Archive for the ‘Subscription services’ Category

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.

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Medium adds a subser option for $5 a month

March 24, 2017

Medium adds a subser option for $5 a month

I do think subsers (subscription services) are a big part of e-publishing in the future.

We have been happy members of

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

since it debuted.

However, just as there are only a handful of popular subsers for video, it’s not going to be easy for companies to make it.

A new entrant into the market is not a new publisher, but a new option.

Medium

which publishes lots of articles and is well-known, has just introduced their $5 a month subser:

https://medium.com/membership

It doesn’t end the existing model, but it’s more of a premium tier. You get exclusive stories, early access to the latest changes to the interface, and (this one is nice) an offline reading list…you can read articles when you aren’t online.

I’d be happy to be wrong on this, but it just doesn’t seem attractive enough to me.

Kindle Singles sort of serve the same purpose. If you want whole magazine, you can get

Texture

for $14.99 a month…and you can read some magazines for free with Kindle Unlimited.

I occasionally hear from some writers that they’ve just published in Medium…but I’ve never really looked at it. If you’ve used Medium, convince me: why would someone pay $5 for an additional helping of Medium?

Mini round-up

  • If you have an iPhone, the Amazon shopping app is upgrading this week, giving you full Alexa access by typing the microphone. I’ve tested it: it turned my lights on and off, answered questions, reported my calendar items, played Prime Music, and I know it can read books out loud. It’s going to come to the shopping app for Android, too
  • I know at least one of my readers uses Vudu, a video company. They’ve added a new feature which will make it much easier (The Verge post by Chris Welch ). You scan the UPC code on a DVD (it will be on the case) you own, pay $2 (for standard definition, $5 for an upgrade to high def…these are the basics, there are more varieties), and (if it’s one of about 8,000 titles), you get a digital version you can watch
  • Do you want a reader for free public domain books? I’ve been playing a bit with AIReader. It has lots of features: text-to-speech (with a lot of variability for speed), tons of appearance adjustments, dictionary, translation, and more. It links to ManyBooks.net, so there are quite a few books, and it could read other books you’ve downloaded. Like many independent apps, though, figuring out how to use it is a bear! I’m quite technical, and I feel like I’m doing a lot of trial and error to even get to menus. There was Help when it first opened (not sure how to get back to it)…riddled with typos. It’s unfortunate to me that so often, something which may be good software (or certainly adequate) doesn’t have the basic customer interface capabilities. That’s not to say that this isn’t worth it, or that you might not really enjoy it…that’s the issue for me. It’s part of why getting something from an established, big company, even it it doesn’t have everything you want, can be worth it…if it’s easy to use. There is a lot of friction in this app that makes it more for a dedicated user than a casual one. If you try it yourself, I’d be interested in your opinion

What do you think? Do you like Medium? Would you pay for a premium tier? Do you think publishing subsers will be a significant thing? Which is weirder: a platypus or a pangolin? 😉 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.

AAP-reporting publishers losing children/YA e-book sales: down 43.3% YoY

April 28, 2016

AAP-reporting publishers losing children/YA e-book sales: down 43.3% YoY

I think I’d better first explain the initialisms in the headline. 🙂

The AAP is the

Association of American Publishers

It gathers statistics from over 1,500 USA publishers, and traditionally, has been considered a good source for information about what is happening with publishing (and by extension, reading) in America.

However, it’s worth noting that I’m not part of it. 😉

I know, I know…you aren’t either, probably. 😉 However, I am a publisher, in a very small way…just my own works. Anyone who makes books for the public to purchase is a publisher, and I feel confident in saying that there are over a 150,000 in the USA. That would mean the AAP might have stats from 10% of the publishers…and it could be a lot lower than that.

Anybody who writes a book and puts into the Kindle store using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is a publisher.

Prior to e-books gaining popularity after the introduction of the Kindle in 2007, there was a lot of investment involved in publishing a book. Very few entities had the resources, and the access to distribution (connections with and acceptance by brick-and mortar bookstores for one…I’m a former manager).

E-books can be published and be equally available for purchase by an individual investing no money as by one of the Big 5 publishers.

That means that the AAP may be decreasingly reflective of what people are purchasing and reading.

To be clear, I’m not saying that reduces their relevancy: the most influential and bestselling books still tend to be published by tradpubs (traditional publishers)…it’s just that you can’t consider the AAP’s data now as being a steady state indicator of the popularity of e-books.

I’m setting that up because if it was a constant  measure, the stat in the headline might be terrifying if you thought it was reflective of reading overall, and concerning if you thought it reflected e-book adoption.

Children/YA is a segment of books intended for children and “Young Adults”. Many of those books are read by adults…The Hunger Games is a good example.

YoY is short for “Year over Year”: in the case, how did 2015 sales compare to 2014 sales?

According to this

Book Business report

and other sources, overall book sales were down YoY, and trade books (the kind you would have bought in a bookstore…not tetbooks and such) were up slightly.

Reported e-book sales were down, with children’s/YA’s sales down by close to half.

According to a graph in the article, it looks like paperback/mass market book rose more in dollars than e-books dropped.

What’s happening here? Are e-books a failed experiment?

I certainly don’t think so. 😉

My guess is that, especially young adult, e-book sales are market shifting to independent publishers who don’t report…and perhaps more importantly, to subsers (subscription services), including Amazon’s own

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

Certainly, when I was a “young adult”, KU would have been terrific for me. Some YAs are almost obsessive readers…they want to read a lot of books. That doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t get some books outside of KU, but you could read ten books a week at a manageable cost. My record is 3 1/2 novels in a day. 😉

For young children, Amazon continues to improve FreeTime Unlimited. It might not seem like e-books are a good fit for young children, but they can certainly be one element.

I don’t want to take too much away from the Book Business article (I recommend you read it), but I do want to point out one other thing.

Downloaded audiobooks are way up.

