Amazon

Kindle Instant Book Previews

22 June 2016

Along with many others, PG just received a promo for Kindle Instant Book Previews.

We all know how easy it is to share our favorite pictures and videos online. Now you can just as easily share your favorite book with Kindle instant previews so anyone can start reading the book for free.

. . . .

Kindle instant previews can be embedded on the web or shared as a link via email, text and other favorite apps. Anyone can start reading the preview for free by clicking on the link, just like this example. The Kindle instant preview provides:2px-spacer

• Free content to keep traffic on your site

• Free access to a sample of the book

• Adjustable font sizes for the readers’ comfort

• Direct link to book purchase from Amazon

• Download link to get the free Kindle app

Link to the rest at Kindle Instant Book Previews

This appears to be easy to implement.

Here’s an embedded version of one of Mrs. PG’s books (note the buttons at the bottom of the cover):

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Here’s a link to a preview of the same book.

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New Kindle Announced

22 June 2016

From The Amazon Media Room:

Amazon today introduced the all-new Kindle, making its most affordable reader thinner, lighter, and with twice the memory as the previous generation for the same price, just $79.99. Kindle is offered in your choice of black or white and is available at www.amazon.com/kindle.

. . . .

KindleThinner, Lighter, Still Only $79.99

The all-new Kindle is thinner and lighter and has twice the memory compared to the previous generation Kindle. Now available in black and white color options, the new Kindle features a more rounded design, making it easy and comfortable to hold in one hand at any angle for extended reading sessions. Unlike reflective tablet and smartphone screens, the high contrast touchscreen display on Kindle eliminates glare in any setting, even in direct sunlight. Recent studies have shown that evening exposure to blue light from backlit screens like tablets and smartphones can suppress the body’s production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps the body fall asleep. Because the Kindle display emits no light, you can read anytime without losing sleep. Like all Kindle e-readers, the all-new Kindle has a battery life that lasts for weeks and not hours.

. . . .

  • Export Notes—It’s now easy to export notes and highlights from a book to your e-mail, so you can always have them on-hand for reference. Receive your notes both as an easily printable PDF that’s ready to bring to your book club, and as a simple file you can open in your favorite spreadsheet app. This feature will be available as part of a free, over-the-air software update in the coming weeks.
  • Built-in Bluetooth audio for accessibility—The first Kindle with built-in Bluetooth audio support, Kindle makes it possible for visually impaired users to use the VoiceView screen reader on Kindle to read the content of the screen—including reading books and other Kindle content—without the need for an adaptor. This is enabled through a new out-of-box experience specifically for visually-impaired customers that allows them to pair their Kindle with Bluetooth headphones or a speaker. For other recent updates in accessibility, visit our Amazon blog.
  • Chinese Word Wise Hints—Choose between English and Simplified Chinese Word Wise hints by changing the language in Word Wise settings.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Amazon seems to be willing to invest in additional Kindle ereader sales via new features and aggressive pricing to keep its ebook ecosystem healthy.

If ebook sales were really flattening or declining as articles focused on the traditional publishing world have suggested, PG wonders if the company would be putting more money into ereaders. This is the second new ereader Amazon has introduced in the last three months.

The Story

22 June 2016

Most of those who purchase books from Amazon will likely have already received notice, but Amazon has introduced The Story on Tumblr:

Welcome to The Story, a publication for the Kindle community and passionate readers everywhere. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with your friends and fellow book lovers.

Link to the rest at The Story

How Amazon Is Pushing Audiobooks into the Mainstream

21 June 2016

From Digital Book World:

[Hugh] Howey said, “Amazon has vastly increased the access to books. They have also vastly increased every author’s access to the market… For a very long time, most aspiring writers had no hope of expressing themselves and having access to consumers. Amazon almost single-handedly changed that.”

Those statements are equally true of indie authors who have audiobook editions. However, most people don’t realize that Amazon has systematically acquired companies and innovated technologies in order to push audiobooks into mainstream entertainment.

