Amazon Introduces Updated Sharing with Instant Previews for Kindle Books

25 June 2015

From the Amazon Media Room:

Kindle readers can share quotes and recommendations with specific friends, using their favorite mobile apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, texting, and more

Friends who receive a share can instantly start reading a free book preview right from their phone, tablet, or PC—no need to sign up, sign in, or install an app

Start sharing today from the Kindle for Android app, and coming to Kindle e-readers and other devices later this year

. . . .

Amazon today announced a new Kindle sharing experience that makes it simple for people to have conversations about great books—using the mobile messaging apps they already love, and even with people who have never used Kindle before. Kindle readers could already share quotes and recommendations with all their friends on Facebook or Twitter, and now they can start a conversation with specific people. And clicking on a book recommendation or shared quote now lets people start reading instantly, much like typical links to articles and videos. Here’s how it works:

  • From a Kindle book, easily share quotes, highlights, and recommendations with specific friends.
  • Share via popular mobile messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, as well as email, texting, and more.
  • Share today from Kindle for Android, and coming to Kindle e-readers and other devices later this year.
  • Friends who receive a share can instantly start reading a free book preview right from their phone, tablet, or PC—no need to sign up, sign in, or install an app.

“The perfect quote in a book isn’t always the perfect quote for your whole social network. Now it’s easy to share exactly what you want in a Kindle book with exactly who you want,” said Russ Grandinetti, Senior Vice President, Kindle. “Kindle makes it easy to chat about the books you’re reading, whether it’s making a recommendation or sparking a conversation about a quote you loved. And friends who receive the share can instantly start reading a free sample of the book—no sign-up, no sign-in, and no app to install.”

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room and here’s a link to more info about Kindle sharing

PG hasn’t had a chance to try this out yet, but thinks it may be a great promo tool for authors unless Amazon restricts how many people you can share with.

It’s Now Illegal to Sell Adult eBooks Before 10 PM in Germany

24 June 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

Germany has just given us a graphic example of what can go wrong when one unthinkingly applies decades old legal concepts to modern web tech.

Heise.de and Boersenblatt reported on Friday and Thursday that the Jugendschutzbehörde (Youth Protection Authority) has handed down a new ruling which extended Germany’s Youth Media Protection Law to include ebooks.

As a result of a lawsuit (legal complaint?) over the German erotica ebook Schlauchgelüste (Pantyhose Cravings), the regulators have decided that ebook retailers in Germany can now only sell adult ebooks between 10 pm and 6 am local time (4 pm and midnight, eastern US).

. . . .

According to Wikipedia, the law (JMStV) covers a number of areas, including “the protection of minors in advertising and teleshopping”. In this case it is intended to protect kids from adult ebooks, and it is backed up by fines of up to 500,000 euros.

Given that the law was written in the internet era, I am astounded that regulators would actually apply it in this manner. (I am also astounded that the regulators had not noticed the erotica and other adult content in the ebookstores in the four years since the Kindle Store launched in Germany, but that’s a whole other issue.)

Boersenblatt says that the 10 pm to 6 am window originally came from restrictions on adult cinema (where it made sense), but I still don’t understand what the regulators were thinking in applying that rule to the internet. Do they really believe that the adult internet, including porn sites, pirate sites, video sites, etc, is going to be turned off for 16 hours a day?

. . . .

And apparently that is how they want the ebook retailers to operate. According to my sources, the retailers are going to have to start tracking which titles count as “youth-endangering” under German law. Those ebooks will have to be isolated in a specific section of each ebookstore, which (theoretically) can then be made invisible using filtering software.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels and thanks to Linda for the tip.

PG says it’s always after 10:00 pm somewhere.


Amazon’s Plan to Pay Some Authors by Pages Read Is Smarter Than It Sounds

23 June 2015

From Slate:

Amazon has come up with a new way to pay authors for the e-books they self-publish, and almost everyone agrees it’s a dumb idea.

