Monthly Archives: June 2016

Amazon Announces Exclusive Pricing Only for Prime Members on Newly Released, Unlocked Android Phones—Up to 50% Off the Full Retail Price, Starting at $49.99

29 June 2016

From The Amazon Media Room:

Amazon Prime members can now take advantage of exclusive pricing—up to 50% off the full retail price—on a selection of newly released, fully featured, unlocked Android smartphones. The all-new BLU R1 HD is only $49.99 ($50.00 off its retail price of $99.99) and the new fourth-generation Motorola Moto G is $149.99 ($50.00 off its retail price of $199.99). Each phone is offered unlocked, with no commitment to a contract, giving Prime members the flexibility to switch between wireless carriers and service options to best fit their needs.

. . . .

The breakthrough pricing on unlocked smartphones is supported by personalized offers and ads, including deals and product recommendations, displayed on the phone’s lockscreen. When a customer sees an offer, they can tap to learn more about it or simply unlock their phone to dismiss.

“Customers love the freedom of unlocked phones—it’s the fastest growing category within cell phones on Amazon.com—so we set out to find a way to make them even more affordable for our Prime members,” said Laura Orvidas, Vice President, Consumer Electronics,Amazon.com. “We currently offer low prices supported by lockscreen offers and ads on our Fire tablets and Kindle e-readers, and they’ve been a hit—in fact, the vast majority of customers choose the lower-priced option. Now we’re lowering prices in a similar way on new, unlocked smartphones, working with two of our best-selling brands, BLU and Motorola.”

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Here’s a link to the Prime-Exclusive Phones

The Fan

29 June 2016

Nothing to do with books, but entertaining.

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When You Write a Memoir, Readers Think They Know You Better Than They Do

29 June 2016

From The New York Times:

I once knew a woman who had been famously kidnapped as a child. She confessed to me that she longed to talk about her kidnapping, but no one ever brought it up. “Why?” she wondered. The story had been in print, after all, the subject of national headlines; it preceded her into every room. She was left with an acute sense of apartness, her unspoken story roiling inside her. “What am I supposed to do?” she asked me. “Pick up the phone and call Patty Hearst?”

Though I have never been the victim of a famous kidnapping or any kidnapping at all, for most of my adult life, I have been preceded by my own stories — not so much ones that have been written about me, but ones I have written. I am the author of three, going on four, memoirs. I have captured my 20s, my early midlife, my years as a writer and now my long marriage between hard covers like insects trapped forever in amber. Those of us who have written multiple memoirs feel surprisingly alone. (What am I supposed to do? Pick up the phone and call St. Augustine?)

People who have read my work feel as if they know me. And while certainly there is a powerful intimacy inherent in the experience of reading memoir, readers who meet me seem a bit embarrassed by this intimacy, as if, rather than having read my books, they have seen me naked without my consent. They seem to think of memoirs as more personal than any other literary form, as if the word “memoir” necessarily signals confession, testimony, diary and strip tease all in one.

At a dinner party in Connecticut, I watched as a woman turned to Frank McCourt, who was seated next to her. “You must feel like I know everything about you!” Her tone was challenging, slightly accusatory, as if it was his fault for making her uncomfortable. “Darling,” he responded dryly. “It’s just a book.”

. . . .

 In “Essays After Eighty,” the poet Donald Hall writes, “For 70-odd years I have been writing about myself, which has led to a familiar scene: I meet someone, we chat, something stirs my memory, I begin to tell an anecdote — and the head in front of me nods up and down and smiles. She knows this story because I have put it in print, possibly three times.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

What Kind of Writer are You: Cook or Baker?

29 June 2016

From LitHub:

People who know about food often say you’re either a cook or a baker; either you enjoy the freedom of putting together a savory meal to your own particular specifications, or you like the structure required for making sweets. I’ve always fallen squarely on the cook side of this divide. I’m happy, even excited, to make dinner out of whatever happens to be in my kitchen—in grad school, one of my staples was pasta with canned clams, canned black olives, and kale. I season liberally and always without measuring. Sometimes I don’t even taste a dish until I’m ready to serve it—it feels like cheating, somehow.

Baking, by contrast, has always intimidated me. You have to have all the right ingredients ready beforehand, sometimes even at the correct temperature, and then you have to put precise amounts of them together in just the right order. I love the outcome of baking: I’m always happy to eat a cookie or a scone. What scares me is all the planning.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my writing habits mirror my kitchen preferences. I hate to plot out anything in advance. Instead I like to feel my way through every scene, testing and tinkering as I go. When I start a book, I usually have a vague idea of a premise and a main character, and that’s it. Everything else I make up as I go along.

. . . .

But being a cook-writer also has serious downsides. Sometimes my writing goes completely off the rails—I had to throw out 75 pages of my first novel after it devolved into a bizarre story of collective hallucination. It takes me forever to get into a project—I fiddled around with Sophie Stark for a full year before I found the multiple point-of-view structure that let me really get into the story. And never knowing where you’re going is incredibly stressful—until I finish a project, I’m never sure how, or even if, it will turn out.

