The Apocalypse Troll by David Weber

TrollI’ve been re-reading some titles that I have in my “Nook” library, as I am unsure of what will happen with that since Barnes and Noble has sold out. One of my all time favorite science fiction authors is David Weber, who is best known for his series writing, especially the books about Honor Harrington. However, early in his career he wrote a few stand alone books, including The Apocalypse Troll. It’s a thrilling story, well told, and very much showcases Weber’s knowledge of military tactics and the geography of North Carolina.

As the story opens, Colonel Ludmilla Leonova is assigned the task of attacking an instrument of the dreaded “Kangas” a Troll, slang for a human brain in a mechanized body. This brain, conditioned to fight and kill humans, is not quite indestructible, but very close. Leonova is both brave and determined, however. She’ll seek and destroy this enemy of humanity, through space and time itself.

Thus, Leonova ends up on earth in the year 2007, and as this book was released in 1999, a near future story when it was written. After her fighter crashes, she is rescued by Captain Dick Ashton, who is incredulous, but convinced by her steady demeanor and the advanced tech of her space suit and weapon that she had indeed traveled back in time in pursuit of a malevolent enemy. This sounds as if it very much strains the concept of suspended disbelief, but the captain also convinces the upper echaleons of United States military and the President himself that Leonova is who she says she is, and that the Troll is somewhere on the planet, ready to wreak havoc on humanity. Weber does this quite skillfully, introducing a panoply of characters, one of his trademarks.

All sorts of military hardware and personnel are put into play as the Troll uses a less than honorable religious leader to whip susceptible citizens of the southeastern U.S. into angry mobs, and western North Carolina becomes the battleground.

Weber’s story is a good one, and the reader isn’t left with that sense of “what next?” that accompanies series books. For fans of David Weber, this story is a treat, and for readers who haven’t yet read any of his military fiction, it is a good introduction. The book is still available used and an an eBook from the publisher, as well as other sources.

Book selling for negative profit?

I’ve sold books online via Amazon (and I’ve listed on eBay also) for several years. Unless I got very, very lucky, I seldom made much money on those books. However, recently, I’ve seen negative profits. That’s right— the fees and postage are so high that Amazon is getting all the profit.

See this screen shot:

Amazon fees

Basically, the math isn’t in the seller’s favor here. For a $2.00 book sale, Amazon charged me $3.69 in fees, and for a $2.50 book sale, Amazon charged me $3.76. Even with the actual shipping cost being slightly less than the customer paid, I lost money, as I had to provide shipping materials and get the item to a post office. The only reason I got paid at all was the $6.56 book had a fee of $4.37. Sadly, since my state (Georgia) insists that Amazon collect sales tax on these used book sales, the buyer is not getting good value either. That book cost the buyer nearly $7, which is not a good deal for a used pamphlet.

Clearly, Amazon is not the best solution for book selling any more, so I removed all listings wherein the “fee” was as much or more than the book. Those will either be listed on eBay, or donated.

While I really love putting books into the hands of readers who will enjoy them, there is no sense in losing money to this relentless corporation.

iBooks and eBay—a winning combo

liver-rescue-apples

Apples and Apple, Inc.

As a reader of eBooks, I’ve been exploring new ways (and revisiting old ones) to view content. Recently, I saw a title touted on Facebook, and a quick look at eBay revealed several purchase options, including an eBook which was offered as a pdf file. I paid a golly whopping .99, and it arrived via email. Not quite as quick as Big A, but the seller offered pretty quick service. I tried reading the file via my email app, but that didn’t save my place, so I downloaded the file to iBooks. Winner, winner, but no chicken dinner. However, the iBooks app is a very good way to read a pdf file, and the app is easy to use, just like other, more well known ways to view eBook content. Certainly, the price was right, too.

When Big A (the relentless internet seller) decided to give me the old “heave, ho” I was a bit concerned about when and where I’d get new books to read, as I am not buying from them at the moment, but that fear has been allayed by the eBay and iBooks combination. The title I purchased is “Liver Rescue” which I won’t review, as I sincerely hope my readers don’t need it, but I’ll let you know that one way to help the liver is to eat lots of apples. Actually, I am very pleased to get a 500+ text for a buck, and the advice to eat a fruit I really like is welcome, also. Thanks eBay! And thanks to Apple, for making such an intuitive app for the iPad. Reading about apples on an Apple product is quite appropriate, isn’t it?

