Archive for the ‘Round-ups’ Category

Round up #291: HarperCollins/Amazon deal, $20 off Paperwhite

April 14, 2015

Round up #291: HarperCollins/Amazon deal, $20 off Paperwhite

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

Book collecting: how has the presence of e-books affected it?

I’ll admit to being surprised by this

Wall Street Journal post by Steven Rosenbush

I have collectible books…oh, not books worth thousands of dollars, but I’ve paid $100 for a single book.

I’ve also “collected” all of a single series, although that’s not quite the same thing.

What would I guess would have happened to the collectible book market in the past few years?

I thought prices would have gone up.

My intuition is that people will see the rise in e-books as meaning that there will be fewer p-books (paperbooks) to collect in the future. Lessening supply with the same demand could mean a rise in prices.

I also figured there would be an “endangered species” mentality. Falsely, I think, there was this sense that p-books were simply going to disappear.

Remember that p-books decay. Different quality p-books (in terms of materials used and production methods) decay at different rates, but pages can become brittle with age.

If they are actually (gasp!) read, the situation is even worse for them.

I’ve had people surprised that I could read a mass market paperback and still have it look like new at the end, and that’s not how it is with most people. The spines get broken, people “dog ear” pages, things get spilled on them,they get exposed to the elements…people tout p-books as one of the great technological innovations of all time, and that’s reasonable…but they aren’t invulnerable.

If we stopped making p-books, the world supply of them would dwindle over time, and I thought that would be the collectors’ collective vision.

Nope, according to this article, the business has been stable.

To me, that’s a bad omen for the future of p-books.

On the other hand, collectors aren’t the same as readers (although there is some overlap). A collector (especially one doing it for investment purposes) sees the book as an object…not as a story. If this physical object was signed by someone, or owned by someone,  or is rare in some way…that all makes it more valuable for a collector, but not particularly for someone just wanting to read the contents.

Regardless, I do think there will continue to be a market for collectible p-books…and I do think we’ll eventually see prices rise, even if it hasn’t happened yet.

Will subsers be the new MMPs?

One of my regular readers and commenters, Lady Galaxy, said something that got me thinking about the role of subsers (subscription services) in the future.

Let’s say a novel is released today. We’ll say the hardback is list priced (the price the publisher puts on it) at $25, and the e-book is priced at $12.99.

A year from now, the trade paperback comes out at $15.

Does the e-book drop?

Not necessarily.

A year later, the mass market paperback (MMP) comes out at $9.99.

Then, yes, I’d expect the e-book to at least match that price, if not go a bit lower.

However…

There is a possibility that publishers simply stop issuing MMPs for popular novels.

I think it’s a possibility that books come out at a price like $25 (although I’ve suggested before that some new novels could get as high as $50), then maybe drop some after the first year…let’s say $20.

Then, that’s it.

The e-book comes out at perhaps $12.99…and doesn’t drop (except for sales).

Where do “casual readers” get that book? After all, they are a big part of the market.

They get it after it is on the “frontlist” (that would depend on its success, but let’s call it two years for a popular book…I expect to see fewer books altogether, and the ones from tradpubs…traditional publishers…to stay on the New York Times bestseller list longer on average) when it becomes part of a subser, like

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

MMPs were not really released for people who wanted to own a book or gift a book. They were really intended to be read and then to fall apart…which is not that different an experience from reading a book as part of a subser but not owning it.

I’m  just kicking around this idea, but I do think it’s a possibility.

HarperCollins and Amazon reportedly reach a deal

Four down, one to go.

It’s possible that at some point, a tradpub and Amazon will part ways…but today is not that day.

According to this

New York Times article by David Streitfeld

and other sources, Amazon and HarperCollins have reached an agreement which will keep the publisher’s books in the e-tailer’s store.

While these deals don’t really become public, it sounds like all four of the Big 5 who have come to terms (Penguin Random House hasn’t, yet…that doesn’t mean they are fighting, it may just not be time) have pretty much the same thing.

The publisher sets the price (yes, this is the Agency Model), and Amazon can incentivize them to discount the books.

Publishers haven’t yet figured out how to do without Amazon…and  while Amazon is becoming less dependent on tradpubs over time (Amazon published books regularly top their own bestseller lists…in the Kindle store), they are still in business with them big time.

I think that eventually, that business may consist of backlist titles…which could largely be in subsers (see above).

For now (and this is a multiyear deal), things continue.

Amazon Financials on April 23rd

According to this

press release

Amazon will do its next quarterly financials call on April 23rd at 2:30 PM Pacific.

I think this may be a particularly interesting one…they seem to be pushing a bit into a new direction. We’ll see…

Paperwhite 2 $20 off today

The

Kindle Paperwhite 2 (at AmazonSmile*)

which is the current model, is $20 off today. That makes it under $100 ($99, to be precise) for the lowest priced configuration.

This is the model of Kindle EBR (E-Book Reader) that I use every day.

I like it enough that I chose not to go to the Kindle Voyage…and from everything I’ve heard, I don’t regret that decision at all.

I’m quite happy with both that and my

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

These are both devices which do what they are designed to do very well…I’ve been quite satisfied with them both.

I can contrast that with my

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile)

and our

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

and

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

The Fire Phone is a serviceable phone, but I did like my Galaxy better.

The Amazon Fire TV is good…better than our Roku (which we’ve stopped using). I do expect it to get quite a bit better.

The Fire TV Stick is noticeably not as good as the Fire TV. It takes it much longer to load something, for example, the video stutters quite a bit (it’s on the same network at the Fire TV), and I find I need to restart it every couple of days (by holding in the select and play buttons together for about ten seconds).

The only big thing I see missing in the Paperwhite is sound (especially for text-to-speech, which I use every workday), and for my Kindle Fire HDX, it would be nice to have a rear-facing camera.

I would say this Paperwhite deal is a good one…if you are looking for a gift (they may discount it again for Mothers’ Day), or for a Guest Kindle…or even if you are just ready to replace an older model (keeping in mind the lack of audio), this is a good buy.

What do you think? What’s been your favorite Kindle/Fire model so far? Penguin Random House has always been a bit of an outlier…how will their negotiations with Amazon go? When will a publisher break with Amazon…if ever? What gadgets (including non-Amazon) have you had in your life which achieved the state of satisfying you? 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 #290: bargain bestsellers, e-book marketshare

March 30, 2015

Round up #290: bargain bestsellers, e-book marketshare

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

E-book marketshare of spending rises 25% in 2014

According to this

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliott

reporting on a Nielsen Books & Consumers survey, new book spending on e-books in the USA rose to 15% of the total in 2014, as opposed to 12% in 2013…a 25% gain.

That’s right…only fifteen percent.

A bit of a shock, perhaps…and remember, they are zero percent of used book sales, although Amazon has looked into that possibility, as I’ve reported before

Judge rules against ReDigi, making Amazon used e-books more likely

While that 15% is based on spending, not surprising, the number of units is higher. The units are how many books are sold/licensed, versus how much is paid for them. Since, on balance, p-books (paperbooks) cost more than e-books, we would expect their unit share to be higher than their spending share.

Interestingly, though, that share is still only 21%.

Let’s see…21 is forty percent higher than 15, so that could be about right.

There are a lot of very important trends (well, data points…we don’t know if they are really trends yet)…I don’t want to take too much away from the article, so I’m going to recommend you read it.

I’ll just point out a couple of things, and then let you read the details:

  • Online bookselling may be losing marketshare
  • Bookstore chain marketshare is way down
  • EBR (E-Book Readership) was down…both for the NOOK and the Kindle

 Amazon’s change in Cloud Drive plans…how it helps you

I have to say, Amazon does not do a great job of explaining things to people when they introduce a new feature, service, or device.

Part of it is most people’s natural skepticism (I have a genetic abnormality…I’m an optimist). ;) They naturally expect that any change is going to be for the bad.

