Comic Con inspired bargains

Comic Con inspired bargains

Tonight is the preview night for

San Diego Comic Con (SDCC)

which is one of the biggest pop culture events of the year.

In fact, it’s big enough that companies tie into it with merchandise/content sales…and not just on comics.

The con itself certainly goes beyond comic books/graphic novels. Some old timers complain that it has become too much about movies and TV…even ones that aren’t even especially geeky (and I use that adjective as a proud geek).

Authors of text-based books (you know…what many people just call “books”) ;) also appear: Diana Gabaldon, Robin Hobb, Jim Butcher, and more. Even the publishers (Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House) have panels.

So, through this weekend, we’ll be able to find bargains…even if they don’t specifically say they are there because of Comic Con, that may be the case.

For example, one of today’s Kindle Daily Deals is

Batman Day graphic novels sale (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

This is Batman’s 75th anniversary year..the Dark Knight (or Caped Crusader…depends a bit on your perspective) debuted in what is sometimes considered the best pop culture year, 1939.

Batman (along with Superman) certainly seems to have taken some inspiration from Doc Savage (Doc was a wealthy crimefighter with specialized vehicles and equipment…including a “utility vest”, which arguably became Batman’s utility belt), but that’s another story. :)

There have been some Batman graphic novels that are really considered classic by Batman fans…and yes, they are included here for $2.99 each.

That includes:

  • Batman: The Dark Knight by Frank Miller
  • Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

If you’ve never read a graphic novel, I’d recommend The Dark Knight…and warn you ahead of time, those two in particular are not written for children.

Amazon is also giving us

Batman Eternal #1 (at AmazonSmile)

for free!

You need to enter a promotional code (BATMAN75) first…you can see all the details here:

Batman Eternal #1 promo detail page (at AmazonSmile)

I suspect we’ll see more related specials over the next few days in the

Kindle Daily Deals (at AmazonSmile)

Another place at Amazon where we’ll see savings through the weekend, and these may be explicitly SDCC deals, is

The Geek Boutique (at AmazonSmile)

One more thing before I leave Amazon. Here’s a link for

Prime Video Comic-Con Favorites (at AmazonSmile)

If you are an eligible Prime member, you can watch these at no additional cost…and there are 227 results at time of writing.

Let’s move off of Amazon for a minute to go to Marvel.

Marvel has “Marvel Unlimited”, which you can think of as similar to Kindle Unlimited…just for digital Marvel comics.

Normally, that’s $9.99 a month. It includes a lot of comics…typically, you can expect that when a Marvel comic is six months past its publication date, it may appear here.

As a special tie-in to SDCC, though, you can get the first month for $0.99!

You can have 12 comics out at a time (KU allows ten titles).

You can get more information on it here:

http://marvel.com/mu?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=AcquisitionEmail&utm_content=072314EMSubscribeNow&utm_campaign=SDCC14

The necessary app isn’t in the Amazon Appstore, but you could get it at

1Mobile

Amazon allows us to install apps from “unknown sources” on our Kindle Fires, but you have to make the call. Since the app won’t have been reviewed by Amazon to make sure it is safe and that it works on the KFire, you take responsibility for that.

This is one where I would feel comfortable getting it, and I have gotten things for my KFire from 1Mobile before.

You can count on bargains from other geeky sites, too, like

ThinkGeek.com

and

SuperHeroStuff.com

Enjoy!

Bonus story:

In a

press release

today, Amazon announced that it has added hundreds of thousands of songs to Prime Music (at AmazonSmile)…and hundreds of playlists.

That’s the no additional cost streaming music for eligible Amazon Prime members.

In my recent post

A Day in the Life of a Kindleer 2014

I didn’t talk about using Prime Music, but I have used it sporadically…I sometimes write with it on, for example.

It looks like Prime Music has been quite successful. Adding hundreds of thousands of songs to it is great! I haven’t been terribly impressed with their playlists, although it is nice to have fifty songs of one genre play with one selection. I’m just not sure that I’m seeing genuine creativity n how songs are grouped together in the playlists. I some cases, they seem a bit more like…search results, rather than curated music lists.

For example, the press release mentions one called “Fire for Your Fire”, and describes it as “Odes to all things fire make perfect listening on your Fire Phone or Kindle Fire”. I’m guessing that it’s just a bunch of songs with “fire” in the title, although I’m not seeing it yet on the site.

Curation seems to be better at Songza, but this is new for Amazon. One thing they could do is let customers share playlists, then have people “like” them…and with enough likes, a playlist moves up into a better discovery spot. That would create social engagement, and probably result in better playlists.

New! 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.


Sun Test: iPhone 5S versus Amazon Fire Phone

 

One of the benefits Jeff Bezos claimed for the Amazon Fire Phone is that its screen would be easier to read in direct sunlight than existing smartphones. Today I took my Fire phone review unit and my iPhone 5S outside to compare the screens. I took the photo above with a real camera, my Nikon Coolpix S8000, and I think it shows slightly better readability on the Fire. In real life, I thought the advantage was greater than what you see here. I was reading the same Business Insider article on each device. On the iPhone, the contrast was not as good as on the Fire. The text on the Fire seemed to “pop” a little more. I won’t say it’s a huge difference, but it’s noticeable.

