Archive for the ‘Round-ups’ Category

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

June 9, 2017

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

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

Brick-and-mortar Amazon stores

A reader sent me a link to this

The Shatzkin Files: First impressions of an Amazon bookstore

article by Mike Shatzkin.

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

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

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

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

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

The Motley Fool

which has not been particularly high on Amazon.

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

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

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

Here’s the

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

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

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

I wonder if it is in all of them?

Writers answer…

I thought this

Salon article by Teddy Wayne

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

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

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

According to this

TechCrunch article by Natasha Lomas

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

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

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

I liked the concept of this

BOOKRIOT article by Cecelia Lyra

The author sets it up as a game:

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

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

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

Second, how could you not name

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

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

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

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


My current Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway for And Then There Were None!

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

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

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

===

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

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

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

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

April 30, 2017

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

Oh, clever, clever Amazon!

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

I write about robots in one of my other blogs,

The Measured Circle

I define them there this way:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

It’s social.

Humans have to accept these AIbots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In short, you have it take selfies. 😉

That’s exactly how Amazon is introducing the

Echo Look

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

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

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

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

Absolutely.

Let me speculate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.subscribewithamazon.com/

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

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

Um…CNN? E-books are real books

Sigh.

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

This

CNN post by Ivana Kottasova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps read them both, and then you can decide.

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

LAST HOURS TO ENTER

I recently concluded a giveaway for

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

by my sibling, Kris Calvin

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

1 winner

Requirements for participation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round up #156: Amazon Cash, traveling librarian

April 14, 2017

Round up #156: Amazon Cash, traveling librarian

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

Traveling school librarian

I loved this

CBS News story

about John Schumacher, who is a traveling school librarian.

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

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

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

A book that changed my life: The Maybe Monsters

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

Should audiobooks be used in the classroom?

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

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

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

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

This

EBOOK FRIENDLY article

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

This columnist will help you find a book

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

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

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

I did enjoy this

“Match Book” advice column by Nicole Lamy

in the New York Times.

This isn’t Amazon’s

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

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

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

Amazon Cash

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

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

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

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

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

With the

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

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

What does it cost?

Nothing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My current Amazon Giveaways:

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

by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Two winners

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

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

===

Blitzwolf VR Headset (at AmazonSmile*)

in honor of “Virtually Mike & Nora”

One winner

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

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

===

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

by my sibling, Kris Calvin

Ten winners

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

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

===

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

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

1 winner

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

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

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

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

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

March 8, 2017

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

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

“Let me whisper in your microphones…”

Did you know you can whisper to your

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

?

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

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

11 Well-Read Facts About the Library of Congress

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

post by Michele Debczak

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

It Can’t Happen Here

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

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

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

a 1935 work by Sinclair Lewis.

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

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

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

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

Undervaluing teen books?

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

Teen book author Lauren Oliver wrote:

Why Don’t People Take Teen Books Seriously?

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

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

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

No tax cut for e-books in Europe

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

Yahoo! Finance article by Waverly Olville

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

Literature rebuses

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

BuzzFeed article by Robin Edds

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

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

enutroF

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

I thought this was really cool!

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

How young?

9?

7?

Would you believe 5?

Yep, five years old!

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

KGO article without a byline

HarperCollins celebrates an anniversary

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

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

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

The publisher has an interesting anniversary site:

http://200.hc.com/

I particularly liked looking at the archives. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

Round up #154: writing length, Trekifying Alexa

February 17, 2017

Round up #154: writing length, Trekifying Alexa

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

On the Alexa front

Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant available on the Echo family, current Fire tablets, the Fire TV family, and more, is undoubtedly a big part of Amazon’s future. It is (or can be) already part of our literary lives, reading books to us with text-to-speech (when not blocked by the publisher), playing audiobooks, answering questions about authors and works, and more.

Even though there is growing competition (Samsung’s next rumored flagship form is reportedly going to include a new assistant, Bixby, with a lot more capabilities…I took a quick look to see if the name could be inspired by author/screenwriter Jerome Bixby, but I’m not seeing an immediate connection), Alexa is going to be prominent for some time to come.

Amazon is spending a lot on development, clearly, and users are getting some good results.

One simple thing: you can now use “Computer” as a “wake word” (what you say to get the device’s attention). People have wanted that from the beginning, because of the Star Trek connection (that’s how people on the Enterprise activate their computer for voice-based interactions). You can change that in your Alexa app and settings. I could choose it for our Amazon Echo and our Echo Dot, but not our Amazon Tap.