While this may be a coincidence, that has tended to be the case since text-to-speech (TTS) was introduced in the Kindle 2.

Publishers blocked TTS access** after influencing Amazon to give them that option…one argument has been, presumably, that the presence of TTS competes with the sale of audiobooks.

I’ve suggested that it may do the opposite…that TTS may accustom people to listening to books, even though the experiences of listening to an audiobook or TTS are quite different.

There may be other factors. I’m sure a lot more people listen to audiobooks because of their inclusion in KU…but I don’t think those listens will count as sales of downloadable audiobooks (although I’m not sure).

Still, I think it’s hard to argue that TTS has significantly hurt audiobook sales.

My intuition is that children and young adults are reading more than they were five years ago…it’s just not being reported to AAP as much.

Bonus note: Amazon financials call is today (4/28) a 5:00 PM Eastern:

Webcast link

I’ll report on that later.

Bonus deal: the Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*) is $5 off (which makes it $34.99 for it without a voice remote, $44.99 with one). Without a voice remote (and using the free app), this is the least expensive way to get the Alexa Voice Service, most associated with the Echo. They are doing this to celebrate 100,000 reviews and it is for a limited time.  Makes a great gift…

What do you think? Have e-book sales peaked? Is this one year just a fluke, because there wasn’t a new breakout Young Adult series in 2015? Is there a difference in appropriateness for e-books for Young Adults and children versus adults? What is the role of the AAP in the future? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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! :)

** A Kindle/Fire with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books.

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

The future of subsers? Scribd redesigns its plan

February 17, 2016

The future of subsers? Scribd redesigns its plan

Subscription services (what I call “subsers”) have transformed consumer music and video habits.

For many people, ownership is not the primary method of interacting with content (or other things, like cars). They pay for access, but don’t end up with a physical item (or even a downloaded file) that they own (and for which they are responsible).

It seemed inevitable to me that a similar model would rise for e-books.

People began to speculate about a “Netflix for books”.

Why not call it a Spotify, Rhapsody, or Pandora for books?

Even though they aren’t the same, the use model for books is more similar to the one for than it is for music. People tend to listen to the same songs (which, after all, typically run under five minutes) repeatedly, while I’m sure that the majority of the time, most people read a book once. Oh, some people re-read frequently, but I don’t think the majority use of books is re-reading. I think more people re-watch movies than re-read books, but I suspect it’s closer to the book number than the music number.

Oyster launched as a subser in September of 2013.

Scribd, which already existed as a documents service, launched a subser a month later in October of 2013.

In my

The Year Ahead: 2014

on December 31st, 2013, I predicted that Amazon would start their own in 2014. I even suggested a name…”Kindle Unlimited”. 🙂

It happened (with that name) on July 18th, 2014.

I’ve been a happy member of

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

since the beginning.

Amazon is notoriously tight-lipped about actual sales figures (subscriber numbers, in this case),

but this

The Digital Reader pose by Nate Hoffelder

indicates that KU quickly dominated the other services.

Google acquired Oyster, and the latter will shutdown as a subser in “early 2016”.

Scribd

posted on February 12, 2016

that they will restructure their program on March 15 (the Ides of March…really? I’m sure that whole “beware the…” is irrelevant 😉 ) of this year.

Paid members will be able to get up to three books (or comic books) and one audiobook a month from the “Monthly Reads” selection. That will rollover, by the way…up to nine books.

Once you have the book, you can hold on to it for the life of your membership (provided that Scribd doesn’t have to remove it for some reason).

There will also be “Scribd Selects” titles available as before…without limit. However, they rotate every month…and you can only keep them for that month, plus two weeks after that (although they say you can contact them if you are close to finishing and want to keep it a bit longer).

Sheet music, and some other types of items, will not be limited.

This is a big change, but according to the post, it doesn’t affect a lot of people.

They apparently made the same miscalculation I did in the beginning of e-books.

As I mentioned recently on Len Edgerly’s The Kindle Chronicles

TKC 392 KINDLE BLOGGER BUFO CALVIN

I thought the transition to e-books from p-books (paperbooks) would happen much more quickly than it has. That’s because I was thinking of it from the point of view of “serious readers” like myself and my circle…people who read many books in a year.

As the former manage of a brick and mortar bookstore, I should have remembered that most books are bought by people who don’t read that many books…casual readers. We read a lot more, but there are disproportionately fewer of us.

Scribd apparently underestimated the impact of those serious readers (they previously limited the number of romance books available as way to try to deal with that particularly voracious group), and realized that they were overproviding for the majority of subscribers.

For most people, three books a month is plenty.

I think it’s a reasonable move on their part.

What does it mean for the future of book subsers?

Well, it may certainly mean more people switching to KU…although some of the Scribd serious readers may be anti-Amazon, I don’t think it’s going to be all of them. 😉

I still think subsers are a big part of the future of e-books.

For us, it works well as one source of books to read…not our only source.

For families, it can be very effective. It can work well for families with one or two serious readers and other casual readers.

Now, we are likely to hear from people who are (not unreasonably) concerned that this concentrates power with Amazon…and some of those people will be authors who don’t like the terms.

Amazon will likely continue to innovate for KU customers, regardless of what happens with competitors…it’s what they do. 😉

I still think some sort of discount for Prime members is possible.

However, another intriguing possibility to me is that they do an “add on” model, similar to what they’ve recently done with their “Streaming Partners” program for video

Amazon unplugs cable…and recent e-book price drops

That, of course, assumes that is working for them, or that they think e-books are different enough if it doesn’t.

For example, they could do a Harlequin add-on for, oh, $2.99 a month (although that might be too low…unless it gets gifted a lot and then not used that much). It wouldn’t need to be all of their books, of course.

A company like HarperCollins might do something similar to Scribd’s monthly reads. For an extra…oh, $4.99 you can get up to three books in a month from a specific set of their frontlist (new and popular titles).

It might even work if it was just one book in a month for what would amount to half off (or more) on that book.

