Category Archives: Kindle Publishing

Kindle Unlimited

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After over a week of flying rumors, and a false start (link is to an article in French with screenshots of the accidental announcement that was taken down shortly after it went prematurely live), Amazon officially announced the Kindle Unlimited service. Well, they actually did that a couple of days ago, but they are just now getting around to getting out the email campaign. I was wondering how long it would take — and I finally got the email today.<!–more–>

I hope that they run the service more smoothly than they handled the announcement and roll-out.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe Amazon is just getting too big. Other times, I’m pretty sure of it.

The Other Shoe Drops

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I recently mentioned that Kindle Paperwhite was in short supply, and that there was speculation that the lack of any real news was a sign that there was soon to be something new to replace the Paperwhite. That speculation made some sense, especially considering the outstanding popularity of the Kindle line, and of the Paperwhite in particular. Turns out that the speculation was mostly correct. The new Kindle is an improved version of the Paperwhite, and not something completely different. I think that’s close enough.

It features a number of hardware improvements such as a more sensitive touch screen, better front-lighting (the lighting system on the previous version was a source of many complaints for being uneven, although I thought it was OK), higher contrast, slightly faster processor (my experience is that a 25% processor speed increase is usually only barely noticeable), and longer battery life.

There are also some software changes (improvements?) in the new version of the Paperwhite. The dictionary lookup is supposed to be a lot smarter, being able to recognize differences in connotation from context. There is a new feature that notices when you look something up in the dictionary, and will prepare flash-card drills to help you with vocabulary-building. There is a new footnote feature that lets you call up a footnote, and then return to your place in the book. New parental control features (called Kindle Free Time, which sounds to me like a non sequitur) are supposed to make it easier for parents to get their children interested in reading.

And there is a marketing change, called Amazon Matchbook. It’s not immediately clear exactly how it will work, but Amazon is promising that if you have bought a hardcopy of a book, you can buy the Kindle edition for $2.99 or less, when (and if) the Kindle edition becomes available. Each book has to be “enrolled” in the program by the author to qualify, and no author is required to participate. But it will be retroactive back to 1995! There’s one new feature I would definitely use.

You can pre-order either the WiFi or the 3G Paperwhite now.

Next, I guess we’ll see what Amazon will do to invigorate sales of, or replace, the Kindle Fire.

Meanwhile, folks are still fretting over the direction Jeff Bezos will be taking the Washington Post. But if this story on Paid Content is accurate, it sounds like really good news to me. Mr. Bezos appears to have delivered a two-point message of change to the Washington Post: 1) Readers, not advertisers, will come first, and 2) Paywalls don’t work, so they are going to have to figure out a different way to make money. Sounds to me that he’s on the right track on both counts. Besides which, I don’t think that it’s even possible for Mr. Bezos to do any worse than the previous owners, who managed to convert a multi-billion dollar newspaper into a 250 million dollar newspaper.

Kindle Worlds and Other New Amazon Stuff

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For some reason, when I saw the announcement of “Kindle Worlds,” the first thing that popped into my mind was “sci-fi.” Having recently completed a sci-fi short story, I rushed to read all about Kindle Worlds. I immediately ran into a bewildering array of restrictions, and partial description of the “worlds” which didn’t make a whole lot of sense, at least not to me. Apparently, it’s only for something called fanfic, which is something entirely different from sci-fi, and you have to fit into one niche in a highly-specific list, without overstepping somewhat fuzzy boundaries in that particular niche, and also meeting several other confusing guidelines (it’s not at all clear to me how you can write fanfic without violating copyright, but maybe I just don’t understand). However, if you are into writing fanfic, and you want to submit some of it to this new service, check it out. It just might be your cup of tea, even if it’s not mine. I’ll probably just submit my short story (tentatively entitled “Phase-Locked Loop” until I think of a better one) as just an ordinary 99-cent science fiction short story, despite the fact that fiction doesn’t usually sell as well as non-fiction. If you would like to critique “Phase-Locked Loop,” please send me an email requesting a review copy. I’ll send a free copy in return for editorial review to the first 3 people who ask. Maybe a reviewer could come up with a better title for me…

If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, and are a PBS fan, you will like the new additional content that Amazon has arranged for Prime Instant Video.