Almost everyone is wrong.

. . . .

The change has no effect on how authors will be paid for books sold in the Kindle Store, or on Amazon.com, or anywhere else. Nor does it affect how authors will be paid for books published through more traditional channels.

Why would Amazon make a change to the royalty formula for this specific group of authors? Because the old one was broken, as I’ll explain.

. . . .

When you charge readers to download an e-book, as Amazon does in the Kindle Store, it makes sense to pay publishers and their authors for each purchase. They’ve earned it.

But when e-book downloads come at zero marginal cost, as they do on Kindle Unlimited, there is no such thing as a “purchase.” A reader can download 10 titles as easily as she downloads one. If authors are paid by the download, then, they have an incentive to spread their work across as many titles as possible. A 10-part series, each 20 pages in length, would cost the reader no more than a single 200-page work—and yet the author of the 10-part series would earn 10 times the royalties. No wonder Amazon said it’s making the change in response to “feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read.”

. . . .

On a more basic level, tying author payments to pages read makes sense for Kindle Unlimited titles from an economic perspective. Because while downloads are free and instantaneous once you’ve paid for your subscription, reading a page implies an additional investment on the reader’s part—not of money, but of time and attention. That makes page read a better proxy than downloads for the amount of value readers are deriving from a given author’s work. It isn’t a perfect proxy, of course, but then, no single metric ever will be.

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

Library of Congress Ebooks Allow for Historical Documents on Tablets

17 June 2015

From Education World:

New efforts from the Library of Congress have made sources such as scrapbooks from women suffrage activists, political cartoons, and photos from throughout American history available in ebooks for tablets via Student Discovery Sets.

The Library of Congress have released three new interactive ebooks and “will bring together historical artifacts and one-of-a-kind documents on a wide range of topics, from history and science to literature. Interactive tools let students zoom in for close examination, draw to highlight interesting details and make notes about what they discover,” according to the press release.

The ebooks are currently available for download free of charge through iBooks and are in addition to nine already published ebooks that focus “on the U.S. Constitution, Symbols of the United States, Immigration, the Dust Bowl, the Harlem Renaissance, Understanding the Cosmos, the Industrial Revolution, Jim Crow and Segregation, and Children’s Lives at the Turn of the 20th Century,” the release said.

. . . .

The books are completely interactive, meaning students are immersed in the content through primary sources that come alive with “maps, songs, posters, pieces of sheet music and iconic images.”

Link to the rest at Education World

As PG was posting this, he was reminded that the Library of Congress provides both access to and copies of many portions of its visual arts collections. You can download a copy of an image at no charge or you can have the Library of Congress make a high-quality print of photographs or a high-quality copy of other items for a very reasonable fee.

While the description of each photo provides warnings about potential copyright issues, the photos, including some terrific Depression-era works, that were created by photographers under contracts from various government agencies, are generally in the public domain. For images that were not created under government contract, it is likely that asking for a copy for your personal use would fall under fair use.

The following iconic Depression photo of the wife of a migrant worker in California was taken by Dorothea Lange for the U.S. Farm Security Administration:


Here’s a link to more information about this and other prints and photographs available at The Library of Congress


Baen Books Reveals Amazon’s Byzantine Policies on Kindle Email Delivery

16 June 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

When I first reported a few weeks ago that Baen Books was one of the publishers which was no longer going to email deliver the ebooks you buy from it to your Kindle, I was the one and only news site to report the strange news thatAmazon was blocking publishers but not retailers from using this feature.

While it was puzzling that Amazon would discourage one source from emailing your ebooks to you but not another, I have learned today that the real situation is far more complicated than that.

. . . .

I have no explanation for this policy of Amazon, and I am in fact having trouble believing it really is Amazon’s policy. But it is not entirely crazy, and as a matter of fact it points to a reason why two publishers had to give up the feature while a third publisher (O’Reilly) and several retailers did not.