I’ve taught change management before, and this is the biggest tip I can give you there.

Whenever you announce a change, always tell them what is not changing first.

For example, if you restructure your company, your employees will be so concerned that their jobs are going to be eliminated that they won’t hear anything else you say until you address that.

So, you start out with something like, “First, let me assure you: no one here is having their job eliminated, and no one is getting a pay cut. You will continue to do the same work you’ve been doing, which we really value. What’s happening is that management is changing, and some of you may have a different boss…”

In this case, Amazon could have led (on the page, not necessarily in the press release…maybe in an e-mail) with “We have some exciting new plans available for the Amazon Cloud Drive. This will not affect the free storage customers already get for their Amazon purchases, and will actually increase the storage they get when using Amazon’s Personal Documents service…at no additional cost.  New options include…”

That’s right. I’ve seen many threads in the

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

where people were concerned that either Amazon was going to start charging them for storing their Kindle store purchases, or charge them for any amount of personal documents they are storing using the Personal Documents service.

I have confirmed with Amazon: neither of those are true.

This is what I asked Amazon about, which was confirmed:

Under the new system:

Non-Prime member/non-Fire owner without a plan:

Unlimited Kindle Personal Docs. They do not count towards a storage limit, because they count for zero.

No other free non-Kindle Personal Doc storage (they used to have some).

Prime member/Fire owner without upgrading:

Unlimited photo storage
Unlimited Kindle Personal Docs storage
5GB of storage for other things, like spreadsheets and presentations

Note that there is a group that has a loss from this change. If someone is not a Prime member and does not have a Fire, they no longer have free storage for things like spreadsheets.

However, the plus that everybody got is no limit on storage of personal documents.

Meanwhile, in the UK

In the first article, I was talking about the USA.

Well, we also have statistics for the UK…and e-books are doing much better there!

According to this

The Bookseller article by Joshua Farrington

e-book sales are 30% of units in the UK, more than a third higher than in the USA.

Not only that, more money was spent online on books (not just e-books) than in stores…for the first time.

The thrust of the article was concern expressed about Amazon’s dominance (particularly by Tim Walker, President of the Booksellers Association.

According to Walker, Amazon has 95% of e-book sales in the UK…and that is “damaging”.

I didn’t see particular evidence that it was…what was cited were problems that other people were having with e-book sales, but that doesn’t mean cause and effect.

Still, I leave it to you to read the article and decide…

Amazon’s Editors’ Picks…find bargains, but not indies

One of the “aisles” Amazon has is called

Amazon’s Editors’ Picks (at AmazonSmile*)

I haven’t looked at it much.

The first thing that struck me was that every book I saw on the front page was from a traditional publisher.

When I’m looking for discovery for books, I’m not looking for the ones which are featured in People Magazine…I want an editor to tell me about something that’s new to me.

That was a bit of a negative.

Then, I was going to do a price analysis to compare them to the overall Kindle store bestsellers…and noticed that some of them are on really good sales!

If you were looking for a gift for somebody who maybe didn’t read 100 books a year, this might be a good place to find a deal.

Some examples:

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: $4.20 (less than half the paperback price)
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: $4.99 ($9.60 in paperback)
  • The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown: $2.99 ($10.20 in paperback)
  • Station Eleven: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel: $2.99 ($12.33 in paperback)

I’m going to keep that in mind when gift giving occasions arise!

What do you think? Is the e-book marketshare growth slowing down? If so, why? Is it temporary? Will we ever get to more than 50% unit sales being e-books in the USA? Why are e-books a bigger force in the UK? 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 #289: $25K Amazon sweepstakes, Amazon forgets something…

March 11, 2015

Round up #289: $25K Amazon sweepstakes, Amazon forgets something…

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

Enter to win a $25,000 Amazon shopping spree

Amazon really wants you to use their shopping app to download apps…even free ones!

To that end, they are doing a

$25,000 Amazon shopping spree sweepstakes (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

You fill out an entry form (it’s simple: just your full name and a phone number, and they already had my e-mail address filled in), meet eligibility requirements (at least 18 years old, only in the USA…), and download an app using the Amazon app.

That’s pretty much it.

You have to do it by April 15th, and it’s one entry per person…so I assume that multiple app purchases won’t increase your odds.

$25,000 at Amazon would be nice, right? :) Here are the

Official Rules (at AmazonSmile*)

Let me know if you win! :)

Um…Amazon? You forgot a SmartPhone…your own ;)

Amazon recently sent me an e-mail to do a survey to help them “improve Amazon devices”.

There were some interesting points to the survey: for one thing, they kept identifying EBRs (E-Book Readers) emphatically as “black and white”. Does that mean that they aren’t considering color non-backlit devices? Nah, this is a current state question. Now, I could get pedantic at point that Amazon doesn’t have any black and white devices…grayscale, yes, but not black and white. ;)

When they asked me to rank how I use my tablet (I have a Kindle Fire HDX 7″ ((at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping)), the only place they listed “books” was under audio, which audiobooks to me. One of the main things for which I use my tablet is reading books…intriguing.

The most amusing one, to me, was this one:

“Smartphone – (i.e. iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, or BlackBerry) Has all the functions of basic and feature phones and also has the ability to download applications (also known as apps), play videos, navigation, etc.”

That was funny to me, because it didn’t list my

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

:)

Now, yes, I’m probably one of a tiny minority that has Amazon’s SmartPhone, and it is technically a forked version of Android…but it would have been nice to be able to declare that I had an Amazon device in an Amazon survey.

They also used “i.e.” (id est…an explanation) as opposed to “e.g.” (exempli gratia…a set of examples). That suggests that they weren’t just naming a few of them, but defining the term…and they left the Fire Phone out of the definition of Smartphone.

I don’t think they are done with the Fire Phone…I’ve said before that they may tie it into the Amazon Echo (my Echo, according to the estimated delivery date, could be as little as two weeks away).

Of course, if the Fire Phone does succeed, they might have call the new model the “Phoenix”. ;)

Meanwhile, at Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble recently did a webcast to report their Q3 (third quarter 2015…financial years don’t start in January for most companies) earnings. You can read a Seeking Alpha transcript here:

http://seekingalpha.com/article/2989706-barnes-and-noble-bks-michael-p-huseby-on-q3-2015-results-earnings-call-transcript?part=single

Even though it was arguably good news, with the speed of their slide slowing, investors did not react well, as reported in this

The Motley Fool article by Alex Planes

and other places. It could bounce back pretty quickly…we’ll see.

Better, perhaps, but apparently not good enough.

I like having B&N around as a competitor for Amazon (competition breeds innovation), but they are becoming less of that over time, I think.

One place where they arguably still compete with Amazon is in the EBR market (Kobo may be a more viable…or at least more interesting opponent at this point).

How bad was it for the NOOK this time?

Device sales were down 50.6%!

That’s a slowing of the decline, but losing more than half…what kind of career did Bud Abbott have after Abbott and Costello broke up? ;)

Now, you might be hearing that their retail comparable store sales were up 1.7%, and yes, that’s a good thing.

Don’t count on that meaning that p-books (paperbooks) are making a comeback, though…they accomplished that in part by carrying more non-book items, like games.

Overall, the retail business was down, but hey guys, that’s not our fault: we had fewer stores. ;)

The shining light of the college business, which they are going to separate?

Comp (comparative) sales were down 1%, although they may be flat overall for the year.

Overall? Not looking good for B&N, at least as we knew it as a bookstore.

 The Wildside Press Megapack series

Wildside Press was founded in 1989 by author John Betancourt and Kim Betancourt.

It’s a respected publishing company…which, honestly, you may not realize at first when you run across one of their “Megapacks” in the Kindle store:

Wildside Press Megapack series (at AmazonSmile*)

After all, the titles are ninety-nine cents, and public domain works are clearly involved.

