A Stunning In-House Rebuke for The Times’s Biased Coverage of Amazon

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 8.25.07 PMMy faith in The New York Times is restored tonight with Public Editor Margaret Sullivan’s measured but stinging rebuke of Times reporter David Streitfeld for his one-sided coverage of the Amazon/Hachette battle.

Sullivan, writing in her role as the newspaper’s ombudsman, said she has heard from many readers “that The Times is demonizing Amazon and siding with publishers and those authors who support them.” I was one of the many who wrote to her. On September 15th I emailed Sullivan and urged her to look into the matter, and I included a link to Hugh Howey’s powerful blog post that day in which Howey charged that Streitfeld “has now cemented himself as the blabbering mouthpiece for the New York publishing cartel.”

I frankly never dreamed we’d see this strong a correction of The Times’s coverage. But it makes sense, because Streitfeld is just one writer at a paper whose reporters include more nuanced and objective journalists. I am thinking in particular of David Carr, Farhad Manjoo, and the recently hired (from The Wall Street JournalAlexandra Alter. They usually cover Amazon like any other business, not as “the end of the world as we know it,” to quote from the opening of Sullivan’s column.

Her closing two paragraphs are worth quoting verbatim:

MY take: It’s important to remember that this is a tale of digital disruption,not good and evil. The establishment figures The Times has quoted on this issue, respected and renowned though they are, should have their statements subjected to critical analysis, just as Amazon’s actions should be. The Times has given a lot of ink to one side and — in story choice, tone and display — helped to portray the retailer as a literature-killing bully instead of a hard-nosed business.

I would like to see more unemotional exploration of the economic issues; more critical questioning of the statements of big-name publishing players; and greater representation of those who think Amazon may be a boon to a book-loving culture, not its killer.

Well said!

Here is the link to the column.

 

 

 

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TKC 322 Paul Biba

Paul Biba

Twitter Curator of eBook/ePublishing/eLibrary news

Interview starts at 14:25

Many of the things that the authors and the publishers complain about are normal, everyday behavior in the chemical industry, in the auto industry, in the telecom industry, and the construction industry, which are industries which I’ve worked on—this is the way business works. The publishing industry doesn’t understand this, and so when Amazon does things that are normal business practices, they get very upset, because they’ve never seen this type of business before.

Show Notes and Links:

News

My video review of the new $79 Kindle with special offers

Fire HD6 8GB with special offers – $99

Fire HD7 8GB with special offers – $139

Mindmaps app by Endare for Kindle Fire – $3.99

“Amazon draws line between Fire tablet and Kindle e-reader” by Donna Tam at CNET – September 25, 2014

“Should Amazon acquire Best Buy or RadioShack? Pros debate” at CNBC – September 15, 2014

Tech Tips

Amazon press release introducing Fire OS 4 “Sangria” – September 17, 2014

Fire OS 4 features page at Amazon.com (scroll down)

“Kingsoft’s WPS Office Suite Comes to Fire OS 4” – Kingsoft press release on September 30, 2014

Interview witPaul Biba

Paul Biba’s curated Twitter feed on eBook/ePublishing/eLibrary news

“TeleRead Editor-in-Chief Paul Biba resigns” by Paul Biba at TeleRead - July 23, 2014

Feedbin

Feedly

Mr. Reader RSS reader for iPad

PressReader for Kindle Fire

Feedly for Kindle Fire

Paul Biba’s tweets compiled each Sunday at No Shelf Required

Content

Best Books of October, as chosen by Amazon’s book editors

Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion by Gregg Levoy

Comments

“New Kindle Getting Mixed Reviews on Screen Quality” by Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader – October 3, 2014

Next Week’s Guest

Frank Waldman, co-founder and CEO of Spritz

Outro

Moto360 Watch

Music for my podcast is from an original Thelonius Monk composition named “Well, You Needn’t.” This version is “Ra-Monk” by Eval Manigat on the “Variations in Time: A Jazz Persepctive” CD by Public Transit Recording” CD.

Please Join the Kindle Chronicles group at Goodreads!

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New $79 Kindle Makes Entry Level Very Alluring

Here is my take on the review copy of the new basic $79 Kindle. It’s a very impressive new entry level for the Kindle lineup, mainly because a fast, responsive touch screen replaces the five-way controller of yore.

