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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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September 2016
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How to Make Your Kindle Book Successful

I am not a bestselling author, nor do I play one on television.  I do, however, take a great deal of interest in how those who have managed to make it big with their self-published Kindle books have managed to pull it off.  It’s a tough environment and authors don’t have the soft of support system that traditional publishing offers, so there is often a great deal of creativity that needs to come into play.  If you are looking to follow in the footsteps of the KDP success stories that we have seen so far, however, there are a few things that are best kept in mind.

Treat Your Audience Well

You already know that social networking is considered the key to self-publishing success at the moment.  What a surprisingly large number of authors seem to think this means is that you need to send out scores of random connection requests on Facebook and Twitter, then repeatedly advertise your book over and over again.  This is the wrong way to do things.

Anybody who has access to a Kindle will already know that there are more eBooks out there than they can ever hope to read.  Make yourself stand out by doing something besides badgering.  Answer questions, share anecdotes, build up a conversation about your writing process, or just offer the occasional preview of your newest work.  If you treat your readers like people, they will be more interested in what you have to say than any 140-character ad could accomplish.

Be Inclusive

Unlike with traditional publishing, you will not accomplish much on a book tour.  Instead, harness the power of the internet to make your connections as virtual as your Kindle publication.  Set up online gatherings, have a community forum on your personal site, make a Facebook fan page, and generally just keep your options open.  Under no circumstances should you decide to buy into one social network at the expense of all the others.  It doesn’t take much extra effort to at least cross-post news or check comments in a variety of places and you cast a wider net that way.

Build A Network

It is important to go beyond direct advertising as well.  One of the best ways to accomplish this is by developing connections with other authors.  Readers tend to take their favorite authors’ recommendations seriously, so it is definitely possible to form a circle of reliably interconnected readership with your peers.  This is mainly just a way of directing the force that is the customer recommendation, but that can be tricky to get a hold on.

Write Well

This should go without saying, but often needs to be said.  You are writing for an audience.  Whether it is a Kindle eBook or a paperback, that audience expects a certain amount of professionalism from you in return for their money.  This means that you should exercise some care with your work.  Give it an extra

Kindle Use Up and Still Rising, Pew Study Finds

The Pew Internet and American Life Project has recently published a study about the current trend in electronic reading.  Their findings signal impressive gains for the Kindle and eReading in general over the past year.  It can now be said with some degree of reliability that at least one in five Americans have read a book on a device designed for reading in the past year and nearly 30% of American adults now own an electronic reading device.

There is reason to be excited about this if you’re a fan of the Kindle, but the results should also be taken with a bit of caution.  For example, the definition of “device designed for reading” includes tablets like the iPad.  If all we’re concerned about is eBooks getting read, then that makes no difference whatsoever.  When we look at ownership levels, however, including the iPad or Kindle Fire will necessarily boost the numbers by including people who have no interest in reading on their multi-function tablet.

If we do look at eBook consumption alone, regardless of the device, the numbers are even better.  Pew indicates that 43% of Americans 16 and older have read an either an eBook or some other long-form publication in the past year.  This includes consumption via PC, Tablet, eReader, Cell phone, and anything else with a screen that might have been handy.

Kindle users are also more likely to purchase their books than those sticking to paper.  The report indicates that readers of electronic books are far more likely to buy than borrow, even when libraries are now available, and are generally more likely to say that they prefer book ownership as a rule.

These readers are more likely than their paper-loving counterparts to have read extensively over the past year as well.  Readers who take advantage of options like the Kindle report an average of 24 books read per year compared to the 15 of those who don’t engage with electronic texts.  This may be specific to eReaders like the Kindle, since the report also indicates that a similar disparity did not show up when comparing tablet user reading habits to non-eReader reading.

This is not the end of the printed word, of course.  Print books still account for the overwhelming majority of reading material being consumed.  There have been large enough spikes in Kindle use lately to indicate the comparison might be more equal soon, but print still has its place.  While most people who use eReaders reported that they prefer eBooks for a variety of reasons, print was still the desired format when talking about children’s books and book lending.  The latter point is especially obvious since publishers have forced lending restrictions onto eBooks, but it is a factor nonetheless.

The thing that best sums this up is probably the demographics.  While not specific to the Kindle, eReading was measured as fairly even across the board.  Men and women are roughly equally likely to have read something electronically.  All income groups show at least 20% to the same question.  The only real areas lagging behind in adoption are among those with a high school level education or below and readers over age 65.  Even in those groups the numbers are higher than ever before, which Pew attributes to the low price of the now <$80 Kindle.

Agency Model Set To Fall! Kindle Book Prices Will Follow Suit

Not much is known at this time about what options are being discussed by the publishers under attack by the Justice Department.  We do have good information that there are settlement options on the table and that the Agency Model pricing model currently to blame for high Kindle Edition eBook prices will be on the chopping block regardless.

Reports from unnamed informants close to the matter have indicated that there is reason to expect a settlement within the next several weeks.  Neither Apple nor the publishers have responded to any requests for comment at this time.  The Justice Dept declined to say anything.

Whether this is a sign of consensus among the defendants or merely that one or two are feeling the pressure and wanting to end what they see as a losing battle should not matter much in terms of the outcome.  In the event of one publisher involved in the price fixing scheme reaching a settlement, the terms would undoubtedly involve release of evidence necessary for ensuring a successful prosecution of the rest.

Basically, assuming the news is true, this means that the end of the Agency Model is at hand and that the Kindle has made it through possibly the most harmful barrier to eReader adoption without so far becoming irrelevant.  A return to the wholesale model, even temporarily, will mean more affordable reading material for Kindle owners.  This in turn should spur sales of the eReading line.  Amazon’s willingness to take a loss on bestsellers to promote their product line is what game them over 90% of the eReading market before the Agency Model was imposed and there is no reason to see this practice changing overly much if the Agency Model is destroyed.

The big question will be what comes next.  Settlement or unfavorable ruling aside, publishers are not going to give up on their position that readers have no right to expect inexpensive books.  It is incredibly unlikely that they will all pull out of Amazon in reaction to this, but they’re going to have to find some new way to prevent Kindle customers from being too happy with digital books.

The case at hand is all about how the defendants collaborated to impose the Agency Model on Amazon.  The means to achieve this goal is in question, not the model itself.  Depending on the terms of the settlement, publishers could be permitted to go back to it in time.  They could also turn to something even more unpleasant for potential customers.  It is hard to tell at the moment.

In the short term, the clear winners will be customers.  Prices on eBooks should drop abruptly, especially in the Kindle Store, following official announcement of the deal being made.  In reality, expectations may need to change with regard to how profitable a new bestseller should be per unit sold.  Big 6 publishers will be forced to come to terms with this.  Beyond the immediate benefits to Kindle customers there is little that can be asserted reliably about the effects of this situation.  It will be interesting to see how the situation evolves.  Any thoughts or predictions?

