Skip to main content

Electronic Reading

Here’s Why ALLi Downgraded Audible to "Caution"

When I reported a few weeks ago that Audible was actively promoting returns as a benefit of subscribing, I apparently missed the bigger picture.

It’s not just that Audible is actively promoting returns, but also that, unlike in the KDP dashboard, Audible is not making it clear to rightsholders just how many audiobooks are being returned.

This ongoing issue, combined with Audible’s continued refusal to correct the problem or even to address it, has forced ALLi to recommend that authors should avoid Audible:

The Alliance of Independent Authors has today downgraded Amazon ACX’s rating as a self-publishing service from “Approved“ (via “Pending” during investigation) to “Caution”. The change arises from concerns about income loss from Amazon Audible’s refund and exchange policies, and deteriorating customer service to authors and narrators.

ALLi now has reason to believe that Amazon Audible’s refund and return policies are resulting in unknown numbers of audiobook authors and narrators around the world being deprived of income.

Audible’s payment process, which encourages subscribers to “return” or  “exchange” audiobooks for up to a year without compunction, has long been of concern to ALLi and independent authors who self-publish audiobooks. Free return and exchange is being used as a highly effective promotional tool for Audible, as it provides a nice perk to listeners, but evidence is emerging that whenever an audiobook is returned or exchanged, Audible claws back payment from the audiobook’s creators, without their consent, or even their knowledge.

On a related note, The Authors Guild, RWA, ALLi, SFWA, Novelists Inc., and Dramatists Guild have jointly published an open letter to Audible’s CEO Bob Carrigan and General Counsel Stas Zakharenko, demanding that Audible end its practice of encouraging easy returns and exchanges. "This is not an exchange policy, but an unauthorized audiobook rental arrangement supported by authors’ reversed royalties, and it must stop." You can add your name to the letter here.

And they are right. The thing about this "return" policy is that it costs Amazon nothing while costing creators everything.

The thing is, Amazon doesn’t sell audiobooks as a subscription. They sell credits, so when an audiobook is "returned", they give a credit back to the subscriber. Amazon then claws a royalty back from rightsholders while at the same time keeping the money they were paid for the credit.

This is different from when a Kindle ebook is returned, obviously, and that difference is why the burden for an audiobook return is born entirely by rightsholders.

That burden is a fundamental imbalance in Amazon’s relationship with rightsholders, and the organizations I named above are absolutely right to insist that Amazon correct this situation.

E-ink is Beta-Testing Electronic Window Tint (video)

Tinted windows are great – they give you privacy and limit the amount of sunlight which can penetrate. But they are not so great when lighting is bad.

Luckily for us, E-ink is working on a solution. Mike Cane just pointed me to a demo video where E-ink shows off their Just Tint technology.

That is a cool trick, but I am not sure we’re going to see widespread adoption. For one thing, in most cases curtains and blinds will work just fine while costing a lot less.

The good news, however, is that there is already similar tech in the market. I found tech from a competing company called Smart Tint which can be retrofitted to existing glass, or added during construction. They can design a window tint in any number of colors, and are reportedly already shipping.

Clearly this is an established market, which means that one company or another could license E-ink’s tech, and bring it to market.

Would you use it if you could?

Disney Reportedly Withholding Royalties From Alan Dean Foster Over Star Wars, Aliens Novels

Disney has replaced Amazon at the top of many people’s shit-lists this week when the SFWA publicly criticized the media giant for not paying royalties to Alan Dean Foster.

From Foster’s letter:

Dear Mickey,

We have a lot in common, you and I.  We share a birthday: November 18.  My dad’s nickname was Mickey.  There’s more.

When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote.  STAR WARS, the novelization of the very first film.  SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE, the first sequel novel.  You owe me royalties on these books.  You stopped paying them.

When you purchased 20th Century Fox, you eventually acquired the rights to other books I had written.  The novelizations of ALIEN, ALIENS, and ALIEN 3.  You’ve never paid royalties on any of these, or even issued royalty statements for them.

All these books are all still very much in print.  They still earn money.  For you.  When one company buys another, they acquire its liabilities as well as its assets.  You’re certainly reaping the benefits of the assets.  I’d very much like my miniscule (though it’s not small to me) share.

