Tour’s Books Blog

February 22, 2013

An Interesting Note on Kindle e-Books

Filed under: ebooks,Editorial — toursbooks @ 8:14 pm
Tags: ,

I saw this do a fly-by earlier this week in some news outlet.  Amazon has filed a patent for creating a kind ‘used e-book’ market for their Kindle e-books.  See the article here.

I find it interesting that unlike most digital content, Amazon NEVER surrenders their rights to your ebooks.  I can sell or give away almost anything under digital material, especially games and movies, but NOT Kindle books.  Oh, you can ‘loan’ them out thru an an Amazon controlled system, but you can’t give them away.  Now if I buy a book and find I don’t care for it, I can pass it on to my neighbor who like that kind of thing, or ship it and let my brother and SIL who decide if they like it, or just give it to Goodwill for sale. But not Kindle e-books.  I can’t ‘give’ it away.  I certainly can’t sell.  The only thing I can do is ‘loan’ it for 2 weeks to someone with a Kindle or Kindle PC/mac/phone app.

OK, I guess I can see some of that, at least about the selling, but why can’t I give it away?  No, my brother and SIL have no interest in e-readers or laptops and like me, find print books easier on the eyes, but I guess it’s the principle of the thing.  You don’t really ‘own’ an Amazon Kindle e-book, you acquire a long term lease where all the rights are theirs and you ………… well, no, you don’t really have any.  You bought the right to read the book, you didn’t really buy the ‘book’, the content itself like you would buy a software package.  It’s kind of like a museum, you can see it, but you’ll never really own it.  And they CAN take it away.

So, let’s see if Amazon sets up a ‘used’ e-book marketplace for Kindle books and then let’s see how many takers there are.  Amazon is getting as good as a soap opera – we just need a JR Ewing to make it really interesting!

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February 20, 2013

More New Authors and Some Well Established Ones

One of the good things about playing in games on PBS (PaperBack Swap) is the chance to ask a person you know what they think of a new author and/or series.  Many adult paranormal romance type authors actually write something between romance and UF – like Chloe Neill with her Chicagoland Vampire series.   That concept has become more and more the territory staked out by this new generation of paranormal writers.  For me, it’s like the difference between a Michael Connelly book and Janet Evonovich, both are mysteries, but very different.  Unfortunately, no new genre title has come along to go with this new style, so I’ll stick with UF for now.  One recent swap I played in was called Unusual Suspects – and the requirement was the lead character NOT be a vampire of any type of shifter, the two most popular ‘species’ – always excluding Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, Wizard for Hire.

I won a set of books (you only get to pick one) from someone who has very similar reading habits and favorite authors as I do.  I don’t read as much historical fiction as she does.  So I requested a book I had never heard of but that looked quite interesting, providing it wasn’t ‘a sucky read’.  She assured me she enjoyed it a lot and it arrived about the same time as House Rules by Chloe Neill.  Yeah, I read House Rules first, but then I read not one but 2 books by new authors.

The upside, I really liked both books.  The downside, the next book in BOTH series will be released in HARDCOVER!  Now getting a new author and series off the ground in this crowed field isn’t easy.  Why publishers immediately jump to hardcovers is beyond me.  They’re doing it in cozies, they’ve always done with action thrillers and hardcore mysteries, and now they’re bumping up trade paperbacks to hardcovers.  Why?  Greed.  They want to milk fans.  Kind of the reverse logic to Barry Eisler releasing his self-published The Detachment as a cheap e-book 6 months before releasing a print edition in trade paperback.  I find the whole thing really annoying – and expensive!  Both books were published by TOR, so beware their trade sized first in series.  If it works out, they’ll do their level best to leech more money out of you to read the rest!

This Case Kill Me

This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova is set in a world where vampires and weres came out during the Viet Nam war and both are exclusively male groups.  The Álfar are the beautiful ones – Fae.  They are attracted to acting where their glamour and unnatural beauty draws legions of adoring fans, something they love.  Vamps lean more toward law, and were to finance and things like protection and Spec Ops for hire.  Only the Álfar have females and propagate the usual way.  There are NO female weres or vamps.  Weres can still father children, normal human ones.  Not so vamps.  So if you’re born female and human, you’re out of luck in the whole ‘becoming immortal’ category – and the status that goes with it.  Being female also closes a lot of doors in firms run by vamps and weres – and those were the most successful ones.  This group of long lived supernaturals are referred to as The Powers, or by the slang word, ‘spooks’ – widely considered insulting.

