The Case for Kindle Parental Controls, free kindle horror book

First, for your Kindle or Kindle App, a free kindle book –

  1. Serial by Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch. Price: $0. Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Horror. Lots of good reviews and lots of bad reviews.

    Remember the twin golden rules of hitchhiking?

    # 1: Don’t go hitchhiking, because the driver who picks you up could be certifiably crazy.
    # 2: Don’t pick up hitchhikers, because the traveler you pick up could be raving nutcase.

    So what if, on some dark, isolated road, Crazy #1 offered a ride to Nutcase #2?

    When two of the most twisted minds in the world of horror fiction face off, the result is SERIAL, a terrifying tale of hitchhiking gone terribly wrong.

Have to say – If the book is written as well as the product description there’s no way a single 1 star review is warranted.

Next, let’s make a case for Kindle Parental Controls.

Kindle Parental Controls – Making Kindle for Kids a reality

There are quite a few reasons that it’s currently not very safe to give kids unrestricted access to a Kindle – they might buy that $6,713 nuclear physics book, they might find an erotic romance novel, they might read a horror novel that traumatizes them for life, they might discover the browser and end up at terrible sites.

Here are some of the solutions currently suggested and the associated problems in italics –

  1. De-regiter your credit card. Problem is lots of erotica titles are still free and there’s Internet access.  
  2. De-register from the Kindle account. You still have Internet access via WiFi on Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi.  
  3. Turn off WiFi access at home or blacklist your kid’s Kindle so it can’t connect. Schools and Starbucks and lots of other places have WiFi.
  4. Buy a separate Kindle and monitor it. It’s still on a shared account and books can be downloaded from the archive and later deleted. Browsing history can be deleted too. Monitoring takes time.  

You know what – the common issue here is that these are all inconvenient and inelegant hacks.

It’s making customers put in a lot of time and effort instead of saving customers time and effort. There should be a one-button solution – turn off Kindle Store purchase with one button, turn off browser with one button, turn off downloading of books with one button.

Better still – create a Kid Mode where only Internet sites and books that are safe for kids are accessible.

Here’s the comment from ‘concerned parents’ that got me thinking about this –

Christmas shopping has begun for our large blended family ages 7-18, and we dont want our kids accessing the internet without our knowledge, or reading content we deem inappropriate for young minds.

All our children love to read, and we have considered the Kindle, Nook, and Reader… but none seem to have parental controls. Too bad. Maybe next year, once they are implemented, our money will be spent on eReaders! Until then, not a chance.

Coincidentally, there’s a complicated discussion on Kindle Parental Controls going on at the official Kindle forum.

One of the interesting suggestions is a ‘safe for kids’ rating –

 I would like there to be parental controls for the Kindle – preferably on the reader controlling content downloaded rather than on the account so the account can be shared by children of different ages, to be controlled so that only items that receive a specific parental rating code can be downloaded.

I would like the authors of Kindle manuscripts to (at their discretion) submit their literature to receive a rating code.

This issue is probably going to be misunderstood – All we mean when we say parental controls is a way to give kids a Kindle that doesn’t have access to the Internet and doesn’t allow unrestricted buying. Parental controls that let you give your kid a Kindle and then not have to constantly monitor it and worry about it. It would also be entirely opt-in so if you don’t have kids or don’t want parental controls you’d never even know it was there.

Amazon selling iPad, Kindle for kids, more

Amazon selling iPad … that can’t be right

A few weeks after the Kindle 3 and Amazon came out with an ad slamming the iPad there’s news that Amazon has started selling the iPad directly from its website. Amazon seems out of stock now but lots of reliable sources like Fortune wrote about it so it must have had some stock.

All that can be found at the moment are iPads from 3rd party stores selling at a $50 to $100 premium. Perhaps Apple gave only a little bit of stock – It’s what they seem to have done with Best Buy. Anything that helps create scarcity.

Amazon selling iPads is remarkable – It’s Amazon having its cake and eating it too.

Let’s make fun of the iPad, let’s sell it and take a cut, … What’s next?

Free Kindle Book – Yet Again

Next, a free kindle book since it’s part of my blogger contract to mention one in every post (just kidding, seems more like the ‘free book’ albatross) –

  1. Remember Why You Play by David Thomas. Rated 5 stars on 3 reviews.

    If you enjoyed Friday Night Lights, this book is a must-read. Remember Why You Play documents the lives, struggles, and triumphs of the players and coaches of Faith Christian School in Grapevine, Texas.

    Sports columnist and author David Thomas followed the team for a full season, recording a story that will inspire readers to understand that relationships are more important than winning.

    One of the key events was a game that Faith Christian played against the Gainesville State Tornadoes, a school for convicted juvenile offenders. The story of this spectacular game is being made into a movie, titled One Heart, with an anticipated release in November 2010.

