Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Do readers have to worry about a war on porn?

July 16, 2016

Do readers have to worry about a war on porn?

Reading is freedom.

You can go anywhere, be anyone, do anything…if you have a book.

In a grey area, I will tend to be on the side of greater freedom of expression.

I want people to be able to march and speak in support of ideas I find absolutely antithetical to my personal morality…there are things I support that would have gotten people thrown into prison or tortured for supporting a century or more ago.

When there was a concerted effort to suppress comic books, as well documented in

The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

there were people who thought it served public morality to keep comics away from children. There were literally public bonfires to burn them. It’s one reason why some older comics are so valuable today.

Certainly, there were people who classified them the way that some people classify pornography today.

I’m talking, at this point, about legal, consensual, adults only participating explicitly sexual material. Not coerced, not children, nothing like that.

That’s why it is chilling to me when I see efforts to suppress pornography.

Lately, there have been stepped up efforts in that area.

One of the political parties recently said that pornography was a public health crisis. During a public health crisis of certain kinds, people can be involuntarily quarantined. It’s a powerful terminology, not just a literary review.

Starbucks and McDonalds are talking about blocking pornography on their Wi-Fi networks that customers use in the stores.

Now, understand: that doesn’t mean that I want a child being able to see porn on someone’s tablet. You should have to keep it not visible (or audible) to other patrons…and I think that’s true regardless of what you are watching. A lot of parents don’t want their kids watching violent content. The same could be said for some political material. There are privacy screens you can put on a monitor, which makes it virtually invisible to people not directly behind it…we used that in medical areas where I work to protect patients’ medical information.

That’s where some people might right away see a divide. Pornography doesn’t typically refer to the written word, it usually means something visual. However, there is no reason why it can’t, and books have been banned or restricted because of their words.

I know some people probably think I’m a prude. I don’t write the word d*mn in this blog without the asterisk…and I don’t use language like that in my real life either. I don’t have a problem quoting someone else who has used it. I don’t have a problem with reading sexually explicit content, although I like to know it will be in the book. That’s why I warn people…it should be up to you if you read it.

Not up to a store or a political party.

That’s my opinion, but what do you think? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

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.

The value of neutrality

June 10, 2016

The value of neutrality

I can be as sarcastic as the next person.

In fact, I can be devastating and clever (so I’m told). I had to realize that at one point…I was quite interested in a real group called “Sarcastics Anonymous”. I explained to our now adult kid that they (who can do what I can do) basically have a super power. We can reduce people to a blob of quivering protoplasm with a cutting comment…so you can only use the power for good.😉

I think it comes, in part, from being empathetic. If you don’t understand people, if you can’t get a sense of how they (and the other people around you) are feeling, you won’t come up with that exact point which cuts the deepest.

I can be sarcastic…but I’m not.

Not in public.

Not to that person.

Not to other people who know that person.

I will use self-effacing humor, but I won’t take someone else’s face.😉

The only time I tend to do it now is when my Significant Other and I are watching competition TV…and then it’s just for fun, and won’t go beyond that room.

That’s not to say that I don’t love a witty remark, even at the expense of someone else. It may combine snark and sarcasm…let’s call it “snarcasm”.

I was reading a summary of an inexpensive movie with dinosaurs a long time ago, and have always remembered their reference to the characters encountering “plasticasauruses”.

That said, I always especially love opinion-free reference works.

That doesn’t mean I always want it to be what is sometimes called a “seed catalog”: a database before databases were electronic. I like those,  too, but my perfect reference works objectively gives me context…relates what I’m reading to other things. For example, if I’m reading about an author who never had a successful book after the one being covered, that’s good context. That can be done without being judgmental. If we base it on sales, it’s objective.

This came up recently when I wrote about an amazing sale in the USA Kindle store:

McFarland books for $3.99 (at AmazonSmile*)

The sale, by the way, is not only ongoing, it has expanded…it’s now over 1400 titles, and I’m buying more.🙂

Some of my favorite p-books (paperbooks) in my library are reference works: Walt Lee’s Reference Guide to Fantastic Films; Vincent Terrace TV reference books (some are in this sale…others are not part of the sale); and some Jeff Rovin books (for example, on superheroes and supervillains).

Certainly, the first two are really objective…more the seed catalog type.

When I’m reading some of the ones I got on this sale, they are quite critical and opinionated.

Again, I can like that. Clever writing, labeled as opinion, is fine. I don’t extend that to when you criticize the fans of the material, but I’m more than happy to hear your opinion of something.

However, I just wanted to say that I like neutral references as well.

I’ve decided with

The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip 

not to put in my own opinions there. I will link to articles I write about the books/TV shows/movies and so on that you can get to through TMCGTT, but I wanted the timeline itself to not be about my opinions of the works. I’m hoping comments can eventually be made there by other people…but I want it to have a neutral stance.

Sure, there is unavoidable bias on display in what gets chosen for it, but that seems different.

I think, though, I’m seeing fewer neutral works…maybe the ability to do the research yourself instantly on the internet is making that sort of reference work seem to have less value.

Well, that’s just my opinion about writing without opinions! What do you think? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.