However, while some independently published books may leave something to desire in terms of design or production quality, I would say that what I’ve seen of the Megapacks is up to traditional  publishing standards in that regard.

One of the fun things with curated collections like these is to see what choices they make, how they group them together.

That’s an area where the Megapacks have some stand-out themes!

There are 185 (!) results for “Wildside Press Megapack” in the USA Kindle store, and certainly, there are things you might expect like The Golden Age of Science Fiction and Noir Mysteries.

However, it’s the more unusual themes I find intriguing, whether they are individual (often somewhat obscure to modern audiences) authors, or themes. For example:

  • Victorian Rogues
  • Katherine Mansfield
  • Lady Sleuths
  • Jack London Science Fiction (and fantasy)
  • Mad Scientist
  • Plague, Pestilence & Apocalypse
  • Penny Dreadfuls
  • Occult Detectives
  • Zanthodon (by Lin Carter)
  • Bobbsey Twins
  • Classic Humor
  • Girl Detective
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Selma Lagerlof

I’m not going to pretend that these are luxury editions (there won’t tend to be lengthy forewords or context articles), but if you want something which is affordable and respects the material, this is a good series.

Housebroken now available

Some of you may remember my interview with The Behrg, who had a novel selected by Kindle Scout:

An ILMK interview with The Behrg, author of the Kindle Scout winner Housebroken

That was back on January 2nd, and the book hadn’t been published yet…now it has been:

Housebroken (at AmazonSmile*)

It’s $3.99, also available as part of Kindle Unlimited.

I have no connection with the author, except for the interview we did and some slight correspondence (The Behrg let me know about the book’s release, for example).

What price story?

Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun relating to the movie(s) and play, What Price Glory? ;)

I was speaking with someone about pricing for e-books recently, and thought I’d throw something out to you.

If you see an e-book which is $7.99 in the Kindle store, what do you think about it? How about $4.99? $12.99? What if it was $10.00? You may think the price point doesn’t influence you at all in your pre-opinion of the book, but you would certainly be unusual if that was the case. Does one price make you think the book is likely to be of a higher quality? Traditionally published or independently published? Of course, you get more information after you look at it, but the price is often a first impression. Do you ever search by price? I’d appreciate your feedback.

What do you think? Will Barnes & Noble survive as booksellers? Who was/is your favorite anthology editor? Did you get an e-mail for that Amazon survey? Is there a “micro market” genre you particularly like? I really enjoyed an anthology (Apeman, Spaceman) of anthropological stories years ago…not available for the Kindle (at least legally through Amazon), unfortunately…

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! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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

Round up #288: reading to adults, Tik Tok, Echo trick

March 9, 2015

Round up #288: reading to adults, Tik Tok, Echo trick

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

Want to  move up your Echo delivery date? Here’s how!

Big, big thanks to E S who, in this

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

suggested a way to speed up your

Amazon Echo

estimated delivery date!

It worked for me, and others have said it worked for them, too.

Don’t know if it will continue to work, or if it will work for everybody, but I wanted to share it.

The Echo is Amazon’s ambient computing device…it’s alway on (it plugs into the wall), you talk to it, and it does stuff. ;) That’s, you know, the technical description.

It’s not on general sale, yet. You have to ask for an invitation, and you have to be an Amazon Prime member.

When I got my acceptance to my delivery date (a long time after asking for an invitation), it was months in the future.

Until I tried this trick, it was not until the end of May at the earliest…and possibly into July! =:o

Now, it’s between March 25th and April 9th…more than two months earlier, and maybe three!

How do you do it?

Go to

http://www.amazon.com

or

http://smile.amazon.com/

Click or tap on

Your Account

then go to

Your Orders.

Find your Echo order…there is a searchbox, if you need it.

Click or tap

Order Details

Click or tap

Change Shipping Speed

Don’t worry, you aren’t actually going to change it.

When your choices come up, just confirm your current shipping speed.

That’s all it took for me!

I’m very excited about the Echo! They keep making improvements (it recently started doing some sports scores), and it seems to have quite a “personality”.

The general estimated shipping time has dropped from four to six months to two to three months.

That portends, perhaps, a summer release, although that might just still be for these pre-release orders.

Thanks, E S!

Speaking of AmazonSmile…

From what I can tell, about 25% of the activity driven by this site is at AmazonSmile, as opposed to Amazon.com.

I hope to keep seeing that increase.

All you have to is shop at

http://smile.amazon.com/

and designate a non-profit to benefit from what you are doing.

That’s it.

Everything else is the same: same credit card information, addresses, wish lists…it’s really seamless.

When you buy items (not all items, but a lot), your designated non-profit (which you can change…easily…whenever you want and repeatedly) gets half a percent. Spend $100, and the group gets fifty cents.

Amazon is actually donating it, so they get the tax benefit…but that also means everything is super easy.

There are over 6,000 organizations listed when I search for the word “literacy”, for example.

I used to be on the board of a non-profit…believe me, every little bit helps.

Just something to consider…

Goodreads app update

On my

Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping)

the Goodreads on Kindle app just updated to 1.5.0.

Goodreads is a very popular social reading site, which Amazon owns.

They have been improving the way it interacts with our devices, and this was another step forward.

I think I’m finally getting into the habit of using Goodreads, although I still don’t do it all the time.

I’d found out from my readers that my posting reviews here wasn’t one of their favorite things, so I now post them at Goodreads:

Follow Bufo’s reviews on Goodreads

I am putting some effort into those, and have written things with which I’ve been satisfied. ;)

I’ve also gotten some nice feedback, which I appreciate.

I can’t say I’m seeing a lot of functional differences at this point, but it does seem to look a bit nicer, and it’s running quite smoothly.

Before there was Chappie, there was…Tik Tok

Chappie did not have a really big opening this weekend…I probably over “invested” in the movie in my

The $100 Million Box Office Challenge

game. :)

Still, so many things go back to the Oz series (I’m a big fan), and there was a regular robot character in them.

Tik Tok was truly a robot…a manufactured item. Dorothy or other people would wind up the “device”…they could separately wind up speech, action, and thinking.

Yes, just like humans, Tik Tok was capable of speaking and acting without thinking first. ;)

Tik Tok, though, was artificially intelligent…as much a character as anybody else.

As Dorothy engraved on Tik Tok, the mechanism was:

SMITH & TINKER’S
Patent Double-Action, Extra-Responsive,
Thought-Creating, Perfect-Talking
MECHANICAL MAN
Fitted with our Special Clockwork Attachment.
Thinks, Speaks, Acts, and Does Everything but Live.

Sure, the word “robot” comes from the play R.U.R., and Isaac Asimov created the all important three laws of robotics…but like many other things, Oz was exploring the issues of the technology and the sociology of it at the turn of the 20th Century.

Even older kids like having books read to them

I still like it when somebody reads out loud to me!

Thanks to

EBOOK FRIENDLY

for the heads up on this fascinating report:

http://www.scholastic.com/readingreport/

Scholastic publishes the Harry Potter books in the USA. They are very reader friendly…when we talk about the Big Five publishers not doing things (like being part of Kindle Unlimited), Scholastic isn’t part of that…despite having some very popular books.

I haven’t read the whole report yet, but this was called out:

“When it comes to being read aloud to at home, eight in 10 children (83%) say they love(d) or like(d) it a lot:”

  • 6-8 year olds: 86%
  • 9-11 year olds: 84%
  • 12-14 year olds: 80%
  • 15-17 year olds: 83%

Note that rebound in the last age group!

That’s right…83% of teenagers like it when someone reads out loud to them. My guess is that the percentage is not much lower in adults.

By the way, Scholastic used “read aloud to” as a construction.

That reminds me of an old joke (?) designed to make grammarians cringe:

A ten-year old is sick upstairs.

