Archive for the ‘Round-ups’ Category

Round up #305: Amazon Underground, BAMM

August 28, 2015

Round up #305: Amazon Underground, BAMM

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

Books-A-Million revenues down slightly, loss nearly doubles

According to their

press release

Books-A-Million, the second largest chain bookstore in the USA (after Barnes & Noble) had comparable store sales down .3% compared to the same period in the previous year. That’s not a large amount…they blame it on megahit books the previous year.

However, their net loss went down a lot more:

“Net loss attributable to Books-A-Million for the second quarter was $5.8 million, or $0.41 per diluted
share, compared with a net loss of $3.0 million, or $0.21 per diluted share, in the year earlier period.”

If their revenue was down .3 percent, and their loss was down nearly twice as much, it could be that their costs have  risen.

It’s also important to note that their book sales were probably down more than the .3%: as CEO Terrance G. Finley said, “…this quarter we saw strong performances in our cafés and in our general merchandise departments.”

Kindle  Fire HDX update

My

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

updated this evening to 4.5.5.

No new no major features that  I can see…it says it has “general improvements and performance enhancements”. We see that statement when Amazon does  a bug fix. If I notice anything new, I’ll let you know.

No more Free Apps of the Day (FAOTD)? Welcome Amazon Underground

I was surprised not to see a free app of the day yesterday. Well, today I know why. It’s probably due to

Amazon Underground (at AmazonSmile*)

which is Amazon’s new Android shopping app.

This is another huge benefit for Amazon customers, and another striking innovation from Amazon.

Apps for which you would normally pay are free…actually free…to you.

Amazon pays the app publisher on a “play per minute” basis, somewhat similar to the way Kindle Unlimited works now, where they pay based on page read.

You don’t need to download the app, though…there are lots of “actually free” apps as part of AU (Amazon Underground) at the Amazon Appstore, where we would normally have seen the free app of the day:

Amazon Appstore (at Amazon Smile*)

Check it out! There are a lot of interesting apps!

The 471 Underground apps include

OfficeSuite Professional 8, which I use frequently for work. It’s normally $9.99…but you get it free, and even in-app purchases are free!

I’m going to have to check it out more…feel free to share any ones you find that you think are especially cool.

Enjoy!

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.

Round up #304: One Murder More giveaway, swarming Amazon

August 22, 2015

Round up #304: One Murder More giveaway, swarming Amazon

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

Amazon under attack

I know, I know…Amazon is always under attack. ;) That’s what happens when you are a leader, and when you position yourself in the market as doing things differently.

You could also say it was predictable that there would be a bigger pushback when Amazon started making a profit. When they aren’t, you can say your company is smarter than they are and that they don’t have to do things like Amazon. If they can be “different” and make a profit, that can be a problem for a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of another company.

Whats been happening?

There is still a huge buzz around the article I discussed here:

New York Times describes Amazon as a “Bruising Workplace”; Bezos responds

I’ve seen lots of things, even an article comparing Jeff Bezos to Chairman Mao (not the usual despotic leader you see referenced on the internet…maybe they are just trying to avoid getting a ticked under Godwin’s Law). ;)

Then, there is Authors United, a group formed during the Hachazon War (the negotiations between Amazon and the publisher Hachette), which includes some really well-known authors (Nora Roberts, Scott Turow…).

According to this

The Digital Reader article by Nate Hoffelder

and other sources, the group has sent a letter to the USA’s Department of Justice (DoJ) asking them to investigate Amazon for anti-trust activities.

Interestingly, the letter is on the Authors Guild website, not the Authors United one:

https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/a-call-to-investigate-amazon/

The Authors Guild has fought with Amazon before…and with other people. One of its major functions is legal advocacy.

The DoJ, of course, went after Apple and five of the major publishers over e-book pricing…and at the time, some people accused them of being influenced by Amazon to do so.

The DoJ will look at the documentation.

As I understand it, it isn’t enough to dominate a market…it will have to be more than that for action from the DoJ.

Then there were comments from Washington Congressperson Suzan DelBene, when she and Nancy Pelosi visited Amazon, just days after the New York Times article.

They were actually there because Amazon supports an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) bill…they were on the same side.

However, they both had to address the “brutal” article.

DelBene said:

“I’ve supported legislation on family leave, access to childcare, equal pay for equal work,” DelBene said. “Again it’s about making sure people don’t have to make decisions on taking care of their family and going to work, or being sick and going to work, so these are policy issues we’ve been talking about a long time.”

Neither legislator directly accused Amazon or confirmed the report…but they weren’t refuting them, either.

You know who isn’t attacking Amazon?

Customers and investors. :)

The New York Times article came out August 15th.

The stock rose slightly on the 17th (the next trading day), and dropped only slightly the next two days. Yes, it went down quite a bit Thursday and Friday…but the whole market did.

I can’t present good stats on customers not changing their buying habits because of it…we’ll see what happens at Amazon’s next financials. I haven’t seen a lot of negative social media coming from regular buyers of Amazon…

I’ve changed Alexa!

Yes, my

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

coverage has largely moved to my other blog, The Measured Circle

Amazon Echo category at The Measured Circle

although I do link to the articles from here.

However, I was really excited about this, and wanted to share with you…this blog is part of the context. :)

I started a hashtag: #TeachAlexa, where I suggest questions (or comments) and answers (or responses) that Alexa should know.

Amazon responded to one of my postings in their Twitter feed…and Alexa knows it now!

Q. “It’s a bird…it’s a plane..”

A. “It’s Superman.”

Someone has already posted a video online of the exchange. :)

How is this blog part of the context?

I don’t think Amazon has ever mentioned ILMK in a tweet. I don’t think I’m owed that, although ILMK has been one of the most popular blogs in the USA Kindle store for years.

Honestly, I was blown away by the mention!

More writing days?

I really need to start taking more PTO (Paid Time Off) days to write! I’m still earning more vacation days a year than I take, and that’s going to build up too much…eventually, I’ll max out.

I’ve been saying I’ll take a day a month without my Significant Other here, so I can get some more writing done. Things have been super busy…I’m keeping up, but barely.

We’ll see…I’m a pretty disciplined person, but it’s hard for me to take PTO.

Australian parents’ group protests Amazon giving kids books

Sigh.

In Australia, Amazon is giving a choice of a book rather than a toy with a Happy Meal.

According to this

Los Angeles Times article by Michael Schaub

The Parents’ Jury is asking regulators to stop the practice.

You know, because it’s better for kids to get toys than books?