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TKC 321 Joshua Tallent

JoshuaTallent

Chief eBook Architect at Firebrand Technologies

Interview starts at 14:14

I think that, because self-publishing has gotten easier, because the tools have gotten easier to use and there are so many more services available to self-published authors, you can compete directly with the work that’s coming out of these major publishing houses.

 

Show Notes and Links:

News

Kindle Voyage Amazon video ad

E Inc Carta specifications at E Ink web site

David Carnoy, executive editor of CNET – video from NYC Amazon launch event

Dieter Bohn, executive editor of The Verge – video from NYC event

“Andy Ihnatko wonders if he needs a new Kindle” by Andy Ihnatko at the Chicago Sun-Times – September 17, 2014

“Bookless library opened by new US university” by Alison Flood at The Guardian – August 29, 2014

“Downton Abbey Kindle Ads: Are they spoiling the mood of the period drama?” by Martin Belam at The Mirror – September 21, 2014

Amazon Prime credit for eBook or book when you choose Free No-Rush Shipping

Tech Tip

How to see Collections on your Kindle Paperwhite

[Click here to listen to Casper Fire Chief Kenneth King’s inspiring 8-minute eulogy for his fellow department member, Capt. Jeffrey P. Atkinson, son of my friend and E-Books for Troops helper Tom Atkinson.]

Interview with Joshua Tallent

eBook Architects, a service of Firebrand Technologies

eBook Ninjas training program

Firebrand’s new FlightDeck tool for preparing eBooks for sale by major retailers

Author Earnings website

Books available on Kindle by Joshua Tallent’s sister, Sarah Johnson

“One Year Later, the Results of Tor Books UK Going DRM-Free” by Julie Crisp at Tor.com – April 29, 2013

O’Reilly Media

Spritz

Content

“Line by Line, E-Books Turn Poet-Friendly” by Alexandra Alter at The New York Times – September 14, 2014

Poetry volumes by John Ashbery at the Kindle Store, published by Open Road Media

Open Road video profile of John Ashbery

A Poet’s Progress at Bennington – Vol. 1 by Len Edgerly

Music for my podcast is from an original Thelonius Monk composition named “Well, You Needn’t.” This version is “Ra-Monk” by Eval Manigat on the “Variations in Time: A Jazz Persepctive” CD by Public Transit Recording” CD.

Please Join the Kindle Chronicles group at Goodreads!

 

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TKC 320 Amazon’s NYC Briefing on New Devices

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 11.07.32 PMShow Notes and Links:

If you use these links to purchase one of the new devices, it will provide Amazon Associates commission revenue to support the podcast without adding to your purchase price. Thanks in advance! – Len

Kindle Voyage WiFi – $199

New Kindle - $79

Fire HD6 8 GB – $99

Fire HD7 8 GB – $139

Fire HD6 Kids Edition – $149

“A Few Thoughts on (the New) Kindles” by Shawn Blanc – September 18, 2014

The Weekly Briefly – Shawn Blanc’s podcast about creativity, technology, and the like.

My video demonstration of Dynamic Light Control on Fire HDX 8.9″

Interview with Dave Limp, Sr. Vice President of Amazon Devices, starts at 18:26

Interview with Peter Larson, Vice President – Kindle, starts at 35:42

Music for my podcast is from an original Thelonius Monk composition named “Well, You Needn’t.” This version is “Ra-Monk” by Eval Manigat on the “Variations in Time: A Jazz Persepctive” CD by Public Transit Recording” CD.

Please Join the Kindle Chronicles group at Goodreads!

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First Look at Two New Kindles at NYC Product Demo

This is a video clip, taken by Brittany Turner of Amazon, showing the Kindle Voyage and new basic Kindle at the product demonstration today in New York City.

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How New Fire HDX 8.9 Mimics Paper with Dynamic Light Control

In this video clip made at the Amazon new product launch today in New York City, Jon Oakes, director of product management for Kindle, explains Dynamic Light Control. This clever capability enables the new Fire HDX to change the background of a book’s page to adjust to available light in a way similar to the effect of light on a paper page.

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First Impressions of the New Kindle Lineup

Len and KindlesAs my flight from New York approaches Denver International and the media embargo ends, I want to share impressions from today’s Amazon’s media demonstration of the new Kindles. My group of about 12 journalists—one of several such gatherings throughout the day—convened at Milk Studios, 450 West 15th Street, for a little more than two hours of presentations and time to try the devices and chat ask questions. It was a beautiful, sunny day on Manhattan, and we began on the top-floor patio with a view of the Hudson River next to a table with stickie buns, coffee, juice and other treats.