Wanting to make the child feel better, a parent brings a book to the room to read…one that the child loved at an earlier age.

Feeling as though they are being treated as immature, the child says,

“What did you bring that book I didn’t want to be read to out of up here for?”

;)

What do you think? Do you read out loud to adults? If you are an adult, do you enjoy that…maybe in the car, maybe a Significant Other just reading a passage to you? Do audiobooks or text-to-speech have at all that same feeling for you? Do you use AmazonSmile? If not, care to share the reason why? 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! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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

 

Round up #287: Barnes & Noble now, PTA powered by Kindle

March 4, 2015

Round up #287: Barnes & Noble now, PTA powered by Kindle

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

National PTA Family Reading Experience powered by Kindle

Amazon sent me an e-mail about this one, and it is fascinating!

March is National Reading Month, and while I’d like to see a lot more adults reading a lot more books, the focus is mostly on children.

The National PTA (Parent Teacher Association) has a program called the Family Reading Experience…and Amazon and the Kindle are quite involved in it:

http://www.pta.org/familyreading

In fact, I was intrigued by how involved.

This isn’t just a passive “throw some money at the problem”.

EBRs (E-Book Readers) are touted on the infographic about what encourages children to read.

Perhaps more interesting was this video, linked on the PTA page:

National PTA Family Reading Experience Engages Families in Literacy (video)

I’ve never seen a better recommendation for the Kindle as a positive force for literacy.

Recently, Amazon has gotten particularly good at promoting non-Fire Kindles for use for kids…see this page:

http://www.amazon.com/KindleforKids (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Meanwhile, at Barnes & Noble

While sailing on the sea of commerce, Barnes & Noble has been struggling to stay afloat.

They’ve certainly been trying different things, and they aren’t sunk yet.

That’s despite the NOOK, which has been a drag on their sales for some time.

We had heard that they were going to separate the NOOK business into a separate business…throw the anchor overboard.

Well, now, as reported in this

Slate post by Alison Griswold

and other sources, they’ve decided to throw the boat overboard and keep the anchor. ;)

What do I mean by that?

They are going to spinoff the Barnes & Noble Education business (the college bookstores, mostly) into its own publicly traded business.

press release

Why would they do that, when the college businesses have been the part of the three part business (college, NOOK, and retail) that is doing well? Is it because Amazon has started to move more into the college bookstore business, and there are other challengers? I don’t think so.

They way they are doing it, it is a boon to stockholders (who get stock in the new company), and that’s a good thing right now. Since they made the announcement, the stock has jumped more than 7%.

Second, well…I think it’s possible that they may want to dump the losing parts and keep that one.

Yep, sell off the bookstores…I could see that happening.

As to the NOOK…I don’t see them getting out of the e-book business, but they might get out of the branded hardware business.

Speaking of which…

They’ve also completely revamped their NOOK for Android app:

press release

Shopping will be easier (I do find that clunky even in Amazon’s Kindle store on a Fire), and you’ll be able to set up profiles and individual shelves.

I could see this kind of strategy continuing to work for the near future.

Sell books on other people’s devices, and work on the user interface so it’s enjoyable and efficient.

What’s next? A replicator under your bed?

Amazon’s already got physical delivery down to one hour (at least in Manhattan).

Amazon announces Prime Now: delivery in an hour

They’ve talked about using drones (although there are still regulatory hurdles on that).

Now, according to this

Wall Street Journal post by Greg Bensinger

and other sources, Amazon has applied for patents related to 3D printing items for customers…even from inside delivery trucks.

At this point, 3D printing is limited as to what it can produce (plastics work well…food has been done), and it takes a while to make something.

Still, I can just imagine electric Amazon trucks that just consistently cruise around neighborhoods. You’d get quite used to them. After all, electric vehicles are quiet…I drive a hybrid, and when I’m in electric vehicle mode, I still sometimes really surprise pedestrians.

A small plastic piece breaks on your printer (assuming you would still use a printer). You order it from Amazon (perhaps using your Amazon Echo).

The truck (it could even be an autonomous, self-driven vehicle) “prints” that piece and delivers it to you.

Now, would it be able to do that faster than Prime Now?

I’m guessing no.

However, as a former brick and mortar bookstore manager (and I managed a couple of other types of stores as well), the idea of not having to stock rarely ordered items is very exciting…and economically valuable.

In the bookstore, we’d had this old, yellowed, crunchy, single copy of a paperback on the shelf for years.

When somebody finally bought it, the inventory system wanted to order another one to replace. :)

That’s a place where human override was important.

We had likely lost money on that sale.

Remember that we were paying rent for the space under that book for all that time.

From time to time, employees probably had to straighten up (“merchandise”) that shelf.

If this was a book we could have returned for credit, we would have done that…but not every publisher allows it.

I could have thrown it away or donated it somewhere, I suppose, but I have faith in books. :)

This is years away, certainly.

I can also envision homes having an Amazon 3D printer in them. You order it, Amazon charges you what is basically a licensing fee for the design and maybe for the raw material (although I could see customers providing that), and it prints right then and there.

Actually, that could work quite well. You could even hold up an item to a visual scanner, and if Amazon had the deal with the “rightsholder” for that item, it could reproduce it for you.

There’s got to be some good way to tie this into gaming and toys…because that’s where innovation often happens first.

Naturally, some people may also relate this to POD (Print On Demand) for paper books…and that could work also.

What do you think? If Barnes & Noble continues as a digital enterprise, when would you buy a NOOK book rather than a Kindle book? Should the PTA have partnered with a specific company? It’s National Reading Month…why not recommend a book you think would help a child become a lifelong reader? 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! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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

 

Round up #286: new Dr. Seuss, kindlereunion

February 20, 2015

Round up #286: new Dr. Seuss, kindlereunion

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

Mayday saves the day!

I have said many times that I consider Amazon’s nearly instant onscreen tech help for some Fire devices to be one of the greatest Customer Service innovations in years.

It was proven for me again yesterday.

Two “third party” apps on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

wanted updates, and I did it.

You can install apps from places outside Amazon…contrary to what you might hear, Amazon is quite open to you using “competitors'” products. It’s a simple settings change, to allow installation of apps from “unknown sources”.

Naturally, you assume the risk for doing that…the apps will not have been vetted by Amazon to make sure they work and won’t damage your tablet.

I only do it with very few apps, where I trust the studios.

In this case, it was Zinio, which I use to read Fortean Times (which Amazon does not carry), and Maxthon, which is my browser of choice.

Well, after the updates, neither of them would launch!

They appeared to be on the device, but when I would try to open them, they just wouldn’t.

I tried a few troubleshooting things on my own:

  • I tried restarting the device
  • I tried opening them both from the Carousel and from the Apps tab
  • I tried clearing the cache and force stopping them
  • I tried uninstalling and reinstalling Maxthon
  • I finally cleared the data on Maxthon…that’s not too bad with that program, since my “favorites” are all stored on their server. The only thing I lost was my “Quick Access” choices…that’s not hard to fix
  • I downloaded Maxthon fresh from their website

Since none of that worked, I called Mayday.

At first, it was clearly baffling.

Some things would indicate it was on the device, some wouldn’t. For example, there was an icon on the Carousel (with an exclamation point on it…a trouble indicator). It showed on the Cloud tab, not on the device tab. Now, an item can be on the Carousel and not be downloaded, but things were just weird.

Finally, the Mayday rep suggesting syncing with Amazon. I hadn’t thought of that…since Zinio isn’t stored in Amazon’s Cloud. I did get Maxthon from there at some point, when it was available.

That did it!

Don’t ask me why, but after a simple sync, they were both fine.

I’m going to go with what’s called the Engineer’s Law or the Law of Pragmatism: “If it works, it’s true.” ;)

I think Mayday is great for people who are not techies, but even for someone who is quite knowledgeable like me, it can be terrific.