The Amazon Kindle, eBooks, and Piracy

While it is hardly the only place that media piracy is coming up these days, eBook piracy is very much on the minds of publishers and booksellers.  There has been some informed speculation made that possibly as many as 20% of all eBooks currently loaded into devices like the Kindle are pirated rather than purchased.  The number is almost shockingly high for some and seems to demand a response.  The big question is what action could and should be successful.

Since I’m assuming that this reaches a relatively well informed and reasoning audience, I don’t need to spend much time on the fallacy of assuming that every eBook loaded onto a Kindle thanks to piracy is a lost sale.  Naturally this is not the case as studies have shown repeatedly when looking into music, movie, and video game piracy.  Most of these same studies have shown that piracy does not have any strong negative effect on sales at all, but let’s assume for the moment that at the very least it allows the market trends to shift based on where customers see the most value to be gained for their money.

This is where the piracy “problem” gets relevant.  Publishers wish to control the perceived value of their product.  It is problematic for them if customers are able to get the same quality of experience from a $3.99 eBook that they do from a $17.99 hardcover, as this has an adverse effect on a mainstay of traditional publishing.  Unfortunately, this sort of control can only be exercised in a situation where the publishers can regulate the flow of new work being made available to customers.  eBooks naturally render this impossible, especially given how simple it is to choose self publishing these days thanks to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others.

Do I agree with the idea that books should lose value in an environment where there are too many of them to possibly read?  Not entirely, but that’s just the way things work.  If you have two similar titles being offered for wildly different prices then the cheaper one is likely to win out, barring dramatically successful marketing efforts.  The only way that piracy really plays into this is in allowing readers to still have access to their favorite authors in situations where they would feel unable to justify paying now-outrageous prices.  This is not necessarily a view of the emotional or philosophical “rightness” of the act, just an awareness of the psychology at work.

When it comes right down to it, you can’t stop piracy.  No matter how restrictive the DRM, there are always more people interested in breaking it than maintaining it.  What you can do is adapt to the market and respect your customers.  Publishers who insist that if they can just shut down piracy sites and force Amazon to set high prices for Kindle books then all will be well are deluded.  The only way to control piracy is to make legal acquisition affordable enough and simple enough that the alternative is too much of a hassle to be considered.  The problem is not that the Kindle allows readers to access files they pick up from anywhere on the net, it’s things like the Big 6/Apple Agency Model implementation that try to freeze an entire form of media into an economic model that no longer functions.

Amazon vs B&N Conflict May Mean More Kindle Exclusives

In what is just the latest point of conflict between Amazon and Barnes & Noble over their relative positions in book sales, B&N has announced that they are unwilling to stock any Amazon published works in their stores.  It is clearly an informed decision that responds to multiple pressures coming from Amazon.com and online retailers in general, but it also raises the question of whether the Brick & Mortar chain can make such a bold move without drawing customer attention to the value of owning a Kindle.

The stated reason behind this decision is that Amazon has been increasingly successful in arranging exclusivity agreements with major publishers and authors that have prevented the competition from being able to provide the best possible service to their Nook customers.  A fair point, and not one that many people would disagree with.  Amazon is definitely fond of throwing their weight around.  At the same time, however, it is a general admission that the Nook is unable to manage to compete on equal terms against the Kindle as things stand right now and possibly not the best way to reassure customers and investors of the long term viability of the product line.

This also relates to the extremely controversial practice of “showrooming” that has made headlines regularly ever since Amazon released their price check app for iOS and Android smartphones.  Since Amazon’s structure allows them to save a great deal of money on things like local stores, they can offer lower prices on a wide variety of things.  This is especially the case with paper books, where it is extremely unusual to fail to catch a deal compared to any local retailer.  A company that relies on their overt physical presence as much as Barnes & Noble does will obviously be negatively affected by such instant access to price comparisons since it deters impulse buying and turns their stores into profitless showcases for another company.  By refusing to carry the physical copies of Amazon’s new publications, they clearly hope to demonstrate to those lured into exclusivity agreements that the Brick & Mortar is still vital to success.

Again, I can’t help but feel that this is a big gamble.  If Amazon were not already well ahead in book sales then this would not be a problem in the first place.  The Kindle has, thanks to their huge investments and the very exclusivity arrangements that B&N is unhappy with, built up the most substantial library and user base in the eReading world.  It will take something drastic to knock them back down to a manageable level, but the idea that Barnes & Noble showrooms can have that kind of influence is questionable.

This feels like something that will end up turning major authors into Kindle exclusives whether they intended to be or not, further devaluing the selection at Barnes & Noble.  While they have also declared that these books would still be available through web services, it will take a lot of customer loyalty for that to be a viable purchasing option compared to Amazon.com.

Kindle Fire & Reading: Making The Transition From E Ink

Now that the Kindle Fire is out and making a splash on the tablet marketplace, a commonly heard description by people who aren’t trying to set it up as the next iPad is that it’s “Amazon’s newest, most advanced eReader”.  Now, in the interest of complete honesty from the start I will admit that nothing has managed to compare to the experience of E Ink Pearl for me when it comes to reading.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Kindle Fire is horrible for reading, just that for people who happen to have access to both technologies  it will likely remain preferable to use the dedicated eReader.

What if you only want, or can only afford, to have one device on hand?  The Kindle Fire will work just fine.  Thanks to some of the options for display, it is almost pleasant to read even though it’s an LCD and there are some features that work even better with the tablet than they would on the admittedly slower eReaders.  Moving from the Kindle 3, for example, to the Kindle Fire will require some adjustments, however, which it might help to be aware of.

Library

Your books are now arranged a bit differently.  Unlike on the other Kindles, which show you the books you actually have on your device unless you go out of your way to look at the “Archived Items” category, initially a Kindle Fire will display the Cloud view of your library.  What this means is that every book you currently own through Amazon will be displayed, regardless of whether or not they have been downloaded.  Kindle App users will likely be familiar with the concept.  To download a particular book, just tap it.  If you are interested in looking at only books that are already downloaded, though, such as in cases where WiFi is not available, there is a tab at the top of the screen called “Device”.  This will narrow it down for you.

Reading

The Kindle Fire’s reading app is pretty nice, all things considered.  Tapping the bottom of the screen will pull up a menu bar and slider.  The slider allows navigation by location or percentage.  The menu bar has the familiar “Aa” button that pulls up a Font Style tab to let you choose between all eight font sizes, three different options each for line spacing and margin width, and a few color schemes.  Those first two will mostly be a matter of preference while the latter contains the vital “white text on black screen” option that most people will prefer for extended reading.  This button will also pull up a tab for Typeface selection, of which the Kindle Fire has eight.

