazon content
  • It has some cool screensavers, although I don’t see them that much
  • You can remove items from the Recent listing! I wish I had that for my Roku. That is similar to the Carousel on the Fire…there are other similarities, too (including force stopping apps, and resetting to factory defaults)
  • The ASAP things, which makes some videos start pretty much instantly, is very nice! That doesn’t sound like much, but not having to wait for a video to load is like the first time you used a microwave oven…for those of you who remember when those were new 😉
  • The free AOL ON app gives me decent news coverage, and the stories will autoplay from one to the next
  • I haven’t even tried the games much, but the one I did was fun…oh, and your coins are available for shopping from the Fire TV

Amazon Game Studios

Interesting to me that they put this under the Fire TV. That’s who should be scared by the FTV more than video distributors, I think. It’s a backdoor way to get people into gaming through Amazon…and they could really cut into console sales that way. One box to rule them all! 😉

Another dividing line, bringing us to what I guess we could consider miscellaneous content:

Amazon Appstore

It tripled in size and is now in 200 countries…no, there aren’t as many apps as Apple or Google, but I would bet that on the average, these are more reliable.

Jeff talks about several innovations this last year. I do still have what I think is a good idea for an app…if anybody out there is a developer, I’m interested in partnering. I could probably learn to program myself (I used to teach some programming), but that doesn’t make sense to me at this point. I can largely write the content of the app, someone else can build it (and market it), and I’m fine with a royalty arrangement. Let me know if you are interested. 🙂

Spoken Word Audio

I’m not really an audiobook person (I prefer text-to-speech, because I don’t like the reader interpreting the characters for me), but Audible apparently had a great year (no mention of Brilliance, which Amazon also owns). They mentioned 600 million listening hours downloaded last year…that sounds like a lot, but it’s about two hours per person in the USA, right? That’s a lot less than one audiobook (on average…there are some shorter things at Audible) per person.

Fresh Grocery

They are expanding this service…slowly. Jeff has a great line, here: “…no one accuses us of a lack of patience”. This $299 a year grocery (and many other things) delivery service is expanding and may come to more cities. This year, Amazon is introducing the “Amazon Dash”, which is sort of like a barcode reader for home…that ties into Fresh.

Amazon Web Services

The average consumer may not think much about this, but it is crucial for Amazon’s success. I would say they are much less reliant on the success of the Kindles than they are on AWS. It’s been expanding…with more than four times the number of “significant services and features” added in 2013 as in 2010.

The next section has to do with employees…

Employee Empowerment

Amazon has some public relations challenges with their management/employee relationships, with legal actions over unpaid time while going through security lines, protests in Europe, and allegations of unsafe conditions.

Jeff does a good job of mentioning some of their strong points:

  • Career Choice is a program where we pre-pay 95% of tuition for our employees to take courses for in-demand fields, such as airplane mechanic or nursing, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.”
  • “Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is “Please Don’t Take This Offer.”” This probably generated the most headline out of the letter, although it’s been around (it came from Zappos…which Amazon owns now). I think this makes a great deal of sense. $2000 isn’t really enough to quit, unless you were planning to quit anyway. If you were, it’s not good to have you around…you are bad for morale, and probably aren’t as productive as people who want to be there. Once you’ve invested in the job (by turning down the $2,000), I think you’ll be less likely to consider quitting in the future
  • Virtual Contact Centeremployees provide customer service support for Amazon and Kindle customers while working from home.” For many people, that would be a “Yes, please!” Great when you have young kids around the house…and the dogs are a lot happier when I’m home. 😉 The only real problem I have is that one of them likes to lick the Kindle Fire screen…and it registers it as a capacitative touch! 

They also make a point of their good record in hiring veterans.

I would consider the next section…infrastructure:

Fulfillment Centers

Jeff talks about all of the improvements here…but where is the mention of the Kiva robots? Is that not working out? Are they afraid that people won’t like the idea?

I teased you with tours at the beginning of this post…you can take a tour of an Amazon fulfillment center!

http://www.amazon.com/fctours

It’s not every FC…unfortunately, the one nearest me doesn’t do it. I was surprised when my Significant Other thought it would be fun to go.

Urban Campus

There are several points made in this letter about the environment, and yes, it’s true that an urban complex is probably more ecological than a suburban one…because the infrastructure already exists around it. They are adding 420,000 square feet…and building a lot more.

Fast Delivery

Sure, part of this is Sunday delivery by the Post Office, but this was probably the second buzziest thing in the letter: “…The Prime Air team is already flight testing our 5th and 6th generation aerial vehicles, and we are in the design phase on generations 7 and 8.” That’s right…drones, my little flightless kiwi competitors! 😉 I think this keeps getting raised in the public consciousness to get the FAA to approve their use…

The next section is really the miscellaneous one:

Experiments and more experiments

Instead of mentioning Lab126 for R&D (Research and Development), Jeff talks about “Weblab”. This is for the websites…but also for products. I’ve been part of one of these innovations: “Ask an Owner”. I got an e-mail from Amazon asking for some information about a product we had purchased. That came from a question from another customer. We were happy to answer it (it had to do with ingredients on something…just had to read the label). That has apparently happened millions of times: have you gotten an e-mail like that?