. . . .

I didn’t make charts or outlines—a cook can’t become a baker overnight—but I did try to plan ahead of time, especially for essays. I talked through ideas with my friends. I tried to come up with not just the germ of an idea, but an entire arc, before I started writing.

So far, it hasn’t worked. In every case, I end up throwing out my plans by paragraph two. An essay that was going to be about enjoying art we don’t understand turned into one about art created by people in pain (also, it still isn’t finished). Even this essay was supposed to end on a hopeful note—maybe, I was going to say, I’ll learn to use my newfound baking skills in writing someday. But the truth is, I probably won’t.

Link to the rest at LitHub

Industry Out of Harmony With YouTube on Tracking of Copyrighted Music

29 June 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

The music industry is locked in an epic battle with YouTube, the most popular on-demand service, over the declining royalty rates the site pays per stream as it grows, and the difficulty in detecting copyrighted material from the mass of videos uploaded on the site.

The site voluntarily offers record labels a system to automatically block, monetize or mute their music on the site, matching audio files with 99.7% precision, the service says, and a chance for labels to cash in on user-uploaded content instead of merely resorting to sending takedown notices.

But many music rights holders say the YouTube system isn’t foolproof and requires them to conduct a laborious, manual search daily to track content and collect royalties. They worry that YouTube gains an unfair advantage with the lower rates it pays for music over other on-demand streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, which pay far more per play but together have relatively fewer paying subscribers at 68 million, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s latest report.

The music industry believes its future lies with these streaming services rather than YouTube, which they fret is conditioning fans to not pay for on-demand tunes.

But YouTube, a unit of Alphabet Inc., with its more than 1 billion users, packs clout and reach that the industry can’t ignore. YouTube says it has paid about $3 billion to music companies since it launched a decade ago, and today half of its payout comes from user-generated content identified by its system called Content ID.

. . . .

Although the Alphabet unit pays out more overall each year, it now pays an average of eight one-hundredths of a penny ($0.0008) per play, and less than six one-hundredths ($0.0006) of a penny for user-generated content, down roughly 20% from a year ago, people familiar with the matter said.

The free tiers from SoundCloud and Spotify, by contrast, pay at rates up to six times the rate YouTube offers for user-uploaded videos, one rights holder said. Another said it gets an average of 35% more per play ($0.0011) from these free services than it does from YouTube videos. Paid subscription services pay even more per play, according to rights holders.

. . . .

But many in the music industry say the system isn’t automatically identifying many of their recordings when users have altered or combined them—or occasionally for no apparent reason at all. Furthermore, labels charge that Content ID doesn’t scan the YouTube channels managed by major TV networks and smaller networks such as Fullscreen and AwesomenessTV, many of which feature amateurs covering popular songs.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Abandoned Wal-Mart now a Library

28 June 2016

From 99percentinvisible:

Big-box stores promise convenience and jobs for suburbs and small towns, but have a mixed reputation with designers and citizens. Many see big boxes as icons of unsustainable sprawl, reinforcing car culture with highway-oriented access and expansive parking lots. These boxy buildings not only take up vast amounts of land but often also require infrastructure around them to be overhauled. Later, when their super-sized occupants leave: a giant empty structure is left in their wake, which can be difficult to reuse unless a similar retailer takes its place.

. . . .

In one Texas town, a vacated Walmart has become the biggest single-story public library in the United States.

. . . .

The open floor area was strategically split into various sections, including public meeting spaces and computer labs, as well as an auditorium, bookstore and cafe. On the ceiling above, the designers left structural and mechanical elements exposed, coating them in white paint. Below, bright carpets, colorful floors and modern details distinguish various occupied zones and transitional areas. New colors and materials have transformed the entry and exterior.

. . . .

Big boxes have been turned into everything from commercial gyms, markets and offices to institutional museums, schools and churches.

Link to the rest at 99percentinvisible

All the words

28 June 2016

All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.

Somerset Maugham

Indie Authors to Finally See their Books on B&N Shelves

28 June 2016

From GoodEreader:

About three years ago, then-VP, Digital Content and GM of Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press division Theresa Horner sat down with GoodEReader at the Frankfurt Book Fair to discuss the state of the company, namely its self-publishing option and its ebook self-publishing platform. She posed the question as to what it would take to effectively compete with Amazon. Our response–which was not at all tongue in cheek–was for the retailer to stop banning indie authors’ books from brick-and-mortar stores. If Nook Press had developed a viable print-on-demand option and then told authors there was even a possibility of seeing their titles in their local bookstore on the condition that they pulled their books from Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program, authors would have jumped at the chance.

Unfortunately, that didn’t come to pass and Theresa Horner is no longer with the company. The concept of opening the doors–and the shelves–to great self-published titles fell by the wayside.

. . . .