Interaction

Users of older Kindles will also be pleased to find how much easier it is to interact with the text.  Just hold down on a word to select it or drag across an area to make a larger selection.  The option will appear to highlight, annotate, or search based on that.  The search can take place through Google, Wikipedia, or within the text itself.

Overall it’s unlikely you will run into many problems adjusting to the Kindle Fire.  It might not be the perfect reading device, but it does the job better than most.  Feel free to leave a note if you have any questions about adjustment I haven’t touched on.  I’ll try to answer any questions that pop up.

Nook Kids Out of Luck On iPad

In recent news, Apple has decided to start thoroughly enforcing their in-app purchasing rules after a bit of a delay.  While this is inconvenient for Kindle users, Nook users, and pretty much everybody who isn’t Apple, perhaps the most uniquely affected portion of the eBook marketplace will be the fans of Nook Kids for iPad app. Its narrow audience and specific requirements definitely make it a special case.

If you think about the strengths of the iPad, or tablets in general so far, when it comes to eReading, the biggest factor in favor is the color screen.  Not much good for the purpose if you read a lot of bestsellers, classic literature, poetry, or anything along those lines, but absolutely essential for optimal viewing of kids’ books among other things.  Right now, the Nook is pretty much the only eBook line handling children’s books in a thorough fashion.  One of the things you’ll see on all their advertisements is that they have the “largest collection of kids’ books all in one place”, and that even seems to hold up pretty well.

Now, if you make the assumption that few parents are grabbing their children tablets of their very own, which I think is a fair assumption given the average prices and general fragility of the gadget compared to the toys they might be used to, the change becomes particularly inconvenient.  Basically, if my hypothetical child were to have their own Tablet PC or Kindle, it would be in my best interest to not allow them any way to make purchases on the device itself.  Whether this is accomplished via parental controls or simple lack of functionality doesn’t matter much.  On the same device that I keep around primarily for my own use, that I simply happen to pull out during shared reading time, the lack of functionality is an infuriating factor.  Yes, browser-based purchasing is still simple enough to use, but it adds enough steps to the process of acquiring a book that will likely only take a small amount of time per reading anyway that it renders impulse buying less attractive.

This was Apple’s plan, of course.  Force people to either give Apple a 30% cut of every sale or lose a large portion of their revenue entirely.  When nobody else is offering the same service, it won’t necessarily kill the business, but I would expect interest among iPad owners to fall off to a certain degree.  A big setback in the short term that may allow competition to rise up if Barnes & Noble can’t get a better handle on the situation.  Personally, I would anticipate seeing Nook Kids for Android apps any time now.  The tablet market is growing noticeably, and it is only a matter of time before something pops up that can compete with the iPad.  Right now that looks like an Android Tablet.  Maybe it will be the Kindle Tablet, maybe not, but as far as the OS choice goes, there isn’t a whole lot else going on right now for portable devices.

Borders Liquidation May Further Kindle Amazon’s Success

As of this morning, Monday the 18th of July, it seems pretty much inevitable that Borders will no longer be a presence in the American retail space soon.  Their failure to compete with Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, especially with regard to the Kindle and Nook eReaders, led the company to bankruptcy earlier this year.  At this time, Borders Group employs over 11,000 people in over 400 stores nationwide.

At this point, bidding for the company has passed and there seems to be little hope for recovery for America’s second largest book retailer.  While earlier this month a buyer had seemingly been found for the troubled company, creditors have rejected the bid based on the possibility that the new owner would be able to liquidate the company after purchase.  Unable to find common ground on that topic, and having no other serious bids, liquidation of what is left of Borders seems to be a sure thing.

Overall, this would seem to be a story about a failure to adapt to a changing marketplace.  Even before the eBook revolution, digital distribution had become a major, and possibly the major, means of music acquisition for many consumers.  Hundreds of Borders Superstores around the country still kept, and still keep, whole floors of CDs collecting dust.

When it came time to jump into eReading, Borders was late to the game and didn’t really manage to do anything to set themselves apart.  Their own eBook store, built in 2008 after breaking away from an affiliation with Amazon, was weak to begin with and eventually ended up being replaced outright by Canadian partner Kobo.  While they did make a splash as the first company to being a sub-$150 eReader to America by way of the previously mentioned Kobo partnership, no real effort was made to produce or even settle on a single product.

The decline of the company was not abrupt.  The last time Borders turned a profit was back in 2006.  Still, many will mourn the death of yet another major brick & mortar book retailer as the convenience and lack of overhead that sites like Amazon.com provide make the local bookstore less profitable and less common.  Should things go the way they look to be over the next several days, Barnes & Noble may well be the last major bookseller with a nationwide physical presence.

All of this may be good news for Amazon as they become that much more essential for the avid reader.  Without a local Borders store, many consumers will be forced to turn to the internet to make their book purchases.  It will even likely have some small impact on the sales of Kindle eReaders as the ease of acquisition for less prominent eReading devices, previously sold to varying degrees in participating Borders stores, drops off.  Some even wonder whether this might not hasten the decline of the printed book, since it makes the impulsive browsing experience that much less tactile.  If one is forced to buy something that can’t be held and inspected ahead of time, it might be better to go for the option with instant delivery and no risk of damage in transit, right?

Kindle vs Paper Round 2: The Flipback?

As we all know by now, the Kindle was a ploy by Amazon to undermine the publishing industry, authors, and the generally transcendent experience of reading in general.  It has long been known that reading a book on a piece of electronics will always be sub-par compared to holding an actual paper book in your hand for countless reasons not worth looking too closely at anyway, but the Kindle marketing machine is too strong.  Readers have all but given up on paper, books are being burned, libraries are being shut down after falling into disuse, and machines may forever rule our lives.  There is one hope remaining, however: The Flipback!  Finally, a paper book that can compete with the Kindle in every way that matters.

Ok, that was all a bit ridiculous even for me, but I hope you see what I’m getting at.  Recent press surrounding a series of hardcover, cloth-bound, bible-paged books called Flipbacks has made it sound like they’re the latest great hope for paper to make a comeback in the book world.  I’ll admit that they are somewhat interesting.  Basically, small hardcover books about the size of a bulky cell phone that are meant to be read vertically and one-handed, with pages being flipped upward rather than from right to left.  The Flipback is lightweight, highly portable, and probably just as great for travel and commuting as the company making it is advertising.  Of course, you’re still going to be paying $19.99 for a single book printed in super-small text on the kind of super thin pages rarely seen outside of a bible.

