Sunday, July 20, 2014

Amazon's "Netflix" for Books

It was only a matter of time, but if you like to read a lot (or listen to audiobooks) Amazon has introduced Kindle Unlimited!  For $9.99 a month subscribers will have access to over 600,000 eBooks via a Kindle or Kindle app and thousands of audio books.  The 600,000 titles is only a small portion of what Amazon fully offers online.  Their current dispute with publisher Hachette may be a reason for a  lack of titles; 600,000 is still a lot of titles.  On Friday, investors seemed to be happy with the plan.

Amazon is not the first company to offer a subscription service for eBooks.  For $8.99 a month Scribd offers access to 400,000 titles and for $9.95 a month Oyster offers access to 500,000 titles.  Also, do not forget that if you are an Amazon Prime member you have access to one book per month free through their lending library.  Lending Library books are only available via Kindle devices.

How Many Books Can You Read in a Month?

Critics have pointed out that this is another step Amazon is taking to kill the physical book.  Also, critics of the Kindle Unlimited plan point out that subscribers would be paying $120 for a library card.  Personally, I do not plan to subscribe to the service at this time.  I may actually buy a Kindle because as a Prime customer I still do not take advantage of the lending library and I would like to do so.  I do not think subscribing to Kindle Unlimited is the same as paying for a library card.  Subscribers would be able to access a book anytime and anywhere they are able to connect to Amazon instead of driving to their local library branch. 

Any big time readers plan to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited?  There is currently a 30 day free trial period available if you want to give it a try.  I would love to hear from anyone that decides to give a try.  Happy Reading!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Smart Phones....Killing Phone Communication?

If you are reading this blog I am going to assume that more than likely you own a smartphone (except for my top editor in chief my mom).  Now, think about your daily use of your smart you use it for to make numerous voice calls?  When I think of my daily smartphone usage I would rank usage as follows:

  1. Social-media use (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram mainly)
  2. Communication via text message
  3. Information consumption via browser or app
  4. Communication via email
  5. Music
  6. Games
  7. Communication via voice
  8. Camera 

If possible, I really try to make all communication via text.  When I think about my daily phone use it is usually just my wife calling or me using my phone to order dinner.  In an odd twist, I really think the advance of the smartphone has actually gone a long way to killing phone communication.  Remember when cell plans used to focus on how many voice call minutes were provided?  People used to wait until after 9 p.m. or the weekends to make all of their calls for the "free minutes."  Now it is all unlimited and the plans revolve totally on data usage.

Only Want to Make Phone Calls?  Good, That is all This Does!

Over at The Huffington Post author Rainbow Rowell writes an interesting piece on the lost art of telephone communication.  If Rowell's name sounds familiar it is because she was the author of my July 2013 Read of the Month Eleanor and Park (which I really enjoyed).  Rowell does comment on all of the new methods of communication but she also points out that cell phone calls are terrible compared to a land-line call.  With all of the improvements with smartphones, they are still average at best for voice communication.  I am never asked to repeat myself when using a landline, but once I am on my cell I find myself repeating things three times.  I guess that is why I prefer texting whenever I have my cell.

I really have no problem with the lost art of the long phone call.  I was never one for hour long phone conversations.  I actually love all of the options my smartphone offers.  I also feel I can carry on a conversation via phone or in person, so I am not worried about losing that "skill."  I do find it ironic that the creation of the smartphone is helping kill the actual phone call. What do you think of Rowell's piece?  What about your own smartphone?  How would you rank your usage?  Do you avoid phone calls and opt for other forms of communication?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Happy Birthday America....and The Sony Walkman

Greetings, I hope everyone had an enjoyable and safe 4th of July.  As I was browsing through various news/tech sites I came across this interesting piece on The Sony Walkman turning 35 years old!  I find it interesting the first personal stereo listening device was created because back in 1978 a Sony executive wanted to listen to classical music in stereo while traveling via air.  Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka then directed Sony's tape recorder division to create such a device and just a few months later the first Sony Walkman, model TCS 300, hit the shelves.

Sony went on to sell nearly 400 million units of products under The Walkman name (including cassette, compact disc, and mini disc models).  I had at least two of those 400 million units in my younger days before Apple dominated the marked with their digital music iPod devices.

