Kindle Fire & Kindle Odds & Ends

A mixed bag of Kindle Fire and Kindle items today.

Qualcomm showing off 2560 by 1440 Mirasol Display (reflects ambient light)

Qualcomm’s Mirasol Display was supposed to be used in a Color Kindle way back in 2011. Well, there was no Color Kindle so there was no Mirasol color eReader eInk. The last we heard was that Mirasol had gotten a $2 billion investment to set up a manufacturing facility. No news after that.

Now, it seems Qualcomm is trying other things. Engadget covers Qualcomm Mirasol 2,560 by 1,440 displays demoed at SID Display Week (They have a video).

  1. It’s a 5.1″ smartphone display.
  2. The resolution is 2560 by 1440. That gives an effective pixel density of 577 pixels per inch. For reference, 27″ displays with 2560 by 1440 resolution are considered QuadHD. I’m not sure what to think about a 5.1″ display that has 2560 by 1440 screen resolution.
  3. This is the same magical Mirasol Display which reflects nearby ambient light. It’s great for devices that want to use less power and/or for eReaders.
  4. The actual technology is still a few years away from being ready for market. Qualcomm, that does not surprise anyone. You seem masters of demoing technology that is ‘still a few years away from being ready for market’.
  5. Qualcomm also demo’ed a 1.5″ screen used in an always-on smartwatch. That actually sounds more interesting.

Eletronista also has some coverage and Qualcomm Mirasol photos.

Kindle Worlds – Amazon starts a Fan Fiction initiative

Amazon has stumbled upon what is either a brilliant idea or a disastrous one – let people make money from fan fiction, officially.

Geekwire has some details on Amazon’s Kindle Worlds initiative. You can write fan fiction about established books and series. You get a cut. The royalty owner gets a cut. Amazon gets a cut.

Some Warner Brothers properties like Pretty Little Liars are already available to fan fictionize.

Here’s what Amazon says -

You will own the copyright to the original, copyrightable elements (such as characters, scenes, and events) that you create and include in your work, and the World Licensor will retain the copyright to all the original elements of the World. When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story. This means that your story and all the new elements must stay within the applicable World. We will allow Kindle Worlds authors to build on each other’s ideas and elements. We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.

If I’m reading this correctly, it would have meant that Stepahnie Meyer could start writing 50 Shades of Grey titles without having to pay the 50 Shades of Grey author anything.

Amazon says it will pay a royalty of 35 percent of revenue for accepted fan fiction of at least 10,000 words. Shorter pieces (5,000 to 10,000 words) will receive a 20 percent royalty. The company says it expects most of the “Kindle Worlds” fan fiction titles to sell for 99 cents to $3.99.

As it’s Amazon, an ‘exclusivity’ clause is also included.

Jealous, overprotective girlfriend/boyfriend on steroids.

Did we forget controlling?

Amazon Publishing will set the price.

Overall, it’s a very interesting move.

Amazon seems very focused on a few elements when it comes to books and content - creating new content sources that it owns, maintaining control over pricing, creating exclusive agreements.

It’s interesting. It’s almost as if Amazon thinks it can control a market into existence. A perfect market where customers behave perfectly and everything goes according to plan. You know what they say about plans – If you want God to laugh, show him your plans.

Penguin Pays Up $75 million for Agency Model Case, Only Apple left standing now

Penguin’s settlement with the DOJ means Penguin has to pay $75 million. This leaves Apple as the last company standing out of the Agency Model Cartel.

It’s quite interesting that -

  1. None of the Publishers are left.
  2. Apple still refuses to settle.
  3. DOJ is painting Apple as the instigator of the Agency Model.

Apple is also under fire for its elaborate tax avoidance schemes (avoidance = legal; evasion  = illegal). This includes gems like – paying less in taxes than it reports as ‘Taxes’ in its annual reports, a cash routing scheme so elaborate that economists are calling it ‘unbelievable chutzpah’, no one being sure of how Apple pays just 2% tax in Ireland when the official rate is an already low 13%.

At some level, it seems Apple has become so big and successful that everyone is going after it. Whether it’s Microsoft in the past or Apple now, you have to wonder – Are they being punished for their actual misdeeds, or just because they got too good and too successful.