Even assuming that there were no real downside to this product — no text size issues, no quality concerns, and priced to move — where is there a good reason for comparison to the Kindle or any other eReader?  Speaking on a personal level, I would say that this is almost worse for me than a normal paperback.  The price is higher, the books themselves are less aesthetically pleasing than your average equally priced hardcover, and I really dislike the “onion skin” paper they are using.  These seem to be a possible solution to a problem that already disappeared with the coming of the eReader.

To be a bit more objective than that, I think these Flipbacks have a chance if they can get the price down.  Right now you can buy yourself a Kindle for the price of 6 Flipbooks.  No matter how portable you can claim them to be, that just isn’t good enough even if they were competing with nothing but regular old-fashioned mass market paperbacks.  Many people are likely to find that the paper book “experience” is as foreign with one of these new books as is the Kindle itself, again downplaying the potential for direct competition.  There is a fair amount to get used to.

I think, however, that this could take off as a commuter’s impulse buy type of item in the next few years if they can get costs down enough to undercut the average paperbacks.  Right now, it is still essentially a test run of 11 titles coming from a single printing house.  Is there potential for a reading revolution?  Maybe a small one, sure!  Do we need to jump back up on the “Kindles are killing books” bandwagon again because paper has suddenly rendered eReaders obsolete?  Probably not.

Will Rowling’s ‘Pottermore’ Change Digital Distribution As We Know It?

J.K Rowling, long term eBook holdout, has decided to finally let the Harry Potter series out for the Kindle and into the eReading marketplace in general.  It’s good news for fans of Harry Potter, fans of eReaders, and basically everybody but the publishers.  You see, Rowling has retained her electronic publishing rights and stands to make pretty much pure profit from every sale these electronic releases bring along.  The only question now is what this will mean, if anything, for how eBooks work in general from this point on when it comes to major publications.

First, I should point out that Rowling has voluntarily agreed to pass along a portion of her eBook profits to her publishers, Bloomsbury Publishing and Scholastic.  No word on precisely how much, to the best of my knowledge, but it shows that this isn’t a cutting of ties to the industry.  We also know that Amazon and Barnes & Noble have stated that they are working with the Pottermore site to make sure that the new Harry Potter publications work with the Kindle, Nook, etc. with0ut much trouble.  This last fact could mean anything from simply optimizing the layout to offering some degree of post-purchase integration with the respective platforms.  It is too soon to tell on that.

I’m going to work on the assumption here that Rowling is putting aside any real integration with the Kindle or Nook platforms to avoid giving either Amazon or Barnes & Noble a cut.  They’re likely simply trying to take advantage of the inevitable popularity of the eBooks to promote themselves by association. That’s about the best they can hope to get from it.  For smaller book retailers, however, this is likely going to come as bad news.  Even more so for children’s booksellers.

Even if Pottermore, the site that Rowling will be selling her material through, takes off, will it change things for either publishers or retailers?  I am of the opinion that it will not.  This is a very unique case.  Most publishers make a point of acquiring the eBook rights at the same time as everything else when they sign a new author.  Especially now that the eBook industry has become such a big thing compared to what it was when Rowling got started.  As such, no way for big names to make a move like this after they become big names.  Newer authors, especially self-publishing authors, will not have the resources to push sales to users of the Kindle and Nook while still maintaining their distance from the respective platforms.  Even if they did, it isn’t like Amazon will jump at the chance to work closely with just any author who wants to circumvent their cut of the profits in a creative way.

Honestly, I would say that the only impact this will have is directly on the Harry Potter series.  There isn’t transfer to the rest of the eBook world.  It is too soon to say if the Pottermore site will do well, and most of that will likely have to do with considerations beyond the eBook availability.  Even if it does, the only people to benefit will be the Kindle-owning fans and Rowling herself.  It isn’t a sign that changes are coming.

Kindle Store Success May Indicate Percieved eBook Value Beyond Simple Savings

Something that most early adopters of the Kindle were eager to see was the impressive price drops that eBooks promised to bring.  Compared to the expense of creating, transporting, and retailing a paper book, how could the eBook not make large libraries an inexpensive pursuit?  To a certain extent, of course, we did see this for a while.  Even now, during the reign of the Agency Model of eBook pricing, there are still impressive discounts to be found.  That’s not even taking into consideration the impressive selection of indie authors who have sprung up thanks to the Kindle Store.  Something I think many people miss when talking about this topic is that the price rebound, even if it does involve artificial inflation from the “Big 6″, could not succeed without consumer cooperation.

The easy comparison when talking about eBooks is the print book.  It’s almost too obvious to be worth stating.  Something that people often forget when making that comparison, however, is that comparing and equating are two different things.  A Kindle is not meant to be a cheap substitute for print.  It provides benefits beyond any potential savings that have a chance to provide value equal to the paper copies for many people.  When you buy from the Kindle Store you get instant access to a selection greater than any single physical bookstore could offer in person, faster delivery than any online retailer of paper copies could hope to achieve, portability between all of your Kindle-equipped devices, and a number of other benefits.  The question tends to become what you value in your purchase.

For some people, it makes sense to shop for the lowest price available.  If the eBook is cheaper, as most people expect it to be, then there is little problem.  When the paperback is actually cheaper than the eBook, however, we see problems.  It is certainly true that the paper book provides certain benefits that the eBook doesn’t.  We’ve all been over them before.  It also has any number of shortcomings of its own.  I, personally, would rather have an eBook because my mass market paperbacks keep wearing out on me.  So far, nothing I’ve bought on the Kindle Store has fallen apart.

I am not trying to make the point that eBook prices are right where they should be.  I think everybody is still trying to figure out where things are going to settle with regard to that.  The fact is, though, that the eBook as a format brings more to the table than price drops.  If there weren’t people who would rather have their collections of bestsellers on a Kindle instead of a bookshelf, sales would drop off on those books to the point where even the most stubborn publishers would have to consider changing things around.  Perhaps, rather than talking solely about the sacrifices that are necessary when choosing an eBook over a paper book, it would be more useful to think about what it is that brings you to the eBook as a choice in the first place.  There is obviously something the average Kindle Store customer values beyond the savings.

Kindle Books and Lending: The Complicated Relationship

Over the course of the eReader race so far, one of the biggest points of contention has been the potential for book lending. For quite a while, this was a major factor in the Nook’s favor when people considered the Kindle vs Nook question. Later, when the Kindle managed to get an equivalent to the long-standing Nook Lend Me feature, it pretty much because a moot point.  Now the focus with regard to lending has shifted in large part from an individual concern to questions of institutional lending.

At the moment, it is significantly easier for somebody to walk into a library and get themselves an eBook loan if they have an EPUB compatible eReader.  This is a pain for Kindle owners, but overall it makes sense given the current state of eBook formatting and such.  It just makes more sense to go with the more widely accepted, more advanced, and more likely to last of the available options when you think about the problem from the point of view of eBook lending system developers.