In 2007, Amazon bought Brilliance Audio, which was the largest independent producer of audiobooks in the country. At the time of the purchase, Brilliance created 12 to 15 audiobooks per month, or no more than 180 audiobooks a year. At the Audio Publishers Association conference in May, a rep from Brilliance Audio commented that the company now produces 2,000 audiobooks a year.

The next year, Amazon spent $300 million to buy Audible.com, which is the world’s largest distributor of audiobooks. Audible’s 2008 catalog had around 60,000 titles. Today, Audible’s title count is fast approaching the quarter-million mark.

One reason for the dramatic uptick in title production is the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), a site created in 2011 by Amazon-owned Audible. ACX enables authors and other rights holders to connect directly with narrators to produce audiobooks.

Before ACX appeared, indie authors had few chances to get their titles into audio. Narrators also had limited prospects of working in the industry. While some publishers hired narrators with home studios, most audio productions were recorded and edited in the publishers’ locations. Now, though narrators across the United States and United Kingdom are gaining work through ACX to produce audiobooks from our own studios. As a result, ACX is responsible for one-fourth of the audiobooks available for sale on Audible.

After ramping up audiobook production, Amazon’s next innovative move was designed to generate a higher volume of sales of Audible audiobooks. In 2012, Amazon announced Whispersync for Voice, a technology that allows users to seamlessly switch between the Kindle ebook and the Audible audiobook.

. . . .

In addition to enticing prospective buyers with free audiobooks, Amazon has significantly increased Audible’s visibility through advertising. Audible became a sponsor of the popular podcast Serial and the PBS TV show Downton Abbey.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Apple E-book Refunds to Begin June 21

21 June 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

The book business is about to get a summer boost. Attorneys today confirmed that $400 million in refunds due readers following the end of the Apple e-book price-fixing case will begin flowing into customer accounts on June 21—with refunds for New York Times bestsellers approaching $7 per title purchased.

Similar to the prior settlements with publishers, which were paid out in 2014, the bulk of the Apple credits will be automatically delivered directly into the accounts of consumers at major book retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple. Consumers will receive a $6.93 credit for every purchased e-book that was a New York Times bestseller, and a $1.57 credit for other e-books. The credits can be used for “any product or service” offered by the retailer, unlike the publisher settlements, which restricted refund credits to book purchases (print or digital) only. The settlement covers books that were purchased between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG received his refund this morning.

How Many Tech Products Does Amazon Actually Carry?

20 June 2016

From Twice:

According to market research consultancy 360pi, which tracks brands, products and prices online, Amazon offered 31,604,887 electronics-category products and 82,039,731 cellphones and related accessories as of May 2016.

And that’s excluding product variants.

But in addition to Amazon’s own inventory, the count also includes listings by third-party sellers — a force multiplier that swells the assortment 30-fold across all product categories, the research firm found.

The cellphone segment’s 82 million-plus listings make it Amazon’s largest category by selection, followed by home/kitchen; clothing/shoes/jewelry; and, in fourth place, electronics.

. . . .

All told, Amazon’s own across-the-board offerings number 12,231,203 products, excluding books, media, wine and service. Add in third-party Marketplace listings and the count mushrooms to a grand total of 353,710,754 items.

Link to the rest at Twice

Authors beware: A new danger for KU authors

19 June 2016

From author K.J. Simmill:

Anyone who follows me closely will know my book was removed from Amazon for almost a fortnight after they registered some unusual activity. At first I was at a loss. What was it, where had it come from? But since I have learnt a terrifying truth behind Kindle Unlimited, it is one all authors need to be aware of. It is a KU scam that could ruin your career and put your money into fraudsters’ pockets.

. . . .

I was running a book promotion, a push to generate interest in my first book. After approaching blogs and book promotion sites I began to run a 99cents promotion on Darrienia, which at that time was number one in two of its categories. Book two is coming out at the end of the year and, despite it being a stand alone novel, I was aiming to attract more readers in the hope they would want to read the second book. I did what any author would, attempt to get the message out there. It worked, with the 99cents offer I see an increase in sales, but also an increase in KU activity. Brilliant right? Not really.