As I’ve said before, it could also be a great way for tradpubs (traditional publishers) to get new life out of their backlist.

Of course, as I pointed out last month, Amazon’s dependence on the Big 5 tradpubs appears to be decreasing.

None of the top 10 bestselling USA Kindle store books are from the Big 5

That could mean Amazon could get better terms.

Two other ways I could see this going.

One would be for Amazon to have a rotating group of maybe ten featured titles (that might or might not be an add on). That could be a way to get the tradpubs into it. They might be available only for a limited time….even a day, perhaps. Once you had it, you could read it. That could be attractive for publishers, Amazon, and readers.

The other thing is for tradpubs to do their own D2C (Direct to Customer) subsers…but that’s a lot of infrastructure for them to build. I don’t know how attractive that would be to people, honestly.

What do you think? Are you a Scribd premium subscriber? If so, does this change your plans for being with them? Is it a sign of weakness of subsers overall…or of the strength of KU? What part will subsers play in the future? I’ve heard from authors and their supporters about how they don’t like Amazon’s terms…do you have something to say about that? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Thanks to reader Marjorie for the first heads-up on this story!

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.

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

September 22, 2015

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

When I recently wrote

Stephen King given National Medal of Arts

the comments developed into an interesting discussion about genres with regular reader and commenter Lady Galaxy, and a comment I especially appreciated from Amy, who studies genre theory.

I know how I define at least one area of genres, and I thought about it a lot in the past.

However, in a situation like this, I always like to look at the references.

The dictionaries online actually have quite a fuzzy definition. They all agree that it has to do with similarity…but I saw a single source (Google, which does its own thing at the top or side of search results) that said it could be “…form, style, or subject matter”. If that’s an “or” (not an “and”), I would think almost any two books would be in the same genre. 😉

In the headline here, I listed “content, tone, or intent”.

The last one might seem weird, but it’s how a lot of people define horror. It’s a work which is intended to scare people.

That’s also how people define pornography, sometimes…that it is “intended to arouse”.

Now, I find intent to be an odd thing to judge. Legal cases often don’t even include motive as a requirement, since it’s very hard to prove what was inside someone’s head.

That’s why I’ve found it odd that people consider science fiction, fantasy, and horror to be a grouping.

Supernatural horror, sure…but psychological horror? Does Silence of the Lambs have a significant similarity to Sleeping Beauty? Well, the original versions of fairy tales, maybe…Cinderella, perhaps. 😉

There are certainly people who vehemently separate science fiction and fantasy. I can understand that…there are people who are  great proponents of science and reject fantasy. Some of them are…I’m going to use the word “offended” by unicorns and dragons, and they don’t want that mixed up with tachyons and tesseracts.

For me, I prefer definitions that have to do with content…it feels more objective somehow. I also like the idea that someone could be technically part of a genre, while being recognized as a mainstream, respected writer. That may tend to make people rethink how they define the genre…they might respect something they didn’t respect before, and I like everybody to respect every group of people.

I refer to fantasy as a work presented as fiction which contains elements which are presented to the audience that would be impossible in consensus reality.

That works for me, but even that one takes some doing sometimes.

It’s the consensus reality part, for one thing.

Let’s take reincarnation.

My understanding is that the majority of people in the world believe in reincarnation. A novel written for an audience which believes in reincarnation and contains reincarnation would not fall into my definition of fantasy. However,

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Max Ehrlich’s novel from 1973 which became a Michael Sarrazin movie (and which may be a movie soon from David Fincher)? Absolutely.

I felt like I needed to add the part about it being presented as fiction. When I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I had at least one customer who would regularly move the Bible into the science fiction/fantasy section. I understand that was probably that person’s opinion, but the book isn’t presented as a fiction, so I wouldn’t put it there.

I consider science fiction as a subset of fantasy, as I’ve defined fantasy.

I sometimes say that “Science Fiction and Fantasy are subsets of fantasy”. In other words, fantasy is just a word, but Science Fiction and Fantasy are names.

When I separate those two narrower categories, science fiction is possible within accepted science (but could not have happened in our current consensus reality), and fantasy is impossible.

Well, science shouldn’t have things defined as impossible, but that’s another whole discussion. 😉

That gets strange, though…some things are presented as being science, but could just as easily be fantasy. Telepathy, faster than light travel (in physical spaceships, without wormholes and such)? Fantasy.

Star Wars was clearly fantasy to a lot of science fiction fans…although a “scientific” explanation was given for the most fantastic elements.

Here’s another tricky group: alternative history. Should that be included in fantasy? If you write a book where you speculate what would have happened if the Nazis had won World War II (you could have a whole bookstore section just for books with that premise), or that Tesla had beaten Edison, would that be fantasy? Would it be Science Fiction? It’s not impossible in the same way that alchemical transmutation might be, but it couldn’t have happened in our consensus reality. I do want to include those, personally.

I also include works where we readers think something is supernatural, and then it turns out it was a hoax or a mistake . I argue with myself about that one…

I would honestly think that what would matter to most people was tone. It’s not so much what the person intended, or the “factual” elements, but how it makes you feel. Could you have a romance that was just mean, even if its primary focus was love relationships? Would it still be a romance?

I’m not as worried about tone when I define things…although I’m much more of a lumper than a splitter. I probably should explain that. 🙂

It’s used in a lot of fields. Let’s take zoology. Lumpers tend to have fewer total species, and splitters tend to have more.

I want as many books as possible to fall under fantasy. Why? I think it’s because fantasy gets ridiculed, and there is strength in numbers. 🙂

There are lots of sub-genres, of course. People will include “space opera” and “military science fiction” as both being science fiction…they are a bit more descriptive, and help you predict whether or not you would like it.

Perhaps the real purpose of a genre…to do just that.