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

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

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

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.

My biggest disappointment with Amazon to date

May 27, 2016

My biggest disappointment with Amazon to date

I haven’t agreed with everything Amazon has done over the years. Overall, though, I have felt like they have had reasonably good motivations…oh, sure, they’ve been clunky and awkward at times, like the famous time when they deleted George Orwell books from people’s Kindles. The copy wasn’t authorized for the market in which it was sold (the USA). From what I’ve read, the most likely scenario seems to be that the company had intended it to be released in Australia, where the books are in the public domain, and Amazon accidentally released it in the USA, where they aren’t.

Amazon recognized their error. They apologized. They more than compensated people for the loss. Jeff Bezos called it “stupid”,  and the company said they would never do the same thing again.

While they don’t always give everybody everything they want, they eventually seem to come around to something which recognizes desires, and respects their customers’ beliefs, while not advocating for one position over another.

I believe that they will eventually resolve this current issue…I am disappointed that it is taking so long, because it is a simple fix and Amazon is clearly aware of it.

What’s the problem?

Amazon’s newest iteration of the Kindle, the Kindle Oasis, sounds very intriguing to me. People I respect have written of their great impressions of the device.

However, you can only buy it with an animal leather cover.

I mention “animal leather”, because many covers at Amazon are “synthetic leather” (they’ll often say they are “all man-made materials”, or something like that.

I don’t use leather.

I’m not the only person. On the device’s Amazon product page (I’m not linking to it, similar to the way I don’t intentionally link to books which block text-to-speech access), the third highest question has to do with the animal leather issue.

There are a number of reasons people choose not to use animal leather: it can be moral, ethical, religious, ecological (raising cattle takes a lot of land, and in some parts of the world, that land is made available through replacing forests and jungles, as I understand it)…it’s a variety.

For myself, I don’t have an objection to other people using leather. It’s a choice.

My choice is not to do that.

So, I don’t want Amazon to stop offering animal leather covers for the Oasis.

I just want the choice to buy an Oasis without a leather cover.

I would actually pay full price for it, with no cover at all.

People say, “Well, can’t you just buy it, throw away the cover, and buy a non-leather cover?”

The issue is that I don’t want to encourage the production of leather covers by buying one. I think I may actually be unusually calm around dead bodies. I’ve dealt with deceased pets, found dead wild animals (and disposed of them, when appropriate), been to funerals, and so on. It’s not handling the animal skin for me, it’s the production of it, and if I pay for it, I’ve rewarded and encouraged (for the future) that behavior.

Another less important thing is that the super long battery charge life only works with the cover…and Amazon hasn’t produced a non-animal leather cover yet with the battery capabilities.

I’d be fine with no cover…I’m interested in getting the Oasis and writing about it, even with the relatively shorter battery charge life.

I am not asking Amazon to produce a non-animal leather cover, or even to allow other companies to do so (although the latter seems to make a lot of sense to me…there are manufacturers who sell covers on Amazon who are already quite good at non-animal leather covers). I just want the option to buy this evolution of a device I love without something which I don’t buy.

I think I’ll eventually get that choice…it just feels like Amazon is so set on having this perceived as an elite item that they don’t want to sell it without something which has been associated with luxury.

I feel like some of Amazon’s customers are being ignored…and again, this doesn’t seem like a complicated fix. Just offer the Oasis without a cover.

We can already buy “vegan” leather covers that will fit the Oasis from Amazon:

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

I’m not leaving Amazon over this, certainly, and overall, they are still best company with which I’ve had a relationship.

I’m not mad.

I’m disappointed.

They’ll  fix it eventually…I’m just sad that it is taking such a long time, and with no acknowledgement of the issue.

Just my opinion, of course…

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

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

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

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

What should a robot read to understand humans?

May 22, 2016

What should a robot read to understand humans?

I speak to a robot every day…more than one,usually.

No, I don’t work at Westworld.😉

This is how I define a robot at another blog of mine, The Measured Circle:

robot is something created by humans (directly or indirectly) that performs tasks (autonomously or not) done by humans (or, more broadly, by other animals…a robot dog, for example, would perform work done by living dogs, including providing companionship). 

The word may conjure up an image of a mechanical man, perhaps clunky and made of metal. The way we use the term at The Measured Circle, it would include software performing human tasks, and non-anthropomorphic devices like an answering machine or a calculator.

On the Robot Beat presents news about our creations that are, even in small ways, replacing us.

So, certainly, Alexa, whether on our

definitely qualifies. I talk to our Echo (family room) and Dot (bedroom) every day, and I bring our Tap to work, so five days a week on that. I rarely talk to our Fire TV or Fire TV Stick  (we have both), but that may change when we can ask Alexa to open apps or show us shows.

I also talk to “OK, Google” on my Samsung S7 Edge.

They are all getting better…but I have to adjust my conversational style to fit what they understand best.

There’s a giant…well, let’s call it a “charms race” rather than an “arms race” to get digital assistants to have more natural conversation.

Progress is rapid…but there is a long way to go.

IBM’s Watson read all of Project Gutenberg (which prove to be confusing later on about what was fiction and what wasn’t, as I recall from reading a book on the project).