A week later my book was no longer for sale. Confused I logged onto my KDP account but couldn’t access the bookshelf and the ‘Contact Us’ button wasn’t working. After hours of trying to find a way to contact Amazon KDP, posting on the forums asking for help, I remembered having raised a query with them. I found it and clicked ‘no’ on the did we solve your problem link and finally, I was able to send them an email. But the information I got back was concerning.

“We are reaching out to you because we have detected that borrows for your books are originating from systematically generated accounts… As a result of the irregular borrow activity, we have removed your books from the KDP store and are terminating your KDP account and your KDP Agreement effective immediately. We will issue a negative adjustment to any outstanding royaltypayments.”

. . . .

So I wait. I wait and I wait, all the time fearing the worst. Amazon wipe all my KU page reads and obviously as above keep all my sale royalties too. But I didn’t care about this, I still don’t. I was never writing for the money. I had a story that I needed to tell and my entire writing future was on the line.

When royalty payment day came I had still heard nothing. But then something strange happened. I get a phone call from my bank. Someone has charged £100s worth of iTunes to my account.

Alarm bells are obviously ringing.

Back in February I was the victim of identity fraud, but not the kind you see on TV. This person rang my bank pretending to be me but failed the security checks. They did however have my account number, sort code, name, address, mobile number, and date of birth.

. . . .

The day of this month’s royalty payment comes and £100s are requested from my bank.

My bank were great. I was given new details and the transactions were voided. Then it occurred to me, given the timing surely this was more than a coincidence. What if this odd activity against my book wasn’t a result of the promotions but someone trying to ensure there was money in my account for them to take?

. . . .

The moral of this story is simple. If you see activity in your KU which is against the normal figures contact Amazon immediately, and keep an eye on your bank for small transactions you are unfamiliar with, someone could be testing the water. Don’t assume you’re getting interest in your book, even if you are running a promotion, or pushing KU. It is better to contact them first with concerns rather than suddenly not be allowed to sell with them and then have to prove you have no knowledge of events.

This experience has really opened my eyes. The things that were done I had never dreamed possible, especially with Amazon’s IP tracking. After all, they always know who and where you are. I still don’t know how it was pulled off, and I imagine I never will. I only hope that either the fraud teams, or Amazon catch up to them. The events are too closely linked not to be connected, so whether this is a new fraud specifically targeting authors, or someone exploiting existing victims after researching them further, one thing is clear, they knew me. They knew I was an author and found a means to exploit it for their own gains and very nearly ruined me in the process.

Link to the rest at Darriennia and thanks to P.D. for the tip.

Here’s a link to K.J. Simmill’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Dangers for Prawny Authors

17 June 2016

PG was intrigued by comment to another TPV post from Ann Christy about innocent indie authors being seriously harmed by KU borrow scammers:

When I was doing my blog posts on the KU Scammers, several people on both sides of the issue wrote to me. One such was a woman who had her account shut down in exactly this manner.

She was a “prawn” and had almost no borrows to speak of. She had a one day spike on a book (much like the one in the kboards post referenced above) and was confused, but chalked it up to one of the many smaller newsletter services picking up her KCD without her applying. We all know that happens and we can’t always figure who picked it up.

Fast forward and she was shut down.

Now, it’s happened again. And there are more if you go to the Kindle community forums. All are completely innocent, all are prawns and the only common denominator seems to be a one day spike in borrows for a single book that they didn’t initiate.

I researched the KU Scams extensively for months, but you don’t have to do that to figure out what’s happening. Bot driven KU accounts are hired by click-farms. Just like with Adsense and other such click schemes, how do they obfuscate that they are bot driven?

They download a random real book and make sure to do the same to that one. By doing it enough times interspersed with the books they’re hired to click-farm, they make it hard to figure out they’re a click farmer at first glance.

Unfortunately, now that Amazon has responeded to the click farming, they are hammering the innocent victims of the click farmers attempts to hide what they are.

