Archive for the ‘Round-ups’ Category

Round up #164: taking names, tax bill

October 4, 2017

Round up #164: taking names, tax bill

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

“With tax, that comes to…$294 million”

I’ve written a lot about the issue of sales tax collection and Amazon in the USA. That eventually got settled (Amazon is now collecting sales tax in every state that has it).

However, Amazon is an international company, and they haven’t been without tax issues in other parts of the world.

As noted in this

recode post by Jason Del Rey and Tony Romm

and other sources, the European Union (EU) basically just said that Amazon owes about $294 million in “back taxes”.

Now, this one is a little weird and Amazon is looking at its options.

The EU isn’t saying that Amazon did something wrong…it’s saying that Luxembourg gave Amazon an illegal deal, from which the e-tailer benefited. This is roughly parallel to Amazon having bought illegal goods, and then they found the owner and they had to give them back.

This does happen with Kindle owners, and it’s one reason I’ve cautioned people against buying used Kindles in most cases. I have said that if you were buying a Kindle at, say, a garage sale, the seller should be able to turn it on for you and show that it can go to the Kindle store.

If they can’t do that, it may have been reported lost or stolen. If you buy it, first, you likely would not be able to register it. Second, if there is a police report, you might be required to surrender it with no compensation to you.

While about $300 million is a lot of money to most of us, it’s not a big problem for Amazon. Operating income in the second quarter of 2017 was $628 million, so this is less than half that. To be clear, that’s income, not profit…but Amazon isn’t a profit machine anyway. They reportedly spent $13.7 billion on Whole Foods, so this is less than 3%.

My guess is that they probably will end up paying the money eventually, but it’s not a big deal. Amazon has already gotten a market advantage out of the deal, and this doesn’t make that go away…

“Next stop…Amazon, Georgia!”

Amazon has a much publicized search going on for the site of its second headquarters. There is a lot of bidding going on, a lot of offers being made.

One city in Georgia, according to this

The Verge article by Shannon Liao

and other sources, has offered to rename itself “Amazon” if they get it.

There are certainly cities and towns named after businesses around the world. They’ve been named after a lot of things…Tarzana, California is named after the character Tarzan (author Edgar Rice Burroughs ((at AmazonSmile*)) used to own the property).

Then, of course, there is Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which renamed itself after the popular game show because the host said that they would broadcast the 10th anniversary show from the first town which did so.

It will be interesting to see how this “competition” ends…

51 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Choose From in October

One interesting thing about flipping articles into my

ILMK magazine at Flipboard

is that I can see how many times something gets “reflipped”. That gives me some gauge of interest, although creatives (which I consider Flipboarders to be) aren’t necessarily the same as consumers.

People do tend to reflip interesting lists of books (putting a number in the title seems to help).

I thought this one:

Here Are 51 New Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Choose From in October by Cheryl Eddy in io9

was quite good, and it did get reflips.

It gives you a sense of the books…and this is a broad category, which can contain comedies, dramas, military-themed fiction, light fantasy…I would guess that small “f” fantasy (including science fiction) covers all of the themes that mainstream fiction does.

What do you think? Would you like an Amazon headquarters to come to your town? What would be the risks and benefits? What would you think of a town named Amazon? I have to say, I wouldn’t immediately assume it was because of the e-tailer…what if it was named “Amazon.com”? Is this different from naming a stadium? The New Mexico town outlasted the radio show…could that happen here? Is Amazon in any real trouble with the EU tax bill? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

My current Amazon giveaway:

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

Giveaway:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/b139e577ee333624

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
    Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Scott Calvin on Amazon
Start:Sep 25, 2017 5:46 AM PDT
End:Oct 25, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

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

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

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

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 #163: books on Fire TV (but no YouTube on Echo Show), Fall’s biggest books

September 27, 2017

Round up #163: books on Fire TV (but no YouTube on Echo Show), Fall’s biggest books

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

“Currently, Google is not supporting YouTube on Echo Show”

This is a big deal, and is hopefully temporary!

Thanks to Richard Lawler and Engadget for

this story

which I then confirmed myself.

The headline on this one is a quotation from our

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

I had said, “Alexa, play a YouTube video”.

The Show usually includes YouTube videos in its “display roulette” (the statements which appear every few seconds on the screen when you have asked it to do something). Do I watch those? Sure, I have: a dog with a fidget spinner on its nose? Yes, please. 😉

However, a bigger deal is probably recipes. I’ve read that one of the main places that people use Echo Shows is in the kitchen, and I assume that’s for something like, “Alexa, show me a how to souffle video”.

Google and Amazon do get along sometimes. 😉 The thing that’s a bit scary in this case is that the issue may be over ads. Google’s business is largely based on advertising, and we aren’t seeing those sorts of ads on the Echo Show. If it’s a choice of ads versus no YouTube videos, I’ll go with no YouTube videos on the Show. Not that I generally object to ads (I have them on all my Amazon devices when available…I’m willing to have advertisers subsidize my purchase price, and I sometimes like the ads)…but on the Show in particular, time matters to me. Every video I’ve watched on there has been short…probably shorter than most YouTube ads.

Could Amazon ever replace YouTube with their own source? It would be hard, because so many people are invested in YouTube as creators. They might have to build a tool which imports the videos, then set up a structure which pays them more money…and convince them that Amazon was going to invest in market share building. Possible, but I think unlikely…even though Amazon does some things with video now.

Stephen “King Midas”

This year, it’s good to be the King…Stephen King (at AmazonSmile*), that is, and that’s likely to continue for the next couple of years at a minimum. 😉

With movies, TV shows, and books, it can be amazing to think back to the beginning, when it was all happening in one person’s mind, with no guarantee that it would be commercially successful (just like most authors).

Here are some of the 2017 and beyond Stephen King happenings (there are a bunch of shorts listed at IMDb for 2017, but I’m not sure what the distribution is on this):

  • The Dark Tower movie (while the budget was a relatively modest $60m, it has only had a domestic gross of about $50m which is about half of the total…it can be considered to have underperformed expectations)
  • The Mist (TV series)
  • It movie (blowing away expectations…with a low budget of $35m, it has a domestic gross of about $268m at time of writing…and is close to half a billion worldwide. Halloween box office should be great for it, with a possible wider re-release at that time)
  • Netflix has an adaptation of 1922 which is getting good buzz
  • Netflix also has Gerald’s Game
  • Audience has a Mr. Mercedes TV series
  • Book: The Eyes of the Dragon (December 19, 2017)
  • Book: Revival (November 28, 2017)
  • Book (with Richard Chizmar): Gwendy’s Button Box (May 16, 2017)
  • Book (with Owen King): Sleeping Beauties (September 26, 2017)

Beyond 2017:

  • Castle Rock TV series (2018)
  • It: Chapter 2 (2019)
  • CUJO (Canine Unit Joint Operations)
  • The Gingerbread Girl
  • The Talisman
  • Another version of The Stand
  • Apt Pupil
  • The Man Who Loved Flowers

Again, that’s just part of what Stephen King has happening.