The Tap, though, has an extraordinary, game-changing update (which I just got yesterday…it’s been rolling out). It allows you to put the

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

in “Hands-Free Mode”.

That’s right: the Tap, which initially required you to push a button to talk to it, can now hear you from across the room, just like the original Echo.

That’s a giant change!

Screenshot showing options for the Hands-Free mode

Now, as you can see in the above screenshot, they recommend that you put the device into sleep mode if you aren’t actively using it. That’s because listening takes power (as humans know…it’s an active function to be quiet and listen, and it takes energy). The reason why the Tap was portable was because it didn’t listen all the time, to some extent.

The real question here is why anybody would now pay $50 more for the original Echo, which can only work when plugged in (although there are some third party battery options). The sound is probably somewhat better, but the Tap can get quite loud. You could also supplement by Bluetoothing or cabling to other speakers…not an option with the original Echo.

Do you hear the characters when you are done reading the books?

As regular readers know, I don’t “hear” the voices of characters when I read books (and I don’t visualize the scenes, unless they are particularly…unclearlywritten and I can’t figure out what’s happening without that). One of my regular readers who is an expert on reading has told me that’s unusual in someone who reads well (which I think I can objectively say I do), but it’s always been the case for me, at least for decades.

Once I found out other people (including my Significant Other) do hear the voices, I was intrigued.

This

Richard Lea article in The Guardian

was even more fascinating to me. It’s about a study where many people reported continuing to interact with fictional characters (including hearing them) after finishing a book.

Has that happened to you?

I am inspired by fictional characters (Doc Savage, for one), but I would describe it as “pull” rather than “push”. In other words, I might consciously think about what Doc might do in a situation, but the character doesn’t appear in my life unbidden.

How long does it take to write a masterpiece?

I thought this was an interesting infographic reported in this

EBOOK FRIENDLY post by Ola Kowalczyk

It shows you how long it took authors to write certain well-known books. It varies widely. I do think I can write quickly…but I haven’t written a new book in some time. The shortest one listed took 2.5 days, and the longest 16 years…

Emerald City on TV and L. Frank Baum

As a long time Oz fan, I’m enjoying and am impressed with the NBC series

Emerald City

It’s based not just on the first book, but on various books in the “Famous Fourteen” original books by L. Frank Baum, and shows a depth of knowledge.

There have been a couple of (I think perhaps ill-advised) references to the 1939 MGM musical with Judy Garland, but in many ways, it is closer to the original books.

I’ve started to analyze that in-depth, comparing the three (Baum, EmCity, and MGM)…by its nature, that work is spoilerific (as all analysis will tend to be), but if you are caught up or don’t care about spoilers, I think you’ll find it interesting as it grows:

Parallel Wizards: 3 views of Oz (Baum, Emerald City, MGM)

New “His Dark Materials” booking coming this year

NPR article

You can order

The Book of Dust (at AmazonSmile*)

for Kindle delivery October 19, 2017.

It should be a bestseller…and if there is another “Game of Thrones” book this year, it could be a very good year for tradpubs (traditional publishers) and brick-and-mortar books indeed. They might also spur more e-book adoption, in part because big books can be a lot easier as e-books…and listening to part of the book may also be attractive.

Visual media has seen some real success with returning to older properties in the past couple of years (Star Wars, The X-Files), but I don’t think that necessarily had a lot of impact here. Books often go back for sequels, although that may have been more true with public domain works (there are Dracula sequels perhaps every year).

One last note today: it was nice to see a book by Hans Holzer, author of

Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*

on Stranger Things. 🙂 I’ve been watching Stranger Things in Virtual Reality while I exercise during lunch at work (I’m not done yet, so please, no comments on plot points). Holzer is a great writer, very amusing, regardless of whether or not you “believe in ghosts”. 😉

Enough for this morning…I may write pretty quickly, as I said, but I could always write more with more time!

Opinions/questions on/about any of these stories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

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

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

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

 

 

Round up #153: book deserts and B&N’s sales

January 7, 2017

Round up #153: book deserts and B&N’s sales

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

PEN America to hold “Literary Protest” at NYPL

According to this

Huffington Post article by Katherine Brooks

and other sources, PEN America is planning a demonstration in favor of freedom of expression on Sunday, January 15 starting at 2:00 PM at the New York Public LIbrary. It will feature famous authors (including two poet laureates) reading outside the NYPL. They will then go to the President-Elect’s residence to present a petition (which can be signed online) to “DEFEND THE FIRST AMENDMENT”.

