Round up #266: genre map, Hachette’s sales are…

Round up #266: genre map, Hachette’s sales are…

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Hachette e-book sales down 34%

Behold the awesome power of Amazon!

Er…sort of. ;)

According to this

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

traditional publishers didn’t have a great first six months of 2014.

It’s worth reading the article to get the stats for the reporting publishers involved (HarperCollins, which I now tend to think of as one of the most customer-friendly of the tradpubs…traditional publishers…seems to have done the best).

While not taking too much away from it, I will call out this:

“The increase came despite a decline in U.S. e-book sales, which fell to 29% of trade HBG [Hachette Book Group] sales in the first half of 2014, down from 34% in the same period last year. HBG cited fewer movie tie-ins and the “punitive” action of Amazon as causes of the drop in revenue.”

Book Country interactive genre map: are publishers figuring out how to do discovery without Amazon?

I’ve written before about how Amazon is looking for a way not to be dependent on the tradpubs, and the tradpubs are looking for a way not to be dependent on Amazon.

I think Amazon is making progress…

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

may train people away from just reading “People Magazine books” (the books you would read about in that mainstream periodical). That’s just one place.

The tradpubs?

Well, they do keep trying things, but I’m not sure I’m seeing that much evidence of success.  HarperCollins is participating in the Oyster subser (subscription service), which is one path…and could have contributed to the better year we see above (although it’s hard to say how much influence that income could have, since we don’t know what it is).

One main reason why tradpubs need Amazon is for discovery: how will people find your books if they aren’t on the increasingly easy to access e-tail behemoth?

Here’s an interesting (and useful) attempt at a solution:

Book Country Genre Map

Thanks to EBOOK FRIENDLY

for the heads up on that!

What you do is hover over the map to find a genre you like, then click on it.

Once you do that, you’ll get

  • a definition of the genre (those seemed okay to me)
  • subgenres
  • “landmark” titles in the genre (I wouldn’t have picked the ones listed
  • Book Country titles in the genre (I got 165 results for science fiction…none of them well-known that I noticed at first)
  • latest science fiction discussions
  • Book Country science fiction people

As you can probably tell, there’s quite a social component to this (there are reviews and such) and what certainly seems to be independent publishing.

The “landmark” titles could be clicked on and purchased…and those appeared to be from tradpubs (traditional publishers).

The site is run by…Penguin Random House.

I think this shows that the tradpubs are trying new things…not sure how successful it will be.

You may find it useful for discovery.

Back in 2009, I listed literary websites, and one of the ones I mentioned (still in operation) is AllReaders.com. I think that has an interesting discovery system, where you can put in elements, and it will find books for you. For example, you could search for a humorous time travel book with clones (I found several). You can search for a librarian who is a super genius (aren’t they all), and so on.

I think we’ll continue to see Amazon and the tradpubs try to make it on their own. I have to say, I probably give the edge to Amazon, since I would guess they have many more customer transactions in a year, giving them more opportunity to figure out what works.

Win a Kobo Touch

You can enter this

contest

to have a chance to win a Kobo Touch. You have to enter by September 1st.

Kobos get good reviews and have a lot of fans…I would say they are seen as somewhat upscale compared to Amazon. In fact, their new “waterproof”

Kobo Aura H20

can be ordered starting September 1st (that’s not the one being given away).

It is $179.99, so certainly on the high end for an EBR (E-Book Reader)…but lots of people worry about reading their Kindles in the bath or at the beach, and this seems like a good solution. In case it starts to rain, I carry a gallon-size Ziploc bag. I can seal it…and keep reading. :)

What do you think? Besides Amazon, where do you find out about books? What’s the weirdest, most specific book topic for which you’ve ever searched? Had a Kobo? Have you had an EBR/tablet water damaged? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


B&N & B-A-M

B&N & B-A-M

What happens in the brick-and-mortar bookstores (I’m a former manager) is going to affect us Kindleers.

Right now, the publishers are still more interested in what happens in the bookstores than what happens online, although that is going to change.

If (as?) the bookstores become less of a market factor, the power of Amazon (and other e-tailers) will grow in negotiations with publishers…or at least, with tradpubs (traditional publishers).

When you are looking at the bookstore chains that are still operating in the USA, you look first at Barnes & Noble, and then at Books-A-Million.

That made this

24/7 Wall St. article by Douglas A. McIntyre

interesting, especially its title: “Barnes & Noble Shares Outperform Amazon”.