I suppose it’s nice that they think books are so tempting to kids…

National Foundation of the Blind protests Amazon

Amazon has an interesting relationship with disability issues.

In some ways, they have been a quantum leap forward. Including text-to-speech on the Kindle 2 (at no additional price) was big.

Allowing publishers to block  it (after they complained) may have been unavoidable, but was a step backwards.

Amazon does do a plug-in that allows screen reader software to read the books even if the publisher blocks the access…another step forward. There is a link to download it on this page, along with additional information about accessibility:

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

Then, there was the Kindle DX.

Amazon had introduced the larger screen EBR (E-Book Reader), with an announcement that included deals with major textbook publishers.

Well, organizations, including the National  Federation of the Blind, took legal action against it…because non print challenged students got more benefit from them than print challenged students:

Flash! Arizona State University and blind organizations settle lawsuit

Now, one of my readers, David Goldfield, alerted me to this NFB blog post:

https://nfb.org/blog/vonb-blog/we-must-stop-amazon-fail

The post is…strongly worded.

Here is a short  excerpt:

“…a vote for this deal is an outrageous act of deliberate discrimination against blind students…”

That vote is coming soon…August 26th.

This is a perfect example of one reason I do the round ups. I would want to investigate this more before I would do a full article, but I wanted you to be aware of it before the vote.

Thanks, David!

Giveaway of my sibling’s book

50 copies of my sibling’s book

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

are being given away through Goodreads

One Murder More on Goodreads

It’s only the hardback, but I think some of you might be interested in that. At the time of writing, 288 people are in the drawing…the drawing goes through September 17th.

On Goodreads, its rated 4.13 out of 5 stars with 31 ratings.

On Amazon, it’s 4.8 stars with 52 reviews…quite impressive!

The Kindle version is $4.99 at time of writing.

Good luck!

What do you think? Have any of these accusations changed your opinion of Amazon? Do you think they’ll impact Amazon in the future? 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.

Round up #303: Bezos sells half a bill, Braille SmartWatch

August 9, 2015

Round up #303:  Bezos sells half a bill, Braille SmartWatch

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

Braille SmartWatch to read e-books

What an astonishing advancement!

While text-to-speech is certainly very valuable for the print disabled, and a relatively small percentage of that group read Braille, I’m really amazed by the

dot Braille SmartWatch

It will reportedly cost under $300…and allow Braille readers to read e-books silently on their wrists!

I’ve asked them if it will reach text format e-books…it does read texts, so that’s possible. Even if it requires Braille prepared books, I still think this is great. :)

Thanks to Engadget for the heads up on this story!

Boooooooks  change braaaaaaaains!

We all intuitively feel that books change brains for the positive. I think most of think that it is especially true of children getting early exposure to books.

Well, it’s nice when science backs up those intuitions. :)

In this

THINKPROGRESS post by Sam P.K. Collins

they reference a study from Cincinnati’s Children Hospital showing, through the use of fMRIs (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, that children with more literature friendly homes actually have higher brain function. The article talks about some efforts in the area of trying to increase early childhood exposure to reading.

First Amazon Echo/Alexis round up in The Measured Circle

I recently decided to move the bulk of my coverage of the

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

to another blog of mine, but I said I would link to the stories here for ILMK readers who want to follow that information.

So, here you go: :)

Amazon Echo/Alexis Round up #1: the new news, ParAlexanoia

Jeff Bezos sells about a half a billion dollars of Amazon shares…but no biggie

According to this

Bloomerg Business article by Spencer Soper

Jeff Bezos, CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Amazon has sold about $500 million in shares of the e-tailer.

Don’t worry, though…Jeff Bezos does that from time to time. :)

100 Kindle Romances for $1.99 each

Through August 14th (in the USA) you can get:

100 Kindle Romances for $1.99 each (at AmazonSmile*)

Interestingly, they appear to also all be available though

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

Enjoy!

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.

Round up #302: BAM goes private, Dr. Lao

July 14, 2015

Round up #302: BAM goes private, Dr. Lao

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

You can now send books to multiple devices at the same time

We are now starting to get more robust content management at

Manage Your Content and Devices (aka Manage Your Kindle) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I just noticed a big step forward!

When you go to a book and choose the action of “Deliver”, you get checkboxes for all of the compatible devices registered to your account. So, you can check several devices and deliver the same book all at once**!

That’s a nice change.

There is no limit to the number of devices you can have registered to an account (although you can’t do it for commercial purposes).

That’s great for a family. Suppose you get

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

when it is published tomorrow.

It’s certainly possible that several people on your account may want to start reading it right away (it’s going to be hard to avoid spoilers), and this makes it easier.

I should point out that while you could have a thousand devices registered to the account, usually only six of those devices can have the same book at the same time…if the number of “simultaneous devices licenses” is different from that (some books have fewer licenses, some are unlimited), it will say so on the book’s Amazon product page. This one doesn’t say anything so it’s six.

Nice to see things are still improving!

The Anderson family is buying back Books-A-Million

The second biggest USA bookstore chain is Books-A-Million…they are staying open late for Go Set a Watchman (see above), which is what you want a physical bookstore to do (I’m a former bricks-and-mortar bookstore manager).

It’s been public, but the original family is buying it back.

AL.com article by Kelly Poe

That’s not a bad thing, or an indication of trouble. My intuition is that customers won’t see much of a difference, at least for a while…we’ll see, though.

How big a deal is it to buy the second largest bookstore chain?

$21 million.

Amazon probably sneezes $21 million. ;)

Still, I think there is a place for physical bookstores, and I think many people think of BAM as having more…personality than Barnes & Noble. I’m more confident in genre specific, experience heavy stores making it, but if I had to choose between BAM and B&N keeping a bookstore chain going for the next five years, I think I’d go with BAM. I think B&N has a much bigger name and will continue to exist in some form (certainly online)…and let’s just say they may be happy that “books” isn’t part of their name…

Amazon’s Q2 2015 financials will be announced on July 23rd

It feels to me like Amazon is in a bit of a transition.

Yes, it’s a huge company, and those are hard to turn in a new direction…but Amazon’s direction has been intended to evolve for a long time. It’s not a case of them suddenly deciding to do something else, I think…but of reaching a point they intended.

I’ll be listening in particular to hear if they say anything about

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

and the

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

The former (Amazon’s subser, subscription “all you can read” service) has been around long enough to start giving us some real data.

The latter hasn’t…but interest may be becoming clear.