Nook—a second look at the eBook app

NOOK-feature-300

Nook is an app and a device!

Since big A decided to fire me as one of their “Associates” I have set aside my K—  library for the moment, and am re-reading some older titles via the Nook app on my iPad. For readers who aren’t familiar with this, it is basically the eBook platform used by Barnes and Noble. While I have not purchased many books via B & N, I was once a very loyal customer at Fictionwise. When B & N bought out Fictionwise in 2009, I was able to keep some, alas not all, of the content I had purchased, by adding the Nook app, so those books became part of my Nook library. And, as there are quite a few titles there, I am looking through the library, seeing if anything is worth a second read. One of the best aspects of eBooks is that the “keeper shelf” takes up no room in my house!

The Nook app works like other eBook apps; the raw file format is ePub. In their review of eBook apps, CNET judged it as #3, and it is quite good. I find the animation associated with page changes very pleasing; it looks just like flipping a physical page! I also like having basic info at the top of the screen (date, time, % of battery are all available) as well as the typical (in print format) of two facing pages, with the title on one side and the author name on the other. Apart from a page number, which is not possible as the file must adapt to the reader’s screen size, the interface is very book-like, and I mean that as a compliment. As an app, it is a bit quirky, however. For instance, getting back to the library can be a bit of a chore, as one must first get a more info screen, and then the option to move around a bit becomes available.

There is a library screen, a bookstore screen, a quick link back to the current book being read, and something called “Readouts” which is a bit of sales pitch mixed with freebies and information. The library screen shows “Recent Reads” and “Recent Purchases” as defaults, and there are tabs with “All titles” and “Shelves” which are, of course, organizing tools. Unfortunately for me, the only way I can find some of the oldies is via the “search” feature, but it works quite well. For instance, I didn’t finish my last name before both of my titles popped right up!

I use my iPad (mostly) for reading, so I’m using the free app, but Barnes and Noble is currently offering a 7 inch screen Nook for about $50, and a big screen (10 inch) for $130. When eBooks were new to the market, most were priced substantially lower than their print counterparts, and sometimes that is still true. Lots of classics are free, of course, but lower priced options can be, well, garbage. Overall, the prices at B & N are a bit higher than their ginormous internet competitor, but the store’s interface is elegant. Also, the content is a bit more “curated” than the content over at Big A, where just about anyone can sell anything, regardless of quality.

Since I’ve been reading via the Nook app, I have begun researching the possibility of pulling Trinity on Tylos out of the K— exclusive program and publishing it via ePub to other bookstores. Perhaps Barnes and Noble readers would buy a few digital copies. Stay tuned….

Earth Day

planetI have mixed emotions about this day, but I do like some of the promotions associated with it. There is a nifty kids’ consignment store over in Buford that is having a big sale today, urging their customers to buy used. For kids, that’s generally a win-win, as children’s clothing is often not worn out before it is out-grown, and as kids are hard on their clothes, cheaper options are better for play clothes. I noticed some emails from an online clothing vendor, which is offering sale prices and promotional buttons which say “used.” I’m not going so far as to wear one of those, regardless of how good buying and wearing pre-owned items is for the planet.

One of my friends works with elderly folk, doing both house-keeping and care-giving, and she recently brought me some bags of fairly nice clothing from a client who is downsizing. I’ve been going through those, listing some items on eBay, and setting aside some for charity. She was told to “get rid of them” by the client, so my friend had the choice of trash or wholesale charity, but she is a thrifty sort, as I am, so she went through them first. Some readers are going to say, “Yuck, I can’t imagine being that poor.” But, the truth is that neither of us is especially impoverished, but we do realize that the planet is better off when things are re-purposed or re-used.