Looking for some summer reading? Feeling a bit overwhelmed at the sheer volume of titles on the Kindle Store (a lot of which, sadly, is of …ahem… marginal quality)? I’m not all that wild about lists of books compiled by the editorial staff of some publisher (who probably have an agenda and tastes that don’t really match mine very well), the Amazon Book Editors Best Books of 2013 (So Far) list is at least a good starting point, if only because it excludes obvious dreck.

I hadn’t realized that WOOT.com had been bought by Amazon (although that happened about a year ago) until I got an email announcement from Amazon inviting me to join that program. In the past (prior to Amazon’s acquisition), I had actually bought a few things from WOOT — and occasionally missed a good deal there because I wasn’t fast enough — so I checked it out again. I was slightly disappointed to find that WOOT.com has changed substantially. It’s no longer just one special item with limited availability at a ridiculously low price for just one day (or until the limited quantity is gone, whichever comes first). It’s now about a dozen different items available for varying times (I saw some of the deals there with 3-day expiration timers), at a fairly good (but not ridiculously low) price. I have seen a number of sites (e.g., 1saleaday.com) go the same route, so I can only guess that the original business model doesn’t make as much money as a multiple-item, multiple-day sales model. If you have observed that same trend, I’d love to hear what you think of it in the comments.

Back in the Saddle: Expanded distribution of Kindle Fire, Barefoot Books leaving Amazon, and more…

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They say time flies when you’re having fun!  Based on that, I’ve been having a TON of fun – and in actuality, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.  I took a little time off to acclimate myself to my new business (Check out my store on Amazon.com) and to take a cruise!  No, there were no fires, emergencies, capsizings, or other disasters.  Just a big group of friends that get together once a year and treat ourselves to some good food and even better company.  Now it’s time for me to get back in the saddle, though, and talk about one of my favorite subjects:  Amazon.com!

Looks like Google is working toward copying certain aspects of Amazon’s successful sales practices. Business-to-business sales is the latest forum, but Google is jumping in quietly and only in a limited way.  They are additionally working to compete with Amazon in three other important areas:  corporate computing, same-day delivery and offering lockers for consumers to receive e-commerce orders.  Of course, it’s also true that Amazon copies Google – witness the Amazon smartphone that will soon hit the market, as well as other audio and video streaming devices and even a set-top box.

Amazon has recently announced that it is going to begin selling its popular Kindle Fire in 170 countries, starting mid-June (thanks to my friend Wendy L. for the heads up!). Until now the Kindles were only available in a handful of countries, including the U.S., the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Japan. Although the iPad remains the strong market leader, with some luck, Amazon will be able to put a little Fire into the competition. (pun intended).  This is also good news for Amazon’s independent authors, because every book sold, no matter where, generates royalties for the writer.  As a independent author and recipient of some of those royalties, distribution in additional markets can only be a great thing for writers.

Barefoot Books has decided to leave Amazon. Why? An article in DigitalBookWorld explains nine reasons, including that they are not dependent on Amazon for their sales (that can only be a good thing for them, I suppose) and they have alternative outlets that perform well for them. Apparently Barefoot Books sells their children’s books mostly through party plans, similar to Tupperware. DigitalBookWorlds thinks they will do quite well.

Ok, so, while I wish Barefoot Books all the luck, would someone please remind me who the heck Barefoot Books is?  I really can’t see this as a business-killer for Amazon.  And in all honesty, I don’t think many Amazon customers are going to lose sleep over it.

And in the meantime, Amazon has just launched Kindle Worlds, a self-publishing platform that is intended specifically for fan fiction. There are several wins in this deal: authors make more money, rights holders are able to monetize further their own intellectual property, and Amazon (big surprise) gets the best of both! Unfortunately for some authors, sexual content is not allowed and the licensors of the material will be able to create – and enforce – guidelines for the fiction written for their property.

Since I have no cruise plans in the very near future, I won’t be able to use that as an excuse to neglect my blogging duties!   See you again soon!