The Tax Avoidance case is just avoidance and completely legal. The only cost will be some amount of PR. Until the law changes companies like Apple and Google and pretty much every big company will keep on ‘avoiding’ taxes.

The Agency Model case would perhaps be a few hundred million dollars. That’s less than Apple makes in profits in a day.

Amazon stops selling Kindle Keyboard

Thanks to a blog reader for pointing this out. I forget who (remind me if you’d like a mention).

Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle WiFi (just Kindle) are the only eInk Kindles available to buy now.

Kindle 3 was the favorite Kindle for a lot of people. Hopefully it’s only been removed to be replaced by something else.

Kindle 3 really was the best eReader ever made. It’s sad to see it gone.

Why are so many companies investing in Nook Media (B&N’s Nook spin-off)?

The news that Pearson just invested $89.5 million in Nook Media, giving Nook Media a $1.8 billion valuation (more than B&N itself), means that we now have -

  1. Microsoft having invested $300 million for a 18% stake in Nook Media. It has also promised $300 million more.
  2. Pearson having invested $89.5 million for a 5% stake in Nook Media.

Here is Pearson’s official announcement of its investment in Nook Media. An interesting snippet -

Pearson will invest $89.5 million in cash in NOOK Media, gaining a five per cent equity stake. Following the transaction, Barnes & Noble will own approximately 78.2 percent of NOOK Media and Microsoft will own approximately 16.8 percent. Subject to certain conditions, Pearson will earn the option to purchase up to an additional five percent ownership in NOOK Media.

Pearson’s strategic investment in NOOK Media will help accelerate customer access to digital content by pairing the company’s leading expertise in online learning with NOOK Media’s expertise in online distribution and customer service.

There are two very interesting things here:

  1. Microsoft and Pearson have both invested in Nook Media at a very high valuation. They have both added in provisions to invest more.
  2. Nook Media gets $389.5 million now and another $300 million from Microsoft in future (surely, there must be conditions) and some undisclosed sum from Pearson in future if Pearson decides to get another 5% stake.

Suddenly Nook Media is a $1.8 billion valued company with $389.5 million cash. That’s stunning if you consider that -

  1. ALL of Barnes and Noble currently has a market valuation of $883 million.
  2. B&N just announced that Nook Holiday Sales have been below par and it’s not going to meet its projections for Nook Sales for 2012.

It all makes you wonder.

Why are so many companies investing in Nook Media?

There are a few reasons -

  1. Amazon. Amazon looms over all of books as a very, very dangerous adversary. Sooner or later we are going to see Publishers start to team up against it much more obviously. First, they used Apple and the Agency Model. Now, it’s going to be Nook and some new strategy.
  2. Nook Media actually has a good chance of doing well. It’s almost like a recurring revenue business with high up-front costs and relatively lower costs down the line. Customers that B&N has on Nook are going to stay with B&N until and unless something markedly better comes up.
  3. Transition. The Dinosaurs are figuring out that they have to transition. How do they transition? First, they invest in companies that will let them invest. Second, they start making their own companies. Third, they figure out which works better.
  4. B&N customer base. This might come as a surprise to some people – B&N customers will pick Nook if all other things are equal or close. Time after time we see Amazon customers and B&N customers disregard lots of flaws in the devices and in the closed garden. Why? Because there is trust and a relationship built over years (sometimes over decades).
  5. Nooks are very good devices in physical device terms. B&N tends to ship devices before the software is polished. This time, with Nook HD and Nook HD+, it really stretched things to an extreme – amazing hardware, alpha-level software. If B&N figures out how to make great software for Nooks right from launch (and it’s a big IF) then Nook Media has a bright future.
  6. B&N is still a player in the Tablet Market and it’s still a strong player in the Reading Tablet market.
  7. What other option do companies like Microsoft and Pearson have? Will Apple take an investment? Will Amazon take an investment? Will Google take an investment? What’s left?
  8. B&N Stores. B&N has very good retail footprint. It’s safe to assume Nook Media will enjoy a special relationship with the 700+ B&N Retail Stores and the 660+ B&N College Bookstores.