If you’re a prawn, you’re a potential target.

And there is absolutely nothing you can do.

It’s a real shame and I’m pretty shocked that Zon is doing this. I’m not in the Zon and I could figure it out in a hot second. This is their business and they couldn’t?

I’ve always been a huge fan of KDP and KDP Select, but this is worrisome. It is both capricious and stupid, which makes it dangerous to anyone who is a prawn that in good faith publishes with KDP-S.

As to why they choose prawns…obvious. They have no phone contacts at KDP to make take notice immediately. A prawn has no such recourse and is essentially at the mercy of whatever whim is currently blowing up the collective KDP skirt.

Also, this is now a way to target anyone you don’t like. Hire a click farmer for a one day shot at a book by someone you don’t like. Now, they will be ruined without even being asked about it.

In this context, PG believes a prawny author is someone who is not a big fish author.

Think You Couldn’t Possibly Lose Your Amazon Publishing Account? Think Again.

17 June 2016

From author Becca Mills:

There’s this indie author I know a little bit from the Kboards.com forum. Her name is Pauline Creeden, and she’s an ordinary midlister, like so many of us. I remember PMing her some time ago and gushing about how particularly beautiful one of her book covers is — the one for Chronicles of Steele: Raven.

. . . .

Anyway, today I tuned in to Kboards and noticed that Pauline had started a thread. It contained what’s surely the worst news possible for an indie author: Amazon had closed her publishing account. All her ebooks had been taken off sale. Permanently. Here’s the email she got from Amazon:

We are reaching out to you because we have detected that borrows for your books are originating from systematically generated accounts. While we support the legitimate efforts of our publishers to promote their books, attempting to manipulate the Kindle platform and/or Kindle programs is not permitted. As a result of the irregular borrow activity, we have removed your books from the KDP store and are terminating your KDP account and your KDP Agreement effective immediately.

As part of the termination process, we will close your KDP account(s) and remove the books you have uploaded through KDP from the Kindle Store. We will issue a negative adjustment to any outstanding royalty payments. Additionally, as per our Terms and Conditions, you are not permitted to open new KDP accounts and will not receive future royalty payments from additional accounts created.

According to Pauline, she received no warnings. She just checked her email and discovered she’d been banned for life from selling on Amazon. Now, I don’t know Pauline well enough to ask about her sales details, but if this happened to me, 70% of my writing income would vanish. For most of us, Amazon is by far the best platform for selling books. Losing one’s account there would be a career-ending event for many of us.

While the email Pauline got sounds like a form letter, it does imply that her problem arose from two things: promotional activity and Kindle Unlimited (KU) borrows. Most of you are probably familiar with Amazon’s KU program. It’s a subscription service through which readers pay about $10/month to read as many books as they like. It’s a great deal for major bookworms. As a reader, I’m a member myself.

KU authors get paid as readers make their way through the books they borrow. So, if someone borrows your 300-page novel and reads the entire thing, you get paid for 300 page-reads (about $1.50). If they only get though half the book, you get paid half as much. When authors self-publish on Amazon, they have to choose whether or not to participate in KU.

. . . .

Amazon’s email to Pauline suggests that the KU accounts borrowing and reading her books were not legitimate. They’re implying, basically, that she paid a click-farm to borrow her books and race through them, so that she would get paid for pages that weren’t truly read. There are outfits that do this kind of thing. Someone in a developing nation will open twenty KU accounts, which are free for the first month, and then use those accounts to borrow books and either page though them at high speed or skip directly to the end, generating a pay-out for the author. This is a known scam plaguing KU.

. . . .

Pauline says she hasn’t used any shady promotional sites. The ones she says she’s hired are those most of us have used. They’re well known and, so far as we’ve heard, they’re perfectly legit, advertising real books to real readers.

