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Furor over Amazon review policy probably signifies nothing
July 4, 2015 | 11:58 am

I love the smell of manufactured outrage in the morning. As posted on her blog and recounted in a Gizmodo story, writer and blogger Imy Santiago bought an independent novel, read it, and tried to post a review of it to Amazon. But Amazon rejected her review, and held firm on the rejection through two rounds of appeals. Amazon said that they had looked at Santiago’s account activity and from it determined Santiago actually personally knew the author of the novel she was trying to review. Hence, Amazon rejected the review on the grounds that there could be a...

Amazon revamps its rating calculations, favoring helpful, recent reviews of verified purchases
July 2, 2015 | 7:48 pm

Passing by almost unnoticed in the barrage of recent news are these pieces from the last couple of weeks on changes Amazon is making to its review system. Effectively, Amazon is using machine learning to change the way it calculates the aggregate star ratings on its reviews. (Found via Reddit.) Amazon is adding more weight to reviews from verified purchasers (that is, people who actually bought the product from Amazon), people who were voted helpful, and people who reviewed it recently. This is getting a lot of play on Facebook lately, including complaints from authors concerned about how this...

Barnes & Noble taps new CEO as revamped B&N e-commerce site hinders access to e-books
July 2, 2015 | 7:02 pm

Earlier today, Fortune reported that Barnes & Noble has tapped Sears Canada CEO Ron Boire to take over as B&N's CEO. Boire has been the CEO of the struggling Sears Canada for just 10 months, but before that he was the head of the USA Sears & Kmart chains for three years. Before that, Boire had worked at Sony, Best Buy, and Toys’R’Us—not exactly a list of winners in the recent economy. And now they expect him to turn Barnes & Noble around? [Update: As Nate pointed out in the comments, the Fortune article is really badly constructed. It...

Are the new Kindle Unlimited rates good or bad? It depends on who you ask
July 2, 2015 | 12:28 pm

Now that it’s July, the new chapter of Kindle Unlimited has begun. No longer paying per book (of which at least 10% was read), it’s now paying per page. According to one estimate, a bit over half a cent per page, though it remains to be seen how close to accurate this guess is. Is this good? If you listen to Hugh Howey, it is. Howey holds that the overall effect of the change is really not as bad as people think. It might have been that KU under the old system was weighted in favor of short story...

ePub and other sacrileges on the Voyage and Paperwhite: Easy jail-breaks ahead?
June 27, 2015 | 2:51 am

VoyageRootNathan ran a great write-up on the challenges of rooting the Kindle Voyage, the Paperwhite and other recent Kindles. He was following up on a how-to video on taking the Voyage apart. Meanwhile, at MobileRead, buzz persists about hacking the recent-model Kindles. Remember, Kindles are little linux beasts. Amazon has tried to turn them into corporate creatures. Now the open source community wants Paperwhites and the rest to be free again to run such applications as Cool Reader without hassles for even the knowledgeable. Among other things, Cool Reader can display ePub, the nonproprietary standard. Jail-breaking, aka letting you modify the equipment you paid for, isn't for wimpy, of course. You don't...

BookDrop: Email ebooks to your Kindle from Dropbox—even ePubs and other formats not normally supported
June 26, 2015 | 1:54 pm

BookDropBookDrop lets you copy ebooks from your Dropbox cloud to your Kindle gadget or app via email. That includes even ePub books and those in other formats that normally won't fly. How-tos and more details are here. No magic, just a Web-browser tweak and a related service. BookDrop adds a browser bookmark and creates its own subdirectory within Dropbox. Into it you can import ebooks from other regions of your drive. Or you can do the reverse and use Dropbox commands to export to the book-drop subdirectory within /Apps. BookDrop works with "any .epub, .mobi, .pdf, .azw, .cbr, .cbz, .txt, .rif, .doc, .docx, .htm, .html, .gif, .png, .bmp, .jpg" or .jpeg...

TeleRead’s first podcast is now available to stream or download
June 18, 2015 | 8:36 pm

Today Juli Monroe, Joanna Cabot, and I got together to record our first TeleRead podcast, talking for an hour about recent news stories and other events. We touched upon various stories including the Amazon/Penguin Random House contract deal, the recent change in Amazon Kindle Unlimited compensation terms, the Authors Guild fair contract initiative, the new Kindle Paperwhite, and more. It was a fun hour of conversation, and I think it proves we can have an interesting show. Our next episode, scheduled for 2 p.m. Eastern a week from Sunday, will be recorded live and in public. Anyone who wants to listen...

Amazon and Penguin Random House agree to contract
June 18, 2015 | 1:08 pm

Amazon has signed a new contract with Penguin Random House, Publishers Weekly reports. Penguin Random House represents the last of the Big Five (nee Big Six) publishers and the last of the “Agency Five” (well, the Penguin half does, anyway) to agree to new terms. This brings an end to any possibility that there could be a repeat of the months-long Hachette unpleasantness. It’s impossible to know whether Amazon or PRH got the better deal since the terms are not being disclosed, but both sides seem to have learned well the lessons of all the fireworks over the...

The Martian: An accidental self-publishing success story
June 17, 2015 | 2:01 pm

coverA new science fiction movie by a well-known director is on the horizon. Matt Damon plays an astronaut, stranded alone on a planet inimical to human life. It also features Jessica Chastain. While you might be experiencing some Interstellar déjà vu, I’m actually talking about Andy Weir’s breakout novel The Martian, coming later this year by Ridley Scott. An in-universe promotional video and the trailer came out a couple of weeks ago, and proved so popular that 20th Century Fox moved the release date up by two months. But did you know that The Martian was a self-publishing Cinderella...

Books in Browsers conference on pause. Up with dedicated e-reading apps for now!
June 15, 2015 | 5:29 am

moonI’m not surprised to see the Books in Browsers conference go on pause. For me, most browser-based books are letdowns compared to e-books as read with the better apps, such as Moon+ Reader Pro (screenshot). Moon and the like let you tweak the typography precisely and do other customization. I truly, truly hate the ergonomic disasters that books in browsers can be at their worst. Somehow you can’t get the type size right. Or maybe the content just disappears and you can’t do anything since you exercise so little control. No, I’m won’t necessarily be as hard on b-in-b in the future. The tech is...

How much to price an ebook? An old debate revisited
June 15, 2015 | 4:49 am

alisonperryLower pricing definitely doesn't always mean more sales or borrows is a new thread at Kindle Boards. “So I dropped the price on my book for the weekend to 99 cents,” writes Alison Perry, the South Carolina-based author of Hell’s Belles. “I also have a promo on Tuesday and (being new) I wasn't sure how long it would take for the price to update. Well, I went from 3-4 sales and a couple borrows a day to nothing." Significantly, Kindle Direct Publishing offers 70 percent royalties on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99. OK,...

Kristine Kathryn Rusch on the SF generation gap
June 12, 2015 | 8:30 am

Kristine Kathryn Rusch is compiling an anthology for Baen of classic SF stories by women, and as part of the project has started a website about women in science fiction. Along the way, one of her readers wrote to her about Andre Norton, bringing up an important point—over the last couple decades of the 20th century, the availability of classic SF writers (and, for that matter, classic writers of other genres) to the general public plummeted. In this blog post, Rusch examines the reasons why. The post is long, but makes some great reading. To summarize: In the late...

European Commission opens anti-trust probe into Amazon ‘most-favored nation’ policy
June 11, 2015 | 1:54 pm

That pesky most-favored nation clause in e-book contracts is rearing its head again, this time in Europe. The European Commission has announced it is opening an anti-trust investigation into Amazon’s practice of requiring notice when e-books sold on Amazon were sold more cheaply somewhere else so that it could price-match them there. EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said: "Amazon has developed a successful business that offers consumers a comprehensive service, including for e-books. Our investigation does not call that into question. However, it is my duty to make sure that Amazon's arrangements with publishers are not harmful...

How badly coded is the Amazon Kindle Android app?
June 6, 2015 | 10:09 am

KindleAndroidBadlyCodedMajor tech companies sometimes have a surprising habit of rolling out sub-optimal products in what are supposed to be their core competence areas. For example, Google's Chrome browser for Android gets some indifferent assessments at times over issues like speed and cache bloat, and this is Google's own flagship browser running on its own OS. And think of Microsoft's terrible record in pushing out new versions of Windows that have been panned by the marketplace, and required revisions, rethinks, and still newer versions. Which brings me to some recurrent frustrations over the Amazon Kindle app. For the longest time,...

Does anyone even want cross-platform e-book interoperability?
June 6, 2015 | 6:06 am

padlockProprietary e-book formats have been around for quite some time. Most major commercial vendors use proprietary formats to one extent or another, be they Amazon’s Kindle format or the proprietary DRM that Barnes & Noble and others put on top of EPUB. Given that they help to chill competition and keep Amazon firmly on the top of the e-book hill, they are generally not accounted to be a good thing by publishing industry activists. But I ran across a provocative post at Digital Book World suggesting that they might actually be a good thing after all. Joshua Tallent says...

Morning Links: When good friends write bad books, Amazon food, and more
June 3, 2015 | 9:04 am

What To Do When Someone You Know Writes a Bad Book (Book Riot) Writing a book is a great accomplishment. It can take years of meditating, creating, editing, querying, marketing, and tweaking to get it published. It’s an effort that absolutely deserves praise. But what are we supposed to do when someone we personally know, even care about, writes a bad one? The Teleread Take: The last person I know who showed me their book surprised me: it was better than I thought it would be. But many of us in this age of self-publishing have been there! Book Riot has some...

Amazon’s ‘most well-read cities’ rankings for 2015: Thank goodness my hometown is NOT on this silly list
June 3, 2015 | 5:08 am

375px-Space_Needle_2011-07-04Seattle leads Amazon’s 2015 list of America’s “most well-read cities.” My hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, with a population of around 150,000, is no longer #1. Amazon now compares only cities with populations of half a million or more, not the previous 100,000. Thank goodness. Alexandria’s #1 showing distracted the media and others from genuine literacy issues. Amazon based its numbers only on the company’s per-capita sales of books, newspapers and magazines. The reality in Alexandria differs starkly from the past Amazon rankings. The only bookstore of any size is the local Barnes & Noble branch. More than half of Alexandria’s public high...

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