We are going to see a LOT more of this.

We have the Big Six Publishers merging with each other. We have Publishers and Companies investing in Nook and colluding with Apple.

It might be 4 years too late. But Publishers are finally waking up to the fact that Amazon wants the ENTIRE cake for itself. Perhaps it’s not too late. Perhaps there’s still time to prevent the New Gatekeeper from destroying the Old Gatekeepers.

Thoughts on Kindle Free Time Unlimited & A Story (Treason & Daughters)

Kindle Free Time Unlimited – What is Kindle Free Time Unlimited?

It’s a new subscription service for kids aged 3 to 8 years you can get on your Kindle Fire HD or Kindle Fire 2 which sounds pretty promising -

Amazon today introduced Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, bringing together for the first time all of the types of content kids and parents lovebooks, games, educational apps, movies and TV showsinto one simple, unlimited, easy-to-use service for kids ages 3-8.

For a special monthly price of just $2.99 per child or $6.99 for the whole family, Prime members get unlimited access to thousands of popular kids titles.

Customers who are not yet Prime members can sign up for FreeTime Unlimited for a monthly price of $4.99 per child or $9.99 per family.

The key data points -

  1. Prime Members can pay $2.99 per child or $6.99 for the whole family to get unlimited access to thousands of popular kids titles.
  2. Non-Prime Members can pay $4.99 per child or $9.99 per family.
  3. Available on the Kindle Fire 2, Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9″.
  4. [Assumption] No mention of the Kindle Fire 1 suggests that this is not available for Kindle Fire 1 owners.
  5. Characters included are – Elmo, Dora, Thomas & Friends, Cinderella, Buzz Lightyear, Lightning McQueen, Curious George.
  6. Individual Profiles for the Kids.
  7. All apps have in-app payments, advertisements and social media removed. This makes me happy. No more finding out your kid bought 5,000 Purple Cows for $10,000 from the ‘free’ app.
  8. All content is pre-screened to be age-appropriate.

My initial thoughts -

  1. B&N and Amazon are both going after the Parents with Young Kids demographic heavily.
  2. The idea of ‘All You Can Eat’ is something Amazon is pushing very, very hard. To be honest, I think this is the only way to avoid the race to zero of all digital content. The other monetization option is in-app purchases but it devolves very quickly into buying blue flamingos and breeding baby dinosaurs in a Skinner Box.
  3. Disney is including Where’s My Water and Where’s My Perry. These are two bestselling Apps. You have to wonder how much Amazon paid and whether Disney sees this as the future of apps. I certainly do – It’ll be a choice of having ‘Subscription services’ pay you a large (or small) fee to include your app or a shift to freemium or in-app purchases. Nothing else seems viable right now. For Example: The Top Paid App in Apple’s Store is usually the only Paid App in the Top 30 Top Grossing Apps. The shift has already happened in apps to In-App Purchases. For books and other media content the shift to subscriptions or in-app purchases is probably going to happen over the next 3-6 years.
  4. Apps include Cut the Rope and Fruit Ninja Puss in Boots.
  5. Movies from Barney, Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam.
  6. TV shows like Sesame Street, Spongebob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer, Rugrats, Arthur, and Garfield.
  7. It must have taken a LOT of work to get this done.
  8. What is Apple going to do to counter? B&N and Amazon with their cheap devices and kids’ profiles features and now Amazon with this FreeTime Unlimited service are really, really going after the Kids. And if Apple loses the kids then they will have a generation grow up that doesn’t realize just how amazingly cool and necessary to impress Apple devices are.

Have to think more about this. Why are B&N and Amazon going so, so hard after this demographic. There have been articles talking about how Apple gave free computers to kids and then used the iPod to establish itself amongst younger people as the ‘IT’ company. Are B&N and Amazon doing something similar, albeit using the Parents as the medium to get to Kids?

Finally, a short story.

Treason & Daughters

The General stood at the heart of the command center of his spaceship and looked out at the Greenish Grey planet. The end of the 100 Years War was at hand. A day the Federation never thought would arrive. The General had promised them an end to the War and he was about to deliver.