Pauline does report that she saw a one-day increase in page-reads on one of her books (Raven, actually) in May — from the usual 80 per day to 25,000. (That’s a big spike, but not a terribly lucrative one. The payment rate for April was $.005/page; if May is similar, 25,000 page-reads will generate $125. Not enough to risk your KDP account over, that’s for sure!) Pauline doesn’t know what caused the spike. She hadn’t promoted the book recently. Did a click-farm hit her book by accident? Did someone with a grudge target her? Was it just a glitch? Was the one-day spike even the problem? The problem is that we don’t know what the problem was. No specifics have been shared.

Amazon has been “looking into” Pauline’s situation for ten days, now. They’re not telling her anything, and her ebooks remain offline, their rankings getting worse and worse. It’s got to be a terrifying situation for her.

. . . .

Taking career-destroying action without warning, in the shape of a form letter; offering no explanation as to why; sitting on the issue for day after day with no response … this isn’t nice or fair. It’s the way you treat adversaries, not partners. We want to be Amazon’s partners.

Beyond the issue of simple decency, there’s also the question of the damage this kind of thing will do to KU. Who’s going to put their books in the program if doing so makes one vulnerable to this sort of devastating blow?

Link to the rest at The Active Voice and thanks to Donna for the tip.

Here’s a link to Becca Mills’ books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Steal My Books, Please!

17 June 2016

From author P.J. Bayliss:

I know this seems like a strange request from an author, but I’d far rather you steal and pirate my Kindle books right now as opposed to borrowing them. Apparently, pirating of books is okay, whereas law-abiding Kindle borrowers are likely to shut the author down.

Let me explain further…

Last week I received an email from the Kindle Direct Publishing team informing me that they’d shut my Kindle account down. Apparently they had worked out that my books had been borrowed by illegitimate accounts and as a consequence of the irregular borrow activity, they terminated my agreement with Kindle publishing. The letter went something like this:

“..we have detected that borrows for your books are originating from systematically generated accounts. While we support the legitimate efforts of our publishers to promote their books, attempting to manipulate the Kindle platform and/or Kindle programs is not permitted. As a result of the irregular borrow activity, we have removed your books from the KDP store and are terminating your KDP account…”

Understandable I was upset with this news as it came with the penalty of removing my books from the Kindle store and taking back my outstanding royalty payments. That cost me money, and while I didn’t have a huge amount of cash stashed away in the scheme, it would’ve been nice to have in my bank account for the countless hours I’ve spent putting my books together.

Aside from the wallop to my wallet, the account closure is much more problematic. As I read their notice I couldn’t help but think that my budding author career has just been downsized to the roots.

My problem is that I am completely an innocent party in this situation. I haven’t employed borrowers, enlisted in any ‘golden egg’ book marketing schemes, or sought any kind of third party help at all to escalate my book sales. Obviously, I barely find time to post a blog once a month for starters, so where am I going to find the time for all of that rigmarole? Even if I managed to find hundreds of borrowers per week it still wouldn’t fill my car with gas in order to get to work for my real job – so what would be my motivation to even consider doing such a thing?

. . . .

While I have appealed to the Kindle folks to overturn their decision, I still have to wait for days before they even start to look into the situation. I don’t know if they’ll let me back into the scheme, but to be brutally honest, while this borrowing loophole remains where innocent authors can have all of their hard work and earnings ripped away without a moments notice, I’m not too sure if I want to participate. It’s not the only channel for digital books after all.

Link to the rest at P.J. Bayliss

Here’s a link to P.J. Bayliss’ books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Amazon does a lot of things well, but KDP’s approach to potential abuse can be heavy-handed and obtuse.

How about an inquiry to the author about what’s going on?

In this case, if KDP thinks the author is at fault, why not start by temporarily shutting off borrows and allowing sales to continue for the book? Or even better, shut off borrows they believe are programmatically based and don’t pay the borrowing royalties for those programmatic borrows?

Or cap borrows as a percentage of books sold? No borrowing royalties for borrows that are more than 150% of the number of books sold each month?

PG understands that bad folks are constantly trying to rip off Amazon, but immediately jumping to termination of an author’s KDP account and terminating sales and borrows of all books as the first step isn’t Amazon smart.

 

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