Ebooks

KDP Books Unavailable To International Readers

18 November 2018

From David Gaughran:

A situation blew up at Amazon over the weekend which has made most KDP ebooks unavailable to purchase for international readers who use the US Kindle Store — one which has also exposed a glaring security problem.

This issue — which is either a bug or a badly bungled roll-out — is causing great confusion as its effects are only visible to those outside the USA, which might explain why Amazon has been so slow to address it, or even understand the problem, it seems.

The first reports were from a few weeks ago, when Australian readers who use the US Kindle Store were unable to see a handful of new releases. It seems to have spread significantly since then. This weekend I noticed the issue myself for the first time. Buy buttons had disappeared from a couple of my ebooks and they were no longer appearing in Search results or on my Author Page. It was as if they had been ghosted. Readers around the world confirmed the same thing — except those in the USA, where all these books continue to be visible in search and purchasable by readers there.

Looking around the Kindle Store this weekend, it seemed like half of the KDP books I checked were unavailable for purchase to international readers, and similarly missing from search results (and, in some cases, author pages). They were undiscoverable by international readers, in other words, and even if those readers navigated to the pages of those Kindle editions directly, price tags were gone and Buy buttons had been removed.

. . . .

So the system seems to think that I shouldn’t be using the US Kindle Store — even though, like many Irish people, I’ve been using the US Kindle Store exclusively since 2011 — and it is blocking me not just from purchasing this title and many other titles, but is also rendering them invisible in search too, so customers don’t even know there is an issue unless they somehow go directly to the book’s page on Amazon. New-to-you readers internationally who use the US Kindle Store won’t even know the problem exists otherwise, or that your book does, I guess.

It gets weirder because this bug or glitch or whatever it is seems to be very inconsistent. All of my non-fiction is unavailable to international readers. Some of my fiction is gone too, but not all of it. If I Iook at someone random from the charts like Bella Forrest, all of the books of hers I checked are gone.

. . . .

I spoke to Amazon customer service yesterday and tried to explain the issue. Amazon didn’t seem to understand it, and just inserted a US postal address in my account instead, which “fixed” the problem as far as they were concerned. And, yes, I can now see my books and all the others which were invisible to me beforehand, but everyone else internationally still can’t see them or purchase them in the US Kindle Store – which is the only place that millions of international readers are able to purchase ebooks (this point must be repeated again and again as misunderstanding abounds — not everywhere has a local Kindle Store and such readers are supposed to use the US store).

Amazon’s “fix” had a number of unintended side-effects. As Amazon now seems to think I’m based in America, I no longer get charged VAT on ebooks. Instead, a test purchase I made applied Washington state sales tax of 6.5% — the customer service person put in Amazon’s Seattle HQ as my address — instead of the 23% rate of Irish VAT that Amazon is legally required to apply to ebook sales to me.

. . . .

Related issues aside, I hope Amazon starts making an effort to understand what is happening here as this is a particularly bad situation for international self-publishers whose readers will naturally trend international too, and who will be disproportionately affected. It also prevents self-publishers around the world from checking their books on Amazon.com — which they need to do for innumerable reasons.

Whether all this is a (bungled) feature or a bug, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Amazon is taking its eye off the ball in so many aspects of its business right now, at least pertaining to books. Amazon’s greatest strength is that it still has the scrappiness and innovative outlook of a start-up — which seems to be achieved by essentially having 1000s of start-ups incubating under one big Amazon tent, who seem to compete with each other for resources and attention and site real-estate.

. . . .

At times like these, Amazon feels incredibly atomized, made up of 1000s of departments who don’t (and won’t) communicate with each other, For example, if you have decided to make hundreds of thousands of ebooks suddenly invisible and unavailable to millions of readers unless they switch to a different Kindle Store maybe — I dunno, radical idea here — email people about it? And if it is just some horrible bug, which has been growing for several weeks to the point where most self-published books are now ghosted to international readers, maybe start working on fixing it? Just a thought.

Link to the rest at David Gaughran

PG notes that David’s post is from November 12. This is the most recent post on David’s blog, so PG assumes the problem he describes may be continuing.

Are Electronic Course Packs Fair Use?