I will hold my observations about the new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and the Fire HD models for later, because I want to focus here on the new Kindles, the brand-new Kindle Voyage and the new and improved basic Kindle.

As I’ve mentioned several times in recent months, I expected Amazon to step up this fall with a serious refresh of the eInk Kindles, based on comments by executives during the year. These guys are not just going through the motions when it comes to pressing ahead with innovations on the Kindle dedicated eReaders.

One clue was that the first demo station was for the Kindles. They were not an afterthought. They were first out of the chute.

As for the devices themselves, I found them very impressive.

First impressions tell a lot, and when Senior VP Dave Limp handed me one of the Voyages as we sat in a circle in couches off the patio, I fell in love with it. The moment reminded me of the day in Boston when Amazon’s Jay Marine reached into his suit jacket pocket and pulled out a gray Kindle Keyboard, five years and four generations ago. Man, I thought. This thing is sweet!

Likewise with the Voyage. It’s thin, light, and the screen jumps up at you in 300 pixels per inch splendor, with a brighter built-in light. As with each improvement in eInk screen technology, this one makes the previous one look old-fashioned and muddled. We’re getting really close to paper here.

The Next and Previous Page controls move off the screen on the Voyage, to the bezel, but we’re not talking buttons here, as in older models of the Kindle. Which means we are not talking things that go click in the night, when your bed partner may be trying to sleep while you plow ahead in War and Peace until you’re ready to sleep yourself. I slight squeeze of the bezel changes the page, and you know you’ve done it right when you feel a little haptic love tap on your finger. Customers are going to love this, I’m sure Amazon execs are saying, and I believe they’re right. I did my best to accept the elimination of Next/Previous physical controls on the Touch and the Paperwhite, but I am quite happy on this new Kindle to have the screen be left for nothing but the story.

I care about the basic Kindle, because we’ve shipped more than a thousand of them to U.S. Troops deployed overseas through E-Books for Troops. We plan to purchase one last group of basic Kindles and donate them to a VA Hospital as we wind down the program. With this new $79 basic Kindle on offer, the last Soldiers will be getting a terrific eReader and not an after-thought.

I will of course pre-order a Kindle Voyage tonight, but that’s what I do. I’m not saying, in my enthusiasm for the improvement in the device, that an upgrade from the Paperwhite is obvious. Especially since the significant software improvements announced today will be rolled out to the Paperwhite as well.

One of the most notable OS innovations for the Kindles is named Word Wise. It will be great for readers learning English and kids learning to read, because it hovers definitions over difficult words right in-line with the book’s text. There is a slider control that determines how many words will have hints. You can tap on one of the hints to bring up the full definition.

Wise Words reminds me of Vocabulary Builder, an earlier gee-whiz tool to help readers improve their comprehension. I love how the Kindle team presses into raw invention with these capabilities. They don’t all change the world, but a few of them will, especially for individual readers with specific needs.

X-Ray gets expanded powers of seeing into the bones of a book in the new software. There is now a tab for images, so you can scroll through all the graphics in a book. And graphics, by the way, look fantastic on the higher-resolution Voyage display.

Goodreads gets closer to our reading on the Kindle with the new OS. You can access and update your reading status from within the book, something I’ve thought would be nice to have.

So all in all, today was a great day for those of us who may love tablets but continue to have a soft spot for the device that really did change the way we read, the original gray and white Kindle—now much improved, standing proud, and clearly still the darling of the team of innovators and dreamers that conceived it and keeps on making it better.

 

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What’s New Tonight from Amazon – Summary of New Kindles and Fires

Len with FiresHere are the new devices you can pre-order as of tonight (Wednesday, September 17th) at 9 p.m. ET at the Amazon home page:

Kindle Voyage$199 WiFi and $269 3G.

This seventh-generation eReader is the thinnest, lightest, brightest, and smartest Kindle to date. You press the bezel for silent movement to the next or previous page, and you feel a friendly haptic response as the page turns. The screen is 39 percent brighter. It automatically adjusts to surrounding light. And—get this—it dims gradually after you start reading in the dark, matching how your eyes take time adjust to darkness.

The “wow” that I experienced holding a Voyage at today’s embargoed media briefing in New York City reminded me of the first time that I held a Kindle Keyboard. That was five years ago, at the birth of the third generation of Kindles. The Kindle 2 immediately seemed bigger, clunkier, and old-fashioned. The same thing happened to the beloved Paperwhite that I brought to New York when I placed it on a table next to the new Kindle in town.

