Kindle

Kindle Unlimited is not here to Make Friends

3 November 2017

From author  and TPV regular Gene Doucette:

I want to talk a little about an Amazon service called Kindle Unlimited, because it’s complicated and interesting, and is increasingly the primary discussion subject among authors (of the indie variety) and not for a lot of really good reasons.

Here’s the summary, from the reader’s perspective: Kindle Unlimited (KU) is a subscription plan whereby a subscriber can, for $9.99 a month, read as many books as they want. (This is sometimes described as ‘ten books a month’ but this is inaccurate. A subscriber can only rent as many as ten books at one time, but that just means when they have ten books in their kindle they have to return one before picking up another. There’s no limit on the number of times they do this.)

Here’s what KU means from the author’s perspective: in order to be available in KU, a book has to be enrolled in KDP Select. (I apologize for the acronyms, but it’s not really my fault. KDP is ‘kindle direct publishing’ and it’s the name of the program authors use to publish to Amazon. All of us use KDP.) Being enrolled in Select means having access to a few perks aside from KU, but I won’t get into them here, because they’re not relevant to this conversation. What is relevant is this: if your book is enrolled in KDP Select, it cannot be published elsewhere.

I’m going to repeat that, because it’s important.

If you are selling an ebook through Kindle Unlimited, you can’t also sell it—as an ebook—anywhere else. Amazon will certainly still sell it (so you can get sales as well as KU downloads) but the marketplaces at Kobo, Nook, Apple, Google Play, Overdrive and so on can’t carry it.

. . . .

Since KU is a subscription model, users aren’t buying a copy of an ebook. (Side note: nobody who ‘buys’ one really is, either, but we’re not going to go down this road today.) They’re renting it, reading some or all of it, and returning it, and they aren’t paying whatever the cover price is for that right. Instead, Amazon collects monthly fees, puts them into a pool, maybe throws a few million extra in to boost that pool (more on this later) and then distributes it to the authors who participate in the program.

This means all of the authors are sharing in the same pool every month, where the amount in that pool varies based on how many subscribers there are, plus the aforementioned funds Amazon tosses in to boost the total.

How these funds are doled out has changed over time. The first version Amazon tried counted up the number of titles in KU that were downloaded and read to at least the 10% mark, divided the cash pool by that number, and paid everyone using this calculation. So for instance, if the math resulted in every ‘read’ getting $1.43, and an author had 10 reads, the author got $14.30 that month.

This system ended up promoting short books. People who published short stories got paid just as much as people who wrote full novels, so why write full novels? Or, why publish full novels in single installments, when one book broken into five parts could be five times as profitable?

This created a marketplace that turned off a decent percentage of readers, and so Amazon changed the way they paid authors to a system that counted actual pages read.

You probably heard something about this, because a number of hysterical articles came out when it happened. Most of those articles failed to distinguish between KU authors and all other authors, so that it sounded like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King were getting money by-the-page from the largest bookseller in the country.

KU2 (as it was called) rewarded longer works, which had the immediate positive effect of altering the Unlimited marketplace in a way that made Amazon’s subscribers happy. (Side note: this is always Amazon’s first goal. More on this later as well.)

. . . .

There are some questions that should arise naturally from the above description.

1: What is a page?

This is a simple and yet remarkably complicated question, because we’re talking about electronic books delivered to a wide range of devices with different screen sizes to readers who have the ability to adjust font sizes.

There’s no such thing as a ‘page’ in an ebook, essentially, and so Amazon had to invent a standard. They did, and it’s called Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (or KENPC, and yay, a new acronym).

KENPC is enormously important, because the KENPC total for your book dictates how much you’re getting paid for a full read. It’s also calculated using a formula Amazon doesn’t share, which means there are now several hundred pages on Internet message boards consisting of writers trying to figure out that formula.

. . . .

2: How does Amazon count pages read?

( Note: Amazon doesn’t discuss this very much, so most of what follows is a combination of known things and best guesses. Feel free to call me on any detail you’d like to in the comments.)