Apparel and Shoes

Waaay beyond Zappos. 🙂 I thought this was a mind-blowing statistic: “We opened a new 40,000 square foot photo studio in Brooklyn and now shoot an average of 10,413 photos every day in the studio’s 28 bays”. That’s 371 photos per bay…each day.

Frustration-Free Packaging

Somehow, we don’t usually seem to get products wrapped in easy to open packaging from Amazon, although some are. I suspect part of that has to do with the next section…

Fulfillment by Amazon

Amazon has built this incredible way to get things to customers (see Fulfillment Centers above…and drones). FBA lets other sellers pay to hitch a ride. Does it work? It grew 65% last year…

Login and Pay with Amazon

Do I want to use my Amazon payment methods when I’m shopping other places? You betcha! More convenient, and fewer people get my data.

Amazon Smile

This should get a lot more recognition than it does, in my opinion. I promote it a lot. You shop at a mirror site to Amazon, and as you buy things, Amazon donates money to a non-profit of your choice…and there are many tiny non-profits on the list! If you aren’t doing that, I’d be curious as to why…

Mayday

I have said that I think Mayday, the live onscreen tech help on the Kindle HDX line, may be one of the greatest innovations in Customer Service in my lifetime. I’ve said that

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

Jeff also told us some fun things about Mayday:

“Mayday Tech Advisors have received 35 marriage proposals from customers. 475 customers have asked to talk to Amy, our Mayday television personality. 109 Maydays have been customers asking for assistance with ordering a pizza. By a slim margin, Pizza Hut wins customer preference over Domino’s. There are 44 instances where the Mayday Tech Advisor has sung Happy Birthday** to the customer. Mayday Tech Advisors have been serenaded by customers 648 times. And 3 customers have asked for a bedtime story. Pretty cool.”

That’s a lot of things to cover!

Amazon is great at surprising people with innovations, though, and the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) says:

There are many programs I’ve omitted in this letter that are just as promising, consequential, and interesting as those I’ve highlighted.”

Yep…how about that 3D phone that might be coming soon, for example? 😉

I’ll be interested to hear what you think about Jeff Bezos’ 2014 letter to shareowners. Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

** Does Amazon pay royalties when one of their employees sings Happy Birthday over Mayday? Is that a commercial use…or, collectively, a public performance? I don’t know that they should, I just think it’s a possibility

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 #232: B&N closings, get better Jeff Bezos

January 6, 2014

Round up #232: B&N closings, get better Jeff Bezos

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

Jeff Bezos airlifted from the Galapagos for medical emergency

Things have had a positive outcome, but this was a serious situation. I mention that, because there is a temptation to do jokes about this, which I am going to resist. Jeff Bezos has had a big positive impact on my life, and right now, I just wish Amazon’s CEO (Chief Executive Officer) a speedy recovery.

Jeff was apparently celebrating the new year in the Galapagos Islands. I’ve been there: amazing place! According to this

USA Today article by Alistair Barr

and other sources, Bezos had a kidney stone problem, and was helicoptered out by the Ecuadorian Navy to where the CEO’s private jet could rush back to the USA.

No surgery was required, and things look good.

There are a lot of non-surgical ways of dealing with kidney stones nowadays.

Best to Jeff Bezos and family!

I will comment on one thing…according to the article (and again, other sources), Jeff said, “Galapagos: five stars. Kidney stones: zero stars…”

That may confuse some people. It’s a reference to the rating system at Amazon…but you can’t give zero stars there (you have to go between one and five). I’ve seen people complain about that inability to give a zero. Obviously, buying a paper towel holder can’t have a negative effect on you like having kidney stones can, so perhaps that was the suggestion here.

Round of Barnes & Noble closures

It was quite a surprise recently when a local Barnes & Noble closed! There hadn’t been a big sale or anything, as far as I know…it was just gone. There is still one not too far away, but this is the one I would consider to be most local. Doing a quick Google search, looks like quite a few closed at the end of 2013 (I’ll link articles):

  • Two closed in Fort Worth, Texas…one of them had been open since 1996
  • One closed in Pasadena, California after doing business there for about twenty years
  • One closed in Pleasant Hill, California after 19 years…according to the article, it was the last new bookstore (as opposed to used books) in that town
  • One closed in Gainesville, Florida after about twenty years
  • One closed in Kahala Mall in Hawaii (the link to the story didn’t work)
  • One looked like it would close in Royal Oak, Michigan…the city appeared to be looking for other tenants
  • Despite an online petition, one closed in Tracy, California, where, interestingly (but unrelated…it does no retail business), an Amazon fulfillment center recently opened

For balance, here is a nice article which quotes the manager of a Barnes & Noble that just opened in Princeton, New Jersey.