New Basic Kindle – $79

Amazon today confirmed that it’s serious about making Kindle technology available to as many book lovers as possible by giving an impressive update to the entry-level dedicated eReader, called simply “Kindle.” It has twice the storage, and its processor is 20 percent faster than the previous basic Kindle.

The most noticeable improvement is a full touch screen that replaces the pain-in-the-neck five-way controller. No more pressing up, down, left, or right to move the cursor across an alphabet grid in order to enter text. Just tap the virtual keyboard. The updated Kindle can do all the new software tricks of the Voyage and Paperwhite, which remains in the lineup as the new middle child.

The new basic Kindle’s screen isn’t as omigod bright and contrasty as the Voyage’s, and there is no built-in light bathing its screen. But it’s going to be great for a kid’s first Kindle or a beach reader you toss in your bag with sunscreen, Frisbee, and goggles.

Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” – $379 WiFi 16 GB  , $429 WiFi 32 GB , $479 WiFi 64 GB

This new HDX is really thin and light–13.2 ounces or 20 percent lighter than an iPad Air. The tech specs impress, as follows: It’s the first tablet powered by the most advanced quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor, and the graphics engine is 70 percent faster than the previous-generation Fire HDX. At the demo table, the new HDX seemed fast, fluid, brilliantly colorful–and thin.

For book reading, the new HDX has a clever way of taking another step toward the holy grail of parity with paper books. It’s called Dynamic Light Control, which changes the white point of the display based on the ambient lighting. The demo units that we saw gradually adjusted their appearance after you tapped on a book in the carousel. The idea seems to be that a book on the HDX will look different in a soft, yellow light in your den than it will in glaring fluorescent light in an office. You won’t see this on the HDX until later this year, though, because it will arrive as part of a free, over-the-air software update.

The new HDX is the first tablet with Dolby Atmos, Amazon execs told us. We put on headphones to hear how it sounded in an action movie where all sorts of stuff was blowing up and moving around us with eerie effect. Dolby Atmos is rolling out in some movies but not others, and you’ll be able to hear its magic on the HDX 8.9.

The HDX’s Battery life—up to 12 hours for reading, surfing the web, watching video or listening to music—gets a boost from Smart Suspend, which develops a profile specific to your device based on when it is typically not in use. That’s when it will turn the wireless off to conserve power, but it will sneak back onto the net now and then to grab new emails or app notifications while you’re asleep.

The HDX 8.9 can be paired with the coolest Bluetooth keyboard I’ve seen. It costs $59.99, weighs just 7 ounces, and is 4.8 mm thin. It also has a trackpad, so you don’t have to switch from typing to tapping the screen. You can place the keyboard with the HDX inside the new Origami Cover ($54.99), which also serves as a landscape or portrait stand. Everything snaps together with a satisfying magnetic click.

Note: The Fire HDX 7”, which happens to be my favorite Amazon tablet, will receive an update to the Fire OS 4 software, named Sangria and based on Android KitKat. But sadly there are no hardware improvements for the 7-inch HDX.

Kindle Fire HD 6” 8 GB ($99) , HD 6″ 16 GB $119, and HD 7” 8 GB ($139), HD 7″ 16 GB ($159)

For the Fire HD, Amazon played a game it loves to play—how much better can we make a device that someone is now selling for too much money? In this case the target was the low end of smaller tablets. Customers have complained to Amazon that these devices, made by other companies, are unreliable, have lousy performance, and sound crummy.

So these new Fire HDs are tough. When you drop an iPad mini and a new Fire HD to a concrete floor from a meter high, the iPad mini breaks apart twice as often as the Fire HD, we were told. Lesser competitors fail 20 times more often than the Fire. We watched a video in which one hapless Brand X tablet literally exploded into pieces when it hit the concrete. The Fire HD bounced like a superball with no harm done.

I was surprised to learn that this new tablet will not have the amazingly great Mayday support offered on the Fire Phone and the HDX tablets. Customers love Mayday, as Amazon likes to say. But it’s obviously very expensive to provide year-round 24/7 video support with hands-on control of the device if desired. So when you are aiming at an ambitious price point, something’s gotta give. You can still get fast, smart, convenient tech support for the Fire HD by chat and phone. But still. I suggested to Dave Limp, Amazon senior vice president for Kindle devices, that customers might be willing to pay for a Mayday premium on the Fire HD, so we’ll see.

Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition 6” ($149) and 7” ($189)

Based on the same Fire HD devices, this package for kids includes an impressive two-year, no-questions-asked guarantee. In other words, if Junior feeds his HD to the family basset hound, Amazon will replace it with a new or refurbished unit.

The Kids Edition HD also comes with a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, a $120 value that provides unlimited access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games.

It doesn’t mention this in the press releases we were given, but during the demo I thought the Amazon rep said the Kids Edition HD comes with a free protective case in pink, green or blue. You could probably drop this one from two meters above concrete and the Fire HD might survive.

Summary and Note

All of these new products are available for pre-order, with shipment in October. I will update the links for the specific products as soon as possible. For now, please feel free to explore them using this link, which is coded with my Amazon Associates information, so if you use them to make your purchase, it will benefit the podcast.

I am writing this post on the flight from LaGuardia to Denver, which is due to arrive at 9 p.m. ET just as the media embargo comes off. As soon as Frontier 507 touches down at DIA I will fire up a Hot Spot on the Fire Phone and do my best to get this information faster than a speeding quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor.

And of course, this week’s episode of the Kindle Chronicles will be chock full of interviews, color commentary, and more analysis of today’s gaggle of great new Kindles and Fires.

 

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TKC 319 Jim Duncan

JimDuncan

Executive Director of the Colorado Library Consortium

Interview starts at 16:26

We could go back as a group of libraries, hundreds of libraries across Colorado, to a Big Five publisher and say, “We’re ready to buy your content directly, and here’s the way it looks: You make your content exposed and available in our marketplace. The collection development librarians, the people who make those decisions of purchasing, go into the marketplace and–click, click, click—they can check all the various titles they want to purchase and the number of copies.

Show Notes and Links:

News

“Amazon’s Next Kindle Paperwhite To Feature 300 ppi Screen, Better Typography, Arrive Early Next Year” by Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch – November 24, 2013

“Amazon Cuts Struggling Phone’s Price to 99 Cents” by David Streitfeld at The New York Times – September 8, 2014.

“Younger Americans and Public Libraries” Summary of Findings from Pew Research Internet Project – September 10, 2014

“Millennials Read and Use Libraries as Much as Their Parents, Study Finds” at Digital Book World – September 10, 2014

Tech Tips

More about collections

shortcut to the new Manage Your Content and Devices page: amazon.com/mycd

Interview with Jim Duncan

Colorado Library Consortium

“Two States Creating State-Wide Library E-book Collections” by Chirstyna Hunter at Public Libraries Online – September 4, 2014

eVoke 2.0 eBook Project in Colorado

OverDrive

3M Library Systems

Douglas County (Colo.) Libraries

Jamie LaRue, executive director of the Douglas County Libraries on The Kindle Chronicles – July 12, 2013

Marmot Library Network

AspenCat

Smashwords

Content

“Amazon, Publishers, and Readers” by Clay Shirky at Medium – September 12, 2014

David Vandagriff’s post on the Shirky article – September 12, 2014

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky

Music for my podcast is from an original Thelonius Monk composition named “Well, You Needn’t.” This version is “Ra-Monk” by Eval Manigat on the “Variations in Time: A Jazz Persepctive” CD by Public Transit Recording” CD.

 

In Memory of Capt. Jeffrey L. Atkinson

I am dedicating TKC 319 to the memory of Jeff Atkinson, who passed away on September 11th this week in Casper, Wyoming. He was a son of my friend and E-Books for Troops helper Tom Atkinson, and he will be missed as a Captain in the Casper Fire Department, devoted husband and father of two boys, and a man of innate generosity and good humor. Jeff died after a long struggle with cancer. He was 48.

When his fellow fire fighters learned that news of Jeff’s passing was arriving by social media, they fetched his wife Kristen and then his sons Eddie and Cristopf at their school in a fire truck and took them to the Hospice facility, where the family then rode in the fire truck as it followed the hearse to the mortuary for cremation. Until the funeral, Jeff’s ashes will be honored at the fire station where he served. “If they go out to a fire, they are going to take him with them,” Darlene told me by phone tonight.

Darlene and I will attend Jeff’s funeral next week in Casper. In lieu of flowers, Jeff requested donations to the Atkinson Scholarship Fund at U.S. Bank, 435 West 1st Street, Casper WY 82601.

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