December 15th, 2011

Amazon's lending library

No, I'm not talking about the thing with Overdrive. I'm writing about this:

"The Kindle Owners' Lending Library allows eligible U. S. Amazon Prime members who own Kindle devices to choose from thousands of books to borrow for free -- including more than 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers -- as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates."

There's been some coverage of this. The Big 6, afaik, are not participating, and I believe the Authors' Guild and others have specifically come out against it (but it's possible I've confused more than one Amazon thing -- Turow/the Authors' Guild has a real I'm against it thing going on when it comes to Amazon). Rich Adin has a column out on the topic, which I stumbled across over on The Digital Reader. I like reading Nate Hoffelder, even when I don't agree with him. Not so with things that show up on his blog written by other people.

The post had one merit: it reminded me to blog about a particularly nefarious aspect of the program which commentators thus far appear blissfully unaware of. Most definitions of heavy user (<-- not their term) for book purchaser research purposes come down to a dozen books a year/a book a month. Sometimes it's ten books a year. It's a number that I'm not likely to forget, because every single time I run across it, my head explodes. It's sort of like whenever I run across the 50-books-a-year people and realize that's a _minimum_ goal, not a _maximum_ goal. (When I say I have a book problem, and call books my substance of choice, I am not joking.)

Can it be an accident that the Kindle upper limit is the same number?

When people comment about exclusivity issues with the lending library, they should be worried less about exclusivity rules on the authors. They should be a lot more worried about what happens when someone soaks up all the "purchasing" that frequent book purchasers do by Giving It Away for Free. The invisible, implicit rules are often the important ones.

ETA: Surveyors are starting to figure out that there's a smaller group of people who buy way more than the subgroups they had previously focused on.

That's at the book-a-week level.

book club editions

I've been thinking of the kindle owners lending library as a book club deal. As such, I'm avoiding it (because I've had really bad luck with books I read as a result of participating in a book club deal -- they seem to be books I've been meaning to read but not getting around to, and getting around to reading them turns out to be a truly awful idea, which is also why I don't stress too much about a to-be-read pile, virtual or otherwise, burying, permanently, some of itself). I asked myself, Self, what kind of compensation did author's _get_ from book club editions? The ones I've talked to always seemed pissed off after their publisher got one or more of their books out as a book club edition. Not right away. But later.

Portions of _The writer's legal companion_ are available through google books. From page 312 in Appendix C, section "I" of the contract:

"The Publisher may permit others to publish ... book club ... editions...The net amount of any compensation received from such use shall be divided equally between the Publisher and the Author." (There's a lot more in that paragraph. Next paragraph, same section "I") "The Publisher may authorize such use by others without compensation, if, in the Publisher's judgment, such use may benefit the sale of the work. ... On copies of the work sold through the Publisher's book club divisions or institutes ... the Publisher shall pay to the Author a royalty of 5% of the cash received from such sales. If the Publisher sells any stock of the work at a price below the manufacturing costs of the book plus royalties, no royalties shall be paid."

I have a bunch of phrases that I pull out when assessing the merits of an argument. One of these phrases is, "Compared To What?" I find it shines a Bright, if Cynical, Light on a lot of foolishness that otherwise seems plausible but suspicious.

ETA: Here is Joe Wikert complaining about the kindle owners lending library terms for authors and publishers.

ETAYA: Here is coverage of the Author's Guild on the subject:

Point 2: "Ask your publisher why your book is in the program. The publisher may be using the program to introduce your books to Amazon Prime customers with the hope that they’ll then come back to buy your other titles. Other publishers may be seeking to give some life to quiescent titles. Once you’ve heard your publisher’s rationale (it may be well considered and in your favor), you’ll have to decide whether you’d like your book to remain in the program." Not if the contract is written like the one I quoted above. _Publisher_ reserved the right to decide -- not the author.

This is a tricky situation, tho, because as far reaching as contracts are, I don't think they've ever imagined a situation quite like this one.

Why would anyone even think about doing _that_?

As near as I can tell, the author is suggesting that you should not get Amazon Prime and/or a kindle _device_ (as opposed to a free app for a computer or mobile device) primarily for the purpose of taking advantage of the kindle owner's lending library.