Linnet Ellery was fostered in a vamp household and came third in her class at Harvard Law, but it was her connections to one of the partners at Ishmael, McGillary, and Gold that got her a job as an associate.  Too bad ‘Shade’ Ishmael is the only one who likes her.  Gold and McGillary want her gone.  The Ellery’s might be an old, well established, and well to do New England family with an ancestor who sat in the Continental Congress and signed the Deceleration of Independence, but she was nothing but a female who took a slot in one of the top two ‘White-fang’ law firms that was usually reserved for a male who stood a chance of making partner – and being turned.  Not only that, she was assigned to a long time lawyer who had only 1 real case, Chip Westin.  His first words to her, “This case is gonna kill me.”  He’s short, bald, out of shape, and at a career dead-end with a case representing the worst clients possible – the greedy and vindictive ex-wife of a human turned were who established a security and protection firm that is now worth close to a billion dollars.  Too bad he started his business after their divorce AND left a will leaving it to his ‘natural’ child, a man he turned were Deegan, who now runs the company.  Standing in her way is a Supreme Court ruling that supports ‘made’ children rights over natural children.  It’s been going on for 17 years, and the bitter window will not let it go.

Witnesses are dying of old age, people’s memories are failing, and Chip is stuck with once again taking this to court against a well funded corporation that has the largest private army in the world.  So not only is Linnet stuck with Chip, she’s stuck with a no-win case.  Chip has Linnet going through files, re-reading everything.  But he’s been getting mysterious phone calls and after an all-nighter he says thinks he’s finally found something, something that matters.  Just as she tries to get him to the elevators, they get attacked by a werewolf.  In a stroke of luck, Linnet falls and the wolf chasing her slides on the floor, through open elevator doors and down the shaft.  Chip, however, is dead.  Then she’s attacked again, at home, and again manages to kill a werewolf.  Her luck is more than just luck.

The firm PI is a changeling, a Áflar baby left in exchange for a human one.  John is as gorgeous as all Áflar, but is as grounded as any human thanks to his parents.  A former cop, he starts helping Linnet re-investigate the old case.  He’s also very attracted to her – and she to him, but then, he’s Áflar, so women tend to fall all over him.

The characters are well defined, the story flows well, and the world building is solid – that unique UF blend of the familiar and fantasy working very well together.  I have pre-ordered the next book in the series, despite it being a hardcover.

This Case is Gonna Kill Me was acquired thru an online book swapping site at no cost.  Trade is available at $11-$12 new and the mass market paperback will be available in July at $7.99.  Is it worth the price?  The MMPB, absolutely.   The trade size, I suggest buying used.  My rating is B+ (4.1*) and recommended.

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Royal Street

Next up is Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson with Book 1 in the Sentinels of New Orleans.  Set in New Orleans as Katrina approaches, it captures the city and it’s devastation, while spinning a tale about about those things that exist beyond the Boundaries that the Sentinels guard.  With the evacuation orders, Drusilla Jaco AKA DJ, evacuates, reluctantly leaving behind her mentor and substitute father, Gerald St. Simon.  Back in Alabama with her grandmother she watches as Katrina unleashes her fury on the Gulf coast – and the winds and rain get the better of New Orlean’s levee system.

Then Gerald goes missing.  Fearing he’s dead, DJ heads back into the city with fake credentials and finds nothing at his house except mud and transport circle of ash.  The Borders were shredded by the storm and Others were crossing over into New Orleans.  The Council of Wizards were working to reestablish the boundaries between the worlds, but something was working against them, and it had something to do with a series of ritual murders taking place – mostly National Guardsmen.  DJ is a Green Wizard, one the specializes in potions, not a powerful Red like Gerald, so the Council sends her unasked for help.

Among those coming thru the rifts in the boundaries is none other than Jean Lafitte, an ‘undead’ being who keeps getting back into New Orleans.  Now ‘undead’ here is not vampires, though they too were banished during the Wizard Wars in the 1970’s.  The ‘undead’ are the people from the past who ‘live’ in Old Orleans in eternal night.  They live because people remember them.  Obviously, Lafitte is well remembered well enough that he can ‘live’ in the modern world, not just Beyond.  And being a pirate, he keeps finding ways back.  She’d sent him back to Old Orleans just before Katrina.  Now he’s back and Alex shoots him.  Now the ‘undead’ don’t really die, but after a shotgun blast to the chest, he would be awhile recovering the strength to return – most likely mad as hell when he did.  Talk about getting off on the wrong foot.  Then to find out that not only isn’t Alex a wizard, he’s a ‘co-sentinel’, well, that really frosted DJ.  Yeah, she was young, and as a Green, not that powerful, but she didn’t need some gun happy alpha male bossing her around and ‘protecting’ her!  The fact he was also FBI meant they could get an inside track on the murders.