What do you think? How do you define genres? Do you even care, or is it that a book is a book is a book? Have you ever gotten mad to see a book “miscategorized? What are your favorite genres? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

UNRELATED BREAKING NEWS: thanks to a reader who sent me a heads up in a private e-mail. Oyster is reportedly shutting down its book subser (subscription service) after two years. I think subsers (“all you can read” for a set monthly or annual price) are a big part of the future of publishing…but I think Amazon bigfooted the market with

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

of which I am a happy member.

According to this

Forbes post by Ryan Mac

and other sources, Google has hired some members of the team.

Does that mean Google is going to do a subser? Maybe.

The

Oyster website

still touts how great the subser is, but the blog (available on that same site) says the following:

“With that, we will be taking steps to sunset the existing Oyster service over the next several months. If you are an Oyster reader you will receive an email personally regarding your account in the next few weeks. We look forward to sharing more details soon, but rest aassured, your account will continue to operate normally in the meantime. If you’d like to request a refund, please contact us at refunds@oysterbooks.com.”
http://blog.oysterbooks.com/

Looking at this, I think they really are planning todo some other things, and that this current structure just wasn’t working for them after KU established itself.

Will Scribd (the other big book subser) continue? Does this strengthen or hurt KU (I think the former)? Interesting…

Thanks to that reader!

 

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.

Top 10 Kindle USA bestsellers jump almost $3

March 27, 2015

Top 10 Kindle USA bestsellers jump almost $3

Well.

The last time I did an analysis of the USA Kindle store top ten bestsellers (on January 9th of this year), they averaged $4.10.

Today, that’s jumped almost $3 to $7.09.

That’s an increase of about 72%…in under three months.

There may be a seasonal impact there…prices are often low in January, I think, because there is a lot of competition for gift card/returns money.

However, I think there may be another contributing factor here.

Here’s my analysis:

Title Price Publisher KU? TTS? X-Ray? Word Wise? Lending? WSV Stars Reviews
The Girl on the Train $6.99 Penguin No Yes Yes Yes No Yes 4.1 9,685
The Stranger $10.99 Penguin No Yes No No No Yes 4.4 41
The Six Wives of Henry VIII $1.59 Grove No Yes Yes Yes No No 4.7 377
Maude $1.99 Indie Yes Yes Yes Yes No No 4.4 5,507
Younger $4.99 Amazon No Yes Yes No No Yes 4.0 484
All the Light We Cannot See $12.99 S&S No No Yes Yes No Yes 4.6 9,873
Dead Wake $12.99 Random No Yes Yes No No No 4.6 223
NYPD Red 3 $9.99 Hachette No Yes Yes No No No 4.7 107
The Longest Ride $5.39 Hachette No Yes Yes Yes No Yes 4.6 4,658
Ready Player One $2.99 Random No Yes Yes Yes No Yes 4.6 5,085
Average/% Yes $7.09 90% 90% 90% 60% 100% 60% 4.47 3,604

Last time, fewer than half of the books were from the Big 5 largest USA trade publishers (trade books are the kind you buy in bookstores, as opposed to textbooks and such).

This time, it’s seven of them (Grove isn’t one of the Big 5, although it is a traditional publisher which has been around for a long time).

My guess?

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

may have something to do with that.

None of the Big 5 are participating in Amazon’s subser (subscription service), where you pay $9.99 a month and you can read as many books as you want…well, perhaps that should be “as you can”. 😉 You are limited to having ten books out at a time, but hey, if you can read three and a half books a day (that’s my personal best for novels), you can read your roughly 108 books that month at no additional cost.

Many of the non-Big 5 books are in KU.

That may mean that non-Big 5 books are not being purchased as much, since so many of them (including books like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and The Life of Pi) can be borrowed.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the actual number of sales of e–books at Amazon is going down…if the bestselling books aren’t selling as many as they used to do.

That rise in price is due partly to tradpubs (traditional publishers) tending to price their books higher than indies (independent publishers). More tradpub representation typically means higher prices (although that’s a great price for Ready Player One…we just found out that Steven Spielberg is going to direct the movie adaptation for Warner Brothers).

We may also start to see a rise in tradpub prices…if buying a book (as opposed to having access to it) is seen as a luxury, people may be willing to pay more for it.

We may head back to the pre-paperback days, when books were largely owned by the better off, and seen as a sign of status.

That would be owned by, in the future situation: not read by.

Certainly, KU has been around for a while now, and the economics of publishing may (at to some degree) start to shift because of it.

The only KU book in the bunch, Maude, was also a bestseller back in January.

It’s now been designated with a new badge at Amazon: it’s one of the

Kindle Unlilmited All-Star Books and Authors (at AmazonSmile*)

That’s an interesting new feature!

Amazon describes it this way:

“Kindle Unlimited All-Stars are the most popular titles and authors in KDP Select. Each month we determine the most popular by adding up the number of books sold, borrows from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and the number of books read in Kindle Unlimited.”

That’s a fascinating set of parameters. Presumably, the bestseller list only counts sales, not borrows. I can understand that…but it intrigues me that they also count books which were read (a KU author doesn’t get paid until you’ve read 10% of the book).

What if someone borrows a book in January, but doesn’t read it until February? I’ve waited that long.

Does it count twice…once for the borrow, once for the read?

Does reading it count more?

If this is a KU thing, why are sales included at all?

Looking at their lists (they do it be different genres), I’m not seeing the well-known books which are part of KU.

I’ve tried to tell you about those from time to time…former New York Times bestsellers in KU, for example.

For me, that’s definitely part of the selling point. I’m always thrilled to see a book or an author I have in paper in KU…I’m excited that other people can read those books as part of KU.

My guess is that people who have become KU members are, for the most part, staying KU members.

At this point, it seems to get better every month…so if it was worth it the first month, why isn’t it worth the second month, and so on?

I also don’t think KU members tend to stop buying books…they probably do both (again, the majority of people is my guess), but they might buy fewer books.