You want me to sign an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) before even talking.  I’ve signed a lot of NDAs in my 50-year career.  Never once did anyone ever ask me to sign one prior to negotiations.  For the obvious reason that once you sign, you can no longer talk about the matter at hand.  Every one of my representatives in this matter, with many, many decades of experience in such business, echo my bewilderment.

You continue to ignore requests from my agents.  You continue to ignore queries from SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.  You continue to ignore my legal representatives.  I know this is what gargantuan corporations often do.  Ignore requests and inquiries hoping the petitioner will simply go away.  Or possibly die.  But I’m still here, and I am still entitled to what you owe me.  Including not to be ignored, just because I’m only one lone writer.  How many other writers and artists out there are you similarly ignoring?

I would remind you that we only have one side of the story, although I have been told privately that the claims are legit.

BTW, I do have an issue I which to bring up so it can be addressed. When Disney bought LucasFilm in 2012, they acquired a back catalog consisting of hundreds of novels by I don’t know how many authors. This issue potentially affects scores if not hundreds of authors, which at first made me doubt the veracity of the claims. After all, how could 8 years go by without other authors complaining?

The answer to that is relatively simple; if there are other authors, and they signed the NDAs Foster mentioned, then they certainly would not be speaking now.

I have reached out to both sides to ask for more information. I will add their responses to this post.

image by mr.skeleton via Flickr

Morning Coffee – 16 November 2020

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.

Amazon Launches New Author Portal

About three years back Amazon started beta-testing a new author portal called Amazon Author (not to be confused with Author Central). That new portal officially launched this past week with a somewhat confusing name and a new address.

Amazon’s author portal used to be at, but it has now been replaced by a new portal at Along with the new address, the portal has a new look and new features.

I heard about the launch via the KDP support forum:

We’re excited to announce an upgrade to Amazon Author Central! With this update, we’ve made several key improvements:

  • You can now manage your Author Page, claim your books, and view your reports for multiple marketplaces from a single Author Central site with a single account.
  • An updated, modern look and feel makes it easier to search for titles, view your reports, and update your page.
  • Amazon Author Central is mobile friendly, and works well on a phone, a tablet, or a computer.

If you already have an Amazon Author Central account, you can sign into Amazon Author Central with it and start using it right away. If you don’t have an account but have published a book, sign up today!

One key difference between the new and old portals is that now you can manage your author profiles for all Amazon sites from this one portal. Before you had to login to a different portal for each country-specific Amazon site (, for example).

Speaking of which, the author portals on each of Amazon’s country-specific sites have also been updated with the new features, so if for example your preferred language is French, you can continue to use the French-language portal.

So what can you do with it?

For starters, you can upload language-specific bios, and you can also quickly check what your author profile looks like on each of Amazon’s sites.

BTW, if you have not uploaded the alternate bios yet, you should go do it now. I just noticed that my bio is only showing up on Amazon’s sites in English-language markets. (I had to re-upload a copy of my bio and tell Amazon it was in French in order to get the bio added to, and I will have to repeat the process if I want to have my bio on other Amazon sites.)

You can no longer create a custom author page URL or list your public events, but you can claim all your books, and you can see customer reviews. Amazon will also tell you your books' current sales ranks, and they give you access to Bookscan (print book retail stats for the US market).

All of this is available from a clean and pleasant interface.

Have you tried it yet?


Kindle Unlimited Funding Pool Rose by $300K in October 2020

Kindle Unlimited maintained its position in October 2020 of being the market that all of Amazon’s competitors (with the possible exception of Apple) wished they owned.

The KU funding pool grew to $32.9 million last month, while the per-page rate fell by about half a hundred of a cent.

Here are the per-page rates for the past 2 years.

  • October 2020: $0.004538
  • September 2020: $0.004594
  • August 2020: $0.004322
  • July 2020: $0.004294
  • June 2020: $0.004547
  • May 2020: $0.004203
  • April 2020: $0.004226
  • March 2020: $0.0046
  • February 2020: $0.004547
  • January 2020: $0.004411
  • December 2019: $0.004664
  • November 2019: $0.004925
  • October 2019: $0.0046763
  • September 2019: $0.0046799
  • August 2019:  $0.004387
  • July 2019 –  $0.004394
  • June 2019 – $0.004642
  • May 2019 – $0.0046598
  • April 2019 – $0.0046602
  • March 2019 – $0.0045124
  • February 2019 – $0.0047801
  • January 2019 – $0.0044227
  • December 2018 – $0.0048778
  • November 2018 – $0.0052056
  • October 2018 – $0.0048414
  • September 2008 – $0.004885
  • August 2018 – $0.0044914
  • July 2018 – $0.0044936

P.S. Here’s a list of the monthly funding pools. It does not include the bonuses paid out each month.