Then, a month after Katrina, the city is hit by a second storm, Hurricane Rita, tearing apart even more of the boundaries.  One of the legends to crossover is none other than Louis Armstrong, ‘Pops’.  Rather than send him back, DJ gets him a job at Jake Warin’s bar, Alex’s cousin, playing live, and tries using him as an informant about other undead and what’s going on with these murders.  Then she finally discovers that Gerry really has done the unthinkable, gone into Old Orleans to help a voodoo god gain power to destroy the boundaries and allow free passage between the two worlds.

Voodoo, music, pirates, and murder combine to make an interesting and very readable story, made even better by DJ’s wit and humor.  DJ’s growing pains and slow but sure blossoming of her power and self assurance is rocked time and again.  Yet it never went for cheap sentiment.  Royal Street was a book that surprised and entertained me and honestly deserves more attention than it’s getting.  I got so involved, I stayed up till I was done.  Then went and bought a discounted hardcover copy on book 2 in the series, River Road, unwilling to wait for the release of the trade paperback.  Like the previous book, this one was obtained through Paperback Swap, new author’s best friend!  Like all first books, it had flaws, mostly with building and maintaining suspense of the plot.  Many of the elements were easy to anticipate, even in the big climax.  But in all honesty, it didn’t really detract from my enjoyment.  My grade is B+ (4.2*).  The trade paperback is currently selling between $11-12 at discount.  I’d suggest buying used, but I did enjoy it $10 worth.

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house_rules

Third in this line up is the latest installment of Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series, House Rules.  Previously, in Biting Cold, Merit, Sentinel for Chicago’s Cadogan House and house Master Ethan Sullivan finally got together.  His undead life fully free from the dark magic wielded by Merit’s best friend turned rogue mage, Mallory, now doing ‘time’ in a werewolf kitchen, forbidden to use magic.

Now Cadogan must deal with their decision to the Grand Presidium, the official vampire governing body.  The silence from the GP is deafening.  One thing Ethan was sure of, they were up to something.  The contracts between the house and the GP had no surprises, but upon a deeper look, his fussy librarian and researcher found additional agreements referenced in the primary contract – and that gives the GP most of the wealth of Cadogan House.

On top of that, the new Chicago mayor wants all vamps and weres to register.  And vamps are being killed – in gruesome ways.  The Red Guard is hunting for the perps, while a security consultant works with Cadogan to make sure their House will be secure once they break from the GP.  To really put things in overdrive, the mayor appoints the vamp and were hunter, McKetrick, to the office of Ombudsman, the position formerly help by Merit’s grandfather.  But her grandfather, Jeff the young were with a crush on Merit and a way with the river nymphs, and Catcher, another mage and Malloy’s boyfriend are still working with him trying to keep a lid on Chicago’s supernaturals calm and the mayor keeps making things worse.

With a three prong threat, from the city, from a vamp killer, and devious GP, Merit and Ethan work to keep the house together and city from going in flames – and find a way to keep the GP from causing complete financial ruin to Cadogan House.

While a good, quick read, House Rules lacks the interest and full tilt energy of the earlier books.  The best I could do is B- to c+ (3.5*) for this entry.  Is House Rules worth the $10.20 I paid for it from an online bookseller?  Only if you’re a fan.  But if you don’t need it right now, wait a bit and buy a used copy.

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Murder on Half Shelf

For a change of pace, I read Murder on the Half Shelf by Lorna Barrett, the most recent Booktown mystery featuring mystery bookstore owner Trisha Miles and her cookbook author sister Angelica.  In a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting, Angelica was one of the winners of a one night stay at the town of Stoneham, New Hampshire’s newest business, and bed and breakfast.  Of course, Angelica is in a snit with Bob, her on again, off again, boyfriend and head of the Chamber – and the person who fully expected to be spending this night with her.  So Tricia finds herself playing porter to Angelica as they enter the B&B.  Their hostess Pippa is less than thrilled to find Tricia and not Bob with Angelica and somewhat ungraciously show them to the master suite on the third floor.  A man, who makes a quick appearance, sees Tricia and turns and ran out must be the missing husband.