Now, the share price doesn’t tell the whole story of a company…but it is one measure of performance.

This short excerpt may make you take notice:

“Since the start of 2014, Barnes & Noble’s shares have advanced over 50%, while Amazon’s have fallen 20%.”

However, we are really talking about different scales. Barnes & Nobles’ current share price is $23.86…Amazon’s is $339.04.

Still, that article makes the point that investors may really be pressuring Amazon to start making more profit, which could mean a raise in prices and/or more fights with suppliers to try to keep costs down.

When you look back over five years instead of just one year, Amazon is crushing B&N…but this recent trend is not insignificant.

As for Books-A-Million, its recent financials sent the stock down.

I think this

Seeking Alpha article by Josh Arnold

offers a thoughtful perspective and a good analysis (note: you will need to complete a free registration to read the entire article).

Bottom line: Arnold does not view this stock as a good investment, and sees a bleak future for the company.

I read quite a bit of news on bookstores, and my sense is that some smaller, independent stores with unique “personalities” are doing quite well. What I call the “dinostores” (the big stores where the main attraction is the size of the selection) aren’t.

I’ll give my advice again to bookstore owners: you have to make the experience such that your customers will willingly and knowingly (and cheerfully) pay more to buy a book at your store than they would at Amazon, because they want to support you.

People will support customer service, they will support expertise, they will support a pleasant and unusual experience while shopping…and they may support you because of your “story”.

You won’t beat Amazon on price or selection…and beat your expenses.

It’s pretty simple: if you can’t tell me why people will pay more to shop at your store than at Amazon, you are going to have a tough time making it. If you can, and you are right, your future is bright.

What do you think? Do you shop at the dinostores? Are there other stores that you do patronize? Are you wondering why I didn’t mention Half Price Books? Well, I can answer that…it’s a privately held company, so I don’t have comparable stock price information. ;) Tell me about a store (not necessarily a bookstore) where you wanted to give them extra money over the price you knew you could get somewhere else…and why that was the case. You can share your thoughts with me and my readers by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


Free today: The Kindle Kollection

Free today: The Kindle Kollection

In honor of ILMK’s 5th anniversary on August 28th, I was giving away my books…but I couldn’t do one of them that day, due to the condition of the program that you can’t make them free on the first or last day of enrollment.

So, one of them is free today (Saturday) instead!

The Kindle Kollection: Three Early Books about the Kindle (at AmazonSmile)

This one combines the three below into one volume:

* ILMK! (I Love My Kindle): Being an Appreciation of Amazon’s E-Book Reader, with Tips, Explanations, and Humor
* Free Books for Your Kindle
* Frequently Asked Kindle Questions

Note that these are older books, and a lot of it will be obsolete…but I do think the first one, in particular, still has some fun. :)

As always, verify before you buy…check the price, because it may not be free in your country.

Enjoy!

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


TKC 317 Julie Blattberg

Julie

Open Road Media’s executive director of consumer engagement

Interview starts at 15:13

Who put the “social” in social media? That’s one human being making a connection with another human being—so Bill Gates read someone else’s copy of the book [Business Adventures by John Brooks] a million years ago, and it made an impression. That’s what social media is. The “media” part just amplifies it, puts it in front of an audience that didn’t see it five minutes ago.

Show Notes and Links:

Intro

Movo WS1 Furry Outdoor Microphone Windscreen Muff for Small Compact Microphones – $9.99 at Amazon.com

News

Twitch

All about Twitch

“Amazon gains valuable entertainment asset with purchase of Twitch” by Andrea Chang and Salvador Rodriguez at The Los Angeles Times – August 25, 2014

YoDa vs. Leenock (Tvt) - IEM Toronto 2014

“Freshman class at Denver’s South High go textbook-free; 9th graders to use Kindle Fire tablets” by Eric Kahnert and Brian Hernandez at 7News Denver – August 25, 2014

Goodreads announces you can preview Kindle books (U.S. Members)

Tech Tip

Clippings.io

Interview with Julie Blattberg

Open Road Media

Jane Friedman, CEO of Open Road, on The Kindle Chronicles episode 265

Open Road Media titles available for free via Kindle Unlimited subscription

Open Road’s newsletters

Sign-up pages for free Open Road Newsletters: Early Bird Books,

Early Bird Books on Twitter and Facebook

Open Road on TumblrTwitterFacebookPinterestGoogle PlusYouTube, Goodreads, and LinkedIn