It all began with words.

Audible books on Fire TV

Alexa on the

Amazon Fire TV 2nd generation (at AmazonSmile*)

(a device which is likely to get a major refresh soon) can both read your Audible audiobooks and do text-to-speech on your Kindle books.

For audiobooks, try

  • Read [title]
  • Play the book [title]
  • Play the audiobook [title]
  • Resume my book
  • Go forward/back
  • Pause

For Kindle books (where the publisher has not chosen to block text-to-speech access), try

  • Read [title]
  • Read my Kindle book
  • Pause
  • Resume my book
  • Go forward/back

I’m not sure what happens if a book has both an audiobook you own and TTS…I assume it will ask you which you want.

I think some people might have wondered why the recent update I covered in

Big software update on my Fire TV stick this morning

included a screen reader function: this is part of why.

If you don’t have a speech-enabled remote, you can use the free Fire TV app on your phone to talk to Alexa.

Oh, you can also now use Alexa while streaming Amazon Music. Once they get us those rumored Amazon auggies (augmented/virtual reality hardware…that’s my term for them, but I’m hoping it catches on), we will have Alexa everywhere. 🙂

Barnes & Noble lists “This Fall’s Biggest Books”

This Fall’s Biggest Books

from Barnes & Noble is likely to be pretty close to the bestsellers. As a former retail manager (bookstore, gamestore), I can tell you that a large part of your survival depends on your ability to predict what will sell well. You aren’t always right (I overbought a Suzanne Somers book, because the actor was local)…but you’d better be right most of the time.

For the most part, these will be the mainstream, “People Magazine books”…

Have any thoughts on these stories you’d care to share with me and my readers? You can do so by commenting on this post.

My current Amazon giveaway:

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

Giveaway:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/b139e577ee333624

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
    Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Scott Calvin on Amazon

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

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

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

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 #162: Amazon’s auggies, should Amazon buy Toys “R” Us?

September 21, 2017

Round up #162: Amazon’s auggies, should Amazon buy Toys “R” Us?

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

Should Amazon buy Toys R Us?

This is just speculation on my part, just kicking around an idea and I’m interested in your thoughts on it.

Toys R Us recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They expect to keep their approximately 1,600 stores open through the holidays (that includes their Babies “R” Us stores).

Bankruptcy certainly doesn’t mean you are going out of business…necessarily. It appears they are massively in debt (I’m seeing five billion dollar figures).

Many articles cite Amazon as a major reason for their troubles…that got me thinking. Should Amazon just buy Toys “R” Us?

They recently bought Whole Foods, and that was expensive, of course. I’ve been saying that I think one of the reasons is for the physical locations…that they may start using them as staging areas for non-Whole Foods sorts of items (like expensive gadgets at the holidays) so they can deliver them more quickly.

Toys “R” Us would give them something like four times the number of locations as Whole Foods did…and in different sorts of neighborhoods. As a former brick-and-mortar retail manager (bookstore, gamestore…), I’ve felt like, certainly in the past decade (TRU is something like seventy years old), the big toy chain has managed their stock pretty well. They move a lot of things on and off the shelves, and even on Black Friday, you don’t tend to see empty shelves or boxes on the floor. My guess is that it would be a good base for an “express fulfillment center”.

Amazon already does a lot with toys (putting out a high-profile list each holiday season, for example), and TRU is a nostalgia brand which did adapt as times changed. It’s famous for easy returns (that was part of their success), and even carries books. 🙂

Amazon could make the Toys “R” Us stores function somewhat like their Amazon Books stores: intentionally set up to be “showrooms”. Customers could interact with toys and electronics, and then (most of the time) order them online from Amazon for quick delivery. There would be some stock on hand for “store to trunk” purchasing, but that wouldn’t be the focus.

It feels to me like a good match, but I don’t know the economics of the possible deal…

News on Amazon auggies supposedly leaks

I’ve been waiting for this!

Regular readers have probably been a bit bored 😉 by my speculating that Amazon was going to get into VAM (Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Merged Reality) in a significant way this year. I’ve been careful not to limit that to any sort of idea of Amazon creating VAM hardware. I would count it as a “hit” if they just added a Prime Video app to the Samsung Gear/Oculus store. (I’m in VAM pretty often, and the main thing I do there is watch Hulu or Netflix…that’s where I think the real disruption is right away, with expensive big screen TVs).

However, Augmented Reality (much more than Virtual Reality…with AR, you still see the world around you with overlays…with VR, your reality is “replaced”) is, I believe, about to become a common part of many people’s lives. “Ambient computing” is another revolution people cite, but the two can merge. “Ambient computing” means computing which is always available…you don’t say, “Now I will turn on or log on to a computer”, you just ask a question or interact in some other way.

That’s how the

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

works, for the most part.

You just ask a question to “the air”, and get an answer.

The just announced

Fire HD 10″ with hands-free Alexa (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

will be a tablet with hands-free Alexa as an option.

Augmented Reality Ambient Computing (ARAC…I just made that up) would be a game changer.

There needs to be a breakthrough in wearability, but basically, it would be able to put images into what you see, and you would be able to interact with it easily.

An initial level would be it overlaying items of your choice, things which wouldn’t interact with the environment, but I think we are past that.

When I use my auggies (that’s my term for VAM enabling hardware) now, it already interacts with the environment. Using an AR app called

StickAR

I can virtually put mustaches, glasses, or full faces on actual people in real time, that will move with their heads.

ACAR would mean that I could ask for something whenever I wanted. For example, as a vegetarian, I could be in a grocery store (maybe an Amazon-owned Whole Foods) and ask it to show me which products on the shelf are vegetarian. Green lines might “appear” around the foods that fit my request.

The next level would be for the artificial intelligence to come more into play, so that it already knew I was a vegetarian and put those green lines on for me (even if I hadn’t thought to ask for them)…but that’s getting ahead of the game.

