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A spine-chilling tale of a girl imprisoned for more than a century, and the terrifying events that put her there… The Girl in The Locked Room: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn

Her long-lost friend begs her to prove his innocence. But what if he’s a killer? The Fractured Man by Lisa M. Lilly

When Piper Townsend fell to her death twelve years ago, she took Trey’s secrets with her. He’s never trusted another woman. Until now… USA Today bestselling author Allie Boniface’s FINDING YOU

Annie must decide: Is another shot at happiness worth the risk? Camille Pagán’s ingeniously witty novel: This Won’t End Well

Grow your business with this definitive guide to driving growth and success: Marketing For Entrepreneurs and Small to Medium Businesses by Kelly A. Mahoney

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A time travel mystery adventure with modern twists: The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis

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Titus uncovers a plot to attack the nation’s capital with chemical weapons… Don’t miss Three Weeks in Washington: A Titus Ray Thriller by Luana Ehrlich

Lucie is thrown into a criminal conspiracy straight out of a gangster movie. If she isn’t careful, she could end up… sleeping with the fishes! Dog Collar Crime by Adrienne Giordano

Have you ever wished for a “How To” book on life? Wisdom Speaks: Life Lessons From Proverbs by Tim Riordan

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Can You Say e-Book Empire? The Kindle, Stanza, and Fair Trade

Amazon Acquires e-Book Competitor Stanza’s Parent, Third-Party Vendor Seeks an M-Edge with Kindle Ads in Apple’s Subways, and the Net Whispers its Fears About World Domination

The Bottom Line: Is Kindle Content Coming to Your Computer?

In the April Kindle Nation survey, in the course of asking participants about other issues (DRM, text-to-speech, and the pricing of Kindle editions), I decided to raise another issue as quietly as possible: did respondents identify with the statement “I am concerned that Amazon may be developing a monopoly over digital books.” 129 respondents checked the box — 10.5% of the total. Enough to notice, but fewer than a third of the numbers that expressed concern about DRM, TTS, and the $9.99 controversy.

But sometimes real economic events influence public sentiment. It turns out Amazon may be serious about this Kindle thing. You heard it here first — a year ago in my guide for the Kindle 1 — that Amazon would make Kindle content available on other mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPod touch. Perhaps you didn’t pay too much heed when I wrote in the March 23 issue of Kindle nation that “Within months … Kindle books will be available on netbooks, iTouchTablets, Blackberrys, Macs, and PCs.”

Events are moving quickly now. Last night, while Blackberry owners were dreaming about when Kindle content would make it around to them, we learned that Amazon has purchased a tiny year-old company called Lexcycle that owns the free Stanza e-book platform that has been downloaded by at least 1.3 million readers worldwide.

There’s plenty to sort out here. Just for starters:

  • Unless Amazon’s purchase of Lexcycle is a draconian move aimed only at taking Stanza out of play as a competitor, the fundamental (if not, probably, first) order of business for these unequal but newly married partners will be to make Stanza play nice with Kindle content
  • Stanza can be downloaded to just about any Mac or PC, any desktop, laptop, notebook, or netbook, so it seems like a no-brainer that the Lexcycle acquisition should provide Amazon with the means to push Kindle content to every kind of computing device from the most to the least mobile
  • Stanza works alongside an app called Bonjour for the iPhone or iPod Touch, which has functionality similar to WhisperSync
  • Stanza also gives Amazon an interesting set of choices to make around DRM and open publishing platforms, since Stanza reads the EPUB format that has been widely promoted as a possible publishing industry standards

So why did I begin with that passing suggestion that some Kindle owners may be concerned about the potential for Amazon to monopolize or otherwise dominate the world of ebooks? It’s pretty simple, really. While only 10.5% of our survey respondents expressed the concern, it is a growing concern among authors, publishers, and — least surprisingly of all — Amazon’s book retailing competition.

Amazon would probably love it if every one of its Kindle content and accessory partners took the approach of M-Edge, which is paying for huge ads in the New York City subways promoting the Kindle, like the one at the right (photo credit to Silicon Alley Insider). But some of us actually expect our relationship with Amazon to be a two-way street.

