January 2018 Amazon First Reads

Every month, Amazon allows Prime members to download one upcoming book from one of Amazon’s imprints for free. Everyone else can purchase one book for $1.99. The books are chosen by Amazon’s editors. (These deals, formerly called Kindle First, are for US customers only.)

This month’s books are:

Tips for Living by Renee Shafransky – Psychological Fiction

As Good as True by Cheryl Reid – Historical Fiction

Punishment (Detective Barnes Series Book 1) by Scott J. Holliday – Thriller

Not Perfect: A Novel by Elizabeth LaBan – Contemporary Fiction

Twist of Faith by Ellen J. Green – Mystery

The Birdwoman’s Palate by Laksmi Pamuntjak, Tiffany Tsao (Translator) – Literary Fiction

These books can also be purchased as hardcovers for $12.99 or less.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, all of these books will be available to read for free when they are released on February 1, 2018 as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Prime members can also sign up to receive a monthly e-mail announcing new Amazon First Reads picks.

Amazon First Reads

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Public Domain Day 2018

Because of extensions to the term of copyright law, here in the United States, nothing new has entered the public domain for the last twenty years.  Every year on January first, The Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University  writes a post on what would have entered the public domain on this day before copyright law was extended to its current terms. Here are some of the highlights from the post:

Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years—an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1961 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2018, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2057.1 And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019. The laws in other countries are different—thousands of works are entering the public domain in Canada and the EU on January 1.

Books:

What books would be entering the public domain if we had the pre-1978 copyright laws? You might recognize some of the titles below.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster book cover
  • Joseph Heller, Catch-22
  • Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
  • J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
  • John Howard Griffin, Black Like Me
  • Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstasy
  • Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
  • William S. Burroughs, The Soft Machine
  • Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach
Films:

Consider the films from 1961 that would have become available this year. You could share clips with friends or incorporate them into fan fiction. Community theaters could show the full features. Libraries and archivists would be free to digitize and preserve them. Here are a few of the movies that we won’t see in the public domain for another 39 years.

Judgment at Nuremberg movie poster
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • West Side Story
  • The Guns of Navarone
  • A Raisin in the Sun
  • The Parent Trap
  • Splendor in the Grass
  • Judgment at Nuremberg
  • The Misfits
  • The Hustler
Music: 

What 1961 music could you have used without fear of a lawsuit? If you wanted to find guitar tabs or sheet music and freely use some of the influential music from 1961, January 1 2018 would have been a rocking day for you under earlier copyright laws. Patsy Cline’s classic Crazy (Willie Nelson) would be available. So would Stand By Me (Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller), Runaway (Del Shannon, Max Crook), and Let’s Twist Again (Kal Mann, Dave Appell). You could publicly perform or set short films to Surfin’ (Brian Wilson, Mike Love) or Crying (Roy Orbison, Joe Melson), all without permission or fee. Today these musical works remain copyrighted until 2057.4

Like West Side Story, some of the hit songs from 1961 borrowed from earlier works. Elvis Presley’s Surrender (Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman) was adapted from the 1902 Neapolitan ballad “Torna a Surriento” (Ernesto and Giambattista de Curtis), and his Can’t Help Falling in Love (Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David Weiss) is derived from the 1784 French song “Plaisir d’amour” (Jean-Paul-Égide Martini).

The current copyright law also affects the status and availability of works of art and scientific research.

You can read the entire article here. Please also take a moment to read some of the articles on the Center’s site which explain the importance of the public domain, how it is shrinking due to copyright laws and why that matters.

The Center for the Study of the Public Domain

It’s Amazon Digital Deals Day!

Today, Friday, December 29, 2017, Amazon is holding its second annual Digital Deals Day sale. Today only, Amazon is offering thousands of digital-only on apps, games, movies, ebooks and more.

Amazon will be using the hashtag #DigitalDay on social media to update customers.

Some deal are available early, The biggest savings start at 12AM, Eastern Standard Time on Friday.

I am on the prowl for ebooks. What are you hoping for?

Playster raises price and limits collections for audiobook listening

Customers’ voracious appetite for audiobooks seems to once again be a problem for subscription platform Playster. A few months back, I wrote about Playster cancelling the accounts of customers for excessive audiobook listening (here and here). At the same time, they quickly and quietly raised the price of the audiobook portion of their subscription service from $9.95 to $14.95.

Now, Playster has announced that they are limiting the size of the collection for subscribers at the $14.95 level and adding a new unlimited premium tier at double the price: $29.95.

Playster is calling the plan at the $14.95 price point the Basic plan. The plan offers “unlimited access to 40,000+ titles from world-class authors, like Michael Crichton, Janet Evanovich and Faye Kellerman.” Playster also says they have improved the audiobook player experience.

The new Premium plan offers “unlimited access to 100,000+ of the newest titles made available on the same day they’re released”. The Premium plan includes authors like James Patterson, Stephen King, Danielle Steel, Dan Brown, George R.R. Martin. Subscribers are promised “unlimited access to every major and classic title they can dream of”.

According to Playster’s support page on the plan changes, “some members may temporarily lose access to their playlists, downloaded titles and/or audiobooks they’ve started.”