Abelardo Morrell

Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks

“The Best Business Book I’ve Ever Read” at Bill Gates’s blog – July 12, 2014

“Twitter by the Numbers: Size matters, but what about engagement?” by Julie Blattberg at Publishers Weekly – September 9, 2011

Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Content

The Big Fall Books Preview at Amazon.com

Amazon release on Big Fall Books – August 19, 2014

Next Week’s Guest

Sara Nelson, Editorial Director at Amazon.com

Music for my podcast is from an original Thelonius Monk composition named “Well, You Needn’t.” This version is “Ra-Monk” by Eval Manigat on the “Variations in Time: A Jazz Persepctive” CD by Public Transit Recording” CD.

Please Join the Kindle Chronicles group at Goodreads!

Send to Kindle

The rise of “old adult” meh-topian fiction

The rise of “old adult” meh-topian fiction

Note: this is a work of humor. The “meh-topian” books listed below do not actually exist…so far. ;)

There’s an old kid in town.

After years of domination by “young adult” dystopian fiction, in bookstores, on bestseller lists, and at the movies, readers are turning to a new genre which focuses on “silver heroes”…adults over fifty.

The surprising success of Ann T. Delouvian’s “The World Isn’t Perfect…So What?” (soon to be a CBS miniseries) has shone a light on what has been a growing trend.

TWIPSW focuses on Myrtle and Dirk, who live in a future society ruled by an ambitious under twenty-five year old elite…and pretty much ignore them.

Even though it’s against the law, Myrkle (as their fans never call them), have a lawn, cats, and a library of paper books.

“I was just tired of all these books where the main characters rush around changing the world,” said Delouvian (who is of a certain age herself). “I mean, really, what’s the big deal? Nothing’s perfect…I liked the idea of people who just went on with their lives, whatever was happening.”

At first, the book’s main audience was older readers (it was a darling of book clubs that actually met in person), but the industry really took notice when it became clear that younger people were reading it as well.

“I mean, I spent one summer learning how to shoot a bow and arrow, you know, and I was always, like, rebelling against conformity and stuff. It was just so tiring! Even when you know magic, like Hermione, it seems like there’s always all this pressure! When do you get to just chill? That’s why I’m a TWIPser…Myrtle just seems so cool.”
–Lizzie Mac Patel, 13 years old

“Old Adult” fiction is defined by a satisfaction with life as it is. That doesn’t mean that the characters think the world is wonderful: just that’s it is okay. That’s what the term “meh-topian” means: it’s not great, like a utopia, or terrible, like a dystopia…a meh-topia is just somewhere in the middle.

“That’s the way it is with real life, right? It isn’t always these extremes. Not every decision has to be life and death, and it doesn’t all have to be about choices. Myrtle and Dirk have settled down. She doesn’t have to go back and forth on a hormonal teeter totter between this beau and that beau. They’ve already found each other,” explained Delouvian.

Even younger authors have started to get in on the market. Amanda Tweeting, wunderkind symbol for the success of independently published young adult works, has written short stories starring Margaret Beasley. Tweeting writes these under a different name (Gerri Atrix), so as not to confuse her base. In Beasley’s world, a plague killed off almost all the young people: only those who had sat within six feet of an old cathode ray tube TV have an immunity, apparently due to a mutation caused by the radiation. Margaret and her friends adapt to the new conditions, without children and “those nice young people” around.

While the market for adventurous, romantic tales of high adventure seems secure, it may be safe to say that “Old Adult” fiction will be a big part of the literary landscape in the future…and if it’s not, that’s okay with it.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


Decent thriller out of Europe

I acquired Gabi Kreslehner's Rain Girl on my Kindle via Amazon's Kindle First program, and found it to be a satisfying, moody reading experience. A beautiful young woman is assaulted and left for dead on the high-speed Autobahn (the novel, recently translated into English, is set in Austria), where she eventually awakens, wanders into traffic, and is fatally hit by a car. Detectives Franza and Felix are assigned the case and try to piece together the final hours of the woman's life: Why was she dressed so beautifully? Who assaulted her and left her by the side of the highway? What strange scene played out at a nearby rest stop prior to the woman's roadside abandonment?