Photo credit.

AZ poised for (more) growth, winning the e-book platform, new suit filed against Amazon & Big Six, and more…

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Amazon, the largest marketplace in the world, is prepared to grow some more in 2013.  Somehow I don’t think this is a huge surprise, for those who have been paying attention at all.  It is interesting to note, though, that Amazon hasn’t even been around for ten years, and has become so huge that the number of its employees rival those working for Microsoft. See what other plans are up, at Amazon Genius!

This extreme growth will be at least partially fueled by the fact that customers are rapidly growing to prefer the online shopping experience to brick and mortar shopping, and people even prefer Amazon over eBay, Overstock and Newegg. More of this story at Amazon Genius, again.

Is part of the reason for Amazon’s overwhelming success attributable to the ease of finding popular e-books? David Gaughran thinks so in his blog, Let’s Get Digital. He thinks Amazon wins in the ebook category, at least, because there’s not a huge, built-in bias over already-published and popular authors.

“While Amazon hasn’t done away with “virtual co-op” completely, the vast majority of slots where books are recommended to customers are open to any book, author, or publisher – if they perform well enough.”

And this is the key to winning the ebook platform for writers: lots of recommendations and (paid) downloads. Free downloads only count in the ranking system as one-tenth of the value of a paid download. David discusses the entire concept in depth at his blog.

Last week independent bookstores filed suit against Amazon and the Big Six publishing houses. The problem? Digital Rights Management for ebooks that keeps them from being shared on any e-reader device. Independent book stores are kept from selling e-books, and device owners who wish to read a book must purchase these e-books from their device’s providers.

As an independent writer, I have the choice every time I send up an ebook to Amazon (my only publishing platform for now) whether or not to enable Digital Rights Management. I always choose not to enable DRM, simply because I don’t want to make my readers angry. I do happen to believe, though, that once I have sold a copy of my book, it should belong to the buyer, not to me, and certainly not to Amazon or the manufacturer of any reading device. As long as the contents can’t be altered any more than they could be on a printed copy of the book (which is, of course, not at all), I think the buyer should be able to share his copy (singular) with whomever he wishes. I do not think e-book buyers should be able to make unlimited copies and pass them around to everyone. But just as they could hand over a printed copy of my book, they should also be able to share an electronic version. DRM has not, in my opinion advanced to the point where it allows purchasers of my books to treat them like physical books, and until it does, I’ll skip that part and be glad someone wants to read them!  (Note:  Amazon already allows writers who publish on the KDP Select platform to share copies of their books, but these shares are only allowed within the Amazon, and thus Kindle, platform.)

The key with publishing, of course, is not only NOT to anger the readers, but to get people interested enough to want to buy – and share –  my books! That’s the true challenge in ebook publishing – rising above the huge pool of new publications which are flooding the market in some cases not because the authors have something important to say, but just because there are practically no barriers to entry! Still, I don’t want someone else deciding which books are good enough for download – let the marketplace speak!

And finally, in an attempt to blame every bad thing in the world on our favorite retailer, Waterstone’s CEO James Daunt says that skyrocketing unemployment in the U.K. is Amazon’s fault as well. He reasons that Amazon is receiving huge tax breaks to expand in the U.K. and that the low-paying warehouse jobs do little to make up for the retail jobs lost as Amazon takes over the publishing and retail sales platforms that are being lost as a result.

My opinion is that, while not every advance in technology is a great thing, technology will advance, whether we like it or not, and the financial, economic and employment landscape will change with it. Best to adapt, learn and bend it toward our own eventual use than it is to try (futilely) to hold back innovation by sticking our fingers in the virtual dike. Things may not always change as we’d like,and in fact I can pretty much guarantee that some changes are going to be uncomfortable, but change they will. The original interview with Mr. Daunt is only available for registered users, and I didn’t want to register, but you can read a good synopsis of the story at Good E-Reader.com.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments whether you think Amazon is harming the already-poor employment situation by providing low-paying jobs here in the U.S. and causing higher-paid jobs to be eliminated.

Photo credit: The Scales of Justice (Colin Smith) / CC BY-SA 2.0