This widely-cited

Financial Times article by Tim Bradshaw and Leslie Hook

says that Amazon is working on “smart glasses” that would be Alexa-enabled.

The idea, at least, would be to be able to interact with Alexa any time, anywhere.

The article suggests Amazon might have something innovative: bone conduction audio.

What’s that?

Rather than sticking headphones into or over your ears, you “hear” the audio through soundwaves traveling through your bones. Personally, I have a “thing” about having my ears touched…it really creeps me out! I do use earbuds, but I’m always aware of them.

Having a bone conduction device would mean that you could hear what was going on around you easily when you weren’t invoking Alexa…and still hear when you were.

You could do the conduction with a glasses type device…the stems of the glasses would do the conduction.

However, this could be a lot more than that…the lenses (if there are any) could be used to display information to you, as I suggested with the green lines.

There are a lot of interesting rumors out there: a Google Home Echo Dot type device, an Amazon homecam, and we know that there will be standalone auggies (no phone, no computer tether) this year (at least, they are scheduled to be released).

It’s going to be an interesting holiday season! I would bet on more Amazon hardware announcements soon (Fire TV, maybe Kindle EBRs) and service announcemnts…I’m thinking with the next week. However, November 20th is the 10th anniversary of the Kindle…I’m going to put together something for that (and invite you to contribute), so they might tie something really innovative into that anniversary (like the auggies).

Happy birthday…

I’ve been tweeting out “On this date in geeky history” on  my @TMCGTT account, and today (September 20) is George R.R. Martin’s birthday! George R.R. Martin born at TMCGTT.

It’s also the birthday of

Upton Sinclair (at AmazonSmile*)

who I will eventually get into TMCGTT…like many authors who are best known for works which might be assigned in school, Sinclair also write geeky works (including the Gnomobile).

What do you think? Should Amazon buy Toys “R” Us? Would you be interested in Amazon’s auggies…or anybody’s? What would they have to do before you would be willing to try them? Is it your birthday? 🙂 Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

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

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amaz on site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Round up #161: Harry Potter in Motion, 105 years of Tarzan

September 10, 2017

Round up #161: Harry Potter in Motion, 105 years of Tarzan

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

It’s a hit!

The latest version of Stephen King’s novel, It

official site

has set a number of records at the box office (just to point this part out: it looks like it will, by itself, be about 75% of the box office of the top twelve this past weekend, according to this

BoxOfficeMojo story

Stephen King is having a good year. 😉

That’s despite The Dark Tower adaptation underperforming many people’s expectations.

On paper (you remember paper, right?) 😉 that didn’t seem likely. It’s a very long book…shouldn’t it do better as a premium cable series? There already was a memorable visible medium version, with one of my favorite actors, Tim Curry. So, this is a remake. The book came out more than thirty years ago…so it was published before most of the most frequent moviegoers (age 25-39…I think that’s the right group) were reading books.

Still, it succeeded…and well! We have to yet see if it has legs (if it will maintain box office). A B+ on Cinemascore, and an 86% “tomatometer” and 89% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, it will likely maintain some momentum. Those aren’t top of the scale, but are quite good.

There should be a bandwagon effect, and assuming it can stay in the theatres through Halloween, it will get a boost then.

Bottom line: books still make great movies. 🙂

Oh, and they are talking about a sequel…would that mean a new book from Stephen King? Perhaps not…

Happy birthday, Tarzan!

Speaking of books which have been box office gold (and dross…there have been a lot of Tarzan movies), September 10th is 105 years since Tarzan was first published (according to ERBzine). It was an important book and series in literature…one which is sometimes now not included in school libraries and curricula because of concerns about insensitivity.

A crushing loss…Terry Pratchett’s unpublished works steamrolled

I don’t even crack the spines of mass market paperbacks when I read them, and seeing old books “repurposed” into art or furniture makes me cringe.

So, it wasn’t easy for me to read that, as reported in this

Scroll.in article by Claire Squires

and many other sources, that a hard drive belonging to the recently deceased science fiction author Terry Pratchett ( at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*), which may continue something like ten unpublished novel, was literally crushed by a steamroller.

That would be horrible…but it was carrying out the author’s wishes.

While I lament the loss of any literature to the world, I do also believe it is up to the author. We’ve had those discussions on this blog about copyright and public domain. Do books belong, in some way, to the society in which they were created, or do they belong to the creator?

If you believe the former, then would you have thought it was appropriate for the government to seize the hard drive? Do you secretly hope that other copies of the manuscripts exist…and that they are eventually published, presumably contrary to the author’s wishes? Maybe when they would have fallen into public domain?

I think it’s a bit of a tough one…

Harry Potter and the Kindle in Motion edition

Just a quick note on this one…

What would make you buy a new edition of Harry Potter?

Well, this one

Harry Potter Kindle in Motion (at AmazonSmile*)

is different…and is Harry Potteresque. 🙂

It has pictures in it…which move.

I’ve read a Kindle in Motion book (partially), and it’s…and it’s an interesting gimmick. 🙂 It can be an enhancement, but honestly, I also find it a bit creepy when the ads on my Kindle Fire start moving. However, if the appropriate things in a Harry Potter book moved, that could be cool!

What do you think? Feel free to let me and my readers know your opinion on any stories in this post (or other e-book/Amazon stories) by commenting on this post.

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

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

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amaz on 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! :) 

Round up #160: Alexa expands, AWF Lockers arrive

August 30, 2017

Round up #160: Alexa expands, AWF Lockers arrive

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

Amazon Lockers arrive at Whole Foods

That didn’t take long!

On the second day of business for Amazon Whole Foods (they don’t call it that…I just like the initialism of AWF), there was an Amazon Locker bank in one near my work. That doesn’t mean they are everywhere yet, but this is a great development.

We use Amazon Lockers quite often. It’s a safe place for us to have packages sent: we have actually had Amazon packages stolen from our doorstep (it’s a problem in the neighborhood), so we normally have them sent to my Significant Other’s work. However, that often adds an extra day to us getting it (it goes to central receiving first), and, well, there are some things you may not want to open at work.

Now that we have two locations (one at Safeway, walking distance from home), one near where we work (I work different places, but this is one of the places I go the most), we can have holiday packages sent to the two different ones. My SO’s packages could go near work, mine could go near home, or vice versa.

Amazon Lockers are also great when you do returns! I definitely see this being valuable for offices in the area.