Is this the beginning of the end?

Probably not…Barnes & Noble has often closed stores at the end of the year. Most of these stories seemed to mention the rents going up. That’s something that is going to happen, particularly as some things in the economy appear to be improving.

However, that would have been less of an issue if they’d been stronger.

Interesting also how many of these opened about twenty years ago…

Is Sherlock Holmes in the public domain? Judge makes a statement

I’ve written extensively in this blog about copyright and public domain. The latter is what happens when a book is not under copyright protection (most commonly, because the term has expired). The book then goes into the “public domain”…it is owned by the public. At that point, anybody can do anything they want with the book, without getting the permission of the (former) copyright holders.

It gets much more complicated when a character appears in a series of books, though. There may be some books which are still under copyright protection, and some which are in the public domain.

The Conan Doyle Estate has been quite protective of Sherlock Holmes, and people doing new works based on the character (the Robert Downey movie, Elementary on CBS, the BBC series) typically pay the estate a license.

However…

Leslie Klinger was concerned with what the estate wanted, and challenged the control (at least over the characters as they appeared in what are now public domain works in the USA, ones published before 1923).

Here’s an article that summarizes it:

New York Times article by Jennifer Schuessler

What the estate argued was considered to be a stretch by some, but it is fascinating.

As I understand it, they basically said that works written about Sherlock Holmes are based on the “completed” character, which has to take into account things written after the 1923 cut-off…even if they don’t mention specific events from the later books.

I think I’ve come up with a good way to explain the argument.

When Superman started out, he didn’t fly…he could “leap tall buildings in a single bound”, but not actually fly. I’ve always thought that it showed brilliant management that DC allowed others to add to Superman’s “definition”. I wrote about that here:

When Superman wasn’t so super

However, for the sake of explanation, let’s pretend (and this is not true) that the Superman stories before he could fly were in the public domain, and the ones where he could fly weren’t.

Now, let’s further imagine that someone writes a story about Superman. In the story, Superman “arrives on the scene”, but it isn’t specified how. Wouldn’t you naturally assume Supes flew there? Sure, because that’s the Superman you know. I suppose that the writer could even have Superman say, “I just flew in from Metropolis.” That could have been in a plane, right? 😉

That was the basic argument, from what I can tell. You can’t write about Sherlock Holmes without benefiting from elements that are under copyright, even without mentioning them specifically.

While I still need to read

Judge Ruben Castillo’s statement (pdf)

completely, the judge ruled against that argument (again, based on my understanding). The judge’s carefully ruled in favor of Klinger in regards to pre-1923 elements and against in terms of post-1923 elements.

I believe there could still be appeals here. We don’t have our next round of books going into the public domain in the USA until 2019, by the way…but that’s not true everywhere.

What do you think? Did your local Barnes & Noble close at the end of the year? If it did, will you miss it? While this is not at all the case here, how dependent do you think Amazon is on Jeff Bezos? If Jeff wasn’t able to be the CEO, what kind of impact would that have on the company and on your perception of it? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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 #198: the old-time internet, library mini round up

August 20, 2013

Round up #198: the old-time internet, library mini round up

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

Seth Godin: “The End of Books”

I enjoyed this

blog entry at Typepad by Seth Godin

There are some really good lines, and it’s an interesting look at the shifts in book culture. This short excerpt was one of my favorites:

“READING FOR PLEASURE was largely extinguished by four generations of not-very-good teaching philosophies. By treating a book as homework and a punishment, we’ve raised people to not look forward to reading.”

and it ties neatly into this post, Reading in school, that I did not too long ago.

I recommend that you read it, and I don’t want to give too much away. Godin goes through a list of the challenges, and then suggests that we will overcome them…and I do agree. 🙂

Has our perception of the internet changed that much since 1997?

Oh, it’s exactly the same…not! Sorry, just trying to get into that 1990s (remember them?) 😉 vibe, although yes, Wayne’s World was five years before 1997.

This

CNET article by Eric Mack

links to an amazing video from 1997 having kids explain how to use the internet, and how cool that is. It’s a long video (almost half an hour),but it’s really camp, like an old cautionary movie from the 1950s.

Open Road gets $11 million

Open Road Media is one of my favorite publishers for e-books. They never block text-to-speech access, they weren’t part of the Agency Model, and they bring us great backlist titles.

That’s why I was pleased to see this

Wall Street Journal post by Jeffrey Trachtenberg

Regular readers know that I think Trachtenberg is one of the most informed mainstream journalist about e-books, and I always look forward to new articles.