Adding texture and nuance are the detectives' own daily problems: Franza is having an affair behind the back of her dentist husband Max, and Felix is experiencing stress because he and his wife are expecting twins, which will shortly give them a total of four kids to care for. Franza and her husband are also estranged from their grown son Ben, which bothers Franza a lot, though her husband thinks the son is just going through a phase. Adding more stress to everything is the eventual revelation that Franza and Max's son had a connection to the dead woman.

The book moves along nicely, yet also manages to take its time and deliver some nice imagery and thoughtful literary asides, resulting in a story that works as both a thriller and a graceful straight-up novel. Author Gabi Kreslehner and translator Lee Chadeayne both deserve recognition and kudos for a fine, engaging book.

Crouch sticks the landing

The Wayward Pines trilogy (the first book is Pines and the second book is Wayward, with reviews of both appearing a few posts down in this blog) comes to a satisfying conclusion in The Last Town, as Blake Crouch's uneasy hero Ethan Burke presides over all-out war amid the crumbling infrastructure of the world's weirdest town.

Because we're now far into the story, there's not much mystery or fanciful strangeness left to discover as The Last Town gets underway, but there's tons of strategy, action, battles, confrontations, and- most importantly- satisfying resolution. Oh, and scares-- there are lots of scares. In many ways, this is the horror story of the trilogy.

Author Crouch worked hard to give us a bang-up conclusion to his offbeat tale, and he certainly succeeded. Throughout the book, he makes the reader go "Wow!" quite frequently-- right up to the last sentence, in fact (which is a doozy, by the way).

When the upcoming television series based on these books (it'll be on the FX network) eventually gets around to adapting this big closing installment, I hope they just stick to the book. The story's all here, man.

I know this is a sketchy review, but at this point if what I've written about these books seems at all interesting to you, just pick 'em up, grab 'em on your Kindle, or download the audios from Audible. Discover some of the books' pleasures and surprises on your own.

5 years of ILMK

5 years of ILMK

August 28, 2009: the I Love My Kindle blog begins with this post:

Oh…um, Hi!

It has been an amazing journey…a five year mission indeed!

I would guess I’ve written something like the equivalent of forty 200 page books…you know,not quite Stephen King speed, but up there. ;)

While I’m certainly proud of a lot of what I’ve written, I have to say that one of the best parts (and one that I didn’t really anticipate) is the interactions I’ve had with my readers. There are many people who regularly read and comment on this blog, and I’ve had some very thoughtful discussions with them. I really appreciate it when they disagree with me (respectfully, as is almost always the case), and when they point out ways the blog could be better (including typos and other errors or omissions).

This blog would not be what it is (one of the most popular blogs of any kind in the Kindle store), and I wouldn’t be what I am, without  them.

Thank you.

Thanks also go to those who subscribe through the Kindle store…that’s part of what it makes it possible for me to devote this much time and energy to writing I Love My Kindle! Thanks, subscribers!

More thanks to people who follow links on this blog…it may be to buy something from Amazon (including gift cards) or to be exposed to something I’ve suggested. The latter lets me help  out people and organizations I find interesting.

Let me also thank those of you who read the blog, but haven’t yet followed a link or subscribed. You never have to do either to be part of the energy that feeds this galloping Pegasus of literary pixels! ;)

In order to make my thanks a bit more tangible, I’ve made as many of my Kindle store books free as I could for August 28th!

Please check that a title is free for you before buying it.

I have asked Amazon to make them free on August 28, but I can’t say exactly when it will happen. I think they may also only be free to customers in the USA.

So, you can click on the titles before, but please make sure it is free when you click the 1-click buy button.

The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

When this one was first published in December of 2012, it was the number one bestselling book of quotations at Amazon…including paper! That didn’t last long, but it was fun while it did. :)

Love Your First Generation Kindle Fire: The ILMK Guide to Amazon’s Entertablet (at AmazonSmile)

This one has been a bestseller. It was written before the Kindle Fire HDs and HDXs, so it doesn’t match up exactly with those. If you do have the first generation Fire, though, I think you’ll find it useful.

The Kindle Kollection: Three Early Books about the Kindle (at AmazonSmile)

This one combines the three below into one volume:

* ILMK! (I Love My Kindle): Being an Appreciation of Amazon’s E-Book Reader, with Tips, Explanations, and Humor
* Free Books for Your Kindle
* Frequently Asked Kindle Questions

Note: especially check the price on this one. I was having trouble getting the book to be free, and I’m not sure it took. If it didn’t, I’ll offer it free later, and let you know.

