Amazon Pricing Tactics

While the whole $9.99 Kindle book boycott has yet to be satisfactorily resolved, Amazon‘s begun a new marketing tactic on the opposite side of things. Free e-books.

Nothing new, some of you say. While I don’t deny that this new phenomenon could have been occuring for a little while without my noticing, here are a few things that I don’t mean.

I don’t mean a ten cent copy of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith which was one of my very first Kindle purchases.

I don’t mean the books (such as The Wealth of Nations) whose copyrights are long expired and were offered for free on Project Gutenberg long before Amazon caught on.

I mean relatively recently published, popular books being offered for free: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, for example. Go on, look. It’s actually free.

Frankly I’m not terribly fond of the Temeraire books. I read His Majesty’s Dragon at the library not long after  it came out and never bothered to read the others. Nothing wrong with the books, not by any means (except, perhaps, a weak protagonist), I just didn’t feel compelled to read further.

Amazon is hoping others will disagree. While His Majesty’s Dragon is offered for free, all the later books in the series are listed at full price ($6.39, fairly standard for a book that’s available in paperback). Every other free e-book of this type offered, at least so far as I can tell, is also the first in a series.

Needless to say, I just went on a free-book-binge. Here are a few books that I ‘bought.’

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Settling Accounts: Return Engagement by Harry Turtledove

Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt

For Love of Mother Not by Alan Dean Foster

Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter

Elric: The Stealer of Souls by Michael Moorcock

Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham

Here are another couple that I didn’t ‘buy,’ for one reason or another.

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb (I’ve read it, and recommend it for anyone seeking quality high fantasy)

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning (didn’t strike me as something I might enjoy)

Let me know if you find any others and I’ll add them to the list (and my library!). While ‘speculative fiction’ is all I’ve seen so far, I would be excited to learn of more traditional offerings as well.

P.S. I support the $9.99 boycott for mostly selfish reasons, along with the fact that when I bought my Kindle, all the e-books were $9.99 or below, and I seem to remember a pledge to that affect from Amazon.


I’ve found several more- it turns out that many of these are part of a special promotion by Random House which will last through October


Free Friday: Rebirth

Sorry I missed last week, everyone. Things have been busy here in the asylum.Today I’ll show you another song I found on GarageBand via iLike. Rebirth by Spindle Cincinnatti could perhaps benefit from better recording equipment, but it’s still an awesome song. For some reason I love the lyrics without completely understanding what they mean. The line “crossed the line of dealing with my coming of age” resonates strongly with me despite the fact that if I haven’t come of age yet, I rather doubt I’m ever going to.

Also, at the gym on Thursday morning I heard a song on the loudspeakers. It sounded rather like it could be the theme to an action movie. Eventually I found a monitor which was showing the music video and started doing my lifting in front of it. The video was of cello players being slowly ambushed by a SWAT team. It was entirely instrumental, of course, but if the name of the song and artist showed on the screen it was while I was facing the other way putting away weights.

So I’m on a mission, and I want you to help me. Find the song. I don’t need the music video even. Just the song. I’ve been looking and the closest thing I’ve found was a string version of the song ‘Final Countdown’ by Europe on YouTube.

Which I have to confess is pretty awesome. I really hope the cello players have some kind of deal on bow hair though. Unless you’ve ever played a stringed instrument, you probably have no idea how much it costs to have a bow restrung. And if they do that much damage every time they rehearse too? That would add up.

If anyone finds something awesome, whether or not it’s the right piece, feel free to share it with me. 🙂

Debate: DRM, Pt. 1

Current IP Law is Unenforceable

Feel free to check out the introduction to the debate

Freedom of File Sharing side

Point 1: Enforceability

If you take a book or CD off a neighbor’s shelf, is it stealing? Yes. Of course it is. The fundamental problem with this is that your neighbor no longer has the book or the CD in question. Is it considered stealing if you read that book, or listen to the CD? Have you somehow reduced the value of either object? No. Those who would put DRM (Digital Rights Management) software on all IPF (Intellectual Property [containing] Files) seem to believe otherwise. In many cases, IPFs cannot be freely transfered between computers or devices due to DRM software.

But let’s not mince words. The problem isn’t that iTunes will only let us listen to our music on five computers and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to transfer music from one computer to another, particularly music not acquired through iTunes. The problem is that we’re expected to pay for music, music files with prohibitive DRM, when we could get the same file DRM free elsewhere. The only hitch is that this action is illegal under current law in the U.S., at least for certain methods of acquiring the file. Limewire, Frostwire, and BitTorrent are all filesharing programs which cannot be legally used to share copyrighted files such as most music, books, or movies in digital format. Other methods of acquiring files, namely MP3 search engines such as Skreemr are in a legal gray area.