Suppose Amazon has set a daily cap for each company which limits the number of ebooks they can send to customers’ Kindle accounts. Pragmatic and Baen could be the two most active emailers of the companies which had been contacted, and once they realized that they would hit the cap everyday they decided to simply announce that the feature was going away.

The other companies either weren’t contacted, or have not been impacted. O’Reilly, for example, won’t admit to any change in the policy. All they said was “We are hoping to continue this service with Amazon.”

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels

E-books languish in digital library, collecting guilt

12 June 2015

From the Chicago Tribune:

I am astonished that it has taken me one thousand days, give or take a few, to finish one measly Stephen King novel.

Last week, a thousand or so days after I began, I finally finished King’s best-seller “11/22/63.” That’s almost three years to finish a book that’s a few pages shorter than “Anna Karenina,” which I read in a week.

In all my book-reading years leading up to this feat, I had never spent more than a month on a book, and this book, in theory, should have taken just a few days.

. . . .

So why did it take so long?

Call it The Curse of the Kindle.

The Curse of the Kindle afflicts many of us who read on electronic gizmos, regardless of the brand. iPad. Nook. Whatever the device, the curse can befall you.

Here’s what it may look like:

You download a book on impulse, in, say, an airport, because your greatest fear of flying is fear of in-flight boredom.

. . . .

Once aboard, you start reading. Then you fall asleep. Or get distracted by the airline magazine. All of a sudden you’re at your destination, no longer in need of your anti-boredom armor, and your book vanishes into the black hole that your e-reader optimistically calls a library.

There it stays, along with all your other half-finished e-books, doomed to be forgotten until the next time you have nothing better to do on an airplane.

That is The Curse of the Kindle.

What’s the longest you’ve ever taken to finish a book in print?

Link to the rest at Chicago Tribune and thanks to Glinda for the tip.

PG picks up the airline magazine on every flight . . . for the sole purpose of moving it and whatever else is in the seatback pocket to a different location so he can gain an additional half-inch of knee space. The last time he opened an airline magazine was approximately 1997.

As far as the longest it’s ever taken PG to finish a printed book, he can look at his bookcases (yes, he still has a whole bunch) and find at least one unfinished printed book on almost every shelf. (Not including both the Bible and War and Peace which he has read) The only reason he doesn’t own more partly-read print books in his bookcases is because he takes a trunkload of them to the library from time to time.


Reports of a Shrinking US eBook Market Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

10 June 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

About a week and a half ago I reported on and expressed doubt about a new estimate from Nielsen Pubtrack which said that 6% fewer ebooks were sold in the US in 2014. At that time I had no evidence to prove that the Pubtrack numbers were off, but since then I have been digging into the background.

Today I can report that the Pubtrack estimate of 223 million ebooks sold in the US was not just bad, it was completely erroneous. I have two sources which say that the US ebook market is at least twice as large as Pubtrack thinks it is.

My first source is the pseudonymous Data Guy (the one behind the Author Earnings Report). His calculations suggested that the around 513 million ebooks were sold in the US ebook market last year.

And for those of you who want an official figure from a named source, my second source is the Association of American Publishers. They just released their annual estimates of the US book market (I’m working on a post), and they say that 510 million ebooks were sold in the US last year (that volume also grew by a fraction of a percent).

Yes, the AAP says that the US ebook market is over twice as large as Nielsen had claimed. It turns out that Nielsen widely over-estimated its ability to track the US ebook market, and I can tell you why.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels and thanks to Hugh for the tip.

What price an e-book?

8 June 2015

From author Mark Lawrence:

I was asked today to ‘have a word’ with my publishers as The Liar’s Key ebook is £9.97 on Amazon.

I don’t have any say in setting the price for my books, and while my publishers would listen politely if I were to talk to them about it … they would do exactly what they think is right for the company, to maximise their chances of earning back the sizeable investment they have already made.

£10 is not an insignificant amount to me – I would have to want something quite a lot to put down a tenner for it. Even if it was a book that could entertain me for a week. So I’m not dismissive of people’s concerns about cost.