Send to Kindle

Unboxing Video of Kindle Fire Phone

My very first impressions of the Kindle Fire phone? Mayday rocks. I tapped through to my first question and answer within five minutes of firing up the phone. Will I really cancel my iPhone contract with Verizon and rely on the Fire as my only phone? Not yet. I will be toting two phones for a while. I’ll have more in this week’s episode of the Kindle Chronicles, but one disappointment is that auto-scroll does not work on Kindle books, only on web pages. I’ve heard from Amazon that this will be remedied in a software update this fall.

Send to Kindle

Kindle Unlimited: how does it affect authors, and what’s the deal with the KOLL?

Kindle Unlimited: how does it affect authors, and what’s the deal with the KOLL?

You know that look Indiana Jones has in that one scene, where the  adventuring archaeologist  thinks everything cool, and suddenly, it all goes reverse  Sisyphus? ;)

That’s the look a lot of the book industry still has after Amazon introduced its subser (that’s what I call a subscription service) for e-books and audiobooks for adults.

I’ve already written about it more than once, but there’s a lot more to say since I wrote

It’s official! Kindle Unlimited is here with 639,621 titles

way back on…Friday. ;)

I said at that point I was going to address how this was affecting authors, and that’s going to be one of the two parts of this post.

A lot of people want to know if this is good or bad for authors, and like almost everything, in my opinion, it’s both.

My guess is that some authors are going to see tremendous increases in revenue by being part of Kindle Unlimited (KU). Others, rightfully, are concerned about the restrictions involved.

Let’s first lay things out a bit.

Authors get paid for the sale of the books they’ve written. In the traditionally publishing world, they licensed the rights to sell the book to a publisher (the deal was usually made by an agent acting on the author’s behalf), which sold the books to stores, which then sold them to customers.

A tradpub (traditional publisher) might give the author an advance against the royalties. Let’s say that you could be reasonably sure that Stephen King was going to sell a million copies of the next novel, and that you knew as the publisher you could get $10 per copy (I’m basically working with this as a hardback for this example). $2.50 of that is going to go to King.

However, the author needs a year to write the book, and needs to spend that year largely unconcerned about earning a living besides that.

You are looking at getting in $7.5 million…you’ll have expenses out of that, of course, including the actual manufacture of the book and marketing, but you’ll advance King $1 million.

The first million dollars which would have gone to King from the royalties once the book starts actually selling, you keep to pay off the advance.

So, that’s one model.

In the independent (“indie”) e-book model, the author may publish the book themselves, going perhaps through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. The author, following certain guidelines, can get 70% of the list price they set for the book. Sell it for $2.99, keep about $2.09. Of course, the author has also taken on all the expenses: they might have paid for an editor, done marketing, and so on.

If the indie set the price outside of the $2.99 to $9.99 range, they can only get 35% for it…that’s going to become important as this explanation continues.

When Amazon introduced the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) in 2011, they created a new income stream for authors.

Eligible Amazon Prime members with a hardware Kindle can borrow up to a book a month from a certain set of books.

The indie publishers (and those might be just individual authors) divide a variable pool of money, getting a cut of it for each borrow that happens.

Let’s say the pool is $1.5 million for January. If there were 750,000 borrows that month, everybody in the pool gets $2 for each borrow. If your book was borrowed ten times, you get $20. That $2 figure is close to what it has been actually running.

That’s a big plus if someone borrows a $0.99 book: $2 instead of $0.35. It’s about a wash with a $2.99 book that meets the other requirements to get 70%.

There are also traditionally published books in the KOLL, although not from the biggest publishers. They get paid differently: they probably mostly get paid like it was a sale, and so the author would get their normal royalty…presumably. Publishers don’t release those kind of contract details, normally.

Now, along comes KU, and the economics change.

The one big technical change is that the indies publishers don’t get a royalty unless someone “reads” ten percent of the book (not based on when they simply download it). I put “reads” in quotation marks, because of course, the system doesn’t know if you actually read it or just flipped through it…or even, I think, jumped ahead to 10%.

That’s not that big a deal, though. I doubt very many people downloaded a KOLL book and didn’t read at least 10% of it.

What makes the difference is the “Unlimited” part.

KU isn’t really unlimited, of course, but it would be unreasonable to think that “unlimited” was a literal term, in my opinion. For example, you can’t go back in time and read the book. ;) You can’t read a book on the surface of the sun. “Kindle Unlimited” is a name, not an actual definition.

In practice, though, it is pretty much all you can read. You can have ten books out at a time. I think that’s to limit the number of people using it, not to limit an individual. I could borrow ten books on August 1st. If I read all ten by August 10th, I could just borrow ten more…it’s not ten per month, it’s ten at a time.

I do find that it feels freeing. I had to make careful choices with the KOLL…I don’t with KU.

That’s going to be a big boon for books which most people would not have bought.

In this

TechCrunch article by John Biggs

In the article, Biggs says:

“My son, for his part, has already downloaded a few dozen Minecraft ebooks…”

A few dozen!

The article also suggests those books may not be that good, but the point is,  that would not have happened without KU.