In this recent

Huffington Post article by Maddie Crum

it’s reported that Google used romance novels to try to get a bot to figure out how to put sentences together.

Why romance?

They liked that it was “formulaic”, and thought it was between the complex sentences of literature and the simplistic construction of children’s books.

It’s an interesting choice.

They aren’t really trying to get their bot to understand humans…just to be able to construct more natural seeming conversation.

They want it to see what type of response follows what, that sort of thing.

What would I have a robot read if I wanted it to make good conversation?

I think I’d go with Stephen King.

I’ve found that King writes people in a way that seems familiar to me, realistic to me.

You might have to pick and choose a bit…not every Stephen King book would work, or character.

You could approach this several ways.

You could have your bot memorize millions of books, and search for actual matches.

That’s going to produce some bizarre results from  time to time.🙂

Another way would be for it to figure out patterns…if the response to a question is “article, adjective, adjective, verb, noun”, that’s something a robot could learn. It would have to be able to either group words within that pattern by understanding their meanings to some extent, or just by grabbing groupings (a “gaze” might be “longing”, “intense”, or “steady”, for example).

My guess is that we’ll  see rapid progress in the next two years and achieve bots passing the Turing test (basically, being convincingly human in conversation) within the next five.

I don’t think that means they need to think like us or feel like us. I think a way to fake that will be found by someone, and probably more than someone.

I would venture to say that most humans don’t think through everything they say, or even anywhere close to most of what they say. “How are you?” “Fine.” Much of it is rote, and more about social interaction than actual meaning.

That’s what bots will need to do, while still answering your question or performing the task you requested.

I don’t know how that’s going to happen, but I think it will.

Once they can handle conversation, they’ll be much better able to write fiction. They are getting there…not great fiction, but passable.

I found myself repeating the same stories over and over again. I use some of the same phrases repeatedly in this blog…sometimes by actual copy and paste (the introduction to my look ahead to the next month’s books, for example, tweaked each month. The statement at the bottom of each post is another).

Most of what I write here is new and spontaneous, but a blog like this is different from training a topic or answering a question.

I know some people recognize that I am telling the same story to make a point…and they are okay with that. I’m not trying to fool people…if it’s a good explanation, it’s a good explanation.

However, I don’t say it exactly the same way, mostly. I deliberately change a word or two, or word order, so that it doesn’t become monotonous.

This post, honestly, is just me musing.🙂 I suppose, if I were a bot, it would have been more focused…and stiffer, most likely.😉

What do you think? What would books would have a robot read to learn how to sound human?

Bonus deal:

Here are some more Goodreads deals:

Check the price before you click or tap that Buy button…may not apply to your country, and may have changed. I continue to be very impressed with these Goodreads deals, and I’m happy to be able to share them with you!

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

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

*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.

 

My guiding principle for success in e-books in the future: “Don’t get in the way.”

May 10, 2016

My guiding principle for success in e-books in the future: “Don’t get in the way.”

I’ve flipped a couple of good and thoughtful articles recently on principles for success in publishing in the future into the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard.

One was from a retailing insider, Mike Tamblyn of Kobo:

Michael Kozlowski article in EREADER FRIENDLY

Summing up just the highest level, Tamblyn says we want to read easily, shamelessly, freely, publicly, and privately.

The other one was from a journalist: Joe Wikert post in Typepad Here are Wikert’s headers:

  • Being data-driven
  • Breaking free of containers
  • Direct-to-consumer
  • Owning and leveraging the list
  • Building the funnel

I know those may not make much sense without reading them…I’m recommending that you read the post.🙂 I don’t want to take too much away from it, just give you a feel for it.

I’d  boil my advice down to one sentence. Every plan can be tested against the sentence.

It is: “Don’t get in the way.”

If the reader wants to read a book you publish or sell, don’t make it harder for them to do so. There are too many people who make it easy.

I used to ask people: why do we lock our cars? Most people would say so they don’t get stolen. A thief, though, can still steal just about any car, locked or not. It’s just harder to steal one that’s locked. If your car is a difficult one to steal, are they going to give up on being a thief and walk the straight and narrow? Nope. They’ll steal an easier car. So, the answer to the question of why you lock your car is so that they’ll steal somebody else’s car.🙂 That’s not your intent, but it’s the result.

If a publisher or retailer “locks the car” by not being on all possible platforms (including being in subsers…subscription service), or by not having text-to-speech, or by not letting people adjust margins…many people will go somewhere that doesn’t get in their way. The same goes for price: for many people, $14.99 is too high for an e-book…so they get a cheaper one. We’ve seen that reflected in Amazon’s bestselling Kindle books. “Well,” I can hear a ,publisher say smirkingly, “there are so many free books that I suppose charging anything is getting in the way.” Yes, it might be. You might have to find other ways to monetize your books besides each individual sale to a reader.

How could you do that?

You could sell subscriptions.

You could sell them individual books…as gifts for other people (a big part of the book market).