PEN America is association with PEN International, which goes back to 1921. PEN now stands for “Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists”, although it was originally just Poets, Essayists, Novelists.

I think it’s worth taking a moment for me to explain when I choose to include stories (both here and in the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard) which are arguably political. Regular readers know that this blog strives to be open to people of all opinions…whether or not I personally agree with those opinions. I’m happy to say that I’ve been told that readers aren’t sure of my own political feelings…I don’t want people to feel like they can’t make any respectful comments here they want.

My standard is that the story has to be about the topics of interest to this blog…for me, this is a story about the authors who will be there, rather than about the President-Elect. The P-E is an element of the story, but if it was a demonstration by people who were unconnected to publishing, e-books, or Amazon I wouldn’t include it.

I believe I would be just as likely to cover it if it was a demonstration about the current President or any President.

Saying that, the authors appearing (and there are many and they expect more to appear) include:

  • Robert Pinsky (Poet Laureate Consultant)
  • Rita Dove (Poet Laureate Consultant)
  • Laurie Anderson (Margaret A. Edwards Award winner)
  • Art Spiegelman (cartoonist author of Maus)
  • Rick Moody (The Ice Storm)

The public is invited, and the first two on this list will reportedly read new poems.

Brick-and-mortar implosion

While Amazon has moved a bit into brick-and-mortar, it’s clearly to the advantage of Amazon for people to move more to online shopping (which is clearly happening).

I do believe brick-and-mortar stores of some kinds can continue to thrive…ones that give special experiences when people go there, and ones where the customers are consciously willing to spend more money to support them.

Unfortunately, it’s not good news from some famous brick-and-mortars. We’ve heard recently about significant closings of

  • Macys (68)
  • The Limited (all 250)
  • Sears (150 between Sears and K-Mart)
  • K-Mart

The Millions Great 2017 Book Preview

My guess is that this is going to be a big year for publishing, and this

The Millions article

does a nice job of going through month by month, and giving you a paragraph about each. My guess is that you’ll find something that at least intrigues you there. 🙂

Barnes & Noble’s holiday sales…as I figured

In this

press release at Business Wire

we see Barnes & Noble’s holiday sales report…and they were down 9.1% comparable store sales year to year. That’s a lot! They didn’t have any good excuses for it…”lower traffic” should be something that the store managers can affect.

They also note the decline in adult coloring books…that should have been entirely predictable (and I’m writing as a former brick-and-mortar store manager). It was a fad…doesn’t mean it entirely disappears, but it was the kind of thing likely to have a parabolic arc…or at least a turtle curve.

They’d better hope Leonard Riggio is right in describing the season as “unusual”.

A nice infographic on romances by Avery Burch

Romances, science fiction/fantasy, mysteries…fans of these genres sometimes read prodigious amounts. I’d say that’s especially true of romances, where I would have regular customers come in and buy easily thirty a month (mostly from Harlequin).

There is an infographic by Avery Bunch in this

EBOOK FRIENDLY post by Ola Kowalczyk

that has some really interesting stats about romance books…and who reads them. I’d love to have a bit more info and a bit less graphic, but still worth seeing.

Mike Shatzkin on challenges for publishers in 2017

I strongly recommend this

Idea Log article by Michael Shatzkin

Shatzkin programmed and moderated the first seven

Digital Book World

shows (the next one is January 17-19).

This is certainly represents an informed opinion, and as such, is more than just worth reading.

One thing: John Sargent of Macmillan, who famously clashed with Jeff Bezos some time back, will be speaking…and that’s only one of the presentations likely to make some waves.

“Book Deserts”

This

New York Daily News article by Naomi Moland and Susan B. Neuman

talks about “book deserts”…how disadvantaged neighborhoods may have a tiny fraction of the books available to buy in them compared to more affluent on ones.

One example they give:

“One middle-income neighborhood had one book available per every two children living in the neighborhood. In a nearby low-income neighborhood, 830 children would have to share a single book.”

E-books do make a difference…it’s much easier to get a variety of e-books into an area than it is to get an equivalent number of p-books (paperbooks).

It’s obviously easier to get e-books if you own your own EBR (E-Book Reader), but e-books are available if you at least have a computer available to you (although not as conveniently).

Even given that, it does sadden me to think about so many children who can’t hang out in bookstores, which was always one of my favorite things to do. Yes, there are public libraries…but they also are less common in poorer neighborhoods.

Do you have thoughts about any of these stories? Feel free to share them with me and my readers by commenting on this post.

