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Monday News: Kindle Unlimited, the local value of libraries, Japanese artist arrested for obscenity, and the ‘sassy black sidekick’ stereotype

Monday News: Kindle Unlimited, the local value of libraries, Japanese artist...

With Kindle Unlimited, Amazon Makes Bid for Amazon Prime Customers – Well, it’s a few days into Kindle Unlimited, and the world still seems to be more or less intact. Slate has an interesting perspective on the service, which is that it’s a strategy for Amazon to get more money out of Prime Members, who already pay $99 for pretty extensive privileges. To some degree, there is clearly duplication and/or overlap between the Prime Lending Library and KU. However, the addition of audiobooks is what drew me, a Prime member, to KU. Still, perhaps the ability to borrow audiobooks through KU could make a service like Audible, which has a basic monthly fee that is about 1.5 times that of KU, less appealing. Or maybe there’s a long-term strategy to drive more customers to Audible, which Amazon also owns, to purchase audiobooks either beyond what is available in KU, or to purchase audiobooks for truly unlimited listening enjoyment. In the meantime, people seem to be having a good time trying to figure it all out.

From a customer’s perspective, is Kindle Unlimited a great deal? Price-wise, it’s more or less on par with similar services such as Oyster ($9.95 a month for access to more than 500,000 titles) and Scribd ($8.99 a month for access to more than 400,000 titles). In fact as Gizmodo astutely points out, the biggest competition for Kindle Unlimited right now might be Amazon itself. Current members of Amazon Prime can check out one book a month from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (selection: more than 500,000). Prime, of course, also includes free two-day shipping, streaming movies and TV shows, and streaming music. At $9.99 a month or about $120 a year, Kindle Unlimited is $20 more expensive than Amazon Prime. And while it might have a slightly bigger selection of books, it comes with a lot fewer other perks. –Slate

Resisting Amazonification – I’ve had this article waiting to post since last week, and this seems like the perfect time, given the library-type environment Amazon seems to be creating with Kindle Unlimited. University librarian Barbara Fister is arguing that one of the strengths of a common-use library is a reinforcement of the local and the public, as opposed to the multinational, corporate, and private. I don’t think Kindle Unlimited has confused this distinction, at all; in fact, I think Fister’s piece is a good reminder that there are still many differences between what Amazon is engaging in and, say, spending a day at your local public community or university library. In any case, I think it’s a nice piece.

There is an alternative to this kind of corporate data-sucking dominance, and it scales, but it’s not without barriers. Yochai Benkler calls it “commons-based peer production.” To participate you need to have some skills, some free time, and some connection to the common project – because it won’t be linked from everywhere as Facebook is and it’s doubtful all of your relatives and friends and your ninth grade English teacher are already there urging you to connect. Instead of handing over personal information to fund the platform, you contribute time and some work, and you trust that the piece you work on will become integrated with the whole, which requires a stable and transparent governance system of some sort. Wikipedia is a great example of a massive peer production project, but its platform isn’t as intuitive as it could be, its governance culture is unwelcoming to many, and its rules can be labyrinthine. OpenStreetMap is a collaborative peer project to share and build on map data; OpenLibrary aims to create a web page for every book ever published – but neither is as well-known as Google Maps or Amazon. Yet they do demonstrate that we don’t have to surrender our lives and attention to mega-corporations to do cool and useful things together online. –Inside Higher Ed

Vagina selfie for 3D printers lands Japanese artist in trouble – File this under WTF – a Japanese artist who created a “pussy boat” based on the contours of her own vagina was arrested last week, and under Japanese law, she could be jailed for up to two years and/or fined 2.5M yen (approximately £14,300 or USD 24,500). The arrest stems from the fact that Megumi Igarashi, aka Rokudenashiko, who crowdfunded the project, sent data to people who could use it to produce the boat with a 3D printer. So while there was no actual image of her vagina sent, the data was considered obscene by Japanese authorities. This, folks, is patriarchy.

Commentators have pointed out the hypocrisy of her arrest, which comes soon after Japanese authorities resisted pressure to banpornographic images of children in manga comics and animated films.

The activist Minori Kitahara said police raided Igarashi’s office and seized 20 of her artworks. “Japan is still a society where those who try to express women’s sexuality are suppressed, while men’s sexuality is overly tolerated,” she said. –The Guardian

Not Your Sassy Black Sidekick – We talk a lot about both stereotypes in the Romance genre and a lack of broad-based diversity. Characters of color (and gay men from any ethnic background) are often featured in secondary roles, and their presence may be to represent ‘truth-tellers’ to the white, straight protagonists, or to provide witty observations and comebacks (often in a ‘truth-telling’ way). This short but pithy piece from For Harriet gives a cogent overview of why these stereotypes are problematic, and why they can make it more difficult to realize authentic, meaningful diversity in the genre.