28 October 2018

From The Authors Guild:

For the past ten years, in the Cambridge University Press v. Albert case, publishers have been battling with Georgia State University over whether the University’s providing its students with digital course packets that include excerpts (often full chapters) of books constituted “fair use.” Under court rulings in prior cases, the law was clear that providing photocopied course packs without a license was not fair use. In this case, however, the district court has already twice sided with Georgia State University, finding fair use on all but a few excerpts, and now the appeals court has again sent the case back down to it. On October 19, 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s second decision that the vast majority of Georgia State University’s digital excerpts were fair use, with instructions for how to get it right this time.

. . . .

This case has been closely watched by authors, publishers, and universities as a measure for when excerpts for classroom use need to be licensed or not. In the intervening decade, many universities appear to have stopped paying for these types of electronic classroom uses. Authors who used to regularly receive licensing income from classroom use report that that revenue source has dried up in recent years. A favorable outcome in this case would put universities on notice that they should start paying for those uses again.

. . . .

One of the major errors that the Eleventh Circuit failed to correct is the district court’s analysis under the fourth factor. The law describes the fourth factor as: “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.” As such, a fair use is one that should not replace a current or potential market for the work. The Supreme Court instructs courts conducting this analysis to look at the impact on current and potential markets if the use were to become widespread and unrestricted.

Instead, the lower court looked at whether the publishers already had electronic licenses available to universities in 2009 for excerpts for the specific works—an extremely narrow view of an existing market.

. . . .

Moreover, the court’s rule that the taking must be so great that the copyright owner no longer has the incentive to write or publish was created out of thin air and would make pretty much any particular use fair use. Few individual uses will be so great that they will be the deciding factor in whether to publisher or not (or write for that matter); it is the cumulative effect of these free uses that makes it increasingly hard to publish material that is not highly commercial.

Of greatest concern to authors and other creators is the fact that the Eleventh Circuit failed to remind the lower court to consider the impact on potentialmarkets from widespread use, and to remember that the relevant market to be considered is broader than a particular format. Whether the publishers had already made the particular works available for e-licensing for e-course packs should be irrelevant – yet the district court chose to focus on that point. Under the court’s analysis here, uses of copyrighted material that eliminate potential markets entirely—and thereby eliminate potential income for the authors as well as the publishers—may qualify as fair uses.

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild

Read to Your Kid With the Perfect Sound Effects Accompaniment

18 October 2018

From Offspring:

Last night, I read my daughter a story before bed, like I always do. I picked an old favorite from her bookshelf—Giraffes Can’t Dance. But this time, a musical cast accompanied my narration.

“The warthogs started waltzing …” I read. Just then, a romantic melody started playing.

I continued. “And the rhinos rock ‘n’ rolled …” Suddenly, there was an interlude by an electric guitar.

The lions danced a tango that was elegant and bold.” Right on cue, a dramatic tango tune cut in.

Okay, so there were no actual musicians in my kid’s bedroom—that would have been weird as we were sitting in our pajamas. But it felt like they were there, thanks to a free iOS app called Novel Effect.

. . . .

As you read a children’s book aloud, your iPhone, iPad or connected speakers play custom music and sound effects to enhance the story. The system uses voice recognition technology to drop in the sounds at the perfect moment, so you can go at your own pace. There’s a well-timed “ba-dum-bump-chhhh” in The Book with No Pictures, the hum of machine engines in Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, and lively underwater effects in The Pout-Pout Fish. There are even some voice cameos by certain characters—in Where the Wild Things Are, Max appears with his famed line “I’ll eat you up.”

Novel Effect works with more than 200 different books, from classics to recent bestsellers. There are some titles that come with the app, but for most of the selections, you must already have a copy of the book, whether print or digital. (There’s also an option to open a book in iBooks directly in the app.) Once you tap “Read book,” you can just set your device aside and start reading.

. . . .

Novel Effect is currently creating media designed to be used with Alexa, which makes a lot of sense. It’d be nice to not need my phone at all to use the technology.

Link to the rest at Offspring

Amazon just announced a new water-resistant Kindle Paperwhite

16 October 2018

From CNBC:

Amazon upgraded its popular Kindle Paperwhite eReader on Tuesday with new features that align it more with last year’s Kindle Oasis — but this device is more than $100 cheaper.

The Kindle Paperwhite is probably the e-reader you should buy if you’re in the market for a new one, but only if the following features sound like they’re worth the upgrade.

. . . .