You could have advertising…on your site. I also do believe that advertising inside e-books could work…as long as it’s very clear ahead of time, targeted, and optional. I’d do it: I’d accept advertising in a book to get the book discounted or free. How do I know I would do that? I read magazines with ads. I see (some) TV with ads. My Kindles/Fires have Special Offers (discounting their initial purchase price).

You could sell information about your customers to other people…with their permission, generally.

Let me be clear: I do think traditional book sales will continue. They may become an increasingly difficult way to lead the market, or even to make much of a profit, but they’ll be around.

One obvious thing: it will be harder for tradpubs (traditional publishers) to shift than it will be for newer, smaller publishers. Some publishers have deals with authors which last for years. They have a big infrastructure, built around the old model. They can do it, and some of them will.

I just suggest they use my test: does it get in the way?

What do you think? What advice would you give to publishers and e-book retailers? Does it seem odd that I advocate for curation, when that might be seen as “getting in the way”? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

*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.

 

Update your Kindle or lose access on it to your Cloud, the store, and other Kindle services

February 10, 2016

Update your Kindle or lose access on it to your Cloud, the store, and other Kindle services

Big thanks to regular reader and commenter Lady Galaxy for letting me know about an e-mail from Amazon about a looming deadline.

One of the other Kindle Forum Pros (we get that designation from Amazon for being helpful on the Amazon forums, but we aren’t employed by them) pointed me to this Amazon help page with the details:

Critical Software Update for Kindle E-Readers (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

The basics are this:

For many older Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers), if you don’t update them by March 22, 2016, they will no longer be able to access the Kindle services. You would still be able to read e-books from the Kindle store you have already downloaded to your devices, but…

  • You would not have access on that device to your Cloud: the books (and other items) that you have purchased from the Kindle store and are being stored for you by Amazon
  • You would not be able to buy new items from the Kindle store on that device
  • “Other services” would likely include subscriptions (including blogs like this one), Send to Kindle, Whispersync between your device and other devices on your account, and backing up your annotations

First, I do want to say that this is going to be a pretty small group of people (which does include Lady Galaxy). Devices generally automatically update “over the air”. I would guess that not one percent of devices out there are not updated.

However, people do choose not to update. For example, I know of people who chose not to update a device after Amazon allowed publishers to block text-to-speech access. That meant that they didn’t get the books wirelessly on those devices, they downloaded them with a computer and transferred them via USB…which is what could happen after this deadline passes, I assume.

What I don’t like here is that was voluntary: this won’t be.

Second, it’s important to note that Amazon is not taking away people’s purchases. They can continue to read them and they could do it using Amazon’s free reading apps.

The “however” on this one is that if they want to read those books on an e-ink device, they would have to buy another one (or have another one registered to the account).

Third, and significantly, this could lose people access to active content (games and apps) unless they update. You can’t use those in the reading apps. They don’t work on the current devices.

So, this is a takeaway, although not for very many people in many situations.

Still, I don’t like that. We don’t commit to updating our devices to continue to have the access we have when we purchase a license from the Kindle store.

Now, this may be unavoidable in some way.

Since this is going to affect all devices back to the 2007 model, it clearly indicates a change in the Kindle network/server side, not on the devices.

They aren’t suggesting that you have to get a new update, just the current ones.

Personally, especially given how small this group is going to be, I think Amazon should compensate them in some way.

One smart thing to do would be to offer them a small discount on a current device and to promote the trade-in.

Amazon could give them a $20 discount on the purchase of a new device. They don’t have to do that; Amazon is, I believe, within their contractual obligations to require this update. It would be good Customer Service (and Amazon has great Customer Service), and help alleviate fears that this might inflame about eventually losing access to your Amazon purchases. It’s not my intent, but this post may spark a bit of a tweetstorm about Amazon taking away access. Of course, it might not: I don’t get quoted all that often.😉

I’m writing this to give you a heads-up so you can take some actions if you want.

You could download things to your current device. Downloaded e-books and active  content and such should continue to work (although features like Wikipedia look up and sharing quotes probably wouldn’t). You could then use them…until it died.

You could update it…while you might lose some things you like, it would be fully connected.

You could emotionally prepare yourself to switch to (or at least add) another device.🙂

Even if Amazon doesn’t offer a discount to those affected people, there is a trade-in program (probably won’t get you much, but could get you something):

Amazon Trade-In Program (at AmazonSmile*)

Also, and I don’t think there is any connection, but most of the current line up of EBRs and Fire tablets are on sale right now.

I had started to write a post about that, but this story is important to me…so I’ll paste what I was writing here:

It’s not just KU that’s on sale: so are many devices!

I wrote recently about

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

 being on sale through this Sunday:

25% off Kindle Unlimited through Sunday

Many of the Fire tablets and Kindles are also on sale!

In terms of the EBRs (E-Book Readers), this is similar to a deal they did in November…$20 off, with the Voyage not on sale.

So, I’ll copy in what I said then:

Kindle, 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) $59.99 (down from $79.99)

The $20 off also means you could get it without the Special Offers ($79.99, down from $99.99) for the same price you would normally pay for an ad-supported model.