What is a sassy black sidekick? Past and present television shows have used this trope to relegate black women to a sidekick position whose primary function is to entertain, act as the butt of a joke, or be an accessory.

If the black character expresses emotions of her own, it is portrayed as comic relief from the more serious issues facing the “dominant” character. Plainly, the issues of the black woman are trivialized and reduced to a punchline in the media, as well as reality. –For Harriet

Dear Author

Sharing a Kindle account with a friend

I have a friend whose tastes in books are somewhat similar to mine. She would frequently ask me what I purchased and I found so many times that our tastes overlapped. Why not share an ebook account, I proposed. We both have multiple Kindle devices and so I signed us up for a joint gmail account that we would attach to our joint Kindle account. This has been a lot of fun for me. I enjoy going into the Kindle account in hopes that she’s bought something great. From time to time, she’ll ask me what in our joint account we should read.

Kindle permits up to 6 Kindle devices to be attached to one account and any number of apps. We have two Kindle devices, two computers, two phones, and one iPad connected to the account. By pooling our resources, my friend and I have spent approximately the same amount of money than before we shared but we have access to a larger ebook library.

We fund the account primarily with gift cards, although I often “gift” myself books and my friend has recently attached her credit card so that we can access the Prime Library.

I asked on Facebook and Twitter whether any one else account shared and received some really interesting responses.


DA reviewer, Dabney, shares with her sister. Dabney buys the adult books and her sister buys the YA books.

How do you fund your account?

I fund my Amazon account with a credit card. When she buys me a book, she gifts it to me through Amazon.

Did you have separate accounts before ? If so do you spend more or less?

We have different Kindles. For that matter, I own five Kindles–mine, my kids, my husband’s, my best friend’s and my sister’s–that all use my Amazon account. Only I buy books.

How do you decide who purchases what titles? Do you check with each other first?
My sister has her own Amazon account, but doesn’t buy Kindle books through it.
How do you decide who purchases what titles? Do you check with each other first?
She checks with me before gifting me a book. Sometimes, she buys a YA I already own (her eldest is 5 years younger than my youngest) and I return it for credit.
How did you decide to share an account?
She has an iPad for work, but wouldn’t have splurged on a Kindle. When I switched to a Paperwhite, I gave her my old one. She loves it because when she travels–her family lives in Spain for three months every other year–she can load up with books for her whole family.

Reader R

I share a Kindle account with my mom, but I do everything as far as getting the books, downloading them for her.
We do it primarily for the Audible account.

We live separately, but I have always been her book buyer, even paper copies. To us, this is just a continuation of the way we have always managed books. It just has the wifi element in it now.

Reader A

How do you fund your account?
I pay for the books on my debit card. I’ve always bought a lot of books. Honestly, I drink at bars. I always think – hm, I can buy a book instead, right?
Did you have separate accounts before ? If so do you spend more or less?
We never had separate accounts. I choose the books and she’ll give me a gift card every now. I spend about the same, but I buy more books since I follow both Dear Authors & Smart Bitches for book deals.
How do you decide who purchases what titles? Do you check with each other first?
I pick the books, though she’s told me about upcoming books or books her MIL has recommended.

How did you decide to share an account?

I had a thought about sharing a while back. I suggested she get a new Kindle and just hook it up to my account, but I got a new one first. I mean, she’s not going to announce my addiction to awesome erotic fiction authors. My Goodreads feed already does that.

Reader C

I started sharing my Kindle account with my friend Janice a few years ago. She got a Kindle for Christmas but didn’t use it very much at first, not loving the idea of having to buy most of her books. Her local library closed for 6 months for renovations, and I offered to add her Kindle to my account since we read similar genres and it would still be free for her. She took me up on it and we’ve been Kindle buddies ever since. I still buy any books that I would normally. She now loves the convenience of release-day delivery, as well as getting books she can’t find at the library. For any books she buys she’ll either send me a check every 3 or 4 months, or add a gift card to my account to cover her “tab.” We talked about it, and she’s fine with the idea that I technically own any books that she purchases. We have no plans to unshare my account, and would deal with stripping DRM to copy her books to her new device if we needed to.