A recommendation: The Circus of Dr. Lao

I was looking at my main Wish List, and I do have a few books on there that I’ve read before…and which I still own in p-book (paperbooks).

Why would I want a book I already own?

In some cases, it’s because I want it for reference…looking things up in an e-book is a whole lot easier than looking it up in a p-book.

I generally don’t re-read books, although I’ve been doing that with the original (Wizard of) Oz books.

One of the main reasons I want to have them…is so other people can read them. :) We have a “guest Kindle”, and I would love to have Dr. Lao be one of the books available to people while they are here.

A while back, Amazon tried a thing where you could create lists of Amazon products and write comments about them, similar to what they do with movies and TV shows (and actors and such) at

IMDb.com

Well, I’d done a few lists…and when that feature apparently failed, they converted those lists to Wish Lists.

One of my lists was “(re)make this”, which was a list of things I thought should be made or remade into movies or TV shows.

This is what I said about Dr. Lao:

“This is a wonderfully sardonic book which has been cited by writers (including Ray Bradbury) as an inspiration for them. A circus comes to a small town in Arizona, and people don’t see what they want to see, but what they need to see. The glossary in the back is a marvel. It was adapted in an Oscar-nominate​d 1964 version (it also won a special Oscar for William Tuttle for make-up), and I do like that version…but it had a certain George Pal (the director) glossiness. Returning to the source material and amping up the unpleasantness could make for a new cult favorite movie.”

No question that this is relatively expensive (over $10), and it’s not in KU. However, you might want to add it to your Wish List, so someone else buys it for you…or track it at

eReaderIQ

where they will let you know (for free) if it drops in price an amount you choose.

It will also be interesting to see what they do on

Prime Day (at AmazonSmile*)

on Wednesday.

I could even imagine them doing a 10% off on any e-book…although the Agency Model might mess with that…they’d have to be careful about how they do it.

What do you think? Will BAM stick around? Are you ever reluctant to recommend a book because of what it costs? Do you buy books just to loan them to other people? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

** I just wanted to say that, while I wouldn’t have used it, I figured some people thought of “one fell swoop” in this context. Well, originally, and still the way I use it, a “fell” swoop was a bad thing. It’s when a bird of prey swoops down and gets more than one prey animal at a time, like two mice. In the old days, “fell” was a synonym for evil, and that’s what it means here (from Macbeth by the way).

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 #301: the value of reading, literate robots

July 12, 2015

Round up #301: the value of reading, literate robots

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

I finished The Martian

Thank you to everyone who participated in

Pick my read #1

I asked my readers to suggest a book for me to read. I then took those suggestions (well, the ones which fit my criteria…see the link above) and polled my readers as to which one I should read.

The winner was

The Martian (at AmazonSmile*)
by Andy Weir

Well, I just finished reading it. :)

When I’ve polled my readers about what they like in this blog before, my writing reviews wasn’t high on the list…I’ll probably review it on

Goodreads

Regardless of what I thought of it, I had a lot of fun having you pick my read! I’ll probably do that again at some point…although it did result in me spending more for a book than I typically do. That’s in part because we have

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

and I feel like it is only good use of our money to try to read things from there first (as well as books I already own and haven’t read yet…and gifts, of course).

To thank Dave, who had suggested it, I let him pick any other book in the poll which I would then gift to Dave.

The choice was

The Milagro Beanfield War (at AmazonSmile*)
by John Nichols, illustrated by Rini Templeton

I could do this polling thing every month if I limited it to KU…I’d rather not do that. Maybe sometimes I’ll limit to KU, sometimes not.

Thanks again!

Copyright for Literate Robots

I’ve started reading a fascinating paper (well, PDF) by James Grimmelann

Copyright for Literate Robots

It argues that non-humans reading books under copyright are not infringing on that copyright. That may become increasingly important as artificial intelligence systems read. This wouldn’t have been a copyright issue, but IBM’s Watson, as I recall, read everything (or a lot of stuff) in Project Gutenberg.

By the way, I had quite a long discussion with a relative recently about artificial intelligence (or more specifically, learning systems). I was told by people that I had done a good job explaining it.

Essentially, this very smart relative with a lot of programming background did not think that the way people were talking about learning systems was possible…that a human would have to program every step of the way.

I think part of that issue arose because of not thinking of having thousands of programs running at once (which is now possible).

I think where some people have a fear of AI and learning systems comes from not understanding how they work.

The main point is that they don’t set their “goals” themselves. You set a goal, and the closer they get to that goal, the more they tend to repeat the behavior that was successful.

Let’s say you have 100 program running at once. You don’t know the details of each program, just that they are supposed to run a mathematical formula.

What you want is to get a percentage.

So, you start out by asking a question to which you know the answer…let’s ask for the percentage that two is of five (40%).

The 100 of them give you an answer, and 30 of them got the answer you wanted.

You tell the system which ones were right.

The system pays more attention to those, as you ask repeated percentage questions.

Maybe the next time, 20 of those thirty get it right…but so did five of the seventy which were wrong on the first one.

You repeat this with, oh, fifty questions.

By the end of fifty questions, we’ve identified a core group of ten programs which have gotten every percentage right.

Now, we feel comfortable asking those ten programs percentage questions.

That’s pretty much it. :)

Of course, you can add mutation into it. The programs get changed a small amount from time to time…that may result in a program having a new way to get percentages which is perhaps faster.

We never need to understand the programming step by step for our “neural network” to become valuable to us.

Similarly, you could have programs write, oh, haiku.

With enough programs trying enough ways to combine things, and with a human evalution system, we could probably eventually develop a neural net that would produce decent haiku.

I know, I know, I’ve really simplified it. One of the main points, though, is that the computers don’t set their own goals.

Go Set a Watchman

The first time publication of Harper Lee’s

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

can be pre-ordered for July 14th in the USA (the day before “Prime Day”).

It has been blowing up the sales…and blowing minds. ;)

It is the #1 paid book in the USA Kindle store right now!

Not bad for a book more than half a century old!

Reactions to the first chapter, which you can read now, have been…interesting. People have to remember when it was written (if you are judging it by today’s standards, you may be surprised), and that this book was apparently massively re-written to create

To Kill a Mockingbird (at AmazonSmile)

It’s possible this will be the biggest e-book of the year.

Look for major price wars…and Amazon’s Prime Day is the day after its release.