The new device is water-resistant, which means it can be dropped into a pool or up to 6 feet of water for 60 minutes without getting damaged. Amazon also added Bluetooth and support for Audible so users can switch back and forth between listening and reading if they connect headphones or a speaker. You still need to own the Audible and eBook formats for this to work.

The Kindle Paperwhite is thinner and lighter than last year’s model and has one additional LED light that makes the screen brighter even when it’s used in the dark.

Amazon is adding new presets to its fonts, too. You might read a book in a certain font and size, but then hand it off to a child who prefers a different setting. It’s a useful feature if you share your Kindle with multiple people, or if you wear glasses occasionally but want to toggle between certain fonts and sizes at different times of day.

Link to the rest at CNBC and here’s a link to the new Paperwhite.

PG bought the original Paperwhite not long after it was released and, for him, it’s the ideal device for reading ebooks. He prefers the screen and form factor to that of a tablet for extended reading.

Contra to the OP, PG likes the fact that his Paperwhite automatically dims the screen brightness when the lights go out. (He doesn’t remember if it’s a setting he selected or the default.) For him, a dimmer screen provides a better experience when the room is dark and his eyes are dilated. If Mrs. PG is prudently going to sleep at a reasonable time, the Paperwhite barely brightens the room at all. YMMV.

 

Amazon’s Kindle Oasis has a new competitor: The waterproof Kobo Forma

5 October 2018

From Ars Technica:

Kobo’s newest e-reader is going after fans of Amazon’s Kindle Oasis. The new Kobo Forma is the company’s most expensive and comprehensive e-reader yet, coming in at $279 and featuring a waterproof design and an E-ink Mobius display.

Seemingly cut from the same cloth as the Kindle Oasis, the Kobo Forma has an 8-inch display with a large bezel on one edge for gripping. This pseudo-chin has buttons in its center that can be used to flip through pages when the device is either landscape or portrait mode. It’s uncommon to see e-readers used in landscape mode, but it’s a cool feature to have for those who may prefer it (possibly after getting used to reading in landscape mode using smartphones or tablets).

The Mobius technology built into the HD E-ink display uses a flexible plastic layer to make the device more durable while keeping it light. Weighing about 195 grams (0.43 pounds), the Kobo Forma can withstand drops from up to two meters, and it also meets IPX8 standards, which means it can withstand being under up to two meters of water for up to 60 minutes. Kobo also claims that the Mobius tech lets the Forma withstand “more bends, twists, full handbags, and overloaded backpacks” than other e-readers.

. . . .

The new e-reader debuts not long after Kobo and Walmart announced their partnership to bring e-books and audiobooks to Walmart customers, and in turn, to more people in the US. Kobo devices and services are popular in Canada, the UK, and other countries, but only recently did the company decide to come back to the US to try to compete with Amazon in the digital reading market.

Through the partnership with Walmart, Kobo e-readers are available in Walmart stores and online, and customers can access Kobo’s library of more than six million e-books and audiobooks through both the Walmart and Kobo mobile apps. The two companies also have a $9.99-per-month audiobook subscription service that, like Amazon’s more expensive Audible, includes one complementary audiobook each month.

Link to the rest at Ars Technica and thanks to Judith for the tip.

The B&N Nook is on its deathbed

27 September 2018

From Good Ereader:

Barnes and Noble has no plans to release a new e-reader this year and the bookseller has moved the entire Nook section to the back of the store in almost 600 locations in the United States. The display areas have been torn down and thrown in the garbage.  The Nook e-reading app for Android and iOS has not been updated since April and I have been told by the engineers that there will likely be no further updates until least 2019.  The Nook Audiobooks app, which is not even promoted last saw an update in February 2018. I suppose it is now safe to say that Barnes and Noble no longer cares about the Nook unit.

Over the course of the past three years B&N has been slashing costs in the Nook division, hoping to make it profitable. The company fired most of their staff and outsourced all firmware and software development to an Indian firm, but they are doing a terrible job. Last year B&N also proclaimed that they are no longer in the technology business and will focus on selling books online and in their retail stores.

A few months ago Barnes and Noble fired Chief of Digital Fred Argir. The bookseller did not publish a press release or mention it during their latest quarterly financial report. He was initially hired by former CEO Ron Boire to gut the Nook division. Under his watch the Nook App Store and Nook Videos was shuttered. The Silicon Valley R&D office for Nook was also closed down and B&N ceased to design their own hardware and just outsourced it to Netronix.