The changes to the audiobook plans went into effect yesterday, December 22, 2017. As of today, the website is still showing $14.95 for the cost of the audiobook subscription.

Not surprisingly, the complaints have already started. On TrustPilot, the words bait and switch are used a lot. Most people are saying that the books they have saved to read are all in the Premium tier. Customers who recently started free trials are complaining that the trial only seems to apply to the Basic tier, not the Premium. One comment said that all the books in the basic tier were the same content available on Librivox (a service that offers free public domain audiobooks). Others are saying that, with the new, higher price,  Audible is a better deal.

Subscription service Scribd made many similar choices in February and March of 2016 and it cost them a lot of subscribers. Scribd culled many of its popular genres (like the romance and comics categories) and also divided its catalog into two tiers and limited the number of books and audiobooks subscribers could access in Selects, its premium tier.

I don’t doubt that we will hear more about this from customers. As audiobooks continue to soar in popularity, affordable access for avid listeners is going to be an even more important issue. Subscription services seem to continue to underestimate the demand for audiobooks.

The public library is looking better and better for audiobook aficionados.

Are you a Playster subscriber? What do you think?

(Thanks to Angel for the tip!)

(Note: You can read my original review of the Playster service here.)

Battle for the Net Day of Action

Today is a day of action for a coordinated effort to convince Congress to stop the vote to repeal existing net neutrality provisions. A meeting is scheduled to vote on this matter on Thursday, December 14, 2017.

Call or email them and let them ask them to to stop the vote. Let them know:

  • We want an open and free Internet. A neutral open Internet, free of censorship is essential to free speech.
  • Small businesses rely on an open and free Internet.
  • We do not want ISPs to block content, websites or applications.
  • We do not want ISPs to slow or speed up services or create classes of service.
  • We do not want ISPs to charge online services for access or fast lanes to Internet access providers’ customers.
  • We know that the initial comment period on this rule change was interfered with by fake submissions and comments from Russian email addresses.
  • We know that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has REFUSED to cooperate with New York Attorney General Schneiderman’s investigation into the identity theft surrounding these irregularities.

Ask your member of congress to delay the vote!

I wrote both my senators and my congressman today. What did you do?

#battleforthenet

Review: The Moko case for the 2017 Kindle Oasis

Recently, I wrote a post on some of the new third-party covers that are now available for the All-New Kindle Oasis e-reader. Interest in third-party covers surged given the problems with the Amazon-branded covers for the Oasis e-reader. Reviews blasted the Amazon covers saying that they only partially covered the back and attached with weak magnets that frequently fell off. Amazon evidently listened to the bad reviews because their leather and fabric covers are only available used on Amazon.com.

Because I have had bad experiences with them personally, I generally don’t purchase the Amazon-branded covers. But one of the things I discovered about the new Oasis is that the aluminum back is EXTREMELY slippery to read without a cover. Since I did not want to buy one of Amazon’s, I actually had to wait to really use my new Oasis until third-party cases were available.

I bought the MoKo Case for All-New Kindle Oasis (9th Generation, 2017 Release) – Premium Ultra Lightweight Shell Cover with Auto Wake / Sleep for Amazon Kindle Oasis E-reader Case in Black. The MoKo case is a plastic clamshell case with a back shaped like that of the Oasis itself. The e-reader snaps into the case, which completely covering the back. The attached front cover has a soft lining to protect the device screen and also features a magnet for the wake/sleep function.

Here is the front cover of the case:

The back cover:

The cutouts for the power button at top (right) and the charging port at the bottom (left):

The open, empty case showing the soft, microfiber lining:

Here is the open case with the Oasis for reference:

Here is the case with the Oasis correctly inserted into the case:

The case is lightweight enough that it only adds about four and a half ounces to the weight of the e-reader but still provides a lot of protection (and, yes, I’ve dropped it already!).

When I pre-ordered my cover, only black was available. Now the cover also comes in indigo blue as well as several designs: an almond blossom, a floral purple, a tree design and a starry night design (based on the Van Gogh painting). I bought a second cover in the almond blossom which has a lovely teal-aqua colored background.

(Because of the light, in person, this case leans more towards a teal or an aqua rather than the blue showing in the photo.)

I am very pleased with this cover and do not hesitate to recommend it if you are looking for a case for your 2017 Kindle Oasis.. You can see the other colors and designs here.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday blues

This year, I didn’t buy a thing on black Friday or cyber Monday. Nothing. Nunca. Nada.

This is actually kind of unheard of for me,  especially given the fact that I’m such a technology buff.  Cyber Monday has actually been my favorite self-gifting holiday of the year.

Why the change this year?

I think a big part of the reason is the so many of the items offered for sale I already have.  I’ve already bought Echos, Echo Shows, Echo Dots, Kindle Paperwhites, a Kindle Oasis, Fire tablets,  Fire TV sticks,  etcetera. The picture in this post is just a few of the items that I already have (yes, there are more that arrived after I took that picture) and am currently testing to review.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the prices that these items have been offered at makes me wish that I hadn’t just recently bought them. But it’s really hard to get excited about bargains for things you already qwn.

How about you? Did this year’s cyber bargains interest you?