I expect to hear some very laudatory things said about KU in a future Amazon financials report…perhaps without giving numbers, though. 😉

What do you think? Is KU making it so that fewer indies are top sellers at Amazon? Is that a bad thing? Do you think the publishers might be compensated more by KU (we’ve heard reports both ways)? Will we develop two tiers: people who buy tradpubs, and people who use subsers? Will any of the Big 5 join KU this year (in my look ahead to 2015, I thought that was a possibility)? 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.

Macmillan signs on with Scribd and Oyster

January 17, 2015

Macmillan signs on with Scribd and Oyster

In something I described as “shaky” in my annual prediction post for 2015:

The Year Ahead: 2015

I “predicted” that at least one Big 5 publisher would join Amazon’s subser (that’s what I call a subscription service)

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

That hasn’t happened yet (we’re only about half way through the first month), but Macmillan recently joined up with two of the competitors, Scribd and Oyster.

On Scribd, Macmillan has 1,024 books at the time of writing.

That’s not every book Macmillan has to offer…it’s generally not the “frontlist”, the most recent and popular books.

Still, as pointed out in this

Publishers Weekly article by Calvin Reid

frontlist titles from major publishers are starting to show up more in subsers.

Macmillan joins HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster in offering books to be borrowed through Scribd and Oyster…that’s more than half of the Big Five, with Penguin Random House and Hachette not yet involved.

You might think that these big publishers are staying away from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited out of spite…the tradpubs (traditional publishers) and Amazon have often disputed things with each other (the publishers pretty much have always won…they settled when the Department of Justice went after them, but when it is directly publishers to Amazon, the e-tailer has lost. Text-to-speech is one example; the Agency Model itself ((which was one of the things that brought the DoJ into the mix, since it was used as a tool to raise e-book prices according to the Department)) is another).

However, that’s not how big business works, as a rule. Yes, Amazon removed the “Buy buttons” from Macmillan books when the Agency Model was being put into play. Sure, Amazon put barriers in the way of people buying Hachette books until a new deal was recently reached.

I doubt that Jeff Bezos and John Sargent of Macmillan are going to skip down the street holding hands any time soon.

Macmillan and Hachette both have books at Amazon now, after their respective unpleasantries. If Kindle Unlimited is the right business model for them, they’ll do it…holding their noses, perhaps, but doing it anyway.

I think KU is going to be come increasingly important throughout this year, and be a big point of discovery. People will buy books after borrowing them, in some cases…particularly to give them as gifts.

With more Big Five publishers signing up for subsers, I can only guess that preliminary data is indicating it is worth it. I think the publishers are just negotiating with Amazon.

Subsers have to be great for the backlist “long tail”, where publishers may not be making any money anyway. It’s important to note that even if they lost money in Kindle Unlimited because it cannibalized some sales, they might make a more than compensating amount from additional sales.

We’ll see what happens, but this development makes me a bit more optimistic about my prediction. 😉

What do you think? Will a Big 5 company sign up for KU this year? If they do, will it be just backlist, or frontlist, too? Do you use a subser? Does it seem worth it? Feel free to tell me and my readers what to think by commenting on this post.

Join more than a thousand 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.

31 “read-sons” to love Kindle Unlimited

December 26, 2014

31 “read-sons” to love Kindle Unlimited

Like a lot of people, you may be brand new to

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

You may have gotten a free month when you bought (or were given) an Amazon reader or tablet, or maybe you were given a gift of KU:

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

If you are a reader, this is a wonderful thing!

Of course, you’ll run into naysayers who want to dismiss it…they may tell you how the biggest publishers aren’t participating, and how you won’t see the bestsellers in there.

Well, the part about the publishers is true (at least at the time of writing), but there are some recent bestsellers and a lot of great books that may not be topping the charts this week!

I decided to list 31 “read-sons” (reasons, but specifically things to read) to love having KU, but before I do, let me explain how it works.

For $9.99 a month, you can read certain Kindle books. The amount you can read in a month of those books is unlimited, although you can only have up to ten at a time. If you go to borrow an eleventh book, it will suggest you return the one you’ve had the longest, but it’s up to you.

You don’t own the books, but you can keep them as long as you are a KU member. It is possible for books to go in and out of KU, though.

More than one person can read the same book on your account at the same time…that still counts as only having borrowed one book. For example, if you borrow Water for Elephants, two people can both read it on your account.

For more information (both on how to use it and book recommendations, see the

Kindle Unlimited category of posts on this blog

Okay, here are 31 read-sons! I picked thirty-one so there would be one reason for each day in the longest month, since so many people are getting one month free. You don’t have to borrow only one book a day, though: again, you can have up to ten out at a time.