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

You Don’t Own the Music, Movies or Ebooks You ‘Buy’ on Amazon or iTunes

15 September 2018

From Two Cents:

When you purchase music, movies or books from Amazon or Apple’s iTunes store, you might be under the impression that that material is yours to enjoy forever; that’s how CDs and paper books work, after all. Why rent You’ve Got Mail for $3.99 every few months when you can “own” it and watch it whenever, forever, for $9.99?

But you’d be mistaken. Anything digital is temporary, even if you clicked “purchase” rather than “rent.” One unfortunate side effect of that you won’t experience with a physical book or record: Your purchases may just disappear if licensing agreements change.

. . . .

As outlined in the Twitter thread, Apple states the content provider of the movies in question removed them from the store. And that removed them from the user’s library, even though he had paid money to buy them. It’s easy to see why that’s frustrating (especially since Apple wasn’t willing to cough up a refund for the purchases he no longer has).

“This wouldn’t happen in the physical world. No one comes to your door and demands that you give back a book,” Aaron Perzanowski, a Case Western Reserve University law professor, who studied these digital purchases, told the LA Times in 2016. “But in the digital world, they can just go into your Kindle and take it.”

. . . .

For example, Amazon notes in the fine print that “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider. The Content Provider may include additional terms for use within its Kindle Content.” You also can’t sell or redistribute your ebooks, as you might with a physical copy. Apple’s fine printstates that the licensor “reserves the right to change, suspend, remove, disable or impose access restrictions or limits on any External Services at any time without notice or liability to you.”

. . . .

The best option? If you can, buy a physical copy of a movie or TV show that comes with a digital download. At least you’ll have a backup in case your digital copy disappears—assuming you still have a player to watch it on.

Link to the rest at Two Cents

When PG read the OP, one of the first things to pop into his mind was, “born yesterday”.

The author of the OP apparently discovered licensing of intellectual property shortly before writing the article and assumed at least a portion of the Lifehacker audience didn’t know much about the topic either.

“Born Yesterday” was the name of a Broadway play with two revivals plus three different movies.

Here’s a plot summary of the original Broadway play, Born Yesterday, which premiered in 1946, from Wikipedia:

An uncouth, corrupt rich junk dealer, Harry Brock, brings his showgirl mistress Billie Dawn with him to Washington, D.C. When Billie’s ignorance becomes a liability to Brock’s business dealings, he hires a journalist, Paul Verrall, to educate his girlfriend. In the process of learning, Billie Dawn realizes how corrupt Harry is and begins interfering with his plans to bribe a Congressman into passing legislation that would allow Brock’s business to make more money.

As a general proposition, the creator of intellectual property is its owner. Everybody else who wants to observe, read, listen to, etc., etc., that intellectual property is not the owner of the IP, but only has limited rights created by statute or license to do some things with their copy of the IP.

The owner of a physical book can’t make copies of the book and sell them to others because the book’s owner doesn’t own the IP depicted in the book. He/she is only the owner of the paper, ink and binding of that particular copy of the book. The copyright law (statutory and otherwise) which creates and defines the IP in the first place permits the book’s owner to do certain things with the physical book – read it, lend that copy to someone else, sell that copy to someone else, donate it to a library, deface the book, use excerpts or quotes from the book for various purposes, etc., etc.

The same basic rules, adapted to different media by which IP can be duplicated, transmitted, etc., govern copies of the IP in digital form. Just as making a copy of a book to give or sell to someone else is a violation of the creator’s IP rights, generally speaking, making a copy of a CD, a digital file, a photograph, or other protected medium incorporating such IP to give or sell to someone else is, absent permission from the creator or permission granted via copyright law, a violation of the creator’s IP rights.

Enough of this type of blathering.

The OP caused PG to wonder whether an author self-publishing with Amazon via KDP could make digital copies of his/her ebooks disappear from Kindles everywhere by unpublishing the ebook.

The short answer is probably not.

Here are some excerpts from the current Kindle Direct Publishing Terms and Conditions that describe what rights an author grants to Amazon:

Paragraph 3 Term and Termination (excerpt with PG highlights)

Following termination or suspension, we may fulfill any customer orders for your Books pending as of the date of termination or suspension, and we may continue to maintain digital copies of your Digital Books in order to provide continuing access to or re-downloads of your Digital Books, as well as digital copies of your Books to support customers who have purchased a Book prior to termination or suspension. . . . All rights to Digital Books acquired by customers will survive termination.