It wouldn’t have happened with the KOLL: after the first book, you’d have to wait until the next calendar month to get the next one.

Even if we figure they were all ninety-nine cents, we can be sure they wouldn’t have spent more than $30 on them.

Those publishers will all get royalties…and possibly, much bigger royalties than they would have gotten for sales which probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Authors whose books were part of the KDP Select program (that’s what gets indie books into the KOLL) were automatically made part of KU:

“All books currently enrolled in KDP Select with U.S. rights will be automatically included in Kindle Unlimited. KDP Select books will also continue to be enrolled in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) available to Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Japan where authors will continue to earn a share of the KDP Select global fund when their book is borrowed. KOLL borrows will continue to be counted when a book is initially downloaded.”

–Amazon e-mail

So, why wouldn’t every indie author jump into KU?

There’s one big sticking point.

KU requires exclusivity for Amazon for indies…that’s part of the KDP Select rules.

Put your book in KU (through KDP Select) and you can’t sell it through SmashWords or Barnes & Noble.

I actually think it’s possible that requirement will go away at some point, or at least, have two tiers of royalty for exclusive and non-exclusive.

Obviously, the exclusivity rules don’t apply to tradpubbed books…Harry Potter e-books aren’t exclusive to Amazon, and are part of KU.

So, KU is most beneficial to books which weren’t selling well, and to very low-priced books. It’s not as beneficial to books which do sell well and are higher priced.

How will this affect Big 5 publishers and their brand name authors?

Unless it starts significantly cutting into “piece” sales (buying a book at a time), it doesn’t affect them much. They may think that putting books into KU will cannibalize their piece sales…at least for the frontlist (the new and bestselling books).

If it does start to cut into piece sales…the game changes.

I can imagine that by the end of 2015, 10% of e-book downloads happen through KU.

That’s not ten percent of the income…a lot of those would be books with micro sales.

It could be, then, that a brand name author starts putting short stories and other “peripheral” material to big series into KU.

Not necessarily through their tradpub.

They may correctly feel that so much discovery is happening through KU that they can’t ignore it.

This might also spur a growth of Kindle Worlds (Amazon’s program which licenses books, comic books, TV shows, movies, and so on so that anyone can write in them, following certain guidelines, and the rightsholder, author, and Amazon all get a cut).

A tradpub could license a series to KW, which would then result in non-canonical works in KU…which in turn serves to promote the non-KU books.

The more successful KU is, the more successful it will become.

Now, people are undoubtedly thinking of ways to game the system. I asked Amazon what happens if somebody borrows a book, reads ten percent of it (triggering a payment), returns it, and then borrows it again and again reads ten percent.

One of my regular readers and commenters, Tom Semple, asked what would prevent someone from just asking a bunch of people to borrow it, jump to the ten percent mark, and then return it.

The answer is that Amazon has made it clear that if they decide you are doing things like that, you are out. Naturally, they can always stop carrying someone’s book, they don’t really need a reason. I don’t want to get into any non-public details about this…suffice it so say, they aren’t going to get “tricked” much and suffer the consequences. I think it’s far more likely we will hear about them thinking someone has done something wrong who hasn’t. They are pretty good about taking “appeals” in those cases…but we see it happen on the forum that someone’s posts are deleted, and they never figure out why, for a much smaller example of what might be Amazon being overly cautious.

Now, as to what is happening with the KOLL:

As you can see from the quote from the Amazon e-mail, the KOLL continues to exist: no change at this point.

That said, I’ve seen many threads in the Amazon forums where people think it has been discontinued.

That’s because the interface for getting to it has changed, and that has been affected by KU.

Basically what has happened, according to Amazon (and I asked them a detailed question) is that, if you are a KOLL member who is not eligible for a loan right now (because you’ve already borrowed a book this calendar month), you’ll see the KU “Read for Free” button instead of the KOLL “Borrow for Free”.

According to them, it works like this:

  • A Prime member and eligible for a KOLL loan will see “Borrow for Free” button on Prime eligible titles
  • A Prime member who has hit the KOLL limit will see “Read for Free” with KU eligible titles
  • Someone who is neither a Prime nor a KU member will see “Read for Free” with KU on KU titles which are also Prime titles, and will see “Borrow for Free” with Prime on Prime titles which are non-KU titles
  • Quoting Amazon: “For the E-readers and Kindle Fires, you’ll see the above, except for Kindle Touch and Kindle Paperwhite users will see the “Read for Free” button regardless of their current KOLL status.”

Hypothetically, then, the confusing thing has been that a “borrow” button wasn’t available in the browser, but only when a KOLL loan wasn’t availbale..and Kindle Touch and Kindle Paperwhite users didn’t see a KOLL button regardless.

That doesn’t answer everything: how does a Paperwhite owner make a KOLL borrow? Apparently, from what I’ve heard anecdotally, clicking that “Read for Free” on your Paperwhite will make it the KOLL loan if you haven’t done one yet that month.

I hope that makes it clearer.

What do you think? Is KU a good deal for authors, a bad deal for authors, both or neither? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

New! 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.