Prime Day

Speaking of

July 15th is “Prime Day”: will there be deals on Kindles?

one of my regular readers and commenters, Lady Galaxy, shared a possibly valuable piece of advice from a local consumer reporter. It was suggested that you put everything you want to track on an Amazon Wish List. It’s true that when you look at your Wish List, you can see if prices have changed…but I’m not sure how quickly that updates. If there is a lightning sale for ten minutes, for example, is that enough time for the price change to appear on the Wish List? Not sure…

Infographic on the value of reading

One of the great blogs out there on e-books (and reading generally) is EBOOK FRIENDLY. In this

post by Ola Kowalczyk

It has an infographic of things that probably every reader of this blog knows intuitively, but it’s nice to have data and specifics (although I don’t see the sourcing).

Just one: the average American reads one book a year: CEOs of Fortune 500 companies read 4-5 books a month.

“First Click: Amazon, not Apple or Google, holds the key to the smart home”

I still find many people who don’t know what the

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

is.

I think this will be one of the most significant tech stories of the year.

It does tie into books. In fact, I’m listening to my Echo read Dracula right now…an audiobook, read by (among others), Alan Cumming and Tim Curry.

Some of my readers might be surprised that I’m listening to an audiobook, given my preference for text-to-speech. However, I have also said that I don’t like to listen to audiobooks…unless I have read the book before, which is the case here. This, for me, is like seeing a movie of a book. I just don’t like the reader (whether the author or an actor) interpreting characters for me. If I’ve already read it, that’s different.

Here is an interesting

The Verge article by Thomas Ricker

that gets it.

It’s focus is on home automation and the Echo (which is a big deal for a relative of mine with physical challenges), but it has many other uses.

I’m still waiting for it to be able to read me books through text-to-speech (I would watch a lot less television if that was available), but I think we are still in the very beginnings of the capabilities.

The Echo has been opened up for developers, and we’ll see all sorts of amazing things from that before the end of the year, I think.

I recommend the site

http://lovemyecho.com/

for staying on top of Echo developments…particularly, since the author of the blog, April L. Hamilton, is actually developing for it!

This post, in particular

Echo Apps & Skills Are Coming

talks about it from the developer’s point of view…and what’s up with what’s coming (in a general way).

This

YouTube video

shows an Echo playing 20 Questions…

Let me give you another example of using it in a book-related way.

I can ask it, “What is so-and-so’s latest book?”

It worked for Harper Lee and Stephen King…but not Loren Coleman or Bufo Calvin. ;)

You can also say, “Alexa, Wikipedia [author’s name]” to get information. After it reads a brief bit, you can say, “Alexa, tell me more” to get it to keep reading.

You can do that with pretty much anything Wikipedia has…that should work for Loren Coleman, but since there isn’t a page for me, it won’t work for me.

Similarly, you could Wikipedia a book or a character.

Hm…I wonder when they will tie it into Goodreads and/or Shelfari (Amazon owns both)?

50 Kindle Books for $2 each

This is apparently now a monthly features, since it says, “Deals are valid through the last day of each month.”

50 Kindle Book Deals for $2 Each (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

There are always bargains on books at Amazon!

5 reasons to wish Amazon an unhappy birthday

I may love my Kindle, and think (as both an author and a reader) that Amazon has brought positive things to the world of literature, but not everyone agrees.

You might find this

Salon post by Scott Timberg

interesting.

What do you think? Amazon…hero, villain, or some of each? Do you buy bargain books at Amazon…or do you only get free ones and more expensive ones (the latter when you especially want the book)? Are you looking forward to Go Set a Watchman…or are you afraid that it might change your relationship with To Kill a Mockingbird? Feel free to tell me and my readers what yu 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.

Round up #300: best books, books on buses

June 25, 2015

Round up #300: best books, books on buses

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

That’s right…300!

Wow! This is the 300th round-up! The first one was on October 24th, 2009. Let’s see, that means I have averaged…just about one a week (one every 6.9 days). That seems about right. I have a lot of fun doing them, and they are often a way for me to make a quick mention of something which I can’t (at least at that time) expand into its own post.

There are also times when it lets me let you know about something before I feel like I’ve really explored it. I might hear about something complicated, or controversial, and not be ready to give an evaluation…but still want you to be informed.

Amazon’s Best Books of the Year So Far

Amazon has announced their

Best Books of the Year So Far (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

They didn’t just name ten or twenty…here is the list:

  • Best Books of the Year So Far
  • Amazon Editors’ Top 20 (15)
  • Amazon Editors’ Top 20 Children’s Books (20)
  • Arts & Photography (20)
  • Audiobooks (16)
  • Biographies & Memoirs (19)
  • Business & Leadership (20)
  • Children’s Books (100)
  • Comics & Graphic Novels (16)
  • Cookbooks, Food & Wine (20)
  • Crafts, Hobbies & Home (20)
  • Fashion (15)
  • History (19)
  • Humor & Entertainment (20)
  • Kindle Singles (20)
  • Literature & Fiction (16)
  • Mystery, Thriller & Suspense (19)
  • Nonfiction (18)
  • Romance (13)
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy (17)
  • Teens & Young Adults (20)

Their top book overall?

H is for Hawk (at AmazonSmile*)
by Helen Macdonald
4.2 stars out of 5 | 384 customer reviews

Two updates

On my Kindle Fire HDX, it’s clear that there has been some (minor?) update to the Amazon Kindle reader. I’m at 9.9, and I’ve noticed a couple of changes.

When I tap the top middle of the page to bring up the menus, a little thumbnail of the cover now appears.

The other thing is that the text-to-speech (something I use every day) play arrow is on the right when it used to be on the left.

Doesn’t sound like much, but that’s all I’ve noticed so far.

The other update was to my

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

It looked like a system update…but it was showing Voice Input. I’m not noticing any difference, and I did test it with a few things. Still, it’s nice to see the Fire Phone still getting love. ;)

Books on Buses

I love it when adults read, but I do think it’s important and special when people take steps to encourage children to read. According to this

WDBJ7 by Jean Jadhon

the city of Roanoke, Virginia is doing a summer reading program on city buses.

There will be book bags at the front of the buses.

Parents (hopefully, legal guardians) with children can take a bag. It will have five books in it…and they can even take a book home, sort of like a library. They would bring it back later.

I think that’s great!

This was my favorite part of the whole article, though:

“I love reading books!” children chanted as they stood outside the Roanoke City Main Library Monday.”