  1. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins! Yes, you can read (or re-read) all three of the Hunger Games books at no additional cost!
  2. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling! All seven of the books at your convenience…vide libri! Another cool feature: they have these books in different languages. If you’ve read them in English and are learning Japanese, it might really help you to read a book with which you are familiar in that language
  3. Bond…James Bond by Ian Fleming!
  4. More than 300 million copies of books by romance writer Janet Dailey have reportedly been sold…there are over fifty titles by hers in KU!
  5. Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama, and more by science fiction master Arthur C. Clarke!
  6. 27 (at time of writing) of the Perry Mason books by Erle Stanley Gardner
  7. Good grief! You’re on Kindle Unlimited, Charlie Brown! The Complete Peanuts Collections (the comic strips) are available in KU…and they are $14.99 each at time of writing
  8. Cookbooks! Ever bought a cookbook, or browsed through a bunch in a store, just looking for a recipe to cook one dish? With KU, you don’t need to buy them…just borrow them! Have a vegetarian coming over for the holidays? You can borrow Holiday Vegan Entrees
  9. Travel books! That’s another example of something you might want to use, but don’t want to keep. Going to Australia for the holidays, so you can enjoy them on the beach? There are close to 200 Australia travel books in KU, including the Lonely Planet series
  10. Read the movie! Life of Pi, 12 Years a Slave, From Here to Eternity…
  11. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson: this 1962 book really launched the environmental movement in the USA
  12. Have a laugh with Erma Bombeck! One of the most popular American humorists and newspaper columnists, you can read If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?, Motherhood, and The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank and more!
  13. Lord of the Rings…and the Hobbit!
  14. All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot!
  15. KU AudioBooks (at AmazonSmile*) There are close to 10,000 audiobooks at time of writing available through Kindle Unlimited
  16. The Wayward Pines books…recent books soon to be a TV series on Fox!
  17. George Orwell books, including 1984 and Animal Farm: not in the public domain in the USA, but available to read at no additional cost on KU!
  18. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks: super popular non-fiction book from 1985!
  19. The Heirloom Collection series, illustrated by Jaqui Oakley: Complete Sherlock Holmes (the original Arthur Conan Doyle Works) or the complete novels of Jane Austen, published at $99.99 in hardback, highly rated, new four color illustrations…sure, you could find Homes and Austen for free outside of KU, but these are relatively high quality editions!
  20. Capital in the 21st Century…a number one New York Times bestseller in 2014!
  21. Hundreds of books on Minecraft! Would you really pay for them? Maybe…but you are probably a lot more likely to read them
  22. The Princess Bride by William Goldman!
  23. Pat Conroy! The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini…
  24. John Jakes! North and South, The Kent Family Chronicles…
  25. The 87th Precinct books by Ed McBain
  26. The Wool series (popular recent science fiction) by Hugh Howey!
  27. Umberto Eco! The Name of the Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum…
  28. Thousands of joke books! Honestly, who reads a joke book twice?
  29. David Halberstam’s The Fifties!
  30. The “For Dummies” series! That’s another example of one where, once you’ve read it and learned it, you probably don’t want to own it
  31. The Best American Short Stories series (not 2014 at the time of writing, but early volumes)

There! If that “naysayer” still says there isn’t anything good to read in Kindle Unlimited…well, you’ll know better. 😉

Enjoy!

Update: thanks to reader Allie D. for a comment which helped improve this post!

Join over a thousand 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 #276: PRH on subsers, Boehner blocks

November 15, 2014

Round up #276: PRH on subsers, Boehner blocks

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

No Active Content for the Voyage?

This question had come up before, but according to this

post in The Digital Reader by Nate Hoffelder

Amazon is not planning to add Active Content for the

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

their flagship model.

Hoffelder reports having been told by Amazon that their “…focus is on building the best purpose-built reading devices.”

I suppose I can understand as a goal, but Active Content is one of those really non-intrusive things. If you don’t want to use it, you don’t. Games have been on the Kindles since the very first one in 2007 (although the games on that one were hidden…I played Minesweeper on mine, though). It’s an interesting decision.

There are over 1,500 customer reviews for

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

in the USA Kindle store, with an average rating of 4.3 stars (out of 5). There have been ten reviews at time of writing in November 2014…and almost all of them were five stars.

It’s currently ranked #2,397 free in the Kindle store…out of 64,497, making it in the top 4% of sellers.

My guess is that this really has more to do with associated expenses (adapting the Amazon published ones for new models, customer service) than it really has to do with what customers say. However, I have had e-mail exchanges with the person listed by Hoffelder, and that person has always seemed nice and knowledgeable to me…so I’m sure there is some evidence for what the rep says.

$80 worth of apps free through Saturday 11/15

While I probably do more reading on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

than I do anything else (counting text-to-speech as reading…which I do), it certainly isn’t a “purpose-built reading device”.

I’m sure some people would argue that Amazon is turning away from Active Content to encourage people to buy Fires…but I think they’d be happiest if people had both. 😉

For those of you who do use a Fire and want apps, Amazon has a promotion going on through today (Saturday) with $80 worth of apps being given away. They are calling it an

App Toolbox (at AmazonSmile*)

Note that not all of these will work on a Fire tablet (the ones that don’t may work on the Fire Phone, if you are one of the rarities like me who owns one). 😉

Titles include:

  • Office Calculator Pro: 4.4 stars, 172 reviews
  • MathsApp Graphing Calculator: 4.4 stars, 63 reviews
  • EasyTether: 4.3 stars, 861 reviews
  • Open Document Reader: 5.0 stars, 3 reviews
  • Oxford Dictionary of English: 3.5 stars, 8 reviews…normally $24.99

and twelve more.

Amazon and others advocate for Equal Collection Legislation

It’s been a while since I’ve written about this issue, but it’s back in the news.

Congress is considering a bill which would mean that sales tax would be collected on online purchases in a way similar to how it is collected now in brick and mortar stores.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble both support the current legislation, along with many other entities.

The

National Retail Federation

has sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, urging passage. Unfortunately, every link on their website to that letter is failing for me…they may be overwhelmed because of the coverage.

Why does this matter now?

If the current bill isn’t passed before the new Congress takes over in January of 2015, it’s dead…and they have to start all over (again).

It might surprise you that Amazon and B&N are on the same side on this.

Amazon has argued for it before. They don’t want there to be lots of different rules about how this happens all over the country: they want one clear sales tax collection policy (not rate, policy) at the national level.

This (and previous bills) bill is not about people owing more taxes, but it would certainly mean that many people pay more.

Check the sales tax category (linked at the end of this post) for more information, but essentially, what happens now is that many people are supposed to pay tax on things they buy on the internet…and they don’t. Every year, my family adds more when we pay our State taxes for those uncollected taxes…it would be far easier if they just collected them at the time of purchase.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to track your in-store purchases yourself to figure out what sales tax you owed?

Amazon has repeatedly said that when they are in situations where sales tax is collected on their purchases, it doesn’t hurt their market share.