 


Heads up! LTO on Fire at 3 PM Pacific. ..Coffeemaker for $20

Amazon: Upcoming Limited-Time Special Offer on Kindle Fire: Hamilton Beach Coffeemaker for $20. Deal starts at 6:00 PM ET/3:00 PM PT.


Round up #262: $100 off Kindle Fire, update for Kindle Paperwhite

Round up #262: $100 off Kindle Fire, update for Kindle Paperwhite

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

Kindle Paperwhite 2 update 5.4.5

Amazon has released a new update for the KPW2:

Update 5.4.5 for Kindle Paperwhite 2 (at AmazonSmile* Benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

You can wait and it will eventually happen on its own (that can be weeks), or you can go to the above link and update manually

It brings three main changes:

  • Sync on Your Kindle Paperwhite (at AmazonSmile): honestly, I’m not quite clear what the difference is here. I usually don’t bounce between devices when reading, and since my Significant Other and I may be reading the same book at the same time (so we can talk about it afterwards), we have Whispersync turned off. I’m not clear on what this is doing now that it didn’t do before. One interesting thing, though. I’ve always recommended that people return to Home after a reading session if they may need to sync, and the video on this page recommends the same thing
  • “When viewing a PDF in pan-and-zoom mode, you will now see a small preview window in the margin of the screen”: this one sounds helpful!
  • Read While Your Book Ships (at AmazonSmile): for those of us who answer questions on the official Amazon forums, there is a tendency (which can be avoided, with effort) to develop canned responses. One thing has always been about where you find sample in the Cloud. We would say they weren’t stored in the Cloud: I’ve likened it to getting a free sample at Costco…there’s no record of that in your account, either. ;) One reason is that it lessens costs to not do the processing of the transaction and the storage of the sample. Well, now, when you buy a p-book (paperbook), you can often choose to “Start Reading Now”, and you get the sample of the e-book on your Kindle (so you can read while the p-book is on the way). Those samples (and only those samples), are going to be available in the Cloud: Read While Your Book Ships (at AmazonSmile)

Video: “When the Words Stop”

Thanks to EBOOK FRIENDLY for the heads up on this great video!

When the Words Stop by Epic Reads

I think a lot of you will appreciate it…it’s a humor piece about that deflated feeling you have when you finish a book…when the words stop. Back in the paper days, I remember feeling a great anxiety sometimes when I realized there was only maybe ten percent of the book left to go. With an e-book, I have to say, I find so often that it ends much before the percentage would indicate (because of back matter, or a preview, or something like that), that I can’t really judge it. I’ve had books finish at maybe 66%! This is funny and worth watching, in my opinion.

Gold Box Deal: $100 off Kindle Fire HDX 7″ 4G LTE

This is a today only deal (that’s how GBDs work):

Kindle Fire HDX 7″, HDX Display, Wi-Fi and 4G LTE, 16 GB – Includes Special Offers (at AmazonSmile)

It’s $100 of the models with 4G (like a cellphone connection to wireless, instead of just wi-fi…this has both). I tried having 4G on one of my Fire models, and didn’t find it was worth the monthly service plan cost to me. However, I’m in a pretty techie area, and there is a lot of wi-fi around here. For some people, having 4G makes a big difference in convenience, and they are willing to pay for it. It’s also nice for people who aren’t as techie, but want to be connected…no wi-fi required to use it (if you have a signal for 4G at home, you don’t have to enter passwords or anything to connect).

The least expensive configuration of this deal is $229…which makes it the same initial cost as having a wi-fi only version.

Kindle Unlimited mini-roundup

I’m still going to write another big post on Kindle Unlimited soon (following this one)

It’s official! Kindle Unlimited is here with 639,621 titles

including what I think the impact will be on authors (some will benefit…a lot), but I did want to hit a few high points:

  • Audiobooks: I’ve seen interest in the comments on the blog in the audiobook part, and that is something that makes KU stand apart from other subsers (that’s what I call subscription services) .ike Oyster and Scribd). As is, unfortunately, not uncommonly the case with Amazon, people want to do it…but have trouble finding instructions on how to do it. I’ve done it successfully, but it wasn’t as easy as going to “audiobooks” in KU and picking one. What I did was first find an e-book in KU that was set up for “Whispersync for Voice”. You can do that with this link: Kindle Unlimited Whispersync for Voice titles (at AmazonSmile). The e-book has to say that it is “with narration”, otherwise you might pay extra for it. I downloaded the e-book (one that I’ve read before, by the way…I don’t like listening to audiobooks if I haven’t already sightread the book). Once I’d done that, the audiobook was available to my Audible app…including on my Galaxy S4 (which should be, sadly, replaced later this week by my Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile). I’m not sad to be getting the phone: I’m excited for that! I’ve just really liked the S4). So, the counterintuitive part was getting an e-book I wasn’t going to read so I could get the audiobook. After that, it worked fine. One of my readers commented that they couldn’t get the audiobook part to work, even with help from both Kindle and Audible reps…but I still don’t quite know why. Might have been a different phone, or they weren’t following the above sequence
  • How authors get compensated: I will do a big post on authors and KU generally, as I’ve mentioned, but for indie (independent authors) using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, they split part of a pool fund (the same way they get compensated for borrows from Amazon Kindle Owners” Lending Library)…but they don’t get the cut until the borrower has read ten percent of the book. Tradpubbed (traditionally published) authors will have a different deal, and we won’t know the details…the publishers don’t usually release royalty contract terms. I did check, by the way: if someone borrows your book, reads ten percent of it (triggering the royalty), return it, borrows it again, and ten percent of it again, you don’t get a second royalty…in case you were planning to game the system ;)
  • Confusion for people who are both KU members and KOLL eligible: this has been very confusing, engendering many threads on the forums! I’m hoping they make this clearer…and soon. The KOLL has not gone away, and there hasn’t been an indication that it will. The BUTTON to borrow for free, however, has gone away in many cases. What I understand at this point is that, if you’ve already borrowed your KOLL book for the month, the button will convert to a “Read for Free” button, and it will be one of your KU borrows instead (assuming the book is in both programs). If you don’t have KU, clicking the button will take you to some place to sign up. If it actually works that way, that’s not too bad. However, I did see “The Artist” on the forum say that they had not yet borrowed a KOLL book in the month…and clicking “Read for Free” made it the KOLL borrow. That would be bad: what you want to borrow from the KOLL and what you want to read from KU may not be the same. You can have up to ten books out from KU at a time, and when you return one you can get another one. That seems to me like a generous amount for one person (unless, perhaps, you are going on a trip where you won’t have wireless access), but if you have five people on the account (and there is no limit), you may often bump up against that simultaneous ten limit