With her usual blithe disregard for rules, Angelica has smuggled in her dog Sarge and asks Tricia to walk him before they leave for a quick dinner in town.  After bickering, Tricia caves for the sake of her stomach and sneaks into the yard with Sarge.  Like all dogs, he finds something……. it’s Pippa with her head caved in.  Tricia is getting quite the reputation for finding bodies – this being her 4th in 3 years.

Hours pass with police and questions – and no food, then finally, Pippa’s missing husband puts in an appearance – and Tricia knows why he ran.  His name isn’t Joe Comfort, it’s Henry Tyler, a one hit wonder in the mystery world and her old boyfriend who supposedly ‘died’ in a boating accident 20 years ago.  Now she a serious suspect and her sort of boyfriend Grant, the new town Chief starts pulling away.  They’d been down this commitment road with him before.  The excuse is sort of valid, but She’s fed up.

Struggling to find a new store manager, and trying to help out Mr Everett  town lottery winner and benefactor, get his wife’s priorities straight, and solve a damn murder, again, Tricia finds Bob got bought off in the raffle for the free stays at the inn, the man running local nudist camp was being blackmailed, one of her fellow shop keepers orders from her store – convinced she chasing the woman’s husband, and her sister is part owner of the inn.  Oh yeah, she finds the killer too.

Lorna Barrett writes classic style cozies, small towns, limited suspect list, lots of small domestic/business issues fleshing out life, and she writes them well.  While I still find Angelica a grating personality, I am happy to see that Tricia demonstrates backbone, both with her old flame and Russ, her current one.  The who-done-it is better than usual and the why good too.

Murder on the Half Shelf was a good read with well drawn, if overly familiar characters, but is it worth the discount price of $15-16?  Nope.  This is a $7.99 that’s been published in the new small size paperback, even then it doesn’t quite reach 300 pages.   My grade is B- (3.8*) and a recommendation to get it from the library, buy used, or wait on the paperback.

February 12, 2013

Whither Goest Amazon?

Filed under: Editorial,opinion — toursbooks @ 2:01 am
Tags:

Quo Vadis?  Translation: Whither goest thou?  A movie, a book and maybe the ultimate question for Amazon and its users.  Their business model was always evolving and now we’re about to see the next version.  One thing they always did better than any other online bookseller was how they structured and built their website.  No one matches them in that.  But over the years, other companies have bettered them in service and price.  For years I would search on Amazon, but buy at B&N online or in store.  I spent a lot of time in Borders too.  Now Borders is gone.  B&N stores aren’t what they used to be, and Amazon has turned into a full service online seller, a virtual bazaar, or souk, filled with small stores all under a common roof with what is one of the best search engines around.

But what was a company that sold itself on delivery at your door, the ultimate convenience, now morphing into?  They do charge and insanely expensive annual Prime membership – but it did buy a lot of free shipping.  Thing is, Amazon never tried to find a way to consolidate member orders for pre-release books ordered on different dates.  I might pre-order some books 10 months out, other 2 months, but they’d all have the same release date.  That meant I’d get 8-15 boxes of books – each holding just 1 book.  Then it was PILES of corrugate to recycle.  I am amazed at how fast the stuff piles up.  I swear it breeds when I’m not looking.

Then recently they were asking if I want to drive to a pick-up site and get my order.  HUH?  If I wanted to drive, I’d go to a store and buy books.  Not even 4-for-3 pricing would pay for the gas and tolls, and my time!  The nearest locker was 30+ miles from my house in the most densely populated county in the country.  Oh yeah, I’m REAL anxious to spend half my day running there!

But what if they push this locker system?  What will that mean?  I don’t just buy books for me, I buy them for friends, for book swap winners, for other family members in different states.  What about them?  Will they be driving to some ‘locker’ in a city they hate to get their book?  WHy drive to pick up books from Amazon?  I mean I can ALWAYS do that with B&N.  It’s a service they’ve had for YEARS.  Not exactly new or innovative, except Amazon will have them ready ‘same day’.  It that enough for me to get in my car and drive somewhere?  If I HAD TO HAVE IT RIGHT NOW, why not just walk into the nearest bookstore and buy it?  Is this really an option we need?  And if this is their new business model, and you request shipping, will they charge more?  Where does that leave us?

Well, here’s the thing, Amazon finished off the independent booksellers, except for a hardy few that concentrate on specific genres, like The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ, or places selling religious books, or ones on everything from yoga to witchcraft.  There are no corner bookstores any more that have the latest mysteries, thrillers, romance, fantasy, urban fantasy, or paranormal.  Hell, my town doesn’t have a USED book store!  Yeah, the food stores have a tiny selection of new paperbacks, mostly bodice rippers and best-selling mystery series and the latest fad diets.  Not exactly a decent choice.