  • July 2014: $2.5 million (Kindle Unlimited launches early in the month)
  • August 2014: $4.7 million
  • September 2014: $5 million
  • October 2014: $5.5 million
  • November 2014: $6.5 million
  • December 2014: $7.25 million
  • January 2015 – $8.5 million
  • February 2015: $8 million
  • March 2015: $9.3 million
  • April 2015: $9.8 million
  • May 2015: $10.8 million
  • June 2015: $11.3 million
  • July 2015: $11.5 million
  • August 2015: $11.8 million
  • September 2015: $12 million
  • October 2015: $12.4 million
  • November 2015: $12.7 million
  • December 2015: $13.5 million
  • January 2016: $15 million
  • February 2016: $14 million
  • March 2016: $14.9 million
  • April 2016: $14.9 million
  • May 2016: $15.3 million
  • June 2016: $15.4 million
  • July 2016: $15.5 million
  • August 2016: $15.8 million
  • September 2016: $15.9 million
  • October 2016: $16.2 million
  • November 2016: $16.3 million
  • December 2016: $16.8 million
  • January 2017: : $17.8 million
  • February 2017: : $16.8 million
  • March 2017: $17.7 million
  • April 2017: $17.8 million
  • May 2017 :$17.9 million
  • June 2017: $18 million
  • July 2017: $19 million
  • August 2017: $19.4 million
  • September 2017: $19.5 million
  • October 2017: $19.7 million
  • November 2017: $19.8 million
  • December 2017: $19.9 million
  • January 2018: $20.9 million
  • February 2018: $20 million
  • March 2018: $21 million
  • April 2018: $21.2 million
  • May 2018: $22.5 million
  • June 2018: $22.6 million
  • July 2018: $23.1 million
  • August 2018: $23.3 million
  • September 2018: $23.4 million
  • October 2018: $23.5 million
  • November 2018: $23.6 million
  • December 2018: $23.7 million
  • January 2019: $24.7 million
  • February 2019: $23.5 million
  • March 2019: $24 million
  • April 2019: $24.1 million
  • May 2019: $24.6 million
  • June 2019: $24.9 million
  • July 2019: $25.6 million
  • August 2019: $25.8 million
  • September 2019: $25.9 million
  • October 2019: $26 million
  • November 2019: $26.1 million
  • December 2019: $26.2 million
  • January 2020: $28.2 million
  • February 2020: $27.2 million
  • March 2020: $29 million
  • April 2020: $30.3 million
  • May 2020: $32.2 million
  • June 2020: $32.3 million
  • July 2020: $32.4 million
  • August 2020: $32.6 million
  • September 2020: $32.7 million
  • October 2020: $32.9 million

Infographic: World Reading Habits in 2020

2020 was a strange year, for obvious reasons.

Many of us spent a lot of 2020 in lockdown, either trying to keep up with work or looking for a new job.

Some turned to streaming services such as Netflix (for example, I subscribed to Disney Plus so I could finally watch The Mandalorian, only to discover the writing was terrible). Others spent their time learning new skills, while many took this an opportunity to dive into new books and read more.

How did COVID-19 change our reading habits? Which countries read the most this year? And what books were we reading?

Here are a few of the highlights from the infographic.

  • India reads more than any other country, followed by Thailand and China.
  • Printed books continue to drive more revenue than eBooks or audiobooks. However, physical books sales did dip because of COVID-19 (not surprisingly).
  • Romance is our genre of choice, with one-third of all mass market fiction books being romance novels.
  • 35% of the world read more due to COVID-19.

Check out the infographic below to learn more about world reading habits in a year like no other.

Read at Triple Your Normal Speed with One of These Five Chrome Extension

They say that the typical person is capable of reading at a speed of 300 words per minute. Given the sheer volume of news and other information thrown at us every day, that just is not fast enough to read more than a tithe of the available material.

I am actually fine with that, but others have turned to speed reading apps to keep up with the deluge. They’re using apps to read ebooks faster, and as eBook Friendly reminded me today, you can also use browser extensions to read web content faster.