KindleReunion.com

Sometimes, I get comments on very old posts…so most people will never see them.

In most cases, they are fake comments…what I call Eddiecoms.

I got one recently on one of my most popular posts

What to do if your Kindle is lost or stolen

It recommended the use of a site called KindleReunion.com.

I thought it was worth sharing my response with a wider audience:

“I appreciate the suggestion, and I checked out the site.

That seems unsafe to me.

One of the main reasons someone steals something like a Kindle is to get personal information and in other ways take advantage of the person who lost it.

kindlereunion arranges a connection between a Kindle loser and an apparent finder…and it seems to me they share your e-mail address.

You put in your serial number and an e-mail address as a loser. Another person, who is a finder, puts in a serial number and their e-mail address. The site says

“Once the system finds a match, both parties will receive an e-mail so they can arrange the exchange of the Kindle.”

So, here’s the scenario:

You are at the airport, and someone steals your Kindle while you are going through Security.

Naturally, you have it password protected and you deregister it and have it blacklisted (as indicated in the post on which you commented).

They enter the serial number as a finder.

kindlereunion (and my intuition is that their heart is in the right place) e-mails you both (after you enter as a finder), and connects you two.

The thief then has a number of ways to go.

“I’m on the other side of the country. Why don’t I just mail it to you? What’s your address?”

“Let’s meet and I can give it to you.”

“I’d send it to you, but I don’t have the cash to mail it. See, I put in an airport locker, but I lost the key. They want $40 to replace the key before they’ll give it to me.”

You can probably imagine a lot of other scenarios…

That’s why a recovery service like ReturnMe maybe worth it…it protects your personal information. TrackItBack, unfortunately, is out of business at this point (it’s been about five years since I wrote that post).”

A new Dr. Seuss

Following on the heels of the announcement of a never before published Harper Lee novel (written before To Kill A Mockingbird…I would consider it an early draft which was massively revised, based on what I’ve heard):

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

comes the news that we are going to get a new Dr. Seuss picturebook!

It’s coming in August, and while a Kindle edition is not yet available for pre-order, my guess is that one will show up soon. I’ll link to the page for one you can pre-order, and eventually, a Kindle edition is likely to be linked on that page:

What Pet Should I Get? (at AmazonSmile*)

I’m not hearing a lot of controversy about this one, like there has been about Go Set a Watchman (some people worry that Harper Lee doesn’t fully understand or approve of what is happening…my guess at this point is that is unlikely), but the provenance on this one is very different as laid out in this

USA Today story by Maria Puente

ILMK Flipboard Magazine passes The Measured Circle

Just since my most recent

Update on my free Flipboard magazines: 1000s of ILMK readers!

the free ILMK Flipboard magazine has caught up to and passed the The Measured Circle Flipboard magazine!

ILMK has 2800 viewers and The Measured Circle has 2621.

I would guess that by the next time I give an update, there will also have been 100,000 “flips” in ILMK.

I don’t know that the recent update to the Flipboard PC browser version mattered to that…but I suspect it will help with getting readers.

Recently, one of my relatives wanted to start getting ILMK on a tablet, but didn’t want to get other news stories (as you do with Flipboard). I installed the free

gReader app (at AmazonSmile*)

I also tested it out myself…seems to work fine for the simple purpose of reading blogs.

Adding subscriptions was a snap, and you download for offline reading, share, and use a white on black viewing mode, if you want.

Now, I’m always very grateful to people who subscribe to this blog through the Kindle store. That ninety-nine cents a month (well, my cut is about thirty cents) is honestly one of the things which makes the blog possible…thanks, subscribers!

However, Amazon still doesn’t make the blogs available to tablet users. I’m sure some of my readers are still paying the ninety-nine cents a month just to support me, and reading the blog on a Fire.

If they do that, I want to give them a good experience.

I do love Flipboard, but if all you want to do is read blogs, well, gReader seems like a good way to go.

What do you think? Are you excited for a new Dr. Seuss? Have you had a great Mayday story? Did you lose a Kindle…and then have the finder return 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 #285: reading declines, Kindle Unlimited expands to Canada and Mexico

February 13, 2015

Round up #285: reading declines, Kindle Unlimited expands to Canada and Mexico

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

Kindle Unlimited launches in Mexico and Canada

As a publisher (I only publish my own works…which I would guess is true of most Kindle Direct Publishing authors) who has books in

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

Amazon just informed me that KU is expanding to Canada and Mexico!

That’s exciting…I like having it very much. It’s an “all you can read” plan, $9.99 a month in the USA. Here’s the link for the information page

Kindle Unlimited in Mexico

where it is 129 pesos a month, and for

Kindle Unlimited Canada

where it is $9.99 (Canadian) a month.

Chri

Echo videos from Phink, one of my readers

One of my regular readers and commenters, Phink, recently got an Amazon Echo, Amazon’s ambient computing device. It’s an always on voice input device which plays music, answers all kinds of questions, and more.

Phink has posted what I think are a couple of the best videos I’ve seen so far about the Echo. They aren’t really reviews, they are demonstrations of what the device can do. If you are interested in the Echo, I think they are definitely worth watching to see what your experience might be like.

I appreciate Phink sharing these! I’ll be happy to write about the Echo, but my delivery date still says between May 27th and July 2nd.

Publishers Weekly: No Panic Over 15 Percent Drop in Christian Fiction Sales

Christian fiction has been a strong category of seller, but from 2013 to 2014, according to this

Publishers Weekly article by Ann Byle

sales dropped 15%. The article goes on to say why the publishers aren’t worried about that…I guess they have faith. ;)

Video news

I thought I’d group a couple of things together here…a mini-round up. ;)

First, this is just odd to me, but Amazon Studios is working with Sid and Marty Krofft to do a reimagined pilot of one of their series. The Kroffts were really gonzo “kids’ show” producers in the 1970s, although they did a lot more than that.

So, what gets the reboot? The most popular H.R. Pufnstuf? The wacky Lidsville? Electra Woman and Dyna Girl? Nope…Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. This may take a lot of reimagining…Sigmund’s parents were parodies of Archie Bunker and Phyllis Diller, and I just don’t think that’s going to fly with today’s audiences. Hoping they stick with the Johnny Whitaker theme song, though. :)

press release

Second, Fire TV, which is both the

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

and the

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

have added a bunch of apps, including the much talked about Sling TV (which may enable some people to drop cable…by paying for a much more focused package), TED (great, though-provoking lectures…this one is free), and Fox Sports GO.

press release

Only 40% of 17 year olds read at least one a week for fun

I do think that e-books have enabled and encourage a lot of people to read more, but stats like the ones in this

EBOOK FRIENDLY post by Ola Kowalczyk

are troubling.

It’s nothing particularly new…as kids get older, fewer of them report reading for fun.

Part of that may be that they have to read so much more for school…a high schooler presumably has a lot more assigned reading than a nine-year old. If they are enjoying that reading, it would probably still not be reported as “reading for pleasure”.

What’s troubling is the decline across age groups since 1984.

It’s possible that there was a big decline (let’s see…video games, maybe?) for a while, and that e-books are, in fact, increasing reading.

Still, the Common Sense Media data reported on here (and shown in an infographic) is not especially encouraging. On the good side, more than a quarter of homes have an EBR (E-Book Reader…they mention Kindles and NOOKs. That would not include tables, like the Kindle Fire).

Big update for Kindle for iOS (4.7)

In this

Kindle Forum thread (at AmazonSmile*)

an update for the iOS (Apple mobile…iPhones, iPads) app is announced.

It includes eTextbooks and the “Book Browser” feature that brings you information about the book (new for iPhones).

Flipboard redesigns Flipboard for the web

This is a big improvement!

I’ve written about my free Flipboard magazines here before.