:)

The future is bright…

Amazon Echo mini-round up

The

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

went on public pre-order yesterday. I will be covering it as part of this blog, but yesterday’s post just on it was an anomaly. :) A few notes…

  • The return policy wasn’t on the product page…I was assuming it was thirty days, like Kindles and  Fires, but it isn’t. It’s 180 days! That’s right…about six months
  • There are now over 20,000 reviews…still average 4.5 stars
  • Somebody asked, so I checked: yes, it works with a synthesized voice. That can be important for people with certain challenges who need to use a synthesizer
  • I liked that it knew the appropriate response to, “Alexa:  Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?”
  • There are still pop culture questions and answers I think it should know…and I may set up something to inform Amazon. For example, I asked it today, “Alexa: who knows what evil lurks within the hearts of men?” The appropriate answer, of course, is “The Shadow knows…” followed by a maniacal laugh. I think people would really like it when the Echo said something like, “Ha haha haha” for the laugh :)

When is an average not an average?

I have to say, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this.

According to this

CNET article by Ben Fox Rubin

and other sources, Amazon is changing its review system.

Certainly, the current system is flawed. There have been a lot of problems with…biased reviews, even ones which have apparently been purchased. For example, a company might give you a free copy of a book, if you are willing to write a five star review of it.

Amazon’s approach is going to be to use “machine learning” to put more weight on more popular and more recent reviews.

In terms of moving them up higher on the page, I have no problem with that. We’ve had those “most useful” reviews for a while.

What concerns me is that those weightings will affect the average of stars (which I often report…I did it on the Macdonald book above, for example).

I’m going to guess that the specific algorithm is not going to be revealed…so we will no longer know what 4.5 stars really means.

I’d be okay with it with the option to see either one…unweighted or weighted.

I’d also like to see an option to see the difference between Amazon Verified Purchase reviews and non-verified…that seems like useful data.

However, let’s just make something up. :)

Let’s say (and again, I have no reason to think these are the numbers) that reviews posted in the last week are worth twice as much as older reviews.

A book had five reviews which were all three stars more than a week ago.

Now, the publisher gets five people to put in five star reviews all at once.

The older reviews are worth 15 “points”. The new ones are worth 50 points (five reviews of five stars times two).

That makes the average 6.5 stars…on a scale of 1 to 5. :) Presumably, they’d round down to 5 stars.

It would appear the book had a perfect score, despite earlier mediocre reviews.

Now, it could certainly be argued that the newer reviews may be more valid. What if the publisher updated the book, fixing mistakes, and even adding new material?

I just don’t like that I’ll never know what the average actually means, and that I won’t be comparing apples to apples. They may all use the same algorithm, but one review getting votes as useful (when those votes might actually be because the review is well written) could raise the average on a book over another equally liked book.

What do you think? Do you like the new review system? If not, what should Amazon do about the review system, if anything? How about books on buses? Can you think of other ways for cities to encourage reading…and does the choice of the books by the government concern you? What are your best books published in 2015 so far? 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.

 

Round up #299: Alice in translation, sorry we don’t publish books by people like you

June 16, 2015

Round up #299: Alice in translation, sorry we don’t publish books by people like you

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

Restoring a p-book (paperbook)

One reason I like e-books is they don’t decay.

No question, some of the p-books I own are in much worse shape than when they were first published. In some cases, I bought them that way. In others, despite how careful I am, they have decayed

I have paperbacks (decades old) literally held together with rubber bands.

Some of my Oz books, more than a century old, seem quite fragile.

While a digital file can become corrupt, generally, when I download an e-book from Amazon (from the Kindle store or my archives/Cloud), it’s in pristine condition.

There is (or should be) a rush around the world to digitize p-books to preserve them.

This

EBOOK FRIENDLY post by Ola Kowalczyk

includes a video of a craftsperson doing an amazing job restoring a really damaged p-book.

We have to realize that this beautiful work doesn’t reconstitute the pages, glue, and other materials. Books are printed on different quality materials, and some simply decay more rapidly than others. When I talk about $50 novels, I expect them to be printed on long-lasting materials. Regardless, this restored book is looks glorious!

Correcting an imbalance…through further discrimination?

It would be hard to argue that males aren’t overrepresented in many areas of publishing (especially in mainstream reviews and prizes).

In this

Independent article by Sophie Lewis

a Senior Editor pledges to publish no books written by men in 2018.

Is that the right way to go?

Not getting published is less of an issue now than it used to be…at least, not being traditionally published. You have the option to independently publish.

It’s funny…I would be more accepting of this, I think, if the company was founded to only publish books written by women. Since it wasn’t, this is a take away.

Echo check-in

The

Amazon Echo

Amazon’s ambient computing device, still says it will be in stock on July 8th. I also still think that may be a general public release date for the device…or, at least, an open pre-order date.

I got an e-mail from Amazon recently asking me about participating in Echo customer feedback, including focus groups and even house visits. They wanted me to agree to it during the next six month period. That gave me pause for a minute, that they might be waiting six months to release it…but that would miss the holiday season, and I don’t think that’s happening. :)

I also asked people in the Amazon forum, and several people said they got similar e-mails some time back.

I’ll still guess early July.

They also asked me a lot of questions about how I use it and what improvements I would like to see. One of my main request was to have the Echo control our

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

My Significant Other currently finds it complex to navigate to our Fire TV and make a choice. It would be so much easier to say, “Alexa, show me Master Chef on Hulu+ on Bufo’s Fire TV.”

Well, AFTV News,  in this

post

came up with a very complex workaround that allow you to control your Fire TV right now verbally with the Echo.

If you are not afraid of a multi-step geeky process, it’s an interesting read…and even the author calls it a “proof of concept”.

I suspect we’ll get an easier method before or at the same time as the general public availability.

Something recently added? Alexa will now tell me the time of sunset and sunrise, which it didn’t do before.

One of my regular readers and commenters, Harold Delk, told me about this blog:

Love My Echo
oo
It’s an interesting blog by April F. Hamilton (The Digital Media Mom).

The information seem good, and the site looks good in terms of design.

I wonder if the name is just a case of parallel creative evolution. :) I’ve had that happen, where I independently came up with something that someone else did…I think “phablet” is one of those, for example. There was also a time that two of us wrote a piece on Amazon purchasing the English language as a joke…that happens.