I used to use an Instapaper feature for this (that let me combine a lean back reading experience with speed reading) but I can see the merits of speed reading in your web browser.

Here are five free Chrome extensions you can use to read faster.

1. Spreed

2. ShiftReader

3. Sprint Reader

4. Reeader

5. Read Fast

The extensions work in different ways, and it’s worth your time to try them all, just in case.

Several of the extensions highlight a word on a page one at a time, forcing you to advance with the highlighted word and thus read faster. Others such as Spreed will extract the content and flash it at you one word at a time.

I don’t use any of them because, frankly, I have too many things winding me far too tight. But I would love to hear about the speed reading tools you use.

What works for you?

Build and Manage Series Pages in the Kindle Store

For a number of years now Amazon has been making series pages for Kindle ebooks. One of their bots would identify all of the books in a particular series, and then list them all on the same page so that a reader could buy all of the books at once, paying retail.

I can’t find my first post on the topic, but I always thought this idea was a good one because it aligned with how I buy ebooks (when I find a new favorite author, I buy their backlist).

And now Amazon has given authors the option of creating series pages on their own. A couple days ago they published an announcement in the KDP support forums:

You can now publish and update eBook and Paperback series detail pages automatically through KDP. With the launch of series in KDP, you can:

  1. Create a new series: For any titles in your KDP account, create an ordered or unordered series to help readers on and find all the books in your series on a single page.  Learn more.
  2. View and organize your series: Navigate from a series title on your Bookshelf to view and manage books in your series. Review series details and titles to ensure the information is up-to-date for readers. Learn more.
  3. Edit an existing series to control how it appears to readers: Adjust description. In addition, add, remove, re-order or change whether your titles are main or related content. Learn more.

If you already had an eBook series detail page available on, we’ve added that series in your KDP account. You can view existing series in your account by visiting your KDP Bookshelf and checking the box on the bookshelf for "View titles in series".  If you don’t see your series in your account, you can create a new series by following the steps here.

Not all features are available in every marketplace. Series that contain paperback and pre-order books are available on, but not and We’re working to add more series features in the future. For more information on KDP series, click here.

Does anyone know how long this feature has been available?

The code in the related help page suggests Amazon launched it at least a few months ago, but I don’t know exactly when it launched,



Amazon is Actively Promoting Audiobook Exchanges as an Audible Subscription Feature

I wasn’t going to touch this story because I thought at first that the claim was an exaggeration or misinterpretation, but I was wrong.

If you’ve been listening to the author grapevine over the past few weeks, you may have heard authors griping about Audible’s return policy. While you can usually find someone griping about something, no matter the topic, this time authors have a valid complaint.

Amazon’s audiobook subsidiary is actively promoting exchanges to potential subscribers.

What do I mean by "actively"?

Well, when I checked into renewing my Audible subscription, I saw that Audible wants me to know that if I reactivate my monthly subscription, I will be able to exchange any audiobook I am not happy with:

Also, when I visited Audible’s Memberships Benefits page, I was shown this:

And if you visit the Audible page on, you will see this:

While I think Amazon’s liberal return policy is a great idea because it reassures readers that they don’t have to worry about wasting money on crappy content, I share authors' concern about actively promoting returns. I beleive that promoting this as a "feature" attracts serial returnees – people who will consistently return every audiobook they get.

This does not hurt Amazon, but it does hurt authors and publishers. Amazon isn’t refunding the credit that their customer bought, which means they get to keep the money (this is why it’s considered an "exchange" rather than a "return"). At the same time, however, Amazon is also taking money away from authors each time a subscriber makes an "exchange" of an audiobook which authors paid to produce.

No wonder they’re pissed.

Morning Coffee – 2 November 2020

Here are a few stories to read this Monday morning.

  • A hardware hacker built a color E-ink picture frame to prank his mother (it didn’t work).
  • Dracula is often depicted in horror movies as having a close connection to Frankenstein’s monster, but few know that an early vampire story actually does have a close literary connection to the novel, "Frankenstein". 
  • Kieron Smith thinks will deprive bookstores of their originality and personality. 
  • Powell’s Books is launching the one thing no one needs during lockdown: a fragrance. 
  • The Freewrite Traveler E-ink netbook has launched. It costs more than I paid for my iPad and BT keyboard, and does less.
  • Julia Evans penned a great blog post on email marketing.
  • B&N has agreed to end its legal fight with its former CEO.  (No one won.)