I read it in the

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

app, which I read every morning on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

For my readers who didn’t have Fires, though, I know the experience trying to read them in a browser on a PC wasn’t great.

Well, if you’ve tried it before, check it out again at

https://flipboard.com/

I like what they’ve done it with it: it looks much better, and seems to be less resource intensive.

Hope you enjoyed my birthday! ;)

We had a great time…we went to Point Isabel in Richmond (rated as one of the top ten dog parks in the world)…our dogs love it there! We also get about an hour walk, two or three miles. I went to doctor yesterday for an annual check-up, and to the DMV to renew my license. When I did the DMV thing, I realized that my weight is down about 55 pounds since I last did a driver’s license! I’m down about 40 pound in the last two years, thanks to the free app I reviewed here:

Review: MyFitnessPal

Well, that, and a lot of work. :) I figure another year and I’ll be in good shape.

Then we tried a new restaurant, and the food was good.

After that, we saw The Theory of Everything. That’s one of the Best Picture nominees we hadn’t seen. I thought it was good, and was glad I had done my personal

2015 BOPMadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness)

predictions before I saw it. When you think a movie is good, it can skew your predictions…you tend to think the Academy will like it better than you might if you had not seen it.

I also got a book…always a good thing! I’ll wait until I’ve read a bit before I say anything about it, and I’ll likely do a Goodreads review.

Hope it was a great day for you, too!

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

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

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

 

Round up #284: nicer readers, one book for world leaders

February 7, 2015

Round up #284: nicer readers, one book for world leaders

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

Hotfile settles with major publishers

I think that the amount of e-book piracy has likely gone down over time.

One issue is that one of the reasons people gave for when it would be okay to “pirate” (copy without authorization a book under copyright protection) a book is if the book was otherwise not available as an e-book.

With so many more books now available (the USA Kindle store has gone from about 80,000 to over three million in fewer than seven years), that motivation is less there.

Also, I think infringers are simply more likely to settle.

I apparently got an infringing site to stop the practice, by alerting the right people.

In another case, I apparently got a book removed from the Kindle store, again, for infringing on my copyright.

Pirate Bay was down (although it’s back up)…one of the very biggest of the sites where a lot of infringing is alleged to happen.

Hotfile was another site like that, and they are in the process of setting with publisher (after having settled over music previously).

My sense is that people are also much more aware that they will lose in court…so they settle out of court, which is faster.

For more information:

torrentfreak.com post by Ernesto

Kobo QOTD: one book for politicians

Kobo does a “Question of the Day” (QOTD), and today’s was intriguing but an easy one for me.

The question

https://twitter.com/kobo/status/563345822939480064

was simple:

“If you could require all the world leaders to read one book, what would it be?”

Several people suggested

1984 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and I could understand that. Of course, there would be the risk that a politician would see its dystopian theme as a blueprint, not a warning. ;)

My first thought is that I would want them to read many books, not just one…and books with opposing points of view from diverse authors.

However, that’s not in the rules…and rules can be fun. :)

Some people doubt that…but it’s the rules that make a game a game.

Many years ago, a sibling and I playtested a game on the Alaska Oil Pipeline….no, we weren’t on the pipeline, it was an educational board game about it. ;)

It was okay, but there were two cards we recommended they remove.

You rolled a die and moved around a board. You landed on spaces and drew a card from a pile.

One card said, “You lose.”

Obviously, that’s a bad card in an educational game…or any other game. Who would want to be ahead in a game, and draw that card?

However, there was another card that said, “You win,” which we felt was equally bad.

Suppose you draw that card on your first turn? Whee, what a fun game…not really.

So, I’ll play the game by the rules.

Oh, I’ll mention one more game first we played in high school…pretty sure I invented the rules, but I’m not positive.

We called it “hyperspace chess”. You played against another player with two chess sets (two full sets of pieces, two boards).

The four middle center squares were “hyperspace squares”. On your turn, your move could be to “jump” a piece on one of those squares onto the equivalent space on the other board.

If there happened to be a piece on that exact square, you took it, but that was quite uncommon.

To win, you had to checkmate your opponent on either board, not on both.

I think that worked very well! Some people would get so caught up with jumping pieces that they would be surprised by a mate on a board with very few pieces on it.

I’ve also been told that it is good training for traditional chess, since those four squares are considered key in some parts of the game.

I have a (different from above) sibling who was a ranked chess player (and has written for Chess Life, the chess equivalent of Sports Illustrated), and I can play at level that I want to be able to do everything…where it isn’t  embarrassing. ;) Yep, I’ll lose to a tournament player, but I won’t have looked clueless doing it.

Where was I?

Oh, yes, a book for world leaders to read.

I’d go with

The Book of the D*mned (at AmazonSmile*)

by Charles Fort (I’m also really hoping Mark Zuckerberg picks that one for the reading thing going on at Facebook).

First, it’s going to be in the public domain…probably everywhere. Nice to show an efficient spending strategy. ;)

Second, it shows the interconnectedness of things, and how so often divisions between items are artificial.

Third, it’s been massively attacked at times, and I think generally with a misunderstanding of it (it’s not anti-science, for example).

Outside of that, I might recommmend…

The Human Zoo (at AmazonSmile*) by Desmond Morris

Ooh, and then there’s

Thinking, Fast and Slow (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) by Daniel Kahneman

and…timeout. Rules. Just pick one. Got it. ;)

Is Amazon going to face a Customer Service challenge with the Echo?

Serious readers tend to be nicer people.

I don’t know that for a fact, although I’ve seen some research that suggests they are at least more empathetic.

I see that reflected in the Amazon Kindle forums. Yes, there are  occasional disagreements there, and they can be strong and strongly worded (even ad hominem at times). Most of the time, though, people are tolerant of other ideas, and when they do disagree, they at least do so on the basis of ideas and evidence.

Not always, but the balance of the time.

On the other hand, and I want to be careful about how I say this, the Amazon Echo threads that I’m reading in the Kindle forum (there won’t be an Echo forum until the Echo is generally released…it will appear on the Echo’s product page), seem more…”internety”. ;)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a thread in the forum where so many people are asked by other forum members to leave!

I think readers tend to welcome the exchange of ideas…it may be that gadgeteers are less inclined to do so.

After you’ve spent a considerable amount for one brand of gadget, you may not want to hear about another brand.

There has been a lot of…scratch that, let me say that there has been a sort of unwelcomeness for posters who favor Apple products over Amazon products in the thread.

Some of the response has been erudite and logically reasoned…some of it has been playground level name calling, or so it seems to me.

One of the things I like best about Amazon is that they allow divergence of opinion on their forums.

Somebody can go in and say, “Amazon stinks!” and it isn’t against the rules.

There are rules, by the way (there we are…back to rules), but Amazon only loosely enforces them. Here, here is one of the main threads on the Echo if you want to look for yourself:

Amazon Kindle forum thread (at AmazonSmile*)

The guidelines specifically mention not posting things which are “inflammatory” or “spiteful” or that “denigrate” others.

Let me also be very clear: many of the people in the Echo threads have also been well spoken, tolerant, and helpful.

It’s just that I see a higher percentage of…what might be considered more typical of online forums.

I think this may prove to be a challenge to Amazon’s vaunted Customer Service. They must need to deal with it with other non-book products, I guess, but if the Echo is as successful as I think it is likely to be, they may end up dealing with more hostile and dogmatic customers.

Hopefully, I’m wrong about that. :) I know how many people are both serious readers and likely to buy Echoes (and to be nice and smart about them in their questions).

My Echo is on order…still not expected before the end of May, though.

When I do have one, so I’m in a better position to answer questions for you, feel free to ask them here. I haven’t commented much in the Kindle forum Echo threads, except where I knew answers from the online documentation or from Amazon.