There’s so much in the write-up – Faith Christian taking on a school for convicted juvenile offenders, a Friday Night Lights reference, a movie to be released in a month. All we need is Aaron Sorkin to grant everyone the wit of Jeeves and Wooster and David Fincher to glam it up and mark it out as a social commentary on the post-Social Network generation.

Is Kindle 3 a good device for 9 to 11 year olds?

A very good question being asked at the official kindle forums. Let’s consider the Kindle WiFi’s suitability for children.

The pros –

  1.  It’s light and compact and even young kids’ hands won’t get tired from holding the Kindle WiFi
  2.  It’s cheap at $139 so even if they break it it’s not a big loss.
  3. Lots of free public domain books. All the classics for free and most of their assigned reading from school.
  4. Lots of free book offers.
  5. They’ll grow smarter. Instead of playing video games or farming in Farmville they’ll be reading books – hopefully good ones.
  6. With the Kindle App Store beginning to open up they have some basic games too.
  7. The built-in dictionary and the text to speech feature both add a lot of value.

These add on to all the other benefits – books in 60 seconds, carry all your books with you, a serviceable browser, no heavy back-pack. 

Something worth adding here is that the combination of a few factors makes the Kindle especially suited for kids who struggle with reading – ability to change the font size, option to change line spacing and words per line, text to speech, all the classics for free, a focus on reading. For kids who get distracted or who have reading problems the Kindle is a pretty good option.

Consider this comment from Joan –

My 12 year old daughter has my old Kindle 1, and because she has an eye sight problem, this is ideal for her.

She has it on the largest font size. She has been reading the Sisters Grimm books and loves them. She has never shown an interest in reading before this! This is such a good thing!

There are probably lots of kids who have ‘never shown an interest in reading’ because they had genuine reading struggles that weren’t being addressed.

The cons –

  1. They’ll probably be lost when their peers are talking about StarCraft and Farmville and Justin Beiber and Gossip Girl and other things young kids these days entertain themselves with.
  2. It is quite breakable and they might also lose it.
  3. No parental controls.
  4. The browser can also lead to bad sites.
  5. No password protection for purchases so you can’t exactly regulate buying unless you de-register the Kindle or remove your credit card information.
  6. The selection of children’s books is, to the best of my knowledge, a bit limited.
  7. Will the no-frills Kindle hold their attention as well as a mind-sapping flashy game console?
  8. Not many textbooks are available on the Kindle. English reading assignments – Yes. Textbooks – No.

Add on the other negatives – no library books so one source of free books is gone, eInk is still in its initial stages, new books are expensive.

What are parents saying about their kids’ experiences with the Kindle?

Mostly positive things and surprisingly positive things.

Lots of comments at this kindle forum thread on kindle for kids –

My nine year old daughter “inherited” my K2i and LOVES IT! She’s been extremely careful with it, and reads every night. ; ) HTH

I have a 10 year old boy who likes the K2. He likes it better than books. He likes to read and reads at about his grade level. We don’t find a lot of content at his level that is inexpensive, though. $9.99 a pop adds up. Some of the old classics are free or $0.99.

My 9 yr old daughter inherited my K1 and loves it. She has been an avid
reader since age 4. She is very responsible and we enjoy reading our Kindles together. My 7 yr old daughter is now asking for her own.

I got my then 12 yo daughter a kindle 1 2 christmas’s ago…and haven’t regretted for a second! She reads constantly, …

In some ways it’s a good way to teach kids to be responsible –

My K2 went to my son (almost 10) and daughter (7). My daughter uses it more than my son and she takes super good care of it.

I  have read other posts about children and Kindles and it seems that if the child is careful with it that it can work well.

It’s surprising to see so many replies (there are 56 comments). Hadn’t realized so many people are giving their kids Kindles and are seeing good results.

Follett’s Fall of Giants falls to a 2 star review rating

Regardless of whether you think it’s right or wrong you have to be impressed by this –

Check out the customer reviews for Follett’s latest “Fall of Giants.” Kindle pricing seems to have struck a collective nerve

2 star rating. 136 1 star reviews.

Plus you have to acknowledge that it is probably having an effect –

Were I to be browsing, looking for books, I would have passed this book by because it has a 2 star rating.

A few people are arguing that it’s still in the Kindle Store Top 10. Well, almost every big author release hits the Top 10 when it comes out and there are lots of die-hard fans that will buy it at $19.99. However, there are lots of people who will not buy it at $19.99 and lots of people who will not buy it because of the 2 star review rating.

Plus those reviews NEVER go away. 1 year from now people will just assume the book is terrible.

Do we really expect people to look at 1 star reviews and figure out the bad reviews are due to Kindle pricing?

Why all the 1 star reviews?