Putting aside Kindle-specific concerns for a moment, eBooks in general have problems involving the lending concept.  Take the recent issue with HarperCollins.  They’ve decided to put an arbitrary cap of 26 checkouts on their eBooks on the assumption that this is roughly equivalent to the average number of uses a paper book will see before needing to be replaced.  Even assuming this is correct, which seems doubtful, this is nothing short of ridiculous.  It works to highlight an important point, however.

Can we truly expect to treat eBooks the same way we do their paper counterparts?  There are arguments on both sides, but most of the pro-lending ones seem to stem from either the idea that the improved circulation will be inherently good for a given author or that given the long-standing precedent for lending which goes along with books it will be impossible for eBooks to be a comprehensive replacement for many people while lacking this ability.  I admit scepticism.

The fact of the matter is that as eBooks gain popularity, certain changes will have to be accepted.  Among these will be a reinterpretation of the appropriateness of unrestricted lending.  I don’t agree with the publisher reaction on this one, but I do think that you need to either have your books be freely lend-able or remove the option entirely.  It is impossible to productively compare the durability of a paperback to the period over which a purchased license to lend a Kindle book, or any eBook, should retain its value.

The problem I run into is that I can’t think of where to draw a better line.  Time-based licensing is out, because it would force libraries to repeatedly pay to maintain access to books which may never see use. If you’re going to have a checkout-based system, it should obviously account for the inherent lack of publisher expense involved in re-granting a license, but where do you draw the line fairly for consumers while still making sure authors get the money they deserve for their productions?  Overall, more questions than answers, but I think that for now the issue of lending is going to be more trouble than it is worth for everybody while people get over the idea that free book lending is a necessary part of the reading experience.

Borders Bankruptcy Details

I know I mentioned this the other day in passing, when it was just an incredibly probable rumor I believe, but Borders(NYSE:BGP) is officially filing for Bankruptcy.  As one might expect, they’re not about to just disappear, but it seems the Kindle is having its effect on the local book store ever more visibly.

The current plan appears to be a reorganization involving the closing of between 200 and 275 stores, thirty percent or more of the total chain, with the final number being dependent on what sort of concessions are able to be attained from the leaseholders on the 75 stores in limbo at this time.  These 200+ stores are doing poorly enough right now that they are costing the company millions of dollars every week with little chance that number would have been able to turn around in the immediate future.

As much as it’s a bit disconcerting to get a reminder once again that the local book store you can just walk into whenever you want may soon be a memory, there’s a certain amount of irony in the reminder when you consider how recently people lamented the failure of the locally-owned book store in the face of big name megastores springing up all over the country.  Borders was one of the driving forces behind that move and now they can’t keep up either.  Something of a failure to adapt, perhaps.

What this means for your average Kindle fan or user is, perhaps unsurprisingly enough, not much.  Borders has been a retailer for a number of eReader devices over the past few years, including the fairly popular Kobo eReader, and was in fact a big factor for a short time when they brought the Kobo to the US and provided the then-expensive Kindle with a competitively priced counterpart that could be seen right in a store. In spite of this, however, the Kobo is not and has never been a Borders controlled device or platform.

This may be the big factor in the Borders downfall, when it comes right down to it.  Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) hasn’t been doing amazingly in the past few years, but their Nook has been nothing but helpful and the Nook Color has an impressive following.  The Kindle is obviously not so much connected directly to any brick & mortar book store, but its widespread availability and the robust platform behind it has pretty much defined the eBook industry as we see it today.  For Borders to think to get by in this newest stage of the book industry riding on the innovations and productions of other companies while offering little to no cohesive core to bind them all together may have been a bit unrealistic.

If you happen to find yourself near one of the Borders stores being shut down, be on the lookout for fliers and posters because it appears that there will be stock liquidation sales at any number of locations as the restructuring moves forward.  Grab what you can while it’s there and cheap!  Should you find yourself book store free following the closings, hopefully a Nook or Kindle will hold you over until something better comes along in your neighborhood.

Free Kindle Books on Open Library

Open Library is an amazing non-profit project (partially funded by California State Library). It is trying to catalog book (and e-book) titles and their locations, thus creating a gigantic library. As Open Library owners describe, “One web page for every book ever published”. The idea is to be able to find any book’s location – be it in a store, library, or in electronic version. Open Library is an open project. Anyone can (and is encouraged to) participate: adding book titles, editing the existing catalogue, fixing typos. Also, their software and documentation are also open. There is no registration required for downloading free e-books. However, you need to register on Open Library if you want to participate in the project.

KindleI have to warn you: finding where to download a free e-book is not really intuitive in Open Library. To find a free e-book, you need to type the book title/author’s name in the search bar (there is also an advanced search option, where you can also look for a book by ISBN, subject, place, person, or publisher); check “Only show e-books”. On the results’ page the list of books will have one of three icons – borrow, DAISY, or read.  All the available e-books have the “read” icon beside the book title.  Press “read”.  It should open the book in read-online mode.  Press the icon “i” on the top right corner, next to the “play” option.  It will open a menu with available e-book formats: PDF, Plain Text, DAISY, ePub, and finally, my favorite, “Send to Kindle” option.  Ta-da!

As you might have noticed, other than “read”, there are two more icons appearing in the Open Library search results: “borrow” and “DAISY”. “Borrow” finds the book in the closest to your current location library (it searches by zip-code); and DAISY is a format for vision-impaired readers. According to Open Library, DAISY offers “the benefits of regular audiobooks, with navigation within the book, to chapters or specific pages.” You can find out more about DAISY on their official website.  As far as I understand, DAISY format is not that easily accessible.  One needs to get a key issued by the Library of Congress NLS program.

Quite frankly, I think I’m very impressed with Open Library’s book catalogue idea and its execution.

Free Kindle Books on Feedbooks

Feedbooks is a book store, selling books and e-books with an unpredictable price deviation in comparison the Kindle Books on Amazon.  Some books are cheaper and some books are more expensive than Amazon’s selection.  So, before buying a book from Amazon, perhaps, you would want to check it out on Feedbooks first.  You might save a dollar, or two.  Or not.

FitzgeraldHowever, e-books are being sold all over the internet.  Finding places where to buy e-books is not that challenging any more.  So, from this point of view, Feedbooks’ selection of priced books is not much of an interest for me.  I’m on the quest of finding free e-book libraries for your Kindle.  And if you click on “Public Domain” section, Feedbooks provides a limited, but still worthy of checking out selection of free e-books.  The registration for downloading the free e-books is optional.