Wow! There is a lot happening (Fire Phone for hardware, KU for services), but what do you think? Have you ever feared reaching the end of a book? I know people who don’t want to buy a book unless there are more books in a series, just to try and stave off the eventual “separation”.  Do you find 4G worth it for a Fire? Are you weighing keeping Audible versus going with KU? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

New! 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.


Supremely fun

The entertaining, fast-paced Supreme Justice, by the always reliable Max Allan Collins, centers around freelance investigator and security specialist Joe Reeder helping the U.S. government chase down conspirators who are murdering Supreme Court Justices. The story is intriguing because it takes place in a near future where Miranda warnings have all but been eliminated, Roe v. Wade has been overturned, and other major shifts to the right have taken place. In other words, the country has become a living nightmare for liberals and progressives.


As it's the conservative justices of the court who are being targeted, it soon becomes apparent that someone is trying to alter the balance of the court to try to get things shifting back to the left. The sitting president is a democrat, you see, and it's presumed he will appoint more progressive, left-leaning replacements for the murdered justices.

The politics of the novel aren't laid on as thick as the above may suggest. This is basically a well-told whodunit laced with some decent action scenes, as Joe Reeder and his main task force partner, FBI agent Patti Rogers, examine crime scenes, interview witnesses, and try to piece things together before more justices are killed. Sure, Joe is pretty liberal and doesn't like where the country's been headed, but he doesn't think the conspirators' methods of changing things is the way to go.

Introducing each chapter is a thoughtful quote from a famous historical figure- usually a past Supreme Court justice but not always- that make us think a little about the how's and why's of our justice system, and overall lend a little extra depth to the book. Actually, I wouldn't have minded a little more of this sort of thing, maybe in the form of more conversations between Joe, Patti, and the other task force members-- you know, the way Dan Brown often stops his stories mid-stream to have his characters talk about a scholarly subject for a while. Okay, maybe not, but one can't argue that that tactic hasn't worked for Brown!

Getting back to the subject at hand, the politics of the author are communicated with a little more emphasis near the close of "Supreme Justice", as it is pretty clear when the dust settles that Mr. Collins and his characters feel that many of the tragedies in the story could be pretty directly laid at the feet of the country's big shift to the right. Because my politics are pretty close to Mr. Collins', that didn't bother me, but- more importantly- it really shouldn't bother anybody else much, either. The plot, action, and characters are what really count here, all working together to deliver a bang-up page turner.

More weirdness and danger in Wayward Pines


Want a great summer read? Blake Crouch's Wayward is a terrific follow-up to the first book in this series, Pines (see the previous review on this blog). I can't talk too many specifics without revealing the secrets of the first book and the fun stuff you should discover on your own in this one, but I can say this: after finally discovering the quite amazing secrets of the mysterious town of Wayward Pines at the end of book one, former U.S. Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke now has to figure out what to do with the information.


Specifically, is doing the right thing for himself necessarily doing the right thing for the people in town? Can he come up with a plan that's good for everyone? Or should he not do anything and just accept the uneasy but relatively secure and comfortable existence offered him if he fulfills his new role as town sheriff? These moral dilemmas mix nicely with Ethan's first assigned case: an old-fashioned murder mystery. How does the murder of a young woman tie into Wayward Pines' secrets, and the secrets within those secrets?


Like the first book, the dark, nightmarish stuff is balanced by a clever plot that keeps moving, a decent and memorable resolution, and this time even a little humor (I'm thinking of the secret cocktail party that serves the world's worst liquor). It's all very satisfying, and just like the first book, Pines, really made me want to read this second one, after finishing Wayward I'm all ready to jump into book three (and the apparent final chapter), The Last Town. Kudos to author Blake Crouch for a great, imaginative series. I really want to see where this whole thing is going.  And, yeah, I still think the upcoming television adaptation (on the FX channel this fall) should be pretty great.



A Day in the Life of a Kindleer 2014

A Day in the Life of a Kindleer 2014

This is one in a series of posts which I write about once a year. I do this primarily to give my readers some ideas they might use to get more out of their devices. I also think it’s interesting to go back and look at the previous ones, to see how much things have changed…and it’s always a lot.

I usually wake up between about 3:00 and 3:30 AM. That’s hours before I need to go to work, but I get a lot of things done (including writing) during that time.

I know what time it is because I have my

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

set up next to the bed as a clock. I use the built-in clock app, set in nightstand mode. There is no problem at all in reading that in the dark, although it would be quite dim (it’s lit in red) in a normally lit room…there are other clock options for other situations. The battery will have gone down about 40% since I went to bed.

It’s in the

Origami case (at AmazonSmile)

from Amazon, in a configuration that makes it stand up. I did think that case was expensive (it’s $39.99 right now…$10 less than I paid for it in October of last year), but I have to say, it’s held up very well and I do use its features.

I pick it up facing me, so it won’t bother my Significant Other (it wouldn’t anyway, but I’m just being cautious) and head for the bathroom.

The two dogs we have now (both new since last year) don’t get up when I do that: they can be incredibly active for an hour or so at a time…but they also sleep better than most humans. ;)

I have a Cloud Collection with my morning apps. I’ll prop the Fire on the towel bar, and start with the

ABC7 News San Francisco (at AmazonSmile)

That’s the free app from my local station. I check that first in case there is anything that’s going to mess up traffic, but it is quite well designed. For one thing, I can flip articles from there into my

free Flipboard magazines

and e-mail articles easily to people if I want.

Oh, I should mention: before I start using the apps, I turn the wireless back on (I leave it off at night), increase the brightness from the lowest possible setting to about 25%, and turn off the orientation lock (I don’t like the clock flipping around while I’m carrying the Fire to the bathroom). I do all that by swiping down from the top.

After that, and while I’m doing some other morning tasks, it’s on to the

CNN Breaking US & World News (at AmazonSmile)

app. Again, I can flip and e-mail from there. I typically read the following sections:

  • Home
  • Featured
  • World
  • Entertainment
  • Tech
  • Health

I won’t finish all that before I head for the kitchen, dogs thumping on to the floor and “shaking it out” (I hear the dog tags jingle) to follow me. Well, we don’t go to the kitchen first: we all go outside for a bit. I start my morning exercise there. I do about 45 minutes, twice a day…as the baseline. I track that with the free

Review: MyFitnessPal

app. Over the course of more than a year, I’ve lost more than forty pounds. I’ve been a vegetarian for a long time, and eating wasn’t really the issue for me: it was doing regular exercise. This app has kept me on track with that, entering my food and my activity.

We come back in and I feed the dogs. I eat a small bag of almonds myself (Trader Joe’s sells these “handful” size bags), then back to finish the exercise. I set the Fire up on the entertainment unit and keep reading while I work out. That’s not always convenient: I can only really change the pages between reps or sets (I’m doing my own brand of calisthenics, really…I walk with a cane, so I need to come up with things that will work and still burn the calories).

I’ll run out of CNN before I run out of exercise, usually, so it’s on to my morning

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

read. Again, this is a free app. I highly recommend it: you can customize what you see, and it very much fills the void of having a morning newspaper. I flip articles from into my magazines also.

Somewhere in here, I finish the exercise, and make and eat breakfast…still reading Flipboard usually.

I also have CNN on the TV…with the sound muted during some of this. There are exercises where I just can’t read my Fire…so at least I can read a news crawl. ;)

After Flipboard, it’s on to the

WordPress (at AmazonSmile)

app. That’s where I’m going to approve your comments.

I honestly like to have seen the news myself first, before I get comments on it. That gives me a better perspective, and often makes it easy for me to make a valuable reply. I love it when a reader gives me a heads-up for something which I haven’t seen yet!

I’m not quite writing replies, yet, unless something urgent arises. If that happens, or if big enough news was revealed in the free apps, I’ll go to…a desktop. Yep, an actual desktop computer. While the built-in dictation app on the Fire works remarkably well (easily translating my spoken words into text), it’s faster for me to type on a full-sized keyboard.

Next is the Maxthon browser. I’m pretty sure I got that from Amazon originally, but it isn’t currently available for the KFHDX. It is my favorite browser, and the one I also usually use on the desktop (I’m using it right now). I believe you can get it at 1Mobile for the Fire. I like the privacy mode, and I like how it syncs my favorites easily between devices. I also have Chrome, Dolphin, and Silk available to me on my Fire, but don’t use them much.

I hit some favorites in Maxthon:

  • I go Amazon and get the free app of the day (almost every time)
  • I check the Kindle Daily Deals
  • I check BoxOfficeMojo
  • I check my Flipboard magazines reader counts (I now have thousands of readers for them)
  • I may check IMDb.com news, but one negative for that is that I can’t flip from there into my magazines…for that reason, I may wait until I’m on Chrome on the desktop…and that’s the main reason I use Chrome, is for the Flipboard extension

One more morning stop: the built-in e-mail app on my Fire, where I check my incoming e-mail. Again, I won’t tend to respond there, but it’s a great place to read the mail.