In my kitchen, I have a compost bin, and I take it out regularly, adding to my compost pile in the back of my property. When I set out plants, I use the composted material for fertilizer, instead of using chemicals that aren’t good for me or the planet. When I’m away from home, I generally take a water bottle, rather than buying those. I use rags and towels when cleaning, rather than always using paper towels (which I can’t get hubby to do.) And, I’ve learned that Dawn+vinegar+water trumps most pricey cleaning products.

As a reader, I enjoy new and old books and magazines. These days, most of the content I read is in digital form, which sometimes saves significant amounts of cash, but it also prevents the waste associated with old or remaindered books. If you haven’t tried eBooks, this is a great time to take the plunge, as there is plenty of free and inexpensive content. Try the “Nook” app from Barnes and Noble, as it works quite well.

Earth Day is a chance to think or re-think consumption.

26 Posts in the Trash

dollar signAnd lots and lots of links are gone. Five years’ worth of links to the 800 pound gorilla publishing company that recently declared war on my site. Oh, and I’ve just deleted half of the stuff in my shopping cart (the other half was placed by my hubby, who is more swayed by convenience than I am.) So… let’s see what new weirdness will be coming my way.

BTW, here’s a couple of emails I got recently regarding my “seller” account with the 800 pound gorilla. This April has been filled with foolishness.

On April 8 I got this lengthy missive. BTW, I sell books, not pesticides!

Dear Seller,

As part of our ongoing efforts to protect our customers and enhance the customer experience, we are updating the requirements to offer products that qualify as pesticides or pesticide devices. Pesticides and pesticide devices include a broad set of products, and it can be hard to identify which products qualify and why. You are offering, or have previously offered, products that are affected, including for example:

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To continue your current offers on affected products after June 7, 2019, you will need to complete a brief online training and pass the associated test. You will not be able to create new offers on any affected products until you receive approval. You are required to take the training and pass the test only once, even if you have offers on multiple products. This training will help you understand your obligations under EPA regulations as a seller of pesticides and pesticide devices.

To avoid interruption of your offers, you may either click this link to Seller Central to start the approval process using a sample ASIN: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/hz/approvalrequest/restrictions/approve?asin=B0002YP612, or request approval using any of your ASINs listed above.

Frequently asked questions:

1. Why am I receiving this message?
You are receiving this message because you are offering, or have previously offered, one or more pesticides or pesticide devices. EPA regulations define pesticides and pesticide devices to include a broad set of products, including many that you might not expect. For example, they can include:

• Ultraviolet lights;
• Air treatment units or filters;
• Water treatment units or filters;
• Sound generators;
• Insect traps; or
• Products that make pesticidal claims, such as “disinfects” or “sanitizes”.

For additional information, see EPA guidance on what a pesticide is: https://www.epa.gov/minimum-risk-pesticides/what-pesticide and what a pesticide device is: https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/pesticide-devices-guide-consumers#2.

You can also see Amazon’s Pesticides and Pesticide Devices policy for more information: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/202115120.

2. What does this mean for me?
To create a new offer on any pesticide or pesticide device, or to avoid removal of your existing offers of these products after June 7, 2019, you must obtain approval by completing an online training and passing the associated test. You need to take the training and pass the test only once, even if you have offers on multiple products.

3. How do I seek approval to sell the affected products?
There are two ways to request approval. You can click on this link https://sellercentral.amazon.com/hz/approvalrequest/restrictions/approve?asin=B0002YP612  to start the approval process using a sample ASIN (you are under no obligation to list against this ASIN, but can use it to trigger an approval request).

Alternatively, you can use one of your affected products as follows:
• Login to Seller Central, click Inventory, and select Add a Product.
• Input one of your pesticide or pesticide device ASINs from the list provided above.
• In the search results, click the “Listing limitations apply” link next to the ASIN.
• Click the Request Approval button to start the approval process.

4. What does the approval process consist of?
You will be required to complete a brief online training and achieve a passing score of at least 80% on the associated test. Only U.S. sellers are permitted to request approval.

5. Can I still use FBA?
Effective June 7, 2019, only sellers approved to sell the affected products may send shipments of those products to fulfillment centers.