I do think there may be some confusion, though…although April’s site is much more graphically intense than mine. ;)

I was also amused when someone who had read my very first book jokingly suggested I write one on the Echo…apparently unaware of my books since that one and of this blog. :) I’ve already mentioned that I might write something on the Echo, although I’ve been super busy lately. It would probably be entitled, “Love Your Amazon Echo: the ILMK guide to Amazon’s Ambient Computing Device,” or something pretty similar (that would parallel an earlier book of mine. I would probably include a notice that it isn’t connected to April’s site, though…even though that seems a bit…yes, I’ll go with ironic, since I’m amused by it. ;)

Alice Through the Linguist’s  Glass

Alice in Wonderland is turning 150 years old…and  this is a great

Wall Street Journal article by Brenda Cronin

about all of the translations!

Not just into other European languages, but into hieroglyphics…even emoji!

I think the fact that our adult kid is a linguist might influence me on this, but that’s one of the most fun articles I’ve read in some time!

What do you think? Have you read a book in translation…and ever felt it was as good or even better than the original?  Have you ever read or seen anything in Esperanto (one of the Alice translation languages)? I have, by the way, and no, I couldn’t understand it. Are you holding on to any really damaged copy of a p-book for sentimental reasons? If you think there is unfair discrimination against women in the publishing world, what, if anything should be done about it? 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.

Round up #298: Geeking out over books, well read cities

June 5, 2015

Round up #298: Geeking out over books, well read cities

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

Amazon’s Most Well-Read Cities in America

I’m happy for a lot of reasons to live in the San Francisco Bay Area…not least because it is such a book-loving place. We have a rich literary history, there are still lots of brick-and-mortar bookstores (including specialty ones), and, well, you see a lot of people reading. :)

In Amazon’s fifth annual “Most Well-Read Cities in America”:

press release

two cities in the area are in the top twenty: San Francisco at #7 and San Jose at #16. San Diego, also in California, comes in at #13.

What was #1?

Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered. That might be a coincidence, but it isn’t entirely clear to me how they developed the ranking (despite what they say in the press release…it just isn’t enough information about their methodology).

They also do some pull outs of more data…most interesting to me was that Washington, D.C. bought the most p-books (paperbooks)…more than Seattle. Has having Amazon in the city made them more likely to use Kindle books…or is D.C. just slow to adapt (which they can certainly be in other areas of life)?

“Just yell through the door!”

I just thought you might enjoy this one.

We had some people doing yard clean-up (ivy removal, tree trimming, and so on).  I told the person in charge about our

Amazon Echo

I told them to just yell through the patio door to ask “Alexa” for any music they want. :) They thought that was so cool! They started a Prime playlist, and it was loud enough to hear as they worked. I made sure they knew how to make it stop when they left, though.  ;)

Summer time…and the reading is easy

Amazon has set up their summer recommendation section:

http://www.amazon.com/summerreading (at AmazonSmile*)

It’s a pretty interesting selection, with some target marketing (by age group, for example), some sales (50% off some books), and 7,849 books overall!

They seem to be mostly new releases (at least the featured ones), and I’m not seeing featured indies (independently published books). Still, it’s nice to have a listing of some of the newer titles.

Get a mass market paperback with free shipping…without Prime

Amazon keeps doing all kinds of interesting things.

They are now offering free shipping on items under ten ounces and under $10. Many mass market paperbacks are going to fit those criteria.

It may take a while, which is one of the reasons Prime still has an advantage, and of course, it’s not like getting an e-book in sixty seconds. :)

I actually think this may have a bigger impact on people who sell vitamins, but still…intriguing.

They haven’t abandoned the physical world, of course, where profit margins can be considerably higher than digital items. They are delivering same day now, in many cities, within an hour in some places, and now this free shipping…Amazon certainly isn’t killing the physical goods market!

Why should people read more books?

I like this

BuzzFeed post by Jarry Lee

They asked attendees of Book Expo America, and you can see pictures of people holding paper (fascinating to me that they all had paper on which to write…I suppose tablets might not have photographed well, but if I had been attending and they had asked me, I wouldn’t have had any paper ;) ) on which they have written their answers.

As a quick answer, I suppose I might say, “It is the most intimate experience you can have with another person’s intellect, which will make you more empathetic.”

The Kindle app is eating up your battery charge

Why in the world would this be true? The Amazon Kindle app is one of

The apps that drain your phone’s battery the most

according to the above CNN/Money article by Hope King.

Not just in, say, the top 100…in the top four!

Well, in the top four of apps that only drain your battery when you are using them, but more than GPS? In the same category as Netflix?

Sure, an app on a SmartPhone (that’s what this covers) is going to use a lot more battery charge than reading on EBR E-Book Reader) which is not backlit.

Still, outside of maybe look-up and syncing, I just don’t see what makes it that much of a charge-hog.

BookCon: proving reading has a future

This is a great

Salon aticle by Laura Miller

about young, enthusiastic readers attending BookCon.

Yes, making books exciting and worthy of a con like San Diego Comic Con is the point of BookCon. Authors as celebrities? Check. Celebrities as authors? Check. Fans waiting in line, geeking out over books? Check.

Nice to see… :)

What do you think? Does it cheapen literature to have a glossy, loud, event? What makes your city a great literary city? Is reading p-books old fashioned? 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.

Round up #297: Bookcon, Alexa plays a game

May 24, 2015

Round up #297: Bookcon, Alexa plays a game

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

Copy text on the Kindle Fire HDX

When did this happen?

People have often asked about copying text from a Kindle book. They want to paste it somewhere else…an e-mail, a Word document, that kind of thing.

The answer in the past has usually been to highlight it in the book, then go to

https://kindle.amazon.com

From there, you could copy and paste.

Not very convenient.

I was just highlighting something in a book I was reading on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile)

by “long pressing” (hold your finger or stylus on something on the screen for about a second) and dragging ove what I wanted, when I was that one of the choices was to “copy”.

When I tapped the copy button, it told me it was copied to the clipboard.

The “clipboard” is what Microsoft calls the place where something is temporarily stored when you copy something and then paste it somewhere else.

Back before we had Windows, I created something similar for myself…I called it the “bucket”, but the idea was the same. :)

I could then go to the native e-mail program, start a new message, and long press again to paste.

I was also able to paste it into a new document in

OfficeSuite Professional 7 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Well, this will make things a lot more convenient! It also makes the Fire tablet a much more capable device for work and school.

I am on version 9.8_1– of the Amazon Kindle app.

When I copied on Kindle for PC, it would give me a citation (identify the source of the book), but I’m actually glad this one doesn’t do that. :) I wouldn’t mind having the option of the either one of the two…

A game you can play with your Amazon Echo

Back when the Amazon Kindle was first introduced in 2007, one question we would get was whether or not it played games.