They are simple to use. Go to your account at Amazon, then to Your Addresses. Add a new address, and you’ll see a link for the lockers. You can search by address, zip code, landmark, or name. I saw the name at the Whole Foods, so it was very easy. Interestingly, when I put in the name of the one I wanted, it also showed me two in Australia…it’s international!

Then, when ordering, we just select that as an address. If it’s too big or can’t be sent there for some other reason, it will let us know.

They send you a code and a scan image when it arrives, then you have three days to get it.

Oh, and as I predicted: it’s not a neon orange. 🙂 While I have some color vision deficiency, it looks to me like a muted green…in the picture in this post, it looks browner than it actually is to me.

Alexa everywhere

While we aren’t seeing that much innovation in Amazon hardware lately (not like we did when Kindles were first released), they are greatly expanding their software and partnerships.

As Toni Reid, Vice President, Amazon Alexa said in this

press release

they’ve added dozens of features recently.

That press release was about being able to send music to specific Alexa devices…even to multiple devices at the same time (by naming a group, like “downstairs”). This really enhances what you can do with it, and should allow for “surround sound” type effects.

Eventually, this could be combined with the ability of the

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

to know when you are there (it sleeps when there isn’t activity in the room, wakes up when you are there) to have the music “follow you”. You could be listening to a podcast like Len Edgerly’s

The Kindle Chronicles

in the upstairs bedroom, have it pause (automatically…no intervention on your part) as you stepped out of the room, and then resume again when you got to the downstairs family room.

I think we’ll get more of that sort of awareness from other Alexa devices eventually…that’s one major area of development in technology right now, better world sensing.

After that press release, there was already another major announcement in this

press release

Amazon and Alexa are partnering with Microsoft and Cortana so you can invoke the other one’s digital assistant on their devices. When this is done, you will have the ability to call up Alexa on Windows 10 devices, and Cortana on your

Echo family (at AmazonSmile*)

devices.

This might get me to use Cortana more. 🙂

I compared the four major digital assistants at the time in this post:

Alexa now does follow on questions!

I like Cortana, but it just hasn’t been as convenient for me to use.

Now, ideally, Cortana and Alexa would share information and their strengths, but I don’t see that happening. If Cortana knows that so-and-so is your Significant Other, I don’t expect it to tell Alexa that. 🙂

The way Alexa is improving its reach, I’m expecting that eventually, when I buy a new pair of shoes, it will say “You haven’t paid for these shoes yet,” in Alexa’s voice, instead of just old-fashioned squeaking. 😉

I don’t think we are done with hardware innovation at Amazon by any means, even though they’ve been doing partnering in that area (like in phones) in addition to Amazon branded devices.

We should get some very interesting announcements this month on hardware…at least, that’s my guess. 🙂 The original

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

which I call the tower, has been on a 44% off sale…and is now indefinitely sold out. I do think there is a pretty good chance that means we get a new model announcement soon.

I also think we could see a VAM (Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Merged reality) device from Amazon this year, although my “official prediction” has only been for a big move, which could be only software/services. I’m feeling the lack of Prime Video in VR currently. I’ve started watching the latest iteration of The Tick (my favorite previous one was the cartoon version…I didn’t enjoy the 2001 Patrick Warburton version as much…I think Warburton’s dry humor may not have been enthusiastic enough). I would watch it at work when I workout at lunch if it was available…which means I won’t watch as much of it as quickly.

Hmm…running out of time this morning (I wrote more on these topics than I expected, so a few headlines):

What do you think? Have you seen Amazon Lockers at your AWF? Have you seen Amazon devices for sale there (I haven’t yet, but I’ve had people mention it)? What hardware innovations would you like to see in Amazon’s next announcement? What software? Will you switch between two digital assistants on one device? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

My  current Amazon Giveaways:

We Can Do It! giveaway

That’s for a chance to win my sibling’s book:

We Can Do It!: A Problem Solving Graphic Novel Guide for General Physics (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

The Collected I Love My Kindle Blog Volume 1 (at AmazonSmile*)

That collects the first 101 posts in this blog. I didn’t stop at 100 because I wanted to include all of my Sherlock Holmes story

A Kindle Abandoned

That’s a random giveaway, and will end in eight days. I do ask that you watch a twenty second video of one of our dogs when you enter…you know, we’re hoping it goes viral. 😉 Ideally, it would show up on the  Echo Show (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)…that would be so cool!

Here is the link:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/de03be17bb4d0ecb

and the details:

Start:Aug 28, 2017 4:42 AM PDT
End:Sep 5, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 8 winners.
Requirements for participation:
Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
Watch a YouTube video
18+ years of age (or legal age)

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

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

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

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 #159: Brian Aldiss, Amazon device sale

August 23, 2017

Round up #159: Brian Aldiss, Amazon device sale

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

I was lucky to get this shot yesterday: it was overcast where I was in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the sun was only visible for about five seconds when I took it (just in the right place at the right time):

Scre

I zoomed in on it on my phone, and then did a screenshot, which is why it’s a bit fuzzy. I tweeted this, approximately: “That’s no moon, that’s a space sta– never mind, it is the moon.” 😉

Brian Aldiss has reportedly died

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

was literally a Science Fiction Grand Master (that’s an actual title bestowed by the SFWA…Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and an inductee into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

Aldiss was not really an author who mainstream readers were going to embrace…quite simply, the work was often imaginative, even weird. That didn’t stop it from being adapted into movies a number of times, but a moviegoer who only sees a few movies a year wasn’t likely to see Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound or Brothers of the Head (conjoined twin rockstars…but much more than that), although many saw Steven Spielberg’s A.I., based on an Aldiss short story.

I’d say that the Helliconia series is probably the best known now.

Oh, and Aldiss was also a successful anthologist.

Definitely one that we geeks claimed as our own.

I just checked, and fortunately

Frankenstein Unbound (at AmazonSmile*)

is available as part of

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

at no additional cost to members.

If you are a KU member and want to try Aldiss, I’d start there. It’s actually the first thing that comes to mind for Aldiss for me, and it’s probably not what you expect.

Happy birthday, Ray Bradbury!

Today (August 22nd locally as I write this) is

Ray Bradbury‘s

birthday.

There was a time when Bradbury was one of the ABC’s of science fiction: Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke.

They were quite different, though.