6. How will this affect my existing FBA inventory?
If you have remaining inventory of qualifying products in Amazon fulfillment centers, you can continue selling your remaining inventory until June 7, 2019. After June 7, you either need to (i) obtain approval to continue to sell the affected products or (ii) create a Removal Order for return or disposal of your remaining FBA inventory. For assistance creating a Removal Order, please visit our How to Create Removal Orders page: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/200280650.

Thank you,
Amazon Services

Then on April 11, I received this email:

Dear Seller,

You recently received an email from us regarding listing requirements for pesticides and pesticide devices. Our email incorrectly stated that your offers on media products would be affected by these requirements. However, these requirements do not apply to media products such as books, video-games, DVDs, music, magazines, software, and videos. None of the products you are currently offering have been identified as pesticides or pesticide devices and no action is necessary to avoid removal of your current offers.

We apologize for any confusion caused to you by our email. If you have any further questions, please contact Selling Partner Support.

Regards,
Amazon Services

 

Okay….

Got this email today:

Effective in 7 days, Amazon is terminating your Associates account as well as the Operating Agreement that governs it.

Note that this communication is regarding only the account listed in the subject line of this email.

Why?
You haven’t referred any qualifying sales for more than 365 days.

What’s next?
You must stop using the Content and Amazon Marks and promptly remove all links to the Amazon site. You will be paid on the regular schedule for any outstanding fees that have accrued prior to this notice.

You are welcome to reapply at any time by visiting https://affiliate-program.amazon.com.

Thank you for your participation in the Amazon Associates Program.

Amazon.com

By Pamela/Pilar Posted in Amazon

Where do you buy your car “farkles”?

cargo trayMy oh my, WordPress didn’t like the spelling of “farkles.” That’s more of a motorcycle term, I suppose, but it basically means shiny stuff that might actually do something to help the vehicle. My rather limited research indicates that this is a portmanteau word, based on sparkle and function. When hubby gets a new ride, he often wants to invest in some farkles.

Having bought (perhaps I should say perpetrated, based on its performance thus far) a new-to-us ride, I shopped online for some accessories. I began on eBay, but ended up purchasing via a site that insists I remove all links to its site. Anyway,  I wanted genuine Toyota items, and our local dealership isn’t known for giving big discounts on much of anything. Via a relentless online vendor, I got some All Weather Floor Liners (deeper and more sturdy than floor mats) and a Genuine Toyota Cargo Tray, which is also deeper than a mat, if not quite as heavy. While not exactly “shiny” these items are handsome and quite functional.

The car looks a bit better with these accessories. Now, if I could just buy a cushier ride….

Thoughts on Car Buying

2000My sometimes hated (but mostly beloved) minivan is no longer in my possession. After a few days of car shopping, I traded it in for a used Toyota. The van, a Honda Odyssey, was sixteen years old, so I suppose it was time. Still, it ran beautifully on the way to the dealership, so that drive was bittersweet. On the way, I passed by a yard sale, offering bikes and other things I might have purchased, because having things to do at Grandma’s house is where I am in life, but I didn’t stop, knowing that those items would probably not fit in the trunk of the sedan I was planning to purchase.

Buying a car has changed since I bought my first vehicle, that’s for sure. Now, the first contact is often online. Whether one picks the “chat” function or sends an email, there will soon be a contact. The phone starts ringing. Go in for a test drive, and (in Athens, Georgia) there is a mandatory meeting with the “sales manager.” Then, a couple of times, I got an email to see if the salesman met my expectations.

After I finally said I might be interested in a used Honda, I got an offer of $500 for my old van. As it has been more truck than family vehicle for a while, with the typical bumps and scrapes associated with that duty, I wasn’t expecting much. But, that deal had me paying more than the maximum KBB value on the seller’s car, with half the typical auction estimate on mine. Really, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

Eventually, I ended up at a more rural dealership which didn’t use the “meet the manager” approach. I got $900 for my old van, which was still a very low number, and a newer car for less money. Oh, and I got to keep the new to me car overnight and take it for an inspection prior to purchase. The dealer even gassed it up for us before the extended test drive.

After I’ve had this vehicle for a while, I guess I will know if it was a good purchase. But, I can say that the pressure to buy was less out in the country. In the mean time, I guess I’ll be looking for some accessories for the “new to me” ride.