This is the entry level model, and it’s a good one. Here are some of the differences between this and the Paperwhite (which I’ll link below):

  • No frontlighting, so you read it like you would a p-book
  • Fewer pixels per inch (167 versus 300), so the image isn’t as sharp (but I would say sharp enough for most casual reading…you might notice it with images, like graphs)
  • Available only in wi-fi…no wi-fi and 3G option (for more money)
  • A bit less heavy, a bit thicker

Kindle for Kids Bundle with the latest Kindle, 2-Year Accident Protection, Kid-Friendly Blue Cover (at AmazonSmile*) $79.99 (down from $99.99)

This is like the above, but includes a ruggedized cover and an extended warranty…since each of those costs $20, this is a big savings, even without the discount.

Certainly something to consider for a gift.

All-New Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile*) $99.99 (down from $119.99)

The Paperwhite (this is the latest generation) is a great model Kindle! I’d say it may be my favorite (price and everything taken into account), with the Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) being second…well, wait, lack of TTS makes that a tighter battle. For sight-reading, it’s my favorite. 🙂

Why would you literally pay $100 more (right now) for a top of the line

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

?

You do get a few more things:

  • Adaptive light sensor
  • Page press buttons (in addition to touchscreen…these all have touchscreen)
  • Quite a bit less heavy and a tad smaller

Also on sale are the least and most expensive Fire tablets:

Note that all of these prices are for the USA, and are for a limited time…as always, check the price before you click or tap that “Buy button”.

Here is Amazon’s list of the devices affected by the deadline:

Device and Year Software Release Your Device Needs Update via wireless (3G) or Wi-Fi
Kindle 1st Generation (2007) 1.2.1 Use 3G
Kindle 2nd Generation (2009) 2.5.8* Use 3G
Kindle DX 2nd Generation (2009) 2.5.8* Use 3G
Kindle Keyboard 3rd Generation (2010) 3.4.2 or higher Use Wi-Fi
Kindle 4th Generation (2011) 4.1.3 or higher Use Wi-Fi
Kindle 5th Generation (2012) 4.1.3 or higher Use Wi-Fi
Kindle Touch 4th Generation (2011) 5.3.7.3 or higher Use Wi-Fi
Kindle Paperwhite 5th Generation (2012) 5.6.1.1 or higher Use Wi-Fi
Kindle Paperwhite 6th Generation (2013) 5.6.5 or higher Use Wi-Fi
Kindle 7th Generation (2014) No Update Needed No Update Needed
Kindle Voyage 7th Generation (2014) No Update Needed No Update Needed
Kindle Paperwhite 7th Generation (2015) No Update Needed No Update Needed

* For these devices, even if you are running software version 2.5.8, if you have not connected to wireless (3G) since October 5, 2015, please connect now.

Let me be really clear: I’m not mad at Amazon about this. It’s clearly part of Amazon improving services for the vast majority of their users. Inevitably, that can cause some losses to some people. Building something that’s great for cars may be bad for people who ride horses. Building something that’s great for electric cars may be a negative for people who use internal combustion engine cars. I do think it would make sense for Amazon to give something to the people who are losing something, but I don’t think it’s required…

What do you think? Do you have one of these “unupdated” EBRs? What do you plan to do about it? Had you gotten the e-mail? Whether you have one or not, do you think Amazon should compensate people in some way for the change? Do you think we as consumers will see changes to the Kindle service on all of our devices after March 22nd, or is this just a “behind the curtain” change? If you do think there will be visible changes, what do you think they will 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!

* 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.

Why we geeked

December 17, 2015

Why we geeked

At midnight tonight, the whole world will proclaim its geekness.

That’s when Star Wars: The Force Awakens officially opens, and it may go on to be the biggest box office hit to date.

No one is going to hide the fact that they are going to the movie.

No one is going to hide a Star Wars shirt under a YourLocalSportsFranchiseHere shirt, and then take off the camouflage before going into the theatre.

Every mainstream news outlet on TV will have a story about it. Even The Economist has found not one, but multiple angles for stories.

It wasn’t always that way.

When I was a kid, loving science fiction and fantasy cut you out of the inner circle.

That doesn’t mean that we all hid it. I never hesitated to be seen reading a current science fiction novel…or one from the 1930s…or the 1800s.

I think it’s safe to say that there were a core of us who were never ashamed of being geeks. Some of us might find each other in school and hang out, but if we weren’t part of the social scene, so be it. We had worlds to visit.

I was lucky enough, in high school, to be able to take a science fiction elective. I had a wonderful teacher…we weren’t made to take the joy out of geeky literature in order to dissect it and look at it dispassionately in order to give it gravitas. We often got to choose or suggest books. My teacher was as willing to learn as to teach, which is one of the things that can make a great teacher.

As a result of that class, we did form a club, and we did publish a “fanzine”. We even had a library.

It’s safe to say, though, that while there were tremendous benefits to being a geek, there were costs, too.

So, why do it?