Paragraph 5.1.4 Book Withdrawal (excerpt with PG highlights)

All withdrawals of Books will apply prospectively only and not with respect to any customers who purchased the Books prior to the date of removal.

Paragraph 5.5 Grant of Rights (excerpt with PG highlights)

You grant to each Amazon party, throughout the term of this Agreement, a nonexclusive, irrevocable, right and license to print (on-demand and in anticipation of customer demand) and distribute Books, directly and through third-party distributors, in all formats you choose to make available through KDP by all distribution means available. This right includes, without limitation, the right to: (a) reproduce, index and store Books on one or more computer facilities, and reformat, convert and encode Books; (b) display, market, transmit, distribute, sell, license and otherwise make available all or any portion of Books through Amazon Properties (as defined below), for customers and prospective customers to download, access, copy and paste, print, annotate and/or view online and offline, including on portable devices; (c) permit customers to “store” Digital Books that they have purchased from us on servers (“Virtual Storage”) and to access and re-download such Digital Books from Virtual Storage from time to time both during and after the term of this Agreement

It appears to PG that Apple’s agreement with the owners of the copyrights to some iTunes movies did not include anything like the language in the KDP T&C’s and that the movie owners could force Apple to terminate rights of its customers who had paid for licenses to those movies.

It appears to PG that an author or publisher operating under the KDP T&C’s or something similar can’t force Amazon to terminate a customer’s rights to access an ebook they bought through Amazon. Amazon can decide to do so, but an author can’t make Amazon pull a digital move like iTunes did.

As usual, PG is a lawyer, but nothing PG posts on TPV is legal advice. If you would like to obtain legal advice, you need to hire an attorney to give you that advice, not read what a lawyer might post on a blog.

PG invites comments that agree or disagree with his half-baked (or fully-baked) blatherings on this topic.

What If Digital Is Antithetical to Learning?

9 September 2018

From Inside Higher Ed:

In 2018, the most important article for our “Inside Digital Learning” community to think about was not published here. It wasn’t even published in 2018.

It is the 2017 Educause Review piece “The Rise of Educational Technology as a Sociocultural and Ideological Phenomenon,” by George Veletsianos and Rolin Moe.

Those of us who champion digital learning, and who participate in the “IDL” community, need to take Veletsianos and Moe’s thinking seriously. If nothing else, we should be aware of the possibility that “the rise of ed tech is underpinned by ideology.”

What is the underpinning ideology of “Inside Digital Learning”?

If asked, and I’m not sure that our community has grappled with the question, I’d wager that we’d come to some answer that included adjectives such “critical,” “skeptical” and “a bit wary.” This is not a community populated by unthinking digital learning evangelists.

At the same time, I’d say that much of our community — and here I’d include myself — is deeply invested in the idea that digital technologies have the potential to be a force for good in advancing learning.

We may be critical of how digital technologies are applied in specific cases, but we genuinely believe that, done right, technology can improve student learning within higher education.

But what if we are wrong?

What if digital technologies are inherently harmful to learning?

. . . .

Indictment No. 3: Digital Distracts

The third charge against digital technologies is that they are driving our students (and professors) to distraction. Even those of us who tend to think it a bad idea to ban laptops from classroom have to admit that their presence can sometimes detract from student learning. The case that professors need to learn how to leverage laptops as learning tools may be justified, but it does impose yet another burden on the faculty.

Nor are students the only people on campuses likely to use technologies in a way that inhibits, rather than promotes, learning. PowerPoint has probably set back the art of teaching more than anything else in the past three decades.

How would our discussions on “Inside Digital Learning” be different if we started with the hypothesis that digital technologies are inherently destructive to the goal of advancing student learning?

Would this contrarian viewpoint to the basic assumptions of much of our professional practices change how we think about our higher ed jobs?

Might starting with a critical perspective about educational technologies make any efforts we make to introduce digital platforms to advance student learning more legitimate?

If our digital learning community learns to be more critical, might we develop great levels of empathy for the perspectives of many of our faculty colleagues who are skeptical of digital learning?

Link to the rest at Inside Higher Ed

Next Page »