It did, actually…I wrote about that back in 2010:

It’s the games Kindles play

There was a hidden version of “Minesweeper”.

Certainly, you may want to use your EBR (E-Book Reader) only for, you know, reading, but I think it’s nice to have the option. ;)

I’m guessing that the

Amazon Echo

Amazon’s “ambient computing” device (you talk to it…it does stuff) is going to have a general release in early July. That’s based on them not taking invitations any more, on it saying it is in stock on July 8th, and on them asking for video testimonials for it.

I’m sure people will ask if you can play games with it.

I asked mine it if played games, and it didn’t have an answer.

However, I tried:

“Alexa, scissors, paper, rock.”

Alexa responded with: “OK, let’s play. 3… 2… 1… scissors!”

Each time I ask, it responds with one of the three play options…and I don’t know which one it will choose.

In case you don’t know:

  • scissors cuts (wins over) paper
  • paper covers (wins over) rock
  • rock smashes (wins over) scissors

If you both “throw” the same choice, no one wins.

Have fun!

Oh, and for those of you who were curious…Alexa did not respond to the Big Bang Theory variant, “scissors, paper, rock, lizard, Spock”. ;)

Update: thanks to regular reader and commenter Phink for giving me the proper order to say the sequence…it should be “rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock”.  Then the Echo played the game! I’d never played it that way before, and interestingly, we both threw Spock. :) I also didn’t know that it had originated before the Big Bang Theory, with Sam Kass and Karen Bryla. Thanks, Phink!

For more conversations I have had with the Echo, see

Alexa says

Yes, I did reference WarGames, and say, “Alexa, shall we play a game?” ;) That didn’t get me much, but when I said, “Alexa, play global thermonuclear war,” the Echo responded, “I’d rather play chess.”

We bought a new computer…

…and we didn’t buy it from Amazon.

Honestly, I really wanted it to buy it from Amazon…not least because I could buy it at

http://smile.amazon.com

and get Amazon to donate some money to my designated non-profit (fifty cents per $100 I spend).

I also have credit at Amazon from doing our taxes through Turbotax (you can get a bonus on your refund if you take part of it as an Amazon gift card), and we have Prime, for free shipping.

Add it that I just like Amazon :) and there’s usually no good reason to buy something big anywhere else.

In this case, though, I get e-mails from TigerDirect (I’ve used them in the past).

We’d already pretty much decided on a Lenova laptop.

Some of you may remember that we bought an Asus two-in-one not too long ago (it converts from a tablet to a laptop by means of a detachable keyboard).

The problem with that one?

The keyboard is really too small.

I type pretty well, and typing is what often moves me from using my Fire to something else.

I just can’t do it comfortably enough on that Asus.

It’s still a valuable device for us, and I use it in addition to a desktop we’ve had for many years…and that is, well, let’s call it geriatric. ;)

This laptop (I’m using it now) is more of a replacement for the desktop, eventually.

TigerDirect had Lenovo G50s for about $100 less than Amazon…and more memory.

I tried to get one once, and it sold out to quickly.

So, when one came up again, I went for it.

Earlier, I had pointed out to my Significant Other that getting one from Amazon would be free shipping…and my SO asked, perfectly reasonably, “Will the shipping be $100?” ;)

Nope…the shipping was about $9.

Just made sense to go with TigerDirect in this case.

I did install the Kindle app on it…you knew I was going to get back to the Kindle eventually, right? ;)

The Kindle app for Windows 8.1 does look beautiful! I’m not often impressed with the graphic design of an app, but I was with this one.

The one negative right offhand was that

Creepy Archives Volume 1 (Creepy Archives Box Set) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

wouldn’t open, and told me it wasn’t compatible with this version of the Kindle app.

I’d already read it, but I just thought it would look good on this big screen. :)

“A Podcaster’s Passion for Ebooks”

This is a great

article by Len Edgerly

who does The Kindle Chronicles podcast (I’ve appeared on it, but not for years).

Len has been reporting on Kindles and e-books longer than I have, and brings an informed and compassionate viewpoint (a rare combination).

I enjoyed this piece, and I think you will, too.

HuffPost: “8 Books to Read Over A Long Holiday Weekend”

I know the weekend’s more than half over, but you weren’t going to read just one book, right? ;)

Huffington Post Oprah Winfrey Network article

I think it’s an interesting set of choices…always a tough thing to do.

Bookcon is next week

I’ve mentioned before (although I’m not sure that I’ve done it in the blog) that I find it interesting that we have great celebrations for movies and TV, and not much for books.

I do understand that: reading is a very intimate activity, and so is writing.

However…

Authors seem to me to have become more pop culture friendly in the past decade or so.

Also, I think that authors have become more of a brand name…more associate with the movies based on their books.

I would guess that most even casual moviegoers know John Green and Nicholas Sparks, in addition to knowing Stephen King.

This is the second year of

Bookcon

which is done by the same people who do New York Comic Con, among other things.

I think they are doing a good job!

It looks exciting, it looks fun…it looks “now”!

Sure, the literati might not approve of it. Mindy Kaling and Nick Offerman might not be put at a literary tea with Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse…but why not? It would make for one interesting conversation. ;)

Check out their site…gee, I wonder if there will be cosplay as literary characters?

What do you think? Did you plan out a book (or more) to read this weekend? Are you going to Bookcon? Is it okay to make books pop culture, or should they be “elevated”? Do you ever copy text from a Kindle book to something else? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

I Love My Kindle | Fun and information about the Kindle and the world of e-books

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.

 

Round up #296: #givebooks, Echo general release imminent?

May 16, 2015

Round up #296: #givebooks, Echo general release imminent?

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

“Indie Bookstores Are Finally Not Dying”

I’m a former manager of a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and I follow the world of e-books quite closely.

I’ve long said that independent bookstores have a place in the future.

There are a few caveats to that.

People have to like the experience of going there so much that they are willing to pay more money than they would pay at Amazon (or Costco, to name a couple of alternatives) just to support you.

That’s right: they have to willingly pay more.

Do people do that?

Sure!

We have to get our fence replaced.

Its’ been falling down for some time…oh, not literally falling, but leaning and in bad shape.

It doesn’t help that our two little terriers want to look out and see people…so they keep pulling a plank out of it.

Yep, the pair we call collectively “Butterscotch Chaos” (I say that’s their “band name”…and my Significant Other and I are roadies) actually can remove the plank.

They could easily jump through at that point, but they don’t.