The convenience of sharing is wonderful. Previously my friends and I would trade around a stack of paperbacks when we visited a few times a year, and now if I get something new that we’re all excited about I just go online in the morning, send the book to everyone’s device, and then we compare notes via email a few days later. There’s no more delaying the discussion while we wait for someone’s name to get to the top of the library queue. Also, there’s no more worry that a shared book will get lost and not make it’s way back to me.
As I said before, I buy the books that I would anyway so there’s no financial penalty to me. I see being able to share as a nice bonus and don’t expect that we’ll cut the cost 4 ways if it’s something we’re all interested in. There have been times when I’ve had the first book in a series but decided not to continue with it, and someone else buys the rest of the series. When my friends buy books, they reimburse me. We all benefit from having easy access to the shared pool of books and have discovered authors and series that we might have missed out on otherwise.
Sharing an account sometimes leads to other fun – since my sharers have to log in as me in order to buy a book, Amazon tags any other searches they do as mine. So, for about a week last summer, I got frequent emails from Amazon letting me know about sales on chainsaws and related accessories. I didn’t need a chainsaw, but J was removing a tree in her backyard. It makes for a fun ongoing joke when we all get together.

Reader T

so i saw this post and decided i needed to comment. i used to share a kindle acct with my best friend. we both read the same kind of books and thought it was silly to have to each buy the same books we read twice so we decided to put me on her acct and i would give her some money and we would share the books. THEN SHE GOT MAD AT ME for something and took me off her acct and changed her password…… all the money i paid for the books is lost… all the books i paid for are no longer on my kindle…she wouldnt give me any money back as compensation. i think sharing an acct with someone is a bad bad idea unless its ur acct to begin with and u always have access to it……….
Reader T told me she had shared this account for two years.

Reader S

In the beginning I read a lot more than my 2 other friends so instead of them spending money on something I already had I offered my account. We switch off on who buys the books to keep it fair for the most part. I still read a lot more than them though so I do not save a considerable amount because I will just end up buying another book with what I saved from rotating.

The drawbacks are if one is not careful with changing the CC to theirs or back to mine. I’ve had it happen a handful of times over the last 4 years being charged or charging someone else accidentally. I quickly learned to tell the others not to buy from their Kindle.
Children getting hold of their momma’s Kindle and buying things is another drawback. It’s easy fixed though, I just return the book as an accidental purchase.

There is a way you can buy a book on your Amazon acct & “gift” it to a friend(that way you can keep the books on one acct). I personally found that irritating and that’s when we came up with storing the CCs.

The other option is to “loan” it to a friend but a vast majority of ebooks I had do not allow this feature. I only share with people I trust implicitly! My hubby is in the USAF so we move a lot, sharing books with my friends/family helps keep the bond going strong…and lessens the loneliness one feels from time to time from being apart.

Reviewer M

How do you fund your account?
I’m the only one that makes purchases…. I think which just goes out of my personal bank account. I really bad at paying attention to what I spend on books… I just click, click, and click. I have a lot of books on my kindle I have never read because of this bad clicking problem.
Did you have separate accounts before? If so do you spend more or less?
I think she spends less. We were both buying the same books before. Now if I buy something she doesn’t have too.
How do you decide who purchases what titles? Do you check with each other first?
I just buy what I want or if its popular and I know one of us needs to review. We are really close so it I wouldn’t really care if she got something
How did you decide to share an account?
How it happened was I wanted the new Kindle with 4G LTE (it downloads books while not on wifi) and I already had the kindle fire. When I got my new kindle I still had this perfectly fine kindle fire so I handed to over to my other reviewer who also already had her own kindle but now she can have access to everything I buy. She literally is always caring around 2 kindles.

Reviewer L

I share a friend of mine’s account (I forwarded her your email address but don’t know whether she emailed you). The vast majority of her ebooks we both have (the free ones) however there are some that she cannot “loan” me because for whatever reason Amazon won’t let her. So I just log into the cloud reader and read it that way.

She also shares this account with her mother, her boyfriend and another of her friends. Attached to her Amazon account are 2 kindles (one is her mothers, other is hers), 3 ipads (1 work one and 1 for each of her kids), 3 iphones (2 are hers, one is her friends), a windows phone, an android phone (the boyfriends) and she also has the app for her PC. If I recall correctly she reads her books via her phone and loans out her kindle to friends if they want to read specific books that she can’t loan out otherwise.

As for the money aspect. I know her mother and her load money up on the account to buy books, not sure about the other friend. However she has told me that I can order whatever books I’d like on her account (she’s got prime) and I can reimburse her later. I’ve also mentioned just buying a giftcard, loading that up and paying off that for anything I’ve bought, that was also find with her.

I tried to preserve the anonymity of the readers and other reviewers. I know some people find the sharing of an account troubling but I see it as a way for readers to share with others much the same way as they did with paper books. As one reader above noted, the lending feature is limited because so few books feature that option.
Are you interested in sharing? Do you find it problematic? Would you share an account and if so, with whom?