I believe that. Oh, that’s not to say that some people might buy very expensive items from Amazon to avoid having sales tax collected. Of course, they might be quite surprised if they ever get audited…not having paid that will not get you invited to the IRS offices for tea. 😉 It might get you invited somewhere else less pleasant, though…

According to this

The Hill article by Bernie Becker

Speaker Boehner is blocking the bill, despite some significant bipartisan support.

It’s worth noting that not every state would collect sales tax on e-books anyway (California doesn’t, when they are delivered electronically…at least, that’s how it was last time I looked), but this still could affect Kindleers.

PRH C.E.O. doesn’t like subsers

Generally, I’ve found Random House to be pretty forward thinking…but this

The Bookseller article by Benedicte Page

makes me question that.

C.E.O. (Chief Executive Officer) Tom Weldon of Penguin Random House makes several statements.

One of them has to do with keeping e-book royalty rates the same, but the headline item is really about not believing in subsers (subscription services), like Amazon’s

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

In this short excerpt, Weldon is quoted as saying:

“We are not convinced it is what readers want. ‘Eat everything you can’ isn’t a reader’s mindset. In music or film you might want 10,000 songs or films, but I don’t think you want 10,000 books.”

Well, as someone with something like 10,000 paperbooks on my shelves, I beg to differ. 😉

Certainly, it usually takes longer to read a book than it does to listen to a song or watch a movie, so you might think you need access to fewer…but you still need to make the choices as to which ones to consume.

While I think there is a lot future in curation (people, and perhaps software, picking books that you are likely to like), having a variety is important now.

Let’s say you like 1% of the books that are published each year. 10,000 gives you one to enjoy every three days. That’s a pretty good pace.

I think subsers are a big part (but not the only part) of the book market in the next few years, and I suspect Random House may come on board with it. Weldon didn’t rule it out, although the CEO thought they were more likely to succeed in emerging markets. If they did there, that might encourage them to join in more developed markets.

I recommend the article: see what Weldon has to say about PRH selling directly to consumers…I think what’s said there is wise.

Join hundreds 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.

 

Amazon launches subser: Kindle Unlimited?

July 16, 2014

Amazon launches subser: Kindle Unlimited?

In my

The Year Ahead: 2014

post in December, I made this guess about what might happen:

“Kindle Unlimited: Amazon does an “all you can eat” plan

I think this has become a lot more likely. Amazon already has it for kids, and rumor is that they’ve been talking to publishers about it. They could open it with mostly independently published books, but they would hopefully get HarperCollins or some other tradpub (traditional publisher) to join in. You’d be able to read as many books as you wanted out of a select group. I could see this being discounted with Prime, or available without it. Let’s say… about$20 a month without Prime, $5 with it. Once people become Prime members, they spend a lot more money, so this could work economically.”

Now, two of my readers (Lady Galaxy and Marjorie) tell me that they’ve actually seen links and information about something called…Kindle Unlimited!

Marjorie said:

“Did you see that Amazon started an unlimited borrowing program for their kindle? First month free. Then $9.99/ month. I saw quite a few Simon & Schuster titles while browsing. The selection is similar to Scribd but Amazon seems to have some newer titles.”

Lady Galaxy said:

“When using a Kindle to “shop in Kindle store,” I see that two of todays “Kindle Daily Deal” books are listed as “kindleunlimited.” Underneath is a link saying “Subscribers read for free.” If you click that link, it leads to the kindleunlimited page offering a 30 day free trial .”Unlimited reading, unlimited listening, any device, $9.99″ a month.” It offers over 600,000 books. So far, I can’t find a link to it in the online Amazon store.”

This would represent what I call a “subser” (short for “subscription service”).

I will add to this post, but I wanted to get this out there right away. This could be “A/B testing”…some people see it, some people don’t.

** Updated info: if you signed up, you won’t be charged. If you downloaded books, you’ll be able to read them…so people who were quick got freebies (to read, probably not to keep) out of this.

I’m investigating a couple of ways, but if you see this link, please let me know. One thing that would help: right-click the link for more information, then choose “copy shortcut” (it might be a bit different wording…and right-clicking is more likely on a Windows PC…it could be a long press on your device, for example) and post that for me in a comment.

Exciting news!

I really appreciate it when my readers take the time and effort to give me the heads-up on something like this. It really helps get the information out to everyone.

More to come…

Update: I’m not seeing the link shopping on my computer in the Maxthon browser. I’m not seeing it on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile)

whether I go from the Shop tab on the homescreen, or from the Shop in the Books tab.

On our

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

(newest version), it updated the store when I went to it. That could be connected to this. However, I checked all five books, and didn’t see anything.

If you are seeing something, please also let me know where on the page you see it…although, again, that could be different for different people.

I haven’t seen the link in Chrome on my computer, either.

I did a Google search: not seeing that anybody else has announced it yet.

Update:

A reader, Kindle Fan, commented this:

“The link to Kindle Unlimited is:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/kindle/ku/

Kindle Unlimited is an offer for customers in USA and for only $9.99 per month you have unlimited access to over 630,000 Kindle books. You can read the books on your Kindle device or Kindle Reader.

A few hours ago the total number of books in Kindle Unlimited was around 639,000.

It’s likely that Amazon by mistake opened Kindle Unlimited to a number of customers and they have now removed the links and all info about it.

I signed up for Kindle Unlimited and managed to get two good books before Amazon closed it.

My guess is that Amazon will open up for Kindle Unlimited within a few months.”

I responded:

“Thanks for writing, Kindle Fan!

I just tried that link and got a 404 message, indicating that it doesn’t exist (for me).

I tried it in Maxthon, Chrome, and Internet Explorer.

It is possible it was an error, as you suggest, or an A/B test. They may have wanted to have a very small sample with which to work first.

I really appreciate you making this comment!

I’m checking in some other ways. It’s possible we won’t hear anything more right away. My guess, though, is that we’ll hear something (even if it’s a “coming soon” announcement) by Tuesday. We’ll see… 🙂

Lady Galaxy wrote back and identified one of the books as

Gone South (at AmazonSmile)

by Robert McCammon (one of the Kindle Daily Deals at $1.99), but also said the link had disappeared.