These new investments aren’t being primarily used for acquisitions, but for technology improvements…but that counts. 🙂

The New York Times: “Expecting the Unexpected from Jeff Bezos”

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

New York Times article by David Streitfeld and Christine Haughney

in a private e-mail! Sorry I haven’t replied to you…you’ll always get a faster response (if desired) by commenting on something on the blog. I just check those and get to those faster. I also did see this article other places, but I’d rather you tell me twice than not at all. 🙂

It’s inspired by Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post, although like a lot of articles, it to some extent treats Bezos and Amazon as the same thing. It’s a lengthy piece, and has some good insight.

I liked this quotation:

“Bezos is fascinated by broken business models. And whatever else you think of newspapers, the business model is broken.”

by Jeff Marcus, a former Amazon employee.

I think it’s worth reading.

I’m not particularly concerned about billionaires buying newspapers. It doesn’t feel that different to me than, say, William Randolph Hearst (not that I’m saying Hearst was a good thing). Unless somebody figures out how to get the Washington Post to make money (and Jeff Bezos hasn’t been proven to be that great at making a profit so far), you want someone who can afford to hemmorhage money….and Bezos can do that for a while. It’s possible that Jeff will find something sustainable, and I really don’t see the Amazon CEO Bigfooting any political stories into the “paper”.

Um…let me think…no!

Thanks to Publishers Lunch for the heads up on this CTV news story,


Should the price of books be regulated?

This article has a two minute video about Quebec debating regulating e-book prices…to keep them higher, basically, to support small bookstores.

You could only give discounts of ten percent for the first nine months the book was in the market (both e-books and paper).

Yes…because raising the prices will clearly help those small bookstores stay in business, when people pirate the books online and steal them from bookstores, and smuggle them in from other places, and switch to reading something else…well, I think you can see where I stand on this. 😉

The issue is being debated now…if you live in Quebec, you might be able to let them know what you think (pro or con).

How do libraries get funding in this day and age?

Surveys overwhelmingly show that people like public libraries and think they are important.

So, naturally, cities, counties, and states fund them, right?

Not always.

This

NPR article and recording by Neda Ulaby

For example, in Vermont (according to the article)

“…once a year the town librarian has to go to a town meeting and make a case for funding for next year.”

Many libraries depend on donations to stay open. Some people leave them books or money in their wills.

Well, at least very rich people don’t own the libraries, am I right? 😉 Just kidding, lots of rich people do donate to libraries, and sometimes get things named after them there. That’s okay with me.

In Santa Clara, California (a town I know pretty well), upset citizens are demanding that a long-delayed library open, according to this

USA Today article by Melanie Eversley

There appears to be a bit of a legal mess which has resulted in a library being build, but no books.

Let’s stick with public libraries for one more story:

Demand for e-books is draining library budgets

That Sun Sentinel (Florida) article by Lisa J. Huriash gives you a really good local perspective on how expensive e-books are for libraries. They can’t just pay $9.99 for an e-book from Amazon. You can’t use e-books you get from the Kindle store for commercial purposes, and libraries basically fall under that (even though it isn’t exactly commerce). The article cites a price of $70 – $80 for a James Patterson novel.

Maybe equally interesting to many will be the observation of how many senior citizens are using e-books. Heidi Burnett, the library manager of Oakland Park, is quoted as saying,

“We are helping a lot of senior citizens coming in with their various devices — Kindles, iPads, on Nooks, on their tablets, on their laptops — and they are vitally interested in that…”

Early surveys indicated that Kindles were used disproportionately by people over 50, and that made sense. Those are the serious readers, the people who could afford the devices, and the ones that benefited most from increasable font sizes and the lightness of the devices compared to paperbooks (p-books).

The youngest Baby Boomers are in their mid-50s, after all, and that’s the generation that largely invented home electronics. Steve Jobs would have been 58, for example.

I think the average age has probably significantly dropped, especially with the marketing of tablets to kids…at least, the age of e-book readers has probably dropped on average. In the beginning, though, when a device cost hundreds of dollars, it seemed to skew older.

I sometimes have a hard time getting people to realize that at work. When I train people, the New Millenials (who, shockingly to me, are getting to be thirty years old, at least some of them) can be harder to teach technology than people in their fifties.

Why?

The New Millenials have grown up with largely smoothly functioning technology. Some of them don’t want to put up with it when something doesn’t work smoothly the first time. A Baby Boomer gets it when you have to click somewhere, then click somewhere else, then click on the first place again to get it to work because it is glitchy. If a button doesn’t do it what it says it will do, some New Millenials just want to move on. Not all of them, of course, and it’s not an unreasonable attitude to have…it can just make it more challenging.

What do you think? Is government limiting discounts on books a good idea? Were you aware that has been tried before in other places? Is your public library reliably publicly funded? What will survive from our book culture of ten years ago? 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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