However, here is the breakdown of that cost as I understand it:

£9.97  —-   Amazon take 20% of the price as Value Added Tax. You might imagine this is then paid to the government, and I understand from the news that bad press has finally convinced Amazon to do that in the near future – but certainly until recently they were registered in a tax haven and kept the bulk of the VAT for themselves. This leaves:

£8.31  —-  For all self published books over £1.99 Amazon takes 30% of the sale price (after VAT) for themselves. I’m assuming it’s similar for everyone. This leaves:

£5.82  —- As with all big publishers Voyager take 75% of the money that Amazon hands over from the sale of ebooks. This is standard and much better than the deal on paper books. I’m not complaining. This leaves:

£1.46  —- My agent takes the standard 15% from all my royalties. He’s a good hard working chap and I wouldn’t be an author if he hadn’t risked his reputation on me. This leaves:

£1.24 —- The tax man takes 20% of my income. Given that I benefit from free healthcare for my very expensive disabled child, I can’t complain. This leaves:

99 pence.

99 pence to buy (on publication day) the longest book I’ve ever written and one that I laboured on night and day for 12 months.

Link to the rest at Mark Lawrence and thanks to Matt for the tip.

Here’s a link to Mark Lawrence’s books

Egregious Nonsense Regarding eBook Standards

5 June 2015

From Andrew Updegrove:

It takes something truly ridiculous to make me write an out and out rant. Still, every now and then I read something that I can’t avoid responding to, because of the degree to which it misrepresents reality in an area I both care about and am knowledgeable in. Yesterday I had that experience when I read an article contending that proprietary eBook formats are good rather than bad, and that while “someday” we may have a truly interoperable eBook format, for now we should just sit back and appreciate proprietary formats in this area.

What rubbish.

This is the same nonsense that has been propounded in every single media format that has ever been created where there is a dominant vendor that wants to stay that way. It’s what Microsoft has contended for decades about desktop software formats that underlie its Office productivity suite, and what we also saw in the early days of digital music. In each case, vendors (or, in this case, sales and distribution channels) have sought to gain, or retain, monopolist control and lock in their customers by fighting the creation and universal adoption of a standard that would allow freedom of movement and true competition in the marketplace.

. . . .

The other side of playing this game is to make sure that everyone can still use your products, whether or not you’ve implemented the industry standard. Amazon does that by offering free downloads of its Kindle software for the Microsoft PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and so on, so that no matter what reader you use, you can still buy your book at Amazon. Or just read it in the Cloud. Want to read your Barnes & Noble or Kobo book on your Kindle, though? No dice.

That’s the same strategy Microsoft employed when it knocked WordPerfect and Lotus out of their preferred positions thirty years ago, making it possible to seamlessly import documents created under those programs, but making sure that exporting them back again met with less than perfect results. For the last ten years, Microsoft has fought an ongoing battle against the OpenDocument Format (ODF) to try and keep it that way.

. . . .

Also like Microsoft, which dramatically reduced updating Office after it wiped out the competition (as it also did with Internet Explorer, after it wiped out Netscape, until it was once again challenged by Firefox), Amazon continues to provide an extremely mediocre presentation of actual books on devices. Only recently has it announced something as basic as new fonts, many years after the initial release of the Kindle. It has, however innovated vigorously and successfully on its family of Kindle devices, in order to win over as many customers as possible to its proprietary platform.

. . . .

Making products work on one device is easy. Making it possible for true competition to be active in the marketplace and give true freedom of purchase and movement to customers takes more work – and the results are far better. And where vendors decide that it’s in their economic interest to do this, they do it. With thousands of new standards every year.

That’s why you can buy a phone from any one and call anyone else; buy a tire from anyone and put it on whatever car you own; buy a Wi-Fi router and connect anything to it; and buy just about anything else in the world and use it the way you want to. Except eBooks. There’s a reason for that, and it isn’t technical.