Amazon is Killing Kindle Owner’s Lending Library on 4 January

When I reported several months ago that Amazon had shut down the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, several commenters argued I was wrong because they knew a loophole (find a book which is in Kindle Unlimited, and then borrow it using KOLL).

I still think my take was valid, while at the same time I would also agree they had a point. But in any case, the argument will soon be moot.

Amazon has quietly announced on the relevant KDP help page that KOLL is ending in just over two months.

We will no longer offer KOLL beginning January 4th, 2021. Customers may continue reading books they previously borrowed from KOLL. You will earn royalties for any KENP Read from these KOLL borrows.

In addition, KOLL will continue to display on your Historical and Payments reports.

Originally launched under the name Amazon Prime eBooks in late 2011, the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library was Amazon’s first foray into ebook subscriptions. It was only available to Kindle- and Fire tablet-owning Amazon Prime members in the US, but it was popular enough that it convinced Amazon to launch Kindle Unlimited not quite three years later.

And now the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library is going to be shut down.

That is not a huge loss, but it is deserving of a eulogy.

We would not have Kindle Unlimited with KOLL, and KU has been a boon to both readers and authors. Kindle Ulimited has launched multiple author careers while at the same time delivering great value for readers. It paid out over $300 million last year, making it one of the larger ebook retailers all on its own.


Amazon Adds Smart Device Dashboard to Fire Tablets

Amazon just made it a little easier to manage all your household spyware. They have rolled out an update for late-model Fire tablets which adds a dashboard that gives a convenient and simple way to control Alexa-compatible smart home devices such as thermostats, smart lights, cameras, switches, smartplugs, and more.

The new Device Dashboard can be accessed on compatible Fire devices by clicking on the new Smart Home button on the left end of the navigation bar. According to my source, it features quick toggles at the top to turn on or off all lights, switches, or plugs at once. Below that is a list of smart devices; this list can be customized by pinning specific devices to keep them at the top of the list. Also, recently used smart devices will be closer to the top as well.

The Device Dashboard shows the current state of each device. Adding a device to the Dashboard, however, requires the use of the Alexa app.

I can’t see it on my device, but I’m told the Dashboard is currently only available on the latest (2019) Fire 7 tablet, the new Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus tablets, last year’s Fire HD 10 tablet, and 2018’s Fire HD 8 tablet.

The Dashboard is still rolling out, and from what I gather you will need to enable the "show" mode and Alexa features in order to use it (this may be why I can’t see it).

There’s no word yet whether Amazon plans to add the Dashboard to older models.


Barnes & Noble’s Nook Service Still Crippled by Hack

It has been over two weeks since hackers had their way with B&N’s servers, and the retailer still hasn’t fully recovered.

The hack, which has since been confirmed as a ransomware attack, originated in B&N’s corporate offices before spreading to their servers, store computers, and even the cash registers. All parts of B&N were affected, and while most functionality was restored within a few days, B&N’s Nook service is still only semi-functional.

And that includes the author side, as well as the reader. I got a comment last night from an author whose book launch has been delayed as a result of B&N’s server issues:

This is even effecting the authors back end of Barnes & Noble. Unfortunately my book was supposed to go live on the 22nd, we get vague updates about how the “dashboard is working” but they are “still working on other issues”….it’s not the 26th? oof. I know one other author who hasn’t had their book live since the hack day itself. every day authors can’t sell books after the pre-marketed publish date is a wasted sales day, every day is a missed book sold opportunity.

Over on the reader side, I can report first hand that my library of Nook ebooks is still mostly inaccessible. I have two Nook accounts, and the one with my thousands of Fictionwise purchases cannot be accessed via the B&N website and it is still not syncing with the Nook app on my Android smartphone. My second, test account can be accessed via the B&N website, but it’s also not syncing with the Nook app.

Just about the only thing that can be accessed from the Nook app are new purchases made in the app itself.

This could not happen at a worst time for B&N. We going into the holiday sales period during a time when ebook sales are increasing as a result of the pandemic. This would have been a great opportunity for B&N to reinvigorate ebook sales and start turning around its digital division, but instead this is looking more like another nail in Nook’s coffin.

image by jjbers via Flickr