ForsterOnce you found that special book for your solitary enjoyment, do not press “download” immediately.  It will automatically download the e-book in EPuB format.  Click on the book’s title and then you will have a choice of downloading the book in PDF or “Kindle” format, which is actually .MOBI.

As I already said, by all means, it is not a large free e-book library.  However, you can still find Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which is not available on Amazon for free (the prices vary from $0.95 to $11.99).  Also, there is Cory Doctorow’s I, Robot available for free (not available in Kindle Books on Amazon).  And those, who complained about free Kindle Edition of E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View (missing passages and such), give it a try to this version on Feedbooks, maybe it is better.

Happy reading.

Tolstoy and Kindle

The Elegance of the HedgehogAs I was reading Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog (which I quite enjoyed, by the way), I could not help myself but notice that the author emblematizes intelligence and erudition in one particular author, Leo Tolstoy. I found it a little amusing and curious – in order to demonstrate the concierge’s intellectuality, Barbery keeps mentioning Tolstoy as her favorite author. The hilarious part, of course, is that she names her cat Leo and that is supposedly what highly intelligent people do. Tolstoy, in fact, becomes the reason why the concierge befriends one of the wealthy and highly educated residents, Mr. Ozu. He is also a fan of Tolstoy, and also gives his cats Tolstoy-related names – Kitty and Levin, from Anna Karenina (which by the way, is free in Kindle edition). And do not question his intelligence! Of course, he is a bookworm – he read Tolstoy!

War and PeaceIt is not the first time, when I see Tolstoy’s name being dropped here and there as a symbol of individual’s high education. I do not want to dwell upon the thought, whether I agree or disagree with such choice of symbol for erudition. However, Tolstoy’s novels do look intimidating just by looking at the size of the paperback, and even worse – hardcover books. I remember, when I was reading War and Peace, I think, I developed an unusual group of muscles – right around my wrists, just by holding the heavy tome of War and Peace. Also, snuggling with such book in bed is not as comfortable due to the weight of the volumes. And I’m not even going to begin discussing the pains of carrying such book around and reading it in public transportation or in the office, while you wait for the appointment. I mean, it’s not only that you look hilarious behind a gigantic book – almost like Harry Potter behind an encyclopedia of magic spells. It’s just simply impossible to carry such enormous weight around.

The beauty with Kindle is the readily available collections of Tolstoy’s novels for sale. And, also one would not feel intimidated by the ginormous size of Tolstoy’s books. If you considered reading Tolstoy, went to the bookstore, flipped through the pages and ran away scared of the amount of pages, then seriously consider giving Tolstoy another chance – try reading his works in Kindle. Yes, you can still see how many pages there are. However, the beauty with e-books is that they conceal the intimidating part – the physicality of big volumes. You start reading, get into the plot, and you would not even notice until you are through with the novel. War and Peace around is priceless.

Ina Garten Kindle Books

As Thanksgiving is almost here, Google has displayed one of their special Google Doodle logos about Thanksgiving recipes. The doodle specifically highlights chef Ina Garten. I took a quick look in the Kindle store and lo and behold – none of the 13 books Ina Garten has published is available on Kindle. Wouldn’t it have been great if some one like me, having learned about her books on such a short notice could get these books “in under 60 seconds” on my Kindle and surprise my guests tomorrow with something special?

The good news is that “Tell the publisher!” button is back on Amazon.com. So you can do just as I did – go to all 13 book pages pages and press the button to let the publisher know that I want this book on my Kindle.

Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips

Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips

Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips by Ina Garten

The focus is on creating simpler yet appetizing dishes that save time and minimize stress in the kitchen in bestselling author (Barefoot Contessa Cookbook) and Food Network guru Garten’s latest. She showcases recipes that utilize fewer ingredients, limited to those easily found in supermarkets or specialty food stores. She also stays away from time-consuming cooking techniques, instead making unusually good use of her oven for everything from easy parmesan risotto and French toast bread pudding to spicy turkey meatballs. Despite the relative simplicity of these dishes, they are still elegant enough to be served at dinner parties, especially the roasted figs and prosciutto, fresh salmon tartare, and the mouthwatering, easy Provençal lamb. Garten’s vegetable dishes are particularly appealing and varied, including scalloped tomatoes, garlic-roasted cauliflower, and potato basil purée, and her desserts are equally strong, with easy cranberry and apple cake and fleur de sel caramels. Full-color photos accompany each recipe and are enough to send any hungry soul immediately into the kitchen. True to her trademark style, Garten once again shows that delicious food can be prepared with a minimum of fuss, even with guests on the way.



Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients by Ina Garten

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics is the essential Ina Garten cookbook, focusing on the techniques behind her elegant food and easy entertaining style, and offering nearly a hundred brand-new recipes that will become trusted favorites.
Ina Garten’s bestselling cookbooks have consistently provided accessible, subtly sophisticated recipes ranging from French classics made easy to delicious, simple home cooking. In Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, Ina truly breaks down her ideas on flavor, examining the ingredients and techniques that are the foundation of her easy, refined style.
Here Ina covers the essentials, from ten ways to boost the flavors of your ingredients to ten things not to serve at a party, as well as professional tips that make successful baking, cooking, and entertaining a breeze. The recipes–crowd-pleasers like Lobster Corn Chowder, Tuscan Lemon Chicken, and Easy Sticky Buns–demonstrate Ina’s talent for transforming fresh, easy-to-find ingredients into elegant meals you can make without stress.
For longtime fans, Ina delivers new insights into her simple techniques; for newcomers she provides a thorough master class on the basics of Barefoot Contessa cooking plus a Q&A section with answers to the questions people ask her all the time. With full-color photographs and invaluable cooking tips, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics is an essential addition to the cherished library of Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics is the essential Ina Garten cookbook, focusing on the techniques behind her elegant food and easy entertaining style, and offering nearly a hundred brand-new recipes that will become trusted favorites.Ina Garten’s bestselling cookbooks have consistently provided accessible, subtly sophisticated recipes ranging from French classics made easy to delicious, simple home cooking. In Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, Ina truly breaks down her ideas on flavor, examining the ingredients and techniques that are the foundation of her easy, refined style.
Here Ina covers the essentials, from ten ways to boost the flavors of your ingredients to ten things not to serve at a party, as well as professional tips that make successful baking, cooking, and entertaining a breeze. The recipes–crowd-pleasers like Lobster Corn Chowder, Tuscan Lemon Chicken, and Easy Sticky Buns–demonstrate Ina’s talent for transforming fresh, easy-to-find ingredients into elegant meals you can make without stress.
For longtime fans, Ina delivers new insights into her simple techniques; for newcomers she provides a thorough master class on the basics of Barefoot Contessa cooking plus a Q&A section with answers to the questions people ask her all the time. With full-color photographs and invaluable cooking tips, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics is an essential addition to the cherished library of Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.