Words fail. Okay, this is me. I have a few anyway.

I got Amazon Prime because I was spending more than the annual fee in a lot less than 12 months on shipping anyway (not _everything_ was available via Super Saver and besides, I'm just not that patient). On some very basic level, I feel like getting Prime for any reason other than that is silly. On the other hand, I buy a lot fewer p-books from Amazon compared to when I started Prime. At this point, Prime is self-justifying because it has caused me to switch from purchasing in person and/or on some other site to purchasing from Amazon, unless it's _really_ not available (or a substitute) from Amazon. Research suggests Prime does this to everyone (straight talk version: Prime is addictive). This is probably a solid argument for not getting Prime, for any reason whatsoever; it's classic distortion of what you would otherwise do, to a specific party's benefit (straight talk version: that would be to the _dealer's_ benefit. Junkie feels like it benefits her, but that's arguable).

Should you get Prime? Probably not. But if you should get Prime, fuck _no_ you shouldn't get it so you can borrow books through the kindle owner's lending library. Should you buy a kindle e-ink reader or a kfire? Heck if I know. But you should _definitely_ not buy one primarily to borrow books through the kindle owner's lending library.

Who would even _think_ of that? Altho the fact that people who think that way even exist is a testament to why Bezos and Amazon's marketing department are way, way better at this than I could even conceive of becoming.

Sick Family Update, Still More

At least it's just respiratory stuff now.

Both the kids have colds. And we got standby slots for physicals for both of them this week, which is a sign that everyone else has colds, too. I am apparently a rare parent in that I've got a rule: Never Cancel a Well-Child Checkup Just Because They Are Sick. I spread the shots out anyway, so what does it matter? And if they're really sick, I've got an appointment all set up and ready to go.

Anyway. A.'s visit resulted in a DTaP shot, which led to a fever which meant she spent two days (Tues/Weds) home sick. T. caught A.'s cold. On Wednesday, he had a physical (no shots -- he's all caught up), but today, they sent him home early because when he gets colds, it sets off his airway issues. Also, it's heating season and the air is dry and _that_ really makes him cough. Despite having been seen by a doctor less than 24 hours previously, the school nurse was still pressuring us to take him in again. Not gonna happen; we're very used to this.

My new plan is simple: school environment a problem? Fix the environment. We've got a request out to the doctor to produce a prescription for less-dry air, which we will propose to fulfill by supplying humidifiers to the two rooms at the school he spends most of his time in. They'll probably go along with this (if I were them, I'd request a cash supplement for the power, but for whatever reason, no one ever seems to think to ask for that kind of thing); we already asked them to put in full spectrum bulbs into one of the rooms because it _has no windows_ (we supplied the bulbs and yes, they are compact fluorescent). This, however, will take a little while to implement and he will still be coughing tomorrow so I'm just going to keep him home. We'll run errands and hang out and play tablet games. Might even be fun.

What is the market for tablets?

Look! A use for Math!

4 million children are born every year in the US. About.
Half of all children are in depressingly poor families.

18 years of children (people are probably still buying crap for their 19 year olds, at least at a rate to make up for the people who don't buy tablets for sub 2 year olds)

multiplied by

2 million (half of 4 million)


36 million tablets.

That's the _kid_ market for tablets. If Amazon is truly moving about a million kFires a week, and BKS is moving, say, a quarter of a million Nook Colors a week, and some number of children already have iPads and/or will get them out of the million iPads a week that Apple moves, then every kid in the US that isn't poor (that is to say, half of the kids in the US) will have their own tablet by some time in the second half of 2012.

If it all went to kids. Which it is not, not by a long shot.

What fraction of the cheap tablet market is going to kids? Hmmm. A quickie review of the devices I have bought for friends and family produces a fraction under three quarters, but more than half.

I wonder if I believe this result. What are the implications of living in a world in which it isn't weird for ten year olds to have a tablet in the pocket of their jacket? Is the man-bag about to acquire a juvenile equivalent? A boy bag? Will the fanny pack become cool? Hmmmm...

Could be adorable. A sample on Etsy for the younger end of the range: