Tag Archives: Amazon

Book Review Controversy

Amazon’s book review system has been a great way to learn what others think about a particular book. Then, it was discovered that one of the most successful self-publishing authors had been using dummy accounts to write glowing reviews of his own books and poor reviews of others. As a result, Amazon has tightened up enforcement of its review policy. Their reply to a Los Angeles Times query stated that they “do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product.”

This can be a blow to authors in the genealogy community – self-published or otherwise. I haven’t seen any of the reviews I’ve written removed yet, but that could happen at any time. I can understand issues with bad reviews posted by competitors, but this punishes the “little guys” like us since most of our reviews come from other authors.

There are alternatives. One I recommend is Goodreads. Not only does it provide a wonderful place to discover books, but it’s also a book lover’s community center. Here you’ll find groups for just about any topic imaginable. I’ve joined my local library’s group, two genealogy groups and an English mysteries group. All of them have introduced me to books I would not have found otherwise and all have provided thoughtful reviews and comments to help me decide what to read next. I am so impressed with Goodreads that here is where I’ll first post a review. From there I’ll post copies to whatever book seller too.

Goodreads Groups page

For the reader, you can keep track of your books by building out your own book shelves. The free iOS and Android apps include a barcode scanner making it even easier to build your library. You can browse books and mark the ones you want to read. You can even follow the book’s link to your preferred bookseller to purchase it. Once you’ve read a book, you can add a rating and write a review. You can connect with other readers to see what they’re reading and share notes. Some of the book groups even offer a virtual book club with monthly discussions around that month’s title. Goodreads can be as much or as little as you want it to be.

For family publishers, Goodreads offers authors a page that you can use to promote your own book(s). It costs you nothing but your time and gives you access to its growing population of reading fanatics. You can follow a favorite author to get news on upcoming books and other items of interest.

I hope to see you there soon. Stop by my page at Goodreads anytime and say hello.


Amazon Cloud Drive

If you have an account at Amazon, you automatically have 5GB of storage available to you with Amazon Cloud Drive at no cost. And, if you purchase MP3 music from Amazon, those files are stored on your Cloud Drive at no cost. No matter how large your music library gets, it won’t count against your storage limits. Additional storage is quite reasonable starting at 20GB for $20/year.

The web interface is easy to maneuver. You can easily upload, download and rearrange your files right here. Once you install the free Cloud Drive Desktop application, uploading files is as easy as a right-click or by a drag and drop on the icon in the system tray. The app is available for Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS 10.6 and Mac OS 10.7.

We Davids have some work to do

One of my favorite books is Glenn Reynold’s An Army of Davids which shows how we the people have used technology as an empowerment tool to build our own businesses and force change to legacy industries like music, publishing, news and even politics. We all got a good taste of that empowerment this week with the online protest against SOPA/PIPA. The politicians and entertainment industry stepped back, but they haven’t given up. From Tim O’Reilly:

These legislative attacks are not motivated by clear thinking about the future of the Internet or the global economy, but instead seek to protect entrenched companies with outdated business models. Rather than adapting and competing with new and better services, these organizations are asking Congress for cover.

Any forward-looking country must encourage its emerging industries, not protect its laggards. Yet, in a time when the American economy needs to catalyze domestic innovation to succeed in a hyper-competitive global marketplace, members of the United States Congress have advanced legislation that could damage the industries of the future.

Advances in technology require new work processes and marketing plans. As the entertainment and publishing industry is discovering, we the people no longer have to go through them.

They aren’t the only problem we face. The companies that have developed new and revolutionary technologies are also trying to influence opportunities to best suit themselves. We are seeing a retail war being waged between Amazon and Apple over books and other media that will have a significant impact on the future of publishing. Once again, it’s time for us to pay attention and make our opinions known. Here are some of the issues to be addressed:

  • Apple requires every company selling something (books, music, etc.) from inside an app installed on one of their devices to pay a 30% commission on each sale. This often means the items must be sold at a loss. It’s true purpose is to stifle competition.
  • Amazon has a new publishing program – KDP Select – that allows authors to include new works in the Kindle Lending Library program and receive a commission based on the book’s lending performance. The catch? You must agree that your new book will be exclusive to Amazon for the first 90 days.
  • Digital rights management “locks” are attached to most electronic books to “prevent piracy”. Although any pirate worth his salt has long ago learned how to break these locks, we – the honest buyers of these books – can’t so much as move the book from one e-reader to another.

Yesterday Apple introduced a platform for interactive ebooks that is absolutely stunning. Although designed for textbooks, it is just what I’ve wanted to see for family history publishing. The iBooks Author app is very impressive – easy to use and available at no cost. Unfortunately the devil is in the details and in this case the details are quite egregious. Here’s the clause in the app’s licensing agreement:

If you charge a fee for any book or other work you generate using this software (a “Work”), you may only sell or distribute such Work through Apple (e.g., through the iBookstore) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple.

Requirements like this will only stand if we allow it. I would like nothing more than to take advantage of this software to build stories my family would love, but this limit would mean many of them would be left out. I can also see great potential for profit with interactive books like this but only when they are available from any bookseller.

Competition spurs innovation. Amazon took Apple’s app limits challenge and built the most amazing web-based reader that will even download books to your computer/device for offline reading. Soon, someone will build an interactive authoring app without limits and I will be able to build the books I want and share them with everyone. I can wait.

Thanks Apple, but no thanks.

Introducing Kindle Cloud Reader

You can now read your Kindle books on the web using either the Chrome or Safari browser – and this web app has been optimized for use on the iPad. Do you think maybe Amazon isn’t happy with Apple’s demand for a 30% cut?

Meet the Kindle Cloud Reader. Once set up, you’ll need to authorize your browser to create offline storage so your book can be downloaded for offline reading. Now find a book, download it, and off you go. You can adjust the font size, margins and brightness – just like on the reader app. You can bookmark pages, but there’s no facility for highlighting or taking notes. If you didn’t know better, you’d think this was a standalone app.

The best part is that you can access your library – and the Kindle store – from inside the reader. Although I’ve only had a quick look around, this version of the Kindle store is much easier to navigate and browse than the one that used to be in the app. And, buying a book is just as simple as you would expect from Amazon. I’m quite impressed!

Kindle Cloud Reader

New Tech / Old Tech

We genea-bloggers love our tech toys. And, as a result, we have a growing collection of old tech that is either taking up space in a closet or being passed down to others in the family. Now there’s another option. A growing number of services are popping up to buy or trade in your old tech items.

Gazelle will buy used computers, cameras, game systems, e-readers, PDAs and much more. Search the site to see if they are interested in your item, answer questions about make, model and condition, then you’ll see what they will offer for it. You agree and they email you a prepaid shipping label so you can send the item to them. If it lives up to your description, you get paid the agreed price. If they find it lacking, you decide if you’ll take a lesser price or want them to send it back to you.

Amazon also offers a trade-in program for electronics, textbooks, movies and games. They are serving as brokers with the third-party that is actually buying the item and you get paid in Amazon gift cards. Of course, they want you to use those gift cards to buy your new tech at Amazon. That’s called marketing.

Even tech stores are getting into the action. Best Buy and Gateway have trade-in programs. Find out what the online services are offering, then check with your favorite dealer to see if they have a better deal. A little horse-trading on your trade-ins can help make that new tech a little less expensive. It’s worth a look!