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

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

* 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 The Measured Circle 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 #152: the future of copyright, Intel and Amazon…and Microsoft

December 18, 2016

Round up #152: the future of copyright, Intel and Amazon…and Microsoft

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

Still on sale!

As  former retail manager (I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and a game store, and worked in a “nature” store…oh, and one of my first jobs was working at the now-defunct House of Humor, which sold novelties…I helped customers at Halloween with theatrical make-up), it’s really interesting to me that there are still sales on popular items. Traditionally, you would expect that in the last week, prices might actually go up, but there certainly wouldn’t be discounts. Clearance would happen after Christmas…or perhaps in January.

I was thinking at one point that part of that was the increased competition, but Amazon is having sales on popular gifts…which are exclusive to them. Of course, they are still in competition for dollars for gifts, even if it would be different gifts from other places.

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

exclusive to Amazon, is $88.99 for 12 months…which is 25% off. This is a great gift for someone who likes to read…books, magazines, and even listening to audiobooks.

Also still on sale from Amazon: some Amazon devices.

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

is $99.99, about $20 off.

That is the model I would recommend to most people…the Voyage has some advantages, and I haven’t tested the Oasis, because you can only buy it with an animal leather cover…and having the light makes this better than the base model.

Now, all of the new Fire tablets are on sale, including the

Fire, 7″ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

going for $39.99 at time of writing.

Other Fire models on sale:

  • Fire HD8 for $99.99 instead of $119.88
  • Fire HD8 variety pack (2 32GB, one blue and one magenta…this isn’t the only variety pack deal they’ve done this season) for $199.88 instead of $239.98
  • Fire HD10 for $199.99 versus $239.98
  • Fire Kids Edition for $89.99 instead of $99.99

All three of the Echo devices are discounted:

The only Fire TV item on sale is a bundle:

Fire TV and HD Antenna (at AmazonSmile*)

for $99.99, valued at $116.97. You would use the HD Antenna to pick up local channels over the air.

A lot of other things are on sale, including e-books…but that’s also a daily occurrence. For example, there are

50 Kindle books for $2 each (at AmazonSmile*)

Whither copyright?

Copyright evolves fairly often, and there has been a serious review of it for the past few years. Change during the next Presidential administration was inevitable…regardless of who was elected. The nature of that change would likely have been quite different depending on who was elected, but the question of change was not an issue.

This matters. It matters to readers, and it matters to authors. Big movers are trying to influence the outcome, and pundits are punditing. 😉

This was a well-written and informative

THE ILLUSION OF MORE post by David Newhoff

It addresses this

Judiciary Committee report

which has some really game-changing proposals.

That report, while not binding at this point, may deserve its own post. Some language seems vague to me, and could have unintended consequences. This is just one part, which is something I’ve wanted for a long time: “The Copyright Office should maintain a searchable, digital database of historical and current copyright ownership information and encourage the inclusion of additional information such as licensing agents that would be available to the public. This database should allow copyright owners to include additional metadata, such as standardized identifiers, for a fee. The Copyright Office should also be allowed to charge a fee for high speed, high volume access to this database.”

Meanwhile, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) wrote this

Open Letter to the President-Elect and the transition team

It talks about their agenda. It, correctly, points out that the President-Elect and other members of that family have benefitted from the traditional-publishing industry that the AAP represents. I’m not sure what the new administration will do with copyright, but I will watch it closely and report to you as appropriate.

Intel to work with Amazon on Echo devices…and with Microsoft on a competitor

Intel has always supplied competitors, and that’s going to happen as AI Assistants (Artificially Intelligent Assistants) become commonplace.

Here’s a

Venture Beat article by Khari Johnson

on the Amazon partnership, and here is a

Business Insider article

on the Microsoft/Intel partnership.

It’s not a direct competition, necessarily, if you are thinking of the Echo hardware. However, the competition is with Alexa, the assistant. That’s the future, and it’s going to expand rapidly…both in where we access assistants and how we use them.

I have access to what I would consider to be the big four assistants right now:

  • Siri (from Apple)
  • Alexa (from Amazon)
  • Cortana (from Microsoft)
  • Google (or, I think of it is as “OK Google”) from Alphabet (sort of formerly Google)

I’m considering doing a post (or maybe a series of them) in my The Measured Circle blog where I compare their responses (and capabilities)head to head.

I did do a recent comparison when Len Edgerly of The Kindle Chronicles tweeted about Alexa’s surprising ability to sing.

I tested the four of them with “Sing a song”.