Personally, I have been concerned lately that Amazon seems willing to offer its marketing power very unevenly to authors and publishers. For instance, Amazon’s “right” to simply ignore small indie publishers who want to participate in the same kind of promotions that Amazon routinely makes available to Random House or Harlequin may seem like a simple contract prerogative to Amazon staff, but it’s not that simple. The more vertical and horizontal power that Amazon has in the book marketplace, the more the mega-retailer may find itself in a position similar, at least conversely, to the position of Blockbuster Video, Borders Books, and large publishers and distributors when they were litigation targets in years past for tilting the playing field to which smaller, independent business “partners” had access.

On the other hand, it is also entirely possible that Amazon will realize that its increasing digital content hegemony will increase its exposure either to litigation or fair trade scrutiny and, in a funny contrarian way, will thus become a little less arrogant, and a little more willing and able to act in ways that promote a level playing field and continue to open creative and business opportunities for independent content providers. That scenario, in the long run, would also be the best for Kindle owners, other ebook readers, and readers in general as well as the various kinds of ink-stained wretches among us.

A Detailed Roadmap for Kindle 3, 4, 5, & Beyond: Touchscreen, Flexible Large-Form, Notepad, Color, & Voila: The Kindle Reader & Mobile Net Device


By Stephen Windwalker, publisher of Kindle Nation

CEO Jeff Bezos was characteristically coy, during Thursday’s Amazon earnings conference call, when he was asked if the company “might unleash the computing power of the Kindle” by adding features that could make the Kindle competitive with netbook computers: “We’re really focused on purpose-built reading devices. We wouldn’t talk anyway about what we’re going to do in the future.”

Amazon may be coy, but CEO Russ Wilcox of e-Ink, the Cambridge, MA company that manufactures the revolutionary display technology used by the Kindle and the Sony eReader, recently provided the Boston Globe‘s Robert Weisman with a detailed, forward-looking chronology in which he laid out exactly what features we can reasonably expect in the Kindle 3.0 and beyond during 2009, 2010, and 2011. Although Amazon has always (during the Kindle’s brief 17-month history) emphasized the Kindle’s primary purpose as an electronic reading device, the company has not been shy about including other features that could, if optimized and augmented over time, appeal to consumers with “convergence device” or “laptop replacement” on their minds. Follow the very detailed Wilcox roadmap and we are looking, within three years, at the Kindle 4 or 5 as “an ideal mobile internet device.”

Perhaps this seems speculative, you say? But think this through with me:

If the e-Ink technologies that Wilcox describes move from prototype to product on the timetable that he describes so specifically, wouldn’t Amazon be foolish not to adopt them for the Kindle? After all, while I have always been clear about my view that the Kindle hardware is a bit of a Trojan horse, a means to Amazon’s real end of maintaining and expanding its leading role as a content retailer as we transition toward more and more digital content, it is essential for Amazon to hold onto the Kindle’s hardware market position for at least the next half-decade if it is to continue to shape and set standards for the Kindle content market. The inherent business propositions are straightforward both for e-Ink and for Amazon: e-Ink would not be investing the R&D money if its most important customer were not interested in the features, and Amazon can’t afford to turn its back on hardware device features that will be adopted by hardware device competitors (even if those devices end up selling Kindle Store content, as I expect they will).

So, here’s what we have to look forward to:

2009 Kindle-Compatible TouchTablet

  • Although bloggers have been buzzing for months about a large-form Kindle (first in 2008, and then, when that didn’t happen, in 2009), most of this buzz has been self-feeding, and I admit that I’ll be happily surprised, but still surprised, if there is a large-form e-Ink Kindle display in 2009. Maybe he needed to be more reticent about events closer to launch date, but Wilcox didn’t even mention 2009. He was very specific in mentioning 2010 and 2011.
  • Much more likely: a large-form, backlit, energy-intensive, high-end Kindle-compatible iPod TouchTablet with a price point in the $599-$699 range.


2010 Kindle

  • All the features of the Kindle 2, plus
  • Touch Screen with display-based keyboard, character recognition, and handwriting stylus for annotation and other writing-intensive activities including email, notes, and scribbling
  • Faster refresh
  • Flexible large-form e-ink display for effective rendering of textbooks and newspapers

2011 Kindle

  • All of the above
  • Plus a full-color display for effective rendering of magazines, cookbooks, comic books and graphic novels

2012(?) “Kindle Ideal” Mobile Internet Device

  • All of the above
  • Plus a full-screen, full-featured, full-color, fast-refresh, fast-loading browser
  • Flexible so you can fold it up and carry it with no more weight or footprint than the Kindle 2
  • Low electricity usage so that it can go for days between battery charges
  • And, dare we dream that its wireless web connection would still be free?