Because the ebook is priced at $19.99. Not $12.99 or $14.99 or even $17.99. It’s a gigantic $19.99.

The hardcover (all 1,000 pages of it) is at $19.39. 

Pricing the ebook at $19.99, higher than the giant hardcover version, is just pushing things too far. At some point it changes from making money to abusing your readers and rubbing salt into their wounds.

To make things worse the price is lower in other countries –

Yes, it’s only $9.99 plus $2 Whispernet charge for Australian customers too. I wonder why the US publisher priced it so high?

So Canada and Australia pay $9.99 but US readers are expected to pay $19.99.

$139 Kindle WiFi = Kindle for Kids?

The new Kindle WiFi comes in at the magical price of $139. The Press are focusing on the effect this will have on people who wouldn’t put up $259 for a dedicated eReader – their theory is that these people didn’t feel reading was worth $259 but will definitely feel its worth $139.

While the ‘reading isn’t worth $259’ people may or may not think reading is worth $139 there is an entire new demographic that will get access to the Kindle WiFi due to its low price – kids.

Kindle WiFi might be the Kindle for Kids

Let’s consider a few scenarios –

  1. You want to get your child to read more. We live in a world where nothing can be proved so we can never prove reading makes children smarter or it improves their grades or it’s a better use of their time than video games. Let’s assume that you think it’s a possibility and want to get your daughter/son to read more – How would you do it?
  2. You’re trying to find a good diversion for your 7-year-old daughter. You have toys and TV and DVDs and games and you can take her to the park but there’s still something missing. What would she enjoy? What would be good for her?
  3. You’re deciding on a birthday gift for your grandson. You’re thinking something around $100 and perhaps it’s an iPod and perhaps it’s something else.  
  4. You’re buying textbooks for your kid and complaining about the prices and weight. You wish the prices were cheaper and your kid didn’t have to carry all the heavy books everywhere.
  5. A school is figuring out its textbook budget. They feel they’re trapped by the textbook companies and ever-changing textbooks and they too are tired of seeing their kids carrying around 25 pounds of textbooks.

We had the Kindle but it was at $259. That’s too expensive for schools’ budgets and too expensive a present for most people. It’s also something you worry about a kid breaking.

The $139 Kindle WiFi solves a lot of that. It’s still breakable – However, $139 isn’t as big a loss and you can definitely trust older kids and more responsible kids with it. At $139 it’s not that far away from $100 and many more people will be buying it as a gift. If it gets your kid into reading it’s priceless. It’s thin and light and easy for kids to carry and use.

You could buy your kid $60 worth of books or a $110 iPod as a gift or you could get her a Kindle WiFi.

Kindle WiFi goes perfectly with Free Books

Lots and lots of what kids read or are asked to read at school fall under the classics umbrella – these are public domain books and we’re spending $20 to $50 a year (perhaps more) buying them.

Get a Kindle WiFi and you get access to 1.8 million public domain books for free. You get 20-40 free book offers a month. You really don’t have to buy your kids many books. There’s a giant heap of books already available for free.

Kindle WiFi can help eliminate the Textbook Mafia

States like California were considering Kindles when they were $259. Now, at $139, the Kindle WiFi is almost irresistable.

We have initiatives for free and cheap textbooks – However, you had to read them on laptops or PCs. Those are neither suitable for reading text nor are they cheap. At $139 the Kindle WiFi is perfect for reading textbooks.

There’ll obviously be people who’ll complain there’s no color and it isn’t as interesting as flying livers singing out their chemical constitution.

Well, do we want to entertain our kids or do we want to educate them?

Besides all the devices with color screens are far too expensive and not focused on reading.

$139 is a magical price point – Kindle WiFi is almost perfect for kids

It’s a mystery why Amazon isn’t targeting kids when there are so many good reasons to –

  1. Parents would much rather buy constructive entertainment devices than video game consoles. Plus kids can use Kindle WiFi for school.
  2. You replace expensive textbooks with cheap Kindles and cheap textbooks.  
  3. No more heavy backpacks.
  4. You inculcate a love of reading at a young age.  
  5. The education market is dying for exactly such a product. At $139 the Kindle WiFi is perfect given the financial environment and the tough budget restrictions schools now have.
  6. Lots of kids who have trouble with reading can benefit from the larger font options and the text to speech.  
  7. The Kindle WiFi can connect to the Internet using school’s WiFi networks. When the Kindle App Store opens we might get apps made specifically for kids.

The one thing Amazon has done that’s great is family sharing of Kindle books. Kids’ Kindle WiFis add on to their parents’ Kindle 3s. The entire family can share books (well, the ones that are safe for kids). You can have multiple family members reading the same book at the same time.

It’s an opportunity just waiting to be taken advantage of – the $139 Kindle WiFi is a near-perfect reading device for kids.