Update: the issue was that you can’t a book free under this promotion program on the first day or the last day of its enrollment period. I have now made it free for Saturday, August 30th…but again, verify before you buy. :)

ILMK! (I Love My Kindle!): Being an Appreciation of Amazon’s E-Book Reader, with Tips, Explanations, and Humor (Revised Edition)(at AmazonSmile)

This has some fun stuff…and other things that are out of date. If you want The Happy Little Bookworm, this one has it. :)

The Collected I Love My Kindle Blog Volume 1 (at AmazonSmile)

This is the first 101 posts in this blog. :) I did 101 posts so I wouldn’t cut off Doctor Watson’s Blog: A Kindle Abandoned (which is a four-part story). I’m coming up on the five year anniversary of the blog, and I’m considering doing a “best of” book. I’d include the posts that are less time-dependent, I think…if you have any opinions on ones that you remember, feel free to let me know.

Remember, double-check that they are  free to make sure before buying. Since they are also in Kindle Unlimited, you may see a zero price showing, but it won’t be zero near the Buy button.

Enjoy!

I’d also like to ask you for a favor.

I plan to put together a book of the best of the first five years of this blog, and I hope to have  it done for the holiday season.

I know some of you have been with me from the beginning, and certainly, others who have joined us later have been quite involved.

Choosing the posts for the “best of” book is going to  be a challenge. My natural tendency is…to put in too many. ;)

What I’d like you to do, if you are so inclined, is to let me know which posts stand out to you. You don’t need to give me any times or dates…just comment on this post and say something like, “I liked the Star Trek parody,” or “I’m still thinking about the permanent copyright post.” That would help me in choosing.

If you want me to keep your comment private (posts may have affected some of you in ways you’d rather not share with the rest of my readers), please let me know at the top of your comment.

Also, although I’d like to include comments to the posts, I think it’s better if I don’t put those in the book (that wasn’t where people intended them to go when they wrote them). I plan to link to the posts, and people will be able to see your comments that way. When the book is published (and I’ll let you know when) there will be a forum on the Amazon product page for it, and of course, you’ll have the opportunity to do a review (again, only if you want to do that). It will be part of Kindle Unlimited…borrowing it is fine with me. ;)

So again, thank you for half a decade of ILMK! I look forward to our time together in the future.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


Odd but okay Jesse Stone adventure

Michael Brandman's third and final Jesse Stone novel, Robert B. Parker's Damned If You Do (yes, they now use the late writer Robert Parker's name in all the titles when they release a new entry in the various series he created over his long career) almost seemed like an experiment, as the story was 100% police-thriller plot, straight no chaser. That is, there was nothing about Jesse's personal issues: his drinking, his needy ex-wife, whoever he's dating, etc. Only the two offered plotlines- about a murdered girl found in a seedy hotel room, and a shady assisted living facility that abused its residents- were advanced as I moved through the book. Even when Jesse visited his shrink, they only discussed the two cases and not anything going on in Jesse's life.

If this turns out to be a new direction for the series- all cop stuff all the time- I'd be horrified. But this one time, it was sort of interesting. The two thriller plots are pretty good and are developed nicely, with each giving Jesse some entertaining "tough cop" moments. But, yeah, it was pretty weird not seeing Jesse struggle with something going on his personal life, or having a heart-to-heart talk with his assistant Molly about same. Actually, the Jesse/Molly friendship has been mostly bland since Robert Parker stopped writing the series, but that's another topic.

So, yeah, I enjoyed this quick, fast read, which reasonably suggests that Jesse sometimes works cases while not being distracted by personal issues. But when this series' next assigned writer- mystery author Reed Farrel Coleman- picks up Jesse's adventures with the next book, Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot (which will be coming out shortly), I'll be happy if we get back to the nice layered plotting that's been the hallmark of this series. In other words, I hope it features Jesse both chasing suspects and his personal demons... or at least a new girlfriend.

Is Amazon making us better people?

Is Amazon making us better people?

Stay with me on this one.

Amazon’s reputation has recently taken a major hit, or perhaps I should say, they’ve gotten a new reputation.

We’ve always felt like Amazon was socially awkward with its customers. It would sometimes do or say clunky things, like removing an illegal book from our Kindles without asking us (which they then more than compensated people for having done it, and mea culpad all over the place).

We’ve known they were secretive, not revealing numbers of books or devices sold.