It’s easier to give a reason now: geek is the in crowd. The biggest movies, TV shows, and even some of the biggest books are geek-friendly. There is even a stereotype of people being fake geeks…I don’t find that to be impossible (I’m sure some geeks have pretended to be sports fans from time to time to fit in…not that some geeks aren’t big sports fans in reality and vice versa, of course), but I think it can be…unfairly belittling. For me, part of being a geek is embracing diversity, and that should include being accepting of people who don’t know the difference* between Star Wars and Star Trek, or are new to the party, or who like what you may derisively call “skiffy”.**

Embracing diversity: certainly, that’s one of the reasons people were geeks pre-1977 (when the first Star Wars movie was released and became a big hit).

While there is no question that geek-friendly works could be full of prejudice (racial, class, sexism…and a noted lack of diverse characters in terms of sexuality), they were also a place where an alien could be a hero, and women could be social equals.

Before I give some examples of that, I’d better define what I mean by geek-friendly, although I’ve done that before in the blog.

In a geek story, there is something to it that is impossible in consensus reality. It might be that there are dragons or spaceships or telepathy. For more of a discussion of that, see

Content, tone, or intent: what makes a genre?

Since they are outside of consensus reality, they have often been able to “get away” with showing things outside of social norms as well.

Let’s take the idea of women as social equals.

In

Surviving “The End”: advice for literary characters (part 3)

I wrote an appearance by Gerry Carlyle, the “Interplanetary Huntress”. Carlyle, who originally appeared in stories in the 1930s an 1940s, was not only a superior adventurer, she was the captain of the ship. Her love interest, a man, was clearly the less powerful one of the pair.

That would have been a very difficult sale to a mainstream audience.

Think it would have been tough in the 1930s?

How about the 1870s, when Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race had women as the dominant gender?

It was not unusual for people of different races and perhaps species to work together…even fall in love and have intimate relationships. After all, Dejah Thoris in the John Carter of Mars Barsoom stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs is not the same race…or species…or even, arguably, the same class of life (she may not be a mammal, like humans are…her species lays eggs).

One thing we were told as geeks: it didn’t matter who you were, or even what you were…you could contribute and be accepted.

Another reason to be a geek back then was that you saw and wanted to see that there could be more to the world than was generally believed.

A lot of fans of hard science fiction believed that, within the confines of current scientific thought, there were many more possibilities. That was sometimes the purpose of a science fiction story…to explore a possibility, perhaps to suggest it as an option.

For fantasy fans, it could be, “Don’t tell me what’s possible.” Anything could be true.

Geek-friendly literature has been described, in a belittling way as escapist, but yes, it could be that, too. When things in the real world didn’t look good, it could be fun to go to Narnia or Middle Earth. Now, it’s worth noting that if you could get to either of those places, it wasn’t likely to mean that your life would be any happier than it was in the “real world”. Both of them had some pretty horrible things happening in them, with an abundance of violence and a low life expectancy. “Escaping from” doesn’t necessarily mean you want no conflict. You might just want to get away from something for a while.

It could also simply be fun.🙂 Yes, Oz had problems…there was violence, and a surprising predominance of slavery, but at least after the first book (which really doesn’t fit in with the rest of the stories), you weren’t going to die. You could have fun adventures and read a plethora of puns. We geeks would get criticized for being childish. Kids were encouraged to stop living a “fairy tale life”, and get serious. We didn’t agree that having an imagination and getting things accomplished were contradictory. With the rise of technology, our case was strongly made…imagination could be what made you a material success, not a failure. Maybe, if you were going to work on an assembly line, letting your mind wander wasn’t a good thing. You needed to focus on the physical reality in front of you. As jobs became more varied, that became less of the only option.

I’d say those are some of the main reasons, but whenever I write a post like this, I expect (and hope) that someone will add to it. So, I’ll ask you: if you were a geek before geek became cool, why did you do it? Do you agree with my assessment that you can openly be a fan of geek-friendly works now? Do you think that there were hardcore fans who weren’t ashamed, hardcore “realists” who were never going to accept it, and a large group in the middle that weren’t passionately for or against, and have now decided it’s not a bad thing to be a geek? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Oh, and may the Force be with you!😉

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

*The fundamental difference between Star Trek and Star Wars

** “Skiffy” is a belittling term I would never use. It’s a deliberate corruption of “sci fi”, which was coined by the great Forry Ackerman as an abbreviation of “science fiction”, which went along with the then popular term “hi fi” for “high fidelity” (sound). It’s used to refer to works which the speaker thinks are not worthy of being called “science fiction”…they may have the accoutrement of more serious or “nobler” works, but are considered poor imitations. Interestingly, many people saw Star Wars as that when it was released…it was space opera, not an extrapolation of science, and they didn’t like it being called science fiction
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.

 

The argument for having both a Fire tablet and a Kindle EBR (E-Book Reader)

December 14, 2015

The argument for having both a Fire tablet and a Kindle EBR (E-Book Reader)

My most popular post for this week is one that I wrote more than a year and a half ago:

The reading experience: Paperwhite vs. Kindle Fire HDX

It has been consistently popular, and is my top post overall…even though at this point, it refers to two older models.

It’s a comparison between reading on an EBR (E-Book Reader) and a Fire tablet.

When  I wrote it, I assumed its main use would be by people making a choice between one device type and the other.

I think that’s  likely still the case…although I think it’s now more likely to be a question of which additional device to get for someone who already has (at least one) device.