  • Alexa did actually sing…impressively, even with vibrato! Alexa has sung me different songs to this query
  • Cortana also sang, again, with vibrato
  • Siri spoke a song…and then made a joke about it
  • OK Google didn’t sing a song…but found a related YouTube video (Google also owns YouTube)

Alexa and Cortana impressed me. I think they must actually have programmed that vibrato.

Siri seemed to have more of Siri’s agenda…and wasn’t as technically skilled. That’s more personality, but wasn’t as satisfying.

OK Google definitely didn’t make me feel that what I wanted was that important and it wasn’t as technically impressive.

“The Big Book Publishing Stories of 2016”

This is a nice look back at the year:

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

I’m looking forward to writing my look back and look forward! I’m taking a writing day towards the end of the year…and I might actually end up taking two of them. 🙂

What do you think? What changes would you like to see happen in copyright…and what do you think will happen? How do you see artificial intelligence assistants fitting in to our lives…and again, what would you like to see them do and not do? What do you think were the big publishing stories of the year? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

* 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 #151: 5 reviews a week, don’t pay as you exit

December 6, 2016

Round up #151: 5 reviews a week, don’t pay as you exit

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

Check this out…or rather, don’t and just walk out

I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, and I managed a couple of other types of stores, too.

This is truly revolutionary! Sure, Amazon does revolutionary things, but this is not online…it’s in a physical store.

What is it?

It’s called “Amazon Go”. It’s a new store concept…and the first one is opening in Seattle in 2017, so it’s not just a concept.

You have an app on your SmartPhone. As you walk into the store, you scan your phone while passing through a turnstile (sort of like some mass transit systems). Then, you just take what you want off the shelves, and you walk out.

That’s right…you don’t check out, you don’t pay, you don’t even scan your phone again on the way out.

Your Amazon account is charged.

That’s all a quantum leap change…we haven’t been gradually moving towards this, it’s a revolution, not an evolution

Watch this video:

YouTube

Note that is uses computer vision, among other things…it’s not just RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) or UPC (Universal Product Code) tags.

We do see an Amazon employee restocking the shelf, although that could largely be done by robots. You want some employees, though, at this point…for one thing, to answer questions (the app could probably help with that, perhaps in the future as an Alexa-enabled app, or by having Alexa-enabled devices in the store). The other major thing would be to discourage shoplifting…no doubt, people will try to run into the store (hopping the turnstile, perhaps) and grab and go.

This is brilliant for Amazon for several reasons.

Everybody who goes in there pays through Amazon.

I think customers will like it…a lot.

Customers will also have a lowered awareness of how much they are spending. I’ve seen people in front of me in line at a grocery store look at the total and put something back…not going to happen here.

This first store will have grocery type items, including prepared meals…not, I would presume, fresh produce, although I suppose that could be done.

Amazon could eventually expand this, especially at the holiday season. I see clothing being particularly appropriate here, so people could try on the clothes.

Amazon…always innovating, and increasingly, offline.

Specialty Best Books lists

Here are some links to specialty Best Books lists from The Guardian:

Note that this is a British news source, but that has affected availability less in recent years, I believe.

こんにちは, Dash buttons!

Do you know why Microsoft Word won out over WordPerfect?

I was active at the time in computing, and I remember it pretty well.

WordPerfect was, I think most serious word processors agreed, better.

However, we did everything with keyboard shortcuts…we didn’t have mice and menus, for the most part (it worked with them quite a bit later). Some of you will remember plastic trays you put around your keyboard that listed the shortcuts…you might have had several of them.

Microsoft brought in this “menu” thing. People laughed: the only people who used a word processing program were superior typists, and they weren’t going to want to take their fingers off the home row to pick up a mouse and go to a menu.

Well, of course, what happened was that lots of people who weren’t good typists started using word-processing…and if you were a bad typist, that was better.

Microsoft won because they provided multiple ways to do the same thing. They didn’t eliminate keyboard shortcuts…they added another modality.

I bring that up because some people may wonder why Amazon does

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

when they have the beauty of voice shopping with the Alexa-enabled devices, including the original

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

With a Dash button, it does one thing. It orders a specific product, whenever you push a button.

Those are two very different approaches…and Amazon is making them both work, and apparently they are both selling well.

The USA Kindle store now has 226 Dash buttons…and when you buy one for $4.99, you get a $4.99 credit on your first purchase (so it is effectively free).