Recently, though, they’ve gotten a reputation for acting with evil intent. They sent out an e-mail

Amazon’s “Important Kindle request” for KDP authors

which clearly misrepresented George Orwell (ironically, the author involved in the book removal above), quoting out of context to use, well, Orwellian double-speak to rally people against their “enemy” in the Hachazon War (publisher Hachette).

It’s very hard to believe that it was simply an error, and that the person who wrote the e-mail didn’t know it was the opposite of what Orwell would have intended to say. I do, by the way, find it likely that people higher up in the organization didn’t know what was happening with that e-mail…I don’t believe Jeff Bezos would have signed off on the strategy.

I think the fact that it was pretty much unprecedented in that way was part of what has made it so impactful for so many people.

I always look for the good in the “bad”…that’s just my nature.

I had to say to myself: what is good about Amazon placing hurdles in between readers and the books they want (which has been one of their tactics in the Hachazon War)?

What if, by denying customers the “People Magazine books” they want to read, they get people to read things they wouldn’t?

Suppose people always ate steak and potatoes, and you took it off the menu and offered them a variety of food from other cultures instead. Would that make them appreciate those other cultures more?

If we assume that Amazon has a goal of cultural change (and that is not a safe assumption), they seem to have a primary strategy: when it comes to reading, quantity is more important than quality.

I have sympathy for that concept.

I would rather somebody read ten books of questionable quality from ten different points of view than read one book which “everybody agrees is a great book”.

I think that reading always puts you in someone else’s cognitive and emotional shoes**…even if it might do it very imperfectly. I also believe that tends to make you more understanding of other people’s positions.

Now, of course, this is largely the opposite of what you’ll get in school. Tell a teacher that you read twenty comic books or ten science fiction “popcorn books” instead of reading To Kill a Mockingbird or Romeo and Juliet, and they won’t think you’ve helped your development.

I can also see that…if you always read comic books or science fiction adventure.

I think for me, the key is to read different things, diverse things.

Arthur C. Clarke supposedly said, “Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories.”

Well, I’ve always felt is should be that politicians read all three…and romance, and non-fiction, and children’s books, and…

Amazon’s models encourage that.

If you join

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

you can read from a choice of close to 700,000 titles.

I guarantee you that there are ones there that come from a viewpoint different from yours.

There are also books which have been imperfectly edited and/or proofread.

You also won’t have many of the books I called “People Magazine” books above…the ones you’d read about in that publication.

Let’s say someone would have read the new J.K. Rowling…and instead, reads five other books. We’ll further say that none of them are as good as Rowling’s writing…but they present a variety of perspectives on the world (and the people in it).

Would that be a good thing or a bad thing? Would that make them a better person at the end of it…or might it just turn people off reading?

I think we are going to see this trend growing. Less quality control, more quantity focus.

Of course, one can argue the other side…and I love to argue both sides. One of my favorite things we did when I was a professional actor way back when was they had us improv a scene where we were on a talk show, taking two diametrically opposed positions as characters. Then (and we didn’t know this was going to happen), they had us switch roles and positions and keep going.

In high school, we were going to do a debate. I chose to debate in favor of drunk driving…even though I didn’t drink then, don’t drink now, and believe alcohol does more damage in the United States than any other drug.

I actually won that debate. One of the points, as I recall, was something like they said that, oh, forty percent of driving accidents involved alcohol. I said in rebuttal that meant that 60% didn’t…so you were safer driving drunk than not drunk.

Of course, that was ridiculous, and I knew it. There are mechanical factors and other issues, but they didn’t respond, so I got that point.

So, one response to what I’m saying about Amazon’s subser (subscription service) is that people will also feel it’s more reasonable to simply abandon an “unpleasant” book…since it costs nothing to do so. If you spent $20 for a controversial book, you might feel like you’d better read the whole thing. If you get part way into a Kindle Unlimited book and hit a concept you don’t like, you could just dump it and go to something with which you are more familiar.

Anyway, my basic suggestion here (and I want to hear your responses): Amazon is encouraging people to read a greater variety of works by, in part, denying them easy access to blockbuster mainstream titles…and that will make them better people by having them exposed to a more diverse set of viewpoints. It will also make society better, by having less homogenization in what is read.

What do you think? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

** I forget who said it, but I love this line: “Never criticize someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes…because that way, if they get mad, they’ll be a mile away and barefoot.”

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.