That makes for a simple question: why have two devices?

The arguments against having two are pretty clear:

However, I, like many of my readers (I assume…I’ll ask you later in the post), use a Fire tablet and an EBR…every day.

I have the now discontinued Kindle Fire HDX and a

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

I use them in two different ways.

I would actually say that over time, the EBRs have become more reading focused (and therefore have diverged more from the tablets)…or at least, more sight-reading focused.

The newer ones don’t do audio at all, so no music. Unfortunately, that also means no audiobooks, and no text-to-speech (TTS), which is software that will read text out loud to you (I typically use that for hours every week in the car), although publishers can block TTS access (and some do on some titles, but I think it is not as common as it used to be).

They also don’t do “active content”, a special type of EBR game (and some were utilities).

The Voyage (and the All-New Kindle Paperwhite, 6″ High-Resolution Display (300 ppi) with Built-in Light, Wi-Fi – Includes Special Offers ((at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*))

have lights that shine towards the screen, not towards your eyes. You read from the light bouncing off the screen…the same way you read a paperbook. It’s the most comfortable reading experience I’ve ever had…including paper.

I read it in bed before falling asleep…a tablet wouldn’t be as good for that for me. I haven’t tried the new “Blue Shade” functionality, which might make a tablet better than it is now for bedtime reading…it’s a selling point for the

Fire HD 8 Reader’s Edition (Fire HD 8 Reader’s Edition)

Still, I doubt that would be as comfortable…and it’s nice to only have to charge my Voyage every two or three weeks.

I have to say, though, it stays in my headboard except when I’m actively reading it (or charging it).

When I go out, I only take my Fire.

I want my Fire for other things…although I especially want it for that TTS. I do sight read on it as well…for example, at lunch, I may do a bit of exercise in my office and I do like reading while I do that.😉

I also use my Fire for my morning

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

read (it takes the place of what used to be a newspaper). In fact, here is part of my morning routine, which would only work on the tablet:

  • I check my local news station app, ABC7 San Francisco (especially well designed, I’d say)
  • I check the CNN app
  • I check Flipboard
  • I check my WordPress app (in case comments came in while I was asleep)
  • I use my favorite browser, Maxthon, to check the Amazon Appstore, the Kindle Daily Deal, and usually BoxOfficeMojo
  • I check the IMDb app for news, although I will have seen some of the stories in Flipboard
  • I turn on the family room light

Some other things that I couldn’t do on the Voyage:

  • I read Entertainment Weekly with a Kindle subscription
  • I read Fortean Times in my Zinio app (which I got from the Zinio site…not available directly from the Amazon Appstore, but Amazon allows us to install apps from other sources
  • I shop🙂
  • I use the clock app for a nightstand clock (and sometimes when I’m addressing a group)
  • I check the weather (although I usually use our Amazon Echo ((at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) for that))
  • I check my Google calendar
  • I play music (most often for other people)
  • I print to a wireless printer (I use PrinterShare Mobile Print ((at AmazonSmile*)…it costs about $10, but I got it for free at some point)
  • I check e-mail
  • I read documents, including PDFs…and I’ve used it for PowerPoints
  • I go to other websites

As you can probably tell, if I was only going to have one at this point, it would be a Fire tablet. I use it in many ways, and the reading on it is okay.

I do like reading on the Voyage better…and fortunately, you don’t need to have only one type.🙂

One last point: when the first Kindle EBR was released, it cost nearly $400. Now, eight years later, you can get both a tablet and an EBR for less than half of that…

Now let’s find out about you.🙂

I’m interested here in what you use, not just what you own. It’s also okay with me on this if you use a different brand…say, an iPad instead of a Fire.

Oh, and I’m fully cognizant of the fact that you might use something else…a phone, a laptop, and so on.🙂 Picking “neither” in the poll isn’t meant to suggest you aren’t reading (or consuming other content).

Have other comments about this? Want to share your experiences? 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!

* 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.

Delivery by Amazon

December 5, 2015

Delivery by Amazon

Amazon continues to expand its investment in being the infrastructure of the internet…which includes how things ordered on the internet get around in the real world.

According to this

Business Insider story by Jillian D’Onfro

and other sources, Amazon is buying thousands of trailers…the big part of the trucks you see on the freeway that attach to the “tractor”.

That means you are going to see that familiar Amazon smile on the road with you (and, in the picture in that BI story, something that cleverly looks like the tape they put on packages). Yep, the new speed limit might be 65 smiles per hour.😉

Now, these trucks probably aren’t going to be delivering directly to your house (they are too big for that)…they are likely to be taking things to and from the fulfillment centers.

For now, other companies will be providing the tractors…but I would certainly think that Amazon is looking at doing it all, warehouse to home, in the not too distant future. Once self-driving cars are fully licensed in the USA (which I think, unfortunately, may be some time after some other parts of the world have reaped the benefits of safer, more efficient transportation), I would absolutely expect Amazon to be one of the companies investigating that fully.

That puts Amazon on the roads.