The doors of the command center opened as a series of small alerts went off. The General’s team turned to look as a special division of the Federation Government’s Task Force walked in. Leading them was the Vice Consul. He walked right up to the General – smug as only a man who has never done an honest day’s work in his life can be.

“The Federation President orders you to stop.”

A wave of pure disbelief ran through the General. It took everything in him to hold back from punching the man in the face. When the General finally spoke, his words were cold and restrained.

“What on Earth are you talking about, Vice Counsel. We are going to end the 100 Years War once and for all. What do you mean, Stop?”

The Vice Counsel smiled and took out a small metallic square. He flipped open a side of it and an image of the Federation President appeared. It was all in real-time.

“General Hogarth, we have just struck a ceasefire with the Kretorics. We are confident we can bring about a peaceful end to the 100 Years War. Your contributions were pivotal and we are forever in your debt. Now it is time to let the Federation Government take over.”

The General looked at the holograph of the Federation President and struggled to control his emotions.

“President, the Kretorics have killed billions of humans over the last 3,700 years. We have our boots on their throats. We can end everything now. Why strike a ceasefire?”

Even as he said it, the General knew the answer. The Federation President’s cowardice was being interpreted as restraint by the rest of the Universe. As humans across the inhabited galaxies were dying, the Federation President’s chances of becoming a member of the all-powerful Et Al Ses Sharin (Confederation of Races and Galaxies) were being cemented.

After 3,700 years and billions of human deaths, one man’s ambition was going to let the Kretorics get away with it. Let them regroup and restart their wars against humans in a few decades.

The General reached over and flipped shut the metal square. The Vice Envoy had just begun to reach for his gun when the General’s First Mate shot him in the head. The Task Force members froze. They were outnumbered. One of them spoke, not quite sure if the Federation Government’s far-reaching powers extended to the inside of this spaceship.

“You will all be hanged for this. You can’t refuse a direct order from the Federation President.”

The General turned to the Greenish Grey planet and looked at it again. His father had died 37 years ago – he had rammed his space cruiser into a Kretorics space station. His twin brother was assassinated 12 months ago by a Kretoric shapeshifter. Most of the General’s planet had been burnt to the ground. The General had been chosen from amongst 137 billion humans to lead the war effort. He represented all humans. They were his people. He was their General. The Et Al Ses Sharin might control the Federation but they did not speak for the human race.

How many more of his people would die if he didn’t stop things now?

He looked at his positioning team and nodded.

*****

The General walked off the spaceship to the cheering of endless crowds. There must have been a few hundred thousand people. He walked as proud and as straight as he had ever walked. He had ended the War for his people. His people. He fought back the tears as the shouts got louder and louder. They understood. They understood. He had given his whole life to defend these people and for the first time he realized that they understood. The tears streamed down his face as he walked straight and proud – the people’s General.

As he walked towards the crowd he recognized the Federation President standing amongst a group of the Elite Guard. The President and his group walked up to meet him. The President leaned in and spoke.

“I’ll see to it that you hang for this treason, General Hogarth.”

The General walked on. His wife and daughter were waiting for him at the edge of the crowd. From the corner of his eye he saw the Task Forces that were converging towards him. He knelt down in front of his daughter and hugged her. As the first Task Force closed in he bid his daughter goodbye.

“There are our people Alice. We are them and they are us. Don’t believe anything the Federation says. I did it for them and for you.”

Quidditch World Cup – District 12 vs. Hogwarts

On Friday, Amazon.com announced that the Hunger Games trilogy has eclipsed the Harry Potter books, taking into consideration print and Kindle book sales combined, to become the best selling series at their online store.

The Boy Who Lived vs. The Girl Who Volunteered

Kate Sullivan from the NY Daily News stated in her article that “the numbers include print and eBook sales, making this achievement all the more notable, as it has taken [Suzanne] Collins’ series only four years and three books to achieve land in the first spot for Amazon, as opposed to fifteen years and seven books for Rowling’s the Boy Who Lived.”

“Since debuting in 2008, Katniss Everdeen and the Hunger Games have taken the world by storm, much as Harry Potter did a decade before,” said Sara Nelson, the editorial director of books and Kindle at Amazon, which is the largest bookseller in the United States.