Before dealing with how Amazon counts pages read, let’s talk about one of those things Amazon provided to customers because—again, the customer experience is the biggest thing for them. There’s a feature on Kindles called Page Flip. It allows users to essentially go up a level and skim across several pages at a time. This is so readers can navigate from one part of a book to another quickly, in the same way they would if they were browsing a physical book. This will be important in a second.

There have been multiple iterations of page reads. At first, Amazon simply recorded the last page a reader reached on whatever device they’re using. (Variant: the last page when the device was last synced with Amazon via WiFi connection. Some believe if a reader reaches the last page and then goes back to the beginning and then syncs, the pages won’t count.) They decided to adjust this approach, about a year ago, and that adjustment resulted in a lot of authors losing a lot of pages read more or less overnight.

What did they change? Best-guess, they started counting ‘pages read’ as ‘pages reached outside of Page Flip’. So, for instance, if a reader only wants to read the sex scenes in a book and uses page flip to get to those scenes, the author is only getting paid for however many pages that sex scene took up, and not the ones between.

As I said, this is not a known thing, it’s a best guess, but it’s (in my opinion) a good one given what has happened since: authors are reporting that some customers are reading entire books in Page Flip mode, and therefore costing them reads.

Amazon has stated that Page Flip is meant as a navigational tool, not for regular book consumption, but on some large devices the pages look big enough in that mode to be readable. Amazon’s also said that pages reached in Page Flip do not count toward the pages-read total, and further that it’s not significant enough to impact the totals.

. . . .

I’m surely going to get called an apologist for Amazon here, but look: I’ve been a part of the self-publishing marketplace since 2014, and it has not looked the same for more than six months at any point. It is constantly evolving. I can absolutely appreciate everyone upset that the money they’re getting paid per page has settled down to around $0.004 when it was $0.005 not so long ago, but this doesn’t mean Amazon is stealing money from you. It couldmean they have a lower limit to how unprofitable they are okay with KU being (note: Kindle Unlimited is not profitable, that’s why Amazon keeps throwing money in the pool) and are holding it there. It could mean sales across Amazon are down, or across the entire industry are down. It could mean a whole lot of things.

Link to the rest at Gene Doucette

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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Oasis is lightest and thinnest Kindle yet

13 April 2016

From GizMag:

If you’ve ever held a Kindle Paperwhite or Voyage e-reader, you’ve probably never thought “Boy, I wish this thing could be lighter and thinner.” The fact is, both readers are already comfortable to hold and use, and can pack in thousands of books in their slim form factors. But clearly the engineers at Amazon felt there was room for improvement and today they announced the Kindle Oasis, the thinnest and brightest Kindle yet.

In terms of the thinner claim, there is a part of the Oasis that’s quite a bit slimmer than the Voyage, Amazon’s last iteration of the popular Kindle line. It’s only part of the device, because what Amazon has done this time out is to make only a portion of the e-reader thinner. The other part stays wide to provide a hand grip of sorts which, it is claimed, will make the device easier to hold. So at its thinnest, the Oasis measures 0.13 in (3.4 mm), while at its thickest, it’s actually a wee bit bigger than the Voyager at 0.33 in (8.5 mm) versus that machine’s 0.3-in width (7.6 mm).

On the hand grip portion of the Oasis, Amazon has decided to include two buttons that can be used for page turning if you don’t like tapping on the screen to get the job done. This is a shift away from the page-press sensors in the Voyage, which allowed page turns to be activated by thumb pressure on the frame of the device, so it might be that Amazon didn’t get good feedback on that feature from Kindle fans.

. . . .

One of the more significant changes this time out – and perhaps one of the strangest – is that the Oasis ships with a leather charging cover. While it does normal cover stuff, like putting the device to sleep when it’s closed, Amazon also says it will charge the Oasis with enough juice for the device to last for “months.”

. . . .

The Oasis is available now for pre-order in advance of its April 27 release date, for US$289.99.

Link to the rest at GizMag and thanks to R. and many others for the tip.