Still, it’s not good to have a plank out, and I tried to get it to stay where they couldn’t do it.

I’m not at all handy, but I figured I could nail it to the two planks next to it.

You guessed…three planks out. :)

At any rate, we need it replaced.

We are going to pay a company more than we might somewhere else, because we have used them before and like the people.

For one thing, they were totally cool with the idea of putting in a “dog window”…in fact, they said they had done it before!

We like them: we are willing to reward them for doing a good job and, quite simply, for being nice. My guess is that we will actually pay maybe a couple thousand more dollars than the cheapest other bid we’d be able to find (they are also doing a lot of yard clean-up…removing baby trees, trimming hedges, that kind of thing).

That’s what independent bookstores have to do.

They can’t beat Amazon on selection.

They can’t beat Amazon on price.

They have to win on service and on shopping experience…with an emphasis on the latter.

This

The Daily Beast article by Joanna Scutts

talks about the state of independent bookstores in the USA today, and specifically, about this year’s first “Independent Bookstore Day”.

There are several success stories in the article, and this quote from Samantha Schoech of Independent Bookstore Day:

“In reality more bookstores have opened than closed in the last couple of years in the U.S.”

I think generic bookstores (large chains, the “dinostores”) may be doomed (or at least, books will become a minority of what they sell), but bookstores with personality? They can survive.

Amazon readying general Echo release?

I’ve noted that the

Amazon Echo

product page is now indicating an in-stock date of July 10th (less than two months away).

They’ve shown in-stock dates before without it resulting in a general release…but they also aren’t doing the invitation route any more, so there really isn’t much of a reason to say it is “in-stock” for that group.

I just got an e-mail which seems like another strong indicator to me that it is releasing soon.

I was invited to make a video testimonial about my experiences with the Echo.

People who do have to have availability for an in-person interview from May 29th to June 1st.

The only likely reason I can see to collect video testimonials is to use them to promote the product (that’s made clear in the e-mail).

You aren’t likely to be promoting what you aren’t selling. :)

By the way, I decided to go ahead and publish an embryonic page I’m making, called

Alexa says

If you are curious about the Echo’s conversational abilities, that should help. :)

I’m guessing that before release we may see: the ability to play Audible audiobooks you own (that could be a licensing issue); the ability to control a Fire TV (and, less likely, a Fire TV stick); and possibly multiple alarms (maybe even recurring alarms, which would be nice).

There are quite a few other things we could see:

  • They could admit that you can text with it (you can do that now using If This Then That, but it’s definitely a workaround…you have to add something to your To Do or Shopping List)
  • Text-to-speech for books. One easier implementation I could see would be to parallel the “Alexa, tell me a joke” format. You could say, “Alexa, read me a story,” and it could give you a public domain short story. I think it’s less likely that we see text-to-speech with books you own that are not in the public domain, but maybe eventually
  • Movie times. Amazon owns IMDb which does that, so that makes it more likely
  • Shopping for non-Prime items
  • Shopping for items you haven’t bought before
  • Ad hoc travel times…you give it a destination verbally. Right now, you have to put in one route in the app
  • Firefly: Amazon’s song/video recognition. It wouldn’t be the visual recognition of objects, of course

Those just some things.

We could also see some very interesting third party apps.

Something I don’t expect is new Echo hardware before the end of the year. Some people think that will happen: I think it’s unnecessary. I think the hardware as it is is good enough for a first release…and that’s what we’ll have this year.

I also think they may limit the shopping part of it to Prime members, initially. That’s simpler, for one thing, but it’s also an inducement to get Prime.

Over $110 in free apps

I’m glad I started with a book story, because I just did an Echo story and now I’m going to one about apps.

That’s not the normal plan, but it just worked out that way today.

I have to do this one soon, because it is a limited time thing…in fact, it ends tomorrow (Saturday, May 16th).

Amazon is giving away a bunch of normally paid apps.

They do this from time to time…and there are usually some good ones in there. :)

I pretty much get all the ones I don’t have. With apps, you can just store them in the Cloud, if you want: you don’t need to take up any memory on your device unless you want to use one.

Titles include:

  • Star Traders 4X Empires Elite
  • Bike Race Pro by Top Free Games
  • Bloons TD 5
  • Angry Birds Seasons HD (Fire Edition)
  • Highrise Word Heroes+
  • Cooking Dash Deluxe
  • SUPER WHY ABC Adventures: Alphabet
  • ShutterFolio
  • Rebuild
  • Time Mysteries 2: The Ancient Spectres (Full)
  • Grudgeball: Enter the Chaosphere
  • Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret (Full)
  • Mini Golf Mundo
  • Star Command
  • Angry Birds Seasons (Ad-Free)
  • Sorcery! 3
  • True Booster | Speed Cleaner
  • Smart Office 2
  • Photo Studio
  • Five Nights at Freddy’s 3
  • Game of Thrones
  • Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson
  • Genius Scan+
  • G-Stomper VA-Beast Synthesizer
  • Language Coach

and quite a few more!

The display of this is a little weird…I’m not seeing an easy way to get them all on one page, but it’s definitely worth exploring. They appear to almost all be four stars (out of five) and up, and some have more than a thousand customer reviews.

Little Free Library Book Drive on Saturday, May 16th

We have a Little Free Library in our neighborhood.

I think these are really cool!

It’s just a little birdhouse sort of thing that people build and put outside.

Other people put free books in there, and you can take whatever books you want.

Saturday is their third anniversary as a non-profit, and they are doing a book drive, specifically for children’s books:

http://littlefreelibrary.org/this-began-because-of-my-mom/

If you post a picture of yourself dropping off books with the hashtag, #givebooks, you might win something…but that’s clearly not the main reason to do this. :)

I don’t usually give away my books, but I may look for something (or maybe buy something to give).

I won’t take a picture, though. Same reason I won’t do one of those video testimonials.

I’ve been on TV in the past, and used to go out and do more public stuff (radio and such).

Now, I like that we can be known on the internet for what we think and how we say it, rather than who we are physically.

That just means I don’t tend to promote myself as a physical identity, and that includes being in pictures. :) There is at least one photo labeled as being of me on the web which isn’t, so even if you do look me up, it’s not reliable.

If you want to post your picture doing this, or do a video testimonial for the Echo, though, I whole-heartedly endorse that! I love to see my readers get out there…those who want to do that. I also love my readers who prefer, like me on this blog, to be incorporeal. ;)

Update: thanks to reader Susan Cassidy for a comment which helped improve this post.

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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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