According to the letters I got from Amazon’s Customer Service:

While we’re planning a variety of special discounts and other promotional offers, I’m unable to share these details. I encourage you to check back in the next few weeks. Any special offers will be advertised throughout our website.

So stay tuned.  Will the promotions center around this ‘locker’ system they’re setting up?  Will it be based on how many dollars you spend?  Or just more of their 5% off daily special, which aren’t very special?

More importantly, are we really stuck with Amazon?  Maybe not entirely, or at least not me.  I still have a decent B&N not too far from me and BAM! (Books-A-Million) with it’s automatic 10% discount about a half mile away from them.  Online, Half.com is usually a better value than Amazon for used books, especially if one seller has multiple titles you want, and Alibris and HPB (Half-priced-books) have similar websites composed of a collectives of independent used book sellers.  Warehouse stores, especially Costco, has books, mostly top sellers, same for Walmart, not that I use either.  The Book Depository in the UK has free shipping, though that often means long waits.  Great selection and good website, too.  As a member of paperback swap, I can also buy from the PBS store, though once again, it’s a game of patience.  That’s a LOT of stores to replace one seller – still, I HATE feeling trapped.

I look around an realize two things – 1) I’m a dinosaur.  I prefer print books to ebooks any day of the week, even though I own a Kindle – and 2) we are all responsible for never-ending cycle in evolution on retail sales.  We abandoned downtowns for shopping malls.  We walked away from the family hardware store for some home supply chains.  Local bakeries closed because of competition from supermarkets with store bakeries.  We left local bookstores for large book retailers with 10% off and instore cafes and reading chairs.  Then we left stores and began buying online from sellers who had no stores, just supply warehouses.  We could go online day and night and buy everything from curtains to underwear.  On the best sites, we’d know if the item was in stock or not.  We could book flights, hotels, vacation packages, then buy the luggage, clothes, specialty gear, travel books and maps and never set foot in a store – or even talk to a person.

The very rich have personal secretaries, we have the internet.  Thing is, when it all goes south, we also have no one to call for help.  No travel agent to work for hours to find what we need.  No local hardware store you can walk into and say, “Hi Mr Zinnzer, can you tell me what I need to fix this this?”  I haven’t had a REAL Danish in YEARS, and then, it was from a bakery in Paris.  My local baker had real butter Danish, fabulous plain white bread, even good cookies.  He was just blocks from my house.  The last ‘real’ bakery in the area, one of a very few independents, closed its doors in the last 2 years.  I walk down the main street of my home town and more than half the stores are empty.  Yeah, some of it is the economy.  They rest of it though …………… we did that to ourselves.  You want to know why you have to drive 10 miles to some neighboring town, walk half a mile in some huge store, try and find someone to help you buy 1 lousy gasket?  Look in the mirror.  That gasket that cost $1.05 in your local hardware store and “just $0.79!” in the big home supply place – plus $5.80 in gas and 90 minutes of your time.  You bragged about how cheap it was, how they ‘had everything’.  Everything except what we’ve come to value most, friendly service, ease of use, and ACCURATE information.  It saved time and was much lower stress, but we walked away for the big, bright, shiny new store with all the cool stuff – until we found out the reason it was so cheap is because it’s not the same thing despite the name and appearance.  Ask a good, honest plumber about faucets and water heaters from those chains and hear what he says.

Is what’s happening with Amazon really any different?  B&N, Waldenbooks, Borders all combined to put many independent book sellers out of business.  Then came Amazon and the local bookstores watched what was left of their market slowly fade away.  Then the very companies that put them out of business slowly collapsed under the pressure of Amazon, ebooks and internet shopping.  Like all big companies, they couldn’t move fast enough – even all these years later B&N hasn’t come close to Amazon’s website for ease of use, Walden’s and Border’s are g-o-n-e.  Publishers suddenly have to deal with established authors defecting to Create Space, the Amazon owned book writing/publishing platform.  The whole business of books has changed and print books are being supplanted by ebooks – a fact B&N ignored far too long.