Well, Amazon just introduced the Dash button to Amazon.jp (the Japanese store):

Dash buttons in Amazon.jp

They are starting with 16, but I think it will be a success there, too. 🙂

“Winner Wonderland”: win an Echo Dot and a whole lot more from C/NET

You could win an

All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and a whole lot of other home automation hardware in the

Winner Wonderland giveaway at C/NET

You do have to agree to get the e-mail newsletter (you can drop out), but this is a good giveaway. There’s a giveaway each day through December 15th, 2016.

“BANNED BOOKS AND BLOCKBUSTERS”

This

New Yorker article by Louis Menand

is one of the best articles on publishing I’ve read in quite some time…although, I will warn you that there is an “obscenity” early on in it (what some people call the “c word”…it can be used as an insulting term for women, and refers to part of the female anatomy, which is how it is used in the quotation appearing in the article). As regular readers know, I don’t use obscenities in my “real life”, and when I write in this blog, I typically censor them (even something like “H*ll”). However, I do not object to their use by others, and have used them when quoting something.

It’s important for this story, which gives real insight into the history of obscenity laws and the first amendment, and how they have affected publishing.

I found it insightful and edifying, and it’s relatively long.

If you can get past that word in this context, and some other discussions of what obscenity means (and potentially objectionable language), I recommend the article.

For a previous post of mine about judging books from older times by current standards, see

The Chronological Cultural Context Conundrum

That may not be exactly the issue here…both of these books use the “n word”, but in the latter especially, it’s used for a purpose, and the purpose is certainly arguably intended to be instructive.

Microsoft may challenge the Echo…through computers

The Echo really realized the home assistant market, but there are now multiple competitors…which is a good thing. Competition drives innovation, after all.

This

Engadget post by Jon Fingas

discusses rumors that Microsoft may turn Windows PCs into Cortana-powered home automation centers. Cortana is Microsoft’s digital assistant, like Alexa or Siri.

It’s an interesting idea and makes a lot of sense to me.

We don’t know if this is real, or what it would eventually be able to do…but I don’t see any great barrier to this. It might particularly apply in businesses…I use our

Amazon Tap (at AmazonSmile*)

at work, but that’s not very subtle. 😉 I’m not doing anything wrong listening to music on it and such, but I think it can distract people that it is there in a different way than a feature of Windows 10 would do. When I say that, I’m picturing the office having smart home technology which would tie to it, by the way.

Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird pulled from school district due to parent complaint

This kind of thing happens…a parent complains about a book, and it gets pulled from a school or school district, sometimes to be restored later:

Huffington Post article by Claire Fallon

The complaint was over the use of the “n word”. I’ve seen the parent (I think it was the complaining parent) comment, and the thought was that the word being in a book give it an imprimatur and children will feel okay using it.

As I’ve seen this story in multiple places, there is a tendency to tie it into current political events…I wouldn’t say I’m seeing something here that rules that in or out. After all, there is a Banned Books Week every year…

Amazon continues to go after “fake reviews”

A reader sent me a heads up to this

Washington Post article by Gene Marks

that asserts that there is a new Amazon review policy. I’ve written about Amazon’s customer reviews quite a bit…a powerful tool, but one that has been…vulnerable to at least attempts at manipulation.

According to this, the new policy is that an individual can only write up to five non-verified purchase reviews per week.

That will stop people who are “review factories”. They get paid (in cash and products) for writing those reviews…and they may use software or a team of people to do it.

They can still try to make a number of accounts, I suppose, but this does put a hurdle on the track.

Does it affect people who are legitimately reviewing?

Potentially, although I think not a huge number.

If I was retired, I could see deciding to sit down and write a review for every one of the Doc Savage paperbacks, for example, and that might be writing more than ten a week. They wouldn’t show as “verified purchases” at Amazon, since I bought them before Amazon existed. 🙂

However, older books don’t tend to have very many reviews, so I don’t think that sort of Before Amazon bulk reviewing happens much.

Thanks for the heads up, reader!

What do you think? How should schools handle parent challenges to books…and how should they handle “objectionable words”? What do you think of the Amazon Go store? How about a computer that did home automation? Do you like Cortana? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

This post was improved through a comment from Edward Boyhan.

* 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 #150: cast Harry Potter spells at Amazon, tradpubs rebound

November 15, 2016

Round up #150:Round up #150: cast Harry Potter spells at Amazon, tradpubs rebound

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

“55 Books to Read this Fall”

This is a nice slideshow of some of the big name books for the fall. It comes from Entertainment Weekly, to which I have been subscribing for a very long time.

Entertainment Weekly article published by Tina Jordan and Isabella Biedenharn

Definitely interesting books…how about this graphic novel from Margaret Atwood?