Isaac Asimov was the polymath, the one who knew everything about everything. It was widely thought that Asimov had written a book (often one of the best on the topic) in every major section of the Dewey Decimal system, but I believe it turned out there was one missing. I think of Asimov (who I saw in person once, but didn’t know personally) as big-hearted and jovial.

Arthur C. Clarke was the scientist. Clarke was rational, even when writing later on in life about “oddball” topics. Clarke was quiet and wry, not like the larger than life Asimov.

Bradbury, though…Bradbury was the poet. Not that Bradbury only wrote poetry or that the other two didn’t write any, but even when writing prose, it was usually poetic. The Martian Chronicles, for example, is hardly hard science fiction like Andy Weir’s The Martian. Bradbury was the one of the three who got the most mainstream respect (including a special Pulitzer citation), and I sometimes doubted that the “science fiction author” label actually belonged there. A great writer and a geeky writer, certainly, but even Fahrenheit 451 is much more about people and society than a projection of technological and scientific trends. I’m not diminishing Bradbury, of course (or saying that science fiction writers can’t be great)…it was just interesting to me that the author seen as one of the best science fiction writers by the mainstream wasn’t typical of the traditional and narrow definition of the genre.

Amazon devices sale

Amazon’s

Back to School Sale (at AmazonSmile*)

includes significant discounts on Amazon Kindles, Fire Tablets, and especially on Echoes.

One of the biggest discounts is on the

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

which is an absolutely giant 44% off, making “The Tower” only $99.99! That’s in either black or white.

I’ve seen it reported that this goes until September 4th, but I’m not seeing that on the product page. I do think it’s about time for an Echo “refresh”, a new model, so this could be designed to sell down existing stock.

Two other Echo devices are also on sale:

Each of the

Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers) (at AmazonSmile*)

except for the top of the line Oasis is $20 off.

As far as the

Fire Tablets (at AmazonSmile*)

go, the Fire 7 is $39.99 ($10 off), the Fire HD 8 is $59.99 ($20 off), the Fire 7 Kids Edition is $20 off ($79.99), and the Fire 8 HD Kids Edition is $99.99 ($30 off).

Not on sale? The Fire TV family…because, you know, students never watch TV. 😉

The blossoming of quality TV often has its roots in books

Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, Thirteen Reasons Why, American Gods, Big Little Lies…the buzziest TV series nowadays are often (but not always) based on books.

Streaming television, which allows binge-watching, may be enabling this. Books are long and complicated, and it’s tough to adapt them to a movie (which is only a few hours long at most generally). Even a series of movies may find it a challenge. Even a short streaming series season is usually at least eight episodes of an hour each.

Another factor is that streaming television isn’t as restricted as broadcast television in terms of content…it is regulated differently. Netflix and HBO can have more nudity, violence, and “obscene language” than ABC or CBS, which gives it the flexibility to more closely capture some novels.

I think it also helps that the deep pockets and Emmy recognition of Amazon and others has drawn more movie stars to the small (in some cases, very small, as in SmartPhones) screen. Movie stars and creators, because of the freedom and resources.

That, in turn, helps attract more money.

Movies based on books are still part of the cinema landscape, of course, but The Dark Tower wasn’t exactly a blockbuster…and we’ll see how It does. I watched an “experience” of a preview for It in virtual reality yesterday. It had some scares and was creepy, but Tim Curry (full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Tim’s) was creepier. 🙂

We’ll see how it goes…


Bonus: want to see one of our dogs do something cute and smart? “Treadmill, Elf!” at YouTube

My current Amazon Giveaway:

We Can Do It! giveaway

That’s for a chance to win my sibling’s book:

We Can Do It!: A Problem Solving Graphic Novel Guide for General Physics (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

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

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

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

 

 

Round up #158: bye-bye unlimited storage plan, brick-and-mortar Amazon

June 9, 2017

Round up #158: bye-bye unlimited storage plan, brick-and-mortar Amazon

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

Brick-and-mortar Amazon stores

A reader sent me a link to this

The Shatzkin Files: First impressions of an Amazon bookstore

article by Mike Shatzkin.

It’s a knowledgeable piece about one of Amazon’s brick-and-mortar bookstores. This one is in New York: I’m anxiously awaiting the opening of one very near me…and I’ve been hoping to get to talk to the manager before the official opening (I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager myself).

I thought this was a really interesting observation in the article:

““Page Turners” is a section of “books Kindle readers finish in 3 days or less”. The only other brick-and-mortar retailer that could even entertain presenting something like this is Barnes & Noble.”

Amazon has the data to do that…although they do it with books without actual pages (Kindle books). With a paperbook, they can’ tell how quickly you read it, of course. For awhile, people called the equivalent of “page turners” “button mashers”, but now, your device may not even have a visible button. 🙂

Clearly, people are intrigued with Amazon opening physical stores. Here is another article, this one from

The Motley Fool

which has not been particularly high on Amazon.

They are giving you three reasons why Amazon might open a physical bookstore like this…this was my thought on that getting close to two years ago:

Who would be foolish enough to open a new brick-and-mortar bookstore in the Age of Amazon? How about…

These are not normal bookstores…they don’t have to survive by selling the books in the store. They can use the store to get you to buy the books online, and that works.

Here’s the

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

My sibling’s first murder mystery was featured in the Seattle store:

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

I wonder if it is in all of them?

Writers answer…

I thought this

Salon article by Teddy Wayne

was a lot of fun! These were creative questions asked of several authors (more than one answers the same question). I particularly like this one: “Without summarizing it in any way, what would you say your book is about?”

At some point, at least a decade ago, movie and book reviews often became summaries, rather than what I consider to be reviews. I’ve gotten to be pretty good at skimming over the summary parts…it doesn’t mean you can’t say anything about the plot or the characters or the situation, but please don’t take away the joy of discovery for me. 🙂 I know not everyone agrees with that, but I like that Wayne made that restriction.

“Yesterdata…all my files were at Amazon…now it looks like that my plan is gone…oh, I believe, in yesterdata”

According to this

TechCrunch article by Natasha Lomas

Amazon is sunsetting its unlimited Amazon Cloud Drive plan. You should read it, because there is a lot to it…but here’s one key short excerpt:

“Current Amazon Drive customers who have the old unlimited storage plan will keep it through its expiration date. After which, those with auto-renew turned on — and less than 1TB of data stored — will be automatically renewed into the 1TB plan/$60pa.