So why, other than the presence of the law, should I not download MP3s and other files for free? Am I going to get caught? Probably not. Even if the feds somehow discover that I’ve downloaded a file via Limewire or BitTorrent, it’s nearly impossible to trace that file to discover whether or not the source was legal, or where I got it from. Especially with BitTorrent. It’s not as if the government can track every transaction made over the internet so that in some police office near you a little light goes off for your address whenever an illegal file is transfered to or from your computer.

Let’s assume for a moment that websites such as SkreemR are made illegal and removed from the internet in a sudden, decisive government action. Further assume that all file sharing programs are made illegal (they are currently legal, but the sharing of IPF is an illegal use), and are magically erased from all computers. I can still find files, with a little more difficulty, on the internet. Some obsessed secretary typed up the entirety of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone into a .txt file and posted it on his personal website? Cool, I’ll download it and put it on my Kindle. Not convinced? Alright, assume that someone develops an amazing web crawler which finds and deletes any illigal IPF posted on the web. What’s to stop my friends and I from e-mailing each other all the songs off of any CD’s that we buy? Absolutely nothing (say it again).

Now, this is specific to music and multimedia, but note that there is no DRM on most CDs

Ive found the answer!

I've found the answer!

and DVDs sold in stores today. Thus there is no need for DRM to be cracked before distributing a file. All that needs to happen is for one person with little to no technical know now to buy a CD or DVD and upload contained the IPF to the internet. All of a sudden there’s no need for anyone else to buy a copy- it’s freely available to anyone in the world.

The totality of that availability- the fact that anyone in the world can download it- offers another complication. The laws and regulations of multiple international juristictions. Hypothetical situation. User 1 lives in Bangladesh, where IP law protects music for ten years. Ten years after the song “Hittin’ up the Hits” was registered and released in Bangladesh, User 1 uploads the file to her blog. User 2 lives in Brazil, where IP law protects music indefinitely. User 2 sees the song on the blog and downloads it. Legally, things get really complicated, really fast.

The last defense for the downloader of illegal IPF is this- strength in numbers. There are far too many people downloading them to catch them all. IP law in the Information Age is like Prohibition. It may or may not be a good idea from an idealogical standpoint, but it’s not going to work. The government should just eliminate or alter the law and stop embarrassing itself by pretending that the current law has any meaning.

Next: Rebuttle of Point 1 by Intellectual Property Protector

After that: We get into the justification and ethics.

P.S. Either my computer or WordPress exploded and stopped this from being published on time. I only just noticed. Sorry about that.

Free Friday: Starfish

Here’s one of those things you aren’t likely to find on your own. Starfish, by Peter Watts is the first in a trilogy which was published relatively recently, meaning that the copyright hasn’t expired yet. So how is it that I come to offer it for free? The author has made it available under the Creative Commons License, along with the rest of the trilogy and all his other work on his website.

The premise of the novel is that there are geothermal power stations deep under the ocean which need people to man them, but humans must either wear prohibitive equipment or undergo extreme surgery to survive at such depths. No one would ever volunteer for such a job- except certain, shall we say, social deviants who have little other choice, who may even come to enjoy life farther below water than light can penetrate.

Fascinating on many levels- literary, scientific, political, and psychological. I highly recommend it, though I haven’t finished the trilogy yet, I’m looking forward to finishing Maelstrom and Behemoth. It’s not often someone will give me a book this good for free.

Here’s Starfish.

Free Friday: Dune

Hey all, sorry I’ve been conspicuously absent. It’s been a busy week, and I’ve been preparing for a short trip down to Virginia today and tomorrow. In any case, today I’ve found a copy of Dune by Frank Herbert which, if you haven’t already read, you should. And it’s a good thing to have in your library in any case.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Also, here’s an XKCD comic I found a few days ago. This happens to me sometimes on the Metro.

Free Friday: Dracula

Recently I was pointed towards as a source for free e-books. Insert schpeel about how much I love my Kindle here.

In any case, one of the first things I found and downloaded was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Believe it or not I had not read the book before, and i twas high time I started. Unfortunately, the version I downladed from Project Gutenburg was rather badly formatted, though I don’t believe this is the case with all, or even the majority of their books. It could just have been the download source or mirror I chose as well.

Shortly after this, when I was a few chapters into the book, Stumble Upon threw my way. There I found a well formatted version of the book and continued from where I had left off. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in classic literature, horror, fantasy, or even sci-fi. (And we all know those last two are the same thing, right? ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,’ afterall.)

You can find the download here. The file is available in just about any format you can imagine, even as an audio book. And, of course, its free. If you want to download it directly to any device with a wireless internet connection (like a Kindle) you can go to the mobile site, and use the ID# 6694 to find and download it.