The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

Lauren Bacall gets cranky when Barefoot Contessa, an East Hampton specialty food store/institution for more than 20 years, is sold out of Indonesian Ginger Chicken. She can now thank her lucky stars that exuberant owner Ina Garten has written The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and included this recipe. Ms. Bacall is sure to be pleased to discover how easy it is to achieve such fantastic flavor. Simplicity is something of a bottom line at Barefoot Contessa. “Food is not about impressing people,” Ina Garten says. “It’s about making them feel comfortable.”

Aimed at the cook who intends to entertain, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook draws on Garten’s experience as a caterer, as well as her knowledge of what customers really want to eat when they arrive at her shop. She has culled her favorite recipes and has included timesaving tips, always striving for ease and simplicity. Neither cooking nor entertaining should be a chore, according to Ina Garten, and her lovely cookbook is a case in point.

This is an intensely illustrated cookbook that shows the foods to best advantage (and makes it a lovely gift book). Presentation counts for a great deal, and Garten’s food styling adds to any food platter. But just as relevant are photos that bring in the spirit of fresh, locally grown produce. There’s the local poultry producer proudly holding a laying hen in case anyone should wonder where the eggs come from.

Amazon Announces Lending Feature for Kindle

Kindle 3 vs Barnes and Noble Nook side by side

Kindle 3 vs Barnes and Noble Nook side by side

The moment we have all been waiting for has finally arrived.  Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has finally announced plans to allow Kindle book sharing among Kindle users.  Like the Nook, the Kindle book can only be shared one time, and will have a 14 day lending period.  The book will not be available on your Kindle while it is on loan to another person.  This feature should be available by the end of this year.

I will admit, as much as I love my Kindle, the fact that I couldn’t share books with people was a real disappointment for me.  Part of what makes reading so enjoyable is the ability to share and discuss books with people close to you.  I bought The Help, a bestseller by Kathryn Stockett, and knowing that several others wanted to read it, I had to buy the hardback version.

This new development is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t quite allow the lending freedom we’ve all hoped for. Lending rights will be up to the publishers, or whoever holds the rights to the particular book.  Considering the war over e-book prices, it will be interesting to see how strict publishers are about allowing lending capabilities.

Speaking of lending books, I would like to see more headway in allowing Kindle e-books to be checked out in libraries.  Contrary to popular belief, libraries are at the forefront of emerging technology and digitization trends.  Many libraries are purchasing Kindles to loan to their patrons to use, and that system has shown signs of success.  As of now, since the Kindle has its own copyrighted e-book format, it cannot be used.  Other e-readers have open book formats that allow their e-books to work in libraries.

If Kindle books were available to check out in libraries, I think that would boost sales of the device itself.  It would also reach out to an even wider variety of readers who may not have had the opportunity to learn or explore the idea of using an e-reader.

Hunger Games Trilogy Kindle Edition

Mockingjay, the final book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series has been all the rage recently.  At the moment it holds the #5 spot on Amazon.com’s Kindle and Kindle DX bestseller list.

So, for a little background, the Hunger Games Trilogy consists of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.  The setting of the trilogy is a futuristic country called Panem that is separated into 12 different districts. Two young teenagers from each district are drafted to participate in The Hunger Games each year.  Out of the 24 contestants, only one will live.  This country is a result of the collapse of the United States, and plays off of reality show culture.

The first book in the series, The Hunger Games, introduces Katniss, the main character of the series.  She takes her sister Prim’s place in the Games along with Peeta, the other representative in District 12.  They are out to woo their audience while outlasting their competitors, literally.  One reviewer quoted the movie “Jaws” when describing the nature of the torture this book:

“you don’t actually need to SEE the shark in order for it to be terrifying. Sometimes not seeing the shark is even worse.”

Catching Fire explores Panem’s political structure, and the rebellion that comes from the results of the previous year’s Hunger Games.  Katniss takes on more of a leadership role and the novel provides a great lead in for the final book in the series.

Mockingjay is a war story.  Panem is at war, and Katniss has to fight the battles while facing the ghosts that have cropped up after three years of relentless brutality.  The lives of her family and friends are at stake.  All of this has come from the government and the evil President Snow.  I have friends who have said that this book is a real thriller, and that they couldn’t put it down.

There is a bit of romance in this trilogy and physical violence of course, considering it is about fighting for survival. The mind torture is what makes the trilogy a hit with adults in what appears to be strictly young adult reading material.  The reviews are awesome.  Collins manages to take an idea that is not so new and adds a fresh spin to it.  She also adds a bit of humor to provide comic relief.  One Amazon.com book reviewer claims this is the first series that they’ve had such a strong connection with since Harry Potter.

Carl Hiaasen for Kindle

Carl Hiaasen recently came out with a satirical novel called Star Island that has been a big hit,  and is in the top 10 on the Kindle Bestseller list.  Star Island features a 22 year old pop princess named Cheryl Bunterman (Cherry Pye) who gets sucked into the perils of drinking, drugs and sex.  Cherry is surrounded by an entourage dedicated to maintaining her image while she ends up in one rehab center after another.  The novel is an imaginative, yet seemingly accurate spoof on the lives and activities of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, as well as the general modern pop star scene.

If you aren’t familiar with Hiaasen’s work, one of his older novels, Stormy Weather, is a good one to start with.  It is set in Florida, which is the setting for most of Hiaasen’s books, during Hurricane Andrew, a devastating hurricane that struck Florida in the mid 1990′s.  The plot involves scam artists, corrupted politicians who are destroying the environment and an offhanded swipe at Disney World.  Reviewers say that Hiaasen manages to let his imagination run wild with outrageous characters, but somehow the story maintains a natural flow.

Skinny Dip is another novel that Hiaasen is well known for.  Chaz Perrone finds out that his wife Joey has discovered his dealings with a crooked tycoon to pollute the Florida Everglades.  He tries to throw her off a cruise ship to get rid of her, but she survives and seeks revenge.  She does so by messing with his mind and driving him insane.  Not knowing what someone is going to do can definitely drive a person nuts.

I think it is awesome that Hiaasen just lets his imagination loose when setting up the plot for his books.  He touches on issues that are very real in today’s society.  But, his books are much more of a beach read flavor than a philosophical discussion one.

Have you read any of Hiaasen’s books?  What do you think about them?

Fly Away Home Kindle Edition

Jennifer Weiner, the author of popular novels In Her Shoes and Good in Bed has a new book out called Fly Away Home that is currently #4 on the Kindle Top 100 list.