That book is published by Open Road, which tends to be feature forward and customer friendly. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they were to participate in something like this…which would bring us many great backlist books.

It’s also interesting that Marjorie mentioned Simon & Schuster. Before I saw their comments, I had flipped this article into the ILMK Flipboard Magazine (see below):

The Bookseller article by Sarah Shaffi

which talks about Les Moonves (Chief Executive Officer of CBS, parent company of S&S) talking about Amazon. The comments are a bit…hard to define, and it could be that Moonves was aware of the subser at the time of the interview. Moonves said,

“It’s going to be a very interesting thing as we go into the future.”

That might have nothing to do with it, but still…intriguing. 🙂

Update: I’ve now had a chance to look at the cached page above, so I can say some more about it. None of this is final, and it might not be like this when it launches: we might have seen an accidental leak of a mock-up. I have gotten some information from Amazon on it, and am waiting for permission to share their brief statement (which does not have a launch date).

Here are books shown on the page, their publishers, and if they are currently available in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. I’m including the last one because the figure of “over 600,000” KU (Kindle Unlimited) titles is close to the same (I get 614,972 right now). Could KU work with the same titles as the KOLL (from which you can currently borrow up to a book a month)? Maybe…but flashier titles might get more people into it.

  • Water for Elephants (Algonquin, a Workman imprint), yes
  • Life of Pi (Mariner, a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint), no
  • Flash Boys (W.W. Norton), no
  • The Hunger Games books (Scholastic), yes
  • Lord of the Rings books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), no
  • Harry Potter books (Pottermore), yes
  • The Fracking King (Little A, an Amazon imprint), yes
  • When I Found You (Lake Union, an Amazon imprint), yes
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press), no
  • War Brides (Lake Union, an Amazon imprint), yes
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), no
  • The Namesake (Mariner, a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint), no
  • The Bone Season (Bloomsbury), no
  • The Summer I Found You (Albert Whitman), no
  • “Kindle Exclusives” (I think all Amazon, all KOLL): The Long Way Home, Trinity Game, Firefly Beach, The Detachment
  • Old Girls in Low Cotton (Kindle Singles), yes
  • Revolution by Murder (Kindle Singles), yes
  • Operation Cowboy (Kindle Singles), yes
  • Books by Michael Lewis: Moneyball, Liar’s Poker, Home Game (W.W. Norton: no, no, and yes)

They are also indicating audiobooks, which would give them a decided advantage (for those who like them) over Oyster and Scribd.

So, looking at this, although one of my readers reported Simon & Schuster (and my readers were able to go from a live link into a much more complete listing), I’m not seeing any of the Big Five publishers displayed on the cached landing page.

However, there are quite a number of them which are not available through the KOLL.

Scribd and Oyster should be scrambling today as they hear this information…that’s the direct challenge.

This is not at all simple, though.

I think one big appeal for it is going to be gift subscriptions. It would be like buying Netflix for your kid…but people feel really good about giving the gift of reading. I’m not sure how many people think they spend $120 a year on books (most of the readers of this blog, quite possibly, but we aren’t enough to make this work).

I see three particular challenges in this:

  • Getting more big publishers on board…you need a turnover of promoted mainstream titles, I think, to keep people engaged
  • What do you do with the KOLL? How does this interact with Prime (if it does)? Is the KOLL going to be positioned as the Prime version of Kindle Unlimited now (and still limited to up to a book a month)?
  • Compensation…and in particular, how that might vary for tradpubs (traditional publishers) versus indies (independents). That’s already different in the KOLL, though, so it isn’t insurmountable

I’m very confident we’ll hear the Authors Guild and others express concerns about this…

Update: thanks again to Kindle Fan! My very informative reader on this linked to some terms on Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) site, which proves that Kindle Unlimited is official!

It’s interesting stuff…I’ll need to verify that it is in the public-facing material, and if it is, I’ll let you know more.

Update: okay, I’ve verified that you can see this without having a KDP account: I don’t want to breach any confidences:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AI3QMVN4FMTXJ

Here’s the key point:

“You’re eligible for royalty payment from Kindle Unlimited each time a new customer reads more than 10% of your book for the first time. A customer can read your book again as many times as they like, but you will only receive payment for the first 10% read.

It may take months for a customer to read more than 10% your book, but no matter how long it takes, you’ll still be paid once it happens. This is true even if your KDP Select enrollment period has lapsed, and you chose not to re-enroll. ”

This suggests that perhaps you have to be in KDP Select (as an indie) to be part of KU. That requires Kindle store exclusivity, which may make some authors hesitate.

I’m also curious about limits on how many books you can have out at a time.

Let’s say you have five people on your account (there is no limit). Can each of them have out a different book at the same time? If so, what if you had 600,000 people on your account? You aren’t allowed to share your books for commercial purposes, but maybe you are just friendly with everybody in your city. 😉 Can two devices have the same book at the same time? If so, multiple device licenses create the same problem. We’ll have to wait to see details.

**UPDATE: okay, I just got permission from Amazon to share this information, and it’s important!

“From time to time, we test both new and existing features on our website to determine which services would drive customer purchases and satisfaction. We’re testing Kindle Unlimited but the service is currently unavailable. If you tried to subscribe, you will not be charged. If you downloaded books, you are able to continue reading them.

During these test periods, certain aspects of our website will function or appear differently to randomly selected customers, or to the same customer using another computer or browser. We don’t have any specific information about this service. We’re continually fine-tuning our presentation to provide our customers with the greatest value, selection, and information for their online purchasing decisions.”

Thanks to all of the readers who have commented so far! What do you think? Would you buy into this? If not, what would get you to do it? Do you think it will work in the marketplace? When do you think Amazon will introduce it? Will it cannibalize book sales (these are borrows), and will it mean more of the backlist appearing? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

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

 


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