The one place I had a bit of an exchange was with someone over copyright law and reposting comments made in the thread, but that just went a few posts and was over. :)

Amazon going more brick-and-mortar?

There have been a couple of stories lately suggesting that Amazon may get into ventures which involve four walls, a roof, and a floor.

One of them is the bankruptcy of Radio Shack.

Amazon has been mentioned as a possible buyer…I wrote about that last year, before the current events:

Round up #269: how Amazon spent the summer, AmazonShack?

I still don’t see it as a particularly good idea…I’m not clear on the value for Amazon.

One argument is that Amazon has more and more hardware, and they might sell more Fire TVs, Fire Phones, Echoes, and the like, if there was a place people could physically examine them.

Yes, I suppose that’s possible…but enough more to justify the expenses of brick and mortar? I’m a former bookstore manager, and I just find that a challenge for Amazon. When you take into account the theft issues, the rent, and so on…I don’t see it.

Now, having a place to pick up things you order online, with perhaps some impulse items, but no browsing?

That I can see.

Amazon does it with lockers now, and as a reader sent me in a private e-mail (and other sources indicate), Amazon is moving into it on college campuses.

Indy Star article by Joseph Paul

Those are “staffed” college stores…there are sales clerks there.

Human sales clerks, by the way…not robots (yet).

That makes some sense, and should make Barnes & Noble worried.

You can order something online, and pick it up at the store.

Lots of college students (this is starting at Purdue, and expansion is planned) have difficulty with boxes being delivered to their living spaces. This is safe and relatively easy.

I would hope, again, that it isn’t a browsing place…you go there to get what you’ve already ordered, so it can be small, have fewer people on staff, and a lot less shrinkage (shoplifting, employee theft, and damage).

In terms of experience with the hardware, I think it would make more sense for Amazon to set up virtual experiences or simulator booths of some kind in other stores.

When Amazon releases its virtual (or augmented) reality device (there, I said it…and that’s just wild, spur of the moment speculation), or before that, with Hololens and Oculus Rift, you could get quite a good sense of how the Fire TV works, or where the Echo would sit in your house.

A simulator “room” (I’m picturing something like the size of a TARDIS…just the outside, of course) ;) in a store would work well, too. You would go in, and they’d have the remote for a Fire TV or an Echo, and you could try it against a remote presence of the device. You much more have to do hands on with a tablet or phone, but you could do that, too, without a lot of space.

If you were in Manhattan using Prime Now, you could probably order it there and it might beat you home. ;) Well, somebody has to be home to get Prime Now, but you get the idea.

Amazon actually having stores the size of a Radio Shack, though, where people go in without a clear plan of purchase? Seems unlikely to work to me.

What do you think?

Are book people nicer? Is doing Customer Service for serious readers easier than doing it for the average person? What book would you recommend world leaders read? Is piracy on the decline? 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! :) 

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 #283: discount on covers, Echo plays Simon Says

January 31, 2015

Round up #283: discount on covers, Echo plays Simon Says

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

New features for Echo, Fire Phone

I’m one of the few people who bought an

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

when it first came out for $199.

People treat it like it is Amazon’s Edsel (a famous flop from Ford), and yes, Amazon blamed it for a big loss in the financial report before yesterday’s.

However…

It’s still being updated, and Amazon said they are “working through” the inventory.

I don’t think they are done with the Fire Phone.

Sure, they’ve given us new lockscreens…and those are cool things that use their “dynamic perspective” (which I like to call “dy-per”) ;) to look 3D. As you move your head, you can see different things. I have to say, it’s quite hard to get people to hold the phone still and move their heads to experience it…that’s not natural for people. Some of those are even little movies…as short as Vines, perhaps, but cool. That’s not really a new feature, though.

The voice assistant giving you directions?

Yes, that’s new. We didn’t have it when the phone came out, but it was recently added.

I tested it today, and said, “Directions home”…worked just fine.

That’s something else I want to mention: dictation on the phone, and, I think, on my

Kindle Fire HDX 7 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

has gotten a lot better lately. It’s always been pretty good, but the voice recognition has improved, I believe. I’ve even noticed it capitalizing things.

I suspect that may be a benefit from the

Amazon Echo

Part of the big feature of the Amazon Echo (Amazon’s yet-t0-be-generally-released ambient computing device) is it’s ability to carry on a conversation with you.

The voice recognition utilizes a hive mind (individuals contributing to and  benefiting  from a central source)…and so does voice recognition on the Fire Phone.

If you aren’t connected to wireless, voice recognition isn’t the same…I’m not even sure it works.

Now, it’s possible the voice recognition on the Fire Phone is actually powered by Google (the Fire Operating System is a “forked” version of Android), but I suspect it may not be. After all, Amazon bought Ivona (a text-to-speech and voice recognition company) about two years ago.

Nice to see my Fire Phone getting updates…and I think there is more to come.

The Echo has not even been released generally yet, so updates and new features make perfect sense. You can only buy one at this point if you ask for an invitation and get one…and my delivery date is estimated between May 27th and July 2nd!

One of my readers was nice enough to share an Amazon e-mail with me in a private e-mail (if you’d to be credited by name, just let me know).

Amazon announced to new features for this reader’s Echo. You can now control iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify by voice. You start it playing on a paired phone or tablet, then you can say, “Alexa, play” or pause, stop, next, or previous.

While that may not seem at first like that big of an addition, it’s important to note that this is more functionality with non-Amazon apps…showing that they aren’t trying to make this a “walled garden” as people like to say.

Second, and more interesting to me, is a “Simon Says” feature. You can say, “Alexa, Simon it’s time to go to bed,” and Alexa says, “It’s time to go to bed.”

Maybe that just sounds like a novelty, but I can see how it could be really useful.

You can use the remote to do it from another room…and I’m guessing you might be able to use the companion app (available for iOS and Android) to do it from elsewhere.

Of course, you could use it for playing tricks on your family members (Amazon even hints at that).

When I taught Advanced Excel class many years ago, I would set up a prank for the instructors to use on April Fool’s Day.

When you clicked in a particular spot, a message box would appear that would say,

“System crash imminent”

Click on that OK button, and it would say

“Radiation hazard”

Click again and get

“Your car has been towed”

One last click and get, “April Fools!”

People are going to tend to believe Alexa, so if she said it was time to go to bed, I think young kids would be more likely to do it than if a legal guardian said it.

At this point, it’s a one way communication…you talk through Alexa, but you can’t hear back anything that is being said.

You can see how it could have a practical application. You use the app (again, I’m not sure if that’s possible…I’d appreciate it if someone with an Echo could check) to say, “Honey, it’s me…I’m running late.” That’s easier for the person to get in a text…depending on how you have things set up and how often they check texts. ;)

They are making more improvements. I suspect eventually you’ll be able to have it remember a phrase you say to use for an alarm, and there is a lot more coming from the Echo, I believe.

Oh, and in another improvement from Amazon, reader Tania Marshall pointed out to me that the Washington Post app now does text-to-speech! That had been one of my comments about it when it was first released…but I’m glad it’s there now.

10% discount for ILMK readers at Queen Of Cases

https://queenofcases.com/

which makes really interesting hard cases for tablets and other devices is offering a discount code for readers of this blog.

Use the promo code

ilmk10

to get 10% of your order. They make cases for the Kindle Fire tablets, the Kindle Keyboard (AKA Kindle 3), the Kindle Touch, and the Kindle 4th generation.

Please be prepared to be specific as to which Kindle you have…if you need help figuring that out, let me know. :)

You may find this page of mine helpful:

Which Kindle do you have?

Enjoy the discount! I think these could make really nice gifts. They can do a custom case from any picture. They also have a sixty day return policy!