Among other things, I can’t help but mention that if all this comes to pass, the dumbed-down Netbook phenomenon of 2009 will be so over by 2013.

Sometimes, I know, I get accused of shilling for Amazon, or being a Kindle bore, when I throw words like “amazing” and “revolutionary” at the Kindle. But it has been this vision of the Kindle’s future — implicit in nearly every word of the Russ Wilcox video below — that I have been imagining, and writing about explicitly — since the Kindle was launched in November 2007.

Here is the Wilcox video:


That’s the hardware. Can I get a “Wow?”

But I would be remiss if I did not also point out that there is still so, so much unrealized potential in terms of Kindle software and Amazon’s relationships with Kindle customers and content providers, including:

  • Content-driven social networking that would empower readers and authors while providing a nice viral marketing force for Kindle content
  • The obvious need for Amazon and publishers to liberate Kindle content from the restrictive guck of DRM (digital rights management), which has little or nothing to do with copyright protection and amounts to the biggest betrayal yet, or ever, of Amazon’s “customer experience” mantra
  • A more courageous and customer-driven stance in the face of the narrowly based opposition to the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature
  • The need to address a bizarre, uncharacteristic, unethical and legally questionable approach to Kindle content promotion and publishing platform support, in which Kindle staff have shown a bias toward mainstream publishers while failing to provide even rudimentary support for independent authors and publishers, and may, if other reports are to be believed, be employing the kind of two-tier royalty approach that could eventually lead to federal scrutiny

No doubt it is a lot to manage, but it seems ironic that a company that has never manufactured hardware before would be doing so well on the device itself, yet so poorly on myriad issues in which Amazon has proven expertise that the device’s bed could ultimately be fouled. I hope not.

* * *

(For more free news and tips about the Amazon Kindle, subscribe to Kindle Nation, the free weekly email newsletter by Stephen Windwalker, or download a month’s worth of issues to your Kindle for just 99 cents!).

The author was the first to note authoritatively that Amazon sold half a million Kindles by Fall 2008, and the first to predict the Kindle for iPhone App.

Authors and Publishers Speak Out About Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Although there are plenty of publishers who haven’t learned from the recent history of the music industry and are afraid of lifting DRM from their Kindle editions, a growing number of authors and publishers are taking a more forward-looking approach. Popular tech author Shelley Powers blogged recently about how DRM restrictions are not an appropriate way to protect copyright:

“Teleread and MobileRead have started a campaign to make these DRM free books more easy to find. If a book is DRM free, just tag it “drmfree” at the Amazon site. It tickled me to be the first to tag my own books.

“My books being offered DRM free doesn’t change how I feel about copyright. I still believe in the importance of copyrights. My books are still copyrighted, at least until the publishers and I decide the time is ripe to release them into the public domain. I am dependent on the royalties I make from my books, and I lose money through piracy of my books. But I have never believed in DRM, which only hurts the legitimate owners.

“I’m currently working on my first self-publishing book, which I’ll be releasing as a Kindle, as well as in other formats. Regardless of how I distribute the book, not one version of the book will have DRM.”

Powers’ publisher, O’Reilly, recently announced that it was making 160 of its book available without DRM in the Kindle Store, with more to follow in coming weeks. Hundreds of independent publishers have now made thousands of titles DRM-free in the Kindle store.

Author Joe Konrath, who we mentioned above because he “gets” the economics of ebooks, is also light years ahead of many of his colleagues when it comes to understanding DRM:

“Not only do ebooks cost too much, DRM is a disgrace, for a myriad of reasons, and the ‘text to speech’ feature is not something the publishing world should be concerned about,” Konrath wrote to Kindle Nation last week.

(For more free news and tips about the Amazon Kindle, subscribe to Kindle Nation, the free weekly email newsletter by Stephen Windwalker, or download a month’s worth of issues to your Kindle for just 99 cents!).

Results from April’s 1st-Ever Kindle Nation Citizen Survey




Over 1,200 subscribers and other e-book enthusiasts have participated in April’s first-ever Kindle Nation Citizen Survey, and the results provide fascinating insights into who just who is participating in the e-book revolution and what we think the issues and the future of e-reading. The survey will remain open through April, so you can still click here to participate if you have not done so already, but you can also check the current results here. Once the survey is closed we will summarize the results here in Kindle Nation and share the summary with Amazon’s Kindle Group.