This isn’t so much about the 4-for-3 promotion, it’s about customer expectations.  Amazon sold itself on business model that would not work long term.  I moved my buying to Amazon because they delivered 2 days for free with Prime and they offered the 4-for-3 on some MMPB’s.  Then all MMPB’s, with a very few exceptions.   But even I said it made no sense they way they shipped so many books as singles when I was getting 10+ books on the same day.   I work in a related field and KNEW profit couldn’t be enough to fully support the system and something had to give – and what gave was the major lure Amazon used to pull in customers for your print books, the pricing break of 4-for-3.  Yeah, the trade and hardcovers are often a bit cheaper than at other sellers, occasionally a LOT cheaper, they stream movies, many free for prime members, they offer free kindle books – and I’ve grabbed a few of those.  Amazon does have its positives, but when I look at my towering pile of books, 70% are mass market paperbacks, the backbone of publishing.  They fought tooth and nail to avoid the whole sales tax thing.  Now Jeff Bezos is suddenly doing an about face and saying EVERYONE should be paying it!!!!!  In some states it’s meaningless, where I live, it isn’t.  With the demise of 4-for-3, my cost won’t jump 25%, it will jump 25% PLUS 7% sales tax, for an astonishing 32% increase!  That translates into fewer books and/or finding another source.  Maybe both.  Because I know one thing, I can’t afford to spend another 32% a year on an already too large book budget!

So, where goes Amazon?  What will it look like in 18 months, 3 years, long term?  Will ‘lockers’ supplant shipping, even the less desirable FedEx Smartpost?  How big a part will play in my future book buying?  I’ll keep my Prime for another year, but after that ……… I want to know if I get my money’s worth.  I want a better idea if Amazon will be a company that fits my life.  I dropped my B&N membership because I stopped buying enough to make it pay.  If I move to BAM or Book Depository, how much will that impact the amount I spend at Amazon?  Enough to justify the continued $79/year?  Will that cost go up if you refuse lockers?  Get discounted if you say YES to lockers?  So many unknowns.  And Amazon holds its plans as secret as Apple did in the days of Steve Jobs.  As for me,  I know I will be exploring alternative sources, see how they work.  I’ll give Amazon time to make their next move, but honestly, I don’t see anything long term in favor of customers like me.  Then again, maybe I don’t fit their most desired customer profile, so I’m not the one they want to please.  The world does not revolve around me.

But a suggestion to the readers out there who have options – start looking around for good alternatives.  The signs are not good that Amazon will continue the print book business as we’ve known it.  If you read mostly ebooks, this won’t affect you, except maybe the sales tax.  I know this, my old eyes prefer print, or as a friend calls them, ‘dead tree books’.  LOL  Hey, I pass them on to be reused and eventually recycled.  Those books have long and productive lives.  I wonder if some new player will step up and take on the behemoth?  The certain thing in life is change.  So I’ll adapt.

February 7, 2013

Where is Amazon’s 4-for-3?

Filed under: Editorial,General,Uncategorized — toursbooks @ 8:27 pm
Tags: ,

Well, I suppose it was inevitable, but Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion on books selling for a list price of $9.99 and under has disappeared.  And I do mean completely.  I couldn’t even find their Bargain Books listing!  It’s where I went for many of my trade paperbacks that didn’t qualify for the 4-for-3.  That heading is buried in Books , and once found, try clicking on many books are there are NO BARGAINS!  The is list price and no promotions or discounts.  I tried several genres, to be released and older titles, all to no avail.  When I placed an order yesterday, it went from 4 books to 2.  It will certainly cut WAY back on my willingness to try new authors or continue reading any series that’s less than a big favorite.

I did send an email to Amazon on the subject.  I’ll let you know what I hear back.

By the way, trying to find Amazon’s communities is nearly impossible these days, unless it’s for specific book genres.  I guess it’s time to reconsider Amazon as the primary bookseller.  I’ll be paying sales tax, I’ve lost 4-for-3, and new releases arrive FedEx Smartpost, rather than at door UPS delivery, which means I have to walk out to my mailbox and carry back big stacks of boxes – always fun in rain and snow.  All the reasons they were my preferred seller are rapidly going away.  Now, except for the Kindle books done in Create Space, they’re just another option.

UPDATE FEB. 8, 2013

From Amazon in response to my question about discontinuing the 4-for-3 promotion

Hello,

I understand you’d want to know what happened to the 4 for 3 promotion.

To make things right for you, I’d like to inform you that the 4-for-3 Books promotion is no longer available on the website, however, I’ll be sure to pass your message on to the appropriate people in our company.

If you’d like to know more about other promotional offers on our website, please visit our Help pages: 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=565778

You may also be interested in our Bargain Books page where you can find newly discounted books and other bargains:

http://www.amazon.com/Bargain-Books/b/?node=45

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Thank you for your inquiry. Did I solve your problem?