Angel Catbird Volume 1 (Graphic Novel) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

“Your brain on books, or the benefits of reading (infographic)”

EBOOK FRIENDLY post by Ola Kolwalczyk

Always a good topic. 😉 This one is particularly science-based with nice links.

Amazon Music Unlimited comes to the UK

The Verge post by James Vincent

While USA Amazon customers may get things first sometimes, Amazon is truly an international company. I’m not subscribing to Amazon Music Unlimited, but I’m sure many people will. I’ve been using the richer language interface to Prime music, though…I wanted some music for work, and asked for “happy jazz”…and it delivered nicely.

Speaking of Britain, this is a nice

The Guardian article by Darien Graham-Smith

with beginner’s tips for the

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

Tradpubs rebound

While there was a lot of concern for traditional publishers (which I call “tradpubs”) that they were doomed with the rise of e-books and the supposed declined of reading, that doesn’t seem to be the case, or at least not a straight linear decline. According to this

Publishers Weekly post by Jim Milliot

there was a notable increasing trend in this year’s third quarter…despite, by the way, a downward trend in e-book sales for tradpubs. As I’ve written before, I don’t think that means fewer e-books are being read…just that customers may be migrating way from tradpubs as their source for e-books.

Amazon must refund in-app purchases by kids

According to this

New York Daily News article and other sources

Amazon has to refund purchases made by kids inside apps (“in-app purchases”). Amazon isn’t often found legally at fault in terms of consumer practices, and it’s worth noting that Apple and Google were also earlier found to have done the same thing, and that all three have taken steps to remedy the situation.

Bookstore bans Wi-Fi to encourage people to read books while in the store

I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager…and I would not have done this.

ABC7New reports about Wind City Books’ policy in this

article

The store encourages customers to “live like it’s 1993” and says that “EMAILS CAN WAIT”.

I understand the concept…but it seems to be a very backward concept of how people use mobile devices. E-mail is hardly as important to people on the road as texting, and it blocks people off from many sources that benefit those with disabilities, among other things. Quite simply, you could put people at considerable risk.

I don’t doubt their motives…although blocking Wi-Fi perhaps benefits the store by making it more difficult to use the retailer for “showrooming”, where people look at books in a store and then buy them online.

I could see giving people the option of a Wi-Fi free zone for a reading room, but doing it in a store is different.

Black Friday is next week

Lots of people seem to feel like Thanksgiving snuck up on this year…I suspect people have been very distracted by the news lately.

I’m not seeing all that much about Kindle deals (although they will be there), but I am seeing rumors of the Echo for $139.99 and the All-New Echo Dot (2nd Generation) – White (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) for $39.99 as Early Bird sales at Best Buy.

If you have an Echo family product, you can just ask Alexa, “What are your deals?” to get exclusive deals. That’s something I’ve wanted from the beginning for Alexa, and it does seem to be pretty impressive.

Amazon does have its own deals on Kindle and other devices right now, as part of the countdown to Black Friday. Check out

Countdown to Black Friday (at AmazonSmile*)

Harry Potter spells at Amazon

Finally, just for fun (and promoting the Fantastic Beasts movie), try typing these Harry Potter spell words into the searchbox at Amazon.com:

  • incendio
  • aguamenti
  • orchideous
  • reducto
  • lumos

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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.

Round up #149: I’m on TKC tomorrow, Brits write about USA libraries

October 21, 2016

Round up #149: I’m on TKC tomorrow, Brits write about USA libraries

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

I’ll be on Len Edgerly’s The Kindle Chronicles this Friday 10/21

I’ve recorded an interview with Len Edgerly of

The Kindle Chronicles

for podcast this Friday!

I’m always honored to be on that show, and it’s a great experience. Len has interviewed many important people, including Jeff Bezos, and the shows are always enhanced by the host’s understanding, wisdom, and compassion.

I had some audio issues (totally not Len’s fault), but I’m hopeful that some technical magic may help cut down on the impact. As usual, I probably talked more than Len expected, so I’m counting on editing. I’ll probably do a post annotating the discussion after the show.

If you have an

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

device (and that includes Echo Dot (at AmazonSmile*), Amazon Tap (at AmazonSmile*), Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*) ((you don’t need the voice remote…you can use the free Fire TV app), and Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)), you can listen to it by asking the device to “Play The Kindle Chronicles on Tune-in”. It officially goes up on Friday, but I’m not sure when…should be available on Saturday for sure.

Took a Trip without an Echo

Another personal story (more newsy stuff to follow). Our two dogs took my Significant Other and me down to Pacific Grove near Carmel for a couple of days this weekend. 🙂 They love going down there…and so do we! The Carmel beach is leash-free, and there’s a sort of hidden (there’s no sign visible from the street driving by) little old growth forest area in Pacific Grove, called the Rip Van Winkle Open Space, which is also leash-free.

elf-tree

We were looking for a quiet couple of days (we only spent two nights there), with a lot of walking and healthy food (we brought our own…literally the only thing we bought down there was that my SO had a latte).

Quiet meant…no Alexa! I could have brought our Tap, but my SO really isn’t fond of Alexa. I think it’s correct to say that it’s harder to ask for a light to be turned on than to flip a switch, and understanding is imperfect. I have a lot of fun with Alexa, and find the imperfections charming, but I get it. We also didn’t watch any TV…I had considered bringing the Fire TV Stick, and we probably would have used it…but just as well.

That doesn’t mean I was Amazon techless! I didn’t bring a Kindle EBR (E-Book Reader), but did have my trusty (now discontinued) Kindle Fire HDX, and got quite a bit of reading done. I finished

Keep Watching the Skies by Bill Warren (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I really enjoyed that comprehensive encyclopedia of science fiction movies released in the USA in the 1950s! I’ve seen almost all of them (a few were real obscurities; some were…um, not appropriate for me at the time). In print, it’s over 1,000 pages, and I didn’t use text-to-speech, because I wanted to see the photos from the movies and the poster reproductions. 🙂 I’m glad I could buy it for $3.99 during that sale I told you about back then…it’s $14.74 in Kindle format at the time of writing.

On the drive home, which was more than two hours, we streamed a Prime station on my Galaxy S7 Edge (not the exploding Note…I still like Samsung).

When I got home, I was eager to talk to Alexa again, but it was a great trip!

British readers write about their favorite American public libraries

I love this

Guardian article by Tom Stevens and Guardian readers

There are photographs and very personal short anecdotes.

Public libraries are one of the most important institutions that exist, in my opinion. They can change the world, by bringing it (and more than it) to the smallest towns and the biggest minds.

Is there a difference in the concept of British and American libraries? Interesting to me that they are so interested in the architecture…on the other hand, our libraries are relatively modern…not centuries old. 😉

A picture is worth a thousand words…but is a book worth two thousand dollars? 😉

The

Franklin Book Fair

is happening now, and

David Hockney

introduced a book (not yet available through Amazon) with a list price of two thousand Euros (about $2,200, I believe).It’s an art book, and comes with its own stand.

There will be 10,000 copies…gee, I wonder what the Kindle edition will cost? 😉 Just kidding, this one probably won’t be released in e-book form.

Who owns a book’s characters’ unstated lives?

There is a fascinating issue raised in this

L.A. Times article by Michael Schaub

A reader brought up the idea to author S.E. Hinton that two of the male characters in

The Outsiders (at AmazonSmile*)

might have romantic feelings for each other.

The author said definitively that they didn’t and that they weren’t gay.

There was Twitter pushback on that…that Hinton was taking something away from readers.

When I write fictional characters, I don’t feel like I know everything about them. It’s sort of like they only show me so much. I can’t control everything they do, and they often surprise me.

That said, if someone gave a character of mine a secret life that conflicted with what I thought…hm, would I be offended? I think I’d probably be amused.

Look at how Shakespeare has been interpreted in so many ways. That shows, in part, the universality of the writing…and of the character’s feelings.

This is kind of a tough one for me. I feel like Hinton has the perfect right to say that the characters weren’t written as gay, and that the author doesn’t feel like they are gay…in the author’s mind. Letting readers think what they want about the characters seems fine to me.

Brand name authors writing e-book singles

This

USA Today article by Jocelyn McClurg

points out an interesting trend of brand name authors writing short pieces…either short prequels to novels, or short stand-alone stories.

This is something I thought authors like that might independently, but that’s not what is discussed. I also thought publishers might put those sorts of books into

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

Take a look at the

Kindle Singles bestsellers in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile*)

There are some brand name authors here and in KU!

  • #7 and #10 are by Stephanie Bond
  • #9 is on Robert Dugoni
  • #15 is an Outlander work by Diana Gabaldon
  • #18 and #20 are by Melinda Leigh

Enjoy!

What do you think? Is it okay for readers and authors to have different ideas about the characters? Do you travel with an Echo? Do you have fond memories of specific libraries? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Do you have what it takes to be a Timeblazer?

* 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.


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