Fly Away Home is about a politician’s wife named Sylvie and her two daughters, Diana and Lizzie.  In the wake of scandal, mother and daughters have to look deep within themselves and figure out who they are and what they stand for.  In her usual fashion, Weiner manages to delve into serious issues while adding in some comical moments as well.

Reviews for the book were mixed.  Many said that this book was a delightful summer read, and fit Weiner’s style perfectly.  Others said it fell a bit flat.  An interesting point that one reader made was that Fly Away Home references to important political wives such as Elizabeth Edwards, Jenny Sanford and Silda Spitzer.  All of these women have faced difficult marriage situations in the public political arena.

Weiner’s debut novel, Good In Bed, was a huge success.  It is about a young woman named Candace “Cannie” Shapiro, a Philadelphia Examiner reporter who has weight issues.  This book deals a lot with self worth and body image, which are very applicable for women in today’s society.

Weiner is also known for her novel, In Her Shoes, which was made into a movie featuring Cameron Diaz.  This novel focuses on two sisters.  Rose is smart, successful lawyer but is quite dull in appearance. Maggie is beautiful, but isn’t too book smart.  This book touches on the power of family and the bond that sisters can share.  It also touches on jealousy and the strengths and weaknesses of the traits that each sister portrays.  Out of the three or four books I’ve read by Weiner, this one is my favorite.  I have yet to read Fly Away Home, but it is definitely on my list of books to read for the Kindle.

Weiner’s books are great summer reads, but they also manage to touch on important issues such as life, family, friendship, self worth and body image in a easy to read and often hilarious manner.

Amazon Launches Publishing Imprint

All over the world there are people doing their best to, and sometimes managing to, publish the next great novel.  Not even the most shortsighted reader can truly indulge the thought that all enjoyable literature comes from their native or preferred language.  Apparently Amazon.com(NASDAQ:AMZN) has come to the same conclusion and decided that this market will lend some uniqueness to their brand.  AmazonCrossing, as it is to be called, will concentrate on bringing international authors to the English speaking audience.  Their first publication, The King of Kahel by Tierno Monenembo, is the winner of the 2008 Renaudot Literary Prize and should be available on your Kindle, or even in paperback, on November 2nd.

This is Amazon’s second publishing endeavor, so it is safe to say they know something of the ins and outs of the process by now.  According to what information we have regarding this move, titles chosen will be heavily influenced by the standing they have in terms of favorable reviews on the Amazon website, thus allowing readers to directly influence how well distributed their favorite authors become.  This new imprint promises to be a positive move for authors, readers, and hopefully investors alike.  There aren’t nearly enough international authors represented well in English just yet, much to many of our monolingual dismay.

eLibrary Management on Kindle and other devices

As the owner of several eReader devices and a large library of DRM-free, yet often oddly formatted, eBooks, it can be difficult to make sure that I have access to what I want to read on the device I want to read it on on a given day.  Yeah, I know, this isn’t exactly going to be a common problem, but the software that solves it for me is going to be useful to just about anybody working with a large number of eBooks.  Especially if many of them are from free book sources like Google Books, where you’re likely to get some really shoddy labeling and tagging.

Many of you may already have heard of Calibre, actually.  If so, this may be a bit basic.  For those who haven’t, it is a third party piece of software that allows you to manage all of your eBooks and the associated information, including file conversion and meta-data editing.  It’s worked flawlessly for me for years now and can even handle converting things for the Kindle from Sony’s somewhat outdated BBEB formats.  Just add your book file to the library, set the title and author properly, assuming they aren’t already, and download all the rest of the information right down to the cover art automatically.  Really, couldn’t get much simpler.  As far as the occasional DRM encumbered eBook, which we all have to settle for sometimes when there aren’t any options available, the Calibre library can include the files, it simply can’t alter them.  Not that big a deal, usually, since if somebody went to the trouble of protecting their files I’ve usually found them to be fairly well labeled and tagged as well.

This is just one user’s review, of course.  I’m not even getting into all the many features like building/editing eBook in-text formatting, plug-ins, etc. that many people like about it.  The fact that it functions on a day to day basis with no problems across multiple devices and never causes me issues, however, makes this software invaluable to me more than any extra feature I can think to add.

When do eBooks out-”Green” paperbacks?

This has been a question that I’ve been wondering about for some time.  As an avid reader with a habit of finishing at least a book or two per week, I’ve often wondered if, as seemed logical from a knee-jerk instinctive point of view, I was actually saving resources by switching away from printed material in favor of a Kindle. I’m sure many of us have. The answer is a little bit surprising.

A recent article broke things down for me in terms of resource extraction, environmental impact of manufacturing and transportation, energy usage and disposal, within the limits of general understanding since the composition and manufacture of individual screen types and such are often not a matter of public record. Apparently, depending on what factors you choose to gauge your green-ness, an eBook Reader gains the edge after between 50-100 books. This seemed like a lot at first glance, but since that’s about a year of a book per week(not something I consider an unreasonable rate of consumption) it’s easily less than what I plan in the life of any eBook Reader I might happen to pick up. That doesn’t even begin to take into account the resource savings on things like periodical and newspaper subscriptions, which are an area in which the Kindle shines.

It might be a small change, but it’s nice to be aware that in a world increasingly aware of resource deficits and “green guilt” hitting me left and right, I can be proud of this rare intersection of technical convenience, enjoyment, and ecological soundness. Not quite as proud as if I were to start walking to the used book store every week instead, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

Kindle Font Size Feature Makes Reading Easier for Visually Impaired Readers

Since the Kindle was introduced in 2007, it has eased the burden on visually impaired readers considerably by incorporating six font size adjustment options.   The font size adjustment on the  Kindle is a great feature because it eliminates the need to buy heavy, cumbersome large print books.  Large print books are often very expensive and are not readily available.  However, more can be done to make reading more pleasurable for this group of readers.

In addition to large print books, visually impaired readers use another device called a CCTV.

CCTV Video Magnifier

A visually impaired user uses a CCTV to enlarge the font on her book.

These devices tend to run in the $4000 price range, which is a pretty hefty price tag. The reader places the book on a platform under a computer screen and adjusts the font size and color schemes to fit their reading needs.  If the Kindle can include more font sizes into its options available, just imagine how much easier, less expensive and more portable reading would be for these readers!

The dream takes a closer step towards reality this summer.  Amazon plans to make more font size options available during the summer of 2010, according to this WebProNews article .   The amount of font size options will increase from six to eleven. The seventh font option, a “super font”, will be double the size of the largest font size currently available on the Kindle.  At last, visually impaired users will be able read with comfort and not have to worry about eye strain and muscle soreness from lugging a large book around.  The expense of purchasing large equipment such as the CCTV will be drastically cut by purchasing a $259 Kindle.