Here’s a link to Amazon’s page announcing the Oasis.

Amazon will announce a new Kindle next week

4 April 2016

From The Verge:

Amazon will introduce a new “top of the line” Kindle next week, says company CEO Jeff Bezos. Bezos announced the news on Twitter this afternoon, saying the new model will kick off another generation of Kindle products. It’ll be the 8th generation, following the much-loved Kindle Voyage that sat atop the 7th generation of Amazon’s e-readers.

Link to the rest at The Verge

Own An Amazon Kindle E-Reader? Then It’s Important You Read This

21 March 2016

From The Huffington Post:

Do you own a pre-2012 Amazon Kindle e-reader?

If so, you have until Tuesday, Mar. 22 to install a critical update. Failure to activate it by then will mean the device loses connectivity, rendering your Kindle almost useless.

If you don’t install the update, you’ll still be able to read the books you’ve downloaded to the gadget. But you won’t be able to download Kindle books from the Cloud, access the Kindle Store or use various other services on the device, according to Amazon.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to Randall for the tip.

Here’s a link to the Kindle Update Information. You should update your device by tomorrow.

Popularity of e-readers declines

30 October 2015

From the Pew Research Center:

From getting news to playing games to reading a book, Americans now have a plethora of devices to choose from in order to meet their technology-based needs. For each type of device, the demographic makeup of owners can vary widely, so this section looks at these differences.

Smartphone ownership continues to grow

The rise of the smartphone has had a major social, political and cultural impact. It has changed the way people reach their friends, obtain data and media, and share their lives. Fully 68% of adults now have a smartphone, nearly double the share that Pew Research Center measured in its first survey on smartphone ownership in mid-2011. At that point, 35% of adults had smartphones.

. . . .

More than half of most demographic groups have a smartphone. Only those ages 65 and older (30% of whom own smartphones) and those who do not have a high school education (41% own smartphones) fall below majority ownership. On the other hand, those ages 18 to 49 and those in higher-income households are coming closer and closer to saturation adoption. There are no differences in smartphone ownership among different racial and ethnic groups.

. . . .

Close to half of all Americans own a tablet

The share of Americans who own a tablet computer has risen tenfold since 2010. Today, 45% of U.S. adults own a tablet – a substantial increase since Pew Research Center began measuring tablet ownership in 2010. Then, only 4% of adults in the U.S. were tablet owners. Ownership, however, is statistically the same as it was in 2014.

Tablet ownership varies across a number of demographic groups. Younger adults and those from more affluent backgrounds are more likely to own the devices, and differences tied to educational attainment are particularly pronounced: 62% of college graduates have a tablet, compared with 35% of those with a high school diploma and 19% who have not completed high school. Additionally, whites are more likely than Hispanics to own a tablet computer, while tablet ownership among blacks is not statistically different from that of whites or Hispanics.

. . . .

Popularity of e-readers declines

Some 19% of adults report owning an e-reader – a handheld device such as a Kindle or Nook primarily used for reading e-books. This is a sizable drop from early 2014, when 32% of adults owned this type of device. Ownership of e-readers is somewhat more common among women (22%) than men (15%). Whites are more likely than blacks and Hispanics to own an e-reading device, while ownership also tends to be higher among those who are more affluent and those with more education.

Link to the rest at Pew Research Center

While PG prefers using an ereader for long-form text, in a world with $50 Fire tablets, ereaders are going to be more and more of a niche product.

However, a decline in ereader sales does not imply a decline in ebook sales. PG thinks the best thing for ebook sales is a device, like a smart phone, that readers always have nearby.

Is it now the time for something completely different?

7 October 2015

From Futurebook:

This morning, The Bookseller reported that Waterstones was taking Kindle devices off most of its shelves due to “pitiful” sales.

No great surprise here: the chain’s managing director James Daunt said after Christmas 2014 that device sales, once strong, had tapered off, a reflection of a digital market that has moved beyond its adoption-period.