I also think Amazon is going to be on the sidewalks.🙂

I’ve been seeing stories recently about delivery robots, including the Starship:

Wired UK story by James Temperton

The story asserts that the last mile of delivery is the most expensive, which makes some sense. It’s a bit like landing a plane: that’s the hard part. There are things to avoid, and a lot more starts and stops.

The idea is that a truck gets your package close, then a little robot rolls out (sort of like the Chariot on Lost in Space leaving the Jupiter II), and brings the package to your door.

Is that less expensive than a human being doing it?

Probably…a human being has a lot of expenses outside of that block or two…sick pay, vacation pay, and so on.

Even if the robot was marginally more expensive, they would have a big cool factor…and that’s important in this scenario.

Then, of course, there is the air…and Amazon’s proposed drone program.

The biggest thing holding that up (besides propellers)😉 , clearly, is regulation.

This is an interesting

Forbes story by Ryan Mac

about Amazon’s patent for their “sense and avoid” system for drones.

While people could presumably still shoot them down (that has happened with other drones), they might be able to avoid birds, which could be a real issue. Now that is a demo video I would want to see! Picture a big raptor, like an eagle, diving after an Amazon drone while it autonomously avoids the attack!

Step aside, Millenium Falcon!😉

Oh, and while we are talking about videos, Amazon released this

YouTube video

The performance that they show for their drone is so advanced that they have the words “ACTUAL FLIGHT FOOTAGE NOT SIMULATED” on the screen for most of the flight footage.

Let’s see…land, air, and Jeff Bezos is sending rockets to space…the only thing we’re missing is Maritime Prime!😉

Gee, would that mean that one day Amazon would have to worry about pirates of the non-digital kind?

Let me just wrap this up by pointing out that Amazon already does a lot of fulfillment for third party vendors. If I was at FedEx of UPS, I’d be worried about Amazon getting on the road and in the air…but I’m guessing they’ve been worried about that for some time.

Eventually, we may see Target’s packages delivered by Amazon…

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

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

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

Taking away a child’s reading “privileges”

June 11, 2015

Taking away a child’s reading “privileges”

For a child, is reading a privilege…or something else?

After reading this

Publishers Weekly article by Josie Leavitt

I am making a Vulcanian effort to control my emotions as I write this post. Like Mr. Spock, I am using mental discipline to reassert the dominance of my logical processes over my irrational response.

That reaction is one of horror, disgust, even making a mad dash over the cliff towards anger (which is a plunge I very, very rarely take).

What’s causing that?

A parent punishing a “willful” child by taking away reading “privileges”…for a week.

Having raised a child, I understand the frustration that can lead you to try to find another way to influence behavior.

Some people introduce a negative into the child’s environment to try to change something. That could be yelling, for example, or threatening something (sometimes hyperbolic…”Do you want me to turn this car into the oncoming traffic?”).

Another option is to promise something good for good behavior.

A third way is to take something pleasant out of the child’s life.

I remember doing that.

My Significant Other and I agreed that we would never take away our child’s (literal) security blanket (named “Stripes”), and we never did.

One time, though, I took away a favorite videotape (Parachute Express).

Honestly, I don’t even remember if that was effective.

It had a big emotional effect, sure, but I don’t recall if it actually changed the behavior. It wasn’t for a long period of time, and the tape just went into the garage temporarily.

It did change the situational balance in the short term, though, I remember that.

Take away reading?

Never.

I would never do that.

Reading is a positive…not only a huge positive for the child in the long run, but a benefit for the adults even in the short run.

What child is misbehaving while reading a book?

Maybe they aren’t participating in the way you want in something (some families have “no reading at the dinner table” policies…of course, not many families eat that way any more, I think), but they aren’t actively doing something wrong.

I think one issue here for me is the question of how fragile is the desire to read? Could you break a child’s habit of reading by doing something like this, or, like the Jurassic Park dinosaurs, will reading find a way to survive?

Many adults would testify…you can be a serious reader, and then get to a situation where you aren’t. Starting up again is like having been a runner, taking a break for two years, and then trying to run a marathon straight off. Reading takes commitment, it takes effort…you need to withdraw to some extent from other things to do it, and there are a lot of temptations.

The parents in this case weren’t, I’m sure, trying to send a message that reading is bad. However,  for the child, that association seems apparent to me. “I’ve been bad, I’ve been reading, they are taking away my reading, and now, apparently, I’m good…so I shouldn’t read.”

A child (this is a nine-year old) is going to assume that a parent is trying to protect them…if they remove something from the environment, it must be because it is a negative, not because it is a positive.

Children should always be encouraged to read, not discouraged from it.

That’s true even if they are reading things you think are silly (geeks like me really understand that).

Nothing will empower your child more, or make them more empathetic, in my opinion, than reading.

Okay, I think I’m calmed down at this point…my breathing is back to a normal respiration rate.😉

I do want to mention that this child was really into reading

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

(the PW post is written by the child’s bookseller). I love that it is an older series like that that was helping this child build a bright future in and for the world as a reader.

What do you think? Would stopping a child from reading ever be an appropriate action?  Can a guardian make a child a reader? Can a guardian break a child from being a reader…and if so, how hard would that be to do? 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!

* 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.


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