Now, let me point out: I’ve been reading the Fire for over an hour at this point…and it’s all been free items.

Then, it’s usually on to the desktop to write. I may have the Fire open alongside that, but usually not. At this point, it’s charging. It doesn’t take it very long to charge to 100%…I don’t think it’s an hour. I use the

Pwr+® 6.5 Ft AC Adapter 2.1A Rapid Charger (at AmazonSmile)

I like it a lot! I broke one (not the device’s fault…the Fire slipped off the arm of the couch and slid between the arm and the cushion: that, not unreasonably, bent the jack) and replaced it.

If I have more time to read before I leave, it may be sight-reading a book (some times borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, or now, from Kindle Unlimited). I may also read Fortean Times using the Zinio app, which you get from the Zinio site. I pay for that, and I may have paid for the book I’m reading (or I’m reading it because of Prime or Kindle Unlimited…that’s no additional cost, but there has been a cost). I also do read books I’ve gotten for free. Oh, and I also read

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY Magazine (at AmazonSmile)

I’m not averse to paying for content…it is nice that a lot what I like is available for free to me. :)

Heading off to work (and my commute varies, since I go to different places…it can be an hour), it’s text-to-speech in the car, so more book time. :) My adult kid did get me an Audible subscription recently…I used my first credit to get a Pimsleur beginning Japanese course. I’ve listened to that in the car (using the Audible app), but it’s much more likely to be TTS.

I have my Fire with me all the time at work. I can sometimes get by with that rather than with my laptop: I work in cramped spaces sometimes, and it’s a relief.

I use

OfficeSuite Professional 7 (at AmazonSmile)

sometimes (which I got as a Free App of the Day) to do viewing and light-editing of Microsoft Office files), and I use

ColorNote Notepad Notes (at AmazonSmile)

(yet another free app) to make quick notes, often using the dictation feature again (speech-to-text).

I have Evernote, but I’ve never gotten into it, for some reason.

Mainly, though, I’m reading at breaks and at lunch. :) I am not normally connected to wireless, so I use my phone to approve comments and check things. Starting later this week, that should be my

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile)

I’m excited for that!

When I get home, I turn airplane mode back off, and it’s back to e-mail, checking the web, and reading.

It’s probably worth noting that I use the

Safeway (at AmazonSmile)

We do seem to save a lot of money with it (it’s free)…and it lets us know what savings it has on things we have bought before. That’s very convenient!

As a nightly thing, I switch to the

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

for actually reading in bed before going to sleep. I’m usually asleep by 9:00…I get about six hours sleep a night. Just two years ago, I regularly got eight hours (9:00 PM to 5:00 AM), but I don’t know if it’s the lost weight or just getting older, but I don’t need that much any more. I wake up naturally…no alarm.

One more thing which I use a lot more on the weekend than I do during the week:

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I do use it some during the week. In one of our rooms, we do not have cable access at all: we just use the Fire TV. I watch Amazon Prime video on it. For one thing, I’m working my way back through

Red Dwarf (at AmazonSmile)

Some of it is quite ahead of its time! I just got to enjoy some SmartWatch jokes…with the AI (Artificial Intelligence) in the watch not enjoying what it sees when, for example, the wearer puts hands in pockets. ;)

I also use Netflix, and a couple of apps which didn’t come with it:

AOL On (at AmazonSmile)

Once again, it’s free…and it’s a good source of news stories (I like keeping up with the news). I can start a category of news story, and it will play them like a playlist…not that different from watching a news channel. There are some ads, but it’s not like the amount of commercials on a cable channel. The only annoying thing is that you may see the same short commercial over and over again. One tip: if it, or any app on your Fire TV locks up, you can go to Settings – Applications, and similar to on a Kindle Fire, clear the cache and/or force stop it.

YouTube (at AmazonSmile)

It’s a decent interface (although I wish it had voice search), and it’s good for something short. I usually check was trending, and I may search for something, although it is often obscure (I recently watched Frank Gorshin doing impressions on the Dean Martin show, for example).

Let’s see what else I use on the Fire:

Oh, I use

AccuWeather (at AmazonSmile)

every day…consider that part of the morning routine. I didn’t think of it at first, because I don’t invoke it: it’s in my notifications. I find it to be pretty accurate…and again, it’s free. I have it set in centigrade: I decided to convert to that a while back. I have trouble thinking of the temperatures in Fahrenheit now, so it’s nice that it has the option. Centigrade is just simpler: zero is literally freezing, ten is cold, twenty is fine for most people, thirty is hot. That’s rule of thumb, but works pretty well.

I tend to use the calendar on my phone, rather than on my KFHDX, but I will check an app which is no longer available. It shows my Google calendar: I could do that in the built-in calendar app, but this one had a nicer format.