Daunt has never made any secret that under him Waterstones’ job was to deliver what its customers want: at the time of the Kindle deal in 2012 Daunt said that a number were choosing to read digitally, and Waterstones needed to be in that game [the video of Daunt announcing the Kindle deal is still available via YouTube].

Yet he also maintained that there was room for both types of reading: that the Kindle would not entirely displace the need and desire to read physical texts.

. . . .

Should we take Waterstones’ move to de-stock Amazon’s Kindle as another signal that the era of the dedicated e-reader is over? Or simply that Waterstones, like Barnes & Noble, wasn’t a good seller of tech? In other words, is it Waterstones, or the Kindle that we should be worried about?

In response to the second question, Amazon says no. The company said it was “pleased with the positive momentum and growing distribution of Kindle and Fire tablet sales” and added that kindle book sales in the UK were also growing. Amazon said: “Our devices are now available in over 2,500 retail locations across the UK, including Argos, Tesco, Dixons, John Lewis and recent additions like Sainsbury’s, Boots and Shop Direct. Our UK, US and worldwide Kindle book sales are growing in 2015.”

It made a similar point to the Wall Street Journal a couple of months ago. Kobo and Nook, both of which continue to launch new devices, would doubtless agree. When Kobo first arrived on the scene, its founder Michael Serbinis said he expected this to be a 25 year transition. We are one-fifth of the way through.

. . . .

Waterstones wasn’t the best tech-retailer in the business. It’s m.d. didn’t believe in the product, its booksellers only sold them through gritted teeth, and its offer was confused. Yes, you could buy a Kindle, but no you could not buy content for it through Waterstones. At the time of the deal, Waterstones promised a Waterstones specific home-page for Kindle users, but if it was ever implemented I never saw it. Waterstones simply never bridged the gap between the sale of the device and the sale of the content. Instead the chain still sells ePub e-books from its website, pointing out that they can be loaded on to all devices “except for Kindle”.

Link to the rest at Futurebook

The New Kindle Paperwhite Is Perfect for Picky Readers

18 June 2015

From Wired:

Ever since Amazon launched the Kindle Voyage, buying an e-reader has been a complicated process. The Voyage is amazing: high-res, super smooth to use, lots of memory. But it’s expensive, and the Kindle Paperwhite is a fantastic device in its own right.

The decision should be a little easier now, because Amazon just announced a new, $119 Paperwhite that includes the best thing about the Voyage: that amazing display. The new Paperwhite has a 300ppi screen—double the pixels of the previous version—which should be just as crisp and sharp as the Voyage. It’s still just showing shades of gray, but if the Voyage is any indication, it really does improve the reading experience. And, lest we worry, the Paperwhite’s battery life is still absurdly long even with all the extra pixels.

. . . .

The new Bookerly font, which Amazon designed specifically for reading, is now available on the Paperwhite too. And the Kindle’s formatting tools have been overhauled as well, to make the size and spacing feel a little more intentional. You know how sometimes, a line would only have about five words, all spaced way too far apart? That should be gone now.

The goal is to make every size of every typeface feel like it was custom-fit for your device. Small and large fonts have always been hardest to manage, and special attention was paid to those.

Link to the rest at Wired and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Here’s a link to New Kindle Paperwhite

The Kindle Finally Gets Typography That Doesn’t Suck

27 May 2015

From Co.Design:

Amazon’s Kindle e-reader is a lovely single-purpose gadget, with an industrial design ethos that, in its singular focus on the purity of e-reading, even Dieter Rams could love. The iOS and Android apps are even great. But no matter what gadget you read on, the Kindle’s typography and typesetting has always been a bit of a disaster, with six different typefaces, that are barely suitable for reading an actual book. (Who reads books in Futura, anyways?) As for the typesetting, “hideous” is the word many type lovers would use to describe it.

But today, Amazon is making a big step towards better typography on the Kindle. Not only are they unveiling Bookerly, the first typeface designed for the Kindle for scratch, but they’re finally solving the Kindle’s typesetting problems with an all-new layout engine that introduces better text justification, kerning, drop caps, image positioning, and more.