Now, the retailer has some (hopefully) exciting news that will come out today. In an earnings call to investors only a matter of days ago, the company outlined several key proposals for the coming year, which included Barnes and Noble table-side service restaurants and a plan to cut losses of the Nook division down to $30M to $40M in the coming year. But tucked in there was a tiny mention of a plan to reshape the Nook Press print-on-demand model, with further details to come out on the 28th.

. . . .

UPDATE: Barnes and Noble just issued a press release on its Nook Press print-on-demand service. As we predicted, it finally puts in motion the possibility of authors seeing their books on stores shelves. Opponents’ concerns over a general drop in quality of books in the stores are unfounded, as all submitted titles will be vetted for approval and have to meet the company’s outlined standards. Authors will also be required to be “eligible Nook Press authors,” meaning their titles must be available as ebooks on BN.com and not included in Amazon’s KDP Select category.

There’s another catch, though: it’s not just about quality, it’s about prior sales. The opportunity is limited to titles “whose eBook sales [of a single title] have reached 1,000 units in the past year.”

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

PG says if BN had done this five or six years ago, the book world might look different today.

Amazon Announces Page Flip– A New Way to Hop, Skim, and Jump through Kindle Books

28 June 2016

From the Amazon Media Room:

Today, Amazon announced Page Flip, a reimagined Kindle navigation experience that makes it easy to explore books while always saving your place. With Page Flip, readers can easily flip back and forth between pages to reference different parts of the book while they read. Page Flip will be delivered as part of a free, over-the-air update starting today to Kindle E-readers, Fire tablets, and the free Kindle app for iOS and Android.

“Page Flip makes it easier than ever to refer back to pictures in a political memoir, flip back and forth between a map and your current page in an epic fantasy series, or find passages you’ve highlighted in an investing guide,” said Chuck Moore, Vice President, Kindle. “With Page Flip, we’ve taken inspiration from how people read print books and improved upon it.”

. . . .

Zoom out to get a bird’s eye view of the book and quickly find what you’re looking for. At a glance, easily recognize specific pages as you jump around. Pictures, charts, your highlights, and the layout of each page are easy to see with Page Flip’s pixel-accurate thumbnails that automatically adjust as you change your font and margin settings.

. . . .

Page Flip automatically saves the page you’re reading in a book, pinning it to the side of your screen for easy navigation. Flip back and forth in a book with confidence, knowing you can instantly jump back to reading with a simple tap of your pinned page.

“As an author, I love knowing that my work is presented with fluid clarity, freeing my readers from the page shuffling that can cloud and spoil the narrative,” said Laura Hillenbrand, best-selling author of Unbroken. “With Page Flip, books become vastly more accessible, navigable, interactive, and enthralling. As a ravenous reader and scholar, I savor the ease with which Page Flip allows me to keep thumbnails of maps and diagrams, my notes and highlighted passages, and bookmarked pages before me as I read, so that all I wish to see is accessible with the tap of a finger and my focus never has to leave the storytelling.”

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Here’s Amazon’s Page Flip Page

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How Imaginary Friends Help Kids Grow Up

28 June 2016

From Science of Us:

In a movie stuffed full of emotional moments, perhaps nothing about Inside Out packs more of a feelings punch than Bing Bong. Once the imaginary friend of Riley, the girl whose mind plays host to all the movie’s action, he spends his days deep in the recesses of her memory, mostly forgotten but willfully believing that she’ll call him up again one day.

Bing Bong (spoiler!) eventually disappears completely, in the most heart-wrenching death Pixar could have possibly dreamed up. Until relatively recently, though, the loss of an imaginary friend wouldn’t be considered something worth mourning. As a recent Science Friday article noted, they were once considered a sign of something unhealthy, or even sinister:

Historically, many researchers and parents thought that imaginary companions were harmful or evil, and were a sign of a social deficit, demonic possession, or mental illness. For instance, at the University of Alabama’s Knowledge in Development (KID) Lab, lead psychologist Ansley Gilpin recently heard of a case where a parent thought her daughter might have schizophrenia. It turned out that the child just had an imaginaryfriend.

The stigma, as the anecdote about Gilpin illustrates, is still alive and well, but it’s fading. Over the past several decades, as Science Friday also recently documented in a series of episodes on the subject, researchers have established imaginary friendship as perhaps psychology’s most delightful area of study. And perhaps more importantly, they’ve discovered that having an imaginary companion isn’t abnormal or unusual – and living in an imaginary world might even help kids develop valuable skills for the real one.

In other words, for concerned parents who might want to see it spelled out: An imaginary friend is nothing to worry about. First of all, they’re incredibly common — by some estimates, 65 percent of kids have had an imaginary friend by age 7. And kids know they aren’t real; researchers today believe these made-up companions aren’t an indication of loneliness or a deficit of social skills so much as they are a normal way for kids to exercise their imaginations.

Link to the rest at Science of Us

PG suspects many authors may have had imaginary friends when they were younger.

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