I also suggest you use

Clean Master (at AmazonSmile)

I use it more than once a week to clean up junk files on my Fire, and it seems to work very well. Guess how much it costs? ;) Nothing…

I also use

Fandango Movies – Times & Tickets (at AmazonSmile)

on the weekend (not to purchase tickets, just to get times), and without thinking about it I use

Battery Doctor (at AmazonSmile)

The only reason I even notice it is it places a little tone when the Fire is 100% charged: nice to be able to hear it when I’m working on the desktop.

There, I think that’s about it! I do some shopping from Amazon it, but I think that gives you a sense of a day in the life of this Kindleer…2014, and pre-Fire Phone. :)

New! 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.


Meanwhile…at the public library

Meanwhile…at the public library

I have a lot more to say about Kindle Unlimited (how it affects authors, how to find the audiobooks, my experience in using it), but I don’t like to write too much about the same thing too many posts in a row! I like the blog to be eclectic, so that if something doesn’t appeal to a reader, they don’t have to wait too long to get to something that does. :)

I was inspired to take a look at my public library’s e-book collection again, based on some things I’ve heard in the past couple of days (okay, those comments did tie into KU, but still…). ;)

I haven’t looked at it in a while. I have borrowed a couple of e-books from the library in the past, but it was really to test out how it worked for you readers.

One thing that might be a bit odd is that I deliberately picked unpopular books with no waiting lists.

I did that because I didn’t want to keep someone else from getting the book sooner, when I can afford to buy it myself if I want it.

That doesn’t mean I want to spend money unnecessarily, but my Significant Other had a great insight for me once, and it applies here.

Neither one of us is good at household things. I mean things like heavy gardening, fixing a door…you know, I’m proud of myself if I can get the air filter in for the air conditioner, and I literally have screwdriver scars on my hand. :)

However, I used to still try to do that stuff.

My SO pointed out, though, that there are people who are really good at doing it, like doing it (I’m stressed the whole time)…and it’s how they put food on their family’s table.

Since we can afford to pay somebody (that certainly wasn’t always true, but we both have good day jobs ((knock virtual wood)) and I make some money from writing), and it benefits that person and us (no stress and better results), it makes sense to do it.

Similarly, since I can afford to get e-books outside of the public library, it makes sense for me to leave those available for someone who can’t.

That may surprise some of you…that there is a “supply issue” with e-books at public libraries. You might think they can just let as many people download an e-book as they want.

Actually, they are quite limited…even more so than you are with your individual Amazon account, typically.

Publishers have gotten looser with their restrictions with the public libraries over time, but I’m going to show you what the current state is at my library (which I would say is a good one) for people wanting to get popular e-books.

Before I do, though, here’s how you can check your own library (in most cases).

Go to

http://www.overdrive.com

That’s the company most public libraries in the USA use for e-books (I’m reasonably sure it’s still most, although some other companies have been making inroads).

You should see a link to “Find your library”, and then you can probably find the e-books from there.

I can’t get too specific after that, because it varies considerably by library.

Here are the most popular fiction books at my library. The lending period can vary, but let’s call it two weeks. I’m going to give you the title, the number of “copies” the library has, the number of people on the wait list, and then I’ll divide the people by the copies to get an estimated wait time. I’ll also take a look to see if it is in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (eligible Prime members can borrow up to a book a month from the KOLL at no additional cost) and if it is in Kindle Unlimited (KU).

  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: 14 copies, 36 on waitlist, 36 days, not KOLL, not KU
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: 16 copies, 182 on waitlist, 159 days, not KOLL, not KU
  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty: 5 copies, 128 on waitlist, 358 days, not KOLL, not KU
  • Sycamore Row by John Grisham: 10 copies, 59 on waitlist, 82.6 days, not KOLL, not KU
  • Orphan Train by Kristina Baker Kline: 3 copies, 46 on waitlist, 214 days, not KOLL, not KU
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: 7 copies, 26 on waitlist, 52 days, not KOLL, not KU
  • Inferno by Dan Brown: 9 copies, 83 on waitlist, 129 days, not KOLL, not KU
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James: 14 copies, no waitlist (available now), not KOLL, not KU
  • Dark Places by Gillian Flynn: 5 copies, 51 on waitlist, 178 days, not KOLL, not KU
  • The Racketeer by John Grisham: 6 copies, 2 on waitlist, 5 days, not KOLL, not KU

You can see, the public library would be a place to get books you can’t get from the KOLL or the KU and get them for free…but you have to be patient.

How many fiction e-books does my public library have? 3,113.

How many e-books in the Literature and Fiction category in the USA Kindle store? 842, 979.

How many e-books in the Literature and Fiction category in the KOLL? 273,867.

How many e-books in the Literature and Fiction category in KU? 197,822.

Certainly, the public library is an important resource. I support their continued existence, and I’m happy for people who make good use of them.

I can also see how they aren’t going to provide a fully satisfactory alternative for many people to getting books (buying them individually ((which is really buying a license)), or through the KOLL or KU) from Amazon.

YLMV (Your Library May Vary). ;)

I have to say, I noticed some good prices on these books while I was checking for this story. A number of them were $4.99…that’s quite a bit lower than I would have guessed.

Here’s a search for

$4.99 literature and fiction books in the USA Kindle store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

sorted by “New and Popular”.

I think a lot of you can find something you like there.

Enjoy!

New! 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.