. . . .

Replacing Caecilia as the new default font for Kindle, Bookerly is a serif that has been custom-made by Amazon to be as readable across as many different types of screens as possible. Like Google’s Literata, Bookerly is meant to address many of the aesthetic issues surrounding e-book fonts.

. . . .

On low-res devices, Baskerville’s thin, elegant lines looked crude, whereas Caecilia, a slab serif, was just a bizarre choice for Amazon’s previous default font: although it’s highly readable, it’s a type of font best used for headlines, not body text, because slab serifs often look and feel bolded, even when they’re not.

Bookerly addresses both of these issues. No matter what screen you’re on, Bookerly was designed from the ground-up to be even more readable that Caecilia. According to Amazon’s internal tests, that means it’s about 2% easier on the eye. That may seem like a small improvement, but spread that 2% across millions of Kindle users and billions of pages of e-reading, and it all starts to add up.

. . . .

But to be honest, Bookerly’s not really what has me excited. The Kindle’s new layout engine? That’s another story. After almost eight years, Amazon’s finally starting to get e-book typesetting bloody right.

Previous to today’s update, when you read an e-book on the Kindle, sentences were fully justified. In other words, no matter how big your font size, Kindle’s invisible software always laid-out the page so that the left and right margins were completely straight. And it was ugly. Words were never split across lines, so there could be as many as half-a-dozen spaces between words.

. . . .

Amazon updated the Kindle app for iOS with Bookerly and a new layout engine today this morning. Another update rolling out the new font and typesetting technology to users of Amazon’s line of e-ink readers, Android, and other devices will be available later this summer.

Link to the rest at Co.Design and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

This Is What You’re Missing Out On When Using an E-Reader Instead of a Real Book

20 May 2015

From Mic.com:

An attractive stranger sits across from you on the train, hunched over and reading. As they read on, a small smirk crosses their face. What’s so funny? Maybe you and this sexy stranger share a discerning literary taste, you think.

. . . .

What we lose when covers go plastic: Since the Kindle’s 2007 debut, the number of gray and white screens in the hands of train riders and beach-goers has steadily risen. As of 2014, up to 50% of Americans over 18 owned a tablet or e-reader, according to a survey by Pew Research Center.

“Books on the subway are increasingly like birds in the jungle: colorful, hard-to-spot and of obsessive interest,” writer Ben Dolnick observed on the Awl while watching people read on the New York City subway for a week.

As more and more people opt for e-readers rather than paperbacks, the chances for people to connect over them dwindle. Not only are book readers sexy (just take the viral Instagram account Hot Dudes Reading), we also draw all sorts of flattering conclusions about people’s book choices and use those choices to connect. Books are a natural pick-up line, an easy entryway to understanding someone’s interests, passions and even biases.

. . . .

 One Tumblr user, k-auhale, blogged about the time she was once asked out via a John Green book. “Wait! there’s this quote I wanted to show you on page… 123, I think,” her crush told her. He then pointed to a sentence in Looking for Alaska that he had highlighted that read, “Do you want to be my girlfriend?” The devoted Green fan happily accepted the offer.

. . . .

Nobody is more concerned over the potential loss of book-inspired connections than Tricia Callahan, the founder of CoverSpy, who curates a blog that documents what the people of Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and other cities are reading in public — on the train, in the bar and in parks. Callahan felt the coming of the digital reader revolution in 2009 and wanted to do something about it.

“We felt it on our commutes: Kindle backs were the new book covers to stare at. Something was changing in our visual landscape, we were losing something,” Callahan told Mic. For her, creating CoverSpy was about acknowledging the kind of connection that might be lost with e-readers.

“One day I was standing on the subway reading,” said Callahan, recalling a time she was wrapped up reading about F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby. She looked up, and lo and behold, the woman holding the pole next to her was reading Gatsby at that very moment.

Link to the rest at Mic.com and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Yet another reason why PG is glad that he’s married.

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