Let me clear, I haven’t tried one of these myself, but I appreciate them reaching out to me for your benefit…and they did it very nicely, I might add. :) Nothing pushy…

“When Authors Reboot a Series”

Jessica Pryde has an interesting

BOOKRIOT article

talking about authors “rebooting” a series…returning it to after a gap.

We’re not just talking a year…it can be a decade or even more.

Certainly, there are series where I wanted more…but thinking about being able to get back into the same “head space” after all that time…

Most likely, the author changed in a decade…won’t that affect the book?

Sure…and why not?

Characters in series do tend to evolve over time…and not just when they are aging like the Harry Potter protagonists. ;)

I actually think it can be more likely that another author picking up on a series can more closely replicate the feel of the original than the original author!

What do you think? Have you ever picked up a reboot and thought it was a considerable improvement over the previous books? Have you ever kinda sorta wished they had left it alone? Which series continued by other authors have been just as good or better (I might go with Ruth Plumly Thompson following on L. Frank Baum with the Oz series for one)? 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! :) 

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 #282: KDP EDU, sale on Prime

January 24, 2015

Round up #282: KDP EDU, sale on Prime

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

Amazon Prime on sale for $72 on Saturday January 24th only

It’s a big deal that one of Amazon’s original TV series, Transparent, won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical series.

Big enough that Amazon is celebrating…in two ways.

On Saturday (January 24th), non-Prime members can watch all ten episodes for free…binge watch!

If they decide to become Prime members (or if anybody wants to become a new Prime member), they can do so for $72 for the first year, instead of $99.

Why $72?

It was the 72nd Golden Globes. Gee, too bad it didn’t win the first year…it would have only cost a dollar! ;) Oh, wait, in 1943, they didn’t have an award for TV series…or, pretty much, TVs. The first year for TV comedy was 1969, and The Governor and J.J. beat The Carol Burnett Show, Love American Style, Laugh In, and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour…the Globes: always picking the shows with lasting value. ;)

If you want to take advantage of either or both of these deals, you can go here:

http://www.amazon.com/TransparentPrime (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Getting people to sign up for Prime is exactly why Amazon is spending money making these sorts of TV series…and this year, they’ll also be making theatrical movies.

Renewal will be at the usual rate. I don’t see any plus here for current members, but we already get rewards enough. :)

If you’ve been on the fence about Prime, now’s the time…

Speaking of a 24 hour deal…James Patterson’s exploding book

I totally misunderstood this story until I really read it.

I’d heard that James Patterson was making a book which would “explode” after 24 hours.

I thought that was a clever gimmick. I figured it was an e-book that would corrupt the file, so it couldn’t be read. That way, you’d have to binge read it, and then you couldn’t share it with anybody (even by sharing your device).

No, this is something different.

According to this

The Independent article by Adam Sherwin

the book will actually literally explode…apparently, with a bomb squad in attendance.

What’s that going to cost you?

About $300,000.

Okay, probably not you. ;)

You also get a stay in a hotel, an expensive dinner, and solid gold binoculars.

Does this author know how to market or what?

This story is getting tons of publicity for

Private Vegas (at AmazonSmile*)

which you can pre-order right now for delivery on January 26th.

What a clever marketing scheme! If nobody pays $300,000 for it, Patterson will still have gotten a lot of benefit (in terms of publicity) from the coverage.

Two big tech stories which might affect us readers

While Google has been readying the virtual reality device Oculus Rift, Microsoft just opened a huge new door with its announcement of an augmented reality device (coming soon), the Hololens.

It’s kinda sorta related to Windows 10, which is going to be massively different from Windows 8.x (they are skipping the number nine…that’s how different it is!). For one thing, W10 will have Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant.

I think I may need to explain the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality before I tell you how this could be used for readers.

In virtual reality, you are submerged in a simulated world. In the case of the Oculus Rift, you wear a helmet like device. Everywhere you look, you see the simulation…and nothing else. You don’t see the real world.

I don’t think that has much application for readers, although I suppose it might. You could project the words in front of you, or read an intangible book, but I think that would be a lot of work to go through just to read something.

With augmented reality, you see both the illusion and the real world…simulated items appear in place with what is really around you.

The Hololens, which will be more like goggles, are like sunglasses…you can see through them.

I’ve used AR (Augmented Reality) apps on my phones…they are processed through the phone’s camera.

I’ve tagged little flying robots when I was walking on the Golden Gate bridge, and I can read signs that are automatically translated for me.

That second one is Word Lens, and Google is just integrating it into their translation services. You look through your camera at a sign in, say, Spanish, and you can read it in English.

It’s not hard to do, but I find you do have to hold it pretty steady.

That would be one possible use for the Hololens and books. You could pick up a book in one language, and instead, you would see the words in a language of your choosing. As you turned the page, it would be aware of it and translate the next page.

Another possibility, as I mentioned to regular reader and commenter Edward Boyhan, is that they could satisfy both people who “like the feel of a book in their hands” and people who want the convenience of e-books.

You could have a blank p-book (paperbook). The Hololens could make it appear that there were words on the pages…and it could be different books at different times.

Another thing it could do: give you dictionary look-up in a p-book. Hold your finger on a word in that fifty-year old paperback you have, and it detects the gesture and displays a definition. Yes, the Hololens will detect gestures…giving you Minority Report-like powers.

I think this is a year we may be looking at life-changing technologies being introduced…much more than last year. The Hololens, the Amazon Echo, and the Oculus Rift…things won’t be the same.

The other big technology for us is wireless transmission  of power.

I’m not talking about setting your Kindle/Fire down on a pad…that’s not a practical way to use it.

I’m talking about sitting on the couch for a marathon reading session…and having your device charge at the same time. Carry your Kindle with you while you go to the kitchen and cook (you do that now, right?) and it will still be charging while it in range.

No consciously charging your tablet every night!

This is something that I said was

Tech we still need

back in 2010.

The other two things I mentioned?

Self-driving cars (which are here, but not marketized yet), and mass knock out (no closer, as far as I know).

Wireless transmission of power does look like it is finally really going to be here!

In this

The Seattle Times article by Jeff Gelles (which may have been in The Philadelphia Enquirer first)

they talk about three different companies which are close to having this in our homes.

I think it will happen within the next couple of years, although you are likely to need some sort of receiver on your gadget, so it wont just work with everything.

It may also not work with something that requires a lot of power, like a washing machine…but you don’t tend to move those around very much so it’s not such a big deal.

Much more important for our mobile gadgets.

The future is almost here…but by definition, that’s always true. ;)

Kindle Textbook Creator

Amazon is expanding its independent publishing platform in what might turn out to be a really significant way, as noted in this press release:

Amazon Launches Kindle Textbook Creator

You upload a PDF, and you can have these features:

  • Multi-Color Highlighting—Highlight and categorize key concepts for easy reference.
  • Notebook—Capture key passages, images and bookmarks and automatically add them to the notebook. Students can add their own notes and easily access them from one location.
  • Flashcards—Create flashcards and study important terms, concepts, and definitions in each chapter with a simple, easy-to-use interface.
  • Dictionary—Find definitions and Wikipedia information for difficult terms to improve retention.
  • Buy Once, Read Everywhere—Read eTextbooks on the most popular devices students use, including Fire tablets, iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and smartphones, Mac, and PC.

Note that non-Fires aren’t included on this list, since they can’t do everything on that list…but this could be big!

You can get up to a 70% royalty, like other KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) books. This is called KDP EDU:

https://kdp.amazon.com/edu

I have relatives who have written textbooks. I don’t know that I immediately see this for something like a high school class, but I can see it for people who want to market textbooks to the broader market…or, perhaps more significantly, professors who want to make books for their students (who may or may not be physically present in their classes).

What do you think? Does James Patterson being such a marketer affect the way you assess the quality of the books? Would you worry about power going wirelessly through you (my Significant Other has mentioned that)? Is there a market for independently published e-textbooks? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join more than a thousand readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

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


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