I responded to both to Customer Service and in an email to Jeff Bezos – or whatever flunky responds to his account.  Here is my reply to him:

Dear Mr Bezos,
Below is a copy if a response sent to your automated customer service system, which I seriously doubt will make it out of the morass of various complaints to anyone’s attention, but it of sufficient importance I wanted to make sure someone with some authority understood the consequences of Amazon’s most recent business decisions and their cumulative affect on how customers (at least THIS customer) perceives their future with Amazon.
 
“I rec’d a message that confirmed Amazon has discontinues the 4-for-3 promotion entirely.  I just wanted to let you know this will seriously impact my buying habits with Amazon.  With the change to FedEx Smartpost, the addition of sales tax, and now the dropping for the 4-for-3 promotion, you have systematically eliminated the reasons that Amazon was my bookseller of choice.  If I want to pay full price and sales tax, then I can buy anywhere.  Buying from you becomes an annoyance because now I have to go my mailbox and cart everything back to the house, where if I buy in a store, I park in an attached garage and just walk in.  Plus, I don’t have piles of corrugate boxes to knock down and recycle.
Amazon prides itself on being ‘the most customer centric company on Earth’, yet has systematically eliminated its most customer friendly policies over the last 9 months.  This is, of course, your choice to make.  Mine is to shop where I get the most for my money and/or the most convenience.  To Amazon, this will directly impact sales.  I doubt you’ll see 60% of what I spent previously.  It will also impact new authors as I will be less willing to try them without a discount.
For a much smaller amount than your prime membership, I can get an across the board discount of 10% at Barnes and Nobel, so they AUTOMATICALLY BECOME CHEAPER THAN AMAZON.  Even calculating in the cost of gas, I can drive to the store and buy everything I want in one go and say “Adios Amazon”.
The cumulative effect of these changes is such that I am seriously reconsidering my Prime membership.  I will likely keep it this year, just in case, but I can see where I am now likely to return to buying in store at Barnes and Nobel.  So much for ‘customer centric’ policies.  You do reap what you sow.  In your case. a large drop in sales.  Enjoy!”

Independent booksellers rejoice!  Looks like you can now go toe to toe with Amazon on pricing.  Walmart shoppers will dance in the aisles as they get their 20% discount.  Not the biggest selection, but it’s beating Amazon by a mile.  So Goliath is stumbling and other sellers will find themselves in a far more level playing field.

2013 and the Books Keep Coming

I admit have been over-indulging in football, college bowl games and pro games.  I’m entering withdrawal after last weekend.  Trust me, it ain’t pretty.  Luckily, I’ve also been inundated by books.  So I’ll have something to keep me busy.  SO let’s see what’s in this episode of ‘As the Page Turns’.

New authors are always fun to find.  Three books and two new authors are reviewed below and a couple of returning favorites.  First up …. Sealed With a Curse by Cecy Robson.  First book in the new Weird Girls series, Robson makes a promising debut.   Four sisters living in Lake Tahoe are hauled into Vampire Court accused of killing a vampire.  Now the sisters aren’t ordinary humans and have done their best to stay below the radar of the paranormal community that clusters around the lake, but this is not an ‘invitation’.  It’s more like an order that would be a deathwish to refuse.

But just as they are about to be convicted, Celia Wird insists that her memories be read as well.  Turns out the vamp they killed was infected with bloodlust.  Their accuser, Master vamp Sir Misha Aleksander, ends up apologizing.  And he’s given only a short time to root out the infection or lose his positing – and his undead life.  So who does he go to for help?  The Wird sisters.  They refuse.  He continues to pursue them especially Celia, the eldest and the leader of the four.  As body counts rise, like ir or not, they end up involved.

But like everything in the Wird sister’s life, it’s complicated.  Because all of them end up attracted to shifters – and Celia is very attracted to Aric, their teacher.  But the sisters have secrets, ones they keep very quiet about.  Ones that came from a witch’s curse that somehow backfired.  But it’s those gifts that are needed when take a sharp downward spiral.

The action moves quickly, with wit, and verve and enough gore to make the plot work as it should.  Not as polished as Kevin Hearne’s first book, or some others, but a better quality than I see even with some established writers.  The bad guy was obvious, but then I’m a mystery reader, so the give away line was obvious.  The ending leaves more questions and exactly what’s in the sisters’ background isn’t fully revealed.  I found it a satisfying read for a first in series, resolving enough to make me happy and leaving enough to make me pre-order the next book.