The Walkman Sports Model, To Get Your Fitness On

While reading the Time piece I had no choice to think back to my Walkman memories:

  • Battery life was never that great.....and when it started to get low you knew you were in trouble because of all the songs would s    l    o   w       d   o    w   n........
  • For some reason the headphones and headphone jack would always go bad quickly.  What was once stereo output would quickly shift to mono because output would only work out of one of the headphones.  I was constantly playing with the jack trying to get the device back to stereo.  
  • The best part of the Walkman era....making mix-tapes.  Kids do not realize how easy they have it today.  All they have to do is drag and drop songs and they have a full playlist.  Heck, with Internet radio options music fans just have to type a playlist they like and the computer "knows" what music they want to hear.  I remember spending hours making mix-tapes so I only had to listen to music I enjoyed.  Note...I am currently listening to one of my favorite iTunes playlists right now...and it is so much easier.  I DO NOT miss the mix tape tasks of the past.
  • Finally, having my own music to listen to while on a road trip with the family was a major bonus.  Of course, I wrote about how road trips have changed since I was kid a few years ago and things are much better today.  The Walkman was somewhat of a help back on my road trips as a child....but not much.  

Do any of my older readers remember their fist Walkman?  How many did you go through as a child?  Would your own kids even know what a Walkman is?  Check out this video to see what some kids think when they encounter a Walkman for the first time!

Let me conclude by saying Happy Birthday to the Sony Walkman for many years of music and entertainment.  Also, Happy Birthday to The United States of America and to all the men and women in uniform currently or in the past thank you so much for your service.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July 2014 Read of the Month

If you are my friend/follower on Goodreads you already know that I selected a book to read a few days ago.  Unfortunately, I am just not that "into" my selection after reading a few chapters so I need to find a new book for July because it is just not a title I really want to write about.  By the way, if you love books and reading and do not have a "Goodreads" account you need to get one today.  It is a great way to interact with book lovers and find your next book.

So, for my read of the month I decided to select a classic that for some reason has not found its way into my hands.  I guess I should be embarrassed that at the age of 39 I have yet to read J.D. Salinger's classic The Catcher in the Rye.  It has just been one of those titles I have yet to pick up and I figure now is the best time to do so.  I really look forward to reading this title and providing my review later this month.  Happy 4th of July and happy reading my friends.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 2014 Read of the Month Review

I easily completed my June 2014 Read of the Month; In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.  I can easily see why the work is considered a classic.  In Cold Blood is not the normal "true crime" book.  Capote would often refer to it as the "non fiction novel."

Capote traveled to Kansas with his childhood friend Harper Lee to write an article on the Clutter family murders for The New Yorker.  Six years and eight thousand pages of notes later led to Capote's famous book.

The book is loaded with details and Capote's use of the English language is amazing.  He was truly a gifted writer.  The book is divided into four main sections

  1. Background information on The Clutter family and the criminals Richard "Dick" Hickcock and Perry Edward Smith.  This section of the book takes the reader right up to the point of Hickcock and Smith parking their car along the Clutter family farm.
  2. Discovery of the crime scene and Hickock and Smith's escape across the country (and into Mexico and back) leading right up to their capture.
  3. The trial and conviction of Hickock and Smith
  4. Hickock and Smith's time in prison right up to their execution by hanging.

While the first section can be a little slow (with all of the details provided) once the criminals are introduced the book is a very fast read.  I was surprised the Capote does not go into detail with the crime between the first and second section of the book.  Instead, later in the book the confession of Perry Edward Smith is used to inform readers of what took place in the Clutter farm house that terrible evening.

After posting that I was reading this book, a friend informed me that the movie Capote staring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman focuses on Truman Capote and his work on In Cold Blood.  I am about half finished with the movie (lack of time with the kids not around) and so far it is really good.  It is cool to see a movie that is not based on a book, but based on how a book was developed.  

A Movie, Based Upon an Author Writing a Book

What a great way to kick off my summer with an amazing read.  I wish I did not wait to so long to read Capote's work.  Now it is time to find a title for July.  The summer will fly by so I better get reading!