“Interestingly, this series is only three books versus Harry Potter’s seven, and to achieve this result in just four years is a great testament to both the popularity of the work and, we think, the growth in reading digitally during that time,” she said.

The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth – Or So I Think

To be fair, the Harry Potter series has only been available as e-books for the last 5 months. Amazon’s assessment should have been based on sales excluding e-book sales. Especially when you consider that Amazon doesn’t even sell the Potter e-books. To acquire them you are redirected to Pottermore, JK Rowling’s website, to purchase the e-books. The exclusion of e-book sales would have provided a more effective evaluation on the comparative sales and placement of these two series.

What Do You Mean You Haven’t Read Them?

Both series are wonderful, exciting and suspenseful. If you haven’t read these, you really should. If you really don’t want too, consider gifting them to someone you love. A friend of mine gifted me with the Harry Potter series and I will be forever grateful to her.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Price: $18.99.

The Complete Harry Potter Collection by J.K. Rowling. Price: $57.54.

Resources:
Amazon Press Release
NYDailyNews.com

Update on eReaders & eBooks in the UK

Courtesy The Bookseller we get a lot of interesting updates about what’s going on with eReaders and eBooks in the UK. You can click on the link and the main page links to stories covering every storyline discussed in this post.

UK Publishers & Libraries struggle over eBook Lending

The key details -

  1. Libraries are asking Publishers to allow ’1 ebook, 1 loan’ lending like OverDrive enables in the US. Assuming this means that a library that buys two copies of an ebook would be able to make two loans in parallel - And then the number of loans over time would be unlimited.
  2. Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Faber, and Quercus are among Publishers declining to agree. Penguin and Lonely Planet have agreed. HarperCollins has agreed but is considering imposing a 26 loan limit (same as what Harper Collins US has done in the US).
  3. The Society of Chief Librarians has said that Publishers’ baseline position on library ebook lending is of very limited practical use for readers using libraries.
  4. OverDrive declined to comment on whether Amazon-OverDrive library book lending would be coming to the UK.

It’s interesting how badly libraries are being treated by everyone (especially the Government) in the UK.

Penguin’s eBook Sales double in Q1, 2011

Penguin saw its Q1 ebook sales in 2011 double from the year-ago quarter. Its CEO is predicting that eBooks will make up 4% of Penguin sales in 2011 (up from 1% in 2010). Didn’t know ebooks were such a tiny part of the market in the UK (1% is almost meaningless).

Misleading Headlines about the iPad and Books

This is strange.

  1. Simba Information did a survey and everyone’s reporting the same headline – iPad users may not become book readers.
  2. How interesting. Until you read the actual statistics – 40% of iPad owners have not read a book on it. Why on Earth would Simba Information not focus on the fact that 60% of people who own an iPad have read books on the iPad?
  3. It reminds us of the time when Steve Jobs made his famous ‘no one reads any more’ comment – 40% of people in the US did not read a single book last year. Like lemmings the entire Press jumped on ‘how no one reads any more, 40% did not read’ instead of realizing that 60% of people do read books. Perhaps Steve Jobs trained them so well that they still haven’t realized 60% is more than 40%.

Another interesting finding – Women outnumbered men as ebook buyers. You can buy the entire report for $3,250 at the Simba Information website. Of course, that will only get you an online download. If you also want a hardcopy, you have to shell out $600 more. Such a Publisher thing to do.

Agents expect Escalators in eBook Contracts to become the norm

Lots of juicy details from the UK (good news for authors everywhere) -

  1. Agents have already negotiated escalators into some eBook contracts.
  2. Escalator = Royalty Rate changes based on the level of sales.
  3. Agents think it’s one way for Publishers to compete effectively against upstart digital publishers.
  4. Agents don’t expect the current ’25% of net receipts for authors’ ebook contracts to survive much longer.
  5. Apparently, the Big 4 Publishers in the UK (whoever they are) are not yet including escalators. Agents are confident that despite the ups and downs escalators are bound to appear.

Publishers, not surprisingly, declined to comment.

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