Sealed With a Curse gets a B- (3.9*) from me.  I git it on the Amazon 4-for-3, so I pain $5.99 and felt I got my money’s worth.   Worth a read and comes with a recommend read rating for fans of Jess Haines, Hannah Jayne, and Jenn Bennett.

Illegally Iced by Jessica Beck is the latest in her Donut Shop cozy series and a decent, if predictable read.  Suzanne Hart gets drawn into a murder investigation after she and the town blacksmith and a public argument about the smoke from his forge getting into her donut shop.  They settle things amicably, but when he’s found murdered later that same day, fingers all point to her.  Despite being cleared of any wrongdoing, Suzanne is determined to clear her name.  But things get strange when she discovers James Settle wasn’t at all what he seemed.

James came to Alice Springs, living in a very modest cabin under fairly rustic conditions, but he was a gifted blacksmith and a genuinely nice man, well liked in town.  Thing is, there was no James Settle.  Suzanne suddenly finds herself discovering that James came from great wealth, wealth he wanted to use to create a charitable foundation, but was stopped by his family.  A family that disowned him and he disowned in turn.  But Jessica and her friend Grace start finding a few too many things and suffer a near fatal accident.

The story was decent, though like most cozies, you kind of have to buy into the fantasy of the amateur sleuth outdoing the police.  While a good, quick read, it was not memorable in any way.  I’d give it a B- (3.7*) and suggest it for fans only.  I bought this on Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion and paid $5.99 – and that was all this was worth.

The Trouble with Fate by Leigh Evans is another first book by a new author in the Mystwalker series.  It was recommended to me when I told a friend how much I enjoyed Sealed with a Curse.  I bought this from Amazon on the 4-for-3 promotion and found it interesting, but thought the Wierd Girls series was better.

Heidi Peacock is a barrista hiding herself and her aunt from the local werewolf pack.  Half Fae and half were, she belongs in neither world, but she has a rare talent, the kind that drove her aunt loopy, the ability to walk in the Myst world.  This world is real enough when there and doesn’t like letting anyone leave, but unlike the Fae world, now closed off forever, or this world, it isn’t ‘real’.  But someone is searching for her aunt and for her and not for any good reason – and it’s weres – not locals, from Chicago.  Somehow they know she’s part were, a scent she can hide thanks to the smell of all the coffee.  But her aunt is fae, and she inherited more than slightly pointy ears from her mother.  She inherited the ability to walk in the Myst – and ability feared by the Fae, yet used by them even knowing that forcing people to walk in that world will drive them mad and eventually kill them.

She finds herself running with her teenage crush, son of the Alpha, Robson Trowbridge – only he isn’t the same man he was.  His father is dead and he was suspected in the death of Heidi’s parents.  Now the local pack is under a regional Alpha – and that Alpha wants an amulet that’s in Myst World.  And Heidi needs to get it.

Unfortunately this strong setup does not play out well and it got rather tedious and predictable.  Even the ending was somewhat annoying.  I give The Trouble with Fate a C (3*).  Again, as a 4-for-3, I only paid $5.99, but I cannot honestly recommend this.  The story is complex, but the pacing and plotting are both off and honestly, I had trouble connecting with the characters.  There are better series out there.

Black Fallen by Elle Jasper is the most recent addition to the Dark Ink Chronicles.  Our band ‘good’ vampires and immortal Picts are now in Scotland and the entire series takes a giant turn away from the Low Country stories in books one to three as Riley Poe joins WUP (Worldwide Unexplained Phenomenon) to hunt the Black Fallen – fallen angels turned super vamps.  The new powers that Riley acquired as a result of her conversion to vampire are unique, but she lacks a lot of the training she needs.

Now understand, this has never been my favorite series, so this jerk over to a different plot line didn’t bother me as much as some, but it also didn’t entirely work for me either.  The metamorphosis of Riley into a kind action hero role is kind a familiar path for current paranormals.  I find ones that start tough a bit easier to buy into.  The Karate Kid thing predictable.  The books is filled with atmosphere, and suffers from an overdose of cute (WUP, I mean really).  Edinburgh is a great choice of setting.  It’s a city that’s made for spooky stories.  The new group of characters and change from tattoo shop owner to hero is a little hard to buy, but then I never have fully connected to Riley Poe even in the earlier books.

How do I rate Black Fallen?  That’s a tough call.  I’d say C+ to B- (3.5*).  Like the other books, this was a 4-for-3 from Amazon, so it was a good read for $5.99.  Recommended for fans of the series.

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