Authors are the victims of this nonsense at both ends of the supply chain, because Microsoft still controls the desktop (I’ve written about the consequences of that reality here), and Amazon still controls the distribution channel to most readers. That means that instead of being able to simply create a book in your favorite word processor and publish it directly to every Internet bookstore with a few keystrokes, you’re stuck with a miserable experience preparing your files, and then uploading them multiple times at multiple sites with multiple issues to deal with at each.

Link to the rest at Andrew Updegrove: Tales of Adversego

Being a Better Online Reader

5 June 2015

From The New Yorker:

Soon after Maryanne Wolf published “Proust and the Squid,” a history of the science and the development of the reading brain from antiquity to the twenty-first century, she began to receive letters from readers. Hundreds of them. While the backgrounds of the writers varied, a theme began to emerge: the more reading moved online, the less students seemed to understand. There were the architects who wrote to her about students who relied so heavily on ready digital information that they were unprepared to address basic problems onsite. There were the neurosurgeons who worried about the “cut-and-paste chart mentality” that their students exhibited, missing crucial details because they failed to delve deeply enough into any one case. And there were, of course, the English teachers who lamented that no one wanted to read Henry James anymore. As the letters continued to pour in, Wolf experienced a growing realization: in the seven years it had taken her to research and write her account, reading had changed profoundly—and the ramifications could be felt far beyond English departments and libraries. She called the rude awakening her “Rip van Winkle moment,” and decided that it was important enough to warrant another book. What was going on with these students and professionals? Was the digital format to blame for their superficial approaches, or was something else at work?

Certainly, as we turn to online reading, the physiology of the reading process itself shifts; we don’t read the same way online as we do on paper. Anne Mangen, a professor at the National Centre for Reading Education and Research at the University of Stavanger, in Norway, points out that reading is always an interaction between a person and a technology, be it a computer or an e-reader or even a bound book. Reading “involves factors not usually acknowledged,” she told me. “The ergonomics, the haptics of the device itself. The tangibility of paper versus the intangibility of something digital.” The contrast of pixels, the layout of the words, the concept of scrolling versus turning a page, the physicality of a book versus the ephemerality of a screen, the ability to hyperlink and move from source to source within seconds online—all these variables translate into a different reading experience.

The screen, for one, seems to encourage more skimming behavior: when we scroll, we tend to read more quickly (and less deeply) than when we move sequentially from page to page. Online, the tendency is compounded as a way of coping with an overload of information. There are so many possible sources, so many pages, so many alternatives to any article or book or document that we read more quickly to compensate. When Ziming Liu, a professor at San Jose State University whose research centers on digital reading and the use of e-books, conducted a review of studies that compared print and digital reading experiences, supplementing their conclusions with his own research, he found that several things had changed. On screen, people tended to browse and scan, to look for keywords, and to read in a less linear, more selective fashion. On the page, they tended to concentrate more on following the text. Skimming, Liu concluded, had become the new reading: the more we read online, the more likely we were to move quickly, without stopping to ponder any one thought.

The online world, too, tends to exhaust our resources more quickly than the page. We become tired from the constant need to filter out hyperlinks and possible distractions. And our eyes themselves may grow fatigued from the constantly shifting screens, layouts, colors, and contrasts, an effect that holds for e-readers as well as computers. Mary Dyson, a psychologist at the University of Reading who studies how we perceive and interact with typography and design online and in print,

Link to the rest at New Yorker and thanks to Dave for the tip.

When PG was experiencing formal education, he was a world-class skimmer of paper books he didn’t like. He suspects he was not alone in that behavior.

For the record, when reading fact-dense non-fiction on a Kindle or a tablet, PG has not experienced any diminution in his ability to retain obscure facts with which to bore Mrs. PG over dinner. But since he creates far more social media content than he consumes, perhaps he’s not representative of the current age.

This article reminded PG of Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” writings identifying “hot” and “cool” media from the sixties.

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