Try This! The Most Simple Way to Set and Keep a Monthly Budget for Your Kindle Purchases

If you are challenged by the need to keep your Kindle purchases on a monthly budget (or to do the same for a family member), why not try a Kindle Gift Certificate each month? Just click here to purchase your Kindle Gift Certificate in whatever amount suits your monthly budget amount, and you’ll know how much you have left to spend just by checking the amount that is open on your gift certificate account at any time during the month. And be sure to reward your frugality by allowing yourself roll-over Kindle dollars!

Thousands of DRM-Free Books in the Kindle Store

Where Do the Citizens of Kindle Nation Stand on Text-to-Speech, Digital Rights Management, and the $9.99+ Boycott?

Early Results from the First Kindle Nation Citizen Survey

(This post first appeared in the free Kindle Nation weekly email newsletter on April 13, 2009).

Over a thousand Kindle Nation citizens have exercised their citizenship rights during the past week by participating in the first ever Kindle Nation Citizen Survey. The survey will remain open throughout the month of April, and you can still participate by clicking here, but that won’t keep us from sharing some response tidbits with you.

First, let’s take a look at where the Nation stands on three controversies that are now live in the ebook world. I wasn’t attempting to “poll” in the traditional sense so much as to measure interest, so I provided the following choices and got the following result:

With which, if any, of these statements do you agree? (Choose as many as you wish. Please use the comment section to further describe your views or concerns).

1. I believe that it is important for Amazon to remove Digital Rights Management (DRM) from titles in the Kindle Store.

367 33.8 %

2. I believe that it is important for Amazon to maintain Digital Rights Management (DRM) for titles in the Kindle Store.

87 8.0 %

3. The text-to-speech feature on the Kindle 2 is important to me and should be maintained on as many titles as possible.

442 40.8 %

4. I will consider switching to another e-reader in the future if Amazon does not remove DRM from Kindle Store offerings.

81 7.4 %

5. I am concerned that Amazon may be developing a monopoly over digital books.

107 9.8 %

6. I would consider boycotting Kindle books priced above $9.99.

359 33.1 %

7. I’ll make my own decisions about which e-books are worth more than $9.99 to me.

723 66.7 %

Totals 1083 100%

Now for a bit of analysis and follow-up.

DRM. The only real yes vs. no faceoffs under this question came on the DRM question and the $9.99 price boycott, and participants have weighed in with a very strong 367 to 87 against DRM. Of the 81 respondents who said they might switch to another e-reader over the DRM issue, 72 had already taken position 1; so the real vote against DRM stands at 376 to 87. However, this level of response also makes it clear that a very large number of respondents (over 600) don’t know or don’t care about DRM. My guess is that “don’t know” has an edge here, and so I offer some useful Teleread links on the issue and the recently developed anti-DRM campaign, as well as another article in this newsletter:

DRM: A TeleRead primer by Chris Meadows

A Campaign to Organize Against DRM

drmfree tag campaign starts on Amazon: Help identify safer-to-own books and other items!

drmfree tag campaign on Amazon picks up steam: Endorsed by Cory Doctorow and home-paged at MobileRead. More tips, such as how to create Kindle books untainted by DRM.

Not everyone will care about DRM. But if you are buying books from the Kindle Store with the expectation that you will always own those books and be able to use them in any non-commercial way that does not violate copyright, the DRM issue may be more important to you than you yet realize.

The $9.99 Price Boycott. Two things really jumped out at me on this one. One (which exposes the fact that it is not exactly a clear faceoff) is that there has been a very high level of participation: even after subtracting the 105 people who (and this is perfectly plausible) selected both statements #6 and #7, 977 out of 1083 survey respondents (90%) weighed in on the price boycott issues. This confirms for me that, especially in our current economic circumstances, Kindle owners care deeply about price, but also understand its complexities and, in most cases, prize the access to content that the Kindle gives them. To learn more about the nascent price boycott, see this article. And the fact that fewer than 40% of the respondents who did weigh in support the boycott is also reflected in other data, such as the fact that, this morning when I checked, 5 of the top 10 titles on the Kindle Movers and Shakers bestselling (or relative velocity) list had Kindle prices over $14.

Stay tuned for more information from the Kindle Nation Citizen Survey throughout the month of April. And please participate if you haven’t done so already!

(This post first appeared in the free Kindle Nation weekly email newsletter on April 13, 2009).