While those with auto-renew turned off, or who have more than 1TB stored, will have to visit the Manage Storage page to opt in to one of the new limited storage plans.”
Now, I don’t think that many people have more than a terabyte of data, but some of my readers may. The unlimited plan has only been around for a couple of years, and they didn’t say you’d have it forever, but some people will be disappointed.
Prime members will continue to have unlimited photo storage.
SOCIAL ACTIVISM THROUGH BOOKS

I liked the concept of this

BOOKRIOT article by Cecelia Lyra

The author sets it up as a game:

“…it’s time to play Match Three Modern-day Issues with a Favorite Work of Fiction.”

I wouldn’t have picked the same books, but that’s how these things go. 🙂

For example, one problem listed is human over-population. First, I question whether this is really particularly a current issue. Birthrates are way down in some countries…Japan is one which has been concerned that their Millenials aren’t having children at the same rate as their parents. You end up with an upside down economic pyramid. Who supports seniors when there aren’t young working people?

Second, how could you not name

Make Room! Make Room! (RosettaBooks into Film) (at AmazonSmile*) by Harry Harrison

in this category? It’s the basis for Soylent Green, and it’s all about human overpopulation.

As I said, I like the idea of matching up current issues with classic books…it can show a continuity of concern which can be reassuring . Mine just would have been different, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 🙂

What do you think? What older book would you recommend people read to relate it to a modern issue? Have you been to an Amazon bookstore…and if not, would you want to go? What question would you ask authors? Do you have a terabyte of data at Amazon? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.


My current Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway for And Then There Were None!

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

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

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

===

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

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

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

Round up #157: Subscribe with Amazon, Echo Look, declining e-book sales?

April 30, 2017

Round up #157: Subscribe with Amazon, Echo Look, declining e-book sales?

Oh, clever, clever Amazon!

Some people are afraid of artificial intelligence, and what it will be able to do in the future. Even famous, tech-savvy people have expressed concerns.

I write about robots in one of my other blogs,

The Measured Circle

I define them there this way:

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.


Artificial intelligence is definitely part of that…eventually, of course, it will be finding new areas, not replacing what we’ve been doing, but complementing our abilities.

The advances are happening quickly. It includes the way Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Merged (VAMM) Reality works, and it includes self-driving cars. By the way, I have sent notes to newspeople who used to use the term “driverless cars”. That is really a misrepresentation, and is certainly scary. A self-driving car has a driver…it’s just not a human driver. No one would want a car that had nothing driving it at all! I’ve been noticing that I’m hearing “driverless cars” less lately, which I think is a good thing.

There is, though, a big barrier to artificially intelligent robots helping us (even more than they do now) in our daily lives.

It’s not technological: those issues are being solved.

It’s social.

Humans have to accept these AIbots.

Now, I’m used to dealing with that in my “day job”. I’m a trainer, and I train medical people on their software (I do more, but that’s the really relevant point right now).

The hardest part is to get people to want to use it.

I’ve always defined training based on that: changing behavior. Education is part of it (you can’t do something if you don’t know how to do it), but training is much more merely giving people facts.

I remember somebody wondering why I was tired at the end of teaching an eight hour class. “All you do is talk,” they said.

I said, “Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to find ten people…just the next ten people you see. I want you to get them all on the next bus which is coming. Some of them don’t want to get on that bus, and some of them don’t want to get on a bus at all. That’s what I do all day: get people on the next bus that’s coming.” 🙂

Amazon has the same problem. They are building some great buses…hey, some of them may even fly! However, the average person may not want to get on a flying bus that pilots itself. 😉

The

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

was a great success, but there was a lot of…discomfort from some folks about having it in the house. They didn’t like a device which could listen to them, and which communicated with Amazon in the cloud. When our adult child visited, we unplugged the Echo.

Listening is one thing, but one rapidly expanding area is computers sensing the world.

That used to be one of the big  labor divisions between humans and computers. Computers couldn’t see (or hear/smell/taste/touch) the world, so that was sometimes our role…data entry into an Excel spreadsheet, for example.

Alexa (the “parse-onality” of the Echo) can already hear us.

Can you imagine how creeped out some people would be if Alexa could see us?

The idea of a computer eye watching you in your home is classic science fiction dystopia stuff.

No question that Amazon would like their AIbots to be able to see you in your house…and eventually, to smell/taste/touch, too.

It can be done…our phones see us often, and some of have computers that do, as well (that’s how facial recognition works, for one thing, but when a phone’s camera autofocuses, it is using a type of vision).

How are they going to get customers to accept an “all-seeing eye” in their homes? How can they not be reminded of HAL 9000…or Sauron? 😉

You make the eye seem innocuous, even silly. You market it to people who are the most comfortable with their tech looking at them.

In short, you have it take selfies. 😉

That’s exactly how Amazon is introducing the

Echo Look

Amazon calls the Echo Look a “Hand-Free Camera and Style Assistant”.

See? It’s just a camera. It’s just an assistant. Nothing to worry about here, folks.

I don’t believe that Amazon has spent all this time and money building a device with depth-sensing cameras and clearly some AI just to have it tell you which is the better outfit of two you already own. Oh, sure, it does what a regular Echo does, too, but so do so many other things now.

They make the point that it’s going to keep learning.

Absolutely.

Let me speculate

It will eventually recognize you…won’t that be nice?

Third parties will develop skills. It could recognize when someone comes in the house it doesn’t know…and take a picture and send it to you. It could yell at the dog  (by name) when it tries to get on the table.

It could inventory items in your home…you know, for insurance purposes.

When you’ve gone shopping and come home, it could say, “Hey, did you have any luck? Show me what you got!”

Robots are rapidly learning to understand our expressions. I fully expect that the Echo Look (or its descendants) will know if you are happy or sad or angry.

Let me be clear: I’m not afraid of this. I want my robots to fully understand me. I’m looking forward to computers that seemingly know what I’m thinking and feeling, and know when to help me and when not to help me.

I get, though, why that makes people uneasy…and based on the introduction of the Echo Look, Amazon does, too.

One more thing: this roll-out is like the Echo was originally: it’s only for

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

and you have to request an invitation. It will be $199.99…once available.

Maybe Amazon should hire Gloria Gaynor to sing the jingle, “I Will Subscribe” 😉

Subscriptions are already a big part of the Amazon retail model.

We have many in my family, from books with Kindle Unlimited to movies and music through Amazon Prime, magazines and blogs, to everything from dog food to floss through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save programs.

Now, Amazon is opening up offering subscriptions to other people:

https://www.subscribewithamazon.com/

I suspect this may lead to some really bizarre things that no one actually uses…and that should be fun! “It’s the Snail of the Month club!” “Subscribe to Random Word!” “Unlimited Vowels (up to six at a time)”. “One American Coin Each Month…only $49.99!” 😉

More seriously, this and Echo Look show how Amazon innovates…oh, and I suspect there may be some sort of VAMM subscriptions, too. 🙂

Um…CNN? E-books are real books

Sigh.

I’ve always had a problem with people referring to physical books as “real books” versus e-books. The book is what the writer writes (and the editor edits), not the container in which it is purchased.

This

CNN post by Ivana Kottasova

has this provocative title: “Real books are back. E-book sales plunge nearly 20%”.

Really? How did you measure the sales, since so many of them now are done by individuals, often through Amazon (but not always), which doesn’t report sales numbers?

Oh, I see…the publishers’ associations (in the UK, literally the “Publishers Association”, in the USA, the Association of American Publishers). I’ve published books in the Kindle store…and the AAP doesn’t know about my sales. 😉

Another argument in the article is that the sales of EBR (E-Book Readers) are down…again, Amazon doesn’t report those numbers precisely, but even so, e-books are not just read on EBRs. They are read on tablets, on phones, even on laptops and desktops. I’d want data to show that, if, in fact, EBR sales are down, that means e-book purchases are down.

My intuition (and I don’t have the data) is that more e-books are being read than were being read three years ago…counting free ones, of course.

I do have to say, though…decent clickbait headline. 😉 It made me want to read the article…

Gosh, that all sounded too negative for me! I’m going to recommend you read the article…maybe you’ll find it more convincing than I did.

Update: here’s another article, which I think may have a more…informed perspective:

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot: “With E-books Down, E-tailers Are Still Far From Out”

Perhaps read them both, and then you can decide.

If you have an opinion on it, feel free to let me and my readers know what you think about that, or Echo Look, or Subscribe with Amazon, by commenting on this post.

LAST HOURS TO ENTER

I recently concluded a giveaway for

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

by my sibling, Kris Calvin

and there were ten winners. I’m doing a new one for the same book:

1 winner

Requirements for participation:

  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Kris Calvin on Amazon (you’ll be notified when future books are added to Amazon…I think that’s the only contact you get, although I’m not positive)

Giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/c2fb235f3cf97ced 

Start:Apr 24, 2017 6:06 AM PDT
End:Apr 29, 2017 11:59 PM PD

Cryptozoology A To Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature by Loren Coleman (at AmazonSmile*)

Note: this is the paperback. For some reason, I couldn’t make the Kindle book for this one public (like I could with Kris’ book). I really wanted this one to be public, because the whole goal is to promote Loren Coleman’s medical expense fund GoFundMe campaign. I’ve never met Loren personally, and we have no shared business interests, although we have had some correspondence. I’ve read Loren’s books for decades, and admire how the cryptozoologist/Fortean helps others, including being the Director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Maine (although in so many smaller ways, too). It’s sad to me that someone who has done so much is having trouble dealing with medical expense (due to multiple operations). That doesn’t stop Loren from going to the Bigfoot festival in Willow Creek, California tomorrow, but for people who have enjoyed and benefited from Loren’s work, the medical expenses fund is an opportunity to do a thank you. Literally over 300 people have entered in about a day, and they’ve all tweeted (as a requirement to entry) a link to the fund’s page. I do not ask people to endorse the fund or to ask other people to contribute (or for them to contribute themselves)…I’m just hoping to raise the profile so people who might want to contribute and don’t know about it get the word.

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
  • Requirements for participation:
    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
    • Tweet a message

Giveaway: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/303e4f5c496116a2

Start:Apr 27, 2017 9:45 AM PDT
End:May 4, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

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.

Round up #156: Amazon Cash, traveling librarian

April 14, 2017

Round up #156: Amazon Cash, traveling librarian

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

Traveling school librarian

I loved this

CBS News story

about John Schumacher, who is a traveling school librarian.

That’s right…a librarian who goes from school to school.

I love the attitude expressed in the piece! Schumacher advocates for “…letting kids read the books that they want to read”.

Regular readers know that I’m a big advocate of libraries, especially school libraries. A book in a school library made a big difference for me:

A book that changed my life: The Maybe Monsters

I genuinely believe that if the choice was between having to close a school or having to close a library, I would want the library to stay open…with at least one literacy program in it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t value schools, I do. It’s that someone free reading seems to me like the best thing in the world. I don’t have the data to back that up…just intuition. 🙂

Should audiobooks be used in the classroom?

Personally, I don’t like listening to audiobooks unless I’ve sight read the book first (then, I may really, really enjoy them). I just don’t like the narrator (be it actor or author) interpreting the characters for me.

On the other hand, I listen to text-to-speech (software which reads the book out loud to you) a lot…for hours a week during commutes, typically.

Many of my readers like “immersion reading”, which combines an audio version of the book with the sight version…it “reads” along with you.

There are a lot of myths about audiobooks and text-to-speech…some people think it is a “lesser” way to “read” the book…and they put “read” in quotation marks, just like that.

This

EBOOK FRIENDLY article

by the ever interesting Ola Kowlczyk features an infographic which examines several challenges to using audiobooks in the classroom…and offers a refutation.

This columnist will help you find a book

I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, so I’m used to people asking me which books they should get.

I always found that a bit of a challenge. Someone would be hard pressed to recommend a book to me based on what I’ve already read. Well, not really…some sorts of books are more obvious than others for me (I like non-fiction that challenges traditionally thinking, for example), but I read a lot of different things.

Someone would say to me, “What do you recommend for an eight-year old girl?” I always wanted to know more…they are quite different from each other. 🙂

I did enjoy this

“Match Book” advice column by Nicole Lamy

in the New York Times.

This isn’t Amazon’s

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

program. 😉 That one lets you buy a Kindle book at a discounted price if you previously bought the paperbook from Amazon…sometimes.

Instead, this is like an advice column. People write in asking for book recommendations, and it’s written like a matchmaker column.

Amazon Cash

I wonder what it would have been like if Amazon had been around when I was a kid.

My parents would have been fine with me buying books with my money…but how would I have done that?

As a kid, I didn’t have a credit card. People would have given me Amazon gift cards (they still do), but I would have wanted to buy books with my own allowance money and other ways I earned money.

I did do that, actually. I used to buy these very cheap books about keeping exotic pets…each one was well under a dollar, and I still have them. Actually, I think some extra big ones might have been a dollar, but you get the point.

Well, you actually can buy books (and other things) from Amazon with cash…although not directly.

With the

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

What happens is that you get a code from Amazon, and then you go into a participating store (CVS does it), show them the code, give them the cash, and it acts just like a gift certificate.

What does it cost?

Nothing!

I think this is a cool program…I can see it happening with something like a lemonade stand.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that we already do this without a code, sort of.

My Significant Other and I have a (literal) piggy bank. We put our change into the piggy bank…since we rarely shop with cash normally, we work things on purpose to get cash back. 🙂 We usually round up our purchases to an even amount at, say, the grocery store, and that gives us some coins (“pig money”).

I have to say, they sometimes look at us like we are witches. 😉 So many people can’t imagine doing the math, so if the total is, oh, $32.71, and I ask for $17.29, they think it’s irrational…they have no idea why I picked that number.

Sometimes, they see the total and smile…at other times, I just say, that we like to do the math and round up…and they may still be baffled. 🙂

Then, from time to time, we take in the pig money (and it can be heavy!) and bring it to a Coinstar machine at our local grocery store.

When you do that, you can get an Amazon credit instead of cash for your coins. When you do cash, they take a “counting fee”. With Amazon, they don’t.

We used to do this when we didn’t have much money, and we have a “pig day”, and go to a movie and get lunch.

Now, it’s just fun stuff of one kind or another. This last time, when my Significant Other was visiting our now adult kid in the Boston area, I suggested they use the pig money there. Our kid had a great idea: they took our kid’s friends to a meal. 🙂 Nice!

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!


My current Amazon Giveaways:

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

by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Two winners

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

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

===

Blitzwolf VR Headset (at AmazonSmile*)

in honor of “Virtually Mike & Nora”

One winner

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

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

===

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

by my sibling, Kris Calvin

Ten winners

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

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

===

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

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

1 winner

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

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

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

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

Round up #155: taxes in Europe, whispering to Alexa

March 8, 2017

Round up #155: taxes in Europe, whispering to Alexa

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

“Let me whisper in your microphones…”

Did you know you can whisper to your

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

?

Sometimes, I go to bed after my Significant Other, and that means I’ll be turning off “Everything” (as I’ve taught our Echo to refer to the lights). If I speak normally to my Echo, it might be too loud and disturb my SO’s sleep. So, one night, I just tried whispering…and it worked! Of course, Alexa responded, but that wasn’t too bad…and I can just turn the volume down before bedtime.

Alexa is quite robust in understanding voices and decent at accents. One of the things that voice assistants will eventually learn is to recognize individual voices…but for now, it’s better that it is less precise (and therefore, able to understand more people).

11 Well-Read Facts About the Library of Congress

This was a fun “listicle” on mental_floss about the Library of Congress

post by Michele Debczak

It’s about the Library of Congress…and notes something I recently covered about Thomas Jefferson reinvigorating the LoC after it was burned by British troops in the War of 1812. By the way, that war (and future history) would have been quite different if they’d had modern communications tech (like cellphones). As I recall the story, the famous Battle of New Orleans (“In 1814, we took a little…along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp”), which helped make Andrew Jackson a future President, took place after a peace treaty had been signed…but the combatants didn’t find out about it in time.

It Can’t Happen Here

There is often talk about whether or not a particular science fiction novel “successfully predicted the future”. I sometimes see it written as the novel having “gotten it wrong”. Well, first, science fiction isn’t futurism…it’s fiction. It usually isn’t trying to predict. It may be trying to extrapolate, but it isn’t like Criswell, proclaiming what will happen.

There is a type of novel, though, which is a cautionary tale…and there couldn’t be a much clearer title than

It Can’t Happen Here (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

a 1935 work by Sinclair Lewis.

This was during the rise of fascism, and the book explored the idea of a charismatic politician gaining power in the USA.

The Kindle edition is selling quite well right now…with some people seeing it as predictive.

There are books that have predicted some things…I would say one of the most fascinating is Morgan Robertson’s book, which I wrote about here:

The Titanic foretold? Futility,or The Wreck of the Titan

Undervaluing teen books?

I read books intended for lots of types of audiences, including children and teenagers. I think some of the best writing I’ve ever read was putatively for children.

Teen book author Lauren Oliver wrote:

Why Don’t People Take Teen Books Seriously?

in Bustle. It presents a rational argument that there are so many teen books, they shouldn’t all be condemned as the same.

It reminds me of Sturgeon’s Law, which is presented a lot of ways, but the story goes that someone said to famous science fiction author that “90% of science fiction is trash”, and Sturgeon responded, “90% of everything is trash.”

I do with Oliver hadn’t used a (very mild) obscenity towards the beginning of the article…most people wouldn’t mind, and I’ve read some quite strong words in young adult novels.

No tax cut for e-books in Europe

The European Called of Justice ruled that a lowered Value Added Tax on paperbooks needn’t also be applied to e-books.

Yahoo! Finance article by Waverly Olville

The intent of the recently lowered taxes was to promote reading…but the court says that e-books are different enough that it doesn’t apply.

Literature rebuses

I had fun with these 17 rebuses that are clues to famous book titles:

BuzzFeed article by Robin Edds

I got them all, but a couple of them were a bit challenging.

Here, I’ll throw in one myself: what book title does this represent?

enutroF

Youngest, Y-O-U-N-G-E-S-T, Youngest

I thought this was really cool!

Edith Fuller has qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Edith is the youngest person ever to qualify.

How young?

9?

7?

Would you believe 5?

Yep, five years old!

Many five year olds aren’t even reading smoothly…and yet, here is one who may outspell competitors three times as old.

KGO article without a byline

HarperCollins celebrates an anniversary

While Edith Fuller gets credit for youth, HarperCollins, one of the Big 5 publishers, is celebrating a milestone…200 years!

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

Congratulations to them! They’ve been a leader in a lot of ways, and I think some people underestimate the robustness of some of the tradpubs (traditional publishers). They’ve seen many, many changes…not all of them will survive, and they may have to seriously adapt…but I think that some of the Big 5 will still be significant companies twenty years from now.

The publisher has an interesting anniversary site:

http://200.hc.com/

I particularly liked looking at the archives. 🙂

Have any thoughts on these stories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

All aboard 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.


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